Zimri-lim’s Mari Palace and King Solomon

Wall mural from the Babylonian city of Mari showing the home of the gods.  In the top panel is an unidentified god; possibly An, the god of heaven, or Utu, the god of the sun. On the upper right is a winged bullman. Bottom panel: Enlil, the chief god of earth, is attended by a minor female goddess (shown wearing a horned helmet) and by two kings wearing shepherds' hats. Wind pours out of a jar, signifying that Enlil is the god of the winds that bring life-giving rains.



Damien F. Mackey  




The Mari palace of Zimri-Lim, biblical “Rezon” and some time foe of King Solomon,

may show evidence of Genesis (Garden of Eden) and Solomonic (Temple) imagery.





If Hammurabi were, as the biblical artisan, Huram-abi, involved in the technical enhancement of Solomon’s architecture, then we might expect that the contemporary palace of Mari, belonging to Zimri-Lim (see my):


Hammurabi and Zimri-Lim as Contemporaries of Solomon



would exhibit some degree of Solomonic influence. Accordingly, one will read at: http://publications.mi.byu.edu/publications/studies/4/S00001-507d876e576a3Bradshaw.pdf


A number of scholars have found parallels in the layout of the trees in the Garden of Eden and certain features of Israelite sanctuaries.75 Significantly, the holiest places within the temples of Solomon and of Ezekiel’s vision were decorated with palms.76 Indeed, the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple contained not only one but many palm trees and pillars, which Terje Stordalen says can represent “a kind of stylised forest.” 77 The angels on its walls may have represented God’s heavenly council,78 mirrored on earth by those who have attained “angelic” status through the rites of inves­titure. Such an interpretation recalls the statues of gods mingling with divinized kings in the innermost sanctuary of the Mari pal­ace.79


And again at: http://cojs.org/jerusalem_as_eden-_lawrence_e-_stager-_bar_26-03-_may-jun_2000/


On the mountain of Yahweh, Mt. Zion,a the indissoluble triad of creation, kingship and Temple find their most profound visual and literary expression. Nowhere in ancient Near Eastern art is this triad more brilliantly illustrated than in the wall paintings of the Old Babylonian palace at Mari, built almost a millennium before [sic] Solomon’s palace and Temple in Jerusalem. In the palace at Mari, located on the banks of the Euphrates, in modern Syria, a large, sunlit courtyard decorated with wall paintings led into a vestibule in front of the king’s throne room. The courtyard enclosed a garden of live potted palm trees. According to one scholar, a tall, ornamental but artificial palm tree stood in the middle of the garden (compare the location of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden). This artificial tree had a wooden core and was plated with bronze and silver leaf.4 At eye level, just to the right of the doorway leading from the courtyard to the vestibule of the throne room, a large wall painting portrayed the relationship of divinity, royalty and creation. Luxuriant orchards and fantastic creatures surround the building in which the investiture of the king is taking place. In the upper register of the central panel, the goddess Ishtar as warrior, with weapons strapped to her shoulders, scimitar in one hand and “the ring and the rod” in the other, presents the emblems of authority to the king. Ishtar rests one foot on a recumbent lion, her emblem. Three other deities witness the ceremony. In the register below, two lesser goddesses hold vases from which four streams of water flow and vegetation sprouts. The setting for the ceremony is a paradise garden with date palms and stylized papyrus stalks. Guarding the garden and the palace are winged sphinxes, griffins and bulls. At the outer edges of the scene, two goddesses of high rank stand with upraised arms—a gesture of protection for all within the garden precincts.

[End of quotes]


I would suggest that the above would be only the tip of the iceberg of potential similarities between the religious imagery of the Mari era (revised) and that of the Solomonic era.


Huram-Abi King of Artisans

 Hiram Abiff with Jachin & Boaz


Damien F. Mackey



Explores the possibility that the biblical Huram-abi was King Hammurabi.



Abrahamic Connection


Hammurabi’s possible Amorite ancestry, tracing back to Abraham, might account for why we have been finding that the great king had been so influenced by Hebrew Law and protocol.

Herb Storck has shown, in an important article “The Early Assyrian King List … and the ‘Greater Amorite’ Tradition” (Proc. of the 3rd Seminar of Catastrophism & Ancient History, C & AH Press, Toronto, 1986, p. 43), that there is a genealogical link among:


(i) Abraham;

(ii) the genealogy of king Hammurabi; and

(iii) the Assyrian King List.


Storck commences his article with the following explanation:

The Assyrian Kinglist (AKL) is one of the most important chronographic texts ever uncovered. Initially it was thought to represent a long unbroken tradition of rulership over Assyria. A closer look at the AKL by Benno Landsberger (1890-1968) … however, dispelled this somewhat facile approach to AKL tradition. Subsequent studies by Kraus … and Finkelstein … have demonstrated a common underlying Amorite tradition between parts of the AKL and the Genealogy of Hammurapi (GHD). Portions of this section of the AKL containing 17 tent-dwelling kings have also been compared to biblical … and Ugaritic … Amorite traditions.


