[b-hebrew] Josiah's book of the Law

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Thu Aug 4 11:53:18 EDT 2005

On 8/4/05, Peter Kirk wrote:
> On the issue of "the widely attested month of the Xiaru festival,
> ("donkey festival")", do you know of any evidence for which month,
> relative to the solar year, this was celebrated? I am interested in this
> for another purpose.

The following is from the discussion of the month at Alalakh at the
aforementioned book:
Across western and northern Mesopotamia in the second millenium [B.C.E.]
the xijaru festival was observed, providing a month name at Alalakh, Ugarit,
and Emar.  The term xijaru has been most recently discussed by J.-M. Durand,
who argues convincingly that the festival and month name xijaru is to be
identified with the Mari term xa_ru, xa'aru, or ajaru, meaning "donkey."  thus
xijaru was the 'Donkey Festival'. [2: Hittite texts mention a similar sounding
festival EZEM xiya(r)ra$]  Quite possibly Ajaru, an Amorite month name,
which was adopted also at Sippar and later in the Standard Mesopotamian
calendar, is related to the month and festival xijaru.  The positioning of this
month sa the twelfth month at Sippar suggests that this may have been a
celebration over the newborn donkeys, perhaps expanding into a festival
for all newborn herding animals, such as sheep and cattle.
Two tablets from Alalakh list offerings of sheep for the "day of the xijaru 
(festival) of I$tar."  At Emar and Aleppo the xijaru festival was a festival of
the storm-god Adad.  The xijaru offering (si'zkur-re xi-ja-ri-im) is attested
at Aleppo in the correspondence of Asqudum, who writes in several letters
that he plans to arrive at Aleppo several days before the xijaru offering.
Upon his arrival in Aleppo, he states that the offerings have been made:
an$e dIM-ma u` si'zkur-re it-ta-qu'-u.  Durand has understood this reference
to an$e dIM-ma as referring to the xijaru, "the donkey offering".  The 
importance of this festival is underscored by Asqudum's continual 
references to the xijaru festival in his letters to the king.  At Mari a
tablet records the disbursement of good quality oil for the goddesses
Ninxursag and Ma_rat-iltim for the "washing of the xijaru (me-si-i! xa-
ya-ar-tim)" on the 28th of the third month.  And during the reign of Zimri-
Lim an ox was sacrificed as a royal offering for the xijaru of the goddess
The xijaru festival was observed in Ugarit on the 18th of the second month,
Xiyaru.  An offering list for the month Xiyaru specifies that on the 18th
of the month the king participated in a ritual washing and various types
of offerings to various deities were offered at three sites: the cultic place
(g'b) of Mt Capa_nu (the site of Ba'al's temple), at the cultic place of
r$p "the Mighty," and at the cultic place of xyr, a special site somehow 
associated with this festival."  (p. 374-375)

Apparently this festival is also discussed in other places in the book, but 
I don't have those pages on hand.  Note that Iyyar is the second month 
of the Babylonian calendar, the same month as it was celebrated in Ugarit.  
However, it is likely that Ugarit's calendar began in the autumn, since their 
new year is related to wine.  On this vein, note that the calendar as described
in the Flood, has Noah performing a wine ceremony on the new year 1/1,
and the flood begins on the 17th of the 2nd, which correspond to the
Ugaritic new year and xiyaru festival, respectively.  However, in light of your
question and the description here, it appears to me that it was celebrated
in different parts of the year in different places.  Note that if we take the
Biblical claim that Ziv relates to the 2nd month at face value, and assume
that Ziv is indeed a Phoenician month just like )etanim and Bul, we would
have to place the Phoenician yrx xyr elsewhere in the calendar.  On the
other hand, the Xijaru festival appears to relate to beginnings (newborn
donkeys, etc) and it is in the month Ziv that Solomon is said to have
_begun_ the Temple building.  So perhaps this is an alternate name, or a
month name Ziv with a festival Xijaru that was later identified with the
entire month by the time the Phoenician inscriptions are attested?  If the
evidence of Ugarit is to be taken, then I would suggest that it occured in
the fall (corresponding to marxe$wan), but it appears to hover in various
communities at different dates.

Yitzhak Sapir

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