In an abnormally interesting paper, Eckart Frahm, with proper caution, directs our attention to three passages from the Hebrew Bible that he suggests we consider in the light of several Akkadian texts. The Biblical passages are as follows:
The relevant part of an Old Babylonian text (Ana ittīšu II iv 13’-14’) reads,
ḫalaq ṣabat ina pānīšu iqqur
Frahm translates this, “’He is a runaway, seize him,’ he engraved (tattooed?) on his (the slave’s) face.” The text is from the first half of the second millennium BCE. Citing the work of Stolper (135, n. 7), Frahm notes, “In the first millennium, such signs were apparently more often tattooed on the hands and wrists of slaves, but their faces could still be inscribed as well.” He notes a letter (Parpola 1993: #160) that mentions that a fugitive scholar and exorcist (now a slave?), “was inscribed on his face and hand” and a “bill of sale” from Borsippa indicated that the sold slave was one, “who is inscribed with the name of his owner . . . on the right and left (hand?) and on the check (lētu) of his left and right side.”
The exact intertextual relationship between the Babylonian texts and the passages from the Hebrew Bible is not completely clear. In fact, the exact intertextual relationship among these three Hebrew passages is not so clear. However, it is hard to deny that they all reflect some aspect of a common culture concerning bound individuals.
Frahm notes the Greek κάτεχέ με• φεύγω, “Seize me – I am a runaway,” written on the forehead of a slave mentioned in a scholiaon to Aeschines (Scholia ad Orationem de Falsa Legatione, 170a cited by Reiner). This is nearly identical to the Old Babylonian ḫalaq ṣabat. He also notes the Latin fugi, tene me on slave’s neckband.
In addition, Frahm, 132, n 113, following Bodi, 49, suggests that we might think of the Tau in Ezekiel 9:4 in the context of the “amulet-shaped tablets inscribed with the Erra epic” or Mesopotamian amulets inscribed with a cross.
Anyone with abnormal interests in the Christian New Testament might want to try reading Philemon 1:15-16 in the light of these several references.
There is actually a rather large literature on all of this.
Frahm, Eckart, “Reading the Tablet, the Exta, and the Body: The Hermeneutics of Cuneiform Signs in Babylonian and Assyrian Text Commentaries and Divinatory Texts,” in: Amar Annus, ed., Divination and Interpretation of Signs in the Ancient World, The Sixth Annual University of Chicago Oriental Institute Seminar (Chicago 2010) 93-141.
Reiner, Erica, “Runaway – seize him” in J. G. Dercksen, ed., Assyria and Beyond: Studies Presented to Mogens Trolle Larsen (PIHANS 100; Leiden: 2004), 475-82.
Stolper, Mathew W., “Inscribed in Egyptian,” in Maria Brosius; Amélie Kuhrt; David M Lewis, eds., Studies in Persian History: Essays in Memory of David M. Lewis (Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1998), 133-43