Ludlul Bel Nemeqi and/as Revelation

Document Type

Conference Presentation


Religious Studies

Conference Title

Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting


Society of Biblical Literature


Atlanta, GA

Conference Dates

November 21-24, 2015

Date of Presentation

Fall 11-24-2015


This paper explores revelation in the Babylonian poem Ludlul Bel Nemeqi ("The Babylonian Job") with a focus on negative and malevolent revelation. Negative revelation refers to receiving an evil omen through divinely-sanctioned means such as divination, or to not receiving a legitimately requested sign. Malevolent revelation is receiving a sign from demonic or other supra-human forces that is manifest in negative, often bodily, effects upon the receiver. These types of revelation play a major role in the sufferer's plight in the first two tablets of the Babylonian poem. The remainder of the poem recounts the sufferer's recovery and includes several revelatory or revelatory-related elements: three mantic dreams, the expulsion of demonic illness, and the reception of a favorable sign at a temple gate. Since the sufferer (the implied author) narrates his poem retrospectively in the first person, the poem reads like an autobiography of religious experience. Given that the narrator relates and interprets his extraordinary experiences so confidently and with the intent to teach others about the merciful nature of Marduk, Babylon's god, the poem as a whole may be considered a revelation in some sense. Thus, the poem problematizes any simple distinction between sapiential observation of human experience and the reception/interpretation of supra-human revelation.

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