The Advice of Hushai & The Cylinders of Gudea

It seem like Abasolom is going to take over and be the next king, right? 

King Gudea of Lagash
This remarkable man came to the patesiship in the most troubled period of the history of Sumer.

His date is somewhat uncertain, but he lived in all probability under the rule of the kings of Gutium, who, however, are not mentioned in the archives of his reign.

From the style of the writing and the names of the months it would seem that he reigned shortly after the period of Akkad.

But although the numerous monumental inscriptions of Gudea are written in old classical Sumerian, many of the inhabitants of Lagash have Semitic names, and Semitic phrases appear in the temple records.

The majority of the people, the priesthood and the ruling classes are still Sumerian, but their decline before the aggressive Semite of Akkad is now apparent, and the population of Lagash has become cosmopolitan.

Placed by circumstances in a position where his activity was confined to literature and architecture, Gudea exercised a profound influence upon the religion of Sumer.

Not as a temporal ruler, but as the apostle of classical literature and the mysteries of the gods, did he obtain posthumous deification.

In the days of the Sumerian revival, when the empire of Ur was recognized throughout Western Asia, he was one of the rulers of the past who was remembered as a divine man.

A record from Umma in the time of Ibi-Sin mentions offerings to Gudea, where he is mentioned with the deified kings of Ur.

The divine Gudea, patesi, received libations of wine and meal at the feast of the new moon at Lagash, and it is probable that his cult was recognized in all the Sumerian cities and that his was supposed to reside in one of the stars.

“Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night:

And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed, and will make him afraid: and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only:

And I will bring back all the people unto thee: the man whom thou seekest is as if all returned: so all the people shall be in peace.

And the saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel.

Then said Absalom, Call now Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear likewise what he saith.

And when Hushai was come to Absalom, Absalom spake unto him, saying, Ahithophel hath spoken after this manner: shall we do after his saying? if not; speak thou.

And Hushai said unto Absalom, The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time.

For, said Hushai, thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be mighty men, and they be chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field: and thy father is a man of war, and will not lodge with the people.

Behold, he is hid now in some pit, or in some other place: and it will come to pass, when some of them be overthrown at the first, that whosoever heareth it will say, There is a slaughter among the people that follow Absalom.

And he also that is valiant, whose heart is as the heart of a lion, shall utterly melt: for all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be with him are valiant men.

Therefore I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan even to Beersheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude; and that thou go to battle in thine own person.

Ninurta with his thunderbolts pursues Anzû stealing the Tablet of Destinies from Enlil’s sanctuary (Austen Henry Layard Monuments of Nineveh, 2nd Series, 1853).

The bird-god Zu decided to steal the Tablet of Destiny from the great god Enlil. With the stolen treasure he escaped to a shelter on a mountain top in Arabia.

He knew that the wearer of this tablet had the full control of the universe and fates of all. The Tablet of Destiny (or in Sumerian: ‘me’) was a sort of divine template.

So shall we come upon him in some place where he shall be found, and we will light upon him as the dew falleth on the ground: and of him and of all the men that are with him there shall not be left so much as one.

Moreover, if he be gotten into a city, then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city, and we will draw it into the river, until there be not one small stone found there” (2 Sam 17:1-13).

All the people agreed with Hushai, thinking that God had appointed Ahithophel to bring evil upon Absalom. 

Then Hushai told the priests, Zadok and Abiathar, to go and tell David that he shouldn’t stay in the plains of the wilderness that night because the people may come and kill them.

Jonathan and Ahimaaz stayed by En-rogel so they wouldn’t be seen, but they had been seen and told to Absalom.  Absalom’s servants went to a woman and asked where Jonathan and Ahimaaz were and she said they had gone over a brook, so they went to look but couldn’t find them so they returned to Jerusalem.

In the morning David and his men passed over the Jordan.

When Ahithophel saw that his counsel didn’t follow him, he went home, put everything in order, and hanged himself.

“Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom passed over Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him.

And Absalom made Amasa captain of the host instead of Joab: which Amasa was a man’s son, whose name was Ithra an Israelite, that went in to Abigail the daughter of Nahash, sister to Zeruiah Joab’s mother.

So Israel and Absalom pitched in the land of Gilead.

And it came to pass, when David was come to Mahanaim, that Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lodebar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim,

Brought beds, and basons, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and flour, and parched corn, and beans, and lentiles, and parched pulse,

Bull head, probably affixed to the sound-chest of a lyre.

Copper, mother-of-pearl and lapis lazuli, found in Telloh, ancient Girsu.

And honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat: for they said, The people is hungry, and weary, and thirsty, in the wilderness” (2 Sam 17:24-29).

David numbered his people, putting captains of thousands and captains of hundred over them.  He then divided them so a third was under Joab, another third under Abishai, Joab’s brother, and a third under Ittai. 

He told them that he too would fight, but the people begged him not to because his life was to valuable so he stayed in hiding.

“And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom” (2 Sam 18:5).

So David’s men went out into the field against Israel, into the woods of Ephraim, and David’s men killed 28,000 Israelites.

Clay plans of a six-room building, a sanctuary or a private house.

From Telloh, ancient Girsu.

“For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country: and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.

And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.

And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.

And Joab said unto the man that told him, And, behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle.

Bau, (Sumerian), also called Nininsina, Akkadian Gula or Ninkarrak, in Mesopotamian religion, city goddess of Urukug in the Lagash region of Sumer and, under the name Nininsina, the Queen of Isin, city goddess of Isin, south of Nippur. In Nippur she was called Ninnibru, Queen of Nippur.

Bau seems originally to have been goddess of the dog; as Nininsina she was long represented with a dog’s head, and the dog was her emblem. Perhaps because the licking of sores by dogs was supposed to have curative value, she became a goddess of healing. She was a daughter of An, king of the gods, and the wife of Pabilsag, a rain god who was also called Ninurta or Ningirsu.

And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king’s son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom.

Otherwise I should have wrought falsehood against mine own life: for there is no matter hid from the king, and thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me.

Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak.

And ten young men that bare Joab’s armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.

First Dynasty of Lagash
This dynasty is dated to the 25th century B.C.

En-hegal is recorded as the first known ruler of Lagash, being tributary to Uruk.

His successor Lugal-sha-engur was similarly tributary to Mesilim.

Following the hegemony of Mesannepada of Ur,

Ur-Nanshe succeeded Lugal-sha-engur as the new high priest of Lagash and achieved independence, making himself king.

He defeated Ur and captured the king of Umma, Pabilgaltuk.

In the ruins of a building attached by him to the temple of Ningirsu, terracotta bas reliefs of the king and his sons have been found, as well as onyx plates and lions’ heads in onyx reminiscent of Egyptian work.

One inscription states that ships of Dilmun (Bahrain) brought him wood as tribute from foreign lands.

He was succeeded by his son Akurgal.

And Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing after Israel: for Joab held back the people.

And they took Absalom, and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon him: and all Israel fled every one to his tent” (2 Sam 18:8-17).

Ahimaaz wanted to run and bear the king tidings for the victory, but Joab said not today since his son is dead.  Joab then sent Cushi, one of the runners, to inform David of the win.  But Ahimaaz also ran.

“And Ahimaaz called, and said unto the king, All is well. And he fell down to the earth upon his face before the king, and said, Blessed be the Lord thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king.

And the king said, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Ahimaaz answered, When Joab sent the king’s servant, and me thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was.

And the king said unto him, Turn aside, and stand here. And he turned aside, and stood still.

Eannatum, grandson of Ur-Nanshe, made himself master of the whole of the district of Sumer, together with the cities of Uruk (ruled by Enshakushana), Ur, Nippur, Akshak, and Larsa.

