SIMILARITIES BETWEEN SUMER
AND THE BIBLE
1. The Creation of the World according to writings’ of Sumer
AN shared the universe between two of its sons : NUDIMMUD the god of the sky, and ENLIL his favorite son, who received the supreme authority after that of his Father AN.
He reigned over his kingdom that the Sumerians compared to a high mountain… On the mountain of the Sky and the Earth (still one), AN created ANUNNAKI = the Assembly of the great gods.
There was at the beginning ” the infinite primordial Ocean”, it is from this infinite Original Sea that the sky and the Earth were born. At the beginning the ground was dispersed in the universe then it was separated under the combined action of AN and his son ENLIL , as was written in an epoque of time by unknown Sumerian poet:
ENLIL, tea Lord who decided to produce what is useful
ENLIL, tea Lord whose decisions are immutable,
imagined the separate Sky from the Earth
When the Sky had been placed far away from the Earth (Ki)
When Earth tea had been separated from Sky tea
When the name of Man had been found,
When AN had brought down the Sky
When ENLIL had gathered the ground…
ENLIL germinated the ground with the seed of the country…
Then An created the other gods, who at the beginning, were obliged to work for their food. One day AMMOU, the goddess-mother of fresh water, asked her son ENKI to create humanity so that by their work, they could bring food to the gods as offerings and sacrifices. Enki, the god of fresh water, without which any harvest was impossible, made the first men with clay. But Enki had to deal with the pride of his wife ” the goddess NINHOURSAG, ” usually known as the goddess of fertility! Let us note in passing: the Earth was created from the Cosmos, and man was made of clay using the power of the god of… water!
Goddess NINHOURSAG claimed after the creation of human beings that she was capable of destroying the work of her husband. ENKI prevented this, but he could not remove her power to create monsters, giants or defomed human beings .
It is surprising to note this TRIAD of the three basic divinities ” AN + ENLIL and ENKI ” joined as a symbol of a protective Trinity of human life. ENLIL and ENKI had the same mission on Earth and wanted to marry the same goddess. Capricious by nature, they are like twin brothers resulting from the same cell and who are so similar as to be easily mistaken for each other.
In reality, they were one and the same divinity, both having the same prefix EN = Lord, king, and high priest, and since the dawn of time legends and exploits were attributed to them according to each city, each one regarding one of them as their god, and their mythology as a personal blessing.
Moreover it is not surprising to note that each city, (like most of the towns of predynastic Egypt) , chose its own protective god:
The Moon god Nanna at UR / Zabada at KISH / Shara at Umma / Ningursu at GIRSU / Ensi at UMMA / Enlil at Nippur…
Men and Women had been made according to the image of the gods… The gods were immortal and endowed with a considerable powers. It was even said that they had supernatural power and that it released a kind of luminous radiation, a magnificent light which made mortals both afraid and respectful…
The whole city belonged to the god, including the fields and the communal parts of the cities. The faithful brought him food at the temple , and the high priest received it on his behalf.
As a ritual, (as at Thebes), at the temple of Ur, each year the high priestess representing Inanna married a local king to symbolize the union of the king-shepherd Dumuzi and Inanna the goddess of love.
2. The Babylonian version of the Creation of the World
At the period known as archaic, the relationship between the gods and men was friendly, peaceful, almost familial, but this spirit based on respect and justice evolved and degenerated under the pressure of various foreign invaders who devastated the country.
On seven tablets the history of the Creation of man was written (during the reign of Nabuchadnesor 1st , who reigned in Babylon from 1124 to 1103BC). Between his reign and that of Nabuchadnesor II we read the names of ten other kings of Babylon who had incorporated in their names that of Marduk, god of war:
(Marduk apal-iddina (c.1173 to 1161BC).
(Marduk-kabit-ahhêshu (c.1156 to 1139BC) and
(Itti Marduk-balatu (ruled c.1139 to 1130BC) etc…
Thus, the beneficient god Enlil had become a divinity of the second rank, and the vindictive warlike god MARDUK, (represented by the divine king of Babylon), became the supreme god of the Mesopotamian Pantheon , worshiped by a violent people, who enslaved all the people who refused to pay the tribute s.
