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KRONOS Vol X, No. 2

Bet Shulman


Copyright (c) 1984 by Dwardu Cardona

The claim that the Ebla tablets have shown Salem and Jerusalem to have been two different places(1) has not been validated. We must therefore continue to accept the statement of Flavius Josephus who claimed that Salem was an earlier name for Jerusalem.(2) "Salem", or "shalem", once thought to signify "peace", is now known to have been the name of an early Canaanite deity.(3) Up until recently, this deity had been identified as Venus.(4) But from as early as the time of Melchizedek, priest and king of Salem, the city seems to have honored the planetary god Jupiter/Zedek.(5) Isaiah called Jerusalem the city of Jupiter.(6) To my knowledge, no one in antiquity ever referred to Jerusalem as the city of Venus. If Salem was Venus, no one would have had to; the name of the city would itself have been enough. But was Salem the same as Venus?

In Chaldean, Jerusalem was rendered Yerushalem; in Hebrew, it changed to Yerushalaim. Both names mean "founded (by) Shalem". Indications that this god was worshipped there can be traced at least to the time of Israel's United Monarchy.(7) Also rendered Shulman or Shulmanu,(8) this god's name has been thought to have given Jedidiah, son of David and king of Israel, his more popular name of Solomon.(9) Rendered Shlomoh in Hebrew, this monarch's name has also been stated to have been derived from "shalom", which, as everyone knows, does, inter alia, mean "peace". (Compare also the Arabic "salam" and Maltese "sliema".) The probability, however, is that both the monarch's name and the word for "peace" derived from the name of the god.

Biblical theophoric names derived from Shalem are common. Among the most noteworthy we find Absalom (Abishalom), David's own son; Shallum, names of kings of Israel and Judah; Shelemiah; Shelomi; Shelomith (or Shulamit), for whom Velikovsky named one of his daughters; and Shelemoth.

Outside of the Bible, we find this theophoric name adopted by Shalamanu, King of Moab.(10) It also appears as Shalmaneser, a name borne by more than one Assyrian king. Perhaps less known is the fact that Salummati was an epithet of the great Assurnasirpal.(11)

As a god, Shulman was worshipped in Nineveh and under the variant Shulmanuha or Shulmanuhi, is found mentioned in Assyrian tablets.(12)

Shulman is known to have had a feminine counterpart named Shulmanitu(13) - but also Shala.(14) This goddess - but not Shulman - has been identified with Astarte and Ishtar,(15) both goddesses of the planet Venus. Moreover, Assyrian sources define Sulmanitu (the same as Shulmanitu) as distar Urusilimma which M. Astour (whose name, coincidentally, is the same as Aster or Astarte) has rendered "Is[h] tar of Jerusalem".(16) That this goddess was known in Jerusalem is verified by her laudation in the famous Song of Solomon in which she is referred to merely as the Shulamite:

"Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?"(17)

"Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee . . ."(18)

The sacrifices performed in Solomon's temple were referred to in Hebrew as shelamim - the plural of "shelem ". Usually translated as "peace offering(s)", R. de Vaux is of the different opinion that shelamim "implies the idea of a tribute offered to God . . .". (19) If this is correct, the god in question must originally have been Shalem.*

[* Cf. L. M. Greenberg and W. B. Sizemore, "Jerusalem - City of Venus," KRONOS III: 3, p. 74. - LMG]

Because of the connection between Shulman and Shulmanitu/ Astarte/Ishtar, Lewis Greenberg and Warner Sizemore opted for Jerusalem as having been the city of Venus.(20) Jerusalem, however, seems to have been named for Shalem/Shulman and not Shulmanitu who was considered the consort of Shulman.(21) If Shalem/Shulman was Venus, as a male counterpart to Shulmanitu, Greenberg and Sizemore would of course still be correct; if Shalem was not Venus, it would not necessarily mean that they were in error. Shulmanitu, after all, seems to have been honored in Jerusalem just as much as Shalem and Zedek.

As they appear in cuneiform, the words "salummatu" and "salummati" are usually thought to signify "brightness" and "splendor" respectively.(22) As epithets, these descriptive terms were applied to Enlil (Saturn), Nergal (Mars), and Nabu (Mercury).(23) On their own, they throw no light on the real identity of Shalem.


In letters 74 and 290 of the el-Amarna correspondence, reference is made to a place which transliterators have rendered differently. J. Knudtzon settled on the reading of this place as Bet Ninib(24) i.e., House of Ninib.

