A Hittite ritual against plague (Job 18)

Bilderesultat for Uhhamuwa of Arzawa

Illustration: A Hittite Hittite Offering Frieze A wall frieze depicting King Sulumeli offering a libation to a god.

Throughout the book of Job the problem of evil is debated in terms of sin, judgement and divine sovereignty. Bildad’s speech in Job 18 presents a simplistic, black-and-white perspective – that God punishes the evil and delivers the righteous. But Job himself contends that he is underserving of what has befallen him, taking the reader to a new level in understanding the place of suffering under the hand of God. Although issues of guilt and divine justice were not unknown to pagans in the ancient Near East, what is most striking in their texts is how often their religious framework for dealing with calamity is all about magic and ritual, not justice and divine purpose. A Hittite text by Uhhamuwa of Arzawa illustrates the same philosophy, although it deals with national rather than personal disaster.

Uhhamuwa advises that if a plague from an enemy god should strike a land, one should entwine wool of blue, red, yellow, black and white into a wreath and place it on a castrated ram. Then the people should drive the animal down the road while reciting a liturgy imploring the enemy god to accept the gift and be pacified (see 1 Samuel 6:2-9). Uhhamuwa goes on to suggest specific offerings and sacrifices to be made to the Hittite gods.

The basic approach of paganism is to attempt to manipulate divine powers through finding efficacious rituals and incantations. In contrast to the ancient Near East perspective, the complete absence of these elements in Job’s confrontation with suffering is astonishing. The book of Job wrestles with real issues about God and His governance of the world and does not deal with the problem of evil through magic and superstition.


 

 

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