Abram, Amr Pul (Tiglath-Pileser III) & 4 Kings in Genesis 14
H. Abdul Al-Dahir
The Genesis 14 narrative begins:
“In those days Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goyi”
This is not a narrative of 4 different kings, but of one king or emperor whose title included the nations and kings he conquered. In other words, the opening sentence to this narrative should read Amraphel king of Babylon, Lasha (whose king is Arioch), Elam (whose king is Chedorlaomer) and Goyi (whose king is Tidal). A detailed explanation follows:
This narrative seems to have originated when the Judeans were under Babylonian occupation, but was refined by the Koine Greek speaking Septuagint authors in Alexandria and then marked with diacritics by the Arabic speaking Masoretes. The Assyrian king, to whom this verse refers, was known to the Assyrians as Mu’irru Pulu or Commander Pulu who became the King of Shinar. The Judean authors in Babylon transliterated his name and title into Amrpl before the diacritical marks were added by the Masoretes.
The name Shinar is a Hebrew transliteration of the Egyptian name for Babylon or sngr Aa18-N35-W11-D21-Z1-N25 (s became sh in Hebrew. The ‘g’ probably pronounced as gh became an ayin because Hebrew has no gh phoneme). The name Amrpl is divided as Amr (‘to command’ in Hebrew extrapolated to Amir or commander in Arabic and Aramaic)/and Pl or Pul before the diacritics were added. The Septuagint name for Amrpl is Amarp(h)al; the name the Masoretes used to mark the Hebrew word Amrpl which became the name from which the English pronunciation Amraphel was derived. Amr Pul or Commander Pul is better known by his throne name, Tiglath-Pileser III who, according to Wiki:
Tiglath-Pileser III Akkadian: Tukulti-apil-Esarra, meaning “my trust is in the son of the Ešarra”; Hebrew: Tiglat Pil’eser) was a prominent king of Assyria in the eighth century BCE (ruled 745–727 BCE) who introduced advanced civil, military, and political systems into the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Tiglath-Pileser III seized the Assyrian throne during a civil war and killed the royal family. He made sweeping changes to the Assyrian government, considerably improving its efficiency and security. He created Assyria’s first professional standing army. Tiglath-Pileser III subjugated much of the Near East region; to the south, his fellow Mesopotamians in Babylonia and Chaldea, and further south still, the Arabs, Magan, Meluhha, and Dilmunites of the Arabian Peninsula. In the south west, Israel, Judah, Philistia, Samarra, Moab, (author’s note: Ammon was also defeated by Tiglath-Pileser III) Edom, the Suteans and Nabatea fell. To the north, Urartu, Armenia and Scythia in the Caucasus Mountains, Cimmeria by the Black Sea, and Nairi were subjugated, and in the north west much of eastern and south western Asia Minor, including the Hittites (author’s note: Tud?aliya IV or Tidal king of the HIttite Empire) Phrygia, Cilicia, Commagene, Tabal, Corduene and Caria. In the west, the Greeks of Cyprus and Aram (modern Syria), and the Mediterranean city-states of Phoenicia/Caanan were subjugated. To the east he subjugated Persia, Media, Gutium, Mannea, Cissia and Elam. Later in his reign he was crowned king in Babylonia….
