SEDER OLAM - Revisited

סדר עולם - חדש



What is new

Index of names


Generations  1-14
(3760 - 2080 BCE)

Generations 15-21
(2080 - 1240 BCE)

Generations 22-28
(1240 - 400 BCE)

Generations 29-35
(400 BCE - 440 CE)

Generations 36-42
(440 - 1280 CE)

Generations 43-49
(1280 - 2120 CE)

Generation 50

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Birth of Abraham
(1948 AM - 1812 BCE)


The Code of Hammurabi

The Tower of Babel
As a lightning rod
(1996 AM - 1764 BCE)

The sacrifice of Haran

New millennium

Death of Noah
(2006 AM - 1754 BCE)

Death of Hammurabi

God speaks to Abraham

Abraham in Egypt
(2024 AM - 1736 BCE)

The tale of Sinuhe

The Hyksos
The Ipuwer Papyrus

Rebellion against Babylon
Salem in the execration texts

God makes an alliance with Abraham
Brit Bein Habetarim
(2031 AM - 1729 BCE)

Birth of Ishmael
(2034 AM - 1726 BCE)

 Previous <<   Generation 17   >> Next

Hebrew years 1920 to 2040 (1840-1720 BCE)

This generation is marked by the return to God's involvement in His creation through the character of Abraham. 

Year 1948 – 1812 BCE – Birth of Abram

Terach, son of Nachor, was 70 years when he begot Abram, Nachor and Haran, in year 1948. 

And here are the generations of Terach. Terach begot Abram, Nachor and Haran, and Haran begot Lot. 
--- Genesis 10:27

Abram was the oldest of these three sons. Nachor was named after Terach’s father, Nachor (the elder). At the time, the latter was about 100 years old and just had a few more years to live because, possibly, he was getting ill, a condition unknown to mankind before but that would the result of God’s will to reduce human lifetime. Terach named his second son, Nachor (the younger), after his father in order to influence fate and prolong his name, if not his life. Then Terach begot Haran who will be the first of the three sons to marry and have a child, Lot.

Abram is the 20th human generation from Adam, as it is explained in this page (click here).

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Year 1968 – 1792 BCE – Nimrod

At the time, the city of Ur and the whole region were under the rule of the first powerful post-Flood man to rise. He built a kingdom in the valley of Shinaar, with his capital which he called Babel:

And Cush [son of Cham] begot Nimrod; he started to be a ruler (גבר) on earth. He was a ruler (גבר) hunting in the face of God, and so it is said: "Like Nimrod a hero (גבור) hunter in the face of God." And the start of his kingdom was Babel, then Erekh, then Akkad, then Chalneh in the land of Shinaar. From that land, Ashur [son of Shem] came forth and built Nineveh and Rehovoth-Yir, and then Resen between Nineveh and Calah’, the big city.
--- Genesis 10:8-12

Like his predecessors, in the same region than before the Flood, Nimrod had established new religious beliefs based on idolatry, as it obviously served his purpose to rule over the minds and the people by presenting himself as guided by these gods. It may be about Nimrod, a grandson from Cham who was cursed to be a slave to his brothers, that the author of the Proverbs mentioned:

For three things the earth does quake, and for four it cannot endure:
For a slave when he reigns;
--- Proverbs, 30:21-22

In the Babylonian history, one of the greatest rulers of these times was Hammurabi who reigned for 42 years. He is remembered in History as the one who vastly expanded the kingdom of Babylon for the first time. This Hammurabi was most certainly the Biblical Nimrod. He started to reign in year 1792 BCE and will reign for a long period of 42 years, until 1750 BCE.

Hammurabi kingdom

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Year 1996 – 1764 BCE – The Code of Hammurabi

In the year 1764 BCE, Hammurabi succeeded to repel the threat from the neighbouring Elam kingdom, thanks to an alliance he made with the states of Southern Mesopotamia. He then turned against them and absorbed this region to his realm, conquering the city-states of Ur, Larsa and more. He established a central power from his capital city of Babylon, the Babel of the Bible.

Hammurabi is also recorded in Ancient History as the ruler who first created a new set of laws known as the Hammurabi’s Code. This policy probably became a necessity to unify his realm despite the confusion of languages and customs. His Code  was however borrowed from Ur, a city-state that he had conquered like the rest of the regions of Mesopotamia. It is in Ur that the parents of Terach had settled and Hammurabi probably involved their family as priests for his new cult. Terach was the high priest of Ur and the maker of idol statues for the city cult. His name, Terach, is reminiscent of the word yareach which means 'moon'. His son, Abram, was surely aimed to become his successor in the city priesthood as his name is made of Ab/Av Ram which means 'high father'. Abram's promised wife, his family member Sarai, is reminiscent of the goddess name 'Astarte'. another family member, Laban, had his name derived from Lavan which means 'white' as a reminder of the Moon. All these details concur to show the priesthood role of Abram's family in the city of Ur. [1]

It is from this family of local rulers and priests that Hammurabi took the concept of codification of laws. Indeed, the oldest recorded code of laws came from Ur, not from Babylon, and is called the Code of Ur-Nammu. It was created around 2100 BCE by the founder of the Dynasty of Ur that was started after the Flood. 

