Ver. 1 April 5, 2005
A Possible Development of the
Where Did the
Modern scholars are preponderantly agreed that the current text was developed out of earlier Israelite stories and shows signs of its changes of storyline or viewpoint. (See Gaster, Hooke, Speiser, Sarna, Wallace.)
existed in early times an Israelite tradition of a "
“While sharing many
motifs with Genesis 2–3 (including
the abundance of precious stones in Eden, Gen. Gen. 2:12; Ezek. 28:13),
Ezekiel differs from Genesis in describing Eden as the "garden of
God," recalling Sumerian Dilmun,
over against the character of Eden in Genesis as a garden created for human
beings to till and keep (Gen. 2:15).
The account in Ezekiel also differs in having only one inhabitant.
Moreover the word of the
LORD came to me: 12Mortal, raise a lamentation over the king of
8 The cedars in the
16 I made the nations quake at the sound of its fall, when I
cast it down to Sheol with those who go down to the Pit; and all the trees of
Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all that were well watered, were consoled
in the world below. 17 They also went down to Sheol with it, to those killed by
the sword, along with its allies, those who lived in its shade among the
nations. 18 Which among the trees of
Knowledge and Eternal Life Separate the Gods from Humanity
“The Garden of Eden story indicates that divinity consists of two primary elements: knowledge and immortality. Through an act of disobedience, human beings acquired the former, but they could not be allowed to attain the latter, lest they become like God. Similarly, the alewife (in Gilgamesh) observes that the gods are jealous of their own supremacy. The boundary between the human and the divine may not be traversed, and immortality must remain the sole province of the gods….
“The affinity between biblical and Mesopotamian
literature in no way diminishes the special character of Israelite religion. By
introducing the concept of monotheism into the ancient Near East, Israelite
religion made a unique contribution to human civilization…. Pervasive
polytheism represented a threat to the belief in one God and required a strong
rejection if monotheism were to take root. Yet despite the anti-pagan polemic
of the Bible, the mythic tradition of the ancient Near East was a serious,
complex, and profound attempt to comprehend both the natural and the
supernatural. The impact of this tradition was felt far beyond the borders of
The concept of a primitive
garden of god is found in various folklores. The earliest
known example, and conceivably the distant ancestor via Canaanite mythology of
The magic Snake
Genesis' serpent possesses two remarkable abilitities, he can walk and talk. Ningishzida is portrayed in human as well as animal form. As an animal he walks on four legs, has wings, and two horns. In human form he walks on two legs, has a beard, wears a horned helmet (a symbol that he is a god), and has serpent-dragon heads erupting from his shoulders. I suspect that Skinner was correct in his hunch, Genesis' serpent was indeed a god in the original myths. The serpent-god has been recast into a mere snake, and he has lost his legs in the Hebrew recasting of this ancient Sumerian myth. Apparently Ningishzida's association with a "Good Tree" is what lies behind Genesis' statement that the Tree was the source of knowledge about good and evil and associated with a serpent.
The Name of the Woman
The translation of ḥawwah = “Eve” is not simple. A range of possible meanings (see HALOT = The Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner et al.) –
The pre-exilic audience would have understood the relationship between the Tree of Life (symbol of the mother goddess Asherah), the snake (one of the animals – along with the ibex and lioness – associated with Asherah) and ḥawwah which may have been one of the names of Asherah. Perhaps they would have seen Eve as a rebellious Astart-Anat figure socialized into the obedient, subordinated role modeled by Asherah the mother goddess. She moves from being a snake reaching for power-knowledge to being a domesticated housewife – mother.
The post-exilic audience, on the other hand, would have understood ḥawwah as a double entendre of “life giver” and snake (life taker?).
The Biblical Treatment of the Near Eastern Primordial Myths – Turning them on their Head!
"Viewed with respect to
its negatives, Gen 1:1-2:3 is a polemic against the mythico-religious concepts
of the ancient Orient...The concept of man here is markedly different from
standard Near Eastern mythology: man was not created as the lackey of the gods
to keep them supplied with food; he was God's representative and ruler on
earth, endowed by his creator with an abundant supply of food and expected to
rest every seventh day from his labors. Finally, the seventh day is not a day
of ill omen as in
Some observations on "REVERSALS" or "INVERSIONS" in Genesis in comparison with the Mesopotamian myths-
1: When men began to multiply on the face of the ground,
and daughters were born to them,
2: the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose.
3: Then the LORD said, "My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years."
4: The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.
Given our understanding of the
movement from the original triad of Gods to a dyad of Gods to One God, how
might the myth of
Cain and Abel
original tale of Cain and Abel was unrelated to the
§ The key to the origin of the story of Cain and Abel is probably indicated by their names of the protagonists. Cain (קין) means "smith," (with overtones of jealousy (קנא) acquisitousness (קנה) and dirge (קינה) and Abel “transcience”, "herdsman." Its original purpose was to account for the pariah status of the smith in a pastoral society. The exilic and post-exilic audience would have understood the double entendre of Abel (= “transience” and, as in Aramaic, “herdsman”). Perhaps it is a story showing that while the smith is necessary to the society he is not of it. He is despised but protected, the maker of vitally required pots and tools but also of weapons that kill. One might compare him to Wagner’s Loge – a personification of logical thought which can be either sophistic and delusory or penetrating and truth finding depending on the user. Loge is also the god of fire – a good servant but a bad master.
is unclear whether the
cannot know when story of Cain and Abel was grafted on to the
§ In the biblical account, Adam and Eve have 3 children (in order of their birth):
§ Abel (meaning "breath, nothingness" which may be a reflection of his fate or it may mean "herdsman.")
§ Seth (born after the murder of Abel. Seth, probably means "foundation" – an image of solidity contrasting with the transience implied in the name Abel. The idea is probably that a new, and solid, start is being made.). Little is said about Seth the list of whose descendants is very similar to those of Cain.
“The two sons, unlike their parents in
I must admit that the following is rather speculative.
It is possible that
Cain, in the
"His brother's name was Jubal; he was the ancestor of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah bore Tubal-cain, who made all kinds of bronze and iron tools."
"The exchange of oracular consultations with
the king of Alashia is attested in
1) The Divine Realm
Creation of first humans in the image of El-Elat
* El at the sources of the two rivers - ´ilu mabbukê naharêmi
* El in the midst of the springs of the two oceans - ´ilu qirba ´apigê tihamatêmi
* Father of Humanity - ´abi ´adamu
* The Creator of Creatures - baniyu banawati
* The Ageless One who Created Us - dordoru dykeninu
* Kindly/Beneficent ´El the Compassionate/Sympathetic - lutipanu ´ilu du pa´idu
* The King, the Father of Years/Time - malik ´abi shanima/shunemi
Seven years may Baal fail
Even eight, the rider of the clouds;
Nor dew, nor rain, nor upsurging of the deep,
Nor sweetness of the voice of Baal (i.e. thunder).
Dew, rain, and mountain springs were the three
sources of moisture in
Baal was the divine being closest to man probably sharing with him the duty of maintaining the garden of God (c.f. Genesis, chapter 2 “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. … The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”). Baal would be the personal God of the first human child. Baal would have been the source and model for the first human child’s activities as farmer.
1) The Divine Realm
§ El-YHWH5 is symbolized by the Tree of Knowledge. El-YHWH having the characteristics of a patriarchal father is the creator of the world and the guarantor of rain and fertility, patriarchal father, war leader, old, wise, compassionate, the supreme judge, and all-powerful. El-YHWH would be the personal God of men. El-YHWH would have been the source and model for ideal male qualities and would guarantee success in agriculture and war;
§ Asherah, the universal mother, is symbolized by the Tree of Life. Asherah is El’s consort. She is wise, nurturing, supporting the fertility of man, beasts and crops. She provides an avenue of approach to the august El. She may be guarded by her sacred serpent. Asherah-Ela/Elat would be the personal deity of the first human matriarch and, more broadly, women. Asherah-Ela/Elat would have been the source and model for the first matriarch’s child bearing, nurturing and family-management qualities;
§ Sexuality but no longer birth (?), having children and conflict within the family shared between Gods and men
§ Rebellion - Presumably some attempt by of the first human patriarch to eat of the tree of Knowledge triggered El-YHWH’s jealous regard for his own prerogatives against any encroachment by ambitious man; and, as a result,
d. Garden of Eden - Phase 3 One All-Powerful God – The Version in the Hebrew Bible
1) The Divine Realm
Key Points in Tabular Form
Human Devotees in the divine image
Sexuality and Fertility
Status of Woman
c. 13th-9th centuries BCE
El-YHWH - the creator; divine patriarchal father; patron God of Israel and its war leader; old, wise, merciful, the supreme judge, and, in the last resort, all powerful
Tree of Knowledge
First Patriarch Ha’adam
Similar in divine and human realm
Eve’s position is reflective of that of Asherah. As Asherah is El-YHWH’s consort she holds a subordinate position within the patriarchal family. However, she has a clearly recognized sphere, characteristics and status
Asherah - El-YHWH’s consort thus subordinate to El. The universal mother, wise, nurturing, supporting the fertility of man, beasts and crops; providing an avenue of approach to the august El.
