El Amarna’s King Abdi Hiba of Jerusalem not a Contemporary of Joshua




 Damien F. Mackey




With the inadequacies of the Sothic dating upon which the conventional Egyptian chronology has been based (and to which the other nations have been tied) now laid bare, e.g.:

Sothic Star Theory of the Egyptian Calendar


and also

The Fall of the Sothic Theory: Egyptian Chronology Revisited


and the ground thus cleared for the raising of a scientific chronological model that is not based upon artificial a priori assumptions, revisionist scholars have been able to re-assess the abundant El Amarna [EA] archive to re-determine its proper historical location.

One of the EA correspondents who has aroused special interest, owing to the mention of Jerusalem (Urusalim) in connection with him, is the king of that city, Abdi-Hiba (Abdi-Heba), the author of six letters (EA 285-290) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdi-Heba):

Abdi-Heba was the author of letters EA 285-290.[9]

  1. EA 285—title: “The soldier-ruler of Jerusalem
  2. EA 286—title: “A throne granted, not inherited”
  3. EA 287—title: “A very serious crime”‘
  4. EA 288—title: “Benign neglect”
  5. EA 289—title: “A reckoning demanded”
  6. EA 290—title: “Three against one”‘[9]

Who was this Abdi-Hiba of Jerusalem, and when did he live? We know at least who were his pharaonic contemporaries. As I have previously written about EA in a general fashion (http://www.specialtyinterests.net/elamarna_period.html#ere):

EA’s Egyptians

Identifying the EA pharaohs is the easiest … challenge as it is almost universally agreed that Amenhotep III and Akhnaton are those who are referred to in the EA correspondence by their throne names, respectively, of Nimmuria (i.e. Nebmare, Nb-m3’t-R’) and Naphuria (i.e. Neferkheprure, Nfr-hprw-R’). These two pharaohs, having been Sothically dated to the late C15th-early C14th BC, are – from a biblical perspective – usually considered by historians to have pre-dated the arrival of the Israelites in the Promised Land – or at least to have coincided with their arrival there. Thus it is common to read that the habiru rebels who feature prominently in the EA letters were either the Hebrews of the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or perhaps the newly arrived Hebrews (Israelites) under Joshua. ….


But To Which Era Do Revisionists

Re-Locate EA’s Abdi-Hiba?


…. two … pieces of evidence in EA letters 285-290 … determine the historical terminus a quo for king Abdi-Hiba: namely, the mention of Jerusalem; and the mention of Beth Shulman (“House of Solomon”).


We ourselves, set completely free as we are from Sothic theory, are able to begin to zone in on the correct era of Abdi-Hiba, and we are going to find that it is nothing like what the conventional text books say about this king as a ruler of Jerusalem in the mid 1300’s BC, and probably, therefore, corresponding with pharaoh Amenhotep III. In terms of biblical correlation, the era of Abdi-Hiba would be considered to approximate to the Judges period, some would say to the time of Joshua (as said above). Thus (http://www.biblehistory.net/newsletter/joshua.htm):

The Bible states in Joshua 10:26 that Joshua defeated these kings, captured them and killed them, including the king of Jerusalem, Adoni-Zedek.

It is very likely that Abdi-Heba and Adoni-Zedek are one [and] the same man. The reason being is that “Adoni-Zedek” is a title rather [than] the actual name of the king. Adoni-Zedek means the “Lord of Zedek,” similar to the name Melchi-Zedek which means “Prince of Zedek,” who was the ruler of Salem according to Genesis 14:18. The Hebrews would have associated this title with the prince of Salem, an early name for the city of Jerusalem.

So the letters written by Abdi-Heba, trying to stop the advancing Hebrews [sic], were likely written by either Adoni-Zedek, mentioned in Joshua 10:1, or Adoni-Bezek, another king mentioned in Judges 1:7 who was defeated by Joshua and buried in Jerusalem.

The letters from Abdi-Heba seem to have been written to either Amenhotep II or Amenhotep III. Since one of the letters from Abdi-Heba mentions that the pharaoh, whom he was requesting help from, had conquered the land of Naharaim and the land of Cush, this would likely point to Amenhotep II who indeed had military campaigns against both these countries.

[End of quote]

Evidences would suggest that a Joshuan alignment with the EA Pharaohs is not sustainable. For, two such pieces of evidence in EA letters 285-290 that spring to mind determine the historical terminus a quo for king Abdi-Hiba: namely, the mention of Jerusalem; and the mention of Beth Shulman (“House of Solomon”). In other words, the conventional scenario, and any other that would locate the reign of Abdi-Hiba in Jerusalem to a period ante-dating kings David and Solomon, are immediately to be cancelled out as having historical validity (and that even apart from the ramifications of Sothic theory).

That means that Dr. Velikovsky’s revision, in which he chronologically re-locates Abdi-Hiba – along with Nimmuria and Naphuria – to the early period of Israel’s Divided Monarchy (about half a millennium after the Joshua/Judges period), is not to be cancelled out at least by our ‘two pieces of evidence’.

