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10. The Three God-Sent Catastrophes in the Third Millennium BC (§§66-75)

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10. The Three God-Sent Catastrophes in the Third Millennium BC (§§66-75)




66. According to Genesis the descendants of Noah in the line of Ham only migrated to their proper territories after an interval of three generations. The container had grounded in the mountains of Ararat to the east of Mesopotamia. The early post-diluvian families migrated from that location westwards and settled first in the plain of Shinar (Southern Mesopotamia), where they built with mudbricks the city Babel, “Confusion,” the Biblical name for what we call Babylon, and the Tower “rising up to Heaven.” They did this in defiance of God’s express command to disperse over the earth. In consequence, God Himself scattered them from Babel, and they ceased to build the city. The sons of Ham then migrated to their appointed territory in Africa. This migration corresponds precisely to the archaeologically-attested arrival of the warrior élite in Egypt in the Naqada II/Jemdet Nasr period. Some of them, at least, arrived by reed ship, having sailed down the Persian Gulf, around the coast of Arabia and up the Red Sea, penetrating Egypt from the coast along the route of the wadi Hammamat. The dispersion occurred in the days of Peleg, i.e. between 2334 and 2304 BC.



66.1. THE FLOOD OR “FLANDRIAN TRANSGRESSION”




Graph of the Flood, a.k.a. the “Flandrian Transgression.” This shows the increasingly high level of the inundation of coastal areas over the centuries, ceasing at 4.5 thousand years Before Present (around 2500 BC uncalibrated radiocarbon date), in the days of Noah. From that time on present-day climatic conditions have prevailed (see Gen. 8. 22)



67. The Inundation of Noah’s time, therefore, occurred before the Jemdet Nasr period and must correspond to the flood layer discovered by Woolley at Ur between the archaeological periods named Ubaid and Uruk. This was deposited at the beginning of the Sub-Boreal climatic phase, which marked a worldwide cooling with dramatic consequences. It terminated the Atlantic and earlier phases, during which the hotter climate had caused a melting of the ice-sheets and the progressive inundation of low-lying coastal regions. This phase of progressive inundation is known as the Flandrian Transgression, from marine transgression sediments on the Flanders coast of Belgium. It lasted from around 19000 BC to around 2500 BC (uncalibrated radiocarbon date), when it ceased abruptly with the onset of the Sub-Boreal. This parallels the account in the Bible of how God TERMINATED THE PRECEDING PHASE OF DESTRUCTIVE INUNDATION in 2435 BC with the Noachide event (exemplified by Woolley’s flood layer at Ur). It is noticeable that the Bible elsewhere represents the cessation of flooding as the significant element in the crisis: Isaiah 54. 9: “For this is as the waters of Noah unto Me [God]: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” At this remove it is difficult to trace scientifically the effects of the dramatic Sub-Boreal change in the climate on Earth’s ecosystem, but according to the clear evidence of the Bible it had resulted, by the time the account was written by Moses in the last few years of the fifteenth century BC, in the total eradication of all animate land life-forms apart from those derived from the ones preserved on Noah’s container in 2435 BC. The human population of the world at the time of the Flood c. 2500 BC (uncalibrated radiocarbon date, corresponding to the commonly accepted, but erroneous, calibrated date c. 3500 BC) is estimated to have been something between around 7 million and 14 million, according to the US Census Bureau, quoting McEvedy and Jones. Even small variations in world temperature, as in the phenomenon known as Global Warming, result in massive loss of life in affected areas, therefore the catastrophic effects of the Climate Change in Noah’s time on such a small and scattered population can readily be comprehended. It is also a matter of common observation that the fauna of the Ice Age was totally different from that of the modern era. The Biblical Inundation or Flood is thus an established, palaeoclimatological, event. It has simply been renamed in the scientific literature the “Flandrian Transgression.”


