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“‘From the Burrows of their Lairs…’ The Imagery of a Prophetic Utterance in a Mari Letter.” In “Like ʾIlu Are You Wise”: Studies in Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures in Honor of Dennis G. Pardee, edited by H. H. Hardy I

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“‘From the Burrows of their Lairs…’ The Imagery of a Prophetic Utterance in a Mari Letter.” In “Like ʾIlu Are You Wise”: Studies in Northwest Semitic Languages and Literatures in Honor of Dennis G. Pardee, edited by H. H. Hardy II, Joseph Lam, and
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   1 “F ROM THE B URROWS OF THEIR L AIRS …”   T HE I MAGERY OF A P ROPHETIC U TTERANCE IN A M ARI L ETTER 1   A DAM E.   M IGLIO   When re-editing and offering an expanded commentary on  ARM   26.199 [=A.925+A.2050], J.-M. Durand observed how “[l]es textes de prophéties retrouvés à Mari sont des oeuvres difficiles qui demandent sans cesse des relectures qui en précisent le sens.” 2  In this spirit, the present essay revisits a difficult passage from a Mari letter,  ARM   26.199:36-37, and proposes a new interpretation of the prophecy recounted in these lines. I will begin with an introduction to the historical context for the letter as well as an overview of the missive’s main argument and rhetorical strategies. Then, I will briefly review previous treatments of   ARM   26.199:36 before offering a new interpretation of these difficult lines. In particular, I will propose a new solution for the difficult phrase i-na   ! U BU UR RE E  in line 36 and suggest that the prophetic imagery   in lines   36-37 is that of the Euphrates’ floodwaters overtaking the burrows of fauna found along the banks of the River. Sammetar, a royal functionary, sent  ARM 26.199 to Zimri-Lim, the last king of Mari. 3  Sammetar wrote   this missive to convince Zimri-Lim that the peace proposed by the man of Eshnunna was a trick and, therefore, to encourage the king to be resolute in pursuit of the war. Peace with Eshnunna was a contentious issue at the time of Sammetar’s writing. There were mixed responses within Zimri-Lim’s kingdom to the ongoing war: 4  some were weary of the war and approved of its conclusion, while others resisted peace. Regarding the latter group, as Durand has noted, “Il n’est pas indifférent que donnent également des conseils bellicistes des 1  It is an honor to dedicate this study to Dennis Pardee, who has significantly contributed to the understanding of ancient letters–especially in Classical Hebrew and Ugaritic–and has produced many new understandings of ancient texts through his epigraphic, philological, and morpho-syntactic insights. 2  Durand 2012, 268. 3  A translation of  ARM   26.199 may be found in the appendix, below. 4  Ibid., p. 269 n. 53.   2 gens qui, à proximité des  Mâr yamîna , ont dû se servir sur leurs biens: peut-être des notables autour du temple de Dagan à Tuttul, certainement ceux autour de Dagan de Terqa, villes cernées par des terroirs mâr yamîna .” 5  In other words, there were those who stood to gain from the war’s continuance, like Sammetar, who was a direct beneficiary of the nearby Yamina lands that were recurrently robbed in the course of the war. 6  And in  ARM   26.199, Sammetar enlisted prophetic voices that could speak with authority in favor of continuing the war efforts and in opposition to the peace proposed by Eshnunna. 7    ARM   26.199 begins by recounting how the king had asked Lupahum, the !   pilum -prophet, to inquire after the god Dagan regarding the war with Eshnunna: “Entrust me to Dagan.” 8  The occasion for Sammetar’s writing, then, was that Lupahum had arrived from Tuttul with a response for the king. 9  Lupahum had returned with the remarkably confident message that Zimri-Lim would have every success in his war with Eshnunna: “Everywhere you go, well-being will gr[e]et you. Battering ram and (siege)-tower will be given to you. They will go at your side and be your support.” Yet this optimistic message that the prophet relayed required confirmation, especially since Zimri-Lim had seemingly few tactical reasons to be confident about his conflict with Eshnunna. 10   5  Ibid., 269. 6  See Ibid., 261 (and note 29, which cites M.11777, an administrative tablet that documents the proximity of the Yamina lands to Sammetar at Mari). 7  For the practice of embellishing prophecies in the Mari letters, see Sasson (2001; 1995; 2009).  8  Syntactically, the turn of phrase may denote a general sense of Zimri-Lim’s pious trust in the political patronage of Dagan (Heimpel 2003, pp. 252-253 n. 238), but the clause at least implies the idea that the prophet was to conduct an extispicy (Durand 2012, 258). 