Dynasty of Hammurabi a Non-Indigenous One?


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Damien F. Mackey


“ASSYRIOLOGISTS have for some years past come to the conclusion that the dynasty to which Hammurabi belonged was not indigenous …”.


Stanley A. Cook weighs up the arguments for the dynasty of King Hammurabi to have been either Northern Semitic or Arabian (The Laws of Moses and the Code of Hammurabi): https://archive.org/stream/lawsofmosescodeo00cookrich/lawsofmosescodeo00cookrich_djvu.txt :


… the question of the origin of the dynasty of Hammurabi becomes one of peculiar importance for the study of the Code. If it could be proved that the dynasty was North Semitic, and therefore of the same stock as the later [sic] Phoenicians, Moabites, and Israelites, might it not be plausible to suppose that the Code was based upon legal institutions which were familiar to those peoples?

But the question in the present state of knowledge cannot be placed beyond dispute, and there are Assyriologists, whose opinion must carry great weight, who have argued in favour of an Arabian; origin. This, in like manner, if it could be conclusively maintained, would be of the utmost interest for our study. If the kings of the first Babylonian dynasty came from Arabia, would it not be reasonable to infer that the legal elements in the Code were specifically Arabian? one immediately recalls the important part played by (North) Arabia in the early history of the Israelites, the traditions of the wanderings in the wilderness, and the influence of the Midianite Jethro on Moses’ work, which is described in the most explicit manner by the Elohist in Exod. 18. Apart from these questions, it will be necessary to inquire also whether Israel was as susceptible to outside influence as is frequently assumed, and we must also bear in mind that Jewish law was the result, not of a single promulgation like the Code of Hammurabi [sic], but of a gradual development. The preliminary problems therefore, are intimately connected not only with the Code itself, but with the whole question of the relation of the Code to Israelite law.








ASSYRIOLOGISTS have for some years past come to the conclusion that the dynasty to which Hammurabi belonged was not indigenous, 1 and have associated it with one of those waves of immigration which have recurred from time to time in the history of the Semites. Although the evidence is linguistic and linguistic arguments, taken by them-

selves, are extremely precarious it is striking enough to deserve attention, and may be briefly recapitulated here. The evidence in question is chiefly derived from a number of proper names which, it is agreed, are not of the pure Babylonian type. Thus, even the Babylonian scribes regarded the name Hammurabi as foreign, and glossed it by Kimta-rapastum, “wide-extended family,” obviously regarding the name (which is sometimes written Ammurabi) as a compound, not of ham, “father-in-law,” but of amm, with the meaning “family”; an interpretation which may be claimed also for the Hebrew and Arabic am(m). …. In like manner, they find it necessary to explain the name Ammi-saduga, one of Hammurabi’s successors, by Kimtum-kettum, “just or righteous family.”


Further, in names of this dynasty, s is used where the older Babylonian employs s, notably in [text her lacks proper ‘s’ variations]; Samsu-iluna as contrasted with Samsu. The termination -na in the above name, which is interpreted “Samas our god,” is quite distinct from the ordinary Babylonian -ni. The imperfect, which usually takes the form imlik, appears as iamlik in lamlik-ilu, larbi-ilu, etc. There are, besides, a number of minor details, for an account of which reference may be made to the recent discussion by Ranke … who is on the side of Hommel, Sayce, and A. Jeremias, in favouring the Arabian origin of the dynasty. But Winckler and Delitzsch, who are equally convinced that it was not indigenous, have arrived at a different conclusion. “Linguistic and historical considerations,” says the latter, “combine to make it more than probable that these immigrant Semites belonged to the Northern Semites, more precisely to the linguistically so-called ‘Canaanites’ (i.e. the Phoenicians, Moabites, Hebrews, etc.).” …. And whilst Hommel points out that Ammi-saduga is identical with the old Arabian Ammi-saduka (Halevy, 535), Delitzsch remarks that zadug (another form of the second element) “may point to a … ‘Canaanite’ dialect, both lexically . . . and phonetically.” …. The suffix -na to which reference has already been made, is no proof of Arabian origin,

since not only is it also Aramaic (-no), but Delitzsch points out that “it is at least equally probable that iluna represents an adjective.”


Arguments founded upon hypothetical interpretations of proper names can scarcely pass muster, and it is therefore unsafe to find traces of Arabic either in the second element in Ammi-satana, which is explained from the Arabic sadd, “mountain,” … or in the particle pa in Pa-la-samas, which, according to Hommel, … means “Is it not then Samas ?” Even if the interpretation were correct, pa is by no means necessarily the Arabic fa, since it is well known that it appears several times in the old Aramaic inscriptions from Zinjirli in North Syria. The nominal form maful in the names Maknubi-ilu, Makhnuzu,

is certainly common in Arabic, but though rare in Hebrew, it is not unfamiliar in Aramaic. Arabian influence has also been claimed for the name Akbaru (afal form), but it lies close at hand to compare the Hebrew ‘akbor, “mouse.” Passing over the isolated examples of mimmation which are claimed by Ranke, … we may note that the imperfect form iamlik, though it certainly presupposes a Semitic race distinct from the Babylonian, is not necessarily Arabic, since the earliest form of the preformative in North Semitic was originally ya-, and probably did not pass over into j/e- until a comparatively late period. …. Finally, the element Sumu in Sumu-abi, etc., although explained to mean “his name” (sum-kit), can scarcely be claimed as specifically Arabic, since in the oldest Arabian inscriptions the Minean the form would be Sum-su, and Hommel himself, who recognises this difficulty, is forced to suppose that the Minean form of the suffix, with su as contrasted with hu in the later (Sabean) inscriptions and in Arabic, was in its turn due to Babylonian influence. …. The discussion is further complicated by the fact that the linguistic phenomena which characterise the names of the dynasty are also to be found upon a number of the Assyrian contract-tablets from Cappadocia, which, though of extremely uncertain age and origin, are necessarily assigned by Hommel to the age of Hammurabi. ….


The truth is, we know too little of the earlier A history of the languages of Canaan and Arabia in … the time of Hammurabi. At that remote period (about 2250 B.C.) [sic], to quote Bevan, “Semitic languages may have been spoken of which we know nothing. Words and forms which we are accustomed to regard as characteristically Arabic may then have existed in no Semitic language, or may have been common to all Semites. Even with regard to a much later period, our linguistic information is extremely imperfect; whether, for instance, the language of the Midianites, the Edomites, or the Amalekites, in the time of David, was more nearly akin to Hebrew or to Arabic is a matter of pure conjecture.

[End of quote]


‘Information will be extremely less imperfect’ when it is recognised that Hammurabi belongs to the approximate time of David, as a contemporary of his son, Solomon. Then, as with a revised El Amarna, linguistic difficulties will far more easily explained.


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