Thursday, November 11, 2010

Does the Bible Name Abram’s “Pharaoh”? Yes it does


Damien F. Mackey

Who was the pharaoh whom Abram encountered in Egypt? (Genesis 12:10-20)

And, along similar lines: Who were the four coalitional kings who attacked Palestine from the east at about this time? (Genesis 14:1-16)

David Rohl and I had, quite independently, arrived at basically the same conclusions to both questions.

Abram and Egypt

We had both identified Abram’s ill-fated pharaoh as a 10th Egyptian dynasty pharaoh Khety. Rohl numbers him as Khety IV, whereas I had numbered him as Khety III (though N. Grimal has a Khety II Nebkaure, A History of Egypt, pp. 144, 148). If the so-called 10th Egyptian dynasty were really to be located this early in time, then this would have had major (and admittedly rather difficult) ramifications for any attempted reconstruction of Egyptian history. Anyway, I had thought that having Abram’s pharaoh in the 10th Egyptian dynasty fitted well with my view that Joseph, who came about two centuries after Abram, had belonged to (among others) the 11th Egyptian dynasty.

I have given some of my reasons for having thought that Khety III might be Abram’s pharaoh in my article on Abraham in section A. of

The Old Kingdom
From Abraham to Hezekiah –

A historical and stratigraphical revision

December, 2002

…. There is a somewhat obscure incident in 10th dynasty history, associated with pharaoh Wahkare Khety III and the nome of Thinis … that may possibly relate to the biblical incident. It should be noted firstly that Khety III is considered to have had to restore order in Egypt after a general era of violence and food shortage, brought on says N. Grimal by "the onset of a Sahelian climate, particularly in eastern Africa" …. Moreover, Khety III's "real preoccupation was with northern Egypt, which he succeeded in liberating from the occupying populations of Bedouin and Asiatics" …. Could these eastern nomads have been the famine-starved Syro-Palestinians of Abram's era - including the Hebrews themselves - who had been forced to flee to Egypt for sustenance? And was Khety III referring to the Sarai incident when, in his famous Instruction addressed to his son, Merikare, he recalled, in regard to Thinis (ancient seat of power in Egypt):

Lo, a shameful deed occurred in my time:
The nome of This was ravaged;
Though it happened through my doing,
I learned it after it was done.

[Emphasis added]

Cf. Genesis 12:17-19: “But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai .... So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, 'What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, 'She is my sister'? so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone'.”

[End of quote]

Rohl gives other reasons in relation to his Khety IV, including the view of Pliny that Abram’s pharaoh had a name that Rohl considers akin to Nebkaure.

Abram and Mesopotamia

I had also concluded, like Rohl - based on Herb Stock’s “The Early Assyrian King List, The Genealogy of the Hammurapi Dynasty, and the ‘Greater Amorite’ Tradition”, Proceedings of the Third Seminar of C&AH held in Parma, Ohio, and Ontario, Canada, 1986, pp. 43-50) - that the four coalitional kings had belonged to the sophisticated Ur III dynasty (c. 2120 BC, conventional dating) of Mesopotamia, and that the biblical “King Amraphel of Shinar” (Genesis 14:1) was Amar-sin of that same Ur III.

I now reject both of these conclusions, regarding Abram and Egypt and Abram and Mesopotamia. I consider that both the 10th dynasty of Egypt and the Ur III dynasty of Sumer were way too late (especially in the latter case) for the time of Abram (even though Rohl had made a compelling case for a linguistic identification between Amraphel and Amar-sin).

In more recent times I had come to the view that Ur III was many centuries after Abram-Abraham. But that now left a gaping hole in my historical reconstruction of this era. Here is what I recently wrote as a result this new view of things (whilst still, at that stage, holding to the Khety-as-Abram’s-pharaoh view):

Until very recently [since dropping the Ur III = time of Abram idea], I had absolutely no idea who were the four coalitional kings of Abram’s era, revised: namely, Amraphel of Shinar; Arioch of Elasar; Chedorlaomer of Elam and Tidal of Goi-im (Genesis 14:1), except for a tradition that Amraphel was Nimrod (our Enmer-kar) himself (of many names and identities as we have read), though some tradition also has his father Cush as Amraphel. This tenuous clue had led me at least to substitute the era of Uruk I (Enmerkar’s) for the Ur III period that I had come to reject for Abram. But not to be able to find any of the other kings (though the Tudija named above by Herb Storck is like the name of one of these kings, Tidal), was extremely disappointing. It was the major hole in this entire reconstruction of history. Then, however, I read on the Internet that king Hammurabi himself had referred back to three of these kings. Here is the relevant part of that article:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Biblical Amraphel Was Not Abraham But Lived Much Earlier

