The Context of Scripture, Archival Documents fromthe Biblical World- by ArchBishop Uwe AE. ROSENKRANZ

The Context of Scripture

volume iii

Archival Documents from

the Biblical World


William W. Hallo

Associate Editor

K. Lawson Younger, Jr.


Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.

Robert K. Ritner





Cover: An ostracon found at Meṣed Ḥashvyahu (so named after the find), south of Yaveneh Yam in Israel, dating to the 7th Century b.c.e. and pleading the case of a harvester whose garment has been wrongfully confiscated or distrained. See text on page 77.

Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority Exhibited & photo© Israel Museum.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

The context of Scripture / editor, William W. Hallo; associate editor, K. Lawson Younger.

p.    cm.

Includes bibliographic references and index.

Contents: V. I. Canonical compositions from the biblical world.

ISBN 9004106189

I. Bible. O.T.—Extra-canonical parallels. 2. Middle Eastern literature—Relation to the Old Testament. 3. Bible. O.T.—History of comtemporary events—Sources. 4. Middle Eastern literature—Translations into English. I. Hallo, William W. II. Younger, K. Lawson.

BS1180.C66    1996

220.9´5—dc21    96–48987


Die Deutsche Bibliothek – CIP-Einheitsaufnahme

The context of scripture: canonical compositions, monumental inscriptions, and archival documents from the biblical world / ed. William W. Hallo.–Leiden; New York; Köln: Brill

NE: Hallo, William W. [Hrsg.]

Vol. I Canonical compositions from the biblical world. — 1997

ISBN 90–04–10618–9

ISBN 90 04 10620 0 (Vol. III)

ISBN 90 04 09629 9 (Set)

© Copyright 2002 by Koninklijke Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher.

Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910 Danvers MA, 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change.



Abbreviations and Symbols

List of Contributors


Understanding Hebrew and Egyptian Military Texts: A Contextual Approach (James K. Hoffmeier)

Hittite-Israelite Cultural Parallels (Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.)

The “Contextual Method”: Some West Semitic Reflections (K. Lawson Younger, Jr.)

The Impact of Assyriology on Biblical Studies (David B. Weisberg)

Sumer and the Bible: a Matter of Proportion (William W. Hallo)




The Heqanakht Letters (3.1)

Letter I (3.1A)

Letter II (3.1B)

Letter III (3.1C)


The Craft of the Scribe (Papyrus Anastasi I) (3.2)

Praise of Pi-Ramessu (Papyrus Anastasi III) (3.3)

A Report of Escaped Laborers (Papyrus Anastasi V) (3.4)

A Report of Bedouin (Papyrus Anastasi VI) (3.5)



Papyrus Rylands VI (3.6)


Papyrus British Museum 10622 (3.7A)

Papyrus British Museum 10624 (3.7B)

Papyrus Milan 6 (3.7C)


The Turin Judicial Papyrus (The Harem Conspiracy against Ramses III) (3.8)

Papyri Rollin and Lee (Magic in the Harem Conspiracy against Ramses III) (3.9)

A Lawsuit over a Syrian Slave (P. Cairo 65739) (3.10)


Semitic Slaves on a Middle Kingdom Estate (P. Brooklyn 35.1446) (3.11)

Semitic Functionaries in Egypt (KRI4:104–106) (3.12)




1. MIDDLE HITTITE PERIOD (ca. 1450–1350 BCE)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 1 (HKM1) (3.13)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 2 (HKM2) (3.14)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 3 (HKM3) (3.15)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 4 (HKM4) (3.16)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 5 (HKM5) (3.17)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 6 (HKM6) (3.18)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 7 (HKM7) (3.19)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 8 (HKM8) (3.20)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 9 (HKM9) (3.21)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 10 (HKM10) (3.22)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 11 (HKM12) (3.23)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 12 (HKM13) (3.24)

The King to Kaššūin Tapikka 13 (HKM14) (3.25)

The King to Kaššūand Zulapi in Tapikka 1 (HKM15) (3.26)

The King to Kaššūand Zulapi in Tapikka 2 (HKM16) (3.27)

The King to Kaššū, Ḫullaand Zulapi in Tapikka (HKM17) (3.28)

The King to Kaššūand Pulli in Tapikka (HKM18) (3.29)


Letter from Queen Naptera of Egypt to Queen Puduḫepaof Ḫatti (3.30)

Letter from ḪattušiliIII of Ḫattito Kadašman-EnlilII of Babylon (3.31)

Letter from Piḫa-walwiof Ḫattito Ibiranu of Ugarit (3.32)



The Case Against Ura-tarḫuntaand his Father Ukkura (3.33)



City Inventories

KBo 2.1 (CTH509) (3.34)


KUB 38.2 (3.35)


KUB 15.1 (CTH584.1) (3.36)


From Büyükkale, Building A, Rooms 1–2 (3.37)

FROM Büyükkale, Building A, Rooms 4–5 (3.38)

FROM Büyükkale, Building A (3.39)

FROM Büyükkale, Building E (3.40)





The Meṣad Ḥashavyahu(Yavneh Yam) Ostracon (3.41)

Lachish Ostraca (3.42)

Arad Ostraca (3.43)

The Widow’s Plea (3.44)



(1) Talmiyānuto his Mother Ṯarriyelli(RS 15.008) (3.45A)

(2) TalmiyānuKeeps in Touch with the Queen (RS 9.479A) (3.45B)

(3) Talmiyānuand ʾAḫātumilkiKeep in Touch with an Unnamed Lady (RS 8.315) (3.45C)

(4) The King to the Queen-mother in the Matter of the Amurrite Princess (RS 34.124) (3.45D)

(5) The King of Ugarit to the Queen-mother in the Matter of his Meeting with the Hittite Sovereigns (RS 11.872) (3.45E)

(6) The King of Ugarit to the Queen-mother in the Matter of his Meeting with the Hittite Sovereign (RS 16.379) (3.45F)

(7) A Royal Son to his Mother as Regards Warfare (RIH 78.12) (3.45G)


(8) The King of Tyre to the King of Ugarit in the Matter of Storm-damaged Ships (RS 18.031) (3.45H)

(9) THE King of Hatti to the King of Ugarit (RS 18.038) (3.45I)

(10) Puduḫepa, Queen of Hatti, to the King of Ugarit (RS 17.434+) (3.45J)

(11) Pgn to the King of Ugarit (RS 18.147) (3.45K)

(12) Mutual Assistance (RS 18.075) (3.45L)


(13) ʿAmmiṯtamru, King of Ugarit, to the King of Egypt (RIH 78.3+30) (3.45M)

(14) ʿAmmurāpiʾto the King of Egypt (RS 34.356) (3.45N)

(15) Part of a Letter Addressed to the King of Egypt (RS 16.078) (3.45O)

(16) [From the King of Ugarit?] to the Hittite Emperor (RS 94.5015) (3.45P)


(17) The King to ḤayyaʾilRegarding an Allotment of Logs (RS 16.264) (3.45Q)

(18) Double Letter: from the Queen to ʾUrtēnuand from ʾIlı̄milkuto the Same (RS 94.2406) (3.45R)

(19) The Queen to Yarmîhaddu(RS 96.2039) (3.45S)

(20) Ṯipṭibaʿlu(Shibti-Baʿlu) to the King (RS 18.040) (3.45T)

(21) From an Official in Alashia to the King (RS 18.113A+B) (3.45U)

(22) ʿUzzı̄nuto the King (RS 94.2391) (3.45V)

(23) Unknown to the King (RS 34.148) (3.45W)

(24) Message of ʾIririṯarumato the Queen (RS 16.402) (3.45X)

(25) ʾUrǵiteṯub(Urḫi-Tešub) to the Queen (RS 20.199) (3.45Y)

(26) The Governor to the Queen (RS 94.2479) (3.45Z)

(27) Unknown, Perhaps the Queen, to Unknown (RS 94.2592) (3.45AA)


(28) A Military Situation (RS 4.475) (3.45BB)

(29) Request for a Free Hand (RS 15.007) (3.45CC)

(30) Brother to Sister (RS 17.063) (3.45DD)

(31) ʿUzzı̄nuand Another Author to Master and Father (RS 17.117) (3.45EE)

(32) Emergency Report from a City-commander (RS 19.011) (3.45FF)

(33) A Double Letter to Yabnı̄nu(RS 19.102) (3.45GG)

(34) Two Servants to Their Master (RS 29.093) (3.45HH)

(35) A Problem with Rations (RS 29.095) (3.45II)

(36) Double letter, from ʿAzzı̄ʾiltuto his Parents, from Same to his Sister (RS 92.2005) (3.45JJ)

(37) ʾAnantēnuto his Master Ḫiḏmiratu(RS 92.2010) (3.45KK)

(38) ʾAbniyaisn’t happy (RS 94.2284) (3.45LL)

(39) Provisions are Running Out (RS 94.2383 + RS 94.2619) (3.45MM)

(40) Getting one’s Name Before the King (RS [Varia 4]) (3.45NN)


(41) A Scribe shows off (RS 16.265) (3.45OO)

(42) The Greetings that ʾAbniyaMight Have Sent (RS 94.2273) (3.45PP)



The Passover Letter (3.46)

Report of Conflict and Request for Assistance (3.47)

Recommendation to Aid Two Benefactors (3.48)

Report of Imprisonment of Jewish Leaders (3.49)

Petition for Reconstruction of Temple (?) (Draft) (3.50)

Request for Letter of Recommendation (First Draft) (3.51)

Recommendation for Reconstruction of Temple (3.52)

Offer of Payment for Reconstruction of Temple (Draft) (3.53)

Appeal of Adon King of Ekron to Pharaoh (3.54)



Cebel Ires Daği(3.55)


A Barley Loan from Assur (3.56)

A Loan of Silver from Assur (3.57)

A Barley Loan from Guzāna (3.58)



Grant of a Built Wall (3.59)

Withdrawal from Land (3.60)

Bequest of House to Daughter (3.61)

Grant of Usufruct to Son-in-law (3.62)

Document of Wifehood (3.63)

Grant of House to Daughter (3.64)

Withdrawal from Goods (3.65)

Withdrawal from Goods (3.66)

Withdrawal from House (3.67)

Apportionment of Slaves (3.68)


Loan of Silver (3.69)

Withdrawal from Hyrʾ(3.70)

Document of Wifehood (3.71)

Sale of Abandoned Property (3.72)

Bequest of Apartment to Wife (3.73)

Testamentary Manumission (3.74)

A Life Estate of Usufruct (3.75)

Document of Wifehood (3.76)

Adoption (3.77)

Bequest in Contemplation of Death (3.78)

Dowry Addendum (3.79)

Sale of Apartment to Son-in-law (3.80)

Loan of Grain (3.81)



Land Grant along with Tithe Obligations (3.82)

Village Tithe Payments at Ugarit (3.83)


ḤesbânOstracon A1 (3.84)

ḤesbânOstracon A2 (3.85)


Ophel ostracon (3.86)



Instructions Regarding Children and Inquiry Regarding Passover (3.87A)

Instructions to Shear Ewe (3.87B)

Offer to Sew a Garment (3.87C)

Instructions Regarding Silver for Marzeaḥ (3.87D)

Greetings from a Pagan to a Jew (3.87E)

Instructions to Aid Shepherd (3.87F)

Instructions Regarding Legumes and Barley, etc. (3.87G)

Request for Salt (3.87H)

Letter Regarding Gift, Handmaiden, Allotment, and Pots (3.87I)

Instructions Regarding Tunic (3.87J)

Notice of Dispatch of Wood (3.87K)

An Aramaic Dream Report from Elephantine (3.88)


The BukānInscription (3.89)





A Letter of Enna-Dagan (3.90)


Letter Asking for the Return of Stolen Donkeys (AT116) (3.91)


Letter of Abdi-heba of Jerusalem (EA286) (3.92A)

Letter of Abdi-heba of Jerusalem (EA289) (3.92B)

Letter of the Ruler of Gazru (EA292) (3.92C)

Letter of Tušratta, King of Mitanni (EA17) (3.92D)

Letter of Rib-Haddi of Byblos (Gubla) (EA362) (3.92E)

Letter of Labʾayuof Shechem (EA253) (3.92F)

Letter of Labʾayuof Shechem (EA254) (3.92G)


A Letter to Zalaia (3.93)


The Letter of Takuhlina (3.94)


The Murder of Sennacherib (3.95)

A Letter Reporting Matters in Kalaḫ(Kalḫu) (3.96)

A Letter Concerning the Grain Tax of the Samarians (3.97)

A Report on Work on Dūr-Šarrukin (3.98)



Sale transactions (3.99)

The Purchase of Beer (AT33) (3.99A)

Sale of a Town (AT52) (3.99B)


Receipt for the Purchase of a Debt Slave (AT65) (3.100)

Marriage agreements

Palace Receipt for the Return of a Marriage Gift (AT17) (3.101A)

Marriage Customs (AT92) (3.101B)

Seven years of Barrenness before a Second Wife (AT93) (3.101C)

Loan transactions

Security for a Loan (AT18) (3.102A)

Transfer of Creditors (AT 28) (3.102B)


Land sales and purchases

Land Purchase Text (3.103)

Land Purchase Text (3.104)

Foreclosure and Redistribution of Land (3.105)

Land Sale (3.106)

Land Grants and Donations

Land Donation for Service Rendered (3.107)

Land Donation by the King (3.108)

Royal Land Grant (3.109)

Royal Land Grant (3.110)


Sale of Three Slaves (3.111)

Sale of a Slave Woman (3.112)

A Slave Redemption (3.113)

Sale of a Slave (3.114)

Land Sale (3.115)

A Debt Note (3.116)

Sale of an Estate (3.117)

Land Sale (3.118)



The Slandered Bride (3.119)


A Lawsuit from Hazor (3.120)


The Goring Ox at Nuzi (3.121)


A Court Order from Samaria (3.122)


A Neo-Babylonian Dialogue Document (3.123)



Offerings to the Temple Gates at Ur (3.124)


List of Hapiru Soldiers (AT180) (3.125)

Administrative Record (AT457) (3.126)


An Assyrian Wine List (3.127)

An Assyrian Horse List (3.128)



Inheritance of a Brother and a Sister (AT7) (3.129)




1. A Letter from an Angry Housewife (3.130)

2. A Letter to the King (3.131)

3. A Letter-order (3.132)



Slave Sale (3.133A)

Slave Sale (3.133B)

Real Estate Transaction (3.133C)

Real Estate Transaction (3.133D)


The Manumission of Umanigar (3.134A)

The Manumission of Šarakamand Ur-guna’a (3.134B)


The Marriage of Ur-Nanšeand Šašunigin (3.135A)

The Marriage of Puzur-Haya and Ubartum (3.135B)


A Loan of Silver to Šu-ašli (3.136A)

A Loan of Silver to Ur-ga (3.136B)

A Loan of Sheep Fat (3.136C)

A Loan of Silver to Gina and Mani (3.136D)

A Loan of Silver to Šuna (3.136E)

A Loan of Silver to Ur-Enlila (3.136F)

A Loan of Silver to Girini (3.136G)


A Lease of Land (3.137A)

A Record of Hire (3.137B)

Another Record of Hire (3.137C)





A Trial for Adultery (3.140)

Inheritance (3.141)



1. The Death of Shulgi (3.143)

2. A Sumerian Amphictyony

Calendar Text (3.144A)

The Bala-Contributions for One Month (3.144B)

3. Weights and Measures (3.145)



The Dispute Between a Man and His Ba(3.146)

The Akkadian Anzu Story (3.147)



Register of Contributors


The Context of Scripture has claimed the attention of publisher, editors, and contributors for a full decade from conception through execution (1991–2001). The original schedule proved too optimistic by half. According to his memorandum of agreement of December 20, 1991, the editor was “to deliver to the Publisher the final and complete material of Volume 1 not later than two years from the signing of this Agreement; Volume 2 not later than three years from the signing of this Agreement; and Volume 3 not later than four years from the signing of this Agreement.”

Had this ambitious five-year schedule been maintained, the publication dates might have read 1994, 1995 and 1996 instead of 1997, 2000 and 2002, respectively. But short of “genius grants” to relieve them of all other duties in the interim, neither the editor nor his tireless associate editor could have delivered on such an undertaking.

In fact, however, those other duties continued unabated throughout the course of the undertaking. In the case of the associate editor, moreover, the project spanned his move from LeTourneau University in Texas to Trinity International University in Illinois; in the editor’s case, its completion coincides with his retirement from formal teaching at Yale and the curatorship of its Babylonian Collection.

While thus falling short of “all deliberate speed,” the more realistic pace at which the project actually proceeded entailed a number of compensatory benefits: the inclusion of some of the latest textual discoveries; the incorporation of constructive criticisms offered by the reviewers; the utilization of emerging technologies in communicating with contributors and in preparing the layout of their contributions, to mention only a few.

At the same time it would be disingenuous to claim that all the aims of the original undertaking have been met. According to the Preface to volume 1, these constituted “a test of some of my long-held and long-taught methodologies: not only the contextual approach, but also my taxonomy of ancient documentation, and my theories of translation” (COS 1:xi). Of these objects, the first two have been satisfied, but hardly the last.

The theories of translation in question were briefly set forth in the Introduction to volume 1, where their application “to ancient Near Eastern texts apart from the Bible” were adjudged as “theoretically … possible — though difficult in practice” (COS 1:xxvi). In the event, theory has had to bow to practice. There has been no attempt to correlate with each other all translations from any one language, let alone from different languages.

Nevertheless, the basis for such correlations is laid by the extensive index furnished with this concluding volume. The basic index is the work of John G. Wright (Yale ’01); it has been rendered more user-friendly by the identification of proper nouns in a manner first developed in the editor’s Origins (Brill 1996). Others who have made the completion of the project possible include the contributors, the consultants, Lawson Younger the indefatigable associate editor, and the ever-helpful Mattie Kuiper of Brill. It is a pleasure to thank them all, however inadequately, for their devoted labors.

William W. Hallo

December 2, 2001

Abbreviations and Symbols

(* For abbreviations not listed here, please consult volumes 1 and 2)

AASF    Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia.

AECT    F. M. Fales. Aramaic Epigraphs on Clay Tablets of the Neo-Assyrian Period. Studi Semitici 2. Materiali per il lessico aramaico 1. Rome: Università degli studi “la Sapienza,” 1986.

AP     A. E. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1923.

ARWAW    Abhandlungen der Rheinisch-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

AUA    M. Lidzbarski. Altaramäische Urkunden aus Assur. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs’sche Buchhandlung, 1921.

AUCT    Andrews University Cuneiform Texts. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.

BJPES    Bulletin of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society.

CHANE    Culture and History of the Ancient Near East. Leiden: Brill.

FT    Faith and Theology.

GEA     T. Muraoka and B. Porten. A Grammar of Egyptian Aramaic. Leiden: Brill, 1998.

HBM     S. Alp, Hethitische Briefe aus Maşat-Höyük, AtatürkKültür, Dil ve Tarih Yüksek Kurumu, Türk Tarih Kurumu Yayınları, VI. Dizi-Sa. 35. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevı, 1991.

HH     E. Laroche, Les hiéroglyphes hittites. Paris: Éditions du Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1960.

HKM     S. Alp, Hethitische Keilschrifttafeln aus Maşat-HöyükAtatürkKültür, Dil ve Tarih Yüksek Kurumu, Türk Tarih Kurumu Yayınları, VI. Dizi-Sa. 34. Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu Basımevı, 1991.

HPBM 4    Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum. 4th series.

HUS    W. G. E. Watson and N. Wyatt, Editors. Handbook of Ugaritic Studies. HdO, Erste Abteilung: Der Nahe und Mittlere Osten 39. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999.

ILR    Israel Law Review.

JJP    Journal of Juristic Papyrology.

MAIBL    Mémoires présentés par divers savants à l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres de l’Insitut de France.

MEE    Materiali epigrafici di Ebla.

MHUC    Monographs of the Hebrew Union College.

NESE    R. Degen, W. W. Müller and W. Röllig, Editors. Neue Ephemeris für semitische Epigraphik. 3 Vols. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1972–78.

PEFQS    Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement.

PJB    Palästinajahrbuch des deutschen evangelischen Instituts für Altertumswissenschaft des heiligen Landes zu Jerusalem.

RAI 45/1    T. Abusch, et al. Editors. Historiography in the Cuneiform World. Proceedings of the XLVe Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale, Part 1: Harvard University. Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 2001.

REJ    Revue des Études Juives.

RES    Répertoire d’épigraphie sémitique.

RES    Revue des études sémitiques.

RgB    B. Janowski, K. Koch and G. Wilhelm, Editors. Religionsgeschichtliche Beziehungen zwischen Kleinasien, Nordsyrien und dem Alten Testament. Internationales Symposion Hamburg 17.-21. März 1990. OBO 129. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993.

RSOu 1    O. Callot. Une maison à Ougarit. Étude d’architecture domestique. RSOu 1. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1983.

RSOu 5/1    P. Bordreuil and D. Pardee. La trouvaille épigraph-ique de l’Ougarit. 1 Concordance. RSOu 5/1. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1989.

RSOu 10    O. Callot. La tranchée « Ville Sud ». Études d’architecture domestique. RSOu 10. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1994.

SCCNH    Studies on the Civilization and Culture of Nuzi and the Hurrians.

SJLA    Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity.

Studies Baumgartner    B. Hartmann, et al. Editors. HebräischeWortforschung. Festschriftzum80.GeburtstagvonWalterBaumgartner. VTSup 16. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967.

Studies Bittel    R. M. Boehmer and H. Hauptmann, Editors. Beiträge zur Altertumskunde Kleinasiens: Festschrift für Kurt Bittel. Mainz-am-Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 1983.

Studies Gordon 1998    M. Lubetski, C. Gottlieb, and S. Keller, Editors. Boundaries of the Ancient Near Eastern World. A Tribute to Cyrus H. Gordon. JSOTSup 273. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998.

Studies Goulder    S. E. Porter, et al., Editors. Crossing the Boundaries: Essays in Biblical Interpretation in Honour of Michael D. Goulder. Leiden: Brill, 1994.

Studies Houwink ten Cate    T. P. J. van den Hout and J. de Roos, Editors. Studio Historiae Ardens. Ancient Near Eastern Studies Presented to Philo H. J. Houwink ten Cate on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday. Istanbul: Institut historique et archéologique néerlandais de Stamboul, 1995.

Studies Jacobsen 2    T. Abusch, Editor. Studies in the Ancient Near East in Memory of Thorkild Jacobsen. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, forthcoming.

Studies Koschaker    T. Folkers, J. Friedrich, J. G. Lautner and J. Miles, Editors. Symbolae ad iura Orientis Antiqui pertinentes Paulo Koschaker dedicatae. Leiden: Brill, 1939.

Studies Lipiński    K. van Lerberghe and A. Schoors, Editors. Immigration and Emigration Within the Near East. Festschrift E. Lipiński. OLA 65. Leuven: Peeters, 1995.

Studies Lohfink    G. Braulik, W. Gross and S. McEvenue. Editors. Biblische Theologie und gesellschaftlicher Wandel: Für Norbert
SJ. Freiburg/Basel/Wien: Herder 1993.

Studies Mendenhall    H. B. Huffmon, F. A. Spina, and A. R. W. Green, Editors. The Quest for the Kingdom of God: Studies in Honor of George E. Mendenhall. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983.

Studies Milgrom    D. P. Wright, D. N. Freedman and A. Hurvitz, Editors. Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995.

Studies Moortgat    Vorderasiatische Archäologie. Studien und
Aufsätze. Anton Moortgat zum 65. Geburtstag gewidmet von Kollegen, Freunden und Schülern. Berlin: Verlag Gebrüder Mann, 1964.

Studies Pintore    O. Carruba, M. Liverani, and C. Zaccagnini, Editors. Studi orientalistici in ricordo di Franco Pintore. Studia Mediterranea 4. Pavia: GJES Edizioni, 1983.

Studies Robert    Mélanges bibliques, rédigés enl’honneurdeAndré Robert. Travaux de l’Institut catholique de Paris 4. Paris: Bloud & Gay, 1956.

Studies Römer    W. H. Ph. Römer, M. Dietrich, O. Loretz, and T. E. Balke, Editors. Dubsar anta-men: Studien zur Altorientalistik: Festschrift für Willem H. Ph. Römer zur Vollendung seines 70. Lebensjahres, mith Beiträgen von Freunden, Schülern und Kollegen. AOAT 253. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1998.

Studies Sommer     H. Krahe, Editor. Corolla linguistica: Festschrift Ferdinand Sommer zum 80. Geburtstag am 4 Mai 1955, dargebracht von Freunden, Schülern und Kollegen. Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1955.

Studies Wacholder    J. C. Reeves and J. Kampen, Editors. PursuingtheText: Studies in Honor of Ben Zion Wacholder. JSOTSup 184. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.

Studies Williams    J. K. Hoffmeier and E. S. Meltzer, Editors. Egyptological Miscellanies: A Tribute to Professor Ronald J. Williams. Ancient World 6. Chicago: Ares, 1983.

TFS    S. M. Dalley and J. N. Postgate. The Tablets from Fort Shalmaneser. CTN 3. Oxford: British School of Archaeology, 1984.

TH     J. Friedrich, et al. Die Inschriften vom Tell Halaf. Keilschrifttexte und aramäische Urkunden aus einer assyrischen Provinzhauptstadt. AfO Beiheft 6. Reprint 1967. Osnabrück: Biblio-Verlag, 1940.

ZAH    Zeitschrift für Althebräistik.

List of Contributors


James P. Allen

Metropolitan Musuem of Art

Walter E. Aufrecht

University of Lethbridge

William W. Hallo

Yale University

Michael Heltzer

University of Haifa

Richard S. Hess

Denver Seminary

James K. Hoffmeier

Trinity International University — Divinity School

Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.

University of Chicago, emeritus

Baruch A. Levine

New York University, emeritus

William Moran

Harvard University, emeritus

Dennis Pardee

University of Chicago

Bezalel Porten

The Hebrew University, Jerusalem

Robert K. Ritner

University of Chicago

Nili Shupak

University of Haifa

Piotr Steinkeller

Harvard University

Marianna Vogelzang

University of Groningen

David B. Weisberg

Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

K. Lawson Younger, Jr.

Trinity International University — Divinity School


Understanding Hebrew and Egyptian Military Texts: A Contextual Approach

James K. Hoffmeier

The disciplines of Egyptology and Assyriology were born at approximately the same time (ca. 1800), with scholars in both fields having strong interests in the biblical world in general, and specifically because it was thought that archaeological discoveries in these two great riverine civilizations in some way would reflect positively in the Old Testament. After all, the setting of the events of Genesis 1–11 is the Tigris-Euphrates valley, and it was Abraham’s homeland prior to migrating to the land of Canaan (Gen 11). As for Egypt, the Joseph story is set there (Gen 39–50), as are the events in the book of Exodus (Exod 1–14). In subsequent biblical history, these two superpower neighbors continued to exert influence on Israel. So it is little wonder that the early pioneers of biblical archaeology thought that the new disciplines of Assyriology and Egyptology would be natural allies of Biblical Studies.

As the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, Egyptology had not produced any direct evidence for Joseph, Moses or the Hebrew sojourn, although the “Merneptah (Israel) Stela” had been discovered by Petrie in 1896. (More on this text later). Edouard Naville, the Swiss biblical scholar and archaeologist, thought he had discovered cities related to the exodus in the Wadi Tumilat, but was subsequently proven wrong, which earned him the wrath of Sir Alan Gardiner. I believe that it was the Oxford don’s tremendous stature among Egyptologists and his unusually harsh criticism of what might be called “biblical Egyptology” that caused generations of Egyptologists to avoid the study of Hebrew and Biblical Studies in general. This had the positive outcome of Egyptology becoming a discipline in its own right, but the negative result of Egyptology being isolated as a cognate field of Biblical Studies. Assyriology too gained its independence from Biblical Studies and from the excesses of the “Pan-Babylonian” approaches that had characterized the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, inasmuch as Akkadian is cognate with Hebrew, many students of the Bible continued to study the cuneiform scripts, while Egyptian texts have been largely ignored by biblical scholars. This proclivity is surprising given the fact that Egypt and Canaan/Israel were next door neighbors, and Egypt is known to have exerted tremendous influence on the Levant especially during the Late Bronze Age, both through trade and through its military domination.3 Babylon, on the other hand, is located approximately 900 miles from Jerusalem (following normal travel routes), and not until the Neo-Assyrian period was there much direct contact between the Tigris-Euphrates world and the Levant.

The late Ronald Williams offered the following explanation for the tendency of biblical scholars to give priority to Mesopotamian sources in the study of the Bible over those of Egypt:

By the very nature of their training, Old Testament scholars are more likely to have acquired a first-hand knowledge of the Canaanite and cuneiform sources than they are to have mastered the hieroglyphic and hieratic materials of Egypt. For this reason they have had to depend to a greater degree on secondary sources for the latter. It is not surprising, then, that Israel’s heritage from Western Asia in such areas as mythology, psalmody, theodicy, proverb collections, legal “codes” and practices, suzerainty treaties and royal annals has been more thoroughly investigated. Yet Egypt’s legacy is by no means negligible ….

A quarter century has passed since Williams penned these insightful words, and Egyptology’s place in Biblical Studies, I believe, has improved somewhat. Certainly the number of Egyptian texts in The Context of Scripture (COS) indicates that the editors recognize the importance of Egyptian sources to the comparative or contextual approach to studying the Bible. Nearly a decade ago, this writer proposed to the Society of Biblical Literature program committee the establishment of a Consultation on Egyptology and Ancient Israel, and it was warmly received. This was the first such consultation concentrated on investigating the relationship between Egyptology and the Hebrew Bible. It has since become a permanent “Section,” and is thriving, having attracted the participation of many established scholars, as well as younger scholars, all of whom are engaged at some level of Egyptological and biblical research. These signs are encouraging and indicate that Egyptology may one day take its rightful place as a cognate field of Biblical Studies.

I share William W. Hallo’s commitment to the contextual or comparative method that he has so compellingly advocated over the past several decades, as well as his essay in COS (1:xxiii-xxviii). His identification of the two dimensions of the contextual approach is helpful. First, there is the “horizontal dimension” which examines “the geographical, historical, religious, political and literary setting in which it was created and disseminated” (COS 1:xxv). Secondly there is the “vertical axis” which examines the relationship “between the earlier texts that helped inspire it and the later texts that reacted to it” (COS 2:xxv-xxvi).

Under the heading “Monumental Inscriptions” in COS 2 are Egyptian texts that span the period from the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts (ca. 2400 BCE), to the stela of Piankhy (or Piye) (ca. 734 BCE), and they represent a wide range of genres, viz., Royal, Biographical, Funerary, and Hymnic. Owing to the limits of space and time for this presentation, it will focus primarily upon some of the so-called “Royal Inscriptions” of the New Kingdom found in COS 2 (and a few not included) because they touch on the question of historiography which has been a major subject of discussion by biblical scholars in the last two decades of the twentieth century. It will be suggested that there are possible Egyptian influences upon the Hebrew scribal traditions. The texts in this category in COS 2 are: The Armant and Gebel Barkal stelae and the Annals of Thutmose III, and the Memphis-Karnak Stelae of Amenhotep II from the Eighteenth Dynasty. This writer was responsible for translating these, and thus has given considerable thought to this material. From the Nineteenth Dynasty come the various military Campaign Inscriptions of Seti I in Western Asia from Karnak, along with his two Beth Shean stelae, the Battle of Kadesh inscriptions of Ramesses II, translated by Kenneth Kitchen, and the hymnic portion of the Merneptah Stela which the writer translated.

The reason for examining these particular texts is because they are not usually considered by biblical scholars when engaged in comparative study. Nevertheless, it appears that upon careful study these texts are germane for comparison with the Bible. A notable exception to the tendency to ignore this corpus of literature is Lawson Younger’s seminal study Ancient Conquest Accounts which appeared in 1990. After a thoughtful and thorough comparative study of Assyrian, Hittite and Egyptian military reports with those in the book of Joshua, Younger concluded

This study has shown that one encounters very similar things in both ancient Near Eastern and biblical history writing. While there are differences (e.g., the characteristics of the deities in the individual cultures), the Hebrew conquest account of Canaan in Joshua 9–12 is, by and large, typical of any ancient Near Eastern account. In other words, there is a common denominator, a certain commonality between them, so that it is possible for us to speak, for purposes of generalization, of a common transmission code that is an intermingling of the texts’ figurative and ideological aspects.

Independently, I arrived at conclusions similar to those of Younger. Hence, it will be argued that there is still much light Egyptian royal inscriptions of the New Kingdom can shed on Hebrew military writing.

Owing to the supposed “aetiological” nature, the theological affirmations and ideological nature of the “conquest” narratives in Joshua, coupled with the hyperbolic claims of wiping out the population of certain parts of Canaan (particularly in chapter 10), many recent studies of the Joshua narratives have dismissed the biblical account of Israel’s arrival in Canaan. With the Hebrew writings confined to the sidelines, the Merneptah or Israel stela has been thrust onto center stage, and historical minimalists have become preoccupied with this text. Ironically, historical minimalists of the Bible, like Ahlström10 and Lemche became maximalists, accepting at face value an Egyptian document, despite the fact that it too is religious and ideological, replete with hyperbole and propaganda, whereas, when similar literary and rhetorical devices are found in Joshua, the historical value of those narratives is summarily dismissed. The methodological inconsistency is self-evident.

In recent years there has been some comparative analysis of the Joshua narratives alongside cognate Near Eastern military writings. Moshe Weinfeld in his study of the Deuteronomistic School offered parallels between Neo-Assyrian texts and Joshua to show the 7th century date of the latter. However, he completely failed to consider earlier texts of the 2nd millennium as possible analogues. This omission led Jeffrey Niehaus to reexamine features which Joshua and Neo-Assyrian texts share in common (e.g. war oracles, the command-fulfillment chain, divine involvement in warfare) and to agree that “it is only fair to recognize that the literary phenomena in Joshua have first-millennium extrabiblical analogues.”13 However, he goes on to show that these very same features are well attested in Ugaritic and Middle Assyrian texts of the 2nd millennium, thus severely weakening the rationale for an exclusive connection between Deuteronomist and Neo-Assyrian parallels.

In contrast to Younger’s comprehensive study, an essay published by John Van Seters in the same year drew parallels solely between Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions and the Joshua narratives. Parenthetically, it should be noted that Van Seters and other like-minded scholars have often criticized the comparative method when it is used to date biblical stories to the 2nd millennium BCE.15 However, 1st millennium parallels are readily accepted, and often without any critical evaluation when arguing for the lateness of a biblical text. In so doing, Van Seters, Thomas Thompson, and others are not in fact repudiating the comparative method or contextual approach. Rather, they are using it selectively, not comprehensively, with their conclusions predetermined. The contextual approach as advocated by Hallo and Kitchen considers all pertinent material from all periods before reaching conclusions about the biblical materials.17

I had the occasion to critique Van Seters’ treatment of the Joshua narratives in a study published in 1994. A summary of that analysis is offered here. Like Weinfeld, Van Seters was trying to demonstrate that the “Conquest” narratives of the DtrH originated at the time suggested by Neo-Assyrian parallels. All ten parallels (topoi) Van Seters drew between the Joshua and Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions were treated by Younger who has identified comparable 2nd millennium analogues.19

Van Seters, for instance, believes that the motif of the Israelites crossing the Jordan during flood stage is borrowed from reports of Sargon II and Ashurbanipal’s crossing the Tigris and Euphrates during “high water of the spring of the year.” Based on just these two texts, he concludes, “The special emphasis on the crossing (Josh 3–4) can only be explained as a topos taken from the Assyrian military accounts.” Van Seters’ treatment of this matter fails on two points. First, the spring of the year was the traditional time for kings to go to war in Israel (cf. 2 Sam 11:2) as well as in Mesopotamia; as Robert Gordon has observed, “Spring was the time for launching military campaigns, when the winter rains had stopped and the male population was not yet involved in harvesting.” Spring is also when the rivers, the Jordan as well as the Tigris and Euphrates, are at their highest levels because of melting snow from the mountains to the north (cf. Josh 3:15). Secondly, the seemingly miraculous crossing of raging rivers by a king is well-attested in earlier Near Eastern sources. Hattušili I (ca. 1650 BCE) boasts of his accomplishments in this respect, likening them to those of Sargon the Great (ca. 2371–2316 BCE). On one occasion, Tiglath-pileser I (1115–1077 BCE) records that this particular crossing of the Euphrates was his twenty-eighth, and it was “the second time in one year.”24 It is clear that when Sargon II (721–705 BCE) broadcasts his achievement, he is emulating his warrior predecessor rather than inventing a new motif. Consequently, there is no basis for Van Seters’ assertion.26 The river crossing in Joshua 3 by Israel’s forces accurately reflects the seasonal realities of military life in the Near East throughout the three millennia BCE.

Another literary borrowing the Deuteronomistic History (DtrH) made from Assyria, according to Van Seters, is the practice of describing only a few major battles in a report and giving only cursory accounts of others. However, this characteristic is well known in New Kingdom Egyptian military writings, especially in the Annals of Thutmose III. There, lengthy reports (e.g. the Battle of Megiddo) can be compared with those in Joshua (e.g. Jericho), and terse reports such as Thutmose III’s sixth campaign are similar to Joshua 10:28–42. Not only are these general observations striking, but there are other points to consider, but before this is done, we need to consider the nature of the composition of the Annals of Thutmose III.

Pioneering studies by Martin Noth and Hermann Grapow28 have recently been updated and expanded by Anthony Spalinger and Donald Redford. Spalinger thinks that there were several sources behind the Annals, the “day book” and the scribal war diary being the principal ones. He believes that the latter was compiled by military scribes who accompanied the king on his campaigns and reported on the personal involvement of the monarch.30 Redford dismisses this proposal on the grounds that there is no evidence for a “daybook of the army.” Grapow had demonstrated that the “daybook style” (Tagebuchstil) can be traced back to the Thirteenth Dynasty in Pap. Bulaq 18 and as late as the end of the Nineteenth Dynasty in Pap. Anastasi III. The Tagebuchstil is characterized by the use of bare infinitives and lacked literary features. In fact, it reads more like the log of a ship than a flowing narrative. Redford documented sixteen surviving Daybooks, the earliest of which dated to the Twelfth Dynasty. He too recognized the “rigid” format and the use of infinitives in Anastasi III. The same is found in the sixth campaign of Thutmose III’s Annals which are divided into three parts:

1. Introduction:

Regnal year 30. Now his majesty was in the foreign land of Retenu on this 6th victorious campaign of his majesty.

2. Daybook Summary

Arriving at the city of Kadesh, destroying it, cutting down its trees and plucking its barley. Proceeding from Shesryt, arriving at the City of Djamer, arriving at the city of Irtjet (Irṯwt). Doing likewise against it.

3. List of Tribute

The list of the gifts which were brought by the chieftain of Retenu because of the awe of his majesty … male and female servants 181, horses 188, ….

A similarity between the elements of the Tagebuchstil witnessed here and in the military reports in Joshua 10:28–39 is striking indeed. Consider Joshua 10:29–30,

Then Joshua passed on from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, to Libnah, and fought against Libnah; and the Lord gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel; and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it.

The Libnah report, like the others in Joshua 10:28–42, contains terse, stereotyped formulas that are repeated frequently. The Hazor pericope (11:10–14) shares the same features, but like the year 30 report in the Annals concludes with a reference to the booty:”All the spoil of these cities and the cattle, the people of Israel took for their booty.”

Van Seters thinks an Assyrian prototype lies behind Joshua’s use of the fame and terror of Israel’s army causing the enemies to submit. However, as I showed many years ago, such motifs are well known in second millennium Egyptian royal inscriptions. A few examples will suffice to illustrate this point. Concerning Thutmose III it is said,

He (Amun-Re) caused that all foreign lands (come) bowing because of the power of my majesty, my dread being in the midst of the Nine Bows, all lands being under my sandals.

The poetical stela of Thutmose III contains the speech of Amun-Re who recalls that he placed his “bravery” (nḫt), “power” (bʾw), “fear,” (snḏ) and “dread” (ḥryt) in the king so that all lands would submit to him. This type of language abounds during the New Kingdom. In Mesopotamia similar expressions are used, as Alan Millard has demonstrated, in Middle Assyrian texts from the end of the 2nd Millennium.38

The summary statement, a device used in Joshua 10:40–43, 11:16–20, and 12, is another feature Van Seters considers the DtrH to have borrowed from the Neo-Assyrian scribal tradition. Here too, earlier analogies from Middle Assyrian and 18th Dynasty Egypt are readily available. The sḥwy (review or summary) of Egyptian texts is found in Thutmose III’s annals as well as in the Armant stela of the same pharaoh.

Van Seters also thinks that hyperbole that is so typical in Joshua derives from Neo-Assyrian practice. Once again, however, New Kingdom royal inscriptions are replete with examples of this type of exaggeration. Consider the lofty claims of Thutmose III in the Gebel Barkal Stela and Amenhotep II in the Memphis stela in COS 2:

He is a king who fights alone, without a multitude to back him up. He is more effective than a myriad of numerous armies. An equal to him has not been, (he is) a warrior who extends his arm on the battlefield, no one can touch him. He is one who immediately overwhelms all foreign lands while at the head of his army, as he shoots between the two divisions of troops, like a star he crosses the sky, entering into the throng, [while a bl]ast of his flame is against them with fire, turning into nothing those who lie prostrate in their blood. It is his uraeus that overthrows them for him, his flaming serpent that subdues his enemies, with the result that numerous armies of Mitanni were overthrown in the space of an hour, annihilated completely like those who had not existed, … great of might in the mêlée, who slaughters everyone, by himself alone, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Menkheperre, may he live forever (COS 2:14–15).

Now at that time the ruler raged like a divine falcon, his chariots were shooting like a star in the sky. His majesty entered (the fray). Its chieftains, children and wives were carried off as prisoners-of-war, and all its inhabitants likewise, and all its property without end: its cattle, its chariots, and all the herds in front of him (COS 2:21).

Exaggerated numbers are also found in the Battle of Kadesh report in which boast is made of Ramesses II that he was “more valiant than hundred-thousands” (COS 2:33) and “Amun I found more help to me than millions of troops, than hundred-thousands of chariotry, than ten-thousands of men” (COS 2:35). The much quoted Merneptah stela also contains farfetched claims of devastating entire regions within the same section that makes reference to conquest of particular cities like Gezer and Ashkelon. It begins with the boast that none of the Nine Bows (Egypt’s traditional enemies) could so much as lift a head after Pharaoh’s onslaught, and then concludes by saying that “all lands are united” (under Merneptah) and “all who roamed have been subdued.” Thus we have in the same literary unit lofty assertions of universal conquest, side by side with sober statements about taking individual cities. This same combination is found in the Joshua narratives (compare Josh 10:40–11:1-5 with Josh 8:1–29).

Additionally, the Poetical Stela of Thutmose III contains an interesting comparison with Joshua 10:20:

When Joshua and the men of Israel had finished slaying them with a very great slaughter, until they were wiped out, and when the remnant which remained of them had entered into the fortified cities, all the people returned safe to Joshua at the camp of Makkedah.

The Stela boasts: “The heads of Asiatics are severed” … “none escape (death).” It goes on to claim that there were no survivors because of the swashbuckling king, but later in the same text, thousands of prisoners of war are reported to have been taken. Thus what appears to a western reader of this text to be a patent contradiction in Joshua, appears to be a well-known device in Egypt.

Hyperbole, as Younger has shown, was a regular feature of Near Eastern military reporting. The failure of J. Maxwell Miller, William G. Dever,46 Redford and others to recognize the hyperbolic nature of such statements in Joshua is ironic because the charge is usually leveled at maximalist historians that they take the text too literally! As a consequence of this failure, these scholars have committed “the fallacy of misplaced literalism” which David Hackett Fischer defines as

the misconstruction of a statement-in-evidence so that it carries a literal meaning when a symbolic or hyperbolic or figurative meaning was intended.

The above quoted Egyptian statements must be understood to be hyperbolic in nature so as to perpetuate Egyptian royal ideology. This does not mean, however, that the Levantine campaigns of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, Ramesses’ Battle of Kadesh, and Merneptah’s invasion of Canaan did not take place. Egyptologists, while recognizing the propagandistic nature of the material, nevertheless ascribe some historical worth to the bombastic claims.50 The critical reader of the texts needs to understand the rhetoric and the propagandistic nature of the material, but should not throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water by dismissing the more sober reports in the body of the same text. However, when similar hyperbole is found in the Bible, the account is often viewed a priori as unhistorical. This is true especially if there is a hint of divine intervention. And yet, divine involvement or intervention in military affairs is a regular feature of Near Eastern military writing. The Merneptah stela provides an excellent illustration. In line 14, the capture of the Libyan chieftain is described as follows: “a great wonder (or miracle) happened” (biʾt ʿʾt ḫprt). Despite the claim of a miracle and use of hyperbole in this inscription, Egyptologists accept the historicity of the Libyan war of Merneptah.\pard fs20 53 A good example of Egyptologists embracing the historical worth of this miraculous story is J.F. Borghouts. In his comprehensive study, “Divine Intervention in Ancient Egypt and Its Manifestation (bʾw),” he acknowledges the “propagandistic statements” in the account of Merneptah’s Libyan campaign, “but,” he concludes, “that need not prevent them from being taken literally in regard to the purpose intended.”

Another type of divine intervention found in biblical and Egyptian sources is theophany before a battle. Joshua 5:13–15 reports that Joshua experienced a divine visitation on the eve of battle in order to assure him of victory against Jericho. Similarly, Amenhotep receives words of encouragement from Amun-Re in a dream while on campaign. The report on the Karnak-Memphis Stela states:

A Pleasant thing which happened to his majesty: The majesty of this august god, Amun-Re, Lord of the Throne of the Two Lands came before his majesty during sleep, in order to encourage his son, Aakheperure. His father Amun-Re was the guardian of his body, while protecting the ruler (COS 2:21–22).

To summarize the foregoing discussion on the literary nature of the Joshua conquest narratives, it is maintained here that comparative study of the Hebrew material must include documents from the second millennium, and not just the first millennium. Van Seters is absolutely right when he concludes, “His (DtrH) historiographic method is to write past history in the form and style of contemporary historical texts.” The question is, what contemporary historical texts influenced the Hebrew scribal tradition? By restricting his parallels to Neo-Assyrian texts of the first millennium and ignoring those of the Late Bronze Age (as Weinfeld did earlier), Van Seters is able to finesse the results to his desired conclusion. However as Niehaus, Younger and this writer have shown, sources from the previous millennium cannot be ignored simply because the material invalidates one’s presuppositions about the dating of the Joshua narratives and DtrH. The earlier parallels are just as valid, if not more compelling, and thus might suggest a date of composition centuries before the reforms of Josiah at the end of the 7th century BCE.

Another feature of Egyptian battle inscriptions that has a literary parallel in the Bible can be introduced. The Chronicler frequently includes the prayers of pious kings, especially in battle or crisis situations. Examples of this phenomenon are the prayer of Asa when facing Zerah’s invasion in 2 Chronicles 14:11 and that of his son, Jehoshaphat, prior to taking on the invading coalition from Transjordan in 2 Chronicles 20:51–52. In the case of Jehoshaphat, he was vastly outnumbered and called upon the Lord, and was able to win the battle. In the Battle of Kadesh, when Ramesses II finds himself outnumbered by the Hittite chariotry and “hundred-thousands of men,” he calls on Amun for help, and a lengthy prayer follows (COS 2:34–35). From distant Thebes Amun responded and Egypt was victorious. Interestingly, his appeal, “What will people think, if (even) a minor mishap befalls him that depended on your counsel,” sounds strikingly like Moses’s appeal in Exodus 32:12 and Numbers 14:13ff. when he asks “What would the Egyptians say” if the Israelites were to die in the wilderness. In both biblical and Egyptian theological perspectives, there was a clear connection between one’s military success and the power of a nation’s deity, and that may be what is reflected here. Additionally, the Chronicler, with his penchant for drawing on earlier sources, may well have been familiar with this old Egyptian literary device of including the king’s prayer in the crisis of battle, and employed it.

This essay has attempted to show that Egyptian monumental inscriptions, particularly royal ones, can shed light on the Hebrew scriptures, both on the literary and structural levels. Furthermore, the similarities in the two corpora of literature may even suggest that books like Joshua date earlier than the seventh century as is widely accepted or, minimally, that the Hebrew author(s) drew on earlier (Late Bronze Age) sources. Despite the brevity of this study, it is hoped that Biblical scholars will agree with Williams’ thesis that Egypt’s legacy is vital to the task of studying the Hebrew Scriptures, and that students and scholars alike will use these Egyptian sources because they are a part of the context of scripture.

Hittite-israelite Cultural Parallels

Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.

Although it was biblical references that ultimately led to the rediscovery of the Hittites in the first decade of the twentieth century, very few Hittitologists today show a significant interest in the bearing of their materials on the interpretation of the Bible. There are several reasons for this: (1) the secularization of ancient Near East scholarship during the past century, (2) the unfamiliarity of Hittitologists with biblical material, and (3) the geographical and cultural remoteness of the Hittites from Israel, which is often perceived by scholars in both disciplines as evidence for lack of significant influence.

For their part, most biblical scholars have reciprocated by showing little interest in Hittite sources. Like the Hittitologists (1) they are tempted to view the geographical and cultural remoteness of Hittites as evidence for little if any influence, (2) many assume that most if not all biblical texts originated much later than the fall of Hatti in 1190 BCE, and (3) they assume that too much time and effort would be necessary to learn the Hittite language and investigate its sources. I for one sympathize with the biblical scholars. For Hittitologists do nothing to assist non-specialists by finding and making known to biblical scholars potentially relevant material. Be that as it may, it is a fact that if graduate students in Biblical Studies learn any languages other than Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, they are Ugaritic, Phoenician or Akkadian, not Hittite. As a language Hittite is too different from the Semitic languages that are the standard fare of Old Testament scholars. I can attest to that unhappy situation even at the University of Chicago. In my 26 years on its faculty, one Egyptology major, two or three Assyriology majors, and no West Semitics majors have enrolled in beginning Hittite. One faculty member in Assyriology took two years of Hittite.

Still, a few scholars in both fields have attempted to evaluate mutually relevant materials. And although very few comprehensive surveys have been attempted, quite a number of individual items in Hittite texts have been compared in print to biblical materials.

Obviously, volumes like ANET and the new Context of Scripture volumes — like their German counterparts (the older Bousset-Gressmann, and the newer TUAT — are making translations of important ancient Near Eastern texts available to a broader public. And the SBL series entitled Writings from the Ancient World (SBLWAW) has produced around ten volumes of translated documents from the ancient Near East, including two consisting entirely of Hittite texts (Beckman’s Hittite Diplomatic Texts and my Hittite Myths, both now in revised second editions, and a third, Martha T. Roth’s Law Collections, which contains my translation of the Hittite laws.4

There are not many studies which attempt to survey the subject comprehensively. Early surveys, when little was known from the Hittite texts themselves, focussed on how the Hittites described in the Old Testament could be related to the newly discovered materials from the Hittite capital in Turkey. But already they also tried to apply Anatolian Hittite evidence — both archaeological and textual — to the Bible’s own contents. One of the earliest publications was a 1928 article by Archibald Henry Sayce, entitled “Hittite and Mittannian Elements in the Old Testament.” One of the pioneers of Hittitology, Emil Forrer, even saw in the ubiquitous references in Hittite cult texts to “drinking” various gods a forerunner of the Christian Eucharist.6 Another early survey, which was largely confined to the question of how “Hittites” are described in the Bible, was the 1947 Tyndale Archaeology Lecture given by the New Testament scholar F. F. Bruce.

Twenty-one years later, in 1969, I gave the annual Tyndale Archaeology Lecture on “Some Contributions of Hittitology to Old Testament Study,” in which I sought to update the summary of both what was known about Hittites in Palestine and about Hittite materials which could elucidate the Old Testament. I concluded from the onomastics and customs of persons called “Hittites” in the pre-monarchic period that these were not of Anatolian Hittite origin. References to Hittites in the period of the monarchy I considered to pertain to the so-called “Neo-Hittite” kingdoms of Syria. Aharon Kempinski9 and James Moyer did not share my conviction that the pre-monarchic “Hittites” of the Bible were not true Anatolian Hittites, but cited archaeological evidence for Hittite or at least Anatolian influence in Bronze Age Palestine from Amarna texts and artefacts excavated in Israel. A similar point of view was held by Nahum Sarna in his JPS commentary on Genesis, citing the non-Semitic names ÌR-Ḫepa (usually read with West Semitic ʿAbdi– rather than Akkadian Warad– or Hurrian Purame-) and Šuwardata identifying Amarna period rulers in Palestine alongside of Hittite pottery types and hieroglyphic Luwian seals found in Late Bronze sites in Israel. Since no finds of Hittite or Hurrian texts have been made in these regions, Sarna argued that these Hittites or Hurrians in Hebron and the Judean hill country were culturally “Hittite” but no longer linguistically so. Hence, in the Bible too they used the same Semitic language as the patriarchs.

Meanwhile, regardless of whether they believe that pre-monarchic “Hittites” in the Bible were really Anatolian Hittites, scholars have continued to mine Hittite texts for material to elucidate the Old Testament.

Fifteen years after my Tyndale Archaeology Lecture, James Moyer reviewed many suggested parallels which I had already adduced in 1968, but also summarized and evaluated proposals made by others in the intervening years. Since Moyer’s article, no other book or article that I am aware of has appeared which has attempted to review systematically all proposals of Hittite or Hurro-Hittite materials having a bearing on Old Testament interpretation. But an international symposium was held in March of 1990 in Hamburg which addressed the subject of “History of Religions Connections between Anatolia, North Syria and the Old Testament.” Papers from the symposium were published in 1993, edited by Janowski, Koch and Wilhelm.13 A paper delivered by Moshe Weinfeld at this symposium approximates the general coverage achieved by Moyer, but without its detailed evaluations.

No reasonably complete bibliography of the subject has been published. A start was made by Moyer in 1983. A somewhat larger, but still only partial bibliography of publications through 1995 on this subject was published in 1996 by the late Vladimir Souček and his wife Jana Siegelová.

The area that has drawn the most attention among biblical scholars is the question of the origin of the covenantal form or forms found in the Bible. It was George Mendenhall who in 1955 first posited a connection between the Israelite covenantal form and the international treaties of the late second millennium, represented almost exclusively by Hittite vassal treaties of the 14th and 13th centuries. Since that time scholars have lined up — pro and con — on whether the Hittite material has significant relevance to the central biblical formulations of the Sinai covenant. In addition, central covenant vocabulary — such as the verbs “love” (ʾāhab) and “know” (yādaʿ) — have been compared to the usage of Hittite treaty terminology. And passages from the Israelite prophets in which the people are indicted for blaming Yahweh’s punishment of them upon the transgressions of their forebears have been interpreted in the light of statements in Hittite treaties.18

Although I participated with Grayson, Van Seters and others in a Symposium on Ancient Historiography held in the late 1970’s at the University of Toronto, the papers of which were published separately rather than in a symposium volume, the first somewhat systematic attempt to show an appreciable similarity between Israelite and Hittite historiography was made in 1976 by Hubert Cancik. Four years later in 1980 Kyle McCarter was able to build upon Hittite historical materials that were first compared to the stories of Saul and David by Herbert Wolf and me21 in order to construct his own analysis of what he called “the Apology of David.”

A second area within Hittitology that has produced information of interest has been less widely discussed among biblical scholars. That is the legal formulations found in the Hittite “code.” Although in 1953 Manfred Lehmann, somewhat unconvincingly, claimed that Hittite law (specifically laws §§46–47) explained the conditions of property transfer between Abraham and “Ephron the Hittite” (Gen 23), more cogent examples of Hittite laws bearing a resemblance to laws in the Pentateuch have appeared in publications not usually consulted by biblical scholars.24 Among the topics worthwhile exploring are: levirate marriage (§§192–193), the case of the unknown manslayer (§6 and §IV), laws about sexual relations with animals (§187, §199), and compensation for bodily injuries (§§7–16). Many of the possible parallels between Hittite and Israelite laws are identified in the center column of COS 2:106ff.

Other areas of interest, many briefly surveyed by Moyer, are: (1) necromancy, (2) rites of gender transformation,27 (3) purity regulations concerning contact with unclean animals, (4) ritual elimination of impurity by scapegoats, (5) regulations regarding the duties and responsibilities of priests and temple officials, (6) rituals for the summoning of a departed deity, (7) drink ordeals to determine perjury, which cause the forswearing person to swell up, (8) the symbolism of cult gestures, (9) the occasional use of the contest of champions in warfare, and (10) the characteristics of texts employed to legitimize royal usurpers (the so-called “apologies”).

In addition there is the interesting area of shared lexical items, words which need not have been loan words from Hittite to Hebrew or vice versa, but which appear to be common to both Hittite or Anatolian Hurrian and biblical Hebrew. Chaim Rabin surveyed this field almost 40 years ago, but new evidence has accrued.

In his 1993 article entitled “Traces of Hittite Cult in Shiloh, Bethel and Jerusalem” delivered orally at the 1990 Hamburg symposium, Moshe Weinfeld listed a large number of examples of Hittite influences in the biblical description of the Israelite cult. Some are more convincing than others. Several are simply based upon inaccurate recording or interpreting of the Hittite or biblical data.

1. He claims that “The quantity of festival offerings in the Bible equals the quantity of the offerings in the Hittite festival calendars” (455f.). But he has arbitrarily selected one Israelite festival to compare with one Hittite one, where the distribution of victims happens to be the same, without demonstrating the need to associate particularly these two. The correlation would not work if one selected a different Israelite or Hittite festival.

2. In rituals for the purification of a childbearing woman, a distinction is made between cases in which the child is male or female, but the offerings at the end of the purification period are identical in both cultures: one lamb and one bird (Lev 12:6, compared with a Hittite ritual). This is a valid observation, but one wonders if in all Hittite or Hurrian birth rituals the same offerings were used. It was not uncommon in Hurrian-type rituals from Kizzuwatna — and not just purification or birth rituals — to offer a single lamb and a single bird. Usually the species of bird is not given, but occasionally it is a “large bird” (MUŠEN.GAL).

3. Weinfeld mentions the ceremonies for purification of a house which according to him employ two birds, cedar and crimson. Leviticus 14:49ff. is the biblical example he cites, which also involves hyssop. It is true that cedar and red wool are used together in some Hittite rituals of Kizzuwatnean origin (e.g., CTH 477.1, and CTH 483), but not to my knowledge in the best known example of a ritual to purify a house (CTH 446). Weinfeld refers to data in an earlier article,32 which I have not checked yet.

