The Pre-biblical Origins of the Hebrew Shabbat
derivation from the
2900 B.C. Shuruppak Flood
The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Epic of Atra-Khasis
Original draft: 20 April 1999
Revisions & Updates through 24 July 2009
Since the 17 Dec. 2000 posting of this article on the internet at this website there have been over 14,170 visits to this url and over 16,550 page views.
My notebooks reveal that I had made this association by 17 April 1996 while living at Walldorf by Heidelberg, Baden-Wurttemburg, Germany (1990-2002) at the ripe old age of 53, this research later being offered as “a paper” via an
e-mail attachment to posters at the on-line Orion Discussion List hosted by The Hebrew University, Jerusalem by
20 April 1999 when I was aged 56. I also made this e-mail attachment “paper” available to interested participants of the b-Hebrew List on 04 December 1999. Now (2009) I am aged 66. Please click here for my “background” in biblical studies.
Please click here for an interesting article on Sabbath observation in the USA, 1610-2010.
A “warning” to the viewer (especially if you are a _devout_ Christian, Jew or Moslem):
My research at this website is that of a Secular Humanist. Secular Humanists understand that the Bible is _not_ the word of God (for the reasons why please click here). Secular Humanists seek to explain the Bible’s concepts as evolving from within the context of the Ancient Near East and its religious notions regarding the origins of the world, why man was created and what his purpose in life is. If asked to briefly summarize _my_ understanding of the Hebrew God, Yahweh-Elohim, it would be best encapsulated by the Latin Motto now found on the money of the United States of America: E PLURIBUS UNUM: “From Many, One.” That is to say I understand that the Hebrews took the many gods and goddesses of Mesopotamia, Syria, Canaan and Phoenicia, and ascribed their powers, feats, epithets and personas to their God. Whereas MANY GODS and GODDESSES were responsible for the Shuruppak Flood in the Hebrew transformation and recasting as Noah’s Flood it is only ONE GOD who is responsible. I understand that many of the Hebrew notions about the relationship between God and Man are deliberate _refutations_and_challenges_ of the beliefs held by the Mesopotamians, said refutations being in the form of a series of 180 degree “inversions” or “reversals” of earlier Mesopotamian concepts.
This article in a nutshell:
It is argued that by employing a “new twist” (an inversion) the Hebrews had a God (Yahweh-Elohim) coming to REST ON A SEVENTH DAY _after _CREATING A WORLD _AND MANKIND instead of _all_ the gods and goddesses RESTING ON A SEVENTH DAY _after _DESTROYING A WORLD_ AND MANKIND with a flood.
The gods had created man to be their slave to provide them with daily food rations from their gardens of edin (edin being the uncultivated plain of Sumer surrounding the cities and city-gardens built by the gods for themselves to live in _before_ man’s creation) for all of eternity (man is to endure back-breaking toil in these gardens growing the gods’ food) thereby giving themselves the equivalent of an eternal Shabbat or Sabbath Rest from earthly toil. Man’s toil will provide the gods with life’s necessities: food, shelter and clothing (The gods needed to eat earthly food or they would starve to death, in Mesopotamian myths the gods can die). The gods would _never_ release man from the grievous toil in their gardens of edin and grant him immortality because they did not want to resume again their previous grievous toil in providing life’s necessities for themselves. The gods’ eternal Sabbath Rest from toil on the earth was made possible by man toiling in their place in the gardens of edin. The gods faced, however, a serious problem, by creating man to toil in their place in the gardens thereby giving themselves Rest from earthly toil they could _not_ enjoy this Rest _in peace and quiet_ for man’s clamor or noise objecting to his grievous toil in edin’s gardens made it impossible for the gods to relax and sleep “in peace and quiet.” Their solution was to destroy man with a Flood and thereby obtain for themslves an eternal quiet, peaceful Rest. That day of peaceful quiet Rest and Sleep occurred on the 7th day of the Shuruppak Flood with man’s annihilation. On the seventh day the gods at last enjoyed their Shabbat Rest from toil with _peaceful sleep_ because of the _silence_ on the earth achieved with man’s demise. The Mesopotamian myths, then, agree with Genesis: (1) _all_ the gods REST _after_ creating man, and (2) _all_ the gods rest on a seventh day _after_ man’s creation (but this seventh day of rest is _after_ a flood instead of _before_ a flood) and (3) Yahweh sets aside a seventh day for man (Israel) to rest on and on a seventh day the gods caused man to “rest” (his “rest from toil” is that which accompanies man’s death by the seventh day of the Shuruppak Flood). These, for me, are the “new twists” the Hebrews have applied to the earlier Mesopotamian myths! The Hebrews apparently objected to the Mesopotamian storyline and denied that Yahweh-Elohim had created man to endure back-breaking toil in his Garden of Eden to give God a break from self-toil in growing his own food (Yet Yahweh is fed food twice a day like a Mesopotamian god beginning with the Exodus at Mount Sinai and this feeding of God is to continue for all of eternity -even after the Messiah comes- as Ezekiel envisions a future Messiah at Jerusalem with the help of Levitical priests preparing God’s daily food via burnt offerings and sacrifices cf. Ez. 44:7,15; 45:13-25; 46:1-9). Via a series of brilliantly orchestrated inversions and reversals or “new twists” to old Mesopotamian motifs and concepts the nomadic Hebrew shepherds apparently recast the Mesopotamian city-dwellers’ myths which had man being the ruthlessly exploited innocent victim of the gods, instead it is God who is the victim of a rebellious, unappreciative, evil-hearted mankind. Why did they do this? The city-dwellers despised and feared the nomads characterizing them as uncouth and a threat to civilization as cut-throats, thieves, bandits and raiders of cities out for plunder. In defense of their way of life the nomadic herdsmen apparently took the city-dwellers myths and recast them _via a series of inversions_ in such a way as to portray themselves (Abraham and Abel being shepherds) as blessed by God and the city-dwellers (Cain and his descendants) as the accursed by God. The nomads had the “correct” understanding of man’s origins and his relationship with his Creator, the smug city-dwellers had it all wrong.
Special Note: The Samaritan Bible dates Noah’s Flood to 2903 B.C. which is a “near match” to the circa 2900 B.C. Flood silt layer which brought and end to the Jamdet Nasr Period at Tell Fara (ancient Shuruppak) found by Schmidt in his 1931 excavations at this site. Like Noah, the Shuruppak Flood hero (variously called Ziusudra, Atra-Khasis, Atrahasis, Atram-hasis or Utnapishtim, Utanapishtim) releases in sequence three birds to test the abatement of the Flood waters before disembarking and presenting a thank-offering sacrifice to the gods for being spared.
Please click here for all the details regarding what was found at Shuruppak.
The historical background to the search for the pre-biblical origins of the Sabbath (Hebrew Shabbat):
Prior to 1872 many scholars accepted without question the Sabbath’s origins as presented in the Hebrew Bible. Things changed after 1872. Why? In that year a British scholar called George Smith, who worked for the British Museum in London discovered a Mesopotamian account of a great flood that destroyed the world while reading cuneiform tablets excavated from the Assyrian Kings’ Palace Library at Nineveh the capital of ancient Assyria (destroyed in 612 B.C. by Medes and Babylonians). This account noted that a god had warned one man to build a great boat and put aboard it the seed of man and animalkind for a new post-flood beginning. He released birds three times like Noah to test the abatement of the flood waters before leaving the boat and then he gave a thank-offering to his god for being forewarned and spared like Noah.
The news of this discovery electrified the Christian world: at last an extra-biblical document had verified the biblical flood account. However, this discovery caused some scholars to wonder _why_ the Mesopotamian and biblical accounts varied from each other in many details. Some proposed that both accounts arose independently of each other from one event, a real flood. Others suggested the Hebrew account had borrowed from the Mesopotamian and had for unknown reasons recast the details. Scholars are still divided to this day on this issue. Some Conservative scholars argue there is _no_ borrowing while more Liberal scholars understand that there _is_ borrowing, acknowledging that the details have been recast and transformed. Smith in 1875 wrote a book (published at London in 1876) on his discoveries from the cuneiform tablets. He appears to have understood that the Hebrews in the Book of Genesis had recast Mesopotamian accounts about man’s origins and his demise in a flood. He titled his book
The Chaldean Genesis. Later scholarship would come to call the cuneiform account preserving the Flood that Smith had shared in 1872 with a startled world The Epic of Gilgamesh (Smith correctly deduced the account was made up of 12 tablets, he knew Gilgamesh as Izdubar and thought he was a pre-biblical prototype of Genesis’ Nimrod).
Those scholars who, after 1872, suspected that the Hebrews had recast the details in the Mesopotamian flood story into Noah’s Flood turned their attention to the Hebrew Shabbat (English: Sabbath). Was it possible that the Hebrews had recast a Mesopotamian story about gods resting on a seventh day and transformed this motif into one God resting on a seventh day?
For over 100 years, since 1872, various professional scholars have tried their hand at attempting to identify in the Mesopotamian literature an event that was recast by the Hebrews into the Sabbath. As noted by the Encyclopedia Britannica, which I accessed in January of 2008, they have _not_ been successful (cf. below for further details).
Professor Driver (1899) on the Sabbath’s origins being traced to Babylonia by numerous scholars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries A.D.:
“It is difficult not to agree with Schrader, Sayce and other Assyriologists in regarding the week of seven days, ended by a sabbath, as an institution of Babylonian origin. The sabbath, it is true, assumed a new character among the Hebrews; it was divested of its heathen associations, and made subservient to ethical and religious ends: but it originated in Babylonia. If, however, this explanation of its origin be correct, then it is plain that in the Book of Genesis its sanctity is explained unhistorically, and ante-dated.”
(p. 18. David George Hogarth & Samuel Rolles Driver. Authority and Archaeology, Sacred Texts and Profane: Essays on the Relation of Monuments to Biblical and Classical Literature. New York. Charles Scribner’s & Sons. 1899)
Please click here for my article on the 2900 B.C. Shuruppak Flood and what Archaeologists found at this site (Shuruppak) when excavated in 1931, causing them to realize that this flood did _not_ engulf the whole world as portrayed in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Atra-Khasis Epic.
For me, Genesis is _denying_ the Mesopotamian myths’ explanation of how and why man came to made, what his purpose on earth is, and why his demise was sought in a flood. These “_denials_ are accomplished by taking Mesopotamian motifs from a variety of sometimes contradicting myths, fusing them together into a “New Story” giving them a number of “new twists” by changing the names of the characters, the locations, and sequences of events. In _agreement with_ Professor Wenham I understand that the Hebrews are _not_ “copying” the Mesopotamian myths, they are _recasting_ certain motifs and concepts within them inorder to deny, refute and challenge them.
Professor Wenham (Senior Professor of the Old Testament at Cheltenham & Glouster College, Cheltenham, England) has done a brilliant presentation, in my opinion, on explaining what Genesis is _really all about_, in its transformation and reinterpretation of the Ancient Mesopotamian concepts regarding the relationship between Man and God. IT IS A POLEMIC, A CHALLENGE OF THE VIEWS held by the Mesopotamians of God’s relationship with Man, A CHALLENGE OF THE MESOPOTAMIAN VIEWS ON HOW MAN CAME TO BE MADE AND WHY HIS DEMISE WAS SOUGHT IN A FLOOD:
Wenham (Emphasis mine in capitals, bold print and italics):
“Though Genesis shares many of the theological presuppositions of the ancient world, most of the stories found in these chapters are BEST READ AS PRESENTING AN ALTERNATIVE VIEW TO THOSE GENERALLY ACCEPTED IN THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST. Genesis 1-11 is a tract for the times challenging ancient assumptions about the nature of God, the world and mankind (p. xlv). An understanding of ancient oriental mythology is essential if we are to appreciate the points Genesis 1-11 was making then (p. xlvi)…It is my conviction that many of our problems are caused by misunderstanding the original intentions of Genesis…many of the individual episodes in Genesis 1-11 may be seen to have a distinctly polemical thrust in their own right, particularly against the religious ideas associated most closely with Mesopotamia (p. xlviii)…Viewed with respect to its negatives, Genesis 1:1-2-3 is a polemic against the mythico-religious concepts of the ancient orient… _THE_SEVENTH_DAY_ is not a day of ill omen as in Mesopotamia, but a day of blessing and sanctity on which normal work is laid aside. In contradicting the usual ideas of its times, Genesis 1 is also setting out a positive alternative (p. 37)…We have noted that the overall structure of the material in Genesis 1-11 finds its closest parallels in the Sumerian flood story and the Sumerian king list and in the Atrahasis Epic, all dated to 1600 B.C. or earlier (p. xliv)…This is not to say that the writer of Genesis had ever heard or read the Gilgamesh Epic: these traditions were part of the intellectual furniture of that time in the Near East, just as most people today have some idea of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, though they have never read it.” (p. xlviii. Gordon J. Wenham. Word Biblical Commentary, Genesis 1-15. Waco, Texas. Word Incorporated. 1987)
“The ancient oriental background to Genesis 1-11 shows it to be concerned with rather different issues from those that tend to preoccupy modern readers. It is affirming the unity of God in the face of polytheism, his justice rather than his caprice, his power as opposed to his impotence, his concern for mankind rather than his exploitation. And whereas Mesopotamia clung to the wisdom of the primeval man, Genesis records his sinful disobedience. Because as Christians we tend to assume these points in our theology, we often fail to recognize the striking originality of the message of Genesis 1-11…” (p. 1. Wenham)
“In all these cases there is no evidence of simple borrowing by the Hebrew writer. It would be better to suppose that he has BORROWED various familiar _mythological_motifs_, TRANSFORMED them, and integrated them into a fresh and original story of his own. Whereas Adapa heeded the word of the god Ea and did not eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve rejected the Lord’s command and followed the serpent.” (p. 53. Wenham)
“If it is correct to view Genesis 1-11 as _AN INSPIRED RETELLING_ of ancient oriental traditions about the origins of the world with a view to presenting the nature of God as one, omnipotent, omniscient, and good, as opposed to the fallible, capricious, weak deities who populate the rest of the ancient world; if further it is concerned to show that humanity is central in the divine plan, not an afterthought; if finally it wants to show that man’s plight is the product of his disobedience and indeed is bound to worsen without divine intervention, Genesis 1-11 is setting out a picture of the world that is at odds both with the polytheistic optimism of ancient Mesopotamia and the humanistic secularism and the modern world.
Genesis is thus a fundamental CHALLENGE to the ideologies of civilized men and women, past and present, who like to suppose their own efforts will ultimately suffice to save them. Genesis 1-11 declares that mankind is without hope if individuals are without God.” (p. liii. Wenham)
It will be argued in this brief article that Genesis’ Garden of Eden and its concept of a resting God setting aside a seventh day as a Sabbath rest day is derived -in part- from motifs associated with the 2900 B.C. Shuruppak Flood found in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Atra-Khasis (Atra-hasis/Atrahasis) Flood Story.
Two professional Bible Scholars noted that an impasse had been reached by 1972 regarding attempts to identify the pre-biblical origins of the Hebrew Shabbat or Sabbath. Their observations caused me to investigate in 1996 the Mesopotamian myths for myself to see if I could possibly find or identify some composition that had been “overlooked” by the professional scholars. This article is the result of those investigations.
Below, Professors Andreasen’s and Hasel’s comments on professional scholars having hit a brickwall in their attempts to identify the pre-biblical origins of the Sabbath:
Professor Andreasen (currently President of Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, a Seventh-day Adventist Seminary) noted in 1972, that attempts to identify the pre-biblical origins of Sabbath had reached an impasse:
“The interest in extra-biblical origins of the Sabbath has now subsided. It is generally agreed that the seventh-day Sabbath is old, dating back to pre-monarchial, and undoubtedly to Mosaic times. Beyond this point scholars now proceed with a great deal of tentativeness. It is recognized that the various hypotheses regarding Sabbath origins have exhausted the available source material without providing any final conclusions. The origin and early history of the Sabbath thus continue to lie in the dark. This does not mean that the quest for the original Sabbath has been completely in vain, for it has provided illustrations of special days which demonstrate some similarity of the biblical seventh-day Sabbath, which may have influenced it, or even helped formulate it, but this latter process is unknown. It is not surprising, therefore, that Sabbath studies should shift their attention from the extra-biblical to the biblical sources, and that is precisely what has happened.”
(pp. 8-9. Neils-Erik A. Andreasen. The Old Testament Sabbath: A Tradition-Historical Investigation. Missoula, Montana. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 7. 1972)
Twenty years later in 1992, the late Professor Hasel (another Seventh-day Adventist scholar) made the following observations:
“The relationship between the noun shabbat and the Hebrew verb shabat, to stop, cease, keep (sabbath) in the Qal, “to disappear, be brought to a stop,” in the Nip`al “to put to an end, bring to a stop,” in the Hip`il, remains disputed. Scholars have argued that the noun derives from the verb or that the verb derives from the noun. While there is no conclusive answer, it seems certain that the noun shabbat cannot be derived from the Akkadian term shab/pattu(m). A possible connection of shabbat with the number “seven,” has been left open. In this case the Akkadian feminine form sibbitim, “seventh,” may be considered as an ancestor of the Hebrew noun shabbat, “sabbath,” also a feminine form, which, if the relationship holds, may have originally meant “the seventh [day].” On this supposition “the seventh day” in Genesis 2:2-3 would receive further light.”
(p. 849. Vol. 5. Gerhard F. Hasel, “Sabbath.” David Noel Freedman. Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday.1992)
After reviewing various scholarly proposals Hasel concludes echoing somewhat Andreasen’s earlier observations:
“In spite of extensive efforts of more than a century of study into extra-Israelite Sabbath origins, it is still shrouded in mystery. No hypothesis whether astrological, menological, sociological, etymological, or cultic commands the respect of a scholarly consensus. Each hypothesis or combination of hypotheses has insurmountable problems. The quest for the origin of the Sabbath outside of the Old Testament cannot be pronounced to have been successful. It is, therefore, not surprising that this quest has been pushed into the background of studies on the Sabbath in recent years.”
(p. 849. Vol. 5. Gerhard F. Hasel. “Sabbath.” David Noel Freedman. Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday.1992)
The Encyclopaedia Britannica (which I accessed on 24 January 2008) is apparently in _agreement_ with Andreasen (1972) and Hasel (1992), the pre-biblical origins of the Sabbath are still unknown:
“Scholars have not succeeded in tracing the origin of the seven-day week, nor can they account for the origin of the Sabbath.”
(“The Sabbath.” Encyclopaedia Britannica-Online)
Professor Hallo (Yale University, Dept of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature) agrees with the Britannica:
“If the twenty-four hour day is a legacy of Egypt and Mesopotamia, the seven-day week is definitely independent of both these cultures, although they have never ceased to be searched for the roots…we…repeat that all efforts to find a pre-Israelite origin for the seven-day week have remained fruitless.”
(pp. 127 & 134. “The Week.” William W. Hallo. The Ancient Near Eastern Background of Some Modern Western Institutions. Brill Academic Publishers. The Netherlands. 1996)
In 1996 at the age of 53 I asked myself a simple question:
“Does there exist in _any form_ a notion of GODS RESTING ON A SEVENTH DAY in the Mesopotamian myths?”
The answer was YES.
I discovered that _ALL_ THE GODS RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY of the Shuruppak Flood because man who had disturbed their rest with his “clamor” had been annihilated by the flood waters and the resulting SILENCE allowed them to REST by day and SLEEP by night.
I came to realize that via an _inversion_ or _reversal_ (a “new twist” applied by the Hebrews to an old theme) Israel had probably transformed this notion, making it into God’s “Sabbath Day.”
A God (Yahweh-Elohim) came to REST ON THE SEVENTH DAY after _creating a world _(and mankind)
instead of _all_ the gods and goddesses RESTING ON A SEVENTH DAY after _destroying a world_ (and mankind) with a flood.
The biblical notion that God RESTED on the seventh day:
Genesis 2:1-3 RSV
‘Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he RESTED on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God RESTED from all his work which he had done in creation.”
Some scholars have objected to the common understanding of Sabbath meaning “to rest,” and understand it means “to cease,” as in “to cease or desist from working.”
The Encyclopedia Britannica (1888) on Sabbath not meaning “day of rest” but to “sever,” “bring an end to”:
“Etymology of the word “Sabbath.” -The grammatical inflexions of the word “Sabbath” show that it is a feminine form, probably shab-bat-t for shabbat-t...The root has nothing to do with resting in the sense of enjoying repose; in transitive forms and applications it means to “sever,” to “put an end to,” and intransitively it means to “desist,” to “come to an end.” The grammatical form of shabbath suggests a transitive sense, “the divider,” and apparently indicates the sabbath as dividing the month. It may mean the day which puts a stop to the week’s work, but this is less likely. It certainly cannot be translated “the day of rest.”
(p. 126. Vol. XXI. “Sabbath.” Thomas Spencer Baines. Editor. The Encyclopedia Britannica. 9th Edition. New York. Henry G. Allen & Company. 1888)
I note that the above etymologies “to sever,” “to bring an end to,” are apt descriptive terms for the Shuruppak Flood who’s purpose was “to sever,” and “put an end to” mankind for violating the gods’ rest with his noise.
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary renders English “rested” from Genesis 2:1-3 as the Hebrew word [Strong 7673] shabath, a primitive root: “to repose, i.e., desist from exertion.”
So I have an _alternate_ proposal, that my previous (above) observation could just as well be _alternately_ rendered:
A God (Yahweh-Elohim) CEASED on the Seventh day his work in creating a world (and mankind)
instead of the gods CEASING on the Seventh day their work in destroying a world (and mankind).
Please note the texts, Atra-Khasis and the Epic of Gilgamesh, do _not_ specifically state that “_All_ the gods RESTED on the SEVENTH DAY of the Flood.” _This_is_an_inference_on_MY_part_. The Atra-Khasis myth notes the flood is sent to end man’s noise which disturbs the gods’ rest and sleep. The texts do state on the seventh day the flood ended and that on this day SILENCE or STILLNESS reigns on the earth, man is gone except those on Utnapishtim’s boat. Thus _I_INFER_ that on the SEVENTH DAY this “SILENCE or STILLNESS” allows the gods to REST and sleep now.
The Atra-Khasis myth explains that Enlil (the Sumerian god residing at Sumerian Nibru, Akkadian/Babylonian Nippur in Sumer, modern Iraq), objecting to mankind’s noise cannot get any sleep, eventually he settles on a Flood to get his rest:
“Enlil heard their noise
and addressed the great gods,
The noise of mankind has become too intense for me,
With their uproar I am deprived of sleep…
The gods commanded total destruction,
Enlil did an evil deed on the peoples.”
(p. 73 & 87. W. G. Lambert, A. R. Millard & M. Civil. Atra-Khasis, the Babylonian Story of the Flood with The Sumerian Flood Story. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1999 reprint of 1969 Oxford University Press edition)
Professor Spieser on the STILLNESS on the earth with man’s demise on the seventh day of the flood
“When the SEVENTH DAY ARRIVED,
The flood (-carrying) south-storm subsided in the
Which it had fought like an army.
The sea grew QUIET, the tempest was STILL, the flood
I looked at the weather: STILLNESS had set in,
And all of mankind had returned to clay.”
(p. 69. E. A. Spieser. “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” James B. Pritchard. Editor. The Ancient Near East, An Anthology of Texts and Pictures. Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton University Press. 1958)
Professor Skinner (1910) on the “stillness” of the seventh day brought about by mankinds’ destruction (emphasis mine):
“On the following morning the storm…broke; and it raged FOR SIX DAYS AND NIGHTS, TILL ALL MANKIND WERE DESTROYED…”
“WHEN THE SEVENTH DAY CAME, the hurricane, the Flood, the battle-
storm WAS STILLED,
Which had fought like a (host?) of men.
