The Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis
THE FLOOD AND THE SABBATH

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.\

It will be argued in this brief article that Genesis' Garden of Eden and its concept of a resting God setting aside a seventh day as a Sabbath rest day is derived  -in part-  from the Epic of Gilgamesh and to a degree, the Atrahasis Flood Story.

Professor Blenkinsopp (of Notre Dame University) on Atrahasis and Gilgamesh motifs in Genesis:

"...just as Genesis 1-11 as a whole corresponds to the structure of the Atrahasis myth, so the garden of Eden story has incorporated many of the themes of the great Gilgamesh poem." (pp. 65-6. "Human Origins, Genesis 1:1-11:26."  Joseph Blenkinsopp. The Pentateuch, An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible. New York. Doubleday. 1992. ISBN 0-385-41207-X)

Professor Clay, an Assyriologist,  in 1923 argued that scholars were _wrong_ in assuming the Hebrew Shabbat or Sabbath was related to and derived from the Mesopotamian shapattu (Emphasis mine in CAPITALS):

"For years it was held that the Hebrew Sabbath was borrowed from Babylonia; that it had its roots in the Babylonian shapattu or shabattu, to which we have been told we owe the blessings of that day; for "the Sabbath-rest, was essentially of Babylonian origin." It is even held that "the word Sabbath is Babylonian indeed."

This view has been accepted by many scholars...Let us here inquire upon what basis does the assertion rest that the Hebrew Sabbath is of Babylonian origin.

In the first place there was found in a Babylonian dictionary, or explanatory list of rare words, this formula: um nukh libbi= sha=pat-tum (or sha-bat-tum). This was translated "shabattu was the day of rest of the heart," literally "a day of rest." The word shabatu was also found in an explanatory list of rare words, but the meaning given for it, namely, gamaru, "to be full, complete" did not seem at the time to be suitable for the assertions that had been made.

The word shabattu, for which there is no etymology in Semitic Babylonian, was said to have been derived by the native lexicographers from the Sumerian sa "heart," and bat "to cease" or "rest"; it was literally translated "heart rest." (p. 117. "The Hebrew Sabbath." Albert T. Clay. The Origin of Biblical Traditions: Hebrew Legends in Babylonia and Israel. New Haven. Yale University Press. 1923)

"Somewhat  later it was shown that the expression nukh libbi, which occurs frequently in the lamentation hymns, did not mean "rest of the heart," but referred to the PACIFICATION of the gods; and the expression was then translated "day of the APPEASEMENT of the heart."

In 1904, Doctor Pinches discovered in a tablet giving the designation of the days of the month, that the 15th day was called shapatti when it became clear that the word shabatu, explained by gamaru, meaning "to be complete, full," apparently referred to the full moon in the middle of the month.

This new light upon the subject required a readjustment of the proof that has been advanced for the Babylonian origin of the Sabbath. However, this was promptly accomplished, and the same conclusion reached, even "that the word Sabbath is Babylonian indeed."

In this contention I cannot acqiesce. THERE IS NO ROOT IN BABYLONIAN, as already intimated, equivalent to the common _Hebrew shabat "_TO CUT OFF, DESIST, PUT AN END TO_".  With the knowledge of its extended usage throughout the Old Testament, and knowing how thoroughly the institutions and the life of Israel were bound up with this day, TO ME IT HAS BEEN INCONCEIVABLE  how Assyriologists could make themselves believe, on the basis of the data given above, that this institution and this word were borrowed from Babylonia." (pp. 118-119. Clay)

"There have already been published hundreds of hymns from Babylonia, and hundreds of ritual texts. The mass of this kind of literature is ten times greater than that found in the Old Testament. We have also a large body of laws from the early and late periods. In these, as well as in the mass of other texts, besides what is referred to above, there is not a semblance of an idea corresponding to the Hebrew Sabbath, nor any reference to the word (i.e., shabbat, not shapattu or shabattu)."

"Whether in view of the fact that the "new moon" and the Sabbath in the Old Testament, stand in juxtaposition in so many passages the Sabbath was originally the day of the "full moon," i.e.,  the fifteenth day of the month, need not concern us here." (p. 122. Clay)

The on-line Wikiepedia notes on the Shabbat/Sabbath that the word connotates CEASING rather than "resting" (Emphasis mine) :

"The Hebrew word Shabbat comes from the Hebrew verb shabat, which literally means "TO CEASE", in the sense of ceasing from doing something. Although Shabbat or its anglicized version "Sabbath" is almost universally translated as "rest" or a "period of rest", a more literal translation would be "CEASING", with the implication of "CEASING from work". Thus, Shabbat is the day of CEASING from work; while resting is implied, it is not a necessary connotation of the word itself.

Incidentally, this clarifies the often-asked theological question of why God needed to "rest" on the seventh day of creation, as related in the Genesis account. When it is understood that God "CEASED" from his labour rather than "rested" from his labour, the usage is more consistent with the Biblical view of an omnipotent God who does not need "rest". Notwithstanding this clarification, this article will follow the far more common translation of Shabbat as "rest".

Shabbat is the basis of the English words "sabbath" and "sabbatical". (A common linguistic confusion leads many to believe that the word means "seventh day". Though the root for seven, or sheva' , is similar in sound, it is spelled differently."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shabbat)

Please note the concept of "CEASING, CUTTING OFF, PUTTING AN END TO" in the Epic of Gilgamesh's Flood account (Emphasis mine) :

Heidel:

Six days and [six] nights the wind blew, the downpour, the tempest, (and) the flo[od] overwhelmed the land. WHEN THE SEVENTH DAY ARRIVED, the tempest, the flood, which had fought like an army, _SUBSIDED_ in (its) onslaught. The sea grew quiet, the storm abated, the flood _CEASED_. I opened a window, and light fell upon my face. I looked upon the sea, (all) was silence, and all mankind had turned to clay...I bowed, sat down and wept, my tears running down over my face." (pp. 85-86. "The Gilgamesh Epic." Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels: A translation and interpretation of the Gilgamesh Epic and related Babylonian and Assyrian documents. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949, reprint 1993. Paperback. ISBN 0-226-32398-6)

Pinches:

"Six days and nights the wind blew, and the deluge and flood overwhelmed the land. The SEVENTH DAY, when it came, the storm _CEASED_, the raging flood, which had contended like a whirlwind, quieted, the sea shrank back, and the evil wind and deluge _ENDED_." (pp.105-108. "The Flood." Theophilus G. Pinches. The Old Testament In the Light of the Historical Records and Legend of Assyria and Babylonia. London. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.1908)

Thus, on the 7th day of the Flood, the gods CEASED their DESTRUCTION OF THE EARTH; on the 7th day the gods CEASED their annihilation of Mankind. Thus the Hebrew's concept of God's CEASING his labor IN CREATING the earth, on the 7th day, I understand as an _INVERSION_ of the Mesopotamian gods' CEASING IN THEIR LABORS IN DESTROYING THE EARTH in six days and nights, the actual CEASING occuring on the 7th day. Both the Mesopotamian godS and a Hebrew GoD _CEASE_ "their labors" on the earth, the former in DESTROYING IT, the latter in CREATING IT. The gods on the 7th day not only CEASE their destruction, they REST now, and man, in the form of the Flood survivor Utnapishtim and family on the ark _also_ get a "REST" from the turmoil that previously assaulted them. The god's angry, grieved hearts are also on the 7th day APPEASED or PACIFIED, because man who disturbed their rest with his noise is gone. They are also APPEASED AND PACIFIED when the Flood's survivor, Utnapishtim makes a sacrifice of food and drink, which they eagerly consume, having gone without their daily food rations in temple offerings offered up to them by man, during the Flood.

"In a nutshell," I understand that the Hebrew Shabbat (English: Sabbath) is an "_INVERSION_" of events, as well as religious motifs, and concepts regarding mankinds' relationship with the Gods, appearing in the Mesopotamian Flood Myth preserved in the Epic of Gilgamesh as well as the Atrahasis Epic.

In that account, murderous gods in 6 days and nights set out to destroy the earth and all that dwells upon it in order to annihilate all of mankind. On the 7th day the Flood waters abated, the rain and storm ended and man was gone. Now, on the 7th day, the Sebittu day, ALL the gods "rested", for they could not rest by day nor sleep by night because of mankind's noise on the earth. I am proposing here that a Hebrew savant, took the 6 days of destruction of the earth, man's demise being accomplished on the 6th day, and transformed it into a new story via an "INVERSION", of a merciful, loving caring God who in 6 days and nights labored to create a wonderous earth for man, his pinnacle of creation, whom he made on the 6th day vs. the destruction of of mankind on the 6th day in the Mesopotamian myth. The 7th day, when ALL the gods rested after man's annihilation, became a day for only ONE God  to rest upon.

The Hebrew Bible suggests that the Sabbath or 7th day was not only God's rest day, it was intended by God to be a rest day for mankind, personified in ALL of Israel. I "suspect" that the notion of the god-ordained rest day for man is  -in part-  derived from certain motifs associated with the Flood myths found in the epics of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis.

The Atrahasis Flood myth noted that "the reason for the Flood" was mankind's incessant noise or clamor which disturbed the Gods' ability to rest by day and sleep by night. This myth also explained that the reason for man's clamor was that he was given NO REST FROM HIS GOD IMPOSED toil on the earth. Man had been created to grow and harvest food for the gods, then he was to feed them this food via temple sacrifices. These gods refused to give mankind any rest from this toil. Instead of giving man some rest from agricultural toil, they decided to eliminate his clamor by annihilating ALL of mankind with a Flood !  I thus understand that a Hebrew savant took this Mesopotamian concept, and via an INVERSION, created a God WHO WOULD GIVE MAN A REST from his toil.

Some may be aware that a few scholars in their search for "the pre-biblical origins" of the Sabbath (Hebrew: Shabbat) have proposed that it might be related to the Mesopotamian Shapattu Day, the 15th day of the Lunar month, the day of the Full Moon. This article does not cover this topic. It is addressed however in another of my articles. If this subject interests you please click here  for the "Shabbat = Shapattu Controversy".

In the Hebrew Bible the "first mention" of the Sabbath (Hebrew Shabbat) _by name_ occurs in the book of Exodus (16:23, 25, 26 29; 20:8,10,11; 31:14,15,16; 35:2,3) when Moses introduces the concept to Israel while wandering the Sinai wilderness.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story about a man's unsuccessful search for immortality. It exists in various recensions from between the 21st to 6th centuries BCE. A clay tablet fragment written in Akkadian (Babylonian) has been found at Megiddo in Palestine dated to the 15th century BCE.

The key to unlocking the mystery of the Sabbath has been provided by W.G. Lambert who made the following observation:

"The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas."

(p.107, Wilfred G. Lambert, "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis," [1965], in Richard S. Hess & David T. Tsumra, Editors, I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood. Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994)

I understand that Genesis' Garden of Eden and the Sabbath itself are the result of "new combinations of old themes and new twists to old ideas," to paraphrase Lambert's penetrating observation. Both themes are found in the Epic of Gilagmesh but in a different format and with a different sequence of events.

First, the Garden of Eden:

In the Gilgamesh story a paradise on earth is set aside for the hero and his wife of the flood myth, called Utnapishtim. Many scholars have noted that Noah appears to be drawn from Utnapishtim with some modifications. I understand that Utnaspishtim and his wife are  -in part-  also one of the sources for the characters Adam and Eve. Utnapishtim and wife are placed in an earthly paradise by the Gods, just as Adam and Eve are in an earthly paradise. Neither couple have to do any back-breaking toil. In both stories, Utnapishtim and Adam are associated with a theme of man's having some kind of knowledge of how to go about obtaining immortality. Adam looses out in his bid, while Utnapishtim's immortality has been assured because of his faithfulness.

