mentioned in Dan. 2:12 included three classes, (1) astrologers,
(2) Chaldeans, and (3) soothsayers. The word in the original
(hakamim) probably means "medicine men. In Chaldea medicine was
only a branch of magic. The "wise men" of Matt. 2:7, who came
from the East to Jerusalem, were magi from Persia or Arabia.
lion-like, venerable. (1.) A king of Ellasar who was confederate
with Chedorlamer (Gen. 14:1,9). The tablets recently discovered
by Mr. Pinches (see CHALDEA T0000758) show the true reading is
Eri-Aku of Larsa. This Elamite name meant "servant of the
moon-god." It was afterwards changed into Rimsin, "Have mercy, O
moon-god." (2.) Dan. 2:14.
(Heb. tsaphon), a "hidden" or "dark place," as opposed to the
sunny south (Deut. 3:27). A Hebrew in speaking of the points of
the compass was considered as always having his face to the
east, and hence "the left hand" (Gen. 14:15; Job 23:9) denotes
the north. The "kingdoms of the north" are Chaldea, Assyria,
king of Shinar, southern Chaldea, one of the confederates of
Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, in a war against Sodom and cities of
the plain (Gen. 14:1, 4). It is now found that Amraphel (or
Ammirapaltu) is the Khammu-rabi whose name appears on
recently-discovered monuments. (See CHEDORLAOMER T0000781).
After defeating Arioch (q.v.) he united Babylonia under one
rule, and made Babylon his capital.
a tree from the wood of which Noah was directed to build the ark
(Gen. 6:14). It is mentioned only there. The LXX. render this
word by "squared beams," and the Vulgate by "planed wood." Other
versions have rendered it "pine" and "cedar;" but the weight of
authority is in favour of understanding by it the cypress tree,
which grows abundantly in Chaldea and Armenia.
little fish; diminutive from dag = a fish, the fish-god; the
national god of the Philistines (Judg. 16:23). This idol had the
body of a fish with the head and hands of a man. It was an
Assyrio-Babylonian deity, the worship of which was introduced
among the Philistines through Chaldea. The most famous of the
temples of Dagon were at Gaza (Judg. 16:23-30) and Ashdod (1
Sam. 5:1-7). (See FISH T0001343.)
a corruption of Dumuzi, the Accadian sun-god (the Adonis of the
Greeks), the husband of the goddess Ishtar. In the Chaldean
calendar there was a month set apart in honour of this god, the
month of June to July, the beginning of the summer solstice. At
this festival, which lasted six days, the worshippers, with loud
lamentations, bewailed the funeral of the god, they sat "weeping
for Tammuz" (Ezek. 8:14).
The name, also borrowed from Chaldea, of one of the months of
the Hebrew calendar.
Shinar, The Land of
LXX. and Vulgate "Senaar;" in the inscriptions, "Shumir;"
probably identical with Babylonia or Southern Mesopotamia,
extending almost to the Persian Gulf. Here the tower of Babel
was built (Gen. 11:1-6), and the city of Babylon. The name
occurs later in Jewish history (Isa. 11:11; Zech. 5:11). Shinar
was apparently first peopled by Turanian tribes, who tilled the
land and made bricks and built cities. Then tribes of Semites
invaded the land and settled in it, and became its rulers. This
was followed in course of time by an Elamite invasion; from
which the land was finally delivered by Khammurabi, the son of
Amarpel ("Amraphel, king of Shinar," Gen. 14:1), who became the
founder of the new empire of Chaldea. (See AMRAPHEL T0000221.)
a name applied to the Israelites in Scripture only by one who is
a foreigner (Gen. 39:14, 17; 41:12, etc.), or by the Israelites
when they speak of themselves to foreigners (40:15; Ex. 1:19),
or when spoken of an contrasted with other peoples (Gen. 43:32;
Ex. 1:3, 7, 15; Deut. 15:12). In the New Testament there is the
same contrast between Hebrews and foreigners (Acts 6:1; Phil.
Derivation. (1.) The name is derived, according to some, from
Eber (Gen. 10:24), the ancestor of Abraham. The Hebrews are
"sons of Eber" (10:21).
(2.) Others trace the name of a Hebrew root-word signifying
"to pass over," and hence regard it as meaning "the man who
passed over," viz., the Euphrates; or to the Hebrew word meaning
"the region" or "country beyond," viz., the land of Chaldea.
This latter view is preferred. It is the more probable origin of
the designation given to Abraham coming among the Canaanites as
a man from beyond the Euphrates (Gen. 14:13).
(3.) A third derivation of the word has been suggested, viz.,
that it is from the Hebrew word "'abhar", "to pass over," whence
"'ebher", in the sense of a "sojourner" or "passer through" as
distinct from a "settler" in the land, and thus applies to the
condition of Abraham (Heb. 11:13).