  • Immanuel Velikovsky’s Pioneering Effort


In Velikovsky’s firm opinion, Abdi-Hiba was to be identified with king Jehoshaphat of Judah. He, reflecting later upon this choice, commented (http://www.varchive.org/ce/sultemp.htm): “In Ages in Chaos (chapters vi-viii) I deal with the el-Amarna letters; there it is shown that the king of Jerusalem whose name is variously read Ebed-Tov, Abdi-Hiba, etc. was King Jehoshaphat (ninth century)”.

In this same article, Velikovsky made a most significant discovery towards re-setting his revised EA period to the approximate time of King Solomon:

The Šulmán Temple in Jerusalem

In the el-Amarna letters No. 74 and 290 there is reference to a place read (by Knudtzon) Bet-NIN.IB. In Ages in Chaos, following Knudtzon, I understood that the reference was to Assyria (House of Nineveh).(1) I was unaware of an article by the eminent Assyriologist, Professor Jules Lewy, printed in the Journal of Biblical Literature under the title: “The Šulmán Temple in Jerusalem.”(2)

From a certain passage in letter No. 290, written by the king of Jerusalem to the Pharaoh, Lewy concluded that this city was known at that time also by the name “Temple of Šulmán.” Actually, Lewy read the ideogram that had much puzzled the researchers before him.(3) After complaining that the land was falling to the invading bands (habiru), the king of Jerusalem wrote: “. . . and now, in addition, the capital of the country of Jerusalem — its name is Bit Šulmáni —, the king’s city, has broken away . . .”(4) Beth Šulmán in Hebrew, as Professor Lewy correctly translated, is Temple of Šulmán. But, of course, writing in 1940, Lewy could not surmise that the edifice was the Temple of Solomon and therefore made the supposition that it was a place of worship (in Canaanite times) of a god found in Akkadian sources as Shelmi, Shulmanu, or Salamu.

The correction of the reading of Knudtzon (who was uncertain of his reading) fits well with the chronological reconstruction of the period. In Ages in Chaos (chapters vi-viii) I deal with the el-Amarna letters; there it is shown that the king of Jerusalem whose name is variously read Ebed-Tov, Abdi-Hiba, etc. was King Jehoshaphat (ninth century). It was only to be expected that there would be in some of his letters a reference to the Temple of Solomon.

Also, in el-Amarna letter No. 74, the king of Damascus, inciting his subordinate sheiks to attack the king of Jerusalem, commanded them to “assemble in the Temple of Šulmán.”(5)

It was surprising to find in the el-Amarna letters written in the fourteenth century that the capital of the land was already known then as Jerusalem (Urusalim) and not, as the Bible claimed for the pre-Conquest period, Jebus or Salem.(6) Now, in addition, it was found that the city had a temple of Šulmán in it and that the structure was of such importance that its name had been used occasionally for denoting the city itself. (Considering the eminence of the edifice, “the house which king Solomon built for the Lord”,(7) this was only natural.) Yet after the conquest by the Israelites under Joshua ben-Nun, the Temple of Šulmán was not heard of.

Lewy wrote: “Aside from proving the existence of a Šulmán temple in Jerusalem in the first part of the 14th century B.C., this statement of the ruler of the region leaves no doubt that the city was then known not only as Jerusalem, but also as Bet Šulmán.”—“It is significant that it is only this name [Jerusalem] that reappears after the end of the occupation of the city by the Jebusites, which the Šulmán temple, in all probability, did not survive.”

The late Professor W. F. Albright advised me that Lewy’s interpretation cannot be accepted because Šulmán has no sign of divinity accompanying it, as would be proper if it were the name of a god. But this only strengthens my interpretation that the temple of Šulmán means Temple of Solomon.

In the Hebrew Bible the king’s name has no terminal “n”. But in the Septuagint — the oldest translation of the Old Testament — the king’s name is written with a terminal “n”; the Septuagint dates from the third century before the present era. Thus it antedates the extant texts of the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls not excluded.

Solomon built his Temple in the tenth century. In a letter written from Jerusalem in the next (ninth) century, Solomon’s Temple stood a good chance of being mentioned; and so it was. ….

[End of quote]

Though I cannot locate the exact reference at present, I recall a brief article pointing out that, contrary to Velikovsky, Beth Šulmán could not properly refer to the actual Temple of Solomon, since this edifice was always referred to as the Temple of Yahweh. So, the better translation of the EA phrase is “House of Solomon”.

Now, that accords with contemporary usage, in that we have at least two documented references to the “House of David” (the Tell Dan and the Mesha Moabite Inscription, see André Lemaire at http://www.cojs.org/pdf/house_of_david.pdf).

For a time, this equation of Abdi-Hiba = Jehoshaphat held as the standard amongst revisionists. However, the Glasgow School, in 1978, seriously re-assessed Velikovsky’s entire EA revision – with, as I believe, some outstanding results. This included a reconsideration of Velikovsky’s corresponding opinion that king Jehoshaphat of Judah’s contemporaneous ruler of Samaria, king Ahab of Israel, was to be identified with the prolific EA correspondent Rib-Addi.


