Westminster Theological Journal 19 (1956) 170-84.

        Copyright © 1956 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.   




                                                SECOND ARTICLE


                                             MEREDITH G. KLINE


C. An Ethno-Professional Interpretation.


It has appeared that the currently dominant identifications

of the ha-BI-ru as a social class of one sort or another are

inadequate. They fail to discover a common denominator for

all the ha-BI-ru (and the ha-BI-ru alone) that will satisfy all

the known documents. The investigation must turn to other

possibilities. Was ethnic unity the peculiar stamp of the

ha-BI-ru? Was their hallmark the practice of a particular



1. Ethnic Unity. Examination of the morphological data

led to the conclusion that the variety of forms found for the

word ha-BI-ru is most readily explained in terms of variations

of the proper name for an ethnic group.113

Other features point in this same direction:

There are indications of family relationships among the

ha-BI-ru114 and of self-contained communities or tribal organi-

zation in the ha-BI-ru pattern of life.115

The word ha-BI-ru is used in contrast to particular ethnic

terms and, therefore, as at least the equivalent of an ethnic

term itself. Repeatedly in Hittite rituals and treaties the

ha-BI-ru are paired with the Lulahhu (the people of Lullu).

In one ritual116  this pair appears in a list of social classes,


    113 See supra, WTJ XIX, pp. 9-11.

    114 See ibid. p. 21, n. 98 and cf. JEN V, 452, 453, 456, 465; SMN 2145

for mention of ha-BI-ru women with their children or alone.

   115 E. g., at Ugarit, Alalah and among the Hittites. DeVaux (RB 63,

1956, pp. 264-265) aptly compares the ha-BI-ru among whom Idri-mi

found political asylum to the tribe in Retenu in which Sinuhe passed his

years of exile.

    116 No. 91 in Bottero, op. cit.


HA-BI-RU                                          171


suggesting that "the Lulahhu and the ha-BI-ru" had become

a cliche among the Hittites for the social category of foreign-

ers.117 Such usage, however, would be only local and secondary

in the case of the ha-BI-ru as it obviously must be in the case

of the Lulahhu. As a matter of fact, once it has been estab-

lished that the ha-BI-ru cannot successfully be identified as

a social class, all evidence that they were regarded in particular

areas as one specific group of foreigners,118  becomes so much

support for the interpretation of them as a specific ethnic


Certain Egyptian texts also mention ha-BI-ru in lists con-

taining ethnic elements. In the Memphis stele Amenophis II

lists 3,600 ‘pr (i. e., ha-BI-ru) among those he took captive

on his second Asiatic campaign. They are preceded by 127119

princes of Rtnu (Syria-Palestine) and 179 brothers of princes.

They are followed by 15,200 .S3s.w (Bedouin of the desert

region adjoining Egypt to the east), 36,300 Hr.w (Hurrians,

used in the sense of the settled population of Syria-Palestine)

and 15,070 Ngs (people of Nuhassi). The intermediate posi-

tion of the ha-BI-ru in sequence and numerically between the

aristocracy and the ethnic terms would make it precarious to

determine from this text alone whether the ha-BI-ru were a

social class or ethnic group. Similar ambiguity is present in the

testamentary enactment left by Ramses III in which he cites

the properties accumulated by the temples of Thebes, Heli-

opolis, and Memphis through his benefactions. In the Helio-

politan section the serfs of the temple are listed as follows:

"warriors, sons of (foreign) princes, maryannu, 'pr.w, and the

settlers who are in this place: 2,093 persons”.120 What is clear

is that the ha-BI-ru were in the eyes of the Egyptians an

easily identifiable group distinct from the Bedouin and the

general population of Syria-Palestine--a fact incompatible


   117 Perhaps more specifically, foreign servants. They are located in this

list on the border of the upper and lower strata of society. In the somewhat

similar list, KUB XXXV, 45, 11, 2 ff., they are closely associated with the


   118 See supra, WTJ XIX, pp. 18 ff.

   119 Or 217 or 144.

   120  Papyrus Harris I, 31, 8. Wilson (Ancient Near Eastern Texts, (Prince-

ton, 1950), p. 261, n. 7) regards all these serfs as foreign. Posener (in

Bottero, op. cit., p. 170) considers the "settlers" Egyptians.