Babel, tower of
the name given to the tower which the primitive fathers of our
race built in the land of Shinar after the Deluge (Gen. 11:1-9).
Their object in building this tower was probably that it might
be seen as a rallying-point in the extensive plain of Shinar, to
which they had emigrated from the uplands of Armenia, and so
prevent their being scattered abroad. But God interposed and
defeated their design by condounding their language, and hence
the name Babel, meaning "confusion." In the Babylonian tablets
there is an account of this event, and also of the creation and
the deluge. (See CHALDEA T0000758.)
The Temple of Belus, which is supposed to occupy its site, is
described by the Greek historian Herodotus as a temple of great
extent and magnificence, erected by the Babylonians for their
god Belus. The treasures Nebuchadnezzar brought from Jerusalem
were laid up in this temple (2 Chr. 36:7).
The Birs Nimrud, at ancient Borsippa, about 7 miles south-west
of Hillah, the modern town which occupies a part of the site of
ancient Babylon, and 6 miles from the Euphrates, is an immense
mass of broken and fire-blasted fragments, of about 2,300 feet
in circumference, rising suddenly to the height of 235 feet
above the desert-plain, and is with probability regarded as the
ruins of the tower of Babel. This is "one of the most imposing
ruins in the country." Others think it to be the ruins of the
Temple of Belus.
(In the inscriptions, "Sarra-yukin" [the god] has appointed the
king; also "Sarru-kinu," the legitimate king.) On the death of
Shalmaneser (B.C. 723), one of the Assyrian generals established
himself on the vacant throne, taking the name of "Sargon," after
that of the famous monarch, the Sargon of Accad, founder of the
first Semitic empire, as well as of one of the most famous
libraries of Chaldea. He forthwith began a conquering career,
and became one of the most powerful of the Assyrian monarchs. He
is mentioned by name in the Bible only in connection with the
siege of Ashdod (Isa. 20:1).
At the very beginning of his reign he besieged and took the
city of Samaria (2 Kings 17:6; 18:9-12). On an inscription found
in the palace he built at Khorsabad, near Nieveh, he says, "The
city of Samaria I besieged, I took; 27,280 of its inhabitants I
carried away; fifty chariots that were among them I collected,"
etc. The northern kingdom he changed into an Assyrian satrapy.
He afterwards drove Merodach-baladan (q.v.), who kept him at bay
for twelve years, out of Babylon, which he entered in triumph.
By a succession of victories he gradually enlarged and
consolidated the empire, which now extended from the frontiers
of Egypt in the west to the mountains of Elam in the east, and
thus carried almost to completion the ambitious designs of
Tiglath-pileser (q.v.). He was murdered by one of his own
soldiers (B.C. 705) in his palace at Khorsabad, after a reign of
sixteen years, and was succeeded by his son Sennacherib.
the Greek form of BABEL; Semitic form Babilu, meaning "The Gate
of God." In the Assyrian tablets it means "The city of the
dispersion of the tribes." The monumental list of its kings
reaches back to B.C. 2300, and includes Khammurabi, or Amraphel
(q.v.), the contemporary of Abraham. It stood on the Euphrates,
about 200 miles above its junction with the Tigris, which flowed
through its midst and divided it into two almost equal parts.
The Elamites invaded Chaldea (i.e., Lower Mesopotamia, or
Shinar, and Upper Mesopotamia, or Accad, now combined into one)
and held it in subjection. At length Khammu-rabi delivered it
from the foreign yoke, and founded the new empire of Chaldea
(q.v.), making Babylon the capital of the united kingdom. This
city gradually grew in extent and grandeur, but in process of
time it became subject to Assyria. On the fall of Nineveh (B.C.
606) it threw off the Assyrian yoke, and became the capital of
the growing Babylonian empire. Under Nebuchadnezzar it became
one of the most splendid cities of the ancient world.
After passing through various vicissitudes the city was
occupied by Cyrus, "king of Elam," B.C. 538, who issued a decree
permitting the Jews to return to their own land (Ezra 1). It
then ceased to be the capital of an empire. It was again and
again visited by hostile armies, till its inhabitants were all
driven from their homes, and the city became a complete
desolation, its very site being forgotten from among men.
On the west bank of the Euphrates, about 50 miles south of
Bagdad, there is found a series of artificial mounds of vast
extent. These are the ruins of this once famous proud city.
These ruins are principally (1) the great mound called Babil by
the Arabs. This was probably the noted Temple of Belus, which
was a pyramid about 480 feet high. (2) The Kasr (i.e., "the
palace"). This was the great palace of Nebuchadnezzar. It is
almost a square, each side of which is about 700 feet long. The
little town of Hillah, near the site of Babylon, is built almost
wholly of bricks taken from this single mound. (3) A lofty
mound, on the summit of which stands a modern tomb called Amran
ibn-Ali. This is probably the most ancient portion of the
remains of the city, and represents the ruins of the famous
hanging-gardens, or perhaps of some royal palace. The utter
desolation of the city once called "The glory of kingdoms"
(Isa.13:19) was foretold by the prophets (Isa.13:4-22; Jer.
25:12; 50:2, 3; Dan. 2:31-38).
The Babylon mentioned in 1 Pet. 5:13 was not Rome, as some
have thought, but the literal city of Babylon, which was
inhabited by many Jews at the time Peter wrote.
In Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; and 18:2, "Babylon" is supposed to
mean Rome, not considered as pagan, but as the prolongation of
the ancient power in the papal form. Rome, pagan and papal, is
regarded as one power. "The literal Babylon was the beginner and
supporter of tyranny and idolatry...This city and its whole
empire were taken by the Persians under Cyrus; the Persians were
subdued by the Macedonians, and the Macedonians by the Romans;
so that Rome succeeded to the power of old Babylon. And it was
her method to adopt the worship of the false deities she had
conquered; so that by her own act she became the heiress and
successor of all the Babylonian idolatry, and of all that was
introduced into it by the immediate successors of Babylon, and
consequently of all the idolatry of the earth." Rome, or
"mystical Babylon," is "that great city which reigneth over the
kings of the earth" (17:18).
the high land or mountains, a city in the land of Shinar. It has
been identified with the mounds of Akker Kuf, some 50 miles to
the north of Babylon; but this is doubtful. It was one of the
cities of Nimrod's kingdom (Ge 10:10). It stood close to the
Euphrates, opposite Sippara. (See SEPHARVAIM T0003277.)
It is also the name of the country of which this city was the
capital, namely, northern or upper Babylonia. The Accadians who
came from the "mountains of the east," where the ark rested,
attained to a high degree of civilization. In the Babylonian
inscriptions they are called "the black heads" and "the black
faces," in contrast to "the white race" of Semitic descent. They
invented the form of writing in pictorial hieroglyphics, and
also the cuneiform system, in which they wrote many books partly
on papyrus and partly on clay. The Semitic Babylonians ("the
white race"), or, as some scholars think, first the Cushites,
and afterwards, as a second immigration, the Semites, invaded
and conquered this country; and then the Accadian language
ceased to be a spoken language, although for the sake of its
literary treasures it continued to be studied by the educated
classes of Babylonia. A large portion of the Ninevite tablets
brought to light by Oriental research consists of interlinear or
parallel translations from Accadian into Assyrian; and thus that
long-forgotten language has been recovered by scholars. It
belongs to the class of languages called agglutinative, common
to the Tauranian race; i.e., it consists of words "glued
together," without declension of conjugation. These tablets in a
remarkable manner illustrate ancient history. Among other
notable records, they contain an account of the Creation which
closely resembles that given in the book of Genesis, of the
Sabbath as a day of rest, and of the Deluge and its cause. (See
BABYLON T0000409; CHALDEA T0000758.)
of false prophets (Deut. 18:10, 14; Micah 3:6, 7, 11), of
necromancers (1 Sam. 28:8), of the Philistine priests and
diviners (1 Sam. 6:2), of Balaam (Josh. 13:22). Three kinds of
divination are mentioned in Ezek. 21:21, by arrows, consulting
with images (the teraphim), and by examining the entrails of
animals sacrificed. The practice of this art seems to have been
encouraged in ancient Egypt. Diviners also abounded among the
aborigines of Canaan and the Philistines (Isa. 2:6; 1 Sam. 28).
At a later period multitudes of magicians poured from Chaldea
and Arabia into the land of Israel, and pursued their
occupations (Isa. 8:19; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chr. 33:6). This
superstition widely spread, and in the time of the apostles
there were "vagabond Jews, exorcists" (Acts 19:13), and men like
Simon Magus (Acts 8:9), Bar-jesus (13:6, 8), and other jugglers
and impostors (19:19; 2 Tim. 3:13). Every species and degree of
this superstition was strictly forbidden by the law of Moses
(Ex. 22:18; Lev. 19:26, 31; 20:27; Deut. 18:10, 11).
But beyond these various forms of superstition, there are
instances of divination on record in the Scriptures by which God
was pleased to make known his will.
(1.) There was divination by lot, by which, when resorted to
in matters of moment, and with solemnity, God intimated his will
(Josh. 7:13). The land of Canaan was divided by lot (Num. 26:55,
56); Achan's guilt was detected (Josh. 7:16-19), Saul was
elected king (1 Sam. 10:20, 21), and Matthias chosen to the
apostleship, by the solem lot (Acts 1:26). It was thus also that
the scape-goat was determined (Lev. 16:8-10).
(2.) There was divination by dreams (Gen. 20:6; Deut. 13:1, 3;
Judg. 7:13, 15; Matt. 1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22). This is
illustrated in the history of Joseph (Gen. 41:25-32) and of
Daniel (2:27; 4:19-28).
