Ezra’s Genealogy and Career & The Hammurabi Code

Finger Pointing UpNow that Your new house and temple are built, what’s going to happen?

1. Susa
Susa is one of the oldest cities in the world.

Excavations have established that people were living at the acropolis in 5000 B.C. and have shown the existence of urban structures about 4000, and we can be certain that the town, situated on a strip of land between the rivers Shaor (a tributary of the Karkheh) and Dez, was already a political center of some importance.

In this early age, the potters of Susa produced ceramics of an unsurpassed quality, which they decorated with birds, mountain goats, and other animals designs.

In the fourth millennium (the “Uruk Period”), the city became the capital of Elam and was able, at times, to challenge the Sumerian and Akkadian towns in southern Iraq.

The city itself expanded to the east, to that part of the city that is now called the royal city.

From written sources, we know that there must have been ziggurat.

A third part is the artisan’s quarter, which was even further to the east.

The kings of the Awan dynasty are known to have been the rulers of Elam in the last third of the third millennium; they were contemporaries of the dynasty of Sargon of Akkad, who was temporarily able to incorporate Susa into his empire.

However, the Awan kings managed to regain their independence and a treaty between Sargon’s grandson Naram-Sin and his colleague in the east proves that in the end, mutual respect reigned.

The genealogy of Ezra lists ancestors back to Aaron (Ezra 7:1-5).

“This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.

And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.

And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.

For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:6-10).

Ezra’s letter from King Artaxerxes:

“Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time.

I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.

Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counselors, to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand;

2. The Tomb of Daniel.
The Tomb of Daniel.
We would have expected the tombs of Esther and Mordecai, in Susa, but they are in Hamadan.

In Susa you can find the tomb of the prophet Daniel, which you would have expected in Babylon.

In its present form, the mausoleum dates back to the twelfth century, with many more recent additions.

It is mentioned by the Jewish writer Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Susa in 1167.

You will not meet many Jews over there, because the mausoleum is Islamic.

A modern wall painting quotes Imam Huseyn (the man who died at Kerbala), who invites Shi’ite Muslims to visit the place:

“Anyone who visits my brother Daniel, it is like he visited me.”

There used to be another wall painting, showing Daniel in the lions’ den, but it has been over painted.

But why do Muslims venerate Daniel?

After all, the prophet is not mentioned in the Quran (an evil book).

The answer is given by Tabari, a Persian collector of historical anecdotes who lived in the late ninth and early tenth century, and wrote about the Arabian conquests.

He tells that the Arabs had invaded southwestern Iran (Khuzestan) and started to besiege Susa.

The Christian priests and monks insulted their enemy, boasting that the Arabs could only capture the city only if they’d receive support from the devil.

However, the city gate collapsed more or less spontaneously, and the Arabs took Susa without much effort.

Persian noblemen were executed and the treasury of the church was looted.

Here, the conquerors found a silver sarcophagus with a mummy, which was believed to Daniel’s.

A signet ring showing a man between two lions seemed to confirmed this, and when Caliph Umar, who had first ordered the sarcophagus to be buried in the river Shaour, heard about this, he had second thoughts and ordered a decent funeral.

An ancient Christian cult for a Jewish prophet had become an Islamic cult, even though the Quran knew nothing about Daniel.

This is quite interesting, because it proves that in the age of the great Arab conquests, the Islamic religion still had to get its own character.

I like the idea, proposed by Fred Donner, that it was a kind of ecumenical movement of Jews, Christians, and Arabs who had accepted monotheism.

If that was indeed the nature of early Islam, it is less of a surprise to find a Jewish prophet being venerated by Muslims.

And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counselors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,

And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem:

That thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem.

And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God.

The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.

And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king’s treasure house.

And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,

Unto an hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.

Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?

Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.

And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and Judges, which may Judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not.

And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let Judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.

3. Hamedan Today
Hamedan Today
Radiating with six straight avenues from a central square (Imam Khomeini), Hamadan is one of the oldest continually inhabited towns, centers of civilization, and numerous capitals of different dynasties that have ruled Iran through the ages.

