Balaam's Kittim Oracle

walter mattfeld mattfeld12 at
Wed Sep 25 08:43:33 EDT 2002

Ian's query was to the effect of "How does a land-locked country get
involved in naval battles with Kittim Ships ?"

Ian, I suspect YOU ARE CORECT, Israel/Judah are NOT involved in naval
battles with anybody. Whatever fleet they had was Phoenician, and according
to the Bible, appears to have been for trade on the Red Sea (Yam Suph) at a
port near/at Ezion Geber and Elat.

It is my understanding that the term "Kittim Ships" is an epitheth, a
"descriptor" if you will, applied to the Kittim warriors. In other words,
these warriors, whose arrival in Canaan, result in the affliction of Eber
and Asshur, come from a far land via ships. I can see your reasoning about
"sea battles" being suggested, but as you have already observed,
Israel/Judah were landlocked countries and not noted for possessing a navy
to engage in seabattles. Following your astute observation, Ian, the only
alternative possibility, as I see it, is that Kittim ships refers to the
manner by which the Kittim "arrive" in Canaan to do battle ON LAND with
Israel/Judah. My article identifies these Kittim as being Greek mercenaries
serving the Saitic Pharaohs of the 7th century BCE, and Asshur's affliction
at their hands is an allusion to Egypt's wresting away from Asshur/Assyria
the western Assyrian empire, as Assyria withdraws from the area to fight
battles agiainst other nations in revolt in the eastern half of the empire,
like Media, Elam and Babylonia, ca. 640-612 BCE.

Eber, I have identified as being the Hebrews, i.e., Josiah's Judah. He is
killed at Meggido by the Egyptian army advancing on the Euphrates to
re-establish that river as its traditional boundary since Ahmose I (1560's
BCE). The Saitic Pharaoh Necho, using Greek mercenaries, stations them in
Canaan and subdues Judah, forcing it to render tribute, and ostraca at
fortress of Arad mention the Kittim, who bear Greek names, being allowed to
draw rations. I suspect Judah had to provide rations to the army of
occupation under Necho.

I have proposed that Balaam's "Kittim oracle" is part of a National History
extending from Genesis to 2 Kings, and that this composition was written ca.
562 BCE in the Exile. Following this "assumption," I have sought to identify
an event before 562 BCE that might synchronize with statements made about
the Kittim.

Although Kition in Cyprus may be the source for the word Kittim, the
foundation of this port city appears to have been Phoenician, not Greek. Yet
the traditional understanding is that the Kittim are Greeks ( cf. Maccabees
1:1, where Alexander the Great comes from the land of the Kittim). Josephus
informs us that the traditions of his people understood that Kittim is from
the city of Citium on Cyprus, BUT that the "coasts of the Kittim" include
the littoral of northern Syria and Anatolia (Turkey). Greeks were settled in
this area by the 9th-6th centuries BCE.

Kition had become "Greek" by the 8th-7th centuries BCE, which would "align"
with the later traditions (Hasmonean, 1 Maccabees 1:1) that associated
Greeks with the Kittim instead of Phoenicians. Genesis does not understand
the Kittim to be Phoenican descendants, but rather, descenadants of Javan
(archaic Iawan, Ionia, i.e., "a Greek nation").

For my "spin" on Balaam's Kittim oracle the audience is referred to the
following url

All the best, Walter

Walter R. Mattfeld (M.A. Ed.)
Millbury by Worcester, Massachusetts

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