« PreviousContinue »
THE TOWER OF BABEL
The Genesis story of the Tower of Babel, need not long detain
Like the reference to Nimrod, an early emperor of Babylonia, it naturally deals with what is Babylonian. The light thrown upon the story of Babel by exploration and research, is well known; and need not be enlarged upon here. Suffice it to say, that one of the reasons why the Biblical writer made use of the story was to refer to the fact that people from his land journeyed eastward into the alluvium, for he tells us that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and dwelt there.
These settlers, having come from Amurru, called the name of their city after their own god, Bab-El. Their temple they called Esagila "House (E) with a lofty (ila) head (sag).” Their tower they called E-temen-an-ki "house (E) of the foundation (temen) of heaven (an) and earth (ki).” As is well known, many other temple-names of Babylonia also refer to the heavens. Naturally, the names of these famous towers in Babylonia, and the idea expressed by them, namely, that they were intended to reach into the realm of heaven, an idea probably connected with all high places in the West, were, doubtless, known to intelligent people of the West. They probably even also knew of inscriptions referring to their reconstruction. If in Europe and America, museums now have not a few original inscriptions concerning the Tower of Babel, in which are found an expression almost identical with that of Genesis, namely, that they built up its head reaching into the heavens, it is quite probable that this conception was also well known at the time to the intelligent ancient of the Near East. Doubtless, also the fact that they had in mind making a name for
themselves, which is also expressed in the inscriptions with which we ourselves are familiar, was also known to them. And naturally the fact that the Babylonians had to depend largely upon brick for this building material, instead of stone, and bitumen instead of mortar, was also very fully appreciated.
Having in mind the comparatively close connections between Babylonia and Canaan, there should be no occasion for any difference in views concerning the origin of the Biblical story of Babel. The story in Genesis is the story of a foreigner, not of a Babylonian. His interpretation of the facts which he uses, clearly indicates this. The story may even have been occasioned by the sight of the tower in a period when it had been allowed to fall into decay, for we have references in the inscriptions to this having occurred. Knowledge of such a condition, however, was not gained when the Hebrews lived in captivity; for at that time Babel was at its height.
The Biblical writer, doubtless, was also well acquainted with the fact that Babylon was a great metropolis of many tongues, especially in the period following its ascendency in the reign of Hammurabi. That it was the chief city of the land, following this period, was of course well known. Geographically, Babylon was built in a strategic position. There was always a great city or emporium in the vicinity-Kish, and Akkad before the days of Babylon; Seleucia, Ctesiphon, and Baghdad following its decay; which fact can easily be understood, for the trade routes between India, Persia, Assyria, and the West, owing to the position of the deserts, naturally passed through this part of the country. In short, the fact that so many languages were represented in Babylon, as is the case in Baghdad at present, was doubtless known to the Biblical writer, and was made use of in writing the story.
A. THE AMORITE STORY OF CREATION (ENUMA ELISH)'
When above the heavens were not named,
Mummu-Tiamat was the bearer of all of them,
Dry ground was not formed, grass was not seen,
(Then) were created the gods in their midst.
As they grew, they became lofty.
Anu, their son, (became) a rival of his fathers. 15 Anshar made Anu, his firstborn, an equal.
Then Anu in his likeness brought forth Ea.
1 Parts of the text were published by Smith, TSBA 4, 364 ff, and Delitzsch, Ass. Les.: 93 f; Bezold, Catalogue p. 716; Pinches, Bab. and Or. Record 1890; King CT 13; and Seven Tablets of Creation; Ebeling, Keilschrifttexte aus Assur, Religiösen Inhalts. Transliterations and translations appeared from the time of Smith by the above, including Sayce, Higher Criticism 63 ff; Jensen, Kosmologie 268 ff, 320 ff, and KB VI 1 2ff; Zimmern in Gunkel, Schöpfung und Chaos; Delitzsch, Das Babylonische Weltschöpfungsepos; Bezold, Die Schöpfungslegende; Jeremias, Das Alte Testament im Lichte des alten Orients; Dhorme, Choix de Textes Religieux Assyro-Babyloniens; Jastrow, The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria 407 ff; see also the German edition, and Ancient Hebrew Traditions; Clay, Light on the Old Testament from Babel; Rogers, The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, and Cuneiform Parallels; Budge, The Babylonian Legends of the Creation; Ungnad, Altorientalische Texte und Bilder, and Die Religion der Babylonier und Assyrer; Landsberger in Lehmann, Textbuch zur Religionsgeschichte 281 ff; Luckenbill, AJSL 38, 12 ff; Ebeling, Das Babylonische Weltschöpfungslied, etc.
FIRST TABLET (Continued)
Intelligent, thoughtful, mighty in strength,
Stronger by far than the begettor, his father, Anshar, 20 He had no equal among the gods his fathers.
(Thus) there came to exist the brotherhood of the gods. They perturb Tiamat; they are satiated (?) with their They disturb the soul of Tiamat
With horrible things in the heavenly dwelling. 25 Apsu could not quell their clamor;
And Tiamat was miserable because of their (conduct).
Then Apsu, the begettor of the great gods,
"Mummu, my messenger, who rejoiceth my heart,
They discussed the matter concerning the gods their firstborn. 35 Apsu opened his mouth, addressing her;
To Tiamat, the glistening one, he said to her:
I will destroy, I will ruin their course
When Tiamat heard this,
.sorrowful; she alone was irritated.
Their conduct truly is vexatious; yet we will act graciously.”
“Come let the troublesome conduct be overcome,
When Apsu (heard] this, his countenance grew bright [Because of the evil-deed he planned against the gods, his children. Mummu became faint in his head.
He sat down, his knees shaking violently. 55 Everything which they had planned in their assembly
FIRST TABLET (Continued)
Against the gods, their firstborn was repeated.
The prodigious one, the prudent, the wise one, 60 Ea, who perceives everything, saw their plot.
He reproduced it; he determined the plan (picture) of the whole thing.
Sleep overcame him (Apsu); he slept soundly.
Mummu, his minister, was woefully distressed.
He bound him, namely Apsu, and slew him.
He established upon Apsu his dwelling.
Ea established his triumph over his enemy. 75 In his chamber, he rested peacefully.
He named it apsú, he founded (appointed) shrines.
In the abode of fates, the dwelling of destinations. 80 The mighty one of the mighty, the leader of the gods, Anshar, he begat.
In the midst of the apsu, was Anshar created.
(Lakhamu, his mother, conceived him.
The pregnant one who had conceived him, had implanted reverence.
Lakhmu (Ea), the begettor, his father, saw him;
He exalted him; he endowed him with an equality of (god) El.