Essays on Babylonian and Biblical Literature and Religion


In this volume, I. Tzvi Abusch presents studies written over a span of forty years prior to his retirement from Brandeis University in 2019. They reflect several themes that he has pursued in addition to his work on witchcraft literature and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Part 1 includes general articles on Mesopotamian magic, religion, and mythology, followed by a set of articles on Akkadian prayers, especially šuillas, focusing on exegetical and linguistic (synchronic) studies and on diachronic analyses. Part 2 contains a series of literary studies of Mesopotamian and biblical classics. Part 3 is devoted to comparative studies of terms and phenomena. Part 4 examines legal texts.

The Harvard Semitic Studies series publishes volumes from the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East. Other series offered by Brill that publish volumes from the Museum include Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Levant and Harvard Semitic Monographs,

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I. Tzvi Abusch, Ph.D. (1972), Harvard University, is Cohen Professor Emeritus of Assyriology and Ancient Near Eastern Religion at Brandeis University. His primary fields of publication are Mesopotamian religion and literature. A number of his studies on Babylonian witchcraft are collected in Mesopotamian Witchcraft (Brill, 2002) and Further Studies on Mesopotamian Witchcraft Beliefs (Brill, 2020). He is author of The Magical Ceremony Maqlû: A Critical Edition (Brill, 2016) and co-author of Corpus of Mesopotamian Anti-witchcraft Rituals (Brill, 2011–2020).
"This volume collects together 25 essays that have been published over a period of nearly four decades of A.’s significant contribution to the study of Babylonian literature and religion and its interface with biblical material. The wide range of papers reflects his deep knowledge in various sub-fields, such as diachronic and synchronic approaches alongside exegesis of primary sources. (...) This important collection will definitely be a valuable tool for those interested in an emic perspective of the milieu in which these texts were produced and developed."
- Anderson Yan, in The Society for Old Testament Study Book List 2022.

part 1: Magic and Religion

Overviews and Surveys

1 Mesopotamian Religion
 1 The Basis of Mesopotamian Religiosity
 2 The Mesopotamian Pantheon
 3 Magical Cult (Cult of the Individual)
 4 The Epic of Gilgamesh

2 Magic in Mesopotamia
 1 Introduction
 2 Earlier Approaches to Mesopotamian Magic
 3 Conceptions of the Universe and of Its Powers
 4 Magical Texts
 5 Ceremonies
 6 Evil

3 Sacrifice in Mesopotamia
 1 Mesopotamian Sacrifice: A Description
 2 Blood in Mesopotamia and West Asia: A Hypothesis

Ghosts and Gods

4 Ghost and God: Some Observations on a Babylonian Understanding of Human Nature
 1 Mythological Formulation
 2 The Significance of Flesh as the Source of the Ghost
 3 God, ṭēmu, and Personal God

5 Etemmu אטים
 1 Name and Etymology
 2 Character and History
 3 Inside the Bible

6 Ištar
 1 Name and Etymology
 2 Character and History
 3 Inside the Bible

7 Marduk
 1 Name and Etymology
 2 Character and History
 3 Inside the Bible

Talking to the Gods in Mesopotamia

8 Prayers and Incantations
 1 Prayers
 2 Incantations

9 The Promise to Praise the God in šuilla Prayers

10 The Form and Meaning of a Babylonian Prayer to Marduk
 1 The Hymnic Introduction
 2 The Marduk šuilla: A New Form
 3 A Prayer for Success and the Conclusion of the šuilla

11 The Form and History of a Babylonian Prayer to Nabû

12 A Paean and Petition to a God of Death: Some Comments on a šuilla to Nergal
 1 Introduction
 2 Hymnic Introduction
 3 Petitioner’s Justification and Description of His Approach to the God
 4 Description of the Petitioner’s Difficulties
 5 Petitioner’s Supplication
 6 Conclusions

13 The Reconciliation of Angry Personal Gods: A Revision of the šuillas

14 Two Versions of a šuilla to Gula

part 2: Literary Studies

15 Fortune and Misfortune of the Individual: Some Observations on the Sufferer’s Plaint in Ludlul bēl nēmeqi II 12–32

16 Kingship in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Case of Enūma eliš
 1 Divine Origin and Physical Features
 2 Kingship over His Own Family
 3 The Battle
 4 Creation
 5 Kingship over the Universe

17 Some Observations on the Babylon Section of Enūma eliš

18 Biblical Accounts of Prehistory: Their Meaning and Formation
 1 Introduction
 2 Mesopotamian Sources
 3 Biblical Sources
 4 Summary and Conclusions

19 Two Passages in the Biblical Account of Prehistory
 1 The Creation of Man and Woman
 2 The Tower of Babel

20 Jonah and God: Plants, Beasts, and Humans in the Book of Jonah

part 3: Comparative Studies

21 alaktu and halakhah: Oracular Decision, Divine Revelation
 1 alaktu: Mesopotamian Sources
 2 halakhah: Jewish Sources and Mesopotamian Influence

22 Blood in Israel and Mesopotamia

23 Cultures in Contact: Ancient Near Eastern and Jewish Magic

part 4: Ancient Near Eastern Legal Practices and Thought

24 A Shepherd’s Bulla and an Owner’s Receipt: A Pair of Matching Texts in the Harvard Semitic Museum

25 “He Should Continue to Bear the Penalty of That Case”: Some Observations on Codex Ḫammurabi §§3–4 and §13
 1 Introduction
 2 Analysis and Translation
 3 Meaning and Significance
 4 Confirmation: Variant Readings and §13
 5 Conclusion
Index of Passages Quoted
All those interested in Babylonian and biblical religion and literature, interconnections between ancient Mesopotamia and Israel, and the ancient Near East.
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