Daniel Schwemer, Wettergottgestalten. Die Wettergottgestalten Mesopotamiens und Nordsyriens im Zeitalter der Keilschriftkulturen: Materialien und Studien nach den schriftlichen Quellen.
(Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2001), xiv, 1024 pp. ISBN 3-447-04456-X. DM 198
Reviewed by Scott B. Noegel
University of Washington

Though scholars have long turned their attention to the so-called “storm gods” of the ancient Near East, much of this research has focused on single deities (especially Baal at Ugarit), or has appeared in unpublished doctoral dissertations and often inaccessible scholarly publications. Moreover, few works have recognized the potential methodological pitfalls inherent in comparing one ancient Near Eastern “storm god” with another without attention to the culture in which they appear. Thus, a scholarly desideratum for some time has been a work that approaches the topic of weather gods macrocosmically; a study that establishes a “deity geography” by revealing “the changing configurations of cults” and providing “a deeper understanding of the deities themselves.”1 It is in the light of this state of affairs that this hefty tome, a revision of the author’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Würzburg (2000), sets a new course. It is nearly comprehensive in scope,2 rich in textual and bibliographic citations, and thorough in its treatment of the historical and literary contexts of ancient Near Eastern weather (i.e., “storm”) gods Ishkur, Adad (Hadda), Baal, and Teshub. Moreover, the book also contains in-depth studies on deities associated with the weather gods (e.g., Shala, Shullat and Hanish, etc.). It is an unparalleled study whose value is increased even more by its judicious use of primary texts, all of which appear in both transliterated and translated forms.

Schwemer organizes the materials by region and chronologically. After first establishing the parameters of his research and noting a number of methodological and typological problems posed by previous research on Near Eastern “storm” gods (Chapter One), Schwemer offers a thorough survey of the evidence for weather gods in the various god lists (Chapter Two). This provides him with a forum for discussing the various names of the weather gods, their epithets, proposed etymologies, cuneiform forms, and their relation to other deities as found in the lists.

In Chapter Three, Schwemer then examines the earliest evidence for weather god cults in Syria, specifically at Ebla (e.g., the temple of Hadda) and at Halab (i.e., Aleppo). Here Schwemer investigates a number of texts that reference the transfer of goods (e.g., textiles and metals) and offerings delivered to Hadda’s temple, the divine family to which Hadda belongs, and the deities and epithets with whom he is most closely associated. Also treated here are the appearance of Hadda in Eblaic literary texts, and a number of observations on onomastica that contain the theophoric element “Hadda.” Having provided this background, Schwemer offers a number of observations on the Semitic origins and spread of the cult of Hadda in Syria and cautiously suggests their possible connections to earlier (i.e., Neolithic) bull cults in the region. (Schwemer is careful here not to posit a direct and continued descendent relationship).

Schwemer then turns his attention to the god Ishkur, attested as early as the Early Dynastic Period (at Tell Fara and Abu Salabikh), but more prominently in records dating during and after the Ur III Period (Chapter Four). Schwemer here focuses on the evidence for the spread of the god’s cult as seen by increasing references to Ishkur cults at Karkar, Girsu, Umma, Nippur, Ur, and Uruk. Other topics discussed include Ishkur’s integration into the Sumerian pantheon (and the concomitant problem of his integration given the association of other deities with storms); Ishkur’s role in mythological texts and liturgical hymns; the god Adda’s (or Adad’s) status in the Babylonian pantheon; and a discussion of the god M/Wer, a storm god with whom Adda appears to have assimilated sometime in the Old Babylonian Period.

The integration of the Addu cult into northern Mesopotamia and Babylon is the subject of Chapter Five, a topic that Schwemer discusses in the light of the general impact of Amorite culture in the region in the early second millennium bce. In particular, Schwemer investigates the records from Mari for their references to Addu (Haddu) the god of Yamhad (as attested also by earlier textual references to the god’s cult at Halab mentioned above). Also covered in this section is the god’s association with divination, especially his role as a god overseeing extispicy, and a discussion of the god’s connection to mythologies involving battles against chaos. This section also contains lengthy analyses of the status of Adad in the religions of Assyria, Mari, Babylon, and Susa up to the Middle Babylonian period. Here Schwemer pays special attention to the great variety of local cults to Adad represented in the textual records. Also treated are references to Adad in the cultic, mantic, historical, and mythic texts of these earlier periods.

Schwemer devotes Chapter Six to the “syncretism” of Haddu (Addu, Adad), Teshub, and Baal in upper Mesopotamia and Syria. His use of the quotation marks in the chapter’s title signals his methodological reticence to apply such a term in this period to a process that has been in motion from the earliest times. Naturally, this chapter offers a number of discussions on the role of Teshub in the Hurrian pantheon, the spread of his cult under Mitanni and Hittite rule, Baal in Syro-Palestine of the late Bronze Age (e.g., at Ugarit and Emar), and Adad in Middle Assyrian sources.

The seventh and final chapter of this tome focuses on the status and role of Adad in the pantheons of later Mesopotamian history (i.e., from the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Periods onwards). Thus, Schwemer discusses the evidence for Adad cults in Assyria proper (e.g., Kurba’il, Kilizi, Assur, Kalhu, Dur-Sarrukin, Nineveh, Zamahu, Zabban) and in the peripheral areas under Assyrian control. Schwemer also covers the status of Adad as recorded in this period in Babylonia (e.g, Babylon, Borsippa, Sippar, Uruk, Larsa, Nippur), Elam, and Persia. The appearance of Adad in the omen, magic, and mythological texts of this period is also detailed.

Following these in-depth studies, the book concludes with a number of invaluable indices: Sumerian and Akkadian epithets of Ishkur-Adad; abbreviations and sigla; cuneiform texts (listed both by catalog number and name); hieroglyphic Luwian; linear alphabetic texts; biblical and rabbinic references; Egyptian texts; Greek and Latin authors; Cypriote-Minoan texts; foreign words by language; the names of gods and demons, personal names (again by language); toponyms; and even a general index. Valuable also are the copies of select cuneiform texts at book’s end. An exhaustive bibliography concludes the tome.

In short, this book offers a masterful treatment of the subject of ancient Near Eastern weather gods that documents well the spread and impact of Semitic (i.e., Amorite) religious culture in ancient Mesopotamia from the early third to the late first millennia bce. It is an excellent model and resource for future comparative research and will doubtless be unsurpassed for many years to come.


[1] To borrow the words of Mark S. Smith, Untold Stories: The Bible and Ugaritic Studies in the Twentieth Century (Peabody, MA.: Hendrickson, 2001), p. 220.

[2] The reader will note, however, and notice in the book’s subtitle, that the author does not treat the god Baal as represented in the Hebrew Bible except by way of brief reference in footnotes. It is not clear to me why the author has chosen to leave this data out of his otherwise comprehensive treatment. Nevertheless, this gap does not detract from the book’s value, especially since it constitutes a wealth of data for the comparative scholar of the Hebrew Bible.