BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Joseph and Esarhaddon of Assyria

Brother rivalry in the story of Joseph in the Bible and in the life of King Esarhaddon

beschey-joseph

Brother rivalry in the story of Joseph: Flemish artist Balthasar Beschey depicts the moment when brother rivalry turns vicious in the story of Joseph in the Bible in this 18th-century painting, Joseph Sold by his Brothers.

A father prefers one of his younger sons to his older sons. The younger son is promoted—to the envy of his older brothers—and the older brothers turn against him. When an opportunity presents itself, they manage to depose him. The younger brother ends up in a foreign land—dispossessed of his rights as heir. However, rather than wasting away in this foreign place, he thrives. Eventually, he rises to a high political office, and his original rights as an heir are restored.

Does the above paragraph describe the story of Joseph in the Bible or the life of King Esarhaddon of Assyria? The answer—rather surprisingly—is both.

Eckart Frahm, Professor of Assyriology at Yale University, probes the many similarities between Joseph and Esarhaddon in his article “Surprising Parallels Between Joseph and King Esarhaddon” in the May/June 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Not only are there the obvious connections, but there are even more parallels when one delves into the textual evidence.

The story of Joseph appears in the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, and the account of Esarhaddon’s rise to power is chronicled in the Assyrian text Nineveh A. Both Joseph and Esarhaddon are the younger sons of their fathers, and both deal with brother rivalry because their fathers favor them over their older brothers. In both of these instances, the brother rivalry is so intense and bitter that Joseph and Esarhaddon are forced to leave the land of their birth. While Joseph is sold as a slave by his brothers and taken to Egypt, Esarhaddon flees the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and takes refuge in the West for his own safety. Further, both of their fortunes are eventually restored. Beating incredible odds, they both rise to powerful positions: Joseph becomes second-in-command in Egypt, and Esarhaddon becomes king of Assyria.


In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.


 

esarhaddon

Esarhaddon of Assyria: This basalt stele from Sam‘al (modern Zincirli in Turkey) depicts King Esarhaddon of Assyria. Similar to the story of Joseph in the Bible, Esarhaddon dealt with brother rivalry before he became king of Assyria.

While the story of Joseph is familiar to many, the story of Esarhaddon is not as well known. Eckhart Frahm summarizes the Assyrian tale of brother rivalry below:

Esarhaddon reports with unusual candor [in Nineveh A] that he was not the oldest son of his father and predecessor Sennacherib. Esarhaddon had a number of elder brothers. Nonetheless, at some point Sennacherib decided to make Esarhaddon his heir apparent. Liver divination undertaken in the name of the sun-god Šamaš and the weather god Adad confirms the appointment. And both the people of Assyria and Esarhaddon’s brothers swear loyalty to the new crown prince.

The brothers, however, are not happy with this course of events. Jealous and full of resentment, they conspire against Sennacherib’s new succession designation. Sennacherib is affected by their machinations and finally distances himself from his newly minted heir. Secretly, however, Sennacherib continues to wish that Esarhaddon will become king after him. In the meantime, Esarhaddon leaves the capital Nineveh and takes refuge in an unspecified safe location somewhere in the West. Soon after, the brothers “go mad” and commit “deeds that are deeply offensive to the gods and mankind”—a thinly veiled allusion to the fact that, as other sources indicate, they murdered Sennacherib … But the brothers are not to reap any rewards from their actions. Esarhaddon returns to Assyria with a small army, chases the regicides away and, encouraged by prophetic oracles, ascends the Assyrian throne.

What do all of the parallels between the two accounts mean? Are the similarities no more than chance—just two tales of brother rivalry, exile and restoration? Or did one of these stories borrow from the other?

While there are many similarities between the accounts of Joseph and Esarhaddon, there are also some significant differences, such as the resolution. Whereas Joseph forgives his brothers and saves their lives, Esarhaddon does not reconcile with his offending brothers. Although their exact fate is unknown, Esarhaddon’s older brothers flee Nineveh and seek refuge with the king of Urartu. They live as exiles for the rest of their lives—unforgiven by Esarhaddon and unwelcomed in Assyria. This and other parts of departure between the two accounts show that one tale is not an exact copy of the other—despite their many similarities.

For an analysis of the comparisons between the stories of Joseph and Esarhaddon, read the full article “Surprising Parallels Between Joseph and King Esarhaddon” by Eckart Frahm in the May/June 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

——————

Subscribers: Read the full article “Surprising Parallels Between Joseph and King Esarhaddon” by Eckart Frahm in the May/June 2016 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a subscriber yet? Join today.


In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.


 

Learn more about Esarhaddon in the BAS Library:

Erika Bleibtreu, “Grisly Assyrian Record of Torture and Death,” Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 1991.

Michael B. Dick, “Worshiping Idols,” Bible Review, April 2002.

Victor Hurowitz, “Solomon’s Temple in Context,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2011.

Lawrence Mykytiuk, “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2014.


This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on May 16, 2016.


 

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23 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    It seems like the story of Joseph came first. While the story of Esarhaddon may be true, at first view is sounds like historical fiction.

  2. wes says:

    Although I often have to wonder how many tales of Israelites in Egypt seem to be veiled references to concerns raised in living in Mesopotamia, I would like to examine the following assertion about “deeds that are offensive to God and mankind” performed by the sons of Sennacherib. I maintain that it was the result of deeds performed by Sennacherib that were offensive to God or the people of Assyria.