(3.) By divine appointment there was also divination by the
Urim and Thummim (Num. 27:21), and by the ephod.
(4.) God was pleased sometimes to vouch-safe direct vocal
communications to men (Deut. 34:10; Ex. 3:4; 4:3; Deut. 4:14,
15; 1 Kings 19:12). He also communed with men from above the
mercy-seat (Ex. 25:22), and at the door of the tabernacle (Ex.
(5.) Through his prophets God revealed himself, and gave
intimations of his will (2 Kings 13:17; Jer. 51:63, 64).
The southern portion of Babylonia, Lower Mesopotamia, lying
chiefly on the right bank of the Euphrates, but commonly used of
the whole of the Mesopotamian plain. The Hebrew name is Kasdim,
which is usually rendered "Chaldeans" (Jer. 50:10; 51:24,35).
The country so named is a vast plain formed by the deposits of
the Euphrates and the Tigris, extending to about 400 miles along
the course of these rivers, and about 100 miles in average
breadth. "In former days the vast plains of Babylon were
nourished by a complicated system of canals and water-courses,
which spread over the surface of the country like a network. The
wants of a teeming population were supplied by a rich soil, not
less bountiful than that on the banks of the Egyptian Nile. Like
islands rising from a golden sea of waving corn stood frequent
groves of palm-trees and pleasant gardens, affording to the
idler or traveller their grateful and highly-valued shade.
Crowds of passengers hurried along the dusty roads to and from
the busy city. The land was rich in corn and wine."
Recent discoveries, more especially in Babylonia, have thrown
much light on the history of the Hebrew patriarchs, and have
illustrated or confirmed the Biblical narrative in many points.
The ancestor of the Hebrew people, Abram, was, we are told, born
at "Ur of the Chaldees." "Chaldees" is a mistranslation of the
Hebrew "Kasdim", Kasdim being the Old Testament name of the
Babylonians, while the Chaldees were a tribe who lived on the
shores of the Persian Gulf, and did not become a part of the
Babylonian population till the time of Hezekiah. Ur was one of
the oldest and most famous of the Babylonian cities. Its site is
now called Mugheir, or Mugayyar, on the western bank of the
Euphrates, in Southern Babylonia. About a century before the
birth of Abram it was ruled by a powerful dynasty of kings.
Their conquests extended to Elam on the one side, and to the
Lebanon on the other. They were followed by a dynasty of princes
whose capital was Babylon, and who seem to have been of South
Arabian origin. The founder of the dynasty was Sumu-abi ("Shem
is my father"). But soon afterwards Babylonia fell under Elamite
dominion. The kings of Babylon were compelled to acknowledge the
supremacy of Elam, and a rival kingdom to that of Babylon, and
governed by Elamites, sprang up at Larsa, not far from Ur, but
on the opposite bank of the river. In the time of Abram the king
of Larsa was Eri-Aku, the son of an Elamite prince, and Eri-Aku,
as has long been recognized, is the Biblical "Arioch king of
Ellasar" (Gen. 14:1). The contemporaneous king of Babylon in the
north, in the country termed Shinar in Scripture, was
Khammu-rabi. (See BABYLON T0000409; ABRAHAM T0000054; AMRAPHEL
the name given to Noah's flood, the history of which is recorded
in Gen. 7 and 8.
It began in the year 2516 B.C., and continued twelve lunar
months and ten days, or exactly one solar year.
The cause of this judgment was the corruption and violence
that filled the earth in the ninth generation from Adam. God in
righteous indignation determined to purge the earth of the
ungodly race. Amid a world of crime and guilt there was one
household that continued faithful and true to God, the household
of Noah. "Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations."
At the command of God, Noah made an ark 300 cubits long, 50
broad, and 30 high. He slowly proceeded with this work during a
period of one hundred and twenty years (Gen. 6:3). At length the
purpose of God began to be carried into effect. The following
table exhibits the order of events as they occurred:
In the six hundredth year of his life Noah is commanded by God
to enter the ark, taking with him his wife, and his three sons
with their wives (Gen. 7:1-10).
The rain begins on the seventeenth day of the second month
The rain ceases, the waters prevail, fifteen cubits upward
The ark grounds on one of the mountains of Ararat on the
seventeenth day of the seventh month, or one hundred and fifty
days after the Deluge began (Gen. 8:1-4).
Tops of the mountains visible on the first day of the tenth
month (Gen. 8:5).
Raven and dove sent out forty days after this (Gen. 8:6-9).
Dove again sent out seven days afterwards; and in the evening
she returns with an olive leaf in her mouth (Gen. 8:10, 11).
Dove sent out the third time after an interval of other seven
days, and returns no more (Gen. 8:12).
The ground becomes dry on the first day of the first month of
the new year (Gen. 8:13).
Noah leaves the ark on the twenty-seventh day of the second
month (Gen. 8:14-19).