Formerly the governor of Kalhu (Biblical Calah/Nimrud) and a general (author’s note: hence the title Amr or Amir meaning commander), the usurper Pulu assumed his Assyrian throne-name (Tiglath-Pileser) from two more-legitimate predecessors. He described himself as a son of Adad-nirari III in his inscriptions, but the accuracy of this claim remains uncertain. He seized the throne in the midst of civil war on 13 Ayaru, 745 BCE. As a result of Pulu seizing the throne in a bloody coup d’état, the old royal family was slaughtered, and the new monarch set Assyria on the path to expand the empire in order to ensure the survival of the kingdom.…
A mutilated brick inscription states that he is the son of Adad-nirari (III); however, the Assyrian King List makes Tiglath-pileser (III) the son of Ahur-nirari (V), son of Adad-nirari (III). This is quite a discrepancy for the King list places Adad-nirari III four monarchs before Tiglath-pileser’s reign and depicts Ashur-nirari (V) as both his father and immediate predecessor upon the throne. The list goes on to relate that Shalmaneser III (IV), and Ashur-dan III (III) were brothers, being the sons of Adad-nirari (III). Ashur-nirari (V) is also said to be a son of Adad-nirari (III), implying brotherhood with Shalmaneser III (IV), and Ashur-dan III (III). The Assyrian records contain very little information concerning Adad-nirari (III) and nothing about Shalmaneser III (IV) or Ashur-dan III (III). Significantly, an alabaster stele was discovered in 1894 at Tell Abta displaying the name Tiglath-pileser imprinted over that of Shalmaneser (IV), a successor of Adad-Nirari (III) and the third sovereign prior to Tiglath-pileser (III). This find coupled with the aforementioned absence of information relative to Shalmaneser III (IV) and Ashur-dan III (III) strongly implies that Tiglath-pileser was a usurper to the throne and that he destroyed the records of his three immediate predecessors—Ashur-nirari (V), Shalmaneser III (IV), and Ashur-dan III (III).
More so it was in Babylon that he was referred to as Pulu and his son as Ululayu. Pulu and both his sons taking up Assyrian names is another suggestion that they were foreigners who had usurped the crown of Assyria at the revolt of Kalhu. The identification of Pul (2 Kings 15:19) with Tiglath-Pileser III has been bolstered by the discovery and interpretation of the Phoenician inscription from Incirli, line 5 of which reads: “Pu’lu, the great king of Assyria”.…In October 729 BCE, Tiglath-Pileser assumed total control of Babylon, capturing the Babylonian king Nabu-mukin-zeri (ABC 1 Col.1:21) and having himself crowned as “King Pulu of Babylon.”
The core territory of Assyria in the 8th century BC. After the death of Adad-nirari III in 783 BC, Assyria had entered a period of instability and decline, and lost its suzerainty over its former vassal and tributary states.
Map showing Tiglath-Pileser’s conquests and deportation of Israelites. Tiglath-Pileser III discouraged revolts against Assyrian rule with the use of forced deportations of thousands of people all over the empire.
Biblical records describe how Tiglath-Pileser III exacted 1,000 talents of silver as tribute from King Menahem of the Kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 15:19) and later defeated his successor Pekah (2 Kings 15:29).
Pekah had allied with Rezin, king of the Arameans against Ahaz (known to the Assyrians as Yahu-khazi), of the Kingdom of Judah, who responded by appealing for the Assyrian monarch’s help with the Temple gold and silver. Tiglath-Pileser answered swiftly. He first marched his army down the eastern Mediterranean coast, taking coastal cities all the way to Egypt. This cut off his enemies’ access to the sea. Once this was achieved, he returned to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, destroyed their army, and deported the Reubenites, Gadites, and the people of Manasseh to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the Gozan river (1 Chron 5:26). He then installed an Israelite puppet king, Hoshea, (732–723 BCE) in the place of Pekah. He concluded this extensive campaign by marching north and west, ravaging Aramaea, seizing Damascus, executing Rezin, and deporting the survivors to Kir (2 Kings 16:9).
Beyond this, the Assyrian alliance was not beneficial to Ahaz (2 Chron 28:20).
