Welcome to Chirstian
Bible Studies
for home study

Here are books & manuscripts by many different authors revealing that truth. A wonderful introduction to studying the Bible.

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Step 1 - Is the Bible Inspired or Expired?

Step 1 - Is the Bible Inspired or Expired?

Step 2 - The Canons of the Bible

Step 3 - Bible Study Guides

Step 4 - Individuali in Religion

Step 5 - Sign of the End of Time

Step 6 -Prophecies in the BIBLE BOOKS of Danie and Revelation

Step 7 - Facts of Faith
NOTE:     To better appreciate this book study the prophecies of Daniel & Revelation first.

Step 8 -- The Sanctuary Service

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ADDITIONAL STUDIES:

1 - "Another Comforter", study on the Holy Spirit

2 - "Saving Faith"

3 - "What is Man" The Gospel in Creation

4 - "A Convicting Jewish Witness", study on the Godhead

5 - "The Place of the Bible
in Education"
- Vs. - Humanism religion as in the modern school system.

6. Bible As History - by Werner Keller - facts brought to light with relation to the Bible account

7. Three Days and Three Nights In the Tomb - study by Ray Cutts - Study on the timeline of the crucifixion of our Lord.

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/maps/maps.htm

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May God bless you as you dig for yourself into the treasures of your eternal destiny; into true religion; the truth as it is in Jesus.

2001-2018

 

 

 

 

The Bible As History
by Werner Keller

Part 1 of 10

2nd Revised Edition
Translated from the German by William Neil
Revised and with a postscript by Joachim Rehork


New material translated from the German by B. H. Rasmussen
WILLIAM MORROW AND COMPANY, INC. New York 1981

 

 

 

p 15 -- List of Illustrations -- (Following page 96)

"I am Lamgi-Mari ... King of Mari." With these words engraved on his right shoulder, the ruler of the kingdom of Mari, on the central reaches of the Euphrates, introduced himself to archaeologists from Paris on January 23, 1934.

The first of the massive walls of the palace, still 16 feet high, have just been discovered on Tell Hariri near Abu Kemal in Syria. "The gangs", wrote Prof. Parrot at the time, "are now forcing their way down into the rooms."

In a corner of Room 78 stood some large damaged clay jars. In 1750 B.C. the ceiling fell on top of them when king Hammurabi's commandos set fire to the palace of Mari.

Only an aerial photograph can do justice to the impressive architectural layout of the mighty palace of Mari, which in the second millennium B.C. covered an area of nearly 10 acres and was the largest royal seat in the Ancient East. It was out of its 260 salons and rooms that among other things the cuneiform documents about the cities of Haran (Gen. 11:31) and Nahor (Gen. 24:10) were recovered.

Prof. Parrot studies the statue of Ishtup-Ilum, who was Governor of Mari in the days of the Patriarchs. The statue was found in the throne-room of the palace.

" ... and possessed their land ... unto Mount Hermon" (Josh. 12:1). The eternal snows of Hermon tower above the Promised Land.

The high percentage of salt in the Dead Sea makes it possible for the human body to recline on it like a floating cork.

The Israeli industrial settlement at Sodom on the south side of the Dead Sea.

Between the bare hills of Palestine and Transjordan the River Jordan winds and twists like a serpent from the Lake of Galilee to the Dead Sea which lies 1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean.

The mummy of Ramesses II lies in the Cairo Museum in a perfect state of preservation. He, or his son and successor Merenptah, is considered to be the Pharaoh of the years of bondage and it is in his reign, so we are told, that Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.

A happy scene showing Queen Anches-en-Amun with her husband Tutankhamun.

Young Najacocci with manna excretion.

First photograph of manna. The light-coloured glassy formations on the branch of a Tamarisk which is occupied by Najacocci (plant-lice) are drops of manna. Manna is still available commercially as Mannite.

The monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

The route of the so-called "King's Highway" can still be clearly distinguished from the air among the deep wadis of the Jordan country.

p 16 -- This group of prisoners, the work of Egyptian artists in the Temple of Medinet-Habu, is an accurate portrayal of racial characteristics. A Libyan is followed by a Semite from Palestine/Syria, a Hittite, a Philistine, and another Semite.

Modern nomads water their cattle at the spring of Ain Qedeis, as Moses did when he pitched his camp with the Children of Israel at Kadesh (Num. 33:36)

The Biblical Walls of Jericho at Tell-es-Sultan. Beyond the fortifications, dating back 3,500 years, can be seen modern Jericho at the foot of the Mountains of Judah.

Excavating the ornamental facade of King Herod's Pleasure Garden near Jericho.

(Following page 224) -- The rock bastions in Wadi el Arabah which lies to the south near the gulf of Aqabah are popularly known as "King Solomon's pillars" and "Solomon's copper mines" are pointed out to visitors to nearby Timna. Yet it has now been established that no mining of copper took place in this region in Solomon's day.

Extracting copper after 3,000 years from king Solomon's mines on the Red Sea.

View of the model excavation at Tell el-Mutesellim. A chain of labourers is passing up baskets filled with rubble. They are standing on ruins of Persian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Israelite times. It was in stratum IV that the royal stables, chariot sheds and the palace built for the local Governor, Baana, at Megiddo (I Kings 4:12) were discovered.

Visitors are shown "King Solomon's stables" in Megiddo, but these were actually completed during the reign of King Ahab of Israel and were possibly not stables but a storehouse.

Reconstruction of the stable.

Hittite warriors from a kingdom near Carchemish (late Hittite).

"In the fourth year of Solomon's reign ... he began to build the house of the Lord" (I Kings 6:1). From the outer forecourt an entrance gateway led to the middle forecourt on a higher level. Steps led through a second gate to the great inner forecourt, where the people gathered in front of the Temple and the place of sacrifice. At the entrance to the Temple, on either side, stood the twin brass pillarsJACHIN and BOAZ. (I Kings 7:21). Another flight of steps led into the central court which gave access to the Holy Place, behind which the Holy of Holies lay in darkness. (Reconstruction- 19th century after de Vogue).

Prof. W. F. Albright and W. Phillips in the Sinai Peninsula.

In the land of the queen of Sheba an American expedition in 1951 dug out of sand dunes as high as houses the imposing Temple of the Moon near ancient Marib in Yemen.

A Gezer schoolboy, practising writing in 925 B.C., scratched out on limestone these regulations for peasants. Item 4 of this oldest piece of writing in Palestine obliged Israel to take up the cultivation of flax at Gezer.

Ivory receptacles for cosmetics and ointment, which took the form of ducks floating on water, show the artistic skill of Ugarit jewellers in copying Egyptian models which were in great demand.

In the 8th century B.C. the prophet Isaiah uttered this warning: "In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon." 2,680 years later the director of the French excavations at "White Haven", referring to the gold ornaments depicted above, declared: "We are not only finding references to these ornaments

p 17 -- in the Ras-Shamra texts, but the ornaments themselves, which, according to the passage in Isaiah, Yahweh would one day take away from the haughty daughters of Zion."

(Following page 320) -- The "lord on whose hand the king learned" (2 Kings 7:2) was a "straphanger", as can be seen from this picture of him on a relief from Nineveh, as he stands behind Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria - the "Asnapper" of the Old Testament - and his charioteer.

This basal tablet, erected by Mesha, king of Moab, who is mentioned in the Bible, was found by Rev. F. A. Klein, a missionary from Alsace, at Dibon in Transjordan. It dates from about 850 B.C. and describes the campaign against Israel and Judah which is the subject of 2 Kings ch. 3. Nomads with an eye to business split the valuable iscription into fragments, as can be seen from the cracks. The flat surfaces indicate where the inscription has been completed by reference to the squeeze.

At the entrance to the gateway in the walls of Samaria, excavators came upon two stone benches. "And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne ... in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria" (I Kings 22:10).

"And put out the eyes of Zedekiah ..." (2 Kings 25"7). Sargon II carries out the cruel punishment for treason in accordance with Assyrian and Babylonian martial law. Prisoners had rings put in their upper lips to break their resistance. "... which took Manasseh with hooks" (2 Chron. 33:11- R. V. margin).

Signal from a Judahite observation post to the Commandant of Lachish in 589 B.C.

Palace of Sargon II of Assyria at Khorsabad. (Reconstruction).

French excivations on the Mediterranean coast at ancient Ugarit revealed shops and stores lining dead-straight streets and dating from the 15th century B.C.

"In one of the stores lay 80 carefully stacked jars with wine and oil," announced Prof. Schaeffer.

Small golden amulet from Ugarit with the symbols of the goddess of fertility.

Ivory releaf of the bare-breasted fertility goddess of Canaan, from a vault in the harbour area at Ugarit.

Figures of wild bulls and griffins adorn the Ishtar Gate in Babylon, excavated by Prof. Koldewey. Top

"... and Judah ... (was) carried away to Babylon for their transgressions" (I Chron. 9:1). In this magnificent international metropolis on the Euphrates with its broad streets Judah lived in exile. It was here, by the rivers of Babylon, that they sat down and wept (Ps. 137:1). (Reconstruction). Behind the massive city walls on the Euphrates, near the Temple of Marduk (rec.) rose Etemenanki, the Tower of Babel. It was exactly the same height as the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour (292 feet). (Reconstruction: Prof. E. Unger. Drawn by H. Anger).

Rows of tall columns, the remains of a Forum, have been preserved on the site of Gerasa, on the upper reaches of the river Jabbok in Transjordan. In the lifetime of Christ many cities on both sides of the Jordan had their temples, theatres and circuses on the norrmal Greek pattern.

View from Samaria over the Plain of Jezreel to the hills of Galilee, where Nazareth lies, and to Mt. Tabor. Above the dark defile rises the hill of old Migeddo with the great stables of king Solomon.

p 18 -- (Following page 304) -- On the "Via Dolorosa", the "Way of Sorrows", the Ecce-Homo Arch bridges the narrow alley at the point where Pilate is supposed to have pointed to Jesus and said: "Behold the man!" (John 19:5). Beneath this arch Father L. H. Vincent actually found the Roman "Pavement" mentioned by St. John (19:13).

The Wailing Wall still preserves the massive foundations of the Temple built by Herod which Jesus frequented. The nine bottom rows of the old outer wall consist of enormous stone blocks many of which measure 18 X 15 feet. "Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" (Mark 13:1).

A photograph of the Turin shroud (right) clearly shows on the negative (left) a man's face on which swellings resulting from blows and traces of blood from thorn pricks can be discerned.

(Following page 336) -- The Dome of the Rock in the south-east section of the city, which was built by the Arabs in the 7th century after the capture of Jerusalem. It stands on the ancient site where Solomon and later Herod the Great built their Temples.

Fragment of text from one of the Dead Sea scrolls.

Orthodox Easter service in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The place of Jesus' passion and burial has been venerated here since early Christian times. The British archaeologist Kathleen M. Kenyon proved that the land
where the church now stands still lay outside the city wall in the time of Jesus and consequently is quite possibly the actual place of execution and burial.

Reconstruction of the actual method of crucifixion among the Romans according to the indications provided by the skeleton of Johanan Ben Ha'galgol found near Givat Hamivtar on the eastern edge of Jerusalem.

Prof. Willard F. Libby, of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in the University of Chicago, investigates the age of the linen wrapping of a scroll of the prophet Isaiah, which a shepherd discovered in a cave by the Dead Sea in 1947. Using the
C-14 Method it was possible to reckon by the "Atomic Clock" that the flax from which the linen was made was growing during the lifetime of Christ.

Prof. G. Lankester Harding seen in Jerusalem sorting out fragments of the Old Testament, dating from the time of Christ, which were discovered in a cave by the Dead Sea in 1949.

p 19 -- INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW REVISED EDITION -- KELLER: My book The Bible as History was first published in 1955. It was translated into 24 languages and used for religious instruction in schools, for Bible Seminars in Universities as well as by Bible Study Groups both Christian and Jewish. More than ten million copies have been printed throughout the world.

Since that time Biblical archaeology has brought to light hitherto undiscovered facts by the use of new techniques and the most up-to-date methods of investigation. It has been possible to confirm and reinforce a number of theories, while other accepted opinions, previously considered to be scientifically established, have had to be called into question and the conclusions even of well-known scholars revised. In order to preserve the scholarly reliability of my book, it has become necessary to include the most recent research results. One cannot and should not shut oneself off from new discoveries even if they are inconvenient.

I would have liked to bring my book into line witobligedh the most recent research myself, but a serious illness of some years' duration has unfortunately prevented me from undertaking this costly and responsible task. I have consequently been , much against my will, to entrust this project to another. I am happy, however, to have obtained the collaboration of Dr. Joachim Rehork. In his appendix he has explained the principles according to which we agreed that the revision should be carried out.

To him I tender my sincere thanks.

