Marduk from Elam

The main Babylonian god was Marduk while the main Assyrian god was Ashur. Ultimately simply called Bel, or Lord, Marduk was the chief god of the city of Babylon and the national god of Babylonia. Originally he seems to have been a god of thunderstorms. A poem, known as Enuma elish, dating from the reign of Nebuchadrezzar I (1124-03 B.C.), describes Marduk as being so powerfull and all-encompassing that he has 50 names, each one a deity or of a divine attribute. He became "lord of the gods of heaven and earth" after conquering the monster of primeval chaos, Tiamat. All nature, including man, was created by him. The destiny of kingdoms and individuals was in his hands. [Source: Kenneth Sublett,]

Morris Jastrow said: “Anu, Enlil, Ea, presiding over the universe, are supreme over all the lower gods and spirits combined as Annunaki and Igigi, but they entrust the practical direction of the universe to Marduk, the god of Babylon. He is the first-born of Ea, and to him as the worthiest and fittest for the task, Anu and Enlil voluntarily commit universal rule. This recognition of Marduk by the three deities, who represent the three divisions of the universe—heaven, earth, and all waters,—marks the profound religious change that was brought about through the advance of Marduk to a commanding position among the gods. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“From being a personification of the sun with its cult localised in the city of Babylon, over whose destinies he presides, he comes to be recognised as leader and director of the great Triad. Corresponding, therefore, to the political predominance attained by the city of Babylon as the capital of the united empire, and as a direct consequence thereof, the patron of the political centre becomes the head of the pantheon to whom gods and mankind alike pay homage. The new order must not, however, be regarded as a break with the past, for Marduk is pictured as assuming the headship of the pantheon by the grace of the gods, as the legitimate heir of Anu, Enlil, and Ea. <>

“There are also ascribed to him the attributes and powers of all the other great gods, of Ninib, Shamash, and Nergal, the three chief solar deities, of Sin the moon-god, of Ea and Nebo, the chief water deities, of Adad, the storm-god, and especially of the ancient Enlil of Nippur. He becomes like Enlil “the lord of the lands,” and is known pre-eminently as the bel or “lord.” Addressed in terms which emphatically convey the impression that he is the one and only god, whatever tendencies toward a true monotheism are developed in the Euphrates Valley, all cluster about him. <>

Marduk“ is so constantly termed the “son of Ea” that there can be no doubt of his having originated in the region of the Persian Gulf at the head of which lay Eridu, the seat of the worship of Ea. Ea and Marduk thus bear the same relation to each other as do Enlil and Ninib on the one hand, and Anu and Enlil on the other. Of the character of Ea there is fortunately no doubt. He is the god of the waters, and the position of Eridu, at (or near) the point where the Euphrates and Tigris empty into the Persian Gulf, suggests that he is more particularly the guardian spirit of these two streams.

“Pictured as half-man, half-fish, he is the skar Apsi, “King of the Watery Deep.” The “Deep,” however, is not the salt ocean but the sweet waters flowing under the earth, which feed the streams, and through streams and canals irrigate the fields. This Apsu was personified, and presented a contrast and opposition to Tiamat, the personification of the salt ocean. The creation myth of Eridu, therefore, pictures a conflict at the beginning of time between Apsu and Tiamat, in which the former, under the direction of Ea, triumphs and holds in check the forces accompanying the monster Tiamat.” <>

Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site; British Museum ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia ; Louvre ; Metropolitan Museum of Art ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago ; Iraq Museum Database ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Marduk Replaces the Sumerian God Enlil as the Main Mesopotamian God

Inscription from Ekur, the temple of Enlil

Morris Jastrow said: “We see the same process repeated, though under somewhat different circumstances, at a subsequent period when, in consequence of the political ascendency of Babylon, Marduk is advanced to the head of the systematised pantheon. The time-honoured nature myth, somewhat modified in form, is transferred to him, but by this time the Ninib cult had receded into the background, and Enlil alone is introduced as transferring his powers and attributes to Marduk. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Marduk is represented as replacing Enlil, from which one might conclude that, as a further compromise between Enlil and Ninib, the myth was actually told of both, despite the incongruity involved in making a storm-god the conqueror of chaotic confusion. This is not only possible but probable, since, with the expansion of Enlil into a god presiding over vegetation, thus taking on the traits of a sun-god, his original character would naturally be obscured. As he was the head of the pantheon, possessing all the powers attributed to other gods, the tendency would arise to make him the central figure of all myths—the pre-eminent hero and conqueror. At the same time Ninib, as the old-time solar deity of Nippur, also absorbs the duties of other solar gods worshipped in other centres. He is identified with a god Ningirsu, “the lord of Girsu,”—a section of Lagash—who became the chief god of the district controlled by Gudea and his predecessors, of whose solar character there can be no doubt. <>

“In a certain hymn Ninib, is associated not only with Girsu, which here as elsewhere stands for Lagash and the district of which it was the centre, but also with Kish whose patron deity was known as Zamama. In this same composition he is identified also with Nergal, the solar deity of Uruk, with Lugal-Marada, “King of Marada,” the designation of the solar god localised in Marada, and with the sun-god of Isin. The god Ninib appears to have become in fact a general designation for the sun and the sun-god, though subsequently replaced by Babbar, “the shining one,” the solar deity of Sippar. This title in its Semitic form, Shamash, eventually became the general designation for the “sun” because of the prominence which Sippar, through the close association between Sippar and Babylon, acquired as a centre of the sun cult.

Enuma Elish, The Fifty Names of Marduk

Enuma Elish, The Fifty Names of Marduk, Tablet VIb - VII begins:
Let us then proclaim his fifty names:..'He whose ways are orious, whose deeds are likewise,

Hymn to Marduk cuneiform tablet

(1) MARDUK, as An, his father,"' called him from his birth;...
Who provides grazing and drinking places, enriches their stalls,
Who with the flood-storm, his weapon, vanquished the detractors,
(And) who the gods, his fathers, rescued from distress.
Truly, the Son of the Sun,"' most radiant of gods is he.
In his brilliant light may they walk forever!
On the people he brought forth, endowed with li[fe]...
The service of the gods he imposed that these may have ease.
Creation, destruction, deliverance, grace-
Shall be by his command."' They shall look up to him! [Source: E. A. Speiser,]
(2) MARUKKA verily is the god, creator of all,
Who gladdens the heart of the Anunnaki (earth spirits), appeases their [spirits].
(3) MARUTUKKU verily is the refuge of the land, protection of its people].
Unto him shall the' people give praise.
(4) BARASHAKUSHU... stood up and took hold of its... reins;
Wide is his heart, warm his sympathy. [Source: E. A. Speiser]

(5) LUCALDIMMFRANKIA is his name which we
proclaimed in our Assembly.
His commands we have exalted above the gods, his fathers.
Verily, he is lord of all the gods of heaven and earth,
The king at whose discipline the gods above and below are in mourning."
(6) NARI-LUGALDIMMNKIA is the name of him Whom we have called the monitor"' of the gods;
Who in heaven and on earth founds for us retreats"' in trouble,
And who allots stations to the Igigi (Sky Spirits) and Anunnaki.
At his name the gods shall tremble and quake in retreat. (7) ASARULUDU is that name of his Which Amu, his father, proclaimed for him.
He is truly the light of the gods, the mighty leader, Who, as the protecting deities"' of gods
and land, In fierce single combat saved our retreats in distress. Asaruludu, secondly, they have named

(8) NAMTILLAKU,The god who maintains life,"'
Who restored the lost gods, as though his own creation; The lord who revives the dead gods by his pure incantation, Who destroys the wayward foes. Let us praise his prowess!...
Asaruludu, whose name was thirdly called
(9) NAMRU, The shining god who illumines our ways.
Three each of his names"' have Anshar, Lahmu, and Lahamu proclaimed;
Unto the gods, their sons, they did utter them:
"We have proclaimed three each of his names.
Like us, do you utter his names!" joyfully the gods did heed their command,
As in Ubshukinna their exchanged counsels:
"Of the heroic son, our avenger,
Of our supporter we will exalt the name!"
They sat down in their Assembly to fashion"' destinies,
All of them uttering his names in the sanctuary.
(10) ASARU, bestower of cultivation, who established water levels;
Creator of grain and herbs, who causes [vegetation to sprout]."'
(11) ASARUALIM, who is honored in the place of counsel, [who excels in counsel];
To whom the gods hope,"' when pos[sessed of fear]...

Tutu is (14) ZIUKKINNA, life of the host of [the gods], Who established... for the gods the holy heavens; Who keeps a hold on their ways, determines [their courses];
He shall not be forgotten by the beciouded."' Let them [remember]... his deeds!
Tutu they thirdly called
(15) ZIKU, who establishes holiness,
The god of the benign breath, the lord who hearkens and acceeds;
Who produces riches and treasures, establishes abundance;...
Who has turned all our wants to plenty;
Whose benign breath we smelled in sore distress.
Let them speak, let them exalt, let them sing his praises!

Tutu, fourthly, let the people magnify as (16) AGAKU,
The lord of the holy charm, who revives the dead;
Who had mercy on the vanquished gods,
Who removed the voke imposed on the gods, his enemies,
(And) who, to redeem them, created mankind;
The merciful, in whose power it lies to grant life.
May his words endure, not to be forgotten,
In the mouth of the black-headed, whom his hands have created.

Tutu, fifthly, is (I7) TUKU, whose holy spell their mouths shall murmur;
Who with his holy charm has uprooted all the evil ones.
(18) SHAZU, who knows the heart of the gods, Who examines the inside;
From whom the evildoer cannot escape;
Who sets up the Assembly of the gods, gladdens their hearts;
Who subdues the insubmissive; their wide-spread [pro]tection;
Who directs justice, roots [out] crooked talk,
Who wrong and right in his place keeps apart...

(44) IRKINGU, who carried off Kingu in the thick"' of the battle
Who conveys guidance for all, establishes rulership.
(45) KINMA, who directs all the gods, the giver of counsel,
At whose name the gods quake in fear, as at the storm.
(46) ESIZKUR shall sit aloft in the house of prayer;
May the gods bring their presents before him,
That (from him) they may receive their assignments; None can without him create artful works.
Four black-headed ones are among his creatures;... Aside from him no god knows the answer as to their days.
(47) GIBIL, who maintains the sharp point of the weapon,
Who creates artful works in the battle with Tiamat; Who has broad wisdom, is accomplished in insight, Whose mind"-' is so vast that the gods, all of them, cannot fathom (it).

(48) ADDU be his name, the whole sky may he cover.
May his beneficent roar ever hover over
the earth;
May he, as Mummu,"' diminish the clouds;...
Below, for the people may he furnish sustenance.
(49) ASHARU, who, as is his name, guided"' the gods of destiny;
of all the gods is verily in his charge.
(50) NEBIRU shall hold the crossings of heaven and earth;
Those who failed of crossing above and below,
Ever of him shall inquire.
Nebiru is the star... which in the skies is brilliant.
Verily, he governs their turnings,"' to him indeed they look,
Saying: "He who the midst of the Sea restlessly crosses,
Let 'Crossing' be his name, who controls... its midst.
May they uphold the course of the stars of heaven;
May he shepherd all the gods like sheep.
May he vanquish Tiamat; may her life be strait and short!...
Into the future of mankind, when days have grown old,
May she recede... without cease and stay away forever.'

Marduk relief

Psalm to Marduk: Poem of the Righteous Sufferer

Tablet 1 of Poem of the Righteous Sufferer reads:
I will praise the lord of Wisdom, solicitous god,
Furious in the night, calming in the daylight;
Marduk! lord of wisdom, solicitous god,
Furious in the night, claiming in the daylight;
Whose anger engulfs like a tempest,
Whose breeze is sweet as the breath of morn
In his fury not to be withstood, his rage the deluge,
Merciful in his feelings, his emotions relenting.
The skies cannot sustain the weight of his hand,
His gentle palm rescues the moribund.
Marduk! The skies cannot sustain the weight of his hand,
His gentle palm rescues the moribund.
When he is angry, graves are dug,
His mercy raised the fallen from disaster.
When he glowers, protective spirits take flight, [Source: Foster, Benjamin R. (1995) “Before the Muses: myths, tales and poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia,” CDL Press, Bethesda, Maryland,]

He has regard for and turns to the one whose god has forsaken him.
Harsh is his punishments, he.... in battles
When moved to mercy, he quickly feels pain like a mother in labor.
He is bull-headed in love of mercy
Like a cow with a calf, he keeps turning around watchfully.
His scourge is barbed and punctures the body,
His bandages are soothing, they heal the doomed.
He speaks and makes one incur many sins,
On the day of his justice sin and guilt are dispelled.
He is the one who makes shivering and trembling,
Through his sacral spell chills and shivering are relieved.
Who raises the flood of Adad, the blow of Erra,
Wh reconciles the warthful god and goddess
The Lord divines the gods´ inmost thoughts
But no god understand his behavior,
Marduk divines the gods´s inmost thoughts
But no god understand his behavior!

