Saturday, November 5, 2016

Nubia in Biblical History

Egypt is in the Lower Nile Valley. Nubia is in the Upper Nile Valley.
The terms "upper" and "lower" refer to elevations.

Ancient Nubia plays an important role in Biblical history. Nubia appears to be the point of origin of practices that came to be associated with the early Nilotic Hebrews and later the clan of Jacob known as Israelites. These include circumcision, the caste of Horite and Sethite priests, animal sacrifice, two-wife marriage pattern for rulers, sent-away sons, and the Holy Name YHWH.

Nubia is described as a region rich in gold, bdellium and onyx in Genesis 2:11. This marks the southwestern boundary of Eden, a vast well-watered region that was bounded on the northeast by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

The red area is the likely extent of Biblical Eden.

The Pishon "flows through the whole land of Havilah" which was rich in gold. Havilah is also the name of one of Kush's sons (Gen. 10:7) and the "Kushites" lived in Nubia and the Sudan. Kushite kings also ruled in Egypt and were the first to unite the peoples of the Upper and Lower Nile.

Ha'vilah refers to the place where the waters part. Very likely this is a reference to the area where the White Nile and the Blue Nile merge into the Nile below the 5th Cataract (see map). The current of these rivers flows north.

The Shrine Cities of Nubia

Ancient Nubia had 3 principal shrine cities. These served as the administrative centers at different periods of history.  Kerma, just below the 3rd Cataract, was the main shrine city from about 2600 to 1520 BC. Abraham would have known about Kerma.

Temple precinct of Kerma

Napata, between the 3rd and 4th Cataracts, was the main shrine city from about 1000 to 300 BC. King David and his son Solomon would have known about Napata. Meroë became the administrative center from about 300 BC to 300 AD.  For the Egyptians, the Orontes marked the northern boundary of Amurru.

Meroe in Turkey was built on the precipice of Mt. Silpius. In ancient times, the Orontes (Draco) River was the chief river of the Levant and had sufficient depth for boats to sail up the river from the Mediterranean near modern Beirut in Lebanon. This was aided by the north-flowing currents. Thus Meroe became an fortress on the spur of Mount Silpius was named IO, which means “pillared place of the Sun.” The O was a solar symbol and the emblem of the Creator. On ancient maps the city across from Meroe is called Anti-Meroe. The city of Anti-O/Antioch is across from Meroe.

Heliopolis (Biblical On) was called “Iunu” (iunu) which means "place of pillars" because it was constructed with many pillars. Meroe on the Orontes was about 2185 miles from Meroe on the Nile.

The Orontes was also called the "Draco" because it flows north and that direction is identified with the north pole star (Polaris). When the fortress at Meroe was build, about 4000 years ago, the north pole star was seen near Alpha Draconis in the constellation of Draco. A relatively inconspicuous star in the night sky of the Northern Hemisphere, it is significant as having been the north pole star from the 4th to 2nd millennium BC.

Nubian Warriors

With the help of skilled archers, the rulers of Nubia were able to bring all the peoples of the Nile Valley under Nubian rule. Nubia kings ruled Egypt for about a century.

Nubians served as warriors in the armies of Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Rome. Nubian archers also served as warriors in the imperial army of Persia in the first millennium BC. According to 2 Samuel 18 and 2 Chronicles 14, they also fought on behalf of Israel.

The Nubians were famous for boxing, wrestling, stick fighting and archery. The Greeks learned these skills from the ancient Egyptian and Nubian warriors. They refined these skills through martial sports called Pankrashan.

Ainu warriors of Northern Japan were called Yaunguru. They are related to the Anu of the Upper Nile. The Sanskrit word guru is a variant of the ancient Egyptian word geru, which means self-mastered or silent while enduring pain. Plato wrote about the self-mastery of these warriors in his book the Republic. He called this balanced judgement "thymos."

Who were the original Nubians?

The French Egyptologist Abbe Émile Amélineau (1850-1916) believed that the Anu were the aboriginal inhabitants of the Lower Nile (Egypt) who founded the cities of Esneh, Erment, Qouch and Heliopolis. The original name of Heliopolis is “Anu" (Biblical On). Amélineau noted that "All those cities have the characteristic symbol which serves to denote the name Anu."

Amélineau has this to say about the Anu: 
 "These Anu were agricultural people, raising cattle on a large scale along the Nile, shutting themselves up in walled cities for defensive purposes. To this people we can attribute, without fear of error, the most ancient Egyptian books, The Book of the Dead and the Texts of the Pyramids, consequently, all the myths or religious teachings. I would add almost all the philosophical systems then known and still called Egyptian. They evidently knew the crafts necessary for any civilization and were familiar with the tools those trades required. They knew how to use metals, at least elementary metals. They made the earliest attempts at writing, for the whole Egyptian tradition attributes this art to Thoth, the great Hermes an Anu like Osiris, who is called Onian in Chapter XV of The Book of the Dead and in the Texts of the Pyramids. Certainly the people already knew the principal arts; it left proof of this in the architecture of the tombs at Abydos, especially the tomb of Osiris and in those sepulchers objects have been found bearing unmistakable stamp of their origin, such as carved ivory, or a little head of a Nubian girl found in a tomb near that of Osiris, or the small wooden or ivory receptacles in the form of a feline head--all documents published in the first volume of my Fouilles d'Abydos."(Read the French original here.)

Nubian Diversity

Flinders Petrie's 1930's study of ancient images suggested to him that Egypt was the product of the mixing of different peoples (racial types). He found images of black, red and brown Nubians. 

This confirmed what had been discovered by the 1828 Franco-Italian expedition to Egypt led by Jean-Francois Champollion and Ippolito Rosellini. Below is a detail from one of Rosellini's drawings showing both black and red Nubian warriors who were taken captive by the Egyptians under Rameses II (1279-1213 BC).

Red and black Nubians
Detail from a Ippolito Rosellini painting
from the Franco-Italian Expedition to Egypt, 1828

DNA studies of Nubian mummies indicate that the population of ancient Nubia was mixed. Analysis of the mtDNA in ancient Nubians indicates gene flow between sub-Sahara and North Africa through the Nile Valley.

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