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11. Amraphel king of Shinar (§§76-90)

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11. Amraphel king of Shinar (§§76-90)

76. The acceptance of the Biblical and the uncalibrated radiocarbon dates for the third millennium necessitates a reduction of the commonly accepted figures for the duration of several of the Mesopotamian dynasties preceding the First Dynasty of Babylon. As these are based largely on the otherwise uncorroborated figures of the Sumerian King List, which sometimes lists contemporaneous reigns and dynasties as consecutive and, in this post-diluvian section, mixes ahistorical regnal figures of divinized and other kings of the Sumerian Heroic Age with purely historical ones (see §589ff., below, >>, for an explanation of the phenomenon and examples), that is a sacrifice which costs nothing in real historical terms.

77. The earlier history of Abraham, including his battle with Amraphel king of Shinar and his allies, which not long preceded the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 14), is located chronologically, therefore, along with that destruction, towards the end of Early Dynastic III. (Refer to the following chart.)


Archaeological Phase (non-calibrated RC)

Mesopotamian Dynasty

Biblical Event

Biblical Figures

Date BC


Pre-diluvian Dynasties





(Ur Flood Layer)






Dynasty of Eana

Shinar Tower




Jemdet Nasr

(Migration to Egypt)




Early Dynastic I

First Dynasty of Uruk (Erech)

(Egyptian Old Kingdom)


reign in Erech of

Early Dynastic II



Birth of Abraham


Early Dynastic III


Battle of the Kings



Sodom Destruction


Birth of Isaac


(Transition to Middle Bronze)

Agade Dynasty

(Egyptian First Intermediate Period)

Birth of Jacob


Joseph in Egypt


Middle Bronze

Ur III Dynasty

(Egyptian Middle Kingdom)

Entry of Jacob into Egypt


An earlier destruction of Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira near the Dead Sea, preceding the final catastrophic event, is evidenced in the archaeological record, the interval between the two being about 20 years, counted by the layers of seasonal detritus adjacent to the tower in Numeira. The earlier destruction was most likely the result of the capture of the cities of the Plain by Amraphel and his allies, as this occurred within precisely such a time frame, between 14 and 24 years before the ultimate calamity.

78. This dating sheds light on the historical identity of Amraphel king of Shinar. He is one of the few named kings in the Biblical account of Abraham who should be traceable in secular history but he has until now eluded identification. The lack of a firm chronology for Abraham has been a major part of the difficulty. Given the dating of the relevant period in Abraham’s life to Early Dynastic III, Amraphel can be synchronized with the particular phase of the First Dynasty of Uruk which was in power at that period.

79. In Jerome’s translation of Eusebius’ Chronological Canon the invasion of Amraphel is dated by implication to the reign of the “Assyrian” (= Mesopotamian) king Zames, son of Ninus, as the birth of Ishmael is dated there to the 36th year of Zames’ 38-year reign, and the call of Abraham at 75 years of age to the 23rd year of Zames, and the war of Amraphel fell between these two dates, nearer the latter of them, according to Gen. 14 (cf. Gen. 12. 4 and 16. 15f.). This chronological scheme seems to have been borrowed by Eusebius from the great pre-Nicene Church historian Africanus. The same dating of the call of Abraham is implied in Albiruni (Chronology of Ancient Nations, ed. trans. Sachau, p. 99, MS. p. 85), as he states Zames was the king who persecuted Abraham because he refused to worship his idols, leading to the migration of the latter to Palestine (at age 75). No mention is made in the Bible of any such persecution of Abraham, but this was the common Arabic tradition. The persecuting king is usually referred to by the Arabs as “Nimrod son of Canaan.” He threatened to throw Abraham in a furnace if he refused to worship his idols, and actually did so, though Abraham supposedly was saved by divine intervention from perishing in the flames. The story is borrowed from that of the three Hebrew children in the days of Nebuchadrezzar (Daniel 3). Nimrod son of Canaan is represented in these sources as the “second” Nimrod, Nimrod I being Nimrod son of Cush. Nimrod son of Canaan is further identified as the Amraphel of Gen. 14 (already in the Palestinian Targum ad loc. “Amraphel, — he is Nimrod who commanded Abram to be cast into the furnace”). Nimrod was believed amongst Arab chroniclers to be a title applied to all subsequent kings descended from Nimrod son of Cush (Herbélot, Bibl. Orient. s.v. Nemrod, Albiruni, op. cit., p. 110, MS. p. 102, the Said of Toledo, MS. of Schefer, p. 19). Nimrod son of Cush was known as “Ninos” amongst the Greeks, according to the Chronicon Paschale (quoted at §101.4, below, >>), “Ninus” amongst the Latins, and just as there were several Nimrods (Nimrod A, Nimrod B, etc.), so there were several Ninuses (Ninus A, Ninus B etc.) and more specifically, as there was a Nimrod B (Nimrod son of Canaan, a.k.a. Amraphel), so also was there a Ninus B, otherwise known as Zames, Ninus or Ninuas (Augustine, Civ. Dei. xviii. 2). There is therefore perfect accord between the traditions: Amraphel, who was the same person as Nimrod B, Ninus B, or Zames, was (supposedly) the king who persecuted Abraham and caused him to leave Mesopotamia for the land of Canaan. Later Amraphel invaded Canaan and defeated the alliance of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, but was himself defeated by Abraham. Now Zames was worshiped as a god, and that god was Bel (Belos in Greek), or Baal, god of the planet Mars: so it is recorded in a series of Byzantine chronicles drawing in part on the same Christian historian Africanus. (See §101.20f., below, >>, for the references.) The underlying connection between this tradition and the Arabic one of the persecution of Abraham is proved by the assertion in the Byzantine sources that the god-man Bel (Zames) was the same god whose worship Nebuchadrezzar attempted to impose on the three Hebrew children on penalty of being cast into the furnace. This statement, in fact, shows how the fusion of the two originally distinct stories of Abraham’s call and the fiery furnace became intertwined in later tradition. The god Bel whom the three Hebrew children refused to worship was believed to have been originally a human king, viz. Zames (Amraphel), and he the king in whose reign Abraham received his call out of Ur of the Chaldaeans. Thus elements of tradition relating to Bel in the time of Nebuchadrezzar became attached to the Bel of the time of Abraham, that is, to Zames-Amraphel. The fiery furnace into which the three Hebrew children were thrown in the time of the former, reappeared in the retelling of the story of Abraham’s call. The name of the city “out of which” Abraham was called, viz. “Ur of the Chaldaeans,” could, coincidentally, be interpreted in Hebrew as a common noun, “ur” = “fire,” so Abraham was now believed to have been called “out of the fire of the Chaldaeans,” that is, out of the furnace of Bel, the fiery red planet-god Mars, i.e. out of the furnace of the deified king Zames-Amraphel of Abraham’s own era. The action in the Arabic legend of the persecution of Abraham is located, accordingly, at the ancient Babylonian city of Kutha, which was the cult-center of Nergal, the Mesopotamian god of fire and the planet Mars. Essentially the whole patina of myth and legend accumulated over the ages on top of the simple Biblical synchronism of Abraham’s early years of sojourn in Canaan with the reign of Amraphel.

80. The identification of Amraphel with a known king of the First Dynasty of Uruk is achieved by inference from surviving variations on the tradition just described. In chronological fragments preserved by certain Syriac Christian chroniclers, Abraham is represented as a contemporary of Tammuz king of Assyria and his consort Balthi (Venus), and of Tammuz’ rival for the hand of Balthi, called Ares, which is the Greek name for the planet Mars. (The fragments of the Syriac chronicles are quoted and analyzed at §321f., below, >>, §326, below, >>.) Though the names here are those of divine beings, all are represented in the Syriac tradition as historical figures, contemporaries of the Biblical patriarch Abraham. We have already identified this Mars-like figure, this god-man of the era of Abraham, as Amraphel. Ares was the rival and murderer of Tammuz in Phoenician myth, as well as in this Syriac tradition, and Baal Melqart was his native Phoenician name. The Greeks called him the Tyrian Herakles (Latin: Hercules). The victim of the murder, Tammuz, was known to the Persians as Jamshid. The Persians called Jamshid’s murderer Zohak, the “Biting Serpent,” and described him as “fierce by nature as the planet Mars” (Mirkhond, trans. Shea, History of the Early Kings of Persia, 1832, p. 122. On Jamshid and Zohak see §324f., below, >>, §189, below, >>). Zohak was the king of Babylon. The Arabs believed, like the Syriac writers in relation to Ares and Tammuz, that these Persian figures, whose names were those of divinities, were the historical contemporaries of Abraham. Zohak further was identified by Arab chroniclers with the Babylonian king they called Nimrod son of Canaan, viz. Amraphel, the contemporary and opponent of Abraham. Amraphel, in other words, according to this Arabic tradition, was the Biblical name of the murderer, and Jamshid (Tammuz) the name of his victim. (It is important to observe that any and all of these figures might also have later incarnations, subsequent to the Patriarchal era: e.g. Zohak was identified additionally, and significantly, with Nebuchadrezzar, the persecutor of the three Hebrew children, and with Arbaces the Mede, who helped sweep the persecuting Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad V [referred to hereafter as Ninus II] into power. See also §677.14, below, >>.) The mythic murder-victim Tammuz was known to the Greeks as Dionysus. The murderer of Dionysus in Greek myth was Perseus. Perseus is said to have been by origin Assyrian (= Mesopotamian, Herodotus VI. 54. 1), and, according to Ammianus Marcellinus (XIV. 8. 3), he was “actually” (Latin certe) Sandan, the Asian and Babylonian Hercules, whilst Hercules, in turn, was the Chaldaean name (Hercules = Nergal or Eragal) for the planet Mars (Macrobius Sat. III. 12). (See further on Sandan-Perseus-Hercules as the Baal of Tarsus/Tarshish, §193.1, below, >>.) Hercules was a prominent member of the Babylonian expedition against the giants of Canaan which Abraham resisted (Gen. 14), according to Castor (see his account at §112, below, >>): in this tradition, too, Hercules is the Biblical Amraphel.

