Table of Nations and the Babylonian World Map

I discovered this paper by Assyriologist Wayne Horowitz the other day:

I don’t find all his assertions convincing (I think some of the ‘coastlines’ may be a reference to the Black Sea), but the correspondence between the Hebrew Iyyim and Babylonian Nagu leads me to suspect that the Hebrews probably believed the Japhethites lived in Islands beyond the sea, not on the same continent as Israel. Therefore the Israelites shared the same erroneous worldview as the Babylonian World Map, i.e a small, circular continent surrounded by a circular sea with islands beyond.

Thoughts? I feel this links in with the BioLogos Foundation’s article’s on the Raqia and Ancient Israelite Cosmology.

It is not allowing us to read from this book.

I will explain then, an early Aramaic Targum (Onkelos) equates the Isles of the Sea in Genesis 10:5 to an Aramaic cognate (Nagvath) to the Babylonian word ‘Nagu’, which referred to distant islands. When compared to v20 and 31, it is clear that Genesis 10:5 is a summary statement for ‘all’ of Japheth’s children, so all of Japheth’s children (including nations such as Media, Scythia and Cimmeria) were believed to be insular nations, an idea which is consistent with Babylonian understanding of geography.

Knowing that the Hebrews had a ANE biased worldview just like the Babylonians, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had this idea. They obviously had to try and explain about the “other people from over there” and such. They probably didn’t have a good full understanding of the Mediterranean world until the Greeks came around. Maybe they thought of some large islands in the “Great Sea” but not other continents.

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I tend to be very hesitant and cautious about stating with any kind of certainty what the ancient Hebrews (or any ancient people for that matter) did or didn’t believe unless their own belief is stated in explicit language. I would have to claim such familiarity, as to approach certainty, that their terms weren’t idiomatic, analogical, figures of speech, or the like.

I looked up and searched the Hebrew word, it seems rather broad in usage, could mean either “insular”, “coastal”, or even simply “maritime.” With such broad usage, I’d be very wary of drawing such specific conclusions. Occasionally the Septuagint seems to translate the word as “nations”, seeming to imply the scattered (perhaps “insular/scattered peoples”?) nations of the world?

It is an overused, but no less true, observation that we use the terms “sunrise” and “sunset.” And a historian living in the year 3950 after some great calamity had destroyed most of our civilization may sound very erudite in declaring that we primitive 21st century people still believed the sun rose and set and moved in the sky based on our use of such terminology. But we would merely laugh. “It’s called a figure of speech,” we would say.

So I myself am skeptical of the claims of most moderns scholars when they declare with similar certitude exactly what the ancients believed based on particular phraseology or language or another rather flimsy basis. I prefer to withhold judgment and, at best, consider instances like this interesting hypotheses or speculations at best, on which no one should base any further knowledge or doctrine.

Based on a quick linguistic search of the word, it seems not out of the question that the word “insular” may be used not unlike it is in English, perhaps to imply literally an “island,” but perhaps simply “detached, isolated, or scattered.” Hence I for one wouldn’t put too much weight on this particular speculation.

In this context it is clear they refer to islands, since they are equated early with the Babylonian Nagu

Dear Michell, Which authority is telling you not read any book?


They are equated with the Babylonian Nagy by whom??

By early Jewish texts

the link wasn’t working but it is working now

Considering how the table of nations seems to assume that the Minoans (Caphtorim came from Egypt, this would cast further doubt on the accuracy of the Table of Nations:

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