Werner Keller - - Ascona, 1978

p 20 -- Blank

p 21 -- GOTHE:  INTRODUCTION -- "The greatest happiness of the thinking man is to have fathomed what can be fathomed, and quietly to reverence what is unfathomable." GOETHE

When a non-theologian writes a book about the Bible it is a rare enough occurrence to entitle the reader to ask for some explanation of how the to make himself master of his subject.

As a jopurnalist I have been for many years exclusively concerned of modern science and research. In 1950 in the course of my ordinary routine work I came across the reports of the French archaeologists Professors Parrot and Schaeffer on their excavations at Mari and Ugarit. Cuneiform tablets discovered at Mari on the Euphrates were found to contain Biblical names. As a result, narratives of the patriarchs, which had been for a long time regarded as merely pious tales were unexpectedly transferred into the realm of history. At Ugarit on the Mediterranean, evidence of the Canaanite worship of Baal had for the first time come to light. By a coincidence, a scroll of Isaiah discovered in a cave by the Dead Sea was in the same year dated as pre-Christian. These sensational reports - and indeed in view of the significance of these finds it is not too much to use the word "sensational" - awakened in me the desire to come to closer grips with the most recent and, generally speaking, least known province in the field of investigation into the ancient world. I therefore ransacked German and foreign literature for a comprehensive and intelligible summary of the results of previous research. I found none for there was none to find. So I went to the sources myself in the libraries of many lands - aided in this bit of real detective work by my wife's enthusiasm - and collected all the hitherto scientifically established results of investigations which were to be found in the learned works of Biblical archaeologists. The deeper I went into the matter the more exciting it became.

The door into the historical world of the Old Testament had been already thrown open by a Frenchman, Paul-Emile Botta, in 1843. In the course of excavations at Khorsabad in Mesopotamia he suddenly found himself confronted by reliefs of King Sargon II of Assyria, who ravaged Israel and led its people off into captivity. Accounts of this

p 22 -- conqueror's campaigns deal with the conquest of Samaria, which is also described in the Bible.

For a century now, American, English, French and German scholars have been digging in the Middle East, in Mesopotamia, Palestine and Egypt. All the great nations have founded institutes and schools specifically for this type of research. The Palestine Exploration Fund began in 1869, the German Palestine Association in 1877, the Dominican Ecole Biblique de St. Etienne in 1892. The German Oriental Society followed in 1898: then in 1900 the American Schools of Oriental Research and in 1900 the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology.

In Palestine, places and towns which are frequently mentioned in the Bible are being brought back once more into the light of day. They look exactly as the Bible describes them and lie exactly where the Bible locates them. On ancient inscriptions and monuments scholars encounter more and more characters from the Old and New Testaments. Contemporary reliefs depict people whom we have hitherto only known by name. Their features, their clothes, their armour take shape before our eyes. Colossal figures and sculptures show us the Hittites with their big noses; the slim tall Philistines; the elegant Canaanite chiefs with their "chariots of iron" which struck terror into the hearts of the Israelites; the kings of Mari, contemporary with Abraham, with their gentle smiles. During the thousands of years that divide us from them the Assyrian kings have lost nothing of their fierce and forbidding appearance: Tiglath-Pileser III, well known as the Old Testament "Pul"; Sennacherib who destroyed Lachish and laid siege to Jerusalem; Esarhaddon who put King Manasseh in chains, and Ashurbanipal the "great and noble Asnapper" of the book of Ezra.

As they have done to Nineveh and Nimrud - old-time Calah - or to Ashur and Thebes, which the prophets called No-Amon, the scholars have also awakened from its ancient slumber the notorious Babel of Biblical story with its legendary tower. In the Nile Delta archaeologists have found the cities of Pithom and Raamses, where the resentful Hebrews toiled as slaves. They have laid bare strata which tell of the flames and destruction which accompanied the children of Israel on their conquering march into Canaan. In Gibeah they found Saul's mountain stronghold, whose walls once echoed to the strains of David's harp. At Megiddo they came upon the vast stables of King Solomon, who had " 12,000 horsemen".

From the world of the New Testament reappeared the palatial edifices of King Herod. In the heart of Old Jerusalem The Pavement was discovered, where Jesus stood before Pilate, as is mentioned in St. John's gospel. Assyriologists deciphered on the astronomical tables of the Babylonians the exact dates on which the Star of Bethlehem was observed.

p 23 -- These breathtaking discoveries, whose significance it is impossible to grasp all at once, make it necessary for us to revise our views about the Bible. Many events which previously passed for "pious tales" must nov be judged to be historical. Often the results of investigation correspond in detail with the Biblical narratives. They do not only confirm them, but also illumine the historical situations out of which the Old Testament and the Gospels grew. At the same time the chances and changes of the people of Israel are woven into a lively colourful tapestry of daily life in the age in which they lived, as well as being caught up into the political, cultural and economic disputes of the nations and empires which struggled for power in Mesopotamia and on the Nile, from which !nhabitants of the tiny buffer state of Palestine were never able completely to detach themselves for over 2,000 years.

The opinion has been, and still is widely held that the Bible is nothing but the story of man's salvation, a guarantee of the validity of their faith for Christians everywhere. It is however at the same time a book about things that actually happened. Admittedly in this sense it has limitations, in that the Jewish people wrote their history in the light'of their relationship to Yahweh, which meant writing it from the point of view of their own guilt and expiation. Nevertheless the events themselves are historical facts and have been recorded with an accuracy that is nothing less than startling.

Thanks to the findings of the archaeologists many of the Biblical narratives can be better understood now than ever before. There are, of course, theological insights which can only be dealt with in terms of the Word of God. But as Professor Andre Parrot, the world-famous French archaeologist, has said: "How can we understand the Word, unless we see it in its proper chronological, historical and geographical setting?"

Until now, knowledge of these extraordinary discoveries was confined to a small circle of experts. Only fifty years ago Professor Friedrich Delitzsch of Berlin was asking "Why all this effort in these distant barren and dangerous lands? Why all this costly rummaging among the rubble of past ages when we know there is neither gold nor silver to be found there? Why this mad competition among different countries to get control of these dreary looking mounds for the sole purpose of digging them up?" The German scholar Gustav Dalman gave him the right answer from Jerusalem itself when he expressed the hope that one day all that the archaeologists had "experienced and seen in their scientific labours would be turned to good account and would help to solve the practical problems of school and church". This latter hope has so far however remained unfulfilled.

No book in the whole history of mankind has had such a revolutionary influence, has so decisively affected the development of the western world, or had such a world-wide effect as the "Book of Books", the Bible. Today it is translated into 1,120 languages and dialects

p 24 -- (1,660 in 1979), and after 2,000 years gives no sign of having exhausted its triumphal progress.

In gathering together and working over the material for this book. which I in no way claim to be complete, it seemed to me that the time had come to share with those who read their Bibles and those who do not, with churchmen and agnostics alike, the exciting discoveries which have resulted from a careful examination of the combined results of scientific investigation along many different lines. In view of the overwhelming mass of authentic and well-attested evidence now available. as I thought of the sceptical criticism which from the eighteenth century onwards would fain have demolished the Bible altogether, there kept hammering on my brain this one sentence: "The Bible is right after all!"

WERNER KELLER    Hamburg, September 1955 Tio

p 27 -- DIGGING UP THE OLD TESTAMENT --

SECTION I -- The coming of the Patriarchs from Abraham to Jacob

Chapter 1 -- IN THE "FERTILE CRESCENT" -- 4,000 years ago - Continents asleep - The great cradle of our civilisation - Culture in the Ancient East - Staged Towers and Pyramids had been built long before - Giant plantations on the banks of canals - Arab tribes attack from the desert.

If we draw a line from Egypt through the Mediterranean lands of Palestine and Syria, then following the Tigris and Euphrates, through Mesopotamia to the Persian Gulf, the result is an unmistakable crescent.

Four thousand years ago this mighty semi-circle around the Arabian Desert, which is called the "Fertile Crescent", embraced a multiplicity of civilisations lying side by side like a lustrous string of pearls. Rays of light streamed out from them into the surrounding darkness of mankind. Here lay the centre of civilisation from the Stone Age right up to the Golden Age of Graeco-Roman culture.

About 2000 B.C., the further we look beyond the "Fertile Crescent", the deeper grows the darkness and signs of civilisation and culture decrease. It is as if the people of the other continents were like children awaiting their awakening. Over the Eastern Mediterranean already a light is shining - it is the heyday of the Minoan kings of Crete, founders of the first sea-power known to history. For 1,000 years the fortress of Mycenae had protected its citizens, and a second Troy had long been standing upon the ruins of the first. In the nearby Balkans, however, the Early Bronze Age had just begun. In Sardinia and Western France the dead were being buried in vast stone tombs. These megalithic graves are the last great manifestation of the Stone Age.

In Britain they were building the most famous sanctuary of the Megalithic Age - the Temple of the Sun at Stonehenge - that giant circle of stones near Salisbury which is still one of the sights of England about which many tales are told. In Germany they were tilling the soil with wooden ploughs.

At the foot of the Himalayas the flickering lamp of an isolated outpost of civilisation in the Indus valley was fast going out. Over China, over the vast steppes of Russia, over Africa, darkness reigned supreme. And beyond the waters of the Atlantic lay the Americas in twilight gloom.

p 28 -- But in the "Fertile Crescent" and in Egypt, on the other hand, cultured and highly developed civilisations jostled each other in colourful and bewildering array. For 1,000 years the Pharaohs had sat upon the throne. About 2000 B.C. it was occupied by the founder of the XII Dynasty, Amenemhet I. His sphere of influence ranged from Nubia, south of the second cataract of the Nile, beyond the Sinai peninsula to Canaan and Syria, a stretch of territory as big as Norway. Along the Mediterranean coast lay the wealthy seaports of the Phoenicians. In Asia Minor, in the heart of present day Turkey, the powerful kingdom of the ancient Hittites stood on the threshold of its history. In Mesopotamia, between Tigris and Euphrates, reigned the kings of Sumer and Akkad, who held in tribute all the smaller kingdoms from the Persian Gulf to the sources of the Euphrates.

Egypt's mighty pyramids and Mesopotamia's massive temples had for centuries watched the busy life around them. For 2,000 years farms and plantations, as big as any large modern concern, had been exporting corn, vegetables and choice fruits from the artificially irrigated valleys of the Nile, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Everywhere throughout the "Fertile Crescent" and in the empire of the Pharaohs the art of cuneiform and hieroglyphic writing was commonly known. Poets, court officials and civil servants practised it. For commerce it had long been a necessity.

The endless traffic in commodities of all sorts which the great import and export firms of Mesopotamia and Egypt despatched by caravan routes or by sea from the Persian Gulf to Syria and Asia Minor, from the Nile to Cyprus and Crete and as far as the Black Sea, is reflected in their business correspondence, which they conducted on clay tablets or papyrus. Out of all the rich variety of costly wares the most keenly sought after were copper from the Egyptian mines in the mountains of Sinai, silver from the Taurus mines in Asia Minor, gold and ivory from Somaliland in East Africa and from Nubia on the Nile, purple dyes from the Phoenician cities on the coast of Canaan, incense and rare spices from South Arabia, the magnificent linens which came from the Egyptian looms and the wonderful vases from the island of Crete.

Literature and learning were flourishing. In Egypt the first novels and secular poetry were making their appearance. Mesopotamia was experiencing a Renaissance. Philologists in Akkad, the great kingdom on the lower Euphrates, were compiling the first grammar and the first bilingual dictionary. The story of Gilgamesh, and the old Sumerian legends of Creation and Flood were being woven into epics of dramatic power in the Akkadian tongue which was the language of the world. Egyptian doctors were producing their medicines in accordance with text-book methods from herbal compounds which had proved their worth. Their surgeons were no strangers to anatomical science. The mathematicians of the Nile by empirical means reached the conclusion

p 29 -- Top

about the sides of a triangle which 1,500 years later Pythagoras in Greece embodied in the theorem which bears his name. Mesopotamian engineers were solving the problem of square measurement by trial and error. Astronomers, admittedly with an eye solely on astrological prediction, were making their calculations based on accurate observations of the course of the planets.

Peace and prosperity must have reigned in this world of Nile, Euphrates and Tigris, for we have never yet discovered an inscription dating from this period which records any large-scale warlike activities.

Then suddenly from the heart of this great "Fertile Crescent", from the sandy sterile wastes of the Arabian desert whose shores are lashed by the waters of the Indian Ocean, there burst in violent assaults on the north, on the north-west, on Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine a horde of nomadic tribes of Semitic stock. In endless waves these Amorites, "Westerners" as their name implies, surged against the kingdoms of the "Fertile Crescent".

FiG.1.- The "Fertile Crescent" and Egypt-the great centres of civilisation about 2000 B.C.

The empire of the kings of Sumer and Akkad collapsed in 1960 B.C. under their irresistible attack. The Amorites founded a number of

p 30 -- states and dynasties. One of them was eventually to become supreme: the first dynasty of Babylon, which was the great centre of power from 1830 to 1530 B.C. Its sixth king was the famous Hammurabi.

