Grace Theological Journal 12.2 (Spring, 1971) 3-22
Copyright © 1971 by Grace Theological Seminary. Cited with permission from
ATRA-HASIS: A SURVEY
JAMES R. BATTENFIELD
Teaching Fellow in Hebrew
Grace Theological Seminary
New discoveries continue to revive interest in the study of the
ancient Near East. The recent collation and publication of the Atra-hasis
Epic is a very significant example of the vigor of this field, especially
as the ancient Near East is brought into comparison with the Old Testa-
ment. The epic is a literary form of Sumero-Babylonian traditions about
the creation and early history of man, and the Flood. It is a story that
not only bears upon the famous Gilgamesh Epic, but also needs to be
compared to the narrative of the Genesis Flood in the Old Testament.
The implications inherent in the study of such an epic as Atra-hasis
must certainly impinge on scholars' understanding of earth origins and
The advance in research that has been conducted relative to Atra-
hasis is graphically apparent when one examines the (ca. 1955) rendering
by Speiser1 in comparison with the present volume by Lambert and
Although Atra-hasis deals with both creation and flood, the pre-
sent writer has set out to give his attention to the flood material only.
Literature on mythological genres is voluminous. Therefore the present
writer will limit this study to a survey of the source material which
underlies Atra-hasis, a discussion of its content and its relation to the
Old Testament and the Gilgamesh Epic.
James R. Battenfield earned the B. A. degree at San Diego State College,
and the B. D. and Th. M. at Talbot Theological Seminary. He taught for
two years at Talbot Theological Seminary and pursued graduate study
at U. C. L. A. He is presently taking work toward the Th. D. degree
at Grace Theological Seminary.
4 GRACE JOURNAL
The source material behind the present edition has been a long
time in coming to the fore. The great amount of energies that have
been expended on this research will hardly be reflected in this brief
study; however, the main lines of endeavor can be traced.
One may surmise that the Atra-hasis epic flourished in
ian civilization for some 1,500 years. At the time of Alexander the
Great, when Hellenism figuratively and literally buried what was left
Mesopotamian cultural influence in the
hasis was lost. For over two thousand years the only record known
to man of a great Flood was the story in Genesis. Berossus, a Baby-
lonian priest about the time of Alexander, wrote a Babylonian history
which is also lost. Fragmented traditions of his history have come
down to the present through such worthies as Polyhistor and Eusebius.3
The middle of the nineteenth century saw the beginning of serious
terests. Reliefs and monuments were unearthed and taken to Western
museums. Thousands of clay tablets awaited decipherment, an inter-
esting process in its own right.4 Kuyunjik, the
larger mound at
is the site where much Atra-hasis material was found, although its iden-
tification was not apparent for a long time. In 1842/3 Paul Emile Botta
first dug at Kuyunjik, but he did not find any spectacular museum pieces
such as were expected in those days. Austen Henry Layard6 secured
British rights to dig in the area and this caused a conflict with French
interests. By 1851 the
Rassam, a Christian of local extraction, who favored the British, be-
came the leader of native digging efforts. At first he and his helpers
dug secretly at night. Having come across the most magnificent reliefs
found to date, Rassam continued digging by day. They had dug into the
well known as one of the great discoveries from antiquity. Practically
all of Ashurbanipal's library was taken to the
to Layard and Rassam.
ing the fragments of Ashurbanipal's collection. This man was George
Smith. At fourteen the humble lad was apprenticed to a firm of bank-
note engravers. From an Old Testament background, his first love
soon took over in his life as he read with diligence concerning the
before long, and soon was at work collating the thousands of fragments
of Ashurbanipal's library. In his own words, Smith mentions with kind-
ness the labors of Botta. Botta found Sargon's palace (which dated from
722-705 B. C.) at Khorsabad, after his work at
afailure.9 He mentions Layard and Rassam as well, but does not men-
tion Rassam's nocturnal digging.10 Smith showed that he knew as much
about the tablets as anyone and in 1866, at the age of twenty-six, he was
made Assistant in the Department of Oriental Antiquities at the museum.
Others knew that works of mythology were preserved,
but only George Smith collected and joined enough bro-
ken pieces to reconstruct entire episodes, and only he
could understand the content. His lack of philological
training was made up for by hard work and sheer ge-
It was on
Smith read a paper to the Society of Biblical Archaeology concerning his
discovery of a Babylonian version of the Biblical Flood story. This paper
rocked the world of Biblical scholarship. Four years later Smith pub-
lished The Chaldean Account of Genesis, and among this selection of
Babylonian literary texts was one Smith called "the story of Atarpi."12
This is now known as the Epic of Atra-hasis.
An amazing feature of the story of the gathering of the fragments
that make up Atra-hasis is the unusual length of time required to join
the fragments properly. Smith had three broken pieces, enough to gain
a plot and to distinguish this from other creation/flood stories. Smith
mistook obverse for reverse and his mistake was not corrected properly
until 1956. Even more amazing is the fact that, after Smith's untimely
death in 1876, the three "Atarpi" fragments became separated and were
not joined again until 1899, and the third of the pieces was not published
until 1965, and not joined to the other two until 1967. This is the rea-
son that Atra-hasis is spoken of as a "new" flood epic: it is new be-
cause its tablet sequence has only recently been finalized.
Other fragments of Atra-hasis naturally experienced independent
histories from their discovery to their publication. V. Scheil, a French
priest, published a fragment of a flood epic in 1898. His differed from
Smith's, and he dated it to the reign of Ammi-saduqa (1646-26 B. C.)
of the Old Babylonian dynasty.13 The same year a mythological text
from the same period was copied by T. G. Pinches. This last text
describes the creation of man.14 In 1899, the German scholar, Hein-
rich Zimmern wrote an article in which he gave the Umschrift of Smith's
two then available fragments, showed Scheil's and Pinches' work was of
the same epic,15 and demonstrated that the name of the hero should be
not Atarpi, but Atra, or Atra-hasis. Still at this point the correct
order of the fragments was undetermined, and so the matter remained
for fifty years.
6 GRACE JOURNAL
It remained for the Danish scholar, Jorgen Laessoe, to point out
the proper sequence.16 Lambert and Millard take credit for publishing
material done by the same original scribe who wrote Scheil's 1898 frag-
This material had been in the
CONTENT OF THE EPIC
By way of definition, the Epic of Atra-hasis is more a literary
tradition than a narrative with precise bounds and limits. Lambert states
that plagiarism and a lack of respect for literary rights were common in
the ancient world.17 The only "title" that Atra-hasis had in antiquity
is seen repeated in the colophon at the end of each tablet, inuma ilu
awilum, "When the gods like man."18
The principal edition used by Lambert was copied out by Ku-Aya,
"the junior scribe." This fact is also discernible in the colophons.
Scheil in 1898 had given the name as Ellet-Aya or Mulil-Aya; neither
of these is acceptable. It is known that ku + divine name is Sumerian.
At one time there was some question about ku in Old Babylonian, but
this sign is found in the Code of Hammurapi20 as well as in Ammisa-
duqa's own famous "Edict."21 Ku-Aya's text is not that of a schoolboy,
even though he is called "junior scribe." He did his copying ca. 1630
B. C., if one holds to the "middle chronology," the majority opinion,
on Babylonian chronology.22 The original must be before 1630 B. C.,
making Atra-hasis one of the oldest, practically complete texts now
known. Ku-Aya's work is an edition in three tablets. Other collated
pieces must be relegated to much later periods, to the late Assyrian
(ca. 700-650 B. C.) in particular. George Smith's "story of Atarpi,"
now brought into comparison with the other pieces, must be of the
Assyrian Recension, according to Lambert, since it shows marked
Assyrian dialectal forms. The distinction between Old Babylonian and
Middle Assyrian would show up in the orthography as well. The Assyr-
ian story is essentially the same as Ku-Aya's, but substantially rewritten,
Neo-Babylonian fragments differ even more. A Ras Shamra fragment,
written in Akkadian, not Ugaritic, has been found, and is included in
Lambert. Its first three lines read:
e-nu-ma ilanumes im-tas-ku mil-ka i-na matatimes.ti
a-bu-ba is-ku-nu i-na ki-ib-ra-ti
The translation is:
"When the gods took counsel in the lands,
And brought about a flood in the regions of the world."
The sixth line reads:
mat-ra-am-ha-si-sum-me a-na-ku-[ma], "I am Atra-
As to the theme of the text, the essence of its content, one must
categorize it as both a myth because gods play a dominant role, and an
epic, because the leading character is a hero. Most basically Atra-hasis
deals with the problem of organization. A certain dialectic goes on here,
viz., there is a conflict which goes through two phases. Both phases
feature supernatural forces, but in the first "act" the conflict is among
the gods for their own sakes and has to do with divine goals; the second
phase concerns the conflict of the gods for the sake of man, i. e.,
human organization enters the picture.
The story begins with a hearkening back to an earlier time. It
almost has a "once upon a time" flavor. Certainly the plot is etiolog-
ical from the outset.25 "How did man become as he is?" "Once it was
like this," the modern storyteller might commence. Once the gods,
those superhuman reflections of man's aspirations, worked and suffered
do now. Quite understandably, since
depended upon man-made waterways to redistribute the capricious flood-
ings, the gods are represented as digging the canals. This was at a
time when only the gods inhabited the universe. The greater and lesser
gods are mentioned in 11. 5-6. The seven great Anunnaki are men-
tioned. The term is used for all gods at times; at other periods the
Anunnaki are the gods of the nether world.26 Three senior gods are
mentioned individually. They are Anu, Enlil and Enki. In they
evidently cast lots to determine their particular spheres of influence.
Anu rules henceforth from heaven; Enlil evidently stayed on earth; Enki
descended to his abode in the Apsu, a subterranean body of water. The
Assyrian recension of the epic from ff. probably indicates that Enki
set the Igigi (here, junior gods) to work on the canals.27 The Igigi suf-
fered this humiliation for forty years and then rebelled, "backbiting,
grumbling in the excavation" (1:39b-40). They agree to take their mu-
tual grievance to Enlil. They want not just reduction of their workload,
but complete relief from it. In typically anarchous fashion the junior
gods set fire to their digging tools, and utilize them as torches to
light their way to Enlil by night. They surround Enlil's temple, called
the city of
bring word to the god29 that he is surrounded. Lines 93 and 95 of this
first tablet are a little unclear. Lambert believes some kind of prover-
bial usage of the word binu/bunu, "son" is employed. If this term were
clear, it might be more readily apparent why Enlil does not hesitate to
8 GRACE JOURNAL
summon Anu from heaven and Enki from the Apsu to stand with him
against the rebels. It must be assumed that the gravity of the situation
was reason enough for a coalition of the senior gods to deal with the
matter. It is Anu in 1:111 who seems to be the supreme leader. The
question is put to the rebels, "Who is the instigator of battle?" (11.
128, 140). The answer comes: "Every single one of us. . . " (1. 146).
When Enlil heard that the extent of the antagonism toward him in his
realm, earth, was so great, he cried (1:167).
