BIBLE AND SPADE - BY STEPHEN L CAIGER D B - first published at the University Press, Oxford 1936. This Edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2003.



HOME | Contents  | Introduction | The Battle of the Kings (Gen.xiv) | Ur of the Chaldees (Gen xiv) | Abraham in Canaan | Abraham in Egypt | Melchizedek King of Salem (Gen.xiv)

THE Biblical tradition of Abraham's early connexion with 'Ur of the Chaldees', whether integral in the oldest document or not, is strongly supported by archaeological research.
[Gen.xi.28 is from J, but with in Ur of the Chaldees a possible insertion by P.
Other references to Ur are mostly P.
'Ur of the Chaldees' (Heb. Ur-Kasdim) as Abraham's original home is supported by the tradition (Gen.x.22, xi.10 P) which makes him a descendant of Arpachshad, which may be a variant of Ur-pa-Khasd-im.]

The implications of the influence of Babylonian legend upon the earliest Hebrew traditions have already been mentioned. 

We have also the evidence of the Biblical names which so often, as it were inadvertently,
embody very primitive tradition
[For the evidence of Hebrew nomenclature in general consult F. Hommel, Ancient Hebrew Tradition (1897).],
Thus the name Abraham
[Abiramu, Ab-ramu = The Father is great.],
also in the form Abram,
has been identified on Babylonian contract tablets as that of a small farmer under the First Dynasty (c. 2200 BC).
Among the witnesses to such contracts appear the names Jacob (Yakubu-ilu) and Joseph (Yasup-ilu);
and it is said that Israel (as a personal name) has been found on a Babylonian seal of 2500 BC.
Other names connected with the story of Abraham, such as Terah, Sarah, Milcah, Laban, and so forth,
[Terah as a divine name appears in the Ras Shamra tablets, and a god Laban is found in the Cappadocian inscriptions.]
have a Babylonian rather than a distinctively Hebrew flavour,
and it is to be noted that few of them reappear in later Judaism. 

Further, the name Hebrew actually first emerges as a tribal name about the beginning of the second millennium, being found among the records of the Elamite king Rim-Sin (c. 2100).
Even so early the Hebrews seem to have been recognized as a separate people, with a reputation for fighting;
[The name Hebrew was prefixed by a sign meaning Warrior.]
and already the name of their chief deity was El or Elohim (plural), as among the Biblical Hebrews.
The name 'Hebrew' is spelt very much as it was six centuries later in the Tell el Amarna tablets, viz. Habiru,
and 'the identification of Habiru with Hebrew is so distinctly called for
both by the likeness of the words
and by the part which the Habiru play in western Asia at this time,
that it may be accepted with little uneasiness for the present purpose,
which is to show that a people among whom Abram the Hebrew (Gen.xiv.13) was a chieftain
first became known to the subjects of Rim-Sin and Hammurabi'.
[C. J. Gadd, History and Monuments of Ur (1929).]

More significant still is the apparently undesigned coincidence of the Biblical chronology:
one line of tradition fixing the date of Abraham by numerical 'dead-reckoning' as about 2100 BC
[This figure is calculated from data given in Genesis (chiefly P), where Abraham's migration from Haran is put as 1,125 years before Solomon's Temple (967 BC), i.e. 2092 BC.],
another line carrying him back to the period of Hammurabi (Amraphel) who lived about the same time.
Whatever the documentary origin of these two time-notes,
they converge upon the same date for Abraham.


(Gen. 14)

It will be remembered that according to the fourteenth chapter of Genesis
(the literary date and origin of which is uncertain)
Abraham after his arrival in Canaan joins forces with five Amorite kings in their struggle to repel an invasion by four kings of the East.
These four kings are named
Am-raphel king of Shinar,
Arioch king of Ellasar,
Chedorlaomer king of Elam,
and Tidal king of Goiim (Gen.xiv.9). 