  • The “Glasgow” School’s Modification of Velikovsky


The Glasgow Conference of 1978 gave rise to important contributions by scholars such as Martin Sieff; Geoffrey Gammon; John Bimson; and Peter James. These were able at the time, with a slight modification of Velikovsky’s dates, to re-set the latter’s revised EA period so that it sat more comfortably within its new C9th BC allocation. Thus pharaoh Akhnaton (Naphuria) now became a contemporary of king Jehoram of Judah (c. 848-841 BC, conventional dating) – and, hence, of the latter’s older contemporary Jehoram of Israel (c. 853-841 BC, conventional dating) – rather than of Velikovsky’s choice of Jehoshaphat (c. 870-848 BC, conventional dating) and of king Ahab of Israel (c. 874-853 BC, conventional dating). James, faced with J. Day’s “Objections to the Revised Chronology” in 1975, in which he had raised this fundamental objection to Velikovsky’s identification of Abdi-Hiba with Jehoshaphat (ISG Newsletter 2, 9ff):

Velikovsky claims that Abdi-Hiba, king of Jerusalem, is to be equated with Jehoshaphat. Abdi-Hiba means ‘servant of Hiba’ – Hiba being the name of a Hittite goddess. Can one really believe that Jehoshaphat, whom the Old Testament praises for his loyalty to the Israelite god, could also have borne this name involving a Hittite goddess?

plus James’s own growing belief that the lowering of the date of the EA letters (within a revised model) was demanded by “several chronological and other considerations …”, arrived at his own excellent comparison of Abdi-Hiba with king Jehoram of Judah. I give only his conclusion here, with which I fully concur, whilst recommending that one reads James’s full comparisons (“The Dating of the El-Amarna Letters”, SIS Review, Vol. II, No. 3 (London, 1977/78), 84):

To sum up: the disasters that befell Jehoram of Judah and Abdi-Hiba of Jerusalem were identical. Both suffered revolts of their subject territories from Philistia to Edom. During the reign of both the Philistines invaded and swept right across Judah, entering Jerusalem itself, in concert with the sack of the king’s palace by “men of the land of Kaši” or men “that were near the Cushites”. These peculiar circumstances could hardly be duplicated in such detail after a period of five hundred years. It is clear that Velikovsky’s general placement of the el-Amarna letters in the mid-ninth century must be correct, and that the modification of his original model suggested here, that Abdi-Hiba was Jehoram rather than Jehoshaphat, is preferable.

[End of quote]


Rib-Addi, for his part, could not have been king Ahab of Israel, Glasgow well determined. Velikovsky had been wrong in his proposing that the Sumur mentioned in relation to Rib-Addi (though not necessarily even his city, it has since been suggested) was Samaria, when Sumur is generally regarded as referring to Simyra, north of Byblos on the Syrian coast.


David Rohl’s Intriguing Angle on EA


Whilst I fully accept the Glasgow School’s basic conclusions about Abdi-Hiba and Rib-Addi, those, generally, who had worked these out went on later to disown them completely. James would team up with David Rohl to devise a so-called New Chronology, that I find to be a kind of ‘No-Man’s-Land revision’ hovering awkwardly mid-way between convention land and real base. Rohl, in The Lost Testament, would re-locate EA back from Velikovsky’s Divided Monarchy, where (when modified) I think that it properly belongs, to the time of the Unified Monarchy of kings Saul and David. Rohl will, like Velikovsky, propose an EA identification for a king of Israel, but it will be for Saul rather than for the later king Ahab. According to Rohl, king Saul is to be identified with EA’s Labayu, generally considered to have been a local ruler in Canaan. And Rohl identifies David with the Dadua (“Tadua”) who is referred to in EA 256.

For Rohl, Abdi-Hiba is a Jebusite ruler of Jebus/Jerusalem.

Rohl is extremely competent and his reconstructions are generally most interesting to read. However his EA revision, locating Abdi-Hiba as it does as an early contemporary of David’s, who is defeated by the latter, cannot therefore discern in EA’s Beth Shulman any sort of reference to David’s son, Solomon. Moreover, Rohl’s revision may have difficulty accounting for the fact that the name Urusalim (Jerusalem) occurs in the letters of Abdi-Hiba, supposedly a Jebusite king ruling over Jebus, but apparently known to David as Jerusalem (I Chronicles 11:4).


Whilst the New Chronology is superficially impressive, it, based as it is upon rocky ground, fails to yield the abundant fruit that arises from the fertile soil of a modified Velikovskian EA. James’s erstwhile identification of EA’s Abdi-Hiba as king Jehoram of Jerusalem not only yields some impressively exact comparisons between these two, supposedly separate, historical characters, but it is also able to accommodate most comfortably (chronologically) those two EA evidences of Shulman (Solomon) and Urusalim (Jerusalem). Hence

EA’s Abdi-Hiba = King Jehoram of Judah

is worthy to be regarded now as a firm pillar of the revised chronology, from which fixed standpoint one is able to generate a very convincing series of further correlations between EA and the particular biblical era. James has thereby provided the definitive answer to the questions that I posed earlier: Who was this Abdi-Hiba of Jerusalem, and when did he live?


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