The Tell-El-Amarna Letters1 -- By: John M. P. Metcalf

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 054:215 (Jul 1897)
Article: The Tell-El-Amarna Letters1
Author: John M. P. Metcalf


The Tell-El-Amarna Letters1

Prof. John M. P. Metcalf

II. We turn now to letters from vassal princes in Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine, from a great many different cities in all parts of these countries. They were all in a relation of dependence upon Egypt,—many of them being governors of Egyptian provinces, or rulers of cities acknowledging the suzerainty of the Pharaohs. As such they address the king as “my lord,” and sign themselves “your servant.” Despite very many letters, it is exceedingly difficult to give a true picture of the state of Egyptian possessions in Palestine. The tablets are often badly mutilated,—often just where they seem about to give valuable information. Where many letters are found from one author,—as, for example, Rib-Addi of Gebal, from whom there are about sixty letters,—it is not possible to arrange them in chronological order with any degree of certainty. Then again it is hard to tell whom to believe when two men tell facts inconsistent with one another. Identification of geographical names is not always possible. Still we may learn much, and often the state of affairs is not veiled in darkness. In briefly continuing our summary we shall speak

of these letters in two groups—a Northern and a Southern group.

1. Affairs in the North.—To begin with, we are led to the conclusion that the many professions of friendship on the part of Babylon and Mitani are not to be taken too literally. They must have realized that the hand of Egypt on Palestine, Phoenicia, and Syria especially, was relaxing, and they saw their own opportunity therein. They played a double game,—professing friendship to Egypt on the one hand, and on the other, seeking to further their own interests in the West by negotiations with various princes of influence, by sowing the seeds of discontent and revolt against Egypt, and by urging some to attack and appropriate the lands of those faithful to Egypt.

Thus Mitani and Kas̆, Babylonia, were in league with Abd-as̆rat and his sons, especially Aziru, of whom later.2 Again we are told3 that the latter parties were also playing into the hands of the Hittites. The Hittites were evidently here enlarging their dominions, and widening the circle of their influence. Their expedition into Mitani was, as we have seen, repulsed. Aziru, in three different letters,4 informs us that the king of Ḫatti has entered

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