Easton's Bible Dictionary
(FROM SHINAR, THE LAND OF)
LXX. and Vulgate "Senaar;" in the inscriptions, "Shumir;" probably identical with
Babylonia or Southern Mesopotamia, extending almost to the Persian Gulf. Here
the tower of Babel was built ( Genesis 11:1-6 ), and the city of Babylon. The
name occurs later in Jewish history ( Isaiah 11:11 ; Zechariah 5:11 ). Shinar
was apparently first peopled by Turanian tribes, who tilled the land and made
bricks and built cities. Then tribes of Semites invaded the land and settled in
it, and became its rulers. This was followed in course of time by an Elamite invasion;
from which the land was finally delivered by Khammurabi, the son of Amarpel ("Amraphel,
king of Shinar," Genesis 14:1 ), who became the founder of the new empire of Chaldea.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
watch of him that sleeps
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(country of two rivers), The ancient name of the great
alluvial tract through which the Tigris and Euphrates pass before reaching the
sea --the tract known in later times as Chaldaea or Babylonia. It was a plain
country, where brick had to be used for stone and slime for mortar. ( Genesis
11:3 ) Among the cities were Babel (Babylon), Erech or Orech (Orchoe), Calneh
or Calno (probably Niffer), and Accad, the site of which is unknown. It may be
suspected that Shinar was the name by which the Hebrews originally knew the lower
Mesopotamian country where they so long dwelt, and which Abraham brought with
him from "Ur of the Chaldees."
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
shi'-nar (shin'ar; Senaar Sen(n)aar):
The name given, in the earliest Hebrew records, to Babylonia, later called Babel,
or the land of Babel (babhel, 'erets babhel). In Genesis 10:10 it is the district
wherein lay Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, cities which were the "beginning"
of Nimrod's kingdom. In Genesis 11:2 Shinar is described as the land of the plain
where migrants from the East settled, and founded Babel, the city, and its great
2. Possible Babylonian Form of the Name:
Though sometimes identified with the Babylonian Sumer, the connection of Shinar
with that name is doubtful. The principal difficulty lies in the fact that what
might be regarded as the non-dialectical form singar (which would alone furnish
a satisfactory basis of comparison) is not found, and would, if existent, only
apply to the southern portion of Babylonia. The northern tract was called Akkad,
after the name of its capital city (see ACCAD). The Greek form Sen(n)aar shows
that, at the time the Septuagint translation was made, there was no tradition
that the `ayin was guttural, as the supposed Babylonian forms would lead us to
expect. As the Biblical form Shinar indicates the whole of Babylonia, it corresponds
with the native (Sumerian) Kingi-Ura, rendered "Sumer and Akkad," from which,
by changing "K" into "Sh" (found in Sumerian), Shinar may have been derived, but
this explanation is not free from difficulties.
3. Sumerian and Other Equivalents:
This two-fold designation, Kingi-Ura, is that which is commonly used in the inscriptions
of the earlier kings, though it cannot then have indicated always the whole country,
but only such parts of it as acknowledged their overlordship. Later on the corresponding
term seems to have been Kar-Dunias ("the territory of the god Dunias," to all
appearance a term introduced by the Kassite rulers). Nabonassar and his successors
seem to have contented themselves with the title "king of Babylon," rule in the
city implying also the dominion over the whole country. Often, however, the equivalent
term for Babylonia is Ehi, probably an abbreviation of Eridu, and here standing
for the land belonging to that sacred city--"the good city," a type of Paradise,
Babylonia being, in fact, situated upon the edinu, or "plain." See EDEN.
