Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Kish in Ancient Mesopotamia and the Book of Mormon
Kish was an important Sumerian city from an early time in ancient Mesopotamia. As one historian notes:
"After the great flood, kingship was re-established by the gods and given to the rulers of the city of Kish, at which time we move from legend into the very beginning of the proto-historical period. . . . According to Summerian legend, the period scholars now call Early Dynastic I was dominated by then hegemony of the kings of Kish. Throughout the Sumerian period the title `king of Kish' (lugal Kish) meant hegemon of Summer, and every warlord claiming universal domination of Mesopotamia adopted `king of Kish' as one of his titles" (William J. Hamblin, Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC: Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 42. See also Tohru Maeda, “`King of Kish’ in Pre-Sargonic Sumer,” Orient 17 : 1-17).
Yigal Levin notes:
“The mid-third millennium BCE was a time of great change in Mesopotamia. After several centuries of rivalry between various Sumerian city-states such as Ur, Uruk, Lagash and Umma, the rulers of the city of Kish managed to establish a sort of priority over much of Mesopotamia. The primacy of one Sumerian city over the others was an innovation. In successive generations the title `King of Kish’ would come to mean a divinely authorized ruler over all of Sumer and would be claimed at different times by the rulers of various cities. Use of the title `King of Kish’ implied such qualities as being victorious at war, a righteous judge and a builder of cities” (Yigal Levin, “Nimrod the Mighty, King of Kish, King of Sumer and Akkad,” Vetus Testamentum 52/3 : 359).
“According to the Sumerian King List, which is the very document that supplies us with most of the `hard’ information about the Sargonic period (such as names and reigns of kings), it was to the city of Kish that kinship itself was lowered from heaven after the flood. Like the biblical Nimrod, the ancient kings of Kish were the very embodiment of human kingship in the postdiluvian era. Over a thousand years later, the Neo-Assyrian kings would use Sargon’s royal title sar-kissati, taking it to mean quote literally, `King of the Universe’” (Levin, 361-62).
In addition to the name of the Sumerian city, and the honorary royal title “King of Kish” there are also attested personal names such as Kishibgal (Jerrold S. Cooper, Sumerian and Akkadian Royal Inscriptions. New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1986, 1:25), and Iphur-Kish (Douglas Frayne, The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia. Early Periods Volume 2. Sargonic and Gutian Periods (2334-2113) Toronto, Buffalo, Longdon: University of Toronto Press, 1993, 103-109).
While we cannot say precisely when the Jaredites came out from the great tower (presumably somewhere in ancient Mesopotamia), and while we do not know precisely where in that region they came from, it is noteworthy that there are four “Kish” names in the Book of Mormon. We have three Jaredite kings, Akish (Ether 9:6), after whom was named the wilderness of Akish (Ether 14:14), Riplakish (Ether 10:4), and Kish the father of the good king Lib in whose reign, “they built a great city by the narrow neck of land” (Ether 10:18-20). Then we have the later Nephite conspirator Kishkumen (Helaman 1:9), who was associated with those seeking for political power and after whom a later city was named (3 Nephi 9:10). In addition to the early Mesopotamian connection it is interesting, given the background discussed by historians that the only people with Kish names in the Book of Mormon would be kings and or individuals who were seeking political power.