Gilgamesh and Genesis

Peter Kirk peter_kirk at
Fri Jan 21 20:46:48 EST 2000

Don't forget the reference to Asshur, or Assyria, in Numbers 24:22,24, 
on the lips of Balaam from the Euphrates (22:5) You may want to argue 
that these verses are a later addition or evidence for late dating. 
But beware of circular reasoning: don't excise these verses as late 
because you assume that Assyria cannot be mentioned in the Pentateuch 
and then argue from your edited text that Assyria is indeed not 
mentioned in the Pentateuch.

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Gilgamesh and Genesis
Author:  <dwashbur at> at Internet
Date:    21/01/2000 07:58


> I do not subscribe to the JPDS theory which among other things posits parts 
> of Genesis to have been written by a Jahwist in the court of King Solomon
> some time in the 10th century BCE. My research, as indicated in my earlier 
> post, contradicts this notion. If Genesis is really 10th century BCE why
> isn't Asshur mentioned as the leading city of Assyria, which it was from the 
> 14th century BCE until eclipsed by Calah being made the capital by
> Assurnasirpal II ( 885-859 BCE) in the 9th century BCE, followed by Nineveh 
> becoming the capital under Sennacherib in 704 BCE ?

I too reject the DH.  As for Asshur, Gen 10:11, 12 may hint at it 
since the text says Nimrod went there and in that region built 
Nineveh and the other cities.  I find it easy to see "Asshur" here as
the name of a city-state rather than a region, or at least I don't see 
anything that particularly rules it out.

> How could the Jahwist in 960 BCE not know of the capital city ofAsshur,
> famous since the 14th century BCE (Asshur the city is never mentioned in the 
> Bible, as pointed out by Grayson) ?

Where would you expect to see a reference to it and why?  The 
Pentateuch stories revolve around Haran, Canaan and Egypt.  It pre- 
settlement times I wonder how major a power Assyria/Asshur was;
if it wasn't much and didn't have a whole lot of influence, there 
would have been no good reason to discuss it in the context of the 
Pentateuch.  Asshur the city/region/whatever is mentioned in 
passing in Gen 2:24, but if there wasn't any particularly powerful 
Assyrian empire at the time of writing (i.e. assuming 14th-century 
writing) then it would seem that a) this does indeed refer to the 
city, and b) a passing reference used merely as a geographical 
marker is about all the mention it would warrant.

> Grayson makes the following observations about the city Asshur: 
> "The city Asshur, which was the original capital of the kingdom of Assyria, 
> is also never specifically referred to in the Bible...In the 14th century BC 
> Asshur became the capital of a land which was for the first time called
> Assyria...Asshur continued to be the capital until the 9th century BC when 
> Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC) moved the capital to Calah. Then in the 7th 
> century BC the capital was once again moved, this time by Sennacherib
> (704-681 BC) to Nineveh." (cf. p.500, Vol. 1, A.K. Grayson, "Asshur," David 
> Noel Freedman, Ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, New York, Doubleday, 1992, 
> ISBN 0-385-19351-3)
>  How could Moses in 1440 BCE or the Jahwist in 960 BCE know of Calah ? 
> Grayson observes about Calah:
> "...Calah was of no significance in the 3d and 2d millenium BC. It was
> singled out for importance only in the 9th century BC when Assurnasirpal II 
> chose it as his capital. Assurnasirpal totally transformed the insignificant 
> village into a metropolis which was suitable to be the center of the empire 
> he created." (cf. p.808, Vol.1, A.K. Grayson, "Calah," David Noel Freedman, 
> Ed., The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Doubleday, 1992)

Neither of these cuts any real ice with me.  In the first place, as I 
have pointed out, it's possible the Pentateuch does in fact refer to 
Asshur the city.  Second, why should Calah's lack of prominence 
prevent Moses or a contemporary from knowing about or consulting
an ancient record or tradition about the city's founding?  Once 
again there's an awful lot of assumption going on here with no real 
substance to establish it.  The point in Gen 10 is not the relative 
importance of Calah, but the (assumed) fact that Nimrod was its 
founder; IOW, the focus is on the person, not on the city.


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