Studies in the Bible and Jewish Thought

By Moshe Greenberg | Go to book overview

Hebrew seg + ̆ullā: Akkadian sikiltu 1951

A glance at the more recent translations of the Code of Hammurabi, paragraph 141, will suffice to indicate that a further attempt at interpreting this law is not unwarranted. The difficulty lies in the protasis, in which the actions of a wife bent on leaving her husband are described:

š umma aššat awālim ša ina bīt awēlim wašbat ana wasēm paniša ištakanma sikiltam isakkil bitsa usappaה musa ušamtā..."If a married woman who was living in the house of her husband has made up her mind to leave and......, ruined her home, and humiliated her husband..."

The crux of the passage is the phrase sikiltam isakkil; translators have followed two lines in its interpretation. One view would connect the phrase with the familiar Hebrew root sāḵal and render "stulte egerit" ( Deimel), "playing the fool" ( Luckenbill), or "a l'habitude de faire des folies" ( Cruveilhier).1 Others, seeing here an Akkadian sakālu "to acquire"2 give the phrase a more mercenary flavor; "das Wirtschaftsgeld beiseite schafft" ( Eilers), and "in order that she may engage in business" ( Meek).3

The error of the association with Hebrew sāḵal can be shown from Akkadian usage itself. A Nuzi tablet parallels sikiltu with mānaהātu/i "earnings through toil,"4 thus clearly indicating that the former is an economic term. But I believe that we can arrive at a more precise understanding of sikiltam sakālu from certain usages in rabbinic literature. The recognized influence of Babylonian legal terminology on

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