Sumerian King List

The Bible account of history should be confirmed by ancient historical documents. Corroboration of Bible history is found to some degree in the ancient Assyrian texts excavated from Nineveh, which hark back to ancient Sumerian myths and historical records.

Mythical Documents

Those ancient Assyrian texts, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enuma Elish and Epic of Atrahasis do relate aspects of human history reflective of Biblical history. Those reflections are tainted, however, by the polytheistic mythology interpolated into the historical record, such that the documents are considered mythical, rather than historical. Nonetheless, spontaneous creation and a global flood are significant aspects of Biblical history which are clearly celebrated in the ancient Sumerian legends.

It is worth noting that the ancient Assyrian writings do not involve myths about evolution, millions of years, ice-ages, missing links, spontaneous generation, punctuated equilibrium, a big bang or life from outer space. Yet those myths do speak of divine creation, mankind under divine accountability and a global flood. It is logical that these myths involved such events because they were part of the true history within human consciousness.

Non-Mythical History

What we should expect to find and what would be valuable in support of the Bible is a non-mythical historical document which attests to creation and the flood, and therefore supports the Bible narrative. We should expect to find a document which is not tainted with mythology, but which reflects from ancient times an independent affirmation of what the Bible declares is to be our human history.

The Sumerian King List is such a text.

The King List

An historical record of kings has survived from the Sumerian age, speaking from antiquity and tracing human history from the very beginning though to the time of Hammurabi of Babylon. This record offers a window into the ancient past which lends historical support to the Bible record.

The list appears to have developed through history, with successive kingdoms taking charge of continuing the record from earliest times. Sixteen copies of the list have been identified, but not all are in good condition. Some later versions display the process of later kingdoms adding themselves and their kings to the continuing genealogy.

As one kingdom conquered the dominant kingdom of the day it then added its lineage of kings as an extension of the historical record. Then when that kingdom was overthrown the conquerors maintained the record and added their own names in succession, until they, in turn, were overthrown.

There is no reason to doubt the validity of the list, except for some omissions and disparity among the records. Many of the names and places have been confirmed by archaeology. The list attests to its own accuracy by giving specific detail, such as one king whose reign was detailed down to include the three months and three and a half days, as well as the total of years. Another person is detailed as having ruled for forty days. Yet another person is identified as the older brother of his predecessor and also son of the predecessor’s father, Sargon.

Corroboration

The Sumerian King List is an independent corroboration of the Biblical record of divine creation followed by a global flood just a handful of generations after the original creation.

Yet it stands independent from the Biblical record. Where the Bible record follows one of the family lineages from Noah’s three sons, the King List follows a different line. Where the Bible record focuses on a family lineage the King List records successive kings, who are from various families.

The King List, then, cannot be argued as some kind of religious source for the Bible record. The two stand independent from each other, yet they support each other in several significant facts.

The King List is a secular document. It is not maintained as part of religious worship, nor does it set out to deify the Kings or invoke particular religious sentiment, as the Epic of Gilgamesh was made to do. This is significant, because it stands as a secular, non-mythical, historical account of ancient times, yet with remarkable corroboration of the Biblical historical record included in its content.

Creation

The Sumerian King List totally ignores any notion of evolution through vast ages, and speaks from a divinely initiated beginning, as does the Bible. Its opening words are, “After kingship had descended from heaven, Eridu became the seat of kingship.”

Just as the Sumerian and Assyrian mythologies and epics speak of a divinely motivated creation, albeit with grotesque, polytheistic artefacts included, this ancient Sumerian historical record attests to the same reality. Spontaneous creation was not only a fact in the distorted mythical legends, but also in the historical records, just as it is a fact of the Bible record.

The Flood

This King List also attests to a unique flood event very early in the earth’s history. The Bible describes a flood which occurred in Noah’s day. Noah was the tenth person in the historical lineage from the creation of Adam.

The King List speaks of a unique flood event after the eighth generation from the beginning.

“Total: Five Cities, eight kings, reigned 241,200 years. The FLOOD then swept over.”

No other natural or astrological event is referred to in the entire list. The only such event is this reference to “the flood”. All other floods were ignored. No other natural or astrological event was worth reference, but this one flood event was enshrined in the record. Such significance given to the flood attests to it fitting the Bible account of Noah’s global flood.

In the light of this historical record, the mythological references to a global flood which destroyed almost all of mankind, as in the Epic of Gilgamesh, give even more resoundingly credibility to the Bible account.

