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Divine Kings In The Ancient Near East Pt 1


David Bokovoy

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As many know, in a recent thread on mormondiscussions, Kevin Graham raised a series of questions concerning some of my claims. While I feel completely satisfied with the responses offered throughout the thread, Kevin's final questions have presented an opportunity to share new information on my MAAD Board blog.

The topic in my blog has really now moved beyond Kevinâ??s objections, which fortunately provided a mere springboard for presenting what I consider to represent some very interesting ideas.

I admit that there's a lot there, but I think that any Latter-day Saint who is interested in the topic of human deification should find the ideas of some interest. For anyone who is interested, I shall offer my views concerning how the information relates to the Old Testament and finally Latter-day Saints in a later posting.

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As many know, in a recent thread on mormondiscussions, Kevin Graham raised a series of questions concerning some of my claims. While I feel completely satisfied with the responses offered throughout the thread, Kevin's final questions have presented an opportunity to share new information on my MAAD Board blog.

The topic in my blog has really now moved beyond Kevinâ??s objections, which fortunately provided a mere springboard for presenting what I consider to represent some very interesting ideas.

I admit that there's a lot there, but I think that any Latter-day Saint who is interested in the topic of human deification should find the ideas of some interest. For anyone who is interested, I shall offer my views concerning how the information relates to the Old Testament and finally Latter-day Saints in a later posting.

Your blog is very interesting. ever since reading "Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism" I have found the parallels between the Kingship rites of mesopotamia and our modern Temple ritual to be striking. Anyway, thanks for the hard work in posting your blog.

-SlackTime

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Hello SlackTime,

Thanks should go to the board directors. The blog really provides a helpful means by which to try and lay out a complex argument.

This really is a fascinating topic.

Just to try to get more Latter-day Saint readers interested in making their way through the entire post, I should note that the argument, in part, for what makes a human being a god in the case of Ur III kings is in fact sacred marriage and specifically the sacred sexual act.

These views clearly impacted the Epic of Gilgamesh which I believe directly impacted the way the story of Eden appears in Genesis.

By extension, these observations carry some intriguing points of comparison with biblical and LDS views regarding deification.

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I wouldn't waste my time talking with Graham since he has become so immature and such a mouthy little thing. If he can discuss things civilly that's different. He is beginning to post on my blog, and I'm going to slap him silly with editing if he acts immature there as he does on Shades board. It's too bad some have to be such sour pusses about everything, but if we all just make it so his only sourpussness is in one place, then he might get a clue. I have my serious doubts though. I admire your efforts and scholarship and respect them. That is what Kevin Graham has lost.... his own self-respect, and now all he does is spit on everyone else who dares think differently than he does. He stupidly admitted this morning on my blog that he did NOT listen to the entire podcast of Hamblin before weighing in against Hamblin's ideas. A stupider thing simply cannot be done! DON'T listen to it all, or for that matter don't bother reading an entire book or article before absolutely lambasting everything said or written! This has become the Kevin Graham method..... is it any wonder he flounders so?

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Hello CaliforniaKid,

Gentlemen, may I request that we restrict Kevin-Graham-bashing to a venue where he is able to participate without violation of forum guidelines/creation of sockpuppets?

You may certainly make such a request, but of course I have no interest in bashing Kevin Graham in this or any other venue. Kevin has been particularly rude to Kerry, from my perspective, so if the Backyard Professor feels a need to vent some frustration among friends, I don't object.

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I post this here because It will be read by those who might best aid me.

Where can a beginner in ancient Israelite theology learn the basics of the evolving divine council, and other related topics? I have perused thedivinecouncil.com a bit, but I was not sure if it was a good place to start. I need something that caters to a beginner, then I can go from there.

Thanks.

Sargon

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Hello Sargon,

Where can a beginner in ancient Israelite theology learn the basics of the evolving divine council, and other related topics? I have perused thedivinecouncil.com a bit, but I was not sure if it was a good place to start. I need something that caters to a beginner, then I can go from there.

The most important LDS treatment of the divine council remains Daniel Peterson's essay. If you have not yet read it, the article is now available free of charge on the FARMS website:

http://farms.byu.edu/publications/bookscha...&chapid=258

As I've mentioned before, my own interest in the topic was initially sparked in a class taught by Dan Peterson and Bill Hamblin.

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I can't believe that I'd forgotten about this text!

Another important text that illustrates the difference between kings and humanity in some Near Eastern traditions includes the following Neo Assyrian creation account.

