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Enuma Elish tablets I - VII

Introduction to the Enuma Elish

Enuma elish, "when the skies above. . .", is one of the oldest written creation myths in existence. This Babylonian creation myth was found on seven tablets in the library of Assyrian emperor Ashubanipal (667 - 626 BC) in Ninevah. The Enuma Elish tells the tale of the creation of the universe, and of man himself. Often compared to the biblical creation account in Genesis, the earliest tablets date from around 2000 b.c., although scholars feel that it was an ancient oral tradition before then.

The Enuma Elish is often compared to the creation account in Genesis. For example, the Babylonian god finished his work within the span of 6 tablets of stone and Genesis reports six days of creation. In the Enuma, the last and 7th stone exalted the handiwork and greatness of the diety's work while Genesis reports the seventh day as Rest of God. Mankind formed on tablet 6 of the Enuma Elish and Adam and Eve are formed on day 6 in the Genesis account. Other similarities include the following: Earth and sky are formed on tablet four in Enuma Elish and earth and sky separated on day two of Genesis account; The sun and moon and stars are created in the sky to mark seasons on tablet 5 of Enuma Elish and on day four of Genesis account.

Although these similarities are undeniable, there are also many obvious and major differences between the Enuma Elish and Genesis. The following is a synopsis of the Enuma:

Tablet 1: The primitive scene is presented. Apsu (the fresh water god) and Tiamat (the sea goddess) give birth to Anshar and Kishar, gods representing the horizon, which forms the boundary between the earth and sky. To Anshar and Kishar is born Anu, the sky god, who in turn bears Ea (the goddess representing earth). This brood of gods is so ill-behaved that Apsu determined to slay them. Instead Ea kills Apsu and establishes her abode above his body. Marduk (the city god of Babylon) is born to Ea. Tiamat, transformed into a raging avenger of her slain husband, takes a new husband, Kingu, in place of the slain Apsu.

Tablet 2: As goddess of the sea, Tiamat represents malevolence and chaos. She must therefore be challenged and subdued. First Ea confronts Tiamat, but fails. Then Anu challenges Tiamat, but even the sky god is unsuccessful.

Tablet 4: Finally, Marduk is selected to fight the raging Tiamat. He is chosen on the basis of ability to remake a destroyed garment. He is vested with great power and authoritative word, and he faces Tiamat, slaying the sea goddess and cutting her body in two. With one half he forms the sky, and with the other he forms the earth.

Tablet 5: Marduk places the celestial luminaries in the sky to establish days and months and years.

Tablet 6: Kingu, the husband and commander-in-chief of Tiamat, is also slain, and from his blood is formed mankind, who are assigned to perform menial tasks for the gods.

Tablet 7: Describes Marduk’s elevation as chief of Babylon and head of the Babylonian pantheon because of his role in creation. The Gods of Babylon rest.

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