with the theory that the ha-BI-ru were an indistinct social

class.121 Of course in Egypt they were slaves122 but this like

their foreign status among the Hittites was a local and

temporary condition. It is clear, too, that their presence in

Egypt is as prisoners of war belonging to a military corps

from Syria- Palestine,123 which was somehow distinct from

other such troops both general (e. g., the Hr.w) and elite (e. g.,

maryannu). One plausible explanation of their distinctive-

ness would be that it was ethnic.124

From the Mesopotamian area too come examples of

ha-BI-ru used as the equivalent of an ethnic term. In the

Mari texts, for example, the ha-BI-ru are distinguished from

such ethnic groups as the Beni-laminu, Beni-Simal, and "the

men of Talhaya".125 So again in the Palestinian area the


    121 G. Posener, ibid., p. 175, observes that in the case of the term 'pr.w,

"Les determinatifs les designent simplement comme des strangers; it ne

s'ajoute aucun signe qui caracterise une classe sociale, un genre de vie ou

une occupation, comme on en trouve, d'une fagon reguliere ou sporadique,

apres des appellatifs d'emprunt comme mri, mrjn, mskb, n'rn, kt (n), etc."

According to Albright, the foreign warrior determinative is used on the

smaller Beisan stele of Seti I.

    122 Cf. also the stele of Ramses IV in the Wadi Hammamat recording

the personnel of an expedition sent to procure blocks of stone (Couyat

and Montet, Inscriptions hieroglyphiques du Ouadi Hammamat, no. 12).

The high priest of Amon heads the list followed by nine civil and military

officers (Nos. 2-10), 412 subordinate officers (Nos. 11-16, 18, 21, 22),

5,000 men of the army (No. 17), 800 'pr.w (No. 19), 2,000 slaves (No. 20),

130 quarrymen and stone-cutters (No. 25) and ten skilled artificers and

artists (Nos. 23, 24, 26, 27). Similarly, two hieratic papyri from Memphis

dated to the reign of Ramses II depict 'pr.w drawing stone. (Papyrus

Leiden I, 348, recto 6:6; 349, recto 15).

    123 The Beisan stele attests the presence of some ha-BI-ru in that area

near 1300 B. C. and the Papyrus Harris 500 account of the taking of

Joppa locates ha-BI-ru there in the 15th century (though the manuscript

itself is 13th century).

   124 If the 12th century proper name, p3-'pr (see no. 191 in Bottero,

op. cit.) has anything to do with the ha-BI-ru, it might be an indication of

their ethnic distinctiveness since names of the type article plus substantive

are often ethnic (e. g., p3-hr); they are, however, also professional (e. g.,

p3-hm-ntr, "the priest").

   125 See supra, WTJ XIX, p. 14, n. 66. Cf. A 109. Contrary to Bottero

(op. cit., p. 188) ha-BI-ru is not shown to be an appellative by the Mari

texts and others which designate certain towns or countries as the place of

proximate origin or residence of the ha-BI-ru. The ha-BI-ru of these

HA-BI-RU                                          173


ha-BI-ru, according to the Amarna and other evidence, were

a well-defined group which could be contrasted with ethnic

elements like the Sutu, native Palestinian troops, and "men

of the land of Kashu".126

Another feature which comes as no surprise on the assump-

tion that the ha-BI-ru were an ethnic group is the mention of

the "gods of the ha-BI-ru" in the Hittite treaties.127 It would

not be as common for inter-ethnic professional groups to have

guild deities128 and it is unlikely that a general social class had

its own gods.129  Relevant here is the god dha-BI-ru found in

an Assyrian Gotteradressbuch130 and in Hittite ritual.131 Pos-

sibly the similarity of dha-BI-ru and LUha-BI-ru is accidental132

but otherwise there could be evidence here of the tribal

character of the ha-BI-ru in the appearance of their eponymous

tribal god.133


texts may also be understood as a distinct ethnic element not indigenous

to, or only temporarily located in, these places.

    126 Cf. e. g., EA 195:24 ff. ; 246:5 ff. ; 318:10 ff.

    127 Gustavs (ZAW, N. F. 3, 1926, pp. 25 ff.) disposed of the opinion of

Jirku (Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, 1921, pp. 246 ff.; 1922, p. 38; and

Der Alte Orient, 1924, pp. 18 ff.) that the proper translation is "the gods

Ha-BI-ru". Jirku was compelled to regard as a scribal error: ilaniMES sa

LUSA-GAZ (Keilschrifttexte aus Boghazkoi (hereafter KBo) I, 2, Rs. 27;

cf. I, 3, IV, 5). Nor could he explain the genitive found in all cases but

one (excluding, of course, the use of the ideogram). The one exception is

a Hittite nominative: (KBo V, 3, I, 56) which Gustavs treated adjectivally.

