Damien F. Mackey
Many times have we read that the famous ‘Law Code’ of Hammurabi has clear parallels with the Torah of Moses, the inevitable conclusion by historians being that
Moses the Lawgiver must have borrowed much from Hammurabi.
Such a Hebrew dependence upon Hammurabi becomes impossible, however, when Hammurabi himself is located to his true historical era well after Moses, to become a contemporary of the universally-influential kings David and Solomon of Israel.
Since Hammurabi of Babylon was a contemporary of kings David and Solomon of Israel:
then, according to the testimony of I Kings 10:23-29, it would likely have been the Hebrew Davidides, rather than the Babylonians, who was the major source of cultural influence:
King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules.
Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Kue—the royal merchants purchased them from Kue at the current price. They imported a chariot from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty. They also exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and of the Arameans.
Clearly David’s and Solomon’s influence was permeating to every corner of the ancient world. This would explain why Mosaïc Law, now somewhat modified, would re-emerge in, for instance, the Hittite code of laws (“all the kings of the Hittites”).
Does Hammurabi Figure in the Bible?
At the very least, Hammurabi must figure in the Bible as one amongst the un-named kings of the world who visited King Solomon in all his splendour.
David S. Farkas, who is certain that Hammurabi does figure in the Bible – but who, having him in early Genesis, has mistakenly sought for Hammurabi way too early, writes as follows (http://jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/393/jbq_393_Hammurabi.pdf):
IN SEARCH OF THE BIBLICAL HAMMURABI
The relationship between the Code of Hammurabi and some portions of the Bible is taken for granted by scholars today. Much has been written about the striking similarities between the goring ox of Exodus 21 and the same poor beast in what is called LH 251 of Hammurabi’s Code. Just as striking are the contrasts between the Torah Law and Hammurabi’s Code (see: LH 16, 19, 106, 197, 209, 210, 229 and 230) in the laws of runaway slaves, the rejection of cross-generational civil punishment, and even the famous lex talionis.
These have all been analyzed and re-analyzed in light of what was learned with the discovery of Hammurabi’s Code in 1901.1 Yet it seems to me that Hammurabi himself poses a far greater biblical mystery than anything written in his Code. For beyond confronting the questions posed by the similarities between the Bible and the Code, one must grapple with a more fundamental problem: Why isn’t Hammurabi himself mentioned in the Bible?
[End of quote]
The specific answer that Farkas will eventually give to his question: “Why isn’t Hammurabi himself mentioned in the Bible?” will be this multi-identifying one: “… scholars identify Hammurabi with Amraphel, and the sages identify Amraphel with Nimrod. This leads us to the conclusion that, based on midrashic tradition, Amraphel, Nimrod and Hammurabi are all the same person”.
Swing and a miss!
At the very least, Hammurabi must figure in the Bible as one amongst the un-named kings of the world who visited King Solomon in all his splendour.
“Hammurabi [who] was apparently not of Babylonian origin, the so-called “Dynasty of Babylon,” to which he belonged, having probably come from the West” (http://biblehub.com/topical/h/hammurabi.htm), shapes up very well, in fact, as a king somewhat in the mould of David and Solomon. His four-decade reign, with conquests, but largely peaceful. His greatness and fame, and extensive building. His Hebrew-like Laws and sometime wisdom. Admittedly polytheistic, but had not Solomon, too, later, veered in that same direction?
According to a Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Babylonian_Dynasty) Hammurabi’s Babylonian Code was most like that of the Hebrews (though chronological reasons would prevent Wikipedia, and others of a conventional persuasion, from recognising any dependence of the Code upon the Hebrew version):
Of all the ancient legislations, that of the Hebrews alone can stand comparison with the Babylonian Code. The many points of resemblance between the two, the Babylonian origin of the father of the Hebrew race, the long relations of Babylon with the land of Amurru, have prompted modern scholars to investigate whether the undeniable relation of the two codes is not one of dependence. …. Needless to notice that Hammurabi is in no wise indebted to the Hebrew Law [sic].
That Moses and the tradition he fostered had been utterly essential to David, and afterwards, to the young Solomon, and that the latter had been prepared by his father, king David, to live by Moses’ laws and statutes, is apparent from these words of counsel given to him by his ageing father (1 Kings 2:2): ‘Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statues, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn’.