It is curious that Enlil seems to recover his composure so quickly
and begins to command30 Anu to go to heaven and bring down one god and
have him put to death as a solution to the problem. Perhaps more might
be known about the decision to slay a god, if it were not for the fact
that right at this juncture (11. 178-89), the text is unclear, and the var-
ious recensions must be used to fill the gap. At any rate, when the
text resumes, Belet-ili is on hand.31 It is she who is summoned to
to create32 the "Lullu-man."33 Man now will bear the work burden
of the gods. Belet-ili is called Mami in 1:193,34 and then it would seem
that she is also called Nintu.35 Though she is the birth-goddess, she
disavows any claim to being able to "make things."36 She points to the
skill of Enki in that realm. But in 1:203 it becomes apparent that Enki
must give her the clay so that she can create man.
Enki will make a purifying bath. One god will be killed; this is
one called We-ila (1:223). He is not mentioned but this once in the
text.37 His flesh and blood, combined with Enki's clay will result in
man. God and clay, therefore, are mixed to make man in the Baby-
lonian conception. Line 215 is instructive: "Let there be a spirit from
the god's flesh."38 The plan to make a man is agreed upon by the
Anunnaki, the plan is carried out, and the Igigi spit on the clay. Mami
then rehearses before the gods in typically redundant, oriental fashion
what she has done. The summum bonum of her work is this: the gods
are free. Yet, strangely, the work is not complete, because more
birth-goddesses, fourteen, are called in on the project and the group
proceeds to the bit simti, "the house of destiny"39 (1:249) to get at
the work in earnest. So the creation of man is not too clear. Four-
teen pieces of clay designated as seven males and seven females, are
"nipped off, " and separated by a "brick." (1:256, 259). Another break
in the story occurs here. Then there are some rules for midwifery in
the Assyrian recension that fills the gap. Ten months is the time neces-
sary before the mortals are born. Finally they are born and the text
relates some rules about obstetrics and marriage, but it is not parti-
cularly clear until 1:352.
At this point the significant statement is made. "Twelve hundred
years had not yet passed."40 This sentence begins the second part in
ATRA -HASIS 9
the plot, if one views its story content apart from the tablet divisions.
This much time, twelve hundred years, is given as the span of time
from man's creation to the Flood. During this period people multiplied
and their noise became intolerable to Enlil, who becomes dissatisfied
with the noise because he cannot sleep. ". . . Let there be plague,"
reads the last part of 1:360. Enlil has decided to reduce the noise by
reducing the source, man. Namtara, the plague god, is summoned
(1:380), but first, the reader is startled by the abrupt introduction of
Atra-hasis, the king (1:364). Perhaps he has been mentioned in some
lost portion earlier. He must be a king because his personal god was
Enki himself. Usually a Babylonian's personal god was a very minor
deity. This is seen in much of the wisdom literature and prayers.41
Enki is one of the chief gods; Atra-hasis must be a king. Atra-hasis
petitions Enki to intervene and stop the plague. Enki advises the people
to direct their attentions to Namtara, so that he will relax the plague.
This is what then ensues as Tablet 1 closes with the statement repeated,
"Twelve hundred years had not yet passed."42
The sequence that ended Tablet I is now paralleled. Enlil lost
his sleep again, and decides to use drought/famine to eradicate men.
Adad the storm god43 should withhold his rain (); waters should not
arise: from the abyss. Again Atra-hasis entreated Enki and at length
Adad watered the earth, Lambert says, "discreetly. . . without attrac-
ting Enlil's attention."44
From this point on in the epic the gaps frequently hide the story
development. Evidently Enlil slept again but was roused by a third vis-
itation of noise. By now Enlil must realize that some god is thwarting
his extermination plans. Enlil resumes the drought. In column 3, 4
Atra-hasts is praying to Enki. By column 4 the famine is still in prog-
ress. Enki acts in the behalf of Atra-hasis in column 5. A late Baby-
lonian piece inserted here tells of a cosmic sea that existed in the bot-
tom of the universe.46 From this area, fish were caught up in a type
of whirlwind, and the second drought perpetrated by Enlil was averted
by the sending of these fish among starving mankind. Enlil by now is
tired of seeing his plans frustrated. Enki has been his adversary, he
surmises. Since water (and fish) was used to save humanity this last
time, water will be man's destruction, and Enki is sworn to an oath
not to interfere in Enlil's plan. It would seem at this juncture Lullu-
awilum, puny man, is doomed.
This last tablet contains the flood story itself. Lambert observes
10 GRACE JOURNAL
that "the version known to George Smith from Tablet Xl of the Gilgamesh
Epic is in fact largely derived from the account in Atra-hasis."47
Fortunately, Ku-Aya's Old Babylonian text is the main source of
the third tablet. Atra-hasis is addressing Enki as it begins. It would
seem that Enki, as is so typical of polytheistic morality, has already
found a way to get around his oath to Enlil. 111:1:18 begins Enki's mes-
sage for avoiding the flood, and it has a familiar ring: "Wall, listen,
to me! Reed wall, observe my words!"48 Atra-hasis is told to destroy
his house, undoubtedly made of reeds, and build a boat.49 Reeds grow
particularly in southern Mesopotamia, near the
the story originated in such an environment. Interesting nautical terms
are employed in 11. 29-37. Concerning the boat:
Roof it over like the Apsu.
So that the sun50 shall not see inside it
Let it be roofed over above and below.
The tackle should be very strong.
Let the pitch be tough, and so give( the boat) strength.
It will rain down upon you here
An abundance of birds, a profusion of fishes.
