Posted by: religionthink | July 23, 2007

Dragon Slayers: Indra, Marduk, Yahweh, and Baal- A Literary Comparison Part 2

Dragon Slayers: Indra, Marduk, Yahweh, and Baal

A Literary Comparison Part 2 of 4

By, A.D. Wayman

The Primal Beginning

With in the Babylonian Creation Epic of Enuma Elish, Marduk was already in line to become the leader of the gods. Resting in the fresh waters of the god Apsu. As in the Hebrew creation account in Genesis, the world and creation is unformed covered in a mixture of fresh water (Apsu) and mixing with the salt water (Tiamat).

When there was no heaven,
no earth, no height, no depth, no name,

when Apsu was alone,
the sweet water, the first begetter; and Tiamat
the bitter water, and that
return to the womb, her Mummu,
when there were no gods-

When sweet and bitter
mingled together, no reed was plaited, no rushes
muddied the water,
the gods were nameless, natureless, futureless, then
from Apsu and Tiamat
in the waters gods were created, in the waters
silt precipitated,
1

It can be a mystery to those not familiar with the metaphors of the ancient Near East but the account of the birth and battle of Marduk and the creation were of most important and resonated as a powerful epic battle that was internalized every year through an reenactment ritual. 2 Here in just a few sentences we view the imagery of a chaotic scene. Fresh water and salt water mixing, no sky, no earth, nor universal order. The story goes on to account for the creation of the land gods, sky gods, and various assistants. We then come to a point where the Creator God Ea overtakes Apsu and his visor. There is much more to this account, and the reader is encouraged to read this text in full. For this essay however we will be discussing the themes of comparison.

The Birth of Marduk

Then Ea ripped off his flaming glory coat and took his crown, he set on himself the aureole of the king. When Ea has bound Apsu he killed him, and Mummu, the dark counselor, he led by the nose and locked away.

Ea has defeated his enemies and trodden them down. Now that his triumph was completed, in deep peace he rested, in his holy palace Ea slept. Over the abyss, the distance, he built his house and shrine and there magnificently he lived with his wife Damkina . In that room, at the point of decision where what is to come is predetermined, he was conceived, the most sagacious, the one from the first most absolute in action.

In the deep abyss he was conceived, MARDUK was made in the heart of the apsu, MARDUK was created in the heart of the holy Apsu. Ea begot him and Damkina bore him, father and mother; he sucked the paps of goddesses, from his nurses he was fed on the terrib leness that filled him.3

Here in this translation, we find the war between the gods. A creator god binds the primal water god and Mummu, the evil counselor, is led away by the nose and confined. Here we have the binding of the visor, which we may note in passing, has evolved into the more modern text of the binding of the accuser in the Hebrew texts or “Ha Satan”. Here also it is through the creator god Ea within the primal fresh water god Apsu that Marduk is brought forth and bore by his mother Damkina. We also see that Ea after is quest of overcoming Apsu rests and builds a temple. As we remember Yahweh also rests and it is Baal after over coming the god Yam, as we shall see later, lobbies the heavenly council for a temple in his honor. Marduk is weaned and the text relates that at birth his is most perfect.

When Ea who begot him saw him he exulted, he was radiant, light-hearted, for he saw that he was perfect, and he multiplied his godhead, the one to be first and stand highest.

His limbs were immaculate, the making a fearful mystery beyond comprehension; with four eyes for limitless sight, and four ears hearing all; when his lips moved a tongue of fire burst out. Titanic limbs, standing so high he overtopped the tallest god; he was strong and he wore the glory of ten, and their lightnings played round him.

‘My son, my son, son of the sun, and heaven’s sun!’4

The Birth of Marduk denotes and important change in thinking. Tiamat the primal sea, salt water, is now viewed as a coiling serpent. She sends the other gods cowering. It is foreshadowed above that Marduk will become the dominant god and will lead the journey and battle that will bring order to the cosmos. We see in the text above that already at his birth he is associated with being a storm god, all seeing and all hearing with his multiple eyes and ears while shooting fire from his mouth when he speaks. In passing we see Ea ordain the young Marduk with an acknowledgment ‘My son, my son, son of the sun, and heaven’s sun! which brings us forward to the saying of Yahweh from the clouds at the baptism initiation of the one later called Jesus.

The Conquest

The gods in the heavenly council are afraid of the now raging Tiamat and her fierce army that she has collected and each of the gods have come back shaking at he knees. Marduk is chosen by the council to go and do the battle.

Now Kingu, thus exalted, having received the power of Anu,
Decreed the fate for the gods, her sons, saying:
‘Let the opening of your mouth quench the Fire-god;
Whoso is exalted in the battle, let him display his might!’
I sent Anu, but he could not withstand her;
Nudimmud was afraid and turned back.
But Marduk hath set out, the director of the gods, your son;
To set out against Tiamat his heart hath prompted him.
He opened his mouth and spake unto me, saying:
‘If I, your avenger,
Conquer Tiamat and give you life,
Appoint an assembly, make my fate preeminent and proclaim it.
In Upsukkinaku seat yourselves joyfully together;
With my word in place of you will I decree fate.
May, whatsoever I do remain unaltered,
May the word of my lips never be changed nor made of no avail.’
Hasten, therefore, and swiftly decree for him the fate which you bestow,
That he may go and fight your strong enemy!
Lahmu and Lahamu heard and cried aloud
All of the Igigi [The elder gods] wailed bitterly, saying:
What has been altered so that they should
We do not understand the deed of Tiamat!
Then did they collect and go,
The great gods, all of them, who decree fate.
They entered in before Ansar, they filled…
They kissed one another, in the assembly…;
They made ready for the feast, at the banquet they sat;
They ate bread, they mixed sesame-wine.
The sweet drink, the mead, confused their…
They were drunk with drinking, their bodies were filled.
They were wholly at ease, their spirit was exalted;
Then for Marduk, their avenger, did they decree the fate.5

Later we shall see the storm god Baal making such an address to the heavenly council when Mot, the lord of the underworld comes to call. Yahweh addresses the Divine Council in Psalm 82, threatening to make the gods human for their injustice. In Habakkuk 3 we read the holy war hymn of the victorious Yahweh doing battle with the sea.

