The Assyrian Tree of Life: Tracing the Origins of Jewish Monotheism and Greek Philosophy Author(s): Simo Parpola

Source: Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 52, No. 3 (Jul., 1993), pp. 161-208 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/545436 Accessed: 06/05/2010 14:25
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THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE: TRACING THE ORIGINS OF JEWISH MONOTHEISM AND GREEK PHILOSOPHY*
SIMO PARPOLA, University of Helsinki

I. INTRODUCTION

stylized tree with obvious religious significance already occurs as an art motif in fourth-millennium Mesopotamia, and, by the second millennium B.C., it is found everywhere within the orbit of the ancient Near Eastern oikumene, including Egypt, Greece, and the Indus civilization.' The meaning of the motif is not clear,2 but its overall composition strikingly recalls the Tree of Life of later Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist art.3The question of whether the concept of the Tree of Life actually existed in ancient Mesopotamia has been debated, however,4 and thus many scholars today prefer the more neutral term "sacred tree" when referring to the Mesopotamian Tree.5

A

* The substance of this paper was presented at the XXXIX Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale in Heidelberg, 8 July 1992. The present version has benefited from oral comments received later from T. Abusch, Farouk al-Rawi, J. C. Greenfield, W. G. Lambert, J. Reade, M. Weinfeld, and D. Weisberg; the responsibility for all the interpretationsand errors remains, however, entirely mine. I apologize for the massive footnote apparatus, which was unavoidable in order to provide the necessary documentation and background information; those who find it disturbing are advised to skip the notes and to read the text first. Most abbreviations are those of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary and R. Borger's Handbuch der Keilschriftliteratur (Berlin and New York, 1975). 1 For a general survey of the distribution of the motif see the typological study of H. York, "Heiliger Baum," in RIA, vol. 4, pp. 269-80, with the bibliography of earlier studies, ibid., pp. 280 ff.; see also C. Kepinski, L'Arbre stylise en Asie occidentale au 2e millenaire avant J.-C. (Paris, 1982). The Harappan forms of the Tree, attested in pottery, glyptic, and script since 2400 B.C., display Proto-Elamite and Akkadian influence. The earliest Egyptian examples date from the sixteenth century and reveal an affinity with contemporary Babylonian forms (see Kepinski, [JNES 52 no. 3 (1993)] ? 1993 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0022-2968/93/5203-0001 $ 1.00

L'Arbrestylise, vol. 3, nos. 924-36); they appear to represent an import from the Levant connected with the Hyksos invasion and Egypt's expansion under Tuthmosis I, as also indicated by the Osiris myth explicitly associating the Tree with the city of Byblos. The earliest Greek examples (ibid., nos. 891-94), from the fifteenth century, are even more pronouncedly Babylonian. 2 See n. 26 below. 3 For examples, see Roger Cook, The Tree of Life: Image for the Cosmos (London, 1978), passim (for example, pl. 46, The Great Cross of the Lateran, early Christian, with confronted animals; pl. 49, Christ on the Tree of Life, by Pacino da Bonaguido, early fourteenth century; pl. 47, Tree of Life with confronted centaurs, Saracen Mosaic at Palermo, twelfth century; pl. 52, Menorah as Tree of Life, Hebrew Bible, Perpignan, 1299; pl. 19, Tree of Life and Knowledge flanked by two bulls, India, Vigayanagar period, 1336-1546). See also H. Schmokel, "Ziegen am Lebensbaum,"AfO 18 (1957-58): 373 ff. 4 See most recently A. Sjoberg, "Eve and the Chameleon," in W. Boyd Barrick and John R. Spencer, eds., In the Shelter of Elyon: Essays on Ancient Palestinian Life and Literaturein Honor of G. W.Ahlstrom, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series 31 (Sheffield, 1984), pp. 219 ff. 5 Cf. H. Danthine, Le Palmier-dattier et les arbres sacredsdans l'iconographie de l'Asie occidentale ancienne (Paris, 1937), p. 212; J. Reade, Assyrian Sculpture (London, 1983), p. 27.

161

162

JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES

winged disk

tail

/(

ctreamer

co

e
rown trunk palmette--K -ruit

pomegranate

icket garland base FIG.1.-Structural elements of the Assyrian Tree Motif

j

FIG.2.-Triadic configurations of Nodes, Volutes, and Circles

THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE

163

About the middle of the second millennium, a new development in the iconography of the Tree becomes noticeable leading to the emergence of the so-called Late Assyrian Tree under Tukulti-Ninurta I.6 With the rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, this form of the Tree spreads throughout the entire Near East7 and continues to be seen down to the end of the first millennium.8 Its importance for imperial ideology is borne out by its appearance on royal garments9and jewelry,10 official seals,11and the wall paintings12and sculptures of royal palaces, as in the throneroom of AshurnasirpalII in Calah, where it is the central motif.'3 The hundreds of available specimens of the Late Assyrian Tree exhibit a great deal of individual variation (see Appendix A, pp. 200-201 below) reflecting the fact that the motif and most of its iconography were inherited from earlier periods.14Nevertheless,

6 This form of the Tree is principally characterized by the "garland"of cones, pomegranates, or palmettes surroundingits crown and/or trunk. Its formal development through the Middle Assyrian period can be traced from dated seal impressions and datable seals; see the studies of Moortgat and Beran in ZA 47 (1941), 48 (1944), and 52 (1957). The earliest examples which can be dated with certainty are a seal impression in a text (KAJ 144) dated in the eponymy of Tukulti-Ninurta (1243 B.c.; for the impression, see ZA 47, p. 77), two ivories from this king's palace at Assur (Kepinski, L'Arbrestylise, vol. 3, nos. 414 f.), and the wall paintings of Kar Tukulti-Ninurta (ibid., nos. 448 f.; see W. Andrae, Farbige Keramik aus Assur [Berlin, 1923], pls. 2 f.). An uninscribed seal of unknown provenance (Collection de Clercq, 342bis) containing a precursor of the Assyrian Tree is usually dated to the late fourteenth century on stylistic grounds (see Beran, ZA 52, p. 160, fig. 31); note also the seal impression in KAJ 247 (ibid., fig. 30, from a fourteenth-centuryarchive). 7 See, for example, Danthine, Palmier-dattier, figs. 373 (Cyprus), 472 (Byblos), 487 (Nerab near Aleppo), 499 (Susa), 802 (Gezer), 927 (Naukratis), 930 (Egypt); F. Han6ar, "Das urartaische Lebensbaummotiv," Iranica Antiqua 6 (1966): pl. 22:1 (Adilcevaz, north of Lake Van). 8 See, for example, Danthine, Palmier-dattier, figs. 807 (Neo-Babylonian), 188, 459, 466, 473, 496 (Achaemenid), 186 (Parthian), 302 (Sasanian). 9 See A. H. Layard, Monuments of Nineveh (London, 1849), pls. 5 and 6b (garment of Ashurnasirpal II; see also J. V. Canby, "Decorated Garments in Ashurnasirpal'sSculpture,"Iraq 33 [1971]: 31 ff., pls. XVIII f.); E. Strommenger and M. Hirmer, The Art of Mesopotamia (London, 1964), pls. 251 and 254; see also SAA 7 pl. 27 (garment of Assurbanipal). Note also the Assyrianizing trees in the garments of Marduk-nadin-ahhe (1099-1082) and Nabi-mukinapli (978-943), BBSt., pls. 54 and 74 (cf. Danthine, Palmier-dattier, figs. 417, 462, and 511). 10 For example, the "Nimrud jewel" found in the grave of a princess (M. E. L. Mallowan, Nimrud and

Its Remains, vol. 1 [London, 1966], fig. 58) and the ivory handle of a fly wisk from the Northwest Palace at Nimrud (ibid., fig. 85). 1 For example, the seal of Minu-epus-ana-ili, the chief of granaries (D. Collon, First Impressions [London, 1988], fig. 345). 12 Note, in addition to the wall paintings of Kar Tukulti-Ninurta (see n. 6 above), the glazed-brick panel of Shalmaneser III from Nimrud restored by Reade, "A Glazed-Brick Panel from Nimrud," Iraq 25 (1963): 38-47 and pl. 9 (also Mallowan, Nimrud, vol. 2, fig. 373; color photograph in W. Orthmann, Der alte Orient, Propylaen Kunstgeschichte, vol. 18 [Frankfurt,1988], pl. 19). 13 See J. Meuszynski, Die Rekonstruktionder Reliefdarstellungen und ihrer Anordnung im Nordwestpalast von Kalhu (Nimrud), Baghdader Forschungen 2 (Mainz am Rhein, 1981), and Irene J. Winter, "The Program of the Throneroom of Ashurnasirpal II," in Prudence O. Harper and Holly Pittman, eds., Essays on Near Eastern Art and Archaeology in Honor of Charles Kyrle Wilkinson (New York, 1983), pp. 1532. For the Tree of Sargon II's palace at Khorsabad, see P. E. Botta and E. Flandin, Monument de Ninive (Paris, 1849-50), vol. 1, pl. 80, and vol. 2, pls. 116, 119, 139, and 144. 14 The pre-Assyrian Tree already was a complex motif subject to considerable detail variation in its component elements; by mixing the traditional elements with Assyrian innovations, one could, in principle, produce an unlimited number of tree variants. Nevertheless, considering the predominantly schematic nature of most Neo-Assyrian representations, the extent of attested variation is surprising. As observed by Reade, Iraq 27 (1965): 126 f., "so far as can be ascertained, no two full-size trees [in the palace of Ashurnasirpal II] were identical"; the same applies to the hundreds of examples on seals, disregarding obviously mass-produced items. Thus it does seem that there was a conscious effort to make every representation of the Tree look different. See also n. 63 below.

33. 2). secondarily. see above and. and. 2). 6 with n. 1990]. pine ("immortality. and de Vries.). and 198 below. The fringe would thus have served to stress the underlying unity of the design enclosed by it. 24) and in the iconography of the winged disk and the trunk (n. but as Farouk al-Rawi informs me (oral communication). note that trees flanked by the king never have four nodes and that the extra node may lack the customary volutes (see. Reliefs from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II. it is impossible to give a universally valid. 192-93. pls. "regeneration and resurrection" (J. 23 In the sculptures of AshurnasirpalII. rock. see also A. Note that both pomegranate and pinecone carry similar symbolic meanings. or stone block. 105.23 Antithetically posed animal. 11. 34. 26. 20 below). 17 above). selfrenewal. In Christian symbolism. 1). 17. in some variants. and 84 [three nodes. On the meaning of the circles and volutes. a disk. longevity. fig. In some representations. 66 below). 69. while the middle node was more consistently retained. six circles]. middle. de Vries. 70. these include the winged disk hovering above the Tree (see n. the trunk regularly has joints or nodes at its top. and rendition of the lines can vary considerably. with the seeds as its many members" and. Baldock. or supernaturalfigures usually flank the 15 Apart from the surroundingnetwork already referred to in n.16it consists of a trunk17 on the stone base19and surroundedby a network of horizontal palmette crown'8 standing or intersecting lines20fringed with palmettes. pls. they could be reduced to mere lines. Dictionary. 28. 25 below. p. s. 1974). these circles are embedded in the loops of the volutes emerging from the nodes and thus are clearly associated with the latter in a triadic arrangement. 98. 187 with n. 17 In elaborate renderings. 96.. victory"). The systematic introduction of these features is clearly not a matter of style but. These additional elements must not be confused with the volutes emerging from the nodes. see pp. 12b. 13 and 59. the one given here is an abstraction combining the most typical features of the Neo-Assyrian representations of the Tree. see n. 2The standard number of nodes is three per trunk. indicates a profound change in the symbolism of the Tree (see also n. but its place is then taken by the lowermost joint of the trunk. 16 In view of the great number of variants. note the different vertical alignment of their loops in Stearns. vol. Stearns.21In more elaborate renditions. pp. a universal symbol of regeneration. 3. additional volute pairs appear in the empty spaces between the nodes (ibid. they resemble streams of water. 18. while in the reliefs of Sargon II and contemporary seals they resemble interlacing cords in a net. AfO Beiheft 15 [Graz. p. This is suggested by the fact that the position of the cones and pomegranates in the fringe could be taken by palmettes. There are normally two circles per node. in Iraq pinecones and pomegranates are traditionally symbols of unity. King of the World. the pomegranate represents "multiplicity in unity as the Church. patterning. pinecones. and base22 and a corresponding number of small circles to the right and left of the trunk (fig. pls. however. RIA. 9. the entire trunk could consist of three superimposed nodes only. It can also be omitted altogether. they effectively reduce the tree to an integral part of a larger whole. 75. for example. direction. p. pls. 55 below. the trunk is occasionally divided by vertical striae into three parallel columns. For the four-noded trunk occurring as a variant of the standard three-noded trunk in the reliefs of Ashurnasirpal II. compact description of the Tree. 626).164 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES its characteristic features15stand out even in the crudest examples and make it generally with a easy to distinguish it from its predecessors. and see also fig. Elements. one on each side of the tree (see J. 180. netherworld). 73. The Elements of Christian Symbolism [London. 81. . for the latter. 78. 13. fertility-growth and resurrection"). 1961]. p. 52 and pp. 20 The number. 21 Hitherto commonly taken as fertility symbols (cf. eight circles]). 59. and victory over death (see Baldock. It may.v. 31. 188-89 below. Essentially. and 80 [four nodes. 371 ("unity in multiplicity. 6 (see further n. 63 on the significance of these variants. In trees with an elaborate crown and base the top and bottom nodes could be omitted as superfluous. see n. On the symbolism of the line network. de Vries. Paley. This tripartite trunk may correspond to the three-stemmed tree of some representations (see Appendix A). elsewhere. human. They are usually depicted as three superimposed horizontal bands holding together the threecolumned trunk (see n. 367. 40. or a wheel. 22). On the symbolic meaning of the base (material world. p. In the reliefs of Ashurnasirpal II. 57. have had other connotations as well. fig. second node from top). 19 The base is usually represented as a mountain. 25) and significant changes in the inventory of the flanking figures (n. Dictionary. In each case. concord. they recall rungs in a ladder (see n. 18 Occasionally the palmette crown can take the form of a flower. 7. Reliefs. rather. see Appendix A. p. see n. 108). 356 f. Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery (Amsterdam. and cf. or pomegranates (fig. 98). and 65.

G. Neither the mirror-imaged king nor the mythical sages are attested as flanking figures before the emergence of the Lake Assyrian Tree. Hence the volute with its loops seems to be an icon for the gods accompanying the central figure. see also de Vries. does not deal with the meaning of the motif. p. often extended to enclose the tree. and a volute on its top. apodictic statements about the meaning of the Tree are carefully avoided in recent studies. see W. 98. a feathered tail. Saggs. On some seals. 71) suggests that "the meaning of the tree was as changed as its form and that its precise intent . F. Roaf. gazelles. It should be noted that the triad of gods and the volute on top of the disk are in complementary distribution: whenever the former appears. the royal figure could be replaced by that of the private individual). but also with regeneration (the ibex specifically with Ea. 25 The association of disk and tree already occurs in Mitannian art. where their place is largely taken by various kinds of protective genies and/or the king. and nodes on the trunk (see n." BSOAS 48 (1985): 438 f. the latter is lacking. Cf. 279. H." RA 37 (1940-41): 160. and why was it chosen as an imperial symbol? There is considerable literature on this question. The god in the disk regularly raises his right hand in benediction and may hold a bow in his left hand. in some representations. 235. pp. RIA. mostly depicted in the act of sprinkling the king and/or the Tree with holy water. 201-2 below). though there appears to be a general consensus among experts that it was related to fertility. Elements p. 234 f. Steams (Reliefs. or palmettes. but the Assyrian representations differ significantly from their Mitannian counterparts both regarding the position of the disk and its iconography.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 165 tree. the whole trinity. volutes. pp. so they certainly represent genuine Assyrian innovations. 65 ff. The Might That Was Assyria (London. 4. including the central god.25Even the most schematic representations are executed with meticulous attention to overall symmetry and axial balance. 1984). The streamers may terminate in forked lightning bolts. Iconographical innovations not found in the Mitannian disk include streamers hanging from the disk. Mesopotamian Protective Spirits [Groningen. W. they are rare in Late Assyrian representations. had become. 6 Revealingly. 438. all associated with sexual potency and animal instincts. As pointed out by G. Dictionary. especially pp. the place of the accompanying gods is taken by two juxtaposed circles. but despite the most painstaking analyses of the iconographic evidence. "Note d'iconographie religieuse assyrienne. 27: "Its exact meaning escapes us.. Lambert. M. L'Arbre stylise. This strongly suggests that the triadic arrangements of circles. more especially the land of Ashur". Snakes and Gods in Ancient Syria and Anatolia. 93 below. 1990). Baldock. Lambert. 201-2 below). King of the World. but it could be taken as representing in some way the fertility of the earth. obscured under the accumulation of religious experience. 23 above) also stand for trinities of gods. tersely states "the significance of the motif is not clear. similarly York. Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia (Oxford. is replaced by three juxtaposed circles (see Appendix B. 27 A case in point is G. The symbolism of the Tree is not discussed in cuneiform sources. the latter often portrayed in a mirror image on both sides of the Tree (on private seals. 234 f. Reade. 1992]. 1951). THE TREE: ITS SYMBOLISM OF THE BASIC SYMBOLISM THE TREE What did this Tree stand for. ibexes. the god of Wisdom and Life). Contenau. p. Paley. The genies. . Widengren's conclusions have not been accepted by Assyriologists . and the few references to sacred trees or plants in Mesopotamian literature have proved too vague or obscure to be productive. p. a god riding in the disk. circles. Snakes and Gods. AND CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE II." p. pp. largely consist of mythical sages (apkallu) serving the god Ea (see F.26This is largely due to the almost total lack of relevant textual evidence.24while a winged disk hovers over the whole. and stags. While extremely common in earlier periods. vol. p. "Trees..27 24 The flanking animals consist of goats. 226. like other mystic symbols of all ages. "Trees." Kepinski's voluminous study of second-millennium iconography of the Tree. and n. p. on others. Widengren's important study The King and the Tree of Life in Ancient Near Eastern Religion (Uppsala. A. Assyrian Sculpture. resembling those emerging from the nodes of the trunk (see Appendix B pp. the blessing gesture recalls the symbolic representation of God the Father in early Christian iconography. he is accompanied by two smaller gods riding on the wings of the disk. Wiggermann.). little has been explained. on the whole." M.

3. Rekonstruktion. 6 .-The King impersonating the Tree. Courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum FIG.-Slab B-23 of the throneroom of AshurnasirpalII.166 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES FIG. After Meuszynski.pl.4.

The King and the Tree of Life. the scene of the Last Judgment on the tympanum. pp.. "Program. (Cook. RIA. 1943). for example. referring to J. see CAD. p. lit. 43 ff. In discussing the composition of Slab B-23 and its crucial position behind the royal throne." See. it was observed some time ago that in some reliefs the king takes the place of the Tree between the winged genies (fig. 24 above] and "birdsof heaven"congregate. T. pp. "purify" his soul. cut off his branches. Tree of Life. 1949). 29 Cf. The apkallus were the mythical equivalent of court scholars (ummdnu). it is evident that in such scenes the king is portrayedas the human personification of the Tree. see M.v."pp.. vol. where the words usuratu. See my remarks in LAS. be Let his heartbe changed froma man'sandlet a beast'sheart be givenuntohim. the organizing principles are clear: axial symmetry governs the placement of the tree at the center. Studies in Divine Kingship in the Ancient Near East (Uppsala. 1993). Engnell. however. 87.32Thus if the Tree symbolized the divine world order. 26 f. in moder psychological had identified limitedand personalself with the divine his Selfhoodwhichhis kingship symbolized. As pointed out by M. i.e. Grazer Morgenlandischen Symposium 23. pp. "Program" (n. directly above all. 26 if. shake off his leaves and scatterhis fruit. for many other examples of the verb samahu referring to the growth of trees. 30 Winter. The Might That Was Assyria. 13. and. and then to the god in the winged disk. the figure of Christ on the trumeau at the middle of the central portal as the highest achievement of man.9. as one may suggest them to be on slab 23 of Assurnasirpal. containing earthly and didactic themes.. The theological priorities are as clear there. me-gal-gal an-ki-a = usurat same u erseti (GIS. vol. and 335. as a key to the theological structure of medieval Christianity (italics mine): basal quatrefoils. and let his portions with the grassin the earth. s. 66. "designs. 4).."The overwhelming "sacramental" aspect of the throneroom reliefs is also stressed by Sagss. Tammuz (Berlin. pp." in H.to the central tree.1991 (Graz. xxiv f. 1976).31 Whatever the precise implications of this fact.MES AN-e U KI-tim). to the king in his role as maintainer. 2.. Moortgat. in more detail. vol. leading ultimately to an elevating visual as well as religious experience. ing the King himselfwho. 3) corresponds to the epithet "vice-regent of Assur" in the accompanying inscription. the Tree here represents the divine world order29maintained by the king as the representative of the god Assur.KI. note also the mystical work I.HUR AN. Firstly. A. spelling of the epithet with the SANGA Seux. 4.). p. 119. 2. then. p. note the illustration from the Bible of Rodan [sixth century] reproduced ibid. 289 ff. my article "Mesopotamian Astrology and Astronomy as Domains of the Mesopotamian 'Wisdom'." and parsu. n. York.A(see nn. where the tree allegory is explicitly related to the moral conduct of the king: In the Bookof Daniel(ch. as the aspiration of men. 4). 109." refer to the organization of the divine and the material world by Marduk (lines 1-5 and 65-67). apostles flanking the central door. Scholz. "vice-regent (issakku) of Assur" was a traditional epithet specifically referring to the king as "intermediary between the god and the community. and 100 below) explaining the "designs" of the world by gematric techniques (see n. 40 ff. "the designs (Sum.HUR. Thenhe sees "a watcherand an holy one"come downfromheavencrying:"Hewdownthe tree. Winter makes a telling comparison to the Gothic tympanum: "Compositionally.30 Secondly." On the sign.-J. fig. Galter and B.28Clearly. and Widengren. closely resembling the Assyrian Tree)..). 89. 32 The king is portrayedas a flourishing tree offering shelter to his subjects in a Neo-Assyrian letter written by a prominent court scholar (LAS 122:14. Larsen. "Remarques sur le titre royal assyrien issakki Assur.. p. 28 Winter. For . xx f.. As pointed out in LAS. then the king because part of the textual evidence he quotes is not pertinent and none of it demonstrably pertains to a "Tree of Life. 128 below. Conversely. then. Irene Winter has convincingly demonstrated that the famous relief showing the king flanking the Tree under the winged disk (Slab B-23.. set precisely on the axis.. eds. embodied in the winged disk hovering above the Tree. "the great offices") of heaven and earth. the repetition of figures on either side maintains the axial and absolute balance. It is no different from the organization apparenton the faqade of a Gothic cathedral. whose primary function was to protect the king and attend to his moral integrity. The Old Assyrian City State and Its Colonies (Copenhagen. this passage resembles Daniel 4.NAMGIS. 234."Danielinterpreted treeas representthis terms.-27. it could be argued that the Tree takes the place of the king in the scenes where it is being purified by the apkallu genies. Die Rolle der Astronomie in den KulturenMesopotamiens: Beitrdge zum 3. "offices. KingNebuchadnezzar dreams of a greattree "in the midstof the earth" around whichall the "beastsof the field" [see n.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 167 Two fundamentally important points have nevertheless been established concerning the function of the Tree in the throneroom of Ashurnasirpal'spalace in Calah. 66 below)."ACh Sin 1: 2 and 6." RA 59 (1965): 103-4. 16 f. The priority of figures moves into the center and then up: from the "genii" at the far sides. as at Amiens. pp. p. 108. and Tablet V of Enuma elis. 278.

