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Originally published in Creation 9, no 1 (December 1986): 12.
‘I read the beautiful clay tablets from Sumer and the Akkadian writing, which is hard to master. I had the joy of reading inscriptions on stone from the time before the flood.’
This statement was made by King Ashurbanipal, an ancient king of the Assyrian Empire. King Ashurbanipal ruled Assyria from his palace at Nineveh. He ruled in the seventh century BC. This statement of his was uncovered in 1853 by Hormuzd Rassam, who discovered Ashurbanipal’s royal library. It consisted of two adjoining high-vaulted rooms stacked high with thousands of priceless clay tablets, one of which contained Ashurbanipal’s statement which in full reads: 'I Ashur-bani-pal, within the palace, learned the wisdom of Nebo, the entire art of writing on clay tablets of every kind. I made myself master of the various kinds of writing. . .I read the beautiful clay tablets from Sumer and the Akkadian writing, which is hard to master. I had the joy of reading inscriptions on stone from the time before the flood.’
In his day, Ashurbanipal became one of the world’s greatest patrons of literature. He sent scribes to Ashur, Babylon, Cuthah, Nippur, Akkad, Erech and other centres throughout his vast empire where they collected and copied clay books of history, grammar, geography, literature, law, medicine, astrology, prayers, poems, hymns and much more. All these were brought to Ashurbanipal’s palace at Nineveh where he studied and collated them and had fresh copies made of them in many languages. They were filed away in methodical fashion 'for the instruction of the people at Neneveh.’
When he had completed his library, it contained something near 100,000 copies-one of the greatest and most valuable of ancient time. Most were destroyed with the city of Nineveh in 612 BC, although about 20,000 survived. The one discovered by Hormuzd Rassam was only part of the king’s private library. It was from this library which George Smith, working with the tablets in the British Museum, found the larger portion of a tablet which gave us the Babylonian story of the Flood. Although it is only a degenerate version of Noah’s Flood, nevertheless it confirms the world-wide spread of such stories which were taken from the people who left the Tower of Babel with the knowledge of Noah’s Flood.
Ashurbanipal was possibly reading one of the books Noah took to keep him occupied during the year of the Flood.Of course the exciting aspect is that if Ashurbanipal in his day could still read material that came through the Flood, then most likely it came through the Flood only because it came on Noah’s Ark. Ashurbanipal was possibly reading one of the books Noah took to keep him occupied during the year of the Flood. Perhaps it was no less than a record by Noah himself.
We must remember, however, that what King Ashurbanipal says does not prove absolutely he was reading stone tablets that had come through the time of the Flood with Noah. They only tell us with certainty that he was reading stone tablets which he was firmly convinced came through the Flood.Ashurbanipal’s statement, if true, confirms that the people before the
Flood could well and truly write and record information, and it most certainly confirms that Ashurbanipal believed they could. And if it were still in existence in his day, then perhaps one day we too shall dig up those same records-the books that Noah took on board the Ark.
For those who may be wondering what language it was that Ashurbanipal was reading on the stone tablets from the time of the Flood, it does not follow that they were Babylonian. Notice King Ashurbanipal says he had learned the Akkadian writing, and language of Sumer, and also had the privilege of reading stone tablets from the time before the Flood. He could obviously read and write several languages. Sadly, it doesn’t even give us a clue as to what the language was on those tablets. It probably does tell us, however, that it was not Akkadian.
Source Archaeological Supplement, Thompson Chain Reference Bible.