The Atrahasis III Tablet - History
Many professors in colleges, universities and seminaries today agree with the following ideas and teach them to their students. This is one reason young people who have had a strong religious faith lose it when they go to college.
These authors are probably correct that all but Bible believers (fundamentalists) have abandoned this view. The abandonment of the Genesis Creation Story as a factual account has become so prevalent that some denominations now treat it as "myth" in their Sunday School material. However, the fundamentalist view is not "extreme". It is based on fact.
The Genesis Creation Story does not owe anything to the creation myths of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The latter were written for a completely different purpose. They are not really about the creation of the universe at all. They are related to the "genesis" of a certain king's reign. Priest-scribes wrote them to establish the king's (and his god's) supremacy. Each myth is different with its local adaptations. The Biblical history has unity, never changing, as the myths do with each succeeding king.
This interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 agrees with many scholars. Their opinions are that the Creation stories were made up quite late, precluding any Mosaic authorship. They claim ( without proof other than some seeming similarities) that they were borrowed from the literature of other nations. Even though competent scholars have demonstrated that the Pentateuch (Torah) is much older than these men claim, the critics, nevertheless, continue to press their viewpoint. That their contentions hold sway even among church educators can be seen in a sample from a publication for the instruction of laymen.
The author above espouses the theory that the priests "made up" the Books of Moses as a means of pulling the Israelites together and organizing them as a nation. Looking at it this way, religion could be used as an "opiate." By this theory, Genesis is simply a semi-historical preamble for the books of Exodus to Deuteronomy. In the latter, the Tabernacle is described, the priestly order is laid out, the sacrificial system and feast days are all instituted.
The above authors claim that these Old Testament books (the Tanakh) were written for the same purpose as all other Ancient Near Eastern documents were written - to control men through religion. To continue with the Layman's Introduction,
Many scholars teaching in seminaries train ministers and rabbis who, in turn, teach things similar to the above. We hope the reader will discern the error in their interpretation. Many today consider the Bible's Creation Story a "myth." They believe it has "evolved" and is written for the same basic purpose as the truly mythical creation accounts of the Ancient Near East. These scholars seem incapable of understanding that the Bible is history and the myths of the ancient near east are little more than political propaganda. Characteristics of this position are the following:
- Religion has evolved. Thus man will get better and better. 6
- Adam and Eve were not real people. They were only symbolic, or mythical persons (but - - we know that Jesus and Paul spoke of them as real people).
- Israel did as other nations did. Their leaders "manufactured" the Torah to control the people.
- The Torah (5 books of Moses) was written late, 600-500 BC, thus it was "borrowed" from other literature.
- The possibility is rejected that Genesis was written early, enabling all others to borrow from it.
- There is always the possibility that this kind of writer is guilty of that which they accuse the Bible writers, that is, of "using" a philosophy of the evolution-of-religion to control other people's understanding of God's Word.
Another viewpoint is that the myths and legends of creation are serious attempts by the ancients to philosophize on the origin of the universe and man. The myths are then compared with the Bible and similarities and differences analyzed. Although many scholars, both conservative and liberal, espouse this interpretation of creation legends and make valuable contributions to our understanding of both myths and the Bible, that is not the viewpoint that will be discussed in this article. Comparisons will be made, but with the understanding that the composers of the myths had a far different purpose in mind for them than is commonly supposed.
A "creation" account from Egypt describes a god who created everything by the word of his mouth. It was the god Ptah who "spoke, and it was."
Although there are some striking reminicences of Genesis 1, they are not as close as it may seem at first. The complete account is not like Genesis at all.
In examining this account called the Memphite Theology, one finds that the god Ptah thought. There was a thought-process involved, then he spoke. But Yahweh-Elohim of Scripture does not go through a thought sequence. In creating, He is all-knowing at all times.
What is actually being set forth in this Egyptian "creation" myth is that a "new" god, Ptah, the god that put Pharaoh on the throne, is better than all previous gods. The basic purpose of the myth, then, is to vindicate the new Pharaoh's right to the throne. In reading carefully, what one discovers is that the new god is patently nothing more than the god-hood of the new king.
Atrahasis Creation Epic
The Atrahasis Creation Epic was discovered and first translated in 1876. However, only one-fifth of it had been known until 1965. Then in a museum cellar there was discovered a number of clay tablets which were recognized to be part of this same account. Now about four-fifths of the myth is available. It is probably the most important creation myth of the Ancient Near East outside the Bible. It dates to about 1500 BC, or 3500 years ago, but it probably comes from an earlier source. So it was written before the time of Moses.
According to some scholars, Moses would have borrowed from it. As we examine it, see if you agree.
Actually, no account of the creation of the world is found in the Atrahasis Epic. It is concerned exclusively with the story of man and his relationship with the gods, which is hinted at in the beginning statement, "When the gods, manlike . . ." The introduction describes the situation at the outset of the story, when the world had been divided between three major deities of the Sumerian-Akkadian pantheon.
A.R. Millard analyzed this "New Babylonian Genesis" text. 8 The quotations in the following section are found in his article.
In this text, Anu is the god of heaven, Enlil the god of the earth, Enki is the ruling king. The introductory description of the world situation in the Atrahasis Epic depicts the junior gods laboring at the behest of the senior deities. Note that the gods are like men.
The underlying idea of the Atrahasis Epic and the other Babylonian Creation stories is that man was made to free the gods from the toil of ordering the earth to produce their food. The gods instructed the Mother-goddess (Nintu) to:
Basic Purpose of the Atrahasis Epic
Priest-scribes "created" a caste-system with the king on top in the god's image, and they themselves as administrators of the god's kingdom. (Common) man was "created" to support the whole system. The point is, the king throughout all the ancient near east was presented as "son" of the local god, his "image" on earth. Therefore, all service done the king was service done to the gods. All religion (including creation legends) was contrived as an "opiate of the people" (see: "Who Were the Sons of God in Genesis 6?").
Babylonian Creation Epic
This text relates the creation of man and beast, rivers and vegetation, then states, "He built up a dam at the edge of the sea." As the next line describes the draining of a swamp, this may have been related to that, but mention of the sea suggest that the dam's purpose was to keep the land from sea floods.
Throughout the ancient near east, at the very beginning of history, it was believed that anyone who founded a city, or rebuilt it, was its creator, and that anyone who drained a swamp, thus creating new land, deserved a place with the gods. 9 Alexander the Great, in founding Alexandria, Egypt (among other cities he founded named "Alexandria"), acquired a place with the gods for so doing. The people of the ancient near east understood that concept.
These creation stories do not actually deal with the creation of the universe, but with the creation of some new land, a city, or an empire. The patron god of that area, then puts his "son" in control of it (according to myths contrived by the priesthood).
A bilingual Creation story speaks of the creation of the rivers and canals, without naming the agent of creation, then concentrates upon making man to maintain them. Other Akkadian texts indicate man's purpose is to uphold earth's order so that there will be produce to feed the gods. The god in the temple and his "son" in the palace (representing him) must live in a manner befitting a god.
Many able studies have been made of the similarities between Genesis and other Creation stories. Taken out of context, some sentences sound similar to the Bible account. But a careful consideration of the whole clearly indicates basic differences. Some of the accounts have crassly immoral sections.
Enuma Elish Creation Epic
Enuma Elish Creation Epic
This was a part of the New Year (Akitu) festival, and was recited on the fourth of eight days. George Roux points out that this festival "resulted from the confluence of two powerful currents of religious thought: an extremely ancient fertility cult, originally common to the whole prehistoric near east, and a more comparatively recent Sumerian cosmogony." 10
Roux here says what we have been trying to say. That is, in pre-flood times sex was perverted to the "nth" degree. Then, in post-flood times, a violently anti-Yahweh religio-politico system was manufactured incorporating sex deviations. He further says, "In the Babylonian akitu-festival Sacred Marriage and the myth of Creation were harmoniously blended together."
Of course, in all this, Yahweh was not given the slightest credit for anything. In this Babylonian version, Marduk, who had been a minor deity before that time became a major one by being proclaimed the creator of the country. (Later, Asshur was substituted for Marduk in the Assyrian version.) Actually, very little is said about creation.
The purpose of the myth seems to be that through intercourse between the gods (represented by the king and queen on earth), everything is assured of functioning properly for the coming year. Roux points out that Enuma Elish was an acceptable explanation of the universe to the deeply religious Babylonians,
Supposedly, there are parallels between the Genesis account and the Babylonian account of creation. One is hard put to find them. But, four may serve to show how unlikely the "parallels" are:
I. Creation of the firmament and earth:
Can this be considered a serious attempt at explaining origins? We see it rather as a deliberate attempt to explain the already existing order in terms that give all credit to Marduk, god of the city of Babylon.
II. Creation of the luminaries:
This is obviously an attempt to use already existing heavenly bodies to establish the usefulness and function of astrology -- at the heart of divination -- a vital activity in a tightly controlled religious state. Where did astrology originate? It originated in the very area where these things were written supported by this type of mythical literature. Astrology was already in vogue when Enuma Elish was written. It was part of the local religio-political system.
III. Creation of man:
(See references above.) Like other creation accounts, its purpose was to give the impression that man was created to serve and feed the gods.
IV. The "Rest" after the "Creation":
Scholars have looked for the concept of a day-of-rest in Babylonian texts. But outside Israel there is no Sabbath in ancient near eastern cultures anywhere, neither in Mesopotamia nor in Egypt.
In Babylonian the word sabbatu is found. But it has something to do with the moon and only occurs once a month, or at most, every 15 days. It has nothing whatever to do with the Old Testament concept of a day of rest. The Sabbath was instituted by Yahweh, in the very beginning, for His followers to keep as a sign of their belief that He is the Creator. There is no "Sabbath" in this creation myth at all. The closest statement that comes to it is:
Who will repose in it? The King will. Posing as "son" of Marduk, he will sit on the throne of the patron god. The Babylonian "creation" myth is actually political propaganda in a religious cloak. It is meant to support the "divine right" of a king to rule (as a tyrant).
Counterfeit "divine" kings promulgated their claim to authority as "son of the creator." In other words the "rest" is really in a place in the sanctuary where the king sits on his throne representing the god, in this case Marduk. So the "rest" is really a rest of triumph, of gaining complete control over the realm. There is no concept of a Sabbath rest here.
Myth and History
The creation stories we have considered are myth. What is a "myth"? And what is real history? Why do men compose myth?
To destroy history, to make out of history a fantasy, a fairy tale, men take a kernel of history and expand it into a great myth. Men thus mold history to their own liking.
What have we, then, in the "creation" myths? We have a king who wants to be like a god. He cannot be a god, really. But in a myth he becomes a god, or like one, and does great exploits. In this view, Rushdoony explains that myths are used "to make man the absolute governor by decreeing an end to the movement that is history."
This is certainly true of the ancient near eastern (and most other) myths. Clever men used myth as religio-politico propaganda in order to deceive the populace into thinking a ruler was divine or "son" of the divine, and that he had his "right to rule" from a god -- but, a god created by ingenious men through "cunningly devised fables," making the fiction sound plausible. On the other hand, precisely the opposite is true with the factual history recorded beginning with Genesis 1.
The early chapters of Genesis are true history, not myth. Writers like Laurin, Graves and Patai try to make myth out of history. They put the writings of Israel into the same class as the religio-politico fabrications of ancient near eastern city-state systems. They have assumed (without proof) that Genesis was written by priests (during the time of the kingdom), to use in controlling Israel's religious life. They fail to grasp that these Bible stories are history whereas myths are used as political propaganda.
Modern writers must not impose their own "religious evolution" presuppositions upon Scripture. In so doing, they themselves may unwittingly be trying to control peoples' understanding of Scripture. Let God's Word be what it is -- true history.
Communism used the myth of "evolution" to rule God out of the universe (by trying to make Him unnecessary). Clever men used a non-religion to explain the universe and, along with the "party line," developed their own "opiate" to control people.
Evolution (biological and religious) is itself a myth and is taking our nation down a dangerous path. Evolutionary philosophers try every way possible to prove man happened by chance. They place great hope in science's ability to create life, and eventually even "man," unaware that man created by man will be a monster. These philosophers and pseudo-scientists are the modern attempt to push God out of the universe, even as rulers of the ancient near east tried to do.
In one of the Flood myths, it says that man became noisy and bothered the gods. This made the gods angry and that is why the gods destroyed man with a flood. The Bible, on the other hand, says man was rotten, so vile that he had corrupted the whole earth. The only remedy was to obliterate him. Conversely, in the myths, the gods are no good man is all right. Men were simply bothering the gods (like flies), so the gods destroyed man. It was the gods' fault, not man's.
Ruling God Out of His Universe
Rulers of the ancient near east were trying to rule God out of the universe and to govern it themselves. To facilitate this they composed "creation" myths.
We can understand them by looking at it like this - Whoever "created" me, owns me. If someone else convinces me that he (or his god) did it, I am his slave. 20 That is the motivation behind the creation myths of the ancient near east. They were written to keep people in bondage.
Whoever is responsible for making you and the things you have is your owner. If he has then turned over this ownership to me and I have become his steward, then I own you. That is the theory of rule in the kingdoms of the ancient near east. The kings' scribes say as much in their literature on clay tablets. They claim to own all the people and all the land. The gods created those things for their own service and then put "King So & So" in charge, with a group of administrators to help the king supervise all of their god's creation.
The myths are simply religio-politico propaganda. Not serious attempts to describe the origin of all things. If one adopts this as a premise, the purpose and meaning of ancient near eastern literature becomes more apparent.
The Biblical Creation Account
On the other hand, the Biblical Creation story has to do with purpose in life and in the universe. If the Creation Story was "borrowed" from other cultures -- then it is only a guess at Truth, and no better. If all life arose by chance - - then there is no purpose, just fate. But if Genesis 1-2 is Absolute Truth revealed by God the Creator, as we assert, then we have a message of purpose, life, and hope. Darkness becomes Light, Night becomes Day.
Moses could not have borrowed from the creation stories of Egypt and Mesopotamia. They are for a completely different purpose. They are not about the creation of the universe at all. They relate to the "genesis" of a certain king's reign. They are written to establish his (and his god's) supremacy. Each story is different because of local adaptations. Just as Genesis begins with the Creation, establishing Yahweh's supremacy, so "divine" kings begin their reign by claiming authority through being the "son" of a "creator."
The Genesis creation account was almost certainly written first. The Master of Deceit then led ambitious and unscrupulous men to counterfeit the truth. Parallels may be discovered between the principle of manipulated religion, used to govern these ancient kingdoms, and the opposite of that principle in the Bible. Religious history and secular history are related. They cannot be separated. In order to understand history, one must comprehend God's working in history first, then examine how the opposition works through the deceit of the Adversary.