4. The scapegoat ritual of Leviticus 16 according to Weinfeld is “very close to the substitution ritual among the Hittites.” Here the fundamental studies were by van Brock, Kümmel, Gurney, Moyer, Wright, and Janowski and Wilhelm. It should be noted that in the Hittite examples the animal carrier of the impurity is not always a domestic animal like a bull, sheep or goat. In one case it is a mouse.34 Wright and Weinfeid claim that one difference between the Hittite and biblical examples is that in Hittite the scapegoat is intended both to appease an angry deity and to remove the impurity. But not all Hittite examples of its use entail appeasement of a deity. Nor in all examples is the animal a substitute for a person who has offended the gods. It has been noticed that the Hittite carrier is sent not into the desolate wilderness or desert, but to an enemy country. It would seem that the “scapegoat” in Hittite religion was not a unified concept. Some aspects of its employment concur with the Leviticus scapegoat and others do not. Scholars have so far only compared these Hittite scapegoat rituals with Leviticus 16. But equally relevant in this discussion is the account in 1 Samuel 5–6 of the sojourn of the ark of the covenant in Philistine territory. To be sure the ark, which is eventually sent back into Israel with gifts to pacify Yahweh, is not a scapegoat in the usual sense. But the occasion of the sending is a plague of tumors sent upon the Philistines by Yahweh. And the ark is sent back by allowing the oxen which draw the cart on which it sits to go where the god wishes them to. The “guilt offering” (Heb. ʾāšām) that is sent to Yahweh with the ark consists of gold images of the mice and tumors which ravaged the Philistine cities (1 Sam 6:5–17). The ark is sent to the enemy land which is the land of the offended deity, not to transfer the evils to that land, but to return the cult object to its owner. To be compared here is the Middle Hittite ritual of the city of Gamulla (CTH 480 KUB 29.7 + KBo21.41) translated by Goetze in ANET 346 and reproduced in part with discussion by Gurney (1977:51f.). The carrier in this case is inanimate, but capable of transporting propitiatory gifts: it is a boat. Into this boat they place little silver and gold representations of the oaths and curses which have oppressed them. Then the boat is floated downstream to a river and eventually by the river to the sea. The Philistine gold mice and tumors compare well with the gold and silver images of the curses. And since both are made of precious metals, they should not be thought of as impurities to be removed, but as propitiatory gifts in the shape of the calamities, sent to the deities who sent the calamities.

In the Leviticus 16 ritual a crux has always been the term laʿazāʾzēl rendered in the Septuagint and Vulgate by “as a scapegoat” (followed by the English AV), but replaced in more recent English translations by “for Azazel,” sometimes thought to denote a wilderness demon. Appealing to scapegoat rites in the Hurrian language from the Hittite archives, Janowski and Wilhelm would derive the biblical term from a Hurrian offering term, azazḫiya. This is particularly appealing to me. There were two goats used in the Leviticus 16 ritual. One is designated for Yahweh as a “sin offering” (Heb. ḥaṭṭāʾṭ, LXX peri hamartias) (16:9), and the other is “for Azazel,” but is presented alive before Yahweh to make atonement, and is sent away into the wilderness “to/for Azazel.” The contrast is twofold: (1) Yahweh versus Azazel, and (2) sin offering versus Azazel. If one adopts the first, Azazel seems to be a divine being or demon, who must be appeased. But if one adopts the second as primary, the word ʿazāʾzēl represents the goal of the action. In the system of Hurrian offering terms to which Wilhelm’s azazḫiya belongs, the terms represent either a benefit that is sought by the offering (e.g., keldiya “for wellbeing,” cf. Heb. šelāmîm), or the central element offered (e.g., zurgiya “blood”). If Janowski and Wilhelm’s theory is correct, the Hebrew term would not denote a demon as recipient of the goat, but some benefit desired (e.g., removal of the sins and impurities) or the primary method of the offering (e.g. the banishment of the goat).

David Wright has also called attention to the similarity in the use of a hand placement gesture in Israelite (Heb. sāmak yādô) and Hittite ritual (kiššaran dāi-), noting that in each it has the same two possible implications: (1) conferring authorization on another to act (usually in a ceremony) on behalf of the gesturing person, and (2) to attribute the offering material to the one performing the hand placement. The fact that both cultures preserve the same two significances is striking and important. But Weinfeld goes a step further, claiming that in both it is a two-handed placement for the first significance and a one-handed one for the second. There is good evidence in the Bible for this distinction, but in Hittite texts there is no evidence for it: rather in both significances the texts read “he places the hand (singular!).” Other parallels cited by Weinfeld are too general to constitute anything specifically Anatolian and are sometimes garbled in their details. For example, that ritual slaughter was accomplished by cutting the throat of the animal is extremely widespread. Weinfeld misunderstood Cord Kühne’s key article on the Hittite practice. He claims the Hittite slaughterer cut the “windpipe” of the victim, whereas Kühne’s proposal for the difficult term auli- was “neck artery.” Nor is the provision prohibiting persons with physical disabilities from entering the sacred temple precincts something exclusively Hittite or Israelite.39

But there are a few new sources not mentioned by Moyer or Weinfeld. A fairly recently published source of great relevance to this question is the 15th century Hurro-Hittite bilingual literary text called the “Song of Release,” the edition of which was published in 1996. A substantial portion of this text contains parables or fables illustrating with stories involving animals or inanimate objects certain kinds of undesirable or foolish human behavior. One is about a coppersmith who makes a beautiful cup, only to have it curse him, so that he in turn pronounces a curse on the cup. The Hurro-Hittite text compares this behavior to that of an ungrateful son, who by his refusal to care for his weak and aged parent earns his father’s curse. This is obviously an early source of the biblical topos about the potter and his clay creation, used both by the prophets Isaiah (29:16, 45:9) and Jeremiah (18:6) and by St. Paul (Rom 9:20–21). But the main part of the story concerns the demand by the god of the city of Ebla (Teššub) that its citizens free the men of the town Ikakali, who are currently their slaves. It is still unclear if they are also debt slaves. When the citizens resist this demand, the god threatens to destroy the city. Haas and Wegner have suggested that the intention of this composition was to explain the destruction of Ebla. In similar manner the Judean chronicler attributed the destruction and exile of the kingdom of Judah to her failure to observe 70 of Yahweh’s sabbatical years (2 Chr 36:17–21). The stated beneficiaries of the biblical sabbatical year are the poor, the wild animals and the soil (Exod 23:10–11). The principal objection to observing it would be the greed of the land owners. If there is a common thread running through all parts of the Song of Release — parables, feast in the netherworld palace of Allani, demand for debt release, threatened destruction of Ebla — it may be that in refusing to release their slaves the wealthy leaders of Ebla personify the foolish figures described in the fables, who despise their weak and elderly parents and are overweening in their ambition for wealth and advancement. And in the episode where the leaders refuse to obey Teššub’s demand to release their slaves, they even defend themselves by pledging their willingness to relieve the god Teššub himself, if he should ever fall into poverty and need. One is reminded here of the scene of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25, where Jesus says to those granted admission to the Kingdom of Heaven: “I was hungry, and you fed me, naked, and you clothed me, in prison, and you visited me …. For if as you have done this to the least of my brothers, you have done it to me” (Matt 25:31–46). The promise of the leaders of Ebla to help Teššub is a hollow one, since his need is for them to release their own slaves, which they refuse to do.

A second important new source published in 1991 is the corpus of letters from the Hittite provincial capital of Tapikka, modern Maşat Höyük. In several of the letters from this site (numbers 58 and 59), and reportedly from an unpublished letter from the Hittite center at Šapinuwa, there is mention of the employment of blinded captives in the mill houses, just as was done to Samson by the Philistines. Furthermore, lists of captives to be used as hostages include the notations “blinded” or “sighted” and specify the proposed ransom price for each captive.44 In these texts it appears that these blinded captives worked in groups in the mill houses. The incident involving Samson is in a Philistine context. He too has been captured and was blinded in order to make him less dangerous and to prevent his attempting to escape, precisely the same motivations assumed for the Tapikka and Šapinuwa prisoners. And since the Philistines’ Anatolian connections are well known, and Hieroglyphic Luwian seals have been found at Philistine Aphek, there is every reason to regard this detail in the Samson story as reflecting historical reality and to relate it to the information in the Maşat texts.

A final example of the new possibilities is that the term used in the Bible to designate pagan priests (kōmer) originated in Anatolia, where it is found in both Old Assyrian and Hittite documents. If my theory, propounded in 1996, is correct, this Hittite word kumra- — like its Old Assyrian counterpart kumrum — alternates with the Sumerogram GUDU12 and denotes one of the top two classes of male priestly personnel of the Hittite temple. If this Anatolian source for biblical kemārîm correct, it suggests a conduit for Anatolian cult influences observable in Ugaritic and biblical Hebrew, namely the use in Syro-Palestine of a class of priest originating in Anatolia in the Second Millennium.

Even if some proposals have been unconvincing, there remain far too many points of similarity — especially in legal, ritual and cultic matters — between Hittite culture and the Bible for us to dismiss them as coincidental or accidental. Moreover, many cannot be attributed to a late first millennium intermediary. So we must take seriously the possibility of a channel of cultural influence in the late second and early first millennium that allowed influences from Anatolia to be felt in Palestine. In the past I have been reluctant to say that this was attributable to the “Hittites” and “sons of Heth” mentioned in the narratives of events antedating the reigns of Saul and David. I am still not quite ready to reverse myself on this point, since I believe the observable cultural influence could have been mediated by groups who were in contact with Hittite culture. But in the future scholars in both Hittitology and Biblical Studies must pay more attention to the developing evidence. Hittitologists can provide checks from their side, and biblical scholars controls from theirs. Neither group can safely address the issue in isolation.

The “Contextual Method”: Some West Semitic Reflections

K. Lawson Younger, Jr.

Let’s go back for a moment 200 years — instead of 3000 years or more (i.e., about 1800 CE). Suppose biblical scholars gathered for an august conference like this and wanted to discuss the context out which the Hebrew Bible arose. What could they discuss? Not much. The earliest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible are not even a millennium old at that point. The Old Greek or Septuagint offered a small window into a much earlier understanding, but this was more like a tiny porthole at the water-line at best. A few classical writers could be investigated, e.g. Herodotus or Josephus. But again these were only very tiny portholes at the water-line and ones with a large amount of seaweed stuffed in them! A recent article by Steven Holloway illustrates this. Investigating the various interpretations of the identification of “Pul” in 2 Kings 15:19–20, he documents that among biblical commentators and historians of the ancient world writing prior to 1850, Pul was universally recognized as the first Assyrian conqueror to trouble Israel, followed immediately by Tiglath-pileser (i.e., two separate kings). Today, we know that Tiglath-pileser III was Pul, though there is still some discussion among Assyriologists concerning the etymology and use of the name Pul.2 In 1800, there was not one single known extrabiblical Hebrew inscription. Egyptian hieroglyphics were known, but not yet deciphered. In fact, the Rosetta Stone was still in Egypt in French hands. Cuneiform inscriptions, for the most part, still lay in the ground in Mesopotamia.

Fortunately, all that situation of the early 1800’s has dramatically changed. Today a number of persons or events of the Hebrew Bible are attested in extrabiblical materials; in fact, one may even be pictured (Jehu on the Black Obelisk — though some scholars believe it is only Jehu’s emissary that is pictured). In addition, we may have seals or seal impressions of some biblical characters like Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah.4 A newly published ostracon mentions a king ʾAshyahu — Joash or Josiah. The Ketef Hinnom Amulet scrolls provide the earliest attestation of a biblical text, recording a version of the Aaronic blessing at the end of Numbers 6.

Discoveries in the last two decades in Syria alone have been impressive and insightful: Ebla and Emar are noteworthy; so too the number of Assyrian, Old Aramaic, Phoenician and hieroglyphic Luwian inscriptions; and more tablets from Mari, Ugarit and Alalaḫ have been discovered and/or published. And thankfully, we possess much better readings of some of the texts discovered earlier in the twentieth century due to the photographic efforts of B. Zuckerman, W. T. Pitard, T. J. Lewis, A. G. Vaughn, et al.

Yet in the same two decades of these discoveries in Syria, Biblical Studies has moved from author-oriented readings of the Hebrew Bible, to text-oriented readings, to reader-oriented readings. Today, different methodologies jockey for the pole position. Increasingly, biblical literary critics are turning their attention to the relationship between text and reader and to the social context of the reader’s “production of meaning.” At its most extreme, such literary criticism treats biblical literature in even greater isolation from its cultural environment, with the entire interpretive transaction taking place between the Bible and the modern reader. This approach, as Simon Parker has recently observed, puts the reader rather one-sidedly in control of the literature, conforming it to the categories and interests of current criticism without regard to the categories and interests of ancient literature. Rather than seeking to let the literature of ancient Israel address us on its own terms — however remote from ours and however we may finally judge them — it too easily makes of biblical literature a reflection of our own concerns at the end of the twentieth century, whether secular or theological.8

But undoubtedly the response of ancient audiences to many of the features of the ancient documents must have been different from ours. Their rhetoric was designed to create a certain impression on the hearer or reader, and that impression is lessened or confused by a reader’s ignorance of the ancient rhetorical devices and the presuppositions that these texts employ. Some apprehension of the ancient culture and social environment that their rhetoric presupposed and addressed — in which the composer made his or her choices — is essential for fulfilling the role of “implied reader.”

Please don’t misunderstand me. The different reading strategies employed today have provided many new and valuable insights — some to greater or lesser degrees. And I am not interested in this essay devolving into a discussion of philosophical hermeneutics. But in most cases, these readings, especially the reader-oriented ones, are fundamentally ahistorical. Some even violate the integrity of the text.10 Thus there is little interest in comparative analyses with ancient Near Eastern texts among many biblical scholars.

At the same time as the rise of reader-oriented readings, there has been a trend within biblical scholarship to date all biblical materials to the Persian or Hellenistic periods. This has had an obvious impact on how certain scholars view the relevance of much of the ancient Near Eastern data now at our disposal. Some scholars may question whether they should really purchase The Context of Scripture! Now if they are questioning that because of the price, well that’s understandable. But if they are questioning whether it is important for Hebrew Bible scholars to bother reading any of these texts, that’s another issue.

Unfortunately, some past comparative studies have indulged in great excesses in over-emphasizing the comparisons. This indiscriminate use of the comparative method has especially occurred when new discoveries are first published and such excesses undercut the importance of the comparative process. Over-emphasis for agenda reasons also undermines legitimate comparisons. In this regard, Ugarit has perhaps been the most abused of all the ancient Near Eastern materials.12 In a newly published book, Mark Smith has compiled a history of interpretation of the Ugaritic materials which demonstrates many of these abuses. In a number of instances, scholars have been too quick in attempting to do comparative study without allowing time to fully establish the proper reading and understanding of the newly discovered text.

In spite of some of these trends and factors, it seems apparent — at least to me — that one of the best ways to improve one’s literary competence in reading the Hebrew Bible is to read as much of the literature under consideration as possible within the Bible, but also and especially within the ancient Near East. Adequate understanding, explanation, and assessment of ancient texts require attention to all dimensions of the text — literary and historical, internal and external, intellectual and social.

Historians who recognize the literary character of the written narratives gain access to ancient Israel’s intellectual and social world in a way denied to those who read them naively as direct representations of past events or who dismiss them altogether as historical sources because they do not provide documentary evidence. The former produce “histories” that simply retell the stories of the Bible, while the latter produce histories that ignore the richest material for reconstructing — to use Philip Davies’ term with a little tongue and cheek — “historic” Israel.

Over the last one hundred and fifty years, questions of how to handle the “parallels” between the biblical text and the ancient Near Eastern materials have received different answers. On the one hand, some scholars have been guilty of overstressing the parallels, a type of “parallelomania,” while others — often in reaction to the excesses of the former — have downplayed the parallels to the point of ignoring clear, informative correlations, producing a type of “parallelophobia.”16 One scholar has actually argued that Israel was so unique among the peoples of the ancient Near East that it is unnecessary to do any comparative study! Interesting, isn’t it, that a comparative argument can be used to dismiss the need of doing comparative analyses!18

The fact is that presuppositions often shape the comparative evaluation. Some scholars emphasize the Old Testament’s similarity to and continuity with ancient Near Eastern literature. In this way they seek to demonstrate that the Old Testament is authentic or, on the other hand, that it is merely a product of its environment. Other scholars emphasize the Hebrew Bible’s divergence from and contrast with its background. In this, they seek to demonstrate that it is absolutely different or, on the other hand, that each of the ancient Near Eastern literatures should be appreciated on its merits, not just in comparison with the others.

In this light, the importance of William W. Hallo’s work in proposing a balanced approach — a “contextual method” — that seeks to observe both comparisons as well as contrasts in the literature of the ancient Near East and the Hebrew Bible is paramount. The best comparative studies recognize that the literature of the ancient Near East was produced not only out of a particular culture but also out of a larger literary tradition, and that comparison with other literature that is similar within that tradition — serving the same purpose, using the same structure, or referring to the same subject — reveals certain aspects of a text that might remain hidden.21 Moreover, this can serve as a counterbalance to speculation derived from the analysis of one text in isolation. A contextual study may lessen the conjectural element in historical analysis, as well as lessen the subjective element in literary criticism by exposing what is traditional, conventional, or generic in a story. In other words, a contextual approach may produce the genre “expectations” necessary to read the biblical text competently. While excessive concentration on similarities or differences among texts distorts any conclusions about their relationship, giving due weight to both contributes to the understanding and explanation — both of the individual texts and of the features they share with others.

A Four-pronged Assessment Process

In the development of criteria for the evaluation of parallels, the keyword must be “caution.” I believe that balance in the evaluation of the evidence is achieved through the assessment of propinquity along four lines: linguistic, geographic, chronological, and cultural (not necessarily in this order). A parallel that is closer to the biblical material in language, in geographic proximity, in time, and culture is a stronger parallel than one that is removed from the biblical material along one or more of these lines. That does not mean that a parallel further removed is not relevant evidence. There may be circumstances that strengthen its relevance. For instance, one mitigating factor along the chronological axis is that of a medium for the transmission of tradition. Thus, in the conservative ancient Near East, if there was a clear medium by which a more ancient tradition could accurately be transmitted to a later time period, then the relevance of that parallel may be increased in the evaluation process. This means, for example, that a Sumerian parallel may be more relevant along the chronological axis then it first appears.

By implementing such a four-pronged assessment process, caution signs may appear that slow down the tendency to over-state the evidence. For the problem with the traditional comparative approach, as Dennis Pardee has pointed out, is not that it compares or contrasts, but that it sometimes begins comparing with distant parallels rather than with the proximate ones, or that it does not nuance its use of comparisons with distant entities, or that it is selective, choosing only those comparisons which favor a certain thesis.

I would like to illustrate this by looking at a curse formula that involves the “baking of bread in an oven” which parallels Leviticus 26:26. The texts are:

A. The Tel Fakhariyah Inscription (c. 850–825 BCE)


(22)wmʾh. nšwn. lʾpn. btnwr. lḥm.

wʾl. ymlʾnh

(22) And may one hundred women bake bread in an oven,

but may they not fill it.


(35) 1 ME a-pi-a-te la-a ú-<šam>-la-a
(36)NINDU [var. possibly la-a ú-<ma>-la-a]

May one hundred women bakers not be able to fill an oven.

B. The Sefire Treaty (IA.24) (c. 760–740 BCE)

Kaufman 1982

wšbʿ bnth yʾpn b° °ṭ lḥm

wʾl ymlʾn

And should his seven daughters bake bread in an oven (?),

but not fill (it).

Fitzmyer 1995; COS 2.82

wšbʿ bkth yhkn bšṭ lḥm

wʾl yhrgn

and should seven hens (?) go looking for food,

may they not kill (?) (anything)!

C. The Bukān Inscription (c. 725–700 BCE)

wsb(7)ʿ. nšn. yʾpw. btnr. ḥd [.]

wʾl. ymlʾ(8)why.

And may seven (7) women bake (bread) in one oven,

but may they not fill (8) it.

D. Leviticus 26:26

bešibrî lākem maṭṭēh leḥem

ʿeśer nāšîm laḥmekem betannûr ʾeḥād

wehēšîbû laḥmekem bammišqāl


welōʾ tiśbāʿû

When I break your staff of bread,

then ten women shall bake your bread in one oven,

and they shall dole out your bread by weight,

and you will eat,

but not be satisfied.

The ancient Near Eastern texts are arranged in chronological order. They all come from Old Aramaic texts — although the Tel Fakhariyah inscription is a bilingual and each text exhibits some dialectal traits. Thus on the linguistic axis they are more or less equal. While they all come from the general chronological range of c. 850–700 BCE, there is approximately one hundred and fifty years between the Tel Fakhariyah inscription and the Bukān inscription. Geographically, the Sefire text would be closest and the Bukān text the furtherest away (coming from the state of the Manneans in what is today modern Iran). However, there are difficulties with the reading of the Sefire text (note the differences between Kaufman and Fitzmyer — both scholars recognize the problems in the reading of this line). Thus this text is a significantly weaker parallel, if it is a parallel at all. Culturally, it is important to note that, as Biggs has pointed out, this curse formula appears to be West Semitic in origin. There do not appear to be any clear Akkadian parallels. So on the cultural axis, there is basic equality. But in the contextual analysis, its differences must be noted too. In this regard, on closer inspection, none of the Old Aramaic texts is an exact parallel to the Leviticus passage. In fact, there are slight differences between all the texts. Therefore, it would be wrong, in my opinion, to argue for a direct borrowing on the part of the Hebrew Bible from any of these inscriptions. Moreover, it would be wrong to argue for a particular date for the passage in Leviticus based on this comparison. It appears that there were some stock West Semitic curse formulae that could be drawn from in the composition of curse passages and that these could be adapted to the particular needs of the ancient writers. In the case of the biblical writer, the apodosis of the curse is modified. In the Old Aramaic texts, the result is that the women baking bread in a single oven may not fill the oven (in spite of all their efforts to do so). This may, in turn, imply a resultant hunger. In the case of Leviticus 26:26, the apodosis does not emphasize the inability to fill the oven, but a resultant hunger in spite of baking and eating. By comparison and contrast, a deeper understanding and appreciation of the nuance of the biblical passage is obtained.

I do not intend to suggest by this example that the process of evaluating ancient Near Eastern parallels by means of propinquity will be an easy process. There will be immediate disagreement among biblical scholars regarding the date of the biblical texts that are being evaluated along the chronological axis (some arguing for early dates, others for late dates). Such a difficulty might be overcome by suggesting a range of dates for the biblical material, though this ultimately will not solve the problem. On the other hand, by evaluating the evidence along multiple axes, there is the possibility of “a preponderance of the evidence” which could help minimize some of the disagreement.

Generally the geographic axis and linguistic axis will not be difficult, though certain texts will vex scholarly consensus along linguistic lines (e.g. the Deir ʿAlla texts). But some difficulties in evaluation may arise along the cultural axis. An example is the relationship between the Ugaritic texts and Canaanite culture. The question whether the Ugaritic texts should be considered exemplars of Canaanite literature, i.e., literature from the same cultural milieu as found in the southern Levant, has been debated off and on for decades. It would appear to me that in this case a balanced view, such as expressed by Wayne Pitard30 that stresses both the cultural continuity and individual distinctives of the southern Canaanite and Israelite contexts, is the best way forward.

Additional Considerations

Besides the assessment of the evidence along lines of propinquity, there are other items which need to be kept in mind. Some of the following items may seem to be issues of common sense. But unfortunately this has not always prevailed. The fact is that when people evaluate parallels, they act as mediators between the observed contexts. Thus since it relies on mediators, the shaping of comparisons will always be a subjective enterprise, and its goal will always seem apologetic. If we want it to be more than just intuition, there must be certain reasonable controls implemented. Also, this is by no means intended as an exhaustive list — these are items which come most immediately to mind in terms of areas of abuse.

1.    The evaluation of parallels should generally be based on parallel types or genres. Thus we should compare epistles with epistles and not epistles and epic poetry. However, one must be cautious not to apply an overly strict view of genre, since modern categories may not reflect the ancient types. It would be very unfortunate to eliminate legitimate comparative data simply on the basis of modern literary assumptions. Furthermore, there may be instances where it is very beneficial to note comparisons and contrasts between two disparate genres. But as a general rule and cautionary control, generic considerations should be observed, and where there are differences these should be noted and weighed in the evaluation of the evidence.

2.    It is very important that the ancient text actually contains the reading that we think it contains. A favorite explanation for Exod 23:19 (34:26; Deut 14:21) “you shall not boil a kid in the mother’s milk” disappeared when collation and further study revealed that the Ugaritic text (KTU 1.23) did not contain the reading that many thought that it did. In fact, nothing in the Ugaritic text gets “boiled.” That’s because the verb “to boil” or anything like it simply does not appear here. Instead the text reads something like:

Over the fire, seven times the sweet-voiced youth (chants):

coriander in milk,

mint in butter …

Those who read West Semitic inscriptions know that an unfortunate number of the texts are fragmentary and sometimes quite difficult. The Deir ʿAlla plasters come immediately to mind. Another fragmentary text that comes to mind is the recently discovered Tel Dan inscription. Of course, making assessments for comparisons with biblical texts is not impossible with these texts; but caution must rule the day.

3.    It is also very important that the interpretation of the ancient Near Eastern text is accurate. A particular interpretation of the Ugaritic text KTU 1.119, “Ugaritic Prayer for a City under Siege,” is a case in point. A passage of that text was interpreted to mention child sacrifice as a means of relieving a city under siege. This, in turn, was used as a way of explaining the story of Mesha’s sacrifice in 2 Kings 3. This particular explanation for the 2 Kings 3 passage appeared recently in a new textbook on the history of Israel. Laying aside the fact that the Hebrew text of 2 Kings 3 may be interpreted differently, the point here is that the Ugaritic text’s interpretation was wrong in the first place. It is extremely doubtful that child sacrifice is in view anywhere in the text — see Pardee’s translation in COS 1.88 with appropriate notes (p. 285, n. 23).

Somewhat in this same vein are the Rāpīʾūma texts from Ugarit. (Sorry, I seem to be picking on the Ugaritologists, but some of them, or perhaps more accurately some biblical scholars working with the Ugaritic materials, have provided the most infamous examples of abuses of comparative studies). Quite a number of scholars from almost the beginning of Ugaritic studies have made comparisons between the rāpīʾūma of the Ugaritic texts and the rephāîm of the biblical texts. The secondary literature on this topic is absolutely enormous. This comparison may not, of course, be altogether invalid, but the difficulties of the Ugaritic materials are legion. Wayne Pitard, in his recent discussion of these texts in the Handbook of Ugaritic Studies states:

[I]n the final analysis, no decisive conclusions about the identity of the rpum can yet be drawn … Only further discoveries of texts relating to the rpum are likely to improve the present situation … It is clear that these texts [i.e. KTU 1.20–22] are exceedingly ambiguous and that great caution should be used in drawing upon them to reconstruct aspects of Ugaritic or Syro-Palestinian culture. In many cases such caution has not been employed … It is important not to place too much interpretational weight on ambiguous and problematic texts such as these. Before they can be used as sources for dealing with the wider issues of Canaanite religion and society, a clearer understanding of the texts themselves is necessary.

4.    Be aware of the limits of the comparison or contrast. Try not to conclude more than the evidence indicates. This is especially important in places where the evidence is silent. The motif of grasping the hem of the garment is attested in a number of ancient West Semitic contexts. It is found in texts from Alalaḫ, Ugarit40 and in the Panamuwa inscription from Zinçirli and, of course, in 1 Samuel 15:27. These ancient texts elucidate the custom of grasping the hem of the garment. Specifically, it was a gesture in which a suppliant beseeches, or indicates his submission to, his superior by grasping the hem of the superior’s garment which explains what Saul was doing in grasping the hem of Samuel’s garment. But the occurrence of this motif in these ancient Near Eastern texts cannot establish the date of the biblical text. In fact, the practice of dating a text on the basis of the occurrence of a particular motif — unfortunately a common practice among biblical scholars in the twentieth century — is, in my opinion, an impossible task. For without a terminus a quo and a terminus ad quem — i.e., a starting point and ending point — for the use of the motif, it is impossible to know when a motif may have been utilized in a corpus of literature and, perhaps most important, when it ceased being used in that literature.

5.    Be careful in positing directions and amounts of influence. Do not say more than the evidence allows. In some cases the direction and amount of influence is very clear. For example, the Assyrian Aramaic contracts, in particular the grain loan dockets, demonstrate a very strong Akkadian influence, frequently calquing the Assyrian loan phraseology and, in the case of the grain loans, even taking on the triangular shape of the clay dockets. But then this should be expected considering the locations where these Assyrian Aramaic documents are found. On the other hand, in the vast number of instances, it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to posit the direction and amount of influence.43 In many cases we simply to do not possess enough information to make intelligent guesses. Far too often the term “borrow” has been used to indicate a literary dependence that cannot be proven and is often simply wrong in the light of later scholarly reflection.

6.    It is important to stay cognizant of the fact that all literary works may manipulate the evidence, consciously or not, for specific political and artistic purposes. Therefore, it is important to recognize the ideological and literary structures behind these documents. This is manifest in the use of hyperbole. Two West Semitic examples will suffice. In line 7 of the Mesha inscription, Mesha claims: “and Israel has utterly perished forever” (wyśrʾl. ʾbd. ʾbd. ʿlm). In the Tel Dan inscription, the Aramean king appears to claim to have “killed [seve]nty kin[gs].” As noted elsewhere, such hyperbole is used for emphasis and persuasion and reinforces the ideology of the text.47

7.    We need to recognize the degree of uncertainty in the interpretive process. This may also require a willingness on our part to be prepared to change our historical reconstructions. Hazael’s Booty inscription may be cited to illustrate this point. The inscription reads: “That which Hadad gave to our lord Hazael from ʿAmq in the year when our lord crossed the river.” “The river” may be understood to be the Euphrates, as in biblical and cuneiform texts; but in the context as it is mentioned in conjunction with ʿAmq, the Orontes river may be the river that the inscription denotes. An analogous situation may be seen in 2 Samuel 8:3–8 where we are told that “David beat Hadadezer of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he was going to set up his monument at the river.” Again, is the Euphrates river in view or is it the Jordan or Jabbok as Parker has recently suggested. Whatever our personal inclinations are in the identifications of the rivers in these texts, we must admit a degree of uncertainty due to the texts’ lack of specificity (at least to the modern reader).


Thus, if these common sense admonitions are joined to assessments of ancient Near Eastern parallels along the lines of propinquity outlined above, I believe that very much can be gained in the understanding of the environment of the biblical texts. I hope that I have, at least in some small way, demonstrated the necessity of a contextual method for biblical interpretation via a few West Semitic examples. It may be noticed that I have restricted my remarks to texts, the epigraphic evidence. I, in no way, mean to imply that there are not additional points to be gained through the rich material cultural remains that archaeology has been providing the biblical interpreter for over a century and a half. But it is the written sources that provide the greatest gains in the interpretation of a written corpus like the Bible. Today, we no longer peer through a tiny porthole, but stand on the deck having the opportunity to take in a large part of the panoramic view of the vast sea of twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible.

The Impact of Assyriology On Biblical Studies

David B. Weisberg

150, 100, or even 50 years ago if one had been asked to write on “The Impact of Assyriology on Biblical Studies,” the task would have been much easier. But during recent decades, due to the flood of information from many sites (see below), that task has become highly complex, almost unmanageable. However, what makes one’s work much simpler at this time is the comprehensive, up-to-date and authoritative series COS. For a review of the great syntheses of comparative texts beginning in 1872 with Eberhard Schrader and his The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament and running to Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament edited by James B. Pritchard in 1954 see Hallo’s introduction to COS 1.

It is noteworthy how deep and swift-moving is the stream of scholarly output in this area, as can be noticed by the large number of outstanding scholars lavishing their attention upon it. In addition, it is interesting to note how many references can be cited to publications of the past decade, and especially of the last few years. First, let us briefly review the history of the question of “Bible and ancient Mesopotamian civilization.”

H. W. F. Saggs drew a valuable contrast between Old Testament studies and Assyriology:

The Old Testament has been studied continuously since the canon of Scripture took its final form. Assyriology, on the other hand, is a branch of investigation into the human past which has developed only within the last century and a half. Even now, this branch of learning is only on the fringe of the cultural awareness of a not inconsiderable number of educated people.

Saggs reviewed the efforts of several scholars who worked at the dawn of the scientific study of Assyriology. He mentioned the memoirs of Claudius James Rich, who visited Babylon in the second decade of the 19th century, the work of Paul E. Botta “who began to dig at Assyrian sites in the neighborhood of Mosul” in 1842 and the efforts of Austin Henry Layard, author of Nineveh and its Remains.

Saggs noted a fact of interest in the present connection, namely that “The impact made upon the British public by Layard’s revelation of the Assyrians was due to the biblical relevance of the finds.” Referring explicitly to “those parts of Assyrian history which bore upon the history of the Bible,”5 George Smith in 1866 subsequently discovered a part of the Akkadian version of the flood story. The discoveries of Smith illustrate what may be termed the “oscillations” in the relationship between the two fields. On the one hand there was a tendency to confirm, as it were, the teachings of the Bible, whereas in the reaction against this outlook one might see the inescapable swing of the pendulum to the opposite approach, one that came to be known as the “Pan-Babylonian Hypothesis.”

The writings of Friedrich Delitzsch (1850–1922), whose “Pan-Babylonianism” was downplayed in Franz Weissbach’s biographical note in RlA,6 Hugo Winckler (1863–1913) and Alfred Jeremias (1864–1935), whom D. O. Edzard called “einer der prominenten ‘Panbabylonisten’ “8 are the foremost scholars representing the Pan-Babylonian position, which held that “Most of the major stories in the Old Testament, and some in the New, came to be explained in the light of Babylonian mythological motifs.”

Commenting upon the “vast quantity, and the enormous scope, of Assyriological epigraphic material,” Saggs estimated it to be “of the order of at least twenty times the entire extent of the Old Testament.”

We now turn to more recent developments in the field. In his 1999 Presidential address to The Midwest Region of the Society of Biblical Literature, Mark Chavalas dealt with “Assyriology and Biblical Studies: a Century and a Half of Tension.” He “urged that the two disciplines continue to interact, as long as they retain their own methodology and autonomy.”12 He “traced some of the major developments of the relationship between the two fields since the discovery and subsequent decipherment of ‘Babylonic’ cuneiform in the mid-nineteenth century,” outlining the results of recent finds from Ur, Nuzi, Ugarit, Mari, Alalakh, Ebla and Emar. With regard to Ur, Chavalas reviewed the question of the historicity of the biblical flood.

As for Nuzi, it has been “a source of documentation for the socio-economic practices in Mesopotamia.” A central theme in this area since the days of E. A. Speiser has been “The Wife-Sister Motif in the Patriarchal Narratives,”15 though there have been re-evaluations since then.

Material from Ugarit bearing upon biblical culture has largely been in Ugaritic — as opposed to Akkadian texts from Ugarit — and thus falls outside the purview of the present survey. As for Mari, it represents “one of the most important discoveries for Bible research,” according to A. Malamat. He has sought to provide “a window on” and “view from Mari.” He emphasized in the main “societal components – nomadic and sedentary modes of life” — as seen from the perspective of the tribal ambiance — and “aspects of West Semitic ritual” such as the institutions of prophecy and the ancestral cult.

While evidence from Alalakh often does not relate directly to biblical materials, many have shown how it does shed some light thereon. For example, noting “Gifts of lands and towns” reported in both Alalakh Level VII as well as Joshua 13 (and Joshua 20 and 21), Richard Hess observed that “these gifts either are closely attached to or actually form part of treaty documents or divine covenants….” M. Tsevat wished to emphasize just such a comparison: Part II of his article on “Alalakhiana” (“The Alalakh Texts — The Language of Canaan — The Bible”) was “written with the biblical scholar in mind. There I put down what I think is of interest in the Alalakh texts to Canaanite linguistic and Hebrew literary studies.”19

Robert D. Biggs’ “The Ebla Tablets. An Interim Perspective” helped clarify the relevance of the Ebla texts to biblical material with the following caveat: “Ebla has indeed opened up new vistas. I would stress again, however, that in my opinion, the Ebla tablets will have no special relevance for our understanding of the Old Testament.”

Daniel Fleming has noted that “Emar’s rich collection of cuneiform tablets … may offer a closer social comparison for biblical Israel than those of the Ugaritic city-state … Emar ritual texts inform us about the community’s calendrical practices, patterns of festival construction, anointing practices, and rites for the dead. For the study of ancient Israelite worship Emar now challenges Ugarit’s preeminence.” Two recent dissertations on Emar, by Jan Gallagher and Tim Undheim respectively, are also worthy of note.22

The tablets from El Amarna play an important role in our understanding of the impact of Assyriology upon Biblical Studies. In a correspondence spanning “at most about thirty years, perhaps only fifteen or so,” especially that of the Egyptian vassals, we glean priceless information about the history, language and politics of the ancient Near East in an age marked by international diplomacy. With regard to the language of these vassals, Anson Rainey has stated: “… the Amarna texts, especially those from Canaan, were a vital source for linguistic, social, historical and geographic information about the ancient inhabitants of the land of Canaan.”24

As we move into the later periods of Near Eastern antiquity, the links with the Hebrew Bible become more explicit. Many important contributions have appeared in recent years on both sides of the equation.

For a convenient presentation of matters from the side of the biblical world in a field that is fast-moving and has a high volume of new literature each year, David Baker and Bill T. Arnold have produced a volume on “the present state of Old Testament scholarship.” It provides up-to-date information as well as valuable bibliographies with many chapters worthwhile for those biblicists who wish to see the Hebrew Bible in its Ancient Near Eastern context.

Hayim Tadmor, who has devoted himself primarily to Assyrian history and Ancient Near Eastern historiography, has edited several works in this area, including the Encyclopaedia Biblica, whose entries often illustrate how Assyriological evidence helps to clarify biblical texts. The notes and comments to The Anchor Bible’s II Kings, co-authored with Mordechai Cogan (1988), make it clear how problematic it is to understand historical sources such as Kings and Chronicles without benefit of Assyriological knowledge. Finally, The Inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser III, though demonstrating how difficult it is to arrange in order the Annals, Summary Inscriptions and miscellaneous texts, is nevertheless an indispensable tool for evaluating evidence from 2 Kings, Isaiah and Chronicles on the Assyrian ruler’s campaigns.

Nadav Naʾaman has written extensively on the history of the Assyrian empire, its geography and relationship to events recorded in the biblical historical books.

Recent works by K. Lawson Younger, Jr. addressed two central areas in which Assyriology has made an impact upon Biblical Studies: “The Fall of Samaria in Light of Recent Research,” and “Israel and the Assyrian Exile: A Reassessment.”30 In the first article, Younger reviewed the evidence for the number of reconstructive theories: how many events surrounding the fall of Samaria are described in II Kings and how many claims can one find in the Babylonian Chronicle for the role of the conqueror? In the second article, Younger investigated “various filtering processes used by the Assyrians that determined deportee status, as well as the differences that the deportees’ exile location made for their everyday lives.” Younger also “examined the implication of these matters to ascertain the personal impact of these extraditions on the people of the northern kingdom” and “sought a more comprehensive understanding of the different levels of assimilation or acculturation to Assyria.”

J. A. Brinkman’s Prelude to Empire recognizes the impact of Assyriology upon biblical sources and vice versa, weighing them against Josephus’ accounts of the relevant events. D. J. Wiseman’s contributions to our knowledge of the period of Nebuchadnezzar and the Chronicles of Chaldaean Kings have shed much light on the Neo-Babylonian period.32

When we turn from specific places and periods to the broader question of comparative institutions, it is well to keep in mind the strictures of William Hallo, who many years ago remarked to a student that in order to contrast or compare two things, one needed to know both sides of the equation. He therefore counseled his students that if they wanted to engage in this exercise they would have to know the two areas under consideration (in this case, Assyriology and Biblical Studies). In attempting to bring fairness and balance to this endeavor, Hallo addressed the issue of contrast as well as comparison of biblical with ancient Near Eastern institutions, beginning with the contrastive approach:

… a comparative approach that is truly objective must be broad enough to embrace the possibility of a negative comparison, i.e., a contrast. And contrast can be every bit as illuminating as (positive) comparison. It can silhouette the distinctiveness of a biblical institution or formulation against its Ancient Near Eastern matrix.

Subsequently, he introduced the concept of the “contextual approach” to embrace both positive and negative comparison. We turn then to five institutions illustrating the impact of Assyriology on Biblical Studies: law, the calendar, textual criticism, religion and satire.

(1) Law. In the field of comparative law, Martha Roth has collected and elucidated indispensable material bearing upon biblical topics such as for example, the batultu, nuʾartu, the nudunnû, divorce and adultery, to mention but a few. Her transcriptions, translations and comments relating to the legal material from Mesopotamia present the material in such a fashion as to invite comparatists to scrutinize it and its effect upon biblical law.36

Samuel Greengus addressed the issue of “The Wife-Sister Motif.” Some of the edifice built by the late Ephraim A. Speiser38 has tumbled down to the ground but, by Greengus’ estimate, perhaps some 50% still remains intact.

(2) The Calendar. In his chapter on “The Calendar,” Hallo observed:

In Mesopotamia, … the month of twenty-nine or thirty days, based on the observation of the new moon, served as the basic unit of time. It was learned early on that a cycle of twelve or thirteen such months saw the recurrence of the same seasonal (solar) phenomena, giving rise to a year which was a compromise between lunar and solar considerations …. As eventually regularized, it provided for a thirteenth (intercalary) month in seven out of every nineteen years. This system, with minor adjustments, was subsequently taken over by the Jews together with the Babylonian month names and serves as the basis for the Jewish religious calendar to this day.

Hallo went on to discuss the “The Hour,” “The Week” and “The Era.”

Adjustments made by the rabbis internally once the calendar was taken over from the Babylonians may have their bases in the earlier biblical period, especially when the Judean exiles began to absorb the culture of Mesopotamia after their exile in 587. Illustrative of these long-lasting links, B. Wacholder and the present author tried to show that:

(a)    the system of sighting the moon in cuneiform literature was very close to that of rabbinic records.

(b)    The standard 19-year-cycle emerged in Babylonia in 481 BCE after two distinct earlier stages had been passed through, beginning in about 747 BCE.

(c)    The Talmud preserves the older system of observation of the lunar crescent, as it was practiced in Assyria and Babylonia.

Michael Fishbane discussed the term “Sabbath” and its possible relationship to Akkadian šapattu. He argued that “the term and status of the day as one of special character were retained, but the astrological associations were truncated and given new religious significance within the week.” Saggs contended that “as an institution [Shabbat] neither derived from nor corresponded to the Babylonian šapattu.”

Writing in The World of the Bible, M. A. Beek stated:

For the Seleucids themselves and also for the Jewish historiographers, a new era started with Seleucus I. The Seleucid calendar, also adopted by the writer of 2 Maccabees, begins in the fall of 312. For a long time this calendar has been determinative for the chronology, in some parts of the Middle East even until the modern age.

Clearly without the benefit of the pioneering work of Assyriologists beginning at least as early as the 1890s, the thorough understanding of the ancient calendar characteristic of today’s scholarship could not have been achieved.

(3) Textual criticism. As Alan Millard has observed,

Although earlier copies of any part of the Bible are denied us, neighboring cultures can show how ancient scribes worked, and such knowledge can aid evaluation of the Hebrew text and its history.

He noted that “throughout the history of cuneiform writing there was a tradition of care in copying.” In this observation, Millard is carrying forward a theme broached by A. L. Oppenheim, who emphasized the element of conservatism characterizing Mesopotamian scribal activity:

There is the large number of tablets that belong to what I will call the stream of tradition — that is, what can loosely be termed the corpus of literary texts maintained, controlled and carefully kept alive by a tradition served by successive generations of learned and well-trained scribes.

In the spirit of the above remarks, i.e., with a desire to show how Assyriology — and especially an appreciation of Mesopotamian scribal practice — can illumine the textual study of the Bible, the present author offered the suggestion that a phenomenon preserved in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible entitled “Break in the Middle of a Verse” such as occurs in Genesis 4:8, 35:22 and elsewhere, might owe its origin to — or at least be clarified by — the Mesopotamian scribal practice of recording a “Break on a Tablet” by using words or expressions such as:

ḫīpu “break”;

ḫīpu 1 šumi “break of one line”;

ḫīpu labīru “old break” and

ḫīpu eššu “new break.”

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Thus, in order to make a sophisticated contribution to this area, one would have to have expert knowledge of Akkadian lexical texts and scribal tradition on the one hand, and a specialist’s erudition in the study of the Masorah on the other. Either one by itself would be rare, both together would be rarer still. But the field holds enormous promise to anyone who would venture into it.

(4) Religion. Due to “the nature of the available evidence, and the problem of comprehension across the barriers of conceptual conditioning,” Oppenheim put forth the proposition “Why a ‘Mesopotamian Religion’ should not be written.” Many scholars have had the suspicion that he was writing with tongue-in-cheek, since after stating this proposition, he proceeded to write a valuable chapter on Mesopotamian religion. He spoke about shrines and temples, statues of the gods, prayers and mythological and ritual texts.

Recent scholarship on ancient religious institutions has compared mythological elements — many of which have a Mesopotamian source — to some biblical traditions. Other elements such as prophecy by various cult functionaries, especially at Mari, have been compared or contrasted with classical biblical prophecy.50

(5) Satire. One final issue concerns classics of the mythological tradition, such as the Babylonian Creation Epic. Does it represent “primitive” story or “elegant satire?” Oppenheim, always interested in the Babylonian Creation story, portrayed it thus:

Shorter than the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Creation story … has seven tablets … [I]t tells the story of the theogony, the sequence of the generations of the primeval deities up to the birth of Marduk, who will assume the role of organizer of the universe … [T]he plot of the story is primitive …. When Ea, the wise god full of wiles and stratagems, fails, Marduk acts as savior and defeats the evil power in a battle against Tiamat, the monstrous personification of the primeval ocean …. The battle itself is decidedly not a heroic encounter but rather a contest of magic powers, in which Marduk, quite in style, wins by trickery.52

Benjamin Foster noted that “The poem is a work of great complexity and abounds with conceptual and philological problems.” Part of that complexity involves the dating of the text. Whereas Speiser had dated it to “the early part of the second millennium BC,” W. G. Lambert held that “the traditions moved westwards during the Amarna period [fourteenth century BCE] and reached the Hebrews in oral form.”54 But part of the complexity involves the sophistication of the ancient author(s).

In a series of deft strokes, Herbert Brichto introduced readers to his technique of understanding stories dealing with the “Primeval History,” including the creation story. Of special significance are “The Bearing of Enuma elish on Genesis I,” and “Literalism and Metaphor in Genesis I and Enuma elish.”

In the latter, Brichto observed that we moderns would probably not fail to recognize the use of poetic language and diction were they used in the works of “a contemporary of ours. Yet in regard to the creation stories … the overwhelming number of scholars assume that even the learned readership of these tales in antiquity would have accepted them on the literal end of the literal-figurative spectrum.” It is our contention that in Enuma elish too, the mythological material is to be taken figuratively and not literally.

In offering “A Poetic Reading of Enuma elish,” in which the keynote of the reading is Enuma elish
as satire, Brichto commented upon the “elegance of style” of the poem. He observed:

When the choice diction and seductive rhythms of a resourceful stylist appear in a narrative, in elevated prose, or in epic verse, a critical alarm should sound for the reader if all this talent seems put to the service of nonsensical plot and idiotic personae. Is that author … sending two different signals …? for one audience made up of both dull-witted naifs and perspicacious sophisticates?… the former would be reading the message as serious and straightforward … the latter as tongue-in-cheek, perhaps bordering on comic; in short … satire.

They were lampooning the old gods and the old ways:

… the protean metaphors — of Tiamat as shapeless liquid mass, dragon-monster with two legs and gaping maw, human-like in maternal tenderness, black magician spewing incantations; of Apsu, also watery mass, cradling on his knees the childlike vizier Mummu, who embraces his neck, and ogre-father who would rather strangle his children than diaper them — are surely as meaningless as they are silly, an author’s invention and not an inherited time-hallowed religious tradition … .

Why, one wonders, would the poet of Enuma elish resort to such bizarre and outlandish symbols to portray these supernatural beings? Brichto opines: “Could it be a playful and less than reverential attitude toward the gods that is responsible for the grotesquerie?” Elsewhere he stated: “What we are suggesting is that perhaps a millennium earlier, in Babylon, a genius weaned himself from the outworn pagan creed in which had been suckled ….”62

Also of special interest here are “The Babylonian Flood Story as a Critique of Paganism,” and “Noah’s Deluge and Utnapishtim’s: A Comparison.”64 An element of humor, a touch of the nonsensical, should hint at a point of view we would otherwise not glimpse: “A ship in the shape of a cube: this absurdity of nautical design is the clue to the larger design of our narrator.” The “comic-strip vividness”66 shows us that some of this material was designed to be cartoon-like, yet we are treating it with a straight face.

Commenting upon the section containing the fifty names of Marduk, Brichto notes:

The proclamation of his fifty names, ascribing to him the powers and attributes of the gods, comes across to us almost as a paradoxical paroxysm: polytheism straining for a monotheistic rebirth. In vesting all power and praise in Marduk, paganism comes close to abandoning polytheism altogether; like a number of hymns from ancient Egypt, it all but breaks through to a formulation of monotheism.

As we continue to assess the Impact of Assyriology upon Biblical Studies, we cannot fail to note the sophistication of the pagan cultures surrounding Israel and their influence upon Israel. Nor should we fail to note the advanced nature of biblical society and its impact upon the surrounding peoples. Hopefully, we can do both these things while recognizing in these ancient cultures two features that are among the finest of our own: an open mind and a sense of humor.

Sumer and the Bible: A Matter of Proportion

William W. Hallo

The reviewers of the first two volumes of The Context of Scripture have been almost unanimously generous in their assessments of the project, its intentions, its scope, and its execution. But one point on which many of them have taken a more critical stance is the title of the work, and with it the notion that the (Hebrew) Bible should play so central a role in determining the selection of texts from five cultures that, in their own terms, existed quite independently of the culture that produced the Bible. The following is a sampling of the opinions on this score as expressed in the reviews.

Herewith we have again come up against the sad topic of whether the texts offered really have anything to do with the biblical world, and whether they serve to illuminate it, if only per viam negationis.

… I cannot help wondering whether this does not continue to betray the old philosophical presuppositions of ANET that the voluminous textual records of the ancient world are ultimately to be assessed according to their utility in elucidating the biblical text, that is, by a criterion outside their own purview.3

Can we in good conscience regard the ancient Near East as primarily ‘the context of Scripture’?… it seems a little ethnocentric to describe the ancient Near East as primarily a context for a different book.

… perhaps it is time to rethink one of the central criteria of selection … — whether scriptural relevance is a necessary or altogether helpful criterion for inclusion into a volume of ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian texts.

This chorus of courteous critiques calls for a response. It is reminiscent of the campaign to free Assyriology of its role as handmaiden of Biblical Studies and to recognize the Eigenbegrifflichkeit of ancient Mesopotamian culture. That campaign was launched 75 years ago, in 1926, by the late great Benno Landsberger. It insisted on studying the ancient cultures in their own terms. It was not enough to compile dictionaries of lexical equivalents to our modern languages, let alone cognates to other ancient (Semitic) languages. Rather, the very different semantic systems of the ancient languages had to be approached first of all through the discovery of a system of “autonomous grammatical concepts.” Only then could one move on to other manifestations of the ancient systems, such as their apprehension of space, or law and commerce. In the event, Landsberger practiced what he preached: he identified the basic grammatical categories of Akkadian and Sumerian which were then elaborated and justified by his students while he himself devoted the bulk of his own research to lexicography.

Landsberger laid out his programme in his inaugural lecture at the University of Leipzig, and then published it in a volume of the University’s own new journal Islamica, in a special issue dedicated to the great Arabist August Fischer — all indications of the importance he attached to his remarks. The term “Eigenbegrifflichkeit” was presumably his own coinage; one looks in vain for it in German dictionaries and despairs of translating it. I suggested “conceptual autonomy” in an article of 19738 and this was adopted by the team of translators when the original essay appeared in English in 1976. The concept, if not the term, also informed his three seminal essays on the Sumerians which were published in Turkish and German during the thirteen years when he found refuge in Ankara (1935–1948). In 1948, Landsberger received a call to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago where I had the personal privilege of studying under him for five years (1951–56). I learned to heed his strictures on the conceptual autonomy of each of the principal ancient Near Eastern cultures.11 I even became the first of a line of assistants who aided him in his later years. But I chose to write my dissertation under another of my Chicago teachers. And I parted company with those who, in the name of his “Eigenbegrifflichkeit,” went beyond merely ridding ancient Near Eastern studies of excessive or even exclusive preoccupation with their relevance for Biblical Studies and began to imply the irrelevance of the one for the other, throwing out the biblical baby with the Babylonian bath, so to speak. My own career over the fifty years since I first entered Landsberger’s classroom demonstrates that. This personal jubilee is then a golden opportunity to answer both the critics of COS and Landsberger and to make the case for “Sumer and the Bible.”

Let me begin on the most obvious level, the case of literary borrowings or what in recent terminology is sometimes referred to as intertextuality. Here a case in point is the Preacher’s saying “the three-ply cord is not easily cut” (Eccl 4:12). As first shown by Samuel Noah Kramer, the biblical use of this saying was anticipated by a passage in the Sumerian tale of Gilgamesh and Huwawa. And lest it be said that the Sumerian text could not have been known to the biblical author, we can point to the subsequent discovery of the missing links, so to speak, in both space and time: the publication in 1959 of a fragment of the Akkadian counterpart of the story of Gilgamesh and Huwawa found at Megiddo, and in 1965 of a fragment of the Akkadian Gilgamesh Epic which includes the very same passage and relieves the translation of the earlier Sumerian version of any doubt that it is indeed talking about a cord as in the Hebrew and not a garment,14 though I will admit that the latest translation of the Sumerian reverts to the garment.

Moving upward on the literary scale, we can proceed from the isolated topos or (common)place to the level of whole compositions. Here, by way of illustration, we may cite another contribution by Kramer, the indefatigable recoverer and reconstructor of Sumerian literature. In 1955 he published a composition to which he gave the title “Man and his God,” and the subtitle “a Sumerian version on the ‘Job’ motif.” And indeed it anticipates the biblical book of Job in content, raising as it does the perennial question of theodicy, the justice of God, and doing so by the example of the just sufferer or what, if that seems to beg the question of whether the suffering was or was not justified, can perhaps better be called the pious sufferer.17 A number of Akkadian compositions take up the same theme; they are not simply translations or even adaptations of the Sumerian composition, but they fill the chronological interim, being attested for Old Babylonian, Middle Babylonian and Neo-Assyrian times. Some of them, in addition, introduce the dialogue structure characteristic of the biblical treatment of the theme.

The next logical step in the literary progression is the genre, something to which the Sumerians were notably sensitive. Though they had no word for the concept as such, they did have a rich terminology of separate genres and were careful to indicate generic classification in the rubrics and colophons of individual compositions and in the literary catalogues which, often enough, grouped numbers of compositions by genre. I can again illustrate the point by appeal to proverbs, and will combine these here with the genre or sub-genre of riddles. Both proverbs and riddles are of course well-nigh universal genres, and often endure for millennia and across linguistic boundaries in either oral or written form. The Sumerian examples of both genres are the oldest known anywhere, and have a special connection to their biblical counterparts. I have already illustrated this for proverbs by an instance, not from the Book of Proverbs, but from Ecclesiastes. For riddles the Bible has of course only isolated examples, the most famous being the riddle posed by Samson to the Philistines. In his narrative, Samson even provides the name of the genre: ḥîdā (Judg 14:12–19). This is cognate with Akkadian ḫittu, and that in turn is the equivalent of Sumerian I.BI.LU. (DU11.GA). The existence of the Sumerian genre-designation, and of examples of the genre so labelled, goes some way toward explaining the occurrence of a corresponding genre within biblical narrative.

A further example is provided by the letter-prayer. This genre, first recognized among Sumerian examples to be dated to the 20th and 19th centuries BCE, continues with bilingual (Sumero-Akkadian) examples from the latter second and early first millennia. It thus provides a possible precedent for the prayer of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38, there described as a “letter” (literally, a writing).

We can go yet one step further in literary taxonomy and speak of coherent groups of genres. Here even our own terminology fails us and perhaps the term super-genre can be suggested — on the analogy of sub-genre — to cover the phenomenon. For when genres as diverse as myths, epics, and songs of praise are all labelled as “hymns” (ZÀ.MÍ) in Sumerian, we realize that such hymns are more than a simple genre. Or to take the more familiar case of the genres I have already delineated: proverbs, riddles, and “pious sufferer” compositions are readily recognized as forming a super-genre of “wisdom-literature.” This term, borrowed from the language of biblical criticism where it has long been serviceable in linking the rather diverse genres represented by the books of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, reminds us that the relevance of Sumerian for Biblical Studies is a two-way street. Sumerian, however, adds other genres to the mix: fables, disputations, debates, and diatribes to mention only the most obvious. And their rediscovery has led in turn to the recognition of comparable phenomena within the biblical corpus, albeit not in the form of discrete compositions, let alone whole books. I refer here to such pericopes as the fable of the trees and the thornbush (Judg 9:8–15) or of the thistle and the cedar of Lebanon (2 Kgs 14:9; 2 Chr 25:18). And long ago, it was pointed out that the Book of Job not only reflects the debate format in its poetic portions, but that its prose-frame too ends in the manner typical of some of the Sumerian literary debates: when the “friends of Job” acknowledge his rhetorical triumph, they do so by each presenting him with a gold ring and a qesîṭā (Job 42:11) — and whether that is a coin or some other token gift can be debated, but it provides an interesting parallel to the gold and silver which Summer gives to Winter at the end of their disputation.

The ultimate level of literary classification is the totality of sub-genres, genres and super-genres, or what I have long ventured to call the canon. That term had already been used by Landsberger at least as long ago as the “Eigenbegrifflichkeit” article of 1926, and at intervals thereafter. In 1945 he spoke specifically of “the literary canon established in the Kassite period.” The term was borrowed not from biblical criticism but from general literary criticism. In other words it was not a matter of investing the term with the overtones of the sacred and authoritative which adhere to the concept of the biblical canon, but of using it as literary critics do when they speak of e.g. the Chaucer canon to refer to all those compositions which careful study attributes to Chaucer.

Of course there are other differences between the biblical canon and the cuneiform canons. I summarized these a decade ago. But despite these and other disclaimers,24 the subtitle of volume I, “Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World,” exercised the critics almost as often as the main title. Here again is a selection of their animadversions:

Many students of the Bible (lay and professional), for whom the term ‘canon’ is associated with sacred texts that function as a permanent rule or standard for all, will be confused by this designation ….

… the titles of the book are misleading. ‘Scripture’ and ‘biblical’ refer to the Old Testament alone, and ‘canonical’ is not used in the normal sense as when referring to the Bible.

Biblical scholars will have a different understanding of the term from that used by students of ancient Near Eastern texts more generally, and even there the term is not clearly defined.

This cacophony of cavils notwithstanding, I maintain that there was a Sumerian canon or rather, over the millennia of the existence of the language, a succession of three Sumerian canons. I have identified these as the Old Sumerian, the Neo-Sumerian, and the post-Sumerian canon respectively. Without repeating the details of their history, suffice it to say that each in turn formed the core of the curriculum of scribal schools wherever Sumerian was taught — often far from Sumer and ultimately long after the demise of Sumerian as a living language. The persistence of Sumerian compositions, sometimes with translations into Akkadian and other languages, at scribal schools in Syria — places like Emar on the Euphrates and Ugarit on the Mediterranean coast — to the very end of the Bronze Age in or about 1200 BCE (and beyond) provides the technical basis for at least their potential transmission into Canaan in the Iron Age and for the survival of Sumerian topoi, pericopes, compositions and genres in alphabetic scripts.29

But the contextual approach is not confined to the literary sphere. If it were, then The Context of Scripture could have ended with volume I. True, the soil of the Holy Land is singularly poor in monumental inscriptions from the biblical period; the possible reasons for this are discussed in the introduction to volume II. But there are ample biblical reflexes of the monumental category as defined in my taxonomy of documentation, i.e. inscriptions on stone, metal or other mediums designed to last into the future, or produced in multiple copies to the same end, or copied from such inscriptions. This definition, admittedly broad, makes room for such genres as law codes, known as inscribed on stone steles since the discovery of the Laws of Hammurapi on the great stele in Susa (along with fragments of two others) at the end of the nineteenth century CE. It also includes treaties, long familiar as carved on the walls of temples in Egypt but more recently seen to have been inscribed on bronze plaques deposited in temples among the Hittites. Both genres have reflexes in the Bible.

