Huram-Abi King of Artisans
Damien F. Mackey
Explores the possibility that the biblical Huram-abi was King Hammurabi.
Hammurabi’s possible Amorite ancestry, tracing back to Abraham, might account for why we have been finding that the great king had been so influenced by Hebrew Law and protocol.
Herb Storck has shown, in an important article “The Early Assyrian King List ... and the ‘Greater Amorite’ Tradition” (Proc. of the 3rd Seminar of Catastrophism & Ancient History, C & AH Press, Toronto, 1986, p. 43), that there is a genealogical link among:
(ii) the genealogy of king Hammurabi; and
(iii) the Assyrian King List.
Storck commences his article with the following explanation:
The Assyrian Kinglist (AKL) is one of the most important chronographic texts ever uncovered. Initially it was thought to represent a long unbroken tradition of rulership over Assyria. A closer look at the AKL by Benno Landsberger (1890-1968) ... however, dispelled this somewhat facile approach to AKL tradition. Subsequent studies by Kraus ... and Finkelstein ... have demonstrated a common underlying Amorite tradition between parts of the AKL and the Genealogy of Hammurapi (GHD). Portions of this section of the AKL containing 17 tent-dwelling kings have also been compared to biblical ... and Ugaritic ... Amorite traditions.
Storck’s purpose will be “to take a closer look at the 17 Assyrian tent dwellers and the greater Amorite tradition, as evidenced primarily in the genealogy of the Hammurapi [Hammurabi] Dynasty and other minor traditions”. The names of all 17 tent-dwelling kings are preserved in various lists. What is striking is that many of these names can be linked with names in the GHD, which gives the names in couplet form. Thus, for example, names 3 and 4, Janqi (Janqu) and Sahlamu are given in GHD as Ya-am-qu-us-ha-lam-ma. Name 11, Zuabu, may be connected with Sumuabi, an ancestor of Hammurabi. Thus Storck:
Poebel sought to connect the name with Su-mu-a-bi, the name of the first king of the first dynasty of Babylon, even though in our list it is written with the sign ZU. .... Kraus, however, expressed his personal doubts as to whether this would work .... But in a recently published fragment of this portion of the AKL (E) this name was indeed written with an initial SU for ZU, thus supporting Poebel's contention somewhat. “Nevertheless, the genealogy edited by J.J. Finkelstein has Zu-um-ma-bu in the apparently parallel line, hinting that the reverse may be the case. The presence of ma as restored eases the interpretation of the name Sumu-abu” ....
Storck concluded the first part of his study by claiming that: “Nine of the 17 tent-dwelling AKL kings can reasonably be identified with GHD ancestors of Hammurapi. This would appear to be sufficient to establish that these two genealogies drew upon a common ‘Amorite’ tradition”.
That there was still that nomadic inclination within the kings of the Hammurabic era may perhaps be gleaned from the fact that Shamsi-Adad I of that time had no really fixed capital, but moved from place to place.
And we have found that Iarim-Lim (Hiram), though stationed in the west, had a political reach that extended all the way to Elam.
Who Was Hammurabi?
Who, then, was this Hammurabi, likely a non-indigenous ruler of Babylon, of Amorite, or northern Canaanite background, who had deepy absorbed Hebrew traditions and culture, and who was contemporaneous with the biblical King Hiram (Iarim-Lim) and, hence, with David and Solomon of Israel?
The most likely candidate for Hammurabi, I now think, would be that famous biblical artisan of very similar name, Huram-abi (Hiram-abi) - the fabled Hiram Abiff of the Freemasons - who was probably somewhat younger than King David, but older than King Solomon.
King Hiram had told Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:13-14):
‘I am sending you Huram-Abi, a man of great skill, whose mother was from Dan and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, and with purple and blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your skilled workers and with those of my lord, David your father’.
From I Kings 7:13, it appears that Huram-abi was located in Tyre at the time: “King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram …”. Tyre would, of course, be a geographical problem obstructing an identification of Huram-abi with Hammurabi the king of Babylon.
Could he have become king of Babylon later? That is only surmise. But also see comments above re Shamsi-Adad I’s nomadic tendencies and Iarim-Lim’s power. Plus, our knowledge of Hammurabi’s Babylon is seriously disadvantaged by the high water table in Babylon at that archaeological level, preventing excavation.
I Kings 7:14 gives a variation on 2 Chronicles’ account of Huram-abi’s mother, “from Dan”, by telling us that his “mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali”.
That Huram-abi was a man with the technical skills necessary to assist King Solomon is abundantly apparent from the continuing narrative of I Kings 14:14-50:
Huram was filled with wisdom, with understanding and with knowledge to do all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.
He cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference. He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars; each capital was five cubits high. A network of interwoven chains adorned the capitals on top of the pillars, seven for each capital. He made pomegranates in two rows encircling each network to decorate the capitals on top of the pillars. He did the same for each capital. The capitals on top of the pillars in the portico were in the shape of lilies, four cubits high. On the capitals of both pillars, above the bowl-shaped part next to the network, were the two hundred pomegranates in rows all around. He erected the pillars at the portico of the Temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz. The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed.
He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it. Below the rim, gourds encircled it—ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea.
