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Deeds of Suppiluliuma (1.74)

(6,788 words)

Author(s): Hoffner, Harry A., Jr.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Historiography Commentary Among the Hittite kings Šuppiluliuma I was the greatest conqueror. To him was due the destruction of the great and powerful rival kingdom of Mitanni and the eastward expansion of the Hittite state into North Syria during the first half of the 14th Century bce. The story of his reign has often been told. Among the more recent attempts Güterbock 1960, Kitchen 1962, Bryce 1989, and Kempinski 1993 may be named. Letters from Šup…

Excerpt From An Oracle Report (1.78)

(1,989 words)

Author(s): Beckman, Gary
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Oracles Commentary Since the Hittites believed that divine displeasure was the ultimate source of most evils, they developed a science of divination in order to communicate with their gods, ascertain the reasons for their anger, and bargain about required restitution. The Hittite diviners carefully researched the problems referred to them, making sure both to determine the exact aspect of a situation which ha…

Letter-Prayer of King Sin-iddinam to Nin-isina (1.164)

(1,052 words)

Author(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Prayers and Letter-Prayers Commentary The genre of letter-prayer combines the format of a letter with the function of a prayer. It is attested first for private petitions in Sumerian, and then developed into a royal mode of communication with the divine, as here. Later examples of the genre occur in Akkadian and perhaps even in Hebrew, notably the “writing” or “letter” of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38. Like that letter, this one is concerned with royal illness; it is addressed…

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. …

Coffin Text 157 (1.19)

(635 words)

Author(s): Ritner, Robert K.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This spell for “Knowing the Souls of Pe” (with its descendant Book of the Dead 112) provides a theological explanation for the Egyptian pork taboo, a prohibition never uniformly accepted (Darby et al. 1977:171–209; Miller 1990). The conclusion to the companion Coffin Text spell 158 is instructive: “Not to be said while eating pork.” No less interesting is the medical aspect of spell 1…

Instruction of Amenemope (1.47)

(5,172 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Instructions Commentary With this long work, the Instruction genre reaches its culmination. Its worth lies not in any thematic richness, for its range is much narrower than, for example, that of the Instruction of Ptahhotep. Its worth lies in its quality of inwardness. Though it is still assumed that right thinking and right action will find their reward, worldly success, which had meant so much in the …

The Legend of the Possessed Princess (“Bentresh Stela”) (1.54)

(1,808 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Pseudepigrapha Commentary A stela of black sandstone, 2.×.09 m, found in 1829 in a small, no longer extant, Ptolemaic sanctuary near the temple of Khons erected at Karnak by Ramses III. The stela was brought to Paris in 1844. The scene in the lunette shows King Ramses II offering incense before the bark of Khons–in–Thebes–Neferhotep. Behind the king, a priest offers incense before the smaller bark of Kh…

The Birth of Shulgi In the Temple of Nippur (1.172)

(1,422 words)

Author(s): Klein, Jacob
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Royal Hymns Commentary This hymn1 is part of a rich corpus of Neo-Sumerian “royal hymns” pertaining to Shulgi (ca. 2094–2047 bce), the second and most important king of the Third Dynasty of Ur.2 The hymn is dedicated to Enlil, the supreme god of the Sumerian pantheon, and it falls into two main parts: the first part opens with a hymnic praise of Enlil, which is followed by a description of Shulgi’s birth and investiture in the Ekur temple; the second part contains blessings and prayers on behalf of Shulgi and the capital city of Ur, both hailed as generous providers of the temple. A three-line epilogue to the hymn reiterates Shulgi’s selection by Enlil for a good reign.…

Ugaritic Birth Omens (1.90)

(3,121 words)

Author(s): Pardee, Dennis
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Divination Commentary Recorded observations of the natural world in the Levantine and Mesopotamian areas of the ancient Near East had two primary foci, medical and divinatory. The two areas were probably thought to be equally empirical. In the case of a symptom, one applied a given remedy or remedies and the complaint was supposed to go away. Other natural phenomena were thought to be followed by events …

