The Mysterious Habiru

Hebrew or Habiru

Genesis 14:13

"And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshhcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram."

Controversy centers around the word "Hebrew" in this passage, and the discovery of the word, "Habiru" in numerous ancient sources.

Initially, Biblical scholars were quick to point out the striking similarities between these people and the Hebrews of the Old Testament.

Over 200 references to these people have been found throughout the whole of Ancient Near East literature. Such references have shed further light on the Habiru.

One of the leading experts on the Ancient Near East, Nadav Na'aman, points out the "dimorphic" nature of Canaanite society.

One aspect of ancient society was composed of urban elements. These people lived in settled areas, living in urban centers, whether they be villages, towns, or large metropolitan centers.

The second element of society was the tribal element.

The Tribe was common to all the Ancient Near East civilizations. It was so intensely ingrained in the psyche of the ancient world, that attempts to eliminate the word from modern academic usage have failed. The tribes of the ancient Near East were much more than just large families. It was a diverse entity.

Tribes were made up of a number of different families and individuals, from a diverse background; farmers, nomads, and those living in metropolitan areas. Tribes were more defined by geographical regions, and territories, than by social position, or blood.

Small towns, metropolitan cities, villages, and nomads often made up the large and diverse areas of certain tribes.

Tribes served to unite diverse families and members of society, from all stratas. The tribe was the social, religious, political, and military backbone of Canaanite society.

Consequently, it was comprised from both sectors of society, the urban and the tribal.

Times were also often violent, and dangerous. Canaan was caught in the crossfires of Mesopotamian powers in the East, and the great power of Egypt in the South.

Local wars were fought between individual city-state kingdoms. Villages were often raided by nearby bandits and outlaws. The tribe, thus, was a critical element of protection and stability as well.

Tribes, however, were not immune from disaster. Catastrophes could result from a wide variety of factors, including debt, excessive taxation, famine, fire, war, etc.

Such occurrences could often leave tribes severely weakened, if not completely disbanded and destroyed. The weaker elements within a tribe were sometimes unable to survive such a disaster. An Egyptian picture of a Habiru prisoner of war. The families, or members, who possessed the least amount of livestock and land, the poorest members, were often forced to abandon their tribe, and homeland, and seek out an existence in neighboring countries.

These ancient immigrants and exiles would often meet up with other exiles, and in turn, form their own band. These bands operated independently out of necessity.

They had no homeland, no central political entity. Their social structure had been radically altered.

They were forced to seek their identity within their new tribe, abandoning their cultural customs, or merging them with other cultures found within the tribe.

Within these new tribes, which were limited in number, an especially capable, or popular, individual would emerge as its leader.

These exiled bands became a transitional social element, not urban, nor nomadic, in nature. In fact, these bands were made up primarily of members from sedentary populations.

However, both sectors of ancient society, the urban and the tribal, were vulnerable to being exiled from their homes, thus, both sectors were discernible in these new tribes.

Na'aman argues that the very nature of these tribes led to their means of survival. They were the weaker elements within their native tribes.

They were forced to abandon their known means of survival, and search for others. Consequently, they became "predatorial" in nature. M.B. Rowton explains the phenomenon as such:

"In tribal society the most predatory elements were usually the small and poor tribes, or splinter groups. These lacked the strength to assert their claim to pasture. As a result they would turn to brigandage."

These new tribes became known in the ancient world as The Habiru.

CLICK HERE TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS. Who do you think these people were? Why were they so widespread? What could the connection be between them and the Hebrews? Give us your insights, thoughts, questions, and comments!



Study Resource

Nadav Na'aman is one of the leading experts in the world concerning the ancient history of Israel. This article appeared in The Journal of the American Oriental Society, published by American Oriental Society on October 1, 2000. In it, Na'aman discusses the Habiru in great detail, and sheds invaluable light on the makeup and structure of their tribes. He also relates this group to the Hebrews in the Old Testament, and discusses several similarities. This is a very insightful, though scholarly, article. Click on the link below to re-direct to Amazon.com to view Habiru-like Bands in the Assyrian Empire and Bands in Biblical Historiography.

Habiru-like Bands in the Assyrian Empire and Bands in Biblical Historiography.: An article from: The Journal of the American Oriental Society






The Habiru in the Ancient World






Ancient Sumerian Sources : The earliest known references occur in ancient Sumerian cuneiform tablets. The ancient Sumerians were the first civilization in recorded history, and possess mysterious origins.

Ancient Egyptian Literature : Ancient Egyptian literature dealt with these people, calling them the Apiru. The Hebrew/Apiru connection is especially interesting in Egyptian literature, including the below Amarna Letters.

The Amarna Letters : The initial discovery of the Habiru surfaced with the discovery of the Amarna Letters in Egypt. This collection is the most extensive treatment of these people from ancient sources. These letters depict the land of Canaan in a state of upheaval.

The Akkadians : In the ancient kingdom of Mari, over 25,000 Akkadian tablets were discovered. These tablets provided place names for over 500 previously unknown places. The Mari tablets shed invaluable light on the identity of the Habiru as well.