Note: on Greek Perseus = Mesopotamian Parsi = Nergal-Mars: In the same Byzantine chroniclers referenced supra, and in a later incarnation, Perseus the founder of the “Persian” race (Isidore, Etymologiae IX. ii. 47, the national name echoing that of the hero) and of the Persian fire-cult, is described as having destroyed the Assyrian king Sardanapalus (ed. Müller FHG IV, John of Antioch, Frags. 6. 2, p. 542, and 6. 18, p. 544). Historically it was the Mede (“Persian”) Arbaces who ousted Sardanapalus. In Albiruni (ed. trans. Sachau p. 100, MS. p. 87) Arbaces, the overthrower of Sardanapalus, is identified with Zohak. So in this later incarnation, too, the roles of Perseus and Zohak are identical. The god of the Mesopotamian constellation “The Old Man,” which the Greeks called “Perseus” (after the hero), was Enmesharra, and Enmesharra was another name for Nergal, Mars (Deimel Pantheon s.n. 2332 Nergal). Nergal, under a dual designation (Lugal-irra and Meslamta-ea), was the presiding deity also of the constellation Gemini, the Twins. (See further §346, below, >>.) Parsi was an ancient Mesopotamian name for this same god (Reallexikon der Assyriologie s. Lugal-irra and Meslamta-ea, §2), and is probably the origin of the Greek Perseus. Enmesharra is described as “paris purussê iritim” (ibid., s. Enmesharra), the “Regulator [paris, lit. Divider] of the Regulations [purussê, lit. divisions, viz. separate regulatory sections] of the Underworld,” and this suggests the root p-r-s, “divide, separate, discriminate,” whence “paris” and “purussê,” underlies the divine name Parsi. The Greeks obtained their star-lore from Mesopotamia. They gave the former of these constellations the Greek name equivalent to Enmesharra or Nergal, viz. Perseus, presumably a transcription of the god’s alternative Oriental name Parsi, and identified the heavenly Twins as Apollo and Herakles, both names equivalent, in the interpretatio Graeca, to Nergal (see §338.3, below, >>, §613, below, >>, §626.17.4, below, >>).

Perseus, therefore, was the Greek name for the Mars-like murderer, and Dionysus, in the Greek system, the name of his victim. The myth of Perseus was known in antiquity to be a duplicate of that of the Sumerian divinized hero Gilgamesh (“Gilgamos” as Aelian wrote it, see further for his account §185, below, >>). We can conclude Gilgamesh was the murderer’s Sumerian name. Completing the circle, Gilgamesh was equated with Nergal, the planet Mars. Thus the Biblical Amraphel, the contemporary of Abraham, was identified with the planet-god Mars, with the Phoenician Baal Melqart (the Tyrian Hercules), the Persian Zohak, the Greek Perseus, and the Sumerian Gilgamesh, and, according to the Syriac legend, based on Phoenician myth, was the rival and murderer of the Biblical Tammuz. Tammuz, in turn, was identified with the Persian Jamshid and the Greek Dionysus, and was identically known as Tammuz in Phoenicia and Sumer. The names of these two characters in different cultures can be tabulated as follows:


Name of Murderer

Name of Victim

Biblical (Arabic)

Amraphel (Nimrod son of Canaan)



Gilgamesh (Nergal, Mars)

Tammuz (Dumuzi)

Phoenician (Syriac)

Baal Melqart (Hercules, Ares, Mars)








Now, Tammuz (Dumuzi) historically was the fourth, and Gilgamesh the fifth, king of the First Dynasty of Uruk, dateable precisely to Early Dynastic III. This was the dynasty, and the phase of that dynasty, we have concluded was in power during the lifetime of Abraham. Both Tammuz and Gilgamesh were also mortal heroes subsequently worshiped as gods. Gilgamesh, on this evidence, is the same figure called Amraphel in Genesis 14. A comparison of the names Gilgamesh and Amraphel confirms our conclusion. The name Gilgamesh, or earlier Bilgamesh and Bilmesh, has two components. The first, bilga or bil, means “offspring;” the second, pronounced mesh or mes, means “to be sturdy, stout, manly,” and is also a noun, “sturdy one, hero, prince.” The latter component, mesh, is more of a title than an integral part of the personal name, and is omitted in some early, as well as in some later texts. Akkadian is the Semitic dialect of ancient Mesopotamia, similar to Hebrew, and in that dialect the first component of the Sumerian name, the word bil (written with the signs GIŠ.BIL2) is translated, amongst other ways, as niplu, “offspring” (OB Diri “Oxford” 127-129, ePSD, bil2, lexical section). The Sumerian word mesh or mes is translated into Akkadian, amongst other ways, as maru, mar’u, lit. “fatling, kid, son, youth, young man, sturdy youngster” a synonym of “leader, young hero” (CAD s.v. maru, lexical section). Thus the name Bil-mesh a less common form of the name attested already in the Agade period, BIN VIII 175, 38, otherwise more frequently Bilga-mesh, later Gilgamesh might appear in Akkadian translation as Mar’u-niplu (mar’u = mesh, niplu = bil), the offspring [niplu] is a sturdy youngster [mar’u],” or in Hebrew as Amar-(n)aphl > Amar-aphel > Amraphel.