Storck’s purpose will be “to take a closer look at the 17 Assyrian tent dwellers and the greater Amorite tradition, as evidenced primarily in the genealogy of the Hammurapi [Hammurabi] Dynasty and other minor traditions”. The names of all 17 tent-dwelling kings are preserved in various lists. What is striking is that many of these names can be linked with names in the GHD, which gives the names in couplet form. Thus, for example, names 3 and 4, Janqi (Janqu) and Sahlamu are given in GHD as Ya-am-qu-us-ha-lam-ma. Name 11, Zuabu, may be connected with Sumuabi, an ancestor of Hammurabi. Thus Storck:

Poebel sought to connect the name with Su-mu-a-bi, the name of the first king of the first dynasty of Babylon, even though in our list it is written with the sign ZU. …. Kraus, however, expressed his personal doubts as to whether this would work …. But in a recently published fragment of this portion of the AKL (E) this name was indeed written with an initial SU for ZU, thus supporting Poebel’s contention somewhat. “Nevertheless, the genealogy edited by J.J. Finkelstein has Zu-um-ma-bu in the apparently parallel line, hinting that the reverse may be the case. The presence of ma as restored eases the interpretation of the name Sumu-abu” ….


Storck concluded the first part of his study by claiming that: “Nine of the 17 tent-dwelling AKL kings can reasonably be identified with GHD ancestors of Hammurapi. This would appear to be sufficient to establish that these two genealogies drew upon a common ‘Amorite’ tradition”.

That there was still that nomadic inclination within the kings of the Hammurabic era may perhaps be gleaned from the fact that Shamsi-Adad I of that time had no really fixed capital, but moved from place to place.

And we have found that Iarim-Lim (Hiram), though stationed in the west, had a political reach that extended all the way to Elam.


Who Was Hammurabi?


Who, then, was this Hammurabi, likely a non-indigenous ruler of Babylon, of Amorite, or northern Canaanite background, who had deepy absorbed Hebrew traditions and culture, and who was contemporaneous with the biblical King Hiram (Iarim-Lim) and, hence, with David and Solomon of Israel?

The most likely candidate for Hammurabi, I now think, would be that famous biblical artisan of very similar name, Huram-abi (Hiram-abi) – the fabled Hiram Abiff of the Freemasons – who was probably somewhat younger than King David, but older than King Solomon.

King Hiram had told Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:13-14):


‘I am sending you Huram-Abi, a man of great skill, whose mother was from Dan and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, and with purple and blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your skilled workers and with those of my lord, David your father’.


From I Kings 7:13, it appears that Huram-abi was located in Tyre at the time: “King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram …”. Tyre would, of course, be a geographical problem obstructing an identification of Huram-abi with Hammurabi the king of Babylon.

Could he have become king of Babylon later? That is only surmise. But also see comments above re Shamsi-Adad I’s nomadic tendencies and Iarim-Lim’s power. Plus, our knowledge of Hammurabi’s Babylon is seriously disadvantaged by the high water table in Babylon at that archaeological level, preventing excavation.

I Kings 7:14 gives a variation on 2 Chronicles’ account of Huram-abi’s mother, “from Dan”, by telling us that his “mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali”.

That Huram-abi was a man with the technical skills necessary to assist King Solomon is abundantly apparent from the continuing narrative of I Kings 14:14-50:


Huram was filled with wisdom, with understanding and with knowledge to do all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him.

He cast two bronze pillars, each eighteen cubits high and twelve cubits in circumference. He also made two capitals of cast bronze to set on the tops of the pillars; each capital was five cubits high. A network of interwoven chains adorned the capitals on top of the pillars, seven for each capital. He made pomegranates in two rows encircling each network to decorate the capitals on top of the pillars. He did the same for each capital. The capitals on top of the pillars in the portico were in the shape of lilies, four cubits high. On the capitals of both pillars, above the bowl-shaped part next to the network, were the two hundred pomegranates in rows all around. He erected the pillars at the portico of the Temple. The pillar to the south he named Jakin and the one to the north Boaz. The capitals on top were in the shape of lilies. And so the work on the pillars was completed.

He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it. Below the rim, gourds encircled it—ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea.

The Sea stood on twelve bulls, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east. The Sea rested on top of them, and their hindquarters were toward the center. It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held two thousand baths.

He also made ten movable stands of bronze; each was four cubits long, four wide and three high. This is how the stands were made: They had side panels attached to uprights. On the panels between the uprights were lions, bulls and cherubim—and on the uprights as well. Above and below the lions and bulls were wreaths of hammered work. Each stand had four bronze wheels with bronze axles, and each had a basin resting on four supports, cast with wreaths on each side. On the inside of the stand there was an opening that had a circular frame one cubit deep. This opening was round, and with its basework it measured a cubit and a half. Around its opening there was engraving. The panels of the stands were square, not round. The four wheels were under the panels, and the axles of the wheels were attached to the stand. The diameter of each wheel was a cubit and a half. The wheels were made like chariot wheels; the axles, rims, spokes and hubs were all of cast metal. Each stand had four handles, one on each corner, projecting from the stand. At the top of the stand there was a circular band half a cubit deep. The supports and panels were attached to the top of the stand. He engraved cherubim, lions and palm trees on the surfaces of the supports and on the panels, in every available space, with wreaths all around. This is the way he made the ten stands. They were all cast in the same molds and were identical in size and shape.

He then made ten bronze basins, each holding forty baths and measuring four cubits across, one basin to go on each of the ten stands. He placed five of the stands on the south side of the Temple and five on the north. He placed the Sea on the south side, at the southeast corner of the Temple. He also made the pots and shovels and sprinkling bowls.

So Huram finished all the work he had undertaken for King Solomon in the Temple of the Lord:


the two pillars;

the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;

the two sets of network decorating the two bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars;

the four hundred pomegranates for the two sets of network (two rows of pomegranates for each network decorating the bowl-shaped capitals on top of the pillars);

the ten stands with their ten basins;

the Sea and the twelve bulls under it;

the pots, shovels and sprinkling bowls.

All these objects that Huram made for King Solomon for the Temple of the Lord were of burnished bronze. The king had them cast in clay molds in the plain of the Jordan between Sukkoth and Zarethan. Solomon left all these things unweighed, because there were so many; the weight of the bronze was not determined.

Solomon also made all the furnishings that were in the Lord’s Temple:

the golden altar;

the golden table on which was the bread of the Presence;

the lampstands of pure gold (five on the right and five on the left, in front of the inner sanctuary);

the gold floral work and lamps and tongs;

the pure gold basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, dishes and censers;

and the gold sockets for the doors of the innermost room, the Most Holy Place, and also for the doors of the main hall of the Temple.


If Hammurabi were Huram-abi, then it would be no wonder that he dealt in bonze and that he favoured artisans and craftsmen, and that he imported his wood from Lebanon (http://www.fsmitha.com/h1/ch03-ham.htm):


Babylon was a city where trade routes crossed. Under Hammurabi it became a bronze-age city of commerce and agriculture. It was a city with skilled artisans, architects, bricklayers and businessmen, with an efficient secular administration and a chain of command. The city was at the hub of an intricate network of canals. It was surrounded by great fields of barley, melons, fruit trees and the wheat the Babylonians used in making unleavened, pancake-like bread. From their barley, the Babylonians made beer. They sheared wool from their flocks of sheep. And they imported wood from Lebanon and metals from Persia.


Hammurabi was a king of artisans: (https://prezi.com/uuaatljvjity/ancient-mesopotamia/): “Hammurabi had artisans carve almost 300 laws into a stone stele. This writing is now known as Hammurabi’s code”, with rules for artisans:


  1. If an artisan take a son for adoption and teach him his handicraft, one may not bring claim for him.


  1. If he do not teach him his handicraft, that adopted son may return to his father’s house.


  1. If a man hire an artisan, the wage of a … is 5 SE of silver; the wage of a brickmaker (?) is 5 SE of silver; the wage of a tailor is 5 SE of silver; the wage of a … is … SE of silver; the wage of a … is … SE of silver; the wage of a … is … SE of silver; the wage of a carpenter is 4 SE of silver; the wage of a (?) is 4 SE of silver; the wage of a (?) is … SE of silver; the wage of a mason is … SE of silver; so much per day shall he pay.


According to: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/txt/ah/Assyria/Hammurabi.html “craftsmen” (artisans) occupied the highest class in Babylon:


The Code contemplates the whole population as falling into three classes, the amelu, the muskinu and the ardu. The amelu was a patrician, the man of family, whose birth, marriage and death were registered, of ancestral estates and full civil rights. He had aristocratic privileges and responsibilities, the right to exact retaliation for corporal injuries, and liability to heavier punishment for crimes and misdemeanours, higher fees and fines to pay. To this class belonged the king and court, the higher officials, the professions and craftsmen.


  1. van de Mieroop (The Ancient Mesopotamian City, p. 179) writes of ‘most craftsmen being employed by palaces and temples’ (reminiscent of the case of Solomon and Huram-abi):


The specialized class of artisans needed to be exempt from the tasks of primary food production, and this was only possible in an urban economy. It is clear that craft specialization took place in the early stages of the development of urban society, and that the sustainable size of the class of craftsmen was directly related to the size of the urban economy. It is often stated in current literature that, at least until the late second millennium Bc [sic], most craftsmen were employed by the central institutions of palace and temples, as only these rich organizations were able to support them ….

Biblical History of Hatshepsut Queen and Pharaoh of Egypt


Part One: In the Kingdom of Israel



 Damien F. Mackey


This new article, most heavily reliant upon the use of alter egos, will explore Abishag pairings with the “Shunammite” of the “Song of Solomon” and Tamar, daughter of King David; with “the Queen of the South”/“Queen of Sheba”; and also with – now including the Egyptian link – “Pharaoh’s daughter” as Queen (and Pharaoh) Hatshepsut. 




Abishag: “… a beautiful young woman … a Shunammite” (I Kings 1:3).

Tamar: “Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar” (2 Samuel 13:1).

Shunammite: “… fairest among women” (Song of Solomon 1:8).

Queen of Sheba: “King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for …” (I Kings 10:13).

Pharaoh’s Daughter: “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter” (I Kings 3:1).

Hatshepsut: Whose name means “foremost of noble women”.




Just Abishag



Abishag: “… a beautiful young woman … a Shunammite” (I Kings 1:3).





Why was Abishag the Shunammite important?