As heavy his hand, so compassionate his heart
As brutal his weapons, no life-sustaining his feelings,
Without his consent, who could cure his blow?
Against his will, who could sin and escape?
I will proclaim his anger, which runs deep, like a fish,
He punished me abruptly, then granted life
I will teach the people, I will instruct the land to fear
To be mindful of him is propitious for ......
After the Lord changed day into night
And the warrior Marduk became furious with me,
My own god threw me over and disappeared,
My goddess broke rank and vanished
He cut off the benevolent angel who walked beside me
My protecting spirit was frightened off, to seek out someone else
My vigor was taken away, my manly appearance became gloomy,
My dignity flew off, my cover leaped away.
Terrifying signs beset me
I was forced out of my house, I wandered outside,

My omens were confused, they were abnormal every day,
The prognostication of diviner and dream interpreter could not explain what I was undergoing.
What was said in the street portended ill for me,
When I lay down at nights, my dream was terrifyng
The king, incarnation of the gods, sun of his people
His heart was enraged with me and appeasing him was impossible
Courtiers were plotting hostile against me,
They gathered themselves to instigate base deeds:
If the first !I will make him end his life"
Says the second "I ousted him from his command"
So likewise the third "I will get my hands on his post!"
"I will force his house!" vows the fourth
As the fifth pants to speak
Sixth and seventh follow in his train!" (literally in his protective spirit)
The clique of seven have massed their forces,
Merciless as fiends, equal to demons.
So one is hteir body, united in purpose,
Their hearts fulminate against me, ablaze like fire.
Slander and lies they try to lend credence against me...



Nebo was a close associate of Marduk. Nebo was the city-god of Borsippa, a town across the Euphrates from Babylon. Over time Nebo rose into prominence and attained honors almost equal to those of Marduk, and the twin cities of Babylon and Borsippa acquired almost inseparable gods.

Morris Jastrow said: “Opposite Babylon lies the famous town of Borsippa, designated in the inscriptions as “the city of the Euphrates,” which, as may be concluded from the name and from other indications, appears to be an older settlement than Babylon itself, and to have assumed earlier a position of importance as an intellectual and religious centre. When, however, Hammurabi raised Babylon to be the capital of his empire, Borsippa was obliged to yield its prerogatives, and gradually sank to the rank of a mere dependency upon Babylon—a kind of suburb to the capital city. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“The patron deity of Borsippa was a god known as Nebo, whose cult appears at one time to have been carried over into Babylon—perhaps before Marduk became the patron deity of the place. Marduk, however, replaces Nebo as Enlil replaced Ninib; but, just as at Nippur the older sun cult does not disappear, and Ninib becomes the son of Enlil, so the Nebo cult at Babylon is maintained, and Nebo is viewed as the son of Marduk. In both places, therefore, the “father” god appears to be the intruder who sets aside an older chief deity. The combination of Marduk and Nebo, expressed in these terms of relationship, continues to the end of the Babylonian empire. Nebo has a sanctuary within the temple area of Esagila at Babylon which bears the same name, Ezida, “the true house,” as the one given to Nebo’s temple at Borsippa. In return, Marduk has an Esagila, a “lofty house,” in Borsippa. In the Assyrian and later Babylonian periods the two names, Esagila and Ezida, are generally found in combination, as though inseparable in the minds of the Babylonians. Similarly, the two gods, Marduk and Nebo, are quite commonly invoked together, e.g., in the formula of greeting at the beginning of official letters, which, even in the case of the correspondence of the Assyrian monarchs, begin: “May Nebo and Marduk bless the king my lord!” <>

“Who was this god Nebo? The question is not easy to answer, though the most satisfactory view is to regard him as a counterpart of Ea. Like Ea, he is the embodiment and source of wisdom. The art of writing—and therefore of all literature—is more particularly associated with him. A common form of his name designates him as the “god of the stylus,” and his symbol on Boundary Stones is likewise the stylus of the scribes. He was regarded by the Assyrians also as the god of writing and wisdom, and Ashurbanapal, in the colophons to the tablets of his library, names Nebo and his consort Tashmit as the pair who instructed the king to preserve and collect the literary remains of the past. The study of the heavens formed part of the wisdom which is traced back to Nebo; and the temple school at Borsippa became one of the chief centres for the astrological and, subsequently, for the astronomical lore of Babylonia. The archives of that school in fact formed one of the chief resources for the scribes of Ashurbanapal, though the archives at Babylon were also largely drawn upon. In the Persian and Greek periods the school of Borsippa is frequently mentioned in colophons attached to school texts of various kinds, and it is not improbable that the school survived the one at Babylon. <>

“Like Ea, Nebo is also associated with the irrigation of the fields and with their consequent fertility. A hymn praises him as the one who fills the canals and the dikes, who protects the fields and brings the crops to maturity. From such phrases the conclusion has been drawn by some scholars that Nebo was originally a solar deity, like Marduk, but his traits as a god of vegetation can be accounted for on the supposition that he was a water-deity, like Ea, whose favour was essential to rich harvests. We may, however, also assume that the close partnership between him and Marduk had as a consequence a transfer of some of the father Marduk’s attributes as a solar deity to Nebo, his son, just as Ea passed his traits on to his son, Marduk. Although he is called upon to heal, Nebo plays no part in the incantation-ritual, which revolves, as we shall see, around two ideas—water, represented by Ea, and fire, represented by the fire-god Gibil or Nusku. The predominance of the Ea ritual in incantations left no room for a second water-deity— there was place only for Marduk as an intermediary between Ea and suffering mankind. We may, therefore, rest content with the conclusion that Nebo, like Marduk, belongs to the Eridu group of deities, that, as a counterpart to Ea, his duty was always of a secondary character, and that, with the growing importance of the Marduk cult, he becomes an adjunct to Marduk. This relationship is expressed by making Nebo the son of Marduk. The two pass down through the ages as an inseparable pair—representing a duality, and forming a parallel to that constituted by Ea and Marduk. <>

“Marduk and Nebo sum up, again, the two chief Powers of nature conditioning the welfare of the country—the sun and the watery element— precisely as do Ea and Marduk; with these latter, however, for reasons that have been given, the order is reversed, just as we have the double order, Anu and Enlil—sun and storm—by the side of Enlil and Ninib—storm and sun. The name Nebo designates the god as a “proclaimer,” while another sign with which his name is commonly written describes him as an artificer or creator. No doubt in his seat of worship, Borsippa, Nebo was at one time looked upon as the creator of the universe, just as Ea, Enlil, Ninib, and Marduk were so regarded in their respective centres. He is portrayed as holding the “tablets of fate” on which the destinies of individuals are inscribed. As “writer” or “scribe” among the gods, he records their decisions, as proclaimer or herald, he announces these decisions. Such functions point to his having occupied from an early period the position of an intermediary, and we are probably not wrong in supposing that the god whose orders he carries out was originally Ea, who was later replaced in this capacity by Marduk. Nebo could, however, retain his attributes as the god of writing without injury to the dignity and superiority of Marduk, for in the ancient Orient, as in the Orient of to-day, the kdtib or scribe is not a person of superior rank. Authorship was at no time in the ancient Orient a basis for social or political prestige. A writer was essentially a secretary who acted as an intermediary. <>

“The rank that Nebo holds in the systematised pantheon is due, therefore, almost entirely to his partnership with Marduk, and it is interesting to note that the Assyrian kings avail themselves of this association occasionally to play off Nebo, as it were, against Marduk. Some of them appear to pay their homage to Nebo rather than to Marduk, because the latter was in a measure a rival to the head of the Assyrian pantheon. Adad-nirari IV. (810-782 B.C.) goes so far in his adoration of Nebo as to inscribe on a statue of this god (or is it his own statue?): “Trust in Nebo! Trust in no other god !” The Nebo cult, which, like that of other gods, had its ebb and flow, must have enjoyed a special popularity in Assyria in the 9th century.” <>

Marduk Versus Nebo

ruins of the ziggurat and temple of Nabu in Borsippa

Morris Jastrow said: “No such rivalry between the Marduk and Nebo cults appears ever to have existed in Babylonia, though it is perhaps not without significance that in the days of the neo-Babylonian empire no less than three of the rulers bear names in which Nebo enters as one of the elements. The position of Marduk was, however, at all times too strong to be seriously affected by fashions in names or changes in the cult. He not only remains during all periods after Hammurabi the head of the pantheon, but as the ages rolled on he absorbed, as has already been pointed out, the attributes of all the great gods of the pantheon. He becomes the favourite of the gods as well as of men. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Starting out at Babylon with the absorption of the character of Ea, combining in his person the two Powers, water and the sun, which comprise so large a share of divine government and control of the universe, he ends by taking over also the duties of Enlil of Nippur. This is of the greatest significance. It argues for the boldness of the Marduk priests and for the security of Marduk’s position that they gave to Marduk the title that was so long the prerogative of Enlil, to wit, bel, “the lord” paramount. The old nature-myths are once more adopted by the priests of Marduk and transformed so as to give to Marduk the central position. It is he who seizes the tablets of fate from the Zu bird—the personification of some solar deity,—and henceforth holds the destiny of mankind in his hands. <>

“The creation-myth is transformed into a paeon celebrating the deeds of Marduk. What in one version was ascribed to Anu, in another to Ninib, in a third to Enlil, and in a fourth to Ea, is in the Babylon version ascribed to Marduk. Two series of creation-stories are combined; one embodying an account of a conflict with a monster, the symbol of primaeval chaos, the other a story of rebellion against Ea which is successfully quelled. In the first group we can distinguish three versions, one originating at Uruk in which the solar god Anu becomes the conqueror of Tiamat, the other two originating at Nippur, an earlier one in which the solar god Ninib takes the part assigned, in the Uruk version, to Anu, and a later one in which Enlil replaces Ninib. The character of the myth is thereby changed. Instead of symbolising the triumph of the sun of the springtime over the storms of winter, it becomes an illustration of the subjugation of chaos by the rise of law and order in the universe. <>

Marduk, Nebo, Creation and Monotheism

Morris Jastrow said: “In the Babylon or Marduk version, Anu is at first dispatched by the gods against the monster but is frightened at the sight of her. All the other gods, too, are in mortal terror of Tiamat but Marduk offers to proceed against her on condition that in case of his triumph the entire assemblage of the gods shall pay him homage and acknowledge his sway. The compact is accepted, and Marduk arms himself for the fray. The weapons that he takes— the four winds and the various storms, the tempest, the hurricane, and tornado—symbolise his absorption of the part of Enlil, the god of storms. Marduk meets Tiamat, and dispatches her by inflating her with an evil wind, and then bursting her open with his lance. The gods rejoice and give him their names, a procedure which, according to the views of antiquity, is equivalent to bestowing upon him their essence and their attributes.[Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“After all the gods have thus done, Enlil advances and hails Marduk as bêl mâtâti, “lord of lands,” which was one of Enlil’s special names, and finally Ea solemnly declares that Marduk’s name shall also be Ea]: “He who has been glorified by his fathers, He shall be as I am—Ea be his name!” The purpose of the story is evident. All the religious centres pay homage to Babylon—the seat of the Marduk cult; Marduk absorbs the attributes and powers of all the other gods. <>

“In the schools this prominence of Marduk as a reflection of the political supremacy of Babylon is still further developed, and finds a striking expression in a fragment of composition preserved for us by a fortunate chance: <>
Ea is the Marduk of canals;
Ninib is the Marduk of strength;
Nergal is the Marduk of war;
Zamama is the Marduk of battle;
Enlil is the Marduk of sovereignty and control;
Nebo is the Marduk of possession;
Sin is the Marduk of illumination of the night;
Shamash is the Marduk of judgments;
Adad is the Marduk of rain;
Tishpak is the Marduk of the host;
Gal is the Marduk of strength;
Shukamunu is the Marduk of the harvest. <>

“From this text, scholars have drawn the conclusion that the Babylonian religion resulted in a monotheistic conception of the universe. Is this justified? In so far as Marduk absorbs the characters of all the other gods, there is no escape from this much of the conclusion:—there was a tendency towards monotheism in the Euphrates Valley, as there was at one time in Egypt. On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that similar lists were drawn up by priests. They reveal the speculations of the temple-schools rather than popular beliefs, but even when thus viewed, their aim was probably to go no farther than to illustrate in a striking manner the universality of the god’s nature so as to justify his position at the head of the pantheon. This position was emphasised in an equally striking manner by the ceremonies of New Year’s day, when a formal assembly of the gods was held in a special shrine in Babylon, close by the temple area, with all the chief gods grouped about Marduk, (just as the princes, governors, and generals stand about the king), paying homage to him as their chief, and deciding in solemn state the fate of the country and of individuals for the coming year. <>

“The Babylonian priest could re-echo the ecstatic cry of the Psalmist (Ps. lxxxvi., 8) — “There is none like thee among the gods, O Lord, And there is nothing like thy works” — with this important difference, however, that, in the mind of the Hebrew poet, Jahweh was the only power that had a real existence, whereas to the Babylonian priest Marduk was merely the first and highest in the divine realm. Still, that the other gods are merely manifestations of Marduk (a fair implication of the list) is a thought which not improbably presented itself to some of the choicer minds among the priests, though it remained without practical consequences. A certain tendency toward a monotheistic conception of the universe is after all no unusual phenomenon, nor is monotheism in itself necessarily, the outcome of a deep religious spirit— it may sometimes be the product of rationalistic speculation. In many a Babylonian composition the term ilu, “god,” is used in a manner to convey the impression that there was only one god to be appealed to. Greek and Roman writers often speak of 0so<; and deus in much the same way as we ourselves do; and even among people on a low level of culture we are constantly surprised by indications that, albeit in a faint and imperfect manner, the thought occurs that all nature is the manifestation of a single Power, though generally not a Power to be directly approached. The distinctive feature of Hebrew monotheism is its consistent adherence to the principle of a transcendent deity, and of the reorganisation of the cult in obedience to this principle. No attempt was made at any time in Babylonia and Assyria to set aside the cult of other gods in favour of Marduk. On the contrary, side by side with the Marduk cult in Babylonia and with the cult of Ashur in Assyria, we find down to the latest period all— Sin, Shamash, Nebo, Ninib, Nergal, Adad, Ishtar —receiving in their special shrines the homage which tradition and long established ritual had prescribed.” <>


Enlil and Ninlil

Enlil (Bel) was a storm or wind god and the main god in Nippur. Some Christian writers have equated the Holy Spirit as a "person" to Enlil as the chief administrator of the other "gods." His chief, in turn, is Nusku and he is the leader of the Anunnaki (the triad of deities that also includes Anu and Ea).

