Prophecy in Mari, Neo-Assyrian and Hebrew sources: a comparative study
Atkinson, Jason S.
It is widely acknowledged that the phenomenon of prophecy was not restricted only to ancient Israel, but is well attested throughout the ancient Near East, not least but in the textual material retrieved from the Mesopotamian capitals of Mari and Nineveh. A number of recent studies have utilized these sources to discuss the literary history and rhetorical content of Hebrew prophecy. The following thesis differs from these by undertaking to examine and compare the institution of prophecy as it occurs in the Mari, Neo-Assyrian, and Hebrew sources. ―Prophecy‖ is considered to be a mode of non-inductive divination, separate from dreams, that, ideally, is denoted by the active intermediation of allegedly divine messages to a human audience. Thus, texts that record the direct speech of a deity and are communicated to an audience by a human intermediary—without recourse to dreams or technical divination—may potentially reflect prophecy in the Mari and Neo-Assyrian sources. Along with a selection of preexilic Hebrew oracular sources, the image of prophecy in all three corpora is independently examined along seven lines: Prompting Prophecy, Prophets, Prophetic Deities, Venues, Means of Delivery, Content of Oracles, and the Responses to Prophecy. Observations gleaned from this analysis are then compared and contrasted with one another to derive a more nuanced understanding of the phenomenon of prophecy in each source. Among other conclusions, it is observed that it is insufficient to simply silhouette Hebrew prophecy against its Mesopotamian counterparts, as if the images of prophecy in Mari and Neo-Assyrian sources themselves represent indistinguishable phenomena. Indeed, despite considerable overlap, they are not completely consistent. This result, it is argued, places in context some of the more glaring discrepancies between these sources and the image of prophecy in the Hebrew sources.