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The Famine Stela (1.53)

(3,441 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Pseudepigrapha Commentary The inscription is carved in thirty–two columns on the face of a granite rock where it was given the shape of a rectangular stela. The rock face is split by a broad horizontal fissure, which already existed when the inscription was carved. After the carving, further ruptures occurred in the rock, and they have caused a number of textual lacunae. Above the text is a relief scene…

ʾIlu On A Toot (1.97)

(3,635 words)

Author(s): Pardee, Dennis
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Incantations and Rituals Commentary Another text from the archive of the “prêtre aux modèles de poumon et de foies” presents the great god ʾIlu as getting himself gloriously drunk and in need of a pick–me–up. This text provides one of the clearest examples of what I have termed a “para–mythological text,” that is, one with mythological form or overtones but with a practical function (Pardee 1988a:265–266…

Appu and His Two Sons (1.58)

(1,212 words)

Author(s): Hoffner, Harry A., Jr.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary This text has been translated here as an independent story. According to Güterbock (1946), the text is continued in the tale of the Sun God, the Cow, and the Fisherman. Although the extant copies of the Appu story are New Hittite, archaic language indicates an archetype composed in the Old or Middle Hittite period. The story has a moral, which is stated in the proemium. The unnamed deity wh…

The Blessing of Nisaba By Enki (1.163)

(1,153 words)

Author(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Hymns Commentary This hymn in honor of Enki, “the crafty god” (Kramer and Maier 1989), seems to commemorate his blessing of Nisaba, perhaps on the occasion of her (annual?) visit, in the guise of her statue, to his sanctuary at Eridu. As the personification of both reed and grain, Nisaba was patron-goddess of both scribal art and agriculture, and both characteristics are celebrated in this hymn. The Blessing of Nisaba By Enki (1.163) Subject: Prov 9:1; Job 33:6; 1 Kgs 7:23; 2 Chr 4:2; Ju…

Ugaritic Incantation Against Sorcery (1.96)

(802 words)

Author(s): Fleming, Daniel
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Incantations and Rituals Commentary This Ugaritic magical text was found in 1978 not at Ras Shamra but at nearby Ras Ibn Hani, though it should be the same age.1 The extant tablet is neatly inscribed but broken from the 16th line at the left edge across to the 22nd at the right. In spite of the good condition of the first 15 lines, interpretation is hindered by previously unknown terms. Clear references to sorcery and expulsion …

Plague Prayers of Muršili II (1.60)

(4,269 words)

Author(s): Beckman, Gary
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Prayers Commentary When he came to the throne, the Great King Muršili II was confronted with both the fragmentation of the Hittite empire and the raging of an epidemic of uncertain character which had carried off in short succession both his father Šuppiluliuma I and his brother Arnuwanda II. Innumerable ordinary Hittites had perished as well. While Muršili mastered the political situation within the firs…

Fragment of A Wisdom Text (?) (1.81)

(211 words)

Author(s): Beckman, Gary
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Other Wisdom Literature Commentary The type of composition to which this small piece of a tablet belongs is uncertain. Fragment of A Wisdom Text (?) (1.81) [If a city is in ruins (?)], then [the builders] will build [it a second time]. If a rhyton [is cracked (?), then] the artisans [will cast] it a second time, [and] they will renew it a second time. [If someone damages] a plated horse chariot, then its owner [will repair] it [a second time]. [If] a flood carries off an orchard (!…

From the “Memphite Theology” (1.15)

(1,859 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary Perhaps the most famous of all Egyptian creation accounts is preserved on a worn slab of black granite, created for erection in the temple of Ptah at Memphis during the reign of the Nubian pharaoh Shabaqo and now in the British Museum (BM 498). As its dedicatory text records, the stone was purportedly inscribed in order to preserve a much older document, probably on papyrus or leather; lacunae deliberately incorporated in th…

The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage: The Admonitions of Ipuwer (1.42)

(4,124 words)

Author(s): Shupak, Nili
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; “Prophecy” Commentary The “Admonitions” was composed during the First Intermediate period (c.a. 2000 bce) or the late Middle Kingdom.1 The text is preserved on Papyrus Leiden 344, dating to the 18th or 19th Dynasty (1580–1200 bce). The original composition contained a narrative frame which has been lost, and which established the setting of the utterances of the sage as a council at the royal court, in a manner similar to that of the “…

A Psephomancy Ritual From Assur (1.127)

(809 words)

Author(s): Hurowitz, Victor
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Rituals Commentary This text was found by the German excavations at Assur.1 It is an incantation recited while performing a ritual for divination by use of black (hematite) and white (alabaster) stones (psephomancy). The ritualist, while pronouncing the liturgy, tells which cultic manipulations he is performing, thus permitting the reader to follow his actions. The type of divination described has general similarit…

Karnak List (1.37A)

(279 words)

Contributor(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Historiography 1. Karnak List (1.37A) A small chapel once stood in Thutmose III’s Akh–menu temple complex at Karnak. Over 150 years ago it was removed to the Louvre in Paris. While its list is offertory in nature, it is made up of seated figures of the kings with various regal titles before the cartouche. The names are grouped in eight parts, but the particular alignments are not always clear. The importance of…

The Shamash Hymn (1.117)

(1,032 words)

Author(s): Foster, Benjamin R.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Hymns and Prayers Commentary This “preceptive hymn” is one of the “literary prayers” of the Babylonians which rise above the level of standard religious texts by their artful poetic construction and diction. Even the length of the composition (precisely 200 lines) seems carefully and deliberately contrived. The object of the poet’s attention is Shamash who, as the all-seeing eye in the daytime sky, plays the …

Dawn and Dusk (1.87)

(12,707 words)

Author(s): Pardee, Dennis
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Ugaritic Myths Commentary The text recounting the birth of the double deity Šaḥru-wa-Šalimu, “Dawn and Dusk,” constitutes one of the most important of the texts discovered during the early years of excavations at Ras Shamra and which stand outside the principal cycles of texts (Baʿlu, Kirta, and ʾAqhatu). The text is inscribed on a single tablet, discovered during the second campaign in the building lo…

Prayer to Re-harakhti (1.29)

(770 words)

Author(s): Fox, Michael V.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Prayers Commentary This is an individual supplication in a fairly stereotypic form, probably designed for use by different people in various situations. The worshipper asks for acceptance of his prayers without praying for anything in particular and confesses his sins and folly without reference to specific transgressions. The worshipper seems to be a pilgrim to the temple at Heliopolis. The prayer is an expression of “personal piety,” a form of relig…

4. Turin Canon (1.37D)

(1,131 words)

Contributor(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Historiography Commentary Located in the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy, this papyrus is the most important source for the historical and chronological reconstruction of ancient Egypt. It is more than a list. Rather it originally contained a sequence of kings from Dynasty 1, with regnal years assigned to each king. Beginning with M…

From Coffin Texts Spell 335 = Book of the Dead Spell 17 (1.10)

(1,629 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This spell, the most frequently copied of all major Egyptian funerary texts, equates the deceased’s passage from the tomb to daylight with the sun’s journey from night to day, a theme summarized in its title. It originated in the Coffin Texts and was subsequently incorporated in their New Kingdom descendant, the so-called Book of the Dead, which was known by the same title. Almost fro…

Assurbanipal’s Coronation Hymn (1.142)

(648 words)

Author(s): Livingstone, Alasdair
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Royal Hymns Commentary This text should be read together with the Middle Assyrian Coronation Ritual Prayer and the Late Piece of Constructed Mythology (see text COSB.1.146 below). Assurbanipal’s Coronation Hymn (1.142) ( 1) May Shamash, king of heaven and earth, raise you to shepherdship over the four regions! May Assur, who gave you the [scepter], prolong your days and years!Spread your land wide at your feet!May Sherua extol your name to your personal god!1 ( 5) Just as grain …

The Weidner Chronicle (1.138)

(1,682 words)

Author(s): Millard, Alan
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Historiography Commentary Excavations at Ashur yielded a damaged tablet which was announced by E. F. Weidner in 1926 and so is called after him. Since then four smaller pieces of other copies have been identified and recently an almost complete tablet was recovered from Sippar, adding greatly to the interpretation of the text, although many uncertainties and gaps remain. The composition is set in the form of a letter from a king of Babylon to a king of Isin in the 19th century bce, but p…

The Women’s Oath (1.169A)

(721 words)

Contributor(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Love Poems Commentary 1 This poem may be divided into two parts. The first and shorter part (lines 1–12) is in the form of an address (written in the main dialect of Sumerian called Emegir) by Dumuzi to Inanna, the “sister,” consisting of epithets of endearment for his beloved. The second part (lines 13–32, written in the Emesal-dialect of Sumerian) consists of Inanna’s response, the main point of which is …

Shuruppak (1.176)

(1,024 words)

Author(s): Alster, Bendt
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Instructions Commentary In addition to the standard version of this composition, dating around 1900–1800 BCE, an Early Dynastic version dating as early as 2600–2500 BCE, and two partly preserved Akkadian translations, one dating around 1500 BCE, and one dating around 1100 BCE, are known. The excerpts translated here are from the standard version, attested in approximately 80 fragments from Nippur and Ur…
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