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ELAM (ē'lăm, Heb. ‘êlām)

ELAM (ē'lăm, Heb. ‘êlām). A country situated on the east side of the Tigris River opposite Babylonia in a mountainous region. Its population was made up of a variety of tribes. Their language, different from the Sumerian, Semitic, and Indo-European tongues, was written in cuneiform script. It has not yet been deciphered to any great extent. Elam was one of the earliest civilizations. In Sumerian inscriptions it was called Numma (high mountain people), which became Elamtu in Akkadian texts; in classical literature it was known as Susiana, the Greek name for Susa, the capital city of Elam.

Sargon (2350 b.c.) claimed conquest of Elam in his day. Later on, about 2280, an Elamite king invaded Babylonia and took back much spoil. Gudea, a ruler of the city of Lagash, about 2100 mentions that the Elamites collected some of the timbers he used in constructing the temple of Ningirsu, the god of Lagash. Hammurabi (1728-1686) subdued the Elamites. In the time of Abraham, according to Gen.14.1ff., an Elamite king, Kedorlaomer, made a raid on Palestine.

Elam figures prominently in Babylonian and Assyrian texts because it was situated so close to them. When Babylon became active against Assyrian supremacy, Elam became her chief ally. Assyria was not able to subdue Elam completely until the time of Ashurbanipal (668-626 b.c.), who sacked the country thoroughly in 640. This catastrophe practically finished Elam as a nation, but part of the country was not much affected by these intrusions of Semitic powers. This district called Anzan was, next to the capital at Susa, the most important part of the nation. From that area, Cyrus, the conqueror of Babylon, arose.

Isaiah cites Elam as one of the nations going up with Cyrus against Babylon (Isa.21.2) and joining the Assyrian army against Judah (Isa.22.6). Elam was one of the nations forced to drink the cup of God’s wrath (Jer.25.25) and doomed to judgment (Jer.49.34-Jer.49.39). Ezra.4.9-Ezra.4.10 refers to Elamites as among the peoples brought over to Samaria by the Assyrians. Acts.2.9 includes Elamite as one of the tongues being spoken by visitors at Jerusalem.——CEH

ELAM ē ləm (עֵילָ֣ם, LXX Αιλάμ, meaning uncertain; perhaps high land). 1. A son of Shem and the progenitor of the Elamites (Gen 10:22; 1 Chron 1:17). See ELAM, ELAMITES.

2. A priest who participated in the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time (Neh 12:42).

3. A son of Shahach and descendant of Benjamin (1 Chron 8:24).

4. A Korahite in the time of David who was a gatekeeper (1 Chron 26:3).

5. One of the chiefs who are said to have sealed, with other leaders, the covenant of Ezra (Neh 10:14).

6. The eponym of a family of which 1,254 returned to Pal. after the Exile under Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:7; Neh 7:12; 1 Esd 5:12). It has been suggested that “the other Elam” (Ezra 2:31) with whom also 1,254 returned is the same as the Elam of Ezra 2:7. Jeshaiah, another member of this family returned with Ezra (Ezra 8:7). Still another member of this family, “Shecaniah the son of Jahaziel, of the sons of Elam,” suggested to Ezra that Hebrews who had married non-Hebrew wives put away these wives and their children (Ezra 10:2-4). Six of the men of this family put away their foreign wives (Ezra 10:26).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) A son of Shem (Ge 10:22; 1Ch 1:17; see Elamites).

(2) A Benjamite (1Ch 8:24).

(3) A Korahite (1Ch 26:3).

(4) Heads of families in the return (Ezr 2:7 parallel Ne 7:12; Ezr 2:31 parallel Ne 7:34; Ezr 8:7; 10:2,26).

(5) A chief of the people (Ne 10:14).

(6) A priest (Ne 12:42).

e’-lam, e’-lam-its (`elam; Ailam; Jer 49:36. Codex Sinaiticus ’the original scribe’ reads Elam)

The scene of the events of 1Sa 17:2 ff, referred to also in 1Sa 21:9. There can be no doubt that this is the Wady ec CunT ("valley of the tercbinth"), or part of it. This is the southernmost of the great valleys which cut through the Shephelah. Commencing near Hebron, close to Beit Sur, it descends under the name Wady es Sur in a more or less northerly direction until near Beit Nettif where it turns abruptly west and receives the name Wady ec CunT. Here it is joined by the Wady en Najil, coming from the North, and from the East by the Wady el-Jindy, down which descends an ancient road from Bethlehem. Where all these valleys coalesce the Wady ec CunT expands into a wide and level bottom, half a mile across. On a steep hill to the southern side and a little Southeast of the wide expanse is Kh. esh-Shuweikeh, the site of Socoh. That the great events of 1Sa 17:2 ff took place here there can be no doubt: the Philistines ranged themselves upon the southern hills; the Israelites to the North or Northeast. Upon the wide level valley the contest with Goliath occurred. The exact position of Saul’s forces may be a matter of speculation, but the late Principal Miller of Madras, who made a special study of the locality (Least of All Lands, chapter v), considered that the little valley ascending Northeast from Wady ec CunT to Belt Nettif was probably the actual Vale of Elah and that here the Israelites had their fortifications. His elucidation of the whole story is most convincing.


