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Ugaritic is the next important step in understanding the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) texts and culture that relates to the Bible. Ugaritic is the closest language to Hebrew. A number of Ugaritic words are the same as Hebrew. It can help us understand words that are unclear in Hebrew.
In the spring of 1928 an Syrian farmer was plowing his field when he uncovered a stone over a grave. Archaeologists were called in which led to the discovery of the near by ancient city of Ugarit, modern day Ras Shamra (Curtis 1985, 18; Craigie 1983, 7). Many clay tablets were uncovered which were written in cuneiform (Latin for "wedge shaped", letters) in a language called "Ugaritic." There are a number of texts grouped together called the Baal Cycle. It gives us much information about the Canaanite religion.
|qrt . 'ablm||city of Abel||CTA 19 IV:165= KTU 1.19 IV:1-3|
|abmlk||Abimelech||UT 314:8= KTU 4.86:8|
|abrm||Abraham||UT 2095:2,4= KTU 4.352:2,4|
|'ab . 'adm||father of mankind (Adam)||CTA 14 III:151= KTU 1.14 III:47|
|atr . B'l||Asher Baal (place-name)||UT 62:7= KTU 1.6:7|
|wl . 'udm . trrt||and to well-watered Edom||CTA 14 III:109= KTU 1.14 III:5|
|ysril||Israel||UT 2069:3= KTU 4.623:3|
|bnmt||son of Moses||UT 2046:rev.5= KTU 3.7:rev.15|
|yw||Yahweh??||CTA 1 IV:14= KTU 1.1 IV:14|
|y'l||Ya(hweh)?? is God||UT 311:7= KTU 4.96:7|
|zbl||Zebulon||UT 1084:13= KTU 4.213:13|
*UT-Ugaritic Textbook by Gordon in 1965. CTA-Corpus Tablettes Alphabetiques by Herdner in 1963. KTU-Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts from Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani and Other Places (Second, enlarged edition) published in 1995.
The city ablm in Aqht is the "meadow" were Aqht, son of Daniel, was slain (CTA 19 IV:163-166; Astour 1975, 254; Gibson 1977, 199). Because of the spilling of Aqht's blood there would be crop failure for seven years. The land would dry up. Could there be a double meaning here, and in Genesis 4 for Abel meaning "meadow" and "mourner" (or dried up) was slain in a field? Cain also would have crop failure (Gen. 4:12).
The Ugaritic mt according to Aistleitner is derived from the Egyptian ms meaning "child" (Gordon 1965, 440; Glossary #1579). Gordon states, "The vocalization of the Eg.(Egyptian) mose (as in 'Thutmose') suggests that 'Moses' is the same n.(noun) that appears in Ug.(Ugaritic) lit.(literature)" (1965, 440; Glossary #1579).
In Ugaritic the place-name zbl is mentioned that is the same in Hebrew as "Zebulon" (Gordon 1965, Text 1084:13; Glossary #815). Both words come from the same root meaning "to raise, elevate" (Astour 1975, 284). This text is a list of the quantities of wine from the areas it was produced. Astour notes that zbl is "A town in the Piedmont district of the Kingdom of Ugarit, now Karzbil" (1975, 284). Although this does not refer to the tribe of Zebulon, it shows the use of this word during the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC).
There is one tablet among the administrative records at Ugarit that mentions a man from Canaan. The text says y'l. kn'ny, "Ya'el the Canaanite" (Gordon 1965, 206; Text 311:7; Rainey 1963, 45). Ya'el may have been a Hebrew. This also seems to indicate that Canaan was "a district separate and distinct from the kingdom of Alalah" (Rainey 1963, 43; Na'aman and Aviv 1994, 403).
