Mesopotamian Synchronistic Chronography and the Book of Kings
2. Synchronized Dating and Synchronistic Compositions in ANE Literature
2.1. Two Ways of Dating Accession Years
The second known composition recording accession years use the other option. In Chronicle 1 (ABC 1) of the Neo-Babylonian Chronicle series, the beginning of the reign of Humban-nikaš of Elam is dated in the following way:B175′–76′[mdNabû-bēlu-uṣur a]larrapḫa: ina araḫajjāri ūmi 13kam [mTukul]ti-apil-ešarra: ina iṣkussî ittušib[Nabû-bēlu-uṣur,] of Arrapḫa: in Ajjar, the 13th day, [Tig]lat-Pileser ascended to the throne.
This latter example is one of a synchronized dating practice; the new Elamite king’s accession is dated by referring to the counting of the regnal years of the Babylonian king.ABC 1, i 9–10MU V dNabû-naṣir Ummanigaš ina kurElamti ina kussê ittašabIn the 5th year of Nabonassar: Ḫumban-nikaš in Elam ascended to the throne.
2.2. Synchronized Ruler Chronologies in the Neo-Babylonian Chronicle
2.3. Mesopotamian Synchronistic Compositions
2.3.1. Synchronistic King Lists
2.3.2. The Synchronistic History
|nišūmeš kurAššur kurKarduniaš||The peoples of Assyria and Karduniaš|
|itti aḫameš iballu||were connected.|
|miṣru taḫumu ištēniš ukinnu||They established the border by mutual agreement.|
2.3.3. Synchronistic Compositions and Their Pragmatics
3. The Book of Kings in Light of These Mesopotamian Compositions
Thus, the narrative jumps back and forth from one kingdom to the other based on a chronological arrangement of the respective kings. The chronological data underlying the sequence is found in the regnal frame.In the arrangement of the reigns of the two series of kings a definite principle is followed by the compiler. When the narrative of a reign (in either series) has once been begun, it is continued to its close …; when it is ended, the reign or reigns of the other series, which have synchronized with it, are dealt with; the reign overlapping it at the end having been completed, the compiler resumes his narrative of the first series with the reign next following, and so on
3.1. Dating Patterns in the Regnal Frame
- The name of the king15;
- A synchronized accession year date;
- The king’s domain;
- The king’s age at accession (only kings of Judah);
- The regnal year total;
- The place of residence;
- Information on the king’s mother (only kings of Judah);
- An evaluation based on the king’s cultic policies.
|בשנה ... (שנה) ל... (בן ...) מלך ישראל/יהודה|
… בן ...
|In the year … of (, son of …,) king of Israel/Judah|
began to reign
… (, son of …)
|… בן ...|
בשנה ... (שנה) ל... מלך יהודה
|…, son of …|
began to reign
in the year … of … king of Judah
3.2. The Synchronistic Composition in Light of Its Ancient near Eastern Counterparts
3.2.1. Dating Formulas
|ABC 1, i 9–10|
|בשנה ... (שנה) ל... (בן ...) מלך ישראל/יהודה|
… בן ...
|MU V dNabû-naṣir|
ina kussê ittašab
3.2.2. Synchronistic Structures
4. Results: An Expression of Interrelatedness
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
Important collections of Mesopotamian chronographic compositions are (Grayson 1975) = ABC; (Glassner 2005) = CM; (Finkel and van der Sprek 2004ff.) = BCHP (preliminary publication online http://.livius.org/babylonia.html (accessed on 5 March 2023)).
A few examples might suffice: the Egyptian gnwt records the annual heights of the Nile floods (Redford 1986, pp. 65–96), other chronographic compositions list market prices (ABC 23), deliveries of fish to the Marduk-temple (ABC 19), disturbances of the Akitu-festival (ABC 16), recurring omina in chronological order (ABC 17), or collect years with lunar eclipses (Grayson 1975, p. 195f.).
For a broader comparison of ANE chronographic literature and the Book of Kings, see (Weingart 2020, pp. 85–121).
For an overview, see (Weingart 2020, Appendix III).
For identifying specific days, the situation changes; the fixed months and the counting of their days provided a text-external and absolute reference chronology. Accordingly, dating a certain event within a regnal year is much more common, cf. among others ABC 1, i 27; i 31; ABC 2, 14–15 for accession dates or ABC 1, ii 46–47; iii 21; iii 36–37; iv 5–6; iv 16; ABC 2, 29, etc. for other events.
Possibly, there was also an explicit note for Salmanassar’s V assumption of power in the year 727 BCE but text preserved in B37 is very fragmentary, vgl. (Millard 1994, p. 59).
Starting with Tiglat-Pileser III, the Assyrian rulers were partly also kings of Babylonia.
So, e.g., (Grayson 1975, p. 10f.): “The Weltanschauung of the authors of this series is parochial in that they are interested only in matters related to Babylonia and, in particular, her king. But this narrow outlook does not affect the manner in which the events are narrated. Within the boundaries of their interest the writers are quite objective and impartial.”
Particularly striking in this regard is how the change from Ḫumban-ḫaltaš I to Ḫumban-ḫaltaš II in Elam (ABC 1, iii 30–33) and the assassination of Sennacherib (ABC 1, iii 34–35) are dated. The chronicle records these events “in the 8th year of the period without a king in Babylonia” (iii 28). Even without a king, the count of regnal years in Babylonia is retained as a basic structure.
