Genesis' Genesis,
The Hebrew Transformation of
the Ancient Near Eastern Myths
and Their Motifs.

25 March 2001
20 September 2002 Revision and Update

This article is an attempt to briefly identify some of the Ancient Near Eastern Motifs and Myths from which the Hebrews apparently borrowed, adapted, and reworked in the Book of Genesis (more specifically Genesis 1-11).

It is my understanding that Genesis' motifs and characters, God, Adam, Eve, the Serpent, and Noah, are adaptations and transformations of characters and events occurring in earlier Near Eastern Myths. In some cases several characters and motifs from different myths have been brought together and amalgamated into Genesis' stories.

Lambert, has made a very important observation regarding the manner in which Mesopotamian mythographers worked:

"The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas." (p.107, W.G. Lambert, "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis," [1965], in Richard S. Hess & David T. Tsumra, Editors, I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood. Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994)

I believe Lambert's observation can be applied to the Hebrews who were combining old themes and putting "new twists" to old ideas. My research indicates that, at times,"reversals" are occurring in the Hebrew transformation and reinterpetation of the Mesopotamian myths. These "reversals," as I call them, can take the form of different characters, different locations for the settings of the stories, and different morals being drawn about the nature of God and Man's relationship.

Another scholar, Wenham, made another important observation about Genesis, it is apparently a polemic, challenging the Mesopotamian view of the relationship between God and Man-

"Viewed with respect to its negatives, Gen 1:1-2:3 is a polemic against the mythico-religious concepts of the ancient Orient...The concept of man here is markedly different from standard Near Eastern mythology: man was not created as the lackey of the gods to keep them supplied with food; he was God's representative and ruler on earth, endowed by his creator with an abundant supply of food and expected to rest every seventh day from his labors. Finally, the seventh day is not a day of ill omen as in Mesopotamia, but a day of blessing and sanctity on which normal work is laid aside. In contradicting the usual ideas of its time, Gen 1 is also setting out a positive alternative. It offers a picture of God, the world, and's true nature. He is the apex of the created order: the whole narrative moves toward the creation of man. Everything is made for man's benefit..." (p.37, Vol. 1, "Explanation," Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 [Word Biblical Commentary, 2 vols.], Word Books, Waco, Texas 1987, ISBN 0-8499-0200-2)

Lambert's and Wenham's observations are "keys" to understanding how and why Genesis was formatted in the manner it now appears. In other articles posted on this website I have explained why I believe that Genesis was composed in the Exilic or Post-Exilic era (550-458 BCE), I accordingly understand that the Ancient Near Eastern myths and their motifs being utilized by Genesis' author, are of  periods preceeding 550-458 BCE.

Numerous scholars have noted that some motifs appearing in Genesis can be found in Sumerian myths of the 3rd millenium BCE. Kramer, a Sumeriologist, makes the following observation-

"Sumerian literature contained a number of literary forms and themes found much later in the Bible...there are many parallels to Sumerian literature in biblical themes." (p.154, "Sumerian Literature and the Bible." Samuel Noah Kramer and John Maier. Myths of Enki, the Crafty God. New York. Oxford University Press. 1989. ISBN 0-19-505502-0)

My research suggests that motifs from Canaan, Phoenicia, Syria, and Mesopotamia are being drawn from.

Genesis opens with a world in existance, but covered in water, called in Hebrew, Tehom (English: "the deep" Ge 1:2). Mesopotamian myths have the world originating in a watery deep, a saltwater ocean called Tiamat; some have sought Hebrew Tehom as a cognate of Tiamat. Tiamat was personified as a goddess, and the mother of the gods. Her husband was called Abzu/Apsu, the freshwater ocean which lies under the earth when it arose from the sea. The mingling of Apsu and Tiamat created the gods who in turn eventually created man.

