Genesis: History of the Semitic Peoples or Not?

What sort of people were located at Eridu who would have constructed an altar upon which they presented burnt offerings? Animal sacrifice was instituted by Adam’s second son, Abel (Gen. 4:4). We can assume this practice continued with subsequent generations. Was this the very altar where it all began?

Is there any room for actual history in this Biblicist echo chamber? Rhetorical I’m sure.

Might be interesting to see how they would shoehorn in places like Çatalhöyük flourishing about 9000 BP


or the considerably older Göbekli Tepe or Nabta Playa or Jiahu https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jiah/hd_jiah.htm
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Natufian, Halafian and Samaran settlements were found in Iran, Turkey and northern Iraq that predate the Ubaidans. Ubaid settlements were discovered in north Iraq also that predate Eridu. When Eridu was excavated and the last tiny temple uncovered after digging through16 layers of temples two different styles of pottery were discovered. One was typical Ubaid, the other was previously unknown and was simply dubbed “Eridu Ware.”

From Egypt

Egyptian creation myths are accounts of the creation of the world. Pyramid Texts, tomb wall decorations and writings date to the Old Kingdom (2780 – 2250 BC). Ancient Egyptians had many creator gods and associated legends. The world, or more specifically Egypt, was created in diverse ways according to different parts of the country.

The Shabaka Stone once resided in the Temple of Ptah in Memphis in the 8th century BC and now rests in the British Museum. Pharaoh Shabaka, concerned about the loss of the information on the papyrus, had the rest of the text written into this stone. However, in later years, the stone was used as a millstone so some of the hieroglyphics were damaged.

The text claims to contain the surviving content of a worm-ridden, decaying papyrus found as pharaoh Shabaka (721 BC - 707 BC) was inspecting the temple of Ptah in Memphis. Concerned about the loss of the information on the papyrus, he had the rest of the text written into this stone. Dubbed the “Memphite Theology” due to its connections with Memphis, it was here the god “Ptah,” the “life-maker,” sat upon his throne: “There took shape in the heart, there took shape on the tongue the form of Atum.” 1

Notes

  1. Charles Doria, Harris Lenowitz, and Jerome Rothenberg, eds., Origins: Creation Texts from the Ancient Mediterranean (Garden City, Anchor Books, 1976), 3.

Known as the chief god of the capital city of Memphis, Ptah was a creator god who brought all things into being by thinking of them with his mind and saying their names with his tongue. According to the priests of Memphis, everything was the work of Ptah’s heart and tongue, gods were born, towns were founded, and order was maintained. 1 Ptah, the high god of Memphis, was declared “master of destiny” and “creator of the world.”2

In the Memphite system Atum was thus merely the agent of Ptah’s will, who understood his commands and carried them out.3

Notes

  1. See Ptah http://www.egyptianmyths.net/ptah.htm (2 Nov. 2010).

  2. Veronica Ions, Egyptian Mythology (New York: P. Bedrick Books, 1982), 28.

  3. Ions, Egyptian Mythology , 28.

Ptah, is described as the unifier of Upper and Lower Chem (Egypt), “’Self-begotten,’ so says Atum, who in turn ‘created the “ Nine Neteru .’" Among the “ Neteru ” (deities) begotten of Atum is one called “Seth.”

In the mindset of ancient Egypt it is only a short step from being created to being a creator. Hymns to Atum honored him as such and one who accompanied the people, their pharaoh, and their land from birth to death to rebirth. In a similar vein to the Adapa legend, Atum would sail his boat across the sky and priests would sing hymns. Even a hearkening to Genesis 1 can be seen in the following hymn to Atum:

There were no heavens and no earth,
There was no dry land and there were no reptiles in the land …1

Notes

  1. Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin, Old Testament Parallels (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2006), 8.

The pyramids of kings Mer-ne-Re and Nefer-ka-Re were inscribed with a dedication dating to earlier than 2100 BC, many centuries before Moses. The text speaks of a first creation and a deified “Atum” who was on a primeval hill arising “out of the waters of chaos.” Among those “whom Atum begot,” according to the inscription, was one named "Seth."1

Notes

  1. James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955), 3.

What is the possibility that the subject of these pyramids is someone other than Adam? How many “created” individuals do we know of named Adam or Atum with a son named Seth? Unless we can believe in colossal coincidences it has to be the same person. The Inscriptions on pyramid walls (2400 BC) are dated centuries before Abraham, and many centuries before Moses. A question that might arise could be: How in the world did they get there?