Creation of Man in Scripture
In Scripture, man is a clean break from lower forms of life. Evolutionary teaching on the origin of man and Biblical teaching on the origin of man are mutually exclusive. One cannot believe both. They are each an article of faith. The "missing link" between man and his beginnings, according to Scripture, is God. But, He is not "missing" at all. He has been there all the time.
The reason we say that evolution and creation are mutually exclusive is because of what Genesis 2:7 says in Hebrew, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul." The "LORD" in this verse is Yahweh (or Jehovah -- YHVH). (When it is spelled "Lord," the Hebrew is "Adonai.") Jehovah (YHVH) is the covenant God of Israel. In Genesis 2:7, Yahweh (YHVH) is the God who formed man. 21
The word for "formed" is the Hebrew verb yatsar. It is used to describe the actions of a potter making a vessel. As the potter's wheel spins, he shapes the clay with his fingers. The design is in his mind, but he shapes the vessel with his hands. The mechanics God used in forming man, we do not know. But the word used to describe it is suggestive.
In Hebrew the word "man" is adam. Some say that adam means "mankind." But where did "mankind" come from? Obviously, from man, the first man. God formed man from the "dust" ("dirt") of the ground. The word for "ground" is adamah. Adam was made of adamah (a female form of the noun). 22
Man was formed. But he was still lifeless. There was no continuity whatever with any lower form of life. Man was lifeless until something else happened. The next phrase says, "He breathed (or blew) into his nostrils the breath of life, the mishnat chayyim (the very breathing in and out of life) and man became a living soul (or being)."
When God blew man's breath into his nose, He also blew in his being! (Paul used this terminology when he spoke much later to the Athenians in Act 17, "In Him we live and move and have our being.") The moment He withdraws His breath from our nostrils, we lose our life and we become dust again. We lose our being, as far as the physical body is concerned. But, once we have being, we cannot be destroyed altogether.
This truth is evident in that just before the final judgment, all will be raised again, our being joined with a new body, then the final judgment. And all will go to one place or another, like it or not. That is God's plan. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). This is why we insist that evolution and Biblical Creation are mutually exclusive in describing the origin of man. 23
Our God created the entire universe. He ordained the Sabbath as a time for us to demonstrate that we believe in His creation. We rest one day because He rested one day. In keeping a rest day, we witness to Him as Creator (Exodus 31:13f). "The Sabbath is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed" (Ex 31:17)
In closing, compare Psalm 100 with the Creation myths of the ancient near east:
The Epic of Gilgamesh Summary and Analysis of Tablet II and Tablet III
Shamhat divides her robes and uses them to clothe Enkidu. These are the first clothes he has ever worn. She leads him by hand, as if he was a child, and they begin their journey. On their way to Uruk, they stop at a shepherd's camp, where the herdsmen are astonished by Enkidu’s size, strength, and beauty. They serve him plates of cooked food, and jugs filled with beer. Enkidu does not even recognize these items as food. Until now, he has eaten only grass and sucked the milk of wild animals. Shamhat encourages him to eat and drink. He drinks seven jugs of beer, and begins singing and dancing. He bathes and anoints himself with oil and dresses in fine new clothes. Shamhat shaves the hair from his body. Enkidu then offers to stand guard over the shepherds and their flocks, protecting them from the wolves and lions that normally threaten their safety.
One day a stranger comes into the camp carrying a highly decorated platter. Enkidu asks Shamhat to find out who he is and where he is going. The man tells them that he is going to a wedding ceremony in Uruk. Gilgamesh will be there and as the King, he will sleep with the bride before her husband does. Whatever Gilgamesh desires, the man explains, he takes—no one can withstand his power. Enkidu finds this to be unacceptable and decides to go to Uruk to challenge Gilgamesh, because he feels sure that he can defeat him. When he arrives in Uruk, the people of the city are amazed to see a man who is as strong and powerful in appearance as Gilgamesh. They crowd around him and hail him as their champion and savior. Enkidu stands on the threshold of the bride’s bedchamber and blocks Gilgamesh’s path.
The two men begin to wrestle in the street, and the city shakes as they do so. Gilgamesh eventually wrestles Enkidu to the ground and is victorious. Enkidu concedes his defeat and says that Gilgamesh is the rightful king of Uruk. Ninsun tells Gilgamesh that Enkidu has no family, that he has lived his whole life on the plains with the animals. She tells Gilgamesh that Enkidu is loyal and will not abandon his side. Both men forget their anger and declare their loyalty to each other. They kiss and embrace.
Shortly after, the two friends begin looking for a challenge to take on together. Enkidu tells Gilgamesh about a monster named Humbaba, sometimes called Huwawa. He is the guardian of the Cedar Forest, a place forbidden to mortals. Humbaba serves Enlil, who made Humbaba a terrible being whose mouth is fire, his roar is the floodwater, and his breath is death. Gilgamesh is intrigued by this creature and decides that he and Enkidu should meet Humbaba in battle.