68. The Ubaid period was pre-diluvian (meaning before the Noachide Inundation) and the Uruk period post-diluvian (after it). In the Uruk or immediate post-diluvian period the chief centers of population were Eridu, at the head of the Persian Gulf, and the Temple Tower a little to the north-east, called Eana, which means “House of Heaven.” The latter formed the sacred heart of the city-to-be called Uruk or Erech. The whole period is termed Uruk by archaeologists because of the huge growth of the area around Eana at that time. Eridu and Eana correspond respectively to the city and the Tower (with its “top in Heaven”) which the inhabitants of Shinar built, according to Genesis 11. Since in the first instance, as the Biblical wording implies, even the city (Eridu, Babel) did not exist in its full extent, let alone the Tower at Eana, the name Shinar is likely the name of the earlier shrine at the future site of Eridu, the sacred area around which the city expanded. The sacred center of Eridu was called the “Shrine of the Deep,” in which the word “shrine,” in Sumerian, was “e” or “esh,” and the word “deep” was “abzu” or “engur.” The Biblical name Shinar was traditionally derived from the Hebrew word naar, “to sweep away in a flow (of water or other substance),” which is cognate to nahar, “to flow,” whence the noun nahar, “river.” The initial “sh” could be a shortened form of the Hebrew word “osh,” meaning “foundation,” with a dropping of the aleph (glottal stop represented by the vowel “o” in “osh”) at the beginning: “Osh-naar” became shortened to “Shinar,” Foundation of the Overflow. In that case Esh-engura (“Shrine/Foundation of Engur, the Deep”) was a Sumerianization of an earlier Semitic “Osh-naar” (Shinar, “Shrine/Foundation of the Overflowing Deep”), with the likelihood that the Sumerian words “esh” and “engur” are simply transcriptions of the earlier Semitic words, esh = osh, foundation, engur = naar/nahar, flow of water. Thus the “land of Shinar” would be the district in which the original sacred site, the central temple of the future Eridu, was situated around the head of the Persian Gulf. There the people planned the building, first of the city (Eridu) stretching away from the shrine, then of the Tower (Eana) to the north-east across the plain, which later became the city of Erech (Uruk). It is implied in the statement in Genesis (11. 3),let us make bricks, and bake them thoroughly,” that the post-diluvian migrants to Shinar were already acquainted with the technique of brick-making at the commencement of their project. In the alluvial flood-plains of ancient Mesopotamia sun-dried mud bricks were employed for everyday building purpose instead of stone, the latter being a rare and valued commodity, and mud-brick structures were commonplace already in the pre-diluvian era. However, the baking of mud bricks is attested for the first time at Eana in the Jemdet Nasr (Uruk Level III) period. The firmness of the new baked bricks made them a good substitute for stone, as is stated in Gen. 11. 3. The authenticity of this historical reconstruction is thereby confirmed, as Jemdet Nasr is precisely the period claimed to be that depicted in Genesis 11, when the builders were dispersed from Babel upon their construction of the Tower reaching up to Heaven (viz. Eana) with baked mud bricks.




Eridu the original Babel a reconstruction by Belage


69. Eridu was a primeval sacred city and earth from its “holy” ground is thought to have been transported in a later age to Babylon and planted in the heart of that city. The center of Babylon, where the temple of its chief god was located, was actually called “Eridu.” It was a city within a city. Hence in Berossus’ Greek version of the traditional King List of Babylonia the first pre-diluvian king is said to have been ruler of “Babylon,” whereas in the Sumerian original the same king is said to have ruled in “Eridu.” This earliest Babylon, called Babel in Genesis, was Eridu, and the second Babylon was the city we know as Babylon, viz. Bab-ili near Baghdad. Syriac Christian tradition was aware of the fact there was an earlier and a later Babylon: “The Babylon these days so called was constructed by Semiramis, but there was a more ancient Babylon situated in the place where the Tower was constructed” (Chronicon Edessenum, CSCO, Scriptores Syri, 3rd series, tom. iv, Chronica Minora, Paris, 1903, p. 29, MS p. 35). The same city-name, written in the ancient cuneiform script NUN.KI, was used to designate both Eridu and Bab-ili.