In Hebrew the verb naphal is used to describe the act of a fetus’ “falling” or “dropping” from the womb, that is, “being born” (Gesenius-Tregelles s.v., Kal 1a, Hiphil 1c), and gives rise to the noun nephel (< naphl, niphl), an “(aborted) fetus,” whilst the corresponding word in Akkadian, niplu, though used rather of shoots “hanging down” from a plant, means equally, in a transferred sense, human “offspring.” In the Hebrew nominal form Amraphel the titular element (mesh = maru/mar’u = amar) switches to the initial position, as is standard in Semitic dialects. Mar’u-niplu would be transformed into the Hebrew Amar-(n)aphl, then Amaraphel and Amraphel, by the standard rules of Hebrew phonology, as follows: through 1) the addition of a prosthetic vowel or transposition of the glottal stop in mar’u: the more original meaning of this word is “fatling, kid, animal young,” in Hebrew immar, in Ugaritic imru, and in Syriac emra, “lamb, sheep,all with prosthetic aleph, like Akkadian immeru, “sheep,used also in personal names (cf. Sumerian amar = Akkadian maru, mar’u, “kid, son,” where the Sumerian is probably a borrowing from Semitic); 2) contraction and the disappearance of the second vowel in the first component; and 3) the elision of “n” in the second component, and the doubling of the preceding “r” in pronunciation to compensate. Post-biblical Rabbinic tradition broke down the name Amraphel into precisely these components, 1) amar, 2) naphal, interpreting the verbs fancifully as if they were Hebrew: “They said (amar) the people fell (naphal) because of him,” and therefore they called him Amraphel. (See the citation from Sefer ha-Yashar, §335.0.0.2, below, >>.) An alternative traditional interpretation (Bereshith Rabba sect. 42) was that the second element in the name Amraphel was from the Hebrew verb aphal, “to be obscure, dark, black,” as if the name meant “obscure (aphelah, from aphal) speech (imrah from amar).” But the two signs GIŠ.BIL2 (GIŠ.GIBIL) with which the significant element in the Sumerian name (that is the “Bil” in Bil-mesh) is written can be otherwise translated into Akkadian as upillû, meaning “charcoal,” wood burned black (CAD s.v. upillû, lexical section), and this word, though not extant in Classical Hebrew, looks to be from the same Semitic root as Heb. aphal, and would be represented in a transcription of a foreign name, as in this case, by the two consonants peh and lamed. The name Mar’u-[u]pillî would then mean “Charcoal(-colored) [upillû] kid [mar’u], with reference, most probably, to the newborn’s shock of black hair, and comparing him with a black sheep (mar’u = young of animal and human), whence the Hebrew-m-r (lamb) []-p-l (black), Amr-aphel.

The Hebrew name Amraphel is therefore identical to the Sumerian Gilgamesh.

81. Both the Biblical Amraphel and the Sumerian Gilgamesh conducted a military expedition into the land of Canaan. Amraphel fought in Canaan against the giant inhabitants of the land, the Rephaim and their associates, and Gilgamesh fought against a gigantic, monstrous, inhabitant of the cedar mountains (the Lebanon ranges) called Huwawa or Humbaba. Amraphel was successful in his expedition against the Rephaim, as was Gilgamesh in his battle with Huwawa.

82. In Sumerian legend Gilgamesh was opposed to the House (Dynasty) of Enmebaragesi of Kish. Gilgamesh is said to have defeated Enmebaragesi himself and captured, but not killed, Enmebaragesi’s son, Aga. According to the Sumerian King List (§591, below, >>), Dumuzi (Tammuz), the immediate predecessor of Gilgamesh on the throne of Uruk, and his brother by the same mother, Nin-sumun or Nin-suna, captured king Enmebaragesi of Kish. Nothing is said of the latter’s death, so it may be presumed Enmebaragesi was captured only in that instance, and not killed by Dumuzi. There is clear evidence, therefore, that the First Dynasty of Uruk, the Dynasty of Gilgamesh and Dumuzi, was opposed in the era of these two kings to the First Dynasty of Kish under the kings Enmebaragesi and his son.

83. According to Genesis 14 the party opposed to Amraphel included Melchizedek, king of Salem (Hebrew Shalem). The name Kish means “Total, Complete,” and the Hebrew Shalem means the same. Not only that, according to the preferred explanation of Fürst, Lexikon, s.v. sh-l-m, whence the Hebrew topographical name Shalem, this Hebrew root is formed from a preformative sh and the biconsonantal root l-m, meaning “to enclose, surround, form a complete circle” etc. Shalom is thus a state of “completeness” (from the idea of forming a complete circle), and Shalem the city of “completeness.” The Sumerian name Kish is written commonly with the sign NIGIN, which is translated into Akkadian (the Semitic dialect of Babylonia, similar to Hebrew) as lamû, “surround, enclose.” With the preformative sh (exactly as proposed by Fürst), NIGIN = shulmû, “to form an enclosure.” Thus Kish = NIGIN = Shulmû, Shalem, the City of “completeness” in the sense of being the “City formed by an enclosure, or a complete circle.” The name Melchizedek means “Rightful (or, proper, truly worthy) king” (literally “King of rectitude or righteousness”). The name Enmebaragesi means “Rightful king,” or, literally, “the throne-dais, the position of the king (barage), is filled with, or, assigned, its proper occupant (si),” viz. in the person of the bearer of this name. Enmebaragesi is the earliest archaeologically-attested figure in history. His name, in the form Mebaragesi, occurs on a fragment of an alabaster bowl from Khafaje (the ancient Tutub) in the Diyala region, written in an archaic script.