(Cf. Goetze in Bottero, op. cit., p. 81). Might this reflect the fact that what

appeared like a nominative elsewhere, i. e., ha-BI-ru, was a shortened

gentilic? Gustavs also proved groundless Jirku's view that the ilani was

a plural of majesty.

    128 In India certain professions have patron gods.

    129 Greenberg (op. cit., p. 87, n. 9) argues that the summary type formula

used to designate the gods of the ha-BI-ru points to an agglomeration of

gods from diverse sources, not to a single pantheon of an ethnically unified

group. That this is gratuitous is apparent from the use of the same sum-

mary formula for the gods of the ethnically unified Lulahhu.

    130 KAV 42, II, 9. It is part of a corpus known as the "Description of

the city of Ashur" and dates from the 7th century B. C.

    131 Collection of tablets found at Boghazkoi (hereafter Bo) 5239:7 and


    132 W. von Soden (in Bottero, op. cit., p. 135) says of the Neo-Assyrian

dha-BI-ru that it represents the Akkadian ha'iru, hawiru, "spouse".

    133 So Jirku, op. cit. Of uncertain relation to dha-BI-ru and LUha-BI-ru

are the personal names ha-BI-ra-am (of Old Akkadian texts), ha-BI-re/ri



There are also instances of peace treaty and covenant

oaths governing the relation of ha-BI-ru groups to kings.134

These are compatible with an ethnic but not with a social class


The ethnic view is not without problems. Often urged

against it is the onomastic evidence, for ha-BI-ru names range

inside and outside the Semitic sphere.135 Caution, however, is

required in drawing ethnic conclusions from onomastic data.

A migratory group will adopt names current in their new land,

for imitation of the higher social strata is a common human

foible.136 According to an ethnic interpretation of the ha-BI-ru

they will everywhere have assimilated their names to the

indigenous population except, as far as the evidence goes, at

Nuzu where they are apparently recently arrived from a

Semitic area and even there the process of assimilation to

Hurrian names may be seen to have begun.


and ha-[BI]-ir-di-il-la (from Nippur), ha-BI-ra, ha-BI-i-ra, and ha-BI-ir-

til-la (from Nuzu), and the Egyptian personal names containing the

elementpr. Gustavs (ZAW, N. F. 17, 1940, pp. 158, 159) judged ha-BI-

ir-til-la to be "H. is lord" and thus further evidence of dha-BI-ru. If that

were correct, the fact that -tilla is a common element in Hurrian names

would suggest Hurrian associations for dha-BI-ru (cf. supra, WTJ XIX,

p. 4, n. 17). Moreover, most of the Nuzians who bear the names ha-BI-ra

and ha-BI-ir-til-la appear to have Hurrian relatives. And along with

dha-BI-ru in the Assyrian Gotteradressbuch are mentioned the Hurrian

deities Seris and Hurris (cf. Albright, BASOR 81, 1941, p. 20. n. 20).

Problematic, however, for Gustavs' interpretation are the facts that in

every other case the word compounded with -tilla is verbal or adjectival

and tilla is itself a Hurrian deity or surrogate for one.

    134 Cf. supra, WTJ XIX, p. 17 and n. 84; and P. A. Pohl, Orientalia 25,

1956, p. 429. See below for further treatment of these texts as evidence of

the ha-BI-ru professional character.

    135 "The analyzable Old Babylonian names are Akkadian; those from

Alalalb are, with few exceptions, non-Semitic; one of the two from Anatolia

is non-Semitic; from Babylon and Ashshur of the Middle period -Kassite.

At Nuzi H. names, mostly Akkadian, differ in a marked degree from those

of the local (in this case, Hurrian) population . . .". So Greenberg sum-

marizes. op. cit., p. 87.

    136 While granting that this is a "proven tendency", Greenberg, ibid.,

n. 9, says that the edge of the above argument has "been dulled by frequent

use". It may be the beginning of scholarship to realize that an accumula-

tion of authorities does not validate a view but it is a bit novel to judge

that popularity invalidates one.

HA-BI-RU                                          175


The wide dispersal of the ha-BI-ru throughout the Fertile

Crescent and adjacent areas which has earned for them in

modern studies the epithet "ubiquitous" has also been thought

a difficulty for the theory of ethnic unity. But it is reasonable

to envisage this ubiquity of the ha-BI-ru as the sequel of an

ethnic wave that dashed across the Fertile Crescent before

even the earliest extant mention of ha-BI-ru in Babylonia.137

If so the question arises whether their ultimate origins lay in

the desert enclosed by the Crescent or in the tracts beyond.