Capital of the province of Hamadan, at the foot of Mount Alvand, and located at an altitude of 1,829 m above sea level, it is 400 km to the southwest of Tehran by road via Qazvin, and can be reached by air as well.

It is a trade center for a fertile farm region where fruit and grain are grown.

Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:

And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me” (Ezra 7:12-28).

These are the people returning with Ezra: (Ezra 8:2-14).

These are the people that returned to Jerusalem: (Ezra 8:15-20.)

“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.

For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.

So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.

Then I separated twelve of the chief of the priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their brethren with them,

4. Shamash
Shamash was a native Mesopotamian deity and the sun god in the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian pantheons.

Shamash was the god of justice in Babylonia and Assyria, corresponding to Sumerian Utu.

Both in early and in late inscriptions Shamash is designated as the “offspring of Nannar”; i.e. of the moon-god, and since, in an enumeration of the pantheon, Sin generally takes precedence of Shamash, it is in relationship, presumably, to the moon-god that the sun-god appears as the dependent power.

And weighed unto them the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, even the offering of the house of our God, which the king, and his counsellors, and his lords, and all Israel there present, had offered:

I even weighed unto their hand six hundred and fifty talents of silver, and silver vessels an hundred talents, and of gold an hundred talents;

Also twenty basons of gold, of a thousand drams; and two vessels of fine copper, precious as gold.

And I said unto them, Ye are holy unto the Lord; the vessels are holy also; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering unto the Lord God of your fathers.

Watch ye, and keep them, until ye weigh them before the chief of the priests and the Levites, and chief of the fathers of Israel, at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the Lord.

So took the priests and the Levites the weight of the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, to bring them to Jerusalem unto the house of our God.

Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.

And we came to Jerusalem, and abode there three days.

Now on the fourth day was the silver and the gold and the vessels weighed in the house of our God by the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest; and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them was Jozabad the son of Jeshua, and Noadiah the son of Binnui, Levites” (Ezra 8:21-32).

On the 4th day the silver, gold, and vessels were weighed  and the people counted and amount of people was 1 written down.  12 bullocks, 96 ram, 77 lambs, and 12 he goats were given for a sin offering.

And they delivered the king’s commissions unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river: and they furthered the people, and the house of God (Ezra 8:36).

1 According to Babylonian practice, e.g., the Hammurabi Code, almost every transaction, including sales and marriages, had to be recorded in writing.

5. The symbol of the Sun God Shamash
The symbol of the Sun God Shamash, being a form of the Eight-pointed Star, was widely employed all throughout Mesopotamia.

The Sun God himself was at times addressed by different names.

The one in most common usage seems to have been Shamash, which translates directly as “Sun”.

However, amongst his other appellations, the solar divinity was also called Babbar (i.e., “Shining One”), which has been suggested as representing Shamash at noon even as Utu was the name used for the setting Sun.

Despite such diversity of connotation behind the different names for Shamash, which could well have been a development over time, an early appellation used for the Sun God was Utu (i.e., “My Sun” or “His/Your Majesty”).

It was under this name that the Sumerians revered the solar divinity.

The Akkadians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and others who succeeded them in the political control of the Mesopotamian territories knew him primarily as Shamash, a name which eventually became the most widely used with regard to the Sun God.

All throughout the lands touched by Mesopotamian cultures, including those on which they bordered, Shamash received due worship.

The cities of Sippar and Larsa both possessed temples to the Sun God and were considered the seats of his worship, with the former even being called Heliopolis (i.e., “Sun-city”) by Greek authors due to the prominence of the Sun God.

The sanctuaries of both cities were referred to as E-babbara, which signifies the “Shining House”.

The city of Nineveh also had a temple dedicated to the Sun God, built by Esarhaddon, as well as a “Gate of Shamash”.

Other temples devoted to the worship of the Sun God existed in Babylon, Ur, and many other places throughout Mesopotamia and its neighboring lands.

To this day, we find remnants of the popularity of the Sun God in the Hebrew and Arabic words for the Sun, which are shemesh and shams respectively.

Considering that both these languages are Semitic, and the cultures associated with them have links to those of ancient Mesopotamia, there is little surprise that this is so.