1. Geographical Position and Names 2. Surface Configuration 3. Mountain Ranges 4. Rivers 5. Climate 6. Vegetation 7. Fauna 8. The Population 9. The Principal Cities 10. Apirti and the "Bandit Nations" 11. The Languages of Elam 12. History (1) The Earliest Period (2) Sargon of Agade and His Successors (3) The Suzerainty of the Kings of Ur (4) Elam Becomes Predominant 2280 Years BC (5) The Extension of Elamite Authority Westward (6) Babylonia Again Supreme (7) Hurbatila’s Challenge to Kuri-galzu (8) Elam Again Supreme (9) Elam Again Defeated, but Recovers (10) The Conflict between Elam and Assyria (11) Sennacherib against Chaldea and Elam (12) Assyrian Friendship and Elamite Ingratitude (13) Te-umman and the Elamite Seed-royal; Assyria’s Triumph (14) Elamite Ingratitude and Treachery (15) Elam’s Further Changes of Rulers (16) King Tammaritu’s Treachery (17) Dominion Passes from Assyria (18) The Later State of Elam 13. Elamite Religion 14. Elam’s Importance; Her Literature 15. Art during the 1st and 2nd Prehistoric Periods 16. Art in the Archaic Period, That of the Viceroys, and That of the Kings 17. Temperament of the Inhabitants of Elam


1. Geographical Position and Names:

A well-known tract, partly mountainous, whose western boundary, starting on the Northeast side of the Persian Gulf, practically followed the course of the lower Tigris. It was bounded on the North by Media, on the East by Persia and on the West by Babylonia. The Assyro-Babylonians called the tract Elamtu, expressed ideographically by the Sumerian characters for Nimma or Numma, which seems to have been its name in that language. As Numma or Elam apparently means "height," or the like, these names were probably applied to it on account of its mountainous nature. Another name by which it was known in early times was Ashshan, for Anshan or Anzan (Anzhan), one of its ancient cities. The great capital of the tract, however, was Susa (Shushan), whence its Greek name of Susiana, interchanging with Elymais, from the Semitic Elam.

2. Surface Configuration:

Elam consisted of a plain occupying a depression in the mountains of Iran or Persia. Of this the smaller part--which, however, was also the most ancient historically--lay between the Pusht-e-Kuh on the West, the Lur mountains on the North, the Bakhtiari heights to the East and Southeast, and the hills of Ahwaz to the South. The larger plain has as its northern boundary these same Ahwaz hills, and reaches to the sea on the South.

3. Mountain Ranges:

The Pusht-e-Kuh mountains are a series of very high parallel ranges described as "a veritable wall" between Mesopotamia and the elevated depression of the Kerkha. Its principal peak is in the Kebir-Kuh (2,500 meters = 8,200 ft.)--a difficult range of surprising regularity. The valleys on the Southwest slope belong properly to Babylonia, and could be invaded on that side with ease, but Northeast of the Kebir-Kuh the country is well protected not only against Mesopotamia, on the West, but also against Persia on the East. The nomad Lurs of the present day are practically independent of Persia. The mountain ranges of Luristan increase in height as one approaches the Persian plain, the loftiest summits of the principal range attaining a height of 5,000 meters (= 16,400 ft.).

4. Rivers:

From these mountain ranges descend large rivers which flow through Elam to the sea. The Kerkha (Gamas-ab) rises in the Persian plain near Nehavend, and is practically a torrent until it reaches Susa, below which it becomes less rapid, and loses itself in the Hawizeh marshes. The Ab-e-Diz, a river with a greater volume of water, is formed by the uniting of two streams above Dizful. It is so violent that it carries down boulders and even tree-trunks from the mountains, and after a winding course joins the Karun at Kut-e-Bende-Kir. The Belad-Rud, between the Ab-e-Diz and the Kerkha, rises in the mountains of Luristan, and varies greatly as to its volume, being sometimes a mere brook, and at others a large river. The Karun, with which a number of small streams unite, rises in the Bakhtiari mountains. After receiving the Ab-e-Diz and the Belad-Rud at Kut-e-Bende-Kir, it becomes an important waterway, navigable as far as Shuster. This is identified with the Biblical Ulai (Assyrian Ulaa, classical Eulaeus). In ancient times emptying itself into the Persian Gulf, which in past centuries extended much farther inland than now, it at present joins the Shattel-Arab at Mohammerah.

5. Climate:

The climate is a variable one. Between November 1 and 15 the rains begin, with Southeast and South winds, and the mountains are covered with snow. In January and February there are violent storms, and the night brings 8 degrees or 10 degrees of frost. Spring begins at the end of February, and vegetation advances so rapidly that harvest takes place about the end of April. The wind then turns South and Southwest, bringing with it a heat rising sometimes to 140 degree F., destroying all the verdure of the country. Notwithstanding the rigors of the climate, however, it was in ancient times a well-populated district, and exceedingly fruitful, as now. That the district of Arabistan is poor and barren is due to the carelessness and improvidence of the people, who, like the people of the Turkish province of Bagdad, have neglected the ancient irrigation canals which fertilized the land.

6. Vegetation:

The vegetation of Susiana is said not to be very varied. On the river banks are to be found willows, tamarisks and many kinds of acacias. Apparently there are no forests--the sacred groves referred to by Assur-bani-apli are thought by De Morgan to have been artificial plantations. Oranges and lemons, which are at present cultivated there, are late importations. The date palm has been brought from the banks of the Shatt-el-Arab, and the pomegranate and other fruit trees from the Iranian plain. Wheat and barley, sown in October and November, are harvested in April. Sorghum remains in the ground all through the dry season, and is watered artificially until October, and cut in November. Castor beans, indigo, lentils, haricots, etc., are less cultivated.

7. Fauna:

The fauna is said at present to be less numerous than formerly. It contains species both of central Asia, Europe, and, to a certain extent, Africa. The elephant, wild ass, wild ox and ostrich are no longer to be found on the Chaldeo-Elamite plain, but a few examples of the lion still exist there. Bears, panthers, wild boars, wolves, wild cats, foxes, jackals, and several species of wild dogs, however, still exist. Numbers of porcupines inhabit the brushwood by the rivers and marshes. Among the birds which do not leave the country are the eagle, vulture, falcon, raven, francolin, martin, sparrow, tomtit, wagtail, etc. The winter birds of passage are the pelican, stork, crane, cormorant, sea gull, many species of wild duck, the wild goose, bustard, woodcock, snipe, pigeon, turtledove, and numerous brilliantly colored waders. The water-courses are full of fish, among them being the barbel, silurus, carp (sometimes of great size), and gurnards similar to those of the Nile. Some of the rivers being salt, sea fish are also to be found, and it is not rare to see sharks at Shuster, and eels in the lower Karun.

