Chapter 5: Countdown to Doomsday

The disastrous twenty-first century B.C.E. began with the tragic and untimely death of Ur-Nammu, in 2096 B.C.E. It culminated with an unparalleled calamity, by the hand of the gods themselves, in 2024 B.C.E. The interval was seventy-two years—exactly the precessional shift of one degree; and if it was just a coincidence, then it was one of a series of “coincidental” occurrences that were somehow well coordinated…

Following Ur-Nammu’s tragic death, the throne of Ur was taken over by his son Shulgi. Unable to claim the status of a demigod, he asserted (in his inscriptions) that he was nevertheless born under divine auspices: the god Nannar himself arranged for the child to be conceived in Enlil’s temple in Nippur through a union between Ur-Nammu and Enlil’s high priestess, so that, “a ‘little Enlil,’ a child suitable for kingship and throne, shall be conceived.”

That was a genealogical claim not to be sneezed at. Ur-Nammu himself, as earlier stated, was “two-thirds” divine, since his mother was a goddess. Though the High Priestess who was Shulgi’s mother is not named, her very status suggests that she, too, was of some godly lineage, for it was a king’s daughter who was chosen to be an EN.TU; and the kings of Ur, starting with the first dynasty, could be traced back to demigods. That Nannar himself arranged for the union to take place in Enlil’s temple in Nippur was also significant; as previously stated, it was under Ur-Nammu’s reign that for the first time the priesthood of Nippur was combined with the priesthood of another city—in this case, with the one in Ur.

Much of what was happening in and around Sumer at the time has been gleaned from “Date Formulas”—royal records in which each year of the king’s reign was noted by the major event that year. In the case of Shulgi much more is known, for he left behind other short and long inscriptions, including poetry and love songs.

These records indicate that soon after he had ascended the throne, Shulgi—perhaps hoping to avert his father’s fate on a battlefield—reversed his father’s militant policies. He launched an expedition to the outlying provinces, including the “rebel lands,” but his “weapons” were offers of trade, peace, and his daughters in marriage. Deeming himself a successor to Gilgamesh, his route embraced the two destinations of that famed hero: the Sinai peninsula (where the spaceport was) in the south and the Landing Place in the north. Observing the sanctity of the Fourth Region, Shulgi skirted the peninsula and paid homage to the gods at its boundary, at a place described as “Great fortified place of the gods.” Moving northward west of the Dead Sea, he paused to worship at the “Place of Bright Oracles”—the place we know as Jerusalem—and built there an altar to “the god who judges” (usually an epithet of Utu/Shamash). At the “Snow-covered Place” in the north, he built an altar and offered sacrifices. Having thus “touched base” with the reachable space-related sites, he followed the “Fertile Crescent”—the arching trade and migration east–west route dictated by geography and water sources—then continued southward in the Tigris-Euphrates plain, back to southern Sumer.

When Shulgi returned to Ur, he had every reason to think that he had brought to gods and people alike “Peace in our time” (to use a modern analogy). He was granted by the gods the title “High Priest of Anu, Priest of Nannar.” He was befriended by Utu/Shamash, and was given the personal attention of Inanna/Ishtar (boasting in his love songs that she granted him her vulva in her temple).

But while Shulgi turned from affairs of state to personal pleasures, the unrest in the “rebel lands” was continuing. Unprepared for military action, Shulgi asked his Elamite ally for troops, offering its king as a reward one of his daughters in marriage and the Sumerian city Larsa as dowry. A major military expedition, employing those Elamite troops, was launched against the “sinning cities” in the west; the troops reached the Fortified Place of the gods at the Fourth Region’s boundary. Shulgi in his inscriptions boasted of victory, but in fact, soon thereafter, he started to build a fortified wall to protect Sumer against foreign incursions from the west and from the northwest.

The Date Formulas called it the Great West Wall, and scholars believe that it ran from the Euphrates to the Tigris rivers north of where Baghdad is situated nowadays, blocking to invaders the way down the fertile plain between the two rivers. It was a defensive measure that preceded the Great Wall of China, which was built for similar reasons, by almost two thousand years!

