Legends of Babylon and and Egypt in Relation to Hebrew Tradition

The lament of the goddess is followed by a brief account of the action
taken by the other chief figures in the drama. Enki holds counsel with
his own heart, evidently devising the project, which he afterwards
carried into effect, of preserving the seed of mankind from
destruction. Since the verb in the following line is wanting, we do
not know what action is there recorded of the four creating deities;
but the fact that the gods of heaven and earth invoked the name of Anu
and Enlil suggests that it was their will which had been forced upon
the other gods. We shall see that throughout the text Anu and Enlil
are the ultimate rulers of both gods and men.

The narrative then introduces the human hero of the Deluge story:

At that time Ziusudu, the king, . . . priest of the god [. . .],
Made a very great . . ., [. . .].
In humility he prostrates himself, in reverence [. . .],
Daily he stands in attendance [. . .].
A dream,[1] such as had not been before, comes forth[2] . . . [. . .],
By the Name of Heaven and Earth he conjures [. . .].

[1] The word may also be rendered “dreams”.

[2] For this rendering of the verb /e-de/, for which Dr. Poebel does
not hazard a translation, see Rawlinson, /W.A.I./, IV, pl. 26, l.
24 f.(a), /nu-e-de/ = Sem. /la us-su-u/ (Pres.); and cf. Brünnow,
/Classified List/, p. 327. An alternative rendering “is created”
is also possible, and would give equally good sense; cf. /nu-e-de/
= Sem. /la šu-pu-u/, /W.A.I./, IV, pl. 2, l. 5 (a), and Brünnow,
op. cit., p. 328.

The name of the hero, Ziusudu, is the fuller Sumerian equivalent of
Ut-napishtim (or Uta-napishtim), the abbreviated Semitic form which we
find in the Gilgamesh Epic. For not only are the first two elements of
the Sumerian name identical with those of the Semitic Ut-napishtim,
but the names themselves are equated in a later Babylonian syllabary
or explanatory list of words.[1] We there find “Ut-napishte” given as
the equivalent of the Sumerian “Zisuda”, evidently an abbreviated form
of the name Ziusudu;[2] and it is significant that the names occur in
the syllabary between those of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, evidently in
consequence of the association of the Deluge story by the Babylonians
with their national epic of Gilgamesh. The name Ziusudu may be
rendered “He who lengthened the day of life” or “He who made life long
of days”,[3] which in the Semitic form is abbreviated by the omission
of the verb. The reference is probably to the immortality bestowed
upon Ziusudu at the close of the story, and not to the prolongation of
mankind’s existence in which he was instrumental. It is scarcely
necessary to add that the name has no linguistic connexion with the
Hebrew name Noah, to which it also presents no parallel in meaning.

[1] Cf. /Cun. Texts in the Brit. Mus./, Pt. XVIII, pl. 30, l. 9 (a).

[2] The name in the Sumerian Version is read by Dr. Poebel as
Ziugiddu, but there is much in favour of Prof. Zimmern’s
suggestion, based on the form Zisuda, that the third syllable of
the name should be read as /su/. On a fragment of another Nippur
text, No. 4611, Dr. Langdon reads the name as /Zi-u-sud-du/ (cf.
Univ. of Penns. Mus. Publ., Bab. Sec., Vol. X, No. 1, p. 90, pl.
iv a); the presence of the phonetic complement /du/ may be cited
in favour of this reading, but it does not appear to be supported
by the photographic reproductions of the name in the Sumerian
Deluge Version given by Dr. Poebel (/Hist. and Gramm. Texts/, pl.
lxxxviii f.). It may be added that, on either alternative, the
meaning of the name is the same.

[3] The meaning of the Sumerian element /u/ in the name, rendered as
/utu/ in the Semitic form, is rather obscure, and Dr. Poebel left
it unexplained. It is very probable, as suggested by Dr. Langdon
(cf. /Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch./, XXXVI, 1914, p. 190), that we
should connect it with the Semitic /uddu/; in that case, in place
of “breath”, the rending he suggests, I should be inclined to
render it here as “day”, for /uddu/ as the meaning “dawn” and the
sign UD is employed both for /urru/, “day-light”, and /ûmu/,