The myth states that the gods first created the common people as a whole-- as general servants, and then created the king who appears quite distinct from the rest of humanity:

â??Ea began to speak, he directed his word to Belet-ili, â??Belet-ili, Mistress of the great gods, are you. You have created the common people, now construct the king, distinctively superior persons. With goodness envelope his entire being. From his features harmoniously make his body beautifulâ?? Thus did Belet-ili construct the king, distinctively superior persons. The great gods

gave the king the task of warfare. Anu gave him the crown; Enlil gave him the throne. Nergal gave him weapons; Ninurta gave him glistening splendor. Belet-ili gave him a beautiful appearance. Nusku gave him instruction and counsel and stands at this service.

(in W. R. Mayer, "Ein Mythos von der Erschaffung des Menschen und des Konigs,â? Or 56 (1987): 55-68).

According to this Neo-Assyrian tablet, the king was clearly beyond human.

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I can't believe that I'd forgotten about this text!

Another important text that illustrates the difference between kings and humanity in some Near Eastern traditions includes the following Neo Assyrian creation account.

The myth states that the gods first created the common people as a whole-- as general servants, and then created the king who appears quite distinct from the rest of humanity:

â??Ea began to speak, he directed his word to Belet-ili, â??Belet-ili, Mistress of the great gods, are you. You have created the common people, now construct the king, distinctively superior persons. With goodness envelope his entire being. From his features harmoniously make his body beautifulâ?? Thus did Belet-ili construct the king, distinctively superior persons. The great gods

gave the king the task of warfare. Anu gave him the crown; Enlil gave him the throne. Nergal gave him weapons; Ninurta gave him glistening splendor. Belet-ili gave him a beautiful appearance. Nusku gave him instruction and counsel and stands at this service.

(in W. R. Mayer, "Ein Mythos von der Erschaffung des Menschen und des Konigs,â? Or 56 (1987): 55-68).

According to this Neo-Assyrian tablet, the king was clearly beyond human.

I remember reading something awhile back equating Noah aka Utnapishtim as a Hero-King as well. Ahhh...here it is...

The Flood Hero as King and Priest

James R. Davila

Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 54, No. 3. (Jul., 1995), pp. 199-214. It states, in part,

The author mention the apkallos or mythical godlike sage kings who existed prior to the flood. Was Noah one of these? Secondly, the Gilgamesh account shows Noah has achieved "god-like" status as a gift from the gods and lives in Dilmun as a reward. Is this secondary confirmation of the Noah as a God-King since in Bablyonian sources he is referred to as a "ensi" or dream diviner? This is interesting, IMHO, because Ea or Enki appears to Noah/Uthapishtim in a dream and whispers that the flood is coming.

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Let me see if I got this straight (without going over to MormonD)... KG is disputing that ANE kings were often considered divine? And that a part of becoming divine was a coronation/resurrection ritual? He's disputing these things? I thought that was something everyone learned in 6th grade social studies.

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Hello Structurecop,

Let me see if I got this straight (without going over to MormonD)... KG is disputing that ANE kings were often considered divine? And that a part of becoming divine was a coronation/resurrection ritual? He's disputing these things? I thought that was something everyone learned in 6th grade social studies.

In his effort to refute the mainstream scholarly position which holds that the expression â??sons of godâ? in the Bible refers to the gods of the divine council, Kevin drew attention to the fact that the Ugaritic king Kirta receives the title â??son of God/El.â?

Here is the exchange:

Kevin: â??But the problem here is that this is not true. King Krt, a distinctly human ruler in the Ugaritic texts, is also described as bn il, â??son of God.â? But youâ??re the Ugarit expert so of course you already knew this, right? Well, apparently not.â?

"You may now start picking up whatâ??s left of your toes."

Me: â??Why in the word do you believe that Ugaritic kings were 'distinctly human'!

â??I happen to very much accept the well argued views of renowned Ugaritologist Nicholas Wyatt who has written exhaustively on the point that Ugaritic kings were deified! See especially Nicholas Wyatt, â??Degrees of Divinity: Some Mythical and Ritual Aspects of West Semitic Kingship,â? Ugarit-Forschungen 31:1999 and Nicolas Wyatt, â??Interpreting the Creation and Fall Story in Genesis 2-3,â? Zeitschrift Fur Dei Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (1981).

â??So were Mesopotamian kings, particularly those of the UR III time period. And like Wyatt, I believe that Israelite kings were also seen as gods. So my toes are very much in tack. How are yours!â?

