Daily Archives: January 15, 2009

More illustrations of apocalyptic imagery

We mentioned in earlier posts on apocalyptic literature that composite images were common among the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. This was also true of the Hittites who lived in the upper Euphrates area. The Anatolian Civilization Museum at Ankara contains many of the reliefs from Carchemish on the Euphrates. The one below shows two human-headed sphinx standing. There is also a winged horse standing between them. They appear to be dancing.

Human-headed sphinxs standing; winged horse standing. Photo by F. Jenkins.

Human-headed sphinx standing; winged horse standing. Photo by F. Jenkins.

This drawing from the Museum may show the image more clearly. Notice the bird head on the tail of the sphinx on the right.

Drawing of the human-headed sphinx and standing horse.

Drawing of the human-headed sphinx and standing horse.

This one is of special interest. It shows a lion with wings and a human head.  The tail shows the head of a bird. There are four images in composite form. This basalt orthostat also comes from Carchemish.

Three-headed sphinx.

Three-headed sphinx.

Judeans who were taken captive to Babylon traveled in this region on their way to their place on the Chebar (Kebar) River in southern Mesopotamia. We know that Nebuchadnezzar made his headquarters at Riblah in the land of Hamath. Because this region was part of the Fertile Crescent we can be sure that the Judeans traveled in the area on their long trip from Judea to Babylon. See 2 Kings 25:6-7.

We are not saying that Ezekiel borrowed his composite creatures from the culture around him. We are saying that such was common and that it would not have been unusual or strange to Ezekiel or his hearers/readers.

Notice, again, Ezekiel’s description of the creatures he saw:

These are the living beings that I saw beneath the God of Israel by the river Chebar;  so I knew that they were cherubim.  Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and beneath their wings was the form of human hands.  As for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the river Chebar. Each one went straight ahead. (Ezekiel 10:20-22 NASB)

For the images in the book of Daniel we could show numerous composite creatures from Babylon.