That is the question asked at: http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/1521/why-was-abishag-the-shunammite-important which then, covering those portions of Scripture in which Abishag figures, will suggest a reason for it:


When we shift from Samuel to Kings, we start with this fairly benign story:


King David was now old, advanced in years; and though they covered him with bedclothes, he never felt warm. His courtiers said to him, “Let a young virgin be sought for my lord the king, to wait upon Your Majesty and be his attendant; and let her lie in your bosom, and my lord the king will be warm.” So they looked for a beautiful girl throughout the territory of Israel. They found Abishag the Shunammite and brought her to the king. The girl was exceedingly beautiful. She became the king’s attendant and waited upon him; but the king was not intimate with her.—1st Kings 1:1-4 (NJPS)


She is mentioned once more incidentally (1st Kings 1:15). In the next chapter, after David’s death, Adonijah asks Bathsheba to request Solomon to give him Abishag as a wife (1st Kings 2:13-18). She then delivers the request to Solomon:


So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him about Adonijah. The king rose to greet her and bowed down to her. He sat on his throne; and he had a throne placed for the queen mother, and she sat on his right. She said, “I have one small request to make of you, do not refuse me.” He responded, “Ask, Mother; I shall not refuse you.” Then she said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to your brother Adonijah as wife.” The king replied to his mother, “Why request Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Request the kingship for him! For he is my older brother, and the priest Abiathar and Joab son of Zeruiah are on his side.”—1st Kings 2:19-22 (NJPS)


But why is asking for Abishag equivalent in Solomon’s eyes to asking for the kingship? I see two options (neither of which seem compelling):


1.    Abishag’s close relationship with David would link her (possible) husband to the throne.

2.    If Adonijah can manipulate Bathsheba, he could become the real power behind the throne.


After this, the text (and all of Scripture) cease to mention the woman. So what was her importance?

[End of quote]


If the identifications of Abishag to be proposed in this series may have any value, however, then Abishag the person far from ‘ceases to be mentioned in all of Scripture’.

Though she does cease to be mentioned by her name of ‘Abishag’:



Now this name, in itself, appears to be of uncertain meaning. Thus we learn, according to: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0001_0_00156.html


ABISHAG THE SHUNAMMITE (Heb. גשַׁיבִאֲ; “the [Divine] Father (?)”; meaning unknown; of *Shunem), an unmarried girl who was chosen to serve as sōkhenet to King David. The term comes from a root skn, “attend to,” “take care,” and its noun forms can be applied to high officials in Hebrew (Is. 22:15) Abishag’s role was of a lower status. She served as bed companion to David in the hope that her fresh beauty would induce some warmth in the old man (I Kings 1:1–4, 15), and as his housekeeper. The notice (1:4) that “the king knew her not” serves less to impute decrepitude to David than to inform the audience that there would be no other claimants to David’s throne than Solomon and Adonijah. When Solomon became king, *Adonijah, whose life Solomon had spared although he knew him to be a dangerous rival, asked *Bath-Sheba, Solomon’s mother, to intercede on his behalf for permission to marry Abishag. Solomon correctly interpreted this request for the former king’s concubine as a bid for the throne (See II Sam 12:8; 16:20–23), and had Adonijah killed (I Kings 2:13–25). Some see in Abishag, who is described as “very fair” (I Kings 1:4), the Shulammite of the Song of Songs (Shulammite being regarded as the same as Shunammite).

[End of quote]


Abishag’s home town of Shunem was an important location for Israel at least during the early Divided Monarchy period of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. For, in the el Amarna series of letters, in Letter 250, we read of Shunem, or Shunama, being under dire threat.

Abishag was, according to a Jewish tradition, a sister of the “Great Lady of Shunem” at the time of the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 4:8). The Jewish Encyclopedia site tells of it (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5682-elisha):


Pirḳe R. El. (l.c.) reports, in the name of R. Joshua ben Ḳarḥah, that any woman who saw Elisha would die. The Shunammite was the sister of Abishag, the wife of Iddo, the prophet. When she repaired to Mount Carmel to seek the intervention of the prophet in behalf of her son, Gehazi, struck by her beauty, took undue liberties with her. Elisha sent his servant with his staff bidding him not to speak with any one; but Gehazi, being a skeptic and a scoffer, disobeyed the injunction.

[End of quote]


At best, though, chronologically, the “Great Lady of Shunem” could only have been related to the much earlier Abishag. What any such a connection between the two may indicate, however, is that this Shunem was a seat of some prominence at the time.

My guess is that when David’s courtiers “looked for a beautiful girl throughout the territory of Israel. They found Abishag the Shunammite and brought her to the king”, they were not actually checking out every beautiful girl throughout the land, whatever her status may have been. They, far more practically, would have been searching amongst only the royal and the noble – chiefly amongst the princesses of Israel. More than just endowed with beauty, though, the sōkhenet candidate would probably have been required to have had knowledge of health and healing.




Rape of Tamar




Tamar: “Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar” (2 Samuel 13:1).






The mysterious Abishag, about whom we know virtually nothing, biographically speaking, is thought to have – as we have already read occupied very little scriptural space: “… the text (and all of Scripture) cease to mention the woman”.

Yet we also found her to have been of such supreme importance that “… asking for Abishag [was] equivalent in Solomon’s eyes to asking for the kingship …”.

The next phase of Abishag’s life, which I believe the scriptural narrative picks up now in her guise as Tamar, will turn out to be a most wretched downturn in the girl’s fortunes, when she, abandoned by her closest relatives, plummets to the very nadir in “Abishag Rising”.


Amnon and Tamar


King David had taken Abishag as his sōkhenet nurse at some point in his old age – which presumably came earlier to David given the rugged life that he had lived. As I see it, the young woman was already performing her services for the king when David’s oldest son, Amnon, conceived his desire for her – in her guise as Tamar – and asked for her to be brought to him to serve him in his illness (actually love-sickness), to nurse him, as she had been doing for the aged king. So David “sent home” (note), for Tamar to come to Amnon’s house, with disastrous results for the girl.

Here, now, is the biblical account of the rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-30), to which I shall add some of my own comments along the lines of my proposed Abishag-Tamar identification (vv. 1-2):


… Ab’sa-lom had a beautiful sister whose name was Ta’mar; and David’s son Am’non fell in love with her. Am’non was so tormented that he ­made himself ill because of his sister Ta’mar, for she was a virgin and it seemed impossible to Am’non to do anything to her.


Comment: Recall that Abishag, too, was “beautiful”, and a “virgin” (I Kings 1:2, 3-4), and I have also surmised that she was probably a princess of Israel.

If Tamar were also, as Abishag, the “Shunammite” of the Song of Solomon – which will be an underlying theme in this series – then it would be fitting that King Solomon would there refer to her as Achoti (אֲחֹתִי), “my sister” (4:9).

She, for her part, wishes that he were her full brother (8:1): “If only you were to me like a brother, who was nursed at my mother’s breasts! Then, if I found you outside, I would kiss you, and no one would despise me”.

Tamar, Amnon and Solomon were siblings, all sharing the same renowned father, who was King David, but all having different mothers.

Later, another brother of theirs, Adonijah, will express a wish to marry Abishag (I Kings 2:17): “Please ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.” Note that Adonijah here calls the girl “the Shunammite”, which is thus unlikely to have meant “Shulammite”, as in “belonging to Solomon”, as some have proposed.


Now, returning to the biblical narrative of the story (vv. 3-6):


But Am’non had a friend whose name was Jon’a-dab, the ­son of David’s brother Shim’eah; and Jon’a-dab was a very crafty man. He ­said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after ­morning? Will you not tell me?” Am’non said to him, “I love Ta’mar, my brother Ab’sa-lom’s sister.” Jon’a-dab said to him, “Lie down on your ­bed, and pretend to be ill; and when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Ta’mar come and give me something to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, so that I may see and eat it from her hand.'” So Am’non lay down, and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, ­Am’non said to the king, “Please let ­my sister Ta’mar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.”


Comment: The cunning, Machiavellian Jonadab I have identified as:


King David’s Crafty General Joab




As we return to the biblical narrative, we find that King David himself really throws his daughter Tamar into the deep end (vv.7-14):


Then David sent home to Ta’mar saying, “Go to your brother Am’non’s house, and prepare food for him.” So Ta’mar went to her brother Am’non’s house, where he was lying down. She took dough, kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. Then she took the pan and set them out ­before him, but he refused to eat. Am’non said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. Then Am’non said to Ta’mar, ‘Bring the food into the chamber, so that I might eat from your hand.” So Ta’mar took the cakes she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Am’non her brother. But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” She answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile! As for me, where should I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the scoundrels in Israel. Now therefore, I beg you, speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.


Comment: What was “such a thing [as] not done in Israel”, yet might be done if the king so approved. Was Tamar, then, although a princess of Israel, not ethnically an Israelite?

It will help my later identifications if she were not.


Amnon, having done the vile deed, will now turn away from his sister with disgust (vv. 15-19):


Then Am’non was seized with a very great loathing for her. Indeed, his loathing was even greater than the lust he had felt for her. An Am’non said to her, “Get out!” But she said to him, “No my brother; for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me”. But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence, and bolt the door after her.” (Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves; for this is how the virgin daughters of the king were clothed in earlier times) So his servant put her out, and bolted the door after her. But Ta’mar put ashes on her head, and tore the long robe that she was wearing; she put her hand on her head, and went away, crying aloud as she went.


Comment: Was this the same “robe” that the watchmen would take from the distraught girl? Cf. Song of Solomon 5:7. “The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. They beat me, they bruised me; they took away my robe, those watchmen of the walls!”


According to the “Joab” article above, Jonadab (= General Joab) and Absalom, Tamar’s own full brother, had actually conspired to bring down the sensuous Amnon. Tamar was a complete victim in all of this, “an unwitting pawn of a devious schemer, an expendable token in the power play for the throne”. I wrote:


Jonadab, according to Hill, was not actually serving Amnon’s interests at all. He was cunningly providing Absalom with the opportunity to bring down his brother, Amnon, the crown prince:


More than this, I am inclined to see Jonadab as a co-conspirator with Absalom in the whole affair, since both men have much to gain.

Absalom’s desires for revenge against Amnon and ultimately his designs for usurping his father’s throne are clearly seen in the narrative (cf. 13:21-23, 32; 15:21-6). Amnon, as crown prince, stands in the way as a rival to the ambitions of Absalom. Absalom and Jonadab collaborate to remove this obstacle to kingship by taking advantage of a basic weakness in Amnon’s character.

The calculated plotting of Absalom and Jonadab is evidenced by the pointed questioning of Tamar by Absalom after her rape and his almost callous treatment of a sister brutishly violated and now bereft of a meaningful future (almost as if he expected it, at least according to the tone of the statements in the narrative; cf. 13:20-22). While a most reprehensible allegation, it seems Tamar may have been an unwitting pawn of a devious schemer, an expendable token in the power play for the throne.