Specifically, the casuistic legislation of Exodus and Deuteronomy includes startling parallels with the laws of Hammurapi, sometimes explained as evidence that these laws, which survived to later periods as models of both Akkadian style and legal acumen, became known to the Israelites during the Babylonian captivity. But Hammurapi was preceded by and drew on earlier compilations, and these did not survive their immediate period of composition. When therefore we find closer parallels than with the Laws of Hammurapi between biblical legislation and the Laws of Eshnunna, as in the case of the goring ox, we can no longer content ourselves with the hypothesis of a sixth century date of transmission. Rather we may have to operate with the concept of an oral body of legal wisdom shared widely across the “fertile crescent” in the nineteenth century BCE — much as is Bedouin law in poetic form in the identical geographical parameters to this day.

But the ultimate origins — or at least the first attested examples — of precedent law are, once more, to be sought in Sumer. While the Reforms of Uruinimgina (Urukagina) in the 24th century cannot claim to be casuistic or conditional in formulation, the laws attributed to Ur-Nammu (or Shulgi) in the 21st and Lipit-Ishtar in the 20th definitely can. It remains for future investigation to trace the chain of transmission by which Sumerian precedents passed via Akkadian, Amorite and Canaanite intermediaries to their Hebrew reformulation, but the connection is apparent.

The chain is shorter for treaties. The “net-cylinders” of Enmetena (Entemena) have long been recognized as a sort of vassal treaty imposed by a victorious Lagash on its defeated neighbor state of Umma. More recently, the treaty of Ebla with a state variously read as A.BAR.SILA4, Apishal, or even Assur has been found to represent the earliest known parity treaty. But neither of these 3rd millennium documents served as models for their respective genres known from the late second and early first millennia. It is the latter that influenced biblical formulations, for example in the introduction and conclusion to the “book of the covenant” in Exodus or the curse formulas of Deuteronomy.

What then of archival documents, the titular topic of the last volume of COS? Long ago, there was recognition of “archival data in the Book of Kings” by Montgomery, and “the descriptive ritual texts in the Pentateuch” by Levine.33 More importantly, however, Sumerian archival texts reveal institutions which have biblical echoes. Take the case of the “Sumerian amphictyony.” Forty years ago, I used a Greek concept to characterize this Sumerian institution, leaving it to others to draw the logical implications for biblical history. This was done most equitably, in my opinion, by Chambers in 1983.35 Among Sumerologists, some like Maeda have generally supported the theory, others like Tanret37 have questioned aspects of it. The main challenge has come from Steinkeller and his student Sharlach, who have gone beyond the BALA of the provincial governors in particular to the BALA in general and have reinterpreted that as a redistribution system for agricultural products rather than as a specific means of channeling livestock to the sacrificial cult. The basic link between the calendar and the provincial contribution known as BALA (“turn”) remains unchallenged, however, and with it the potential link to Solomon’s taxation system and its congeners.

Another example can be drawn from the sacrificial cult. Here the abundant Sumerian archival material helps to explain the comparable biblical institutions not so much by comparison as by contrast. Both cultures featured deities and temples, but while Israelite religion developed into monotheism with a single deity and, eventually, a single sanctuary, the polytheistic cults of Mesopotamia generated ever more deities and temples, 5580 of the former by one count and 1439 of the latter by another.40 The fundamental focus of the Sumerian cult was the cult statue of the deity, while the Israelite cult was fundamentally aniconic or even anti-iconic. The Mesopotamian cult involved first and foremost the “care and feeding of the gods” in the guise of their cult statues, as attested by thousands of archival account tablets best described as “descriptive rituals,” i.e. after-the-fact accounts which describe in detail the expenditures incurred in cultic exercises against the possibility of future accounting to and auditing by higher authority. In the process they provide an invaluable objective account of what actually transpired as against the idealized and subjective instructions, not necessarily carried out, which characterize the canonical texts best described as “prescriptive ritual texts.” We gain a better understanding of the distinctive procedures of the Israelite sacrificial cult in light of the archival texts from Sumer even where the canonical literature of both cultures assigns it somewhat comparable origins. In Mesopotamia, the sacrificial animal was first stripped of its entrails, including intestines, lungs, and especially the liver. All these were evidently considered unfit for consumption but instead became the basis for an elaborate system of divination by means of the exta (entrails) or “extispicy” and more especially by means of the liver (“hepatoscopy”). The rest of the meat offerings were offered in their entirety, ostensibly to the deity — but in actuality to the statue of the deity, which consumed nothing, leaving the meat thus sanctified to the priesthood and worshippers to enjoy. In Israel, the meat offering was divided in advance between deity, priest and worshipper, and the portion assigned to the deity was truly consumed entirely by fire, whose smoke went up to produce the “pleasant savor” for divine enjoyment; hence the meat sacrifice was called ʿōlāh in Hebrew (something which goes
up) and holocaust in the Greek translation (something wholly consumed, i.e. by fire).

The foregoing has done no more than illustrate the proposition that, just as Sumer is relevant for the Bible, so too the biblical debt to, reaction against, or amplification of the themes struck by the Sumerian documentation help to illuminate the latter in crucial ways. “Conceptual autonomy” cannot, in other words, mean cultural isolation. The ancient Near East was a geographical unit; then as now, developments in one part spread rapidly and enduringly to other parts. The five linguistic cultures included in The Context of Scripture were inextricably linked with each other; the indices below help to make this clear. But they were also linked with biblical culture, which it is the special purpose of the middle column of each page to demonstrate. Cultural interdependence is not primarily a function of proximity, whether in space or time; it is rather a function of the degree to which the channels of communication are open across the frontiers of both space and time.

My personal response to Landsberger’s “conceptual autonomy” is the “contextual approach,” which I have defined in various venues as being made up in equal parts of comparison and contrast, and of setting the biblical evidence both in its vertical dimension as the product of historical kinship with precedents, or intertextuality, and in its horizontal dimension as an expression of the geographical context in which it is set. But even this broad basis does not exhaust the possible analogies that can usefully be drawn from the evidence.

In his essay of 1926, Landsberger had used mathematical formulas to express the scope and limits of comparison. The English version of 1976 put it this way: “All understanding consists first of all in establishing some link between the alien world and our own. In the initial stage this is expressed by a number of simple equations, which are compiled in grammar and lexicon, e.g. ending –um [=] nominative singular, root halak [=] ‘to go’; but such full equations are possible only to a limited extent, most often we have to content ourselves with partial equations of the type: part of Babylonian concept x corresponds with part of our concept y. All these equations are correct in so far as both a and b are beyond any doubt.”

Landsberger was talking about comparisons between Babylonian and modern (actually: German) concepts, but the same strictures would apply to comparisons with biblical evidence. A year later, though not necessarily with reference to Landsberger, I extended his resort to mathematical formulas to argue that if A is the biblical text or phenomenon and B the Babylonian one, their relationship can often be expressed mathematically as A = B, or A ~ B, or A < B or A > B or even A ≠ B. But even these more variegated equations do not exhaust the possibilities, limited as all of them are to two terms. Sometimes the analogy involves a relationship among four terms, e.g. between A and A2 on the one hand and between B and B2 on the other, or again between developments from A to A2 in the one culture and from B to B2 in the other. In such cases the analogy of the relationships or of the development can best be expressed by four terms in proportion: A:A2 = B:B2.

A first example of this sort that I came up with was drawn from Akkadian rather than Sumerian evidence. It involved the relationship between the Laws of Hammurapi and the Edicts of his successors on the one hand, and between the biblical laws of the Sabbatical and the post-biblical institution of the prosbol on the other.

Other examples could be cited to illustrate the inherent potential of this “proportionate technique.” In terms of Sumerian, one can support the concept of a Sumerian amphictyony by appeal to more recent history. Its calendaric basis is paralleled by the Greek institution, by the Solomonic administrative system of taxation (of the northern tribes), and by a contemporary Egyptian system. But beyond its purely fiscal aspect, the Solomonic system also pursued a political agenda. It served to break up the old tribal boundaries and therewith attempted to strike a blow at old tribal loyalties. It may have represented a clever attempt — ultimately unsuccessful — to centralize royal power in Jerusalem by using the outward form of a traditional intertribal cultic institution to mitigate the real threat to tribal identity implied in the abrogation of the old borders. I have always thought of it as an analogy to the French Revolution, which sought — more successfully — to destroy old provincial boundaries and loyalties by creating smaller and more numerous départements on a purely mechanical basis. Among the proposals put forward in the Constitutional Assembly of 1789–90, there was even one to subdivide France into “eighty rectangular departments, each with a half-diagonal of eleven to twelve leagues, (which) would permit travelers from any point to reach the administrative center in a day’s journey.” We could thus set up a proportion:

pre-monarchic tribal lands: Solomonic administrative districts =

pre-revolutionary French provinces: French départements.

The proportion lends support to the older theories of a pre-monarchic tribal league, now not much in favor. But it does not stand or fall with these theories.

Moving beyond the Sumerian evidence, we can cite the debate on history and tradition. To my knowledge, this began with Redford’s study of the Hyksos. It was taken up with enthusiasm by Van Seters, whose dissertation dealt with the Hyksos, but who applied the concept more particularly to patriarchal traditions.49 I resisted this approach, on the grounds and to the extent that Mesopotamian historiography seemed at the time exempt from it. That has since ceased to be the case, notably with respect to the traditions about Sargon of Akkad and the rest of the Old Akkadian period, an expansion of the concept to which I have taken exception more recently. But whatever one’s stand, it is possible to set up another proportion, according to which, arguably,

Sargonic history: Sargonic tradition =

patriarchal history: patriarchal tradition =

Hyksos history: Hyksos tradition.

If the premises of the proportionate technique are granted, then it furnishes a further avenue for overcoming the problems of distance in time and space and for breathing new life into the contextual approach.

Archival Documents from the Biblical World

Egyptian Archival Documents



A. Letters


1. Middle Kingdom Letters

The Heqanakht Letters (3.1)

James P. Allen

The three letters translated here provide a unique glimpse into the life of a middle-class Egyptian family of the early Middle Kingdom. They were written by a ka-servant named Heqanakht, who served the mortuary cult of an official’s tomb in Thebes, probably during the first decade of the reign of Senwosret I, second king of the 12th Dynasty (ca. 1971–1926 bce). The letters, along with a number of Heqanakht’s accounts and some scribal equipment, were stored in an adjacent, unused tomb. When the latter was used for a burial, apparently during Heqanakht’s absence, the documents were sealed up behind a wall used to block access to the burial chamber. As a result, the letters were never sent and remained undisturbed until their discovery by an expedition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1922. With the exception of one account, all the documents are now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.

The letters were intended for delivery to Heqanakht’s home in the north, probably near Memphis or Herakleopolis, and were written within a few days of one another in response to news brought by one of his employees. At the time of writing, in May, the grain harvest in Heqanakht’s fields had just ended, with a yield lower than normal as the result of a low inundation the previous year. Since grain, particularly barley, was the preferred medium of exchange, Heqanakht was faced with the need to stretch his resources over the year ahead until the next harvest, anticipating the possibility that another low inundation in the coming summer would produce an equally poor harvest. His letters concern the three options open to him: reducing his household’s monthly salaries (paid in barley), collecting grain debts owed him, and renting more land to farm.

Each of the three letters is primarily concerned with one of these options. Letter I, written to one of Heqanakht’s overseers, contains instructions for leasing additional fields for the coming agricultural season. In Letter II Heqanakht first addresses his household as a whole, detailing the salary reduction for each individual; he then speaks to two of his overseers, with instructions for the distribution of the salaries and an addendum on the leasing of farmland. Both letters also deal with domestic disputes, particularly the treatment of Heqanakht’s wife, who was apparently an unwelcome newcomer to the family. Letter III is addressed to a high official in a village near Heqanakht’s home, asking him to assist the two men who will negotiate for new land leases by facilitating their collection of grain debts owed Heqanakht. The debts themselves are further specified in one of Heqanakht’s accounts.

The language of Letters I-II is probably close to the colloquial of Heqanakht’s own dialect; epigraphic features indicate that they were written by Heqanakht himself. Letter III, more formal in tone, is couched in the standard literary dialect of the time and was written for Heqanakht by another scribe.

Letter I (3.1A)

(vo. 18–19) From ka-servant Heqanakht to his household of Sidder Grove.

(ro. 1) To be said by ka-servant Heqanakht to Merisu.3 As for every part of our land that is inundated, you are the one who plows it — take heed — and all my people as well as you. Look, I hold you responsible. Be very diligent in plowing. Mind you that my seed-grain is watched over and that all my property is watched over. Look, I hold you responsible. Mind you about all my property.

(ro. 3) Arrange to have Heti’s son Nakht and Sinebniut sent down to Perhaa to plow a plot of land for us on lease.6 They should take the cost of its lease from that cloth you have to be woven. If, however, they will have collected the equivalent value of the emmer that is owed me in Perhaa, they should use it there as well. Should you have nothing but that cloth I said to weave, they should take it valued from Sidder Grove and lease land for its value. Now, if it is easy for you to plow 20 arouras of land there, plow it. You should find land — 10 arouras in emmer, 10 arouras in full barley — in the good land of Khepshyt. Don’t farm the land everyone else farms. You should ask from Hau Jr. If you don’t find any from him, you will have to go before Herunefer.8 He is the one who can put you on watered land of Khepshyt.

(ro. 9) Now look, before I came upstream here, you calculated for me the lease of 13 arouras of land in full barley alone. Mind you do not short a sack of full barley from it, as if you were one dealing with his own full barley, because you have made the lease for it painful for me, being reckoned in full barley alone, not to mention its seed — although, when doing full barley, 65 sacks of full barley from 13 arouras of land, being 5 sacks of full barley from 1 aroura, is not a difficult rate, since 10 arouras of land will yield 100 sacks of full barley.10 Mind you do not take liberties with its oipe. Look, this is not the year for a man to be lax about his master, his father, or his brother.

(ro. 14) Now, as for everything for which Heti’s son Nakht will act in Perhaa — look, I have not calculated more than a month’s salary for him, consisting of a sack of full barley, with a second one of 0.5 sack of full barley for his dependents for the first day of the month. Look, if you violate this, I will make it on you as a shortage. As for that which I told you, however — “Give him a sack of full barley for the month” — you should give it to him as 0.8 sack of full barley for the month. Mind you.

(vo. 1) Now, what is this, having Sihathor come to me with old dried-up full barley that was in Djedsut, without giving me those 10 sacks of full barley in new good full barley? Don’t you have it good, eating fresh full barley while I am outcast! Now, the barge is moored at your harbor, and you act in all kinds of bad ways. If you will have had old full barley brought to me in order to stockpile that new full barley, what can I say? How good it is. But if you can’t calculate a single measure of full barley for me in new full barley, I won’t calculate it for you ever.

(vo. 5) Now, didn’t I say “Snefru is now an adult”? Mind you about him. Give him a salary. And greetings to Snefru as “Foremost of my body” a thousand times, a million times. Mind you, as I have written. Now, when my land is inundated, he and Anubis16 should plow with you — you take heed — and Sihathor. Mind you about him. You should send him to me only after the plowing. Have him bring me 2 sacks of wheat along with whatever full barley you find, but only from the excess of your salaries until you reach Harvest. Don’t be neglectful about anything I have written you about. Look, this is the year when a man is to act for his master.

(vo. 9) Now, as for all the area of my irrigated land and all the area of my basin-land in Sinwi, I have done it in flax. Don’t let anybody farm it. Moreover, as for anyone who will approach you (about farming it), you should go to Ip Jr.’s son Khentekhtai about him. Now, you should do that basin-land in full barley. Don’t do emmer there. But if it will be a high inundation, you should do it in emmer.19

(vo. 12) Mind you about Anubis and Snefru. You die with them as you live with them. Mind you, there is nothing more important than either of them in that house with you. Don’t be neglectful about it.

(vo. 13) Now, get that housemaid Senen out of my house — mind you — on the very day Sihathor reaches you (with this letter). Look, if she spends a single day in my house, take action! You are the one who lets her do bad to my wife. Look, why should I make it distressful for you? What did she do against (any of) you, you who hate her?

(vo. 15) And greetings to my mother Ipi a thousand times, a million times. And greetings to Hetepet, and the whole household, and Nefret.22 Now, what is this, doing bad things to my wife? Have done with it. Do you have the same rights as me? How good it would be for you to stop.

(vo. 17) And have a writing brought about what is collected from those (debts) of Perhaa. Mind you, don’t be neglectful.

Letter II (3.1B)

(vo. 5–6) From ka-servant Heqanakht to his household of Sidder Grove.

(ro. 1) A son who speaks to his mother, ka-servant Heqanakht to his mother Ipi, and to Hetepet: how is your life, soundness, and health? In the blessing of Montu, lord of Thebes.3 To the whole household: how are you and how is your life, soundness, and health? Don’t concern yourselves about me. Look, I am healthy and alive.

(ro. 3) Look, you are like the one who ate to his satisfaction when he was hungry to the white of his eyes. Look, the whole land is dead and you have not hungered.5 Look, before I came upstream here, I made your salary to perfection. Now, has the inundation been very high? Look, our salary has been made for us according to the state of the inundation, which one and all bear. Look, I have managed to keep you alive until now.

(ro. 7) Writing of the salary of the household:

Ipi and her maidservant

0.8 (sacks)

Hetepet and her maidservant


Heti’s son Nakht, with his dependents


Merisu and his dependents












May’s daughter Hetepet






Totalling to

7.9½ (sacks)


(ro. 5b) When a salary is measured for Sinebniut in his full barley, it should be at his disposal for his departure to Perhaa.

(ro. 24) Lest you get angry about this, look, the whole household is just like my children, and everything is mine to allocate. Half of life is better than total death. Look, one should only say hunger about real hunger. Look, they’ve started to eat people here. Look, there are none to whom this salary is given anywhere. You should conduct yourselves with diligent heart until I have reached you. Look, I will spend Harvest here.12

(ro. 29) To be said by ka-servant Heqanakht to Merisu and to Heti’s son Nakht subordinately. You should give this salary to my people only as long as they are working. Mind you, hoe all my land tilled by tilling. Hack with your nose in the work. Look, if they are diligent, you will be thanked and I will no longer have to make it distressful for you. Now, the salary I have written you about should start being given per month, on the first of the month, from the first of Khentekhtai-perti. Don’t be neglectful about those 14 arouras of land that are in pasturage, that Ip Jr.’s son Khentekhtai gave — about hoeing them.14 Be very diligent. Look, you are eating my salary.

(ro. 34) Now, as for any possession of Anubis’s that you (Merisu) owe him, give it to him. As for what is lost, replace it for him. Don’t make me write you about it another time. Look, I have written you about it twice already.

(ro. 35) Now, if Mer-Snefru will be wanting to be in charge of those cattle, you’ll have to let him be in charge of them. For he didn’t want to be with you plowing, going up and down, nor did he want to come here with me. Whatever else he might want, you should make him content about what he might want. But as for anyone who will reject this salary, woman or man, he should come to me, here with me, and live as I live.

(ro. 38) Now, before I came here, didn’t I tell you “Don’t keep a friend of Hetepet’s from her, whether her hairdresser or her domestic”? Mind you about her. If only you would be as firm in everything as you are in this. Now, since you apparently don’t want her, you’ll have to have Iutenhab17 brought to me. As This Man lives for me, I will speak out against the one who is discovered to have made any of my wife’s business a matter of contention. He is against me and I am against him.b Look, that is my wife, and the way to behave to a man’s wife is known. Look, as for anyone who will act for her, the same is done for me. Furthermore, will any of you bear having his woman denounced to him? Then I would bear it. How can I be in the same community with you? Not when you won’t respect my wife!

(vo. 1) Now look, I have had 24 copper deben for the lease of land brought to you by Sihathor. Now, have 20 arouras20 of land plowed for us on lease in Perhaa beside Hau Jr., using copper, clothing, full barley, or anything else (to pay for it), but only when you have first collected the value of oil or of anything else owed me there. Mind you, be very diligent. Be watchful, now, and farm good watered land of Khepshyt.

Letter III (3.1C)

(vo. 3)To Delta-overseer Herunefer.

(ro. 1) Funerary-estate worker, ka-servant Heqanakht, who speaks. Your condition is like living, a million times. May Harsaphes, lord of Herakleopolis, and all the gods who are (in the sky and on earth) act for you. May Ptah South of His Wall sweeten your heart greatly with life and a (good) old age. May your final honor be with the life force of Harsaphes, lord of Herakleopolis.3

(ro. 3) Your humble servant speaks that I might let Your Excellency5 know that I have had Heti’s son Nakht and Sinebniut come about that full barley and emmer that is owed me there. What Your Excellency should do is to have it collected, without letting any of it get mixed up, if you please. And after collection it should be put in Your Excellency’s house until it has been come for. Now look, I have had them bring the oipe7 with which it should be measured: it is embellished with black hide.

(ro. 6) Now look, 15 (sacks of) emmer are owed by Neneksu in Hathaa, and 13.5 of full barley by Ipi Jr. in Isle of the Sobeks. That which is in New District: owed by Nehri’s son Ipi, 20 (sacks of) emmer; his brother Desher, 3. Total: 38 (sacks of emmer) and 13.5 (sacks of full barley).

(ro. 8) Now, as for one who would give me the equivalent in oil, he shall give me 1 jar for 2 (sacks of) full barley or for 3 of emmer. (vo. 1) But look, I prefer to be given my property in full barley.

(vo. 1) And let there be no neglect about Nakht or about anything he comes to you about. Look, he is the one who sees to all my property.


Text, translations and studies: James 1962:1–50, pls. 1–8; Baer 1963; Goedicke 1984:1–85, pls. 1–8; Wente 1990:58–63; Parkinson 1991:101–107; Allen 2002:15–18, pls. 26–37.

2. New Kingdom Model Letters

The Craft of the Scribe (3.2)

(Papyrus Anastasi I)

James P. Allen

This extended model letter was probably composed during the early reign of Ramesses II (Dyn. 19, ca. 1279–1213 bce). Its most complete copy occupies a single papyrus, now in the collection of the British Museum (EA 10247); 84 additional copies are known, all shorter or more fragmentary than Papyrus Anastasi I. The letter takes the form of one scribe’s patronizing reply to his addressee’s unwarranted claims of scribal learning and experience. Its purpose was both to expose young scribes to the harsh realities of military service and to educate them in the more advanced scribal arts, including practical calculations and foreign topography. Much of the letter deals with the scribe’s military role as mahir, a Semitic term denoting an officer concerned with logistics and reconnaissance. In line with its instructional purpose, the letter is full of loanwords from Western Asiatic languages, which are transcribed in Egyptian by a semisyllabic orthography known as “group writing.” The following translation reflects this feature by rendering the loanwords in the Egyptian vocalization indicated by their orthography; translations and cognates in the parent languages are given in the notes. The items in boldface are written in red in the original.

The letter is a literary composition, written in a form of the language that combines colloquial Late Egyptian with formal and grammatical features of classical Middle Egyptian. Its interest lies not only in its numerous Semitic placenames and loanwords but also in its vivid descriptions of contemporary Canaanite life and customs.


(1.1) The scribe of choice heart and lasting counsel, whose phrases excite when they are heard, skilled in hieroglyphs and without ignorance, … Hori, son of Wenennefer, of the Abydene nome’s Isle of Two Maats, born in the district of Bilbeis of Tawosret, chantress of Bastet in Field-of-the-God nome,2
greeting his friend and accomplished brother, the royal command scribe of shock troops … scribe of recruits of the Lord of the Two Lands, Amenemope, son of the steward Mose, possessor of honor.

(2.7) May you live, become sound and healthy, accomplished brother, equipped and stable, with no “I wish” for you, having what you need of life in sustenance and nourishment, happiness and laughter joined in your path …


(4.5) Furthermore: Your letter reached me in the hour of midday rest; your message found me reposing beside the horse that was in my care. I was excited and joyful and ready to meet it, and entered my horse-stall to read your letter, but found it had neither blessings nor rebukes. Your phrases are switched, this one with that; all your words are flipped and disconnected; your whole document is disjointed and unconnected; your very beginning […; …] mixed, applying the bad to the choice and the best to […]. Your utterances are neither sweet nor bitter: all that has come from your mouth is emetic and honey, and you have taken pomegranate wine with vinegar.

(5.3) I wrote to you like a friend teaching one greater than him to be an accomplished scribe. Now as for me, since you have spoken I will respond, with cooler words than your utterance. You have treated me like one who is upset for fear of you, but I was never afraid of you, knowing your character. I thought you would answer on your own, but your supporters are standing behind you. You have collected many secret ʿadjiru, like those you would harness, with your face grim, and you stand cajoling backers, saying: “Come to me and give me a hand.” You have set birku6 before every man, and they have told you: “Steady your heart: we will overpower him.” …

(6.8) Look, you are the army’s command-scribe: what you say is listened to and not ignored. You are experienced in writing, without ignorance, but your letter is too much like that of an apprentice to command attention, and you have been misrepresented by your pointless papyrus. If you had known beforehand that it was not good you would not have sent it to speak so falsely of you …

(7.4) I will respond to you in like manner in a letter, new from the first edge to the qirr, full of the utterances of my lips, which I have created alone by myself, no other with me. As the life force of Thoth endures, I have acted by myself, without calling to a scribe for dictation … 10 My words will be sweet and pleasant in speech. I will not do as you when you replied: you have begun against me with curses from the very beginning; you have not greeted me in the start of your letter … 11 I will make you a document like a diversion, and it shall become entertainment for everyone …

Response to Amenemope’s claims

(10.9) You have come provided with great mysteries. You have told me a phrase of Hardjedef, but you don’t know whether it is good or bad. Which is the chapter before it and what is after it? You are a scribe at the front of his associates; the scrolls’ teaching is engraved on your heart. Your tongue will glorify itself when you speak; one phrase will come out of your mouth worth more than 3 deben.14 You threw a ḫirfi at me to make me afraid. My eyes are clouded from what you have done; I am aghast, since you said “I am deeper in writing than the sky, than the earth, than the Duat, and I know mountains deben by hin.” But the library is concealed and unseeable, its Ennead hidden and far from […]. Tell me what you know and I will respond, but beware lest your fingers approach the hieroglyphs. If an apprentice […], being enraged like one who sits to play at Passing.17

(11.8) You have said to me: “You are not a scribe nor are you a soldier, and have made yourself the superior, but you are not on the list.” Since you are a scribe of the king, who records the army, and all the […] of the sky are unrolled before you, you should go to the place of the record-keepers, that they may let you see the box of name-lists, and once you have taken an offering to the ḥarša, b he will open my report for you quickly. You will find my name on the list as a soldier of the great stable of Ramesses II, LPH, and you will learn of the command of the stable, with a bread-ration in writing in my name. Then I will be (seen to be) a soldier, then I will be (seen to be) a scribe, with no child of my generation to match me in distinction. Inquire about a man from his superior: go to my leaders, and they will tell you the report of me.

(12.6) Again you have said against me: “A high harru is in front of you, for you have entered a wild harru without knowing it.” If you had entered before me, I would have come after you. If only you had not approached it, you would not come near it. But if you find its interior when I have withdrawn, beware of giving your hand to take me out.

(13.1) You have said to me: “You are not a scribe, O empty, pointless name! You have taken the palette wrongly, without having been authorized.” Am I a fool? Are you to teach me? Tell me the errors, you who know the explanation. You have harnessed yourself against me again another time. Your phrases are erroneous, and no one will hear them. Let your letters be taken before Onuris and he will discern which of us is right, so that you may not be angry.

Problems in calculation

(13.4) Another matter. Look, you have come that you might fill me with your office. I will let you learn your situation, since you said: “I am the command-scribe of the troops.” But you were given a plot to excavate and you came to me to ask how to give rations to the people. You told me: “Reckon it,” and abandoned your office, and teaching you how to do it has fallen on my neck. Come, that I may tell you more than what you have said. I will make you happy, and explain to you the command of your lord, LPH. You are his scribe and have been sent with responsibility for great monuments for Horus, the lord of the Two Lands.21 Look, you are a learned scribe who is at the head of the troops.

(14.2) A ramp is to be made of 730 cubits, 55 cubits wide, of 120 rigata, full of reeds and beams, of 60 cubits height at its head, its middle of 30 cubits, with a batter of 15 cubits, whose base is of 5 cubits. The bricks needed have been asked of the overseer of the workforce. The scribes are all assembled, without one who knows. They have all trusted in you, saying: “You are a learned scribe, my friend. Decide for us quickly. Look, your name has come forth. Let one be found inside the place to magnify the other thirty. Don’t let it be said of you there is something you don’t know. Answer us the bricks needed. Look, its site is before you, each one of its rigata of 30 cubits and 7 cubits wide.” …

(17.2) You scribe, sharp and elucidative, ignorant of nothing, who lights a torch in the darkness before the troops and makes light for them, you have been sent on a mission to Djahi at the head of shock troops to trample those rebels called naʿaruna. The archers that are before you make 1,900, with 520 Shirdana, 1,600 Qahaq, 100 Mesh-wesh, and 880 Nubians; total 5,000 in all, not counting their leaders. A šarmata has been brought before you, of bread, sheep and goats, and wine, but the tally of people is too great for you and the things too few for them: 300 kamaḥa, 1,800 ipita, 120 various kinds of sheep and goats, and 30 wine. The army is many and the things underrated, as if you had stolen some of them. You have received them so that they are lying in the camp. The troops are ready and waiting. Partition them quickly, each man’s share in his hand, for the Shasu are looking to steal them. O tjupir
yadiʿae midday has come, the camp is hot, and they are saying: “It is time to start.” Don’t make the commander angry. “Many marches are before us,” they say. “Why are there no rations at all? Our cot is far off. What’s with you, Who-Is-It, f this punishing us, since you are a learned scribe? You should start to give us supplies, since the time of day has come, for the scribe of the Ruler, LPH, is absent. This getting you to punish us, it is not good, boy. He will hear and send word to destroy you.”

The scribe as mahir

(18.3) Your letter is rife with cuts and loaded with big words. Look, I will reward you with what they deserve; a load is loaded on you greater than you wished. “I am a scribe and mahir,” g you said again. If there is truth in what you said, come out that you may be examined. A horse has been harnessed for you, swift as a leopard, with red ear, like a gust of wind when he goes forth. You should let loose of the reins and take the bow, so that we can see what your hand can do. I will explain to you the manner of a mahir, and let you see what he has done.

(18.7) You do not go to the land of Hatti; you do not see the land of Upi. Khadum’s manner you do not know, nor Yagadiya either. What is it like, the Zimira of Ramesses II, LPH? The town of Aleppo is on which side of it? What is its river like? You do not campaign to Qadesh or Dubikh; you do not go to the region of Shasu with the archers. You do not tread the road to the Magara, where the sky is dark by day. It is overgrown with junipers and alluna and cedars (that) have reached the sky, where lions are more numerous than leopards and bears, and surrounded with Shasu on every side. You do not climb the mountain of Shuwa; you do not plod with your hands on your legs, your chariot netted with ropes, your horses in tow.

(19.6) Hey, come that you may see Birata and make ḥafidja from its ascent, having crossed its river. You will see what it’s like to be a mahir when your markabata is set on your shoulders because your aide is exhausted. When you finally unburden yourself in the evening, your whole body is crushed and battered, your limbs thrashed. You will lose yourself in sleep only to awake at reveille in the short night, alone at the harnessing, for no brother comes to (help) brother. The naharuʾa36 have entered the camp, the horses are untied. The […] has withdrawn in the night; your clothes have been stolen. Your maruʾa has awakened in the night, learned what he did, and taken the rest. He has gone over to those who are bad; he has mingled with the Shasu tribes and made himself an Asiatic. The enemy has come to make šadda38 in thievery and found you inert. You will awaken and find no trace of them; they have made off with your things. Now you know what it’s like to be a mahir.

(20.7) I will mention to you another inaccessible town, the one named Byblos. What is it like? And its goddess? Once again, you do not set foot in it. Inform me, please, about Beirut, and about Sidon and Zarepta. Where is the river of Litani? What is Uzu like? They tell of another town on the yumma, named Tyre of the Port. Water is taken to it in freighters; it is richer in fish than sand.

(21.2) I will tell you another subject. The passage of Zirʿam is difficult. You will say it burns more than a sting: how sick is the mahir! Come, put me on the road north to the region of Akko. Where does the way to Aksap start? At which town? Inform me, please, about the mountain of Wasir. What is its rušaʾu like? Where does the mountain of Shechem start? Who can take it? Where does the mahir march to Hazor? What is its river like? Put me on the track to Hamat, Dagan, and Dagan-el, the parade-ground of every mahir. Inform me, please, about its road, and let me see Yaʿanu. When one is marching to Adamim, where is he facing? Don’t withhold your teaching: let us know them.

(22.2) Come, that I may tell you other towns that are above them. You do not go to the land of Takhsi, Gur-Maruni, Tamintu, Qadesh, Dapur, Asya, or Hermon. You do not see Qiryat-ʿanabi and Beit-sopiri. You do not know Aduruna, or Zitti-padalla either. You do not know the name of Khalsa, which is in the land of Upi, a bull on its borders, the place where the troops of every hero have been seen. Inform me, please, about the manner of Qiyana. Let me know Rehob, and explain Beit-sheʾan and Tirqa-el. The river of Jordan, how is it crossed? You should let me know the pass of Megiddo, which is above it.

(23.1) You are a mahir learned in the work of heroism. May a mahir like you be found to sagga in front of the army. Oh maryana, forward to shoot! Look, the face of the murad44 is a šadiluta 2000 cubits deep, full of scree and pebbles, so that you must make a sawbib. You will take the bow and make a pirtji47 on your left so that you might let the chiefs see. Their eye is good, and weakness is in your hand: “abatta kama eri mahir naʿimu.” You will make the reputation of every mahir of Egypt who passes: your reputation will become like that of Qatsra-yadi, the king of Asuru, when the bear found him in the bikaʾi.

(23.7) The face of the pass is dangerous with Shasu, hidden under the bushes. Some of them are 4 or 5 cubits, h nose to foot, with wild faces. Their thoughts are not pretty, they do not listen to cajoling, and you are alone, no ʿadjira with you, no djabiʾu52 behind you. You do not find the irʾir to make passage for you. The decision is made to go forward, but you don’t know the way. Your face starts to djanna, your head is šalafi, your ba lies in your hand. Your path is full of scree and pebbles, with no toehold to pass, overgrown by asbarru56 with dangerous qadja, and wolfspaw. The šadiluta58 is on your one side, the mountain stands on your other. You go in hastakkata, with your chariot on its side, afraid to press your horse, lest he be thrown to the Duat. Your yoke has been thrown off and bare, your kušana60 has fallen. You will unharness the team to renew the yoke in the middle of the pass, but you are not experienced in the manner of binding it, and do not know how to refasten it. The anqafqafa has been thrown from its place, too heavy for the team to bear. Your heart is disgusted; you will start to trot. When the sky is open (again), you think the enemy is behind you. You will start to tremble: if only you had a wall of shrubs, that you might put him on the other side. The team has been worn down by the time you find a cot; you will see the taste of sickness.

(24.2) You have entered Joppa and will find the field verdant in its season. You will break through for food and find the little maiden who is guarding the garden, and she will fraternize with you as a companion and give you the color of her embrace. It will be perceived that you have given witness and you are judged with a mahar. j Your cloak of fine linen, you will sell it.

(25.6) Tell me how you will lie down each evening, with a piece of sagga over you. You will go to sleep exhausted and have stolen the bronze fitting of your bow, the knife of your belt, and the piece of your aspata. Your reins have been cut in the dark and your team takes off, taking maruʾa65 on the ḫirqata, the path stretched out before it. It will give your markabata a drubbing and make your magasa. Your leather armor has fallen on the ground: it is buried in the sand and has become part of the barren land.

(26.2) Your boy will ask for the […] of your mouth: “May you give a meal and water, for I have arrived sound.” But they will play deaf and not listen, and don’t heed your tales. You will be led instead inside the armory, where craftshops surround you and craftsmen and leathermen are in your path. They will do all you have wanted — they will take care of your markabata so that it stops being useless; your wood piece will be garpa anew, and its sockets will be reset; they will give straps to your aft hand, seat your yoke, and set your chassis with metalwork to the maḫita; they will put an itjmaya70 on your asbar and tie matadjiʾu72 on it — so that you may go forth quickly to fight on the battlefield, to do the work of heroism.


(26.9) Who-Is-It, you select scribe, mahir who knows his hand, leader of the naʿaruna, first of the djabiʾu, I have told you of the farthest lands of the land of the Canaan, but you do not answer me, good or bad; you do not report to me.

(27.2) Come, that I may tell you much of your [journey to] the fortress of the Ways of Horus. I will begin for you with the House of Ramesses II, LPH: you do not set foot in it at all, you do not eat the fish of its well, you do not wash inside it. What if I recall to you Husayin? Where is its fortress? So come to the Wadjet District of Ramesses II, LPH, its Stronghold of Ramesses II, LPH, Suba-el, and Abi-sagaba. I will tell you the manner of ʿAynay-na: you do not know its system; and Nakhasi to Haburta: you do not see it since your birth. Oh mahir, where is Raphia? What is its wall like? How many river-miles is it in going to Gaza? Answer quickly, give me a report, that I may call you ma-hir and boast to others of your name as a maryana.

(28.1) You will become angry with the speech I have made to you, but I am competent in every office. My father has taught me what he knew and testified to it millions of times, and I know how to take the reins much more than your expertise in action. There is no hero more distinguished than myself; I am experienced in the procession of Montu.

(28.2) How damaged is all that comes forth on your tongue! How futile are your phrases! You have come to me bindu in mixups and loaded with wrongs. You have split words in forging ahead, not caring whether you shatter them. Be strong and forward, make haste: you will not fall. What is he like who does not know what he has attained?

(28.4) And how will this end? I will back off now that I have arrived. Submit, let your mind become weighty, your heart set. Don’t get upset: let complaints wait. I have shorn for you the end of your letter and responded to what you have said.78 Your reports are gathered on my tongue and stay on my lip, but are mixed up in hearing: there is no interpreter who will explain them. They are like the words of a Delta man with a man of Elephantine.

(28.6) But you are a scribe of the great double gate, who reports the needs of the lands, perfect and beautiful to the one who sees them, so that you cannot say “You have made my name stink” to others and everyone. See, I have told you the manner of a mahir, gone around Retenu for you, and assembled the foreign lands to you in one place, and the towns according to their systems. Would that you would see them for us calmly, that you might be able to relate them and become with us an esteemed official of the treasury.81


Text, translations and studies: British Museum 1842 pls. 35–62; Gardiner 1911:1*-34*, 2–81; ANET 475–479; Fischer-Elfert 1983; 1986; Wente 1990:98–110.

Praise of Pi-Ramessu (3.3)

(Papyrus Anastasi III)

James P. Allen

The papyrus from which this letter is taken, now in the British Museum (EA 10246), is dated to the third regnal year of Merneptah, son and successor of Ramesses II (Dyn. 19, ca. 1213–1203 bce). It contains several model letters and other scribal exercises, some of which appear in other contemporary papyri. The letter translated here celebrates the charms of the Ramesside capital Pi-Ramessu (House of Ramesses), the biblical Raamses.

(1.11) Scribe Pabes informing his lord, scribe Amenemope, in LPH. It is word sent to let my lord know. Another informing my lord that I have arrived at the House of Ramesses II, LPH. I have found it well very, very excellently. It is a perfect estate, without equal, with the layout of Thebes. Re himself is the one who founded it.

(2.1) The residence is sweet of life. Its field is full of everything good. It is in food and sustenance every day, its fish-ponds in fish, its pools in birds, its gardens flooded with vegetation, the plants of 1½ cubits, the sweet melons like the taste of honey,a with fields of loam. Its granaries are full of barley and emmer: they reach to the sky. There are hills of onions and leeks, groves of lettuce, pomegranates, apples, and olives, orchards of figs, sweet wine of Kankemet, surpassing honey. There are redfish of the canal of the Residence,a that live on lotuses, bʾ-dj fish of the riverway, various bʾ-jr-y fish and bʾ-gʾ fish, […]-fish of the pw-hʾ-jr-tj, mullet of the waterway […] of Baal, hʾ-wʾ-ṯʾ-nʾ fish of the mouth of the waterway “Fig-tree” of “Great of Force.” The Lake of Horusb has salt, the Canal has natron. Its ships set out and dock, and the food of sustenance is in it every day.

(2.10) Joy dwells within it and there is no one who says to it “I wish.” The small are in it like the great. Come, let’s celebrate for it its festivals of the sky and its season beginnings.

(2.11) To it come the papyrus-marshes with rushes and the Lake of Horus with reeds: shoots of the orchards, wreaths of the vineyards. To it comes the bird from the cataracts, that it might rest on it; […] the sea with bʾ-gʾ fish and mullets. To it do their farthest regions direct offerings.

(3.2) The youths of “Great of Force” are in dress every day, sweet moringa-oil on their heads, with new coiffures, standing beside their doorways, their hands bent with foliage, with greenery for the House of Hathor, and flax of the Canal, on the entrance day of Ramesses II, LPH, Montu in the Two Lands, on the festival morning of Khoiakh, every man like his fellow, saying their petitions.

(3.5) There is sweet mead of Great of Force. Its dbyt-drink is like šʾʿw, its syrup like the taste of jnw, surpassing honey. There is Qedy-beer of the docks, wine of the vineyards, sweet salve of Sapakayna, wreaths of the grove. There are sweet singers of Great of Force, from the school of Memphis.

(3.8) Dwell with sweet heart, promenade without straying from it — Usermaatre Setepenre, LPH, Montu in the Two Lands, Ramesses Meramun, LPH, the god.


Text, translations and studies: British Museum 1842 pls. 74–76 (1.11–3.9); Gardiner 1918:185–186; 1937:28–29; Caminos 1954:101–103; ANET 471.

A Report of Escaped Laborers (3.4)

(Papyrus Anastasi V)

James P. Allen

Like Papyrus Anastasi III, the papyrus from which this letter is taken, now in the British Museum (EA 10244), contains a number of model letters and other scribal compositions, some of which appear in other contemporary papyri. Since several of these, including the letter translated here, mention the pharaoh Seti II (Dyn. 19, ca. 1200–1194 bce), the papyrus was probably written during his reign, but the mention of Regnal Year 33 elsewhere in the papyrus dates at least one of its compositions to the earlier reign of Ramesses II. The interest of this letter lies in its description of two laborers fleeing from Egypt through the northern Sinai. Although the fugitives are described only as “workers,” their route suggests they were Asiatics rather than Egyptians, attempting to escape to Canaanite territory.

(19.2) Bowmen-chief Kakemwer of Tjeku to bowmen-chief Any and bowmen chief Bakenptah in LPH, in the blessing of Amun-Re, King of the Gods, the life force of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Weserkheperure-setepenre, LPH, our young lord, LPH.1

(19.4) I am saying to Preʿ-Harakhti: “Make healthy Pharaoh, LPH, our young lord, LPH. Let him make millions of Sed Festivals, with us in his blessing daily.”

(19.6) Further: I was sent from the broad-halls of the king’s house, LPH, on 3 Harvest 9, at the time of evening, after those two workers.b When I reached the fortress of Tjeku, on 3 Harvest 10, they told me: “They are reporting from the south that they passed on 3 Harvest 10.” When I reached the fort they told me: “The groom has come from the desert, saying: ‘They have passed the wall of the Tower of Sety Merneptah, LPH, beloved like Seth.’ ”

(20.3) When my letter reaches you, send word to me about the whole story with them. Who found them? Which squad found them? What people are after them? Send word to me about the whole story with them and how many people you had go after them. Farewell.


Text, translations and studies: British Museum 1842 pls. 113–114 (19.2–20.6); Gardiner 1920:109; 1937:66–67; Caminos 1954:254–258; ANET 259.

A Report of Bedouin (3.5)

(Papyrus Anastasi VI)

James P. Allen

This model letter is one of four unique scribal exercises compiled in a single papyrus, now in the British Museum (EA 10245). The opening protocol of the papyrus is dated to the reign of Seti II, but the regnal year mentioned in the letter translated here is probably that of his predecessor, Merneptah. The letter refers to the arrival of bedouin and their flocks from the northern Sinai desert at one of the Egyptian border fortresses erected during the Ramesside period. As such it reflects the careful control that Egypt exercised during this period on traffic in and out of the eastern Delta.

(4.11) Scribe Inena informing his lord, treasury scribe Kagab […] in LPH. It is word sent to let my lord know. Another information for my lord that I am doing every mission assigned me well and firm as brass. I am not being lax.

(4.13) Another information for my lord that we have just let the Shasu tribes of Edom pass the Fortress of Merneptah-hetephermaat, LPH, of Tjeku, to the pool of Pithoma of Merneptah-hetephermaat, of Tjeku,c in order to revive themselves and revive their flocks from the great life force of Pharaoh, LPH, the perfect Sun of every land, in Regnal Year 8, third epagomenal day, the birth of Seth.4

(5.2) I have sent them in a copy of report to where my lord is, together with the other names of days on which the Fortress of Merneptah-hetephermaat, LPH, of Tjeku, was passed […]. It is word sent to let my lord know.


Text, translations and studies: British Museum 1842 pls. 125–126 (4.11–5.5 = 51–61); Gardiner 1937:76–77; Caminos 1954:293–96; ANET 259.



B. Contracts


1. Saīte Demotic Self-Sales Into Slavery

Papyrus Rylands VI (3.6)

Robert K. Ritner

A cultivator Peftjauawykhonsu, attested in five papyri from El-Hîbeh in Middle Egypt, sells himself into slavery in return for payment and actions performed by the priest Nessematawy “in year 2 when I was dying.” Subsequent documents renew the initial contract and record temporary transfers of ownership. The self-sale documents are distinct from most slave contracts, in which the slave is treated as chattel rather than an active party in the transaction. In contrast, self-sales are perhaps best understood as voluntary debt-servitude, or as a means to ensure survival in difficult times. The wording closely parallels a Saïte “contract of sonship” in which the adopted party acknowledges receipt of payment and subservience to the buyer with regard to all children and property. In accordance with contemporary format, the initial contract of sale is followed by five copies written and signed by individual witnesses.

Regnal year 3, first month of inundation, of Pharaoh Ahmose, LPH. There has said Peftjauawykhonsu son of Heribast, whose mother is Kausyenise, to the Comforter of the Father’s Heart, Nessematawy son of Peteise, whose mother is Tasherentairna: “You have caused my heart to be satisfied with my silver-payment for acting for you as a slave. I am your slave forever. I shall not be able to act as a free man with respect to you ever again — up to and including all silver, all grain, and every manner of property on earth — together with my children who are born and those who will be born to us, and the clothes which are on our backs, and everything which is ours, and that which we shall acquire from regnal year 3, first month of inundation, onward to any year forever.”

Written by the Comforter of the Father’s Heart, Iahtefnakht son of Ienharou.


Text: Griffith 1909:50–59, 213–15, and pls. xvii-xix.

2. Demotic Self-Dedication Texts

Robert K. Ritner

Attested from Memphis and the Faiyum during the Ptolemaic period, “self-dedication texts” date to the second century bce. The texts show similarities both to the Saïte self-sales into slavery and to earlier oracular amuletic decrees issued by temples in the name of a protective deity. Amuletic decrees of the Third Intermediate Period (Dynasties 21–22) present the god as listing a long series of individual evils from which he would protect the supplicant. In the self-dedication texts, the supplicant offers perpetual servitude in exchange for similarly detailed guarantees. As a high percentage of dedicants are said to be fathered by “anonymous” (literally, “I do not know his name”), the documents have been considered evidence of temple prostitution. Deriving from the central temple archives of the Faiyumic town of Tebtunis, forty-four “self-dedications” are preserved in the British Museum on thirty-seven documents. Two representative examples of single dedications have been published by Herbert Thompson (1941), and these are translated below. A complete edition of the British Museum corpus is in preparation by W. J. Tait. Two further examples from Tebtunis with multiple dedications were published by Bresciani 1965. The more complete of these, P. Mil. Vogl. 6, is translated below. Additional examples have been identified in collections at Berlin, Copenhagen, Freiburg and Leipzig. For publication of the Freiburg and Berlin texts, see Daniel, Gronewald and Thissen 1986:80–87. For the amuletic decrees, see Edwards 1960. A further example from Cleveland will be published by Bryant Bohleke.

Papyrus British Museum 10622 (3.7A)

Regnal year 33, second month of winter, day 23 of Pharaoh Ptolemy (VIII) and Cleopatra the beneficent gods, descendants of Ptolemy (V) and Cleopatra the gods manifest, and of Queen Cleopatra his wife,2 the beneficent goddess, and of the priest of Alexander, the savior gods, the brotherly gods,4 the beneficent gods, the father-loving gods,6 the gods manifest, the god whose father is exalted,8 the mother-loving god, and the beneficent gods, who is in Alexandria, and of the bearer of the prize of valor before Bernice the beneficent goddess,10 who is in Alexandria, and of the bearer of the golden basket before Arsinoë who loves her brother, who is in Alexandria, and of the priestess of Arsinoë who loves her father, who is in Alexandria.

There has said the female servant Tapanebtepten daughter of Sobekmen, whose mother is Isetwery, before my master Sobek, Lord of Tebtunis, the great god: “I am your servant14 together with my children and the children of my children. I shall not be able to act as a free person in your estate forever and ever. And you will protect me and you will save me and you will guard over me and you will cause that I be healthy and you will protect me from every male spirit, every female spirit, every sleeping man, every ghost, every magical practice, every spoken spell,16 every slaughtering demon, every dead man, every man of the river,18 every man of the desert-edge, every demon, every red thing, every ill-fortune, and every pestilence on earth. And I shall give to you 1¼ kite — whose half is 5/6 kite — making 1¼ kite again, in copper at the rate of 24 to two silver kite as my servant-fee each and every month from regnal year 33 second month of winter until the completion of 99 years, making 1,204½ months, making 99 years again. And I shall give it to your priests each and every month without having caused the payment to be altered from one month to another among them. You and your agents are those who are entrusted regarding everything which has been said with me on account of everything which is above. And I shall do them at your bidding, compulsorily and without delay.” Written by Pasy son of Marres.

Papyrus British Museum 10624 (3.7B)

Regnal year 10, second month of winter, of Ptolemy (V), son of Ptolemy (IV) and Arsinoë the father-loving gods, and of the priest of Alexander, the brotherly gods, the beneficent gods, the god manifest whose goodness is beautiful, and Pharaoh Ptolemy Eucharistos, Zoilos son of Andron, while the lady athlophoros22 Iamneia daughter of Huper-bassas is the bearer of the prize of valor before Bernice the beneficent goddess, while the lady Purrha daughter of Philinos is the bearer of the golden basket before Arsinoë who loves her brother, and while Eirene daughter of Ptolemy is the priestess of Arsinoë who loves her father.

There has said the male youth, born of the staff, I[mhotep (?)] son of anonymous, whose mother is Tasheramon, before Sobek, Lord of Tebtunis: “I am [your servant] together with my children and the children of my children and everything and all property [which is mine] and that which I shall acquire from today onward. And I shall give [2½] silver-kite as servant[-fee] before Sobek, Lord of Tebtunis, each and every month without my having caused the payment to be altered among them regarding me from one month to another. What is altered, I shall give [it together with its penalty of 1 at 1½] in the month that follows the said month, beyond the fee [that is above], without delay — while no demon, ill-fortune, destruction […], sleeping man or man of the West will be able to exercise power over me and my [children and] the children of my children except you. I shall not be able [to act as a free person] with my children and the children of my children in your [estate forever.”]

Written by Petethouty son of Petamon. Written by Sobek[… son of …]

Written by Sobek[… son of …] Written by [… son of …]

Written by Pahapy son of […] Written by [… son of …]

Papyrus Milan 6 (3.7C)

There has said the female servant born within the estate, Taamon daughter of anonymous, whose mother is Baket, the one who says before Sobek, Lord of Tebtunis, the great god: “I am your servant together with the children of my children from today onward. And I shall give to you 2½ kite as servant-fee every month. No male or female spirit, sleeping man, ghost, drowned man, demon, ill-fortune or pestilence will be able to exercise power over me except you from today onward. I shall not be able to act as a free person in your estate forever.”

There has said the female servant born in the house, Tasebek daughter of anonymous, whose mother is Baket, the one who says before Sobek, Lord of Tebtunis, the great god: “I am your servant together with my children and the children of my children from today onward. And I shall give to you 2½ kite as servant-fee [every] month. […]”


Text: Thompson 1941; Bresciani 1965:188–194; Daniel, Gronewald, and Thissen 1986:80–87; Edwards 1960.



C. Courtcases


The Turin Judicial Papyrus (3.8)

(The Harem Conspiracy against Ramses III)

Robert K. Ritner

At an undetermined point in the thirty-two year reign of Ramses III, a harem conspiracy led by a minor queen Tiye attempted to overthrow the king in favor of her son, prince Pentawere. The relative success of the plot is unclear. Pentawere was likely proclaimed ruler by this faction, since it is euphemistically noted that he was “called by that other name” (col. v.7). Ultimately the conspiracy failed, and those involved were investigated by a commission supposedly convened by Ramses III, who is however already deceased in the surviving records of the trials, being “among the righteous kings” dwelling with Amon-Re and Osiris (col. iii.3–4). Like the great Papyrus Harris, the posthumous proclamation of the trial records served to bolster the legitimacy of the dynastic victor, Ramses IV. Many of the guilty were executed, the more exalted being allowed to commit suicide. An unmummified body, seemingly buried alive in a wrapping of ritually impure sheepskin, was found among the cache of royal mummies at Deir el-Bahari and could well be the corpse of Pentawere. During the course of the trials, three members of the investigating commission were seduced by women of the harem who turned the commissioners’ office into a beer hall before the officers were themselves arrested and disgraced. Further documents from the trials describe the prominent use of magic in the conspiracy; see Papyri Rollin and Lee, COS 3.9 below.

[King Usermaare-Meriamon, LPH, son of Re, Ramses,] Ruler of Heliopolis, [LPH, said: “…] the land of […] the land to [… thei]r cattle […] to bring them to […] all […] in their presence […] bring them while the […] people, saying: […] since (ii.1) they are the abomination of the land. And I commissioned the overseer of the treasury Montuemtawy, the overseer of the treasury Pefrowy, the fan-bearer Karo, the butler Paibes, the butler Qedendenna, the butler Baalmahar, the butler Peirsunu, the butler Djhutyrekhnefer, the royal herald Penrenenut, the scribes May and Preemhab of the archives, and the standard-bearer of the troops Hori, saying: ‘As for the matters which the people — I do not know them — have said, go and examine them.’ And they went and they examined them, and they caused to die those whom they caused to die by their very own hands, although I do not know them, and they inflicted punishment upon the others, although I do not know them either, whereas [I] had commanded [them strictly], saying: ‘Be mindful and beware of causing someone to be punished wrongfully by an official who is not in charge of him.’ So I said to them continually. (iii.1) As for all that which has been done, it is they who have done it. Let all that which they have done be on their heads, whereas I am exempted and protected forever, as I am among the righteous kings who are in the presence of Amon-Re, King of the Gods, and in the presence of Osiris, Ruler of Eternity.”

(iv.1) PERSONS who were brought in concerning the great crimes which they had committed and put in the Place of Examination in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination in order to be examined by the overseer of the treasury Montuemtawy, the overseer of the treasury Pefrowy, the fan-bearer Karo, the butler Paibes, the scribe of the archives May, and the standard-bearer of the troops Hori. And they examined them; they found them guilty; they caused that their punishment overtake3 them; their crimes seized them.

The great criminal Paibakemon, who used to be a chamberlain. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the collusion that he had formed with Tiye and the women of the harem. He had made common cause5 with them; he had begun to bring their words outside to their mothers and their brothers who were there, saying: “Gather people and incite enemies to make rebellion against their lord.” He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they examined his crimes; they found that he had committed them; his crimes laid hold on him; the officials who examined him caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Mesedsure, who used to be a butler. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the collusion that he had formed with Paibakemon, who used to be a chamberlain, and with the women to gather enemies to make rebellion against their lord. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they examined his crimes; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Painik, who used to be overseer of the royal harem of the travelling court harem. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the common cause that he had made with Paibakemon and Mesedsure to make rebellion against their lord. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they examined his crimes; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Pendua, who used to be scribe of the royal harem of the travelling court harem. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the common cause that he had made with Paibakemon, Mesedsure and this other criminal who used to be overseer of the royal harem, and the women of the harem to make a conspiracy with them to make rebellion against their lord. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they examined his crimes; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Patjauemtiamon, who used to be an agent of the travelling court harem. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning his having heard the matters which the men had plotted together with the women of the harem and he did not go (to report) concerning them. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they examined his crimes; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Karpes, who used to be an agent of the travelling court harem. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the matters which he had heard and he had concealed them. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Khaemope, who used to be an agent of the travelling court harem. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the matters which he had heard and he had concealed them. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Khaemaal, who used to be an agent of the travelling court harem. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the matters which he had heard (and he had) concealed them. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Setiemperdjheuty, who used to be an agent of the travelling court harem. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the matters which he had heard and he had concealed them. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Setiemperamon, who used to be an agent of the travelling court harem. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the matters which he had heard and he had concealed them. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Waren, who used to be a butler. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning his having heard the matters from this chamberlain with whom he had been close and he had concealed them; he had not reported them. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Ashahebsed, who used to be an assistant of Paibakemon. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning his having heard the matters from Paibakemon for whom he was plotting and he had not reported them. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Paluka, who used to be a butler and scribe of the treasury. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the collusion that he had formed with Paibakemon; he had heard the matters from him and he had not reported them. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal, the Libyan Inini, who used to be a butler. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the collusion that he had formed with Paibakemon; he had heard the matters from him and he had not reported them. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

(v.1) The wives of the men of the gate of the harem, who were in league with the men who had plotted the matters, who were put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found them guilty; they caused that their punishment overtake them: Six women.

The great criminal Pairy son of Ruma, who used to be overseer of the treasury. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the collusion that he had formed with the great criminal Penhuybin. He had made common cause with him to incite enemies to make rebellion against their lord. He was put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

The great criminal Binemwase, who used to be archery commander of Cush. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning his having been written to by his sister who was in the travelling court harem, saying: “Gather people, make enemies, and come back to make rebellion against your lord.” He was put in the presence of Qedendenna, Baalmahar, Peirsunu and Djhutyrekhnefer; they examined him; they found him guilty; they caused that his punishment overtake him.

Second List of Accused

PERSONS who were brought in concerning their crimes, concerning the collusion that they had formed with Paibakemon, Payis and Pentawere. They were put in the presence of the great officials of the Place of Examination in order to examine them; they found them guilty; they left them in their own hands in the Place of Examination; they killed themselves without punishment having been inflicted upon them.

The great criminal Payis, who used to be commander of the army.

The great criminal Messui, who used to be a scribe of the House of Life.

The great criminal Prekamenef, who used to be a chief lector priest (“magician”).15

The great criminal Iyroy, who used to be an overseer of priests of Sakhmet.

The great criminal Nebdjefau, who used to be a butler.

The great criminal Shadmesdjer, who used to be a scribe of the House of Life.

Total: six.

Third List of Accused

PERSONS who were brought in concerning their crimes to the Place of Examination in the presence of Qedendenna, Baalmahar, Peirsunu, Djhutyrekh-nefer and Merutsiamon. They examined them concerning their crimes; they found them guilty; they left them in their places; they killed themselves.