He opened the water-clock and filled it;
He announced to him the coming of the flood51 for the
Atra-hasis did as Enki commanded him. The reason for the flood
is given "theologically" in the fact that the two gods of the earth and
the deep are angry with one another. This sounds primitive indeed.
Since Atra-hasis is a devotee of Enki, he must side with him and no
longer live in Enlil's earth.
Column 2 of the third tablet is badly broken. It would seem the
boat is being built by such as a "carpenter" and a "reed worker."52
By line 32 of this column, clean and fat animals are mentioned as being
put on the boat. And, then, in the lines remaining of the column, the
most personal touch in the poem is given. Atra-hasis must go to live
with his own god. He calls for a banquet for his people and his family.
Yet he cannot enjoy or even participate in this festivity because he is
overcome with grief in contemplating the impending horror. At the banquet
he was "in and out: he could not sit, could not crouch" (1.45). His
heart was broken instead and he was vomiting.
By now the weather worsened. Adad's thunders being heard in the
clouds overhead. Pitch was brought to enable Atra-hasis to close his
door. The winds and the waves rose. He cut his restraining hawser
and set his reed-boat adrift.
Lines are missing at the beginning of column 3 of tablet III. Re-
stored by conjecture is the mention of the Zu bird in line 7. Zu is men-
tioned again in one of the recensions.53 and is also found elsewhere in
ancient Near Eastern mythology.54 The strength of the flood came upon
the peoples; its destruction was a nightmare. Enki took it badly from
the outset. The birth-goddess Nintu55 and the Anunnaki regret the dis-
aster. Nintu bewails the loss of her children, who have become "like"
flies."56 She seems to have lost her purpose for existence. She rightly
blames Enlil for such a lamentable act. Her crying is enunciated in
111:4:5-11. The gods thirsted during the flood, as if they could no more
subsist on salt water from the Apsu than could humans. Nintu wanted
beer in fact in 111:4:16. The gods stood like sheep standing together in
a dry trough waiting for a drink.57
Seven days and seven nights the deluge continued. As column
5 is missing its first 29 lines, the flood itself is over at III:.
Atra-hasis is "providing food" (line 32), and as the gods smell the food.
"they gathered like flies over the offering." This last statement is hardly
very flattering to the gods, and most typical of the skepticism of the
wisdom genre in Babylonian literature. After the god's repast. Nintu
arises and complains concerning the unknown whereabouts of both Anu
and Enlil. Since they are the instigators of this terrible calamity.
where are they? The question is not immediately answered. Instead
an etiological explanation is given on flies, telling of the manufactured
flies in the jewelry of lapis worn around the necks of Mesopotamian
deities. The reason for this episode is given by Lambert:
Thus the flies in the story are a memorial of the
drowned offspring of Belet-ili, and the idea may have
been suggested to its originator by a proverb or cliche
about dragon-flies drifting down the river.59
Enlil, who now has appeared, sees the reed boat and becomes
angry at the Igigi. After all, the gods had decided to exterminate man;
all the gods were under oath. How did man survive? Enlil wants to
know. Anu points out that only Enki, whose realm is the sea, could
save man. Enki steps forward and freely admits his deeds and evidently
seeks to be exonerated (in a badly damaged passage). Volume 7 is of
no help in the flood story; its chief concern is proverbial sayings on
childbearing. Column 8 begins at the ninth line: this is the epilogue.
The text is so problematic that it is not certain who is speaking in
III:8:9-18. Lambert thinks the mother goddess is a leading candidate.
In line 15 the whole epic is perhaps called anniam zamara, "this song."60
Perhaps the song was recited in some way in Babylonian religious wor-
ship.61 Thus ends the last tablet.
12 GRACE JOURNAL
RELATION TO GILGAMESH XI
Still foremost in size and state of perservation among Akkadian
epic selections are the twelve tablets (containing over 3,000 lines) of the
Epic of Gilgamesh.62 The eleventh tablet here deals with the Flood.
Gilgamesh meets the figure who is synonymous with Atra-hasis of
the recent epic, Utnapishtim.63 The latter is called "the Faraway"64
or "the Distant"65 because he dwells removed from others, he is im-
mortal. Gilgamesh had thought in Utnapishtim he would find one prepared
for battle,66 but he lies indolent upon his back (line 6). Gilgamesh has
long sought immortality and he asks the serene Utnapishtim how he
attained the blessed state.
Utnapishtim will tell Gilgamesh a secret which begins in Shurup-
pak,67 the city where the gods lived. There the hearts of the gods led
them to produce the flood.68 The gods present are the same as those
in Atra-hasis, among whom are Anu, who is called abasunu, "their
father,"69 and Enlil, who is denominated maliksunu, "their-counselor."70
Ninigiku-Ea is present. This name is another appellative of
Enki the god of wisdom who dwells in the Apsu.71 As in Atra-hasis.
Enki/Ea speaks to the house of reeds, Utnapishtim's home:
Reed-hut, reed-hut! Wall, walll
Reed-hut, hearken! Wall, reflect!
Man of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-tutu,
Tear down (this) house, build a ship!72
Thus in both epics the command to build a boat in order to escape
the flood is similar. The seed of all living creatures is called to go up
into the ship. Dimensions are not given for the ship in Atra-hasis; how-
ever, Gilgamesh mentions that the ship should be accurately measured,73
and that the width and length of the boat are to be equal, or square.
Finally, the boat should be covered, ceiled over like the Apsu, i.e.,
Like Atra-hasis, Utnapishtim pledges to carry out Enki's orders.
He must sever his tie with Enlil's terrestrial economy and go to his own
There is a large break in the left margin of the tablet that extends
from about line 41 to the center at about 45, and then proceeds to the
center of 55 and angles back to reveal the first sign of 53.74 A lesser
break at the right side extends over lines 48-53.
Children brought pitch for Utnapishtim's boat. The "strong"75
or the "grown ones"76 brought all else needful. The floor space of the
boat is said to be about 3,600 square meters,77 or approximately an
acre. The walls were 120 cubits high, the decks were 120 cubits on a
side. The boat had six decks. Speiser conjectures that the ship took
seven days to build from his restoration of line 76.78
Utnapishtim's family, the beasts of the field, and all the crafts-
men were made to go on board the ship. This is a greater number than
Atra-hasis. The rain that is coming is called by Speiser "a rain of
blight." It was Enki's water-clock that was set for Atra-hasis. Here
it is Shamash,79 the sun god, who sets the time of the flood.
Adad's thunders signal the approaching deluge. Nergal, god of
the underworld,80 tears out the posts of the world dam, letting the waters
loose. There must be a connection between Atra-hasis 111:3:9-10 and
Gilgames XI:I07, where in both cases it is stated that the land was shat-
tered like a pot.81 This must have reference to a cataclysmic force,
something of diastrophism. Countless other examples could be given
of this kind of parallelism between the two epics. Cataclysmic language
is repeated in Speiser's rendition of line 109, "submerging the moun-
The gods cowered during the storm in typically mortal fashion.
Ishtar83 seems to take the role of the Mami/Belet-ili/Nintu birth-goddess
in Gilgamesh. It is she that laments the sad state of things and blames
On the seventh day the flood ceased. All of mankind had returned
clay. The ship comes to rest on
forth first a dove, then a swallow and lastly a raven, which does not
return to the ship. Thereupon he lets out all his "passengers" to the
four winds,85 and offers a sacrifice. The gods, smelling the aroma
as in Atra-hasis, "crowded like flies about the sacrificer."86 Ishtar
and the jewels are brought into the context here too, with the idea that
the jewels are a memorial remembering the flood. Enlil is excluded
because he perpetrated the crime.
Utnapishtim is specifically called Atra-hasis, "the exceedingly
wise," in line 187. Enlil seems to abate some of his anger and by
11. 193-4, he pronounces a blessing upon the Babylonian Noah and his
"Hitherto Utnapishtim has been but a man;
But now Utnapishtim and his wife shall be like unto us
14 GRACE JOURNAL
Thus the close similarities can be seen between Atra-hasis and
Gilgamesh XI. As has been said Atra-hasis is the older of the two, its
copy dating from the Old Babylonian with an archetype perhaps as early
as ca. 1800 B. C. Both compositions are part myth and part epic.
Both show the marks of wisdom literature in their themes of introspec-
tion. It must be remembered both heroes are "wise men." Simply
because it is longer and better preserved at key points of flood-story
interest, Gilgamesh remains the more detailed document on the flood.
RELATION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT
In Genesis 6:5-9; 19 the author of the Book of Genesis, Moses,
writes concerning God's judgment of the world by a flood. Immediately
one is struck by the solemnity of the story: hvhy xr;y.ava, "the
Lord/Jehovah saw" the wickedness of man. There is no pantheon of gods
conniving against one another. There is no "noise" prompting the de-
struction by the flood. The God of Heaven is hardly dismayed over all,
the noise men may make. The problem here in Genesis is not organ-
ization or the lack of it, the problem is that "every imagination of the
thoughts" of man "was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). Such a world
wide problem as moral corruption is so vastly more realistic than noise.
In God tells Noah to build a hbATe, "an ark."88 The
ark will be of sturdier construction than mere reeds: it will be of
rp,go-xcefE, "gopher wood." The ark will be covered with rp,Ko,
"pitch."89 The dimensions of Noah's ark are superior as well. It is
not square but more boatshaped. All three accounts speak of the boat,
the pitch and the door. God promises deliverance to Noah in 6:17; Enki
indicates that Atra-hasis will "save life," if he escapes as planned.90
Only in the Biblical account is the number of animals to be brought
into the ark realistic. The tablet is marred in Atra-hasis 111: ff.,
but indiscriminate numbers of birds (?), cattle (?) and other wild crea-
tures (?), plus Atra-basis' family, go on board.91 The "clean beast"
of Genesis 7:2 may be reflected in the elluti of III:2:32.92
The duration of the actual rain is more realistic also. Forty
days and nights are cataclysmic duration on a world-wide scale. Six
or seven days is far less believable. The flood of Genesis lasted 371
days.93 With the words of Genesis 7:11, tnoy;f;ma-lKA Ufq;b;ni
UHTAp;ni Myimaw.Aha tBoruxEva hBAra MOhT; the action and extent
of the flood are clear. The niphal verbs here show that these natural
forces were acted upon by an outside Agent, God. One might assume
that Enki's Apsu erupted adding to the waters, but the only clear
statements have to do with Adad's roaring in the clouds, e. g., in
III:, 53 of Atra-hasis.
The closing of the boat's door is treated variously. Genesis
states simply, OzfEBa hvhy rGos;y.iva. What obliging soul
brought the kupru ("pitch")for Atra-hasis to close his door?94 Then
that one was swept away in the flood?
Very little is said about the amount and the subsequent assuaging
of the waters. Even if this is the case, it is a little difficult to see
how one could say of Gilgamesh XI that it portrays a local flood, since
the mountains were submerged. That claim is better supported with
respect to Atra-hasis, but chiefly from silence, because the latter does
not give any real clue as to the extent of the flood.
The destruction of man and beast is deemed complete, however.
This would imply a universal catastrophe for both Atra-hasis and Gil-
gamesh. All flesh died; the waters had to seek out all, in effect. Gen-
esis 7:21-23 is most plain on this point.
