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library of Biblical Interpretation

A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts

JOHN H WALTONZondervanPublishingHouseAcademic and Professional BooksGrand Rapids, A Division Michigan ofHarperCollinsPublisbers

ANCIENT ISRAELITE LITERATURE IN ITS CULTURAL CONTEXT

Copyright 1989 by John H. Walton Second printing 1990 with corrections and additions. Requests for information should be addressed to: Zondervan Publishing House Academic and Professional Books 1415 Lake Drive S.E. Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataWalton, John H., 1952Ancient Israelite literature in its cultural context : a survey of parallels between biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature / John H. Walton, p. cm. Includes bibliographies and index. ISBN 0-310-36590-2 1. Middle Eastern literature-Relation to the Old Testament. 2. Bible. O.T.-Criticism, interpretation, etc. 3. Bible. O.T.-Comparative studies. 4. Bible. O.T.-Extra-canonical parallels. I. Title. BS1171.2.W35 1989 221.6-dc20

89-33403 CIP

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (North American Edition). Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any meanselectronic, mechani cal, photocopy, recording, or any otherexcept for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher. Printed in the United States of America 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 / DH / 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 This edition is printed on acid-free paper and meets the American National Standards Institute Z39.48 standard.

In Memory of Cyril F. 1949-1982

Can

CONTENTS

Map List of Abbreviations Acknowledgments Introduction Chapter 1 Cosmology Materials Discussion Cases of Alleged Borrowing For Further Reading Chapter 2 Personal Archives and Epics Materials Discussion Cases of Alleged Borrowing For Further Reading Chapter 3 Legal Texts Materials Discussion Excursus: Law in Egypt For Further Reading Chapter 4 Covenants and Treaties Materials Discussion For Further Reading Chapter 5 Historical Literature Materials Discussion Cases of Alleged Borrowing For Further Reading

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Chapter 6 Hymns, Prayers, and Incantations Materials Discussion Excursus: Lamentations Over Fall of a City Cases of Alleged Borrowing For Further Reading Chapter 7 Wisdom Literature Materials Discussion Excursus: Love Poetry Cases of Alleged Borrowing For Further Reading Chapter 8 Prophetic Literature Materials Discussion For Further Reading Chapter 9 Apocalyptic Literature Materials Discussion Excursus: Ecclesiastes For Further Reading Chapter 10 Summary and Conclusions Summary of Similarities and Differences in Literature Summary of Case for Alleged Borrowing Summary of Fundamental Religious Distinctions For Further Reading Index of Subjects Index of Names

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LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AASOR AEL AfO AHw AJA AJSL AnBib ANET AOAT ARM AS AUSS BA BASOR BG BibSac BM BO BWL CAD CAH CBQ CBS3

CT CTA EQ G GTJ HSS HTR HUCA IDB IEJ JANES JAOS JBL JCS JEA JEN JEOL JESHO JETS

Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research Ancient Egyptian Literature, 3 vols., Miriam Lichtheim (University of California, 1976) Archiv fiir Orientforschung Akkadisches Handwdrterbuch, Wolfram von Soden American Journal of Archaeology American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literature Analecta Biblica Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3d ed., ed. James Pritchard (Prince ton, 1969) Alter Orient und Altes Testament Archives royales de Mari Assyriological Studies Andrews University Seminar Studies Biblical Archaeologist Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research The Babylonian Genesis, A. Heidel (Chicago: University of Chi cago Press, 1951) Bibliotheca Sacra British Museum Bibliotheca Orientalis Babylonian Wisdom Literature, W. G. Lambert (Oxford, 1960) Chicago Assyrian Dictionary Cambridge Ancient History, 3d ed. Catholic Biblical Quarterly Catalogue of the Babylonian Section (University Museum, Philadel phia) Cuneiform Texts of the British Museum Corpus des Tablettes en Cuneiformes alphabetiques, Andree Herdner (Geuthner, 1963) Evangelical Quarterly Gadd, C. J . , publication of Nuzi texts in RA 23 (1926): 4 9 - 6 1 Grace Theological Journal Harvard Semitic Series Harvard Theological Review Hebrew Union College Annual Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, ed. G. A. Buttrick et al. (Nashville, 1962) Israel Exploration Journal Journal of the Ancient Near East Society Journal of the American Oriental Society Journal of Biblical Literature Journal of Cuneiform Studies Journal of Egyptian Archaeology Joint Expedition with the Iraq Museum at Nuzi Jaarbericht van het VooraziatischEgyptisch Genootschap ex Orient Lux Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

