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Asshur On The Tigris
by Wayne Blank
"The third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria"
Shem was a son of Noah; Asshur was a son of Shem.
"The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram." (Genesis 10:22 RSV)
Asshur is mentioned very early in Bible History (keeping in mind that the translated words Asshur and Assyria originated from a single word, ash-shoor). As described in this account of the rivers that originated in Eden, the city of Asshur is more likely what is described below in "the name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria" because only the Tigris is spoken of in that way; the Euphrates River also flows through the area of Assyria, but not from Asshur which was located on the Tigris. "Assyria" here was probably referring specifically to "Asshur," which was the original capital of Assyria before Nineveh - which also provides a possible time clue as to when the "official record" of Genesis was written i.e. neither the city of Asshur or the political territory known as Assyria were yet in existence at the time of the Garden of Eden because Asshur, the son of Shem (and Shem himself) wasn't yet born at that point.
"A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which flows around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it." (Genesis 2:10-15 RSV)
Nimrod later ruled Assyria and built a new capital city, Nineveh. Note how Asshur and Assyria are used interchangeably (correctly so, since they were originally written in the Scriptures as a single Hebrew word), as in the example below of Genesis 10:8-12 from the King James and Revised Standard Versions. Note also how the KJV gives the impression that Asshur built Nineveh, when it is very plain, in the full context of both the KJV and RSV, that Nimrod did.
"And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before The Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before The Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city." (Genesis 10:8-12 KJV)
Fact Finder: Assyria later became a great empire. How was it involved with the history of Israel, particularly the northern kingdom of Israel (see The Israelite Monarchy - The Northern Kingdom).