Enkidu is frightened at first, telling Gilgamesh that Humbaba cannot be beaten. Gilgamesh dismisses Enkidu’s concerns, saying he has no fear of death, so long as he is able to gain fame. The two heroes go to the armor makers of Uruk and obtain axes and swords for the battle. Gilgamesh tells Enkidu that they can both cement their fame by defeating Humbaba.
The elders of Uruk echo Enkidu's concerns. They advise Gilgamesh to let Enkidu lead the way, as Enkidu has knowledge of the wilderness. They also advise Gilgamesh to make an offering to Shamash before embarking. Enkidu tells Gilgamesh that he has his loyalty and that he will lead Gilgamesh through the wilderness to the Cedar Forest.
Upon hearing of Gilgamesh's plans, Ninsun is distraught. She weeps and fears for her son's life. She bathes and dons robes before ascending to the ziggurat, where she makes an offering to Shamash as well. Ninsun prays to Shamash to help and protect Gilgamesh. Finally, she places a sacred pendant around Enkidu's neck and adopts Enkidu as her own son.
Please note that of the majority of Tablet II is missing in the Sin-Leqi-Unninni version, so translators have had to fill in the blanks with older versions of the story.
Enkidu’s transformation continues in this tablet as Shamhat clothes him, giving him the first garments he has ever worn. She introduces him to cooked food and to alcohol, uniquely human creations. Enkidu sings and dances after becoming drunk, also something that only humans do. That these events take place at a shepherd’s camp is not without relevance. The shepherd’s camp is the first sign of civilization that Shamhat and Enkidu encounter on their way to Uruk. As Enkidu is drawn physically closer to Uruk, he is increasingly civilized. The shepherd’s camp represents a sort of hybrid of the city and the wilderness. It is neither a city, nor the forest or the plains, but it embodies elements of both. Enkidu takes up weapons to protect the shepherds from the wild animals around them. This action demonstrates his new allegiance to humanity. He has turned away from the natural world he was once a part of it and now greets it with hostility and the threat of violence.
Enkidu is outraged when he hears about how Gilgamesh will sleep with a newly married woman on her wedding night, before her husband does. Despite having no knowledge of the human custom of marriage, Enkidu's sense of justice becomes apparent. He sees Gilgamesh's behavior as fundamentally wrong and immediately decides that he must be the one to right it.
The two giant men wrestle in the streets of Uruk, shaking the city. Though Gilgamesh wins the fight, he is changed because of it. He sees Enkidu not as an opponent but as a worthy companion. Essentially Enkidu tames him, just as Shamhat tamed Enkidu. This idea feeds theories among some scholars that Enkidu and Gilgamesh have more than a platonic relationship. Regardless, Gilgamesh, bolstered by the presence of his new friend, decides he wishes to move beyond Uruk and make his mark on the world.
Humbaba, or Huwawa in some translations, is a vague but terrifying enemy, presented differently depending on the translation. Most translations present him as a terrible monster who personifies evil. Enkidu describes him as a force of nature itself, with a “mouth of fire". Some scholars feel that Humbaba is a personification of an erupting volcano. Volcanoes may have been active in the Mesopotamia region during Gilgamesh’s time. The cedar trees guarded by Humbaba would have been very valuable in the relatively treeless region of Mesopotamia where Uruk is located. In any case, Humbaba is something to be feared, a creature of great strength. Despite concerns on the part of the Elders as well as Enkidu’s own warnings, Gilgamesh decides he wants to meet Humbaba in battle. He explains that death is not something he fears, as long as he is able to leave behind his mark on the world. This is a markedly different attitude towards death that will change over the course of the poem. Death becomes the predominant theme in the story from here onward.
Although Enkidu's civilization is now complete, the Elders still recognize his wild roots. They see that Enkidu still has knowledge of that world that Gilgamesh does not. Enkidu remains true to his word and tells Gilgamesh that he will not forsake him but will lead him into the wilderness, towards Humbaba. Tablet III ends with Enkidu's adoption by Ninsun, which makes him and Gilgamesh brothers. Ninsun prays for their safe return. This gesture demonstrates that Enkidu's appeal extends to all those he has met in Uruk, not just Gilgamesh. Though they are not blood relatives, they appear as if they are twins. Enkidu's adoption allows him to have a family, a human family that accepts him. When Gilgamesh first met Enkidu, he had no one "to cut his hair." Now, he has a brother whom he will follow into the most dangerous battles.
World Historical Significance [ edit | edit source ]
The Flood Tablet in particular is significant in world history in that it tells nearly the exact same story as the Flood and Noah in the Bible. To some historians, the multiple accounts of this world event proved it's existance to others, it simply meant that one culture 'borrowed' the story from another. It is unclear which culture wrote down this account first. The discovery of the Flood Tablet has raised questions beyond Nineveh, in fact, it has raised questions of massive religious and world historical importance.