Tree of Life and possibly the serpent
First Matriarch Eve, (Hawwa)
Baal – Source of the winter rain storms, spring mist and summer dew which nourished the crops and represents vegetation.
First Farmer and Shepherd
mid 9th- mid 8th centuries BCE
is the patriarchal
father. The patron God of
Tree of Knowledge
Sexuality but no longer birth, having children and conflict within the family shared between Gods and men
Asherah - El-YHWH’s consort thus subordinate to El. The universal mother, wise, nurturing, supporting the fertility of man, beasts and crops; providing an avenue of approach to the august El.
Tree of Life and possibly the serpant
mid 8th- 5th centuries BCE
Tree of Knowledge representative of the original qualities of El-YHWH and the Tree of Life representative His unique ability to create and his complete control of life and death.
Sexuality no longer seen in the divine realm
Eve’s position is now wholly reflective of that of her husband.
A Selection of Modern Commentaries on the Two Trees in the Garden of Eden
1. A Folklore Based Analysis- Gaster
With a few light but masterly strokes the Biblical writer depicts for us the blissful life of our first parents in the happy garden which God had created for their abode. There every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for food grew abundantly; there the animals lived at peace with man and with each other; there man and woman knew no shame, because they knew no ill: it was the age of innocence. But this glad time was short, the sunshine was soon clouded.
In this account everything hinges on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: it occupies, so to say, the centre of the stage in the great tragedy, with the man and woman and the talking serpent grouped round it. But when we look closer we perceive a second tree standing side by side with the other in the midst of the garden. It is a very remarkable tree, for it is no less than the tree of life, whose fruit confers immortality on all who eat of it. Yet in the actual story of the fall this wonderful tree plays no part. Its fruit hangs there on the boughs ready to be plucked; unlike the tree of knowledge, it is hedged about by no divine prohibition, yet no one thinks it worth while to taste of the luscious fruit and live for ever. The eyes of the actors are all turned on the tree of knowledge; they appear not to see the tree of life. Only, when all is over, does God bethink himself of the wondrous tree standing there neglected with all its infinite possibilities, in the midst of the garden; and fearing lest man, who has become like him in knowledge by eating of the one tree, should become like him in immortality by eating of the other, he drives him from the garden, and appoints cherubim, or griffins, and a self-revolving flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life.
It appears to be generally recognized that some confusion has crept into the account of the two trees, and that in the original story the tree of life did not play the purely passive and spectacular part assigned to it in the existing narrative. Accordingly, some have thought that there were originally two different stories of the fall, in one of which the tree of knowledge figured alone, and in the other the tree of life alone, and that the two stories have been unskillfully fused into a single narrative by an editor, who has preserved the one nearly intact, while he has clipped and pared the other almost past recognition. It may be so, but perhaps the solution of the problem is to be sought in another direction. The gist of the whole story of the fall appears to be an attempt to explain man's mortality, to set forth how death came into the world. It is true that man is not said to have been created immortal and to have lost his immortality through disobedience; but neither is he said to have been created mortal. Rather we are given to understand that the possibility alike of immortality and of mortality was open to him, and that it rested with him which he would choose; for the tree of life stood within his reach, its fruit was not forbidden to him, he had only to stretch out his hand, take of the fruit, and eating of it live for ever. Indeed, far from being prohibited to eat of the tree of life, man was implicitly permitted, if not encouraged, to partake of it by his Creator, who had told him expressly, that he might eat freely of every tree in the garden, with the single exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This suggests that the forbidden tree was really a tree of death, not of knowledge, and that the mere taste of its fruit sufficed to entail death on the eater. Accordingly we may suppose that in the original story there were two trees, a tree of life and a tree of death; that it was open to man to eat of the one and live for ever, or to eat of the other and die; that God, out of good will to his creature, advised man to eat of the tree of life and warned him not to eat of the tree of death; and that man, misled by the serpent, ate of the wrong tree and so forfeited the immortality which his benevolent Creator had designed for him.
[This, however, is but one possibility. Comparative Folklore
and Religion suggest another. The essence of the story, as we have seen, is
that the food of
(a) The Tree of Life
The Hebrews were not the only people of the Ancient Near East to possess the notion of the Tree of Life. An early Egyptian Pyramid text mentions such a tree on a distant island, in quest of which King Pheops sets out…. There are also sundry references to a "tree of life" situated in the Egyptian Elysium, the so-called "Field of Peace" … the fruit of which is enjoyed by the righteous….
Comparative Folklore also throws light on the true nature of
the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As we have seen, the purpose of the
trees in general was to convey to the divine inhabitants of
That this is the correct
interpretation is shown also by the fact that it restores to the tale the same
central theme as runs through all the earlier stories in the Book of Genesis,
namely, that of God's jealous regard for his own prerogatives against any
encroachment by ambitious man. It is this theme that underlies the stories of
the consorting of human women with divine beings (6:1-4) and of the building of
2. Traditional Modern Analysis - Hooke
“In the case of Genesis … in the form of a book which might
stand at the beginning of the story of God's ways with man and with
3. Modern Commentaries by Jewish Authors
The focal point of the narrative is the tree of knowledge. It is the tree "in the middle of the garden" (vs. 3), and its fruit imparts to the eater the faculty of "knowing good and bad" (vs. 5; cf. vs. 22). In the last two passages, the objective phrase "knowing/to know good and bad" is faultless in terms of Heb. syntax. But the longer possessive construction "the tree of knowledge of good and bad" (ii 9, 17) is otherwise without analogy in biblical Hebrew and may well be secondary.
More important, however, than those stylistic niceties is the problem of connotation. The Heb. stem yd' signifies not only "to know," but more especially "to experience, to come to know" … in other words, the verb describes both the process and the result. In the present phrase the actual sense is "to distinguish between good and bad"; cf. II Sam xix 36, where "between" is spelled out; see also I Kings iii 9. The traditional "good and evil" would restrict the idiom to moral matters. But while such an emphasis is apparent in I Kings ill 9 and Isa vii 15, 17, and might suit Deut i 39, it would be out of place in II Sam xix 36. In that context, the subject (Barzilai) shows very plainly that he is a keen judge of right and wrong. At the age of eighty, however, his capacity for physical and aesthetic pleasures is no longer what it used to be: he has lost the ability to appreciate "good and bad." The same delicate reference to physical aspects of life is implied in our passage, which leads up to the mystery of sex (cf. Ehrl., and see McKenzie, Theological Studies 15 , 562f.). For so long as the man and his wife abstain from the forbidden fruit, they are not conscious of their nakedness (ii 25); later they cover themselves with leaves (iii 7). The broad sense, then, of the idiom under discussion is to be in full possession of mental and physical powers. And it is this extended range of meaning that the serpent shrewdly brings into play in iii 5.
Such motifs as sexual awareness, wisdom, and nature's paradise are of course familiar from various ancient sources. It is noteworthy, however, that all of them are found jointly in a single passage of the Gilgamesh Epic. There (Tablet I, column iv, lines 16 ff., ANET, p. 75), Enkidu was effectively tempted by the courtesan, only to be repudiated by the world of nature; "but he now had wisdom, broader understanding" (20). Indeed, the temptress goes on to tell him, "You are wise Enkidu, you are like a god" (34) ; and she marks his new status by improvising some clothing for him …. It would be rash to dismiss so much detailed correspondence as mere coincidence.
This is not to imply that J had direct access to the
Gilgamesh Epic, even though J's account of the Flood reflects a still closer
tie with the same Akkadian work…. Such affinities, however, lend added support
to the assumption that in his treatment of Primeval History J made use of
traditions that had originated in
We are on slightly firmer ground when it comes to the subject
of God's resolve to keep the tree of life out of man's reach. In later
narratives, starting with Abraham, the point is never brought up, since man
knows by then his place in the scheme of things, and Yahweh's omnipotence
precludes any fear of competition from whatever quarter. In other words, here
is again a motif from the Primeval Age based on foreign beliefs. And once
again, the center of dissemination is
As a whole, then, our narrative is synthetic and stratified. Thanks, however, to the genius of the author, it was to become an unforgettable contribution to the literature of the world.
“The allegory of the Garden of Eden … is complicated by its rich symbolism expressed in fragmentary form, and by its being an interweaving of many and varied mythic strands. Several of these are redolent of well-known ancient Near Eastern motifs, while some appear to be distinctly Israelite.
