In reference to the verse in Yechezkel (18:4) which states "and the women sat, weeping over the Tammuz" - many commentaries try to explain who the Tammuz was. Amongst the opinions brought, and perhaps the most detailed, is that of the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:29).

Here is a translation of the Rambam- "One of the idolatrous prophets, named Tammuz, called upon the king to worship the seven planets and the twelve constellations of the Zodiac: whereupon the king killed him in a dreadful manner [מיתה משונה]. The night of his death the images from all parts of the land came together in the temple of Babylon which was devoted to the image of the Sun, the great golden image. This image, which was suspended between heaven and earth, came down into the midst of the temple, and surrounded by all other images commenced to mourn for Tammuz, and to relate what had befallen him. All other images cried and mourned the whole night; at dawn they flew away and returned to their temples in every corner of the earth. Hence the regular custom arose for the women to weep, lament, mourn, and cry for Tammuz on the first day of the month of Tammuz."

Does anyone actually speak of how the Tammuz died?


Tammuz originated as a Sumerian shepherd god.

In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god,

The idolatrous ritual of mourning corresponded with the changing of the seasons.

the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day "funeral" for the god.

According to their mythology, he died at the hands of his lover.

The best-known myth of Tammuz describes his death at the hands of his lover, a punishment earned for his failure to mourn adequately when she became lost in the Underworld.

The Rambam was unaware of this source material, and was presumably basing himself on other material which stepped in to fill the gap left by the ambiguous pasuk.

Update: According to the full quote from Rambam, he is basing himself on (and summarizing) "On the Nabatean Agriculture", translated by Ibn Wahshiya. A bit of relevant info regarding its authorship:

The authorship, history, and original language of the ‘Nabataean Agriculture’ have been the subject of vigorous debate in the past and these issues are still not unanimously resolved. The work itself claims to be a translation by Ibn Waḥshīyah (alive in 318/930–1) from ‘Ancient Syriac’ (as-Suryānῑ al-qadῑm) into Arabic, made in the year 903-04 and dictated to his scribe al-Zayāt in 930-31. The Syriac original was, according to the text, itself based on earlier works by a number of authors belonging to the ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia and, in the last instance, put together by an author called Qūthāmā (Hämeen-Anttila, 2006, p. 3, 10).

One would need to get a hold of the book and see if more details are provided:

The critical edition published by Tawfīq Fahd (ed.), 1993, Al-Filāḥah al-Nabaṭīyah. Al-tarjamah al-manḥūlah ilá Ibn Waḥshīyah, Abū Bakr Aḥmad ibn ʻAlī ibn Qays al-Kasdānī. Dimashq: al-Ma‘had al-‘Ilmī al-Faransī lil-Dirāsāt al-‘Arabīyah, has seen several reprints. The 3rd edition (1998) includes also most of Fahd’s articles regarding the work and its author.

No complete translation in English has so far been made; however, Hämeen-Anttila, 2006, presents a number of passages in translation.

| improve this answer | |
  • I think this is a great answer, very detailed. So I guess there are no Jewish sources on this? @josh waxman – AKayser Jun 12 '14 at 14:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .