Genesis

The creation story known as Bereshit – Genesis is, in fact, a collection of stories, gathered into one account, by the priests of the Hebrew tribes, between 1500 and 500 BC, as the starting point for their spiritual and ancestral archive, The Torah.

Bereshit, meaning ‘In the beginning,’ carries the ancestral memory of migrating groups from the dawn of humanity. Besides the Aramaic tribes of the west, and the Hebrews that were descended from Abram of Chaldea, the region of Canaan was heavily influenced by the Anatolian Hittite empire, with its strong links to the Vedic traditions of India.

When Abram migrated to Hebron from Ur, around 1800 BC, Mesopotamia was already an ancient land. The founders of Ur, Erech, and the other cities of the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys, who we call the Sumerians, had long since slipped into antiquity, and the Babylonians and Akkadians had superseded them. The domestication of plants and animals, a feat spanning thousands of years, was fully accomplished by the biblical era. The builders of the ziggurat star temples had invented writing, discovered the geometry of the circle, and plotted the precession of the Earth’s axis.

The Babylonian creation story, known as Enuma Elish served in the crafting of Bereshit, and the flood of Noah had its root in the Sumerian account given in The Epic of Gilgamesh. Some extracts from the translations of these inscribed cuneiform clay tablets follow on from the story.

 Bereshit – Genesis
In the beginning
bərē’šî bārā’ ’ĕlōhîm ’ē haššāmayim wə’ē hā’āre:
IN the beginning ’ĕlōhîm created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. The spirit of ’ĕlōhîm hovered over the waters and said: ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light, and it pleased ’ĕlōhîm to see it. The light was separated from the darkness. He called the light day, and the darkness He called night. There was evening and there was morning, a first day.

Elōhîm said: ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters,’ and it was so. The firmament divided above from below, and He called it Heaven. There was evening and there was morning, a second day.

Elōhîm said: ‘Let the waters under Heaven be gathered together, and let dry land appear,’ and it was so. He called the dry land Earth, and the waters He called Seas, and it pleased ĕlōhîm to see them.

Elōhîm said: ‘Let the Earth bring forth grass, herb-yielding seed, and fruit-bearing trees,’ and it was so. The earth brought forth every kind of plant, herb and tree and it pleased ’ĕlōhîm to see them. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.

Elōhîm said: ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven, to mark the seasons, the days and the years; and divide day from night upon Earth,’ and it was so. Elōhîm made the Sun to rule the day, and the Moon and stars to rule the night. He set them in the firmament of heaven and it pleased ’ĕlōhîm to see them. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

Elōhîm said: ‘Let the oceans swarm with living creatures, and birds fly above the Earth’. He made the creatures of the oceans, and of the air; and it pleased ’ĕlōhîm to see them. Elōhîm blessed them all: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, fill the seas, and the heavens.’ There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

Elōhîm said: ‘Let the land bring forth living creatures: cattle, beasts, and those that creep upon the earth,’ And it was so. He made the beasts, cattle, reptiles and insects, and it pleased ’ĕlōhîm to see them.

Elōhîm said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, to be the custodian of the seas, the air, and over the whole earth’. Man was created, both male and female, in the image of ĕlōhîm.

Elōhîm blessed man and woman: ‘Be fruitful, and multiply. You are custodians over the seas, the air and the land. Take care of all the creatures of the earth. Behold, herb-yielding seeds and fruit-bearing trees, have I made as food for you to eat. To all other living souls, of the land and the air, I provide green herbs for food,’ and it was so. ’Elōhîm looked upon all of creation, and it pleased ’ĕlōhîm greatly. There was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The creation of heaven and earth was complete. And on the seventh day ’ĕlōhîm rested. He blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.


Second version of The Creation of Man

When yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm created heaven and earth, there were no shrubs, plants, herbs or trees, and no man to till the soil. Yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm caused a mist to rise up and water the surface of the earth. And from the damp earth, He fashioned man, and breathed life into his nostrils; and man became a living soul. Yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm made a paradise in Eden for man to live, full of every kind of fruit tree. In the heart of the garden of Eden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Elōhîm commanded that man must never eat from these two trees, lest he die.

Yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm fashioned the beasts, the birds, and every living creature, from the earth, and man gave them all their names; but man had no companion of his own kind. Yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm caused a deep sleep to fall upon him, and He made woman from one of his ribs.

The man said: ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh’ The man and the woman were both naked, but they were not ashamed.


 The beguiling of the serpent, and the banishment from paradise.

The serpent was the subtlest of all beasts, and to the woman he asked ‘Are there any trees in the garden from which you must not eat?’ She replied: ’Elōhîm has forbidden us to touch or eat of the tree at the heart of the garden, lest we die.’ The serpent said: ‘O you won’t die; if you eat from that tree, your eyes will be opened with the knowledge of good and evil.’

So the woman ate the fruit, and gave some to her husband. Their eyes were opened and they covered their nakedness with fig-leaves.

When they heard yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm in the garden, they hid amongst the trees. Yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm called out, and the man replied: ‘I heard Your voice, and I hid myself in fear, because I was naked.’ Yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm said: ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of knowledge?’ The man said: ‘The woman gave me the fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’ Yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm said to the woman: ‘What have you done?’ and the woman said: ‘The serpent beguiled me, and I ate the fruit.’

Yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm cursed the serpent: ‘upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.’

To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy travail; in pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’

And to the man He said: ‘Because thou hast hearkened unto thy wife, and eaten of the tree of knowledge, cursed is the ground for thy sake. In toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. By the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken. Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’

The man was Adâm (first man) and the woman was Châvâh (Life-giver), as she was the mother of all life. ‘Behold, man has become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he eats also of the tree of life, and lives for ever,’ yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm banished them from the garden of Eden. He placed an angel with a flaming sword at the east gate of paradise, to guard the way to the tree of life.


The killing of Abel, and the cursing of Cain

Adâm and Châvâh had two sons. Abel was a shepherd, and Cain tilled the earth. They both brought offerings to yəhwâ, who had respect for Abel but not for Cain. Yəhwâ said to Cain: ‘Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? If thou doest not well, an evil croucher lies at the thy door, but thou mayest rule over it.’

In the field, an argument developed, and Cain struck and killed his brother.

Yəhwâ asked Cain ‘where is Abel?’ and he replied: ‘I know not; am I my brother’s keeper?’

‘What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood cries out to Me from the earth. And now art thou cursed by the earth. When thou tillest the soil, it shall not yield unto thee; a fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be on the earth.’

And Cain replied: ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. To no longer see my land, or to look again upon Your face. As a wanderer and a fugitive, whoever sees me will surely kill me.’ Yəhwâ marked Cain with a sign, and said: ‘whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’

Cain left and dwelt in the land of Nod, in the east, where he built a city called Enoch, after his son. From Cain was descended Lamech, who had two wives, Adah, and Zillah.

Adah bore Jabal whose nomadic clans were cattle herders, and Jubal, the father of the harp and pipe makers. The sons of Zillah forged tools from brass and iron; and their sister was called Naamah.


The Generations of Adâm

Yəhwâ commanded Noah to build an ark

Mankind spread around the world. Adam lived nine hundred and thirteen years. The descendents of Adam were Seth (912), Enosh (905), Kenan (910), Mahalalel (895), Jared (962), Enoch (365), Methusalah (969), Lamech (777), and Noah.

The sons of ’ĕlōhîm chose wives from the daughters of men. They bore children who grew to be Nephilim (demi-gods), like the mighty men of old. Yəhwâ said: ‘My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he also is flesh.’

Yəhwâ saw evil in the heart of mankind. Corruption and violence filled the Earth. Yəhwâ regretted having created such a world, and it grieved His heart. ‘I will blot out man from the face of the earth, and all creatures of the land and air, for it repenteth Me that I have made them.’

Only Noah found grace in the eyes of yəhwâ. He was righteous and wholehearted, and he walked with ’ĕlōhîm. ’Elōhîm said to Noah: ‘The end of all flesh is come; for the earth is filled with violence. Make an ark of gopher wood, and cover it with pitch. It will be three hundred cubits in length, fifty cubits in breadth, and thirty cubits in height. The ark shall be three stories high, with a window and a door set in the side.

Behold, I will bring a flood upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life; every thing on earth shall perish. But I will establish My covenant with thee; and thou shalt come into the ark, with thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives.

Of every living creature, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, male and female, to keep the seed alive upon the earth. Gather food, for thee, and for all the creatures.’ Noah did all that ’ĕlōhîm commanded of him.

The windows of heaven opened

Noah was six hundred years old when he entered the ark. He gathered all living things, two and two, male and female, as ’ĕlōhîm had commanded, and yəhwâ shut them in.

Then the windows of heaven opened, and it rained for forty days and forty nights. The fountains of the great deep broke open and the Earth was covered in water.

The ark rose up, and the waters prevailed. The ark was carried on the currents, and the waters prevailed. The highest mountains were covered. Fifteen cubits deep did the waters prevail. Everything that moved, all creatures in whose nostrils was the breath of life, birds and insects, cattle and reptiles, beast and man, they all perished. All were blotted out, all destroyed. Only Noah and his companions in the ark were saved, and the waters prevailed for a hundred and fifty days. 

The waters retreated

Yəhwâ vows never again to curse the ground for man’s sake

The everlasting covenant between ’ĕlōhîm and every living creature

When the waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Noah opened the window and he sent forth a raven and a dove. The earth was still covered by water and the dove returned. After seven days he sent forth the dove once again. She returned that evening with a freshly plucked olive-leaf in her beak. After seven more days, he again sent forth the dove, and this time, she did not return.

On the first day of the first month, in Noah’s six hundred and first year, the waters had retreated from the earth; and he removed the cover of the ark, to the sight of dry land. When the flood-waters had retreated, Elōhîm said: ‘Go forth from the ark with all the living creatures, that they may swarm and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.’

Noah built an altar to yəhwâ, and when He smelled the sweet savour of the offerings, yəhwâ said in His heart: ‘The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, nor will I again smite every living thing. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, summer and winter, and day and night will never again cease.’

Elōhîm blessed Noah and his sons: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. Behold, I establish My covenant with you, with your seed after you, and with every living creature that goes out of the ark with you. Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.’

Elōhîm set a rainbow in the cloud, as a reminder of the everlasting covenant between ’ĕlōhîm and all who dwell on the earth. 

Noah curses Canaan

The sons of Noah spread throughout the world

The sons of Noah were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth and Ham was the father of Canaan. From the sons of Noah the whole earth was overspread.

Noah planted a vineyard, and was drunk from the wine. Ham found his father lying drunk and uncovered, and he complained to his brothers. Shem and Japheth respectfully covered their father with a blanket.

When Noah awoke, he knew what had transpired, and he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham with the words: Blessed be yəhwâ. May ’Elōhîm grant Japheth with abundance, to live as a lord in the tribe of Shem; and Canaan shall be a servant to them both.’

Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. When he died he was nine hundred and fifty years old. The sons of Shem, Ham, and Japheth spread throughout the world.

In the line of Japheth were the tribes of Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, Tiras, Ashkenaz, Riphath, Togarmah, Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, Dodanim. They formed many nations, each with their own language.

In the line of Ham were the tribes of Cush, Mizraim, Put, Canaan, Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, Sabteca, Sheba, Dedan and Nimrod, who was a mighty hunter, and founded the kingdom of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, and Asshur, whose tribes founded many cities including Nineveh, and Casluhim, whose tribe were the Philistines.

In the line of Ham were the Canaanite tribes, including the Jebusite, the Amorite, the Hivite, the Arkite, the Sinite, the Arvadite, and the Zemarite. The lands of Canaan went from Zidon to Gaza, including the cities of Sodom, Gomorrah and Lasha. These were the sons of Ham. They formed many nations, each with their own language.


 The Tower of Babel

Yəhwâ confounds their language

The birth of Abram.

After the flood, the tribe of Shem journeyed east and settled in the land of Shinar, to construct a city with a great tower, made with baked earth bricks, and mud mortar.

This displeased yəhwâ: ‘Behold, they are one people with one language; and now nothing will be witheld from them. Come, let us go down, and confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ Thus the tribe of Shem abandoned the half built city of Babel, and they were scattered abroad.

In the line of Shem were the tribes of Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, Aram. Uz, Hul, Gether, Mash, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, Terah. Their lands were from Mesha to Sephar, and to the mountain of the east. They formed many nations, each with their own language.

Terah dwelled in the Chaldean city of Ur. His sons were Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Terah left Ur, with Abram and his wife Sarai, and he died en route to Canaan, at two hundred and five years old.


Enuma elish la naba shaman

When above, the heaven had not yet been named

 And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,

And the primeval Apsu (ocean), who begat them,

And chaos, Tiamut (primeval waters), the mother of them both

Their waters were mingled together,

And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;

When of the gods none had been called into being,

And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;

Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven,

Lahmu and Lahamu (silt and slime) were called into being…

Ages increased,…

Then Ansar and Kisar (sky and earth) were created, and over them….

Long were the days, then there came forth…..

Anu, their son (authority of heaven)

And Ea (wisdom of the Earth),

Thus were established the great gods

Extracts from Leonard William King, The Seven Tablets of Creation

Luzac’s Semitic text and translation series. vol. xii-xiii, Luzac and Co. London [1902].


The Epic of Gilgamish

THE BABYLONIAN LEGEND OF THE DELUGE

THE BUILDING OF THE SHIP

According to the plan its walls were 10 gar high,


And the width of its deck was also 10 gar.


I laid down the shape of its forepart and marked it out.


I covered it six times.


Its interior I divided into nine,


Caulking I drove into the middle of it.


I provided a steering pole, and cast in all that was needful.


Six sar of bitumen I poured over the hull,


Three sar of pitch I poured into the inside.



 THE LOADING OF THE SHIP

With everything that I possessed I loaded it .


With everything that I possessed of silver I loaded it.

With everything that I possessed of gold I loaded it.


With all that I possessed of all the seed of life I loaded it.


I made to go up into the ship all my family and kinsfolk,


The cattle of the field, the beasts of the field,

all handicraftsmen I made them go up into it.



 The appointed time drew nigh;


I watched the aspect of the approaching storm,


Terror possessed me to look upon it,


I went into the ship and shut my door.



THE ABUBU (CYCLONE) AND ITS EFFECTS DESCRIBED.

A black cloud from the foundation of heaven came up.


Inside it the god Adad thundered,


The gods Nabû and Sharru went before,


Marching as messengers over high land and plain,


Irragal tore out the post of the ship,


En-urta went on, he made the storm to descend.


The Anunnaki brandished their torches,


With their glare they lighted up the land.


The whirlwind of Adad swept up to heaven.


Every gleam of light was turned into darkness.


A whole day long [the flood descended] . . .

the land was laid to waste.



 Swiftly it mounted up . . . . . [the water] reached to the mountains


[The water] attacked the people like a battle.


Brother saw not brother.


Men could not be known (or, recognized) in heaven.



THE ABATING OF THE STORM

And all mankind were turned into mud,


The land had been laid flat like a terrace.


I opened the air-hole and the light fell upon my cheek,


I bowed myself, I sat down, I cried,


My tears poured down over my cheeks.


I looked over the quarters of the world, (to] the limits of ocean.


At twelve points islands appeared.


The ship grounded on the mountain of Nisir.



I brought out a dove and let her go free.


The dove flew away and [then] came back;


I brought out a swallow and let her go free.


The swallow flew away and [then] came back;


I brought out a raven and let her go free.


The raven flew away, she saw the sinking waters.


She came not back.


 UTA-NAPISHTIM LEAVES THE SHIP

Then I brought out [everything] to the four winds and made a sacrifice;


I set out an offering on the peak of the mountain.


