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Ptolemaic Influence in Biblical Texts

H. Abdul Al-Dahir

Below is a compilation regarding Ptolemaic influence on Biblical texts. The list includes both the influence of the Egyptian and Greek cultures that inspired the authors of the LXX (Septuagint-Greek Bible composed between 300-01 CE) & MT (Masoretic Texts-Hebrew Bible composed between 633 -1000 CE):

Words:

Egyptian: Hryw Say (chry s3y) D2-D21-G43-N37-D36-Z4-N33-A49-Z3 meaning Bedouin or ‘residents of the sand’=Chry haS3yr (Seir the Horite) Gen 36:20

Egyptian: nwd N35-U19-W24-Z7-D46-D54 meaning to vascilate, turn aside. This word, nwd in Hebrew and Nod in English, is used to describe the land to which Cain/Qyn was banished in Genesis 4:16. In other words, he was turned aside from his home and exiled to Nod.

Egyptian: Tsw S24-O34-G43-A24-A1 meaning commander = Hebrew tswh/tsvh meaning to command. The Semitic word is amr from the Akkadian word mu”uru. Tswh is used more than 500 times in the MT.

Egyptian: sngr (Babylonia) Aa18-N35-W11-D21-Z1-N25 = Sennaar in the LXX = Shinar in the MT. (Genesis 14:1) The Semitic word is Babel from the Akkadian word Babilu

Egyptian: Ammw (Seizers/Graspers) G1-G17-G17-G43-D36-Z2 = Ommin in the LXX = Eymiym in the MT . According to Deut 2:11, these giants were named Eymiym by the Moabites.

Egyptian: Djam/Djamu (stompers) U28-G1-G17 (to stomp) & U28-W24-G43-D77-D77-D77 (troops or men who stomp)=LXX Zomzummin-MT Zamzummiym. According to Deuteronomy 2:20 these giants were named by the Ammonites

Greek: pallakis meaning concubine = Hebrew piylegesh meaning concubine. The Semitic word is sry (sarai) in Hebrew and sryh in Arabic from the Akkadian word eseru (to confine) from which is derived the word serretu (concubine)

Greek: Iapetos (Greek Titan) = LXX Iapeth = MT Yepheth (Japheth in English-3rd son of Noah according to Genesis 5:32)

Greek pronunciation of Semitic names:

Assyrian Mu’irru Pulu = Amrpl in Hebrew = Amarp(h)el in the LXX = Amraphel in the MT. Genesis 14:1

Muirru Pulu (Commander Pulu) – Pulu was the personal name of Tiglath-Pileser III, which was Pulu’s throne name. His vassal states were: the Neo-Hittite state of Gurgum, the Elamite kingdom and the Ammonite kingdom. Tiglath-Pileser III used his personal name, Pulu, when he was crowned king of Babylon.

Hittite: Tarhulara of Gurgum (Gurgum was a Neo-Hittite state) = Thargal of nations in the LXX = Tidal of Goii in the MT. Genesis 14:1

Elamite: Khumbanigash king of Elam = Chodollogomor king of Ailam in the LXX = Kedorlaomer king of Elam in the MT. Genesis 14:1

The kings of Elam named themselves “King of Anshan & Susa”. Khumban was the god of Anshan and Lagamar was the goddess of Susa. Kedur Lagamar means slave of the goddess Lagamar.

Ammonite: Yarichezzer king of Alu Lasha, captial of Ammon? = Arioch king of Ellasar in the LXX = Ayowk of Ellasar in the MT. Genesis 14:1

Egyptian pra’a = P(h)arao in the LXX = par’oh in the MT

Ptolemaic parallels to Biblical stories:

Genesis 14, a Babylonian Story, and the Spartoli Tablets:

“The so-called Chedor-laomer texts, from the Spartoli tablets collection in the British Museum, may make reference to this period, where Kutir-Nahhunte (an Elamite king) is represented by Kudur-lagamar. Kudur-lagamar is described as ruling in Babylon and overthrowing, or perhaps taking away Marduk. These are fragmentary second century BC texts, preserving traditions going back to perhaps the seventh century BC, relating how four successive kings, with cryptic ambiguous names, attacked Babylon.”

In other words, the story adopted by the LXX authors was a story circulating in Babylon sometime between the 7th and 2nd Century BCE. The exiled Jewish scribes in Babylonia adapted this story to their ‘history’ so that Amr Pulu (Muirru Pulu) king of Shinar or Babylon and his vassal kings, Yarichezzer of Ammon (Alu Lasha), Tarhulara of Gurgum and Khumbanigash (Kudur Lagamar) of Elam, became the aggressors who attempted to occupy the land of Canaan but were defeated by the Judean cultural hero, Abram. This Judean adaptation of foreign cultural elements as tales, words and cultural heroes, is evident throughout biblical texts. For instance, Procrustes becomes Og (Egyptian name Aq) of Bashan. The giants of Greek mythology become the Nephilim and Raphaim as well as Goliath, who is dressed in the hoplite armor of these Greek giants. Nestor’s defeat of Ereuthalion becomes David’s defeat of Goliath. The tales regarding Imhotep become the biography of Joseph in Egypt.