He also annexed the kingdom of Kish; however, it recovered its independence after his death.

Umma was made tributary – a certain amount of grain being levied upon each person in it, that had to be paid into the treasury of the goddess Nina and the god Ningirsu.

And, behold, Cushi came; and Cushi said, Tidings, my lord the king: for the Lord hath avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee.

And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is.

And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”  (2 Sam 18:28-33).

The Cylinders of Gudea

Two large, inscribed clay cylinders were discovered at the end of the 19th century.

After their broken pieces had been meticulously reassembled, the cylinders revealed a lengthy Sumerian composition memorizing the building of a new Gudea (r.c. 2112-2095 B.C. or shortly before).

The cylinders claim that the deity Nsingirsu appeared to Gudea in a dream, commanding  him to build his new temple, the Enunnu.

Gudea cylinder close up showing cuneiform.
The cylinders were found in a drain by Ernest de Sarzec under the Eninnu temple complex at Telloh, the ancient ruins of the Sumerian “holy city” of Girsu, during the first season of excavations in 1877.

They were found next to a building known as the Agaren, where a brick pillar was found containing an inscription describing its construction by Gudea within Eninnu during the Second Dynasty of Lagash.

The Agaren was described on the pillar as a place of judgement, or mercy seat, and it is thought that the cylinders were either kept there or elsewhere in the Eninnu.

They are thought to have fallen into the drain during the destruction of Girsu generations later.

Gudea prayed and slept in the temple already existing on the site, waiting for a second dream; in it Ningirsu revealed the new temple’s plan.

The cylinders provide detailed information about the preparation and purification of the temple area and specifics and conscripting workers, the acquisition of building materials and the laying of the foundation.

Two cylinders telling of the construction of the temple of Ninurta (Ningursu), Girsu. 2125 B.C. Terra cotta.
The Gudea cylinders are a pair of terracotta cylinders dating to circa 2125 B.C., on which is written in cuneiform a Sumerian myth called the Building of Ningursu’s temple.

The cylinders were made by Gudea, the ruler of Lagash, and were found in 1877 during excavations at Telloh (ancient Girsu), Iraq and are now displayed in the Louvre in Paris, France.

They are the largest cuneiform cylinders yet discovered and contain the longest known text written in the Sumerian language.

Next, they described the building process, decorations and furnishings.

Gudea then installed the statues of Ningirsu and his consort, Baba, offered dedicatory prayers and hosted a seven-day banquet.

Upon completion of the project, Gudea recorded, he was blessed and promised long life by his personal gods.

It has been suggested that the account of Solomon’s construction of the Jerusalem temple follows this same general outline.

Since divine sanction for Solomon’s temple building had been given to his father, David, Solomon declared his intention to build Yahweh’s temple in fulfillment of the divine command.

This is followed by a description of the arrangements between Hiram of Tyre and Solomon, which provided for Hiram to contribute cedars and pine for the building project, as well as for Solomon’s levy for laborers and the quarrying of stone for the foundation.

The details of the construction process, including the layout and dimensions of the individual rooms, are included , as are directives regarding the furnishings.

The “Pillar of Gudea”, reconstructed with ancient bricks and modern copies -consisting of four round columns placed side by side.

The inscription mentions a cedarwood portico, court of justice of Ningirsu.

Found in the south-west of the temple of Ningirsu in Girsu.

Just as Gudea installed the statues of his deities to symbolize their presence in the temple, Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant, which represented God’s footstool  into the temple in Jerusalem.

He then offered his prayer of dedication and hostel a seven-day feast.

Finally, the Lord appeared to the king to bless him and promise him an everlasting throne over Israel, provided Solomon would continue to follow his commands.

That the account of Solomon’s temple building follows the same structure need not surprise or alarm the reader.

The inspired writers worked within familiar cultural and literary structures to faithfully transmit the history of Israel and the Word of God.