Legends of Babylon and and Egypt in Relation to Hebrew Tradition


The beginning of the text is wanting, and the earliest lines preserved
of the First Column open with the closing sentences of a speech,
probably by the chief of the four creating deities, who are later on
referred to by name. In it there is a reference to a future
destruction of mankind, but the context is broken; the lines in
question begin:

“As for my human race, from (/or/ in) its destruction will I cause
it to be [. . .],
For Nintu my creatures [. . .] will I [. . .].”

From the reference to “my human race” it is clear that the speaker is
a creating deity; and since the expression is exactly parallel to the
term “my people” used by Ishtar, or Bêlit-ili, “the Lady of the gods”,
in the Babylonian Version of the Deluge story when she bewails the
destruction of mankind, Dr. Poebel assigns the speech to Ninkharsagga,
or Nintu,[1] the goddess who later in the column is associated with
Anu, Enlil, and Enki in man’s creation. But the mention of Nintu in
her own speech is hardly consistent with that supposition,[2] if we
assume with Dr. Poebel, as we are probably justified in doing, that
the title Nintu is employed here and elsewhere in the narrative merely
as a synonym of Ninkharsagga.[3] It appears to me far more probable
that one of the two supreme gods, Anu or Enlil, is the speaker,[4] and
additional grounds will be cited later in support of this view. It is
indeed possible, in spite of the verbs and suffixes in the singular,
that the speech is to be assigned to both Anu and Enlil, for in the
last column, as we shall see, we find verb in the singular following
references to both these deities. In any case one of the two chief
gods may be regarded as speaking and acting on behalf of both, though
it may be that the inclusion of the second name in the narrative was
not original but simply due to a combination of variant traditions.
Such a conflate use of Anu-Enlil would present a striking parallel to
the Hebrew combination Yahweh-Elohim, though of course in the case of
the former pair the subsequent stage of identification was never
attained. But the evidence furnished by the text is not conclusive,
and it is preferable here and elsewhere in the narrative to regard
either Anu or Enlil as speaking and acting both on his own behalf and
as the other’s representative.

[1] Op. cit., p. 21 f.; and cf. Jastrow, /Hebrew and Babylonian
Traditions/, p. 336.

[2] It necessitates the taking of (/dingir/) /Nin-tu-ra/ as a
genitive, not a dative, and the very awkward rendering “my,
Nintu’s, creations”.

[3] Another of the recently published Sumerian mythological
compositions from Nippur includes a number of myths in which Enki
is associated first with Ninella, referred to also as Nintu, “the
Goddess of Birth”, then with Ninshar, referred to also as
Ninkurra, and finally with Ninkharsagga. This text exhibits the
process by which separate traditions with regard to goddesses
originally distinct were combined together, with the result that
their heroines were subsequently often identified with one
another. There the myths that have not been subjected to a very
severe process of editing, and in consequence the welding is not
so complete as in the Sumerian Version of the Deluge.

[4] If Enlil’s name should prove to be the first word of the
composition, we should naturally regard him as the speaker here
and as the protagonist of the gods throughout the text, a /rôle/
he also plays in the Semitic-Babylonian Version.

This reference to the Deluge, which occurs so early in the text,
suggests the probability that the account of the Creation and of the
founding of Antediluvian cities, included in the first two columns, is
to be taken merely as summarizing the events that led up to the
Deluge. And an almost certain proof of this may be seen in the opening
words of the composition, which are preserved in its colophon or title
on the left-hand edge of the tablet. We have already noted that the
first two words are there to be read, either as the prefix
“Incantation” followed by the name “Enlil”, or as the two divine names
“Anu (and) Enlil”. Now the signs which follow the traces of Enlil’s
name are quite certain; they represent “Ziusudu”, which, as we shall
see in the Third Column, is the name of the Deluge hero in our
Sumerian Version. He is thus mentioned in the opening words of the
text, in some relation to one or both of the two chief gods of the
subsequent narrative. But the natural place for his first introduction
into the story is in the Third Column, where it is related that “at
that time Ziusudu, the king” did so-and-so. The prominence given him
at the beginning of the text, at nearly a column’s interval before the
lines which record the creation of man, is sufficient proof that the
Deluge story is the writer’s main interest, and that preceding
episodes are merely introductory to it.