    From above:

    ..”Sennacherib is affected by their machinations and finally distances himself from his newly minted heir. Secretly, however, Sennacherib continues to wish that Esarhaddon will become king after him. In the meantime, Esarhaddon leaves the capital Nineveh and takes refuge in an unspecified safe location somewhere in the West [ my sources below: Cilicia or Tabal]. Soon after, the brothers “go mad” and commit “deeds that are deeply offensive to the gods and mankind”—a thinly veiled allusion to the fact that, as other sources indicate, they murdered Sennacherib … But the brothers are not to reap any rewards from their actions. Esarhaddon returns to Assyria with a small army, chases the regicides away and, encouraged by prophetic oracles, ascends the Assyrian throne.”
    ——
    “Ancient Iraq”, a Penguin paperback history, 2nd edition 1980, by French medical doctor and assyrianologist Georges Roux is an easily accessible account of Sennacherib’s demise with numerous source notes, particularly what is covered on pages 322-324. From 324 onward there is an account of what Esarhaddon does in expiation for sin (Page 325: “The first act of the new monarch [Esarhaddon] was to atone for Sennacherib’s sin by rebuilding Babylon”). To be brief [ page 324: “The gread gods of Sumer and Akkad could not leave such a crime unpunished”], the destruction by siege and flooding of Babylon described by Isaiah in chapter 14. Referencing the Babylonian Chronicle as published in Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicle, by Grayson in1975.

    According to Roux on page 322:
    Sennacherib avenged himself on Babylon and dared to accomplish the unthinkable: he destroyed the illustrious and sacred city, the second metropolis of the empire [after, I presume, Nineveh] the “bond of heaven and earth” which his forebears had always treated with infinite patience and respect:

    Quoting the Sennacherib in the Chronicles

    “As a hurricane proceeds, I attacked it and, like a storm, I overthrew it.. Its inhabitants, young and old, I did not spare and with the corpses I filled the streets of the city…The city itself and its houses, from their foundations to their roofs I devastated, I destroyed, by fire I overthrew… In order that in future even the soil of its temples be forgotten, by water I ravaged it, I turned it into pastures [ Does this ring familiar?].
    “To quiet the heart of Ashur, my lord, that peoples should bow in submission before his exulted might, I removed the dust of Babylon for presents to the (most) distant peoples, and in ithat Temple of the New Year Festival (in Assur) I stored up some in a covered jar.”

    Roux concludes about Sennacherib, saying that “on the 20th day of Tebet ( January 681 BC), Sennacherib while praying in a temple met with the end he deserved.”

    Which takes us back to the original article and the comparisons to the story of Joseph – but with quite different interpretation of the motives of the brothers involved. Or else who was at fault before God.

    How could this happen? Well, it depends on how you play the game of Biblical archeological review. We have loads of archeological data from Assyrian records written in stones, tablets or obelisks, but not much of it has been submitted as evidence, unless it was via Kings or Chronicles. Yet should it be included, we get a different perspective and we do a great deal to reduce the odds that we are simply chasing our tails – or is it tales?

  3. Jose says:

    Some times, I fill that the autors of this articles, are trayin to diminish the word of GOD,
    or a least to put doubt in the maind of readers.
    I always felt the what the BIBLE says is the ultimate autority. acording to the declarations
    of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Jhon 5:39 and 2st. 3:16-17

  4. Paul Ballotta says:

    You can do it, Mr. Shanks, we’re all pulling for you to take your ship back from these pirates who censure me in the hope that we can avert a curse over the land (Malachi 4:6). Just remember your eponymous ancestor, “the mighty one of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24) and muster all your strength like a comic book superhero in the face of adversity and say to yourself, “I…will..act…my age!”

  5. Paul Ballotta says:

    The reign of Sennacherib is described in only negative terms by the author of the book of Tobit whose main character was among those deported from the tribe of Naphtali in Galilee to Ninevah where he found favor with the Neo-Assyrian King Shalmaneser V, but not his successor Sennacherib and Tobit had to flee for his life, returning home only after Esarhaddan’s succession (Tobit 2:1). Shalmaneser V was the king who conquered the kingdom of Samaria and some of the people were exiled to the city of Gozan on the Khabor River, or “in Habor at the river Gozan” (2 Kings 17:6), and the area’s mixed population of Hurrian and Semitic people are reflective of the cultural blend of textual sources that comprise the foundation of the material found in the book of Genesis, in the region known as Naharin in Egyptian sources before it was known as Mitanni and it was also destination for the Pharaoh’s hunting expeditions during the 18th Dynasty, another possible connection to Joseph who likely would have spent more time practicing his archery (Genesis 49:23-24) than worrying about starting his own dynasty.