In opposing the ethnic view Greenberg appeals to what he

believes to be evidence in the Amarna letters of accretions to

the ha-BI-ru ranks. Thus, Abdi-Ashirta is called the GAZ-

man;138 "the townsmen of Lachish, after committing an offense

against the king, are said to `have become H.'"139; and we

read of Amanhatbi that he "fled to the SA-GAZ men”.140 If

Canaanites could so readily become ha-BI-ru (or SA-GAZ)

how can ha-BI-ru denote an ethnic status? The texts in

question, however, mean no more than that certain leaders and

villagers of Canaan in rebelling against Pharaoh and his

loyalists identified themselves with the efforts of the ha-BI-ru

in Canaan. By making common cause with the SA-GAZ these

Canaanites did not actually become SA-GAZ but became, in

respect to their relationship to the Pharaoh (the recipient of

these letters), "like GAZ men" (i. e., rebels).141

The major considerations bearing on the possibility of

ha-BI-ru ethnic unity have now been surveyed. The hypoth-

esis which accounts with the least difficulty for all the facts


     137 DeVaux, ibid., p. 265, compares the similarly widespread Sutu and

Arameans. Cf. also the Terahites who left elements of the family in Ur

and Haran as they migrated to Canaan (Gen. 11:27 ff.). The notion of a

general westward movement of the ha-BI-ru from Babylonia about the

Fertile Crescent is too much dependent on the accident of archival dis-

covery. Even according to present evidence the ha-BI-ru are found from

Sumer to Alalah and Alishar by the 19th and 18th centuries.

    138 EA 91:5.

    139 So Greenberg, op. cit., p. 75. The text, EA 288:44, reads: ardutuMES

ip-su a-na L[U.M]ES[h]a-[B]I-[r]i.

    140 EA 185:63.

    141 In following Abdi Ashirta the people of Ammiya are said to have

become "like GAZ men": i-ba-as-su ki-ma LU.MESGAZ (EA 74:28, 29;

cf. 67:16, 17).



is that the ha-BI-ru--at least the characteristic core of

them--did represent one ethnic stock.

2. Professional Fraternity. Ethnic unity need not have

been the only or even the dominant element in the Gestalt

called ha-BI-ru. Frequently in the extant record of their

exploits it is their professional role which occupies the fore-

ground and that role is military. In fact, they are almost

everywhere and always engaged as professional warriors. They

man the garrisons at Ur, Larsa, Babylon, Susa, and in Ana-

tolia; conduct razzias along the Euphrates and throughout

Canaan; and endure the fate of captives of war in Egypt.

Especially illuminating are the new pages in ha-BI-ru history

from Alalah and Boghazkoi.

At Alalah the term ha-BI-ru (or SA-GAZ) denotes the

members of a particular military corps. The available details

concerning the constituency of this ha-BI-ru corps contradict

all identifications of the ha-BI-ru as a social class such as the

hupsu. The Hurrianized society of Alalah was divided into

distinct social classes. The maryannu occupied the top rung,

followed by a free class of tradesmen, the ehelena. Next came

the rural dwellers called sabe name, subdivided into the hupsu

and haniahu. There were also, as always, the poor (muskenu)

and the slaves.142 Now the significant thing is that the

membership of the ha-Bl-ru corps cut across these classes.143

It comprised ehelena,144 muskenu,145 slave,146 and even the



    142 See Wiseman, AT, pp. 10 ff.; Speiser, JAOS 74, 1954, pp. 18 ff.;

Mendelsohn, BASOR 139, 1955, pp. 9 ff. Wiseman equates only the hupsu

with the sabe name, associating the haniahu with the ehelena.

    143 Cf. supra, WTJ XIX, p. 16 and n. 78. Eissfeldt recognized this

(Forschungen and Fortschritte 28:3, March 1954, pp. 80 ff.), but Greenberg

blurs the situation when he comments that the SA-GAZ "are grouped

with a military class composed of ehele and hanyahe" (op. cit., p. 65).

