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History 3: Antiquity

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  1. 1. Orientation
    12 Steps
  2. 2. Imago Dei: Creation
    13 Steps
  3. 3. The Two Cities: The Fall & Two Lineages
    11 Steps
  4. 4. Look On My Works, Ye Mighty: Babel & Mesopotamia
    11 Steps
  5. 5. The Waters of Life in the Everlasting Hills: Ancient Egypt
    11 Steps
  6. 6. Lekh-Lekha: Abraham & The Patriarchs
    11 Steps
  7. 7. On Eagles' Wings: The Exodus & The Law
    12 Steps
  8. 8. The Sacrifice of Praise: Worship in Ancient Israel
    13 Steps
  9. 9. A House of Prayer for All Nations: Samuel to Solomon
    11 Steps
  10. 10. The Ways of the Father: Prophets & Kings
    11 Steps
  11. 11. I Form Light and Create Darkness: The Exile, Medes & Persians, and Israel's Return
    11 Steps
  12. 12. Beyond Life and Death: India
    11 Steps
  13. 13. Immutable Tradition: China
    12 Steps
  14. 14. Honor Versus Life: Old Japan
    13 Steps
  15. 15. The Smoke of 1,000 Villages: Sub-Saharan Africa
    11 Steps
  16. 16. In Search of the Unknown God: Greek Stories & Early History
    12 Steps
  17. 17. Nostoi & Empire: Greece Versus Persia
    11 Steps
  18. 18. The Glory That Was Greece: The Golden Age
    11 Steps
  19. 19. The One and the Many: The Peloponnesian War & Philosophers
    11 Steps
  20. 20. To the Strongest: Alexander the Great
    11 Steps
  21. 21. Make Straight the Highway: Between the Testaments
    12 Steps
  22. 22. The Grandeur That Was Rome: The Roman Republic
    11 Steps
  23. 23. The War of Gods & Demons: The Conquest of Italy, Carthage, and Greece
    13 Steps
  24. 24. Crossing the Rubicon: The Fall of the Roman Republic
    11 Steps
  25. 25. Pax Romana: Caesar Augustus
    11 Steps
  26. 26. The Everlasting Man: Jesus Christ
    12 Steps
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The following transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors in spelling and/or grammar. It is provided for assistance in note-taking and review.

Welcome back. We have the opportunity today to take a look at the stories of Babel and this curious character from the Table of Nations known as Nimrod.

If you recall, the table of nations is found in Genesis chapter 10, and we’re told at the end of that chapter that from these clans, from these clans that came from the three sons of Noah, that all the nations of the world spread abroad on the earth after the flood.

In fact, when you take a look at their names, some of them we have a good idea of where they may have gone to or where they went or the people they became.

Sometimes it’s a great mystery. There’s often great debate. They spread out everywhere from the Caucasus Mountains in Russia, south to Arabia, on down to Africa, places like Egypt especially. They can go as far west as Crete or as far east as Iran. And of course, we actually have the whole story of Babel told right after this, right on the heels of this, and it’s in between two Toledots. The one found in Genesis chapter 10, telling us where the nation spread, and the one found in Genesis chapter 11, which leads up to the story of Abram and tells us how he came, descended from the son Shem of Noah, and how his line goes there.

But before we actually take a look at that story, which is for later, let’s talk about the story of Babel. And Babel really is about a city. In fact, we see this whole compulsion of man, especially fallen man or rebellious man, to build cities. It’s not that cities are bad, it’s just that it’s kind of this habit of man that he feels safer, and he feels more powerful when he has a city. So we see this with Cain, for example. You see the Table of Nations with Nimrod, who is listed alongside several other cities, and of course you see it as the hallmark of Mesopotamian culture.

In fact, I’ve got a great book at home that is called Mesopotamia, the Invention of the City. And it makes sense. When you look at their creation stories, for example, it was the Mesopotamians who believed that the very beginning saw the very first cities, which they usually saw as a city known as Eridu.

