Posted by: religionthink | October 15, 2007

Psalm 32: I Was Ravaged, O Shaddai


Psalm 32: I Was Ravaged, O Shaddai
by A.D. Wayman

Of David. A maskil. Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered over. Happy the man whom the LORD does not hold guilty, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. As long as I said nothing, my limbs wasted away from my anguished roaring all day long. For night and day Your hand lay heavy on me; my vigor waned as in the summer drought. Selah. Then I acknowledged my sin to You; I did not cover up my guilt; I resolved, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Therefore let every faithful man pray to You upon discovering his sin, that the rushing mighty waters not overtake him. You are my shelter; You preserve me from distress; You surround me with the joyous shouts of deliverance. Selah. Let me enlighten you and show you which way to go; let me offer counsel; my eye is on you. Be not like a senseless horse or mule whose movement must be curbed by bit and bridle; far be it from you! Many are the torments of the wicked, but he who trusts in the LORD shall be surrounded with favor. Rejoice in the LORD and exult, O you righteous; shout for joy, all upright men!( JPS TNK 1985 Psalm 32:1-11)

Above is a Psalm of thanksgiving for the writer has recovered from an illness. At the time this text was written disease was seen as a punishment for sin and the healing was proof to the individual that he has been forgiven of his supposed transgressions. Continuing this view we will look to the Ancient Near East for other texts along the same subject matter. Below we read fragment A and B from the text A hymn to Nininsina”.


Lady, surpassingwith august divine powers, with head high, full of awesomeness, beloveddaughter of great An! Nininsina, born of Urac, from the greatwomb …… a great destiny, grandiloquent counsellor of her own father, goodstewardess of E-kur! Beautiful ……, glory of theholy throne-dais, merciful, …… of the black-headed! Holy Nininsina, making everything manifest! My lady, …… in a whitegarment and cloak! The impressive course of your outstandingly great deeds,which surpass description, is praised.Your own father…… holy An has assigned to you supreme divinepowers ……. Lady, …… mercy, who …… man, who lets …… stand up(?), you brought …… from the womb. Your medical skills heal a man, …… aman. Lady who benefits a man …… with her incantations, and gives ……!Sores …… a man’s body, her spells ……. A pin at her (?) throat, ……on her (?) body. Lady, the plant of life ……. The dying man ……. Nintilmud, …… man …… shining ……. He is entrusted(?) into the good hands of his god, ……
1 line fragmentary approx. 40 lines missing


2 lines fragmentary
Isin, the city ……. The wicked ……. Nininsina ……. Egal-mah, the throne-dais……. The two of them ……. The king summoned by name ……. Nininsina ……. …… desire ……. 1 line fragmentary
Isin …… its offerings and gifts ……, ……chair for you ……. …… enter Nibru. ……rightly ……. …… the gods ……4 lines fragmentary

Nininsina, exalted child of An,……, it is sweet to praise you.

Although some what fragmented we can still draw certain conclusion on the praise to the dietiy or deities for healing towards the end of fragment “A” text.

Another such text from the same region “A shir-gida to Nininsina.” Below is a portion of the text discusses in wisdom type format, as the Psalm above, the roles and benefits of performing incantations through Nininsina who intercedes before the deities An and Enlil.

…… who hastaken her seat on an exalted dais, ……, imbued with awesomeness, an amazing sight, …… Nininsina, joyously fresh, ……,gathering up the divine powers, she announces the rites. …… Nininsina …… with intricate skill. ……, ministering within tricate skill, she gathers up the divine powers; Nininsina, ministering with intricate skill, she gathers up thedivine powers. She takes in her hands the august divine powers. She attaches the incrustations to the great garment, while speaking favorable words. She tests the surgical lancet; Nininsina sharpens the scalpel. She has made perfect the divine powers of medicine, and hands them over to her son, the king of Jirsi, the kindly Damu:

“My son, payattention to everything medical! Damu, pay attention to everything medical!” He takes the bandages and wipes them; he treats the bandages with embrocation, and softens the plaster that had been put on them. He mops up the blood and suppuration, and places a warm hand on the horrid wound. My lady, the midwife of the mothers of the Land, is the chief doctor of the black-headed; Nininsina, the daughter of An, hands this all over to her son, the king of Jirsi, the kindly Damu:

“My son, payattention to everything medical! Damu, pay attention to everything medical! You will be praised for your diagnoses.” Holy Nininsina performs for him her role as incantation priest, which Enki bestowed on her from the princely abzu. Because of the anxiety and intestinal disease which pursue mankind, this person writhes like a …… snake, hissing like a snake in waste ground, always calling out anew: “My heart! My stomach!”

My lady performs the incantations perfectly. Nininsina speaks the incantation formula over them and they become better. She performs the incantation with ghee, and pours it into her great bowl, bringing it along in her cooling hands. She makes the illness leave this person’s body like wind. Like a raging fire of esparto grass, it dies out of its own accord. The personal gods of mankind stand before her pleading and praying; at theirrequest, holy Nininsina intercedes before An and Enlil for them at his highest cultplace:

“The evil demons and the evil demonesses who beset mankind, Dim-me and Dim-mea who enter by night, Namtar and Asag who will not leave a man alone, stand before the man. He is robbed of sleep (?). His god who smitesall.

There are many other such text and for the one who wishes to study the subject matter farther there is a well written article entitled “History of ancient Medicine in Mesopotamia & Iran”.

It is also important to note that the writer in the Psalm above also makes confession. , “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and You forgave the guilt of my sin” this proves interesting in that it is assumed by many of New Testament theology that a guilt offering must be given . However, within the context of the above rendering , such is not the case. The writer confesses and from the text is forgiven of the transgression he believes he was guilty of.

Dahood, Mitchell. The Anchor Bible: Psalms 1-50. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York 1968.

The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature


(A.D. Wayman is the creator of

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