Balaam's Kittim Oracle

Michael Banyai Banyai at
Fri Dec 13 19:43:00 EST 2002

I am returning to a discussion on this list I brought to a sudden end, as soon as I got the impression, that a dispassionate analysis of the case I made for a reattribution of Balaams´ prophecies to Samuel was impossible.

I completed the file for everybody to get an idea about the merits of this proposal.

The synchronism for Samuel is offered by the so-called blessings of Balaam, Num. 24. This is an obviously misattributed text which could best fit the period and person of Samuel. Thus we have in Num. 24: 7 Agag, named as king of the Amalekites paralleling the mention of an identical king in 1 Sam. 15. The Kenites, mentioned in Num. 24:21 by the side of the Amalekites, parallel the Kenites mentioned by 1 Sam 15:6 as allies of the Amalekites. 

The mention of Eber in Num. 24:24 finds by the way its last parallel in the biblical books of history just within 1 Sam. 4:6-9, 1 Sam. 13:7-19, and some other points in 1 Samuel, till its very late singular resurgence in Jer. 34:9. But at this late time point was the name Hebrew so definitively out of fashion, that Jer. 34:9, no living use of the term but only the strict quote of a Deuteronomic law, needs to explain the use of the name Hebrew for his listeners by the more fashionable Judean: “each man should set free his male servant and each man his female servant, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman; so that no one should keep them, a Judean his brother, in bondage.”

There is a further most fascinating detail in both 1 Sam. 9:10 and Num. 24. The prophecies incorporated under Num. 24 are introduced by a particular formula “oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is open” (this translation is confirmed by Num. 22:31). The equivalent of this old-fashioned introduction in the Balaam text from Deir 'Allaalso sounds: “Inscription of Balaam son of Beor, the seer-man of the gods.”This particular formulation is explained by 1 Sam. 9:10 as designating in Israel at the time of Samuel a prophet, name which at the time point 1 Sam. was redacted wasn't anymore current language: “for the one who is now called a prophet was formerly called a seer (ro'-eh)”, 1 Sam. 9:10.  The title is little used after Samuel's time. Only a similar title, “chozeh“, is attested till into the times of Josaphat, so one should take the use of this title for a prophet as time-limit for dating Num.24.

The reason for the false label on the prophecies may be the exaltation of the Israelite king in Num. 24:7 (thus probably of Saul) maybe through the mouth of Samuel. This might have appeared inopportune for the rival David-Dynasty, who looked back too on an alleged legitimation through Samuel, but wasn't able to produce similar formidable documents. 

A synchronism is provided by the mention of Assur in Num. 24:23-24 as underlying in a (naval?) clash with ships of Kittim. We know from the Assyrian chronicles, that the Assyrian kings Tiglath-pileser I  (1115-1076) and his successor Ashur-Bel-Kala  (1074-1057 conventional dates) campaigned in the Levante and even boasted to have made naval expeditions along the Levantine coast (maybe demonstrating the ability to bypass any resistance in inland Syria on a march southwards – we may see as a direct result of this défilée along the Levantine coast the presents sent by the king of Musri). The nearing Assyrians may have nurtured political hopes in Israel by the time of Samuel and a political contact between the Assyrians and the Israelite state in spe is imaginable. Num.24:23-24 is thus just a political review of the younger past. We thus have to synchronise Samuel at least with the last of the Assyrian campaigns in the Levante, which ceased, due to some military set-back (suggested by Num. 24:23-24?), with Ashur-Bel-Kala at the latest of course 1057 BCE. The campaigns of Tiglat-pileser I, mentioning his conflict with Musri and Kumanu, belong into the first 5 years of his reign, describing thus a new political constellation in the Levante introduced after 1111 BCE . They mention his widening the borders of Assyria till to “Great sea of the west”, the Mediterranean, and bringing Kanish-oak from the conquered lands. A localisation of Musri and Kamanu East of Assyria (as usually made) would leave one without an explanation for this pretence of  Tiglat-pileser I. All the cities mentioned by Tigl. I as pertaining to Kamanu are well known as belonging to the Anatolian Komana (former part of Kizzuwadna till to the Sunassura treaty).

The identification of this Musri with Egypt (the standard identification of Musri), here apparently the state dominating the region of Amurru and even deeper into the south the Levantine coast according to these Assyrian texts, is difficult since falling in a period where an Egyptian presence in the Levante and Syria is hardly imaginable, this is during the period of the last Pharaohs of the 20thdynasty, Ramses X and XI, and of the still weaker 21stdynasty, with a Smendes and Psusennes I (the Wenamun story introduces us to this period of notorious Egyptian weakness). According to W.Helck the Egyptian presence in Palestine ceased with Ramses III (a Ramses IV statuette found at Megiddo out of stratigraphical context is not accepted by him as testimony of an Egyptian presence). Musri is a name shared both by Egypt and Amalek (and maybe by some east-Tigride petty kingdom), so, if last identification should make the case, a reference to Musri in the contemporary Assyrian text could explain the Num. 24:20 mention of Amalek as first among the nations.