Og (Aq in Egyptian) king of Bashan with his iron bed = Procrustes, legendary evil iron smith from Attica, and his iron bed (Deuteronomy 3:11)

David and Goliath and Goliath’s hoplite armor (1 Samuel 17) = Nestor and Ereuthalion (Homer’s Odyssey)

Arba, Talmai, Sheshai, Anak & Ahiman = Ptolemy IV (Talmai + Araba (#4)), the goddess Seshat (patroness of Ptolemy IV) as well as Anaka and Khnum, 2 Nile gods of the Elephantine Triad. (References: Numbers 13:22, Joshua 14:15, 15:13-14, 21:11, Judges 1:10, 2 Samuel 3:3, 13:37, I Chronicles 3:2)

Temple of Solomon = Pylon of Rameses II – The obelisks become the Temple of Solomon’s pillars; Boaz and Jachin (1 Kings 7:21)

Odyssey of Moses in the Sinai & his return to the Levant (Begins in Exodus and ends in Deuteronomy) = the odyssey of Ulysses & his return to Ithaca (Homer’s Odyssey)

Joseph in Egypt = Imhotep (vizier/god favored by the Ptolemaic Dynasty) – Both associated with the Priesthood of On (Awn), both become viziers to the pharaoh, both solve the Pharaoh’s dream of the 7 years of famine and 7 years of plenty (Famine Stele erected by the Ptolemaic Kingdom), both rise to royalty from a position of obscurity and both are associated with astrology (Joseph’s dream of 11 stars, the sun and the moon) (Genesis 37 – 50)

Table of Nations – Genesis 10 – (tripartition of the nations into descendants of Shem, Ham & Japheth) = the tripartition of Alexander’s conquests among his 3 generals, Lysimachus, Ptolemy and Seleucis

The Greek ship the Syracusia designed by Archimedes and gifted to Ptolemy III by Hieron II of Syracuse became the model for Noah’s ark (Genesis 6 – 9)

Egyptian Giants: In the LXX, the Zamzummites are Zomzummin. This word is transliterated in the MT as zamzummiym. There is no letter ‘Z’ in Egyptian so one must consult the letter “D’ pronounced as ‘dj’. The Egyptian word is Djam U28-G1-G17 and means to stamp the foot. The plural of this word is Djamw U28-W24-G43-D77-D77-D77 and means troops, recruits. So, Zomzommin/zamzummiym means stompers which is what troops do when they march. Both the Seizers and Stompers were identified with the Anakim or Ptolemy IV and his patron goddess, Seshat, who were accused of persecuting the Jewish community in Egypt. The 2 Nile gods who were grouped with the Anakim were Anak (Anaka) and Ahiman( Khunm). These gods were worshipped by priests who burned the Jewish temple to Anath-yahu located at Elephantine. The Seizers or Ommin and the Stompers or Zamzummin are a reference to the story in 3 Maccabees in which Ptolemy IV seized the Jews who would not be apostates to their faith, and transported them to Alexandria to kill them in the Hippodrome. The Hippodrome massacre failed, so Ptolemy IV attempted to stomp them out with a herd of elephants. According to Wikipedia:

“According to the book (3 Maccabees), after Ptolemy’s defeat of Antiochus III in 217 BC at the battle of Raphia, he visited Jerusalem and the Second Temple. However, he is miraculously prevented from entering the building. This leads him to hate the Jews and upon his return to Alexandria, he rounds up all the Jews in the kingdom to put them to death in his hippodrome. Those Jews who agree to abandon their faith are to be spared.

An attempt to register all the Jews before their execution is thwarted by the sheer number of the Jews. Ptolemy then attempts to have the Jews killed by crushing by elephant and orders 500 elephants to be intoxicated in order to enrage them.”

The episode is fictitious but even fiction has happy endings, if one can call a genocide against Jews by their fellow Jews a felicitous event. Ptolemy IV was thwarted in his attempt to stomp out the Jews, so, according to Wiki:

“Ptolemy abruptly forgets his anger with the Jews and honours them with various immunities and a banquet, with several dates being established as commemorative festivals. The Jews request and receive permission to return home and to kill all the Jews who chose to abandon their faith in order to be spared. The book includes a letter, ostensibly by Ptolemy, to this effect. Finally, the Jews return home.”

The 3 Maccabees tale is a good example of political propaganda produced by the writers of the LXX who were attempting to sully the name of their Ptolemaic and Seleucid occupiers. These stories were referenced in the Tanakh (Old Testament) with the giants the Anakim, the Zamzumin and the Emmin. Og of Bashan, on the other hand, is a transposition of the Greek legendary, evil smith, Procrustes, from Greek mythology into Hebrew mythology as an evil giant with an iron bed. The implication being that Og, like Procrustes, was using the iron bed as a mechanism of torture.