Note on the meaning of the name Babel. Originally the signs NUN.KI denoted Nadu (Akkadian nadû, “to run loose, to wander away, to be fugitive, to go to ruin, to be let down, etc.”), Nadu being the “land of Nod,” that is, the “land of Wandering,” where Cain was sent as a fugitive. Nadu could also be written with the signs A.HA or HA.A. (See Heimpel in Reallexikon der Ass. Bd. 6, s.n. Ku’ara on the writing of the name, and §48, above, >>.) HA.A could also be read Ku’ara and Kumar, and the latter name, like NUN.KI and Eridu, was given to a district of the new Babylon, Bab-ili. Thus the first pre-diluvian king Alulim, ruling at Ku’ara, according to one tradition, or Eridu, according to another, might still be said, as in Berossus, to have ruled at “Babylon.” After the confusion of languages the signs were “reinterpreted” to match the new reality. The Sumerian word ha-a (written with the signs HA.A) meant “to dissipate, be dissipated,” either in a negative sense, “to languish, fade, be withered up” in which sense it was translated into Akkadian as abalu, “to dissipate, be dissipated, wither, be debased” (cf. nadû, “go to ruin, be left to run loose”), or in a positive sense, “to multiply, scatter here and there in abundance,” in which case it was represented by the sign HI (Antagal VIII, 217-220), which denotes a profuse, tangled development, a disorganized multiplication. The word abalu, Heb. abal, “to dissipate,” comes from the same Semitic bi-consonantal root b-l as balal, “to mingle, confuse, multiply indiscriminately, to mumble speech,” etc. (Fürst, Lexikon, s.vv. abal I, balal II, cf. Gesenius-Tregelles s.v. balal, where Fürst’s balal I and II are treated as a single root.) This Hebrew word balal, “to confuse,” is the verb Genesis uses to explain the geographical name Babel. The land of “Wandering” (HA.A = nadû, abalu) had now become the land of “Profuse Dissipation, Confusion” (abalu from the root b-l, which, reduplicated, b-l-b-l, produces the name Babel, Profuse Dissipation, Confusion [b-l-b-l, Fürst, ibid., s.n. Babel]). Note that the name Babel is specifically interpreted in Genesis 11. 9 to mean both “confuse, mix up” and “scatter, disperse” (Heb. hephitz): “Therefore it was called Babel; because there the LORD mixed up the dialect of the whole earth: and from there the LORD dispersed them abroad over the surface of the whole earth.” Both senses of the Akkadian word abalu are referenced here: to be debased and to scatter. A similar process of reinterpretation seems to have been applied to the signs NUN.KI. The names Nod, “Wandering,” and Babel, “Confusion,” it may be presumed, were considered names of ill-omen in later generations, and the signs NUN.KI were therefore reinterpreted to mean, not “Wandering,” but “District (ki) of the Leader (Nun).” “Leader” here is a title of the god Enki. “Bab-ili” (replacing the ill-omened “Babel”) means precisely the same in the Semitic dialect spoken in Babylonia, viz. “District (Bab) of the Leader (ili).” Babu (Bab) usually means “gate,” but it can also mean “district,” e.g. of a city, see the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, s.v., babu, mng. A2, whilst the root or primitive meaning of the Babylonian word ilu (= Hebrew el), the usual word for “God” or a “god,” is “Leader” (Gesenius-Tregelles, s.v. l, and wl [verb (2), and noun (2)]). The Sumerians believed it was the god Enki or Ea, the patron deity of Eridu, who was responsible for the confusion of the single language once used by mankind. This confirms the location of the Babel of the Tower-builders at the city whose name was written with the signs NUN.KI, viz. Eridu. The earlier meaning “Confusion” was preserved in the name of the god of Eridu (and of Ku’ara), Enki’s son Asalluhi, or Asar-lu-hi, “Asar, the Man (lu) of Confusion (hi).”


69.1. The original meaning of the city-name “Eridu” appears to have been “Descent” or “Going Down” (from the Semitic root y-r-d, “go down,” Hebrew yarad, Akkadian aradu, cf. Eckkard-Unger in Reallexikon der Ass. bd. 2, s.v. Eridu §3 and see §453, below, >>), because there God “went down” (y-r-d, Gen. 11. 5 and 7) to view the city and the Tower and what was going on in regards to the building of both. After the dispersion this name too was re-interpreted to read as if it was a Sumerian name, the “Good (du) City (eri).”