  6. Paul Ballotta says:

    Well it certainly is mind-boggling how the revision of the dating of Genesis from its inception during the early Israelite monarchy period to some period centuries later opens the narrative with an insightful perspective with these allusions to contemporaneous history and you wouldn’t know how compelling the evidence is unless you read the full article that is crammed with data that places you in a vortex circa early 7th century B.C.E. at the beginning of a “like Nimrod a mighty hunter” (Genesis 10:9) epic saga that the author of the latter half of Genesis compiled by using a technique familiar to the authors of Exodus with Aaron and Moses not themselves relying on the magical arts of the Egyptians but instead using the wise men and the sorcerers and magicians in a polemic against them and now we have the story of the patriarch Joseph set against a backdrop of the behind-the-scenes intrigue between rival heirs to the throne, as it is written, “…and E’sar-had’don his son began to reign in place of him” (2 Kings 19:37).
    Along with the fact that Joseph has a chapter named after him in the 12th sura of the Koran he is the most mentioned character in the Koran that goes beyond the Bible in praising his attribute of chastity that in Jewish mysticism is the attribute known as “zedek” or righteous, that is, taken in the context that Joseph never rose beyond the position of second-in-command to Pharoah, which is an attribute of “malkhut” or kingdom, and that could have a potential negative import in the Kabbalistic tradition not unlike the distinction between what is Pharaoah’s and what is God’s (Mark 12:17).
    So the fact that Esarhaddan as a prince was in exile in the same region from where the partriachs came, “beyond the river” (Joshua 24:2), or the Euphrates, and the city of Uru is mentioned in Esarhaddan’s annals recording the first of his military campaigns launched from his base in Hanigalbat, a region formerly known as Mitanni and Naharayim that roughly includes the region between the Balikh and Khabor rivers north of the upper Euphrates. It is thought by some scholars that the region referred to as “Aram Naharayim” (Genesis 24:10, 27:43) or “Aram of the two rivers,” includes “Ur of Kasdim” (Genesis 10:31), a city northwest of Haran. The article in the current issue of BAR states on page 48 the significance of the patriarch Jacob’s association with this city and that “Haran may also have the ancestral home of Sennacherib’s wife Naqi’a” and that Esarhaddan “invested heavily” in Haran’s temples having been “crowned there a second time in 671 B.C.E.”

  7. Kevin says:

    You can’t know when the Pentateuch was first written, with what we have. And even with the oldest examples we do have, it is a copy. Every argument would be full of fallacy. To say these books did not exist before this and this time is insane. It can also, more than likely, make one look the fool with possible future findings. Obviously, if going by the text, it was certainly much older than Josiah (and they most obviously knew what it was in their time) II Kings 22:8.

  8. Tzur says:

    I think that there is some confusion here, Mr. Roth. I wrote that no one believes that the entire Pentateuch as such was written during the Babylonian Exile. At least, no knowledgeable scholar does that I am aware of. All that those “Higher Criticism” scholars claim who support the (now antiquated, usually heavily modified and for very many largely discredited) “Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis” is that the allegedly separate documents were all edited and sorted out into a single Pentateuch (or Hexateuch) during the Babylonian Exile. But they admit and even generally insist that the supposed “J, E, P and D” documents, and their ancillary modifications or sub-documents, predated, sometimes by many centuries, the Babylonian Exile.

  9. wes says:

    With regard to the age of the Penteteuch I am skeptical of the extremes myself. But I think it might be interesting to consider its age relative to other books of the OT, particularly Isaiah.

    If we were to analyze Isaiah we might come away with the conclusion that there were a sequence of sections of less and less age – with some editing to tie the first (early) and later (later) chapters together. And in the early parts of Isaiah we have texts that relate so directly to the time of Sennacherib that they correspond rather well to Assyrian accounts of Babylon’s destruction by same ( 14:21-23 thought the latter part appears as prose vs. the earlier verse) and that he was coming to lay siege to Jerusalem (see below). Sennacherib’s destruction of Babylon (circa 690 BC) is recorded in Assyrian chronicles, discussed by Georges Roux ( chapter 20, Ancient Iraq). Elsewhere we find that Esarhaddon, reversed the sentence of desolation after a period of 11 years vs. the nominal 70. Whether Esarhaddon was involved or not with the murder of Sennacherib (681 BC), it is unclear, but he found it disturbing that he could eradicate a city with sites that to Assyrians were sacred.

    And then later, circa chapters 39 ( where Isaiah quotes from 2nd Kings chapter 2) and 40-45 where the text speaks of Cyrus – the most straight-forward explanation for these two segments is that the overall book or scroll was written and re-written into the document we know today.

    Now what about Sennacherib, Babylon and Jerusalem? Well it turns out that Jerusalem was attacked and besieged earlier than Babylon by about a decade and a half. Isaiah as an adviser to Hezekiah – the whole story rests on that notion. When Isaiah is layed to rest is uncertain, but Hezekiah supposedly survived until 687 BC, long enough to be reign contemporaneously with Esarhaddon. So, what is the intent of reciting the fate of Babylon? Is it to compare it with that of Jerusalem confronted with the same adversary but protected from on high? And did the story get tweaked further as time went by?

    But back to the comparative age question? Is there any mention of the Penteteuch in Isaiah or any of the ideas in its content?

    But then

  10. Andrew G Roth says:

    With all due respect to Ben, unfortunately the Babylonian Captivity Scripture composition theory is in fact quite alive and well in the scholarly world. In fact, I have seen half a dozen mainstream academics proclaim it as fact–and this on television–in the past week.

    One was in the Morgan Freeman show “Searching for God” (or words to that effect). Freeman, who has in the past said he is an atheist, seemed very reverent with regards to Biblical tradition and it was ironically the scholars he interviewed from the US and UK acted as if it were a foregone conclusion. The other was a British program I caught on Netflix called “Bible Secrets” about the Tower of Babel. It featured theories by alternative theorist David Rohl, with whom I almost always have huge problems with. In this case his theory was interesting enough to at least not dismiss out of hand, but the people who helped him linked it directly to the Babylon Scripture theory mentioned above, and scholar and after scholar chimed in expressing this as “the majority view”, so it can’t be both “no one endorses this today” and “the majority view” at the same time. The truth is likely in the middle which is, sorry to say, not what Ben mentioned and trust me, I would much prefer that Ben was right on this point. It would make my job a lot easier.

