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The historical importance of the fourteenth chapter of 
Genesis has for a long time been recognized by scholars. 
It will be recalled that this chapter opens with an account 
of a military campaign, in which rulers of the Euphrates 
Valley and adjacent countries wage a war on a large 
scale against Syrian and Palestinean principalities. 

Such is the style of the narrative, such the manner in 
which details regarding the course of the campaign are 
set forth, as to preclude the possibility of an apocryphal 
narrative. While there is nothing in the narrative that 
warrants us in assuming, as some scholars with a lively 
imagination have done, that the narrative embodies extracts 
from some Babylonian documents, translated into Hebrew, 
it is, on the other hand, clear that the story told must have 
been of sufficient importance, from a political point of 
view, to have impressed itself firmly upon the memory of 
people. Babylonian rulers, as we now know, began at 
a very early period to turn their attention to the conquest 
of the land lying to the west of the Euphrates. Their 
ambition appears to have been to reach the sea, and to 
extend their conquests from the Euphrates to the Medi- 
terranean. The Biblical ideal, therefore, which looks forward 
to a " Hebrew " kingdom embracing precisely this district, 
appears from this point of view to be Jehovah's answer 
given through the mouths of his prophets to Babylonia's 

One of the earliest Babylonian rulers, Sargon, is referred 


to in cuneiform literature as the conqueror of the " West- 
land," as Syria and Palestine were termed. Although this 
ruler becomes a legendary hero to a later age, still the fact 
that there is associated with him the tradition of a con- 
quest of Syria and Palestine is significant, inasmuch as 
it distinctly recalls early campaigns in this direction. The 
great Assyrian rulers from the twelfth to the seventh cen- 
tury were consistently occupied in pouring their armies 
into the lands to the west of the Euphrates, and it now 
appears that they were but imitating the example set 
long previous by their predecessors, the rulers of ancient 
Babylonia. In the fifteenth century, as the letters found 
at El-Amarna in Egypt show, the Babylonian cuneiform 
characters were employed by the governors and officials in 
Syria, along the Phoenician coast, as well as in Palestine 
proper. Such a state of affairs points necessarily to an 
antecedent conquest, on the part of Babylonia, of the dis- 
tricts in question. The fourteenth chapter of Genesis 
preserves the tradition of this conquest. But in deter- 
mining this point we are far from having solved the 
problems involved in the chapter. On the contrary, they 
now loom up more formidable than ever. Primarily, 
the date of the events described in the chapter must be 
determined, and this involves, again, the necessity of 
identifying some of the rulers whose names are given. 
Scholars have exhausted their ingenuity, and dilettanti 
their imagination, in answering these questions. The 
literature that has been written within the last twenty-five 
years about this chapter would fill a portly volume ; and 
yet an impartial verdict must admit that but little of 
permanent value has been produced. There is perhaps one 
point that may fairly be said to be settled — the identity 
of Amraphel with the great conqueror Hammurabi, who 
succeeded in uniting the various states into which the 
Euphrates Valley was divided into one empire, and which 
from its capital at Babylon became known as Babylonia. 
True, the name Amraphel does not correspond exactly with 


Hammurabi. The divergence, however, can be accounted 
for, and it must be remembered that foreign proper names 
are apt to be considerably distorted in passing from one 
people to another. The controversy, however, as to the 
date of Hammurabi's reign is not yet over, and, indeed, the 
whole question of Babylonian chronology is in a more 
muddled state at present than at any time in the history 
of cuneiform research. The period of Hammurabi may be 
accepted provisionally as 2200 B.C., which answers the 
conditions more satisfactorily than any other ; but a strong 
emphasis should be placed upon the term " provisionally." 
The association of Abram in this chapter with the great 
campaign of eastern rulers against western principalities 
is one of the stumblingblocks to a satisfactory solution 
of the chronological problem, and only recently Professor 
Hommel of Munich has discussed once more this contem- 
poraneity of Abram and Hammurabi. Hommel is inclined 
now to place Abram several centuries earlier than the date 
commonly agreed upon by scholars. His arguments are 
by no means convincing, but the fact that the problem 
at this late day must again be taken up, may be quoted as 
an illustration of how little scholarship has as yet accom- 
plished in its attempt to interpret this fourteenth chapter 
in the light of history. One feels strongly inclined to 
suspect that the introduction of Abram into this chapter 
is due to a confusion of names and traditions, if we assume, 
as indeed we must, that the narrative in its present form 
dates from a very late period, when distinctions between 
several generations, or even between several centuries, were 
no longer sharply defined in the minds of the people. Even 
we with all our historical teaching, and only three centuries 
removed from the Reformation, would find it difficult to 
differentiate between events scattered among various de- 
cades, and which appear to us as so many parts of a 
single picture. According to this view, it is due to a 
late tradition that Abram is brought into connexion 
with events with which he had nothing to do. Nor is 


