Zophar’s Second Discourse & The Tale of Aqhat

Just Standing e1539012764245It should be obvious that I have complete faith in You, but I don’t quite understand You, or why You allow or cause bad things to happen to good people. 

Of course, I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read the Bible and realized that You are exactly who You say You are.

1. The text in Corpus Tablettes Alphabetiques
The text in Corpus Tablettes Alphabetiques [CTA] 17–19 is often referred to as the Epic of Aqhat.
Danel was depicted as “judging the cause of the widow, adjudicating the case of the fatherless” in the city gate.

He passed through trials: his son Aqhat was destroyed but apparently in the missing conclusion was revived or replaced by Danel’s patron god, Rp’u, who sits and judges with Hadad and Astarte and is clearly identical to El.

The three tablets bearing the story of Danel in about 400 lines break off before the story is completed.

Danel, a leader, has no son and engages in an incubation rite; on the seventh day Baal induces the other deities to intercede with El, who takes pity, blesses Danel and grants him a son, Aqhat.

Aqhat is presented with a bow by the craftsman deity Kothar-wa-Khasis.

The goddess Anat desires the bow and makes several tries unsuccessfully to obtain it, offering even immortality; Aqhat calls her offer spurious, since old age and death are man’s common lot.

Anat with the consent of El, launches her attendant in the form of a hawk to steal back the bow; however, in the event, the bow is broken and lost in the sea, and Aqhat dies.

The bloodshed brings drought to the land and mourning. Aqhat’s sister Pagat seeks vengeance, but discovers that the killer she has contracted is the very murderer of her brother.

Here the narrative is interrupted. It is generally surmised that in the missing ending, with the help of Danel’s patron god, Aqhat’s remains are recovered from the eagle that has devoured them.

The text was published and translated in 1936 by Charles Virolleaud and has been extensively analyzed since then.

“Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,

Therefore do my thoughts cause me to answer, and for this I make haste.

I have heard the check of my reproach, and the spirit of my understanding causeth me to answer” (Job 20:1-3).

Zophar takes Job’s words, especially his closing words in 19:28-29, as a personal affront.  Job has dared to assert that on Zophar’s theory of retribution Zophar himself is due for punishment.

“Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon earth,

That the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?

2. Anat
Anat first appears in Egypt in the 16th dynasty (the Hyksos period) along with other northwest Semitic deities.

She was especially worshiped in her aspect of a war goddess, often paired with the goddess `Ashtart.

In the Contest Between Horus and Set, these two goddesses appear as daughters of Re and are given in marriage to the god Set, who had been identified with the Semitic god Hadad.

During the Hyksos period Anat had temples in the Hyksos capital of Avaris and in Beth-Shan (Palestine) as well as being worshiped in Memphis.

On inscriptions from Memphis of 15th to 12th centuries B.C., Anat is called “Bin-Ptah”, Daughter of Ptah.

She is associated with Reshpu, (Canaanite: Resheph) in some texts and sometimes identified with the native Egyptian goddess Neith.

She is sometimes called “Queen of Heaven”.

Her iconography varies, but she is usually shown carrying one or more weapons.

The name of Anat-her, a shadowy Egyptian ruler of this time, is evidently derived from “Anat”.

Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds;

Yet he shall perish for ever like his own dung: they which have seen him shall say, Where is he?

He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found: yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.

The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him.

His children shall seek to please the poor, and his hands shall restore their goods.

His bones are full of the sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust” (Job 20:4-11).

Zophar is proud that he’s a healthy and prosperous man, for in his view that in itself is proof of his goodness and righteousness.  But the joy and vigor of the wicked will always be brief and elusive (see Ps 73:18-20).

“Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue;

Though he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth:

Yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him.

He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly” (Job 20:12-15).

The deeds performed by an evil man are like food that is tastybut turns sour in his stomach.

“He hath swallowed down riches – after taking what belonged to the poor.

He shall suck the poison of asps: the viper’s tongue shall slay him.

He shall not see the rivers, the floods, the brooks of honey and butter.

That which he laboured for shall he restore, and shall not swallow it down: according to his substance shall the restitution be, and he shall not rejoice therein.

