Enuma Elish Creation Story

In 1876, just four years after publication of the Epic of Gilgamesh, George Smith completed and published his translation of Enuma Elish. This ancient Assyrian document was immediately acclaimed as an equivalent creation story to that given in the Bible.

Part of the Barrage

This new document came as yet another wave of challenge to the authenticity of the Book of Genesis. Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, published in 1859 compounded the growing scientific assault on Genesis, propelled forward by Charles Lyell’s geological uniformity concepts.

The 1872 publication of the Gilgamesh Epic brought criticism of Genesis from a new quarter. Archaeology seemed to bring solid evidence that the supposedly divine revelations in Genesis were mere re-workings of ancient stories. The pile of discarded clay tablets, with their “bird track” markings proved to be more valuable than the initial treasure hunters expected. While the ruins of ancient Assyrian palaces from the Nineveh site were scoured for gold and priceless artefacts, the tens of thousands of small clay tablets were simply shovelled out of the way. But when George Smith put his unique self-taught talents to work on deciphering the cuneiform script new evidence against Genesis seemed to leap from the rubble.

Evidence of the exaltation of Enuma Elish as a direct challenge to the authority of Genesis is testified by George Smith’s title for publication of his translation, under the auspices of the British Museum, “The Chaldean Genesis“.

The Link Asserted

In 1895 German author Herrmann Gunkel HeHerrr

published an influential book, proclaiming that the Genesis account is merely an expansion of the pre-existing Enuma Elish story. Since that book scholars have taken it for granted that the two accounts are directly linked.

Gunkel contended that the ancient Near Eastern myth of creation, especially as formulated in the Enuma Elish, was the underlying document upon which the Genesis account was formulated. He claimed that the myth was modified by Bible writers to bring it into agreement with the Israelite religion.

Seven Clay Tablets

Enuma Elish is an ancient story about warfare and barbarism among a group of gods. Seven clay tablets from the ancient library of the Assyrian King Ashurbanipal told the story as it existed in Babylon. Variations of the story have been found, reducing the status of Enuma Elish as a “creation” narrative, since the battle story is presented in some cases, without any reference to creation.

King Ashurbanipal ordered his servants to collect written works from around the realm, from Egypt to India. 100,000 clay tablets filled his famous library, which housed the first such collection in history. From the excavations of his library some 26,000 tablets survived, with many being destroyed or damaged in the hunt for more valuable antiquities.

The seven clay tablets were not without damage and some parts of the story have been untranslatable. George Smith translated what was still readable. The fifth tablet speaks of creation of the earth and sky from the carcase of a murdered god. The sixth of seven tablets mentions the plan by the victorious warring gods to create mankind. Note, then, that creation is a small part of the overall story, and is not recorded in other telling of the same war among the gods.

Rebellion in Heaven

Enuma Elish is a grotesque and barbaric story about bloodshed among the gods. These gods, rather than being divine in nature, are very human in their relationships and actions. They marry, give birth to other gods, are able to be killed and so on.

When the family of gods makes too much disturbance for the principal male god, Apsu, from whom the others sprang in several generations, he decides to destroy them all. One of the younger gods, Ea, great-grandson to Apsu, kills the patriarch god. The widow and great-grandmother, Tiamat, is enraged and seeks vengeance against Ea. She creates eleven monsters, marries Kingu, and goes to war.

Tiamat’s vengeful rampage at first seems unstoppable. However, a great-great grandson god, Marduk, who is supposed to have founded Babylon, successfully destroys Tiamat, by bludgeoning her to death and cutting her body in pieces from which various creations are made. Marduk then appoints the various gods their own places, which researchers have noted correspond to Babylonian astrology.

Marduk decides to create mankind to serve the gods by maintaining temples for their worship, and to perform menial tasks for the gods. Marduk murders Kingu, using his blood and bones as the substance to form humanity.

The Creation Account

Since Enuma Elish is cited today as proof that the Genesis creation record is somehow taken from earlier creation accounts, it is important to see the account from which Moses is supposed to have gained his inspiration.

There are approx 1,160 lines of text in the whole Enuma Elish story. Of that complete text the account of earth’s creation occupies no more than 30 lines and the account of the man’s creation occupies 8 lines. Here I quote text related the creation, from LW Kings 1902 translation, published as The Seven Tablets of Creation.

