Page images
PDF
EPUB

The story of the Sumerian recension of the deluge is interrupted at the beginning of column six by an incantation formula, after which the story is continued. Whether other incantation formulae were found in the missing portions, of course, cannot be determined. This reminds us of the use to which the sorcerer put other myths and legends.

This is the only Sumerian version or story of the flood that is at present known. Professor Langdon has claimed to have another, which he published under the title “Sumerian Epic of Paradise, the Flood and the Fall of Man." As far as I can ascertain all scholars agree that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the deluge. In his original publication the crucial line bearing on the supposed deluge was not translated. In his French translation of the work,» he read it: “O Ninkharsag, I will destroy the fields with a deluge.” Prince translated this: “The fields of Ninkharsag I will inundate"; but Witzel, followed by Mercer, translates: “Ninkharsag was made pregnant." There can be no question but that the context fully bears out the last mentioned. In short, there can be no doubt, as stated above, that the poem has nothing to do with the deluge.

As is generally recognized, the Old Testament contains two different and originally independent accounts of the deluge which are combined into one, but which scholars feel, as in the case of the creation stories, can be definitely separated into what have been called the Jehovist and the Priestly versions. As already stated, most scholars hold that the former was written in the ninth or eighth century, and the latter in the fifth; others, however, hold that both stories are more ancient, which view, it seems to me, is very probably correct.

As has already been noted, the versions found in Babylonia have much in common with the Hebrew stories. This fact has given rise

· Langdon, Poème Sumérien du Paradis, du Déluge et de la Chute de l'Homme. • See Mercer, Jour. of the Soc. of Biblical Research IV 51 ff.

to the conclusion, which has been many times restated, that either the Biblical stories are derived from the Babylonian, or the Babylonian is derived from the Biblical, or that they have a common origin.

Assyriologists, as far as I know, have generally dismissed as an impossibility the idea that there was a common Semitic tradition, which developed in Israel in one way, and in Babylonia in another. They have unreservedly declared that the Biblical stories have been borrowed from Babylonia, in which land they were indigenous. To me it has always seemed perfectly reasonable that both stories had a common origin among the Semites, some of whom entered Babylonia, while others carried their traditions into Palestine. The unanimous decision of Assyriologists, however, seemed difficult to cope with; nevertheless, this was attempted in Amurru the Home of the Northern Semites, with results which have already been mentioned. Now, after years of additional study, I feel that this can be done much more effectively.

In demonstrating that the views of the Babylonists are no longer tenable, let me present what I have to say under the four heads which have been outlined in the Chapter II.

The first of these four arguments has already been fully discussed, namely, that while no migrations from Babylonia into Amurru are known to have taken place, when such traditions would have been carried there, and that while there is no proof that Babylonian religious ideas were transplanted to Amurru, we have a mass of evidence to prove that in many periods Amorites not only poured into alluvial Babylonia, but carried with them their religion. This argument, which is fully discussed in Chapter II, the writer feels is most cogent in showing not only the futility of the Babylonist assertions, but that the origin of such legends, which both peoples had in common, was to be found in Amurru.

The second proof of my contention that these stories are not of Babylonian origin, but are Amorite, is based on a study of the

forces of nature responsible for the deluge. As is well known, the more effective of the two chief arguments that have been advanced for the Babylonian origin of these stories, is that they are either based upon nature myths, due to the climate, or upon recollections of an actual extraordinary inundation of Southern Babylonia, where the story was originated, and whence in time it was carried to Palestine. As the late Canon Driver, in quoting Professor Zimmern, puts it: "The very essence of the Biblical narrative presupposes a country liable, like Babylonia, to inundations; so that it cannot be doubted that the story was indigenous in Babylonia and transplanted to Palestine.”'s Or, as Sir William Frazer, in quoting the late Professor Jastrow says: the basis for the Biblical story "is the yearly phenomenon of the rain and stormy season which lasts in Babylonia several months and during which time whole districts in the Euphrates valley are submerged.”.

The second quotation, which represents the view of many, we can peremptorily dismiss as a complete misunderstanding, as I have already shown, of the climatic conditions of Babylonia (see pp. 75 f.). A similar result awaits the first-mentioned quotation and argument.

Before discussing the force which caused the deluge as given in the narratives, let me refer again to the rains of Babylonia, and say a word with reference to the inundations as caused by the rise of the rivers.

The history of this land is the history of the two rivers. Without them, it would not have been inhabited by man. Permanent settlements were possible in this alluvial plain only after the two rivers were harnessed by the building of embankments and canals in order to direct the flood water into escapes, to be distributed later over

• The second argument, based on the antiquity of the Babylonian as against the Hebrew version, is discussed below.

The Book of Genesis p. 107.
Folk-lore in the Old Testament I p. 353.

areas to be irrigated. In spite of heroic efforts and constant attention, the floods frequently played havoc. The rise of the Tigris at Baghdad is usually about sixteen feet, but occasionally an additional rise of about five feet causes trouble. The danger of destructive inundations has always hung over the inhabitants of the plain. The floods in Babylonia are mainly due to the rapid melting of the snows in Armenia, and in the Kurdish mountains. For further information on the annual inundations, see Chapter III. It must be conceded that the people living in that land could appreciate flood stories as well as any people known, because of the annual rise of the rivers. Of course this could be said nearly as well of Egypt, which strange to say, among ancient peoples is a notable exception in that it did not have a flood story.

We have already inquired into the rôle played by rains in Babylonia. We have seen that while the rivers furnished the land with its "life blood,” rain had relatively little value. We have seen that the records kept by the German scientists show an average fall of 7 centimeters, or 2.80 inches, for the year, and those by the English, 4.98 inches. We have further seen that the rains of Babylonia are in character equivalent to New England summer showers, and that the country, because of the scarcity of rain, could almost be classed with desert lands. While it would seem, as admitted, that Babylonia because of inundations was excellent soil for deluge stories, certainly the force which caused the deluge could not have been rain. Let us now examine all the stories or versions that have been preserved in Babylonia, and ascertain what force is mentioned in them which brought about the deluge.

In the Gilgamesh story, Atra-khasis is told to say to the people, in explanation as to why he was building the ship, beginning with line 39:7

[blocks in formation]

I know that Enlil hates me, and
I may not dwell in your city;
Nor on the soil of Enlil set my face.
I will go down to the ocean; with (Ea] my lord, I will dwell.
(Upon) you will he then rain abundance.

When the god ordered him to enter the ship, the hero was told:

The muir kukki at even will send a heavy rain.
Enter the ship and close the door.
That time arrived.
The muir kukki at even sent a heavy rain.

In his description of what happened, the hero informs us:

Of the storm, I observed its appearance,
To behold the storm, I dreaded.
I entered the ship and closed the door.
To the master of the ship, to Buzur-Amurru, the sailor,
I entrusted the great house, including its possessions.
On the appearance of the break of dawn,
There rises from the foundation of the heavens a black cloud.
Adad thunders in the midst of it.
Nebo and Sharru go before.
They go as messengers over mountain and land.
Urra-gal tears out the mast(?).
En-Urta proceeds; he advances the onset.
The Anunnaki raise the torches.
With their flashes they illuminate the land.

One day, the storm ...
Quickly it overwhelms, and (covers) the mountains.

Six days and six nights
The wind tears and the flood-tempest overwhelms the land.
When the seventh day arrives, the flood-tempest subsides in its

onslaught,
Which had fought like an army.

Does this sound like a description of an inundation caused by the rise of the rivers of Babylonia ? And since we know that rain

« PreviousContinue »