    Respectfully yours,
    Andrew Gabriel Roth
    Translator Aramaic English New Testament

  11. Tzur says:

    I must correct myself. I was bothered by the fourth century statement I made, and then recalled that it was in the Third century BCE that the Septuagint was produced. The basic argument still stands.

    One can add to that that the Joseph story explained the derivation of two of the twelve tribes of ancient Jewry. Tribes down through the ages and in just about all cultures have been notable for stressing genealogy as the key to their distinct identity, and all tribal members, even children, were commonly able to recite the full lineage of their tribal ancestors, especially the founders. Joseph was the founding ancestor for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Therefore the accounts of his life were part of the most ancient oral traditions of those tribes. Can we imagine a fourth century BCE novelist inventing this story and trying to foist it on the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh? Not even the other tribes would have a bar of such inventions. They all were invested in their own roles in the common heritage. We should also bear in mind that ancient Israel was a literate culture, and that it is highly unlikely that there would not have been very ancient written accounts of the origins of the twelve tribes, in addition to the oral heritage. So the account of Frahm is preposterous on the face of it.

  12. Tzur says:

    One other comment: the late dating of the Pentateuch suggested above, putting the whole thing at the time of the Babylonian Exile is quite thoroughly discredited by general scholarship. No one asserts such a thing, even those who want to claim the Pentateuch was “edited” into its present shape then — the original narratives, even these fevered sceptics must admit, predate the Babylonian Exile. Even more ludicrous is the idea that the Pentateuch stems from the fourth century BCE. Despite the best efforts of the secularist (and maybe even Judaeophobic) denigrators, this is the very latest time they can even implausibly claim the Mosaic books were written, since this was the time when as everyone acknowledges the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Mosaic books, was produced — i.e., those books, in their present form and text, were already the traditional canon of Scripture back then, which is precisely why the translation was made for diaspora Jewry. The story of Joseph far predates Esarhaddon.

  13. Tzur says:

    In the kingdoms of antiquity, it was common for brothers to contest against each other to be the heir to their father — in fact, it was usual for the victor, who might well be the youngest son and favorite if the father died of ripe old age, to kill all his rival brothers to make sure there would be no future civil strife, as also was the standard Ottoman imperial practice even in the last centuries before its fall. Therefore, we can assume that just about all previous and subsequent royal contests between royal brothers would show “surprising parallels” to the Joseph story, especially if we studiously ignore the differences. No prizes to Frahm in finding these “surprises.”

  14. Lyone Fein says:

    Actually, the Assyrian story seems to have more in common with the story of Joseph’s father, Jacob.
    Like Esarhaddon, Jacob’s father (Isaiah) makes Jacob the heir in place of his elder brother (Esau). In fear for his life because of his elder brother’s jealousy, Jacob must flee. In Jacob’s absence, the elder brother conducts a life that is displeasing to both his parents and to the biblical God. When Jacob finally returns after decades abroad, it is with a great host that is prepared to battle, if need be. The long estranged brothers meet only once, briefly, (possibly for a wrestling match that Jacob wins) and then separate forever.
    It seems the “similarity” between the Esarhaddon story and that of Joseph stems from both having many older brothers. But structurally, it seems to me that exploring the Jacob story would bear more fruit.

  15. Terry says:

    The stories are far more dissimilar than similar. The Assyrian story is simply the battle of sons over who succeeds their kingly father. A common occourence throughout the ancient world. Solomon was a younger son of David, for example. Jacob was a regular guy with a big family, who’s youngest son accomplished more than Jacob could’ve imagined. And in a foreign land. I can’t see a reason why either needed to borrow from the other. And because Israel’s history is based on Israel/Jacob’s 12 sons, it would be absurd to think they would need in any way to borrow from this far later Assyrian story.

  16. Andrew G Roth says:

    Interesting, but the Bible itself more than answers this question. Most scholars, and me as well, firmly believe that Joseph’s story take place entirely in the Hyksos period, ca. 1678-1570 BCE (High Chronology) are about 20 years later on Low Chronology.

    The fact that the Messiah affirms Moses as the author of the first five books of the Bible should not be cast aside lightly in favor of flawed scholarly convention that Genesis-Deuteronomy is a product of the Babylonian Exile. What then were the books priest Hilkiah found in the plastered walls of the Temple?

    Therefore, I find it very odd that this expert does not even bother to mention that almost a thousand years separate Joseph from Earshaddon, and it is Joseph who was earlier. To not bring that up is, in my view, bad process, as it leaves hanging the assumption as to whether one ascribes historicity of the Torah to Moses or if the liberals are so confident about their Babylonian Exile/Scripture theory that they feel they don’t even need to explain themselves to an audience comprised of large numbers of Biblical believers. I sincerely hope the actual magazine article does a better job than the internet excerpt does!

    Respectfully yours,
    Andrew Gabriel Roth
    Translator, Aramaic English New Testament

  17. Dr.Howard says:

    http://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/july-1985/08_joseph_jesus
    This is more ediying than infusing doubt with no factual proof

  18. Dr.Howard says:

    Liberal scholars(never trust their dating it’s always based on their won agendas-i hve done much reserch over the years and seen these speculations go down) would love for the account of Joseph to be a copy of the Assyrian account! It never stops! There are many dissimlarities, to be sure.The mileage on this liberal camel will run out of energy. Nice try no camel! They need to research Homer of some secular subject matter as they always try and undermine scripture.Why waste their time and ours?