    144 AT 182:27; cf. 180:27.

    145 AT 180:31; 182:29.

    146 AT 182:14.

    147 According to the probable implications of the charioteers in the

ha-BI-ru corps (AT 180:24; 182:19; 183:6; 226:1) and the most probable

interpretation of the list of family chiefs (AT 198, esp. line 42; cf. supra,

WTJ XIX, p. 16., n. 80). Since the maryannu status was obtainable by

marriage and royal grant as well as by inheritance and since this class had

HA-BI-RU                                          177


Alongside the ha-BI-ru as a second military body at Alalah

is the sanannu corps.148 The two groups have much in com-

mon. The sanannu corps too is composed of members of the

various social categories. Both groups consist in part of

charioteers. The members of both come from towns around

Alalah and farther afield.149 Both are coordinated with towns

in civil administration. Thus in a cattle census the totals are

given in terms of the sheep, rams, and asses belonging to

Alalah, Mukish,150  the SA-GAZ, and the sanannu.151

What the distinction was between the ha-BI-ru and the

sanannu corps is uncertain. Perhaps it lay in the area of

military specialization.152 Another possibility, however, in

line with the apparent ethnic unity of the ha-BI-ru would be

that the distinction was (at least on the ha-BI-ru side) ethnic,

as in the case of David's Pelethites and Cherethites.

Once again in the two new documents153 from the Old

Hittite royal archives at Hattusha154 the SA-GAZ stand forth

as a distinct corps on a level with other regular branches of

the Hittite military. In one document155 the SA-GAZ troops


no rigid ethnic barrier (cf. R. T. O'Callaghan, Aram Naharaim, Rome,

1948, p. 66) there is no difficulty in the presence of ha-BI-ru regarded as

substantially an ethnic unity among the maryannu.

    148 See AT 183, 226, and 350.

    149 See AT 145 and 341.

    150 Wiseman suggests that Mu-ki (-is) -he be read for Mu-ki-he.

252 AT 350; cf. 352. The sanannu total is elsewhere (AT 341) itemized in

terms of sixteen towns around Alalah.

    152 Albright (apud Wiseman, op. cit., p. 11, n. 4), relating the sanannu

of Alalah to the tnn of the Ugaritic texts, compares Akkadian sananu and

suggests tnn, "strive", as the common stem; he translates sanannu as

"archers". Gordon (Ugaritic Manual, Rome, 1955, no. 2049) renders the

Ugaritic tnn, "a kind of soldier"; and the plural, "members of a certain


    153 At the time of this writing these documents have not yet been pub-

lished and I am greatly indebted to Prof. H. Otten for his kindness in

making available to me his article Zwei althethitische Belege zu den Hapiru

(SA-GAZ) shortly to appear in Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie, in which he

presents the texts in transliteration and translation along with an excellent

discussion. Cf. P. A. Pohl's reference to these texts in Orientalia 25, 1956,

p. 428.

    154 The modern Boghazkoi.

    155 141/d=KUB XXXVI, 106.



are seen joining the troops of Hatti in a pledge of allegiance

to the city of Hattusha. Their commitment assumes the form

of a self-maledictory oath, the characteristic covenant form

found in the ritual of oath taking for Hittite soldiers.156  In

the other document,157  it is the rights of the SA-GAZ troops

which are guaranteed, and that by means of a solemn oath

taken by the sovereign. This disclosure of the official status of

that ha-BI-ru within the political establishments at Boghazkoi

and Alalah158 suggests that much of the ha-BI-ru activity

which has appeared to be independent marauding was directed

from the capital of one of the ambitious empires of the day.

3. Proposed Solution. Two elements are integral to the

entity called ha-BI-ru: ethnic unity and military fraternity.

In the extant records the military connotation is often


Comparable to this dual character of the ha-BI-ru is that of

the maryannu. Professionally, they were the experts in chari-

otry; ethnically, the characteristic core and majority of them

belonged to the Indo-Aryan stock which constituted the ruling

and patrician class in the unusual symbiosis of Mitannian

society. The maryannu and ha-BI-ru categories are not com-

pletely parallel since, as noted, the ha-BI-ru corps cut across

the social classes and included maryannu. Nevertheless, the

maryannu do offer a social phenomenon in the immediate

historical context of the ha-BI-ru analogous to that presented

here as an interpretation of the ha-BI-ru, particularly with

respect to the essential point of the correlativity of ethnic and

professional character in one group.160   And if the ha-BI-ru


    156 Cf. KBo VI, 34 and its duplicate KUB VII, 59.

    157 298/n+756/f.

    158 Cf. also their employment by governments in the early Babylonian

administrative texts and in some of the Mari and Amarna letters.

    159 Locally the name develops an even more specialized military sig-

nificance in the LUha-BI-ri officer at Alalah (AT 164); cf. the SA-GAZ

officer at Ugarit (RS 15109).