Her self-interested brothers completely despised Tamar. Her shame reflected ingloriously upon the family, it was thought. Hence it is not surprising to read in the Song of Solomon (1:6): “My mother’s sons were incensed against me; they made me keeper of the vineyards”.

Menial work for a princess!

And she adds the words: “But mine own vineyard [virginity?] have I not kept”.


Abishag can, it seems, merge seamlessly into Tamar. The former, too, was “beautiful”, and a “virgin” (I Kings 1:2, 3-4). And I have also surmised that Abishag was likely a princess of Israel, as Tamar certainly was.

Tamar, for her part, like Abishag, lived “at [David’s] home”. And she, like Abishag, lived there during David’s later years.

And Tamar, like Abishag, appear to exhibit similar nursing and healing type knowledge. On “Tamar’s activity” here, we read at: http://www.icanbreathe.com/Habbirya.html:


…. I want to know: What are the nature and purpose of Tamar’s activity? What follows is a necessarily brief summary of my research so far.


The first possibility is raised by the term biryâ. In 2 Sam 13, the root brh 8 is used to designate preparation of the food (tabrenî) and the ceremony involved in making the food (habbiryâ) which Amnon expects to eat (‘ebreh). Words arising from brh in the Bible have to do with eating, but are specific for breaking a fast in a time of grieving or illness. Forms of brh appear only in 2 Sam 3:35; 12:17; 13:5, 6, 10; and in Lam 4:10. Another form, barût is found in Ps 69:22 as food for a mourner.9 David for example refuses to break his fast, lehabrôt, during mourning for Abner (3:35) and he will not eat, brh, bread during his seven day fast and prayer vigil for the ailing infant of Bathsheba (12: 17). In Lam 4: 10, children become the food (perhaps divination-offering), lebarôt, prepared by their desperate mothers during the siege of Jerusalem. These uses suggest that the word chosen to express eating in 2 Sam 13 includes a connotation beyond an ordinary meal.

The root has sacred connotations in Hebrew. Beriyt means covenant, perhaps arising from “binding” in Assyrian barû.


10 In the Bible beriyt commonly refers to being bound by the covenant with YHWH, but also by a covenant between humans (Gen 14:13; I Sam 18:3) and with death (Isa 28: IS, 18; 57:8).11 In later Jewish parlance there is a meal of comfort, called seûdat habra’â12 given to a mourner after the funeral. Biryâ may be related to beriyt, covenant. Conceivably this later custom was a restoration of some familial/tribal bond with the dead, a covenant meal prepared ritually by a woman.13


Though the divinatory meaning of brh is not common in Hebrew, it is among ancient Israel’s neighbors. In Akkadian, barû priests are diviners who inspect livers, and the related term biru, “divination,” 14 is conducted also by women who interpret dreams. Occult inquiry was known in Israel where reported practice is primarily about men. Priests, prophets, seers, and kings in ancient Israel drew lots, used the ephod, interpreted dreams and signs to divine YHWH’s will.15However, Barak (Judg 4), King Saul (1 Sam 28), and King Josiah (2 Kgs 22) learned the future by means of a woman. We may not assume that other people’s customs are identical to Israel’s; however, by exploring ancient approaches to healing we may apply to 2 Sam 13 a range of activities reflecting a frame of reference common to peoples of the ancient Near East.16


In Mesopotamia. besides priestly diviners, there are references to two types of women diviners who in particular are “approached in cases of sickness,”17 as is the case with Amnon. One passage reads, “We shall ask here the šã’litu-priestesses, the baritu-priestesses and the spirits of the dead …..”18 Elsewhere, the goddess of healing, Gula, sings in a hymn of praise of herself, “Mistress of health am I, I am a physician, I am a diviner (ha-ra-ku), I am an exorcist…..”19


Magic and medicine were one in the ancient Near East. ….

[End of quote]


Finally, it would be fitting if one as significant as Abishag should receive further mention in the Scriptures – unless, of course, death had intervened.




Tamar –

what becomes of the broken-hearted?




Shunammite: “… fairest among women” (Song of Solomon 1:8).





Different Names


This series began with Abishag (the same as “the Shunammite” of the Song of Solomon), who then – according to what followed – merged quite seamlessly into Tamar, the daughter of King David and sister of Absalom.

The term “Shunammite” is appropriate for the young woman under consideration, since Abishag herself was “a Shunammite” (I Kings 1:3).

According to one interpretation of the Song of Solomon 8:10, ‘I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers. Thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment’: “The Shulammite testified that she was a virgin. Thus, she had found favour with Solomon” (https://books.google.com.au/books?id=igdqBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA897&lpg=PA897&dq=sh).

That was before her “vineyard” (virginity) had been ravaged.

But how to account for the different name, “Tamar” (Hebrew: תָמָר), meaning “palm tree”? Most interestingly, that very same word occurs in the Song of Solomon, 7:8, where the Shunammite is actually likened to a palm tree (תָמָר): “I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit’.”


זֹאת קוֹמָתֵךְ דָּמְתָה לְתָמָר, וְשָׁדַיִךְ לְאַשְׁכֹּלוֹת.


