Midterm Essay Question 1: Near-Eastern Creation vs. Hebrew Bible Creation
The creation narratives found in the Hebrew Bible often conflict with one another, but mostly build upon ancient near-eastern understandings of creation. These ancient near-eastern understandings provided a foundation from which the Hebrew narratives could distinguish themselves as a people “set apart” from the mainstream understanding of the world. While many accounts of creation deal with questions of where people came from, how the world was ordered and answers to common questions, the Hebrew Bible accounts offer direct attacks on ancient near-eastern ideologies for the purpose of setting apart the biblical audience from the practices of the day (Coogan 33).
One of the oldest found accounts of creation is found in the Enuma Elish. This account gives an explanation of where land and water came from (Matthews, loc. 173), why the Babylonians serve Marduk, (Matthews, loc. 234), why some people are slaves (loc. 226) and a divine argument for the Babylonian power structure (loc. 239). Most importantly, the Enuma Elish creation account describes creating order from chaos.
Similarities to this creation account found in Genesis 2 include the creation of a human from dust and the need for a human to work the earth, but most of the Genesis 2 account varies from the Enuma Elish and seemingly draws much more from the Epic of Gilgamesh. We can assume that Genesis 2 was written for an audience well-versed in the Enuma Elish account that was recited annually in Babylon at the spring new year festival (Coogan 33).
While Genesis 1 and the Enuma Elish creations offer an explanation of ordering chaos and the origins of the world, Genesis 2 and the Epic of Gilgamesh see...
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...(1 Kings 9:8)
Use of covenant language based in suzerainty treaties gives the Israelite people a unique relationship with their God compared to other near-eastern theistic understandings. Through God’s promise to Noah, selection of Abraham and favor with David, the Israelite people develop a reverse understanding of their deity. Marduk in the Enuma Elish, becomes the deity of choice by conquering other deities before him and enslaving the humans to do the hard work so they didn’t have to. Yahweh, on the other hand, delivers Noah from destruction, hand-picks Moses, Abraham, David and their descendants, and gives the narrative that Israel is a “chosen people” instead of Yahweh as a “chosen God”. This narrative of importance and optimism plays a key role in developing identity, ancestry, and ties to the land, for an otherwise nomadic group that has no claim to make.
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