8. The Population:

The population is naturally not homogeneous. Arab tribes, who are in reality Semites, occupy the plains, while Iranians inhabit the cities and dwell at the mountain bases. According to De Morgan, the original population was mainly negritic, and has mingled with the Arab stock to such an extent that mulattoes among them are not rare. He regards this type as being represented among the soldiers as well as among the people conquered by Naram-Sin about 3000 BC. Nevertheless pure Semites had settled in the country at a very early date, and it is probably on account of this that Elam is called (Ge 10:22) a son of Shem--indeed, the many Sere inscriptions found by the French explorers at Susa show how strong their influence was. It was to all appearance during the 2nd millennium BC that certain Kassites overran West Mesopotamia, and settled in the northern part of Elam, which was thereafter called by the Assyrians mat Kassi, "the land of the Cosseans." As these people seem to have spoken an Aryan language, there was apparently no really new race introduced in consequence of their invasion.

9. The Principal Cities:

The two principal cities were Susa or Shushan, called Susun in the native texts, and regarded as the old capital, situated on the Ulai (Karkha); and Anzan (Ashshan, Anshan), more to the Southwest. This latter was the capital of Cyrus the Great and his immediate predecessors, the tract having been conquered apparently by Sispis (Teispes), his ancestor, at the end of the 6th century BC. Susa, an important commercial center in the 3rd millennium BC, became again one of the three capitals of the Pets empire during the rule of the Achemenians.

10. Apirti and the "Bandit Nations":

From the inscriptions of Mal-Amir, to the East, we learn that that was the place of another kingdom called Apirti, the land of the Apharsites of Ezr 4:9. In the 2nd (so-called Median or Scythian) version of the late Persian inscriptions this name is given as Hapirti, Halpirti, and Haltupirti, and appears as the equivalent of the Babylonian Elammat (Elamtu) or Elam without the nominative ending. In the Persian version this appears as (H)uwaja or (H)uwazha, whence the modern Huz or Khuzistan. This implies that the kings of Apirti at one time held dominion over Susa, and perhaps the whole of Elam. Strabo (xi.13,1,6), quoting Nearchus, speaks of "four bandit nations" who occupied the mountains East of the Euphrates--the Amardians or Mardians on the Persian border, the Uxians, and Elymeans on the borders of Persia and Susa, and the Cosseans (Kassites) by the Medes. The Amardians would seem to have been the Apirti (Hapirti), the Uxians were probably from (H)uwaja, while the Elymeans (compare 1 Macc 6:1) were the Elamites. Among the tribes who made the history of the country, therefore, were probably the Uxians, who seem not to be mentioned in the early inscriptions.

11. The Languages of Elam:

The dialects of Susa, the second Achemenian VSS, and of Apirti, differ but slightly from each other. They are variants of an agglutinative tongue, and are apparently not related to any other known language. The statement in Ge 10:22, therefore, applies only to the Semitic section of the population, as it is unlikely that the people speaking Apirtian could be described as "sons of Shem."

12. History:

(1) The Earliest Period.

Beginning with the semi-mythical period, we have the story of the fight of the Babylonian hero Gilgames with the Elamite tyrant Humbaba, who was defeated by the hero and his helper Enki-du, and beheaded. The earliest really historical reference to the Elamites as the foes of Babylonia, however, is apparently that contained in a letter from the priest Lu-enna to the priest En-e-tarzi announcing that the Elamites had invaded Lagas and carried off considerable booty. The writer, however, had attacked the Elamites, and taken plunder from them in his turn. As there seems to be a reference to division of spoil, this is an excellent parallel to the Elamite expedition, made in alliance with the Babylonians, against the cities of the plain (Ge 14).

(2) Sargon of Agade and His Successors.

Sargon of Agade, early in his reign, attacked the Elamites, but apparently Elam only fell under the dominion of the Babylonians during the time of Naram-Sin, his son, who is seemingly shown leading his troops in that region on the splendid stele bearing his name that was found at Susa. Elam apparently regained its independence, however, during the time of Uruwus king of Kis, who invaded the country, and brought back considerable spoil. One of the chiefs of Susa about this time was Simbi-ishak. Chaldean domination, however, did not last long, for Dungi, king of Ur of the Chaldees, about 2500 BC, invaded the country, accompanied by his vassal Gudea, viceroy of Lagas. Dungi has left evidences of his conquests in the buildings which he erected at Susa, but the principal buildings of this period were constructed by Ba-sa-Susinak, son of Simbi-ishak, viceroy of Susa and potentate in Elam. He built a temple to the god Sugu, reservoirs, the gate of Susinak, and dug the Sidur canal. He was evidently one of the great rulers of the land.

(3) The Suzerainty of the Kings of Ur.

Somewhat later came Idadu I, his son Kal-Ruhuratir, and his grandson Idadu II, who in turn occupied the throne during the time of Bur-Sin, king of Ur. Elam was at this time still under Babylonian suzerainty, which continued under his successor, Gimil-Sin, who also built at Susa, his vassal being Ebarti-kin-Daddu, viceroy of Susa. Gimil-Sin was succeeded by his son Ibi-Sin as overlord in Elam, who invaded and devastated the country, probably to suppress a a revolt. There was apparently no ill-will between the two nations, however, for the viceroy of Susa is said to have married a daughter of Ibi-Sin. Another and possibly later viceroy seems to have married Mekubi, daughter of Billama, viceroy of Asnunnak, who, as Elamite princess, erected buildings at Susa.

(4) Elam Becomes Predominant 2280 Years BC.

It was probably shortly after this that Kudur-Nahhunte threw off the Semitic yoke, and, invading Babylonia, brought back much spoil to Elam. The date indicated for this ruler by the inscriptions of Assurbani-apli is 2280 BC. The positions of the rulers of Elam and Babylonia were now changed, and the kings of Babylon had to acknowledge Elamite suzerainty. As Elamite and Babylonian sovereign, Kudur-Nahhunte entrusted Susa to a feudatory ruler, and among the viceroys who governed Elam may be mentioned Sirukdu’, who constructed at Susa, and Temti-Agun, his sister’s son, who built in that city the temple to Isme-karab, "for the health of Kutir-Nahhunte and his family." After passing to other rulers, the government of Susa fell to Ebari, father of Silhaha, during whose reign Simti-Silhak ruled in Babylonia. Nur-Addi and Rim-Anum, kings of Larsa (Elassar), were his vassals.

(5) The Extension of Elamite Authority Westward.

Attapaksu (or Attahusu), Silhaha’s sister’s son, then became "shepherd of Susa." Among the temples which he built was one dedicated to the goddess Narute, and he erected a bridge near his residence. Kudur-mabuk, son of Simti-Silhak, was at this time adda ("father," probably meaning protector) of Emutbalu and the West--Amurru, the land of the Amorites, whither marched Chedorlaomer and Amraphel, with their allies, in the time of Abraham (Ge 14). Kudur-mabuk of Larsa was succeeded by his son Eri-Aku (probably the Iri-Agun of Larsa of the Elamite texts), and if he be really, as seems probable, the Arioch of Ge 14:1,9, then this is also the period when Chedorlaomer ruled in Elam. The strange thing, however, is, that the name of this last does not occur in any recognizable form, unless it be the Kudurlahgumal of certain half- legendary inscriptions (see Chedorlaomer). The Elamite line in Larsa was continued after the death of Eri-Aku by Rim-Sin, his brother, who succeeded him.

(6) Babylonia Again Supreme.

What the history of Elam during this period was remains to be discovered, but Hammurabi, who is identified with the Amraphel of Ge 14:1,9, seems to have invaded the country in his 30th year. In his 31st he defeated Rim-Sin of Larsa, following this up, in his 32nd, by overthrowing the army of Asnunnak. All these successes in Elam and its dependencies probably made the kingdom of Babylon supreme in the land. But more details bearing upon this period are needed. It is thought probable that the Elamite king Sadi(?) or Taki (?) came into conflict with, and was defeated by, Ammi-caduga, the 4th in descent from Hammurabi, who reigned about 1890 BC. Apparently the Elamite ruler had tried to regain his independence, but failed.

(7) Hurbatila’s Challenge to Kuri-galzu.

Omitting the names of rulers concerning whom but little or nothing is known, we come to the reign of Untas-Gal, patron of the articles Numerous temples were built by him, and sanctuaries at Susa dedicated. He has left a magnificent bronze statue representing his queen Napir-Asu. He seems to have been overthrown by Untahas-Gal, of a more legitimate line, who was likewise a builder of temples. After the apparently short reign of Kidin-Hutran came that of Hurpatila (Hurbatila), who, desiring to throw off the Babylonian yoke, challenged Kuri-galzu, king of Babylon, to battle at Dur-Dungi. The challenge was accepted, with disastrous results, for Hurbatila was captured by the Babylonian king at the place named. This, however, did not put an end to the strife, and in the end Kidin-Hutrudas was victorious over Belnadin-sum, king of Babylon, about 1180 BC.

(8) Elam Again Supreme.

Later came the military exploits of Sutruk-Nahhunte, who invaded Babylonia, slew the king Zagaga-sum-iddina, and helped by his son Kutir-Nahhunte, destroyed Sippar, and took away the stele of Naram-Sin, the code of Hammurabi, and several other monuments, which were carefully preserved at Susa. He also defeated the king of Asnunnak. It is this collection of spoils which has contributed to make the success of the French excavations at Susa what it is.

(9) Elam Again Defeated, but Recovers.

The war between Babylonia and Elam recorded for the reign of Nebuchadrezzar I (circa 1020 BC) probably took place, according to Scheil, during the reign of Silbina-hamru-Laqamar. The Elamite king was defeated on the banks of the Ulai, Elam was ravaged, and much spoil taken. The principality called Namar was detached from Susian territory and reunited to the domain of Babylonia. Apparently the Elamites now turned their attention to regaining their military prestige, the result being that an Elamite king occupied the Babylonian throne from 939 to 934 BC. The history of this period has still to be discovered, but the Babylonians apparently soon shook off the Elamite yoke. It is about this time, however, that another power--Assyria--appeared on the scene, and took the field--not only against Babylon, but also on the borders of Elam. An Elamite contemporary of Nabonassar of Babylon was Humbanigas, 742 BC.

(10) The Conflict between Elam and Assyria.

At this time, however, the Assyrians became dominant in Babylonia (see Tiglath-pileser and SHALMANESER), but it was probably not until the reign of Sargon of Assyria (see Sargon) that Elam came into conflict with Assyria. Merodach-baladan, a pretender to the throne of Babylon, made common cause with Humbanigas, who fought with the Assyrian army at Der. Naturally the Assyrians claim the victory, but the Babylonians say that they were defeated. After the death of Humbanigas, his successor, Sutur-Nahhundi or Ishtar-hundu (Babylonian), still befriended Merodach-baladan, and advanced to his help. Sargon first attacked the Chaldeans and defeated them at Dur-Athara, and, entering Elam, stormed and captured the cities of the land. The Elamite king took refuge in the mountains, and Merodach-baladan had to resist the Assyrians unaided.

