Meet My Friend Idrimi

The Bible in the British Museum

© Trustees of the British Museum

Handsome, isn’t he?  His glass eyes are kind of worn these days, but otherwise he has that old-worldly charm.  These days, he lives in the British Museum in London (room 57, if you want to go visit him).  If you want to get a closer look, you can click on his picture and see a larger version on their website.

Idrimi goes back to about 1550 B.C., about 150 years before Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.  He was found in Alalakh, in northern Syria.  Besides his dashing good looks, he is interesting to those who know the Bible because a scribe named Sharruwa wrote Idrimi’s life story all over his statue.

It turns out Idrimi had to run away from home for a while, before he came back and became the king of Alalakh.  Where did he go?  A place called “Canaan.”  He also fought a war, after he was established on his throne, against some people called “Hittites.”

Some people say that the Bible is just fiction, that its historical accounts aren’t worth anything.  They put together theories saying it was all written a lot later, that Moses didn’t really write the first five books around 1400 B.C.  Things like the land of Canaan, hardly ever mentioned after the first seven books of the Bible (because it came to be called the land of “Israel”, after all), could just be inventions by someone writing around 700-900 B.C.  These scholars would tell us you just can’t trust the Bible for historical facts.

That might have been a neat theory, if it weren’t for people like Idrimi.  What a mess — didn’t he know about those theories?  He should have stayed buried in the sand, or something.  The name of “Canaan” was a very old historical fact after all.  Worse (for the theories, anyway), Genesis and Exodus don’t talk about it as an old historical fact, they talk about it as the current name of the land.  It’s almost as if those books were written by someone who was living way back in history, long before 900 B.C., back when the land was still called “Canaan” — maybe even somebody named Moses?

Some people used to say that there were never any Hittites, that the Bible was just wrong when it described them.  There couldn’t have been Hittites, they said, because we have no historical records of them.  It turns out that lots of people (like Idrimi) knew about the Hittites — and Idrimi and others have been popping up in archaeological finds all over the place in the last 150 years.

So, there was a “Canaan” and there were “Hittites,” way back when — back in the days when the Bible tells us that Moses lived, and wrote the first five books, and mentioned “Canaan” and “Hittites.”  That’s rather annoying.  Don’t people like Idrimi know how hard those skeptical scholars worked on their theories?

According to T.C. Mitchell, archaeologists have found records of “Canaanites” going back to the 18th century B.C., but Idrimi is the oldest reference we have to a land of “Canaan.”

You can read more about Idrimi here: Statue of Idrimi, British Museum.  Image used in accordance with the British Museum Terms of Use.

Lord willing, I’ll be posting more items of interest in the coming weeks.  Idrimi also talks about the Hapiru people — I hope to write more on them later.

My primary resource for these posts will be the book, The Bible in the British Museum:  Interpreting the Evidence, by T.C. Mitchell.  I would often differ from his interpretation of the evidence, but I’ve found it a very useful reference.

Summary post for the series, with links to other articles on Bible-related artefacts:
The Bible in the British Museum

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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2 Responses to Meet My Friend Idrimi

  1. Lujack Skylark says:

    Hittite Chronology made easy when Egyptian and Biblical Chronology is in alignment. Hittite king Mursilas I 1625-1595 B.C. Hantilas 1595-1564 B.C. Zidanta 1564-1551 B.C. Ammuna 1551-1529 B.C. Huzziya 1529-1513 B.C. Telepinus 1513-1489 B.C. Tudhaliyas I 1489-1467 B.C. Arunwandas I 1467-1444 B.C. Tudhaliyas II 1444-1428 B.C. father of Suppiluliumas I according to poem written by Mursilas II. Suppiluliumas I 1428-1392 B.C. pays Egyptian kings Amenhotep III 1462-1424 B.C. and Akenaton 1424-1407 B.C. tribute.Suppiluliumas starts a rebellion against Tushratta (Cushan-Rishathaim Judges 3:8) after Israel’s judge Othniel in his 8th year of reign 1410 B.C. drives Cushan-Rishathaim out of Israel.

    Othniel reigned 1418-1378 B.C. Ehud reigned 1378-1298 B.C. 18th year 1360 B.C. he defeats the Moabites 1298-1258 B.C.Barak and Deborah reign as judges. Defeat Jabin the Canaanite in 1278 B.C. Gideon reigns as judge 1258-1218 B.C. Gideon’s 7th year 1251 B.C. he defeats the Syrians children of the East. Lets see how this plays out how Judges fits in 1 Kings 6:1 chronology.

    Egyptian king Semenkare 1407-1406 B.C. Egyptian king Tut 1406-1396 B.C. Egyptians fight the Hittites. Tut dies of malaria. His wife Ankhesenamun wants to marry a Hittite prince. Suppiluliumas sends her Zannanza. Egyptian priest Ay has Zannanza killed. Ay reigns 1396-1392 B.C. Hittites go to war against Ay. Egyptian prisoners of war carry plague. Suppiluliumas I and Arunwandas II 1392-1391 B.C. die of plague. Hittite king Mursilas II reigns 1391-1363 B.C. Hittite king Muwatallis 1363-1337 B.C.fights Egyptian king Seti I 1360-1347 B.C. and Ramses II 1347-1280 B.C. Hittite king Mursilas III 1337-1330 B.C. Hattusilas III 1330-1301 B.C. daughter marries Ramses II. Assyrian king Shalmanesar I 1314-1284 B.C. wars with both Hittite king Hattusilas III and Tudhaliyas III 1301-1274 B.C. Tudhaliyas III unites with the Amorites living in Lebanon. Amorite/Canaanite Jabin oppresses Israel for 20 years. 1298-1278 B.C. Hittite king Arunwandas III 1274-1262 B.C. Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I 1283-1247 B.C. conquers Syria sending the children of the east into Israel and Egypt. (Judges 6:3) Gideon defeats then in 1251 B.C. Queen Tausert 1251-1249 B.C. falls in love with her Syrian butler Bay. Hittite king Suppiluliumas II 1262-1237 B.C. the Hittite empire falls to the Sea Peoples in Ramses III’s 8th year in 1237 B.C. Ramses III reign (Biblical Chronology) 1245-1213 B.C.Hope you like the research.

  2. Lujack Skylark says:

    A few historians state Idrimi lived sometime around 1500-1450 B.C. Idrimi was king of Alalakh. My research on Egyptian chronology places Egyptian king Amenhotep II reign at 1495-1471 B.C. Amenhotep II received a dancing girl from the king of Alalakh,yet history does not say what Alalakh king gave Amenhotep II the girl.

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