There are also some interesting speculations showing some parallels between the Bible and the life and laws of Hammurabi. One theme concept in both the Levitical law and the Code of Hammurabi that repeat … again and again are, namely: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise”. (Exodus 21:24-25). Although Hammurabi did not know it, the principles in his laws reflected the Biblical principle of sowing and reaping as found in Galatians 6:78 and Proverbs 22:8: “Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows”. (Galatians 6:7) .
“He who sows wickedness reaps trouble”. (Proverbs 22:8a).
“Hammurabi did not know it”, so Nosotro writes, but perhaps he really did know some of it. “[Solomon] composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five”. (1 Kings 4:32).
Likewise we read in the Book of Ecclesiastes of king Solomon (12:9-14):
Besides being wise, the Teacher [Qoheleth] also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find pleasing words, and he wrote words of truth plainly. The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by one shepherd. Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter: all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. ….
Now Hammurabi’s Code too, just like Solomon’s Ecclesiastes, starts with a Preface (similarly the Book of Proverbs has a Prologue) and ends with an Epilogue, in which we find an echo of many of Solomon’s above sentiments, and others, beginning with Hammurabi as wise, as a teacher, and as a protecting shepherd king. These common ‘buzz words’ I shall identify as we go along.
Let us consider firstly Hammurabi’s Epilogue, in relation to Solomon’s (Ecclesiastes’) Epilogue above (buzz words given in italics):
HAMMURABI’S CODE OF LAWS
Translated by L. W. King
LAWS of justice which Hammurabi, the wise king, established. A righteous law, and pious statute did he teach the land. Hammurabi, the protecting king am I. I have not withdrawn myself from the men, whom Bel gave to me, the rule over whom Marduk gave to me, I was not negligent, but I made them a peaceful abiding-place. I expounded all great difficulties, I made the light shine upon them. … I am the salvation-bearing shepherd .. . .
Wisdom 1:1: “Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth …”.
Ecclesiastes 9:1: “ … how the righteous and the wise … are in the hand of God”.
1 Kings 4:29: “God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding, as vast as the sand on the seashore”.
As we are going to find, Solomon was not shy about broadcasting his wisdom and the fact that he had exceeded all others in it.
For example (Ecclesiastes 1:16): “I said to myself, ‘I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has great experience of wisdom and knowledge’.”
Similarly, Knight writes of Hammurabi: “The conclusion of the inscription sounds like a hymn of high-keyed self-praise”. Indeed, that Hammurabi had no doubt in his own mind that he was the wisest of all is evident from this next statement (Epilogue): “… there is no wisdom like unto mine …”.
However, just as Solomon, in his ‘Prayer for Wisdom’ (Book of Wisdom 7:15-17), had attributed his wisdom to God:
“May God grant me to speak with judgment, and to have thoughts worthy of what I have received; for He is the guide even of wisdom and the corrector of the wise. For both we and our words are in His hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts. For it is He who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists …”[,]
so did the polytheistic Hammurabi attribute his wisdom to the Babylonian gods (Epilogue):
“… with the keen vision with which Ea endowed me, with the wisdom that Marduk gave me, I have … subdued the earth, brought prosperity to the land, guaranteed security to the inhabitants in their homes; a disturber was not permitted. The great gods have called me …”.
“I, the Teacher, when king over Israel in Jerusalem applied my mind to seek and search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven …”. Eccl. 1:12.
“I turned my mind to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the sum of things, and to know that wickedness is folly and that foolishness is madness”. Eccl. 7:25.
Solomon too, like Hammurabi, exhorted other kings and officials to follow his way.
Compare for instance Wisdom 6:1-9:
Listen therefore, O kings, and understand; learn, O judges of the ends of the earth. Give ear you that rule over multitudes, and boast of many nations. For your dominion was given you from the Lord, and your sovereignty from the Most High; he will search out your works and inquire into your plans. Because as servants of his kingdom you did not rule rightly, or keep the law, or walk according to the purpose of God, he will come upon you terribly and swiftly, because severe judgment falls on those in high places. For the lowliest may be pardoned in mercy, but the mighty will be mightily tested. For the Lord of all will not stand in awe of anyone, or show deference to greatness; because he himself made both small and great, and he takes thought for all alike. But a strict inquiry is in store for the mighty. To you then, O monarchs, my words are directed, so that you may learn wisdom and not transgress [,]
with these parts of Hammurabi’s Epilogue:
In future time, through all coming generations, let the king, who may be in the land, observe the words of righteousness which I have written on my monument; let him not alter the law of the land which I have given, the edicts which I have enacted; my monument let him not mar. If such a ruler have wisdom, and be able to keep his land in order, he shall observe the words which I have written in this inscription; the rule, statute, and law of the land which I have given; the decisions which I have made will this inscription show him; let him rule his subjects accordingly, speak justice to them, give right decisions, root out the miscreants and criminals from this land, and grant prosperity to his subjects.