. On the other hand.37 The complete lack of references to such an importantsymbol in contemporarywritten sources can only mean that the doctrines relating to the Tree were never committed to writing by the scholarly elite who forged the imperial ideology but were circulated orally. note the colophon of the Sargon's letter to Assur (TCL 3). pp. cf.. p. 1920. 20 f. Lieberman. cf. The concept is first attested in the Tukulti-Ninurta Epic (AfO 18. pp. 1990). 231 (qarrddu gitmalu. pp. a true image of God. and idem. A stylized rendition of the Tree of Life. the Seven-branched Lampstead (Uppsala. eds.34 If this reasoning is correct. "the father of the king my lord was the very image of Bel. 97 and 331. note SAA 3 no. ed." HUCA 58 (1987): 212 if. Fales. The king. king of the universe. p. 195 ff." OLZ. is beneficial to all . Literature.168 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES himself represented the realization of that order in man. the one who gladdens the heart of Assur. S. Note also the famous anthropomorphic tree from Assur (A. whose name Assur and the great gods faithfully called. Epithetes. see. 313 ff.see Seux. belutu. in other words.: "What the king said is as perfect as the word of god. Schroeder. 333 r. p. the role of the cross as a symbol of Christianity or that of the sickle and hammer as the symbol of communism. Basically. Rochberg-Halton.33the Perfect Man. 34 "Perfect Man" (etlu gitmalu is well attested as an Assyrian royal epithet. more generally. 38 That is to say. but inversely it could also be projected upon the king to portrayhim as the Perfect Man. the Menorah. 10 in LAS. "You. 1967). and History: Studies Presented to Erica Reiner (New Haven. Tadmor in F. Note especially LAS 145: "The king..D. is the chosen of the great gods. Abusch et al. M. it follows that the Tree had a dual function in Assyrian imperial art. The Tree of Light: A Study of the Menorah. 36 Verbal justification of this claim is a regular feature of Assyrian royal inscriptions since the early thirteenth century B. there is evidence that other prominent scholars too were involved in the composition of royal inscriptions and. ed. are an image of Marduk. late second millennium B.. and cf. also pp. see . see also n.C...C." The concept of "perfect king" goes back to the early second millennium (the time of Hammurabi). While the duties of the chief scribe are not specified in Assyrian sources... L. vol. "A Mesopotamian Background for the So-called Aggadic 'Measures' of Biblical Hermeneutics.. Assyrian Royal Inscriptions: New Horizons (Rome. 233 ("Tukulti-Ninurta. 2. see Seux. in the formulation of the imperial policies.). appointee of the gods. LAS 144 r. Nineveh and Babylon [London.v. 138 below. "perfect king"). see LAS 143:17 ff. 2. "perfect hero"). for example. the one to whom they gave the four quarters to administer and the one to whom they entrusted their dominion").38The nature of the matter further implies that only the basic symbolism of the further references to the King as Tree in Mesopotamian sources. 37 Note that piety and blameless moral conduct are the most prominent qualities justifying the king's rule in Assyrian royal inscriptions. 130). pp. This interpretation accounts for the prominence of the Tree as an imperial symbol35because it not only provided a legitimation for Assyria's rule over the world. 50. "ummdnu = Chef der Staatskanzlei?. pp." On this important state official. s. and still functions (on. p. see Widengren. 257. 25 ii 16 (sarru gitmalu. Parrot. On the Menorah. the rostrum of the Knesset) as a state symbol in modern Israel. 1981). and see the note on LAS 7 r. in T. 11. p. below.. my lord. is the perfect likeness of the god. RIM 1. Cf. 35 The need of visual symbols to epitomize complex ideologies is too obvious for elaboration here. 30 ff. 42 ff. the shadow of the king. primarily the chief scribe (also called "the king's scholar") and his "department. vol. Language. 12: "The word of the king is as [perfect] as that of the gods. see also my article "The Forlorn Scholar. the one whose conduct is pleasing to the gods of heaven and earth")." LAS 125:18 f. my lord." in F. J. H.. p." For the king as the image of Samas. Yarden. the continuation of the inscription cited in the preceding footnote ("Tukulti-Ninurta. 4 f. it is extremely likely that they included the drafting and production of royal inscriptions. was the symbol of Judaism in the first century A. and the king my lord is likewise the very image of Bel. and the passages cited in the relevant commentary (LAS. for example. 2. O king of the world. 1987). it symbolized the divine world order maintained by the Assyrian king. 33 References to the king as the image (salmu) of God abound in the Neo-Assyrian royal correspondence." and ABL 1221 r.. 9).. 1961]. see Seux. 204-7. for example. The King and the Tree of Life. Epithetes royales akkadiens et sumeriens (Paris. Lingering Over Words: Studies in Honor of W. see 0.. for further examples. see L.36but it also justified the king's position as the absolute ruler of the empire. Moran (Atlanta. 203. pp." RMA 170 = SAA 8 no.. See. for example. my lord. indicating that it was composed by the chief scribe himself. the attentive one. Epithetes.. fig. 92 and also p. see CAD. 1972). p.

109. and ZA 82." SAA Bulletin 3 (1989): 3-51. History. For the first millennium. B. 42 below. 29 (Rome." JANES 7 (1975): 1932. see LAS. "Aux sources du Midrash: L'Herm6neutiquebabylonienne. primarily commentaries and letters. Landsberger. The esotericism of Kabbalah and its fundamentally oral nature are stressed in every Kabbalistic work. For the second millennium. It may not be merely a coincidence that the rules of Talmudic hermeneutics were laid down by Rabbi Hillel. pt. The hermeneutic methods used in this process were virtually identical with those used in rabbinical exegesis." Aula Orientalis 5 (1987): 243-55. p. See M. the esoteric secrets of the entire scribal tradition. Weinfeld. s.and S. vol. "An Early Technique of Aggadic Exegesis. my article "Mesopotamian Astrology and Astronomy. Livingstone. 119. an initiate may show it to another initiate. note Gilg. 30) immigrant from Babylonia. Gilgames. I ponder with expert diviners the liver. 189 ff. katimtu.. pp. "Authoritative Oral Tradition in Neo-Assyrian Scribal Circles.39and the few extant written specimens of such lore40prove that mystical exegesis of religious symbolism played a prominent part in it. Calling the kind of hermeneutics exemplified by these texts "mystical" is justified inasmuch as extracting "hidden" meanings from the literal wording of religious texts appears to have been its primarygoal. storiche efilologiche." (Streck. The esoteric nature of these texts is made explicit by their colophons. Tigay ("Early Technique. 3. 1986). and ikkibu).-A.. 4).and first-millennium texts (see CAD and AHw. note. Mystical Works. gematria and notarikon. XI 9 and 266: "I will disclose to you. things that are hidden. 66 below.)." AfO 17 [1954-56]: 311) draw a parallel between Mesopotamian commentaries and the Midrashim. and A. A. 23. in more detail. On the transmission of esoteric lore (from teacher to disciple or from father to son). 169-89." p. vol. see Lieberman. ancient and modern. on which. 3. pp. more Mesopotamian esoteric lore has a remarkableparallel in Jewish Kabbalah. note remarks in the scholarly correspondence such as "I have learned it from my father" (LAS 370 r. while the more sophisticated details of its interpretation were accessible to a few select initiates only. "The Sin of Sargon and Sennacherib'sLast Will. taboo of the great gods". Tadmor.vv. "New Light on Secret Knowledge in Late Babylonian Culture. Livingstone. (= SAA3. p. 1988).. nos. J. the image of heaven . "allegory". so does the Assyrian Tree. p. 2. p.42 importantly from the standpoint of the present topic. 42 See again. especially pp. 217. transmitted almost exclusively orally are the principal reasons why next to nothing was known about it until the late Middle Ages (see below)." RIA. see also n. including mashal. P.and second-millennium Mesopotamia is amply documented. 110) and A. and still are.. 373) or "I have heard it from the mouth of my father" (RMA 218 = SAA 8 no. 37-39). 454 r. Parpola. "L'Ideologo Adad-sumu-usur. 21: . "homonymy".41 TREE THE SEFIROTIC and." The strictly esoteric nature of Kabbalah and the fact that its secret doctrines were for centuries. vol. 171. Fales. 146-63. 2" RA 85 (1991): 139. n. 39 See Borger. I observed celestial and terrestrialsigns and discussed them in the meetings of scholars. 22) compares the Mesopotamian scholarly oral tradition (sa pi ummdni) to the Jewish Oral Law (Torah se-beal-peh). Elman. Assurbanipal's famous self-description of his education: "I learnt the craft of the sage Adapa. remez. Elman (p. earlier."Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. R. and the commentary on Sakikku I recently edited by George in "Babylonian Texts.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 169 Tree was common knowledge.. "Babylonian Texts from the Folios of Sydney Smith. The existence of an extensive esoteric lore in first. 1983). 6). 41 See. 116 ff. 50 f." 40 See the list in RIA. Mystical and Mythological Explanatory Worksof Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars (Oxford. 66 below. naad. Cavigneaux. see also n. Tadmor and M." ZA 82 (1992): 98-111. Lambert ("An Address of Marduk to the Demons. "paronomasia". Rendiconti della Classe di Scienze morali. "Secret lore of the great gods/heaven and earth/sages/scholars. Tigay. 252 i 13 ff. Serie 8. eds. see n. "Geheimwissen. Additional glimpses into the lore are provided by a multitude of random passages in scholarly texts. and I will relate to you the secrets of the gods. vol. piristu. (with additions in HKL 3. 1974): 453-96. nisirtu. A. and. in this context. see also ibid. a first-century (ca. Asb. p. provisionally. George. pp. above all. the uninitiated may not see it. and. p.D. for example."p. A H. The evidence discussed in the above articles could be multiplied by including all the references to secret lore in second. "A Mesopotamian Background. Historiography and Interpretation: Studies in Biblical and Cuneiform Literatures (Jerusalem. Idel. above all." in H. 188-91. for example. thus also. Beaulieu." pp.. Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven. pp. J.

170 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES PILLAR OF EOUILIBRIUM PILLAR OP JUDGMENT PILLAR OF MERCY FIG.-The Sefirotic Tree . 5.

45a form which strikingly resembles the Assyrian Tree. by might (gevurah). sefirah). rooted in Bereshit mysticism (speculation on the creation.. 145 ff. literally "countings" or "numbers.v. 142. the idea of creative trinity. See Ponc6... through homophony.. 44 Kabbalistic thought is traditionally divided into two branches. This situation is not a matter of mere chance but rather a result of the technique's highly esoteric nature . 51 below) has a parallel in the ecstatic prophecy and scholarly mysticism of first-millennium Assyria. Z...). SAA 9 (Helsinki. and Idel. Origins. Dictionary. they are referred to by ordinal numbers and associated with the first ten letters of the Hebrew alphabet. 113 f." Compare this with the Mesopotamian colophons cited in n. by rebuke (gaarah). attributed to the Babylonian scholar Rav (BT Hagigah 12a): "By ten things [lit. Ponce. p. with the words sappir. 148). "sphere" (cf. Scholem. 349. like the Assyrian one. the latter. see my Assyrian Prophecies. and not without reason. 2:9 and 3:3-5. 63). see ibid.. 1) and represented by such Kabbalists as Abraham Abulafia and Isaac Luria. 45 Cf. the Abulafia passage referred to in n. fig. 47 above: "The influx expanding from the one who counts is comprised in and passes through a[leph] to y[od]. 6 with n. 1014a. pp. 230. but [only] to 'those who fear the divine name and take heed of his name'. and we are writing it down. In Kabbalistic speculation. [but] it is forbidden to disclose it or to pass it down to everyone. 54 and 124 below. from the first Sefirot to the tenth" (Idel. Kabbalah. 88 f.starah (or hokhmah ha-nistar). n. "sapphire. 40." On the function of the diagram as a mandala in Kabbalistic meditation. and note that the Kabbalistic lore is often referred to as hokhmah n. Without this key.44 fact.46 The Sefirotic Tree derives its name from elements called Sefirot. p. see G.v. p. 1-3). by judgment (mishpat). 632 ff. 323.. "wisdom"). p." recalling various designations of the Mesopotamian esoteric lore (see n. 'words'] was the world created: by wisdom (hokhmah). but in Sefer Yezirah and the writings of Abraham Abulafia it clearly has the technical meaning "(primordial/ideal) number". 55) of the Sefirot from the En Sof. It contains. with explicit reference to Gen. Kabbalah. As noted by Scholem. 108 ff. the concept of Unity and Duality. by understanding (tevunah). the Sefirot are also commonly associated. idem. 1993). Kabbalah." Idel (Kabbalah. by reason (daat). 46 Cf. "Kabbalah. and Idel. see C.: "The Tree of Life is a diagrammatic scheme of the Sefirot or Divine Principles that govern Manifest Existence. 90 and 112. s. it can be said that the entire doctrinal structure of Kabbalah revolves around this diagram (fig.. the Four Worlds."47 represented in the diagram by circles numbered from one to ten. 2. Kabbalah. The Way of Kabbalah (Bath. Kabbalah. 5 f.. 113 f. p. n. is called "the One who Counts" (sofer). These associations are consonant with ideas about the nature of the Sefirot but have nothing to do with etymology or the original meaning of the word. has strong links with ecstatic prophecy. The former.) adduces further passages in . 50: "The first step in Kabbalah is to become familiar with the Sefirotic Tree. Even more impressive are the statements of the anonymous author of the Kabbalistic responsum: "Know that this is a Kabbalistic tradition which was handed down to you. p.48They are defined as divine powers or attributes49 through which the transcendent God." and sferah. and this is constantly repeated till learned. and back again . In the Tradition it is called the Key of Solomon... and see nn. blessed be he. Gen. 'who tremble at his name'. In short. 10. referring to a passage in Abulafia's Mafteah ha-Sefirot. pp.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 171 schematic design known as the Sefirotic Tree of Life43figures prominently in both pracIn tical and theoretical Kabbalah. the diagram reproduced here represents the most common form of the Tree in current Kabbalistic literature and is attested in this form since the seventeenth century. little can be comprehended". 81). pp. 43 Also known as the Tree of Knowledge. "the Hidden Wisdom. rooted in post-exilic Merkabah mysticism (speculation on the throne-chariot of God." Encyclopaedia Judaica. This bipartite division of Kabbalah (see also n. introduction. Scholem. Ezek. 48 The numbers correspond to the order of emanation (cf. by compassion (hesed). 47 The normal meaning of the word in rabbinical Hebrew is "counting" (see Jastrow. pp. practical and speculative (see Scholem. it is a key to comprehending the laws of the World . pp. and Ponc6. by righteousness (zedek). 39 above and CAD. is predominantly theosophical in character. 1987). nemequ. not This Kabbalistic technique has passed unnoticed by modem scholarship . Origins. 1973). and cf. 26 f. s. an enumeration of ten divine attributes closely resembling the Kabbalistic one already occurs in a Talmudic passage from ca. in Kabbalistic literature.. The Sefirotic Tree. pp. and by loving kindness (rahamim). pp.. 49 See Halevi. Kabbalah: Tradition of Hidden Knowledge (London.. vol. Kabbalah. Kabbalah (San Francisco. Underneath the diagram we read: "All these allusions must be transmitted orally" . 82. Halevi... is attested in several variant forms reflecting the various symbolic meanings of the diagram (see fig. where the source of the Sefirot. 1979). En Sof. 1991). p. and the unfolding of the octave Lightning Flash between One and All. pp. 5). Scholem. Origins of the Kabbalah (Princeton.. by strength (kah)... pp.

someof thembeing by othersproper names. 46. Kabbalah.Thethemeof polarity. Daat (Knowledge or Reason). and nn.. its elaboration by the Divine Intellect. it is a picture of the macrocosm. Halevi. 49). 144 and 148: TheZoharrefersto this middlepillaras the perfectpillar. The emanation of the Sefirot is conceived of as a There is also some Kabbalistic specula- . This "non-Sefirah"represents an interval or void separating the first three Sefirot ("the Supernals" or "the Upper Face") from the following six ("the Lower Face"). 1270). for example. four on the trunk. 22 above on Assyrian Tree variants with four nodes instead of the standardthree. andtheirnamesarewell knownfromtheirbooks. Note that Daat is included in Rav's list of ten creative "words" (see n. 371. cf. pp. "the World of Making" (Ponce. 27 ff. p. 379. On the one hand. nos.. Whenman ate of the Treeof Knowledge Goodand Evil he did not of drawany sustenance fromthe Treeof Life. active and passive. [to explainthem]. Kabbalah. pp.thosewho knowthemwereunableto say what these Sefirotare.. Cf. 67 f. the active. Kabbalah. and 49). 424. 52 A fifth "invisible" Sefirah. and 124 below. pp. The first phase is referred to as the World of Emanation and associated with the first Sefirah. In this context. the Sefirotic Tree has a dual function. Kabbalah. one with the characteristic garland network and one generally consisting of trunk and crown only (see. pp.. tion .. some of which have alternatives..: In this configuration the Sefiroth . Abulafia's remarks in his Imrey Shefer (ca. restrictive one of Justice (or Rigor). 93 f. 7. "Kabbalah. while the last. Each has a name associated with its number.. and positive/negative dark/ lightis hereemphasized.54 Like the Assyrian Tree. is sometimes inserted in the middle column between Keter and Tiferet.. and 7 to 9 in the World of Creation. is obscure. pp. 70-73 below. the Sefirot are distributed in the different worlds in a triadic arrangement. note especially no. Ponce. 50 In some Sefirotic diagrams. etc. and 521.. 55 The creation of the world is envisaged as a threefold process taking place in the Divine Mind before the materialization of the physical world. recalling the winged disk hovering over the Assyrian Tree (see n. 43. 509. pls.. positive and negative.but them.. cf. 101. 575. En Sof is represented by a circle hovering over the Tree (see. See Halevi. Kabbalah.It servesas a mediating factorbetweenthe pillarsof the right and the left .55It also charts the cosmic harmony of the universe upheld by the Sefirot under the conearly Jewish and Gnostic sources. These two "pillars" (also known as Male and Female Columns. 51 The origin of these names. n. thatthe centerpillaris the Treeof Life."p. The vertical alignments of the Sefirot on the right and left represent the polar opposites of masculine and feminine. 104.Andwhentheywereasked homonyms. Keter. also called the Pillar of Equilibrium. pp. 53 The right-hand alignment of the Sefirot is commonly referred to as the Pillar of Mercy and that on the left as the Pillar of Judgment or Severity. and nn. and no. and to whatentity these namesrefer . the next two are referred to as the Worlds of Formation and Creation respectively and associated with the "Upper" and "Lower Faces" (see n. Ponce. Tree of Life. 110..the first three in the World of Emanation. 479 with an empty garland arch beside a palm tree ridden by a monkey and an eagle. theyareveryperplexed concerning See further pp.. and its actual implementation by the Divine Emotion. In an alternative scheme. It gives an account of the creation of the world. p. and 102).172 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES shown in the diagram. cited in Idel. cf. Kabbalah. 202: claimthattheyreceivedfromthe proph[Thetheosophists] ets andthe sagesthatthereareten Sefirot. p. 184 ff. contained withineach pillar or unit are connectedonly to the others contained withinthe samepillar. Kabbalah. andtheydesignatedeach andeverySefirah names. note that some Assyrian seals combine two trees in the same scene. distinction the of the oppositesas male/female. and see nn.. and cf.. 176 f.51The Tree has a central trunk and horizontal branches spreading to the right and left on which the Sefirot are arrangedin the symmetrical fashion: three to the left. 509 showing a phoenix rising from a burning(?) tree beside a tree with a nine-petalled fruit crown). expansive one of Mercy and the passive.. 92. 54 Halevi. See further Scholem. 142 ff. 52 above). Malkhut. and also Ponce.). dark and light. below. andthe remainingpillarsthe Tree of Goodand Evil . See n.. Compare this with the three-layered triadic structureof the Assyrian Tree discussed in n. It involves the expression of the idea by the Divine Will. 5 f. whichmediates betweenthe opposites. for example. 85.53The balance of the Tree is maintained by the trunk. accompanied in three successive stages by the Sefirot emanating from the transcendent God. Danthine. is located in the material world. 479. viz. Way of Kabbalah. while the Sefirah of Malkhut (not forming part of the Lower Face) is lacking from it. 4 to 6 in the World of Formation.50manifests Himself. 22 above. or the Good and Evil Sides) are conceived as manifestations of two hidden divine principles constraining the flow of emanation.52 and three to the right. 25 above) as well as the image of the glorified Christ shown above the Tree of Life in Christian art (see Cook. Palmierdattier. referring to ten creative logoi in the context of Creation.

