Genesis 14, Abram & the Battle of Carchemish

H. Abdul Al-Dahir

Genesis 14:15 mentions Khwbh, a city located to the north (left) of Damascus. The name Khwbh is a transliteration of the Aramaic word Khwgba which means ‘idol/shrine’. Khwgba is an Aramaic transliteration of Kugbau, a Sumerian queen who was deified as a goddess. Her fame and shrines spread throughout the ancient Middle East and Anatolia. She was known to the Babylonians as Kubaba and to the Hurrians and Hittites as Khepat/Khebat. Her most famous shrine was located in Carchemish, an important ancient capital in the northern part of the region of Syria. At times during its history the city was independent, but it was also part of the Mitanni, Hittite and Neo-Assyrian Empires.

Khwbh aka Khwgba aka Carchemish was in the list of states conquered by the Sargon II son of AmrPal (Commander Pulu). According to the article, “Sargon II, king of Assyria (721-705 BC)”:

“Sargon was not the chosen successor of his father Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 BC) but took the throne by force from his brother Shalmaneser V (726-722 BC), the former crown prince Ululayu whose reign lasted barely five years…
The new king met with massive opposition in the Assyrian heartland as well as further away. The centre of insurgence in the west of the Assyrian empire was the city of Hamat PGP where one Yau-bi’di gained widespread support: the former kingdoms of Hamat, Arpad PGP , Damascus PGP and Israel all rose in rebellion in the aftermath of Sargon’s rise to power but he managed to crush the revolt in 720 BC. Hamat was destroyed once again and 6,300 “guilty Assyrians”, people from the heartland whose lives Sargon had decided to spare but whom he exiled from the empire’s centre in northern Iraq, found themselves moved to its ruins, repaying their merciful king by rebuilding this once proud city.

As central Assyria and the west rose in rebellion against the new king, Assyria’s enemies in the south saw their chance: Merodach-baladan, chief of the powerful Bit-Yakin tribe and the leading figure of the anti-Assyrian movement in Babylonia, announced the end of Assyrian sovereignty and claimed the throne of Babylon for himself. Sargon reacted to this provocation by marching his troops southwards and Merodach-baladan retaliated by joining forces with the king of Elam PGP , Assyria’s rival of old. Together they mustered a massive army against Sargon’s forces. In 720 BC, the troops met in battle at the city of Der in the plains east of Babylon, on the very same battlefield where, almost two centuries later (539 BC), Dareios the Great would defeat the army sent by the last Babylonian king, Nabonidus, to repel the Persian invasion. Although Merodach-baladan’s troops arrived too late for active combat, the Assyrian army was pushed back by his Elamite allies and he retained control of the south and the title of king of Babylon.

After this rocky start, and the loss of the Babylonian crown, Sargon was able to consolidate his rule in Assyria and his son Sennacherib, as crown prince, assumed a very responsible role in the running of the state.

The looting of the temple of Haldi at Mu?a?ir, as depicted on a stone relief from the decoration of Sargon’s palace at Dur-Šarruken (modern Khorsabad). The original is now lost and the only remaining record is this drawing by Eugène Flandin, made at the site of the excavation. The Assyrian soldiers are shown making away with their spoils of war while a pair of scribes record a seated Assyrian official’s account, presumably enumerating the looted objects from the sanctuary which dominates the scene, with dedicatory statues, cauldrons and shields and spears decorating its front.
The conquest of Carchemish in 717 BC allowed Sargon to compensate for the costs of the permanent and intensive deployment of the army since the beginning of his reign. The small but wealthy kingdom of Carchemish was situated in a key position in the trade network: controlling an important Euphrates crossing, it was positioned at a crossroads between the Mediterranean coast, Anatolia and Assyria and profited from its role in international trade. Moreover, Carchemish was the ideological heir of the Hittite Kingdom of the second millennium BC, lending its king a leading role among the Syrian and Anatolian kingdoms that occupied the lands formerly under Hittite control. When Sargon attacked, he violated existing treaties with the venerable Assyrian ally, claiming that Pisiri, king of Carchemish, had betrayed him to his enemies. Carchemish could not offer much resistance to the Assyrian army. The prize was its treasury, including more than 60 tonnes of silver, huge amounts of bronze, tin, iron and ivory and 330 kilos of purified gold. The influx of silver permanently changed the Assyrian economy from a bronze-based to a silver-based financial system which relied on silver according to the standard of Carchemish.”