Taken from "The Wars of Gods and Men":
Chapter Thirteen

And it came to pass
in the days of Amraphel king of Shin’ar,
Ariokh king of Ellasar,
Khedorla’omer king of Elam,
and Tidhal king of Go’im -
That these made war
with Bera King of Sodom,
and with Birsha king of Gomorrah,
Shinab king of Admah,
and Shem-eber king of Zebi’im,
and with the king of Bela, which is Zoar.

"Thus begins the biblical tale, in chapter 14 of Genesis, of an ancient war that pitted an alliance of four kingdoms of the East against five kings in Canaan. It is a tale that has evolved some of the most intense debate among scholars, for it connects the story of Abraham, the first Hebrew Patriarch, with a specific non-Hebrew event, and thus affords objective substantiation of the biblical record of the birth of a nation.
"....For many decades the critics of the Old Testament seemed to prevail; then, as the nineteenth century was drawing to a close, the scholarly and religious worlds were astounded by the discovery of Babylonian tablets naming Khedorla’omer, Ariokh, and Tidhal in a tale not unlike the biblical one.
"The discovery was announced in a lecture by Theophilus Pinches to the Victoria Institute, London, in 1897. Having examined several tablets belonging to the Spartoli Collection in the British Museum, he found that they describe a war of wide-ranging magnitude, in which a king of Elam, Kudur-laghamar, led an alliance of rulers that included one named Eri-aku and another named Tud-ghula - names that easily could have been transformed into Hebrew as Khedor-la’omer, Ariokh, and Tidhal. Accompanying his published lecture with a painstaking transcript of the cuneiform writing and a translation thereof, Pinches could confidently claim that the biblical tale had indeed been supported by an independent Mesopotamian source.
"With justified excitement the Assyriologists of that time agreed with Pinches reading of the cuneiform names. The tablets indeed spoke of "Kudur-Laghamar, king of the land of Elam"; all scholars agreed that it was a perfect Elamite royal name, the prefix Kudur ("Servant") having been a component in the names of several Elamite kings, and Laghamar being the Elamite epithet-name for a certain deity. It was agreed that the second name, spelled Eri-e-a-ku in the Babylonian cuneiform script, stood for the original Sumerian ERI.AKU, meaning "Servant of the god Aku," Aku being a variant of the name of Nannar/Sin. It is known from a number of inscriptions that Elamite rulers of Larsa bore the name "Servant of Sin," and there was therefore little difficulty in agreeing that the biblical Eliasar, the royal city of the king Ariokh, was in fact Larsa. There was also unanimous agreement among the scholars for accepting that the Babylonian text’s Tud-ghula was the equivalent of the biblical "Tidhal, king of Go’im"; and they agreed that by Go’im the Book of Genesis referred to the "nation-hordes" whom the cuneiform tablets listed as allies of Khedorla’omer.

"Here, then, was the missing proof - not only of the veracity of the Bible and of the existence of Abraham, but also of an international event in which he had been involved!
"....The second discovery was announced by Vincent Scheil, who reported that he had found among the tablets in the Imperial Ottoman Museum in Constantinople a letter from the well-known Babylonian King Hammurabi, which mentions the very same Kudur-laghamar! Because the letter was addressed to a king of Larsa, Father Scheil concluded that the three were contemporaries and thus matched three of the four biblical kings of the East - Hammurabi being none other than "Amraphael king of Shin’ar."
"....However, when subsequent research convinced most scholars that Hammurabi reigned much later (from 1792 to 1750 B.C., according to The Cambridge Ancient History), the synchronization seemingly achieved by Scheil fell apart, and the whole bearing of the discovered inscriptions - even those reported by Pinches - came into doubt. Ignored were the pleas of Pinches that no matter with whom the three named kings were to be identified - that even if Khedorla’omer, Ariokh, and Tidhal of the cuneiform texts were not contemporaries of Hammurabi - the text’s tale with its three names was still "a remarkable historical coincidence, and deserves recognition as such." In 1917, Alfred Jeremias (Die sogenanten Kedorlaomer-Texte) attempted to revive interest in the subject; but the scholarly community preferred to treat the Spartoli tablets with benign neglect.
"....Yet the scholarly consensus that the biblical tale and the Babylonian texts drew on a much earlier, common source impels us to revive the plea of Pinches and his central argument: How can cuneiform texts, affirming the biblical background of a major war and naming three of the biblical kings, be ignored? Should the evidence - crucial, as we shall show, to the understanding of fateful years - be discarded simply because Amraphel was not Hammurabi?
"The answer is that the Hammurabi letter found by Scheil should not have sidetracked the discovery reported by Pinches, because Scheil misread the letter. According to his rendition, Hammurabi promised a reward to Sin-Idinna, the king of Larsa, for his "heroism on the day of Khedorla’omer." This implied that the two were allies in a war against Khedorla’omer and thus contemporaries of that king of Elam.
It was on this point that Scheil’s find was discredited, for it contradicted both the biblical assertion that the three kings were allies and known historical facts: Hammurabi treated Larsa not as an ally but as an adversary, boasting that he "overthrew Larsa in battle," and attacked its sacred precinct "with the mighty weapon which the gods had given him."
"A close examination of the actual text of Hammurabi’s letter reveals that in his eagerness to prove the Hammurabi-Amraphel identification, Father Scheil reversed the letter’s meaning: Hammurabi was not offering as a reward to return certain goddesses to the sacred precinct (the Emutbal) of Larsa; rather, he was demanding their return to Babylon from Larsa.
"....The incident of the abduction of the goddesses had thus occurred in earlier times; they were held captive in the Emutbal "from the days of Khedorla’omer"; and Hammurabi was now demanding their return to Babylon, from where Khedorla’omer had taken them captive. This can only mean that Khedorla’omer’s days were long before Hammurabi’s time.
"Supporting our reading of the Hammurabi letter found by Father Scheil in the Constantinople Museum is the fact that Hammurabi repeated the demand for the return of the goddesses to Babylon in yet another stiff message to Sin-Idinna, this time sending it by the hand of high military officers. This second letter is in the British Museum (No. 23,131) and its text was published by L.W. King in The Letters and Inscriptions of Hammurabi.
"....That the goddesses were to be returned from Larsa to Babylon is made clear in the letter’s further instructions.

"....It is thus clear from these letters that Hammurabi - a foe, not an ally, of Larsa - was seeking restitution for events that had happened long before his time, in the days of Kudur-Laghamar, the Elamite regent of Larsa. The texts of the Hammurabi letters thus affirm the existence of Khedorla-omer and of Elamite reign in Larsa ("Ellasar") and thus of key elements in the biblical tale. ….

End of article]

Amraphel himself may still be Nimrod as according to some traditions.

Now to Egypt.

Again, whilst still holding to the Khety-as-Abram’s-pharaoh scenario, I had sought an identification of Abraham himself in the historical records. And I came to conclude tentatively that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were shepherd kings, or “Hyksos”. Here is a part of my reasoning:

Abram-Abraham became a rich and powerful man, strong enough to rout a coalition of raider kings. One would thus expect that there would be evidences of him from Egypt to Mesopotamia, despite his being nomadic.

The Book of Jasher (14:1-33) tells of a supposed contemporary of Abraham’s an intellectual from Shinar by the name of Rikayon, who went to Egypt and contributed to Egyptian learning, just as extra-biblical stories (e.g. Josephus above) say about Abraham. My new suggestion is that this Rikayon was in fact Abram-Abraham himself and that the kayon element in the name may derive from Khyan, a “Hyksos” or “Shepherd King” (as would befit Abraham); Khyan being a somewhat shadowy figure, but one nonetheless of very wide-ranging influence, who, according to N. Grimal (op. cit., p. 188):

[Khayan, Khyan or Khian]… cannot be said to have ruled an actual empire, although his name appears frequently – not only in Egypt, on an architectural fragment at Gebelein and at Bubastis, but also in foreign countries, on a stone vessel in the palace at Knossos [Island of Crete], scarabs and seal impressions in Palestine and a granite lion at Baghdad.