the Sefirot are associated with the cosmic body of Adam Kadmon. in a way. 588 and 843 f.. and in manifesting the invisible God through His attributes.. 91 ff. the archetypal or perfect man. Kabbalah: The Way of the Jewish Mystic (Garden City. where Jesus says of himself: "I am the All and the All proceeds from me". 12 f. Tree of Life. Kabbalah. note also the Assyrian Tree scenes with water-receiving or water-emitting bottles. 67) that the aim of the mystic was to achieve the state of union without being totally absorbedand lost in the divine abyss. can also refer to man as a microcosm. p. and the flow of an electric current through a system of functions in a circuit (Halevi. Idel stresses (p. 57 See also P. 101 and 130). "Yezirah. 65. cf. "The En-Sof and its emanations are inseparable .) precursor of the idea of the Sefirot as the Divine pleroma occurs in a prayer of Tukulti-Ninurta I. Whatever these traditions are worth. Frankfort.. Danthine. Paul's Letter to the Colossians. pp. for example. Since he believesthatmanis literin ally created the imageof God. pp. Scholem. they imply that Jewish Kabbalah (lit. 32). 11:28-31).. pp. Tradition has it that the doctrines about the Tree were originally revealed to the patriarch Abraham. 12 ff. 4 and 15 f. 21). Dan. lightning flash issuing from the ocean of "Endless Light. see Scholem.. it is a model of the divine world order. Three Types of Ancient Jewish Mysticism (Cincinnati." Cf. The Book of Bahir (twelfth century) refers to the Tree as an image of God by the term ha-male'. 103).56 On the other hand. 68 ff. described with the metaphorof the drop of water and the sea.. What flows through the Sefiroth is the light of the En-Sof which they need for their existence" (Ponc6. pp. pp. where the sungod is invoked as "the radiance" and the stormgod as "the voice" of the god Agsur (KAR 128 r. 1978).. 56 See Idel. Origins. 39 (referring to Sefer Yezirah and a Talmudic legend). Compare this with the streamlike lattice network (see n. pp. and he must intend thereby to perfect the supernaltree [of Sefirot] and the holy anthropos. 59 See Scholem.. J. In the openly anthropomorphictheosophy of ecstatic Kabbalah and Merkavah mysticism. it becomes a way of salvation for the mystic seeking deliverance from the bonds of flesh through the soul's union with God. (naming Melchizedek as the revealer of the doctrines about the Tree). also Idel. On the practical goals of the mystical union (encounter with souls of the dead and acquisition of supernal secrets from ancient pious men).the mysticworksto polish himselfuntilhe becomesso brilliantly clearthathe reflects but in nothing god. 20 above) and the pomegranate or cone garland surroundingthe Assyrian Tree (n.. on this concept.58In actual fact. a Neo-Assyrian hymn to Ninurta. the crown of heaven represented by the Sefirah number one. 17 f. 59-73. 136 ff.. Cylinder Seals (London.. see Ponc6.. See. Scholem. 1939). it is also.. see ibid. pp. or God himself.). pp. citing Rabbi Vital's Sha'ar ha-Mizvot: "When studying Torah man must intend to link his soul and to unite her and make her cleave to her source above. to holon). figs. a zigzagging lightning flash returning to its origin. 16. The unity of the En Sof and the Sefirot is fundamental to Kabbalah. Origins. in view of Abraham'sprominent association with "Ur of the Chaldees" (Gen. pp. who emanate it further throughout the world. who transmitted them orally to his son. "fullness.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 173 straining influence of the polar system of opposites.59It is generally agreed. "tradition")was based on a previous model and. H. strongly point to Mesopotamia as the place of origin of that model. the earliest surviving Kabbalistic manuscripts date from the tenth century A. the energy drawn from this source filters through the Sefirot. vol. p.And into since imitating God eventually a man to directknowlled exertedhimselfto perfecteach edge of God. and note the lightning streamers emanating from the winged disk above the Tree discussed in n. see ibid. Tree of Life. Epstein. and Halevi. p. In short. The idea of the cosmic anthropos is attested in KAR 102. "Unionwith the absolute" this case is a matter "likeattracting of like. Kabbalah. Die judische Mystik in ihren Hauptstromungen (Frankfurt. Interpretedin this way. (with a human figure replacing the tree..: "Thecosmictreeof life conveniently the epitomized emanationsof God's"qualities" the visibleworldof men. the Kabbalist qualityon the tree." En Sof Or (see n. if taken seriously. The flow between the individual Sefirot and the En Sof has been likened to streams of water poured into colored bottles (ibd. Keter. like the Assyrian. p. 786 (commentary on Sefer Yezirah . quoting the Gospel of Thomas. 25 above. 57. 134 ff. pp. Kabbalah. 94 below). Palmier-dattier. 58 See Ponce. 56 below). the Sefirotic Tree.D. 74. an image of God. An early Assyrian (thirteenth century B. 20 ff. Kabbalah. New York. the ideal man created in the image of God. "(divine) fullness". 1957). where the various parts of this god's body are systematically identified with specific deities of the Mesopotamian pantheon." a direct equivalent of Gnostic pleroma. p.57The arrangementof the Sefirot from the bottom to the top of the diagram marks the path which he has to follow in order to attain the ultimate goal. pp. also referred to as "the All" (to pan." On unio mystica in Jewish mysticism. 1984). fig. Kabbalah." Encyclopaedia Judaica. 1:15-19.. see also n.C.

ning of Jewish Mysticism in Late Antiquity. 62 The literature of practical Kabbalah was introduced to Italy in 870 by a Babylonian scholar.cussed by M. Hanina. 142). Sherira b." JNES 48 (1989): 201earlier. p. It is now generally recognized that the medical passages in the Babylonian Talmud disthere is considerable Jewish influence on the emerg."p. scholars tion. ture.. Geller in his review of P. dated 955-56. 63 The multiplicity of attested Tree variants is reand Dan. exile. Three Types of Ancient Jewish Mysticism. lated to the Kabbalistic view of the Sefirotic pleroma as a dynamic.62 Altogether.. 511 f. emerged in Babylonia imThe Revelation of the Secret of the World: The Beginmediately after the Muslim conquest.C.D. Halevi."pp. see ibid. 75 [Providence. Cf. Parker and emergence of historical Kabbalah as a gradual pro. 1956]). 25: University Program in Judaic Studies. see to is not at all impossible Scholem.D. 30 ff. p. 6).Ponce.). this idea is expressed period have never been questioned. tic form of Islam.174 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES however. 30 f.Sokoloff. 493.cess heavily influenced by Neoplatonic and especially A. note the Jewish calendar still based on the pp. Origins. 60. the incantation bowls Gnostic thought. see Idel. 248). the Sefer Yezirah. idem. cf. Aaron ben Samuel (alias Abu Aharon).such as the of controversy. and vehemently denied the existence of any kind of 4As uncontestable examples of Jewish cultural historical development in Kabbalah (see Scholem. Saadiah. p. specifically their dependance on variants illustrate the dynamics of the Tree by stressexternal influence(s). 60 Scholem. Neoplatonism.W." pp. p. 140). pp. the movement of the Sufism were noted long ago and stressed by many planets and stars (ibid. fourth century). The different balistic doctrines. given the fact that it seems to have originated on Babylonian soil. and its affinities with metaphors such as light reflected by moving with Platonism. For 14. Greenfield and M. Gnosticism. 61 The connections of Kabbalahwith Jewish apoc. not the other way around. 1984). 510. Montgomery.61The renowned rabbinical schools of Babylonia were the major centers from which the Kabbalistic doctrines spread to Europe during the high Middle Ages." p. for details. This slenderwork is also designatedin the oldest manuand on as a collectionof "halakhoth the Creation" it and Hai) are known to have occupied themselves scripts thatit is referred by this namein with Sefer Yezirah in the following century. "Kabbalah. the earliest extant manuscript of the book itself is from the eleventh(?) century. Babylonian Chronology 626 B. however.. La ing Gnostic literature. Jiidische Mystik. see Dan. and the astrological omen attributed to Gnosticism in fact belong to a genuine text recently published by J. 137).D.D. that the "foundation stone" of Kabbalism. 2 (Providence. Herrero.63 In addition. through Hekhalot and Mer. was composed sometime between the third and sixth centuries. however. Dubberstein. p. Brown . Occasional Papers. in that several doctrinal features of Kabbalahpreviously BiOr 43 (1986): 738-43. While Kabbalists themselves have various interrelationships of the Sefirot (cf. Kabbalah.?). the Talmud (BT Sanhedrin 65b. Kabbalah.from a burning coal (ibid.60and the emergence of Kabbalah as a doctrinal structure can now be reliably traced to the first century A. of Babylonian rabbis (J. pp. and Therapeutique mesopotamienne (Paris. Jewish tradition reaching. down to the first century A. fourth century). 785 f. the various estimates of the date of its composi. 21 (ca. see Scholem. Halevi. if not Jewish Palestinian Aramaic. a number of central from the Cairo Genizah. 16 ff. the likelihood that it is based on a Mesopotamian model appears considerable. 1914]). the crucial question of the evolution of Kab. "Kabbalah. C. it is good to remember that the mysin Hekhalot Rabbati (third century A. fluctuate (for example. "Yezirah. the list could easily be made ten times longer. has remained a matter ing different aspects of its interpretation. 44.. see idem.64As a matter of fact.which could be contemplated upon but not properly alyptic esotericism and mysticism of the post-exilic captured in words or writing. and water (Idel. p. p. Several leading gaonic betweenthe secondandthe sixthcenturies. Way of Kabbalah. "Astrological and Related Omen Texts in kavah mysticism. 1992). . In an unmistakable reference to the Tree of Life diagram this connection. consistently stressed the antiquity of their tradition Way of Kabbalah. Kabbalah. p. Sufism. the Sefirotic Tree displays a remarkablesimilarity to the Assyrian Tree in both its symbolic content and external appearance (see fig. . p. no. constantly changing living organism. modern scholarship has tended to see the Neo-Babylonian intercalation system (R. or flames emerging scholars. 782). Aramaic InRecent research has significantly altered this piccantation Texts from Nippur [Philadelphia. borrowings from Mesopotamia during and after the "Kabbalah.

d. Oedipus Aegypticus (Rome.. P. The Sefirotic Tree of Paulus Ricius. Beauty as the Bearer of All the Powers (Ponc6. 152). p.the Tree of Perfection (Ponc6. Ponc6. 153). Philosophia Sacra (1627. re th fom Meoa. pl. h. i. 1516. i -.4::. pp. The expansion of the Shekhinah. c.. FIG.. ibid. p. Cook. e. Ponc6.. 110).7:. 105 and 148). 177). W 1.5 9 . Kabbalah. . I1 1= II : -Z' II g. Kabbalah. Tree of Meditation.p. Kabbalah. 8) K rblh a. Tree of Eternal Life (Ponc6. The Tree as Sunflower. 104). ibid. Tree of Life. f. 152). From AthanasiusKircher. ibid. 6. The Inverted Tree. Fo rNeota aei ice 58 Meoa (e p...THE AsSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE17 175 fa in b. p. The Sefirotic Tree with En Sof hovering over it (Ponc6. . 1652. From RobertFludd. with the 72 names of God inscribed on its petals. using the central column alone (Ponc6. 38). ibid. p.-Sefirotic and Assyrian Tree variants . Porta Lucis (Augsburg.

= Livingstone. For if the Sefirotic Tree really is but an adaptation of a Mesopotamian model. cf. 271-80. cf. From this point of view. Maclagan. G. The Kabbalistic association of the throne-chariot of glory with Enoch/Metatron (ibid. pp." KAR 4. 204-5 below. Lambert and A. I ii 33 ff. such as Pico della Mirandola. 124 f. pp. such as the location of the Throne of God in the Middle Heaven." pp. the identification of Adam Kadmon and En Sof with Christ. R. 41 f. Origins. 55 above) closely resembles the Mesopotamian one. Scholem. Symbolae Biblicae et Mesopotamicae Francisco Mario Theodoro de Liagre Bohl Dedicatae (Leiden. provisionally. is instructive. Kabbalah. cf.. 32 ("fire of Anu"). and the Holy Ghost. Millard. pp. for the implications of this association as well as the role of the Chariot in Mesopotamian mystical thought. 785) finds an exact parallel in the creation of the primeval man in the Atrahasis myth (see W. was not affected at all. Johannes Reuchlin. 67 The case of Christian Kabbalah.176 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES Kabbalistic doctrines. "Yezirah. 66.HUR AN. pp. the alphabet functioning as the instrument of creation itself (see Ponc6. 27 and 41. p." p..A(Liv- ingstone. 89 below. note the use of word zikru.. Kabbalah. KAR 128 r."in the sense of logos. however. see Ponc6. p. Note that the esoteric text I. p. represented by outstanding scholars.KI. it seems significant that the emergence of these techniques in Mesopotamia neatly correlates with the rise of the Assyrian Empire and the appearance of the Assyrian Tree. that The basic is.). 18 ff. VI 1-35. and Scholem. 56) prayer of Tukulti-Ninurta. Beek et al. using these very techniques. see also RA 62. The doctrine associating the creation of the cosmos with the creation of language. 784. 30) has a counterpartin the Middle Assyrian "Silbenalphabet. pp. It must be admitted that a priori it is possible that the observed similarities are simply coincidental and due to a common cultural heritage ratherthan to a direct borrowing. 66 Note also the prominent role of interpretive techniques such as gematria (use of the numerical value of the letters of a word) and notarikon (taking certain words as abbreviations for complete phrases or letters or syllables as abbreviations for words) in both Kabbalah and Mesopotamian scholarly texts.65 are explicitly attested in Mesopotamian esoteric texts. This was possible because Christianity is rooted in both Judaism and Classical philosophy. 176-81. 168 ff. see further n..) is attested in the abovementioned (see n. "Yezirah. As noted by Tigay (ibid. I had for years considered the identity of the Assyrian and Sefirotic Trees an attractive but probably unprovable hypothesis.66 The crucial question. pp. el. 187 f. 61). This form of Kabbalah was demonstrably taken over from a pre-existing (Jewish) model with only minimal adjustments. Atra-Hasis. 1977]. pp." in the last passage). SAA 3. eds. such as the translation of the names of the Sefirot. pp. until it finally occurred to me that there is a way of proving or rejecting it. the Christian Kabbalists "be- . 55 ff. given the lack of directly relevant textual evidence. 22 ff. In general. Gilg.). 1973). Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood [Oxford. Creation Myths [London. A." in M. "Early Technique. En. and theologians. philosophers." p. 157-225. Similarly." pp. the introduction of such interpretativetechniques generally indicates a growing mismatch between the wording of traditional scripture and the prevailing world view. the Son. adduces numerous examples of the two techniques from the Babylonian Talmud. the adaptation process should be reversible. pp. 64 ff. associates different lunar phases with different gods and thus manages to explain all major gods of the pantheon as aspects of the moon god. p. the creation of the "golem" by the recitation of incantations (Scholem. 1969]. "A New Fragment from a List of Antediluvian Kings and Marduk's Chariot. 54:17. pp. pp. it should be possible to reconstruct the original model without difficulty. and Lieberman. and Jacob Boehme. Tigay. Kabbalah. "utterance.67 65 See KAR 307:31 ff. Lambert. where mumbo-jumbo combinations of syllables are associated with the creation story culminating in the creation of man. or the reinterpretationof the three world ages as reigns of the Father... The Kabbalistic association of heaven with fire (Ponc6. the essence of the system. THE ASSYRIANTREEDIAGRAM For the above reasons. the Kabbalistic notion of the creation process (see n. Idel. Mystical Works. see. "idea. p.. 100. and the illustration in D. Kabbalah. is how the existence of the hypothetical Mesopotamian model can be proven. Egidio da Viterbo. this text is defined as "secret" in its colophon. which involved a decision by a deity (Anu or Enlil) and its elaboration and implementation by the God of Wisdom and/or a birth goddess (see Lambert and Millard. Kabbalah.) finds a parallel in the association of Marduk's chariot with the list of antediluvian kings and sages in the NeoAssyrian canon of religious texts. see Excursus 2.NAMGIS. Ponc6. "A Mesopotamian Background. including the tree diagram and other central Kabbalistic axioms.

pp. Consequently.pp. Thus each celestial being was confined to its task. Kabbalah. cf. the Sefirot. with Sefirah 1 appearing as Metatron. 446) and mustdlu. "whose profound heart no god can fathom" (ibid. the Endless Light (cf. Kether is referredto in the Zohar (see Ponce. in the hypothetical Mesopotamian model they would have been gods. 7 Binah. 17: It shouldbe emphasized the term"angels" an inaccuthat is rateandconfusingone in this context.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 177 elements of the Tree. thoughtful. 7). but also the secrets of the Catholic faith" (Scholem.. Kabbalah. cf." attested in Perry.. Tree of Life. They are. p. . Compare this with references to the moon god Sin as "Anu of the sky whose counsel nobody perceives" (Perry. "reflective thinking.69Sin with Mardukwith Mercy. knower of secrets. "Understanding"or "Intelligence. no. Galter. p. to be compared with Halevi.. explicitly equates angels with planets: Raphael = Sun. "Revelation.. Assyriologists will need no justification for associating Ea with Wisdom.Zadkiel = Jupiter. whichcannotbe an independent literature. Kabbalah. the powersare called power. 643 f. which is consistent with their definition as divine powers. 66 and 101). receptive and reflective capacity. crystallized in the tree diagram. On a passage in Bahir merging the Sefirot with angelic beings. 74.. Way of Kabbalah. Tree of Life. like the angel Shalgiel who only dealt with snow. 5:10.. surpassingly/exceedingly wise.. Tree of Life. sage of gods" (Tallqvist. no.subordinated of of divine messenger God. Der Gott Ea/Enki in der akkadischen Uberlieferung (Graz. with the aid of which it was possible not only to understand the teachings of Pythagoras. Kabbalah. 4 as Zadkiel. Halevi. p..A Hebrew magical-astrological text from Nisibis entitled "Wisdom of the Chaldeans.Anael = Venus. and their prominent association with numbers calls to mind the mystic numbers of the Mesopotamian gods." One could not hope for a better etiology of Sumerian me/garza and Akkadian parsu.. 2 as Raziel.. Samael = Mars. Galter.73and Understanding. 119 ff. s. as of According to a legend quoted by Halevi. Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 22 (1900): 329 ff. p. Gabriel = Moon. 5 as Samael. the rest are general epithets stressing the greatness of the god. p. a further25 percent define him as the creatorgod or the lord of Apsu and the waters of life.. Conversely." p. is defined as "intellect in its passive.70 lieved that they had discovered in the Kabbalah an original divine revelation to mankind . Ea's epithets "fatherof the (great) gods" and "creatorof everything/all mankind/created things" (Galter. pp.. "to which the title YHWH is added. For the Kabbalisticnotion of Hokhmaas "the fatherof all created things"and the archetypeof fatherhood. making them a groupof divine beings. with functions and attributescoinciding with those of the Sefirot. p.). a system of pleromatic powers" (Dan. and the Orphics. Most gods fell into their place immediately and unequivocally. p. 34 f.In the Hekhalot Yah whichcannot by nameslike 'Akhatriel AdonaiZevaoth. p." an allusion consonant with the Kabbalistic notion of Hokhmahas a hidden luminarydirectly in contact with En Sof. Origins. Plato." an allusion consonant with the Mesopotamian notion of Apsu (cf. see Scholem. 118) as "The Wisdom-Gushing Fountain" flowing into a large vessel in the earth called "Sea. 7 as Haniel. and note Sin's epithets "wise. 1:37). Wisdom is the theme of one-third of all attested epithets of Ea. knower of ingenious things". pp. Gotterepitheta. Ea is referredto as "Greatlight of Apsu. 5:5). Philosophia Sacra [1626]). deep pondering" (Halevi. 3 as Zaphkiel. 8 as Raphael. 38) and "profound intellect act[ing] as a counterbalance to Wisdom" (idem. Gaster. "judicious. 13. wise. 51 (tree composed of Greco-Romangods and their planets). "the Divine Name EL [was attached] to the functional name of each angelic being. 2:9). "whose mind no god knows" (ibid. so that it could never exert more of its power than God wished. no. represented as angelic beings in some Sefirotic schemes. pp. are crucial in this respect. p.). Kabbalah. 148. Michael = Mercury. to back up inspiration" (idem."fatherof fathers" (Ponc6. Medieval definitions gave this termthe meaning a created. 34 ff. The Hekhalot texts contain long lists of angels with names ending in el." also rendered Prudentia (Robert Fludd. Their names and definitions strongly recall the attributesand symbols of Mesopotamian gods. p. 1983). Another conservative factor certainly was that the doctrines of Kabbalah. In a commentaryrecently edited by George (RA 85 [1992]: 152). see H. Three Types.). deliberate. Enki/Ea. 284). no. Transferringthese equations to the diagramjust mentioned.68Accordingly.71Samas with Judgment. 80 ff. Kabbalah. 55). 68 See the diagramin Halevi. 6 as Michael. Sin. "divine power of function"! 69 Cf. p. in fact. 17). represent a highly integrated system of thought which by its very nature works against radical changes in it.' be interpreted otherthanan appellation a divinepower. idem. one obtains a tree stated in terms of planet(arygod)s. and Qaphsiel = Saturn. sage/ king of wisdom. 6). I replaced the Sefirot with Mesopotamian gods sharing their functions and/or attributes (see fig. Kabbalah. and 9 as Gabriel. Ea's epithets "sage of the gods/universe.72 Istar with Beauty."published by M. omniscient. for references.. 74. and personal names (CAD. lord of wisdom/secrets. ).v. and Ponc6. circumspect. Sin. p. pp.

the beautiful one. W. 74 Cf. see J. 1978]. for Ninurta as the Mesopotamian victory god par excellence. While "merciful" occasionally occurs as an epithet of other gods. "heroism. nos. Mayer. Cooper. above and Tallqvist. 52)." The alternative name of this Sefirah.: "You are the mother. Return of Ninurta. as well as the fact that it is frequently applied to the king as the image of Marduk (see the discussion in LAS. within whose womb all that was contained in Wisdom finally becomes differentiated [and out of whom] the remaining sefiroth proceed" (Ponc6. "hero") are derived from the same root as Gevurah. the two [other] Sefirot [above and below it] are integral components of the middle value. works)" of God. compassion"). the angel "presiding over all the holy forms on the left side of God" is identified with Gabriel. 371. Origins. its prominence as an epithet of Marduk in firstmillennium texts. Gotterepitheta. Kabbalah. whose strength is exalted. no. i. and Livingstone. 123. Din is replaced by its synonym Mishpat. Ninurta's epithets "the warrior. 18 ff. M. 36 (1967): 116 ff. for attestations. "hero" (CAD. cf. ibid. Moon (see Scholem.). This role agrees with the position of Binah on top of the Pillar of Judgment (see n." "procreatorof all" (Tallqvist. "maker of decision(s). Origins. pp. 73 Note simply Istar's well-known identification with Aphrodite and Venus and the epithet "lady/goddess of beauty and love." and gibbor.." refers to Sin as the Supreme Divine Arbiter.. see also nn. 1 iv 24." etc. 447. "I [Istar] have loved you [the king] very much". who is repeatedly portrayedas her baby (see my discussion in the introductionof Assyrian Prophecies and cf. Nielsen. pp. "strong man" (CAD. nos. for Nanaya = Istar. Marduk's epithets "merciful god/father/ lord. 195 ff.. and n. "decision. p. 144: "The Pillar of Judgment receives its name from the center Sefirah. 20. remeni and tajjaru.) is an exact semantic equivalent of Hebrew gevurah..pp. s. pp. that in contrast to the other Sefirot. merciful to mankind". n. and r.) and quradu. and see also Enuma elis VI 137 and VII 27 ff. 84 below). Nabi [Rome. 18 and 23).v.). 2." "father of the great gods. 1985). Ponc6. merciful and forgiving." Note that in Bahir. Gotterepitheta. see also n. S. "The Gula Hymn of Bullutsa-rabi. the queen of the Babylonians. Note. an exact semantic equivalent of Binah).178 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES Nabu and Ninurta with Victory (Nezah). see Tallqvist.Intelligence" (Nahi..v. G6tterepitheta. killer of Anzf" in Lambert.v." while Gevurah there corresponds to Nezah (see n. p. SAA 3 no. p. ibid. p. 136). The other common name of this Sefirah. 24). the loving one. and that Akkadian qurdu. 1975). Pomponio. note that the corresponding Hebrew words (gever. s.74Crown (Keter) was the emblem of both Anu and Enlil. 58). cf..s. 106:2. compare this with Sin's epithets "birth-giving (dlidu) father. Binah is explained as "superiorjustice" (Scholem. the mighty son of Enlil. 71 Cf. p. lines 913. see n. 1976]. Binah is represented by its synonym Tevunah.In her capacity as the goddess of love. [possess]or of might. p. Gotterepitheta. 446). and cf. who is beautiful to a superlative degree. and B. a palm of carnelian. is explicitly attested as a name of the moon god in Thamudic inscriptions. vol. 53 above).see ibid. eds. Gotterepitheta.vv. . who achieved victory for Enlil. the latter figures as the vanquisher of Anzi in Cooper. In the Etanamyth (see pp. 122)." not attached to any other god (see Tallqvist. on the epithet "fruit (enbu) giving birth to itself" (ibid. s.. see Tallqvist. Binah is "the Supernal Mother." Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatisch-Aegyptischen Gesellschaft 21 (1917): 254 f. 97 below. 145:2. the merciful one with forgiving heart.. Istar of Babylon. the beautiful one. Kabbalah... In Rav's list of ten creative powers (see n. valor. pp. 39:24 ff. "man. (cf. and 150:2) refers to the "mighty deeds (or acts." which she shares with Nanaya/Tasmetu(Tallqvist. Ninurta largely merged with Nabf (see F. 49). 38:12 (see also ibid.. Ponc6. judgment. 397. Another frequent epithet. G. "great lord" (Tallqvist. belet ru'ami and radimtu). p. Kabbalah. confirms that it represented a central characteristic of this god. J. 49 above). mighty deeds" (CAD. This correlatesnicely with the primaryconnotation of the word rahamim ("motherly feeling. 147 f.. pp. corresponds to Marduk's ubiquitous epithet belu rabu. Gotterepitheta. 2 ff. 74). the one who loves all mankind. Der Mythenadler Anzu (Budapest. Gdtterepitheta. the victor who threshes the foe but makes the righteous stand. 456 if. 127 f. V. The Return of Ninurta to Nippur (Rome. pp."Or.e. 34:57 f. 72 Samas was the divine judge par excellence: the name Din exactly corresponds to Samas's primary epithet bel dini. see J. the Sefirah of Tiferet was pictured as female. pp. 189 ff. Roberts. Gevurah . Lambert "The Problemof the Love Lyrics.vv.. Note the co-occurence of both "great lord" and "merciful god" in the incipits of prayers to Marduk (W. In the first millennium. finally. too. p. You are the mother. cf. 147. Istaris portrayedas a beautiful virgin. 66 and 89. referring to Ninurta). corresponds to Istar'sepithets "lady of love. 1975). Hruska. 110:10. The other name of the Sefirah." in H. 43. The Legend of Etana (Warminster. pp. 116 ff. below). Istar had a special relationship to the Assyrian king. 385).. p. 1978). Untersuchungen zur Formensprache der babylonischen "Gebetsbeschworungen" [Rome. Unity and Diversity (Baltimore. see D. 68 above). In another section of Bahir.). p. pp. s.75but since in the first millennium Enlil was commonly equated with Marduk "Understanding. corresponds to Samas's standard epithets etlu. p. and the dictionaries s. "lord of judgment. which in the Psalms (71:16. 35:51 f. Gedullah (Greatness). In Rav's list of ten creative powers (see n. "Uber die nordarabischen G6tter. Rahamim (Compassion or Love). Gevurah (Power of Might). pp. 16 and 60. Goedicke and J. Kinnier Wilson.

-The reconstructed Tree .7.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 179 PILLAR OF EQUILIBRIUM PILLAR OF JUDGMENT FIG.

Kabbalah.the cattle of Sakkan. 486. and note that the word occurs in "Victory. 12.78For the identification of Daat with Mummu (Consciousness) and the number zero. the heavenly father.180 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES the (just as his son Ninurta was equated with Nabu).all living creatures. equated with the cattle god Sakkan in CT 29 76 See n. cunning Tempter (a role ("Lord"). It should be noted that in rabbini. Such renderings Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions not only as a comagree with the meaning of the word in modern He. p. Gotterepitheta. In modern Kabbalistic literature. which contains the plan of the en. 13.Nezah is. "of Keter is referred to as the "Ancient of Ancients.recognition in Nergal and Ereskigal (Dalley. "King of Opulence" and "Day of AOAT 213 (Neukirchen-Vluyn. and n. and 104 below.) and list of ten creative powers (n." also rendered "Endurance. Ninurta is represented as Ge.77 responds Foundation (Yesod) corresponds to Nergal.) and from his appellative "Gazelle" (CT 12 14. from his uncontrolled 1932]. as well as the personal name Subsi-mesreduk was for political reasons never overt but was Sakkan. overlooked in E." female genitals" (Ponc6.of the soul which corresponds to animal life and dephus Victoria". Der assyrische Gott. and see n. where Anu is associated with the pellatives and epithets "King of Tricks" (Lugalking's crown and Enlil with his throne. 175 ff. GBtterepitheta. pp. mankind. the god of Heaven. For Nergal as Pluto. Dalley. This corresponds to Anu's epithets "the first man's animal instincts. "lord of brew but not with the active nature of the Pillar of power and strength") but also as a synonym of ussu. 16:38. it is the Alpha and the thets such as "the power of earth" or "the strongest/ Omega. p. "Gottersymbole und -attribute.mon epithet of Nergal (in bel abdri u dunni. Date and Symbolism. note his names LugalMarduk. prevail" (see Jastrow. and his ability to evade God's primal will.). SAA 3 no. note his identification with the fox in Livingstone. 11 r. Eternity.Duration."etc. 77 Note also SAA 3 no.sires. 38 above. . 174). 3R 66 i pp. 38:37 (cf. Der babylonische Gott cf. 49). Permanence. Yesod is associated with "that aspect in older Kabbalistic literature (see. and the herds of wild animals"). are not found is replaced by Kah (Strength). "might. where Bel = Marduk). (Tallqvist. AOAT 11 [Neukirchen-Vluyn. the handsome face" (sa pani bani). the place of first most potent/powerful of gods" refer to Nergal specifiemanation and ultimate return" (Halevi. 353 and stressed by Sommerfeld. 53 above) nor with the attributes of Nabu and Ninurta. see nn. 114:9 ("Enlil your father entrusted to you [Nergal] K. CT 33 1 i 17). 254) and to his role in the creation process (see n. In Kabbalah. 89.cf. s. iv 20 and v 24 f. Der Aufstieg Marduks. "foundation. on the usurpationof Enlil's position by 46:13). Tallqvist. Philosophia Sacra [1626]: "Trium..v. the greatest one in heaven CT 25 11:12 and KAR 142 i 22 f. creator of vurah. 3. 49). strength. Enlil's assimilation to Mar.. SAA 3 mystic number 50. 39:31. [and is] symbolic of both male and tiacus [Rome. hegal and Ud-hegal. ibid. 1982). 927 f. pp. [it is] located in the third world. Oedipus Aegyp. lord of the underworld. creative powers (n. As Opulence" (Tallqvist. 68 and 129). s. cally as the personification of sexual potency and p. p.476).everything" (Tallqvist. 1652]: "Victory"). for example. "Shikaft-i Gulgul: Its dische Gebetsserie "Handerhebung" (Berlin. the one who contains the entire universe. his aponation hymn). for example. Yesod (Foundation) that the renderings "Endurance." and the like. is in Akkadian homonymous with a word for foundation. p. pp. this aspect of Agsur is referred to in Assyrian cultic texts as Agsur-Crownor sexual behavior in the myth of Nergal and Ereskigal Assur-Enlil. p. 5 (Assurbanipal'scor. Myths tire universe and the power of all opposites in unity from Mesopotamia." Iranica Antiqua 12 [1977]: 38. Kabbalah. and through the Nergal. Anu as the Monad. Mythsfrom Mesopotamia [Oxford." the first expression of theta. 74. mesnr).39: 34 ff. plain Agsur or Agsur-Agsur(see. 75 See U. the materialand sensuous world. pp. Die akkawith Anu and Enlil (see Reade. "bedrock. 94 below). pp. 352 and 393 ff. StOr 4/3 [Helsinki. 94.). RIA. Kabbalah. Seidl. while Agsur himself is referred to as (S. 1989]. In Rav's list of ten and earth. von Weiher. realized covertly through Marduk's appellative Bel For Nergal as a beautiful. Fox Star = Erra. p.76 topmost Sefirah most naturallycorto Anu. which replaces Enlil (See SAA 3 no. It seems likely that epi(Ponce.no. "all that was." and as designation of the netherworld Mercy (see n. 55 above). dunnu. Note also that in Rav's ous. attributedto both gods. 171 ff. 1953).(dunni qaqqari. see notes 111 and 125 below. besides 78 See CAD. In Kabbalah. cal Hebrew the root nsh means only "to be victori. is and will be. 6)." which in the Sefirotic scheme nor.. For mally occurs as an alternative name of Din. terrafirma"). vol. The equation Ninurta = Nabf is explicitly attested in (god). 113). galamma). Athanasius Kircher.v. GotterepiPrimordial Point or Monad.the father/progenitor of the (great) gods. "Bring-Riches-Sakkan!"(CAD. whose primary characteristic. "cunning in tricks" (uzun nikilti). In Assyria the crown also occurs Nergal's association with animal life and sexual deas a symbol of Agsur by virtue of Agsur's equation sires is clear from passages such as Ebeling. Sommerfeld. win. Robert Fludd. 1971]). see W. r. Dict.

. "Konigtum. University of Durham. announcing. proud. unidentified. 77). 1970]). First Impressions. 437. 31).. the mystic number 10 was also assigned to Madanu ("Verdict") and Nusku. Nabui. for further examples. the same gods also share the epithet gasru. 83 See n. the voice of your [Assur's] majesty" (siqir illilutika Addu). 432. A. bel biri/purussi. pp. translation of the New English Bible [Oxford. 430." with whom the mystic seeks to be united. nn. It constitutes the Shekhinah. 8). In it the Divine Light is earthed. the god of vigilance and hope (manifested in the lunar crescent. vol. 83 if. For Nusku-Girru's epithets gasru. 98 f.-J. 84 Cf. 383 f. 32) and "reverberates the impulse throughout the Tree" (idem. the streamers are exceptionally grasped not by the king but by a royal eunuch. 130 ("It is through her that the divine grace of En-Sof passes through into the lower world"). 230). the firegod Girru. see my introduction in Assyrian Prophecies. cf. his name "King of Decisions" and epithets "lord of oracles/ decisions.84 I have excluded this Sefirah from the reconstructed model because it breaks the compositional harmony of the Tree and because the king. 49 above). 424. the equation Girru = Nusku = Madanu = Nuru ("Light") is explicitly attested in Assyrian prayers. 371. 429. p. its closest semantic equivalent in Akkadian is the root srh with its derivates sarhu and sitrahu. which this god shares with Adad.The appearance of the goddess in the scene is not fortuitous. Accordingly. The beginning of this passage literally reads "Yahweh will make the majesty of his voice heard" (hsmyc yhwh 't-hwd qwlw). probably the owner of the seal. 7 ("The lowest Sefirah. Oppenheim. 82 The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia (Jerusalem. and tappe Samas. which "picks up and passes on information" (Halevi. 337a). God's "Presence. the Presence of God in Matter"). and Marduk (see Tallqvist.80 it is noteworthy that in the Bible the word hod and refers to Jahweh as a thundering and flashing storm. pp. and Marduk." and the like (see Tallqvist. is defined as "the receptive potency which distributes the Divine stream to the lower worlds. This agrees with Adad's role as the oracle god par excellence. In Collon. who share the same mystic number.vv.and Ponc6.81 The last Sefirah. splendid. fig. Seux. Kingdom (Malkhut). and see. "mighty" (ibid. "Rebuke. "Near Eastern Seals in the Gulbenkian Museum of Oriental Art. Ninurta. p. Gotterepitheta... p.. This notion of the Shekhinah agrees perfectly with the role played by Igtar in Assyrian ecstatic prophecy. where she represents the Word of God manifested through prophetic spirit (to pneuma. s.83The motif of the king as distributor of the Divine stream is repeatedly encountered on Assyrian seals. god. Gotterepitheta. where he holds a streamer emanating from the winged disk above the sacred Tree (fig. and 315. and 445. 499b (for Gibil = Girru. august judge. cock. "glorious. Hod is defined in Kabbalah as "the support of the fifth Sefirah Judgment" (Ponc6. Kabbalah. the Crown.). Way of Kabbalah. Kabbalah. "spiritus sanctus"). Ancient Mesopotamia (Chicago. 3. the Kingdom. and cf. 379. Kabbalah. 24. with many striking examples. the streamers are held by Istar herself along with another. Dictionary. 1090. 28 above and M. 229 ff. When referring to Adad and Girru. and lamp). Hod is replaced by Gaarah."82 which in Mesopotamia can only apply to the king as the link between God and Man. p." both of which are well attested as epithets of Adad. 73 above. see ibid." Shekhinah. 145 below. by his roar. see ibid." Iraq 41 (1979): pl. Untersuchungen. 386 and 406 f. and see n. Palmier-dattier. Danthine. this Sefirah corresponds to Adad and Girru. p. 1964). pp. L. "virgin of light. to be compared with "Adad. p. Nabi. figs. beauty. 81 "Then the LORD will make his voice heard in majesty (hod) and show his arm sweeping down in fierce anger with devouring flames of fire. p. such epithets were certainly associated with the continuous flashing and roaring of a violent thunderstorm. see Idel. n. pp. 25 and 55. 163. Halevi.85 79 The Hebrew word hod means "glory. and dajjanu siru. majesty" and in rabbinical Hebrew also "distinction. and 166 ff. p. 8:67. and Ninurta. 129). p. clearly does not form part of it in Assyrian art. Tree of Life. splendor. 30:30." 80 See RIA. see Mayer.79the last three of whom already had their place in the diagram. it should be noted that in Kabbalah. Cf. In a seal published by Lambert. though impersonating the Tree. 345. bukur/ilitti Anim. the goddess Istar appears in the background. Girru. 420. 333. 435. divine judgments and decisions to mankind. is envisioned as a beautiful woman. vol. 6. Lugal-esbarra. 372.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 181 I had to resort to Tallqvist's Akkadische Gotterepitheta to find that the only gods with epithets fitting the Sefirah of Hod (Splendor or Majesty) were the stormgod Adad. pride" (Jastrow. Kabbalah. 1958-59). p. Note that in Rav's list of ten creative powers (see n. pp. Besides Adad and Girru. with cloudburst and tempests of rain and hailstones" (Isa. is Malkhut. the complement to Keter." RIA. KAR 128 r. sarhu. 85 The secondary nature of the Sefirah Malkhut is also indicated by the fact that it is not included . 162 f.

see Saporetti. Das akkadische Syllabar. p. "LiteraryLetters from Deities and Diviners: More Fragments. 1969). 10. K. ii 3).NAM (all NB) are known from Babylonia. Ninurta'snumber 50. Samas's number 10 Works. 115 with n. which certainly is a mistake for Ur-40 (Gilg. Saporetti. 3. 81:6.. Livingstone.4). Adad's number 6. Nergal. only sporadic examples plays a role only in the gematric speculations of I. 217:10. in E. pp. 576b. 118:9. 40.) is ascertained through collations by has been derived from 20 by splitting the latter into M. lines 18 f. 86 That is. which did not take longer than half an hour. p. and G. used passim for writing the = Adad suddenly becomes productive under Shalgod's name. and 60. previously only the name of the moon god had been written this way.astrological texts. 1979]). and Tallqvist. the two examples dle Assyrian Empire and represents a genuinely cited by Gaiter (Enki/Ea.86 some cases. 8. Samas has two numbers. see Livingstone. In addition. X ii 22 and Soden. For many examand the cultic calendar Inbu bel arhi. 22 39 r. Lambert. twelfth century (reign of Assur-res-isi I). passage overlooked by Rollig has 40 = Ninurta. SAA 3 no. For the most part. 49). 203-4 below.182 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES Once the gods had been placed in the diagram. see 0. it can be seen that the practice of writing 38:26. eds. this was a purely mein chanical operation." Mystical his mystic number 20 (3 = 60/20). 228 (NB). 104 below) and nirari I (Andrae.Kult. 87 In Rollig's list. 131. and note 1985). For 15 = Istar and 10 = Adad in Middle Assyrian/Neo-Assyrian names. and 80). commenting on the fifty names of Marduk in Enuma elis VII 144. 9(?) and 50. p. 101:10 f. Gods with the same number were taken as equated and assigned the same place in the diagram (see nn. two (cf. it is attested After a single occurrence in the reign of Adadonly once in a lexical passage (see n. 156:4. see Excursus 1. Kult.62:4. see CT 25 a similar play with a mystic number. Pedersen. 224:20. 236. "9" for Ninurta. Ea has three numbers. the accuracy of Mystical Works. and von Weiher. 52 above) in Kabbalistic tradition. 6 + 10. Onomastica. lines 20-24.32.. n. p. however. p.87The numbers shown in figure 9 are those used in the spelling of divine names in the Middle and Neo-Assyrian standardorthography. This still leaves 6 and 10 for Adad. and ND 4358+:67 among the six Sefirot constituting the "Lower Face" (see n. "50" for Ea occurs . 1080 r. there was generally only one number per god and only one god per number. 32 f.. p. where Samas is equated with Sin (30 = 3) through the reciprocal of King's copy (against Livingstone's "11. For 50 = Enlil. 148 f. 39:35. 30 = Sin was prolific in personal names from the Akkadian period on. 88 For numerous examples of Ea written with the Ninurta I (1243-1207). PN. Tn. 4 R2 33 iii Ea (Weidner. APN. STT 88 r. 57:5. 47 r. 327. unlike 40. it was. p. 102:12. The Cult of As?sur(Assen. For 14 = Nergal/Sakkan. Ea was divine names with numbers emerged under the Midnever spelled 40 in Assyrian texts. is well attested and possibly of great an." UET 3 KAV 104:18. 114. all but one of them Assyrian.A (5R 44 iii 15). pp. Leichty et al. see KAJ 48:17. p. nor in Rav's list of the ten creative divine powers (n.23. is erroneously given (see I. see MSL 14. Actually. 50:15 and cf. 191. Grayson. 9). 98:32. 230 and 248) are NeoAssyrian innovation. 9. 1 (Uppsala. RIA.s. 299:6. Kalender. and 268.) is a copy of a Middle Babylonian original. passim. passim). I had to choose between two or three alternative numbers. 3 (Neo-Assyrian). von only in mur-50 = mLU-dE. Or. never used and 2904:1 (datings after Saporetti. vol. The earliest examples of 60 = also BBR 26 iii 44. [Rome.. iv 16. 120:14 and 27 ff.88I should point out that the number for Anu. 1988].. 40 and 50. 52 f."JAOS 103 (1983): 148.32. however. pp. 60:2 and 61:1) date from the late 43. Finkel. 51:18. see Gaiter. pp. A Scientific Humanist: Studies in Memory of Abraham Sachs [Philadelphia. Stelenreihen 90:2. 10 and 1967]. For with 20 = sarru. see SAA 8. The earliest attestation of 15 = Istar (KAJ 85:30) is from the reign of Tukulti60. Enki/Ea. passim. G.. 90:20. pp. Borger. 55. 6 + 10 + 10 and 6 + 6 + avoided in personal names for fear of confusion 6 + 10). The equation 50 = Mardukis established by 50 = dBE in CT 13 32 r. and HKL 1. 15 and 37:8. p.HUR is used to derive days sacred to Adad from combina.. Ranke. 10 and 20. vol. Geller and W. Onomastica. and 40 and 60 for Ea. attributedto him as maneser I (1273-1244). a Tallqvist. 114:15. 352. TR 100:12 f. Landsberger.. son of Enlil. 180:12. and 20 for Samas. In sum.). Rollig's article "Gotterzahlen" in the Reallexikon der Assyriologie (see fig. which is the reciprocal of 10. "My-God-is-50. the spelling was tions of 6 and 10 (6. where it ples of 20 = Samas in Neo-Assyrian/Neo-Babylonian GIS. remains unattested and is best ignored. deduced only from the god's association with the ninth day.). AnOr 42. van Driel. vol. ibid. see Landsberger. 1. and only Babylonian or Late Babylonian. Adad has two numbers. 177 ff. and Libraries in the City of Assur. 37:17. 50(?). pp. tiquity (note Gudea's temple E-50 and the Ur III personal name i-li-ha-an-sa. APN and NBN. Ninurta has two numbers. 2086:4. pp. I filled in their mystic numbers using as a guide W. 275:5. KAR35 r. Kalender. 74. 255 and 285 (Ea II 176 and Aa II/4:203 ff. For 40 = Ninurta see SAA 3 no. pp. For Ea's numbers 40 and medio-assiri [Malibu. Gli eponimi for writing the god's name. the reading is ascertained through collation by A. 123:3. 76. 12. 41. 6 and 10.and all of them are securely attested. the spelling 10 is clearly secondary to 20. see W. Archives sign 60 (DIl). so that this god too had two numbers. 2.

courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 183 FIG.8.9. FIG. Cylinder seal impression.-The King as distributor of the Divine Stream.-The distribution of the mystic numbers .

