Babylonian Poems of Righteous Sufferers: Ludlul Bel Nemeqi and the Babylonian Theodicy.

Author:Hunt, Joel H.
Position:Book review

Babylonian Poems of Righteous Sufferers: Ludlul Bel Nemeqi and the Babylonian Theodicy. By TAKAYOSHI OSHIMA. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike, vol. 14. Tubingen: MOHR SIEBECK, 2014. Pp. xx + 572, 65 plts. [euro]139.

"The main objective of this monograph is a new critical text edition of both Ludlul Bel Nemeqi ('Let Me Praise the Lord of Wisdom'), known also as the 'Babylonian Job' or 'Poem of the Righteous Sufferer', and the so-called Babylonian Theodicy" (p. 1).

Readership of the book will be constituted by Assyriologists, but, more generally, by students of theology, biblical studies, and comparative religious studies. To engage this varied audience, Oshima attempts to translate these ancient texts to convey both the literal meaning of each phrase and an understanding of the general conceptions behind it.

Despite the broad appeal of these poems, Oshima has concentrated his efforts on philological work. He does not provide a comprehensive comparative literary analysis of the poems nor an in-depth discussion of the Babylonian views of divine judgment over humankind and its effects on their Weltanschauung. Oshima hopes to take up these topics, and the relationship of the Babylonian "pious sufferer" poems to the biblical book of Job, in future publications.

The book is divided into six parts: 1) Chapters I-II include introductions and the transliterations and translations of the composite texts of these poems. The composite text is set out on opposing pages with the Akkadian transliteration on the left, the English translation on the right. 2) Chapter III provides detailed philological and critical notes on the poems. These copious notes converse with other Mesopotamian texts and modern interpreters. 3) Chapter IV gives an arrangement of all manuscripts of the poems, both those published beforehand and those previously unpublished, like a musical score. In listing the manuscripts of Ludlul, Oshima does not follow any previous system, but has assigned a new set of sigla to all the manuscripts. 4) Chapter V offers critical editions of texts related to these two poems. 5) The book includes an extensive bibliography, a glossary, and eight indices, and 6) hand copies and photographs of the cuneiform manuscripts.

Oshima avoids using the term "wisdom literature" to refer to the poems in question, but prefers to restrict the use of that label to a particular group of books within the Hebrew Bible (Proverbs, Job, Qohelet, and some Psalms)...

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