In the article on The Historicity of the Patriarchs, Abraham's birthdate was set at , and in the article on The Primeval Point of Origin, estimates for the birthdates of his ancestors were given, back to Adam being born in . (See Table 1.) Significant parallels between the secular history and the stories of the first two generations in the Torah were identified. This article examines the historicity of successive generations, especially Enoch, Noah, Ham, & Peleg.
The Talmud has Enoch (generation #7 in Table 1) as the one who introduced writing & mathematics.1 The Sumerians seem to have invented such practices in the , so what would have happened in Enoch's time? Eusebius said that Enoch was Babylonian,2:b9:ch17 and Table 1 has him being born in , and thus 70 years old at the outset of the 1st Babylonian Dynasty (). So he would have witnessed the resurrection of Sumerian knowledge by the Babylonians. But in what sense was he the one to "introduce" writing & mathematics? The Torah says that Enoch walked with God,3 who could have been just an Egyptian pharaoh. If so, the pharaoh in would have been Amenemhat III, the most significant ruler of the 12th Dynasty. And the oldest mathematical documents in Egypt have been dated to his reign.4 So it sounds like Enoch the Babylonian introduced Sumerian mathematics to the Egyptians.
And what about the "introduction" of writing? The development of the Proto-Sinaitic script, upon which Paleo-Hebrew was based, also seems to have occurred in roughly the same period, being variously dated to the 11th or 12th Egyptian Dynasties.5,6,7,8,9:129-156 The dating isn't specific enough to definitely put it in Enoch's tenure, and the script wasn't Babylonian — it was a shorthand for Egyptian hieroglyphics.10:23 Still it's possible that its invention was inspired by Babylonian influences during this period, and could have even been devised by a Babylonian, just as the Japanese katakana script was developed by foreigners as a shorthand for Chinese pictographs. So if "writing" means Proto-Sinaitic, it was introduced to the Egyptians in roughly the same period as mathematics, and this is where Enoch appears on the timeline.
Enoch's father was Jared, in whose time the "Watchers" first appeared, as angels sent to Earth to instruct the children.11:4:15 Since Enoch was one of those children, and since Enoch was the one who took writing & mathematics to Egypt, which he got from the Babylonians, the "Watchers" who taught him would have been Babylonians. A later passage on one of the sons of Arpachshad says that "the Watchers observed the omens of the sun and moon and stars in all the signs of heaven."11:8:3 This also points to Babylonians, who were preserving the Sumerian study of astronomy. Thus the term "Watcher" might have meant "Star Gazer," while it sounds like they were more astrologers than astronomers.
Next, Africanus relayed the Greek flood myth,2:b10:ch10:pg262 which many scholars consider to have been inspired by the story of Noah (#10). Interestingly, the Greek version gives the date of (i.e., 1020 years before the First Olympiad in ), which puts it in Noah's time (born in per Table 1). Africanus went on to say that after the flood, they went without a king for 189 years. If "The Flood" occurred when Noah was a mature man, it would have been , when he would have been 43 years old. If so, the 189 years without a king would have been . And that was precisely the period in which the Hyksos dominated the Nile delta. So it sounds like the Greeks didn't consider the Hyksos to be kings, taking the whole period as an interlude, as did the Egyptians.
Note that there is no archaeological evidence of a flood of "biblical" proportions in this timeframe. It's possible that there was "a" flood in Noah's time, which might have been worth mentioning (see below), while subsequent redaction assimilated flood myths from other cultures, getting Noah to preside over "the" flood. For example, there are substantial similarities between Noah and a character named Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh,12 fragments of which have been dated to , while linguistic analysis suggests that it was composed even earlier than that.13:13 The flood that inspired the Epic would have been earlier still, perhaps around ,14:19 meaning that it couldn't have been the same as the flood in Noah's time (). The most recent flood on a more "biblical" scale would have been the flooding of the Black Sea .15 This was before the invention of writing, so the story could have only been preserved orally, if at all. Others have called attention to an even earlier, though more global phenomenon, even if it wasn't a floor per se — fossils of marine organisms, especially shellfish such as clams and other molluscs, and sometimes fish, can be found in relatively high elevations in many places around the world, including Egypt and Libya,16:303-306 Lebanon,17:412-415 and in the mountains and hills of Armenia,18:70 Syria,18:89,96 Israel,18:249,267 Egypt,18:292 and Jordan.18:299,304 The ancient observer would have taken this as evidence of a global flood, which would have gotten an obligatory mention in any story of origins.