The court of Ur-Nammu
The court of Ur-Nammu, ca. 2100 BCE, with the Moon as a god

Hammurabi surely thought that this idea of a code would greatly help him consolidate his newly conquered and vast kingdom.

Where did this idea of codifying some "laws" came from? According to Jewish tradition, Noah established rules, dictated by God, for his sons and descendants to follow after the Flood, before they went to scatter on earth. These so-called Noachide Laws included the command not to murder a man, directly commanded by God to all mankind:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.
--- Genesis 9:6

And it happens that this divine commandment to the generation of Noah and his sons is the first rule of the Code of Ur-Nammu. At the time of this code of Ur, around 2100 BCE, the living patriarch was Arpachshad, son of Shem. He was the one who founded the post-Flood Ur. So he had learned first hand, from his father Shem and grandfather Noah the divine commandments to mankind. His family followed this code, called the Noachide Laws.

In fact, these ancient codes of Mesopotamia emulated the Noachide Laws and extended them to punish a transgressor for the same act that he did. As Hammurabi/Nimrod wanted to show himself as the greatest ruler of all times, even above the gods (and God), and make a name for him, he did created his own code of laws. And he did so by impressing his contemporaries by asserting that his laws were dictated by God:

Prologue from Hammurabi's Code
Prologue from Hammurabi's Code[2]

In the prologue to his code, Hammurabi declares himself appointed by Enlil,[3] to make a justice that will prevail over the land. Further, in the code, the concept of an eye for an eye and of a tooth for a tooth is also stated (code articles 196 and 200 respectively), a concept which also guided the Noachide Laws. This type of law was known in Canaan too, as a recent discovery in the ancient city of Hazor, Northern Israel, has demonstrated.[4]

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Hammurabi on his throne
Hammurabi on his throne (Musée du Louvre)

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Year 1996 – 1764 BCE – The Tower of Babel

Then Hammurabi went too far in his quest of grandeur. In Babylon, he decided to erect a tower high up to reach the sky:

And it was that all the earth was one language and common matters. And it was that they travelled from where they were and found a valley in the land of Shinaar. They settled there. And one man said to another: “Come, let us make bricks and burn them in fire.” And the bricks served them as stones, and the bitumen served them as mortar. And they said: “Come; let us build a city and a tower with its head in the sky. And this will make us a name, lest we would be dispersed on the face of the earth.”
God came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of Adam had built. God said: “Behold, they are one people with one language for all of them, and this is what they started to do. And now, they will not fortify from all what they have initiated to do. Come, let us descend and let us confuse there their language, so that one would not understand the language from another.”
And God dispersed them from there on the face of the earth, and they stopped building the city. This is why it was called Babel (בבל) because there God confused (בלל) the language of the whole earth and from there God scattered them on the face of the whole earth.
--- Genesis 11:2-9

The common matters of the text may refer to the Code imposed by Hammurabi to unify the rules of the world. In the same effort of centralized power, rulers of this generation feared that God will punish them and disperse them on the face of the Earth

The confusion of the languages has been recorded by ancient civilizations, not just the Bible. For example, the epic of Enmerkar, a legendary ruler who reigned or lived for 900 years (this is probably to say that the composition of the epic probably spread over this long period of time), mentions the various languages and expressed the wish to return to one common one:

At such a time, may the lands of Šubur and Ḫamazi, the many-tongued, and Sumer, the great mountain of the me of magnificence, and Akkad, the land possessing all that is befitting, and the Martu land [Amorites], resting in security -- the whole universe, the well-guarded people -- may they all address Enlil together in a single language!
For at that time, for the ambitious lords, for the ambitious princes, for the ambitious kings,Enki, for the ambitious lords, for the ambitious princes, for the ambitious kings, for the ambitious lords, for the ambitious princes, for the ambitious kings -- Enki, the lord of abundance and of steadfast decisions, the wise and knowing lord of the Land, the expert of the gods, chosen for wisdom, the lord of Eridug, shall change the speech in their mouths, as many as he had placed there, and so the speech of mankind is truly one.""
 --- Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, lines 134-155, to read text online click here

This generation was evil but wiser than the generation of the Flood. They feared that God will use fire this time against mankind, after having used water. This led a Jewish rabbi from Medieval Spain to comment around 1300 CE:

There is a wise explanation to it: people of tower generation were villains versed in wisdom. They built a city and a tower to save from fire flood as they had already seen the ruin of the world from water flood and were afraid. They decided to build a tower to rescue with its help; if He brings fire flood and burns the world down, the fire won’t get close to them. This is what is meant in midrash telling us about the war on heaven – they have audaciously opposed the will of the Blessed. They decided to tie up a part of fire so that it could not get to the city. In our generation, we also know some wise men who know the power, which ties up a portion of lightning so that it could be exhibited only within a certain scope.
--- Bahya ben Asher ibn Halawa, Commentary of the Torah 

What Bahya meant is the following: if God would sent to them fire to burn down their city, the tower would serve as a giant lightning rod that would protect the city from destruction and its people from dispersion. Thus this commentator from medieval times suggests that the Ancients had knowledge of the lightning rod as protection of the buildings against the fire coming from heavens. This knowledge was ultimately "discovered" by Benjamin Franklin in 1752 when he flew a kite in a thundering storm.

The event of the Tower of Babel and the subsequent dispersion took place in the year 1996, the year when Peleg died in Ur. He was soon followed by Nachor the elder who died there in 1997. Lot, son of Haran, was probably born at that time. What happened with this family?

The generations from the Flood to Babel
The generations from the Flood to Babel

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Year 1996 – 1764 BCE – The sacrifice of Haran

Nachor the elder, like his father Sherug, were important men of the city-state of Ur, probably priests for the city idol gods. His son Terach was probably asked to sacrifice his new-born grandson Lot in order to please the gods after these unexpected deaths of the elders (Nachor and Sherug) at a time when men lived much longer lives (such as Arpachshad, the probable founder of Ur,[5] being still alive). Their early deaths were perceived as a punishment from the gods and this required sacrifice to appease them. Sherug, Terach’s grand-father, was still alive and demanded this sacrifice from his own family, after the deaths of both his father and his son and maybe out of the fear that death will also come after him soon.

But Lot’s father, Haran, the younger brother of Abram, preferred to give his life instead of offering his son, and accepted the sacrifice in his place. This is why the text says:

And Haran died in front of his father Terach in the land where he was born, in Ur-Kasdim.
--- Genesis 11:28

The specific mention in front of his father Terach meant that he died by the hands of his father, in a sacrificial event that was forced upon him.

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Year 2000 – 1760 BCE  – Start of a new era for mankind

Two millennia had passed since the Creation. These millennia were devoted to the emergence of mankind, made at the image of God. But most of it was failure as people turned away from God. 

Yet there was hope. Abram came to the world and was now 52 years old: this age represents twice the numerical value of God's name (26).  The next two millennia will witness the emergence of a new era where the "path of God" will emerge after the first dark ages of mankind. The Jewish Sages generally consider that Abram started to teach the Torah (its principles) at that time. The sacrifical death of Haran must have been this trigger, to correct the path of ill-doing.   

And indeed, Terach must have felt guilt for sacrificing his youngest son who was the only one of his three sons to have taken a wife and had children, and who himself preferred to spare the life of his own son Nachor. So he decided to correct the matters and to leave the land of his fathers:

And he [Terach] took women for Abram and Nachor [the younger]; Abram’s wife was called Sarai, and Nachor’s wife was called Milca, daughter of Haran, father of Milca and father of Yisca. And Sarai was sterile, and she did not have a child.
And Terach took his son Abram, and his grandson Lot, son of Haran, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, wife of his son Abram, and they left Ur-Kasdim together to go to the land of Canaan; and they arrived at Charan, and settled there. 
--- Genesis 11:29-31

So just before his departure from the city of Ur, Terach took wives for his two remaining sons, Abram and Nachor. Sarai was a daughter of Terach from another wife, so was a half-sister of Abram.[6] As of Milca, the Biblical text explains that she was the daughter of Haran, brother of Abram and Nachor. So Nachor was given his niece, who was the sister of Lot. According to some commentators, Sarai and Yisca was the same person. But this would be in contradiction with the further explanation from Abram that Sarai was his half-sister and that Yisca was the daughter of Haran, Abram's brother.

Terach had the intent to go to Canaan because, presumably, he wanted to return to the tradition and religion of his ancestor, Shem, who was still alive and living in the land of Canaan. But he stopped half way, in the north of the Mesopotamian region, in a place where he decided to settle: he named this place Charan, after the name of his sacrificed son Haran.[7] The two names are written as follows in Hebrew:
הָרָן for Haran the son, and חָרָן  for Charan the place. The difference is in one letter, ה and ח, which is the same difference of letter for Chametz and Matzah, the two different breads mentioned during the Jewish festival of Passover: the former (Chametz) represents the corrupted Nature and the second (Matzah) the pure Nature. The clear message is that, although he started with good intent, Terach stopped on his way to redemption, and remained in the sin.