    16o If it be the case that the ha-BI-ru were not ethnically one but that

there were additions from various ethnic groups to the original ethnic

stock of the military organization, that too would find its parallel in the

maryannu who, though they were predominantly Indo-Aryan, were not

exclusively so (cf. above n. 147).

HA-BI-RU                                          179


and maryannu were kindred phenomena, the ha-BI-ru will

have been, within the Mitannian orbit at least, a kind of


This interpretation has the advantage of being based on

that which is pervasive rather than elusive in the texts. At

the same time it is able to account for the various types of

polarity in the ha-BI-ru career. Readily understood for

example are both their settled and free-booting phases. The

latter isolated from the former has led to the theory that the

ha-BI-ru were a second millennium B. C. counterpart to the

condottieri of the late Middle Ages.162  This theory properly

recognizes the family structure and fighting profession of the

ha-BI-ru but is one-sided in not doing justice to the phase of

their history which finds them a long since settled and re-

spected element in a mature cultural complex. Both phases

find room, however, within the historical vicissitudes of an

ethnic but far-flung group, in the shaping of whose life the

controlling factor was a committal to the military profession.

The pursuit of happiness for them might become the pursuit

of trouble and a hectic chase it led the ha-BI-ru at times. But

militarists who identify themselves permanently with a par-

ticular political cause can there achieve honor and influence.

Indeed, the warriors and the priests generally constituted the

two highest social groups. Such an exchange of loyalty and

recognition marks the status of the ha-BI-ru in the Old

Hittite empire and especially in the Alalah-Ugarit sector of

the Mitannian hegemony.

The Nuzu documents have appeared to present a puzzling

exception to the military pattern of ha-BI-ru life. If so, was it

that though militarists they found no call for their professional

services at Nuzu and were obliged to seek more peaceful

means of support? The difficulty of making such a transition

might well have compelled them to give up a measure of their

freedom for a measure of security, as was involved in accepting

the terms of their servant contracts. Or was it (as is also

possible on an ethno-professional approach) that some indi-

viduals belonging to the ha-BI-ru ethnic whole did not


    161 For the importance of the guild system in the Ras Shamra texts see

J. Gray, The Hibbert Journal, January, 1955, pp. 115 ff.

   162 So, e. g., Albright, JAOS 48, 1928, pp. 183-185.



participate in the military guild? Obviously in this category

are the ha-BI-ru women who appear alone or as widows

(apparently) with children.163

As a matter of fact, however, traces of the military motif

can be detected even in the Nuzu episode.164 Mitanni had

only recently secured the Nuzu area and would want to

maintain its military strength there. It was a halsu district,

an area of farms and hamlets defended by towers and fortified

houses. Such areas were occupied in part by military veterans

settled as feudal tenants and were, in effect, frontier canton-

ments.165  Moreover, Tehiptilla, from whose archives the

majority of the ha-BI-ru contracts come was the first halsuhlu

official appointed over the Nuzu district and it would not be

unusual if business conducted in the name of his house were

actually official state business.166  In addition, there are Nuzu

ration lists which deal with certain ha-BI-ru collectively,

citing provisions assigned for them and (significantly for the

possibility of a military role) for their horses. The form of

these lists recalls the Old Babylonian administrative texts

dealing with ha-BI-ru mercenaries.

A unifying strand is suggested, therefore, for all the ha-BI-ru

documents in an ethno-professional interpretation. But within

that identifying unity there is considerable diversity as to

local and secondary conditions. In order to describe more

adequately the place of the ha-BI-ru in the history of their

age it is necessary to ask not simply what? but when? and

where? Especially important is the question of the association

of the ha-BI-ru with the Hurrians.


    163 See n. 114 above. Cf. the SA-GAZ women singers mentioned in a

Hittite text (no. 138 in Greenberg, op. cit.).

    164 Not, however, by regarding the ha-BI-ru there as prisoners of war

(so Chiera). Such a supposition is contradicted by the voluntary terms of

the contracts (cf. ramaniu and pisu u lisansu) and by a text like JEN V,

455, which indicates that the ha-BI-ru Mar-Ishtar had come north from

Akkad apart from any military venture.

    165 Cf. J. Lewy, HUCA XXVII, 1956, pp. 56, 57.

    166 Cf. J. Lewy, op. cit. XIV, 1939, p. 601, n. 75. Possibly the halsuhlu

official at Nuzu had a military as well as judicial function. There are

indications that the halsuhlu was at times at least a garrison commander.

(cf. J. Finkelstein, Journal of Cuneiform Studies (hereafter JCS) 7, 1953,

p. 116, n. 30).