And, more threateningly:
If a succeeding ruler considers my words, which I have written in this my inscription, if he do not annul my law, nor corrupt my words, nor change my monument, then may Shamash lengthen that king’s reign, as he has that of me, the king of righteousness, that he may reign in righteousness over his subjects. If this ruler do not esteem my words, which I have written in my inscription, if he despise my curses, and fear not the curse of God, if he destroy the law which I have given, corrupt my words, change my monument, efface my name, write his name there, or on account of the curses commission another so to do, that man, whether king or ruler, patesi, or commoner, no matter what he be, may the great God (Anu), the Father of the gods, who has ordered my rule, withdraw from him the glory of royalty, break his scepter, curse his destiny. May Bel, the lord, who fixeth destiny, whose command cannot be altered, who has made my kingdom great, order a rebellion which his hand cannot control; may he let the wind of the overthrow of his habitation blow, may he ordain the years of his rule in groaning, years of scarcity, years of famine, darkness without light, death with seeing eyes be fated to him; may he (Bel) order with his potent mouth the destruction of his city, the dispersion of his subjects, the cutting off of his rule, the removal of his name and memory from the land. May Belit, the great Mother, whose command is potent in E-Kur (the Babylonian Olympus), the Mistress, who harkens graciously to my petitions, in the seat of judgment and decision (where Bel fixes destiny), turn his affairs evil before Bel, and put the devastation of his land, the destruction of his subjects, the pouring out of his life like water into the mouth of King Bel.
And in the same fashion Hammurabi goes on and on, before similarly concluding:
May he lament the loss of his life-power, and may the great gods of heaven and earth, the Anunaki, altogether inflict a curse and evil upon the confines of the temple, the walls of this E-barra (the Sun temple of Sippara), upon his dominion, his land, his warriors, his subjects, and his troops. May Bel curse him with the potent curses of his mouth that cannot be altered, and may they come upon him forthwith.
Hebrew and Babylonian Calendars
With King Solomon identified as the polymathic Senenmut (Senmut) of 18th dynasty Egypt, and with the era of King Solomon actually contemporaneous with Hammurabi of Babylon, then the genius displayed by Senenmut ought to be apparent also in First Dynasty Babylon.
King Solomon’s arrival in 18th dynasty Egypt, as Senenmut, “was a direct result of” – as I had surmised in:
Solomon and Sheba
“Queen Hatshepsut’s visit to Jerusalem as the Queen of Sheba. ‘King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all that she desired, whatever she asked …’ (I Kings 10: 13)”.
It seems that the beautiful queen was quite in awe of King Solomon and everything associated with him. I continued in the same article:
She was so convinced by what he told her that ‘there was no more spirit in her’ (cf. I Kings 10:3, 5). Hatshepsut regarded Senenmut as her mentor and he claimed to have been an influence in Egypt ‘since [Hatshepsut’s] youth’ . One of his Cairo statues says he was one ‘whose opinion [Hatshepsut] has desired for [herself], who pleases the mistress of [Egypt] with his utterance’  and he was both ‘chief spokesman of her estate’ (i.e. the material wealth and properties of the royal household were under his supervision) and ‘judge in the entire land’ of Egypt. Similarly, Solomon was called ‘judge’ of Israel (Wisdom 9:7). Wilson  recognised that Hatshepsut perceived Senenmut as ‘an adviser’, though ‘In what manner he forged the bonds which brought him into close relations with his royal mistress and by which he won not only her trust but possibly even her love is a closed page of history’. Dorman notes, in relation to Winlock , that Queen Hatshepsut gave Senenmut his first government posts, ‘linking him closely to the royal family by giving him charge of princess Neferura’.
What had impressed the young queen during her visit to Jerusalem? It was Solomon’s civil and religious administration. His military organisation was also efficient, and – despite enemies later like Hadad in Edom and Rezon in Damascus (1 Kings 11:14-25) – he was never really seriously challenged during his entire 40-year reign. In fact, the era of Solomon and Hatshepsut (in revisionist terms) was one of singular peace.
[End of quote]
As noted in the same article, Davidic and Solomonic wisdom, literature, religious imagery, love poetry and cultic practice – and even (Hiramic) Phoenician-inspired architecture – had overflowed from Israel into Egypt at this time. Hebrew influence can be found everywhere. Those historians who are bound to a faulty chronology, however, will always of necessity have to give the precedence to Egypt over Israel.
