Monday, February 02, 2015

That undeserved curse again

Šamaš’s refusal to support Enkidu’s solicitation against Šamhat seems to have placed Enkidu in a dangerous position. An unsupported, free-floating curse could wreak havoc in other ways. Therefore, Enkidu must correct, or better yet, counterbalance his original malediction as promptly as possible. His reaction in lines 151–53 is most telling.
151 al-ki šam-[ḫa-at šim-ta-ki lu-nak-ki-ir]
152 pi-ia ša iz-[zu]-ru-ki li-tur lik-ru-ub-ki
153 ša-ak-ka-na-ak-ki u3 NUN.MEŠ li-ir-a-mu-ki

151 Come, Šam[hat, let me change the state of your existence]
152 May my statement which cursed you, return. May it bless you.
153 May governors and princes love you.

The specific use of the precative form of the verb litūr (târu) ‘return’ in line 152 is suggestive and reflects vocabulary identical to that found in curse commands of dissolution uttered by the great gods. Assessing the implications, it is clear that Enkidu requests that his curses return to their source. They are to come back to him. Nevertheless, this is insufficient. Enkidu must also counteract them with a blessing.

Enkidu’s reaction indicates the perilousness of cursing. Without Šamaš’s backing, Enkidu’s maledictions will go nowhere. His curses have no force, no energy, no power. Behind this impotence stands the judicial role of Šamaš. He reviewed Enkidu’s request and determined its unworthiness in the case of Šamhat. He then handed down his ruling and sustained his judgment by not activating the harm in Enkidu’s anathemas against the compassionate prostitute.— Cursed Are You!, pages 156–57

<idle musing>
Interesting thoughts, aren't they? So, we have here an undeserved curse that might boomerang back on Enkidu. He runs it around into a blessing, thus defusing it—and hopefully turning it into a blessing for himself, as well.

I'm still digesting what all this means for theology...hang on, because there's more to come tomorrow!
</idle musing>

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