Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations eBook

Archibald Sayce
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations.

[Footnote 9:  Numb. xxi. 27-29.]

[Footnote 10:  x. 14.]

[Footnote 11:  iv. 21.]

CHAPTER IV

THE NATIONS OF THE NORTH-EAST

Canaan is but the southern continuation of Syria, which shades off, as it were, into the waterless wilderness.  The name of Syria is usually supposed to be an abbreviation of Assyria, but it is more probable that it comes from Suri, the name by which the Babylonians denoted Mesopotamia and Syria of the north, and in which Assyria itself was sometimes included.  As we have seen, the Syria of our own maps, and more especially the southern half of it, was commonly known to the Babylonians as the land of the Amorites; in the later inscriptions of Assyria the place of the Amorites is taken by the Hittites.  When Assyria appeared upon the scene of history the Hittites had become the dominant people in the west.

The main part of the population of Syria and Mesopotamia was Aramaean—­that is to say, it consisted of Semites from Arabia who spoke Aramaic dialects.  But it was exposed to constant attacks from the north, and from time to time passed under the yoke of a northern conqueror.  At one time it was the Hittites who poured down the slopes of Mount Taurus and occupied the fertile plains and cities of northern Syria.  At another time a kindred people from the highlands of Armenia established a kingdom in Mesopotamia known as that of Mitanni to its own subjects, as that of Aram-Naharaim to the Hebrews.

The northern invaders sundered the Semites of the West from those of the East.  The kings of Mitanni held guard over the fords of the Euphrates, and intrigued in Palestine against the Egyptian Pharaohs.  But this did not prevent them from marrying into the Pharaoh’s family, while their daughters were sent to the harem of the Egyptian king.  Towards the end of the Eighteenth dynasty the sacred blood of the Pharaohs became contaminated by these foreign alliances.  For two generations in succession the queen-mother was a Mitannian princess, and a king finally sat upon the Pharaohs’ throne who attempted to supplant the religion of which he was the official head by a foreign cult, and thereby brought about the fall of his house and empire.

The power of Mitanni or Aram-Naharaim—­Aram of the Two Rivers—­does not seem to have long survived this event.  Chushan-rishathaim, we learn from the Book of Judges, held Palestine in subjection for eight years, until he was driven out by the Kenizzite Othniel, and about the same time Ramses III. of Egypt records his victory over the Mesopotamian king.  After this we hear no more of a king of Aram-Naharaim in Canaan or on the frontier of Egypt, and when the name of Mitanni is met with a little later in the Assyrian inscriptions it is that of a small and insignificant state.

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Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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