This was typical Solomon at work. Had he not, in his guise as Senenmut in Egypt:


Solomon and Sheba




amused himself by “creating cryptograms, e.g. in relation to Hatshepsut’s throne name, Make-ra …”?


May it be the case of a different book, with a different author, using a different name? Abishag appears in I Kings, Tamar appears in 2 Samuel. The story of the rape of Tamar (RT) is an example of “the short embedded narrative” situated within a larger narrative (http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/vox/vol20/tamar_smith.pdf). Hence, just as the more familiar Joab may have been presented in the account of RT by the (slightly) different name, “Jonadab”, according to my:


King David’s Crafty General Joab




so may the author of RT have used the different name, “Tamar”, for the one we know otherwise as Abishag.

We have found the name, “Abishag”, to be of “uncertain” meaning. According to one view, which merges – as I have done – Abishag with the Shunammite of the Song of Solomon (https://jamesbradfordpate.wordpress.com/2015/12/21/book-write-up-solomons-song-by-roberta-kells-dorr/):


Shulamit [Shunammite] is known as Abishag by her brothers, because they see her as their father’s mistake: their father’s favorite wife had only a girl, but no sons. [sic] (In terms of the Hebrew, “Abi” means “my father,” and the verb sh-g-g and sh-g-h can relate to an error.) Shulamit’s father agrees to let her go, in exchange for a piece of Solomon’s vineyard, which is in the north.


Absalom and Tamar


Tamar, first ravaged and then detested by the lustful Amnon, would also be treated most shabbily by her brother, Absalom, who may have, anyway, with Jonadab, manipulated the whole sordid incident. We recall from earlier:


The calculated plotting of Absalom and Jonadab is evidenced by the pointed questioning of Tamar by Absalom after her rape and his almost callous treatment of a sister brutishly violated and now bereft of a meaningful future (almost as if he expected it, at least according to the tone of the statements in the narrative; cf. 13:20-22). While a most reprehensible allegation, it seems Tamar may have been an unwitting pawn of a devious schemer, an expendable token in the power play for the throne.


And we read in 2 Samuel 13:20: “Her brother Ab’salom said to her, ‘Has Am’non your brother been with you? Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother; do not take this to heart’. So Ta’mar remained, a desolate woman, in her brother Ab’salom’s house”.

Cold comfort, indeed.

Absalom, who shared the same mother with Tamar, may have been one of those referred to in the Song of Solomon (1:6) “… my mother’s children [who] were angry with me [Tamar]”. Incorrect, though, would be the following assessment of this verse:



The reason for the punishment her brothers inflicted on her was because she did not keep her own vineyard. The symbolism behind the vineyard is probably a reference to her virginity, that is, that she gave herself sexually to her shepherd lover and as a result her brothers punished her for her indiscretion.

[End of quote]


On the contrary, at least one of her “mother’s children”, or “mother’s sons”, Absalom – who should have ensured that his sister retained her virginity – may actually have been guilty of facilitating her loss of it.


Back Home at Shunem?  


We might surmise, on the basis that Tamar was Abishag of Shunem, that “Absalom’s house” was situated there as well, and that the girl returned to her former home. Hence her references in the Song of Solomon to her “mother” and her “mother’s children”. For example (1:6): “… my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards …”. And (8:1, 2): “O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! … I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate”.


Now (8:11), “Solomon had a vineyard in Baal Hamon; he let out his vineyard to tenants. Each was to bring for its fruit a thousand shekels of silver”. If the house of the mother of Absalom and Tamar – we shall be learning more about the mother later – were situated in Shunem, then it would not have been very far from Solomon’s vineyard in Baal Hamon – if the following estimation is correct (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/songs/8-11.htm):


Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges


…. at Baal-hamon] Oettli, following Rosenmüller, thinks this place is identical with Belamon or Balamon in Jdt 8:3, which, he says, was not far from Shunem, Dothan, and the plain of Esdraelon. If the keepers are the Shulammite’s brothers, Baal-hamon would naturally be in the neighbourhood of Shunem.


The Song of Solomon makes various reference to “vineyards”, e.g. 1:6; 7:12; 8:12.

The “mother’s children”, or “sons”, may have been “tenants” of Solomon’s vineyard. Part of their work could have been to control those pesky “little foxes” (2:15):


Catch for us the foxes,     the little foxes that ruin the vineyards,     our vineyards that are in bloom.


King David’s Reaction    


If Tamar were also Abishag, as according to this series, “Abishag Rising”, then she had already been put to a very strange usage – at least by our standards (I Kings 1:1-4):


King David had become very old. His servants covered him with blankets, but he couldn’t stay warm. They said to him, ‘Allow us to find a young woman for our master the king. She will serve the king and take care of him by lying beside our master the king and keeping him warm’. So they looked in every corner of Israel until they found Abishag from Shunem. They brought her to the king. She was very beautiful. She cared for the king and served him, but the king didn’t have sex with her.


Moreover, it was at King David’s command that Tamar had gone to Amnon in the first place. For, as we read previously:


… Am’non lay down, and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, ­Am’non said to the king, ‘Please let ­my sister Ta’mar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand’. Then David sent home to Ta’mar saying, ‘Go to your brother Am’non’s house, and prepare food for him’.


