The End was Near

end was near (2)

b) Gen 6:13: Reports of a massive deluge are almost universal in the ancient world, although few come from Africa.[1] In fact, the closest parallels between other Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) texts and Scripture concern the flood.[2]

Three which hail from Mesopotamia bear the most striking similarities to the Genesis account: the Eridu Genesis from Sumer (ca. 2300 BC), the Atrahasis Epic from Akkad (17th century BC), and the Epic of Gilgamesh from Old Babylonia (2150–1400 BC).[3] Scholars believe their authors derived them from even earlier material.[4]

Enough major differences occur between ANE versions of the flood and Gen 6–9 to lead some scholars to conclude that they did not issue from common documents.[5]

However, others hold that all four texts either refer to a shared tradition or that Genesis reflects a deliberate revision of the Mesopotamian accounts.[6]

Those assuming the accuracy of the second view assert that the differences arise from Moses’s theological viewpoint.[7]

For example, the biblical account is simpler and shorter than the other ANE renderings due to the omission of numerous gods.[8]

In the Genesis flood narrative, the Lord delivered four speeches. Surprisingly, the first time we hear from Noah occurs in Gen 9:25, where he pronounced, “Cursed be Canaan!” Overall, God spoke and Noah acted.[9]

The Lord’s first speech began by summarizing Gen 6:11–12.[10] Then God informed Noah of his plan to destroy all corruption yet preserve a righteous remnant. This included the creation which the Lord intended humanity to steward (Gen 1:26–28).[11]

Moses recorded, “God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before me, because the earth is filled with violence from them. And behold, I am about to cause them to be destroyed [with] the earth.’”

At this point, God made an irrevocable decision.[12] Humanity’s progressive degradation called for immediate action.[13] A similar situation occurred in Canaan during Moses’s lifetime (Lev 18:24–25; Deut 20:16–18).

The word translated as “cause them to be destroyed” (shakhath) comes from the root suggesting ruin.[14] When appearing in the Hiphil verb form, as it does here, it typically depicts the swift annihilation of people or cities through warfare or divine action (Gen 18:27–33; Gen 19:14).[15]

Since people ruined the earth by their sin, the Lord would complete its ruin.[16] This is a textbook example of the punishment fitting the crime (lex retalionis) (Exod 21:23–25; Ezek 7:1–4).[17]

According to the Atrahasis Epic, people making too much noise caused the flood. It says:

Twelve hundred years had not yet passed [after the gods created humanity] when the land extended and the peoples multiplied. The land was bellowing like a bull, the god got disturbed with their uproar.

Enlil heard their noise and addressed the great gods, “The noise of humankind has become too intense for me, with their uproar, I am deprived of sleep.”[18]

Some scholars hold that the commotion which bothered the deity consisted of people crying out for justice.[19] Nevertheless, the god’s selfish impulsiveness strongly contrasts with the moral tone of God’s rationale for the flood (Cf. Gen 6:1–7).[20]

In the Babylonian and Sumerian flood accounts, the gods intended to keep their plan of destruction a secret from all of humanity. However, one deity disagreed with their scheme and revealed it to the Noah figure in the story.[21]

The Sumerian account of Enki’s intervention says:

At that time, Ziusudra was king and [atoning] priest…As he stood there regularly day after day something that was not a dream was appearing: conversation a swearing of oaths by heaven and earth…

And as Ziusudra stood there beside it, he went on hearing, “Step up to the wall to my left and listen! Let me speak a word to you at the wall and may you grasp what I say, may you heed my advice! By our hand a flood will sweep over the cities…and the country; the decision, that mankind is to be destroyed has been made. A verdict, a command of the assembly cannot be revoked, an order of [the gods] An and Enlil is not known ever to have been countermanded.”[22]

Similarly, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the gods decided to hide their plan to wipe out humanity. However, one dissenting god thwarted their effort. The man equivalent to Noah, Utnapishtim, told this tale of the god’s crafty intervention:[23]

“I will reveal to thee, Gilgamesh, a hidden matter and a secret of the gods will I tell thee…When their heart led the great gods to produce the flood. [There] were Anu, their father, valiant Enlil, their counselor, Ninurta, their assistant, Ennuge, their irrigator.

Ninigiku-Ea was also present with them. Their words he repeats to the reed-hut, ‘Reed-hut, reed-hut! Wall, wall! Reed-hut, hearken! Wall, reflect! Man of Shuruppak…tear down (this) house, build a ship! Give up possessions, seek thou life. Forswear (worldly) goods and keep the soul alive! Aboard the ship take thou the seed of all living things.[24]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Gen 6:13. Why did God intend to ruin all flesh? How does his rationale in Genesis differ from other ANE accounts? Where do you see parallels between them?

 

 

 

 

Go to Specifications for an Ark

 

[Related posts include Stewards of the Earth (Gen 1:26 cont.); Male and Female He Created Them (Gen 1:27); and The Blessing of Fruitfulness (Gen 1:28); Advancements in Civilization (Gen 4:20–22); Lamech’s Ode to Himself (Gen 4:23–24); Seeking Relief (Gen 5:28–32); Sons of God or Sons of the Gods? (Gen 6:1–2); Descendants of Seth as the Sons of God (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Fallen Angels as the Sons of God (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Kings as Sons of the Gods (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Taking Wives for Themselves (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Limiting Human Life Spans (Gen 6:3); Nephilim in the Land (Gen 6:4); God Grieves (Gen 6:5–6); Wiping Out Everyone (Gen 6:7); Noah Found Favor (Gen 6:8); Righteous and Blameless (Gen 6:9–10); Violence Filled the Earth (Gen 6:11–12); Specifications for an Ark (Gen 6:14–15); God Hates Violence (Mal 2:13–16);  New Creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17); Receiving Christ’s Righteousness (2 Cor 5:21); Difficult Times in the Last Days (2 Tim 3:1–4); Having a Form of Godliness (2 Tim 3:5); Rebellious Angels (Jude 6–7); Guilty of Misconduct (Jude 8); and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Chapter 6: The Promise of a Covenant (Genesis 6:9–22)]

 

[1]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 132.

[2]Alexander Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels, Second Ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949), 224, Https://oi.uchicago.edu/sites/oi.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/shared/docs/misc_gilgamesh.pdf.

[3]Waltke, and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 132. Note that the British Museum’s copy of the Gilgamesh flood tablet dates from the 7th Century BC.

[4]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 6:16.

[5]Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 425.

[6]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 168.

[7]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 6:16.

[8]Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 425.

[9]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 280.

[10]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 172.

[11]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 122.

[12]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 172.

[13]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 126.

[14]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 278.

[15]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 171.

[16]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 135.

[17]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 172.

[18]Lambert and Millard, “Epic of Atra-Khasis,” 26.

[19]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 6:13.

[20]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 164.

[21]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 135.

[22]Thorkild Jacobsen, trans., “The Eridu Genesis,” in The Harps That Once..: Sumerian Poetry in Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987), lines 81–100, http://www.piney.com/EriduGen.html.

[23]Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 425.

[24]Speiser, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” in ANET, 11:9–27, 93, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n117/mode/2up, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=309929&partId=1.