Not all of the Epic of Gilgamesh survived the several thousand years that the Flood Tablet did, making this particular tablet rare in it's own right. Many tablets were destroyed in the Fire of Nineveh (612 BCE), others disentegrated over time, but the Flood Tablet was cured during the fire, preserving it for hundreds of generations to follow. While there is not much evidence pointing to the long-range travel of the actual Flood Tablet, the stories within the Epic of Gilgamesh were known in places such as Hattusas (capital of the Hittites), Emar (Syria), and Megiddo (Levant).
Why a Flood? Comparing the Atrahasis Story to the Noah Story
Building on her own contextual observation, Frymer-Kensky relies on the Atrahasis Epic to illuminate two aspects of the biblical account: the pre-flood problem and the post-flood solution. By examining these points in each story, Frymer-Kensky uncovers a deep contrast between the two stories&rsquo underlying core values.
In the Atrahasis Epic, the gods face the problem of human overpopulation, expressed in poetic terms as &ldquothe noise of mankind&rdquo that keeps the gods from sleeping. After the flood, the gods institute three measures to curb the human population and prevent the problem from recurring. This &ldquonew world order&rdquo includes human infertility (&ldquowomen who do not bear&rdquo), infant mortality (in the form of a baby-snatching demon) and social institutions that forbade certain women from marrying.
The biblical account, on the other hand, &ldquois emphatically not about overpopulation.&rdquo  In fact, God&rsquos instruction to Noah and his family after the flood, &ldquobe fruitful and multiply&rdquo (Gen 9:1), suggests that the Bible &ldquoconsciously rejected the underlying theme of the Atrahasis Epic.&rdquo Instead, the problem is human wickedness (Gen 6:5) or lawlessness (hamas) that corrupts the earth, which must, as a result be destroyed (Gen 6:11&ndash13).
Thus, the post-diluvian fresh start brings with it not only God&rsquos own promises against another flood (Gen 8:21&ndash22, 9:8&ndash17) and God&rsquos hope for repopulation (Gen 9:1), but also two prohibitions: live animals may not be eaten and murder is prohibited (Gen 9:1&ndash7). By restricting violence against animals and outlawing violence between humans, both of these prohibitions address the pre-flood problem of humanity&rsquos wickedness. In other words, to prevent the flood, law, here represented by these two prohibitions, must replace lawlessness. In this same spirit, the rabbinic tradition of &ldquothe Seven Noahide laws,&rdquo attributes God&rsquos basic laws for all humans, Jews and gentiles, to this post-flood moment.
The discovery of the tablets
In December 1853,28 Hormuzd Rassam, an Assyrian Christian, excavated the palace of Assurbanipal at Nineveh.29 Although he was an assistant of an Englishman named Henry Layard who had begun the dig at Nimrud in 1845, Rassam took over the investigation at Nineveh from Layard.30 Within the palace Assurbanipal, who ruled Assyria as the last king from 668 to 626 B.C., had a great library in which numerous tablets of Babylonian and Assyrian literature, chronicles, dictionaries, hymns, and so on had been preserved.31 Therefore, this discovery made by Rassam became a great historic event. Because of lack of linguistic knowledge, Rassam could not recognize what he had found, and it took time until the Gilgamesh Epic was translated by George Smith after tens of thousands of tablets were brought to the British Museum from the library.32
Absorbed in archaeology, George Smith was working in a minor position in the British Museum.33 Although his poor family background had prevented him from being well-educated, because of Smith’s genius and diligence the Department of Oriental Antiquities designated him as the assistant in order that he might contribute to the Museum’s publications of cuneiform texts.34 On December 3, 1872, Smith announced that he had translated the flood accounts which had been found among the tablets from Nineveh and presented his paper, “The Chaldean Account of the Deluge”35 to the Society of Biblical Archaeology.36 Although he could not restore the whole text, in 1876 extracts of the Atrahasis Epic were presented under the title of “The Story of Atarpi” in “The Chaldean Account of Genesis.”37
The manuscripts of the Gilgamesh Epic, discovered in various spots in the Middle East, have provided information to ascertain the whole text but the tablets which were inscribed in the period of Assurbanipal (668 to 626 B.C.) and were preserved in his library give the most information of the text of the Epic.38 The extensive circulation of the Gilgamesh Epic in the ancient world is confirmed by the parts of it which were put into Hittite and Hurrian, non-Mesopotamian languages.39
Sennacherib & Hezekiah
Siege of Lacish Wall Relief
This room houses the wall relief of the siege of Lacish. It was the first archaeological confirmation of an event in the Bible. It is significant that these reliefs adorned the walls of Sennacherib’s victory room in his palace, and not the siege of Jerusalem, which would have been a more significant conquest, had he been victorious. You can take a 3D walkthrough of this room on Google Street View to examine the reliefs in greater detail.