The historical truth of the narrative of the Flood is
established by the references made to it by our Lord (Matt.
24:37; compare Luke 17:26). Peter speaks of it also (1 Pet. 3:20;
2 Pet. 2:5). In Isa. 54:9 the Flood is referred to as "the
waters of Noah." The Biblical narrative clearly shows that so
far as the human race was concerned the Deluge was universal;
that it swept away all men living except Noah and his family,
who were preserved in the ark; and that the present human race
is descended from those who were thus preserved.
Traditions of the Deluge are found among all the great
divisions of the human family; and these traditions, taken as a
whole, wonderfully agree with the Biblical narrative, and agree
with it in such a way as to lead to the conclusion that the
Biblical is the authentic narrative, of which all these
traditions are more or less corrupted versions. The most
remarkable of these traditions is that recorded on tablets
prepared by order of Assur-bani-pal, the king of Assyria. These
were, however, copies of older records which belonged to
somewhere about B.C. 2000, and which formed part of the priestly
library at Erech (q.v.), "the ineradicable remembrance of a real
and terrible event." (See NOAH T0002741; CHALDEA T0000758.)
light, or the moon city, a city "of the Chaldees," the
birthplace of Haran (Gen. 11:28,31), the largest city of Shinar
or northern Chaldea, and the principal commercial centre of the
country as well as the centre of political power. It stood near
the mouth of the Euphrates, on its western bank, and is
represented by the mounds (of bricks cemented by bitumen) of
el-Mugheir, i.e., "the bitumined," or "the town of bitumen," now
150 miles from the sea and some 6 miles from the Euphrates, a
little above the point where it receives the Shat el-Hie, an
affluent from the Tigris. It was formerly a maritime city, as
the waters of the Persian Gulf reached thus far inland. Ur was
the port of Babylonia, whence trade was carried on with the
dwellers on the gulf, and with the distant countries of India,
Ethiopia, and Egypt. It was abandoned about B.C. 500, but long
continued, like Erech, to be a great sacred cemetery city, as is
evident from the number of tombs found there. (See ABRAHAM
The oldest king of Ur known to us is Ur-Ba'u (servant of the
goddess Ba'u), as Hommel reads the name, or Ur-Gur, as others
read it. He lived some twenty-eight hundred years B.C., and took
part in building the famous temple of the moon-god Sin in Ur
itself. The illustration here given represents his cuneiform
inscription, written in the Sumerian language, and stamped upon
every brick of the temple in Ur. It reads: "Ur-Ba'u, king of Ur,
who built the temple of the moon-god."
"Ur was consecrated to the worship of Sin, the Babylonian
moon-god. It shared this honour, however, with another city, and
this city was Haran, or Harran. Harran was in Mesopotamia, and
took its name from the highroad which led through it from the
east to the west. The name is Babylonian, and bears witness to
its having been founded by a Babylonian king. The same witness
is still more decisively borne by the worship paid in it to the
Babylonian moon-god and by its ancient temple of Sin. Indeed,
the temple of the moon-god at Harran was perhaps even more
famous in the Assyrian and Babylonian world than the temple of
the moon-god at Ur.
"Between Ur and Harran there must, consequently, have been a
close connection in early times, the record of which has not yet
been recovered. It may be that Harran owed its foundation to a
king of Ur; at any rate the two cities were bound together by
the worship of the same deity, the closest and most enduring
bond of union that existed in the ancient world. That Terah
should have migrated from Ur to Harran, therefore, ceases to be
extraordinary. If he left Ur at all, it was the most natural
place to which to go. It was like passing from one court of a
temple into another.
"Such a remarkable coincidence between the Biblical narrative
and the evidence of archaeological research cannot be the result
of chance. The narrative must be historical; no writer of late
date, even if he were a Babylonian, could have invented a story
so exactly in accordance with what we now know to have been the
truth. For a story of the kind to have been the invention of
Palestinian tradition is equally impossible. To the unprejudiced
mind there is no escape from the conclusion that the history of
the migration of Terah from Ur to Harran is founded on fact"
father of a multitude, son of Terah, named (Gen. 11:27) before
his older brothers Nahor and Haran, because he was the heir of
the promises. Till the age of seventy, Abram sojourned among his
kindred in his native country of Chaldea. He then, with his
father and his family and household, quitted the city of Ur, in
which he had hitherto dwelt, and went some 300 miles north to
Haran, where he abode fifteen years. The cause of his migration
was a call from God (Acts 7:2-4). There is no mention of this
first call in the Old Testament; it is implied, however, in Gen.
12. While they tarried at Haran, Terah died at the age of 205
years. Abram now received a second and more definite call,
accompanied by a promise from God (Gen. 12:1,2); whereupon he
took his departure, taking his nephew Lot with him, "not knowing
whither he went" (Heb. 11:8). He trusted implicitly to the
guidance of Him who had called him.
