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336 Religious Texts from Ugarit

KTU 1.24: The Wedding ofNikkal and Ib


(KTU 1.24 = CTA 24 = UT 77 = NK = RS 5.194)

Select Bibliography
Virolleaud 1936b; Gordon 1937, 1977: 65-67; Aistleitner 1939, 1964:
63-64; Ginsberg 1939; Goetze 1941; Herdner 1949; Tsevat 1953;
Driver 1956: 125-27; lirku 1962: 77-79; Herrmann 1968; Caquot and
Sznycer 1974: 381-97; Wyatt 1977a; Gibson 1978: 128-29; del Olmo
1981a: 449-56, 1991; de Moor 1987: 141-45.

While the deities in this text are familiar, their relationships appear to
differ from those we meet elsewhere at Ugarit. They probably reflect
Human tradition, and perhaps the Human pantheon (Ginsberg 1939).
The moon-god referred to as Yarih (yrlJ) is probably therefore the Hur
rian deity Kusub. Nikkal is the Sumerian goddess NIN.GAL ('Great
Lady'). The text consists of a myth of the wedding of Nikkal-an<t-Ib,
and is followed by a hymn to the Kotharat, goddesses of pregnancy and
childbirth. The myth and hymn were probably recited at weddings. I

1.24 R Let me sing of Nikkal-and-Ib2 ,


the daughter of Harhab3 king of summer,
of Harhab king of weddings4.
At the setting of the sun Yarih became inflamed;
1.24 R 5 he em [braced her] who was born of the <Ko>tharat5

1. Cf. the 'mythological' allusion to the marriage at Cana in Christian wedding


services.
2. In Wyatt (1977a), I argued that these were the names of two deities, the
bride and groom respectively. This proposal has not met with approval. The f. form
t'rbm in 1. 18 is the strongest argument against it. I therefore follow the usual view
in this edition. 'Ib': Akk. enbu, 'fruit' and Akk. ebbu, 'bright' are equally plausible
~xplanations. DLU, 2 (ib II).
3. Perhaps formed from orr and orb: 'Drier'. Is this an epithet of the Hurrian
>un-god Shimegi?
4. Thus the common view. De Moor (1987: 142 nn. 6, 7) interprets the titles of
i.Iarhab (mlk q~, mlk agzt) as 'counsellor for exchange-marriages' and 'counsellor
or protection-marriages' respectively. Ug. agu, 'wedding': Akk. aOuzzatu.
5. Note the mythological motif: Nikkal is daughter of the Kotharat. In caring
'or her parturition, they may be invoked for all births. The plot is apparently a pre
narital affair, perhaps the birth of a son (see translation at 1. 7 and n. 9) followed by
Miscellaneous Texts 337

He[ar, goddesses, Ko]tharat,


o daughters of Elli16, [the Bright Ones7]!8
Lo,

the sacred bride 9 bore lo a son [ ]

Her vulva yearned for his penis [ ],

her lips for his organ 11 were moist.