Kings in Mind

The King List is exactly that: a list of kings. The King List identifies eight kings before the global flood. The Bible records ten generations before the global flood. It is logical that both the King List and the Bible account came from the same information carried on Noah’s Ark. So, why the discrepancy?

The Bible record identifies ten family generations, but only eight patriarchs. Neither Enoch nor Lamech outlived their father, so there were only eight “kings”, or heads of the family line, before the Flood. Thus, even in this detail, the King List corroborates the Bible account.

Mythical Life-spans

Scholars refer to the Sumerian King List as a “mixture of fact and fantasy“. One of the principal reasons for the ‘fantasy’ charge is the unbelievable life spans attributed to the earlier members of the list. The earliest kings were recorded as living for tens of thousands of years.

This problem has been successfully tackled, at least in part, by John Walton, writing in the Fall 1991 issue of Biblical Archaeologist. Walton attributes the problem to an error made along the way, probably when one kingdom took new possession of the list by overthrowing the previously dominant kingdom. The error would have related to the Sumerian numerical use of base 60 in its calculations. In simplified terms this would mean that the numbers were blown out by a factor of 60 times.

Walton was able to rework the ages of the eight persons listed prior to the flood and found that they came very close to the ages ascribed to the eight people between Adam and Noah in the Bible.

Walton’s work brings the King List into greater correlation with the Bible record, but also reveals that the Sumerian document supports the Biblical history of people who lived for close to 1,000 years. He also removes the mythical quality from the list and brings it back into the realm of factual history.

Observations

The Sumerian King List brings the following relevant observations to our understanding of ancient times.

Genealogical records were kept from the earliest of time. Moses was able to provide acurate and detailed information about events which occurred thousands of years before he was born, in the same way successive generations of kings were able to refer back to the Sumerian list.

Genealogical records summarised history around significant personalities, in the same way the Bible accounts for history along one principal family lineage. The Sumerian King List records those who were “king” or head of the family or clan at the relevant time. On that basis we discover that Noah was the eighth in lineage from Adam, even though he was the tenth generation by birth order. Thus Peter records Noah as the “eighth person” in 2Peter 2:5

“And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” 2Peter 2:5

Expanding Record

These Sumerian records were passed down from generation to generation. Conquering kings took over the records in their own court, adding themselves to the grand list. The record grew in stages over time.

The King List record is therefore a true account of people that did live and victories that did occur. The record traces the kings of each dominant kingdom in a succession of kingdoms. We see that several kingdoms enjoy repeated dynasties as the dominant kingdom.

Those who perpetuated the ongoing genealogy understood the record to be fact and worthy of adding their inclusion.

Mathematics Mixed

As discussed earlier, the earliest age accounts were misunderstood at some point in the passing of the records, causing a blow-out of the figures, as per John Walton’s 1991 calculations.

John Walton’s assumptions result in the record of the ante-diluvium kings matching the Genesis record. The error most likely occurred when a new conquering kingdom updated the records, but without understanding the original Sumerian mathematical base.

Genesis Supported

The Sumerian King List is a sound attestation to several elements of the Genesis record.

It accounts for a divine element in the creation.

It accounts for a time of creation, with a beginning that did not need a preceding extended evolutionary history.

It accounts for the limited number of generations before the global flood.

It concurs with the long lives of the ante-diluvium generations.

It confirms the unique global flood incident, worthy of being recorded apart from all other flood or natural events, and thus matching the flood of Noah’s day.

It attests to the process of passing down historical records and “generations” as was done from Adam to Moses, in the compilation of the Genesis historical record.

It allows for misunderstanding in the passing down of the record, as conquering kings took possession of the record but may not have fully understood the basis on which it was maintained. This is different to the lineage record passed down to Moses, as that record was kept in the family, along with a supporting oral tradition. The Biblical detail is therefore factual and reliable.

It allows for the interpolation of spurious divinity into the record, as a conquering king made his self-appointed assertions of the basis of his authority, without denigrating the actual record itself. When King Meskiaggasher of Eanna conquered Kish he had his scribes add him to the list, but as a “son of Utu” (the sun god). This deistic insertion would have been an attempt to aggrandize and elevate himself, as was done in the deification of Egyptian Pharaohs and others.

The list confirms the real existence of Gilgamesh, and thus reveals the encroaching religious mythology which developed in some kingdoms over time. The Epic of Gilgamesh, a real person, presents a perverted mythological tale involving polytheistic deities who were imagined and interposed into human consciousness somewhere during the time of the Sumerian kings.