Enlil was the main Sumerian deity and sometimes treated like supreme deity. Nippur, built on the Euphrates and at its height around 2500 B.C., was the home of important temple dedicated to Enlil and other temples, including one dedicated to Bau (Gula), the Mesopotamian goddess of healing. Nippur (pronounced nĭ poor’) was the main religious center of Sumer and remained an important religious center through the Babylonian and Assyrian eras. Nippur was seat of the cult of Enlil. It was never an important city-state and was ruled by other city-states.

Morris Jastrow said: “We have seen that the city of Nippur occupied a special place among the older centres of the Euphrates Valley, marked not by any special political predominance—though this may once have been the case—but by a striking religious significance. Corresponding to this position of the city, we find the chief deity of the place, even in the oldest period, occupying a commanding place in the pantheon and retaining a theoretical leadership even after Enlil was forced to yield his prerogatives to Marduk. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“The name Enlil is composed of two Sumerian elements and signifies the “lord of the storm.” His character as a storm-god, thus revealed in his name, is further illustrated by traits ascribed to him. The storm constitutes his weapon. He is frequently described and addressed as the “Great Mountain.” His temple at Nippur is known as E-Kur, “Mountain House,” which term, because of the supreme importance of this Temple, became, as we have seen,the general name for a sanctuary. Since, moreover, his consort Ninlil is designated as Nin-Kharsag, “Lady of the Mountain,” there are substantial reasons for assuming that his original seat was on the top of some mountain, as is so generally the case with storm-deities like Jahweh, the god of the Hebrews, the Hittite god Teshup, Zeus, and others. There being no mountains in the Euphrates Valley, the further conclusion is warranted that Enlil was the god of a people whose home was in a mountainous region, and who brought their god with them when they came to the Euphrates Valley, just as the Hebrews carried the cult of Jahweh with them when they passed from Mt. Sinai into Palestine. Nippur is so essentially a Sumerian settlement that we must perforce associate the earliest cult of Enlil with the non-Semitic element in the population. Almost the only region from which the Sumerians could have come was the east or the north-east—the district which in a general way we may designate by the name Elam, though the Sumerians, like the Kassites in later days, might have originated in a region considerably to the north of Elam.” <>

Importance of Enlil

reconstruction of the temple of Nippur

Morris Jastrow said: “The god Enlil is an example of a deity whose Sumerian origin may be set down as certain. His mountainous origin is indicated in an ancient lamentation-hymn in which he is addressed as the “offspring of the mountain,”while the seven chief names given to him clearly demonstrate his Sumerian origin. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Many of these Sumerian hymns, forming part of a ritual of lamentation, give an enumeration of these names:
O lord of the lands!
O lord of the living command!
O divine Enlil, father of Sumer!
O shepherd of the dark-headed people!
O hero who seest by thine own power!
Strong lord, directing mankind!
Hero, who causest multitudes to repose in peace! <>

“The terms in which he is addressed, however, reflect also the broader and more general character given to him, pointing to a deity who has far outgrown the original proportions of a local god with limited sway. The great antiquity of the Enlil cult at Nippur was probably the most important factor in giving to this deity and his temple such significance in the eyes of the inhabitants of the Euphrates Valley. As he pertained to a great religious centre the control whereof stirred the ambition of the various rulers of Euphratean states, it was a natural tendency to assign to Enlil attributes and qualities belonging of right to personifications of natural powers other than the one which he originally represented. Transferred from his original mountain home to a valley dependent for its support on the cultivation of the soil, Enlil assumes the traits of the Power that fosters vegetation. This association becomes all the more likely in view of the climate of the Euphrates Valley, where fertility is dependent upon the storms and rains of winter which Enlil so distinctly personified. In these same ancient compositions he is, therefore, addressed also as the “lord of vegetation,” as well as the “lord of storms.” The storm, sweeping over the land, is personified as his “word” or “command” and described as bringing on devastation and ruin, overwhelming the meadows in their beauty, flooding the crops, and laying waste the habitations of men. <>

“The god is pictured as a rushing deluge that brings woe to mankind, a torrent sweeping away buttresses and dikes, an onrushing storm which none can oppose:
The word that causes the heavens on high to tremble,
The word that makes the earth below to quake,
The word that brings destruction to the Annunaki.
His word is beyond the diviner, beyond the seer,
His word is a tempest without a rival. <>

“The power residing in his word is well summed up in a refrain:
The word of the lord the heavens cannot endure,
The word of Enlil the earth cannot endure.
The heavens cannot endure the stretching forth of his hand,
The earth cannot endure the setting forth of his foot. <>

“But it is this same word which elsewhere is described as having created the world, as having laid the foundations of the earth, and called the upper world into existence. His character as a god of vegetation is directly indicated in another hymn which opens as follows:
O Enlil, Councillor, who can grasp thy power?
Endowed with strength, lord of the harvest lands!
Created in the mountains, lord of the grain fields!
Ruler of great strength, father Enlil!
The powerful chief of the gods art thou,
The great creator and sustainer of life!

Enlil and the Hebrew God Jahweh

Map of Nippur

Morris Jastrow said: “Among the ancient Hebrews we have a parallel development; where Jahweh, originally a god of storms, perhaps also of earthquakes, who manifests himself in the lightning, and whose voice is heard in » the thunder, is magnified into the creator of the universe, the producer of vegetation, and the protector of harvests and of crops. Like Enlil, Jahweh comes from the mountains. His seat is on the top of Mt. Sinai, or, as it is said in the Song of Deborah, on Mt. Seir in Edom. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Traces of this early conception of Jahweh as a storm-god still linger in the metaphors of late Psalms where the power of the god of the universe is described: <>
The voice of Jahweh is upon the waters,
The god of glory thundereth,
Jahweh is upon the great waters.
The voice of Jahweh is full of power,
The voice of Jahweh is full of might,
The voice of Jahweh breaketh cedars,
Jahweh breaks the cedars of Lebanon and makes them skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a young mountain-bull.
The voice of Jahweh hews flames of fire,
The voice of Jahweh shakes the wilderness,
Jahweh shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. <>

“A vivid description, indeed, of a storm-god rushing onward in furious haste, uprooting mighty cedars and driving them before him like a flock of cattle! The voice of Jahweh is the thunder in the storm, and the flame of fire is the lightning, but what is set down as a metaphor in this late composition is really the survival in language of the conceptions that once were held as literal.” <>

Enlil and Bulls

Morris Jastrow said: “Like Enlil, however, Jahweh assumes also the attributes of the Canaanitish deities of vegetation —the Baals—when the Hebrews, dispossessing the older inhabitants, definitely entered on the agricultural stage. Jahweh himself becomes a Baal to whom the first fruits of the field are offered as a tribute to his power in making the grass to grow and the fields to be covered with verdure (Ps. civ., 14). A further analogy between Enlil and Jahweh is suggested by the description of the former as a mighty ox or bull, which recalls the fact that Jahweh was worshipped in the northern Hebrew kingdom under the symbol of a calf. An entire series of hymns and lamentations is recognised as addressed to Enlil from the opening words “the Bull to his sanctuary,” where the bull designates Enlil. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“In a fragment of a hymn, Enlil is described as:
Crouching in the lands like a sturdy mountain bull,
Whose horns shine like the brilliance of the sun,
Full of splendour like Venus of the heavens. <>

“In another composition the refrain reads, “A sturdy bull art thou.” When we see votive offerings with the figure of a bull, or representations of a crouching bull with a human face, we are tempted to assert that they are symbols of Enlil; and if this be so, further traces of the association between the god and the animal may be seen both in the colossal bulls which form a feature of Assyrian art and were placed at the entrance to temples and palaces, and in the bull as the decoration of columns in the architecture of the Persian period. <>

“The bull is so commonly in ancient religions a symbol of the power residing in the sun that the association of this animal with Enlil and Jahweh presumably belongs to the period when the original traits of these deities as storm-gods were overlaid by the extended conception of them as gods of vegetation, presiding, therefore, like the solar deities over agricultural life. The Baals of the Canaanites, we know, were personifications of the sun; and in the case of Nippur we can with reasonable certainty name the solar deity, whose attributes were transferred to Enlil.” <>

excavations at Nippur in 1893

Enlil in the E-Kur

Enlil in the E-kur (Enlil A) reads: “Enlil's commands are by far the loftiest, his words are holy, his utterances are immutable! The fate he decides is everlasting, his glance makes the mountains anxious, his ...... reaches into the interior of the mountains. All the gods of the earth bow down to father Enlil , who sits comfortably on the holy dais, the lofty dais, to Nunamnir , whose lordship and princeship are most perfect. The Anuna gods enter before him and obey his instructions faithfully.” [Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University,]

“Enlil , faithful shepherd of the teeming multitudes, herdsman, leader of all living creatures, has manifested his rank of great prince, adorning himself with the holy crown. As the Wind of the Mountain occupied the dais, he spanned the sky as the rainbow. Like a floating cloud, he moved alone . He alone is the prince of heaven, the dragon of the earth. The lofty god of the Anuna himself determines the fates. No god can look upon him. His great minister and commander (1 ms. has instead: chief barber) Nuska learns his commands and his intentions from him, consults with him and then executes his far-reaching instructions on his behalf. He prays to him with holy prayers and divine powers .

“Enlil , your ingenuity takes one's breath away! By its nature it is like entangled threads which cannot be unraveled, crossed threads which the eye cannot follow. Your divinity can be relied on. You are your own counsellor and adviser, you are a lord on your own. Who can comprehend your actions? No divine powers are as resplendent as yours. No god can look you in the face.

You, Enlil , are lord, god, king. You are a judge who makes decisions about heaven and earth. Your lofty word is as heavy as heaven, and there is no one who can lift it. The Anuna gods ...... at your word. Your word is weighty in heaven, a foundation on the earth. In the heavens, it is a great ......, reaching up to the sky. On the earth it is a foundation which cannot be destroyed. When it relates to the heavens, it brings abundance: abundance will pour from the heavens. When it relates to the earth, it brings prosperity: the earth will produce prosperity. Your word means flax, your word means grain. Your word means the early flooding, the life of the lands. It makes the living creatures, the animals which copulate and breathe joyfully in the greenery. You, Enlil, the good shepherd, know their ways . ...... the sparkling stars.

“You married Ninlil , the holy consort, whose words are of the heart, her of noble countenance in a holy ma garment, her of beautiful shape and limbs, the trustworthy lady of your choice. Covered with allure, the lady who knows what is fitting for the E-kur , whose words of advice are perfect, whose words bring comfort like fine oil for the heart, who shares the holy throne, the pure throne with you, she takes counsel and discusses matters with you. You decide the fates together at the place facing the sunrise. Ninlil , the lady of heaven and earth, the lady of all the lands, is honoured in the praise of the Great Mountain.”

Diorite mortar, an offering from Gudea ro Enlil

Enlil and Nippur in the E-Kur

Enlil in the E-kur (Enlil A) reads: ““The mighty lord, the greatest in heaven and earth, the knowledgeable judge, the wise one of wide-ranging wisdom, has taken his seat in the Dur-an-ki , and made the Ki-ur , the great place, resplendent with majesty. He has taken up residence in Nibru [Nippur], the lofty bond between heaven and earth. The front of the city is laden with terrible fearsomeness and radiance, its back is such that even the mightiest god does not dare to attack, and its interior is the blade of a sharp dagger, a blade of catastrophe. For the rebel lands it is a snare, a trap, a net. [Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University,]

“It cuts short the life of those who speak too mightily. It permits no evil word to be spoken in judgement . ......, deception, inimical speech, hostility, impropriety, ill-treatment, wickedness, wrongdoing, looking askance , violence, slandering, arrogance, licentious speech , egotism and boasting are abominations not tolerated within the city.

“The borders of Nibru [Nippur]form a great net, within which the hurin eagle spreads wide its talons. The evil or wicked man does not escape its grasp. In this city endowed with steadfastness, for which righteousness and justice have been made a lasting possession, and which is clothed in pure clothing on the quay, the younger brother honours the older brother and treats him with human dignity; people pay attention to a father's word, and submit themselves to his protection; the child behaves humbly and modestly towards his mother and attains a ripe old age.”

“Enlil , when you marked out the holy settlements, you also built Nibru , your own city. You ...... the Ki-ur , the mountain, your pure place. You founded it in the Dur-an-ki , in the middle of the four quarters of the earth. Its soil is the life of the Land, and the life of all the foreign countries. Its brickwork is red gold, its foundation is lapis lazuli. You made it glisten on high in Sumer as if it were the horns of a wild bull. It makes all the foreign countries tremble with fear. At its great festivals, the people pass their time in abundance.

“Enlil , if you look upon the shepherd favourably, if you elevate the one truly called in the Land, then the foreign countries are in his hands, the foreign countries are at his feet! Even the most distant foreign countries submit to him. He will then cause enormous incomes and heavy tributes, as if they were cool water, to reach the treasury. In the great courtyard he will supply offerings regularly. Into the E-kur , the shining temple, he will bring.”

Enlil Temple in the E-Kur

Enlil in the E-kur (Enlil A): ““In the city, the holy settlement of Enlil , in Nibru [Nippur] , the beloved shrine of father Great Mountain, he has made the dais of abundance, the E-kur , the shining temple, rise from the soil; he has made it grow on pure land as high as a towering mountain. Its prince, the Great Mountain, father Enlil , has taken his seat on the dais of the E-kur , the lofty shrine. No god can cause harm to the temple's divine powers. Its holy hand-washing rites are everlasting like the earth. Its divine powers are the divine powers of the abzu: no one can look upon them. [Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University,]

“Its interior is a wide sea which knows no horizon. In its ...... glistening as a banner , the bonds and ancient divine powers are made perfect. Its words are prayers, its incantations are supplications. Its word is a favourable omen ......, its rites are most precious. At the festivals, there is plenty of fat and cream; they are full of abundance. Its divine plans bring joy and rejoicing, its verdicts are great. Daily there is a great festival, and at the end of the day there is an abundant harvest. The temple of Enlil is a mountain of abundance; to reach out, to look with greedy eyes, to seize are abominations in it.

“The lagar priests of this temple whose lord has grown together with it are expert in blessing; its gudu priests of the abzu are suited for lustration rites; its nuec priests are perfect in the holy prayers. Its great farmer is the good shepherd of the Land, who was born vigorous on a propitious day. The farmer, suited for the broad fields, comes with rich offerings; he does not ...... into the shining E-kur .

“Enlil , holy Urac is favoured with beauty for you; you are greatly suited for the abzu, the holy throne; you refresh yourself in the deep underworld, the holy chamber. Your presence spreads awesomeness over the E-kur , the shining temple, the lofty dwelling. Its fearsomeness and radiance reach up to heaven, its shadow stretches over all the foreign lands, and its crenellation reaches up to the midst of heaven. All lords and sovereigns regularly supply holy offerings there, approaching Enlil with prayers and supplications.

Without the Great Mountain Enlil , no city would be built, no settlement would be founded; no cow-pen would be built, no sheepfold would be established; no king would be elevated, no lord would be given birth; no high priest or priestess would perform extispicy; soldiers would have no generals or captains; no carp-filled waters would ...... the rivers at their peak; the carp would not ...... come straight up from the sea, they would not dart about. The sea would not produce all its heavy treasure, no freshwater fish would lay eggs in the reedbeds, no bird of the sky would build nests in the spacious land; in the sky the thick clouds would not open their mouths; on the fields, dappled grain would not fill the arable lands, vegetation would not grow lushly on the plain; in the gardens, the spreading trees of the mountain would not yield fruits.

Without the Great Mountain, Enlil , Nintud would not kill, she would not strike dead; no cow would drop its calf in the cattle-pen, no ewe would bring forth ...... lamb in its sheepfold; the living creatures which multiply by themselves would not lie down in their ....; the four-legged animals would not propagate, they would not mate.”

Temple of Bel in Palmyra

To Bel (Enlil), Lord of Wisdom: Babylonian Prayer

“To Bel, Lord of Wisdom” (1600 B.C.) goes:
1. O Lord of wisdom your own right,
O Bel, Lord of wisdom.............ruler in your own right,
O father Bel, Lord of the lands,
O father Bel, Lord of truthful speech,

“5. O father Bel, shepherd of the Sang-Ngiga [black-headed ones, or Babylonians],
O father Bel, who yourself opens the eyes,
O father Bel, the warrior, prince among soldiers,
O father Bel, supreme power of the land,
Bull of the corral, warrior who leads captive all the land.

“10. O Bel, proprietor of the broad land,
Lord of creation, you are chief of the land,
The Lord whose shining oil is food for an extensive offspring,
The Lord whose edicts bind together the city,
The edict of whose dwelling place strikes down the great prince

“15. From the land of the rising to the land of the setting sun.
O mountain, Lord of life, you are indeed Lord!
O Bel of the lands, Lord of life you yourself are Lord of life.
O mighty one, terrible one of heaven, you are guardian indeed!
O Bel, you are Lord of the gods indeed!

“20. You are father, Bel, who cause the plants of the gardens to grow!
O Bel, your great glory may they fear!
The birds of heaven and the fish of the deep are filled with fear of you.
O father Bel, in great strength you go, prince of life, shepherd of the stars!
O Lord, the secret of production you open, the feast of fatness establish, to work you call!
25. Father Bel, faithful prince, mighty prince, you create the strength of life!
[Source: George A. Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”,” 3rd Ed., (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1920), pp. 398-401]

Enlil and Nam-Zid.Tara

Enlil and Nam-zid-tara reads: “1-10 Nam-zid-tara walked by Enlil, who said to him: "Where have you come from, Nam-zid-tara?" "From Enlil's temple. My turn of duty is finished. I serve at the place of the gudu priests, with their sheep. I am on my way home. Don't stop me; I am in a hurry. Who are you who asks me questions?"[Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University,]

“11-18 "I am Enlil." But Enlil had changed his appearance: he had turned into a raven and was croaking. "But you are not a raven, you really are Enlil!" "How did you recognise that I am Enlil, who decrees the destinies?" 17-18 "When your uncle En-me-cara was a captive, after taking for himself the rank of Enlil, he said: "Now I shall know the fates, like a lord."

19-23 "You may acquire precious metals, you may acquire precious stones, you may acquire cattle or you may acquire sheep; but the day of a human being is always getting closer, so where does your wealth lead? Now, I am indeed Enlil, who decrees the fates. What is your name?"

24-27 "My name is Nam-zid-tara (Well-blessed). " "Your fate shall be assigned according to your name: leave the house of your master, and your heirs shall come and go regularly in my temple."


Morris Jastrow said: “By the side of Enlil we find a god whose name is provisionally read Ninib prominently worshipped in Nippur in the earliest days to which we can trace back the history of that city. Indeed, Ninib belongs to Nippur quite as much as does Enlil, and there are reasons for believing that he is the original chief protecting deity of the region who was replaced by Enlil. Was he worshipped there before the Sumerians brought their mountain god to the Euphrates Valley? Prof. Clay, who has shown that the real form of the god’s name was En-Mashtu, is of the opinion that he is of Amoritish origin. Without entering into a discussion of this intricate problem, which would carry us too far, it would indeed appear that non-Sumerian influences were at work in evolving the figure of Ninib or En-Mashtu. If it could be definitely shown, as Clay assumes, that Mashtu is a variant form of Martu,—the common designation of Amurru as the “land of the west,”—En-Mashtu, “the lord of Mashtu,” would be the “Sumerian” designation of this non-Sumerian deity. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“In the systematised pantheon of the old Babylonian period Ninib is viewed as the son of Enlil, a relationship that expresses the superior position which Enlil acquired, and which is revealed in the common designation of Nippur as the “place of Enlil,” though we find Nippur described also as “the beloved city of Ninib. The two gods in combination, the storm and the sun, stand for the two chief forces of nature that control the prosperity and welfare of the Euphrates Valley; and this combination was viewed in terms of human relationship, with the natural consequence of an harmonious exchange of their attributes. It is from Ninib that Enlil receives the traits of a god of vegetation, and, in return, the father transfers to the son, as in another religious centre Ea does to Marduk, some of his own attributes. Like Enlil, Ninib is addressed as the “honoured one.” He is the exalted hero of the universe and it is said of him, as it is said of Enlil, that “no one can grasp the power of his word.”A warrior, he rides forth to carry out his father’s command. So close is this association with Enlil that Ninib even assumes some of the traits belonging to the father as the storm-god. <>

“In a composition that appears to beholder than the days of Hammurabi, Ninib is portrayed as an onrushing storm: “In the thunderous rolling of thy chariot/ Heaven and earth quake as thou advancest.” Most significant, however, as illustrating the exchange of traits between Enlil and Ninib, is the form assumed in an ancient myth symbolising the conquest of chaos—pictured as a great monster—by the Power that brings order into the universe. The obvious interpretation of the myth is the triumph of the sun in the spring over the storms and torrents of the winter. <>

“The character of conqueror belongs, therefore, of right to a solar deity like Ninib, just as it fits the god of Babylon, the later Marduk, who is likewise the sun personified; but in a composition describing the powerful weapons wielded in this conflict by Ninib, we find among the names of the weapons such expressions as — “storm-god with fifty mouths,” “miraculous storm,” “destroyer of mountains,”“invincible mountain” — which point unmistakably to a personification of the storm, like Enlil. These designations appear by the side of others — such as the ““weapon whose sheen overpowers the land,” “the one made of gold and lapis-lazuli,” and “burning like fire” — that clearly belong to Ninib as the personification of the fiery sun. The conclusion has generally been drawn that the myth was originally told of Enlil and transferred to Ninib; but Enlil, as a god of the storms and rains of winter, would more naturally be identified with the conquered monster. The more reasonable assumption is that the myth dates from the period when Ninib still held a commanding postion in the “Nippur” circle of deities, and that, with the advance of Enlil to the headship of the pantheon, he was given a share in the conquest of chaos as a necessary condition of the creation of the universe of law and order. Enlil was, accordingly, represented as the power behind the throne who hands over his attributes— symbolised by the storm weapons—to his beloved son, who at the command of his father proceeds to conquer the monster.



Ea or Enki or Ea was an amicable God of the Underworld. In Sumer he formed a triad with the gods Enlil and Anu. Later he formed a triad with Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of fertility and love, who was worshiped by both the Babylonians and Assyriansm and the main Babylonian god Marduk or the main Assyrian god Ashur. Ea was the "patron god of music" and much more. According to Biblical scholar George Barton Ea is the Babylonian version of Lamech. Lamech was the "father" of offspring associated with the use of weapons and musical instruments to collectivize people under a central "Tower of Babel" or tower of power political-religious institution.

Morris Jastrow said: “As in the case of Enlil, Ea’s strength rests in his word, but the word of Ea is of a character more spiritual than that of Enlil—not the roar of the ocean but the gentle flow of streams. He commands, and what he plans comes into existence. A wholly beneficent power, he blesses the fields and heals mankind. His most striking trait is his love of humanity; in conflicts between the gods and mankind, he is invariably on the side of the latter. When the gods at the instance of Enlil as the god of storms decide to bring on a deluge to sweep away mankind, it is Ea who reveals the secret to his favourite Utnapishtim, who saves himself, his family, and his belongings on a ship that he is instructed to build. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“At Eridu it is Ea who is regarded as the creator of the universe, including mankind, but he is an artificer who produces by the cunning of his hand. The world is made by him as an architect builds a house. This character he retains throughout all periods. It is to him that the origin of the Arts is attributed: he is the patron of smiths and of all workers in metals. Down through the Greek period the tradition is preserved which makes him the teacher of mankind to whom all knowledge and science are due—the knowledge of effective incantations, the purification from disease, the art of writing, and the wisdom of the heavens. The waters thus personified by Ea present a striking contrast both to the angry billows of the turbulent and treacherous ocean, and to the waters that on the command of Enlil come from on high, causing the rivers to overstep their banks, bursting the dams and canals, flooding the fields, and working general havoc among the habitations of mankind. <>

“Of the numerous designations for Ea, a very common one was En-ki which describes him as “lord of the earth.” As a water deity it was natural that he should be associated with the earth, also the scene of his beneficent activity. Earth and water represent a close partnership, more particularly in a low country like the Euphrates Valley where one does not have to dig far before coming to the domain of Ea. Enlil thus controls the surface of the earth and the region of storms just above it, while to Ea belongs the control of the waters and the interior of the earth, fed by the streams over which he presides.” <>

Ea, Enlil and Marduk and Rivalry Between Their Cult Centers

Enki (Ea)

Morris Jastrow said: “The deluge story just referred to not only illustrates this contrast between Ea and Enlil but suggests the rivalry that must at one time have existed between the two centres, Eridu and Nippur. Ea is represented as thwarting the purpose of Enlil, and on discovering what Ea has done, Enlil is enraged with his rival. At the same time, the reconciliation described at the close of the tale indicates the process of combination and assimilation of the two cults under the influence of the priests in their endeavour to systematise the relationship between the deities worshipped in the important centres. Ea eloquently implores Enlil as the god of storms not to bring on a deluge again. Let mankind be punished by sending lions and jackals, by famine or pestilence, but not by a deluge.” Enlil is touched with pity, and, after blessing Utnapishtim and his wife, consents to their being carried to the confluence of the streams, there to live a life like that of the gods. Just as in the association of Anu with Enlil we have the endeavour to bring the cults of Uruk and Nippur into relationship with each other, so in the reconciliation of Enlil with Ea there is foreshadowed, or rather reflected, the addition of the Eridu group of deities to those worshipped in Nippur and Uruk. To the duality of gods represented by Anu and Enlil, the priests in their systematising efforts were thus led to add a third member, Ea. All three were delocalised, as it were, and converted into symbolisations of the three divisions of the universe— heavens, earth, and water. To be sure, the division was not always made with the desirable precision. The earth was in a measure common ground on which Enlil and Ea met. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“There are thus chiefly two factors at work in leading to the formation of a definite and theoretically constructed pantheon: the gradual rise of a limited number of important religious and political centres, and the endeavour of the priests to bring the cults in these centres into relationship with one another. The delocalisation involved in the position of Ea as the third member of the triad could proceed without any loss of prestige on his part, since Ea was represented as voluntarily transferring to his son> Marduk, his chief share in the practical cult—that of securing through purification-rites and incantation-formulas release from sickness and physical suffering, brought on by demons or through the machinations of witches and sorcerers. Marduk is the complement to Enlil. Ea and Marduk, personifying the watery element and the sun, thus sum up the two chief Powers of nature, precisely as Enlil and Ninib represent this combination, only from another and more austere point of view. <>

