Instructions of Shuruppak

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The Instructions of Shuruppak is one of the oldest known pieces of writing in existence, dating back to around 2800 BCE. It's a book of proverbs supposedly all said by King Shuruppak.


I don't own this book, but have read an English translation.



  • Nothing.


  • I found the text to be just as useless as other books of so-called wisdom.
  • Many of the instructions are trivial (don't steal, don't lie, don't make important decisions while drunk, etc.), while others are antiquated (ancient farming practices, what to look for in livestock, etc.).
  • It was very easy to draw parallels between this book and the much later lists of proverbs that would show up throughout the Tanakh and Koran.
  • The book presents everything in a negative light. It's a long list of "thou shalt not ..." rather than, "it's a good idea to ...".


  • There is very little structure. Even the framing device, that Shuruppak gave the advice to his son, is out of place. It's more likely that this book is just an amalgam of various sources.
  • There is a great deal of talk about slaves and the proper way to buy them.