Out of that land went forth Ashur
It is a question whether Ashur is the name of a man or of a country; some take it in the latter sense, and render the words, "and out of that land he went forth into Assyria"; so Onkelos; and in this way go Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Bochart, Cocceius, and others, and the margin of our Bible, and interpret it of Nimrod; and the Targum of Jonathan is express for him, which is this:
``out of that land went forth Nimrod, and reigned in Assyria, because he would not be in the council of the generation of the division, and he left four cities; and the Lord gave him therefore a place (or Assyria), and he built four other cities, Nineveh''so Theophilus of Antioch says F13, that Nebroth (Nimrod) built the same; but then the generality of interpreters which take this way give another and better reason for Nimrod's going out of Shinar or Babylon into Assyria than the Targumist gives; which is, that not content with his own dominions, and willing to enlarge them, he went out and made war upon Assyria, and seized upon it, and built cities in it, and added them to his former ones; in favour of this sense it is urged, that Moses is speaking of what Nimrod the son of Cush did, of the line of Ham, and not of the sons of Shem, among whom Ashur was; and that it is not probable he should introduce a passage relating to a branch of Shem, when he is professedly writing about that of Ham; nor is it agreeable to the history to speak of what Ashur did, before any mention of his birth, which is in ( Genesis 10:22 ) nor was it peculiar to him to go out of the land of Shinar, since almost all were dispersed from thence; add to which, that Assyria is called the land of Nimrod, ( Micah 5:6 ) to which it may be replied, that parentheses of this sort are frequent in Scripture, see ( 2 Samuel 4:4 ) ( 1 Kings 10:11 1 Kings 10:12 ) besides, it seems appropriate enough, when treating of Nimrod's dominion and power, in order to show his intolerable tyranny, to remark, that it was such, that Ashur, a son of Shem, could not bear it, and therefore went out from a country he had a right unto; and as for the text in ( Micah 5:6 ) the land of Nimrod and the land of Assyria are manifestly distinguished from one another: add to this, that, if Nimrod so early made a conquest of Assyria, it would rather have been called by his own name than his uncle's; and it is allowed by all that the country of Assyria had its name from Ashur, the son of Shem; and who so likely to have founded Nineveh, and other cities, as himself? Besides these, interpreters are obliged to force the text, and insert the particle "into", which is not in it; and the order and construction of the words are more natural and agreeable to the original, as in our version and others, which make Ashur the name of a man, than this, which makes it a country: but then it is not agreed on who this Ashur was; some will have him to be of the posterity of Ham, and a son of Nimrod, as Epiphanius F14 and Chrysostom F15; but this is not probable, nor can any proof be given of it; Josephus F16 is express for it, that Ashur, the son of Shem, built Nineveh, and gave the name of Assyrians to those that were subject to him. The reason of his going out from Shinar, as given by Jarchi, is, when he saw his sons hearkening to Nimrod, and rebelling against the Lord, by building a tower, he went out from them; or it may be, he was drove out by Nimrod by force, or he could not bear his tyrannical government, or live where such a wicked man ruled: and as Nimrod built cities and set up an empire, Ashur did the same in his own defence and that of his posterity:
and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah.
The first of these cities, Nineveh, the Greeks commonly call Ninus, is placed by Strabo F17 in Atyria, the Chaldee name of Assyria, who generally suppose it had its name from Ninus, whom Diodorus Siculus F18 makes the first king of the Assyrians, and to whom he ascribes the building of this city; and who, one would think, should be Ashur, and that Ninus was another name of him, or however by which he went among the Greeks; and so this city was called after him; or rather it had its name from the beauty of it, the word signifying a beautiful habitation, as Cocceius F19 and Hillerus F20 give the etymology of it; or perhaps, when it was first built by him, it had another name, but afterwards was called Nineveh, from Ninus, who lived many years after him, who might repair, adorn, and beautify it. It was destroyed by the Medes and Babylonians, as foretold by Nahum, and it is difficult now to say where it stood; the place where it is supposed to have been is now called Mosul; of which place Rauwolff F21 says, who was there in 1574, that
``there are some very good buildings and streets in it, and it is pretty large, but very ill provided with walls and ditches;--besides this, I also saw, (says he,) just without the town, a little hill, that was almost quite dug through, and inhabited by poor people, where I saw them several times creep in and out as pismires in ant hills: in this place, or thereabouts, stood formerly the potent town of Nineveh, built by Ashur, which was the metropolis of Assyria;--at this time there is nothing of antiquities to be seen in it, save only the fort that lieth upon the hill, and some few villages, which the inhabitants say did also belong to it in former days. This town lieth on the confines of Armenia, in a large plain:''(See Gill on Jonah 1:2) (See Gill on Jonah 3:1) (See Gill on Jonah 3:2) (See Gill on Jonah 3:3) (See Gill on Nahum 1:8) The next city, Rehoboth, signifies "streets", and so it is rendered in the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; and, because in the Chaldee language streets are called "Beritha", Bochart
F23 thinks that this Rehoboth is the city which Ptolemy F24 calls Birtha, on the west of Tigris, at the mouth of the river Lycus, though he places it by Euphrates; wherefore it should rather be Oroba, he places at the river Tigris F25, near to Nineveh also. The last city, Calah, or Calach, was a principal city in the country, by Ptolemy F26 called Calacine, and by Strabo F1 Calachene, and mentioned by both along with Adiabene, a country in Assyria.
F13 Ad Autolycum, l. 2. p. 106.
F14 Contra Haeres. l. 1. p. 3.
F15 In Genes. Homil. 29.
F16 Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 4.
F17 Geograph. l. 16. p. 507.
F18 Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 90, 91.
F19 In Jonam, 1, 2.
F20 Onomast. Sacr. p. 304, 431.
F21 Travels, part 2. c. 9. p. 166.
F23 Phaleg. l. 4. c. 21. col. 256.
F24 Geograph. l. 5. c. 19.
F25 Ibid. l. 6. c. 1.
F1 Geograph. l. 11. p. 347, 365. & l. 16. p. 507.