The gods smelt the savour,


The gods smelt the sweet savour.


Extracts from R. C. Thompson, The Epic of Gilgamish, 1928.

Discussion

Of the many threads woven into Bereshit, one obvious distinction can be drawn. In the first section, the creator is ’ĕlōhîm, and the focus was on the manifestation of the physical universe, in all its forms. Man and woman were created equally, as guardians and caretakers of the Earth.

In the second version, yəhwâ is the creative force, and the focus was more specifically on mankind. Yəhwâ was the God of the tribes of Israel, and amongst the purposes of the narrative were the establishment of lineage and moral obedience. In the act of creation, He is referred to as yəhwâ ’ĕlōhîm, but as the story proceeds, yəhwâ predominates and ’ĕlōhîm is only rarely employed.

In the Enuma elish, Earth, Heaven, Sky and Ocean were formed as spirits, and from spirit, matter was the ultimate expression. Remnants of this original pluralism are still in evidence in Bereshit. When ’ĕlōhîm made mankind, the incantation was: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’ On banishing mankind from paradise: ‘Behold, man has become as one of us, to know good and evil’. When the tribes of Shem were building Babel: ‘Come, let us go down, and confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ As in Vishńu Puráńa, creation proceeds by conceiving each element, and in Bereshit, the citing of names also plays a significant role. This emphasis on the power of the word is restated in the gospel of John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The writers of The Torah were communicating strong social and moral messages in their scriptures. At the heart of this ethical order was mans flawed nature: The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth’.

When banished from paradise, Châvâh is told: In pain thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

These punishing words to Adâm reflect an unpardonable sin: ‘Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.’

The banishment from paradise is an ancestral memory shared throughout the world. It refers to a transition in pre-history, characterized by separation from the natural order. Typical responses to the trauma of separation, such as a death, or the untimely loss of parental love, are nostalgia, regret, responsibility, remorse, and shame or self-reproach. These are amongst the root feelings in a broad range of the maladies afflicting the world today.

The story of Cain and Abel depict the tension between two competing lifestyles, the pastoral nomadic and the settled farmer. The rejection of Cain’s offering symbolized the failure of the crops, and this called for a ritual sacrifice. In the obscure phrase: ‘an evil croucher lies at thy door, but thou mayest rule over it,’ the reference is to the Akkadian rabisu, ‘the evil croucher’ who lies in wait for offerings, and is frequently mentioned in Babylonian magical texts.

In the Sumerian story of Dumuzi and Enkimidu, the Goddess Innana chose the shepherd over the farmer as her husband. In the Babylonian New Year festival, the shrine was purified with the blood of a slain sheep. After the sacrifice, the priest was obliged to flee into the desert. In the Hebrew ritual of Yom Kippur, also heralding the new year, the slaughter and flight ritual was enacted with two goats, where one was slain and the other driven out into the desert. The story of Cain and Abel carried a ritual killing and flight motif at its core, and the mark of Cain was in reference to the tattoo marks reserved for temple priests and prophets in the Old Testament era.

The theme of jealous fratricide and banishment contrasts starkly with the mark of sacred protection. The cursing and exile of Cain is a separate strand, woven into the story to reinforce the moral code proposed by the banishment from Eden.

The geneolgy from Adam to Noah is reported with meticulous attention to age. Although Cain is exiled, his line results in Lamech, the father of Noah, as does the line of Seth, indicating that these two lineages are in fact different versions of the same recorded data. The timespan between the birth of Adam and the start of the flood is given precisely as 1,656 years. Research into the significance of this number has yielded the following results:-

Julius Oppert, a distinguished Jewish Assyriologist, was the first to recognize, in a paper on “Dates in Genesis” presented before the Royal Society for Sciences in Gottingen in 1877, that there are 86,400 weeks in 1,656 years.

The cosmological significance of this list of patriarchs, and the timescale secreted therein, can be detected more clearly with reference to the Sumerian ancient King Lists. Three sources of these lists exist, two on cuneiform tablets and uncovered from the city of Larsa, and a written record in Greek from the third century B.C. by a Babylonian priest called Berossus.