In 2048 B.C.E. the gods, led by Enlil, had enough of Shulgi’s state failures and personal dolce vita. Determining that “the divine regulations he did not carry out,” they decreed for him “the death of a sinner.” We don’t know what kind of death it was, but it is a historic fact that in that year he was replaced on the throne of Ur by his son Amar-Sin, of whom we know from the inscriptions that he launched one military expedition after another—to quell a revolt in the north, to fight an alliance of five kings in the west.

As in so much else, what was happening had root causes going back, sometimes way back, to earlier times and events. The “rebel lands,” though in Asia and thus domains in the Enlilite Lands of Noah’s son Shem, were inhabited by varied “Canaanites”—offspring of the biblical Canaan who, though descended of Ham (and thus belonging to Africa), occupied a stretch of Shem’s lands (Genesis, Chapter 10). That the “Lands of the West” along the Mediterranean coast were somehow disputed territory was also indicated by ancient Egyptian texts regarding the bitter contest between Horus and Seth that ended in aerial battles between them over the Sinai and the same contested lands.

It is noteworthy that in their military expeditions to subdue and punish the “rebel lands” in the west, both Ur-Nammu and Shulgi reached the Sinai peninsula, but turned away from that Fourth Region without entering it. The prize there was a place called TIL.MUN—the “Place of the Missiles”— the site of the post-Diluvial spaceport of the Anunnaki. When the Pyramid Wars ended, the sacred Fourth Region was entrusted to the neutral hands of Ninmah (who was then renamed NIN.HAR.SAG—”Lady of the Mountain Peaks”), but actual command of the spaceport was put in the hands of Utu/Shamash (here shown in his winged dress uniform, Fig. 29, commanding the spaceport’s “Eaglemen,” Fig. 30).

That, however, appeared to change as the struggle for supremacy intensified. Inexplicably, various Sumerian texts and “God Lists” started to associate Tilmun with Marduk’s son, the god Ensag/Nabu. Enki was apparently involved in that, for a text dealing with the affair between Enki and Ninharsag states that the two of them decided to allocate the place to Marduk’s son: “Let Ensag be the lord of Tilmun,” they said.

The ancient sources indicate that from the safety of the sacred region Nabu ventured to the lands and cities along the Mediterranean coast, even to some Mediterranean islands, spreading everywhere the message of Marduk’s coming supremacy.

Figure 29

Figure 29

Figure 30

Figure 30

He was, thus, the enigmatic “Son-Man” of the Egyptian and the Akkadian prophecies—the Divine Son who was also a Son-Man, the son of a god and of an Earthling woman.

The Enlilites, understandably, could not accept such a situation. And so it was that when Amar-Sin ascended the throne of Ur after Shulgi, the targets and strategy of the Ur III military expeditions were changed in order to reassert Enlilite control over Tilmun, to sever the sacred region from the “rebel lands,” then pry loose those lands from the influence of Nabu and Marduk by force of arms. Starting in 2047 B.C.E., the sacred Fourth Region became a target and a pawn in the Enlilite struggle with Marduk and Nabu; and as both biblical and Mesopotamian texts reveal, the conflict erupted to the greatest international “world war” of antiquity. Involving the Hebrew Abraham, that “War of the Kings” placed him in center stage of international events.

In 2048 B.C.E. the destiny of the founder of monotheism, Abraham, and the fate of the Anunnaki god Marduk converged at a place called Harran.

Harran—”The Caravanry”—was an important trading center from time immemorial in Hatti (the land of the Hittites). It was located at the crossroads of major international trade and military land routes. Situated at the headwaters of the Euphrates River, it was also a hub for river transportation all the way downstream to Ur itself. Surrounded by fertile meadows watered by the river’s tributaries, the Balikh and Khabur rivers, it was a center of sheepherding. The famed “Merchants of Ur” came there for Harran’s wool, and brought in exchange to distribute from there Ur’s famed woolen garments. Commerce in metals, skins, leather, woods, earthenware products, and spices followed. (The Prophet Ezekiel, who was exiled from Jerusalem to the Khabur area in Babylonian times, mentioned Harran’s “merchants in choice fabrics, embroidered cloaks of blue, and many-colored carpets.”)

