Old Testament Backgrounds



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He also built a new capital, Agade (Akkad) which is one of the few capitals in the ancient world not yet found.

3f. Cultural precedents.
1g. Adaptation of cuneiform to the Akkadian language. Sumerian is hardly ever seen on official inscriptions from now on without Akkadian alongside.
2g. High quality of art. See Irene Winter, “Aesthetics in Ancient Mesopotamian Art,” CANE, 2569-2582 and Agnes Spycket, “Reliefs, Statuary and Monumental Paintings,” 2583-2600.
4f. Religious precedents. See S. N. Kramer, “Sumero-Akkadian Interconnections: Religious Ideas,” CRRA (1960), 272-83.


  1. Cult supported by State

  2. King is beginning to be center of cult

2d. The next several successors are less important but the last great ruler of this dynasty, Naram-Sin (37 years) is a most intriguing ruler. Pertinent pictures may be seen in ANEP # 252 for a stamp of his and # 309 for his victory stela of the Lullubians. For the texts, see ANET, p. 268 and 646-651. As far as can be determined, he appears to be the first Mesopotamian king to have himself divinized. There are a number of points which seem to make his apotheos is a fact. See Guitty Azarpay, “Proportions in Ancient Near Eastern Art”, CANE, 2507-2520.

1e. The use of the divine determinative


2e. The employment of the title, King of the 4 quarters, sometimes translated, King of the Universe. Also called himself “Husband of Ishtar Annunit.”
3e. The evidences from his stela.

Note the outsized presentation of himself and the horned helmet, used exclusively by gods.

It might be rightfully asked why would a king have himself divinized? There must surely have been certain theological developments which made such a phenomena possible or necessary. The answer to this feature is one that is at best, theoretical. See my paper, “Apotheosis of Kings in the Old Akkadian and Ur III Periods.”

Naram-Sin overcoming his enemies

3d. The last king of the OA is Shar-kalli-sharri who ruled for 25 ineffective years. The evidences of his divinization are much more meager than Naram-Sin. There is a gradual break-up of his empire. He appears to have been weakened by the infiltration of a group of people called the Guti. After Elam wins his independence , there is a rapid disintegration as cities claim their own independence. With his assassination, chaos is the characteristic of Mesopotamia. See E. A. Speiser, “Some Factors in the Collapse of Akkad,” Oriental and Biblical Studies, ed. by J. J. Finkelstein and M. Greenberg, 232-243.


10c. The period between the OA and the Ur III period.
1d. The primary impact of the Guti was felt in Akkad. Literature in ANET is found in the “Curse of Agade,” ANET, p. 613.

2d. Lagash. This great Sumerian city rises to its greatest political and intellectual height under its famous leader Gudea. He left more documents in Sumerian than all his predecessors combined. It is said that his commonwealth displaces that of Sargon’s except that it was purely economic rather than imperial. Its culture is authentically Sumerian with an attempt to return to a city-state system. He never calls himself king (Lugal) but limits himself to ruler (ensi).

11c. The Ur III period (lasted 100 years; 2150-2050 or 2100-2000 depending on chronological factors). This period is also known as the Sumerian Renaissance or the Indian Summer of the Sumerian Civilization. It is called Ur III after the dynastic structure of the SKL.

1d. Ur-Nammu – 16 years. He was its founder and was most famous for his law code. See ANET, “Laws of Ur-Nammu,” pp. 523-525 and for his hymn at the building of the Ekur, see ANET, pp. 583-84. Pictures of his stela may be seen in ANEP # 306 and # 746 for his ziggurat at Ur which was 70 ft. high.




Ur-Nammu’s Ziggurat


2d. Shulgi – 48 years. See ANET pp. 584-86 for an example of royal hymnology propaganda. See Jacob Klein, “Shulgi of Ur: King of a New-Sumerian Empire,” CANE, 843-858 and Frances Pinnock, “Erotic Art in the Ancient Near East,” CANE, 2521-2532. Piotr Michalowski, “Of Bears and Men: Thoughts on the End of Shulgi’s Reign and on the Ensuing Succession,” Literature as Politics, Politics as Literature, ed. David Vanderhooft, 285-320.


This is a period of absolute monarchy with Shulgi as the supreme example of this. There does not appear to be any attestation to the concept of private ownership of the land. The state was highly centralized and owned all the land.
One of the most interesting features of his reign is his unprecedented emphasis on his self divinization. There are many examples of this:

  1. Unprecedented use of the divine determinative.

2. The royal hymnology reveals his deification.




  1. He has regular offerings made to his statue.

4. After his death he is declared to be a star of

the calendar.
5. His royal titles are those of the gods and his

name is used by others as if he was a god.

Piotr Steinkeller, “How Did Sulgi and Isbi-Erra Ascend to Heaven?” in Literature as Politics, Politics as Literature, ed. David Vanderhooft, 459-78.

The Sacred Marriage


1. In ancient Sumer, one goddess gained significance in Sumer’s history (
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