Mari Propecies

paraphrased by Alan Humm from the translation of

William Moran

These are not new translations . They simply represent smoothed over English reworkings of the work of William Moran in ANET (version with Supplement, pp. 623-625 and 629-632). All to the translational scholarship is his. Notes are mine (although informed by his). Individual letters are in all but one case, labeled ARM X.xx. This refers to the location in Archives Royales de Mari, Textes cuneiforms, followed by volume and number. Unfortunately, html does not permit macrons unless I go to UTF-8, which I would rather not in this case, so I have substituted the tilde in the few places where it was needed (transliterations of Akkadian words). For the same reason, I have used the Cyrillic letter  instead of the hooked h, in part also due to its similar sound.
Moran, William, trans. (1969). Divine Revelations. In James B. Pritchard (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern texts: Relating to the Old Testament. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
Please report errors to me (link at end of page). -Alan Humm
Notes: All of these come from the Mari archives, during the reign of Zimri-Lim (1775 to 1761 BC). A common feature of these passages is the use of the hair and fringe of the intermediary. The fringe, in all likelihood came from the rope of the intermediary’s [1] personal seal. Both were used in a divinatory process to verify the message, although exactly how that worked, we do not know. It may have involved using them, somehow, in the entrail-reading of a sacrificial animal, or the hair, in particular, could have been scattered in a process similar to tea-leaf-reading.
There are four primary types of intermediary in these texts: the dreamer, the muħħûm, for which I have used the term ‘prophet,’ the ãpilum which I call an ‘ecstatic,’ and the qamatum, or ‘seer’ in these ‘translations.’ Dreams are self-explanatory (although they may feature one of the other types). A muħħûm is an intermediary of some unspecified variety. The psychological nature of his or her prophetic state is not clear. An ãpilum (the larger context has some other morphologically similar words [2] ), literally means ‘responder.’ I am actually reversing Moran’s usage (he used ecstatic for muħħûm, and just transliterated ãpilum) [3] Intermediary activity can take a number of forms, from dissociative behavior to something approaching what we would simply call, ‘inspiration.’ But one difference that I have seen in these examples is that the ãpilum speaks in the first person of the deity (“Am I not Adad”) where the muħħûm is more likely to say, “The god said, ‘blah, blah’”). This (former) is very consistent with mediumistic behavior, although not exclusive to it. While ecstatic is often used for all varieties of intermediary behavior in scholarly literature, it literally (etymologically) refers to someone standing aside from themselves (while the deity takes over). So that is the reason behind my choice to invert the terms. For the qamatum, we have only the one example (the last in this collection). In this case she speaks in the first person of the deity, like the ãpilum (ecstatic), but one example may not be enough to make a generality. The use of the term ‘seer’ should not be taken to suggest that I think their oracles are based on visions. Divination, as I use the term refers to the obtaining of messages by interpreting pseudo-random phenomenon (like cards or star patterns). In these texts it usually refers to the reading of the entrails of sacrificial animals. Contrary to some uses, I would not include possession or necromancy under the category of divination.
For a fuller discussion of categories of non-ordinary intermediary experience see my book, The Psychology of prophecy in early Christianity, Piscataway, NJ : Gorgias Press, 2009.


Itur-Asdu to Zimri-Lim

Itur-Asdu, your servant says this to my lord:
Just before sending this tablet to you, Malik-Dagan from Shakka came and said to me, “In a dream, I was planning to go with another man from Sagaratum, in the upper district, to Mari. On the way I came to Terqa, where I went into the temple of Dagan and bowed down. As I was bowing, Dagan asked me, ‘Did the Yaminite kings and armies settle matters with Zimri-Lim’s army, who moved into the area?’
“‘They did not settle matters,’ I told him.
“As I was about to leave he asked, ‘Why doesn’t Zimri-Lim send messengers and report to me? If he had done this I would have given the Yaminite kings into his power long ago. So, go and tell Zimri-Lim, “Send messengers and report, and I will arrange for the Yaminite kings to be roasted on a stick, and set in front of you.”’”
This is what the man told me he had seen in his dream, so I am now writing to you. You should respond to the dream. If you want then, you should give your report to Dagan, such that your messengers will be all the time visiting him. The man who told me his dream was on his way to offer a pagrum-sacrifice to Dagan, so I did not send him to you. Also, I know him to be trustworthy, so I did not require any hair from him, or a fringe of his seal.