I am dealing at large with this identification in my paper "The Arab Fringe". A short summary of the arguments would have to refer to following: 
Name Mishor/Musri is of Semitic provenience. Mishor name given to the plain country south of Gilead. Called by Asarhaddon Musri, the same way as a couple of lines later Egypt. Also preserved in the name of the “river of Musri”, Besor, border river between Judah and Amalek in the Negev. See Hagar´s and Ishmael´s connection to Misraim. See stele Sfire I (KAI 222), containing agreement between Matiilu of Arpad and Bargaia of KTK over TL´IM (maybe biblical Tellaim – starting point of Saul´s  campaign against Amalek) arbitrated by whole of Aram on one side and MšR on the other. This forces an identication of Sfire itself with TL´IM, and a search for MšR, south of Bit-Agusi, thus in the Syrian desert.  See the identification Musur = Meluhha in Asarhaddon §76, Fragment F 6 ff. See Assurbanipal´s list of insurgent countries on the side of Shamash-shum-ukin: - Akkad, Chaldea, the Arameans, the Sea-land - Elam, Gutium - Amurru and Meluhha – while the campaigns of Assurbanipal  in the following of the insurgency lead him against: Akkad, Chaldea, the Arameans, the Sea-land (6th campaign), Elam (7th and 8th campaign), Amurru and Arabia (9th campaign). See the Arabic traditions linking Amalek with the Hyksos, and the late Roman name of the aloe (imported from Arabia) “Ammos Hiksoitike”. Compare name of the last Amalekite king es-Someida with that of the last Hyksos H3mwdj (h being rendered by Manetho regularly as s). See the Malichae in Claudius Ptolemeus, the Baramalacum in Plinius, as dwellers of Arabia. See the road of Meluhha in the geography of Sargon, identifying it with the king´s road. 
 	“The city Arinu, the well founded holy city at the base of the mountains, which had previously rebelled
that city I captured, destroyed and sowed kudimmus over it
 At that time I subdued all of the land of Musri at the feet of Ashur, my lord.” Arinu did later become as Arne the first capital of the Aramean state of Bit-Agusi. A treaty found in Sfire between KTK  belonging to the Musri confederation and Bit-Agusi confirmed much later this border shift. Arne is identified at cca. 10 Km north of Sfire, the border contention between the MšR state KTK and Bit-Agusi.

The reference to the Kittim in the text could of course be attached to the Cypriote Kition, following on the suggestion of Josephus, but Kittim is not clearly located by the text. There are however also better alternatives to it. 
However ambiguous the archaeological finds at Kition, showing a short abandonment of the site in some areals between 1000 BC and the end of 9th century, one should not overstate this case. There is obvious archaeological continuity, for example in the zone of temple I or the temple of Ashtart, throughout the 13th to 10th century BC and throughout all 1st millennium BC till into the Roman times according to Vassos Karageorghis himself. Such a continuity of traditions and culture (the Phoenicians arrived  sometime later after the recolonisation in the 9th century) on the site would make sure that, should the name of Kition be older than the 5th century BC (as it is for the first time attested in this form) it would have passed from the old city to the new one at the same site. An identity between Kittim and Kition would thus not create problems since the identification of biblical Kittim is not the same with the issue of its Phoenician colonisation or the date of late antique Kition.
The problem is different: the tradition identifying Kition with Kittim begins just by Josephus, and there is no idea how old the name Kition really is. Esarhaddon (680-669 BC) calls the city still just by its Phoenician name, Karthadasht. All mentions of the name Kition are of later date. Besides, should Kition be Kittim, this would mean that Cyprus would appear in Gen. 10 twice, once under Elisha/Alashiya and than under Kittim (not even by the side of Elisha in Gen. 10). Peculiarly embarrassing looks Ez. 27:6,7, offering the isles (or coasts) of Kittim side by side with the isles (or coasts) of Elisha.
A similar name to that of Kition and thus also a Kittim candidate, being given also to neighbour Anatolian coastal state Kizzuwadna, Kataonie by its Greek name, maybe to be identified with the Qdj of Egyptian sources (contra M.Astour but with W.Helck in Ägäische Bronzezeit, Hrsg. H.Buchholz, pp. 224, Darmstadt, 1989). An identification of Kittim with Kition would leave the important Kizzuwadnan state entirely unrepresented in the table of the nations.

There are further Aegean names not necessarily our biblical Kittim but linguistically close to it, attested unlike Kition (beginning just by 500 BC) already at an earlier time point, than Kition:  ku-tu-na-ja (Kydonia on Crete), ku-ti-ra (Kytera) mentioned by the time of Amenophis III (Helck). Amusing is the coincidence given by Eusebius making Cydon (Kydonia) rule over Crete during the reign of Amenophis IV, but this remains for us without consequences.

All the best,

Bányai Michael


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