A possible answer to that question comes from Josephus. In his words: “Now all the sons of Mizraim, being eight in number, occupied the country from Gaza to Egypt …”1 Indeed, the Hebrews adopted Misraim to mean “Egyptian." All of Mizraim’s sons have been traced to parts of Egypt. Perhaps as Egyptian conscripts or members of an elite population, the descendants of Mizraim could have been the source of the inscriptions as well as the source of the knowledge of Atum (Adam) and Seth who became incorporated into Egyptian mythology. Even the earliest versions of Genesis could have been stored in an Egyptian library to the benefit of Moses who was educated in pharaoh’s court.

Notes

  1. Josephus, Josephus Complete Works ,88.

Genesis names the four rivers where we can locate Adam’s garden.

Genesis 2:11-14: “The name of the first is Pishon: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Cush.” (Ethiopia is in some translations.) “And the name of the third is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.”

Although one could get the impression that one river separates into four, “and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads” (Gen.2:10), it can also be interpreted that four rivers become one, a confluence of rivers, which better suits the topography of Mesopotamia and the nature of rivers. We think of the “head” of a river as its source whereas in ancient thinking the head could be what we call the “mouth.”

According to E.A. Speiser "… the term “heads” can have nothing to do with streams into which the river breaks up after it leaves Eden, but designates instead four separate branches which have merged within Eden."1

  1. E. A. Speiser, The Anchor Bible GENESIS (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1964), 20.

The fourth river is easiest to identify as the well-known Euphrates, which today is joined by the Tigris forming the Shatt al-Arab before emptying into the Persian Gulf. At this point in history, roughly 7,000 years ago, the gulf region extended further north and all the named rivers emptied directly into the gulf. The Hiddekel is the Tigris, the “great river” Daniel stood beside (Dan. 10:4). It originates in the region of Assyria, and “goeth east” as stated in Genesis.

Dominic M’Causland identified the Gihon as the “Gyudes” of the ancients, the modern Karkheh joined by the Kashkan River in the region of Cush, or Kush, in Eastern Mesopotamia. Today this region is called Khuzistan, a province in the southwest corner of Iran.1

S. R. Driver places Havilah “most probably” in the northeast of Arabia on the west coast of the Persian Gulf: “The gold of Arabia was famed in antiquity.” James Hastings identified Havilah as “the ‘sandy’ region of northern Arabia, which extended westward towards the frontier of Egypt.” In an article titled, “Has the Garden of Eden been located at last?,” archaeologist Juris Zarins identified an ancient river bed in this region from LANDSAT space photos.

Notes

  1. George Rawlinson named the more northern Diyaleh River as the Gyudes, and Josephus suggests the Gihon may be the Nile! Cushites, or Kassites, may have found some discomfort with their initial homeland sandwiched precariously between Elamites to the south, Urartrians to the north, and the fierce Assyrians to the northwest necessitating a migration for those desiring a more peaceful life in Egypt – taking their river with them!

Farouk El-Baz, a Boston University scientist, studied pebble distributions in Kuwait and was led to the same conclusion, a river once flowed into this country from the Hijaz Mountains in Saudi Arabia. He dubbed it the “Kuwait River.” In an article for Biblical Archaeological Review, James Sauer associates the Kuwait River with the Pishon.1

Notes

  1. James A. Sauer, “The River Runs Dry - Biblical Story Preserves Historical Memory,” Biblical Archaeological Review 22(4) (1996): 57.

Put in perspective, the most ancient cities of southern Mesopotamia, Eridu, Ubaid, Digdilah and Ur were located adjacent to the Persian Gulf, where all four rivers emptied. These cities were furnished fresh water diverted from the Euphrates and sent down an old river bed where the Euphrates once flowed. Genesis 2:6 states: “But there went up a mist (stream) from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.”

Map shows the location of four settlements that drew their water diverted from the Euphrates and sent down an old river bed where the Euphrates once flowed in the past. Dubbed the Puruttum&Eridu canal, the Garden would have been located along this canal somewhere between Eridu and Ur, although Ur would not have been settled by the Sumerians until later.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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