Page images

cataracts,” there was a free flow of water in this district for irrigation purposes.16

It appears to me that the theory of Willcocks, who is so well acquainted with this part of the Near East, having studied it topographically and otherwise as an engineer, is very important in this connection, in showing, at least, that this country was probably occupied earlier than the alluvial plain. It was in this part of Amurru that the very ancient kingdom Mari existed, which had not only ruled Babylonia in the fourth millennium B. C., but furnished that land with its gods. Here was found the kingdom *Ana, also written Khana, which furnished Babylonia with its god Ana, and Palestine and Egypt with his consort Anat. It was from this land that the Semite moved into the alluvium when it was ready to receive man.

We are informed by Egyptian archaeologists that the alluvium of the Nile valley was formed only about six to eight thousand B. C., and that prior to this time, prehistoric man lived in the terraces along the river. From the light thrown upon the subject by excavations, this probably is about the time the alluvial plain of Babylonia was first occupied. It would be difficult to understand, therefore, how any intelligent resident of Western Asia could accept the idea that man first lived in this alluvium. With the evidence everywhere in sight of his colossal doings, in his efforts to harness the two rivers, it is inconceivable that the ancient could satisfy himself that this had been Paradise, and that primaeval man lived there. It is difficult to conceive how even an intelligent Babylonian could have come to such a belief. Moreover, the description of Eden in Genesis precludes the possibility of its being in the alluvial plain; as does also the description by the prophets Ezekiel and Amos.17 Certainly the Amorites or Hebrews never thought of placing the Garden of Eden in "the plain of Shinar."

10 From the Garden of Eden to the Crossing of the Jordan 3 ff. 17 See Ezekiel 27:23; 28:13; and Amos 1:5.




For years it was held that the Hebrew Sabbath was borrowed from Babylonia: that it had its roots in the Babylonian shapattu, or shabattu, to which we have been told we owe the blessings of that day; for “the Sabbath-rest was essentially of Babylonian

It is even held that “the word Sabbath is Babylonian indeed.”

This view has been accepted by many scholars. It is only necessary to examine the Biblical dictionaries, commentaries, and other helps, to ascertain how deeply rooted this idea is at the present time. Let us here inquire upon what basis does the assertion rest that the Hebrew Sabbath is of Babylonian origin.

In the first place there was found in a Babylonian dictionary, or explanatory list of rare words, this formula: ûm nûkh libbi sha-pat-tum (or sha-bat-tum). This was translated "shabattu was the day of rest of the heart,” literally “a day of rest.” The word shabatu was also found in an explanatory list of rare words, but the meaning given for it, namely, gamâru "to be full, complete"s did not seem at the time to be suitable for the assertions that had been made.

The word shabattu, for which there is no etymology in Semitic Babylonian, was said to have been derived by the native lexicographers from the Sumerian sa “heart," and bat to cease" or rest”;6 it was literally translated “heart rest."

1 Delitzsch, Babel and Bible p. 101.
: Sayce, Religion of Egypt and Babylonia p. 476.
• Rogers, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria p. 226.
Cuneiform Texts 12, 6:24.
.See Zeitschrift für Assyriologie 4, 272.
• Sayce, Religion of the Babylonians p. 272.

The second discovery upon which the theory is based, is an inscription giving a calendar of the festivals of the intercalary month Second Elul, in which the duties of the shepherd, or king, are prescribed for the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th, as well as the 19th days of the month. It reads: “The seventh day is the feast of Marduk and Zarpanit. It is an evil day. The shepherd of great peoples shall not eat flesh cooked over coals of an oven; he shall not change the garments of his body; he shall not put on clean clothes; a sacrifice he shall not offer; the king shall not ride in his chariot; he shall not speak as a king; the diviner shall not give a decision in the secret place; the physician shall not touch a sick man; it is not suitable to pronounce a curse; at night the king shall bring his offerings before Marduk and Ishtar; he shall offer a sacrifice; the lifting up of his hands is pleasing to the god.”'