Atra-hasis III: may have a reference to the sending of some
kind of bird to find dry land.95 Gilgamesh clearly indicates a dove,
swallow and raven, while Genesis employs a raven and a dove.
Atra-hasis does not give the place of the ark's landing. Mt.
should be identified with Pir Omar Gudrun in
ing to Speiser.96 Ararat (FrArAxE yrehA) has generally been thought to
coincide with the mountain of that name in what was ancient Urartu, the
The altar that Noah built is "paralleled" in the Babylonian epics,
as has been shown. The words HaHoyn.iha Hayre-tx, hvhy Hray.Ava
"and the Lord smelled the sweet savor" (Gen. 8:21), have their grossly
polytheistic analogy in both Atra-hasis and Gilgamesh. Leupold has said
that God "viewed the sentiments behind the sacrifice with satisfaction."98
If there is a blessing on Atra-hasis at the end of his epic, it is
missing. III:7 is about childbirth and seems as if it has no real con-
nection with the rest of the poem. Utnapishtim obtains immortality and
goes to live somewhere in the West. Noah receives a promise from
God that He will not judge the earth by water again. The Covenant is
16 GRACE JOURNAL
given to Noah; there is no Babylonian counterpart to the covenant.
After languishing in museum collections for nearly a century, the
Epic of Atra-hasis has at last been presented to the scholarly world in a
more readable form. The process is as yet incomplete. It is hoped
that more fragments may be added to the missing sections of Tablet III.
Such a discovery would enhance Flood studies even more. It must be
admitted at this point that Gilgamesh XI is still the chief extra-biblical
document on the Flood from the standpoint of completeness and parallels.
Gilgamesh is a dynamic composition; its story is quite captivating. All
of its twelve tablets constitute a marvel of ancient literature, surpassed
only by Scripture itself. Atra-hasis, on the other hand, is somewhat
colorless by comparison. Lambert has forewarned his readers on this
account: "a modern reader must not expect to find our translation im-
mediately appealing or fully intelligible."99 The greatest appeal in Atra-
basis must be, in the final analysis, for the philologist. The present
author has only given a taste of the rich mine of comparative linguis-
tical material in the epic. As to content, it may be reiterated with
previous generations of academicians, all accounts--Atra-hasis, Gil-
gamesh XI (including the Sumerian flood story of Ziusudra, purposely
not touched upon here) and the Genesis Flood--go back to an actual,
historical occurrence of a world-wide flood catastrophe. The inspira-
tion of the Holy Spirit has preserved the Biblical account without any
mythology, polytheism or low moral concepts, and its very text has
been supernatlurally preserved as well.
1. E. A. Speiser, trans., "Atrahasis" (in Ancient Near Eastern
Texts, James B. Pritchard, ed. 2nd edition.
ton University Press, 1955), pp. 104-6.
2. W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, Atra-hasis: The Babylonian
Story of the Flood (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969, pp. 42- 105).
Recent periodical discussions by these co-authors include: Lam-
bert, "New Light on the Babylonian Flood," Journal of Semitic
Studies, 5/2:113-23, April, 1960; and Millard, "A New Babylonian
'Genesis' Story," Tyndale Bulletin, 18:3-18, 1967.
3. Lambert, Atra-hasis, pp. 134-7.
4. E. g., cf. Samuel Noah Kramer, The Sumerians (
5. Work continues on the smaller mound until very recently, cf.
Geoffrey Turner, "Tell Nebi Yunus: The Ekal Masarti of Nine-
6. Layard's works are well known. Some of them include: Nine-
veh and its Remains (new edition; 2 vols. in 1.
George P. Putnam, 1852); also A Popular Account of Discoveries
7. Layard's remarks on his second expedition are interesting, cf.
his Discoveries Among the Ruins of
8. Lambert, Atra-Hasis, p. 2
9. George Smith, Assyrian
Discoveries (3rd edition.
Scribner, Armstrong and Company, 1876), pp. 2-3.
10. Ibid., p. 4.
11. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 3.
13. "Dates are according to the "middle chronology" on Hammurapi,
as presented by J. A. Brinkman in A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient;
14. Theophilus G. Pinches, The Old Testament in the Light of the
Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia (
Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1902), p. 117. This
fragment is from Scheil and has come to be denominated "W" in
Lambert, cf. the latter's p. 129.
15. As early as 1902, i.e., at the time of Pinches' first edition of
his work quoted immediately above, Pinches is willing to say,
p. 117: "It is not improbable that the fragment published by the
Rev. V. Scheil O. P., belongs to this legend. . . ." Pinches
does not seem as convinced as Lambert implies he was.
16. Lambert, Atra-hasis, pp. 4-5.
17. Ibid., p. 5.
18. Ibid., pp. 32, 42.
19. Ibid., p. 31, n. 1; cf. also Rene Labat, Manuel d'Epigraphie
1963), pp. 210-11.
20. The sign is * in Old Babylonian, and is found in phrases
such as ina kaspi (KU. BABBAR)-su, "in his silver," cf. E. Berg-
mann, Codex Hammurabi: Textus Primigenius (editio tertia;
Roma: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1953), p. 8 (Law 35,
line 3, of the Code).
21. I.8' in the edict reads, in part, ku.babbaram, "and silver," F.
R. Kraus, Ein Edikt des Konigs Ammi-saduqa von
Studia et Documenta ad iura Orientis Antiqui Pertinenta, Vol. V
other version of the name of the scribe in the collophon: Azag-
18 GRACE JOURNAL
dAya, cf. Albert T. Clay, A Hebrew Deluge Story in Cuneiform
and Other Epic Fragments in the Pierpont Morgan Library.
Oriental Series, Researches, Vol. V-3. (
versity Press, 1922), p.61.
22. Cf. Brinkman in Oppenheim,
23. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 131.
24. Ibid., pp. 132-3.
25. The "etiological motif" was first popularized by Gunkel and is still
a topic of current discussion, cf. F. Golka, "Zur Erforschung der
Atiologien in Alten Testament," Vetus Testamentum, 20/1:90, Jan-
26. Giorgio Buccellati, "Religions of the Ancient Near East" (unpub-
lished lecture notes,
ifornia), April 16, 1970.
27. Lambert, Atra-Hasis, pp. 42-3.
28. The word E. KUR may be subdivided: E is "temple" and KUR is
"mountain," in Sumerian/Akkadian. Thus the Ekur in
the "mountain temple," Enlil's ziggurat; cf. Buccellati, "Religions."
April 28, 1970.
29. Nusku calls Enlil Beli, "my lord." This name has had a wide
distribution in Semitic languages and is seen in the West Semitic
lfaBA, "to marry, rule over;" lfaBa, "owner, lord," and the
many compound names using this epithet, Francis Brown, S. R.
Driver and C. A. Briggs, eds., A Hebrew and English Lexicon
of the Old Testament (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1962), pp.
127-8 (Hereafter BDB).
30. The word liqi is an imperative from lequ in 1:171.
31. The name indicates "Mistress/Lady of the gods." By 1 247 Ma-
mi has undergone what Moran terms "a change of status" to be-
"Mistress of all the gods," William L. Moran, "The
Creation of Man in Atra-hasis I 192-248," Bulletin of the Amer-
ican Schools of Oriental Research, 200:48-9, December 1970.
32. The term libima is from banu, final weak, analogous to the
Hebrew hnABA "to build."
33. Lullu is to be taken here as lullu-awilum, "mankind," Lambert,
Atra-hasis, pp. 175, 187. -
34. The usual word for "mother" in Babylonian is ummu, R. Borger,
Babylonische-assyrische Lesestucke (Roma: Pontificium Institu-
turn Biblicum, 1963), p. LXXXVI.
35. Nintu is but one of the many names of the mother-goddess.
The name means "queen who gives birth," according to Kra-
mer, Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary
Achievement in the Third Millennium B. C. (revised edition; New
36. I:200, Lambert, Atra-hasis, pp. 56-7.
37. Ibid., p. 153, n. 223
38. The word for "spirit" is etemmu, "ghost," Ibid., p. 177. There
is, of course, no analogy to the Holy Spirit.
39. Simtu is a word normally translated "fate" or destiny," Oppen-
heim, Ancient Mesopotamia, p. 201. These renderings are mis-
leading, though, because the Akkadian word means much more
than the connotation in English. "Destinies" can be conceived
concretely, they can be written down, hence a "table of des-
tinies. " The power of the gods is not inherent in Babylonian
thought, but is in a god's power to hold onto the destinies, cf.
Buccellati, "Religions," April 21, 1970.
40. The text reads "600.600 mu.hi.a." Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 66.
"To acquire a god" was to experience unexpected good fortune.
Jacobsen says: "In Sumerian religion the power whose presence
was felt in such experiences was given form from the situation
and was envisaged as a benevolent father or mother figure con-
cerned with the individual in question and bent on furthering his,
fortunes,"Thorkild Jacobsen, "Formative Tendencies in
ian Religion" (in The Bible and the Ancient Near East, G. Ernest
Wright, editor. Garden City,
pany, Inc., 1961), p. 270.
42. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 71.
43. Like Baal in his actions, his name appears in many personal
names, e. g., dSamsi-dAddu,
Samsi Adad, king of
Georges Dossin, Correspondance de Samsi-ddu. Archives
Royales de Mari, I (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1950), p. 34
44. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 10.
45. The frequent breaks in the text have caused Lambert to number
Tablet II differently.
46. The Babylonians believed everything floated (?) in a heavenly
ocean, Buccellati, "Religions," April 9, 1970.
47. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 11, cf. George Smith, The Chaldean
Account of Genesis (4th edition:
Searle, and Rivington. 1876).
48. For the relevant lines. cf. Gilgamesh XI:21-2 in E. A. Speiser.
trans. "The Epic of Gilgamesh" (in Ancient Near Eastern Texts.
James B. Pritchard. ed. 2nd edition,
versity Press. 1955). p. 93.
49. Again, the words "build a boat." bini eleppa show that in "to
build" a boat and "to create" a man, banu/hnABA is used synon-
ymously. It is interesting to note that in Genesis 2:22. Nb,y.iva
from hnABA, is used in the creation of Eve.
20 GRACE JOURNAL
50. Actually dSamas, the sun god, is indicated.
51. Abubu is "flood" in Babylonian, from * 'bb, or ebebu, "to puri-
52. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 160.
53. Ibid., pp. 125, 167n.
54. Cf. Speiser, "The Myth of Zu" (in Ancient Near Eastern Texts,
James B. Pritchard, editor. 2nd edition.
University Press, 1955), p. 111 ft.
55. Nintu has feverish lips, a disease, Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 161.
56. The word zubbu is "fly" in Atra-hasis. In the Ugaritic literature
il.dbb is used, where it probably means "Lord of the Fly," Cyrus
H. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook (Roma: Pontificium Institutum
Biblicum, 1965), p. 388. The z-d is phonemically assured.
II Kings 1:3 and Matt. 12 :24 are-later instances of this pheno-
menon of the king of demons.
57. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 163.