Utnapishtim is famous for his wisdom for only he knows the secret of how to attain immortality, a similar theme exists about Adam's involvement with attaining wisdom. Gilgamesh seeks out Utnapishtim because his wisdom will lead, he hopes, to an acquisition of immortality. Please click here for a picture of Gilgamesh and his companion Enkidu from the Old Babylonian Period.

The various names given to the Sumerian or Babylonian "Noah" suggest to me, themes related to Adam who lived faraway in the East in a Garden of Eden and who sought a long life and immortality which were granted the Babylonian character, who also lived faraway in the East, at Dilmun, a paradise of sorts.

The Babylonian Noah's name appears in the following historical sequence from the ancient texts, first as Ziusudra (Sumerian), then Atra-hasis, Ut-napishtim, and finally Xisuthros (the Greek rendering of Ziusudra).

Dr. Robert Whiting has noted that Zi-u-sud-ra means "Life of Distant Days," alluding to his obtaining immortality. Atrahasis means "Very Intelligent," he being famed for his wisdom. Utnapishtim appears to be a form of Ziusudra "He Found Life ?" (napishtim = life ?), alluding to his obtaining immortality. Xisuthros is the Greek rendering of Ziusudra by the Babylonian historian, Berossos (My thanks to Dr. Robert Whiting for his observations on these names).

There are, of course, modifications and transformations at work in the later Hebrew retelling of this story. Paradise was set aside for man after the flood in the Gilgamesh scenario, whereas it was set aside before the flood in Genesis. I attribute this rearrangement to putting "a new twist on an old story." Both stories then, have a man and wife placed in an earthly paradise by a god, and they are associated with possessing wisdom about how to obtain immortality.

A serpent, responsible for depriving Gilgamesh of an herb that will restore him to youthful vigor, has a "new twist," a serpent associated with a fruit who deprives Adam of immortality.

Now, The Sabbath:

The Sabbath and its paradise motif in the Genesis story appear before the flood. In the Gilgamesh scenario, the earthly paradise and accompanying Sabbath or resting day of the gods, occurs only after all mankind has been destroyed (with the exception of those on Utnapishtim's boat) with the flood. We are told that the flood in its fury fought mankind like an army at war, the raging waves and pouring rains and lightning all ended on the seventh day of the flood; we are told that on the seventh day the waters became calm, the sun came out, the earth was in stillness, peace and quiet reigned over the earth, for man had been swept from off the face of the earth and drowned in the flood, because his "noise" had disturbed the god's rest ! The gods could not rest by day nor sleep by night because of man's noise, according to the myths (Gilgamesh and Atrahasis).

"Six days and nights the wind blew, and the deluge and flood overwhelmed the land. THE SEVENTH DAY, when it came, the storm ceased, the raging flood, which had contended like a whirlwind, quieted, the sea shrank back, and the evil wind and deluge ended. I noticed the sea making a noise, and all man had turned to corruption. Like palings the marsh reeds appeared I opened my window, and light fell upon my face, I fell back dazzled, I sat down, I wept, over my face flowed my tears." (p.105. "The Flood." Theophilus G. Pinches. The Old Testament In the Light of the Historical Records and Legend of Assyria and Babylonia. London. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1908)

I would argue that the seventh day of the flood which saw the demise of mankind, the calming of the flood waters, and the easing of the rage in the gods' hearts, was given a "new twist" and transformed into a gracious God who wants only man's well-being, and who is desirous of faithful worship.

Please note, the Sumerian story has the Babylonian Noah tearing down his house made of "marsh reeds" to make his boat from and he is a king of Shuruppak. Excavations at that city determined that its one and only flood deposit was freshwater laid (microscopic analysis being undertaken), causing the excavators to understand that the Flood was caused by the Euphrates river. Succeeding generations embellished the story till it was a flood destroying the whole world.

Exodus 35:2 ordered the execution of any who violated the Sabbath day- now we know the origin of the death penalty, it was because of man's fear of vengeful gods. Fear that the gods' who had destroyed mankind for violating their rest, would do so again with another flood. The Hebrew "new twist", had God assuring Noah that never again would he bring a flood to destroy man.

Hebrew Shabbat is sought in a cognate meaning "to cease or desist". On the seventh day the flood ceased. On the seventh day man ceased, on the seventh day the gods' desisted in their murderous rage and now achieved their rest.

I note that the word for 'seven' in Akkadian, i.e., Babylonian, is sebittu (p.162, "Seven," Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary, British Museum Press, University of Texas, Austin, 1992, ISBN: 0-292-70794-0 ). The flood calmed down on the "sebittu day", i.e., the seventh day, man was no more, and at long last with the arrival of the sebittu day, the Gods rested.

Pinches (1908) noted a clay tablet inscribed in Akkadian (Babylonian) as  um nuh libbi, "day of the rest of the heart"  and juxtaposed next to this was the word sapattum. He suggested that sapattum was possibly derived from Sumerian Sa-bat meaning "heart-rest."  (see p.527, sibitumeaning seventh, and Sa-bat meaning 'heart rest,' in Theophilus G. Pinches, The Old Testament, in Light of the Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia, London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1908, 3rd edition).

Today, scholars have determined that Pinches (1908) was in ERROR, _sapattum_ means "completion" and refers specifically to the 15th day of the lunar month, the day of the full-moon's "completion" (or maximum waxing).

They have accordingly noted that the Hebrew 7th day or _shabbat_ appears to have no direct relationship with the Mesopotamian 15th day of the lunar month.

To the degree that Hebrew shabbat is a cognate of "to cease", the Sabbath day was, then, the day God CEASED his work of Creation, of the earth and mankind. On the 7th day the gods' CEASED their destruction of the earth and of mankind.

I understand that God's 7th day of rest, is then derived from the 7th day when the gods rested after destroying mankind with a flood as noted in the Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis, it has no direct relationship with sapattum, the 15th day of the lunar month or day of the full moon.

The idea that a god needs to rest seems to be a rather odd notion according to the views held by some modern interpreters. God is generally understood to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and he never sleeps, and is always awake and aware of everything taking place in his created Universe.

The ancient Hebrews were not hatching up out of thin air, the notion that God needs to rest, they were merely following along in well-established Mesopotamian traditions that allowed succeeding generations to creatively re-interpret the ancient myths into new religious ideas.

Lambert has pointed out that his studies have indicated that the Mesopotamians were of a mind to re-interpret and transform older myths into newer religious concepts. It would appear that the Hebrews, Jews and Christians weren't doing anything new in their transformation of the earlier ancient myths:

"The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas. Sheer invention was not part of their craft." (p. 107, Wilfred G. Lambert, "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,: [1965], in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura, Eds., I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood, Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994)

Lambert's article (cf. above) was an attempt to account for the origins of motifs found in Genesis by his study of Ancient Near Eastern concepts. He noted that while the search for the origins of the Hebrew Sabbath is a still elusive "will of the wisp," traditions about gods needing to rest were verifiable:

"The sabbath has, of course, been the subject of much study, both in the institution and the name. My own position, briefly, is that the Hebrew term shabbat, meaning the completion of the week, and the Babylonian term shapattu, meaning the completion of the moon's waxing, that is the fifteenth day of a lunar month, are the same word...There is, however, another approach to the question. The Hebrews left two explanations of the Sabbath. The first is that of Genesis 1-2 and Exodus 20, that it repeats cyclically what God did in the original week of creation. The second, in Deuteronomy 5, regards it as a repeated memorial of the Hebrews' deliverance from Egypt. This divergence suggests that historically the institution is older than the explanations. On this assumption the use of the week as the framework of a creation account is understandable as providing divine sanction for the institution, but unexpected in that God's resting hardly expresses the unlimited might and power that are his usual attributes: "See, Israel's guardian neither slumbers nor sleeps." It is generally assumed that the use of the week as the framework of the account simply required that God rest on the seventh day. But there was no compulsion to have a week of creation at all. Furthermore, this implies that the development of the doctrine of God's rest came from, pure, deductive reasoning, which I doubt very much. The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas. Sheer invention was not part of their craft. Thus when the author tells us that God rested, I believe he drew on a tradition to this effect. Therefore in seeking parallels to the seventh day, one must look not only for comparable institutions, but also for the idea of deities resting.

Here Mesopotamia does not fail us. The standard Babylonian accounts of man's creation is not found in Enuma Elish, but in the Atra-hasis epic. An earlier form of this myth occurs in the Sumerian Enki and Ninmah. The essentials of the story are that the gods had to toil for their daily bread, and in response to urgent complaints man was created to serve the gods by providing them with food and drink. On the last point all the Mesopotamian accounts agree: man existed solely to serve the gods, and this was expressed practically in that all major deities at least had two meals set up before their statues each day. Accordingly, man's creation resulted in the god's resting, and the myths reach a climax at this point. Even in the Enuma Elish this is clear, despite much conflation. At the beginning of tablet VI Ea and Marduk confer on what is called "the resting of the gods," and thereupon man is created and the gods are declared free from toil. This common Mesopotamian tradition thus provides a close parallel to the sixth and seventh days of creation. Since the particular concept of the destiny of man goes back to the Sumerians, but is unparalleled in other parts of the ancient Near East, ultimate borrowing by the Hebrews seems very probable." (pp.106-107, Wilfred G. Lambert, "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis.")

Professor Andreasen (currently President of Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, a Seventh-day Adventist seminary) noted in 1972, that attempts to identify the pre-biblical origins of Sabbath had reached an impasse :

"The interest in extra-biblical origins of the Sabbath has now subsided. It is generally agreed that the seventh-day Sabbath is old, dating back to pre-monarchial, and undoubtedly to Mosaic times. Beyond this point scholars now proceed with a great deal of tentativeness. It is recognized that the various hypotheses regarding Sabbath origins have exhausted the available source material without providing any final conclusions. The origin and early history of the Sabbath thus continue to lie in the dark. This does not mean that the quest for the original Sabbath has been completely in vain, for it has provided illustrations of special days which demonstrate some similarity of the biblical seventh-day Sabbath, which may have influenced it, or even helped formulate it, but this latter process is unknown. It is not surpising, therefore, that Sabbath studies should shift their attention from the extra-biblical to the biblical sources, and that is precisely what has happened." (pp.8-9. Neils-Erik A. Andreasen. "The Old Testament Sabbath: A Tradition-Historical Investigation." Missoula, Montana. University of Montana, in the periodical,  Society of Biblical Literature. 1972)

Twenty years later in 1992, the late Gerhard F. Hasel (another Seventh-day Adventist scholar) made the following observations:

"The relationship between the noun shabbat and the Hebrew verb shabat, to stop, cease, keep (sabbath) in the Qal, "to disappear, be brought to a stop," in the Nip`al "to put to an end, bring to a stop," in the Hip`il, remains disputed. Scholars have argued that the noun derives from the verb or that the verb derives from the noun. While there is no conclusive answer, it seems certain that the noun shabbat cannot be derived from the Akkadian term shab/pattu(m). A possible connection of shabbat with the number "seven," has been left open. In this case the Akkadian feminine form sibbitim, "seventh," may be considered as an ancestor of the Hebrew noun shabbat, "sabbath," also a feminine form, which, if the relationship holds, may have originally meant "the seventh [day]." On this supposition "the seventh day" in Genesis 2:2-3 would receive further light." (p. 849. Vol 5. Gerhard F. Hasel, "Sabbath." David Noel Freedman. Editor. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York. Doubleday.1992)

After reviewing various scholarly proposals, Hasel concludes, echoing somewhat Andreasen's earlier observations :

In spite of extensive efforts of more than a century of study into extra-Israelite Sabbath origins, it is still shrouded in mystery. No hypothesis whether astrological, menological, sociological, etymological, or cultic commands the respect of a scholarly consensus. Each hypothesis or combination of hypotheses has insurmountable problems. The quest for the origin of the Sabbath outside of the Old Testament cannot be pronounced to have been successful. It is, therefore, not surprising that this quest has been pushed into the background of studies on the Sabbath in recent years." (ABD 5.851)

Hallo observed that Lambert saw a relationship between the Hebrew Shabbat and and the Babylonian Atrahasis story.

