As some of you know, Tim and I are taking Near Eastern Studies 132 (Biblical Poetry) together. In this class, we are currently learning about the literary styles of Canaanite, Babylonian, and Egyptian poetry, in the context of which elements have carried over to the Bible.
The Babylonians had many gods. Whenever a misfortune — viewed as punishment — occurred, the people were often unsure of both the god offended and the crime. This uncertainty led to rather amusing results, as poems address both gods and goddesses (what if it wasn’t a god you offended, per se?), with repeated statements of the poor mortal’s unawareness at what wrong he had committed.
A collection of snippets I picked out:
“May the god, whoever he is, be reconciled.
May the goddess, whoever she is, be reconciled…
I have perpetrated unwittingly an abomination to my god.
I have unwittingly violated a taboo of my goddess…
O god, whoever you are, many are my wrongs, great my sins,
O goddess, whoever you are, many are my wrongs, great my sins!
I do not know what wrong I have done,
I do not know what sin I have committed,
I do not know what abomination I have perpetrated,
I do not know what taboo I have violated!”
Isn’t it lovely that we only have one God, so there’s no question of who we’re angering, and that He’s pretty clear in general about what He approves and disapproves of? Praise be to Him, the one and only!