The sea BECAME CALM, THE TEMPEST WAS STILL, THE FLOOD CEASED.
When I saw the day, _NO VOICE WAS HEARD_,
AND THE WHOLE OF MANKIND WAS TURNED TO CLAY.
When the daylight came, I prayed,
I knelt, I sat, and wept,
On my nostrils my tears ran down.
I looked on the spaces in the realm of the sea.”
(p. 176. “Flood.” John Skinner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. Edinburgh, Scotland. T & T Clark. 1910, 1930 revised edition, reprinted 1994)
Professor Rogers’ (Professor of Ancient Oriental Languages, Princeton University) translation of the above lines (1912) has the storm-tossed Sea “resting on the seventh day” and the Storm “falling asleep” on the seventh day. The Akkadian word for “rested” i-nu-uh recalls to mind the Hebrew nuah (Noah), which also means “to rest” (emphasis mine as well as the Akkadian words in brackets [ ]):
“Six days and nights
blew the wind, the deluge and the
tempest overwhelmed the land.
When the seventh [si-bu-u] day drew nigh, the
tempest spent itself in the battle,
which it fought like an army.
Then RESTED the sea [i-nu-uh tamtu], the storm
FELL ASLEEP, the flood ceased.
I looked upon the the sea, there was
and all mankind was turned to clay.”
(p. 96. lines 18-24. “The Babylonian Flood Story.” Robert William Rogers. Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament. New York. Jennings & Graham. 1912)
Professor Langdon (1931) on the absence of human voices with the seventh day of the Flood:
“Six days and nights
Raged the wind, the Deluge, the hurricane devastated the land.
When the seventh day arrived, the hurricane, the Deluge, the
shock of battle was broken.
Which had smitten like an army.
The sea became calm, the cyclone died away, the Deluge ceased.
I looked upon the sea and the sound of voices had ended.
And all of mankind had turned to clay…
I kneeled and sat down to weep,
Tears streaming on my cheeks.”
(p. 221. “Legends of the Deluge.” Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races, Semitic. Volume 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1931)
Heidel on the SILENCE on the earth accompanying the seventh day and man’s demise, “his turning to clay” (emphasis mine):
“Six days and nights the wind blew, the downpour, the tempest,
and the flood overwhelmed the land.
When the _SEVENTH_DAY_ arrived, the tempest, the flood,
Which had fought like an army, subsided in its onslaught.
The sea grew quiet, the storm abated, the flood CEASED.
I opened a window, a light fell upon my face.
I looked upon the sea, all was SILENCE,
And all mankind had turned to clay...
I bowed, sat down, and wept,
my tears running down over my face.”
(pp. 193-194. cited from Alexander Heidel lines 127-141. p 85 ff. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. University of Chicago Press. 1946, in Rivkah Scharf Kluger. The Archetypical Significance of Gilgamesh, A Modern Hero. Einsiedeln, Switzerland. Daimon Verlag, Am Klosterplatz, Chur 8840. 1991)
Sandars’ paraphrase (1960) of the above verses (emphasis mine):
“For six days and six nights the winds blew, torrent and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, tempest and flood raged together like warring hosts. When the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea grew calm, the flood was stilled; I looked at the face of the world and there was silence, all mankind was turned to clay. The surface of the sea stretched as flat as a roof-top; I opened a hatch and the light fell on my face. Then I bowed low, I sat down and I wept, the tears streamed down over my face, for on every side was the waste of water. I looked for land in vain…”
(p. 108. “The Story of the Flood.” N.K. Sandars. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Baltimore, Maryland. Penguin Books. 1960. Reprint of 1964)
The notion that SILENCE or STILLNESS allows a god TO REST is mirrored in the following account of the god Apsu (who is speaking to his spouse the goddess Tiamat at Eridu in Sumer, modern day Iraq). His decision is to destroy the gods his offspring to get rest from their “disturbance,” apparently a euphemism for “noise” as the text mentions the obtainment of “SILENCE” and “REST” with their destruction.
Note: Strong renders God’s having “rested” in Ge 2:1-3 from the Hebrew [Strong 7673] shabath, a primitive root: “to repose, i.e., desist from exertion,” and below Professor Clay speaks of the REPOSE and REST of Apsu and Tiamat:
The late (1866-1925) Professor Clay (1923) on the gods needing silence in order to obtain their rest
“Apsu opened his mouth, addressing her:
To Tiamat, the glistening one, he said to her:
“Their conduct is distressing unto me;
By day, I CANNOT REPOSE; by night I CANNOT REST.
I will destroy, I will ruin their course
That there be SILENCE, and that we may HAVE REST…
That by day thou may’st HAVE REPOSE by night HAVE REST.”
(p. 192. “Enuma Elish.” Albert T. Clay. The Origin of Biblical Traditions, Hebrew Legends In Babylonia And Israel. Lectures On Biblical Archaeology Delivered at the Lutheran Theological Seminary Mount Airy, Philadelphia. New Haven, Connecticut. Yale University Press. Yale Oriental Series, Researches, Vol. 12. 1923)
Professor Foster (1995) renders “rest” instead of “repose,” and “sleep” instead of “rest” for the above _same_ verses (emphasis mine):
“Apsu made ready to speak,
saying to her, Tiamat, in a loud voice,
“Their behaviour is noisome to me!”
“By day I HAVE NO REST, at night I do not SLEEP!
“I wish to put an end to their behavior, to do away with it!
“Let SILENCE REIGN that we may SLEEP“…
It was Mummu who answered, counseling Apsu…
“Put and end here and now, father, to their troublesome ways!
“BY DAY YOU SHOULD HAVE REST, AT NIGHT YOU SHOULD SLEEP.”
(p. 12. “The Epic of Creation.” Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days: Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995)
Dalley’s translation (1989) of the above verses:
“The gods of that generation would meet together
And disturb Tiamat, and their clamour reverberated…
Apsu could not quell their noise…
Apsu spoke to Tiamat…
‘Their ways have become very grievous to me,
By day I cannot rest, by night I cannot sleep.
I shall abolish their ways and disperse them!
Let peace prevail, so that we can sleep…’
(Vizier) Mummu repied and counseled Apsu…
‘O father, put an end to (their) troublesome ways,
So that she may be allowed to rest by day and sleep at night.”
(pp. 233-234. “The Epic of Creation.” Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh And Others. Oxford & New York. Oxford University Press. 1989)
Of interest here is that Apsu and Tiamat personify bodies of water; Apsu is the freshwater ocean land floats on while Tiamat is the salty sea surrounding this land. The above verses have these two seas or oceans as unable to sleep or rest until silence is achieved via the destruction of those (the gods, their children) who violate their rest. This motif reappears in Roger’s translation which has the “sea” RESTING after mankind’s destruction has been achieved and silence reigns on the earth. Roger’s translation has the “storm” falling ASLEEP after noisy man’s demise, and in myths the god Enlil who instigated the Flood because he could not sleep was portrayed at times as a “storm-god.” If the gods had no qualms about destroying fellow-gods (their progeny) to obtain silence and rest they would have no hesitation in destroying man for violating their rest with his noise.
A special note:
The scholarly consensus for over 100 years is that Abzu/Apsu and his wife Tiamat are “seas.” Abzu personifies the freshwater ocean the earth (land) floats upon while Tiamat is the salty sea surrounding the earth. I accepted this explanation until quite recently, 20 February of 2009. However, via a Google search I chanced across a book published in 1919 by a trained English irrigation works engineer in which he argued that Abzu and Tiamat were personifications of fresh water. Tiamat was _not_ a salty sea (the Persian or Arabian Gulf) personification! I found his arguments to be compelling and well-reasoned out. Please click here and scroll down for his arguments. Biblical tehom (rendered as “the deep” in English translation) sends subterranean fresh water up from under the earth to water God’s Garden of Eden in the Lebanon for Ezekiel (cf. Ez 31:3-4), thus tehom is subterranean fresh water not salty-sea-water! Ezekeil’s understanding of tehom (Hebrew tehom being understood by some scholars to be a cognate of tiamat) being fresh water supports for me the neglected and overlooked argument made by Willcocks.
A composition titled Erra and Ishum (dated to the 8th century B.C.) alludes to the Anunnaki gods being unable to sleep because there is no silence on the earth as man’s noise disturbs their rest, Erra decides to decimate his people:
“Warrior Erra, why did you abandon the
battlefield and stay in town?…
Do a favour for the Anunnaki who love silence!
Sleep no longer pours over the Anunnaki, because
of people’s noise.”
(p. 288. “Erra and Ishum.” Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia, Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford & New York. Oxford University Press. 1989. 1991)
The Mesopotamian myths associated the seventh day resting of the gods with their having accomplished the death of mankind with the Flood, ending his clamor or noise which disturbed them. In the Bible Moses tells Israel that anyone who violates the sanctity of the Sabbath will forfeit his life. I see a possible relationship between the Mesopotamian myths and the Bible in that the gods’ rest was accomplished via the demise of man who had violated their rest with his noise. I am suggesting here that the biblical notion that _man is to be executed_ for violating the Sabbath (associated with God’s having rested on that day) is a “new twist” or “recast” of _mankinds’ demise_ at the hands of outraged gods who’s rest had been violated.
Exodus 31:14-15, 17 RSV
“You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; every one who profanes it shall be put to death…Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death…It is a sign forever…that in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”
One of the keys to unlocking the mystery of the Sabbath has been provided by Professor Lambert who made the following observation (emphasis mine):
“The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in _new twists_ to old ideas.”
(p.107, Wilfred G. Lambert, “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,” , in Richard S. Hess & David T. Tsumra, Editors, I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood. Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994)
I understand that Genesis’ Garden of Eden and the Sabbath itself are the result of “new combinations of old themes and new twists to old ideas,” to paraphrase Lambert’s penetrating observation. Both themes are found in the Epic of Gilagmesh but in a different format and with a different sequence of events.
If my above “hunch” is correct, that the Hebrews have, via a “new twist” _inverted_ the Mesopotamian storyline about how a god came to rest on a seventh day _after creating a world_ rather than gods “resting” on a seventh day after _destroying a world_, then Professor Campbell’s below observation that his studies indicated that at times the Hebrews appear to be employing _inversions_ in their recasting of motifs and concepts appearing in the earlier Mesopotamian myths is of some relevancy here (emphasis mine):
“The first point that emerges from this contrast, and will be demonstrated further in numerous mythic scenes to come, is that in the context of the patriarchy of the Iron Age Hebrews of the first millennium B.C., THE MYTHOLOGY ADOPTED FROM THE EARLIER NEOLITHIC AND BRONZE AGE CIVILIZATIONS of the lands they occupied and for a time ruled BECAME _INVERTED_, TO RENDER AN ARGUMENT JUST THE OPPOSITE TO THAT OF ITS ORIGIN.”
(p. 17. “The Serpent’s Bride.” Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. New York. Arkana & Viking Penguin. 1964. Reprinted 1991)
“No one familiar with the mythologies of the primitive, ancient, and Oriental worlds can turn to the Bible without recognizing COUNTERPARTS on every page, TRANSFORMED, however, TO RENDER AN ARGUMENT CONTRARY TO THE OLDER FAITHS.”
(p. 9. “The Serpent’s Bride.” Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. Arkana. New York. Viking Penguin Books. 1964, 1991 reprint)
I understand that God’s 7th day of rest, is then derived from the 7th day when the gods rested after destroying mankind with a flood as noted in the Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis, it has no direct relationship with sapattum, the 15th day of the lunar month or day of the fullmoon.
The idea that a god needs to rest seems to be a rather odd notion according to the views held by some modern interpreters. God is generally understood to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and he never sleeps, and is always awake and aware of everything taking place in his created Universe.
The ancient Hebrews were not hatching up out of thin air, the notion that God needs to rest, they were merely following along in well-established Mesopotamian traditions that allowed succeeding generations to creatively re-interpret the ancient myths into new religious ideas.
Lambert (Professor of Assyriology at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England) has pointed out that his studies have indicated that the Mesopotamians were of a mind to re-interpret and transform older myths into newer religious concepts. It would appear that the Hebrews, Jews and Christians weren’t doing anything new in their transformation of the earlier ancient myths:
“The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas. Sheer invention was not part of their craft.”
(p. 107, Wilfred G. Lambert, “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,: , in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura, Eds., I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood, Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994)
Professor Lambert (1965) noted that while the search for the origins of the Hebrew Sabbath was a still elusive “will of the wisp” traditions about _gods needing to rest_ were verifiable (emphasis mine):
“The Sabbath has, of course, been the subject of much study, both in the institution and the name. My own position, briefly, is that the Hebrew term shabbat, meaning the completion of the week, and the Babylonian term shapattu, meaning the completion of the moon’s waxing, that is the fifteenth day of a lunar month, are the same word…There is, however, another approach to the question. The Hebrews left two explanations of the Sabbath. The first is that of Genesis 1-2 and Exodus 20, that it repeats cyclically what God did in the original week of creation. The second, in Deuteronomy 5, regards it as a repeated memorial of the Hebrews’ deliverance from Egypt. This divergence suggests that historically the institution is older than the explanations. On this assumption the use of the week as the framework of a creation account is understandable as providing divine sanction for the institution, but unexpected in that God’s resting hardly expresses the unlimited might and power that are his usual attributes: “See, Israel’s guardian neither slumbers nor sleeps.” It is generally assumed that the use of the week as the framework of the account simply required that God rest on the seventh day. But there was no compulsion to have a week of creation at all. Furthermore, this implies that the development of the doctrine of God’s rest came from, pure, deductive reasoning, which I doubt very much. The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas. Sheer invention was not part of their craft. Thus when the author tells us that God rested, I believe he drew on a tradition to this effect. Therefore in seeking parallels to the seventh day, one must look not only for comparable institutions, but also for the idea of deities resting.
Here Mesopotamia does not fail us. The standard Babylonian accounts of man’s creation is not found in Enuma Elish, but in the Atra-hasis epic. An earlier form of this myth occurs in the Sumerian Enki and Ninmah. The essentials of the story are that the gods had to toil for their daily bread, and in response to urgent complaints man was created to serve the gods by providing them with food and drink. On the last point all the Mesopotamian accounts agree: man existed solely to serve the gods, and this was expressed practically in that all major deities at least had two meals set up before their statues each day. Accordingly, MAN’S CREATION RESULTED IN THE GODS’ RESTING, and the myths reach a climax at this point. Even in the Enuma Elish this is clear, despite much conflation. At the beginning of tablet VI Ea and Marduk confer on what is called “THE RESTING OF THE GODS,” and thereupon MAN IS CREATED AND THE GODS ARE DECLARED FREE OF TOIL. This common Mesopotamian tradition thus provides a close parallel to the sixth and seventh days of creation. Since the particular concept of the destiny of man goes back to the Sumerians, but is unparalleled in other parts of the ancient Near East, ultimate borrowing by the Hebrews seems very probable.”
(pp.106-107. Wilfred G. Lambert. “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis.” , in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura, Eds., I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood, Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994)
Professor Hallo (1991) observed that Lambert (1965) saw a relationship between the Hebrew Shabbat and and the Babylonian Atrahasis story (emphasis mine):
“W.G. Lambert …argues for an original seven-day creation in which the creation of man on the sixth day and God’s rest on the seventh are counterparts to THE CREATION OF MAN SO THAT THE GODS MIGHT REST FROM THEIR LABOR in the Atrahasis epic; see “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis.” Journal of Theological Studies vol. 16. 1965. p. 295 f.”
(p. 329. Footnote 50. William W. Hallo. “New Moons and Sabbaths.” Frederick E. Greenspahn. Editor. Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East. New York. New York University Press. 1991)
Glatt and Tigay (1985) on the “resting” of Mesopotamian gods _after_ their having created man, a parallel of sorts being noted by some scholars to God’s “resting” _after_ having created man (Adam):
“The closest analogy between the biblical Sabbath and Babylonian culture is the shared literary motif of the god(s) resting after having created humans (see Enuma Elish 7.8, 34). Even here, the parallel is distant: the biblical God rests at the conclusion of his creative efforts, while the Babylonian gods are freed from the labors required to feed themselves since humans were created to relieve them of that task.”
David A. Glatt & Jeffrey H. Tigay. “Biblical Origins of Shabbat.” Paul J. Achtemeier, et al. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. pp. 888-889. HarperCollins, Publishers, Inc. 1985)
Some Examples of Hebrew “inversions” of Mesopotamian Flood Concepts:
Mesopotamian Concepts: Hebrew Inversions, Countering Mesopotamian Concepts
(New Twists to Old Ideas):
Gods and Goddesses send a Flood. Only One God exists who sends a Flood.
Flood is sent because man’s noise disturbs Flood is sent because man is a shedder of blood, a sinner.
the gods’ rest.
All the Gods rest on a 7th day _after_ Only One God rests on a 7th day _after_ man’s creation.
This 7th day of rest is _after_ a Flood. This 7th day of rest is _before_ a Flood.
7th day of rest is after destroying man & world. 7th day of rest is after creating man & world.
Marduk, the god of Babylon, after slaying Yahweh-Elohim, the God of the Hebrews, after creating
Tiamat, makes of her body the earth and the heavens and the earth; his last act of creation is to
heavens; his last act of creation is to make man to care for his garden in Eden; after creating
make man to care for the gods’ man, God rests (Genesis 1:27, 31; 2:1-3).
gardens in edin, giving all the gods an eternal
rest from earthly toil (Enuma Elish 7.8, 34).
Man’s creation allows the gods to rest, Man’s creation relieves God of caring for his garden in Eden
he will do their toil in edin’s gardens.
Every Mesopotamian city has a god’s or a Genesis denies the existence of other gods.
goddess’ garden that man toils in to There is only _one_ God, so there can be only provide food for them in the edin/eden _one_ god’s garden in Eden, _not_ many gods’ gardens
the uncultivated land surrounding the gardens. in edin.
Edin in Sumerian means “back” as in a person’s `Eden means either a place “well-watered” or “delight”
“back” and by analogy refers to the uncultivated in Hebrew and Aramaic. Some scholars have suggested
land or plain “backing” or “abutting” the gods’ via either a homonym or homophone confusion edin
city-gardens and fields in ancient Sumer. came to be equated with `eden.
Man’s destruction allows the gods to rest Man’s destruction gives God a brief respite from man’s on the seventh day his noise being gone. violent ways which are upsetting to God.
Gods are tearful over man’s destruction. No tears from Yahweh-Elohim.
Gods express regret over sending Flood. No regrets from Yahweh-Elohim over sending the Flood.
Mesopotamian “Noah” sheds tears over man’s No tears shed by Noah over man’s demise.
Enlil is accused of irrationally and impetuously Yahweh is portrayed as justly sending the Flood.
sending the Flood by his fellow gods.
Innocent people are destroyed by the Flood. All who were destroyed deserved their annihilation
The gods _are ridiculed_ and made fun of Yahweh is _not_ ridiculed or made fun of by the Hebrew
by the Mesopotamian author. author.
Man is a victim of capricious, unjust Gods. Yahweh is a victim of unjust, undeserving, sinful mankind.
The gods grew hungry over 7 days, realize they Yahweh does not need man to grow his food and feed him.
need man to work their gardens in edin/eden
to provide them with food.
Man’s noise was because he protested the Yahweh did not make man to relieve himself of toil in his
grievous labor in the gods’ gardens of edin/eden Garden in Eden. He did not make man to be a slave, he
like the Igigi whom he replaced as a slave. gave him dominion or rule over the earth.
Agricultural labor is grievous for man because Genesis _denies_ agricultural labor for man was grievous
it was earlier grievous for the Igigi gods. for man (Adam) in God’s garden of Eden. It became
grievous only after man was expelled from God’s garden,
God _cursing_ the earth as punishment for man.
The Gods give man a rest from toil on a 7th day. God gives Israel a rest from from toil every 7th day.
The rest from toil is that accompanying death God offers man an eternal rest from toil after death (cf.
(“Rest in Peace” on Christian Tombstones). Psalm 95:7-11 alluded to by Hebrews 3:7-11; 4:9-11).
Man’s annihilation by the dawning of the 7th day
witnesses his having been granted a cessation of
grievous toil and on the 7th day, in death, he rests
from his grievous toil with the gods.
Man’s “rest” from toil is attained with the arrival Genesis presents Noah’s name as meaning “rest,” nuwach
of the 7th day via the annihilating flood. The flood it is the sea that rests i-nu-uh tamtu in the Mesopotamian
hero, Utnapishtim, is given eternal life like a god account. But when Gilgamesh finds the flood hero he
and apparently a rest from toil like a god and settled remarks on his lying about, free of toil, like a god. The Bible
in Dilmun at the mouth of the rivers. explains Noah is so named because he will give man a
“rest from toil” (Ge 5:29). Could this be a veiled allusion
to Gilgamesh seeking out Utnapishtim to learn the secret
of how to attain immortality and rest from toil like a god?
The gods seek to limit man’s population growth Yahweh commands man to be fruitful and multiply and
and accompanying noise by various means fill the earth with his progeny.
after the Flood.
Neither man nor god wants to return to the Jew, Christian, Moslem eagerly look forward to a “return”
grievous toil in the gardens of edin/eden. to the Garden in Eden and a life free of grievous toil.
The gods created man to toil in their place in Yahweh did not create man to obtain his Sabbath rest.
the gardens of edin/eden thereby giving themselves
at man’s expense an eternal Sabbath rest.
The gods deny man entry into their Sabbath rest Yahweh denies man entry into his Sabbath rest because
for who will grow the food & feed the gods? man is an unworthy sinner.
The gods will have to grow their food and lose their
Sabbath rest if they allow man to enter their
Sabbath rest from grievous toil.
Man can not be better than the gods who’s image There is only one God, thus there is no shedding of blood.
he was made in; the gods shed each other’s Man’s shedding of blood is a corruption of God’s ways. blood _before_ man’s creation, so man is a
shedder of human blood too.
The only rebellion in a god’s garden in edin “MAN,” a euphemism for the Igigi gods, has been _recast_
is by the Igigi gods who protest the grievous as “Man” (Adam) who is removed for rebellion from God’s
toil. It is said “when the gods _were_MAN_ garden in Eden as punishment.
their toil was grievous.” MAN’S (the gods’)
rebellion causes their _removal_ from the
gardens of edin, Man (humans) being created
to toil in their stead.
The REMOVAL of “MAN” (the Igigi) from the The REMOVAL of MAN (Adam) from God’s garden in Eden
gods’ gardens in edin because of rebellion for an act of rebellion is a CURSE, not a blessing, for
was a BLESSING, an end of their grievous toil. now his agricultural toil will be grievous.
Man’s purpose in life is to be a slave toiling in God created man and placed him in his garden in Eden
the gods’ gardens of edin for ever, never to be to care for it on his behalf. God removed man from his
released from this bondage, for his slavery gives garden for rebellion, but one day he will allow man back
the gods their shabbat rest from toil for all into his garden of Eden and a life of bliss with no toil.
eternity. The gods will _never_ remove_ man God _intended_ that man would “always remain” in his
from their gardens in edin. Man’s lot is to garden of Eden, his removal is just “temporary.” After
toil in edin’s gardens till death brings him a death, man will be restored to eden’s garden and a life
release from the grievous toil. free of grievous toil.