But the reality is the reverse.
“After Hatshepsut had completed her Punt expedition”, I wrote, “she gathered her nobles and proclaimed the great things she had done. Senenmut and Nehesi had places of honour”. Then she addressed them in terms that recall the Book of Genesis:
Hatshepsut reminded them of Amon’s oracle commanding her to ‘… establish for him a Punt in his house, to plant the trees of God’s Land beside his temple in his garden, according as he commanded’ . At the conclusion of her speech there is further scriptural image ‘I have made for [Amon-Ra] a Punt in his garden at Thebes … it is big enough for him to walk about in’; Baikie  noted that this is ‘a phrase which seems to take one back to the Book of Genesis and its picture of God walking in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the evening’. This inscription speaks of Amon-Ra’s love for Hatshepsut in terms almost identical to those used by the Queen of Sheba about the God of Israel’s love for Solomon and his nation.
Compare the italicised parts of Hatshepsut’s
‘… according to the command of … Amon … in order to bring for him the marvels of every country, because he so much loves the King of … Egypt, Maatkara [i.e. Hatshepsut], for his father Amen-Ra, Lord of Heaven, Lord of Earth, more than the other kings who have been in this land for ever …’ .
with the italicised words in a song of praise spoken to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba ‘Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne as king for the Lord your God! Because your God loved Israel and would establish them for ever …’ (II Chronicles 98) .
[End of quotes]
This was only one of various scriptural examples that I noted.
Little wonder, then, that – given king David’s and king Solomon’s universal influence – we should find similar Hebrew influences in contemporary (revised) Babylon. And we have already discussed Hammurabi’s Law Code in this regard.
But, just to refresh our minds, Benjamin Jones writes in
Exodus: The Hammurabi Code
…. “The Covenant Code, the set of laws given by Yahweh to Moses, who conveyed them to the Israelites, bears a marked similarity to the law codes of Mesopotamia, including, in particular, the Code of Hammurabi. Many of the same moral and legal issues are addressed, and both the presentation of themes and the narrative style of the two documents bear a strong resemblance to one another”.
Jones then asks:
“This similarity begs the question: what was the inspiration for the Covenant Code? Do the similarities between the Law of Hammurabi and the Covenant Code reflect similarities between the legal systems of Babylon and Judah, with the two systems and records developing simultaneously? Or was the law in Exodus appropriated directly from the laws of Hammurabi, as a philosophical or scholarly exercise?”
[End of quote]
Interesting, in our revised context, is the precise nature of this “Covenant Code”, to use the above description of it. If, as M. van de Mieroop will state, it points less to a Law Code than to a celebration of a King of Justice, then it is very David and Solomon like – for these two were each renowned as being the archetypal Just King.
Solomon was also a teaching king (Ecclesiastes 12:9-11): “Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true. The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd”.b
Senenmut, too, was also primarily, as we read above, a Judge: “judge in the entire land [of Egypt]”.
Like King Solomon, Hammurabi was a Teacher of Justice. ‘May any wronged man hear my precious words’. Van de Mieroop (A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 BC) writes on pp. 106-107:
The function of the [Hammurabic] law code itself has been much debated, but consensus is growing that the modern designation of it is wrong: it is not a code of law but a monument presenting Hammurabi as an exemplary king of justice. The text is best known to us from a 2-meter-high black diorite stele almost fully covered with an inscription …. Framed between a prologue and epilogue are listed some three hundred statements, all structured on the same pattern: “if …, then …”. For example “If a man commits a robbery and is caught, that man will be killed” (§ 22). While dealing with many areas of life, the entries do not, by far, cover all possible crimes …. Moreover, the many legal documents of the period, including records of law cases, never make reference to the code. Instead of a list of legal precepts, the entire monument is a vivid expression of Hammurabi as a king who provides justice in his land. He said himself:
“May any wronged man who has a case come before my statue as king of justice, and may he have my inscribed stele read aloud to him. May he hear my precious words and may my stele clarify his case or him. May he examine his lawsuit and may he calm his (troubled) heart. May he say: “Hammurabi …. provided just ways for the land”. …”.
To prove his ability to guarantee justice, Hammurabi listed these three hundred-some cases, and thus urged future kings to study and follow his example”.
[End of quotes]
Some of the amazing breadth of knowledge – including matters astronomical – and practical skill of King Solomon (Wisdom 7:15-21):
for we are in his hand, yes, ourselves and our sayings, and all intellectual and all practical knowledge.