The Sea stood on twelve bulls, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east. The Sea rested on top of them, and their hindquarters were toward the center. It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held two thousand baths.
He also made ten movable stands of bronze; each was four cubits long, four wide and three high. This is how the stands were made: They had side panels attached to uprights. On the panels between the uprights were lions, bulls and cherubim—and on the uprights as well. Above and below the lions and bulls were wreaths of hammered work. Each stand had four bronze wheels with bronze axles, and each had a basin resting on four supports, cast with wreaths on each side. On the inside of the stand there was an opening that had a circular frame one cubit deep. This opening was round, and with its basework it measured a cubit and a half. Around its opening there was engraving. The panels of the stands were square, not round. The four wheels were under the panels, and the axles of the wheels were attached to the stand. The diameter of each wheel was a cubit and a half. The wheels were made like chariot wheels; the axles, rims, spokes and hubs were all of cast metal. Each stand had four handles, one on each corner, projecting from the stand. At the top of the stand there was a circular band half a cubit deep. The supports and panels were attached to the top of the stand. He engraved cherubim, lions and palm trees on the surfaces of the supports and on the panels, in every available space, with wreaths all around. This is the way he made the ten stands. They were all cast in the same molds and were identical in size and shape.
He then made ten bronze basins, each holding forty baths and measuring four cubits across, one basin to go on each of the ten stands. He placed five of the stands on the south side of the Temple and five on the north. He placed the Sea on the south side, at the southeast corner of the Temple. He also made the pots and shovels and sprinkling bowls.
So Huram finished all the work he had undertaken for King Solomon in the Temple of the Lord:
the two pillars;
the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the two sets of network decorating the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;
the four hundred pomegranates for the two sets of network (two rows of pomegranates for each network decorating the bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars);
the ten stands with their ten basins;
the Sea and the twelve bulls under it;
the pots, shovels and sprinkling bowls.
All these objects that Huram made for King Solomon for the Temple of the Lord were of burnished bronze. The king had them cast in clay molds in the plain of the Jordan between Sukkoth and Zarethan. Solomon left all these things unweighed, because there were so many; the weight of the bronze was not determined.
Solomon also made all the furnishings that were in the Lord’s Temple:
the golden altar;
the golden table on which was the bread of the Presence;
the lampstands of pure gold (five on the right and five on the left, in front of the inner sanctuary);
the gold floral work and lamps and tongs;
the pure gold basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, dishes and censers;
and the gold sockets for the doors of the innermost room, the Most Holy Place, and also for the doors of the main hall of the Temple.
If Hammurabi were Huram-abi, then it would be no wonder that he dealt in bonze and that he favoured artisans and craftsmen, and that he imported his wood from Lebanon (http://www.fsmitha.com/h1/ch03-ham.htm):
Babylon was a city where trade routes crossed. Under Hammurabi it became a bronze-age city of commerce and agriculture. It was a city with skilled artisans, architects, bricklayers and businessmen, with an efficient secular administration and a chain of command. The city was at the hub of an intricate network of canals. It was surrounded by great fields of barley, melons, fruit trees and the wheat the Babylonians used in making unleavened, pancake-like bread. From their barley, the Babylonians made beer. They sheared wool from their flocks of sheep. And they imported wood from Lebanon and metals from Persia.
Hammurabi was a king of artisans: (https://prezi.com/uuaatljvjity/ancient-mesopotamia/): “Hammurabi had artisans carve almost 300 laws into a stone stele. This writing is now known as Hammurabi's code”, with rules for artisans:
188. If an artisan take a son for adoption and teach him his handicraft, one may not bring claim for him.
189. If he do not teach him his handicraft, that adopted son may return to his father's house.
274. If a man hire an artisan, the wage of a … is 5 SE of silver; the wage of a brickmaker (?) is 5 SE of silver; the wage of a tailor is 5 SE of silver; the wage of a … is … SE of silver; the wage of a … is … SE of silver; the wage of a … is … SE of silver; the wage of a carpenter is 4 SE of silver; the wage of a (?) is 4 SE of silver; the wage of a (?) is … SE of silver; the wage of a mason is … SE of silver; so much per day shall he pay.
According to: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Assyria/Hammurabi.html “craftsmen” (artisans) occupied the highest class in Babylon:
The Code contemplates the whole population as falling into three classes, the amelu, the muskinu and the ardu. The amelu was a patrician, the man of family, whose birth, marriage and death were registered, of ancestral estates and full civil rights. He had aristocratic privileges and responsibilities, the right to exact retaliation for corporal injuries, and liability to heavier punishment for crimes and misdemeanours, higher fees and fines to pay. To this class belonged the king and court, the higher officials, the professions and craftsmen.
M. van de Mieroop (The Ancient Mesopotamian City, p. 179) writes of ‘most craftsmen being employed by palaces and temples’ (reminiscent of the case of Solomon and Huram-abi):
The specialized class of artisans needed to be exempt from the tasks of primary food production, and this was only possible in an urban economy. It is clear that craft specialization took place in the early stages of the development of urban society, and that the sustainable size of the class of craftsmen was directly related to the size of the urban economy. It is often stated in current literature that, at least until the late second millennium Bc [sic], most craftsmen were employed by the central institutions of palace and temples, as only these rich organizations were able to support them ….