  19. Ladislao Errazuriz says:

    All dates from Antiquity are subject to revision, and in some cases, must undergo quite significant corrections. They are currently all based on Egyptian events that were considered contemporary to other Middle Eastern parallel events.
    This is standard procedure, yet leads to extreme reliance on some specific sources whenever no real contemporary events can be brought up.
    The unreliable standard-derivation from Egyptian history uses the assumption that the dynasties 20 and 21 succeeded each other in the same way that the succession of 17th-18th-19th dynasties had taken place.
    However, the Deir Bahari cache of burials used at that time shows that there were some 20th dynasty kings that reigned much later than the apparently later 21st dynasty kings.
    The recent unraveling of the dates for the Apis bull burials has led to a truly sequential corrected chronology, and it shows that in the long run, the dates we assumed for Antiquity are generally about two centuries too old.
    In general terms, the lives of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph may have coincided then with the 18th dynasty Egyptian accounts. The many parallels found that way, could actually imply a historical basis for some of the Biblical personal narrations.
    The parallels between Joseph and the historical Esarhaddon may be coincidental or litterary, but the coincidence of Joseph with the historical Yuya (short for Yussef-Yahveh) goes much further. And his late-Bronze-Age existence would place him toward the end of the Second Millenium B.C.

  20. Paul says:

    Kevin- some scholars (Wellhausen, Documentary Hypothesis e.g.) believe the Torah in it’s current, final form was written as late as 400 BC based on other stories and documents which are now lost to us. I would say that Sauter, in the above, chose her words very carefully (“…did one of these stories borrow from the other?”)
    In Ecclesiastes we read (“..what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
    Is there anything of which one can say,
    ‘Look! This is something new’?
    It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.”

  21. Kevin says:

    I hope I am reading you comment wrong. As Joseph dates around a thousand years before Esarhaddon.

  22. David Feltuy says:

    Once again, the intellectual/theological brilliance and moral excellence of the biblical writers (in comparison to other ancient cultures) is clearly shown. Even if it could be proven that the Joseph narrative is a “re-write” of the Esarhaddonn story, the Joseph story conveys that the true and living God is a god that teaches and practices forgiveness and reconciliation (once again, as in other parallel stories such as Gilgamesh/Noah, the biblical telling of the story is theologically and morally superior/advanced to the so-called “originals”). And, once again, those “comparative” mythologists who try to show that there is nothing unique about the Bible and claim that every religion is just a repeat – that every religion is just the same as every other religion every which way – have FAILED.

  23. Eric says:

    Maybe the Joseph story was a way to use this story to show the importance of brotherly forgiveness and how that will help the nation to work together to prevent destruction of the tribe due to hate, division.

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23 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    It seems like the story of Joseph came first. While the story of Esarhaddon may be true, at first view is sounds like historical fiction.

  2. wes says:

    Although I often have to wonder how many tales of Israelites in Egypt seem to be veiled references to concerns raised in living in Mesopotamia, I would like to examine the following assertion about “deeds that are offensive to God and mankind” performed by the sons of Sennacherib. I maintain that it was the result of deeds performed by Sennacherib that were offensive to God or the people of Assyria.

    From above:

    ..”Sennacherib is affected by their machinations and finally distances himself from his newly minted heir. Secretly, however, Sennacherib continues to wish that Esarhaddon will become king after him. In the meantime, Esarhaddon leaves the capital Nineveh and takes refuge in an unspecified safe location somewhere in the West [ my sources below: Cilicia or Tabal]. Soon after, the brothers “go mad” and commit “deeds that are deeply offensive to the gods and mankind”—a thinly veiled allusion to the fact that, as other sources indicate, they murdered Sennacherib … But the brothers are not to reap any rewards from their actions. Esarhaddon returns to Assyria with a small army, chases the regicides away and, encouraged by prophetic oracles, ascends the Assyrian throne.”
    ——
    “Ancient Iraq”, a Penguin paperback history, 2nd edition 1980, by French medical doctor and assyrianologist Georges Roux is an easily accessible account of Sennacherib’s demise with numerous source notes, particularly what is covered on pages 322-324. From 324 onward there is an account of what Esarhaddon does in expiation for sin (Page 325: “The first act of the new monarch [Esarhaddon] was to atone for Sennacherib’s sin by rebuilding Babylon”). To be brief [ page 324: “The gread gods of Sumer and Akkad could not leave such a crime unpunished”], the destruction by siege and flooding of Babylon described by Isaiah in chapter 14. Referencing the Babylonian Chronicle as published in Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicle, by Grayson in1975.

    According to Roux on page 322:
    Sennacherib avenged himself on Babylon and dared to accomplish the unthinkable: he destroyed the illustrious and sacred city, the second metropolis of the empire [after, I presume, Nineveh] the “bond of heaven and earth” which his forebears had always treated with infinite patience and respect:

    Quoting the Sennacherib in the Chronicles

    “As a hurricane proceeds, I attacked it and, like a storm, I overthrew it.. Its inhabitants, young and old, I did not spare and with the corpses I filled the streets of the city…The city itself and its houses, from their foundations to their roofs I devastated, I destroyed, by fire I overthrew… In order that in future even the soil of its temples be forgotten, by water I ravaged it, I turned it into pastures [ Does this ring familiar?].
    “To quiet the heart of Ashur, my lord, that peoples should bow in submission before his exulted might, I removed the dust of Babylon for presents to the (most) distant peoples, and in ithat Temple of the New Year Festival (in Assur) I stored up some in a covered jar.”

    Roux concludes about Sennacherib, saying that “on the 20th day of Tebet ( January 681 BC), Sennacherib while praying in a temple met with the end he deserved.”

