Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sumerian Origins - The Military

If we consider the early history of the Sumerians with that of Biblical Nimrod, we see that Nimrod and his followers iniciated the first large scale military campaigns following the flood.  In the Book of Jasher we read:  "And Nimrod strengthened himself, and he rose up from amongst his brethren, and he fought the battles of his brethren against all their enemies round about.  And the Lord delivered all the enemies of his brethren in his hands, and God prospered him from time to time in his battles, and he reigned upon earth ...  And when Nimrod was forty years old, at that time there was a war between his brethren and the children of Japheth, so that they were in the power of their enemies.  And Nimrod went forth at that time, and he assembled all the sons of Cush and their families, about four hundred and sixty men, and he hired also from some of his friends and acquaintances about eighty men, and be gave them their hire, and he went with them to battle, and when he was on the road, Nimrod strengthened the hearts of the people that went with him.  And he said to them, Do not fear, neither be alarmed, for all our enemies will be delivered into our hands, and you may do with them as you please.  And all the men that went were about five hundred, and they fought against their enemies, and they destroyed them, and subdued them, and Nimrod placed standing officers over them in their respective places.  And he took some of their children as security, and they were all servants to Nimrod and to his brethren, and Nimrod and all the people that were with him turned homeward ...  And Nimrod dwelt in Shinar, and he reigned securely, and he fought with his enemies and he subdued them, and he prospered in all his battles, and his kingdom became very great.  And all nations and tongues heard of his fame, and they gathered themselves to him, and they bowed down to the earth, and they brought him offerings, and he became their lord and king, and they all dwelt with him in the city at Shinar, and Nimrod reigned in the earth over all the sons of Noah, and they were all under his power and counsel." 1
Thus Nimrod subdued his neighbors and may have enslaved many of them to assist in his construction projects and build his kingdom and influence.
Nibley feels that Nimrod was originally righteous and favored of God.  We can see this in the above quote where God prospers him in his early battles.  Nibley also suggests that the Lord revealed the bow and arrow to Nimrod, to be used for defense against the threatening wild animals. 2  But then Nimrod realizes that he can use this weapon to conquer his enemies and subdue his neighbors. In this way he gradually turned to the "dark side" and gained control of neighboring nations.  He became a "hunter of men" and abandon his rightousness.  
Regarding the Sumerians, Kramer notes that their military overcame their enemies through the use of a strong infantry accompanied by the ancient war chariot.  "The [Sumerian] kings established a regular army with the chariot the ancient 'tank' as the main offensive weapon and a heavily armored infantry which attacked in phalanx formation. Sumer's victories and conquests were due largely to this superiority (1010).” 
Through their military exploits the Sumerians, at one time or another, controlled much of Mesopotamia. However there was always such rivalry between the various city-states that made up the coalition, that they were as often as not warring among themselves, instead of against a common enemy. This weakness eventually resulted in their downfall.

1.  The Book of Jasher 7:31-45.
2.  Hugh Nibley, Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints,1994, p. 18 - 19.

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