Meantime one of these tribes of Semitic nomads was destined to be of fateful significance for millions upon millions throughout the world up to the present day. It was a little group, perhaps only a family, as unknown and unimportant as a tiny grain of sand in a desert storm: the family of Abraham, forefather of the patriarchs. Top

p 31 -- Chapter 2 -- UR OF THE CHALDEES -- Station on the Bagdad railway - A Staged Tower of bricks - Ruins with Biblical names - Archaeologists in search of scriptural sites - A consul with a pick - The archaeologist on the throne of Babylon - Expedition to Tell al Muqayyar - History books from rubble - Tax receipts on clay - Was Abraham a city dweller?

"And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai, his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees" (Gen. 11 31).

... and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees - Christians have been hearing these words for almost 2,000 years. Ur, a name as mysterious and legendary as the bewildering variety of names of kings and conquerors, powerful empires, temples and golden palaces, with which. the Bible regales us. Nobody knew where, Ur lay. Chaldea certainly pointed to Mesopotamia. Sixty years ago no one could have guessed that the quest for the Ur which is mentioned in the Bible would lead to the discovery of a civilisation which would take us farther into the twilight of prehistoric times than even the oldest traces of man which had been found in Egypt.

Today Ur is a railway station about 120 miles north of Basra, near the Persian Gulf, and one of the many stops on the famous Bagdad railway. Punctually the train makes a halt there in the grey light of early morning. When the noise of the wheels on their northward journey has died away, the traveller who has alighted here is surrounded by the silence of the desert.

His glance roams over the monotonous yellowish-brown of the endless stretch of sand. He seems to be standing in the middle of an enormous flat dish which is only intersected by the railway line. Only at one point is the shimmering expanse of desolation broken. As the rays of the rising sun grow stronger they pick out a massive dull red stump. It looks as if some Titan had hewn great notches in it.

To the Bedouins this solitary mound is an old friend. High up in its crevices the owls make their nests. From time immemorial the Arabs have known it and have given it the name Tell al Muqayyar, "Mound of Pitch". Their forefathers pitched their tents at its base. Still as from time immemorial it offers welcome protection from the danger of

p 32 -- sandstorms. Still today they feed their flocks at its base when the rains suddenly charm blades of grass out of the ground.

Once upon a time - 4,000 years ago - broad fields of corn and barley swayed here. Market gardens, groves of date-palms and fig trees stretched as far as the eye could see. These spacious estates could cheerfully bear comparison with Canadian wheat farms or the market gardens and fruit farms of California. The lush green fields and beds were interlaced by a system of dead straight canals and ditches, a masterpiece of irrigation. Away back in the Stone Age experts among the natives had utilised the water of the great rivers. Skilfully and methodically they diverted the precious moisture at the river banks and thereby converted desert wastes into rich and fruitful farmland.

Almost hidden by forests of shady palms the Euphrates flowed in those days past this spot. This great life-giving river carried a heavy traffic between Ur and the sea. At that time the Persian Gulf cut much deeper into the estuary of the Euphrates and the Tigris. Even before the first pyramid was built on the Nile Tell al Muqayyar was towering into the blue skies. Four mighty cubes, built one upon the other in diminishing size, rose up into a 75 feet tower of gaily coloured brick. Above the black of the square foundation block, its sides I 20 feet long, shone the red and blue of the upper stages, each studded with trees. The uppermost stage provided a small plateau, on which was enthroned a Holy Place shaded by a golden roof.

Silence reigned over this sanctuary, where priests performed their offices at the shrine of Nannar, the moon-god. The stir and noise of wealthy metropolitan Ur, one of the oldest cities of the world, hardly penetrated into it.

In the year 1854 a caravan of camels and donkeys, laden with an unusual cargo of spades, picks and surveyor's instruments, approached the lonely red mound, under the leadership of the British consul in Basra. Mr. J. E. Taylor was inspired neither by a lust for adventure nor indeed by any motive of his own. He had undertaken the journey at the instigation of the Foreign Office, which in its turn was complying with the request from the British Museum that a search should be made for ancient monuments in Southern Mesopotamia, where the Euphrates and the Tigris came closest together just before entering the Persian Gulf. Taylor had often heard in Basra about the strange great heap of stones that his expedition was now approaching. It seemed to him a suitable site to investigate.

About the middle of the 19th century all over Egypt, Mesopotamia and Palestine investigations and excavations had started in response to a suddenly awakened desire to get a scientifically reliable picture of man's history in this part of the world. The goal of a long succession of expeditions was the Middle East.

p 33 -- Up till then the Bible had been the only historical source for our knowledge of that part of Asia before about 550 B.C. Only the Bible had anything to say about a period of history which stretched back into the dim twilight of the past. Peoples and names cropped up in the Bible about which even the Greeks and the Romans no longer knew anything.

Top

Scholars swarmed impetuously into these lands of the Ancient East about the middle of last century. Nobody then knew names that were soon to be in everyone's mouth. With astonishment the age of progress and enlightenment heard of their finds and discoveries. What these men with infinite pains extracted from the desert sand by the great rivers of Mesopotamia and Egypt deserved indeed the attention of mankind. Here for the first time science had forced open the door into the mysterious world of the Bible.

The French vice-consul in Mosul, Paul-Emile Botta, was an enthusiastic archaeologist. In 1843 he began to dig at Khorsabad on the Tigris and from the ruins of a 4,000 year old capital proudly brought to light the first witness to the Bible: Sargon, the fabulous ruler of Assyria. "In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him..." says Isaiah 20:1.

Two years later a young English diplomat and excavator, A. H. Layard, uncovered Nimrud (Kalchu), the city which the Bible calls Calah (Gen. 10:11) and which now bears the name of the Nimrod of the Bible, "a mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech, and Accad and Calneh in the land of Shinar. Out of that land he went forth into Assyria and builded Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah...." (Gen. 10:10-11).

Shortly after that, excavations. under the direction of an English major, Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, one of the foremost Assyriologists, unearthed Nineveh, the Assyrian capital with the famous library of king Ashurbanipal. This is the Nineveh whose wickedness the Biblical prophets constantly denounced (Jonah 1:2).

In Palestine the American scholar Edward Robinson devoted himself in 1838 and 1852 to the reconstruction of the topography of the ancient world.

From Germany, Richard Lepsius, later director of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, recorded the monuments of the Nile area during an expedition which lasted from 1842-46.

p 34 -- Just as the Frenchman Champollion had the good fortune to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, so Rawlinson, the discoverer of Nineveh, was, among others, successful in solving the riddle of cuneiform writing. The ancient documents were beginning to talk!

Let us return to the caravan which is approaching Tell al Muqayyar.

Taylor pitches his tents at the foot of the red mound. He had neither scientific ambitions nor previous knowledge. Where is he to begin? Where is the best spot to deploy his native diggers? The great brick mound, architectural masterpiece of a shadowy past though it might be, conveys nothing to him. Perhaps in the heart of it lies something which might eventually be exhibited in the museum and might interest the London experts. He thinks vaguely of old statues, armour, ornaments or even perhaps buried treasure. He takes a closer look at the curious mound. Step by step he taps its surface. No indication of a hollow cavity within. The great edifice appears to be completely solid. Thirty feet above him the wall of the lowest block rises straight and sheer out of the sand. Two broad stone ramps lead to the next and smaller cone above, then above them rise the third and fourth stages.

Taylor clambers up and down, crawls along the ledges on hands and knees in the broiling sun, finding only broken tiles. One day, bathed in sweat, he reaches the topmost platform and a few owls fly startled from the dilapidated walls. Nothing more. However he is not discouraged. In his efforts to get to the heart of the secrets of the mound he makes a decision which today we can only deeply regret. He takes his labour gangs away from the base of the mound and sets them to work at the top. Top

What had survived for centuries, what had withstood sandstorm and blazing sun alike, became now the victim of tireless pickaxes. Taylor gives orders to pull down the top story. The work of destruction begins at the four corners simultaneously. Day after day masses of bricks crash dully down the sides to the ground. After many weeks the chattering voices on the top of the mound are suddenly hushed, the clanging and banging of the pickaxes stop abruptly. Falling over each other in their haste a few men rush down the side of the mound and up to Taylor's tent. In their hands they hold little bars, cylinders made of baked clay. Taylor is disappointed. He had expected more. As he carefully cleans his finds he recognises that the clay rolls are covered over and over with inscriptions - cuneiform writing! He understands none of it but he is highly delighted. The cylinders, carefully packed, are despatched to London. The scholars on Thames-side are however not impressed - and small wonder. These were the years when the experts were looking to North Mesopotamia, where, under their fascinated gaze, the emergence from the hills of Nineveh and Khorsabad on the upper Tigris of the palaces and colossal reliefs of the Assyrians, as well as thousands of clay tablets and statues, was enough to put

p 35 -- everything else in the shade. What significance compared with them had the little clay cylinders from Tell al Muqayyar? For two years more Taylor hopefully continued his search. But there were no further results from Tell al Muqayyar and the expedition was abandoned.

It was seventy-five years later before the world learned what priceless treasures were still lying under that ancient mound.

As far as the experts were concerned Tell al Muqayyar was once more forgotten. But it was by no means neglected. No sooner had Taylor left than hordes of other visitors arrived. The broken walls and above all the top tier of the mound, which Taylor's gangs had shattered, provided a welcome and inexhaustible supply of inexpensive building material for the Arabs who over the years came from far and near and departed with as many bricks as their pack-mules could carry. These bricks, fashioned by men's hands thousands of years before, still bore plainly the names of Ur-Nammu, the first great builder, and of Nabonidus, the Babylonian conqueror who restored the staged tower which they called the Ziggurat. Sandstorms, rain, wind and the heat of the sun have all added their quota to the process of destruction.

During the First World War when British troops on the march to Bagdad in 1915 camped near this ancient structure they found that its former appearance had been completely altered. It had become so flat due to dilapidation and theft in the intervening years since 1854 that one of the soldiers was able to indulge in a piece of daredevilry. The step-formation of the tower which had previously been so clearly marked had disappeared so completely that he was able to ride his mule right to the summit of the mound.

By a lucky chance there was an expert among the officers of the party, R. Campbell Thompson, of the Intelligence Staff of the army in Mesopotamia. In peace time he had been an assistant in the British Museum. Thompson rummaged with an expert eye through the huge heap of bricks and was shocked at the deterioration of the material. Examination of the terrain led him to suppose that there were further areas worth investigating in the neighbourhood of the Tell, ruins of settlements which lay buried under the sand. Thompson recorded all this with great care and sent an urgent message to London. This prompted them to blow the dust off the insignificant looking little clay cylinders which had almost been forgotten and to look at them again with greater attention. The inscriptions on them were then found to contain some extremely important information as well as a curious story.

Almost 2,500 years before Taylor someone else had been searching and rummaging on the same spot with the same concern - Nabonidus, king of Babylon in the 6th century B.C., venerator of the past, man of renown, ruler of a mighty kingdom and archaeologist rolled into one. In his day he established that "the Ziggurat was now old". But his tactics

p 36 -- were different from Taylor's. "I restored this Ziggurat to its former state with mortar and baked bricks." When the weakened structure of the staged tower had been restored he had caused the name of the first builder, which he had discovered, to be cut out on these little clay cylinders. His name, as the Babylonian had been able to decipher from a damaged inscription, had been King Ur-Nammu. Ur-Nammu? Was the builder of the great staged tower king of the Ur that the Bible mentions? Was he the ruler of Ur of the Chaldees?

It seemed highly probable. The same Biblical name had cropped up several times since then. Ancient records which had been recovered from other sites in Mesopotamia also mentioned Ur. It appeared from these cuneiform writings that it was the capital city of the great Sumerian people. At once the battered remnants of Tell al Muqayyar aroused eager interest. Scholars from the Museum of Pennsylvania University joined the archaeologists from the British Museum in fresh investigations. The staged tower on the lower Euphrates might hold the secret of this unknown Sumerian people - and of the Ur of the Bible. But it was not until 1923 that a joint American and British team of archaeologists could set out. They were spared the tiresome journey on the backs of swaying camels. They went by the Bagdad railway. Their equipment likewise went by train: trucks, rails, picks, spades, baskets.

The archaeologists had enough funds at their disposal to turn up the whole countryside. They begin their carefully planned excavation on a large scale. Since considerable finds might be expected, they reckon on taking several years. In charge of the expedition is Sir Charles Leonard Woolley. The forty-three year old Englishman had already won his spurs on expeditions and digs in Egypt, Nubia and Carchemish on the upper Euphrates. Now this talented and successful man makes Tell al Muqayyar his life's work. Unlike the zealous but unsuspecting Taylor several decades before, his chief aim is not directed to the staged tower at all. He is possessed with a desire above all to investigate these flat mounds which rise all around him out of the vast sandy plain.

