(“Eridu Genesis” in Sumerian, fragments found at Nippur)
[Enlil speaks] . . . “For the sake of Nintur [goddess of underworld, fertility and rebirth, the mother goddess], I no longer will destroy my creatures. I will bring people back here. They will build houses where I can rest in the cool shade. They will make the houses of brick from ground that is pure . . . When the holy rituals and divination are perfected, I will bring the people happiness by watering the land."
creator], Enlil [god of soil
and wind], Enki [god of
waters] and Ninḫursaĝa
[goddess of underworld, fertility, rebirth] created the black-headed
people [Sumerians?]. They fashioned herds of four-legged beasts to live
in the fields, and they made animals multiply everywhere . . .
. . . After the kingship had descended from heaven, the holy rituals and divination were perfected. The brick was laid in holy places that were named and dedicated. The first of the houses, Eridu, was given to the leader Enki. The second, Lagash, was given to the Mistress [Ninḫursaĝa or Nintur]. The third, Larsa, was given to Pabilsaĝ [the Bull Man, Sagittarius]. The fourth, Sippar, was given to the hero Utu [the risen father who guides the sun]. The fifth, Šuruppak, was given to Ninlil [Ellil’s consort].
And after the houses had been named and dedicated, the river . . . was watered, and with the washing of small canals . . .
. . . seat in heaven . . . flood . . . humankind. So he made . . . Then Nintur . . . Holy Inana [goddess of love] wept for the people. Enki asked himself what to do. An, Enlil, Enki and Ninḫursaĝa made all the gods of heaven and earth swear an oath by An and Enlil, to carry out the order.
In those days Zi-ud-sura the king, the gudug priest . . . He
fashioned . . . The humble, dedicated, pious . . . Day by day, standing
constantly at . . . Something that was not a dream appeared,
conversation . . . taking an oath, swearing by heaven and earth. In the
Ki-ur [place of divine assembly],
the gods . . . a wall. Zi-ud-sura, standing by its side, heard:
"Wall on my left side . . . Side-wall, I have something to say. Mark my
words. Pay attention to my instructions. A flood will sweep over the . .
. in all the . . . A decision has been made to destroy the seed of
humankind. This judgment is the word of the divine assembly. It cannot
be unspoken. The order was announced by An and Enlil. It cannot be
reversed. The days appointed for kingship have ended. Their heart is set
on this . . ."
All the winds and gales arose together in a storm, and the flood swept over the . . . land. After waves and winds had rocked the great boat for seven days and seven nights, Utu [the father who guides the sun] came out to light the heavens and the earth. Zi-ud-sura then was able to open a window and let the hero Utu in his rays enter the great boat. Zi-ud-sura the king prostrated himself before Utu. The king sacrificed oxen. He offered up innumerable sheep . . .
More and more animals disembarked, and Zi-ud-sura the king bowed down before An and Enlil. Now they were kind to him . . . They gave him god-likeness. Because he saved the animals and the seed of mankind, they gave him lasting life. They gave him a kingdom far away in the land of Dilmun, the place from which the sun rises.
[Ellil and his ministers forced the lesser gods to labor. The workers grew tired and rebelled. The revolt ended with a plan to create humans to do all the work. Enki and several birth goddesses made two sets of seven humans, who quickly began to multiply. As their numbers grew, the people soon became so noisy that Ellil could not sleep. He used diseases and famines to reduce the pests, but these solutions were only temporary because populations kept coming back.]
Time passed, maybe 600 years or maybe less, and the land again was as loud as a bellowing bull. The god again tired of the noise: Ellil had heard enough of the hubbub of people. He addressed the great gods.
“I can’t bear the noise! I can’t sleep with the racket of these people.
. .” [A decision is made to drown
all of humankind in a flood. Ellil forces the gods to swear to carry out
Enki wished to speak. He said to his servant, “Do you expect me to watch for you while you sleep? Do wake up and pay attention to my message! Wall, listen! Reed curtain, hear this. Leave the house! Build a boat! Leave your possessions but save lives. Let the boat that you build . . . be equal . . . Roof it over, fore and aft, as high as the hull is deep, so that the sun cannot see inside. Seal it with the best pitch. I will give you flocks of birds, schools of fish . . .”
Atra-hasis got the message. He assembled the Elders at his door and he said to them: “Our gods do not agree. Enki and Enlil are always disagreeing. They now expel me from the land. Since I have always revered Enki, he told me this. I cannot live in . . . I cannot set foot on Enlil’s land. I will live with my lord in the deep waters . . . This he told me . . .”
The carpenter brought his ax, the reedworker brought his materials, the rich man brought the pitch, the poor man brought what was needed . . . bringing whatever he had . . .