These two millennia are also represented by the 20 human generations from Adam to Abram. The first 10 generations from Adam to Noah were: 1- Adam, 2- Seth, 3- Enosh, 4- Kenan, 5- Mehalalel, 6- Jared, 7- Hanoch, 8- Metushalach, 9- Lemech, 10- Noah. The next 10 generations from Noah to Abram were: 11- Shem, 12- Arpachshad, 13- Shelah, 14- Eber, 15- Peleg, 16- Re'u, 17- Sherug, 18- Nachor, 19- Terach, 20- Abram.

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Year 2006 – 1754 BCE  – Death of Noah

Noah died 350 years after the Flood: this was the Hebrew year 2006. He enjoyed greater longevity than people who came after him as he died at the age of 950. In Canaan, Shem was still alive and will remain alive until he would be able to pass the knowledge of God onto a spiritual heir, who will be Abram.

Year 2010 – 1750 BCE  – Death of Hammurabi

After Hammurabi’s death in 1750 BCE (Hebrew year 2010), his son Samsu-Iluna succeeded him. The powerful kingdom of Babylon then started to show signs of weakness when several city-states started to rebel against the central power in the course of several years. Some large regions, such as Elam and Assur, managed to obtain relative independence with their own king, but remained vassals and allies of Babylon.

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Year 2022 – 1737 BCE  – God speaks to Abram

At the end of the Hebrew year 2022, in Charan, God spoke to Abram, the first man He spoke to since He had instructed Noah and his sons them to populate the earth after the Flood and when He gave them the basic laws of human behaviour (the Noachide Laws). 

God said to Abram: "Go for yourself, from your land, from your relatives, and from the house of your father, to the land I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make a great name of you, and you shall be a blessing. And I will bless those who will bless you, and him who will curse I will curse him, and all the families of mankind will be blessed with you."
And Abram went when God spoke to him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Charan. And Abram took with him his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all their properties that they acquired and the soul that they made in Charan.
And they left to go to the land of Canaan, and they arrived to the land of Canaan. Abram passed in the land until the site of Shechem until Elon Moreh, and the Canaanite was then in the land.
And God appeared to Abram and said: "To your offspring I will give this land." And he built there an altar for God who appeared to him. 
--- Genesis 12:1-7

Abram was ready to receive God’s word because, there in Charan, he had made a soul, different from the house of his father. This is why God told him Go for yourself because Abram was ready to find the answers about existence that he asked himself. Then God talked to him, to guide him.

Abram made immediate preparation to leave as God had commanded him. And he left with his wife and nephew Lot, and left Charan when he was 75 years old, thus in year 2023. The difference of year is due to the fact that, according to Tradition and confirmed by this text, Abram was born on a 1st Tishri, so the beginning of a New Year. So he left Charan when he was 75 years old means he left on the 1st of Tishri 2023. God spoke to him a few days previously, in the last days of the month of Elul 2022. This pattern is also found in the Creation, when God created the world in Six Days, the six last days of Elul, and made Adam on the 7th, which was the first of Tishri. There is a parallel in both births, Adam and Abram. They were also buried in the same place, as shall be seen later.

The calculation that God spoke to Abram in the last days of Elul 2022 is a good assumption because it makes the count of 26 years from the Dispersion (Tower of Babel). The number of 26 is indicative of God's influence on events. Both Hebrew years, end of 2022 and beginning of 2023, correspond to 1737 BCE.

Abram and his wife had settled in the south of the land of Canaan, at the edge of the desert of the Negev (Genesis 12:9), away from the Canaanite neighbours who may otherwise have caused them trouble.

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Year 2024 – 1736 BCE  – Abram's "exodus" from Egypt and the Ipuwer Papyrus

A famine soon desolated the land of Canaan. This was the hot season of the summer 2023 AM. It was a trial for Abram, but he and his wife moved down to Egypt to sojourn there (Genesis 12:10). This was a sin, because God had extracted Abram with the wish for him to settle in the land I will show you. But within the year of his arrival, Abram had already left ! The day when he entered Egypt was probably on 10 Tishri 2024, because that day is later chosen as a day of repentance (Yom Kipur) from the sins of the year that just completed. 

But can one human defy God's designs? The famine that havocked the land of Canaan also affected Egypt which was weakened by reductions in the Nile levels at the time. In addition, the country passed through political instability at the end of the 12th Dynasty which left no heir.

