Tag Archives: Iraq

The ziggurat at Ur

The pyramids of Egypt are fairly well known to students in the Western world. Some study is made of them in the elementary grades. The ziggurats of Mesopotamia (mostly present day Iraq) are not as well known. In Egypt we have some pyramids, like the great pyramids of Giza, which are still standing to almost their original height. Having been made of stone, they have been fairly well preserved.

The ziggurats of Mesopotamia were made of baked bricks. Over the centuries they have tended to become piles of mud. The only one I saw during my only visit to Iraq in May, 1970, that had any semblance of a defined shape was the ziggurat at Ur. That was because it had been reconstructed up to about the fourth story.

The ziggurat was a staged temple tower. The temple at the top of the tower was considered the dwelling place of the particular god worshiped at a site. The kings of Ur are thought to have built the first ziggurat about the 27th century B.C., though some may have been erected on older structures going back to about 3100-2900 B.C. (The Middle East, Hachette World Guides, 1966). A model, like the one below from the Pergamum Museum in Berlin gives us a good impression of the original appearance of the ziggurats.

Ziggurat Model at the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ziggurat Model at the Pergamum Museum, Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Every now and then I search the Internet for photos of Iraq. Sometimes I locate a nice photo made by a soldier who has been stationed there. One day I came across a really great photo on Flickr made by Josh McFall. It took a while to track down Josh and ask his permission to use the photo on the web site. He enthusiastically grated permission, only asking that I comply with the attached Creative Commons license. That, I was pleased to do. The Creative Commons license on this photo requires Attribution, Non-commercial Use, and No Derivative works. Josh, I am sure many of my readers thank you.

The ziggurat at Ur is attributed to the third dynasty of Ur (2124-2015 B.C.).

Ziggurat at Ur in Iraq. Photo by Josh McFall.

Reconstructed Ziggurat at Ur in Iraq. Photo by Josh McFall.

Perhaps we should think of something like the ziggurats when we study the account of the building of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4 ESV)

And it might help with the understanding of what Jacob saw in his dream at Bethel.

And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! (Genesis 28:12 ESV)

When John calls attention to this scene he says the angels were ascending and descending on the “Son of Man” (John 1:51).

Both photos are available in presentation size for those who would like to use them. Just click on the image.

UN reports Babylon damaged by US troops

According to a report on CNN.com U.S. troops are accused by a United Nations report of damaging ancient Babylon. Well, surprise!, surprise! I think its called war.

The troops and their contractors caused “major damage” by digging, cutting, scraping and leveling while they were revamping the site to meet military standards, the U.N. cultural agency, UNESCO, said in a report.

“Key structures that were damaged include the Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way,” the report added.

The Ishtar Gate, an entrance to the northern part of the city, is decorated with animals that portray the symbol of the god of the city of Babylon.

“Damage to the gate includes smashed bricks on nine of the bodies of the animals adorning the gate,” according to the report.

To those of us interested in the past this damage is to be regretted. Babylon is important in Biblical history. The report goes on to say that local residents had contributed to the damage through development. One could fill a book with accounts of this happening at important historic sites.

The report introduces another aspect.

During colonial times, archaeologists hauled off Babylon’s artifacts to Europe. Some of those artifacts can be seen in a museum in Berlin, Germany.

babylon-diagram-washingtonpostYes. Thankfully the German archaeologists excavated the Ishtar Gate and the Procession Street and took those things to Berlin for preservation and restoration. It is now possible to visit the Museum of the Ancient Near East (Vorderasiatisches Museum), also called the Pergamum Museum, and see the Ishtar Gate and the Procession Street. I note that the Museum site now has some small, but nice photos online here. You may also see panels from the Procession Street at other great museum of the world including several in the United States.

We have previously written about Babylon, with photos, here, here, and here.

We commented on those dreaded colonial archaeologists here.

Check these reports: The Irish Times; The Washington Post. I do not doubt damage, but the photos show the site much the same as it was in 1970 when I visited.

HT: Harriet; Biblical Paths.

More information on Judean exiles in Babylon

Abraham Rabinovich, a long time writer for the The Jerusalem Post, has compiled some fascinating information about the Judeans in Babylonian Exile during the time of Nebuchadnezzar.

King Jehoiachin was only 18 years old and had occupied the throne of Judah barely three months when he was led off into Babylonian captivity in 598 BCE together with his wives, his mother, his servants, his eunuchs and thousands of “the chief men of the land.”

But what happened to them when they reached Babylon? And what happened there to the tens of thousands of others who joined them in exile when the First Temple was destroyed a decade later? The Bible tells us of the return to Judah half a century later but virtually nothing of what the expellees experienced in Babylon itself…

However, scholars have been able to gain a measure of access to these missing years from cuneiform documents unearthed in Iraq in the last century, including a trove illicitly dug up in the final years of Saddam Hussein’s regime and only now nearing publication. The documents are innocuous – business records, land deeds, tax accounts – but together are able to shed light, feeble but suggestive, on this central period in Jewish history.

Rabinovich comments specifically on the fate of Jehoiachin, the young Judean king.

“We have been able to make history out of dry documents,” says Prof. Israel Eph’al of the Hebrew University, an epigrapher and historian of the ancient Near East.

Early last century, archeologists digging in Babylon, the capital of Babylonia, uncovered cuneiform tablets in a vaulted chamber beneath the ruins of an ancient structure believed by some to have been the base of the fabled “Hanging Gardens” of Babylon. These tablets, deciphered in the 1930s by German Assyriologist Ernst Weidner, detailed the storage of oil and other commodities and their distribution. Four of the badly damaged tablets concerned the supply of oil to “Jehoiachin, king of Judah” and his five sons. The date is five years after he was taken captive. The fact that he was being provisioned by the Babylonian authorities and that he retained his royal title suggests that he was being treated with deference even though he had been taken captive because his father, Jehoiakim, had rebelled against Babylon. Favorable treatment is also suggested by the fact that at 23 he already has five sons, indicating that the young royal was not deprived of the wives who had accompanied him.

Read the entire article here.

Because German archaeologists worked at Babylon for more than a decade in the early part of the 20th century, the best collection of archaeological artifacts are in the Pergamum Museum in Berlin. Here is a photo of one of the ration tablets mentioned in the article.

Ration tablet from Babylon, now in Berlin. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ration tablet from Babylon mentioning Jehoiachin, the exiled king of Judah. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This information harmonizes with what we are told in the Bible, under  (2 Kings 25:27-30). This text describes an event some years later under the reign of Evil-merodach. Verse 30 says of Jehoiachin,

He was given daily provisions by the king for the rest of his life until the day he died. (2 Kings 25:30 NET)

Here are the dates I normally follow in the study of this part of Bible history:

  • Nebuchadnezzar takes Daniel and other royal youths to Babylon (605 BC).
  • Jerusalem captured by the Babylonians. Jehoiachin taken to Babylon (597 BC). Zedekiah was made king. Ezekiel was among the prophets taken to Babylon.
  • Zedekiah was blinded and taken to Babylon (586 BC). Jerusalem destroyed. Many exiles taken to Babylon. Jeremiah was left in the land of Judah.
  • Babylon captured by the Medes and Persians (539 BC).
  • Judean exiles allowed to return to Judah (536 BC).
  • A second group of exiles returned in the days of Ezra (458 BC). Some remained in Babylon.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Euphrates River in northern Syria

The photos we post of the Euphrates River are always popular. I suppose this is because of the historic events associated with the river, and because so few people have seen the river. The Euphrates begins in the mountains of eastern Turkey (ancient Urartu/Ararat), flows south through Syria and Iraq before ending at the Persian Gulf.

Some of the great Bible characters are associated with the River, even when it is not named. We can be sure that Abraham crossed the Euphrates when he left Haran and headed south to Canaan (Genesis 11:32 – 12:1-9). I like the account of Jacob fleeing from Laban.

He left with all he owned. He quickly crossed the Euphrates River and headed for the hill country of Gilead. (Genesis 31:21 NET)

This photo was made in northern Syria, northeast of Aleppo in 2002. Here the river is wide because of a series of dams built by the Syrians. This can not be far from the place where the biblical patriarchs crossed the river.

The Euphrates River in northern Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Euphrates River in northern Syria. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Lion of Babylon

Babylon was excavated by Germans between 1899 and 1917. Local villagers discovered the image of a lion trampling a man during one of the periods when the archaeologists were not present. Upon return, the archaeologists completed the excavation of the image. This is the way the sculpture looked in 1970. I have noticed the image in several photo by American military personnel.

The Lion of Babylon trampling a man. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Andre Parrot says,

There is … no such certainty about the basalt statue of a lion trampling on a man. This extraordinary work, which represents a beast overcoming a man, does not seem to be Mesopotamian in origin; it has been thought to be Hittite. (Babylon and the Old Testament 29-30)

Parrot also points out that the lion was associated with the goddess Ishtar.

The Bible records that Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians captured the city of Jerusalem in the days of Jehoiachin the king of Judah (2 Kings 24).

He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land. And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. And the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, 7,000, and the craftsmen and the metal workers, 1,000, all of them strong and fit for war. (2 Kings 24:14-16 ESV)

Another view from Babylon

The early part of the week finds me traveling in Alabama, but I brought along another old slide scan of a photo I made at Babylon in 1970. When I compare the quality of the camera I used that year with the one I use today it is amazing that the old photo is this good. Slides fade even under the best home conditions.

This site is identified as Nebuchaznezzar’s Principal Palace. You will notice that even then, long before Saddam Hussein, some reconstruction had been carried out at the site. The lighter colored bricks at the top of the walls are part of the reconstruction to give the viewer some idea of what was original. It also helps one to visualize the size of the rooms, etc. This is the sort of thing we see at Masada, Megiddo, and other sites in Israel where the black line distinguishes the original from the reconstructed.

Nebuchadnezzar's Principal Palace in 1970. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Nebuchadnezzar's Principal Palace in 1970. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I understand the white on the ground to be salt residue.

The prophet Isaiah predicted the overthrow of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. (Isaiah 13:19 ESV)

God spoke, and it happened.

The Middle East Conflict and the Bible

Shortly before the first Gulf War I pulled together some of the material I had prepared about various problem associated with the Middle East conflict and the Bible. After going through several printings I allowed Mark Roberts to put the material for sale online at BibleClassMaterial.com. A single copy may be purchased, or a church may secure a license to use the material in classes. Take a look.

The Middle East Conflict and the Bible by Ferrell Jenkins

The book deals with the Arab-Israeli problem, whether the modern state of Israel is in fulfillment of Bible prophecy, and other important issues. There is also material about Iraq and Islam. At the BibleClassMaterial website you will find more details about the content.