Parallels to the Psalms in Near Eastern Literature -- By: Charles Lee Feinberg

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 104:415 (Jul 1947)
Article: Parallels to the Psalms in Near Eastern Literature
Author: Charles Lee Feinberg


Parallels to the Psalms in Near Eastern Literature

Charles Lee Feinberg

Many good examples of parallels to the Psalter in the hymns and songs of Babylonia and Egypt are to be found in G. A. Barton’s Archaeology and the Bible (1937 edition), in R. W. Rogers’ Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament, and in the essays of G. R. Driver on the Psalms in the light of Babylonian research and of A. M. Blackman on the Psalms in the light of Egyptian research in The Psalmists, edited by D. C. Simpson. The temptation is to give representative ones from each group, but we shall choose but two examples to illustrate the close resemblance between these hymns and songs and the Psalms of the Old Testament. In the matter of parallels we do well to heed the warning of Rogers. He rightly points out that the hymns and prayers of Babylonia and Assyria have at times been too highly esteemed, because they have so often been judged by extracts alone, by too short passages, which sometimes leave out qualifying contexts that set the examples in an altogether different light. Resemblances are at times misleading, and scholars, as we shall see later, differ widely in their adjudications of these products of the ancient Near East. One of the most famous of all the parallels is the hymn of Ikhnaton to the Sun-god.

Thou appearest in beauty on the horizon of heaven
Thou living Sun, the first to live.
Thou risest on the eastern horizon,
Suffusing all lands with thy beauty.
Glorious art thou, and mighty,

Shining on high o’er the lands;
Thy rays encircle the countries.
To the farthest limit of all thy creation;
Thou are Re reaching out to their uttermost border,
Subduing them for thy beloved son.
Far off art thou, yet thy beams touch the earth;
Thou art seen of man, but thy pathway they know not.

Thou settest in the western horizon,
And the earth becomes dark as death.
Men rest in their chambers,
With head enveloped, no eye sees aught.
Should their goods be taken that lie under their heads,
They would fail to perceive it.
The lion comes forth from his lair,
And the serpents bite.
Darkness rules, and the earth is still,
For he that made all rests in the horizon.
When the earth becomes light, thou risest on the horizon,
And, as the sun, dost illumine the day;
The darkness flees when thy rays thou dost spread;
The two lands rejoice,
They awake, stand up on their feet,
When thou hast raised them up;
They cleanse their bodies and clothe themselves
Their arms give praise, for thou hast appeared.
The whole earth goeth f...

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