He it was who gave me sure knowledge of what exists, to understand the structure of the world and the action of the elements,
the beginning, end and middle of the times, the alternation of the solstices and the succession of the seasons,
the cycles of the year and the position of the stars,
the natures of animals and the instincts of wild beasts, the powers of spirits and human mental processes, the varieties of plants and the medical properties of roots.
And now I understand everything, hidden or visible, for Wisdom, the designer of all things, has instructed me.
are reflected in what we know of Senenmut with regard to, for example, his incredible funerary complex. This is what I wrote about it in “Solomon and Sheba”:
Senenmut’s Astronomical Ceiling
The versatility of Senenmut is revealed in the paintings of his funerary complex. As Grimal has noted :
‘[Senenmut’s] constructions show that he was an architect, but other dimensions of his career are suggested by the presence of an astronomical ceiling in his tomb at Deir el-Bahri and about 150 ostraca in his tomb at Qurna, including several drawings (notably two plans of the tomb itself), as well as lists, calculations, various reports and some copies of religious, funerary and literary texts …’.
Senenmut’s tomb complex has some significant features:
- the lowest chambers of tomb 353 were within the sacred precincts of Hatshepsut’s temple.
- in numerous niches there are reliefs depicting Senenmut praying on behalf of Hatshepsut. This usurpation of royal property and/or privilege has amazed historians ,
- at the same time, a new corpus of funerary texts – what Assmann  calls ‘liturgies’ – was introduced into Egypt. [Interestingly, in the light of my claim that Egypt was at this time influenced by the era of Joseph, these liturgies are based upon ‘sequences attested only on Middle Kingdom coffins’ .
- among the literary texts was the famous Egyptian folktale, the Story of Sinuhe. I have argued  that this story is a conflation of biblical stories pertaining to Moses (especially), but perhaps also to David and to Joseph. Senenmut enjoyed the Story of Sinuhe .
- of special interest is the astronomical information in tomb 353, particularly the ceiling of Chamber A . Senenmut’s ceiling is the earliest astronomical ceiling known. We are reminded again of Solomon’s encyclopaedic knowledge of astronomy and calendars (Wisdom 7:17-19). The ceiling is divided into two parts by transverse bands of texts, the central section of which contains the names ‘Hatshepsut’ and ‘Senenmut’ . The southern half contains a list of decans derived from coffins of the Middle Kingdom period that had served as ‘a prototype’ for a family of decanal lists that survived until the Ptolemaïc period; whilst ‘The northern half is decorated with the earliest preserved depiction of the northern constellations; four planets (Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn) are also portrayed with them, and the lunar calendar is represented by twelve large circles’. 
[End of quote]
King Hammurabi of Babylon made changes to fix flaws in the ancient Babylonian calendar. Not surprisingly do we find that ‘the Hebrews and Babylonians used similar calendar adjustments’ (http://theos-sphragis.info/hebrew_babylonian_intercalation.html):
Hebrew and Babylonian Calendar Intercalation
12-Month Luni-Solar Calendar
Both the Hebrews and Babylonians used similar calendar adjustments to keep their calendars synchronized with the Sun, moon and seasons. They both employed a system of adding entire months to their calendars (intercalation) during 7 particular years (embolismic years – years in which a month is intercalated) out of every 19 years. This was a repeating cycle.
The Babylonian’s employed a spring calendar starting with the month of Nisanu:
In the period covered by this study the Babylonian calendar year was composed of lunar months, which began when the thin crescent of the new moon was first visible in the sky at sunset. Since the lunar year was about eleven days shorter than the solar year, it was necessary at intervals to intercalate a thirteenth month, either a second Ululu (the sixth month) or a second Addaru (the twelfth month) in order that New year’s Day, Nisanu 1, should not fall much before the spring of the year (late March and early April).
Richard A. Parker and Waldo H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology, 626 B.C.-A.D. 75, 3rd ed. Providence: Brown University Press (1956) p. 1
Both the Babylonians and Hebrews employed solar-lunar calendrics of 12 months of alternating duration of 30 and 29 days:
|Babylonian||Hebrew ( sacred / civil )|
|30-day months||29-day months||30-day months||29-day months|
|Nisanu 1||Aiaru 2||Nisan 1/7||Iyar 2/8|
|Simanu 3||Duzu 4||Sivan 3/9||Tammuz 4/10|
|Abu 5||Ululu 6||Av 5/11||Elul 6/12|
|Tashritu 7||Arahsamnu 8||Tishri 7/1||Heshvan 8/2|
|Kislimnu 9||Tebetu 10||Kislev 9/3||Tevet 10/4|
|Shabatu 11||Addaru 12||Shevat 11/5||Adar 12/6|
Above, each month name is followed by its numerical sequence in the calendar year. The table reads left-to-right, then next row down.
