An Egyptian-Aramaic Papyrus Contains Rosh Hashanah Prayers from the 8th Century BCE

After the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in the 8th century BCE, some of its subjects—member of the Ten Lost Tribes—settled in what is now the Syrian city of Palmyra, where they eventually adopted the local Aramaic language. In the 6th century BCE, likely fleeing an expansionist Babylonia, Israelites and Arameans in Syria resettled in Egypt, where they continued to live side by side. One such Israelite-Aramean community produced a remarkable text, which scholars have only recently been able to make sense of, as Karel van der Toorn writes:

It is one of the most spectacular discoveries in ancient Near Eastern studies of recent years—an Egyptian papyrus from the mid-4th century BCE containing three psalms that originated in the [northern] kingdom of Israel before the fall of Samaria (722 BCE). They provide unique insight into the beliefs and practices of the early Israelites.

The scribes of the scroll used Egyptian Demotic script to write texts in the Aramaic language. The Israelite psalms are also in Aramaic, though several irregularities show they were originally in Hebrew. One of them bears a close resemblance to Psalm 20. The two others are completely new to us. They stand side by side in the papyrus, connected by a common theme.

These songs were to be sung at the autumn harvest festival and the God they invoke is called Yaho [a variation of the Tetragrammaton] or Adonay, [“my Lord”]. There are references to sacrifices of lambs and sheep, bowls filled with wine, and music of lyres and flutes. On the day of the new moon, [i.e., the first day of the Hebrew month], there is a solemn banquet for the God and his worshippers during which Yaho determines destinies for the year to come. “The Merciful One exalts the great, Yaho humiliates the lowly one.” The psalms celebrate his kingship over all other gods. In combination, these various elements point to a setting in the New Year festival—the historical antecedent of Rosh Hashanah. . . .

Understanding these texts has taken over a century. . . . Because the Aramaic texts were written in the Demotic script, experts classified the scroll initially as an Egyptian papyrus. After Lord Amherst of Hackney acquired the text in the 1890s, Egyptologists tried in vain to break its code. Papyrus Amherst 63 was a particular mystery. It took the collaboration of an Aramaic scholar and a Demotic specialist to solve the riddle.

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Read more at Ancient Near East Today

More about: Ancient Egypt, ancient Judaism, Aramaic, History & Ideas, Psalms, Rosh Hashanah, Ten Lost Tribes

 

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin