ARARAT (âr'a-răt, Heb. ‘ărārāt). A country in eastern Armenia, a mountainous tableland from which flow the Tigris, Euphrates, Aras (Araxes), and Choruk rivers. Near its center lies Lake Van, which, like the Dead Sea, has no outlet. Its general elevation is about 6,000 feet (1,875 m.), above which rise mountains to as high as 17,000 feet (5,313 m.), the height of the extinct volcano that in modern times is called Mount Ararat and on which the ark is supposed to have rested, though Gen.8.4 is indefinite: “On the mountains of Ararat” (plural). There the sons of Sennacherib fled after murdering their father (2Kgs.19.37; Isa.37.38). Jer.51.27 associates the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz with the kings of the Medes as prophesied conquerors of Babylonia. The region is now part of Turkey. The Babylonian name was Urartu, having the same consonants as the Hebrew ‘ărārāt. Its meaning cannot be determined with certainty.

ARARAT ăr’ ə răt (אֲרָרַ֖ט). A country in Armenia, its center being Lake Van.


The name Urartu, in a somewhat altered form, Uruaṭri, is found in Assyrian sources in the 13th cent. b.c. as a designation of one of the Nairi lands to the N of Assyria against which Shalmanezer I (1274-1245 b.c.) fought. Tiglath-pileser I (1115-1077 b.c.) also names Uruaṭri among his enemies in the N. None of these notices would lead one to believe that as yet the petty princes of the area had coalesced into a political unit. Rather, the local rulers of the area were tribal leaders, whom the Assyrians occasionally attacked for booty. The booty obtained from the Nairi lands rarely included valuable items, but rather livestock. Especially prized were the riding horses of the Nairi lands. Shalmanezer III (858-824 b.c.) is the first to mention a king of a united kingdom of Urartu, named Arame, who resided in Arzashkun. Several of Shalmanezer’s campaigns are depicted on the bronze gates of Balawat.

In the year 832 b.c. Shalmanezer ordered a second attack on Urarṭu by his general Dayyān-Ashur. Now his opponent was no longer King Arame, but a King Sardur (the Assyrians call him Sheduri). Sardur was sufficiently skilled in guerrilla tactics to avoid a pitched battle with the superior Assyrian army. So Dayyān-Ashur returned with plunder but without decisively crushing Sardur or taking him captive. This Sardur (I) is the first Urartian king of whom Urartian inscrs. are known. His capital was no longer Arzashkun, but Tuspa, which he founded and fortified. Proudly he wrote on his fortification wall: “I am Sardur, son of Lutipri, king of kings, who received tribute from all kings.” By his adoption of the typical Assyrian titulary “king of kings, king of the universe,” Sardur deliberately denied Assyrian suzerainty and claimed full equality with Assyria. From the name of Sardur’s father, Lutipri, it is clear that a new dynasty had succeeded that of King Arame, with a new center at Tuspa.

The period of Assyrian weakness following the death of Shalmanezer gave Urartu time and opportunity for refortification and expansion. Under the kings Ispuini, Menua, Argisti, and Sardur II, Urartian influence expanded to the W, threatening Assyrian provinces in N Syria. Under Shamshi-Adad V (823-811), the Assyrian general Mutarris-Ashur led an expedition to the coast of the Black Sea, during which he sought to hinder the westward expansion of Urartu and claimed to have plundered 200 villages and towns of the Nairi king Uspina (=Ispuini), but now the Urartians seized the initiative. From 818-816 b.c. Shamshi-Adad V had to launch new campaigns in order to defend established Assyrian provinces in the Upper Tigris region against Urartian attacks. Until as late as 714 b.c., the kings of Urartu were able to control Ardini (=Mussassir), which was right in the Assyrian heartland, and to build there a temple for their chief deity Khaldi and his wife Bagmastu. Even Adad-nirari III (809-782 b.c.), who boasted that he had penetrated to the Caspian Sea and subjugated all of the Nairi lands, can only have touched the outermost periphery of Urartu. In the W, Menua’s domain reached to the bend in the Euphrates and the borders of Malatya. In the NE he pressed over the Araxes and carried the battle to the territory of E Armenia. He clearly challenged the Assyrian sovereignty over the Mannai land around Lake Urmia.

The situation changed under Tiglath-pilezer III (745-727 b.c.), who defeated Sardur II at Arpad in 743. The Urartian alliance of N Syria, SE Anatolia, and Urartu was dissolved. Sardur escaped to his capital Tu(ru)spa, which Tiglath-pilezer was unable to capture in 735. In his eighth year (714 b.c.) King Sargon II of Assyria captured Mussassir, a city which was ruled by Urzanu, a vassal of Rusa, king of Urartu. Rusa and his allies, the kings of Tabal (Tubal) and Mushki (Meshech) were now threatened by a new power, the Cimmerians (OT Gomer). After the Cimmerian threat had faded, the Scythians (OT Ashkenaz) and the Medes took their place to press on Urartu. Although the 7th cent. kings of Urartu (Argisti II, Rusa II, Sardur III) were still able to build new citadels, their kingdom ceased to exist as an independent political unit after a series of Median (Madai) attacks in the early 6th cent.