it impossible that the similarity in names between 
Hammurabi and Abram — a similarity more apparent 
if these names be transliterated into Hebrew characters 
— may have been a factor in bringing about the association 
of the two names in a dimmed historical tradition, and thus 
produced a blending of totally different historical periods. 
This suggestion, which at least merits consideration, is 
thrown out here as a further illustration of the great 
difficulties that scholars encounter when dealing with such 
records as are found in many portions of the Old Testament 
— difficulties which should make the general public less 
impatient to obtain definite results, and more sympatheti- 
cally disposed towards the Biblical critics, whose paths are 
thorny enough without being made more difficult through 
abuse and suspicion. 


The general interest in the Old Testament is such that 
whatever light is thrown upon its records and contents 
from outside sources is certain of being received with great 
favour. This is as it should be, but it is not a healthy 
symptom to find a vague conviction existing in the minds 
of many to whom the Old Testament has a sacred signifi- 
cance as a record of religious revelation, that its contents 
require " confirmation," or at all event that "confirmation" is 
to be hailed with joy. Such an attitude has various decided 
disadvantages, chief amoug these being that it engenders 
by way of reaction an unjustifiable scepticism as to the 
historical value and authenticity of those portions of the 
Old Testament which are clearly historical. Scholarship 
has never encouraged such scepticism, though it has pointed 
out that in dealing with an ancient narrative, whether in 
the Old Testament or elsewhere, we must not apply modern 
standards of definiteness and accuracy. Worse than this, 
the anxiety of the public for " confirmatory " evidence 
offers a temptation to historians and scholars to be some- 
what hasty in publishing their discoveries and views. An 


illustration is furnished at present in this very chapter of 
Genesis under consideration. 

A few years ago the scholarly world was startled by the 
announcement that the name of Chedor-laomer tbe king 
of Elam, associated with Amraphel the king of Shinar 
(i. e. Babylonia), was found on a cuneiform tablet, and what 
is moi'e, in a letter addressed by the famous Hammurabi to 
Sin-idinnam the king of Larsa. The discovery was made 
by an able French scholar — Father Scheil, whose activity 
in cuneiform research has been most fruitful. Scheil did 
not publish an exact reproduction of the tablet, which is 
now in the Constantinople Museum, so that scholars were 
dependent upon his transliteration of the Babylonian 
characters. The name as given by Scheil was Kudur- 
Nukhgamar, which appeared to be sufficiently close to 
the Biblical Chedor-laomer to justify the identification of 
the two. Some scholars felt a little hesitation in accepting 
this result ; but scarcely had Scheil's article appeared, when 
Professor Sayce hastened to spread the discovery through 
the medium of popular journals, and to draw important 
conclusions. Experience, which so often proved disastrous 
to Sayce's historical views, should have prompted him to 
greater care. With all his merits as a popular writer and 
investigator, Professor Sayce has often done harm by the 
rapidity with which he is apt to give to the public, tenta- 
tive and provisional conjectures and shadowy possibilities, 
as though they were definitely ascertained facts. 

Two scholars have recently had an opportunity of study- 
ing the Constantinople tablet said to contain the name of 
Chedor-laomer — Mr. L. W. King, assistant-keeper of the 
department of Assyrian Antiquities of the British Museum, 
and Dr. G. A. Knudtzon, a very thorough Norwegian 
Assyriologist. Confidence in the result of this examina- 
tion is increased by the consideration that not only did 
King and Knudtzon work independently of one another, 
but the one apparently did not even know that the other 
was engaged in the same work. 


