It’s no coincidence that David purchased the threshing floor of the Hurrian king Araunah as the future site of Solomon’s Temple. In our book Veneration, Sharon devoted an entire chapter to explaining why threshing floors were considered portals to the spirit realm in the ancient world. She noted:
These were communal spaces in the human sense, in that the floors were often clustered together, allowing locals to share news while working. But they were also communal in the spiritual sense, allowing contact with local deities. In fact, the Canaanite word for “grain” is dagan, which is very close to the name of their grain-god, Dagan (later called “Dagon” by the Philistines of Samson’s day). Around the time of Abraham and Isaac, Dagan was called bēl pagrē at the Syrian city of Mari, an epithet that’s been translated “lord of corpse offerings, lord of corpses (a netherworld god), lord of funerary offerings, and lord of human sacrifices.” This has led some scholars to conclude that Dagan was at least a god with a strong connection to the underworld, if not part of the royal ancestor cult—and perhaps the recipient of human sacrifice.
Even the circular shape of the threshing floor is a callback to the magic circle dug into the dirt of the abi. And just as the threshing-floor/portal connects Mount Hermon to Mount Zion, so too does the transfiguration of Jesus on “a high mountain” near Caesarea Philippi, which can only have been Hermon. Think about that! Jesus literally declared His divinity on the threshing floor of El. Then He proceeded on to Jerusalem to fulfill His mission—which, as you know, culminated with His resurrection on the third day.
The point here is that Ezekiel’s prophesied Travelers are not vacationers at the Dead Sea, they are Rephaim—the spirits of the Nephilim—who will be foot soldiers in the army of the Antichrist at the final battle of the age, Armageddon.
To Christians, the three-day journey of the Rephaim to a sacred place connected to resurrection has obvious significance. Resurrection on the third day is at the heart of the gospel message:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3–4)
Peter linked this event to baptism in a verse that suddenly makes sense when you connect it to the Watchers and their rebellion on Mount Hermon:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. (1 Peter 3:18–20)
The “spirits” to whom Jesus “proclaimed” are not deceased humans. The word translated “spirits” (Greek pneumasin) is never used in the New Testament in an unqualified way to refer to human souls. Peter is telling us that Jesus literally descended to Tartarus, a level of the underworld separate and distinct from Hades/Sheol, to have a word with the rebellious spirits imprisoned there. By connecting it to baptism, Peter shows us that the rite is a declaration of victory over those disobedient entities; it is a reminder that another human soul is now set apart for resurrection into an incorruptible body at the sounding of the last trump.
The prophet Hosea revealed that the three-day period leading to resurrection did not originate in the first century with Jesus. It’s an old concept that was reversed by Christ at His resurrection! And it’s a template for what’s in store for those who place their trust in Him:
After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up that we may live before him. (Hosea 6:2)
This concept is embedded in the Sumerian myth Inanna’s Descent to the Netherworld, in which the headstrong goddess travels through seven gates to the Great Below, the domain of her sister Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld. Ereshkigal knew that Inanna, already called the Queen of Heaven, wanted to take her throne as well and so fixed Inanna with the “stare of death.” With help from Enki, Inanna escaped the netherworld on the third day—at the cost of her husband, the shepherd-king Dumuzi (Tammuz in the Bible), who was dragged off to the underworld by demons in her place.
