|Sumerian King List or Weld-Blundell prism|
Courtesy of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford
The Sumerian king’s list as it exists today is a critical reconstruction of 20 fragments with one nearly complete copy of the Sumerian king’s list published in 1939 by the renowned Danish, Sumerologist Thorkild Jacobson.1. The first fragment was discovered in the temple library at Nippur, Iraq, in 1922. The Weld-Blundell prism was purchased on the antiquities market shortly after World War I. Today the original is displayed in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. A copy is on display in the Uruk Exhibit, Pergamon Museum, Berlin.
This ancient Mesopotamian genealogy dates to ca. 2100–1800 BC and is the oldest (one hundred years before Abraham) known outline of world history. It is a list of ten kings of the land once known as Sumer from before the flood with extremely long reigns. This list was inscribed during the reign of Damiqilishu of Isin (1816–1794 BC) only a few years before Hammurabi of Babylon captured the land in the first half of the 18th cent. BC and added it as a province to his new Babylonian empire.2. The list recounts:
Prior to the flood, ten Sumerian kings ruled with superhuman lengths of reign (total 241,000 years). Following the flood the rule of the Sumerian kings is greatly reduced (under 1000 years). While the superhuman lengths can be explained by the Sumerian’s sexagesimal 4. (base 60) 5. number system, 6. the “long-flood-short” pattern follows a sigmoid curve that is identical to the biblical pattern.After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridug. In Eridug, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years. Alaljar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years. . . Then the flood swept over. After the flood had swept over, and the kingship had descended from heaven, the kingship was in Kic. In Kic, Jucur became king; he ruled for 1200 years. Kullassina-bel ruled for 960 years. Nanjiclicma ruled for 670 years. En-tarah-ana ruled for 420 years . . . , 3 months, and 3 1/2 days. Babum . . . . ruled for 300 years. Puannum ruled for 840 years. Kalibum ruled for 960 years.3.
There is justifiable skepticism over the unreasonably long lifespans for not only the Sumerian kings, but also the biblical patriarchs. Carol A. Hill observes that:
All age-numbers (30 in all) from Adam to Noah are a combination of the sacred numbers 60 (years and months) and 7. No numbers end in 1, 3, 4, 6, or 8—a chance probability of one in a billion. Thirteen numbers end in 0 (some multiple or combination of 60), 8 numbers end in 5 (5 years = 60 months), 3 numbers end in 7, 5 numbers end in 2 (5yrs + 7 yrs = 12), and 1 number ends in 9 (5yrs + 7yrs + 7yrs = 19). All of this cannot be coincidental. The Mesopotamians were using sacred numbers, not real numbers. Therefore, these numbers were not meant to be (and should not be) interpreted as real numbers. 7.Those who do not take the numbers literally as Greco-Roman hard numbers, see them as a Semitic convention that represents an honorific representation. 8. In the ancient Near East numbers were often used to portray importance or status with the gods. Walton has demonstrated that when the ages of the individuals in Genesis are converted to the sexagesimal system “we get 241,200, the exact total of the Sumerian King List.” 9.
The genealogies were selective to convey a specific theme; the same as in the NT’s Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1. The names were not meant to calculate the genealogies or the age of the earth, as Bishop Ussher did (dating Creation and Adam to 4004 BC). 10. It is clear from archaeological remains that Jericho and other cities were inhabited as far back as 9000 BC. 11.
This demonstrates that there was a common historical source available for both the author of the Bible and the Sumerian accounts.
- 1. Thorkild Jacobsen, The Sumerian King List (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1939).
- 2. Alan K. Bowman, Edward Champlin, and Andrew Lintott, The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 10 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 200–20.
- 3. The ETCSL project, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford (2006), n.p.
- 4. Carol A. Hill, “Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 55, no. 4 (2003): 241; Jöran Friberg, “Numbers and Measures in the Earliest Written Records,” Scientific American 250, no. 2 (1984): 117.
- 5. “When the kingdom durations of the antediluvian section are expressed in an early sexagesimal numerical system, all durations except two are expressed as multiples of 602. A simple tally of the ciphers used yields six 10 x 602 signs, six 602 signs and six 60 signs.” Raúl Erlando López, “The Antediluvian Patriarchs and the Sumerian King List,” Journal of Creation 12, no. 3 (1998): 347.
- 6. Graham Flegg, Numbers: Their History and Meaning (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2002), 55.
- 7. Hill, “Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 55, no. 4 (2003): 245.
- 8. David M. Fouts, “A Defense of the Hyperbolic Interpretation of Large Numbers in the Old Testament.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (1997): 377–87; Hill, “Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis,” 239–51.
- 9. Walton does not include Adam and Noah in the calculation because their equivalents are not included in the Sumerian King List. John H Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context: A Survey of Parallels between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 2nd ed., Library of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1990), 129; “The Antediluvian Section of the Sumerian King List and Genesis 5,” The Biblical Archaeologist 44, no. 4 (October 1, 1981): 207–208.
- 10. James Barr, “Why the World Was Created in 4004 BC: Archbishop Ussher and Biblical Chronology,” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 67 (85 1984): 575–608.
- 11. Charles Gates, Ancient Cities: The Archaeology of Urban Life in the Ancient Near East and Egypt, Greece, and Rome, 1st ed. (New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 2003), 18.
|Key Themes of the OT|
David E. Graves, Key Themes of the Old Testament: A Survey of Major Theological Themes (Moncton, N.B.: Graves, 2013), 184-85.
For Further Study
- Barr, James. “Why the World Was Created in 4004 BC: Archbishop Ussher and Biblical Chronology,” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 67 (85 1984): 575–608.
- Chavalas, Mark W. ed. “Sumerian King List,” translated by Piotr Michalowski, in The Ancient Near East: Historical Sources in Translation, Malden, Ma.: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.
- Fouts, David M. “A Defense of the Hyperbolic Interpretation of Large Numbers in the Old Testament.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (1997): 377–87.
- Friberg, Jöran. “The Beginning and End of the Sumerian King List” in A Remarkable Collection of Babylonian Mathematical Texts: Manuscripts in the Schøyen Collection Cuneiform Texts I, Springer, 2007.
- Friberg, Jöran. “Numbers and Counting.” Edited by David Noel Freedman, Gary A. Herion, David F. Graf, and John David Pleins. Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1996.
- Friberg, Jöran. “Numbers and Measures in the Earliest Written Records.” Scientific American 250, no. 2 (1984): 110–18.
- Hill, Carol A. “Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 55, no. 4 (2003): 239–51.
- Jacobsen, Thorkild. The Sumerian King List. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1939.
- López, Raul Erlando “The antediluvian patriarchs and the Sumerian king list,” Journal of Creation 12 no. 3 (1998): 347-357.
- Michalowski, Piotr. “History as Charter Some Observations on the Sumerian King List.”
Journal of the American Oriental Society 103 no. 1 (1983): 237–248.
- Rowton, M. B. “The Date of the Sumerian King List.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 19 no. 2 (1960): 156–162.
- Walton, John H. Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context: A Survey of Parallels between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts. 2nd ed. Library of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1990.
- Walton, John H. “The Antediluvian Section of the Sumerian King List and Genesis 5.” The Biblical Archaeologist 44, no. 4 (October 1, 1981): 207–8.
- Young, Dwight W. “The Incredible Regnal Spans of Kish I in the Sumerian King List,
Journal of Near Eastern Studies 50 no. 1 (1991): 23–35.