Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations eBook

Archibald Sayce
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 247 pages of information about Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations.

Hamath had already fallen.  A portion of its population had been transported to the north, and their places filled with settlers from Babylonia.  Its king had become an Assyrian vassal, who along with the other subject princes of Asia attended the court held by Tiglath-pileser at Damascus after its capture, there to pay homage to the conqueror and swell his triumph.  A few years later, on the accession of Sargon, Hamath made a final effort to recover its freedom.  But the effort was ruthlessly crushed, and henceforward the last of the Aramaean kingdoms was made an Assyrian province.  When an Aramaean tribe again played a part in history it was in the far south, among the rocky cliffs of Petra and the desert fortress of the Nabathean merchants.

In the Book of Genesis, Mesopotamia, the country between the Euphrates and Tigris, is called not only Aram-Naharaim, “Aram of the Two Rivers,” but also Padan-Aram, “the acre of Aram.”  Padan, as we learn from the Assyrian inscriptions, originally signified as much land as a yoke of oxen could plough; then it came to denote the “cultivated land” or “acre” itself.  The word still survives in modern Arabic.  In the Egypt of to-day land is measured by feddans, the feddan (or paddmi) being the equivalent of our acre. Paddan was used in the same sense in the Babylonia of the age of Abraham.  Numerous contracts have been found for the lease or sale of estates in which the “acreage” or number of paddani is carefully stated.  The application of the name to the plain of Mesopotamia was doubtless clue to the Babylonians.  An early Babylonian king claims rule over the “land of Padan,” and elsewhere we are told that it lay in front of the country of the Arman or Aramaeans.

It was in western Padan that the kingdom of Mitanni was established.  Its founders, as we have seen, came from the north.  From the river Halys in Asia Minor to Lake Urumiyeh, east of Armenia, there was a multitude of tribes, most of whom seem to have belonged to the same race and to have spoken dialects of the same language.  The Hittites of Cappadocia and the ranges of the Taurus have already been described.  East of them came the Meshech and Tubal of the Bible as well as the kingdom of Comagene, of which we often hear in the Assyrian texts.  But of all these northern populations the most important—­at all events in the later Old Testament age—­were the inhabitants of a country called Biainas, but to which its neighbours gave the name of Ararat.  Ararat corresponded to southern Armenia, Biainas being the modern Van, and the Mount Ararat of modern geography lying considerably to the north of it.  In the ninth century before our era a powerful dynasty arose at Van, which extended its conquests far and wide, and at one time threatened to destroy even the Assyrian empire.  It signalised its accession to power by borrowing the cuneiform writing of Nineveh, and numerous inscriptions exist recording the names and victories of its sovereigns, the buildings they erected, and the gods they served.  The language of the inscriptions is strange and peculiar; it seems to be distantly related to modern Georgian, and may be akin to the dialects of the Hittites or of Mitanni.

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