Khyan, of the 15th Egyptian dynasty (Hyksos, foreign rule) is currently thought to date to c. 1610-1580 BC.
The Danish Egyptologist, Kim Ryholt, who published an extensive catalogue of the monuments of all the numerous pharaohs of the Second Intermediate Period notes an important personal detail regarding this king's family. He states that (

…. a stela set up in Avaris contains the nomen and prenomen of Khayan and a now lost dedication … below which are inscribed the title and name of the Eldest King's Son Yanassi. The association of Khayan with those of his eldest son upon this stela suggests that the latter in fact was his designated successor, as also implied by his title.[1]

[End of quote]

If Abraham be Khyan, as I most tentatively suggest, then his son and designated successor, Yanassi, must be Isaac. Certainly the name, Khyan, appears to be Amorite, as was Abraham’s. “Ryholt notes that the name, Khyan, generally has been "interpreted as Amorite Hayanu (reading h-ya-a-n) which the Egyptian form represents perfectly, and this is in all likelihood the correct interpretation." [5]” And again, “The name Hayanu is recorded in the Assyrian king lists—see "Khorsabad List I, 17 and the SDAS List, I, 16"--"for a remote ancestor of Shamshi-Adad I (c.1800 BC [sic])."[5] Khyan's name is transcribed as Staan in Africanus' version of Manetho's Epitome”.

Abram, as Khayan-Hayanu, could thus now be the Hanu (= Henoch/Enoch?) listed as No. 10 of the “17 Assyrian tent dwellers” in Herb Storck’s above-mentioned article.

The 15th dynasty, comprised of foreign names, such as Sharek, Yaqub-Har and Khyan, may then be, in part, Abraham’s very own dynasty, that God promised would become so numerous. Elsewhere I have identified Sharek as Sharrukin, Sargon the Great, and, following Dean Hickman, as (Sargon of Akkad =) Cushan-rishathaim. [See Appendix at the end of this article].

And Yaqub-Har, can be, as Simcha Jacobvici has suggested (in “The Exodus Decoded” DVD), Jacob himself. Here is what I have recently written on this:

With Abraham now most tentatively identified with the Hyksos king, Khyan, then the Yaqub-Har (Jacob) of the same 15th dynasty would be my suggested identification for Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, who also went to Egypt during a famine (but lived and died there), and whose son, Joseph, had such a profound and long-lasting influence upon Egypt. At present the order of the little-known 15th dynasty is Salitis, Yaqub-Har and Khyan. But I think that the true order of this poorly known dynasty may actually be the reverse of this: Khyan (Abraham); Yaqub-Har (Jacob); and Salitis (Sharek). As this piece from Wikipedia tells, Yaqub-Har has not yet been firmly dated (

Yaqub-Har (Other spellings: Yakubher), also known as Yak-Baal[1] was a pharaoh of Egypt during the 17th or 16th century BCE. As an Asiatic ruler during Egypt's fragmented Second Intermediate Period, Yaqub-Har’s time is difficult to locate chronologically.

While he is occasionally described as a member of the Hyksos based 15th dynasty, the Danish specialist Kim Ryholt has suggested that Yaqub-Har was actually one of the last kings of the 14th Dynasty.[2] This is because while the early Hyksos kings are known to have used the title heka-khawaset in their reigns such as Sakir-Har or Khyan--at least early in the latter king's reign before he chose the prenomen Seuserenre. Later Hyksos kings such as Apophis simply adopted a prenomen--like the 14th dynasty kings. Yaqub-Har himself always used a prenomen or royal name, Meruserre, in his reign which strongly suggests that he was rather a member of the Asiatic 14th dynasty which preceded [sic] the Hyksos. Meruserre means 'strong is the love of Re.' The 14th Dynasty of Egypt was an Asiatic dynastic which ruled in the Delta region--like the Hyksos. Ryholt has suggested that the name Yaqub-Har had a West Semitic origin.[3]

The Ancient Egyptians blamed the Hyksos for conquering their country. The truth may have been a somewhat more benign and gradual process of integration.[4]

In Exodus Decoded filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici suggested that [Yaqub-Har] was the Patriarch Jacob on the basis of a signet ring found in the Hyksos capital Avaris that read "Yakov/Yakub" (from Yaqub-her), similar to the Hebrew name of the Biblical patriarch Jacob (Ya'aqov). …. Jacobovici provides absolutely no explanation as to why Joseph would have a signet ring with the name of his father Jacob, and not his own, which is a modern-day equivalent of signing legal contracts with a signature of one's father.[5]

[End of quote]

Let us not forget, however, Jacob’s importance, according to Genesis, in that he even “blessed Pharaoh” (47:7, 10), whilst Pharaoh’s servants and elders accompanied Joseph when he went to bury his father in Israel (50:6-13).

