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Mitanni (or even Mittani, Naharina in Egyptian texts) was a kingdom located in northern Mesopotamia that was extended, at the height of its amplitude, the Zagros Mountains to Lake Van and the borders of Assyria, inhabited mainly by the Hurrians. It reached its peak between 1450 BC and 1350 BC, during the terminal phase of the Bronze Age. Its capital was Washukanni, identified today with Tell el Fakhariya. The defeat for the Hittite army, led by Piyashshili of Carchemish and King Suppiluliuma I, marked the end of the power of Mitanni although the principality lived for a time.

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Hurrians appeared in the Near E as early as the middle of the 3rd millennium b.c., c. 2300. Hurrians occupied the great half-circle of the Taurus Mountains from Urkish, N of Carchemish, to the country of Namar, around Lake Van, and perhaps as far S as the Upper Zab River. Hurrian kings (at least kings whose names appear to be of a Hurrian type) reigned in Assyria c. 2200-2000 b.c. The so-called Assyrian King List found at Khorsabad includes the names Tudia, Ushpia, Sulili, and Kikkia, which are neither Semitic nor Hurrian. During the reign of the Hitt. king Hattushili I (c. 1700 b.c.), Hurrians appeared along the Upper Euphrates to the E of the Hitt. heartland and carried out occasional raids to the W to harass the Hittites. When Hattushili’s successor, Murshili I (c. 1595 b.c.), led his armies through Syria to sack Babylon, he recorded military encounters with Hurrians. But it was during the following few centuries (c. 1600-1400 b.c.) that the great Hurrian buildup in Syria transpired. Hurrians dominated, if not actually ruled, the kingdom of Kizzuwatna (Cilicia), as well as the kingdom of Alalakh to the S. Indeed, the new dynasty of the Hittites, of which Suppiluliuma I is the most illustrious representative, seems to have been of Hurrian extraction. It is from c. 1400 b.c. that the great influx of Hurrian deities and Hurrian myths in the Hitt. corpus is dated. The greatest political achievement of the Hurrians was the kingdom of Mitanni, whose capital was Washukkanni in the Middle Euphrates Valley. At its height, c. 1400 b.c., Mitanni dominated Kizzuwatna and N Syria on the W, Assyria in the central region, and Nuzi in the E. During this period (c. 1500-1400 b.c.), Mitanni was ruled by kings who bore Indo-Aryan (i.e., not Hurrian-names): Shuttarna, Parsashatar, Shaushshatar, Artatama, and Tushratta. They carried on royal corresponden ce and international trade with the pharaohs of 18th dynasty of Egypt as equals. Several Mitannian princesses became wives of the pharaohs. It is through the royal correspondence between Tushratta of Mitanni and Amenophis III of Egypt that we possess in the El Amarna archive the famous Mitanni Letter, still the primary source for the Hurrian language. King Suppiluliuma I of Hatti put an end to the kingdom of Mitanni c. 1380 b.c. But the principal contribution of the Hurrians was not in their organized political authority; it was the cultural infusion that they brought into Hittite, Babylonian, Ugaritian, and Heb. societies that left its permanent mark.

3. Hurrians and Hurrian culture in the OT. The degree of Hurrian cultural influence on the peoples of southern and central Pal. was far less than that in Syria and northern Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Since Abraham emigrated into Pal. from the E via the Haran region in Upper Mesopotamia, he brought with him many customs acquired while he lived in Haran. Many hitherto obscure aspects of the patriarchal narratives, chiefly having to do with legal customs, have been remarkably clarified by the tablets from Nuzi, a Hurrian settlement in northern Iraq, E of the Tigris. The presence in Pal. proper of Hurrians can be shown by Hurrian names. The El Amarna tablets indicate that the Jebusite ruler of Jerusalem bore a name that means “servant of (the goddess) Hepa.” Hepa is a shortened form of the name Hepat, or Hebat, the name of the leading goddess in the Hurrian pantheon, the consort of the god Teshub. A Jebusite successor to “Servant of Hepa” is the king from whom David purchased the site for the future temple of Yahweh (2 Sam 24:18ff.; cf., 1 Chron 21:18ff.). English VSS call this king either Araunah or Ornan. The Heb. consonantal text renders it either ’rwnh, ’wrnh (2 Sam 24:16), or ’rnn (1 Chron 21:18). The name (or perhaps, title) is Hurrian. The correct consonantal pattern is the second (’wrnh) and the meaning is supplied by a recently recovered Hurrian-Akkadian dictionary tablet from Ugarit, which contains the following two entries: