Part Three: (Narmer) Naram Sin as Amraphel



 Damien F. Mackey

When Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea).

[Genesis 14:1-3]




So far in this series I have – after having rejected a long-held view that equated the biblical “Amraphel” with the famous Hammurabi:

Amraphel King of Shinar” Was Not King Hammurabi


been able, in:

Narmer a Contemporary of Patriarch Abraham


and in:


Narmer a Contemporary of Patriarch Abraham.

Part Two: Narmer as Naram Sin.


to set the Patriarch Abram archaeologically in relation to the early dynastic period of Egypt – {very likely the era of Hor-Aha, “Menes”} – that also controlled southern Canaan, and that existed very close to the time of the enigmatic Narmer. The latter I have tentatively identified with the world-conquering Naram Sin of Akkad. And this synchronisation of early dynastic Egypt with Akkad accords very well with Dr. Albright’s insistence that the mighty lord of Magan, “Manium”, whom Naram Sin boasted of having conquered, was the legendary pharaoh Menes of Egypt himself.

The question now becomes: Can my composite Narmer = Naram Sin also be identified with the biblical “Amraphel … king of Shinar” of Genesis 14:1?

Location of Akkad

Creationist Anne Habermehl has set things in a completely new direction in her:

Where in the World Is the Tower of Babel?

by convincingly re-identifying the biblical ‘land of Shinar’, generally considered to have been the same as ‘Sumer’ (southern Mesopotamia), with the Sinjar region of NE Syria. This important geographical revision of hers has provided researchers with a new opportunity to identify the as yet un-located capital city of Akkad.

Habermehl’s own suggestion for Akkad is the most ancient site of Tell Brak, which was certainly of great significance for the Akkad dynasty, and for Naram Sin. M. van de Mieroop for example, who assumes the general view that the modern site, Tell Brak, is ancient Nagar, tells (A History of the Ancient Near east. Ca. 3000-323 BC, Blackwell, 2004, pp. 63-64):


In Syria the Akkadians established footholds in certain existing centers, indicated by the presence of military garrisons or trade representatives there. At Nagar (modern Tell Brak), a monumental building was erected with bricks stamped with the name of Naram-Sin. Its character – military or administrative – cannot be established, however.

[End of quote]

Such a location, rather than Sumer, would have given Naram Sin at least a geographically more central and proximate base for his foray against Egypt – whether or not (probably the latter) he had actually succeeded in completely subduing that land.

The geography of the kingdom Amraphel, too, as a ruler of “Shinar”, would likewise be thus affected.

Connection with Elam

The country of Elam is most important in any consideration of the biblical Amraphel, because of the predominance in the Genesis 14 coalition of “Chedorlaomer king of Elam”. For, after the introduction to the coalition in Genesis 14:1, in which Amraphel of Shinar seems to be given predominance, Chedorlaomer of Elam, after that, apparently takes centre stage (vv. 5-9):

For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.

Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.

The ‘Battle of Siddim’, as it is called, between these two coalitions of powerful kings took place, of course, in the fertile Valley of Siddim. But then we find this quite differently rendered topographically, in brackets, as the Dead Sea “(that is, the Dead Sea)”.

The explanation for this seeming anomaly is provided in

The “Toledoths” of Genesis

according to which editor Moses later geographically updated for his people the various patriarchal toledôt. In this particular case: “the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea)”, the toledôt is that of Ishmael (Genesis 25:12): “These are the generations of Ishmael”.

Now, continuing with Elam, we find that it was of such singular importance at the time of the Akkadian, Naram Sin, for van de Mieroop to say  of it (op. cit., p. 63, emphasis added):

… the local rulers were referred to with Sumerian titles, such as governor (ensi) or general (shagina), which imply a full dependence on the kings of Akkad. On the other hand, the rulers of Susa retained some degree of authority. Naram-Sin concluded a treaty with an unnamed ruler or high official of Susa, a document written in the Elamite language. The agreement specified no submission to Akkad, only a promise by the Elamite to regard Naram-Sin’s enemies as his own. The autonomy of Elam should not be underestimated.

[End of quote]

Powerful Elam at this time, far from being subservient to the Akkadian rulers, like most were, was ‘autonomous’ – but fighting alongside Akkad against the latter’s enemies. And this is exactly the situation that we encounter with the strong king Chedorlaomer (a name probably equating to Elamite Kudur-Lagmur) in his association with Amraphel.