58. Ibid., Gilgamesh XI:167-9 accuses Enlil alone.
59. Ibid., p. 164.
60. BDB, p. 274. Hebrew equivalents are: hrAm;zi and rymizA, "song,
61. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 165.
62. Cf. Oppenheim, Ancient
63. Cf. Speiser, "Gilgamesh," p. 88, n. 143, and also cf. Thorkild
Jacobsen, The Sumerian King List. Assyriological Studies, No.
11 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1966), pp. 76-7, n. 34.
Ubar-Thtu the father (?) of Utnapishtim is recorded in the king
list, but Ziusudra, Utnapishtim's Sumerian name, is missing.
64. Speiser, "Gilgamesh," pp. 92ff.
65. Alexander Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Par-
allels (2nd edition;
1967), p. 80.
66. Speiser, "Gilgamesh," p. 93.
67. Cf. Borger, Lesestucke, III, Tafel 60, line 11. It must be due
to scribal error that this reading is uruSu-ri -pak when it should
68. Ibid., line 14: there is *** , a-bu-bi, "flood."
69. Ibid., II, 94.
70. Ibid, Mlk designates "king" in Hebrew, but the idea inherent is
"counse1or" in Akkadian. Certainly the two are closely aligned.
71. Henri Frankfort, et al., Before
Penguin Books, 1968), p. 267.
72. Speiser, "Gilgamesh," p. 93.
73. Translation by Heidel, Gilgamesh, p. 81, 1. 29.
75. Heidel, Gilgamesh, p. 82.
76. Speiser, "Gilgamesh," p. 93.
77. Heidel, Gilgamesh, p. 82
78. Speiser, "Gilgamesh." p. 94.
79. It is an easy matter to trace, Utu of the Sumerians through
Shamash of the Akkadians to wm,w,, the word for "sun" in the
80. Speiser, "Gilgamesh," p. 94, n. 205.
81. cf. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 93
82. There is a broken sign ( * ). This could be restored to
*, KUR Sumerian; sadu, Akkadian, "mountain which is what
Speiser is supposing.
83. The Sumerian Inanna.
84. Vide infra.
85. Instead of anything analogous to tOHUr fBar;xa, "four winds,"
in Hebrew, the text here has the numerical ***
(4.IM. MES), 4 sari, "four winds, "
II, 99; III, Tafel 65.
86. Speiser, "Gilgamesh," p. 95.
87. Heidel, Gilgamesh, p. 88.
88. John Skinner, A. Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis
(in The International Critical Commentary, S. R. Driver, et al.,
eds. 2nd edition.
and G. J. Spurrell, Notes on the Text of the Book of Genesis
(2nd edition, revised;
76, think that this is possibly an Egyptian loanword, perhaps
teb(t), "chest, sarcophagus." It is interesting that the Egyptian
word for "box" is written * . The first sign, *,
stands for a reed shelter in the field, the * is the sign
for water, and the last is a determinative for any kind of box
or coffin. The resultant word is hnd.
If, however, the word is * in Egyptian, as Ludwig Koehler
and Walter Baumgartner, eds., Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti
Libros (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1951), p. 1017, say, then Gardiner
lists in his grammar *, "floats," under *.
the first sign of which indicates "reed floats used in fishing and
hunting the hippopotamus," Alan Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar
(3rd ed., revised;
p. 514, cf. also A. S. Yaduda, The Language of the Pentateuch
in its Relation to Egyptian (
1933), 1, 15*.
89. BDB, p. 498. The equivalent is given in Atra-hasis, III:1:33,
90. Lambert, Atra-hasis, pp. 88-9.
22 GRACE JOURNAL
91. Ibid., pp. 92-3.
92. Ibid., p. 178; the verb elelu, "be pure," has as its noun ellu,
93. John C. Whitcomb, Jr., and Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Flood
1962), p. 3.
94. Lambert, Atra-hasis, pp. 92-3. The words are [k]u-up-ru ba-
bi-il. The verb is from abalu, "to carry," The form babil does
not look passive, but it is well-attested that from Old Akkadian
on by-forms with an initial b are passive, Ignace J. Gelb, et al.,
The Assyrian Dictionary (Chicago: The Oriental Institute,1964),
vol. I, pt. I, pp. 10, 28-9. "Pitch was brought" is the correct
95. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 98; the words ana sari, "to the winds, "
are all that is left.
96. Speiser, "Gilgamesh," p. 94, n. 212.
97. Cf. the Assyrian Empire map in the unnumbered back pp. of
Georges Roux, Ancient
Books, 1966). The present writer has long wondered what con-
nection is possible between the biblical
state of Aratta, probably situated somewhere in the region of the
a long history and appears, e. g., in Sargon's eighth campaign
in the late eighth century, B. C., cf. Francois Thureau-Dangin,
Une Relation de la Huitieme Campagne de Sargon. Textes cune-
iformes, Musee du Louvre, III (
ner, 1912), 1. 61; p. 12, pl. III.
98. H. C. Leupold, Exposition
of Genesis (
House, 1950), I, 322. The Targum is careful to avoid such an-
thropomorphisms. Genesis 8:22 reads there: yAy; lyBeqav;
h.yneBAr;qA tya xvAfEraB;, "and the Lord received/accepted with
pleasure his sacrifice/gift," cf. Marcus Jastrow, comp., A Dic-
tionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and
1950), II, 1309, 1486 and 1411, for the terms. lbaq; the
Pael here, is "he received"; xvAfEra is "pleasure," and NBAr;qA,
the term referred to in Mark 7: 11, "Corban" (A. S. V.).
99. Lambert, Atra-hasis, p. 6.
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