(11) Sennacherib against Chaldea and Elam.

As Sargon had his attention fully occupied elsewhere, he made no attempt to follow up his success, and it seems not to have been until the reign of Sennacherib that any serious invasion of the country on the part of the Assyrians was made. In 697 BC that king marched again against Merodach-baladan, who had taken refuge at Nagitu and other places on the Elamite side of then elongated Persian Gulf. Here the Chaldeans, with their Elamite allies, were defeated, and the Elamite cities plundered and destroyed. Hallusu, king of Elam, on the retirement of the Assyrian troops, invaded Babylonia as being part of the territories of the Assyrian king, and having captured Assur-nadin-sum, Sennacherib’s son, who had ruled in Babylon 6 years, carried him off to Elam, setting Nergal-usezib on the throne of Babylonia. On the arrival of the Assyrian avenging host in Baby1onia, Nergal-usezib fled to Elam, but was captured near Niffer. The Elamites were evidently very dissatisfied with their king--possibly owing to his policy--and killed him in a revolt after a reign of six years. This action on the part of the Elamites, however, did not save the people from Assyrian vengeance, for Sennacherib invaded and ravaged the country from Ras to Bit-Burnaki. Apparently the Elamites had expected their new ruler, Kudurru (Kudur-Nahhunte), to save them from the reprisals of the Assyrians, but as he had failed to do this, he, in his turn, was deposed and killed after a reign of 10 months. The new king of Elam was Umman- Menanu, who espoused the cause of Musezib-Marduk, the new king of Babylon, and gathering a force of Babylonians and Elamites at Halule, fought a battle there, in which the Babylonians record success for the allies. Sennacherib, however, himself claims the victory, and describes with great wealth of detail the horrors of the fight. Next year (689 BC) Sennacherib marched into Babylonia to complete the work, and Musezib-Marduk, having been captured, was sent prisoner to Assyria. Umman-Menanu died at the end of the year, after a 4 years’ reign, and was succeeded by Humba- haldasu I (689-682 BC), of whom nothing is known. In 682 BC Humba- haldasu II mounted the throne. The death of Sennacherib and the troubles attending the accession of Esarhaddon encouraged Nabuzer-napisti-Itsir, son of Merodach- baladan, again to raise the standard of revolt. Defeat was the result, and he fled to Elam, there to be captured by Humba- haldasu and put to death.

(12) Assyrian Friendship and Elamite Ingratitude.

Friendship with Assyria was a complete reversal of Elamite policy, and to all appearance peace, though probably unpopular, persisted between the two countries for several years. Humba-haldasu’s two brothers revolted against him and assassinated him, and Urtaku, one of the murderers, took the Elamite throne. Not daring to be openly hostile to Assyria, however, he sent his brother Te-umman to intrigue in Chaldea in favor of a man named Nabuusallim, but the Chaldean chiefs answered that Na’id-Marduk, their lord, lived, and they were the servants of the king of Assyria. Also, during a famine in Elam, certain Elamite tribes migrated into Assyria to escape the scarcity, and were kindly treated by Assur-bani-apli, who had succeeded his father on the Assyrian throne. Notwithstanding this, however, Urtaku invaded Babylonia as ally of certain Chaldean tribes. Overtaken by the Assyrian army, he fought with them near his own border, but was defeated and fled. He died prematurely (by his own hand) the same year, and was succeeded by his brother Te-umman (Tepti-Humban).

(13) Te-umman and the Elamite Seed-royal; Assyria’s Triumph.

This king, who is described by Assur-bani-apli as being in the likeness of an evil spirit, immediately set to work to secure the death of all the sons of Urtaku and Umman-aldase (Humba-Haldasu II), his brother; and these princes, five in number, with 60 of the royal seed of Elam, fled and sought refuge with the Assyrian king. Te-umman immediately sent two messengers to Assur-bani-apli demanding the surrender of the fugitives. This was refused, and war broke out between the two countries immediately after. The Assyrians came up with the Elamites at Der, but Te-umman feared to join issue there, and retreating, took up a strong position near his capital, Susa, with his front protected by the river Ulai. Defections from his army now so weakened the forces of Te-umman that he endeavored to treat with Assur-bani-apli, who naturally refused to listen to terms, and ordered his troops to attack. The defeat of the Elamites was a foregone conclusion, and Te-umman perished, with his son, in the thick of the battle, as is dramatically depicted by the sculptors of Assur-bani-apli in the bas-reliefs which adorned the walls of his palace. An Assyrian general was now sent to Susa with Umman-igas, the prince chosen to succeed Te-umman, and he was proclaimed while the bodies of the fallen Elamites covered the battlefield, and the waters of the Ulai carried others down to the place of its outflow. Tammaritu, the new king’s youngest brother, was at the same time made king of Hidalu, in the mountain region. In the triumphal procession at Nineveh which took place on the Assyrian army’s return, the head of Te-umman and his son Tamritu figured, the former hanging from the neck of Dunanu, king of Gambulu, and the latter from the neck of Samgunu, Dunanu’s brother.

(14) Elamite Ingratitude and Treachery.