“He split her up like a flat fish into two halves;
One half of her he stablished as a covering for heaven.
He fixed a bolt, he stationed a watchman,
And bade them not to let her waters come forth.
He passed through the heavens, he surveyed the regions thereof,
And over against the Deep he set the dwelling of Nudimmud.
And the lord measured the structure of the Deep,
And he founded E-sara, a mansion like unto it.
The mansion E-sara which he created as heaven,
He caused Anu, Bel, and Ea in their districts to inhabit.”

Another 24 lines speak of the moon and sun in their orbits, as dividing the year into twelve months.

Thus less than four percent of the whole document relates to creation, and that account, as you can see by what is quoted here, has no meaningful relationship with the account of Genesis 1.

The Creation of Man

Of the more than one thousand lines on seven tablets there are but a few scant words about the creation of man. Here I again quote from LW Kings The Seven Tablets of Creation.

“My blood will I take and bone will I fashion
I will make man, that man may ….
I will create man who shall inhabit the earth,
That the service of the gods may be established, and that their shrines may be built.”

A more complete translation of the Enuma Elish document, compiled from other sources as well, adds to these four lines just a few more.

“Out of his blood they fashioned mankind.
He imposed on him the service and let free the gods.
After Ea, the wise, had created mankind,
Had imposed upon them the service of the gods-”

What Comparison?

Enuma Elish has nothing to do with the Genesis account. The fact that the reality of creation is reflected in an ancient myth only goes to prove the human consciousness of that event, not the creation of a lie which Moses inherited.

The one true God, acting in a fashion consistent with His actions through the whole of recorded history, created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, as described in the Book of Genesis. He acted as a holy, loving creator, who made man in His own image, to enjoy the delight of inclusion into His eternal existence. God does not need man, nor does God act with the vain impulses we see in man.

God created out of nothing (ex nihilo) not from the remains of some other deity whom He butchered. God created life as a gift to those He made. He did not create as a self-serving exercise to indulge His needs or have menials at His disposal.

There is next to nothing that links the Enuma Elish to the Genesis record, except that it speaks of creation. Yet thousands of ignorant people were beguiled into believing that the authority of scripture had been decimated by the sunburnt clay tablets.

I am thankful to Dr Clifford Wilson and his wife Dr Barbara Wilson for their inspiration and guidance in my own exploration of Biblical archaeology. As friend, academic supervisor and mentor, Dr Clifford has keenly encouraged my interest in archaeology, as he has for many others in decades past.
In honour of his on-going work and his world-wide impact I am compiling various posts on archaeology, based on the excellent work of Drs Clifford and Barbara, while adding my own personal style and insights. Drs Clifford and Barbara Wilson are building a website to present their work. You can visit the website at http://www.drcliffordwilson.com

Code of Hammurabi

Did an ancient legal code from Babylonia form the basis for the Mosaic Law embodied in the Old Testament? Does the existence of the Code of Hammurabi reduce the law of God to a mere human code?

The existence of a noted artefact from antiquity containing Hammurabi’s Code has prompted questions like these and cast a shadow of doubt over Moses’ meeting with God on Mount Sinai. So the archaeological investigation of the Code of Hamurabi is one that Christians and Biblical scholars have an interest in.

Black Stone Monument

In 1901 an ancient stone monument, eight feet high, was found in the Susa acropolis, in the Persian mountains. The stele was originally created and placed in Babylon by King Hammurabi of Babylon who lived from 1792-1750BC.

Hamurabi ruled over a vast empire and his monument lists the many places where he exercised dominion, telling of his many contributions to his various subjects.

The stele was taken to Susa by a conquering prince from the neighboring country of Elam in Iran in the 12th century BC.

The monument is now housed in the Louvre Museum in France, where it is described as “a work of art, history and literature, and the most complete legal compendium of Antiquity“.

The Code

Hammurabi’s monument contains cuneiform script and Akkadian language writing presented in three sections. The opening and closing paragraphs speak of Hammurabi’s appointment and blessing from the many gods, his dominion over many peoples and the many curses which will come upon those who oppose him.

The central portion contains 282 legal pronouncements which form the legal code which Hammurabi applied in his kingdom. Those legal pronouncements cover family relations, commercial transactions, property inheritance, prescribed punishments for theft and other evils, and more.

Hammurabi described his code as designed for specific maintenance of justice in the realm. “That the strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows and orphans … in order to bespeak justice in the land, to settle all disputes, and heal all injuries.”


Hammurabi ruled over what is thought to be the world’s first metropolis. It was a multi-cultural society, under his supreme leadership, but sweeping across various cultures and peoples. His code, therefore, became a universal reference point, superseding the local, tribal customs and imposing royal edict and pronouncement as to how matters were to be resolved.

