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The Legend of Astarte and the Tribute of the Sea (1.23)

(1,146 words)

Author(s): Ritner, Robert K.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Other Myths Commentary The tattered remains of a once magnificent manuscript, the “Astarte Papyrus” nevertheless provides tantalizing evidence of Egyptian traditions regarding the Asiatic goddess who had been adopted into cult and mythology by the beginning of the New Kingdom. While this legend has been shown to have an indigenous Egyptian setting, it is yet parallel to, and likely inspired by, the Ugaritic …

Diurnal Prayers of Diviners (1.116)

(372 words)

Author(s): Foster, Benjamin R.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Hymns and Prayers Commentary As with the immediately preceding selection (above, Text COSB.1.115, note 1), divination (here again by means of the entrails) demanded and relied on a “truthful” answer from the deity. To secure such an answer, the divination priest invoked Shamash and Adad, patrons of divination, here in the company of other great deities. [WWH] Diurnal Prayers of Diviners (1.116) Subject: Exod 40:23; Lev 24:5f; 1 Sam 14:41 O Shamash, I hold up to you seven …

A Neo-Babylonian Lament for Tammuz (1.118)

(761 words)

Author(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Lamentations and Elegies Commentary This text, of Seleucid date, laments the destruction of the cities of Sumer and Akkad at the hand of the Gutians, a theme strangely out of place two millennia after their historic incursions. So it either represents a late version of a much earlier original or, more likely, a case of deliberate archaizing. A Neo-Babylonian Lament for Tammuz (1.118) Subject: Gen 10:10; Mic 5:4; Eccl 11:2 “Oh grieving women of Uruk, (a) oh grieving women of Akkad, a …

The Song From the Tomb of Neferhotep (1.31)

(729 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Harpers’ Songs Commentary When they first appeared in the Middle Kingdom, the texts known as Harper’s Songs were designed to praise death and the life after death. But in the famous Harper’s Song from the Tomb of King Intef, preserved in a papyrus copy, the praises of the afterlife were replaced by anxious doubts about its reality, and by the advice to make merry while alive and to shun the thought of death.…

Epic of Creation (1.111)

(7,491 words)

Author(s): Foster, Benjamin R.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary The so-called epic of Creation preserves a relatively late Babylonian conception of the creation of the physical world (including humanity), but its real focus is on the elevation of Marduk to the top of the pantheon in return for taking up the cause of the embattled gods, who build his great temple of Esagila in Babylon in recognition of his leadership. The composition could therefore be as readily called “The Exaltation of Marduk.” As such it provi…

Ugaritic Liturgy Against Venomous Reptiles (1.94)

(4,442 words)

Author(s): Pardee, Dennis
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Incantations and Rituals Commentary Three Ugaritic texts dealing specifically with the problem of venomous serpents have been discovered: this one, a very fragmentary text found along with this one (RS 24.251+), and RS 1992.2014 (translated below as text COSB.1.100). The first two texts (editio princeps by Virolleaud 1968:564–580) were found in the archive of the “prêtre aux modèles de poumon et de foies” (on this building, see i…

From A Ramesside Stela (1.13)

(441 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary In the Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts, the creative role of Ptah is clearly secondary to that of Atum, the material source of creation. In the New Kingdom, however, it evolved into a full cosmogony in its own right, combining the intellectual principle of Ptah with the material role of Ta-tenen (“Rising Land”), the deified Primeval Hill representing the first instance of created matter. …

The Repulsing of the Dragon (1.21)

(747 words)

Author(s): Ritner, Robert K.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Other Myths Commentary During the course of each day’s journey, the sun god confronted a serpent adversary a whom he vanquished with the assistance of the militant god Seth and the force of divine magic. Within the following Coffin Text spell, this battle with the “dragon” is located at Bakhu, the mountainous western support of heaven where the sun sets. Elsewhere the serpent is styled Apep (Apopis), who threatens to dev…

Assyrian King Lists (1.135)

(1,646 words)

Author(s): Millard, Alan
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Historiography Commentary Lists of Assyrian kings have been found at Assur, Nineveh and Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad). The ‘Assyrian King List’ is known in five copies, none complete, two being only small fragments; there are slight variants between them. It begins with names of nomadic kings who lived about 2000 bce, which some scholars think may be names of tribes rather than persons because there are similarities between them and names in the Genealogy o…

Ugaritic Dream Omens (1.93)

(1,493 words)

Author(s): Pardee, Dennis
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Divination Commentary This text, discovered in 1954 in the palace, is in a very poor state of preservation and its interpretation is uncertain (editio princeps by Virolleaud 1965, text 158). The presence of the word “dreams” in the first line and the variety of terms that have been preserved in the following lines make it at least plausible that we have here a rough catalogue of items that may be seen in…

The Installation of the Storm God’s High Priestess (1.122)

(4,046 words)

