André Parrot, Mission Archéologique de Mari

Reconstruction of the wall painting from the Old Babylonian palace of King Zimri-Lim at Mari. The so-called Investiture of Zimri-Lim scene shows elements also found in Israel’s creation story. According to Lawrence Stager, author of the accompanying article, certain mythic elements are common to many ancient Near Eastern cultures: Divine forces subdue the waters of chaos so that they provide life-giving nourishment for plant, animal and human life (at bottom center in the wall painting, two goddesses pour out four streams of water); and the deity selects and empowers the king, who then rules by divine authority. At Mari the goddess Ishtar presents the king with symbols of authority (center of painting). Two goddesses flank the entire painting; their upraised arms indicate divine protection. Fantastic creatures—winged sphinxes, griffins and bulls—also defend the garden and its inhabitants. This vision of an orderly and safe world in a king’s garden recalls Isaiah’s prophecy, “They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9).