HA-BI-RU                                          181


4. Political Affiliation. Ha-BI-ru and Hurrian careers in

the Near East are roughly coterminous geographically and

chronologically. The Mitannian kingdom extended at times

from east of the Tigris to Anatolia and ha-BI-ru are found

from one end of it to the other. Beyond these borders, both

ha-BI-ru and Hurrian individuals and influence penetrated

among the Hittites and into Palestine and Egypt as well as

into Babylonia. Chronologically, the ha-BI-ru are discovered

in the Fertile Crescent from the Ur III period, and probably

somewhat earlier, to almost the end of the second millennium

B. C., although evidence of the ha-BI-ru in strength vanishes

by the close of the 14th century. The date of the Hurrian

arrival is a moot point but they too are clearly on the scene

well before the Ur III period.167 The rise of the Hittite

Suppiluliuma in the second quarter of the 14th century marked

the end of Mitannian strength in the west and the rise of the

Assyrian Shalmaneser I a century later in the east terminated

Hurrian political significance.

In short, there is a general contemporaneity of ha-BI-ru

and Hurrian careers, with the political importance of each

declining sharply by about the close of the 14th century.

Bottero mentions the disappearance of the ha-BI-ru from

history at the end of the second millennium as a difficult

problem168 but a far more significant problem is why the

evidence of ha-BI-ru community organization and military

enterprise disappears about the end of the 14th century.169

And it is difficult to divorce the answer to that question from

the simultaneous collapse of the Mitannian empire.

The clue provided by ha-BI-ru--Hurrian contemporaneity

is confirmed by the evidences of their cultural-political con-

geniality.170  By way of contrast, the welcome afforded the


    167 There were two Hurrian kings at Urkish in the Upper Khabur area

as early as the third millennium. (See J. Finkelstein JCS 9, 1955, p. 6;

cf. O'Callaghan, op. cit., p. 47).

    168 Op. cit., p. 198.

    169 The mention of ha-BI-ru in Egyptian slave gangs after this date is

obviously not a real exception.

     170 Speiser in Ethnic Movements in the Near East in the Second Millen-

nium B. C., 1933, pp. 34 ff., regarded the ha-BI-ru as culturally dependent

on the Hurrians and identified the Hurrians and one branch of the ha-BI-ru



ha-BI-ru outside Mitanni was something short of enthusiastic.

One of the cliches among the threatenings of prophets of woe

was that the ha-BI-ru were coming171  and historians in

describing anarchic conditions of the past often observed that

the ha-BI-ru had roamed the highways uncontrolled.172 In the

18th century ha-BI-ru raiders were a plague to Amorite

authorities in Mesopotamia and in the Amarna Age ha-BI-ru

incursions were a menace to loyalist native chiefs in Palestine.

Their reputation is epitomized in the SA-GAZ epithet which

seems to have been applied to them as intruders into the

Mesopotamian area and is probably to be understood in the

sense of "thugs". Of course, the ha-BI-ru were at times

employed by various governments as mercenaries, but even

among the Hittites where they had their own settlements and

enjoyed legal guarantees of their rights as a division of the

military, they were still regarded as foreigners.

Within the Mitannian hegemony, however, the exchange of

loyalty and respectful recognition which marks the relation

of the ha-BI-ru to the government seems to have traditional

roots. Especially in the Syrian area the ha-BI-ru are a thor-

oughly integrated element in the civil-social complex. There

they are found in permanent settlements and contribute to

the community leadership--civil, cultic, and military. It is,

moreover, the Hurrianized pattern of society that forms the

native habitat for the ha-BI-ru as a societal species; for in it

the ha-BI-ru find organizational analogues to themselves. The

evidence for the various elements in this picture has already

been given173 and may now be supplemented by observations

concerning the Amarna and Nuzu situations.


as the main components of the Hyksos. The assumption that ha-BI-ru

were involved in the Hyksos movement is plausible in view of their military

profession, their known presence in Syria before the Hyksos period, and

their role in Syria-Palestine and slave status in Egypt after the Hyksos


    171 So in the omen literature if the ha-BI-ru may be seen in the SA-GAZ

of these texts.

    172 So again if SA-GAZ refers to ha-BI-ru in the Old Babylonian literary

texts (cf. in Bottero, op. cit., nos. 6-8).

    173 See above the comparison of ha-BI-ru and maryannu and cf. WTJ

XIX, pp. 12, 15, 16, 21.