I most tentatively suggest that, in the “Hyksos” trio, Khayan, Yanassi and Yaqub, we may have the famous patriarchal trio, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

[End of piece on Jacob]

Now here is my new view about Abram’s pharaoh.

The Book of Genesis gives us two accounts of an attempted seizure of Abram’s-Abraham’s wife, Sarai-Sarah. As is apparent from the following chart, these accounts have their basic elements in common (Taken from:

{11} When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, "I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; {12} and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife'; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. {13} Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account." While residing in Gerar as an alien, {2} Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She is my sister."
{14} When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. {15} When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. {16} And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels. And King Abimelech of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
{17} But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. {3} But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, "You are about to die because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a married woman." {4} Now Abimelech had not approached her; so he said, "Lord, will you destroy an innocent people? {5} Did he not himself say to me, 'She is my sister'? And she herself said, 'He is my brother.' I did this in the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands." {6} Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart; furthermore it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. {7} Now then, return the man's wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours." {8} So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants and told them all these things; and the men were very much afraid.
{18} So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? {19} Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone." {20} And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had. {9} Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said to him, "What have you done to us? How have I sinned against you, that you have brought such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that ought not to be done." {10} And Abimelech said to Abraham, "What were you thinking of, that you did this thing?" {11} Abraham said, "I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. {12} Besides, she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. {13} And when God caused me to wander from my father's house, I said to her, 'This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.'" {14} Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored his wife Sarah to him. {15} Abimelech said, "My land is before you; settle where it pleases you." {16} To Sarah he said, "Look, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; it is your exoneration before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated." {17} Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. {18} For the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham's wife.

In common: The Patriarch claims that his beautiful wife is his sister; the ruler takes her for his wife (but does not lay hands on her because); plagues intervene; the ruler confronts the Patriarch for his apparent deception; but he nevertheless lets him go, loaded with wealth.

I now submit that these are two different accounts of the very same incident, and that Abram’s un-named “Pharaoh” is simply Abimelech, the presumably Philistine (?) king, who then ruled over Philistia and Egypt at this time. And whose army captain had the name of Phicol.

It should not surprise us that the contributions of two authors are present here, because this part of Abraham’s story was written by his sons, Ishmael and Isaac.

When we examine the Toledoth structure of this narrative, we find that it concludes with the Toledoth (“family histories”) of Ishmael (Genesis 25:12) and of Isaac (Genesis 25:19). Thus two hands were at work here, Ishmael’s and Isaac’s. They have rendered us two different accounts of the one incident. In fact a skilful scholar ought to be able eventually to determine which account belongs to whom (perhaps the second story, the one pertaining to Abimelech, belongs to the author of the second Toledoth, Isaac – especially since Isaac will later have his own encounter with [an] Abimelech).

So here we have the two accounts of the one story. The name Sarai and Abram are correctly used in the first account, but their later names, Sarah and Abraham, are used in the next (either retrospectively, or the work of an over-zealous editor).

The incident must have occurred in pre-dynastic times, after Babel, when the Mizraïmites (from which came the Philistines) were ruling the country, and before its unification.

So my answer is: Yes, the Book of Genesis does name Abram’s Pharaoh.


Appendix: Sharek (Salitis)

Further to this, I want to focus on just one presumed “Hyksos” king, the very significant Salitis, or Shalek, or Sharek. I shall be proposing for this Sharek (my preferred version of the name) the identification of Cushan-rishathaim, who, we are told, oppressed Israel for eight years (c. 1473-1465 BC) during the early period of the Judges before he was sent packing by Othniel, who must therefore have been no mean force.