It is an interesting fact that Ziusudu should be described simply as
“the king”, without any indication of the city or area he ruled; and
in three of the five other passages in the text in which his name is
mentioned it is followed by the same title without qualification. In
most cases Berossus tells us the cities from which his Antediluvian
rulers came; and if the end of the line had been preserved it might
have been possible to determine definitely Ziusudu’s city, and
incidentally the scene of the Deluge in the Sumerian Version, by the
name of the deity in whose service he acted as priest. We have already
noted some grounds for believing that his city may have been
Shuruppak, as in the Babylonian Version; and if that were so, the
divine name reads as “the God of Shurrupak” should probably be
restored at the end of the line.[1] [1] The remains that are preserved of the determinative, which is not
combined with the sign EN, proves that Enki’s name is not to be
restored. Hence Ziusudu was not priest of Enki, and his city was
probably not Eridu, the seat of his divine friend and counsellor,
and the first of the Antediluvian cities. Sufficient reason for
Enki’s intervention on Ziusudu’s behalf is furnished by the fact
that, as God of the Deep, he was concerned in the proposed method
of man’s destruction. His rivalry of Enlil, the God of the Earth,
is implied in the Babylonian Version (cf. Gilg. Epic. XI, ll. 39-
42), and in the Sumerian Version this would naturally extend to
Anu, the God of Heaven.

The employment of the royal title by itself accords with the tradition
from Berossus that before the Deluge, as in later periods, the land
was governed by a succession of supreme rulers, and that the hero of
the Deluge was the last of them. In the Gilgamesh Epic, on the other
hand, Ut-napishtim is given no royal nor any other title. He is merely
referred to as a “man of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu”, and he appears
in the guise of an ancient hero or patriarch not invested with royal
power. On this point Berossus evidently preserves the original
Sumerian traditions, while the Hebrew Versions resemble the Semitic-
Babylonian narrative. The Sumerian conception of a series of supreme
Antediluvian rulers is of course merely a reflection from the
historical period, when the hegemony in Babylonia was contested among
the city-states. The growth of the tradition may have been encouraged
by the early use of /lugal/, “king”, which, though always a term of
secular character, was not very sharply distinguished from that of
/patesi/ and other religious titles, until, in accordance with
political development, it was required to connote a wider dominion. In
Sumer, at the time of the composition of our text, Ziusudu was still
only one in a long line of Babylonian rulers, mainly historical but
gradually receding into the realms of legend and myth. At the time of
the later Semites there had been more than one complete break in the
tradition and the historical setting of the old story had become dim.
The fact that Hebrew tradition should range itself in this matter with
Babylon rather than with Sumer is important as a clue in tracing the
literary history of our texts.

The rest of the column may be taken as descriptive of Ziusudu’s
activities. One line records his making of some very great object or
the erection of a huge building;[1] and since the following lines are
concerned solely with religious activities, the reference is possibly
to a temple or some other structure of a sacred character. Its
foundation may have been recorded as striking evidence of his devotion
to his god; or, since the verb in this sentence depends on the words
“at that time” in the preceding line, we may perhaps regard his action
as directly connected with the revelation to be made to him. His
personal piety is then described: daily he occupied himself in his
god’s service, prostrating himself in humility and constant in his
attendance at the shrine. A dream (or possibly dreams), “such as had
not been before”, appears to him and he seems to be further described
as conjuring “by the Name of Heaven and Earth”; but as the ends of all
these lines are broken, the exact connexion of the phrases is not
quite certain.

[1] The element /gur-gur/, “very large” or “huge”, which occurs in the
name of this great object or building, /an-sag-gur-gur/, is
employed later in the term for the “huge boat”, /(gish)ma-gur-
gur/, in which Ziusudu rode out the storm. There was, of course,
even at this early period a natural tendency to picture on a
superhuman scale the lives and deeds of remote predecessors, a
tendency which increased in later times and led, as we shall see,
to the elaboration of extravagant detail.

It is difficult not to associate the reference to a dream, or possibly
to dream-divination, with the warning in which Enki reveals the
purpose of the gods. For the later versions prepare us for a reference
to a dream. If we take the line as describing Ziusudu’s practice of
dream-divination in general, “such as had not been before”, he may
have been represented as the first diviner of dreams, as Enmeduranki
was held to be the first practitioner of divination in general. But it
seems to me more probable that the reference is to a particular dream,
by means of which he obtained knowledge of the gods’ intentions. On
the rendering of this passage depends our interpretation of the whole
of the Fourth Column, where the point will be further discussed.
Meanwhile it may be noted that the conjuring “by the Name of Heaven
and Earth”, which we may assume is ascribed to Ziusudu, gains in
significance if we may regard the setting of the myth as a magical
incantation, an inference in support of which we shall note further
evidence. For we are furnished at once with the grounds for its
magical employment. If Ziusudu, through conjuring by the Name of
Heaven and earth, could profit by the warning sent him and so escape
the impending fate of mankind, the application of such a myth to the
special needs of a Sumerian in peril or distress will be obvious. For
should he, too, conjure by the Name of Heaven and Earth, he might look
for a similar deliverance; and his recital of the myth itself would
tend to clinch the magical effect of his own incantation.