Other biblical giants, Raphaim and Nephilim, refer to a race of giants which no longer existed because they were drowned in Noah’s flood, except for a few Raphiam as Og of Bashan. The name ‘Nephilim’ derives from the root ‘nephal’ which means to fall and to die. ‘Raphaim’ derives from the root ‘rapha’ and means dead, deceased. The Nephilim and Raphaim were giants because the sons of the gods copulated with the daughters of Adam and begot a race of giants or gigantes in Greek mythology. According to Gen 6:4: “There were giants ( gigantes in the LXX) in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” These ‘giants’ were ‘mighty men of old, men of renown’ which means that their height could be a result of their divine parentage as El was a giant sky god and his offspring were thought of as giants too. Or the reference to giants could refer to the size of their renown which came from tales of their mighty strength. The LXX uses the Greek word ‘gigantes’ in many places where the MT refers to these mythological creatures as Nephilim and Raphaim.

In Greek mythology, the giants were the offspring of the Earth (Gaia) and Uranus (the Sky). These giants fought with the Olympian gods. According to Wikipedia: “In Greek and Roman Mythology, the Giants, also called Gigantes… were a race of great strength and aggression, though not necessarily of great size, known for the Gigantomachy (Gigantomachia), their battle with the Olympian gods. According to Hesiod, the Giants were the offspring of Gaia (Earth), born from the blood that fell when Uranus (Sky) was castrated by his Titan son Cronus. Archaic and Classical representations show Gigantes as man-sized hoplites (heavily armed ancient Greek foot soldiers) fully human in form.” This hoplite armor is the armor in which the giant Goliath was dressed according to 1 Sam 17:4-7: “A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.”

The LXX authors took from the Greeks the tale of the giants, who, in Genesis 6, became descendants of the gods and the daughters of Adam that became men of great height and great renown. Adam is derived from the word adamah and means red earth. So, the daughters of Adam (Adamah) are literally daughters of the earth or Gaia who, in the Greek tale, is the mother of the giants. The Greek giants were the offspring of Uranus (sky god) and Gaia (earth goddess). In Genesis 6, these giants , Nephilim, were the offspring of the sons of the gods and the daughters of the earth or Adam (adamah). In Homer’s Odyssey “giants were among the ancestors of the Phaiakians, a race of men encountered by Odysseus, their ruler Alcinous being the son of Nausithous, who was the son of Poseidon and Periboea, the daughter of the Giant king Eurymedon. Elsewhere in the Odyssey, Alcinous says that the Phaiakians, like the Cyclopes and the Giants, are “near kin” to the gods. Odysseus describes the Laestrygonians (another race encountered by Odysseus in his travels) as more like Giants than men.” So, as Odysseus encounters giants on his travels to Ithaca, Moses and his army also encounter giants on their travels to Canaan.

The biblical stories of Giants indicates the pervasiveness of Ptolemaic Egypt on Biblical texts. Greek stories of giants were a pervasive theme in Greek literature and Greek art, both of which were touted by the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt under which the LXX authors worked in Alexandria.

The Great Isaiah Scroll found at Qumran:

The Egyptian name for Babylon, Sngr is transliterated as Shinar in the MT and Sennaar in the LXX. It interesting that the Qumran Isaiah scroll also uses the word Shinar. (Other biblical books which use this Egyptian word are Genesis, Daniel and Zechariah.). The Qumran MS uses the Egyptian word for Babylon or Shinar in Isa 10:30 which is equivalent to the MT Isa 11:11. The Hebrew word for Babylon is Babel. The word Shinar in the Qumran text means that the Isaiah scroll indicates a Ptolemaic influence. Indeed, according to the following site, the Great Isaiah Scroll at Qumran is a copy that dates to 100 BCE or more than 100 years after the LXX which, according to Wikipedia, dates to the 3rd Century BCE.

https://www.ao.net/~fmoeller/qa-tran.htm

“The Essenes in Qumran who copied this scroll approximately 100 BCE are not to be considered the protectors of an accurate text identical with the Tanach which would have been revered by the Rabbis. They were actually far from the main stream and it is clear that the Q text of Isaiah is a “dialect” of Hebrew. It is not a translation, but is characterized by modifications in spelling and personal pronouns to match the then current Aramaic dialect that the Essen es would have spoken.It was much like changing “ye,” “thee” and “thou” to “you” and “thine” to “yours” would be to us. Thus the preservation of an identical letter for letter received text was not at all a part of their motivation in their use of the scriptures. The Qumran texts that I have translated (1QaIsa) and (1QpHab) are dialects of Hebrew and not the Hebrew of the Tanach. Preservation of the original Hebrew letter for letter text was the role played by the Rabbis of the “main stream” in Jerusalem and Babylon (Sura, Nahardea and Pumbidita) and they had a special class, an office called Scribes, who carefully copied manuscripts then kept the new and destroyed the old. The Essenes were not and did not claim to be copyists of the same genre.”

So, the oldest copy of a Qumran biblical text clearly shows the influence of Ptolemaic Egypt.

There is much more to be added to this list.

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