And they actually thought that the city of Eridu had been made by the gods. They even sometimes considered cities to be these places where heaven and earth met. In fact, when they created these ziggurats and quite possibly the Tower of Babel, based upon the text we see in Genesis 11 and based upon other things we know about them, they probably saw those towers as being meeting places where they could actually meet the gods or meet God himself in heaven.

We’re also told that the city was the place where the first kings were and that the gods chose the strongest. It was an Akkadian creation tale, the Akkadians being one of the Mesopotamian peoples, who said that the very beginning of the world was when there was no brick yet laid.

Not even a brick mold had been formed. In other words, they saw the beginning of the world, that fullnessness, as being before cities were actually made, curiously, out of bricks. The Enuma Elish, when it talks about the creation of the world, it says that the gods had to make bricks for a whole year before they could actually begin building and creating things.

It was also the Akkadian annals that kind of rated kings based upon how many bricks they made in a given year or during their reign.

So this whole idea of building cities, This whole idea of producing monumental buildings and architecture was a big deal to the Mesopotamians. It really shows up in a work like Gilgamesh, where he begins by bragging about his city of Uruk, and he then goes on this quest for eternal life.

He fails, so he comes back home, and he once again brags about his city. It basically ends the same way that it began. But when it comes to the story of Babel, which of course is this famous story about a tower and about language, it’s helpful right away to start out with the idea that this story of Babel actually was retold in ancient Mesopotamia. So for example, we have some cuneiform tablets from the city of Kish, another Mesopotamian city, and these cuneiform tablets tell a story about how the world once was harmony-tongued, meaning it all had one language, and how at this time in Sumer, the great land of the decrees of the princeship, like the place where the kings ruled from, this is actually the earliest civilization we have, they said, this one tablet says, that the whole universe, all of the people in unison, they all worshipped Enlil in one tongue, Enlil being a name for their chief god.

But of course the tablet goes on it says, “But then Ada the Lord, Ada the Prince, Ada the King, Enki” It’s a curious character, it shows up throughout Mr. Timmy in stories. “The Lord of Abundance, whose commands are trustworthy, he changed the speech in their mouths. He brought contention to it, into the speech of man, that until now had been one.” Well, if we look at the Genesis account, we find out real quickly that the whole world had one language and they had one word.

And they use this, or with this advantage, people, quite possibly a variety of peoples from that post-flood dispersion, they all migrate to the east, or at least a group of these people migrate to the east, to a plain known as Shinar.

which may be the Akkadian word “shumer” it might even be a Hebrew word that means something like the two cities, which makes sense because the oldest city that we know of is Eridu right there in Mesopotamia and Uruk is not too far from it and the two cities were connected to each other at various times in history but all the same we have a story about how people migrate there and they say to one another “come let us make bricks. It’s very much kind of the ideal of the Mesopotamian culture. Let’s make bricks, let’s build a city. We’re told that they make these bricks and they use them to build. They use bricks for stone, we’re told, and they use bitumen, which is something like tar, and they use that for mortar. Then they go on, they say, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city and a tower with its top to the heavens. So we have the bricks, then the city, then the tower. It kind of moves in that progression, and it really fits with Mesopotamian culture that focused on making bricks, making cities, building ziggurats. In fact, if we look at the names of some of these ziggurats, like the one from the city of Larsa, in English, when it’s translated, it would be called the house of the link between heaven and earth. If you look at Babylon, it would be called the house of the foundation of heaven in earth. One of the much later Mesopotamian kings, Esarhaddon, described a ziggurat saying that it was raised to heaven the head, meaning it connected into heaven itself.

We’re also told in Genesis 11 that the people do this because they wanted to make a name for themselves. This kind of fits with Nebuchadnezzar, a much later Mesopotamian ruler. He’s one of like the neo-Babylonian or sometimes called Chaldean rulers But when he talks about a ziggurat that he had worked on in the city of Babylon He says that I strengthened it and he says I made an everlasting name for myself Of course the irony of this whole story of Babel They are just as 11 is the people want to make a name for themselves and yet no individuals are mentioned.

