of creation. But it provides more than simply an Israelite
cosmology. It offers an understanding of various Near
Eastern cosmologies or the remnants of the former religious
ideas still existent in the memory of Israelite society.
More importantly, it provides a response to these ideas.
Genesis conveys the idea of the one God that created the
world according to His will, without restraint.
Before reviewing the specific manner in which Genesis
addresses the claims of competing Near Eastern cosmologies,
a brief assessment of the former is appropriate. They
typically begin with a theogony, a story relating the
origins of the gods and include a genealogy of those
deities that existed before the world's creation. They also
generally include the various conflicts and wars between a
variety of deities which ultimately lead to the creation of
the earth and the heavens. While they appear with
variations among the surrounding cultures, recurring
characters in these creation stories include Yam (Sea),
Nahar (River), Leviathan (Coiled One), Rahav (Arrogant One)
,and the Tannin (Dragon).
One of the most common creation stories of the Near East is
the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish. In this story, nothing
existed before earth and heaven were formed, except water.
This is a theme which is retained in the Biblical account
in Genesis which states: "Now the earth was formless and
empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep..." The
two generative elements were identified with the monstrous
Apsu, the primordial sweet water ocean embodied as a male,
and his female consort, Tiamat, represented by the
primordial saltwater ocean. From the mingling of these two
bodies of waters, the gods were given birth. This process
continued several times leading to the rise of additional
The rise of the gods and their subsequent revelry disturbs
the precious tranquility previous experienced by Apsu and
Tiamat. In order to recapture their previous tranquility,
they attempt to destroy the gods. The plan however is
frustrated by Ea, the earth-water god. The stories
continues with Tiamat marshaling her forces to do battle
against the gods, with the god Marduk as their head.
Marduk, having agreed to lead the gods against Tiamat, is
granted sovereignty over the universe in exchange for his
leadership. Marduk proves successful in his fight against
Tiamat, and slays her. Tiamat is cut in two and one half of
her body creates the firmament of heaven, while the other
serves as the foundation of their earth. In the end, human
beings are created to free the gods from menial labor. The
first man is incidentally fashioned out of the blood of
Kingu, the second spouse of Tiamat and the captain of her
The purpose of the Babylonian Epic is rooted in its
explanation of the origin of the gods familiar to the
people of Mesopotamia. It also provided an explanation of
the origin of the universe. Lastly it provided the
structure reflected in Babylonian society that explained
the nature and purpose of man as a servant or slave to the
gods and to the state.
Jacob Lumbroso is an enthusiast for foreign languages and
cultures. He writes articles on history and languages for
http://www.ultimatelanguagestore.com and is currently
working on a book for learning Italian.
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