century BCE letters from Mari, an ancient city near the upper Euphrates River, located in modern day Syria. Most of the letters are addressed to Zimri Lim, the king of Mari (ca. 1775-1761 BCE).

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My questions:

1. What does the sentence mean: “Prophecy is a non-inductive form of divination in which humans transmit allegedly divine messages.” Note: that sentence is not written below, so try to understand it on its own.

2. Can you discern any recurring formulas used in these letters? What can you say about the literary genre of letters about prophecy at Mari?

3. What can you say about the institution of prophecy at Mari from each letter?

4. Were these people superstitious? Why and/or why not?




Speak to my lord: Thus Nursin your servant:

Once, twice, even five times have I written to my lord about the delivery of cattle to Adad and about the estate that Adad, lord of Kallassu demands from us. Alpan said to me in the presence of witnesses as follows: “Sacrifice the cattle with oxen and cows. My lord, in the presence of all the people, told me to sacrifice the cattle, saying ‘Never shall he break an agreement with me.’” I have imposed witnesses on him. My lord shall know this.

Through oracles, Adad, lord of Kallassu, would stand by, saying; “Am I not Adad, lord of Kallassu, who raised the king in my lap and restored him to his ancestral throne? Having restored him to his ancestral throne, I again gave him a residence. Now, since I restored him to his ancestral throne, I may take the estate away from his patrimony as well. But if he fulfils my desire, I shall give him throne upon throne, house upon house, city upon city. I shall give him the land from the rising of the sun to its setting. This is what the prophets said, and in the oracles Adad was standing by all the time. A prophet of Adad also demands the area of Alahtum to be the estate. When I was still living in Mari, I would convey every word spoken by a prophet or a prophetess to my lord. Now, living in another land, would I not communicate to my lord what I hear and they tell me?

notes: Adad is a weather god, especially worshipped in northern Babylonia and Syria. He was the city god of Aleppo. One of his manifestations was called the Lord of Kalassu. Nursin was Zimri-Lim’s representative in the city of Alahtum.


Speak to my lord: Thus Nursin, your servant:

Abiya, prophet of Adad, the lord of Aleppo, came to me and said: “Thus says Adad: ‘I have given the whole country to YahdunLim. Thanks to my weapons, he did not meet his equal. He, however, abandoned my cause, so I gave to ShamshiAdad the land I had given to him. I want to restore you. I restored the throne of your father’s house. I anointed you with the oil of my luminosity. Now hear a single word of mine: If anyone cries out to you for judgment, saying ‘I have been wronged’ be there to decide his case. Answer him fairly. This is what I desire of you. If you go off to the war, never do so without consulting an oracle. When I become manifest in my oracle, go to the war. If it does not happen, do not go out of the city gate.”

This is what the prophet said to me. Now I have sent the hair of the prophet and a fringe of his garment to my lord.

notes: YahdunLim is Zimri-Lim’s father. ShamshiAdad was king of Assyria who seized control of Mari after YahdunLim and installed his sons as kings. Zimri Lim defeats ShamshiAdad’s son to become king.


Ayala, the woman, in her dream, saw the following:

A woman from Shehrum and a woman from Mari had a fight at the gate of Annunitum’s temple. The woman from Shehrum said to the woman from Mari: “Give me back my business. Either you sit down or I will be the one who will sit down.”

By means of a bird divination I inquired about her, and the dream was really seen. Now I send her hair and a fringe of her garment. Let my lord inquire about her.

note: Annunitum is a manifestation of Ishtar at Mari and the most important female deity in prophetic oracles from Mari.


Speak to my lord: Thus Itur-Asdu, your servant:

When I sent this tablet to my lord, Malik-Dagan, a man from Shakka came to me and spoke to me as follows:

“In my dream I, as well as another man with me, was planning a travel from the district of Saggaratum, through the upper district, to Mari. Before reaching Mari, I entered Terqa. Having entered the city, I went into the temple of Dagan and prostrated myself before Dagan. During my prostration, Dagan opened his mouth and spoke to me thus: ‘Have the kings of the Yaminites and their troops made peace with the troop of ZimriLim who has gone up there?’ I answered: ‘No, they have not made peace.’ Before I left, he spoke to me as follows: ‘Why do the messengers of Zimri-Lim not stay before me regularly, and why does he not provide me with a full account of his undertakings? Had it been otherwise, I would have delivered the kings of the Yaminites into the hands of Zimri-Lim a long time ago! Now go, I have sent you to speak to Zimri-Lim as follows: Send your messengers to me and provide me with a full account of your undertakings, and I will make the kings of the Yaminites flounder in a fisherman’s chest and place them before you.’”

This is what the man saw in his dream and what he told me. I have now written to my lord. Let my lord check on this dream. Further, if it pleases my lord, let my lord provide Dagan with a full account of his undertakings. Let the messengers of my lord come regularly before Dagan. The man who told me this dream will bring a ritual cult of the dead offering for Dagan. I have not sent him. Moreover, since this man is reliable, I have not taken his hair or a fringe of his garment.

note: this was the first prophetic text published from Mari. Dagan is a cereal god, one of the most important in the ancient Near East.


Speak to my lord: Thus Adduduri, your servant:

Since the destruction of your father’s house, I have never had such a dream. My earlier signs are these two:

In my dream I entered the temple of Beletekallim, but Beletekallim was not present nor were there images in front of her. When I saw this, I began to weep. This dream of mine took place during the evening watch. When I returned, Dada, the priest of Ishtar of Bishra, was standing at the gate of Beletekallim and an eerie voice kept calling out: “Come back, O Dagan, Come back, O Dagan!” This is what it kept calling over and over.

Another matter: a prophetess (muhhututum) arose in the temple of Annunitum and spoke: “Zimri Lim, do not go on campaign! Stay in Mari, and I shall continue to answer.”

My lord should not be negligent in protecting himself. Now I myself have hereby sealed my hair and a fringe of my garment and I have herewith sent them to my lord.