For a time there was peace in Elam, but soon the discontent of Samas-sum-ukin, king of Babylon, Assur-bani-apli’s brother, sought to break it. Urged by him, Umman-igas forgot the benefits which he had received at the hands of Assur-bani-apli, and sent an army into Babylonia under the command of Undasi, son of Te-umman, telling him to avenge upon Assyria the killing of his father. Notwithstanding the great strength of the allied army, they did not succeed in making headway against the Assyrians. Tammaritu, nephew of Umman-igas, after the defeat of the Elamite forces in Chaldea, revolted against him, and having defeated him, cut off his head, and took the crown. Samas-sum-ukin immediately turned his attention to the new ruler, and induced him by fresh presents to come likewise to his aid. Tammaritu therefore marched at the head of an army into Babylonia, but in his absence Indabigas, one of his servants, headed a revolt against him, and proclaimed himself king in Susa. In the battle which ensued between the two pretenders, Tammaritu was defeated, and fled to the seacoast with a part of the Elamite royal family. He ultimately embarked in a ship on the Persian Gulf with the intention of escaping, but was wrecked, and gave himself up to an Assyrian officer, who sent him to Assyria.

(15) Elam’s Further Changes of Rulers.

Indabigas, the new Elamite king, now sent an embassy to make peace with Assur-bani-apli, who at once demanded the surrender of Nabu-bel-sumati, son of Merodach-baladan, and the Assyrians whom he had enticed and taken with him. Before this demand could reach Indabigas, however, his people had revolted against him and put him to death, and Umman-aldasu, son of Attametu, sat on the throne, after defeating Indabigas on the banks of the Huthut. The same demand was made to Ummanaldasu as had been made to Indabigas, but Nabubel-sumati, not wishing to fall into the hands of the Assyrians, called on his armor-bearer to dispatch him, and the two ran each other through with their swords.

(16) King Tammaritu’s Treachery.

Nevertheless Assur-bani-apli decided to replace Tammaritu, the former Elamite king, on the throne, and to this end invaded Elam. The Assyrians were, as usual, successful, and on learning this, Umman-aldas fled to the mountains. Entering Susa, Tammaritu was once more proclaimed king of Elam, he, in return, promising to regard Assur-bani-apli as his lord, and to pay tribute. No sooner had the Assyrian army departed, than the new king of Elam began to plot against the power which had raised him. To all appearance his intentions to revolt were reported to the Assyrian king, who at once sent an army and plundered the country, and Tammaritu again fell into Assur-bani-apli’s hands. Umman-aldas now returned and resumed the government. Unwilling to regard his former efforts as fruitless, the Assyrian king decided to finally subdue the land, and to this end invaded it, the pretext being that the Elamites refused to deliver up the image of the goddess Nana, which had been carried off from Erech 1,635 years before, in the time of Kudur-Nahhunte (see (4) above). The two armies faced each other on the banks of the Itite, and after an attack in which the Assyrians were at a disadvantage, the Elamites gave way, and Umman-aldas fled to the mountains. According to the Assyrian king’s record, an enormous booty was taken, including many sacred and ancient royal statues preserved at Susa. The image of Nana was restored to its shrine at Erech with great rejoicing. In the triumphal celebrations at Nineveh, Tammaritu was one of the captive kings who drew the Assyrian king’s chariot to the temple of Ishtar, when he rendered the goddess thanks for his victories.

(17) Dominion Passes from Assyria.

To all appearance Elam now became a province of the Assyrian empire, though not for long, as this collapsed in the year 606 BC, and the center of government was shifted to Babylon, under Nabopolassar, who became its ruler. Nebuchadrezzar (604), Evil-Merodach (561), Neriglissar (559), and Nabonidus (555-538 BC), were successively masters of Elam. The mention of the kings of Elam in Jer 25:25, however, suggests that the old states of the country had practically resumed their independence; though 49:35-39 prophesies the dismemberment of the country, and the destruction of its king and princes. This is thought to refer to the annexation of the country by Teispes, and its passing, through his line--Cyrus, Cambyses, and Cyrus the Great, who were all kings of Anzan--to Darius Hystaspis. In Isa 21:2 it is apparently the later Cyrus who is referred to when Elam, with Media, is called upon "to go up" to the siege of Babylon.

(18) The Later State of Elam.

After Cyrus, the history of Elam was that of Persia, of which it henceforth formed a part. In all probability, however, the Elamites were as warlike and as intractable as ever. During the reign of the little-known Kharacenian king, Aspasine, they made incursions into Babylonia, one of the opponents of this king’s generals being Pittit, "the enemy, the Elamite"--a phrase of old standing, apparently. Elam, to its whole extent, was smitten with the sword, and Pittit (was slain or captured). One of the cities which they attacked was Apameia, probably that on the Sellas river. Ac 2:9 implies that the old language of Elam was still in use, and the Elamites were still recognized as a nationality, as late as the 1st century of our era.

13. Elamite Religion:

Owing to the many Semites in Elam, and the nearness of the Babylonian states, Babylonian deities--Anu and Anatu, Enlil and Ninlil, Merodach and Zer-panitu, Samas and Aa, Tammuz and Ishtar, Ninip, Nergal, Hadad or Rimmon, etc.--were largely worshipped (see BABEL, BABYLON). The chief deity of the non-Semitic pantheon seems to have been Insusinak, the patron-deity of Susa, identified with Ninip, the son of Enlil, by the Babylonians, who guote also other names applied to him--Lahuratil Simes, Adaene, Susinak, and Dagbak. Merodach seems to have been represented by the Sumerian character Gal, "great," and Zer-panitu was apparently called Nin-sis in Elam. Ishtar was known as Usan. Lagamar, Laqamar, or Lagamal, was apparently identified with the Babylonian Lagamal, one of the gods of Dailem near Babylon--his name is generally regarded as forming part of the name CHEDORLAOMER (which see). Nahhunte, Na’hunte, or (Babylonian) Nan-hundi was the Babylonian sun-god Samas; Kunzibami was the W. Semitic Hadad, also known by his Mitannian (Hittite) name of Tesup. Humban, Human, or Umman (Assyrian), "the god of gods," "the king," was possibly regarded as the Babylonian Merodach. The currency of Babylonian myths in Elam is suggested by the name of the goddess Belala, possibly the Babylonian Belili, sister of Tammuz. The word for "god" in Elamite was nap, explained by the Babylonians as one of the names of Enlil, implying that the Elamites regarded him as "the god" by divine right. Of their deities, six (one of them being Lagamar) were worshipped only by Elamite kings. Elam had temples and temple-towers similar to those in Babylonia, as well as sacred groves, wherein no stranger penetrated. (See ERE, under the word "Elamites.")