The obscure Enshakushana of the Uruk II dynasty is the best historical name fit for Cushan, or Kushan. Dr. Osgood has thought to identify archaeologically the surge of Cushan-rishathaim from Mesopotamia into Syro-Palestine with the Jemdet Nasr period of Mesopotamian expansion. I think that Jemdet Nasr is way too early, however, for this.

But how does a powerful ruler in Mesopotamia manage to become (according to my opinion) a presumed Hyksos ruler in Egypt?

This will take a bit of explaining.

The key to this new idea is Dean Hickman’s proposed identification of the biblical Cushan-rishathaim with Sargon the Great (2334-2279 BC). I accept this identification. And here I must pay tribute to Hickman. His article, “The Dating of Hammurabi”, has been a godsend for the revision, especially in regard to early Mesopotamian history which has not been so heavily worked by revisionists. Hickman has brought a handy perspective to Mesopotamian-biblical correlations, beginning with

(i) Enmerkar as Nimrod (was he the first revisionist to suggest this?). Then

(ii) Sargon of Akkad as Cushan-rishathaim. Then

(iii) Shamsi-Adad I as David’s Syrian foe, Hadadezer, making Shamsi-Adad I’s younger contemporary, Hammurabi, a contemporary of Solomon. And I have gone a step further, identifying

(iv) Hammurabi as Solomon himself, as ruler of Babylon (see Chapter Eleven). Revisionists, seemingly, have not yet caught up with Hickman’s insight that the era of the Mari letters (of Zimri-Lim king of Mari and of Hammurabi), was also the era of David and Solomon. Hence their interpretations of the Middle Bronze era can be wildly out of joint.

A seeming confirmation of Hickman’s identification of the biblical Cushan-rishathaim with Sargon of Akkad is the fact that the historical Enshakushana’s Uruk II dynasty contains names similar to those of Sargon’s Akkadian dynasty, thereby enabling for the two to be synchronised. Both have a Dudu (Sargon’s), Lugalkinishedudu (Enshakushana’s); and there is a likeness of sorts with Sharkalisharri (Sargon’s) and (Lugalkisalsi (Enshakushana’s), Sumerian Lugal = Akkadian Shar.

If Hickman is right here, then that would floor the conventional view that the very Moses-like legend of Sargon, as a baby abandoned in a vessel in the water, was the prototype for the famous Exodus account.

\Now here I want to take further this new insight, that Sargon the Great, the first mighty dynast of Mesopotamia after Nimrod, may actually have been a ‘Hyksos’ conqueror of Egypt and Ethiopia. I want to enlarge upon who this Sargon was, and to attempt to identify his capital city of Akkad, whose location is completely unknown today. Sargon’s fabulous port city of Akkad, where many ships laden with the riches of various exotic countries were supposed to have docked, has never been identified. Seton Lloyd writes regarding the importance of Akkad (Sumerian: Agade) (The Archaeology of Mesopotamia, p. 138):

“We are told for instance that, in Sargon’s time, ‘the ships of Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha were moored at the quayside in front of Agade’. The first of these names, identified with the island of Bahrein [Bahrain], is already mentioned in texts of the Early Dynastic period as a centre of commerce; but if Magan can be recognized as Oman or the Makran coast, Meluhha must be taken to be further field and may well have served as a link with the contemporary civilization of the Indus Valley. By trade, at least, the Akkadian empire had reached the limits of the known world”.

Lloyd here, like those who try to locate the Pishon and the Gihon rivers to the east of Mesopotamia, is looking in quite the wrong direction for the location of Magan and Meluhha, which represent, respectively, Egypt and Ethiopia, in the west.

The city of Akkad, despite its immense significance, is today unknown. Thus Marc van de Mieroop (op. cit., p. 60):

“… Sargon moved the center of his rule to Akkad, either an entirely new city, as later sources state, or a place previously of little importance. Although its location is unknown, it certainly was in the very north of Babylonia, perhaps underneath modern Baghdad. This geographical position reflects the dual interests of the dynasty: full dominance of the Babylonian heartland and an extensive presence throughout the wider Near East”.