Note on the equivalence of the names Melchizedek and (En)mebaragesi. The initial “me” in the name Me-barage-si is titular, and means “religious ruler, lord,” being a shorter form of the title “en-me,” which has the same meaning (“en-me” as in Enme-barage-si, “Lord Barage-si”). The significant component in the name, barage-si, seems to be the precise equivalent, even semantically, of the Hebrew name.

a) As regards the first component, barage- = Melchi-, Hebrew m-l-k (whence Melchi-) means “king, counselor, etc.,” and corresponds in meaning and form to the Sumerian b-r-g (m > b, l > r, k > g), “throne-dais” or “king:” 1) The Hebrew root m-l-q is a simple phonetic variation of p-r-q (Gesenius-Tregelles s.v. p-r-q), and p-r-q of p-r-k (id., ibid., s.vv. p-r-k, p-r-d), and consequently also of m-l-k. 2) Both p-r-q and p-r-k mean “to break, or loose,” literally and mentally, and therefore also “to solve, resolve, etc.” Likewise the root m-l-k: cf. the Akkadian noun malaku, “cut (of meat),” and the Akkadian verb malaku, “to deliberate, ponder, make a decision.” The “king,” Heb. melekh or melech (m-l-k = p-r-k), means literally the “solver of problems, the counselor.” 3) From the same Semitic root p-r-k (= m-l-k) is derived the Akkadian noun parakku, “throne-dais,” that is, literally, the “place of resolution,” which translates Sumerian barage, “throne-dais, royal position, king.” Thus barage- = Melchi-.

b) As regards the second component, si, in the Sumerian barage-si, and the corresponding second component, -zedek, in the Hebrew name Melchi-zedek: 1) The Hebrew ṣ-d-q (whence -zedek), according to Jastrow, Talmudic Dictionary, s.v., is a reduplicated expansion of the biconsonantal root z-q, “rush, gush, shoot, sparkle, pour, clean by pouring, smelt, forge,” etc., and, with the reduplication, ṣ-d-q comes to mean “be clear, pure, upright, fit,” etc. 2) For these reasons the name Melchizedek in a more primitive Semitic form might be written m-l-k-z-q (m-l-k, “king, royal position,” followed by z-q, “poured in, as of liquid”); and this corresponds to the Sumerian barage-si(g): viz. barage = “royal position, king,” and si = “filled, as with liquid,” the latter written with a sign that can also be read “sig” (sig[9], cf. the Hebrew z-q, z > s, q > g). 3) The same sign “si” (SI, ši2) was treated by the ancient Mesopotamian scribes as equivalent to the Sumerian sign “zi” (also read “zid”) = “fit, just, true, righteous, upright, loyal” (ePSD, s. SI, lexical section, Emesal Voc. II 189, etc.). This Sumerian word (zi, zid) corresponds in meaning, and seemingly also in form, to the Hebrew “zedek” (-d-q). The Semitic root -d-q does not appear in East Semitic, that is, in the common Mesopotamian dialects. However, the Sumerian zid (zi) has the same meaning as the Semitic root, “to be loyal, faithful, true.” This sign zi was used to represent the noun kittu, “truth, loyalty,” and kittu, in turn, was employed to translate the foreign (West Semitic) word “saduq” (= zedek) in Mesopotamia. For example, the West Semitic royal name Ammi-saduqa was translated into Akkadian (East Semitic) as Kimtu kittu (Sayce, Records of the Past, new series, vol. III, 1890, Preface, p. x ff., citing Rawlinson, “Inscriptions” vol. I, pl. 54, bilingual list of kings). Thus the final element “si” in the name Enme-barage-si, being equated with “zi,” was equivalent to the East Semitic kittu and the corresponding West Semitic word zedek, as in the Hebrew name Melchi-zedek. Sumerian adopted and incorporated into its vocabulary many words of Semitic origin. It is possible, even probable, that the Sumerian zi, zid, represents a transcription of a similar-sounding proto-Semitic word, an early form of the word “zedek,” which disappeared from East Semitic at a subsequent period. In which case, the final -si of the name Enme-barage-si, being an alternative way of writing the word zi, zid, would be identical fundamentally and intrinsically, in this sense also, to the Hebrew -zedek in the name Melchi-zedek.

