Daily Archives: May 25, 2011

The Golden Age of Ebla — before the biblical Patriarchs

My only visit to Ebla was in 2002. This means I do not have hi-res photos, except for a few slides that I have had digitized, but I am delighted to have any photos. At the site I picked up a small booklet, Tell Mardikh — Ebla, written by Faja Haj Muhammad that gives a short presentation of the history and remains of the kingdom of ancient Ebla. I will share a couple of photos with some brief info from that book.

The first photo shows the reconstruction of the Palace of the Crown Prince (Palace Q or Western Palace). This palace, built of mud brick, is “located in the lower town, west of the Acropolis.” In the portion of the palace shown here you will see “a well preserved room, used for the grinding of cereals, in order to prepare bread for hundreds of persons.”

Ebla Western Palace Reconstruction. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ebla Western Palace Reconstruction. Note the grinding stones. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Royal Archives. In 1975 the excavators discovered a square room west of the Administrative Wing, on the wall, filled with 17,000 clay tablets. The large square tablets had been on shelves. The small round one were found in baskets on the floor.

… the texts were placed according to their subject, and different subjects corresponded to different shapes of tablet.

… There are administrative, economical, historical, judicial, religious texts. The writing is cuneiform. The language is a local language, now called by scholars (Eblaite), which belongs to the same family as Akkadian of Mesopotamia.

Ebla Archives Room. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ebla Archives Room. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Western Palace and the Archive are dated to the first golden age of Ebla, 2400–2250 B.C. This is long before the time of Abraham who lived north of Ebla at Haran in Padan Aram for a time. Haran is about 150 miles north of Ebla.

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.  (Genesis 12:4 ESV)

Isaac took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram to be his wife (Genesis 25:20). Jacob spent more than two decades in the same area. Most of the children of Jacob (= Israel) were born in the region.

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. (Genesis 35:9 ESV)

When did Abraham live? I don’t want to begin a fight, but I will note several dates suggested by scholars for Abraham.

  • Between 2000 and 1700 B.C. A large number of scholars such as Glueck, Albright, and Wright took this position.
  • 14th Century B.C. This was the view of Cyrus Gordon. (Too late for me.)
  • Born 2165 B.C. The view of John Davis in his excellent book, Paradise to Prison. Davis understands Galatians 3:17 to begin with the arrival of Abraham in Egypt.
  • Born 1950 B.C. This view says Galatians 3:17 is dated from the entrance to Canaan (Genesis 12:4). My inclinations are here.

Now you have something to work on. My only point here is to show that Ebla was a powerful, thriving, economic power long before Abraham. Ebla flourished again in Middle Bronze I-II (1850-1600 B.C.). It is possible that Isaac and Jacob knew of the city.