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ARARAT (Heb. אֲרָרָט; 1QIsa̮, hwrrṭ; Akk. Urarṭu), name of land and mountains mentioned in the Bible.

The Land of Ararat

The Land of Ararat is mentioned in ii Kings 19:37 and Isaiah 37:38 as the land where the sons of Sennacherib fled after murdering their father. From the Bible one would scarcely sense the importance of this ancient nation centering around Lake Van, in Armenia. The major sources of information are the Assyrian records dealing with this kingdom, whose native name was Bia(i)nili though known to the Assyrians as Urarṭu, but a large body of independent data has been obtained from inscriptions found during excavations in Turkey, Iran, and Russia. Urarṭu gradually rose to prominence during the ninth century b.c.e. as a confederation of small kingdoms which became Assyria's major rival. The chief god Haldi, along with Teisheba and Shiwini, is given credit by the Urarṭians for their successes. During the period of Assyrian weakness following the death of Shalmaneser iii (858–824 b.c.e.), Urarṭu expanded considerably, reaching its apogee under Sardur iii, who effectively severed Assyria from Asia Minor and the littoral by subjugating many city-states west of the Euphrates, including the major city of Aleppo. With the resurgence of Assyrian power under Tiglath-Pileser iii (746–727), the Urarṭian Empire in northern Syria was destroyed. At the battle of *Arpad (c. 743 b.c.e.), Tiglath-Pileser decisively defeated the army of Urarṭu, and Sardur fled to Tushpa, his capital. After thoroughly subduing Syria (it is very likely that Isa. 36:18–19 refers to these campaigns, and perhaps Isa. 10:9 also), Tiglath-Pileser invaded Urarṭu, devastated the countryside, and laid unsuccessful siege to the capital. Further weakened by continuing Assyrian pressure from the south and attacks by the Cimmerians (Gomer) in the north, Urarṭu was invaded by Sargon ii of Assyria in his eighth campaign (714) and the religious capital Muṣaṣir was taken. Although Urarṭu remained hostile to Assyria, Sargon's campaign marked the end of effective rivalry and open warfare between them; Assyria remained dominant, while Urarṭu was constantly occupied in protecting her northern borders from the invading Cimmerians and Scythians. The last certain reference to an Urarṭian state comes from 643. From Herodotus (I, 74) we know that by 585 the Medes occupied what had been Urarṭian territory. In the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great (ca. 520), he refers to the territory as Armina (= Armenia), reflective of the newer "Arme" population, but as אררט in the Aramaic, and Uraštu in the Akkadian version.

The Mountains of Ararat

According to the story in Genesis 8:4 Noah's *ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Accordingly, the present form of the story cannot be earlier than the early first millennium b.c.e. when the form "Urarṭu" replaced the previous designations Uruaṭri and Nairi of the Assyrian sources. Although one frequently hears the designation "Mount Ararat," the Bible does not mention any specific mountain. Luther understood Ararat to be the name of the mountain range. Nonetheless, one tradition identifies the particular mountain as Mount Massis, at nearly 17,000 ft. (550 m) the highest peak of Armenia, which is therefore often called Mount Ararat. The Aramaic and Syriac translations of Genesis 8:4 mention Ture Kardu, "the mountains of Kurdistan [Jebel Judi]" southeast of Lake Van, whereas the Book of Jubilees (5:28; 7:1) speaks of Mount Lubar (unidentified). In the Babylonian tradition of the flood, the mountain on which the *ark came to rest is Mount Nimush (sometimes read Niṣir), east of Assyria, now identified as Pir Omar Gudrun.


A. Goetze, in: Kulturgeschichte des Alten Orients, 3 (19572), 187–200; B.B. Piotrovskii, Urartu: the Kingdom of Van and its Art (1967), ed. and tr. by P.S. Gelling; J.A. Fitzmeyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sefire (1966), 26–28, 130–1; Hallo, in: E.F. Campbell and D.N. Freedman (eds.), Biblical Archaeologist Reader, 2 (1964), 152–87; A. Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (19492), 250–1; F.O. Kraeling, in: jaos, 67 (1947), 181; Speiser, in: aasor, 8 (1926–27), 17–18. add. bibliography : L. Bailey, in: abd, 1, 351–53; A. Kuhrt, The Ancient Near East (1995), 548–53; P. Zimansky, Ancient Ararat (1998); M. Streck, in: rla, 9, 589–90.

[Tikva S. Frymer /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]