Harran (the town, by that very name, still exists in Turkey, near the border with Syria, and was visited by me in 1997) was also known in ancient times as “Ur away from Ur”; at its center stood a great temple to Nannar/Sin. In 2095 B.C.E., the year in which Shulgi took over the throne in Ur, a priest named Terah was sent from Ur to Harran to serve at that temple. He took along his family; it included his son Abram. We know about Terah, his family, and their move from Ur to Harran from the Bible:

Now these are the generations of Terah:
Terah begot Abram, Nahor and Haran,
and Haran begot Lot.
And Haran died before his father Terah
in his land of birth, in Ur in Chaldea.
And Abram and Nahor took wives—
the wife of Abram was named Sarai
and that of Nahor’s wife Milkhah…
And Terah took with him his son Abram
and Lot, the son of his son Haran,
and his daughter-in-law Sarai,
and went forth with them from Ur in Chaldea
by the way to Canaan;
and they reached Harran and resided there.

—Genesis 11: 27–31

It is with these verses that the Hebrew Bible begins the pivotal tale of Abraham—called at the beginning by his Sumerian name Abram. His father, we are told earlier, stemmed from a patriarchal line that went all the way back to Shem, the oldest son of Noah (the hero of the Deluge); all those Patriarchs enjoyed long lives—Shem to the age of 600, his son Arpakhshad to 438; and subsequent male offspring to 433, 460, 239, and 230 years. Nahor, the father of Terah, lived to age 148; and Terah himself—who fathered Abram when he was seventy years old—lived to age 205. Chapter 11 of Genesis explains that Arpakhshad and his descendants lived in the lands later known as Sumer and Elam and their surroundings. So Abraham, as Abram, was a true Sumerian.

This genealogical information alone indicates that Abraham was of a special ancestry. His Sumerian name, AB. RAM, meant “Father’s Beloved,” an appropriate name for a son finally born to a seventy-year-old father. The father’s name, Terah, stemmed from the Sumerian epithet-name TIRHU; it designated an Oracle Priest—a priest who observed celestial signs or received oracular messages from a god, and explained or conveyed them to the king. The name of Abram’s wife, SARAI (later Sarah in Hebrew), meant “Princess”; the name of Nahor’s wife, Milkhah, meant “Queenlike”; both suggest a royal genealogy. Since it was later revealed that Abraham’s wife was his half-sister—”the daughter of my father but not of my mother,” he explained—it follows that Sarai/Sarah’s mother was of royal descent. The family thus belonged to Sumer’s highest echelons, combining royal and priestly ancestries.

Another significant clue to identifying the family’s history is the repeated reference by Abraham to himself, when he met rulers in Canaan and Egypt, as being an Ibri—a “Hebrew.” The word stems from the root ABoR—to come across, to cross—so it has been assumed by biblical scholars that by that he meant that he had come across from the other side of the Euphrates River, i.e., from Mesopotamia. But I believe that the term was more specific. The name used for Sumer’s “Vatican City,” Nippur, is the Akkadian rendering of the original Sumerian name NI.IBRU, “Splendid Place of Crossing.”

Abram, and his descendants who are called in the Bible Hebrews, belonged to a family that identified themselves as “Ibru”—Nippurians. That would suggest that Terah was first a priest in Nippur, then moved to Ur, and finally to Harran, taking his family along.

By synchronizing biblical, Sumerian, and Egyptian chronologies (as detailed in The Wars of Gods and Men), we have arrived at the year 2123 B.C.E. as the date of Abraham’s birth. The gods’ decision to make Nannar/Sin’s cult center Ur the capital of Sumer and to enthrone Ur-Nammu took place in 2113 B.C.E. Soon thereafter, the priesthoods of Nippur and Ur were combined for the first time; it is very likely that it was then that the Nippurian priest Tirhu moved with his family, including the ten-year-old boy Abram, to serve in Nannar’s temple in Ur.

In 2095 B.C.E., when Abraham was twenty-eight and already married, Terah was transferred to Harran, taking the family with him. It could not have been just a coincidence that it was the very same year in which Shulgi succeeded Ur-Nammu. The emerging scenario is that the movements of this family were somehow linked to the geopolitical events of that era. Indeed, when Abraham himself was chosen to carry out divine orders to leave Harran and rush to Cannan, the great god Marduk took the crucial step of moving to Harran. It was in 2048 B.C.E. that the two moves occurred: Marduk coming to sojourn in Harran, Abraham leaving Harran for faraway Cannan.

We know from Genesis that Abram was seventy-five years old, and it was thus 2048 B.C.E., that he was told by God, “Get thee out of thy country and out of thy birthplace and from thy father’s house”—leave behind Sumer, Nippur, and Harran—and go “unto the land which I will show thee.” As to Marduk, a long text known as the Marduk Prophecy that he addressed to the people of Harran (clay tablet, Fig. 31) provides the clue confirming the fact and the time of his move to Harran: 2048 B.C.E. There is no way the two moves could have been unrelated.

Figure 31

Figure 31

But 2048 B.C.E. was also the very year in which the Enlilite gods decided to get rid of Shulgi, ordering for him the “death of a sinner”—a move that signaled the end of “let’s try peaceful means” and a return to aggressive conflict; and there is no way that this, too, was just a coincidence. No, the three moves—Marduk to Harran, Abram leaving Harran for Canaan, and the removal of the decadent Shulgi—had to be interconnected: three simultaneous and interrelated moves in the Divine Chessgame.

They were, as we shall see, steps in the countdown to Doomsday.

The ensuing twenty-four years—from 2048 to 2024 B.C.E.— were a time of religious fervor and ferment, of international diplomacy and intrigue, of military alliances and clashing armies, of a struggle for strategic superiority. The spaceport in the Sinai peninsula, and the other space-related sites, were constantly at the core of events.

Amazingly, various written records from antiquity have survived, providing us not just with an outline of events but with great details about the battles, the strategies, the discussions, the arguments, the participants and their moves, and the crucial decisions that resulted in the most profound upheaval on Earth since the Deluge.

'The Marduk Prophecy' (partial) Extracted from Fictional Akkadian Autobiography by Tremper Longman

‘The Marduk Prophecy’ (partial) Extracted from Fictional Akkadian Autobiography by Tremper Longman

Augmented by the Date Formulas and varied other references, the principal sources for reconstructing those dramatic events are the relevant chapters in: Genesis; Marduk’s autobiography, known as The Marduk Prophecy (image above); a group of tablets in the “Spartoli Collection” in the British Museum known as The Khedorla’omer Texts; and a long historical/autobiographical text dictated by the god Nergal to a trusted scribe, a text known as the Erra Epos. As in a movie—usually a crime thriller—in which the various eyewitnesses and principals describe the same event not exactly the same way, but from which the real story emerges, so are we able to reach the same result in this case.

Marduk’s main chess move, in 2048 B.C.E., was to establish his command post in Harran. By that he took away from Nannar/Sin this vital northern crossroads and severed Sumer from the northern lands of the Hittites. Besides the military significance, the move deprived Sumer of its economically vital commercial ties. The move also enabled Nabu “to marshal his cities, toward the Great Sea to set his course.” Place names in these texts suggest that the principal cities west of the Euphrates River were coming under full or partial control of the father–son team, including the all-important Landing Place.

It was into the most populated part of the Lands of the West—Canaan—that Abram/Abraham was commanded to go. He left Harran, taking his wife and nephew Lot with him. He was traveling swiftly southward, stopping only to pay homage to his God at selected sacred sites. His destination was the Negev, the dry region bordering the Sinai Peninsula.

