Zimri-lim’s Mari Palace and King Solomon
Damien F. Mackey
The Mari palace of Zimri-Lim, biblical “Rezon” and some time foe of King Solomon,
may show evidence of Genesis (Garden of Eden) and Solomonic (Temple) imagery.
If Hammurabi were, as the biblical artisan, Huram-abi, involved in the technical enhancement of Solomon’s architecture, then we might expect that the contemporary palace of Mari, belonging to Zimri-Lim (see my):
Hammurabi and Zimri-Lim as Contemporaries of Solomon
would exhibit some degree of Solomonic influence. Accordingly, one will read at: http://publications.mi.byu.edu/publications/studies/4/S00001-507d876e576a3Bradshaw.pdf
A number of scholars have found parallels in the layout of the trees in the Garden of Eden and certain features of Israelite sanctuaries.75 Significantly, the holiest places within the temples of Solomon and of Ezekiel’s vision were decorated with palms.76 Indeed, the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple contained not only one but many palm trees and pillars, which Terje Stordalen says can represent “a kind of stylised forest.” 77 The angels on its walls may have represented God’s heavenly council,78 mirrored on earth by those who have attained “angelic” status through the rites of investiture. Such an interpretation recalls the statues of gods mingling with divinized kings in the innermost sanctuary of the Mari palace.79
On the mountain of Yahweh, Mt. Zion,a the indissoluble triad of creation, kingship and Temple find their most profound visual and literary expression. Nowhere in ancient Near Eastern art is this triad more brilliantly illustrated than in the wall paintings of the Old Babylonian palace at Mari, built almost a millennium before [sic] Solomon’s palace and Temple in Jerusalem. In the palace at Mari, located on the banks of the Euphrates, in modern Syria, a large, sunlit courtyard decorated with wall paintings led into a vestibule in front of the king’s throne room. The courtyard enclosed a garden of live potted palm trees. According to one scholar, a tall, ornamental but artificial palm tree stood in the middle of the garden (compare the location of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden). This artificial tree had a wooden core and was plated with bronze and silver leaf.4 At eye level, just to the right of the doorway leading from the courtyard to the vestibule of the throne room, a large wall painting portrayed the relationship of divinity, royalty and creation. Luxuriant orchards and fantastic creatures surround the building in which the investiture of the king is taking place. In the upper register of the central panel, the goddess Ishtar as warrior, with weapons strapped to her shoulders, scimitar in one hand and “the ring and the rod” in the other, presents the emblems of authority to the king. Ishtar rests one foot on a recumbent lion, her emblem. Three other deities witness the ceremony. In the register below, two lesser goddesses hold vases from which four streams of water flow and vegetation sprouts. The setting for the ceremony is a paradise garden with date palms and stylized papyrus stalks. Guarding the garden and the palace are winged sphinxes, griffins and bulls. At the outer edges of the scene, two goddesses of high rank stand with upraised arms—a gesture of protection for all within the garden precincts.
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I would suggest that the above would be only the tip of the iceberg of potential similarities between the religious imagery of the Mari era (revised) and that of the Solomonic era.