F. M. Cross’ Reconstruction of 4Q242

4q242-4qprnab-ar-4qprayer-of-nabonidus-ar-copy.jpgThere are five fragments in the Prayer of Nabonidus (4Q242 [The Prayer of Nabonidus]) as you can see the picture: 1, 2a, 2b, 3, and 4. In 1984, however, Frank Moore Cross discussed a problem of reconstruction of four fragments: 1, 2a, 2b, 3 (“Fragments of the Pryaer of Nabonidus,” IEJ 34 [1984]: 260-64). He reconstructed a proper replacement of the fragments of 4Q242 with the aid of facsimile. I would like to review how Cross’ reconstructs the fragments and then provide the lexical analysis of 4Q242.

The Facsimile of 4Q242 Fragments 1, 2a, 2b, 3


Transcription of 4Q242 of Fragments 1, 2a, 2b, 3


 Translation by Frank Moore Cross (Fragment 1, 2a, 2b, and 3)

1. The words of the p[ra]yer which nabonidus, king of [Ba]bylon, the great king, pray[ed] when he was stricken]

2. with an evil disease by the decree of G[o]d in Teman. [I Nabonidus] was stricken with [an evil disease]

3. for seven years, and from [that] (time) I was like [unto a beast and I prayed to the Most High]

4. and, as for my sin, he forgave it (or: my sin he forgave). A diviner – who was a Jew o[f the Exiles – came to me and said:]

5. ‘Recount and record (these things) in order to give honour and great[ness] to the name of the G[od Most High.’ And Thus I wrote: I]

6. was stricken with an evil disease in Teman [by the decree of the Most High God, and, as for me,]

7. seven years I was praying [to] gods of silver and gold, [bronze, iron,]

8. wood, stone (and) clay, becuase [I was of the opini]on that the[ey] were gods [       ].

In Cross’ transcription of the reconstruction of the prayer, I highlight what he adds to the older reconstruction of other scholars, such as J. T. Milik. Cross argues that the reconstruction of lines 6, 7, and 8 is important.

(1) Line 6: Fragment 1 ends with the expression ]בש̇חנא ב (evil disease). Fragment 2b locked in above and below with Fragment 2a and 3, reads in line בתימן (Teman). Cross suggests that if these two reconstructions are correct, then all reconstructions of lines 1-5 are incorrect. He argues that Fragments 2a and 2b must be moved much closer to Fragment 1 than in Milik’s reconstruction (J. T. Milik: Piere de Nabonide et autres ecrits d’un cycle de Daniel, RB 63 [1956]: 407-15).

(2) Line 7: Both for the overall length of the lines in the column and for judging the distance separating the fragments. Cross sussgests the most natural reading of the line 7 is 7 …[קדם]‬ שנין שבע מצלא (seven years I was praying [to] gods of silver and glod). This reconstruction is compared to Daniel 6:11 and Daniel 5:4.

(3) Line 8: This line has been reconstructed quite generally as follows: אעא אבנא חספא מן די(wood, stone, and clay, becuase. . .).

Cross argues that if these reconstruction of the three lines is correct, then the fragments must be placed with a gap of one letter in line 5 and the reading יקר ור֯[בו] לשם (honor and greatness of the name) imposes itself. In line 4 the gap becomes so narrow that there is room only for the space between words: והוא̇ יהודי (He is a Jew). The reading reconstructed, והוא̇ [גזר] יהודי  (He is a Jewish diviner), is odd, since גזר is not needed after הוא̇. Cross argues that the gap in line 3 has spawned almost as many implausible proposals as there have been scholars who reconstructed the text. Cross suggests to read the gap “from that time” after “for seven years.” Cross suggests to reconstruct line 2 as בשחנא באישא בפתגם א֯[לה‏]א בתימן (with an evil disease by the decree of G[o]d in Teman), comparing to Daniel 4:21 so that Cross prefers to read “God of Most High.” It is interesting that אלהא (God) may be used only of the god of Israel in Daniel (Daniel 5:2b). Cross argues that the usual reading of line 1‎the great king when he was striken” is too short. Cross adds “the pronoun הוא̇ (He) between the conjuction and the passive participle in comparison with lines 6-7. Comparing Daniel 4:1 Cross follows Grelot’s reconstruction in restoring [אנה נבני בשחנא באישא]. In line 3, Cross has restored [א[נה לחיוא וצלית קדם עליא .The Aramiac “Most High” (עליא) alone is about as frequent as “God of Most High” אלהא עליא      

In general, Cross’ reconstruction of the lines 1-5 is much closer to the syntax of the Aramaic in Daniel. But both the sentences and the meaing of the prayer in which Cross reconstructs differ little from others, such as Milik.


צ[ל]ת : comm fem sing deter “prayer.”

צליpael perf 3 masc sing  “to incline, turn; pray.”

כתיש: peal passive part masc sing “to hit, strike.”

שחנ: comm masc sing deter “boil.”

באיש: comm masc sing deter “evil.”

פתגם: comm masc sing const “word.”

א֯[לה‏]א בתימן̇: “God of Teman.”

הוית‎‪: peal perf 1 comm sing  “to be, become.”

שוי: peal perf 3 masc sing  “to be like; to put, place.” 

אנפו: comm masc plur const  “face, nose.”

אסא: aph perf 3 masc sing “to heal.”

חטא: comm masc sing const “sin.”

שבק: peal perf 3 masc sing “to leave.”

גזר: comm masc sing “cut or diviner.” Perhaps determining the future; perhaps making decisions regarding spirits; perhaps cutting the way off for evil spirits.  

החוי̇‎‪: haph imper masc sing “to declare.”

כתב: peal imper masc sing “to write.”

מעבד‎‪: peal infinitive const “to make, do.”

יקר‎‪: comm masc sing “honor.”

לשם א[להא עליא: “to the name of the God of Most High.‎”

כתיש : peal passive part masc sing “to hit, strike.”

מצלא: pael part masc sing “to incline, turn; pray.”

כספא ודהבא:”silver and gold.”‎

אעא אבנא חספא: “wood stone, and clay.”

סב]ר: peal part masc sing “to think, suppose.”


2 Responses

  1. […] 4 is probably a polemical exaggeration. This theme also occurs in the tradition of Nabonidus in Prayer of Nabonidus (4QProNab; 4Q242). As a result, the dream of Daniel 4 reveals not only a possibility of conversion […]

    • The dream account of Daniel 4 parallels the well known concept of the sacred tree/Assyrian tree. Although the sacred tree motif originally grew out of a representation of Innana/Ishtar, by Neo-Assyrian times, the tree was a symbol of heavenly wisdom, abundance/fertility, and it represented the link/pillar between Heaven and Earth. What’s more, it often times was flanked by apkallu (or in the case of Daniel 4, watchers). To make a long story short, kings of Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonia most likely saw themselves as interchangeable with the tree in its character (cf. a number of articles written by Simo Parpola). For this reason, the sacred tree motif was found in numerous palace decorations or represented on the king’s clothes. This theme was especially popular in the throne room of Neo-Assyrian kings. The point of the dream account ultimately was directly in line with Mesopotamian thought. It was understood that the king was indwelled with a spirit of his god. This spirit endowed him with special wisdom and strength…to judge, to build, to make war, to provide for the people. (There are many Akkadian texts to support these ideas.) Basically, if the king’s heart became twisted, his god would remove the spirit from him,and he would be reduced to a man void of the spirit of his god. In some cases, the god would send another spirit (curse) to torment him.

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