In the course of the thread, I also informed Kevin that one cannot superimpose a modern perception of what it means to be a god onto a Near Eastern king and then conclude that the king was not a god, simply because the monarch does not match oneâ??s own definition of what makes a god a god.

I explained that simply because Ugaritic kings died, in no way indicates that the kings were not gods. After all, the great Baal himself died.

Kevin chose to respond in one of his other attack threads, namely â??Bokovoy Chronicles.â?

Kevin: â??The kings in the ANE were often called â??the image of Godâ? who served as representatives for deity, but they were still quite human as evidenced by their deaths.

â??How does Bokovoy respond? â??The great Baal himself died in Ugaritic mythology.â?? This is where Bokovoy is guilty of 1) dishonesty or 2) ignorance.

â??According to Mark Smith, who is a leading authority on the Ugaritic texts:

â??In Ugarit even deities who are said to be dead are not permanently so...Baal does not remain permanently dead, for never in the Ugaritic texts is divine death a permanent condition.â?? (Mark Smith, The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, 98)

â??Smith said that whenever deities are called â??deadâ? in Ugarit, this means â??defunct,â? but that it was never a permanent state. That is what set humanity apart from gods. So when a human king dies, there is no doubt to an ANE mind that a deity he was not.

â??So either David is trying to deceive us, or he really isnâ??t getting a quality education as he so often claims.

â??Which is it?â?

As indicated, the blog simply uses Kevinâ??s criticisms as a springboard by which to share some interesting information. I'm not at all interested in bashing Kevin and even less so in attempting to have any sort of discussions with the man. I would invite anyone interested in reading the entire exchange to visit the mormondiscussions board.

I should note that in addition to the connection between Baal and Ugaritic kings referred to by the scholar cited by Kevin (which appears in my blog) that in Nicholas Wyattâ??s article, Wyatt observes:

â??Though the Baal myth, then, deals entirely in divine affairs, with no explicit mention of the real, political world of Ugarit, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that behind the legitimization of Baalâ??s rule in heaven and the construction of his house (palace or temple) on Mount Saphon lie the concerns of the kingsâ?? rule on earth and the construction of his house (palace or continuation of his dynasty) in Ugarit.â? N. Wyatt, â??Degrees of Divinity,â? 854.

Therefore, my attempt to provide a conceptual link between Baal and the kings of Ugarit, of course, derives from a variety of important academic observations including those offered by Mark Smith himself.

I should also note that I was quite pleased with our own California Kid who in a kindly way, drew attention to one of the important issues that proves very problematic for Kevinâ??s claim that the kings of ancient Ugarit were â??still quite human as evidenced by their deaths.â?

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Structurecop:

KG is disputing that ANE kings were often considered divine? And that a part of becoming divine was a coronation/resurrection ritual? He's disputing these things? I thought that was something everyone learned in 6th grade social studies.

At the fudamental absolute ground of possibility, even Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins, Eerdmans, 2000, (p. 69) shows that the title of "Son of God," and "Son of the Most High," are attributed to the human being who will rule over the people of God in some Palestinian contexts.

Mark Smith - Origins of Biblical Monotheism, p. 160, shows how various scholars have argued back and forth about this notion of the ancient kings being divine. Some think so, some think not, that it is, rather, some kind of reflex. There appears to be no singular correct interpretation or final word.

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I see, at the very least, a mediator aspect in the view of Kingship to these early peoples. That is, they expected the King to "mediate" or deal with God in behalf of the people. Much as the prophet-kings of the Book of Mormon did, much as the Brother of Jared did, much as the people of Israel expected Moses to mediate with God.

This responsiblity, to deal with God, seems to have elevated or required an elevation, of the King to near peership with God over time.

I really think Moses had this effect in mind when he said "would God that all the LORDâ??s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them! " and why God wants us to be a "Royal Priesthood"

Anyway, just my $.02

-SlackTime

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Kerry is of course correct that not all scholars accept the view that Ugaritic kings were considered gods. This is why from the start, I stated that I agree with the views of Ugaritologist Nicholas Wyatt, for indeed, there have been other views presented that I find non-compelling.

In his important article that Iâ??ve cited, Wyatt states that the Ugaritic kings â??broadly divine status may be accepted without demur, since they are the recipients of sacrifices, as well as corresponding both to the kings of the past, who all bear the epithet il [god] in the king list (KTU 1.113), and also constitute in part the rpum, and appear collectively in the pantheon lists as mlkm [kings]â? (pg. 860-861).