After a lifetime of grievous toil in the gods’ city- The Sumerian notion that all men (good and evil) will
gardens in edin/eden man, after death, winds up after death, wind up in edin-the-underworld has been recast
spending the rest of eternity in the underworld by Judaism, Christianity and Islam via a “twist” (inversion)
which was euphemistically called edin, dwelling into a paradise called Eden set aside for the righteous dead
with its god Nergal and apparently still remaining and denied to the unrighteous dead. In both myths the dead
a slave or servant of the gods. For the gods must will for all of eternity dwell in an edin/eden with a god as his
eat and drink with man to sustain their lives in servant (Nergal, the god of edin-the-underworld, being
edin-the-underworld (the dead’s food is clay transformed into Yahweh, Christ and Allah).
and their drink is muddy water).
Enlil and Enki the gods of Nippur and Eridu in Genesis has “man” (Adam and Eve) being conned by a
Sumer are involved in man’s creation to replace a wily serpent in the Garden of Eden. Both fall for his
the rebelling Igigi gods as agricultural laborers deceiving words and they are consequently removed from
in their city-gardens of edin/eden. Both gods Eden’s garden for rebelling against God. I understand that
bore the epithet ushumgal meaning “great Enlil and Enki, the walking, talking ushumgals who
serpent dragon.” In two different myths a removed “man” (the Igigi) from their city-garden
god called ushumgal is held as responsible for (at Nippur and Eridu) for an act of rebellion replacing the
the removal of “man” (a euphemism for the Igigi) Igigi with “man” (humans) have been recast as Eden’s
from a god’s garden in edin/eden. The ushumgal serpent. These ushumgals deny man immortality because
at Eridu (Enki/Ea) denied man immortality by their eternal rest from earthly toil would be lost if man
conning him (Adapa), but allowed him to becomes a god, for gods do _not_ toil in the edin’s gardens
possess “forbidden knowledge” against Anu’s for their sustenance, only man the mortal slave does.
wishes. Man (Adapa) lost out on a chance to obtain To the degree that Christians understand that Eden’s
immortality for himself and for mankind because serpent is Satan (the Devil), I understand that Eden’s God
he was conned by an ushumgal at Eridu. The Eridu and Satan are but “alter-egos” of Enlil and Enki
and Nippur ushumgals being gods were able to the ushumgals of Nippur and Eridu who created man to be
talk to man and they possessed legs to walk with. their agricultural slave and denied him immortality to
The fruit trees in the ushumgal’s city-gardens of obtain an eternal Sabbath Rest from toil upon the earth for
edin were tended by “man” (the Igigi) whom they themselves as well as the Anunnaki and Igigi gods.
later removed for rebellion. Please click here for my article on Eden’s Serpent as being
a recast of several Mesopotamian gods.
Enlil sends a Flood to destroy man and Enki Genesis has one God sending a Flood and warning one
intervenes to spare a remnant to repopulate man called Noah to save the seed of man and animalkind
the earth by having Atra-Khasis build a boat and for new post flood beginning by building a boat to withstand
stock it with the seed of man and animalkind. the Flood. Enlil and Enki have been fused together and
In otherwords, two gods who both bore the recast as Yahweh-Elohim.
Sumerian epithet ushumgal worked at cross Christians understand Serpent Satan seeks to deny man
purposes regarding man’s annihilation. God’s offer of a Sabbath Rest, just as the two ushumgals
Both ushumgals wanted to preserve a Sabbath Enlil and Enki denied man entry into the gods’ Sabbath
Rest for themselves vis-a-vis man’s Rest from earthly toil.
creation, destruction, and post Flood survival.
There is an “exquisite irony” here in the Mesopotamian account of how the gods obtained their Shabbat or Sabbath rest from toil upon the earth by their having created man to toil in their place in their gardens of edin/eden: Man’s noise protesting his grievous labor in their gardens prevents them from enjoying their Shabbat or Sabbath in peace and quiet so they attempt to destroy him with a flood. But now they are back at square one, they must give up their Shabbat or Sabbath and return to the grievous toil in edin’s gardens. These myths were a form of reassurance for man that his existence was guaranteed on the earth because the gods needed him to do their work, to raise their food and feed them. He was of value to the gods as a slave or servant. They did not create man as an act of love to have someone to fellowship with as taught by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They created man to keep their bellies full! Yahweh-Elohim’s belly was “kept full” by his slaves/servants at the Jerusalem Temple until it was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans in their putting down the rebellion against Rome. Like the Mesopotamian gods, Yahweh hasn’t had a full belly for nearly 2000 years. But the prophet Ezekiel assures us that when the long-awaited-for Messiah (“Prince”) finally arrives, God will be _fed again_ his favorite foods (Ez 45:13-25; 46:1-24).
Contra the Mesopotamian and Biblical myths that have the gods or a god creating man to be their gardener to work in their/his garden in edin/eden modern Scientists (Anthropologists) understand man began life as an animal without any concept of right or wrong, all that was important was daily survival and reproducing one’s self. Man the animal began life foraging for food like the animals. He was an omnivore that ate animal flesh as well as plants and fruits contra the Mesopotamian and Biblical portrayal of him being a herbivore or vegetarian. Only after hundreds of thousands of years of foraging and hunting does he settle down and become a gardener creating gardens to grow food. So the Sciences (Anthropology, Paleontology, and Archaeology) _contradict_ the Mesopotamian and Biblical presentation of how life began for man. Life did _not_ begin 8,000 years ago (cf. Genesis’ chronology) for man as a vegetarian and a gardener in a location called edin/eden (ancient Sumer, modern Iraq), it began millions of years ago in Africa as an omnivore, a wandering forager and later hunter (the anthropological preferred term is “hunter-gatherer”).
Scientists (Geologists and Archaeologists) understand there was never in the earth’s geological history a universal flood as portrayed in the Mesopotamian and Biblical flood myths (some Catholic and Protestant scholars date the flood to the 3rd millennium B.C.). Scientists (Archaeologists) understand that in the 3rd millennium B.C. a flooding Euphrates river at Shuruppak (modern tell Fara south of Baghdad) in Sumer (modern Iraq) became embellished into Atra-Khasis’ and Noah’s mythical flood which covered the mountains of the world.
Professor Campbell very astutely and penetratingly noted that the Hebrews in the book of Genesis appear to have employed at times “inversions” or “reversals” which “turn about” Mesopotamian beliefs by 180 degrees (emphasis mine):
“The ultimate source of the biblical Eden, therefore, CANNOT have been A MYTHOLOGY OF THE DESERT -that is to say, a primitive Hebrew myth- but was the old PLANTING MYTHOLOGY of the peoples of the soil. HOWEVER, IN THE BIBLICAL RETELLING, ITS WHOLE ARGUMENT HAS BEEN TURNED, SO TO SAY, ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DEGREES…One milllennium later, the patriarchal DESERT NOMADS arrived, and all judgements WERE REVERSED in heaven, as on earth.” (pp.103, 105-106. “Gods and Heroes of the Levant.” Joseph Campbell.
The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. Arkana. A Division of Penguin Books. 1964. 1991 reprint)
The late (1943-2006) Professor Tikva Frymer-Kensky understood that Israel’s religion developed from and in refutation of Mesopotamian notions via counterpoints. Her notion of some Hebrew concepts being “counterpoints” to Mesopotamian notions seems to parallel Campbell’s observation that the Hebrews are “countering” Mesopotamian concepts with inversions and reversals (emphasis mine):
“Many Israelite ideas about justice, society, and even religion developed from and _in counterpoint to_ Mesopotamian ideas.”
(p. 83. Tikva Frymer-Kensky. In the Wake of the Goddesses, Women, Culture and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth. Ballantine Books. 1993. First Edition by Freepress 1992)
The Bible presents the Sabbath (Hebrew: Shabbat) as a memorial of God’s having created the earth and humankind then his resting on the seventh day and Moses informs Israel she is to observe this day. In the Atrahasis Epic we are informed that the Flood is sent to destroy man whose clamor or noise disturbs the god Enlil (Ellil) at Nippur in Lower Mesopotamia.
Overlooked by many commentators is the _reason_ for man’s clamor or noise!
The Atra-Khasis (Atrahasis) account reveals that the Igigi gods’ clamor had been ignored by the Anunnaki (Anunna) gods (Enlil, Enki and An). Their clamor was their protesting the grievous labor building and maintaining irrigation canals and ditches to provide water for Enlil’s city-garden at Nippur for 40 years, night and day. Only after a rebellion by the Igigi do the Anunnaki act and create man to replace them as laborers.
The Atra-Khasis myth tells us that when man is created the “clamor” of the Igigi is _transferred_to_man_!
In other words mans’ clamor or noise is apparently that of the Igigi: a protest over the grievous labor on the earth in the gods’ gardens in the midst of the Mesopotamian plain known to the Sumerians as eden (edin), a desire for a _cessation_ of the labor and a _rest_ from toil in the gods’ city-gardens of eden (edin) as enjoyed by the Anunnaki and Igigi. Please also note that the Atra-Khasis text describes the Igigi gods as “…WHEN THE GODS WERE MAN…” and describes them as creating a CLAMOR over their grievous work excavating the irrigation canals and ditches for the Anunnaki gods’ gardens located in the eden/edin of Lower Mesopotamia. That is to say the NOISE or CLAMOR associated with man as the reason for his annihilation in a worldwide flood was earlier associated with the Igigi “…when they were like man…” and burdened with grievous toil.
Here we have the motif of _mankind desiring a rest_ from grievous toil as is enjoyed by the gods. The response of Enlil to mans’ clamor is to destroy man with a Flood! Man will _not_ be allowed to enter into “the rest” from earthly toil in eden’s (edin’s) gardens as enjoyed by the gods. If man is given the boon bestowed on the previously noisey and clamorous Igigi and released from toil who then will care for the gods’ gardens? The gods will have to care for their gardens, an onerous task that they dreaded! This myth explains why man was made and why he must work forever in the gods’ gardens located in the midst of the Lower Mesopotamian eden/edin. The Mesopotamian myths portray Enlil as guilty of unjustifiably sending the flood which destroys _innocent_ men, women and children as well as animalkind (Enlil/Ellil being castigated by his fellow deities Ishtar/Inanna and Ea/Enki for this act).
To a degree, Genesis _agrees_ with the Mesopotamian myths, man does indeed face a life full of grievous agricultural labor but the reasons for this state of affairs differs. The Mesopotamians understand that man’s labor in the gardens of the gods is grievous because it was earlier grievous for the Igigi gods. _CONTRA_ this notion Genesis claims that man’s (Adam’s) labor was NOT grievous! Yes, he is placed in a God’s garden to till and care for it (Ge 2:15) but this was not grievous work. Grievous agricultural work for Man (Adam) begins _after_ he is “expelled” from God’s garden in the Eden (Ge 3:17-19), just the opposite of Mesopotamian understandings that man’s work in the gods’ gardens of eden/edin _is_ greivous! The Mesopotamian myths have _no_ knowledge of man being expelled from the gods’ gardens of eden/edin for then the gods would have to toil in their gardens to raise food for their sustenance and they would never ever want to endure that greivous toil again, hence the reason they created man in the first place. I understand that the Hebrews are taking Mesopotamian concepts about why the gods created man, placed him in their gardens of eden/edin and then later attempted to annihilate him with a flood and transforming them in order to refute these concepts. The Hebrews have a more noble concept of God, portraying him as loving and caring of man instead of callously exploiting him as an agricultural slave like the Mesopotamian gods.
The Mespotamian myths explained that the Flood which destroyed all mankind had been brought about because man’s “noise or clamor” was disturbing the god’s rest by day and sleep by night, year after year without let-up. These myths also noted that in the beginning the 7 great Anunna (Anunnaki) gods of Heaven had imposed back-breaking labor making and clearing irrigation ditches, by day and by night, without rest, on the Igigi gods confined to the earth. These gods are described as muttering, complaining and constantly creating “a clamor,” which at first is ignored by the Anunna gods. The threatened rebellion by the Igigi gods is forestalled by making man from the ringleader of the Igigi, slaughtering him and mixing his flesh and blood with the clay. The myths at this point stress that with the making of man not only do the Igigi gods get to enter into “the rest from toil” enjoyed by the Anunna gods, but that “their clamor,” their noisey complaining about hardwork is transferred to man. In other words, man’s “noise” is because he is overworked and not allowed to have “rest” from his god-imposed toil (cf. pp. 52-62, “The Story of the Flood.” [The Atra-Khasis version]. Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths Tales and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995).
Professor Foster (Laffan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature and Curator of the Yale Babylonian Collection) on the Igigi gods clamor or protest over grievous toil and how this clamor is transferred to man, who is made of clay at Nippur and who is animated by the flesh and blood of an Igigi god who is slain for the purpose of creating man to labor in their place (emphasis mine):
“When the gods were man, they did forced labor, they bore drudgery. Great indeed was the drudgery of the gods, the forced labor was heavy, the misery too much: The seven (?) great Anunna-gods were burdening the Igigi gods with forced labor…[The gods] were digging watercourses, canals they opened, the life of the land…They heaped all the mountains. [ years] of drudgery, [ ] the vast marsh. They counted years of drudgery, [and] forty years too much ! [ ] forced labor they bore night and day. They were COMPLAINING, DENOUNCING, MUTTERING down in the ditch, “Let us face up to our foreman the prefect, He must take off this our heavy burden upon us! (pp. 52-53. “The Story of the Flood.” [The Atra-Khasis version]. Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths Tales and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995)
The Anunna gods acknowledge the burden of the Igigi and their 40 years of night and day “CLAMOR” (complaining, denouncing, muttering) is transferred to mankind upon man’s creation (emphasis mine):
“Ea made ready to speak, and said to the gods [his brethren], what calumny do we lay to their charge? Their forced labor was heavy. [their misery too much] ! Every day [ ] THE OUTCRY [WAS LOUD, we could hear THE CLAMOR]. There is [ ] [Belet-ti, the mid-wife], is present. Let her create then a human, a man, let him bear the yoke…[let man assume the drud]gery of god…She summoned the Anunna, the great gods…Mami made ready to speak, and said to the great gods, “You ordered me the task and I have completed (it) ! You have slaughtered the god, along with his inspiration. I have done away with your heavy forced labor, I have imposed your drudgery on man. YOU BESTOWED (?) CLAMOR UPON MANKIND…” (pp. 58-59. “The Story of the Flood.” [The Atra-Khasis version]. Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths Tales and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995)
The Igigi gods in gratitude fall at her feet, kissing them, she having freed them from toil, and declare a new name for her “Mistress of all the gods” (Belet-kala-ili).
Now the god Enlil of Nippur complains that man’s “clamor” disturbs him resulting in a decision to send a Flood to destroy man and obtain peace and quiet and a longed-for “rest”:
“Twelve hundred years had not gone by, the land had grown wide, the peoples had increased, the land bellowed like a bull. The god was disturbed with their uproar, Enlil heard their CLAMOR, he said to the great gods, The CLAMOR of mankind has become burdensome to me...” (p. 62. “The Story of the Flood.” [The Atra-Khasis version]. Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths Tales and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995)
“I am disturbed at their CLAMOR, at their uproar sleep cannot overcome me…” (p. 65. “The Story of the Flood.” [The Atra-Khasis version]. Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths Tales and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995)
Professors Lambert and Millard on the lamentation “noise” created by the over-burdened Igigi gods which was heard and at first ignored by the Anukkaki gods and later man’s “cry” and “noise”:
“Excessive [toil] has killed us;
Our work [was heavy], the distress much…
Anu opened his mouth
And addressed the gods his brothers.
‘What are we accusing them of?
Their work was heavy, their distress was much!
[The lamentation was] heavy, [we could] hear the noise…
Mami opened her mouth
And addressed the great gods,
‘You commanded me a task, I have completed it…
I have removed your heavy work,
I have imposed your toil on man.
You raised a cry for mankind,
I have loosed the yoke, I have established freedom’…
[Enlil heard] their noise
[And addressed] the great gods,
‘The noise of mankind [has become too intense for me],
[With their uproar] I am deprived of sleep.”
(pp. 53, 59, 61, 67. W.G. Lambert & A.R. Millard. Atra-Khasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood with The Sumerian Flood Story by M. Civil. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1999 reprint of 1969 Oxford University Press edition)
Dalley on the Igigi gods’ noise being transferred to man:
“When the gods instead of man
Did the work, bore the loads,
The gods’ load was too great,
The work too hard, the trouble too much,
The great Anunnaki made the Igigi
Carry the workload sevenfold…
The gods had to dig out canals,
Had to clear channels, the lifelines of the land…
Hard work, night and day.
They groaned and blamed each other,
Grumbled over the masses of excavated soil…
The load is excessive, it is killing us…
Anu made his voice heard
And spoke to the gods his brothers,
“What are we complaining of?
Their work was indeed too hard, their trouble was too much.
Every day the earth resounded.
The warning signal was loud enough, we kept
hearing the noise…
If I am reading Dalley’s translation rightly, the goddess Mami is telling the Anunnaki and Igigi gods that it is “they” who are responsible for two things: (1) burdening man with their grievous labor and (2) bestowing noise on mankind (in otherwords the noise that accompanies the grievous labor):
“I have relieved you of your hard work,
I have imposed your load on mankind.
You have bestowed noise on mankind.
I have undone the fetter and granted freedom.”
(pp. 9, 10,12, 16. “Atrahasis.” Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh And Others. Oxford & New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991)
Still later, _after_the_Flood_ and enraged Ellil (Sumerian: Enlil) in anger learns that a man has survived the Flood. Ellil reminds his fellow gods that they are RESPONSIBLE FOR MAN’S NOISE in that they assented to man’s creation so that their grievous work and accompanying noise digging irrigation ditches to provide water for the gods’ gardens in eden/edin could be transferred to mankind:
“He, (Ellil) was furious with the Igigi…
[They were furious with each other], Enki and Ellil.
We, the great Anunna, all of us,
Agreed together on a plan…
[You] imposed your loads on man,
You bestowed noise on mankind,
You slaughtered a god together with his
You must… and [create a flood],
It is indeed your power that shall be used against
(pp.27-28. “Atrahasis.” Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh And Others. Oxford & New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991)
The gods try various ways to reduce mankind’s clamor by decimating mankind’s numbers and in the end they resolve upon a Flood to destroy them all and thereby obtain their rest on the 7th day of the Shuruppak Flood with the stillness which now reigns supreme on the earth.
In Genesis God “rests” on the 7th day after making man on the 6th day. In the Mesopotamian myths (The Enuma Elish hymn of the Babylonians) the gods, like Yahweh-Elohim also “rest” after creating man! The difference here is that the gods “rest” is from grievous agricultural toil upon the earth. Marduk the god of Babylon makes man to bear the work basket of the gods (apparently the Igigi gods) ending their agricultural toil upon the earth. The Bible _denies_ that God made man so he could enjoy a rest from physical toil in his garden. The Bible _denies_ that God made his garden _in_Eden to provide food for himself, he made it to provide sustenance for man, not God. So, I understand the Hebrews are _denying, challenging and refuting_ via a series of inversions Mesopotamian notions about why, where, when and how man came to be made and placed in a god’s garden in a location called Eden (the Sumerian edin).
The Hebrews, apparently objecting to this storyline of man being created to be a toiling agricultural slave of the gods, reversed or inverted the storyline. God loves man, he does not create man to be his slave. God creates the world for man’s benefit, not God’s benefit; God did not make a garden for his sustenance but for man’s sustenance. God _allows_ man to enjoy a cessation or rest from earthly toil every seventh day. So then, the Hebrews have apparently recast and transformed Mesopotamian notions about _how and why_ the earth came to be made, why gardens were created by gods and why man was created and placed in the gardens of the gods to care for them and why the gods sought to destroy man with a Flood. In the Mesopotamian myths man is an innocent _victim_ of unrighteous, exploitive, ruthless gods. The gods acted _unrighteously_ in sending the Flood to destroy man and animal kind. In the Hebrew recast and transformation, a loving, caring, merciful God is the _victim_ of an unrighteous and unappreciative evil mankind who fills the world with violence and the shedding of much blood. Instead of blaming the gods for man’s misfortunes the Hebrews blame man. In the Mesopotamian Flood account “evil” is associated with the actions of the gods in sending the Flood whereas in the Hebrew account “evil” is associated with man’s behavior.
For the Mesopotamians the seventh day of the Shuruppak Flood was probably recalled as a “memorial of terror” bringing to mind their ancestor’s noisey protests over the grievous labor they bore in the gods’ earthly city-gardens, located in the midst of the great plain of Lower Mesopotamia known to the Sumerians as EDEN or EDIN (professional scholars render Sumerian edin also as eden), their seeking a cessation of this grievous toil in the gardens of Eden/Edin, and how the gods ended this clamor by sending a Flood to destroy Eden/Edin and its gods’ gardens. The Hebrews have apparently turned the Mesopotamian myths regarding the creation of man and his destruction in a flood upside down, insideout and on their ear. They _deny_ that man is a “victim,” it is God who is the “victim.”
Professor Cline (Assistant Professor of Ancient History and Archaeology, Department of Classical and Semitic Languages and Literatures, George Washington University) noted that the biblical Flood account appears to have applied new “twists” of a moral or ethical nature not present in the Mesopotamian flood accounts (his notion of new “twists” recalls Professor Lambert’s notion of “new twists” being applied to earlier concepts by the Mesopotamians, cf. above; emphasis mine):
“Yet even the similarities between the various stories are quite unmistakable, it is sometimes the differences that are most interesting, particularly when the biblical version has had a new moral or ethical twist added to it. For example, the reason God sent the great Flood in the Hebrew Bible is well known: It was because humankind was corrupt and violent and needed to be punished. However, the Old Babylonian version, dating to the early second millennium B.C., gives a very different reason for sending the Flood…the gods agreed to exterminate the human race not because mankind was corrupt and evil but because there were too many people, they were being too noisey, and the gods could not get any sleep. In the Bible the Flood is sent for a moral reason, but in the original Mesopotamian versions, morals and spiritual concerns are nowhere to be found and the reasons the Flood is sent are comparatively mundane.
There is an interesting twist that we find over and over again when comparing a biblical story to the versions that were circulating in the ancient Near East hundreds of years earlier: Although there are obvious similarities, the most significant changes are the moralistic or ethical endings or twists that were added to the original story to illustrate a point the biblical writers wanted to make.”
(pp. 24-25. “Noah’s Ark.” Eric H. Cline. From Eden to Exile, Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible. Washington, D.C. National Geographic. 2007)
Apparently Cline is _unaware_ that there is indeed a “moral” or “ethical” motif encapsulated within the Mesopotamian account of why the Flood was sent. He speaks of mankind multiplying and the increase of noise volume accompanying the growing population. What he fails to note (with many other scholars) is _the reason_ for man’s noise, the fact that the Igigi’s noise or clamor was transferred to man when he was created to replace them as agricultural slaves toiling in the gardens of eden/edin. Having _missed_ this association, Cline like the scholars before him, apparently sees no real “moral” or “ethical” story in the Mesopotamian versions. There is a moral: The gods are portrayed as being callous, unrighteous and ruthless towards man whom they made to be their slave. They created him to toil on their behalf in their city-gardens of eden/edin to thereby obtain their rest from toil (their shabbat or sabbath rest if you will). Just as the clamor/noise of the Igigi was that of seeking an end or rest from toil so too man’s clamor/noise transferred to him from the Igigi is for an end or rest from toil too in the gardens of eden/edin.
Professors Skinner (1910) and Cohn (1996) see the Mesopotamian Flood account as a satire holding the gods up to ridicule:
Professor Skinner on the Mesopotamian Flood account being a somewhat tongue-in-cheek “farcial and satirical” work in its making fun of the gods:
“The gods of the Babylonian version are vindictive, capricious, divided in counsel, false to each other and to men; the writer speaks of them with little reverence, and appears to indulge in flashes of Homeric satire at their expense.”
