Amarna Tablet 286
Letter from Abdi-Heba to the Egyptian Pharaoh


pictures from
Language: Akkadian
Medium: clay tablet
Length: 64 lines of writing
Genre: Letter of Self-Defense
and Request for Aid
Sender: Abdi-Heba
Recipient: Egyptian Pharaoh
(Amenophis III?)
Date: 14th cent. BCE
Place of Discovery: Tel el-Amarna, Egypt
(ancient Akhetaten)
Date of Discovery: 1887
Discoverer: peasant woman
Current Location: Vorderasiatische Museum
(Berlin, Germany)
Inventory Number: VAT 1642
Tablet Number: EA 286
Knudtzon 1907–1915
Photograph: Rogers 1912:529, plate 29

(from Rogers 1912:268-70; and
Mercer 1939:2:706, 708)

(adapted from Rogers 1912:268-70;
Mercer 1939:2:707, 709
Albright 1969:487;
and Moran 1992:326-27)
a-namŠarri bêli-ia ki-bí-ma 1 To the king, my lord, say:
um-mamAbdi-Heba ardu-ka-ma 2 Message of Abdi-Heba, your servant:
a-na 2 Šêpê bêli-ia Š arriri 3 At the feet of my lord, the king
7-ta-a-an ù 7-ta-a-an am-qut-mi 4 seven times and seven times I fall down.
ma-an-na ip-Šá-ti a-na Šarri bêli-ia 5 What have I done to the king, my lord?
i-ka-lu ka-ar-si-ia (ú-Š á-a-ru) 6 They slander me
i-na pa-ni Šarri bêliri m Abdi-Heba 7 before the the king, my lord: "Abdi-Heba
pa-ta-ar-mi a-na Šarri ribêli-Šú 8 has rebelled against the king, his lord."
a-mur a-na-ku la-aamêla-bi-ia 9 Behold, neither my father
ù la-aamêlitú-mi-ia Š á-ak-na-ni 10 nor my mother has put me
i-na áŠ-ri an-ni-e 11 in this position.
zu-ru-uhŠarriri dan-nu 12 The powerful arm of the king
ú-Še-ri-ba-an-ni a-na bît amêl a-bi-ia 13 brought me into my father's house.
am-mi-nim-mi a-na e-pu-uŠ 14 Why should I commit
ar-na a-na Šarri bêliri 15 an offense against the king, the lord?
a-di Šarri bêli-ia ibalut 16 As the king, my lord, lives,
a-qa-bi a-naamêlrabis Šarri bêli-ia 17 I say to the representative of the king, my lord,
am-mi-nim-mi ta-ra-ia-mu 18 "Why do you love the
amêlha-bi-ri ùamêlût ha-zi-a-nu-ti 19 the 'Apiru, but the local rulers
ta-za-ia-ru ù ki-na-an-na 20 you hate?" Consequently,
ú-Šá-wa-ru i-na pa-ni Š arri bêli-ia 21 I am slandered before the king, my lord.
e-nu-ma yi-qa-bi hal-qa-at-mi 22 Because I say: "Lost are
mâtât Šarri bêli-ia ki-na-an-na 23 the lands of the king, my lord," consequently
ú-Šá-wa-ru a-na Š arri bêli-ia 24 I am slandered before the king, my lord.
ù li-te-mimŠarru bêli-ia 25 May the king, my lord, know that
e-nu-ma Šá-ka-an Š arru bêli-ia 26 though the king, my lord, stationed
amêluta ma-sar-ta la-ki-mi 27 a garrison,
gab-ba-ŠamE-en-h a-mu 28 Enhamu has taken it all.
. . . . . . eŠ 29 . . . . . .
. . . . . . . 30 . . . . . .
. . . .mâtMi-is-riki 31 . . . . Egypt
. . . Šarriribêli ri 32 . . . the king, my lord,
ia-a-nu-mi amêlûta ma-sar-ta 33 there is no garrison here
ù li-is-ki-en Šarru a-na mâti- Šú 34 so may the king provide for his land.
li-is-kín Šarru a-na mâti- Šú pa-ta-ra-at 35 May the king provide for his land. The lands of
mâtât Šarri bêli gab- Š ámI-li-mil-ku 36 the king, my lord, have all deserted. Ili-Milku
i-hal-li-iq gab-bi mât Šarri ri 37 has brought about the loss of the king's land,
ù li-is-kin Šarru bêlu a-na mâti- Šú 38 so may the king provide for his land.
a-na-ku a-qa-bi e-ru-ub-mi 39 I say, I will enter
it-ti Šarriribêli-ia ù la-mur-mi 40 into the presence of the king, my lord, and I will see
2 îna Šarri bêli-ia ù nu-kur-tu meŠ 41 the two eyes of the king, my lord. But the war
dan-nu a-na mu-hi-ia ù la a-la-ah-e 42 against me is great, so I cannot
e-ra-ba iŠ-tu Šarri bêli-ia 43 come before the king, my lord.
ù li-it-ru-us i-na pa-ni Š arri 44 So may it seem good before the king,
lu-ma-Še-ra amêlûta ma- sar-ta 45 may he send a garrison
ù li-lu-ub ù la-mu-ur 2 înâ 46 and I will enter and see the two eyes
Šarri bêli-ia e-nu-ma Š arru bêli-ia 47 of the king, my lord. As the king, my lord,
ibalut e-nu-ma it-ta-zu-úamêl rabi sûtu 48 lives , whenever the royal officials have come out,
a-qa-bi hal-qa-at-mi mâtât Šarri ri 49 I have said: "The king's lands are lost."
la ta-sa-mi-ú a-na ia-a-Ši 50 But they have not listened to me.
hal-qu-mi gab-biamêlût ha-zi-a-nu-ti 51 All the local rulers are lost.
ia-a-nu-miamêlha-zi-a-nu a-na Šarri bêli 52 Not a single ruler remains to the king, the lord.
li-din Šarru pa-ni-Š ú a-naamêlûtpi-da-ti 53 Let the king turn his attention to the archers
ù lu-si-miamêlût sâbu pi-da-ti 54 so that archery troops
Šarri bêli-ia ia-a-nu-mi mâtâti a-na Šarri 55 of the king, my lord, go forth. None of the king's lands remain.
amêlûtHa-bi-ru ha-bat gab-bi mâtât Šarri 56 The 'Apiru have plundered all the king's lands.
Šum-ma i-ba-አ- Šiamêlsâbê pi-da-ti 57 If the archery troops arrive
i-na Šatti an-ni-ti i-ba-á Š-Ši mâtât 58 this year, then the lands of
Šarri bêli ù Šum-ma ia-a-nu-miamêlsâbê pi-da-ti 59 the king, my lord, will survive. But if the archery troops do not arrive,
hal-qa-at mâtât Šarri bêli-ia 60 then the lands of the king, my lord, are lost.
a-na túp-Šar Š arri bêli-ia um-mamAbdi-He-ba 61 To the scribe of the king, my lord: The message of Abdi-Heba,
ar-du-ka-ma Še-ri-ib a-wa-tú me Š 62 your servant: Present eloquent
ba-na-ta a-na Šarri bêli-ia h al-qa-at 63 words before the king, my lord. Lost
gab-bi mâtât Šarri bêli-ia 64 are all the lands of the king, my lord.

