Legends of Babylon and and Egypt in Relation to Hebrew Tradition

Both in the Gilgamesh Epic and in Berossus the sacrifice offered by
the Deluge hero to the gods follows the episode of the birds, and it
takes place on the top of the mountain after the landing from the
vessel. It is hardly probable that two sacrifices were recounted in
the Sumerian Version, one to the Sun-god in the boat and another on
the mountain after landing; and if we are right in identifying
Ziusudu’s recorded sacrifice with that of Ut-napishtim and Xisuthros,
it would seem that, according to the Sumerian Version, no birds were
sent out to test the abatement of the waters. This conclusion cannot
be regarded as quite certain, inasmuch as the greater part of the
Fifth Column is waning. We have, moreover, already seen reason to
believe that the account on our tablet is epitomized, and that
consequently the omission of any episode from our text does not
necessarily imply its absence from the original Sumerian Version which
it follows. But here at least it is clear that nothing can have been
omitted between the opening of the light-hole and the sacrifice, for
the one act is the natural sequence of the other. On the whole it
seems preferable to assume that we have recovered a simpler form of
the story.

As the storm itself is described in a few phrases, so the cessation of
the flood may have been dismissed with equal brevity; the gradual
abatement of the waters, as attested by the dove, the swallow, and the
raven, may well be due to later elaboration or to combination with
some variant account. Under its amended form the narrative leads
naturally up to the landing on the mountain and the sacrifice of
thanksgiving to the gods. In the Sumerian Version, on the other hand,
Ziusudu regards himself as saved when he sees the Sun shining; he
needs no further tests to assure himself that the danger is over, and
his sacrifice too is one of gratitude for his escape. The
disappearance of the Sun-god from the Semitic Version was thus a
necessity, to avoid an anti-climax; and the hero’s attitude of worship
had obviously to be translated into one of grief. An indication that
the sacrifice was originally represented as having taken place on
board the boat may be seen in the lines of the Gilgamesh Epic which
recount how Enlil, after acquiescing in Ut-napishtim’s survival of the
Flood, went up into the ship and led him forth by the hand, although,
in the preceding lines, he had already landed and had sacrificed upon
the mountain. The two passages are hardly consistent as they stand,
but they find a simple explanation of we regard the second of them as
an unaltered survival from an earlier form of the story.

If the above line of reasoning be sound, it follows that, while the
earlier Hebrew Version closely resembles the Gilgamesh Epic, the later
Hebrew Version, by its omission of the birds, would offer a parallel
to the Sumerian Version. But whether we may draw any conclusion from
this apparent grouping of our authorities will be best dealt with when
we have concluded our survey of the new evidence.

As we have seen, the text of the Fifth Column breaks off with
Ziusudu’s sacrifice to the Sun-god, after he had opened a light-hole
in the boat and had seen by the god’s beams that the storm was over.
The missing portion of the Fifth Column must have included at least
some account of the abatement of the waters, the stranding of the
boat, and the manner in which Anu and Enlil became apprised of
Ziusudu’s escape, and consequently of the failure of their intention
to annihilate mankind. For in the Sixth Column of the text we find
these two deities reconciled to Ziusudu and bestowing immortality upon
him, as Enlil bestows immortality upon Ut-napishtim at the close of
the Semitic Version. In the latter account, after the vessel had
grounded on Mount Nisir and Ut-napishtim had tested the abatement of
the waters by means of the birds, he brings all out from the ship and
offers his libation and sacrifice upon the mountain, heaping up reed,
cedar-wood, and myrtle beneath his seven sacrificial vessels. And it
was by this act on his part that the gods first had knowledge of his
escape. For they smelt the sweet savour of the sacrifice, and
“gathered like flies over the sacrificer”.[1] [1] Gilg. Epic, XI, l. 162.

It is possible in our text that Ziusudu’s sacrifice in the boat was
also the means by which the gods became acquainted with his survival;
and it seems obvious that the Sun-god, to whom it was offered, should
have continued to play some part in the narrative, perhaps by assisting
Ziusudu in propitiating Anu and Enlil. In the Semitic-Babylonian
Version, the first deity to approach the sacrifice is Bêlit-ili or
Ishtar, who is indignant with Enlil for what he has done. When Enlil
himself approaches and sees the ship he is filled with anger against
the gods, and, asking who has escaped, exclaims that no man must live
in the destruction. Thereupon Ninib accuses Ea, who by his pleading
succeeds in turning Enlil’s purpose. He bids Enlil visit the sinner
with his sin and lay his transgression on the transgressor; Enlil
should not again send a deluge to destroy the whole of mankind, but
should be content with less wholesale destruction, such as that
wrought by wild beasts, famine, and plague. Finally he confesses that
it was he who warned Ziusudu of the gods’ decision by sending him a
dream. Enlil thereupon changes his intention, and going up into the
ship, leads Ut-napishtim forth. Though Ea’s intervention finds, of
course, no parallel in either Hebrew version, the subject-matter of
his speech is reflected in both. In the earlier Hebrew Version Yahweh
smells the sweet savour of Noah’s burnt offering and says in his heart
he will no more destroy every living creature as he had done; while in
the later Hebrew Version Elohim, after remembering Noah and causing
the waters to abate, establishes his covenant to the same effect, and,
as a sign of the covenant, sets his bow in the clouds.