King published his results in connexion with a most 
valuable publication, Letters and Inscriptions of Ham- 
murabi (Luzac & Co., 1898) ; Knudtzon, in the first part of 
the fourth volume of Delitzsch and Haupt's Beitrage zur 

King's doubts as to Scheil's reading were aroused even 
before he came to make a study of the tablet, inasmuch as 
among the British Museum collections of letters of Ham- 
murabi he found the proper name I-nukh-shamar preceded 
by an upright wedge, which is the common determinative for 
proper names. Unable to go to Constantinople, he obtained 
a photograph of the tablet, and satisfied himself that the 
individual mentioned on Scheil's tablet was the same as on 
the one in the British Museum. On the Constantinople 
tablet the determinative sign is omitted, as is frequently 
the case in letters of this period. It is true that Knudtzon 
did not recognize the characters in question as a proper 
name, but his reading is identical with that proposed by 
King, except that be was not certain as to one sign. 

The revised translation proposed by King agrees entirely 
with the one now suggested by Professor Delitzsch of 
Breslau, on the basis of Knudtzon's collation, except that 
Delitzsch leaves the unrecognized proper name untranslated, 
and did not understand a word which becomes quite clear, 
if we adopt King's reading for one of the characters com- 
posing the word instead of Knudtzon's. The same word 
occurs precisely in the same form in another tablet (King's 
text, No. 15, line 11). There is, therefore, no reason to 
doubt the correctness of King's view, and the letter in 
question is therefore to be translated as follows : — 

To Sinidinnam, speaks as follows Hammurabi — "The goddesses of 
Emutbal (on the border between Elam and Babylon), which are 
under thy control, will be brought to thee by the troops under the 
command of Inukhshamar. When they reach thee, then, with the 
troops at thy disposal, destroy the army, but bring the goddesses 
back to their dwelling in safety." 

It will be seen that the letter refers to a campaign which 


Hammurabi is waging against Elam. On a previous occa- 
sion, some of the images of the goddesses of this country 
must have been carried off as spoiL Hammurabi, following 
the policy which was frequently adopted by Babylonian 
monarchs, was anxious to conciliate the divine protectors 
of Elam by paying to the latter the proper devotion, and 
therefore sends these images, together with the reinforce- 
ments, through an official, and while directing Sinidinnam 
to destroy the army of Elam, urges him to restore the 
images to their proper places, and thus secure for Ham- 
murabi the favour of these goddesses. 

Shortly after Scheil's announcement of his discovery, 
a report was spread — largely again through the instru- 
mentality of Professor Sayce — that the two remaining 
kings mentioned in the first verse of the fourteenth chapter 
of Genesis had also been found in cuneiform tablets, 
namely, Arioch the king of El-Asar, and Tidal the king 
of Goyim. It now appears that Mr. T. G. Pinches, some- 
what previous to the publication of Scheil's article, tenta- 
tively suggested the possibility that in certain tablets of 
the British Museum these two kings were mentioned, 
but upon sending the extracts to Professor Schrader of 
Berlin, it turned out that the transliteration was quite 
problematical ; and even if the readings were admitted, the 
context of the passages in which they occurred was so 
utterly obscure, owing to the fragmentary condition of the 
tablets in question, as to require the greatest caution in 
reaching any conclusions. Still, in connexion with Scheil's 
discovery, a good deal of popularity was given to the 
supposed readings, but, alas ! they must also share the fate 
of the Chedor-laomer discovery. 

No one can read Mr. King's remarks in his recent work 
(pp. 50-53) without feeling that there is not the slightest 
shadow of probability that Tudkhula (assuming the reading 
to be clear) is identical with the biblical Tidal, or that 
Eri-aku is the same as the biblical Arioch. If, in addition, 
it be borne in mind that these two personages are not 


called kings in the cuneiform tablet, it will be seen upon 
what flimsy foundation the entire structure rests. 

Mr. Pinches had also called attention to three 
passages in tablets of the British Museum, in which an 
individual is mentioned whose name is to be read 
Ku-Ku-Ku-mal or Kudur-Kumal. Since in one of these 
passages the name is followed by the sign for king and 
two characters which might be a part of the name Elam, 
Mr. Pinches, who appears to have set his heart upon finding 
Chedor-laomer, proposed an identification with the biblical 
personage. In order to do this, the third character, which 
is identical with the first and second, would have the value 
lag, for which view there is no authorization. In this way 
he obtained Kudur-lagmal, and comparing this with Scheil's 
Kudur-nukh-gamar, the slight variation, it was thought, 
might be overlooked. 