The concept of resurrection on the third day appears to have been incorporated into pagan rituals for the dead condemned by Isaiah:
I spread out my hands all the day
to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own devices;
a people who provoke me
to my face continually,
sacrificing in gardens
and making offerings on bricks;
who sit in tombs,
and spend the night in secret places;
who eat pig’s flesh,
and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels. (Isaiah 65:2–4)
Pork was taboo in a number of Near Eastern cultures, coming from “a ‘cthonian’ animal, which its nature intended to be offered to infernal divinities” and thus “reserved for more or less secret rites.” The “tainted meat” may not refer specifically to pork, but to eating a funeral feast on the third day after a death, a practice known in Greek and Roman times. It may be that this activity is behind God’s prohibition on eating sacrifices on the third day:
If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity. (Leviticus 7:18, emphasis added)
If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from his people. (Leviticus 19:7–8, emphasis added)
God is not opposed to remembering the dead. He is often referred to as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” in the Old and New Testaments. However, sacrificing to the dead and eating meat offered to the dead is another matter entirely. Psalm 106:28–31 makes clear that it was precisely that sin that provoked God to send the plague that killed twenty-four thousand Israelites on the plains of Moab. It’s not a coincidence that “the matter of Peor” occurred near the stations of the Exodus called Oboth (“spirits of the dead”) and Iye-Abarim (“ruins of the Travelers”) below Mount Nebo, which God called “this mountain of the Abarim [Travelers].”
The link between the ʿōberim, abarim, ʾōbôt, ʾābôt, ʾōb, and the older words in Ugaritic, Hittite, Assyrian, and Sumerian may have a common ancestor. Until recently, scholars would have assumed that Sumerian must be the oldest, and thus original, form of the word. But as early as 1967, long before the discovery of ancient Urkesh and its monumental ritual pit, eminent Hittitologist Harry A. Hoffner argued that it was phonetically impossible for the Hittite word a-a-bi(from the Hurrian *ay(a)bi) to derive from Sumerian ab. Thus, Hoffner argued, it was better “to accept the Hurrian *ay(a)bi as the prototype.”
In other words, on the basis of texts alone, Hoffner proposed that it was the Hurrians, not the Sumerians, who brought to Mesopotamia the concept of a ritual pit to summon gods and spirits from the netherworld. Now, with the recent discovery of the Hurrian abi at Urkesh, a ritual complex that developed around the same time as the great cities of Sumer like Ur and Uruk (if not earlier), there is archaeological support for Hoffner’s linguistic argument.
Here’s the kicker: Archaeologist and historian Dr. Judd Burton recently published a paper tracing the origin of the various Eurasian words for “king” or “ruler” to an Akkadian word meaning “prince.” I reached a similar conclusion in my book Last Clash of the Titans, citing the work of University of Michigan professor Brian B. Schmidt:
In the light of the repeated occurrence of rp’um [Rephaim] in military and heroic contexts and the inadequacy of alternative hypotheses, the significance of Ugaritic r-p-‘might best be understood in the light of Akkadian raba’um “to be large, great”, and its derivative rabium (< rabûm) “leader, chief”. Thus, the rp’um would be “the Great Ones” or “the Mighty Ones.”
Burton argues that morphemes, the smallest word components, suggest that “‘r-‘ indicates royalty and ‘ap/ab’ indicates a relationship with the Mesopotamian watery underworld: the ‘apsu,’ or ‘abyss.’” While the apsû/abzu was located in Eridu (Sumer, southeast Iraq), the original homeland of the Sumerians was probably the region between the Black and Caspian seas, a theory recently supported by research into similarities between the languages of the Sumerians and Hurrians.
So, the origin of the term for “king” or “ruler” in languages from Western Europe to East Asia is a word used by our distant ancestors for the pre-Flood god-kings, the Rephaim. This word was preserved by the descendants of Noah who spread out from the lands around the resting place of the ark in the mountains of Ararat. And, thanks to recent discoveries by archaeologists, linguists, and geneticists, this movement of people, language, and religious beliefs is confirmed.
Summing up this tour through the realms of the ancient dead: Around 3500 BC, the Kura-Araxes people, ancestors of the Hurrians, began to migrate from the Ararat Plain to settle along the outer edge of the Fertile Crescent in a great arc from northwest Iran to eastern Anatolia and down through Lebanon to the Jordan valley. Their first urban center, Urkesh, commanded the Mardin Pass into the Taurus Mountains, an area rich with timber, copper, and silver that was traded with the areas to the south and west in Mesopotamia and the Levant.