4. The Syriac Sen'ar:
All these comparisons tend to show that the Babylonian equivalent of Shinar is
not any of the above, and as yet has not, in fact, been found. This is also implied
by the fact, that Sen'ar was used in Syriac for the country around Bagdad, and
in ancient times included (it may be supposed) the plain upon which the ruins
of Babylon stand. Sen'ar was therefore in all probability an ancient Babylonian
designation of the tract, now lost, but regarded by the Hebrews as synonymous
5. The Primitive Tongue of Shinar:
From the inscriptions it would seem that the primitive language of Shinar was
not Semitic, but the agglutinative idiom now named Sumerian--a tongue long regarded
as Turanian, and having, it is thought, Turko-Chinese affinities--gal, "to be,"
Turkish ol-mak; ama (ana), "mother," Turkish ana; abba, "old man," Turkish baba,
"father"; (h)e, "house," Turkish ev, etc. The Chinese affinities seem less close,
but the following may be quoted: a(y)a "father," Chinese ye (Amoy ia); ge, "night,"
Chinese ye; gu, "to speak," Chinese yu; shu, "hand," Chinese sheu; kin, "business,"
Chinese kung, "work"; etc. Chinese and Turkish, however, have had time to pass
through many changes since Sumerian was current in Shinar. Many words of the Sumerian
language were borrowed by the Semitic Babylonians, and a few (like hekal, "temple,"
Semitic (h)egal, "great house") entered the other Semitic languages.
6. Comparison with the Semitic Idiom:
Halevy's contention, that Sumerian is simply "an allography" for the expression
of Sera Babylonian, seems to be untenable, as they differ not only in words, but
also in grammar; moreover, Sumerian had a dialect, called by the natives "woman's
tongue." For the rest, the principal differences between Sumerian and Semitic
|(1) post-positional suffixes instead of prepositions;
(2) verbs with long strings of prefixes and infixes to express the persons and
regimens, instead of a prefix and a suffix;
(3) compound words, both nouns and verbs, are common instead of being exceedingly
rare. Sumerian seems to have borrowed several words from Semitic Babylonian.
7. The Testimony of the Sculptures, etc. to the Race:
Not only the language, but also the sculptures which they have left, point to
the probability that the earlier inhabitants of Shinar belonged to a different
race from the later. The Semites of Babylonia were to all appearance thick-set
and muscular, but the Sumerians, notwithstanding the stumpy figures which their
statues and bas-reliefs show, seem to have been slim--in any case, their warriors,
in the better basreliefs, as well as the figures of the god Nin-Girsu (formerly
known as "the god with the firestick"), and the engraved cylinders, have this
type. Moreover, the sculptures and cylinder-seals show that certain classes--priests
or the like--were clean shaven, in marked contrast to Semitic usage elsewhere.
Their deities, however, always had hair and beard, implying that they came from
a different, though possibly related, stock. These deities were very numerous,
and it is noteworthy that, though those with Sumerian names may be counted by
hundreds, those with Semitic names are only to be reckoned by tens.
8. The Sumerians Probably in Shinar before the Semites:
Though there is no certain indication which race entered Shinar first, it is to
be noted that Nimrod, presumably Shinar's first king and the founder of its great
cities, was a son of Cush (Genesis 10:8), and the name of Shinar seems to have
existed before the foundation of Babel (Babylon) and its tower (Genesis 11:2).
In the native sculptures, moreover, the non-Semitic type precedes the Semitic;
and in the inscriptions the non-Semitic idiom precedes that of the Semitic tranlation.
Everything points, therefore, to the Sumerians having been in Babylonia before
the Semitic inhabitants.
9. The States of Shinar:
At the earliest period to which our records refer the Sumerians of Shinar were
divided into a number of small states, of which the following may be regarded
as the principal:
Sippar or Sippar-Aruru (-Ya'ruru), possibly including Accad (Genesis 10:10), some
distance Southwest of Bagdad. It is the modern 'Abu-habbah, "father of grain."
Though it seems to have fallen early under the dominion of the Semites, it was
at first Sumerian, as its native name, Zimbir, and the ideographic writing thereof
show. According to Berosus, who calls it Pantabiblion, one of its earliest kings
was Amelon or Amillarus, who reigned 13 sari, or 46,800 years. Later on came Evedoreschus,
the native Enwe-duran-ki, renowned as a priest favored by the gods. His descendants,
if of pure race, inherited the divine grace which he enjoyed. It is said to have
been in Sippara (Sippar) that Ut-napistim, the Babylonian Noah, buried the records
before entering the ark.
