Elam (Hebrew Bible)

Elam (Hebrew Bible)

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Elam in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

(Genesis 10:22, Ezra
Book of Ezra
The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Originally combined with the Book of Nehemiah in a single book of Ezra-Nehemiah, the two became separated in the early centuries of the Christian era...

 4:9;) is said to be the oldest son of Shem
Shem was one of the sons of Noah in the Hebrew Bible as well as in Islamic literature. He is most popularly regarded as the eldest son, though some traditions regard him as the second son. Genesis 10:21 refers to relative ages of Shem and his brother Japheth, but with sufficient ambiguity in each...

, the son of Noah
Noah was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark...

. It is also used (as in Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

), for the ancient country of Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

 in what is now southern Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, whose people the Hebrews believed to be the offspring of Elam, son of Shem. This implies that the Elamites were considered Semites by the Hebrews, although their language was not Semitic
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

, but is considered a linguistic isolate. This modern categorization does not conflict with the Hebrew Bible, since it holds that the diversity of human languages originated at the Tower of Babel.

Genesis also states that that Elam's younger brother Arphaxad was born two years after the flood.

Elam (the nation) is also mentioned in Genesis 14, describing an ancient war in the time of Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

, involving a king of Elam it calls Chedorlaomer
Chedorlaomer "a handful of sheaves", was a king of Elam according to the Hebrew Bible book of Genesis Chapter 14. He ruled fourteen years, from the East in southwestern Persia, occupying the regions east of the Jordan river, in the days of Abram...


The prophecies of Isaiah
Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...

 (11:11, 21:2, 22:6) and Jeremiah
Book of Jeremiah
The Book of Jeremiah is the second of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the book of Isaiah and preceding Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve....

 (25:25) also mention Elam, and the last part of Jeremiah 49 is an apocalyptic oracle against Elam, self-dated to the first year of Zedekiah
Zedekiah or Tzidkiyahu was the last king of Judah before the destruction of the kingdom by Babylon. He was installed as king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, after a siege of Jerusalem to succeed his nephew, Jeconiah, who was overthrown as king after a reign of only three months and...

 (597 BC).

The Book of Jubilees may reflect ancient tradition when it mentions a son (or daughter, in some versions) of 'Elam named "Susan", whose daughter Rasuaya married Arpachshad
Arpachshad or Arphaxad or Arphacsad was one of the five sons of Shem, the son of Noah . His brothers were Elam, Asshur, Lud and Aram; he is an ancestor of Abraham. He is said by Gen...

, progenitor of another branch of Shemites. Shushan (or Susa) was the ancient capital of the Elamite Empire. (Dan. 8:2)
Elam as a personal name also refers to eight other figures appearing in the Hebrew Bible:
  • Elam is a son of Shashak
    Shashack is an ancestor of King Saul and the father of Elam in the Books of Chronicles ....

     of the tribe
    A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

     of Benjamin
    Benjamin was the last-born of Jacob's twelve sons, and the second and last son of Rachel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He was the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin. In the Biblical account, unlike Rachel's first son, Joseph, Benjamin was born in Canaan. He died in Egypt on...

     in 1 Chronicles 8:24 .
  • Elam is the son of Meshelemiah, a Levite
    In Jewish tradition, a Levite is a member of the Hebrew tribe of Levi. When Joshua led the Israelites into the land of Canaan, the Levites were the only Israelite tribe that received cities but were not allowed to be landowners "because the Lord the God of Israel himself is their inheritance"...

     of the family of Kohath
    According to the Torah, Kohath was one of the sons of Levi, and the patriarchal founder of the Kohathites, one of the four main divisions among the Levites in Biblical times; in some apocryphal texts such as the Testament of Levi, and the Book of Jubilees, Levi's wife, Kohath's mother, is named as...

     in 1 Chronicles 26:3.
  • Elam is the ancestor of a family that returned with Zerubbabel
    Zerubbabel was a governor of the Persian Province of Judah and the grandson of Jehoiachin, penultimate king of Judah. Zerubbabel led the first group of Jews, numbering 42,360, who returned from the Babylonian Captivity in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia . The date is generally thought to...

     in Ezra
    Book of Ezra
    The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Originally combined with the Book of Nehemiah in a single book of Ezra-Nehemiah, the two became separated in the early centuries of the Christian era...

  • Elam is the ancestor of a family that returned from the Captivity in Ezra 2:31. This is possibly the same man and family as in Ezra 2:1-2,7.
  • Elam is the ancestor of a family that returned with Ezra in Ezra 8:7 .
  • Elam is the grandfather of Shechaniah in Ezra 10:3.
  • Elam is one of the men who joins Nehemiah
    Nehemiah ]]," Standard Hebrew Nəḥemya, Tiberian Hebrew Nəḥemyāh) is the central figure of the Book of Nehemiah, which describes his work rebuilding Jerusalem and purifying the Jewish community. He was the son of Hachaliah, Nehemiah ]]," Standard Hebrew Nəḥemya, Tiberian Hebrew Nəḥemyāh) is the...

     in sealing the new covenant in Nehemiah
    Book of Nehemiah
    The Book of Nehemiah is a book of the Hebrew Bible. Told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, it concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, a Jew who is a high official at the Persian court, and the dedication of the city and its people to God's laws...

  • Elam is a priest who helps in the rededication of the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 12:42.

See also

  • List of biblical names starting with E
  • Archevite
    Archevite in the Old Testament was one of the nations planted by the Assyrians in Samaria .Sir Isaac Newton wrote in The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms that he believed Archevite was located in "the south and south-east side of Assyrian Empire" and were "transplanted by Esarhaddon to...

    - A nation mentioned along with Elam in