(p. 178. “The Deluge Tradition.” John Skinner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. Edinburgh, Scotland. T. & T. Clark. 1910, revised edition 1930, reprinted 1994)
I note that one line in the Epic of Gilgamesh describes the gods as ascending to heaven and cowering like dogs (with tails lowered between their hind legs?) against a wall, terrified by the deluge being unleashed on mankind. To liken the gods to “cowering dogs” is certainly not an example of flattery but of contempt on the author’s part:
“Even the gods were afraid of the flood-weapon.
They withdrew; they went up to the heaven of
The gods cowered, like dogs crouched by an outside wall.”
(p. 113. “Gilgamesh XI.” Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia, Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh And Others. Oxford & New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991)
The late (1915-2007) Professor Cohn (Professor Emeritus at the University of Sussex, Sussex, England) on the gods who brought about the Flood being shown in a satirical and farcial manner, that is to say the gods are being made fun of:
“The author of the Atrahasis Epic clearly thinks well of mankind, poorly of almost all the gods. This is not a story about sin and its consequences. Although Mesopotamians were familiar with the notion of sin, it is not sin that precipitates the Flood. The offence of human beings is simply that they multiply and, as a result, make too much noise for the gods’ comfort. That such a slight and unwitting offence evokes such a lethal response is due to the shortcomings of the gods: they are tyrants- and stupid tyrants at that. If the gods were less stupid, if they had the slightest capacity for forethought and rational planning, they would have borne in mind their total dependence on mankind. For had not human beings been created precisely because the gods could not provide for themselves?
The chief god Enlil cuts a particularly sorry figure. He is supposed to be a mighty leader, yet when the lesser gods beseige his house he has to call on the assembly of the gods and then urge Enki to deal with the situation. And when human beings in their turn produce new problems, Enlil’s reaction is at first ineffective, and so imprudent that the very survival of the gods is called into question. But the criticism directed against Enlil involves almost all the gods. For -as the mother-goddess points out- the whole assembly of the gods consented to the Flood. The picture that the poet paints of the gods when faced with the consequences -how they suffer thirst and hunger pangs, and how later they swarm about Atrahasis’ offerings- makes them look both contemptible and ridiculous. Only Enki is exempt: he alone foresees problems and solves them when they arise…”
(pp. 6-7. “Mesopotamian Origins.” Norman Cohn. Noah’s Flood, the Genesis Story in Western Thought. New Haven & London. Yale University Press. 1996)
Professor Clifford (1994) on the gods who sent the Flood as bumbling clowns and idiots, man being an innocent “victim”:
“Genesis 2-11 moves in a different direction than the creation-flood genre of Mesopotamian literature…Atrahasis is a critique of the gods; their assembly is bumbling and fragmented; their leader is the bullying and cowardly Enlil. This unflattering picture is relieved only by the introduction of the wise and compassionate Enki and Nintu. Fault lies with the gods rather than with human beings. The gods’ miscalculations lead to the annihilation of the race, and their needs to its restoration…Both Atrahasis and Genesis were written with a sense of confidence. Atrahasis shows confidence in the human race; people are necessary because the gods are generally lazy, shortsighted, and impetuous. Confidence in Genesis is founded on God’s justice and mercy, and the reliability of the created world.”
(p. 149. “Genesis 1-11.” Richard J. Clifford. Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible. Washington, D. C. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 26. The Catholic Biblical Association of America. 1994)
Sandars appears to understand that the gods, Ishtar and Ea, accused Enlil of “over-reacting” in sending a Flood to destroy _all_ of mankind, instead sinners should be punished but not be slain, implying that punishment, _not_ death and annihilation, is the more appropriate response. In other words the punishment should fit the crime and the annihilation of all of mankind was a gross miscarriage of justice by Enlil (in the Hebrew recast of this story God is portrayed as justified in annihilating mankind):
“Then at last, Ishtar also came…Let all the gods gather round the sacrifice, except Enlil. He shall not approach this offering, for without reflection he brought the flood; he consigned my people to destruction…When Enlil had come, when he saw the boat, he was wrath and swelled with anger at the gods, the host of heaven, “Has any of these mortals escaped? Not one was to have survived the destruction”…Then Ea opened his mouth and spoke to warrior Enlil, “Wisest of gods, hero Enlil, how could you so senselessly bring down the flood?
Lay upon the sinner his sin,
Lay upon the trangressor his transgression,
Punish him a little when he breaks loose,
Do not drive him too hard or he perishes;
Would that a lion had ravaged mankind
Rather than the flood…”
(p. 109. “The Story of the Flood.” N.K. Sandars. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Baltimore, Maryland. Penguin Books. 1960, reprint 1964)
Kramer mentions a Hittite myth which has Ea (Enki) advising Hittite gods that if man is annhilated the gods will have to work their fields for their own sustenance, plowing and milling grain for bread, the gods will lose their rest from work made possible by man who was created to toil in their place and provide them their sustenance (emphasis mine):
“Ea, king of wisdom, spoke among the gods…
he began to speak: “Why annihilate the humans?
Do they not give the gods offerings and burn cedar wood for you?
If the humans were destroyed for her, the gods would
no longer REST FROM WORK,
and no one would contribute bread and drink to you any longer.
It will turn out that the storm-god,
mighty king of Kummiya, the plow
will take up himself! And it will turn out that
Ishtar and Hebat
will turn the mill themselves!”
(p. 152. “The Uses of Mankind.” Samuel Noah Kramer & John Maier. Myths of Enki, The Crafty God. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1989)
The above Hittite myth suggests that Ea realized that the destruction of mankind by a Flood was stupidity on Enlil’s part, for the gods would have to toil for their own food in edin’s gardens if man was annihilated. In other words Ea warned Atra-Khasis (Ziusudra, Utnapishtim) of the Flood out of self-interest, not because he loved or cared about mankind. He didn’t want to have to toil for his food in edin’s gardens because of mankind’s demise.
Kramer preserves an expression of scorn for an individual, likening them to a lazy god (the gods having created man to labor in their stead):
“Like a god you don’t put your hand to any (useful) work.”
(p. 265. Samuel Noah Kramer. The Sumerians: Thier History, Culture, and Character. Chicago, Illinois. University of Chicago Press. 1963)
Professor Davis (
Professor George (2003) on Atra-Khasis (Atram-hasis) being an account of Man’s origins up to the Flood, and how motifs from it reappear in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Holy Bible’s book of Genesis:
“Another masterpiece of Babylonian literature known from late in the Babylonian period is the great poem of Atram-hasis, ‘When the gods were man’, which recounts the history of mankind from the Creation to the Flood. It was this text’s account of the Flood that the poet of Gilgamesh used as a source for his own version of the Deluge myth. It also provided a striking model for the story of Noah’s Flood in the Bible.”
(p. xx. “Introduction.” Andrew George. The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. London. The Penguin Press. 1999, 2000, 2003)
Like the Mesopotamian gods Yahweh demands to be fed twice a day in the Pentateuchal books of Exodus and Leviticus. What many Christians are unaware of is that the Bible states that God’s feeding is to be for all of eternity. In error, many Christians think that with the arrival of the Messiah (Jesus) this feeding of God ends. Ezekiel is quite clear, God’s feeding is for ever, _not_ up to and ending upon the Messiah’s arrival at Jerusalem (Ezekiel in a vision is predicting what life will be in Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity is over and God restores his people back to their land, including the duties and responsibilities of Jerusalem’s priests and prince or messiah):
“…in my sanctuary…when you offer me my food, the fat and blood…”the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok…shall attend on me to offer me the fat and blood, says the Lord God.”
The “prince” (the Messiah or “anointed” one) shall offer God burnt offerings via Levite priests, God’s feeding is for ever _contra_ Christianity’s notion that God’s feeding has been dispensed with:
“…the prince…The priests shall offer his burnt offering…The burnt offering that the prince offers to the Lord on the sabbath day shall be six lambs…the cereal offering with the ram shall be an ephah…At the feasts and appointed seasons the cereal offering with a young bull shall be an ephah…When the prince provides a freewill offering, either a burnt offering or peace offering as a freewill offering to the Lord…on the sabbath day…These are the kitchens where those who minister at the temple shall boil the sacrifices of the people.”
Professor Walton on the Mesopotamian gods _unethical behavior_ in contrast to Yahweh’s ethical behavior:
“What Aristotle later observed about Greek religion was just as true of Mesopotamian religion: “Men imagine not only the forms of the gods but their ways of life to be like their own.” Like human conduct, then, the conduct of the gods lacked consistency and was for the most part unpredictable. There was no absolute morality characteristic of divine conduct and no code to which the gods were bound. The gods were not obliged to be moral, ethical, or even fair, and integrity could never be assumed…We find then that…consistency and absolute morality, are not part of the disposition of the Mesopotamian gods…since humans were created to do work for the gods, the gods were seen to depend on people to provide for them…the sacrifices provided food for the gods and the temples provided shelter and housing for the gods. The fact that the gods were seen to need what humans could provide created a situation in which they had a bargining chip when dealing with the gods…The “manipulation factor” succeeded with the gods of the ancient Near East; it failed with YHWH. He could not be blackmailed or manipulated so that he became man’s lackey. In Mesopotamian perceptions of deity, manipulation was much more of a possibility.”
(pp. 238-239. “Disposition of deity.” John H. Walton. Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context. A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan Publishing House. 1989, 1990 Revised Edition)
Walton’s above observations on the Mesopotamian gods’ unethical behavior in regards to man perhaps explains why the Mesopotamian author of Atra-Khasis shows contempt and ridicule for the gods who sent the flood to destroy man because his noise disturbed their Sabbath Rest. The gods’ unethical behavior also explains why man (Adapa) lost out on a chance to obtain immortality. Ea acting out of self-interest did not want to lose man (Adapa) as his slave/servant, for Ea did not want to have to give up his Sabbath Rest from toil and have to provide sustenance for himself via earthly toil. So the Mesopotamians saw their gods’ Sabbath Rest and Flood as the result of selfish acts of their gods involving man’s exploitation. Man was the innocent victim of callous, ruthless, selfish gods.
Walton on man being a “slave” of the gods:
“In the book of Genesis, dignity is conferred on humankind because only humans are in the image of God. All of the cosmos is created for people and with people in mind. In the ancient Near Eastern perspective, humankind is an afterthought and even a bother. There is no dignity to be found in the status of humanity. Humankind was created to be slaves rather than to rule. Dignity in Mesopotamia, for example, is therefore found in the function of humankind -the gods need them to provide housing (temples) and food (sacrifices).”
(p. 232. “Dignity of humankind.” John H. Walton. Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context. A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan Publishing House. 1989, 1990 Revised Edition)
Cottrell (1965) on the Mesopotamian gods’ contempt for and exploitation of man, created to be their slave, to give them rest from earthly toil:
“These divinities were not always beneficent, but often cruel and capricious, like human beings…Human welfare depends on the caprices of the gods…The contempt of the gods for mankind is expressed in such myths as that which describes how Enlil broke the earth with his pick-axe, and as men began to sprout forth like plants, the other deities gathered round Enlil, imploring him to allot them serfs from among the new-born men. And in the Babylonian “Epic of Creation” the god Marduk casually remarks:
“Let him (Man) be burdened with the toil of the gods that they may freely breathe.”
It is not surprising, therefore, that the Sumerians devoted so much time, wealth and effort to flattering, appeasing, and interceding with the dread forces which governed their lives.”
(p. 158. “The Religion of Sumer.” Leonard Cottrell. The Quest For Sumer. New York. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 1965)
Professor Kramer’s rendering of a statement made by the god Anu of Adapa (who has acquired godly-forbidden knowledge: how via curses to break the wing of the southwind and stop breezes) reveals the contempt the gods have for man (Adapa), he being called a “worthless human”:
“Anu asks why Ea should have disclosed the “plan of heaven and earth” to Adapa. Adapa is, afterall, nothing but an amiluta la banita, a “worthless human…”
(p. 116. “The Great Magician.” Samuel Noah Kramer & John Maier. Myths of Enki, the Crafty God. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1989)
Apparently as late as the 8th century B.C. the Assyians understood that the Shuruppak Flood did NOT cover all the world and its mountain tops for the god of Babylon, Marduk, is made to say that the city of Sippar, which lies on the flood-plain of Iraq was NOT overwhelmed by the Flood waters (As noted earlier, above, Archaeologists excavated Shuruppak the city of the Mesopotamian Noah and confirmed that Sippar was NOT overwhelmed by the 2900 B.C. Shuruppak Flood):
“Even Sippar, the eternal city, which the Lord of
Lands did not allow the Flood to overwhelm, because it was so dear to him…”
(p. 305. “Erra and Ishum IV.” Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. Oxford & New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991)
I am in agreement with Cline that the Flood account in the Bible is an example of a “transmitted narrative” which has witnessed accretions or changes over several millennia:
“Enuma Elish in particular is a good example of what I would call a transmitted narrative: a story that was handed down from generation to generation and culture to culture in the ancient Near East. One of the best ways to explain both the similarities and the differences between the details in this myth and the biblical story in Genesis is to suggest that the original Mesopotamian story (or the concepts contained within it) may have been passed down from the Sumerians in the third millennium B.C. to the Babylonians, Assyrians, and the peoples of Ugarit and Canaan in the second millennium B.C. and then to the Israelites, eventually making its way into the Hebrew Bible in the first millennium B.C.”
(p. 7. “The Garden of Eden.” Eric H. Cline. From Eden to Exile, Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible. Washington, D.C. National Geographic. 2007)
“Thus scholars tend to favor the suggestion that these stories are a example of a transmitted narrative. In fact, most scholars today think the story of Noah’s ark is one of the best examples of such a narrative. Originating in ancient Mesopotamia and making its way from the Sumerians to the Babylonians and then to the Canaanites and the Israelites, the tale of Noah and his ark has not only spanned generations, it has also spanned civilizations, with only a few details changed before finally ending up in the Hebrew Bible.”
(p. 27. “Noah’s Ark.” Eric H. Cline. From Eden to Exile, Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible. Washington, D.C. National Geographic. 2007)
I understand that the Hebrew Bible’s notion of a Shabbat or Sabbath for God and Man is itself another example of a “transmitted narrative” that has witnessed accretions or changes over the millennia, the biblical account being a recast or refutation (inversion or reversal) of Mesopotamian concepts regarding how the gods rested on a seventh day after destroying a world and man in a flood vs a God resting on the seventh day after creating a world and man as an act of love.
A Jewish scholar has noted:
“In Deuteronomy 5:15, while Moses reiterates the Ten Commandments, he notes the second thing that we must remember on Shabbat: “remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the L-rd, your G-d brought you forth from there with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm; therefore the L-rd your G-d commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
What does the Exodus have to do with resting on the seventh day? It’s all about freedom. As I said before, in ancient times, leisure was confined to certain classes; slaves did not get days off. Thus, by resting on the Sabbath, we are reminded that we are free.”
I note that in the Mesopotamian understanding man _is_ a slave of the gods, he toils in their place in their gardens in eden/edin and there is _no_ rest for man from this oppressive toil despite his CLAMOR over the grievous work. Israel in Egypt is portrayed as slaves with no rest from oppressive toil. Slave Israel CLAMORS over her oppressive toil for God has heard their CRY:
“Then the Lord said: “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, AND HAVE HEARD THEIR CRY because of their task masters; I know their sufferings, and I have come to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians…” (Exodus 3:7 RSV)
I understand that a possible relationship exists here in that the CLAMOR of slaves over oppressive toil is a theme associated with Mesopotamian and Biblical accounts. In both stories slaves want a cessation or end of toil and a rest from toil. Flood waters sent by the Mesopotamian gods annihilates the slaves but with their deaths their toil ends. In the Exodus floodwaters (at Yam Suph, Ex 14:26-28) destroy not the slaves but instead their oppressors, the Egyptians, securing the slaves’ freedom. As noted above, Moses instructed Israel to observe the Sabbath for two reasons: (1) as a memorial of God’s creating the earth and man in 6 days then his resting on the 7th day and (2) to recall Israel’s release from Egyptian slavery by God. In the Mesopotamian myths the gods obtained their rest after destroying a world in 6 days and resting on the 7th day, having ended the slaves’ cries or clamor and the slaves got their release from toil and slavery in death being drowned by the floodwaters. I see earlier Mesopotamian motifs as possibly being transformed, reused and applied to Israel’s oppression in Egypt as slaves and associated with the concept of their obtaining a Shabbat, a ceasing of toil, via floodwaters sent by a God.
Professor Bright on how the Hebrews obtained knowledge of the Mesopotamian Flood account:
“It is quite clear that the Hebrew story is derived directly or indirectly from the ancient Sumerian…How then did the Hebrews in Palestine get their Flood tradition? Two alternates present themselves. (1) They learned it from the Canaanites in Palestine, who, in turn, learned it from Mesopotamia…(2)…the ancestors of the Hebrews brought the story with them when they migrated from Mesopotamia in the Patriarchal Age.”
(pp. 39-40. John Bright. “Has Archaeology Found Evidence of the Flood?” pp. 32-40. G. Ernest Wright & David Noel Freedman. Editors. The Biblical Archaeologist Reader. Chicago. Quadrangle Books, Inc. 1961. [The articles contained within were reprinted from The Biblical Archaeologist magazine])
Bright on how the Hebrews have given the Flood story _a new twist_, instead of the Flood being sent to end man’s noise which disturbs the gods, an outraged God destroys man for filling the world with much bloodshed and violence:
“The most significant thing about it is not its historical antecedents or its archaeological basis. Its actual significance lies in its religious outlook. In Genesis the Flood is not caused by mere chance or the whim of capricious brawling gods. It is brought about by the One God in whose hands even natural catastrophe is a means of moral judgement…To the Israelite writers the telling of the story has become an opportunity of demonstrating and illustrating the righteousness of God.” (p. 40. Bright)
I have no complaint with Professor Bright’s analysis. He rightly notes that man is to blame for the Flood in the book of Genesis. Pre-Flood man in the Bible is cast as a depraved, violent shedder of human blood and he justly deserves the long-overdue punishment he gets.
All this is very different from the Mesopotamian account, a 180 degree reversal or inversion.
In the Mesopotamian myths man was created to be a toiling agricultural slave of the gods. He is created because the junior gods, the Igigi rebelled against the senior gods, the Anunnaki at Nippur in Sumer. The Igigi complained for 40 years night and day of their grievous toil excavating irrigation ditches to provide water for Enlil’s city-garden. When they rebel, Enlil calls for help from his brother god Enki of Eridu. Enki suggests replacing the Igigi with man and Enlil agrees. When man is created we are told that the clamor or noise of the Igigi is transferred to man.
That is to say man’s clamor or noise is apparently that of the Igigi, a protest over the grievous work in the gods’ city-gardens. Enlil’s response to man’s clamor is very different to his earlier response to the Igigi’s clamor, instead of allowing man to enjoy an eternal rest from toil like the Igigi he _denies_ man this boon and sends a Flood to annihilate mankind. That is to say man’s noise that disturbed the gods’ rest, causing them to send a Flood was over the grievous toil they endured in the gods’ city-gardens located in the midst of eden/edin (eden/edin is the Sumerian word for uncultivated steppeland surrounding the gods’ city-gardens of Lower Mesopotamia, present day Iraq).
So, in the Mesopotamian myths innocent, god-oppressed mankind was annihilated by _unrighteous_ gods because of his noise, his protesting the grievous labor in the gods’ gardens located in the midst of the eden/edin and his desiring a rest from toil as had been granted to the clamoring Igigi.
I am reminded here of an old adage: “Be careful what you wish for, you might get your wish (and regret it)!”
Noisey mankind’s clamor was for an ending of their grievous toil in the gods’ gardens in the midst of eden/edin and a desire to have an eternal rest from toil as enjoyed by the Anunnaki and Igigi gods.
Man got what he “wished for,” sort of, his toil was _indeed_ eternally ended and his rest assured for all of eternity, but it was not as envisioned by man.
The gods gave man an “eternal rest from toil” by annihilating him! That is to say, man’s rest from toil is the rest that is achieved through death!
I recall here three initials found on some Christian tombstones: R.I.P., “Rest In Peace.” Only with death does man achive his eternal rest from toil and suffering and strife. Of course, this was not the “kind” of rest from toil that noisey mankind had envisioned, they wanted to live forever like the gods and do no toil, but that was not to be.
The motif of mankind desiring a ceasing from toil and entering into the rest from labor enjoyed by the gods in the Atra-Khasis Epic reappears in a somewhat transformed manner in the New Testament.
The Anunnaki and Igigi gods denied man an entry into their rest in the Atra-khasis Epic and so too does Yahweh.
Yahweh denies man (Israel) entry into his rest because of his _rebellious_ ways. In the Atra-khasis Epic man’s clamor or protest of his grievous labor in the gods’ garden of eden/edin may have been seen as a form of _rebellion_ in that clamor preceeded the Igigi gods’ _rebellion_ which resulted in their release from toil in the gardens of eden/edin and their entry into the rest from toil enjoyed earlier and exclusively by the Anunnaki gods (Enlil, Anu, and Enki).
So both Atra-khasis, the Old Testament and the New Testament have motifs of greivous toil upon the earth for man, a rebelliousness over this toil, and a denial of entry into the gods’ rest to man. I find it amazing how these themes and motifs have repeatedly surfaced from circa 1700 B.C. (Atra-Khasis) to the 1st century A.D. and the days of Early Christianity (Hebrews 3:7-11; 4:9-11).
Hebrews 3:7-11& 4:9-11 RSV (citing Psalm 95:7-11)
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’…So then, there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God; for whoever enters God’s rest also ceases from his labors as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…”
Man got his “rest” from toil by being annihilated by the Shuruppak flood. In the New Testament Christians who perserve until the end will, _after_ death, be assured an entry in God’s rest. I see a possible “twist” here of an ancient concept: The idea in Atra-Khasis that the only rest from toil man will get from the gods is that accompanying death and the Christian promise that after death the faithful will enter into God’s rest.
Do Mesopotamian myths understand that man _after_ death_ will spend eternity in a location called eden/edin with a God (noting here that Jew, Christian and Moslem understand that _after_death_ the righteous dead will spend eternity in a paradise called Eden with a God)?
Yes. The Sumerians sometimes euphemistically called the Underworld edin. They understood all men (good and evil) upon death would spend eternity in edin-the-underworld with its resident god and goddess (Nergal being the ruling god and his wife Ereshkigal being the ruling goddess ). The only “man” who was allowed a resurrection back to life to roam the earth’s surface and feel the heat of the sun on him was Dumuzi, the king of Uruk. Dumu-zid, “the faithful son” (cf. S. H. Langdon. 1931:342 Mythology of All Races Semitic: dumu = “son” zid = “faithful,” “true”) was slain in the edin at his sheepstall under the great apple tree near Uruk by demons at his wife Inanna’s instigation to be her surrogate in Hell, securing her release from the netherworld’s edin. Dumuzi, a shepherd and a king once upon a time, then, dwelt in two edins: (1) the edin at Uruk and (2) the underworld edin. In myths, once a year he ascends (is resurrected) from the Underworld’s edin to dwell for six months in the earthly edin at Uruk, being the “life-force” in the edin’s plants: grasses, herbs, fruit-trees and grain. In Christian myth the “FAITHFUL” will dwell in an earthly Edenic Paradise after death and a resurrection just as the “FAITHFUL SON” Dumu-zid (Dumuzi) after death was resurrected and returned to the earthly edin at Uruk (He also is resurrected to heaven to serve Anu and some Christians understand there is a heavenly paradise for the FAITHFUL SONS of God). So, Dumuzi who bore the epithet ushumal “great serpent” or “dragon” offered man (Adapa) immortality with the “food of life” and “water of life” but another ushumgal, Ea/Enki, conned man (Adapa) into falsely believing it was the food of death and forbidden to him in order to deny man immortality because he did not want to lose man as his slave and have to toil in the edin’s city-gardens for his own food and thus give up his eternal sabbath rest from earthly toil.
