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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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ELAM . 1. A son of Shem ( Genesis 10:22 = 1 Chronicles 1:17 ), the eponymous ancestor of the Elamites (see following article). 2. A Korabite ( 1 Chronicles 26:3 ). 3. A Benjamite ( 1 Chronicles 8:24 ). 4. The eponym of a family of which 1254 returned with Zerub. ( Ezra 2:7 , Nehemiah 7:12 , 1E Esther 5:12 ) and 71 with Ezra ( Ezra 8:7 , 1Es 8:33 ). It was one of the Benê-Elam that urged Ezra to take action against mixed marriages ( Ezra 10:2 ), and six of the same family are reported to have put away their foreign wives ( Ezra 10:26 ). Elam acc. to Nehemiah 10:14 ‘sealed the covenant.’ 5. In the parallel lists Ezra 2:31 , Nehemiah 7:34 ‘the other Elam’ has also 1254 descendants who return with Zerubbabel. 6. A priest who took part in the dedication of the walls ( Nehemiah 12:42 ).

ELAM . An important country of Western Asia, called Elamtu by the Babylonians and Elymais by the Greeks (also Susiana , from Shushan or Susa the capital). It corresponds nearly to the modern Chuzistan , lying to the east of the lower Tigris , but including also the mountains that skirt the plain. The portion south of Susa was known as Anshan (Anzan). In Genesis 10:22 ( 1 Chronicles 1:17 ) Elam is called a son of Shem, from the mistaken idea that the people were of the Semitic race. They belonged to the great family of barbarous or semi-barbarous tribes which occupied the highlands to the east and north of the Semites before the influx of the Aryans.

Historically Elam’s most important place in the Bible is found in Genesis 14:1 ff., where it is mentioned as the suzerain of Babylonia and therewith of the whole western country including Palestine. The period there alluded to was that of Elam’s greatest power, a little later than b.c. 2300. For many centuries previous, Elam had upon the whole been subordinate to the ruling power of Babylonia, no matter which of the great cities west of the Tigris happened to be supreme. Not many years later, Hammurabi of Babylon (perhaps the Amraphel of Genesis 14:1-24 ) threw off the yoke of Elam, which henceforth held an inferior place. Wars between the two countries were, however, very common, and Elam frequently had the advantage. The splendidly defensible position of the capital contributed greatly to its independence and recuperative power, and thus Susa became a repository of much valuable spoil secured from the Babylonian cities. This explains how it came about that the Code of Hammurabi, the most important single monument of Oriental antiquity, was found in the ruins of Susa. A change in relations gradually took place after Assyria began to control Babylonia and thus encroach upon Elam, which was thenceforth, as a rule, in league with the patriotic Babylonians, especially with the Chaldæans from the south-land. Interesting and tragic is the story of the combined efforts of the Chaldæans and Elamites to repel the invaders. The last scene of the drama was the capture and sack of Susa ( c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 645). The conqueror Ashurbanipal (Bibl. Osnappar ) completed the subjugation of Elam by deporting many of its inhabitants, among the exiles being a detachment sent to the province of Samaria ( Ezra 4:9 ). Shortly thereafter, when Assyria itself declined and fell, Elam was occupied by the rising Aryan tribes, the Medes from the north and the Persians from the south. Cyrus the Persian (born about b.c. 590) was the fourth hereditary prince of Anshan.

Elam has a somewhat prominent place in the prophetic writings, in which Media + Elam = Persian empire. See esp. Isaiah 21:2 ff., Jeremiah 49:34 ff., and cf. Isaiah 22:6 , Jeremiah 25:25 , Ezekiel 32:24 . Particular interest attached to the part taken by the Elamites in the overthrow of Babylonia. An effect of this participation is curiously shown in the fact that after the Exile, Elam was a fairly common name among the Jews themselves ( Ezra 2:7; Ezra 2:31 , Nehemiah 7:12 , 1 Chronicles 8:24 et al. ).

J. F. McCurdy.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Elam'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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