Isaiah 66 – Humanity and the Divine: Comparing the Bible to the Myth of Atra-Hasis

Finger Pointing UpTalk about a far-fetched story.  I thought Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was ridiculous, but at least Darwin had something to base his incorrect facts on.  Who ever came up with the Myth of Atra-Hasis must have been smoking something.

I’m just amazed at how foolish people can be, spreading such false information because I know…

1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

“Where is thy house…?” – Solomon realized that God couldn’t be localized in a man-made temple, magnificent though it may be.

1 Crete
Crete has more than 2000 caves, many of which are very large. Of  these, 35 are known to have been used for religious activities. Most of them are situated near to mountain peaks, which were also sanctuaries.

These caves have dramatic rock formations and pools of water that were used for sacred purposes. The caves were, according to Susan Evasdaughter, the original labyrinths. A labyrinth is a meandering walkway associated with the sacred paths and corridors of the Temples at Knossos and other major sites.

Yet these caves are also meandering walkways, and just like the temples they were full of labyris, double-axes, from which the word ”labyrinth” earned its name: ”The Home of the Labyris”. Hundreds of labyris, many made out of gold, were found within the sacred caves.

The cave represented an access to the underworld, perhaps the womb of the Goddess. People left offerings there – vessels, figurines, labyris, bowls. The lower levels of the Temple Labyrinth, many dark, windowless rooms set aside for ritual use, as well as many dark passages from which one would have emerged into to brilliant daylight of a lightwell or courtyard, may have been intended to recreate the atmosphere of the sacred caves.

Many of the Temple passages are not straight or direct but of a meandering style. Sacred pillars symbolized great cave stalactites.

One cave in Kato Pervolakia featured a cave painting dating from 1400 BC. The painting is of a crouching woman with her arms upraised, holding a bow and arrow. Her dog stands close by. Beneath this woman three people are seen in boats, casting nets into the sea, in which we see octopus, dolphin and starfish.

2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

“Killeth an ox…slew a man” – extreme hyperbole stating that sacrifice by a sinful person is no better than an act of murder in the eyes of God.

4 I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.

“I also will choose…delusions” – the punishment fits the crime because the Lord will punish them with the natural consequences of their own foolish choices.

Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.

“To your joy” – the righteous will not be disappointed for putting their rust in the Lord.

6 A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that rendereth recompense to his enemies.

7 Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child.

8 Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.

9 Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth?  Saith the LORD: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb?  Saith thy God.

10 Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her:

11 That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.

12 For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees.

13 As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

14 And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the LORD shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies.

“Herb” – or “grass,” usually a symbol of weakness.

15 For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.

16 For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many.

“Plead” – or “carry out/enter into judgment.”  The Day of the Lord is in view.

17 They that sanctify themselves, and purify themselves in the gardens behind one tree in the midst, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together, saith the LORD.

18 For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.

19 And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.

“Pul” – people who lived west of Egypt (in Libya).

“Lud” – people from either west-central Asia Minor or Africa.

2 Ritual Cleansing
Ritual Cleansing
Rituals baths seem to have been central to religious practice. Many ritual cleansing areas have been found that were clearly not used for conventional bathing. There are no plugs, they are made of pouros material, they are inaccessible to the causal visiots, and some are decorated with altars and Horns of Consecration.

The baths at Knossos and Zakro suggest that they formed part of the preparation for those wishing to enter the sacred confined of the Labyrinths. Other such baths are surrounded by a series of sanctuaries, and may have been reserved for initiates.

“Tubal” – usually mentioned with Meshech.  It was probably a region southeast of the Black Sea.

“Javan” – “Ionia” or “Greece.”

20 And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.

21 And I will also take of them for priests and for Levites, saith the LORD.

“Take of them” – Gentiles will be allowed to serve as priests, indicating their full inclusion in the blessings of the new covenant.  Gentile inclusion in the priesthood is a present reality in the church (see 1 Pet 2:5, 9) and will carry over into the Messianic kingdom.

22 For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.

23 And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.

24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Quoted in part in Mk 9:48.

“Go forth and look” – the Valley of Hinnom (Hebrew ge’hinnom, from which the word “Gehenna” comes) was located southwest of Jerusalem and became a picture of hell.

“Worm shall not die” – there will be everlasting torment.

“Abhorring” – the Hebrew for this word is translated “contempt” in Dan 12:2.  These verses clearly distinguish the eternal destinies of the saved and the unsaved.

Humanity and the Divine:
Comparing the Bible to the Myth of Atra-Hasis

3 Atra Hasis
Atra-Hasis (To read about it go here)
Atra-Hasis (“exceedingly wise”) is the protagonist of an 18th-century BC Akkadian epic recorded in various versions on clay tablets. The Atra-Hasis tablets include both a creation myth and a flood account, which is one of three surviving Babylonian deluge stories. The name “Atra-Hasis” also appears on one of the Sumerian king lists as king of Shuruppak in the times before a flood.

The oldest known copy of the epic tradition concerning Atrahasis can be dated by colophon (scribal identification) to the reign of Hammurabi’s great-grandson, Ammi-Saduqa (1646–1626 BC), but various Old Babylonian fragments exist; it continued to be copied into the first millennium BC.

The Atrahasis story also exists in a later fragmentary Assyrian version, having been first rediscovered in the library of Ashurbanipal, but, because of the fragmentary condition of the tablets and ambiguous words, translations had been uncertain. Its fragments were assembled and translated first by George Smith as The Chaldean Account of Genesis; the name of its hero was corrected to Atra-Hasis by Heinrich Zimmern in 1899.

In 1965 Wilfred G. Lambert and A. R. Millard[3] published many additional texts belonging to the epic, including an Old Babylonian copy (written around 1650 BC) which is our most complete surviving recension of the tale. These new texts greatly increased knowledge of the epic and were the basis for Lambert and Millard’s first English translation of the Atrahasis epic in something approaching entirety.

A further fragment has been recovered in Ugarit. Walter Burkert traces the model drawn from Atrahasis to a corresponding passage, the division by lots of the air, underworld and sea among Zeus, Hades and Poseidon in the Iliad, in which “a resetting through which the foreign framework still shows”.

In its most complete surviving version, the Atrahasis epic is written on three tablets in Akkadian, the language of ancient Babylon.

Tablet I contains a creation myth about the Sumerian gods Anu, Enlil, and Enki, gods of sky, wind, and water, “when gods were in the ways of men” according to its incipit.

Tablet II begins with more overpopulation of humans and the god Enlil sending first famine and drought at formulaic intervals of 1200 years to reduce the population.

Tablet III of the Atrahasis Epic contains the flood story. This is the part that was adapted in tablet XI of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The Bible, along with numerous other ancient Near Eastern texts, recounts the stories of creation of a great flood.  The commonality of a flood story can be misleading, causing the reader to suppose that the Bible has essentially the same outlook as that found in other ancient cultures.

In fact, the Bible understanding of God and of His relationship to the world sets the Old Testament record apart from pagan notions of the divine.

One Old Babylonian text that recounts the events of creation and the flood is called Atra-hasis (named after the hero of the story, a Noah-like figure). 

The tale begins with a lower class of gods, the Igigi, who are discontented because they have been forced to do all of the drudge work for the higher gods (e.g., dig irrigation canals and clear marshlands).

One night their frustration boils over and they march against the houses of the high gods.  Cooler heads prevail, and the high gods offer a solution: They will create human beings to do the drudge work for the Igigi. 

A god is sacrificed, his blood is mixed with clay and humans are formed under the direction of the mother goddess, Mami.

The humans multiply and this creates a new problem: The people make so much noise that the gods can’t sleep.  They try to reduce the human population through disease and famine, but it swells again.  Finally, they determine to strike humanity with a flood. 

One man, Atra-hasis, is warned of the coming deluge so that not all humans are wiped out.  A solution is finally found: Through infant mortality and the sterility of some women, the human race will be kept to a manageable number.

By contrast, Isaiah 66:1-2 reads:

Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool: where I the house that ye build unto me?  And where is the place of my rest?

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

God needs no one to do His drudge work, nor does the most raucous or boisterous behavior of people disturb his daily routine.  What He seeks is humble hearts, righteous people. 

This is in keeping with what we see in Genesis, where God created only by his word, needing no assistance, and where He judged people for their sin – not because their decibel level annoyed Him.

Superficial similarities between the Bible and the ancient Near Eastern myths should not blind us to their profound differences in outlook.

Back in the day You told Your prophets, like Isaiah, that Jesus was coming up.

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