The first book to gather ancient Near Eastern, extrabiblical sources containing prophetic words or references to prophetic activities. Among the 140 texts included are oracles of prophets, personal letters, formal inscriptions, and administrative documents from ancient Mesopotamia and Levant from the second and first millennia B.C.E. Most of the texts come from Mari (eightThe first book to gather ancient Near Eastern, extrabiblical sources containing prophetic words or references to prophetic activities. Among the 140 texts included are oracles of prophets, personal letters, formal inscriptions, and administrative documents from ancient Mesopotamia and Levant from the second and first millennia B.C.E. Most of the texts come from Mari (eighteenth century B.C.E.) and Assyria (seventh century B.C.E.). In addition, the volume provides new translations of the Egyptian "Report of Wenamon and of various texts from Syria-Palestine containing allusions to prophets and prophetic activities. The volume illumines the cultural background of biblical prophecy and its parallels. It provides scholars with important information about different types and forms of transmission of divine words, and makes these valuable primary source materials accessible to students and general readers in contemporary English along with transcriptions of the original languages, indexes, and an extensive bibliography....
|Title||:||Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East|
|Number of Pages||:||296 Pages|
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Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East Reviews
This book is published by the Society of Biblical Literature in their Writing From The Ancient World series, which contains quite a few interesting books (many of them having nothing to do with the bible).This book consists mainly of translations and transliterations of cuneiform texts concerning prophecy in a few series. It contains all the known texts from the cities of Mari (c.1700-1750 BC), Eshnunna (same period, roughly), Nineveh (681-627 BC) and a few others from Syria/Canaan and one from Egypt. These come with a few explanatory notes and there's an interesting introduction.The book is intended for use by students and scholars of the Ancient Near East, though it is designed to be accessible to interested lay-people like me. It is definitely not the place to embark on your studies, if the subject interests you, but it's a great book to read after you've grounded youself a little. This book explores the actual incidence of ecstatic prophets in society. Ecstatic prophets are people who were possessed briefly by the will of a god and, during a dramatic fit, would pronounce that will. Some of them were also dreamers who had prophetic dreams. There are several words for these people in the Akkadian language to denote different classes of prophets, though the distinctions are not clear to us. We know, from verbs used to create these names, that an apilum is an "answerer" and a muhhum is someone "who goes into a frenzy". These are very distinct people from diviners, who were highly trained people who performed rituals to find the will of the gods through omens in nature. Prophecies come largely unbidden and spontaneously to the prophets. They are sent by the gods, rather than sought out by diviners.When a prophet went into a frenzy and spoke with the voice of a god, or when a prophet had a dream, a letter was sent to the king to report it, along with a hair from the prophet's head and a thread from the hem of their garment. This hair and thread were included so that a professional diviner in the court of the king could perform a ritual to test the truth of the prophecy. Obviously, divination was considered more reliable than prophecy. Prophets (and the people who brought them) were often rewarded with a garment, a bit of silver or bronze (sometimes in the form of spearheads - there was no coinage in the early days) or a donkey. Here's an example:Text 16: Speak to my lord: thus Yaqqim-Addu, your servant*A prophet of [the god] Dagan came to me and spoke as follows. This is what he said: "Verily, what shall I eat that belongs to [the king of Mari] Zimri-Lim? Give me one lamb and I shall eat it!"I gave him a lamb and he devoured it raw in front of the city gate. He assembled the elders in front of the gate and said "A devouring [i.e. an epidemic] will take place [in the land]! Give orders to the cities [of the land] to return the taboo material. Whoever commits an act of violence shall be expelled from the city. And for the well-being of your lord, Zimri-Lim, clothe me in a garment."This is what he spoke to me. For sake of the well-being of my lord I clothed him in a garment. Now, I have recorded the oracle that he spoke to me and sent it to my lord. He did not utter this oracle in private, but he delivered it in the assembly of elders.*Note that this is a standard method of beginning a letter. Most letters were recited to scribe who recorded them on a small clay tablet, then brought to the recipient and read out loud by another scribe. The words "speak to my lord" are the instructions to the scribe who will read the letter.Here' another, also written to King Zimri-Lim of Mari (c.1760 BC).Text 39: Speak to my lord: Thus Kibri-Dagan, your servant:Dagan and Ikrub-El [i.e. the gods of the city of Terqa] are well: the city of Terqa as well as the district is well.**[the next bit is broken, but the writer presumably mentions encountering a prophet]This is what he saw [in his dream]: "Thus says God: You people may not build this ruined house again! If this house is re-built, I will make it fall into the river." On the day he had this dream, he did not tell it to anybody.The next day he had the same dream again: "Thus says God: you may not rebuild this house! If you rebuild it, I will make it fall into the river."Now I have sent a fringe of his garment and a lock from his head to my lord. From that day on the servant has been ill.**This bit is also customary in letters to the king, to report to them that all is well in the the sender's part of the kingdom.This second prophecy is interesting. It claims that God (presumably Dagan, the chief god of the city of Terqa) doesn't want a house re-built or he will throw it down himself. It may be referring to a house, or to a temple (house of a god) or to a palace (house of a king). The possibility that it's the latter is exciting because of what really happened in history: the city of Mari and King Zimri-Lim were defeated by Hammurabi of Babylon, but allowed to remain as a part of the kingdom of Babylon. Four years later, however, Hammurabi returned to Mari for reasons unknown and flattened it, ending the city and dynasty for good. Such catastrophes were said to be caused by the gods, so in this case it is tantalizing to think that this is a prophecy which predicts that Dagan himself will cause Babylonians to throw the house of Zimri-Lim into the river after he tries to re-build it.As I said, it helps to have some historical context to really appreciate the book, but if you have that, it's golden.
A fantastic sourcebook, with clear and helpful introductions. The volume contains a well-curated selection of prophetic texts and texts providing important historical/sociological information about prophecy. Nissinen provides the most well-rounded set of materials from the comparably abundant archives of Mari and the various neo-Assyrian cities, while Seow comments on several significant West Semitic inscriptions and Ritner introduces a selection from the fascinating Egyptian "Report of Wenamon."Best of all, for both scholars and students, the text are all provided in both transliteration and translation, cross-indexed to their publication in major collections, and provided with a selected bibliography for further research. Highly recommended to anyone with interest in prophecy in the ANE or comparatively.