A new Dynasty, the 13th, started during a period of decline and instability in Egypt called the Second Intermediate Period.[8a] Historians know little about this period of transition, except that some rulers were Semitic foreigners who invaded the Nile delta, and the first of them was called Khendjer.[8b] His real name was written HNZR equivalent to the Semitic word for ha-nazir (הנצר) which means the scion, and not the boar or pig as others have stated which would be quite derogatory for a name. This ruler came as an invader because, maybe, the famine also affected his native land at the time and he sought to invade another region where his followers could settle. The valley of the Nile offered this pool of water that was a regional refuge during severe draughts. This is confirmed by the decoration of the tomb of an official called Khnumhotep II during the 12th Dynasty. His tomb, in Beni Hasan, shows immigrants of Semitic character called the "Aamu" (see below). The Egyptian official on the right side is a superintendant who holds a papyrus roll on which is written that the number of "Aamu of Shu" amounts to 37.[8g]

The Aamu immigrants, depicted in Beni Hasan tomb
The Aamu immigrants, depicted in Beni Hasan tomb 

In another text, the Tale of Sinuhe, which pre-dates this period, there is also mention of the Aamu: they are referred as the Asiatic people who lived in hill lands, thus probably any people east from Egypt, such as Canaan. One passage of this text is interesting because it compares the method of burial in Egypt (mummy making for important people) with the rudimentary burial in Canaan:

You will never die in a foreign land and Aamu [aAmw, Asiatics] will not bury you. You shall not he placed in a sheep-skin, where your [stone] mound is made. 
--- Tale of Sinuhe, decree of Pharaoh for Sinuhe's return to Egypt

In Northern Canaan (such as what is today Golan and Lebanon), in the times of the end of Early Bronze to the beginning of Middle Bronze (EB-MB), they used to bury people under a mound of stone, called tumulus. So the text of Sinuhe is correct on this point, of the burial practice in Canaan compared to Egypt.

It is interesting to note the richness of the clothing of these immigrants, with very elaborated weaved robes as compared to the plain white ones from Egyptians. To be accepted in Egypt, they surely had to bring with them products or techniques that were unknown or rare to Egyptians. One of these techniques may have been the glass making. According to experts, this technique was used in Asia and in the Levant in particular, and was brought down to Egypt. The Egyptians learned the technique and used glass in tools, utensils, jewelery and so on. Most of antique glass comes from Egypt, because of the good preservation that was there, but it didn't originate from Egypt. This is why, maybe, the tomb of Beni Hasan also features these new techniques, or wool weaving and glass smelting, because it was new to Egyptians in these times of the Medium Bronze period.

Beni Hasan tomb - glass smelting
Beni Hasan tomb - glass smelting

When he went down to Egypt, Abram had his wife Sarai taken from him because of her beauty. The court of a semitic Pharaoh probably thought that he would like to have her as a wife because she was from the same ethnicity as him. But God intervened, caused great plagues (Genesis 12:17) among the court of Egypt and even in Pharaoh's own house. Pharaoh called up onto Abram and expelled him with his wife and followers out of Egypt, and with all his riches. Abram remained several months in Egypt before returning to Canaan in Hebrew year 2024 (1736 BC). He left Egypt on 15 Nisan 2024. 

According to historical chronologies of Egypt, the ruling Pharaoh at that time was Sobekhotep IV, who reigned for 10 years and, because of his attitude towards Abram and Sarai, he may have been blessed in his endeavours as he is considered to have been the most powerful king of the 13th Dynasty.[8c]

There is an historical proof of these great plagues on Egypt in that period: the Ipuwer Papyrus, titled the Dialogue between Ipuwer and the God of All... Nobody knows for sure the date of this document because the only sample is a copy made during the 19th or 18th Dynasty of Egypt (it is preserved in Leiden, Netherlands). It is generally assumed, by Egyptologists, that the document dates back from the Second Intermediate Period,[8d] so about 1850-1600 BCE: this would be contemporary with the passage of Abram in Egypt in 1736 BCE.

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Year 2024 – 1736 BCE  – The Hyksos and the Ipuwer Papyrus

The Ipuwer Papyrus have also been assessed by historians to relate to the invasion of the Hyksos. They were a foreign people, being described as "pale faced", who came to rule over the Nile Delta, the most northern part of Egypt. [8e] The Ipuwer Papyrus is full of references of the catastrophies that fell upon Egypt during Abram's passage but also catastrophies that fell upon Egypt at subsequent periods of these troubled times. This is probably because, Egyptian chroniclers of later generation looked upon that period of their history as one bad period, one catastrophe leading to another, and so they combined (mixing?) all these natural and surnatural ordeals into a single tale in the papyrus as if they had one unique cause: the invasion of the Hyksos. Example of the text is as follows:

I. [Hyksos invasion?]
[...] The tribes of the desert have become Egyptians everywhere. Indeed, the face is pale [...] Indeed, [the face] is pale; the bowman is ready [...] Indeed, the women are barren and none conceive.[8f] [...]
II. [Plagues at the time of Abram in Egypt?]
Indeed, [hearts] are violent, pestilence is throughout the land, blood is everywhere, death is not lacking, and the mummy-cloth speaks even before one comes near it. [...] Indeed, the river is blood, yet men drink of it. Men shrink from human beings and thirst after water. towns are destroyed and Upper Egypt [under control of the Egyptians, unlike Lower Egypt controlled by Hyksos] has become an empty waste.
--- Extracts from the Admonition of Ipuwer, to see full text online, click here

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Year 2030 – 1730 BCE  – Rebellion against Babylon

After his return from Egypt, much wealthier than when he had left Canaan, Abram settled in the place he was before, a hilly country of today's Samaria, between Beth-El and Ai. But his nephew Lot, also wealthy, opted to settle in the Jordan valley, where the Dead Sea is today, because of the abundance of water in this area before it was destroyed with Sodom.

In the 20th year of the reign of Samsu-Iluna, which started in 1750 BCE after Hammurabi's death, the rebellion spread to more remote parts of the empire. In the land of Canaan, all the cities rejected the allegiance to the king of Elam, vassal of Babylon, the so-called king Kedar-LaOmer in the Bible (Genesis 14:1), who was Kudur-Lagamar from the Elamite dynasties. This king called upon the king of Babylon, Amraphel in the Bible, for military support. The king of Assyria[11a] and the king of Goyim[11b] joined them in what was the campaign of four powerful kings against five small kings who had rebelled in the land of Canaan. They obviously defeated these five kings in the Valley of Siddim, which used to be where the city of Sodom was, where the Dead Sea is today in Israel. This battle took place in the 20th year after the death of Hammurabi, so in 1730 BCE, Hebrew year 3020.[12] 

After wrecking the land, they started their return by heading north. Lot, Abram’s nephew, was among the many captives. But Abram and his 318 trained men born in his house (Genesis 14:14), intervened at night and attacked successfully the large enemy camp to free the captives, and then they pursued their enemies even further north (Genesis 14:15-16). This success would not have happened without God's intervention, because of the big difference in number between Abram's small army and the combined forces of four powerful kings who just defeated the alliance of five Canaanite kings. Indeed the expression trained men born in his house refers to disciples who were spiritually raised by Abram to walk with God.

Abram was greeted upon his return and the Canaanite kings paid tribute to him. Another king to pay tribute, but who was not in the coalition, was Melchi-Zedek:

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine; and he was priest of God the Most High. And he blessed him, and said: 'Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God the Most High, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.' And he gave him a tenth of all. 
--- Genesis 14:18-20

Melchi-Zedek is stated in the Biblical text as being the king of
Salem (the location of the future city of Jerusalem), and that a high priest to the god almighty (Genesis 14:18). Presumably this Melki-Zedek was Shem who, at the time of these events, was still alive in the land of Canaan, and was about 450 years old. He was one of the last ancestors still alive and had been a guide to Abram: he was the sole surviving witness of the Flood. Shem was the righteous son of Noah. The above verse mentions wine, and the previous mention of this man-made drink was in the story of Noah, after the Flood (Genesis 9:20). Presumably Shem had learned from his father how to make wine. But there is a difference: as Noah made wine for his own pleasure and got drunk (Genesis 9:21), Shem made wine and bread as a purpose of divine blessing.

The knowledge of wine making continued to exist in the holy land. In fact the two oldest places (and discovered
at this time) of wine production are in Armenia and Egypt: Armenia is where Noah himself or his son Japhet  had established after the Flood, whereas Egypt is said to have obtained the technique of wine production from Canaan, presumably from Salem. The name of the city is recorded in ancient Egyptian tablets so-called the execration texts. These are curses against Canaanite cities, written on clay pottery and broken as a ritual. A first publication of these texts was done by German archaeologist K. Sethe in 1926. More such texts were discovered again in 1963. These are important findings because they give names of Canaanite cities of the MB (Middle Bronze) period. Some names are easily identified such as Rehob, Ashkelon (a mighty EB-era city before it was conquered by the Sea People), Hazor, and so on. And the city of Salem is also mentioned as ȥwšȥmm, which has been correctly transcribed by Sethe as Jerusalem (line f 18). It is the oldest mention of the name Jerusalem found by archaeology thus far ! Interestingly the name of its king is also mentioned in the Egyptian text as Yaqir-hammu. The word hammu commonly refers to Asiatic people in early Egyptian sources, whereas Yaqir is rooted in the word meaning knowledge or wisdom. In the Bible the king of Salem is Melchi-Zedek which means King of Righteousness.We can see the connection between righteousness and knowledge/widsom !