The description of Ziusudu has also great interest in furnishing us
with a close parallel to the piety of Noah in the Hebrew Versions. For
in the Gilgamesh Epic and in Berossus this feature of the story is
completely absent. We are there given no reason why Ut-napishtim was
selected by Ea, nor Xisuthros by Kronos. For all that those versions
tell us, the favour of each deity might have been conferred
arbitrarily, and not in recognition of, or in response to, any
particular quality or action on the part of its recipient. The
Sumerian Version now restores the original setting of the story and
incidentally proves that, in this particular, the Hebrew Versions have
not embroidered a simpler narrative for the purpose of edification,
but have faithfully reproduced an original strand of the tradition.


The top of the Fourth Column of the text follows immediately on the
close of the Third Column, so that at this one point we have no great
gap between the columns. But unfortunately the ends of all the lines
in both columns are wanting, and the exact content of some phrases
preserved and their relation to each other are consequently doubtful.
This materially affects the interpretation of the passage as a whole,
but the main thread of the narrative may be readily followed. Ziusudu
is here warned that a flood is to be sent “to destroy the seed of
mankind”; the doubt that exists concerns the manner in which the
warning is conveyed. In the first line of the column, after a
reference to “the gods”, a building seems to be mentioned, and
Ziusudu, standing beside it, apparently hears a voice, which bids him
take his stand beside a wall and then conveys to him the warning of
the coming flood. The destruction of mankind had been decreed in “the
assembly [of the gods]” and would be carried out by the commands of
Anu and Enlil. Before the text breaks off we again have a reference to
the “kingdom” and “its rule”, a further trace of the close association
of the Deluge with the dynastic succession in the early traditions of

In the opening words of the warning to Ziusudu, with its prominent
repetition of the word “wall”, we must evidently trace some connexion
with the puzzling words of Ea in the Gilgamesh Epic, when he begins
his warning to Ut-napishtim. The warnings, as given in the two
versions, are printed below in parallel columns for comparison.[1] The
Gilgamesh Epic, after relating how the great gods in Shuruppak had
decided to send a deluge, continues as follows in the right-hand


For [. . .] . . . the gods a Nin-igi-azag,[2] the god Ea,
. . . [. . .]; sat with them,
Ziusudu standing at its side And he repeated their word to
heard [. . .]: the house of reeds:
“At the wall on my left side take “Reed-hut, reed-hut! Wall,
thy stand and [. . .], wall!
At the wall I will speak a word O reed-hut, hear! O wall,
to thee [. . .]. understand!
O my devout one . . . [. . .], Thou man of Shuruppak, son of
By our hand(?) a flood[3] . . . Pull down thy house, build a
[. . .] will be [sent]. ship,
To destroy the seed of mankind Leave thy possessions, take
[. . .] heed for thy life,
Is the decision, the word of the Abandon thy property, and save
assembly[4] [of the gods] thy life.
The commands of Anu (and) And bring living seed of every
En[lil . . .] kind into the ship.
Its kingdom, its rule [. . .] As for the ship, which thou
shalt build,
To his [. . .]” Of which the measurements
shall be carefully measured,
[. . .] Its breadth and length shall
[. . .] In the deep shalt thou immerse

[1] Col. IV, ll. 1 ff. are there compared with Gilg. Epic, XI, ll.

[2] Nin-igi-azag, “The Lord of Clear Vision”, a title borne by Enki,
or Ea, as God of Wisdom.

[3] The Sumerian term /amaru/, here used for the flood and rendered as
“rain-storm” by Dr. Poebel, is explained in a later syllabary as
the equivalent of the Semitic-Babylonian word /abûbu/ (cf.
Meissner, /S.A.I./, No. 8909), the term employed for the flood
both in the early Semitic version of the Atrakhasis story dated in
Ammizaduga’s reign and in the Gilgamesh Epic. The word /abûbu/ is
often conventionally rendered “deluge”, but should be more
accurately translated “flood”. It is true that the tempests of the
Sumerian Version probably imply rain; and in the Gilgamesh Epic
heavy rain in the evening begins the flood and is followed at dawn
by a thunderstorm and hurricane. But in itself the term /abûbu/
implies flood, which could take place through a rise of the rivers
unaccompanied by heavy local rain. The annual rainfall in
Babylonia to-day is on an average only about 8 in., and there have
been years in succession when the total rainfall has not exceeded
4 in.; and yet the /abûbu/ is not a thing of the past.

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