Israel in the Ancient Near East


Ancient Israel was in all phases of its history embedded in the different cultural frameworks of the ancient Near East. The study of these relations necessitates an interdisciplinary approach. The research group aims at creating a forum for specialists in the different subjects involved, Hebrew Bible scholars, Assyriologists, Egyptologists, Classicists, Hittitologists, etc. The methodological frame is as open as possible and can be focussed according to the subject of the respective call for papers. Aspects of ancient Israelite culture and the formation of the Hebrew Bible shall be viewed as part of large-scale cultural contexts; therefore, a terminology of centre and periphery is to be avoided. In the upcoming years, we plan to focus the work of the research group on literary and mythological traditions shared by several ancient Near Eastern cultures, as well as the rules governing their transmission. 

Besides this, there shall always be on open call for papers and – according to the reactions to the call for papers – the possibility to organise joint sessions with other research groups, especially if EABS is meeting together with SBL.

Current Term:



Noga Ayali-Darshan
Bar-Ilan University

Anna Elise Zernecke
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Member Area

Sofia 2024 Call for Papers

Mythological Motives in Hellenistic Parabiblical and Deuterocanonical Texts

In the Hebrew Bible, mythological themes often appear in a veiled manner, expressed as allusions and are rarely made explicit. Earlier scholarship used to explore them in light of Classical and Hellenistic literature, but the substantial discoveries unearthed in the Near East during the late 19th and 20th centuries led scholars to largely overlook the Hellenistic literature in this regard. Nevertheless, the significance of the later biblical writings, and even more so the parabiblical and deuterocanonical texts from the Hellenistic period as a source of mythological motifs, remains undiminished. Furthermore, some of the mythological subjects and motivs in the writings from Hellenistic times can be traced back to Ugarit, Hatti, ancient Egypt, Greece or Mesopotamia. Simultaneously, new mythologems developed out of a variety of sources.

What made mythological writing so appealing in Hellenistic times? Which kinds of themes reappear or emerge during this era and in what literary genres do they manifest? How does the proliferation of mythological motifs intersect with the framework of monotheism?

We invite scholars of the Bible, ancient Near Eastern cultures and the Mediterranean basin, as well as experts in Classics, Qumran, and Deuterocanonical literature, to join us in discussing this topic and/or presenting innovative interpretations of the mythological motifs in Hellenistic texts within the broader context of the Bible and the ancient Near East. 

As always, papers addressing topics covered under the rubric ‘Israel in the ancient Near East’ are warmly welcomed.



Crouch, Carly / Jonathan Stökl / Anna Elise Zernecke (ed.): Mediating between Heaven and Earth. Communications with the Divine in the Ancient Near East, London, New York 2012 (The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 566).

Past Meetings 

The research group „Israel in the ancient Near East“ was founded by Carly Crouch (now University of Nottingham, 2010-2014), Jonathan Stökl (now King’s College, London, 2010-2015) and Anna Elise Zernecke and met for the first time in Tartu in 2010. In 2014, Noga Ayali-Darshan  joined the team. Since 2015 Noga Ayali-Darshan and Anna Zernecke are co-organisers of the research group.

In 2015, the renewal of the research group for a three-year period was granted, allowing us to meet in Leuven, Berlin, and Helsinki. 


 In the online meeting 2021 Wuppertal we had two sessions, one titled “To the Netherworld and Back and Other Myths” and a general session

“To the Netherworld and Back” and Other Myths

Noga Ayali-Darshan, Bar-Ilan University: The Cosmogony and the Anthropogony in Enūma Eliš

Reinhard G. Lehmann, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz: ATTENTION. Doorway to Underground (Byblos tomb V)

Shirly Natan-Yulzary, Gordon College of Education, Haifa & Beit Berl College: The Purpose and Meaning of Non-Combatant List in The Kirta Epic: KTU 1.14 ii 43-50 Reconsidered

Meike Röhrig, Humboldt Universität Berlin: Lying Down with the Uncircumcised (Ez 32:17–32) – An Akkadian Loan Word as Key to a Crux Interpretum

Marcel Krusche, Universität Hamburg: The Descent into the Netherworld as a Result of Hubris in the Biblical Prophetic Literature

Eckart David Schmidt, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz: Highway to Hell. What on Earth are We to Make of Christ’s ‘Descensus ad Inferos’?

Israel in the Ancient Near East

Anna Zernecke, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel: Who is Elyon in Dtn 32? 

