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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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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 …

Lamentation Over the Destruction of Ur (1.166)

(3,273 words)

Author(s): Klein, Jacob
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Lamentations Commentary Out of the five early Sumerian lamentations hitherto published, two laments commemorate the destruction of Ur, the capital of the Ur III empire. The Third Dynasty of Ur fell in the reign of Ibbi-Sin, its fifth king (ca. 2028–2004 BCE), as a result of a joint attack by the Elamites from the east and the Amorites from the west. The laments were composed not long after the events they r…

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…

The Song of the Hoe (1.157)

(1,956 words)

Author(s): Farber, Gertrud
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary The ancient scribe seemingly had a humorous purpose in mind when composing this text. It should probably be categorized as a satirical school text composed for use in the Edubba (= school) and for other learned people.1 The composition has no coherent topic or theme. The thread winding through the whole text is the syllable /al/ which is a Sumerian logogram meaning hoe but which also occurs as part of other words or as a gra…

Dumuzi-Inanna Songs (1.169)

(302 words)

Author(s): Sefati, Yitschak
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Love Poems Commentary The three poems translated below belong to the Sumerian love poetry composed during the Third Dynasty of Ur and early Old Babylonian periods (ca. 2100–1800 BCE). This poetry which is mainly cultic deals with the love affair and marriage of the divine couple, the gods of love and fertility, Dumuzi (the Sumerian name for Tammuz) and Inanna (the Sumerian name for Ishtar). This symbolic mar…

From Papyrus Bremner-Rhind (1.9)

(1,260 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary The papyrus from which this text is taken (pBM 10188) is a collection of theological treatises and magic spells against the dangers of the Netherworld (represented in sum by the demon Apophis), compiled from various sources at the beginning of the Ptolemaic Period. This selection, originally composed perhaps as early as the Ramesside Period, describes the evolution of multiplicity fro…

A Ugaritic Incantation Against Serpents and Sorcerers (1.100)

(1,109 words)

Author(s): Pardee, Dennis
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Incantations and Rituals Commentary A new Ugaritic incantation text, similar in many respects to RIH 78/20 (text COSB.1.96), was discovered in 1992 in the archive that has since been identified as belonging to Urtenu (Bordreuil and Pardee 1995), a high official in the city shortly before its demise (Arnaud 1982:106). The incantation was prepared especially for Urtenu (see lines 14–15) and shows a concern for venomo…

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…

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.…
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