Pentawere, the one who used to be called by that other name. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the collusion that he had formed with Tiye his mother when she was plotting the matters with the women of the harem concerning making rebellion against his lord. He was put in the presence of the butlers in order to examine him; they found him guilty; they left him in his place; he killed himself.

The great criminal Henutenamon, who used to be a butler. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the crimes of the women of the harem, among whom he had been, which he had heard and he had not reported them. He was put in the presence of the butlers in order to examine him; they found him guilty; they left him in his place; he killed himself.

The great criminal Amonkhau, who used to be a deputy of the travelling court harem. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the crimes of the women of the harem, among whom he had been, which he had heard and he had not reported them. He was put in the presence of the butlers in order to examine him; they found him guilty; they left him in his place; he killed himself.

The great criminal Pairy, who used to be a scribe of the royal harem of the travelling court harem. HE WAS BROUGHT IN concerning the crimes of the women of the harem, among whom he had been, which he had heard and he had not reported them. He was put in the presence of the butlers in order to examine him; they found him guilty; they left him in his place; he killed himself.

Fourth List of Accused

(vi.1) PERSONS who were punished by cutting off their noses and their ears because of their having abandoned the good instructions which I had said to them. The women went and reached them at the places where they were; they made a beer hall with them and Payis; their crime seized them.

The great criminal Paibes, who used to be a butler. This punishment was done to him; he was left alone; he killed himself.

The great criminal May, who used to be a scribe of the archives.

The great criminal Taynakht, who used to be an officer of the troops.

The great criminal Nanay, who used to be a chief of police.

Fifth List of Accused

PERSON who was in league with them. He was rebuked sternly with harsh words; he was left alone; punishment was not inflicted upon him.

The great criminal Hori, who used to be a standard-bearer of the troops.


Text: Devéria 1866 pls. i-iv; Kitchen 1983 5:350–360. Translations and studies: de Buck 1937; ANET 214–216; Breasted 1906 4:208–19, §§416–453.

Papyri Rollin and Lee (3.9)

(Magic in the Harem Conspiracy against Ramses III)

Robert K. Ritner

Although fragmentary, these trial records provide more detail regarding the techniques of the conspirators than the complementary summary, “The Judicial Papyrus of Turin” (see COS 3.8). The role of magic in the conspiracy is clearly evident, with the use of spells, potions and wax figures following procedures found in scrolls taken from the royal library of Ramses III. As the conspirators included a temple priest, two scribal archivists and a magician (ḥry-tp = Biblical ḥarṭom), all of whom would have had access to standard execration rituals, the use of such respected techniques is not surprising. The papyri are often described inaccurately as records of a trial against sorcery, but as shown by the royal and sacerdotal origin of the procedures, such techniques of sorcery were hardly illegal in themselves. It is only the use of such accepted procedures against the state that constituted a “great crime worthy of death.”2


[…] He began to make writings of magic for exorcizing and for disturbing, and he began to make some gods of wax and some potions for laming the limbs of people. They were placed in the hand of Paibakemon, whom Pre did not allow to be chamberlain, and the other great enemies, saying: “Let them approach,”4 and they let them approach. Now after he allowed the ones who did the evil to enter — which he did but which Pre did not allow him to be successful in — he was examined, and truth was found in every crime and every evil which his heart had found fit to do, (namely) that truth was in them, and that he did them all with the other great enemies like him, and that they were great crimes worthy of death, the great abominations of the land,a which he had done. Now when he realized the great crimes worthy of death which he had done, he killed himself.


(column i) [… was made to swear an oath ] of the Lord, LPH, of undertaking fealty, swearing at every [time … saying, “I have not given] any [magical roll] of the place in which I am to anyone on earth.” But when Penhuybin, who was overseer of cattle said to him, “Give to me a roll for giving to me terror and respect,” he gave to him a writing of the scrolls of Usermaare-Meriamon, LPH, the great god,7 his lord, and he began to petition god for the derangement of the people, and he penetrated the side of the harem and this other great deep place. And he began to make inscribed people of wax in order to cause that they be taken inside by the hand of the agent I (d)rimi for the exorcizing of the one crew and the enchanting of the others, to take a few words inside and to bring the others out. Now when he was examined concerning them, truth was found in every crime and every evil which his heart had found fit to do, (namely) that truth was in them, and that he did them all with the other great enemies whom every god and goddess abominate like him. And there were done to him the great punishments of death which the gods said: “Do them to him.”

(column ii) […] … […] on the basket, and he went off […] his hand lame. Now as for [every crime and every evil which he did, he was examined concerning] them, truth was found in every crime and every evil which his heart had found to do (namely) that truth was [in them, and that he did them all with the other] great enemies whom every god and goddess abominate like him, and that they were great crimes worthy of death, the great abominations of [the land, which he had done. Now when he realized the] great crimes worthy of death which he had done, he killed himself. Now when the officials who were in charge of him realized that he had killed himself [… abomination (?) of] Pre like him, which the hieroglyphic writings say: “Do it to him!”


Text: Devéria 1867 pls. v (Rollin) and vi-vii (Lee); Kitchen 1983 5:360–363. For translation, discussion and full bibliography, see Ritner 1993:192–214.

A Lawsuit Over a Syrian Slave (3.10)

(P. Cairo 65739)

Robert K. Ritner

Likely dating to the reign of Ramses II, this papyrus records the oral arguments before a Theban court regarding the ownership of a female Syrian slave and a second, male slave of unknown nationality. In the lost beginning of the transcript, the citizeness Irineferet was accused by a soldier Naky of purchasing these slaves with the property of another woman. The preserved portion of the text begins with the defendant’s response. Evaluations are calculated in terms of weight in units of silver. The deben (about 91 grams or 3 oz. Troy) contained 10 kite, and the ratio of silver to copper was 100 to 1, calculated to the nearest fraction. At 4 deben and 1 kite, or 410 copper deben, the value of the female slave was quite high, costing more than three oxen in contemporary prices.

[…] STATEMENT OF the citizeness Irinefret: “[As for myself, I am the wife of the district superintendent Simut,] and I came to dwell in his house, and I worked in [weaving (?)], caring for my clothing. Now in regnal year 15, in the seventh year of my having entered into the house of the district superintendent Si[mut], the merchant Raia approached me with the Syrian slave Gemniheri-mentet, while she was a [young] girl, [and he] (5) said to me: ‘Buy this young girl and give to me her price’ — so he said to me. And I took the young girl and I gave to him her [price]. Now look, I am saying the price which I gave for her in the presence of the authorities:

1 shroud of fine linen, amounting to 5 kite of silver

1 sheet of fine linen, amounting to 31/3 kite of silver

1 robe of fine linen, amounting to 4 kite of silver

3 aprons of the best fine linen, amounting to 5 kite of silver

1 dress of the best fine linen, amounting to 5 kite of silver

Bought from the citizeness Kafi: 1 bronze bowl weighing 18 deben, amounting to 12/3 kite of silver

Bought from the chief of the storehouse Pyiay: 1 bronze bowl weighing 14 deben, amounting to 1½ kite of silver

Bought from the priest Huy-Pa- (10)-nehsy: 10 deben of beaten copper, amounting to 1 kite of silver

Bought from the priest Ani: 1 copper bowl weighing 16 deben, amounting to 1½ kite of silver, and 1 pot of honey amounting to 1 heqat measure (4.5 liters), amounting to 5 kite of silver

Bought from the citizeness Tjuiay: 1 cauldron weighing 20 deben, amounting to 2 kite of silver

Bought from the steward Tutui of the estate of Amon: 1 bronze jar weighing 20 deben, amounting to 2 kite of silver, and 10 shirts of the best fine linen, amounting to 4 kite of silver.

TOTAL of the silver from everything: 4 deben and 1 kite.

And I gave them to the merchant Raia, without there being any property of the citizeness Bakemut among them, and he gave to me this little girl, and I called her Gemniherimentet by name.”

STATEMENT OF the council of judges to the citizeness Irineferet: “Make an oath of the Lord, LPH, saying: ‘Should witnesses be arraigned against me that there is anything belonging to the citizeness Bakemut among the silver which I gave for this servant and I concealed it, I shall be subject to 100 blows, being deprived of her.’ ”

OATH of the Lord, LPH, which the citizeness Irineferet said: “As Amon endures, and as the Ruler, LPH, endures, should witnesses be arraigned against me that there is anything belonging to the citizeness Bakemut among this silver which I gave for this servant and I concealed it, I shall be subject to 100 blows, being deprived of her.”

STATEMENT OF the council of judges to the soldier Nakhy: (20) “Present to us the witnesses of whom you said: ‘They know that this silver belonging to the citizeness Bakemut was given to buy this slave Gemniherimentet,’ together with the witnesses of this tomb of which you said: ‘It was the citizeness Bakemut who made it, but the citizeness Irineferet gave it to the merchant Nakht and he gave to her the slave Telptah in exchange for it.’ ”

QUANTITY OF witnesses whom the soldier Nakhy named in the presence of the council: the chief of police Mini[…]; the mayor Ramose of the west (of Thebes); the priest Huy-Panehsy, the elder brother of the district superintendent Simut; the citizeness Kafi; (25) the wife of the chief of police Pashed, who is deceased; the citizeness Weretneferet; the citizeness Hutia, the elder sister of the citizeness Bakemut — TOTAL: 3 men and 3 women — TOTAL: 6. And they stood in the presence of the council and they made an oath of the Lord, LPH, and likewise a divine oath, saying: “It is in truth that we speak. We shall not speak falsely. Should we speak falsely, let the servants be taken from us.”

STATEMENT OF the council of judges to the priest Huy: “State for us the situation of the Syrian slave [Gemniherimentet …].”


Text and translation: Gardiner 1935; ANET 216–217. For discussion, Janssen 1975.



D. Accounts


Semitic Slaves on a Middle Kingdom Estate (3.11)

(P. Brooklyn 35.1446)

Robert K. Ritner

In active use for about 90 years, this Theban papyrus contains a series of administrative documents concerning servant laborers from the reign of Amenemhet III to that of Sebekhotep III. In the reign of the latter king, two insertions established the woman Senebtisy’s right of ownership to ninety-five household workers, whose names, nicknames, occupations and totals are listed in four columns on the verso. Of the seventy-nine names preserved, thirty-three are Egyptians, while forty-five are designated as Asiatics and bear Semitic names in addition to their imposed Egyptian slave names. The Egyptian laborers assigned to fieldwork are probably criminals or descendants of such, but the Asiatic slaves are largely skilled workers perhaps taken as prisoners of war. One child (l. 8) was the son of an Egyptian father and an Egyptianized Semitic mother.

These are her people, being a gift of regnal year 2, month 2 of […], day 8 [in] the reign of [the Majesty of the King of Upper and Lower Egyp]t, Sekhemre [Se]wadjtawy, the son of [Re, Sebek-hotep, living forever and ever …] the servants […] whom they transported:

The king’s slave, Renesseneb’s son Ankhu; called Hedjri; steward; 1 man.

The female slave, Aye’s daughter Satgemeni; it is her name; hairdresser; a woman.

Her daughter Reniseneb; it is her name; a child.

The king’s slave, Iusni’s son Asha; it is his name; cultivator; 1 man.

(5) (ditto), Aye’s son Ibu; it is his name; cultivator; 1 man.

The Asiatic Senebresiseneb; it is his name; cook; 1 man.

The female Asiatic Rehuy; called Kaipunebi; warper (?) of linen; a woman.

Her son, Nefu’s son Resiseneb; called Renefresi; a child.

The Asiatic [ʿA]pra-Rashpu; [called …]; brewer; 1 man.

(10) The female Asiatic Hay’immi; called […]n; weaver of fine linen; a woman.

The female Asiatic Munahhima; (called) S[…]tenef; weaver of fine linen; a woman.

The Asiatic Su[…]i; called Ankhuse[ne]b; cook; 1 man.

The female Asiatic Sakratu; called Werditninub; weaver of fine linen; a woman.

(ditto) Immisukru; (called) Seneb[sen]wosret; weaver of fine linen; a woman.

(15) (ditto) Aduttu; (called) Nub[…]; weaver of fine linen; a woman

(ditto) [Sa]kratu; (called) Sen[eb …]; weaver of linen; a woman.

The female Asiatic Ahāti-mil(katu?); called Henutipuwadjet; warper (?) of fine linen; [a woman].

The Asiatic Dôdi-hu’atu; a called Ankhuemhesut; steward; [1 man].

The Asiatic Qu’a[…]; called Resiseneb; steward; 1 man.

(20) The king’s slave Iywy’s son […]; it is his name; steward; 1 man.

The female Asiatic Shiprah (?); b called Senebhenutes; weaver of fine linen; [a woman].

The female Asiatic Sukrapati; called Meritnebu; warper (?) of linen; a woman.

The female Asiatic Ashra (?); called Werintef; weaver […]; a woman.

Her daughter Senebtisy; it is her name; a child.

(25) The female Asiatic ʿAn[at]’a (?); called Nebuemmerqis; weaver of fine linen; a woman.

The female Asiatic Shamashtu (?); called Senebhenut[es]; warper (?) of fine linen; a woman.

The female Asiatic Iʿsibtu; called Amenem[…]; tutor; [a woman].

The female slave, Wewi’s daughter Irit; it is her name; […; a woman].

The female Asiatic […]a’hu’atu; called Menhesut; […; a woman].

(30) Her daughter Ded[et]mut; [it is her name; a child].

Her son Ankhseneb; [called …]; a child.

The female Asiatic ʿAhā[ti …]; [called …; …] of fine linen; a woman.

The female Asiatic Aduna’; called Senebhe[nutes; …]; a woman.

Her son Ankhu; called Hedjeru; a child.

(35) The female Asiatic Baʿaltûya; called Wahresiseneb; laborer (?); [a woman].

Her daughter Senebtisy; it is her name; a child.

The female Asiatic ʿAqabaʿ; called Resiseneb-wah; warper (?) of fine linen; [a woman].

[The female slave], Senaaib’s daughter Reniseneb; it is her name; gardener; a woman.

Her [daughter] Henutipu; it is her name; a child.

[ (40) The female slave], Henutipu’s daughter Sennut; it is her name; reciter (?); a woman.

[The king’s slave, …]’s son Ibiankh; it is his name; cultivator; 1 man.

[The king’s slave, …’s son […]hesut; it is his name; cultivator; 1 man.

[The king’s slave, …]y’s son Hetep (?); it is his name; and Reyet; it is her name; gardener; a woman.

[Her son …]; it is his name; a child.

(45) […]y; [called …]; magazine employee; a woman.

The king’s slave, […]; sandalmaker; 1 man.

The female Asiatic […]una; called Neferet; warper (?) of linen; a woman.

The female slave, Henutipu’s daughter […]esni; called Neferettjent[et]; […; a woman].

Her son {…}; it is his name; [a child].

(50) The king’s slave Resiseneb, called […; 1 man].

The Asiatic ʿAmu[…]; called Werni;[…; 1 man].

The female Asiatic R[…]; called Iunesi[…]; […; a woman].

The king’s slave, R[…]; it is his name; […; 1 man].

The female slave […]; it is her name;[…; a woman].

(55) The female Asiatic ʿAk[…]; called […]nefereten[…]; weaver of fine linen; [a woman].

The female Asiatic […]; called Ahay; magazine employee; [a woman].

Her daughter Hu[…; …].

Her son Ankhu; [called] Paamu (“The Asiatic”); a child.

The female Asiatic ʿAnat[…; called] Iunerton; warper (?) of linen; [a woman].

(60) The female slave Iyti; called Bebisherit’s daughter Iyt (i); weaver […; a woman].

The female Asiatic Rayenet; called Senebhe[nut]es; weaver of fine linen; [a woman].

The female Asiatic Ayya’abi-‘ilu (?); called Nehniemkhaset; magazine employee; [a woman].

Her son ʿAbu[…]m; called Senebnebef; [a child].

[The female Asiatic …]-Baʿal; called Netjeremsa[i]; warper (?) of fine linen; a woman.

(65) [The female slave Wadjet (?)]hau; it is her name; warper (?) of linen; a woman.

Her son [Res]iseneb; it is his name; a child.

The female Asiatic Sakar; called Nebuerdies; […]; a woman.

The king’s slave Resiseneb; it is his name; steward; 1 man.

The female Asiatic Tjenatisi; called Petimenti; magazine employee; a woman.

(70) The female slave Hetepet; it is her name; warper (?) of linen; a woman.

Her son Ankhu; it is his name; [a child].

The king’s slave Resisen[eb]; called Burekh[…]; cultivator; [1 man].

[…; called …]ri; […].

[…; called …]y[…; …].

(75) [The female slave] Henu[t]ip[u]; […].[…]

(80) The female Asiatic Hay’ôr […]

The king’s slave Nefruhetep […]

The female slave, Iuy’s daughter Mer[…]


(85) [The king’s slave I]bi […]

[The king’s slave] Nefuemantiu […]

The female [As]iatic ʿAqabtu […]

[The female Asiatic] Tjenaterti […]



Text, translation and study: Hayes 1955:87–109, 123–25, and pls. viii-xiii; Albright 1954; Schneider 1987; 1992.

Semitic Functionaries in Egypt (3.12)

(KRI 4:104–106)

Robert K. Ritner

Following the Hyksos Period, occasional appearances of Semitic names on funerary stelae from the Nile valley attest to the Egyptianization of resident Asiatic servants and functionaries. From the Amarna Period, a Berlin stela (14122) depicts a Syrian soldier Trwrʿ drinking beer through a bent straw with the assistance of a servant in the company of his wife, “the housewife ʾIʾirbwrʿʾ.” The high official Tutu of Amarna has been thought to represent the most prominent early example of such assimilation, with an Egyptianized form of the Asiatic name Dûdu. This seems unlikely, however, as a native Egyptian name (and deity) Tutu (“Image”) becomes increasingly common, even serving as the initial element of the name Tutankhamon. From Abydos during the reign of Merneptah, a Cairo stela (JdE Temporary Register 3/7/24/17) of the fanbearer and chief herald Ramsesemperra betrays the official’s foreign origin by mention of his now “tertiary” Asiatic name and homeland. On the stela, Ramsesemperra adores his royal patron Merneptah, just as he adores Tuthmosis III, the long deceased conqueror of Asia, on a stela from Gurob now in Brussels (E. 5014).

Before Osiris “Lord of the Sacred Land” identified with the deified king “Lord of the Two Lands, Baenre-meriamon, Lord of Diadems, Merneptah-hetephermaat,” adoration is offered “by the royal butler, whose hands are pure for the Lord of the Two Lands, the royal fanbearer on the right of the King, the first herald of His Majesty, the great royal butler of the offering chamber, Ramsesem-perra (‘Ramses in the estate of Re’), the justified, called Meriunu (‘Beloved of Heliopolis’), the justified.”

Below the kneeling Ramsesemperra appear his Asiatic father Yupʿʾ, his unnamed mother, and a repetition of his titles. The main text consists of the traditional funerary prayer.

An offering which the King gives to Osiris, Foremost of the West, that he might give invocation offerings consisting of bread, beer, oxen, and fowl to the spirit of the royal butler, whose hands are pure for the Lord of the Two Lands, the royal fanbearer on the right of the King, the first herald of His Majesty, the great royal butler of the offering chamber of the palace, LPH, the great royal butler of the beer (chamber), Ramsesemperra, the justified, the man of Ramses-meriamon (Ramses II) beloved like Re, called Ben-‘ozen (Bnʾiṯn) of Ziribashani (Ḏrbsn).


Text and study: Kitchen 1982 4:104–106; Janssen 1951:50–62.

Egyptian Bibliography

Albright, W. F.

1954    “Northwest-Semitic Names in a List of Egyptian Slaves from the Eighteenth Dynasty B.C.” JAOS 74:222–233.

Allen, J. P.

2002    The Heqanakhte Papyri. Publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition 27. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Andrews, C.

1984    Egyptian Mummies. London and Cambridge, MA: British Museum and Harvard.

Baer, K.

1963    “An Eleventh Dynasty Farmer’s Letters to his Family.” JAOS 83:1–19.

Breasted, J.

1906    Ancient Records of Egypt. 5 Vols. Chicago, 1906–1907. Reprint New York, 1962.

Bresciani, E.

1965    Papyri della Università degli Studi Milano. Vol. III. Milan: Cisalpino, 1965.

British Museum

1842    Select Papyri in the Hieratic Character from the Collections of the British Museum. London: W. Nicol.

de Buck, A.

1937    “The Judicial Papyrus of Turin.” JEA 23:152–164.

Caminos, R.

1954    Late-Egyptian Miscellanies. Brown Egyptological Studies 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Daniel, R. W., M. Gronewald, and H. J. Thissen.

1986    Griechische und demotische Papyri der Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg. Bonn: Rudolf Habelt, 1986.

Devéria, T.

1866    JA 6: pls. i-iv.

1867    JA 6: vol. 10. pls. v-vii.

Edwards, I. E. S.

1960    Oracular Amuletic Decrees of the Late New Kingdom. HPBM 4. London: British Museum, 1960.

Fischer-Elfert, H.-W.

1983    Die satirische Streitschrift des Papyrus Anastasi I. Kleine ägyptische Texte. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.

1986    Die satirische Streitschrift des Papyrus Anastasi I., Übersetzung und Kommentar.Ägyptologische Abhandlungen 44. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.

Gardiner, A. H.

1911    Egyptian Hieratic Texts. Series 1: Literary Texts of the New Kingdom. Part 1: The Papyrus Anastasi I and the Papyrus Koller together with the Parallel Texts. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrich.

1918    “The Delta Residence of the Ramessides.” JEA 5:127–138, 179–200, 242–271.

1920    “The Ancient Military Road between Egypt and Palestine.” JEA 6:99–116.

1935    “A Lawsuit arising from the Purchase of Two Slaves.” JEA 21:140–146 and pls. xiii-xvi.

1937    Late-Egyptian Miscellanies. Bibliotheca Aegyptiaca 7. Brussels: Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth.

Goedicke, H.

1984    Studies in the Hekanakhte Papers. Baltimore: Halgo.

Griffith, F. Ll.

1909    Catalogue of the Demotic Papyri in the John Rylands Library Manchester. Manchester: The University Press.

Hayes, W. C.

1955    A Papyrus of the Late Middle Kingdom. Reprinted 1972. Brooklyn: The Brooklyn Museum.

Hoch, J. E.

1994    Semitic Words in Egyptian Texts of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

James, T. G. H.

1962    The Ḥeḳanakhte Papers and Other Early Middle Kingdom Documents. Publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition 19. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Janssen, J. J.

1975    Commodity Prices from the Ramesside Period. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Janssen, J. M. A.

1951    “Semitic Functionaries in Egypt.” CdÉ 26:50–62.

Kitchen, K. A.

1982    KRI.

1983    KRI.

Malamat, A.

1956    “Military Rationing in Papyrus Anastasi I and the Bible.” Pp. 114–121 in Studies Robert.

Parkinson, R. B.

1991    Voices from Ancient Egypt, an Anthology of Middle Kingdom Writings. Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

Ritner, R. K.

1993    The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice. SAOC 54. Chicago: The Oriental Institute.

1995    “The Religious, Social, and Legal Parameters of Traditional Egyptian Magic.” Pp. 43–60 in Ancient Magic and Ritual Power. Ed. by M. Meyer and P. Mirecki. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Schneider, Th.

1987    “Die semitischen und ägyptischen Namen der syrischen Sklaven des Papyrus Brooklyn 35.1446 verso.” UF 19:255–282.

1992    Asiatische Personennamen in ägyptischen Quellen des Neuen Reiches. OBO 114. Freiburg: Universitätsverlag.

Thompson, H.

1941    “Two Demotic Self-Dedications.” JEA 26:68–78 and pls. xii-xiii.

Wente, E. F.

1990    Letters from Ancient Egypt. SBLWAW 1. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Hittite Archival Documents



A. Letters


1. Middle Hittite Period (ca. 1450–1350 BCE)

Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.

Maşat was a provincial center situated some 30 miles due east of Ḫattuša. The letters found there date to the Middle Hittite Period (ca. 1450–1350 bce). Their background is formed by the conflict between the Hittite rulers in Ḫattuša and the Kaška of northern Anatolia (3.13, note 2).

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 1 (HKM 1) (3.13)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(4) Concerning the matter of the enemy2 about which you wrote to me, saying: “The enemy is holding the city Kašaša”:

(8) Be advised that I have just dispatched chariotry. Be very much on guard against the enemy.


Text: HKM 1; HBM 120f., 302. Translations: HBM 121.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 2 (HKM 2) (3.14)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(4) Concerning the matter of chariotry about which you wrote to me: Be advised that I have already dispatched chariotry. Wait for it.

(10) Concerning the matter of Ḫimuili’s brother about which you wrote: I am dispatching him now.

[ps] (14) Say to Uzzū, my dear brother: Thus speaks Šuriḫili, your brother: With me all is well. (17) May all be well also with you, dear brother. (19) May the gods, including Ea, the King of Wisdom, keep you, the wife, and (your son?) Tazzukuli, well.

(l.e. 1) Here in your house all is well. So stop worrying, dear brother.


Text: HKM 2; HBM 120f–123, 302f. Translations: HBM 121, 123.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 3 (HKM 3) (3.15)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(3) Concerning the matter of the enemy about which you wrote me: I have heard it.

(5) Because I have already written you, Let the troops which are in his land not come out again. Let them remain there. And let the land be very much on guard against the enemy.

[ps] (14) Say to Uzzū, my dear brother: Thus says Šuriḫili, your brother:

(17) May all be well with you, and may the gods, including Ea, the King of Wisdom, keep you well.

(21) At present all is well in your house and with your wife. So stop worrying, my dear brother. Send me back your greeting, my dear brother.


Text: HKM 3; HBM 122–125, 303f. Translations: HBM 123ff.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 4 (HKM 4) (3.16)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

Write to me quickly concerning the condition of the vines, the cattle, and the sheep, in that land.


Text: HKM 4. Edition: HBM 124–127, 304.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 5 (HKM 5) (3.17)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(3) Concerning the fact that you took the cattle of the city of Kašipūra and distributed them in the district of EN-tarawa:

(7) From now on you must not levy veteran troops and auxiliary troops out of the district of EN-tarawa. Let him keep the aforementioned cattle. But let him not fail in his work.


Text: HKM 5. Edition: HBM 126f.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 6 (HKM 6) (3.18)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(3) Concerning what you wrote me, saying: “The enemy has come. He pressed the city of Ḫapara on that side of me and the city of Kašipūra on this side. But he himself passed through, and I don’t know where he went.”

(11) Was that “enemy” perhaps enchanted, that you did not recognize him?

(15) Now be very much on guard against the enemy.

(17) Concerning what you wrote me, saying: “I have just sent out scouts, and they have scouted out the cities of Malazziya and Taggašta.” I have heard it. Fine.

(24) Now get with it. Be very much on guard against the enemy.


Text: HKM 6. Edition: HBM 126ff.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 7 (HKM 7) (3.19)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(3) Concerning what you wrote me, saying: “I have sent out scouts, and they have proceeded to scout out Takkašta and Ukuiduna.

(7) …, and he has ‘drawn down.’ ”

(9) Get involved with that matter. Send forth scouts, and let them scout thoroughly, and … And because I, My Majesty, have written you previously, draw out behind that road.

(16) … I will come … Troops already assembled […]

(23) As I know you, Kaššū, send to the Kaška, and let them be protected beforehand.


Text: HKM 7. Edition: HBM 128ff.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 8 (HKM 8) (3.20)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(3) Concerning the matters about which you wrote to me: how the enemy is damaging the crops, how in the city of Kappušiya he has attacked (the property) of the House of the Queen, how he has [seized] one team of oxen belonging to the House of the Queen, and how they have led away captive 30 oxen of the poor people, and 10 men — (all this) I have heard.

(12) Because the enemy marches into the land at a moment’s notice, if you would determine his location, and if you would attack him, you must be very much on guard against the enemy.


Text: HKM 8. Edition: HBM 130ff.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 9 (HKM 9) (3.21)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(3) Concerning the fact that you dispatched (to me) 13 (apprehended) fugitives: They have brought them.

(6) Concerning the matter of horse (troops?) about which you wrote to me: I have heard it.


Text: HKM 9. Edition: HBM 132f.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 10 (HKM 10) (3.22)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(3) Concerning the matter of Piḫinakki about which you wrote to me: As Piḫinakki is settling the city of Lišipra, he has already settled 30 families.

(7) Piḫinakki said to me: “I intend actually to transfer 300 families (to make up the community of) Lišipra which I am settling. Then I will send the leading men (of the city) before Your Majesty. Eventually we will transfer the (entire) city.” I have heard this. It is fine. Do that very thing.

(14) Concerning the matter of Piḫapzuppi and Kaškanu about which you wrote me: “They have already made peace (with us),” I have heard it.

(17) Concerning what you wrote me: “Kaškaean men are coming here in large numbers to make peace. How will Your majesty write to me?” Keep sending to My Majesty the Kaškaean men who are coming to make peace.

(23) Concerning what you wrote me: “Until Your Majesty writes me about this matter of the Kaškaean men coming to make peace, I will be waiting word in the land of Išḫupitta.” Just because the gods already […], you keep wearing me out with queries, and keep writing me the same things!

(33) Concerning what you wrote me: “When I arrived in the land of Išḫupitta, behind me the enemy attacked the city of Zikkatta, and led away 40 cattle and 100 sheep. I threw him back, and eliminated 16 men of the enemy, counting both captured and killed.” I have heard it.

ps (42) Say to Ḫimuili, my dear brother: Thus speaks Ḫattušili, your brother: May all be well with you. May the gods keep you alive, and keep you in good circumstances.

(47) Concerning the matter of your live-in sons-in-law about which you wrote me, I have it in mind, and will inform the palace of it. A person will go to them and conduct them to His Majesty.


Text: HKM 10. Edition: HBM 134ff.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 11 (HKM 12) (3.23)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(4) Seize Tarḫumiya and [send] him before [My Majesty]. […] (Reverse) […] and [let them] conduct him immediately before [My Majesty].


Text: HKM 12. Edition: HBM 136ff.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 12 (HKM 13) (3.24)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(3) Concerning the capitulation (?) of Maruwa, the ruler of the city of Ḫimmuwa, about which you wrote me: “I have dispatched him (to you).” On a tablet you wrote to me: “I have dispatched him (to you),” but as of now he has not come. Now put him in the charge of an officer, and have him conduct him quickly before My Majesty.

(13) Otherwise, you will become responsible for his failure.


Text: HKM 13. Edition: HBM 138f.

The King to Kaššū In Tapikka 13 (HKM 14) (3.25)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū:

(3) As soon as this tablet reaches you, drive quickly before My Majesty, and bring with you Maruwa, the ruler of the city of Kakattuwa. Otherwise they will proceed to blind2 you in that place (where you are)!


Text: HKM 14. Edition: HBM 139f.

The King to Kaššū and Zulapi In Tapikka 1 (HKM 15) (3.26)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū and Zilapi:

(4) As soon as this tablet reaches you, quickly — within three days — bring before My Majesty the assembled troops and the chariotry which is with them.


Text: HKM 15. Edition: HBM 140f.

The King to Kaššū and Zulapi In Tapikka 2 (HKM 16) (3.27)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Kaššū and Zilapi:

(5) As soon as this tablet reaches you, drive quickly before My Majesty.

(11) Otherwise, they will proceed to blind you in that place (where you are).


Text: HKM 16:1–15. Edition: HBM 142f.

The King to Kaššū, Ḫulla and Zulapi In Tapikka (HKM 17) (3.28)

Thus speaks His Majesty: Say to Ḫulla, Kaššū and Zilapi:

(4) Concerning what you wrote me: “While we were in Ḫattuša, the Kaškaean men heard, and they drove away cattle, and kept the roads under their control.”

(9) When I sent you and Ḫulla out (last) winter, (the enemies) didn’t hear you. But now, of all things, they did hear you?

(13) Concerning what you yourselves have now written: “Pizzumaki told us: ‘The enemy is on his way to the city of Marešta. I [have] sent Pipitaḫi out to scout the area. And we will attack the sheepfolds which are in the vicinity of the city of Marešta.’ ” Fine. Do as you have said. (22) And if the grain crop is ready, let the troops take it.

(24) Concerning what you wrote me: “How [shall I] take the city?4 Or shall we attack the city of Kapapaḫšuwa?”

(28) Since Kapapaḫšuwa is well protected, so that [the capture] of Kapapaḫšuwa is not likely to succeed for me, they will keep its territory pressed on this side, and lie in ambush against you. […]

(33) From the direction of Taggašta you should attack whatever [… and] the cultivated land, [and] it will succeed. And you will make … Because [of the …] there is no one for him.

ps (37) Say to Ḫulla, Kaššū and Zilapi: Thus speaks Ḫašammili, your servant: May all be well with you, and may the gods protect you.

(41) […] was already released. […] already are dressed. […] my dear brother, keep eating (pl.), and […]

[Lines 45–53 are too broken for translation]

(Left edge) [Say] to Uzzū: [Thus speaks Ḫašammili,] your brother. [May] the gods [keep you alive and protect you in well-being.] Get busy with [the …], and write me [how the …] are […]-ing. But don’t take anything from him until […] something. And you must … it just as I instruct you in writing.


Text: HKM 17. Edition: HBM 142ff.

The King to Kaššū and Pulli In Tapikka (HKM 18) (3.29)

Thus speaks [His Majesty]: Say to [Kaššū and Pulli]:

[Lines 3–15 are too badly broken for translation]

(16) And send them before My Majesty.

(17) Concerning the matter of troops about which you wrote me: I have some troops of the Upper Land and of the land of Išḫupitta here with me. I will send them to you.

ps (21) Thus speaks Pišeni: Say to Kaššū and Pulli, my dear sons:

(23) The grain which the troops of Išḫupitta and zaltayaš have for cultivation, now His Majesty is very concerned (?) about that grain. Send …. And quickly now. Because grain has been sown/cultivated there for them (or: for you [pl.]), get busy: gather it in and store it in storage pits. Then [write] to His Majesty.


Text: HKM 18. Edition: HBM 146ff.

2. Later New Kingdom (Ḫattušili III TO Suppiluliuma II) (ca. 1250–1180 BCE)

Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.

Letter From Queen Naptera of Egypt to Queen Puduḫepa of Ḫatti (3.30)

§1    Thus says Naptera, Great Queen of Egypt: Say to Puduhepa, Great Queen of Hatti, my sister:

§2    It is well with me, your sister. It is also well with my land.

§3    May it be well with you, my sister. May it also be well with your land. I have learned that you, my sister, wrote inquiring about my health, and that you wrote inquiring about the state of the alliance between the Great King of Egypt and the Great King of Hatti, his brother.

§4    The Sungod (Rē) and the Stormgod (Teššub) will exalt you, and the Sungod will cause peace to prevail and will strengthen the alliance of brotherhood between the kings of Egypt and Hatti forever.

§5    I send you herewith a present as a “greeting-gift,” my sister.

§6    May they inform you, my sister, about the present that I send you in the care of Pariḫnawa, the king’s messenger:

§7    One colorful necklace of fine gold made up of twelve strands and weighing 88 shekels.

§8    One dyed linen cloak.

§9    One dyed linen tunic.

§10    Five dyed linen garments of good fine thread.

§11    Five dyed linen tunics of good fine thread.

§12    A total of twelve linen garments.


Text: KBo 1.29 + KBo 9.43. Edition: Edel 1978:137–143; Edel 1994 1:40–41, 2:63–64. Translations: Beckman 1996:123.

Letter From Ḫattušili III of Ḫatti to Kadašman-Enlil II of Babylon (3.31)

§1    Thus says Ḫattušili, Great King, King of Hatti: Say to Kadašman-Enlil, Great King, King of Babylonia, my brother:

§2    It is well with me. It is also well with my household, my wife, my sons, my infantry, my horses, […], and with all that is in my land.

§3    May it be well with you, with your household, your wives, your sons, your infantry, your horses, your chariots, and all that is in your land.

§4    When your father and I made peace and became “brothers,” we did not do so for just a single day. Was it not for eternity that we became “brothers” and concluded peace? We made a pact as follows: “Since we are mortal, the survivor shall protect the children of the one who dies first.” Then when your father died, but the gods [let me live long,] I wept for him like a brother.b [After] I had completed [the period of mourning] for your father, I dried my tears and dispatched a messenger to the nobles of Babylonia, saying: “If you do not support the progeny of my brother as the rightful rulers, I will declare war on you. I will come and conquer Babylonia. But if (you support the progeny of my brother, and) an enemy arises against you, or some other trouble occurs, write to me, and I will come to your aid.” But you, my brother, were only a child in those days, and they did not read my tablet in your presence. Are none of those scribes still alive? Are my tablets not accessible? Let them read those tablets to you now. I wrote those words to them with the best intentions, but Itti-Marduk-balatu — whom the gods have let live far too long, and whose hateful words are without end — disturbed me with his reply: “You don’t write us like a brother. You order us around as if we were your subjects.”

§5     …

§6    In addition, my brother: Because you wrote to me: “I have discontinued sending messengers to you, because the Aḫlamu are hostile.” But how can this be? Is your kingdom so weak, my brother? Or has my brother discontinued the messengers because Itti-Marduk-balatu has poisoned my brother’s mind against me? In my brother’s land horses are more numerous than straw. Did I have to send a thousand chariots to meet your envoy in Tuttul, so that the Aḫlamu would have kept their hands off? And if my brother should object: “The King of Assyria will not allow my messenger to pass through his land,” the infantry and chariotry of the King of Assyria does not equal those of your land.…

§10    Regarding what you wrote: “My merchants are being killed in the land of Amurru, the land of Ugarit, [and …]”, in Hatti they do not kill [.…,] they kill […]. When the king hears of it, [they …] that matter. They seize the murderer [and turn] him over to the relatives of the murdered man, [but they let] the murderer [live. The place] where the murder occurred is purified. If his relatives will not accept [the compensatory payment], they may take the murderer [as a slave]. If a man who has committed a crime against the king [flees] to another land, it is not permitted to put him to death. Just ask, my brother, and they will tell you. […] So I ask you: Would people who do not kill murderers kill a merchant (of yours)? [But with regard to] the Subarians, how do I know if they are killing people? [Send] me the relatives of the murdered merchants so that I can investigate their claims.

§11    Concerning Bentešina, (King of Amurru,) of whom my brother wrote to me: “He continually curses my land”: When I asked Bentešina, he replied to me as follows: “The Babylonians owe me three talents of silver.” Right now a servant of Bentešina is coming to you, so that my brother can judge his case. And concerning the curses against the land of my brother, Bentešina swore by my gods in the presence of Adad-šar-ilani, your messenger. If my brother doesn’t believe this, then let his servant, who claims to have heard Bentešina curse the land of my brother, come here and face him in court. And I will press Bentešina. For Bentešina is my servant. And if he has truly cursed my brother, has he not cursed me too?

§12    Furthermore, [my brother,] concerning the physician whom my brother sent here: When they received the physician, he did many [good] things. When he became ill, I did all I could for him. I instituted many oracular inquiries about him. But when his time came […], he died. My messenger will bring his servants to you, so that my brother can [interrogate] them, and they can tell my brother all that the physician did.… [Let] my brother [take note of] the chariot, the solid-wheeled wagon, the horses, the fine silver, and the linen that I gave to the physician. I have sent the tablet on which they are written down to my brother, so that my brother can hear it. The physician died, when his time came. I certainly did not detain the physician.


Text: KBo 1.10 + KUB 3.72. Edition: Hagenbuchner 1989:281–300. Translation: Beckman 1996:132–137.

Letter From Piḫa-Walwi of Ḫatti to Ibiranu of Ugarit (3.32)

§1    Thus says Prince Piha-Walwi: Say to my “son” (i.e., subordinate), Ibiranu:

§2    All is well at present with His Majesy.

§3    Why have you not come before His Majesty since you became king in the land of Ugarit? Why have you not sent your messengers? His Majesty is very angry about this matter. So send your messengers to His Majesty quickly and send presents to the king together with presents also for me.


Text: RS 17.247. Edition: Nougayrol 1956:191. Translation: Beckman 1996:121.



B. Courtcases


1. Records of Testimony Given In the Trials of Suspected Thieves and Embezzlers of Royal Property

Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.

These texts, called “Gerichtsprotokollen” in German and “Procès” and “documents de procédure” by Laroche in CTH pp. 45–46, go by the name “depositions” in the CHD. They appear to be written records of testimony given by persons capable of clarifying cases involving the misappropriation of royal property. We do not know whether all these persons were also suspects themselves or whether some were simply associates of the true suspects. It is difficult to suppose, as some scholars do, that these are minutes of the procedure, since they do not report statements by a judge, but are confined to statements by witnesses or suspects. After preliminary remarks about the genre in Güterbock 1939, Güterbock 1955 and Gurney 1990:77, a summary of the text type (Werner 1964–1969) and an edition of all known pieces appeared (Werner 1967). A significant study of the modus operandi of the depositions and of the peculiar language and structure of these texts (Tani 1999) appeared after Werner’s edition. As Werner 1964–1969 noted, this type of text corresponds to what in Old Babylonian is called a ṭuppi būrti(m), which the CAD B sub būrtu B translates as “tablet with a sworn statement, deposition.”

The texts of this type date from the second half of the New Hittite period, the reign of Ḫattušili III and his successors. They were published in the volumes KUB XIII, XXIII, XXVI and XL, and KBo XVI. Many are fragmentary, and since duplicate copies of texts of this type were not kept in the archives, we have no way to restore the lost parts. This makes producing a connected translation of most of these texts very difficult. The official edition of most of these texts is Werner 1967. A German translation of excerpts of the Ura-Tarḫunta text, based on Werner 1967, is Haase 1984. There is a much fuller translation in Spanish in Bernabé and Álvarez-Pedrosa 2000:216–220. Since only a few small fragments of this type have been identified since the publication of Werner’s edition we will give here only lengthy excerpts from the better preserved tablets in his edition.

The Case Against Ura-Tarḫunta and His Father Ukkura (3.33)

This tablet was found in the East magazine of the Great Temple in the Lower City (quadrant L/19). It was kept there, because since it contained statements supported by oaths taken in the temple of Lelwani, its proper repository was a temple. Not all such tablets, however, were kept in that location. Some were recovered in Buildings A, D, and E of the Acropolis and others in the so-called “House on the Slope” (cf. Cornil 1987 25f. for the documentation). The plaintiff in this case was Puduḫepa, the queen and consort of Ḫattušili III. The accused were Ura-Tarḫunta (“Great is the Stormgod Tarḫunta”) (for this individual cf. van den Hout 1995:157ff.) and his father Ukkura, who held the office “Overseer of Ten.” The primary explicit charge was Ura-Tarḫunta’s failure to keep documentation of his activities in distributing items entrusted to him by the queen. Implied is a suspicion of misappropriation or embezzlement (German widerrechtliche Aneignung oder Verwendung, Italian malversazione, Spanish malversación, French détournement).

§1    With respect to the fact that [the queen] on several occasions turned over to Ura-Tarḫunta, the son of Ukkura, the Overseer of Ten, various items — namely, chariots, items made of bronze and copper, linen garments, bows, arrows, shields, maces (or perhaps ‘weapons’), civilian captives, large and small cattle, horses and mules, (the charge is that) he regularly failed to indicate on a sealed tablet what was issued to whom. He also had no manifest (?) or receipt. The queen says: “Let the ‘Golden Grooms,’ the queen’s šalašḫā-men, Ura-Tarḫunta and Ukkura proceed to make comprehensive statements under oath in the temple of Lelwani.”

§2    So Ukkura, the Queen’s Decurius, took an oath. He made the following declaration under oath: “Regarding whatever items belonging to the Crown I had, I never acted in an untrustworthy manner, and I have not taken anything for myself. I never ‘skimmed off’ for myself anything of what the queen from time to time entrusted to me. For the horses and mules in my custody I had a wax-coated wood-tablet (the equivalent of the above-mentioned ‘manifest’?) and a sealed receipt. They sent me to Babylonia. And while I was going to Babylonia and returning, no one was … -ing behind my back. Yet because of that matter I am now in trouble. But when I returned from Babylonia, they sent to me an inspector too. But again afterwards the matter of … went along with (it). It was certainly a case of careless incompetence, but by no means deliberate deceit. I [have] not been misrepresenting (?) the king’s words. And it never entered my mind that I should make something vanish from the king and take it for myself.

§3    Nor do I do this kind of thing. What is this? I had already sworn (to keep faith with the king)! Would I afterwards (?) take something for myself? I was obligated to that matter too. I do not subsequently take something for myself. I had hitched up three mules belonging to the palace (for my personal use), and they died. Consequently, I have already given two mules as compensation. I still owe one mule.

§4    Ura-Tarḫunta made this additional statement in regard to himself: “I took for myself three high quality harnesses for horses for the Festival of the Year. I also took for myself two mules, which died while in my possession. One mule, however, I gave to Tarḫunta-nani, the eunuch.

§5    From time to time I have been taking for myself old materials (i.e., items no longer in use by the crown): halters, wheels, leather straps, large and small NAMTULLU-harnesses. And whenever they bring here new bits and snaffles, I have been accepting the new ones for the service of the crown, but of the old ones I have been taking for myself as many as I liked. I took one wagon pole with mud guards for myself. I took two large axes and a hatchet for myself. And whenever they install wall hangings, I receive the new hangings for the king’s house, but I have been taking for myself as many of the old ones as I liked.

§6    Yet I have been (secretly) exchanging the mules of those to whom the queen has charged me to give them, saying: ‘Go, give (them) to them!’ I either take my own (mules) or (those) of someone else and give them to him (i.e., the person for whom the queen intends them). Then I take the mules of the palace for myself. To the other person I give mules of compensation, but under no circumstances do I give the good ones to them.

§7    Of the civilian captives that they have been giving me from the palace I took for myself one man and one woman.

§8    Of the materials from the seal house of the city Partiya that they have been giving me I took for myself the following: — (the scribe apparently inserts the following additional note:) Ura-Tarḫunta sent to his father two bolts of Palaic linen and a copper vase — I took for myself ten copper items, one spear, one wash bowl, one copper NAMMANTU-vessel, one copper sieve, one large axe, and one chariot with leather fittings, and I sent it to my mother.

[§§9 and 10 too broken for useful translation]

§11    I took for myself three cows of the šalašḫa-man/men and drove them to my house, where they died.

§12    (ii.28–37) The gold-plated bows which the queen had taken stock of I found open[ed and] stripped. I did [not] take the gold for myself. Nor did I take bows from there for myself. Nor do I know who stripped them. When I discovered it, I was very frightened on account of it. So I took the gold of my mother and plated them with that. And although I did not mention it at the time, it was because Pallā the goldsmith said: ‘Do not denounce me,’ that I kept silent.

§13    (ii.38) I did not take for myself any offering-bowl (ornamented with) ‘Babylonian stone.’

§14    (ii.39–45) Of the asses which I had (charge of) I took for myself nothing. Five asses died, and I replaced them from (my own) house. Five asses died from abuse. They will drive back here five jackasses (as replacements). Admittedly they haven’t yet driven them here. Mr. AMAR.MUŠen the animal-driver worked them to death, and he hasn’t yet replaced them. But I took nothing for myself.

§15    (iii.1–2) They originally gave me 30 asses; now 13 remain.

§16    (iii.3–4) Of the valuable items in the storehouse I received two linen (garments), two ingots of copper, six bows, one hundred arrows, two bronze bands (for reinforcing pillars?), one veil (lit. ‘eye-cloth’), and one copper dammuri.

§17    (iii.5–8) I became ill. But when I became well again, I found in checking that we now had three ingots of copper, ten valuable bronze items, ten bows, and fifty arrows. I saw no chest belonging to Ibri-šarruma, and I declared none.

§18    (iii.9–12) Maruwa stated (as follows): “(The queen) gave a pair of mules to Ḫellarizzi.” Ura-Tarḫunta replied: I took the mules from Ḫ. for cultivation work (i.e., plowing), and gave him colts in return.”

§19    (iii.13–14) Maruwa stated: (The queen) gave [x] mules to Piḫa-Tarḫunta, the eunuch.” Ura-Tarḫunta replied: “They do [not] belong to the pen.”

§20    (iii.15–17) Yarra-zalma, a “Golden Groom,” stated: “Zuwappi sold a horse (belonging to the queen) and thereby gained for himself a talent of copper.” Ura-Tarḫunta replied: “He told me it had died.”

§21    (iii.18–19) “Yarra-zalma took one mule for himself, and Maruwa took one mule for himself (from the queen’s stock). But (the mules) were ‘milk-sisters’.”

§22    (iii.20–29) This is what Tarḫu-mimma, Nanizi, Maruwa, Yarrazalma, Pallā, Yarra-ziti the son of Tuttu, Yarra-ziti the son of Laḫina-ziti declared (on oath) before the god: “(May the gods destroy us,) if we have either sold or exchanged for profit the horses or mules of the queen.b We neither hitched them up for ourselves nor caused their death through abuse. Furthermore, we who are supervisors, if any one (of us) took for himself horses (or) mules, or [sold] it for profit, or exchanged it, or caused its death, [… …].

[Followed by seven badly broken lines]

§23    (iii.38) Kukku, the šalašḫa-man, is absent (and therefore unable to give testimony).

§24    (iii.39–48, iv.1–19a) Ḫapa-ziti, Kaššā, Tarwiššiya, Pallū, Kaška-muwa, Kunni, Magallū, Apattiti, Ḫuḫa-armati, Zuwā, Mutarki, Alalimmi, Šawuška-ziti, Arma-piya, Zidā, Alamūwa the boy, Tarwaški, Zuwā, (and) Šalwini — twenty (men) in all — (swore): “Regarding the chariots (with spoked) wheels, carts/wagons (with) disk wheels, silver, gold, (leather) shields, maces, bows, parzašša-arrows, bronze implements, large axes, hatchets, bronze swords, cloth, wall-hangings, (and) leather goods belonging to the queen which we have in custody: we have not taken anything for ourselves, we have not exchanged anything, nor have we hitched up a disk-wheeled chariot or a spoke-wheeled one. Rather, when we finish (using) it, we bring it back and replace it in the controlled stock. If we take garments (or) hangings, and exchange them, or leave them out, or if our superior has taken for himself spoke-wheeled chariots, disk-wheeled wagons, silver, gold, bronze items, maces, bows, arrows, garments, (or) hangings, or if he gives one of the king’s ‘wheels’ (i.e., a spoke-wheeled chariot?) in good condition to someone and takes three broken-down ones in exchange, or if in the future our superior takes something for himself, while we say nothing about it, or if in the future we take something for ourselves, (may the gods destroy us)!” (The queen then addresses the royal servants:) “Whatever I have previously entrusted to you of ‘old’ items (i.e., those no longer in active use), whether utensils, or spoke-wheeled chariots, garments, hangings, let that no longer be covered (under this oath you have taken). But now in the future you shall not take what gleams (?) (i.e., valuables as typified but not limited to gold, silver, etc.).”

§26    (iv.20–27) Thus says Arlawizzi: “In the presence of the deity I make the following statement of the facts. Whatever utensils Ibri-šarruma delivered to me I brought and delivered to Ura-Tarḫunta. But (may the gods strike me dead) if I broke open a box or broke a seal or took anything for myself or Ura-Tarḫunta took anything for himself and I said nothing about it.”

§27    (iv.28–34) Thus says Ḫuzziya, the Wood-Tablet Scribe: “Whatever utensils they gave to me sealed, I transferred in good condition. I did not break a seal, and I did not break open a box. I brought them here and delivered them to Ura-Tarḫunta. (May the gods strike me dead,) if Ura-Tarḫunta took anything for himself, and I did not report him.”

§28    (iv.35–47) Thus says Ukkura, the Queen’s Decurius: “When they sent me to Babylonia, I sealed the LEʾU-tablets that I had concerning the horses and mules. Also a receipt was not formalized. For that very reason I didn’t pay close attention. As soon as the horses and mules arrive, I will seal them in the same way. It was presumptuous of me, but it was not a deliberate offence. I didn’t just look the other way, saying: ‘Some things get lost, others don’t.’ I didn’t take a horse or mule for myself or give one to anyone else.

§29    (iv.48–51) The mules that they mention died. They released […]. [Yarra]-zalma took one mule for himself, and Maruwa also took one mule for himself.”


Text: KUB 13.35 + KUB 23.80 + KBo 16.62 (CTH 293). Edition: Werner 1967 3–20.



C. Accounts


1. Cult Inventories

Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.

Cult Inventories are administrative texts which were designed to keep records for royal use of the temples (both in Hattuša and in the provincial cities), their staff, the cult images found there, and the offerings and festivals held in fall and spring. They exist in several subsets. The first set, exemplified by KBo 2.1 (CTH 509) and edited by Carter 1962, place their emphasis on the various cities where temples and other cult installations were found, detailing all aspects of the cult and its equipment, but in summary fashion. A second type, exemplified by KUB 38.2, translated below, focus on the deities worshiped, and describe the images or cult objects intended to represent the deities. These Cult Image Descriptions are usually referred to under the German term Bildbeschreibungen.

City Inventories

Kbo 2.1 (CTH 509) (3.34)

Šuruwa (ii.9–20)

The former state (of the cult in the city Šuruwa): four deities in all —

one stela representing the Stormgod of Šuruwa,

one stela representing the Sungoddess,

one stela of Mt. Auwara,

one stela of the spring Šinaraši.

(The present state:) one iron bull-statue of one šekan in size (representing the Stormgod of Šuruwa),

one silver stela of the Sungoddess, on which rays are depicted in silver,

one club with a sun disk and a crescent as ornamentation and on which is one iron figure of a standing man one šekan in size (representing the Mountain-god Auwara),

one iron statue of a seated woman the size of a fist (representing the female deified spring Šinaraši).

Four deities of the city Šuruwa which His Majesty commissioned to be made.

(Šuruwa has) ten festivals (each year): five in the fall and five in the spring. (The offerings for each festival are) 12 sheep, 6 PARISU-measures and two SŪTU of flour, [?] vessels of beer, 3 PARISU of wheat for the temple storage vessels.

(Šuruwa has) one temple built. Piyama-tarawa is in charge of the silver and gold.

Wattarwa (ii.21–31)

(The state of the cult in the city Wattarwa:) one stela representing the Stormgod of Wattarwa and one statue, plated with tin, one and a half šekan in size. This latter shows a standing man wearing a helmet, holding a club in his right hand and a copper ḫenzu in his left hand. This is the former state.

His Majesty had an iron bull-statue of one šekan height made.

For the Stormgod of Wattarwa the daily offering is as follows: one handful of flour, one cup of beer.

(Wattarwa has) two festivals (each year): one in the fall and one in the spring.

His Majesty has instituted (as the offerings for each festival) one bull, 14 sheep, 5 PARISU and 4 SŪTU of flour, 4 vessels of low-grade beer, 10 vessels of regular beer, 1 ḫuppar vessel of beer, and 3 SŪTU of wheat for the temple storage vessels. The city shall give them.

(Wattarwa has) one temple built. The priest has fled.

Ḫuršalašši (ii.32–39)

The former state (of the cult in the city Ḫuršalašši): (the deities are presented by) 1 bronze wakšur-vessel, 1 stela (representing the female) deified spring Ḫapuriyata.

His Majesty has made 1 iron bull statue 1 šekan in size, 1 small iron statue of a seated woman representing the spring Ḫapuriyata.

(The city Ḫursalašši has) 3 festivals (each year): one in the fall and two in the spring.

(Offerings for each festival are:) 1 bull, 4 sheep, 4 PARISU and 1 SŪTU of flour, 1 vessel of low-grade beer, 11 vessels of regular beer. The city will give (these things).

(The town has) 1 temple built. The priest has fled.

Aššaratta (ii.40–45)

Stormgod of Aššaratta: one stela from earlier times.

His Majesty has made: 1 iron bull statue 1 šekan in size.

(The town has) 2 festivals (each year): one in the fall and one in the spring.

His Majesty has instituted (as offerings for each festival): 1 bull, 4 sheep, 3 PARISU of flour, 1 vessel of low-grade beer, 8 vessels of regular beer, and 3 SŪTU (of wheat) for the temple storage vessels.

(The town has) 1 temple built. Nattaura is in charge of the silver.

Šaruwalašši (iii.1–6)

The former state (of the cult in Šaruwalašši): The Stormgod of Šaruwalašši is represented by 1 stela.

His Majesty has made: one iron bull statue one šekan in size.

(The town has) 2 festivals (each year): one in the fall and one in the spring.

His Majesty has instituted (as offerings for each festival): one bull, 4 sheep, 2 PARISU of flour, 6 vessels of beer, and 3 SŪTU of wheat for the temple storage vessels.

(The town has) one temple built. But it has no priest yet.

Šanantiya (iv.1–16)

The former state (of the cult of) [the Stormgod] of Šanantiya: 3 sun disks of silver, of which one sun disk is of iron (i.e., 2 of silver, one of iron), [one] wakšur vessel of bronze, one “thunder horn.”

His Majesty has had 2 (representations of) deities made: one iron bull standing on all fours, 2 šekan in size, whose eyes (i.e., face) is plated with gold, one silver statue of a seated woman, one šekan in size, under which are two iron mountain sheep, under which is an iron base, (and) ten gold rays, representing the Sungoddess of Šanantiya.

[The daily offering is] one handful of flour.

There are 8 festivals each year: 2 in the fall, [2] in the spring, one festival of the rain, one propitiation (?)-festival, one festival of the sickle, one ‘mercy’-festival. And His Majesty has instituted in addition 2 more festivals: one festival of the entry of the new (priest), and one festival of […].

(Yearly offerings:) 3 bulls, of which [His Majesty instituted] one bull, 93 sheep, 33 PARISU of wine for the temple storage vessels, of which His Majesty instituted 2 SŪTU [of wine for the temple storage vessels]. The city provides (these) for him (i.e., for the Stormgod).

The temple is not yet built. The king was able (to care) for the Stormgod of Šanantiya.


Text: KBo 2.1. Edition: Carter 1962:51–73.

Cult Image Descriptions

The posture of the images and the objects they hold in their hands are illustrated by many cult figures depicted on reliefs and in particular by the great relief scene on the walls of Yazılıkaya (Laroche 1952; Beran 1962; Bittel, Naumann, and Otto 1967; Laroche 1969; Güterbock 1975; Masson 1981; Güterbock 1982). For a convenient line drawing of the procession in a popular book see Gurney 1990:118f. figure 8.

Kub 38.2 (Bildbeschr. Text 1) (3.35)

(i.7–20) IŠTAR (Šauška) [a cult-image …] seated; from (her) shoulders [wings protrude;] in (her) right hand [she holds] a gold cup; [in her left hand] she holds a gold (hieroglyphic sign for) “Good (ness).” […] Below her is a silver-plated base. [Under] the base lies a silver-plated awiti-animal. To the right [and left] of the awiti-animal’s wings stand Ninatta and Kulitta, their silver eyes plated with gold. And under the awiti-animal is a wooden base. Her daily offering is “thick bread” made from a handful of flour, and a clay cupful of wine. Her monthly festival includes Ninatta and Kulitta together. She has (at present) no priest. (Another of her images is) one gold vessel in the form of and ox’s head and neck.

(i.21–27, ii.1–3) Šauška of the Battle Cry4: a cult image made of gold, a standing man; from his/her shoulders wings protrude; in his/her right hand he/she holds a gold axe; in his/her left hand he/she holds a gold (hieroglyphic sign for) “Good (ness)”; standing on his/her awiti-animal, having a silver-plated tail7 and a gold-plated chest; but [behind], to the right and left of its wings stand Ninatta and Kulitta. […] /His/Her [two festivals] are in fall [and spring]. She has no monthly festival […]

(ii.4–7) [Karmah]ili: a cult image (of) a seated man; [his eyes are] gold-plated; [in his right hand] he holds a club. Beneath him is a silver base. The small ruined cities celebrate his [two festivals] in fall and spring. His has no servant.