Raanan Eichler, Bar-Ilan University: An Egyptian Parallel to the Tabernacle 

Isabel Cranz, University of Pennsylvania: The Sprinkling of Water in the Priestly Source and Ancient Near Eastern Texts

Itamar Kislev, University of Haifa: The Core of the Sacrificial Calendar in Num 28–29 and Its Compositional History 

Benedikt Hensel, Universität Zürich: Deporting God(s) and Demonstrating Power: The Ark Narrative(s) 1 Sam 4-6*/ 2 Sam 6* as an Answer to the Assyrian Practice of Godnapping 

Karoline Totsche, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz: Advantages and Limitations of 3D-Scanning Delicate Objects. The Case of the Mesha-Squeeze 


The research unit did not meet in 2019, the meeting in 2020 did not take place.

Helsinki 2018

For 2018, the topic of our call for papers "The Syro-Anatolian Legacy" led to one session with 5 papers. The open call for papers made it possible to have two other (shorter) sessions, one dedicated to goddesses (Asherah and Anat) and one to textual and oral traditions. 

Gods and the Divine

Shirly Natan-Yulzary, Gordon Academic Colleges, Israel: Asherah, Lady of the Sea: A New Look at KTU 1.4 ii

Amitai Baruchi Unna, Hebrew University of Jerusalem: From Physical Cultic Object to Goddess: Asherah in Canaanite and Israelite Religion

Adrianne Spunaugle, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor: Continuations of 'Anat in the First Millennium

Textual and Oral Traditions 

Itamar Kislev, University of Haifa: The Vow to Kill Elisha: Function and Meaning in 2 Kgs 6:31-33

Shira Golani, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Gordon Academic: Lists, Location and Creation: Enuma Eliš’ List of Marduk’s Names and Biblical Lists

Reinhard G. Lehmann, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz: Arma Virumque Cano: A Hidden Oral–Aural Agenda in the Karatepe Inscriptions?

Anatolia and the Levant

Ian Rutherford, University of Reading: From Dagan to Kronos: Hesiod's Theogony and Syrian Geo-politics

Amir Gilan, Tel Aviv University: A Genre in Decline? The Late Hittite Cuneiform Historiography

Ilya Yakubovich, University of Marburg: Lexical Contacts between Anatolian and Hebrew: Historical and Sociolinguistic Interpretation

Noga Ayali-Darshan, Bar-Ilan University: “The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful”: The Diffusion of a Mythologeme in Egyptian and Anatolian literature

Anna Elise Zernecke, Universität Bern - Université de Berne: Beyond the National Gods


Berlin 2017

In 2017, the call for papers on "Shared Mythologems in the Ancient Near East" resulted in a very long session with speakers both invited and answering the call for papers, followed by a very animated discussion. The envisaged joint session with "Judaens in the Persian Empire" did not take place. 


Shared Mythologems in the Ancient Near East

Joanna Töyräänvuori, Helsingin Yliopisto - Helsingfors Universitet: How to Study Strategies Used by Minority Cultures in Dealing with Oppressive Ideological Messages in the Ancient World: The Mythologeme of the Flood

Inbal Ma'ayan Baum, Bar-Ilan University: Paths to the Netherworld in Hittite Sources

Takayoshi Oshima, Universität Leipzig: A Possible Mesopotamian Link of Amon in Prov 8:30

Reettakaisa Sofia Salo, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster: Royal Ideology and the Fertility of the Land

Robert Kerr, Universität Saarbrücken: Recycling the gods

Noga Ayali-Darshan, Bar-Ilan University: The Background of the Cedar Forest Tradition in the Egyptian Tale of the Two Brothers in Light of West-Asian Literature

Leuven 2016

The call for papers for the 2016 conference in Leuven was titled "The Diaspora in Pre-Hellenistic Times". The subject met with much interest, but most invited scholars declined to come for a variety of reasons, and practically no papers relating to the subject were presented. We met nevertheless in two short sessions (5 papers) by several scholars who were partly invited and partly answered the open call for papers.

Israel in the Ancient Near East 2 

Adrianne Spunaugle, University of Michigan: Alterity at Nippur: Ethnicity and Empire in the NB Period 

Noga Ayali-Darshan, Bar-Ilan University: The Neo-Babylonian Background of the Early Jewish Liturgy Asking for the Fear of God  

Tova Ganzel, Bar-Ilan University / Kathleen Abraham, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven: The Language of the Babylonian Exiles in Light of the Book of Ezekiel 


Israel in the Ancient Near East 1

Mordechai Cogan, Hebrew University of Jerusale: “To be or not to be” – Recovering the Empire: Sargon’s Campaign to the West in 720/19 BCE

Benedikt Hensel, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz: Religious Culture in Persian Times Samaria: An “Israelite”, Non-Judean Form of Post- Exilic Yahwism