Was Lab’ayu even writing to a Pharaoh?
Damien F. Mackey
Lab’ayu is the author of only El Amarna [EA] Letters 252-254.
But to whom were these letters actually being addressed?
It is presumed that all three of the EA letters of Lab’ayu (252-254) were addressed to a pharaoh, either Amenhotep III or IV (Akhnaton). But these letters contain neither any specific reference to a pharaoh, nor do they include (as do other EA letters) the pharaonic throne names, respectively, Nimmuria (for III) and Naphuria (for IV).
EA 252 is simply addressed “To the king, my lord”.
EA 253 is simply addressed “To the king [my lord,] my [sun]”.
EA 254 is simply addressed “To the king, my lord and my Sun”.
The intended recipient of these three letters could be any of the Great Kings of the EA archive, Tushratta, for instance. He, my biblical Ben-Hadad:
Ben-Hadad I as El Amarna’s Abdi-ashirta = Tushratta
would fit perfectly as a mighty king before whom Lab’ayu-as-Ahab was found to be cowering. Compare: (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/463995/jewish/Ahabs-War-with-Benhadad.htm):
Benhadad besieged Samaria. Then he sent a message to King Ahab, saying, "Thy silver and thy gold are mine; thy wives and thy children are mine also!"
The weak and cowardly Ahab submitted to the humiliating demand, and sent word to appease the powerful king of Syria. But Benhadad was determined to provoke Ahab to warfare. His second message was, therefore, even more insolent than the first. He demanded to be admitted to Ahab's palace, to search it, and to take whatever he liked. Then Ahab's anger was aroused, and after consulting with the Elders of his people, he flatly rejected Benhadad's demands. When Benhadad boasted that "the dust of Samaria will not suffice for handfuls for all the men that follow me," Ahab answered defiantly: "Let him that girds on his armor not boast as if he were taking it off, his deed accomplished."
with Lab’ayu’s grovelling in EA 254: “Moreover, how, if the king wrote for my wife, how could I hold her back? How, if the king wrote to me, "Put a bronze dagger into your heart and die", how could I not execute the order of the king?”
Other EA letters, too, in which reference is made to Lab’ayu, completely fail to make any specific reference to one or other of the EA pharaohs. Consider these examples (http://fontes.lstc.edu/~rklein/Documents/labaya_files/labaya.htm):
Mutba'lu, the king of Pihili (Pella), is a son of Lab'aya.
EA 255: Mutba`lu ….
To the king my lord, my sun: message from Mutba`lu, your servant, the ground for your feet, soil on which you walk. At the feet of the king my lord, seven and seven times I throw myself. The king my lord …. Lab'aya served the king my lord ….
Abdi-Heba is the king of Jerusalem (where the pharaoh maintains a garrison.
EA 287: Abdi-Heba ….
[To the king] my lord, [say: message from Ab]di-Heba, your servant. [At the feet] of the king my lord seven [and seven times I throw myself. …. Look, this action is an action of Milki-Ilu and an action of the sons of Lab'aya, who have given the land of the king to the enemy (habiru).
EA 289: Abdi-Heba ….
To the king my lord, [say]: message from Abdi-Heba, your servant. At the feet of the king my lord I throw myself, seven and seven times. Look, Milki-Ilu does not separate himself from the sons of Lab'aya ….
Bayardi is king of an unspecified realm in the north of Palestine
EA 237: [Bayadi?] ….
[..] have taken Lab'aya and they have set themselves against the cities of the king my lord that the king my lord had entrusted to me to protect. ….
Biridiya is the king of Megiddo
EA 244: Biridiya ….
To the king, my lord, my sun, say: message from Biridiya, your faithful servant of the king. At the feet of the king my lord and my sun, seven and seven times I throw myself. Let the king know that from the time when the troops returned, Lab'aya has committed hostility against me. We cannot shear and (gloss:) "harvest"; we cannot leave the gate in the face of Lab'aya. When he knew that there would not be given troops, he has demonstrated his intention to take Megiddo. May the king rescue his city, so that Lab'aya will not take it! Truly the city is exhausted, to die from pestilence, from the plague. Let the king give a hundred garrison men to protect the city. Truly, Lab'aya has no other intention: to take Megiddo is that which he seeks!
EA 245: Biridiya ….
(Tablet 1 is missing)
Further, I have declared to my colleagues: "If the god of our lord consents that we capture Lab'aya, we must consign him alive ….
EA 246: Biridiya ….
To the king my lord, my sun, say: message from Biridiya, your servant. At the feet of the king my lord and my sun, seven and seven times I throw myself. I heard the despatch of the king [..]. And here you (plur.) are [..]. Let the king know [it]!And that the two sons of Lab'aya have given their gold to the habiru and to the Sutei, because the do hostile acts against me. [Let the k]ing [know], let him look upon [his land]!
Addu-qarrad is the king of an unspecified realm in the Jezreel area.
EA 250: Addu-qarrad (of Gitti-padalla) ….
To the king my lord, say: message from Addu-qarrad your servant. At the feet of the king my lord, seven and seven times I throw myself. Let the king my lord know that the two sons of the traitor of the king my lord, the two sons of Lab'aya, have directed their intentions to sending the land of the king into ruin, in addition to that which their father had sent into ruin. Let the king my lord know that the two sons of Lab'aya continually seek me: "Why did you give into the hand of the king your lord Gitti-padalla, a city that Lab'aya our father had taken?"
Shuwardata is king of an unspecified realm in southern Palestine, perhaps Qiltu or Gath.
EA 280: Shuwardata ….
To the king, my lord, my sun, say: message from Shuwardata, your servant, the ground for your feet. At the feet of the king my lord and my sun, seven and seven times I throw myself. …. Further, Lab'aya is dead who took our cities, but here is Abdi-Heba who is a second Lab'aya, and takes our cities. May the king think of his servant regarding this fact. I will do nothing, until the king responds with a word to his servant!
As if the chronological revolution engineered by the Velikovskian revision with regard to the EA era were not enough, it may now be that the whole matter of the identity and the geography of the recipients must also be radically re-estimated.