Pax Hart

Genesis 7: The Flood

If you believe the God was unhappy with his creation and the iniquities of man, and decided to destroy his creation by a flood, except one honest man and his family, whom he instructed to build an ark to save two of every beast and fowl, then you are a Sumerian and you worship Ishtar. Embrace it.

The Sumerians were the first known advanced civilization. Their origin is unclear, their language has no predecessor. They appeared in the plains of the Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern-day Iraq around 4500 B.C.

They gave us language, writing, mathematics, the wheel, advanced agriculture and animal husbandry, irrigation, government administration, literature, astrology and astronomy, a clearly-defined class structure, workers guilds and the welfare state. Everything that we would call “modern society”, was invented by the Sumerians.

By a miracle, we have one of their great works of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh, preserved in cuneiform on fragile clay tablets. Gilgamesh was the hero of Sumer. He was a brash, arrogant young man who went through many trials and tests by the Gods in their attempt to civilize him, impart wisdom, and groom him to be the king of the Sumerians.

Among the tales of Gilgamesh, Ishtar decides to destroy his creation and star again. He instructs Gilgamesh to create a boat to exacting specifications and bring his family and two of each creature on the earth to repopulate. The story comes from an even older Epic of Atra-Hasis and is one of three Babylonian flood myths. Even the repetitive phrasing follows the style of Sumerian literature:

And the waters prevailed; and were increased greatly
And the waters prevailed; and all the high hills and mountains were covered
And the waters prevailed; an hundred and fifty days

Genesis 7:18,19 & 24

But how are these pagan idol-worshipers in the Bible?

When Jerusalem was conquered by the Persians, they went into exile in… Babylon. This was when the Bible was still being handed down mouth to mouth. So, the true miracle is not the dove, the rainbow, and the branch of olive. The miracle is that, except for the stories preserved by the Jews, Sumerian civilization would be forgotten for the next 6,000 years.

In turn, the Jews contribution to the story was their elimination of the pantheon of lesser gods that are part of the story and their distillation to 3 main actors: God, the damned, and Noah the good.

But back to the story and some of what it teaches us.

One, that Ishtar may choose to smite his creation if we stray too far into sin and debauchery.

Second, why would God need a man to build an ark and save enough genetic material to repopulate the earth? If God is omnipotent and all-powerful, why doesn’t he just start over? Why does he need a crusty, 600 year-old man to do his bidding? And what about the animals? They didn’t do anything wrong. Why were they destroyed too?

Unless, once God created the earth, his hands are tied. He works through man, created in His image, to act upon the material world. Meaning that we, His followers, are critical to enacting God’s will to fruition.

We are essential partners with God in the grand story. God works through us if we let him.