There cannot be any doubt that some popular Hebrew story
about a "
As a matter of fact, this situation should not really be
surprising, since the notions of paradise and a
The two outstanding features of the Garden of Eden are the "tree of life" and the "tree of knowledge of good and evil." The former of the two, whether it be a tree or other plant, is a motif widespread throughout the ancient Near East…. The naturalizing tendencies of the (Genesis) writer are once more apparent … in the treatment of the two trees. They possess no magical properties which operate independently of God. They are in no wise outside of the divine realm, and their mysterious powers do not exist apart from the will of God. The eating of the fruit of the "tree of knowledge" did not endow the man and his wife with any special supernatural powers. They were unable to hide from God or to conceal their sin. They made no effort to oppose the divine judgment, and the absolute sovereign will of God is never called into question. The magical element is entirely and conspicuously absent.
However, the most remarkable break of all with Near Eastern
mythology lies in the subtle shift of emphasis. As far as is known, the
"tree of knowledge" has no parallel outside of our biblical Garden of
Eden story. Yet it is upon this tree, and not upon the well-known
"tree of life," that the narrative focuses its main attention. The
divine prohibition makes no mention of the "tree of life." The
dialogue of the serpent and Eve likewise ignores it, as, too, does God's
questioning of Adam after the latter had eaten from the forbidden fruit. It is
mentioned again only at the end of the narrative in explaining the expulsion
Sarna, Nahum M. Genesis; The JPS Torah Commentary pp. 18-19
The two special trees are brought to our attention in a deliberately casual manner; their significance will become obvious later on. The "tree of life" is mentioned first, the "tree of knowledge" second. Only the first is given prominence in the garden, while the second gives the appearance of being an appendage to the verse. Yet as the narrative unfolds, the sequence is reversed. Only the "tree of knowledge" comes into focus, only its fruit is prohibited, only it is mentioned in the subsequent dialogues.
This shift in emphasis signals another breach with the central pagan theme of man's quest for immortality, as illustrated, for example, in the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh Epic and the Story of Adapa. It is not the mythical pursuit of eternal life but the relationship between God and man that is the primary concern here. It is clear from that the fruit of this tree ("tree of life") was understood to bestow immortality upon the eater. What is uncertain is whether a single bite was thought to suffice or whether steady ingestion was needed to sustain a process of continuous rejuvenation. Either way, the text presupposes a belief that man, created from perishable matter, was mortal from the outset but that he had within his grasp the possibility of immortality. The "tree of life" is not included in the prohibition in verse 17.
The tree of knowledge of good and bad The interpretation of this enigmatic designation, which is unparalleled anywhere outside the present narrative, hinges upon the definition of "knowledge" and the scope of "good and bad." Ibn Ezra, followed by many moderns, understood carnal knowledge to be intended since the first human experience after eating the forbidden fruit is the consciousness of accompanied by shame; moreover, immediately after the expulsion from Eden it is said, "Now the man knew his wife Eve."
Against this interpretation is the fact that at this stage woman is not yet created, that sexual differentiation is made by God Himself (cf. 1:27), that the institution of marriage is looked upon in verse 25 as part of the divinely ordained order, and that, according to 3:5,22, "knowledge of good and bad" is a divine characteristic. Thus it will not do to take "good and bad" as the human capacity for moral discernment. Aside from the difficulty of understanding why God should be opposed to this, there is the additional argument that a divine prohibition would be meaningless if man did not already possess this faculty. Indeed, from 3:3 it is clear that the woman knows the meaning of disobedience; that is, she is already alert to the difference between right and wrong, which can have no other meaning than obedience or otherwise. It is more satisfactory, however, to understand "good and bad" as undifferentiated parts of a totality, a merism meaning "everything." …
. From Wallace
The universalism of J has long been recognized. It is especially evident in the promise repeated to the patriarchs: "I will bless them that bless you, and those who curse you, I will curse. All the families of the earth will find blessing in you…. It is only natural that in a document … with a strong universal outlook the national story should begin with an account of primeval history where Yahweh is seen as creator and ruler over the cosmos…. The association of Yahweh with El traditions also implied the concept of Yahweh as creator. The form of the … primeval history of J possesses many of the traditional motifs and elements of other cosmologies and cosmogonies of the Ancient Near East….
There are several references
in the Ancient Near East to places which are, or are associated with, the
dwellings of one or more deities. The descriptions of these frequently contain
references to springs and trees, many possessing divine attributes, and to the
great beauty and fertility of the spot… the description of the garden of
Eden contains many of the motifs used in the description of divine dwellings in
Mesopotamian, Canaanite and other biblical material. They include the
unmediated presence of the deity, the council of the heavenly beings, the
issuing of divine decrees, the source of the subterranean life-giving waters
which supply the whole earth, abundant fertility and trees of supernatural
qualities and great beauty…. We have two well-defined themes in Gen 2-3, the
… The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are of central importance in the present form of Gen 2-3. They are located in the midst of the garden and there is a prohibition against eating from the tree of Knowledge (). In 3:1-24, desire for this tree gives rise to the disobedience of Yahweh' s command while the tree of life becomes the key to the expulsion of the humans from the garden…. trees of supernatural quality were one of the motifs of the garden of God theme. In Gen 2-3 it would seem that in the development of the narrative one of the motifs of the garden theme has been elevated to a place of major importance.
In the present narrative, two distinct trees are mentioned (2:9 and , 24), but there are some points which suggest this might not always have been the case. The two trees are named together in 2:9. In , while only the tree of life is specifically referred to, it is clear that the man and woman have eaten from the tree of knowledge because they have become like 'elohim, "gods," knowing good and evil. The tree of life is again mentioned in where Yahweh establishes a guard to protect the way to it.
Elsewhere in the narrative only one tree is mentioned (-17; 3:3, 6, 11, 12). In -17 it is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but in the other references the term haceç, "the tree," is used. It is clear that the tree of knowledge is meant in these cases as well. This can be seen in the fact that in 3:3 and 11, Yahweh's prohibition against eating from the tree is mentioned, a point directly dependent on -17. Further, the promised and actual effect of eating from the tree is the gaining of the knowledge of good and evil (3:5, 22a; cf. v 6 where the tree is said to increase one's understanding, lehaŚkil). In 3:5 and 7, the use of the root ydC, "to know," plays on the name of the tree. In spite of these rather clear indications that the single tree is the tree of knowledge, the matter is complicated in 3:3. There the woman, in reply to the serpent's question, states "but from the tree (haceç) which is in the midst of the garden (betok-haggan), God said, 'You will not eat of it nor touch it, lest you die. '" The ,tree of knowledge has been the only one prohibited (2: 17), but the tree of life was the one described as being in the midst of the garden (2:9). It could be argued that betok haggan does not mean strictly "in the middle" but rather "within the garden" (cf. betok in 3:8), but the specific reference in 3:3 to the one tree betok haggan alongside the other trees in the garden suggests that the strict sense of the phrase is meant.
While two trees are mentioned in the present form of the narrative, it is clear that only one tree is essential for its development. For the most part, that tree is referred to simply as "the tree" and only the context designates it as the tree of knowledge. The tree of life plays an important role only at the very end and the details regarding its placement and access to the man and woman remain obscure for the most part. In addition there is the small confusion over which tree is in the midst of the garden.
It could be argued from these factors that the two trees of the present narrative were not part of the story as it was originally told. This position has been put forward by scholars in the past and many suggestions as to how the two trees have been combined have been made. Each suggestion has been closely linked to the overall method of analysis adopted by the scholar in studying Gen 2-3. In the most recent discussions it has generally been recognized that the uncertainties surrounding the two trees have arisen in the pre-J stages of the story. The duality of the trees is usually attributed to a combination of different traditions…. (I)f we accept that the original form of the story contained only one tree, then the two trees in the present narrative could be the result of the combination of variants of the one motif. At some stage in the history of the narrative, the variants have been joined and the story has developed the concept of two trees side-by-side in the garden. The small contradictions and inconsistencies are the result of this process. This seems to us the most reasonable explanation of the present situation, especially considering that only one tree is essential for the story and that there is some confusion between the trees….
… in the Epic of Gilgamesh … Gilgamesh is told of a plant at the bottom of the sea through which he can regain his "life's breath" (line 279). It is clear that the issue here is one of regaining one's youthful vitality….
Although the substances are somewhat different, we note the similarity with the Gilgamesh event. Through the eating or drinking of something special, humans can gain life beyond that which is normally allotted. The special substances are indeed the gifts of the gods but, by one means or another, humans are deprived of the gift of superhuman life and are destined to live out their life on earth….
