Blane W. Conklin, «Arslan Tash I and other Vestiges of a Particular Syrian Incantatory Thread», Vol. 84 (2003) 89-101
The first part of this article is a new translation and interpretation of the first incantational plaque from Arslan Tash in northern Syria. Each of the three succeeding sections identifies and discusses elements of this incantation that find resonance in texts from Ugarit, Egypt, and the Hebrew Bible, respectively. At Ugarit we find texts predating Arslan Tash which describe incantational activity involving Horon and the Sun-deity, both of whom are present in the Arslan Tash text, and who have similar roles in the two traditions. Horon is also present in Egypt during the last centuries of the city of Ugarit, and is there also associated with the Sun-deity and performs similar functions as at Arslan Tash. In the Passover account of Exod 12 there are several elements in common with Arslan Tash, albeit in the distinctive form that might be expected in the theological and literary tradition of the Hebrew Bible.
Line 13: Cf. Sefire I.A.7-14, where several pairs of gods, including "heaven [and earth]" (restored) are called to witness the treaty, as well as Deut 32,1 and Isa 1,2, where they are invoked as witnesses to speech.
Line 16: The similar Akkadian phrase, s\a pu=s\u ellu10, "whose mouth is pure", is confirmatory evidence that the )s\ here is indeed the Phoenician relative pronoun, pace H. Torczyner’s insistence that the plaque exhibits "in every particular pure Biblical Hebrew"11, and at the same time shows that )s\r in line 10 is not the Hebrew relative pronoun, but the divinity As\s\ur. The meaning of the phrase )s\ tm py is that H9awro4n’s ability to effect a successful incantation is unparalleled12. This description, which matches H9awro4n’s known abilities in the realm of incantation elsewhere, properly belongs to H9awro4n here, not (though it is grammatically possible) to his wife.
Line 20: "She" refers to the winged creature, assuming that it, like its partner below (line 21), is a feminine entity (because of the feminine plural verbs in lines 6 and 8 above; here the 3fs perfect verb is orthographically indistinguishable from the 3ms perfect). This interpretation assumes that the words written on the figures refer to those respective entities. The "stranglers" in line 4 therefore refer to both of these entities, the "flyer" (if that is the proper understanding of ‘PT’) and the "wolf". It is relevant to note that a pair of feminine "strangler" deities are also attested at Ugarit, )ilata4ma h~a4niqata4ma (RS 1.001: 18).
The interpretation of the three figures depicted has ranged from seeing them all as evil demons13 to seeing them all as helpful entities14. The interpretation adopted here sees the two on the recto as evil, and the standing figure on the verso as helpful. The plaque has a hole in the top where a string or peg would have attached it to the top of a doorway. Thus the opposition between the defender of the house and the potential intruders would have been apparent in the placement of the figures on the plaque, both because they are on opposite sides of the artifact (would the plaque have been fastened so as not to "dangle", i.e., to keep the verso with the defending entity facing in towards the house, and the recto with the malignant beasts facing out?), and because the entities are facing opposite directions, so that the defender is strategically positioned to "hammer" the heads of the beasts should they come around the corner15.