Hallo:

W.G. Lambert ...argues for an original seven-day creation in which the creation of man on the sixth day and God's rest on the seventh are counterparts to the creation of man so that the gods might rest from their labor in the Atrahasis epic; see "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis." Journal of Theological Studies vol. 16. 1965. p. 295 f." (p. 329. Footnote 50. William W. Hallo. "New Moons and Sabbaths." Frederick E. Greenspahn. Editor. Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East. New York. New York University Press. 1991)

As has been noted by other scholars, the motifs appearing in Genesis 1-9 are paralleled in Ancient Near Eastern myths in a somewhat different format. The Babylonian Enuma Elish mentions the creation of the heavens and earth by Marduk, and after their completion, the making of mankind, similar notions that exist in the same sequence of events in Genesis (Ge 1:1-27). Marduk made man to till the earth to provide food for the gods, Adam's job is to take care of the garden on God's behalf, both are then portrayed as engaged in agricultural pursuits of some sort.

As noted by Tsumura, Lambert does NOT share many of his colleagues' notion that the Babylonian "Creation Epic," the Enuma Elish, shares much with Genesis 1-11, he sees more compelling parallels in the Epic of Gilgamesh (I see borrowings from both Gilgamesh and Enuma Elish):

"According to Lambert, who is extremely careful with regard to the Mesopotamian influence on the Genesis Creation story and does not admit the Hebrew borrowing from the Babylonian "Creation" story, "Enuma Elish," too easily, "the flood remains the clearest case of dependence of Genesis on Mesopotamian legend. While flood stories as such do not have to be connected, the episode of the birds in Gen 8:2-12 is so close to the parallel passage in the XIth tablet of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic that no doubt exists." (p.53. David Toshio Tsumura. "Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction. pp. 27-57. Richard S. Hess & David Toshio Tsumura. Editors. "I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood", Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994. ISBN 0-931464-88-9)

Adam's experiences in Eden parallel themes in the Mesopotamian myth of Adapa and the South Wind, who loses a chance at immortality for failing to eat the food which would confer it on him. Utnapishtim and wife, placed in an earthly garden, at Dilmun, are immortal, one assumes the fruits in that garden sustains them, just as the gods must be sustained by food grown on the earth (according to the Mesopotamian myths).

The Bible notes that the purposes of the sacrifices and burnt offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem are for the purpose of feeding God (Ezekiel 44:7, "..when you offer me my food, the fat and the blood." RSV), quite in agreement with the Mesopotamian notions that man was created to feed and serve the gods, so they don't have to work and can enjoy their "rest."

Carpenter was of the conviction that whatever the true origins of the Sabbath were, they were not as portrayed in the biblical account. He argued that there was no need to set aside a 7th day as a day of rest created by a god for mankind's refreshment, he was sure the real origin lay in the fact that it was originally a "Taboo Day" which, overtime, was transformed into the biblical explanation:

"At some early period, in Babylonia or Assyria, a very stringent taboo on the Sabbath arose...It is quite likely that this taboo in its beginning was due not to any need of a weekly rest-day...but to some superstitious fear...It is probable, however that as time went on and society became more complex, the advantages of a weekly rest-day...became more obvious and the priests and legislators deliberately turned the taboo to a social use." (p.194, Edward Carpenter, The Origins of Pagan and Christian Beliefs [first published as Pagan and Christian Creeds: Their Origin and Meaning, 1920], London, Senate [an imprint of Random House UK], 1996, ISBN 1-85958-196X, paperback)

Pinches noted that in Babylonia, the 7th day was a "Taboo Day," or "Lucky-Unlucky Day" :

"The nearest approach to the Sabbath, in the Jewish sense, among the Babylonians, is the u-khulgala or umu limmu, "the evil day," which, as we know from the Hemerologies, was the 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, and 19th day of each month, the last so called because it was a week of weeks from the the 1st day of the foregoing month. It is this, therefore, which contains the germ of the idea of the Jewish Sabbath, but it was not that Sabbath in the true sense of the term, for if the months had 30 days, the week following the 28th had 9 days instead of 7, and weeks of 8 and 9 days therefore probably occurred twelve times each year. The nature of this original Sabbath is shown by the Hemerologies, which describe how it was to be kept in the following words:

(The Duties of the 7th Day) :

The 7th day is a fast of Merodach and Zer-panitum, a FORTUNATE DAY, an EVIL DAY. The Shepherd of the great peoples shall not eat flesh cooked by fire, salted (savory) food, he shall not change the dress of his body, he shall not put on white, he shall not make an offering. The king shall not ride in his chariot, he shall not talk as a ruler; a seer shall not do a thing in a secret place; a physician shall not lay his hand on a sick man; (the day) is unsuitable for making a wish. The king shall set his oblation in the night before Merodach and Ishtar, he shall make an offering, (and) his prayer is acceptable with god.  

For the 14th, 21st, 28th and 19th, the names of the deities differ, and on the last-named the Shepherd of the great peoples is forbidden to eat "anything which the fire has touched." Otherwise the directions are the same, and though generally described as a lucky or happy day, it was certainly an evil day for work, or for doing the things referred to. It is to be noted, however, that there is no direction that the day was to be observed by the common people." (p.528, "The Sabbath," Theophilus G. Pinches, The Old Testament In the Light of the Historical Records and Legend of Assyria and Babylonia. London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1908)

Modern scholarship is divided about the Sabbath's origins. While noting the above Taboos concerning the 7th day, the reason for making it "a god's rest-day " had yet to be explained. I believe my research has identified "the resting of the gods on the 7th day" after the Flood as being the source for the later Hebrew re-working of Babylonian myths. Probably the 7th day taboos, above noted, came to be absorbed into the Sabbath as well. In other words, both were almagamated and transformed into "a joyful day of rest" for Man (Perhaps "expanding upon" the Babylonian notion that the day was not only an evil day, but also a "FORTUNATE DAY" ? ).

I note some interesting variations with "new twists" on themes contained within the Babylonian 7th day taboos, as appeared later in Jewish observance of the Sabbath, which suggest a possible relationship. Jews did not light fires on the Sabbath, it being considered work (Meals prepared by contact with "fire" is mentioned as Taboo in Babylon). Jews did not travel great distances on the Sabbath (the king shall not "ride" in his chariot); Jewish Sabbath service begins at Sunset (the king shall not place an offering before the god during the day, but "at night"); Jewish physicians did not heal on the Sabbath, Christ being accused of healing on the Sabbath (A physician shall not lay his hand on the sick).

Gilgamesh in seeking out Utnapishtim, sought not only the secret of immortality, but also by what means he could enter into "the rest" from toil enjoyed by the gods and Utnapishtim (I am indebted to Randall Larsen [17 July 2000] for this observation).

Randall Larsen (of the University of Hawaii) :

"Another item of interest, Gilgamesh's visit to Utnapishtim was to learn the secret of how to enter into his rest [to be exalted to "recline with the gods"]."

Heidel's translation of Gilgamesh's observation of Utnapishtim's freedom from toil, lying about on his back (implying his entering into "the rest" from toil enjoyed by the gods):

"Gilgamesh said to him, to Utnapishtim the Distant: "I look upon thee, Utnapishtim, thine appearance is not different; thou art like me. Yea, thou art not different; thou art like unto me. My heart pictured thee as one perfect for the doing of battle; [but] thou liest (idly) on (thy) side, (or) on thy back. [Tell me], how didst thou enter into the company of the gods and obtain life (everlasting) ?" (cf. p.80, Alexander Heidel, The Epic of Gilgamesh and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, [1946], 1993, ISBN 0-226-32398-6)

The Mespotamian myths explained that the Flood which destroyed all mankind had been brought about because man's "noise or clamor" was disturbing the god's rest by day and sleep by night, year after year without let-up. These myths also noted that in the beginning the 7 great Anunna Gods of Heaven had imposed back-breaking labor making and clearing irrigation ditches, by day and by night, without rest, on the Igigi gods confined to the earth. These gods are described as muttering, complaining and constantly creating "a clamor," which at first is ignored by the Anunna gods. The threatened rebellion by the Igigi gods is forstalled by making man from the ringleader of the Igigi, slaughtering him and mixing his flesh and blood with the clay. The myths at this point stress that with the making of man, not only do the Igigi gods get to enter into "the rest from toil," enjoyed by the Anunna gods, but that "their clamor," their noisey complaining about hardwork is transferred to man. In otherwords, man's "noise" is because he is overworked and not allowed to have "rest" from his god-imposed toil (cf. pp.52-62, "The Story of the Flood," [The Atrahasis version], Benjamin R. Foster, From Distant Days, Myths Tales and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland, CDL Press, 1995, ISBN 1-883053-09-9, paperback)

Foster:

"When the gods were man, they did forced labor, they bore drudgery. Great indeed was the drudgery of the gods, the forced labor was heavy, the misery too much: The seven (?) great Anunna-gods were burdening the Igigi gods with forced labor...[The gods] were digging watercourses, canals they opened, the life of the land...They heaped all the mountains. [ years] of drudgery, [ ] the vast marsh. They counted years of drudgery, [ and] forty years too much ! [ ] forced labor they bore night and day. They were complaining, denouncing, muttering down in the ditch, "Let us face up to our foreman the prefect, He must take off this our heavy burden upon us ! (pp.52-3, Foster)

The Anunna gods acknowledge the burden of the Igigi and their "clamor":

"Ea made ready to speak, and said to the gods [his brethren], what calumny do we lay to their charge ? Their forced labor was heavy. [their misery too much] ! Every day [ ] the outcry [was loud, we could hear the clamor]. There is [ ] [Belet-ti, the mid-wife], is present. Let her create, then a human, a man, let him bear the yoke...[let man assume the drud]gery of god...She summoned the Anunna, the great gods...Mami made ready to speak, and said to the great gods, "You ordered me the task and I have completed (it) ! You have slaughtered the god, along with his inspiration. I have done away with your heavy forced labor, I have imposed your drudgery on man. You bestowed (?) clamor upon mankind..." (pp.58-59, Foster)

The Igigi gods in gratitude fall at her feet, kissing them, she having freed them from toil, and declare a new name for her "Mistress of All the gods" (Belet-kala-ili).

Now the gods complain that man's "clamor" disturbs them, resulting in a decision to send a Flood to destroy man and obtain peace and quiet and their longed-for "rest."