14. Elam’s Importance; Her Literature:

The rediscovery of the history of Elam is one of the most noteworthy things of modern research. It has revealed to us the wonderful development which that kingdom had made at an exceedingly early date, and shows that it was politically just as important as the Babylonian states 4,000 years BC, though probably hardly so advanced in art and literature. Nevertheless, the country had adopted the cuneiform method of writing, and possessed also another script, seemingly of more ancient date. As both Semitic Babylonian and Susian (Anzanite) were spoken in the country, numerous documents in both languages have been found, mostly historical, or of the nature of dedications, some of which are inscribed on objects presented to temples. There are also a number of archaic tablets of the nature of accounts, written in a peculiar cuneiform character. The cylinder-seals are either inscribed with dedications, or with the name of the owner, his father, and the god whom he worshipped, as in Babylonia. Of other literature there are but mere traces--an exorcism against mosquitos shows the desire of the people to rid themselves of the discomforts of this life. Contracts testify to the existence of laws, but the laws themselves have yet to be discovered. The stele of Hammurabi, which was found at Susa, did not belong to Elamitic literature, but to that of Babylonia.

15. Art during the 1st and 2nd Prehistoric Periods:

Elamite art during the first period was naturally rude, and it is doubtful whether metals were then used, as no traces of them were found. There were also no inscribed monuments. The pottery, however, was of extreme delicacy, and very elegant. The second period is described as being less artistic than the first. The pottery is more ordinary, and also more roughly made, though better ware also exists. Painted ornamentation is found. Vessels of white or pink limestone, some of them very large, occur, but alabaster is exceedingly rare. There is no indication of writing at this period, but rudely engraved seals, with animal forms, are found. The buildings were of crude brick or piled-up earth, though baked brick was sometimes used. A change seems to have taken place in the conditions of life at the end of this period, implying invasion by a more civilized race.

16. Art in the Archaic Period, That of Viceroys, and That of the Kings:

The indications of invasion during the second prehistoric period are confirmed, according to M. Jequier, by what is found in the layer of the archaic period, which succeeded it. This is accentuated by the numerous inscribed clay tablets, some of the which have impressions of quite remarkable cylinder-seals. The pottery is scanty and not characteristic, but the working of alabaster into vases had developed considerably, and some of the smaller forms (ointment or scent-bottles) are good and varied. Some have the form of the duck, the wild boar, and other animals. During the period of the issake or viceroys, fine sculptures in low relief occur--the scorpion-man and the sacred tree, military prisoners with their guard, siegeoperations and the dead on the battlefield; and as examples of work in the round, ivory and alabaster statuettes. Later on, during the time of the kings of Elam and Susa, the objects of art increase in number, though large objects in the round are rare. Noteworthy are the statuettes and statues in bronze, the former being very numerous. The largest production of this kind is the almost lifesize statue of queen Napir-Asu, consort of Untas-Gal, which, however, is unfortunately headless. It is a remarkable piece of work, and has great artistic merit.

17. Temperament of the Inhabitants of Elam:

In all probability Elam was much hindered in her material and intellectual development by the intractable and warlike nature of her people--indeed, the history of the country, as far as it is known, is a record of strife and conflict, and the temperament indicated by the ancient records seems to have been inherited by the wild tribes which occupy the more inaccessible districts. What conduced to quarrels and conflicts in ancient times was the law of succession, for the Elamite kings were not generally succeeded by their eldest sons, but by their brothers (see Ellasar). The inhabitants of the towns at the present time in all probability do not differ in any essential respect from those of Persia in general, and among them there is probably no great amount of ancient Elamite blood, though the Elamite type is met with, and probably occurs, in consequence of ancient mingling, in various parts of modern Persia.


For the most complete account of the discoveries in Elam, see Memoires de la delegation en Perse, I ff, Mission scientifique en Perse, I ff, and Histoire et travaux de la delegation en Perse, all under the editorship of J. de Morgan, and written by De Morgan, V. Scheil, G. Lampre, G. Jequier, etc.; also W. K. Loftus, Chaldea and Susiana, 1857.

Additional Material

ELAM (Country), ELAMITES ē’ ləm, ē’ ləmīts (עֵילָ֣ם, LXX Αιλάμ, meaning uncertain; perhaps high land).

1. Introduction. Elam is the Biblical designation of a people and a country in the southern area of the Iranian plateau in the Zagros mountains E and NE of the valley of the Tigris. It is approximately equivalent to the present Iranian province of Khuzistan. The name derives from the Elamite Haltamti. It is the Elamtu of the Assyrians and the Babylonians and the Elymais of the Greeks who also called it Susiana from the capital Susa (Shushan), modern Shush. Scholars are not agreed in regard to the relationship of the language of the Elamites to the other languages of the Near E. The earliest stage of the language is written in a script not yet completely deciphered, but from which there developed in c. 1600 b.c. a cuneiform writing which in its turn gave way at the end of the 6th cent. b.c. to the Elamite adaptation of the writing of the Achaemenid Pers. The language is non-Sem. The history of the Elamites is known largely from the records of other peoples which makes breaks in its continuity inevitable.