This is how the poem of Creation started :
In the beginning there was a couple Lahmou and Lahamou , who emerged from the primordial slime.
They created an assembly of gods who were so unruly that Abzou and TIAMAT, the female dragon, could not stand the noise any more. War in the skies was inevitable! Ea the god of fresh water managed to put Abzou to sleep before it began.
Then EA, with his wife Daminka , created a son of strange temperament and remarkable power, called Mardouk;
four were his eyes, four his ears,
his stature was so large that one could not imagine it,
his legs were gigantic, and from his mouth came
a blazing fire when he moved his lips!
Then to overcome Tiamat, the council of the divine Senate gathered its forces to send them to Mardouk. Then the son of Ea took his chariot to destroy the terrible dragon TIAMAT with all her army of snakes and monsters, created by her and her husband KINGOU!
The dragon swallowed Mardouk, and this one caused a storm so terrible that the monster could not close its mouth again. Mardouk took this opportunity to kill it with an arrow to the stomach, and got rid of the other monsters by petrifying them into stone statues and giving them to his father EA to decorate the gardens of his temple!
Mardouk stripped Kingou of the tablets of destiny (received as gifts at his wedding to his late wife) and started to build the world from the skin of Tiamat! He smashed her canium to pieces , and by separating her body gave birth to the sky and the earth. He gauged out the eyes of the dragon, and two rivers gushed out: the Euphrates and the Tigris. This was like a Thriller movie!
The Kingou god was condemned to death by his cohorts, and from his corpse: the first men were made. They would be from now on the slaves of the gods! This shows the aggressiveness, destruction and control which was to lead to terrible warfare, where one had to conquer or submit in order to survive…
All things considered these things assimilate perfectly with the cruel mentality of the Hittite invaders of Moursil 1st, who took Babylon in 1595BC. This country was not to find peace until 539BC, the date of the taking of Babylon by the Persian king Cyrus II. Between these two dates Assyria and Babylon lived through a millenium of cruel times.
3. ADAPA: the first MAN on the Earth
(According to an old Babylonien myth)
One cannot help noticing that the letters of the two names ADAM and PAPA give the name ADAPA, who is quoted as being the priest of Ea, the god of wisdom and magic. The Babylonian counterpart of the Sumerian god ENKI, ADAPA is identified as one of the first seven men of Creation; and he invented the word and civilization.
One day while fishing, the wind rose so violently that his boat was overturned. Fallen into the water, he nearly drowned, and in his fury he pronounced a curse which cut off the wings of the god SHUTU who lost the power to breathe !
Meeting the god ANOU (AN) in the sky he refused the drink which gave immortality. ANOU condemned him to return to Earth and share the life of the other mortals. He became king of Eridou and died like all human beings. This return to earth makes one think of Adam, who was punished because of a mistake, instead of being immortal and living in happiness.
4. The story of the Mesopotamian flood
The story of the universal flood started around 8,975BC, but the history of the tower of Babel was only built during the reign of Hammurabi, (around 1780BC, well after the period of the Patriarchs).
However when one looks at the geography, is it is more than probable that there was not only one flood in Mesopotamia, but several which over time destroyed several cities, especially in the plain of Ur where the Tigris and Euphrates overflowed their banks, carrying all that was in their way.
Archaeological excavation and examination of the sediments of Kisch, Ur and the city of Shuruppak (which was literally stripped from the map in -2900BC) have revealed that this was the last significant f lood, (unless the destruction was done by hordes of invaders attracted or driven out by this cataclysm ?)
The rivers Euphrates and Tigris changed their courses, in places by 30 km towards the west. With regard to this flood, we have three stories, which are identical in essence, but differ in the names and in the forms according to the sources of the tablets:
1. Sumerian origin.
2. Babylonian origin.
3. Ninevian origin.
1. In that time five cities existed before the flood (according to the tablets) :
- Eridu where the god Nudimmud was in charge.
- Bad-tibira (the name is on a lost piece of the tablet)
- Larak entrusted to the god Endurbilhrsag by AN.