“The solar character of Marduk appears in the two signs with which his name—in its most common form —is written, which designate him as “child of day.” The terms in which he is addressed in hymns further illustrate this character. He is “the shining one” whose course is across “the resplendent heavens.” His appearance is pictured as a flaming fire. He illuminates the universe, and he is directly associated with Shamash, the chief sun-god of the later pantheon: “Thou art like Shamash, illuminator of darkness.” On the other hand, his association with Ea is equally marked, and as a consequence of this association he assumes the attributes of the god of waters. In incantation-texts a dialogue is frequently introduced in which Ea, when appealed to by the exorcising priests, is represented as calling upon his son to perform the healing act: ‘What dost thou not know that I could tell thee?
What I know, thou also knowest.
Go! My son Marduk! To the house of purification bring him [i.e., the sick person]!
Break the ban! Release him from the curse! <>

“Marduk, like Ea, is often addressed as the god of canals, and the opener of subterranean fountains: ‘Lord of mountain streams and of waters, / Opener of sources and cisterns, controller of streams.’ Like Ea, again, he is addressed as the source of the wisdom of mankind: ‘Wise one, first-born of Ea, creator of all humanity.’ In representations of the god he stands above the watery deep, with a horned creature at his feet that is also the symbol of Ea. Lastly, Marduk’s temple at Babylon bears the same name, Esagila, “the lofty house,” as Ea’s sanctuary at Eridu, though this, or perhaps another sanctuary of Ea at Eridu, was also known as E-Apsu, “house of the watery deep.” <>

“This agreement in the name of the sanctuaries of the two gods confirms the evidence from other sources, which enables us actually to trace the cult of Marduk back to Eridu. If we find, therefore, the Marduk cult, from a certain period on, centred in a northern city like Babylon, we have every reason to believe that the settlement of this place was due to a movement from the south—and more particularly from the district of which Eridu was the centre—in accord, therefore, with the general course of civilisation in Babylonia from south to north. Babylon thus turns out to be an offshoot of Eridu. Its foundation antedates Sargon, for he finds the city already in existence and enlarges it; but it is possible that it was he who gave to it the name of Babylon.” <>

Enki (Ea) and the World Order

Mircea Eliade of the University of Chicago wrote: “'Enki and the World Order' is one of the longest and best preserved of the extant Sumerian narrative poems. The poem begins with a hymn of praise addressed to Enki; some of it is destroyed and unintelligible, but generally speaking, it seems to exalt Enki as the god who watches over the universe and is responsible for the fertility of field and farm, flock and herd. It continues to follow the same motif at some length, with Enki now praising himself, now being praised by the gods. Next, a badly damaged passage seems to describe the various rites and rituals performed by some of the more important priests and spiritual leaders of Sumer in Enki's Abzu-shrine. The scene shifts again to reveal Enki in his boat, passing from city to city to 'decree the fates' and render proper exaltation to each. Two inimical lands are not so fortunate; he destroys them and carries off their wealth.

“Enki now turns from the fates of the various lands which made up the Sumerian inhabited world and performs a whole series of acts vital to the earth's fertility and productiveness. He fills the Tigris with life-giving water, then appoints the god Enbilulu, the 'canal inspector,' to make sure that the Tigris and Euphrates function properly. He 'calls' the marshland and the canebrake, supplies them with fish and reeds, and again appoints a deity for them. He erects his own shrine by the sea and places the goddess Nanshe in charge of it. Similarly, he 'calls' the earth's plow, yoke, and furrow, the cultivated field, the pickaxes and brick Mould; be turns to the high plain, covers it with vegetation and cattle, stall and sheepfolds; he fixes the borders and cities and states; finally he attends to 'woman's task,' particularly the weaving of cloth. For each realm a deity is appointed. The poem comes to an end in yet another key as the ambitious and aggressive Inanna complains that she has been slighted and left without any special powers and prerogatives. Enki reassures her with a recitation of her own insignia and provinces.”

Enki, the king of the Abzu, overpowering in his majesty, speaks up with authority:
'My father, the king of the universe,
Brought me into existence in the universe,
My ancestor, the king of all the lands,
Gathered together all the, me's, placed the me's in my hand.
From the Ekur, the house of Enlil,
I brought craftsmanship to my Abzu of Eridu.
I am the fecund seed, engendered by the great wild ox, I am the f irst born son of An,
I am the "great storm" who goes forth out of the "great below," I am the lord of the Land,
I am the gugal of the chieftains, I am the father of all the lands,
I am the "big brother" of the gods, I am he who brings full prosperity,
I am the record keeper of heaven and earth,
I am the car and the mind of all the lands,
I am he who directs justice with the king An on An's dais,
I am he who decrees the fates with Enlil in the "mountain of wisdom," He placed in my hand the decreeing of the fates of the "place where the sun rises,"
I am he to whom Nintu pays due homage,
I am he who has been called a good name by Ninhursag,
I am the leader of the Anunnaki,
I am he who has been born as the first son of the holy An. [Source: translation by Samuel Noah Kramer, in his “The Sumerians. Their History, Culture and Character” (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), PP. 17483; introductory material paraphrased and summarized by M. Eliade from Kramer, OP. Cit., PP. 171-4, Eliade Site]

After the lord had uttered (his) exaltedness,
After the great Prince had himself pronounced his praise,
The Anunnaki came before him in prayer and supplication:
'Lord who directs craftsmanship,
Who makes decisions, the glorified; Enki priase!'
For a second time, because of his great joy,:
Enki, the king of the Abzu, in his majesty, speaks up with authority
'I am the lord, I am one whose command is unquestioned, I am the
foremost in all things,
At my command the stalls have been built, the sheepfolds have been
When I approached heaven a rain of prosperity poured down from
When I approached the earth, there was a high flood,
When I approached its green meadows,
The heaps and mounds were piled up at my word.

[After the almost unintelligible description of Enki's rites, Enki proceeds to decree the fates of a number of cities. Ur is one example.]
He proceeded to the shrine Ur,
Enki, the ki-ng of the Abzu decrees its fate:
City possessing all that is appropriate, water-washed, ftrm-standing ox,
Dais of abundance of the highland, knees open, green like a mountain,
Hashur-grove, wide of shade-he who is lordly because of his might
Has directed your perfect me's,
Enlil, the "great mountain," has pronounced your lofty -name in the universe.
City whose fate has been decreed by Enlil,
Shrine Ur, may you rise heaven high

[Enki next stocks the land with various items of prosperity: A deityis placed in charge of each. For example:]
He directed the plow and the . . . yoke,
The great prince Enki put the 'horned oxen' in the . . . Opened the holy furrows,
Made grow the grain in the cultivated field.
The lord who do-ns the diadem, the ornament of the high plain, The robust,,the farmer of Enlil,
Enkimdu, the man of the ditch and dike, Enki placed in charge of them.
The lord called the cultivated field, put there the checkered grain, Heaped up its . . . grain, the checkered grain, the innuba-grain into piles,
Enki multiplied the heaps and mounds,
With Enlil he spread wide the abundance in the Land,
Her whose head and side are dappled, whose face is honey-covered, The Lady, the procreatress, the vigour of the Land, the 'life' of the black-heads,
Ashnan, the nourishing bread, the bread of all,
Enki placed in charge of them.
He built stalls, directed the purification rites,
Erected sheepfolds, put there the best fat and milk,
Brought joy to the dining halls of the gods,
In the vegetation-like plain he made prosperity prevail.
He filled the Ehur, the house of Enlil, with possessions,
Enlil rejoiced with Enki, Nippur was joyous,
He fixed the borders, demarcated them with boundary stones,
Enki, for the Anunnaki,
Erected dwelling places in the cities,
Set up kids for them in the countryside,
The hero, the bull who comes forth out of the hashur (forest), who roars lion-like,
The valiant Utu, the bull who stands secure, who proudly displays his power,
The father of the great city, the place where the sun rises, the great herald of holy An,
The judge, the decision-maker of the gods,
Who wears a lapis lazuli beard, who comes forth from the holy heaven,
the .. . heaven,
Utu, the son born of Ningal,
Enki placed in charge of the entire universe.

The remainder of the extant text is devoted to Inanna's challenge and Enki's response.

Enki's Journey to Nibru

Enki's Journey to Nibru goes: “In those remote days, when the fates were determined; in a year when An brought about abundance, and people broke through the earth like herbs and plants -- then the lord of the abzu, king Enki, Enki, the lord who determines the fates, built up his temple entirely from silver and lapis lazuli. Its silver and lapis lazuli were the shining daylight. Into the shrine of the abzu he brought joy. An artfully made bright crenellation rising out from the abzu was erected for lord Nudimmud (Ea). He built the temple from precious metal, decorated it with lapis lazuli, and covered it abundantly with gold. In Eridug, he built the house on the bank. Its brickwork makes utterances and gives advice. Its eaves roar like a bull; the temple of Enki bellows. During the night the temple praises its lord and offers its best for him. [Source: J.A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zlyomi 1998, 1999, 2000, Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford University,]

“Before lord Enki, Isimud the minister praises the temple; he goes to the temple and speaks to it. He goes to the brick building and addresses it: "Temple, built from precious metal and lapis lazuli; whose foundation pegs are driven into the abzu; which has been cared for by the prince in the abzu! Like the Tigris and the Euphrates, it is mighty and awe-inspiring . Joy has been brought into Enki's abzu. "Your lock has no rival. Your bolt is a fearsome lion. Your roof beams are the bull of heaven, an artfully made bright headgear. Your reed-mats are like lapis lazuli, decorating the roof-beams. Your vault is a bull (wild bull) raising its horns. Your door is a lion who seizes a man. Your staircase is a lion coming down on a man.

"Abzu, pure place which fulfils its purpose! E-engura! Your lord has directed his steps towards you. Enki, lord of the abzu, has embellished your foundation pegs with carnelian. He has adorned you with ...... and lapis lazuli. The temple of Enki is provisioned with holy wax ; it is a bull obedient to its master, roaring by itself and giving advice at the same time. E-engura, which Enki has surrounded with a holy reed fence! In your midst a lofty throne is erected, your door-jamb is the holy locking bar of heaven. " "Abzu, pure place, place where the fates are determined -- the lord of wisdom, lord Enki, Nudimmud, the lord of Eridug, lets nobody look into its midst. Your abgal priests let their hair down their backs. "Enki's beloved Eridug, E-engura whose inside is full of abundance! Abzu, life of the Land, beloved of Enki! Temple built on the edge, befitting the artful divine powers! Eridug, your shadow extends over the midst of the sea! Rising sea without a rival; mighty awe-inspiring river which terrifies the Land! E-engura, high citadel standing firm on the earth! Temple at the edge of the engur, a lion in the midst of the abzu; lofty temple of Enki, which bestows wisdom on the Land; your cry, like that of a mighty rising river, reaches king Enki."

"He made the lyre, the aljar instrument, the balaj drum with the drumsticks, the harhar, the sabitum, and the ...... miritum instruments offer their best for his holy temple. The [drumn] resounded by themselves with a sweet sound. The holy aljar instrument of Enki played for him on his own and seven singers sang: "What Enki says is irrefutable; ...... is well established ." This is what Isimud spoke to the brick building; he praised the E-engura with sweet songs. As it has been built, as it has been built; as Enki has raised Eridug up, it is an artfully built mountain which floats on the water. His shrine spreads out into the reed-beds; birds brood in its green orchards laden with fruit. The suhur carp play among the honey-herbs, and the ectub carp dart among the small gizi reeds. When Enki rises, the fishes rise before him like waves. He has the abzu stand as a marvel, as he brings joy into the engur. Like the sea, he is awe-inspiring; like a mighty river, he instils fear. The Euphrates rises before him as it does before the fierce south wind. His punting pole is Nirah; his oars are the small reeds. When Enki embarks, the year will be full of abundance. The ship departs of its own accord, with tow rope held by itself. As he leaves the temple of Eridug, the river gurgles to its lord: its sound is a calf's mooing, the mooing of a good cow.

“Enki had oxen slaughtered, and had sheep offered there lavishly. Where there were no ala drums, he installed some in their places; where there were no bronze ub drums, he despatched some to their places. He directed his steps on his own to Nibru and entered the Giguna, the shrine of Nibru. Enki reached for the beer, he reached for the liquor. He had liquor poured into big bronze containers, and had emmer-wheat beer pressed out . In kukuru containers which make the beer good he mixed beer-mash. By adding date-syrup to its taste , he made it strong. He ...... its bran-mash. In the shrine of Nibru, Enki provided a meal for Enlil, his father. He seated An at the head of the table and seated Enlil next to An. He seated Nintud in the place of honour and seated the Anuna gods at the adjacent places . All of them were drinking and enjoying beer and liquor. They filled the bronze aga vessels to the brim and started a competition, drinking from the bronze vessels of Urac. They made the tilimda vessels shine like holy barges. After beer and liquor had been libated and enjoyed, and after ...... from the house, Enlil was made happy in Nibru.