Leick on edin being a euphemism for the underworld:
“In Mesopotamia the underworld was known by various euphemisms, such as Sumerian kur, ‘mountainous country’, or ‘abroad’, ki-gal, ‘the great place’, edin, ‘the steppe’, arali, kur.nu.gi -‘land of no return’, which have their equivalents in Akkadian.”
(p. 159. “Underworld.” Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London & New York. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998)
It is my understanding that Judaism, Christianity and Islam’s notion that _after_ death_ man will spend an eternity in a paradise called Eden with a God is a recast of earlier Sumerian myths regarding man being made by the gods to toil in their gardens of edin/eden in Sumer, and _after_ death, man’s dwelling for all of eternity with the gods in the edin/eden known as the Underworld. Dumuzi’s (as well as Inanna’s and Geshtianna’s) resurrection to the earthly edin/eden at Uruk was recast under Christianity and Islam into a resurrection from the Underworld to dwell in an Edenic paradise free of toil after the faithfuls’ deaths.
The gods are then, being _faulted_ by the Mesopotamian storyteller for sending the Flood, _not_ mankind!
It is the gods who acted _unrighteously_ in sending a Flood to destroy a god-oppressed and therefore noisey mankind.
Professor Cohn (cf. above) has noted that the gods acted _stupidly and foolishly_ in sending the Flood, failing to realize that by annihilating all of mankind their eternal Shabbat or Sabbath, their rest from grievous toil in the gardens of eden/edin would come to an end and they would have to once again toil in eden’s gardens for their own sustenance. The “moral” of the Flood for the Mesopotamians was that the gods had learned their lesson the hard way having gone without food for 7 days during the Flood. Man had nothing to fear from these bumbling idiots. Man now realized that the gods _needed_ him to do their dirty work, they wouldn’t dare annihilate man again with another another worldwide flood! In otherwords mankind is portrayed as being the “ethical ones” and it is the gods who are the _stupid_, _foolish_ and “unethical ones.”
The Hebrews have recast all of this. God is portrayed as being _righteous_and_ethical_ in sending the Flood and it is mankind who is _unrighteous_and_unethical_ in that he has shed much human blood and is therefore worthy of annihilation.
The Hebrews have then taken a Mesopotamian tongue-in-cheek comedy-farce ridiculing the gods for sending the Flood and via a 180 degree turnabout or inversion replaced the foolish, short-sighted unethical gods with a noble, all-wise, ethical God. Instead of contempt being piled on the gods by the Mesopotamian author, the Hebrew author piles contempt on man.
Professor Stiebing remarks on the biblical recasting of the Mesopotamian Flood myth:
“Thus, looking at the perspective from which the Biblical writers viewed their Flood stories, and examining the context into which they placed these stories, one cannot help but feel that the Flood tradition has undergone a qualitative change since being removed from Mesopotamia. That the Old Testament contains mythological elements and that it preserved some legendary stories which originated in Mesopotamia or in other cultures of the ancient Near East is to be expected. What is surprising is the degree to which these myths and legends have been transformed by the ancient Israelite conviction…”
(p. 28. William H. Stiebing, Jr. “A Futile Quest, The Search for Noah’s Ark.” pp. 15-29. Molly Dewsnap Meinhardt. Editor. Mysteries of the Bible, From the Location of Eden to the Shroud of Turin. Washington, D.C. Biblical Archaeology Society. 2004)
Is it possible that the appearance of the Akkadian word sabatu meaning “to seize” in the Atrahasis Flood myth might have, via either assonance or a homonym or homophone mis-association, become equated with the Hebrew shabath (Strong 7673) meaning to “cease” as in “to _cease_ working”?
Webster’s Dictionary on Assonance, Homonyms and Homophones:
“assonance. rememblance in spoken sound.”
(p. 41. “assonance.” Albert & Loy Morehead. Editors. The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary.
New York. New American Library. A Signet Book. 1951, reprint of 1981)
“homonym. a word like another in sound and (often) spelling, but different in meaning, as bear (carry) and bear (mammal).”
(p. 260. “homonym.” Albert & Loy Morehead. Editors. The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary.
New York. New American Library. A Signet Book. 1951, reprint of 1981)
“homophone. a word pronounced like another but different in meaning and spelling, as too and two.” (p. 260. “homophone.” Albert & Loy Morehead. Editors. The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary.
New York. New American Library. A Signet Book. 1951, reprint of 1981)
Earlier scholarship (1911 Professor Barton) suggested that sabatu meant to beat or to strike:
“…Hilprecht’s fragment of the Babylonian Deluge Story…the stem sabatu, “to beat,” “to strike,”…”
(George A. Barton. “Hilprecht’s Fragment of the Babylonian Deluge Story (Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Series D, Volume V, Fasc. I.)” Journal of the American Oriental Society. Vol. 31. No. 1. (1911). pp. 30-48)
Below is a rendering by Professors Lambert and Millard revealing the Shuruppak Flood’s association with the Akkadian word sabat meaning “to seize.”
Lines 3 and 4, the reverse side of tablet CBS 13532 (J)1 (Scholars disagree on the age of this tablet _fragment_, some argue it is Middle Babylonian, others that it is Old Babylonian):
3 …] ka-la ni-si is-te-nis i-sa-bat
4 …]-ti la-am a-bu-bi wa-se-e
The English translation of lines 3 and 4:
3 …a flood] will seize all the peoples together
4 …].before the flood sets out
(cf. pp. 126-127. “CBS 13532-J.” W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Khasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood with The Sumerian Flood Story by M. Civil. Oxford University Press. 1969. Reprinted 1999 by Eisenbrauns. Winona Lake, Indiana)
Lambert and Millard on the Akkadian word sabat (sabatu) and its appearance in the Atra-Khasis Epic:
“sabatu ‘to seize’: ka-la ni-si…i-sa-bat…la i-sa-ba-su [si-tu]…i-sa-ba-ta-ni...pa-si-it-tu li-is-ba-at se-er-ra...”
(p. 192. “sabatu.” Glossary. W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Khasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood with The Sumerian Flood Story by M. Civil. Oxford University Press. 1969. Reprinted 1999 by Eisenbrauns. Winona Lake, Indiana)
The Mesopotamian gods created man in order to obtain their release from grievous agricultural toil in the gardens of eden/edin. In other words the gods wanted the equivalent of the Hebrew Shabbat, “a ceasing of toil,” and “rest from toil.” Man was created to be their agricultural slave, he would make possible “THEIR SHABBAT,” “their ceasing of toil and obtainment of rest.” The worldwide flood sent by the gods to destroy mankind was because man was denying the gods “THEIR REST,” his noisely clamor objecting to the back-breaking toil in the gods’ gardens of eden prevented the gods from resting in silence and peace so the gods obtained their rest, THEIR SHABBAT, by annihilating man with the flood. I am reminded of an old adage: “Be careful what you wish for, you might get your wish (and come to regret it).” Man’s clamor or noise in the gardens of eden/edin was because he wanted a SHABBAT, a “ceasing” of toil and “rest.” In a sense, the gods gave him what he clamored for. They annihilated all of mankind and with this annihilation man achieved a cessation and rest from toil eternally. The rest from toil was “the rest” which befalls all human beings when they die. American tombstones sometimes have engraved on their surfaces R.I.P. meaning “Rest In Peace.” Man “got” his eternal rest from toil from the gods via the flood. This of course was not the kind of rest or cessation from toil that man had clamored for, he wanted to live forever like a god and do no toil like a god, but this was not to be. If man was released from agricultural toil in the gods’ gardens in eden/edin the gods would have to care for their gardens themselves, an onerous task that they dreaded. So they had no choice, man must remain an agricultural slave and be denied immortality and god-hood.
All this is to say in the Mesopotamian belief system: “IF THERE WAS NO MAN TO DO THE GODS’ BACK-BREAKING WORK IN THE GARDENS OF EDEN/EDIN THERE COULD BE NO REST FROM EARTHLY TOIL FOR THE GODS. Man’s creation was absolutely necessary to provide the gods their Shabbat/Sabbath rest from toil.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam took these Mesopotamian motifs and transformed them in such a way as to refute, challenge and deny them. Man was _not_ made to be an agricultural slave of the gods, to provide the gods a rest from toil, he was made to fellowship with God and he is to look forward, after death, to a return to Eden’s garden and fellowshipping once again with God as was the case with Adam and Eve before their expulsion. The gods gave man a rest from toil by annihilating him, the rest from toil that accompanies death whereas in Christian doctrine, man _again_, AFTER DEATH, will enjoy a rest from toil in a Garden of Eden in God’s presence. In both instances, Mesopotamian and Christian it is AFTER DEATH that man comes to enter into an eternal rest from toil, an eternal Shabbat or Sabbath if you will.
Just think dear reader, you enjoy your weekly rest from toil, be it a Friday (Moslems), Saturday (Jews) or Sunday (Christians) because of a Mesopotamian myth about gods resting on a seventh day after destroying man and the world in a flood in order to obtain their rest (THEIR SHABBAT OR SABBATH).
The gods had created their city-gardens in the Mesopotamian (ancient Sumer) eden/edin to provide food for themselves, not man. Later, tiring of the grievous labor in maintaining their gardens in the eden/edin they create man to be their replacement and slave. He will provide the gods with life’s necessities: food, clothing and shelter. The Mesopotamian myths understood agricultural toil in the gardens of eden/edin had been grievous for the gods and for man their replacement. The Hebrew Bible denies and refutes this concept. Although man (Adam) is created to cultivate and care for God’s garden in Eden, the toil is not grievous. It is grievous only after man’s expulson from the garden of Eden. An inversion has occurred: Life for man in the garden of Eden was idyllic vs. the Mesopotamian notion it is a back-breaking hell working in a god’s garden in the eden/edin. Under no circumstances would the gods or man ever want to “return” to work once again in the gods’ gardens of eden/edin. Remember here the Latin Motto: E PLURIBUS UNUM, “From Many, One.” The many gods who were responsible for the Flood were recast as ONE GOD as being responsible for Noah’s Flood. The MANY GARDENS of the gods in the eden/edin were _recast_ into ONE GARDEN IN EDEN, as there is only ONE GOD for the Hebrews. Jews, Christians and Moslems all look forward to the day that they can be admitted to Paradise: God’s garden in Eden, unaware that this is fictional nonsense, a recasting via inversions of earlier Mesopotamian beliefs of how and why man came to created and placed in the gods’ city-gardens in the eden/edin and why his annihilation was attempted in a flood for disturbing the gods’ rest.
As far as I can tell from my studies into the “pre-biblical origins” of the Hebrew Shabbat (English: Sabbath), I am the _only_ individual_ associating it with the seventh day of the Shuruppak Flood.
Professor Donald B. Redford, a prominent Egyptologist, has remarked on the fact that “amateurs” have contributed to the advancement of knowledge. This observation I find “encouraging” in my presentations at this website, being an amateur scholar myself.
Redford (emphasis is mine):
“Laity often suffer under the delusion that “scholars” constitute a special interest group that stands united whenever any of its members is attacked, and refuses to allow any without the Ph.D. “union card” to participate in its activities. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The quest for knowledge (a pompous but apt phrase) through the application of reasoned scholarly method employs far more simple common sense than most people realize, and is therefore open to all. If professionals generally do it better, that is simply because they have had more practice; but it sometimes transpires that in a particularly thorny problem it is an unbiased amateur that makes a breakthrough.”
(p. xxi. “Preface.” Donald B. Redford. Akhenaten, The Heretic King. Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton University Press.1984, reprint 1987)
Professor Davis (Professor of Semitic Philology and Old Testament History, Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey) noted a parallel between the seventh day the gods rested on after the Shuruppak Flood and God’s resting on a seventh day:
“According to the Babylonian narrative the flood, the fearful work of the gods, ceased on the seventh day…Deity is at rest and man is relieved on the seventh day…What do these things mean? An origin is needed for the belief that the seventh portion of time was a season of rest and good-will to man; a heavenly example calling for imitation on earth.” (pp. 34-35. “The Sabbath.” John D. Davis. Genesis and Semitic Tradition. Charles Scribner’s Sons. New York. 1894)
Some professional scholars over the past 100 years have attempted to seek the pre-biblical origns of the Hebrew Sabbath or Shabbat in the Akkadian/Babylonian shapattu or shabattu, the 15th day of the month when the full moon appears found in cuneiform texts, others have objected, noting that the Sabbath occurs every seven days and does not appear to be tied to the phases or quarters of the moon.
I have identified (above) certain motifs appearing in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Atra-Khasis Epic as being in part what is behind the Hebrew Shabbat. The Atra-Khasis Epic noted that before the Igigi god We-ila is slain to thereby animate the clay that is mankind the gods absolve themselves of this slaying of a fellow-god by taking three ablution baths on the 1st, 7th and 15th days of the month which just happens to align somewhat with the phases of the moon. The 15th day was called by the Akkadians shapattu or shabattu and was associated with a day called “the resting of the hearts.” Perhaps the shapattu/shabattu is a “type of memorial” recalling two events: (1) The creation of man on this day _after_ the last ablution bath is taken and We-ila is slaughtered and (2) a sabbath rest being achieved by the gods with man’s creation as their slave on this day, said creation _ending the anger in their hearts_ over their forced labor in the gardens of eden/edin. That is to say the shapattu/shabattu is _a day of appeasment for their angry, grieved hearts_, for now they will enjoy an eternal rest from toil for ever because man will bear their grievous work. Please click here for my article on the shapattu/shabattu and its relationship to the Hebrew shabbat.
Professor Blenkinsopp (of Notre Dame University) on Atrahasis and Gilgamesh motifs in Genesis:
“…just as Genesis 1-11 as a whole corresponds to the structure of the Atrahasis myth, so the garden of Eden story has incorporated many of the themes of the great Gilgamesh poem.”
(pp. 65-6. “Human Origins, Genesis 1:1-11:26.” Joseph Blenkinsopp. The Pentateuch, An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible. New York. Doubleday. 1992. ISBN 0-385-41207-X)
Professor Clay, an Assyriologist, in 1923 argued that scholars were _wrong_ in assuming the Hebrew Shabbat or Sabbath was related to and derived from the Mesopotamian shapattu (Emphasis mine in CAPITALS):
“For years it was held that the Hebrew Sabbath was borrowed from Babylonia; that it had its roots in the Babylonian shapattu or shabattu, to which we have been told we owe the blessings of that day; for “the Sabbath-rest, was essentially of Babylonian origin.” It is even held that “the word Sabbath is Babylonian indeed.”
This view has been accepted by many scholars…Let us here inquire upon what basis does the assertion rest that the Hebrew Sabbath is of Babylonian origin.
In the first place there was found in a Babylonian dictionary, or explanatory list of rare words, this formula: um nukh libbi= sha-pat-tum (or sha-bat-tum). This was translated “shabattu was the day of rest of the heart,” literally “a day of rest.” The word shabatu was also found in an explanatory list of rare words, but the meaning given for it, namely, gamaru, “to be full, complete” did not seem at the time to be suitable for the assertions that had been made.
The word shabattu, for which there is no etymology in Semitic Babylonian, was said to have been derived by the native lexicographers from the Sumerian sa “heart,” and bat “to cease” or “rest”; it was literally translated “heart rest.”
(p. 117. “The Hebrew Sabbath.” Albert T. Clay. The Origin of Biblical Traditions: Hebrew Legends in Babylonia and Israel. New Haven. Yale University Press. 1923)
“Somewhat later it was shown that the expression nukh libbi, which occurs frequently in the lamentation hymns, did not mean “rest of the heart,” but referred to the PACIFICATION of the gods; and the expression was then translated “day of the APPEASEMENT of the heart.”
In 1904, Doctor Pinches discovered in a tablet giving the designation of the days of the month, that the 15th day was called shapatti when it became clear that the word shabatu, explained by gamaru, meaning “to be complete, full,” apparently referred to the full moon in the middle of the month.
This new light upon the subject required a readjustment of the proof that has been advanced for the Babylonian origin of the Sabbath. However, this was promptly accomplished, and the same conclusion reached, even “that the word Sabbath is Babylonian indeed.”
In this contention I cannot acqiesce. THERE IS NO ROOT IN BABYLONIAN, as already intimated, equivalent to the common _Hebrew shabat “_TO CUT OFF, DESIST, PUT AN END TO_”. With the knowledge of its extended usage throughout the Old Testament, and knowing how thoroughly the institutions and the life of Israel were bound up with this day, TO ME IT HAS BEEN INCONCEIVABLE how Assyriologists could make themselves believe, on the basis of the data given above, that this institution and this word were borrowed from Babylonia.” (pp. 118-119. Clay)
“There have already been published hundreds of hymns from Babylonia, and hundreds of ritual texts. The mass of this kind of literature is ten times greater than that found in the Old Testament. We have also a large body of laws from the early and late periods. In these, as well as in the mass of other texts, besides what is referred to above, there is not a semblance of an idea corresponding to the Hebrew Sabbath, nor any reference to the word (i.e., shabbat, not shapattu or shabattu).”
“Whether in view of the fact that the “new moon” and the Sabbath in the Old Testament, stand in juxtaposition in so many passages the Sabbath was originally the day of the “full moon,” i.e., the fifteenth day of the month, need not concern us here.” (p. 122. Clay)
The on-line Wikiepedia notes on the Shabbat/Sabbath that the word connotates CEASING rather than “resting” (Emphasis mine) :
“The Hebrew word Shabbat comes from the Hebrew verb shabat, which literally means “TO CEASE”, in the sense of ceasing from doing something. Although Shabbat or its anglicized version “Sabbath” is almost universally translated as “rest” or a “period of rest”, a more literal translation would be “CEASING”, with the implication of “CEASING from work”. Thus, Shabbat is the day of CEASING from work; while resting is implied, it is not a necessary connotation of the word itself.
Incidentally, this clarifies the often-asked theological question of why God needed to “rest” on the seventh day of creation, as related in the Genesis account. When it is understood that God “CEASED” from his labour rather than “rested” from his labour, the usage is more consistent with the Biblical view of an omnipotent God who does not need “rest”. Notwithstanding this clarification, this article will follow the far more common translation of Shabbat as “rest”.
Shabbat is the basis of the English words “sabbath” and “sabbatical”. (A common linguistic confusion leads many to believe that the word means “seventh day”. Though the root for seven, or sheva’, is similar in sound, it is spelled differently.”
Some may be aware that a few scholars in their search for “the pre-biblical origins” of the Sabbath (Hebrew: Shabbat) have proposed that it might be related to the Mesopotamian Shapattu Day, the 15th day of the Lunar month, the day of the Full Moon. This article does not cover this topic. It is addressed however in another of my articles. If this subject interests you please click here for the “Shabbat = Shapattu Controversy“.
In the Hebrew Bible the “first mention” of the Sabbath (Hebrew Shabbat) _by name_ occurs in the book of Exodus (16:23, 25, 26 29; 20:8,10,11; 31:14,15,16; 35:2,3) when Moses introduces the concept to Israel while wandering the Sinai wilderness.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story about a man’s unsuccessful search for immortality. It exists in various recensions from between the 21st to 6th centuries BCE. A clay tablet fragment written in Akkadian (Babylonian) has been found at Megiddo in Palestine dated to the 15th century BCE.
The key to unlocking the mystery of the Sabbath has been provided by W.G. Lambert who made the following observation:
“The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas.”
(p.107, Wilfred G. Lambert, “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,” , in Richard S. Hess & David T. Tsumra, Editors, I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood. Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994)
I understand that Genesis’ Garden of Eden and the Sabbath itself are the result of “new combinations of old themes and new twists to old ideas,” to paraphrase Lambert’s penetrating observation. Both themes are found in the Epic of Gilagmesh but in a different format and with a different sequence of events.
First, the Garden of Eden:
In the Gilgamesh story a paradise on earth is set aside for the hero and his wife of the flood myth, called Utnapishtim. Many scholars have noted that Noah appears to be drawn from Utnapishtim with some modifications. I understand that Utnaspishtim and his wife are -in part- also one of the sources for the characters Adam and Eve. Utnapishtim and wife are placed in an earthly paradise by the Gods, just as Adam and Eve are in an earthly paradise. Neither couple have to do any back-breaking toil. In both stories, Utnapishtim and Adam are associated with a theme of man’s having some kind of knowledge of how to go about obtaining immortality. Adam looses out in his bid, while Utnapishtim’s immortality has been assured because of his faithfulness.
Utnapishtim is famous for his wisdom for only he knows the secret of how to attain immortality, a similar theme exists about Adam’s involvement with attaining wisdom. Gilgamesh seeks out Utnapishtim because his wisdom will lead, he hopes, to an acquisition of immortality. Please click here for a picture of Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu from the Old Babylonian Period.
The various names given to the Sumerian or Babylonian “Noah” suggest to me, themes related to Adam who lived faraway in the East in a Garden of Eden and who sought a long life and immortality which were granted the Babylonian character, who also lived faraway in the East, at Dilmun, a paradise of sorts.
The Babylonian Noah’s name appears in the following historical sequence from the ancient texts, first as Ziusudra (Sumerian), then Atra-hasis, Ut-napishtim, and finally Xisuthros (the Greek rendering of Ziusudra).
Dr. Robert Whiting (PhD.) has noted that Zi-u-sud-ra means “Life of Distant Days,” alluding to his obtaining immortality. Atrahasis means “Very Intelligent,” he being famed for his wisdom. Utnapishtim appears to be a form of Ziusudra “He Found Life ?” (napishtim = life?), alluding to his obtaining immortality. Xisuthros is the Greek rendering of Ziusudra by the Babylonian historian, Berossos (My thanks to Dr. Robert Whiting of Helsinki, Finland for his observations on these names’ meanings).
There are, of course, modifications and transformations at work in the later Hebrew retelling of this story. Paradise (Dilmun) was set aside for man after the flood in the Gilgamesh scenario, whereas it was set aside before the flood in Genesis. I attribute this rearrangement to putting “a new twist on an old story.” Both stories then, have a man and wife placed in an earthly paradise by a god, and they are associated with possessing wisdom about how to obtain immortality.
A serpent, responsible for depriving Gilgamesh of an herb that will restore him to youthful vigor, has a “new twist,” a serpent associated with a fruit who deprives Adam of immortality.
Now, The Sabbath:
The Sabbath and its paradise motif in the Genesis story appear before the flood. In the Gilgamesh scenario, the earthly paradise and accompanying Sabbath or resting day of the gods, occurs only after all mankind has been destroyed (with the exception of those on Utnapishtim’s boat) with the flood. We are told that the flood in its fury fought mankind like an army at war, the raging waves and pouring rains and lightning all ended on the seventh day of the flood; we are told that on the seventh day the waters became calm, the sun came out, the earth was in stillness, peace and quiet reigned over the earth, for man had been swept from off the face of the earth and drowned in the flood, because his “noise” had disturbed the god’s rest! The gods could not rest by day nor sleep by night because of man’s noise, according to the myths (Gilgamesh and Atrahasis).
“Six days and nights the wind blew, and the deluge and flood overwhelmed the land. THE SEVENTH DAY, when it came, the storm ceased, the raging flood, which had contended like a whirlwind, quieted, the sea shrank back, and the evil wind and deluge ended. I noticed the sea making a noise, and all man had turned to corruption. Like palings the marsh reeds appeared I opened my window, and light fell upon my face, I fell back dazzled, I sat down, I wept, over my face flowed my tears.”
