The studies set out here were either published or accepted for publication prior to my retirement from Brandeis University in August 2019. They were written over a span of almost forty years and reflect several themes that I have pursued in addition to my work on witchcraft literature and the Epic of Gilgamesh. My studies on those topics have been collected in the following volumes: Mesopotamian Witchcraft: Toward a History and Understanding of Babylonian Witchcraft Beliefs and Literature (AMD 5), Further Studies on Mesopotamian Witchcraft Beliefs and Literature (AMD 17), and Male and Female in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The studies in the present volume illustrate my several interests and approaches; some are of a synchronic nature, others are diachronic. Some of the studies were developed as part of my course preparations, especially those that are exegetical and literary. Note that this volume is intended as a collection of previously published essays and not as a reasoned argument. Accordingly, there will be some duplication (occasionally even verbatim duplication, especially in overviews) between chapters. I should note that a phrase or argument has occasionally been clarified, and a uniform mode of bibliographical citation has been introduced throughout.
The first part of the volume begins with general articles (“Overviews and Surveys” and “Ghosts and Gods”) on Mesopotamian magic, religion, and mythology written for handbooks and volumes intended for broad academic audiences. These are followed by a set of articles on Akkadian prayers, especially šuillas (“Talking to the Gods in Mesopotamia”). In these articles I focus, first of all, on exegetical and linguistic (synchronic) analyses of šuilla prayers to Marduk, Nabû, and Nergal and follow these with diachronic analyses of prayers that also belong to the šuilla grouping. Part 2 contains a series of literary studies of Mesopotamian and biblical classics (Ludlul bēl nēmeqi, Enūma eliš, Genesis, and Jonah). Part 3 is devoted to comparative studies of terms and phenomena (alaktu/halakhah, blood, and magic). Finally, the fourth part takes up in detail texts that are of legal interest (Codex Ḫammurabi and a bulla/receipt from Nuzi).
I wish to thank those who have helped me put together this volume. PDFs of original publications were turned into Microsoft Word versions by Jared Pfost. Those versions were then corrected by Daniel Berman, who also sent out requests for permission to republish to the original publishers and/or editors. Eileen Xing read through the volume in search of errors and infelicities. Most of all, I thank Gene McGarry for unifying the bibliographical citations and correcting many inconsistencies. The funds for these activities were provided by the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and the School of Arts and Sciences of Brandeis University. I also wish to thank the original publishers and editors for permission to publish my studies here.
Finally, I would like to thank Michael Coogan for accepting the volume into the Harvard Semitic Studies series and for reviewing the volume. Publishing this collection in HSS is personally meaningful, as the essays of my teachers at Harvard University were also collected in this series.