“Enlil addressed the Anuna gods: "Great gods who are standing here! Anuna, who have lined up in the place of assembly! My son, king Enki, has built up the temple! He has made Eridug rise up from the ground like a mountain! He has built it in a pleasant place, in Eridug, the pure place, where no one is to enter -- a temple built with silver and decorated with lapis lazuli, a house which tunes the seven tigi drums properly, and provides incantations; where holy songs make all of the house a lovely place -- the shrine of the abzu, the good destiny of Enki, befitting the elaborate divine powers; the temple of Eridug, built with silver: for all this, father Enki be praised!”


Nanna from Ur

Sin (Nannar, Nanna) was the Mesopotamian Moon God. He has strong associations with time, fertility, agriculture and kingship. Among the Sumerians as the firstborn of Enlil and Ninlil, Lord and Lady Air, Nanna was known as the Prince of the Gods, and was ranked second in deity hierarchy after Enlil, the chief god of Sumer. Nanna is the father of Utu/Shamash, the Sun God, and presides over night and day.

Morris Jastrow said: Sin “appears under various designations; prominent among them is that of En-Zu, “the lord of knowledge,” of which the name Sin may be a derivative. As the god of wisdom, he reminds us of Nebo, but his knowledge lies more particularly in reading the signs in the heavens. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“It is in astrological lore and through the widespread influence of astrology in Babylonia and Assyria that Sin appears in the full exuberance of his powers. The moon as the great luminary of the night, with its constantly changing phases, forms, in fact, the basis of divination through the phenomena observed in the heavens. This form of divination, as we shall see in a subsequent lecture, is the direct outcome of speculation in the temple-schools—not an outgrowth of popular beliefs,—but such was the importance that astrology (which may be traced back to the days of Sargon) acquired in the course of time that in an enumeration of the gods, even in texts other than astrological compilations, Sin invariably takes precedence over Shamash. <>

“The Semitic form of his name is Nannar, which means “illumination” or “luminary,” and this appears to be a designation more particularly connected with the cult at Harran. It is by virtue of being the great luminary of the night also that he becomes the “father of the gods,” as he is frequently called in hymns. He is depicted on seal cylinders as an old man with a flowing beard, said in poetical compositions to be of a lapis-lazuli colour. His headgear consists of a cap on which the horns of the moon are generally indicated; and it is interesting to note, as pointing to the influence acquired by the moon-cult, that the horns became a general symbol of divinity which, e.g., Naram-Sin attaches to his head on the famous monument on which he depicts himself as a ruler with the attribute of divinity. <>

“The antiquity of the moon-cult is attested by very ancient Sumerian hymns that have come down to us, in which he is frequently described as sailing along the heavens in a ship. It is a reasonable supposition that the moon’s crescent suggested this picture of a sailing bark. The association between Sin and the city of Ur is particularly close, as is seen in the common designation of this centre as the “city of Nan-nar.” No doubt the political importance of the place had much to do with maintaining the high rank accorded to Sin in the systematised pantheon. And yet outside of his sphere in Babylonian-Assyrian astrology, the moon-cult, apart from special centres like Ur and Harr an, is not a prominent feature in the actual worship. The agricultural life is too closely dependent on the sun to permit of any large share being taken by the moon. He is not among the Powers whose presence is directly felt in communities whose chief occupation is the tilling of the soil; and, as has already been suggested, his position in astrological divination determines the relationship in which he stands to both gods and mankind.” <>

Nanna on the Stela of Nabonidus

Nanna’s role as the patron of time and connection with the coming and going of days, nights, and seasons is evident year in the following hymn:
"Nanna, great Lord, light shining in the clear skies,
Wearing on his head a prince´s headdress,
Right god bringing forth day and night,
Establishing the month, bringing the year to completion..."
(Jacobsen, 1973:122)
Another hymn goes:
"... When you have measured the days of a month,
When you have reached this day,
When you have made manifest to the people,
Your day of lying down of a completed month,
You gradually judge, o Lord, law cases in the underworld, make decisions superbly ..."
(Jacobsen, 1973)

Hymn to Nannar (Sin)

A Hymn to Nannar goes:
Father Nannar, lord, moon-god, prince of the gods,
Father Nannar, lord of Uru, prince of the gods.
Lord, thy deity fills the far-off heavens,
like the vast sea, with reverential fear! ...
Father, begetter of gods and men,
who establishest for them dwellings
and institutest for them that which is good. ...
Chief, mighty, whose heart is great,
god whom no one can name, ...
In heaven, who is supreme ?
[Source: :The Treasures of Darkness,” Jacobsen, p.7]

As for thee, it is thou alone who art supreme! ...
As for thee, thy decree is made known upon earth,
and the spirits of the abyss kiss the dust!
As for thee, thy decree blows above like the wind,
and stall and pasture become fertile!
As for thee, thy decree is accomplished upon earth below,
and the grass and green things grow! ...
As for thee, thy decree has called into being equity and justice,
and the peoples have promulgated thy law! ...
O Lord, mighty in heaven, sovereign upon earth,
among the gods thy brothers, thou hast no rival!
(Dawn Civ 654)

Father Nanna, lord, conspicuously crowned, prince of the gods,
Father Nanna, grandly perfect in majesty, prince of the gods;
Father Nanna (measuredly) proceeding in noble raiment, prince of the gods;
fierce young bull, thick of horns, perfect of limbs, with lapis lazuli beard,full of beauty;
fruit, created of itself, grown to full size, good to look at, with whose beauty one is never sated;
womb, giving birth to all, who has settled down in a holy abode;
merciful forgiving father, who holds in his hand the life of all the land;
Lord! -- (the compass of) your divine providence, (vast) as the far-off heavens, the wide sea, is awesome (to behold).

To Nanna, Lord of the Moon: Babylonian Prayer

“To Nanna, Lord of the Moon” (1600 B.C.) reads:
“1. O brilliant barque of the heavens, ruler in your own right,
Father Nanna, Lord of Ur,
Father Nanna Lord of Ekishshirgal,
Father Nanna, Lord of the brilliant rising,

“5. O Lord, Nanna, firstborn son of Bel,
You stand, you stand
Before your father Bel. You are ruler,
Father Nanna; you are ruler, you are guide.
O barque, when standing in the midst of heaven, you are ruler.

“10. Father Nanna, you yourself ride to the brilliant temple.
Father Nanna, when, like a ship, you go in the midst of the deep,
You got, you go, you go,
You go, you shine anew, you go,
You shine anew, you live again, you go.

“15. Father Nanna, the herd you restore.
When your father looks on you with joy, he commands your waxing;
Then with the glory of a king brilliantly you rise.
Bel a scepter for distant days for your hands has completed.
In Ur as the brilliant barque you ride,

“20. As the Lord, Nudimmud, you are established;
In Ur as the brilliant boat you ride.
. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .. .. .
The river of Bel Nanna fills with water.

“21. The brilliant river Nanna fills with water.
The river Diglat [Tigris] Nanna fills with water.
The brilliance of the Purattu [Euphrates] Nanna fills with water.
The canal with its gate Lukhe, Nanna fills with water.
The great marsh and the little marsh Nanna fills with water.
[Source: George A. Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”,” 3rd Ed., (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1920), pp. 398-401]



The sun god Shamash crossed the heavens in a chariot as the Egyptian god Aren did in Mesopotamian and Egyptian times and the Greek god Apollo would later do. Shamash is particularly associated with the city-state of Sippar. During the night he traveled through the underworld and passed judgement on the dead.

Morris Jastrow said: “Whatever the reasons that led to this concentration of all the unfavourable phases of the sun-god on Nergal, the prominence that the cult of Babbar (or Shamash) at Sippar acquired was certainly one of the factors involved. This cult cannot be separated from that at Larsa. The designation of the god at both places is the same, and the name of the chief sanctuary of the sun-god at both Larsa and Sippar is E-Babbar (or E-Barra), “the shining house.” The cult of Babbar was transferred from the one place to the other, precisely as Marduk’s worship was carried from Eridu to Babylon. While Larsa appears to be the older of the two centres, Sippar, from the days of Sargon onward, begins to distance its rival, and, in the days of Hammurabi, it assumes the character of a second capital, ranking immediately after Babylon, and often in close association with that city. Even the cult of Marduk could not dim the lustre of Shamash at Sippar. During the closing days of the neo-Babylonian empire, the impression is imparted that there was, in fact, some rivalry between the priests of Sippar and those of Babylon. Nabonnedos, the last king of Babylonia, is described as having offended Marduk by casting his lot in with the adherents of Shamash, so that when Cyrus enters the city he is hailed as the saviour of Marduk’s prestige and received with open arms by the priests of Babylon. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“The original solar character of Marduk, we have seen, was obscured by his assuming the attributes of other deities that were practically absorbed by him, but in the case of Shamash at Sippar no such transformation of his character took place. He remains throughout all periods the personification of the beneficent power residing in the sun. The only change to be noted as a consequence of the pre-eminence of the cult at Sippar is that the sun-god of this place, absorbing in a measure many of the minor localised sun-cults, becomes the paramount sun-god, taking the place occupied in the older Babylonian pantheon by Ninib of Nippur. The Semitic name of the god—Shamash— becomes the specific term for the sun, not only in Babylonia but throughout the domain of the Semites and of Semitic influence. <>

“A place had, however, to be found for sun-cults at centres so important that they could not be absorbed even by Shamash of Sippar. Nippur retained its religious prestige throughout all vicissitudes, and its solar patron was regarded in the theological system as typifying more particularly the sun of the springtime; while at Cuthah Nergal was pictured as the sun of midsummer with all the associations connected with that trying season. The differentiation had to a large extent a purely theoretical import. The practical cult was not affected by such speculations and no doubt, at Cuthah itself, Nergal was also worshipped as a beneficent power. On the other hand, Ninib, as a survival of the period when he was the “Shamash” of the entire Euphrates Valley, is also regarded, like Nergal, as a god of war and of destruction along with his beneficent manifestations. In ancient myths dealing with his exploits his common title is “warrior,” and the planet Saturn, with which he is identified in astrology, shares many of the traits of Mars-Nergal. Shamash of Sippar also illustrates these two phases. Like Ninib, he is a “warrior,” and often shows himself enraged against his subjects. <>

“The most; significant feature, however, of the sun-cult in Babylonia, which applies more particularly to Shamash of Sippar, is the association of justice and righteousness with the god. Shamash, as the judge of mankind, is he who brings hidden crimes to light, punishing the wrongdoers and righting those who have been unjustly condemned. It is he who pronounces the judgments in the courts of justice. The priests in their capacity of judges speak in his name. Laws are promulgated as the decrees of Shamash; it is significant that even so ardent a worshipper of Marduk as Hammurabi places the figure of Shamash at the head of the monument on which he inscribes the regulations of the famous code compiled by him, thereby designating Shamash as the source and inspiration of law and justice. <>

“The hymns to Shamash, almost without exception, voice this ascription. He is thus addressed:
“The progeny of those who deal unjustly will not prosper.
What their mouth utters in thy presence
Thou wilt destroy, what issues from their mouth thou wilt dissipate.
Thou knowest their transgressions, the plan of the wicked thou rejectest.
All, whoever they be, are in thy care;
Thou directest their suit, those imprisoned thou dost release;
Thou hearest, O Shamash, petition, prayer, and imploration.” <>
Another passage of the hymn declares that
“He who takes no bribe, who cares for the oppressed
Is favoured by Shamash,—his life shall be prolonged. <>

Prayer of Ashurbanipal to Shamash


Prayer of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (668–627 B.C.) to Shamash (A prayer for the well-being of Ashurbanipal):
O light of the great gods, light of the earth, illuminator of the world-regions,
... exalted judge, the honored one of the upper and lower regions,
... Thou dost look into all the lands with thy light.
As one who does not cease from revelation, daily thou dost determine the decisions of heaven and earth.
Thy [rising] is a flaming fire; all the stars in heaven are covered over.
Thou art uniquely brilliant; no one among the gods is equal with thee.
With Sin, thy father, thou dost hold court; thou dost deliver ordinances.
Anu and Enlil without thy consent establish no decision. [Source:]

Ea, (patron god of music) the determiner of judgment in the midst of the Deep,
depends upon thee. [literally "looks upon thy face"]
The attention of all the gods is turned to thy bright rising.
They inhale incense; they receive pure bread-offerings.
The incantation priests [bow down] under thee in order to cause signs of evil to pass away.
The oracel priests [stand before] thee in order to make the hands worthy to bring oracles.
[Source: I am] thy [servant], Ashurbanipal, the exercising of whose kingship thou didst command in a vision,
[The worshiper of] thy bright divinity, who makes glorious the appurtenances of thy divinity,
[The proclaimer of] thy greatness, who glorifies thy praise to widespread peoples.
Judge his case; turn his fate to prosperity.
[Keep] him in splendor; daily let him walk safely.
[Forever] may he rule over thy people whom thou hast given him in righteousness.
[In the house] which he made, and within which he caused thee to dwell in joy,

May he rejoice in his heart, in his disposition may he be happy, may he be satisified in living.
Whoever shall sing this psalm, (and) name the name of Ashurbanipal,
In abundance and righteousness may he rule over the people of Enlil.
Whoever shal l learn this text (and) glorify the judge of the gods,
May Shamash enrich his ...; may he make pleasing his command over the people.
Whoever shall cause this song to cease,
(and) shall not glorify Shamash (Sun God), the light of the great gods,
Or shall change the name of Ashurbanipal,
the exercise of whose kingship Shamash in a vision commanded,
and then shall name another royal name,
May his playing on the harp be displeasing to the people;
may his song of rejoicing be a thorn and a thistle.

