Writing On ‘Sticks’

As some readers may remember, I suggested that the short cuneiform inscription on the ivory rod found at Tiryns was a personal or perhaps a geographical name. Dietrich and Loretz from one direction and Tropper and Vita from a couple of others directions differed from my suggestion.
In many ways Dietrich and Loretz’ suggestion is the most coherent in that it addresses the object and the inscription in a way that each informs the other. As I said in a previous post,

They take mš’al[t] to be comparable with Akkadian, máš’alu. Here they follow AHw, 623b, which renders the Akkadian “an oracle.” CAD, M 355, says the meaning is uncertain but refers us to Hebrew miš’ōl, “an area with a vineyard.” Other lexemes that Dietrich and Loretz propose for comparison are Old South Arabic ms1‘l, “oracle,” and Ethiopic mes’al “please.” They further direct us to Akkadian maš’āltu, “survey,” Hebrew miš’ālāh, “please,” and the Old / Royal Aramaic mš’lt,’ “interrogation.” Dietrich and Loretz note that the root of all these is likely Š’L “ask, explore.” On this basis and on the physical nature of the thing on which it is inscribed, they reasonably take the ivory cylinder to be a fragment of a[n] oracle stick.

They note Hosea 4:12a, עַמִּי בְּעֵצוֹ יִשְׁאָל וּמַקְלוֹ יַגִּיד לוֹ, “My people: It consults its sticks. Its rods direct it! (JPS)” as an interesting parallel.
Now for the new stuff. Chris Heard has launched an abnormally interesting series “The inspiration of scripture.” So far there are two posts in the series but more are threatened promised. In his second post Chris calls our attention to Ezekiel 37:16,

וְאַתָּה בֶן-אָדָם קַח-לְךָ עֵץ אֶחָד וּכְתֹב עָלָיו לִיהוּדָה וְלִבְנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל חֲבֵרָו וּלְקַח עֵץ אֶחָד וּכְתוֹב עָלָיו לְיוֹסֵף עֵץ אֶפְרַיִם וְכָל-בֵּית יִשְֹרָאֵל חֲבֵרָו חֲבֵרָיו

Which Chris the Common English Bible [see comment below] translates, “You, human one, take a stick, and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and to the Israelites associated with him.’ Take another stick and write on it, ‘Stick of Ephraim belonging to Joseph and everyone of the house of Israel associated with him’.”
Notice the use of עֵץ, ‘stick,’ here and in the Hosea passage. In Ezekiel the preposition ל plus various names are to be writing on the stick, “to Judah,” to the Israelites, “to Joseph and his house.” On the one hand, this seems to be vaguely supportive of my suggestion that the few letters on the Tiryns inscription might be a name of some kind. The fact that such a name is not preceded by the preposition l is a problem but not an insurmountable problem. On the other hand, the inscription on the second ‘stick’ in Ezekiel is to read “Stick of Ephraim belonging to Joseph and everyone of the house of Israel associated with him.” The Tiryns inscription is broken after only three and two thirds letters and Dietrich and Loretz may be correct in seeing the object as an oracle stick. In which case, we might understand mš’al[t] to mean “oracle [ivory]” with l plus some kind of name following it. Does all this also imply that עֵץ in Ezekiel 37:16ff means oracle stick?
I’m in the process of rewriting my paper on the Tiryns inscription in the light of Dietrich and Loretz and Tropper and Vita’s work. I found the Exekiel passage abnormally interesting. I’m not sure what if anything to make of it in the context of my paper, but that doesn’t keep it from being abnormally interesting.

Dietrich, Manfried and Ozwald Loretz, „Rhabdomantie im mykenischen Palast von Tiryns. Das Fragment eines kurz-keilalphabetisch beschrifteten Elfenbeinstabs (Ti 02 LXIII 34/91 VI d12.80 = KTU3 6.104),“ UF 42 (2010, published 2011), 142-159
Tropper, Josef and Juan-Pablo Vita, “Die keilaplhabetische Inschrift aus Tiryns,” UF 42 (2010, published 2011), 693-695

One thought on “Writing On ‘Sticks’”

  1. Just in the interests of “credit where credit is due,” please allow me to acknowledge that I quoted from the Common English Bible (which has the same initials as Chris’s English Bible, so I understand the confusion).

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