70. For a reason not clear from archaeology alone the building of Eridu, Babel, ceased abruptly in the Jemdet Nasr period immediately following the phase of construction and expansion in the Uruk period and was not recommenced in earnest till the time of the Ur III dynasty. Traces of devastation and desertion are found in many locations around Mesopotamia at this point in time. Wind-borne sand is observed to have invaded numerous previously flourishing sites. Under a sub-heading “Some





A reconstruction of the Tower in Shinar, viz. the temple tower at Eana (Uruk), Jemdet Nasr Period.
Note the truncated ziggurat platform, which was originally intended to “reach heaven” but had to be left unfinished when God dispersed the builders.


catastrophes are just plain real” a modern report (Weiss) reads in summary: “The Late Uruk/early Ninevite 5 collapse phenomena, components of larger structural and political devolution, have not been explained. The causes, as with all collapse processes, have been sought within the organization and needs, systemic and specific, of Late Uruk society, although dynamic natural forces have yet to be considered in any detail …. Each high-resolution record identifies an abrupt climate change … that extended for two hundred years …. Modeling against modern temperature and precipitation values, the estimated precipitation reduction … was from 520-460 mm to 380-350 mm, or ca. 27% …. At loci along the modern 300-mm isohyet, the reduction to 225 mm was essentially beyond the range of efficient dry farming …. At Lake Van the event is marked by spikes of quartz (heightened aeolian dust), Mg/Ca (salinity as a function of reduced spring melt water), and sediment flux (surface erosion) …. The Gulf of Oman core shows the event as a sudden dust spike, approximately double background Holocene dust levels …. the abandoned Uruk period public buildings at Abu Shahrein (Eridu), filled with ca. two meters of aeolian deposits … suggest the kind of wind-transport and deflation associated with abrupt century-scale aridification.”


71. The hiatus is explained by the Biblical account of the cessation of the building of Babel and the dispersion of its builders, which was, according to early tradition, the consequence of a catastrophe initiated by the visitation of God called the “Overthrow” or, in Syriac Christian sources, the “Wind




A ship in the ancient port of Babel-Eridu a reconstruction by Belage


Flood.” Abydenus, a chronicler whose transmission of native Babylonian tradition is as accurate as that of Berossus, records (apud Syncellus ed. Mosshammer 46 = ed. Dindorf 81): “They say that the first inhabitants of the earth, glorying in their own strength and size, and despising the gods, undertook to raise a tower whose top should reach the sky, in the place in which Babylon now stands: but when it approached the heaven, the winds assisted the gods, and overthrew the work upon its contrivers: and its ruins are said to be still at Babylon: and the gods introduced a diversity of tongues among men, who till that time had all spoken the same language.” Similarly Alexander Polyhistor, citing a work known as The Sibylline Oracles (apud Syncellus ibid.): “The Sibyl says: That when all men formerly spoke the same language; some among them undertook to erect a large and lofty tower, that they might climb up into heaven. But God sending forth a whirlwind, confounded their design, and gave to each tribe a particular language of its own: which is the reason that the name of that city is Babylon.” Precisely at that same time the Hamitic warrior élite left Mesopotamia and migrated to Egypt. Jubilees 10. 26-28: “And the Lord sent a mighty wind against the tower and overthrew it upon the earth, and behold it was between Asshur [Assyria] and Babylon [i.e. Babel] in the land of Shinar [as Eana historically was situated in Shinar, viz. Southern Mesopotamia, between Assyria, designating Northern Mesopotamia, and Eridu in the far south of the country], and they called its name “Overthrow” [i.e. Heb. Shinar, as from na‘ar “sweep away with a flow (of wind-borne sand)”]. And Ham and his sons went into the land which he was to occupy, which he acquired as his portion in the Land of the South.”



71.1. CHART OF THE GENERATIONS OF SHEM AFTER THE FLOOD (2435 BC) TILL THE ENTRY OF JACOB INTO EGYPT (1853 BC)


Biblical Event

Interval (in years)

Date BC

Birth of Arphaxad, the son of Shem son of Noah, after Flood

2

2433

Birth of Salah, son of above

35

2398

Birth of Eber, son of above

30

2368

Birth of Peleg, son of above

34

2334

Birth of Reu, son of above

30

2304

Birth of Serug, son of above

32

2272

Birth of Nahor, son of above

30

2242

Birth of Terah, son of above

29

2213

Birth of Abra(ha)m, son of above

70

2143

Birth of Isaac, son of above

100

2043

Birth of Jacob, son of above

60

1983

Entry of Jacob into Egypt at 130 years old

130

1853




72. There is, as yet, no reliable method generally accepted by archaeologists of calibrating the radiocarbon dates of the third millennium BC. The Biblical account reveals that the radiocarbon dates for that millennium require very little, if any, adjustment. The Noachide Inundation, or the end of the Ubaid phase at the onset of the Sub-Boreal, is 2435 BC and the dispersion (in the Jemdet Nasr phase) between 2334 and 2304 BC. Between Jemdet Nasr and the Middle Bronze Age comes what is known as the “Early Dynastic” period in Mesopotamian archaeological terminology, the period of the earliest Sumerian kingdoms, divided into three major phases. The uncalibrated radiocarbon dates, derived from material in the Inana temple at Nippur, are as follows: 2253 BC +/- 23 for Early Dynastic I, 2184 BC +/- 41 for Early Dynastic II and 2124 BC +/- 64 for the transition from Early Dynastic II to Early Dynastic III. (See the chart at §77.1, below, >>, for the corresponding Biblical dates.) The next major Biblical event is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities of the Dead Sea plain, which occurred in the year before the birth of Isaac, at 2044 BC according to the chart at §71.1, above, >>. Archaeological excavation of the eastern border regions of the Dead Sea at Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira has uncovered clear evidence of a destruction of the cities there by fire, seemingly as a result of a bitumen or petroleum explosion. The date of this destruction is towards the very end of Early Dynastic III, or to give the uncalibrated radiocarbon date, around 2050 BC. Again, the match between the Biblical and uncalibrated radiocarbon date is remarkable. Excavation of a cave in the foothills to the east of the Dead Sea, at Deir Ain Abata, identified in antiquity by Byzantine ecclesiastics as the cave inhabited by Lot and his two daughters after the destruction of Sodom, has revealed its earliest inhabitation to have been in the Early Dynastic period; this confirms that it could have been known to, and occupied by, Lot at the end of the same period.


73. The destruction of the cities of the Dead Sea plain marked the termination of the Early Bronze Age and the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age. A huge natural calamity seems to have overwhelmed many regions of the Near East at this time, and some have speculated either a massive volcanic explosion, or even the collision of an asteroid or comet with the earth to explain the observable phenomena. A modern investigator (Schaeffer) wrote: “There is not for us the slightest doubt that the conflagration of Troy II corresponds to the catastrophe that made an end to the habitations of the Early Bronze Age of Alaca Huyuk, of Alisar, of Tarsus, of Tepe Hissar [in Turkey], and to the catastrophe that burned ancient Ugarit (II) in Syria, the city of Byblos that flourished under the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the contemporaneous cities of Palestine, and that was among the causes that terminated the Old Kingdom of Egypt.” “It was an all-encompassing catastrophe. Ethnic migrations were, no doubt, the consequence of the manifestation of nature. The initial and real causes must be looked for in some cataclysm over which man had no control.” In the period after the catastrophe the number of settlements “is reduced to a quarter of the number in the previous period” (Mellaart). Kathleen Kenyon: “The final end of the Early Bronze Age civilization came with catastrophic completeness …. Jericho … was probably completely destroyed …. Every town in Palestine that has so far been investigated shows the same break …. All traces of the Early Bronze Age civilization disappeared.” Ernest Wright: “one of the most striking facts about the Early Bronze civilization is its destruction, one so violent that scarcely a vestige of it survived. We do not know when the event took place; we only know that there is not an Early Bronze Age city excavated or explored in all Palestine which does not have a gap in its occupation between Early Bronze Age III and the Middle Bronze Age. To date this gap, we know that it must be approximately contemporary with a similar period in Egypt called the ‘First Intermediate Period’ between dynasties VI and XI.” In Greece: “The destruction of the Early Helladic II town at Lerna in the eastern Peloponnese” is an example of “the widespread and violent destruction that occurred … in the Aegean and East Mediterranean” (Gimbutas). Caskey: “The burning of the House of Tiles . . . was the end of an era at Lerna.” The settlement “came to a violent end.” Not only Lerna, but also “the tiled buildings at Tiryns and Asine were destroyed by fire.”