Some time later, in 1940, Julius Lewy re-read the name of this same place as Bet Shulmanu - House (or Sanctuary) of Shulman.(25)

At the time he wrote Ages in Chaos, which he published in 1952, Immanuel Velikovsky was unaware of Lewy's reading. Following Knudtzon's transliteration, he accepted the reading as Bet Ninib and presented the place as a town in Palestine.(26)

In 1969, the team of Tadmor and Kalai re-read the ideogram again - this time as Beth Ninurta(27) - but Velikovsky, who, by this time, had chanced upon Lewy, dismissed the new reading as "an error".(28) It was obviously to his advantage to accept Lewy's transliteration over that of Knudtzon, Tadmor, and Kalai.

In a letter which he wrote to me in 1972, Velikovsky included the following words:

"There are quite a few additional data for [the] El-Amarna chapter and Possibly I shall work it into a separate volume. One of the most interesting items is a reference to the temple of Solomon in a letter of Abdi-Hiba, King of Jerusalem, read so by J. Lewy, the late noted Assyriologist (he thought Bit Ninib must be read Bit-Sulman and thought that Sulman was a deity)."(29)

As was often the case with Velikovsky, he had accepted Lewy's reading but not his interpretation; to him, Bit (Bet) Sulman (or Shulman) must have been a reference to Solomon's temple.

William Albright did not accept Lewy's transliteration, claiming that the ideogram which he read as Shulman did not incorporate the determinative for divinity. Velikovsky, who received this information from Albright,(30) felt the better vindicated for, if Bet Shulman, as he insisted, was really a reference to Solomon's temple, the determinative for divinity would not be required.

Some six years after he wrote to me, Velikovsky presented these findings in a paper which was read in his name at the 1978 Glasgow Conference sponsored by the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies.(31) A shorter paper by him, strictly dealing with the subject of Bet Shulman, also appeared in the S.I.S. Review of that year.(32) As he had previously informed me in his letter, Velikovsky accepted Lewy's re-reading of Bet Ninib as Bet Shulman(u) while discarding Lewy's contention that Shulman(u) was a deity. Through all this, Velikovsky hoped to prove that Solomon's temple was already built and referred to during Egypt's Eighteenth Dynasty.

As P. Friedman was soon to point out,(33) however, the term "Temple of Solomon" is only a modern English rendition which is never found duplicated in Hebrew in the Old Testament. There, Solomon's temple is constantly referred to as the House of Yahweh or, simply, the House of the Lord.

Friedman also drew attention to the fact that, in Assyrian records, the Kingdom of Israel is called the House of Omri in deference to Omri's dynasty. He therefore suggested that Bet Shulman should, in like manner, be understood to refer to the Kingdom of Judah in deference to Solomon's dynasty.

" 'House of Solomon' meant not merely the capital [i.e., Jerusalem], but the whole kingdom of Judah, approaching even more closely the use of 'House of Omri' for the kingdom of Israel."(34)

Friedman's suggestion found support in Peter James(35) and the late Bronson Feldman.(36) But in 1983, Samuel Dyen came up with a new and different interpretation. According to him, Bet Shulman should be understood literally as the House, that is Palace, of Solomon.(37)

With so many different interpretations running loose, one is bound to ask: Which is the correct one?


That Bet (or Bit) Shulman should be understood to refer to the Kingdom of Judah is not a well reasoned hypothesis. The fact that the Kingdom of Israel was designated as the "House of Omri" does not necessitate a comparable designation for the Kingdom of Judah. In el-Amarna letter 74, Rib-Addi asks that his warriors should assemble in Bet Ninib/Shulman.(38) Calling for warriors to assemble in the land of Judah, an area that stretched between Jerusalem and the Negeb, would have been too ambiguous an order. Where, exactly, would the warriors assemble? No general would have been able to make sense of such an order. The name Bet Ninib or Bet Shulman could not have referred to an entire country but to a more specific place.

This place could neither have been the palace nor the temple of Solomon. Despite Albright's contention to the contrary, the name Shulman, as it appears in el-Amarna letter 290, does incorporate the determinative - "dingir" - for divinity. Lewy reproduced it by the usual transliteration - viz., "dSulmani."(39) That being the case, Shulman has to be understood as the name of a deity and there can be no connection with either the palace or temple of Solomon beyond the fact that Solomon was named for the same deity.

Friedman had no reason to assume that Bet Shulman did not merely mean the capital, i.e., Jerusalem, since one of the only two extant sources which mentions Bet Shulman spells out this very message. That portion of letter 290 which deals with the place in question reads as follows:

"And now, in addition, the capital of the country of Jerusalem - its name is Bit Sulmani - the king's city, has broken away . . ."(40)

As Lewy himself concluded, "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 Sulman.(41)

The designation "House" - i.e., "Bet(h)" - for cities in Palestine is, of course, quite common. Easily coming to mind are Beth-aven, Beth-El, Bethlehem, Beth-haran, Bethshemesh, Beth-horon, Beth-eden (in Syria), Beth-peor, Beth-shan, and many others.