Meat animals he slaughtered, cattle . . . The fat ones he killed. Sheep he selected for the ship. Birds flying in the skies, the cattle and . . . of the cattle god, beasts of the field . . . they were all on board . . .
His people were invited . . . to eat . . . His family was there, eating and drinking, but he was in and out of it. He could not rest at ease. His heart had broken. Gall flowed out of him.
The sky changed. Adad [a storm god] starting roaring in the clouds. They heard him, and brought the pitch to seal the door. By the time it was closed, Adad would be overhead. The winds were howling when the rope was cut to release the boat.
. . . the storm . . . were yoked. The Anzud [divine eagle] reached down his claws and tore open the sky. He . . . the land and shattered it like a pot . . . the flood poured in violently upon humankind. Its power was so strong that nobody saw anybody. Nobody could be seen in the fury.
The storm bellowed like a bull. The wind screamed like an eagle. The darkness grew dense, and then sun disappeared . . .
. . . like flies . . . the noise of the flood . . .
Enki wished to speak, and he said to Nintu the birth goddess: “Birth goddess, mother of destinies, create fewer people . . . Let every third woman be infertile, and let there be among the people a pasittu [demon] that snatches infants from mothers’ laps. Let priestesses and high priestesses be celibate. The numbers of children will diminish.”
Gilgamesh and Ud-zi
[The death of his friend Enkidu put the famed King Gilgamesh of Uruk on a quest to find immortality. His journey took him to the place from which the sun rises, looking for Ud-zi Faraway and his wife, the couple reported to have survived the universal flood in the distant past. Finally he found them.]
Gilgamesh desired to speak. He wanted to tell Ud-zi: “I look at you here, Mr. Faraway, and you look just like me, no different at all from me, I imagine, whether you are longing for a fight or lying on your behind. So how did you stand up to the gods and force them to deify you?”
Ud-zi wanted to speak to Gilgamesh. "Gilgamesh, I will share with you the secret, the riddle of the gods. There are gods within the city called Šuruppak beside the Euphrates—as you must know. Long ago they meant to make an enormous flood . . . there was Father Anu, the adviser of battles Enlil, the herald Ninurta, the throne-carrier Ennugi, and Nin-iggi-azag.
Ea [Enki] plotted with the rest of them, but he played the song through a flute:
‘Chamber of reed, chamber of reed,
I heard him, and I spoke to my lord, the wise Ea: ‘O Lord, I will do anything that you say, but what will I tell the neighbors? What can I say to the elders?’
Ea answered me, his servant: ‘Man of Šuruppak, here is what to say. Tell the elders that, of all people in the city, you alone are hated by Enlil, and you no longer have Enlil’s consent to live in his land. Tell your neighbors that you cannot see them any more. Say that you are going down to the water to dwell with Ea, your lord. Ea will bless you with fowls and fish . . . the harvest . . . and so plenty of rain will fall on them.’
. . . morning had dawn’d . . . the children brought the pitch while the adults brought everything else for my send off. By the fifth day the shape was formed. Ten gar was the height of her sides, ten gar to match the width of her broad deck, and the shape of the foredeck . . .
. . . we put down, and in the same way she was cross-nailed six times, decked seven times . . . ribbed nine times, and hammered with caulk inside. I got a barge pole and all that I could want. Six coats of tar covered the outside, and three coats of pitch sealed the inside. Somebody brought three coats of oil. I had one for rigging, and the boatman got the other two . . . Many beef cattle for the . . . slaughtered, Each day lambs were slain. There were offerings of mead, beer, oil, and wine. The workmen drank the liquor like water. They drank like it was the New Year.
. . . All of my seeds I had with me. All my kin and family came along, cattle and beasts of the field and every kind of craftsman.
Shamash [the sun] told the hour: ‘There will be rain tonight. Stay aboard with the hatch closed.’ It was dark as night inside the vessel with the hatch closed. All was ready for the storm. Everything had been secured by Puzur-Amurri, the boatman.
. . . Adad [the storm-god] rumbled in a distant dark cloud. Nabu and Sharru [messengers of the gods] heralded the vanguard over the hills and plains. Nergal [death bringer] tore up the fields. Ninurta [god of battles] loosed chaos as he advanced. Anunnaki [children of An, the sky] brandished torches everywhere, and the land shriveled in flames. Then Adad blackened the sky, and all was dark . . . You would not know your brother. Nobody could be seen.
The gods themselves had run away. They had fled up to the high places close to heaven, and they crouched up there like dogs. Ishtar cried like a woman in labor. She shrieked, 'May the day be forgotten when I spoke for this evil in the council of gods! How could I say such awful things! How could I blot out my people, my people! I bore them, and now they are fed to the sea like fish fry!'