(ii.8–13) The Stormgod of Heaven: cult image (of) a seated man, gold-plated; in his right hand he holds a club; in his left hand he holds a gold (hieroglyphic sign for) “Good (ness).” He stands9 on two silver-plated mountains (represented as) men. Beneath him is a silver base. Two silver animal-shaped vessels (are there). His two festivals are in fall and spring. [They give it] from the house [of the king.]

(ii.14–16) The Stormgod of the House: (His cult emblem is) a silver ox’s head and neck including the front quarters kneeling. His two festivals are [in fall] and spring. [They] give (it) from the house of the king.

(ii.17–23) The Warrior-god “Zababa”: a silver cult-image of a man, [standing]; in his right hand he holds a club; in his left [hand] he holds a shield. Beneath him there stands a lion figure, and under the lion a silver-plated base. The men of Kammama celebrate two festivals in fall and spring. One silver za.ḪUM-vessel. He has no servant.

(ii.24–26, iii.1–4) The Tutelary Deity (dlamma): a gold-plated cult image of a standing man with gold-plated eyes. In his right hand he holds a silver lance; in his left hand he holds a shield. He stands on a stag. Beneath him is a silver-plated base. The ruined cities of Dala celebrate his two festivals in fall and spring. He has no servant.

(iii.5–8) The Sungod of Heaven: silver cult image of a seated man. On his head is a silver … ; beneath him is a wooden base. The men of Pada celebrate two festivals (for him) in fall and spring.

(iii.9–11) Stormgod of the (Royal) House: a silver (vessel in the shape of an) ox’s head and neck with the front quarters in standing position. The men of the city celebrate his two festivals in fall and spring (with) one silver za.ḪUM vessel.

(iii.12–17) Ḫatepuna: cult image of a woman, veiled (?) [like] a …, her eyes plated with gold. She holds in her right hand a silver cup. Beneath her is a wooden base. The men of […] celebrate her two festivals in fall and spring. She has a šiwanzanni-priestess.

(iii.18–20) Mt. Išdaḫarunuwa: a ḫutuši-vessel for wine silver-plated on the inside, one silver ašzeri-vessel. The men of Pada (celebrate his two festivals) in fall and spring.

(iii.21–24) Ḫegur-house of Temmuwa: likewise a ḫutuši-vessel for wine silver-plated on the inside. The men of Dala ce[lebrate] two festivals in fall and spring.

[The tablet breaks at this point]


Text: KUB 38.2. Edition: von Brandenstein 1943:4–11, with commentary on 23–45. See the tabular presentation of the data for each deity on his foldout tables 1 and 2. Discussions: Jakob-Rost 1963, 1963; Güterbock 1964; Orthmann 1964; Güterbock 1983a.

2. Votive Records

Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.

This category of texts records vows made by members of the royal family in order to secure favors from the gods and goddesses. The earliest example in the corpus dates to the reign of Muwatalli II. But the vast majority of preserved examples date from the reign of his second successor, Ḫattušili III. The most frequent person making these vows is Ḫattušili’s famous consort, Queen Puduḫepa. The texts often indicate the god or goddess to whom the vow is made and the city in which it was made in the course of the royal couple’s travels to preside at regional festivals. The items most frequently promised to the deity were items of precious metal (gold, silver, etc.), of which the weight is given as well, but not the dimensions. Many (but by no means all) such entries conclude with a notation as to whether or not the vowed items have been given yet. Outside of this text category we know of examples of dreams which gave rise to vows and how they were fulfilled. The best-known example is the dream in which Šawuška sent Prince Muwatalli to his father Muršili, promising that the seriously ill Prince Ḫattušili would recover and live to a ripe old age provided that Muršili would devote him to Šawuška’s priesthood. This Muršili did, and Ḫattušili III in fact lived to an advanced age (cf. COS 1.77, §3). The complete corpus as it was known at the time was edited in the Dutch Ph.D. dissertation of de Roos 1984 (English summary on pp. 175–180), who notes in his comparative survey of the major cultures of the ancient Near East that the closest parallels to the Hittite vow texts are to be found in Ugarit and in ancient Israel (pp. 178f.). The following text illustrates the type. The votary gifts always match something in the request: bath house, ear, etc. The same procedure is seen in 1 Sam 6:4, where the Philistine lords bribe Yahweh to remove the plague of mice and tumors by giving him gold images of the same, and five in number because of the five Philistine cities affected.

Kub 15.1 (CTH 584.1) (3.36)

(i.1–11) Ḫebat of the city Uda. Dream of the queen. When …, the queen in the dream vowed to Ḫebat of Uda as follows: “If you, O goddess, my lady, will preserve the life of His Majesty, i.e., you will not allow him to come to harm, I will make for Ḫebat a gold statuette, and I will make for her a gold rosette, and they shall call it ‘Ḫebat’s rosette.’ I will also make a gold toggle pin for your breast, and they shall call it ‘the goddess’s toggle pin.’ ”

(i.12–14) Dream of the queen. In my dream Ḫebat asked for a necklace with sun-disks and lapis lazuli. We inquired further by oracle, and it was determined that (this Ḫebat was) the Ḫebat of Uda.

(i.15–18) Dream. In the dream the king said to me: “Ḫebat says, ‘In the land of Ḫatti let them make zizzaḫi for me, but in the land of Mukiš let them make wine for me.’ ” Further investigation by oracle will be made.

[The rest of the column is too fragmentary for coherent translation.]

(ii.1–4) In a dream [the king] made the following vow to the king’s deity za.ba4.ba4 (warrior god): If you, O god, my lord, will preserve my life, I will plate for you a stela and an altar.

(ii.5–10) Šarruma of Urikina. Since in a dream some young men molested (lit. shut in) the queen behind the bath house in the city Iyamma, in the dream the queen vowed one silver (model of a) bath house to Šarruma of Urikina.

(ii.11–12) The queen vowed to Šarrumanni of Urikina one gold zi-ornament of unspecified weight, and one silver zi of 10 shekels weight.

(ii.13–24) As these curses were determined by oracular investigation, now because it is impossible to undo them, while I look after that matter, and while I complete the offerings, if Šarruma? of Urikina (?), my lord, [will …] to/for His Majesty, […] … […], I will make for Šarruma, my lord, one silver shield trimmed with gold of unspecified weight.

(ii.25–27) And if you, Šarruma, my lord, incline your ear to me in this matter, i.e., you hear me, I will give to Šarruma one gold ear of 10 shekels weight, and one silver ear of one mina weight.

(ii.28–36) And if you two Šarrumanni-deities and one Allanzunni-deity, who have emerged from the deity’s knees, if you hear this my plea, and relay it (favorably) to Šarruma, so that no evil matter shall befall His Majesty, then while he is undoing these curses (with offerings), I will make for each of the two Šarrumanni-deities and the one Allanzunni-deity one gold ear and one silver ear of unspecified weight.

(ii.37–41) Šarruma of the city Layuna. As in a dream in the city of Layuna certain young men were molesting the queen behind the bath house, in the dream the queen vowed to Šarruma of Layuna one gold (model of a) bath house.

(ii.42–44) A dream of the queen. Šarruma spoke to me in a dream. But on top of the mountain(s) he will give food in 12 (cult) locations. Further investigation by oracle will be made.

(ii.45–52) In a dream the queen made the following plea to (the goddess named) the Queen of Tarḫuntašša for the days of the Festival of Torches: If His Majesty doesn’t get any worse on my account, I will [sacrifice to] the Queen of Tarḫuntašša […] …

[Several paragraphs are too broken to translate here.]

(iii.7–16) [Dream of the queen.] When the matter of the deity Kurwašu […], as Kurwašu spoke to the queen in a dream: “That matter regarding your husband which you hold in your heart, he will live. I will give to him 100 years (of life)!” In the dream the queen made the following vow: “If you will do that for me, and my husband will live, I will give to the deity three large storage jars: one filled with oil, one with honey, and one with fruit.

(iii.17–21) His Majesty made the following vow to the goddess Kataḫḫa: “If the city of Ankuwa survives, i.e., it isn’t totally burned, I will make for Kataḫḫa one silver (model of a) city of unspecified weight, and I will give one ox and 8 sheep.”

(iii.22–26) The queen made the following vow to the Stormgod of Heaven: “If the city of Ankuwa survives, i.e., it isn’t totally burned, I will make for the Stormgod of Heaven one silver (model of a) city of unspecified weight, and I will give one ox and 8 sheep.”

(iii.27–31) His Majesty made the following vow to the Stormgod of Zippalanda: “If the city of Ankuwa survives, i.e., it isn’t totally burned, I will make for the Stormgod of Zippalanda one silver (model of a) city of unspecified weight, and I will give one ox and 8 sheep.”

(iii.48–53) [The queen] made the following vow [on behalf of] the royal prince, the king of Išuwa: “If the prince recovers from this illness, I will [… …] and I will give to the deity on behalf of the prince, the king of Išuwa, a sword, a dagger (?), and one silver zi-ornament of unspecified weight.

[Most of the rest of the text is too badly broken for translation.]


Text: KUB 15.1. Edition: de Roos 1984:184–197, 324–336.

3. Archive Shelf Lists

Harry A. Hoffner, Jr.

These texts, also called “catalogs,” list the tablets in the state archives of Ḫattuša. They indicate the author and/or title/incipit of the work, how many tablets it comprised, the tablet’s form (ordinary tablets called DUB, special tablets called im.gÍd.da “long tablet”), and whether or not all known tablets were found. All such tablets were found in Boğazköy itself; to date none has been reported in Maşat (Tapikka), Kuşakli (Šarišša), or Ortaköy (Šapinuwa). What is translated below is only a small selection to give an impression of these texts. They are identified by the find spot, if that information is available. A new and complete edition is being prepared by Paola Dardano for the series Studien zu den Boğazköy Texten.

From Büyükkale, Building A, Rooms 1–2 (3.37)

(i.18–20) One tablet, whose composition is not complete, entitled “[If/When …] his zi’s are constantly … -ing, this incantation is intended for him. The word of Ḫutupi, the physician.” The second tablet (on which the composition would have been completed) is missing.

(i.21–22) Tablet Two of (the Ritual for) the Tutelary Deity of the Hunting Bag, containing the completion (of the composition) — the Tablet One is missing — (with the incipit) “When the king himself worships the Tutelary Deity of the Hunting Bag.”

(i.23) Tablet Two of the city of Turmitta, with the composition finished, of the invocation of the fate-deities.

(i.24) [Tablet] One of the invocation of the god Telipinu.

(i.25–26) [Tablet One], complete of “When in Arinna […] seats […]”

(i.27) [Tablet One,] complete of the invocation of the Sungod (dess). (i.28–29) [Tablet One,] complete of the invocation entitled “If/When a dead person is evoked for someone”.

(i.30–32) [Tablet One, complete:] “When in the fall the holy priest drives […] to his house in order to unseal [the temple storage jars].”


Text: KUB 30.60 + KBo 14.70. Edition: Laroche 1971:153–193. Studies: Laroche 1949; Otten 1986; Güterbock 1991–92; Košak 1995.

From Büyükkale, Building A, Rooms 4–5 (3.38)

(B ii.3–4) [Tablet?: “When] (they perform) for IŠTAR of Mt. Amana the festival of the doves, the festival of lamentation, and the festival of birth (?)”

(B ii.5–7) [Tablet ?.] The ritual (lit. word) of Ammiḫatna, Mati and Tulpiya: “[If] they find some sacrilege in a holy temple, this is how they re-consecrate it.”

(B ii.8) [Tablet?]: “If the Great King has a fit of anger in Ḫattuša”.

(A ii.8–10) [Tablet?:] “If a person is not consecrated, […] a mouse [in the …] of the Stone House, or (if) he is consecrated, and someone [… -s] this to him […]”

(A ii.11–13) Two tablets: “When they build a new temple, and pound [the kupti] in”, and one tablet: “When [the …] pounds the kupti in […]”

(A ii.14–17) Two tablets, the ritual (lit. word) of Eḫal-Teššub, the exorcist from Aleppo: “[If a man and woman] are not in harmony […] beforehand, or if [a man and a woman] are always quarreling, or if they keep having bad [dreams], then the exorcist [performs] this ritual.” (Composition) [finished.]5

(A ii.18) One tablet: “If (the consequence of) serious perjury (or: ‘a powerful oath’) seizes a person,” [finished].

(A ii.19–28) Three tablets. The ritual of Yarinu, the man from the city Ḫaršumna: “If […,] or if he [… s] somehow into impurity, or] his years are ‘troubled’, or if he is designated (lit. ‘spoken’) [for …], or if [he keeps seeing] bad [dreams], or if he has taken an oath (falsely?), or if [his] father and mother have cursed him before the gods, b or if […] a wife of second rank, or if some wife of second rank [committed (?)] an impure act with him, …”


Text: A = KUB 30.51 + 45 + HSM 3644; B = KUB 30.58 + 44 (+) KBo 7.74). Edition: Laroche 1971:159ff. Studies: Laroche 1949; Otten 1986; Güterbock 1991–92; Košak 1995.

From Büyükkale, Building A (3.39)

(iv.3–5) Tablet Two: “When the king, queen and princes give substitutes to the Sungoddess of the Netherworld.” (Composition) finished. We didn’t find the first tablet.

(iv.6–7) Tablet One: The word of Annana, woman from Zigazḫur: “When I invoke the deity Miyatanzipa.” (Composition) finished.

(iv.8–10) One “long tablet”: “When the singer libates in the temple of the deity Inar, breaks thick loaves, and recites in Ḫattic as follows.” (Composition) finished.

(iv.11–13) Tablet One of the zintuḫi-women. How they speak before the king in the temple of the Sungod (dess). (Composition) finished.

(iv.14) One “long tablet”: The songs of the men of Ištanuwa. (Composition) finished.

(iv.15–18) Tablet One; a treaty. How Išputaḫšu, King of the land of Kizzuwatna, and Telepinu, King of the Land of Ḫatti, concluded a treaty. (Composition) finished.

(iv.19–24) One “long tablet”: The word(s) of Ammihatna, Tulpiya, and Mati, the purapši-men of the Land of Kizzuwatna: “If they find any sacrilege in the temple, the holy place, this is its ritual;” (composition) finished.


Text: KUB 30.42 rev. iv.2ff. Edition: Laroche 1971:163ff. Studies: Laroche 1949; Otten 1986; Güterbock 1991–92; Košak 1995.

From Büyükkale, Building E (3.40)

(iii.2–3) “When they give [a festival (?)] in Šapinuwa to [the Stormgod (?)] in the third year.”

(iii.4) “When [they draw] from the road the Mother goddesses of the (king’s?) body.”

(iii.5–6) “When they celebrate the Spring Festival in Kulella for the Stormgod of Kul[ella].”

(iii.7–9) The word of Kantuzzi[li, Chief of the] priests (and) Prince: “When they pour […], and they call a little […], how they put down […] at his feet in the temple;” the ritual […]

(iii.10–13) The word of Eḫal-Teššub, the exorcist from Aleppo: “When a person’s male and female slaves are [not] in harmony, or a man and woman are not in harmony, or a man and woman are having bad dreams, how one [offers] to the deity the ritual of alienation from a evil person.”

(iii.14) “When someone offers ḫarnalianza to the Goddess of the Night.”

(iii.15) “Whenever they move the gods from their (usual) places.”

(iii.16–17) “How from Ḫattuša one goes to renew the Tutelary Deity of Ḫalinzuwa and Tuḫuppiya.”

(iii.18) “When someone [… -es] before the deity Alawayammi.”

(iii.19–20) “When the king worships the Stormgod of the Army, the Overseer of the thousands of the Field and the dignitaries give cattle and sheep.”

(iii.21–22) “When from Šamuḫa the IŠTAR of the Battlefield comes along with His Majesty, how the ritual material (ḫazziwi) comes on the return trip.”

[Rest of the column fragmentary]


Text: KUB 30.56 iii.2–22. Edition: Laroche 1971:163ff. Studies: Laroche 1949; Otten 1986; Güterbock 1991–92; Košak 1995.

Hittite Bibliography

Beckman, G. M.

1983    Hittite Birth Rituals. StBoT 29. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

1996    Hittite Diplomatic Texts. SBLWAW 7. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

Beran, T.

1962    “Das Felsheiligtum von Yazïlïkaya. Deutung und Datierung.” Zeitschrift für Kulturaustausch. Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen Stuttgart 12/2–3:146–152.

Bernabé, A., and J. A. Αlvarez-Pedrosa.

2000    Historia y Leyes de Los Hititas. Textos del Imperio Antiguo. El Código. Madrid: Akal.

Bittel, K.

1976    Die Hethiter. Die Kunst Anatoliens vom Ende des 3. bis zum Anfang des 1. Jahrtausends vor Christus. München: C. H. Beck.

Bittel, K., R. Naumann, and H. Otto.

1967    Yazïlïkaya: Architektur, Felsbilder, Inschriften und Kleinfunde. Neudruck der Ausg. 1941. ed. WVDOG 61. Osnabrück: Zeller.

Boley, J.

2000    Dynamics of Transformation in Hittite. The Hittite Particles -kan, -asta and -san. IBS 97. Innsbruck: Institut für Sprachwissenschaft der Universität Innsbruck.

Bossert, H. T.

1957    “Die Schicksalsgöttinnen der Hethiter.” WO 2:349–359.

1958    “Sie schrieben auf Holz.” Pp. 67–79 in Minoica. Festschrift zum 80 Geburtstag von Johannes Sundwall. Ed. by E. Grumach. Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin. Schriften der Sektion für Altertumswissenschaft 12. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.

Carter, C. W.

1962    Hittite Cult Inventories. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Chicago.

Cornil, P.

1987    “Textes de Boghazköy. Liste des lieux de trouvaille.” Hethitica 7:5–72.

de Roos, J.

1984    “Hettitische Geloften. Een teksteditie van Hettitische geloften met inleiding, vertaling en critische noten.” Ph.D. dissertation, Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Edel, E.

1978    Der Brief des ägyptischen Wesirs Pašijara an den HethiterkönigHattušili und verwandte Keilschriftbriefe. NAWG 1. Phil.-hist. Kl. Jahrgang 1978, Nr. 4. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

1994    Die ägyptisch-hethitische Korrespondenz aus Boghazköi in babylonischer und hethitischer Sprache. ARWAW 77. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.

Gurney, O. R.

1940    “Hittite Prayers of Mursili II.” AAA 27:3–163.

1990    The Hittites. Second edition with revisions. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

Güterbock, H. G.

1939    “Das Siegeln bei den Hethitern.” Pp. 26–36 in Studies Koschaker.

1955    “Zu einigen hethitischen Komposita.” Pp. 63–68 in Studies Sommer.

1957    “Review of J. Friedrich, Hethitisches Wörterbuch (Heidelberg 1952).” Oriens 10:350–362.

1964    “Religion und Kultus der Hethiter.” Pp. 54–75 in Neuere Hethiterforschung. Ed. by G. Walser. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner.

1975    “Die Inschriften.” Pp. 167–187 in Das hethitische Felsheiligtum Yazïlïkaya. Ed. by K. Bittel, J. Boessneck, B. Damm, H. G. Güterbock, H. Hauptmann, R. Naumann and W. Schirmer. Berlin: Gebr. Mann.

1982    Les hiéroglyphes de Yazïlïkaya: A propos d’un travail récent. Institut francais d’études anatoliennes. Paris: Editions Recherche sur les Civilisations.

1983a    “Hethitische Götterbilder und Kultobjekte.” Pp. 203–217 in Studies Bittel.

1983b    “A Hurro-Hittite Hymn to Ishtar.” JAOS 103:155–164.

1991–92    “Bemerkungen über die im Gebäude A auf Büyükkale gefundenen Tontafeln.” AfO 38–39:1–10.

Haas, V.

1994    Geschichte der hethitischen Religion. HdO 1. Abteilung. 15. Band. Leiden: Brill.

Haase, R.

1984    Texte zum hethitischen Recht. Eine Auswahl. Wiesbaden: Reichert.

Hagenbuchner, A.

1989    Die Korrespondenz der Hethiter. 2. Teil. THeth 16. Heidelberg: Carl Winter.

Hoffner, H. A., Jr.

1967    “Second Millennium Antecedents to the Hebrew ʾÔḆ.” JBL 86:385–401.

1969    “The ‘City of Gold’ and the ‘City of Silver.’ ” IEJ 19:178–180.

1974    Alimenta Hethaeorum: Food Production in Hittite Asia Minor. AOS 55. New Haven: American Oriental Society.

1997    “The Hittite Laws.” Pp. 211–247 in Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. 2nd Ed. Ed. by M. T. Roth. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

1997    The Laws of the Hittites. A Critical Edition. Documenta et Monumenta Orientis Antiqui 23. Leiden: Brill.

1998    Hittite Myths. Ed. by S. Parker. 2nd revised ed. SBLWAW 2. Atlanta: Scholars Press.

2001    “The Disabled and Infirm in Hittite Society.” Pp. in EI 27 (Miriam and Hayim Tadmor Volume). Ed. by A. Ben-Tor, I. Ephal and P. Machinist. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

2002    “The Treatment and Long-term Use of Persons Captured in Battle According to the Maşat Texts.” Pp. 61–71 in Recent Developments in Hittite Archaeology and History. Ed. by H. G. Güterbock, H. A. Hoffner, Jr. and K. A. Yener. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns.

Hogarth, D. G.

1920    Hittite Seals. Oxford.

Houwink ten Cate, Ph. H. J.

1998    “The Scribes of the Maşat Letters and the gal dub.sar(.meš) of the Hittite Capital during the Fnal Phase of the Early Empire Period.” Pp. 157–178 in Studies Römer.

Jakob-Rost, L.

1963    “Zu den hethitischen Bildbeschreibungen, I.” MIO 8:161–217.

1963    “Zu den hethitischen Bildbeschreibungen, II.” MIO 9:175–239.

Kammenhuber, A.

1964    “Die hethitischen Vorstellungen von Seele und Leib, Herz und Leibesinnerem, Kopf und Person.” ZA 56:150–222.

Košak, S.

1995    “The Palace Library ‘Building A’ on Büyükkale.” Pp. 173–180 in Studies Houwink ten Cate.

Laroche, E.

1949    “La bibliothêque de Hattusa.” ArOr 17/2:7–23.

1952    “Le Panthéon de Yazïlïkaya.” JCS 6:114–123.

1969    “Les dieux de Yazïlïkaya.” RHA XXVII/84–85:61ff.

1971    CTH 75.

Masson, E.

1981    Le pantheon de Yazïlïkaya: Nouvelles lectures. Paris: Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes.

McMahon, J. G.

1991    The Hittite State Cult of the Tutelary Deities. Ed. by T. A. Holland. AS 25. Chicago: The Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago.

Melchert, H. C.

1999    “Hittite tuk (kan)zi- ‘cultivation, breeding’.” Ktema 24:17–23.

Neef, R.

2001    “Getreide im Silokomplex an der Poternenmauer (Boğazköy)—Erste Aussagen zur Landwirtschaft.” AA.

Nougayrol, J.

1956    PRU IV.

Oppenheim, A. L.

1956    The Interpretation of Dreams in the Ancient Near East. TAPS NS 46.3. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.

Orthmann, W.

1964    “Hethitische Götterbilder.” Pp. 221–229, plates 23–30 in Studies Moortgat.

Otten, H.

1986    “Archive und Bibliotheken in Hattuša.” Pp. 184–190 in Cuneiform Archives and Libraries. RAI 30. Ed. by K. R. Veenhof. Leiden and Istanbul: Netherlands Institute for the Near East.

Otten, H., and J. SiegelovΑ.

1970    “Die hethitischen Gulš-Gottheiten und die Erschaffung der Menschen.” AfO 23:32–38.

Polvani, A. M.

1988    La terminologia dei minerali nei testi ittiti. Parte prima. Eothen 3. Firenze: Edizione Librarie Italiane Estere (ELITE). Edizioni librarie italiane estere.

Popko, M.

1995    Religions of Asia Minor. Trans. by I. Zych. Warsaw: Academic Publications Dialog.

Puhvel, J.

1997    Hittite Etymological Dictionary. Volume 4: K. Ed. by W. Winter and R. A. Rhodes. Trends in Linguistics. Documentation 5. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

Rieken, E.

1999    Untersuchungen zur nominalen Stammbildung des Hethitischen. StBoT 44. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Seeher, J.

2000    “Getreidelagerung in unterirdischen Grosspeichern: Zur Methode und ihrer Anwendung im 2. Jahrtausend v. Chr. am Beispiel der Befunde in Ḫattuša.” SMEA 42:261–301.

Sommer, F.

1932    Die Ahhijava-Urkunden. ABAW Phil.-hist. Abt., NF 6. München: Verlag der Bayerischen Akkadamie der Wissenschaften.

Tani, N.

1999    “Osservazioni sui processi ittiti per malversazione.” Pp. 167–192 in Studi e Testi II. Firenze: LoGisma editore.

van den Hout, T. P. J.

1995    Der Ulmitešub-Vertrag, Eine prosopographische Untersuchung. StBoT 38. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

von Brandenstein, C.-G.

1943    Hethitische Götter nach Bildbeschreibungen in Keilschrifttexten. MVAG 46. Band, 2. Heft. Hethitische Texte. Heft 8. Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs Verlag.

Werner, R.

1964–69    “Gerichtsprotokolle, hettitische.” RlA 3:209–211.

1967    Hethitische Gerichtsprotokolle. StBoT 4. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

West Semitic Archival Documents



A. Letters


1. Hebrew Letters

The Meṣad Ḥashavyahu (Yavneh Yam) Ostracon (3.41)

Dennis Pardee

Two archaeological campaigns in 1960 at the site of Meṣad Ḥashavyahu, located about a mile south of Yavneh Yam, unearthed seven Hebrew inscriptions, the longest of which was a fifteen-line text written on an ostracon. In a Hebrew that is very close to standard Biblical Hebrew prose, a harvest worker pleads with his superior that a confiscated garment be returned. Apparently the worker was accused by an overseer of not having furnished his quota. He claims to have done so and requests the return of his garment, out of pity if for no other reason.

The plea is presented in direct speech and, by the definition for an epistolary document as “a written document effecting communication between two or more persons who cannot communicate orally” (Pardee et al. 1982:2), this text has been classed among the Hebrew letters (ibid., p. 23). It lacks the regular epistolary formulae, however, and the identification as a letter has been questioned (Smelik 1992). In any case, this document clearly belongs to a sub-category of texts consisting of a plea to a superior for the return of what the plaintiff considers to be wrongfully seized property (Westbrook 1988:30–35; Dobbs-Allsopp 1994). Because the definition of a letter cited above is functional, whereas the description just given is formal (cf. Dobbs-Allsopp 1994:54, n. 10), both classifications are applicable and it is somewhat artificial to reject one in favor of the other.

The editor hypothesized that the documents should be assigned to the time of Josiah and taken as evidence for a previously unrecorded Judaean control of the coastal area (Naveh 1960:139), and this opinion has become widespread in works on the history of the late seventh century bce. Other proposals have been made, for example a Judaean occupation under Jehoiakim (Wenning 1989), or Judaean mercenaries serving in an Egyptian fortress (Naʾaman 1991:44–47). If we assume that the plea was addressed to the official in the language of the ostracon itself, i.e., without the benefit of translation, that official was at the very least a Hebrew speaker.

The text does not provide enough details to allow a precise identification of the principal personages: Was the official ({šr} = /śar/) the local governor, or a lower military or administrative official? Was the harvest worker a servant, a slave, or a freeman completing a corvée responsibility? Was the one who seized the garment part of the official’s administration or did he belong to another chain of command? The biblical requirement for the return of a confiscated garment (Exod 22:25–26; Deut 24:12–15, 17) is mentioned in the context of a pledge for a loan; because the circumstances of this case are different, it raises the question of how widely the moral requirement not to keep a distrained garment may have been construed (cf. Deut 24:17).

The plea for a hearing (lines 1–2)

May the official, my lord, hear the plea1 of his servant.

Self-identification (lines 2–4)

Your servant is working in the harvest; your servant was at Ḥaṣar-Asam (when the following incident occurred).

The circumstances of the confiscation (lines 4–9)

Your servant did his reaping, finished, and stored (the grain) a few days ago3 before stopping (work). When your servant had finished (his) reaping and had stored it a few days ago, Hoshayahu ben Shabay came and took your servant’s garment. When I had finished my reaping, at that time, a few days ago, he took your servant’s garment.

Possible witnesses cited (lines 10–12)

All my companions will vouch for me, all who were reaping with me in the heat of the sun:e my companions will vouch for me (that) truly I am guiltless of any in[fractionf].

The specific request (lines 12–15)

[ (So) please return] my garment. If the official6 does not consider it an obligation to return [your servant’s garment, then have] pityi upon him [and return] your servant’s [garment] from that motivation. You must not remain silent [when your servant is without his garment].


Text, translations and studies: Booij 1986; Cross 1962; Dobbs-Allsopp 1994; Lindenberger 1994; Naʾaman 1991; Naveh 1960; 1962; 1964; Pardee 1978a; Pardee, Sperling, Whitehead, Dion 1982; Parker 1997; Smelik 1992; Wenning 1989; Westbrook 1988.

Lachish Ostraca (3.42)

Dennis Pardee

Some thirty-six inscriptions have been discovered at Tell ed-Duwêr/Tel Lachish, including Proto-Canaanite inscriptions, inscribed seals and weights, several Egyptian inscriptions, and an Aramaic inscription on a Persian-period altar (for a recent overview with bibliography, see Pardee 1997c). The so-called “Lachish Letters,” nineteen inscribed ostraca discovered in 1935 and 1938 and published rapidly by Torczyner (1938, 1940) are the best known of these texts, for several are relatively long and well preserved and of great interest from a variety of perspectives.

At least twelve of these nineteen texts are letters, of which the six best-preserved are translated here; one is a list of names; several are too poorly preserved for identification. The letters are at least partially homogeneous, for five of the ostraca are sherds from the same vessel (L. Harding apud Torczyner 1938:184). Whether this means that the documents are drafts of letters written on the site and sent elsewhere (Yadin 1981) is open to debate (Rainey 1987; Parker 1994). They are generally dated to the period before the fall of Judah (586 bce), perhaps in 589, and they provide glimpses of the workings of the royal administration, primarily military, in this period shortly before the Babylonian exile. Because they are letters, they also give precious insights into the personal aspects of these administrative workings.

From the perspective of the history of discovery, the Lachish inscriptions were the first cohesive body of original texts from the pre-exilic period in Hebrew and they were therefore very important in providing data on all aspects of the Hebrew of that period: palaeography, grammar, rhetoric, and, specifically, epistolary usages.

Lachish 2: Thanks and Good Wishes (3.42A)

Salutation (lines 1–2)

To my lord Yaush. May Yahweh3 give you good news a at this very time.

Humble Thanks for Being Remembered (lines 3–5)

Who is your servant (but) a dog b that my lord should remember his servant? May Yahweh give my lord first knowledge7 of anything you do not already know.

Lachish 3: Complaints and Information (3.42B)

Salutation (lines 1–3)

Your servant Hoshayahu (hereby) reports to my lord Yaush. May Yahweh give you the very best possible news.8

Complaint and Self-Defense (lines 4–13)

And now, d please explain to your servant the meaning of the letter10 which you sent to your servant yesterday evening. For your servant has been sick at heart f ever since you sent (that letter) to your servant. In it my lord said: “Don’t you know how to read a letter?” As Yahweh lives, no one has ever tried to read me a letter! Moreover, whenever any letter comes to me and I have read it, I can repeat it down to the smallest detail.

Military Information (lines 13–18)

Now your servant has received the following information: General Konyahu12 son of Elnatan has moved south in order to enter Egypt. He has sent (messengers) to fetch Hodavyahu son of Aḥiyahu and his men from here.

A Prophet’s Letter (lines 19–21)

(Herewith) I am also sending to my lord the letter of Ṭobyahu, servant of the king, which came to Shallum son of Yada from the prophet and which says “Beware.” i

Lachish 4: Military Reports (3.42C)

Salutation (lines 1)

May Yahweh give you good news at this time.

General Statement (lines 2–4)

And now, your servant has done everything my lord sent (me word to do). I have written down everything you sent me (word to do).

Report on Bet-HRPD (lines 4–6)

As regards what my lord said about Bet-HRPD, there is no one there.

The Semakyahu Situation (lines 6–12)

As for Semakyahu, Shemayahu has seized him and taken him up to the city.15 Your servant cannot send the witness there [today]; rather, it is during the morning tour that [he will come (to you)]. Then it will be known that we are watching the (fire)-signalsl of Lachish according to the code which my lord gave us, for we cannot see Azeqah. m

Lachish 5: Thanks and Remarks on the Harvest (3.42D)

Salutation (lines 1–2)

May [Yahweh] give my lord the best possible [news at this very time].

Humble Thanks for Correspondence (lines 3–7)

Who is your servant (but) a dog that you should have sent to your servant these letters? Your servant (herewith) returns the letters to my lord.

The Grain Harvest (lines 7–10)

May Yahweh allow my lord to witness a good harvest today. Is Ṭobyahu going to send royal grain to your servant?

Lachish 6: Reactions to Forwarded Correspondence (3.42E)

Salutation (line 1)

To my lord Yaush. May Yahweh make this time a good one for you.

Letters that Weaken Resolve (lines 2–15)

Who is your servant (but) a dog that my lord should have sent (him) the king’s letter and those of the officials asking me to read them? The [officials’] statements are not good — (they are of a kind) to slacken your courage22 and to weaken that of the men[…]. Won’t you write to [them] as follows: “[Why] are you acting thus?”? […] As Yahweh your God lives, ever since your servant read the letters he has not had [a moment’s peace].

Lachish 9: Requests (3.42F)

Salutation (lines 1–2)

May Yahweh give my lord the [best] possible news.

Release to Bearer (lines 3–4)

[And] now, give ten (loaves of) bread and two (bat-measures?) of wine (to bearer).

Request for Information (lines 4–9)

Return word [to] your servant by the intermediary of Shelemyahu regarding what we are to do tomorrow.


Text, translations, and studies: Coats 1970; Cross 1956; Cross and Freedman 1952; Dion, Pardee, and Whitehead 1979; Diringer 1953; Dussaud 1938; Galán 1993; Hoftijzer 1986; Lemaire 1977; 1986; Lindenberger 1994; Pardee 1983; 1990; 1997c; Pardee, Sperling, Whitehead, and Dion 1982; Parker 1994; Rainey 1987; Renz 1995; Smelik 1990; Torczyner 1938; 1940; Ussishkin 1978; Yadin 1981.

Arad Ostraca (3.43)

Dennis Pardee

Over two hundred inscribed objects were discovered during excavations at the site of Tel Arad in the northern Negeb, one hundred and twelve in Hebrew, eighty-five in Aramaic, two in Greek, and five in Arabic; in addition there were thirteen inscribed seals, and nine l mlk seal impressions on jar handles (Aharoni et al. 1975/1981). Though some of the Hebrew inscriptions may date back as far as the late tenth century, the bulk of the readable ones are from strata VII and VI, dated to the end of the seventh/beginning of the sixth centuries; some of these texts may be dated a bit earlier than the Lachish ostraca. This comparative abundance of documentation — by far the largest group of pre-exilic Hebrew documents from a single Palestinian site — has provided a wealth of information on the history and economy of south Judah/north Negeb in the last years before the fall of Judah. Good summaries are available in Aharoni’s edition, up-dated in the English translation (Aharoni et al. 1975/1981), by Lemaire (1977:145–235; and 1997a), and by Lawton (1992).

Of the Hebrew inscriptions, ninety-one were in ink on pottery, for the most part ostraca; the others were incised in clay bowls or on stone seals. Most were found during regular excavations that took place from 1962 to 1967, though the important text no. 88 was found on the surface in 1974 and some of the excavated inscriptions are dated palaeographically rather than stratigraphically (for an overview of the problems that exist in dating the archaeological strata and the inscriptions, see Manor and Herion 1992; for an attempt at typological dating of the texts from strata VIII, VII, and VI, see Drinkard 1988:432–437).

The texts on ostraca are principally administrative in origin, for the most part letters and name lists, with a few account texts. The epistolary documents either are letters of disbursal (like Lachish 9 above) or they deal with various personal and military affairs (Pardee et al. 1982:24–67).

Arad 1: Order for Allotment of Supplies (3.43A)

To Elyashib. And now,2 give to the Kittim three b(at-measures) of wine and write down the date.5  From what is left of the first meal, have one ḥomer-measure (?) of flour loaded up so they can make bread for themselves. b It is wine from the craters that you are to give (to them).

Arad 2: Order for Allotment of Supplies (3.43B)

To Elyashib. And now, give to the Kittim two b(at-measures) of wine for the four days, three hundred loaves of bread, and a (nother) full ḥomer-measure of wine. Send them out on their rounds10  tomorrow; don’t wait. If there is any vinegard left, give (that) to them (also).

Arad 3: Order for Allotment of Supplies (3.43C)

To Elyashib. And now, give three b(at-measures) of wine (to bearer). Moreover, Ḥananyahu has given you orders concerning Beersheba: you are yourself to load up and convey there two donkey loadse of dough. Calculate the (amount of) wheat ([at Arad?]) and count the (loaves of) bread (already made).14 Take […]

Arad 4: Order for Allotment of Supplies (3.43D)

To Elyashib. Give to the Kittim one (jar of) oil. Seal (the jar) and send it. Also give them one b(at-measure) of wine.

Arad 5: Order for Allotment of Supplies Plus a Possible Mention of Tithe (3.43E)

To Elyashib. And now, send some of the flour which you have left from the [first (batch)], which […] flour [to make] bread for the Kittim […]

[…] (someone) will [send] you the tithe in it, before the month passes. And from the surplus of […]

Arad 7: Another Order for Allotment of Supplies (3.43F)

To Elyashib. And now, give to the Kittim for the (period from) the first (day) of the tenth (month) until the sixth (day) of (that) month three b(at-measures of wine?). [And] make a record (of this) on the second (day) of the tenth month.18 Also seal (a jar of) oil [and send it …].

Arad 16: A Letter Between Brothers (3.43G)

Your brother Ḥananyahu (hereby) sends greetings to (you) Elyashib and to your household. I bless you to Yahweh. And now, when I leave your house I will send the money,21 eight shekels, to the sons of Geʾalyahu [by] the intermediary of] Azaryahu, as well as the […]

Arad 17: Another Order for Allotment of Supplies, With Postscript (3.43H)

To Naḥum. [And] now, go to the house of Elyashib son of Eshyahu and get from there one (jar of) oil and send (it) to Ziph right away (after) affixing your seal to it.

Dated Postscript (lines 8–9)

On the twenty-fourth of the month Naḥum gave oil to the Kitti (for delivery) — one (jar).

Arad 18: A Letter From One of Elyashib’s Subordinates (3.43I)

To my lord Elyashib. May Yahweh concern himself with your well-being. And now, give Shemaryahu a letek-measure (?) (of flour?) and to the Qerosite give a ḥomer-measure (?) (of flour?).

A Confidential Matter (lines 7–10)

As regards the matter concerning which you gave me orders: everything is fine now: he is staying in the temple of Yahweh. h

Arad 21: A Son’s Letter (3.43J)

Your son Yehukal (hereby) sends greetings to (you) Gedalyahu [son of] Elyair and to your household. I bless you to Yahweh. And now, if my lord had done […] may Yahweh reward my lord […].27

Arad 24: Military Movements (3.43K)

[…] from Arad five29 and from Qinah […] and send them to Ramat-negeb under Malkiyahu son of Qerabur. He is to hand them over tok Elisha son of Yirmeyahu at Ramat-negeb lest anything happenl to the city. This is an order from the king — a life-and-death matter for you. I send (this message) to warn you now: The (se) men (must be) withn Elisha lest (the) Edom (ites) (should) enter there.32

Arad 40: the Edomite Problem (3.43L)

Your son Gemar[yahu], as well as Neḥemyahu, (hereby) send [greetings to] (you) Malkiyahu. I bless [you to Yahweh]. And now, your servant has applied himselfo to what you ordered. [I (hereby) write] to my lord [everything that the man] wanted. [Eshyahu has come] from you but [he has not given] them any men. You know [the reports from] Edom. I sent them to [my] lord [before] evening. Eshyahu is staying [in my house.] He tried to obtain the report [but I would not give (it to him).] The king of Judah should know [that] we are unable to send the [X. This is] the evil which (the) Edom (ites) [have done].

Arad 88: A Fragment of a Copy of a Royal Proclamation (3.43M)

I have become king in […]

STRENGTHEN the armp and […]

the King of Egypt […]


Texts, translations and studies: Aharoni 1966; 1970; Aharoni and Naveh 1975; Aharoni, Naveh, Rainey, Aharoni, Lifshitz, Sharon, and Gofer 1981; Beit-Arieh and Cresson 1991; Bron and Lemaire 1980; Dion 1983; 1992; Dion, Pardee, and Whitehead 1979; Drinkard 1988; Herzog, Aharoni, Rainey, and Moshkovitz 1984; Lawton 1992; Lemaire 1977; 1983a; 1986; 1997a; Lindenberger 1994; Malamat 1988; Manor and Herion 1992; Naveh 1992; Pardee 1978b; 1983; 1985; Pardee, Sperling, Whitehead, and Dion 1982; Yadin 1976.

The Widow’s Plea (3.44)

Dennis Pardee

This text did not come from regular excavations and the question of authenticity arises here as in other such cases. Because there are no irregularities in script or language, I continue to believe (see Bordreuil, Israel, and Pardee 1996 and 1998) that the text is authentic. To believe the opposite requires the hypothesis that the forger was a master epigrapher, a master grammarian (only an extremely skilled Hebraist could have produced a text that so perfectly reflects the intricacies of Biblical Hebrew morpho-syntax), a master of biblical law, and a master chemist (capable of producing ancient ink and an ancient patina [Rollston apud Bordreuil, Israel, and Pardee 1998:8–9]). The forger would also, however, have had to be cunning enough to produce some unexpected forms, such as {whyh ydk ʿmy} (line 3), which, given the writer’s clear mastery of morpho-syntax elsewhere in the text, must have been either deliberate or a simple scribal error. Ephʿal and Naveh 1998 have argued from certain similarities with phraseology in Biblical Hebrew and epigraphic Hebrew that the text may be a forgery. But such arguments are two-edged: unless inaccuracies are present, such arguments are equally valid in favor of authenticity, i.e., the features singled out are like pre-exilic Hebrew because that is how speakers of pre-exilic Hebrew spoke! In addition, the same authors point out a small number of epigraphic features that are distinctive — but that sort of argument is also two-edged, for a modern forger would have to be not only a master epigrapher but a very devious one to produce previously unattested forms consistently throughout two different texts. Finally, Ephʿal and Naveh turn the tables and refute another argument against authenticity, viz., that certain expressions are characteristic of post-biblical Hebrew (Berlejung and Schüle 1998), by showing that other inscriptions about the authenticity of which there can be no doubt contain such expressions.

Though very different in its forms of expression and in its particular theme (inheritance), the widow’s plea provides in its genre a parallel to the Meṣad Ḥashavyahu text (COS 3.41). In both cases, someone addresses a plea to an official for redress of a situation that the plaintiff finds detrimental, describing the situation as he/she sees it and stating precisely the action desired of the official.

The two pleas show two primary literary differences. (1) The blessing formula at the beginning of the widow’s plea is similar, though not identical, to known epistolary blessing formulae. In addition, the formula w ʿt, lit., “and now,” separates the blessing from the plea itself. That phrase frequently marks the transition from the praescriptio to the body of a letter (see note 9 to COS 3.42B). These two features strengthen the case for these written pleas having been a sub-form of the epistolary genre (see introduction to COS 3.41). (2) The circumstances are recited here much more briefly than in the other plea, indeed are confined to just a few words {mt ʾyšy lʾ bnm}, lit., “My husband is dead, no sons.”

The Blessing (line 1)

May YHWH bless you in peace.b

The Plea for a Hearing (lines 1–2)

And now, may my lord the official listen to your maidservant.

The Circumstances (lines 2–3)

My husband has died (leaving) no sons.

The Specific Request (lines 3–6)

(I request politely that the following) happen: (let) your hand (be) with me and entrust to your maidservant4 the inheritance about which you spoke to ʿAmasyahu.

Reminder of One Action Already Taken (lines 6–8)

As for the wheat field that is in Naamah, you have (already) given (it) to his brother.


Text, translations and studies: Berlejung and Schüle 1998; Bordreuil, Israel, and Pardee 1996; 1998; Ephʿal and Naveh 1998; Lemaire 1999; Younger 1998b.

2. Ugaritic Letters

Dennis Pardee

Excavations began at the site of Ras Shamra in the spring of 1929 and have continued with some regularity to the present. Over four thousand inscribed objects have been discovered, including many texts in Ugaritic and Akkadian inscribed on clay tablets (overviews in Yon 1997 and Pardee 1997a,b). The Ugaritic poetic corpus has attracted the greatest attention (see introductions to the Ugaritic myths in COS 1), but the vast majority of texts are prosaic reflections of every-day life.

To date well over one hundred letters, often fragmentary, are known in Ugaritic and some one hundred and fifty in Akkadian (recent discoveries will more than double that number: Bordreuil and Malbran-Labat 1995:445). Roughly a third of the former, those well enough preserved to make an English translation of interest, are translated here. Less well-preserved texts are included only when they present a special interest (e.g., drafts of letters going out to other courts or the letter from the son of ʾUrtēnu that allowed the identification of that archive [RS 92.2005, 3.45JJ below]).

Letters written in Ugaritic tend to reflect correspondence within the kingdom of Ugarit, notably between Ugaritians, in particular members of the royal family, while Akkadian, the lingua franca of the time, was used much more frequently than Ugaritic for international correspondence. It is uncertain whether Ugaritic texts from foreign courts (e.g., here below the texts in part II) represent translations of texts originally written in Akkadian or whether Ugaritic scribes resided at foreign courts where the message may have been translated immediately from the local language into Ugaritic. It is in any case now certain that Ugaritic scribes did reside abroad, but their precise role in the foreign court is still unknown. For overviews of the epistolographic traditions at Ugarit, see Kaiser 1970; Ahl 1973; Kristensen 1977; Cunchillos 1989.

The texts are organized here according to the following life situations:

I.    Correspondence between members of the royal family (texts 1–7);

II.    Correspondence from other courts (texts 8–12);

III.    Correspondence to other courts (texts 13–16);

IV.    Correspondence between king or queen and a non-royal personage (texts 17–27);

V.    Correspondence between non-royal correspondents (texts 28–40);

VI.    Correspondence exercises (texts 41–42).

Note to translations. Words are in all capital letters when the Ug. vocalization is unknown (e.g., SYR in RS 18.040, COS 3.45T below) and in the translation of words in broken contexts of which the basic meaning is clear but not the specific form or the subject (e.g., SEND indicates that the identification of the root as lʾk may be ascertained but not its precise function in the sentence).

The following is a concordance between the translations and the editions:


Number in COS

Number in COS






RS 4.475

=    28


1 (3.45A)

= RS 15.008

RS 8.315

=    3


2 (3.45B)

= RS 9.479A

RS 9.479A

=    2


3 (3.45C)

= RS 8.315

RS 11.872

=    5


4 (3.45D)

= RS 34.124

RS 15.007

=    29


5 (3.45E)

= RS 11.872

RS 15.008

=    1


6 (3.45F)

= RS 16.379

RS 16.078

=    15


7 (3.45G)

= RIH 78.12

RS 16.264

=    17


8 (3.45H)

= RS 18.031

RS 16.265

=    41


9 (3.45I)

= RS 18.038

RS 16.379

=    6


10 (3.45J)

= RS 17.434+

RS 16.402

=    24


11 (3.45K)

= RS 18.147

RS 17.063

=    30


12 (3.45L)

= RS 18.075

RS 17.117

=    31


13 (3.45M)

= RIH 78.3+30

RS 17.434+

=    10


14 (3.45N)

= RS 34.356

RS 18.031

=    8


15 (3.45O)

= RS 16.078

RS 18.038

=    9


16 (3.45P)

= RS 94.5015

RS 18.040

=    20


17 (3.45Q)

= RS 16.264

RS 18.075

=    12


18 (3.45R)

= RS 94.2406

RS 18.113A+B

=    21


19 (3.45S)

= RS 96.2039

RS 18.147

=    11


20 (3.45T)

= RS 18.040

RS 19.011

=    32


21 (3.45U)

= RS 18.113A+B

RS 19.102

=    33


22 (3.45V)

= RS 94.2391

RS 20.199

=    25


23 (3.45W)

= RS 34.148

RS 29.093

=    34


24 (3.45X)

= RS 16.402

RS 29.095

=    35


25 (3.45Y)

= RS 20.199

RS 34.124

=    4


26 (3.45Z)

= RS 94.2479

RS 34.148

=    23


27 (3.45AA)

= RS 94.2592

RS 34.356

=    14


28 (3.45BB)

= RS 4.475

RS 92.2005

=    36


29 (3.45CC)

= RS 15.007

RS 92.2010

=    37


30 (3.45DD)

= RS 17.063

RS 94.2406

=    18


31 (3.45EE)

= RS 17.117

RS 94.2273

=    42


32 (3.45FF)

= RS 19.011

RS 94.2284

=    38


33 (3.45GG)

= RS 19.102

RS 94.2383

=    39


34 (3.45HH)

= RS 29.093

RS 94.2391

=    22


35 (3.45II)

= RS 29.095

RS 94.2479

=    26


36 (3.45JJ)

= RS 92.2005

RS 94.2592

=    27


37 (3.45KK)

= RS 92.2010

RS 94.2619

=    39


38 (3.45LL)

= RS 94.2284

RS 94.5015

=    16


39 (3.45MM)

= RS 94.2383

RS 96.2039

=    19



= RS 94.2619

RS [varia 4]

=    40


40 (3.45NN)

= RS [varia 4]

RIH 78.3+30

=    13


41 (3.45OO)

= RS 16.265

RIH 78.12

=    7


42 (3.45PP)

= RS 94.2273


I. Correspondence Between Members of the Royal Family

Dennis Pardee

(1) Talmiyānu to His Mother Ṯarriyelli (RS 15.008) (3.45A)

Address (lines 1–3)

Message of Talmiyānu: To Ṯarriyelli, my mother, say:a

Greetings (lines 4–6)

May it be well with you. May the gods of Ugarit guard you, may they keep you well.4

The Message: Talmiyānu Has Had an Audience with the King of Hatti (lines 6–13)

My mother, you must knowd that I have entered before the Sune and (that) the face of the Sun has shone upon me brightly. So may my mother cause Maʾabu7 to rejoice; may she not be discouraged, (for) I am the guardian of the army.8

Report of Well-being and Request for Return of News (lines 14–20)

With me everything is well. Whatever is well with my mother, may she send word (of that) back to me.h

(2) Talmiyānu Keeps in Touch with the Queen (RS 9.479a) (3.45B)

Address (lines 1–5)

To the queen, my lady, say: Message of Talmiyānu, your servant:

Prostration Formula (lines 6–11)

At the feet of my lady seven times and seven times (from) afar do I fall.i

Request for Return of News (lines 12–15)

With my lady, whatever is well, may she send word (of that) back to her servant.

(3) Talmiyānu and ʾAḫātumilki Keep in Touch with an Unnamed Lady (RS 8.315) (3.45C)

Address (lines 1–4)

To my mother, our lady, say: Message of Talmiyānu and ʾAḫātumilki, your servants:

Prostration and Greeting Formulae (lines 5–9)

At the feet of our lady (from) afar we fall. May the gods guard you, may they keep you well.

Situation Report (lines 10–14)

Here with the two of us everything is very fine. And I, for my part, have got some rest.

Request for Return of News (lines 14–18)

There with our lady, whatever is well, return word of that to your servants.

(4) The King to the Queen-Mother In the Matter of the Amurrite Princess (RS 34.124) (3.45D)

Address (lines 1–3)

[To the queen, my mother, say: Message of the] k[ing, your son.]

Prostration and Greeting Formulae (line 4–6)

At my mother’s feet [I fall]. With my mother <may> it be well! [May the gods] guard you, may they keep [you] well.

Report of Well-being and Request for Return of News (lines 7–9)

Here with me [everythi]ng is well. There with you, whatever is well, sen<d> word (of that) back to me.

The King Complains Concerning the Royal Guard (lines 10–16)

Why do you send this ḫupṯu(-soldier?) and not the royal guard? If BN QL, BN ʾALYY, and the royal guard go (elsewhere), inform me, and you will disappoint me severely.19

The Affair of the Amurrite Princess (lines 17-?)

Concerning your up-coming presentation to the city (-council)l of the correspondence relative to the daughter of the king of Amurru: if the city remains undecided, then why have I sent letters (to them) on the topic of the daughter of the king of Amurru?m Now Yabnīnu has left for the court of Amurru and he has taken with him one hundred (shekels of) goldn and mardatu-cloth for the king of Amurru. He has also taken oil in a horn and poured it on the heado of the daughter of the king of Amurru. Whatever si[n? …] because my mother […].

Conclusion (lines 42´-45´)

[…] is left and moreover […] brought to an end by expiating […] your (male) ally/allies.26 And I, for my part, […] your (female) enemy.

(5) The King of Ugarit to the Queen-Mother In the Matter of His Meeting With the Hittite Sovereigns (RS 11.872) (3.45E)

Address (lines 1–4)

To the queen, my mother, say: Message of the king, your son.

Prostration and Greeting Formulae (line 5–8)

At my mother’s feet I fall. With my mother may it be well! May the gods guard you, may they keep [you] well.

Report of Well-being and Request for Return of News (lines 9–13)

Here with me everything is well. There with my mother, whatever is well, send word (of that) back to me.

Meeting with the Royal Hittite Sovereigns (lines 14–18)

From the tribute they have vowed a gift to the queen. My words she did indeed accept29 and the face of the king shone upon us.

(6) The King of Ugarit to the Queen-Mother In the Matter of His Meeting With the Hittite Sovereign (RS 16.379) (3.45F)

Address (lines 1–3)

To the queen, my mo[ther], say: Message of the king, your son.

Prostration and Greeting Formulae (line 4–7)

At my mother’s feet I fall. With my mo[ther] may it be well. May the god[s] guard you, may they keep [you] well.

Report of Well-being and Request for Return of News (lines 9–13)

Here with me it is [w]ell. There with my mother, whatever is we[ll, send] word (of that) back to me.

Meeting with the Hittite Sovereign (lines 14–18)

Here to the king from the tribute they have vowed a gift and [h]e (as a result has agreed to) augment his “vow?.”

Assurances (lines 16–24)

Now if the Hittite (forces) go up, I will send you a message; and if they do not go up, I will certainly send one.32 Now you, my mother, do not be agitated and do not allow yourself to be distressed in any way.

(7) A Royal Son to His Mother as Regards Warfare (RIH 78.12) (3.45G)

Address (lines 1–2)

To the queen, my mother, my lady:

Prostration Formula (lines 2–3)

At your feet I fall.

Report on ʿAbdimilki (lines 3–7)

When you sent ʿAkayu, (thereby) ʿAbdimilki the šʿtq was saved. He (now) will uplift the heart of your son and (take away) your pain as well.

The Son’s Efforts (lines 8–22)

Now as for me, for six days I have been fighting continuously. If ʿAbdimilki is not saved a[live?], then the heart [of your son? …]. However that may be, ʿAbdimilki is (still) alive. If he should die, I will go on fighting on my own.

II. Incoming Correspondence from Other Courts

Dennis Pardee

(8) The King of Tyre to the King of Ugarit in the Matter of Storm-Damaged Ships (RS 18.031) (3.45H)

Address (lines 1–3)

To the king of Ugarit, my brother, say: Message of the king of Tyre, your brother. r

Greetings (lines 4–5)

May it be well with you. May the gods guard you, may they keep you well.

Report of Well-being and Request for Return of News (lines 6–9)

Here with me it is well. There with you, whatever is well, send word (of that) back (to me).

The Storm at Sea (lines 10–27)

Your ships s that you dispatched to Egypt were wrecked42 near Tyre when they found themselves caught in a bad storm.t The salvage master, however, was able to remove the ent[ire] (cargo of) grainu in their possession. (Then) I took over from the salvage master the entire (cargo of) grain, as well as all the people and their food, and I returned (all these things) to them.45 Now your boats have been able to moor at Acco,w stripped (of their rigging). So my brother should not worry.48 

(9) The King of Hatti to the King of Ugarit (RS 18.038) (3.45I)

Address (lines 1–2)

Message of the Sun: To ʿAmmurāpiʾ say:

Report of Well-being (lines 3–4)

With the Sun everything is very well.

The Hittite Sovereign’s View of the Previous Reign (lines 5–10)

Bef[ore] the Sun’s [fat]her [your] fath[er], his servant, did indeed dwell submissively;y for a se[rvant] indeed (and) his possession was he53 and [his] l[ord] he did indeed guard. My father never lacked g[rain], (but) you, for your part, have not recognized (that this was how things were). aa

ʿAmmurāpi’s Duty (lines 11–16)

Now you also belong to the Sun your master; a serv[ant] indeed, his possession are you. But [yo]u, for your part, you have not at all recognized (your responsibility toward) the Sun, your master. To me, the Sun, your master, from year to year, why do you not come?

The Food Matter (lines 17–30)

Now concerning the fact that you have sent a (message)-tablet to the Sun, your master, regarding food, to the effect that there is no food in your land: the Sun himself is perishing.56 [Now] if I go? […] a gift […] the Sun […] food he will furnish […].58

The Enigmatic Conclusion (lines 31–35)

(In the month of) ʾIbʿaltu […] but I [have] no scribe. Our scribes are (normally) “pure.” (Such) a man search out, wherever he may be, and have him sent to me.60

(10) Puduḫepa, Queen of Hatti, to the King of Ugarit (RS 17.434+) (3.45J)

Address (lines 1–2)

[Messa]ge of Puduḫepa, [great] quee[n, que]en [of Hatti:] [To] Niqmaddu say:

Report of Well-being (lines 2–4)

He[re with] the Su[n and] with the queen, everything [is well]; now the well-being of your land and [of] the house of the king […].

First Matter: Tribute (lines 5–13)

Concerning the fact that you have sent to the royal palace your message (as follows): “Now [the g]old of my tribute [to] the Sun [I?] hereby remit, [and,] as for you, the M[R] that you stipulated in the tre[aty, certainly] you will receive it,” I went to ʾUD and o[ur] king [stayed?] [in] the (capital-)city. We were to return with you by the midst of […]. […] But to me you have not come [… and] your messenger-party you have not sent to me. [Now?] according as you set (something) aside for me — a quantity of gold[…], [you, for your part,] have [not?] remitted it to me; (only) to the Sun have [you] remitted [gold …].64

Second Matter: Problems with Caravans (lines 14–22, 23´-28´)

[Sec]ondly (?): Concerning the fact that you sent word to the royal palace (as follows): “[X-e]d are the caravans of Egypt and they have stopped; (indeed) th[e] ca[ra]vans of Egypt through the land of Ugarit [have been X-ed] and through the land of Nuḫašše they (now) must pass […].” […] shall pass through the land of [X and through the land of] Qadesh and through the land of [X …]; and the land of [X] shall not harm (them) (or: shall not be harmed) […].

Third Matter: Problems with Royal Purple (lines 29´-?)