Kibri-Dagan to Zimri-Lim

ARM 13.112
Kibri-Dagan, your servant says this to my lord:
<The statues of> Dagan and Ikrub-El are safe. The city and district of Terqa are safe….[~6 lines]….This is the dream he saw: “You are not to rebuild this abandoned house. If you do, I will make it collapse into the river.”
He did not say anything to anyone when he first saw this, until the next day when he had this dream: “A god was saying, ‘You must not rebuild this house. If you do, I will make it collapse into the river.’”
So I am now sending to you the fringe of his seal and a lock of his hair. He has been ill ever since.

Another dream

ARM 13.113
…. In addition, a man told me a dream: ?? thousand men…in the walled cities of Mari, Terqa and Sagaratum….[~3 lines]….He then repeated his dream, and put it on me to, “Write to the king.” So I am writing to you, my lord.

muħħûm prophets

Regarding Babylon

ARM 13.114
….[~5 lines]…. The same day I was getting ready to send this tablet to you, a married woman came to me just before sundown and gave me news about Babylon: “Dagan sent me, so write to your lord: He need not worry, not ever. Hammurabi, king of Babylon…” [rest of tablet not legible]

Offerings for the dead

ARM 3.40
The same day I was getting ready to send this tablet to you, a prophet came and told me, “The god sent me! Hurry and inform the king that they need to make food offerings for the spirit [4] of Yahdum-Lim.” [5] The intermediary told me this, so I am passing it on to you. Do as you please.

An overworked manager

ARM 3.78
I have done my job seeing to the district barley harvest, and getting it into the barns. In addition, while I was also working on the new gate a prophet came by, today before sending this tablet to my lord. He told me, unconditionally, “If you don’t finish the gate, there will be lamentation. More workers are needed!” This is what the prophet told me, but I am also concerned about the harvest. I do not know which way to turn. What if you were to tell me….

Let the sacrifice go on

ARM 2.90
The same day I was getting ready to send this tablet to you, Dagan’s [prophet] [6] told me, “Dagan sent me to have you write to your lord regarding the sacrifice for the dead on the fourteenth of next month. It is imperative that it go forward.” This is what I was told, so I am writing to you as instructed. My lord should do whatever seems right to him.

Shibtu to Zimri-Lim: Campaign against Ishme-Dagan

ARM 10.4
Shibtu, your servant-girl says this to my lord:
I inquired of a man and a woman for (a prophetic) message about the campaign you are waging. The message was good. I also asked about Ishme-Dagan [7] and the news was not so good for him. The prophecy said that he has been placed under your foot. They said, “My lord has lifted the ħumã¡um [8] Against Isme-Dagan, and said, ‘I will defeat you with the ħumã¡um . Or, wrestle me and I will beat you at that.’”
So I asked, “Is my lord going into battle?”
They replied, “There will be no battle. Just as they are arriving, his auxiliaries will rebel; they will decapitate Ishme-Dagan and put his head under my lord’s foot. [9] You may wonder, ‘Ishme-Dagan has a large force, can it be that his auxiliaries will scatter on my arrival? They already have my own auxiliaries hemmed in.’ But Dagan, Adad, Itur-Mer, and Belet-ekallim are marching beside you, and Adad will determine what happens. But you should not say to yourself, ‘I will defeat them by my own military strength.’”
I am not putting words in their mouths. They said this themselves, and they are in agreement. They said, “Isme-Dagan’s auxiliaries consist of captives. They are always giving him [trouble]. They do not obey…; they will scatter before my lord.”