Ararat in the OT.

According to Genesis 8:4, Noah’s ark came to rest, after the waters subsided, on “the mountains of Ararat.” If the Biblical Flood overtook Noah somewhere in Mesopotamia, then the highest mountains in the vicinity, which the receding waters would have first exposed, would have been those in the N (Urartu). 2 Kings 19:37 and Isaiah 37:38 record the fact that two sons of Sennacherib, called Adrammelech and Sharezer in the OT, killed their father and fled to the land of Ararat (Urartu). This statement is partially confirmed by the Babylonian Chronicle (iii 34-38). The extra details given in the OT are by no means improbable or tendential. The association in Jeremiah 51:27, 28 of Ararat, Minni (Maneans), Ashkenaz (Scyths), and Medes accords with the military situation of the early 6th cent. b.c., when Urartu, Maneans, Scythians, and Medes were all active.


F. W. König, Handbuch der chaldischen Inschriften (1955); A. Goetze, Kleinasien (21957), 187ff.; T. Beran, “Urartu” in H. Schmökel (ed.), Kulturgeschichte des alten Orient (1961), 606ff. (with exhaustive bibliography).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A mountainous plateau in western Asia from which flow in different directions the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Aras and the Choruk rivers. Its general elevation is 6,000 feet above the sea. Lake Van, which like the Dead Sea has no outlet, is nearly in its center. The Babylonian name was Urartu, the consonants being the same in both words. In 2Ki 19:37 and Isa 37:38 the word is translated in the King James Version Armenia, which correctly represents the region designated. It was to Armenia that the sons of Sennacherib fled. In Jer 51:27 Ararat is associated with Minni and Ashkenaz, which according to the Assyrian monuments lay just to the east of Armenia. In Ge 8:4 the ark is said to have rested "upon the mountains of Ararat," i.e. in the mountainous region of Armenia, the plural showing that the mountain peak known as Ararat was not referred to. This peak is of volcanic origin and lies outside the general region, rising from the lowlands of the Araxes (Aras) River to a height of 17,000 feet, supported by another peak seven miles distant, 13,000 feet high. It is only in comparatively modern times that the present name has been given to it. The Armenians still call it Massis, but believe, however, that Noah was buried at Nachitchevan near its base.

The original name of the kingdom occupying Armenia was Bianias, which Ptolemy transliterated Byana. Later the "B" was modified into "V" and we have the modern Van, the present capital of the province. The "mountains of Ararat" on which the ark rested were probably those of the Kurdish range which separates Armenia from Mesopotamia and Kurdistan. In the Babylonian account the place is called "the mountain of Nizir" which is east of Assyria. Likewise Berosus locates the place "in the mountain of the Kordyaeans" or Kurds (Ant., I, iii, 6), while the Syriac version has Hardu in Gen. 8:4 instead of Ararat. The Kurds still regard Jebel Judi, a mountain on the boundary between Armenia and Kurdistan, as the place where the ark rested.

This elevated plateau of Armenia has still many attractions, and is eminently suited to have been the center from which the human race spread in all directions. Notwithstanding its high elevation the region is fertile, furnishing abundant pasture, and producing good crops of wheat and barley, while the vine is indigenous. Moreover there are unmistakable indications that in early historic times there was a much more abundant rainfall in all that region than there is now, so that the climate was then better adapted to the wants of primitive man. This is shown by the elevated beaches surrounding lakes Van, Urumiah, and, indeed, all the lakes of central Asia. Great quantities of mammoth bones have been found in these bordering lacustrine deposits corresponding to those found in the glacial and postglacial deposits of Europe and America. It should, also, be remembered that the drying up of the waters of the flood is represented to have been very gradual--it being 170 days from the time the waters began to subside before Noah could disembark. It may have been many centuries before the present conditions were established, the climate, meanwhile, being modified to a corresponding degree by the proximity of vast surrounding bodies of water.

Armenia abounds in inscriptions carved on the rocks, altar stones and columns, but they have been only imperfectly translated. The script is cuneiform and each letter has only a single phonetic character attached to it. But there are introduced a good many borrowed ideographs which have assisted in the decipherment. According to Sayce this cuneiform syllabary was introduced from Assyria after the conquest of Shalmaneser II in the 9th century BC.