In the Bible Abraham routs the army of Chedorlaomer king of Elam and his ally, Amraphel of Shinar, and then gives a tithe of the spoils to Melchizedek (Gen. 14. 20). In the Sumerian King List it is noted that Enmebaragesi received the weapons of Elam as spoil — an historical allusion which is elucidated nowhere else in Mesopotamian sources, but makes perfect sense given the identity of Enmebaragesi and Melchizedek. See further §208ff., below, >>, on the equation of Melchizedek and Enmebaragesi, and on the tradition that Melchizedek migrated from the location where Noah’s container landed in the mountainous area east of Shinar to the land of Canaan. According to Hilprecht, the mountain on which the boat of Ziusudra (Noah) grounded, which the Babylonians called “Nisir” (or “Nimush,” or however else the name should be read), was “in the district of the upper courses of the Adhaim and Diyala rivers, somewhere between the 35th and 36th degrees latitude, where Delitzsch, Streck, Billerbeck, and others place it.” (Bab. Exped. Univ. Penn. Series D. Vol. V. Fasc. 1, p. 31.) Pir Omar Gudrun near As-Sulaymaniyah in the mountains of Kurdestan meets the requirements (Speiser, Liverani). It was precisely in the Diyala region, but further downstream towards the plain of Shinar, that the ancient bowl with Mebaragesi, Melchizedek’s Sumerian name, on it was found.

84. The equation of Amraphel with Gilgamesh and Melchizedek with Enmebaragesi explains an element in the Biblical account in Genesis 14 which is not clarified in the text itself; viz. why king Melchizedek of S(h)alem, who is otherwise unnamed and uninstanced in Genesis, should now appear specifically to bless Abraham for his daring razzia on Amraphel’s army, in the process of which Abraham recaptured persons and goods stolen by the king of Shinar. In this light, Melchizedek had pressing, personal, reasons to be grateful to Abraham: that is, for the worsting by the latter of what is now revealed to be the former’s ancient foe of the House of Uruk.

85. According to Sumerian tradition both Gilgamesh and Dumuzi (Tammuz) were sons of Lugal-banda and Nin-sumun. In Phoenicia Tammuz was known as Adonis, Adonis being more of a title than a name, meaning “My Lord” in the dialect of Canaan. Adonis was the son of Phoenix, the eponymous founding father of the Phoenicians, and his wife Alphesiboea. Phoenix in Sanchuniathon (§407, below, >>) is identified with Chna (Khna) or Canaan, the eponymous ancestor of the Canaanites. (Further, on Dumuzi, Tammuz, as the Sumerian form of the personal name Sidon, son of Canaan, in Gen. 10. 5, and his identification with Damu, the god of healing, see §334ff., below, >>, §349, below, >>.) Given that Tammuz-Adonis, son of Phoenix-Chna-Canaan, is the Sumerian Dumuzi, the son of Lugal-banda, the possibility suggests itself that Canaan is the same figure the Sumerians knew as Lugal-banda. The name Canaan means “Submitting, or humbling, of oneself” and Lugal-banda means either “King [lugal] Junior/Submissive/Inferior [banda]” or “The senior person [lugal] becomes a junior [banda],” that is, precisely “Submitting of oneself.” In fact, the Sumerian sign here read “banda” can be read alternatively (in the Emesal dialect, the dialect of women and slaves) “genna” or “gina” and that looks like the identical word reproduced in Greek transcription as “Khna. Sumerian “gina” is ginû in Akkadian (CAD ginû C), which likewise means “offspring, junior,” etc. An alternative Sumerian form is “ginan,” and that is reminiscent of the Hebrew “Canaan” (k-n- with the termination -n, related to the root g-n-, Gesenius-Tregelles, s.v. k-n-.), and has the same meaning “junior, inferior, submitted, etc.” In which case, it may reasonably be conjectured, the name read “Banda” was originally pronounced “Ginan.” Lugal-banda was “King Ginan (Canaan).” The same figure’s Greek name, Phoenix, means “return after a long time to an earlier state” (Horapollo, Hieroglyphica II. 56), which expresses in a different way the meaning of the full Sumerian name (“the senior person becomes a junior”). The Phoenix in Egypt symbolized the sun-god (Horapollo, ibid. I. 34), that is, Amun-Ra, the Egyptian Jupiter. Lugal-banda was divinized as the Jupiter-like Sumerian god Ninurta (see §104f., below, >>). In Canaan this same god was known as Baal Hadad. Sanchuniathon calls him Zeus, using Greek terminology, and also Adodos (= Hadad) and Demarous. The last name has been thought to be a transcription of the word Tamar, “Palm-tree” (Baudissin), which is the literal meaning of the national name “Phoenix” in Greek (Callisthenes: Phoenicia so called from the palm-tree). The palm came to symbolize secondarily a “return to an earlier state in a cycle of time” because palm-leaves were used to count years in the ancient East. The palm was also believed to die and be reborn, i.e. to reproduce itself from its own substance, and hence the bird, the Phoenix, with a similar capacity to emerge rejuvenated from the ashes of its progenitor, was held to have received its name from the tree (Pliny, Nat. Hist. XIII. 9 [42]). Another Greek tradition translated the Semitic name Canaan (Khna) as “Agenor,” “Very virile, or, manly,” reflecting an interpretation of the root k-n- as equivalent to k-r- (Gesenius-Tregelles, svv.) = “lower oneself” over a woman in a sexual sense. (The grammarian Choeroboscus in Paris. Cod. Coisl. 176, fol. 36. Bekker, Anecd. p. 1181: “Khna, [the name] of Khna, so Agenor is called, whence also Phoenicia is termed Okhna.”). The Sumerian name might similarly be interpreted as “Youthful [banda] senior [lugal].” Agenor and Phoenix being equivalent eponymi, it is not surprising to find Europa and Kadmos in Greek accounts of primeval Phoenician migrations to the Aegean represented variously as the children of Agenor and as the children of Phoenix. A deification, or rather “immortalization,” of Canaan son of Ham, alongside the “rejuvenation,” was remembered in Oriental tradition well into the medieval period. The Canaanite name and nation became anathema as a result of the curse put on the founder by Noah: Phoenix, a foreign eponymus, even, ousted the native national designation. It was believed, however, that the spirit of Canaan lived on, Phoenix-like, in the person of his son (sic) Eliezer, who was brought up in paganism as a vizier of Nimrod, but subsequently became the faithful steward of Abraham, thus removing the effect of Noah’s curse (§279, below, >>). Hence in Greek tradition Phoenix was a son of Agenor, despite the fact both names translated the same Semitic eponymus, Canaan: Phoenix, in this case, was the “second Canaan,” Eliezer, and the father Agenor, Canaan himself. Canaan-Eliezer was believed to be a manifestation of the immortal Al Khidr, who died and revived multiple times, and was the Hermes of Harranian Sabianism (§140, below, >>). The second avatar of Hermes was Cush son of Ham (§133ff., below, >>), the third, Canaan-Eliezer (§140, below, >>). Hermes in this tradition was the builder of Babylon, that is, Hermes = Thoth = Min (Pan) = Amun = Bel Marduk. (§101.12, below, >>, §136ff., below, >>.) Bel Marduk was titled Adad, the “Thunderer.” This was the same god the Canaanites called Baal and Hadad. Canaan (Eliezer, Al Khidr), was, therefore, the dying and reviving Baal Hadad of the Canaanites.