…Asherah can be seen as the great mother-goddess, the source of life for others. In 2 Kgs 23:7 Josiah breaks down the houses of the qedestm where women weave garments for the Asherah. If qedešim indicates male cult prostitutes, then there is a link between the Asherah symbol and fertility rites. The connection of the palm tree with fertility can be seen in the fact that the tree is typically depict ed bearing fruit. Thus we can see that there is an association between Asherah and trees or symbols related to trees although the full details of this association are unknown. Since Asherah herself is the great mother-goddess, chief consort of the Canaanite high god El, it stands to reason that the cultic symbols of the goddess could be associated with fertility or the gift of life in some manner. This is not to say that we can equate the Asherah symbol with the tree of life in Gen 2-3; after all, in the present narrative the tree of life concerns eternal life and not the fertility of womb and field. Nevertheless, if the figure of Eve can be seen to bear some relationship to the Canaanite mother-goddess … it is not out of place that she be associated with (a) sacred tree(s). It is not impossible that a tree which is associated with fertility and the mother-goddess figure in one level of a story could take on other life-giving aspects, also a divine gift, at another level, especially when we remember the broad spectrum covered by the word "life."
… Neither biblical nor non-biblical material offers anything similar to the tree of knowledge…. The various interpretations of the tree of knowledge can be categorized into three broad areas: (a) the acquisition of human faculties, (b) knowledge of sexual relations, and (c) universal knowledge…. What can we conclude … about the expression "to know good and evil" and specifically about its use in Gen 2-3? We have argued that the interpretations dealing solely with the development of "human faculties" or sexual experience are inadequate for Gen 2-3 in its present form. The concept of "universal knowledge" offers the best alternative…. From our discussion of the tree of knowledge it can be seen that the main concern of the narrative as recorded is the penetration of the divine realm by the couple. This is given as both the motivation for, and the result of, their eating from the tree of knowledge (3:5, 22). It is also the reason for the final banishment of the couple from the garden (-24). Yahweh acts to prevent the possibility of them eating from the tree of life and becoming immortal. Also bound up with this is the punishment of the couple described in -19 when Yahweh discovers that they have disobeyed him. They are destined to suffer the hardships of human existence. The life described is also one that is experienced outside the garden… We could note here that also in Gen 6:1-4 and 11:1-9 the prevention of human and divine mixing is connected to Yahweh's imposition on humankind of the limitations of earthly existence….
… Of course there are two so-called namings of the woman, the first in the poetic fragment Gen where the companion for the man is called 'išša, "woman," with a deliberate play on 'iš/'išša. In the woman is called Hawwa. There is no need to see here a doublet. The name 'išša is given in the context of the man's naming all the other creatures which Yahweh formed in order to find a "helper corresponding to him" (cezer kenegdo, 2:18, 20). 'išša clearly stands as a generic term as the frequent use of it with the article or the 3d m. sg. Suffix demonstrates. It is not to be understood as a personal name as is the case with Hawwa in …. The name Hawwa has exercized the minds of scholars as far back as one can trace. The etymology recorded by J is based on the wordplay between Hawwa and Hay. At J's level of the text, this etymology was undoubtedly associated with the role of Eve as first woman and progenitress of humankind. For several reasons it has been regarded as suspect…. One of the most ancient and relatively persistent lines of interpretation has seen a close connection between Eve and the serpent. Early Rabbinic interpretation noted the similarity between the name Hawwa and the Aramaic word Hewya’, "serpent."… The argument received added momentum with the publication of a Punic tablet dated to the third to second centuries B.C.E… Several scholars have sought to develop the proposed connection between Eve and a goddess. Some of these have taken the epithet "mother of all living" more seriously and have proposed that behind the figure of Eve stands not only a figure associated with serpents but also that of a "mother-goddess."… Enough has been said above to show the general trend of investigation of the name and figure of Eve. The etymology of Hawwa, the connection with Punic Hwt and the possible association with mother-goddess figures need further consideration.
We have mentioned the difficulty of the etymology proposed by J for the name Hawwa. The relation between Hawwa and Hay in the present form of the text depends more on euphony than on any philological connection evident in biblical Hebrew. An association between the word for "serpent" in other languages and Hawwa has been proposed. In later Aramaic the word for "serpent" is Hewya’/ Hiwya’' Hiwye, pl. Hiwwayya’/ Hiwwin. In early Aramaic it apparently is Hwh….
Heb. Hawwa would derive from *Hwt. From the data above, Hwt could be related to words for either "serpent" or "life."… Either of these etymologies is appropriate if Hwt in KAI 89 is seen as a title of Tannit/Asherah. The derivation from Hwt, "life," fits Tannit/Asherah's function as mother-goddess. This aspect of Tannit/Asherah is well known and we have already cited some of the evidence in reference to the connection of Asherah with sacred trees.
The other possible etymology of Hwt is from the word for "serpent." The evidence connecting Asherah/Tannit with serpents is less certain than that for her role as mother-goddess, however there are some connections which ought not to be neglected….
From the lengthy argument above, it could be suggested that the name Hawwa (<*Hwt) in Gen has some direct connection with Asherah. We do not mean to imply a simple equation between Eve and Asherah. The possible etymologies for Hawwa suggest that the name and the connection with Asherah are part of a long tradition. One could posit that Gen 2-3 was derived from some myth involving Asherah but we have no direct evidence for this.
We prefer to think that in the development and retelling of the narrative an allusion to the Canaanite goddess has been made. It had greater significance in earlier forms of the story but has not been highlighted in the present rendition. Thus the one who was initially called 'išša, "woman," in her correspondence to the 'iš, "man, husband," is more specifically related to the great goddess. In this context the origin of the designation of Eve as the "mother of all living" becomes clear with its similarity to epithets of Asherah as the mother goddess, namely "creatress of the gods" and "nurse of the gods." Further, the association of Eve with the sacred trees recalls the association of Asherah/Tannit with trees, and of course the motif of fertility also found in Gen 2-3 is to be associated with the mother-goddess. If the connection of Asherah/Tannit with serpents has validity, then one could see another connection between Eve and the mother-goddess….
We would expect a connection between Eve and Asherah to be reflected in the circumstances of the narrative. What we find in Gen 2-3, in fact, is that all which we might anticipate … is completely reversed. Rather than the productivity and fertility associated with the mother goddess, we see death, sterility, and hardship. Eve, the "mother of all living," is designated to suffer in childbirth. The interaction between Eve and the serpent, also a symbol of fertility, as we shall see, ultimately leads to death…. This reversal of expectations supports the identification of Eve and Asherah but it also suggests that the identification has been made with a polemical purpose in mind….
The association of the serpent with prolonged life has long been recognized…. The associations of the serpent with wisdom are extensive. The association of the serpent with fertility has been recognized by many scholars. The evidence for this is principally artistic. The serpent is frequently seen in close association with naked goddesses. Often the reptile is placed in a position near the genital area leaving little doubt as to the sexual significance. In some of these works the serpent is associated with the mother-goddess….
This brief survey shows the variety of functions and attributes associated with the serpent. … in Gen 2-3 … Wisdom, immortality and fertility are all interconnected in a story in which a serpent plays an important role. As in the case of the connection between Eve and Asherah, all which we expect from the mythic associations of the serpent is reversed. The beast of fertility leads the woman and man into disobedience and subsequent hardship, especially in childbirth and working the ground. The serpent itself is cursed, and is destined to a life of humility and enmity with humankind. Thus the serpent fits into the story not only by virtue of its connection with Asherah but in its own right. The treatment of it once again reveals a polemical trend in the narrative….
… we can
get some idea of the possibility of fertility cults in Canaanite religion….
Sexual activity among the gods at
Remnants of sexual and fertility language used in earlier forms of the narrative have remained. Many of these are employed in aetiological roles, for example, the woman's desire for the man is alongside the reference to the husband's rule over the wife (Gen ), thus broadening the issue to one of social and familial structures. The nakedness of the couple is associated with the origin of clothing. Others, such as the concept of the fertility of the earth, still maintain something of their original position in the narrative. The sin of the couple leads to a curse upon the ground, but the direct link between the nature of the sin and the fertility of the earth that was once there has been severed.
Ackerman, Susan, Under Every Green Tree: Popular Religion in Sixth Century Judah, Harvard Semitic Monographs - HSM 46
One God?:Monotheism in Ancient
Binger, Tilde Asherah: Godesses in
Cross, Frank Moore, Canaanite myth and
Hebrew epic; essays in the history of the religion of
GRAY, JOHN, THE LEGACY OF CANAAN: THE RAS
SHAMRA TEXTS AND THEIR RELEVANCE TO THE OLD TESTAMENT, SECOND, REVISED
EDITION, E. J. BRILL,
Friedman, Richard Elliott, Who Wrote the Bible, Harper & Row, 1987
Gaster, Theodor H., Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament: A comparative study with chapters from Sir James G. Frazer's Folklore in the Old Testament, HARPER & ROW, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK AND EVANSTON, 1969
Hadley, Judith M. The
Cult of Asherah in Ancient
Halpern, Baruch, THE BAAL (AND THE ASHERAH?)
