Since the beginning of time, societies have created stories to explain the mystery of the origin of man and the universe. In the Babylonian text, Enuma Elish and the book of Genesis-which originated in the same part of the world-one finds two very different stories about the creation of man. These two creation stories contrast the two societies that created them: the chaotic lives of servitude of the Babylonians and the lives of the recently freed Jewish people.
The gods of Enuma Elish do not seem very "God-like" to a Western reader. These gods are continuously quarreling and feuding and do not seem to be omniscient. In addition, in Tablet 1 we see that the gods are not immortal: "Ea unfastened his belt, took off his crown, Took away his mantle of radiance and put it on himself. He held Apsu down and slew him" (Enuma Elish 12). These gods seem willing to accept leadership from another god as when "they rejoiced, they proclaimed 'Marduk is King'" (Enuma Elish 13)! Though Babylon is where written law was first introduced the government was still despotic. A strong leader and a very unorganized remainder of government characterize the despotism form of government; the disorder that must have existed in Babylonian government is reflected in this story.
The God of Genesis is portrayed very differently. God is a forgiving God. One sees this when God states, "of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die" (Genesis 2:17). However, when Adam and Eve do eat the apple-though he does make them mortal-God allows them to live. God also does not strike down Cain. The God of Genesis is also a personable God. God talks directly to the h...
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...n. For years they had been subject to the wrath of the Egyptians. Now that the Hebrew people were no longer secondary in society, they produced writing in which they were the focus of attention instead of some other being or beings.
The Enuma Elish mirrors the subordinate disordered lives of the Babylonians that created it. Genesis mirrors the newfound freedom and idealism of the Jewish people who created it after years of oppression. These two writings contrast the differences between the ancient Babylonians and the ancient Hebrews. Creation stories give great insight into the lives of the people who created them.
Dalley, Stephanie, ed. and trans. Myths from Mesopotamia. New York: Oxford UP, 1991.
Heidel, Alexander, ed. and trans. The Babylonian Genesis. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1951.
The Holy Bible, Authorized (King James) Version.
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