In Genesis God speaks and things are created, light from the sun, moon and stars, land arises from Tehom, herbage is created, animals, and finally man. Kramer has noted that the Sumerians possessed the idea that the gods could speak and things would be created. They also are portrayed as forming things with their hands, like man, just as God "makes" Adam from the dust of the earth-

"Some of the more conspicuous themes involve creation of the universe, creation of humankind, techniques of creation (in two ways, by word and by 'making' or 'fashioning')..." (p.154, Kramer)

In the Enuma Elish (a Babylonian myth), Marduk, the supreme god of Babylon, is portrayed slaying Tiamat and making the earth, rivers and heavens from her body. From her pierced eyes arise the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Perhaps this is why the Hebrews called the fresh waters under the earth as well as the salty ocean, Tehom (cf. Ge 1:2 Tehom or "the deep" being the waters covering the whole earth, and Ezek 31:4-9, where "the deep," or subteranean streams, nourishes trees in the Garden of Eden).

God makes a world in six days and then rests on the seventh, hallowing it, and it becomes known as the Sabbath (Hebrew: Shabbat). He creates a Garden of Eden and places a man in it, and later introduces a woman for a companion (made of man's rib).
I have argued elsewhere that Genesis' author is borrowing motifs about the Sumerian paradise called Dilmun and transforming the story (cf. my article, Sabbath Origins and the Epic of Gilgamesh).

Eden is said to lie somewhere "in the East." We are also informed that Haran was in the East (Ge 29:1). I note that Haran and Dilmun both lie in Mesopotamia, so apparently, Mesopotamia is conceived of as being "in the East."  In earlier Myths, Dilmun is said to be an island at the mouths of the rivers, i.e., the Tigris and Euphrates, in the marshlands near Eridu. In Sumerian myths Eridu is the residence of Enki, the god of wisdom and knowledge, who dwells at times in the Abzu, the depths of the freshwater ocean under the earth, from which all rivers flow, i.e., the Tigris and Euphrates. In Genesis, the source of these two rivers is the River of Eden. It would appear that Eridu has been transformed into Eden (Enki in other myths is portrayed as dwelling in Dilmun).

Enki is iconographically rendered with two rivers erupting from his shoulders, and seated at times on a throne in the depths of the Abzu (on his throne are carved pots with streams of water erupting from them, suggesting that from under his throne arises the freshwaters man needs for life and surival, rather like the Hebrew notion of God's throne at Jerusalem being a source of fresh waters, cf. Rev 22:1). Fresh water being neccessary for life, probably was later transformed into a spiritual "water of life," conferring immortality (cf. Rev 21:6).

Early Christians apparently understood that they would eat and drink with Christ after death. To moderns this appears to be a strange notion. If one has immortality, why the need to eat and drink ? Eating and drinking is neccessary to sustain mortal life !  The answer is that in Ancient Near Eastern myths, the notion existed that the gods could die. They are portrayed warring with each other and slitting each other's throats ! They had created man to grow and harvest food for them on the earth, which was mystically consumed by them in the heavens via offerings in the temples ! So, gods could go hungry, and possibly starve to death. Thus man, who obtains immortality after death, must also be nourished with food and drink like the gods.

One of the jobs of the priests at the Jerusalem temple, was then, the feeding of God with earthly food and drink. If earthly food nourishes the gods, we can see now how the fruit trees in Eden could provide eternal life. The same food that nourishes the gods, nourishes mortals. So, "water of life," and "food of life," are the same for both man and gods. Apparently they were "spiritualized" into a magical substance which, if eaten by man would confer immortality on him, as in the Mesopotamian Adapa myth.

Adapa of Eridu, a pious priest of Enki, is summoned to heaven by Anu, the supreme god. He is offered drink and food but refuses to consume them because Enki has forewarned him he will die if he does. In reality, if consumed, he will attain immortality, but Enki doesn't want his servant to become immortal. So, man loses his chance to obtain immortality because he IS OBEDIENT to his god's words. The Hebrews took this myth and gave it a "new twist," man loses out because he DISOBEYS his God, and consumes the forbidden food ! This is a "reversal" of the Mesopotamian understanding of how man came to lose out in his bid for immortality. Another "reversal" is that the Mesopotamians place this event in heaven whereas the Hebrews locate it on the earth.

Adapa, before he leaves heaven and returns to the earth from which he ascended, is given a change of clothes at Anu's behest. In Genesis Adam receives a change of clothes from God (animal skins replacing fig leaves). Mesopotamian myths have man being made of clay mixed with the flesh and blood of a slain rebel god (called Awelu in one myth or Kingu in a different myth).

A woman being formed of a man's rib is unknown in Mesopotamian myths, but a goddess is formed to heal Enki's ribs, rib being "ti," she is called Nin-ti, "lady of the rib" (but she is not made of Enki's rib). Ti also means "life," so the Lady of the rib is the "Lady of life." The setting of this story is in Dilmun, the paradise island in the marshes of Lower Mesopotamia. Some scholars have suggested that the Hebrews have transformed Nin-ti into Eve (cf. pp.58-59, Samuel Noah Kramer. Sumerian Mythology. Harper & Row. [1944], 1997).

Skinner suspected that Genesis' serpent was probably a recasting of an earlier myth-

"It is more probable that behind the sober description of the serpent as a mere creature of Yahwe, there was an earlier form of the legend in which he figured as a god or a demon." (pp.71-72. John Skinner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. Edinburgh. T &T Clark. [1930], reprint 1994)

Childs (as noted by Evans) was also of the suspicion that Genesis' serpent was a re-casting of an earlier myth :

"In a recent study of this conflict between the story and the mythical relics it preserves B.S. Childs has remarked that 'behind the figure of the serpent shimmers another form still reflecting its former life.' A tension exists because this independent life of the original figure still struggles against the framework of a simple snake into which it has been recast."  (p.20. J.M. Evans. Paradise Lost and the Genesis Tradition. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1968, citing from B.S. Childs. "Myth and Reality In the Old Testament." Studies in Biblical Theology. 27. 1960. pp. 45-48)

Nin-gish-zida, the serpent-dragon, "lord of the good tree," presented Adapa before Anu, pleading for Anu's favor on behalf of the mortal. Nin-gish-zida, as a guard at the heavenly gates, was in favor in man obtaining immortality with the heavenly drink and food. In Genesis the serpent is associated with a *TREE* of knowledge of GOOD and evil, in Mesopotamian myths, Ninigishizida's name is understood to mean "Lord of the GOOD TREE." A beautiful bas-relief in stone of Ningishzida shows him leading Gudaea of Lagash before Enki who dispenses the freshwaters necessary for life.

"Somewhat similarly the god Ningishzida, "Lord of the good tree," who represented the numinous power in trees to draw nourishment and to grow, had as his basic form that of the tree's trunk and roots; however, the winding roots, embodiments of living supernatural power, free themselves from the trunk and become live serpents entwined around it...rays pierce through the human body of the sun god, from within ears of grain grow through the shoulders of the grain goddess, serpent heads through those of Ningishzida." (pp.7,9. Thorkild Jacobson. The Treasures of Darkness, A History of Mesopotamian Religion. New Haven. Yale University. 1976)

There is a "new twist" or "reversal" here, a serpent-god associated with a tree, and who attempts to secure immortality for man, is instead portrayed in the Hebrew retelling, as offering "forbidden knowledge" to man, telling him he will become like a god, knowing good and evil, and he will not die if he eats the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge. 

The Adapa myth does deal with a motif about man's obtaining "forbidden knowledge," reserved for the gods. Evidently the Hebrews have transformed this motif. The reason for Anu's summoning Adapa to heaven was that he wanted to know how Adapa was able to break the wing of the South-wind, causing sea breezes to cease blowing over Lower Mesopotamia. He learns in surprise and consternation, that Enki has revealed forbidden knowledge to Adapa, specifically, powerful curses and incantations, giving man power over the lesser gods. It was Adapa's cursing of the South-wind, that broke its wing. Realizing man has obtained forbidden knowledge reserved for the gods, Anu decides he might as well make Adapa immortal like the gods (if he has a god's wisdom and knowledge, why not make him a god with immortality ?).