The emergence of polytheistic concepts represents a degeneration of human consciousness, rather than the forward movement of the evolution of religious thought.

The King List starts with reference to heaven, as per the Bible account, but degenerates into mythology as the centuries pass. The Bible account has maintained its integrity, being preserved by God from the deception and delusion which shrouded the minds of those influenced by the serpent ‘Satan’ character described in Genesis 2.

A Valuable Find

In light of the points mentioned above, the Sumerian King List proves to be a valuable document in support of several aspects of the Biblical record. I commend it for inclusion in discussions on the historicity of the Book of Genesis.

The Ancient World

The Bible record is the most reliable and comprehensive account of the ancient world and so it is interesting to see how other details from the earth’s earliest civilisations concur with the Bible descriptions.

This topic is of interest both to people who support the Bible text and those who wish to denigrate it. To supporters, evidence for the accuracy of the account is expected and welcomed. To detractors, an absence of evidence and any parallels in ancient mythical writings can be interpreted against the Bible account.

The Genesis Record

The first book of the Bible gives us a sweeping summary of thousands of years of earth’s history. The account is selective, majoring on key elements which God chose as valuable for our understanding of Him and His work on the earth. The Bible, therefore, is not an exhaustive historical record. But it is a true account of events, so we should expect various supportive evidence to corroborate its details.

Highlights of the Genesis record include: sudden and complete creation process; uniqueness of life on earth; the earth as the centre of creative purpose; man made from the dust; woman made from the man; a garden paradise; the curse resulting from man’s actions; nomadic and settled communities; technical expertise; global judgement through a flood; universal language of all people; convergence on a city with astrological worship modes; dispersion of people groups; and the earth divided.

Corroboration

Evidence in support of the Genesis account will include geological factors, space exploration, anthropology, archaeological evidence, ancient accounts (which may have become distorted over time) and ancient ideas which have passed down to today.

Geological evidence will corroborate the global flood. Space exploration will continue to confirm that life only exists on earth. Anthropology will track cultures back to the beginnings described in Genesis. Archaeology will confirm that life spread from the geographical region given in the Bible. Ancient stories will contain reflections of events recorded in Genesis. And modern life will be decorated with relics of past ideas which concur with the Bible account.

Geology

The global evidence of sediment deposits is staggering, fully supporting a flood of global proportions. Ocean fossils at high altitudes occur in many mountain ranges and far from coasts. Huge fossil graveyards exist in different continents.

Traces of marine sediments have been found at a height of over 12,000 feet in the Andes Mountains in South America. The ruins at Tiwanaku at an altitude of 13,000 feet were buried under six feet of mud from flooding. The high altitude Lake Titicaca holds water that is slightly saline and its fish and crustacean are predominantly oceanic, rather than fresh water creatures.

Deserts, sedimentary rocks, coal seams, oil fields, multi-strata fossils, huge fossil beds, and more lend sound credibility to the Bible account of a world-wide flood.

Anthropology

The Table of Nations, given in Genesis 10, is acclaimed as the most outstanding record of early national and cultural history. As anthropologists track the various cultural and language groups and their dispersion and development around the world they do not find reason to discredit the Biblical record.

Cradle of Civilisation

Archaeology confirms that the Tigris-Euphrates region is the cradle of civilisation, consistent with what Genesis 2 says about the location of Eden. The ancient Sumerian civilisation is seen as the seed-bed from which our global population arose.

Dr Clifford Wilson declares that archaeology has confirmed a great deal of the early Biblical record. “Creation, the Garden of Eden, the Flood, Long-Living Men, Early Cities, the Tower of Babel, the ‘Table of Nations’, and the relationship between Ur and Haran – archaeology has given convincing evidence that all of these should be accepted as historical.”

Ancient Documents

Documents linked back to Sumer tell distorted stores of a divine creation and global flood of judgement. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Epic of Atahasis and the Enamu Elish are three well-known ancient stories which speak of ancient times. They are distorted with polytheism and local customisation, but they attest to an enduring consciousness of original events as described in the Bible.

John Gray in Near Eastern Mythology refers to the tradition of civilisation emerging fully developed, without the long painful evolutionary process, which is a consistent theme of ancient literature. The ancients were agreed that man was created, rather than the product of any extended process.