Smith, Mark S. ed. The Ugaritic Baal cycle,
“The text is at pains to point out the creatureliness of the serpent, describing it as one "of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made" (3:1, 14); it is distinguished from the other beasts only by its shrewdness (3:1). Its insignificance is underlined in 3:9–19, where God interrogates Adam and Eve, and both respond, while the serpent is not questioned and does not respond. In view of the prominent role played by serpents in Ancient Near Eastern religion and mythology this treatment of the serpent amounts to desecration and demythologization, quite possibly intentional. As a result, the source of evil is denied divine or even demonic status: evil is no independent principle in the cosmos, but stems from the behavior and attitudes of God's creatures.
From early times the serpent has been seen as a symbol, whose meaning is widely debated. Some have stressed the serpent's well-known phallic symbolism and fertility associations, taking the narrative to reflect an attitude toward human sexuality, fertility cults, and the like. Others see the serpent as representing man's own shrewdness. Since in Ancient Near Eastern mythology the forces of chaos which oppose the forces of creation and cosmos are widely represented as serpents, many see the serpent here, too, as a personification of the forces of chaos. According to this view, disobeying God undermines the cosmic order. Alternatively, the serpent may represent ethical evil in general, a meaning that serpentine mythological motifs are given elsewhere in the Bible (e.g., Isa. 26:21–27:1).”
CREATION AND COSMOGONY
IN THE BIBLE
The Hebrew Bible commences with a majestic cosmological account of the genesis of the universe. According to Genesis 1:1–2:4a (the P account according to the documentary hypothesis), God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. The verb br$ used in the very first sentence of the creation story does not imply, as most traditional commentators believed, creatio ex nihilo, a concept that first appears in II Maccabees 7:28, but denotes, as it does throughout the Bible, a divine activity that is effortlessly effected. The opening sentence in the story—many commentators think (but see Cassuto, Genesis, 1, pp. 19–20)—begins with a temporal clause, "When God began to create the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1), continues with a circumstantial clause telling of the existence of the darkness and void (1:2), and then in two main clauses (1:3) relates the first act by which God, by divine fiat, created cosmic order out of primeval chaos: "God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." The six days of creation fall into a symmetrical pattern of three days each, in which the creation of light and of day and night on the first day, of the sky on the second, and of dry land, seas, and vegetation on the third are complemented by the creation of the luminaries on the fourth day, living creatures in the sea and sky on the fifth, and land animals and man on the sixth. The refrain "And God saw that it was good; and there was evening and there was morning" usually follows the completion of each day's activity. The final act of creation, man, is preceded by a solemn declaration of purpose announced in the heavenly council, "Let us make a man in our image, after our likeness" (). Man is then blessed by God, "Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it," and entrusted with sovereignty over the "fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth" (). God, having found that all He had made was very good, ceased from further acts of creation and blessed and sanctified the seventh day (2:2). Another story of creation, Genesis 2:4b–24 (the J account according to the documentary hypothesis), describes a much more anthropocentric version of the origin of life on earth: with the ground watered at first only by a subterranean flow; the first man formed from the earth of the ground and animated by a breath blown into his nose, the first woman created from a rib of the man; and the two placed in the Garden of Eden. The main differences between the two accounts, whose sources reflect different epic traditions, are
(1) the names of the deity: Genesis 1, ‘elohim; Genesis 2, YHWH;
(2) in the first account the creation of plants (1:11ff., third day) precedes the creation of man (1:26, sixth day), but in the second before man there was no shrub in the field and the grains had not yet sprouted (2:5–7), trees being created only after the creation of man (2:8–9);
(3) in Genesis 1:20–21, 24–25 animals were created before man, but in Genesis 2:19, after man;
(4) the creation of man is repeated in the second account, but whereas in Genesis male and female were created together, the woman was fashioned from a rib of the man in 2:21ff. The second account does not mention the creation of day and night, seas, luminaries, marine life, but commences immediately with the forming of man from the dust of the earth.
Conception of God
the style of the first account is much more hymnic and sublime than the second,
it does not reflect, as is usually assumed, a completely abstract,
transcendental conception of God. First of all, though creation by divine fiat
is found in connection with light (1:3), firmament (1:6), gathering together of
the waters into one place and the appearance of dry land (1:9), vegetation
(1:11), luminaries (1:14), marine life and fowl (1:20), animal life (1:24),
there are also references to the actual making or creating of the firmament
(1:7, wa-yaas), luminaries (1:16, wa-yaas), sea monsters, fish,
and fowl (1:21, wa-yivra), land animals (1:25, wa-yaas), and most
important, the pinnacle of creation, man (1:26ff. naaseh, wa-yivra).
Moreover, creation by divine fiat is not an abstraction first conceived by the
author of the P account, but is found in earlier Egyptian (Pritchard, Texts, 5)
and Babylonian cosmogonies. Second, that man was created in the image and
likeness of the divine beings (Gen. 1:26) is interpreted by many modern
exegetes in a physical sense, although the expressions must have lost their
original corporeal sense in the biblical context (see Cassuto, Genesis,
1, p. 56). (For the image of the deity, cf. Ex. 24:10; 33:20–23; Isa. 6:1;
Ezek. 1:26.) The terminology employed here has Near Eastern prototypes: In
Egyptian literature, specifically in a cosmogonic context, man is described as
being the image of his creator god (Wildberger; Pritchard, Texts, 417);
in Mesopotamian literature the king is sometimes called the "image"
or "likeness" (Akk. mu22ulu,
Heb. demut) of his deity (for the views of Horst, Loewenstamm, and
Wildberger, see bibliography). In
The two versions of the creation story have often been compared to Mesopotamian prototypes. The translation given above in Genesis 1:1ff. and 2:4bff., "when... then," is analogous to the introductory style of Mesopotamian epics. Tracing a theme to the creation of the universe is a feature also found in as trivial a work as the "Incantation to a Toothache" (Pritchard, Texts, 100–1), and in as major a composition as the Sumerian King List (ibid., 265–6), "history" commences with the dynasties before the Flood.
For specific cosmogonic details the most important piece of Mesopotamian literature is the Babylonian epic story of creation, Enuma Elish (ibid., 60–72). Here, as in Genesis, the priority of water is taken for granted, i.e., the primeval chaos consisted of a watery abyss. The name for this watery abyss, part of which is personified by the goddess Tiamat, is the etymological equivalent of the Hebrew tehom (Gen. 1:2), a proper name that always appears in the Bible without the definite article. (It should be noted, however, that whereas "Tiamat" is the name of a primal generative force, tehom is merely a poetic term for a lifeless mass of water.) In both Genesis (1:6–7) and Enuma Elish (4:137–40) the creation of heaven and earth resulted from the separation of the waters by a firmament. The existence of day and night precedes the creation of the luminous bodies (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, and 14ff.; Enuma Elish ). The function of the luminaries is to yield light and regulate time (Gen. 1:14; Enuma Elish –13). Man is the final act of creation—in Enuma Elish, too, before his creation the gods are said to take counsel (Enuma Elish 6:4)—and following the creation of man there ensues divine rest. There is, furthermore, an identical sequence of events: creation of firmament, dry land, luminaries, man, and divine rest. Thus, it appears that at least the so-called P account echoes this earlier Mesopotamian story of creation.
Another reflection of very ancient traditions is found in Genesis 1:21. Since the entire story of creation refers only to general categories of plant and animal life, not to any individual species, the specific mention of "the great sea monsters" alongside, and even before, "all the living creatures of every kind that move about, which the waters brought forth in swarms" is striking. It is most likely part of the biblical polemic against the polytheistic version of a primeval struggle between the creator god and a marine monster which was the personification of chaos (see below). In Genesis this story has been submerged and only appears in the demythologized reference to the sea monsters as being themselves created by God, not as rival gods.
The second creation story, too, has Near Eastern prototypes: The creation of man from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7) is analogous to the creation of man from clay, a motif often found in Mesopotamian literature, e.g., the Gilgamesh Epic; the Hebrew name of the underground flow, ed, that watered the Garden of Eden, is related to either a cognate Akkadian word edu or to the Sumerian word 2D, "river"; and the creation of woman from a rib may reflect a Sumerian motif (see Kramer).
Differences between Genesis and Enuma Elish
the differences between the biblical and the Mesopotamian accounts are much
more striking than their similarities; each of them embodies the world outlook
of their respective civilizations. In Genesis there is a total rejection of all
mythology. The overriding conception of a single, omnipotent, creator
predominates. Cosmogony is not linked to theogony. The preexistence of God is
assumed—it is not linked to the genesis of the universe. There is no suggestion
of any primordial battle or internecine war which eventually led to the
creation of the universe. The one God is above the whole of nature, which He
Himself created by His own absolute will. The primeval water, earth, sky, and
luminaries are not pictured as deities or as parts of disembodied deities, but
are all parts of the manifold works of the Creator. Man, in turn, is not
conceived of as an afterthought, as in Enuma Elish, but rather as the
pinnacle of creation. Man is appointed ruler of the animal and vegetable
kingdoms; he is not merely the menial of the gods (Enuma Elish). The
story in Genesis, moreover, is nonpolitical: Unlike Enuma Elish, which
is a monument to Marduk and to
In addition to Mesopotamian substrata, there are several Egyptian analogues to the biblical stories of creation, e.g., the existence of primeval water and its division; the breathing of life into the nostrils of man; man's being formed in the image of the creator god; the creation of plants, animals, fowl, and fish; and the light of day (see "Instruction for Meri-Ka-Re," Pritchard, Texts, 417; Junker, Hermann in bibl.).