When kingship was lowered from heaven the kingship was in Eridu. 
 

Alulim became king and reigned 8 sars.


Alagar reigned 10 sars. 
Two kings reigned 18 sars.

The kingship was carried to Badtibira.


Enmenlu-Anna reigned 12 sars.


Enmengal-Anna reigned 8 sars.


Divine Dumuzi, a shepherd, reigned 10 sars. 
Three kings reigned 30 sars.

The kingship was carried to Larak.


Ensipzi-Anna reigned 8 sars.

The kingship was carried to Sippar.


Enmendur-Anna reigned 5 sars and 5 ners.

The kingship was carried to Shuruppak.


Ubartutu reigned 5 sars and 1 ner. 
 

There were five cities. Eight kings reigned 67 sars. 
 

The Flood swept thereover.

After the Flood swept thereover, when the kingship

was lowered from heaven, the kingship was in Kish.

From Thorkild Jacobsen, University of Chicago Press, #11, 1939

According to the Berossus record, from the first “king” until the flood was a period of 432,000 years. This number is of great interest as we have already seen that a Brama day, a Great Age and the current Kali Yuga are all multiples of the same number 432,000 years.

The discovery that 86,400, which is two times 43,200, is embedded in Genesis can only mean that the wisdom keepers of the Hebrews, who had access to the cachetic records of Babylon, had deemed it important enough to codify and incorporate this ancient archaeological memory into their sacred text.

Generations of

Adam

Sumerian Kings List King Period Duration in years
Patriarchs First Dynasty of Kish
Noah Ziusudra 10 64,800
Lamech Arad-gin 9 28,800
Methusaleh Enmenduranna 8 36,000
Enoch Ensibzianna 7 64,800
Jared Enmenluanna 6 36,000
Mahalalel Dumuzi 5 64,800
Kenan ? 4 43,200
Enosh Kidunnushakinkin 3 46,800
Seth Alagar 2 10,800
Adam Alulim 1 36,000

Such vast time scales can only sensibly relate to geology, astronomy and geophysics. The ten kings period is a record of a cycle of time from the birth to the destruction of the order of creation. The cosmic order alluded to in the sequences of numbers corresponds to the diameter and circumference of the Earth and the cycle of the precession of the planetary axis. It played a central role in the design of the Great Pyramid at Giza. These records were kept meticulously by our ancestors, and were important enough to inspire the construction of colossal temples and megaliths; only in recent times have we forgotten their significance.

Bereshit follows the account of the flood with two important cultural memories. The deluge destroyed all human civilisation, and changed the geography of the planet. After this cataclysm, migrant survivors arrived and settled, amongst other places, in the Tigris and Euphrates delta. There followed an indeterminately long period during which agriculture was developed.

It is possible that the first domestication of plants and animals occurred elsewhere on the planet, now lost to our memory, and the early Sumerian settlers arrived armed with the knowledge and the seeds. The first cultivation of the vine was certain to have occurred during this era. This symbolic threshold of civilisation was remembered in Bereshit by the story of Noah’s vineyard. As before, an ethical slant is attached to the record. The cursing of Canaan underlines humanity’s lack of moral rectitude, and provides a rudimentary explanation for injustice and bondage.

The second cultural memory is of the rise of the dynasty of Kish, during the era of the patriarchs. The Sumerians built their cities and ziggurats from baked earth bricks, with mud for mortar. The perspective in Bereshit was from the outside looking in. To the nomadic tribes of the desert, these vast multi-cultural cities were places of confusion and moral temptation. In the words of the classic scholar, S.H. Hooke, in his Middle Eastern Mythology:

The Babel myth reflects the attitude of nomads entering the fertile plains of the delta, beholding with wonder and dread the soaring towers of Babylonian cities, and despising the multitudes speaking all the various tongues of the ancient Near East. The use that the Yahwist makes of this myth is in keeping with his view of the nature of man…striving after that unattainable equality with the divine, which has caused the primal fall.

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