Babylonian Penitential Psalms/VI
Prayer was my rule, sacrificing my law,
The day of worship of my god my joy,
The day of devotion to my gods my profit and gain.
What, however, seems good to one, to a god may be displeasing.
What is spurned by oneself may find favour with a god.
Who is there that can grasp the will of the gods in heaven?
The plan of a god is full of mystery—who can understand it?
How can mortals learn the ways of a god?
He who is still alive at evening is dead the next morning.
In an instant he is cast into grief, of a sudden he is crushed.
This moment he sings and plays,
In a twinkling he wails like a mourner.
Like opening and closing, mankind’s spirit changes.
If they hunger, they are like corpses.
Have they been satiated, they consider themselves a rival to their god.
If things go well, they prate of mounting to heaven.
If they are in distress, they speak of descending into Irkallu.
- This is only an extract from a very long psalm, the text of which is published in Rawlinson, iv. (2nd ed.), 60, and a complete translation and study of which is given by Jastrow in the Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. xxv., pp. 135–191, and see Jastrow, Die Religion Babyloniens und Assyriens, ii., 121–133; Martin, “Le Juste Souffrant Babylonien,” in the Journal Asiat., 10th series, vol. xvi., pp. 75–143, and Landersdorfer, Eine Babylonische Quelle für das Buch Job.
- I.e., like day and night.
- One of the names of the lower world where the dead congregate.