Gilgamesh (1.132)

(2,176 words)

Author(s): Foster, Benjamin R.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; …

The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld (1.108)

(2,521 words)

Author(s): Dalley, Stephanie
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Akkadian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Myths Commentary The Akkadian story is first attested in Late Bronze Age texts, in both Babylonia and Assyria, and later from the palace library at Nineveh. It is a short composition of some 140 lines, and seems to end with ritual instructions for the taklimtu, an annual ritual known from Assyrian texts, which took place in the month of Dumuzi (Tammuz = June/July) and featured the bathing, anointing, and lying-in-state of a statue of Dumuzi in Nineveh, Arbela, Assur and Kalah.1 Weeping for Tammuz was observed in Jerusalem in the 6th century bce according to Ezek 8:14. The Sumerian version, The Descent of Inanna, is attested earlier, and is much longer, consisting of some 410 lines. It is a fuller, more detailed account, and shows clearly that Dumuzi periodically died and rose, causing seasonal fertility, a fact which had been doubted until 1963, when a newly published fragment disclosed the crucial evidence. This version contains no ritual or incantation. However, lik…

“At the Cleaners” (1.156)

(483 words)

Author(s): Livingstone, Alasdair
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World…

The Proclamation of Telipinu (1.76)

(4,246 words)

Author(s): Hout, Th. P. J. van den
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Biography and Autobiography Commentary The Proclamation or Decree of K…

The ʾAqhatu Legend (1.103)

(13,027 words)

Author(s): Pardee, Dennis
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; West Semitic Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Epic Commentary The ʾAqhatu story was recorded on three tablets that were discovered during the second and third campaigns at Ras Shamra (1930–1931). Lacunae prevent a complete understanding of the story, which must have been longer, recorded on tablets never discovered. Like the story of Kirta, this one tells how a father obtained a son, here Dānīʾilu and his son ʾAqhatu, but from that point the two st…

Assuring the Safety of the King During the Winter (1.79)

(4,683 words)

Author(s): Beal, Richard H.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Oracles Commentary The purpose of the texts comprising this selection is to assure the safety of the king while he is cooped up through the cold central Anatolian winter, by discovering ahead of time any problems that the gods foresee arising, and by ascertaining the correct method of correcting these. The selection is made up of two texts containing parallel sets of questions. The translation follows the bet…

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…

A “Non-canonical” Incantation (1.167)

(394 words)

Author(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Sumerian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Incantations Commentary Incantations were among the earliest literary genres to be fixed in writing. Before they were collected into major canonical series, they circulated in individual formulations, as needed. Sometimes, as here, these were quite short, and to the point, even specifying the source of the problem by name. The name of the client who used the spell was inserted at the appropriate point. The …

Papyrus Chester Beatty I (1.51)

(1,101 words)

Author(s): Fox, Michael V.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Love Poems Commentary A large papyrus containing three groups of love songs, the tale of “Horus and Seth,” two hymns to the king, and a short business note. From Pap. Chester Betty I, C1,1-C5,2; the first group of love songs. Papyrus Chester Beatty I (1.51) Subject: Cant 4:9, 1–7, 9–15; 5:10–16; 6:4–10; 7:2–10a; Cant 8:1b The Beginning of the Sayings of the Great Entertainer1 ( Boy) ( Number 31)One alone is my sister, having no peer:more gracious than all other women.Behold her…

Instructions to the Royal Guard (Mešedi Protocol) (1.85)

(4,425 words)

Author(s): McMahon, Gregory
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Hittite Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Instructions Commentary The royal bodyguard of the Hittite court are denoted by the Akkadogram MEŠEDI. One extant tablet contains instructions for them, primarily detailing their duties as they assume responsibility for the king’s safety from the palace staff and as they escort him while he travels. Areas of responsibility are clearly delineated among the officials who see to guarding the palace and the…

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…
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