Arioch and Tidal


As for the two other coalitional kings listed in Genesis 14:1, “Arioch king of Ellasar”, and “Tidal king of Goyim”, these were likely of secondary status by comparison with Amraphel and Chedorlaomer, and may thus have been only local rulers, e.g., ensi-governors.

  1. Storck has made some potentially important observations regarding these two characters, Erioch and Tidal, in his article, “The Early Assyrian King List, The Genealogy of the Hammurapi Dynasty, and the ‘Greater Amorite’ Tradition” (C and AH Proceedings 3, 1986). Here I reproduce a summary I made of the relevant parts of this article back in 2002:

Storck’s identification of the name 16 [in Assyrian King List: AKL], Ushpia (Ishbak), with the “Ushpia … known to have built at Ashur, according to a later tradition by Shalmaneser”, and his dating of this Ushpia “as a later contemporary of Abraham … [to] the later part of Ur III dynasty” now encourages me to try to identify members of the Mesopotamian coalition of Genesis 14 during Ur III, at the time of Abraham. Since Storck has already dealt with these four kings in part, I shall begin where he does, with Arioch of Ellasar [p. 45. Storck had already noted, with reference to Poebel, that the name Azarah might be composed of a Western Semitic (WS) form, “to come forth” and WHR “moon” (month)]:

A certain Arioch of Ellasar, furthermore, is cited as one of the four kings against five. This Arioch may provisionally be identified with Azarah if “WRH” moon (month) is closer to the original etymology. Ellasar has received various treatments over the years: Larsa al sarri or “city of the King”, Til Assuri, “the country of Assyria” and/or “the city of Assur ….The connection between Ellasar is explained as a derived form of A LA-SAR, an ideogram denoting the city of Assyria” …. That “Assur” is meant here may receive further support if the connection with Arioch-Azarah is defensible. However, to the best of our knowledge A LA SAR is not an attested reading for Assur. We therefore suggest that it was heard as “alu Assur” and “Ellasar” is an attempt to render this, based on oral transmission.

Now in the later part of the Ur III dynasty era – the era for Abraham according to Storck’s view – at the time of Amar-Sin of Ur (c. 2046-2038 BC, conventional dating), we read of an official of Ashur who may well be this Arioch/Azarah. He is Zariqum. I quote regarding him from the Cambridge Ancient History [Vol. I, pt. 2 (3rd ed.), p. 602]:

From Ashur itself comes a stone tablet dedicated by Zariqum, calling himself governor of Ashur, ‘for the life of Amar-Sin the mighty, king of Ur, king of the four regions’, whereby it is certain that Ashur was a vassal-city of Ur under its next king.


The name Zariqum contains the main elements of both Arioch (ariq) and Azarah (zari), thus supporting Storck’s view that these are the same names, and further linking the king lists and the Bible.

But this quotation may tell us more with regard to the coalition. It in fact gives us the name of the Sumerian ruler whom Zariqum served: Amar-Sin (var. Amar-Su’en).

When I wrote this, with Storck’s research well in mind, I was working along the lines that Amraphel the biblical king of Shinar was actually one of the Ur III potentates, not an Akkadian ruler.

And I also considered then that the best candidate for Abram’s “Pharaoh” was one Khety III of the 10th Egyptian dynasty, and not Hor-Aha. (More on this below, see section “Khety III”).

And so I concluded in relation to Amraphel:

Now Amar-Sin would make an excellent candidate for Amraphel of Shinar of Genesis 14. Basically the names are the same with a different theophoric, the god El in the biblical name replaced by the moon god, Sin. Amar-Sin was a mighty king of Shinar, belonging to the very era in which Storck has placed Abraham in relation to Mesopotamia. And I happily note that the conventional Mesopotamian dates for Amar-Sin (c. 2000 BC) correspond adequately enough to those usually estimated for Abram’s early dwelling in Canaan.

A third coalitional king was Tidal. Storck identifies this with name 1, Tudija, in AKL [op. cit., pp. 45-46]:

… Tid’al. This name is intended to represent the form Tudkhalia … a Hittite name, although specific identity with one of the four Hittite kings by this name cannot be suggested. That Tid’al is but a contracted form of Tudkhalia is almost universally accepted and offers no major linguistic problems. Tudija is also a contraction or hypocoristicon of some longer name …. As such it would probably constitute the Vorlage/(pattern) of Tudkhalia.

Ebla seems also to refer to this name, as if belonging to a real historical person [Collier’s Encyclopedia Vol. 8, “Ebla”, Collier Inc. NY, p. 501]:

The tablets, for example, refer to a treaty between Ebla and King Dudiya of Ashur, or Assyria. A nearly identical name, Tudiya, is the first name on the Assyrian king lists …. Most likely both sources refer to the same person. Therefore, it appears that Tudiya … and the other early Assyrian kings were real figures, a fact that scholars had previously doubted.

[End of quotes]

Khety III

Though I have, in this present series, opted for Hor-Aha (Menes) as the “Pharaoh” of Abram, I have nevertheless persevered, too, with the possibility of my earlier view, that that “Pharaoh” may have been Khety III (c. 2100 BC, conventional dating). See my:

Connecting the Biblical Patriarchs to Ancient Egypt

So far, however, I have not been able to establish any compelling link between the 1st and 10th Egyptian dynasties (perhaps Aha “Athothis” in 1 can connect with “Akhthoes” in 10). Nevertheless, that pharaoh Khety appears to have possessed certain striking likenesses to Abram’s “Pharaoh” has not been lost on David Rohl as well, who, in From Eden to Exile: The Epic History of the People of the Bible (Arrow Books, 2003), identified the “Pharaoh” with Khety (Rohl actually numbers him as Khety IV). And he will further incorporate the view of the Roman author, Pliny, that Abram’s “Pharaoh” had a name that Rohl considers to be akin to Khety’s prenomen: Nebkaure.

Here, for what it is worth, is what I have written about pharaoh Khety III:


There is a somewhat obscure incident in 10th dynasty history, associated with pharaoh Wahkare Khety III and the nome of Thinis, that may possibly relate to the biblical incident [of Pharaoh and Abram’s wife]. It should be noted firstly that Khety III is considered to have had to restore order in Egypt after a general era of violence and food shortage, brought on says N. Grimal by “the onset of a Sahelian climate, particularly in eastern Africa” [A History of Ancient Egypt, Blackwell, 1994, p. 139]. Moreover, Khety III’s “real preoccupation was with northern Egypt, which he succeeded in liberating from the occupying populations of Bedouin and Asiatics” [ibid., p. 145]. Could these eastern nomads have been the famine-starved Syro-Palestinians of Abram’s era – including the Hebrews themselves – who had been forced to flee to Egypt for sustenance? And was Khety III referring to the Sarai incident when, in his famous Instruction addressed to his son, Merikare, he recalled, in regard to Thinis (ancient seat of power in Egypt):

Lo, a shameful deed occurred in my time:

The nome of This was ravaged;

Though it happened through my doing,

I learned it after it was done.

[Emphasis added].

Cf. Genesis 12:17-19:

But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai ….

So Pharaoh called Abram, and said,

‘What is this you have done to me?

Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?

Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? so that I took her for my wife?

Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone’.

As for any possible connection between Abram, Amraphel, and the Ur III dynasty, I had gone right away from my earlier enthusiasm for it, having become convinced that both the Ur III dynasty, and the Akkadian one, had need of being brought well down the time scale beyond the era of Abra[ha]m. It was only recently, with D. Petrovich’s interesting connection of the biblical Nimrod (ostensibly a much older contemporary of Abraham) with Sargon of Akkad:

Identifying Nimrod of Genesis 10 with Sargon of Akkad by Exegetical and Archaeological Means

that I had cause to apply my revisionist brakes, enabling for a return to the possibility of contemporaneity between this approximate period of history and Abram. And from there I proceeded tentatively to identify Narmer with Naram Sin, and then the latter’s Egyptian foe, “Manium”, as Hor-Aha “Menes” (following Dr. Albright).

Ur III Dynasty


Now, with the central focus of the Akkad dynasty moved right away from Sumer, to the Sinjar region of NE Syria (thanks to Habermehl), can there be any potential for identifying the significant, but largely unheralded (by later Mesopotamians), Ur III dynasty, with that of the most celebrated dynasty of Akkad – with, say, Amar Sin, who I had previously estimated to be “an excellent candidate for Amraphel of Shinar of Genesis 14”, now to be identified with my already composite Naram Sin (= Narmer) /Amraphel?

That intriguing consideration of a possible merging of Akkad and Ur III will be the subject of my next article.



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