Hymn to Shamash: The Justice of the God

The Great Hymn to Shamash is among the longest and most beautiful of the hymns that have come down to us in cuneiform and is regarded as one of the best products of Mesopotamian religious writing.

21. You climb to the mountains surveying the earth,
22. You suspend from the heavens the circle of the lands.
23. You care for all the peoples of the lands,
24. And everything that Ea, king of the counsellors, had created is
entrusted to you.
25. Whatever has breath you shepherd without exception,
26. You are their keeper in upper and lower regions.
27. Regularly and without cease you traverse the heavens,
28. Every day you pass over the broad earth. . . .
33. Shepherd of that beneath, keeper of that above,
34. You, Shamash, direct, you are the light of everything.
35. You never fail to cross the wide expanse of sea,
36. The depth of which the Igigi know not.
37. Shamash, your glare reaches down to the abyss
38. So that monsters of the deep behold your light. . . .
45. Among all the Igigi there is none who toils but you,
46. None who is supreme like you in the whole pantheon of gods.
47. At your rising the gods of the land assemble,
48. Your fierce glare covers the land.
49. Of all the lands of varied speech,
50.. You know their plans, you scan their way.
[Source: translation by W. G. Lambert, in his “Babylonian Wisdom Literature” (Oxford, 1960,)I, 127 ff,]

51.. The whole of mankind bows to you,
52. Shamash, the universe longs for your light. . . .
88. A man who covets his neighbour's wife
89. Will [ . . .] before his appointed day.
90.. A -nasty snare is prepared for him. [ . . .]
91. Your weapon will strike at him, and there will be none to save
92. [His] father will not stand for his defense,
93. And at the judge's command his brothers will not plead.
94. He will be caught in a copper trap that he did not foresee.
95. You destroy the horns of a scheming villain,
96. A zealous [. . .] his foundations are undermined.
97. You give the unscrupulous judge experience of fetters,
98. Him who accepts a present and yet lets justice miscarry you make
bear his punishment.
99. As for him who declines a present but nevertheless takes the part
of the weak,

100.. It is pleasing to Shamash, and he will prolong his life. . . .
124. The progeny of evil-doers will [fail.]
125. Those whose mouth says 'No'-their case is before you.
126. In a moment you discern what they say;
127. You hear and examine them; you determine the lawsuit of the
128. Every single person is entrusted to your hands;
129. You manage their omens; that which is perplexing you make plain.
130. You observe, Shamash, prayer, supplication, and benediction,
131. Obeisance, kneeling, ritual murmurs, and prostration.
132. The feeble man calls you from the hollow of his mouth,
133. The humble, the weak, the afflicted, the poor,
134. She whose son is captive constantly and unceasingly confronts
135. He whose family is remote, whose city is distant,
136. The shepherd [amid) the terror of the steppe confronts you,
137. The herdsman in warfare, the keeper of sheep among enemies.
138. Shamash, there confronts you the caravan, those journeying in

139. The travelling merchant, the agent who is carrying capital.
140. Shamash, there confronts you the fisherman with his net,
141. The hunter, the bowman who drives the game,
142. With his bird net the fowler confronts You.
143. The prowling thief, the enemy of Shamash,
144. The marauder along the tracks of the steppe confronts you.
145. The roving dead, the vagrant soul,
146. They confront you, Shamash, and you hear all.
147. You do not obstruct those that confront you. . . .
148. For my sake, Shamash, do not curse them!
149. You grant revelations, Shamash, to the families of men,
150. Your harsh face and fierce light you give to them. . . .
154. The heavens are not enough as the vessel into which you gaze,
155. The sum of the lands is inadequate as a seer's bowl.......
159. You deliver people surrounded by mighty waves,
160. In return you receive their pure, clear libations. . . .
165. They in their reverence laud the mention of you,
166. And worship your majesty for ever. . . .
174. Which are the mountains not clothed with your beams?
175. Which are the regions not warmed by the brightness of your light?
176. Brightener of gloom, illuminator of darkness,
177. Dispeller of darkness, illuminator of the broad earth.


Anu (An) was the ruler of the sky and the principal god in Uruk. He was the son of the first pair of gods, Anshar and Kishar. His consort was Antu (Anatum) later replaced by Ishtar. Anu was member of the triad of deities completed by Enlil (Bel) and Ea (Enki). Morris Jastrow said: “Back of Enlil and Ninib, however, there lies still another deity who in an ancient inscription is called the “beloved father” of Enlil. This deity is Anu, whose cult was specially associated with the city of Uruk. While in the active cults of Babylonia and Assyria Anu is comparatively inconspicuous, the position assigned to him in the systematised pantheon is most significant. As early as the days of Lugal-zaggisi we find the endeavour made to group the great gods recognised in connection with the important political centres into a kind of theological system— an endeavour that reveals the intellectual activity of the priests at this early period. In this grouping Anu is given the first place, and Enlil the second. Anu and Enlil, together with Ea, form a triad summarising, as we shall presently see, the three divisions of the universe—the heavens, the earth (together with the region immediately above it), and the waters flowing around and under the earth. But a god of the heavens is an abstraction, and it is difficult to suppose that this should have been the original view taken of Anu. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Popular fancy deals with realities and with personified powers whose workings are seen and felt. It would hardly, therefore, have evolved the view that there was a power to be identified with the heavens as a whole, of which the azure sky is a symbol, as little as it would personify the earth as a whole or the bodies of waters as a whole. It is only necessary to state the implications involved to recognise that the conception of a triad of gods corresponding to three theoretical divisions of the universe is a bit of learned speculation. It smacks of the school. The conception of a god of heaven fits in, moreover, with the comparatively advanced period when the seats of the gods were placed in the skies, and the gods identified with the stars. <>

“Such an astral theology, however, is not a part of the earlier religious beliefs of the Babylonians; it reflects the later conditions produced under the influence of the religious system devised in the temple schools of one or another centre. The deities popularly recognised, particularly in the earlier period, are personifications, each of some definite power, of the sun, of the moon, of the water, of the storms, or of the fields, as the case may be. Analogy, therefore, taken in connection with the great antiquity of Uruk, the seat of Anu worship, justifies the assumption that Anu was originally the personification of some definite power of nature; and everything points to this power having been the sun in the heavens. Starting from this point of view, we can understand how the great luminary of heaven should have been identified with the heavens in an artificially devised theological system, just as Enlil became in this system the designation of the earth and of the region above the earth viewed as a whole.

Anu, Enlil and Ninib

Morris Jastrow said: “Anu and Enlil—sun-god and storm-god—would thus represent the same combination as was in later times represented by Shamash and Adad—likewise sun-god and storm-god respectively,—who are so constantly associated together.The two would stand again for the two great forces of nature which control the well-being of the Euphrates Valley. In this respect they present a parallel to the pair, Ninib and Enlil, with this difference, however, that whereas in the latter combination Ninib, the sun-god, is the son, and Enlil, the storm-god, is the father, in the case of Anu and Enlil the relationship is reversed, Anu being the father and Enlil the son. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“When, therefore, Hammurabi calls himself “the proclaimer of Anu and Enlil,” and derives his royal authority from these two, he is using a form of invocation that is co-extensive with the powers practically controlling the universe as it presented itself to the inhabitants of the Euphrates Valley. That Anu should become the father of Enlil accords also with the physical conditions, for to an agricultural people, as has been pointed out, the sun would naturally be the supreme Power; and we have seen that the pre-eminence accorded in the practical cult to Enlil of Nippur was due to the special circumstances attendant upon the introduction of the worship of the Sumerian storm-god in Nippur. Enlil replaces Ninib at Nippur, whereas the absence of any rivalry between the Anu centre and the Enlil centre led to a more natural combination in which the old sun-god retained his place at the head of the systematised pantheon. <>

“The beginning of an ancient myth in which .Ninib is again the chief character, illustrates the relation in which these three figures—Anu, Enlil, and Ninib—were pictured as standing to one another. Ninib is addressed: “Like Anu thou art formed, / Like Enlil thou art formed! The evident purpose of this apostrophe is to show that Ninib has been given the qualities of both Anu and Enlil. As a sun-god, Ninib could be addressed as Anu, while, as we have seen, he derives his qualities as a storm-god direct from Enlil. <>

“The material at our disposal does not permit us as yet to penetrate to the earliest history of such ancient centres as Nippur and Uruk, but the indications in myths and hymns point unmistakably to the currency of stories, attributing to both Anu and Enlil the creation of the universe. It was natural that each centre should claim the privilege for its patron deity; and we shall see that other centres did the same. In the national epic of the Babylonians, recounting the adventures of Gilgamesh, and which is a composite production, dating from various periods, the first scene is laid in Uruk, and the goddess Aruru is portrayed as forming man in the image of Anu. This clearly points to Anu as the source of all being. In an ancient version of a creation myth, which however is modified in the process of adaptation to later conditions, the first two cities to be founded are Nippur and Uruk, while the third city is Eridu, the seat of the Ea cult. The myth, therefore, reflects the constitution of the triad, Anu, Enlil, and Ea. In another form of the myth to which attention was above directed, Ninib appears as the hero; but even in this version, which became the favourite one, the story retained traces of the assignment of the part of conqueror of primaeval chaos to Anu. The same story was evidently told of different solar gods in the various centres. In Uruk the conqueror was the sun-god Anu, in Nippur the sun-god Ninib; but with the definite establishment of Enlil as the head of the pantheon, Ninib becomes merely the agent acting at the command of Enlil, and invested with some of Enlil’s attributes in return for the extension of the sphere of Enlil to include the qualities of his son Ninib. <>

“It was inevitable that with several distinctive factors contributing to the culture and religion of Babylonia and Assyria, the endeavour should be made to adapt the conceptions of the gods and their relationships to one another, and to modify the ancient folk-tales and the cult to meet changed conditions. The evolution of a religion that at each stage reflects a different combination of the political and social kaleidoscope is necessarily complicated.

Adad and Anu

Morris Jastrow said: “To this triad, a fourth figure is frequently added— the god Adad, who is also known as Ramman, and who in several respects occupies a peculiar position in the Babylonian-Assyrian pantheon. He is essentially a god of storms and rains, as Enlil originally was. His symbol is the thunderbolt or the forked lightning which he holds in his hand. Though often referred to in myths of a high antiquity, and not infrequently mentioned in votive inscriptions of the earlier rulers of Babylonia, he does not appear to have had any special centre of worship in Babylonia proper. There is no city specifically associated with the Adad cult. This fact, together with the circumstance that a common designation of the god describes him as a deity of the west or Amurru, points to his being an importation into the Euphrates Valley, brought there by an Amoritish wave of migration, and, though assimilated by the Babylonian pantheon, he retains traces of his foreign origin. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“Moreover, at the time that Adad, or Ramman, was carried into the Euphrates Valley, the chief political and religious centres must have been already definitely constituted, so that Adad appears in the character of an interloper. He bears this character also in Assyria for, although the oldest temple in Assyria is dedicated to him, it is in association with Anu. The double temple of this pair of gods at Ashur has been recently thoroughly excavated, and can now be traced back to the very beginnings of Assyrian history—to about 2400 B.C. The temple is always spoken of as that of Anu and Adad; and this unusual combination of two gods, associated in the name of the temple, suggests that the one or the other represents an afterthought. Since the name of Anu always appears first, there can be no doubt that he is the original deity in whose honour the sanctuary at Ashur was erected. <>

“Anu, as we have seen, was a solar deity and his association with Adad is, accordingly, of the same nature as the partnership of Anu and Enlil, of Ninib and Enlil, and of Shamash and Adad, the sun-god and the storm-god in all these cases forming a duality which symbolises and sums up the two chief Powers of nature determining the welfare of the country. The addition of Adad to Anu thus reveals the introduction of the worship of the former in the old capital of Assyria, and the importance of the western influence represented by Adad may be gauged by the position accorded him at the side of Anu. Since Prof. Clay has made it probable that traces of this influence are to be seen in some of the conceptions connected with the other chief deities of Babylonia—Ninib, Shamash, Marduk, and even Ea—we may assume this influence to have first manifested itself in Assyria, and then to have spread to the south. We should thus have a counter-current to that northern extension of the Euphratean culture that would account for the presence of the Anu cult in the old city of Ashur. That Anu, and not Ninib or Shamash should have been the solar deity to be thus carried to the north is an indication of the great antiquity of the settlement of Ashur, since the transfer must have taken place at a time when Uruk—the seat of the Anu cult in the south—was one of the chief centres of sun-worship, just as the influence of Uruk is to be seen again in the choice of Anu as the first member of the triad. We thus have indicated the probable order in the predominance of the centres of sun-worship, Anu, Ninib, Shamash, and Marduk, corresponding to the centres, Uruk, Nippur, Sippar, and Babylon. <>

“Adad is also designated as the “great mountain,” precisely as is Enlil, and, indeed, he is so completely a counterpart of Enlil that this was perhaps a reason why Adad was never assigned to any special cult centre. It is significant, however, that in the collection of astrological omens it is Adad and not Enlil who appears as the representative of atmospheric disturbances such as thunder, lightning, tempests, tornadoes, inundations, and hail-storms—an indication, therefore, that the astrological system was not yet worked out at a time when Enlil held supreme sway. Correspondingly, in the “liver” omens—the other great division of Babylonian-Assyrian divination—the deities invoked are Shamash and Adad. The home of the Amorites being in the mountainous regions of northern Palestine and Syria, their chief deity would naturally be a mountain god, associated with storms and thunder and lightning. Like Enlil and Jahweh, however, Adad at least in his old home, Syria, under the form of Hadad takes on the traits also of a solar deity. There are some indications that in Babylonia and Assyria this transformation, through a partial assimilation of Adad with Enlil, likewise took place, though never to the extent of obscuring the original character of the god as the one presiding over the violent phenomena of nature. <>

“In Assyria Anu is replaced by a god, bearing the same name as the ancient capital, Ashur. The Assyrian theologians themselves explained Ashur as a contraction of An-shar, which would convey the idea of “Anu of the universe.” An older form of Ashur appears to be Ashir, which may have the general sense of “leader.” Linguistically, the change of Ashir to Ashur can be accounted for, but not the transformation of An-shar to Ashur or Ashir; so that we must assume the “etymology” of Ashur, proposed by some learned scribe, to be in the nature of a play upon the name. The correct instinct underlying this play is, however, the reminiscence that the chief god of Ashur was originally Anu, whose cult was transferred from Uruk, or some other seat in the south, following in the wake of the northward extension of the culture, just as the cult of Marduk moved from Eridu to Babylon. This presiding deity of Ashur was so generally termed the god of Ashur that in time both god and place became identical. This identification may have been assisted by the addition of the title skar to Anu, conveying the idea of large sway, and added, perhaps, in order to distinguish this later Anu from his southern prototype. Be this as it may, the solar character of Ashur is beyond doubt. He is the counterpart of Anu, as well as of Ninib and Shamash. His symbol is the sun-disc with wavy rays extending to the circumference of the disc; and though this impressive symbol was materialised, so to speak, by the addition of a warrior with an arrow within the disc, as an expression of the warlike attributes associated by the Assyrians with their patron deity, still the influence of the symbol was not lost, in lending to the conception of the deity a more spiritual character than is possible when gods are portrayed in human or in animal shape; and, as has been pointed out, it was the Assyrians who thus made a contribution, of no small import, to the stock of religious ideas which they owed to the Babylonians.