Shibtu to Zimri-Lim: The man who will fail

ARM 10.6
Shibtu, your servant-girl says this to my lord:
All is well at the temple. Ili-khasnaya, the temple …-player [10] came into the Annunitum temple and … about the man of … the goddess has sent him to you. She said, “I…”…
rev. I inquired and found out that this man is making plans for our land, but will not be successful. You will see how the goddess deals with him; you will defeat him, and he will fail. It will not be long before he dies; you should know this.
Before Annunitum’s prophecy through Ili-khasnaya on the fifth [of the month] I had made my own inquiry, which agreed with’s message.

ãpilum class ‘ecstatics’

Demand for a temple

Ad. Lods in Rowley, H.H., Studies in Old Testament prophecy. Presented to Theodore H. Robinson on his sixty-fifth birthday, August 9th, 1946.
…. As far as the zukrum and the cattle are concerned (the ones which Abi-… demanded when Zu-Hadnim was there, saying “Turn over the zukrum and the cattle”), my lord told me to turn them over in front of the chieftains. But I am also to tell them not to back out of any deals in the future. There were witnesses, which you should know.
At the time when the omens [11] are evaluated, Adad, lord of Kallassu, spoke: “Am I not Adad, lord of Kallasu, who reared him myself and reestablished him on his ancestors’ throne. After that, I gave a palace. Now that I have reestablished him on his ancestors’ throne, he should give me my own permanent place. If he does not, I who am lord of throne, land, and city will take back what I have given. But if he gives me what I ask, I will grant him throne after throne, house after house, land after land, and city after city; I will grant even the territory from the east to the west.” This is what the ecstatics said. They are always showing up at the omen-evaluations, [12] And now you should be aware that the ecstatic of Adad, lord of Kallissu, is treating Alahtum’s threshing-floor as the (hoped-for) “permanent place.”
When I used to live in Mari, I reported all the words of the ecstatics and ecstatists [13] [14] said. Now I live in another country, but should I not still tell you what they say? If something bad were to happen down the line, you would ask me, “Why did you refrain from telling me what the ecstatic said, or that he was guarding the threshing-floor?” So I have written, and told you what you should know.
In addition, Adad, lord of Halab’s [Aleppo] ecstatic addressed Abu-Halum, saying, “Write to your lord…” … “…from the east to the west, I will give him.” My lord should know that this is what Adad, lord of Halab, said while Abu-Halum was present.

Against Babylon

ARM 13.23
Mukannishum, your servant says this to my lord:
I had just offered a sacrifice to Dagan for your life, when [15] Dagan of Tutul’s ecstatic got up and said, “O Babylon! How are you to be handled? I will trap you in a net… I will hand you and your allies over to Zimri-Lim, along with everything you have.” Then Dagan [of Tutul’s [16] ] ecstatic … said, “…[remainder destroyed]

Shibtu to Zimri-Lim: Rebels

ARM 10.7
Shibtu, your servant-girl says this to my lord: All is well at the temple. On the third [of the month] Shelebum went into a trance in which Annunitum said, “Zimri-Lim, you will be tested with a revolt, so watch yourself. Surround yourself with people you can trust. Let them watch out for you, and don’t go out alone. I will deliver these rebels into your power.”
I have sent along the hair and fringe of the temple-player.

Shibtu to Zimri-Lim: You snubbed me, I embrace you

ARM 10.8
Shibtu, your servant-girl says this to my lord:
In the city’s Annunitum temple, Dagan-malik’s servant, Akhatum, went into a trance and said, “Zimri-Lim, even though you have snubbed me, I will embrace you. I will give your enemies into your power, and will deliver Sharrakiya’s men into the destructive hands of Belet-ekallim.”
The next day the priest Akhum reported this, and brought me his hair and fringe. So I am letting you know, my lord, and sending the hair and fringe along as well.

