The Role of Creation in Enūma eliš

in Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions
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The seven tablets of Enūma eliš, “The Chaldean Genesis,” contain multiple creations artfully woven in a story that has the god Marduk as the hero. Most creation accounts found in Enūma eliš are reminiscent of earlier traditions. Former narratives as well as related themes and motives are adopted and adapted by means of intentional alterations to suit the purpose of the new text. In this paper I study the ways in which various creations are included, tailored, and arranged to promote Marduk’s position as the head of the Babylonian pantheon.

The Role of Creation in Enūma eliš

in Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions



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Recently D. Katz 2011: 127 pointed out three differences between the beginning of Enūma eliš and Mesopotamian literary conventions: the introduction goes back earlier than other accounts Enlil is not mentioned and Anu is not the head of the pantheon as in the Sumerian tradition.


Note already the observation by Lambert 2008: 26: “(. . .) are Anšar—Kišar the third generation in turn offspring of Laḫmu—Laḫamu or a second pair born to Apsû—Tiāmat?”


For Lambert 1975: 57 and Livingston [1986] 2007: 80–81 Ešara is not the earth but an extra layer of the universe. See my discussion towards the end of this paper under the section “Stage 3: The Creation of the World” subheading c.4. “The creation of Babylon and Esaĝila” footnote 28.


As pointed out by George 1992: 296 when commenting on Enūma eliš IV: 137–40 “E-sagil and Babylon are thus to be at the center of the Universe above Apsû Ea’s domain but below the heavens (. . .).”


As George 1997: 129–130 explained in the Nippur tradition Nippur was the oldest city; whereas in other texts such as the Sumerian King List that privilege was attributed to Eridu. Although Uruk Keš and Sippar were also each considered to be the oldest city in other texts in Enūma eliš Babylon displaces Nippur and assimilates with Eridu. The choice of Eridu and Nippur is not coincidental for they represent the city of Marduk’s father and the city of the god Marduk seeks to replace.


Alster and Vanstiphout 1987: 2 have compared the introduction of the Debate between Ewe and Grain with the opening of Enūma eliš. They pointed out that the absence of Ewe and Wheat is repeated twice and that “it is an inversion of the scheme used in Enūma eliš” because in the Debate “not-yet-being is followed by not-being-named.”



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