As concerns the flood in Noah's time, most scholars looking for historicity assume that the flood would have been a river overflowing; others have studied tsunamis. Recent research has identified another possibility — there is evidence of a meteoric airburst over the Dead Sea in the Middle Bronze Age, around .19 The explosion knocked down mud-brick walls up to 10 km away, and with just half the energy of the airburst over Tunguska, Siberia in (which knocked down trees over 30 km away). The flash was bright enough to instantly vitrify clay, as if it had been fired in a kiln for hours. Surely anybody nearby looking directly at the airburst would have been blinded. The shock wave in the air also would have created a wave in the Dead Sea that would have crashed ashore and flooded the surrounding farms with salt water. This might explain why the land was barren through the Late Bronze Age, and wasn't cultivated again until early in the Iron Age — salt water is toxic to wheat & barley. Thus "The Flood" could have been simply a wave of biblical proportions in the Dead Sea. It might be significant that the oldest copy of a flood story has been dated to .20 With that as the terminus ante quem, an airburst in is still a legitimate candidate for the original event, or at least one of them. It's also possible that there were existing flood myths, but the event in was so momentous that it just had to be committed to writing, at which time the existing myths were fused.
The authors of the airburst research note significant parallels with the peculiar story of Sodom & Gomorrah in Genesis 19, such as the blinding light, people becoming entombed in salt (such as Lot's wife), and fire raining down from above, which would have been the meteor shower after the airburst. In the Torah, the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah occurred on Abraham's watch, and the radiocarbon date of for the airburst would seem to confirm of the Masoretic chronology, in which Abraham was born in . In the present thesis, Abraham couldn't have been born much before , which was already much too late for him to have witnessed the event. was closer to the time of Noah, born in , suggesting that Noah's Flood was part of the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah. The Akkadian account of the event describes both fire from above and a wave — just not from the open ocean,21:115 which is how an unusually large wave in the Dead Sea would have been described. Destruction by both fire & flood was also mentioned by Philo, Josephus, and others in the ,22:48,23:70-71 though they accepted the conventional chronology, in which the fire & flood were not coupled. Still, the Torah itself strongly implies that Sodom & Gomorrah were subjected to a flood in addition to fire from above in that the inhabitants sought safety in the hills, which is how one gets away from a flood, but not how one gets away from a flaming meteor shower and flash fires all around, where going for a swim would be a better idea.
If an airburst was responsible for both the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah and Noah's Flood, we have to wonder why later redactors would have split the single event into two different stories, with the flood occurring in Noah's time, and the rain of fire in Abraham's. Perhaps the date of the airburst () was well known, but when the Deuteronomists established the conventional chronology, the airburst fell in Abraham's tenure, and they had to make that work. They could easily add the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah to Abraham's story, there being no conflicting information about those cities already, since they were uninhabited in Abraham's time. And in Noah's story, without the details of the airburst, the scribes had more poetic license, allowing them to incorporate deluge lore from other sources, broadening their appeal. So as redaction goes, this would have been an easy job.
Figure 1. Hammurabi receiving the laws (symbolized by a measuring rod and tape) from the seated Shamash, the Babylonian god of justice.
After the flood, Shelah (#13) was the cousin of Nimrod, who was said to have been the first "mighty man" on Earth, beginning as the lord of Babel (i.e., Babylon), and then expanding his domain to Nineveh.24 The only Babylonian ruler coming close to fitting that description was Hammurabi (i.e., Ham the Amorite). (See Figure 1.) So at first blush it looks like Nimrod was Hammurabi. But the timing could be more comfortable. A recent analysis of astronomical records from Babylon has fixed Hammurabi's rule in the period of .25:255 If Nimrod was the same age as Shelah, he was born in , which was 27 years after the death of Hammurabi in . It's easier to see Nimrod's grandfather Ham in the timeframe of Hammurabi. If those two were the same person, and if we fuse their stories, Ham the Amorite (#11), brother of Shem (#11) and son of Noah (#10), was able to greatly expand his domain in the aftermath of an airburst and its accompanying inland flood, which sounds like a better fit all of the way around.