He did not stay there long. As soon as Shulgi’s successor, Amar-Sin, was enthroned in Ur in 2047 B.C.E., Abram was instructed to go to Egypt. He was at once taken to meet the reigning Pharaoh, and was provided with “sheep and oxen and asses, and male attendants and female servants, and she-asses and camels.” The Bible is mum regarding the reason for this royal treatment, except to hint that the Pharaoh, being told that Sarai was Abram’s sister, assumed that she was being offered to him in marriage—a step that suggests that a treaty was discussed. That such high level international negotiations were taking place between Abram and the Egyptian king seems plausible when one realizes that the year when Abram returned to the Negev after a seven-year stay in Egypt—2040 B.C.E.—was the very same year in which the Theban princes of Upper Egypt defeated the previous Lower Egypt dynasty, launching Egypt’s unified Middle Kingdom. Another geopolitical coincidence!

Abram, now reinforced with manpower and camels, returned to the Negev in the nick of time, his mission now clear: to defend the Fourth Region with its spaceport. As the biblical narrative reveals, he now had with him an elite force of Ne’arim—a term usually translated “Young Men”—but Mesopotamian texts used the parallel term LU.NAR (“NARmen”) to denote armed cavalrymen. It is my suggestion that Abraham, having learnt in Harran tactics from the militarily excelling Hittites, obtained in Egypt a striking force of swift camel-riding cavalrymen. His base in Canaan was again the Negev, the area bordering the Sinai Peninsula.

He did so in the nick of time, for a mighty army—legions of an alliance of Enlilite kings—was on its way not only to crush and punish the “sinning cities” that switched allegiance to “other gods,” but to also capture the spaceport.

The Sumerian texts dealing with the reign of Amar-Sin, Shulgi’s son and successor, inform us that in 2041 B.C.E. he launched his greatest (and last) military expedition against the Lands of the West that fell under the Marduk-Nabu spell. It entailed an invasion of unparalleled scope by an international alliance, in which not only cities of men but also strongholds of gods and their offspring were attacked.

It was, indeed, such a major and unparalleled occurrence that the Bible devoted a whole long chapter to it—Genesis, Chapter 14. Biblical scholars call it “The War of the Kings,” for it climaxed in a great battle between an army of four “Kings of the East” and the combined forces of five “Kings of the West,” and culminated in a remarkable military feat by Abraham’s swift cavalrymen.

The Bible begins its report of that great international war by listing the kings and kingdoms of the East who “came and made war” in the West:

And it came to pass
in the days of Amraphel king of Shine’ar,
Ariokh king of Ellasar,
Khedorla’omer king of Elam,
and Tidhal the king of Goyim.

The group of tablets named the Khedorla’omer Texts was first brought to scholarly attention by the Assyriologist Theophilus Pinches in a lecture at the Victoria Institute, London, in 1897. They clearly describe the same events that are the great international war of Chapter 14 of Genesis, though in much greater detail; it is quite possible, indeed, that those tablets served as the source for the biblical writers. Those tablets identify “Khedorla’omer king of Elam” as the Elamite king Kudur-Laghamar, who is known from historical records. “Ariokh” has been identified as ERI.AKU (“Servant of the Moon god”), who reigned in the city of Larsa (biblical “Ellasar”); and Tidhal was identified as Tud-Ghula, a vassal of the king of Elam.

There has been over the years a debate regarding the identity of “Amraphel king of Shine’ar”; suggestions ranged all the way to Hammurabi, a Babylonian king centuries later. Shine’ar was the constant biblical name for Sumer, not Babylon, so who, in the time of Abraham, was its king? I have convincingly suggested in The Wars of Gods and Men that the Hebrew should be read not Amra-Phel but Amar-Phel, from the Sumerian AMAR.PAL—a variant of AMAR.SIN— whose Date Formulas attest that he did indeed, in 2041 B.C.E., launch the War of the Kings.

That fully identified coalition, according to the Bible, was led by the Elamites—a detail corroborated by the Mesopotamian data that highlights the reemerging leading role of Ninurta in the struggle. The Bible also dates this Khedorla’omer Invasion by observing that it took place fourteen years after the previous Elamite incursion into Canaan—another detail conforming to the data from Shulgi’s time.

The invasion route this time was, however, different: shortcutting the distance from Mesopotamia by a risky passage through a stretch of desert, the invaders avoided the densely populated Mediterranean coastland by marching on the eastern side of the Jordan River. The Bible lists the places where those battles took place and who the Enlilite forces battled there; the information indicates that an attempt was made to settle accounts with old adversaries—descendants of the intermarrying Igigi, even of the Usurper Zu—who evidently supported the uprisings against the Enlilites. But sight was not lost of the prime target: the spaceport. The invading forces followed what has been known since biblical times as the Way of the King, running north–south on the eastern side of the Jordan. But when they turned westward toward the gateway to the Sinai Peninsula, they met a blocking force: Abraham and his cavalrymen (Fig. 32).

Figure 32

Figure 32

Referring to the Peninsula’s gateway city Dur-Mah-Ilani (“The gods’ great fortified place”)—the Bible called it Kadesh-Barnea—the Khedorla’omer Texts clearly stated that the way was blocked there:

The son of the priest,
whom the gods in their true counsel had anointed,
the despoiling had prevented.

“The son of the priest,” anointed by the gods, I suggest, was Abram the son of the priest Terah.

A Date Formula tablet belonging to Amar-Sin, inscribed on both sides (Fig. 33), boasts of destroying NE IB.RU.UM— “The Shepherding place of Ibru’um.” In fact, at the gateway to the spaceport there was no battle; the mere presence of Abram’s cavalry striking force persuaded the invaders to turn away—to richer and more lucrative targets. But if the reference is indeed to Abram, by name, it offers once more an extraordinary extra-biblical corroboration of the Patriarchal record, no matter who claimed victory.

Prevented from entering the Sinai Peninsula, the Army of the East turned northward. The Dead Sea was then shorter; its current southern appendix was not yet submerged, and it was then a fertile plain rich with farmland, orchards, and trading centers. The settlements there included five cities, among them the infamous Sodom and Gomorrah.

Figure 33

Figure 33

Turning northward, the invaders now faced the combined forces of what the Bible called “five sinning cities.” It was there, the Bible reports, that the four kings fought and defeated the five kings. Looting the cities and taking captives with them, the invaders marched back, this time on the western side of the Jordan.

The biblical focus on those battles might have ended with that turning back were it not for the fact that Abram’s nephew Lot, who resided in Sodom, was among the captives. When a refugee from Sodom told Abram what had happened, “he armed his trained men, three hundred and eighteen of them, and gave chase.” His cavalry caught up with the invaders all the way north, near Damascus (see Fig. 32), where Lot was freed and the booty recovered. The Bible records the feat as the, “smiting of Khedorla’omer and the kings who were with him” by Abram.

The historical records suggest that as audacious and far-flung that War of the Kings had been, it failed to suppress the Marduk-Nabu surge. Amar-Sin, we know, died in 2039 B.C.E.—felled not by an enemy lance, but by a scorpion’s bite. He was replaced in 2038 B.C.E. by his brother Shu-Sin. The data for his nine years’ reign record two military forays northward but none westward; they speak mostly of his defensive measures. He relied mainly on building new sections of the Wall of the West against attacking Amorites. The defenses, however, were moved each time ever closer to Sumer’s heartland, and the territory controlled from Ur kept shrinking.

By the time the next (and last) of the Ur III dynasty, Ibbi-Sin, ascended the throne, invaders from the west had broken through the defensive Wall and were clashing with Ur’s “Foreign Legion,” Elamite troops, in Sumerian territory. Directing and prompting the Westerners on toward the cherished target was Nabu. His divine father, Marduk himself, was waiting in Harran for the recapture of Babylon.

The great gods, called to an emergency council, then approved extraordinary steps that changed the future forever.

Continue to Chapter 6: Gone with the Wind