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Ugaritic and the Psalms

Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:47 pm
by zadok
I have been reading WBC Psalms 1-50. The author makes a big fuss about Ugaritic being important. I don't mean to suggest that it is not important, but when I scan through his index of reference to Ugaritic, I can't find a single instance where usage of Ugaritic helps us. Each of the examples I looked at, he is basically rejecting that a particular word or verse is better understood by comparing with Ugaritic.

This leads me to wonder, are there any helpful examples?

Re: Ugaritic and the Psalms

Posted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 9:57 am
by Kirk Lowery
Zadok,

In general, Ugaritic studies help us:

1. To understand the Hebrew language (lexicon and syntax, especially). Many Hebrew "homonyms" were eventually revealed to be orthographically identical, but actually derived from different roots, the sounds of which were represented by the same Hebrew letter.

2. Religious texts give us the mythological background to Canaanite beliefs and practices.

3. Literary use of words, especially symbols and poetic usages, are often clarified or amplified by the Ugaritic texts. This is especially true of the Psalms, although one has to be careful of pushing parallels with Ugaritic too far. This is a matter of continuing debate.

The classic works on Ugaritic parallels to the Hebrew Bible are by L.R. Fisher:

http://iac.cgu.edu/uhpp.html

I've used his works a lot. Also Dahood's Anchor Bible commentary on the Psalms is considered a classic, although he's been criticized for trying to treat the Psalms as if they were themselves Ugaritic texts and not Hebrew. But you'll find a lot of proposals for interpreting the Psalms from a Ugaritic perspective.

These are enough to get you started. If you're interesting in further study, there's a ton of resources. Just look at the Wikipedia article for Ugaritic or google "ugaritic bibliography". If you want to go really hardcore, PM me and I'll point you to the standard works and bibliographies.

Hope this is helpful.

Re: Ugaritic and the Psalms

Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 12:59 am
by kwrandolph
zadok wrote:I have been reading WBC Psalms 1-50. The author makes a big fuss about Ugaritic being important. I don't mean to suggest that it is not important, but when I scan through his index of reference to Ugaritic, I can't find a single instance where usage of Ugaritic helps us. Each of the examples I looked at, he is basically rejecting that a particular word or verse is better understood by comparing with Ugaritic.

This leads me to wonder, are there any helpful examples?


I, too, would like to see actual examples, but I’m not willing to spend big bucks on a fishing expedition. Nor in my present circumstances do I have space to build a personal library.

From what I’ve been told, the Ugaritic texts give much detail about the Canaanite religion and idolatry that is repeatedly condemned by the prophets during the divided kingdom period.

There are three dates I have seen for the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II “the Great”, ca 1300 BC, ca 1000 BC and ca 600 BC. The historical and archaeological data I’ve seen indicates that the ca 600 BC is correct, that he was also the Pharaoh Necho who killed king Josiah. The reason that’s important in this discussion is because Ugarit was dated by findings that connected Ugarit with Pharaoh Ramessses II. That makes Ugaritic contemporaneous to the divided kingdom period of Israel. As such, it is a witness to Semitic language from before the Babylonian Exile.

One weakness as a witness for Hebrew is that Ugarit was a port city, while Hebrew was primarily spoken inland. I have seen other examples where port cities have more phones in their languages than inland areas, That alone can account for the larger number of letters in the Ugaritic alphabet than found in Hebrew—they split sounds into two or more that were originally a single sound. (The reason for the greater phonetic library in port cities can be attributed to trade with partners speaking different languages.)

I personally think that the finding of Ugarit and its language are vastly overrated for Biblical Hebrew studies.

Karl W. Randolph.