Woolley's trained eye had not failed to note their striking configuration. They look like little Table Mountains. Flat on top, they slope downwards in an almost uniform pattern. Similar mounds exist in great numbers, large and small, in the Middle East, on the banks of the great rivers, in the midst of fertile plains, by the wayside on the routes followed by caravans from time immemorial. No one has yet been able to count them. We find them from the delta of the Euphrates and Tigris on the Persian Gulf to the highlands of Asia Minor where the river Halys tumbles into the Black Sea, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, in the valleys of the Lebanon, on the Orontes in Syria and in Palestine by the Jordan. Top

These little eminences are the great quarries for archaeological finds, eagerly sought and often inexhaustible. They are not formed by the

p 37 -- hand of Nature, but are artificially created, piled high with the legacy ot countless generations before us; vast masses of rubble and rubbish from a bygone age which have accumulated from the remains of huts and houses, town walls, temples or palaces. Each one of these hills took shape gradually in the same way through a period of centuries or even
millennia. At some point after men had first settled there the place was destroyed by war or was burned down or was deserted by its inhabitants. Then came the conquerors or new settlers and built upon the selfsame spot. Generation after generation built their settlements and cities, one on top of the other, on the identical site. In the course of time the ruins and rubble of countless dwellings grew, layer by layer, foot by foot, into a sizeable hill. The Arabs of today call such an artificial
mound a Tell. The same word was used even in ancient Babylon. Tell means "mound". We come across the word in the Bible in Josh. 11:13. During the conquest of Canaan, where cities "that stood on their mounds" are spoken of, it is these Tulul, which is the plural of Tell, which are meant. The Arabs make a clear distinction between a Tell and a natural eminence, which they call a Jebel.

Every Tell is at the same time a silent history book. Its strata are for the archaeologist like the leaves of a calendar. Page by page he can make the past come to life again. Every layer, if we read it aright, tells of its own times, its life and customs, the craftsmanship and manners of its people. This skill on the part of excavators in deciphering the message of the strata has reached astonishing heights of achievement.

Stones, hewn or rough, bricks or traces of clay betray the nature of the building. Even decayed and weathered stones or the remains of brick dust can indicate exactly the ground plan of a building. Dark shadows show where once a fireplace radiated its warming glow.

Broken pottery, armour, household utensils and tools which are to be found everywhere among the ruins, afford further help in this detective work on the past. How grateful are the scholars of today that the ancient world knew nothing of municipal cleansing departments! Anything that had become unusable or superfluous was simply thrown out and left to the tender mercies of time and the weather.

Today the different shapes, colours and patterns of pots and vases can be so clearly distinguished that pottery has become archaeology's Number One measurement of time. Single potsherds, sometimes only fragments, make it possible to give a precise dating. As far back as the second millennium B.C. the greatest margin of error in establishing a date in this way is at the outside about fifty years.

Priceless information was lost in the course of the first great excavations of last century because no one paid any attention to these apparently worthless bits of broken pottery. They were thrown aside. The only important things seemed to be great monuments, reliefs, statues or jewels. Much that was of value was thus lost for ever. The activities of

p 38 -- Heinrich Schliemann, the antiquary, are an example of this sort of thing. Fired with ambition he had only one end in view: to find Homer's Troy. He set his gangs of labourers on to digging straight down. Strata, which might have been of great value in establishing dates, were thrown aside as useless rubbish. At length Schliemann unearthed a valuable treasure amid general acclamation. But it was not, as he thought, the treasure of Priam. His find belonged to a period several .centuries earlier. Schliemann had missed the reward of his labours, that would have meant so much to him, by digging past it and going far too deep. Being a business man Schliemann was an amateur, a layman. But the professionals were, to begin with, no better. It is only during this century that the archaeologists have been working in accordance with approved methods. Beginning at the top and working down through the Tell they examine every square inch of the ground. Every tiny object, every piece of pottery is scrutinised. First they dig a trench deep into the mound. The different coloured strata lie open like a cut cake and the trained eye of the expert is able at a rough glance to place in their historical perspective whatever ancient human habitations lie embedded there. It was in accordance with this tried method that the Anglo-American expedition started work at Tell al Muqayyar in 1923. Top

In early December there arose a cloud of dust over the rubble heap which lay east of the Ziggurat and only a few steps from the broad ramp up which ancient priests in solemn procession had approached the shrine of Nannar the moon-god. Fanned by a light wind it spread across the site until it seemed as if the whole area around the old staged tower was shrouded in fine mist. Powdery sand whirling up from hundreds of spades indicated that the great dig had started.

From the moment when the first spade struck the ground an atmosphere of excitement hovered over every shovelful. Each spadeful was like a journey into an unknown land where no-one knew beforehand what surprises lay ahead. Excitement gripped even Woolley and his companions. Would some important find richly reward them for their toil and sweat upon the hill? Would Ur give up its secrets to them? None of these men could guess that for six long winter seasons, till the spring of 1929, they would be kept in suspense. This large-scale excavation deep in Southern Mesopotamia was to reveal bit by bit those far off days when a new land arose out of the delta of the two great rivers and the first human settlers made their home there. Out of their painstaking research, carrying them back to a time 7,000 years before, events and names recorded in the Bible were more than once to take solid shape.

The first thing they brought to light was a sacred precinct with the remains of five temples, which had once surrounded king Ur-Nammu's Ziggurat in a semi-circle., They were like fortresses, so thick were their walls. The biggest one, which was 100 x 60 yards square, was dedicated to the moon-god. Another temple was in honour of Nin-Gal,

p 39 -- goddess of the moon and wife of Nannar. Every temple had an inner court surrounded by a series of rooms. The old fountains were still standing, with long water troughs coated with bitumen. Deep grooves made with knives on the great brick tables showed where the sacrificial animals had been dissected. They were cooked as a common sacrificial meal on the hearths of the temple kitchens. Even the ovens for baking bread were there. "After 3,800 years," noted Woolley in his diary, "we were able to light the fire again and put into commission once more the oldest kitchen in the world."

Nowadays churches, law courts, tax offices and factories are quite separate establishments. It was otherwise in Ur. The sacred area, the Temple precinct, was not reserved exclusively for the worship of the gods. The priests had many other things to do besides their holy office. As well as receiving the sacrifices they collected the tithes and the taxes. That did not take place however without written confirmation. Every payment was noted on a little clay tablet - probably the first tax receipts ever issued. The amounts received were entered by scribes in weekly, monthly and yearly totals.

Minted currency was as yet unknown. Taxes were paid in kind: every inhabitant of Ur paid in his own coin. oil, cereals, fruit, wool and cattle made their way into vast warehouses, perishable articles went to the temple shops. Many goods were manufactured in factories owned by the temple, for example in the spinning-mills which the priests managed. One workshop produced twelve different kinds of fashionable clothing. Tablets found in this place gave the names of the mill-girls and their quota of rations. Even the weight of the wool given to each worker and the number of garments made from it were meticulously recorded. In one of the legal buildings they found copies of the sentences carefully stacked exactly as they are in the administrative offices of modern law courts.

For three winter seasons the Anglo-American expedition worked on at the site of ancient Ur, and still this extraordinary museum of man's early history had not yielded up all its secrets. Outside the temple area the excavators had a further unprecedented surprise.

South of the staged tower, as they were clearing away a series of mounds, there suddenly emerged from the rubble solid structures: row upon row of walls and facades one after the other. As the sand was cleared away it revealed a complete checkerboard of dwellinghouses whose ruins were in places still 10 feet high. Between them ran little alleyways. Here and there open squares broke the line of the streets.

Several weeks of hard work were necessary and endless loads of rubble had to be removed before the diggers were faced with an unforgettable sight.

Under the red slopes of Tell al-Muqayyar lay a whole city, bathed in

p 40 -- the bright sunshine, awakened from its long sleep after many thousand years by the patient burrowing of the archaeologists. Woolley and his companions were beside themselves with joy. For before them lay Ur, the "Ur of the Chaldees" to which the Bible refers. And how well its citizens lived, and in what spacious homes! No other Mesopotamian city has revealed such handsome and comfortable houses.

Compared with them the dwelling-houses which have been preserved in Babylon are modest, in fact miserable. Professor Koldewey, during German excavations there at the beginning of this century, found nothing but simple mud brick erections, one story high with three or four rooms surrounding an open courtyard. That was how people lived about 600 B.C. in the much admired and extolled metropolis of Nebuchadnezzar the Great of Babylon. But 1,500 years before that the citizens of Ur were living in large two-storied villas with thirteen or fourteen rooms. The lower floor was solidly built of burnt brick, the upper floor of mud brick. The walls were neatly coated with plaster and whitewashed.

A visitor would pass through the door into a small entrance hall where there was a basin to wash the dust off hands and feet. He then continued into the inner court, which was laid out in attractive paving. Round it were grouped the reception room, the kitchen, living rooms and private rooms and the domestic chapel. Up a stone staircase, which concealed a lavatory, he would reach a gallery from which branched off the rooms belonging to members of the family and the guest rooms. From beneath the debris of brick and plaster there emerged into the light of day all the things that these patrician houses had contained in the way of domestic appliances for ordinary use. Countless sherds of pots, jugs, vases and small clay tablets covered with writing combined to form a mosaic from which piece by piece a picture of everyday life in Ur could be reconstructed. Ur of the Chaldees was a powerful, prosperous, colourful and busy capital city at the beginning of the second millennium B.C.

One idea was very much in Woolley's mind. Abraham is said to have come from Ur of the Chaldees - he must therefore have been born in one of these two-storied patrician houses and must have grown up there. Woolley wandered through these alleyways, past the walls of the great temple, and as he looked up he glimpsed this huge staged tower with its black, red and blue blocks and its fringe of trees. "We must radically alter", he writes enthusiastically, "our view of the Hebrew patriarch when we see that his earlier years were passed in such sophisticated surroundings. He was the citizen of a great city and inherited the traditions of an old and highly organised civilisation. The houses themselves reveal comfort and even luxury. We found copies of the hymns which were used in the services of the temples and together

p 41 -- with them mathematical tables. On these tables were anything from plain addition sums to formulae for the extraction of square and cube roots. In other texts the writers had copied out the old building inscriptions to be found in the city and had compiled in this way a short history of the temples."

Abraham - no simple nomad, this Abraham, but son of a great city of the second millennium B.C.

That was a sensational discovery and one difficult to grasp. Newspapers and magazines carried photographs of the crumbling old staged tower and the ruins of the metropolis. They caused a tremendous sensation. People looked with astonishment at a drawing which bore the title: "A House of the time of Abraham". Woolley had had this done by an artist. It is a genuine reconstruction in accordance with the finds. It shows the inner court of a villa-type house; two tall jars stand on a tiled pavement; a wooden balustrade running round the upper story shuts off the rooms from the courtyard. Was the old familiar picture of the patriarch Abraham, as it had been held for generations, which saw him surrounded by his family and his cattle, suddenly to be called in question?

Woolley's idea did not remain unchallenged. Very soon theologians and even archaeologists registered their dissent.

In favour of Woolley's idea were the words of Gen. 11:31: "And Terah took Abram his son and Lot... and they went forth... from Ur of the Chaldees." But there are other references in the Bible which point to somewhere else. When Abraham sends his old servant from Canaan to the city of Nahor, to fetch a wife for his son Isaac, he calls this place Nahor his "country" (Gen. 24:4), his "father's house" and "the land of my kindred" (Gen. 24:7). Nahor lay in the north of Mesopotamia. After the conquest of the Promised Land Joshua addressed the people in these words: "Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor" (Josh. 24:2) In this case the "flood" means as in other places in the Bible, the Euphrates. The city of Ur was excavated on the right bank of the Euphrates: looked at from Canaan it lay on this side, not on the other side of the "flood". Had Woolley been too hasty in his conclusions? What reliable evidence had the expedition produced? What proof was there that Terah and his son Abraham lived actually in the city of Ur?

"The earlier journey from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran has, apart from the discovery of the city itself, no archaeological foundation," declares Professor W. F. Albright of Johns Hopkins University. This scholar, who has himself conducted successful excavations and is the foremost authority on the archaeology of Palestine and the Middle East, goes further. "The remarkable fact that the Greek translations [of the Bible] nowhere mention Ur but read instead the more. natural

p 42 -- 'Land [of the Chaldees]' might mean that the removal of Abraham's native place to Ur is possibly secondary and was not generally known in the third century B.C."

Ur emerged from the shadowy past as the capital city of the Sumerians, one of the oldest civilisations in Mesopotamia. As we know, the Sumerians were not Semites like the Hebrews. When the great invasion of Semitic nomads streamed out of the Arabian desert about 2000 B.C. its first encounter in the south was with the extensive plantations of Ur, its houses and its canals. It is possible that some recollection of that great journey through the lands of the "Fertile Crescent", in which Ur was involved, has resulted in its being mentioned in the Bible. Painstaking research, particularly excavations in the last two decades, make it almost certain that Abraham cannot ever have been a citizen of the Sumerian metropolis. It would conflict with all the descriptions which the Old Testament gives of the kind of life lived by the patriarch: Abraham is a tent dweller, he moves with his flocks from pasture to pasture and from well to well. He does not live like a citizen of a great city - he lives the life of a typical nomad.