Shibtu to Zimri-Lim: The two transports

ARM 10.10
Shibtu, your servant-girl says this to my lord:
All is well with the temples, the (statues of the) gods, the palace and the workshops. In the temple of Itur-Mer, Kakkalidi had a vision: The river was being blocked by two large transports, loaded with the king and his soldiers. People on the right and left bank were shouting, “Kinship, scepter, and throne, the upper and lower regions have been given to Zimri-Lim.” Then every one of the soldiers replied, “They have been given to Zimri-Lim alone.” The transports to the palace-gate….

Addu-duri to Zimri-Lim: The two disturbing dreams

ARM 10.50
Addu-duri, your servant-girl says this to my lord:
I have not had this dream since the restoration of your father’s dynasty, but this is what I used to see: In the dream I would be coming into the temple of Belet-ekallim in the evening, and find that, not only hers, but the lesser statues as well, were gone, so I began to cry. In another dream, Ishtar-pishra’s priest, Dada, was serving in the gate of Belet-ekallim, and an eery voice kept repeating, “Dagan, come back! Dagan, come back!” While it was still repeating, a prophet from Annunitum’s temple said, “Zimri-Lim, do not leave on a journey, stay in Mari, then I can watch out for you.” So, my lord, you must not be remiss in protecting yourself. I am sealing my own hair and fringe and sending them to you.

Addu-duri to Zimri-Lim: Protect yourself!

ARM 10.51
Addu-duri, your servant-girl says this to my lord:
Itur-Mer’s priest, Iddin-ili, had a dream. This is what he said: “Belet-biri came up to me and told me, ‘His reign is dirumtum; dominion is his perpetually. So why is he constantly going to the family-sepulchre? He needs to protect himself!’” My lord, you must not be remiss in protecting yourself.

Sibatum to Zimri-Lim: Call for the girl!

ARM 10.94
Sibatum, your servant-girl says this to my lord the star:
[first side badly damaged. Reverse:] The dream went like this: A man from … came up and said, “Call for the girl, the daughter of … pahim… Tagidnate.” That is what he told me, so have some entrails read and find out if this dream is reliable. If so, you should call for the girl. May your health…

...nana to Zimri-Lim: Looking for Kukkimkhiya

ARM 10.100
...nana, your servant-girl says this to my lord the star:
While I was living in Ganibatum, I sent Kukkimkhiya to Rubben, but on the way she was abducted. Your lord, Dagan, protected me, though, and I have not been touched. Dagan asked me, “Did you take the high road or the low road? [17]
“The low,” I said, “and I arrived here but did not find my girl. When my lord went to Andariq, I saw an exact likeness of my girl with Sammetar, so I approached him and he consented, [18] but broke his promise, and did not return her.”
Dagan replied, “Zimri-Lim will have to free your girl, otherwise no one will let her go.” So, in order to avoid Dagan’s anger, my lord, you must not detain the girl.

Timlu to Addu-duri: A dream about you

ARM 10.117
Timlu, your servant-girl, says this to my mistress Addu-duri:
It is probably significant that when…[lines missing]
Yar’ib-Abba kicked me of Kaspa [19] then I came and told you, “I had a dream about you. In the dream Annum… [20]

Shibtu to Zimri-Lim: The gods swear

ARM 10.9
Shibtu, your servant-girl, says this to my lord:
All is well with the palace. On the second [of the month], Diritum’s ecstatic, Qishti-Dirtim, came to the palace-gate and delivered this message: “No one before the throne of Mari… Ala’ B;tum has been given to Zimri-Lim. The spear…” That is the message he sent.
rev. He spoke to Ea. I could not hear what Asumum said to Ea. He got up and said, “Before taking the oath, we need to take the dirt and door-frame from the Mari’s gate …, then we can take the oath.” So they took the dirt and door-frame from Mari’s gate, dissolved them in water, [21] and both gods and goddesses drank it. Ea said, “Swear that you will not harm the masonry or the commissioner of Mari.” They all swore, “We will not harm the masonry or the commissioner of Mari.”