What subject then may we conjecture was treated in the missing lines
of this column, which precede the account of Creation and close with
the speech of the chief creating deity? Now the Deluge narrative
practically ends with the last lines of the tablet that are preserved,
and the lower half of the Sixth Column is entirely wanting. We shall
see reason to believe that the missing end of the tablet was not left
blank and uninscribed, but contained an incantation, the magical
efficacy of which was ensured by the preceding recitation of the
Deluge myth. If that were so, it would be natural enough that the text
should open with its main subject. The cause of the catastrophe and
the reason for man’s rescue from it might well be referred to by one
of the creating deities in virtue of the analogy these aspects of the
myth would present to the circumstances for which the incantation was
designed. A brief account of the Creation and of Antediluvian history
would then form a natural transition to the narrative of the Deluge
itself. And even if the text contained no incantation, the narrative
may well have been introduced in the manner suggested, since this
explanation in any case fits in with what is still preserved of the
First Column. For after his reference to the destruction of mankind,
the deity proceeds to fix the chief duty of man, either as a
preliminary to his creation, or as a reassertion of that duty after
his rescue from destruction by the Flood. It is noteworthy that this
duty consists in the building of temples to the gods “in a clean
spot”, that is to say “in hallowed places”. The passage may be given
in full, including the two opening lines already discussed:

“As for my human race, from (/or/ in) its destruction will I cause
it to be [. . .],
For Nintu my creatures [. . .] will I [. . .].
The people will I cause to . . . in their settlements,
Cities . . . shall (man) build, in there protection will I cause him
to rest,
That he may lay the brick of our houses in a clean spot,
That in a clean spot he may establish our . . . !”

In the reason here given for man’s creation, or for his rescue from
the Flood, we have an interesting parallel to the Sixth Tablet of the
Semitic-Babylonian Creation Series. At the opening of that tablet
Marduk, in response to “the word of the gods”, is urged by his heart
to devise a cunning plan which he imparts to Ea, namely the creation
of man from his own divine blood and from bone which he will fashion.
And the reason he gives for his proposal is precisely that which, as
we have seen, prompted the Sumerian deity to create or preserve the
human race. For Marduk continues:

“I will create man who shall inhabit [. . .],
That the service of the gods may be established and that their
shrines may be built.”[1] [1] See /The Seven Tablets of Creation/, Vol. I, pp. 86 ff.

We shall see later, from the remainder of Marduk’s speech, that the
Semitic Version has been elaborated at this point in order to
reconcile it with other ingredients in its narrative, which were
entirely absent from the simpler Sumerian tradition. It will suffice
here to note that, in both, the reason given for man’s existence is
the same, namely, that the gods themselves may have worshippers.[1] The conception is in full agreement with early Sumerian thought, and
reflects the theocratic constitution of the earliest Sumerian
communities. The idea was naturally not repugnant to the Semites, and
it need not surprise us to find the very words of the principal
Sumerian Creator put into the mouth of Marduk, the city-god of

[1] It may be added that this is also the reason given for man’s
creation in the introduction to a text which celebrates the
founding or rebuilding of a temple.

The deity’s speech perhaps comes to an end with the declaration of his
purpose in creating mankind or in sanctioning their survival of the
Deluge; and the following three lines appear to relate his
establishment of the divine laws in accordance with which his
intention was carried out. The passage includes a refrain, which is
repeated in the Second Column:

The sublime decrees he made perfect for it.

It may probably be assumed that the refrain is employed in relation to
the same deity in both passages. In the Second Column it precedes the
foundation of the Babylonian kingdom and the building of the
Antediluvian cities. In that passage there can be little doubt that
the subject of the verb is the chief Sumerian deity, and we are
therefore the more inclined to assign to him also the opening speech
of the First Column, rather than to regard it as spoken by the
Sumerian goddess whose share in the creation would justify her in
claiming mankind as her own. In the last four lines of the column we
have a brief record of the Creation itself. It was carried out by the
three greatest gods of the Sumerian pantheon, Anu, Enlil and Enki,
with the help of the goddess Ninkharsagga; the passage reads:

When Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninkharsagga
Created the blackheaded (i.e. mankind),
The /niggil(ma)/ of the earth they caused the earth to produce(?),
The animals, the four-legged creatures of the field, they artfully
called into existence.