Hammurabi’s code is thought to date from about 1740 BC, created from legal precedents which were established during his reign. It is also thought to be drawn from two pre-existing Sumerian legal documents which have not survived to our time. Those codes were drawn up first by Ur-Namma, king of Ur (2100 BC) and then Lipit-Ishtar of Isin (c.1930 BC).

To put those dates and places into Biblical perspective, Abraham originated in Ur of the Chaldees, born 1998 BC. One hundred years later, 1898 BC, Isaac was born. At the time Hammurabi was composing his code the 12 sons of Jacob were being born, from which sprang the 12 tribes of Israel (Jacob’s name was changed to Israel by God).

Hammurabi probably had a legal team who drafted it for him, based around rulings which had been made in various courts, principally the Babylonian court.

There are some contradictions and illogical prescriptions in the code, where two similar cases are treated differently. This is probably accounted for by the compilation process from case law.


Most items in the code are legal prescriptions, presented on the basis of person, action and outcome. Should a particular type of person (described in a class system) do a particular type of action, to a particular type of person, then the prescribed penalty shall be such and such.

The same action committed against people of differing station resulted in different penalties. People who occupied the highest class in society, such as members of the court, were protected by the higher penalties for injury against them. However, they were also punished at a higher rate, due to their ability to pay larger fines and probably the expectation of a higher standard from them.

Enduring Influence

Hammurabi’s code was referred to until just a few centuries before Christ. This fact is ascertained by the later copies which have been found. Fragments of the code were found in the ruins of Assur-bani-pal’s library at Nineveh and later versions, titled Ninu ilu sirum (from the opening words of the code) have been found, including reformatting into chapters.

Much of the code remained in force through the subsequent Persian, Greek and Parthian eras, preserving the Babylonian way of life. Aspects of the code persisted into the Syro-Roman era and were even adopted into the Mahommedan law of Mesopotamia.

Hammurabi’s code employed a cruel retribution upon offenders, including grim retaliatory punishments such as cutting off hands, poking out eyes, drowning, killing family members. Mohammedan law incorporates similar cruelty, such as cutting off the hand of the thief. Thus Hammurabi’s code resonates today in selected legal settings.

Hammurabi and Moses

Hammurabi composed his code half a millennium before Moses received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai. The existence of Hammurabi’s code has prompted many who deny the supernatural nature of Moses’ life and ministry to construe that Moses simply reworked the Law of God from existing resources, such as Hammurabi’s code.

Consequently it is interesting to compare the codes passed to us by both Hamurabi and Moses. Do they have much in common or are they significant in their independent approaches and concepts?

Mosaic Law is first summarised in the Ten Commandments, but is then expanded into an extensive compilation of pronouncements about things religious and civil.

Contrasts between Hammurabi and Moses

While there may be parallels in some of the legal items listed in the different law codes the differences and contrasts are significant. They are so significant that they argue against Hammurabi’s code have any real place in the Mosaic Law.

The choice similarity that is promoted involves Moses’ use of the term, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, which resonates with Hammurabi’s prescription for similar retribution. While that similarity can be argued, the reality is that there is a profound distinction. Hammurabi prescribes the process of exacting retribution, to satisfy an aggrieved person. Moses establishes a legal principle, where no more can be demanded than was lost. Hammurabi celebrates retaliation, while Moses offers justice.

Hammurabi’s code is prescriptive, listing almost 200 precepts. They are rulings to aid a judge in making a determination in a legal case. The Law of God is not built on prescription, but on principles. Moses laid out many principles which did not need to be itemised in codified prescriptions. The principle was supreme over the precept. In Hammurabi’s Mesopotamian science, however, the particular never governs the general. Every particular had to be spelled out and prescribed. Law was not a matter of principle, but of prescribed outcome and punishment.

Hammurabi’s code was State Law. It was the dictate by Imperial decree, just as the English have a tradition of Imperial Law. It was, therefore, not divine. Although Hammurabi claimed to be graced by the gods and given special wisdom thereby, he asserts that the code is his own and he imposes it by his own authority. Moses, on the other hand, never made any claim to the laws which he received from God. They were always the Law of God, given by revelation, not by human comprehension.

Hammurabi’s laws were fixed on action, without regard for cause, excuse or mitigating circumstances. The effect was primary. God’s Law, on the other hand, gives great emphasis to motive and intent. The outcome being important, does not destroy the issue of intention, whether accidental, on the spur of the moment or premeditated.

