Last night I rewrote part of Chapter 9 from The Genesis Chronicles, to correct a typo and mention some new ideas concerning Genesis 4-5:
The Babylonian Connection
As I pointed out earlier, there are several parallels between the Genesis story and the myths of Mesopotamia. Scholars have tried over the past century, mostly without success, to make sense of Mesopotamia’s oldest historical document, the so-called “Sumerian King List.” It starts by listing eight to ten kings who ruled before Noah’s Flood, followed by a list of twenty-three kings that ruled in the city of Kish, and twelve that ruled in the city of Uruk. At the end of the list we find the names of kings from the third millennium B.C. whose existence has been verified by archaeological excavations of their cities, so we feel we have reached true history by that point. The main problem is that most of the kings, especially the first, had reigns which lasted an impossibly long time. One of the oldest existing copies of the list was the Weld-Blundell Prism, written by one Nur-Ninsubur of Larsa, and usually dated to 2170 B.C. It begins by saying, “After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridu,” and then runs as follows:
|Dumuzi (the shepherd)||Bad-tibira||36,000|
Total: 241,200 years
The first part of the list ends with “Then the Flood swept over,” obviously a reference to Noah’s Flood. Some versions of this list also include a king named Kichuna of Larsa, and a Zinsuddu of Shuruppak.
In the third century B.C., a Babylonian priest named Berosus wrote a history of Mesopotamia in Greek called the Babyloniaca. Unfortunately an original copy of his work no longer exists; only bits and pieces, quotations of Berosus from later authors are all we have to go on now. And none of these authors had an original document, either; the oldest of them, Josephus (1st century A.D.), got his material third-hand. Naturally we have to assume mistakes crept into the text as it passed from one scribe to the next. Here is his version of the King List which has come down to us:
Total: 432,000 years
The names on the list of Berosus have been changed into names pronounceable to Greek readers; there is no letter “o” in the Sumerian or Akkadian languages.
In the 1990s, David Fasold proposed a new interpretation of Berosus’ list. Fasold noticed that every number on the Berosus list is divisible by 3,600. This was not a deliberate rounding off but a translation of an earlier document that listed the reigns in a number of “saros-cycles” (Saros is a Chaldean astronomer’s term, representing the average amount of time between eclipses, or between 10 and 20 years), rather than years.
Fasold proposed that the original author of the Sumerian King List listed the reigns of the kings in days, not years. He went on to propose that the pre-Flood world rotated more slowly than today’s world, so that consequently the antediluvian calendar had only ten months of thirty days each, or 300 days in a year. By dividing the reigns of the kings on the Berosus list by 300, we get reigns of 36 to 216 years per king. This is much more credible, and follows the chronology in Genesis 5 more closely. Divide the whole list by 300, and 432,000 years becomes a mere 1,440. This is less than the 1,656 years normally claimed for the period between Adam and the flood, but Fasold solves this by suggesting that Adam did not call himself “king” until he was at least 216 years old.
Berosus explains that he became king by claiming divine right:
“Aloros, a Chaldean from Babylon, was the first king of the land and he reigned for ten Saroi [120 years as Fasold figured it, C.K.]. They say that he spread the story about himself that God appointed him shepherd of the people.”
Obviously Berosus was declaring the world’s first king a Chaldean from Babylon to make his own city look like both the oldest and the best place to live. By his time the chronicles had been so distorted that he would have had trouble giving Adam a nationality he had never heard of; even if the complete, true story had been available he probably would not have recognized it. We saw that the Sumerian account identified his home city as Eridu, a very old city on the Persian Gulf that had become deserted by 1000 B.C.
It may be that there was no need for a king during the first 200 or so years because everyone gave Adam the respect due to an elder, and he could rule without any need for a formal government or trappings of authority, like the judges of the Old Testament. By the third century of his life, however, there were at least four generations of people around, and some of the young people did not believe Adam’s story that he was created, not born! Even Berosus seems to have doubted the story. Rumors may have been started by Cain himself, because even though he was in exile, it is likely he would have continued to claim his birthright from Adam because he was the firstborn. If this is the case, Adam would have declared himself “shepherd” (king) over all the people to make sure that Seth would be his heir. As it turned out, he only succeeded in ruling over the children of Seth.
After the flood the earth’s rotation speeded up, and perhaps its orbit changed as well. Most of the world’s cultures used 360-day calendars for a long time to come. Egyptians, Mayans, Arabs, Chinese, Greeks, and many others all had either twelve 30-day months or ten 36-day months in their year. Immanuel Velikovsky thought this happened too often to write off as a mere rounding of 365 1/4 days into 360. Surely the ancient astronomers would have noticed if their calendar was 5 1/4 days off, for if they had let it go uncorrected, they would have found winter beginning in June 34 years later!
In the 8th century B.C., the earth adjusted its rotation another time, changing from a 360-day year to a 365.24-day one. This occurred with less disaster to mankind, and may have involved the other planets, if Velikovsky’s theory is correct. Isaiah witnessed it, by noting the change in the shadow on Jerusalem’s main sundial (2 Kings 20:9-11). So did people from other cultures, and during that century they adjusted their calendars accordingly, usually by adding 5 days. The Greeks, for example, introduced a new calendar that counted from the year 776 B.C., the year of the first Olympic games. Late in the century the Romans followed suit, with a 12-month calendar that counted from the founding of Rome (753 B.C.). The Babylonian king Nabonassar (747-734) established a lunar calendar (354 days, with 7 leap months over a 19-year period to keep it accurate); it was adopted by the Jews during the Babylonian captivity, with all the month names unchanged, thus becoming the Jewish calendar of today.
The Sumerians and Babylonians also believed that seven wise men (apkallu) were important. According to Berosus, the first was a creature named Oannes (also called Adapa, Musarus, or simply Uan), who came out of the Persian Gulf and taught the ways of civilization to the people he met. Berosus described Oannes as a demon that was half-man, half-fish, and the city of Eridu was founded where he revealed himself. Nowadays most scholars dismiss this story as just a myth; if they pay attention to it at all, they suggest that Oannes was an extra-terrestrial visitor.
Oannes comes ashore.
Mesopotamian legend identified Enki, the Sumerian water god, as the sender of Oannes; that’s why he had a “fishy” look about him. Consequently, Eridu became the holy city of Enki; the city’s main landmark was a temple to that god. Anyway, Oannes became an advisor to the first antediluvian king, Alulim/Aloros. He was followed by six other sages: Uandugga, Enmeduga, Enmegalanna, Enmebuluga, Anenlilda, and Utuabzu. Each of them in turn advised one of the early kings, and they were credited with introducing the Me (the original code of laws and morals), as well as arts, crafts and sciences. When the last sage, Utuabzu, finished teaching what he knew to Emenduranna, the seventh pre-flood king, he “ascended to heaven.” This should remind the readers of Enoch, who is also considered a teacher and who also did not die.
I am far from the first to draw parallels between Genesis and the Sumerian King List. However, most scholars note that both Berosus and Genesis 5 listed ten patriarchs before the Flood; they give less attention to the fact that the original list had eight kings in the first section, not ten. Is there a list of eight patriarchs in the Bible? Yes, we saw one in Genesis 4: Adam, Cain, Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, Methushael, Lamech and Tubal-Cain. Therefore, I propose that the first section of the Sumerian King List is not the lineage of Seth, but the lineage of Cain. We will see later on that to the builders of the Tower of Babel, the real heroes of the past were the civilization builders who perished in the Flood, not those who obeyed the god who caused the Flood in the first place. The seven sages, however, could be the lineage of Seth; we certainly have a Mesopotamian representation of Enoch in the last one. I mention elsewhere that there was probably war between the Cainites and Sethites, but it did not have to be continuous. A parallel to that in modern history could be the rivalry between England, France and Germany; those countries did fight some very nasty wars, but during times of peace, trade and cultural exchanges between those three European powers were possible.
Of course this is speculation on my part, but I am going to suggest that relations weren’t too bad at first. As long as Adam, Cain and Seth were alive, everybody knew they were related to one another, and all parties were probably on speaking terms. The Cainites and Sethites traded and exchanged ideas during this time, giving the impression (from a Cainite point of view) that the Sethite rulers were teachers or advisors to the kings of the children of Cain. This impression would have been even stronger if the children of Seth had some government besides a monarchy, calling their leaders “chiefs,” “presidents,” or some other title that suggested they had less than absolute power.
The antediluvian period of relative calm lasted until Enoch’s time on earth ended; in the previous section I mentioned the Jewish tradition that described Enoch as a peacemaker. Then all-out fighting began when Methuselah led the children of Seth, and either Lamech or Tubal-Cain led the children of Cain; because of that, the Sumerians did not preserve a tradition of Methuselah, his son or his grandson advising the kings of their day.
There is also a distinct possibility that because the Biblical and Mesopotamian record of our origins have much in common, the oldest Mesopotamian cities might have names which come from the events or people in the first chapters of the Bible. More than one Bible scholar has suggested that Kish, the oldest city in central Iraq, was named after Cush, the oldest son of Ham (see Chapter 12). Before the Greeks came along, most forms of writing did not use vowels, which would make “Cush” and “Kish” both look like “Ksh.” David Rohl has proposed that both Uruk and Ur were named after Enoch, because their actual Sumerian names were Unuk and Unuki, respectively. Rohl goes on to see a connection between Bad-tibira and Tubal-Cain, because Bad-tibira means “City of the Metal Worker.” Finally, Eridu, which archaeologists and Sumerian historians believe is the oldest city of all, could have been named after Irad (according to Rohl) or Jared (according to Zecharia Sitchin).