Now concerning the (message)-tablet that [you] sent [to the roy]al [palace] regarding royal purple […:] “Here, why have the men of [my?] master [X-ed red-dyed] cloth […] when there is no red-dyed cloth in my house?” […].70

(11) Pgn to the King of Ugarit (RS 18.147) (3.45K)

Address (lines 1–3)

Message of PGN, your father: To the king of Ugarit, [my son], say:

Greetings (lines 4–5)

May it be well with you. May the gods guard you, may they keep you well.

Report of Well-being and Request for Return of News (lines 6–8)

Here with me, it is well. There wi[th] my son, whatever is [w]ell, return word (of that) [to me].

Reference to Previous Correspondence Regarding a Famine (lines 9-?)

Concerning the fact that my son has sent a (message)-tablet regarding food (in which you said): “(Here) with me, plenty (has become) famine,” let my son assign this: sea-faring boats. Let him […] and food […].

(12) Mutual Assistance (RS 18.075) (3.45L)


Greetings (lines 1´-2´)

May it be w[ell with you.] May [the gods] gua[rd you, may they keep] you [well].


I’ll Scratch Your Back, You Scratch Mine (lines 15´-23´)

Now as for your servant, let him be empowered to speak (for you) to me! Whatever your desire may be (concerning something) that you lack, I will have it delivered to my brother. And I, for my part, whatever my lack (may be), may my brother have it loaded up there. May my [br]other not leave me to perish!76

III. Outgoing Correspondence to Other Courts

Dennis Pardee

(13) ʿAmmiṯtamru, King of Ugarit, to the King of Egypt (RIH 78.3+30) (3.45M)

Address and Prostration Formulae (lines 1–6)

[To the Sun], the great king, the king of Egypt, the [goo]d [king], the just king,ee the [king of k]ings, ff master of all lands, […], say: Message of [ʿAmmiṯtam]ru, your servant. At my [master’s] feet I fa[ll].

Greetings (lines 6-?)

With my master may it be well. [With your house], with your people, with your land, [with] your [horses], with your chariots, [with your troops], with all that belongs [to the Sun, the] great [k]ing, the king of Egyp[t], [the good king], the just king, [… may it be well].



(14) ʿAmmurāpiʾ to the King of Egypt (RS 34.356) (3.45N)

First Address (lines 1–2)

[To the Sun, the] great [king], king of kin[gs], [my master], say: Message of ʿAmmurāpiʾ, [your servant].

First Body (lines 3–8)

[…] NMY, [your] messenger, has arrived […] [the Sun], the great king, my master, to [me …]. Then I, your servant, greatly re[joiced? …] my good master […] the Sun, my master, has sent […] the [Su]n, the great king, my master[…].

Second Address (lines 9–11)

[To the] great [kin]g, the king of king[s, master of all l]ands, king of king[s, my master, sa]y: Message of ʿAmmurāp[i your servant].

Second Body (lines 12-?)


(15) Part of a Letter Addressed to the King of Egypt (RS 16.078) (3.45O)

Reference to a Previous Communication from the Addressee (lines 1–8)

And according to the word of the Sun, the great king, my master, to ʿṮT, the [X] of the messengers of his servant: “[…] your master that he must ḪP(N) my messengers (when they are) with him,” so [will] your servant [do] when the messenger-party of the Sun, the great king, my master, arrives (here) with [me …].

Protestations of Loyalty and Concern (lines 9–24)

I recognize [the X of the Sun], the great [kin]g, [my] master […]. And I[, for my part …], address requests[ for the X … of] the gre[at] king, my [master]; moreover, [I add]ress requests for [his] lif[e] to Baʿ[lu] Ṣapunu, my master, and (address requests) that my master’s days might be long before Amon and all the gods of Egypt, that they might protect the life of the Sun, the great king, my master.

Another Topic (lines 25–40)


(16) [From the King of Ugarit?] to the Hittite Emperor (RS 94.5015) (3.45P)

The Writer Refers to his Sovereign’s Promises (lines 1–12)

[…] SAY […] twice […] GO […] to ʾAnzaḫu, I, even I, your servant. I will give donkeys, I will give troops (to be) with him.” Moreover, the Sun, the great king, my master, said: “I will cause (him) to return and he will ML.”94 Then, (because of) this, there was no war in the land of your servant. Also (my master said:) “I will surely give (you) the troops that are with him.”

The Writer’s Past Efforts to Get Action (lines 13–17, 18´-21´)

To the Sun, the great king, my master, twice, three times [I wrote/requested], but you sent (no message) regarding troo[ps …] GUARD ʾAru and […]. SENT […] to your servant […] troops and donk[eys …] GO to ʾAnzaḫu.

Warning (lines 22´-37´)

Now the Sun, the great king, my master, must know that ʾAri-Tēšub has assembled ʿApirūma with him and he is going to devastate your servant’s country. I, for my part, your servant, all the royal personnel […] in the country of your servant […] I disposed them […].97 And a letter […] troops to ʾATḎN […]. And the Sun, [the grea]t [king], my master, must know […] and below, for there is […] your servant and I ask […] Amurru, GUARD the country[…].

IV. Between King or Queen and a Non-Royal Personage

Dennis Pardee

(17) The King to Ḥayyaʾil Regarding an Allotment of Logs (RS 16.264) (3.45Q)

Address (lines 1–3)

Message (that) the king spoke: To Ḥayyaʾil:

Reference to a Previous Letter from Ḥayyaʾil (lines 4–6)

Why do you keep sending me (the following message): “How am I to furnish the timbers102 for the temple of Damal?”?103

The King’s Decision (lines 7–21)

I will myself furnish you with the timbers (as follows): four logs (to be supplied) by (the town of) ʾAru, three by (the town of) ʾUburʿaya, two by (the town of) Mulukku, and one by (the town of) ʾAtalligu. You are to provide an accountkk of these logs. Do not burden Nūrānu; pay for them yourself, (a total of) sixty (shekels of) silver.

(18) Double Letter: From the Queen to ʾUrtēnu and from ʾIlīmilku to the Same (RS 94.2406) (3.45R)

First Address (lines 1–2)

Message of the queen: To ʾUrtēnu say:

The Queen’s Itinerary (lines 3–10)

I was on the sea when I gave this document (to be delivered) to you. Today I lodged at MLWM, tomorrow (it will be) at ʾAdaniya, the third (day) at SNǴR, and the fourth at ʾUNǴ. You are now informed.

Instructions Regarding ʾUrtēnu’s Property (lines 11–15)

As for you, all that belongs to you […] establish for your name […] and FINISH SERVANT […] for (some) disaster has arrived and […] his/her request […].

Instructions Regarding a House (lines 16–20)

Now a house […] that ʾADR […] those who cleanse BH[…].112

Instructions to Keep Quiet (lines 21–25)

As for you, not a word must escape your mouth until [X] arrives. Then I will send a message to Ugarit […]. Should I hear that [she] has not agreed to guarantee you, then I’ll send a (nother) message.

Preparations (lines 26–30)

Now a sp-vessal (or: two sp-vessals) of MP, two ʾIŠPR, and two GP are ready. (If) she does not guarantee you, does not (agree to) come to me, she will send a message to the king and you can kiss your head good-bye.115

Second Address and Greeting (lines 31–33)

Message of ʾIlīmilku: To ʾUrtēnu, my brother, say: May it be well with you.

Reference to a Preceding Letter from ʾUrtēnu and ʾIlīmilku’s Response (lines 33–40)

Concerning the fact that you sent me the message “Send me a message quickly,” now I have spo<ke>n (this) message in the presence of the queen. What you must do is to seize the house for me. Moreover, you must recognize that the queen also has left. But you must keep absolutely quiet (about all of this) at Ugarit.

(19) The Queen to Yarmîhaddu (RS 96.2039) (3.45S)

Address (lines 1–3)

[Me]ssage of the queen: To Yarmîhaddu, my brother, say:

Reference to a Preceding Letter in Reference to a Servant Who Had Fled (lines 4–17)

(As for) the (message)-tablet (in which I said) “Your servant whom I took […]; and I, for my part, gave his wife to you; and that servant worked on my farm;118 but that servant returned to his wife at your house; and you are the ‘father’ Ḫ– (?); so this servant must be seized, and deliver him over to my messenger-party”:120

The New Demand (lines 18–24)

Now, seeing that he has not moved, and (that) I have not sent a message to the king, but to you have I sent (this message), so now, you must deliver him over to my messenger-party.

(20) Ṯipṭibaʿlu (Shibti-baʿlu) to the King (RS 18.040) (3.45T)

Address (lines 1–4)

To the king, my master, say: Message of Ṯipṭibaʿlu, your [se]rvant:

Prostration Formula (lines 5–8)

[At] the feet of my master, [seve]n times, seven times, (from) a[f]ar do I fall.

The (Military) Situation in Lawasanda (lines 9–19)

As for your servant, in Lawasanda I am keeping an eye (on the situation) along with the king. Now the king has just left in haste to SYR, where he is sacrificing MLǴǴM.

The king, my master, must know (this).

(21) From an Official in Alashia to the King (RS 18.113a+b) (3.45U)

Address (lines 1–3)

To the king, [my] l[ord], s[ay]: Message of the Chief of Maʾ[ḫadu, your servant].

Prostration Formula (lines 4–6)

At the feet of my master [ (from) afar], seven times and seven times [do I fall.]

Greetings (lines 6–9)

I do pronounce to Baʿlu-Ṣapuni, to Eternal Sun, to ʿAṯtartu, to ʿAnatu, to all the gods of Alashi[a] (prayers for) the splendor of (your) eternal kingship.

Beginning of Message (lines 10–13)

The king, my master, LAND […] will cause to be late and with LO[RD …] ten times SENT […]. And my master, WHAT[…]

Paying for Ships (lines 31´-39´)

And he said: “Don’t give them the money until I send a message to the king.” This (is) the message that [he] sends [to] the king. Now the king should instigate an inquiry into the[se (matters) …] them. And as for the boats, if you/they [X …] this merchant, I, for my part, will say […] “The king is looking for ships.” And I will g[ive? the money? …] I will make the purchase. O king, send me […].

(22) ʿUzzīnu to the King (RS 94.2391) (3.45V)

Address (lines 1–3)

To the king, my master, say: Message of ʿUzzīnu, your servant.

Prostration Formula and Greeting (lines 4–7)

At the feet of my master two times seven times (from) afar I fall. With my master may it be well. […]

Taking Care of Someone (lines 10´-15´)

[…] pr[ie]sts before him. So nourish his well-being. And you should order for me that he go [somewhere]. (If) that happens, his well-being will be there.

ʿUzzīnu’s Travels (lines 16´-21´)

I, for my part, have arrived in Qadesh and ʾUrīyānu has left for Upi (Damascus). I will be “pure”;132 to […] he will arrive […].

(23) Unknown to the King (RS 34.148) (3.45W)

Address (lines 1–4)

To the k[ing, my master], sa[y]: Message of [X], your servant.

Greetings (lines 4–6)

May it be well with the king, my master. May the gods guard you, keep you well.

Situation Report and Promise of Another (lines 7–8)

Now for the two of us, the border with the ki<ng>dom of Carchemish is holding solid. I will send ʾAnaniʾ with a (nother) messenger-party to you.

The Take-Notice Formula (line 12)

My master [must] know (this)!

(24) Message of ʾIririṯaruma to the Queen (RS 16.402) (3.45X)

Address (lines 1–2)

[To the queen], my lady, [say: Mes]sage of ʾIririṯaruma, your servant.

Prostration Formula and Greeting (lines 3–4)

[At] my [l]ady’s [feet] (from) afar [do I fall]. [W]ith my lady may it be well.

First Matter: A Royal Campaign (lines 5–21)

[…] our king is strong […] the enemy which in Mukiš […] when the king will lodge […] Mount Amanus […]. [And] may my lady know (this). Moreover, as for the king (and) his vow,139 he must know that I am rejoicing on that account.

Second Matter: The King’s Demand for Two Thousand Horses (lines 22–39)

Now (as for) the king, my master, why has he assigned this (responsibility) to his servant: (viz., that of furnishing) 2000 horses? You have (thus) declared peril against me.140 Why has the king imposed this (duty) upon me? The enemy has been pressingpp me and I should put my wives (and) children in peril before the enemy?! Now if the king, my master, declares: “Those 2000 horses must arrive here,” then may the king, my master, send an intermediary (back) to me with this messenger-party of mine. But the situation they encounter will be a perilous one. The 2000 horses […] and RETURN.143

(25) ʾUrǵitēṯub (Urḫi-tešub) to the Queen (RS 20.199) (3.45Y)

To the queen, my lady, say: [Me]ssage of ʾUrǵitēṯub, your servant. At the feet of my lady (from) afar seven times and seven times do I fall. With my lady may it be well. May the [go]ds guard you, [may they keep] you well. [Her]e [with me], everything is [ver]y well. There with my lady, whatever is well, send word (of that) back to your servant.

(26) The Governor to the Queen (RS 94.2479) (3.45Z)

Address (lines 1–2)

To the queen, my lady, say: Message of the governor, your servant.

Prostration and Greeting Formulae (lines 3–4)

[A]t the feet of my lady I fall. With my lady may it be well.

Report of Well-being and Request for Return of News (lines 5–10)

Here in the king’s palace, everything is fine. There with my lady, whatever (is fine), may she return word (of that) to her servant.

The Shipping Report (lines 11–21)

(From) here twenty []du-measures of barley and five dūdu-measures of GDL and five dūdu-measures of NʿR, (one) kaddu-measure of oil (perfumed with) myrrh, (one) kaddu-measure of lamp-oil, (one) kaddu-measure of vinegar, (one) kaddu-measure of olives?, (from) my lady’s food provisions, all (of this) I herewith cause to be delivered (to you).

(27) Unknown, Perhaps the Queen, to Unknown (RS 94.2592) (3.45AA)

The Request for Particulars on the bnšm-Personnel (lines 3´-14´)

And I, for my part, I do not know who all the servants are who work there. So you, put (the names of) all the servants who work there in a document and have it delivered to me. I know what I will do with regard to these (servants). So, as for (every) worker, whoever he may be, put him (i.e., his name) on the document.149

V. Between Non-Royal Correspondents

Dennis Pardee

(28) A Military Situation (RS 4.475) (3.45BB)

Address and Greeting (lines 1–3)

Message of ʾEwariḏarri: To Pilsiya say: May it be well with you.

Hearsay and Request for Confirmation (lines 5–11)

Regarding Tarǵudassi and Kalbiya, I have heard that they have suffered defeat. Now if such is not the case, send me a message (to that effect).

ʾEwariḏarri’s Situation (lines 11–13)

Pestilence is (at work) here, for death is very strong.152

A Second Request for News (lines 14–19)

If they have been overcome, your reply and whatever (else) you may hear there put in a letter to me.

(29) Request for a Free Hand (RS 15.007) (3.45CC)

Address (lines 1–2)

Ganariyānu to Milkiyatanu:

Two Introductory Matters (lines 3–4)

Please put in a good word for me to the king.155 (Whatever) you propose, I will provide.156

The Meat of the Message (lines 5–10)

Please, my friend, send me (written?) authorization in regard to Šamunu, wherever he may be, so that I may seize him, (I) Ganariyānu. If Milkiyatanu (so says), I will accuse him (viz., Šamunu) of treason and I will seize (him).

(30) Brother to Sister (RS 17.063) (3.45DD)

Address, Situation Report, and Third-Party Greetings (lines 1–3)

ʿUzzīnu son of Bayaya to his sister ʿUṯtaya: I am alive and well. Say to my mother: “Your ‘master’ is well.”

Dispatch (lines 4–6)

I (herewith) send to you [an X-measure of Y?] as well as a piece of linen, entrusted to ḤŠ.

Request (lines 7–9)

Have (him bring) me ten lg-measures of (olive)-oil and three lg-measures of perfumed (olive-)oil. Have one TZN sent to me.

(31) ʿUzzīnu and Another Author to Master and Father (RS 17.117) (3.45EE)

Address and Greeting (lines 1–2)

ʿUzzīnu son of Bayaya a[nd …]. May Baʿlu inquire after your well-being.

The Son’s Message (lines 3–10)

As for me, your son, I am alive (and well thanks) to the Sun’s proclamation. vv I am living in the house of TRTN. (His) wife is furnishing my bread and, moreover, she is furnishing my wine (for) three (shekels of) silver. She is working for (my) father […].

ʿUzzīnu’s Message (lines 11´-23´)

[…] And he asked your sister that she should not give (me) any asa foetida. If she does not furnish it sufficiently according to your order, would you give it to me?

O my master, please give me also two ḫipānu-garments. I beg of you, what you are going to give me, send [me a message (concerning that)] in a letter. What you give, entrust it to someone with a faithful heart.ww […].

(32) Emergency Report From a City-commander (RS 19.011) (3.45FF)

Address (lines 1–2)

To ǴRDN, my master, say:

The Report (lines 3–11)

BN ḪRNK has come (here), he has defeated the (local) troops, he has pillagedxx the town, he has even burned our grain174 on the threshing-floorszz and destroyed the vineyards.

The Urgency of the Situation (lines 12–13)

Our town is destroyed and you must know it.175

(33) A Double Letter to Yabnīnu (RS 19.102) (3.45GG)

First Address (lines 1–5)

To Yabnīnu, my father, say: Message of Ta[lmiy]ānu, your son.

Prostration Formula (lines 6–7)

At the fee[t of my father I] fa[ll]. […]

Second Address (lines 13–16)

To Yabnī[nu], my master, s[ay]: Message of ʿAbd[…], your servant:

Prostration Formula and Request for Return of News (lines 17–24)

At the feet of my master twice seven times from afar I fall. Whatever is well with my master, [retu]rn word (of that) [to] your servant.

(34) Two Servants to their Master (RS 29.093) (3.45HH)

Address (lines 1–5)

To Yadurma, our master, say: Message of Pinḥaṯu and Yarmîhaddu, your servants.

Greetings and Prostration Formula (lines 5–10)

May it be well with our master. May the gods guard you, may they keep you well. At the feet of our master twice seven times (from) afar we fall.

The Problem with Binu-ʿAyāna (lines 11–19)

Here Binu-ʿAyāna keeps making demands on your maidservant.180 So send him a message and put a stop to this.182 Here is what I have done: I hired a workman and had this house repaired.ddd So why did Binu-ʿAyāna come back and take two shekels of silver from your maidservant?

Food for the Servants, a Garment for the Master (lines 20–29)

Now as for your two servants, there with you is all (one could need), so you must give food to them. Moreover, that is what the (members of the) household of your two servants keep requesting. And when your servant186 comes to tender to you his formal greetings, he will be sure to have a ḫipānu-garment made for my master, of whatever (is required) from your servant’s own goods.

(35) A Problem with Rations (RS 29.095) (3.45II)

Address (lines 1–2)

Message of Talmiyānu: To Pizziya say:

Greetings and Double Return of News Formula (lines 3–8)

May it be well with you. May the gods keep you well, may they guard you. Here with me it is w[el]l. There with you <whatever well-being there may be>, return word (of that) to me.

What to Do about Rations (lines 9–19)

Now listen well: As ʿDN has been continually requesting of you, he may take a bīku-jar (of wine) by permission of ʿPR. Don’t you w<or>ry about a thing! Until I arrive in ʿRM, the rations of ʿDN, (in the amount) of a dūdu-measure of the left-over grain, give to him.

(36) Double Letter, From ʿAzzīʾiltu to His Parents, from Same to His Sister (RS 92.2005) (3.45JJ)

First Address (lines 1–5)

[To ʾU]rtēnu, my [fa]ther, say, and to BḎR, my mother, say: Message of ʿAzzīʾiltu your son.

Greetings and Double Return of News Formula (lines 6–13)

May it be well with you. May the gods guard your well-being, may they keep you well. Here with me it is well.193 Whatever is well there, return word (of that) to me.

Body […]

Second Address (lines 23–25)

Message of ʿAzzīʾiltu: To ʾAbīya, my sister, say:

Greetings and Double Return of News Formula (lines 26–32)

May it be well with you. [May] the gods keep (you) well, may they guard you, may they [keep] you [wh]ole. [Here] with me [it is well. Whatever is we]ll [th]ere, return [word] (of that to me).

Body […]

(37) ʾAnantēnu to his Master Ḫiḏmiratu (RS 92.2010) (3.45KK)

Address (lines 1–4)

To Ḫiḏmiratu, my master, say: Message of ʾAnantēnu your servant.

Greeting and Prostration Formula (lines 4–9)

May the gods guard you, may they keep you well. At the feet of my master seven times and seven times (from) afar do I fall.

Expanded Return-of-News Formulae (lines 9–20)

Here with your servant it is very well. As for my master, (news of) his well-being, (of) the well being of Nikkaliya, (of) the well-being of his household, (of) the well-being of those who hear your good word(s),200 you, (O master,) you must send back to your servant.

A Plea for Clemency (lines 21–24)

Now may my master not destroy his servant’s house (hold) by his (own) hand.

(38) ʾAbniya Isn’t Happy (RS 94.2284) (3.45LL)

Address (lines 1–3)

Message of ʾAbniya: To ʾUrtēṯub, ʾUrtēnu, my brother, say: Here …

Objects Sent with the Letter (lines 4–6)

With <Ba>naʾilu I (herewith) send (you) two ʾIŠPR and three ʿRMLHḤT and four jars (of wine).

ʾAbniya’s Problem (lines 7–17)

Now, the heart of your sister is sick because they have treated me ill and I was never consulted. In the month of Ḫiyyāru — when nobody consulted me — a fattened bull was slaughtered and nobody gave me (any). As you live, and as do [I],hhh (I swear that) nobody gave [me (any)] and my heart is very sick. […].206

Response to a Previous Letter (lines 18–23)

Now as concerns the letter (regarding) a ḫipānu-garment and a pair of leggings (that you sent me): Some remain (made) partially (of) purple wool. If I KǴ any purple wool, I will certainly put (some of those) with them. When Banaʿilu is sent off, he will take your reply (i.e., my reply to your letter).

Request for Return of News and Further Complaining (lines 24–34)

Whatever is said (there), send (me) back a report through! Banaʾilu — he/it is/will be (in?) ʿKD. Now, you know how sick the heart of your sister will be if there is any (more) enmity. I’ll give two ne<w>?
ḫipānu-garments (for?) the wine from the provisions that were not given to me. […]. As for the money that you granted me, send it (to me) so I may cause (you) to sleep where your “soul” is going.212 Why do you delay sending your messenger to me? Don’t you know that my heart is sick?

(39) Provisions Are Running Out (RS 94.2383 + Rs 94.2619) (3.45MM)

Address and Greeting (lines 1–5)

To ʾUrtēnu, my brother, say: Message of ʿUṯtaya, your sister. May the gods keep you well, may they guard you.

The Problem (lines 6–13)

(It has been) three days now that there is no food in your house and for [… someone] struck and provisions CARRY (to) the house of the king. Twice now (someone) has taken (provisions?) and keeps asking […] CARRY the (message)-tablet. Now oil […] perfume […] and wood […] for him/her/it.

(40) Getting One’s Name Before the King (RS [varia 4]) (3.45NN)

Address and Greeting (lines 1–5)

Message of ʾIwariḏarri: To ʾIwaripuzini, my son, my brother, say: May the gods guard you, may they keep you well.

A Letter Previously Sent to Ṯarriyelli (lines 6–9)

How is it with the (message)-tablet iii that I sent to Ṯarriyelli? What has she said (about it)?

ʾIwaripuzini’s Intervention Requested (lines 10–14)

Now may my brother, my son, inquire of Ṯarriyelli and may she in turn mention my name to the kingjjj and to ʾIyyatalmi.

Report Requested (lines 15–19)

Now may my brother, my son, make this inquiry of Ṯarriyelli and return word to your brother, your father.

VI. Scribal Exercises

Dennis Pardee

(41) A Scribe Shows Off (RS 16.265) (3.45OO)

Address and Greetings (lines 1–6)

[Me]ssage of ʾIṯtēlu to MNN: May the gods guard you, may they keep you well, may they strengthen you, for a thousand days and ten thousand years, through the endless reaches of time. kkk

The Request (lines 7–16)

A request I would make of my brother, my friend, and may he grant it to his brother, his friend, (his) friend forever: May you give, and give!, and may you indeed give, and will you not certainly give?, give (me) a cup of wine that I might drink!

(42) The Greetings That ʾAbniya Might Have Sent (RS 94.2273) (3.45PP)

Address and Greetings (lines 1–7)

[Mess]age of ʾAbniya to ʾUrtēṯub: [I] fall at the feet of my brother. Here from afar I fall; seven times, eight times, I fall. May the gods guard you, may they ke[ep you well].


Text, translations and studies: Ahl 1973; Albright 1958; Astour 1965; 1969; 1981; Bordreuil 1982; 1984; 1991; Bordreuil and Caquot 1980; Bordreuil and Malbran-Labat 1995; Bordreuil and Pardee 1982; 1989; 1991; in press; in preparation; Bounni, Lagarce and Lagarce 1998; Brooke 1979; Callot 1983; 1984; Caquot 1975; 1978a; 1978b; Courtois 1990; Cunchillos 1988; 1989; 1999; Dhorme 1933; 1938; Dietrich and Loretz 1964–66; 1974; 1984; 1994; KTU; KTU2; Dijkstra 1976; 1994; Dijkstra, de Moor and Spronk 1981; Freu 1999; Gordon 1947; Gröndahl 1967; Helck 1963; CTA; Herdner 1978; Hoffner 1998; Hoftijzer 1967; 1979; 1982; Huffmon and Parker 1966; Jidejian 1969; de Jong and van Soldt 1987–88; Kaiser 1970; Klengel 1974; 1992; Kristensen 1977; Lackenbacher 1989; Liverani 1962; 1964a; 1964b; 1979; 1995; 1997; Loewenstamm 1967; Malbran-Labat 1991; 1995a; 1995b; Milano 1983; de Moor 1965; 1996; Nougayrol 1955; 1956; 1968; Owen 1981; Pardee 1975; 1977; 1979–80; 1981; 1981–82; 1983–84; 1984; 1986; 1987a; 1987b; 1987c; 1988; 1997a; 1997b; 2000a; 2000b; forthcoming a; forthcoming b; forthcoming c forthcoming d; Pardee, Sperling, Whitehead and Dion 1982; Pardee and Whiting 1987; Rainey 1974; Saadé 1995; Singer 1991; 1999; Sivan 1984; van Soldt 1983; 1985–86; 1990; 1991; 1996; 1998; Thureau-Dangin 1937; Tropper 2000; de Vaux 1946; Virolleaud 1938; 1940; 1957; 1965; 1968; Vita 1995; Vita and Galán 1997; Watson and Wyatt 1999; Xella 1991; Yon 1992; 1995; 1997.

3. Aramaic Letters

The Jedaniah Archive from Elephantime

(419/18 to after 407 bce)

Bezalel Porten

The first identifiably Elephantine Aramaic papyrus was acquired in 1898/99 on the antiquities market by the Egyptologist Wilhelm Spiegelberg for the (now-named) Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire of Strasbourg and published by Julius Euting in 1903 (COS 3.50). While fragmentary, it reported the nefarious acts of the Khnum priests and foreshadowed the tale of the destruction of the Jewish temple. This was detailed in some ten documents uncovered by Otto Rubensohn and Friedrich Zucker in 1907–1908 and published by Eduard Sachau in 1911 (TAD A4.1–10). They have been brought together because they were addressed to the Jewish leader Jedaniah son of Gemariah (COS 3.46–48), were written by/for him (COS 3.51 and 3.53), or concern events in which he was involved (COS 3.49–50 and 3.52). Historically, this composite archive is of inestimable significance. It opened in 419 bce with a fragmentary letter from an unknown Hananiah reporting a (missing) directive of Darius II to Arsames and instructing Jedaniah “and his colleagues the Jewish troop” on the proper observance of the Passover (3.46). It closed some dozen years later with a memorandum of a recommendation for Arsames, issued jointly by Bagavahya of Judah and Delaiah son of Sanballat, governor of Samaria, that the destroyed Temple be rebuilt on its site and (only) incense and meal-offering be made there (3.52); and an abridged draft letter of Jedaniah and his four named colleagues, probably to the same Arsames, offering a handsome bribe and accepting certain restrictions if the reconstruction of their Temple be authorized (3.53). The center piece is an elegantly written and rhetorically stylized draft petition, in two copies, the second revised, addressed to the Persian-named, but probably Jewish, governor of Judah, seeking his written intercession with the Persian authorities for the Temple’s reconstruction (3.51 [only the first draft is presented here]). Hananiah’s festal letter combined known provisions from the written Torah with innovations from a developing oral Torah. Whoever he may have been, whether a representative of Jerusalem or a delegate from the Persian court, his arrival in Egypt stirred up the Khnum priests on the island of Elephantine against the Jewish Temple. In a letter of recommendation on behalf of two Egyptians who had extricated the scribe Mauziah son of Nathan from a tight situation in Abydos, the latter wrote to Jedaniah, “To you it is known that Khnum is against us since Hananiah has been in Egypt until now” (3.48). Other letters intimated that both sides presented their claims before the Persian authorities in Thebes and Memphis — the Egyptians “act thievishly” (3.47) — and reported how the Jews took things into their own hands and pillaged Egyptian homes, for which they were imprisoned and forced to pay heavy reparations (3.49). All the intact letters open with a form of the standard salutation, “May the gods/God of Heaven seek after the welfare-of-my-lords/brothers/your welfare at all times” (3.46–49, 3.51). Eight of the ten letters are presented here; today they are divided between the museums in Berlin (3.46, half of 3.49, 3.51–52) and Cairo (3.47–48, half of 3.49, 3.53) and the library in Strasbourg (3.50).

The Passover Letter (3.46)

(419/18 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Significant as this letter (P. Berlin 13464 [TAD A4.1]) is, its full intent eludes us because of our ignorance as to the identity of Hananiah and the loss of the command from Darius to Arsames (Instructions I). Hananiah arrived from outside of Egypt, either upon the initiative of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem or of the Persian court or in response to a petition of the Elephantine Jews. If the latter, we may imagine that their observance of the dual Festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread was being obstructed by the Egyptian priests. Hananiah succeeded in gaining the king’s confirmation of their traditional rights and on his own initiative stated three or four biblical requirements (Instructions II), such as eating unleavened bread during the seven day festival, followed by an interlacing of biblical requirements, such as abstaining from work on the first and last days, and interpretative innovations concerning purity, fermented drink, and the storage of leaven (Instructions III). These latter may have been recent rulings in Jerusalem. Obscure is the manner in which the first night and day of the Festival of Passover was to be observed. A home sacrifice? A temple sacrifice? As a festal letter, this missive is reminiscent of the letters of King Hezekiah about Passover, of Esther and Mordecai about Purim, and of the Jerusalem authorities about Hanukkah (2 Chr 30:1–9; Esth 9:2032; 2 Macc 1:1–2:18). The letter is heavily smeared and may have been a palimpsest.

Internal Address

(Recto)(1)[To my brothers a Je]daniah and his colleagues4 the Jewish T[roop],5 your brother Hanan[i]ah.


The welfare of my brothers may the gods [seek after (2)at all times]?

Instructions I

And now, this year, year 5 of Darius the king,10 from11 the king it has been sent to Arsa[mes …].13

Instructions II

(3)[…] … Now, you,15 thus countd four[teen (4)days of Nisan and on the 14th at twilight19
the Passover ma]ke and from day 15 until day 21 of [Nisan the Festival
(5)of Unleavened Bread observe. Seven days unleavened bread eat.

Instructions III

Now], be pure e and take heed. f Work [do] n[ot do (6)on day 15 and on day 21 of Nisan. Any fermented drink] do not drink. And anything of leaven26 do not [eat (Verso) (7)and do not let it be seen
in your houses from day 14 of Nisan at] sunset until day 21 of Nisa[n at sun(8)set. And any leaven which you have in your houses b]ring into your chambers and seal (them) up during [these] days.29
(9)[…] ….

External Address

(10)[To] (sealing) my brothers Jedaniah and his colleagues the Jewish Troop, your brother Hananiah s[on of PN].


Text, translations, and studies: EPE; GEA; Porten 1968; Porten 1979; TAD A4.1.

Report of Conflict and Request for Assistance (3.47)

(Late 5th Century bce)

Bezalel Porten

Written on a three-ply protocol (first sheet) of a scroll (Cairo J. 43471 [TAD A4.2]), this letter defies proper understanding because of the loss of its left half and the use of numerous words and phrases that occur only here. An unknown subordinate, using the standard pagan Salutation formula, informed the leaders Jedaniah, Mauziah, and Uriah of proceedings at the court of Arsames in Memphis where he and his colleagues were bested by the Egyptians who proffered bribes and acted “thievishly” (lines 3–5). Timely appearance before Arsames would have altered the situation, but a counter-offer of goods should help to assuage anger (lines 8–11). The final paragraph is a Report on several discrete matters, including the arrival of Pasou from Elephantine, the detention of Ḥori, and the “damage” suffered by Arsames (lines 11–15).

Internal Address

(Recto)(1)To my lords Jedaniah, Mauziah,2 Uriah, and the Troop,4 [yo]ur servant a [PN.


The welfare of my lords may the gods, all (of them)], (2)seek after at all times. It is well for us here.8


Now, every day that10 […] (3)he complained to the investigators.12 One Jivaka, he complained to an investigator … […] (4)we have since the Egyptians give to them a bribe.15 And from (the time) that […] (5)of the Egyptians before Arsames, but act thievishly.

Report I

Moreover, b […] (6)the province of Thebes and thus say:20 It is Mazdayazna/a Mazdean who is an official21 of the province […] (7)we are afraid because we are fewer by two.24

Report II and Instructions

Now, behold, they favored26 […]. (8)Had we rerevealed our presence to Arsames prior to this, this (!) wou[ld] not [have been done to us …] (9)he will report our affairs before Arsames. Paisana pacifies us29 […. So whatever] (10)you will find — honey, castor oil, string, rope, leather skins, boards [… — send us since] (Verso) (11)they are full of anger d at you.

Report III

Pasou son of Mannuki came to Memphis33 and … […] (12)and the investigator. And he gave me silver, 12 staters and happy with it [am I35 …] (13)Ḥori gave me when they detained him because of the pitcher. Tiri … said: “[…] (14)at the order of the king and they detain them. And the damage38 of Arsames and the compensation39 of Djeḥ[o …] (15)and Ḥori whom they detained.”


On day 6 of Phaophi the letters arrived […] (16)we will do (the) thing.

External Address

(17)To (sealing) my lords Jaadaniah, Mauziah, y[our] se[rvant PN].


Text, translations and studies: DAE; Dion 1982; EPE; GEA; Hinz; KAI; Kornfeld; Lindenberger 1994; Porten 1968; TAD A4.2.

Recommendation to Aid Two Benefactors (3.48)

(Late 5th Century bce)

Bezalel Porten

This bipartite letter of recommendation (Cairo J. 43472 [TAD A4.3]) set forth in the first half the benefit that Djeḥo and Ḥor had bestowed upon the writer, the scribe and leader Mauziah (lines 3–5), and in the second half recommended that upon their arrival at Elephantine they be handsomely reimbursed (lines 5–11). The Troop Commander of Elephantine arrested Mauziah in Abydos, either for complicity or negligence regarding the theft of a precious stone. Through the strenuous intercession of two Egyptian servants of Anani, and with divine assistance, his release was secured. As the servants headed for Elephantine, Mauziah wrote to Jedaniah and his colleagues that they should be well taken care of. He assured the leaders that the expenditure should not be viewed as a loss since it would ultimately be covered by the House of Anani. The letter revealed the antagonism that the arrival of Hananiah had aroused among the Khnum priesthood. Though himself among the community’s leaders, Mauziah deferentially addressed them as “my lords” and penned a double Salutation (lines 1–3).

Internal Address

(Recto) (1)To my lords Jedaniah, Uriah2 and the priests of YHW the God, Mattan son of Jashobiah4 (and) Berechiah son of […]; (2)your servant Mauziah.


The welfare of [my] lords [may the God of Heaven seek after abundantly at all times and] in favor may you be before (3)the God of Heaven.


And now, when Vidranga the Troop Commander8 arrived at Abydos10 he imprisoned me on account of a12 dyer’s stone which (4)they found stolen in the hand of the merchants.15 Finally, Djeḥo and Ḥor, servants of Anani,17 intervened with Vidranga (5)and Ḥarnufe, with the protection of the God of Heaven,20 until they rescued me.


Now, behold, they are coming23 there to you. You, look after25  them. (6)Whatever desire c and thing that Djeḥo (and) Ḥor shall seek from you — you, stand before29 them so that30 a bad thing (7)they shall not find about you. To you it is known32 that Khnum33 is against us since Hananiah has been in Egypt until now. (8)And whatever you will do for Ḥor, for your [… y]ou are doing. Ḥor is a servant of Hananiah. You, lavish38 from our houses (Verso) (9)goods. As much as your hand finds40 give him. It is not a loss for you. For that (reason) I send (word) to you.42 He (10)said to me, “Send a letter ahead of me.” […] If there is much loss, there is backing for it in the house of Anani. Whatever you do (11) for him shall not be hidden from Anani.44

External Address

(12)To (sealing) my lords Jedaniah, Uriah and the priests, and the Jews; your ser[vant] (cord) Mauziah son of Nathan.


Text, translations and studies: Dion 1982; EPE; GEA; Kornfeld 1978; Lidzbarski 1915; Lindenberger 1994; Porten 1968; TAD.

Report of Imprisonment of Jewish Leaders (3.49)

(Last Decade of 5th Century bce)

Bezalel Porten

Opening and closing with a pagan Salutation, a private letter (P. Berlin 13456 + Cairo J. 43476 [TAD A4.4]) from the otherwise unknown Islaḥ, son of Nathan, to an unknown son of Gaddul reported the fateful incarceration of several men in Elephantine and the seizure and imprisonment of six Jewish women and five Jewish leaders at the gate in Thebes. The men were apparently implicated in an invasion of private property and theft therefrom. They were forced to evacuate the property, return the goods, and pay a hefty fine of 1200 shekels. Hopefully, there would be no further repercussions (lines 7–9) but there was no word on their release from prison. Was this act on the part of the Jews part of their ongoing conflict with the Khnum priesthood (see 3.48:7) which eventuated in the destruction of the Jewish Temple at their instigation (3.51:5–6)? Perhaps the priests exploited the imprisonment of the whole Jewish leadership in Thebes to consummate their plot.

Internal Address

(Recto) (1)[To my brother PN, your brother Islaḥ.


It is well for me here]. May the gods3 seek after your welfare at all times.

Report I

And now, [… (2) …] PN son of PN went to Syene and did/made … [… (3)

Report II

Behold, these are the names of the men wh]o were imprisoned in [Ele]phantine: Berechia, Hose[a, … (4) …], Pakhnum.

Report III

Behold, this is10 the names of the women who were f[ound at the gate (5)in Thebes and seized13 as p]risoners:

Rami, wife of Hodo,

Esereshut, wife of Hosea,

Pallul, wife of Islaḥ,

Reia, [wife/daughter of PN],

(6)Tubla, daughter of Meshullam (and) Kavla her sister.

Report IV

Behold the names of the men who were found at the gate in Thebes and were seized [as prisoners]:

(7)Jedania, son of Gemariah,

Hosea, son of Jathom,

Hosea, son of Nattum,

Haggai, his brother,

Ahio, son of Micai[ah.

They left] (8)the houses into which they had broken in at Elephantine and the goods which they took they surely24 returned to their owners.26 However, they mentioned to [their] owners [silver], (9)120 karsh. May another decree no more be (delivered) to them here.29


Greetings, your house and your children until the gods let [me] behold31 [your face in peace].

External Address

(Verso) (10)[To (sealing) my brother PN son of] Gaddul, your broth[er] Islah son of Nathan.34


Text, translations and studies: EPE; GEA; Lindenberger 1994; TAD.

Petition for Reconstruction of Temple (?) (draft) (3.50)

(Last Decade of 5th Century bce)

Bezalel Porten

This letter (Strasbourg Aram. 2 [TAD A4.5]) was written not in a single vertical column, like the other letters, but in two parallel horizontal columns on the recto and a single vertical column on the verso. An estimated three lines are missing at the top and bottom of each column. Writing to an unknown official, the Jews protested their loyalty at the time of the (recent or earlier?) Egyptian rebellion (lines 2–4). In the summer of 410 bce, when Arsames left to visit the king, the Khnum priests bribed Vidranga to allow partial destruction of a royal storehouse to make way for a wall (lines 4–5), apparently the ceremonial way leading to the shrine of the god, as reported in the contracts of Anani (3.78:8–9; 3.79:4). Furthermore, the priests stopped up a well that served the forces during mobilization (lines 6–8). Inquiry undertaken by the judges, police, and intelligence officials would confirm the facts as herein reported (lines 8–10). The very fragmentary column on the verso referred to Temple sacrifices and included a threefold petition, apparently for protection and the Temple’s reconstruction (lines 11–24).

The subject-object-verb word order (lines 1, 8), a pattern typical of Akkadian, was standard in the official petitions (see 3.51:6–7, 15; 3.53:12) and in the Arsames correspondence.

(Recto) (Column 1)

[approximately three lines missing]


(1)we grew/increased, detachments a of the Egyptians rebelled. We,4 our posts did not leave (2)(erasure: and anything of) damage b was not found in us.


In year 14 of Darius the [ki]ng, when our lord Arsames (3)had gone to the king, this is the evil act9 which the priests c of Khnub the god [di]d12 in Elephantine the fortress (4)in agreement with Vidranga who was Chief15 here: Silver and goods they gave him?

Demolition and Construction

There is part (5)of the barley-house of the king which is in Elephantine the fortress18 — they demolished d (it) and a wall [they] built21 [in] the midst of the fortress of Elephantine ….

[at least three lines missing]

(Column 2)

Report of Damage

(6)And now, that wall (stands) built in the midst of the fortress. There is a24 well which is built26
(7)with[in] the f[or]tress and water it does not lack to give the troop drink so that whenever28 they would be garrisoned (there), (8)in [th]at well the water31 they would drink. Those priests of Khnub,33 that well they stopped up.


If (9)it be made (8)known (9)from the judges,37 overseers and hearers39 who are appointed in the province of Tshetres,41
(10)it will be [known] to our lord in accordance with this43 which we say.

Moreover, separated are we …

[approximately three lines missing]



(11)[…]d/rḥpnyʾ which are in Elephantine [the] fo[rtress … (12) …] we grew/increased [… (13) …] was not found in [… (14) …] to bring meal-offer[ing48(15) …] to make there for YHW [the] G[od … (16) …] herein … [… (17) …] but a brazier [… (16) …] the fittings they took (and) [made (them) their] own52 […].

Threefold Petition

(19)[I]f to our lord it is abundantly good … […, (20) …] we from/of the troop […] (21)[If to] our lord it is good, f may [an order] be issued g [… (22) …] we. If to [our] l[ord it is good, … (23) …] they [pro]tect the things which56 [… (24) …] the [Temp]le of ours which they demolished to [build …].


Text, translations and studies: DAE; DNWSI; EPE; Folmer 1995; GEA; Hinz 1975; Lindenberger 1994; Malinine 1953; Porten 1968; TAD.

Request for Letter of Recommendation (First Draft) (3.51)

(25 November, 407 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Historically, this is the most significant of all the Elephantine Aramaic texts (P. Berlin 13495 [TAD A4.7]). It is a well-balanced, carefully constructed bipartite petition (Report and Petition) addressed by Jedaniah, the priests, and all the Jews of Elephantine to Bagavahya, governor of Judah. It opens with a Fourfold Salutation (welfare, favor, longevity, happiness and strength) and concludes with a Threefold Blessing (sacrifice, prayer, merit). The Report has three parts: Demolition (lines 4–13), Precedents (lines 13–14), Aftermath (lines 15–22). The Demolition delineates the plot hatched between the Egyptian Khnum priests and the local Persian authorities, the Chief Vidranga and his son the Troop Commander Nafaina. The Precedents were twofold: Egyptian Pharaohs authorized the Temple’s construction and the Persian conqueror approved of its existence. The Aftermath relates the situation following the destruction: punishment of the perpetrators in response to prayer and fasting; silence of all Jerusalem authorities in the face of earlier petition; continued communal mourning; cessation of cult. The Petition sets forth the Threefold Request (take thought, regard, write) which, if successful, would lead, as indicated, to a Threefold Blessing. The letter concludes with a twofold Addendum and Date. The scribe was well-skilled in Aram. rhetorical style and cognizant of all the appropriate rhetorical formulae. His single-line message is that the perpetrator was “wicked” while the Jews were “men of goodness.” Curiously, the first eleven lines were written by one scribe (Scribe A) while a second scribe (Scribe B) began writing in line 12 in the middle of a sentence and continued until the end of the letter. He also wrote the second draft (TAD A4.8), which was a distinct effort to polish the style and perfect the orthography. The two versions were stored together and only the third dispatched to Jerusalem. A semiological analysis seeks to trace the “script” back to Neo-Assyrian complaints and petitions.3 Linguistically, the document displays features typical of Akkadian, such as subject-object-verb word order (lines 6–7, 14, 15) and its language has been designated “Official Aramaic of the Eastern type.” Bare traces of the Temple itself may have been uncovered in recent excavations.5

Internal Address

(Recto)(1)To our lord Bagavahya7 governor of Judah, a your servants Jedaniah and his colleagues the priests10 who are in Elephantine the fortress.

Fourfold Salutation

The welfare (2)of our lord may the God of Heaven seek after abundantly at all times,13 and favor may He grant you before Darius the king15
(3)and the princes b more than now a thousand times,18 and long life19 may He give you,20 and happy and strong may you be22 at all times.


(4)Now, your servant Jedaniah and his colleagues thus say:25

Plot In the month of Tammuz, year 14 of Darius the king,f when Arsames (5)left and went to the king,28 the priests of Khnub the god30 who (are) in Elephantine the fortress, in agreement32 with Vidranga who (6)was (5)Chief here, (said),35

“The Temple of YHW the God which is in Elephantine the fortress38 let them remove39 from there.”

Order Afterwards, that41 Vidranga, (7)the wicked,h a letter sent to Nafaina his son, who was Troop Commander44 in Syene the fortress, saying:

“The Temple which is in Elephantine (8)the fortress let them demolish.”


Afterwards, Nafaina led the Egyptians with the other troops. They came to the fortress of Elephantine with their implements,48  (9)broke into that Temple, demolished it50 to the ground, j and the pillars of stone which were there — they smashed them. Moreover,54 it happened (that the) (10)five (9)gateways (10)of stone, built of hewn stone,56  which were in that Temple, they demolished.57 And their standing doors, and the pivots59
(11)of those doors, (of) bronze, and the roof of wood of cedar61 — all (of these) which, with the rest62 of the fittings n and other (things), which (12)were (11)there — (12)all (of these) with fire they burned.66  But the basins of gold and silver67  and the (other) things68 which were in that Temple — all (of these) they took (13)and made their own.


And from the days of the king(s) of Egypt our fathers71 had built that Temple73 in Elephantine the fortress and when Cambyses entered75 Egypt — (14)that Temple, built he found it. And the temples of the gods of Egypt,77 all (of them), they overthrew,79 but anything in that Temple one did not damage.


Mourning I
(15)And when (the) like (s of) this had been done (to us), we, with our wives and our children, were wearing83 sackcloth and fasting and praying q to YHW, the Lord of Heaven, r
(16)who let us gloat over s that Vidranga, the cur. They removed the fetter88 from his feet and all goods which he had acquired90 were lost.

Punishment And all persons (17)who sought evil for that Temple, all (of them),92 were killed and we gazed upon them?

Appeal Moreover, before this, at the time that this evil95 (Verso) (18)was done to us, a letter we sent (to) our lord,97 and to Jehohanan t the High Priest and his colleagues the priests u who are in Jerusalem, and to Avastana the brother (19)of Anani v and the nobles of the Jews. w A letter they did not send us.

Mourning II Moreover, from the month of Tammuz, year 14 of Darius the king (20)and until this day, we have been wearing sackcloth and have been fasting;104 the wives of ours105 like a widow have been made y; (with) oil (we) have not anointed (ourselves), (21)and wine have not drunk. z

Cessation of Cult Moreover, from that (time) and until (this) day, year 17 of Darius the king, meal-offering and ince[n]se and burnt-offering109
(22)they did not make in that Temple.


Now, your servants Jedaniah and his colleagues and the Jews, all (of them) citizens of Elephantine,111  thus say:

Threefold Request
(23)If to our lord it is good, bb take thought cc of that Temple to (re)build (it) since115 they do not let us (re)build it.117 Regard (24)your (23)ob(24)ligees dd and your friends who are here in Egypt. May a letter from you be sent120 to them about the Temple of YHW the God (25)to (re)build it in Elephantine the fortress just as it had been built formerly.122

Threefold Blessing And the meal-offering and the incense and the burnt-offering they will offer124
(26)on the altar of YHW the God in your name and we shall pray for you at all times126  — we and our wives and our children and the Jews,127
(27)all (of them) who are here. If thus they did until129 that Temple be (re)built, a merit gg it will be for you before YHW the God of (28)Heaven (more) than a person who will offer132 him burnt-offering and sacrifices hh (whose) worth is as the worth of silver, 1 thousand talents, and about gold.135 About this (29)we have sent (and) informed (you). ii

Addendum I

Moreover, all the (se) things in a letter we sent in our name to Delaiah and Shelemiah sons of Sanballatjj governor of Samaria.

Addendum II

(30)Moreover, about this which was done to us, all of it, Arsames did not know.


On the 20th of Marcheshvan, year 17 of Darius the king.


Text, translations and studies: Briant 1996; EPE; Fales 1987; Joüon 1934; KAI; Kaufman 1974; Kutscher 1977; Lindenberger 1994; 2001; Porten 1968; Porten 1998; TAD; von Pilgrim 1999.

Recommendation for Reconstruction of Temple (3.52)

(After 407 bce)

Bezalel Porten

If a written reply to the petition was sent, as requested, it has not been found. Preserved herein (P. Berlin 13497 [TAD A4.9]) is a concise and precise verbal message dictated jointly by the authorities in Jerusalem and Samaria. Written on a torn piece of papyrus by the same scribe as the second draft of the petition (TAD A4.8), it was much amended. Its close adherence to the petition indicates an essential endorsement of Jedaniah’s claim. Yet the plot by the Egyptian priests of Khnum was ignored. Only the Persians were involved — the Jews are to assert before Arsames that the Jewish Temple at Elephantine which existed before Cambyses and was destroyed in the fourteenth year of Darius by that wicked Vidranga was to be restored. Jedaniah’s argument from precedent carried great weight; the Temple which existed formerly (mn qdmn) was to be restored as formerly (lqdmn) and meal-offering and incense were to be offered up as formerly (lqdmyn). This authorization was a clear echo of the claim of Darius I in his Bisitun inscription that he reestablished his dynasty in its place as formerly (TAD C2.1III.3–4 = Akk. line 25) — “I made it just as (it was) before me” (Akk. line 29). The Aramaic version of this inscription had only recently been recopied and may have been counted among Jedaniah’s treasures.1 But the endorsement was not without serious reservation; the requested burnt-offering was passed over in silence, implying that such offerings were limited to Jerusalem.

The clear dependence of the memorandum on the petition allows us to surmise that the Hebrew proclamation of Cyrus (Ezra 1:2–4) was formulated on the basis of a Hebrew petition from the Jews.


(Recto)(1)Memorandum. a What Bagavahya and Delaiah said (2)to me.

Subject of Petition

Memorandum. Saying, “Let it be for you5 in Egypt to say (Erasure: bef) (3)(Erasure: to me about) before Arsames about the Altar-house b of the God of (Erasure: Heav) (4)Heaven c which in Elephantine the fortress built (5)it was formerly before Cambyses13 (and) (6)which Vidranga, that wicked (man), demolished15
(7)in year 14 of Darius the king:


(8)to (re)build it on its site d as it was formerly (9)and the meal-offering and the incense e they shall offer upon (10)that altar just as formerly (11)was done.’ ”


Text, translations and studies: Hurvitz 1995; Porten 1968; Sachau 1911; TAD A4.9.

Offer of Payment for Reconstruction of Temple (Draft) (3.53)

(After 407 bce)

Bezalel Porten

The lower, left half of the text is lost and holes affect the reading of several other crucial words. As a draft (Cairo J. 43467 [TAD A4.10]), the letter omitted the praescriptio but listed in column form the names of the five leaders presenting the petition. Headed by Jedaniah, they were not priests or “Jews, citizens of Elephantine” (3.51:1, 22) but “Syenians, hereditary property-holders in Elephantine” (line 6). This designation was doubtless designed to impress the recipient, identified only as “our lord,” that they were indeed capable of paying the promised silver and thousand ardabs of barley if their request to rebuild the Temple were approved. In their proposal they also committed themselves not to offer animal sacrifices but only incense and meal-offering. Inference that the Temple was indeed rebuilt may be derived from the final contract in Anani’s archive (3.80:18–19; see EPE 249, n. 37). It has also been argued by von Pilgrim, who has been excavating on Elephantine.1

Introductory Formula

(Recto)(1)Your servants —

Jedaniah, son of Gem[ariah], by name,4  1

(2)Mauzi, son of Nathan, by name, [1]

(3)Shemaiah, son of Haggai, by name, 1

(4)Hosea, son of Jathom, by name, 1

(5)Hosea, son of Nattun, by name, 1:

all (told) 5 persons, (6)Syenians, b who in Elephantine the fortress are heredi[tary-property-hold]ers — (7)thus say:

Offer of Payment

If our lord […]13
(8)and the Temple-of-YHW-the-God of ours be (re)built (9)in Elephantine the fortress as former[ly] it was [bu]ilt — (10)and sheep, ox, (and) goat17 (as) burnt-offering18 are [n]ot made there (11)but (only) incense (and) meal-offering d [they offer there] — (12)and should our lord a statement mak[e22
about this, afterwards] (13)we shall give to the house of our lord24 si[lver … and] (14)barley, a thousa[nd] ardabs.


Text, translations and studies: EPE; Hinz 1975; Porten 1968; Szubin and Porten 1982; TAD; von Pilgrim 1999.

Appeal of Adon King of Ekron to Pharaoh (3.54)

(ca. 604 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Discovered in a clay jar at Saqqarah in 1942, along with Egyptian and Greek papyri, by Zaki Saad Effendi, this light-colored papyrus fragment (7.7/8.5 cm wide x 9.6/9.8 cm tall) rests now in the Cairo Egyptian Museum (J. 86984 = papyrus number 3483). It contains the right half of a nine-line Aramaic letter, addressed to “Lord of Kings Pharaoh” from “your servant Adon King of […]” (line 1), appealing for help against the King of Babylon whose forces had reached Aphek (lines 4, 7). The identity of Adon had long been a mystery, until Porten discovered in 1978 a demotic filing notation on the letter’s verso that points to its origin in Ekron. A double salutation blesses Pharaoh in the name of Heaven and Earth and Beelshemayin and wishes him longevity like the “days of (the) heavens and (the) waters” (lines 2–3). Adon based his plea for help on his having observed his treaty obligations (ṭbth) to the King of Egypt (line 8). The appeal (lines 6–7) is couched in the third person throughout (“Pharaoh knows,” “your servant,” “let him not abandon [me],” “your servant,” “his good relations”). The last line (9) contains obscure references to a “governor” and a “letter” of a certain Sindur. The destruction of Ekron Stratum IB is dated by its excavator and others to 604 bce, just after the failed appeal of our letter (Gitin 1998:276, n. 2; Fantalkin 2001:131–132, 144).

Internal Address

(recto)(1)To the Lord of Kings a Pharaoh, your servant Adon3 King of E[kron].


(2)May (1)the gods of] (2)Heaven and Earth and Beelshemayin,5 [the great] god [seek after (1)the welfare of my lord, Lord of Kings Pharaoh, (2)abundantly at all times,and may they lengthen the days of] (3)Pharaoh like the days of (the) heavens9  and (the) waters.10


[… the force] (4)of the King of Babylon c has come (and) reached Aphek and … […] (5) … they have seized and brought […] in all […]


(6)For the Lord of Kings Pharaoh knows that your servant […] (7)to send a force d to rescue me. Let him not abandon [me,16 for your servant did not violate the treaty of the Lord of Kings] (8)and your servant preserved his good relations.

Addendum I

And (as for) this commander […] (9)a governor in the land.19

Addendum II

And (as for) the letter of Sindur … […].

Recipient’s Notation

(verso [demotic])(10)What the Great One of Ekron gave to … […].


Text: Dupont-Sommer 1948b; Fitzmyer 1965; SSI 2: #21; KAI #266; Porten 1981; TAD A1.1. Translations and studies: Baumgarten 1981; Borger 1956; DDD; Dion 1982a; 1982b; DOTT 251–252; Fantalkin 2001; Fitzmyer 1965; 1979; Gibson 1975; Ginsberg 1940; 1948; Gitin 1998; Horn 1968; Hug 1993:15–16; KAI 2:36–52; Krahmalkov 1981; Lindenberger 1994:20–22; Porten 1981; 1998; Shea 1985; TUAT 1:634; Wiseman 1956; Yurco 1991:41–42.



B. Contracts


1. Phoenician

Cebel Ires Daği (3.55)

K. Lawson Younger, Jr.

This inscription, written in good standard (Tyro-Sidonian) Phoenician and dating approximately to 625–600 bce, was incised on a coarse, dark limestone in the rough shape of a prism with three sides (measuring.545 m maximum in length along its base,.175 m in height and.315 m maximum in depth). The three sides (designated A, B, and C) follow an interlocking order with a colophon in C3. The inscription was found at the site of an ancient city located mid-way up the slope of a prominent mountain known as Cebel Ires Daği (now Cebelireis Daği; see Lebrun 1992), about 15 km east of the city of Alanya (in southern Turkey). It is now housed in the Alanya Museum.

The inscription is a record of real estate transferrals. It is chiefly concerned with an individual named Masanazamis. The first part of the inscription records a number of real estate transferrals. It begins with an initial land-allotment to Masanazamis by a governor named Asulaparna. It then records a real estate transferral by this same governor to two individuals named Mutas and Kulas. Next, the text records a personal real estate transferral made by Mutas to Kulas. This apparently included the giving of Mutas’ daughter msd to Kulas. This personal transaction is certified and notarized by both the installation of a deity (Baʿal of the “furnace”) and the utterance of a curse against anyone who might misappropriate this personal real estate given by Mutas to Kulas.

At this point, the inscription relates an incident occurring under another governor (Aziwasis) in which Masanazamis was exiled (apparently by Kulas). But a royal reinstatement of Masanazamis by King Awariku (see note 25) is registered which entitles Masanazamis to all of Kulas’ real estate. Finally, a royal codicil reports the transferral of Kulas’ wife (the daughter of Mutas, i.e. msd) to Masanazamis.

Gubernatorial transfer of real estate by Asulaparna to Masanazamis (1a-3a1)

Asulaparna, the governor of ylbŠ, gave5 a land-allotmenta to Masanazamis, his servant, in tmrs. He (Masanazamis) planted plants in the field of the First-born9 during the term of office (lit. “days”) of Asulaparna. He (Asulaparna) gave him another vineyard in Adrassus as well as a vineyard in kw.

Gubernatorial transfer of real estate by Asulaparna to Mutas and Kulas (3a1–3b)

And furthermore, he (Asulaparna) gave wlwy in wrykly13 to Mutas and Kulas.15

Personal real estate transferral by Mutas to Kulas (4a–7a)

The transferral (4a–5a)

And furthermore, Mutas gave to Kulas the field of the Prince and the vineyards within the field of the Prince below the town as well as the vineyards below ml.

The installation of the deity (5b1)

And furthermore, he (Mutas) settled Baʿal Kura in it,

The curse (5b2–7a1)

and Mutas pronounced a mighty curse b so that no one should illegitimately seize it — field or vineyard — from the possession of the family21 of Kulas among everything which Mutas had given to him.

The exile of Masanazamis (7a2–7b)

But when he (Kulas) exiled Masanazamis23 during the term of office (lit. “days”) of Aziwasis,

Royal reinstatement of Masanazamis (8a–8b)

then King Awariku handed over26 to Masanazamis all these fields (of Kulas).

Witnesses (9a-c1a)

And present before him were: Pihalas,27 the envoy, and Logbasis (?), the brother of Las29 and Nanimutas.

Royal codicil (c1a-c2)

And furthermore, Mutas had given msd, his daughter, to Kulas; but during the term of office (lit. “days”) of Aziwasis, he (Awariku) handed her over to Masanazamis.31

Colophon (c3)

Pihalas, the scribe, set down this inscription.


Text, translations and studies: Mosca and Russell 1983; 1987; Lemaire 1989; Long and Pardee 1989; Long 1991; Greenfield 1990.

2. Assyrian Aramaic

A Barley Loan from Assur (3.56)

(VA 7499; AECT 47)

K. Lawson Younger, Jr.

Discovered in excavations at Assur, this Assyrian Aramaic inscription recording a loan of barley is written on a triangular clay docket. It dates to the mid-7th century bce based on its archival context.

(Five fingernail marks on the top of the tablet)

(lines 1-reverse 1)

Barley belonging to Aššur-šallim-aḫḫē,

(debited) against Akkadayu.

3 (emāru “homers”), 3 (sūtu “seahs”);

one harvester (as interest). a

(lines reverse 2-left edge 1)









Text, translations and studies: Lidzbarski 1921 #2; KAI #234; Vattioni 1979 #144; Lipiński 1975a:90–91; Fales 1986:226–228, #47; Hug 1993:22–23.

A Loan of Silver from Assur (3.57)

(VA 5831; AECT 50)

K. Lawson Younger, Jr.

Discovered in excavations at Assur, this Assyrian Aramaic inscription recording a loan of silver is written on a triangular clay docket. While the text contains no date, it can be dated on the basis of its archival context to the reign of Assurbanipal or later.

(Five fingernail marks on the top of the tablet)

(lines 1–5a)

8 shekels of silver belonging to Balasî

(debited) against Bēl-zērī.

It will increase by a quarter. a

The eighth month. b

(lines 5b-r.4)


and Aplu-iddina

and Apladad-erība(?)

and Yadīʿ-il

and Sagīb.


Text, translations and studies: Lidzbarski 1921 #5; Lipiński 1975a:103–108; Vattioni 1979 #147; Fales 1986:233–235, #50; Hug 1993:24.

A Barley Loan from Guzāna (3.58)

(TH 2; AECT 54)

K. Lawson Younger, Jr.

This triangular barley loan docket was discovered in excavations at Guzāna (Tell Halaf) (biblical Gozan). It dates to the period after the reign of Assurbanipal. The tablet contains a stamp seal impression which possibly features an incense stand.

(Stamp seal on top of tablet)

(lines 1–4)

Barley belonging to Il-manāni, (debited) against Mattî.

The interest is: 2 (emāru “homers”) into 4 (emāru “homers”) a in the seventh month.

(lines reverse 1–4)

Witness: Padî

Witness: [ ]dlr?n

Witnesses: Mateʿ-<S>ē

and Adda-ḫāri.


Text, translations and studies: Fales 1986:244–246; Friedrich 1940:74–75, taf. 30, #2; Degen 1:53–54, Taf. v (Abb. 11–14); Vattioni 1979 #150; Lipiński 1975a:125–132; Hug 1993:25–26.

3. Egyptian Aramaic

The Mibtahiah Archive (471–410 bce)

Bezalel Porten

In 1904, eleven Aramaic papyri were acquired from a dealer in Aswan by the British benefactors Lady William Cecil (COS 3.60, 3.64, 3.68, and half of 3.63) and Mr. (later Sir) Robert Mond (3.61–62, 3.65–67, and half of 3.63) and by the Bodleian Library in Oxford (3.59). The Cecil-Mond papyri are housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and all were published in large format in 1906 by Archibald Henry Sayce and Arthur Ernest Cowley. Believed at the time to have been discovered at Assuan, they actually came from the island of Elephantine and constituted ten contracts from the Mibtahiah family archive. Prosopographical study suggests that Mib/ptahiah daughter of Mahseiah son of Jedaniah was the aunt of the Jewish leader Jedaniah (see his archive in 3.46–53). Her archive of eleven documents (including one discovered in the Rubensohn excavations [TAD B2.5]) spans a period of just over sixty years and covers three generations. Opening in 471 bce, it closed just months before the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 410. Mibtahiah was a woman of means, receiving property from her father and passing it on to her children, who bore the names of her father and grandfather, respectively. Her father held a piece of undeveloped property, whose neighbors included an Egyptian cataract boatman, one Khwarezmian and two Jewish soldiers. In 471 Mahseiah granted building rights on an outer wall to the Jew Konaiah (3.59), warded off by a family oath challenge to the property in 464 by Dargamana (3.60), and in a bequest of 459 bestowed the house upon Mibtahiah (3.61) with rights of usufruct for her husband, Jezaniah, the other neighbor, whose house lay opposite the Jewish Temple (3.62). Jezaniah soon disappeared, his house fell into Mibtahiah’s possession, and in 449 she married the Egyptian Esḥor son of Djeḥo (3.63), who later became known as Nathan. Shortly thereafter (446 bce), her father gave her a second house, also across from the Jewish Temple, in exchange for fifty shekels worth of goods she had given him earlier (3.64), and in 440 she emerged victorious in litigation with the Egyptian Peu about an array of goods, including a marriage contract (3.65). By 420 Esḥor was dead and his children were sued for goods allegedly deposited with their father but never returned (3.66). After their mother passed away, they came into possession, in 416 bce, of the house that belonged to her first husband Jezaniah son of Uriah (3.67). Finally, in February 410, barely six months before the destruction of the Jewish Temple, the brothers Jedaniah and Mahseiah divided between them two Egyptian slaves of their mother, retaining two others in joint possession (3.68). Mibtahiah had had two or three husbands, three houses, and four slaves. The initial publication of her archive created a sensation in the scholarly world.

Grant of a Built Wall (3.59)

(12 September, 471 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Mahseiah had a run-down house plot (3.61:3; 3.62:3–5) in the midst of well-established neighbors, who inherited their property from their fathers and passed it on to their children (the Egyptian Pefṭuauneit to his son Espmet [line 13; 3.61:7] and the brothers Jezaniah and Hosea from their father Uriah [3.61:6–7; 3.67:5]). He was apparently saving it for his daughter on the occasion of her marriage, some twelve years away (3.63; 3.66). Meanwhile, the house became involved in two legal transactions. The first resulted in a “document of a built wall.” This contract is unique, but most of its formulae are familiar. Konaiah approached Mahseiah in the manner of a groom imploring the father of the bride or a borrower beseeching a creditor, and was given access to Mahseiah’s gateway to build there a wall which would continue all along the common wall between their two properties (lines 3–4). As Mahseiah’s property was unimproved, Konaiah may have needed the double wall thickness provided by the new construction to improve his own property with a roof or second story. The point of the document was to assert that the wall was the property of Mahseiah (lines 4–5) and neither Konaiah nor his heirs could subsequently restrain Mahseiah from building on that wall or deny him free access through the gateway. To do so would incur a penalty of five karsh, many times the value of the wall (lines 6–14). Eight witnesses, and not merely four, were present because the transaction was probably considered tantamount to a bequest where there was no consideration. Only three of the witnesses were Jews; the others reflect a mixed onomasticon (Persian, Caspian, Babylonian, and Egyptian) that illustrates the cosmopolitan nature of the Elephantine community (lines 16–19). Practically, bringing in witnesses from the non-Semitic settlers would ultimately strengthen Mahseiah’s claim to a piece of property whose one problematic border was a house to be occupied by a Khwarezmian (3.60:2, 8).


(Recto)(1)On the 18th of Elul, that is day 28 of Pachons, year 15 of Xerxes the king,


said (2)Konaiah son of Zadak, an Aramean of Syene3 of the detachment of Varyazata, (2)to Mahseiah son of Jenadiah, an Aramean of Syene (3)of the detachment of Varyazata, saying:

Building rights

I came to you and you gave me the gateway of the house of yours to build (4)a wall there.


That wall is yours — (the wall) which adjoins9 the house of mine at its comer which is above. (5)That wall shall adjoin the side of my house from the ground upwards, from the corner of my house which is above to the house of Zechariah.

Restraint waiver I

(6)Tomorrow or the next day, I shall not be able13  to restrain14 you from building upon that wall of yours.

Penalty I

(7)If I restrain you, I shall give you silver, 5 karsh by the stone (-weight)s of the king,16 pure silver,17

Reaffirmation I

and that wall (8)is likewise (yours).19

Restraint waiver II

And if Konaiah dies tomorrow or the next day, son or daughter, brother or sister,21
(9)near or far, member of a detachment or town23
(8)shall not be able (9)to restrain Mahsah or a son of his from building upon (10)that wall of his.

Penalty II

Whoever of them shall restrain, shall give him the silver which is written above,26

Reaffirmation II

and the wall (11)is yours likewise and you have the right to build upon it upwards.

Restraint waiver III

And I, Konaiah, shall not be able (12)to say to Mahsah,29 saying:

“(erasure: Not) That gateway is not yours and you shall not go out into the street which is (13)between us and between the house of Pefṭuauneit the boatman.”

Penalty III

If I restrain you, I shall give you the silver which is written above

Reaffirmation III

(14)and you have the right to open that gateway and to go out into the street which is between us (and Pefṭuauneit).


(15)Pelatiah son of Ahio wrote this document at the instruction of33 Konaiah.


The witnesses herein:

(16)(2nd hand) witness Mahsah son of Isaiah;

(3rd hand) witness Shatibarzana son of ʾtrly;

(17)(4th hand) witness Shemaiah son of Hosea;

(5th hand) witness Phrathanjana son of Artakarana;

(6th hand) (18)witness Bagadata son of Nabu-kudurri;

(7th hand) Ynbwly son of Darga;

(8th hand) (19)witness Baniteresh son of Waḥpre;

(9th hand) witness Shillem son of Hoshaiah.


(Verso)(20)Document (sealing) of the wall which is built which Konaiah wrote for Mahsah.


Text, translations and studies: TAD B2.1; EPE B23; EPE; Kletter 1998; Kraeling 1953; Porten 1968; 1990; 2001; Porten and Szubin 1987a; 1987b; TAD.

Withdrawal from Land (3.60)

(2 January, 464 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Six and one-half years after Mahseiah had allowed Konaiah to add a wall to his house (3.59), the Khwarezmian Dargamana showed up on Mahseiah’s eastern border and complained that Mahseiah had taken his property. It was in evident disrepair and apparently neither party could produce a document of title. The court, headed by the Persian Damidata, settled the dispute by imposing an oath on Mahseiah, who with his wife and son swore by YHW, perhaps in the Elephantine Jewish Temple, that the plot did not belong to Dargamana (lines 4–7). The claimant was satisfied by the oath (lines 11–12) and drew up the present document of withdrawal, imposing a stiff twenty karsh penalty should he or any child or sibling in his name dispute the decision (lines 12–16). The scribe was Aramean, known only here, and so the document was drawn up in Syene. Only five of the eight witnesses were Jews; the others were Babylonian and Persian (lines 19, 21).


(Recto)(1)On the 18th of Kislev, that is d[ay 13+]4 (= 17) of Thoth, year 21 (of Xerxes the king), the beginning of the reign when (2)Artaxerxes the king sat on his throne,


said Dargamana son of Khvarshaina, a Khwarezmian whose place (3)is made in Elephantine the fortress of the detachment of Artabanu, (3)to Mahseiah son of Jedaniah, a Jew who is in the fortress of Elephantine (4)of the detachment of Varyazata, saying:


You swore to me by YHW the God in Elephantine the fortress, you and your wife (5)and your son, all (told) 3, 9 about the land of mine which I complained11 against you on account of it before (6)Damidata and his colleagues the judges,14

Oath I

and they imposed upon you for me the oath to swear16 by YHW on account of (7)that (6)land,

(7)that it was not land of Dargamana, mine, behold I.


Moreover, behold the boundaries of that land (8)which you swore to me on account of it:

my house, Dargamana, I, is to the east of it;

and the house of Konaiah son of Zadak, (9)a Jew of the detachment of Atrofarnah, is to the west23 of it;

and the house of [Jeza]niah son of Uriah, (10)a Jew of the detachment of Varyazata, is below it;

and the house of Espmet son of Pefṭuauneit, (11)a boatman of the rough waters, is above it.

Oath II

You swore to me by YHW


and satisfied (12)my heart about that land.

Waiver of suit

I shall not be able to institute against you suit or process30 — I, or son of mine31 or daughter (13)of mine about that land, brother or sister of mine, near or far — (against) you, or son of yours or daughter of yours, brother or sister of yours, near or far.33


(14)Whoever shall institute against you (suit) in my name about that land shall give you silver, 20, 35 that is twenty, karsh by the stone (-weight)s of (15)the king, silver 2 q (uarters) to the ten,

Affirmation of investiture

and that land is likewise yours and you are withdrawn39 from (16)any suit (in) which they shall complain against you on account of that land.

Scribe and place

Itu son of Abah wrote (17)this (16)document (17)in Syene b the fortress at the instruction of Dargamana.


(2nd hand) Witness Hosea son of Peṭekhnum;

(3rd hand) witness (18)Gaddul son of Igdal;

(4th hand) witness Gemariah son of Ahio;

(5th hand) Meshullam son of Hosea;

(6th hand) (19)Sinkishir son of Nabusumiskun;

(7th hand) witness Hadadnuri the Babylonian;

(8th hand) (20)witness Gedaliah son of Ananiah;

(9th hand) (21)witness Aryaicha son of Arvastahmara.


(Verso)(22)Document (sealing) of withdrawal which [Dargama]na son of Khvarshaina wrote for Mahseiah.


Text and translation: TAD B2.2; EPE B24. EPE; GEA; Kraeling 1953; Parker and Dubberstein 1956; Porten 1968; 1990; Szubin and Porten 1983; TAD; von Pilgrim 1998.

Bequest of House to Daughter (3.61)

(1 December, 459 bce)

Bezalel Porten

On the occasion of Mibtahiah’s marriage in 459 bce to Jezaniah, one of Mahseiah’s neighbors, her father gave her the plot which in 464 had been disputed by another neighbor Dargamana (3.60). In 471 he had allowed a third neighbor, Konaiah, to build a wall along the property (3.59). The fourth neighbor was an Egyptian boatman Pefṭtuauneit who lived across the street (3.59:13) and had since passed his house on to his son Espmet (line 7). Mahseiah’s bequest was a gift in contemplation of death with possession (line 9) and title (line 19) granted already inter vivos (line 3). It was to be treated as an estate perpetuated within the family or among designated heirs (lines 9–10), without any right to sell being granted. The guarantees were arranged in descending order of concern — challenge to the bequest: (1) from other beneficiaries claiming prior rights supported by a document (lines 9–18); (2) from Mahseiah himself (lines 18–22); (3) and from Dargamana (lines 23–27). In each case, it was a “document,” the present one and the one written for Mahseiah by Dargamana (3.60), which was expected to turn back the challenge, while the standard ten karsh penalty was imposed on any suit by Mahseiah, his heirs, and beneficiaries (lines 11–14, 20–22). There was no penalty for attempted reclamation by Mahseiah (lines 18–19). The elaborate guarantees made this the longest bequest known (34+2 lines) with the largest number of witnesses (twelve). The normal eight were, topped off by two sons, a brother, and a neighbor (see notes to lines 29–31). Unlike Mahseiah’s two earlier documents, all the witnesses were Jewish, though the scribe was Aramean and the document was drawn up in Syene (lines 27–28).

A contemporary Demotic conveyance (15 January-13 February, 460 bce [P. Wien D 10151; EPE C29]) bears many structural and verbal parallels to this document.

Scribal note

(Recto)(0)Length, 13 and a handbreadth.


(1)On the 21st of Kislev, that is day 20+1 (= 21) of Mesore, year 6 of Artaxerxes the king,3


said Mahseiah (2)son of Jedaniah, a Jew, hereditary-property-holder5 in Elephantine the fortress of the detachment of Haumadata, to lady7 Mibtahiah (3)his daughter, saying:

Transfer I

I gave you in my lifetime and at my death11


a house, land,13 of mine.


(4)Its measurements (3)was:

(4)its length from below to above, 13 cubits and 1 handbreadth; (its) width from east16
(5)to west, 11 cubits by the measuring rod.18


Its boundaries:

above it the house of Dargamana son of Khvarshaina (6)adjoins; below it is the house of Konaiah son of Zadak;21 east of it is the house of Jezan23 son of (7)Uriah your husband and the house of Zechariah son of Nathan;25 west of it is the house of Espmet son of Pefṭuauneit, (8)a boatman of the rough waters.

Transfer II

That house, land — I gave it to you in my lifetime and at my death.

Investiture I

(9)You have the right to it from this day and forever29 and (so do) your children after you.30  To whomever (10)you love you may give (it). I have no other32 son or daughter, brother or sister, or woman (11)or other man (who) has right to that land but you and your children forever.

Penalty I

Whoever (12)shall bring against you suit or process, (against) you, or son or daughter of yours, or man of yours,36 in the name of (13)that (12)land (13)which I gave you or shall complain against you (to) prefect or judge shall give you or your children (14)silver, 10, that is ten, karsh by the stone (-weight)s of the king, silver 2 q (uarters) to the ten, without suit and without process,

Reaffirmation I

(15)and the house is your house likewise and your children’s after you.

Document validity I

And they shall not be able to take out against you (16)a new or old document in my name about that land to give (it) to another man. That document (17)which they shall take out against you will be false. I did not write it45 and it shall not be taken in suit47
(18)while this document is in your hand.

Waiver of reclamation

And moreover, I, Mahseiah, tomorrow or the next day, shall not reclaim (it)50
(19)from you to give to others.

Investiture II

That land of yours build up53 and/or give (it) to whomever you love.

Penalty II

(20)If tomorrow or the next day I bring against you suit or process and say:

“I did not give (it) to you,”

(21)I shall give you silver, 10 karsh by the stone (-weight)s of the king, silver 2 q (uarters) to the ten, without suit (22)and without process,

Reaffirmation II

and the house is your house likewise.

Document validity II

And should I go into a suit, I shall not prevail57 while this document is in your hand.

Document transfer

(23)Moreover, there is a document of withdrawal60 which Dargamana son of Khvarshaina, the Khwarezmian, wrote for me about (24)that land when he brought (suit) about it before the judges and an oath62 was imposed (upon me) for him and I swore to him (25)that it was mine, and he wrote a document of withdrawal and gave (it) to me. That document — I gave it to you.64
(26)You, hold-it-as-heir. If tomorrow or the next day Dargamana or son of his bring (suit) (27)about that house, that document take out and in accordance with it make suit with him.

Scribe and place

Attarshuri (28)son of Nabuzeribni wrote (28)this document in Syene the fortress at the instruction of Mahseiah.


The witnesses herein:

(29)(2nd hand) witness Gemariah son of Mahseiah;

(3rd hand) witness Zechariah son of Nathan;

(30)(4th hand) witness Hosea son of Pelaliah;

(5th hand) witness Zechariah son of Meshullam;

(6th hand) witness Maaziah son of (31)Malchiah;

(7th hand) witness Shemaiah son of Jedaniah;

(8th hand) witness Jedaniah son of Mahseiah;

(Verso) (32)(9th hand) witness Nathan son of Ananiah;

(10th hand) Zaccur son of Zephaniah;

(33)(11th hand) witness Hosea son of Deuiah/Reuiah;

(12th hand) witness Mahsah son of Isaiah;

(34)(13th hand) witness Hosea son of Igdal.


(35)Document (sealing) of a house [which] Mahsah son of Jedaniah wrote (36)for Mibtah daughter of Mahsah.83


Text and translation: TAD B2.3; EPE B25. EPE; Malinine 1953; Porten 2001; Porten and Szubin 1982; 1987c; Szubin and Porten 1982; 1983a; TAD; Vleeming 1985.

Grant of Usufruct to Son-in-law (3.62)

(1 December, 459 bce)

Bezalel Porten

At the same time that he gave Mibtahiah a bequest of a house plot, Mahseiah extended to her husband lifetime usufruct in that house. Typologically this document is unique among our texts. It was intentionally written on both sides of papyrus sheets cut from the same scroll as the previous document. The date is damaged and the endorsement is missing. Instead of an Investiture clause it presented a Restriction on alienation. Granted rights to renovate the house and advised to live there with his wife, Jezaniah was denied the right to sell or bequeath it to anyone other than his children from Mibtahiah (lines 3–7). Should Mibtahiah repudiate and leave Jezaniah after he had improved the house, she could not remove it from him to give to others. Should she wish to reclaim it, half would remain with Jezaniah as reward for his labor. In any case, the document thrice emphasized, it was only their joint children who had right to the house after their parents’ death (lines 6–13). Attempted suit by Mahseiah, denying ever having granted building rights, would result in the standard ten karsh penalty (lines 13–16). The document treated the property as an estate to be passed on in perpetuity within a limited family circle. Scribe, witnesses, and site of redaction were identical with those in the previous document (3.61).


(Recto)(1)On the 20[+1] (= 21st) of [Kis]le[v, that is da]y [20+]1 (= 21) of [Mes]ore, year 6 of Artaxerxes the king,


said Mahseiah (2)son of Jedaniah, a Je[w o]f Elephantine of the detachment of Haumadata, (2)to Jezaniah son of Uriah in the same detachment, (3)saying:


There is land of a4 house of mine, west of the house of yours, which I gave to Mibtahiah (4)my daughter, your wife, and a document I wrote for her concerning it.


The measurements of that house:

13 cubits and a handbreadth (5)by 11 by the measuring rod.

Building rights

Now, I, Mahseiah, said to you: That land build (up)11 and ENRICH IT (or: PREPARE IN IT HER HOUSE) (6)and dwell a herein with your wife.

Restriction on alienation

But that house — you do not have right to sell it15 or to give (it) (7)lovingly to others but it is your children from Mibtahiah my daughter (who) have right to it (8)after you (both).


If tomorrow or the next day you build that land (up and) afterwards my daughter hate you19
(9)and go out from you, she does not have the right to take it and give it to others but it (10)is (9)your children from (10)Mibtahiah (who) have the right to it in exchange for the work which you did.


If she shall reclaim (11)from you, half the house [s]h[al]l be hers to take but the other half — you have the right to it in exchange for (Verso) (12)the building (improvement)s which you have built into that house. And furthermore, that half — (13)it is (12)your children from Mibtahiah (13)(who) have the right to it after you.


If tomorrow or the next day I bring against you suit or process (14)and say:

“I did not give you that land to build (up) and I did not write for you this document,”

I (15)shall give you silver, 10 karsh by the stone (-weight)s of the king, silver 2 q (uarters) to the ten, without suit and without process.

Scribe and place

(16)Attarshuri son of Nabuzeribni wrote this document in Syene28 the fortress at the instruction of Mahseiah.


The witnesses (17)herein:

(2nd hand) witness Hosea son of Pelaliah;

(3rd hand) witness Zechariah son of Nathan;

(18)(4th hand) witness Gemariah son of Mahseiah;

(5th hand) witness Zechariah son of Meshullam;

(19)(6th hand) witness Maaziah son of Malchiah;

(7th hand) witness Shemaiah son of Jedaniah;

(20)(8th hand) witness Jedaniah son of Mahseiah;

(9th hand) witness Nathan son of Ananiah;

(10th hand) witness Zaccur son of Zephaniah;

(21)(11th hand) witness Hosea so[n of] Deuiah/Reuiah;

(12th hand) witness Mahsah son of Isaiah;

(22)(13th hand) witness Hose[a son of I]gdal.


Text and translation: TAD B2.4; EPE B26. Porten 1968; Porten and Szubin 1995; TAD.

Document of Wifehood (3.63)

(14 October, 449 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Although widowed, Mibtahiah may not be courted directly but only through her father. As a suppliant for a loan or for building rights approached his prospective lender or neighbor, the Egyptian royal builder Esḥor approached the father of his desired bride. Granted his request in exchange for a ten-shekel mohar, he invested her in her new status (lines 3–6), again like a petitioner, but with a statement echoing a biblical formula (see notes). The thrust of this and similar wifehood documents was the guarantee of the bride’s pecuniary rights during the marriage and in case of repudiation by, or the death of, her spouse. Much space was devoted to detailed enumeration of the items of her dowry (totaling 65.5 shekels, including the mohar) and several supralinear additions and corrections suggest last minute changes (lines 6, 8, 16). All these personal items, garments, vessels, and toiletries, reverted to her in case of repudiation (lines 6–16, 24–25, 27–28). But the repudiating party lost the mohar and was obliged to pay a 7½ shekel compensation. Like Mibtahiah, Esḥor was probably married before and special clauses were required to guarantee Mibtahiah’s rights and status. He could not alienate his property without her consent, could not bequeath it to a previous wife or children, and no one could evict her from his house after his death (a provision also in Jehoishma’s contract [3.76:31–32) — all subject to twenty karsh penalty for violation (lines 29–36). The major clauses (Repudiation and Death), the ones recurring in the other wifehood documents, were reciprocally formulated, guaranteeing the rights of the husband as well as the wife (lines 17–29).


(Recto)(1)On the 24th [of] Tishri, [that is day] 6 of the month of Epeiph, [y]ear [16 of Artaxerx]es [the] king,


(2)said Esḥor son of Dje[ḥo], a builder of the king3 to Mah[seiah, an A]ramean of Syene of the detachment of (3)Varyazata, saying:


I [c]ame to your house (and asked you) to give me your daughter Mipta (h)iah8 for wifehood.

Affirmation of status

(4)She is my wife and I am her husband a from this day and forever,


I gave you (as) mohar
b for (5)your daughter Miptahiah:

5.0 shekels    [silver], 5 shekels by the stone (-weight)s of [the] king.

Satisfaction I

It came into you and your heart was satisfied c


[Your daughter] Miptahiah brought in to me in

12.0 shekels    (erasure: your) her hand: silver money 1 karsh, 2 shekels by the stone (-weight)s of the king, (7)silver 2 q (uarters) to the 10.

She brought in to me in her hand:

28.0 shekels    1 new garment of wool, striped (8)with dye doubly-well it was20 (in) length 8 cubits by 5 (in width), worth (in) silver 2 karsh 8 shekels (9)by the stone (-weight)s of the king;

8.0 shekels    1 new shawl; it was (in) length 8 cubits by 5 (in width), worth (10)(in) silver 8 shekels by the stone (-weight)s of the king;

7.0 shekels    another garment of wool, FINELY-WOVEN; it was (11)(in) length 6 cubits by 4 (in width), worth (in) silver 7 shekels;

1.5 shekels    1 mirror of bronze, worth (12)(in) silver 1 shekel, 2 q (uarters);

1.5 shekels    1 bowl of bronze, worth (in) silver 1 shekel, 2 q (uarters);

2.0 shekels    2 cups of bronze, (13)worth (in) silver 2 shekels;

.5 shekels    1 jug of bronze, worth (in) silver 2 q (uarters).

Total    All the silver (14)and the value of the goods:

65.5 shekels    (in) silver 6 karsh, 5 shekel 20 hallurs by the stone (-weight)s of the (15)king, silver 2 q (uarters) to the 10.

Satisfaction II

It came into me and my heart was satisfied herein.

6 Unpriced    1 bed of papyrus-reed on which are

items    (16)4 (15)inlays (16)of stone;

1 tray of slq;

2 ladles;

1 new box of palm-leaf;

5 handfuls of castor oil;

1 pair of sandals.

Death of husband

(17)Tomorrow or (the) n[ex]t day, should Esḥor die not (18)having (17)a child, male or female, (18)from Mipta[h]iah his wife, it is Miptahiah (who) has right to the house (19)of Esḥor and [hi]s goods and his property and all that he has on the face of the earth, (20)all of it.

Death of wife

Tomorrow or (the next) day, should Miptahiah die not (21)having (20)a child, male or female, (21)from Esḥor her husband, it is Esḥor (who) shall inherit from her her goods (22)and her property.

Repudiation by wife

Tomorrow o[r] (the) next day, should Miptahiah stand up in an assembly d
(23)and say:

“I hated Esḥor my husband,”

silver of hatred is on her head.45 She shall PLACE UPON
(24)the balance-scale and weigh out to Esḥor silver, 6[+1] (= 7) shekels, 2 q (uarters), and all that she brought in (25)in her hand she shall take out, from straw to string,49 and go away wherever she desires, without (26)suit and without process.52

Repudiation by husband

Tomorrow or (the) next day, should Esḥor stand up in an assembly (27)and say:

“I hated my [wif]e Miptahiah,”

her mohar [will be] lost and all that she brought in (28)in her hand she shall take out, from straw to string, on one day in one stroke, and go (29)away wherever she desires, without suit and without process.

Expulsion + Penalty I

And [who]ever shall stand up against Miptahiah (30)to expel her from the house of Esḥor and his goods and his property, shall give her (31)silver, 20 karsh,

Reaffirmation of rights

and do to her the law of this document.

Exclusion of other heirs

And I shall not be able to say:

(32)“I have another wife besides Mipta (h)iah and other children besides the children whom (33)Miptahiah shall bear to me.

Penalty II

If I say: “I have other chi[ldren] and wife besides (34)Miptahiah and her children,” I shall give to Miptahiah silver, 20 karsh by the stone (-weight)s of (35)the king.

Non-removal of property

And I shall not be able to re[lease] my goods and my property from Miptahiah.

Penalty III

And should I remove them (36)from her (erasure: in accordance with [this] document but), I shall give to Miptahiah [silve]r, 20 karsh by the stone (-weight)s of the king.


(37)Nathan son of Ananiah wrote [this document at the instruction of Esḥor].


And the witnesses herein:

(38)(1st hand) Penuliah son of Jezaniah;

(2nd hand) […]iah son of Ahio;

(3rd hand) Menahem son of [Za]ccur;

(39)(4th hand) witness: Wyzblw [

[bottom middle band and endorsement missing]


Text and translation: TAD B2.6; EPE B28. EPE; Fitzmyer 1979; GEA; Hugenberger 1994; Kraeling 1953; Porten 1968; Porten 1992; Porten 2001; Porten and Szubin 1995; TAD.

Grant of House to Daughter (3.64)

(17 November, 446 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Much as this document is compositionally rife with spelling errors and inconsistencies, it is nonetheless aesthetically structured. The Transfer clauses (lines 2–7) are chiastically arranged with the key word “gave” (yhb) recurring seven times:

a    I gave you the house which Meshullam son of Zaccur son of Ater, Aramean of Syene, gave me

b    and a document he wrote for me about it.

c    And I gave it to Miptahiah in exchange for her goods which she gave me.

d    I consumed them but did not find silver or goods to repay you.

c    I gave you this house in exchange for your goods worth 5 karsh.

b    And I gave you the old document which that Meshullam wrote for me.

a    This house — I gave it to you and withdrew from it.

Wanting to maintain this tight structure intact, the professional scribe Nathan shifted the Boundaries clause to the end of the document (lines 13–15). This shift also gave him the opportunity to duplicate the Investiture clauses, granting Miptahiah limited rights of alienation the first time (line 7) and unlimited rights the second time (line 16). Any suit by Mahseiah or his related parties would be penalized by the standard ten karsh penalty (lines 8–11). He transferred to her Meshullam’s deed of sale and affirmed that no alleged prior document by him would invalidate the present one (lines 6–7, 11–12). Uniquely, he signed his name as a witness; two of the remaining five were Caspians and one was Iranian (lines 17–20).


(Recto)(1)On the 2nd of Kislev, that is day 10 of the month of Mesore, year 19 of Artaxerxes the king,


said Mahseiah son of (2)Jedaniah, an Aramean of Syene of the detachment of Varyazata, to Miptahiah his daughter,4 saying:

Transfer I

I gave you


the house


(3)which Meshullam son of Zaccur son of Ater, an Aramean of Syene,8 gave me for its value and a document he wrote for me about it.10

Transfer II

(4)And I gave it to Miptahiah12 my daughter

Consideration I

in exchange for her goods which she gave me. When I was garrisoned in (the) fortress, I consumed (5)them but did not find silver or goods to (re)pay you.

Transfer III

Afterwards, I gave you this house

Consideration II

(6)in exchange for those, your goods valued in silver (at) 5 karsh.

Document transfer

And I gave you the old document which (7)that Meshullam (6)wrote (7)for me concerning it.

Transfer IV

This house — I gave it to you

Withdrawal I

and withdrew from it.

Investiture I

Yours it is and your children’s (8)after you and to whomever you love you may give it.

Waiver of suit

I shall not be able — I, or my children, or seed20 of mine, or (9)another (8)person — (9)to bring against you suit or process in the name of that house which I gave you and (10)about which (9)the document I wrote for you.


(10)Whoever shall institute against you suit or (pro)cess — I, or brother or sister, near or far, member of a detachment or member of a town — (11)shall give you silver, 10 karsh,


and (the) house is likewise yours.

Document validity

Moreover, another person shall not be able to take out against you (12)a new or old (11)document (12)but (only) this document which I wrote and gave you. Whoever shall take out against you a docu (ment), I did not wri[te it].


(13)Moreover, behold these are the boundaries of that house: above it is the house of Jaush son of Penuliah;28 below it (14)is the Temple of YHH30 (the) God; east of it is the house of Gaddul son of Osea and the street is between them; (15)west of it is the house of Ḥarwodj son of Palṭu, priest of Ḥ[] the god.

Transfer V

That house — (16)I gave it to you

Withdrawal II

and withdrew from it.

Investiture II

Yours it is forever and to whomever you desire,34 give it.


(17)Nathan son of Ananiah wrote (17)this document at the instruction of Mahseiah.


And the witnesses herein:

(2nd hand) Mahseiah wrote with (18)his own (17)hands;

(18)(3rd hand) Mithrasarah son of Mithrasarah;

(4th hand) Wyzb[l (w)] son of ʾtrly, a Caspian;

(19)(5th hand) witness Barbari son of Dargi (ya), a Caspian of the place …;

(6th hand) Haggai son of Shemaiah;

(20)(7th hand) Zaccur son of Shillem.


(Verso)(21)Document (sealing) of a house [which Ma]hseiah son of Jedaniah [wrote for Miptahia]h his daughter.


Text and translation: TAD B2.7; EPE B29b. Porten 1968; 1990; Porten and Szubin 1982; Szubin and Porten 1983a; 1988; TAD.

Withdrawal from Goods (3.65)

(26 August, 440 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Mibtahiah (here called Miptahiah) and the Egyptian builder Peu engaged in litigation in Syene regarding silver, grain, clothing, vessels, and a document of wifehood. Mibtahiah won her claim through an oath by the Egyptian goddess Sati and Peu drew up this document of withdrawal, supporting his waiver of all future suit by a standard five karsh penalty. We may conjecture that the dispute involved goods left on deposit. The document was drawn up by an Aramean scribe in Syene and attested by four non-Jewish witnesses.


(Recto)(1)On the 14th of Ab, that is day 19 of Pachons, year 25 of Artaxerxes the king,


said Peu (2)son of Paḥe/Pakhoi, a builder3 of Syene the fortress, to Mibtahiah daughter of Mahseiah son of Jedania, (3)an Aramean of Syene of the detachment of Varyazata,


about the suit which we made7 in Syene, a litigation9 about silver (4)and grain and clothing and bronze and iron — all goods and property — and (the) wifehood document.


Then, the oath12
(5)came upon you and you swore14 for me about them by Sati the goddess.


And my heart was satisfied (6)with that oath which you made17 for me about those goods


and I withdrew from you from (7)this day and forever.

Waiver of suit

I shall not be able to institute against you suit or process — (against) you or son (8)or daughter of yours — in the name of those goods about which you swore for me.


If I institute against you (9)suit or process, or a son of mine or a daughter of mine institute against you (suit) in the name of that oath, I, Peu — or my children — (10)shall give to Mi (b)tahiah silver, 5 karsh23 by the stone (-weight)s of the king, without suit and without process,


(11)and I am withdrawn from every suit or process.

Scribe and place

Peṭeese son of Nabunathan wrote this document (12)in Syene the fortress at the instruction of Peu son of Paḥe/Pakhoi.


The witnesses herein:

(2nd hand) Naburai son of Nabunathan;

(13)(3rd hand) Luḥi son of Mannuki;

(4th hand) Ausnahar son of Duma/Ruma;

(5th hand) Naburai son of Vishtana.


(Verso)(14)Document (sealing) of withdrawal which Peu wrote for Miptah[ia]h.


Text and translation: TAD B2.8; EPE B30. Fitzmyer 1979; GEA; Porten 1968; 1990; Porten and Szubin 1987b; TAD.

Withdrawal from Goods (3.66)

(2–30 September, 420 bce)

Bezalel Porten

It must have been shortly after the death of Esḥor that the brothers Menahem and Ananiah, grandsons of Shelomam, sued Jedaniah and Mahseiah before the Chief and the Troop Commander, claiming that Shelomam had deposited assorted goods with Esḥor, who never returned them. The brothers were interrogated and satisfied the claimants by returning the goods. They then drew up the present document of withdrawal which contains an expanded Waiver clause (adding representatives), backed by the standard ten karsh penalty.

Date (recto)

(1)In the month of Elul, that is Pay[ni], year 4 of Darius the king,


then in Elephantine the fortress,


said (2)Menahem and Ananiah, all (told) two, sons of Meshullam son of Shelomam,4 Jews of Elephantine the fortress of the detachment of Iddinnabu, (3)to Jedaniah and Mahseiah, all (told) two, sons of Esḥor son of Djeḥo from Mibtahiah daughter of Mahseiah, Jews (4)of the same detachment, saying:


We brought suit of npʾ against you before Ramnadaina, Chief9 (and) Vidranga, (5)the Troop Commander, saying:

“There [are] the (se) goods — woolen and linen garments, bronze and iron utensils, wooden (6)and palm-leaf (5)utensils, (6)grain and other (things).”


“Goods Esḥor your father took from Shelomam son of Azariah.16 Moreover, (7)he said,

‘There are (these goods) which a were placed on depos[it].’

But he took hereditary possession and did not return (them) to him.”

And consequently, we brought (suit) against you.


(8)Afterwards, you were interrogated22


and you, Jedaniah and Mahseiah, sons of Esḥor, satisfied our heart with those goods (9)and our heart was satisfied herein from this d[a]y forever.25


I, Menahem and Ananiah, we are withdrawn from you (10)from this day forever.

Waiver of suit

We shall no[t] be able — we, or our sons or our daughters, or our brothers, or a man who is ours, near (or far), or member of (a detachment or) (11)town — they shall not be able30 to br[i]ng against [yo]u, you, Jedaniah and Mahseiah, suit or process. And they shall not be able to bring (suit) against your children32
(12)or your brothers, or a man of yours in the [na]me of (the) goods34 and silver, grain and other (things) of Shelomam son of Azariah.


And if we, (13)or our sons or our daughters, or a man who is ours, or the sons of Shelomam son of Azariah, bring (suit) against you or bring (suit) against your sons or your daughters, (14)or a man who is yours, then whoever shall bring su[it] about it shall give you, or your sons or whomever they bring (suit) against, the penalty38
(15)of silver, ten karsh by the stone (-weight)s of the king, silver 2 q (uarters) to 1 karsh,


and he is likewise withdrawn from these goods (16)about (15)which (16)we brought (suit), without suit and without process,


Mauziah son of Nathan wrote this document at the instruction of Menahem and Ananiah, all (told) two, (17)sons of Meshullam son of Shelomam.


(2nd hand) witness Menahem son of Gaddul;

(3rd hand) witness Gaddul son of Berechiah;

(4th hand) witness Menahem son of Azariah;

(18)(5th hand) witness Hodaviah son of Zaccur son of Oshaiah.


(Verso)(19)Document (sealing) of [withdrawal] which Menahem and Ananiah, all (told) two, sons of Menahem son of Shelomam, wrote (20)[for Jedania]h and Mahseiah, all (told) two, sons of Esḥor son of D]jeḥo.


Text, translation and studies: TAD B2.9; EPE B31. DAE; Azzoni and Lippert 2000; Porten 1968; 1990; 2002; TAD.

Withdrawal from House (3.67)

(16 December, 416 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Like the preceding document, this too was drawn up in the presence of the Troop Commander. But unlike that one, there is no mention here of a suit. A nephew of Jezaniah, Mibtahiah’s first husband, withdrew from Jezaniah’s house in favor of Mibtahiah’s children from her second husband, here named Nathan (lines 2–9). Upon Jezaniah’s premature death, his house must have passed to his wife. She recently died and her estate required probate. No children of Jezaniah stepped forward, though possible offspring lurked in the background (lines 13, 17), and so the relinquishment by the nephew Jedaniah son of Hoshaiah/Hosea may have been drawn up as part of a probate procedure (cf. an earlier one, likewise in the presence of the Troop Commander [TAD B5.1:3]). With other potential heirs in mind, the Waiver and Penalty clauses were careful to offer protection only against a suit brought “in the name of” Jedaniah, his heirs, and representatives. The standard ten karsh penalty was to apply (lines 9–17) and the requisite number of eight witnesses, all Jewish, signed (lines 17–19).


(Recto)(1)On the 3rd of Kislev, year 8, that is day 12 of Thoth, year 9 of Darius the king,


then in Elephantine (2)the fortress,


Said Jedaniah son of Hoshaiah son of Uriah, an Aramean of Elephantine the fortress,4 before Vidranga the Troop Commander (3)of Syene, to Jedaniah son of Nathan6 and Mahseiah son of Nathan his brother, their mother (being) Mibtahiah daughter of Mahseiah son of Jedaniah, before (4)Vidranga the Troop Commander of Syene, saying:


I withdrew from you


from the house of Jezaniah son of Uriah.

Boundaries I

Behold its boundaries:

(5)above (it) the house of Hosea son of Uriah adjoins it; below it the house of Hazzul son of Zechariah adjoins it11;


(6)on the (side) below and above windows are open there;

Boundaries II

east of it is the Temple of YHW the God and the road of (7)the king is between them;

west of it the house of Mibtahiah daughter of Mahseiah, which Mahseiah her father gave her,14
(8)adjoins it.


That house, whose boundaries are written above, is yours16 — you, Jedaniah and Mahseiah, all (told) two, (9)sons of Nathan — forever, and your children’s after you and to whomever you love you may give it.

Waiver of suit

I shall not be able — I, Jedaniah or my children, (10)or woman or man of mine — I shall not be able to institute against you suit or process. Moreover, we shall not be able to bring (suit) against son or daughter of yours,20
(11)brother or sister, woman or man of yours, or a person to whom you sell that house or to whom in love you give (it)23 — (to bring [suit]) (12)in my name, I, Jedaniah, or in the name of children or woman or man of mine.


And if I, Jedaniah, bring (suit) against you, or (13)son of mine or daughter, woman or man (12)bring (suit) against you (13)in my name or in the name of my children — excluding son or daughter of Jezaniah son of Uriah — (14)or they bring (suit) against son or daughter, or woman or man of yours, or persons to whom you sell or to whom in love you give (15)that house, (15)then whoever shall bring suit against you shall give you the penalty26 of silver, ten karsh, that is 10 karsh, silver (16)2 q (uarters) to 1 karsh, by the stone (-weight)s of the king,


and the house is likewise yours forever and your children’s after you — excluding (17)children of Jezan son of Uriah — without suit.


Mauziah son of Nathan wrote at the instruction of Jedaniah son of Hosea.30


And the witnesses (18)herein:

(2nd hand) Menahem son of Shallum;

(3rd hand) Mahseiah son of Jedaniah;

(4th hand) Menahem son of Gaddul son of Baadiah;

(5th hand) Jedaniah son of Meshullam;

(19)(6th hand) Islaḥ son of Gaddul;

(7th hand) Gaddul son of Berechiah;

(8th hand) Jezaniah son of Penuliah;

(9th hand) Ahio son of Nathan.


(Verso)(20)Document (sealing) of withdrawal which Jedaniah son of Hosea wrote about the house of Jezaniah son of Uriah (21)for Jedaniah son of Nathan and Mahseiah his brother, all (told) two.


Text and translation: TAD B2.10; EPE B32; EPE. Porten 1968; 1990; 2001; Szubin and Porten 1983a; TAD.

Apportionment of Slaves (3.68)

(10 February, 410 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Just over five years after the brothers Jedaniah and Mahseiah received clear title to the house of their mother’s first husband (3.67), they decided to divide between them two of Mibtahiah’s four Egyptian slaves. Both were branded with their mother’s name. The present document was drawn up by Mahseiah for his elder brother and he assigned him Peṭosiri, taking Bela for himself (lines 2–6). An identical document must have been drawn up by Jedaniah, assigning Bela to his brother. Inheritance terminology is clearly in evidence (“share,” “came to you,” and “take hereditary possession”). Mahseiah guaranteed Jedaniah’s rights with the usual Waiver and Penalty clauses, protecting him, his heirs, and his representatives against suits (sic!) by Mahseiah and his people, subject to the standard ten karsh penalty (lines 7–12). Mother Tabi and her third, presumably small, child Lilu were left for future division (lines 12–14). The scribe was Aramean, though the document was drawn up in Elephantine and attested by four Jewish witnesses (lines 14–16). [For Petosiris, high priest of Thoth in Hermopolis a century later, see Lichtheim AEL 3:44–54. Ed.]


(Recto)(1)On the 24th of Shebat, year 13, that is day 9 of Hathyr, year 14 of Darius the king,


in Elephantine the fortress,


(2)said Mahseiah son of Nathan, 1, Jedaniah son of Nathan, 1, all (told) two, Arameans of Syene of the detachment of Var[yaza]ta,4 saying:

Apportionment of slaves

We have acted as equals (3)as one and divided (between) us the slaves6 of Mibtahiah our mother.


And behold, this is the share which came9 to you as a share, you, Jedaniah11:

(4)Peṭosiri by name, his mother (being) Tabi,13 a slave, ywd/r, 1, branded15 on his right hand (with) a brand reading (in) Aramaic like this: (5)“(Belonging) to Mibtahiah.”

And behold, this is the share which came to me as a share, I, Mahseiah:

Bela by name, his mother (being) Tabi, a slave, ywd/r, 1, (6)branded on his right hand (with) a brand reading (in) Aramaic like this: “(Belonging) to Mibtahiah.”


You, Jedaniah, have right to Peṭosiri, (7)that slave who came to you as a share, from this day and forever and (so do) your children after you and to whomever you desire you may give (him).

Waiver of suit

I shall not be able — (8)I, Mahseiah, son or daughter of mine, brother or sister of mine, or an individual who is mine — to bring21 suits against you or against your children on account of Peṭosiri (9)by name, the slave who came to you as a share.


If we bring suit against you about it — we, Mahseiah or my children — or bring (suit) against son (10)or daughter of yours or against an individual who is yours on account of Peṭosiri, that slave who came to you as a share, afterwards we shall give you the penalty26 (of) (11)pure (10)silver, (11)ten karsh by the weight of the king,


and we are withdrawn from you and from your children from (any) suit on account of that Peṭosiri (12)who came to you as a share. Yours shall he be and your children’s after you and to whomever you desire you may give him, without suit.

Future apportionment

Moreover, there is Tabi (13)by name, the mother of these lads, and Lilu her son whom we shall not yet divide (between) us. When (the) time will be, we shall divide them (14)(between) us and, (each) person his share, we shall take hereditary possession, and a document of our division31 we shall write between us, without suit.

Scribe and place

Nabutukulti son of Nabuzeribni wrote (15)this document in Elephantine the fortress at the instruction of Mahseiah and Jedaniah his brother.


The witnesses herein:

(2nd hand) Menahem son of Gaddul;

(16)(3rd hand) witness Hanan son of Haggai;

(4th hand) witness Nathan son of Jehour;

(5th hand) witness Shillem son of Nathan.


(Verso)(17)Document (sealing) of division of (the) slave Peṭosiri (which) Mahseiah son of Nathan wrote for Jedaniah son of Nathan his brother.


Text and translation: TAD B2.11; EPE B33. Porten 1968; 1990; Porten and Szubin 1982b; Szubin and Porten 1992; TAD.

The Ananiah Archive (456–402 bce)

Bezalel Porten

In the early part of 1893 the American traveler and collector, Charles Edwin Wilbour acquired at Aswan over a dozen Aramaic papyri that went into storage in Brooklyn, New York, after his death in 1896. Upon the demise of his daughter Theodora in 1947, they were bequeathed to the Brooklyn Museum and were published in 1953 by Emil G. Kraeling. Unprofessional attempts to open three of the intact rolls (3.70, 3.75, and 3.76) reduced each to numerous fragments that had to be restored in jigsaw fashion. This was accomplished with great skill by the technician of the Department of Egyptian Art, Anthony Giambalvo for the original publication, and enhanced in 1987 by Porten and Yardeni for publication in their Textbook (1989). The major documents stemmed from the archive of the Temple official Anani (ah) son of Azariah and his Egyptian-born handmaiden wife Ta (p)met, their daughter Jehoishma and her husband Anani (ah) son of Haggai. To this we have added the only intact roll to emerge from the Rubensohn excavations, a contract for a loan made by Meshullam son of Zaccur (3.69), who was slaveowner of Tamet (3.71) and whose son Zaccur gave her daughter’s hand in marriage to the above-named son of Haggai (3.76). The archive opens at the beginning of the Egyptian year (456 bce), before the collapse of the Egyptian revolt against Artaxerxes I and comes to an end at the beginning of the Egyptian year (402 bce), on the eve of the expulsion of Artaxerxes II. It bears allusion to events in the Egyptian-Jewish clash that led to the destruction of the Jewish Temple (3.78:8–9; 3.79:3–4) and is a disinterested witness to its likely reconstruction (3.80:2, 18–19). Like Mibtahiah, Anani lived across from the Temple, in a piece of abandoned property he bought from a Caspian couple in 437 bce (3.72), a dozen years after the redaction of his wifehood document with Tamet (3.71). Three years after his purchase he bestows a room in the house upon his wife (3.73), and then in stages another room upon his daughter (420 [3.75]), 404 [3.78], and 402 [3.79]), and the remainder to his son-in-law in sale (402 [3.80]). Unique among the papyri are a document of emancipation and one of adoption. The former is drawn up in 427 bce by Meshullam for Tamet and her daughter (3.74); the latter for his son Zaccur by one Uriah son of Mahseiah in 416 bce (3.77). The final document is a loan of grain taken out by Ananiah son of Haggai (3.81).

Loan of Silver (3.69)

(13 December 456 bce)

Bezalel Porten

This was the only Aramaic document found intact by Otto Rubensohn in excavation. The otherwise unknown woman Jehoḥen borrowed the small sum of four shekels from the well-known Meshullam son of Zaccur at a 5% monthly interest rate (lines 2–5). If the interest went unpaid in any month it became capitalized and bore interest like the principal (lines 5–7). If interest and principal were not returned by the end of the year, Meshullam was entitled to seize any durable or perishable property of the debtor as security toward repayment (lines 7–11). Should she die before repaying the loan, her children inherited the obligation and the same right of seizure from her applied to them as well (lines 14–18). Any attempt to deny the loan or any legal complaint against seizure of security would be thwarted by Meshullam’s retention of the document (lines 11–14, 18–20). The contract has been assigned to the Anani archive on the assumption that the loan had never been repaid and some personal possession of Jehoḥen had been seized. This was subsequently passed on to Jehoishma as part of her dowry along with the contract as evidence of title to the items.


(Recto)(1)On the 7th of Kislev, that is day 4 of the month of Thoth, year 9 of Artaxerxes (2)the king,


said Jehoḥen daughter of Meshullach, a lady of Elephantine the fortress, to Meshullam son of (3)Zaccur, a Jew of Elephantine the fortress,3 saying:


You gave me a loan of silver, (4)4, that is four, (3)shekels (4)by the stone (-weight)s of the king, at its interest.

Interest I

It will increase upon me (5)(at the rate of) silver, 2 hallurs for 1 shekel for 1 month. (That) was silver, 8 hallurs (6)for one month. If the interest (be)come the capital,9 the interest shall increase like the capital, (7)one like one.

Security I

And if a second year come and I have not paid you your silver (8)and its interest, which is written in this document, you Meshullam or your children have the right (9)to take for yourself any security which you will find (belonging) to me — house of bricks, silver or gold, (10)bronze or iron, slave or handmaiden, barley, emmer16 — or any food which you will find (belonging) to me (11)until you have full (payment) of your silver and its interest.

Document validity I

And I shall not be able to say (to you) saying:

“I paid you (12)your silver and its interest” while this document is in your hand. And I shall not be able to complain (13)against you before prefect or judge, saying:

“You took from me a security”

while (14)this (13)document (14)is in your hand.

Obligation of heirs

And if I die and have not paid you this silv (er and its interest), (15)it will be my children (who) shall pay you this silver and its interest.

Security II

And if (16)they do not pay this silver and its interest, you, Meshullam, have the right (17)to take for yourself any food or security which you will find (belonging) to them until you have full (payment) (18)of your silver and its interest.

Document validity II

And they shall not be able to complain against you before prefect (19)or judge while this document is in your hand. Moreover, should they go into a suit, they shall not prevail (20)while this document is in your hand.


Nathan son of Anani wrote this document (21)at the instruction of Jehoḥen.


And the witnesses herein:

(2nd hand) witness Osea son of Galgul;

(22)(3rd hand) Hodaviah son of Gedaliah;

(4th hand) Ahio son of Pelatiah;

(5th hand) Agur son of Ahio.


(Verso)(23)Document (sealing) of silver of the debt which Jehoḥen daughter of Meshullach wrote (24)for Meshullam son of Zaccur.


Text and translation: TAD B3.1; EPE B34. EPE; Porten 1990; TAD.

Withdrawal from Hyrʾ (3.70)

(6 July, 451 bce)

Bezalel Porten

This is one of the most enigmatic documents in our collection. The object of the contract (hyrʾ) remains unexplained. The Waiver and Penalty clauses covered only the party drawing up the contract (lines 4–8). A Defension clause covered only brother and sister (lines 8–9). Both parties had entered a complaint about the property; Anani paid Mica five shekels to withdraw. Mica did so, but provided Anani with very limited warranties. It is likely that the object in dispute was a piece of abandoned property to which neither had title and both laid claim. The scribe was Aramean and only one witness was Jewish (line 13). The onomasticon shows how non-Jews within the same family drew freely upon Akkaddian (Nabukaṣir, Aḥushunu, Mannuki), Aramean (Zabdi, Sachael, Attarmalki, Zabbud, Zabidri), Egyptian (Renpenofre, Psami) and Persian (Bagaina) names (lines 11–14).


(Recto)(1)On the 25th of Phamen[o]th, that is day 20 of Sivan, year 14 of Artaxerxes, the king,


(2)said Mica son of A[hio] to Anani son of Azar-[iah],4 a servitor to YHW in Elephantine, (3)saying:


You gave me


silver, 5 shekels


as payment of the hyrʾ7 of yours (about) which

(4)you complained against me herein


and my heart was satisfied with it[s] payment.

Waiver of suit

I shall not be able to institute against you, (5)suit or process in the name of this hyrʾ (about) which you complained against me herein.


If I complain (6)against you (before) judge or lord in the name of [t]his hyrʾ — (about) which I complained against you (7)herein and you gave m[e] its payment, silver [4+]1 (= 5) shekels and I withdrew from you — (8)I shall give you silver, 5 karsh.


If brother or sister, (9)near or f (a)r, (8)institute (suit) against you (9)in the name of this hyrʾ, I shall cleanse (it) and give (it) to you.


(10)Bunni son of Mannuki19 wrote at the instruction of Mica son of Ahi[o].


The witnesses herein:

(11)(2nd hand) Zabdi (son of) Nabuzi;

(3rd hand) (erasure: Micaiah);

(4th hand) Sachael son of Nabukaṣir;

(12)(3rd hand) Micaiah son of Ahio;

(5th hand) Aḥushunu son of Renpenofre;

(13)(6th hand) Mahseiah son of Jedaniah;

(7th hand) Mannuki son of Bagaina;

(8th hand) Attarmalki son of Psami;

(14)(9th hand) Zabbud son of Zabidri.

(endorsement missing)


Text and translation: TAD B3.2; EPE B35. EPE; Porten 1968; 2001; Porten and Szubin 1983b.

Document of Wifehood (3.71)

(9 August 449 bce)

Bezalel Porten

This record of a free man-handmaiden marriage presents a unique opportunity to reconstruct the haggling that went on between groom and master regarding the status of the bride and the rights of the parties to the contract. Tamet’s status may be described as comparable to the biblical “slave woman designated for a man” for the purpose of marriage (Lev 19:20). In rabbinic terms she was “part slave and part free.” Not yet manumitted, she was not entitled to have mohar paid for her from Anani. Her dowry was little more than the garment on her back, the sandals on her feet, and an item or two of toilette (lines 4–7). The customary reciprocal Repudiation and Death clauses were applied here too (lines 7–13), but the “silver of hatred” was only 5 shekels and not 7½, there was no indication that the repudiating or repudiated wife might go “wherever she desired,” and upon the death of either spouse, Meshullam was entitled to half of the couple’s joint property. A unique clause entitled Meshullam to “reclaim” the already existing child Pilti should Anani divorce Tamet (lines 13–14). While the clause provided Tamet some protection against rash divorce, it indicated that the child of a handmaiden, even when married, still belonged to her master. But these arrangements were not to the liking of the couple and they achieved revision of the document even as it was being written — at first elimination of Meshullam from any share in the estate of the surviving spouse, and subsequently increase of the “silver of hatred” to the standard 7½ shekels, the imposition of a five karsh penalty on Meshullam for unwarranted reclamation of Pilti, and the addition to Tamet’s dowry of fifteen shekels cash (line 16).


(Recto)(1)[On] the 18th of [A]b, [that is day 30] of the month of Pharmouthi, year 16 of Artaxer (xes) the king,


said (2)Ananiah son of Azariah, a servitor of YHH the God who is in Elephantine the fortress, to Meshullam son of Zaccur, an Aramean of Syene (3)of the detachment of Varyazata, saying:


I came to you (and asked you) to give me Tamet by name,6 who is your handmaiden, for wifehood.

Affirmation of status

She is my wife (4)and I am her husband from this day and forever.


Tamet brought into me in her hand:

7 shekels    1 garment of wool, worth (in) silver (5)7 shekels;

.19 shekels    1 mirror, worth (in) silver 7 (and a) half hallurs; 1 pair of sandals; (erasure: 1 handful of) (6)one-half handful of (5)balsam oil; (6)6 handfuls of castor oil; 1 tray.

7.19 shekels    All the silver and the value of the goods: (in) silver {silver}, 7 shekels, (7)7 (and a) half hallurs.

Repudiation by husband

Tomorrow or (the) next day, should Anani stand up in an assembly and say:

“I hated Tamet my wife,”

(8)silver of hatre (d) is on his head. He shall give Tamet silver, 7 shekels, 2 q (uarters) and all that, she brought in in her hand she shall take out, from straw (9)to string.

Repudiation by wife

Tomorrow or (the) next day, should Tamet stand up and say:

“I hated my husband Anani,”

silver of ha (t)red is on her head. (10)She shall give to Anani silver, 7 shekels, 2 q (uarters) and all that she brought in in her hand she shall take out, from straw to string.