All the Anunnaki mourned. They sat in sadness weeping.
For a week the great storm swept the land, but on the seventh day I awoke and heard nothing. The tempest had died. The rain was gone. The sea was calm. Everybody had turned to clay in a swamp so deep that it covered even the roofs and tree tops.
A hatch was open, and I felt the warmth of light on my face. Water dripped from my eyes. I must have been crying.
When the seventh day dawned, a dove went free. She flew around but returned without finding another place to rest. Then a swallow went free, but she also returned. Then a raven went out, and she never came back.
All the birds flew free to the four winds, and the animals also departed. A libation was poured on the mountain top, seven cups and seven more of sweet cane, with myrtle and a cedar fire under it. The gods smelled the sweetness. They hovered thick as flies over the offering.
The Queen of Heaven was there wearing the splendid jewels that Anu had given her. 'O gods,’ she said, ‘I would rather lose my sapphires than forget this day, but Enlil is not rejoicing with us. He would have destroyed my people in his rage!'
Mighty Ninurta was advising him. He was speaking to hostile Enlil, saying: 'They must have had help! Who could have told them our secrets, except Ea? He is always plotting.'
Ea the wise one answered. He spoke to hostile Enlil. 'If you are the chief of the gods, why do you still act like a warlord? How could you be so madly advised to make a mess like this? Punish sinners if you like, but let guiltless ones live. Or if there are too many of them, be merciful in pruning them. Instead of a flood, send a lion. Or jackals. Or maybe a famine or a plague. In any case, I did not tell our secrets to any mortal. To one here who is wise a dream appeared, and from the dream he figured out our plans. Why should he suffer for that wisdom? Think about it.'
Enlil came up to the ship, and he stood between me and my wife. We were there in fear beneath him. He took my hand, and he took hers, too. Then he touched our foreheads, gently. He blessed us and raised us up saying, 'You have been mortals until this time, but now both of you are like gods. You will stay where the rivers end.' So here we are.
But you, Gilgamesh, how will you assemble the gods to give you what you want? You can’t eat even one meal in a week!”
Slumber had blown over Gilgamesh like a breeze.
Ud-zi spoke to his wife: “How he smells in sleep, the strong man who would stay up forever!"
The wife answered: "Wake him gently with a touch. Let him go in peace through a gate that seems familiar to him. Put him where he may feel at home."
That is what she did. She baked a loaf each day, and she placed it near the head of Gilgamesh, and each day she recorded the loaf on the wall. One day passed, then two days, three, four, five, six days. On the seventh day Ud-zi touched him on the forehead, and suddenly the eyes looked back at him!
Gilgamesh spoke to him. He said: "I am sleeping. Is it you that keeps me awake by touching me?"
Ud-zi answered. "Look, Gilgamesh. Here is the story in loaves. Here is the loaf left over from the first day when flour was brought here for you. Here is the loaf of the second day when the flour was sifted for you. Here is the loaf of the third day when dough was made for you. Here is the loaf of the fourth day when the dough was kneaded for you. Here is the loaf of the fifth day when leaven was added for you. And this is the loaf of the sixth day when your bread was baked. And it’s all recorded there on the wall, but look! You ate nothing! This is the seventh day of your nap, and you complain that I am keeping you awake!”
Ud-zi spoke to the boatman Ur-Shanabi [ferryman on the river of the dead]: “Ur-Shanabi . . . if you take the boat back over you will anger . . . [the guards]. None of those you have guided here has ever crossed back over. There are stains on this one that hide the grace of his body. Ur-Shanabi, take him to wash and clean him in water as pure as snow. Throw his old pelt in the sea. At the end of his trip, make him look like a new man. Put fresh cloths on him. Let all that he wears look new.”
took him to wash away his stains in water pure as snow. He threw the old
skin in the sea, and the sea bore it away. The body was clean, with hair
that was combed. New clothes covered its nakedness, and they still
looked new even when the journey was over . . .
[Gen 6.1] And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,  that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.  And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.  Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.  And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits.  A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.  And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die.  But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee.  And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.  Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.  And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.  Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.
[Gen 7.1] And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.  Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.  Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.  For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.
[Gen 8.1] And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged;  The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained;  And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.  And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.
[Gen 9.1] And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.  And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.  Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.  But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.  And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.  Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.  And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.
 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,  And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;  And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.  And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth.  And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:  I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.  And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:  And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.  And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.  And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.  These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.  And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:  And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.  And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.  And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.  And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.  And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.  God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.  And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died.
Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and
Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
[71.1] We sent Nūḥ to his people. We said to him: Warn your people before painful punishment comes to them.
,Questions for reflection