The Ugaritic story of Keret is about a just king named Keret who had no heir. He was told by El in a dream to gather an army and march seven days to Udm (Edom). He is then to wait seven days before he asks for the daughter of the king of Udm in marriage. He will then have eight sons and daughters. Albright says, "The name (Udumu) is clearly identical with that of Edom ('Udumu) and the legendary land of 'Udm ('Udumu?) in the Keret Epic of the fifteenth century BC" (1943, 14 note 36). Gordon states, "It is no accident that Udm (cf. & 'Idomeneus' the Cretan leader of the Iliad) occurs in the Krt text....The Caphtorians settled in Canaan, from Ugarit to Edom" (1965, 352; Glossary #85; CTA 14 III:108-9). The seven day wait is reminiscent of the seven day wait around the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:3-4). This story shows that Edom is already a kingdom at this time.
"Gilead abode beyond Jordan: and why did Dan remain in ships? Asher continued on the seashore, and abode in his breaches" (KJV). This verse is from the Song of Deborah which is one of the oldest texts in the Bible.
Did the Tribe of Dan have ships? The Hebrew word for "ships" is 'nywt which is probably a homograph (two different words with the same written form). Three different Ugaritic texts have the word 'an or 'any which is the same form as the Hebrew word for "ships," but means "to relax, be at ease" (Craigie, 1983, p.85; KTU 1.14.III.6; KTU 1.5.I.23; KTU 1.3.V.35). One of the Ugaritic texts has the verb gr meaning "to remain" followed by 'an which is the same as the Hebrew gwr also followed by 'anywt in Judges 5:17. The Hebrew and Ugaritic phrase seems to be linguistically equivalent. Therefore Craigie translates Judges 5:17 as follows:
"Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan; and Dan, why did he abide at ease? Asher sat still on the coast of the sea, settling down by his landings" (p.85).
For more information see the article "Three Ugaritic Notes on the Song of Deborah" by Peter Craigie in Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (JSOT) 2 (1977) 33-49.
On the Song of Deborah see "Deborah and Anat: A study of Poetic Imagery (Judges 5)" by Peter Craigie in ZAW 90 (1978) 374-81.
Psalm 29 is so similar to Ugaritic poetry that some scholars think that this psalm was originally an Ugaritic poem about Baal, the storm god.
In verse two Mount Zion is described as being in the north which presents a geographical problem. The Hebrew word for "north" is sapon which in Ugaritic is the mountain spn of the abode of Baal.
In Ugaritic Baal is called "Rider of the clouds." This is the same title that Yahweh is called in Psalm:68:4.
Psalm 74:14 says, "Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness" (KJV). Here leviathan has more than one head in the Hebrew.
In Ugaritic it is clear that leviathan (ltn) had seven heads. In the story of Baal and Mot it says, "for all that you smote Leviathan the slippery serpent (and) made an end of the wriggling serpent, the tyrant with seven heads?" (Gibson 1978, 68; ANET, 137-8; KTU 1.5, I.1-3).
In Sumerian poetry there is mus-sag-imin, the seven headed serpent. In Old Akkadian the seven-tongued serpent, hubullu may also have seven heads (TDOT Vol.7, 507). There is even a Sumerian carving of a seven-headed monster (ANEP fig. 671,& 691).
The many-headed Greek hydra who was killed by Hercules may come from the ancient Near East stories of Leviathan. Could the idea of a many headed sea monster come from seeing a giant squid or octopus, and assuming the tentacles were heads.
It seems that the word "leviathan" is a general term for any large sea animal. In Job 41 it clearly has one head, but in Psalm 74 it has many heads, probably a giant squid. In the Book of Revelation 13:1 the beast arising from the sea has seven heads. This seems to be alluding to the leviathan of seven heads tradition.
Sumerian carving of a seven-headed monster (ANEP, fig. 671 & 691).
Usually Psalm 104 is said to be very similar to the Egyptian Hymn to Aton, but there are also some striking similarities to Ugaritic. Baal and his palace is very similar to Yahweh's description and abode (see Craigie, 1983, 76-79.
Coogan, David. 1978. Stories From Ancient Canaan. Philadelphia: Westminster Press. This is a good, cheap English translation of the important stories from Ugarit.
Craigie, Peter. 1983. Ugarit and the Old Testament. This is a good book showing how Ugaritic helps us in understanding the Old Testament better.