Lewy himself explains such place names as due to the one-time existence of sanctuaries each of which was dedicated to the deity there named.(42) Thus, Jerusalem would have been referred to as Bet Shulman because a temple of Shulman would have existed there.

Lewy's conclusion was that a temple of Shulman supplanted an earlier one dedicated to Shalim but that it did not last for long. During the same period, the name of the city changed from Urusalim to Bet Shulman; but, with the destruction of the Shulman temple, the name of the city reverted back to Urusalim. This would explain why the name Bet Shulman never became popular.(43)

Needless to say, this was all conjecture on Lewy's part. No temple of Shalim or Shulman has so far come to light in any source. Besides, Lewy himself accepted that Shalim and Shulman(u) were slightly different names of the same deity(44) so that no replacement of sanctuaries need enter the picture. Nor need the name Bet Shulman have ever supplanted that of Urusalim since, in effect, the meaning of both names is theologically, even if not philologically, synonymous - the former meaning "House of Shulman", the latter "Founded (by) Shalim".(45) It is thus more than possible that Bet Shulman was merely another designation for Urusalim, the one derived from Assyrian, the other from Chaldean sources. The Chaldean name passed into Hebrew; the Assyrian did not. The one became popular; the other not.

In any case, whether called by the very name of the god (Salem); referred to as having been founded by him (Urusalim/Yerushalem); or simply called his House (Bet Shulman); it remains obvious that the city we call Jerusalem was named in honor and dedicated to the god Shalem/Shulman.

Who was this god?*

[* See KRONOS III: 3, p. 60, for an earlier discussion of this god. - LMG]


The identity of Shulman should never have posed a problem. The Assyrians knew precisely who he was and passed the information to us in a most unambiguous manner.

Let me first say that Knudtzon was perfectly correct in reading the name of the city which appears in el-Amarna letter 290 as Bet Ninib since the cuneiform ideogram which "spells" the name of the god in question is dNIN.IB. Of that, there never was any doubt.(46) Ninib, sometimes rendered Ninip and/or Nirig, was the planetary god Saturn,(47)

The reason behind Lewy's re-reading of the name as Shulman may not appear clear to the uninitiated. Suffice it to say that cuneiform characters can be read ideographically and/or phonetically. Thus the ideogram dNIN.IB can also be read dNinurta(48) - which means that Velikovsky had absolutely no reason to dismiss Tadmor's and Kalai's reading of Beth Ninurta as an error.(48a) It is also well known that, like Ninib, Ninurta was the planetary god Saturn.

Lewy's re-reading was based on an equation which is to be found in an Assyrian explanatory list of divine names. In this list, the Assyrians themselves equated dNIN.IB with dDI.MES.(49) Just as dNIN.IB can be read dNinurta, so also dDI.MES can be read dShulmanu.(50) It follows from this that, like Ninib/Ninurta, with whom he was equated, Shulman was simply an alias of the planetary god Saturn.

Lewy's re-reading is given additional support by the fact that the two other known names of the city, Salem and Urusalim, incorporate the very same theophoric name of Shulman and/or Shalim. But all three readings - Bet Ninib, Beth Ninurta, and Bit Shulman - are correct. They all mean the same thing: "House of Saturn".

It can therefore be surmised that Jerusalem was named in honor, and dedicated to, no other god than Saturn. Its very ancient name of Salem meant Saturn, while Yerushalem is most correctly translated as "Founded by Saturn". In view of this, there can be no valid objection to an allusion of Jerusalem as the City of Saturn. Why, then, did Isaiah refer to Jerusalem as the City of Jupiter? The answer to this is clear enough. It is well known that Jupiter supplanted Saturn as king of the planetary gods. Thus, while the city retained its Saturnian name - as it does to the present - th e worship of Jupiter, from at least the time of Melchizedek, gained prominence and paralleled the more ancient Saturnian religion. It is however to be understood that the worship of Saturn was never quite abandoned; far from it, as the rites of Moloch which continued to be performed just outside the city bear ample witness.(51)