(p.105. “The Flood.” Theophilus G. Pinches. The Old Testament In the Light of the Historical Records and Legend of Assyria and Babylonia. London. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1908)
I would argue that the seventh day of the flood which saw the demise of mankind, the calming of the flood waters, and the easing of the rage in the gods’ hearts, was given a “new twist” and transformed into a gracious God who wants only man’s well-being, and who is desirous of faithful worship.
Please note, the Babylonian story has the Mesopotamian Noah tearing down his house made of “marsh reeds” to make his boat from and he is a king of Shuruppak. Excavations at that city determined that its one and only flood deposit was freshwater laid (microscopic analysis being undertaken), causing the excavators to understand that the Flood was caused by the Euphrates river. Succeeding generations embellished the story till it was a flood destroying the whole world.
Pinches (1908) noted a clay tablet inscribed in Akkadian (Babylonian) as um nuh libbi, “day of the rest of the heart” and juxtaposed next to this was the word sapattum. He suggested that sapattum was possibly derived from Sumerian Sa-bat meaning “heart-rest.” (see p. 527, sibitu meaning seventh, and Sa-bat meaning ‘heart rest,’ in Theophilus G. Pinches, The Old Testament, in Light of the Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia, London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1908, 3rd edition).
Today, scholars have determined that Pinches (1908) was in ERROR, _sapattum_ means “completion” and refers specifically to the 15th day of the lunar month, the day of the full-moon’s “completion” (or maximum waxing).
They have accordingly noted that the Hebrew 7th day or _shabbat_ appears to have no direct relationship with the Mesopotamian 15th day of the lunar month.
To the degree that Hebrew shabbat is a cognate of “to cease” the Sabbath day was, then, the day God CEASED his work of Creation, of the earth and mankind. On the 7th day the gods’ CEASED their destruction of the earth and of mankind.
As has been noted by other scholars, the motifs appearing in Genesis 1-9 are paralleled in Ancient Near Eastern myths in a somewhat different format. The Babylonian Enuma Elish mentions the creation of the heavens and earth by Marduk, and after their completion, the making of mankind, similar notions exist in a similar sequence of events in Genesis (Ge 1:1-27). Marduk made man to till the earth to provide food for the gods, Adam’s job is to take care of the garden on God’s behalf, both are then portrayed as engaged in agricultural pursuits of some sort. The Mesopotamian gods rest after man’s creation (he is to relieve them of their toil upon the earth for life’s necesities: food, clothing and shelter); Yahweh, like the Mesopotamian gods rests after creating man.
As noted by Tsumura, Lambert does NOT share many of his colleagues’ notion that the Babylonian “Creation Epic,” the Enuma Elish, shares much with Genesis 1-11, he sees more compelling parallels in the Epic of Gilgamesh (I see borrowings from both Gilgamesh and Enuma Elish):
“According to Lambert, who is extremely careful with regard to the Mesopotamian influence on the Genesis Creation story and does not admit the Hebrew borrowing from the Babylonian “Creation” story, “Enuma Elish,” too easily, “the flood remains the clearest case of dependence of Genesis on Mesopotamian legend. While flood stories as such do not have to be connected, the episode of the birds in Gen 8:2-12 is so close to the parallel passage in the XIth tablet of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic that no doubt exists.”
(p. 53. David Toshio Tsumura. “Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction. pp. 27-57. Richard S. Hess & David Toshio Tsumura. Editors. “I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood”, Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994)
Adam’s experiences in Eden parallel themes in the Mesopotamian myth of Adapa and the South Wind, who loses a chance at immortality for failing to eat the food which would confer it on him. Utnapishtim and wife, placed in an earthly garden, at Dilmun, are immortal, one assumes the fruits in that garden sustains them, just as the gods must be sustained by food grown on the earth (according to the Mesopotamian myths).
The Bible notes that the purposes of the sacrifices and burnt offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem are for the purpose of feeding God (Ezekiel 44:7, “..when you offer me my food, the fat and the blood.” RSV), quite in agreement with the Mesopotamian notions that man was created to feed and serve the gods, so they don’t have to work and can enjoy their “rest.”
Carpenter was of the conviction that whatever the true origins of the Sabbath were, they were not as portrayed in the biblical account. He argued that there was no need to set aside a 7th day as a day of rest created by a god for mankind’s refreshment, he was sure the real origin lay in the fact that it was originally a “Taboo Day” which, overtime, was transformed into the biblical explanation:
“At some early period, in Babylonia or Assyria, a very stringent taboo on the Sabbath arose…It is quite likely that this taboo in its beginning was due not to any need of a weekly rest-day…but to some superstitious fear…It is probable, however that as time went on and society became more complex, the advantages of a weekly rest-day…became more obvious and the priests and legislators deliberately turned the taboo to a social use.”
(p.194, Edward Carpenter, The Origins of Pagan and Christian Beliefs [first published as Pagan and Christian Creeds: Their Origin and Meaning, 1920], London, Senate [an imprint of Random House UK], 1996)
Pinches noted that in Babylonia, the 7th day was a “Taboo Day,” or “Lucky-Unlucky Day”:
“The nearest approach to the Sabbath, in the Jewish sense, among the Babylonians, is the u-khulgala or umu limmu, “the evil day,” which, as we know from the Hemerologies, was the 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, and 19th day of each month, the last so called because it was a week of weeks from the the 1st day of the foregoing month. It is this, therefore, which contains the germ of the idea of the Jewish Sabbath, but it was not that Sabbath in the true sense of the term, for if the months had 30 days, the week following the 28th had 9 days instead of 7, and weeks of 8 and 9 days therefore probably occurred twelve times each year. The nature of this original Sabbath is shown by the Hemerologies, which describe how it was to be kept in the following words:
(The Duties of the 7th Day):
The 7th day is a fast of Merodach and Zer-panitum, a FORTUNATE DAY, an EVIL DAY. The Shepherd of the great peoples shall not eat flesh cooked by fire, salted (savory) food, he shall not change the dress of his body, he shall not put on white, he shall not make an offering. The king shall not ride in his chariot, he shall not talk as a ruler; a seer shall not do a thing in a secret place; a physician shall not lay his hand on a sick man; (the day) is unsuitable for making a wish. The king shall set his oblation in the night before Merodach and Ishtar, he shall make an offering, (and) his prayer is acceptable with god.
For the 14th, 21st, 28th and 19th, the names of the deities differ, and on the last-named the Shepherd of the great peoples is forbidden to eat “anything which the fire has touched.” Otherwise the directions are the same, and though generally described as a lucky or happy day, it was certainly an evil day for work, or for doing the things referred to. It is to be noted, however, that there is no direction that the day was to be observed by the common people.”
(p. 528, “The Sabbath,” Theophilus G. Pinches, The Old Testament In the Light of the Historical Records and Legend of Assyria and Babylonia. London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1908)
Modern scholarship is divided about the Sabbath’s origins. While noting the above Taboos concerning the 7th day, the reason for making it “a god’s rest-day ” had yet to be explained. I believe my research has identified “the resting of the gods on the 7th day” after the Flood as being the source for the later Hebrew re-working of Babylonian myths. Probably the 7th day taboos, above noted, came to be absorbed into the Sabbath as well. In other words, both were almagamated and transformed into “a joyful day of rest” for Man (Perhaps “expanding upon” the Babylonian notion that the day was not only an evil day, but also a “FORTUNATE DAY”? ).
I note some interesting variations with “new twists” on themes contained within the Babylonian 7th day taboos, as appeared later in Jewish observance of the Sabbath which suggest a possible relationship. Jews did not light fires on the Sabbath, it being considered work (Meals prepared by contact with “fire” is mentioned as Taboo in Babylon). Jews did not travel great distances on the Sabbath (the king shall not “ride” in his chariot); Jewish Sabbath service begins at Sunset (the king shall not place an offering before the god during the day, but “at night”); Jewish physicians did not heal on the Sabbath, Christ being accused of healing on the Sabbath (A physician shall not lay his hand on the sick).
Gilgamesh in seeking out Utnapishtim, sought not only the secret of immortality, but also by what means he could enter into “the rest” from toil enjoyed by the gods and Utnapishtim (I am indebted to Randall Larsen [17 July 2000] for this observation).
Randall Larsen (of the University of Hawaii):
“Another item of interest, Gilgamesh’s visit to Utnapishtim was to learn the secret of how to enter into his rest [to be exalted to “recline with the gods”].”
Heidel’s translation of Gilgamesh’s observation of Utnapishtim’s freedom from toil, lying about on his back (implying his entering into “the rest” from toil enjoyed by the gods):
“Gilgamesh said to him, to Utnapishtim the Distant: “I look upon thee, Utnapishtim, thine appearance is not different; thou art like me. Yea, thou art not different; thou art like unto me. My heart pictured thee as one perfect for the doing of battle; [but] thou liest (idly) on (thy) side, (or) on thy back. [Tell me], how didst thou enter into the company of the gods and obtain life (everlasting) ?”
(cf. p. 80, Alexander Heidel, The Epic of Gilgamesh and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1946, reprint of 1993)
Below, is another mythical variation of how and why mankind came to be created by Enki. In this account he is sleeping through the commotion on the earth’s surface caused by the earth-dwelling junior gods called the Igigi who labor ceaselessly to provide food for the senior gods called the Anunnaki or Anunna (Enki or Ea is an Anunna god). He is awakened from his sleep in his underwater Abzu dwelling called the E-engur by his mother who asks him to end the commotion. He creates man from clay above the Abzu transfering the burden of agricultural toil from the earth-dwelling gods to mankind. In the Bible God makes man of dust and places him in Eden to tend God’s garden. Enki’s “sleeping” recalls to mind the Psalmist portraying Yahweh-Elohim “sleeping” while Israel’s enemies destroy her (cf. Psalm. 44:23; 78:65)
The Enki and Ninmah Myth, notes the “complaining of the Igigi gods at Eridu, a type of “clamor” or “noise” if you will, that will be transferred to man who is created to replace them and bear their grievous toil:
“In those days, in the days when heaven and earth were created; in those nights, in the nights when heaven and earth were created; in those years, in the years when the fates were determined; when the Anunna gods were born; when the goddesses were taken in marriage; when the goddesses were distributed in heaven and earth; when the goddesses… became pregnant and gave birth; when the gods were obliged (?)… their food…for their meals; the senior gods oversaw the work, while the minor gods were bearing the toil. The gods were digging the canals and piling up the silt in Harali. The gods, dredging the clay, began _complaining_ about this life.
At that time, the one of great wisdom, the creator of all the senior gods, Enki lay on his bed, not waking up from his sleep, in the deep engur, in the flowing water, the place the inside of which no other god knows. The gods said, weeping: “He is the cause of the lamenting!” Namma (Nammu), the primeval mother who gave birth to the senior gods, took the tears of the gods to the one who lay sleeping, to the one who did not wake up from his bed, to her son: “Are you really lying there asleep, and… not awake? The gods, your creatures, are smashing their …My son, wake up from your bed! Please apply the skill deriving from your wisdom and create a substitute (?) for the gods so that they can be freed from their toil!”
At the word of his mother Namma, Enki rose up from his bed. In Hal-an-kug, his room for pondering, he slapped his thigh in annoyance. The wise and intelligent one, the prudent, … of skills, the fashioner of the design of everything brought to life birth-goddesses (?). Enki reached out his arm over them and turned his attention to them. And after Enki, the fashioner of designs by himself, had pondered the matter, he said to his mother Namma: “My mother, the creature you planned will really come into existence. Impose on him the work of carrying baskets. You should knead clay from the top of the Abzu; the birth-goddesses (?) will nip off the clay and you shall bring the form into existence. Let Ninmah act as your assistant; and let Ninimma, Cu-zi-ana, Ninmada, Ninbarag, Ninmug, … and Ninguna stand by as you give birth. My mother, after you have decreed his fate, let Ninmah impose on him [mankind] the work of carrying baskets.”
(“Enki and Ninmah.” <http://theoldpath.com/senkimah.htm> cf. also Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford. 1998.)
The Atrahasis myth portrayed ONLY _ONE_ GOD, Ea (Aya/Ayya/Enki), as “caring” for man’s welfare, he “suffered” the anger, rage and abuse of the other gods who wanted man to toil ceasely, they even begrudged man any of the fruits of his labor (or food he was cultivating for them) and he risked the displeasure of his fellow gods in warning Utnapishtim of the Flood. I suspect that these themes, of a _SINGLE_ god who cared about man and who wanted his workload reduced, inspired the Hebrew author to envision a Single God in place of the many gods who sought man’s demise. This ONE god, Aya/Enki, may also have wanted to provide man with a rest day, as Enki did realize that the Iggi god’s rebellion was in part because they had no rest from their toil. The notion of God’s (Elohim’s) “suffering” because man (Adam) “turns on him,” (by not obeying him) and not appreciating all he has done for him, “grieveing his heart,” is being drawn from Aya/Enki who “suffers on man’s behalf.” So, I understand that the ONE GOD Aya/Enki was transformed into the ONE God Yahweh-Elohim because both are suffering and caring gods, both of whom wanted to alleviate the toil of mankind, and seeking his welfare. God provided abundant food for Adam in the Garden of Eden, Aya/Enki risked the displeasure the gods by letting man enjoy some the fruits of his toil. God doesn’t have Adam toil for food in Eden, as man had to in the Atrahasis myth (I would characterize this “a new twist”to an old theme). Aya/Enki in another myth, “Adapa and the South Wind,” permits man to obtain “forbidden” knowledge and wisdom (Aya/Enki is the god of Wisdom), but _denies_ him immortality. In the Bible Yahweh-Elohim, allows Man (Adam) to obtain forbidden knowledge, but _denies_ him immortality. It is a Lower Mesopotamian Aya/Enki who lurks behind the biblical presentation of Yahweh-Elohim in the Genesis account (Moses’ ehyeh asher ehyeh, “I AM that I AM…”Tell them Ehyeh [I AM] has sent you” Hebrew: hayah, Exodus 3:13-14)
Leick on Ea/Enki’s reason for saving mankind from a flood, he realizing the gods need man to be their servants:
“In the later mythological tradition, Enlil’s relationship with mankind is always problematic: he is easily roused to anger and impulsively gives in to his urge towards destruction. The flood myths describe how, when the noise generated by the masses of humans drives him to distraction, he immediately decides to wipe them off the face of the earth. In contrast, Enki/Ea realizes in his wisdom that the gods depend on mankind and finds ways to foil Enlil’s plans for annihilation.”
(p. 153. “Enlil.” Gwendolyn Leick. Mesopotamia, the Invention of the City. London. Penguin Books. 2001)
If Leick is correct then perhaps Ea/Enki did not save man from the Flood because he cared about man’s well-being, he did it out of self-interest. The Gods had made man to replace the Igigi gods as laborers. Who would build the canals and irrigation ditches, grow, harvest and prepare food for the gods if man was no more? The gods would have to do this. So, Ea/Enki, being a god of “wisdom” forsaw what would happen from Enlil’s rash act and thus warned Utnapishtim to save the “seed” of mankind and creatures for a new beginning.
Leick on Enki’s assimilation with Ea/Ayya:
“Ea – also ‘Ay(y)a; Akkadian god,
The name of this god is probably Semitic, although no reliable etymology has yet been found. Ancient Babylonian scribes derived it from Sumerian E.a, ‘house of the water’. In the texts from the Old Sumerian and Sargonic periods Ea/Ayya occurs mainly in Akkadian personal names. The pronunciation Ea (Ay-a) is attested since the Ur III period. The original character of this god is impossible to assess because of his syncretism with the Sumerian god Enki, which probably occurred as early as the Sargonic period. Ea’s functions in the Babylonian and Assyrian tradition are therefore essentially the same as Enki’s. He is a water god (bel naqbi, ‘lord of the Spring’) a creator (ban kullat, ‘creator of everything’) a god of wisdom (bel uzni, ‘lord of wisdom’), the supreme master of magic (mash.mash ilani, ‘incantation specialist of the gods’), the protector of craftsmen and artisans.”
(p. 37. “Ea.” Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1998)
We see now, that Genesis has preserved several “key concepts” albeit, in a transformed and somewhat re-interpreted manner, from the ancient Mesopotamian myths about man’s creation; the theme of gods needing to rest; the importance of attaining rest for mankind who now “clamors” and desires “a rest” from his god-imposed toil, and how a Flood was resorted to, to end man’s “clamor for a rest,” because the gods could not themselves attain their rest by day nor sleep by night.
To recapitulate, according to the Mesopotamian Atrashasis myth, the Igigi gods’ clamor or noise was because they had _no rest, night or day_ from their god-imposed agricultural toil upon the earth over a period of 40 years. The Annuna gods’ (or Enki’s/Aya’s/Ayya’s/Ea’s) “solution” to end this clamor and threatened rebellion was to make man as the new slave or servant, taking over the Igigi gods’ labor, allowing the Igigi gods an eternal rest from toil. But the Igigi gods’ _clamor was also transferred to man_, who now had “no rest” from god-imposed toil.
One would have thought that the Mesopotamian mythographers would have solved the “Clamor problem” by having a “new” creature perform the labor, “giving rest to mankind,” but of course _this was impossible_, because this motif was an explanation for WHY man had been made by the gods, he was made to be their slave/servant, harvesting and presenting food for them and giving them eternal rest from toil upon the earth.
After the Flood, as noted in the Gilgamesh Epic, the gods crowded about the sacrifice made by Utnapishtim like hungry flies. They had come to realize that they NEEDED man to grow food and feed them- they realized it was foolish to destroy mankind, for they would have to return to the earth and grow and harvest their food and “give up” THEIR ETERNAL REST from toil.
The 7th day of the Flood became a day of foreboding for the Mesopotamians, recalling that on that day ALL the gods had obtained their rest via man’s annhilation. Nowhere in the Mesopotamian myths do we find a story about the gods providing a day of rest for a toiling mankind who clamors for a rest from toil, only that a Flood was resorted to to end the clamor.
It was probably a Hebrew Savant, perhaps Abraham, who, while dwelling in “Ur of the Chaldees,” observed that these peoples had myths about a 7th day being a sacred day of rest for ALL the gods, a day that was not to be violated or the gods might be angered again. Perhaps he created a new relationship between god and man, and, via an INVERSION, created a GOD who WOULD give mankind a “temporary” rest from toil, that rest day being the 7th day, when ALL the gods had rested after man’s demise accomplished by the Flood. The 6 days and nights of the earth’s destruction via another INVERSION became 6 days of creation of the earth for man by a God who LOVED man, and who sought his well-being.
It is worth noting here, that the Hebrews accepted without question the Mesopotamian notion that gods needed a place to dwell in on the earth and daily food presentations. Yahweh ceased receiving his daily food and drink offerings with the destruction of the Temple of Solomon under the Romans circa 70 A.D. when Titus, the son of Vespasian, destroyed Jerusalem.
Christianity, still later, picks up on this ancient theme of man entering into a “God’s rest,” (Hebrews 3:11,18; 4:1-11) a type of “Sabbath” if you will, where the righteous will, after death, no more have to toil, they will wander the banks of the river of life flowing from under God’s throne in Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, and feed off the trees of life lining the river’s banks rather like Adam did in the Garden of Eden (cf. Revelation 22:1-2). They will, according to this myth, at long last, enter into “the rest” enjoyed by the gods as portrayed in the ancient Mesopotamian myths, a rest which according to those myths, had originally been “denied to man.” And so, the myth of a “Sabbath and a Rest” for God and his creation, mankind, has come “full-circle,” with the Christian re-interpretation of the ancient Mesopotamian myths, giving hope to millions over the ages.
We are told in the Bible that Abraham’s family ORIGINALLY was of Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 12:31) which is identified by some scholars with a site, modern Tell Muqqayyar in Lower Mesopotamia, and I concur with this identification. If Abraham’s family was originally of this location then we have a possible connection for the “pre-biblical origin” of the Sabbath.
The Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis located the Flood as occuring in this region at the nearby city of Shurrupak, the “Sumerian Noah” being the local king called Ziusudra (Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh or Atrahasis in the Atrahasis Epic). It was the Mesopotamian god Enki (Ea in the Gilgamesh Epic) who warned Ziusudra of the coming Flood, telling him to save himself and family by building an ark or boat. Was Ea/Ayya/Enki transformed via another INVERSION into Ehyeh/Yah/Yahweh?
Perhaps God’s “revelation” to Abraham while at Haran (Genesis 12:31) in northern Mesopotamia, alludes to Abraham’s family’s _INVERSION_ of the 6 days and nights in which the Gods destroyed the Earth, seeking the annihilation of a mankind that they “abhorred” and who’s noise prevented them from resting by day and sleeping by night? Perhaps this “new vision” or “revelation” (INVERSION) was “rejected” by the local inhabitants, which necessitated Terah’s or Abraham’s family migrating to a new location, Haran, where a less hostile community might be open to a new concept of a single God creating the world in 6 days and nights for man, his pinnacle of creation, and resting on the 7th day, the Sebittu day? That is to say, perhaps either Abraham’s father Terah or Abraham himself, are the originators of the INVERSION? To the degree that they are portrayed as being “Arameans” dwelling at Ur, perhaps this is the reason they took “liberties” in reformatting the local myths?
I am somewhat reminded here of the Prophet Mohammed who founded a new religion, Islam. He too, like Abraham, had a “new vision” of how to worship God, a vision, that was rejected by the local populace of Mecca as perhaps happened at Ur of the Chaldees to Terah and Abraham. He, like Terah and Abraham, moved to another location, Medina, and found a more tolerant and open audience to expound his ideas to. Another prophet, Brigham Young, also had a “new Vision” of how to worship God which was rejected by many and he too migrated like Terah, Abraham and Mohammed to another less hostile environment.
The “Apocrypha” suggests a Jewish understanding from as early as the Hasmonean period (late 2nd century B.C.), that the Israelite forefathers were indeed originally of Ur of the Chaldees (Chaldea), and *only later* of Harran “in Mesopotamia.” This important relic is found preserved in Judith 5:5-9. It also suggests that the reason for Terah and Abraham leaving Ur of the Chaldees was that they HAD REJECTED THE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OF THEIR ANCESTORS. Here is the account (believed by some scholars to date from the late 2nd century B.C.):
Judith 5:5-9 RSV
“Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites, said to him, “Let my lord now hear a word from the mouth of your servant, and I will tell you the truth about this people that dwells in the nearby mountain district. No falsehood shall come from your servant’s mouth. This people is descended from the Chaldeans. At one time they lived in Mesopotamia because they would not follow the the gods of their fathers who were in Chaldea. For they had left the ways of their ancestors, and they worshipped the God of Heaven, the God they had come to know; hence they drove them out from the presence of their gods; and they fled to Mesopotamia, and lived there a long time. Then their God commanded them to leave the place were they were living and go to the land of Canaan. There they settled, and prospered…”
(Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger. Editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. (Revised Standard Version. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977)
Leick on the city of Ur being a “repository” of ancient Mesopotamian texts, some which, were probably of a religious nature (?). Perhaps Terah and Abraham were exposed to and transformed these religious motifs ? :
“Ur. Modern Tell Muqqayir, in southern Iraq (originally by the ancient coast of the Arabian sea); ancient Sumerian city which spans the whole of Mesopotamian history. Ur was the city of the moon-god; it was also the seat of several dynasties and one of the most important Mesopotamian sites, and a large number of Sumerian and Babylonian texts have been found there, dating from all levels of the city’s occupation.”
(p. 174. “Ur. Glossary.” Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. , 1998.)
Terah and Abraham, according to the Bible dwelt ORIGINALLY at Ur of the Chaldees and this site is identified by some scholars with Tell Muqhayir, and I concur. If one troubles to take the time to look at a map, Ur is located between Eridu which is Enki’s principal residence and Shuruppak where the Flood warning is given to Utnapishtim by Enki. Please click here for a map showing the proximity of Ur to Shuruppak (to Ur’s north), Eridu (to Ur’s south) and the marshlands or wetlands, “a place well-watered,” and Qurnah.