In its treatment of the climax of the story we shall see that the
Sumerian Version, at any rate in the form it has reached us, is on a
lower ethical level than the Babylonian and Hebrew Versions. Ea’s
argument that the sinner should bear his own sin and the transgressor
his own transgression in some measure forestalls that of Ezekiel;[1] and both the Hebrew Versions represent the saving of Noah as part of
the divine intention from the beginning. But the Sumerian Version
introduces the element of magic as the means by which man can bend the
will of the gods to his own ends. How far the details of the Sumerian
myth at this point resembled that of the Gilgamesh Epic it is
impossible to say, but the general course of the story must have been
the same. In the latter Enlil’s anger is appeased, in the former that
of Anu and Enlil; and it is legitimate to suppose that Enki, like Ea,
was Ziusudu’s principal supporter, in view of the part he had already
taken in ensuring his escape.

[1] Cf. Ezek. xviii, passim, esp. xviii. 20.


The presence of the puzzling lines, with which the Sixth Column of our
text opens, was not explained by Dr. Poebel; indeed, they would be
difficult to reconcile with his assumption that our text is an epic
pure and simple. But if, as is suggested above, we are dealing with a
myth in magical employment, they are quite capable of explanation. The
problem these lines present will best be stated by giving a
translation of the extant portion of the column, where they will be
seen with their immediate context in relation to what follows them:

“By the Soul of Heaven, by the soul of Earth, shall ye conjure him,
That with you he may . . . !
Anu and Enlil by the Soul of Heaven, by the Soul of Earth, shall ye
And with you will he . . . !
“The /niggilma/ of the ground springs forth in abundance(?)!”
Ziusudu, the king,
Before Anu and Enlil bows himself down.
Life like (that of) a god he gives to him,
An eternal soul like (that of) a god he creates for him.
At that time Ziusudu, the king,
The name of the /niggilma/ (named) “Preserver of the Seed of
In a . . . land,[1] the land[1] of Dilmun(?), they caused him to

[1] Possibly to be translated “mountain”. The rendering of the proper
name as that of Dilmun is very uncertain. For the probable
identification of Dilmun with the island of Bahrein in the Persian
Gulf, cf. Rawlinson, /Journ. Roy. As. Soc./, 1880, pp. 20 ff.; and
see further, Meissner, /Orient. Lit-Zeit./, XX. No. 7, col. 201

The first two lines of the column are probably part of the speech of
some deity, who urges the necessity of invoking or conjuring Anu and
Enlil “by the Soul of Heaven, by the Soul of Earth”, in order to
secure their support or approval. Now Anu and Enlil are the two great
gods who had determined on mankind’s destruction, and whose wrath at
his own escape from death Ziusudu must placate. It is an obvious
inference that conjuring “by the Soul of Heaven” and “by the Soul of
Earth” is either the method by which Ziusudu has already succeeded in
appeasing their anger, or the means by which he is here enjoined to
attain that end. Against the latter alternative it is to be noted that
the god is addressing more than one person; and, further, at Ziusudu
is evidently already pardoned, for, so far from following the deity’s
advice, he immediately prostrates himself before Anu and Enlil and
receives immortality. We may conjecture that at the close of the Fifth
Column Ziusudu had already performed the invocation and thereby had
appeased the divine wrath; and that the lines at the beginning of the
Sixth Column point the moral of the story by enjoining on Ziusudu and
his descendants, in other words on mankind, the advisability of
employing this powerful incantation at their need. The speaker may
perhaps have been one of Ziusudu’s divine helpers–the Sun-god to whom
he had sacrificed, or Enki who had saved him from the Flood. But it
seems to me more probable that the words are uttered by Anu and Enlil
themselves.[1] For thereby they would be represented as giving their
own sanction to the formula, and as guaranteeing its magical efficacy.
That the incantation, as addressed to Anu and Enlil, would be
appropriate is obvious, since each would be magically approached
through his own sphere of control.

[1] One of them may have been the speaker on behalf of both.

It is significant that at another critical point of the story we have
already met with a reference to conjuring “by the Name of Heaven and
Earth”, the phrase occurring at the close of the Third Column after
the reference to the dream or dreams. There, as we saw, we might
possibly explain the passage as illustrating one aspect of Ziusudu’s
piety: he may have been represented as continually practising this
class of divination, and in that case it would be natural enough that
in the final crisis of the story he should have propitiated the gods
he conjured by the same means. Or, as a more probable alternative, it
was suggested that we might connect the line with Enki’s warning, and
assume that Ziusudu interpreted the dream-revelation of Anu and
Enlil’s purpose by means of the magical incantation which was
peculiarly associated with them. On either alternative the phrase fits
into the story itself, and there is no need to suppose that the
narrative is interrupted, either in the Third or in the Sixth Column,
by an address to the hearers of the myth, urging them to make the
invocation on their own behalf.

On the other hand, it seems improbable that the lines in question
formed part of the original myth; they may have been inserted to weld
the myth more closely to the magic. Both incantation and epic may have
originally existed independently, and, if so, their combination would
have been suggested by their contents. For while the former is
addressed to Anu and Enlil, in the latter these same gods play the
dominant parts: they are the two chief creators, it is they who send
the Flood, and it is their anger that must be appeased. If once
combined, the further step of making the incantation the actual means
by which Ziusudu achieved his own rescue and immortality would be a
natural development. It may be added that the words would have been an
equally appropriate addition if the incantation had not existed
independently, but had been suggested by, and developed from, the

In the third and eleventh lines of the column we have further
references to the mysterious object, the creation of which appears to
have been recorded in the First Column of the text between man’s
creation and that of animals. The second sign of the group composing
its name was not recognized by Dr. Poebel, but it is quite clearly
written in two of the passages, and has been correctly identified by
Professor Barton.[1] The Sumerian word is, in fact, to be read /nig-
gil-ma/,[2] which, when preceded by the determinative for “pot”,
“jar”, or “bowl”, is given in a later syllabary as the equivalent of
the Semitic word /mashkhalu/. Evidence that the word /mashkhalu/ was
actually employed to denote a jar or vessel of some sort is furnished
by one of the Tel el-Amarna letters which refers to “one silver
/mashkhalu/” and “one (or two) stone /mashkhalu/”.[3] In our text the
determinative is absent, and it is possible that the word is used in
another sense. Professor Barton, in both passages in the Sixth Column,
gives it the meaning “curse”; he interprets the lines as referring to
the removal of a curse from the earth after the Flood, and he compares
Gen. viii. 21, where Yahweh declares he will not again “curse the
ground for man’s sake”. But this translation ignores the occurrence of
the word in the First Column, where the creation of the /niggilma/ is
apparently recorded; and his rendering “the seed that was cursed” in
l. 11 is not supported by the photographic reproduction of the text,
which suggests that the first sign in the line is not that for “seed”,
but is the sign for “name”, as correctly read by Dr. Poebel. In that
passage the /niggilma/ appears to be given by Ziusudu the name
“Preserver of the Seed of Mankind”, which we have already compared to
the title bestowed on Uta-napishtim’s ship, “Preserver of Life”. Like
the ship, it must have played an important part in man’s preservation,
which would account not only for the honorific title but for the
special record of its creation.

[1] See /American Journal of Semitic Languages/, Vol. XXXI, April
1915, p. 226.

[2] It is written /nig-gil/ in the First Column.

[3] See Winckler, /El-Amarna/, pl. 35 f., No. 28, Obv., Col. II, l.
45, Rev., Col. I, l. 63, and Knudtzon, /El-Am. Taf./, pp. 112,
122; the vessels were presents from Amenophis IV to Burnaburiash.

It we may connect the word with the magical colouring of the myth, we
might perhaps retain its known meaning, “jar” or “bowl”, and regard it
as employed in the magical ceremony which must have formed part of the
invocation “by the Soul of Heaven, by the Soul of Earth”. But the
accompanying references to the ground, to its production from the
ground, and to its springing up, if the phrases may be so rendered,
suggest rather some kind of plant;[1] and this, from its employment in
magical rites, may also have given its name to a bowl or vessel which
held it. A very similar plant was that found and lost by Gilgamesh,
after his sojourn with Ut-napishtim; it too had potent magical power
and bore a title descriptive of its peculiar virtue of transforming
old age to youth. Should this suggestion prove to be correct, the
three passages mentioning the /niggilma/ must be classed with those in
which the invocation is referred to, as ensuring the sanction of the
myth to further elements in the magic. In accordance with this view,
the fifth line in the Sixth Column is probably to be included in the
divine speech, where a reference to the object employed in the ritual
would not be out of place. But it is to be hoped that light will be
thrown on this puzzling word by further study, and perhaps by new
fragments of the text; meanwhile it would be hazardous to suggest a
more definite rendering.

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