As we shall see, it was much farther to the north of the "Fertile Crescent" that the stories of the Biblical patriarchs emerged out of their mystical obscurity on to the plane of history. Top

p 43 -- Chapter 3 -- DIGGING UP THE FLOOD -- The graves of the Sumerian kings - A puzzling layer of clay - Traces of the Flood under desert sands - A catastrophic flood about 4000 B.C.

"And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark. For yet seven days and I will cause it to rain upon the earth, forty days and forty nights: and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.

"And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were upon the earth" Gen- 7:1, 4, 10.

When we hear the word Flood, almost immediately we think of the Bible and the story of Noah's Ark. This wonderful Old Testament story has travelled round the world with Christianity. But although this is the best known tradition of the Flood it is by no means the only one. Among people of all races there is a variety of traditions of a gigantic and catastrophic Flood. The Greeks told the Flood story and connected it with Deucalion: long before Columbus many stories told among the natives of the continent of America kept the memory of a great Flood alive: in Australia, India, Polynesia, Tibet, Kashmir and Lithuania tales of a Flood have been handed down from generation to generation up to the present day. Are they all fairy tales and legends, are they all inventions?

It is highly probable that they all reflect the same world wide catastrophe. This frightful occurrence must, however, have taken place at a time when there were human beings on earth who could experience it, survive it, and then pass on an account of it. Geologists thought that they could solve this ancient mystery by pointing to the warm periods in the earth's history, between the Ice Ages. They suggested that when the huge ice-caps covering the continents, some of them many thousand feet high, gradually began to melt, the level of the sea rose to four times its normal height all over the world. This great additional volume of water altered land contours, flooded low lying coastal areas and plains, and annihilated their population, their animals, and their vegetation. But all these attempts at explanation ended in speculation and theory. Possible hypotheses satisfy the historian least of all. He constantly demands unambiguous factual evidence. But there was none: no scientist, whatever his line, could produce any. Actually it was by a coincidence - during research into something quite different that

p 44 -- unmistakable evidence of the Flood appeared, as it were, of its own accord. And that happened at a place we have already got to know: at the excavations at Ur.

For six years American and British archaeologists had been examining the ground at Tel al-Muqayyar, which by that time looked like one vast building site. When the Bagdad train stopped there for a moment, travellers looked with amazement at the soaring sandhills which had resulted from the diggings. Waggon loads of soil were removed, carefully searched, and put through the riddle. Rubbish thousands of years old was treated like precious cargo. Perseverance, conscientiousness, and painstaking effort had in six years yielded a handsome dividend. The Sumerian temples with their warehouses, workshops and law courts and the villa-type dwelling houses were followed, between 1926 and 1928, by discoveries of such magnificence and splendour that everything else so far paled into insignificance.

"The graves of the kings of Ur"- so Woolley, in the exuberance of his delight at discovering them, had dubbed the tombs of Sumerian nobles whose truly regal splendour had been exposed when the spades of the archaeologists attacked a 50 foot mound south of the temple and found a long row of superimposed graves. The stone vaults were veritable treasure chests, for they were filled with all the costly things that Ur in its heyday possessed. Golden drinking cups and goblets, wonderfully shaped jugs and vases, bronze tableware, mother of pearl mosaics, lapis lazuli and silver surrounded these bodies which had mouldered into dust. Harps and lyres rested against the walls. A young man, "Hero of the land of God" as an inscription described him, wore a golden helmet. A golden comb decorated with blossom in lapis lazuli adorned the hair of the beautiful Sumerian "Lady Puabi". Even the famous tombs of Nofretete and Tutankhamun contained no more beautiful objects. "The graves of the kings of Ur" are moreover 1,000 years older at least.

The graves of the kings had as well as these precious contents another more grisly and depressing experience in store for us, enough to send a slight shiver down the spine. In the vaults were found teams of oxen with the skeletons still in harness and each of the great waggons was laden with artistic household furniture. The whole retinue had clearly accompanied the noblemen in death, as could be gathered from the richly clad and ornamented skeletons with which they were surrounded. The tomb of the beautiful Puabi had twenty such skeletons, other vaults had as many as seventy.

What can have happened here so long ago? There was not the slightest indication that they were victims of a violent death. In solemn procession, it would seem, the attendants with the ox-drawn treasure waggons accompanied the body to the tomb. And while the grave was being sealed outside they composed their dead master for his last rest Top

p 45 -- within. Then they took some drug, gathered round him for the last time and died of their own free will-in order to be able to serve him in his future existence.

For two centuries the citizens of Ur had buried their eminent men in these tombs. When they came to open the lowest and last tomb the archaeologists of the 20th century A.D. found themselves transported into the world of 2800 B.C.

As the summer of 1929 approached the sixth season of digging at Tell al-Muqayyar was drawing to a close. Woolley had put his native diggers once more on to the hill of "the graves of the kings". It left him no peace. He wanted to be certain whether the ground under the deepest royal grave had fresh discoveries in store for the next season's excavation.

After the foundations of the tomb had been removed, a few hundred thrusts of the spade made it quite plain that further layers of rubble lay below. How far into the past could these silent chronometers take them?

When had the very first human settlement arisen on virgin soil under this mound? Woolley had to know. To make certain he very slowly and carefully sank shafts and stood over them to examine the soil which came up from the underlying strata. "Almost at once," he wrote later in his diary, "discoveries were made which confirmed.our suspicions. Directly under the floor of one of the tombs of the kings we found in a layer of charred wood ash numerous clay tablets, which were covered with characters of a much older type than the inscriptions on the graves. Judging by the nature of the writing the tablets could be assigned to about 3000 B.C. They were therefore two or three centuries earlier than the tombs."

Traces of flood-clay about 4000 B.C.(a) River bed (Euphrates). (b) Layer of flood-clay. (c) Hills which projected above the flood.

The shafts went deeper and deeper. New strata with fragments of jars, pots and bowls kept coming up. The experts noticed that the pottery remained surprisingly enough unchanged. It looked exactly like what had been found in the graves of the kings. Therefore it seemed as if for centuries Sumerian civilisation had undergone no radical

p 46 -- change. They must, according to this conclusion, have reached a high level of development astonishingly early.

When after several days some of Woolley's workmen called out to him "We are on ground level" he let himself down on to the floor of the shaft to satisfy himself. Traces of any kind of settlement did in fact abruptly break off in the shaft. The last fragments of household utensils lay on the smooth flat surface of the base of the pit. Here and there were charred remains. Woolley's first thought was: "This is it at last." He carefully prodded the ground on the floor of the shaft and stopped short: it was clay, pure clay of a kind that could only have been deposited by water! Clay in a place like that? Woolley tried to find an explanation: it must be the accumulated silt of the Euphrates in bygone days. This stratum must have come into existence when the great river thrust its delta far out into the Persian Gulf, just as it still does, creating new land out of the sea at the river mouth at the rate of 75 feet a year. When Ur was in its heyday, the Euphrates flowed so close to it that the great staged tower was reflected in its waters and the Gulf was visible from the temple on its summit. The first buildings must therefore have sprung up on the mud flats of the delta.

Measurements of the adjacent area and more careful calculations brought Woolley eventually however to quite a different conclusion.

"I saw that we were much too high up. It was most unlikely that the island on which the first settlement was built stood up so far out of the marsh."

-Pit showing flood-stratum at Ur. 1. Graves of the kings. 2. Sherds and vessels. 3. Band of clay (10 feet). 4. Antediluvian vessels.

The foot of the shaft, where the layer of clay began, was several yards above the river level. It could not therefore be river deposit. What was the meaning then of this remarkable stratum? Where did it come from? None of his associates could give him a satisfactory answer. They

p 47 -- decided to dig on and make the shaft deeper. Woolley gazed intently as once more basket after basket came out of the trench and their contents were examined. Deeper and deeper went the spades into the ground, 3 feet, 6 feet - still pure clay. Suddenly at nearly 10 feet the layer of clay stopped as abruptly as it had started. What would come now? Top

The next baskets that came to the surface gave an answer that none of the expedition would have dreamt of. They could hardly believe their eyes. They had expected pure virgin soil. But what now emerged into the glaring sunshine was rubble and more rubble, ancient rubbish and countless potsherds. Under this clay deposit almost 10 feet thick they had struck fresh evidence of human habitation. The appearance and quality of the pottery had noticeably altered. Above the clay-stratum were jars and bowls which had obviously been turned on the potter's wheel, here on the contrary they were hand-made. No matter how carefully they sifted the contents of the baskets, amid increasing excitement, metal remains were nowhere to be found, the primitive implement that did emerge was made of hewn flint. It must belong to the Stone Age!

That day a telegram from Mesopotamia flashed what was perhaps the most extraordinary message that had ever stirred men's imaginations "We have found the Flood". The incredible discovery at Ur made headline news in the United States and in Britain.

The Flood - that was the only possible explanation of this great clay deposit beneath the hill at Ur, which quite clearly separated two epochs of settlement. The sea had left its unmistakable traces in the shape of remains of little marine organisms embedded in the clay. Woolley had to confirm his conclusions without delay: a chance coincidence - although the odds were against it - might conceivably have been making fools of them. Three hundred yards from the first shaft he sank a second one.

The spades produced the same results: sherd - clay - fragmen os of hand-made pottery.

Finally to remove all doubt, Woolley made them dig a shaft through the rubble where the old settlement lay on a natural hill, that is to say, on a considerably higher level than the stratum of clay.

Just at about the same level as in the two other shafts the sherds of wheel-turned vessels stopped suddenly. Immediately beneath them came hand-made clay pots. It was exactly as Woolley had supposed and expected. Naturally the intermediate layer of clay was missing. "About sixteen feet below a brick pavement," noted Woolley, "which we could with reasonable certainty date about 2700 B.C. we were among the ruins of that Ur which had existed before the Flood."

How far did the layer of clay extend? What area was affected by the disaster? A proper hunt now started for traces of the Flood in other

p 48 -- parts of Mesopotamia. Other archaeologists discovered a further important check-point near Kish, south-east of Babylon, where the Euphrates and the Tigris flow in a great bend towards each other. There they found a similar band of clay, but only 18 inches thick. Gradually by a variety of tests the limits of the Flood waters could be established. According to Woolley the disaster engulfed an area north-west of the Persian Gulf amounting to 400 miles long and 100 miles wide, looking at the map we should call it today "a local occurrence" - for the inhabitants of the river plains it was however in those days their whole world.

Map - FORMER EXTENT OF PERSIAN GULF EXCAVATIONS PRESENT DAY CITIES The extent of the Flood in Mesopotamia.

After endless enquiry and attempts at some explanation, without achieving any concrete results, any hope of solving the great riddle of the Flood had long since been given up. It seemed to lie in a dark and distant region of time which we could never hope to penetrate. Now Woolley and his associates had through their tireless and patient efforts made a discovery which shattered even the experts: a vast catastrophic inundation, resembling the Biblical Flood which had regularly been described by sceptics as either a fairy tale or a legend, had not only taken place but was moreover an event within the compass of history.

At the foot of the old staged tower of the Sumerians, at Ur on the lower Euphrates, anyone could climb down a ladder into a narrow shaft and see and touch the remains of a gigantic and catastrophic Flood which had deposited a layer of clay almost 10 feet thick. Reckoning by the age of the strata containing traces of human habitation, and in this respect they are as reliable as a calendar, it could also be ascertained when the great Flood took place. It happened about 4000 B.C.

Clearly people in Woolley's day tended to give dramatic interpretations to the results of excavations more readily than they do nowadays, for shortly after Woolley, another excavator, Stephen Langdon, claimed, "with strong support from the press", that he in turn had found in Kish, that is to say, in Babylon, "material traces of the Flood". It was Langdon's, but also Woolley's bad luck that the datings of these two flood catastrophes did not agree. Which flood was the right one, the genuine, Biblical Flood? Woolley protested vigorously against Langdon's claim to have discovered it and a vehement argument followed which, however, did not in the least disturb a number of writers, among them, for example, Sir Charles Marston, who asserted

p 49 -- that both Woolley and Langdon had discovered "simultaneously the
deposits left by the Flood".

Since then the excitement has somewhat subsided and given place to more sober consideration. The following four main points emerge from the pronouncements of the experts: -

Of Woolley's five shafts only two revealed any deposits at all from an inundation.

The inundation in Ur did not lead to the abandonment oi the settlement. In fact, it did not even lead to an interruption in the occupation.

Traces of inundation were indeed discovered in other places in Mesopotamia, in Kish, as well as in Fara (Shuruppak), Nineveh and Uruk (Erech) but on the other hand, they are not found where they ought to be present if the whole of Mesopotamia was flooded.

The traces left by the inundations at the various excavation sites also vary, in some cases quite appreciably, in their chronological sequence. They belong to quite different periods; centuries separate them.

In other words, Woolley's "Flood" was obviously not of sufficient magnitude for the Biblical "Flood", unless we assume that one of the flood catastrophes shown by archaeology to have occurred in Mesopotamia had nevertheless had such a lasting effect on the inhabitants of those days that - with a considerable amount of exaggeration - the tradition of a catastrophe to humanity could arise from it. Naturally, however, this is mere supposition and the Biblical Flood, at any rate a flood of the unimaginable extent described in the Bible, still remains "archaeologically not demonstrated". The question consequently remains: do all the various "flood" reports, which occur in practically all parts of the world, describe merely mankind's earliest experience of the phenomenon "flood catastrophe" and were all the traditional, relevant accounts of floods simply compressed or exaggerated to form a number of stories of the "great flood of all floods" or are they the vestiges of much older traditions going back hundreds of years before Woolley's flood at Ur, to the time of the melting of the gigantic glaciers of the Ice Age when the ocean rose some two hundred metres and the limits of today's land and sea were formed? That event had world-wide consequences which could explain why the traditions of a flood have persisted among so many peoples. The following pages will discuss one of the flood traditions, parallel to that in the Bible, although it derives to a large extent also from "Biblical lands". Top

p 50 -- Chapter 4 -- A FLOOD-STORY FROM OLD BABYLONIA -- The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible - Twelve clay tablets from Nineveh - An ancient epic from the library of Ashurbanipal - Utnapishtim, a Sumerian Noah? - The secret of Mt. Ararat - A gigantic ship in a museum of ice - Expeditions in quest of the Ark.

"And God said unto Noah... Make thee an ark of gopherwood: rooms shalt thou make in the ark and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch" Gen. 6:13-14.

About the turn of the century, long before Woolley discovered Ur, another find had aroused great interest and given rise to lively discussions about the nature of Holy Scripture.

From the dim recesses of the Ancient East an old mysterious story came to light: a heroic epic, of 300 quatrains, inscribed on twelve large clay tablets, which told of the wonderful experiences of the legendary king Gilgamesh.

The text was astonishing: Gilgamesh told a tale exactly like the Bible -of a man who was said to have lived before and after a mighty and disastrous Flood.

Where did this splendid and remarkable epic come from?

During excavations in the fifties of last century British archaeologists had found these twelve clay tablets, together with about 20,000 others, all in a good state of preservation, among the ruins of the library at Nineveh, which was reckoned to be the most famous in the ancient world. King Ashurbanipal had it built in the 7th century B.C. high above the banks of the Tigris in old Nineveh. Today on the other side of the river the oil-derricks of Mosul tower into the sky.

A priceless treasure in packing cases started out on its long journey from Nineveh to the British Museum.

But it was not for several decades that the true value of these texts was revealed when they could finally be deciphered. At the time there was no one in the world who could read them. Despite every effort the tablets held their peace. Shortly before 1900 in the modest laboratories of the British Museum the old texts began, after an interval of twenty-five centuries, to unfold anew one of the finest narratives of the Ancient East. Assyriologists heard for the first time the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is written in Akkadian, the language of the court and of diplomacy in the time of king Ashurbanipal. Its form, however, dates not from the time

p 51 -- when it was placed in the library at Nineveh but from 1,000 years earlier. It goes back as far as Hammurabi, the great king of Babylon, for soon a second copy was discovered in his capital on the Euphrates. Further finds confirmed the view that the Gilgamesh Epic belonged to the rich heritage of all the great nations of the Ancient East. Hittites and Egyptians translated it into their own tongues, and cuneiform tablets discovered by the Nile still show clearly the marks in red ink opposite those parts which the Egyptian scribes found difficulty in translating.

At last a little clay fragment gave the clue to the origin of the Epic of Gilgamesh. The world owes its original composition to the Sumerians, the people whose capital stood on the site of Ur.

Gilgamesh, as the cuneiform writing on the eleventh tablet from the library at Nineveh tells us, decided to ensure his immortality and set out on a long adventurous journey to find his ancestor Utnapishtim, from whom he hoped to learn the secret of everlasting life which the gods had bestowed upon him. When he reached the island on which Utnapishtim lived, Gilgamesh asked of him the "Secret,of Life". Utnapishtim related that he had once lived in Shuruppak and had been a true worshipper of the god Ea. When the gods decided to destroy mankind by a Flood Ea warned his devotee Utnapishtim and issued this command: "0 man of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu, tear down thy house, build a ship; abandon wealth, seek after life; scorn possessions, save thy life. Bring up the seed of all kinds of living things into the ship: the ship which thou shalt build. Let its dimensions be well measured."

We all know the wonderful story which follows. For what the Sumerian Utnapishtim is said to have experienced, the Bible tells us about Noah.      "And God said unto Noah Make thee an ark of gopher wood. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female" Gen. 6:13ff.

To make the comparison easier let us set side by side what Utnapishtim says of his great experience and what the Bible tells us of Noah and the Flood. Top

In accordance with the command of the god Ea, Utnapishtim builds the ship and says:

On the fifth day I decided upon its
plan.

The floor was 200 ft. square.

The length of the ark shall be 300cubits the breadth Of it 50 cubits and the height of it thirty cubits - Gen.6:15.

p 52 -- The walls were 200 ft. high
.I gave it six stories and divided thebreadth seven times.

With lower, second, and third
stories shalt thou make it - Gen. 6:16.

Its interior I divided into nine. ...Rooms shalt thou make in the ark - Gen. 6:14.
6 sar of bitumen I poured into thekiln. ... and shalt pitch it within and
without with pitch - Gen. 6:14.

When Utnapishtim had finished building his ship he arranged a sumptuous banquet. He provided venison and mutton for those who had helped with the work of building and dispensed "cider, beer, oil and wine to the people as if it were running water". Then he continues:

I brought into the ship my whole
family and kinsfolk.

All that I had I loaded, of the seed of all living things.

The cattle of the field, the beasts of
the field, all craftsmen-I made
them go up into it.

And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives, into the ark because of the waters of the flood.

Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of everything that creepeth upon the earth.

There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah (Gen. 7 7-1).

I went into the ship and closed my
door.

And the Lord shut him in (Gen. 7 16).

As soon as a gleam of dawn shone in the sky, came a black cloud from the foundation of heaven. Inside it Adad thundered.

And it came to pass, after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.

... the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened - Gen. 7:10-11.

p 53 -- Adad's rage reached to the heavens: turning all light to darkness.

The gods of Mesopotamia are terrified by the Flood and flee to the upper reaches of heaven where the god Anu has his abode. Before they enter "they crouch and cower like dogs". They are grieved and shattered by what is happening and tearfully and in utter dejection lodge their complaint.

A description worthy of Homer!

But the Flood rages on unceasing, as Gilgamesh learns:

Six days and nights

Raged the wind, the flood, the cyclone devastated the land.

And the flood was forty days upon the earth and the waters increased. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth, and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered - Gen- 7:17-19.
When the seventh day came, the cyclone, the flood, the battle was over, And God remembered Noah... and God made a wind to pass over the earth and the waters assuaged - Gen. 8:1.
Which had battled like an army. The sea became calm, the cyclone died away, the flood ceased. The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped; and the rain from heaven was restrained. And the waters returned from off the earth continually, and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated - Gen. 8:2, 3.
And all mankind had turned to clay. The ground was flat like a roof. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth... and every man - Gen. 7:21.

"And all mankind had turned to clay." Utnapishtim, the Sumerian Noah, is recording what he himself claimed to have lived through. Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites and Egyptians who translated or read aloud or narrated these words had no more notion that they were describing something that actually happened, than did the modern

p 54 -- Assyriologists who painfully deciphered them from the cuneiform tablets. Today we know that line 134 on the eleventh tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh must depend on an eye-witness account. Only someone who had himself seen the desolation caused by the catastrophe, could have described it with such striking force. Top

The great layer of mud, which covered every living thing like a shroud and levelled the ground until it was as "flat as a roof ", must have been seen with his own eyes by someone who had had a marvellous escape. The exact description of the great storm argues for this assumption. Utnapishtim expressly mentions a southern gale, which corresponds closely with the geographical situation. The Persian Gulf, whose waters were flung over the flat country by the gale, lies south of the estuary of the Tigris and Euphrates. To the last detail the weather conditions which he describes are characteristic of an unusual atmospheric disturbance. The appearance of black clouds and a roaring noise - sudden darkness in broad daylight - the howling of the southern gale as it drives the water in front of it. Any meteorologist recognises at once that this is a description of a cyclone. Modern weather experts recognise that, in tropical regions, coastal areas, islands, but above all alluvial river flats are subject to a spiral type of tidal wave which leaves devastation and destruction in its wake, and which is often caused by cyclones, accompanied by earthquakes and torrential rain.

All along the coast of Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico, and on the Pacific there is today an up-to-date alarm system with all the latest equipment. But for southern Mesopotamia in 4000 B.C. even a modern alarm system would not have been of much use. Sometimes cyclones
produce an effect which takes the shape of the Flood. There is an example in recent times.

In 1876 a cyclone of this nature, accompanied by tremendous thunderstorms, swept across the Bay of Ben al and headed for the coast at the mouth of the Ganges. Up to 200 miles from its centre ships at sea had their masts splintered. It was ebb-tide along the coast. The receding water was seized by the broad high sweep of the cyclone and a gigantic tidal wave reared itself up. It burst into the Ganges area and sea water 50 feet high swept inland - 141 square miles were buried and 215,100 people died.

Utnapishtim tells a horrified Gilgamesh what happened when the disaster was over:

I opened the window and the light fell on my face. And it came to pass at the end of
forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had
made - Gen. 8:6.

p 55 -- The ship lay upon Mt. Nisir.

Mount Nisir held the ship and
allowed it not to move.

And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat - Gen. 8:4.

Old Babylonian cuneiform texts describe with care where Mt. Nisir is to be found. It lies between the Tigris and the lower reaches of the river Zab, where the wild and rugged mountain ranges of Kurdistan rise sharply from the flat country bordering the Tigris. The alleged resting place corresponds perfectly with the last lap of the great catastrophe which burst inland from the south. We are told that Utnapishtim's home was in Shuruppak. It lay near the present day Fara in the middle of the flat fenland where Tigris and Euphrates part company. A tidal wave from the Persian Gulf must have carried a ship from here right to the Kurdistan mountains.

Despite the precise descriptions in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Mt. Nisir has never tempted the curious to search for the remains of this giant ship. Instead, Mt. Ararat, which belongs to the Biblical tradition, has been the goal chosen by a series of expeditions.


Mt. Ararat - where three countries
meet: Turkey, Iran and U.S.S.R.

Mt. Ararat lies in Eastern Turkey, near the borders of Russia and Iran. Its snow capped summit is over 16,000 feet high.Top

Last century, many years before any archaeologist turned a spadeful of Mesopotamian soil, the first expeditions were making their way to Mt. Ararat. A shepherd's story had started them off.

At the foot of Ararat lies the little Armenian village of Bayzit, whose inhabitants have for generations recounted the remarkable experience of a mountain shepherd who was said to have seen one day on Ararat a great wooden ship. A report from a Turkish expedition in 1833 seemed to confirm the shepherd's story since it mentioned a wooden prow of a ship which in the summer season stuck out of the south glacier.

The next person to claim to have seen it was Dr. Nouri, Archdeacon of Jerusalem and Babylon. This agile ecclesiastical dignitary undertook a journey in 1892 to discover the sources of the Euphrates. On his return he told of the wreckage of a ship in the eternal ice: "The interior was full of snow: the outer wall was of a dark red colour." In the First World War a Russian flying officer, by name Roskowitzki, announced

p 56 -- that he had spotted from his plane "the remains of wreckage of a fair-sized ship" on the south flank of Ararat. Although it was the middle of the war, Czar Nicholas II despatched a search party without delay. It is supposed not only to have seen the ship but even to have photographed it. All proof of this however perished, presumably in the Revolution.

From the Second World War there are likewise several cases of aerial observation. They come from a Russian pilot and four American fliers.

These latter reports brought into the field the American historian and missionary Dr. Aaron Smith of Greensborough, an expert on the Flood. As a result of years of labour he has collected a complete history of the literature on Noah's Ark. There are 80,000 works in seventy-two languages about the Flood, of which 70,000 mention the legendary wreckage of the Ark.

In 1951 Dr. Smith spent twelve days with forty companions to no purpose on the ice-cap of Ararat. "Although we found no trace of Noah's Ark," he declared later, "my confidence in the Biblical description of the Flood is no whit the less. We shall go back."

Encouraged by Dr. Smith the young French Greenland explorer Jean de Riquer climbed the volcanic peak in 1952. He too came back without accomplishing anything. Despite this, fresh expeditions are always getting ready for a further attempt on Mt. Ararat.

In 1955, in the early morning of July 6th, Fernand Navarra from France, searching for the most famous ship in history, succeeded to his great surprise in salvaging three fragments of a wooden beam embedded in solid ice on top of the mountain. The timber was at least 5,000 years old, although whether this was actually a relic of Noah's Ark it is of course impossible to say.