9  Sammetar dispatched his letter roughly two years into the war with Eshnunna. The date of Lupahum’s prophetic activities documented in  ARM   26.199 are chronologically secured to the 8 th  day of the 7 th  month in ZL 5 by an administrative tablet that records the disbursement of silver for the prophet on this occasion (M.11436). See Durand (1988, 396; 2012, 253).  10    ARM   26.199, to the contrary, hints that Eshnunna was menacing the central Euphrates region (esp. lines 17-28). The events that transpired shortly after the dispatch of  ARM   26.199 stand in stark contrast to the self-assured statements made by Lupahum about the war in lines 5-16. Moreover, not long after Sammetar sent this missive to convince Zimri-Lim, the king concluded peace with Eshnunna, and he did so without commemorating the war in his   3 In anticipation of the need to buttress Lupahum’s message, Sammetar marshaled evidence to support the prophet’s credibility. Sammetar’s most salient evidence in support of Lupahum’s message regarding the war with Eshnunna is found in lines 29-40, 11  and in particular hinges on the prophecy given by Lupahum against the Yamina in lines 35-37. In these lines, Sammetar reported his conversation with Lupahum about his prophetic insight into the victory over Yamina populations just months earlier. Sammetar relayed this conversation to the king in order to buttress Lupahum’s trustworthiness and, in turn, his argument that the war against Eshnunna should continue. Lupahum’s previous forecast against the Yamina presented a rationale for trusting the !   pilum ’s support for the ongoing war with Eshnunna: Sammetar invoked the past as a precedent for guiding present circumstances. 12  Sammetar also stylized 13  Lupahum’s prophecy against the Yamina (lines 35-37) to further advance his argument that the king should continue the war against Eshnunna. A year names (Durand 2003). The selective ‘forgetting’ of the war with Eshnunna adds to the perception that the outcome of this conflict was anything but a decisive victory for Zimri-Lim. 11  Lines 16-28 present the interpretive challenge of determining who is speaking to Sammetar. Morphologically, the form iq-bé-e-em  (l. 29) can be understood as a 3fs, making the goddess Deritum or her priestess the subject of the verb, or as a 3ms, in which case Lupahum would be the subject. Unfortunately, a solution to this challenge does not result from one’s interpretation of the verbal sequence in lines 17-22 ( ú- "  e-er-di-ma … ú-bi-il  …  ú-bi-il ), since the conjunction ù  in line 29 may be used with sufficient disjunction to announce a change of scenery or a paragraph-level shift in thought (cf. the use of ù  in line 58, below; also the comment on the interpretation of ù  at Mari in general by Durand 1998, p. 150 n. c). That said, it seems preferable to me to take the form iq-bé-e-em  (l. 29) as a 3ms and conclude that lines 29-40 recount the interactions between Lupahum and Sammetar–and not a prophetic utterance of the goddess Deritum to Sammetar–if for no other reason than that the recap by Sammetar in line 40 most naturally seems to indicate that the immediately preceding lines were spoken by Lupahum ([ #  e 4 -ma-am a [ n-    Lu-pa- $ u-um id-bu-ba-am ]). See also Sasson (1995); Nissinen (2003); Durand (1988); cf. Durand (2012, 264), who seems to understand this summary in line 40 as referring back to Lupahum’s prophecy in lines 11-14, translating “Ce message (c’est ce que précédemment) Lupahum m’a(vait) dit.” 12  Appealing to the past is a tactic in political and diplomatic reasoning in Old Babylonian letters that is discussed, for example, by Charpin (1998); Sasson (2001, 314-316, esp. p. 316); and Sallaberger (1999), who identifies this rhetorical strategy in other Old Babylonian letters as “Vergleichsschemata” that “…vergleicht eine frühere und die  jetzige Situation…”(pp. 234-35). 13  By the verb ‘stylized,’ I mean the various features often associated with the classical tradition that were intended to clarify and to enhance the ideas that were being communicated. These features included a seemingly endless array of linguistic tactics that sought to effectively and persuasively communicate or argue (see, for example, the thorough catalogue in Lausberg 1998). Durand has suggested that Sammetar was, himself, responsible for the composition of the letter (see Durand 2012, 257-8), though it may be that he wrote it, not so much to keep his message from public knowledge, but to conceal his idiosyncratic presentation of the material.   4 significant stylistic element used by Sammetar in his letter was the image of flowing water in association with the theme of calamity. This motif is first encountered in the narrative aside of lines 19-21, which recount a previous trip by the prophet Lupahum. In these lines, the dire importance of the !   pilum -prophet’s message was conveyed by the imagery of flowing water. Sammetar recalled the prophet’s vivid warning that water was flowing ( mû izubbû ) and that the royal standard ( "  ernum ) 14  was “not firmly fixed” ( % l saniq ) in place. The royal standard had been a pointed object lesson about the contemporary political threat posed by Eshnunna, and Sammetar’s mention of this previous message was intended to foreground the seriousness of the prophet’s more recent journey in which he brought a  sikk  % rum 15  to Der with political counsel inscribed upon it: “I hope you do not trust in the peace of Eshnunna and grow weary; strengthen your guard even more than before!” 16  The image of flowing water was also coupled with the theme of calamity in Sammetar’s final report on prophetic activities in lines 41-57, especially in line 44. In this instance, Sammetar reported on the message of a qamm !  tum -prophetess and her use of the image of flowing water to portend imminent disaster: “water flows under chaff.” This vivid image conveyed the sense that the man of Eshnunna was not to be trusted; his proposal for peace was not what it seemed. Durand, however, has captured the stylistic similarities and innovations in the message of the qamm !  tum -prophetess vis-à-vis  Lupahum’s message in lines 19-21, observing: “…‘l’eau continue d’aller, sous la paille’ ne fait que reprendre l’expression de la l. 21 : mû izubbû  = ‘l’eau continue à couler’, indiquant que, malgré les apparences, la situation 14  See Durand (2012, 263-4). 15  The prophetic message seems to have been inscribed on the sikk  % rum . Durand notes analogous uses of prophetic symbols in  ARM   10.4 (Durand 2012, 260) to which one might add the instance of the mu $$ ûm  prophet eating a lamb at the city gate in  ARM   26.206.  16  Lupahum’s message that Eshnunna’s overtures toward peace should be rejected may have invoked the practice of using sikk  % r %  to barricade doors or gates and turn back an enemy (cf. CAD S 257-8 sikk  % ru  mng. 1c).   5 reste inchangée….” 17  The message of the qamm !  tum -prophetess, then, was included by Sammetar and edited to fit with the previous image of flowing water (lines 19-21) in order to advance the claim that peace with Eshnunna would spell certain disaster. 18  Yet it was the prophecy in lines 35-37 that served as a linchpin to Sammetar’s argument that the war with Eshnunna must continue. First, this prophecy against the Yamina was integrated into the missive in part by the fact that it, too, utilized the motif of flowing water along with the prophecy in the preceding lines (19-21) and the one in the following lines (41-57, esp. 44). Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the prophecy in lines 36-37 contains the sole positive use of this motif. That is, the prophecy in lines 36-37 is the only instance in Sammetar’s letter of the motif of flowing water to portend disaster for Zimri-Lim’s enemies rather than catastrophe for Zimri-Lim. The positive valence of the prophetic utterance in lines 35-37 thus calls attention to another way in which this prophecy was crucial to Sammetar’s rhetorical strategy and argument in his letter. Lines 35-37 were linked to the prophet’s opening bellicose message that the war with Eshnunna would continue with great success. While Lupahum’s opening prediction that Zimri-Lim would have every success in battle against Eshnunna is the only prophetic utterance in the letter that does not utilize the motif of flowing water, its optimistic message and tenor are most closely echoed in Lupahum’s previous predictions about the conflict with the Yamina (lines 35-37). Thus, both logically and stylistically, Lupahum’s prophecy against the Yamina was crucial to Sammetar’s case to continue the war with Eshnunna. 17  Durand also cleverly observes an additional stylistic flourish in this report, namely “… il y a dans ce proverbe un  jeu de mots entre  pûm , ‘paille,’ et  pûm , ‘bouche, propos….’ (Durand 2012, 266). Sasson (1995, 605) also makes other stylistic observations. 18  This well-known prophetic statement from Mari is attested in three separate sources:  ARM   26.197,  ARM   26.199, and  ARM   26.202. Yet what is striking about the fortuitous preservation of three independent testimonies to the utterance of the qamm !  tum -prophetess is that this statement was the only commonality among these separate reports; each letter took liberties with or selectively included portions of the qamm !  tum -prophetess’ message (Sasson 1995, 605–8).
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