Abdi-Heba is the local ruler of Jerusalem for the Egyptians.
"Seven times" is a common Semitic expression for "repeatedly." Note some biblical examples: Psalm 12:6; 119:164; Proverbs 24:16; Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 17:4.
"As the king lives" is an oath formula (compare "As YHWH lives" in Judges 8:19; 1 Samuel 14:39; Jeremiah 4:2; Ruth 3:13).
Love and hate is the common Semitic idiom for preference and choice (see the biblical examples: 2 Samuel 13:15; Isaiah 61:8; Malachi 1:2-3; Luke 16:13; Romans 9:13).
Slander of a royal client was a serious issue (see 2 Samuel 19:27; Proverbs 30:10).

Arm is a common Semitic metaphor for power (see the biblical examples: Exodus 6:6; 2 Kings 17:36; Isaiah 40:10; 62:8 Wisdom 11:21; John 12:38).
Local ruler (hazannu) was a "governor" in Canaan for the Egyptians (see Lorton 1974).
Enhamu is apparently an alternative spelling of "Yanhamu," who is one of the local Egyptian rulers mentioned in twenty-seven of the Amarna letters.
Ili-Milku seems to be an alternative spelling of "Milk-Ilu," the ruler of Gazru (biblical Gezer). Compare the Hebrew name, Elimelek (Ruth 1:2-3).
Royal official (rabitsu) refers to a palace deputy, who would report to the king.


