It was particularly interesting to me to read the Dua-Khety or The Satire on the Trades (1.48). In the text, Dua-khety instructs his son Pepi on their way to enrolling Pepi in a scribal school. While on their journey Dua-khety extols the work of the scribes while criticizing all other professions. The work is regarded by many as satire, in part due to the exaggerated nature of the criticisms of other professions.
As if this is any surprise, this text reminded me of Qohelet’s quest in Ecclesiastes. Let me preface this by acknowledging that there are many differences between the two texts (which stops no one when it comes to comparing Ecclesiastes to Gilgamesh). That having been said, it is interesting that this text somewhat catalogs and recognizing the ways in which other professions fail to provide satisfaction, joy, rest, or the like. For example, here are two occupations whose failings mirror the concerns of Qohelet:
The courier goes into the desert,
Leaving his goods to his children;
Fearful of lions and Asiatics,
He knows himself (only) when he’s in Egypt.
When he reaches home at night,
The march has worn him out;Be his home of cloth or brick,
His return is joyless
The washerman washes on the shore
Withthe crocodile as a neighbor;
“Father, leave the flowing water,”
Say his son, his daughter,
It is not a job that satisfies
If Qohelet were to ask Dua-khety what a man gains from all the toil with which he toils under the sun (Eccl 1:3), his response would undoubtedly be “nothing good, unless you are a scribe!” Ironically, this is the very last occupation in Ecclesiastes to be criticized, though not by Qohelet. “Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl 12:12). The connections between these two works are all the more interesting because of their differences! I don’t know what to make of this, if anything, but it certainly piqued my interest for the day.
Next Week in the Context of Scripture
3rd – Elkunirsa and Asertu; The Governor to the Queen (1.55; 3.45Z)
4th – The Storm-God and the Serpent (Illuyanka); Unknown, Perhaps the Queen, To Unknown (1.56; 3.45AA)
5th – The Wrath of Telipinu; A Military Situation (1.57; 3.45BB)
6th – Appu and his Two Sons; Request for a Free Hand (1.58; 3.45CC)
7th – The Sun God and the Cow; Brother to Sister (1.59; 3.45DD)
8th – Plague Prayers of Mursili; Uzzinu and Another Author to Master and Father (1.60; 3.45EE)
9th – The “Ritual Between the Pieces;” Emergency Report from a City-Commander(1.61; 3.45FF)