At least Akkad is thought to be “unknown”. But here I am going to suggest that it is indeed known, but unrecognized as Akkad. I refer to the doomed city of Mashkan-shapir (modern Tell Abu Duwari), which fits Akkad both as to its importance and its location, but which was abandoned some time after the reign of Hammurabi of Babylon, hence its later obscurity. Charles Pellegrino (Return to Sodom and Gomorrah) has written quite extensively about Mashkan-shapir, including the fact that it was a perfect harbor city (as Akkad had been) (pp. 164-165):

“The City of the Dead, Mashkan-shapir. The remains of its occupation, most of them lying within inches of the ground surface, were scattered over an area nearly a mile wide. The city was comparable in size to Ur and was of sufficient stature to be mentioned in the prologue to the Code of Hammurabi, but unlike most major centers, [the god] Nergal’s city was occupied but briefly. …”.

Pp. 152, 153:

“Though now flowing some eighteen miles east of the City of the Dead [Mashkan-shapir], the [Tigris] river was once only a mile from it. The satellite [photo] … revealed long, straight lines – the fossil impressions of canals – running like arrows into the very heart of what could only have been a network of streets. ….The trail from the river meant that ships were able to sail directly from the Tigris, through the city gates and into Nergal’s canal system. The harbor, huge and rectilinear, was located in the center of the city, where a baked commemorative seal inscribed with cuneiform identified the palace as Mashkan-shapir. Texts from another city described a military campaign in which more than two hundred ships were moored in Mashkan-shapir Harbor, ready to attack the city of Kish. The enemy city stood thirty-seven miles across the western desert, on the banks of a completely different river, the Euphrates. …”.

Compare this with the description of Akkad in Sargon’s time, ‘the ships of Dilmun, Magan and Meluhha were moored at the quayside in front of Agade’, and also with Pellegrino’s own words about the presumably now lost city of Akkad, or Agade (p. 128):

“Agade itself is referred to in several Ur tablets as one of the most magnificent cities ever built by the hand of man. Rising from virgin, unsalted ground, it boasted the widest canals, the largest gate, the most people, and a pyramidlike-temple two hundred feet wide at its base. Yet of this city, not one brick stands upon another to mark Sargon’s achievements. Today archaeologists cannot guess within ten miles where the king’s palace once stood”.

[End of quotes]

But surely Mashkan-shapir was this Akkad (Agade), first mentioned as one of Nimrod’s achievements, and then glorified by Sargon the Great, before passing into faint memory! And this is exactly what we find from Wikipedia’s article, “Mashkan-shapir”, that its beginning was in the Uruk period (Enmerkar’s/Nimrod’s), but that it blossomed in the Akkadian period (Sargon’s/Cushan-rishathaim’s), but most especially in the Ur III and Old Babylonian period, which I believe to be the same. According to Wikipedia again: (

Though occupied during the Uruk period, the town's first epigraphic appearance was during the Akkadian period in a minor context, and then during the Ur III period as a location for royal shepherds. A brick of Amar-Sin was also found at the site. Mashkan-shapir achieved prominence during the Old Babylonian period. This time of occupation is considered to begin with the construction of the city walls by Sin-Iddinam of Larsa. The city was abandoned during the reign of Samsu-iluna, successor to Hammurabi of the First Babylonian Dynasty and not re-occupied until late in the first millennium. The city's demise was part of a general collapse and abandonment of sites in the region at that time.

After rising to importance under the Larsa city-state, Mashkan-shapir became part of the Babylonian empire after the defeat of Larsa by Hammurabi following a long siege. At the time, Babylon and Larsa were engaged in a struggle for dominance in the region.[1] ….

[End of quote]

For my complete article on Maskan-shapir as Akkad, see “City of Akkad Identified- Its Co-ordinates Pinpointed?” at:

Basically, then, the biblical Cushan-rishathaim - whom Hickman has also identified with the Mesopotamian Enshag-kushanna (showing that the name elements enshag and rishathaim can actually be correlated) - is the great Sargon of Akkad, the first real world emperor (depending on how far Nimrod’s domain extended), whose influence was felt from Mesopotamia to as far as Egypt/Ethiopia. He was too, I now further advance, but tentatively, the Hyksos, Sharek (which name is virtually the same as Sharruk-in, the Mesopotamian name for Sargon). Sharek’s was a second, and larger, wave of Hyksos conquest after the first encroachment by the Ur-originating Abram and his family. This new identification, Sharek = Sargon (= Cushan-rishathaim/Enshag-kushanna), if correct, will necessitate quite a major reconsideration of who were the Hyksos foreigners.

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