Historical Genesis

From Adam To Abraham

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Chapter 16 - Of Patriarchs and Kings

When the Sumerian king lists began to surface, there was a rush to show these were the source of the biblical patriarchs. The Berossus list, close companion to the Sumerian versions, was analyzed by the Assyriologist Zimmern, who concluded:

It can hardly be doubted that the Biblical tradition of Gen 5 (P) concerning the antediluvian patriarchs is basically identical with the Babylonian tradition about ten antediluvian primeval kings.

Taking the opposite tack, G. F. Hasel made a comparative study and found "a complete lack of agreement and relationship" between Genesis 5 and 11 and the Sumerian kings. As is often the case, the truth may be found between extremes. The Genesis patriarchs and Sumerian kings cannot possibly be "basically identical" for reasons we shall see. On the other hand, to say there is "a complete lack of agreement" with historical evidence of sufficient commonality would be equally mistaken.

King lists were discovered in excavated cities, and although there is general agreement between them all, there are differences that could be attributed to geographical peculiarities, individual scribal tendencies, difficulties in communication between cities, and the shear antiquity of the material.

After a detailed analysis of Babylonian priest Berossus, Delitzsch agreed with Zimmern and concluded:

The ten Babylonian kings who reigned before the Flood have been accepted in the Bible as the ten antediluvian patriarchs, and the agreement is perfect in all details.

What Delitzsch failed to recognize is that agreement could be expected only in instances where patriarchs were rulers, or conversely, when the kings were also in the covenant line from Adam. Evidently, some of the patriarchs did reign over small kingdoms. Yet, concurrent kingdoms were also established in southern Mesopotamia ruled by non-biblical monarchs. Clearly, it was the intent of Berossus and the king lists to record a sequence of kings without regard to ancestry, just as it was the Bible's intention to record a certain line of ancestry whether or not they were kings.

In Sumerian, the first two letters En- of a ruler's name denotes kingship similar to the way we use "lord" in English. At the Canaanite city of Ebla, the king bore the en designation whereas in Mesopotamia the title "lugal" was more common. Pettinato noted:

The use of e n to indicate the king strikingly indicates a special relationship between Ebla and Uruk insofar as the kings of Uruk also carry the title e n, unlike the other Mesopotamian sovereigns who are called lugal.

It is at Erech (Uruk) where the city of Enoch was built, and the first recorded monarch (in Genesis) was Cain’s son, Enoch. The en- prefix carried through to Canaanite usage centuries later. The god "Enki" combines en for "lord" and ki for "earth" to mean literally, "Lord of the Earth." The Sumerian word lil can mean "air," "breath," or "spirit." Enlil was second in the Sumerian pantheon after the father god, An, though third in the Akkadian "trinity" behind Ea.

If we survey the pre-flood fathers, in both the line of Seth and the line of Cain, we see "En-" as the first two letters more often than any other combination (Enosh, once and Enoch, twice). This should alert us that both Cain's son and Seth's son were rulers. This offers another clue that the seventh patriarch, Enoch, also was a ruler, perhaps at Sippar.

One further thought. The Bible submits no data whatsoever on seven of the ten pre-flood patriarchs beyond their age when the first son was born, age at death, and that they had "other sons and daughters." Details beyond that are given for only three: Adam, Enoch, and Noah. And the supplementary biblical information provided for each of them correlates directly to Sumerian and Akkadian legends.

Likewise, in all the Sumerian king lists pertaining to the pre-flood era, additional particulars are given on only one man, "divine Dumuzi, a shepherd." And he is the only pre-flood Sumerian king, outside the line of Adam, corroborated in the Bible by his Semitic equivalent, "Tammuz."