    Which takes us back to the original article and the comparisons to the story of Joseph – but with quite different interpretation of the motives of the brothers involved. Or else who was at fault before God.

    How could this happen? Well, it depends on how you play the game of Biblical archeological review. We have loads of archeological data from Assyrian records written in stones, tablets or obelisks, but not much of it has been submitted as evidence, unless it was via Kings or Chronicles. Yet should it be included, we get a different perspective and we do a great deal to reduce the odds that we are simply chasing our tails – or is it tales?

  3. Jose says:

    Some times, I fill that the autors of this articles, are trayin to diminish the word of GOD,
    or a least to put doubt in the maind of readers.
    I always felt the what the BIBLE says is the ultimate autority. acording to the declarations
    of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Jhon 5:39 and 2st. 3:16-17

  4. Paul Ballotta says:

    You can do it, Mr. Shanks, we’re all pulling for you to take your ship back from these pirates who censure me in the hope that we can avert a curse over the land (Malachi 4:6). Just remember your eponymous ancestor, “the mighty one of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24) and muster all your strength like a comic book superhero in the face of adversity and say to yourself, “I…will..act…my age!”

  5. Paul Ballotta says:

    The reign of Sennacherib is described in only negative terms by the author of the book of Tobit whose main character was among those deported from the tribe of Naphtali in Galilee to Ninevah where he found favor with the Neo-Assyrian King Shalmaneser V, but not his successor Sennacherib and Tobit had to flee for his life, returning home only after Esarhaddan’s succession (Tobit 2:1). Shalmaneser V was the king who conquered the kingdom of Samaria and some of the people were exiled to the city of Gozan on the Khabor River, or “in Habor at the river Gozan” (2 Kings 17:6), and the area’s mixed population of Hurrian and Semitic people are reflective of the cultural blend of textual sources that comprise the foundation of the material found in the book of Genesis, in the region known as Naharin in Egyptian sources before it was known as Mitanni and it was also destination for the Pharaoh’s hunting expeditions during the 18th Dynasty, another possible connection to Joseph who likely would have spent more time practicing his archery (Genesis 49:23-24) than worrying about starting his own dynasty.

  6. Paul Ballotta says:

    Well it certainly is mind-boggling how the revision of the dating of Genesis from its inception during the early Israelite monarchy period to some period centuries later opens the narrative with an insightful perspective with these allusions to contemporaneous history and you wouldn’t know how compelling the evidence is unless you read the full article that is crammed with data that places you in a vortex circa early 7th century B.C.E. at the beginning of a “like Nimrod a mighty hunter” (Genesis 10:9) epic saga that the author of the latter half of Genesis compiled by using a technique familiar to the authors of Exodus with Aaron and Moses not themselves relying on the magical arts of the Egyptians but instead using the wise men and the sorcerers and magicians in a polemic against them and now we have the story of the patriarch Joseph set against a backdrop of the behind-the-scenes intrigue between rival heirs to the throne, as it is written, “…and E’sar-had’don his son began to reign in place of him” (2 Kings 19:37).
    Along with the fact that Joseph has a chapter named after him in the 12th sura of the Koran he is the most mentioned character in the Koran that goes beyond the Bible in praising his attribute of chastity that in Jewish mysticism is the attribute known as “zedek” or righteous, that is, taken in the context that Joseph never rose beyond the position of second-in-command to Pharoah, which is an attribute of “malkhut” or kingdom, and that could have a potential negative import in the Kabbalistic tradition not unlike the distinction between what is Pharaoah’s and what is God’s (Mark 12:17).
    So the fact that Esarhaddan as a prince was in exile in the same region from where the partriachs came, “beyond the river” (Joshua 24:2), or the Euphrates, and the city of Uru is mentioned in Esarhaddan’s annals recording the first of his military campaigns launched from his base in Hanigalbat, a region formerly known as Mitanni and Naharayim that roughly includes the region between the Balikh and Khabor rivers north of the upper Euphrates. It is thought by some scholars that the region referred to as “Aram Naharayim” (Genesis 24:10, 27:43) or “Aram of the two rivers,” includes “Ur of Kasdim” (Genesis 10:31), a city northwest of Haran. The article in the current issue of BAR states on page 48 the significance of the patriarch Jacob’s association with this city and that “Haran may also have the ancestral home of Sennacherib’s wife Naqi’a” and that Esarhaddan “invested heavily” in Haran’s temples having been “crowned there a second time in 671 B.C.E.”

  7. Kevin says:

    You can’t know when the Pentateuch was first written, with what we have. And even with the oldest examples we do have, it is a copy. Every argument would be full of fallacy. To say these books did not exist before this and this time is insane. It can also, more than likely, make one look the fool with possible future findings. Obviously, if going by the text, it was certainly much older than Josiah (and they most obviously knew what it was in their time) II Kings 22:8.

  8. Tzur says:

    I think that there is some confusion here, Mr. Roth. I wrote that no one believes that the entire Pentateuch as such was written during the Babylonian Exile. At least, no knowledgeable scholar does that I am aware of. All that those “Higher Criticism” scholars claim who support the (now antiquated, usually heavily modified and for very many largely discredited) “Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis” is that the allegedly separate documents were all edited and sorted out into a single Pentateuch (or Hexateuch) during the Babylonian Exile. But they admit and even generally insist that the supposed “J, E, P and D” documents, and their ancillary modifications or sub-documents, predated, sometimes by many centuries, the Babylonian Exile.

  9. wes says:

    With regard to the age of the Penteteuch I am skeptical of the extremes myself. But I think it might be interesting to consider its age relative to other books of the OT, particularly Isaiah.