The Place of God

While Hammurabi’s code acknowledges and lists deities, it fails to elevate deity. Trespass and theft from a temple is on a par with the same actions against a court. But the Ten Commandments (or Decalogue, as it is sometimes called) starts out with a demand for God’s primacy. The first three (thirty percent) of the fundamental laws were directly related to God’s being. No gods before the True God; No idols; No blasphemy of God’s name.

God’s fourth command is that the Sabbath day be honoured. This is stated as being in honour of God resting on the seventh day. Jesus Christ later declared that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So this fourth commandment had the dual function of honouring God and enforcing a blessing on mankind.

So the first forty percent of the Decalogue has no prescriptive, punitive, civil application. It is about God’s elevation and man’s welfare.

The fifth command is to honour parents. This, like those first commands, is a matter of heart and principle, not prescription. The final five cover civil life, not religious issues, but they are stated as matters of principle. Life is precious. Sexual intimacy is the preserve of marriage. Property rights are to be upheld. Truth is to be protected. Inner, personal contentment is to be maintained.

Religion and Civics

The expanded law of Moses includes the Levitical order – the administrative and religious functions of the priests and their Levite assistants. Matters that are legal are intermingled with religious duties, prescribed sacrifices, health regulations, tests for truthfulness, and so on.

While Hammurabi devoted his code to civil issues, effectively relegating the religious codes to oblivion, God, through Moses, revealed a deeply religious society which saw civil existence as an extension of God’s presence and reality in the whole of life.

Another testimony to the divine nature of Moses’ Law is that the Ten Commandments and the extended laws reflect a divine perspective. They are not set out as resolving human concerns, but of serving divine requirements. They are not about bringing peace among men, but bringing people to a place of respectful worship of God. The demands of a vengeful heart in a wronged person are not the concern of the Law of Moses. Provision is made to protect people from such things, with cities of refuge. God’s heart toward man and man’s heart toward God are more important considerations than man’s need for restitution and vengeance.

Moses and Hammurabi Stand Apart

The contrasts in construction, content and context reveal that what Moses brought down from Mount Sinai had nothing to do with what Hammurabi constructed for his kingdom. Babylon came and went, then later revived before being swept away. Hammurabi’s issues of social and civil justice have not prevailed as a lasting code to uplift mankind.

The Law of God, given through Moses, has remained the outstanding and unparalleled legal, social and moral code for all cultures in all centuries of human history.

Hammurabi is dead and gone and his code has faded with time. The Living God lives on, and so too does His law. Hammurabi cannot claim any of God’s glory.

Henry Creswicke Rawlinson Cracks Cuneiform

Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson was born in Chadlington, Oxfordshire, England, on April 11, 1810.  He became a member of the British diplomatic service, lived in Baghdad … and dabbled in archaeology. His younger brother, George Rawlinson, became a noted historian.

At the age of 17 he joined the military service of the East India Company, posted to the Middle East, and six years later helped reorganise the Persian Army. Almost thirty years after starting with the East India Company he became one of its directors. But he also had posts on behalf of the British Government.

Rawlinson took an interest in antiquities and was able to gather numerous artefacts which he donated to the British Museum.

Rawlinson knew modern Persian and other Oriental languages. Unbeknown to Rawlinson, Georg Friedrich Grotefend, a German epigraphist had already made progress with deciphering cuneiform, but relied on many guesses and could not complete the task. While cuneiform inscriptions were abundant they were mostly short statements. Rawlinson hoped that a longer text would prove more helpful.

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An extended cuneiform text was known to exist in the mountains between Hamadan and Baghdad. A large panel of sculptured figures and many lines of text was presented in three scripts. Rawlinson assumed that the message was repeated in the three different types of symbols, making it possible to cross reference the message.

His deciphering of 1,200 lines of writing found upon the Behistun Rock was a major break-through in unlocking the ancient Babylonian script. The inscription had been created by Darius the Great and tantalised Rawlinson with the opportunity to crack the cuneiform symbols.

For four years (1835-1839) Rawlinson clambered up and down the imposing 1,700 feet high isolated rock … and there, 400 feet above the ground, “standing on a narrow ledge about a foot wide with the aid of ladders from below and swings from above, he made squeezes of the inscriptions” (Halley’s Bible Handbook).

The Afghan war delayed his studies … then he went back to Baghdad where he was appointed British Consul … and where he continued to scale and examine the Behistun inscription.

“Often in the intense heat he worked in a summer house at the bottom of the garden, a pet lion lying at his feet and a water-wheel from the river Tigris pouring water over the roof to keep it cool.”

