Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bonus 17 - Eridu Genesis or Ziusudra Epic

To view an image of the Eridu Genesis tablets visit the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Sumerian statue from ancient
Mesopotamia (5300 – 2000 BC).
Used with permission of OIM
The Eridu Genesis (also known as the Ziusudra Epic) is the fragmentary Sumerian version of the flood epic written in cuneiform. Although it dates to around 1600 BC it is probably a shortened copy of a much older poem that is dependent on an even older account. Kramer concluded that “Ziusudra had become a venerable figure in literary tradition by the middle of the third millennium BC.”1.  The hero Ziusudra (“found long life”) is listed as the last king of Sumer in the Old Babylonian Empire in the Sumerian king list.2.

Its content covers the creation of humanity, animals, and building of the earliest cities Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larsa, Sippar, and Shuruppak. Following a break in the tablet, the narrative picks up with a decision by the gods to send a deluge to punish humanity.

The narrative records the god Enki directing Ziusudra to build a large boat, followed by a missing section, and picking up with a description of the flood. A seven day storm tosses a huge boat about on the water until the Sun (Utu) appears and the hero Ziusudra worships and offers an animal sacrifice to the gods. Following the flood Ziusudra thanks the gods An (sky-god) and Enlil (captain of the gods), who bless him with “breath eternal” and take him to live in Dilmun.3.  The mention of this place in lines 258–261 is unique in the flood epics. In this version the boat floats down the Euphrates River into the Persian Gulf to come to rest on the island of Dilmun (Bahrain) rather than resting on a mountain.4.  In Sumerian the word KUR (line 140) means “country” while in Akkadian (Gilgamesh Epic) it is understood to mean “mountain.” The remainder of the tablet is missing.

  • For the text of the Eridu Genesis see

  • 1. Samuel Noah Kramer, “Reflections on the Mesopotamian Flood,” Expedition 9, no. 4 (1967): 18. PDF
  • 2. Lambert, Millard, and Civil, Atra-hasis, 138.
  • 3. Ibid., 97.
  • 4. Robert M. Best, Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic: Sumerian Origins of the Flood Myth (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1999), 30–31.
This bonus material was quoted from

David E. Graves, Key Themes of the Old Testament: A Survey of Major Theological Themes (Moncton, N.B.: Graves, 2013), 194-95. 

For Further Study
  • Clifford, Richard J. Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible. Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 26. Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1994.
  • Hallo, William W. ed. “Enki and Ninmah,” translated by Jacob Klein, The Context of Scripture (3 vols.; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997–), 1.159:516
  • Kramer, Samuel Noah and Maier, John Myths of Enki, the Crafty God. New York: Oxford, 1989.
  • Pritchard, James B., ed. “Enki and Ninhursag: A Paradise Myth” in Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. 3d ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 37-41.

No comments:

Post a Comment