About 18 miles North of Babylon lay Kes, now Oheimer--a foundation which seems
to have preceded Babylon as the capital of Shinar. Its early queen, Azag-Bau,
is said to have been the wife of a wine-merchant and to have reigned 100 years.
Babylon, for which see BABEL; BABYLON. As one of its early kings, Berosus mentions
Alorus, "the shepherd of the people," as having reigned for 10 sari, or 36,000
years. The state of Babylon probably included Cuthah. (Tel Ibrahim), which once
had kings of its own, and possessed a special legend of the Creation. Belonging
to Babylon, also, was the renowned city Borsippa, now Birs, or the Birs Nimroud,
the traditional site of the Tower of Babel. See BABEL, TOWER OF.
Some distance Southeast of Babylon lay Nippur or Niffur, now Niffer (Noufar),
identified by the rabbis with the "Calneh" of Genesis 10:10. It was a place of
considerable importance, and the seat of the worship of Enlil and Ninlil, later,
also, of their son Ninip and his spouse (see CALNEH). The American excavations
on this site have thrown a flood of light upon almost every branch of Assyriological
Adab, now called Bismaya, the city of Mah, the goddess of reproduction. One of
the earliest rulers of Adab was seemingly called Lugal-dalu, of whom a fine statue,
discovered by the American explorers, exists. It was apparently renowned as a
South and a little West of Adab was Surippak, now Fara. This was the birthplace
of the Babylonian Noah, Ut-napistim, son of Opartes (Umbara-Tutu), a Chaldean
of Larancha. The coming of the Flood was revealed to Ut-napistim here.
Practically East of Fara lay Umma or Gisuh (or Giuh), now Jokha. This city was
apparently of considerable importance, and the traditional rival of Lagas.
South of Fara lay Unuga, Semitic Uruk, the Biblical ERECH (which see), now Warka.
Its most celebrated king, after Gilgames, was Lugal-zaggi-si, one of the opponents
of the rulers of Lagas.
Some distance East of Warka was the territory of Lagas, now Tel-loh--a little
state, rather in accessible, but of considerable importance to the antiquarian,
which is a testimonial to the advance in civilization which it had made. Its kings
and viceroys were among the most renowned, though apparently unknown outside their
own domains. The most celebrated were the reformer Uru-ka-gina and viceroy Gudea,
to whom many erections in the city were due. (See Gudea's remarkable statue in
Somewhat to the Southeast of Warka lay Larsa, the "Ellasar" of Genesis 14:1 (which
see). This center of learning maintained its independence even after the other
states had been absorbed by Hammurabi and his dynasty into the Babylonian empire.
To the Southeast of Warka and Senqara lies the site of the ancient UR OF THE CHALDEES
(which see) now Mugheir. It was renowned for its temple to the moon, and for the
kings known as the dynasty of Ur: Sur-Engur, Dungi, Bur-Sin, Gimil-Sin, and Ibi-Sin.
South of the Ur lay Eridu, or, in full, Guruduga, "the good city," wherein, apparently,
lay the earthly Paradise. This is identified with the present `Abu-shahrein, and
was the seat of Ea or Enki, god of the sea and of fertilizing streams. According
to the tradition, it was there that the "dark vine" grew--a type, seemingly, of
the tree of life. The later kings of Babylon sometimes bear the title "king of
Eridu," as though rulers of the domain of Paradise.
(13) The Land of the Sea:
The Land of the Sea (that bordering on the Persian Gulf), in which, seemingly,
the Chaldeans afterward settled, seems to have played an important part in the
early history of Shinar. Berosus speaks of its king Ammenon, who reigned 12 sari,
or 43,200 years, and in whose time the Musarus Oannes, or Annedotus, arose out
of the Persian Gulf. Like others referred to in the legends which Berosus refers
to, he was half-man and half-fish. It is thought that these incidents, though
evidently mythical, point to the introduction of civilization into Babylonia,
from this point. See also JONAH; JONAH, THE BOOK OF.