Cross, Frank. 1973. Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. This book has important essays regarding the history of the religion of Israel compared to Ugaritic texts.
Curtis, Adrian. 1985. Ugarit (Ras Shamra). Cities of the Biblical World Series. This is a good introduction and history of Ugarit.
Dietrich and Loretz. 1996. Word-List of the Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts from Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani and Other Places. ALASP 12. This is an up to date concordance of Ugaritic based on the newer KTU: second, enlarged edition.
Dietrich, Loretz, and Sanmartin. 1995. The Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts from Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani and Other Places. (KTU: second, enlarged edition) ALASP 8. This is the standard book used to refer to Ugaritic texts. It is abbreviated KTU.
Gibson, John. 1978. Canaanite Myths and Legends. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. This book has Ugaritic transliterations and English translations in parallel columns of key Ugaritic legends.
Gordon, Cyrus. 1965. Ugaritic Textbook. (UT) Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum. Analecta Orientalia 38. There are three parts: grammar, glossary, and cuneiform with transliterations. This is old.
Segert, Stanislav. 1984. A Basic Grammar of the Ugaritic Language. Berkeley: University of CA. This grammar is more up to date than Gordon's UT.
Ugaritic-Biblische Literatur (UBL) Munster: Ugarit-Verlag. This is an excellent series of books or Bands.
Ugaritic-Forschungen (UF) This is the best journal to keep up with the latest in Ugaritic studies.
Watson and Wyatt. 1999. Handbook of Ugaritic Studies. Leiden: Brill. This is an excellent handbook, but expensive.
- Ugaritic and the Bible
- The Edinburgh Ras Shamra Project
- Canaanite/Ugaritic Mythology
- Internet Ancient History Source Book
Ugarit-Verlag, the publisher of the "Alter Orient und Altes Testament" (AOAT) and the "Ugarit-Forschungen" series, has recently released a number of new volumes. Eisenbrauns is the official North American distributor for Ugarit-Verlag and all of the following books are currently in stock. If you are interested in browsing the available list of books in either series or would like to purchase a particular volume, visit our web site, www.eisenbrauns.com. If you have questions about a particular book, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give our friendly customer service department a call at 574-269-2011.
AOAT 303: "Die akkadischen Verbalstamme mit ta-Infix." Michael P. Streck.Ugarit-Verlag, 2003, xii + 163 pages, Cloth. ISBN: 3934628354. Price $64.00 M.P. Streck's study examines the functions and the history of all hitherto known Akkadian verbs which are attested in a "ta-infixed" basic stem, based on a comprehensive catalog. Comparison with other Semitic languages shows that the Akkadian "ta-infixed" basic stem is only used in a direct-reflexive function, not in an indirect-reflexive, and is not used to denote the passive, whereas other Semitic languages are not aware of the separative function of the Akkadian. Annexed are contributions to other "ta-infixed" verbal stems of Akkadian.
AOAT 302: "Saxa Loquentur: Studien zur Archaologie Palastinas / Israel: Festschrift fur Volkmar Fritz zum 65. Geburtstag." Edited by Cornelius G. Den Hertog, Ulrich Hubner, and Stefan Munger. Ugarit-Verlag, 2003, x + 328 pages, Cloth, ISBN: 3934628346. Price: $105.00 The Fritz Festschrift combines 19 studies devoted to various facets of the archaeology and history of Israel / Palestine in both Old and New Testament times. Among others, Ostracon 40 from Arad is reconsidered by N. Na'aman, O. Keel studies Neo-Hyksos scarabs, Z. Herzog analyzes the Canaanite city between ideology and archaeological reality, and J. Zangenberg sketches the role of the lake of Galilee in early Christianity.
AOAT 301: "Religiose Landschaften." Edited by Johannes Hahn. Ugarit-Verlag, 2002, vii + 227 pages, Cloth. ISBN: 3934628311. Price: $73.00 Eight studies analyze the way landscape, gardens, and towns were conceptualized as religiously structured space in the ancient Near East and classical antiquity, ranging from Babylonian garden culture, the Anatolian mountain Nemrud Dag, astrological geography in antiquity, and early Christian Syria to the reception of antiquity in garden paradises of the 18th century.