Author(s): Fleming, Daniel
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Rituals The Installation of the Storm God’s High Priestess1 (1.122)2 Subject: Exod 29; Lev 8; Lev 8:33–35; 9:1, 23; Ezek 23:1–5; Joel 4:6; Isa 14:12; Lev 16:8; Num 26:55; 34:13; Josh 14:2; 18:6; Esth 3:7; 9:24; 1 Sam 8:12; 2 Kgs 1:9; Exod 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 10:1; 16:13; Num 6:19; Deut 32:51; Isa 30:29; Lev 3:4–5; Num 6:9, 18; Gen 24:65; Ezek 46:4, 6; Neh 5:18; Judg 11:37; Ps 45:15; Josh 6:4, 8; Ps 68:26; Isa 49:18; 61:10; Lev 8:4; Gen 15:17; 2 Chr 32:33; 2 Kgs 4:10; Exod 29:40; Lev 23:13; Isa…

The Great Hymn to Osiris (1.26)

(1,491 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Hymns Commentary A round–topped limestone stela, 1.×.62 m, of fine workmanship dating from the 18th Dynasty. In the lunette there are two offering scenes showing, on the left, the official Amenmose and his wife Nefertari seated before an offering table and, on the right, a lady named Baket, whose relationship to Amenmose is not stated. Before Amenmose stands a son with his arms raised in the gesture of offe…

From “Evil Spirits” (1.168)

(328 words)

Author(s): Hallo, W. W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Incantations Commentary The formation of systematic (“canonical”) series of incantations began as early as Old Babylonian times in the case of the “Evil Spirits” (UDUG-HUL = utukku lemnūtu). Again, the concern was with improper burial and its baneful consequences. The present example is a brief incantation out of a reconstruction of second millennium forerunners running to nearly 1000 lines, and these in t…

Erra and Ishum (1.113)

(8,540 words)

Author(s): Dalley, Stephanie
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary In the extant text known to us at present, Erra and Ishum may date no earlier than the eighth century bce, but it almost certainly incorporates older elements. It consists of five tablets comprising some 750 lines; the final tablet is shorter than the others. Tablets with the text come from both Assyria (Nineveh, Assur, Sultantepe) and Babylonia (Babylon, Ur, Tell Haddad). The main tablet, from Assur, takes the form of an amulet. The introductory lines belong to…

The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer (1.153)

(3,623 words)

Author(s): Foster, Benjamin R.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Just Sufferer Compositions Commentary This is the most elaborate treatment of the theme of theodicy. It includes a veritable thesaurus of medical symptoms (Tablet II) and their cure (Tablet III). Because the sufferer protests not so much innocence as ignorance of his sins, his modern designation could well be “pious sufferer” rather than “just sufferer.”1 He is identified by name in the text (Tablet III, line 43) and was possibly its author. The ancient…

The Sacred Marriage of Iddin-Dagan and Inanna (1.173)

(3,119 words)

Author(s): Jacobsen, Thorkild
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Royal Hymns Commentary This hymn was apparently written under Iddin–Dagan, the third king of the dynasty of Isin, for he is mentioned by name in it. It may even be that it was meant for use at the yearly rite of the sacred marriage in which the king took on the identity of the god Ama–ushumgal–anna and as such married Inanna, who was almost certainly incarnated in the reigning queen, as shown by the epithet N…

“Man and His God” (1.179)

(1,742 words)

Author(s): Klein, Jacob
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Pious Sufferer Compositions Commentary This Sumerian poem, of about 140 lines, tells a didactic story of a righteous sufferer who remains faithful to his personal god and ultimately is rehabilitated and restored to his former happy status. The poem opens with a brief didactic exhortation, that a man should faithfully praise his god, soothing his heart with lamentations, for “a man without a god would not …

Sinuhe (1.38)

(5,660 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Narratives Commentary The numerous, if fragmentary, copies of this work testify to its great popularity, and it is justly considered the most accomplished piece of Middle Kingdom prose literature. The two principal manuscripts are: (1) P. Berlin 3022 (abbr., B) which dates from the 12th Dynasty. In its present state, it lacks the beginning of the story and contains a total of 311 lines; (2) P. Berlin 10499 (abbr., R) which contai…

Ugaritic King List (1.104)

(739 words)

Author(s): Younger, K. Lawson, Jr.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Historiography Commentary This poorly preserved, enigmatic tablet (RS 24.257 =  Ugaritica  5 .5 =  KTU 1.113) contains a retrograde1 list of the kings of Ugarit in two columns on its verso. The very broken recto seems to preserve some sort of ritual, consistently alternating between two musical instruments (tp “a tambourine/drum” and ṯlb “a flute) and the word lnʿm “for the Pleasant One.” What the exact relationship is (if any) between the recto and the verso …

The Prayer of Nabonidus (4QPrNab) (1.89)

(1,599 words)

Author(s): Levine, Baruch A. | Robertson, Anne
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Prayers Commentary This Aramaic text from Qumran, Cave 4, which speaks of Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, was first published by J. T. Milik (1956), who assembled it from separate fragments of a single manuscript. These fragments were later realigned by F. M. Cross (1984), who dated the inscription paleographically to ca. 75–50 bce. Many large gaps remain, some of which can be restored on the basis of parallel statements occurring elsewhere in the in…
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