The Šulmán Temple in Jerusalem

In the el-Amarna letters No. 74 and 290 there is reference to a place read (by Knudtzon) Bet-NIN.IB. In Ages in Chaos, following Knudtzon, I understood that the reference was to Assyria (House of Nineveh).(1) I was unaware of an article by the eminent Assyriologist, Professor Jules Lewy, printed in the Journal of Biblical Literature under the title: “The Šulmán Temple in Jerusalem.”(2)

From a certain passage in letter No. 290, written by the king of Jerusalem to the Pharaoh, Lewy concluded that this city was known at that time also by the name “Temple of Šulmán.” Actually, Lewy read the ideogram that had much puzzled the researchers before him.(3) After complaining that the land was falling to the invading bands (habiru), the king of Jerusalem wrote: “. . . and now, in addition, the capital of the country of Jerusalem — its name is Bit Šulmáni —, the king’s city, has broken away . . .”(4) Beth Šulmán in Hebrew, as Professor Lewy correctly translated, is Temple of Šulmán. But, of course, writing in 1940, Lewy could not surmise that the edifice was the Temple of Solomon and therefore made the supposition that it was a place of worship (in Canaanite times) of a god found in Akkadian sources as Shelmi, Shulmanu, or Salamu.

The correction of the reading of Knudtzon (who was uncertain of his reading) fits well with the chronological reconstruction of the period. In Ages in Chaos (chapters vi-viii) I deal with the el-Amama letters; there it is shown that the king of Jerusalem whose name is variously read Ebed-Tov, Abdi-Hiba, etc. was King Jehoshaphat (ninth century). It was only to be expected that there would be in some of his letters a reference to the Temple of Solomon.

Also, in el-Amama letter No. 74, the king of Damascus, inciting his subordinate sheiks to attack the king of Jerusalem, commanded them to “assemble in the Temple of Šulmán.”(5)

It was surprising to find in the el-Amama letters written in the fourteenth century that the capital of the land was already known then as Jerusalem (Urusalim) and not, as the Bible claimed for the . pre-Conquest period, Jebus or Salem.(6) Now, in addition, it was found that the city had a temple of Šulmán in it and that the structure was of such importance that its name had been used occasionally for denoting the city itself. (Considering the eminence of the edifice, “the house which king Solomon built for the Lord”,(7) this was only natural.) Yet after the conquest by the Israelites under Joshua ben-Nun, the Temple of Šulmán was not heard of.

Lewy wrote: “Aside from proving the existence of a Šulmán temple in Jerusalem in the first part of the 14th century B.C., this statement of the ruler of the region leaves no doubt that the city was then known not only as Jerusalem, but also as Bet Šulmán.”—“It is significant that it is only this name [Jerusalem] that reappears after the end of the occupation of the city by the Jebusites, which the Šulmán temple, in all probability, did not survive.”

The late Professor W. F. Albright advised me that Lewy’s interpretation cannot be accepted because Šulmán has no sign of divinity accompanying it, as would be proper if it were the name of a god. But this only strengthens my interpretation that the temple of Šulmán means Temple of Solomon.

In the Hebrew Bible the king’s name has no terminal “n”. But in the Septuagint — the oldest translation of the Old Testament — the king’s name is written with a terminal “n”; the Septuagint dates from the third century before the present era. Thus it antedates the extant texts of the Old Testament, the Dead Sea Scrolls not excluded.

Solomon built his Temple in the tenth century. In a letter written from Jerusalem in the next (ninth) century, Solomon’s Temple stood a good chance of being mentioned; and so it was.


  1. Immanuel Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos, vii: “The Second Siege of Samaria.”

  2. The Journal of Biblical Archaeology 59 (1940), pp. 519 ff.

  3. Cf. Weber in Knudtzon: Die El-Amarna Tafeln, p. 1160 and p. 1343, for the various attempts to read the ideograms for NIN.IB. Lewy solved the problem: “The ideogram dNIN.IB may be pronounced Šulmánu.”

  4. In an article preceding that of Lewy, P. Haupt (Orientalistische Literaturzeitung XVIII, 1915, cols. 71-2) translated the verse in EA 290: “Die Landeshauptstadt Namens Jerusalem, die Stadt des Ninib-Tempels, die Königsstadt.” Replacing Ninib by Shulman or Shalmi, we arrived at the conclusion that the sentence deals with Solomon’s Temple. Latest is an article in Hebrew Eretz-Israel IX (Jerusalem, 1969), by Tadmor and Kalai, who read the ideogram as Beth-Ninurta and locate it in Beth-Horon. This is an error; but they have brought the pertinent literary references together.

  5. The idea that the reference in EA 74 to Beth-Ninurta or Beth-Shulman is to some other place is based on the erroneous location of Sumur on the Syrian coast; in A in C it was shown that Sumur is Samaria, a short distance from Jerusalem.

  6. See A in C, vi: “Jerusalem, Samaria, Jezreel.”

  7. I Kings 6:2