Anu, Enlil, Shamash, Ea and The Creation of Man

In the "The 'Eridu Genesis " — the Anunnki (Anu, Enlil, Shamash, Ea) and The Creation of Man — the four great gods — Anu, god of the sky and source of rain and most powerful of the gods; Enlil, Lord of the Wind and god of storsm, Shamash, the sun god; and Ea, guardian of the universe --- from their lofty sanctuaries inhabited as creators, sacrifice Langa to create mankind to work for the gods. Thorkild Jacobsen wrote in “The Treasures of Darkness”"The 'Eridu Genesis ...described the creation of man by the four great gods [the Anunnaki]: Anu, Enlil, Shamash and Ea had decided to turn man from his primitive nomadic camping grounds toward city life the period began when animals flourished on earth and kingship came down from heaven. The earliest cities were built, were named, had the measuring cups, emblems of a redistributional economic system, allotted to them, and were divided between the gods. Irrigation agriculture was developed and man thrived and multiplied. However, the noise made by man (Genun a composite of Jubal, Jabal, Tubal-Cain, Naamah) in his teeming settlements began to vex Enlil sorely, and, driven beyond endurance, he persuaded the other gods to wipe out man in an great flood. Enki, thinking quickly, found a way to warn his favorite, one Ziusudra. He told him to build a boat in which to survive the flood with his family and representatives of the animals."

When both heaven and earth had been completely established; When the mother of the godesses had been born;
when the earth had been brought forth, the land created,
When the domes of heaven and earth had been established,
Straight canals had been constructed;
The Tigris and Euphrates--their banks had been established;
Anu, Enlil, shamash, Ea,
The great gods,
The Anunnaki, the great gods,
Lofty sanctuaries inhabited as creators.
In anxiety they asked:
"Since the domes of heaven and earth have been established,
Straight canals have been constructed,
The Tigris and Euphrates--
Their banks have been established,
What shall we change?
What shall we create?
O Annunnaki, ye great gods,
What shall we change?
What shall we create?"
[Source: George A. Barton, “Archaeology and the Bible”,” 7th Edition revised, (Philadelphia: American Sunday School, 1937), pg. 307-308,]

The great gods, standing aloft,
The Anunnaki, who determine fate.
The two of them made answer to Enlil;
"In the land where flesh grows, the bond of heaven and earth,
Lamga, Lamga, we will overthrow;
From his blood mankind we will make,
Let the bonds of the gods be bound upon them;
For future days the limit
Be established;
The yoke and lifting cord on their hands
Be placed,
The temple of the great gods
Unto a lofty sanctuary to bring,
The meadows to mark out,
Forever their limits
To establish,
The straight canal
As a boundary to establish,
The earth to water, the plants
To raise,
The rain of heaven, the rain of heaven....
The ravine of the land as a boundary to set,
The storehouse of the district to measure it,
To make the field of the Anunnaki produce,
To increase the abundance of the land,
To keep the feast of the gods,
Cool water to pour out

In the dwellings of the gods which have been made lofty.
Ullugarra and Nigarra
Shall they be called,
Ox, sheep, cattle, fish, and bird,
The abundance of the land to increase,
The lord of gladness and the lady of gladness
With their holy mouth to supplicate.
O Aruru, who hast been raised up for ladyship,
Great structures thou thyself shalt enclose,
Wise men for the people, heroes for the weak,
Like grain springing of itself from the earth, shall be made--
A destiny unchangeable as a star forever.
By day and night
The feasts of the gods,
Their great appointed festivals of themselves
They shall celebrate."
Anu, Enlil,
Ea, Ninmakhu
The great gods,
The place of mankind created.
The goddess Nishaba (grain goddess) in mankind's place was established.
Mighty and secret things
As a scribe I teach.

The translator George A. Barton wrote: "The text of this poem is accompanied by a set of notations which are believed to be musical notes. The text was doubtless recited at the festival service of the gods; to recount the great deeds of the gods by the recitation or chanting of such texts was in ancient heathen worship a way of doing them honor. It is interesting that the tablet which records this text contains also directions for chanting it." In this account, instead of being from the blood of Kingu, one of the rebellious gods, husband of the arch-rebel Tiamat, he is made from the blood of Lamga, the craftsman, the god of carpenters.


Nergal was the god of death, disease, war and destruction. He ruled underworld with his queen Ereshkigal and their household of demon laborers and administrators. The Pluto of Babylonia, Nergal, kept the dead imprisoned in his gloomy kingdom. The names given to their demon administrators, such as “pestilence,” the “seizer,” the “one lying in wait,” “destroyer,” “storm,” illustrate the uncompromisingly forbidding and gloomy views held of them, which is even further emphasised by the terrifying shapes given to them—leopards, dragons, serpents, etc.[Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

Nergal was originally a sun god. In the process of differentiation among the chief solar deities of Babylonia he came to represent the sun of midsummer, bringing pestilence, suffering, and death while the god Ninib became the sun-god of the spring, restoring life and bringing joy and gladness. In Babylonian theology, Nergal became associated with the sun’s destructive power such as pestilence and famine which can occur when the sun burns up crops. Morris Jastrow said: “His city, Cuthah, becomes a poetical designation for the great gathering-place of the dead, and his name is explained, perhaps fancifully, as “the lord of the great dwelling,” that is, the grave. It is quite within the range of possibility that Cuthah may have been a place that acquired special sanctity as a burial-place, as Kerbela, in the same region, is still regarded as such by the Shiite sect of Islam. The animal associated with Nergal, as a symbol, is a fierce lion, and he is pictured as greedy for human victims. The various names assigned to him, almost without exception, emphasise this forbidding phase of his nature, and the myths associated with him deal with destruction, pestilence, and death. Naturally, Nergal is also pictured as a god of war, bringing about just the results for which he would be held responsible.”

In Babylonian-Assyrian astrology, Nergal is identified with the planet Mars, regarded as the unluckiest of all planets. Jastrow said: “This unlucky and downright hostile character of Mars is indicated by his many names: such as the “dark” Lu-Bat; “pestilence”; the “hostile” one; the “rebellious” one; and the like...The association of ideas between Nergal, the lord of the “dark” region, and the dark-red colour of Mars may be regarded as an element of the identification of Mars with Nergal, just as the ideas associated with the colour red—suggesting blood and fire—furnished the further reason for connecting ill-boding omens with the appearance of Mars.

Nergal and Ereshkigal

By Nergal side is his consort Ereshkigal (Allatu)—the Proserpine of Babylonian mythology—as scary and gloomy he is. She appears to have been the original occupier of Aralñ (the Underworld) with whom Nergal is subsequently associated. Morris Jastrow said:“A myth describes how Nergal invaded the domain of Ereshkigal, and forced her to yield her dominion to him. The gods are depicted as holding a feast to which all come except Ereshkigal. She sends her grim messenger Namtar—that is, the “demon of plague”—to the gods, among whom there is one, Nergal, who fails to pay him a proper respect. When Ereshkigal hears of this, she is enraged and demands the death of Nergal. The latter, undaunted, proceeds to the abode of the angry goddess, encouraged to do so apparently by Enlil and the gods of the pantheon. A gang of fourteen demons, whose names indicate the tortures and misery inflicted by Nergal, accompany the latter. He stations them at the gates of Eresh-kigal’s domain so as to prevent her escape. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“A violent scene ensues when Nergal and Ereshkigal meet. Nergal drags the goddess from her throne by the hair, overpowers her, and threatens to kill her. Ereshkigal pleads for mercy, and agrees to share with him her dominion. “Do not kill me, my brother! Let me tell thee something.” Nergal desists and Ereshkigal continues: “Be my husband and I will be thy wife. /I will grant thee sovereignty in the wide earth, entrusting to thee the tablet of wisdom./ Thou shalt be master, and I the mistress.” In this way the myth endeavours to account for the existence of two rulers in Aralu, but one may doubt that a union so inauspiciously begun was very happy. <>

“The messengers and attendants of Nergal and Ereshkigal are the demons whom we have met in the incantation rituals. They are the precursors of all kinds of misery and ills to mankind, sent as messengers from the nether world to plague men, women, and children with disease, stirring up strife and rivalry in the world, separating brother from brother, defrauding the labourer of the fruits of his labour, and spreading havoc and misery on all sides; depicted as ferocious and terrifying creatures, ruthless and eternally bent on mischief and evil. The association of these demons with the world where no life is, further emphasises the view held of the fate of the dead. With such beings as their gaolers what hope was there for those who were imprisoned in the great cavern? If conscious of their state, as they appear to have been, what emotion could they have but that of perpetual terror?” <>


The main Assyrian god was Ashur and the main Babylonian god was Marduk. Morris Jastrow said: “There is only one rival to Marduk in the later periods, and he is Ashur, who, from being the patron deity of the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire, rises to the rank of the chief deity of the warlike Assyrians. It is just about the time of Hammurabi that Assyria begins to loom into prominence. It was at first merely an extension of Babylonia towards the north with a strong admixture of Hittite and also Amoritish elements, and then a more or less dependent province; later its patesis exchanged the more modest title, with its religious implication, for sharru, “king,” and acquired a practically independent position at the beginning of the second millennium before this era. Within a few centuries, the Assyrians became formidable rivals to their southern cousins. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

Morris Jastrow said: “The cult of Ashur was essentially a worship devoid of images. This did not, however, prevent the god from absorbing the traits of other gods to whom he stood in no direct relationship. To the Assyrians Ashur, naturally, assumed the same rank as Enlil acquired in the older Babylonian pantheon, and as in later periods Marduk assumed. He becomes in fact the Marduk of the north, and like Marduk is regarded as the great bel —the lord paramount. Other members of the pantheon affect his colour,—little Ashurs by the side of the great one. [Source: Morris Jastrow, Lectures more than ten years after publishing his book “Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria” 1911 <>]

“In a manner, therefore, somewhat different from the case of Marduk, he becomes the dominating figure that over-shadows all others. He is the Great God, the God of Gods beside whom all others pale into insignificance. He is the embodiment of the genius of Assyria and, with the definite establishment of Assyria as a great war power whose watchword is conquest and the aim of whose rulers is universal sway, Ashur becomes first and foremost a war-lord, the protector of Assyrian armies, and whose symbol is carried into camp and battle as an assurance of the direct presence of their god in the midst of the fray. The victories of the Assyrian armies were triumphs for Ashur, and the booty of war was his property. The standing phrase in the annals of the Assyrian kings is that “by the help of Ashur” the enemy was overthrown. <>

“But while the kings of Assyria never fail to give to Ashur the homage due him, and invariably begin the enumeration of the pantheon with his name, the gods of Babylonia by the force of tradition retain their influence also in the north. The greatest among these kings, Tiglathpileser I., Shalmaneser III., Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanapal, manifest the greatest anxiety to associate with Ashur all the great gods of the pantheon,—Marduk, Nebo, Ea, Sin, Shamash, Adad, Ninib, Nergal, and Nusku. They apparently take every opportunity of enumerating the long list in order to emphasise their attachment to these associates of their patron deity and, by implication, the devotion of all the great gods to the service of themselves as kings. To the title “King of Assyria,” they were on every occasion ambitious to add that of “King of Sumer and Akkad,” and “King of the Four Regions.” To these titles that had come down to them from hoary antiquity, they even added “lieutenant of Bel,” to indicate their control of the south, and “King of Universal Rule,” to symbolise the policy, consistently maintained, of their conquest of the world. To the array of gods, with Ashur at the head, whom they invoke as the protectors of their realm and allies of their ambitions, they never failed to add the powerful goddess Ishtar. <>

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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