Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

CT 13.33-34 and Ezekiel 32: Lion-Dragon Myths

Academic journal article The Journal of the American Oriental Society

CT 13.33-34 and Ezekiel 32: Lion-Dragon Myths

Article excerpt


This article examines two combat myths often left out of discussions of divine-conflict stories, discussions which tend to favor the better-known Mesopotamian tale of Marduk fighting Tiamat and the Canaanite tale of Baal, Anat, and Yahweh fighting the likes of Yamm, Lotan/Leviathan, and Mot.

One of these neglected tales, about the deity Tishpak, comes from the Mesopotamian sphere and reflects mythology older than Enuma Elish; the other is much later, from Judah's exilic period, and reflects West Semitic developments of the combat myth. The nature of the beasts with whom the deities battle in these stories is singled out for special attention. These two texts show, in conjunction with other literary sources and iconography, that ancient Near Eastern writers and artists used composite animal imagery - in particular, the juxtaposition of lions and dragons - to demonstrate the preeminence of warriors both human and divine. After examining these two myths individually, this article will conclude by addressing them from a comparative perspective.

I. CT 13.33-34

The Deity Tishpak

Tishpak succeeded Ninazu as the chief god of Eshnunna (Tell Asmar).(1) Remarkably, there has been little attention devoted to this deity in the standard treatments of Mesopotamian religion, even though he may have been a prototype of Marduk. Tishpak has been thought to be a god of thunderstorms;(2) Jacobsen even connected him with the Hurrian god Teshup.(3) It is clear that he does act in the manner of a storm god in his battle with the dragon, yet, as Wiggermann has argued (using Marduk and Ninurta as examples), association with clouds and storms does not necessarily make one a weather god.(4)

The myth of a god battling a seven-headed dragon was common at Eshnunna. Both figures 1 and 2 come from Tell Asmar. Figure 1 shows two unknown gods(5) battling the seven-headed dragon. Three of its heads are engaged in battle while the other four droop down as if already slain. Similarly, the bottom register of figure 2 shows an unknown god holding two heads that he had cut off from the monster. Though both images come from Tell Asmar, we must remain cautious about associating them at once with Tishpak. Tishpak's battles with the basmu and the MUS/labbu are attested (see below), but not his battle with the seven-headed serpent.(6)

We have two other Old Akkadian representations from Eshnunna (one of which is depicted in figure 3) which are more helpful, because they clearly show that Tishpak's sacred animal, like Marduk's, was the mushussu, "dragon" or "terrifying serpent."(7) Both images show the god riding upon the mushussu. The former even bears an inscription referring to Tishpak as the warrior of the gods.(8) Another seal, from Tell Harmal, shows the god with the animal under his feet with the text, "Tispak-gamil, son of Mar-Samas, servant of Samsi-Adad" [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 4 OMITTED].(9)

Tishpak's battle with the dragon is preserved for us in CT 13.33-34 (discovered in the library of Ashurbanipal).(10) This text is usually ignored by those Bible scholars who have looked to the Mesopotamian sphere in search of parallels to divine conflict stories.(11) The tale is most widely recognized through the older translations of L. W. King(12) and Alexander Heidel,(13) both of which are now quite outdated. Two new translations, by J. Bottero and S. N. Kramer and by B. R. Foster, have recently appeared.(14) CT 13.33-34 has received particular attention in a recent study by F. A. M. Wiggermann.(15) According to Wiggermann, the myth belongs originally to the Old Akkadian Period, and functioned as follows: "It translates history, the Old Akkadian overtake in Esnunna [sic], into theology, and justifies Tispak's accession as king . . . as a consequence of his 'liberation' of the nation, sanctioned by the decision of a divine council."(16) The full text of what has been preserved of the myth appears as follows:


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