According to Wikipedia:

The states that are called Neo-Hittite or, more recently, Syro-Hittite were Luwian-, Aramaic- and Phoenician-speaking political entities of the Iron Age in northern Syria and southern Anatolia that arose following the collapse of the Hittite Empire in around 1180 BC and lasted until roughly 700 BC. The term “Neo-Hittite” is sometimes reserved specifically for the Luwian-speaking principalities, like Milid and Carchemish. However, in a wider sense the broader cultural term “Syro-Hittite” is now applied to all the entities that arose in south-central Anatolia following the Hittite collapse, such as Tabal and Quwê, as well as those of northern and coastal Syria.…

The Syro–Hittite states may be divided into two groups: a northern group where Hittite rulers remained in power, and a southern group where Aramaeans came to rule from about 1000 BC. These states were highly decentralised structures; some appear to have been only loose confederations of sub-kingdoms.

The northern group includes:

Tabal. It may have included a group of city states called the Tyanitis (Tuwana, Tunna, Hupisna, Shinukhtu, Ishtunda)
Kammanu (with Melid)
Quwê (with a stronghold at modern Karatepe)
The southern group includes:

Palistin (whose capital was probably Tell Tayinat)[12][13]
Bit Gabbari (with Sam’al)
Bit-Adini (with the city of Til Barsip)
Bit Bahiani (with Guzana)
Pattin (also Pattina or Unqi) (with the city of Kinalua, maybe modern Tell Tayinat[14])
Ain Dara, a religious center
Bit Agusi (with the cities of Arpad, Nampigi, and (later on) Aleppo)
Hatarikka-Luhuti (the capital city of which was at Hatarikka)

end quote

Gurgum was conquered by Tiglath Pileser III and Carchemish was conquered by his son, Sargon II. This is the reason the authors of Gen 14:15 had Tiglath Pileser III’s (aka biblical AmrPal aka Commander Pulu) vassals; Chedolaomer (aka Khumbanigash), king of Elam, Tidal (aka Thargal aka Tarhulara) king of Gurgum (aka Goiim), and Arioch (aka Yareachezzer) king of Ammon (aka Alu Lasha aka Ellasar) flee to Carchemish, the city of Khwba aka Khwgba aka Kugbau aka Kubaba aka Khebat. Carchemish was a vassal kingdom of Sargon II as Gurgum was a vassal kingdom of Tiglath Pileser III. Carchemish is located on the border of Gurgum. Refer to the map:

Carchemish among the Neo-Hittite states

So, the tale of Genesis 14 is a tale in which Abram pursues the Assyrian monarch and his vassal kings to Khwbh or Carchemish where they are defeated by Nebuchadnezzer II at the Battle of Carchemish, the battle which ended the Assyrian Empire. The authors have AmrPal and his vassal kings flee to Carchemish because Carchemish was a vassal kingdom of Assyria and a place of refuge for the Assyrians. The destination of Carchemish is also satirical because “in the summer of 605 BC, the Battle of Carchemish was fought there by the Babylonian army of Nebuchadnezzar II and that of Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt and the remnants of the Assyrian army (Jer. 46:2). The aim of Necho’s campaign was to contain the Westward advance of the Babylonian Empire and cut off its trade route across the Euphrates. However, the Egyptians were defeated by the unexpected attack of the Babylonians and were eventually expelled from Syria.”

The Battle of Carchemish was the end of the Assyrian Empire. Since, the Judean authors of Genesis 14 could not record that they inflicted an historical defeat on the Assyrian empire, they employed their literary talents to author a tale of revenge in which their cultural hero, Abram, aided in the defeat the Assyrian empire as well as its vassal kingdoms. Sweet literary revenge for the Judean authors of Gen 14 and an entertaining satire too!

Perhaps Genesis 14 should be subtitled: ‘Abram Chases the Neo Assyrian Empire to its Doom at Carchemish’ or “Abram, the Real Hero of the Battle of Carchemish” or “Abram’s Strategy Defeats the Assyrian Empire at Carchemish” or “Abram’s Courageous Pursuit Pushes the Assyrian Empire into Babylon’s Fatal Embrace” or “Abram Attacks AmrPal & Abets the Annihilation of Assyrian Authority.” In any case, Genesis 14 is a tale which attempts to re-write history which offers that the Judeans actually conceived a strategy which caused the ultimate demise of their despised enemy and occupier, Assyria.

Comments are closed.

Search The Site

Can't find what are you looking for?