"Twelve hundred years had not gone by, the land had grown wide, the peoples had increased, the land bellowed like a bull. The god was disturbed with their uproar, Enlil heard their clamor, he said to the great gods, The clamor of mankind has become burdensome to me..." (p.62)

"I am disturbed at their clamor, at their uproar sleep cannot overcome me..." (p.65)

The gods try various ways to reduce mankind's clamor by decimating mankind's numbers, and in the end they resolve upon a Flood to destroy them all. However, one god stands apart as man's friend, he is Enki. An enraged Enlil accuses Enki of thwarting the agreed-upon plan of the gods, that man should toil ceasely, he accuses him of lightening man's burden, allowing him to enjoy the fruits of his labor, the fruits to be harvested for the god's food, and providing shade for him as he toils in the hot sun :

"All we great Anunna-gods resolved together on a rule. Anu and Adad watched over the upper regions, I watched over the lower earth. You went, you released the yoke, you made restoration. You let loose produce for the peoples. You put shade in the glare (?) of the sun." (pp.69-70)

Enlil, not trusting Enki, tries to get him to swear an oath not to betray the god's plan to destroy man with a flood. Enki agrees, but slyly lets Atrahasis (Utnapsihtim) know by addressing "the wall" of the house he lives in, thus not directly revealing the flood decision to a man, "face to face." (p.71, Foster)

Dalley on Ea's (Enki's) speaking to "a reed hut and brick wall" to warn Utnapishtim :

"Ut-napishtim spoke to him, to Gilgamesh...let me tell you the secret of the gods. Shuruppak is a city that you yourself know,situated [on the bank of] the Euphrates. The city was already old when the gods within it decided that the great gods should make a flood. There was Anu their father, warrior Ellil their counselor...farsighted Ea swore the oath (of secrecy) with them, so he repeated their speech to a reed hut, "Reed hut, reed hut, brick wall, brick wall, listen reed hut and pay attention brick wall: (This is the message:) Man of Shuruppak, son of Ubara-Tutu, dismantle your house, build a boat. Leave possessions, search out living things. Reject Chattels and save lives ! Put aboard the seed of all living things, into the boat." (pp. 109-110. "Gilgamesh Tablet XI." Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991. ISBN 0-19-281789-2. paperback)

The notion of God's advising Noah of a Flood is being drawn evidently from this myth. Enki/Ea has become in the Hebrew re-telling, Elohim (El or Yahweh).

Below, is another mythical variation of how and why mankind came to be created by Enki.  In this account he is sleeping through the commotion on the earth's surface, caused by the earth-dwelling gods who labor ceaselessly to provide food for the heaven-dwelling gods. He is awakened from his sleep in his underwater Abzu dwelling called the E-engur, by his mother who asks him to end the commotion. He creates man from clay above the Abzu transfering the burden of agricultural toil from the earth-dwelling gods to mankind. In the Bible God makes man of dust and places him in Eden to tend God's garden. Enki's "sleeping" recalls to mind the Psalmist portraying Yahweh-Elohim "sleeping" while Israel's enemies destroy her (cf. Ps 44:23; 78:65)

"The Enki and Ninmah Myth:

In those days, in the days when heaven and earth were created; in those nights, in the nights when heaven and earth were created; in those years, in the years when the fates were determined; when the Anunna gods were born; when the goddesses were taken in marriage; when the goddesses were distributed in heaven and earth; when the goddesses ...... became pregnant and gave birth; when the gods were obliged (?) ...... their food ...... for their meals; the senior gods oversaw the work, while the minor gods were bearing the toil. The gods were digging the canals and piling up the silt in Harali. The gods, dredging the clay, began complaining about this life.

At that time, the one of great wisdom, the creator of all the senior gods, Enki lay on his bed, not waking up from his sleep, in the deep engur, in the flowing water, the place the inside of which no other god knows. The gods said, weeping: "He is the cause of the lamenting!" Namma (Nammu), the primeval mother who gave birth to the senior gods, took the tears of the gods to the one who lay sleeping, to the one who did not wake up from his bed, to her son: "Are you really lying there asleep, and ...... not awake? The gods, your creatures, are smashing their ....... My son, wake up from your bed! Please apply the skill deriving from your wisdom and create a substitute (?) for the gods so that they can be freed from their toil!"

At the word of his mother Namma, Enki rose up from his bed. In Hal-an-kug, his room for pondering, he slapped his thigh in annoyance. The wise and intelligent one, the prudent, ...... of skills, the fashioner of the design of everything brought to life birth-goddesses (?). Enki reached out his arm over them and turned his attention to them. And after Enki, the fashioner of designs by himself, had pondered the matter, he said to his mother Namma: "My mother, the creature you planned will really come into existence. Impose on him the work of carrying baskets. You should knead clay from the top of the Abzu; the birth-goddesses (?) will nip off the clay and you shall bring the form into existence. Let Ninmah act as your assistant; and let Ninimma, Cu-zi-ana, Ninmada, Ninbarag, Ninmug, ...... and Ninguna stand by as you give birth. My mother, after you have decreed his fate, let Ninmah impose on him [mankind] the work of carrying baskets." ( "Enki and Ninmah." <http://theoldpath.com/senkimah.htm> cf. also Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford. 1998.)

Conservative scholarship has provided, I suspect, the correct insights as to the reason for God's portrayal and his Sabbath, the Hebrews wanted to transform the capricious, fickle gods into a Loving, Caring God, who wanted only the best for Man, his pinnacle of creation. So Genesis is a polemic against the Babylonian concepts of the gods and their despising man and destroying him because he violated their rest with their noise. They made man to serve them in toil and fear, to obtain their rest from labor. Genesis sees God in a completely different light, as noted by Wenham:

Viewed with respect to its negatives, Gen 1:1-2:3 is a polemic against the mythico-religious concepts of the ancient Orient...The concept of man here is markedly different from standard Near Eastern mythology: man was not created as the lackey of the gods to keep them supplied with food; he was God's representative and ruler on earth, endowed by his creator with an abundant supply of food and expected to rest every seventh day from his labors. Finally, the seventh day is not a day of ill omen as in Mesopotamia, but a day of blessing and sanctity on which normal work is laid aside.

In contradicting the usual ideas of its time, Gen 1 is also setting out a positive alternative. It offers a picture of God, the world, and man...man's true nature. He is the apex of the created order: the whole narrative moves toward the creation of man. Everything is made for man's benefit..." (p.37, Vol. 1, "Explanation," Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15   [Word Biblical Commentary, 2 vols.], Word Books, Waco, Texas 1987, ISBN 0-8499-0200-2)

In the original version (the Gilgamesh myth) we are given to understand that in 6 days and nights a world was destroyed by vengeful gods bent on man's annihilation. I understand that the Hebrew author deliberately re-interpreted this hatred into a "reversal" or "inversion" of a loving God who cared about man, so he took the 6 days of destruction and transformed them into 6 days of creation. The gods who sought man's harm with this dreadful event were transformed into a loving caring God who created the world for man's benefit. God was one to be loved by man, not held in "terror, dread and horror of," by man.

Of interest here, is that in the Epic of Gilgamesh account the gods succeeded in destroying all of mankind -except those on Utnapishtim's ark- by the 6th day with the Flood. It appears to me that the notion that  Yahweh's having made Man on the 6th day in the Genesis account (Ge 1: 26-31) is an "inversion" of the Mesopotamian account, the 6th day being the day the murderous gods, despising man, destroyed him with their Flood.

The Atrahasis myth portrayed ONLY _ONE_ GOD, Ea (Aya/Ayya/Enki), as "caring" for man's welfare, he "suffered" the anger, rage and abuse of the other gods who wanted man to toil ceasely, they even begrudged man any of the fruits of his labor (or food he was cultivating for them) and he risked the displeasure of his fellow gods in warning Utnapishtim of the Flood. I suspect that these themes, of a  _SINGLE_ god who cared about man and who wanted his workload reduced, inspired the Hebrew author to envision a Single God in place of the many gods who sought man's demise. This ONE god, Aya/Enki, may also have wanted to provide man with a rest day, as Enki did realize that the Iggi god's rebellion was in part because they had no rest from their toil. The notion of God's (Elohim's) "suffering" because man (Adam) "turns on him," (by not obeying him) and not appreciating all he has done for him, "grieveing his heart," is being drawn from Aya/Enki who "suffers on man's behalf." So, I understand that the ONE GOD Aya/Enki was transformed into the ONE God Yahweh-Elohim because both are suffering and caring gods, both of whom wanted to alleviate the toil of mankind, and seeking his welfare. God provided abundant food for Adam in the Garden of Eden, Aya/Enki risked the displeasure the gods by letting man enjoy some the fruits of his toil. God doesn't have Adam toil for food in Eden, as man had to in the Atrahasis myth (I would characterize this "a new twist"to an old theme). Aya/Enki in another myth, "Adapa and the South Wind," permits man to obtain "forbidden" knowledge and wisdom (Aya/Enki is the god of Wisdom), but  _denies_ him immortality. In the Bible Yahweh-Elohim, allows Man (Adam) to obtain forbidden knowledge, but _denies_ him immortality. It is a Lower Mesopotamian Aya/Enki who lurks behind the biblical presentation of Yahweh-Elohim in the Genesis account (Moses' ehyeh asher ehyeh, "I AM that I AM..."Tell them Ehyeh [I AM] has sent you" Hebrew: hayah, Exodus 3:13-14)

Leick on Enki's assimilation with Ea/Ayya :

"Ea - also 'Ay(y)a; Akkadian god

The name of this god is probably Semitic, although no reliable etymology has yet been found. Ancient Babylonian scribes derived it from Sumerian E.a, 'house of the water'.  In the texts from the Old Sumerian and Sargonic periods Ea/Ayya occurs mainly in Akkadian personal names. The pronunciation Ea (Ay-a) is attested since the Ur III period. The original character of this god is impossible to assess because of his syncretism with the Sumerian god Enki, which probably occurred as early as the Sargonic period. Ea's functions in the Babylonian and Assyrian tradition are therefore essentially the same as Enki's. He is a water god (bel naqbi, 'lord of the Spring') a creator (ban kullat, 'creator of everything') a god of wisdom (bel uzni, 'lord of wisdom'), the supreme master of magic (mash.mash ilani, 'incantation specialist of the gods'), the protector of craftsmen and artisans." (p. 37. "Ea." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1998)

We see now, that Genesis has preserved several "key concepts" albeit, in a transformed and somewhat re-interpreted manner, from the ancient Mesopotamian myths about man's creation; the theme of gods needing to rest; the importance of attaining rest for mankind who now "clamors" and desires "a rest" from his god-imposed toil, and how a Flood was resorted to, to end man's "clamor for a rest," because the gods could not themselves attain their rest by day nor sleep by night.

To recapitulate, according to the Mesopotamian Atrashasis myth, the Igigi gods' clamor or noise was because they had _no rest, night or day_ from their god-imposed agricultural toil upon the earth over a period of 40 years. The Annuna gods' (or Enki's/Aya's/Ayya's/Ea's) "solution" to end this clamor and threatened rebellion was to make man as the new slave or servant, taking over the Igigi gods' labor, allowing the Igigi gods an eternal rest from toil. But the Igigi gods' clamor was also transferred to man, who now had "no rest" from god-imposed toil. One would have thought that the Mesopotamian mythographers would have solved the Clamor problem by having a "new" creature perform the labor, "giving rest to mankind," but of course, _this was impossible_, because this motif was an explanation for  WHY  man had been made by the gods, he was made to be their slave/servant, harvesting and presenting food for them and giving them eternal rest from toil upon the earth.  After the Flood, as noted in the Gilgamesh Epic, the gods crowded about the sacrifice made by Utnapishtim like hungry flies. They had come to realize that they NEEDED man to grow food and feed them- they realized it was foolish to destroy mankind, for they would have to return to the earth and grow and harvest their food and "give up" THEIR ETERNAL REST from toil. The 7th day of the Flood became a day of foreboding for the Mesopotamians, recalling that on that day ALL the gods had obtained their rest via man's annhilation. No where in the Mesopotamian mths do we find a story about the gods providing a day of rest for a toiling mankind, who clamors for a rest from toil, only that a Flood was resorted to to end the clamor.

