The consequence of this conception in mesopotamian

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punishment. The consequence of this conception in Mesopotamian religion was described by Henri Frankfort: The Mesopotamians, while they knew themselves to be subject to the decrees of the gods, had no reason to believe that these decrees were necessarily just. Hence their penitential psalms abound in confessions of guilt but ignore the sense of sin; they are vibrant with despair, but not with contrition-with regret but not with repentance. The Mesopotamian recognized guilt by its consequences: when he suffered, he assumed that he had transgressed a divine decree. He confessed, in such a case, to be guilty, although he declared: I do not know the offense against the god, I do not know the transgression against the goddess. When a fault had been committed, through whatever cause, the gods struck automatically. Hence the desire to expiate "the offense which I know and the offense which I do not know; which I have committed in negligence, as a crime, in carelessness or in contempt." Such a desire was not sufficient to alleviate the punishment; it was necessary to know which specific rule one had transgressed, since specific penances had been prescribed by the gods for each of them. We have met an instance of this belief in the correspondence of an Assyrian king: "Ea made (the earthquake), Ea will release (us from it). (For) whoever made the earthquake has also provided the lustral incantation against it." Thus everything pertaining to human guilt was likely to assume a mechanistic and gloomy aspect. 23 The moral narratives in the Bible give no place to ritual-magical expiation, but apart from the Book of Jonah they are united in demanding punishment. No prophet is sent to warn the flood generation. Abraham pleads -- unsuccessfully -- for the sparing of the Sodomites, but that they might earn a pardon by repentance is never contemplated. Cain's punishment is mitigated by a sign protecting him from death, but he must still undergo banishment. To this series of moral narratives the Book of Jonah brings a revolutionary concept: repentance is efficacious. The victory of good over evil within the penitent heart is the most powerful expiation of all. This message, too, is lost on Jonah. He is the advocate of strict justice. There is no suggestion in the book that Jonah is worried about setting a precedent which will be harmful to law and order. It is no long-range effect that he fears. He wants sin to be punished. He advocates a rigid and objective administration of justice in the universe. Jonah, in short, stands for that version of God's attributes which is found in the Torah, the list which states "but He surely does not pardon..." But although he favors this older conception, Jonah knows that it is no longer true, or at least not entirely. What angers him is that God "renounces punishment," as he charges in chapter four.
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