Scaling the Walls Captives Being Led Away
Sennacherib Receiving Tribute
The huge, detailed wall relief is fascinating to study, it has been deemed the finest portrayal of ancient siege warfare. It is amazing how intricate and precise the mural is – from the grapes and figs on the trees, indicating the conquest was during summer, to the firemen with water ladles accompanying the siege engines.
Tribute of Hezekiah
This is part of an inscription under the pair of large statues which flanked the entrance to the throne room in Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh. It is the most detailed surviving account of the tribute Hezekiah sent to Assyria after Sennacherib’s campaign in Palestine. One other interesting thing about this mural, is that it is blackened. In the book of Nahum (1:10, 2:13, 3:13-15) there is a prophesy against Nineveh, that it would be destroyed by fire and water, because of its apostasy. In another artifact (not on display) called the Babylonian Chronicle, we hear of the Babylonian conquest of Nineveh in 612 B.C. They first set fire to the palace, and then opened up the Khoser river and flooded it.
The Taylor Prism
This inscription describes Sennacherib’s conquest of Babylon and of Judah. In it, he boasts about how his army surrounded Jerusalem all around, and yet fails to explicitly speak of its fall. The capture of the capital city of a kingdom would surely receive a detailed description… However we know from the accounts in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah, that Sennecharib’s army actually suffered a humiliating defeat at Jerusalem, not at the hands of the Israelites, but by the supernatural working of God Himself. The Taylor Prism also references King Hezekiah.
Tomb of Shebna
This lintel is from a rock cut tomb near the city of Jerusalem. It was carved from limestone, and is much damaged, but the inscription is still readable – “This is … [the tomb of Shebna] …iah, the royal steward. There is no silver or gold here, only … [his bones] … and the bones of his maidservant with him. Cursed be the man who opens this.” Shebna was the steward of Hezekiah and is directly spoken to, in Isaiah 22:15-25. He is condemned for carving out a resting place for himself in the rock – and told that he will be replaced by one who cares for the people and not himself. It seems that his desire to be left undisturbed was not fulfilled.
Beginning in 2000, work groups were formed to create a research agenda for the fifth major revision of DSM (DSM&ndash5). These work groups generated hundreds of white papers, monographs, and journal articles, providing the field with a summary of the state of the science relevant to psychiatric diagnosis and letting it know where gaps existed in the current research, with hopes that more emphasis would be placed on research within those areas. In 2007, APA formed the DSM&ndash5 Task Force to begin revising the manual as well as 13 work groups focusing on various disorder areas. DSM&ndash5 was published in 2013.
Chapter 8. Quotations from Athanasius' 'Defense of his Flight.'
On this occasion Athanasius read to those present the Defense which he had composed some time before in justification of his flight a few passages from which it may be of service to introduce here, leaving the entire production, which is too long to be transcribed, to be sought out and perused by the studious. See the daring enormities of the impious persons! Such are their proceedings: and yet instead of blushing at their former clumsy intrigues against us, they even now abuse us for having effected our escape out of their murderous hands nay, are grievously vexed that they were unable to put us out of the way altogether. In short, they overlook the fact that while they pretend to upbraid us with 'cowardice,' they are really criminating themselves: for if it be disgraceful to flee, it is still more so to pursue, since the one is only endeavoring to avoid being murdered, while the other is seeking to commit the deed. But Scripture itself directs us to flee: Matthew 10:23 and those who persecute unto death, in attempting to violate the law, constrain us to have recourse to flight. They should rather, therefore, be ashamed of their persecution, than reproach us for having sought to escape from it: let them cease to harass, and those who flee will also cease. Nevertheless they set no bounds to their malevolence, using every art to entrap us, in the consciousness that the flight of the persecuted is the strongest condemnation of the persecutor: for no one runs away from a mild and beneficent person, but from one who is of a barbarous and cruel disposition. Hence it was that 'Every one that was discontented and in debt' fled from Saul to David. Wherefore these [foes of ours] in like manner desire to kill such as conceal themselves, that no evidence may exist to convict them of their wickedness. But in this also these misguided men most egregiously deceive themselves: for the more obvious the effort to elude them, the more manifestly will their deliberate slaughters and exiles be exposed. If they act the part of assassins, the voice of the blood which is shed will cry against them the louder: and if they condemn to banishment, they will raise so everywhere living monuments of their own injustice and oppression. Surely unless their intellects were unsound they would perceive the dilemma in which their own counsels entangle them. But since they have lost sound judgment, their folly is exposed when they vanish, and when they seek to stay they do not see their wickedness. But if they reproach those who succeed in secreting themselves from the malice of their bloodthirsty adversaries, and revile such as flee from their persecutors, what will they say to Jacob's retreat from the rage of his brother Esau, Genesis xxviii and to Moses Exodus 2:15 retiring into the land of Midian for fear of Pharaoh? And what apology will these babblers make for David's 1 Samuel 19:12 flight from Saul, when he sent messengers from his own house to dispatch him and for his concealment in a cave, after contriving to extricate himself from the treacherous designs of Abimelech, by feigning madness? What will these reckless asserters of whatever suits their purpose answer, when they are reminded