Amraphel king of Shinar is clearly a Hebrew rendering of Hammurabi king of Sumer.
Shinar, whether verbally identical with Sumer or not, is the usual designation of southern Babylonia.
Some difficulty has been felt in the omission of the initial H from Amraphel,
but that it was occasionally omitted by the cuneiform writers is shown by the spelling Ammurabi in some tablets.
Further variants are Hammurapi and Ammurapi.
As Hammurabi was deified, like most Babylonian monarchs, after his death,
his name may have appeared as Ammurapi-ilu or Ammurapil,
which brings us as near Amraphel as we could expect—
Biblical Hebrew provides us with far stranger transliterations from the cuneiform. 

Chedorlaomer king of Elam has not been identified as yet upon any contemporary inscriptions,
although Scheil claimed at one time to have found his name in a tablet of Hammurabi.
In form it is genuinely Elamite:
(Chedor) appears in many royal compounds,
such as Kudur-Nanhundi and Kudur-Mabug,
while Lagamar (Laomer) was a well-known Elamite deity. 

Pinches did indeed identify the name (in the form Kudur-lahgu-mal) in some late Babylonian war-songs of the Persian period,
the so-called Spartoli Tablets,
where, more remarkable still,
it appears in company with Tidal (Tudhala), Arioch (Eri-Aku),
and even, by a conjectural restoration, with Am­raphel (Hammurabi) himself.
Although these songs may have been copied from ancient and authoritative documents, little weight can be laid upon them:
they may even have been based upon the Biblical narrative.
On the other hand, some scholars would regard the songs as depicting a situation under the obscure Kassite Dynasty of about 1700 BC, when it seems a second Hammurabi ruled in Babylon. 

Positive evidence for the existence of a Chedorlaomer king of Elam is thus lacking.
But neither is there negative evidence against the possibility of such a king ruling over Elam somewhere about the beginning of the second millennium.
The list of Elamite kings of this period being incomplete,
there seems to be a gap after Kudur-Mabug II (2160 BC) into which he could be fitted. 

Arioch king of Ellasar is less puzzling, though his identification, too, is uncertain.
Ellasar is generally recognized as the well-known Elamite city Larsa,
while under the form Arioch it is not difficult to recognize Eri-Aku,
an equally well-known king of Larsa, who reigned from about 2167 BC,
and whose name might be expressed in Semitic form as Warad-Sin.
Eri-Aku, however, is proved by the recently discovered 'Larsa Date List' to have died some years before Hammurabi came to the throne, so that there may be a confusion between Warad-Sin {Eri-Aku) and his brother Rim-Sin
[Some scholars, however, would identify Warad-Sin and Rim-Sin.
The whole period is very obscure.],
well known as a contemporary of Hammurabi. 

Tidal king of Goiim is also unknown from the inscriptions, save for the reference in the war-songs above mentioned, where Tudhala certainly looks like the Hebrew Tidhal (Tidal).
Goiim [i.e. the Nations (Hebrew).]  may with much probability be identified with the Hittites of the north who at this period were beginning to intervene in Mesopotamia. 

So much for the names of the Four Kings. 

With regard to the general situation there seems no reason to question a factual basis of Genesis 14.
An invasion of Canaan by Mesopotamia was at one time deemed incredible at this early period.
The excavations have proved the contrary.
It is now known that from the days of Lugal-Zaggisi of Erech (c. 2900 BC) and Sargon of Akkad (c. 2800 BC) the 'Land of Amurru', that is, of the Amorites, had been subject to such raids.
Shortly before Hammurabi, Kudur-Mabug of Larsa calls himself' Lord of Amurru', and Hammurabi himself claimed that his empire extended as far as the Mediterranean.
There is plenty of independent evidence, therefore, for the likelihood of an Amorite subjection to Elam (twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, Gen.xiv.4), and for the probability of a punitive invasion, should they have rebelled. 

