The MRZH Tablet. Ugarit (Ras Shamra)
Describes a ritual ceremony and banquet in
honor of the dead (prohibited by the prophets Amos 6:7 and Jeremiah 16:5)
West Semitic Research ProjectIn 1928 a Syrian farmer uncovered a slab of stone while plowing his field at Ras Shamra (Arabic “Fennel Head,” identified as the ancient Phoenician city of Ugarit). This was the beginning of the discovery of an entire library of tablets under the direction of Claude F. A. Schaeffer from the Musée archéologique in Strasbourg that began in April 1929 and continued for the next eight seasons. Subsequent seasons were directed by Henri de Contenson (1971 to 1974), Jean Margueron (1975 to 1977), and after 1978, by Marguerite Yon.
scarcely had a month gone by before one of the most important discoveries of the century was made. This was the uncovering of a scribal school and library, adjoining a temple. Most of the tablets in the library were written in a strange new script; but they were soon deciphered by Semitic scholars, one of whom had been decorated by the French government for brilliant work on an enemy cipher in the First World War.1.The tablets were dated to ca. 1400-1200 BC and indicate that it was possible for Moses to write in ca. 1440 to 1400 BC.
The importance to biblical studies is in the recovery of literature that described for the first time, outside the Bible, the Canaanite religious practices of the cult of Baal and the pagan religious practice of child sacrifice, prohibited by Yahweh (Lev 20:2-5). Other cultural practices mentioned in the Bible such as Levirate marriage (Gen 38:8; Deut 25:5-6), was also described in the Ras Shamra tablets.
Also found on the tablets were poems and ancient Hurrian songs, one of which was to the moon goddess Nikkal and is one of the oldest musical notations yet discovered with both words and music demonstrating their ability to record and use harmony. 2.
A small fragment of one of the tablets contained an account of the flood story. This account of the flood is unlike the other accounts which also contained the creation of the world and humanity. This is the only surviving version that was found outside of Mesopotamia, although a copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh was found in Megiddo, Israel. Only the beginning and the end survive.
Ras Shamra - Table III
Obverse When the gods took counsel in the lands And brought about a flood in the regions of the world, . . . . hears [. .] . . . [. . . . ]. . Ea in his heart. ‘I am Atra-hasis, I lived in the temple of Ea, my lord, . . . . . . [.] I knew the counsel of the great gods, I knew their oath, though they did not reveal it to me. He repeated their words to the wall, “Wall, hear [. . .
FootnotesReverse [. . . .] . the gods life [. . . [. . . ] . . your wife . [. . . [. .] . help and . [. . . life like the gods [you will] indeed [possess].’ Written by Mudammiq-Nergal Property (?) of . . . . . 3.
- 1. G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archaeology, Abridged (Philadelphia, Pa.: Westminster, 1960), 106–107.
- 2. Anne D. Kilmer, “World’s Oldest Musical Notation Deciphered on Cuneiform Tablet,” BAR 6, no. 5 (1980): 14–25; “A Music Tablet from Sippar(?): BM 65217 + 66616,” Iraq 46 (1984): 69–80; “The Musical Instruments from Ur and Ancient Mesopotamian Music,” Expedition 402 (1998): 12–19.
- 3. Wilfred G. Lambert, Alan R. Millard, and Miguel Civil, Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1999), 133
- Fisher, Loren R. Ras Shamra Parallels: The Texts From Ugarit and the Hebrew Bible. Vol. 1 & 2. Analecta Orientalia 49 & 50. Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1975.
- Fisher, Loren R., M. C. Astour, and P. D. Miller. The Claremont Ras Shamra Tablets. Analecta Orientalia 48. Rome: Gregorian University Press, 1971.
- Jackson, Wayne. “The Ras Shamra Discovery.” Apologetics Press, 2013, 1–10.
Pfeiffer, Charles F. Ras Shamra and the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1962.
- Rummel, Stan, A. Cooper, F. B. Knutson, M. H. Pope, and R. E. Whitaker. Ras Shamra Parallels: The Texts from Ugarit and the Hebrew Bible. Analecta Orientalia 51. Rome: Gregorian University Press, 1981.
- Schaeffer, Claude F. A. The Cuneiform Texts of Ras Shamra-Ugarit: The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy 1937. Munich: Periodicals Service Co, 1986.
- Virolleaud, Charles. “Les Nouveaux Textes Alphabetiques de Ras-Shamra (XVIe Campagne, 1952).” Syria 30 (1953): 187–95.