According to Leick, her study of the ancient Mesopotamian myths suggested that Amorite or Syrian influences were present. The Mesopotamians called northern Mesopotamia Amurru “the West,” and I note that Abraham eventually settled at Haran in Aram (Northern Syria) or Amurru. Is it possible that the Bible has correctly noted Terah and Abraham as 3rd/2d millennium B.C. figures in Ur of the Chaldees, and that the “presence” of Amorite motifs in the Lower Mesopotamian myths might recall the Hebrew’s ancestors active involvement in myth-making or cosmologies regarding the relationship between gods and man?
Leick (Emphasis mine):
“What we define here as Babylonian myths are a number of texts which were written Akkadian during the second millennium BC…Most of these compositions, however, are preserved on tablets that were found in the great Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian archives, notably those of Nineveh, Uruk, _Ur_ and Babylon. We know from colophon entries and other reports that the majority of the texts were copies of older material…The oldest editions of some texts date from the Old Babylonian period…The Babylonians inherited the culture and religious structures of the Sumerians. The scribes of the Old Babylonian period copied and translated a number of Sumerian mythological texts…BUT THERE IS ALSO MUCH THAT OWES MORE TO SYRIAN AND AMORITE CONCEPTS THAN SUMERIAN TRADITION.”
(pp. 23-24. “Babylonian Mythology.” Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London & New York. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1997. ISBN 0-415-19811-9 pbk)
“Amorites. Akkadian amurru (Sumerian mar.tu) was rather widely used to designate the various Semitic tribes living to the west of Mesopotamia…Following the collapse of the Ur III ’empire’, the Amorites penetrated deeper into the agricultural and urban areas, formed cohesive political units and eventually one of their leaders, Hammurabi (c. 1794-1750 BC) initiated the Amorite or First Babylonian Dynasty.”
(pp. 168-169. “Glossary.” Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991. 1998)
When the Assyrians conquered this area in the 8 century B.C. they noted the presence of Arameans dwelling in the region. Perhaps this accounts for the notion of Terah and Abraham being Arameans and dwelling at Ur of the Chaldees?
Dion noted that the beginning of the Iron Age witnesses Arameans on the move, invading new lands:
For the Aramaeans, the beginning of the Iron Age was a time of forceful expansion, and Tiglath-pileser did not succeed in curbing their progress. For more than a hundred years, the shadowy figures that succeeded him were unable to cope with this situation, and the same was true of Babylonia after Nebuchadnezzar I. In Babylonia the Aramaeans were to remain a major ethnic ingredient, alongside the related Chaldeans and the longstanding Akkadian population; 8th century Assyrian sources list 36 of their tribes. Like unsubmissive elements of all times, in resisting imperial authorities they are branded as bandits. In a text in which Sargon II boasts of having successfully hacked his way through to Babylon, he names Aramaeans in one breath with lions and wolves as sources of insecurity.”
(Vol. 2. p. 1282. Paul E. Dion. “Aramaean Tribes and Nations of First-Millennium Western Asia.” Jack M. Sasson. Editor. Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Peabody, Mass. Hendrickson. 1995)
Kramer noted that the Mesopotamian Flood Epic existed in more than one recension and that details “differed” between the Sumerian and Babylonian versions. Of particular note is that the earlier Sumerian account had a Flood lasting 7 days and 7 nights, while the later Babylonian account had the Flood lasting 6 days and 7 nights. It is my understanding that it is the Babylonian account that lies behind the Biblical account of God making the earth in 6 days, transforming the 6 days of destruction of the earth by the Gods. Noah’s release of birds to determine the degree of abatement of the Flood waters in Genesis also appears to be indebted -in my opinion- to the Babylonian account, as this motif does not appear in the Sumerian version.
Kramer (Emphasis mine):
“The Sumerian flood episode is part of a poem devoted primarily to the myth of the immortalization of Ziusudra, and this myth was artfully used by the Babylonian poets for their own purposes. Thus, when the weary Gilgamesh comes before Utnapishtim (the Babylonian Ziusudra) and questions him concerning the secret of eternal life, the Babylonian poets did not let him answer briefly and to the point; instead, they took advantage of this opening to insert their version of the deluge myth. The first (the creation) part of the Sumerian myth, they omitted altogether as unneccessary to their theme. They retained only the deluge episode ending with Ziusudra’s immortalization. And by making Utnapishtim (Ziusudra) the narrator, and putting the narration in the first person instead of the third, they changed the Sumerian form, in which the narrator was a nameless poet.
In addition we find variation in details. Ziusudra is described as a pious, humble, god-fearing king, but Utnapishtim is not thus described. On the other hand, the Babylonian version is much more lavish with details concerning the building of the boat, and the nature and violence of the flood. In the Sumerian myth the flood lasts seven days and seven nights; in the Babylonian version it lasts six days and seven nights. Finally, the sending of the birds to test the degree of water abatement is found only in the Babylonian epic.”
(p. 191. “The First Case of Literary Borrowing.” Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer: Twenty-seven “Firsts” in Man’s Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. Doubleday & Company, Incorporated. 1959. paperback edition [1st edition in 1956 by Falcon’s Wing Press])
The Sumerian Flood version:
“…a flood will sweep over the cult centers to destroy the seed of mankind…[it] is the decision, the word of the assembly of the gods, by the word commanded by An and Enlil…All the windstorms, exceedingly powerful, attacked as one, at the same time, the flood sweeps over the cult centers. After, for seven days and seven nights, the flood had swept the land, and the huge boat had been tossed about by the windstorms on the great waters, Utu [the sun god] came forth, who sheds light on heaven and earth, Ziusudra opened a window on the huge boat, the hero, Utu brought his rays into the giant boat. Ziusudra, the king, prostrated himself before Utu, the king kills an ox, slaughters a sheep…Ziusudra, the king, prostrated himself before An and Enlil. An and Enlil cherished Ziusudra, life like a god they gave him; Breath eternal like a god they bring down for him. Then Ziusudra the king, the preserver of the name of vegetation and of the seed of mankind, in the land of crossing, the land of Dilmun, the place where the sun rises, they caused to dwell.”
(pp. 154-154. “The First Noah.” Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer: Twenty-seven “Firsts” in Man’s Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. Doubleday & Company, Incorporated. 1959. paperback edition [1st edition in 1956 by Falcon’s Wing Press])
The Babylonian version of the Flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh (Pinches, 1908) :
“Six days and nights the wind blew, and the deluge and flood overwhelmed the land. THE SEVENTH DAY, when it came, the storm ceased, the raging flood, which had contended like a whirlwind, quieted, the sea shrank back, and the evil wind and deluge ended. I noticed the sea making a noise, and all man had turned to corruption. Like palings the marsh reeds appeared I opened my window, and light fell upon my face, I fell back dazzled, I sat down, I wept, over my face flowed my tears…The first day and the second day the mountain of Nisir seized the ship, and would not let it pass…The seventh day, when it came I sent forth a dove, and it left, the dove went, it turned about, but there was no resting place, and it returned. I sent forth a swallow, and it left, the swallow went, it turned about, but there was no resting place, and it returned. I sent forth a raven, and it left, the raven went, the rushing of the waters it saw, it ate, it waded, it croaked, it did not return. I sent forth (the aimals) to the four winds, I poured out a libation… Then Ellilia, when he came, he saw the ship. And Ellila was wroth, filled with anger on account of the gods and the spirits of heaven. “What, has a soul escaped? Let not a man be saved from the destruction.” Ninip opened his mouth and spake, he said to the warrior Ellila: ‘Who but Ae has done the thing and Ae knows every event.” Ae opened his mouth and spake, he said to the warrior Ellila: “Thou sage of the gods, warrior, verily thou hast not taken counsel, and hast made a flood. The sinner has committed his sin, the evil doer his misdeed, be merciful -let him not be cut off- yield, let him not perish. Why hast thou made a flood? Let the lion come, and let men diminish. Why hast thou made a flood?…Let the hyaena come, and let men diminish. Why hast thou made a flood? Let a famine happen, and let the land be destroyed. Why hast thou made a flood? Let Ura (pestilence) come, and let the land be devastated. Why hast thou made a flood? I did not reveal the decision of the great gods- I caused Atrahasis to see a dream, and he heard the decision of the gods.” When he had taken counsel (with himself), Ae went up into the midst of the ship, he took my hand and he led me up, even me he brought up and caused my woman to kneel (?) at my side; He touched us, and standing between us, he blessed us (saying): “Formerly Pir-napishtim was a man; now (as for) Pir-napishtim and his woman. let them be like unto the gods, (even) us, and let Pir-napishtim dwell afar at the mouths of the rivers.” He took me, and afar at the mouths of the rivers he caused me to dwell.”
(pp.105-108. “The Flood.” Theophilus G. Pinches. The Old Testament In the Light of the Historical Records and Legend of Assyria and Babylonia. London. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.1908)
Heidel (1946) slips in, in brackets, “six days and [six] nights” for the Flood :
“Six days and [six] nights the wind blew, the downpour, the tempest, (and) the flo[od] overwhelmed the land. When the seventh day arrived, the tempest, the flood, which had fought like an army, subsided in (its) onslaught. The sea grew quiet, the storm abated, the flood ceased. I opened a window, and light fell upon my face. I looked upon the sea, (all) was silence, and all mankind had turned to clay…I bowed, sat down and wept, my tears running down over my face.”
(pp. 85-86. “The Gilgamesh Epic.” Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels: A translation and interpretation of the Gilgamesh Epic and related Babylonian and Assyrian documents. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949, reprint 1993)
Dalley suggests (?) seven nights and six days for the Flood :
“For six days and [seven (?)] nights the wind blew, flood and tempest overwhelmed the land; when the seventh day arrived the tempest, flood and onslaught which had struggled like a woman in labour, blew themselves out (?). The sea became calm, the imhullu-wind grew quiet, the flood held back. I looked at the weather; silence reigned, for all mankind had returned to clay.”
(p. 113. “Gilgamesh XI.” Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991)
I have not been successful in finding a scholarly reason for the brackets [ ] and elipses ( ), regarding the statement “six days and ([six/seven]) nights.” I don’t know if the cuneiform sign is “indistinct” at this point ,or the clay tablet is damaged. Pinches read “six days and nights” for the Flood’s duration. However, the Mesopotamians were fond of using repeating refrains or “catch phrases” for poetic purposes in their compositions and other passages frequently mention six days and seven nights. For example in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu has sex with Shamhat the harlot for six days and seven nights, then later the Mesopotamian Noah (Utnapishtim), puts Gilgamesh to a “test,” he asks him to remain awake for six days and seven nights.” Gilgamesh no sooner agrees than he falls into a deep sleep for the stated period of time. Perhaps Enkidu’s and Gilgamesh’s feats involving six days and seven nights is why some prefer “to emend” Pinches’ “six days and nights” for the Flood to read instead “six days and [seven] nights”? By the way, I understand Gilgamesh’s sleep and/or possibly Enkidu’s “sleeping with” (?) the harlot, to have been recast by the Hebrews into Adam’s “sleep” in Eden.
Is Eden’s association with four rivers an echo of the “mouths of the rivers” the Euphrates and Tigris, where lay the paradise called Dilmun? Some have thought that the “mouths” of the rivers should be rendered the “source” of the rivers. Professor Kramer understands that this “mouth” is NOT where the rivers terminate, as in a delta or flood plain, or marsh, but rather that the “mouth” is their SOURCE. In other words the rivers _arise_ from a SINGLE source or mouth, rather like a spring. If he’s right, then this passage may explain the biblical notion that the river of Eden arose from an ed, rendered “spring” by the Greek Septuaginta. In Mesopotamian myths the earthly paradise of Dilmun was originally without water, then Enki arranges to have a lesser god create a “water source” for the garden located there. Enki is the god of freshwaters (his sperm is the freshwaters which fertilize crops) and he is shown with two rivers gushing form his shoulders with fish in them, perhaps these two streams are the Tigris and Euphrates rivers? The word for river in Akkadain is id. Could the “river of Eden” be a Hebrew “punning” or “wordplay” of id into Eden, or did the ed become Eden? Enki is associated with several locations, his main shrine at Eridu on the Euphrates at the edge of the marshes; for recreation he is portrayed “punting” his boat in the nearby “snake marsh,” (a place obviously well-watered like Eden), and he dwells at times at Dilmun. It was at Dilmun that he ate several of his wife’s plants “in order to know them” without his wife’s permission, said action causing her to curse him with death. A number of scholars have proposed that Dilmun is the Mesopotamian prototype underlying Genesis’ Eden, and I concur, it is one of several other Mesopotamian prototypes.
Did “warrior and sage” Ellila (En-Lil, “Lord Air”) one of the gods who _instigated_ the Flood come to transformed into the Hebrew El-Elohe Israel, “El the God of Israel” who brought about Noah’s Flood (Ge 33:20)?
Is Ae (Aya/Ayya/Ea or Enki) Ehyeh (Hebrew Hayah)? Did Atrahasis and wife become Adam and Eve? Did the wife’s kneeling at “the side” of Atrahasis, become Eve being “made from” Adam’s side or rib? The kneeling of the woman becomes womankind’s “kneeling subservience” to mankind or Adam? Did Atrahasis’ libation at the end of the flood become a drunken Noah? A strange statement is made about Noah in the Bible: “Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us _relief from our work_ and the toil of our hands.” (Ge 5:29) Might this be an echo of the Mesopotamian notion that ONLY the Flood survivor attained “_relief_” or _freedom from toil_ in Dilmun, an agricultural toil that had been transferred to man from the lesser gods or Igigi by Enki?
In the Mesopotamian “Flood myth” it is En-Lil (Ellil) who is portrayed as instigating the flood, while En-Ki (Ea) intervenes to spare the pious Ziusudra by having him build a boat to save self, family and animals. It is Shamash (the sun-god) who warns the “Mesopotamian Noah” of just when to to board the boat.
“Shamash set for me the appointed time:
In the morning, cakes in spates,
In the evening, grains in rains,
Go into your boat and caulk the door!”
…I went into the boat and caulked the door.”
(p. 87. “Tablet XI.” Benjamin R. Foster. The Epic of Gilgamesh. [A Norton Critical Edition]. New York & London. W. W. Norton & Company. 2001)
After the Flood Enlil who was enraged that there are survivors, is convinced by Ea not to ever send another flood to reduce man’s population. Enlil also blesses Ziusudra and wife with immortality. It appears to me that three gods have been amalgamated into Yahweh, Enlil, Shamash and Enki. Yahweh instigated the Flood, warned the Flood hero to build a boat and to enter it. Yahweh after the Flood swore to never bring another Flood upon man, just like Enlil swore to never destroy man with a Flood.
Highly reccomended to the reader is a scholarly article exploring Genesis’ Flood and the Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis accounts by the late Professor Tikva Frymer-Kensky. She was in 1977 an Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Wayne State University, Detroit. The article is titled “The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1-9.” The Biblical Archeologist. December 1977. pp. 147-55; available “on-line” at the following url
She was a Professor of Hebrew Bible and the History of Judaism in the Divinity School; also in the Law School and the Committees on the Ancient Mediterranean World and Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago.
Frymer-Kensky proposed that Genesis _rejected_ the Mesopotamian notion that the Flood’s purpose was to limit mankind’s population on the earth:
“Unlike Atrahasis, the flood story in Genesis is emphatically not about overpopulation. On the contrary, God’s first action after the flood was to command Noah and his sons to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1). This echoes the original command to Adam (1:28) and seems to be an explicit rejection of the idea that the flood came as a result of attempts to decrease man’s population. The repetition of this commandment in emphatic terms in Gen 9:7, “and you be fruitful and multiply, swarm over the earth and multiply in it,” makes it probable that the Bible consciously rejected the underlying theme of the Atrahasis Epic, that the fertility of man before the flood was the reason for his near destruction.
It is not surprising that Genesis rejects the idea of overpopulation as the reason for the flood, for the Bible does not share the belief of Atrahasis and some other ancient texts that overpopulation is a serious issue. Barrenness and stillbirth (or miscarriage) are not considered social necessities, nor are they justified as important for population control. On the contrary, when God promises the land to Israel he promises that “in your land women will neither miscarry nor be barren” (Exod 23:26). The continuation of this verse, “I will fill the number of your days,” seems to be a repudiation of yet another of the “natural” methods of population control, that of premature death. In the ideal world which is to be established in the land of Israel there will be no need for such methods, for overpopulation is not a major concern.”
(Tikva Frymer-Kensky. “The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1-9.” The Biblical Archeologist December 1977, pp. 147-55) cf. http://home.apu.edu/~geraldwilson/atrahasis.html
She also understood that God sent the Flood because of mankind’s sinfulness, NOT his overpopulation of the earth:
“Genesis states explicitly that God decided to destroy the world because of the wickedness of man (Gen 6:5).”
(Tikva Frymer-Kensky. “The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1-9.” The Biblical Archeologist December 1977, pp. 147-55)
Genesis 6:5-14 RSV
“The Lord saw that the WICKEDNESS of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY EVIL continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground. man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord…Noah was a righteous man…Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence…And God said to Noah, ” I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them, behold I will destroy them with the earth.”
I would “qualify” Frymer-Kensky’s above observation about the Atrahasis Flood being an attempt at “population control.” The texts suggest for me the real complaint was not population size, it was about mankind’s incessant clamor or noise because he was denied any rest from his god imposed toil, disturbing the gods’ ability to rest by day and sleep by night. Had there been no clamor, there would be no need to limit population size.
I have earlier noted that the six days and nights in which vengeful gods destroy the earth in order to annihilate mankind and end his clamor is drawing from the Babylonian version of the Flood, rather than the earlier Sumerian account which has a duration of the Flood of 7 days and nights. I have also noted that the Babylonian version has various birds being released to observe the abatemnet of the Flood waters which seems to be mirrored in Genesis.
For me, another “clue” to Genesis’ indebtedness or reformatting of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Flood account is the reason given for the Flood. The Sumerian account does NOT explain WHY the gods want to destroy mankind (cf. above, Kramer’s translation), but the Babylonian account DOES (cf. above, Pinches’ translation). The reason is man’s SINFULNESS or EVIL, which seems to be mirrored in Genesis. Please note, it is ONLY in the Atrahasis account that we learn that the gods sent the Flood because of mankind’s “constant clamor or noise” which DIFFERS from the Babylonian Gilgamesh Flood account noting man SINFULNESS as the reason for the Flood. The Babylonian account also notes a plea to the god Elilla NOT to ever attempt to destroy all of mankind again with another Flood, but to reduce mankind’s population by other less drastic means. Genesis has Yahweh informing Noah that never again will he seek all of mankind’s demise with a Flood.
The Babylonian Flood account in the Epic of Gilgamesh (Pinches, 1908):
Then Ellilia, when he came, he saw the ship. And Ellila was wroth, filled with anger on account of the gods and the spirits of heaven. “What, has a soul escaped? Let not a man be saved from the destruction.’ Ninip opened his mouth and spake, he said to the warrior Ellila: ‘Who but Ae has done the thing and Ae knows every event. Ae opened his mouth and spake, he said to the warrior Ellila: ‘Thou sage of the gods, warrior, verily thou hast not taken counsel, and hast made a flood. The SINNER has committed HIS SIN, the EVIL doer HIS MISDEED, be merciful -let him not be cut off- yield, let him not perish. Why hast thou made a flood? Let the lion come, and let men diminish. Why hast thou made a flood?…Let the hyaena come, and let men diminish. Why hast thou made a flood? Let a famine happen, and let the land be destroyed. Why hast thou made a flood? Let Ura (pestilence) come, and let the land be devastated. Why hast thou made a flood?”
Yahweh’s “mercifulness” in not seeking the perishment of all mankind again because of his “evil heart”:
Genesis 8:21-22; 9:11,15 RSV
“…I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is EVIL from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.”
“I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth…the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”
The Sumerian account makes no mention of “rivers” in association with the land of Dilmun, where the Flood survivor and wife are placed, but the Bablyonian account does. We are told that Dilmun is located “at the mouths of the rivers.” Most scholars understand that “the rivers” are the Tigris and Euphrates which empty into the marshlands south of present day Qurnah, where modern Arab traditions locate the Garden of Eden. Genesis, like the Babylonian account, associates the Tigris and Euphrates with a paradise garden. Some scholars have noted that Genesis suggests a great spring (Hebrew: ed) existed in Eden to water the garden, and that this spring became a river which left the garden and became four rivers, the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates. The word for river in Akkadian (Babylonian) is id. In Mesopotamian myths, Enki dwells in a subterranean house in the depths of the apsu or abzu, the freshwater ocean under the earth. He is portrayed as the god whose semen fills the river beds and canals of Lower Mesopotamia (water being seen as a fertilizing agent of the earth, creating crops). His main temple is at Eridu on the edge of the marsh lands and he enjoys punting his boat in the marshes. An important clue to Dilmun’s location is a statement made by the Neo-Assyrian king Sennacherib who defeated Hezekiah of Judah ca. 704 BCE. Sennacherib circa 689 BCE utterly destroyed Babylon for repeated rebellions to his authority. He boasted of tearing down its walls, buildings and temples to their foundations and then had the dust of the city dumped into the Euphrates which carried the mud down to Dilmun where its king upon seeing the darkened waters was terrorized. Obviously the “edenic garden” of the gods, Dilmun, is somewhere DOWNSTREAM from Babylon, its NOT somewhere in Turkey where the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates arise -some scholars suggesting Eden is at the source of these rivers (Please click here for my article “Genesis’ Genesis, the Hebrew Transformation of the Mesopotamian Myths,” for more data on the Garden of Eden and Dilmun”).
The Israeli professor Cassuto argued that Eden might mean “a place well watered” from Ugaritic ‘dn. I suspect he is correct, and that the marshands near Qurnah and Eridu “fit” the description “of a place well-watered.”
“The suggested explanations of the name that connect it either with the Sumero-Akkadian word edinu (‘the steppe-land, wilderness’) or with the expression ha`okhelim lema `adhannim [‘those who feasted on dainties’] (Lam. iv 5) are unacceptable…in Ugaritic we find the stem `dn, with an ordinary `ayin, whose signification is well-suited to our theme. In the Epic of Baal, for example, it is stated (Tablet II AB, V, lines 68-69): wn `p `dn mtrh b`l y`dn `dn [to be rendered according to some authorities: and now also the moisture of his rain/Baal shall surely make moist’: y`dn `dn are derived from the root `dn] in connection with the watering of the ground. In this connotation it is possible to find the root adhan also in Hebrew: and Thou givest them to drink from the river of Thy watering [ `adhanekha; E.V. Thy delights] (Psa xxxvi 9); and in rabbinic language: `rain water, saturates, fertilizes and refreshes [me adden] (B. Kethuboth 10 b); ‘Just as the showers come down upon the herbs and refresh [me`addenin] them’, etc. (Sifre Deutr 32:2). The etymological meaning of the name Eden will, accordingly be: a place that is well watered throughout; and thus we read further on: that it was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord (xiii 10).”