Further, the Hebrews employed two calendars, a “civil” and a “sacred”, with the sacred calendar following the civil by 6 months. Each Hebrew month’s sequence in both the civil and sacred calendar is designated by the “s/c” following each month’s name, where “s” is that month’s number in the sacred calender and “c” is that month’s number in the civil calender. So the Hebrew side of the table (reading left to right, then next row) shows Nisan, Iyar, Sivan and Tammuz as the first 4 months of the sacred calendar and Tishri, Heshvan, Kislev and Tevet as the first 4 months of the civil calendar.
Summing 6 30-day months plus 6 29-day months yields a total of 354 days, the “common regular” length year, which is short of the actual 365.24 (approximate) day solar year. This is an error rate of 11 days per year, every year or about 1 month every three years. If the calendar is not adjusted, after only two decades the actual observed seasons would be reversed relative to what the calendar declared, e.g. the season would actually be winter when the calendar reported summer months.
To fix this, the Babylonians (and seemingly the Hebrews to some extent) surmised that a 19-year Lunar cycle existed (sometimes called the Metonic cycle) and that if additional months were periodically inserted to correct the calendar, the calendar would be re-synchronized with the actual observed solar year. During that 19-year cycle the Babylonians (and presumably Hebrews with some variation) would insert at 7 different times an additional 29-day month. This insertion of extra months to correct the calendar is called “intercalation”.
Ancient history is vague on precisely whom to credit with developing intercalation and when it was methodically adopted by the Hebrews. The Sumerian cultures circa 2100 B.C. seem to be the earliest in employing some form of it; then Hammurabi standardized the Babylonian lunar calendar circa 1750 B.C. [sic] ….
[End of quote]
I suggest that the astronomical genius, King Solomon (Senenmut), would have been a source of great inspiration with regard to Babylonian calendrics.
During the Old Babylonian era of King Hammurabi there arose classic literature such as the Atrahasis Epic and the Epic of Gilgamesh whose biblical similarities have long been noted.
As we read in:
Solomon and Sheba
the tombs of Senenmut – our Solomon in Egypt (the Solon of the Greeks) – reveal his enjoyment of literature, for example the famous Egyptian folktale, the Story of Sinuhe (TSS). The reason for this may not be hard to find if Senenmut were indeed Solomon, and if, as I have suggested in various articles – with reference to professor E. Anati’s opinion that TSS ‘shares a common matrix’ with the Exodus account of Moses – e.g. my:
that Sinuhe was a modified Egyptian version of Moses himself.
Highly popular tales such as TSS and the Old Babylonian Atrahasis and Gilgamesh would have undergone significant changes and modifications down through the years, with our current versions of the Old Babylonian epics being late neo-Assyrian copies dating to the C7th BC era of Ashurbanipal – hence, well after their original composition at about the time of Solomon, according to this present series.
The Atrahasis Epic
This document with its abundant Book of Genesis-like parallels is typically considered to have influenced the biblical text. My take on it would be, instead, that it was – as in the case of the famous “Covenant Code”, or Law Code, of Hammurabi (see Part One of this series: https://www.academia.edu/25899658/Solomonic_Influence_on_Hammurabi_s_Babylon) – inspired by the universally known and acclaimed Israelite (Jewish) kings, David and Solomon, based upon their profound knowledge of the Torah.
The same comment would apply to the original Epic of Gilgamesh.
Atrahasis and other like documents are discussed in relation to Genesis in the following (http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/02/23/Genesis-and-Ancient-Near-Eastern-Stories-of-Creation-and-Flood-Part-III.aspx):
Creation and Flood
Until recently, the Creation and the Flood have often been treated as separate units. One of the reasons for this may be that initially discovered ancient Mesopotamian documents provided either a Creation myth without the Flood story (“Enuma elish” and others) or the Flood story without a Creation motif (“Gilgamesh Epic,” tablet XI), all in seventh-century neo-Assyrian copies from the Nineveh of Ashurbanipal’s time.1 Therefore, scholars were busy comparing Genesis 1 with “Enuma elish,” and Genesis 6–8 with “Gilgamesh” XI, without integrating these two sections of Genesis.