So, Abram was not challenging four kings, but one king, Tiglath-Pileser III, with four titles which included four of his conquests; Babylon, Lasha, (Ellasar), the Neo-Hittite state Gurgum (Goiim) and Elam. The narrative is a reversal of an historical event; the defeat of Israel and Judah by Tiglath-Pileser III, the grandfather of Sennacherib, the Assyrian king who subdued Judah into a vassal state and its king, Hezekiah, into a tribute-paying vassal monarch. The Judean authors of this narrative wished to portray themselves as the conquerors of Assyria rather than the vassals of Assyria and its king, Sennacherib. According to Wikipedia:
“Assyria began as a Bronze Age city-state or small kingdom on the middle-Tigris. The kingdom collapsed at the end of the Bronze Age, but was reconstituted at the beginning of the Iron Age, and under Tiglath-Pileser III and his sons Shalmaneser V and Sargon II (combined reigns 744–705 BC), Assyria extended its rule over Mesopotamia, Anatolia and Syria-Palestine, making its capital Nineveh, one of the richest cities of the ancient world.The empire’s rise aroused the fear and hatred of its neighbors, notably Babylon, Elam and Egypt, and the many smaller kingdoms of the region such as Judah. Any perceived weakness on the part of Assyria led inevitably to rebellion, particularly by the Babylonians. Solving the so-called “Babylonian problem” was Sennacherib’s primary preoccupation.
In 701 BC, Sennacherib turned from Babylonia to the western part of the empire, where Hezekiah of Judah, incited by the new Nubian rulers of Egypt and Marduk-apla-iddina, had renounced Assyrian allegiance. The rebellion involved various small Canaanite and Phoenician states in the area: Sidon and Ashkelon were taken by force and a string of other cities and states, including Byblos, Ashdod, Ammon, Moab and Edom then paid tribute without resistance. Ekron called on Egypt for help but the Egyptians were defeated by Assyria. Sennacherib then turned on Jerusalem, Hezekiah’s capital. He besieged the city and gave its surrounding towns to Assyrian vassal rulers in Ekron, Gaza and Ashdod. However, Sennacherib did not breach the city, and Hezekiah remained on his throne as a vassal ruler.”
Another king listed in Genesis 14 refers to a Neo-Hittite king whom the Masoretic texts list as Tidal. However, the Septuagint lists this name as T(h)argal. In Genesis 14, he is described as the king of Goyi which is thought to be a reference to one of the states that re-formed into kingdoms of the former HIttite empire. The name is not Tidal as the Masoretic texts describe it. The Septuagint authors had this one correct. The name is T(h)argal. This name is derived from two Hittite words: t(h)ar or tarth which means to conquer and ‘gal’ which means chief. Elements of the name Thargal appears in these 2 aritcles; one from the Britannica and the other from Wikipedia:
“Tarhun, also spelled Taru, Tarhu, Tarhunt, Tarhunna, orTarhuis, ancient Anatolian weather god. His name appears in Hittite and Assyrian records (c. 1400–612 BC) and later as an element in Hellenistic personal names, primarily from Cilicia. Tarhunt was the Luwian form and Tarhun (Tarhunna) probably the Hittite, from the common root tarh-, “to conquer.” The weather god was one of the supreme deities of the Hittite pantheon and was regarded as the embodiment of the state in action. He played a prominent part in mythology, although his name is sometimes to be read either Taru or Teshub (the Hattian and Hurrian weather gods, respectively), as the myths are either of Hattian or of Hurrian origin. He was the consort of Arinnitti, the Hittite sun goddess and principal deity.”
“The gal mesedi was a Hittite military and administrative title literally meaning “chief of the royal bodyguards”. He was in charge of the Mesedi, the personal bodyguard of the Hittite king. It is considered to be one of the most important and prestigious posts of the Hittite Kingdom.”
Other Hittite names that follow this pattern are Gal Gestin (Chief of the Wine Stewards) and Gal Dubsar (Chief of the Scribes).