Moreover, the worship of Shamash had been present in the regions inhabited by these cultures.

The Hammurabi Code

6. Code of Hammurabi Stele
Code of Hammurabi Stele
Excavated in 1901-1902 by Jacques de Morgan and French archaeologist Jean-Vincent Scheil at Susa (now Shush, Iran), the discovery of this ornate, 7′ tall basalt stele is one of the first, and among the most compelling and complete examples of codified law known in existence.

Established in Mesopotamia during the 1st Dynasty under the reign of King Hammurabi (1790-1750 B.C.), the code consists of 282 Babylonian laws (deciphered and published by Scheil) in cuneiform, and originally placed in the temple of Marduk, the national god of Babylon.

The Code of Hammurabi contains references to family law (marriage, divorce), civil law (slavery, debt), and criminal law (theft and assault).

Cast in the form of traditional law, it provides a prologue and a body of laws, followed by an epilogue.

Hammurabi created the code “to bring about the rule of righteousness to the land, to destroy the wicked and evil-doers; so that the strong should not harm the weak.”

Perhaps one of the most contemporary ‘codes’ of Hammurabi is its adoption law, which states, “if a man adopt a child and to his name a son, and rear [raise] him, this grown son can not be demanded back again.”

The term, ‘an eye for an eye,’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth’ has its roots in the code?

Hammurabi’s Code communicates how laws are a fundamental part of many societies, and the writing of law is in itself is a way of communicating information.

To date, the principles of the code have not been translated in the realm of contemporary law, the code has provided us with the principles that punishment should be regulated and governments have a responsibility to compensate the victims of crime.

Can be read here.

Hammurabi’s attempts to unify and organize social life led him to collect and expand existing minor law codes.  The resulting legislation was of a most comprehensive nature, and Hammurabi ordered it to be incised on a basalt column and placed in the temple of Shamash, god of justice, for all to see.

This column is in every sense a monument of ancient jurisprudence.  It was carried away as a trophy by invading Elamites in a surpise raid  during the 12th century and was unearthed only in A.D. 1901 at Susa (biblical Shushan) by J. de Morgan.

The charge is often made that the Law of Moses was not divinely communicated but that it borrowed heavily from the Code of Hammurabi, or at least from the Mesopotamian context.  The Mesopotamian materials were then supposedly purified of polytheistic elements and put in the Old Testament.

As a basis for our thinking, it must be noted that the Code of Hammurabi was discovered in Susa.  Found December 1901 and January 1902, it was broken in three pieces.  When combined the pieces revealed a code on a black diorite shaft almost 8 feet tall and 6 feet in circumference, with 3,600 lines of cuneiform text arranged in 44 columns.  A total of 282 laws, written in Akkadian appear in the text. 

The top front of the shaft features a low relief of Hammurabi standing before the sun god Shamash, the god of justice, and presumable receiving the text in the code from him.

This was originally set up in the Great Temple to Marduk in Babylon during the second year of Hammurabi’s reign, the code was carted by the Elamites to Susa about 1200 B.C.  Today it sits on display in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  Hammurabi is dated to be 1728-1686 B.C., but most scholars date him around 1792-1750 B.C.

In 1947, a Sumerian Code of Lipit-Ishtar was found in southern Mesopotamia, dating before 1850 B.C., it had laws similar to Hammurabi’s and it shows that he had concocted all of his laws.  Some took the position that he was bringing up to date the common law of Mesopotamia.

Then in the very next year at Eshnunna (modern Tell Asmar), also in southern Mesopotamia, an Akkadian code of King Bilalma came to light.  This dated some 70 years earlier than Lipit-Ishtar’s.   Four years later, in 1952, archaeologists found the Sumerian code of Ur-Nammu at Ur, dating perhaps 2100-2050 B.C.

The Hammurabi Code and the Mosaic Law are similar, but they are also quite different. Hammurabi’s Code is polytheistic, civil, commercial, and punishments are geared to class distinctions.

The Mosaic Law is monotheistic, civil, religious, and does not class distinctions in meting out punishments.  Moses claims no credit for formulating his code; this was God’s set of requirements for His people.

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