However, we now have some evidence that the “continuous narrative of the first era of human existence” in the ancient Near East covered both the Creation and the Flood, as Millard (1994: 116) and others have noted. For example, the “Atra-Hasis Epic” from the Old Babylonian Period (ca. 1630 BC) [sic], which Lambert and Millard presented in 1969 in a thorough study, with the text and its translation,2 covers the history of man from his creation to the Flood. This history was widely known in ancient Mesopotamia, and a similar tradition with the same overall structure was known in the early second millennium BC.
Recently Jacobsen suggested the existence of a Sumerian version of such a tradition. According to him, the Sumerian Deluge Tablet from Nippur, which gives not only an account of the Flood but also a list of five cities before the Flood like those in the Sumerian King List,3 may be combined with another Sumerian fragment from Ur and a later bilingual fragment from Nineveh. This combined text, which he names the “Eridu Genesis” (1994: 129–30),4 comprises: (1) the creation of man, (2) the institution of kingship, (3) the founding of the first cities and (4) the great Flood. While Jacobsen’s reconstruction of two Sumerian fragmentary texts (ca. 1600 BC) and one Sumerian-Akkadian bilingual fragment (ca. 600 BC) from three different places remains hypothetical, it seems that an overall tradition linking Creation, early kings, and the Flood existed in Babylonia from early times (Millard 1994:125).
The article continues, now introducing the standard biblical scholarship of the confusion-fostering JEDP theory with its underlying false notion of biblical dependence upon pagan literature. For my own view on all of this, see e.g.:
Preferring P. J. Wiseman to un-wise JEDP
Comparative Approach. Biblical scholars have accepted the view that a similar tradition, which links Creation and the Flood, is also reflected in the overall literary structure of Genesis 1–11. Coats, following Clark, notes that in the Sumerian King List and the ‘Atra-Hasis Epic’, “various narrative elements are set together in something of the same series as the OT primeval saga” (1983: 38).
According to Clark, “in his total outline P is influenced by the King List tradition which had now (in some editions) incorporated the flood narrative.”
As for “J,” he proposes that “J is basically dependent on the tradition of the Atrahasis epic for his outline of the primeval history including the sequence of creation, repeated sin, punishment, and divine grace culminating in the flood” (1971:187–88).
It is not so simple, however, to divide the Mesopotamian traditions exactly between the King List, “priestly” tradition, and the “Atra-Hasis” “epic” tradition. In fact the latter played important roles in the priestly tradition. For example, it is reported that a Babylonian incantation priest cited a part of the “Atra-Hasis Epic” to advise a late-Assyrian king on a drought (Lambert and Millard 1969: 27–28).5
A number of scholars have made a thorough study of “Atra-Hasis” and its relevance to Genesis research.6 For example, Kikawada, who abandons the source analysis of Genesis, studied the structural similarities between “Atra-Hasis” and Genesis 1–11 as a whole. According to him, both compositions used the same literary convention, “a five point outline,” consisting of (1) creation: man, (2) first threat, (3) second threat, (4) final threat: flood, (5) resolution, narrating primeval history up to the time of a great flood, followed by a solution to the problem that persisted throughout the pre-flood history, namely “increase of population.”
The similarities between the Genesis account and the “Atra-Hasis Epic” do not support the idea that Genesis is a direct borrowing from the Mesopotamian but do indicate that Mesopotamian materials could have served as models for Genesis 1–11, as Jacobsen holds (1994:141). P.D. Miller also admits that “there were Mesopotamian models that anticipate the structure of Genesis 1–11 as a whole” (1994:150).
K.A. Kitchen notes a similar outline, namely “creation-flood-later times,” and a common theme, namely “creation, crisis, continuance of man,” of the “primeval proto-history” in the “Atra-Hasis Epic,” the Sumerian Flood story, and the Sumerian King List, as well as in the Genesis account. He recognizes here a common literary heritage, formulated in each case in Mesopotamia in the early 2nd millennium BC (1977: 31). ….
