Genesis re-writes Enuma!

I’ve just read through the Enuma Elish, and it’s amazing how Genesis re-writes Enuma! Enuma predates Genesis by maybe 200 years, depending on when one sees Genesis as finally codified. Enuma contains pages and pages of ‘heavenly intrigue’ and gossip and war-mongering between the various factions of Babylonian gods, but when we get down to it the creation narrative happens in roughly the same order… with some very interesting comparisons!

1. Chaos starts at the beginning of the Enuma Elish

When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;

Now compare that with Genesis 1

Genesis 1
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2 Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Note: in all this chaos, the waters where mingled together? Genesis 1 has reference to this being fixed! 6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.”

2. Day and night?
As even some who have tried to distance the Enuma Elish and Genesis have stated,

Like EE, Genesis says that light was around even before the creation of the luminaries. A difference here is that in EE, the light was an attribute of deity, whereas here, it is a creation of the deity.

3. Water is next in Enuma Elish

“He fixed a bolt, he stationed a watchman,
And bade them not to let her waters come forth.
He passed through the heavens, he surveyed the regions thereof,
And over against the Deep he set the dwelling of Nudimmud.
And the lord measured the structure of the Deep,
And he founded E-sara, a mansion like unto it.
The mansion E-sara which he created as heaven,
He caused Anu, Bel, and Ea in their districts to inhabit.”


“9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.”

4. Stars in Enuma
At the beginning of tablet 5

He (Marduk) made the stations for the great gods;
The stars, their images, as the stars of the Zodiac, he fixed.
He ordained the year and into sections he divided it;
For the twelve months he fixed three stars.
After he had … the days of the year … images,
He founded the station of Nibir [the planet Jupiter] to determine their bounds;
That none might err or go astray,
He set the station of Bel and Ea along with him.
He opened great gates on both sides,
He made strong the bolt on the left and on the right.
In the midst thereof he fixed the zenith;
The Moon-god he caused to shine forth, the night he entrusted to him.
He appointed him, a being of the night, to determine the days;
Every month without ceasing with the crown he covered him, saying:
“At the beginning of the month, when thou shinest upon the land,
Thou commandest the horns to determine six days,
And on the seventh day to divide the crown.
On the fourteenth day thou shalt stand opposite, the half….
When the Sun-god on the foundation of heaven…thee,
The … thou shalt cause to …, and thou shalt make his…
… unto the path of the Sun-god shalt thou cause to draw nigh,
And on the … day thou shalt stand opposite, and the Sun-god shall…
… to traverse her way.
… thou shalt cause to draw nigh, and thou shalt judge the right.
… to destroy…”

[Nearly fifty lines are here lost.]

* Also Note the emphasis on the 7th day above! (bold mine).

Genesis on stars

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

Note the way Genesis spanks Enuma! Enuma proclaims that stars are our gods (implying for us to serve) whereas in Genesis the stars serve us as our calendar!

5. Creatures

Genesis 1:20
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

The Enuma Elish does not detail the creatures being made at this exact point in the story but moves onto the creation of man, yet the first thing mankind does is talk about all the wonderful plants and animals their gods have made which places the creation of creatures somewhere about now — in retrospect.

6. Man on 6th tablet in Enuma!
Man is the 6th ‘day’ in Genesis, and at the beginning of the 6th tablet in Enuma Elish.

“When Marduk heard the word of the gods,
His heart prompted him and he devised a cunning plan.
He opened his mouth and unto Ea he spake
That which he had conceived in his heart he imparted unto him:
“My blood will I take and bone will I fashion
I will make man, that man may
I will create man who shall inhabit the earth,
That the service of the gods may be established, and that their shrines may be built.”

Note the interesting take on Marduk submitting his blood and bone, while Genesis later has God taking the man’s bone for the woman.

Genesis on man.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [b] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

7. Day of rest?

We’ve already seen that there was something special about the 7th day in the Enuma, but the end of the 6th tablet leads into the 7th tablet in this manner.

They rejoiced…
In Upsukkinnaku they set their dwelling.
Of the heroic son, their avenger, they cried:
” We, whom he succored…. !”

They seated themselves and in the assembly they named him…,
They all cried aloud, they exalted him…


O Asari, [Marduk] “Bestower of planting,” “Founder of sowing”
“Creator of grain and plants,” “who caused the green herb to spring up!”
O Asaru-alim, [Mardk] “who is revered in the house of counsel,” “who aboundeth in counsel,”
The gods paid homage, fear took hold upon them!

The 7th tablet then continues with more and more praise of the gods for their great creations and actions. It’s a tablet not of war, but of celebration, not of action, but of reflection. The story is over, the battle has been won, and the creation is finished. It contains some quite flowery praise, such as…

“The God of the Favoring Breeze,” “the Lord of Hearing and Mercy,”
“The Creator of Fulness and Abundance,” ” the Founder of Plenteousness,”
“Who increaseth all that is small.”
In sore distress we felt his favoring breeze,”

Genesis also starts the 7th movement or ‘day’ with a total change of pace. There is a sense of completeness and an unpacking of the purpose of creation. This is it! This is why God made the earth. The 7th day is separated out from all the others.

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested [a] from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

I can only agree with John Dickson that Genesis 1 at least is not a ‘literal’ history, but a symbolic spanking of the Enuma, correcting the Enuma where it was in error about fundamental relationships between God and mankind and our creation. God speaks, and creation obeys. God fixes the waters — they’re just water, not the threatening remains of a vanquished terror goddess! God makes the stars our servants, we are not to serve them!

We should not be surprised or dismayed. God uses all manner of literary device in the bible, from biography to history to poetry to apocalyptic symbolism. Genesis seems to start with a strong intertextual reference to the Enuma Elish, and turns the pagan fundamentals upside down!

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