- Sippar entrusted by AN to the god-hero Utu.
- and ” Shurupak ” whose protective god was the god of the South.
The assembly of the gods having decided to destroy mankind, the god Utu informed ZIUSUDRA, (a king and a priest), that a terrible flood was going to cover the country and that he was to build a gigantic boat.
The flood lasted seven days and seven nights,
When it had left,
Utu came out, he who gives light to the sky and on the ground.
Utu the immortal hero, sent his rays into the gigantic boat.
Ziusudra prostrated himself before Utu and immolated an ox and a sheep…
Later AN and Enlil would receive the homage of Ziusudra, who received the life-giving breath (immortality), and lived in the Paradise of Dilmun, where the sun rises.
2. The legend of Atrahasis is very close to the preceding one excepting that the god EA recommends to our Babylonian Noah birth control, sterility, and celibacy to fight against infant mortality and ” overpopulation “! Then it added:
- ” The established priestesses ugbatu , entu and igisitu (nuns dedicated to celibacy) would be taboo, and this would reduce the number of births! “
In this case, it seems that the gods used a flood to slow down demographic expansion and to encourage women to join the priesthood or monastic life!
3. According to the Ninevian tablets of the Assyriologist George Smith, who worked in the British Museum, UTANAPISHTIM, the son of Ubar Tutu was informed by the god of reeds, EA, of the decision of the gods to cleanse the earth by a flood. Our Noah de Nineveh then built an enormous vessel with seven decks to shelter his family , their workmen and domestic and wild animals.
At the end of six days and six nights of cloudburst the storm stopped. One week later, our Patriarch released a dove and a swallow, which both returned. Some time afterwards, he released a raven, which did not return. Utanapishtim came out and offered sacrifices of cereals to the gods who were reconciled with him, and offered him immortality, (the raven and the dove are also mentioned in Genesis.)
Such are the three known versions of the history of the Mesopotamian flood .
5. HISTORY OF ABRAHAM ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE
The family of Abram (the future Abraham) :
The Bible says to us that Abram lived his childhood with UR in Chaldée, it is thus extremely probable that the Terach family, which bred herds , knew UR at the time of its splendour, (around 2030BC).
His father was called TERACH, and he had three sons: HARAN, (dead at Ur, and father of three children), NACHOR and ABRAM.
We know that the town of UR was destroyed in 2004BC, and that a great famine preceded its destruction by the Elamites, so it is probable that all the family of Abram emigrated towards the north of Syria before the destruction of the royal city.
Is this because of the famine or a divine warning? Anyway, the patriarch TERACH left for Syria with all his family, including: Abram and his wife Sarah, Nachor and his wife Milca (the daughter of the late Haran and thus also the niece of Nachor), as well as LOTH and Jisca the brother and sister of Milca.
This small tribe is then settled at ” HARRANU ” – a small town in Syria located on the Balik (a tributary of the Euphrates), a city which the Bible was to name Charan,and it was there that Terach died. Usually there is sharing of the heritage of the dead amongst the extended family:
Nachor received the first share, and Abram and his godson Loth accepted the remaining part, which they shared equally later.
It is necessary to add to these two families a third mentioned by the Bible, that of Eliezer (Genesis 15-3), probably a cousin living at Damas, that Abram mentions to God as being his heir .
Abram was a man of truth and sensitivity, full of ideals, devoted to justice and peace. He dreamed of vast lands, and a family blessed by God with many descendents.
At this time God spoke to him again, calling him “Abraham”, and asked him to go, with his cousin LOTH, to Canaan, where the pastures were fertile. It was close by, and populated by the Canaanites and at that time, Abraham made a pact with his God, who promised to protect him, give him material prosperity and made a prediction which surprised him: that he would have descendents as numerous as the stars in the sky…
And the Bible tells two identical episodes concerning Sarah the half-sister and wife of Abraham, who was taken initially by Pharaon (12-10) who wanted her in his harem, and then by Abimelec, king of the city of Guerar (20-01). Twice God intervened in dreams, threatening the kidnappers if they did not release Sarah!