We can also note that after The Flood, the records of the Patriarchs, and the Babylonian political records, started preserving realistic ages for the key personnel. Such a radical change in the approach to record-keeping, occurring in two bodies of literature, which probably emanated from the same region, in more or less the same period, strongly suggests that it was the same change, thus synchronizing the two literary sources. The reason for the change would have been that the mighty man Ham the Amorite (Hammurabi) had spread the use of writing & mathematics over a large enough territory that creative time-keeping was no longer practical. Perhaps this was when Adam's birthdate was shifted back to , thus honoring the Sumerian tradition of the beginning of time[keeping] as well as the Amorite tradition of Adam & Eve being the first couple. The fusion of these traditions would have legitimized Hammurabi's right to rule the two dominant ethnic groups in Mesopotamia at the time. It would have required assigning super-human lifespans to the antediluvian Patriarchs, but that itself would have been consistent with Babylonian traditions.
Note that if Ham was Hammurabi, who rose to power in , he had to have been at least in his mid-twenties at the time, meaning that he had to have been born not much before and not much after , making him 26 years old when he assumed power in , and 68 years old when he died in . His younger brother Shem would have been born later, which in Table 1 is set to . Then the birthdates between Enosh & Shem in Table 1 were simply interpolated, which worked out to 32.5 years per generation, which is realistic, and close to the average of 31.4 years per generation for Arpachshad through Nahor.
Hammurabi might also show up in the Torah as Amraphel, king of Shinar (i.e., Babylonia) during the rebellion against Chedorlaomer.26:299,27,28 This is difficult for the conventional chronology, which can't have Ham capturing Lot, who arrived ten generations later. But the identification of Amraphel with Nimrod appears several times in the Talmud.29:53a,30:G14 And like most other feats attributed to Nimrod, the actions of Amraphel are a better fit for Ham's time. For Amraphel to be the subordinate of the king of Elam puts the Battle of Siddim before the Amorite conquest of Mesopotamia, which would have been before the Flood. For Sodom & Gomorrah to be looted also puts the events before the Flood, if both cities were destroyed by it. Before the Flood, Ham would have been a young man, and Nimrod wouldn't have been born yet, so Ham[murabi]-Amraphel would have been the king of Babylon participating in the Battle of Siddim.26:299 His senior confederate Chedorlaomer was mentioned in inscriptions from Hammurabi's time,31:600 and independently identified as Kudur-Mabuk,26:135 who ruled Elam . Another confederate, Arioch of Ellasar, was also a contemporary of Hammurabi,32:3-4 while Tidal king of Goiim is thought to have been Tudhaliya, the Hittite king somewhere in the range of .33 These identifications have all been challenged, but we should note that they were all made before the dates converged on precisely the same period, meaning that the literary correlations were later confirmed by the archaeological dating. If so, some of the biblical blanks here can be filled in with secular history. Hammurabi would go on to conquer Mesopotamia, so his participation in the Jordan Valley campaign wasn't a crushing defeat for him, and it might not have been a defeat at all. The Torah states that Chedorlaomer was killed after the looting of Sodom & Gomorrah, but it doesn't say that his confederates were slain also, and it would have, if such had been the case, suggesting that Amraphel survived. If we're actually talking about Hammurabi, it should be noted that in his ascendancy, he developed a reputation for allying himself with other forces while it was to his advantage, and then later turning on them. So we could easily see Hammurabi allied with Chedorlaomer until after the Battle of Siddim, and Hammurabi emerging as the sole ruler of lower Mesopotamia after the demise of Chedorlaomer.
