L'eau, enjeux politiques et theologiques, de Sumer a la Bible.

Author:Bagg, Ariel M.
Position::Book review

L'eau, enjeux poiltiques et theologiques, de Sumer a la Bible. By STEPHANIE ANTHONIOZ. Supplements to Vetus Tesiamentum vol. 131. Leiden: BRILL, 2009. Pp. xxiii + 683. $278

This book is the printed version of a doctoral dissertation presented in 2008 at the Universite ParisSorbonne and at the Institut Catholique de Paris. The title reflects the ambitious purpose of the book, namely the study of the political and theological aspects of water from the Sumerians to the Bible. The book is organized in an introduction (chapter 1), three parts (chapters 2 to 10), and a final chapter with conclusions (chapter 11). The introduction (pp. 1-34) reveals that the scope of the study is much more restricted than the title would suggest. The corpus of the cuneiform sources is reduced to selected Sumerian, Akkadian, and a few West Semitic historical--mainly royal inscriptions--and mythological texts. The subject of the research is limited to three literary motifs related to water: the crossing of water, the Flood, and the water of abundance. These literary motifs should have shaped rhetorical and theological discourse in such a significant way that they were borrowed over time in Mesopotamia and even in the Levant. The author decided to restrict the study of these motifs to the first six books of the Hebrew Bible, where they seem to appear most clearly. The aim of the book is to study not only the function of those literary motifs, whose deep relationship with the Mesopotamian political theology of royal mediation is postulated, but also their transmission and reception. Each part of the book is dedicated to one of the motifs.

The first part is made up of three chapters and is dedicated to the crossing of water ("La traversee de l'eau," pp. 35-222). In chapter 2 the author analyses the motif in the Mesopotamian sources on the basis of royal inscriptions ("Analyse historique du motif de la traversee en Mesopotamie," pp. 36-109). According to the Stele of the Vultures, the crossing of frontier canals between city-states was, in the early Sumerian period, a sign of political distrust and juridical rupture. The motif of the crossing of water had a political and theological aspect. During the Akkad period the crossing of water acquired a military connotation and would, from the time of Man-istusu (2269-2255 B.C.E.), become a symbol of royal victory. The motif is absent in the sources of the Ur III and Old Babylonian periods but reappears in the Old Assyrian royal inscriptions. As Assyria expanded and grew into an empire, the crossing of rivers, principally the Euphrates, became a common motif in the royal inscriptions, which the author considers a major instrument of imperial propaganda. During the reign of Shalmaneser III (858-824) the crossing of the Euphrates was used rhetorically and served the royal ideology: it became the greatest royal act of all, the sign of royal conquest and victory. The motif is nearly absent in the royal...

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