Source: Hallo, W.H. 2002. The Context of Scripture: Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World,
The Disputation Between the Hoe and the Plow
This piece in undoubtedly the fi
nest example of the genre.
It has long been recognized as one of the
rst poetic, if heavily rhetorical, statements of the case of the common man against the rich and mighty.
But its most striking qualities are the sheer excellence of the argumentation (plow is deftly hoist with its
own petard), the heavy satire on the pretences of the mighty, the earthy but clever humor, and most of all
the irreverent but highly effective “reworking” of the format: the traditional cosmogonic introduction is
turned into a story the workmen tell at night, when resting and drinking!
It is to be regretted that we still
have no adequate edition.
The present translation is based upon all published texts and some quotes from
Hey! Hoe, Hoe, Hoe, tied up with string;
Hoe, made from poplar, with a tooth of ash;
Hoe, made from tamarisk, with a tooth of sea-thorn;
Hoe, double-toothed, four-toothed;
Hoe, child of the poor, bereft even of a loin-cloth;
Hoe picked a quarrel with the Plow.
Hoe and Plow—this is their dispute.
Hoe cried out to Plow
”O Plow, you draw furrows—what is your furrowing to me?
You make clods—what is your clod making to me?
You cannot dam up water when it escapes.
You cannot heap up earth in the basket.
You cannot press clay or make bricks.
You cannot lay foundations or build a house.
You cannot strengthen an old wall’s base.
You cannot put a roof on a man’s house.
O Plow, you cannot straighten a street.
O Plow, you draw furrows—what is your furrowing to me?
You make clods—what is your clod-making to me?”
The Plow cries out to the Hoe
”I, I am Plow, I was fashioned by the great powers, assembled by noblest hands!
I am the mighty registrar of God Enlil!
I am the faithful farmer of Mankind!
At the celebration of my harvest-festival in the fi
Even the King slaughters cattle for me, adding sheep!
He pours out libations for me, and offers the collected liquids!