There is also good evidence for the Biblical ascription of leadership to the king of Elam, as implied in the phrase came Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him (Gen.xiv.5).
For many years before, and for six years after the accession of Hammurabi (2123)
[The precise dates of Hammurabi, &c., are fixed by the inscriptions in conjunction with astronomical research.],
the kings of Elam were overlords of all the cities of Babylonia, including Babylon itself.
Hammurabi's predecessor Sin-Muballit and Hammurabi himself may well have been compulsory allies of Elam in an expedition like this, such a combination being not without precedent.
[Cambridge Ancient History, vol.i, cc.13, 14.
The tablets record an alliance of Elam and Babylon some forty years earlier in 2163 BC.]

All of which disposes of the objection that Babylon could not possibly have joined forces with Elam, as stated in the Biblical narrative. 

In 2117 BC, however, Hammurabi rebelled against Rim-Sin of Elam.
A bitter war broke out between the two countries which ended with the total overthrow of the Elamite supremacy in 2093 BC, and the beginning of the 'Golden Age of Hammurabi'.
If we are to attempt a precise date for the events of Genesis 14, it may therefore fall between 2123 and 2117 BC. 

To sum up, although it cannot be claimed that archaeology has established the strict historicity of the Battle of the Kings, it has none the less failed to prove the opposite.
This at least is fairly clear: the intention of the Biblical writer was to make Abraham a contemporary of the famous Hammurabi of Babylon (2123-2081 BC).
Details of the reign of this far-off sovereign, which had been buried in oblivion for three thousand years, are now revealed to us by numberless tablets and inscriptions recently deciphered.
His best-known monument is, of course, the stele
[Stele (pronounced steel-ee)—a stone, upright slab containing an inscription.]
of black marble discovered at Susa in 1900, inscribed with his laws,
known as the Code of Hammurabi (p.87).
We shall have more to say of this later, and will merely pause to note the interesting fact that several of the episodes of Abra­ham's life, such as his dealings with Sarah and Hagar and his contract for the purchase of Machpelah, imply a current legal system very similar to that of Hammurabi's Code. 

Leaving details for a broader view, the Biblical story of Abraham and his migration does fit in with what we know of the general situation at the beginning of the second millennium.
Babylonia had already been for some centuries a centre of Semitic peoples in constant communication with their kinsmen in the west.
The route from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran, Damascus, and Palestine was well known.
[Some scholars conjecture that Abraham's Haran was not the famous city in Mesopotamia,
but a less-known place near Damascus in the lesser 'Mesopotamia' (Aram-Naharaim) between Abanah and Pharpar.]
Apart from the natural tendency of nomads to seek 'fresh woods and pastures new', Elamite pressure from the east had long tended to promote a westward flow along the grasslands of the 'Fertile Crescent'
[The 'Fertile Crescent' is the crescent -
or horse-shoe-shaped belt of fertile riverine country from southern Babylonia,
up the Euphrates,
then bending south along the Orontes and Jordan valleys to the Delta of the Nile.],
and once arrived in northern Syria a similar pressure on the part of the growing Hittite power would divert the Semitic tide towards Palestine and the south.
It may well be that the Biblical story of Abraham's journeyings preserves a dim memory of these prehistoric tribal movements. 

In conclusion, we cannot do better than quote one of the latest pronouncements of scholarship
[C. J. Gadd, History and Monuments of Ur (1929).]:  
'The result of these considerations is to suggest that:

  1. The tradition of Abram's birth at Ur may be fearlessly accepted.
  2. His sojourn there may have been under the reign of Rim-Sin or Hammurabi, about 2000 BC.
  3. His traditional journeying from Ur to Haran does in fact broadly correspond with a general northern transfer of the Habiru or Hebrew peoples from southern Babylonia, where they are first mentioned in secular literature.'

From which it will be gathered that in some respects the latest scholarship is more 'conservative' than that of the previous generation.