The interpretation of the third line is obscure, but there is no doubt
that it records the creation of something which is represented as
having taken place between the creation of mankind and that of
animals. This object, which is written as /nig-gil/ or /nig-gil-ma/,
is referred to again in the Sixth Column, where the Sumerian hero of
the Deluge assigns to it the honorific title, “Preserver of the Seed
of Mankind”. It must therefore have played an important part in man’s
preservation from the Flood; and the subsequent bestowal of the title
may be paralleled in the early Semitic Deluge fragment from Nippur,
where the boat in which Ut-napishtim escapes is assigned the very
similar title “Preserver of Life”.[1] But /niggilma/ is not the word
used in the Sumerian Version of Ziusudu’s boat, and I am inclined to
suggest a meaning for it in connexion with the magical element in the
text, of the existence of which there is other evidence. On that
assumption, the prominence given to its creation may be paralleled in
the introduction to a later magical text, which described, probably in
connexion with an incantation, the creation of two small creatures,
one white and one black, by Nin-igi-azag, “The Lord of Clear Vision”,
one of the titles borne by Enki or Ea. The time of their creation is
indicated as after that of “cattle, beasts of the field and creatures
of the city”, and the composition opens in a way which is very like
the opening of the present passage in our text.[2] In neither text is
there any idea of giving a complete account of the creation of the
world, only so much of the original myth being included in each case
as suffices for the writer’s purpose. Here we may assume that the
creation of mankind and of animals is recorded because they were to be
saved from the Flood, and that of the /niggilma/ because of the part
it played in ensuring their survival.

[1] See Hilprecht, /Babylonian Expedition/, Series D, Vol. V, Fasc. 1,
plate, Rev., l. 8; the photographic reproduction clearly shows, as
Dr. Poebel suggests (/Hist. Texts/, p. 61 n 3), that the line
should read: /[(isu)elippu] ši-i lu (isu)ma-gur-gur-ma šum-ša lu
na-si-rat na-piš-tim/, “That ship shall be a /magurgurru/ (giant
boat), and its name shall be ‘Preserver of Life’ (lit. ‘She that
preserves life’).”

[2] See /Seven Tablets of Creation/, Vol. I, pp. 122 ff. The text
opens with the words “When the gods in their assembly had made
[the world], and had created the heavens, and had formed the
earth, and had brought living creatures into being . . .”, the
lines forming an introduction to the special act of creation with
which the composition was concerned.

The discussion of the meaning of /niggilma/ may best be postponed till
the Sixth Column, where we find other references to the word.
Meanwhile it may be noted that in the present passage the creation of
man precedes that of animals, as it did in the earlier Hebrew Version
of Creation, and probably also in the Babylonian version, though not
in the later Hebrew Version. It may be added that in another Sumerian
account of the Creation[1] the same order, of man before animals, is

[1] Cf. /Sev. Tabl./, Vol. I, p. 134 f.; but the text has been
subjected to editing, and some of its episodes are obviously


As we saw was the case with the First Column of the text, the earliest
part preserved of the Second Column contains the close of a speech by
a deity, in which he proclaims an act he is about to perform. Here we
may assume with some confidence that the speaker is Anu or Enlil,
preferably the latter, since it would be natural to ascribe the
political constitution of Babylonia, the foundation of which is
foreshadowed, to the head of the Sumerian pantheon. It would appear
that a beginning had already been made in the establishment of “the
kingdom”, and, before proceeding to his further work of founding the
Antediluvian cities, he follows the example of the speaker in the
First Column of the text and lays down the divine enactments by which
his purpose was accomplished. The same refrain is repeated:

The sub[lime decrees] he made perfect for it.

The text then relates the founding by the god of five cities, probably
“in clean places”, that is to say on hallowed ground. He calls each by
its name and assigns it to its own divine patron or city-god:

[In clean place]s he founded [five] cit[ies].
And after he had called their names and they had been allotted to
divine rulers(?),–
The . . . of these cities, Eridu, he gave to the leader, Nu-dimmud,
Secondly, to Nugira(?) he gave Bad-. . .,[1] Thirdly, Larak he gave to Pabilkharsag,
Fourthly, Sippar he gave to the hero, the Sun-god,
Fifthly, Shuruppak he gave to “the God of Shuruppak”,–
After he had called the names of these cities, and they had been
allotted to divine rulers(?),

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