The Epic of Kret

Language: Ugaritic
Medium: 3 clay tablets
Length: 18 columns of writing
Genre: Saga
Ancient Scribe: Elimelek
Approximate Date: 14th century BCE
Place of Discovery: Ras Shamra, Syria
(ancient Ugarit)
Date of Discovery: 1930–31
Find Spot: High priest's house
Excavator: Claude Schaeffer
Epigrapher: Charles Virolleaud
Current Location: Musée Nationale d'Alep
Aleppo, Syria
Dietrich & Loretz numbers: KTU/CTA 1.14 + 1.15 +1.16
Gordon numbers: Krt + 128 + 125 + 126 + 127
Excavation numbers: 1.14: RS 2.003 + 3.324 + 3.344 + 3.414
1.15: RS 3.343 + 3.345
1.16: RS 3.325 + 3.342 + 3.408

Museum inventory numbers: 1.14: M 8218 = A 2750 (AO 17.190)
1.15: M 8227 = A 2752 (AO 17.327)
1.16: M 3392 = A 2751 (AO 17.326)

from CTA (1995)
by K. C. Hanson
Adapted from
Gordon 1977; Gibson 1977; Greenstein 1996

(1.14, col. 1, lines 1-21)
[Regarding K]ret
[. . . . . . . . . . . ]
[. . . ki]ng [. . .]
[. . . .] El [. . . .]
[. . . . . . .] river
The clan [of Kret] died out;
the house of the [k]ing was destroyed,
though there were seven [br]others,
eight sons of a mother.
Kret, his children wiped out,
Kret is devoid of an estate.
He had taken his wife,
his destined bride.
He took a wife, but she departed.
Progeny by a mother had been his:
    1/3 died though healthy,
    1/4 of disease,
    1/5 Reshef carried off,
    1/6 by the Lads of Yamm,
    1/7 fell by the sword.

(1.14, col. 1, lines 21-35)
Kret sees his progeny,
sees his progeny ruined,
greatly depleted of his power.
And in its totality a family has died off,
and in its entirety the succession.
He enters his room, he weeps.
While uttering [w]ords, he sheds tears.
His tears are poured like sheqels on the ground,
like 1/5-sheqels on the bed.
As he cries, he falls asleep;
while he sheds tears—sleep.
Sleep overcomes him;
he lies in sleep
and is startled.

(1.14, col. 1, lines 35-43)
And in his dream, El descends,
in his vision, the Father of Humanity.
And he draws close, asking Kret,
"Who is Kret that he should cry
the Good One, the Lad of El,
that he should shed tears?
Does he desire the monarchy of the [B]ull, his father,
or sovereign[ty] like the Father of Humanity?"

—approximately 6-7 lines missing—

(1.14, col. 1, lines 52-)
["Why do I need silver,]
[and yellow gold] together with its place,
[and] perpetual slaves,
teams of three [horses],
chariots from the courtyard of a handmaid’s son?
[Grant] that I may get [sons];
[grant] that I may increase [offspr]ing"

Bull, his Father El, [answers],
[" . . . . .] while weeping, Kret,
while shedding tears, O Good One, Lad of El,
you shall wash
and redden yourself.
Wash your [ha]nds (to) the elbow

1. What motifs can you identify that appear parallel to biblical motifs (for example: deaths of children)? Where do they occur in the Bible?
2. What is the connection in the story between King Kret's illness and the fertility of the land? How does this compare to 2 Samuel 24?
3. What role does King Kret's vow to Asherah in the story's plot?
4. What is the significance of the gods participating in the banquet?
5. What biblical passages can you identify where God eats and drinks with humans?

I. Text and Translations
Dietrich, Manfred, Oswald Loretz, and Joaquín Sanmartín. Cuneiform Alphabetic Texts from Ugarit, Ras Ibn Hani and Other Places. KTU 2d enlarged edition. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1995.
Gibson, J. C. L. Canaanite Myths and Legends. 2d ed. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1977.
Ginsberg, H. L. The Legend of King Keret: A Canaanite Epic of the Bronze Age. BASOR Supplementary Studies 2-3. New Haven, CN: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1946.
Ginsberg, H. L. "The Legend of King Keret." In Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, edited by J. B. Pritchard, 142-49. 3d ed. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969.
Gordon, Cyrus H. "Poetic Legends and Myths from Ugarit." Berytus 25 (1977) 5-133. [34-59]
Gray, John. The KRT Text in the Literature of Ras Shamra: A Social Myth of Ancient Canaan. 2d ed. Leiden: Brill, 1964.
Greenstein, Edward L. "Kirta." In Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, edited S. B. Parker, 9-48. Writings from the Ancient World 9. Atlanta: Scholars, 1997.
Virolleaud, Charles. La légend de Kéret, roi des Sidoniens. Mission de Ras Shamra 2. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1936.

II. Analyses
Astour, Michael C. "A North Mesopotamian Locale of the Keret Epic." Ugarit Forschungen 5 (1973) 29-39.
Bernhardt, Karl-Heinz. "Anmerkungen zur Interpretations des KRT-Textes aus Ras Schamra-Ugarit." Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Ernst Moritz Arndt-Universität Griefswald: Gesellschaftichlte und Sprachwissenschaftliche Reihe 5 (1955-56) 101-21.
Finkel, J. "The Expedition of Ugaritian King Keret in the Light of Jewish and Kindred Traditions." Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 23 (1954) 1-28.
Gaster, T. H. "The Canaanite Epic of Keret." Jewish Quarterly Review 38 (1947) 285-93.
Gibson, J. C. L. "Myth, Legend and Folklore in the Ugaritic Keret and Aqhat Texts." In Congress Volume: Edinburgh 1974, 60-68. Vetus Testamentum Supplements 28. Leiden: Brill, 1975.
Gray, John. The Legacy of Canaan: The Ras Shamra Texts and Their Relevance to the Old Testament. 2d ed. Vetus Testamentum Supplements 5. Leiden: Brill, 1965.
Hens-Piazza, G. "Repetition and rhetoric in Canaanite Epic: A Close Reading of KTU 1.14 III 20-49." Ugarit Forschungen 24 (1992) 103-12.
Kleven, T. "Kingship in Ugarit (KTU 1.16 I: 1-23)." In Ascribe to the Lord: Biblical and Other Studies in Memory of Peter C. Craigie, edited by Lyle Eslinger and Glen Taylor, 29-53. JSOT Supplements 67. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1988.
Knoppers, Gary N. "Dissonance and Disaster in the Legend of Kirta." Journal of the American Oriental Society 114 (1994) 572-82.
Lichtenstein, M. H. "The Banquet Motif in Keret and Proverbs 9." Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society of Columbia University 1 (1968) 19-31.
Lloyd, J. B. "The Banquet Theme in Ugaritic Narrative." Ugarit Forschungen 22 (1990) 169-93.
Margalit, B. "Excursus: The Creation of S’tqht (CTA/KTU 16:V:23-30." Ugarit Forschungen 13 (1981).
Margalit, B. "K-R-T Studies." Ugarit Forschungen 27 (1995) 215-315.
Margalit, B. "Studia Ugaritica II: Studies in Krt and Aqht." Ugarit Forschungen 8 (1976) 137-92.
Maróth, M. "Bemerkungen zum ugaritischen Text KRT." Acta Orientalia 27:301-7.
Merrill, A. L. "The House of Keret: A Study of the Keret Legend." Svensk Exegestisk Arsbok 33 (1968) 5-17.
Miller, Patrick D. "Prayer and Sacrifice in Ugarit and Israel." In Text and Context: Old Testament and Semitic Studies for F. C. Fensham, edited by W. Classen, 139-55. JSOT Supplements 48. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1988.
de Moor J. C., and Klaas Spronk. "Problematic Passages in the Legend of Kirtu." (2 Parts) Ugarit Forschungen 14 (1982) 153-71; 173-90.
O’Connor, D. J. "The Keret Legend and the Prologue—Epilogue of Job." Irish Theological Quarterly 55 (1989) 1-6.
Parker, Simon B. "The Historical Composition of Krt and the Cult of El." Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 89 (1977) 161-75.
Parker, Simon B. "The Marriage Blessing in Israelite and Ugaritic Literature." Journal of Biblical Literature 95 (1976) 23-30.
Parker, Simon B. "The Vow in Ugaritic and Israelite Narrative Literature." Ugarit Forschungen 11 (1979) 693-700.
Parker, Simon B. The Pre-biblical Narrative Tradition: Essays on the Ugaritic Poems Keret and Aqhat. Resources for Biblical Studies 24. Atlanta: Scholars, 1989.
Parker, Simon B. "KTU 1.16 III, the Myth of the Absent God and 1 Kings 18." Ugarit Forschungen 21 (1989) 283-96.
Pedersen, Joh. "Die Krt Legende." Berytus 6 (1939-40) 63-105.
Rummel, Stan. "Narrative Structures in the Ugaritic Texts." In Ras Shamra Parallels 3:221-332. Analecta Orientalia 51. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1981.
Saliba, G. A. "A Cure for King Keret (IIK, col. vi, 1-13)." Journal of the American Oriental Society 92 (1972) 107-10.
Sauren, H. and Guy Kestemont. "Keret, roi de Hubur." Ugarit Forschungen 3 (1971) 181-221.
Tsumura, David T. "The Problem of Childlessness in the Royal Epic of Ugarit: An Analysis of KRT." Bulletin of the Middle Eastern Culture Center of Japan 1 (1984) 11-20.
Verreet, E. "Der Keret-Prolog." Ugarit Forschungen 19 (1987) 317-35.
Virolleaud, Charles. "Le roi Kéret et son fils (IIK)." (3 Parts) Syria 22 (1941) 105-36, 197-217; 23 (1942) 1-20.
Virolleaud, Charles. "Le mariage du roi Kéret (IIIK)." Syria 23 (1942) 137-72.
Virolleaud, Charles. "Le mariage du roi Kéret d’après les tablettes de Ras-Shamra." Revue des Etudes Semitiques (1942-45) 50-58.
Watson, Wilfred G. E. "A Suppliant Surprised (CTA 16 I 41b-53a)." Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society of Columbia University 8 (1976) 105-11.
Westermann, Claus. The Promises to the Fathers. Translated by D. E. Green. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980.
Wyatt, Nicolas. "A Suggested Historical Context of the Keret Story." Ugarit Forschungen 15 (1983) 316-18.

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Last Modified: 2 April 2007