Death of husband

Tomorrow or (11)(the) next (10)day, (11)should Ananiah die (erasure: [It is Meshullam son of Zaccur (who)] has right to half), it is Tamet (who) has right to all goods which will be between Anani and Tamet.

Death of wife

(12)Tomorrow or (the) next day, should Tamet die, it is Anani, he, (who) has right (erasure: to half) to all goods which will be between (erasure: between) (13)Tamet and between Anani.

Rights to child

And I, Meshullam, tomorrow or (the) next day, shall not be able to reclaim24 Pilti from under (14)your heart unless you expel his mother Tamet. And if I do reclaim him from you I shall give Anani silver 5 karsh.


Wrote Nathan son of Ananiah this document.


And the witnesses (15)herein:

witness Nathan son of Gaddul;

Menahem son of Zaccur;

Gemariah son of Mahseiah.

Dowry addition

15 Shekels    (Verso)(16)Tamet brought in to Anani in her hand silver, 1 karsh, 5 shekels.


(17)Document (sealing) of wi[fehood which Anani wrote for Ta]met.


Text and translation: TAD B3.3; EPE B36. EPE; Porten 1968; 1990; Porten and Szubin 1995; Szubin and Porten 1988; TAD.

Sale of Abandoned Property (3.72)

(14 September, 437 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Twelve years after the redaction of his document of wifehood (3.71), Anani paid fourteen shekels for the run-down house of the Caspian ʾpwly which was held in adverse possession by the Caspian couple Bagazushta and Wbyl. It lay across from the Temple on one side and next to the house of Wbyl‘s father, Shatibara, who may have facilitated the couple’s occupation of the property (lines 2–11). The double Waiver clauses (we, children) protected heirs and beneficiaries of the buyer with a stiff twenty karsh penalty (lines 11–19). But the Defension clause provided a limited warranty in case of third-party suit, i.e. replacement; and reimbursement in case of inability to turn back a suit by heirs of the original owner (lines 19–23). The four witnesses were Persians and Caspians (lines 23–24).


(Recto)(1)On the 7th of Elul, that is day 9 of the month of Payni, year 28 of Artaxerxes the king,


said (2)Bagazushta son of Bazu, a Caspian of the detachment of Namasava,4 and lady Wybl daughter of Shatibara, a Caspian of Syene of the detachment of Namasava, (3)all (told) 1 (erasure: 1) lady 1 man (3)to Ananiah son of Azariah, a servitor to YHW the God, saying:

Transfer I

We sold and gave (4)you


the house


of ʾpwly son of Misdaya


which is in Elephantine the fortress,


whose walls are standing but (who)se courtyard (5)is (barren) land and not built; and windows are in it but beams it does not contain.10

Transfer II

We sold it to you


and you gave (6)us its payment (in) silver, 1 karsh, 4 (erasure: [+]1) shekels by the stone (-weight)s of the king, silver zuz12 to 1 karsh,


and our heart was satisfied (7)with the payment which you gave us.


And behold these are the boundaries of that house which we sold you:

above (8)it is the house of Shatibara;

below it is the town/way of Khnum the god and the street of the king is between them;

(9)east of it the treasury of the king adjoins it;

to the west (of it) is the Temple of (10)YHW the God and the street of the king is between them.

Transfer III

I, Bagazushta and ʾwbl, all (told) two, we sold and gave (it) (11)to you


and withdrew from it from this day and forever.


You, Ananiah son of Azariah, have right (12)to that house and (so do) your children after you and anyone whom you desire to give (it) to.

Waiver of suit I

We shall not be able to institute against you suit (13)or process in the name of this house which we sold and gave you and from which we withdrew. And (erasure: he) we shall not be able (14)to institute (suit) against son of yours or daughter or anyone whom you desire to give (it) to.

Penalty I

If we institute against you suit or process or institute (suit) (15)against son in/with (scribal error for: or) daughter of yours or anyone whom you desire to give (it) to, we shall give you silver, 20 karsh, silver zuz (16)to the ten,

Reaffirmation I

and the house is yours likewise and your children’s after you and anyone whom you desire to give (it) to.

Waiver of suit II

And (17)son or daughter of ours shall (16)not (17)be able to institute against you suit or process in the name of this house whose boundaries are written (18)above.

Penalty II

If they institute (suit) against you or institute (suit) against son or daughter of yours, they shall give you silver, 20 karsh, silver zuz to the 10,

Reaffirmation II

(19)and the house is yours likewise and your children’s after you.


And if another person institute (suit) against you or institute (suit) (20)against son or daughter of yours, we shall stand up and cleanse (it) and give (it) to you within 30 days. And if we do not cleanse (it), (21)we or our children shall give you a house in the likeness of your house and its measurements, unless a son male or female of ʾpwly, (22)or a daughter of his should come and we not be able to cleanse (it. Then) we shall give you your silver, 1 karsh, 4 shekels and (the value of) the building (improvements) which you will have built in it (23)and all the fittings that will have gone into that house.32


(23sl)Haggai son of Shemaiah wrote at the instruction of Bagazushta and ʾbl.


And witnesses herein:

(23)(2nd hand) Mithradata son of Mithrayazna;

(3rd hand) witness Ḥyḥ/Ḥyrw son of ʾtrly, a Caspian;

(24)(4th hand) house of Wyzbl, a Caspian;

(5th hand) witness Aisaka son of Zamaspa.


(Verso)(25)Document (sealing) of a house which Bagazushta and Ybl sold to Ananiah, a servitor to YH37 in Elephantine.


Text and translation: TAD B3.4; EPE B37. EPE; GEA; Porten 1968; 1990; Porten and Szubin 1982a; Szubin and Porten 1983a; TAD.

Bequest of Apartment to Wife (3.73)

(30 October, 434 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Anani refurbished the house of ʾpwly which he had bought from the Caspians Bagazushta and Wbyl. Three years after purchase date, the requisite period according to Egyptian law for establishing right to abandoned property, he bestowed a room therein (measuring ×1/3 cubits = 81 square cubits, see note 14 below) upon his wife Tamet, perhaps on the occasion of the birth of their daughter Jehoishma (lines 2–12). The Investiture clause did not seek to preempt Tamet’s right to dispose of the property during her lifetime. But Anani treated his house as a family estate and should the couple die intestate, it was to pass on to their mutual children, Jehoishma and Pilti (lines 4–5, 16–20). Thirty-two years later, Tamet and Anani sold their share to their son-in-law (No. 22), an act which would have been in violation of this contract had it been a bona fide gift and not a bequest. Uncharacteristically, each challenge in our document carried a distinct penalty — five karsh for a suit by Anani, twenty karsh for one by his heirs, and ten karsh for attempted reclamation by his heirs after his death (lines 12–22). Two of the four witnesses were Magians (line 24).


(Recto)(1)On the 25th of Tishri, that is day 25 of the month of Epeiph, year 31 of Artaxerxes the king,


said Ananiah (2)son of Azariah, a servitor of YHW the God in Elephantine the fortress, to lady Tamet his wife, saying:

Transfer I

I gave (3)you


half of the large room, and its chamber, of the house


which I bought from ʾwbyl daughter of Shatibara and from Bagazushta, (4)Caspians of Elephantine the fortress.

Transfer II

I, Ananiah, gave it to you in love.


Yours it is from this day (5)forever and your children’s, whom you bore me,7 after you.


And behold the measurements of that house which I, (6)Ananiah, gave you, Tamet, from10 half of the large room and its chamber was:

from above to below, (7)11 (6)cubits (7)by the measuring rod;

in width, cubits from east to west, 7 cubits 1 h (and)13 by the measuring rod;

IN AREA, (8)81 cubits.


Built is (the) lower house, new, containing beams16 and windows.


And behold this is the boundaries of that house19
(9)which I gave you:

above it the portion of mine, I, Ananiah,21 adjoins it;

below it (10)is the Temple of YHW the God and the street of the king is between them;

east of it is the town/way of Khnum the god (11)and the street of the king is between them;

west of it the house of Shatibara, a Caspian, adjoins it.

Transfer III

This share of (12)the house who (se) measurements are written and whose boundaries (are written above) — I, Ananiah, gave it to you in love.23

Waiver of suit

I shall not be able, (13)I, Ananiah, to bring (suit) against you on account of it. Moreover, son of mine or daughter, brother or sister shall not be able (14)to institute (suit) against you in the name of that house.26


And if I institute suit against you in the name of that house, I shall be obligated (15)and I shall give you silver, 5 karsh, that is five, by the stone (-weight)s of the king, silver 2 q (uarters) to 1 karsh, without suit. (16)And if another person institute against you suit, he shall give you silver, 20 karsh,

Reaffirmation I

and the house likewise is yours.


But (17)if you die at the age of 100 years, it is my children whom you bore me (that) have right to it after (18)your death. And moreover, if I, Anani, die at the age of 100 years, it is Pilti and Jehoishma, all (told) two, my children, (who) (19)have right to my other portion, I, Anani. Another person35 — my mother or my father, brother or sister, or (20)another (19)man — (2O)shall not have right to the whole house, but (only) my children whom you bore me.


And the person who shall reclaim38
(21)my house after my death from Pilti and Jehoishma


shall give them silver, 10 karsh by the stone (-weight)s of (22)the king, silver 2 q (uarters) to 1 karsh,

Reaffirmation II

and my house is theirs likewise, without suit.


Mauziah son of Nathan wrote at the instruction of (23)Ananiah son of Azariah the servitor.


And the witnesses herein:

(1st hand) Gemariah son of Mahseiah;

(24)(2nd hand) Hoshaiah son of Jathom;

(3rd hand) Mithrasarah the Magian;

(4th hand) Tata the Magian.


(Verso)(25)(sealing) Document of a house which Ananiah wrote for Tamet his wife.


Text and translation: TAD B3.5; EPE B38. DAE; EPE; GEA; Porten 1990; Porten and Szubin 1987b; Szubin and Porten 1983a; 1988; TAD.

Testamentary Manumission (3.74)

(12 June 427 bce)

Bezalel Porten

In a document drawn up in contemplation of death, at least twenty-two years after Tamet’s marriage to Anani, her master Meshullam manumitted wife and daughter Jehoishma upon his death. The contract was designated on the endorsement “document of withdrawal” (line 18) and its format was that of the conveyance, freedom here being the commodity conveyed and a stiff fifty karsh penalty imposed on any heir or related party seeking to deny it. The emancipation formula was threefold, each time expanding the word “release” — “free,” “from the shade to the sun,” “to God/the god” (lines 2–10). The pair did not go scot-free, however, but became part of Meshullam’s family, his adoptive children and the adoptive sisters of Meshullam’s son Zaccur. In consideration of emancipation they pledged continued service as children, to Meshullam till his death and afterwards to Zaccur, again under heavy fifty karsh penalty for future refusal (lines 11–15). The procedure was not drawn up in the presence of any government official (contrast 3.77:2–3) and only four witnesses were required, one of whom was a Mede (line 17). The scribe Haggai introduced four Persian loanwords — one specific to this transaction (ʾzt, “free” [line 4]) and the other three words that would recur in subsequent contracts (hngyt, “partner in chattel,” hnbg, “partner in realty,” and ʾbgrn, “penalty” [lines 5, 8, 14).


(Recto)(1)On the 20th of Sivan, that is day 7 of Phamenoth, year 38 of Artaxerxes the king,


then (2)said Meshullam son of Zaccur, a Jew of Elephantine the fortress of the detachment of Iddinnabu,4 to lady Tapmet by name6
(3)his handmaiden, who is branded on her right hand like this: “(Belonging) to Meshullam,” saying:


I thought of you (4)in my lifetime. (To be) free9 I released you at my death and I released Jeh (o)ishma by name your daughter, whom (5)you bo (r)e me.

No reenslavement

Son of mine or daughter or brother of mine or sister, near or far, partner-in-chattel or partner-in-land13
(6)does not have right to you or to Jeh (o)ishma your daughter, whom you obre (
ERROR FOR: bore) me; does not have right to you, (7)to brand

you or TRAFFIC WITH you (for) payment of silver.15


Whoever shall stand up against you17 or against Jeh (o)ishma your daughter, (8)whom you bo (r)e me, shall give you a penalty of silver, 50 karsh19 by the stone (-weight)s of the king,


and you (9)are released from the shade to the sun and (so is) Jeh (o)ishma your daughter and another person22 does not have right (10)to you and to Jeh (o)ishma your daughter but you are released to God.

Obligation of support

(11)And said Tapmet and Jeh (o)ishma her daughter:

We, he (ERROR FOR: we) shall serve a you, (a)s a son or daughter supports b his father, (12)in your lifetime. And at your death we shall support Zaccur your single28 son (erasure: w[ho]) like a son who supports his father, as we shall have been doing (13)for you in your lifetime.


(erasure: If stand up) We, if we stand up, saying:

“We will not support you as a son supports (14)his father, nor Zaccur your son after your death,”

we shall be obligated to you and to Zaccur your son (for) a penalty of (15)silver, 50 karsh by the stone (-weight)s of the king, pure silver, without suit and without process.32

Scribe and place

Haggai wrote (16)this document in Elephantine at the instruction of Meshullam son of Zaccur.


And the witnesses herein:

(2nd hand) Atrpharna son of Nisaya, (17)a Mede;

(3rd hand) witness Micaiah son of Ahio;

(4th hand) witness Berechiah son of Miptah;

(5th hand) Dalah son of Gaddul.


(Verso)(18)[Document] (sealing) of withdrawal which Meshullam son of Zaccur wrote for Tapmet and Jeh (o)ishm (a).


Text and translation: TAD B3.6; EPE B39. Porten 1990; Porten and Szubin 1987b; TAD.

A Life Estate of Usufruct (3.75)

(11 July, 420 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Written by an unknown scribe, this document was much corrected and bore unique terms and formulae. It was the first of three deeds drawn up by Anani for the bequest of room(s) in his house which he was bestowing upon his daughter Jehoishma. This one was in contemplation of her marriage, which was to be recorded in a document of wifehood drawn up three months later (3.76:1). Absence of certain provisions, such as right of devolution and alienation and penalty for non-reclamation, indicated that Anani, who had already bestowed upon his son Pilti/Pelatiah part of a courtyard in his house (lines 10–12), was now creating a life estate of usufruct for his daughter in another part. This consisted of the upper and lower parts of a room (7 x 6? cubits) which lay “above” Anani’s quarters, the other half of the courtyard, and access rights to Anani’s stairway and exit from the property (lines 3–14). While his pledge of non-reclamation was not subject to penalty, attempted eviction after his death was penalized at ten karsh. The document broke off just where the fate of the property after Jehoishma’s death was laid down (lines 15–18).


(recto)(0)(erasure: of Pharmouthi, that is d[ay])

(1)On the 8th of Pharmouthi, that is d[a]y 8 of Tammuz, year 3 of Darius the king,


then (2)[in Elephantine] the [fort]ress,


say I, Anani son of Azariah, a servitor of YHW the God, to Jeh (o)ishma (3)by name, my child,6 her mother (being) Tam[et] my wife, saying:

Transfer I

I, Anani, g[av]e you

Object I

a house,8


built, (4)containing beams, —


it was: l[ength] seven, that is 3[+4] (= 7),11 cubits by the measuring rod [by six;

Object II

and half the courtyard], (5)(which) they call (in) Egyptian [the ẖyt; and half the stairway].


These are the boun[da]ries of [th]at house:

below i[t] is (6)the house of Anani son of Azariah […] … between them;

a[bo]ve it is (7)the treasury of the king;

west [of it the house of Shatibara adjoins i]t;

east of it is (erasure: the house of) (8)the house of Ḥor, a servant of Kh[num the god].

Transfer II

[I gave it to yo]u.

Investiture I

You, Jehoishma my daughter, (9)have right to [this] hous[e, who]se boundaries are written in [t]h[is] document, below and a[bo]ve.18
(10)And yo[u] have right [to] ascend and to descend by th[at] stairway [of] my [h]ouse. And [that] courtyard [which is] (11)bet[w]een them, the bottom and th[at a]bove,20 between Pelatiah my son and [Jehoi]shma my daughter — [half] (12)to Pelat[ia]h and half to [Je]h[oishma …] …

Transfer III

I, Anani, [ga]ve you this hous[e] (13)and half the courtyard and half the stair[way].

Investiture II

[And] you [have right] to them to ascend above and descend (14)and go out outside.

Transfer IV

I, Anani, gave you these houses in love.23

Waiver of reclamation

(15)I, Anani, (14)shall not be able (15)to reclaim (them) from you. And I shall not be able to say:26

“My soul desired (them). I shall reclaim (them) from you.”28

Penalty for expulsion

(16)Whoever shall stand up against you to expel you from the houses which I wrote31 and ga[ve you shall give to Jehoishma] (17)my daughter a penalty of silver, 10 karsh34 [by the stone (-weight)s of the king, silver 2 q (uarters)/zuz to the ten/1 karsh, without suit].


(18)If Jehoishma die at the age of [100] y[ears … (19) …] … will be … […] (20) … Hosha[iah …,

[two unplaced fragments remain; bottom missing]


Text and translation: TAD B3.7; EPE B40. EPE; Porten 1990; Szubin and Porten 1988; TAD.

Document of Wifehood (3.76)

(2–30 October 420 bce)

Bezalel Porten

At forty-five lines, this is the longest contract in our collection. Emancipated and adopted seven years earlier (3.74), Jehoishma was given away not by her father Anani but by her adoptive brother Zaccur, who furnished her with a handsome dowry of 78.125 shekels plus seventeen unevaluated items (lines 4–21). This included a mohar of one karsh paid by the groom Anani son of Haggai. The customary Death and Repudiation clauses were expansively formulated and subtly structured. The repudiation statement was expanded and the amount of the dowry spelled out; loss of mohar and 7½ shekel compensation were the price for repudiation (lines 21–28). The Non-expulsion clause was tacked onto the Death of husband clause directly and violation assessed at twenty karsh (lines 30–32). The Death clauses are intertwined with the Repudiation clauses in symmetric fashion:

A    Repudiation by declaration; by husband (lines 21–24)

B    Repudiation by declaration; by wife (24–28)

C    Death of husband (28–32)

B´    Repudiation by conduct; by wife (33–34)

C´    Death of wife (34–36)

A´    Repudiation by conduct; by husband (36–37).

The “law of hatred” was equally applicable to Repudiation by Declaration and Repudiation by conduct, that is, taking an additional spouse; though the language was distinctive the penalty was identical. Unique among the documents was the euphemistic and cryptic double negative prohibition on either spouse against “not not” doing the right of one or two of his/her colleagues’ spouses. This refusal of conjugal rights was likewise “hatred,” that is, tantamount to repudiation by conduct, and it too resulted in application of the “law of hatred” (lines 37–40). Concluding the document was a Waiver by Zaccur of the right to reclaim the dowry (lines 40–42). The scribe was the professional Mauziah and at least six Jewish witnesses signed (lines 42–44).


(recto)(1)In the month of Tishri, that is Epeiph, [y]ear [3+]1 (= 4) of Darius the [king],


[then] in Elephantine the fortress,


said Ananiah son of Haggai, (2)an Aramean of Elephantine the fortress [of] the detachment of [Iddin]nabu, (2)to Zaccur son of Me[shullam, an Ara]mean of Syene of the same detachment, saying:


(3)I came to y[ou in] your [hou]se and asked you for the lady Jehoishma by name, your sister, for wifehood and you gave her8
(4)to me.

Affirmation of status

She is my wife and I am [her] husband from this day forever. a


And I gave you (as) mohar (for) your sister Jehoishma:

[10]shekels    (5)silver, [1] kar[sh].


It came into you [and] your [heart was satis]fied herein.12


Jehoishma your sister brought in to me to my house:

22.125 shekels     money (6)of silver two karsh, 2 she[ke]ls, 5 hallurs;

12.0 shekels    1 new garment of wool, at16 7 cubits, 3 handbreadths (and in) width (7)4 cubits, 2 q (uarters), worth (in) silver 1 karsh, 2 shekels;

10.0 shekels    1 new garment of wool, at 6 cubits by 4, striped (8)with dye, doubly-well, (for) 1 handbreadth on each edge, worth (in) silver 1 karsh;

7.0 shekels    1 new fringed garment, at 6 cubits by 4, valued (in) silver (9)(at) 7 shekels;

8.0 shekels    [1] new shawl of woo[l], at 6 cubits by 3[+2] (= 5), 2 q (uarters), [striped with dye doubly-well20 …, (for)] (10)2 fingerbreadths on each edge, worth (in) silver 8 she[ke]ls;

1.5 shekels    [1] worn garme[nt], worth [ (in) silver 1 shekel, 20 hallurs];

[1.0] sheke[l]    (11)1 new SKIRT/ROBE of linen, (in) length [6 cubits by 4 (in width)], worth (in) silver [1] shek[el;

[1.0 shekel]    1 new garment of linen], (12)(in) length 6 cubits by 3 (in width), worth (in) silv[er] 1 [shekel];

1.0 shekel    1 worn and […] linen [garment, va]lued (in) silver (at) 1 shekel.

Total    (13)All garments of wool and linen: 8

Bronze utensils:

1.0 shekel    1 mirror, valu[ed] (in) silv[er] (at) 1 [shekel];

1.25 shekels    1 bowl of bronze, (14)valued (in) silver (at) 1 shekel, 10 h (allurs);

1[.25] shekels    1 cup of bronze, valued (in) silver (at) 1 shekel, [10 h (allurs);

.50 shekel    1] cup, [valued] (in) silver (at) 20 hallurs;

.50 shekel    (15)1 jug, valued (in) silver (at) 20 h (allurs).

All [ut]ensil[s] of bronze: [5.

Total    All the garments and the br]onz[e utensils] and the mo[n]ey and the mohar:

78.125 shekels     (16)(in) silver seven karsh, that is [7], eight [she]ke[l]s, that is 8, 5 hallurs by the stone (-weight)s of (17)the king, silver zuz to the ten.

17 Unpriced Items     1 chest of palm-leaf for her garments;

1 new … of papyrus-reed on which are (18) … alabaster stone inlays […] …;

2 jug(s);

2 trays of slq, herein:

1 […] …;

1 d/rmn of slq;

(19)ladles to carry oil:

2 of [pottery],

2 of wood,

1 of stone,

all (told) 5;

1 chest of wood for her jewels;

(20)a pair of Persian leather (sandals);

2 [hand]fuls of oi[l];

4 handfuls of olive oil;

1 handful of s[ce]nted oil;

(21)5 handfuls of (20)castor oil.

Repudiation by declaration by husband

(21)Tomorrow or (the) next day should Ananiah stand up in an assembly26 and say:

“I hated my wife Jehoishma; (22)she shall not be to me a wife,”

silver of ha[tr]ed is on his head. All that she brought in in (to) his house he shall give her29 — her money (23)and her garments, valued (in) silver (at) seven karsh, [eight] sh[ekels, 4+]1 (= 5) [hallurs], and the rest of the goods which are written (above).32
(24)He shall give her on 1 day at 1 stroke [and] she may go [away34 from him] wher[ever] she [desires].

Repudiation by declaration by wife

And if Jehoishm[a] hate her husband (25)Ananiah and say to him.

“I hated you; I will not be to you a wife,”

silver of hatred is on her head (and) her mohar will be lost. (26)She shall PLACE UPON the balance scale and give her husband Ananiah silver, 7 shekels, [2] q (uarters), and go out from him with39 the rest of (27)her money and her goods and her property, [valued (in) silver (at) 6 karsh, 2+]6 (= 8) [shekels], 5 h (allurs), and the rest of her goods (28)which are written (above). He shall give her on [1] da[y] at 1 stroke and she may go to her father’s house.

Death of husband

And i[f] Ananiah die (29)not having (28)a child, male (29)or female, by [Je]ho[i]shma his wife, it is Jehoishma (who) [hol]DS ON to it (namely), his house45 and his goods (30)and his property [and his money and every]thing [which] h[e has].


And whoever shall stand up against [Jehoishma] to expel her from the house (31)[of A]nan[iah, and his] good[s and] his [property] and all that [h]e has


[shall g]ive he[r the pe]nalty of silver, (32)twenty karsh by the stone (-weight)s of the king, silver 2 q (uarters) to the 10,


and do [to her] the law of this document, without suit.48

Repudiation by conduct by wife

But Jeho[ishma] does not have right [to] acquire another husband be[sides] Anani. And if she does thus, (34)hatred it is; they shall do to her [the law of ha]tred.52

Death of wife

And if [Jehoishma] die not (35)having (34)a child, ma[le] or female, (35)from Anani [her] husba[nd, it is Anani her husband (who) shall inherit from her her [mo]n[ey] and her goods and her property and all (36)that she has.

Repudiation by conduct of husband

Moreover, [Ananiah shall] n[ot be able to] take anoth[er] woman [besides Jehoishma] (37)for himself for wifehood. If he does [thus, hatred it is. H]e [shall d]o to her [the la]w of [ha]tred.58

Refusal of conjugal rights

And moreover, (38)Ananiah (37)shall not be able (38)not to do the law of [one] or two of his colleagues’ wives60 to Jehoishma his wife. And if (39)he does not do thus, hatred [it is].62 He shall do to her the law of hatred. And moreover, Jehoishma shall not be able (40)not to do the law of one or [t]wo (of her colleagues’ husbands) to Ananiah her husband. And if she does not do (so) for him, hatr (ed) (it) is.

Waiver of reclamation

Moreover (41)Zaccur shall (40)not (41)be able to say to his sist[er]:

“These go[o]ds in love I gave to Jehoishma. Now, I desired (them); (42)I shall reclaim them.”


If he says thus, he shall not be heard; he is obligated.68


Mauziah son of Nathan wrote (43)this (42)document (43)at the instruction of Ananiah son of Haggai [and] Zaccur son of Meshullam.


And the witnesses herein:

Haggai son of Shemaiah;

Islah son of (44)Gaddul;

[PN son of PN];

Haggai son of Azzul;

Menahem son of Azariah;

Jedaniah son of Gemariah[

(bottom right band missing)


(Verso)(45)Document (sealing) of wifehood which Ananiah son of Meshullam wrote for Jehoishma.


Text and translation: TAD B3.8; EPE B41. EPE; Hugenberger 1994; Porten and Szubin 1995; Szubin and Porten forthcoming; TAD.

Adoption (3.77)

(22 September or 22 October, 416 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Somehow a document made out to Zaccur, Jehoishma’s adoptive brother, found its way into her archive. He had “given,” together with written contract, a houseborn slave to Uriah, though under what circumstances was not indicated (lines 3–4) and Zaccur’s contract was not found. Uriah then made a fourfold declaration that Jedaniah was to be his son and that neither he nor his heirs, beneficiaries or representatives would press him into slavery, brand him, or make him a slave, subject to a thirty karsh penalty (lines 4–9). As in the earlier case of Tamet and Jehoishma (3.74), emancipation and adoption went hand in hand. However, on the basis of our documents, the former transaction was private while the present one was drawn up in Syene by an Aramean scribe, in the presence of the Troop Commander of Syene, Vidranga (lines 2–3), and attested by eight Aramean witnesses (lines 9–12). Notably, both parties were designated “Arameans of Syene” (lines 2–3).


(Recto)(1) On the 6th of Tishri, that is day 22 of Payni, year 8 of Darius the king,


then in Syene the fortress,


said (2)Uriah son of Mahseiah, an Aramean of Syene, before Vidranga,4 the Guardian of the Seventh, the Troop Commander of Syene, to Zaccur son of Meshullam,6
(3)an Aramean of Syene, before Vidranga the Guardian of the Seventh, the Troop Commander of Syene, saying:

Non-enslavement and adoption

Jedaniah by name son of Taḥe/Takhoi, [you]r la[d] (4)whom you gave me and a document you wrote for me about him — I shall not be able, I, Uriah, or son or daughter of mine, brother or sister of mine, or man (5)of mine, he (shall not be able) to press him (into) slave (ry). My son he shall be. I, or son or daughter of mine, or man of mine,11 or another individual do not have right (6)to brand him. I shall not be able — I, or son or daughter of mine, brother or sister of mine, or man of mine — we (shall not be able) to stand up14 to make him a s[lave] (7)or brand him.


Whoever shall stand up against that Jedaniah to brand him or make him a slave shall give you a penalty16 of silver, (8)thirty karsh by the weight of the king, silver zuz to the ten,


and that Jedaniah, my son shall he be likewise. And an individual does not (9)have right to brand him or make him a slave, but my son he shall be.


Wrote Raukhshana son of Nergal (u)shezib at the instruction of Uriah.


(10)The witnesses herein:

(2nd hand) Attarmalki son of Kilkilan;

(3rd hand) Sinkishir son of Shabbethai;

(4th hand) Saharakab son of Cepha;

(11)5th hand) Nabushillen son of Bethelrai;

(6th hand) Eshemram son of Eshemshezib;

(7th hand) Varyazata son of Bethelzabad;

(12)(8th hand) Heremnathan son of Paḥo;

(9th hand) Eshemzabad son of Shawyan.

(endorsement missing)


Text and translation: TAD B3.9; EPE B42. GEA; Porten 1969; 1990; TAD.

Bequest In Contemplation of Death (3.78)

(25 November, 404 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Sixteen years after his grant of a life estate of usufruct (3.75), Anani granted his daughter title to the apartment, but only to take effect upon his death. To reassure her in the interim, the scribe repeated the operative word “gave” eight times, doubled the formulae in both the Pedigree (“bought” and “gave”) and Investiture (“yours” and “right”) clauses (lines 3, 11), granted her rights of ownership to half the courtyard (as distinct from shared rights [lines 13–14]), and assimilated the bequest to a sale by reference to old-age support as consideration (line 17). Concomitantly, he held back in the formulation of several clauses just because the bequest was to take effect only upon his death — omission of rights of heirs and beneficiaries in the Investiture clause (line 11); omission of Warranty and Penalty clauses in the name of the alienor; and omission of a Reclamation Waiver. The several Transfer and Investiture clauses artfully intertwine as the first half of the contract builds up to a climax — at my death, in affection, in consideration of old-age support (lines 15–18). Penalty for suit or complaint by heirs and related parties was a hefty thirty karsh and the new-or-old document clause substituted the word “made” (=prepared) for “wrote” (lines 21–22), a further indication of the deferred character of the bequest. The eight witnesses were Jewish and all but one appear elsewhere (lines 23–26).


(Recto)(1)On the 24th of Marcheshvan, that is day 29 of Mesore, year 1 of Artaxerxes the king,


then said Anani son of Azariah, (2)a servitor to YHW the God in Elephantine the fortress, to lady4 Jehoishma his daughter, saying:

Transfer I

I thought of you in my lifetime and gave (3)you

Object I

part of my house


which I bought for money and its value I gave.

Transfer II

I gave it to you —

Object II

that is the southern room, east of (4)the large room of mine; and half the courtyard, that is half the ẖyt (as it is called in) Egyptian; and half the stairway, beneath which is the peras(-sized) STORAGE AREA.


(5)This is the measurements of the house which I gave Jehoishma my daughter in love; this is the measurements of the house which I, Anani, (6)gave Jehoishma my daughter:

from below to above, 8 and one-half cubits by the measuring rod; and from east to west, (7)7 cubits by the measuring rod; IN AREA, 98 cubits by the measuring rod and half the courtyard and half the stairway and (8)the (7)pe-ras(-sized) STORAGE AREA its half.


(8)And behold the boundaries of the house which I, Anani, gave Jehoishma my daughter:

east of it is the (9)protecting (8)wall (9)which the Egyptians built, that is the way of the god; above it the house of the shrine of the god20 adjoins it wall to wall; (10)below it is the wall of the stairway and the house of Ḥor son of Peṭeese, a gardener of Khnum the god, adjoins that stairway; (11)west of it is the wall of the large room.

Investiture I

Yours it is: you have right to it.

Transfer III

This house whose measurements (12)and boundaries are written in this document — I, Anani son of Azariah, gave it to you in love.25


Renovated is (the) (13)lower (12)house. (13)It contains beams and 3 windows are in it. One door is in it, shutting and opening.29

Investiture II

Moreover, you have right to the ẖyt, (14)that is the courtyard, right to prop up (what is) knocked down and its beam in the half of yours. Moreover, you have right to go out (15)through the gateway of the ẖyt, that is the courtyard. Moreover, you have right to half the stairway to ascend and descend.

Transfer IV

This (16){this} house whose boundaries and measurements are written and whose words33 are written in this document — I, Anani, gave it to Jehoishma (17)my daughter at my death in love. Just as she supported36 me while I was old of days — I was unable (to use) my hands and she supported me — also I (18)gave (it) to her at my death.39

Waiver of suit

Son of mine or daughter of mine, partner-in-chattel who is mine or partner-in-land or guarantor41 who is mine shall not be able to bring against you suit (19)or process, or bring (suit) against your children after you, or complain against you to prefect or lord,43 or against your children after you.


Whoever shall bring against you suit (20)or process or complain against you or against your children shall give you a penalty of silver, 30 karsh46 by the stone (-weight)s of the king, pure silver,


and you, (21)Jehoishma, likewise have right and your children have right after you49 and you may give (it) to whomever you love.

Document validity

Moreover, they shall not be able to take out (22)against you a new or old document, but it is this document which I made for you (that) is valid.52

Scribe and place

Haggai son of Shemaiah wrote (23)this (22)document (23)in Elephantine the fortress at the instruction of Anani son of Azariah, the servitor of YHW the God.


The witnesses herein:

(2nd hand) witness Hoshaiah son of (24)Jathom;

(3rd hand) Zaccur son of Shillem;

(4th hand) witness Nathan son of Jehour;

(5th hand) witness Hoshaiah son of Nathan;

(25)(6th hand) witness Meshullam son of Mauzi;

(7th hand) Pilti son of Jaush (erasure: s[on of]);

(8th hand) Jashobiah son of Jedaniah;

(26)(9th hand) witness Haggai son of Mardu.


(Verso)(27)Document (sealing) of a house which Anani son of Azariah the servitor wrote for Jehoishma his daughter.


Text and translation: TAD B3.10; EPE B43. EPE; GEA; Hoesterman 1992; Porten 1968; 1990; 2001; Porten and Greenfield 1969; Porten and Szubin 1987a.

Dowry Addendum (3.79)

(9 March, 402 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Less than a year and one-half after Anani had written for his daughter a bequest in contemplation of death, he upgraded it to one to take effect immediately. Assigning title to courtyard and stairway, Anani had no need to spell out specific rights, as earlier (3.78:13–15). Omission of the right of alienation to anyone other than her own children, however (lines 8–9), indicated that Anani intended the property to remain a family estate. Uniquely designating it an “after-gift” to her marriage contract (line 7), i.e. a dowry addendum to which her husband naturally enjoyed rights of usufruct, he had to reassure her against claims of reclamation by himself (lines 9–11) and removal by his heirs and associated parties (lines 11–15), whether in his lifetime or after his death. Any such attempts were subject to a stiff thirty karsh penalty. The eight witnesses were Jewish and all but one appeared elsewhere (lines 18–20).


(Recto)(1)On the 20th of Adar, that is day 8 of Choiak, year 3 of Artaxerxes the king,


then said Anani son of Azariah, a servitor of (2)YHW the God in Elephantine the fortress, to Jehoishma his daughter, saying:

Transfer I

I gave you


a house.3


Renovated is (the) lower house5 — containing beams (3)and 3 doors — that is the southern room. Built is its stairway and its court yard,8 that is its gate (through which) to go out.


And this is its boundaries:10

east of it (4)the treasury of the king adjoins wall to wall the protecting (wall) which the Egyptians built; west of it is the gate of yours (through which) to go out and the street of (5)the king is (in) between; above it the house of the shrine of the god adjoins it wall to wall and the wall of its house adjoins it, (6)that is the large room of mine, (5)wall to wall; (6)below it the house of Ḥor son of Peṭeese, a gardener of Khnum the god, adjoins it wall to wall.

Transfer II

(7)This house whose boundaries are written in this document — I, Anani son of Azariah, gave it to you (as) an after-gift (erasure: t[o your] docum[ent] of wifehood) written on your document of wifehood) since it is not written on your document of wifehood (8)with Anani son of Haggai son of Meshullam son of Busasa.


You, Jehoishma my daughter, have right to it from this {this} day forever18
(9)and your children have right after you.

Waiver of reclamation

(erasure: I) I, Anani son of Azariah the servitor, shall not be able to say:

“I gave it to you in affection (as) an after-gift to (10)your (9)document (10)of wifehood until later.”

Penalty I

If I say:

“I shall reclaim (it) from you,”

I shall be obligated and I shall give Jehoishma a penalty22 of silver, 30 karsh
(11)pure (10)silver (11)by the stone (-weight)s of the king,

Reaffirmation I

and you likewise have right to this house whose boundaries are written above,26 in my lifetime and at my death.

Waiver of suit

Moreover, (12)son of mine or daughter of mine, brother or sister, partner-in-chattel or partner-in-land or guarantor shall not be able (to sue).29

Penalty II

Whoever shall bring against you suit or process or complain against you (13)or against your children to prefect or lord to remove this house from before you in my lifetime32 or at my death shall be obligated and shall give you (14)or your children a penalty of silver, 30 karsh by the stone (-weight)s of the king,

Reaffirmation II

and you likewise have right to this house whose boundaries (15)are written in this document.

Document validity

And should he go into a suit, he shall not prevail.35 Moreover, they shall not be able to take out against you a new or old document in the name of (16)this (15)house (16)whose (erasure: w[ritten]) boundaries above is written in this document. (That document) which he shall take out is false. It is this document which I, Anani, wrote for you (17)(that) is valid.

Scribe and place

Haggai son of Shemaiah wrote this document in Elephantine at the instruction of Anani son of Azariah, the servitor of YHW the God.39


(18)The witnesses herein:

(2nd hand) witness Nathan son of Jehour;

(3rd hand) witness Menahem son of Gaddul;

(4th hand) witness Ahio son of Nathan;

(19)(5th hand) witness Nahum the houseborn;

(6th hand) witness Nathan son of Mauziah;

(7th hand) witness Shammua son of Peluliah;

(20)(8th hand) witness Haggai son of Mardu;

(9th hand) witness Jedaniah son of Gemariah.


(Verso)(21)Document (sealing) of a house which Anani son of Azariah wrote for Jeh[o]ishma his daughter.


Text and translation: TAD B3.11; EPE B44. Cohen 1966–67; EPE; GEA; Porten 1990; Porten and Szubin 1987b; 1987c; TAD; Zadok 1988.

Sale of Apartment to Son-in-Law (3.80)

(13 December 402 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Barely nine months after Anani’s final bequest to his daughter Jehoishma, he and his wife sold their remaining share in the house (the large room plus appurtenances [1511/3 square cubits]) to their son-in-law Anani son of Haggai for thirteen shekels (also denominated in Ionian staters), a price that took into account the father’s building improvements. The document was remarkable for the fact that after writing 9½ lines, the scribe erased his last unfinished line and began the text anew, making numerous slight changes in formulation. Certain terms were employed to perfect title to the property, originally acquired from a couple who held it in adverse possession: (1) Particular prominence was given to Tamet (here written Tapmet and even Tapmemet [line 33]) by the titles accorded her (lines 2, 11, 24) and it was made to appear as if the house which Anani alone had bought from Bagazushta and his wife (3.72:2–3) was actually acquired jointly by Anani and Tapmet (lines 12, 32). (2) The original owner of the house was pointedly called a “hereditary-property-holder” (lines 4–5). (3) Special reference was made to the fact that Jehoishma’s existing share in the house had been an after-gift on her document of wifehood. In fact, it was the imprecision as to whether this had been given originally to Jehoishma or directly to her husband Anani which led the scribe to rewrite the document from scratch (cf. lines 9–9a with 17–18). The son-in-law was given complete right of alienation (lines 22–24) and a suit or complaint by heirs or related parties was subject to a twenty karsh penalty (lines 24–31). The original sale document of Bagazushta was handed over (lines 31–32) and the usual four witnesses appended their signatures (lines 33–34).


(Recto)(1)On the 12th of Thoth, year 4 of Artaxerxes the king,


then said Anani son of Azariah, a servitor of YHW and lady Tapmet (2)his wife, a servitor of YHW the God dwelling4  (in) Elephantine the fortress, to Anani son of Haggai son of Meshullam son of Busasa5 an Aramean of (3){of} Elephantine the fortress of the detachment of Nabukudurri, saying:

Transfer I

I, 1 (and) Tapmet daughter of Patou, all (told) two — we sold and gave you8

Object I

our house

Pedigree I

which (4)we bought for silver from Bagazushta son of Friyana/Palliya10 the Caspian — that is the house of Ynbwly son of Misday (a), a Caspian who in Elephantine is (5)hereditary-property-holder, —

Price I

and you gave us the price of our house (in) silver, one, that is 1, karsh, three, that is 3, shekels — (in) Ionian silver 6 staters, (6)one shekel —

Satisfaction I

and our heart was satisfied herein that there did not remain to us (incumbent) upon15 you (any) of the price.

Measurements I

This is the measurements of the house which we sold (7)and gave you:

from east to west {to west}, length, 16 cubits, 2 h (ands) by the measuring rod; (8)and from below to above, width, 5 cubits, 2 h (ands) by the measuring rod; IN AREA, 150 cubits.

Boundaries I

And behold, this is (9)the boundaries of the house which we sold and gave you:

east of it is the house which I gave you (as) an after-gift (9a)(erasure: on the document of wifehood of Jehoishma)


(10)On the 12th of Thoth, year 4 of Artaxerxes, the king,


then said Anani son of Azariah, a servitor of YHW (11)the God, 1 (and) lady

Tapmet his wife, CHIEF OF THE BELOVED of Meshullam son of Zaccur, all (told) 2 as one mouth24 to Anani son of Haggai son of Busasa, (12)saying:

Transfer II

We sold and gave you

Object II

our house

Pedigree II

which we bought from Bagazushta son of Friyana/Palliya the Caspian —

Description I

a lower house, renovated,27
(13)containing beams, windows and 2 doors; renovated is (the) lower house, that is the large room of mine29

Price II

and you gave us its price (14)(in) silver, one karsh, 3 shekels — Ionian silver in the amount of 6 staters, 1 shekel —

Satisfaction II

and our heart was satisfied with the price which (15)you gave us.

Measurements II

This is the measurements of the house which we sold and gave you:

from east to west, length, (16)16 (15)cubits, (16)2 h (ands) by the measuring rod;

and from above to below, width, 5 cubits, 2 h (ands);

(erasure: in) IN AREA, 151 cubits 1 h (and).

Boundaries II

This is (17)its boundaries, (those of) the house which we sold and gave you:

(erasure: from east) east of it your house, you,35 Anani son of Haggai, which we gave (18)to Jehoishma our daughter (as) an after-gift on her document of wifehood, adjoins wall to wall;

west of it is the Temple (19)of YHW and the street of the king is between them;

above it the house of Parnu son of Ziliya and Mrdava his brother adjoins it (20)wall to wall;

below it is the house of Paḥe/Pakhoi and Pamet his brother, boatmen of the (rough) waters, sons of Tawe, (21)and the street of the king is between them.

Description II

And its 1 window is open toward the large room.41 And its gateway is open toward the street of the king; (22)from there you may go out and come in.


This house whose measurements and whose boundaries is written in this

document — you, Anani, (23)have right to it from this day and forever and your children have right after you and (so does) anyone whom you give it to lovingly or (24)whom you sell it to for silver.

Waiver of suit

I, Anani, and Tapmet my wife, who was THE INNER ONE48 of Meshullam son of Zaccur49 and he gave her to me (25)for wifehood — we shall not be able to bring against you suit or process in the name of51 this house which we sold and gave you and (for which) you gave us its price (26)(in) silver and our heart was satisfied herein. Moreover, we shall not be able to bring (suit) against your sons or your daughters or (anyone) whom you give it to for silver or lovingly. Moreover, (27)son of ours or daughter, brother or sister of ours, partner-in-chattel or partner-in-land or guarantor of ours shall (26)not (27)be able (to sue).


Whoever shall bring against you suit or bring (suit) (28)against your sons or against a man whom you give (it) to or whoever shall complain against you to prefect or lord or judge57 in the name of this house who (se) measurements (29)is written above or whoever shall take out against you a new or old document in the name of this house59 which we sold and gave you shall be obligated (30)and shall give you or your children a penalty of silver, 20 karsh62 by the stone ( -weight)s of the king, pure silver,


and the house is (likewise) yours or your children’s (31)or his whom you give (it) to lovingly.

Document transfer

Moreover, we gave you the old document which Bagazushta wrote for us, the document of purchase/sale (of the house) (32)which he sold us and (for which) we gave him its payment (BLANK SPACE) (in) silver.

Scribe and place

Haggai son of Shemaiah wrote this document in Elephantine the fortress (33)at the instruction of Anani, the servitor of YHW the God, (and) Tapmemet daughter of Patou, his wife, all (told) 2 as one mouth.


(1st hand) witness Meshullam (34)son of Mauziah;

(2nd hand) witness Nahum the houseborn;

(3rd hand) witness Nathan son of Jehour;

(4th hand) Magir.


(Verso)(35)Document (sealing) of a house which Anani son of Azariah and Tapmet his wife sold.


Text and translation: TAD B3.12; EPE B45. EPE; GEA; Porten 1990; Szubin and Porten 1982; 1983a; Porten and Szubin 1987b; TAD.

Loan of Grain (3.81)

(2–31 December 402 bce)

Bezalel Porten

This is the only loan document for grain and we cannot tell for certain whether it was drawn up after Anani son of Haggai bought his in-laws’ apartment or before (3.80), since it lacked day date. In the middle of December, in the first month of the Egyptian year, Anani went to Syene to borrow from the Egyptian-named Aramean, Pakhnum son of Besa, 2 peras 3 seah of emmer (approximately a double ration for a month) which he promised to repay as soon as he received his government ration (lines 2–4). If he failed to repay within twenty days, he was given a one karsh penalty (lines 5–8). Should he die before making payment, then the burden fell on his children or guarantors. Should they not pay the fine, then Pakhnum was entitled to seize as security for payment any item of Anani’s property, wherever found (lines 8–12). Though the document was silent about repayment of the grain, the terminology (“penalty,” “without suit”) does not argue for conversion of a loan in kind to a loan in silver. Though drawn up in Syene by an Aramean scribe, the document’s requisite four witness were well-known Jews (lines 12–14).


(Recto)(1)(In the) month of Thoth, year 4 of Artaxerxes the king,


then in Syene the fortress,


said Anani son of Haggai son of Meshullam, (2)a Jew of the detachment of Nabukudurri, to Pakhnum son of Besa,5 an Aramean of Syene of that detachment likewise, saying:


I came to you (3)in your house in Syene the fortress and borrowed from you and you gave me7 emmer, 2 peras, 3 seahs.


Afterwards, I, Anani son of Haggai,11
(4)shall pay and give you that emmer, e (mmer), 2 p(eras), 3 seahs from the ration which will be given me from the treasury of the king.


(5)And if I do not pay and give you that emmer which above is written when the ration is given me (6)from the (store-)house of the king, afterwards I, Anani, shall be obligated15 and shall give you silver, a penalty of one, 1, karsh17 pure silver. (7)Afterwards, I, Anani, shall pay and give you the penalty which is above written within 20, that is twenty, days, (8)without suit.

Obligation of heirs

And if I die and have not yet paid and given you the silver of yours which is above written, afterwards my children (9)or my guarantors shall pay you your silver which is above written.


And if my children or my guarantors do not pay you (10)this silver which is above written, afterwards you, Pakhnum, have right to my security to seize (it) and you may take for yourself from (among) (11)a house of bricks, slave or hand-maiden, bronze or iron utensils, which you will find of mine in Elephantine or in Syene or in the province, raiment or grain until you are paid your silver which above (12)is written without suit.

Scribe and place

Shaweram son of Eshemram son of Eshemshezib wrote this document in Syene the fortress at the instruction of (13)Anani son of (erasure: Meshullam) Haggai son of Meshullam.


The witnesses herein:

(2nd hand) witness Menahem son of Shallum;

(3rd hand) witness Haggai;

(4th hand) (14)witness Nahum the houseborn;

(5th hand) witness Haggai son of Mardu.


(Verso)(15)[Do]cument of grain [which Anani son of Haggai] son of Meshullam [wrote] for Pakhnum son of Besa.


Text and translation: TAD B3.13; EPE B46. EPE; GEA; Porten 1968; 1983; 1990; TAD.



C. Accounts


1. The Tithe In Ugarit

The tithe in Ugarit is known from legal and economic documents dating from the fourteenth century to the beginning of the twelfth century bce. The Akkadian term for tithe in Ugarit is ma-ʾa-ša-ru or êšrêtu (cf. Hebrew maʿaśer). [These two documents should, strictly speaking, appear with the Akkadian contracts (COS 3.107–110) and accounts (COS 3.125–126) respectively. WWH]

Land Grant Along with Tithe Obligations (3.82)

(PRU III 16.276)

Michael Heltzer

From the present day Niqmadu, son of Ammistamru king of Ugarit2 gave (donated) the village Uḫnappu to Kar-Kushuḫ, son of Ana[nu] and to Apapa, the king’s daughter, with its tithe (êšrêtu) with its custom-duties (miksu) with its gifts (širku). Nobody shall raise claims concerning Uḫnappu against Kar-Kushuḫ and Apapa and against the sons of Apapa. He (the king) donated Uḫnappu. Further: Kar-Kushuḫ is pure like the sun forever. Later he is (also) pure. The temple of Baʿal of the Ḫazi mountain and its priests shall not have claims to Kar-Kushuḫ.


Text: PRU III 16.276.

Village Tithe Payments at Ugarit (3.83)

(PRU III 10.044)

Michael Heltzer

Despite the fact that the text is in a damaged state, we see here payments to the authorities, which could be the tithe from a number of villages of the kingdom of Ugarit. The text is written in Akkadian and shows the tax (tithe) payments by the villages in kind: barley (flour), oxen and wine.

1´    [the village … kùr ] barley or (flour)2

2´    The village […] kùr barley (or flour), 1 [ox]

3´    The village Araniya 2 kùr barley (or flour),

4´    The village Uburʾa 18 kùr barley (or flour), 1 ox […

5´    The village Biru [1] 6 kùr barley (or flour), 1 ox […

6´    The village Inuqapaʾat 6 kùr barley (or flour), […

7´    The village Beqani 50 kùr barley (or flour), […

8´    The village Ilishtamʾi 18 kùr barley (or flour), […

9´    The village Shubbani 5 kùr barley (or flour), […

10´    The village Tebaqu 5 kùr barley (or flour), […

11´    The village Riqdi 18 kùr barley (or flour), [… — o[x …

12´    The village Shurashi 6 kùr barley (or flour), […] 11 jars w[ine], 1 ox;

13´    The village Iṣṣuru 6 kùr barley (or flour), […] 11 jars w[ine],

14´    [The village …] kùr barley (or flour), […] 12 jars w[ine], 1 ox;

15´    [The village] kùr barley (or flour), 7 jars w[ine],

16´    [The village ], 1 ox […];

17´    [The village ]


Text, translations and studies: PRU III; Heltzer 1975; 1976; 1982; 1991.

2. Ammonite Ostraca from Ḥesbân

Walter E. Aufrecht

Between 1968 and 1978, the Tell Ḥesbân excavations produced eight ostraca with writing in the cursive Ammonite or Aramaic scripts. Four of these, A3, A4, A5 and A6, are lists of names; two, A7 and A8, are graffiti; and two, A1 and A2, are accounts presented below.2

Ḥesbân Ostracon A1 (3.84)

This ostracon, discovered in 1973, is from a body sherd of a large, rough storage jar. It measures 10.×.×.6 cm. The upper left side of the sherd is missing, but the right margin is intact. The surface is not smooth and contains large calcium grits, causing the pen strokes to be broad and sometimes distorted or blurred. The text is a record kept by a royal steward of the assignment or distribution from the royal stores of foodstuffs and other goods to courtiers and others to whom the crown is under obligation (Cross 2002), written in Ammonite cursive script with numerals written in Hieratic. The ostracon is in the Amman Archaeological Museum, Ḥesbân No. H73.1657. It has been dated paleographically to ca. 600 bce.

To the] king: 35 (jars) of grain [ ]

and 8 sheep and goats; [ ]

and to Nadabʾil son of Naʿamʾil f[rom]

To Z[ ] from ʾIlat: 12 (measures) of gum7; (x jars) of gr[ain

To [ ]: 2 (measures) of gum; a two-year old cow and [ ]

To Baʿša[ʾ]c 40 (pieces) of silver which he gave to [ ]

22 (jugs) of wine; and 10 sheep and goats; (x measures) of fine flour [ ]

8 (jugs) of wine; and 6 (jars) of grain.

To Yatib: hay; 24 (jars) of grain;

9 sheep and goats;

a three-year-old cow.

Ḥesbân Ostracon A2 (3.85)

This ostracon, discovered in 1974, is a body sherd from a heavy storage jar. Its maximum dimensions are 8.×.4 cm. It was, however, originally larger than its present version as evidenced by a modern break along its top. The text is a list of goods, written in Ammonite cursive script. The ostracon is in the Amman Archaeological Museum, Ḥesbân No. H74.2092. It has been dated paleographically to ca. 575 bce.

[ ] figs [ ]

[ ] figs from [ ]

[ ] work animals [ ]

[ ] ropes


Text, translations, and studies: CAI 214–219 (#80); CAI 245–246 (#94); Aufrecht 1999; Cross 1975; 1976; 1986; 2002; Dornemann 1983; Herr 1992; Hübner 1988; 1992; Ibrahim 1975; Sanders 1997; Shea 1977; Tubb 1988.

3. Hebrew Ostraca

Ophel Ostracon (3.86)

K. Lawson Younger, Jr.

This fragmentary ostracon (× cm) was discovered during excavations on the Ophel (area south of the temple mount in Jerusalem) by J. G. Duncan in 1924, although in an unstratified context. It can be dated on palaeographic grounds to the end of the seventh or the beginning of the sixth century bce. While the ostracon appears to have contained eight lines, the left side of the inscription and lines 4–7 are no longer legible. Moreover, some of what is extant contains difficult readings. Nonetheless, the text appears to be a list of personal names that probably served some administrative purpose.

(1)Ḥizqîyāhû (Hezekiah), son of Qōrʾēh, a from the stock of Buqqîyāhû c

(2)ʾAḥîyāhû, son of Haśśōrēq, in the valley of stelae

(3)Ṣapanyāhû, son of Qāray, in the valley of the stelae;


(lines 5–7 missing)

(8)the son of ʾUrîyāhû f


Text, translations and studies: Cook 1924; Albright 1926; Diringer 1934:74–79; Torczyner 1939; Sukenik 1947; Moscati 1951:44–46, pl. x; Milik 1959; KAI #190; SSI 1:25–26; Hestrin 1973:62, #138 (best photo); Lipiński 1975b; Lemaire 1977:239–243; Jaroš 1982 #50; Smelik 1991; AHI 4.101; HAE 1:310–311.



D. Miscellaneous Texts


1. Aramaic Ostraca

(ca. 475 bce)

Bezalel Porten

Egyptian Aramaic ceramic inscriptions are scattered in over a dozen different places throughout the world (New York, Oxford, Cambridge, London, Paris, Strasbourg, Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, Cairo, Elephantine, and Jerusalem). So far 118 have been published, almost all from Achaemenid Elephantine, and these may be divided into six categories: letters (TAD D7.1–57), accounts (TAD D8.1–13), lists (TAD D9.1–15), abecedaries (TAD D10.1–2), jar inscriptions (TAD D11.1–26), and mummy labels (TAD D19.1–5). The ostraca letters were randomly shaped, measured, say, × cm more or less, and were written on both sides, beginning on the concave and continuing on the convex side. Palaeographically, most of them were written by a single scribe (ca. 475 bce) who we may imagine sat on the wharf at Syene, available to soldiers writing to their family and friends on Elephantine island. The extant ostraca were addressed to at least ten different persons, among them three women — Hoshaiah (COS 3.87A), Uriah (3.87B), Micaiah (3.87C), Haggai (3.87D-E), Jedaniah (TAD D7.10), Meshullach (TAD D7.31), Nathan (TAD D7.28); Kaviliah (3.87F), Islaḥ (3.87G), and Aḥutab (3.87H; TAD D7.3–5). Only rarely did the writer give his name — Giddel to Micaiah (3.87C:1–2) and Jarḥu to Haggai (3.87E:1–2) — and frequently he even omitted the name of the addressee (3.87J-K). The messenger doubtless knew each one personally. The language of the letters was terse, allusive, and often cryptic. Formerly compared to the modem telegram, it may now be compared to an e-mail message.

The opening salutation or blessing, a regular feature in papyrus letters, was included in the ostraca letters only infrequently and included the unique formula, šlmk yhh [ṣbʾt yšʾ]l bkl ʿdn, “Your welfare may the Lord of [Hosts seek aft]er at all times” (TAD D7.35:1–2). In the letter to Hoshaiah it was abbreviated down to a single word, šlmk, “Your welfare” (COS 3.87A:2). More representative was the compact, two-word šlm + Address, “Greetings, PN” (3.87B:1; 3.87G:1; 3.87H:1). Strikingly, the two letters that have the full “to-from” address formula also have a polytheistic salutation — šlm wḥyn šlht lk brktk lyhh wlḥnwm, “(Blessings) of welfare and life I sent you. I blessed you by YHH and Khnum” (3.87C:1–3; 3.87E [see below]). Otherwise, the scribe simply began his letter with a clause-initial adverbial followed by a presentative, for example, kerʿnt hlw, “Now, lo” (Aramaic Dream Report, COS 3.88:1) or went straight to the body of the letter, with or without the adverbial, kʿnt ḥzw, “Regard …” (3.87I:1 3.87K:1 [without]); “I dispatched” (3.87K:1 [without]). Whereas the terms and hlw introduced statements conveying information (3.87B:2; 3.87F:2; 3.87G:1; 3.87J:1), ḥzw introduced a directive, which might be expanded by the preposition ʿl, yielding “Look after” (3.87A:2–3).

The two verbs occurring most frequently in the letters are šlḥ, which was used for the sending of a message or a letter, and hwšr, which was used for the dispatch of an object. PN1 would write to PN2 to give him information (Aramaic Dream Report, COS 3.88) or instructions (3.87A:2–8; 3.87B:1–8; 3.87D:7–10; 3.87F:5–15; 3.87J); to announce the dispatch of an object (3.87K) or to give him instructions on handling a dispatched object (3.87G:1–4); and requested that PN2 send him or PN3 information (3.87A:8–9; 3.87B:9–11; 3.87I:10–13) or some object (3.87C:4; 3.87H:1–5); or that PN2 get some object from PN3 (3.87D:7–10). The objects of the requests included salt (3.87H:1–2), a garment that needed to be sewn (3.87C:4–5), and money for the marzeaḥ (3.87D:7–10), while among the objects being dispatched were wood (3.87K) or legumes (bqlʾ), which were to be exchanged for barley (3.87G:1, 5). A recurrent theme is the provision of bread and/or flour (3.87A:6; 3.87B:13, 15; 3.87F:13; 3.87H:6). Between Syene and Elephantine, then as today, there seems to have been a regular ferry service and correspondents assumed a system of immediate delivery — three of our messages speak of action to be done “today” (3.87B:9–10; 3.87F:5–7; 3.87H:1–2). Personal matters ranged from solicitude for the children (3.87A:2–8, 10–11) or concern that one’s slave be properly branded (3.87I:3–8) to a report of a feverish dream. In fact, one side of the ostracon might tell of the dream and the other give advice on food