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This book has its foundations in my doctoral dissertation that I carried out in the framework of the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant Project, ‘By the Rivers of Babylon: New Perspectives on Second Temple Judaism from Cuneiform Texts’, between 2010 and 2014 under the supervision of Caroline Waerzeggers. I completed my dissertation during fellowships at Leiden University in 2014–2015, the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) in 2015–2016, and the Free University of Amsterdam (VU) in 2016–2017. I am honored to have earned the ‘Best PhD Dissertation in the Field of Assyriology and Mesopotamian Archaeology’ in 2017 by the International Association of Assyriology, which provided a grant that helped finance this publication. A HUSSLab postdoctoral fellowship at the American University in Cairo (2018–2019) that was sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation enabled me to focus on revising and finalising this book. I thank all these institutions for their support.

It is a pleasure to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the many people who contributed to the making of this book. My foremost gratitude and warmest appreciation belong to Caroline Waerzeggers, my teacher and mentor from the first day I entered university. I am indebted to her for her invaluable advice, wisdom, generosity, and moral support over the years. She has left a deep impression on me as a scholar and as a person. I am also grateful to my first co-supervisor Karen Radner who welcomed me with her infectious spirit and enthusiasm at the University College of London (UCL) and later again in Munich. My UCL colleagues and roommates Jonathan Stökl, Silvie Zamazalová, and Mikko Luukko deserve my thanks for all their advice, feedback, and encouragement. I am obliged to the Trustees of the British Museum for giving me permission to access the Students’ Room and study cuneiform tablets in their care during my stay in London and on various visits thereafter. I am indebted, in particular, to Christopher Walker and Jonathan Taylor for their incredible generosity and assistance.

A special token of appreciation is due to my project colleagues at Leiden University for creating the stimulating, constructive, and heartening environment in which I was able to finish the first draft of my dissertation: Tero Alstola, Jason Silverman, and Rieneke Sonnevelt. My graduate school experience would have been considerably less rewarding without them. I thank all the colleagues I worked with at LMU, especially Claudia Horst, Petra Oppermann, and Robert Schiestl. As members of the new Lehrstuhl für die Alte Geschichte des Nahen und Mittleren Ostens led by Karen Radner, they provided me with a warm environment in which I could teach, write, and prepare for my dissertation defense. I want to express my gratitude to Kristin Kleber who gave me the opportunity to join her team at the VU and discuss various aspects of my work with Mark Tamerus, Pieter Alkemade, and Michèle Meijer. Special thanks is extended to Bert van der Spek who remains part and parcel of the VU with his across-the-board knowledge, light-heartedness, and fun version of Assyriology.

It was both an honour and a pleasure to discuss my dissertation and exchange views with the members of my doctoral defense committee, Jan Gerrit Dercksen, Michael Jursa, Olaf Kaper, Kristin Kleber, Marten Stol, Bert van der Spek, Karel van der Toorn, and Willemijn Waal, in addition to my two promotors, Wilfred van Soldt and Caroline Waerzeggers. Their poignant questions and observations have helped me transform my project from a dissertation into this book. The anonymous reviewers, whose meticulous readings and clever suggestions made the manuscript stronger, also warrant my deep appreciation as do Katelyn Chin and Christina Sargent, whose guidance helped me navigate the publishing process at Brill without complications.

Over the years I was fortunate to experience stimulating conversations, invaluable support, useful feedback, and generous access to unpublished research material from many other friends, colleagues, and scholars: Kathleen Abraham, Sander Amelink, Eric Bosse, Jaap Geraerts, Andrea Giolai, Melanie Gross, Bram Jagersma, Barbora Jancikova, Pyhai Jin, Theo Krispijn, Julia Krul, Amélie Kuhrt, Tracy Lemos, Juval Levavi, Joris Leverink, Guido van Meersbergen, John Nielsen, Daniel Soliman, Joyce de Thouars, Cornelia Wunsch, and Ran Zadok. Mark Heerink, too, is especially appreciated for his advice in all matters PhD and whiff-whaff.

And, finally, I want to thank my family: Georg, Mady, Julian, Eva, Kristina, the boys, and especially Hanan for the love, patience, encouragement, and close reading of the entire manuscript.