Whether these requirements were to be observed only during the Second Elul, the extra month inserted in the calendar every two or three years, cannot be determined. Although the tablet was found in the Nineveh Library, it doubtless refers to observance by the king at Babylon, as shown by the names of the deities. These days have been regarded as the origin of the Hebrew Sabbath.

Although the words shapattu, and shabatu, are not used in connection with these days, it was assumed that they were thus called; and although in the hemerology they were designated as "evil days," nevertheless scholars decided arbitrarily that the words um nûkh libbi, found in the syllabary, referred to them. For years Babylonists based their assertions that the Sabbath was a Babylonian institution on these two points.

Somewhat later it was shown that the expression nûkh libbi, which occurs frequently in the lamentation hymns, did not mean "rest of the heart,” but referred to the pacification of the gods;

Cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia IV, 32:28 ff.

and the expression was then translated “day of the appeasement of the heart."

In 1904, Doctor Pinches discovered in a tablet giving the designation of the days of the month, that the 15th day was called shapatti8 when it became clear that the word shabatu, explained by gamâru, meaning “to be complete, full," apparently referred to the full moon in the middle of the month..

This new light upon the subject required a readjustment of the proof that has been advanced for the Babylonian origin of the Sabbath. However, this was promptly accomplished, and the same conclusion reached, even “that the word Sabbath is Babylonian indeed.”

In this contention I cannot acquiesce. There is no root in Babylonian, as already intimated, equivalent to the common Hebrew shabat "to cut off, desist, put an end to." With the knowledge of its extended usage throughout the Old Testament, and knowing how thoroughly the institutions and the life of Israel were bound up with this day, to me it has been inconceivable how Assyriologists could make themselves believe, on the basis of the data given above, that this institution and this word were borrowed from Babylonia.

As the calendar for the intercalary month Elul contained certain requirements of the king on the 7th, etc., days of the month, but not of the common people, an investigation was made by the late Professor Johns to ascertain what the dating of the many contracts would show as regards the observance of these days.

It was found that on the days in question, business was carried on as usual, although the 19th day showed a considerable falling

Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch. 26, 51 ff. Most of the days are simply numbered. Besides the 15th day, the 21st is called ibbu "anger"; the 25th arkhu TIL, perhaps meaning "end of month"; see Jastrow Rel. Bab. und Assyr. II, 510 f.

See also Zimmern, ZDMG 58, 199 ff and 458 ff.

off, and in the time of the First Dynasty of Babylon and in the seventh century of the Assyrian period, there was also observed a decrease in the number of business transactions dated on these days, which, however, perhaps can now be explained (see below). This falling off of business did not show itself in the tablets of the Cassite period. The temple documents of that era showed the same average of business transacted on these days, as well as on the 19th of the month.10

An examination of the business archives of the Murashû Sons of Nippur, dated in the reigns of Artaxerxes I and Darius II, that is in the time of Ezra, also do not show any abstention from business on these days; they do, however, show that on them the Jews, who figured so prominently in these documents, are conspicuous for their absence as contracting parties. Probably a reinvestigation of the documents of the First Dynasty, and of the Assyrian period, will reveal a similar West Semitic influence on these days, especially as in both these periods Babylonia and Assyria were well filled with Amorites. Another fact has recently come to light which has an interesting bearing in this connection.

The nearest approach to anything resembling the actual observance of a day like the Hebrew Sabbath in Babylonia, is to be found in a series of twenty-three tablets in the Yale Babylonian Collection, which belonged to the temple archives discovered at Warka, the ancient city of Erech. They are monthly records of sheep delivered for sacrificial and other purposes. These tablets are dated between the fifth year of Cyrus (534 B. C.), and the sixth of Cambyses (523 B. C.). The number of sheep that were delivered is specified for each day of the month; for example, five or more sheep were set apart for the "stable," and four or more for the “shepherd of sacrifice," probably referring to the stable of the

10 Johns, Expository Times XVII 567.

« PreviousContinue »