"Why has Ea [Enki] revealed to an impure man the heart of heaven and earth ?...i.e., why has Ea given such magic power to Adapa as he has displayed in his encounter with the south wind ?" (p.151, and note #29, Heidel, Babylonian Genesis)

The Mesopotamian myth observes that Adapa obtained knowledge and wisdom like a god, but not immortality-

"Wisdom he possessed...He had given him wisdom, but he had not given him eternal life." (p.148, "The Adapa Legend," Alexander Heidel. The Babylonian Genesis, The Story of Creation. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. [1942,1951] reprint 1993. ISBN 0-226-32399-4 pbk.)

Enki/Ea denied man an opportunity to attain immortality by tricking him into believing that he would die if he consumed the food and drink offered him in heaven. In other words, Adapa's god is portrayed as WITHOLDING or DENYING KNOWLEDGE, he doesn't let Adapa know that the food and drink offered by Anu will give him immortality. Enki and Yahweh then, are associated with denying knowledge to man (mankind being personified as Adapa/Adam) as well as immortality.

As earlier noted by Wenham, Genesis is a polemic challenging the Mesopotamian notions about the relationships between man and the gods. Genesis presented man as disobeying his god and losing a chance for immortality. Apparently Ningishzida's association with a "Good Tree" is what lies behind Genesis' statement that the Tree was the source of knowledge about good and evil and associated with a serpent.

Genesis' serpent possesses two remarkable abilitities, he can walk and talk. Ningishzida is portrayed in human as well as animal form. As an animal he walks on four legs, has wings, and two horns. In human form he walks on two legs, has a beard, wears a horned helmet (a symbol that he is a god), and has serpent-dragon heads erupting from his shoulders. I suspect that Skinner was correct in his hunch, Genesis' serpent was indeed a god in the original myths. The serpent-god has been recast into a mere snake, and he has lost his legs in the Hebrew recasting of this ancient Sumerian myth.

It is my understanding that a transformed and reinterpreted Nin-gishzida, the heavenly serpent-dragon, is what is behind the serpent in the Garden of Eden myth. If I am correct in asserting that Nin-gish-zida lies behind Eden's serpent, then this same deity is ultimately the transformed serpent that becomes "Satan" in Christian myths (cf. Rev 12:7-9; 20:2).

"And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan..." (Rev 20:2, RSV)


"In Sumerian mythology this monster is symbolic of Ningishzida, a vegetation deity and a form of the dying god Tammuz. Sometimes he has not only the Mushussu springing from his shoulders but also a serpent twining about his body. He was a chthonian deity and his parents were Ninazu and Ningird, lord an queen of Arallu [the underworld]. It is totally inexplicable that this monster, symbol of one of the most beneficient and unwarlike of gods, should have become one of the dragons of the salt sea and foe of Marduk...The teaching of the Babylonian school certainly ran not at Nippur, but this figure proves that the Mushussu had now become a dragon and symbol of some evil power. For this reason the advocates of the new philosophy and the new mythology at Babylon, who attached these myths of the conquest of the sun-god over the dragons of darkness to Marduk, transformed Mushussu into the dragon of watery chaos." (pp.284-5. Stephen H. Langdon.
The Mythology of All Races-Semitic.
Vol.5. Boston. Marshall Jones Co., 1931).

Nin-gish-zida is portrayed as a serpent-dragon called a Mushussu according to Langdon (p.285. Langdon). Finegan noted that the Babylonian Mushussu dragon's coloring was "red" (p.29. "Mesopotamian Religion." Jack Finegan. Myth and Mystery, An Introduction to the Pagan Religions of the Biblical World. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Baker Book House. 1989, 1991). The red Mushussu serpent-dragon was associated with Marduk and was one of the creatures of the watery abyss defeated by Marduk when he slew Tiamat. A Babylonian seal shows the tamed Mushussu lying at Marduk's feet, possessing two horns (cf. figures 1 and 5, Heidel, Babylonian Genesis). The Babylonian imagery has evidently been transformed in the Book of Revelation's portrayal of a great red serpent-dragon associated with the whore of Babylon, identified with Rome and her Emperors (Rev 12:3). Babylonian seals show a priest adoring the Mushussu, which was a symbol of Babylon. Langdon noted that Ningishzida/Mushussu was associated with the Hydra Star Constellation (p.284, Langdon), this fits Revelation's notion of multiheaded heavenly serpent-dragon. Mesopotamian art portrays a god fighting a seven-headed monster (cf. figures 15 and 16, Heidel, Babylonian Genesis).

Ningishzida is an aspect of Tammuz, Tammuz being called "Damu, the child Ningishzida" (p.71, Langdon). Ningishzida dwelt originally in the underworld and ascended to heaven to guard the gates of Anu, the Supreme god. Satan's association with the underworld and heaven may be drawing upon these ancient Mesopotamian motifs about Ningishzida, transforming and reinterpreting them.

I thus understand Ningishzida to be the serpent-god transformed into Eden's serpent, and the Babylonian imagery of this same god as an enemy of mankind, has been adapted by the Early Christians and transformed into Satan in the Book of Revelation.

The cherubim who guard the entrance to the Garden of Eden and access to the Tree of Life, appear to be drawing from Phoenician motifs. Scholars have determined they are winged sphinxes, human-headed with lion bodies. In Phoenician art they are sometimes seen in pairs on either side of a sacred tree with a forepaw raised against the tree, which is understood to be a highly stylized date palm (cf. p.134, a photograph of a silver platter of Phoenician work, with winged sphinxes on either side of a sacred tree. Norman P. Ross, Editor. The Epic of Man. New York. Time Incorporated. 1961).

Some Jewish and Early Christian traditions identify a date palm as the the Tree of Life. The tree of knowledge is associated with a fig-tree, as Adam and Eve make their clothes of fig leaves upon the realization that they are naked.

Sabbath Origins-

The Mesopotamian myths understand man was created to be a slave to the gods, to toil on earth, growing and harvesting food to sustain them.  In earlier myths the lesser gods had toiled on the earth growing food for the greater gods, and building irrigation ditches. Their threatened rebellion against the greater gods who dwelt in heaven, lead to the decision to make man in their place. The lesser gods thereby entered into "the resting" of the greater gods. They were freed from toil by man. Eventually the noise of man, who has multiplied on earth, is unbearable, disturbing the gods' rest by day and sleep by night. They resolve to destroy man with a flood, to obtain peace and quiet. One god, Enki, reveals the plan of the gods to his servant Ziusudra, a pious king of Shuruppak in lower Mesopotamia. He is advised to build a boat, place his family and livestock in it, and save his life. The flood overwhelms the land, destroying all life in 6 days and nights. On the 7th day, the flood's war against man ends, peace and quiet reigns on the earth, at last, on the 7th day, the gods can now rest, for man's noise is ended with his annihilation in the flood.

I suspect that the Hebrews made a "reversal" of the Mesopotamian myth (preserved in the Epic of Gilgamesh as well as the Atrahasis Myth), creating "a new twist" to an old idea. Instead of godS DESTROYING a world in 6 days, they had a goD CREATING a world in 6 days. In another "reversal" or "new twist," the godS resting on the 7th day was transformed into a goD resting on the 7th day. The word Sabbath/Shabbat means to cease, or desist, it doesn't mean "rest." On the 7th day in the Mesopotamian version of the flood account, the flood ceased, mankind ceased to exist, and the gods' desisted in their murderous rage against man, in order to obtain "their rest."

Adam and Eve-

Adapa was associated with a god, Enki/Ea, who witheld certain knowledge from him as well as immortality. Where did the Hebrews get the name "Adam" from ? I suspect that they are drawing upon ancient Canaanite myths. At ancient Ugarit scholars discovered tablets with stories about the gods. One tablet mentions that the supreme god's name was El or Bull-El. The English word "God" is rendered from Hebrew El or Elohim. The Ugaritic El is called the father of man, "ab adm."

"And in his dream El came down, in his vision the father of mankind [il.yrd.bzhrth ab adm.]" (p.83, "the Legend of Keret," J.C. L. Gibson. Canaanite Myths and Legends. Edinburgh. T & T Clark. [1956], 1978)

I suspect that as the Hebrews understood God to be a type of "father" of mankind, that they took "adm" or "mankind" and personified the name into a person, the biblical Adam. The Ugaritic literary texts have been dated to between ca. 1400-1350 B.C. (p.1, Gibson). As noted earlier, I have argued elesewhere for the Primary History (Genesis-2 Kings) being a composition of the 6/5th centuries BCE.

Where is Eve coming from (there is no woman in the Adapa myth) ? I suspect she is a reinterpretation of the Temple Courtesan (Harlot) found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Adam was presented animals to be his companions, they were not suitable, so God creates Eve. Enkidu in the Gilgamesh myth is a naked wild man living in the steppe (Steppe being rendered "Edinu" in Sumerian) who runs and feeds with his animal companions. He foils the attempt of a hunter to catch game. It is resolved that a Courtesan is to ensnare the wild man with sex. She is led to the waterhole, displays her charms (disrobing) and Enkidu embraces her, lying with her 6 days and nights. When he rises to join his animal companions they flee. The Harlot asks Enkidu, why seek companionship with animals, he is now like a god and now possesses wisdom, he should dwell with civilized men in cities. She clothes him, offers him food and drink "fit for a god," and leads him the city of Uruk where he meets Gilgamesh.

"The game of the steppe fled from his presence...His knees failed, because the game ran away. Enkidu slackened in his running, no longer could he run as before. But he had intelligence, wide was his understanding. He returned and sat at the feet of the courtesan, and his ears listening as the courtesan speaks, The courtesan saying to him, to Enkidu: "Wise art thou, O Enkidu, like a god art thou; why dost thou run around animals on the steppe ? Come, I will lead thee to Uruk..." (p.22, Heidel, Gilgamesh Epic)

Eventually Enkidu is faced with death, feeling sorry for himself, he blames the Harlot for his loss of innoncence and impending death and curses her. He is reproved and told that the Harlot gave him food and drink fit for a god, she is not deserving of his curse. 

I understand Eve then, to be drawn in part from the Courtesan, and Enkidu to be a prototype of Adam. Adam's animal companions are replaced by a woman, just like what happened to Enkidu. Adam's "Innocence," being naked and not ashamed, mirrors Enkidu being naked and unashamed, then his receiving clothes from the Harlot as well as knowledge of right and wrong (it is wrong to be naked, so the Harlot clothes Enkidu before leaving Edinu, that is, the steppe and returns to Uruk). The hunter who introduced the woman to ensnare the wild man of the steppe has become God, who brought Eve to Adam, she consequently ensnaring Adam with the forbidden fruit. So, womankind ensnares mankind, ending his innocence, providing him with corrupting knowledge about civilization's ways (we still think of city ways as corrupting in contrast to a rural way of life).

Enkidu's cursing of the harlot, blaming her for his loss of innocence becomes in the Hebrew recasting of this ancient myth, an angry God, Yahweh-Elohim, cursing the woman with bearing children in painful child-birth and being subservient to man.

"Why, O Enkidu, dost thou curse the courtesan, the prostitute, who taught thee to eat bread fit for divinity, to drink wine fit for royalty, who clothed thee with a magnificent garment..."(p.59. Alexander  Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. [1946, 1949] reprint 1993)

The idea of a man and wife in an earthly paradise doesn't exist in the Adapa Myth, but it does in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The flood hero, Ziusudra (alternately called Atrahasis or Utnapishtim) is placed in the earthly parardise of Dilmun, an island in the marshes of Lower Mesopotamia, at the rivers' mouth (i.e. the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates). A "reversal" has taken place, Genesis has a man and his wife placed in a garden paradise BEFORE the flood, whereas the Mesopotamian myth has the couple placed in the paradise AFTER the flood. I understand that Ziusudra and his wife are prototypes behind Adam and Eve. Unlike Adam and Eve, they are assured immortality and freedom from toil because of their faithfulness in obeying the command of their god, Enki. Enki warned Ziusudra to build a boat to save himself, family and animals from the flood being sent to destroy all mankind. Gilgamesh seeks out Ziusudra to find out how he can attain immortality, because he and his wife are the only humans to attain it. So, in both myths, the Edenic, and the Mesopotamian, a man and his wife, dwelling in an earthly paradise, are associated with motifs concerning  knowledge and immortality. Gilgamesh fails in his quest, but he is told of a plant at the bottom of the sea which can restore youthful vigor. He obtains it, but it is eaten by a serpent while he is bathing, enroute home to Uruk. Perhaps this motif has been recast as a serpent causing man to lose an opportunity to attain immortality ?

Noah and the Flood-

Numerous scholars have noted parallels bewteen the Mesopotamian flood myths preserved in the Epic of Gilgamesh and Atrahasis and the biblical account. I am not aware of any scholars positing that Adam and Eve are being drawn from Utnapishtim and his wife being placed in Dilmun. When the flood ends, Ishtar/Inanna appears and holding up her jeweled necklace, declares she will always remember the Flood event. The Hebrew account has God making a rainbow to recall his oath never again to send another flood to destroy all mankind. I note that in the Enuma Elish, Marduk slays Tiamat with his bow. As she personified the saltwater ocean, she may have been seen as a type of flood, whose demise is ended by a god's bow ? Marduk's bow is held up in a gathering of the gods and praised for destroying Tiamat, the bow is then placed in the heavens as a constellation (pp.49-50, Heidel, Babylonian Genesis). Perhaps the bow that ended Tiamat's life has been recast as God's rainbow which appears in the heavens ?

This brief survey of the Ancient Near Myths has attempted to demonstrate that Genesis' motifs, from the Garden of Eden to the Flood, (Genesis 1-11) are being drawn from earlier concepts and reformatted. Adam is an amalgum of several characters, Adapa, Enkidu, Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim and the Ugaritic "ab adm." Eve is drawn from the temple Courtesan/Harlot who ensnared and civilized Enkidu, as well as Ziusudra's wife who dwells in the earthly parardise of Dilmun. God is an amalgum of Enki/Ea who denied immortality to Adapa, Anu (who clothed Adapa before sending him from the heavenly paradise), Enlil (who sent the flood to destroy mankind), and the hunter who brought the Harlot to Enkidu.  Eden may be a reflex of Edinu, the Steppe that the naked Enkidu roamed, and which he left with his female companion, both clothing their nakedness upon their departure, combined with motifs from the paradise-island of Dilmun.

In summation, Genesis 1-11 appears to be a reformatting of motifs and characters from four ancient myths, Adapa and the South wind, Atrahasis, the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Enuma Elish. Several of these reformatings appear to be employing "reversals," which are called in scholarly language, "inversions."  Assman, an Egyptologist at Heidelberg University (Germany), remarks about Freud's understanding that the Exodus is a Hebrew
of the Hyksos Expulsion (Emphasis is mine):

"Freud's ingenious observation links up perfectly well with the relationship between the biblical  account of the Exodus and what was to be considered the historical evidence for it. The historical evidence for a longer sojourn of Syro-Palestinian Semites in Egypt IS
, when the foreign invaders reigned as kings over Egypt, eventually to be expelled by an Egyptian dynasty. These events came by NARRATIVE INVERSION to be shaped into the story of slaves that were able to escape slavery and were elected by God to become a people and even have kings of their own." (p.150. Jan Assmann. Moses the Egyptian, The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University Press. 1997)


Some observations on "REVERSALS" or "INVERSIONS" in Genesis in comparison with the Mesopotamian myths-

Reversal-Inversion #1. A man and his wife (Utnapishtim and wife, the Mesopotamian "Noah") are placed in an earthly earthly paradise after the flood in Mesopotamian myths, whereas Genesis has this occur before the flood.

Reversal-Inversion #2. Utnapishtim and wife are not expelled from paradise, whereas Adam and Eve are.

Reversal-Inversion #3. Utnapishtim and wife attain immortality and freedom from toil whereas Adam and Eve don't.

Reversal-Inversion #4. There is no curse on Utnapishtim and Wife, only a blessing vs. Adam and Eve's situation.

Reversal-Inversion #5. Utnapishtim is rewarded with immortality for his faithfulness in heeding and obeying the words of his god, Enki, whereas Adam fails to heed his God's warning.

Reversal-Inversion #6. The flood lasts 6 days and nights, mankind being destroyed by the 7th day. In Genesis the Flood begins in 7days time.

Reversal-Inversion # 7. The gods rest on the 7th day after destroying a world with a flood in 6 days. Genesis has God resting on the 7th day after creating a world for man's benefit.

Reversal-Inversion #8. Food conferring immortality is offered in a heavenly paradise instead of an earthly paradise (Adapa myth).

Reversal-Inversion #9. Man loses a chance at obtaining immortality because he obeys his god's warning (Adapa & Enki) vs. Adam's disobeying his God's warning.

Reversal-Inversion #10. Utnapishtim and wife are not the first humans made by the gods whereas Adam an Eve are (both are placed by a God in an earthly paradise, Dilmun/Eden).

Reversal-Inversion #11. Noah and wife are not placed in a paradise and given immortality like Utnapishtim and wife.

Reversal-Inversion #12. Gods rest on a 7th day after the flood vs. a God resting on the 7th day before a flood ever occurred.

Reversal-Inversion #13. Man and wife (Utnapishtim and wife) are not naked in paradise like Adam and Eve.

Reversal-Inversion #14. Serpent consumes a plant denying renewed youth to Gilgamesh vs. a Serpent denying immortality to Adam by persuading the man to eat the forbidden fruit.

Reversal-Inversion #15. On the 7th day the flood begins in Genesis vs. the Flood coming to an end on the 7th day in the Mesopotamian myths.

Reversal-Inversion #16. The gods build the tower of Babylon vs. men build the tower in Genesis.

Reversal-Inversion #17. Tehom, the saltwater ocrean that covered the earth is a goddess, and becomes only a watery "deep" not a goddess in Genesis.

Reversal-Inversion #18. The serpent god, Nin-gish-zida, who sought immortality for man (Adapa) is transformed into man's enemy, seeking to trick him, causing him to lose a chance to attain immortality.

Reversal-Inversion #19. A walking, talking serpent-god (Nin-gish-zida) is transformed into a mere serpent who loses his legs.

Reversal-Inversion #20. A god (Enki) who tricked man (Adapa) into losing a chance for immortality is portrayed as a god (Yahweh-Elohim) caring about man (Adam).


J.M. Evans. Paradise Lost and the Genesis Tradition. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1968, citing from B.S. Childs. "Myth and Reality In the Old Testament." Studies in Biblical Theology. 27. 1960. pp. 45-48

J.C. L. Gibson. Canaanite Myths and Legends. Edinburgh. T & T Clark. [1956], 1978)

Alexander Heidel. The Babylonian Genesis, The Story of Creation. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. [1942,1951] reprint 1993. ISBN 0-226-32399-4

Alexander  Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. [1946, 1949] reprint 1993)

Richard S. Hess & David T. Tsumra, Editors, I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood. Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994.

Thorkild Jacobson. The Treasures of Darkness, A History of Mesopotamian Religion. New Haven. Yale University. 1976.

Samuel Noah Kramer and John Maier. Myths of Enki, the Crafty God. New York. Oxford University Press. 1989. ISBN 0-19-505502-0.

Samuel Noah Kramer. Sumerian Mythology. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press [1944], 1997.

Stephen H. Langdon. The Mythology of All Races-Semitic. Vol.5. Boston. Marshall Jones Co., 1931.

Norman P. Ross, Editor. The Epic of Man. New York. Time Incorporated. 1961.

John Skinner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. Edinburgh. T &T Clark. [1930], reprint 1994.

Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 [Word Biblical Commentary, 2 vols.], Word Books, Waco, Texas 1987, ISBN 0-8499-0200-2.

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