It’s quite the opposite of what they were trying to do. But of course, we’re also told that they, besides wanting to make a name for themselves, they also did not want to be dispersed. They didn’t want to spread out throughout the entire world. They wanted to disobey that command to be fruitful and to multiply and fill the earth. So we have an issue of pride here in terms of making a name for themselves, but we also have an issue of fear, which is usually what pride is connected to, where they fear what might actually happen if they go out into that world.

And if we’re right about kind of the prehistoric times, kind of that Stone Age times being before this, with people living in caves and things like that, it would suggest that that world was quite dangerous indeed.

But going back to the story of Genesis 11, we then have this whole episode where, when God actually addresses this whole thing, He comes down to look at it.

It’s kind of, it’s, well, meant to be humorous. That even though the tower is grand, and it’s this great thing that man can do, God kind of stoops down and say, “Oh, look at what you did down there.” But of course, we also have an interesting thing too, where God once again uses the plural to talk about himself, and he says, “Let us go down and confuse their language.” So he does. And we’re then told that the city was stopped. Not that they stopped building the tower, we’re told they stopped building the city, and they appear to just leave all of a sudden, and then the place receives its name, it’s called Babel, which really means a confused medley of sound in the Hebrew language. Now, this brings us to the question of if this really happened, and we’re gonna argue that it did, where might it have happened? Now, of course, there’s a lot of different canons we can look at. long time people have argued that it was in the city of Babylon itself but I really like the argument made by the archaeologist Douglas Petrovich about it being the city of Eridu.

Let’s take a look at the city of Eridu. As I mentioned to you earlier it’s seen as the world’s oldest city and it was also seen as the city by the Mesopotamians themselves by a whole variety of cultures. It was seen as the city that was first created by the gods. They even said this was the place where Marduk first made man, Marduk being their chief god, kind of like their Zeus, so to speak.

It also shows up as the first city listed in the king list of Sumer. So it has that importance as well. And it was associated with this god Enki. We’ve already mentioned him. He’s the one who confuses the language. That’s very curious. He’s also the one who who is credited with saving their Noah-like character by revealing the plan of the gods in a dream. He also is one we’re told who, quote, “opens the doors of understanding “and teaches civilization to the people.” He kind of has mercy on them, but then when they get to be too much, then he confuses their language. That seems to be the idea. Well, what we know about Eridu is that Eridu, back when people were living there, from what we can tell from the archeology, They were actually right on the Persian Gulf, so it had easy access to trade, it had easy access to fishing and things like that.

The coastline of course has changed greatly by now. What we also know about Eridu is that it actually had something like 18 different temples built at this one site. Essentially one on top of another. And based upon the fact that they were offering so many fish, that suggests, well also the fact that Enki is associated with Eridu, it suggests they were worshipping him because he was the god of the waters.

He was the god who would grant you food from the waters, such as fish. But when we take a look at their temples, the temples progressively get bigger. They progressively get more and more grand until you get to the very top one, which they call Temple One. And as Douglas Petrovich has pointed out, even as the temples get bigger and bigger, the houses around them, they all stay the same size.

So it suggests that the people are pouring all of their efforts into these temples, into these monolithic works of architecture. But then there’s something even more interesting about this site, because you have the remains of the last temple, and there’s not a whole lot left. When you look at it, just kind of casually, looks like a big mound of dirt. That’s where it’s kind of helpful to have some of the drawings and sketches of what it might have looked like or maps of okay here’s how we’ve mapped out the foundation walls and things like that or here’s a picture of a wall. But anyway what’s curious about these temples is that right next to them there is this massive platform. It appears to be this massive platform on which a ziggurat would have been built. Had a ziggurat been built on this platform it would have completely dwarfed any other ziggurat ever built by any of the Mesopotamian peoples. In all likelihood it would have quite dwarfed the pyramids of the Egyptians. So we’re talking about a massive foundation which curiously in between its layers has bitumen, this tar like substance, to provide it with extra stability and and help waterproof it in and things like that.

We also know a few other curious things about Eridu during this time. This time that we’re talking about is sometimes called the proto-literate period. This is a time before they actually had writing and people were simply using things like cylinders to kind of sign things and mark who they were, which is seen as kind of a precursor to actually writing things.

