Clarence E. Mason's "OLD
The History of Israel: Addendum
ISRAEL'S NEIGHBOR: MESOPOTAMIA
E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of
- At the eastern end of the
Fertile Crescent .
- Meso-potamia means “between
the rivers”: Tigris and Euphrates.
- Much irrigation in ancient
times; desolate today; enlarged delta today.
- Persia to the east;
mountains of Armenia to the north; desert to the west;
Persian Gulf to the south.
- Some cities:
- In the north: Nineveh
, Asshur, Calah.
- In the south: Babylon,
Nippur, Erech, Ur.
- Political divisions
- Southern Mesopotamia
called Babylon, from the capital city. In Bible ,
Shinar and Land of Chaldeans. Located in the rich alluvial plain of the
Tigris and Euphrates. This is the oldest part of the land. With
the exception of one long period, it was the leader in the political and
- Northern Mesopotamia
called Assyria, from early capital city. Capital later changed
to Nineveh. Assyria colonized by Sumerians, c.2500 B.C. Racial makeup
of Assyrians little understood. Less civilized, more war-like people than
Babylonians. (Cp. Sparta and Athens)
- Periods of history
- Prehistoric—to 3000 B.C.
Earliest known civilization on earth arises at the end of this period.
b. Invented cylinder seals, then writing (Erech-3500 B.C.), dome, architecture;
- Pre-Baby Ionian, 3000-1830
- Period of Sumer
- Sumer in S. Mesopotamia;
shaved heads and faces.
- Akkad in central
Mesopotamia ; Semitic people.
- First dynasty of Ur
, c.2500 B.C., excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley.
Revolutionized our ideas about Abraham’s background. “Royal”
cemetery; elaborate burials.
- Sargon I, Akkadian king,
conquers the land, 2350 B.C. First empire of history. Conquered
Syria . Nuzu now a great city.
- Third dynasty of Ur
toward end of this period. Great ziggurat “House of terrace-platform
of heaven and earth, “ later restored by Nabo nidus, excavated
by Woolley. Shrine of moon god, Nannar, on top. Perhaps this
is Abraham’s time.
- Early Babylonian, 1830-1550
- Amorites, a Semitic people,
- Hammurabi, great Amorite
king, conquers Mesopotamia, c. 1800 B.C.
- Code of Hammurabi, first
great law code.
- Nuzi tablets, throw great
light on patriarchal age.
- Middle Babylonian, 1550-1100
- Period of decline.
- Babylonia overrun
by northern mountain peoples. c. Assyria begins to come to
- Assyrian empire, 1100-605
- First world empire
of great stability.
- Tiglath Pileser I (1114-1076)
- Period of decline follows
Tiglath Pileser I; rise of United Hebrew kingdom.
- Assur-nasirpal n (883-859);”calculated
frightfulness toward revolters.”
Basis of chronology - limmi years (i.e., certain officials appointed
every New Year’s day, after whom their year of office was named).
He raided lands bordering on eastern Mediterranean in time of Ahab.
- Shalmaneser III (858-824).
Battle of Karkar; Benhadad of Damascus and Israelite Ahab with their
allies oppose Shalmaneser’s advance, 854. Black obelisk of Shalmaneser
shows Jehu paying tribute. Then Assyria stopped for a time.
- Period of weakness, 80
- Tiglath Pileser II, or
Pul (745-728). Resurgence of strength. Deportation introduced. Conquered
much of Fertile Crescent . Menahem, king of Israel,
buys him off.’ During Pekah’s reign Pul raids Trans Jordan. Era of
- Shalmaneser V (728-722).
Hoshea of Israel becomes tributary, then rebels. Shalmaneser besieges
Samaria three years.
- Sargon II (722-705).
Destroys Samaria, takes Israel captive, 721.
- Sennacherib (705-681).
- Assur-banipal (669-626).
Assembled great library at Nineveh; here were found Babylonian “Creation”
and “Flood” stories.
- Fall of Nineveh to Medes
and Babylonians, 612.
- Final disintegration
of Assyrian empire at battle of Carchemish, 605.
- New Babylonian empire, 605-539
- Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar)
(605-562). Brings resurgence to Babylon; rebuilds city of Babylon.
Raids Jerusalem during reign of Jehoiakim (605). Carries Jehoiachin
captive to Babylon, 597; sets up Zedekiah puppet. Jerusalem
destroyed; exile begins, 586.
- Babylon falls
to Cyrus, Medes and Persians, 539.
- Persian period, 539-331 B.C.
- One of the most difficult
periods for the historian to unravel. According to the present state
of our knowledge, these are the kings:
(Cyrus came to throne in 559, but Persian empire begins
- Cyrus (559-530) reverses
deportation policy. Darius the Mode a problem; perhaps he was
military governor of Babylon after its capture.
Jews return to Palestine under Zcrubbahel.
- Cambyses (530-522).
The Ahasuerus of Ezra 4 and Artaxerxes of Ezra 4.
- Darius Hystaspis
(522-486). Not Darius the Mode.
- Xerxes (486-465).
The Ahasuerus of Esther. Defeated by the-Greek s at Salamis and
- Artaxerxes Longimanus
(465-423). Ezra and Nehemiah return to Jerusalem.
- Hellenistic period, 332 B.C.
to Islam (6th century A.D.)
Alexander the Great (335-323) conquers Babylon ; dies there.
- Religion of Mesopotamia
- The cosmic state
- Cosmos seen as an order
of wills—as a state.
- Great powers (gods) rule
- Religion is the integration
of these divine wills.
- The structure of the cosmic
- Behind each phenomenon
is a person—a god; animism.
- Assembly of the gods
rule the world.
- Possibility of man’s
achieving partial identity with these gods—fetishism.
- Leaders of the cosmic state
- Ann—sky god (authority),
- Enlil—Lord storm (force).
- Ninhursaga—Mother earth
- Enki—Lord earth (creativity).
- City gods
- Marduk— Babylon
- Nannar. Nin-gal—God of
Ur and consort.
- Tammuz cult
- Nature myth b. Death
- Remains of Mesopotamia
- Tell (i.e., a ruin covered
by sand or earth » a mound)
- Unwritten remains—buildings,
- Written remains—clay tablets
the principle find.
Some 200. 000 now in museums. Perhaps 1/5 of these translated!
- Languages of Mesopotamia
- Sumerian—language of the
early non-Semitic people
- Akkadian (formerly called
Babylonian) is Semitic and related to Hebrew.
Cuneiform (“wedge-shaped”) is the name of the method of writing these
languages on clay tablets. Both the languages above were written in cuneiform.
- Literature of Mesopotamia
- Great libraries. Remains:
- Enuma elish, “Creation”
- Gilgamesh, “Flood” epic.
- Many business texts, e.g.,
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