With this victory of Abram, with such a small number of disciples compared to the vast army of enemies, Shem could acknowledge that Abram was protected and guided by God and thus was the spiritual heir he had been longing for.

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About Year 2031 – 1729 BCE  – God makes an alliance with Abraham

In a series of visions that probably started in Hebrew year 2028 (when Abram was 78 years old, because this age represents three times the numerical value of God's name), God appeared to Abram and addressed to him eight paroles. In one of them, God announced Himself as follows:

And He said unto him: 'I am the Lord that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it.'
--- Genesis 15:7

One could ask, why did God mention that He brought Abram out of Ur? The previous mention of this departure from Ur was rather as follows:

And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan.
--- Genesis 11:31

So God's statement to Abram was to say that He had been the designer behind Terah's departure. This explains why Terah had plans to go specifically to Canaan. God must have addressed Himself to the father of Abram to leave Ur and go to Canaan. But Terah stopped on his way, in Charan, and later God revealed Himself to Abram.

But this sentence is chiefly a direct reference to the future, when God will bring the descendants of Abraham out of Egypt, for example in the following:

'I am the Lord your God who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.' 
--- Leviticus 25:28

In this vision, or this series of visions, God told Abram that his offspring will be form a big nation but that they will go through some ordeal:

And it came to pass, that, when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, behold, a dread, even a great darkness, fell upon him.
And He said to Abram: "Know for certainty that your offspring will be stranger in a land that will not belong to them; and they will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.
And also the nation that will make them work, I will judge it. And then they will go out, with great wealth.
And you, you will join your fathers in peace and will be buried in a good old age.
And the fourth generation will return here, because the iniquity of the Amorite will not be full until then."
--- Genesis 15:12-16

The vision above is symbolized by the darkness that Abram’s descendants will have to endure before becoming the great nation that God promised. We can assume that God was holding some form of punishment for Abram because he left the land where God took him in order to seek refuge in Egypt during a famine: it was a lack of trust that God would look after him. His stay in Egypt did not actually last long, and therefore the famine must not have been so enduring. All the more a reason for God to hold it against Abram: his offspring will suffer darkness before awaking into a nation. This will happen after the last night they will spend in Egypt, a Passover night from the 14th to the 15th of the month of Nissan. And, in the morning, they will walk out from Egypt in daylight. There was night, there was day… The awakening of the Hebrew nation, during the Exodus, will echo the days of the Creation. But this day for the nation that Abram will beget will not come before a period of 400 years, as God had announced. The number 400 will always be a mark of darkness or bad omen for the Hebrew people across their History, as we shall see later in this work. But it is also a duration of ordeal before a redemption arrives. The other fact is that it will be the fourth generation of Hebrews who dwelled in Egypt that will come out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, as we shall see.

To comfort Abram after such somehow negative vision, God made an alliance with him and repeated His promise:

In that day, God made an alliance with Abram by saying: "To your offspring I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River."
--- Genesis 15:18

This vision sets the alliance that God made with Abram and is traditionally called the Brit Bein Habetarim (the Covenant of the Pieces).[9] But there are two schools of thought: some believe that this vision happened in year 2023 or others in year 2018. But in fact, the text doesn't mention it precisely, for example by stating how old was Abram at the time. And the vision may in fact have been a series of visions that spread over a period of time, because the text mentions eight times "God said to Abram": if it had been one single event, or day, would the text repeat so many times that "God said"? This vision is however mentioned after the war of the kings, thus we can assume the vision(s) started no earlier than the year 2030, a consideration that voids both schools of thought ! However, it doesn't really matter when it took place, and this is why the text doesn't offer further detail of timing. Because what is important is what the vision said: the reference is the verse Genesis 15:7 which says the Lord that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees and that draws a clear parallel with the future Exodus with the Lord that brought the Hebrews out of the land of Egypt. The two events are therefore to be understood as directly connected. This connection is not just with this particular mention but through many other details, such as the fact that God stroke Egypt with plagues, the hurry with which Abram was told to leave Egypt, pushed out by Pharaoh and followed by his soldiers until the border of the country, the fact that he was given a lot of wealth when he was sent off, and more. So it is important to remember that the year of the Exodus is not derived from the imprecise year(s) of the Brit Bein Habetarim but from the exact year when Abram left Egypt.

