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Word of Tree and Whisper of Stone: El's Oracle to King Keret (Kirta), and the Problem of the Mechanics of Its Utterance

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image of Vetus Testamentum

This paper argues that the complex sequence in KTU 1.15 ii 13-16, in the Keret story from Ugarit, contains a royal birth oracle which is modelled on real-life practice; furthermore, the circumstances and mechanism of its utterance are suggested by KTU 1.3 iii 19-31 and parallels in the Baal cycle, formulaic passages describing how communication between heaven and earth was believed to be effected. These passages in turn are elucidated by reference to biblical traditions concerning sacred trees and stones as media for prophetic utterance, particularly when an oracle was actively sought in royal and quasi-royal situations. The Ugaritic material is thus shown to provide the first evidence of a form of prophecy from Ugarit, bound to the cult, and comparable to evidence found from Mari, Assyria and the West Semitic world.

Affiliations: 1: London


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