(Vol. 1. pp.107-108. Umberto Cassuto. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. [2 Vols.]. Jerusalem. The Hebrew University. The Magnes Press. 1944. 1986)
Lambert suggested that knowledge of the Mesopotamian creation and flood myths came to Canaan no earlier or later than the Egyptian Amarna era, the late 18th Dynasty, the period of Amenhotep IV and his succesors, who changed his name to Akhenaten upon declaring only ONE GOD was to be worshipped, the Aten/Aton or Sun disk (Akhenaten reigned ca. 1350-1334 B.C.):
“The differences are indeed so great that direct borrowing of a literary form of Mesopotamian traditions is out of the question. But if the case for borrowing is to be established, at least a suggestion of the manner and time of transference must be made. The Exile and the later part of the Monarchy are out of the question, since this was the time when the Hebrew traditions of creation and the early history of mankind were being put in the form in which they were canonized…one is forced back at least to the time of the Judges, and even this may be too late…The present writer’s opinion is that only the Amarna period has any real claim to be the period when this material moved westwards. This is the period when the Babylonian language and cuneiform script were the normal means of international communication between countries from Egypt to the Persian Gulf. From within this period the Hittite capital in Asia Minor has yielded a large quantity of fragments of Mesopotamian literature, both Sumerian and Babylonian, including the Gilgamesh Epic. A smaller quanity of similar material has been yielded by Ras Shamra [ancient Ugarit], including a piece of the Atra-hasis Epic. Megiddo has given up a piece of the Gilgamesh Epic, and Amarna itself several pieces of Babylonian literary texts. This spread of Babylonian writings at this period of history is not only the result of the use of cuneiform writing for international communication, but also is owed to the cultural activities of the Hurrians, for they were great borrowers from all the peoples in which they moved and settled, so much so that they were rapidly absorbed and lost their identity. Thus in the Amarna age the Hittites not only had Babylonian and Sumerian literature in addition to native texts, but also works translated from West Semitic. Cultural barriers were indeed broken down in Syria and adjacent lands at this time. Nor was knowledge of borrowed Mesopotamian works restricted too the small number of scribes competent in cuneiform. Among the Hittites the Gilgamesh Epic was available in both Hittite and Hurrian translations. Also that version of Nergal and Erishkigal from Amarna is so completely different from the traditional Mesopotamian one in its wording as to give the impression that oral tradition alone will explain it.
Earlier borrowing of the material is ruled out, in the present writer’s opinion, because Genesis shows no knowledge of Mesopotamian matters prior to 1500 BC, a point of considerable importance. The description of Nimrod’s kingdom and the account of the Tower of Babel both presume a period when legends were clustering around the city of Babylon. Up to the sudden and unexpected rise of Babylon under Hammurabi (ca. 1750 BC) it was an utterly unimportant and obscure place. One must surely allow a century or two before it could become the centre of legends about early times, as indeed it did in Mesopotamia by about 1200 BC. Negatively the case is equally strong: Genesis shows no knowledge of Mesopotamian matters prior to 1500. The very existence of the Sumerians is nowhere hinted at. While borrowing may have been altogether more involved and complex than we have suggested, all the known facts favour the idea that the traditions moved westwards during the Amarna period and reached the Hebrews in oral form.”
(pp. 108-109. W. G. Lambert. “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis.” pp. 96-113. Richard S. Hess and David Toshio Tsumra. Editors. “I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood,” Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994. ISBN 0-931464-88-9)
Professor Millard on the issue of the Hebrews borrowing Mesopotamian concepts and motifs and reformatting them (Emphasis mine):
“There can be no doubt that the concept of a history of man from his creation to the Flood is similar both in Babylonian and in Hebrew. Any future consideration of possible origins of the Hebrew story must take this into account, and not treat Creation and Flood separately. Thus it is no longer legitimate to describe the Hebrew Flood story as “borowed” from a Babylonian “original” without including its complementary Creation account.”
(p. 125. A. R. Millard. “Observations on the Babylonian and Hebrew Accounts Compared.” in his article “A New Babylonian “Genesis” Story.”pp. 114-128. Richard S. Hess and David Toshio Tsumra. Editors. “I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood,” Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994)
“In light of the literary structure of “Creation-Rebellion-Flood” in the “Atrahasis Epic,” some scholars have suggested that the primeval history in Genesis stretches from the creation story through the end of the Flood story, namely Genesis 1-9, rather than Genesis 1-11.”
(pp. 48-49. David Toshio Tsumura. “Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction. pp. 27-57. Richard S. Hess & David Toshio Tsumura. Editors. “I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood”, Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994)
I find the above to be a very important observation, Genesis 1-9 should be seen, _in my opinion_, as a re-working of earlier Mesopotamian Creation-Flood accounts regarding the relationship between god/s and mankind. The Gilgamesh Epic Flood account portrays man’s sin as why the Flood occurred, which as I noted earlier (above) is mirrored in Genesis’ notion of mankind’s “evil heart.”
The need for man to have a rest day in the Pentateuch echos the clamor of mankind for a rest from their god-imposed toil in the Atrahasis myth, which the gods denied him (Atrahasis is a Creation-Flood myth, explaining why the gods made man and why they later sought his destruction with a Flood). Other articles on my website trace various motifs and concepts found in Genesis 1-9 such as the Garden of Eden, and eating of a tree to acquire knowledge, man’s nakedness in Eden with Enkidu’s nakedness in Edinu “the steppe/plain” as being nothing more than later reworked and transformed Mesopotamian myths.
As is to be expected, the defenders of Holy Writ, believing the Bible to God’s Holy Word, either DENY or DOWNPLAY any “borrowing and reformatting” of Mesopotamian concepts by the Hebrews. The most common stratagem they employ is to note that numerous details differ between Genesis 1-9 and the Mesopotamian myths. In addition the morals drawn about the relationship between god/s and man differ as well. Ergo, for Bible-believing Conservative scholars any parallels between the two cultures are dismissed as nonsense, God REALLY DID reveal to Moses what to write about how Man came to be created by God and later destroyed in a Flood. Millard’s “Christian Conservatism” is apparent in his preference for Genesis’ Creation-Flood theme being “earlier than” the Mesopotamian account.
Millard challenges Lambert’s above proposal as to when Mesopotamian Creation/Flood myths came to be known in the West, at Syrian Alakah and Byblos (Emphasis mine):
“Did the Hebrews borrow from Babylon? Neither an affirmative nor a negative reply to the question can be absolutely discounted in the light of present knowledge. Reconstructions of a process whereby Babylonian myths were borrowed by the Hebrews, having been transmitted by the Canaanites, and “purged” of pagan elements remain imaginary. It has yet to be shown that any Canaanite material was absorbed into Hebrew sacred literature on such a scale or in such a way. Babylonian literature itself was known in Palestine at the time of the Israelite conquest and so could have been incorporated directly. The argument that borrowing must have taken place during the latter part of the second millennium BC because so many Babylonian texts of that age have been found in Anatolia, Egypt, and the Levant, cannot carry much weight, being based on archaeological accident. The sites yielding the texts were either deserted or destroyed at that time, resulting in the burial of “librarie” and archives intact. Evidence does exist of not inconsiderable Babylonian scribal influence earlier (e.g., at Alakah and Byblos).
However, it has yet to be shown that there was borrowing, even indirectly. Differences between the Babylonian and Hebrew traditions can be found in factual details of the Flood narrative…and are most obvious in the ethical and religious concepts of each composition. All who suspect or suggest borrowing by the Hebrews are compelled to admit large-scale revisionism, alteration, and re-interpretaion in a fashion which cannot be substaniated for any other composition from the Ancient Near East…If there was borrowing then it can have extended only so far as the “historical” framework, and not included intention or interpretation…The two accounts [Hebrew and Mesopotamian] undoubtedly describe the same Flood, the two schemes relate the same sequence of events. If judgement is to be passed as to the priority of one tradition over the other, Genesis inevitably wins for its probability in terms of meterology, geophysics and timing alone…In that the patriarch Abraham lived in Babylonia, it could be said that the stories were borrowed from there, but not that they were borrowed from any text now known to us.” (pp.127-128. Millard)
“…I reject the idea that the biblical account gradually evolved out of the Babylonian; for the differences are far too great and similarities far too insignificant.”
(p.138. Alexander Heidel. The Babylonian Genesis, the Story of Creation. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press. 1947, 1951. Second edition. Reprint 1993)
“The Gilgamesh Epic drew heavily upon Mesopotamian literary tradition. Not only did the author of the Old Babylonian version base his epic on older Sumerian tales about Gilgamesh, but he and the editors who succeeded him made extensive use of materials and literary forms originally unrelated to Gilgamesh.”
(p. 247. Jeffrey . Tigay. The Evolution of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania. 1982)
“It has been long recognized that the Gilgamesh Epic constitutes a literary compilation of material from various originally unrelated sources, put together to form one grand, more or less harmonious whole…The composite character of our epic is thus established beyond any doubt.”
(p. 13. Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949. paperback. reprinted 1963, 1995)
“The work of the Semites, however, did not consist simply in translating the Sumerian texts and combining them into one continuous story; rather, it constituted a new creation, which in the course of time, as indicated by the different versions at our disposal, was continually modified and elaborated at the hands of the various compilers and redactors, with the result that the Semitic versions which have survived to our day in most cases differ widely from the available Sumerian material.”
(p. 14. Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949. paperback. reprinted 1963, 1995)
Lambert and Millard note that the various “recensions” of the Flood Epic differ widely from each other and offer the follwoing observations, which, for me, explain why the Hebrew version found in Genesis differs from the Sumerian and Babylonian accounts:
“…The ancient world has no proper titles, no sense of literary rights, and no aversion to what we call plagiarism. Succeeding ages often rewrote old texts to suit new language forms and tastes.”
(p. 5. “Introduction.” W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Hasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford University Press. 1969. Reprint, 1999 by Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake. Indiana)
“The wide divergencies between the Old Babylonian copies illustrate how the scribes and editors could take a free hand in rewriting the text.”
(p. 14. “Introduction.” W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Hasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford University Press. 1969. Reprint, 1999 by Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake. Indiana)
“The Sumerian epic…comes closest to Atra-Hasis…Despite the similarity in content, the size is quite different (some 300 Sumerian as opposed to 1,245 Akkadian lines), and THE WORDING NOWHERE AGREES.”
(p. 14. “Introduction.” W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Hasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford University Press. 1969. Reprint, 1999 by Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake. Indiana)
Kramer’s observation on the Babylonian remolding of the Sumerian motifs _for me_ applies just as well to the later Hebrew “remolding” of the earlier Mesopotamian creation myths regarding man:
“To sum up: Of the various episodes comprising the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” several go back to Sumerian prototypes actually involving the hero Gilgamesh. Even in those episodes which lack Sumerian counterparts, most of the individual motifs reflect Sumerian mythic and epic sources. In no case, however, did the Babylonian poets slavishly copy the Sumerian material. They so modified its content and molded its form, in accordance with their own temper and heritage, that only the bare nucleus of the Sumerian original remains recognizable. As for the plot structure of the epic as a whole -the forceful and fateful episodic drama of the restless, adventurous hero and his inevitable disillusionment- it is definitely a Babylonian, rather than Sumerian, development and achievement. In a very deep sense, therefore, the “”Epic of Gilgamesh” may be truly described as a Semitic creation.”
(pp. 194-195. “The First Case of Literary Borrowing.” Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer, Twenty-seven Firsts in Man’s Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor.  reprint 1959)
I agree with Tigay and Heidel’s assessment that the Epic of Gilgamesh employs several originally unrelated strands from different compositions. Lambert noted that the Mesopotamian cosmographers forte was not the creation of new concepts from whole cloth but the combining and reinterpreting of various motifs and concepts from originally unrelated compositions. It is my understanding that Genesis 1-9 (The Creation to Flood account), follows along in the traditions of the Hebrew’s Mesoptamian predecessors (Abraham being originally of Ur of the Chaldees in Lower Mesopotamia). Millard noted that for those arguing that Genesis is a borrowing and reformatting of many different myths must admit a major transformation exists “unheard of” in earlier ANE history. The observations by Tigay and Heidel which note the bringing together of motifs from different unrelated compositions and harmonizing them into one grand epic, would seem _to belie_ the notion that the Hebrews were doing anything “new and unheard of” in recasting and bringing together several previously unrelated motifs from a variety different compositions (said compositions having been identified by myself as Adapa and the South Wind; the Epic of Gilgamesh; Atar-hasis; Inanna and Utu; Enki and Ninhursag in Dilmun; the Enuma Elish; etc.). In other words, I understand the Epic of Gilgamesh, long regarded one of the earliest, longest and “most polished”compositions of the Ancient Near East, embodies the very same methodologies -the harmonizing of disparate motifs from unrelated works- as appear in Genesis 1-9. I find myself in full agreement with the insights of Professor Lambert:
“The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas. Sheer invention was not part of their craft.”
(p. 107, Wilfred G. Lambert, “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,: , in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura, Eds., I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood, Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994)
The Sumerian Flood account has the rain-storm lasting 7 days and nights, the later Babylonian account has the rains ending on the 7th day as well. I wonder if perhaps these “motifs” have been preserved in the Genesis account as an “INVERSION” ? God is portrayed as announcing that in 7 days time the rains will begin and continue for 40 days. In other words, following a period of 7 days of NO RAIN, the Flood will begin. I would argue, then, that the 7 days of rain in the Sumerian and Babylonian accounts were INVERTED into 7 days of NO rain in the later Hebrew account; that is to say, the rains _ending_ on the 7th day have been transformed into rains _beginning_ on the 7th day.
Genesis 7:4 RSV
“For in SEVEN DAYS I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights…”
Millard and Lambert noted that Atra-Hasis had 7 days notice for the Flood’s commencement (emphasis mine, Update of 07 April 2005):
“…in Atra-hasis Enki gives the hero ONLY SEVEN DAYS in which to prepare for the onset of the flood…”
(p. 12. “Introduction.” W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Hasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford University Press. 1969. Reprint, 1999 by Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake. Indiana)
Of interest here, is that in the Bible, we are told that the Flood commenced in the 600th year of Noah, I note that the Atrahasis myth suggests that the Flood occured at the end of a 600 year interval too. It appears _to me_ that the Hebrews have preserved Atrahasis’ 600 year interval of time elapsing before a Flood commences and reformatted this motif as occurring in Noah’s 600th year.
I wonder if the Flood’s commencement in the 600th year of Noah’s life is a reformatiing of the “catchline” or “repeating refrain” of the Atrahasis Epic that implies for 600 years the gods have endured man’s noise and now seek his demise ? In the epic, every 600 years (at last 3 or 4 times) Atrahasis receives advisement about the god’s efforts to decimate mankind.
Genesis 7:11-12 RSV
“In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”
“600 years, less than 600, passed and the country became too wide, the people too numerous. The country was as noisy as a bellowing bull. The god grew restless at their clamor, Ellil had to listen to their noise. He addressed the great gods, “The noise of mankind has become too much. I am losing sleep over their racket.”
(p. 18. “Atrahasis.” pp.1-38. Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991)
Disease decimates the populaton (p.18. Dalley)
“600 years, less 600 passed (p. 20. Dalley)
“Tablet II :
600 years, less than 600, passed and the country became too wide, the people too numerous. The country was as noisy as a bellowing bull. The god grew restless at their clamor, Ellil had to listen to their noise. He addressed the great gods, “The noise of mankind has become too much. I am losing sleep over their racket.” (p.20. Dalley)
3 year famine attempted (pp.20-22. Dalley)
“[600 years, less than 600, passed and the country became too wide, the people too numerous…He grew restless at their noise. Sleep could not overtake him because of their racket.” (p.23. Dalley)
Dalley on Atrahasis and intervals of 600 years:
“Six hundred years is a round number in the sexagesimal system used by the ancient Mesopotamians. as a numerical unit, 600 was the simple noun neru in Akkadian. Repetition of a number seems to occur as a literary device..(Note 22. p. 37. “Atrahasis Notes.” Dalley)
“Note the literary strategem which defies literal chronology by featuring Atrahasis as the same mortal in recurrent crises 600 years apart.”
(note 32. p. 38. “Atrahasis Notes.” Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991)
Biography on Dalley :
“Stephanie Dalley has worked on various excavations in the Middle East and has published cuneiform tablets found there by the British Archaeological Expedition to Iraq as well as a book for the general reader about those discoveries. Mari and Karan (1984). She taught Akkadian at the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford and is now Shillito Fellow in Assyriology at the Oriental Institute, Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow of Somerville College. She is editor and main author of The Legacy of Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press). (cf. inner flyleaf of Myths from Mesopotamia)
I must acknowledge here the insights of several scholars whose acute and penetrating observations underlie much of this work. The first is Wilfred G. Lambert (Emeritus Professor of Assyriology at the University of Birmingham, England). Lambert made a very important observation regarding the manner in which Mesopotamian cosmographers worked:
“The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas.”
(W. G. Lambert. “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis.” Journal of Theological Studies. Vol. 16 (1965). pp. 287-300, reproduced in Richard S. Hess & David T. Tsumra. Editors. I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994. pp. 106-107)
A cosmology is, in part, an attempt to explain “the origins of the world.” I believe Lambert’s observation can be applied to the Hebrews who were combining “old themes” and putting “new twists” to “old ideas.” My research indicates that, at times, “reversals” or “inversions” are occurring in the Hebrew transformation and reinterpretation of concepts and motifs appearing in Mesopotamian myths. These “inversion/reversals” can take the form of different characters, different locations for the settings of the stories and different morals being drawn about the nature of God and Man’s relationship.
Another scholar, Gordon J. Wenham (Senior Professor of the Old Testament at Cheltenham & Glouster College of Higher Education, in Cheltenham, England in 1987), made another important observation about Genesis, it is apparently a polemic, challenging the Mesopotamian view of the relationship between God and Man:
“Viewed with respect to its negatives, Gen 1:1-2:3 is a polemic against the mythico-religious concepts of the ancient Orient…The concept of man here is markedly different from standard Near Eastern mythology: man was not created as the lackey of the gods to keep them supplied with food; he was God’s representative and ruler on earth, endowed by his creator with an abundant supply of food and expected to rest every seventh day from his labors. Finally, the seventh day is not a day of ill omen as in Mesopotamia, but a day of blessing and sanctity on which normal work is laid aside. In contradicting the usual ideas of its time, Genesis 1 is also setting out a positive alternative. It offers a picture of God, the world, and man…man’s true nature. He is the apex of the created order: the whole narrative moves toward the creation of man. Everything is made for man’s benefit…”
(p. 37. Vol. 1. “Explanation.” Gordon J. Wenham. Genesis 1-15. [Word Biblical Commentary, 2 vols.]. Word Books. Waco, Texas. 1987)
Professor Bruggemann appears to be in agreement somewhat with Wenham regarding Genesis being a refutation (emphasis mine in italics):
“The text is likely dated to the sixth century BC and addressed to exiles. It served as a refutation of Babylonian theological claims.”
(p. 24. Walter Brueggemann. Genesis. Atlanta, Georgia. John Knox Press. 1982)
Lambert, Wenham, and Brueggemann’s observations are, for me, “keys” to understanding how and why Genesis was formatted in the manner it now appears. I understand, in agreement with Wenham and Brueggemann, that Genesis _is denying, challenging and refuting_ the Mesopotamian beliefs regarding how and why man came to made, what his purpose on earth is, and why he was denied immortality. For me, this was accomplished by the Hebrews having taken motifs from a variety of contradicting myths and giving them “new twists” (to use Lambert’s phraseology), changed the names of the characters, the locations, and sequences of events. It is my understanding that the Hebrews are deliberately recasting the earlier myths and their motifs in order to refute and deny them, hence the “reason why” there are no individuals called Adam, Eve, the Serpent, and a God called Yahweh-Elohim appearing in any of these pre-biblical compositions. It is my understanding that the Primary History (Genesis-2 Kings) in its present format was created by one author in the Exile circa 560 BC. This “late” composition however possesses motifs and concepts -especially in Genesis- that can be traced to the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC and Lower Mesopotamia and a city there called Ur of the Chaldees where dwelt a man called Abraham.
Professor Rogerson, who seems to share “somewhat” Brueggemann’s view on the final “dating of Genesis,” understands it last form or redaction/editing was in the Exile or shortly thereafter:
“The simple answer to the question of date is that Genesis 1-11 is part of the larger work containing Genesis to 2 Kings…This complete work did not reach its final form until during or after the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century BCE. However, the date of the final editing does not determine the date of the individual items to be found in Genesis 1-11.”
(p. 76. “The Date of Genesis 1-11.” John William Rogerson. Genesis 1-11. Sheffield, England. JSOT Press [Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. University of Sheffield]. 1991)
The fourth scholar I am heavily indebted to is the late Samuel Noah Kramer (Curator Emeritus of the Tablet Collection at the University of Pennsylvania and Clark Research Professor Emeritus). His several books on the subject of the Sumerians and their religious beliefs have helped my research immensely. I am in agreement with him that many concepts appearing in the Book of Genesis echo motifs and concepts appearing in much earlier Mesopotamian literary works.
A fifth scholar whose insights have been very helpful is the late Joseph Campbell, famed for his volumes on the Mythologies of the Occident (the West) and Orient (the East). He very astutely and penetratingly noted that the Hebrews in the book of Genesis appear to have employed at times “inversions” or “reversals” which “turn about” Mesopotamian beliefs by 180 degrees (emphasis mine):
“No one familiar with the mythologies of the primitive, ancient, and Oriental worlds can turn to the Bible without recognizing COUNTERPARTS on every page, TRANSFORMED, however, TO RENDER AN ARGUMENT CONTRARY TO THE OLDER FAITHS.
(p. 9. “The Serpent’s Bride.” Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. Arkana. New York. Viking Penguin Books. 1964, 1991 reprint)
“The ultimate source of the biblical Eden, therefore, CANNOT have been A MYTHOLOGY OF THE DESERT -that is to say, a primitive Hebrew myth- but was the old PLANTING MYTHOLOGY of the peoples of the soil. HOWEVER, IN THE BIBLICAL RETELLING, ITS WHOLE ARGUMENT HAS BEEN TURNED, SO TO SAY, ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DEGREES…One milllennium later, the patriarchal DESERT NOMADS arrived, and all judgements WERE REVERSED in heaven, as on earth.”
(pp.103, 105-106. “Gods and Heroes of the Levant.” Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. Arkana. A Division of Penguin Books. 1964. 1991 reprint)
Campbell on the Hebrews “inverting” of earlier myths (Emphasis mine):
“The first point that emerges from this contrast, and will be demonstrated further in numerous mythic scenes to come, is that in the context of the patriarchy of the Iron Age Hebrews of the first millennium B.C., THE MYTHOLOGY ADOPTED FROM THE EARLIER NEOLITHIC AND BRONZE AGE CIVILIZATIONS of the lands they occupied and for a time ruled BECAME INVERTED, TO RENDER AN ARGUMENT JUST THE OPPOSITE TO THAT OF ITS ORIGIN.”
(p. 17. “The Serpent’s Bride.” Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. New York. Arkana & Viking Penguin. 1964. Reprinted 1991)
I am in _full agreement_ with Professor Campbell’s above observations, the Hebrews have taken earlier Mesopotamian themes, concepts and motifs and recast them to offer a 180 degree counterargument via inversions and reversals.
All the gods rested on the seventh day after destroying a world and mankind, this destruction having ended man’s clamor or noise, the “silence” now reigning on the earth allowed the gods to rest. Objecting to this notion of many gods resting on a seventh day after _destroying a world and man_, the Hebrews had only one God resting on the seventh day after _creating a world and man_.
Niels-Erik A. Andreasen. The Old Testament Sabbath: A Tradition-Historical Investigation. Missoula, Montana. University of Montana. Society of Biblical Literature. 1972.
Jeremy Black & Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. Austin. University of Texas Press. 1992.
Joseph Blenkinsopp. The Pentateuch, An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible. New York. Doubleday. 1992.
Fred Gladstone Bratton. Myths and Legends of the Ancient Near East. New York, Barnes & Noble. 1970, 1993.
Walter Brueggemann. Genesis. Atlanta, Georgia. John Knox Press. 1982.
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