This Week in the Context of Scripture

Our readings this week cover Hittite archival documents which record court testimonies, cult inventories, votive records, and archive shelf lists. The court testimony is that of Ura-Tarhunta and his father Ukkura defending themselves against charges that they dealt dishonestly with royal possessions. Because their dealings were not adequately recorded on a sealed tablet, they give an oral record of their dealings. For example, mules (which, because they are sterile, are considered the most valuable domesticated animal) that die while in the keeping of these men, they replace with their own as compensation. Much as we have here, we see throughout the Hebrew Bible prominent figured concerned about distancing themselves from any impropriety regarding the acquisition or possession of something they deem inappropriate to take or possess  (Gen 14:23; Num 16:15: 1 Sam 12:3).

In the cult inventories we have described a number of cultic items, their composition and a description of their posture. Of particular interest to us is the description of a winged deity seated on a silver-plated base. This reflects Israel’s own association of winged creatures with the divine realm (Is 6:1-2), particularly with Israel’s central temple icon, the mercy seat that covered the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:20, 37:9; 1 Kgs 6:23-28; 8:6-7).

Particularly interesting in the Votive records are the attempts by the royal family of securing divine blessing by offering gifts to the gods that in some way reflect the request. “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'” (COS 3:36). This reflects the story in in 1 Samuel 6:4 where the Philistines, plagued by tumors connected in some way with an inordinately large population of mice, make five golden images each of mice and tumors in order to avert YHWH’s wrath for having captured YHWH’s ark and taken it to five different Philistine cities before returning it to Beth-shemesh.

13th – From Buyukkale, Building A (3.39)
14th From Buuyukkale, Building E (3.40)
15th, The Mesad Hashavyahu (Yavneh Yam) Ostracon (3.41)
16th From Papyrus Bremner-Rhind; Lachish 2: Thanks and Good Wishes (1.09; 3.42A)
17th From Coffin Texts Spell 335 + Book of the Dead Spell 17; Lachish 3: Complaints and Information (1.10; 3.42B)
18th Coffin Texts Spell 261; Lachish 4: Military Reports(1.11; 3.42C)
19th From Coffin Texts Spell 647; Lachish 5: Thanks and Remarks on the Harvest (1.12; 3.42D)

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