74. The Bible records that the fire of God descended from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah at that time. Amazing confirmation of this catastrophe has recently been discovered at the site of Tel el-Hammam in the region immediately north of the Dead Sea. Though unlikely to be Sodom itself, its remains must certainly be those of one of the cities in the near vicinity. According to the reports of its excavators, Tel el-Hammam was destroyed as the result of a natural cataclysm brought on precisely by an “airburst” of a comet or asteroid, as deduced from ceramic fragments found at the site and nearby which were subjected to tremendous heat for a short interval of time. Awaiting the publishing of the uncalibrated radiocarbon dates, we can work back with appropriate software from the published calibrated dates, to show this event occurred c. 3400-3500 uncalibrated radiocarbon years before present: these correspond to radiocarbon measurements recovered from layers dating to the transition from Early to Middle Bronze Age in Syrian cities further north. That transition is commonly dated by comparison with better historically attested sites in Mesopotamia to c. 2000 BC. The latter estimate conflicts with the calibrated dates published so far for the Tel el-Hammam destruction layer (originally c. 1750 +/ 50 years BC, with a tendency to higher estimates recently), but is more secure in the light of comparative data from Mesopotamia. The calibration used in the Tel el-Hammam studies raises the historical date as compared to the uncalibrated radiocarbon measurements approximately 250 to 350 years only, whereas in the Syrian sites it is commonly assumed the same uncalibrated radiocarbon measurements must be raised 500 years and more for corresponding historical dates. A tsunami generated by the airburst seems to have swept over the lower part of the site at Tel el-Hammam, and the walls of the city itself all collapsed in the same northerly direction. Likely the city is the Ham of the Biblical account in Genesis 14, which is located appropriately there just north of Sodom and Gomorrah, as deduced from the direction of the battle-march of Amraphel. The Arabic name Hammam (-m-’-m) may be a survival of the ancient name Ham (h-m), with aspirated “h” replacing the softer Hebrew initial consonant. Ham is referred to as the home of the “giant” (nephilite) Zuzim (Gen. 14. 5), and the Ghor, the region where Tel el-Hammam is located, is pockmarked accordingly with dolmens and other megalithic monuments of the type associated in ancient times with the “giants.” It is entirely possible that the physical effects of the catastrophic airburst itself over Sodom altered the chemical balance in the earth’s atmosphere, which, in turn, resulted in aberrant radiocarbon measurements for the following centuries of the second millennium BC. The Santorini explosion at the end of the Middle Bronze Age, i.e. at the time of the Exodus in the middle of the second millennium, is likely to have had had a similar effect, at a point in time when the chemical balance may have been returning to normal, if it had not already reached that point. The consequence of these two massive catastrophes will have been, in that case, the irregular reduction of the apparent age of dateable objects from the second millennium BC. This has led to the adjustment by historians of all dates upward by several centuries, not only for the second, but also for the third and fourth millennia BC, so that the commonly accepted dates for the third and fourth millennia are several centuries too high.


75. Major phases of cultural development in the third and second millennia BC were thus terminated or initiated by God-sent catastrophes. Neolithic prehistory was terminated and the Protoliterate period ushered in by the Noachide Flood. The Chalcolithic Age closed and the Early Bronze Age opened with the scattering from Babel (the “Wind Flood”). The Early Bronze Age closed and the Middle Bronze Age opened with the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire. The Middle Bronze Age closed and the Late Bronze Age was phased in with the Exodus plagues.




The modern vista looking toward the ruins of Babel-Eridu