RE: [asa] A question on Genesis

From: Dick Fischer <>
Date: Thu Mar 26 2009 - 21:40:51 EDT

Hi George, you wrote (quoting me in the beginning):


"If the Bible writer wanted to tell us there was a topic of conversation
that was all the rage in Babylon ..." - but how do we know there was? We
don't, even granted Dick's other dubious assumptions."


I can agree with that. I could say I'm not responsible for what you don't
know but that would be a cop out. If I can spend years in the Library of
Congress reading that stuff I can spend a few minutes telling you about it.
Fair enough.


The Tower of Babel incident was some time between the dispersion at roughly
2550 BC, and the destruction of Ur and the fall of Sumer around 2000 BC,
probably within a couple hundred years of the latter date.


This is one translation of one of the Sumerian King Lists:


In the first paragraph notice the expressions, "Then Eridug fell, then
Bad-tabira fell, then Larag (Larak) fell," etc. Jacobsen translates his
version "smitten with weapons." While you are at it skip to the last of
paragraph two, "Then Kic (Kish) was defeated and the kingship was taken to
E-ana." That is the temple Eanna. Note the third sentence in that
paragraph, "Enmerkar, the son of Mec-ki-aj-gacer, the king of Unug, who
built Unug." "Unug" in Sumerian is the city of Enoch. But I digress.


Even after the "flood swept thereover, "the Sumerian king list concludes a
list of kings at cities with an ominous phrase, "Uruk was smitten with
weapons," "Ur was destroyed"; "Opis was smitten with weapons."


Imagine you were living in St. Louis when suddenly an army from Chicago
appears. They conquer your defending forces, plunder your treasury and your
women, take your possessions, capture the mayor, cut off his hands and feet,
and parade him with a ring through his nose naked in front of the citizens
before they kill him. On the way out of town they destroy every building,
tearing them down brick by brick and pour salt on the surrounding farm lands
to kill the soil. It would make you think twice about taking your next
vacation in the Windy City.


Wars were frequent and brutal, and Mesopotamia itself was a difficult place
to live even in peacetime. Floods and droughts, violent sand storms and
hail storms. By contrast Egypt was far more placid both weather-wise and
they is no record of them fighting among themselves. Thus the pharaohs
became gods and whatever other gods may be were distant and detached. In
Mesopotamia, the gods ruled events. The gods decided when it would thunder
and rain, when the floods would sweep them away, everything.


Lamentation poems were commonly found in major cities. I at first puzzled
over the Lamentation Over the Destruction of the City of Ur set down by a
Sumerian scribe. This is a small part:


On its walls they lay prostrate. The people groan.

In its lofty gates where they were wont to promenade

dead bodies were lying about;

In its boulevards where the feasts were celebrated

they were viciously attacked.

In all its streets where they were wont to promenade

dead bodies were lying about;

In its places where the festivities of the land took place

the people were ruthlessly laid low.


The Sumerian scribe further lamented over the temple:


            The lofty unapproachable mountain, Ekissirgal-

            Its righteous house by large axes is devoured ...


Naming the Gutians and Elamites as defilers of the temple, the scribe spat
out his hatred against the "destroyers" who "made of it thirty shekels."


What I wondered about was why they would spend time attacking a huge mound
of bricks? The original Tower of Babel was destroyed by the Assyrian king
Sennacherib who leveled the entire city. The ziggurat at Babylon was
restored by Nabopolassar, the founder of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, about
625 to 605 BC. These were his words:


The lord Marduk commanded me concerning Etemenanki, the staged

tower of Babylon, which before my time had become dilapidated and

ruinous, that I should make its foundations secure in the bosom of the

nether world, and make its summit like the heavens.


His firstborn son, Nebuchadnezzar, continued in the efforts started by his
father, carrying out building the tower until 562 BC. When finished, a
seven-stage structure and its temple complex reached nearly 300 feet in
height. Herodotus visited Babylon about 460 BC and gave this report:


In the midst of the temple a solid tower was constructed, one stadium in

length and one stadium in width. Upon this tower stood another, and again

upon this another, and so on, making eight towers in all, one upon another.

All eight towers can be climbed by means of a spiral staircase which runs

round the outside. About halfway up there are seats where those who make

the ascent can sit and rest. In the topmost tower there is a great temple,

and in the temple is a golden table. No idol stands there. No one spends the

night there save a woman of that country, designated by the god himself, so

was told by the Chaldeans, who are the priests of that divinity.


What probably started out as mud brick platforms after the big flood as a
means of surviving future floods gradually grew into the massive ziggurats
still standing as decaying mounds of dirt today. Each city had at least one
and some had two. Each city had a city god who if appeased properly would
look out for the city and protect it from harm. Thus the ziggurat became a
temple and dwelling place of the city god. Offerings of meat and grain were
presented daily.


Furthermore, the ziggurat was a refuge in the time of war. Individual
cities, united for waging war, were sufficiently organized for civic
building projects. At each cult center, a simple temple mound was erected
dedicated to the god or goddess who protected the city. Although primitive
mounds or platforms can be traced to as early as 3000 BC, by the end of the
third millennium they were reaching immense proportions.


The Ashmolean Prism contains a liturgy to the temple at Kes, presumed to
have been in the proximity of Erech and Shuruppak. Numerous lines end with
"attaining unto heaven" (Gen. 11:4):


Oh temple whose design in heaven and earth has been

planned, thou are possessed of pure decrees. Temple

erected in the Land where stand the chapels of the gods.

Mountain house, radiant with abundance and festivity.


Destroying the ziggurat itself destroyed the dwelling house of the city god
thus depriving the hapless citizens of his protection. As a practical
measure it also left them no refuge to protect themselves.


A kind of ziggurat contest ensued as cities added mud brick structures on
top of older temple complexes topped with granite, sandstone, and marble
temple enclosures. It became a point of honor and pride to outdo neighboring
cities, and of course, this demonstrated love and devotion to their deity,
who in turn, protected them and gave them good fortune. And of course, an
important god was also paramount.


You wouldn't expect to get the same level of protection from some wimpy god
of irrigation when you were under attack from Uruk whose god was the big and
powerful Ea. Babylon needed a powerful god and the biggies were already
taken protecting other cities by the time Babylon came along. So with only
leftovers to choose from they did the next best thing and invented one. If
Ea wasn't available why not the son of Ea - and Marduk was born. This was
during the Babylonian Period later than the period under discussion and so
we can't know who the resident god might have been at the time of the
incident, but we have no reason to believe it was the God of the universe
being honored with a ziggurat especially for him.


So there are any number of reasons why God would be angry with his chosen
people. Descendants of Shem and Arphaxad, together with Hamitic descendants
at Babylon, may have cooperated in this enterprise, or they may have been at
odds. Whatever the case, the Lord was not pleased and put an end to their
foolishness by confusing their speech. As described by Oracles:


            And now all intercourse,

            By some occult and overruling power,

            Ceased among men: by utterance they strove

            Perplexed and anxious to disclose their mind;

            But their lip failed them; and in lieu of words

            Produced a painful babbling sound ...


Dick Fischer, GPA president

Genesis Proclaimed Association

"Finding Harmony in Bible, Science and History"


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Received on Thu Mar 26 21:41:34 2009

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