Abram now, with a large household of probably a thousand
souls, entered on a migratory life, and dwelt in tents. Passing
along the valley of the Jabbok, in the land of Canaan, he formed
his first encampment at Sichem (Gen. 12:6), in the vale or
oak-grove of Moreh, between Ebal on the north and Gerizim on the
south. Here he received the great promise, "I will make of thee
a great nation," etc. (Gen. 12:2,3,7). This promise comprehended
not only temporal but also spiritual blessings. It implied that
he was the chosen ancestor of the great Deliverer whose coming
had been long ago predicted (Gen. 3:15). Soon after this, for
some reason not mentioned, he removed his tent to the mountain
district between Bethel, then called Luz, and Ai, towns about
two miles apart, where he built an altar to "Jehovah." He again
moved into the southern tract of Israel, called by the
Hebrews the Negeb; and was at length, on account of a famine,
compelled to go down into Egypt. This took place in the time of
the Hyksos, a Semitic race which now held the Egyptians in
bondage. Here occurred that case of deception on the part of
Abram which exposed him to the rebuke of Pharaoh (Gen. 12:18).
Sarai was restored to him; and Pharaoh loaded him with presents,
recommending him to withdraw from the country. He returned to
Canaan richer than when he left it, "in cattle, in silver, and
in gold" (Gen. 12:8; 13:2. Compare Ps. 105:13, 14). The whole
party then moved northward, and returned to their previous
station near Bethel. Here disputes arose between Lot's shepherds
and those of Abram about water and pasturage. Abram generously
gave Lot his choice of the pasture-ground. (Compare 1 Cor. 6:7.)
He chose the well-watered plain in which Sodom was situated, and
removed thither; and thus the uncle and nephew were separated.
Immediately after this Abram was cheered by a repetition of the
promises already made to him, and then removed to the plain or
"oak-grove" of Mamre, which is in Hebron. He finally settled
here, pitching his tent under a famous oak or terebinth tree,
called "the oak of Mamre" (Gen. 13:18). This was his third
resting-place in the land.
Some fourteen years before this, while Abram was still in
Chaldea, Israel had been invaded by Chedorlaomer, King of
Elam, who brought under tribute to him the five cities in the
plain to which Lot had removed. This tribute was felt by the
inhabitants of these cities to be a heavy burden, and after
twelve years they revolted. This brought upon them the vengeance
of Chedorlaomer, who had in league with him four other kings. He
ravaged the whole country, plundering the towns, and carrying
the inhabitants away as slaves. Among those thus treated was
Lot. Hearing of the disaster that had fallen on his nephew,
Abram immediately gathered from his own household a band of 318
armed men, and being joined by the Amoritish chiefs Mamre, Aner,
and Eshcol, he pursued after Chedorlaomer, and overtook him near
the springs of the Jordan. They attacked and routed his army,
and pursued it over the range of Anti-Libanus as far as to
Hobah, near Damascus, and then returned, bringing back all the
spoils that had been carried away. Returning by way of Salem,
i.e., Jerusalem, the king of that place, Melchizedek, came forth
to meet them with refreshments. To him Abram presented a tenth
of the spoils, in recognition of his character as a priest of
the most high God (Gen. 14:18-20).
In a recently-discovered tablet, dated in the reign of the
grandfather of Amraphel (Gen. 14:1), one of the witnesses is
called "the Amorite, the son of Abiramu," or Abram.
Having returned to his home at Mamre, the promises already
made to him by God were repeated and enlarged (Gen. 13:14). "The
word of the Lord" (an expression occurring here for the first
time) "came to him" (15:1). He now understood better the future
that lay before the nation that was to spring from him. Sarai,
now seventy-five years old, in her impatience, persuaded Abram
to take Hagar, her Egyptian maid, as a concubine, intending that
whatever child might be born should be reckoned as her own.
Ishmael was accordingly thus brought up, and was regarded as the
heir of these promises (Gen. 16). When Ishmael was thirteen
years old, God again revealed yet more explicitly and fully his
gracious purpose; and in token of the sure fulfilment of that
purpose the patriarch's name was now changed from Abram to
Abraham (Gen. 17:4,5), and the rite of circumcision was
instituted as a sign of the covenant. It was then announced that
the heir to these covenant promises would be the son of Sarai,
though she was now ninety years old; and it was directed that
his name should be Isaac. At the same time, in commemoration of
the promises, Sarai's name was changed to Sarah. On that
memorable day of God's thus revealing his design, Abraham and
his son Ishmael and all the males of his house were circumcised
(Gen. 17). Three months after this, as Abraham sat in his tent
door, he saw three men approaching. They accepted his proffered
hospitality, and, seated under an oak-tree, partook of the fare
which Abraham and Sarah provided. One of the three visitants was
none other than the Lord, and the other two were angels in the
guise of men. The Lord renewed on this occasion his promise of a
son by Sarah, who was rebuked for her unbelief. Abraham
accompanied the three as they proceeded on their journey. The
two angels went on toward Sodom; while the Lord tarried behind
and talked with Abraham, making known to him the destruction
that was about to fall on that guilty city. The patriarch
interceded earnestly in behalf of the doomed city. But as not
even ten righteous persons were found in it, for whose sake the
city would have been spared, the threatened destruction fell
upon it; and early next morning Abraham saw the smoke of the
fire that consumed it as the "smoke of a furnace" (Gen.