2. Early history. The Biblical record traces the Elamites back to Elam a son of Shem (Gen 10:22; 1 Chron 1:17). Scholars classify them as non-Sem. Caucasians. Archeology and anthropology shed no particular light upon Elamite origins but it is clear that Elam was influenced by the Jemdet Nasr culture during the later period of the fourth millennium b.c. The dependence culturally of Elam upon Mesopotamia that began in this early period lasted through her entire history. Elam’s earliest appearance in Mesopotamian records shows it in subjection to the Sumer. Eannatum of Lagash in 2450 b.c. This further strengthened the influence of Sumer. culture upon the Elamites. Elamite dependence upon Mesopotamia continued after hegemony in the Tigris-Euphrates valley shifted from the Sumerians to the Akkadians under Sargon of Akkad (2360-2305 b.c.). It was in this period that the Elamites appropriated the Sumero-Akkad. cuneiform script with which they produced their inscrs. on clay tablets and stone. Elamites from Susa participated in the building of the temple of Gudea of Lagash (c. 2000 b.c.).

With the decline of Akkad. power Elam gained her freedom and established an independent dynasty. But the third dynasty of Ur eventually gained control of much of Elam and dominated many of the country’s cities. However, the Elamites were eventually able to reassert their independence and to destroy their oppressor’s capital city, carrying back to Elam the last king of the dynasty of Ur, Ibbi-Sin (c. 2030 b.c.). The destruction of Ur by the Elamites is bewailed in a Sumer. lamentation text.

At this time of Elamite history the rulers of the country were known as “governors” and not as kings in the Mesopotamian sense of the term. The rulers of Elam were actually feudal lords who were considered to be representatives of Inshushinak, god of Susa. A unique cultural form appeared in this period which served to determine the method of the transition of power from one ruler to another to the end of Elamite history. This was the principle of matrilinear succession in which the throne was hereditary through women so that the new ruler was the son of a sister of a member of the previous ruler’s family. The quality of the succession was somewhat protected by the regulation that the successor was expected to have had some experience as viceroy, usually at Susa.

The power of Elam spread into Mesopotamia under King Kutir-Mabug who made Rim-Sin king of Larsa and through him controlled southern Babylonia as far N as Babylon. Larsa fell to the First Amorite Dynasty of Babylon under Hammurabi (c. 1728-1686 b.c.) who made Elam a province of his empire, according to his records, in the thirtieth year of his reign. The empire of Hammurabi’s dynasty fell before the Kassite invasion (c. 1600 b.c.) and Elam was delivered from Babylonian domination. For the next 300 years practically nothing is known about Elam. In the last quarter of the fourteenth cent. b.c. the Kassite Kurigalzu III claims to have conquered Elam.

3. The classical period. This period begins c. 1200 b.c. when Elam again gained independence and re-emerged as an international power. A succession of capable kings expanded Elamite power and an invasion of Babylon in 1160 b.c. destroyed Kassite domination. Babylon was made a satellite of Elam. Scores of temples were built throughout the empire dedicated to Elamite deities and tribute flowed into Susa the capital. Archeological excavations at Susa have disclosed that the Elamites plundered several Babylonian cities. Among the trophies found at Susa were the stele of the Code of Hammurabi and the victory stele of Naram-Sin. Many of the captured monuments were set up in the courts of important city temples and dedicated to the gods of Elam. These Elamite successes were abruptly ended by Nebuchadnezzar I who captured and plundered Susa (c. 1130 b.c.) and once more made Elam subject to Babylon. And once again for nearly 300 years nothing is known of Elamite history.

The Babylonian Chronicle mentions Elam as an independent state in 742 b.c. and it is described in the same way in the inscrs. of the Assyrian kings Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 b.c.) and Sargon II (722-706 b.c.). The Assyrians demonstrate great diplomatic skill in playing the various claimants to the Elamite throne against each other. Elamite inscrs. begin with Shutruk-Nahhunte II (717-681 b.c.) and are an important supplement to the Assyrian inscrs. The Elamites cooperated with the Babylonian rebel Merodach-baladan against Sennacherib (705-681 b.c.) which resulted only in Elam becoming a refuge for the rebellious Babylonians humiliated by the Assyrians. Sennacherib was unable to gain a decisive victory over Elam. In at least one battle the Elamites inflicted a defeat upon the Assyrians. The struggle between the two powers continued until the later years of the reign of the Assyrian Ashurbanipal (633-619 b.c.). Ashurbanipal defeated King Teumman and in one of his reliefs shows the defeated Elamite monarch’s head dangling from a tree in the palace garden where he and his queen are feasting with other nobles. Ashurbanipal placed a puppet upon the throne of Elam but he proved disloyal with the result that in 640 b.c. the Assyrian monarch invaded Elam, sacked Susa and deported many of the population to Samaria. Elam as an independent nation thus comes to an end. At the rise of the Pers. empire 550 b.c. Elam was made a satrapy paying tribute to the Achaemenid kings. Susa was maintained as an important city and was used as the king’s residence for three months of the year. It was widely known for the beauty of its halls and palaces. The city was mentioned by Gr. writers such as Arrian, Ctesias, and Herodotus.

4. Elam in the Bible. Elam, the progenitor of the Elamites, with Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram, was a son of Shem (Gen 10:22). In Genesis 14:1-17 Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, is described as the overlord of three other Mesopotamian kings. Cuneiform tablets discovered at Mari indicate that in this period Elamite mercenaries served in the armies of the kings of Mesopotamia and that Elamites traveled as emissaries as far as Aleppo and Hazor which may help to understand Genesis 14. It is impossible on the basis of present knowledge to synchronize adequately the rulers of the Mesopotamian cities and the Elamite kings.

Bibliography G. C. Cameron, History of Early Iran (1936); G. A. Barton, Archaeology and the Bible (1937); E. Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient Near East (1941); J. A. Thompson, The Bible and Archaeology (1962); J. Gray, Archaeology and the Old Testament World (1965).