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.


Noga Ayali-Darshan
Bar-Ilan University

Anna Elise Zernecke
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Member Area

Wuppertal 2021 Call for Papers

To the Netherworld and Back

Accounts of descent to the underworld (katabasis) or other areas outside of the land of the living are prevalent in the literature of ancient Near Eastern and the Mediterranean cultures such as Mesopotamia, Egypt, Hatti, Ugarit, and Greece from the 3rd millennium BCE into Late Antiquity. In some of these accounts the divine hero ascends back to the land of living, while in others he stays in the underworld and becomes one of its prestigious denizens. Allusions to such stories are also said to be found in biblical books—either through direct or metaphorical language. The chairs invite papers dealing with all aspects of this topic including philological, historical, methodology, comparative, or literary angles. As always, additional papers focusing on topics related to the theme “Israel in the ancient Near East” are also 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. 

Warsaw 2019

The research unit did not meet in 2019.

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. 

Israel in the Ancient Near East 31.7.2018: 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

Israel in the Ancient Near East (EABS) 1.8.2018: 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?

Israel in the Ancient Near East (EABS) 2.8.2018: 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. 

Israel in the Ancient Near East 10.8.2017: 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.

Session 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 

Session 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