(14) Nisin, Isin, or Karrak:
Nisin, Isin, or Karrak, seat of the worship of Nin-Karraga, was also an important
state governed by its own kings.
(15) Upe or Upia (Opis):
Upe or Upia, the Greek Opis, apparently obtained renown at a very early date,
its kings being given in the great chronological list before those of Kis.
(16) Other Well-known Cities:
Other well-known cities, possibly state-capitals, were Larak, Greek Laranche;
Amarda, one of the centers of the worship of Nergal; Asnunna, a province East
of the present Bagdad; Dilmu, now Dailem; Nuru, Ennigi, and Kakra, seemingly centers
of the worship of Hadad; Tilmun, at the head of the Persian Gulf, and including
the island of Bahrein; the province of Sabu; Seseb or Bagdadu, possibly the modern
Bagdad; and several others.
10. Shinar and Its Climate:
Whether the country was in the same seemingly uncared-for state in ancient times
as at present is unknown; but one cannot help admiring the courage of the original
immigrants into such a district, for example, as that of Lagas. This, which belongs
to the southern region, is very inaccessible on account of the watercourses and
marshes. Like the whole of Shinar in general, it is more or less dried up in summer,
and unhealthy for Europeans. The alterations in the waterways, owing to changes
in the irrigation-channels, must then, as now, have hindered communication. Sharp
cold, with frost, succeeds the heat of summer, and from time to time sand-storms
sweep across the plain. Notwithstanding the destruction sometimes wrought, the
floods were always welcomed in consequence of the fruitfulness which followed,
and which was such as to make Babylonia one of the most fertile tracts known.
11. Sculpture in Shinar:
The reference to the Sumerian sculptures in (7) above will have shown that the
inhabitants of the Plain of Shinar possessed an art of no mean order and of some
antiquity, even at the time when it first presents itself to our notice. It is
true that many specimens are crude and uncouth, but this is probably due to the
sculptors having been, often enough, the slaves of their material. Their stones
were frequently more or less pebble-shaped, and they had neither the skill nor
the tools to reduce them to better proportions--moreover, reduction of bulk would
have meant a diminution of their importance. The broad, squat figures which they
produced, however, gave them bad models for their bas-reliefs, and it was long
ere this defect was removed, notwithstanding the superior work produced by their
seal-engravers during and after the 4th millennium BC.
12. The First Nation to Use Writing in Western Asia:
But in all probability special renown will always be attached to the non-Semitic
inhabitants of Shinar as the inventors, or at least the earliest users known to
us, of the cuneiform script. It may be objected that the system which they introduced
was cumbersome and imperfect, but they knew of nothing simpler, and modern Chinese,
with which their script has been compared, is far less practical. Briefly, the
system may be described as syllabic for the prefixes and suffixes, and ideographic
for the roots. To show this the following transcribed example will probably suffice:
13. The System Employed, with an Example:
| E nu-DU URU nu-DIM, A house was not built, a city was not constructed;
URU nu-DIM ADAM nu-mun-GAR, A city was not constructed, a community he had not
ABZU nu-DU GURUDUGA nu-DIM, The abyss was not built, Eridu was not constructed;
E AZAGA DINGIRene KI-DURA-bi nu-DIM, The holy house of the gods, its seat was
Su-NIGIN KURKURAgi AABBAama, The whole of the lands was sea.
The nominal and verbal roots of the above extract from the bilingual account of
the Creation are in capitals, and the pronominal prefixes and suffixes, with a
couple of lengthenings which determine the pronunciations of the nouns, in small
letters. This will not only give an idea of the poetical form of the Sumerian
legend of the Creation by Merodach and Aruru, but also show how short and concise,
as a language, was the speech of Shinar, before Semitic supremacy.
T. G. Pinches
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, define, senaar, shinar, shumir, states of shinar