The site of Ur under the modern village of Mukkayyar, now an important railway junction, has been definitely identified by the discovery of the foundation-cylinders, each in its little chamber, built within the four corners of the ziggurat — incidentally the first discovery of its kind.
Here we read the name of the city, and that of Ur-Dungi the Sumerian founder of the temple in 2500 BC.
Nearby, at Tell el Obeid, an inscription on marble takes us back as far as the first king of the first Sumerian Dynasty, c. 4000 BC.
So that the civilization of Ur was already of immemorial antiquity before Abraham was born. 

The discoveries of Woolley in 1928 and onwards have filled in many details of the culture of Ur.
The private houses of Abraham's day reveal an astounding amount of refinement,
'the whole plan of the building anticipating almost exactly that of the richer houses of modern Baghdad'.
Beautifully wrought articles of gold and silver, of a date at least 2,000 years older than Tutankhamen, show more delicate artistic work than anything so early in Egypt.
A chased filigree gold dagger is particularly exquisite.
Here, too, at a time nearly 2,000 years before the so-called Iron Age, wrought iron has been found—
though still as a precious metal used chiefly for ornaments.
Near by, too, has been found the oldest piece of glass in the world—
made five thousand years ago! 

It is unlikely, however, that Abraham and his people were themselves city-dwellers:
the pastoral ideal is too strongly marked in the earliest Hebrew tradition.
Yet without doubt he must have been familiar with the city-dwellers whose culture as described above reveals such high development.
Still more likely is it that he was keenly aware of the religious atmosphere of Ur. 

From time immemorial Ur had been the centre of Moon-worship, her temple the shrine of Sin or Nannar.
The excavations have shown that the Moon was called Abu, Father.
He was described as 'The Source which of itself begets itself, and for ever continues'...
reminding us almost of the phrase I am that I am.
He was also named 'The Shepherd',
and there is reason to believe that already the divine name Yau or Ya
(root of the name JAHWEH, or Jehovah) was bestowed upon him.
His chief festival was the spring New Moon in the month Nisan, like the Jewish Passover.
Second only in importance to the temple at Ur was the temple of the Moon at Haran,
whither Abraham went after leaving his native city. 

That there was a dark side to this Moon-worship is only too clear.
Human sacrifice was prevalent, especially in connexion with the funerals of royalty. In one such grave was found a group of ten women arranged in two rows and still wearing their court regalia.
Corpses found entombed in the house-walls were apparently ordinary burials.

The Ram in the Thicket.  Mention may here be made of the curious 'Ram-in-a-Thicket' Statuette of gold, lapis lazuli, and shell discovered at Ur.
It represents a ram caught in a thicket,
to the branches of which its legs are tied with silver chains—
evidently a religious motif,
for it is one oft-repeated in similar statuettes.
A possible connexion between this figure and the Biblical story of Abraham's proffered sacrifice of Isaac (Gen. 22 E) has been suggested.

As Irwin finely sums up:
[C. H. Irwin, The Bible, the Scholar, and the Spade (1932).]
'Such were the people among whom Abraham had been brought up,
and such were some of their beliefs.
Amid their polytheism he heard the voice of the one true God.
Starting with their ideas of human sacrifice, he learned through that same voice the lesson that put an end to human sacrifice as a normal practice in the religion of the Hebrews.'

In view of the facts outlined above,
it has been conjectured that Abraham's reasons for migrating from Ur were primarily religious.
Up to the accession of Hammurabi, Moon-worship had remained without a rival amongst the Semites of Babylonia.
But Hammurabi himself favoured the new cult of the Sun, or Shamash.
It is Shamash who inspires his Code of Laws, and Shamash-Iluni is the name he gives his son.

