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Ancient History Sourcebook:
The Ludlul Bêl Nimeqi, c. 1700 BCE


[Barton Introduction] Tabu-utul-Bêl was an official of Nippur, perhaps one of the antediluvian kings. The Sumerian form of his name is Laluralim and is glossed as Zugagib or "Scorpion." Zugagib is one of the early kings of Sumer, who is said to have ruled 840 years. This story has striking similarities to the Book of Job.

1. I advanced in life, I attained to the allotted span
Wherever I turned there was evil, evil---
Oppression is increased, uprightness I see not.
I cried unto god, but he showed not his face.

5. I prayed to my goddess, but she raised not her head.
The seer by his oracle did not discern the future
Nor did the enchanter with a libation illuminate my case
I consulted the necromancer, but he opened not my understanding.
The conjurer with his charms did not remove my ban.

10. How deeds are reversed in the world!
I look behind, oppression encloses me
Like one who the sacrifice to god did not bring
And at meal-time did not invoke the goddess
Did not bow down his face, his offering was not seen;

15. (Like one) in whose mouth prayers and supplications were locked
(For whom) god's day had ceased, a feast day become rare,
(One who) has thrown down his fire-pan, gone away from their images
God's fear and veneration has not taught his people
Who invoked not his god when he ate god's food;

20. (Who) abandoned his goddess, and brought not what is prescribed
(Who) oppresses the weak, forgets his god
Who takes in vain the mighty name of his god, he says, I am like him.
But I myself thought of prayers and supplications---
Prayer was my wisdom, sacrifice, my dignity;

25. The day of honoring the gods was the joy of my heart
The day of following the goddess was my acquisition of wealth
The prayer of the king, that was my delight,
And his music, for my pleasure was its sound.
I gave directions to my land to revere the names of god,

30. To honor the name of the goddess I taught my people.
Reverence for the king I greatly exalted
And respect for the palace I taught the people---
For I knew that with god these things are in favor.
What is innocent of itself, to god is evil!

35. What in one's heart is contemptible, to one's god is good!
Who can understand the thoughts of the gods in heaven?
The counsel of god is full of destruction; who can understand?
Where may human beings learn the ways of God?
He who lives at evening is dead in the morning;

40. Quickly he is troubled; all at once he is oppressed;
At one moment he sings and plays;
In the twinkling of an eye he howls like a funeral-mourner.
Like sunshine and clouds their thoughts change;
They are hungry and like a corpse;

45. They are filled and rival their god!
In prosperity they speak of climbing to Heaven
Trouble overtakes them and they speak of going down to Sheol.

[At this point the tablet is broken. The narrative is resumed on the reverse of the tablet.]

46 Into my prison my house is turned.
Into the bonds of my flesh are my hands thrown;
Into the fetters of myself my feet have stumbled.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

47. With a whip he has beaten me; there is no protection;
With a staff he has transfixed me; the stench was terrible!
All day long the pursuer pursues me,
In the night watches he lets me breathe not a moment
Through torture my joints are torn asunder;

48. My limbs are destroyed, loathing covers me;
On my couch I welter like an ox
I am covered, like a sheep, with my excrement.
My sickness baffled the conjurers
And the seer left dark my omens.

49. The diviner has not improved the condition of my sickness-
The duration of my illness the seer could not state;
The god helped me not, my hand he took not;
The goddess pitied me not, she came not to my side
The coffin yawned; they [the heirs] took my possessions;

50. While I was not yet dead, the death wail was ready.
My whole land cried out: "How is he destroyed!"
My enemy heard; his face gladdened
They brought as good news the glad tidings, his heart rejoiced.
But I knew the time of all my family

51. When among the protecting spirits their divinity is exalted.
........................................
........................................
Let thy hand grasp the javelin
Tabu-utul-Bel, who lives at Nippur,
52. Has sent me to consult thee
Has laid his............upon me.
In life........has cast, he has found. [He says]:
"[I lay down] and a dream I beheld;
This is the dream which I saw by night:

53 . [He who made woman] and created man
Marduk, has ordained (?) that he be encompassed with sickness (?)."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

54. And...........in whatever.............
He said: "How long will he be in such great affliction and distress?
What is it that he saw in his vision of the night?"
"In the dream Ur-Bau appeared
A mighty hero wearing his crown

55. A conjurer, too, clad in strength,
Marduk indeed sent me;
Unto Shubshi-meshri-Nergal he brought abundance;
In his pure hands he brought abundance.
By my guardian-spirit (?) he stopped (?) ,"

56. By the seer he sent a message:
"A favorable omen I show to my people."
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
...he quickly finished; the.........was broken
........of my lord, his heart was satisfied;

57. .................his spirit was appeased
......my lamentation....................
................good ..........

58. ........................................
......................................
 
................like............ ......
He approached (?) and the spell which he had pronounced (?),

59. He sent a storm wind to the horizon;
To the breast of the earth it bore a blast
Into the depth of his ocean the disembodied spirit vanished (?);
Unnumbered spirits he sent back to the under-world.
The...........of the hag-demons he sent straight to the mountain.

60. The sea-flood he spread with ice;
The roots of the disease he tore out like a plant.
The horrible slumber that settled on my rest
Like smoke filled the sky..........
With the woe he had brought, unrepulsed and bitter, he filled the earth like a storm.

61. The unrelieved headache which had overwhelmed the heavens
He took away and sent down on me the evening dew.
My eyelids, which he had veiled with the veil of night
He blew upon with a rushing wind and made clear their sight.
My ears, which were stopped, were deaf as a deaf man's

62. He removed their deafness and restored their hearing.
My nose, whose nostril had been stopped from my mother's womb---
He eased its defonnity so that I could breathe.
My lips, which were closed he had taken their strength---
He removed their trembling and loosed their bond.

63. My mouth which was closed so that I could not be understood---
He cleansed it like a dish, he healed its disease.
My eyes, which had been attacked so that they rolled together---
He loosed their bond and their balls were set right.
The tongue, which had stiffened so that it could not be raised

64. He relieved its thickness, so its words could be understood.
The gullet which was compressed, stopped as with a plug---
He healed its contraction, it worked like a flute.
My spittle which was stopped so that it was not secreted---
He removed its fetter, he opened its lock.
........................................
.......................................


Source:

From: George A. Barton, Archaeology and The Bible, 3rd Ed., (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1920), pp. 392-395.


This text is part of the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, Janaury 1999
halsall@murray.fordham.edu