Because he hath oppressed and hath forsaken the poor; because he hath violently taken away an house which he builded not.

 Surely he shall not feel quietness in his belly, he shall not save of that which he desired.

There shall none of his meat be left; therefore shall no man look for his goods.

In the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits: every hand of the wicked shall come upon him.

When he is about to fill his belly, God shall cast the fury of his wrath upon him, and shall rain it upon him while he is eating.

He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through.

It is drawn, and cometh out of the body; yea, the glittering sword cometh out of his gall: terrors are upon him.

Although a wicked man may fill his belly, when God vents His anger against him he will be nothing for him to eat.

All darkness shall be hid in his secret places: a fire not blown shall consume him; it shall go ill with him that is left in his tabernacle.  The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him.  The increase of his house shall depart, and his goods shall flow away in the day of his wrath.

This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed unto him by God” (Job 20:16-29).

3. Stele from Beth Shan
Egypt. Stele of Seti I. Beth-Shean. 1289-1278 B.C. Basalt. Commemorates the king’s victory in the Military expedition into Canaan. The pharaoh (left), crowned with an Uraeus, presents the libation and incense to the sun god Re-Harakhty. Relief. 19th Dynasty. New Kingdom. Rockefeller Archaeological Museum. Jerusalem. Israel.
4. The Tale of Aqhat is an epic poem
The Tale of Aqhat is an epic poem from the great Canaanite port of Ugarit, composed about 1400 B.C.

It is exciting, incantantory, humorous, and infuriatingly enigmatic; in it the dignity and pathos of man is asserted against the ruthless and divided gods; at its thematic center is the pain of mortality.

Ugaritic culture is a bridge between the Hebrew Bible and Greek mythology, and thus of the utmost scholarly interest.

It is an ancient West Semitic legend probably concerned with the cause of the annual summer drought in the eastern Mediterranean.

The epic records that Danel, a sage and king of the Haranamites, had no son until the god El, in response to Danel’s many prayers and offerings, finally granted him a child, whom Danel named Aqhat.

Some time later Danel offered hospitality to the divine craftsman Kothar, who in return gave Aqhat one of his marvelous bows.

That bow, however, had been intended for the goddess Anath, who became outraged that it had been given to a mortal.

Like Bildad in v 18:21, Zophar concludes his speech with a summary statement in which he claims that all he has said is in accord with God’s plans for Judging sinners.

This is the portion of a wicked man from God – this is almost verbatim by Job 27:13.

The Tale of Aqhat

In Job 20 Zophar asserted that God punishes all evildoers.  Although his comprehension was inadequate, Zophar correctly understood that God is fundamentally just and doesn’t capriciously inflict pain upon people.

While this may seem self-evident to the modern Christian reader, it is not a viewpoint an ancient pagan would have shared or even considered the Ugaritic tale of Aqhat (also called Aqhatu) located at Ras Shamara in 1930, illustrates this.

The tale begins with the hero Daniel, who makes sacrifices and prays for a son.  At last his desire is granted: He is given a son, Aqhat, to whom the god Kothar-wa-Hasis bequeaths a powerful warrior’s bow.

But the goddess Anat (also called Anatu) covets the bow and seeks to barter with Aqhat for it.  Aqhat is unwilling to part with it but offers to give her all she needs in order to have Kotha-wa-Hasis fashion a similar bow for her. 

Still, she wamts pm;u Aqjat’s bow – and offers him eternal life for it.  Aqhat, recognizing this as a fraudulent offer, tactlessly refuses.  Infuriated, Anat demands permission from the high god, El, to avenge herself upon Aqhat, threatening violence against El himself if he refuses.

When El accedes, Anat murders Aqhat with the aid of her henchman and gloats over her deed.  What follows is incomplete somewhat confused, but it seems that a drought ensues, Dani-El mourns his son, and Aqhat’s sister Pugat seeks to avenge his death.

Readers of the Iliad and the Odyssey are familiar with pagan tales of jealous, violent, and petty gods.  This understanding prevailed in the ancient New East.  Israel’s belief in a righteous God was truly distinctive.

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