Now Abraham may have been attached rather to the wor­ship of Sin, the Moon.
In addition to the coincidences noted above,
it is pointed out that Sarai may signify Sharratu, Moon-Princess;
Milcah may be Malkatu, Queen of the Sky;
Terah sounds like a form of Yerah, a lunar title;
Laban like lebana, poetical for the moon;
and of course Sinai may be the Mountain of Sin.
On this theory Abraham's departure from Ur was a protest,
already doggedly monotheistic,
against admitting any strange god in his temple.
'In Abram we see a Mahdi.
The march out from Babylonia appears to us a hegira.
The religious movement under Mohammed offers in many points an historical analogy.
Like the religion of Mohammed,
so that of Abram is a reforming advance upon the current ideals' (Jeremias).


Archaeology has found no traces of Abraham in Canaan, which, in the nature of the case, was only to be expected.
But many of the places mentioned in the Biblical narrative have been identified and shown to have existed as early as the patriarchal period.
[For Palestinian excavations see J. G. Duncan, Digging up Biblical History ('1931);
J. Garstang, Joshua-Judges, appendix (1931).] 

Shechem (Gen..6 J) has been excavated by Sellin and others near Nablus.
It is clear that the site was occupied from the earliest times, though not fortified till 2000 BC.
Garstang discovered the name of the city (Sekmem) in 1901, on an inscription of Senusert III, one of the oldest accounts of Egyptian campaigning in the country. [See below, the Stele of Sebek-khu, p.59.]
Similarly at Bethel and Ai (Gen..8 J) traces of Bronze Age occupation [The various Ages are usually thus dated for Canaan: Neolithic, 4000—2500; Bronze, 2500—1200; Iron, 1200 onwards.] have been found.
Gerar (Gen.xx.1 E) had an occupation dated by Petrie at 2600 BC.
Excavations show that it became a great grain-growing centre about 2000 BC, the time of Abraham— perhaps as a result of the warning given by the famine mentioned in Gen..10 J, which caused the patriarch to seek sustenance in Egypt.
Sodom and Gomorrah have not been identified with certainty, but Mallon believes he has found the former city in a plain of the Jordan valley, where there are remains of a great Amorite city utterly destroyed by fire about 2000 BC. 

As to Salem (Gen.xiv) this is probably the same as Jeru­salem, the Uru-Salim of the Tell el Amarna tablets.
Its existence as an occupied site can be traced back to the early Bronze Age, and its Jebusite fortifications on the southern mount of Ophel to about 2400 BC, though there was nothing very elaborate in the way of defences until a little later than 2000 BC. It is an interesting question, what is the earliest date at which Jerusalem appears on the monuments?
The honour seems to go to some ostraka found in 1925, at Luxor, invoking a curse upon certain enemies of Egypt, among which appears the name of a Canaanite city Wrioshim, quite possibly our Jerusalem.
The ostraka are dated in Dynasty XI, about 2500 BC.
As to the derivation of the name,
the conjecture that Salem
[The name has been found in a feminine form (Shalmanitu) in the Babylonian inscriptions.]
was an ancient Semitic god of peace is said to have been verified by the recently discovered Ras Shamra tablets,
so that Jerusalem = Uru-Salem = The City of the God of Peace.


Who was the Pharaoh who entreated Abram well, when the patriarch visited Egypt in search of corn? (Gen..10 -20 J).

Unfortunately the dates of Egyptian history at this early period are still in doubt by a very wide margin, but it is known that from the third millennium onwards the country had been subject to incursions of 'Asiatics' from Palestine, Syria, Sinai, or Arabia. A barricade, the so-called 'Prince's Wall', had even been erected to keep them out.
'It is not impossible that the story of Abram is an echo in Hebrew tradition of such an Asiatic invasion of Egypt.'
[E. T. Peet, Egypt in the Old Testament, 37-56.]

If, however, we follow Manetho and some modern scholars in dating the peak of this Asiatic invasion (by the Hyksos) considerably earlier than Abraham, we shall conjecture that on his visit to Egypt early in the second millennium he may have found the celebrated Shepherd Kings already firmly established in the Delta.
[Flinders Petrie insists that the XVth (Hyksos) Dynasty began about 2370 BC.
See his 'Revision of History' in Ancient Egypt (1931). But others, e.g. A. S. Yahuda (1934), demand a much later date—c. 1780.]