85. 1. Further confirming the identification of Phoenix-Canaan, father of Adonis-Tammuz, with the Sumerian Lugal-banda, father of Dumuzi (Tammuz), and of his mother with Nin-sumun, is the etymology of the name of the mother of Adonis, Alphesiboea (Greek Alphesiboia), which means: “Yielder of cattle.” The Sumerian name Nin-sumun of the mother of Dumuzi likewise means “Owner/Producer of wild cows.” Nin-sumun was anciently identified with the goddess Gula, and Gula with Inana or Ishtar (Venus). She was known as Ashtoreth in the Bible and Ashtart (Ashtartu in the El-Amarna letters, the Greek Astarte) amongst the Phoenicians. Ashtoreth is a typical Hebrew deformation of the original name incorporating the vowels of the Hebrew word bosheth, “shame.” The unmodified form is Eshterah, found in the place-name Be-Eshterah, for Beyth-Eshterah, “Temple of Eshterah,” Jos. 21. 27 and 1 Chron. 6. 56 (Gesenius-Tregelles, s.v.). The Hebrew word Ashtaroth, the plural of Eshterah or Ashtoreth, denotes productive female herd-animals (Gesenius-Tregelles s.v.). The singular, therefore, Eshterah, “yielder of cattle,” is an exact equivalent of the Sumerian Nin-sumun and the Phoenician Alphesiboea. The Phoenician antiquary, Sanchuniathon, records of the ancient woman-cum-goddess Astarte (§397, below, >>), that she “set the head of a bull upon her own head as a mark

The deified Nin-sumun (Nin-suna, Eshterah)

of royalty,” which was appropriate in view of the meaning of her name. The “wild cow” was the immensely powerful bos primigenius, the male of which species stood six feet tall at the shoulder, and had long, curving, horns: these adorned the “horned cap” worn by deities and deified rulers in Mesopotamia as a symbol of supreme power.

86. Canaan was cursed by Noah because of the incident already referred to, in the course of which Noah’s nakedness was exposed, and was prophesied as a result to be subject to Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth, who covered their father’s shame. (See further and in full §302ff., below, >>.) In the Book of Jubilees it is recorded that, after the Dispersion from the Tower in Shinar, Canaan abandoned his patrimony amongst the sons of Ham in Africa and seized the Levantine territories of Shem illegally (10. 29-34). This is a midrashic expansion of the Biblical references to the “latter-day scattering” of the families of Canaan and their settlement thereafter along the Levantine coast from Sidon to Gaza and inland to the region of the Dead Sea (Genesis 10. 18-19), and to the fact that when Abraham crossed over into the Levant the “Canaanite” was “then in the land,” which was termed in consequence the “land of Canaan” (Genesis 12. 5-6).