The story of the rebellion against Chedorlaomer mentions Lot & Abraham, but that's an anachronism, which would have been the work of the same redactor who wrote Lot into the story of the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah a little later, though this chapter would have been a lot easier. As the story goes, Abraham had been granted everything from the Suez Canal to the Euphrates River, but he only took exception to foreign kings looting cities in the center of his domain when they kidnapped his nephew Lot, whereupon he marshaled 318 troops and pursued the looters into Syria, ultimately recovering Lot and the loot. This portrays Abraham as a rather weak-willed administrator of the Covenant, atypical of central figures in inspired literature. Another possibility is that Genesis 14 tells of an actual Transjordan campaign in , shortly before the airburst in described in Genesis 19. These were important enough that they had to be left on the timeline where they actually occurred. But when the Deuteronomists developed the conventional chronology, they shifted Abraham back to that period, and if they were to say that Abraham was in power in , they needed for him to do something about foreign rulers campaigning in the heart of his territory. So they added an anecdote about Lot getting kidnapped and Abraham rescuing him. Perhaps Abraham did pursue looters into Syria in his own time (), but if so, the details important for establishing historicity there were lost when the story was reworked to be the aftermath of the Battle of Siddim in .
The more precise dates of for Hammurabi's rule reveal correlations with events elsewhere in the Middle East. Most significantly, in there was a major migration of Canaanites into Egypt, paving the way for the Hyksos conquest a little later.34 So just when Hammurabi was expanding north to Nineveh, the Hyksos were expanding south to Egypt. And the reverse happened when the 1st Babylonian Dynasty collapsed in ,25 since this was precisely when the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt to Jerusalem. So it looks like the adjacent hegemonies were coupled. The data are insufficient to tell whether it was a push and/or a pull — either Hammurabi's expansion pressured the Assyrians across to Syria, which pushed the Hyksos down to Egypt, and/or the Hyksos were sucked into a power vacuum in Egypt as its 13th Dynasty crumbled, creating a vacuum behind them in Canaan, Syria, & Assyria, making it easy for the Babylonians to expand north. Regardless, both migrations left echoes in Genesis. As already mentioned, Hammurabi's conquests were described (under the name of Nimrod), but we also hear of the fall of the 1st Babylonian Dynasty in the comment about Peleg (#15), "for in his days the earth was divided."35 Born in , he would have been 64 years old (i.e., "during the last of his days"36) when Mesopotamia was divided between the Kassites and the Assyrians after the fall of Babylon.
It might be significant that Genesis 5 lists 13 people in generations 1~10, but only gives personal details on 2 of them: Enoch (#7) and Noah (#10). Then, Genesis 10 describes generations 11~15, and though it mentions 66 people in all, it gives personal details on only two of them — Ham the Amorite (#11, under the name of Nimrod) and Peleg (#15). Was there something special about Enoch, Noah, Ham, and Peleg? These were the people present at the rise, the peak, and then at the fall of the 1st Babylonian Dynasty, which would be noted, if anything was.
The Talmud has Nimrod as the builder of the Tower of Babel.37:89a,38:94b,29:53a,39:53b It's possible that this was something that Nimrod actually did himself — not something Hammurabi did and that was attributed to Nimrod. If so, Nimrod was Hammurabi's successor. Ctesias () relayed a similar story of Ninus, the eponymous founder of Nineveh, whose successor Ninyas built a large temple near Babylon.2:240 So Noah, Ham, & Nimrod show up in Greek lore as Ninus & Ninyas, and the Tower was built by Hammurabi's successor, . The Tower itself would have served as a temple and as an astronomical observatory, which the Babylonians considered coupled. A renewed interest in astronomy at this time would be easy to understand, if it was just 40 years after the most harmful meteoric airburst in human history.
The paragraph in the Torah devoted to the Tower of Babel makes an interesting study, in and of itself.40 It starts by saying that people came to Babylon from the East, when the whole earth had one language and the same words. That sounds like Bactrians spreading the use of Indo-Aryan from India to Anatolia, which would have been 300 years earlier, in . Sumerian lore from the attests to the solidarity of people who all spoke the same language,41:134-155 as does this passage in the Torah. Then the paragraph concludes with their language being obfuscated, and the people being dispersed. If the Tower of Babel was built by Hammurabi's successor, it would have been in . But the secular records have Babylon persisting for another ~150 years, finally falling in , and that's when the Babylonians were dispersed. It's possible that this passage is actually a synopsis of 450 years of Babylonian history, from the influx of Indo-Aryans in , to their dispersion in , with the Tower being built by Hammurabi's successor, 2/3 of the way through that period.
