The ulmán Temple in Jerusalem
In the el-Amarna letters No. 74 and 290 there is reference to a place read (by Knudtzon) Bet-NIN.IB. In Ages in Chaos, following Knudtzon, I understood that the reference was to Assyria (House of Nineveh).(1) I was unaware of an article by the eminent Assyriologist, Professor Jules Lewy, printed in the Journal of Biblical Literature under the title: The ulmán Temple in Jerusalem.(2)
From a certain passage in letter No. 290, written by the king of Jerusalem to the Pharaoh, Lewy concluded that this city was known at that time also by the name Temple of ulmán. Actually, Lewy read the ideogram that had much puzzled the researchers before him.(3) After complaining that the land was falling to the invading bands (habiru), the king of Jerusalem wrote: . . . and now, in addition, the capital of the country of Jerusalem its name is Bit ulmáni , the kings city, has broken away . . .(4) Beth ulmán in Hebrew, as Professor Lewy correctly translated, is Temple of ulmán. But, of course, writing in 1940, Lewy could not surmise that the edifice was the Temple of Solomon and therefore made the supposition that it was a place of worship (in Canaanite times) of a god found in Akkadian sources as Shelmi, Shulmanu, or Salamu.
The correction of the reading of Knudtzon (who was uncertain of his reading) fits well with the chronological reconstruction of the period. In Ages in Chaos (chapters vi-viii) I deal with the el-Amama letters; there it is shown that the king of Jerusalem whose name is variously read Ebed-Tov, Abdi-Hiba, etc. was King Jehoshaphat (ninth century). It was only to be expected that there would be in some of his letters a reference to the Temple of Solomon.
Also, in el-Amama letter No. 74, the king of Damascus, inciting his subordinate sheiks to attack the king of Jerusalem, commanded them to assemble in the Temple of ulmán.(5)
It was surprising to find in the el-Amama letters written in the fourteenth century that the capital of the land was already known then as Jerusalem (Urusalim) and not, as the Bible claimed for the . pre-Conquest period, Jebus or Salem.(6) Now, in addition, it was found that the city had a temple of ulmán in it and that the structure was of such importance that its name had been used occasionally for denoting the city itself. (Considering the eminence of the edifice, the house which king Solomon built for the Lord,(7) this was only natural.) Yet after the conquest by the Israelites under Joshua ben-Nun, the Temple of ulmán was not heard of.
Lewy wrote: Aside from proving the existence of a ulmán temple in Jerusalem in the first part of the 14th century B.C., this statement of the ruler of the region leaves no doubt that the city was then known not only as Jerusalem, but also as Bet ulmán.It is significant that it is only this name [Jerusalem] that reappears after the end of the occupation of the city by the Jebusites, which the ulmán temple, in all probability, did not survive.
The late Professor W. F. Albright advised me that Lewys interpretation cannot be accepted because ulmán has no sign of divinity accompanying it, as would be proper if it were the name of a god. But this only strengthens my interpretation that the temple of ulmán means Temple of Solomon.
In the Hebrew Bible the kings name has no terminal n. But in the Septuagint the oldest translation of the Old Testament the kings name is written with a terminal n; the Septuagint dates from the third century before the present era. Thus it antedates the extant texts of the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls not excluded.
Solomon built his Temple in the tenth century. In a letter
written from Jerusalem in the next (ninth) century, Solomons Temple
stood a good chance of being mentioned; and so it was.