It was probably a Hebrew Savant, perhaps either Terah or Abraham, who, while dwelling in "Ur of the Chaldees," observed that these peoples had myths about  a 7th day being a sacred day of rest for ALL the gods, a day that was not to be violated or the gods would be angered again. Perhaps he created a new relationship between god and man, and, via an INVERSION, created a GOD who WOULD give mankind a "temporary" rest from toil, that rest day being the 7th day, when ALL the gods had rested after man's demise accomplished by the Flood. The 6 days and nights of the earth's destruction via another INVERSION became 6 days of creation of the earth for man by a God who LOVED man, and who sought his well-being.

It is worth noting here, that the Hebrews accepted without question the Mesopotamian notion that gods needed a place to dwell in on the earth and daily food presentations. Yahweh ceased receiving his daily food and drink offerings with the destruction of the Temple of Solomon under the Romans circa 70 CE (AD) when Titus, the son of Vespasian, destroyed Jerusalem.

Christianity, still later, picks up on this ancient theme of man entering into a "God's rest," (Hebrews 3:11,18; 4:1-11) a type of "Sabbath" if you will, where the righteous will, after death, no more have to toil, they will wander the banks of the river of life flowing from under God's throne in Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, and feed off the trees of life lining the river's banks, rather like Adam did in the Garden of Eden (cf. Revelation 22:1-2). They will, according to this myth, at long last, enter into "the rest" enjoyed by the gods as portrayed in the ancient Mesopotamian myths, a rest which according to those myths, had originally been "denied to man." And so, the myth of a "Sabbath and a Rest" for God and his creation, mankind, has come "full-circle," with the Christian re-interpretation of the ancient Mesopotamian myths, giving hope to millions over the ages.

End-Note: The Garden of Eden story possesses a theme of a serpent telling Eve, she will acquire knowledge and be like a god, then God intervenes to prevent Adam and Eve from eating of the fruit of the Tree of Life. These motifs are being drawn from a combination of other ancient Mesopotamian myths. But that is another paper, another subject.

Important correction: Dr. Whiting has informed me that Pinches (1908) was in error, there is no such word as Sa-bat/Sha-bat in Sumerian. So, the Sebittu (seventh) may be a punning into Hebrew Shabbat/Sabbath ?

Update 21 Sept. 2004

We are told in the Bible that Abraham's family ORIGINALLY was of Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 12:31) which is identified by some scholars with a site, modern Tell Muqqayyar in Lower Mesopotamia, and I concur with this identification.  If Abraham's family was originally of this location, then we have a possible connection for the "pre-biblical origin" of the Sabbath.

The Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis located the Flood as occuring in this region at the nearby city of Shurrupak, the "Sumerian Noah" being the local king called Ziusudra (Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh or Atrahasis in the Atrahasis Epic). It was the Mesopotamian god Enki (Ea in the Gilgamesh Epic) who warned Ziusudra of the coming Flood, telling him to save himself and family by building an ark or boat. Was Ea/Ayya/Enki transformed via another INVERSION into Ehyeh/Yah/Yahweh ?

Perhaps God's "revelation" to Abraham while at Haran (Genesis 12:31) in northern Mesopotamia, alludes to Abraham's family's  _INVERSION_  of the 6 days and nights in which the Gods destroyed the Earth, seeking the annihilation of a mankind that they "abhorred," and who's noise prevented them from resting by day and sleeping by night ? Perhaps this "new vision" or "revelation" (INVERSION) was "rejected" by the local inhabitants, which necessitated Terah's or Abraham's family migrating to a new location, Haran, where a less hostile community might be open to a new concept of a single God creating the world in 6 days and nights for man, his pinnacle of creation, and resting on the 7th day, the Sebittu day ? That is to say, perhaps either Abraham's father Terah or Abraham himself, are the originators of the INVERSION ? To the degree that they are portrayed as being "Arameans" dwelling at Ur, perhaps this is the reason they took "liberties" in reformatting the local myths ?

I am somewhat reminded here of the Prophet Mohammed who founded a new religion, Islam. He too, like Abraham, had a "new vision" of how to worship God, a vision, that was rejected by the local populace of Mecca as perhaps happened at Ur of the Chaldees to Terah and Abraham. He, like Terah and Abraham, moved to another location, Medina, and found a more tolerant and open audience to expound his ideas to. Another prophet, Brigham Young, also had a "new Vision" of how to worship God which was rejected by many and he too migrated like Terah, Abraham and Mohammed to another less hostile environment.

The "Apocrypha" suggests a Jewish understanding from as early as the Hasmonean period (late 2nd century BCE), that the Israelite forefathers were indeed originally of  Ur of the Chaldees (Chaldea), and *only later* of Harran "in Mesopotamia." This important relic is found preserved in Judith 5:5-9. It also suggests that the reason for Terah and Abraham leaving Ur of the Chaldees was that they HAD REJECTED THE RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OF THEIR ANCESTORS. Here is the account (believed by some scholars to date from the late 2nd century BCE):

Judith 5:5-9 RSV

"Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites, said to him, "Let my lord now hear a word from the mouth of your servant, and I will tell you the truth about this people that dwells in the nearby mountain district. No falsehood shall come from your servant's mouth. This people is descended from the Chaldeans. At one time they lived in Mesopotamia because they would not follow the the gods of their fathers who were in Chaldea. For they had left the ways of their ancestors, and they worshipped the God of Heaven, the God they had come to know; hence they drove them out from the presence of their gods; and they fled to Mesopotamia, and lived there a long time. Then their God commanded them to leave the place were they were living and go to the land of Canaan. There they settled, and prospered..."

Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger. Editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. (Revised Standard Version. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977)

Leick on the city of Ur being a "repository" of ancient Mesopotamian texts, some which, were probably of a religious nature (?). Perhaps Terah and Abraham were exposed to and transformed these religious motifs ? :

"Ur. Modern Tell Muqqayir, in southern Iraq (originally by the ancient coast of the Arabian sea); ancient Sumerian city which spans the whole of Mesopotamian history. Ur was the city of the moon-god; it was also the seat of several dynasties and one of the most important Mesopotamian sites, and a large number of Sumerian and Babylonian texts have been found there, dating from all levels of the city's occupation." (p. 174. "Ur. Glossary." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. [1991], 1998.)

Terah and Abraham, according to the Bible dwelt ORIGINALLY at Ur of the Chaldees and this site is identified by some scholars with Tell Muqhayir, and I concur.  If one troubles to take the time to look at a map, Ur is located between Eridu which is Enki's principal residence and Shuruppak where the Flood warning is given to Utnapishtim by Enki. Please click here for a map showing the proximity of Ur to Shuruppak (to Ur's north), Eridu (to Ur's south) and the marshlands or wetlands, "a place well-watered," and Qurnah.

According to Leick, her study of the ancient Mesopotamian myths suggested that Amorite or Syrian influences were present. The Mesopotamians called northern Mesopotamia Amurru "the West," and I note that Abraham eventually settled at Haran in Aram (Northern Syria) or Amurru. Is it possible that the Bible has correctly noted Terah and Abraham as 3rd/2d millennium BCE figures in Ur of the Chaldees, and that the "presence" of Amorite motifs in the Lower Mesopotamian myths might recall the Hebrew's ancestors active involvement in myth-making or cosmologies regarding the relationship between gods and man ?

Leick (Emphasis mine):

"What we define here as Babylonian myths are a number of texts which were written Akkadian during the second millennium BC...Most of these compositions, however, are preserved on tablets that were found in the great Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian archives, notably those of Nineveh, Uruk, _Ur_ and Babylon. We know from colophon entries and other reports that the majority of the texts were copies of older material...The oldest editions of some texts date from the Old Babylonian period...The Babylonians inherited the culture and religious structures of the Sumerians. The scribes of the Old Babylonian period copied and translated a number of Sumerian mythological texts...BUT THERE IS ALSO MUCH THAT OWES MORE TO SYRIAN AND AMORITE CONCEPTS THAN SUMERIAN TRADITION." (pp. 23-24. "Babylonian Mythology." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London & New York. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1997. ISBN 0-415-19811-9 pbk)

"Amorites. Akkadian amurru (Sumerian mar.tu) was rather widely used to designate the various Semitic tribes living to the west of Mesopotamia...Following the collapse of the Ur III 'empire', the Amorites penetrated deeper into the agricultural and urban areas, formed cohesive political units and eventually one of their leaders, Hammurabi (c. 1794-1750 BC) initiated the Amorite or First Babylonian Dynasty." (pp. 168-169. "Glossary." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. [1991] 1998)

When the Assyrians conquered this area in the 8 century BCE they noted the presence of Arameans dwelling in the region. Perhaps this accounts for the notion of Terah and Abraham being Arameans and dwelling at Ur of the Chaldees ?

Dion noted that the beginning of the Iron Age witnesses Arameans on the move, invading new lands:

"Aramaean Expansion:

For the Aramaeans, the beginning of the Iron Age was a time of forceful expansion, and Tiglath-pileser did not succeed in curbing their progress. For more than a hundred years, the shadowy figures that succeeded him were unable to cope with this situation, and the same was true of Babylonia after Nebuchadnezzar I. In Babylonia the Aramaeans were to remain a major ethnic ingredient, alongside the related Chaldeans and the longstanding Akkadian population; 8th century Assyrian sources list 36 of their tribes. Like unsubmissive elements of all times, in resisting imperial authorities they are branded as bandits. In a text in which Sargon II boasts of having successfully hacked his way through to Babylon, he names Aramaeans in one breath with lions and wolves as sources of insecurity." (Vol. 2. p. 1282. Paul E. Dion. "Aramaean Tribes and Nations of First-Millennium Western Asia." Jack M. Sasson. Editor. Civilizations of the Ancient Near East. Peabody, Mass. Hendrickson. 1995)

26 September 2004 Update :

Kramer noted that the Mesopotamian Flood Epic existed in more than one recension and that details "differed" between the Sumerian and Babylonian versions. Of particular note is that the earlier Sumerian account had a Flood lasting 7 days and 7 nights, while the later Babylonian account had the Flood lasting 6 days and 7 nights. It it my understanding that it is the Babylonian account that lies behind the Biblical account of God making the earth in 6 days, transforming the 6 days of destruction of the earth by the Gods. Noah's release of birds to determine the degree of abatement of the Flood waters in Genesis also appears to be indebted -in my opinion- to the Babylonian account, as this motif does not appear in the Sumerian version.

Kramer (Emphasis mine):

"The Sumerian flood episode is part of a poem devoted primarily to the myth of the immortalization of Ziusudra, and this myth was artfully used by the Babylonian poets for their own purposes. Thus, when the weary Gilgamesh comes before Utnapishtim (the Babylonian Ziusudra) and questions him concerning the secret of eternal life, the Babylonian poets did not let him answer briefly and to the point; instead, they took advantage of this opening to insert their version of the deluge myth. The first (the creation) part of the Sumerian myth, they omitted altogether as unneccessary to their theme. They retained only the deluge episode ending with Ziusudra's immortalization. And by making Utnapishtim (Ziusudra) the narrator, and putting the narration in the first person instead of the third, they changed the Sumerian form, in which the narrator was a nameless poet.

In addition we find variation in details. Ziusudra is described as a pious, humble, god-fearing king, but Utnapishtim is not thus described. On the other hand, the Babylonian version is much more lavish with details concerning the building of the boat, and the nature and violence of the flood. In the Sumerian myth the flood lasts seven days and seven nights; in the Babylonian version it lasts six days and seven nights. Finally, the sending of the birds to test the degree of water abatement is found only in the Babylonian epic.