In view of the way in which Scheil's proposition has 
been disposed of, it is useless to enter upon any further 
consideration of this last attempt to force Chedor-laomer 
into cuneiform literature. 


The question may properly be asked — What is the lesson 
to be drawn from this demolition of supposed facts, to 
which a wide publicity had been given? 

Of course scholars are prone to error; and the one 
who prides himself upon always being right may safely be 
set down as one who has never discovered anything. 
No blame attaches to Father Scheil, who is a most con- 
scientious and faithful worker, and to whom all scholars 
are under obligation for his numerous publications and 
most valuable researches. 

Mr. Pinches, too, merits our utmost respect. Attached 
to the British Museum for almost a quarter of a century, 
there is no Assyriologist living who has published so many 
cuneiform texts as Mr. Pinches. Pinches, Strassmaier, and 
King form the trio of the most expert copyists of cuneiform 



tablets. It may be that, in the case under consideration, 
he yielded to the temptation, to which scholars as well as 
others are prone, of making " wish the father to the 
thought " ; but it is not Mr. Pinches who gave the sup- 
posed readings a sensational character. The blame for this, 
as for the exploitation of Scheil's discovery, rests upon 
others, and it is idle to conceal the fact that harm results 
when the public finds out that it has been misled. There 
will be generated a suspicion and distrust of scholarship, 
which is most unfortunate because utterly unjustified. 
Taken as a body, there is no set of scholars more careful, 
more cautious, more conscientious, than the oft-denounced 
Biblical critics and Semitists. But a large part of the blame 
attaches to the general public, whose interest in Old Testa- 
ment questions leads to that strange longing for " confirma- 
tion " of biblical records and biblical statements upon which 
we have commented. It may be that the past generation 
of scholars encoui-aged this longing, but it is certain that 
the methods prevailing in up-to-date scholarship are totally 
averse to this. The same tests that are applied to the 
historical records of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, and 
Romans hold good for the Old Testament. We must avail 
ourselves of any light that we can secure from the outside 
to illumine the pages of the Old Testament. Much light 
has been secured in this way, and more will be, but we 
should remember that questions of authenticity are not at 
all involved in this phase of the Old Testament study. 

Coming back to the fourteenth chapter of Genesis, its 
historical character will not be strengthened upon our 
finding, as we may any day, in cuneiform tablets or in 
other documents, the names of the kings mentioned in the 
first two verses. On the other hand, it is not necessary to 
hold our verdict in suspense about the historical character 
of this chapter until confirmatory evidence is obtained. 

To be sure, there are many statements in the Old 
Testament recorded in a form given to them by popular 
tradition, which we must carefully study in order to deter- 


mine the share to be allotted to tradition, and what portion 
is to be put down as definite historical fact. But even 
tradition is not worthless or wrong simply because it may 
not be accurate. The questions still remain for scholarship 
to answer satisfactorily — How did the tradition arise, and 
what is its purport? 

The answer to these questions may lead to results 
which are more important than those which a prosaic 
chronicler would be apt to regard as of supreme signifi- 
cance. On the other hand, it is clear that, in the light 
of recent researches, the attitude of the general public 
towards biblical scholarship demands a radical change. 
Instead of dividing scholars into two imaginary companies 
— the destructive and the constructive — those persons who 
are unable to engage in researches for themselves should 
learn patience, and follow as carefully as they can, but 
without prejudice and without passion, the efforts of in- 
vestigators to solve the many problems which the Old 
Testament furnishes, and which do not require " confirma- 
tion " but " illumination." 

Scholarship, on the other hand, which sets before itself 
any other goal but the pursuit of truth, no matter whither 
it leads, commits intellectual suicide. Let the public learn 
to distrust such persons as are constantly flourishing some 
" confirmation " in the face of the critics, and it will not be 
doomed to frequent disappointments. As for the scholars, 
their proper attitude toward the public is indicated in 
a saying which a Rabbi who was a contemporary of Jesus 
is reported to have made the motto of his life — " Ye wise 
men, be chary of your words." 

Morris Jastrow, Junr. 

E 2