Brit Bein Habetarim
The Covenant with Abraham (Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, "Die Bibel in Bilderm", 1860)

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Year 2034 – 1726 BCE  – Birth of Ishmael

This important Biblical text is immediately followed by the story of Ishmael, the son born to Agar the Egyptian maidservant of Sarai that she had pushed onto her husband to give him an offspring. It occurred 10 years after Abram came to dwell in the land of Canaan, after his return from Egypt (Genesis 16:3). He had brought Agar the Egyptian maid from there.

Ishmael was born when Abram was 86 years old (Genesis 16:16), so it was the Hebrew year 2034 (1726 BCE). As he was a son of Abram, he benefited from the blessing that God gave to his offspring and, to this day, his descendants indeed dwell in the region that God promised to Abram, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River.

But after the birth of Ishmael, the servant Agar lost respect for Sarai, because the latter was still barren. So Abram's wife had to make her leave. 

In the wilderness, water came to an end and Agar thought her child would die. An angel appeared to Agar and convinced her to come back to Abram and Sarai and told her about her son:

"He will be a wild person, his arm against all, and everyone’s arm against his, and he shall dwell in the face of all his brothers."
--- Genesis 16:12

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[1] On this topic, see Baron, Salo W., History and Jewish Historians, Philadelphia, 1964, pp. 25-26.

[2] To see the translation by Prof. Martha Roth, 1995, online, click here.

[3] The reader could notice that the word is actually Ellil, not the translated Enlil, and that Ellil sounds much closer to the Biblical name Elohim, the God of the Bible who created “heavens and earth”.

[4] Israel National News, Tablet Discovered by Hebrew U[niversity] Matches Code of Hammurabi, 26 July 2010; to read the article, click here

[5] There is a similarity between the Hebrew names of Arpachshad and Ur-Kasdim that doesn't transpire in English translations; Arpachshad is written אַרְפַּכְשַׁד while Ur-Kasdim (meaning Ur of the Chaldeans) is written אוּר כַּשְׂדִּים ; the following letters are in the same sequence:  א ר כ ש ד  if we remove the plural of Kasdim (Chaldeans) and some later deviation of the name Ur which was not in the original name; the name Chaldea is directly taken from the name Arpachshad

[6] Abram will explain in Genesis 20:12: And moreover she [Sarai] is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and so she became my wife. It is interesting to note, on this topic, that the argument advanced by Abram is backed by Genetics... Abram' gender gene was of the kind X1Y, X1 from his mother and Y from his father. Sarai was of gender gene X2X, X2 from her mother and X from Abram's common father; but since Abram was a boy, he inherited gene Y from his father, while Sarai inherited gene X from the same father; so there would be no possible genetic issues for Abram and Sarai's children, with an association of X1Y and X2X

[7] The ancient city of Charran is located in today's Harran, on the Turkish side near the border with Syria, at coordinates 37oN 39oE. It is a very large fertile plain, the first one that travellers would come across when coming from the dryer Mesopotamian region.

[8a] For a synopsis of the Second Intermediate Period, see the page on Wikipedia

[8b] About Khendjer, see Wikipedia

[8c] About Sobekhotep IV, see Wikipedia

[8d] About the Ipuwer Papyrus, see Wikipedia

[8e] About the Hyksos, their name in Greek, they have been described as foreign invaders, and at times, invaders from the desert; their name, in Egyptian, is Heqa Khasheshet whose name, if derived from a Semitic root, would relate to the word keshet which means bow.. The Hyksos were probably skilled bowmen and, in addition, they brought to Egypt the usage of chariot in warfare. No doubt that such technological advantages would have enabled them to defeat the previous dynasty and invade part of the land.

[8f] This calamity may also be relevant to the time of Abraham in Egypt because of the parallel between two verses: in Genesis 12:17 it is said that God plagued Pharaoh and his house because of Sarai, Abram's wife, whereas in Genesis 20:18 For God closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife. So the plague that struck the houses of both Pharaoh and Abimelech was that the women became barren.

[8g] Source: Newberry Percy E., Beni Hasan, Part I, in "Archaeological Survey of Egypt", Paul, K., Trench, Trubner & Company, London, 1893

[9] This vision is comparable to another one that Prophet Daniel interpreted in later years, during the captivity in Babylon; to check it, click here

[11a] In Hebrew, this king is called Arioch and this name may be identified as Erishum II from the Old Assyrian Period; this dynasty was earlier founded by Erishum I, son of Ilu-shuma, a name which sounds similar to the name of the dynasty mentioned in the Biblical text: Arioch king of Ellasar (Genesis 14:1)

[11b] In Hebrew, the word Goyim means generically Nations, but it may refer here to the Gutians who were one of the people of Southern Mesopotamia under the control of Babylon, in the region where Sumer used to be before the Flood

[12] About the battle of Siddim, see Wikipedia

Copyright © Albert Benhamou 2013 - All rights reserved.