Psalm 89 – Convenant of God and His Faithfulness & The Emma Elish and The Biblical Concept of Creation

Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

1 I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

2 For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

3 I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant,

4 Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.

5 And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.

6 For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?

7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him .

8 O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?

9 Thou rules the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.

10 Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.

11 The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fullness thereof, thou hast founded them.

12 The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.

13 Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.

14 Justice and Judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.

16 In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.

17 For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favor our horn shall be exalted.

18 For the LORD is our defense; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.

19 Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.

20 I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him:

21 With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him.

22 The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him.

23 And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him.

24 But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted.

25 I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers.

26 He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

27 Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.

28 My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.

29 His seed also will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven.

30 If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my Judgments;

31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;

32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.

33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.

34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.

35 Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.

36 His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me.

37 It shall be established forever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.

38 But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed.

39 Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.

40 Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin.

41 All that pass by the way spoil him: he is a reproach to his neighbors.

42 Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice.

43 Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword, and hast not made him to stand in the battle.

44 Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground.

45 The days of his youth hast thou shortened: thou hast covered him with shame. Selah.

46 How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself forever? shall thy wrath burn like fire?

47 Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?

48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.

49 Lord, where are thy former loving kindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?

50 Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;

51 Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.

52 Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen.

A prayer for the mercy of God, recounting the shortness and miniseries of the days of man.  Proving God’s faithfulness despite what we pass through.

The Emma Elish and The Biblical Concept of Creation 

Marduk proposes a solution and decrees that Kingu, Tiamat’s advisor, shall die.
Then Marduk mixes Kingu’s blood with clay and calls it “man.”

Now “man” must do all the work for the gods.

In other words, humans were created so god’s didn’t have to work.

It’s written like this.

“Blood will I compose, bring a skeleton into being,

Produce a lowly, primitive creature, ‘Man’ shall be his name:

I will create lullu-amelu – an early, ‘puppet’-man.

To him be charged the service that the gods may then have rest.”

In the Bible we read of creation primarily in Genesis 1, but other texts enlighten us as to how the Israelites viewed the creative process (cf Ps 89).  With the discovery and decipherment of ancient texts in Akkadian, as well as of hieroglyphics, scholars have come to realize that many cultures from the ancient world had creation myths that could be compared to the Biblical creation account.  The most famous Akkadian creation story is called the Enuma Elish, a poem of about 1,100 lines.

Copies of the Enuma Elish exists in the form of cuneiform tablets dating from about 750 to 200 B.C., but the poem was no doubt composed earlier than that.  The creation story contained in these tablets exalts Marduk, god of Babylon, as the greatest of the gods.

Because the main purpose of the text was to glorify Marduk, some scholars resist referring to the Enuma Elish as a “creation” story.  This reluctance is misplaced, however; many creation myths from the ancient world serve to glorify a particular god or shrine.

Enuma Elish with a pair of high gods, Apsu (male) and Tiamat (female), as well as a number of lower gods.  Apsu threatens to kill the lower gods because of the noise they make, but he himself is slain by the god Ea.  Ea in turn fathers Marduk, whose birth is attended by great celebration. 

Tiamat, who is alternatively pictured as an ocean or a dragon (i.e., sea monster), deploys against the gods a gruesome army of monsters (lion-men, scorpion-men, and the like) under the command of her second consort (partner), Kingu.

Marduk Battles Tiamat, pictured here as a dragon or griffin rather than a sea monstor.
When Babylon became the capital of Mesopotamia, the patron deity of Babylon was elevated to the level of supreme god.

Some scholars believe the Enuma Elis, probably written around the turn of the 1st millennium B.C., was created to explain how Marduk came to a positive of supreme power.

The story became an important part of Babylonian culture and was re-enacted annually in lavish new year festivities.

In Enuma Elis, a civil war between the gods was growing to a climatic battle.

Marduk, a very young god, answered the call and was promised the position of head god if he would destroy the tyranny of Tiamet and her lieutenant (who was also her son and consort), Kingu.

After winning victory, Marduk initiated a new order in which humans were created to bear the burdens of life so the gods could at leisure.

Ea and the other gods are paralyzed with fear, but Marduk agrees to fight the monsters on condition that he be named king of the gods.  Marduk defeats Tiamat and splits her body like a fish for drying.  From one half he fashions the heavens and from the other he forms the earth.  From the blood of Kingu, according to the myth, Marduk created men, after which he was indeed lauded as ruler of the gods.

At one time many scholars believed that the Babylonian creation story provided the source material for its Biblical counterpart.  Today, however, few hold that position.  Indeed, the differences between the Babylonian and Biblical accounts are more significant than their similarities:

The Biblical record does not present the creative act as that of slaying a monster and making use of its body.  Some have argued that the Hebrew word for the “deep” (tehom) in Gen 1:2 is related to the name Tiamat.  In fact, the words are unrelated, and there is no hint in Genesis of Yahweh slaying a dragon.

A monster called Rahab is mentioned in Ps 89:10.  This Biblical Rahab represents forces that oppose God; even Egypt can be identified as Rahab (Is 30:7).

Assyrian clay tablet telling the story of the Gilgamesh flood.

Whatever we make of Rahab in the Bible, it is unrelated to creation.

The Biblical account describes the act of creation as proceeding simply from God’s word: God spoke the cosmos and everything related to it unto existence (Gen 1).

The Biblical account leaves no room for polytheism.  Even though Ps 89:7 mentions other heavenly beings that are under God’s authority, there is no multitude of gods who marry, have offspring, flight each other for supremacy and the like.

The Biblical record does not promote one shrine above all Gen 1 never mentions Jerusalem or any other site sacred to Israel in connection with creation.  Indeed, the Bible’s initial chapter never mentions Yahweh, describing the creator simply as “God.”

The Biblical concept of creation is truly monotheistic; there is no elevation of one god above others, for, indeed there is only one God.