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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…

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…

Gilgamesh and Akka (1.171)

(1,608 words)

Author(s): Katz, Dina
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Epic Commentary The short narrative describes a conflict between two Mesopotamian cities Kish and Uruk. Akka, the ruler of Kish, demanded of the Urukeans to dig wells. Gilgamesh, Akka’s dependent lord of Uruk, determined to rebel, ignored the advice of Uruk’s assembly of elders and, with the support of his army, freed Uruk from the dominance of Kish and established himself as the independent ruler of Uruk. T…

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…

The Disputation Between Summer and Winter (1.183)

(2,640 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Disputations Commentary As far as we know, this altercation between the two most natural opposites imaginable, was the longest of all Sumerian disputations.1 But it is in a much worse state of preservation than the previous three pieces.2 Here also there is a mixture of generic features: the text starts with a long list of “destinies” or proprieties allotted to the contestants by the gods. It is obvious from the start that basically th…

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 “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…

Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta (1.170)

(1,525 words)

Author(s): Jacobsen, Thorkild
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Epic Commentary The story of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta begins in legendary times, before many of the inventions of civilization — such as written communication by letter. Enmerkar ruled in Uruk as “priest-king” (en), and was the human husband of Inanna, with whom he united yearly in the rite of the sacred marriage. The lord of Aratta ruled in the fabled city of Aratta which lay in the mountains far away to the east. He also was the sp…

Bridegroom, Spend the Night In Our House Till Dawn (1.169B)

(667 words)

Contributor(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Love Poems Commentary 1 This poem is a monologue by King Shu-Sin’s beloved in which she yearns for him with words of love and expresses her longing for him in requests and wishes. At the conclusion of the song (lines 27–29) there is apparently an invitation to sexual union but in language not adequately clear to us. Bridegroom, Spend the Night In Our House Till Dawn (1.169B) 2 Subject: Judg 14:18; Ezek 3:3; Pss 19:11; 119:103; Prov 24:13; Cant 4:11; Cant 1:4; Prov 7:17; Prov 23:16; Ps …

The Exaltation of Inanna (1.160)

(2,340 words)

Author(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary This is one of three hymns to the goddess Inanna attributed to Enheduanna in its own text. All three are listed together at the beginning of a literary catalogue, with this composition last (Cohen 1976:131f.). The cycle is a counterpart to The Collection of the Temple Hymns, another cycle attributed to the same author (Sjöberg and Bergmann 1969). If the latter reflects on Sargon, the autho…

Proverbs Quoted In Other Genres (1.175)

(638 words)

Author(s): Alster, Bendt
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Proverbs Commentary The proverbs quoted in the Sumerian proverb collections are usually devoid of context indicative of the situations to which they were normally applied. Yet, in some lucky cases, the proverbs listed in the proverb collections coincide with those quoted in literary compositions.1 On the other hand, a number of proverbs found in literary compositions, in particular in Shuruppak’s Instructions (cf. below), were not included in…

Ur-Ninurta (1.177)

(559 words)

Author(s): Alster, Bendt
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Instructions Commentary This composition is best known from a tablet found at Tell Ḥarmal (Baghdad), with two small duplicating fragments from Nippur and two of unknown provenance. The main source is written in a very difficult syllabic orthography, which makes the interpretation of a non–stereotype composition such as this one very difficult. The translation provided here is therefore very tentative. …

The Dialogue Between Two Scribes (1.184)

(956 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; School Dialogues Commentary This provisionally fragmentary1 composition focuses on the competition between two scribes, one being more advanced than the other, and using his seniority to bully and insult the younger one — after which the teacher, apparently a stickler for school tradition, takes the side of the senior student (the “Big Brother”). But in the meantime we learn a number of practical and meth…

The Dialogue Between An Examiner and A Student (1.186)

(892 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; School Dialogues Commentary In this composition we again have a dialogue, but now it takes the form of a viva voce examination. One might say that it looks like a final examination, wherein the student may be said to try for graduation. Apparently it takes place before an external examiner: the student keeps referring to his teacher. In a second part, not translated here, the piece takes on the format of…

Sumerian Proverb Collection 3 (1.174)

(4,064 words)

Author(s): Alster, Bendt
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Proverbs Commentary This collection of Sumerian proverbs is known from 40 duplicating cuneiform tablets, most of which come from Nippur, and they (i.e., the tablets, not necessarily the proverbs) date ca. 1900–1800 BCE. As is the case with other major Sumerian proverb collections, this one is known from fragments of multicolumn tablets inscribed with a complete collection, as well as from tablets only c…

To Nanshe (1.162)

(4,058 words)

Author(s): Heimpel, Wolfgang
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Hymns To Nanshe (1.162) Subject: Num 28:26; Deut 19:14; 27:17; Lev 19:35; Deut 25:13–16; Amos 8:5; Mic 6:10; Prov 11:1; 20:10; Lev 19:15; Exod 22:21; Deut 10:18 Is it not the city, is it not the city, are its divine powers not proclaimed?Is it not the city Nina, are its divine powers not proclaimed?Is it not the city, the pure city, are its divine powers not proclaimed?Is it not a mountain carried above water, the city, are its divine powers not proclaimed? 5 Does not the day of the goo…

The Disputation Between Bird and Fish (1.182)

(2,410 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Disputations Commentary This composition is remarkable not only because it stresses the importance of pleasant and beautiful things in life over dour seriousness,1 but also because of its peculiar format. It intentionally mixes the generic features of the disputation with those of a fable.2 Since fish is unable to win by force of argument, it attempts to do so by force tout court. Fish’s violent attack introduces an element of narrativity wh…

The Disputation Between Ewe and Wheat (1.180)

(2,014 words)

Author(s): Vanstiphout, H. L. J.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Disputations Commentary This composition is presently the most accessible of the group of poetic disputations, a genre which was very popular in the Old Babylonian scribal schools and, according to the texts themselves, also at the royal court. This piece is remarkable for three reasons: it starts with a very long “cosmogonical” introduction,1 it is apparently occasioned by a festival (a banquet at harvest time?), and it is a prime example of a consci…
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