AOAT 298: "Polytheismus und Monotheismus in den Religionen des Vorderen Orients." Edited by Manfred Krebernik and Jurgen van Oorschot. Ugarit-Verlag, 2002, i + 269 pages, Cloth. ISBN: 3934628273. Price: $81.00 This collection of 12 articles analyzes polytheistic and monotheistic aspects of the various cultures of the ancient Near East, ranging from Israel, early Christianity, Egypt, Mesopotamia, ancient Iran, Anatolia, and Ugarit to Gnostic literature and early South Arabia as well as early Islam.
AOAT 297: "Under One Sky: Astronomy and Mathematics in the Ancient Near East." Edited by John M. Steele and Annette Imhausen. Ugarit-Verlag, 2002, vii + 496 pages, Cloth. ISBN: 3934628265. Price: $118.00 "Under One Sky" presents 26 revised and expanded contributions to the conference that took place at the British Museum June 2001. The authors examine the many-faceted interdependencies of Egyptian and Mesopotamian astronomy and mathematics, ranging from Sumerian Ur III mathematical problems (J. Hoyrup), astronomical and mythological references in Egyptian texts (R. Krauss), and the Babylonian Diviner's Manual (C. Williams) to gnosis and astrology in the 4th book of the Pistis Sophia (A. von Lieven) and Babylonian lunar theory in Roman Egypt (A. Jones).
AOAT 294: "Textarbeit: Studien zu Texten und ihrer Rezeption aus dem Alten Testament und der Umwelt Israels: Festschrift fur Peter Weimar zur Vollendung seines 60. Lebensjahres mit Beitragen von Freunden, Schulern und Kollegen." Edited by Klaus Kiesow and Thomas Meurer. Ugarit-Verlag, 2003, x + 629 pages, Cloth. ISBN: 3934628230. Price: $140.00 This festschrift devoted to the Old Testament scholar Peter Weimar (Muenster) contains 33 contributions devoted to text, theology, history, and language of the Old Testament and its ancient Near Eastern context, among others, B. Janowski on Cain and Abel, E. Otto on Neo-Assyrian motifs in Psalm 2, and R. Zwick on Moses in contemporary movies.
AOAT 292: "Prophetische Visionsschilderungen im Alten Testament: Sprachliche Eigenarten, Funktion und Geschichte einer Gattung." Achim Behrens. Ugarit-Verlag, 2002, xii + 413 pages, Cloth. ISBN: 3934628214. Price: $82.00 Behrens analyzes the language used in the Old Testament to describe prophetic visions. Extensive close reading studies of passages from the prophetic Scriptures and other parts of the Bible illustrate their development. Special attention is also paid to prophecy in its Near Eastern context including the Bileam inscription from Der Alla, Old Babylonian letters from Mari, and Neo-Assyrian letters.
AOAT 289: "The Alashia Texts from the 14th and 13th Centuries BCE: A Textual and Linguistic Study." Zipora Cochavi-Rainey. Ugarit-Verlag, 2003, xiii + 129 pages, Cloth. ISBN: 3934628176. Price: $59.00 The corpus of texts investigated in this monograph is comprised of 10 cuneiform letters from the 14th and 13th centuries sent from the ruler Alashia, who is presumed to have governed southern Cyprus, to Pharaoh Amenhotep IV of Egypt. These documents are from a collection of texts discovered at el-Amarna.
UF 33: "Ugarit-Forschungen, Band 33 (2001)." Edited by Manfried Dietrich and Oswald Loretz. Ugarit-Verlag, 2002, vii + 776 pages, Cloth. ISBN: 3934628117. Price: $122.00 Providing a wealth of scholarly articles of the highest quality in the fields of history, archaeology, and linguistics, Ugarit-Forschungen is a vital resource for every ancient Near East and biblical research library. Volume 33 features 36 cogent essays by internationally renowned specialists in their respective fields.