"Learn from My Example": The Reception of Ludlul Bel Nemeqi

Although often classified as "speculative wisdom," I have argued in the past that Ludlul Bel Nemeqi has some practical purposes. It is doxological in that it exalts Marduk's sovereignty; it is ideological in that it protects the institution of exorcism from charges of ritual failure; and it is pedagogical in that the poem challenges readers to learn from the paradigmatic suffering and recovery of the poem's protagonist, Shubshi-meshre-shakkan. In this paper, I consider how the reception of Ludlul in various texts served as a pedagogical resource. The paper will begin with a review and discussion of the purpose of several previously identified allusions to the poem. Why is the poem invoked? How does this invocation serve the texts’ rhetorical purposes? And how does this invocation reflect the pedagogical purpose of Ludlul? The paper will then turn to focus more extensive discussion on a royal inscription of Ashurbanipal. This latter text, I will argue, alludes to Ludlul in order to create an analogy between the sufferer in the poem and the king, whose piety has not yet, apparently, paid off. In sum, my paper attempts to look at the reception of Ludlul Bel Nemeqi in these several texts with a view to determine how Shubshi-meshre-shakkan’s charge “to learn from my example” (Tablet IV, Section C, line p, in Oshima’s new edition [ORA 14, 2014]) was actually carried out in them.