Ancient Hurrian Sources : Nuzi was a Hurrian city in the kingdom of Arrapha. In this agricultural city, over 5,000 tablets were discovered. These tablets mention these people being forced to enter domestic service.

The Ugarit Texts : The Ugarit discovery proved to be one of the single most important archaeological finds in the modern era. Texts from an ancient scroll school and library led to the decipherment of Ugaritic. These texts also mention the Apiru, a different appellation for this group of people.

The Ancient Hebrews : Fundamental to the connection between Habiru and Hebrew is the origin of the ancient Hebrews in the Bible. The book of Genesis credits Eber as being the father of the Hebrews.







Back to Home Page

Back to Top of Habiru




A map of the Habiru in the ancient Near East.






Who Were the Habiru?

Do you have an opinion regarding the Habiru? What may the connection be between the Hebrew and the Habiru? Share your thoughts and questions on these mysterious people here!

Enter Your Title

What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Nomadic wanderers - Gypsies / Hungarian / Habiru-Nibiru / Hung-arian - aryan There really seems to be a correlation 
This just seems so coincidental that the peoples that made up the beginning of Hungary, Germany Romania and that whole general area of ancient Khazaria, …

Who WEREN'T the Habiru  
It is inconceivable that a vassal of the Pharaoh could have written to the Pharaoh at the exact time that Israel was invading Canaan, complaining about …

The New Chronology 
In Akhenaten’s twelfth year the palace at Ugarit in Tyre was partially destroyed by fire. Three thousand years later, a tiny clay tablet was recovered …

You Should Read the Old Testament Correctly 
Abraham was not in Egypt. He was in the village of Misri, or Misreem in the Arabic Peninsula.

The True Sumerian Peoples. 
The end of this long period of the weak rule of the city priests was terminated by Sargon, the priest of Kish, who proclaimed himself king and started …

The True Origin of The Hebrew Peoples.  
9. Hebrew History (1071.6) 97:9.1 There never were twelve tribes of the Israelites ? only three or four tribes settled in Palestine. The Hebrew nation …

Nissanu vs. Nissan 
The Habiru were collectors of other religions, culture, writing, and they appointed themselves the chosen as nothing was theirs to begin with. They …

The Habiru 
Judges 11:26 While Israel dwelt in Heshbon and her towns and in Aroer and her towns and all the cities that be along by the coasts of Arnon for 300 …

Ipuwer Papyrus 
The Ipuwer Papyrus represents the time Abraham was in Egypt and God sent plagues against the pharaoh of Genesis 12:17 (Pepi II).

Johnny Blessings 
Hi! I like your blog and I'm currently reading other posts. I'm a content writer for a website about Family Blessings . And I was wondering if there are …

Significance of the Habiru people? 
How are the Habiru people significant to history, or in their time period? Also, what's the difference between the Apiru & Habiru people?

Joseph the Hebrew 
I would like to point out a passage that struck me after I read this article. Not only was Abraham called a Hebrew, but Joseph, just the 3rd generation …

Abraham & The Habiru / Apiru Not rated yet
I have always thought that the tribal structure of that area, at that time, was indicative of a colony, rather then a long time settled Place. If Sumer …

Ancient Egypt & The Amarna Letters Not rated yet
I strongly believe, from my many readings, that Egypt and/or the Amarna Letters were talking about the whole of Canaan and surrounding Peoples and City-States. …

Refired Not rated yet
My father's name was BIRU and was Aryan (as per passport). Is there any relationship between BIRU AND HABIRU?

Gwenn Asher Not rated yet
My college professor, many years ago, Dr. Minrad Arkin, told me that Habiru meant dirty feet, and that the word Hebrew came from the name of those slaves, …

Abiru, Hebrew, Hyperborean Not rated yet
Apiru, of apollo, and ap, means son of, iru. Hebrew means migrant, they were hyperboreans of Semitic descent. The hapiro, hyper-borians. Get it, …

Egyptian Tranlation of Hebrew Not rated yet
The Romiti (Egytians) called those wandering tribal groups north of the delta Habiru, or the Habiri (Hebrew). Later they moved south into Kemit (Egypt). …

Click here to write your own.




Top 5 Pages

We have listened to your advice and added a Site Search Engine tool. Enter the term or terms you wish to search www.israel-a-history-of.com for and check out the results! We hope this helps you in your study of God's Word!


These are the top five viewed pages on www.israel-a-history-of.com. Click on the link below to visit each page.

Map of Ancient Mesoptoamia

Ancient Mesopotamian Map



Old Testament Map

Map of David and Goliath



Sons of Noah

Sons of Noah Table of Nations Map



Map of Palestine

Map of Palestine Geography



Nimrod

Nimrod and the Tower of Babel






Click on the link below to Contact Us and leave your thoughts, questions, advice and feedback. Thanks for taking the time!

Contact Us

Related Sites

www.BibleWalks.com

Sacred Texts Online

www.preceptaustin.org