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The Seventh Day Adventist Seminary Assyrian King List

September 6, 2018

Introduction

 

The Seventh Day Adventist Seminary (SDAS) King List is one of three known partial complete tablets containing a list of Assyrian kings.  Additionally, two small fragments exist that derive from other king list tablets. These lists originate from the Assyrian sites of Asshur, Nineveh and Khorsabad in Iraq.  Scholars note only slight variations between the lists.  The lists begin with the names of nomadic kings (living in tents), including perhaps progenitors of clans or tribes, dating from ca. 2000 BC to ca. 730 BC (Millard 2003: 463).

At some point during 1947-1950 when visiting his family in Iraq, Robert Hasso-Miller received several pieces of inscribed stone tablets from his uncle Daoud Saaty.  Most of the tablets, which Saaty had purchased many years earlier from Bedouin in Monsul, were recognized forgeries and discarded. Hasso-Miller kept Saaty’s two most highly prized tablets; one of clay and one made from stone, but left them in Iraq when he returned to the United States in 1950.  Dr. Siegfried Horn, visiting Iraq in October 1953, took possession of both tablets in order to deliver them to Hasso-Miller.  Upon examination, Horn determined that the stone tablet was indeed a forgery, but recognized that the clay tablet, broken in two pieces and for a time used as a door stop (!), was an ancient Assyrian king list!  Excited by the significance of his discovery, Horn swiftly enlisted the assistance of his former professor, University of Chicago Assyriologist Ignace J. Gelb, who promptly published not only the SDAS king list, but also another partial Assyrian king list recovered 20 years earlier at Khorsabad (Gelb 1954).  As far as can be determined, the SDAS tablet came from Asshur and probably illegally excavated during the German expedition at the site between 1903-1914.

As Gelb’s publication appeared, the Director-General of Antiquities for the Government of Iraq voiced concern over the Horn’s exportation of the SDAS tablet from Iraq without notification or approval of the Director-General as well as questioning Hasso-Millers legal ownership of it.  Horn and Hasso-Miller explained that the tablet had been in possession by Saaty since before World War I began in 1914 and thus assumed that it did not fall under current antiquities laws.  Eventually, Horn returned the tablet to Iraq where it was stored in the national museum in Baghdad.  The Assyrian King List currently on display at the Horn Museum is a carefully made replica of the original.

 

Relevance to the Biblical Account

 

The SDAS tablet confirms the existence of Assyrian kings mentioned in the Old Testament, such as Tiglath-pileser III (2 Kings 15:19-20, 29; 16:9-10; 1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Chronicles 28:20) and Shalmaneser V (2 Kings 17:3-4; 18:9; and perhaps Hosea 10:14).  Millard (2003: 463 n. 1) draws comparisons with many biblical lists, such as the genealogies of Esau (Genesis 36) and Benjamin (Genesis 46:21), which contain similar sounding names.  Perhaps more importantly, the length of reigns given by the SDAS tablet clarifies and confirms biblical chronology, especially regarding attempts to recover the exact regnal dates of Israelite and Judahite kings (e.g. Horn 1954; 1957; Thiele 1983: 67-78).

 

Physical Description

 

The SDAS tablet measures 170 x 135 x 23 millimeters and about 83% is preserved.  Inscribed on both sides, the tablet contains four columns; two on the obverse side and two on the reverse side.  Horizontal lines separate distinct units. The tablet is damaged and broken, but the two pieces join.  As with the other Assyrian king lists, the SDAS tablet follow a simple formula, listing the royal name, father’s name, and length of reign as well as occasional short narratives.  The last king mentioned is Shalmaneser V, who ruled from 727-722 BC (Thiele 1983: 70; Millard 2003: 463).  

 

Historical Significance

 

The SDAS King list is of great historical and chronological significance.  Thiele (1983: 70-78) clearly demonstrates that this document provides vital chronological information concerning the entire scope of Assyrian history down to the late eighth century BC as well as several important correlations with biblical chronology that, through various opportunities to cross check, confirm its accuracy.

 

Parallels

 

The various surviving Egyptian, Ugaritic and Babylonian king and eponym lists, such as the genealogy of the Hammurabi Dynasty and Ptolemy’s Canon, all provide excellent contemporary comparisons for and parallels to the SDAS tablet.

 

Note

 

Several letters and unpublished papers from the Andrews University Institute of Archaeology archive, including an unsigned draft of “Siegfried H. Horn and the Assyrian King List” with corrections and additions by S. H. Horn, were consulted in the preparation of this explanatory account.

 

Bibliography

 

Gelb, I. J.

            1954    Two Assyrian King Lists.  Journal of Near Eastern Studies13:  209-30.

 

Horn, S. H.

            1954    Discovery of Ancient Assyrian King List.  Review and Herald131/15: 32.

 

            1957    A Revolution in the Early Chronology of Western Asia.  Ministry30/6:  4-8.

 

Millard, A. R.

2003    Assyrian King Lists.  Pp. 463-65 in Vol. 1 of The Context of Scripture:  Canonical                        Compositions from the Biblical World,eds. W. W. Hallo and K. L. Younger,                                      Jr.   Leiden: Brill.

 

Oppenheim, A. L.

1969    The Assyrian King List.  Pp. 564-66 in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old                Testament.  Third edition, ed. J. B. Pritchard.  Princeton:  Princeton University.

 

Thiele, E. R.

1983    The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings.  Third edition.  Grand                                            Rapids: Zondervan.

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