The Hyksos, or 'Shepherd Kings' (as Manetho calls them), were alien invaders who had poured into Egypt from Syria at a date variously fixed from 2370-1780 BC, driven the native Pharaohs far up the Nile to Thebes (Karnak), and established themselves in Avaris (Tanis, Zoan) [So Gardiner. Others locate Avaris at Pelusium.] as their capital, until their expulsion from Egypt in 1580 BC.
Many traces of their passage through Palestine en route for Egypt have been found, as, for example, in unmistakably Hyksos-type fortifications at Hazor, Shechem, Debir, Lachish, Gaza, Jericho, and in the Hyksos graves at Bethpelet (c. 2300 BC).
Unfortunately they were of low culture, and have left very few records of their presence, but among the names of their rulers several appear to be distinctly Semitic, such as Salatis (the same root as Sultan), and the remarkable Jacob-Her—although the last may be no more than the Egyptian 'God watches over'.
['There is no Hyksos name Jacob-El or Jacob-Her. Ya'qb-hr simply means, The God HR watches over.' (Albright, J.P.O.S. .256.)]

There are other names, however, which have a non-Semitic sound, and the belief is growing that the Hyksos conquerors, though doubtless largely Semitic, were rather 'a congeries of nations, mingled Syrians, Bedouins, and Aryans which burst the weak barrier of the "Princes' Wall" and overwhelmed Egypt by means of their bronze scimitars, horses, and war-chariots' (Cambridge Ancient History).
Their generic name perhaps supports this view, Hyksos being now generally accepted as Hyk-Shashu (Bedouin chiefs).
[Not Hyk-Sos, King-Shepherds, as Manetho thought. See J. W. Jack, Date of Exodus (1925).]
The possession of horses, a characteristically Hittite arm, and the fact that Hyksos and Hittite pottery in Palestine is indistinguishable [Duncan, op. cit. He definitely identifies Hyksos with Hittite:
'There is no doubt that the Hyksos of Egypt are the same people as the Hittites, or a people closely allied to them.' (Accuracy of the Old Testament, p.37.)]

have led many scholars to conjecture that the Hyksos, who had probably been driven southwards by Hittite expansion on the north, included a Hittite element within their ranks.

Numerous relics of the Hyksos Dynasties (the XVth and XVIth) have been found not only in northern (usually called Lower Egypt) but also in Palestine, as indicated above, showing that they were, if not in possession of, at any rate in constant communication with the Amorite kingdoms of Abraham's day.
In this connexion we should not overlook the curious phrase in Numbers i.22, Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan (i.e. Avaris) in Egypt, where we may perhaps see a dim recollection of this Hyksos-Amorite intercourse.

Such may have been the situation in Egypt when Abraham journeyed thither in search of sustenance about 2000 BC.
A Semite, he would find a ready welcome from his fellow Semites among the Hyksos.
Indeed, as we have already hinted, there are some who would detect in the Biblical story of Abraham's descent into Egypt a dim memory of the Hyksos invasion itself.
This, however, neglects the essential fact that Abraham entered Egypt not as an invader but as the guest of powerful friends.

The difficulty of definitely dating the events of early Egyptian history, [The 'Long Date' as opposed to the 'Short Date' school of chronology, each respectably supported, differ by 1,460 years for the period prior to 1580 BC.] already mentioned, makes it impossible to indicate the precise relevance of many archaeological discoveries, but two very interesting relics of this remote era may here be quoted.

On Khnumhotep's Tomb at Beni Hassan of the reign of Senusert II (between 3000 and 1900 BC) is a sculpture representing a visit of Semites to the Egyptian official, apparently bringing the products of their country in barter for the corn of Egypt.

Beni Hassan Stele.