Once Rawlinson succeeded in copying most of the great Behisitun inscription he began work on the script that was simpler than the others, which appeared to be alphabetic. The others seemed to be pictographs, ideographs and phonetic characters.

Rawlinson hypothesized the texts belonged to the period of the Archaemenid dynasty in Persia, of the Old Persian Empire (550-330 BC). Behistun was set up by Darius the Great of Persia about 519 BC. It told how Darius came to the throne and overcame those who threatened the Persian Empire. This statement was widely known throughout his realm.

Once the Persian text had been translated, it was possible to study of the other two languages. One was correctly assumed to be Babylonian. This discovery is very important to students of Assyriology since Babylonian and Assyrian languages were both Semitic and closely related. The third type was called Median or Scythian. It was the most difficult of all. It was related to the Elamite tongue, the language of Susa.

In 1846 he presented his findings to the Royal Asiatic Society.  The cuneiform symbols had finally yielded their secrets.  Now Bible scholars began to read the ancient monuments and see what light they shed upon the Holy Scriptures.

Semetic speaking Babylonians and Assyrians used the cuneiform for hundreds of years, but later discovery showed the Sumerians as the inventors, using it before 3000 BC. Rawlinson received a knighthood, as well as numerous academic awards, for this groundbreaking work which was the breakthrough for much further discovery.

Rawlinson died in 1895, and has since been known as the “Father of Assyriology“.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

Charles Clermont-Ganneau and the Moabite Stone

Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau was born in France, on February 19, 1846 and became a member of the French Diplomatic Corps.

A skilled translator, Clermont-Ganneau became Professor of Oriental Languages including Hebrew and ancient Aramaic. He took specific interest in the archaeological evidence for Bible history. In 1873-74 he engaged in archaeological investigations in Palestine, especially around Jerusalem. He sought to link the names of Arab villages with the Bible names of towns. He also excavated tombs, studying ossuaries (burial coffins) used from the time of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. He found many New Testament names and also the symbol of the cross on some ossuaries.

Clermont-Ganneau is best remembered, however, for his translation of the Moabite Stone. That story commences in 1868 when a German medical missionary named Klein discovered an inscribed stone “four feet high, two feet wide and 14 inches thick” in the village of Dhibon (This is the Bible town of Dibon cited in Joshua 13:9), in Moab. Recognising the value of this Mesha Stele, although unable to decipher the writing, Klein offered to purchase the stone. But the German Consul also heard of the find and wanted to buy it.

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Then the young Frenchman, Charles Clermont-Gammeau, hired a local Arab to go and examine the stone. The poor copy of the inscription this fellow brought back was enough to convince Clermont-Gammeau of the stone’s historical value. Next he sent Ya’qub Karavaca, an Arab, and two companions to make a ‘squeeze’ of the inscription, by pressing wet paper on the stone and peeling it off when it was dry.

But the Bedouins who owned the stone caused trouble. A fight broke out.

“One of Karavaca’s companions was speared in the leg, but the other, as he fled, snatched the still wet squeeze off the stone and stuffed it inside his tunic…” (Diggings, January, 1995).

Suffice to say it is to Clermont-Gammeau we are indebted for the ‘Moabite Stone’, which is dated from about 850BC and now in the Louvre Museum in Paris –and the translation that speaks of Mesha, king of Moab rebelling against Omri, King of Israel … just as the Bible says it did! (II Kings 3:4-5).

Once again the spade had vindicated the Book of books.

Clermont-Gammeau continued to have a significant role in archaeological investigation, including the ossuaries mentioned earlier. He also functioned as the most reliable authority on antiquities following the discovery of the Moabite Stone.

A Jerusalem antiquities dealer, Moses Shapira, tried to cash in on the Moabite excitement, producing a multitude of fake Moabite artefacts including clay figurines, large human heads and clay vessels. He had them inscribed with texts copied from the Mesha Stele. The Germans, stung by missing out on the Moabite Stone, bought 1700 of Shapira’s artefacts for the Berlin Museum.

Clermont-Gammeau was convinced the pieces were forgeries and was able to expose the modern manufacture of the pieces.

Then in 1883 Shapira presented fragments of supposedly ancient parchment claimed to come from near the Dead Sea. Clermont-Gammeau not only suspected forgery but was able to show how Shapira had taken the fake strips from a Deuteronomy scroll he had previously sold to the British Museum. Shapira’s attempted sale for a million pounds fell through and he later shot himself.

Clermont-Gammeau died on February 15, 1923, just days before his 77th birthday.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com