Etana and the First Kingdom of Man
Roy L. Hales
His name has become a byword in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions. No one living between the times of Noah and Abraham is better known than he. He founded the first city and the first empire known to man. When did he actually live? and how great was his kingdom? Nimrod the mighty hunter who opposed the Lord appears to be known in Sumerian tradition as Etana, the King of Kish.
The King and His Kingdom
According to Genesis chapters 9 through 11: 9 give us many details of the colonization of Sumeria (Biblical "Shinar") and subsequent rise of Nimrod's kingdom. In Genesis 9 mankind had consisted of the families of Noah and his three sons (Shem, Japhet and Ham) By Genesis 11 we read of "'the whole earth," "the children of men" and "the people": terms that indicate a large population. Considering the long ages ascribed to their in Scripture Noah lived for another 350 years after the flood and Shem another 500 years it seems peculiar that the Bible does not mention Noah or any of his sons in Sumeria.
Some scholars, such as Epiphanius 1315-405 AD. L Sir William Jones (1746-1794) and Jacob Bryant (1715-1805), have suggested that Genesis 11: 1, which speaks of mankind's having one language, and Genesis 11:2, which describes the initial colonization of Sumer, should be viewed as two separate events. The postflood cradle of mankind, they argued, was mount Ararat, and it was only a segment of the human race that journeyed to Sumeria. Thus the family of Noah might not he mentioned in connection with Sumer because they did not go there. Shortly after their arrival the colonists began building with baked brick (Genesis 11:3) ann then planned an immense city and tower (Genesis 11:4).
This city is usually attributed to Nimrod. His is the thirteenth name mentioned in the genealogy & Noah's son Ham, and he was the son of Cush - which is better written Csh, as there were no vowels in the first copies of Genesis. His kingdom, the first of many upon the earth, encompassed the cities of Babe), Erech and Accad
God was not pleased with the building of the city and tower of Babel a structure which was meant to tower into heaven and he scattered the people of Babel across the face of the earth. Something of the extent of this scattering can be seen in that while Nimrod is usually associated with Sumer, his father Csh has often been linked to Ethiopia, his grandfather Ham and uncle Mizraim are associated with Egypt, and two other uncles are thought to have led colonies to Libya. Israel and Lebanon.
The Sumerian Kinglist
Many stories of the flood, trio settlement of the land, and the setting up of kingship are found in Sumeria itself. After me flood it was said mat kingship descended at Kish. This name is important because (1) the name Kish so closely resembles that of Nimrod's father Csh, (2) Long before the discovery of Sumer a Civilization, Jacob Bryant 5 study of Classical mythology had led him to the conclusion that Csh must have led the initial settlement of that territory where Sumer arose. The first twelve names of the kinglist of Kisri are allotted no mythological legends, might it is of interest, considering the association of Nimrod's family with Egypt, that two of these names Scorpion and Gazelle - are also known from predynastic Egypt. As we remember, the thirteenth name in the Hamitic genealogy of Genes 5 10 was Nimrod. The thirteenth name of the kinglist of Kish was Etana who "consolidated all countries" to become a "king and ruler." When Scripture terms Nimrod a mighty hunter, Etana was called "king of animals." The memory of Nimrod will forever be linked to the tower and city of Babel: of Etana it is written:
They planned THE CITY
the ( ) gods (laid the foundation
they planned the shrine not the (....) gods laid its foundation
May the city be THE NEST, THE RESTING PLACE OF MANKIND
May (the king) be the shepherd, they)....)
May ETANA BE THE BUILDER, they -
The story of the rise and subsequent disaster at Babel is perhaps reflected in the legend of how Etana flew to heaven on the back of an eagle and subsequently either fell to his death or was murdered. It is perhaps due to the memory of Etana's kingdom that the title "king of Kish'' would be coveted by future Sumerian rulers as a symbol of lordship over the entire loon. Many generations after the time of Etana, around 2040 BC to be precise, a king of Ur dug up the following inscription:
The erection (building) of this tower (temple highly offended all the gods. In a night they threw down) what man had built and impeded their progress. They were all scattered abroad and their speech was strange. The incident at Babel, and Etana's identity as Nimrod, appear quite conclusively identified within Sumerian tradition.
The Kingdom from Archaeology
The scattering of Etana Nimrod's kingdom would appear to have taken place during Sumeria's late Uruk, and early Jemoet Nasr phase. A strong Sumerian influence is known in Egypt from this time, a number of artifacts with strong Sumerian likenesses, and highly controversial dates, are known from the Balkans, and there are evidences of a migration from Sumeria's neighbour Elam towards India. The first Chinese pottery marks, from the Yang Shan culture (supposedly circa 5,000 BCI, are remarkably similar to early Sumerian script of the late Uruk era -
Assuming that this identification is correct, Epiphanius, William Jones and Jacob Bryant were right in stating that only a portion of mankind journeyed to Sumer. Egypt, China. and the Balkans were all settled prior to the times when Sumerian looking artifacts appear. While Nimrod's kingdom undoubtedly did contribute to the material culture of these areas, they retained their own cultural identities both before and after the Sumerian contact.
The cradle of postflood humanity was Mount Ararat where the Ark first rested. Genesis 9 mentions Noah farming there. and it is here that men performed their first postflood sacrifices. The early highland civilizations of the Neolithic era must have sprung out from Ararat. After a time Csh, one of Noah's grandsons, led his family into the plain of Sumer and initiated what archaeologists now term the Ubaidian era. Etana, the Nimrod of Sumerian tradition, was his son.
1 The fourth city mentioned in Genesis 1010, Calneb, can he read as "all of them" and hence not he a City at alI Erich von Fange, Surprises in Genesis Series el4: Table of Nations (nd., copies may be ordered from Dr. Er Co von Fange, 460 Pine Brae Dr., Ann Arbor, Ml 48105) 2 Egypt is termed the land of Ham in Psalms 78:51; 105:23 & 106: 2
2. Scorpion was the third king of Kish and a pharaoh named Scorpion ruled the south of Egypt ,ust prior to that country's unification. "Buck, son of Gazeile" is listed as the fourth king of Kish, and the Egyptians of Gazelle
3 Some traced their descent to a mythical ancestor presumably of that name
4 James B. Pritchard editor), Ancient Near Eastern texts relating to the Old Testament; Princeton University Press, 1969), p.57.
5 The best known version is that Etana fell to his death, however an account of his murder after that mythic flight appears in J.V. Kinner Wilson, "Further Contributions to the Legend of Etana," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, (April 1974), pp.237-249.
6 Clifford Wilson, That Incredible Book die Bible, Chicago, Moody Press, 1972), p 47,
7 C.C. Lamberg Karlovsky, "The Proto Elamites in the Iranian Plateau," Antiquity (July 1978), p.116.
8 Roy L. Hales, "Huang Ti, Chinese Writing and the Postflood Settlement of China," Creation Social Science and Humanities Quarterly, vol. VII, No 4 (Summer 1985), pp.24-29