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Genesis Chapter XIV

1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;

2 (K) That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboim, and the king of Belah, which is Zoar.

3 All these joined forces together in the valley of Siddim, which is the Sea of Salt.

4 Twelve years they served Kedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

5 And in the fourteenth year came Kedorlaomer, and the kings who were with him, and defeated the Raphaim in Ashteroth-Karnaim, and the Zuzim in Ham, and the Emim in Shaveh-Kiriatayim,

6 And the Horites in their Mount Seir, to Elparan, which is by the wilderness.

7 And they returned, and came to Ein-Mishpat, which is Kadesh, and struck all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazezon-Tamar.

8 (K) And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboim, and the king of Belah, the same is Zoar, and they joined battle with them in the valley of Siddim;

9 With Kedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.

Good friends, scholars all, generally supportive of my work in general and my revised chronology in particular have never been shy in taking our their long knives when they thought my research was taking a wrong direction.

Last week was something different. With tolerance and good humor, slight sarcasm and resigned patience, they let me know in no uncertain terms that :-

a) I was losing it,

b) I was playing an April fool's joke at Christmas to relieve the seriousness of the expeditions

c) I was testing them to see if they were paying attention.

Michael, they chorused. "Nobody thinks that Shinar is Sumer any more, it is accepted that it is an area around Babylon and confirmed to be so by other passages in the Bible"

One goes on:-)

4. On the other hand, when Ezekiel has his famous vision on the BiQë`aH in the vicinity of the "river Chebar", it is quite clearly set on the great plain of Babylon, which city boasted the Canal Kabaru (literally, the "Grand Canal"). It's also "in the province of Babylon" that we find the "plain of Dura" in which Nebuchadnezzar sets up his "image of gold" (Daniel 3:1. This passage uses the equivalent Aramaic word, BiQë`âA).

B: Plain of SHINAR

1. With regard to Shinar (SiN`aR), I note that Isaiah 11:11 locates it between Persia and Hamath on the Orontes, i.e., exactly where Babylonia lay. Zechariah 5:11 equates Shinar with the land of the Israelite captivity. And, as already observed, Daniel 1:2 reads, "And Yahweh gave Yehoyaqim. king of Judah, into his [Nebuchadnezzar's] hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God, and he bore them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his God."
2. Are you proposing that all these events, normally linked with Babylon,
also took place in the vicinity of Lake Van, Mike?"

How could I take Targum Yonathan (Jonathan) seriously and worse post the finding on my site for all the world to see? Were there two Babylons, two Shinars, two of everything :-).

Well, the short answer is probably. When tribes moved, they took the names of their original areas with them. Dan of the Bible is the best known but we continue with the practice today. People from the North of England would be surprised to learn that they lived in a town called Durham, North Carolina for example.

To prove the point, I will analyze the passage in the Bible that has caused great debate and consternation to all Biblical scholars but which should be resolvable because it contains many familiar geographical names.

Professor Michael Avi-Yonah, was professor of art and archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a well respected expert in the field called the four Kings who attacked the cities of the Plain, "The Kings of the North" and yet one of them was from Elam who we all know was a great territory to the East where Iran is today. But do we? Let us analyze the above passage carefully and see if the accepted wisdom is not so wise after all.

1) Amraphel king of Shinar

2) Arioch king of Ellasar,

3) Kedorlaomer king of Elam,

4) Tidal king of Goiim.

I will quote mainly from E. A. Speiser, Chairman of the Department of Oriental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and author of Genesis in the Anchor Bible Series.

1) We have already discussed Shinar as being the area around Babylon, But also identified by Targum Jonathon as the area of Pontus

2) From Speiser:- The name of the ruler Arioch is "transparently clear". It is linguistically the same as Arriwak, the name of a vassel of Zimri Lin of Mari, a contemporary of Hammurabi, and perhaps also Nuzi Ariukki. The linguistic background is Hurrian. "ITS APPEARANCE IN THE PRESENT CONTEXT THUS PRESUPPOSES AND ANCIENT AN AUTHENTIC TRANITION. NO LATE HEBREW WRITER WOULD BE LIKELY TO INVENT SUCH A NAME AND ASSIGN IT CORRECTLY TO A NEIGHBOR OF BABYLONIA."

However, the Genesis Apocryphon (from the Dead Sea Scrolls) identifies Ellasar with kptwk evidently "Cappadocia" which is exactly where Pontus lies just south of the Black Sea.

Click for a view of the 1660 map of Cellarius showing among other very interesting features, Cappadocia in Pontus.!

3) Chedorlaomar, King of Elam is evidently leader of the invaders and it is taken for granted that we all know where Elam is, at the head of the Persian Gulf now Iran.

4) Tidal, King of Goiim. Goiim is usually translated "nations" i.e. a confederation. "Scholars are agreed that Tidal represents in cuneiform Tudhalya. There were in fact no fewer than 5 Hittite Kings of the name."

To sum up: We are asked to believe that there was a confederation of Kings, from the Persian Gulf to and including Anatolia who took the trouble to attack the 5 little Cities of the Plain. An empire as large as Assyria or Babylon or Persia, not ruled by one country or one King but a confederation, defeated by Abraham and 318 of his household.

And yet we see that an alternative (excluding Elam) would consist of a number of city states, quite similar to the Cities of the Plain but located in quite a small area of Anatolia banding together to forage South.

Click for map of the Ancient World at the time of the Patriarchs!

1) The Area "Kashka" on the map is approximately where PONTUS would have been. 2) Note how in the conventional scenario, Abram leaves the main route from Ur in Mesopotamia and makes a detour North to Haran. How much more logical if he in fact came South from say Urmia.

We will of course next week discuss the possible alternative location of Elam and the original home of Abram and a good homework task for the subscribers would be to beat us to it :-)

Any Questions?

Michael S. Sanders
December 25, 1998
Irvine California


  1. Genesis: A New Translation....commentary: E. A. Spicer (ISBN: 0385008546)
  2. The Soncino Classics Collection (ISBN: )  The Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash Rabbah and Zohar, all in English on CD an efficient search feature etc. Can be obtained through us at $595 including postage. E-mail for full details


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