87. In fragmentary Sumerian traditions recovered by archaeologists from the tablets of Sumer, Lugal-banda (Canaan) is said to have served in the army of Enmerkar (Nimrod) in his campaign against Aratta in the East. He became ill at that time, and was left to recuperate in a mountain hollow or cave, being separated for a considerable time from his comrades. He is said to have received divine help in this affliction and subsequently rose to prominence as a military attaché of Enmerkar. The story appears to be an explanation of how Lugal-banda came to occupy the throne in Uruk as the successor of Enmerkar. The campaign of Gilgamesh (Amraphel) son of Lugal-banda to the cedar mountain in the Levant is evidence of the interest of Lugal-banda’s family in that region, and, in the light of the identity of Lugal-banda and Canaan, an illustration of the fact recorded in Genesis that “the Canaanite” (i.e. one individual or more of the Canaanite clan, Hebrew ha-Canaani) was “then in the land.”

88. On this reconstruction, Amraphel was a son of Canaan. The post-Biblical Arabic tradition held that there were two Nimrods. The first was Nimrod son of Cush (as in the Bible). The second Nimrod, otherwise known as Amraphel, was, indeed, the son of Canaan, dateable to the time of Abraham, and was descended from, and named after, Nimrod A. The genealogical connection between Nimrod A and Nimrod B is that of grandson to grandfather in a variety of traditions identifying Nimrod B with the Mars-like warrior-god (§188, below, >>), precisely parallelling the Sumerian genealogy Gilgamesh (Nimrod B) son of Lugal-banda (Canaan), by Nin-sumun, daughter of Enmerkar (Nimrod A).

89. It can be seen from the chart at §77.1, above, >>, that Amraphel-Gilgamesh flourished at least 367 years after the Flood, by which time he had already assumed the throne of Shinar (the campaign of king Amraphel being dated between the 75th and 86th year of Abraham, Genesis 12. 4 and 16. 16, i.e. between BC 2068 and 2057) and, according to the Bible, Noah lived on till that same generation of Amraphel, since he survived the Flood 350 years (Genesis 9. 28). The Epic of Gilgamesh represents Gilgamesh likewise as a contemporary of the Flood-hero Ziusudra. He is said to have visited the ancient patriarch in a faraway land, “at the mouth of the rivers,” to which the latter had been transported by the gods, after the Flood, as a reward for his faithfulness. Gilgamesh traveled there in the direction of the sun, a distance about equivalent to a reed-boat’s journey, down the Persian Gulf to some unidentified location easily accessible from the Indian Ocean. He sought from Ziusudra the secret of eternal life, but was disappointed in his expectation to receive it directly from him. Still, he discovered the whereabouts of the plant which bestowed it, in the watery depths. He dived in and plucked the plant, returning with it victoriously to land. However, while resting on the shore after his ordeal, and off his guard, he was robbed of the plant by a serpent. The motifs have obvious parallels in Genesis.

90. Native Sumerian tradition also agrees with the Bible that lifespans were longer than the later norm in the period immediately subsequent to the Flood. The following is an extract from the list of rulers of Lagash:

(Lines 1-16): After the flood had swept over and brought about the destruction of the countries; when mankind was made to endure, and the seed of mankind was preserved and the black-headed people all rose; when [the gods] An and Enlil called the name of mankind and established rulership, but kingship and the crown of the city had not yet come out from heaven, and [the god] Ningirsu had not yet established for the multitude of well-guarded (?) people the pickaxe, the spade, the earth basket and the plough, which mean life for the Land — in those days, the carefree youth of man lasted for 100 years and, following his upbringing, he lasted for another 100 years.”

The survival of Noah (Ziusudra) to the era of Amraphel (Gilgamesh) and Abraham, therefore, was normal for that period. However, no mention is made of Noah in the Bible between the immediate post-diluvian era and this, even during the Temple Tower episode, when he may be expected to have intervened, so it is credible that, as indicated in the Epic of Gilgamesh, he had in the meantime migrated to some area beyond normal communicating distance of the land of Shinar. This will have been in obedience to God’s express command for him and his sons to disperse over the earth, and a commendable example to the Tower builders, who were attempting, by their joint enterprise, to thwart the divine directive.

90.1. Chart of Biblical and Sumerian Names of the First Dynasty of Uruk

Biblical Names

Sumerian Names


U, Utu or Puzur











(1) Sidon
(= Tammuz,
§334ff., below, >>)

(1) Dumuzi Shu-nigin

(2) Amraphel

(2) Gilgamesh

Sumerian Name
(titles in [])

(if any)

Akkadian Translation

Section Reference
(for detail)

Equivalent Hebrew Name


(U =) Ammu

§65, above, >>.



(Sher =) Kasû

§113, below, >>.



(Er-kar =) Naphu-urdu

§64, above, >>.



Banda > Gina (Emesal dialect)

(Banda/Gina =) Ginû

§85, above, >>.


Dumuzi Shu-nigin Pesh

Shu-nigin > (shorter form and synonym) Nigin

(Nigin =) Saidu

§334ff., below, >>, and §349.0.1ff., below, >>.



Bil-mesh or Bilga-mesh > Gilgamesh

(Bil-mesh =) Mar’u-niplu or Mar’u-[u]pillî

§80, above, >>.