The early Sumerian poem known as the Epic of Enmerkar speaks of a land that is much like Eden. From a damaged tablet we learn that this land, Dilmun, was only for the gods, and was characterised as a “pure, clean, bright place where sickness, violence, and old age do not exist”. The tablet reads, “The deadly lion destroyed not, The wolf a lamb seized not”. Dilmun is also described as a garden of fruit trees, edible plants, and flowers.

By the time of Sargon II, Dilmun was identified with a place inhabited by people with whom he did commerce. The Bible similarly reveals that the name of Eden was reused for a trading city after the great flood (Ezekiel 27:23).

Distorted Details

Many details of the Genesis account are picked up in the Sumerian stories, even though buried in polytheism and distortion. While the links are not conclusive, they are tantalising.

The different creation accounts involve mankind being made from the earth, although mixed with blood from one of the gods.

The myth of the creation of Ninti carries links to the creation of Eve, since Ninti means both “lady of life” and “lady of the rib“. In the myth she was created to cure the ailing Enki deity, reflective of how the woman was created “for the man“, as the Bible explains.

Sumerian deity stories include the account of one God, Enki, eating eight plants, resulting in a curse being placed. This carries echoes of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit and God cursing the earth and mankind as a result.

The fact of a universal language, which the Bible advises prevailed until the Tower of Babel, is stated in the Epic of Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta. It states that one of the gods, “Enki ….. shall change the speech in their mouths, as many as he had placed there, and so the speech of mankind is truly one.”

Surviving Memories

Some ancient traditions which have survived to our day provide corroboration with what the Bible teaches. The legends of huge dragons living at the same time as mankind attest to the fact that such creatures were not buried in inaccessible fossil beds, but were living creatures in man’s living memory. Cave drawings of dinosaur further support this reality, along with the dinosaur and human footprint fossils found at the Paluxy River in Glen Rose, Texas.

The ancient design for the Chinese character for ‘boat’ involving eight mouths directly links to the eight members of Noah’s family saved on Noah’s ark.

Atlantis

The mythical story of a city buried in the sea is consistent with the global flood event. Many cities would have been buried by the deluge, and could have given rise to the mythical concept of Atlantis.

Bolivian archaeologist Hugo Boero Rojo found extensive ruins in 1980, similar to the earliest Andean Tiwanakan culture, 60 feet beneath the waters of Lake Titicaca, close to the coast of Puerto Acosta. This drowned city may well be a relic of the pre-flood world.

Echoes from the Past

The points noted here are just some of the echoes from the past which resonate with the Bible account given in Genesis. Sceptics argue that ancient myths evolved into the Bible record, but that does not account for the geological and archaeological evidence, nor the surviving memories which substantiate the Bible, contrary to the popular scientific thought.

The Bible is the supreme record. The true and living God did create as described in Genesis. That accounts for the moral authority which that book carries. The ancient Sumerian stories, hand-me-down myths, and modern scientific speculations cannot impact lives and cultures in the positive and productive way that the Bible has proven to do for centuries.

The Bible’s similarities with ancient stories validates the stories as distorted reflections of reality, rather than discrediting the Bible as overgrown myth. “By their fruits you will know them”, is the Biblical instruction. So simply weigh up the overwhelming impact of the Bible, compared with the cumulative impact of all the Sumerian myths. The two are not the same, nor even linked by evolution of thought. One is myth-making that has faded away, while the other is revelation that is as powerful today as when it was first given.

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

Basis of Human Law Part 5

Here are some new observations about the human condition and things which create the bassi for human law. The point of the posts so far has been to observe some initial principles and realities which develop into the complex world of law that we have to navigate today.

Law embodies a wide range of issues just in terms of legality, without reflecting on the broader impact of ‘laws’, such as the laws of nature. We have Contract Law, Family Law, Common Law, Natural Law, International Law, Civil Law, Federal Law, Maritime Law, and more. So this investigation of the ‘basis’ of all that human law should help us all to understand how the various laws impact us.

These posts are drawn from the text of the Holy Bible, particularly the early chapters of the first book, Genesis. This post picks up the review at Genesis 4, where we find the first family coming into problems.

Subverted Lives

The historical events recorded in Genesis 4 point out that human lives do not remain free, but become subverted and engage in illegal and immoral actions. We have already seen, in Genesis 3, that humans are perfectly able to rebel against the rightful supreme authority of God. That ability attests to the free will which all people have been given by their creator. God has free will, and so man, made in the image of God, has also been given the privilege of using free will.

In Genesis 4 we have the account of one brother who takes a dislike toward his sibling. Both men made offerings to God and one offering was accepted, the other not. Abel offered animal sacrifice, while Cain offered garden produce. God was pleased with the animal sacrifice, since it reflected the future sacrifice of Christ. Cain did not learn from the experience, but allowed his personal feelings to rule his actions. By doing so his life was subverted. It came under the power of a force called ‘sin’.

Warning Ignored

Cain was warned by God that his heart attitude was dangerous. There was an evil force seeking opportunity to subvert Cain’s life. That force was meant to be resisted, but if given in to would rule Cain’s life.

Cain ignored the warning, seethed in anger and eventually murdered his brother. This event reveals that humans cannot be trusted to do the right thing, or even to heed appropriate warnings. People do wrong things. People act out of self interest, to the point of criminal action against others.

Cain gave in to the temptation of ‘sin’ which promised him some form of pacification of his inner feelings. Sin did not make things better in Cain’s case, just as it had not made things better for Adam and Eve. Sin is a lying force which promises gratification, but brings destruction.

The Apostle Paul, writing some 4,000 years later, prompted his audience to realise that sin did not provide any benefit. It did not deserve to be listened to. People owe sin nothing, because sin always breaks its promise of gain.

What fruit did you have at that time in the things whereof you are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.” Romans 6:21

“So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh” Romans 8:12

Slavery

Sin seeks to rule us. Jesus Christ stated it plainly and so too did the Apostle Paul. If we give in to sin that sin will own us and make us its slave.

“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin.” John 8:34

“Don’t you know, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?” Romans 6:16

This reality explains why there are people who seem committed to evil, such as serial offenders. It also explains how people who have the trust of others can choose to hurt people for selfish gain.

Humans have the capacity to give in to sin and become enslaved to it.

Note that this principle is true of those who do not commit heinous crimes. Anyone who has given in to lying, lust, pride, theft, greed, gluttony, resentment or the like, is equally a slave to those things. They may not murder someone, or commit a sensational crime, but they are slaves nonetheless.

Blood Crimes

After Cain killed his brother God interrogated him, as sovereigns have the right to do to their subjects. Cain chose to lie to God. This reveals how his life was increasingly subverted by sin, using one form of sin to cover another.

God knew exactly what had happened, but when challenging Cain, God used an interesting reference point – the blood of the dead brother.

“And God said, What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground.” Genesis 4:10

Abel’s blood cried out for justice and maybe vengeance for the crime committed against him. So we see that killing another person has a unique quality about it. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit there was no blood. When Abel killed animals there was no cry from the blood, but God accepted the offering. But when Cain killed Abel, Abel’s blood cried out for God’s attention.

Blood crimes are serious. When murder takes place there is not only a moral crime, but there is a polluting of the very ground, since the blood cries from the ground.

“And they shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.” Psalm 106:38

Unique Punishment

Because of Cain’s sin of murder God put a unique punishment on him. When Adam sinned the ground was cursed – which accounts for the degenerative decay which attends all living things. But when Cain sinned God decreed that he would be cursed from the earth (Genesis 4:11). He was also assigned a new status, that of fugitive and vagabond. This included the fact that he would lose his connection with God.

It is interesting to note that God did not prescribe capital punishment, in the death sentence, upon Cain, even though he had murdered someone.

Cain was very distressed about the punishment placed on him.

“And Cain said to the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from your face will I be hid; and I will be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it will come to pass, that every one that finds me will slay me.” Genesis 4:13,14

Human Vengeance

Cain was concerned that he would be victimised by other people because of his crime and God’s curse. Here we see the reality of human retaliation. Much has been done through the centuries by people stirred by their own passion of vengeance or their own sense for what should be meted out to criminals.

The wild, blood-thirsty posse of the wild west and the cold-hearted avenger who bides their time for retaliation are known to us. Cain wanted protection from any person who may think it their right to kill him.

God did not allow for the notion of people taking justice into their own hands. God did not say to Cain, “Well it serves you right!” God gave Cain a special identification mark, to warn people not to kill him. Anyone who took justice into their own hands and killed Cain would receive a punishment seven times greater.

“And the LORD said to him, Therefore whosoever slays Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” Genesis 4:15

Coming Up

Genesis 4 gives us insights into God’s dealings with individuals who commit crimes. The next key chapter to investigate is Genesis 6, in which we see God responding to a world full of people who have lost the plot. Immorality, rebellion and self-interest became so rampant that just about everyone had rejected their created purpose and any relationship with God.

We shall investigate the legal lessons to gain from that situation in the next post.

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