Is there a difference?
But first, our text of the day (Isaiah 8:21b): וְקִלֵּל בְּמַלְכּוֹ וּבֵאלֹהָיו, “He shall belittle (?) his king and his divine beings.” More on that later.
Akkadian omens often have complex layered portents. CT 40 35-37(K. 3836+7211 +): 42-44 may provide an interesting example. At one level it is straightforward enough. If, while holding the reins of a chariot, the ruler’s hat falls off, he will be discredited.
DIŠ NUN GIŠ.GIGIR U5–ma a-šá-a-ti ṣa-bit-ma / TÚG.NÍG.SAG.ÍL.SAR.NITA-šu ù-lu TÚG.U+SAG-su iš-ḫi-is-su / rubū šuātu i-qal-lil
šumma rubū narkabta irkab-ma ašāti ṣabit-ma / illūkšu ūlū kubussu išḫissu / rubû šuātu iqallil
If a prince rides a chariot holding the reins and his sumptuous(?) headdress or his insignia(?) headdress fall off, that prince will be discredited.
But CAD has some abnormally interesting stuff concerning iqallil, which I translated “(he) will be discredited,” and “earthquake” (râbu/rību). The semantic range of qalālu, much like it’s Hebrew cognate קלל, is normally taken to be more or less in the vicinity of “to become thin, weak, light, lose importance, become discredited.” But check this out from CAD’s (R, 322) entry on rību,
šumma iqallil pišeršu rību šû udēšu irtuab lumnu šû dullu ša rībi lēpušu
If (the omen’s apodosis says) “He will be discredited,” its explanation (can be) the earthquake alone, that signifies evil; let them perform the earthquake ritual. (ABL 355: r. 4ff)
CAD Q, 56, cites a few other texts that associate qalālu with râbu/rību in one way or another. I haven’t researched any of these texts but, for now, I trust CAD. In time I may check them out myself.
So how are we to take our omen? Is the prince/ruler discredited or will there be an earthquake or both? (Or did his hat fall off because of an earthquake?)
Does this affect how we understand a passage like Isaiah 8:18-23? In what is certainly a divination context (signs and portents), YHWH’s instructions Isaiah concerning those who consult ghosts and familiar spirits (דִּרְשׁוּ אֶל-הָאֹבוֹת וְאֶל-הַיִּדְּעֹנִים) we read in 8:21a-b,
And he shall go about it wretched and hungry; and when he is hungry, he shall rage and belittle (?,קִלֵּל) his king and his divine beings.
Shortly thereafter in 8:22, we read,
Or he looked below and behold,
Distress and darkness, with no daybreak;
Straitness and gloom, with no dawn.
This is a problematic passage and out of laziness and the desire to deflect blame, I follow the JPS translation. Do those words in anyway describe an earthquake or something associated with an earthquake? I’m not really sure but compare, if it is comparable, Isaiah 29:5-6,
And like fine dust shall be
The multitude of your strangers;
And like flying chaff,
The multitude of tyrants.
And suddenly, in an instant
He shall be remembered of the Lord of Hosts
With roaring (וּבְרַעַשׁ) and shaking, and deafening noise,
Storm, and tempest, and blaze of consuming fire.
Again I quote the JPS and for the same reasons given above. Back in March I wrote briefly about Ryan Roberts of UCLA’s paper at the Pacific Coast Regional SBL Meeting. As I said in that post, “Based on a Mesopotamian earthquake omen and witness reports of recent earthquakes, Ryan demonstrated that the expression ‘YHWH roars from Zion (Amos 1:2 and Joel 3:16 (4:16)’ refers to earthquakes. I say ‘demonstrated’ because I think that is exactly what he did.” It seems to me that Isaiah 29:6 is in line with Ryan’s discussion. For all I remember, he may have cited it in his paper. After the shaking and the noise, Isaiah adds, “Storm, and tempest, and blaze of consuming fire.” To my abnormal mind this is reminiscent of Isaiah, 8:22b and c, “Distress and darkness, with no daybreak; Straitness and gloom, with no dawn.”
Now all this discussion of Isaiah is no more than a wild speculation on my part. It needs a lot more work to even be turned into a working hypothesis. I think I will pursue it but not until August. My dance card is a little full just now. But I am interesting if any of you have thoughts (or bibliography) on the matter.
By the way, Tawil, 340, mentions both part of the Akkadian text that interprets iqallil in omen apodoses and Isaiah 8:21b. He does not include the part of the Akkadian text that specifically mentions earthquakes nor does he associate Hebrew קִלֵּל with earthquakes.
Oh yeah, if you’re interested in “headdress,” CAD K, 485, meaning 1b, will explain why I normalized and translated TÚG.NÍG.SAG.ÍL.SAR.NITA and TÚG.U+SAG the way I did.