Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Hurrians and the Levant

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 7, 2017

According to the Hebrew Bible, the Jebusites (/ˈdʒɛbjəˌsaɪts/; Hebrew: יְבוּסִי, Modern Yevusi, Tiberian Yəḇûsî ISO 259-3 Ybusi) were a Canaanite tribe who inhabited Jerusalem prior to its conquest by Joshua (11:3 and 12:10) or King David (2 Samuel 5:6-10).

The Books of Kings state that Jerusalem was known as Jebus prior to this event. According to some biblical chronologies, the city was conquered by King David in 1003 BCE, or according to other sources 869 BCE.

In the Amarna letters, mention is made that the contemporaneous king of Jerusalem was named Abdi-Heba, which is a theophoric name invoking a Hurrian mother goddess named Hebat.

This implies that the Jebusites were Hurrians themselves, were heavily influenced by Hurrian culture, or were dominated by a Hurrian maryannu class (i.e., a Hurrian warrior-class elite).

Moreover, the last Jebusite king of Jerusalem, Araunah/Awarna/Arawna (or Ornan), bore a name generally understood as based on the Hurrian honorific ewir.

Another Jebusite, Araunah (referred to as Ornan by the Books of Chronicles) is described by the Books of Samuel as having sold his threshing floor to King David, which David then constructed an altar on, the implication being that the altar became the core of the Temple of Solomon.

Araunah means the lord in Hittite, and so most scholars, since they consider the Jebusites to have been Hittite, have argued that Araunah may have been another king of Jerusalem; some scholars additionally believe that Adonijah is actually a disguised reference to Araunah, the ר (r) having been corrupted to ד (d).

Zadok (Hebrew: צדוק‎ Tsadoq , meaning “Righteous”) or Zadoq was a priest, said to be descended from Eleazar the son of Aaron (1 Chron 6:4-8). He aided King David during the revolt of his son Absalom and was subsequently instrumental in bringing King Solomon to the throne. After Solomon’s building of The First Temple in Jerusalem, Zadok was the first High Priest to serve there.

The prophet Ezekiel extols the sons of Zadok as staunch opponents of paganism during the era of pagan worship and indicates their birthright to unique duties and privileges in the future temple (Ezekiel 44:15, 43:19).

Some scholars have speculated that as Zadok (also Zadoq) does not appear in the text of Samuel until after the conquest of Jerusalem, he was actually a Jebusite priest co-opted into the Israelite state religion.

Frank Moore Cross, professor at the Harvard Divinity School, refers to this theory as the “Jebusite Hypothesis,” criticizes it extensively, but terms it the dominant view among contemporary scholars, in Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel.

Elsewhere in the Bible, the Jebusites are described in a manner that suggests that they worshipped the same God (El Elyon—Ēl ‘Elyōn) as the Israelites (see, e.g., Melchizedek).

Further support for this theory comes from the fact that other Jebusites resident in pre-Israelite Jerusalem bore names invoking the principle or god Zedek (Tzedek) (see, e.g., Melchizedek and Adonizedek). Under this theory the Aaronic lineage ascribed to Zadok is a later, anachronistic interpolation.

Khirbet Kerak (“the ruin of the fortress”) or Beth Yerah (“House of the Moon (god)”) is a tell (archaeological mound) located on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee in modern-day Israel.

The tell spans an area of over 50 acres—one of the largest in the Levant—and contains remains dating from the Early Bronze Age (c. 3000 BC – 2000 BC) and from the Persian period (c. 450 BC) through to the early Islamic period (c. 1000 AD).

“Khirbet Kerak ware” is a type of Early Bronze Age Syro-Palestinian pottery first discovered at this site. It is also found in other parts of the Levant (including Jericho, Beth Shan, Tell Judeideh, and Ugarit). Khirbet Kerak culture appears to have been a Levantine version of the Early Transcaucasian Culture.

As Ablm (Heb. Abel), this location is mentioned in the 14th century BCE Epic of Aqht, and is thought to be a reference to the Early Bronze Age structure extant at Khirbet Kerak.

The identification of Jebus with Jerusalem has been disputed, principally by Niels Peter Lemche. Supporting his case, every non-biblical mention of Jerusalem found in the ancient Near East refers to the city as ‘Jerusalem’.

An example of these records are the Amarna letters, several of which were written by the chieftain of Jerusalem Abdi-Heba and call Jerusalem either Urusalim (URU ú-ru-sa-lim) or Urušalim (URU ú-ru-ša10-lim) (1330s BCE). Also in the Amarna letters, it is called Beth-Shalem, the house of Shalem.

The Sumero-Akkadian name for Jerusalem, uru-salim, is variously etymologised to mean “foundation of [or: by] the god Shalim”: from Hebrew/Semitic yry, ‘to found, to lay a cornerstone’, and Shalim, the Canaanite god of the setting sun and the nether world, as well as of health and perfection.

Lemche states that there is no evidence of Jebus and the Jebusites outside of the Old Testament. Some scholars reckon Jebus to be a different place from Jerusalem; other scholars prefer to see the name of Jebus as a kind of pseudo-ethnic name without any historical background.

Theophilus G. Pinches has noted a reference to “Yabusu”, which he interpreted as an old form of Jebus, on a contract tablet that dates from 2200 BCE.

Shalim (Shalem, Salem, and Salim) is a god in the Canaanite religion pantheon, mentioned in inscriptions found in Ugarit (Ras Shamra) in Syria. William F. Albright identified Shalim as the god of dusk, and Shahar as god of the dawn.

Shalim, along with Shahar, is described as twin children of El. Both are gods of the planet Venus, and were considered by some to be a twinned avatar of the god Athtar. As the markers of dawn and dusk, Shahar and Shalim also represented the temporal structure of the day.

Isaiah 14:12–15 has been the origin of the belief that Satan was a fallen angel, who could also be referred to as Lucifer. It refers to the rise and disappearance of the morning star Venus in the phrase “O light-bringer, (Helel ben Shaḥar, translated as Lucifer in the Vulgate and preserved in the early English translations of the Bible) son of the dawn.”

In both genders, Aṯtar is identified with the planet Venus, the morning and evening star, in some manifestations of Semitic mythology. In Ugaritic mythology Aṯtar succeeds to the throne of the dead god Baal Hadad but proves inadequate.

In semi-arid regions of western Asia he was sometimes worshipped as a rain god. In more southerly regions he is probably known as Dhu-Samani.[citation needed]

Attar was worshipped in Southern Arabia in pre-Islamic times. A god of war, he was often referred to as “He who is Bold in Battle”. One of his symbols was the spear-point and the antelope was his sacred animal. He had power over Venus, the morning star, and was believed to provide humankind with water.

In ancient times, Arabia shared the gods of Mesopotamia, being so close to Babylon, except the genders and symbols of these deities were later swapped around.

For instance, the sun god Shamash became the sun goddess Shams, and in southern Arabia Ishtar became the male storm god Athtar. Athtar was a god of the thunderstorm, dispensing natural irrigation in the form of rain. Athtar also represented fertility and water as essential to fertility.

In the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Shalim is also identified as the deity representing Venus or the “Evening Star”, and Shahar, the “Morning Star”. His name derives from the triconsonantal Semitic root S-L-M.

A Ugaritic myth known as The Gracious and Most Beautiful Gods, describes Shalim and his brother Shahar as offspring of El through two women he meets at the seashore.

They are both nursed by “The Lady”, likely Anat (Athirat or Asherah), and have appetites as large as “(one) lip to the earth and (one) lip to the heaven.” In other Ugaritic texts, the two are associated with the sun goddess.

Another inscription is a sentence repeated three times in a para-mythological text, “Let me invoke the gracious gods, the voracious gods of ym.” Ym in most Semitic languages means “day,” and Shalim and Shahar, twin deities of the dusk and dawn, were conceived of as its beginning and end.

Shalim is also mentioned separately in the Ugaritic god lists and forms of his name also appear in personal names, perhaps as a divine name or epithet.

Many scholars believe that the name of Shalim is preserved in the name of the city Jerusalem. The god Shalim may have been associated with dusk and the evening star in the etymological senses of a ‘completion’ of the day, ‘sunset’ and ‘peace’.

Zion, also transliterated Sion, Sayon, Syon, Tzion or Tsion, is a place name often used as a synonym for Jerusalem. The word is first found in 2 Samuel 5:7 which dates from c.630–540 BC according to modern scholarship.

It commonly referred to a specific mountain near Jerusalem (Mount Zion), on which stood a Jebusite fortress of the same name that was conquered by David and was named the City of David.

The term Tzion came to designate the area of Jerusalem where the fortress stood, and later became a metonym for Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem and “the World to Come”, the Jewish understanding of the hereafter.

In Kabbalah the more esoteric reference is made to Tzion being the spiritual point from which reality emerges, located in the Holy of Holies of the First, Second and Third Temple.

Zion is the Hebrew name for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and was the seat of the first and second Holy Temple. It is the most holy place in the world for the Jewish people, seen as the connection between God and humanity.

Observant Jews recite the Amidah three times a day facing Zion in Jerusalem, praying for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the restoration of the Temple service, the redemption of the world, and for the coming of the Messiah.

The etymology of the word Zion (ṣiyôn) is uncertain. Mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Samuel (2 Samuel 5:7) as the name of the Jebusite fortress conquered by King David, its origin likely predates the Israelites.

If Semitic, it may be derived from the Hebrew root ṣiyyôn (“castle”) or the Hebrew ṣiyya (“dry land,” Jeremiah 51:43). A non-Semitic relationship to the Hurrian word šeya (“river” or “brook”) has also been suggested.

The term “Zionism” coined by Austrian Nathan Birnbaum, was derived from the German rendering of Tzion in his journal Selbstemanzipation (Self Emancipation) in 1890.

Zionism as a political movement started in 1897 and supported a ‘national home’, and later a state, for the Jewish people in Palestine. The Zionist movement declared the re-establishment of its State of Israel in 1948, following the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Since then and with varying ideologies, Zionists have focused on developing and protecting this state.

The last line of the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah (Hebrew for Hope) is “….Eretz Zion, ViYerushalayim”, which means literally “The land of Zion and Jerusalem”. Yerushalayim is a plural, because there are 2 “Jerusalems” in Judaism, there is the physical land and the spiritual spot where God’s presence on Earth (Shechinah) is centered.

Today, Mount Zion refers to a hill south of the Old City’s Armenian Quarter, not to the Temple Mount. This apparent misidentification dates at least from the 1st century AD, when Josephus calls Jerusalem’s Western Hill “Mount Zion”. The Dormition Church (right) is located upon the hill currently called Mount Zion.

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