But this is before the world’s first writing system of cuneiform. But we also have some curious things in the pottery we find. So if you look at earlier times in Eridu, you see this kind of pottery that has been thrown on a pottery wheel. It has more care put into it. It’s from the Ubaid period. But then when you get later on to what they call the late Yuruk period, which is also a time when this culture of Yuruk greatly expanded all around the ancient Near East, we call the Middle East today, you see suddenly a different kind of pottery.

A pottery that is not thrown on a wheel, but a pottery that is made on a mold. So essentially the the potter would take a lump of clay and he would push it onto a mold and it left this special beveled rim around it so it’s real easy to identify. But what this meant, what this kind of pottery meant, was that it could be more easily mass produced. It was a lot quicker to produce and could be more easily used to actually provide food for people and things like that. So it actually became quite popular in Mesopotamian times because it allowed these kings to more readily feed massive armies using cheaper pottery. What’s even more curious about this is that this pottery, which suggests a much larger culture is it’s found all over the Middle East. It’s found as far away as Egypt, it’s found as far away as Syria, it’s found as far away as Anatolia in modern day Turkey. At the same time, we see something else called the Rimchin brick, which also shows up in these same places. It’s a different kind of brick than other Mesopotamian bricks that we see. It seems to be made for quick assembly. So it’s long like your typical brick is but it has the same height and the same width. So you can easily grab it and put it into place without having to think about which side goes where as much and then move on to the next one.

So it’s designed for quick building. We also see things like these baked clay cones that start showing up here and they end up showing up all over the place shortly after In other words, they first show up here at Eridu and at Yuruk, and then suddenly they kind of move all over the Middle East.

In other words, something suggests that the people began expanding wherever they went. What’s really curious about when these people expanded is that when you look at the archaeology of where they went around the Middle East, East, they either would conquer someone and then set up their own culture there, or they would go to a culture that’s already established, say a city for example, and they would set up their own neighborhood, kind of like a ghetto, where they seem to have their own culture.

So they would use only their own technology, like only their own bowls. In fact, the bowls become a big deal. I know bowls may not sound that interesting, but the point is this, the bowls tell us who is who. In other words, the theory is that these are the people of Babel because what we have is a sudden abandoning of the platform of the city, of the temple, of the city itself, all at the same time.

In fact, the historian Gwendolyn Lyke who wrote the book Mesopotamia, the Invention of the City, says that it seems to happen overnight. Well, that may very well be the side of Babel. We really don’t know. We’re just kind of taking a look at the evidence and trying to draw some conclusions here. Another interesting character to talk about at this point who shows up in Genesis 10, but quite possibly comes after Babel, and that is the character of Nimrod.

We’re told a few things about him. We’re told, for example, he’s the son of Cush, who was from the line of Ham, actually he was the oldest son of Ham, and we also know his name Nimrod, which literally means “we shall rebel.” He’s a curious character. We’re told, for example, that he was the first on earth to be a mighty hunter, and that he was a mighty hunter before the Lord.

The Hebrew seems to suggest that he acted without much reverence for life, and and that he was mighty primarily in slaughter. He was a great conqueror. And then of course, he’s associated with several cities, cities that he either ruled or built. Cities such as ancient Babylon, Bab-I-Lim, which means the gate of God, if you follow like the Sumerian and Akkadian language, or as I told you earlier, it means the confused melody of sounds if you follow the Hebrew.

One thing that’s really interesting is that this city, this name Babylon, it shows up all over the place in the Middle East. multiple sites called Babylon and Erdu was actually at one point called Babylon as well, was sometimes seen as the same. We’re also told that he ruled over Erek, which would probably be Yulek, which means something like seat. We’re told that he ruled over Akkad, which means to bind, which curiously the Akkadians we’re going to talk about, one of the great peoples of Mesopotamia, we have all kinds of archaeology about them, but we have never actually found the city of Akkad.

He builds the city of Kalna, which means something like fulfillment. It’s also commented on as called the Great City. And all of these things we’re told are done in the land of Shinar, which is associated with Sumer based upon the Akkadian language, which calls it Shumer, but also based upon evidences such as Daniel 1, where we’re told that Nebuchadnezzar moved the vessels of the temple that he had taken from Jerusalem, he moved them to the land of Shinar where he worshipped his gods.

Eridu, possible site of Babylon, years after, actually centuries after it was abandoned, one of the other kings, a king from the city of Ur, built a gigantic temple on that platform, a huge ziggurat.

And that appears to be the Ziggurat where Nebuchadnezzar would worship his gods because he conquered all of what we now call the Middle East.

We’re also told about the fact that this Nimrod built cities like Nineveh, he built cities like Hala, he built cities like Rezin which was in the land of Ashur, the beginning of the Assyrians as well.

Well, there is some suggestion that this character might correspond to an ancient character known as Sargon I, or Sargon of Akkad. From what we can tell in history, Sargon was the world’s first emperor. In fact, you can take a look here at what is thought maybe to be his portrait done in copper. It was found about 80 years ago in the city of Nineveh. What we know about Sargon was that he conquered everything from Sumer to Akkad to Assyria, even made invasions into Anatolia, into Iran, and into Lebanon.

His name was sometimes called Sheru-Kinu, which literally means “the legitimate king.” That’s not really a name, that’s a title he probably gave himself meaning “yes, I’m supposed to be king.” That was probably because his story says he was a cupbearer who served a king who was overthrown by yet another guy and then Sargon overthrew that guy and became king.

Well his story lines up with Nimrod in terms of Nimrod being the world’s first described Emperor in Genesis 11 but it also lines up in terms of what they controlled and where they were from. Nimrod we’re told was of the line of Cush from Ham and we’re told about Sargon that he came from Kish. This may very well be the same place and we’re also told in various Ptolemian stories that Kish was where kingship actually began. We also know that Sargon who was often called the king of battle conquered places like Sumer first. He made things like Akkad, his actual capital, and he began conquering all the same places that Nimrod either ruled or had actually built. One description of Sargon from the ancient chronicles of Babylon which actually came sometime after he lived said that quote Sargon had neither rival nor equal his splendor over the lands he diffused it crossed the sea in the east in the eleventh year he conquered the western land to as far this point he brought under one authority.

He set up his statues there, and he ferried the West’s treasure across on barges. He stationed his court officials at intervals of five double hours and ruled in unity all the tribes of the lands. He marched to Khazulu and turned them into a ruin of heap, so that there was not even a perch for a bird left.” In other words, he’s described as this very powerful ruler which you can see if you say something like Sargon’s victory Stella. If we take a look at the chronicles of the early kings from ancient Babylon it tells us a Sargon had no rival he had no equal his splendor was very great we’re told that he crossed the seas in the east we’re told that he conquered as far west as you could go we’re told that he brought it under one authority and set up his with statues wherever he went, bringing treasures from the West. We’re told, for example, that when the land of Kazaloo rebelled against him, he turned them into a heap, so there was not even a perch for a bird left.

In other words, he’s someone who excels in slaughter, which, quite frankly, becomes the theme of Mesopotamian rulers, and is especially shown in their art. In fact, take a look right now at the victory stela of Sargon. If you look at this, you’ll see some real common things about Mustamian art. You’ll see, first of all, Sargon leading a procession of his soldiers carrying a mace. Notice he’s larger than everybody else. That’s called hierarchical art, where it’s showing the person who is seen as most important as bigger than everyone else. But in other sections, you’ll see prisoners who are bound and who are in stocks around their necks so they cannot freely move around. You’ll see things like vultures feeding on the dead, all his enemies that he has conquered and defeated in battle. Then of course in one section you’ll see Sargon himself, or at least part of his arm and his mace, as he holds the net of prisoners and you’ll see one unfortunate prisoner who has his head out of the net and you’ll notice that Sargon is clubbing him with his mace. There’s a character on the other side of the net who appears to be the same size as him and based upon the clothes this figure is wearing it’s thought that this is the goddess Ishtar who is standing by blessing what Sargon does. Someone who appears to be mighty in slaughter and ruled over the same area and territory as Nimrod, quite possibly making him the same character.

and I’ll see you in the next lecture.