Since, Hittite is an Indo-European language, a Sanskrit dictionary was consulted. TaruSa and TarutR are 2 words for conqueror. A Sanskrit equivalent to the word ‘gal’ meaning great or chief is not listed. However, ‘gal’ means ‘great’ in Sumerian. This word appears in Old Assyrian as well as Neo-Assyrian and means great, and can also mean palace. The Hittite titles seem to be titles of the palace staff. The Hittites seem to have absorbed this word from their contacts with the Assyrians. In any case, the king of the Goyi was a Hittite whose name was T(h)argal which means Great or Chief Conqueror. This great conqueror was Tarhulara of Gurgum or T(h)argal of Nations in the Septuagint and Tidal of the Goyi in the Masoretic texts. According to Wikipedia:
“Gurgum was a Neo-Hittite state in Anatolia, known from the 10th to the 7th century BC. Its name is given as Gurgum in Assyrian sources, while its native name seems to have been Kurkuma for the reason that the capital of Gurgum—Marqas in Assyrian sources (today Mara?)—was named “the Kurkumaean city” in local Hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions…
Around 800 BC, Gurgum was part of a coalition of numerous Neo-Hittite and Aramean states hostile to the Hamathite king Zakkur. In the reign of Tarhulara in 743 BC, Gurgum also took part in an anti-Assyrian military alliance led by Sarduri II of Urartu and Mati-Ilu of Arpad. The Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III defeated the hostile alliance and also invaded Gurgum, destroying 100 Gurgumaean cities. Tarhulara submitted and beseeched the Assyrian king to spare the capital Marqas. Tarhulara was allowed to stay on the throne and henceforth was an Assyrian tributary, paying tribute to the Assyrian king in 738 and 732 BC.
In 711 BC, Tarhulara was assassinated by his son Muwatalli III, who then seized the throne of Gurgum. The Assyrian king Sargon II responded by deposing Muwatalli III and deporting him to Assyria. Gurgum was annexed to the Assyrian empire and renamed Marqas after the name of the capital city.”
So, Tidal/T(h)argal of Goyi was Tarhulara, king of Gurgum who was defeated by Tiglath-Pileser in 738 BCE, becoming a tribute-paying vassal state to the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III aka Amr Pul, king of Babylon or Amraphel king of Shinar in Genesis 14.
As for the nation of Ellasar, the Hebrew rendering of this word is Ellasar. The Septuagint Greek rendering is also Ellassar. These transliterations appear to originate with the word Lesha (Gen 10:19), a city located in Jordan to the East of the Dead Sea. The Hebrew rendering of the word Ellasar is a transliteration of the Greek word Ellassar. The original word was 6th Century BCE Hebrew rendering of an Assyrian phrase AluLesha, meaning the city of Lesha. In Assyrian, the word ‘alu’ meaning city or town preceded the name of the town or city as in the capital city ; alu šarrati : the royal city ; alu elû : the upper city ; (al) libb(i) ali : the inner city. Greek does not have the phoneme ‘sh’ and substitutes a sigma (‘s’) for the letter sheen (sh) in Semitic languages. Also, Greek does not have an ayin, which ends the word Lesha, so the Alexandrian authors inserted a ‘rho’ to indicate that Ellasar was a city or 3yr in classical Hebrew. So, the Masoretes, once again, transliterated the word into Hebrew from the Septuagint texts and marked it with the niqqud to match the Koine Greek pronunciation. In any case, Lesha or Lasha aka AluLasha aka Ellasar was a city thought to be located in Jordan on the east bank of the Dead Sea; an area conquered by Tiglath-Piileser III. Arioch appears to be a Greek transliteration of the Assyrian name of the king. Tiglath-Pileser conquered both Ammon and Moab. However, king Arioch was most likely an Ammonite.
As for the Kingdom of Ammon, according to Wikipedia:
“After submitting to Tiglath-Pileser III they (the Ammonites) were generally tributary to the Neo-Assyrian Empire, but had joined in the general uprising that took place under Sennacherib; but they submitted and they became tributary in the reign of Esar-haddon. “
Both Moab and Ammon were defeated by Tiglath-Pileser III but the Ammonite king who submitted to Tiglath-Pileser III was Shanip. This Ammonite king, who was a vassal to Tiglath-Pileser III, had a son, Zacchur or Zakkur in the Ammonite language. Zakkur’s son was Jeraheazar or Yerach azar in the Ammonite language. This may be the mysterious Arioch as Arioch appears to be a Greek corruption of the Assyrian transliteration of the Ammonite name Yerach(azar). The name means Yerach (the moon god) is mighty. The Canaanite and Hebrew word for ‘moon’ was Yareach, which became the Septuagint name Arioch. The Masoretes transliterated the Greek word Arioch as Aryowk. However, the original word was Yarech/Yareach in the Ammonite language.
Researching the name Chedorlaomer or Khudur Lagamar/Lagamal in the Elamite language (what is known of it) is a challenge. The word Khudur is derived from the Sanskrit word kudara and means slave. And Lagamar/Lagamal is an Elamite goddess especially associated with Susa. She is one of the twin goddesses of the underworld whose jobs were to act as judges. Not much else is known of this pair.
The time frame that Elam was conquered by Tiglath-Pileser III is known as the Neo-Elamite II period and there are almost no known records from this period. What is known is that kings of Elam identified themselves as kings of Anshan and Susa. Khumbanigash (743–717) was the king of Elam during the time that Tiglath-Pileser III claimed to have defeated Elam, which happened before he was crowned king of Babylon in 729 BCE. There is not enough known about Khumbanigash except that his name includes the Elamite god of Anshan, Khumban who was “Keeper (kukki) of the Powerful God” (nap-azzak-ri), Great Lord, he who provides kiten for the King, God of the Sky). His other titles may have included ‘slave of Lagamar’ a goddess who seems to have been connected to Susa since the Middle Elamite period.
“During the Middle Elamite period, the elamization of the Susian pantheon progressed under the Šutrukids. Inšušinak remained the principal divinity, receiving the largest number of dedications, but Napiriša and sometimes Kiririša took precedence over him. For example, the eighteen known names of members of the royal family include as elements divine names, those of the three principal Susan divinities (Inšušinak, Išnikarab, and Lagamal) but otherwise only of Elamite divinities. On one stele (König, no. 54) Šilhak-Inšušinak mentioned a dozen deities, of whom only Nannar was of Mesopotamian origin.
The Neo-Elamite period. The elamizing trend continued until the fall of Elam. After his victory at Susa Aššurbanipal carried off the statues of nineteen deities, which he listed by name; all had apparently Susan Elamite names. Despite the misleading spellings, the names of several deities are recognizable, including those with the most prestige: Inšušinak, Simut, Lagamal, Pinigir, Hutran, and Kirmašir (Aynard, pp. 54-55).”
Ashurbanipal was an Assyrian king of the Sargonid Dynasty whose patriarch was Tiglath-Pileser III. The successors of Tiglath-Pileser III maintained the conquests of their patriarch by continuing to subdue the vassal states established by this Assyrian King. in any case, Khumbanigash’s name indicates that he was named after the god of Anshan. A further title very likely was Khudur Lagamar/Lagamal or slave of the goddess especially associated with the goddess of Susa, Lagamar/Lagamal. So, the King of Elam subdued by Tiglath-Pileser III was Khumbanigash whose titles were king of Anshan and Susa.
So, the four kings in the Genesis 14 narrative were Amr Pul, the Assyrian king of Babylon, (Amraphel), Khumbanigash king of Elam (Chedorlaomer), Tarhulara king of Gurgum (Tidal/Thargal) and Yareachezer king of Ammon (Arioch of Ellasar). Tiglath Pileser III was king of Assyria and Babylon. Khumbanigash, Tarhulara, and Yareachezer were kings of the Assyrian vassal states of Elam, Gurgum (a Neo Hittite state) and Ammon. Tiglath-Pileser III also defeated the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. It was Judean scribes in Babylon who wrote the Genesis 14 narrative. This narrative does not record an historical event. The narrative is a literary motif; a reversal which reverses historical events; the defeat of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah by the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III as well as the subjugation of the Kingdom of Judah by his grandson, Sennacherib. Judean scribes reversed these historical events by writing that the father of the Israelites, Abram, defeated the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III, who was also Amr Pul, the King of Shinar (Babylon) as well as the king of the Assyrian vassal states of Elam, Gurgum and Ammon. There are many of these types of narratives throughout biblical texts. Genesis 14 is one great example of this type of reversal literature.