Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Habiru

"I [Idrimi] took with me my horse, my chariot, and my groom, went away and crossed over the desert country and even entered into the region of the Sutian [Sutu in Syria] warriors. I stayed with them overnight in my covered chariot, but the next day I moved on and went to the land of Canaan [Lebanon]. Ammia [hills of Byblos] is situated in the land of Canaan; in Ammia there lived natives of Aleppo, of the country of Mugisse, of the country of Niyi, and also warriors of the country of Amae. When they discovered that I was the son of their overlord, then they gathered around me. Thus I said, 'I have become chief!' I stayed for a long time; for seven years I lived among the hapiru." -- Idrimi, hapiru warrior, The Autobiography of Idrimi, 15th century B.C. (quoted in Pomegranites and Golden Bells)

"All of my towns that are in the hills and on the sea coast have gone over to the hapiru. Byblos with two other towns remain under my control." -- Rib-Haddi to Pharaoh Amenhotep III, The Amarna Letters, 14th century B.C. (quoted in Pomegranites and Golden Bells)

"Should we do like Labayu when he gave the land of Shechem [Nablus] to the hapiru?" -- Abdi-Kheba of Jerusalem to Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, The Amarna Letters, 14th century B.C. (quoted in Pomegranites and Golden Bells)

"Some Egyptian monuments mention an enigmatic people: the 'Apiru'. In one of these was carved on the stone walls a scene depicting men working at a wine press. Beneath the picture was a title which ran: 'Straining out wine by the Apiru'. The date of the monument is believed to be during the reign of queen Hatshepshut and Tutmose III, about the year 2290 (1470 b.c.e.). Scholars immediately recognized the similarity of the word 'Apiru' to 'Hebrew', with a scene depicting manual labour, as described in Exodus for Hebrew people under bondage in Egypt. From the Papyrus Leiden, dated to the reign of Ramose II, about the year 2510 (1250 b.c.e.), the following statement is made in a letter: 'Issue grain to the men of the army and to the Apiru who draw stone for the great pylon of Ramses II'. Again we see Apiru in bondage in Egypt down to the time of Ramose II. They were being used as quarrymen and manual labourers. These references to the Apiru in Egyptian documents and on monuments show their presence in Egypt, and their social importance, for more than three centuries. The same people are called elsewhere 'Habiru' or 'Habiri'." -- The Mysterious 'Habiru' and the Hebrews

"By 2000 B.C.E., if not considerably before, these people were widespread, and already an established part of different societies and different kingdoms." -- Israel A History, The Akkadians and the Habiru

Are the Habiru the Hebrews?

Many say No

"The king of Jerusalem pointed to the roving tribes penetrating from the wastes of Trans-Jordan, and called them 'Habiru'. 'Habiru' is derived from the Hebrew root 'haber', 'a member of a band', and 'habiru' means 'bandits,' and is used for 'companions of thieves' in Isaiah 1:23, 'troops of robbers' in Hosea 6:9, and 'companion of a destroyer' in Proverbs 28:24. This meaning of the word 'Habiru' should have been suggested by the fact that 'sa-gaz', which is translated as 'bandits,' 'cutthroats,' is interchanged with the term 'Habiru.' The various theories about Habiru ('Khabiru') of the el-Amarna letters -- that it signifies 'Ivri' ('Hebrew'), or 'apiru' (miners), or 'Afiru' (from the Babylonian region of Afiru) -- are thus found to be without foundation." -- Immanuel Velikovsky, polymath, Ages in Chaos, Volume I, 1952

"It is time to clarify for BAR readers the widely discussed relationship between the habiru, who are well documented in Egyptian and Near Eastern inscriptions, and the Hebrews of the Bible. There is absolutely no relationship!" -- Anson F. Rainey, professor, Shasu or Habiru: Who Were the Early Israelites?, Biblical Archaeology Review, Volume 34, Number 6, Nov/Dec 2008

I say Yes

"The Tell-el-Amarna letters carry on the general picture of Palestinian and Syrian life almost to the entrance of the Jews into the valley of the Nile. It is probable, though not certain, that the 'Habiru' spoken of in this correspondence were the Hebrews." -- Will Durant, historian, The Story of Civilization, Volume I, Our Oriental Heritage, 1935

"The equation Habiru-Hebrews is still accepted by a large number of scholars...." -- Immanuel Velikovsky, polymath, Ages in Chaos, Volume I, 1952

"Julius Lewy, in an article entitled 'Origin and signification of the biblical term Hebrew', demonstrated most convincingly that the term 'ibrim is to be taken as signifying the Habiru." -- J. Weingreen, Saul and the Habiru, Volume 4, Number 1, Pages 63-66, 1967

"To the amazement and delight of scholars, the so-called Amarna Letters included correspondence from the warlords and chieftains of the land of Canaan that, intriguingly, contained intelligence reports about the threat of a newly arrived band of marauders called the Habiru (or Apiru, as the term is sometimes rendered in English) who were waging a war of conquest throughout Canaan. 'The Apiru plunder all the lands of the king,' complained a Canaanite chieftain named Abdu-Heba, who ruled the city-state of Jerusalem as a vassal of Pharaoh and who begged the Egyptian king to send an expeditionary force to protect him from the plunderers. 'If there are archers here in this year, the lands of the king, my lord, will remain intact; but if there are no archers here, the lands of the king my lord will be lost.' Suddenly and dramatically, the archaeological record seemed to corroborate some of the crucial events described in the Bible. The existence of the Habiru in Egypt had already been reported in a few non-provocative pieces of evidence -- two papyri from the reign of Ramses II, for example, depict a work-gang of Habiru 'dragging up stone for temples built by [the pharaoh]' -- and now the Amarna Letters placed the Habiru in Canaan at a date that was consistent with the chronology of the Exodus as reported in the biblical text. Some scholars began to argue that the Habiru of the Amarna Letters and the Hebrews of the Bible were one and the same. When the Canaanite ruler of Jerusalem complained to Pharaoh about the threat of Habiru invaders, as T. Eric Peet wrote in 1922 in Egypt and the Old Testament, 'we are to see the Hebrews under Joshua entering Palestine.'" -- Jonathan Kirsch, historian, Moses: A Life, 1999

Also see Eric Levy's Habiru Links.

And Idrimi: The Movie.


Jeffery Keown said...

2 things.

1. Good job saying Velikovsky was wrong about something. I didn't think you could do that.

2. This reduces "God's Chosen People" of the Bible to a gang of barbarians who pissed off the whole of the Mideast. Nice slant on the Biblical "God told us we could have those lands" theme.

Fungus FitzJuggler III said...

Gosh, you've been busy!

Great stuff!

But from where?

The Phoenicians allowed this? They became the Poeni, latin for Carthaginians.

Could it be that they hail from Khazaria or from a place where the others fled to eventually become Khazars?

Anonymous said...

Its good to see someone who researches the Habiru, I too believe they are the early Hebrews, later to be called Israel. It seems to me that there has been an almighty cover up, in relation to the Habiru and Akhenaton. Your research is most welcome, thank you. Steve H.