In his work on Canaanite thought, del Olmo has argued that the deceased Ugaritc kings were known collectively as ins(h) ilm, â??human godsâ? (the Ugaritic word ins(h) is a cognate with the biblical word â??nos(h), meaning â??manâ? or â??human being.â? Canaanite Religion According to the Liturgical Texts of Ugarit (1999), 209 note 136.

Slacktime,

I see, at the very least, a mediator aspect in the view of Kingship to these early peoples. That is, they expected the King to "mediate" or deal with God in behalf of the people. Much as the prophet-kings of the Book of Mormon did, much as the Brother of Jared did, much as the people of Israel expected Moses to mediate with God.

This responsiblity, to deal with God, seems to have elevated or required an elevation, of the King to near peership with God over time.

I really think Moses had this effect in mind when he said "would God that all the LORDâ??s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them! " and why God wants us to be a "Royal Priesthood"

Anyway, just my $.02

This is a very nice summary! I believe that you are right on!

It is precisely what Wyatt sees happening with divine Ugaritc and Israelite kings. The king â??acted as pontifex, as kings so frequently do, between the divine and human realms, participating in both dimensions, and consequently sharing in the ontology of both dimensions. In this context, it may be taken for granted that any hints concerning the kingâ??s theological status [as a God] are to be taken at face valueâ? (860).

If a reader catches this vision, I think some interesting ideas will result for the fact that the Bible presents Adam, the first man, as a deified god king.

My views on this issue will appear in the Heiser critique. So thatâ??s all Iâ??m going to say for now.

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I have to agree with David in his views on divine kingship. In some of the readings I have done divine kingship was bestowed on mere mortals through marriage to Inana. In Philip Jones' Embracing Inana: Legitimation and Mediation in the Ancient Mesopotamian Sacred Marriage Hymn Iddin-Dagan A. he makes the comment that...

"The sacred marriage ceremony from ancient Mesopotamia is one of the most dramatic ways of conceptualizing the relationship between king and gods known from the ancient world. According to a number of literary texts, kings from the late third and early second millennia (1)--and perhaps even earlier--consummated a ritual union with Inana, the goddess of love and war. Given the literary nature of our evidence, this ceremony may have been only an intellectual construct, rather than an event in real life. (2) Irrespective of this, however, it remains a major source, not only for early Mesopotamian religious thought in general, but for ideas of kingship in particular.

The specific implications of the ceremony for the king, however, have not been central to scholarly debate on the meaning of the sacred marriage. Traditionally, Assyriologists disagreed over whether the ceremony involved the bestowing of fertility on the homeland, (3) or of power on the king. (4) In more recent years, while attention continues to be paid to these issues, they are more often subsumed under considerations of liminality, sexuality, and gender. (5)

Within the context of these studies, kingship has tended to be treated in two ways. In functional terms, the ceremony is seen as legitimizing the king. Either he himself is the recipient of divine favor, (6) or he is the means whereby his subjects enjoy such benefits. (7) In cosmological terms, the marriage is seen as marking the king as the figure who mediates between the human and divine worlds.

Admittedly this doesn't necessarily make the king divine, but it would be hard to imagine a mere mortal consorting with a goddess. Secondly, there seems, at least in IMHO, a connection between the passages in "Song of Solomon" and the more ancient Mesopotamian text. Reading Song of Solomon and Iddin-Dagan seems very familiar.

Also, in The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts

Book by Mark S. Smith; Oxford University Press, 2003, it relates a bit more of this sacred connection.

Many scholars have take Psalm 45:7 as evidence for the royal theology of the king as â??divineâ? ('ělōh
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I have to agree with David in his views on divine kingship. In some of the readings I have done divine kingship was bestowed on mere mortals through marriage to Inana. In Philip Jones' Embracing Inana: Legitimation and Mediation in the Ancient Mesopotamian Sacred Marriage Hymn Iddin-Dagan A. he makes the comment that...

Admittedly this doesn't necessarily make the king divine, but it would be hard to imagine a mere mortal consorting with a goddess. Secondly, there seems, at least in IMHO, a connection between the passages in "Song of Solomon" and the more ancient Mesopotamian text. Reading Song of Solomon and Iddin-Dagan seems very familiar.

Also, in The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts

Book by Mark S. Smith; Oxford University Press, 2003, it relates a bit more of this sacred connection.

Prof. Smith goes on to enumerate the critical aspects of this theory.

He goes on further to say.

Ace, thanks for adding some very interesting points to this thread!

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