1. H. Maccoby, "Ebla, the Plain Dealer," SIS Review II:4 (Spring 1978), p. 97.
2. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (or The Jewish Antiquities), 1:10:2; Idem, The Jewish Wars (or Wars of the Jews), VI: 10.
3. M. Burrows, "Jerusalem," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (N.Y., 1962), Vol. II, p. 844.
4. J. Gray, "Shalem," in Ibid., Vol. IV, pp. 303-304.
5. D. Cardona, "Jupiter - God of Abraham," Part II, KRONOS VII:2 (Winter 1982), pp. 47-48, where other sources are cited.
6. Isaiah 1:26.
7. J. Lewy, "The Old West Semitic Sun God Hammu," Hebrew Union College Annual, XVIII (1944), pp. 441, 454.
8. Ibid, p. 454
9. J. Gray, op. cit., p. 304; Idem, The Canaanites (N.Y., 1964), pp. 124-125.
10. Ibid
11. I. Engnell, Studies in Divine Kingship in the Ancient Near East (Oxford, 1967), p. 183.
12. W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (N.Y., 1968), p. 149.
13. Ibid, pp. 133-134, 150.
14. N. K. Gottwald, "The Shulammite," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (N. Y., 1962), Vol. IV, p. 341; H. H. Rowley, 'The Meaning of 'The Shulammite'," American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature, LVI (1939), pp. 84-91.
15. W. F. Albright, loc. cit.
16. M. C. Astour, Heltenosemitica (Leiden, 1965), pp. 154-155.
17. Song of Solomon (also known as Song of Songs and/or Canticle of Canticles), 6: 10.
18. Ibid, 6:13. (NOTE: Hyam Maccoby's contention that the Shulamite mentioned in this source is to be understood as a reference to the Queen of Sheba - "The Queen of Sheba and the Song of Songs," SIS Review IV:4 (Spring 1980), pp. 98-100 cannot be accepted.)
19. R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (N. Y., 1965), pp. 417, 427, 440.
20. L. M. Greenberg & W. B. Sizemore, "Jerusalem - City of Venus," KRONOS III: 3 (Spring 1978), pp. 56-90.
21. N. K. Gottwald, loc. cit.; H. H. Rowley, loc cit.
22. I. Engnell, loc. cit
23. Ibid.
24. J. A. Knudtzon, Die El-Amarna-Tafeln (Leipzig, 1915), pp. 1160, 1343.
25. J. Lewy, "The Sulman Temple in Jerusalem," Journal of Biblical Literature LIX (1940), pp. 519 ff.
26. I. Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos (N. Y., 1952), p. 285.
27. As cited by I. Velikovsky, "The Sulman Temple in Jerusalem," SIS Review II:3 (Special issue, 1977/78), p. 86.
28. Ibid
29. I. Velikovsky to D. Cardona, January 12,1972, private communique.
30. I. Velikovsky (see ref. 27), loc. cit.
31. Idem, "Some Additional Evidence from the Period from the Exodus to the End of the Eighteenth Dynasty," SIS Review VI:1-3 (April 1983), p. 8; Idem, "More Evidence," Frontiers of Science IV: 1 (March-April 1982), p. 25.
32. Idem (see ref. 27), reprinted in KRONOS V:2 (Winter 1980), pp. 3-5.
33. P. N. Friedman, "The Temple in Jerusalem?" SIS Review III:1 (Summer 1978), pp.7-8
34. Ibid, p. 8.
35. P. J. James to L. M. Greenberg, 5/3/78, private communique - see KRONOS V:2 (Winter 1980), p. 5.
36. B. Feldman, "An Agreement on Beth Sulman," KRONOS V:4 (Summer 1980), pp. 93-94.
37. S. Dyen, "The House of Solomon," KRONOS VIII:2 (Winter 1983), p. 88.
38. I. Velikovsky, Ages in Chaos, p. 285.
39. J. Lewy, op. cit, p. 520.
40. Ibid.
41. Ibid, pp. 520-521.
42. Ibid., p. 521.
43. Ibid.
44. Ibid., p. 519.
45. Lewy gives the meaning as "Creation of Shalem" - see Ibid, p. 521 - but the Hebrew "yeru" is more in keeping with the meaning "founded".
46. Ibid, p. 520.
47. G. Rawlinson, The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World (1870 second ed.), Vol. I, p. 86; D. A. Mackenzle, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria (London), p. 314; M. Jastrow, Jr. "Sun and Saturn," Revue D 'Assyriologie et D 'Archeologie Orientale (September 1910), p. 172.
48. J. Lewy, op. cit., p. 519.
48a. Tadmor and Kalai were. however, incorrect in placing Beth Ninurta in Beth Horon see ref. 27.
49. J. Lewy, loc. cit
50. Ibid.
51. D. Cardona, "The Rites of Moloch," KRONOS IX:3 (Summer 1984), pp. 20-39.

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