After fifteen years' residence at Mamre, Abraham moved
southward, and pitched his tent among the Philistines, near to
Gerar. Here occurred that sad instance of prevarication on his
part in his relation to Abimelech the King (Gen. 20). (See
ABIMELECH T0000040.) Soon after this event, the patriarch left
the vicinity of Gerar, and moved down the fertile valley about
25 miles to Beersheba. It was probably here that Isaac was
born, Abraham being now an hundred years old. A feeling of
jealousy now arose between Sarah and Hagar, whose son, Ishmael,
was no longer to be regarded as Abraham's heir. Sarah insisted
that both Hagar and her son should be sent away. This was done,
although it was a hard trial to Abraham (Gen. 21:12). (See HAGAR
T0001583; ISHMAEL T0001903.)
At this point there is a blank in the patriarch's history of
perhaps twenty-five years. These years of peace and happiness
were spent at Beersheba. The next time we see him his faith is
put to a severe test by the command that suddenly came to him to
go and offer up Isaac, the heir of all the promises, as a
sacrifice on one of the mountains of Moriah. His faith stood the
test (Heb. 11:17-19). He proceeded in a spirit of unhesitating
obedience to carry out the command; and when about to slay his
son, whom he had laid on the altar, his uplifted hand was
arrested by the angel of Jehovah, and a ram, which was entangled
in a thicket near at hand, was seized and offered in his stead.
From this circumstance that place was called Jehovah-jireh,
i.e., "The Lord will provide." The promises made to Abraham were
again confirmed (and this was the last recorded word of God to
the patriarch); and he descended the mount with his son, and
returned to his home at Beersheba (Gen. 22:19), where he
resided for some years, and then moved northward to Hebron.
Some years after this Sarah died at Hebron, being 127 years
old. Abraham acquired now the needful possession of a
burying-place, the cave of Machpelah, by purchase from the owner
of it, Ephron the Hittite (Gen. 23); and there he buried Sarah.
His next care was to provide a wife for Isaac, and for this
purpose he sent his steward, Eliezer, to Haran (or Charran, Acts
7:2), where his brother Nahor and his family resided (Gen.
11:31). The result was that Rebekah, the daughter of Nahor's son
Bethuel, became the wife of Isaac (Gen. 24). Abraham then
himself took to wife Keturah, who became the mother of six sons,
whose descendants were afterwards known as the "children of the
east" (Judg. 6:3), and later as "Saracens." At length all his
wanderings came to an end. At the age of 175 years, 100 years
after he had first entered the land of Canaan, he died, and was
buried in the old family burying-place at Machpelah (Gen.
The history of Abraham made a wide and deep impression on the
ancient world, and references to it are interwoven in the
religious traditions of almost all Eastern nations. He is called
"the friend of God" (James 2:23), "faithful Abraham" (Gal. 3:9),
"the father of us all" (Rom. 4:16).
First mentioned in Gen. 10:11, which is rendered in the Revised
Version, "He [i.e., Nimrod] went forth into Assyria and builded
Nineveh." It is not again noticed till the days of Jonah, when
it is described (Jonah 3:3; 4:11) as a great and populous city,
the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 19:36;
Isa. 37:37). The book of the prophet Nahum is almost exclusively
taken up with prophetic denunciations against this city. Its
ruin and utter desolation are foretold (Nah.1:14; 3:19, etc.).
Zephaniah also (2:13-15) predicts its destruction along with the
fall of the empire of which it was the capital. From this time
there is no mention of it in Scripture till it is named in
gospel history (Matt. 12:41; Luke 11:32).
This "exceeding great city" lay on the eastern or left bank of
the river Tigris, along which it stretched for some 30 miles,
having an average breadth of 10 miles or more from the river
back toward the eastern hills. This whole extensive space is now
one immense area of ruins. Occupying a central position on the
great highway between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean,
thus uniting the East and the West, wealth flowed into it from
many sources, so that it became the greatest of all ancient
About B.C. 633 the Assyrian empire began to show signs of
weakness, and Nineveh was attacked by the Medes, who
subsequently, about B.C. 625, being joined by the Babylonians
and Susianians, again attacked it, when it fell, and was razed
to the ground. The Assyrian empire then came to an end, the
Medes and Babylonians dividing its provinces between them.