Addu-duri to Zimri-Lim: Only those loyal

ARM 10.53
Addu-duri, your servant-girl, says this to my lord:
An ecstatic named Itsi-aku showed up in Khishametum’s temple and said, “Only those loyal to you will be able to eat your meat [22] and drink from your cup…. Your enemies will be… I have trampled them myself.”

Inibshina to Zimri-Lim: Sharrikiya given to its enemies

ARM 10.81
Inibshina, [23] says this to the Star:
The ecstatic, Innibana, got up and said, “Zimri-Lim, I will give the city of Sharrikiya to its enemies who are surrounding it. Here are my hair and fringe, I am to be released from any legal claims.” [24] I am passing on the hair and fringe to the Star. The Star should have this verified with omens, [25] and be protecting himself.

qamatum ‘seers’

Inibshina to Zimri-Lim: Peace overtures are a ruse

ARM 10.80
Inibshina, says this to the Star:
I wrote to you earlier about an oracle given me by Shelebum the temple-player. Now Dagan of Terqa’s seer [26] came and said, “The man of Eshnnna’s peace overtures are a ruse, <as in the proverb>: ‘The water flows under the <floating> straw.’ But I am going to catch him in strong net; I will destroy his city and his land, which has stood since ancient times.” That is what she told me, so protect yourself. Do not go into the city without a good omen. I have heard that he keeps moving around. You should not keep moving around.


[1] An intermediary is a person who speaks for a god(ess).

[2] Others include aplûm and ãpiltum

[3] Sadly, he abandons this useful, if, in my opinion skewed, pattern in his appendix based on ARM vol. 10.

[4] Moran has shade. We would say soul or spirit, but it is not clear how close our concept is to theirs.

[5] Yahdum-Lim was the founder of Zimri-Lim’s dynasty.

[6] Assuming it is the same word (muħħûm) used in the last two passages (it is missing or unreadable—hence the brackets. Moran seems to agree, but admits that it could be an ãpilum. It should be clear from my introductory remarks why I prefer muħħûm here.

[7] King of Assyria.

[8] probably some sort of weapon or staff.

[9] In a context like this, decapitation can be literal, but more likely figurative.

[10] A connection between temple musicians and prophecy can be seen in Chronicles as well.

[11] Or, perhaps, visions. Omens would generally be of the entrail-reading variety.

[12] Of course, omen-evaluation (a type of divination) is also intermediary activity, but of a very different variety. If this does mean vision-evaluation (less likely), well, that too.

[13] The two words differ by only one letter (ãpilum and ãpiltum), and there is no way we can distinguish them given what we (don’t) know. But apparently the author of this tablet did not see them as synomyms. I chose the term ecstatist because although it is not a real English word, anyone who knows English (or at least any who has read my introductory comments, above)

[14] would know what it means.

[15] apl�E2;m is another member of the ãpilum group, whose root is the same, but whose meaning we are no longer able to distinguish from the others.

[16] Conjecture, of course, this could have been some other Dagan (we have met several so far).

[17] Like the song; in other words, into the hills or down to the river area. They were clearly not journeying together, but ‘…nana’ thinks it very providential that she was not also taken. Perhaps she was taking the same journey to Rubben in search of her girl. Speculation, of course.

[18] e.g., promised to return her, I assume; saw an exact likeness could suggest either a vision, or that she saw someone that looked like her with the real Sammetar.

[19] A town north of Mari.

[20] Moran points out that this is the name of a god, but could also be “theophoric element” of a personal name.

[21] Moran makes the somewhat self-evident observation that they did not dissolve the door-frame. I am inclined to wonder whether it was not the door-frame at all, but rather something like the dust from it.

[22] Lit. ram.

[23] Zimri-Lim’s priestess-daughter.

[24] What legal claims these are is not clear to me.

[25] See the introductory notes for use of hair/fringe in oracle-verification.

[26] qamatum. See the introductory notes.

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