If the dispersion of the builders of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 refers to the same event as the fall of the 1st Babylonian Dynasty in , and so does the comment about the world being divided in Peleg's time,35,36 we have three different perspectives on the same period — when the dynasty collapsed, the territory was divided between the Assyrians & Kassites, and the Babylonians themselves were dispersed. A fourth piece is supplied by genealogical records from Britain (both Saxon & Celtic), Ireland, Norway, Denmark, & Iceland.42:67 All of these have Noah as the founding ancestor, and are the same for the first five generations (Noah through Eber), but then they diverge in Peleg's generation. So Peleg's brothers fled to N/W Europe when the 1st Babylonian Dynasty collapsed. The Indians & Chinese also have the legend of Noah & his 3 sons,43:291 suggesting that when the Babylonians were dispersed, they went in every direction.
Despite the accomplishments of Hammurabi, western history has honored his brother Shem (#11) by naming the Semitic race & its languages after him. Shem probably spoke Babylonian, which was a dialect of Akkadian, which itself was attested in writing much earlier (). So the indigenous population, and their languages, had been around for at least 1300 years before Shem. Then came the Flood, after which Hammurabi restored order on a large scale, with one of the effects being that the people and their languages were named after his brother Shem. Why weren't the Hamites remembered as the founders of the clan? Perhaps it's just that Abraham was descended from Shem, so he got that side of the story. The Talmud,44:32b and several of the Midrashim,45:46:7,45:56:10,46:25:6,47:4:8 have Shem as the lord of Jerusalem, which is consistent with Noah granting him Canaan in the Torah.48 It sounds like Shem was a provincial governor during Hammurabi's rule. Perhaps this is why Diodorus thought that one person ruled both Mesopotamia & Canaan during this time.49:bk2:2 If Ninus was Noah, his son Ham the Amorite ruled Babylon & Nineveh, while his son Shem was lord of Jerusalem, and Diodorus didn't see the difference. But this doesn't mean that it was one big happy family. Genesis 9:20-27 implicitly renounced Ham for leaving Noah exposed (perhaps an allegory for political treachery on Ham's part), and explicitly blessed Shem. Josephus stepped further away from Ham, not even acknowledging a seat of power in Babylon during this period, and maintaining that the Patriarchs were the Hyksos,50:b1:§14 calling all attention to the western branch of the family. The Septuagint stepped further still, condemning Ham (under the name of Nimrod) as an outright adversary of the pharaoh (i.e., "a mighty hunter against the Lord"). Rashi put it that Nimrod intended to provoke the Lord.51 It sounds like the original author(s) took a dim view of Hammurabi's clan. Perhaps this was the Egyptian view, and Shem's descendants in Canaan wanted the pharaoh to know that they were on his side. So in their version of the story, Ham was no hero — his conquest of Mesopotamia was barely mentioned, and not even under his name.52:118 Then, future generations inheriting the Torah from Shem's branch would name the Semitic tribes & languages after him.
Next we should consider a couple of points that do not contribute to the historicity of Genesis 1-11.
First, recent radiocarbon, ice core, and tree-ring studies have converged on a date for the eruption of the volcano at Santorini.53,54,55 Curiously, it works out to , ± just a few years (thanks mainly to the tree-ring data), which sits right in the middle of the period in which the Hyksos dominated the Nile delta, and the Babylonians dominated Mesopotamia (). This leaves little reason to believe that the volcano initiated, or terminated, that period. The sound from the eruption would have been heard throughout the Mediterranean, and the tsunami impacted everything in the Aegean, including Crete, the S/E coast of mainland Greece, and the west coast of Anatolia. It also reached Egypt & Canaan, though the force of the wave was diminished by distance, as well as by refraction in the passage between Crete, Karpathos, & Rhodes. The volcanic ash was spread over a wide area, blocking the Sun and producing a "volcanic winter" all over the world. Hardest hit was the Minoan culture, and though it didn't vanish right away, it was sent abruptly into its twilight. The reduction in the Minoan influence allowed the Mycenaean Greeks to expand. But it wasn't until 80 years later, in , that the Hyksos lost control of the delta, and the Babylonians were overrun by Kassites, so the correlation there is loose at best.
