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Holman Bible Dictionary

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describes the first known Semitic invaders of Mesopotamia and the language they spoke. Also spelled Accadians.

The Akkadians, under Sargon the Great, conquered Mesopotamia and established the first true empire in world history (2360-2180 BC). Their ancient capital Akkad, (Agade), is mentioned in Genesis 10:10 as one of the cities of Shinar (Mesopotamia).

Akkadian is also the ancient name of the Semitic language used in the cuneiform inscriptions and documents modern archaeologists have discovered. The earliest inscriptions in Old Akkadian date from about 2400-2000 B.C. Two main dialects evolved, Babylonian and Assyrian. These dialects are conveniently outlined in three phases: Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian, about 2000-1500 B.C., Middle Babylonian and Middle Assyrian, about 1500-1000 B.C., and Neo-Babylonian, about 1000-100 B.C., and Neo-Assyrian, about 1000-600 B.C. After about 600 B.C. Akkadian was increasingly replaced by Aramaic.

Akkadian is commonly classified as East Semitic to distinguish it from Northwest Semitic (Amorite, Ugaritic, Hebrew, etc.) and Southwest Semitic (Arabic, Ethiopic). Akkadian was the international language of diplomacy and commerce in the Near East before 1000 B.C. Consequently, collections of documents written in Akkadian originated among several non-Akkadian speaking national and ethnic groups. Examples include the Amarna Tablets of Palestinian rulers addressed to Egypt, Akkadian documents from Ugarit in Syria, and the Nuzi Tablets from a Hurrian people.

Akkadian studies have had a profound effect on Old Testament studies in at least four areas. First, the meanings of many Hebrew words have been determined or clarified by Akkadian cognates. Second, the literary (poetic) texts and legal texts have provided a rich source for comparative study of Old Testament poetry and law texts. Third, historical annals and international treaties provide the wider framework for understanding biblical events and sometimes mention events and persons known also from the Bible. Fourth, the Akkadian mythico-religious texts have included accounts of creation and flood, as well as prophetic oracles, curses and blessings, and prayers, which provide a basis for understanding both the common Semitic heritage and the uniqueness of Israel's faith. See also Cuneiform.

Thomas Smothers

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'AKKADIAN'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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