1. Summarize the situation in Canaan as Abdi-Heba describes it.

2. How does the situation described here highlight the problems of empire?
3. Who are the 'Apiru? (See Astour [1976], Buccellati [1977], Gottwald [1979:401-26], Greenberg [1955], Hallock [1939], Lemche [1992], Moran [1967], and Na'aman [1986].) What role do they play here?
4. What prevents Abdi-Heba from bringing this report personally to the Pharaoh?
5. What role did archers play in ancient Near Eastern warfare? Why does Abdi-Heba place so much emphasis on their arrival? For an image of an Assyrian mounted archer (7th century B.C.E.), click here.
6. What roles did scribes play in ancient Near Eastern royal courts (see Saldarini [1992] and Williams [1972])? What role does Abdi-Heba expect the royal scribe to play in this situation?

Albright, W. F. "Akkadian Letters." In Ancient Near Eastern Text Relating to the Old Testament, edited by J. B. Pritchard, 482-90. 3rd ed. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969.
Albright, W. F. "The Amarna Letters from Palestine." In Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. II.2: History of the Middle East and the Aegean Region 1380-1000 B.C., 98-116. 3d edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975.
Aldred, Cyril. "Egypt: The Amarna Period and the End of the Eighteenth Dynasty." In Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. II.2: History of the Middle East and the Aegean Region 1380-1000 B.C., 49-97. 3d edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975.
Astour, Michael C. "Habiru." In Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume, edited by K. Crim, 382-85. Nashville: Abingdon, 1976.
Buccellati, Giorgio. "'apiru and Munnabtutu—the Stateless of the First Cosmopolitan Age." Journal of Near Eastern Studies 36 (1977) 145-47.
Campbell, Edward A. "The Amarna Letters and the Amarna Period." In Biblical Archaeologist Reader vol. 3, 54-75. New York: Doubleday, 1970.
Chaney, Marvin L. "Ancient Palestinian Peasant Movements and the Formation of Premonarchic Israel." In Palestine in Transition: The Emergence of Ancient Israel, edited by D. N. Freedman and D. F. Graf, 39-90. Social World of Biblical Antiquity Series 2. Sheffield: Almond, 1983.
Gonen, Rivka. "Urban Canaan in the Late Bronze Age." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 253 (1981) 61-73.
Gottwald, Norman K. The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel 1250-1050 B.C.E. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1979.
Greenberg, Moshe. Hab/piru. American Oriental Series 39. New Haven, Conn.: American Oriental Society, 1955.
Hallock, F. H. "The Habiru and the SA.GAZ in the Tell El-Amarna Tablets." In Mercer 1939:2:838-45.
Knudtzon, J. A. Die El-Amarna-Tafeln. Vorderasiatische Bibliotek, vol. 2. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1907–1915 (repr. Aalen: O. Zeller, 1964).
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Lorton, David. The Juridical Terminology of International Relations in Egyptian Texts through Dynasty XVIII. Johns Hopkins University Near Eastern Studies. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1974.
Mercer, Samuel A. B. The Tell El-Amarna Tablets. 2 vols. Toronto: Macmillan, 1939.
Moran, Willam L. The Amarna Letters. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1992.
Moran, William L. "The Syrian Scribe of the Jerusalem Amarna Letters." In Unity and Diversity: Essays in the History, Literature and Religion of the Ancient Near East, edited by H. Goedicke and J. J. M. Roberts, 146-66. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1975.
Moran, William L. "Habiru (Habiri)." In The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 6.878b-80b. Washington, D.C.: Catholic Univ. Press, 1967.
Na'aman, Nadav. "Amarna Letters." In Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by D. N. Freeman, 1.174-81. New York: Doubleday, 1992.
Na'aman, Nadav. "Economic Aspects of the Egyptian Occupation of Canaan." Israel Exploration Journal 31 (1981) 172-85.
Na'aman, Nadav. "Habiru and Hebrews: The Transfer of a Social Term to the Literary Sphere." Journal of Near Eastern Studies 45 (1986) 271-88.
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Winckler, Hugo. The Tell-el-Amarna Letters. Translated by J. Metcalf. New York and London: Lemcke & Buechner, 1896.

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Last Modified: 26 April 2007