Is El Amarna’s “Baalat Neše” Biblically Identifiable?

Gold seal - Ishtar as Mistress of Animals, Turkmenistan, ca 2000 BC, Schaffhausen Museum BACTRIAN OR PERSIAN?


Damien F. Mackey


Baalat Neše, being the only female correspondent of the El-Amarna [EA] series, must therefore have been a woman of great significance at the time.

Who was she?


Dr. I Velikovsky had introduced Baalat Neše as “Baalath Nesse” in his 1945




According to Velikovsky:


  1. The el-Amarna Letters were written not in the fifteenth-fourteenth century, but in the middle of the ninth century.


  1. Among the correspondents of Amenhotep III and Akhnaton are biblical personages: Jehoshaphat (Abdi-Hiba), King of Jerusalem; Ahab (Rib Addi), King of Samaria; Ben-Hadad (Abdi-Ashirta), King of Damascus; Hazael (Azaru), King of Damascus; Aman (Aman-appa), Governor of Samaria; Adaja (Adaja), Adna (Adadanu), Amasia, son of Zihri (son of Zuhru), Jehozabad (Jahzibada), military governors of Jehoshaphat; Obadia, the chief of Jezreel; Obadia (Widia), a city governor in Judea; the Great Lady of Shunem (Baalath Nesse); Naaman (Janhama), the captain of Damascus; and others. Arza (Arzaja), the courtier in Samaria, is referred to in a letter.


Then he, in his Ages in Chaos I (1952, p. 220), elaborated on why he thought Baalat Neše to have been, as above, “the Great Lady of Shumen”.

I mentioned it briefly, as follows, in my university thesis:


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



(Volume One, p. 93):


Queen Jezebel


Velikovsky had, with typical ingenuity, looked to identify the only female correspondent of EA, Baalat Neše, as the biblical ‘Great Woman of Shunem’, whose dead son the prophet Elisha had resurrected (cf. 2 Kings 4:8 & 4:34-35). …. Whilst the name Baalat Neše is usually translated as ‘Mistress of Lions’, Velikovsky thought that it could also be rendered as “a woman to whom occurred a wonder” (thus referring to Elisha’s miracle).

This female correspondent wrote two letters (EA 273, 274) to Akhnaton, telling him that the SA.GAZ pillagers had sent bands to Aijalon (a fortress guarding the NW approach to Jerusalem). She wrote about “two sons of Milkili” in connection with a raid.

The menace was not averted because she had to write again for pharaoh’s help.


I continued, referring to Lisa Liel’s rejection of Velikovsky’s hopeful interpretation of the name, Baalat Neše (“What’s In A Name?”:


Liel, in the process of linguistically unravelling the Sumerian name of this female correspondent, points to what she sees as being inaccuracies in Velikovsky’s own identification of her: ….




This lady’s name is generally transcribed as “Baalat Nese”, which means “Lady of Lions”. Velikovsky either saw a transcription where the diacritical mark above the “s” which indicates that it is pronounced “h” was omitted, or didn’t know what the mark meant.

[Since this character doesn’t show up well in HTML, I’ve used a regular “s”. The consonant is actually rendered as an “s” with an upside-down caret above it, like a small letter “v”.] [Liel’s comment]

He also took the “e” at the end of the word as a silent “e”, the way it often is in English. Having done all this, he concluded that the second word was not “nese,” but “nes,” the Hebrew word for miracle. He then drew a connection with the Shunnamite woman in the book of Kings who had a miracle done for her.


Liel’s own explanation of the name was partly this:


Flights of fancy aside, the name has in truth been a subject of debate, so much so that many books nowadays tend to leave it as an unnormalized Sumerogram. The NIN is no problem. It means “Lady,” the feminine equivalent of “Lord.” Nor is the MESH difficult at all; it is the plural suffix …. What is UR.MAH? One attested meaning is “lion.” This is the source of the “Lady of Lions” reading. ….


Whilst Liel would go on to suggest an identification of (NIN.UR.MAH.MESH) Baalat Neše with “the usurper [Queen] Athaliah”, my own preference then in this thesis was for Queen Jezebel. Thus I wrote:


In a revised context Baalat Neše, the ‘Mistress of Lions’, or ‘Lady of Lions’, would most likely be, I suggest, Jezebel, the wife of king Ahab. Jezebel, too, was wont to write official letters – in the name of her husband, sealing these with his seal (1 Kings 21:8). And would it not be most appropriate for the ‘Mistress of Lions’ (Baalat Neše) to have been married to the ‘Lion Man’ (Lab’ayu)? Baalat (Baalath, the goddess of Byblos) is just the feminine form of Baal. Hence, Baalat Neše may possibly be the EA rendering of the name, Jezebel, with the theophoric inverted: thus, Neše-Baal(at). Her concern for Aijalon, near Jerusalem, would not be out of place since Lab’ayu himself had also expressed concern for that town.


I still hold to that identification, Baalat Neše as the biblical Jezebel.






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