"pp. 191. "The First Case of Literary Borrowing." Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer: Twenty-seven "Firsts" in Man's Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. Doubleday & Company, Incorporated. 1959. paperback edition [1st edition in 1956 by Falcon's Wing Press])

The Sumerian Flood version :

"...a flood will sweep over the cult centers to destroy the seed of mankind...[it] is the decision, the word of the assembly of the gods, by the word commanded by An and Enlil...All the windstorms, exceedingly powerful, attacked as one, at the same time, the flood sweeps over the cult centers. After, for seven days and seven nights, the flood had swept the land, and the huge boat had been tossed about by the windstorms on the great waters, Utu [the sun god] came forth, who sheds light on heaven and earth, Ziusudra opened a window on the huge boat, the hero, Utu brought his rays into the giant boat. Ziusudra, the king, prostrated himself before Utu, the king kills an ox, slaughters a sheep...Ziusudra, the king, prostrated himself before An and Enlil. An and Enlil cherished Ziusudra, life like a god they gave him; Breath eternal like a god they bring down for him. Then Ziusudra the king, the preserver of the name of vegetation and of the seed of mankind, in the land of crossing, the land of Dilmun, the place where the sun rises, they caused to dwell." (pp. 154-154. "The First Noah." Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer: Twenty-seven "Firsts" in Man's Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. Doubleday & Company, Incorporated. 1959. paperback edition [1st edition in 1956 by Falcon's Wing Press])

The Babylonian version of the Flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh (Pinches, 1908) :

"Six days and nights the wind blew, and the deluge and flood overwhelmed the land. THE SEVENTH DAY, when it came, the storm ceased, the raging flood, which had contended like a whirlwind, quieted, the sea shrank back, and the evil wind and deluge ended. I noticed the sea making a noise, and all man had turned to corruption. Like palings the marsh reeds appeared I opened my window, and light fell upon my face, I fell back dazzled, I sat down, I wept, over my face flowed my tears...The first day and the second day the mountain of Nisir seized the ship, and would not let it pass...The seventh day, when it came I sent forth a dove, and it left, the dove went, it turned about, but there was no resting place, and it returned. I sent forth a swallow, and it left, the swallow went, it turned about, but there was no resting place, and it returned. I sent forth a raven, and it left, the raven went, the rushing of the waters it saw, it ate, it waded, it croaked, it did not return. I sent forth (the aimals) to the four winds, I poured out a libation... Then Ellilia, when he came, he saw the ship. And Ellila was wroth, filled with anger on account of the gods and the spirits of heaven. "What, has a soul escaped ? Let not a man be saved from the destruction." Ninip opened his mouth and spake, he said to the warrior Ellila: 'Who but Ae has done the thing and Ae knows every event." Ae opened his mouth and spake, he said to the warrior Ellila: "Thou sage of the gods, warrior, verily thou hast not taken counsel, and hast made a flood. The sinner has committed his sin, the evil doer his misdeed, be merciful -let him not be cut off-  yield, let him not perish. Why hast thou made a flood ? Let the lion come, and let men diminish. Why hast thou made a flood ?...Let the hyaena come, and let men diminish. Why hast thou made a flood ? Let a famine happen, and let the land be destroyed. Why hast thou made a flood ? Let Ura (pestilence) come, and let the land be devastated. Why hast thou made a flood ? I did not reveal the decision of the great gods- I caused Atrahasis to see a dream, and he heard the decision of the gods." When he had taken counsel (with himself), Ae went up into the midst of the ship, he took my hand and he led me up, even me he brought up and caused my woman to kneel (?) at my side; He touched us, and standing between us, he blessed us (saying): "Formerly Pir-napishtim was a man; now (as for) Pir-napishtim and his woman. let them be like unto the gods, (even) us, and let Pir-napishtim dwell afar at the mouths of the rivers." He took me, and afar at the mouths of the rivers he caused me to dwell." (pp.105-108. "The Flood." Theophilus G. Pinches. The Old Testament In the Light of the Historical Records and Legend of Assyria and Babylonia. London. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.1908)

Heidel (1946) slips in, in brackets, "six days and [six] nights" for the Flood :

"Six days and [six] nights the wind blew, the downpour, the tempest, (and) the flo[od] overwhelmed the land. When the seventh day arrived, the tempest, the flood, which had fought like an army, subsided in (its) onslaught. The sea grew quiet, the storm abated, the flood ceased. I opened a window, and light fell upon my face. I looked upon the sea, (all) was silence, and all mankind had turned to clay...I bowed, sat down and wept, my tears running down over my face." (pp. 85-86. "The Gilgamesh Epic." Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels: A translation and interpretation of the Gilgamesh Epic and related Babylonian and Assyrian documents. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949, reprint 1993. Paperback. ISBN 0-226-32398-6)

Dalley suggests (?) seven nights and six days for the Flood :

"For six days and [seven (?)] nights the wind blew, flood and tempest overwhelmed the land; when the seventh day arrived the tempest, flood and onslaught which had struggled like a woman in labour, blew themselves out (?). The sea became calm, the imhullu-wind grew quiet, the flood held back. I looked at the weather; silence reigned, for all mankind had returned to clay." (p. 113. "Gilgamesh XI." Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991. ISBN 0-19-281789-2. paperback)

I have not been successful in finding a scholarly reason for the brackets [ ] and elipses ( ), regarding the statement  "six days and ([six/seven]) nights."  I don't know if the cuneiform sign is "indistinct" at this point ,or the clay tablet is damaged. Pinches read "six days and nights" for the Flood's duration. However, the Mesopotamians were fond of using repeating refrains or "catch phrases" for poetic purposes in their compositions and other passages frequently mention six days and seven nights. For example in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu has sex with Shamhat the harlot for six days and seven nights, then later the Mesopotamian Noah (Utnapishtim), puts Gilgamesh to a "test," he asks him to remain awake for six days and seven nights." Gilgamesh no sooner agrees than he falls into a deep sleep for the stated period of time. Perhaps Enkidu's and Gilgamesh's feats involving six days and seven nights is why some prefer "to emend" Pinches' "six days and nights" for the Flood to read instead "six days and [seven] nights"?  By the way, I understand Gilgamesh's sleep and/or possibly Enkidu's "sleeping with" (?) the harlot, to have been recast by the Hebrews into Adam's "sleep" in Eden.

Is Eden's association with four rivers an echo of the "mouths of the rivers" the Euphrates and Tigris, where lay the paradise called Dilmun ? Some have thought that the "mouths" of the rivers should be rendered the "mouth" of the rivers. Professor Kramer understands that this "mouth" is NOT where the rivers terminate, as in a delta or flood plain, or marsh, but rather that the "mouth" is their SOURCE. In other words the rivers _arise_ from a SINGLE source or mouth, rather like a spring. If he's right, then this passage may explain the biblical notion that the river of Eden arose from an ed, rendered "spring" by the Greek Septuaginta. In Mesopotamian myths the earthly paradise of Dilmun was originally without water, then Enki arranges to have a lesser god create a "water source" for the garden located there. Enki is the god of freshwaters (his sperm is the freshwaters which fertilize crops) and he is shown with two rivers gushing form his shoulders with fish in them, perhaps these two streams are the Tigris and Euphrates rivers ? The word for river in Akkadain is id. Could the "river of Eden" be a Hebrew "punning" or "wordplay" of id into Eden, or did the ed become Eden?  Enki is associated with several locations, his main shrine at Eridu on the Euphrates at the edge of the marshes; for recreation he is portrayed "punting" his boat in the nearby "snake marsh," (a place obviously well-watered like Eden), and he dwells at times at Dilmun. It was at Dilmun that he ate several of his wife's plants "in order to know them" without his wife's permission, said action causing her to curse him with death. A number of scholars have proposed that Dilmun is the Mesopotamian prototype underlying Genesis' Eden, and I concur.

Did "warrior and sage" Ellila (En-Lil, the wind god) one of the gods who _instigated_ the Flood come to transformed into the Hebrew El-Elohe Israel, "El the God of Israel" who brought about Noah's Flood (Ge 33:20) ?

Is Ae (Aya/Ayya/Ea or Enki) Ehyeh (Hebrew Hayah) ? Did Atrahasis and wife become Adam and Eve ? Did the wife's kneeling at "the side" of Atrahasis, become Eve being "made from" Adam's side or rib ? The kneeling of the woman becomes womankind's "kneeling subservience" to mankind or Adam ? Did Atrahasis' libation at the end of the flood become a drunken Noah ?  A strange statement is made about Noah in the Bible : "Out of the ground which the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us _relief from our work_ and the toil of our hands." (Ge 5:29) Might this be an echo of the Mesopotamian notion that ONLY the Flood survivor attained "_relief_" or _freedom from toil_ in Dilmun, an agricultural  toil that had been transferred to man from the lesser gods or Igigi by Enki ?

17 October 2004 Update :

Highly reccomended to the reader is a scholarly article exploring Genesis' Flood and the Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis accounts by Professor Tikva Frymer-Kensky. She was in 1977 an Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Wayne State University, Detroit. The article is titled "The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1-9."

The Biblical Archeologist. December 1977. pp. 147-55; available "on-line" at the following url http://home.apu.edu/~geraldwilson/atrahasis.html

She is currently Professor of Hebrew Bible and the History of Judaism in the Divinity School; also in the Law School and the Committees on the Ancient Mediterranean World and Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago.

Frymer-Kensky proposed that Genesis _rejected_ the Mesopotamian notion that the Flood's purpose was to limit mankind's population on the earth :

"Unlike Atrahasis, the flood story in Genesis is emphatically not about overpopulation. On the contrary, God's first action after the flood was to command Noah and his sons to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Gen 9:1). This echoes the original command to Adam (1:28) and seems to be an explicit rejection of the idea that the flood came as a result of attempts to decrease man's population. The repetition of this commandment in emphatic terms in Gen 9:7, "and you be fruitful and multiply, swarm over the earth and multiply in it," makes it probable that the Bible consciously rejected the underlying theme of the Atrahasis Epic, that the fertility of man before the flood was the reason for his near destruction.

It is not surprising that Genesis rejects the idea of overpopulation as the reason for the flood, for the Bible does not share the belief of Atrahasis and some other ancient texts that overpopulation is a serious issue. Barrenness and stillbirth (or miscarriage) are not considered social necessities, nor are they justified as important for population control. On the contrary, when God promises the land to Israel he promises that "in your land women will neither miscarry nor be barren" (Exod 23:26). The continuation of this verse, "I will fill the number of your days," seems to be a repudiation of yet another of the "natural" methods of population control, that of premature death. In the ideal world which is to be established in the land of Israel there will be no need for such methods, for overpopulation is not a major concern."(Tikva Frymer-Kensky. "The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1-9." The Biblical Archeologist December 1977, pp. 147-55) cf. http://home.apu.edu/~geraldwilson/atrahasis.html

She also understood that God sent the Flood because of mankind's sinfulness, NOT his overpopulation of the earth :

"Genesis states explicitly that God decided to destroy the world because of the wickedness of man (Gen 6:5)." (Tikva Frymer-Kensky. "The Atrahasis Epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1-9." The Biblical Archeologist December 1977, pp. 147-55)

Genesis 6:5-14 RSV

"The Lord saw that the WICKEDNESS of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY EVIL continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground. man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord...Noah was a righteous man...Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence...And God said to Noah, " I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them, behold I will destroy them with the earth."

I would "qualify" Frymer-Kensky's above observation about the Atrahasis Flood being an attempt at "population control." The texts suggest for me the real complaint was not population size, it was about mankind's incessant clamor or noise because he was denied any rest from his god imposed toil, disturbing the gods' ability to rest by day and sleep by night. Had there been no clamor, there would be no need to limit population size.

I have earlier noted that the six days and nights in which vengeful gods destroy the earth in order to annihilate mankind and end his clamor is drawing from the Babylonian version of the Flood, rather than the earlier Sumerian account which has a duration of the Flood of  7 days and nights. I have also noted that the Babylonian version has various birds being released to observe the abatemnet of the Flood waters which seems to be mirrored in Genesis.

For me, another "clue" to Genesis' indebtedness or reformatting of the Babylonian Gilgamesh Flood account is the reason given for the Flood. The Sumerian account does NOT explain WHY the gods want to destroy mankind (cf. above, Kramer's translation), but the Babylonian account DOES (cf. above, Pinches' translation). The reason is man's SINFULNESS or EVIL, which seems to be mirrored in Genesis. Please note, it is ONLY in the Atrahasis account that we learn that the gods sent the Flood because of mankind's "constant clamor or noise" which DIFFERS from the Babylonian Gilgamesh Flood account noting man SINFULNESS as the reason for the Flood. The Babylonian account also notes a plea to the god Elilla NOT to ever attempt to destroy all of mankind again with another Flood, but to reduce mankind's population by other less drastic means. Genesis has Yahweh informing Noah that never again will he seek all of mankind's demise with a Flood.

The Babylonian Flood account in the Epic of Gilgamesh (Pinches, 1908) :

Then Ellilia, when he came, he saw the ship. And Ellila was wroth, filled with anger on account of the gods and the spirits of heaven. "What, has a soul escaped ? Let not a man be saved from the destruction.' Ninip opened his mouth and spake, he said to the warrior Ellila: 'Who but Ae has done the thing and Ae knows every event. Ae opened his mouth and spake, he said to the warrior Ellila: 'Thou sage of the gods, warrior, verily thou hast not taken counsel, and hast made a flood. The SINNER has committed HIS SIN, the EVIL doer HIS MISDEED, be merciful -let him not be cut off-  yield, let him not perish. Why hast thou made a flood ? Let the lion come, and let men diminish. Why hast thou made a flood ?...Let the hyaena come, and let men diminish. Why hast thou made a flood ? Let a famine happen, and let the land be destroyed. Why hast thou made a flood ? Let Ura (pestilence) come, and let the land be devastated. Why hast thou made a flood ?"

Yahweh's "mercifulness" in not seeking the perishment of all mankind again because of his "evil heart" :

Genesis 8:21-22; 9:11,15 RSV

"...I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man's heart is EVIL from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done."

"I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth...the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh."

The Sumerian account makes no mention of "rivers" in association with the land of Dilmun, where the Flood survivor and wife are placed, but the Bablyonian account does. We are told that Dilmun is located "at the mouths of the rivers." Most scholars understand that "the rivers" are the Tigris and Euphrates which empty into the marshlands south of present day Qurnah, where modern Arab traditions locate the Garden of Eden. Genesis, like the Babylonian account, associates the Tigris and Euphrates with a paradise garden. Some scholars have noted that Genesis suggests a great spring (Hebrew: ed) existed in Eden to water the garden, and that this spring became a river which left the garden and became four rivers, the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris and the Euphrates. The word for river in Akkadian (Babylonian) is id. In Mesopotamian myths, Enki dwells in a subterranean house in the depths of the apsu or abzu, the freshwater ocean under the earth. He is portrayed as the god whose semen fills the river beds and canals of Lower Mesopotamia (water being seen as a fertilizing agent of the earth, creating crops). His main temple is at Eridu on the edge of the marsh lands and he enjoys punting his boat in the marshes. An important clue to Dilmun's location is a statement made by the Neo-Assyrian king Sennacherib who defeated Hezekiah of Judah ca. 704 BCE. Sennacherib circa 689 BCE utterly destroyed Babylon for repeated rebellions to his authority. He boasted of tearing down its walls, buildings and temples to their foundations and then had the dust of the city dumped into the Euphrates which carried the mud down to Dilmun where its king upon seeing the darkened waters was terrorized. Obviously the "edenic garden" of the gods, Dilmun, is somewhere DOWNSTREAM from Babylon, its NOT somewhere in Turkey where the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates arise -some scholars suggesting Eden is at the source of these rivers (Please click here for my article "Genesis' Genesis, the Hebrew Transformation of the Mesopotamian Myths," for more data on the Garden of Eden and Dilmun").

The Israeli professor Cassuto argued that Eden might mean "a place well watered" from Ugaritic 'dn. I suspect he is correct, and that the marshands near Qurnah and Eridu "fit" the description "of a place well-watered."

Cassuto :

"The suggested explanations of the name that connect it either with the Sumero-Akkadian word edinu ('the steppe-land, wilderness') or with the expression ha`okhelim lema `adhannim ['those who feasted on dainties'] (Lam. iv 5) are unacceptable...in Ugaritic we find the stem `dn, with an ordinary `ayin, whose signification is well-suited to our theme. In the Epic of Baal, for example, it is stated (Tablet II AB, V, lines 68-69): wn `p `dn mtrh b`l y`dn `dn [to be rendered according to some authorities: and now also the moisture of his rain/Baal shall surely make moist': y`dn `dn are derived from the root `dn] in connection with the watering of the ground. In this connotation it is possible to find the root adhan also in Hebrew: and Thou givest them to drink from the river of Thy watering [ `adhanekha; E.V. Thy delights] (Psa xxxvi 9); and in rabbinic language: `rain water, saturates, fertilizes and refreshes [me adden] (B. Kethuboth 10 b); 'Just as the showers come down  upon the herbs and refresh [me`addenin] them', etc. (Sifre Deutr 32:2). The etymological meaning of the name Eden will, accordingly be: a place that is well watered throughout; and thus we read further on: that it was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord (xiii 10)." (Vol. 1. pp.107-108. Umberto Cassuto. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. [2 Vols.]. Jerusalem. The Hebrew University. The Magnes Press. [1944], 1986.

Update 08 November 2004 :

Lambert suggested that knowledge of the Mesopotamian creation and flood myths came to Canaan no earlier or later than the Egyptian Amarna era, the late 18th Dynasty, the period of Amenhotep IV and his succesors, who changed his name to Akhenaten upon declaring only ONE GOD was to be worshipped, the Aten/Aton or Sun disk (Akhenaten reigned ca. 1350-1334 BCE) :

"The differences are indeed so great that direct borrowing of a literary form of Mesopotamian traditions is out of the question. But if the case for borrowing is to be established, at least a suggestion of the manner and time of transference must be made. The Exile and the later part of the Monarchy are out of the question, since this was the time when the Hebrew traditions of creation and the early history of mankind were being put in the form in which they were canonized...one is forced back at least to the time of the Judges, and even this may be too late...The present writer's opinion is that only the Amarna period has any real claim to be the period when this material moved westwards. This is the period when the Babylonian language and cuneiform script were the normal means of international communication between countries from Egypt to the Persian Gulf. From within this period the Hittite capital in Asia Minor has yielded a large quantity of fragments of Mesopotamian literature, both Sumerian and Babylonian, including the Gilgamesh Epic. A smaller quanity of similar material has been yielded by Ras Shamra [ancient Ugarit], including a piece of the Atra-hasis Epic. Megiddo has given up a piece of the Gilgamesh Epic, and Amarna itself several pieces of Babylonian literary texts. This spread of Babylonian writings at this period of history is not only the result of the use of cuneiform writing for international communication, but also is owed to the cultural activities of the Hurrians, for they were great borrowers from all the peoples in which they moved and settled, so much so that they were rapidly absorbed and lost their identity. Thus in the Amarna age the Hittites not only had Babylonian and Sumerian literature in addition to native texts, but also works translated from West Semitic. Cultural barriers were indeed broken down in Syria and adjacent lands at this time. Nor was knowledge of borrowed Mesopotamian works restricted too the small number of scribes competent in cuneiform. Among the Hittites the Gilgamesh Epic was available in both Hittite and Hurrian translations. Also that version of Nergal and Erishkigal from Amarna is so completely different from the traditional Mesopotamian one in its wording as to give the impression that oral tradition alone will explain it.

Earlier borrowing of the material is ruled out, in the present writer's opinion, because Genesis shows no knowledge of Mesopotamian matters prior to 1500 BC, a point of considerable importance. The description of Nimrod's kingdom and the account of the Tower of Babel both presume a period when legends were clustering around the city of Babylon. Up to the sudden and unexpected rise of Babylon under Hammurabi (ca. 1750 BC) it was an utterly unimportant and obscure place. One must surely allow a century or two before it could become the centre of legends about early times, as indeed it did in Mesopotamia by about 1200 BC. Negatively the case is equally strong: Genesis shows no knowledge of Mesopotamian matters prior to 1500. The very existence of the Sumerians is nowhere hinted at. While borrowing may have been altogether more involved and complex than we have suggested, all the known facts favour the idea that the traditions moved westwards during the Amarna period and reached the Hebrews in oral form." (pp. 108-109. W. G. Lambert. "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis." pp. 96-113. Richard S. Hess and David Toshio Tsumra. Editors. "I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood," Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994.

ISBN 0-931464-88-9)

Professor Millard on the issue of the Hebrews borrowing Mesopotamian concepts and motifs and reformatting them (Emphasis mine) :

"There can be no doubt that the concept of a history of man from his creation to the Flood is similar both in Babylonian and in Hebrew. Any future consideration of possible origins of the Hebrew story must take this into account, and not treat Creation and Flood separately. Thus it is no longer legitimate to describe the Hebrew Flood story as "borowed" from a Babylonian "original" without including its complementary Creation account." (p. 125. A. R. Millard. "Observations on the Babylonian and Hebrew Accounts Compared." in his article "A New Babylonian "Genesis" Story."pp. 114-128. Richard S. Hess and David Toshio Tsumra. Editors. "I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood," Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994.

ISBN 0-931464-88-9)

Tsumura noted :

"In light of the literary structure of "Creation-Rebellion-Flood" in the "Atrahasis Epic," some scholars have suggested that the primeval history in Genesis stretches from the creation story through the end of the Flood story, namely Genesis 1-9, rather than Genesis 1-11." (pp. 48-49. David Toshio Tsumura. "Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction. pp. 27-57. Richard S. Hess & David Toshio Tsumura. Editors. "I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood", Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994. ISBN 0-931464-88-9)

I find the above to be a very important observation, Genesis 1-9 should be seen, _in my opinion_, as a re-working of earlier Mesopotamian Creation-Flood accounts regarding the relationship between god/s and mankind. The Gilgamesh Epic Flood account portrays man's sin as why the Flood occurred, which as I noted earlier (above) is mirrored in Genesis' notion of mankind's "evil heart."

The need for man to have a rest day in the Pentateuch echos the clamor of mankind for  a rest from their god-imposed toil in the Atrahasis myth, which the gods denied him (Atrahasis is a Creation-Flood myth, explaining why the gods made man and why they later sought his destruction with a Flood). Other articles on my website trace various motifs and concepts found in Genesis 1-9 such as the Garden of Eden, and eating of a tree to acquire knowledge, man's nakedness in Eden with Enkidu's nakedness in Edinu "the steppe/plain" as being nothing more than later reworked and transformed Mesopotamian myths.

