Anomalies With One Horn

For reasons I may go into in a future post, I am going through the Akkadian omen series Šumma izbu. This series of 24 tablets contains omens whose protases concern birth and developmental anomalies in everything from humans to dogs. The earliest recorded omens in this tradition go back to Old Babylonian times and parts Šumma izbu continued to be copied as late as 100 BCE. Archaeologists uncovered related texts at Ugarit in both the Akkadian (AO 18.892) and the Ugaritic language (KTU 1.140). There are also fragments from Boğazköy in Akkadian and Hittite. But like much Akkadian literature the most complete set of tablets comes from the Aššurbanipal library. Take a look at this from tablet 9. I follow Leichty and von Soden’s translation.

32’ If an anomaly (izbu) has only one horn and its protrudes from its head – weapon of Sargon; the land of the prince will expand; the weapons will be strong and the king will have no opponent.
33’ If an anomaly has only one horn, and it protrudes from the top (of its head) – the land of the prince will expand; [. . .]; your enemy will reside in the land; the king will have auxiliary troops and will overthrow the land of his enemy.
34’ If an anomaly has only one horn, and it protrudes from its forehead (SAG.KI-šú, ina pūtišu) – weapon of Sargon.
35’ If an anomaly has only one horn, and it protrudes from its back – the land of the prince will be plundered; [. . ] will constantly send news to him.

There are more such omens having to do with, for example, a single horn protruding from the right or left ear.
Now look at Daniel 8:5-25 and think of the male goat having “a conspicuous horn between its eyes (קֶרֶן חָזוּת בֵּין עֵינָיו) (8:5). We learn (8:20-21) that this goat is “the King of Greece” and the ram with two horns is the king of Media and Persia. There is a lot going on in Daniel’s vision of the two horned and one horned animals but it seems to me that an echo of Šumma izbu like divination is part of it.
By the way, Guinan, 423, notes a few other omens from Šumma izbu that she seems to associate with Daniel’s two horned ram but her reference is so cryptic that it’s hard to know exactly how she associates her example(s) with Daniel 8:3. I haven’t checked any commentaries on this as yet but I have a general feeling that this chapter is often interpreted as somehow relating to astrology rather than fetomancy. Obviously, more thought and work needs to be given to this.

Leichty, Erle, and Wolfram von Soden, The omen series Šumma izbu (Texts from cuneiform sources, vol. 4; Locust Valley, N.Y., J.J. Augustin, 1970).
Ann K. Guinan, “Divination,” in The Context of Scripture: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, vol. 1 (eds William Hallo and K Lawson Younger, Jr.; Brill Leiden, 1979), 422-26.

4 thoughts on “Anomalies With One Horn”

  1. Referring to lines 32 and 34:
    Is “weapon of Sargon” some sort of title for the particular omen’s results? Are the results of 34 the same as 32, and “weapon of Sargon” is just a ‘shorthand’ way of expressing this? I assume it’
    s not a title for the omen, since it’s used on both 32 and 34.
    I’m afraid I’m not too familiar with these omens, or how they’re labelled.
    I guess “kakku[m] ša Sargon” might be the actual title? (My Akkadian is VERY minimal at the moment, but I at least remember the word for ‘weapon’)
    A google search for the Akkadian title brought this reference:
    Lafont 2009, 6. Akkadian kakkum does not distinguish between “weapon” and
    “emblem” (not to mention weapon-shaped divinatory marks) except by context, and
    thus the extent of military symbology in ritual is not always clear.
    This is from – a paper by Richardson on the Mesopotamiam Military History.
    Not quite sure where that leaves me, or if it even has a bearing on anything heh heh!

  2. Matt,
    You are correct that it is not the title of the omen. It is part of the omen’s apodosis and as such is quite common. It occurs all the time in Akkadian omen apodoses. Yes, the results of ‘32 and ’34 are about the same. ’32 just has some more specific detail. You are almost correct in the philology of the Akkadian expression. The writing in lines ’32 and ’34 for “Weapon of Sargon” is the rather standard GIŠ.TUKUL LUGAL.GI.NA = (giš)kakki (certainly to be understood as a bound form) Šarru-kīnu (the true king = Sargon I; no ša, nor is one needed). While it’s not completely sure what this expression means, it almost certainly stands for the acquisition of military prowess. If you’re a king, it’s a good thing to have. I am not familiar with Lafon 2009 but this seems about correct. “Weapon” shapes observed during extispicy were generally, but not always, good signs

  3. Darn those logograms and whatchamacallits! (This is what happens when I’m mired down in Lesson 4 of my Akkadian grammar – I haven’t even touched the cuneiform yet, let alone the Sumerian loans – which I imagine will be introduced at that point)
    I try my hand at some elementary transliterations and have to deal with the syllabic fun the scribes were having, and all the capitalized Sumerian stuff. I keep asking myself “now why did I learn the word for šarrum, when all I see is LUGAL” heh! In time… in time…
    Thanks for the quick lesson!
    When you mentioned Daniel and the omens, I kept thinking about the Story of Aqhat – with Danel looking for his son in the innards of the vultures he kept bringing crashing down to the ground. Maybe a bit of a stretch to see those son-searching acts related to omens? I don’t know. Despite the long distance between the Aqhat story and when the various Hebrew Daniel strands were collected, I wonder if there’s even a slight omen-Danel-Daniel evolution. I’m familiar with the idea that the Ugaritic Danel was probably the inspiration for the ‘Hebrew’ Daniel – thus the musing.

  4. Matt,
    Whatever the relationship between Dāni’elu of the Aqhat epic and Dāniyyel the Judahite, and I think there is little or none, they both lived in times when divination was a part of life. Of course, I do see an echo of old Dāni’elu in Ez. 14:14.

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