"After having ruled for more than six hundred years with hideous
tyranny and violence, from the Caucasus and the Caspian to the
Persian Gulf, and from beyond the Tigris to Asia Minor and
Egypt, it vanished like a dream" (Nah. 2:6-11). Its end was
strange, sudden, tragic. It was God's doing, his judgement on
Assyria's pride (Isa. 10:5-19).
Forty years ago our knowledge of the great Assyrian empire and
of its magnificent capital was almost wholly a blank. Vague
memories had indeed survived of its power and greatness, but
very little was definitely known about it. Other cities which
had perished, as Palmyra, Persepolis, and Thebes, had left ruins
to mark their sites and tell of their former greatness; but of
this city, imperial Nineveh, not a single vestige seemed to
remain, and the very place on which it had stood was only matter
of conjecture. In fulfilment of prophecy, God made "an utter end
of the place." It became a "desolation."
In the days of the Greek historian Herodotus, B.C. 400, it had
become a thing of the past; and when Xenophon the historian
passed the place in the "Retreat of the Ten Thousand," the very
memory of its name had been lost. It was buried out of sight,
and no one knew its grave. It is never again to rise from its
At length, after being lost for more than two thousand years,
the city was disentombed. A little more than forty years ago the
French consul at Mosul began to search the vast mounds that lay
along the opposite bank of the river. The Arabs whom he employed
in these excavations, to their great surprise, came upon the
ruins of a building at the mound of Khorsabad, which, on further
exploration, turned out to be the royal palace of Sargon, one of
the Assyrian kings. They found their way into its extensive
courts and chambers, and brought forth form its hidded depths
many wonderful sculptures and other relics of those ancient
The work of exploration has been carried on almost
continuously by M. Botta, Sir Henry Layard, George Smith, and
others, in the mounds of Nebi-Yunus, Nimrud, Koyunjik, and
Khorsabad, and a vast treasury of specimens of old Assyrian art
has been exhumed. Palace after palace has been discovered, with
their decorations and their sculptured slabs, revealing the life
and manners of this ancient people, their arts of war and peace,
the forms of their religion, the style of their architecture,
and the magnificence of their monarchs. The streets of the city
have been explored, the inscriptions on the bricks and tablets
and sculptured figures have been read, and now the secrets of
their history have been brought to light.
One of the most remarkable of recent discoveries is that of
the library of King Assur-bani-pal, or, as the Greek historians
call him, Sardanapalos, the grandson of Sennacherib (q.v.). (See
ASNAPPER T0000347.) This library consists of about ten thousand
flat bricks or tablets, all written over with Assyrian
characters. They contain a record of the history, the laws, and
the religion of Assyria, of the greatest value. These strange
clay leaves found in the royal library form the most valuable of
all the treasuries of the literature of the old world. The
library contains also old Accadian documents, which are the
oldest extant documents in the world, dating as far back as
probably about the time of Abraham. (See SARGON T0003227.)
"The Assyrian royalty is, perhaps, the most luxurious of our
century [reign of Assur-bani-pal...Its victories and conquests,
uninterrupted for one hundred years, have enriched it with the
spoil of twenty peoples. Sargon has taken what remained to the
Hittites; Sennacherib overcame Chaldea, and the treasures of
Babylon were transferred to his coffers; Esarhaddon and
Assur-bani-pal himself have pillaged Egypt and her great cities,
Sais, Memphis, and Thebes of the hundred gates...Now foreign
merchants flock into Nineveh, bringing with them the most
valuable productions from all countries, gold and perfume from
South Arabia and the Chaldean Sea, Egyptian linen and
glass-work, carved enamels, goldsmiths' work, tin, silver,
Phoenician purple; cedar wood from Lebanon, unassailable by
worms; furs and iron from Asia Minor and Armenia" (Ancient Egypt
and Assyria, by G. Maspero, page 271).
The bas-reliefs, alabaster slabs, and sculptured monuments
found in these recovered palaces serve in a remarkable manner to
confirm the Old Testament history of the kings of Israel. The
appearance of the ruins shows that the destruction of the city
was due not only to the assailing foe but also to the flood and
the fire, thus confirming the ancient prophecies concerning it.
"The recent excavations," says Rawlinson, "have shown that fire
was a great instrument in the destruction of the Nineveh
palaces. Calcined alabaster, charred wood, and charcoal,
colossal statues split through with heat, are met with in parts
of the Nineveh mounds, and attest the veracity of prophecy."
Nineveh in its glory was (Jonah 3:4) an "exceeding great city
of three days' journey", i.e., probably in circuit. This would
give a circumference of about 60 miles. At the four corners of
an irregular quadrangle are the ruins of Kouyunjik, Nimrud,
Karamless and Khorsabad. These four great masses of ruins, with
the whole area included within the parallelogram they form by
lines drawn from the one to the other, are generally regarded as
composing the whole ruins of Nineveh.