The heart of Urkesh was its temple, built in a southern Mesopotamian style around 3500 BC. It sat above a necromantic pit called the abi. This pit was used to summon the “infernal deities,” called “former gods” (or by the Akkadian name Anunnaki), who were offered sacrifices in exchange for their blessings and protection. These “former gods” had been sent to the underworld by the king of the pantheon, the storm-god Teshub, the Hurrian form of Baal, Zeus, and Jupiter. The father of the Hurrian gods was Kumarbi, and his home, according to several Hurrian ritual texts, was Urkesh.
By the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Hurrians had lived in Canaan for centuries, settling near the Sea of Galilee as early as 2850 BC. A Mesopotamian army battled Hurrians (Horites) near Mount Sinai, Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi slaughtered the Hurrian men of Shechem, and more than four hundred years later, Gideon’s son Abimelech conspired with the Hurrian “sons of Hamor” to kill his half-brothers, only to die in a rebellion by his former comrades a short time later.
And, of course, there is the threshing floor that David bought from Araunah, the Hurrian king of Jebusite Jerusalem, a site of profound spiritual significance to this day. It is likely where Abraham was tested in the binding of Isaac; the place where David and Araunah saw the Angel of YHWH with a drawn sword “standing between earth and heaven,” his hand stayed only by the mercy of God.
In short, the Hurrians have had a profound and, until now, unrecognized influence on history, world religions, and the Bible. The concepts of the abi (ritual pit), magic circles, contact with gods of the underworld, offerings to the ancestral dead, and veneration of long-dead kings—the “mighty men who were of old,” the Nephilim/Rephaim—was spread throughout the ancient Near East and continue around the world to this day.
All of this was inspired by the spirit beings who descended to Mount Hermon in the distant past. Despite his present status as a prisoner in a deep, dark hole (which may have inspired the preferred means of contact—at night, underground, in a ritual pit), Shemihazah, chief of the rebel Watchers, perhaps working through the spirits of his children destroyed in the Flood, launched an alternate spirituality that reaches out not to our Father in heaven, but to the gods of the world below, the realm of the dead. This religion is still practiced in various forms all over the world today.
The Mount Hermon rebellion, and the spirit who led it, had a lasting impact on ancient Israel. It’s also shaped the Western world through its influence on the religions of the Greeks and Romans. Kumarbi, the god-father of the Hurrians, who we identify as the Watcher chief Shemihazah, has been called by many names over the centuries. And it appears his cult was spread by the dispersal of the descendants of Noah from the Ararat Plain.
Next: The Canaanite creator-god, El
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 Gilbert and Gilbert (2019), op. cit., p. 110.
 Matthew 17:1.
 Douglas Mangum, “Interpreting First Peter 3:18–22.” In Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
 2 Peter 2:4. The word translated “hell” is Greek tartarōsas; literally, “thrust down to Tartarus.”
 Roland de Vaux, “Les sacrifices de porcs en Palestine et dans l’Ancien Orient.” Von Ugarit nach Qumran: Festschrift O. Eissfeldt (ed. J. Hempel and L. Rost) BZAW 77 (Berlin: Topelmann, 1958), p. 261.
 George Heider, The Cult of Molek: A Reassessment (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1985), pp. 390–391.
 Numbers 25:1–18.
 Deuteronomy 32:48–49.
 Hoffner, op. cit., pp. 388–389.
 Judd Burton, “The War of the Words, God-kings, and Their Titles: A Preliminary Report on the Linguistic Relationship Between the Rephaim and Royal Titles in Eurasian Languages.” Bulletin of the Institute of Biblical Anthropology (2021), p. 7.
 Brian B. Schmidt, Israel’s Beneficent Dead: The Origin and Character of Israelite Ancestor Cults and Necromancy(Doctoral thesis: University of Oxford, 1991), pp. 158–159.
 Burton, op. cit.
 Alexei Kassian, “Lexical Matches between Sumerian and Hurro-Urartian: Possible Historical Scenarios.” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal (2014:004), https://cdli.ucla.edu/pubs/cdlj/2014/cdlj2014_004.html, retrieved 3/5/21.
 1 Chronicles 21:16.
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