the lover's urgency to marry his beloved. Cf. Gen. 34 (on the Hurrian[!] and ritual
background of which see Wyatt 1990a). On cognate myths see Astour (1967: 80
92). The main difference is that here there is also a birth (1. 7, if the verbal aspect
represents a past tense). The outcome here is also a happy marriage, while in the
biblical narrative it ends in tragedy. The element of premarital circumcision, found
in Gen. 34, is absent from the present text, but appears in KTU 1.23.8-11 (see n. 12
ad loc.).
6. For the view that this is Enlil (also occurring as EIliI, identified in Ugarit
with EI), see Gallagher (1994). For an alternative view, that it represents the deity
Helul, see Pardee (1995: cols. 916-17), following Arnaud (1986: 328; 1991: 38).
The tenn hll has usually been explained here as the new moon (Ar. hiliil). Pardee's
and Gallagher's explanations would explain the apparent disjunction between the
crescent moon in 1. 15 and the moon-god Yarih in 1. 16. The reference to 'the lord
of Gamlu' in 1. 42 would appear to support Gallagher against Pardee. (I am scepti
cal of Gallagher's extension of his argument to Isa. 14.) A lunar link is also plausi
ble for goddesses of pregnancy and childbirth.
7. Ug. snnt. Pardee (1995: col. 917), following van Selms (1954: 86 n. 24).
Rather than 'swallows' (Akk. sinuntu, Heb. senunft), as others (already Viro11eaud
1936: 213).
8. The allusion to the Kotharat, apparently as the collective mothers of Nikkal,
causes the poet to invoke them directly at this point in this exclamatory manner, as
well as at 11. 11, 15, perhaps in anticipation of the hymn addressing them directly in
11. 40-50. It suggests that the narrative itself is here given a hymnic context in the
context of a wedding ceremony.
9. Ug. glmt: to the line cf. Isa. 7.14. Rather than 'young woman'. The tenn is
restricted to royal women and goddesses. See at KTU 1.2 i 13 and n. 99.
10. Ug. tid. Or 'begot'? Or 'will bear'. Thus Caquot and Sznycer (1974: 392)
and del Olmo (1981a: 457) etc. Or 'would beget'? Cf. the fonnula at Isa. 7.14.
1LUg. Mr. We appear to have at least six words serving the same function: yd,
'penis', u~b't, 'phallus' (both in KTU 1.10 iii 7-8, partially restored, and n. 17 ad
loc., and cf, KTU 1.4 iv 38 and n. 130: note further the parallel word ahbt in 1. 39),
bt, perhaps by word-play and association rather than strict semantics, in KTU
1.23.8-9, 37 (also note nuance of parallel m! ydh) which some have also seen as the
basic reference in KTU 1.169 (see n. 2 ad loc.), ur in KTU 1.11.3, and here also
Mr (lit. 'flesh'). De Moor (1987: 143 n. 16) notes that Heb. biisiir is used of the
penis in Lev. 6.3; 15.2-3; Ezek. 16.26; 23.20. If Margalit's (l989a: 324, 328) pro
posal be accepted, we have a seventh tenn in lir at KTU 1.18 i 25.
338 Religious Textsfrom Ugarit

1.24 R IO Her father gave her life,I2


as a betrothed one [ ]
'Hear, goddesses, Kotharat
<0 daughters of Ellil, the Bright Ones!>'
Her <vu>lva I3 yearned for his penis.
To her father [ ]
Dagan of Tuttu[l14 ]
1.24 R 15 [Hear,] 0 Kotharat,
<daughters of> Ellil, [the BrighJt Ones!
Yarih the luminary of the heavens sent a message

to Har[ha]b king of summer.

'Give Nikkal!

Yarih would pay the bride-price for Ib;


let her enter his household!
1.24 R 20 And I shall give her dowryl5 to her father,
a thousand (shekels) of silver
and ten thousand of gold!
I shall send gems of lapis lazuli!
I shall tum her steppelands into vineyards,
the steppe land of her love into orchards! 16'
But Harhab king of summer replied,
1.24 R 25 '0 most gracious of the gods,
lower edge become son-in-law to Baal;

wed Pidray his daughter17.

12. For a very different estimate of ll. 7-10 see Margalit (1979: 556 6.2).
13. Text II [ ]mm12nh 'her bowels'? Or read perhaps [ ]mm[.J<'>nh:' ... her
vulva ... ' (so above) as in l. 8. De Moor (1987: 143), 'the waters of her "well'" (sc.
vulva). The n at the beginning ofl. 12 may be 'n: the tablet surface is damaged.
14. The town of Tuttul on the Euphrates was an important cult-centre of Dagan.
He is also invoked in KTU 1.100.15.
15. Ug. mhrh. The dowry is a financial settlement her father sets aside for the
bride. In addition to paying the bride-price (try), Yarih is so insistent that he offers
to pay the dowry as well. Cf. Shechem's eagerness at Gen. 34.12.
16. An agricultural metaphor for the consummation and fruitful outcome of a
marriage.
17. Text: pdry b[th]. Thus Goetze (1941: 369), Herdner (1968: 20). Many, e.g.,
Herrmann (1968: 19) read b[t] <ar>, 'daughter of light' or 'mist', Driver (1956:
Miscellaneous Texts 339

I shall introduce you to her father Baal.


Athtar18 will intercede19.
R He will betroth to you Yabradmay20.
1.24 R 30 His father's daughter Lion 21 will arouse!,22
But Yarih the luminary of the heavens repIied,23

'With Nikkal will be my wedding!'

Afterwards Yarih pays the bride-price for Nikkal.

Her father set the beams of the scales,

1.24 R 35 her mother the trays of the scales.


Her brothers arranged the ingots,
her sisters the stones of the scales 24 .

125), 'honey dew', de Moor (1987: 144), Pidray's epithet in KTU 1.3 i 23-24 etc.
(See nn. II, 12 at KTU 1.3 i 23.)
18. Text 'Yr.tt (KTlfl). "A~tart', 'Astarte .. .': Virolleaud (1936a: 220) and Gor
don (1937: 32: contrast 1977: 66) Verb ygtr is m. The two ts with rlJ, others.
Otherwise rlJlk, 'your ewe' (sc. bride): Virolleaud (1936a: 220).
19. Ug. yglr: Thus del Olmo (1981a: 608): Heb. 'titar, Ar. 'atara, though the use
of these verbs is exclusively cultic. 'Is jealous' (Gt of gr. Ar. gara): Caquot (1974:
394) and Gibson (1978: 129, 155). Reading ygpr: Virolleaud (1936a: 221); Driver
(1956: 143): 'arranged' (Ar. gafara). Astour (1969: 9): 'Athtar covers (her) with a
veil' .
20. Margalit (1980: 149 n. 2) makes ybrdmy ('Water-dispenser') an epithet of
Athtar himself (whom he interprets as a god of irrigation: MargaIit 1996). He thus
has him asa fellow-matchmaker. My interpretation makes ybrdmy a further candi
date (along with Pidray) offered as a substitute for Nikkal. Thus others. e.g., Gibson
(1978: 129). Astour (1969: 10) wonders whether ybrdmy is an epithet of Taliy
(appearing with Pidray and Arsiy in KTU 1.3 i, ii). This is not implausible, though
we might expect it to be f. (*ybrdtmy), unless the t has been assimilated, a solution
assumed above.
21. Sc. a title of Athtar. Cf. the iconography of Ishtar, in which the goddess
regularly appears on a lion. Evidently it is a sister of Athtar's that he will supply.
Perhaps Ishhara? For Driver (1956: 125 n. 16) the lion is Baal. Del Olmo (1981:
459), reads Ibu as asseverative I with bu imper., 'come!' But the prosody is then
skewed.
22. There is wide variation in interpretations of these four cola. The version
above is provisional.
23. I have omitted {wn 'n} from the text at this point. For notes on this see del
Olmo (198Ia: 460).
24. Once the romantic aspect is settled, it becomes a pecuniary transaction: a
bride is bought as a commodity!
340 Religious Texts from Ugarit

Nikkal-and-Ib (it is) of whom I sing.

Bright is Yarih,

and may Yarih shine on you 25 !

1.24 R 40 I sing of the goddess[es], the Kothar[atf 6, ,

[daugh]ters of Ellil, the Bright Ones,


daughters of Ellil, lord of Gamlu27 , iI

who go down to the nut-groves I

and among the olive-groves.28

l.24 R 45 to the Compassionate, god of mercy.


Lo,
in my mouth is their number,
on my lips is the sum29 of them:

25. Thus the power of the myth is invoked for other marriages. The idea that
noon light is especially auspicious for lovers appears to have an ancient pedigree.
26. As their names indicate, these are goddesses involved in pregnancy and
hildbirth. Cf. their role in KTU 1.17 ii 24-47. For Ginsberg (1938) they are merely
luman. Rather are they a group of seven goddesses. corresponding to the Akk. sa
u-ra-tu4, (KTU 1.47.13 below) and to dNIN.MAij. See Pardee (1995), sassiiriitu,
:'AD, XVII [ S/2], p. 145.
27. As Gallagher notes (1994: 136), the title used here b'l gml, usually con
trued as 'Lord of the Sickle' and supposed to refer to the lunar crescent; e.g.
:aquot (1974: 396 n. b), may also mean 'Lord of Gamlu (= the constellation
mriga)' , a title of Enlil-Ellil.
28. The translation of this bicolon is tentative.
29. Ug. mnthn. 'Their formula (of invocation)': Caquot and Sznycer (1974: 396
. g), citing Akk. minutu. 'Her number ... her counting': Watson (1976a: 438), who
lkes this to be a reference to the pregnant woman counting her months (cf. KTU
.23.<52ab>, 56-57). If the translation is correct, it is a circumstantial argument
gainst Watson's interesting approach outlined in n. 35, since we should not expect
II enumeration of only two goddesses to evoke such a statement, While an enumer
tion of seven would justify it. The number seven is also perhaps intrinsically more
kely if the goddesses also represent not merely midwives, but protective and
enevolent spirits who communicate their personal traits to the new-born, thus
ansmitting its character. Cf. the spirits provided at Isa. 11.2, which are seven in
Jmber if the 'spirit of Yahweh' at the head of the v. is to be distinguished from the
x following. Cf. also the seven Baals of KTU 1.47.5-11 and parallels, and the
lointings (if correctly interpreted), at Ps. 19.8-10, though these are only five or at
lost six in number (Wyatt 1995b: 568-69,588-91).
Miscellaneous Texts 341

Trousseau and Dowry30,


Cord-Cutter31 and Womb-Opener32,
Breather-of-Breath with Perubahsh 33
24 R 50 (and) Goodness 34, the youngest of the Kotharat!35

30. Ug.l1bhw, mlghy. Seemingly subdivisions of the mohar ('dowry'), perhaps


dating from an era of more archaic procedures. Cf. Heb. iIIul.z'im, melog (Akk.
mulugu).
31. Ug.ltqt. Following de Moor's suggestion (n. 33 below). Or is the name per
haps to be explained by reference to vqy, as a suckling-goddess? The Gt form is
hard to explain on this proposal, however. 'The One who gives suck'?
32. Ug. bq't. Vbq', 'cleave, split'.
33. tq't andprbbl. Vtq', Heb. tiiqa', 'give a blast (on a horn)'. The second name
is so far unexplained. Cf. the Hittite PN Peruwagsu, cit. Caquot (1974: 397 n. 1),
who construes these lines quite differently, and takes P. to be the recipient of the
tablet). For these explanations of the names see de Moor (1987: 145). Watson
(below) divides as pr bbl.
34. Ug. dmqt. Or, 'Most Beautiful': lirku (1962: 79); 'the Good One': de Moor
(1987: 145).
35. The final lines perhaps comprise a list, to be learnt by heart as part of the
rituaHsation of pregnancy and birth. I have followed the majority view here. Cf.
Aistleitner (1964: 640), del Olmo (1981a: 461) and de Moor (1987: 145). An
entirely different approach is taken by Watson (l976a: 438-9), whose interpretation
and translation is attractive, and worth citing in full:
See! In my mouth is her number,
on my lips her counting.
o you, established (1) as her dot and dowry
From her, Wise women, do not cut off (1)
From her the 'fruit' with care,
o experts in babycraft, 0 Kalhiralu!
He takes the Kotharat to be two in number, as mid-wives; cf. Exod. 1.15 and the
birth-goddesses of Egyptian birth-scenes. What is being counted on this interpreta
tion is the mother's months of pregnancy (to which cf. KTU 1.23.51< >, 56-57).
However, the forms sprhn, mnthn cannot mean 'her number, her counting', refer
ring back to the mother, but must mean 'their number ... " referring to the months.
The suff. -hn is not 3 f. sg., which is -h or -n, though Watson interprets it as
'perhaps energic 3 fem. sing.', but 3 f. pI. (UT, 36-37 6.7, 8, 13). This would raise
the problem, unless his explanation be accepted, that since months have not been
mentioned, there is no antecedent to which the suffixes can refer. Cf. also at n. 29.