The train consists of thirty-seven Syrians, men, women, and children under the leadership of their chieftain Ab-sha or Abi-shua.
[According to Hommel, a distinctively Hebrew name (cf. I Chron.viii.4).]
'All are pure Semites.
Their thick black hair falls to the neck, the beard is pointed but without moustache.
Their garments, kilts or long cloaks, are close-fitted and fringed with elaborate decoration.
Spears, clubs, and bows are their weapons.
An ass carries a pannier and a lyre of Asiatic form.'
[A. T. Olmstead, History of Palestine and Syria (1931).]

The idea was once widely entertained that this picture actually illustrated the arrival of Joseph's brethren in Egypt to buy corn:
it might equally well be connected with Abraham's visit to Egypt.
But without stressing the precise identification, the fact certainly remains that in this picture from the (then) unchanging East we have a pretty accurate impression of the appearance of Abraham and the patriarchs; as well as a piece of evidence in general support of their inter­course with Egypt as related in the Bible.

Another interesting relic is the famous Romance of Sinuhe, written on a papyrus found in 1895 by Quibell in a tomb at the Ramesseum, of about the same date as the above (th Dynasty), which gives us a glimpse of Syria as seen at this time through Egyptian eyes.

Sinuhe, or Sinuhit, the hero of this ancient 'novel', travels from Egypt over the isthmus of Suez to Palestine.
After staying awhile in Qedem ('eastward') near the Dead Sea, he proceeds to northern Canaan, where he marries the daughter of the king, and receives a grant of land.
It was a fertile spot, where figs and grapes grew plentifully, so that there was 'more wine than water'.
It was rich in honey, oil, and all kinds of fruit, as well as grain.
There were plenty of cattle, and 'milk in every form'.
Being appointed general of the army against the Bedouins, he slew them in large numbers, plundering their herds.

there came a mighty man from Palestine who mocked me in my tent,
a man who had no equal,
and had vanquished all rivals.
But I was not dismayed.
In the night I strung my bow,
I prepared my arrows,
I whetted my dagger,
I polished my sword.
When the day broke, my adversary appeared.
Every one was horrified at the sight, and distressed on my account.
They said, Is there no other warrior who would fight against him ?
But I remained steadfast, and shot him so that my arrow stuck in his neck.
He shouted and fell upon his nose, and I slew him with his own lance.
For this I became great and rich.

So much for the glimpse which Sinuhe gives us of the land 'flowing with milk and honey'—and with blood—as it looked some four thousand years ago.


(Gen. 14)

Archaeology has little light to throw upon the strange incident of Abraham's encounter with Melchizedek,
beyond suggesting that Salem was in fact the Jerusalem of later history.

Allusion is often made, however, to the tradition that Melchizedek was without father, without mother, without genealogy (Heb.vii.3), with which is compared the assertion made by the King of Jerusalem (Arad-Hiba) in the Tell el Amarna letters of 1380 BC:

Behold this land of Jerusalem,
neither my father nor my mother gave it me—
the hand of the mighty king gave it me.

It is difficult to see what this has to do with Melchizedek.
The fourteenth-century King of Jerusalem never implies that he had no father or mother, but merely that he owes his throne not to any royal ancestry but to the favour of the Pharaoh. 'Behold,' he writes in another place, 'neither my father nor my mother appointed me in this place. The mighty hand of the King introduced me into my father's house.
Why should I rebel against the King?'

We cannot conclude our long chapter on Abraham better than in the words of Jeremias:

We have shown how the milieu of the stories of the patriarchs agrees in every detail with the circumstances of ancient Oriental civilization of the period in question, as borne witness to by the monuments.
The actual existence of Abraham is not historically proved by them.
It must, however, be allowed that the tradition is ancient:
it cannot possibly be a poem with a purpose of later time.
Wellhausen worked out a theory that the stories of the patriarchs are historically impossible.
It is now known that they are possible.
If Abraham lived at all,
it could only have been in surroundings and under conditions such as the Bible describes.