Second, some scholars believe that Shem's great grandson Eber (#14) was the ancestor of the Hebrew clan,56:bk14:ch3 though the Habirus were attested 100 years earlier in northern Syria,57:200 and who weren't a clan. So this could have been postdiction from a much later period, perhaps motivated by the desire of the Hebrews to lose the derogatory connotations of Habiru (i.e., Bedouin). The present thesis demonstrates that there is no continuity between Habirus & Hebrews — the ancestors of the modern Jews picked up that name when Moses was camped on the East Bank, preaching to Transjordan Bedouins because he was denied admittance into the Promised Land. Thereafter, the name stuck, thanks to Moses' enemies in the region. But that doesn't make Eber their ancestor.
So not all of the lore matches up with history. But the most salient events left their marks on the Torah. The founding of Babylon by people from the East, when the whole world spoke one language, would have been in the time of Seth (#2). The rise of the 1st Babylonian Dynasty was echoed in the story of Enoch (#7). The most significant Babylonian ruler was Ham the Amorite (#11). And the fall of the Dynasty was noted in the comment about Peleg (#15). This isn't cherry-picking — the only people about whom anything at all was said were the people present at the founding, rise, peak, and end of the Dynasty. In other words, the most salient events in Babylonia match up with the only salient people in the Torah for this period. Some of the most important events in Egyptian history were also preserved in Jewish lore, including the deification of Mentuhotep II, and the adoption of Sumerian mathematics by Amenemhat III.
The next big step in Egyptian history might also be echoed in Jewish lore. In , the pharaoh Ahmose I expelled the Hyksos, establishing what is now known as the New Kingdom of Egypt. In the present thesis, this lines up with the birth of Serug (#17). The Torah says nothing of generations 12~18, but the Book of Jubilees describes in detail the sacrileges that began at that time.11:11:2-12 So all of a sudden, the Patriarchs go from being saints, to being sinners of the worst kind. If this happened precisely when Egyptians reasserted themselves, the sacrileges might have been the forced worship of Egyptian gods.
Then Nahor (#18) comes along at the right time, to have been mentioned in the records kept by Thutmose III ().58:292,52:54
Next comes Terah (#19), though we hear surprisingly little about him. He was the father of Abraham (#20) by a woman in Ur, and the father of Sarah by a woman in Harran, who the present thesis identifies as the wife of King Shuttarna II. Much later, Ezekiel might have been referring to the parents of Abraham & Sarah when he told the people of Jerusalem that their father was an Amorite and their mother was a Hittite.59 If Hammurabi was an Amorite, so was Shem, from whom Abraham was directly descended, so there's the paternal line. The maternal line starts with Sarah's mother, the queen of Mitanni. To have been a Hittite, Shuttarna II would have entered into a marital alliance with the daughter of King Tudhaliya I. His son Mattiwaza also married a Hittite princess (i.e., the daughter of Suppiluliuma I), so this is easy to see.
Figure 2. Pastoral nomads in the Pamir Mountains, whose lifestyle probably hasn't changed much since the time of Adam & Eve. The woman's name is Heva, an ever-popular girl's name in their culture. The dog's name is Addie, popular for pets. Photo credit Sohrab Zia, courtesy BBC.
All in all, leaving Abraham's birth at , and then assigning realistic ages to the fathers in his ancestry, results in Adam being born around , where his story matches up on a number of points with the situation in Bactria in the . Then the only notable people in the Torah between Adam & Abraham come along at times that match up with the most salient events in the secular records. This includes the bidirectional migration out of Bactria, the deification of Mentuhotep II, and the rise & fall of the 1st Babylonian Dynasty, including the introduction of Babylonian writing & mathematics to the Egyptians. A couple of parallels would be just a coincidence, but there are a lot of parallels here, and all on the most important points. Enough to say for sure that Genesis 1-11 is historical, and if so, in the manner described herein? That remains to be decided — the sources are not specific enough to rule out other possibilities. Still, the present article details one set of possibilities robust enough for further consideration.