As is to be expected, the defenders of Holy Writ, believing the Bible to God's Holy Word, either DENY or DOWNPLAY any "borrowing and reformatting" of Mesopotamian concepts by the Hebrews. The most common stratagem they employ is to note that numerous details differ between Genesis 1-9 and the Mesopotamian myths. In addition the morals drawn about the relationship between god/s and man differ as well. Ergo, for Bible-believing Conservative scholars any parallels between the two cultures are dismissed as nonsense, God REALLY DID reveal to Moses what to write about how Man came to be created by God and later destroyed in a Flood. Millard's "Christian Conservatism" is apparent in his preference for Genesis' Creation-Flood theme being "earlier than" the Mesopotamian account

Millard challenges Lambert's above proposal as to when Mesopotamian Creation/Flood myths came to be known in the West, at Syrian Alakah and Byblos (Emphasis mine):

"Did the Hebrews borrow from Babylon ? Neither an affirmative nor a negative reply to the question can be absolutely discounted in the light of present knowledge. Reconstructions of a process whereby Babylonian myths were borrowed by the Hebrews, having been transmitted by the Canaanites, and "purged" of pagan elements remain imaginary. It has yet to be shown that any Canaanite material was absorbed into Hebrew sacred literature on such a scale or in such a way. Babylonian literature itself was known in Palestine at the time of the Israelite conquest and so could have been incorporated directly. The argument that borrowing must have taken place during the latter part of the second millennium BC because so many Babylonian texts of that age have been found in Anatolia, Egypt, and the Levant, cannot carry much weight, being based on archaeological accident. The sites yielding the texts were either deserted or destroyed at that time, resulting in the burial of "librarie" and archives intact. Evidence does exist of not inconsiderable Babylonian scribal influence earlier (e.g., at Alakah and Byblos).

However, it has yet to be shown that there was borrowing, even indirectly. Differences between the Babylonian and Hebrew traditions can be found in factual details of the Flood narrative...and are most obvious in the ethical and religious concepts of each composition. All who suspect or suggest borrowing by the Hebrews are compelled to admit large-scale revisionism, alteration, and re-interpretaion in a fashion which cannot be substaniated for any other composition from the Ancient Near East...If there was borrowing then it can have extended only so far as the "historical" framework, and not included intention or interpretation...The two accounts [Hebrew and Mesopotamian] undoubtedly describe the same Flood, the two schemes relate the same sequence of events. If judgement is to be passed as to the priority of one tradition over the other, Genesis inevitably wins for its probability in terms of meterology, geophysics and timing alone...In that the patriarch Abraham lived in Babylonia, it could be said that the stories were borrowed from there, but not that they were borrowed from any text now known to us." (pp.127-128. Millard)

Heidel:

"...I reject the idea that the biblical account gradually evolved out of the Babylonian; for the differences are far too great and similarities far too insignificant." (p.138. Alexander Heidel. The Babylonian Genesis, the Story of Creation. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press. 1947, 1951. Second edition. Reprint 1993)

Tigay:

"The Gilgamesh Epic drew heavily upon Mesopotamian literary tradition. Not only did the author of the Old Babylonian version base his epic on older Sumerian tales about Gilgamesh, but he and the editors who succeeded him made extensive use of materials and literary forms originally unrelated to Gilgamesh." (p. 247. Jeffrey . Tigay. The Evolution of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania. 1982)

Heidel:

"It has been long recognized that the Gilgamesh Epic constitutes a literary compilation of material from various originally unrelated sources, put together to form one grand, more or less harmonious whole...The composite character of our epic is thus established beyond any doubt." (p. 13. Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949. paperback. reprinted 1963, 1995)

"The work of the Semites, however, did not consist simply in translating the Sumerian texts and combining them into one continuous story; rather, it constituted a new creation, which in the course of time, as indicated by the different versions at our disposal, was continually modified and elaborated at the hands of the various compilers and redactors, with the result that the Semitic versions which have survived to our day in most cases differ widely from the available Sumerian material." (p. 14. Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949. paperback. reprinted 1963, 1995)

Lambert and Millard note that the various "recensions" of the Flood Epic differ widely from each other and offer the follwoing observations, which, for me, explain why the Hebrew version found in Genesis differs from the Sumerian and Babylonian accounts:

"...The ancient world has no proper titles, no sense of literary rights, and no aversion to what we call palgiarism. Succeeding ages often rewrote old texts to suit new language forms and tastes.

p. 5. "Introduction." W. G. Lambert & A. R.  Millard. Atra-Hasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford University Press. 1969. Reprint, 1999 by Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake. Indiana)

"The wide divergencies between the Old Babylonian copies illustrate how the scribes and editors could take a free hand in rewriting the text." (p. 14. "Introduction." W. G. Lambert & A. R.  Millard. Atra-Hasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford University Press. 1969. Reprint, 1999 by Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake. Indiana)

"The Sumerian epic...comes closest to Atra-Hasis...Despite the similarity in content, the size is quite different (some 300 Sumerian as opposed to 1,245 Akkadian lines), and THE WORDING NOWHERE AGREES." (p. 14. "Introduction." W. G. Lambert & A. R.  Millard. Atra-Hasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford University Press. 1969. Reprint, 1999 by Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake. Indiana)

Kramer's observation on the Babylonian remolding of the Sumerian motifs _for me_ applies just as well to the later Hebrew "remolding" of the earlier Mesopotamian creation myths regarding man:

"To sum up: Of the various episodes comprising the "Epic of Gilgamesh," several go back to Sumerian prototypes actually involving the hero Gilgamesh. Even in those episodes which lack Sumerian counterparts, most of the individual motifs reflect Sumerian mythic and epic sources. In no case, however, did the Babylonian poets slavishly copy the Sumerian material. They so modified its content and molded its form, in accordance with their own temper and heritage, that only the bare nucleus of the Sumerian original remains recognizable. As for the plot structure of the epic as a whole -the forceful and fateful episodic drama of the restless, adventurous hero and his inevitable disillusionment- it is definitely a Babylonian, rather than Sumerian, development and achievement. In a very deep sense, therefore, the ""Epic of Gilgamesh" may be truly described as a Semitic creation." (pp. 194-195. "The First Case of Literary Borrowing." Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer, Twenty-seven Firsts in Man's Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor. [1956] reprint 1959)

I agree with Tigay and Heidel's assessment that the Epic of Gilgamesh employs several originally unrelated strands from different compositions. Lambert noted that the Mesopotamian cosmographers forte was not the creation of new concepts from whole cloth but the combining and reinterpreting of various motifs and concepts from originally unrelated compositions. It is my understanding that Genesis 1-9 (The Creation to Flood account), follows along in the traditions of the Hebrew's Mesoptamian predecessors (Abraham being originally of Ur of the Chaldees in Lower Mesopotamia). Millard noted that for those arguing that Genesis is a borrowing and reformatting of many different myths must admit a major transformation exists "unheard of" in earlier ANE history. The observations by Tigay and Heidel which note the bringing together of motifs from different unrelated compositions and harmonizing them into one grand epic, would seem to belie the notion that the Hebrews were doing anything "new and unheard of" in recasting and bringing together several previously unrelated motifs from a variety different compositions (said compositions having been identified by myself as Adapa and the South Wind; the Epic of Gilgamesh; Atar-hasis; Inanna and Utu; Enki and Ninhursag in Dilmun; the Enuma Elish; etc.). In other words, I understand the Epic of Gilgamesh, long regarded one of the earliest, longest and "most polished"compositions of the Ancient Near East, embodies the very same methodologies -the harmonizing of disparate motifs from unrelated works-  as appear in Genesis 1-9. I find myself in full agreement with the insights of Professor Lambert:

"The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas. Sheer invention was not part of their craft." (p. 107, Wilfred G. Lambert, "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,: [1965], in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura, Eds., I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood, Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994)

20 Dec. 2004 Update :

The Sumerian Flood account has the rain-storm lasting 7 days and nights, the later Babylonian account has the rains ending on the 7th day as well. I wonder if perhaps these "motifs" have been preserved in the Genesis account as an "INVERSION" ?  God is portrayed as announcing that in 7 days time the rains will begin and continue for 40 days. In other words, following a period of 7 days of NO RAIN, the Flood will begin. I would argue, then, that the 7 days of rain in the Sumerian and Babylonian accounts were INVERTED into 7 days of NO rain in the later Hebrew account; that is to say, the rains _ending_ on the 7th day have been transformed into rains _beginning_ on the 7th day.

Genesis 7:4 RSV

"For in SEVEN DAYS I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights..."

Millard and Lambert noted that Atra-Hasis had 7 days notice for the Flood's commencement (emphasis mine, Update of 07 April 2005):

"...in Atra-hasis Enki gives the hero ONLY SEVEN DAYS in which to prepare for the onset of the flood..." (p. 12. "Introduction." W. G. Lambert & A. R.  Millard. Atra-Hasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. Oxford University Press. 1969. Reprint, 1999 by Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake. Indiana)

Perhaps I am in error about an "inversion" and that Genesis' 7-day advance warning to Noah of a pending Flood is drawing from the above Atra-Hasis account ?

12 Jan 2005 Update :

Of interest here, is that in the Bible, we are told that the Flood commenced in the 600th year of Noah, I note that the Atrahasis myth suggests that the Flood occured at the end of a 600 year interval too. It appears _to me_ that the Hebrews have preserved Atrahasis' 600 year interval of time elapsing before a Flood commences and reformatted this motif as occurring in Noah's 600th year.

I wonder if the Flood's commencement in the 600th year of Noah's life is a reformatiing of the "catchline" or "repeating refrain" of the Atrahasis Epic that implies for 600 years the gods have endured man's noise and now seek his demise ? In the epic, every 600 years (at last 3 or 4 times) Atrahasis receives advisement about the god's efforts to decimate mankind.

Genesis 7:11-12 RSV

"In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights."

Dalley:

"600 years, less than 600, passed and the country became too wide, the people too numerous. The country was as noisy as a bellowing bull. The god grew restless at their clamor, Ellil had to listen to their noise. He addressed the great gods, "The noise of mankind has become too much. I am losing sleep over their racket." (p. 18. "Atrahasis." pp.1-38. Stephanie Dalley.

Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991. ISBN 0-19-281789-2. paperback)

Disease decimates the populaton (p.18. Dalley)

(Catchline)

"600 years, less 600 passed  (p. 20. Dalley)

"Tablet II :

600 years, less than 600, passed and the country became too wide, the people too numerous. The country was as noisy as a bellowing bull. The god grew restless at their clamor, Ellil had to listen to their noise. He addressed the great gods, "The noise of mankind has become too much. I am losing sleep over their racket." (p.20. Dalley)

3 year famine attempted (pp.20-22. Dalley)

"[600 years, less than 600, passed and the country became too wide, the people too numerous...He grew restless at their noise. Sleep could not overtake him because of their racket." (p.23. Dalley)

"Six hundred years is a round number in the sexagesimal system used by the ancient Mesopotamians. as a numerical unit, 600 was the simple noun neru in Akkadian. Repetition of a number seems to occur as a literary device..(Note 22. p. 37. "Atrahasis Notes." Dalley)

"Note the literary strategem which defies literal chronology by featuring Atrahasis as the same mortal in recurrent crises 600 years apart." (note 32. p. 38. "Atrahasis Notes." Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. New York. Oxford University Press. 1989, 1991. ISBN 0-19-281789-2. paperback)

Biography on Dalley :

"Stephanie Dalley has worked on various excavations in the Middle East and has published cuneiform tablets found there by the British Archaeological Expedition to Iraq as well as a book for the general reader about those discoveries. Mari and Karan (1984). She taught Akkadian at the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford and is now Shillito Fellow in Assyriology at the Oriental Institute, Oxford, and a Senior Research Fellow of Somerville College. She is editor and main author of The Legacy of Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press). (cf. inner flyleaf of Myths from Mesopotamia)

Bibliography :