6). Insusinak. where Anu is associated not only with the crescent ("Appearance on the first day: the crescent (is) Anu .Zababa. 202) but is in fact a savior god comparable to Christ or Mithra." Anu's number comprised the mystic numbers of all other gods. 3. the vertical wedge can also be read 60. D. one obtains a complete outline of the Tree divided into the "Upper" and "Lower Faces" (see n. who is still commonly regarded as "the god of war or hunting" (cf. Grayson. Adad. the composition of the group has become more or less standardized (cf.184 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES as 60 in Rollig's article. Leipzig. Ponc6. Nabu. and often seemingly contradictory evidence of the Mesopotamian religious texts. SAA Bulletin 3 [1989]: 26). it would be next to impossible to understandthe system on the basis of the scattered. 5. 10a). father of the gods. In the diagram. 1968]. 78. OIP 2 [Chicago.NAM GIS. The pattern of equations and interrelationshipsfound in the diagram is already discernible in the late second-millennium god list An = Anum (see Lambert. Istar. p. 76 above). pp. Saggs. 7. do we have in figure 10b the Assyrian "sign of the cross" defining the body of the Divine anthropos (cf. Landsberger. who points out. he was the Alpha and the Omega (cf. p. 2. and 97.. 10d). which functions as a mandala defining the essentials of the system in the simplest possible visual terms. just as our number 1 (depending on its context) is a symbol for both 1 and 10. transferring the Ashurnasirpalgroup into the diagram in the order in which the gods are enumerated. one observes that practically all the great gods of the Assyro-Babylonian pantheon figure in it. 4. 646." the only reading that makes sense is 1. Tadmor. pp. but. bearing in mind that. The point is that the vertical wedge. see Excursus 2. the key to the system is the Tree diagram. with Istar in the heart of the diagram as the terminal point (see fig. 188. "the first god. 136). n. Marduk. The Might That Was Assyria. as we shall see presently. Lugalbanda. 91 See nn. 60 (is) Anu. 23 and 30. among other things. ?? 8.90I felt on the verge of a major discovery. the gods found in the diagram appear as a group in Assyrian royal inscriptions. 3. 1924]. in the absence of a symbol for zero in the Mesopotamian number system. Samas. 77). gods equated with Nabf and Ninurta (Lugalmarda. highly symbolic.. Ninurta. As in Kabbalah. 105. 275 f. for passages associating Anu with the first month and the first day. see B. Ningirsu). pp.HUR. From the reign of Tiglath-Pileser I on (11141076). the diagram unfolds a sophisticated monotheistic system of thought sharply deviating from the current simplistic notion of Mesopotamian religion and philosophy. 76. for example. Enlil. Nergal and other chthonic deities. As can be seen. see also Lambert. and by the reign of Ashurnasirpal II (883-859). vol. above. for whom no mystic number is attested. through a gematric operation. 52). which surveys the whole pantheon as an extended royal family starting with the divine king. This orthographical innovation can be securely dated to the early thirteenth century and thus coincides with the appearanceof the Late Assyrian Tree (see n. and then proceeding as follows: 2. A case in point is the god Ninurta/Nabfi. Of course. Uras. that this importantgod "lacks the family connections which are characteristic of all the major gods and . also with the full moon: "15 times 4 is 60 ['1']. this requirementdid not apply. As "One and Sixty." and these again to mere aspects or powers of a single universal God (see below). 138)? 92 On the special status of Agsur within the pantheon.. Interestingly. Luckenbill. Tispak." Iraq 45 (1983): 82-85. and D. the same result is obtained when Rav's list of the ten creative powers are transferredto the diagram (see fig. RIA. he called the 'fruit' [= full moon]" (see Livingstone.). stood for both 1 and 60. 74. 486. Sin. but in the case of Anu. Ea. not only the diagram itself but the perplexingly opaque Mesopotamian religion as well started to make sense. Anu. 204-5 below. The Annals of Sennacherib. Amurru. Without this key. This seems more than a coincidence. p. Mystical Works. some occupying the same place because they were theologically equivalent. This strongly suggests that this imporAssur. the structure of the list perfectly agrees with that of the diagram. which was esoteric.91Only one major god is missing. the value "1" is of course the primary one in both cases. Kabbalah. 413. "The God Assur. for political reasons.89 The ease with which the gods and their numbers fitted into the diagram was almost too good to be true. IN OF THE DISTRIBUTION GODSAND NUMBERS THEDIAGRAM Looking at the reconstructed diagram more closely.Der kultische Kalender der Babylonier und Assyrer [1915.92 sporadic examples of other numerically written god names are known from later Babylonia. p. Belet-ili. The first (restui) god. vol. Suddenly. 89 See p. and the insights obtained in the process were more than encouraging. Istaran. This point is made quite explicit in the esoteric work I. 90 In reducing the multitude of Mesopotamian gods to mere aspects of a few "great gods.6. 1 (is) Anu").. ARI. 80. the family of Enlil had to be presented as distinct from that of Marduk (see n.

Palmier-dattier. "poured out") the supernal and infernal gods and fashioned the vaults of heaven and earth".). the bow held by him represented Istar. and Excursus 2 below)." p. alias Beltiya. ABRT I 83. 25 above). and 113. and note the Assyrian spelling of Ninurta with the sign of the cross." pp. Calmeyer. 476. 1 ii 16 ff. For the Apsu (Abyss) as ocean of light. First Impressions. Assyrian Sculpture. Cult of Assur. pp. occupying a place of honor beside his father comparable to that of Christ or Michael as "the archon of all the holy forms on the right side of God" (see Scholem. 55. the crescent replaces the Tree. En Sof ("The Limitless") is defined as total unity beyond comprehension. "Shikaft-i Gulgul. goddesses of the Babylonians and Sumerians."pp. Halevi. creator of himself. and 35:44 ff. and many claim the identity of the two of them (see Scholem. 24 ff. for the moon as an embodiment of the divine pleroma. 52). 63). 191 f. the "God of Heaven. the anthropomorphic disk with streamers (see n. and Lambert. van Driel. Assur is called "king of the totality of gods. 93 On the still open debate concerning the meaning of the winged disk. In Craig. el. for example. Thus it may be hypothesized that in Icons showing two minor gods beside the central figure (see n. 34:53 ff. 5 ff.g. ohne Samas wird es nicht gegeben'.. the winged disk. Of decisive importance here is the textual evidence discussed in n. which unquestionably establishes this particular form of the disk as a symbol of Assur (see also n. p." Archaeologische Mitteilungen aus Iran 17 [1984]: 147) certainly symbolized Ahura Mazda. who grew up in the Abyss. each of which defined one aspect of Assur. 204-5 below). the various spellings of Asur's name can. Kabbalah. and Tree of Life. Keter) has been a matter of debate among Kabbalists. "'Das Zeichen der Herrschaft'... identical with the Kabbalistic diagram illustrating the manifestation of En Sof as the Universal Monad (Ponc6. fig.. 66 and 89 above. pp. the divine figure inside the moon represented Nabf.En Sof is "merely a synonym for the traditional God of religion" (ibid. 37 r. uniting them in one big clan. the power of love (cf. "Trees. "'Das Zeichen der Herrschaft. 39 r. qastu. no. This accords well with the fact that Assur is commonly referred to as "the God" in Assyrian cultic texts (e. The streams emanating from the disk identified him as the source of wisdom (see nn. En. ii 9. 560 f.94As a matter of fact. In the popular Kabbalah. the god riding in the disk was not Agsur but Marduk. 25 above. 471. without difficulty. "The Gula Hymn.. 346. Only. figs. 56." p. The figure of Marduk portrayed him as the creator. father of the gods.. This is consistent with the fact that in some seal scenes (for example. p. 55 and 69). the solar disk of the Icon is replaced or accompanied by the lunar crescent... pp. In Kabbalistic theosophy. 559). SAA 3 no. It should be stressed. Thus the Icon portrayed Agsur as the sum total of the entire divine pleroma (see n. 72 and 79). is called En Sof Or. 5. 22 (1953): 36 r. 488). is identical with the transcendent God of Kabbalah. 93 ff. and 39 r." the Babylonian Madonna (cf. pp. According to SAA 3 no. or Universal God.. SAA Studies 1. 56). "Kultische Texte aus Assur. that. Der alte Orient. 96 below) and have "come into being before heaven and earth existed. pp. no. 103 below). and see also n." Note that the solar disk in Assur's icon is sometimes replaced by two concentric circles with a point in the center (see Collon. 28. and 307 with n.. who emanated (lit. . 340. Kabbalah. 94 See nn. Ebeling. One seeks in vain for his identity" (p." equated with Jahweh in Ezra 1:2.s. pp. 444.e. 2. 130. 4 f. Herbordt. KAR 215 r. 439. as the light of the world. 82). the Maltese Cross sometimes drawn inside the solar disk (Calmeyer.. the arrows shot by the god identified him as the conqueror of evil (see Excursus 2. "My Lady. Kabbalah. the righthand god likewise represented Nabf. no. 72. with earlier literature. accordingly. 69 and 96.) portrayed him as the lord of the universe (see LAS. While the plain winged disk certainly was a symbol of the sun god. VI 84-91 and CAD. lord of all gods. 330 f. Snakes and Gods.v. p. Danthine.. pp. 142 f. Idel. 97 below).. their lightning ends underlined his might (see nn. Danthine.. his Will to manifest himself. 4 f. however. The relationship of the Will of En Sof (i. 274. "The Endless Light. En Sof Or) to his first emanation (i." pp. 50. 149b and 152b). where it (despite P. hereafter "the Icon") must be interpreteddifferently. 88:36 and 136:16 ff. 75 above and pp. To complete the trinity with a female member. Palmier-dattier. Kabbalah. for En Sof as "the circle.e. This shows that the Icon represented a composite symbol consisting of several subordinate elements. 147 f. Orthmann. 67 f.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 185 tant god has to be identified with the winged disk over the Assyrian Tree from which the Divine stream emanates93and. in SAA 3 no. 26 f. king of heaven and earth. First Impressions." Or." see ibid. pp. according to the Assyrian(!) esoteric text SAA 3 no. s. This symbolism-and it alone-accounts for the role of the Icon in the Achaemenid Empire.. cf. see nn.. Origins. below). be interpretedas expressing the idea of the One." and envisioned as a boundless ocean of light engulfing and pervading the physical world (see. idem. Ponc6. and SAA 9 no.. n.. vol.. see nn.. pp. which lies behind all existence. 4) and identified with Anu in god lists (see Lambert. In Collon. and see n. 99). 38 f. p. 39 r. p. "Kabbalah. 28 f. see Reade. S. he is said to be "dressed in water" (see n. En Sof. 56 for the sun as a manifestation of Assur). dMAS.see also n. the left-hand god would then logically be Marduk's wife Zarpanitu.

Grayson. Parrot. Nineveh and Babylon (London. The same plotted on the body of the Divine anthropos. ARI 2.).HESED ~AMA~ IBTAR oM4RDUK ZEDEK. 1961). In this list. KAR 25 (see Excursus 2). b. fig. 49 and 70 if. 10. After A. FIG. ANU /AGAN TE. ?? 486 and 646 (reigns of Tukulti-Ninurta II and Ashurnasirpal II). GAARAH VURAH WGE NUSKU "\ERGAL/ NO NINURTA c.186 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES a. 9. Adad exceptionally appears among gods of the Upper Face to make possible the clockwise round of the Lower Face.vUNAH4 DAAT MISHPAT RAH) HOKHMAH SIN ENLIL ADAD EA o. Ray's list of creative powers (see nn. d.-Enumerations of Gods and divine powers .

Origins. 9. The second triad. have (sg. VAS 1 99 r. pp. pp. to be compared with the triadic configuration of nodes."All gods. which is visualized as emanatingfrom above (cf. In Hekhalot Rabbati." Nefesh. to be compared with Assur/Ilu/ Istar-eris and the royal name Agsur-ahu-iddina(Esarhaddon). 109.95The solar disk through which he was primarily represented implies that his essential nature was light. on the "vereinfachung des weiblichen Pantheons" in the Assyrian cultic calendar. quoting the Book of Bahir) and associated not only with the "Worlds of Creation" (see n. also used in Christian. pp. the Tree is likened to "a celestial ladder whose first edge is on the earth and second edge on the right leg of the throne of glory" (Dan. corresponds to the highest degree of consciousness. the tree is composed of three successive generations of gods appearing horizontally as interrelated trinities. and this conclusion is corroboratedby such names as Gabbu-ilani-sarru-usur. It is the world of instincts where "all conscious energies are concentrated in the sexual and instinctual sphere [and] the individual is conscious only of his own needs" (ibid. 379 f. 38).on this Kabbalistic metaphor."Assur/God/Istar commanded. and Indian mysticism.). see Halevi. p. pp. Origins. "All gods requested (sg.. the "invertedtree" in Cook. Kalender. Kabbalah.). "gods.and its different layers are viewed in terms of a gradual progress towards a higher form of consciousness. 22. Such a usage of course perfectly agrees with the Tree diagram. corresponding to the divine generations. pl. Muslim. but also with three degrees of consciousness and layers of the soul. Anu. a position where [man can] see others not in the light of his own needs. representing all female deities. 97 Cf.) and Remanni-ilani "ilani." and Remanni-Assur/Ilu/Istar. The horizontal triads. p. nn. Istar. twelfth century). the divine or "over-soul" Neshamah located in the center Sefirah. "The Gula Hymn. to be compared with Iqbi-Assur/Ilu/Istar. . where "the one who is worthy to observe the King and the throne"is likened to "a man who has a ladder in his house"). 75. "female" deities. 30. representativeof En Sof's moral power and emotion. 84:8. has a well-known parallel in this biblical pluralis majestatis. Landsberger. 30. and Gula = Nintinugga = Nanse = Ninkarrak = Baba = Ninsun = Mullissu in Lambert. the base of the trunk. 105 and 131. 201-2 below). 5) and Gabbu-ilani-eris. p. Kabbalah. Keter (head). 124 below). it is noteworthy that the plural ildni. thirteenth century). 20: 115. 205-8 below. not several. 98 On the triadic structureof the Sefirotic Tree. The parallel names imply that ilani here stands for the divine pleroma conceived as one god. It is the world of "moral virtues and ability to distinguish between good and evil . and 425. the Icon is often abbreviated to a mere winged disk (see Appendix B.. and note the equations Zarpanitu= Belet-ili = Serua = Erua = Istar in Mayer. Kabbalah. and see nn. to whom all returns". Examples are Iqbi-ilani "ilani commanded (sg. see. and Nergal." is used as a divine name and construed as a singular noun in Middle and Neo-Assyrian personal names. In other words. of course." the singular implying that there was. 8. the Kabbalistic parable in Bahir explaining the divine pleroma as a garden planted with nine male (palm) trees and one feminine tree (the ethrog). volutes.) the king!" (Ass. 78). Ilanieris. This usage of ilani. pp.. In accordance with this. 67 ff. only one. Kult. p. 22-25 above). The Tree of Life. the lord of the underworld. It is "the place where the individual perceives the 'plan' or meaning of being" (Ponc6. with sons lined under their fathers. "ilani requested (sg. This imagery is reflected in the iconography of the Assyrian Tree (cf. elohim." p. his daughter. corresponds to the self-conscious soul Ruah located in the Sefirah Tiferet(heart). Note that the latter name was borne by the chief scribe and ideologist of Ashurnasirpal II. The latter association gives the Tree a psychological dimension equaling in importance its theological and cosmological dimensions. Assyrian texts frequently speak of "the gods and Istar. Istar. 172 (cf. TCL 3. located in the Sefirah Yesod(genitals). are referred to as "a succession of layers" (see Scholem. "Mittelassyrische Rezepte. 96 The "garment of water" covering Agsur (n. king of Heaven. 2. In contrastto the cosmological Tree. 20 and 22). SAA 3 no. analyzed in Scholem. The lowermost triad corresponds to the "animal soul. etc. and circles of the Assyrian Tree (see fig. Erua. 26 r. 1). 9. cf. protect (sg. The remaining gods are arrangedto the right and left sides of the trunk in a corresponding way. Ebeling. the psychological Tree is rooted in the netherworld. 1: 16 (Assur as the progenitor of "the gods and Istar"). Untersuchungen. but in the light of their own" (ibid. in KAR 109.98The 95 See Excursus 3.. where Istar is surrounded by eight "male" deities.96 Of the gods found in the diagram. etc.)" (AfO 10 39 no. p." pl. p. occupies the crown. p. 8890: 9 and r. p.)" (CTN 3 52 r. n. 94) is a metaphor identifying him as "the ocean of divine light. both seventh century. for example. see Idel. as in Kabbalah. "God" (lit. "gods"). Revelation. and 38 above. in fact. APN. 55). pp.97occupies the middle.representativeof En Sof's power of thought. in general. The topmost triad. Baba is addressed as "Mullissu of the gods" and equated with Ningal. 2 and nn. see also ibid.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 187 as well as the various qualities of En Sof.)" (Tallqvist. 204). and Ilani-aha-iddina (TR 3016:6. 31.) mercy on me!" (VAT 9693 r. In this context. Aya. On seals. 202 ff.

Ea. the rest to the left side. one obtains for each branch the same total (30) as for the trunk. 102 See n. in the latter.102The sum total of the branches and the trunk (4 x 30 = 120) added to the sum total of the individual numbers (1 + 10 + 14 + 15 + . "Shikaft-i Gulgul." p. Yet.). A schematic year of 360 days divided into twelve months of 30 days each is encountered not only in the Assyrian cultic calendar Inbu bel arhi (see n. immediately recalls the eightpointed star attested as a symbol of Istar since the late second millennium B. 3. + 60 = 240) yields 360. The position of the number 15 in the center of the diagram is justifiable from the same point of view. Mystical Works. The distribution of the mystic numbers in the diagram (fig. the Sefirot are said to be "knotted in unity in the middle.HUR]). 203-4 above). 31). 170 f.NAM GIS. RIA. the From the standpoint of number harmony. vol. and Nusku are. for 358 as the number of the Messiah (Hebrew msyh =40 + 300 + 10 + 8).'03 99 For Anu. because of their association with fire. but the following two are not in numerical order. pp. as in the Sefirotic Tree. 484 f. the Pillar of Equilibrium. pp. 156. and see also n. for many other examples of gematria (Greek: isopsephy) in early Christianity and Gnosticism. God is the union of the 365 days of the year. when one adds the numbers together." pp. addressed as sons of Anu (see nn. the number of days in the Assyrian cultic year and the circumference of the universe expressed in degrees.. Girru. in descending order. pp. 37 f. Six of the numbers are full tens. 365 being the gematric value of both His mystic name ABRASAX and its Greek appellation hagion onoma ("holy name"). see Tallqvist. Reade. ii 27 with iii 14 f. and see Excursus 2.10? with the medium position of the trunk and recalls its Kabbalistic this tallies beautifully designation." represents the Sefirotic Tree in the form of an eight-pointed star. are negative and thus have to be subtracted from those on the right side.101 On the surface. and Nergal. see the esoteric passage "ba = share. This is so because the numbers on the left side. the Pillar of Equilibrium. 251 ff. As noted by Contenau. Gotterepitheta. (cf. we note that the numbers on the trunk. pp. the numbers on the right and left of the trunk seem to upset the balance of the Tree because the numbers on the left are consistently smaller than those on the right. 101 The position of Beauty in the middle of the Tree makes it "the central focus [which] joins and reconciles the flow of various paths that come through its junction station" (Halevi. of course. p.99 But that is not all. p. 22 above) before his eyes. it is correlated with a division of . Sin. where Istar invites her "divine fathers and brothers" to join the covenant she is concluding with the King. Adad. on the branches of the Tree: those higher than 30 to the right. The numbers on the trunk are not tens. Ninurta. See also Ponce.. according to the polar system of oppositions governing the Tree. 3 ii 35). while Istar is "the daughter"of both Anu and Sin and "the daughter-inlaw" of Ea. captioned "Beauty as the bearer of all powers. all neatly arranged. 53 above. The choice of 15 as the mystic number of Istar can actually be explained only with reference to the diagram. This. p. "Notes d'iconographie. 87 above) but also in the late second-millennium astronomical text Mul Apin (see Excursus 1. ba = half: half (ba) of Sin (30) is half of a half" (Livingstone. when added together. ibid. Kabbalah. 23:12 [I... median number of the sexagesimal system. 9) adds to it a dimension unknown in the Sefirotic Tree. Way of Kabbalah." as if the writer had the Assyrian Tree with its central node (see n. in Sefer Yezirah. 103 The significance of this grand total can be appreciated when it is recalled that in the doctrinal system of Basilides (early second century).C.). Marduk. 65 and 79 f. In this text. 204-5 below. Istar is unquestionably identical with Agsur(cf.188 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES lines connecting the gods exactly render the divine genealogies known from late second. Istar. Nabi. note that the emergence of this mystic number coincides with the emergence of the Assyrian Tree (see n. 88 above). 91 above.. yield 30. see Contenau. and their arrangement is different: they begin with 1. 100For 30 as the median number. 104. Kabbalah. pp. This fits Istar's position in the diagram perfectly and recalls a passage in the Assyrian prophecies (SAA 9 no. A diagram in Ponce.and early first-millennium texts. Does this distribution make any sense? Initially. with Tiferet as its source of light. Note that Mardukand Istarare called "the brother"(talimu) and "sister" (talimtu) of Samas. the letters of Mithra (Greek Mithras) interpreted gematrically likewise yield the number 365. Samas. Seidl.

Kabbalah. 78 f. 70. Anfange der Astronomie. 308 ff. sometimes terminating in palmettes (Calmeyer. pp. 74." It will surely not have escaped the attention of Mesopotamian mystics that 360 (see preceding note) multiplied by ten yields 3. 280) explaining the number ten as "Anu. as also in Gnosticism. god. 120 f. and ennead. the author of the text associated the sun not only with the length of the year but with the circumference of the universe as well. their grouping into meaningful triads and genealogies. 88. This association explains the particularform of the solar disk in Agsur's icon (see n. Istar. contributes to the overall symmetry. the son of Agsur-uballitinstalled by the latter on the Babylonian throne. the total of the gods in the reconstructed Tree becomes 10. (MSL 14. Samas. it is clear that the emergence of the Tree. up to ten. admirably suited the structure of this empire.. 21 above). making it a symbol of the universe. pp. nn. 106In light of the evidence discussed above (see nn. are capable of many divisions. it can be said that the distribution of the mystic numbers in the diagram displays an internal logic and. '.). It is not difficult to see why both Christ and Mithra were associated not only with the year but also with the sun and (Mithra) with the Zodiac. corresponding to the later division of the ecliptic into twelve zodiacal signs of 30 degrees each (see van der Waerden. 6. 56. the equivalent of the non-Sefirah Daat (see nn.: the single attestation of the title for Kurigalzu I listed there comes from a late copy and is uncertain). which. All this numerical beauty is lost with the decimal numbering of the Sefirotic Tree. Adad. which only reflects the genealogical order of the gods. as required by Kabbalistic theory. 117." Compare this with the Mesopotamian lexical passage Aa 11/4: 1 ff. the third god to be emanated. the number of totality and perfection (?AR). creation. pp. and his Babylonian contemporaryBurnaburiasII (see Seux. Sin. Adad. totality. 93 above): the Maltese Cross symbolized the turning points and thus gave the disk a cosmic dimension.600.'06 the solar year into four seasons of equal length. and 97. also a decad. The wavy lines radiating out between the arms of the cross... correlates with the rise of the Middle Assyrian Empire and the assumption of the title "king of the universe" by the Assyrian emperors. p. Epithetes. 142 f. most probably in the early thirteenth century B. see Idel. on the positions of Sin. Note especially the following passage from The Refutation of All Heresies by the Gnostic Monoimos. pp. and Excursus 2 below). Enlil. and heptad. in my opinion amounts to mathematical proof of the correctness of the reconstruction. 110 and 124. and pentad. the text's insistence on the schematic year indicates a desire to state the length of the year in terms of "time degrees" derived from the circular path of the sun "round" the earth. 33. 79. and triad.c.105and the identification of Assur with the winged disk. and 99 f. and ogdoad. see also n.. The wheel form certainly referred to the eternal rotation of the seasons and thus added to the disk the notion of eternity. Ninurta. equaling the number of the Sefirot in the Sefirotic Tree. 49 and 52). Considering further the perfect match obtained with the placement of the gods. therefore. 101). 87 showing that the number 3 was associated with Sin. as observed by van der Waerden (ibid. he says.the numerical spelling of the word "universe" with the sign SAR. 227 ff. For these numbers. and the monotheistic ideas connected with it.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 189 In all. cf. This conclusion is confirmed by Julianus Apostata's (361-363) hymn to King Helios. and Istar in the diagram. 48 above) of course also applies to the Assyrian Tree. and hexad. In early Kabbalah." however." pp. Antu. 65 f.). 205-8 below. which was not just a large multinational state but a veritable pleroma of diverse semi-independent vassal powers unified under the absolute power of the king. balance. I feel very confident in concluding that the Sefirotic Tree did have a direct Mesopotamian model and that this model was perfected in the Assyrian Empire. Since the correct length of the solar year (365 days) is also found in Mul Apin. Istar as a star.: "The monad. pp. cited ibid. In other words. is. Excursus 3.600. of course. [that is] the one tittle. wisdom. Assur-uballitI (1369-28). representing the divine pleroma in the form of a four-spoked wheel. The title "king of the universe" is already attested for the founderof the empire. becomes established only under Adad-nirari I (1305-1274) and Kurigalzu II (1332-1308). 105See also nn. and counting. he says. is directly based on Mul Apin. "3. "'Das Zeichen der Herrschaft. and harmony of the Tree. 104The decimal numbering of the Sefirot derived from their order of emanation (see n. We thus have the following string of associations: Sun = Year = Universe = Eternity.the doctrine of "unity in multiplicity" (see n.'04The fact that the numerical balance of the Tree can be maintained only on the condition that the left-side numbers are negative. and tetrad. the need to unify the ten divine powers is commonplace. It is worth noting that . remarkably. For by the actual power of this one tittle are produced duad. and 150). turn the disk into a variant of the eight-pointed star symbol of Istar (n. With the inclusion of Mummu (zero). and cf.. 36 f. and they reside in that uncompounded and single tittle of the iota. see n.

see p. God the Father. Thus. This configuration makes the . and has been repeated several times. though never "proven"(see Idel. 93. 25.having related the birth of Anu. Epithetes. p. which has been taken as a "reaction"to synchretistic and polytheistic pressures from the outside world threateningthe national and religious identity of the Jews. ibid.This process is amply documented by archaeological evidence (the most striking example being the direct transferof Assyrian religious symbolism to Achaemenid imperial art [see n. Neoplatonism [London. including its psychological dimension. 107As a point of departure. 22. T.it should be understood that the Assyrian religion was not only imposed on vassals (see SAA 2 no. 103. 49. 164-76). and the Orphics originated in the East (see. 3. strongly suggests that the final (mathematical) form of the Tree diagram was perfected no earlier than about 1250 B. pp. It is well known that leading Neoplatonists. however (see n. 96. but also actively propagated throughoutthe empire (cf. 6:393 f. tentatively assigned "to the middle of the Kassite period" by M. Pythagoras Revived: Mathe- matics and Philosophy in Late Antiquity [Oxford. 27. there is nothing unique in Jewish monotheism to differentiate it from its Assyrian predecessor (see also n. 93 above]). 29:11. mysteriously continues: "And Anu generated Nudimmud (= Ea). Jewish monotheism) in Assyria's former dependencies after the collapse of the empire. and p.C. 1972]. at the very beginning of the Bible. SAA 3 no. on Biblical elohim = "God." and nn. Kabbalah. Civil. was part and parcel of the Deuteronomistic religion as well.. and Excursus 2 below). and 104 ff. the general symbolism of the Tree. and nn. O'Meara. 2-3. Unity of the Father with the Son. already by the late fourteenth century.107 will content myself with three concrete examples illustrating how the insights provided by the Tree are bound to revolutionize our understandingof Mesopotamian religion and philosophy. This claim. and 55 above). 3:19. such as Plotinus and Porphyry (who as Orientals should have known!). the Holy Ghost. and understand the doctrinal system underlying it has tremendous implications to the history of religion and philosophy which I cannot be pursued within the limits of this paper. and Excursus 3 below). and Enlil (50) occur in the Middle Babylonian lexical text Ea (Tablet II. for example. xxx). 67 above). the evidence presented in this article shows that the truth is not that simple. the narrator. the last chapter of the Bible. 156. cf. 169. his likeness. 1 above with nn." This can only be a reference to = the first attestation of the spelling AN. mirroring the famous Tree passage in Gen. which is perfectly consonant with what is known of the lives of Pythagoras and Plato. and 149 below. p. presenting the triad hokhmah-tevunah-daat as God's power of creation (see nn. 109. Orphism. the Tree with its pinecone "garland"certainly connoted the idea of "unity in multiplicity" and may also have note that the mysinvolved a numerical interpretation.. Sin (30). and R.190 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES Being able to reconstruct this Tree.. Biblical passages such as Chron.. p. 139. are clear evidence that the backbone of Assyrian and Kabbalistic monotheism. and it is reflected in the sudden emergence of "new" religions and philosophies (Zoroastrism. and n. is but a copy of an Assyrian model. the Jews did in fact face the threat of national extinction. not by foreign ideologies. While the Tree diagram and the elaborate doctrinal system associated with it can thus be considered an Assyrian creation.C. 67. is much older and may well go back to the third millennium B.). 88). MSL 14. if not earlier. etc. The same applies to Christianity with its doctrines of the Trinity. with time. epitomized in the diagram. Plato. During the seventh through fifth centuries B. 93. 256 f. bound to spread out and take root within the confines of the empire and even abroad. tic numbersof Samas (20). III. 1989]. but that threat was caused by Yehoiakim's and Zedekiah's adventurous foreign policies leading to the destruction of the Jewish state and the cult of Jahweh. is put in a totally new light by the evidence cited in this article.Pythagoreanism. 56. 1 and 14. p. Thus the religious ideas connected with the Tree were. 68. THE TREE AND MESOPOTAMIAN RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY THE BIRTH OF THE GODS IN ENUMA ELIS In Enuma elis. all of which are derived from Assyrian religion and philosophy (see nn. or Prov. 9-12).C. 52. Platonism. 311). D. believed that the teachings of Pythagoras. 90. Ea (40). 90. The fact that the numbers of Adad (10) and Istar (15) are not included in Ea but appear only under Shalmaneser I and Tukulti-NinurtaI. pp. As soon as it is realized that the Biblical image of God. enumeratingthe Sefirot constituting the "Lower Face" in the very order gedullah-gevurah-tiferet-nezah-hod in David's blessing to Solomon. date it. 97. the Tree diagram. 13 ff. Wallis. 84. The crucial significance of the Tree to early Christianity is made evident by the reference to it in Rev. As regards the birth of Jewish monotheism in particular. 1:3-10 and r. 21.SAR Agsurlikewise occurs in an inscription of this very Kurigalzu II (see Seux.

On the surface. 75 and 94 above."2 Assur emanated Heaven (Anu) as his primary manifestation. 168 and 182. reason". temu). 1 and 60.c. came to an end. however. n. Kabbalah. 109 vii 5. including misinterpretations. AHw. nothingness was replaced by the binary system of oppositions (Lahmu and Lahamu)"' and the infinite universe (Ansar = Assur) with its negative counterpart(Kisar). male and female [= Apsu and Tiamat]. Kabbalah. cf. 47-72.) is not presented as a distinct being but directly attached (almost as an attribute) to Tiamat. and note the definitions of Daat as "the cosmic consciousness" and "the door into Timelessness . 113 Note that in this connection the text carefully avoids using the word "created"or "made": literally translated. Mummu. Reality in its primordial state is presented as consisting of two principles. 18 f. Slowly. its "Alpha and Omega. I 48. 112 As the opposite of Assur (Endless Light)." Or. It is clear that this allegory is strongly implicit in Enuma elis.'08and indicates that the composer of the epic conceived the birth of the gods as a mathematical process. too. especially 197 ff. milik temiya.C. The idea of an inverted tree (see n. his first-born. 1 above). 98 above) representing a manifestation of the cosmos from a single transcendent source. see n. I 3-4. . to mirrorhis existence to the world. Quaestiones de primis principiis. s. This inverted tree is not derived from the Assyrian Tree. the curious sequence of "births"presented in Tablet I 1-15 makes much better sense when it is rephrased "mathematically"as follows: "When the primordial state of undifferentiated unity (Apsu + Mummu + Tiamat. is already attested in the earliest Indian scriptures. see. consciousness [= Mummu] awakens. Wallis. pp.the edge of where Time does not exist" in Halevi. The interpretation of Mummu as the equivalent of zero. "The Pair Lahmu-Lahamuin Cosmogony. 110Note the way in which the unity of Apsu. and Ponc6.109 the example just quoted shows. 109.110 in which nothing existed.). and the pair become aware of their distinction [= Lahmu and Lahamu]. see Lambert. the theogony of Enuma elis is presented in terms of human As reproduction. p. [its] first and [its] last. mummu(without the divine determinative) clearly has the meaning "mind. in contrast to line 31 ff.)."The idea of reflection is further strengthened by the chiastic insertion of Anu in the preceding line. 3:7-11. Kabbalah. Neoplatonism. For Mummu as the cosmic mind or consciousness "zeroed" in the primordial state see n. see Gen. el. the key to the theological structure of early Christianity. 54 (1985): 189-202. 1973]. 5. It corresponds to the void created by En Sof for his manifestation. Rawson. el. . For the emanation of Keter as the "mirror"of En Sof's existence see Halevi. "cosmic reason (or consciousness). explains Mummu as ton noeton kosmon. but the sexual allegory is taken much further. it did involve more than just one level of meaning. 79 ff.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 191 the fact that the mystic numbers of these two gods. 124 below. 116). 900-500 B. n. The female "objective" [= Kisar] separates from the male "subject" [= Assur] and begins the sacred dance which "weaves" the fabric of the world (see P. 89 above. Kabbalah. the Vedas and Upanishads (ca. 114 For the latter. [its] beginning and [its] end" (Rev. 109The metaphysical propositions of Tantra are stated in very similar terms. referring to Babylonian informants. . Halevi. pp. For Mummu as an equivalent of the Sefirah Daat. 111That Lahmu and Lahamu represent the binary oppositions is made clear by Mesopotamian iconography. and note that there was no semantic distinction between "mind. cf. via ProtoElamite intermediaries. see nn. implied by its position in the Tree diagram (cf. Tantra: The Indian Cult of Ecstasy [London.v. and note that Damascius. pp. were written with the same sign. suggesting that the basic doctrines of the Tree had already spread to India by the early third millennium B.the passage comes very close to Kabbalistic and Neoplatonic metaphysics. so deeply joined in bliss that they are unaware of their differences and beyond time. 5. In fact. Kisar must be understood as the finite physical universe (dominated by darkness). OIP 2. p. 108 See n. Brahman. "?0").14 Tree. p. pp. 22:13). but the phrasing of the text is kept intentionally vague to allow other interpretations as well. of course." or "consciousness" in Akkadian (cf. chap. for example. For the nudity of the figures. the passage reads "Ansar reflected (umassil) Anu.""3Thus rephrased. is also clear from its insertion between the male and female principles in En." In En. and Mummu (lacking the divine determinative. 125 (see Excursus 3 below)." "reason. on the identity of Agsur and Anu and En Sof and Keter. which is Christ.s. where they are represented as antithetically (often upside-down) posed naked figures struggling with each other or separating heaven from earth. and Tiamat is presented in the text: the waters of Apsu and Tiamat are said to mix with each other. its visualization as the fig tree (asvattha) links it with the Harappansacred tree motif (see n.

(6) the warnings he gives to Enkidu in Tablet XII. 12). not born but made. pp.4 = 15. Adad (9th): 60 + 6 = 10. 57) which qualifies him as a Zadek.e.. consonant with his prophetic role. 75 ff. not the "Babylonian" 40 (cf.. 88)..3 = 20. 1979). 60. McCullough. 1985). the flow of emanation gets temporarilyout of balance until Ea "establishes a universal pattern" (line 62. Three Types. p. and 90. see n. partly by the assistance of God and partly by his own effort" (see Halevi. 115The passage tells that the gods (i. cf. Nabf/Ninurta (8th): 60 . unkempt hair. like the numbers of all the remaining gods."8 THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH119 Looking at the Epic of Gilgamesh through Kabbalistic glasses. Kabbalah.3 (or 2 x 20) = 40. pp. The Seed of Wisdom (Toronto. the fact that Ea's numberin Enuma elis is the "Assyrian" 60. see Idel. 78 ff.). Ea's position on top of the right-hand male column. and 2 that had come into being thus far. Nergal (10th): 15 . see ibid.1 (or 2 x 7) = 14. starting from its roots dominated by animal passions. 89). Istar (7th): 60 .in W. Way of Kabbalah. Kabbalah.120 The Path proceeds in stages through the Tree of Life. "just or saintly man. 1989). (5) the recurrent references to his ascetic appearance and behavior in Tablets I and IX-X (dress of skin. pp. ed. the following analysis is based on my own unpublished reconstruction of the Epic. 74 ff.Die Pythagoreer (Zurich and Munich.3 = 50. Gallery Kovacs. 234 ff." see Idel. 117 Marduk'snumber 50 is derived from the numbers of Ea (60) and Sin (30) by the following equation: 60 . 50 ff. confirms the late (Isin II) date assigned to the Epic by Lambert. on this "posture of Elijah. Dan. probably referring to the zigzagging pattern of the stream of emanation) and assumes a position "on top" of Apsu. 125: "Hesed [Marduk] is produced by the union of Wisdom [Ea] and Understanding [Sin]..192 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES Lines 21-24 of Tablet I of Enuma elis seem to describe the "birth"of the mystic number of Sin which can be derived from the number of Ea by simply dividing it by two. fig. 116With the emergence of the number of Sin (30). The "leashing" of Mummu. 52). Kabbalah. certainly refers to the stabilization of the positional value 60 for Ea's number. 117). pp. p. and praying (Tablet IX 1-14) he uses for achieving the paranormal state of consciousness and visions recounted in Tablets IX-XI. pp. see n. and S. (4) his role as revealer of hidden mystical knowledge (Tablet I 4-7).l15 The irritation of Apsu caused by this play with numbers and the subsequent killing of Apsu and "leashing" of Mummu (lines 29-72) seem to be an etiology for the emanation of the third number and the establishment of the places of Ea and Mummu in the Tree diagram. Mythsfrom Mesopotamia (Oxford. 87). (2) the special technique (pressing head between knees) he uses for attaining dreams (Tablet IV iii 6). 28. fasting. written with the same sign. 119In the absence of an adequate critical edition. The "binding" of Mummu (line 70. 24 ff. Marduk'smystic number. which could be read both 1 and 60 (see n.. S.HUR 60 . 2 as the sequential number of Ea) "came together" and disturbed Apsu by their "playing. referring to the Pillar of Equilibrium)restores balance by forming the symmetrical tetrad of the "Upper Face" (Anu-Ea-SinMummu. can be derived from the preceding numbers by simple arithmetical operations. Dalley. n. pp.see van der Waerden.16 The "birth"of Marduk.60 .17 The prominent part played by numbers both in Enuma elis and the Assyrian Tree of course immediately recalls the central role of mathematics and divine numbers in Pythagorean philosophy. the next god in the diagram. 40 ff. can be consulted for general orientation. the numbers 1. (3) the technique of weeping. pp. roaming the desert).30 . n. pp. 132 below.. 87) by which all the mystic numbers in the Tree diagram can be derived from the previously "emanated" values (see also n." The numbers of the other gods (in their order of emanation) can be derived as follows: Samas (6th): as a number of Sin in the mystical work I. and Revelation.in contrast to the numberof Anu. a new interpretationof the Epic can be proposed viewing it as a mystical path of spiritual growth culminating in the acquisition of superior esoteric knowledge (see fig. is described in the following lines as expected. Note Ponce. The Epic of Gilgamesh (Palo Alto. see Idel. p.NAM GIS. 29. 118On the Babylonian backgroundof Pythagorean mathematicsand astronomy." This can be taken literally as referring to the "play with numbers" (see n. The recent translations by M. the divisor 3 (representing Sin's position in the order of emanation) is attested (see n. 3 ff. Incidentally. 1964). 120Gilgames is prominently markedas a mystic by the following features in the Epic: (1) the epithet "perfect" accorded to him in Tablet I (cf. 9). Kabbalah. the male principle (line 71. . with Ea holding the leash.

pp. which in the psychological Tree represents the gate to supernalknowledge. the god of wisdom (see n.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 193 the realm of Nergal (Tablet I). animal drive. Note also the assonance of Siduri to Sin. The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic (Philadelphia. read from bottom to top. when the sun will shine with an overwhelming light. Tablet VIII (Marduk): Gilgamesh's emotion and compassion for Enkidu. pp. figs. Kabbalah. Tablet X (Sin): the counsels of wisdom given to Gilgamesh.). the last of which is widely considered an "inorganic appendage break[ing] the formal completeness of the Epic. and bull (Adad's sacred animal) seen in the dreams. The act of acquiring supernal knowledge involves a change in both the known and the knower. see nn. Kabbalah. in the Tree. n.). Istar's love affairs recounted. Palmier-dattier. and they follow the order in which they are found Tablet II. the names of the gods governing the individual stages are encoded in the contents of the tablets.121 Tablet III outlines the Path. Tigay. p.). it corresponds to the "garden of God" of Ezek." later Enkidu himself). lightning. 74 and 123). Tablet VI (Istar): the word dumqu "beauty" in line 6. Way of Kabbalah. Kabbalah. the plant of life fetched from the Apsu (see n. and see also Ponc6. 124Tablet IX corresponds to the Sefirah Daat (Knowledge). 116 f. Tablet XI (Ea). nothing could be farther from the truth. See also n. 78-86 (Anzf). 47. and sexual potency of Gilgamesh. cf. 79 ff. topaz. 206). and J.. p. 23 The goal of the journey is explicitly defined in this tablet (ii 18) as the destruction of evil. 69). 78).'23 deals with spiritual awakening. is described "in Jewish classical texts as a tremendous eschatological event. 228). p. Compare this with the penetration of Gilgamesh through the dark passage of the cosmic mountain guarded by the Scorpion man and woman and his emergence to the dazzling sunlight on the other side. 103. as well as the length of the coitus (6 days and 7 nights). 57 above and n. in more detail. and 52 (Asakku). pervading the whole tablet. 26 f. 28:12 ff. pp. "Killing of Humbaba" occurs as a theme supplementing the Tree Motif in the same way as the "Killing of Anzf" or the "Killing of Asakku". his instinctive behavior and instantaneous fall to temptation by the whore (cf. etc. 124). moon's barge). through her veiling. carnelian and green jasper. the thunderstorm. the recognition of one's state (Enkidu weeping). "the point where identity vanishes in the void of Cosmic consciousness before union with Keter" (Halevi. the strength and animal characteristics of Enkidu. Tablet XII (Anu): reunion with Enkidu (see n. Tablet VII (Samas): the divine court of justice. the voice calling from heaven. perfection. for a Neo-Assyrian seal scene showing the scorpion man and woman as guardiansof the Tree. 99). "the Istar of Wisdom" (Surpu II 173). Halevi. Tablet IV (Adad and Girru): the repeated dream oracles received by Gilgamesh. 71). Siduri."125 reality. Tablet IX (Mummu): penetration into the Garden of Knowledge (see n. Utnapishtim's reflection and pondering (see n. the fear striking the travelers (see n. passing through it is sometimes compared to spiritual death (Ponc6. 72).124 The late version of the Epic consists of twelve tablets. or penetration"(Idel. it is presented as a active event. In Assyrian glyptic. Kabbalah. for example. his life on the steppe (a synonym of the netherworld). 64 ff. Palmier-dattier. Epic of Gilgamesh. cf. on the other hand. Enkidu's appeal to Samas (see n. 70). see Danthine. The revelation of supernalknowledge. Danthine. see. Tablet V (Ninurta and Nabi): the slaying of Humbaba. fire. purple garnet and green felspar. The beautiful jewel garden he finds there is the Garden of Knowledge. fig. 153 ff. 354. is here portrayed. Without the 121 The codes for the individual gods are as follows: Tablet I (Nergal): the strength. the harsh judgment passed on Enkidu.122 and Tablet IX describes the final breakthroughto the source of supernal knowledge."On the association of the Sefirot with jewels and translucent colored glass vessels. as the daughter-in-law of Ea. 73). which has no counterpartin the Tree. associated with wisdom. which had come full circle between the survey of Uruk in Tablet I and the same survey at the In end of Tablet XI. his association with gazelles and the cattle god Sakkan. ibid. pp. 42 and 158). the divine secrets revealed to Gilgamesh. 1982). Tree of Life.. which ended only barely before it would have completed the number of Nergal (14). 92 (Humbaba). the role of the boat (cf. and "adornedwith gems of every kind: sardin and chrysolite and jade. described in terms resembling Ninurta's battle with Anzf and referred to as "triumph"in Tablet II (see nn. the role of Ea in rescuing Utnapistim and granting him eternal life. 122 The process described in the tablet reads like an extract from a modern Kabbalistic textbook: the appearance of a maggid (Samhat. 104 ff. sapphire. (see n. pp. 97 above on the passage in Bahir comparing the Sefirotic pleroma to a garden. pp. p. 47 and 55 above. Way of Kabbalah. . and Idel. to be compared with the aspirant Kabbalist's struggle with the dark side of his ego (Halevi. Kovacs. 132 below). and blamelessness. "who leads Enkidu like a god. 125See. and the yearning for a higher purpose in life (the journey to the Cedar Forest being a metaphor for spiritual growth.. the magnificence of Enkidu's funeral (see n.

And in that vision I saw . On the surface. equating the building of the walls with the inscribing of the "stela. The refrain at the end of Tablet XI is one of these. quoting Safrin's commentary to the Zohar: "By much weeping. 92. has in 126 According to the Prologue. quoting an eighteenth-century Kabbalist.. there presented as something totally new and unusual.. King and the Tree. the Epic would be a torso because. no secret was revealed to me. the word "heaven" (or the god Anu) not even being mentioned in it. nor a wondrous apprehension. 124 above) and the unique description of the Tree of Life in CT 16 46:183 ff. which would otherwise have no correspondence in the Epic. Idel. the souls of the living and of dead persons . and note that the felling of the huluppu is referred to as a feat comparable to the conquest of Anzf in Cooper. compare the similar use of the Tree of Life motif as a framing device in the Bible. the conspicuous omission of the hulupputree theme from Tablet XII (see A. The reference to the seven sages in lines 18-19 looks like a metaphor stressing the antiquity and solid philosophical background of the Epic. 107. and for the sake of gaining apprehensions out of the source of wisdom. who finally grants Gilgamesh his rendezvous with Enkidu. 147 (see n. 99 ff. 6 f. s. drawing from the Apsu. In addition. 128 Note the lapis lazuli foliage of the Tree of Knowledge in Tablet IX (see n.). lest I should be rejected from the light of his face.) is certainly also meant to direct the read- er's attention to the Tree. its sheen is pure lapis lazuli. with the ocean of wisdom. Kabbalah.D.. see Widengren. Shaffer. see the discussion on pp. On the contrary. "Sumerian Sources of Tablet XII of the Epic of Gilgamesh" [Ph. or Sin. 397 f.130In other words." a lapis lazuli tablet locked inside a box.'27 "the tablet box" is the surface story. n. where he is advised to examine the structure of "the walls of Uruk" until he finds the "gate to the secret. below. the Prologue. like a well. it takes the reader back to square one. and it is therefore hidden in the text.194 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES twelfth tablet. there is no trace of Heaven in Tablet XII. pp. 130Cf. 57 above. 89 and 103). not Enlil.: "A black kigkanu tree grew up in Eridu. 123 and Excursus 2 below). On the death of Enkidu. 94. and it seems to end on an utterly pessimistic and gloomy note. p. see n. pp." See also ibid." which is said to be revealed in the Epic (referred to by the term narui. 1963]. and suffering I became worthy to be transformedinto a'flowing stream. but afterward I became like dust and wept before the Creator of the universe like a spring. Return of Ninurta. When considered in the light of the psychological Tree and the spiritual development outlined in the previous tablets. p. being able to converse with him and thus to acquire precious knowledge from him about life after death. Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer: "I performed an incantation for the ascent of the soul. .) and thus clearly connoting the idea of a returnto the beginning (cf." "The walls of Uruk" is a metaphor for Tablets I-XI. as we shall see. was created in a holy place. it deals with death and the underworld. n. the paramountimportance of Tablet XII becomes obvious. 132 below. Far from signaling the end of the Epic."stela. note that it is explicitly Ea. elsewhere used to refer to the halo of the moon (see CAD. known to you.. the unique mystical experience recounted in Tablets IX-XI. n. p. in Mesopotamian terms. Apsu. it contains the ultimate wisdom that Gilgamesh brought back from his arduous search for life.." in line 8). diss. for it corresponds to the Crown of the Tree. Anu (Heaven). University of Pennsylvania.'26 But the Epic is full of clues to help the serious reader to penetrate its secret." (for the continuation. however..v. We see Gilgamesh achieving reunion with his dead friend Enkidu. ascending from one world to the other through the column known to adepts in esoteric matters. he achieves this reunion in exactly the same way as he did in Tablet IX. pp. 120 and Idel. nn. associating it. the Tree diagram. by prolonged weeping and praying." This passage illustrates the rationale behind the weeping technique. 86. 195 ff.. 69). 129Cf.129 what and is more. Note the emphasis placed on the word hidden in line 5. That wisdom was not meant for the vulgus.. a fountain of wisdom'.'28 Once it is realized that the Epic is structuredafter the Tree. the message of the tablet changes character. and "the lapis lazuli tablet" is the secret structuralframework of the Epic. and thereby with Ea (cf. attributedin Tablet XII to his ethical imperfections. Kabbalah. discussed in n. Gilgamesh brought back to Uruk the "ultimate sum of all wisdom. and cf." The meaning of the metaphor is clarified by the epithet supuru ("fold") attached to Uruk.. 7This metaphorical significance of the "walls" (framing Tablets I-XI like brackets) is made clear by the parallelismus membrorumof lines 8-9. p.

the goal. embraced mysticallife. represented you Water!' the by the gods for whom the tablets are encoded (cf. andobservesthe comto the mystical reunion with the Divine (see Scholem. has other important affinities with Jewish passage 134 See Dan.This indeedis a ascent. perfectly stable men.bird's nest metaphor of Moses Cordovero cited in lishedbeforeMy Eyes'. 173 ff. Setting out to retrieve them. 117 ff.the man bling the Kabbalistic and Neoplatonic strategies of of perfectequilibrium.nently theurgic character is well in line with the proter's descent to the netherworld to retrieve the lost fessional background (exorcist) of Sin-leqe-unninni. The purity of one's soul is put to test and the severities of Pardes. natureof such experiences is constantly emphasized in the subjugation of the dark side of the ego (Tablet V)." This certainly looks like a The saintlyRabbiben Azai "gazedanddied.do not say.. was torical and spiritualmeaning of the[ir] mystical claim: the not morally and ethically stable enough. du's "descent" is paradigmatic for a failed mystical mostcentralsubjectthata mancan know.. 72 ff. 3) is told to illustrate the point: help (Enkidu).'3 In Jewish mysticism.: clearly correspond to the "date stone" and "palm The last paragraph the above-quoted defines. ney into one's self (Tablet IV). on his "return" waking consciousness.. En. "hoop" and "driving stick. was the precious secret that Gilgamesh brought back from his journey to Utnapishtim. and note espemysticism too."'34 There can be no doubt whatsoever that this very secret. 8 and practice that can be traced back through all the major 34 with n. RabbiAkiva.he passionate heart (Tablet VIII).If the personsuccessfullyoverof the syzygy of masculine and feminine. The the author of the Late Version.rewardedby the opportunity observe the beauty. Revelation. involving practice of 132 Ibid.'32The evolution of Gilgamesh into such a man is described in detail in Tablets I-VIII.he will be as Origins. such experiences are referred to as "ascent to heaven" or "entering Paradise" and regarded as tremendous events reserved only to perfectly ethical. a man's ascent to heaven on an eagle's back. Way of Kabbalah. Halevi. 88 ff. Jewish mysticism. p. he succumbed because he. the magnificenceand the secrets of the divine the Divine. Neoplatonism. Tablet VII). 75 ff. 133The first phase in the process is the long jourstages of Jewish mysticism over a period of more than two millennia. but especially comesthe earthly inclinations sin. 24 ff. an idiom that has not been satistaining revelations and/or a disclosure of secrets-a factorily explained (see Dan. the to kidu was attempting to restore the broken unity with power. the very concept of mystical "ascent to heaven" is revealed to the Jewish community as a revolutionary "secret of the world. both tests have the was states.. Kabbalah. of text branch" of Jewish mysticism. Note that in the Hekhalot literature the gnosisof cosmicdimensions."When enternearthe chic powers operative in the human soul.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 195 Tablet XII become a firmly established technique by which similar experiences can be sought at will. mandments presentedby Rabbi Nehunia. like the sages of the talmudic story. practice of ascension is paradoxically called "de- . This passagedoes not leave any doubtin thatthe of authors this text realizedcompletely far-reaching the his(see Idel. pp. pp. by major temptations (Tablet VI) Legendrelatesthateach of the four[sages]entered thatis. Three Types. Its promiby Gilgamesh to Enkidu in Tablet XII before the lat.the oldest life (the death of Enkidu. 29 f.[RabbiNehunia]is speakingaboutthe most important. to be stood while still retaining a humble and comandbest prepared firstto achievesuperconscious to However. Kabbalah. 124 above. 'Water! will Psalmstell us. 'Hewho speaksfalsehoods not be estab." see Idel.. revealing the way to Heaven.. pp. The "hoop" and "driving stick" cially pp. THE ETANAMYTH The Mesopotamian myth of Etana is well known for its central motif. pp."for his soul Ponc6. and the following Talmudic story is reached with divine guidance (Samas) and human (Epstein. 29). pp. 123).133In the early (third century?) Jewish mystical text Hekhalot Rabbati. and n. Thus Enki. Kabbalah. so longed for its sourcethat it instantlyshed the physical clearly defined program of spiritual growth resemthe bodyuponentering light . conquering the "vegetable" and "animal" levels of the soul (cf. This story immediately recalls the warnings dealt and Wallis. where they symbolize the rewards the mystic. p. It has thus been classified as an "adventurestory" or early 131 On "weeping [and prayer] as a means of atscension" (yeridah). pp. The overall goal of the to the warned otherthreenot to succumb the illusionstheir program seems to be a stepwise control over all psymindswouldcreatealongthe way. pp. and entered left in peace. 62 ff. the for purestones of marble. the very purpose of the mystical union world. pp. The perilous religious duties and love of one's neighbor.). Kabbalah.).)." And that is not all. OnlyRabbiAkiva.briefly.

-Via Mystica in the Gilgamesh Epic .12. compassion and mercy Exposure to trials and the of life Ea "ISLE OF SAINTS" OUTSIDE ORDINARY TIME AND SPACE (X Sin ( (IX Mummu Marduk Enlil VI RIEFINED SOUL Sania (Va P\UR Sseverities Istar VI Withstanding major temptations \ Victory over the ego Practice of honesty and virtues Love of one's neighbor Hope Discovery of the Path Awakening of consciousness Sorrow over one's condition Desire for change Nabu Ninurta TO LEARNING KNOW ONESELF Adad Girru Nusku V IV III THE ANIMAL MAN Nergal Sakkan I Bestiality and animal instincts Selfishness and Greed FIG.196 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES TABLET Anu (XI Union with God Eternal life The Ultimate Wisdom Accepting God's Will Understanding man's fate and the purpose of life Altered states Contact with the Divine Glimpse of Paradise Practice of magnanimity.

136 See S.141 135 See J. the criminal Anzf (var. Atra-hasis. 59: 208 ff. and murder. 141Etana's barren wife is the feminine. under the power of sin. The serpent attacks the eagle. cf. 26. greed. and Scholem. 27 f. Aro. Kabbalah. In the Etana myth. however. and in presenting Etana as the first man to achieve the ascent." that is. 34 and 58. Ponc6. 137 The recurrence of this theme in the Sumerian myth of Gilgamesh."'35 The eagle-back ascent motif has been recognized to recur in Hellenistic.. the desired "son" is Etana's "fruit. the myth becomes closely related to the Gilgamesh Epic in substance. pp. 61 f. nn. 21:19-25 (Jesus cursing the fruitless fig tree). The Legend of Etana and the Eagle (Paris.THE ASSYRIAN TREEOF LIFE 197 "science fiction" containing the first known account of "space travel. At first. 109 f. pp. Tantra. the one capable of carrying him to heaven. In addition. This is an allegory for spiritual death.. see Ponc6. been noted. p. one may compare the story of Abu Muhammad alKaslan in the Arabian Nights. pp. J. 139 In Christian symbolism. Enkidu. of course. sarbu. "Anzu and Simurgh."138 The tree of Tablet II is Etana himself.v. The second aspect of the bird corresponds to the soul of a "purified"man (see below)." pp. pp. 1932). Seen in this light. Kabbalah.. Note that the theme of bird's nest with the young (taken over from the Sumerian Lugalbanda epic. Aro. and.. pp. Ignoring the voice of his conscience. which explicitly states that mankind is "entrusted to Nergal. The eagle and the serpent are conflicting aspects of man's soul. as such. it forcefully contributes to the notion of the Mesopotamian king as the "Perfect Man. Elements. Kinnier Wilson. see Aro. Origins. the other pulling him down to sin and death. 189. and the Netherworld (see n. pp. 92). 3 f. the eagle plays two roles. he is punished. and Islamic folk tales and legends and has also been connected with the Greek myth of Ganymede and the Alexander Romance. The "tree" itself is marked as sinful by its species (the poplar). above all. pl. the bird Garuda likewise achieves its ascent to heaven in spite of the serpents coiling around its head. 114:9. p. where it is explicitly associated with selfdiscipline and wisdom. Myths. V. "The eagle holding a serpent in its talons or beak represents the triumphof Christ over the 'dark forces' of the world (see Serpent)" (Baldock. whose birth its sprouting marks."the deeds by which he will be judged. 134. 138 Cf. which. and throws it into a bottomless pit. he becomes guilty of perfidy.. having suffered and been rescued by Etana.). "Anzu and Simurgh. CT 25 37:16. the same idea is expressed by the childlessness of Etana. and note Bel-sarbe "Lord of the Poplar" = Nergal. is contaminated with sin (see Enima elis VI 1-33 and Lambert and Millard. 5 f. associated with Nergal. For a similar allegory. the Greek myth of Daidalos and Ikaros. 123 f. Dalley.'40 for this. which is explicitly called Anzu. The Legend Etana of (Warminster. 208 f. spiritual half of his soul.). it can be suggested here that the tree-eagleserpent theme in Tablet II is an allegory for the fall of man and that the ascent to heaven described in Tablet III is to be understood as mystical ascent of the soul crowning an arduous program of spiritual restoration. p.: criminal and sinner). 67). . Jewish. it carries the latter to heaven. The evil aspect of the bird corresponds to the natural state of man's soul. 1976). it parallels the eagle inhabiting the huluppu tree in the Sumerian Gilgamesh epic. pp. Handerhebung. 140 Etana's voice of conscience is the "small. In Indian mysticism. who wronged his comrade". Later. 1985).137 Without going into unnecessary detail." p. the Indian mythical bird Garuda as spiritual vehicle of the yogis (see below). This accords with Ebeling. Langdon. and 82 f. p. corresponding to the Shekhinah (cf. AOAT 25 (Neukirchen-Vluyn. see CAD s. despite its divine origin. 25 and 28) also plays a role in Kabbalah.139 The deal struck by the eagle with the serpent marks the beginning of Etana's moral corruption as king. wings. but the meaning of the theme in either myth has not been discussed at all. Kabbalah. cuts off its wings. p. and feet (see the illustration in Rawson. Ponc6. to whom the narrative now returns. especially wise fledgling" of II 45 and 97." Kramer Anniversary Volume: Studies in Honor of Samuel Noah Kramer. 128) has.136 Much less attention has been paid to the tree inhabited by the eagle and the snake which figures so prominently in the second tablet of the myth. "Anzu and Simurgh. it is "an evil eagle. see Matt.

" For later mysticism. Isaac Yehudah Yehiel Safrin cited in Idel. pp. throughfaith. p. "palace.." Tablet III is likely to represent the end of the myth. the bird rescues the hero from the netherworld. he appears as a person referred to by his own name. And she said: "Be strong.145 Etana's fall from the heavens has ample parallels in Kabbalistic literature."'46 The spiritual meaning of the prayer (concealed under the "plant of birth"metaphor)is made clear by the preceding prayer of the eagle (II 121-23): "Am I to die in the pit? Who realizes that it is your punishment that I bear? Save my life. 145 See n. my son.. Three Types. see Scholem." p. Revelation. 57 and 130 above.Nabu. of Andthrough suffering weeping. Elements. It takes eight months to attempt the first ascent to heaven. pp. and idem. the PresThe ence or Beauty of God. . Idel. its cry is: 'Hero [ . where the ascent is considered a dangerous practice and the return to a normal state referred to as being "thrown down like a stone." The eagle's wings are a well-known symbol for transcendental ascent to heaven. a metaphor for the imprisonment of the soul in the bonds of the material world.. finds a beautiful girl sitting on a throne guarded by lions.vv. and of Christ. Complying with the wish of the eagle. whence I have never ascendedsince I acquired and deawareness.I faintedandI fell and my and asleepfor a while. and also STT 341:7: "The vulture is the bird of killed Anzf!'. the following vision of R. Kabbalah. and it is a greatdangerto go and ascendto the supernal worlds. Kabbalah." Compare this with nn. Elements. Note that the Christian symbolism of the cock ("vigilance and watchfulness.. This is sometimes shown in art as carrying a pair of divine lovers". n. s.for the suffering the Shekhinah. and note also Idel. continuing the story of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer already cited in n." 146 See Idel. 14 ff. vol.198 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES Etana's realization of his condition is the beginning of his salvation. the image of a young womanadorned with twenty-four ornaments.e. 3.144 girl seen by Etana is the Shekhinah. rejecting those who failed. 19 ff.142 The path leads him to the mountain where he finds the eagle lying in the pit with its wings cut. 83: AndI weptmanytimesbeforethe Lordof the world.andI saw a vision of light. he prays for a "plant of birth" (that is." Baldock. 94. Anzf) was the bird of Ninurta. Kabbalah. p. kubsanu. p. and hasibaru. RIA. Incidentally. 5 ff. tarlugallu. 91: "[He] asked questions.. ekalldti). The several heavens and heavenly palaces through which Etana passes are commonplace in the Hekhalot texts and later mystical literature. hekhalot. Admitting his guilt and shame. the source of Divine Light. 129 above: And I askedmy teacherandmasterthathe come with me.. and Baldock. having passed through several gates. "Anzu and Simurgh. 143 Note that the Old Babylonian version (Tablet I/E 8) at this point states that Etana wished to ascend to heaven "to disclose concealed things. 92: "Eagle: A symbol of the Ascension. 142 KAR 125:6: "the vulture is the bird of Nabi. 84 above. and cf." and Ninurta. pp. Rawson. Tantra. and his soul ascended to heaven in order to seek [answers to] his doubts." This symbolism certainly goes back to Mesopotamia. In this respect it represents Christ who raises his followers. p. and Zababa (see Excursus 2 and Seidl. Kabbalah. the technical term used in these texts for the heavenly palaces. so that I may broadcast you fame for eternity!" In the late Turkish version of the myth. See. to contemplate God. . splendor in greatbrightness. where the eagle (i.143 The second ascent. pp.. without diverting its gaze. equated with the mystical Persian Simurgh. 80 above).So I ascended the greeafterdegree. he starts feeding it and teaching it to fly again. p. for example. where the cock is the bird of Nusku (see CAD and AHw. an allegory for spiritual training and self-discipline.is successful and takes Etana into a celestial palace where he. [its cry is]: 'Hero. 95. 487f and 488b. All this is so reminiscent of the terminology and imagery relating to the ascent of the soul in Jewish mysticism that mere coincidence can be excluded. which survives in the folk-tale collection Billur Kofk (Aro. from now on. Origins. 27: "The achievement of the ascent may be symbolized by a great bird. p. which fails because Etana himself is not ready for it. 144For the Hekhalot texts. The eagle was reputed to be able to look directly into the sun. 88) likewise goes back to Mesopotamia.. hero Ninurta [killed Anzfi]!"').out of the depthof the heart. theseweremightyascents. a chance for spiritual rebirth) and is guided to the path that will take him there. Cf. since the fall effectively marks the end of the "ascent. is a loan from Akkadian ekallu (pl. his better self. 28). p. Dan. better prepared. It trained its young to do likewise. see. for example.untilI entered palaceof the Messiah.

Naram-Sin or later. Die Entwicklung der Gyptik wahrend der Akkad-Zeit(Berlin. This parallel indicates that the deluge story in Gilgamesh too. Etana." i.C. 2300 B. eternal life being the share of morally and ethically perfect. and Oriental mysticism and philosophies. 20. 16. jugs of beer. 123. 168. Utnapishtim is told to "leave the riches" and "hate possessions" (mussir mesre makkFrazerma) before embarking on the Ark. all examples are "Akkadisch III.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 199 The heavenward ascent of Etana is already attested on seals from the Akkadian period (ca. 189). . etc. The vision of Rabbi Isaac cited above (see n. and note that in the Gilgamesh Epic. See n.D. 1965). Dalley. Origins. The Tree diagram provides the key which makes it possible to bridge these different traditions and to start recovering the forgotten summa sapientia of our cultural ancestors. The point I wish to make is that. and the mystical experiences of nineteenth-century Kabbalists by more than four thousand years. Three Types. and figs. as in the Bible. p. is an allegory for the end of carnal men.. 148 For the date of the earliest Hekhalot texts (second through fourth centuries A.'48In saying this. The dogs barking at the ascending pair symbolize envy and other vices. against all appearances. cheese. 192. there is no need to assume the existence of further tablets (thus Kinnier Wilson. saintly men only. Myths. pp. 145) dates to 1845. 2.) shown on these seals symbolize material values left behind by Etana. p. Note.e. Mesopotamian religion and philosophy are not dead but still very much alive in Jewish. see Scholem. Christian. 190. butter. the suffering of the Goddess at the fate of her creatures (Tablet XI 116-126). and Dan. 147See R. which provides a perfect parallel for the suffering of the Shekhinah because of the sins of the world (see n. p. 145 above). in this context. p. Boehmer.). and 693-703. 78 on the association of material values with Nergal. while the earthly possessions (cattle.)'47 and thus antedates the earliest Hekhalot texts by more than two and a half millennia. I do not want to stress the antiquity of the "ascent" phenomenon in Mesopotamia. cf.

200 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES APPENDIX A. 337 347 355 351 351 372 372 106 106 105 105 815 815 h h 814 814 166 166 165 165 371 371 479 479 . GLYPTICVARIANTS OF THE ASSYRIAN TREE 428 431 426 429 422 435 430 421 433 522 436 a b c 449 425 d e 437 424 379 f 448 450 458 451 447 453 456 455 454 452 457 443 445 446 461 463 465 469 470 468 471 474 457 439 440 442 444 438 476 464 500 434 506 423 g 491 348 349 350 460 362 441 354 352 804 342-4 345 336 338 346 341 335 339 f.

h = Orthmann.Cylinder Seals.ibid.ibid. o = Iraq 17. 4. Album. 282. 142: k = Iraq 24. 125:3. p. i = Iraq 17. 20. 23. j = AMI 17. 275e. 275b. 345.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 201 502 498 479 492 490 277 495 419 494 588* 493 504 488 824 820 163 164 122 505 333 334 819 40 54 64 787 142 153 151 149 195 104 797 170 375 309 i 310 308 307 278 353 numbers refer to Danthine. pl. f = Iraq 17. pl. 23:2 and p. VARIANTS OF THE WINGED DISK ICON 431 ^ \ g h j 426 c 479 354 k 478 i 495 820 463 455 349 447 500 1 m 444 h 471 . m = IrAnt 12. g = Collon. c = Orthmann. fig. e = ibid. no. d = ibid. 213. 273g.a = AfO 8. Nineveh and Babylon. .. p.. 274g. First ImpresNOTE: sions. ibid. fig. 5:1.Der alte Orient. pl. No. b = Collon. n = BM 130699 (traced from photograph). p = Orthmann. no. APPENDIX B. p. 1 = Parrot. 588* traced from Frankfort. 351. p. 115:6. Palmier-dattier. pl... 275b.

202 JOURNALOF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES I e-l-^ .Fll 457 105 346 449 453 40 245 474 351 passim 341 153 442 337 . Lib 461 ^ 465 451 a-ZF 460 (I ~ 494 307 819 n 440 (432 + I430 a 345 b 445 488 443 435 362 372 I 437 | ECIY * 420 p ^SS^ o 438 456 p 124 165 a.^ 336 452 509 f 371 163 379 431 335 335 Fma~~~~l 5~~~~r 439 522 454 :~~~~~~~~~~R.

One is also surprised to note that the order of the "paths" does not follow the otherwise standardorder Anu-Enlil-Ea. "Cold" This emendation presupposes that the compiler of Mul Apin had reversed the order of the paths of Anu and Enlil in an attempt to mitigate the effect of the precession of the equinoxes.NAMGI9.HUR (see B. one obtains the following scheme for the year ("Path"refers to the sun's position on the horizon. just as the mystic number of the moon was derived from the ideal length of the month.APIN. van der Waerden. and Ea. BPO 2 [Malibu. 285). in the Path of Ea there are fewer differences (see van der Waerden. six appear in the Path of Enlil in Mul Apin and vice versa. 86 f. Sumerian "Lord Wind. Ur-sanabi/40 (see above). MUL. Die Anfdnge der Astronomie. ENLIL. p. in Enuma Anu Enlil. the required 2 : 3 ratio between the maximum variation of daylight is attested in both I. "notes" refers to Hunger and Pingree.40 1. Taking 1 (= 60) as the length of the longest day (IV 15) and stating the length of day and night at the other turning points in sexagesimal fractions of this value. and Pingree. AfO Beiheft 24 (Horn. 7 and tables 3 and 4). Erwachende Wissenschaft. The pronouncedly .APIN:An Astronomical Compendiumin Cuneiform. but the numbers of Anu (60) and Enlil (50) are not in the expected order. expressed in terms of "paths" assigned to Anu.40 1.40 1. "Cold" This scheme perfectly explains the numbers of Ea. and that the sky-god Anu is not associated with the summer solstice (see n. 95). 2 [Groningen. but it is very likely derived from the relative length of time of daylight at the winter solstice (associated with Ea). that Enlil. and by the entry "nimin/Ea/ sanabi = 40 = forty/Ea/two-thirds" in Aa 11/4: 193 ff. 65 above). AND EA 203 Ea's number 40 was conceived as a sexagesimal fraction (40/60 = 2/3). earlier star lists differ considerably from Mul Apin in this respect: out of the twelve constellations assigned to the Path of Anu in Astrolabe B (midsecond millennium?).. "Winds" Winter. "Winds" Summer. p. 1981].40 1.40 Notes Spring. "Winds" Summer. vol.40 Notes Spring. pp. "Heat" Fall. "Winds" Winter. (MSL 14.40 1. p. which had shifted constellations traditionally associated with Anu and Enlil to the wrong paths. "total" is the length of the 24-hour day expressed sexagesimally.40 1. 25: 26 f." is not associated with "winds". Pingree. Thus the emendation seems perfectly justified. pp. Anfange der Astronomie. L. and Livingstone. "Heat" Fall. Mystical Works.) and the late secondmillennium astronomical work Mul Apin (H. Tablets 50-51. Its origin is hitherto unexplained. p. All these difficulties disappear if the order of the paths is adjusted as follows: Month I 15 IV 15 VII 15 X 15 Path Enlil Anu Enlil Ea Day 50 1 50 40 Night 50 40 50 60 Total 1. 1965]. Enlil. MUL. 70. Indeed.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE EXCURSUS 1: THE MYSTIC NUMBERS OF ANU.): Month I 15 IV 15 VII 15 X 15 Path Anu Enlil Anu Ea Day 50 1 50 40 Night 50 40 50 60 Total 1. p. 1988). as indicated by the name of Ea's boatman. Hunger and D. 88 ff.

. blesses him. 37:11-15 it is by Marduk's"arrows"that Anzf and Asakku are vanquished.. SAA 3 no. Nabu. p. n. pp. 9 ff.C. r. M iv 7 ff.204 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES Sumerian character of the posited scheme points to the third millennium B. etc. 55. personified evil and sin: in the Etana myth. For his triumph over Anzuf. W.. 2:15 Mardukhimself is called "the smiter of the skull of Anzu. Kabbalah. Mem. "Mittelassyrische Rezepte zur Herstellung von wohlriechenden Salben (Taf. The Return of Ninurta. r. This agrees with the fact that 40 (= 40/60) as the numberof Ea is already attested in the Old Babylonian period (in the name Su-ur-su-na-bu = Ursanabi. It is worth pointing out that the reconstructed scheme also agrees with the Kabbalistic scheme of the "three worlds" briefly discussed in n. In addition to being symbolic of the elements. citing Sefer Yezirah: "'The heavens were created out of the substance of Fire [= Anu]. his [garments] glow like snow (E. twelfth century B. Anzu. see Finkel. functioning as instruments of creation] also define the temporal year: the element fire [= Anu] corresponds with the summer season." Note Ninurta'sepithets "weapon" and "arrow"in Tallqvist. which would date the emergence of the mystic numbers of Anu. 149:22. In a Neo-Assyrian hymn glorifying Ninurta. pp. Onomastica. sin" (see n. his face being the sun. Ninurta/Nabufobtains the "Stylus" and the "Tablet of Fates" (see Pomponio. with different gods equated with his limbs.s. the Jewish mystical text Shiur Qomah from the second century 1 My explanations appear within brackets." Or.).' the earth from Water [= Ea]. and it is certainly not by accident that in SAA 3 no.). or Mithra in Mithraism (see n. 61 [1992]: 29 v 9. the three mothers [= the letters Aleph.." Anatolian Studies 33 (1983): 75-80 and ABL 545:7 ff. 168:21. on the other hand. p. his eyes flame like fire.). Ebeling. "abomination. n. 354. "The Dream of Kurigalzu and the Tablet of Sins. 1953]. translated in A. cf. the latter as his "prowess" (asareidutu). Studies Sachs. p. Enlil.C. Cooper. . (see KAR 102. and Shin. Hruska. the element water [= Ea] corresponds with the winter season. Falkenstein and W. he returns in his triumphal chariot to his father. Sumerische und akkadische Hymnen und Gebete [Zurich.). both Nabu and Ninurta are presented as powers of Marduk.s. 41 f. Gilg. p. 73 ff.v. 26. casting numinous splendor and silence over god and man. Christ in Christianity. von Soden. p. Anzu. Anzufalternates with anzillu. his body is described as encompassing the whole universe. in SAA 3 no." Or. 174). and the Air from the Spirit [= Enlil] which mediates between the two'.). 1-49).. 37:24 ff. 153 f. Finkel. the former as his "victory" (le'utu). 17 [1948]: pl. anzillu. 4 f. Mayer. Gotterepitheta. for Nabuias the Recorder of Sins." EXCURSUS 2: THE EXALTATION OF THE VANQUISHER OF SIN In a prayer to Marduk(KAR25 ii 6 f. 258 f. Compare Ponc6. 139 above and CAD A/2 s. Anzufand Asakku. "Ein Hymnus auf Ninurta als Helfer in der Not. His looks are changed. p. Hruska. 182. 424. 103 below).). The concept of Ninurta/Nabufas "God's weapon" is first attested in the Middle Assyrian royal name Ninurta-tukul-Assur(Saporetti. recalling the roles of the archangel Michael in Judaism. pp. and the element air [= Enlil] corresponds with the seasons of spring and autumn. who rejoices in his son. Thus Ninurta and Nabuibasically represent the power to resist and prevail over evil and sin.).. pp. and magnifies his kingship (ibid. and Ea to Sumerian or early Old Babylonian times.

Dan. deJong Ellis. 5:23 f. Essays on the Ancient Near East in Memory . and a body. Picchioni. see CT 53 151:5 and cf. it is not accidental that the throne of God in Ezek. and. 7:10 and 8:6 ff. n.. as observed by Lambert. 1981].. ed. 15 f. "Les Noms de Marduk. the god Ea. 3: EXCURSUS THENAMEOFA?UR Applying the technique used in the exegesis of the fifty names of Marduk in Enuma elis (see n. Ezek. Rev.D. 68). grows enormous wings. Origins. the aspect of God on it is that of God triumphing over evil and sin (cf. Three Types. The figure of Enoch/Metatron is based on Mesopotamian traditions about Adapa. because of his piety.). and Daniel 7:9 ff." in M.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE A. 15 f. Enoch loses all his human attributes. According to the doctrine of the Tree. associated with the seven classical planets (see n. probably written in Babylonia in the fifth century A. The divine power Anafiel. This agrees perfectly with Ea's appellative "the Great Light of Apsu" (n. Against this background. second only to God. S. transformedin the heavens into a great divine power. Three Types. p. 276 ff. 346).) All this recalls the appearance of God on his Throne-Chariotof Glory in Ezekiel 1:26 ff.. pp. note Adapa's common appellative Uanna emetto di Adapa [Budapest. 69) and his position in the diagram before Sefirot 3 to 9.. pp. 11:14 ff. Origins. ll po74 f. "One and Sixty" = Alpha and Omega.). a garment. that of resurrected and glorified Christ in the Revelation of John (1:14 ff. pp. the power to combat evil also resided in man. A. 7 is known as the Chariot in Jewish tradition.. Bottero. l'ecriture et la 'logique' en Mesopotamie ancienne. p. 1 and Dan. so is triumphantNinurta/Nabuone with his Father: both Mardukand Enlil are included among Ninurta'slimbs in KAR 102. 7: 11 ff. Nabfi's name could occasionally be spelled with the vertical wedge..or later). an angel with flesh of fire. 65 above). Ninurta's triumphal chariot is identical with what is called Marduk's Chariot in the Bohl festschrift. eyelashes of lightning and eyes of flaming torches. called Metatron. the man who succeeded in conquering sin would become the Son of God himself and eventually triumph in Heaven. and Dan. 205 on which see Scholem. "storm of Anu" and his representation as a winged eagle-headed genie in Neo-Assyrian sculpture (see nn. and a chariot of fire. 13 ff. responsible for bringing Enoch into the heavens. 21 ff. "After overcoming the objection of the archangels to include Enoch among them. and even acquires the divine name itself" (Dan. "who seems to have been a prototype of Metatron himself and connected with demiurgic elements" (Dan. paraphrasingSefer Hekhalot. (see n. the antediluvian sage who was taken to heaven after he had "broken the wings of the south wind. He is repeatedly addressed as Bel in the text. It should be stressed that just as Christ and the Father are one.. 147). pp. an appellative otherwise reserved to Marduk/Enlil.) was.. In Jewish mystical tradition. 66 and J. Step by step. as well as the role of Michael as the keeper of the celestial keys and "the archon on the right side of God" (Scholem." a metaphor corresponding to the slaying of Anzufi (cf. 24 and 31 above).). pp. (In line with his magnification. pp. 7:1 ff. God gradually gave Enoch-Metatrondivine powers of knowledge.D. Three Types. corresponds to Adapa's patron. has one hundred eyes.). 89 above. the patriarch Enoch (Gen. It is noteworthy in this context that the Kabbalistic Book of True Unity explains Anafiel as the supreme luminary "whose power is ramified in seven lights that 'stand before the place of the unity as a burning fire' (see Scholem. Origins.

236.. 47:4 f. no. 94) "Totality of Gods" "Universal God" "God is Many" It is true that no Assyrian text actually giving the above analysis is extant. 5 if. Kabbalah. da-sur 5. But if the names of such gods as Marduk. in order to enable man to interpret it however he wishes . also Idel. ?UR A ?UR AN ?AR DINGIR ?AR isten edu piristu gitmalu ilu isten ilu edu il piristi isten sirhu me sarruti kissat same kissat ildni il kissati ilu ma'ad "The One" "The Only One" "Mystery" "The Perfect One" "God is One" "The Only God" "The Hidden God" "A Single Flash" (see n. as-sur 4. Kabbalah. Orientalia Lovanensia Analecta 40 (Louvain. see A. levels of meaning that must be penetrated by the perfect student of the Torah in order to reach its ultimate layer.." pp. 227. Kabbalah. Conn. 55) "Totality of Heaven" (see n. The Mesopotamian scholars' hermeneutical attitude to their (predominantly logographically spelled) canon has a striking parallel in the Kabbalistic attitude to the unvocalized text of the Bible. passim. pp.. and "the secret knowledge of the great name" was considered in early Kabbalahtantamountto the highest wisdom and even a key to the attainmentof superior divine powers (see Ponce. the principal spellings of Assur's name can be interpreted as follows: 1. marvellous and sublime. "A Late Babylonian Copy of an Expository Text." . AN. or perhaps even five. For numerous examples of a similar exegesis of Mesopotamian temple names (extracting hidden significance from the names by playing with the readings of their component logograms). The exegesis of the Tetragrammaton(YHWH) plays a paramount role in Kabbalah. illustrated by the following statement in Rabbi Bahya ben Asher's thirteenth-centuryCommentaryon the Pentateuch. 214: "The Scroll of the Torah is [written] without vowels. Uruk. 63) "Flowing Waters" (see n. is dressed in four. 18 ff. The highly esoteric nature of such knowledge accounts for the total lack of extant speculations concerning Assur's name.. pp.. and matter. Zababa (Lambert. 55) "Flashing Water" (see n. p. 1977]. 45) "The First Flash" (see n. p. Idel. Babylonian Topographical Texts. dA DINGIR AN DINGIR DILI 3.. Three Types. quoted by Idel.. 174 ff. R.). Kabbalah.206 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES of Jacob Joel Finkelstein [Hamden.)... p. AN AN DILI RU 2. 1992)." Cf. one can be sure that the name of the highest god of the pantheon constituted no exception. George. soul. the Kabbalistic meaning.). When it is vocalized it has but one single significance.) could be subjected to mystical exegesis.BAR A. Dan. citing the Zohar: "The Torah . "A Mesopotamian Background." JNES 48 [1989]: 217).Zarpanitu(Lieberman. and even Sulak (Hunger. The relationship between vocalization and consonants is like that between. many. but without vowels man may interpret it [extrapolating from it] several [different] things. respectively. 179 f. pp. or form..

The graphic shape of the name should have attracted much attention. 65 were the first signs of the Assyrian syllabary (see MSL 3. 1-3. and the horizontal wedge ASnot only represented the basic element of writing but also the basic number. but two observations seem worth noting. if one considers the spelling as-s'ur as consisting of AS ("One") and SUR("to flash. just as the tittle and the body of Y stand for Keter and Hokhmah (see nn. pp. The tetragrammatonas man Not only is this figure produced in the same way as the Kabbalistic one (this. to emanate"). 4-9 Keter Hokhmah Malkhut FIG. just as W stands for the Sefirot 4 to 9. Incessant meditation on the name by generations of scholars and mystics must have produced an extensive. 90.11. note that the sign ASdid not have the phonetic value as in Assyrian orthography. 179): Anu (1) Ea (60) Sin (3) Gods nos.THE ASSYRIAN TREE OF LIFE 207 Most of the logographic values included in the above analysis are so common that the meanings "hidden" in the spellings must have been obvious to almost any Assyrian scribe (regarding nos. Secondly. equivalent to DIS(see n. 70. A and SUR 15. see n. Now. one obtains a mantracapturing the basic symbolism of the Tree in two syllables: "[God] is One [in His Multiple] Emanation. 52 above). 181 ff. . being obtained by writing the letters YHWH from above to below). just as H stands for Binah (see n. the group of three wedges (3) stands for Sin. pp. and 108). too.4-9 Binah Sefirot nos. p. see Ponce. and 115-18). one obtains a figure closely resembling the Kabbalistic "Tetragrammatonas Man" (see Ponce. 89 above). b. considering the role that syllables and numbers played in Assyrian cosmogonic speculations (see nn. flow. and the lowermost wedge stands for the entire "Lower Face" (cf. so the spellings concerned certainly were inherently logographic from the beginning). The Sefirah of Malkhut (the last letter of the Tetragrammaton)has no counterpartin the scheme. if one writes the elements of the word as-s'ur vertically in their "order of emanation" (from above to below). and 96). 5. much more sophisticated oral lore relating to the name. the coincidence certainly is a most striking one. 85 above. Kabbalah. A reconstruction of this lore cannot be attempted here. n." For the Tetragrammatonas a mantra. If all this is merely a coincidence. 88 above).-a. Kabbalah. but the specific symbolism of the Tetragrammatonworks in it too: the topmost wedges (1 to 60) stand for Anu and Ea. The "Emanation"of as-sur.

paradise" (a metaphor for mystical life): "Jewish sages warn all but the perfectly stable. "Assyrians in Chaldean and Achaemenian Babylonia. "Endless Light" (cf. its secret. 172. Inscriptions et graffites arameens d'Assour (Naples. with examples from Hatra and Dura Europos.SAR Assur.D.c. note. 66) to the alphabetic spelling of Assur. perfectly ethical man away from this place. n. 1985). p." JNES 51 (1992): 281-85. contain the clue to the secret contained there: P represents Peshat. third century A. meaning" (Epstein."The Pomegranate Garden. D is Drush."and cf. n. the allegorical meaning. Note especially the Greek spelling Assoron (long o) in Damascius (Quaestiones de primis principiis. it may be pointed out that the name Assur also provides an "etymology" for the name of the God of Kabbalah. B." Assur 1/1 (1974): 1 ff. "Assyria and Syria: Synonyms. Compare the Kabbalistic interpretation of "Amen" (9mn) as l' mlk n'mn.. 46-49. 384). or innermost.D. p. .c. an allusion to Deut. R stands for Remez. Kabbalah. the simple." En Sof Or would thus represent a Jewish reinterpretationof the mantraas-sur just discussed. "God. 21 above). which proves that the tradition of Enuma elis known to this sixth-century Neoplatonist took = Assur as the father of Anu and fully accepted the "Assyrian" equation AN. and the hidden meanings derived by notarikon from the Persian loanword Pardes "garden. and S is Sod. in this context. the faithful king" (Ponce. Kopp. 40. 125 (ed. and first millennium A. "A Letter from Samas-sumu-ukinto Esarhaddon. they say. Frye. p. The letters of the Hebrew word Pardes. Applying the principle of notarikon (n.208 JOURNAL OF NEAR EASTERN STUDIES In conclusion. En Sof. the title of Moses de Cordovero's famous sixteenth-century exposition of Kabbalah. correspondingly. (see n.Fales." Iraq 34 (1972): 29. introduced as early as in the fourteenth century B. For the pronunciation and alphabetical spellings of Assur in the first millennium B. R.see my articles. Aramaic Epigraphs on Clay Tablets of the Neo-Assyrian Period (Rome. n. 7:9). 3. Pardes Rimmonim. 94). the homiletical meaning. chap. expressing the idea of transcendent God in his essential nature. one obtains 's(w)r = 'yn swp 'wr. Aggoula." Assur 4/3 (1984): 3. and "The Alleged Middle/Neo-Assyrian IrregularVerb *nass and the Assyrian Sound Change s>s. Zadok. 62 and nos... Kabbalah. En Sof would be a reinterpretationof the "holy syllable" as referring to the Unmanifest God. exterior meaning of the Torah. passim. p. 106 above). R. 1986). "En Sof Or.

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