No tradition of the early days of Mesopotamia is in such close agreement with the Bible as the Flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In some places we find almost verbal correspondence. Yet there is a significant and essential difference. The familiar story in Genesis knows of one God only. The oddly amusing and primitive conception has disappeared of a heaven overcrowded with gods, many of whom bear all too human characteristics.

In all the flood traditions which have been mentioned, problems arise from mankind's unfortunate tendency to believe what it wants to believe. This is shown especially in the search for the ark on the 5,165 metre-high Agri Dagi which lies on the frontier between Turkey and the Soviet Union. According to the account in the Bible (Gen. 8:4), that is where Noah's ark is supposed to have landed. When considered closely, however, the matter is by no means so unambiguous, for the Bible refers only to the "mountains of Ararat". Ararat is simply the name given to the old land of Urartu, which corresponds, roughly speaking, to present day Armenia. The Gilgamesh epic adds the "mountain Nisir"

p 57 -- as the place where the ark came to rest, while Berossus, a Babylonian priest who lived in Hellenic times and who in his work Babylonian Antiquities also relates the Babylonian flood story, introduces a "Kordye mountain range" into the debate. Another claim for the honour of being regarded as the landing place of the ark is made for a mountain in Phrygia in Asia Minor, not far from the town of Kelainai, the centre of many legends in olden days, while the Mahometans prefer to situate the ark's landing place a good distance south of Agri Dagi on the mountain of Judi, which offers a view far across the Mesopotamian plain. One way and another there are in any case too many mountains figuring as landing places for the ark.

What has been done and is still being done on the mountain where according to Christian tradition the ark came to rest is, however, not yet sufficiently documented. Andre Parrot is of the opinion that silence is the only appropriate attitude to be adopted by scientific journals towards the periodically recurring attempts, usually accompanied by lively activity in the daily press, to discover remains of the Biblical ark high up amid the snow and ice. In fact, not a single specialist in archaeology has so far taken part in any of the attempts to recover the ark. The consequence is that we have no reliable account of methods used in the searches or of the circumstances in which finds have been made, not to mention photographic evidence providing proof of claims that have been put forward. This is not because professional archaeologists consider themselves too grand to undertake the strenuous exertions involved in climbing up Mount Ararat (or rather Agri Dagi), but because systematic archaeological investigations, particularly in such difficult terrain, involve enormous expenditure.

The necessary finance is granted, however, only when discoveries of great scientific and general interest are to be expected. Such finds are improbable on Mount Ararat, and so we are provisionally obliged to say that ever since the 5165 metre peak has been in existence and men have inhabited the earth, no scientifically recorded inundation in the world has risen high enough to carry up to such an altitude any kind of floating construction of the nature of the ark. The terrain around Mount Ararat during this period has not undergone such spectacular changes that the ark could have been deposited there at a time when perhaps the summit was lower than it is today. From the outset, the search for the ark on Agri Dagi must be considered a failure and as Andre Parrot has so well expressed it, expeditions with Mount Ararat as their goal have more to do with mountain-climbing than with archaeology.

But does there not exist wood from Ararat "at least five thousand years old"? Certainly wood has been produced for examination which, it is claimed, has come from Ararat, but again there is a difficulty about the dating, which we are told is based on "estimates by a forestry

p 58 -- institute in Madrid", while "a laboratory" in Paris is reported to have arrived at 4,484 years as the age of the wood. On the other hand, a "Research Institute in Pre-History" in Bordeaux is said to have been content with vague general statements about the "great age" of the material. Even if these institutes were shown on closer examination to be reputable, however, and their reports proved to be unassailable, we must take into account that the samples extracted by non-specialists and brought long distances to the above mentioned places must have been exposed to a considerable degree to the effects of dirt. This obscures the measurements obtained, so that there can scarcely be any question of the determination of that wood's age which is not open to objection. A subsequent Ararat expedition did not even locate the original spot where the wood had been found. On the other hand, it claimed to have discovered wood elsewhere on Agri Daki, but its age has been assessed at only something between 1300 and 1700 years. This result coincides very nicely with the conjecture by a number of scholars that as a possible consequence of being traditionally linked with the account of the Flood, Agri Daki was regarded as "holy" and so already in the early Christian era a few huts for pilgrims or hermits' dwellings may have been built there. Top

p 59 -- Chapter 5 -- ABRAHAM LIVED IN THE KINGDOM OF MARI -- A stone corpse - Lieut. Cabane reports a find - A Syrian Tell has important visitors - King Lamgi-Mari introduces himself - Professor Parrot discovers an unknown empire - A Royal Palace with 260 apartments and courtyards - 23,600 clay tablets have survived for 4,000 years - Desert police report the "Benjamites" - Rebecca's home - A flourishing city - And Nuzi... ?

"Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee" Gen. 12:1.

The country of which the Bible is speaking in this case is Haran. Terah, his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai, and his grandson Lot lived there (Gen. 11:31).

What was actually meant by Haran was until recently quite unknown. We knew nothing of its early history. All the old Babylonian documents are silent about the middle reaches of the Euphrates - Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers - where Haran once stood.

A chance find led to excavations in 1933, which here also gave rise to a great and exciting discovery and added considerably to our knowledge. They brought the Haran of the Bible and the kind of life lived by the patriarchs quite unexpectedly into a historical context.

On the line between Damascus and Mosul, where it cuts the Euphrates, lies the small obscure town of Abu Kemal. Since, as a result of the First World War, Syria was placed under a French mandate, there was a French garrison in the place.

Over the broad Euphrates plain in midsummer 1933 lay a brooding, paralysing heat. Lieut. Cabane, the station-commander, expected, when he was called into the orderly room, that it was merely another of these quarrels among the Arabs that he was supposed to settle. He had had more than enough of that already. But this time the excitement in the office seemed to be about something different. Eventually he managed to extract through the interpreter the following story:  These people had been burying one of their relatives. They were digging the grave on a remote hillside, by name Tell Hariri, when out popped a stone corpse!

Perhaps, thought Lieut. Cabane, this might be something that would interest the museum at Aleppo. At any rate it was a pleasant change from the endless monotony of this God-forsaken post.

p 60 -- In the cool of the evening he drove out to Tell Hariri, which lay about 7 miles to the north of Abu Kemal near the Euphrates. The Arabs led him up the slope to the broken statue in a flat earthen trough which had so upset them the day before. Cabane was no expert, but he knew at once that the stone figure must be very old. Next day it was taken by French soldiers to Abu Kemal. The lights were on till long after midnight in the little command-post. Cabane was writing a detailed report on the find to the competent authorities, to Henry Seyrig, Director of Antiquities in Beirut, and to the Museum at Aleppo.

Months went past and nothing happened,. The whole thing seemed to be either unimportant or forgotten. Then at the end of November came a telegram from Paris, from the Louvre. Cabane could hardly believe his eyes and read the message again and again. In a few days important visitors from Paris would be arriving: Professor Parrot, the well known archaeologist, accompanied by scientists, architects, assistants and draughtsmen.

On the 14th of December Tell Hariri was buzzing like a bee-hive. The archaeologists had begun their detective-work. First of all the whole mound was carefully measured and photographed in detail. Soundings were taken for echoes, specimens of soil were removed and submitted to expert opinion. December went by and the first weeks of the New Year. The 23rd of January 1934 was the decisive day.

As they were digging carefully through the outer crust of the Tell there appeared out of the rubble a neat little figure which had some writing pricked out on the right shoulder. Everyone bent over it, fascinated. "I am Lamgi-Mari... king... of Mari... the great... Issakkv... who worships his statue... of Ishtar."

Slowly, word by word, this sentence rings in the ears of the silent circle as Professor Parrot translates it from the cuneiform. This is an unforgettable moment for him and his companions. An almost uncanny scene and probably unique in the history of archaeology with its surprises and adventures!

The monarch had solemnly welcomed the strangers from distant Paris and introduced himself to them. It was as if he wanted politely to show them the road into his kingdom of long ago which lay in a deep sleep beneath him, and of whose pomp and power the Parisian scholars
had as yet no conception.

Carved in stone, a marvellous piece of sculpture, King Lamgi-Mari stood before Parrot: a commanding broad-shouldered figure upon its base. But the face lacks that incredible arrogance which is so typical of the portraits of other conquerors from the ancient East, the Assyrians, who without exception look fierce and bad-tempered. The king of Mari is smiling. He carries no weapons, his hands are folded in an attitude of, worship. His robe, which leaves one shoulder bare, like a toga, is richly decorated with fringes.

p 61 -- Hardly ever has an excavation been so crowned with success from the word "go", and the first groping efforts. Mari, the royal city, must be lying slumbering under this mound.

Scholars had for a long time been familiar with the royal city of Mari which features in many old inscriptions from Babylonia and Assyria. One text maintained that Mari was the tenth city to be founded after the Flood. The great spade-offensive against Tell Hariri began.

With considerable intervals the digging went on from 1933 to 1939. For the greater part of the year the tropical heat made any activity impossible. Only in the cooler months of the rainy season, from the middle of December to the end of March, could anything be done.

The excavations at Tell Hariri brought a wealth of new discoveries to a chapter of the history of the Ancient East which is still unwritten.

No one knew as yet how close a connection the finds at Mari would prove to have with quite familiar passages in the Bible.

Year by year reports of the expedition provided fresh surprises.

In the winter of 1933-34 a temple of Ishtar the goddess of fertility was exposed. Three of Ishtar's royal devotees have immortalised themselves as statues in the shrine which is inlaid with a mosaic of gleaming shells: Lamgi-Mari, Ebin-il, and Idi-Narum.

In the second season of digging the spades came upon the houses of a city. Mari had been found! However great was the satisfaction with their success, far more interest, indeed astonishment was aroused by the walls of a palace which must have been unusually large. Parrot reported: "We have unearthed 69 rooms and courts, and there are still more to come." One thousand six hundred cuneiform tablets, carefully stacked in one of the rooms, contained details of household management.

The record of the third campaign in 1935-36 noted that so far 138 rooms and courtyards had been found but that they had not yet reached the outer walls of the palace. Thirteen thousand clay tablets awaited deciphering. In the fourth winter a temple of the god Dagon was dug up and also a Ziggurat, the typical Mesopotamian staged tower. Two hundred and twenty rooms and courtyards were now visible in the palace and another 8,000 clay tablets had been added to the existing collection.

At last in the fifth season, when a further forty rooms had been cleared of rubble, the palace of the kings of Mari lay in all its vast extent before Parrot and his assistants. This mammoth uilding of the third millennium B.C. covered almost ten acres. Never before during any excavations had such an enormous building with such vast ramifications come to light.

Columns of lorries had to be commissioned to remove the cuneiform tablets from the palace archives alone. There were almost 24,000 documents. The great find of the tablets at Nineveh was put in the

p 62 -- shade, since the famous library of the Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, amounted to a "mere" 22,000 clay texts.

To get a proper picture of Mari palace aerial photographs were taken. These pictures taken from a low altitude over Tell Hariri gave rise to almost incredulous amazement when they were published in France. This palace at Mari was, around 2000 B.C., one of the greatest sights of the world, the architectural gem of the Ancient East. Travellers came from far and near to see it. "I have seen Mari," wrote an enthusiastic merchant from the Phoenician seaport of Ugarit.

The last king to live there was Zimri-Lim. The armies of the famous Hammurabi of Babylon subjugated the kingdom of Mari on the central reaches of the Euphrates and destroyed its mighty capital about 1700 B.C.

Under the wreckage of roofs and walls were found the fire-pans of the Babylonian warriors, the incendiary squad who set fire to the palace.

But they were not able to destroy it completely. The walls were left standing to a height of 15 feet. "The installations in the palace kitchens and bathrooms," wrote Professor Parrot, "could still be put into commission without the need of any repair, four thousand years after its destruction." In the bathrooms they found the tubs, cake-moulds in the kitchens, even charcoal in the ovens.

The sight of these majestic ruins is an overwhelming experience. A single gate on the north side ensured easier control and better defence. Passing through a medley of courts and passages one reaches the great inner courtyard and broad daylight. This was the centre both of official life and the administration of the kingdom. The monarch received his officials as well as couriers and ambassadors in the neighbouring audience-chamber, large enough to hold hundreds of people. Broad corridors led to the king's private apartments.

One wing of the palace was used exclusively for religious ceremonies. It contained also a throne-room, approached by a marvellous staircase. A long processional way passed through several rooms to the palace chapel in which stood the image of the mother-goddess of fertility. From a vessel in her hands flowed perpetually "the water of everlasting life".

The entire court lived under the king's roof. Ministers, administrators, secretaries and scribes had their own roomy quarters.