HA-BI-RU                              183


Mitannian leaders with their designs of encroaching on

Egyptian holdings could only have regarded with satisfaction

the activities of the ha-BI-ru in Palestine as reflected in the

Amarna letters. In view of the contemporary ha-BI-ru--

Hurrian associations in adjoining Syria, this harmony of

ha-BI-ru program and Mitannian policy will hardly have been

due to coincidence.174 Then the collapse of Mitanni before

the expanding New Hittite power confronted the ha-BI-ru

with crisis and decision. And the noteworthy fact to emerge

is that the ha-BI-ru as an organized entity did not survive

the fall of Mitanni. That suggests that whatever ambiguity

may attach to the political allegiance of the ha-BI-ru during

this crisis,175  their fundamental affiliation had been in the

Mitannian sphere where they had enjoyed their most satis-

factory social adjustment.

Meanwhile at Nuzu on the eastern extremity of Mitannian

dominion ha-BI-ru are found in a relationship to the Hurrians

rather different from that at Ugarit and Alalah. This differ-

ence is perhaps to be explained by the recentness both of

Mitanni's annexation of the Nuzu district and of the arrival

of the ha-BI-ru there from a non-Hurrian area, in contrast to

the long association of the ha-BI-ru with the Hurrians in

Syria. In any case, even the condition of servitude which the

ha-BI-ru were obliged to accept at Nuzu, though less at-

tractive an arrangement than the one enjoyed by their col-

leagues in Syria, may in its own way serve equally well to

underscore the unusually cordial association which prevailed

between the often ominous ha-BI-ru and the kingdom of

Mitanni. For the ha-BI-ru status of the Nuzu contracts has

been convincingly equated by J. Lewy with that of the


   174 Cf. EA 90:19-25.

   175 In the period of Mitannian disintegration the ha-BI-ru cooperated

with the Hittites in their Palestinian interests. So, for example, they

assisted Aziru against the loyalists when he was being used as a tool by

the Hittite Suppiluliuma (cf. Boghazkoi-Studien VIII, 4). Similarly, during

the Old Hittite period ha-BI-ru mercenaries are found in the army of a

Hittite king at a time when he was contending against the Hurrians (cf.

nos. 72 and 72' in Bottero, op. cit.). A lack of coordination among the

various contingents of the ha-BI-ru military fraternity would lead to

such political complications.



ebedIbri in the biblical legislation.176 To the extent that this

is so it is evidence (not as Lewy concluded that the ha-BI-ru

at Nuzu were regarded as foreign servants but) that the

Hurrians treated the ha-BI-ru there like needy brothers.

Such is the plain meaning of the biblicalebedIbri laws.177

Here then is a promising area for future investigation as the

volume of ha-BI-ru texts continues to grow. Available evi-

dence, however, would seem to warrant the conclusion that

within the period of our documents the primary base of opera-

tions for the ha-BI-ru, their center of family-tribal settlement

and societal integration, and their strongest political attach-

ments were in the Hurrian sphere. The implications of this

for earlier associations of the ha-BI-ru and Hurrians or Indo-

Aryans before they appear on the stage of near eastern history

are uncertain. In our present state of knowledge it appears

more likely that the ha-BI-ru were part of the massive migra-

tion from the north that brought the Hurrians into the Fertile

Crescent in the third millennium B. C. than that they were a

native element there.

(to be concluded)


    176 The following parallels are adduced by Lewy: a) there was a fixed

terminus understood for the period of service (cf. Exod. 21:2 and JEN V,

455:1-7 and 8-16) ; b) there was the option of choosing to become a

permanent slave (cf. Exod. 21:5-6; but see, too, Lev. 25:39-41; and JEN V,

452, 453, etc.); c) the servant who left might not take with him a wife

given him by his master (cf. Exod. 21:4; but see, too, Lev. 25:41; and

JEN V, 437; cf. JEN VI, 611). Levy's position that there was a law

which automatically fixed the term of service in such contracts unless the

contract itself stipulated the master's lifetime, is criticized by Greenberg

(op. cit., p. 67, n. 28) on the ground that no contracts mention such a

feature. It seems, however, that the date formulae of JEN V, 455 are best

accounted for on an assumption like Lewy's.

    177 This matter will be more fully examined later in this article. Even

if the Nuzu and biblical phenomena are not identified it must be recognized

that the ha-BI-ru at Nuzu were treated far more favorably than ordinary

slaves. They do not sell their persons to their patrons. They may termi-

nate their service by furnishing a substitute. The relationship of servant

to master is at times expressed in terms reminiscent of adoption contracts.


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Westminster Theological Seminary

            2960 W. Church Rd.

            Glenside, PA  19038


Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu