CHALDEAN ACCOUNT OF THE CREATION

Translated by H. F. TALBOT, F.R.S.
Read 4th January, 1876.

[Extracted from TSBA, 5:2, 326-40]

The cuneiform text of the First and Fifth Creation Tablets, which are the only ones as yet found in a tolerable state of preservation, has been published by Mr. G. Smith and also by Delitzsch in his Assyrische Lesestiicke, plates 40 and 41. From these my translation has been made.

The First Tablet.

1. When the upper region was not yet called Heaven,
2. and the lower region was not yet called Earth,
3. and the Abyss of Hades had not yet opened its arms,
4. then the Chaos of waters gave birth to all of them
5. and the waters were gathered into one place.
6. No men yet dwelt together: no animals yet wandered about:
7. None of the gods had yet been born.
8. Their names were not spoken: their attributes were not known:
9. Then the eldest of the gods
10. Lakhmu and Lakhamu were born
11. and grew up .....
12. Assur and Kissnr were born next
13. and lived through long periods.
14. Ann ........

[The rest of this tablet is lost.]

[p.427]

The Fifth Tablet of the Creation Series.

This fifth tablet is very important, because it affirms clearly in my opinion that the origin of the Sabbath was coeval with Creation.

1. He constructed dwellings for the great gods.
2. He fixed up constellations, whose figures were like animals.
3. He made the year. Into four quarters he divided it.
4. Twelve months he established, with their constellations, three by three.
5. and for the days of the year he appointed festivals.
6. He made dwellings for the Planets: for their rising and setting,
7. And that nothing should go amiss, and that the course of none should be retarded,
8. he placed with them the dwellings of Bel and Hea.
9. He opened great gates, on every side:
10. He made strong the portals, on the left hand and on the right.
11. Iu the centre he placed Luminaries,
12. The Moon he appointed to rule the night
13. and to wander through the night, until the dawn of day.
14. Every month without fail he made holy assembly-days.
15. In the beginning of the month, at the rising of the night,
16. it shot forth its horns to illuminate the heavens.
17. On the seventh day he appointed a holy day,
18. And to cease from all business he commanded.
19. Then arose the Sun in the horizon of heaven in [glory].

The last word is broken off, and though there are seven more lines, they are so broken that I cannot give a translation of them with any confidence.

It has been known for some time that the Babylonians observed the Sabbath with considerable strictness. On that day the king was not allowed to take a drive in his chariot; various meats were forbidden to be eaten, and there were a number of other minute restrictions. See 4 R, plate 32.

[p.428]

But it was not known that they believed the Sabbath to have been ordained at the Creation. I have found, however, since this translation of the fifth tablet was completed, that Mr. Sayce has recently published a similar opinion. See the Academy of November 27, 1875, p. 554.

This account falls short of the majesty of the Hebrew Genesis, especially where the writer implies that the heavenly movements might possibly go wrong, and it was therefore necessary that the gods Bel and Hea should watch over them and guard against such a misfortune.

I will now give the cuneiform text of the First Tablet:—

1. Enuma elish la nab ft samamu
When the region above was not called Heaven

2. siplish in kitu suma la zakrat
(and) below on Earth {by that) name was not spoken

3. zuab - ma la patu zaru - sun
and the Abyss had not opened its arms

4. mummu tisallat muallidat gimri-sun
the Chaos of Ocean was the mother of all of them

5. mi - sun istinish ikhiqu - ma
their waters into one place were gathered

[p.429]

6. gipara la kissura: zuza la selm
Men not dwelt together: animals not yet wandered about:

7. enuina ili la subu manama
when the gods not had risen none of them

8. suma la sukkura: simata la (....)
their names not were named: their honours not (were known)

9. ibbanu - ma ili (....)
(then) were born the gods (eldest ?)

10. Lakhmu Lakharuu ustabu
Lakhmu (and) Lakhamu arose

11. adi irbu
and grew up

12. Assur Kissur ibbanu
Asssur (and) Kissur were born

[p.430]

13. urriku tami buda
they were prolonged to days long

14. Anu .....
Anu ......

Notes and Observations.

The whole series of Creation tablets was called the Enuma elish, from the two first words of the first tablet. So the Jews called the book of Genesis Beresith, from its two first words Be-resith, 'in the beginning.'

Line 3. Zaru, 'its arms.' Heb. זרנע 'the Arm.' The same image is found in the Hebrew scriptures: 'shall he deliver his soul from the hand of Hades? (Sheol).' Ps.  lxxxix, 48. See a similar passage in Ps. xlix, 15. And Hosea xiii, 14, says: 'I will ransom them from the hand of Hades.'

The word zaru זרנע is poetical. It is used in Deut. iv, 34, for the arm of the Almighty, 'stretched out' to deliver the Israelites.

Line 4. Mummu, Chaos. Heb. מהוכה, 'tumult,' from root הום, perturbare. It was especially a Chaos of waters, a boundless Ocean. Nearly the same as Heb. takum תהמ, 'the Ocean,' from same root הום, which the LXX always render Αβυσσς. תהמ is feminine in Genesis vii, 11, and xlix, 25; Ezekiel xxxi, 4. Gesenius renders it Oceanus.

Its plural תהמות tahmut is the Assyrian tamti or tamut, 'the Ocean,' a word of frequent occurrence. In our Transactions, vol. iii, p. 511, I have given the gloss ת. Mumתmu [Assyrian]. This word Umun המונ occurs in Job xxxi, 34, where it is feminine, and means 'tumult,' 'confusion,' from same root המת or הום.

Tisallat, Ocean. If this word was pronounced Tithallat (and there are instances, especially in the Behistun Inscription, of S used for TH), then we have here the Θαλατθ of the Chaldean author Berosus, who says, 'There was a time in [p.431] which there existed nothing but darkness and an Abyss of waters wherein dwelt all manner of monstrous animals. The being who ruled over them was a female named Omoroca, which in the Chaldean language is Thalatth: in Greek Thalassa, the Sea.' See Smith's 'Chaldean Account of Genesis,' p. 41.

Muallidat, feminine participle of the verb ילד 'to bear children.'

5. Istinish, 'into one place.' Istin in Assyrian signifies 'One.' Compare Genesis i, 9, 'And God said, let the waters be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.'

Ikhigu or Ihiqu, from Heb. חק, an appointed bound or limit, from verb חקק statuit, terminavit. This word occurs in a most remarkable passage in the eighth chapter of Proverbs, where Eternal Wisdom is said to have been present, with God, at the Creation of the World; which Calmet compares to the Eternal of the 1st chapter of St. John's Gospel. The sacred writer of this chapter of Proverbs pictures to himself the time before anything was created, save Wisdom alone, and his words take a turn not unlike the Enuma elish of the Babylonians, e.g., 'When as yet God had not made the Earth,' &c. Proverbs viii, 26.

Three lines afterwards we read: 'When He gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment.'

Here the decree (חק) given to the Sea, not to pass over its appointed limits, is the same word as the Babylonian tablet employs in line 5, mi istinish ihiqu, 'the waters were gathered into one place.'

Line 6. Gipara. Heb. גבר 'a Man.' Syriac gabra. Often put absolutely for 'Man.' Jeremiah xvii, 7, "Blessed is the man (gibir) that trusteth in the Lord." Job. iv 17, "Shall man (gibir) be more pure than his maker?"

Job x, 5, "Are Thy years as the days of man (gibir)?" These words are addressed to the Deity.

[p.432]

Kissuru 'they were banded together; united; or bound.' Heb. קשר, to join or bind together; sometimes to unite in sympathy, as the hearts of David and Jonathan: to bind into a group, as the stars of the Pleiades. Job xxxviii, 31, "Didst thou bind together the bands of the Pleiades?" So Gesenius renders the passage. Hence the union of the first men into societies would be properly expressed by the verb kissur.

Zuza 'animals.' Heb. זוז, a living animal, especially a wild beast; from the root zuz זוז to live and move, as in Ps. 1, 11, "I know all the fowls of the mountains, and the wild beasts (ziz) of the fields are mine." And Ps. lxxx, 13. "The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast (ziz) of the field doth devour it." Sehu 'they wandered about.' Heb. תעה and also מעה 'to wander'; oberravit; erravit.

Line 7. Subu 'they were risen.' Catafago, p. 143, has sabaa to rise (as a star): sabdh, the dawn of day; subh, the dawn, aurora; sabihat, the dawn. The stars were the original gods of the Babylonians, who to denote 'a god' figured a star.

Line 8. Suma la sukkuru, 'their names were not spoken.' Apparently the same as zakaru (speak or name), which occurs, often.

Line 10. Ustabu is I think a T conjugation of subu (see 1. 7) and with the same meaning.

Line 13. Urriku 'were prolonged, or extended.' Compare iriku, liriku, ruku; from רחק longe recessit, a word which occurs very frequently.

The discovery of this tablet has greatly raised the reputation of the ancient author Damascius, for it is now seen that his account of the Creation was derived from genuine Babylonian sources. He says (see Cory's Ancient Fragments, p. 318, compared with the original): "The Babylonians speak not of One origin of all things ([Greek]), for they make two original beings, [Greek] and [Greek], making [Greek] the husband of [Greek], whom they call the Mother of the gods. Their only son (? eldest son) was [Greek]. And [p.433] another race ([Greek]) proceeded from them namely [Greek] and [Greek]. And again a third race proceeded from the same (parents) namely [Greek], and [Greek]. These had three children [Greek], [Greek], and [Greek]. And the son of [Greek] and [Greek] was called [Greek], who they say was the Demiurgus or fabricator of the world."

This agrees very nearly with the Babylonian records. Ταυδε is Tamti the Sea (a very common word in the inscriptions), exchanging the cognate letters U or V for M. Απασων is [Assyrian] Apzu or Apzo the Abyss (which word occurs continually). Μωυμις is Mummu 'Chaos' (see line 4 of our tablet). Δαχη and Δαχος; are conjectured by Mr. Smith to be the Lakhmu and Lakhamu of the tablet. This is very likely, and is due to the carelessness of the copyists in writing Δ for Λ.

Ασσωρ agrees exactly with [Assyrian] the god Assur, the great god of the Assyrians, and [Assyrian] is the same with the syllable [Assyrian] prefixed, and therefore properly transliterated by Kissur. Ανος is Anu, named in line 14. The rest of Damascius's names are broken off from the tablet, but Ao is the god usually transliterated as Hea. The sound of his name is doubtful; it is possible that Ao may be the true sound.

Most of this (regarding the testimony of Damascius) has already been pointed out by Mr. Smith, but I could not omit some mention of it here, as it is so closely connected with the interpretation of the tablet.

The Fifth Tablet of the Creation Series

1. ubassim manzazi ili rabi
he constructed dwellings [for] the gods great

[p.434]

2. Kakkabi tamsil - su as umami uzziz
Constellations, their figures like animals fixed up.

3. uaddi muanna eli mizrata uinazzir
he made the year into quarters he divided it

4. arklii kakkabi ana iizziz
twelve months, their constellations by threes he fixed up

5. istu tami eha muanna
from the days of the year

6. ustatil ussurati
he established festivals

[p.435]

usarsid manzaz ili nibiri ana tiddu u simutzu - sun
founded dwellings (for) the divine planets for their rising and setting

7. ana la epish anni, la egu manama
That nothing should act wrong nor stop still anything

8. manzaz Bel u Hea ukin itti - su
the dwelling of the god Bel and Hea he placed along with them

9. ipti- ma babati rabati as tsili
and he opened gates great on sides

[p.436]

10. sigaru uddannina sumila u - imna
the portals he made strong on the left and on the right

11. in kabatti-sha-ma istakan elati
in the centre of it also ta placed luminaries

12. ilu Urm ustipa musa iqtipa
the divine Moon he placed on high, the night to go round

13. uaddi-su-mma sukkur musi ana uddu tami
and made it to wander through the night until the rising of the day

[p.437]

14. arkhi sam la naparka as agie utsir
Month every without fail with holy festivals he observed

15. ina resh arkhi -ma napakhi lilati
in the beginning of the month at the rising of the night

16. garni nabata ana uddu samami
its horns it shot forth to illuminate the heavens

17. ina tami sibitti-kan aga ukin-ma
on the seventh day, a holy day he appointed

18. ana battulu sutkhurati uzzu
(and) to cease from all business he commanded

[p.438]

19. utzur-ma Sliems ina isid Shamie as arka
and he made the Sun in the ... of Heaven in its place

Notes and Observations.

Line 2. Tamsil, figure or resemblance: from משל to resemble. This word occurs frequently.

Umami 'animals' is a frequent word, but doubtful here. I think the last letter should be [Assyrian] or [Assyrian]; and not [Assyrian].

Uzziz 'he fixed up.' Heb. עזז firmavit.

Line 3. Mizrata 'quarters,' is a term frequently applied to the quarters of the human body. It is sometimes written mizriti. The etymology is uncertain.

Line 5. Ustatil 'he established.' An uncertain word, but compare edil 'I established'; mudil 'establisher or restorer.'

Ussurati, holy festivals held on certain days, עצרת dies feriatus: feria: coetus ferians.

Line 6. Nibiri, the Planets. Moving stars, from עבר to pass over; whence nibirti, a crossing over.

Line 7. Anni, faults, errors, wrong doings. I have treated of this word in my glossary No. 415; e.g. Anni ebusu, 'the faults I have committed.' It is the Heb. עון peccatum, perversitas, actio prava. The verb epis or ebus usually governs anni, as here, 'ana la epis anni.'

Egu, from עגה tarda vit: to stop or retard. See Schindler, p. 1267.

Line 9. Tsili 'sides.' Heb. צלע latus.

Kilallan, from Heb. כל omnis, is a word of frequent occurrence.

Line 10. Sigaru 'gates.' Heb. סגר porta, clausura.

Line 11. Kabat, Cor. Etiam medium rei cujusuis. See my glossary No. 500 on the meanings of kabat.

Elati, luminaries. Heb. הלל splenduit, luxit.

[p.439]

Line 12. Urru is a frequent name for the Moon, as being the tutelary divinity of the city of Ur.

Ustipa 'he placed on high.' T conjugation of Heb. שמה eminere, whence 'high places.'

Iqtipa is I believe the T conjugation of יקף circumivit, nearly the same as גקף or קף to go round, or wander about. From root קף iqtipa is a regular T conjugation. This verb גקף  naqip 'to wander ' is the root of naqbi 'wanderings,' which occurs in the Deluge Tablet, viz., "Eleventh portion of the wanderings of Izdubar." See Transactions, vol. iv, p. 81.

Line 13. Sukkur to wander about, or circulate. Heb. סחר circumivit.

Line 14. Agie 'festivals': plural of Aga [Assyrian] which occurs in line 17. Heb. חג festum.

Utzur, it assembled (?) probably from עצר to assemble the people on a feast day, congregavit (Gesenius). The meaning seems, 'Every month without exception the Moon (that is, the New Moon) caused an assembly of the people'; for, on the first day of the month (see line 15) she shows her horns in the evening twilight, and on the seventh day of the moon (see line 17) there is a holy festival.

Line 15. Napakhi, 'rising' or 'coming forth.' Chald. גמק to come forth. Often used with [Assyrian] to express Sunrise.

Line 16. Nabata 'shot forth' or 'poured forth.' Heb. גבע copiose effudit. In 4 R 27, 22, the same verb nabat is used as it is here in connection with 'horns': gamd-su kima sarur Samsi ittananbithu. The last word is from nabith, another form of the verb nabat.

Uddu, in the sense of Light, is frequent.

Line 18. Ana battulu 'to cease.' Heb. בטל cessavit. Buxtorf renders it 'to intermit, cease, rest, be at leisure.'

Sutkhurat. Heb. סחר commerce, buying and selling, marketing, or business. (See Buxtorf.)

Uzzu, 'he commanded.' Heb. צוה prsecepit, jussit.

Line 19. Arka, probably Heb. ערך ordinavit, disposuit, struxit.

It will be observed that in line 3 the year is said to be divided into four parts or seasons. This agrees with [p.440] Mr. G. Smith's statement in p. 405 of his 'Assyrian Discoveries.'

As the word employed in line 3 of col. II, mizrata or mizriti 'quarters,' is a remarkable one, I think it desirable to confirm it with another example. In 4 R 9, mizriti is employed to express the four quarters of the lunar month. For, in the time of the Assyrians, even as at the present day, the lunation was divided into four equal parts—new moon, first quarter, full moon, last quarter.

In 4 R 9, 20 (which is an Ode to the Moon) the Moon is said to complete its horns (arbati miskriti) in four quarters. The line is as follows:—

buru iqdu eha garni arbati mizriti arbati mizriti kullulu gabbaru
the beacon fiery whose horns  increase (and in) four quarters are completed.