    If we were to analyze Isaiah we might come away with the conclusion that there were a sequence of sections of less and less age – with some editing to tie the first (early) and later (later) chapters together. And in the early parts of Isaiah we have texts that relate so directly to the time of Sennacherib that they correspond rather well to Assyrian accounts of Babylon’s destruction by same ( 14:21-23 thought the latter part appears as prose vs. the earlier verse) and that he was coming to lay siege to Jerusalem (see below). Sennacherib’s destruction of Babylon (circa 690 BC) is recorded in Assyrian chronicles, discussed by Georges Roux ( chapter 20, Ancient Iraq). Elsewhere we find that Esarhaddon, reversed the sentence of desolation after a period of 11 years vs. the nominal 70. Whether Esarhaddon was involved or not with the murder of Sennacherib (681 BC), it is unclear, but he found it disturbing that he could eradicate a city with sites that to Assyrians were sacred.

    And then later, circa chapters 39 ( where Isaiah quotes from 2nd Kings chapter 2) and 40-45 where the text speaks of Cyrus – the most straight-forward explanation for these two segments is that the overall book or scroll was written and re-written into the document we know today.

    Now what about Sennacherib, Babylon and Jerusalem? Well it turns out that Jerusalem was attacked and besieged earlier than Babylon by about a decade and a half. Isaiah as an adviser to Hezekiah – the whole story rests on that notion. When Isaiah is layed to rest is uncertain, but Hezekiah supposedly survived until 687 BC, long enough to be reign contemporaneously with Esarhaddon. So, what is the intent of reciting the fate of Babylon? Is it to compare it with that of Jerusalem confronted with the same adversary but protected from on high? And did the story get tweaked further as time went by?

    But back to the comparative age question? Is there any mention of the Penteteuch in Isaiah or any of the ideas in its content?

    But then

  10. Andrew G Roth says:

    With all due respect to Ben, unfortunately the Babylonian Captivity Scripture composition theory is in fact quite alive and well in the scholarly world. In fact, I have seen half a dozen mainstream academics proclaim it as fact–and this on television–in the past week.

    One was in the Morgan Freeman show “Searching for God” (or words to that effect). Freeman, who has in the past said he is an atheist, seemed very reverent with regards to Biblical tradition and it was ironically the scholars he interviewed from the US and UK acted as if it were a foregone conclusion. The other was a British program I caught on Netflix called “Bible Secrets” about the Tower of Babel. It featured theories by alternative theorist David Rohl, with whom I almost always have huge problems with. In this case his theory was interesting enough to at least not dismiss out of hand, but the people who helped him linked it directly to the Babylon Scripture theory mentioned above, and scholar and after scholar chimed in expressing this as “the majority view”, so it can’t be both “no one endorses this today” and “the majority view” at the same time. The truth is likely in the middle which is, sorry to say, not what Ben mentioned and trust me, I would much prefer that Ben was right on this point. It would make my job a lot easier.

    Respectfully yours,
    Andrew Gabriel Roth
    Translator Aramaic English New Testament

  11. Tzur says:

    I must correct myself. I was bothered by the fourth century statement I made, and then recalled that it was in the Third century BCE that the Septuagint was produced. The basic argument still stands.

    One can add to that that the Joseph story explained the derivation of two of the twelve tribes of ancient Jewry. Tribes down through the ages and in just about all cultures have been notable for stressing genealogy as the key to their distinct identity, and all tribal members, even children, were commonly able to recite the full lineage of their tribal ancestors, especially the founders. Joseph was the founding ancestor for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Therefore the accounts of his life were part of the most ancient oral traditions of those tribes. Can we imagine a fourth century BCE novelist inventing this story and trying to foist it on the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh? Not even the other tribes would have a bar of such inventions. They all were invested in their own roles in the common heritage. We should also bear in mind that ancient Israel was a literate culture, and that it is highly unlikely that there would not have been very ancient written accounts of the origins of the twelve tribes, in addition to the oral heritage. So the account of Frahm is preposterous on the face of it.

  12. Tzur says:

    One other comment: the late dating of the Pentateuch suggested above, putting the whole thing at the time of the Babylonian Exile is quite thoroughly discredited by general scholarship. No one asserts such a thing, even those who want to claim the Pentateuch was “edited” into its present shape then — the original narratives, even these fevered sceptics must admit, predate the Babylonian Exile. Even more ludicrous is the idea that the Pentateuch stems from the fourth century BCE. Despite the best efforts of the secularist (and maybe even Judaeophobic) denigrators, this is the very latest time they can even implausibly claim the Mosaic books were written, since this was the time when as everyone acknowledges the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Mosaic books, was produced — i.e., those books, in their present form and text, were already the traditional canon of Scripture back then, which is precisely why the translation was made for diaspora Jewry. The story of Joseph far predates Esarhaddon.

  13. Tzur says:

    In the kingdoms of antiquity, it was common for brothers to contest against each other to be the heir to their father — in fact, it was usual for the victor, who might well be the youngest son and favorite if the father died of ripe old age, to kill all his rival brothers to make sure there would be no future civil strife, as also was the standard Ottoman imperial practice even in the last centuries before its fall. Therefore, we can assume that just about all previous and subsequent royal contests between royal brothers would show “surprising parallels” to the Joseph story, especially if we studiously ignore the differences. No prizes to Frahm in finding these “surprises.”

  14. Lyone Fein says:

    Actually, the Assyrian story seems to have more in common with the story of Joseph’s father, Jacob.
    Like Esarhaddon, Jacob’s father (Isaiah) makes Jacob the heir in place of his elder brother (Esau). In fear for his life because of his elder brother’s jealousy, Jacob must flee. In Jacob’s absence, the elder brother conducts a life that is displeasing to both his parents and to the biblical God. When Jacob finally returns after decades abroad, it is with a great host that is prepared to battle, if need be. The long estranged brothers meet only once, briefly, (possibly for a wrestling match that Jacob wins) and then separate forever.
    It seems the “similarity” between the Esarhaddon story and that of Joseph stems from both having many older brothers. But structurally, it seems to me that exploring the Jacob story would bear more fruit.

  15. Terry says:

    The stories are far more dissimilar than similar. The Assyrian story is simply the battle of sons over who succeeds their kingly father. A common occourence throughout the ancient world. Solomon was a younger son of David, for example. Jacob was a regular guy with a big family, who’s youngest son accomplished more than Jacob could’ve imagined. And in a foreign land. I can’t see a reason why either needed to borrow from the other. And because Israel’s history is based on Israel/Jacob’s 12 sons, it would be absurd to think they would need in any way to borrow from this far later Assyrian story.

  16. Andrew G Roth says:

    Interesting, but the Bible itself more than answers this question. Most scholars, and me as well, firmly believe that Joseph’s story take place entirely in the Hyksos period, ca. 1678-1570 BCE (High Chronology) are about 20 years later on Low Chronology.

    The fact that the Messiah affirms Moses as the author of the first five books of the Bible should not be cast aside lightly in favor of flawed scholarly convention that Genesis-Deuteronomy is a product of the Babylonian Exile. What then were the books priest Hilkiah found in the plastered walls of the Temple?

    Therefore, I find it very odd that this expert does not even bother to mention that almost a thousand years separate Joseph from Earshaddon, and it is Joseph who was earlier. To not bring that up is, in my view, bad process, as it leaves hanging the assumption as to whether one ascribes historicity of the Torah to Moses or if the liberals are so confident about their Babylonian Exile/Scripture theory that they feel they don’t even need to explain themselves to an audience comprised of large numbers of Biblical believers. I sincerely hope the actual magazine article does a better job than the internet excerpt does!

    Respectfully yours,
    Andrew Gabriel Roth
    Translator, Aramaic English New Testament

  17. Dr.Howard says:

    http://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/july-1985/08_joseph_jesus
    This is more ediying than infusing doubt with no factual proof

  18. Dr.Howard says:

    Liberal scholars(never trust their dating it’s always based on their won agendas-i hve done much reserch over the years and seen these speculations go down) would love for the account of Joseph to be a copy of the Assyrian account! It never stops! There are many dissimlarities, to be sure.The mileage on this liberal camel will run out of energy. Nice try no camel! They need to research Homer of some secular subject matter as they always try and undermine scripture.Why waste their time and ours?

  19. Ladislao Errazuriz says:

    All dates from Antiquity are subject to revision, and in some cases, must undergo quite significant corrections. They are currently all based on Egyptian events that were considered contemporary to other Middle Eastern parallel events.
    This is standard procedure, yet leads to extreme reliance on some specific sources whenever no real contemporary events can be brought up.
    The unreliable standard-derivation from Egyptian history uses the assumption that the dynasties 20 and 21 succeeded each other in the same way that the succession of 17th-18th-19th dynasties had taken place.
    However, the Deir Bahari cache of burials used at that time shows that there were some 20th dynasty kings that reigned much later than the apparently later 21st dynasty kings.
    The recent unraveling of the dates for the Apis bull burials has led to a truly sequential corrected chronology, and it shows that in the long run, the dates we assumed for Antiquity are generally about two centuries too old.
    In general terms, the lives of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph may have coincided then with the 18th dynasty Egyptian accounts. The many parallels found that way, could actually imply a historical basis for some of the Biblical personal narrations.
    The parallels between Joseph and the historical Esarhaddon may be coincidental or litterary, but the coincidence of Joseph with the historical Yuya (short for Yussef-Yahveh) goes much further. And his late-Bronze-Age existence would place him toward the end of the Second Millenium B.C.

  20. Paul says:

    Kevin- some scholars (Wellhausen, Documentary Hypothesis e.g.) believe the Torah in it’s current, final form was written as late as 400 BC based on other stories and documents which are now lost to us. I would say that Sauter, in the above, chose her words very carefully (“…did one of these stories borrow from the other?”)
    In Ecclesiastes we read (“..what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
    Is there anything of which one can say,
    ‘Look! This is something new’?
    It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.”

  21. Kevin says:

    I hope I am reading you comment wrong. As Joseph dates around a thousand years before Esarhaddon.

  22. David Feltuy says:

    Once again, the intellectual/theological brilliance and moral excellence of the biblical writers (in comparison to other ancient cultures) is clearly shown. Even if it could be proven that the Joseph narrative is a “re-write” of the Esarhaddonn story, the Joseph story conveys that the true and living God is a god that teaches and practices forgiveness and reconciliation (once again, as in other parallel stories such as Gilgamesh/Noah, the biblical telling of the story is theologically and morally superior/advanced to the so-called “originals”). And, once again, those “comparative” mythologists who try to show that there is nothing unique about the Bible and claim that every religion is just a repeat – that every religion is just the same as every other religion every which way – have FAILED.

  23. Eric says:

    Maybe the Joseph story was a way to use this story to show the importance of brotherly forgiveness and how that will help the nation to work together to prevent destruction of the tribe due to hate, division.

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