Other Biblical Traditions
Genesis there are a number of allusions to the vanquishing by YHWH of a great
sea monster and his minions, with some traces of a belief that this was
connected with the creation of the world. In the biblical version of this
combat, known from Mesopotamia (Marduk-Tiamat) and Ugarit (Baal-Yamm), the forces
of the watery chaos, called Yam, Nahar, Leviathan, Rahab, or Tannin, are either
destroyed or put under restraint by God (cf. Isa. 27:1; 51:9–10; Jer. 5:22; Hab.
3:8; Ps. 74:13–14; 89:10–11; 104:6–9; Prov. 8:27–29; Job 7:12; 9:13;
26:10–13; 38:8–11). Recently it has been suggested (see Jacobsen) that this
epic account, whose source was thought to be in
Another poetic version of creation is reflected in Proverbs 8:1–31, where Wisdom relates that she attended God during the creation.
Weinfeld has drawn attention to the fact that four mythological motifs of Genesis 1—the existence of primordial material (1:2); God's working and His rest; the council of God (); and the creation of man in God's image (–27)—are repudiated in the cosmogonic doxologies of Second Isaiah.
[Shalom M. Paul]
 Of course, the
a) “My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.” JOHN DOMINIC CROSSAN, Who Is Jesus?
b) "Frye reminded his students that when the Bible is historically accurate, it is only accidentally so: reporting was not of the slightest interest to its writers. They had a story to tell which could only be told by myth and metaphor: what they wrote became a source of vision rather than doctrine."
c) Here are three brief quotes from Kuhn to underline this salient point in my argument:
 “Critics generally hold that the
 Harper’s Biblical Dictionary, ed. P J Achtemeier, Harper & Row 1985
 ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN MYTHOLOGY by Robert Wexler in Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary by David L. Lieber (Editor), Jules Harlow (Editor) 2001
 “The Eden narrative's affinities with primitive folklore and other biblical and Ancient Near Eastern, especially Mesopotamian, compositions are many, yet there is no single piece of ancient literature which resembles the narrative as a whole, either in its details or theological significance.
The primordial absence of produce
and standard forms of irrigation resemble the immediately postdiluvian
conditions, which presumably duplicate primordial conditions in the Sumerian
"Rulers of Lagas" (in: JCS, 21 (1967), 283). The notion of a divine
garden, paradigm of fertility, is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible (Gen. 13:10;
Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 36:35; Joel 2:3); a fragmentary passage in the Gilgamesh Epic
(Pritchard, Texts, p. 89c) and a fuller passage in Ezekiel 28:11–19 speak of
its jewel-bearing trees; the Ezekiel passage is a narrative and reflects a
different version of the Eden story (cf., also Ezek. 31:5–9, 16–18). Yet
another paradise narrative is the Sumerian tale of "Enki and
Ninhursag" (Pritchard, Texts, 37–41), which describes the land (or island)
of Dilmun, east of
The material surveyed above leads to
the conclusion that the biblical
Jeffrey Howard Tigay in Encyclopedia Judaica
 “There are a
number of biblical words that go back in all probability to Sumerian origin: anak
(Sumerian naga), "tin"; eden (edin), "Eden"; gan
(gan), "garden"; hekhal (egal), "palace"; hiddeqel
(idiglat), "Tigris"; Hikkar (engar), "farmer"; kisse
(guza), "chair"; malah (malaO), "sailor"; perat
(buranum), "Euphrates"; shir (sir), "song"; tammuz
(dumuzi), "Tammuz"; tel (dul), "mound"; tifsar
(dubsar), "scribe"; tomer (nimbar), "palm-tree."
Far more significant are the literary motifs, themes, patterns, and ideas that
go back to Sumerian prototypes: the existence of a primeval sea; the separation
of heaven and earth; the creation of man from clay imbued with the breath of
life; the creative power of the divine word; several "paradise"
motifs; the Flood story; the Cain-Abel rivalry; the Tower of Babel and
confusion of tongues; the notion of a personal, family god; divine retribution
and national catastrophe; plagues as divine punishment; the "Job"
motif of suffering and submission; the nature of death and the netherworld
dreams as foretokens of the building of temples. Not a few of the biblical laws
go back to Sumerian origins and in such books as Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations,
and the Song of Songs there are echoes of the corresponding Sumerian literary
genres. Sumerian influence on the Hebrews came indirectly through the
Canaanites, Assyrians, and Babylonians, although to judge from the Abraham
story and the often suggested Babiru-Hebrew equation, the distant forefathers
of the biblical Hebrews may have had some direct contact with the Sumerians.
The Biblical word for
 Material drawn from Mattfeld y d la Torre,Walter Reinhold Warttig, The Garden of Eden and Its Mesopotamian Prototypes, Including the Serpent who Offered Immortality to Man and Christ's remarkable Parallels
 "Explanation," Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis
1-15 [Word Biblical Commentary, 2 vols.], Word Books,
“Adapa in Mesopotamian mythology, legendary sage and citizen of the Sumerian
 “The Hebrews have merely "reworked" and given "a new twist" to the ancient Mesopotamian myths which attempted to explain how man lost a chance to become immortal. Yahweh-Elohim is Enki who tells Adapa/Adam not to eat or he will die. The Genesis serpent offered man knowledge, but in the original myth Enki gave man forbidden knowledge but not eternal life. Genesis' myth has the serpent offering knowledge when he as Ningishzida, "Lord of the Good Tree," offered immortal life to mankind (as Adapa). Man as Adapa is ordered to _return_ to "his earth" by Anu, and in Genesis, man _returns_ to dust (to the earth from which he was made, at death).
“Now the Serpent. Genesis portrays the serpent as possessing two rather amazing characteristics, it has the ability to walk on legs, and it can carry on a conversation with humans. This serpent is also portrayed as dwelling in an earthly paradise with God, Adam and Eve. …
“Although Anu allows Adapa to become immortal, it is his servant, Nin-Gish-Zida, who actually put in a good word on Adapa's behalf, and who is instructed to actually present the food and drink to Adapa. Ningishzida was a guard at the heavenly gate with Tammuz (both had in earlier myths, been dwellers of the underworld, who achieved a resurrection to heaven). Some myths call Tammuz, "Damu, the child Ningishzida," so both gods are aspects of each other. No humans got to Anu's presence without first having “Tammuz/Ningishzida take them by the hand and present them, putting in a good word for them.
was not only an alternate form of Tammuz, he was also called "The Great
Serpent-Dragon of Heaven," being identified with the star constellation
Hydra (Hydra being a creature with multiple serpent heads). He was alternately
associated with the winged and horned serpent dragon called "Mushussu." Mushussu apears
standing on hind legs, holding a staff (or a gate ?) in his forepaws (Langdon
p.285, fig. 88). A cylinder seal of Gudaea of Lagash, shows Ningishzida in
human form, taking Gudaea by the hand and presenting him as a petitioner before
the god, Enki (the source of the "waters of life"). Arising
from Ningishzida's human shoulders are two horned dragon heads. Behind
Gudaea, on the same seal, we see Ningishzida in animal form as a horned,
winged, serpent-dragon, walking on all four legs (cf. "Ningishzida"
in Stephen Herbert Langdon, M.A. The Mythology of All the Races, Semitic.
however, is not the only serpent behind the Genesis narrative, another serpent
also lurks, the serpent who deprived man of "long life" in the Epic
of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh searches the world for the
 “The first stage represents the world as being full of gods whom man encounters at every step and whose presence can be experienced without recourse to ecstatic meditation, In other words, there is no room for mysticism as long as the abyss between Man and God has not become a fact of the inner consciousness. That, however, is the case only while the childhood of mankind, its mythical epoch, lasts, The immediate consciousness of the interrelation and interdependence of things, their essential unity which precedes duality and in fact knows nothing of it, the truly monistic universe of man's mythical age, all this is alien to the spirit of mysticism, At the same time it will become clear why certain elements of this monistic consciousness recur on another plane and in different guise in the mystical consciousness. In this first stage, Nature is the scene of man's relation to God.