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The Epic of Gilgamesh
Shawna Dolansky has noted, like many others, the obvious similarities between this highly popular Old Babylonian Epic and Genesis, though she thinks that “it is difficult to state with any certainty that the Epic directly influenced the stories of the Bible”. This is what she has written (http://www.bibleodyssey.org/places/related-articles/gilgamesh-and-the-bible.aspx):
Gilgamesh and the Bible
The Epic of Gilgamesh, a literary product of Mesopotamia, contains many of the same themes and motifs as the Hebrew Bible. Of these, the best-known is probably the Epic’s flood story, which reads a lot like the biblical tale of Noah’s ark (Gen 6-9). But the Epic also includes a character whose story bears even more similarities to stories in the Hebrew Bible: Gilgamesh’s possession of a plant of immortality is thwarted by a serpent (compare Gen 3), he wrestles in the night with a divinely appointed assailant who proclaims the hero’s identity and predicts that he will prevail over all others (compare Gen 32:23-32), and he is taught that the greatest response to mortality is to live life in appreciation of those things which make us truly human (compare Eccl 9:7-10).
The Gilgamesh Epic was familiar in the biblical world: copies have been found at Megiddo, Emar, Northern Anatolia, and Nineveh. It shares many motifs and ideas (such as the Flood) with other ancient Near Eastern texts. Because of this, it is difficult to state with any certainty that the Epic directly influenced the stories of the Bible. For example, it was widely believed that dreams could be divinely inspired, cryptic forecasts of the future. So when Joseph dreamed of sheaves of corn and bowing stars (Gen 37:5-11), the author was probably not copying Gilgamesh’s oracular dreams. Likewise, the idea that it is mortality—the impetus behind Gilgamesh’s quest—that separates gods and humans is found in other Mesopotamian and Egyptian writings, as well as in Gen 3:22.
In the Epic, the gods create Enkidu, who runs wild with the animals in the open country, as a companion for Gilgamesh. There are particularly interesting similarities between the Garden of Eden story in Genesis and the story of Enkidu’s movement from nature to culture and civilization. In both stories, a woman is responsible for the transition of a man who had once eaten and drunk with the animals to a state of estrangement from nature. Once Enkidu is rejected by the animal world, the woman Shamhat gives him clothing and teaches him to drink beer and eat bread—all technological developments that separate humans from animals.
In Genesis, once Adam has eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge, he covers his nudity and is sentenced to a life of cultivating food by harsh labor. This is the cost of divine knowledge. In Gilgamesh, when Enkidu becomes estranged from the animals, Shamhat tells him that he has become “like a god.” Later, on his deathbed, Enkidu laments his removal from a state of nature, only to be reminded by the god Shamash that while civilized life is more fraught with difficulty and the knowledge of one’s own mortality, it is a worthwhile price for cultural knowledge and awareness.
Dolansky will proceed to make an observation about the Epic of Gilgamesh that I find to be most fascinating in light of what I wrote in Part One about Hammurabi’s Law Code being influenced by Israelite wisdom, e. g. King Solomon’s Ecclesiastes. She begins (my emphasis): “The closest parallel between a biblical text and the Epic of Gilgamesh is seen in the wording of several passages in Ecclesiastes, where a strong argument can be made for direct copying”. And then continues:
The author of Ecclesiastes frequently laments the futility of “chasing after the wind” (for example, Eccl 1:6, Eccl 1:14, Eccl 1:17, Eccl 2:11, Eccl 2:17, Eccl 2:26, Eccl 5:16, etc.), a notion reminiscent of Gilgamesh’s advice to the dying Enkidu: “Mankind can number his days. Whatever he may achieve, it is only wind” (Yale Tablet, Old Babylonian Version). Earlier in the story, Gilgamesh persuaded Enkidu that two are stronger than one in a speech containing the phrase, “A three-stranded cord is hardest to break” (Standard Babylonian Version, IV, iv). Similarly, Ecclesiastes tells us, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work…. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:9-12). These may simply be common sayings picked up by both authors, but Eccl 9:7-9 seems to directly quote [sic] the barmaid Siduri’s advice to Gilgamesh on how to deal with his existential angst:
When the gods created mankind,
They appointed death for mankind,
Kept eternal life in their own hands.
So, Gilgamesh, let your stomach be full,
Day and night enjoy yourself in every way,
Every day arrange for pleasures.
Day and night, dance and play,
Wear fresh clothes.
Keep your head washed, bathe in water,
Appreciate the child who holds your hand,
Let your wife enjoy herself in your lap.
This advice sums up the message of both the Epic of Gilgamesh and Ecclesiastes, two texts that wrestle with the search for meaning in the face of human mortality.
Shawna Dolansky, “Gilgamesh and the Bible” ….
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But there may be yet more.
For apparent likenesses between the epic hero, Gilgamesh and the biblical strong man, Nimrod, see my:
Tightening the Geography and Archaeology for Early Genesis. Part Two: The Epoch of Gilgamesh