There was a Foreign Office and a Board of Trade in the great administrative palace of the kingdom of Mari. More than 100 officials were involved in dealing with the incoming and outgoing mail, which amounted to thousands of tablets alone. Top

Wonderful great frescoes added a decorative effect to the palace. Even to this day the colours have hardly lost any of their brilliance. They seem to have been laid on only yesterday but in fact they are the oldest paintings in Mesopotamia - 1,000 years older than the

p 63 -- renowned coloured frescoes in the splendid edifices of the Assyrian rulers at Khorsabad, Nineveh and Nimrud.

The size and grandeur of this unique palace corresponded to the land that was governed from it. Through these many thousands of years the palace archives have preserved the record.

Notices, public papers, decrees, accounts, scratched out on clay by the busy styli of well-paid scribes 4,000 years ago, had to be brought to life again with tireless industry. In Paris, Professor George Dossin, of the University of Liege, and a host of Assyriologists wrestled with the problem of deciphering and translating them. It would be years before all the 23,600 documents were translated and published.

Each of them contains a little piece of the mosaic which makes up the true facts about the kingdom of Mari.

Numerous orders for the construction of canals, locks, dams, and embankments make it plain that the prosperity of the country largely depended on the widespread system of irrigation, which was constantly under the supervision of government engineers, who saw to its care and maintenance.

Two tablets contain a list of 2,000 craftsmen, giving their full names and the names of their guilds.

The news service in Mari functioned so quickly and successfully that it would bear comparison with modern telegraphy. Important

FIG. 7-This picture from Room 106 in the palace of Mari shows the investiture of Zimri-Lim by the goddess Ishtar.

p 64 -- messages were sent by means of fire signals from the frontier of Babylon right up to present day Turkey in a matter of a few hours, a distance of more than 300 miles.

Mari lay at the intersection of the great caravan route from West to East and North to South. It is not surprising therefore that the traffic in goods, which extended from Cyprus and Crete to Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, necessitated a lively correspondence on clay concerning imports and exports. But the tablets do not merely record everyday matters. They also give an impressive account of religious life, of New Year Festivals in honour of Ishtar, auguries with the entrails of animals, and interpretation of dreams. Twenty-five gods made up the Mari pantheon. A list of sacrificial lambs, which Zimri-Lim presented, refers to these occupants of heaven by name.

From countless individual bits of evidence on these tablets we can form a picture of this masterpiece of organisation and administration which the kingdom of Mari constituted in the 18th century B.C. What is astonishing is that neither in their sculptures nor in their paintings is there any indication of warlike activity.

The inhabitants of Mari were Amorites who had been settled there for a long time, and who preferred peace. Their interests lay in religion and ceremonial, in trade and commerce. Conquest, heroism, and the clash of battle meant little to them. As we can still see from statues and pictures, their faces radiate a cheerful serenity.

That did not mean, however, that they were absolved from the necessity of defendin and safeguarding their territory by force of arms. On their frontiers lived tribes of Semitic nomads, who found the lush pastures, market gardens and cornfields of Mari a constant temptation. They were always crossing the border, grazing their cattle over wide stretches of the countryside, and disturbing the population. They had to be watched. Frontier posts were therefore established as a check on this danger, and any incident was immediately reported to Mari.

In Paris the Assyriologists were deciphering a clay tablet from the archives of Mari. They read with astonishment a report from Bannum, an officer of the desert police:

"Say to my lord: This from Bannum, thy servant. Yesterday I left Mari and spent the night at Zuruban. All the Benjamites were sending fire-signals. From Samanum to Ilum-Muluk, from Ilum-Muluk to Mishlan, all the Benjamite villages in the Terqa district replied with fire-signals. I am not yet certain what these signals meant. I am trying to find out. I shall write to my lord whether or not I succeed. The city guards should be strengthened and my lord should not leave the gate." Top

In this police report from the central reaches of the Euphrates in the 19th century B.C. there appears the name of one of the tribes known to us from the Bible. It literally calls them Benjamites.

p 65 -- There is frequent mention of these Benjamites. They seem to have given the ruler of Mari so many headaches and caused so much trouble that periods of a king's reign were even called after them.

In the Mari dynasties the years of each reign were not numbered but were identified with some notable event, for example the building and consecration of new temples, the erection of great dams to improve irrigation, the strengthening of the banks of the Euphrates or a national census. Three times the chronological tables mention the Benjamites:

"The year in which lahdulim went to Hen and laid hands upon the territory of the Benjamites", is referred to in the reign of King lahdulim of Mari and

"The year that Zimri-Lim killed the davidum of the Benjamites"

"The year after Zimri-Lim killed the dividum of the Benjamites ..." in the reign of the last monarch of Mari, Zimri-Lim.

An elaborate correspondence between governors, district commissioners, and administrators takes place over the single question: Dare we take a census of the Benjamites?

In the kingdom of Mari a census of the people was not uncommon. It provided a basis for taxation and for enlistment for military service. The population was summoned by districts and a nominal roll was made of every man liable for call-up.

The proceedings lasted several days, during which free beer and bread were distributed by government officials. The administration in the palace of Mari would fain have included the Benjamites in this but the district officers had their doubts. They advised against it since they understood only too well the temper of these roaming and rebellious tribes.

"Reference the proposal to take a census of the Benjamites, about which you have written me," begins a letter from Samsi-Addu to Iasmah-Addu in Mari. "The Benjamites are not well-disposed to the idea of a census. If you carry it out, their kinsmen the Ra-ab-ay-yi, who live on the other bank of the river, will hear of it. They will be annoyed with them and will not return to their country. On no account should this census be taken!"

Thus the Benjamites lost their free beer and bread and also escaped paying taxes and military service.

Later the children of Israel were to experience a census of this sort many times, conducted exactly on the Mari-pattern. The first time was on the command of Yahweh after Moses had led them out of Egypt. All men over twenty who were fit to fight were registered according to their families (Num. 1-4). A generation later, after their sojourn in the desert, Moses took a second census with a view to dividing up the land of Canaan (Num. 26). During the monarchy David ordered a national census. What he had in mind on that occasion was the building up of an army and his commander in chief, Joab, was entrusted with the

p 66 -- arrangements (2 Sam. 24). As the Bible depicts the incident, Yahweh had put the idea into the king's mind in order to punish the people. The Israelites loved their freedom above all else. Registration and the prospect of being called up were equally hateful to them. Even in the year A.D. 6 the census carried out by Governor Cyrenius almost led to open revolt. Top

It is worth noting that it is to peace-loving Mari that the world owes the original pattern of all recruiting campaigns. It was later followed by Babylonians and Assyrians, by Greeks and Romans, in exactly the same way, as indeed in later days by the nations of modern times. Thus Mari has given the lead to the whole world in this matter of taking a census for purposes of taxation and conscription for military service.

In Paris the mention of Benjamites gave rise to conjecture and anticipation along a particular line. Not without reason.

On other clay tablets the Assyriologists dealing with these reports of governors and district commissioners of the Mari empire came across one after another a whole series of familiar sounding names from Biblical history-names like Peleg, and Serug, Nahor and Terah and - Haran.

"These are the generations of Shem," says Gen. 11. "... Peleg lived 30 years and begat Reu: And Reu lived two and thirty years and begat Serug: And Serug lived thirty years and begat Nahor: And Nahor lived nine and twenty years and begat Terah: And Terah lived seventy years and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran."

Names of Abraham's forefathers emerge from these dark ages as names of cities in north-west Mesopotamia. They lie in Padan-Aram, the plain of Aram. In the centre of it lies Haran, which, according to its description, must have been a flourishing city in the 19th and 18th centuries B.C. Haran, the home of Abraham, father of the patriarchs, the birthplace of the Hebrew people, is here for the first time historically attested, for contemporary texts refer to it. Further up the same Balikh valley lay the city with an equally well-known Biblical name, Nahor, the home of Rebecca, wife of Isaac.

"And Abraham was old and well stricken in age, and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had: Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh; And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred and take a wife unto my son Isaac.... And the servant took... of all the goods of his master ... and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor" Gen. 24 1-4,10.

p 67 -- The Biblical city of Nahor is unexpectedly drawn into a recognisable historical setting. Abraham's servant set out for the land of the kings of Mari. The instructions of his master, according to the Biblical tradition, clearly indicate that Abraham must have known Northern Mesopotamia, including Nahor, extremely well. How else could he have spoken of the city of Nahor?

If we follow the dates given in the Bible we find that Abraham left his native place, Haran, 645 years before the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt. They wandered through the desert towards the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses in the 13th century B.C. This date is, as we shall see, assured by archaeology. Abraham must therefore have lived about 1900 B.C. The finds at Mari confirm the accuracy of the Biblical account. About 1900 B.C., according to the evidence of the palace archives, Haran and Nahor were both flourishing cities.

The documents from the kingdom of Mari produce startling proof that the stories of the patriarchs in the Bible are not "pious legends" - as is often too readily assumed - but things that are described as happening in a historical period which can be precisely dated.

The fact that the Bible contains genuine early Western Semitic names found surprising confirmation in written sources from the Ancient East. Not only did personal names from the Biblical story of the patriarchs occur as placenames, but they also proved to be the names of individual persons and it is not at all rare or unusual for clay tablets to be found bearing the name of the patriarch Abraham. Yet has Abraham actually been brought nearer to us? The excavation of written sources at "Fennel Cape", Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit), has revealed that there were even an Egyptian and a Cypriot among those bearing this name. The distinguished Bible archaeologist Father Roland de Vaux considered this "unusual and disturbing". Quite understandably so, for this being the case, Abraham, instead of drawing closer to us, is in danger of disappearing in the crowd of his numerous namesakes who appear during the various epochs of the history of the Near and Middle East.

Unfortunately the "'Benjamites" of Mari have also disappeared. The conviction has established itself that the name in the texts from Mari which was interpreted as "Benjamites" really means simply sons of the right (sc. hand)", that is to say, "sons of the south". It appears to have been a purely geographical designation rather than the name of a tribe, for in the Mari documents banu rabbaja and banu sam'al are contrasted with the "sons of the south". Moreover, the name of the territory Yemen in Southern Arabia has preserved the old Mari word across the millennia, for Yemen merely means south! Top

But Bible scholars have also learnt other things. A phrase such as "the year in which Zimri-Lim killed the davidum of the Benjamites" is

p 68 -- now translated as "the year in which Zimri-Lim inflicted an annihilating defeat on the 'sons of the south"', for davidum does not mean "commander", as was previously thought, but "defeat".

Of course, the beginnings of Mari around 1800 B.C. agree extremely well with the traditional dating of the Biblical patriarchs, somewhere around or shortly after 2000 B.C. Paradoxically it was the astonishing confirmation of statements in the Bible connecting the time of the patriarchs with a period of the history of the Ancient East some 500 years later which thus raised doubts concerning the customary dating. This confirmation comes from the archives of Nuzi in Yorgan Tepe, fifteen kilometres south west of Kirkuk. The written documents from this Horite city of the kingdom of Mitanni (c. 1500 B.C.) cast a light not only on the ancient laws of the Horites, but also on the legal practices of the Biblical patriarchs which agree to an amazing degree with the Biblical texts. Three examples will suffice as illustrations:

I) Abraham laments the fact that he will die without a son and that a certain Eliezer will inherit from him (Gen. 15:2) . From the Nuzi tablets we know that it was customary for a childless couple to adopt a "son" who looked after his foster-parents and in return inherited from them. This arrangement could be reversed to a certain degree if an heir was subsequently born.

2) If a marriage remained childless, the wife had to provide a "substitute wife". This is what Sarah did when she presented Hagar to Abraham (Gen. 16:2 ) and in the same way Rachel at a later time gave her husband Jacob her maid Bilhah (Gen. 30'). The custom was precisely the same in Nuzi.

3) Jacob's wife Rachel stole the "images" of her father Laban (Gen. 31:3 ff) and Laban moved heaven and earth to get these "images" back. The Nuzi tablets tell us why. The person who was in possession of these domestic images (teraphim) also had the rights to the inheritance.

Taken together there is a striking conformity between the Bible and the Nuzi texts. Yet there is a bitter conclusion to be drawn, for if the patriarchs followed the legal customs of the Horites of the fifteen century before the birth of Christ, how could they have lived in the 18th, 19th or even the 20th century before Christ? In other words, did Abraham really live in the "kingdom of Mari"? Or ought we to look for him centuries later in the kingdom of Mitanni? In fact, we shall see that certain concepts of the "patriarchal period", in the religious sphere this time, are matched by ideas contained in texts from the coastal town of Ugarit (Ras Shamra) whose "classical" period came still later, in the 15th to 14th centuries before Christ. Do we have, in consequence, to put Israel's Biblical ancestors even later? The questions still facing us today are innumerable!

p 69 -- If it seems that science is abandoning us to ourselves with a large number of new problems and if it seems that it is consequently so much more difficult for us to connect the above mentioned names and facts with definite and familiar individuals, this very same science has amazingly confirmed other Biblical statements as will become apparent later. And as our knowledge is continually advancing, it is by no means impossible that Biblical archaeology will one day provide us with further sensational discoveries. Top

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