Then God, in ” human form”, in the company of two angels also in human form, visited Abraham.
( Nothing is impossible to God, and if our dreams seem difficult for us to believe, God can take on human appearance to prove to his listener that he did not dream.) The God of Creation exists in any form that he wishes, in the same way that Vishnu can disguise himself to remain anonymous !
ISAAC and ISHMAEL : brothers or enemies ?
The history of Ishmael and Isaac could have remained a story of family heritage like so many others. It all started with the jealousy between an older woman, (Sarah) who could no longer have children, and very young and pretty maidservant… It should not be forgotten that at that time any wife or daughter of the head of the tribe had one or more maidservants, whose Master could have as concubines. Thus when Jacob married the two daughters of Laban: Leah and Rachel, they took along with them their two maidservants Bilha and Zilpa, who both gave Jacob two children. However Jacob loved all his children, whether they were born to his official wives or to the two maidservants…
Sarah finally gave birth to Isaac, but she did not have the noble-heartedness of her husband! She demanded that the maidservant and the first-born of Abraham be made outcasts, for fear that her child would not be able to assert its right of seniority as heir. Although God did not want to upset Sarah, he proclaimed that a lineage would be born from both the children.
And the Bible says that God wanted to the test the faith of Abraham towards his God. After having driven out Ishmael and his mother, Abraham felt that his God wanted him to sacrifice his last child, all that remained to him after the departure of his older son Ishmael!
It should not be forgotten that the sacrifice of children was not all that unusual, particularly in Phoenicia and Canaan, where one offered one’s first born to the god Moloch ; moreover the Bible mentions the sacrifice of children a thousand years later in Israel. (This was later transformed into the sacrifice of animals). Jesus as first-born was repurchased to satisfy this tradition at the temple with two doves, (the symbolic offering of the poor).
But God does not like animal sacrifices and even less those of children. Abraham was relieved to see that God did not allow this cruel sacrifice.
When God wanted it, Sarah fell asleep in the arms of Abraham, who buried her in Hebron, the place which would become for posterity the tomb of the Patriarchs, the place where all religions could gather to pray.
At this point in time Abraham sent his servant to Laban, the grandson of Nachor, who was established north of the Euphrates. This servant left with a caravan of ten camels to win from Laban the hand of Rebecca, who was intended for Isaac . Rebecca accepted the tent of Sarah and comforted Isaac on the loss of his mother.
The Koran says to us that Abraham often returned visit to his son Ishmael , especially after the death of Sarah. Together they were to find the great black stone of Mecca, which would become the great center of pilgrimage for all Moslems to visit at least once in their life.
The Bible says that Ishmael and all the males of the House of Abraham were circumcised as a sign of the Alliance that God made with Abraham and his descendents. Ishmael was thirteen years old and Abraham was then 99 years old (!) at the time of his circumcision. This tradition was practised already in Egypt about 2400 BC, since texts representing this symbolic ritual were found among the Texts of the Pyramids.
Let us not forget that Abraham lived in Egypt at a time not specified by the Bible, and that he certainly learned many things concerning the resurrection of the soul, and the worship of the One invisible God, as the Egyptians already had done for 800 years! However the arrival of Abraham in Egypt coincides with the first Intermediate Period, that is the end of the period of the pyramids. It is interesting to note when the ideas of individual conscience and humanitarian principles existed in these two countries : Mesopotamia and Egypt, as well as the concept of spiritual rebirth– a life after death.
We see also that the father of the Hebrew people received his message which speaks of descendents as many as the stars of the sky, and which pertains to “all the nations of the Earth”. Basically, Abraham is continuing and prolonging the doctrines of IMHOTEP. Definitely the ways of Divine Providence are multiple and impenetrable!
But by looking at the fantastic ballet of the stars which turn unceasingly in the universe of the galaxies, one realizes that in spite of our seeming insignificance, God does not leave anything to chance, even down to the smallest detail…
Finally, in chapter 25 of Genesis, Abraham falls asleep in the arms of Isaac and Ishmael, joined together at his bedside. His two sons, now united, buried their father in the tomb of Hebron beside Sarah.