JNES JQR JSOT JTS KAR KTU MB MAOG MDOG MSL NASB NB Ni NIV OB OECT Or OTS PBS PS RA RAI RB RLA Si SKL TB UET UF VAT VT ZA ZAS ZAW

Journal of Near Eastern Studies Jewish Quarterly Review Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Journal of Theological Studies Keilschrifttexte aus Assur religiosen Inhalts, E. Ebeling (Leipzig, 1919, 1923) M. Dietrich, O. Loretz, J. Sanmartin, Die kielaphabetischen Texte aus Ugarit (Neukirchener, 1976) Middle Babylonian Period Mitteilungen der altorientalischen Gesellschaft Mitteilungen der deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft Materielien zum sumerischen Lexikon New American Standard Bible Neo-Babylonian Period Nippur Text New International Version Old Babylonian Period Oxford Editions of Cuneiform Texts Orientalia Oudtestamentische Studien Publications of the Babylonian Section, University of Pennsyl vania Pfeiffer and Speiser, AASOR 16 (1936) Publication of Nuzi Texts Revue d'Assyriologie et d'archaeologie orientale Compte rendu de la . . . Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale Revue Biblique Reallexikon der Assyriologie Sippar Text Sumerian King List Tyndale Bulletin Ur Excavation Texts Ugarit-Forschungen Vorderasiatische Abteilung Tontafeln (Texts in the Berlin Museum) Vetus Testamentum Zeitschrift filr Assyriologie Zeitschrift filr agyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde Zeitschrift fiir die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many people have had input on this project, and I cannot begin to thank all of them. There are those, however, who have put extra time and effort into it, and they ought to be recognized. For reading parts (and sometimes extensive parts) of the manuscript and for numerous helpful suggestions, I thank the following professors: Alan R. Millard, Kenneth A. Kitchen, Samuel Greengus, and James Hoffmeier. Furthermore, to the editors who faced a mammoth task and to my family for support and endurance, I offer thanks.

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INTRODUCTION

Abraham is presented in the Bible as having come from Mesopotamia. The descendants of Abraham spent centuries in Egypt and then came to dwell in the midst of a Canaanite civilization. The language spoken by the Israelites is historically related to the languages of the Semitic world around them. Copies of ancient Near Eastern literature have been discovered in the excavations of Israelite cities. It is profitable to compare the Israelites to the peoples living around them. The historical and linguistic connections are undeniable, and the Israelites' awareness of the cultures and literature of the ancient Near East is demonstrable from the biblical record as well as from the archaeological data. The basic premise of this book is that Israel, while being the recipient of divine revelation that gave her a unique theological distinctiveness, reflected in many ways the culture of the ancient Near East. Such a reflection implies that Israelite thinking cannot be understood in isolation from its ancient Near Eastern cultural context. The similarities that exist can be very instructive and should not be ignored. The ancient Near Eastern literature should and can instruct us about the common world view of biblical times. Israel at times conformed to that worldview and at times departed from it; in either case, we can appreciate and understand Israel better once we know what informed the assumptions of the surrounding cultures. Israelite theology becomes more meaningful if we are aware of the world in which it took shape and of the tensions that were tugging at its perimeters. In 1902 Franz Delitzsch delivered his now famous "Babel and Bible" lectures in which he attempted to elevate the religion of the Babylonians at the expense of the Israelites and the Old Testament literature. Defending the ancient Babylonians against the claims made by Old Testament scholars, Delitzsch attempted to demonstrate that the Israelite religion, far from being superior to the supposed crude paganism of the Babylonians, had actually 13

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ANCIENT ISRAELITE LITERATURE

IN ITS CULTURAL

CONTEXT

evolved from the Babylonian culture. He presented certain significant Old Testament texts as being merely edited versions of Babylonian myths. Needless to say, devout Jews and Christians of every label saw this as an affront to their faith, an attack on their heritage, and no less than an insult to their God. The negative reaction was swift and of immense scope and gave comparative studies a bad reputation that persists in some circles even today. Since then, scholars have had their hands full trying to reverse the damage Delitzsch caused. A significant step in a more moderate and positive direction was made in the publication in 1958 of Assyrio