“The second period … is the creative epoch in which the emergence, the break-through of religion occurs. Religion's supreme function is to destroy the dream-harmony of Man, Universe and God, to isolate man from the other elements of the dream stage of his mythical and primitive consciousness. For in its classical form, religion signifies the creation of a vast abyss, conceived as absolute, between God, the infinite and transcendental Being, and Man, the finite creature. For this reason alone, the rise of institutional religion, which is also the classical stage in the history of religion, is more widely removed than any other period from mysticism and all it implies. Man becomes aware of a fundamental duality, of a vast gulf which can be crossed by nothing but the voice; the voice of God, directing and law-giving in His revelation, and the voice of man in prayer. The great monotheistic religions live and unfold in the ever-present consciousness of this bipolarity, of the existence of an abyss which can never be bridged. To them the scene of religion is no longer Nature, but the moral and religious action of man and the community of men, whose interplay brings about history as, in a sense, the stage on which the drama of man's relation to God unfolds.” Gershom G Scholem
“This narrative has
often been interpreted as a reflection of the traditional conflict between the
farmer and the nomad, and its supposed bias in favor of the latter is seen
as representing a nomadic ideal in
On the other hand –
“The Biblical writer did not know, or did not care, about the original purport of the story or the true character of Cain. To him it was simply the story of the first murder, and the protagonists are therefore represented as a "tiller of the ground" and a "keeper of sheep." Whether this change was his own innovation, or whether the story had come down to him in this form, we cannot tell, but in any case the change was in line with a well-established literary tradition, for tales of the rivalry between shepherd and farmer appear as early as the second millennium B.C. in the popular literature of the Sumerians.
One such tale, for instance, describes an altercation between Enten, the genius of cattle, and his brother Enmesh, the genius of crops, as to which of the two should be recognized as "steward of the divine estate" par excellence. Each recites his merits and accomplishments. In the end, the supreme Enlil chooses the former.
Another tale revolving around the same theme relates how Dumuzi, the divine shepherd, and Enkimdu, the divine farmer, both sue for the hand of the goddess Inanna….
Tales of this kind belong to a widespread literary and dramatic genre known as the debat.
This opens up an interesting speculation. In all the examples we have mentioned-and, in fact, throughout this genre-the actual debat is of the essence of the tale. In the Biblical version, on the other hand, it is strangely absent. But it is just possible that it has been deliberately suppressed, as irrelevant to the writer's purpose…. As we have seen, in the original story this was intended to account for the nomad status of the itinerant smith (qayin, Cain). Gaster pp. 53-54
 “It is clear that the story of Cain and Abel has been drawn by the Yahwist from a different source of Hebrew tradition from that from which the accounts of Creation and the Fall are drawn. That the connection is an artificial one is shown by the fact that the story assumes the existence of other people an the earth; Cain says, 'whosoever finds me will slay me', whereas the context in which the Yahwist has placed the story supposes no other human beings on earth but Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. The story presupposes the existence of a clan or tribe who will take up the blood-feud far the slaying of Abel (), also of a tribe among wham Cain may find refuge and a wife. The story also assumes the existence 'Of the institution of sacrifice which implies a settled form of community life and same degree of religious organisation. The name Cain is generally taken by Semitic philologists to mean smith and regarded as the patronymic of the Kenite clan of smiths. … But the main body 'Of the story in its present form is made up of two strands: vv. 1-15 containing the story of the slaying of Abel by Cain, and the circumstances under which it took place; in this strand Cain is condemned to nomadism and is a different figure from the Cain of the second strand in vv. 16--26 in which Cain is a city-builder, and his descendants develop the various arts and crafts of a civilised community.” Hooke p. 181
“KENITE, a large group of nomadic clans engaged chiefly in metal working. The root qyn has the same meaning in cognate Semitic languages, e.g., in Arabic qayna, "tinsmith," "craftsman"; in Syriac and Aramaic qyn'h, qyny, "metalsmith." In the Bible the word kayin (qayin) also means a weapon made of metal, probably a spear (II Sam. ); and the proper noun "Tubal-Cain, who forged all the implements of copper and iron" (Gen. 4:22) is a compound name in which the second noun indicates the trade. There is a connection between this trade and the story of Cain who wandered from place to place and was protected by a special sign: "Therefore, if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance shall be taken on him" (Gen. 4:15). Among primitive tribes to the present day there are clans of coppersmiths and tinsmiths whom it is considered a grave offense to harm.
“The Kenites came from the south: Midian,
“The Kenites were enumerated among the early peoples of
“Other Kenite families evidently occupied the region in the
south, centering around
[Yigal Allon, Encyclopedia Judaica
 “S. H. Hooke suggests (in Folk-Lore 50 , 58-65 also in Hooke p. p. 181-182) that our tale originated in the primitive rite of performing a human sacrifice for the fertility of the crops and of then banishing the officiant from the community for a short period, as being potentially defiled. Analogies to this latter practice are found in the Babylonian Akitu (New Year) ceremonies and in the ritual for the Hebrew Day of Atonement described in Lev. 16. In both cases, the dispatcher of the scapegoat (or scape-ram) was sent away until the conclusion of the festival. This theory (partly anticipated by A. Brock-Utne, in ZAW54 , 202 if.) leaves too much to later transmutation by the Biblical writer, for all of the supposed original elements are read into the narrative, rather than out of it. In the Scriptural version, the land is rendered barren, not fertile, by the slaying of Abel; and Cain is put away not merely temporarily, until the rite of the new life have been completed, but permanently.” Gaster p. 74
 “in several Semitic languages, denotes "to form, fashion, forge."! In fact, in Arabic and Aramaic, kayn means a "smith." However, there is evidence of a secondary stem, k-n-h, meaning "to produce, create," which appears in Hebrew, Ugaritic, and Phoenician. It is present in the divine epithet used in Genesis 14:19, which is discussed in Excursus 8, as well as in the name Elkanah. In Ugaritic, the goddess Asherat bears the description qnyt ilm, "progenitress of the gods." Sarna JPS p. 32
 “Cain and his descendants are now listed, seven generations in all…. The list constitutes a silent polemic against the mythological concepts of the ancient world, which attributed the advance of culture to divine or semi-divine figures. Mesopotamian tradition knew of the seven Apkallu or mythical sages, half-fish and half-man, who rose out of the sea to reveal to man the sciences, the social system, writing, and art…. In the Ugaritic-Phoenician area, the god Koshar, the divine artisan and smith, was credited with the discovery of the use of iron and the fishing tackle…. This phenomenon, known as euhemerism or the divinization of the benefactors of humanity, was common to the ancient world. In this chapter it is tacitly rejected. The development of human culture is demythologized and historicized. The seven-day divine creation of the cosmos is paralleled by these seven generations of human creativity. Man became a copartner with God in the world of creation. At the same time, the ascription of the origins of technology and urban life to Cain and his line constitute an unfavorable, or at least a qualified, judgment of man's material progress on the part of the Narrator, a recognition that it frequently outruns moral progress and that human ingenuity, so potentially beneficial, is often directed toward evil ends. The line of Cain is not mentioned again in the Bible. No details are given of his span of life, and even the fact of his death is not noted. The same is true of the list of his descendants. The entire line passes into oblivion. Sarna JPS pp. 35-36
“To the modern reader, as to the Biblical writer, the story of Cain and Abel is the story of the first murder. Behind it, however, lies an older and more primitive tale which has been skillfully adapted to a new purpose.
“The character of the older tale is betrayed by the very names of the protagonists. Cain means "Smith," and Abel "Herdsman." Its original purpose, therefore, was to account for the pariah status of the smith in a pastoral society. He is at once an outcast and a wanderer, but the very qualities which make him so endow him at the same time with a certain aura of mystery and awesomeness which render him sacrosanct and untouchable. To indicate this, he is sometimes marked or branded with a special sign.
This peculiar status of the smith is attested from one end of the world to the other. It derives partly from the fact that the smith is very often an alien and intruder…. he is often an itinerant tinker coming from the outside and possessed of a strange and potent technique …. The belief that iron and metal - the stock-in-trade of smiths - can avert demons is universal… Gaster p. 51
 “Hebrew hevel means "breath, nothingness." The name may augur his destiny; or, if it was given after his death, it may be a reflection of his fate. Hevel is often used to express the fleeting nature of life. The name may alternatively, or perhaps simultaneously, contain a reference to his vocation in that Syriac hablii means a "herdsman." Sarna JPS p. 32
 “Seth The name is here connected with the stem sh-y-t, «to place, put, set." The birth of Seth compensates for the loss of Abel. Since the noun shat means "foundation," as in Isaiah and Psalm U:3, there may lie behind the name the notion that, as Genesis Rabba has it, "With him the world was founded [anew]." It is probably no coincidence that Seth, in turn, named his son Enosh, which, like Adam, means «man" but which puts the emphasis on the basic frailty of man because the stem '-nosh means "to be weak."” Sarna JPS p. 39
 “If we compare the genealogy of Cain's descendants given by the Yahwist in -18, with the Priestly genealogy of Seth in ch. 5, it becomes clear that the two genealogies are parallel forms of the same tradition about the descendants of the first man. This may be seen if we set them out side by side:
If these two lists are compared it will be seen how close is the parallel between them. First, the father of Kenan in P's list is Enosh ; but this is merely another Hebrew word for 'man' and a synonym for Adam, the first man. Kenan is another Hebrew form of Cain, so that in the original form of both lists the first man was the father of Cain. Then Irad is the same as Jared; Enoch occurs in both lists;… Lamech occurs in both lists. Hence it is certain that we have two different versions of the same list, and that J's list is really the genealogy of the first inhabitants of the earth, together with the account of the origin of the various elements of early civilisation. We have thus three distinct elements which the Yhwist has either woven together into a connected narrative and linked up with the Paradise story, or found brought together already in the traditions of the Kenite clan, and used for his special religious purpose. The long-standing connection of the Kenites with the Hebrews goes back to the saga of Moses, who is represented as having married into the Kenite clan … and this may explain how the Yahwist could find and make use of Kenite traditions in his story of the beginnings of the salvation history.…” Hooke p. 182
 From THE WISDOM OF THE LYRE Soundings in Ancient
 “In order to accommodate his own view to that of the Yahwist, the Priestly writer subscribed to such a fairly abstract view of duality, even though we have reason to suspect that he borrowed the idea from older poetic tradition. The one does not contradict the many in this conception of God. When the first human being was created he/she was as complete as God himself, both male and female. Whether or not the double nature of this God was the end product of a long development in which the sole One El gradually absorbed his former wife Asherah …. What we are encountering here is rather the realization that in the highest divine being who created everything the principle of everything must have been present. Or conversely, that every lower deity or creature could be regarded as a manifestation of the almighty Creator/Creatress.
hn.bnpš.'atrt.rbt. Lo, in the soul of Athiratu, the Lady,
bl[b.yç]rk.lttm, in the h[eart]of your [Potte]r may you be moulded!
“What is striking in this formula is the high level of abstraction. Even though the verb lwt "to mould" as well as the epithet yçr "Potter" evoke a rather realistic image of two deities busy modelling clay, the real creative act is described as an interior psychological process. The highest pair of Ugaritic deities was acting in tacit understanding when creating a typical specimen of the human race. Small wonder that such an elevated concept of the creation of mankind suggested an elegant solution for the earthy account of the Yahwist in Gen. 2:7…”
From The Duality in God and Man: Gen. 1:26-27 as P's Interpretation of the Yahwistic Creation Account by J.C. DE MOOR, in INTERTEXTUALITY IN UGARIT AND ISRAEL PAPERS READ AT THE TENTH JOINT MEETING OF THE SOCIETY FOR OLD TESTAMENT STUDY AND HET OUDTESTAMENTISCH WERKGEZELSCHAP IN NEDERLAND EN BELGIE, HELD AT OXFORD, 1997 EDITED BY JOHANNES C. DE MOOR, Brill 1998, p. 107
 For sacred trees see http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=312&letter=T&search=tree
 Given the strong Mesopotamian influence on this part of Genesis, the following may be relevant
“… the personal god was a supernatural power that would inspire a man to action and generally lend success to what he was doing. We should also note that our earliest examples from the third millennium make it clear that the ancient Mesopotamians were never in doubt as to the identity of any personal god and could identify him or her as a known figure of the pantheon….. Furthermore, any god, even the great cosmic powers, might take on the role of personal god for an individual…. Just as the center of the concept of the personal god, the caring and concern for an individual, stands apart in Mesopotamian religious literature as something quite special, so the "inner form," "image," or - to be precise - "metaphor" under which the personal god was seen is also quite unique: it is the image of the parent divine father or mother - an image for the gods in their relation to man which we meet nowhere else. Normally, the image of the god in relation to his worshiper is quite a different one, that of master and slave…. In considering this concept more closely we may distinguish some of the various strands that make it up. First, its physical aspect: the father as engenderer of the child; the mother as giving birth to it. Second, the provider aspect: the father as provider for his family. Third, the protector and intercessor aspect. Fourth, the claim parents have upon their children for honor and obedience.
We may consider, then, the physical aspects. A common way of referring to the personal god is as "the god who 'created' or 'engendered' me" or "the divine mother, who gave birth to me." … As a divine power dwelling in the man and causing him to succeed, the god would naturally be present and active in the most decisive and necessary achievement of fulfilment for the ancient Mesopotamian, that of engendering a son. Without children, without sons, there could be no personal adequacy, no success in life. Thus it was the personal god and goddess, incarnate in the father and mother, who engendered the child and brought it into being. … father and son invariably had the same personal god…. The word "father" suggests not only an engenderer but also a provider for the family, and this aspect is prominent in the concept of the personal god, as is natural since the god is power for effective, successful achievement. Since this element runs through so many of the passages we have already quoted and still have to quote, we shall restrict ourself to one pithy statement … "Without the (personal) god man eats no bread." It could hardly be said more succinctly. As the father is provider, so he is also protector and intercessor with higher powers…. Lastly, there is the point that the personal god has as much claim as a human parent to be honored, obeyed, and provided for by his son…. the inner "form" or "metaphor" of the parent, of "father" or "mother" under which the personal god came to be seen … serves as psychologically possible bridge to the great and terrifying awesome cosmic powers. For it is within human experience that even the highest, greatest, and most terrifying personages in society have a mild, human, and approachable side in their relations to their children. Children, in their immediacy, their certainty of being loved, can overcome
- being entirely unaware of it - the terror and awe of power and status precisely because they seek and see only the personal in the relation. Thus the possibility that even the cosmic powers could be personal gods, could have an unfrightening, loving, ever-forgiving side toward their little human children, is psychologically conceivable. But if we can thus, by following personal religion back to its original setting, see more clearly how its attitude could be psychologically possible, this does not change or remove the original and basic paradox with all its inherent contradictions. As the attitude began to permeate religion generally, as it could be assumed not only toward one's personal god, but toward any god, even the one and only God, it was inevitable that its paradoxical nature should become apparent. There is a stage in childhood when parents are all-powerful and divine to the child. The child (to grow up) has eventually to adjust to the disturbing realization that parents are after all only other human beings with human limitations. But in this case such adjustment was excluded. The divine parents were, and had to remain, divine. Thus experience could not but drive its cruel wedge ever more deeply between the dispassionate, terrifying, cosmic aspect of the divine which governed the way things really are and really happen, and the personal, concerned, angry, forgiving, loving aspect in which I, the individual, matter so profoundly that love for me must sway the universe off its course to help and sustain me.
This is the problem
of the righteous sufferer. It forces itself upon religious consciousness in
The Treasures of Darkness: A HISTORYOF MESOPOTAMIAN RELIGION,
by THORKILD JACOBSEN,
 “The etymology of the word ‘adam is ambiguous. The feminine form ‘adamah designates the ground or soil, and the play on the two forms ‘adam and ‘adamah in Genesis 2:7 suggests for ‘adam the meaning “earthling." The root … (‘‘dm) is also connected with the color “red," which might apply to the color of the soil from which man was formed. The word adamu is used in Akkadian for “blood," adamatu for “black blood" in pathological conditions, and the plural adamatu for “dark, red earth [used as dye]." The word admu/atmu (“child") probably has no relation to ‘adam but is rather to be connected with a root wtm and related to Hebrew yatom (“orphan"). In Old South Arabic ‘dm has the meaning “serf." The occurrence of ‘dm as the apparent theophorous element in few personal names such as ‘bd'dm (“servant of ‘dm"; MT, Obed-Edom; II Sam. 6:10ff.), suggests a deity ‘dm, but there is little additional direct evidence for this. In an Akkadian synonym list the word adamu is equivalent to an “important, noble person." The personal names A-da-mu, A-dam-u also appear in Old Akkadian and Old Babylonian (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, 1, part 1 (1964), 95, s.v. adamu B; cf. also W. von Soden, Akkadisches Handwoerterbuch, 1 (1965), 10).”
Marvin H. Pope, Encyclopedia Judaica
A woman being formed of a man's rib is unknown in Mesopotamian myths, but a
goddess is formed to heal Enki's ribs, rib being "ti," she is called
Nin-ti, "lady of the rib" (but she is not made of Enki's rib). Ti
also means "life," so the Lady of the rib is the "Lady of
life." The setting of this story is in Dilmun, the paradise island in the
 For ‘ed see Akkadian Loanwords in Biblical Hebrew by Paul V. Mankowski, Eisenbrauns 2000.
'pour out, downpour',
 C.f. the Mesopotamian myth in which When Adapa came before Anu, the two heavenly doorkeepers Tammuz and Ningishzida interceded for him and explained to Anu that as Adapa had been endowed with omniscience he needed only immortality to become a god.
 U. Cassuto in Schorr, pp. 248-258; Adam, 44ff.
 On the relationships between Sumerian culture and the Bible, see A. M. Van Dijk in L'Ancien Testament, pp. 5-28; S. N. Kramer, SBO, III (1959), pp. 185-204.
 ANET, pp. 37-41; Kramer, HBS, pp. 144 ff.; SM, 54 ff.