And now, in the case of her being raped by Amnon, there is no action on the part of the king. Ever indulgent towards his sons, King David, though “very angry”, does absolutely nothing (2 Samuel 13:21): “When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Am’non, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn”.

  1. Hill, from whom we have quoted previously in this series, will tellingly refer to “Amnon’s domination by sensuality … a trait he shared with his father David”.


Absalom Avenges the Violation of His Sister


The calculating Absalom, who hated his brother, Amnon – even before the latter’s rape of Tamar, apparently – waited “two full years” before he acted (vv. 22-23): “But Ab’salom spoke to Am’non neither good nor bad; for Ab’salom hated Am’non, because he had raped his sister Ta’mar. After two full years Absalom …”.

It may have been during this brief period of time that the Shunammite was able to enjoy her bucolic phase of life with the one she hoped to marry, Solomon. But, under the circumstances, it had to be done somewhat surreptitiously, ‘peering through windows and lattices’ (2:9): “My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look! There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattice”, or wishing and hoping (8:1, 2): “O that thou wert as my brother … I would … bring thee into my mother’s house”.


Absalom will now go seriously into action (2 Samuel 13:23-36):


After two full years Ab’salom had sheepshearers at Ba’al-ha’zor, which is near E’phraim, and Ab’salom invited all the king’s sons. Ab’salom came to the king, and said, “Your servant has sheepshearers; will the king and his servants please go with your servant?” But the king said to Ab’sa-lom, “No, my son, let us not all go, or else we will be burdensome to you.” He pressed him, but he would not go but gave him his blessing. Then Ab’sa-lom said, “If not, please let my brother Am’non go with us.” The king said to him, “Why should he go with you?” But Ab’­sa-lom pressed him until he let Am’­non and all the king’s sons go with him. Ab’sa-lom made a feast like a king’s feast. Then Ab’sa-lom com­manded his servants, “Watch when Am’non’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Am’­non,’ then kill him. Do not be afraid; have I not myself commanded you? Be courageous and valiant.” So the ser­vants of Ab’sa-lom did to Am’non as Ab’sa-lom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons rose, and each mounted his mule and fled.

While they were on the way, the report came to David that Ab’sa-lom had killed all the king’s sons, and not one of them was left. The king rose, tore his garments, and lay on the ground; and all his servants who were standing by tore their garments. But Jon’a-dab, the son of David’s brother Shim’e-ah, said, “Let not my lord sup­pose that they have killed all the young men the king’s sons; Am’non alone is dead. This has been determined by Ab’sa-lom from the day Am’non raped his sister Ta’mar. Now there­fore, do not let my lord the king take it to heart, as if all the king’s sons were dead; for Am’non alone is dead.”

But Ab’sa-lom fled. When the young man who kept watch looked up, he saw many people coming from the Hor-o.na’im road by the side of the mountain. Jon’a-dab said to the king, “See, the king’s sons have come; as your servant said, so it has come about.” As soon as he had finished speaking, the king’s sons arrived, and raised their voices and wept; and the king and all his servants also wept very bitterly.


Absalom, as we read above, had told his violated sister, Tamar, ‘not to take it to heart’, and now Jonadab tells King David the very same, ‘do not let my lord the king take it to heart’. David had not queried Amnon’s request for Tamar, but he did query Absalom’s request for Amnon. ‘Why should he go with you?’

In all of this it appears to have been Tamar herself who had acted the most honourably.



Grandfather and Mother of Tamar



2 Samuel 13:37, 38:

“Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur … he stayed there three years”.


This Part Three (iii) will be a bridge, connecting Tamar – a princess of Israel – (and Absalom) to other royal connections in “the south”, to be considered fully in Part Four.





Whether or not Tamar – who may have been under close surveillance during her stay in “Absalom’s house”, and by “the watchmen” of the Song of Solomon 5:7 – had also been carted away with Absalom when he fled to Geshur, the narrative of 2 Samuel 13 does not inform us. But here in this Part Three (iii) our main point of interest will be Absalom’s and Tamar’s other (apart from the royal Judaean) family, stemming from “Talmai king of Geshur”.

As we learn from I Chronicles 3:1-4, Absalom was “the third” son born to David in Hebron:


These were the sons of David born to him in Hebron:


The firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel;

the second, Daniel the son of Abigail of Carmel;

the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;

the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith;

the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;

and the sixth, Ithream, by his wife Eglah.


These six were born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven years and six months.


“… the second, Daniel”, about whom we read nothing more, may have died early. But we have already met Amnon the rapist; Absalom the conspirator; and Adonijah the would-be-king.

A truly dysfunctional state of princes!

Solomon, whom we have met as well, was born after “these six”, in Jerusalem (v. 5).

“Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur”, was, as we have learned, the brother of the person of main interest in this series: “Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David” (2 Samuel 13:1).

Most interestingly, their maternal grandfather, Talmai, was, like their father David, a “king”. Apart from the great Hiram of Tyre, few kings in the approximate region are actually named – as far as I know – during David’s late phase of kingship and Solomon’s early reign. One is (named by his title) “Pharaoh king of Egypt” (I Kings 3:1): “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter”, who “had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife” (9:16). “Talmai king of Geshur” is another such monarch.

I am going to propose in Part Two that “Talmai” was the same as this “Pharaoh king of Egypt”, thereby also connecting our Israelite princess, Tamar, to Egyptian royalty.