of the great prophet Elijah, 1 Kings 19:3 who by calling upon God had recalled the dead to life, hiding himself from dread of Ahab, and fleeing on account of Jezebel's menaces? At which time the sons of the prophets also, being sought for in order to be slain, withdrew, and were concealed in caves by Obadiah 1 Kings 18:4 or are they unacquainted with these instances because of their antiquity? Have they forgotten also what is recorded in the Gospel, that the disciples retreated and hid themselves for fear of the Jews? Matthew 26:56 Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 when sought for by the governor [of Damascus] 'was let down from the wall in a basket, and thus escaped the hands of him that sought him.' Since then Scripture relates these circumstances concerning the saints, what excuse can they fabricate for their temerity? If they charge us with 'cowardice,' it is in utter insensibility to the condemnation it pronounces on themselves. If they asperse these holy men by asserting that they acted contrary to the will of God, they demonstrate their ignorance of Scripture. For it was commanded in the Law that 'cities of refuge' should be constituted, Numbers 35:11 by which provision was made that such as were pursued in order to be put to death might have means afforded of preserving themselves. Again in the consummation of the ages, when the Word of the Father, who had before spoken by Moses, came himself to the earth, he gave this express injunction, 'When they persecute you in one city, flee unto another:' Matthew 10:23 and shortly after, 'When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (let whosoever reads, understand), then let those in Judea flee unto the mountains: let him that is on the house-top not come down to take anything out of his house nor him that is in the fields return to take his clothes.' Matthew 24:15-18 The saints therefore knowing these precepts, had such a sort of training for their action: for what the Lord then commanded, he had before his coming in the flesh already spoken of by his servants. And this is a universal rule for man, leading to perfection, 'to practice whatever God has enjoined.' On this account the Word himself, becoming incarnate for our sake, deigned to conceal himself when he was sought for John 8:59 and being again persecuted, condescended to withdraw to avoid the conspiracy against him. For thus it became him, by hungering and thirsting and suffering other afflictions, to demonstrate that he was indeed made man. For at the very commencement, as soon as he was born, he gave this direction by an angel to Joseph: 'Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, for Herod will seek the infant's life.' And after Herod's death, it appears that for fear of his son Archelaus he retired to Nazareth. Subsequently, when he gave unquestionable evidence of his Divine character by healing the withered hand, 'when the Pharisees took council how they might destroy him, Matthew 12:14-15 Jesus knowing their wickedness withdrew himself thence.' Moreover, when he had raised Lazarus from the dead, and they had become still more intent on destroying him, [we are told that] 'Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews, John 11:53-54 but retired into a region on the borders of the desert.' Again when the Saviour said, 'Before Abraham was, I am' John 8:58 and the Jews took up stones to cast at him Jesus concealed himself, and going through the midst of them out of the Temple, went away thence, and so escaped. Since then they see these things, or rather understand them, (for they will not see,) are they not deserving of being burnt with fire, according to what is written, for acting and speaking so plainly contrary to all that the Lord did and taught? Finally, when John had suffered martyrdom, and his disciples had buried his body, Jesus having heard what was done, departed thence by ship into a desert place apart. Matthew 14:12-13 Now the Lord did these things and so taught. But would that these men of whom I speak, had the modesty to confine their rashness to men only, without daring to be guilty of such madness as to accuse the Saviour himself of 'cowardice' especially after having already uttered blasphemies against him. But even if they be insane they will not be tolerated and their ignorance of the gospels be detected by every one. The cause for retreat and flight under such circumstances as these is reasonable and valid, of which the evangelists have afforded us precedents in the conduct of our Saviour himself: from which it may be inferred that the saints have always been justly influenced by the same principle, since whatever is recorded of him as man, is applicable to mankind in general. For he took on himself our nature, and exhibited in himself the affections of our infirmity, which John has thus indicated: 'Then they sought to take him but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.' John 7:30 Moreover, before that hour came, he himself said to his mother, 'Mine hour is not yet come' and to those who were denominated his brethren, 'My time is not yet come.' Again when the time had arrived, he said to his disciples, 'Sleep on now, and take your rest: for behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners.' Matthew 26:45 . So that he neither permitted himself to be apprehended before the time came nor when the time had come did he conceal himself, but voluntarily gave himself up to those who had conspired against him. . Thus also the blessed martyrs have guarded themselves in times of persecution: being persecuted they fled, and kept themselves concealed but being discovered they suffered martyrdom.
Such is the reasoning of Athanasius in his apology for his own flight.
The rich history of the Epic of Gilgamesh puts its legacy beyond that of a simple archaeological artefact. Yes, the epic has its fair share of bizarre twists and rather unusual theories on the creation of the universe. It has also been retold and reshaped countless times which might have significantly altered the original storyline. Despite all this, the tale of the epic remains mesmerizing, be that in terms of the monumental adventure Gilgamesh sets out on or in terms of the powerful message the epic delivers to its readers.