Compared to the Assyrian King List (see Grayson 1980–1983, pp. 101–15; CM 5; Yamada 1994), the Synchronistic History deviates regarding the names and the sequence of several kings (see, Brinkman 1976, pp. 6–34).
In the case of Sennacherib, a brief and only partially preserved narrative section explains that he ruled as king in Babylonia until he was replaced in a revolt (iv 3–6). Sennachherib’s and Essarhaddon’s entries and title "king of Assyria and Babylonia" spans both columns (iv 10.12). For other relevant kings, the list is not preserved, the entire section for the period between Salmanassar III and Sennacherib is missing.
Grayson (1975, p. 53) argues that at the beginning of the 8th cent. BCE, Assyria was in conflict with Urartu and Babylonia profited from the situation. In this situation, the author of the Synchronistic history “attempted to rally his countrymen to action by showing that whenever the Babylonians had violated this agreement in the past, they had been effectively repulsed by the Assyrians”. The supposed enmity between Assyria and Babylonia in this period is not confirmed in any known source, it is rather inferred by Grayson from this composition.
See for the former (Nissinen and Parpola 2004, p. 214): “Until Sennacherib’s destruction of Babylon, it had been the normal Assyrian ideology to view Assyria and Babylonia as sister nations—if not a single nation—under one ruler.” The term “Kulturkampf” was applied by Machinist (1978, p. 522) to describe the long-lasting Assyrian struggle with Babylonia for hegemony over the prestigious cultural heritage of Mesopotamia which was led to extremes by Sennacherib and Esarhaddon in the late 8th and 7th cent. BCE. See also (Vera Chamaza 2002; Na’aman 2010; or Nielsen 2012).
Its counterpart is the closing formula which stands at the end of the description of each reigning period. It includes a source reference, a note on the death and burial of the king, as well as the name of the successor.
The only ruling queen Ataliah (2 Kings 11) has no regnal frame, chronological data, and evaluation. The regular regnal frame is also missing for the Israelite king Jehu, his chronological data appear at the end of his account in 2 Kings 10:35f.
Not the introductory formula itself but its numerical data for Hezekiah are connected to one of the many chronological conundrums in the Book of Kings, see (Weingart 2018).
This is the most common dating pattern. It is usually used for the Judahite kings up to Hezekiah: Abijam (1 Kings 15:1), Asa (1 Kings 15:9), Jehoram (2 Kings 8:16), Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:25), Jehoash (2 Kings 12:2 with a slightly different sequence), Amaziah (2 Kings 14:1), Azariah (2 Kings 15:1), Jotham (2 Kings 15:32), Ahaz (2 Kings 16:1), and Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1). Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:21) does not have a synchronized accession date. It is also used for twelve Israelite kings: Baasha (1 Kings 15:33), Elah (1 Kings 16:8), Zimri (1 Kings 16:15), Omri (1 Kings 16:23), Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:1), Jehoash (2 Kings 13:10), Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23), Zechariah (2 Kings 15:8), Menahem (2 Kings 15:17), Pekahiah (2 Kings 15:23), Pekah (2 Kings 15:27), and Hoshea (2 Kings 17:1).
The introductory formulae of five of the nineteen kings of Israel apply this pattern: Nadav (1 Kings 15:25), Ahab (1 Kings 16:29); Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:52), Jehoram (2 Kings 3:1), and Shallum (2 Kings 15:13). It is also found for the Judahite king Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:41).
A closer look at the entire introductory formulae beyond the dating patterns, shows that further differentiation is appropriate (see already, Bin-Nun 1968). The first pattern is encountered in two forms, one for the kings of Judah and one for the kings of Israel. These two forms differ in the order of the remaining elements, the syntactic structure, and the data included. Probably, the second pattern mentioned above owes its origin to the adoption from an older synchronized list of Israelite kings, while the two versions of the first pattern were more or less created by the author of the Books of Kings (Weingart 2020, pp. 124–37). Since these questions do not directly concern the dating formulae and the synchronistic structure of the Books of Kings, they need not be pursued further here.
For institutional contexts, see, e.g., (Jamieson-Drake 1991), or the more recent discussion in (Richelle 2016) and (Blum 2019).
On scribal education, see also (van der Toorn 2007).
See among others already (Lewy 1927, pp. 7–9; Aharoni 1950, p. 93; Jepsen 1953, p. 108).
Evaluated by other criteria such as military or diplomatic success, economic development, etc., the most criticized kings including Ahab or Manasseh would appear in a different light. On royal ideology in Judah, see, e.g., (Salo 2017).
(Noth 1943, p. 74): “In den Königsbüchern [bildet] das aus Regierungszahlen und Synchronismen bestehende Datenwerk den einzigen lückenlosen Zusammenhang und die einzige ständige Verbindung zwischen den beiden Linien der israelitischen und judäischen Könige.”
If one goes further back into the literary history of the Book of Kings, it becomes clear that the synchronistic composition is a creation of its author but synchronized accession year dates were already present in one of his Vorlagen. Literary historical indicators, as well as the numerical data, point to the fact that a synchronized chronicle of the kings of Israel was one of the sources underlying 1 Kings 14–2 Kings 17 (see Weingart 2020).
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Weingart, K. Mesopotamian Synchronistic Chronography and the Book of Kings. Religions 2023, 14, 448. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040448
Weingart K. Mesopotamian Synchronistic Chronography and the Book of Kings. Religions. 2023; 14(4):448. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040448Chicago/Turabian Style
Weingart, Kristin. 2023. "Mesopotamian Synchronistic Chronography and the Book of Kings" Religions 14, no. 4: 448. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040448