I saw the tents of Cushan under affliction; the tent-curtains of the land of Midian trembled. Was your wrath against the rivers, O Lord? Or your anger against the rivers, or your rage against the sea, when you drove your horses, your chariots to victory? You brandished your naked bow, sated were the arrows at your command. (Selah) You split the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you, and writhed; a torrent of water swept by; the deep gave forth its voice. The sun raised high its hands; the moon stood still in its exalted place, at the light of your arrows speeding by, at the gleam of your flashing spear. In fury you trod the earth, in anger you trampled nations. You came forth to save your people, to save your anointed. Hab3:7-13

In the text above concerning Marduk, With the decree from the heavenly council, called Upsukkinaku” his fate is sealed. He sets out on his quest to face the dragon. He will venture into unknown territory, into the belly of the serpent and hope to return, setting order to the disorder, and calmness to the raging waters of the dragon.

Tiamat has amassed a large army of howling, fierce, and battle hardened demons. They have amassed to her aid and to her bidding. They have made weapons of war that no god in the council has seen before, and she comes taunting the gods.

With all her force she rageth, full of wrath.
All the gods have turned to her,
With those, whom ye created, they go at her side.
They are banded together, and at the side of Tiamat they advance;
They are furious, they devise mischief without resting night and day.
They prepare for battle, fuming and raging;
They have joined their forces and are making war.
Ummu-Hubur, who formed all things,
Hath made in addition weapons invincible; she hath spawned monster-serpents,
Sharp of tooth and merciless of fang.
With poison, instead of blood, she hath filled their bodies.
Fierce monster-vipers she hath clothed with terror,
With splendor she hath decked them; she hath made them of lofty stature.
Whoever beboldeth them, terror overcometh him,
Their bodies rear up and none can withstand their attack.
She hath set up vipers, and dragons, and the monster Lahamu,
And hurricanes, and raging bounds, and scorpion-men,
And mighty tempests, and fish-men, and rams;
They bear merciless weapons, without fear of the fight.
Her commands are miahty; none can. resist them;
After this fashion, huge of stature, hath she made eleven monsters.
6

Marduk and the Serpent

So with his fate sealed Marduk faces the Dragon. In the texts concerning Indra and Yahweh the details are somewhat watered down by metaphor and symbolism. Although we do have some descriptions from the Vedas and biblical texts, it is with in this story of Enuma Elish, and the Baal Epic from Ugarit that we have blow by blow commentary. These texts are so detailed that they give us descriptions on the seriousness of the battle. Even the modern apocalyptic text Revelation is no match for the details given in the two mentioned texts. Marduk gathers his weapons of war and sets off.

They robed him in robes of a king, the scepter and the throne they gave him, and matchless war-weapons as a shield against the adversary.

‘Be off. Slit life from Tiamat, and may the winds carry her blood to the world’s secret ends.’

The old gods had assigned to Bel what he would be and what he should do, always conquering, always succeeding;

Then Marduk made a bow and strung it to be his own weapon, he set the arrow against the bow-string, in his right hand he grasped the mace and lifted it up, bow and quiver hung at his side, lightnings played in front of him, he was altogether an incandesce nce.

He netted a net, a snare for Tiamat; the winds from their quarters held it, south wind, north, east wind, west, and no part of Tiamat could escape.

With the net, the gift of Anu, held close to his side, he himself raised up…7

Like the mighty Indra, Marduk now wages a fierce war he mounts the storm chariot, takes his bow with him the Killer, the Pitiless, Trampler, and Haste, all knowing how to both plunder and murder; he rides out to meet the mighty Tiamat and finds her in full rage.

When Tiamat heard him her wits scattered, she was possessed and shrieked aloud, her legs shook from the crotch down, she gabbled spells, muttered maledictions, while the gods of war sharpened their weapons. 8

The speech that Marduk gives to Tiamat is most interesting. In the Ugarit account of the battle between Mot and Baal; Baal’s speech to Mot is somewhat different in that is a speech of submission to the dragon Death. Baal of the Ugarit accepts his fate. However, in the case of Indra and Marduk and also in the texts of Yahweh, they use their wit to conquer. The speech below can make us relate to the speech David gave to the taunting Goliath. All of this is relevant because the Hero’s Journey, for the most part follows the pattern.

Then the lord raised the thunderbolt, his mighty weapon,
And against Tiamat, who was raging, thus he sent the word:
Thou art become great, thou hast exalted thyself on high,
And thy heart hath prompted thee to call to battle.
… their fathers…,
… their… thou hatest…
Thou hast exalted Kingu to be thy spouse,
Thou hast… him, that, even as Anu, he should issue deerees.
thou hast followed after evil,
And against the gods my fathers thou hast contrived thy wicked plan.
Let then thy host be equipped, let thy weapons be girded on!
Stand! I and thou, let us join battle! 9

Like the mighty Indra we find Marduk entering the mouth of Tiamat and traveling to her innards he splits her gut like a shell fish. Parting her separating the waters from the sky.

Then they met: Marduk, that cleverest of gods, and Tiamat grappled alone in singled fight.

The lord shot his net to entangle Tiamat, and the pursuing tumid wind, Imhullu, came from behind and beat in her face. When the mouth gaped open to suck him down he drove Imhullu in, so that the mouth would not shut but wind raged through her belly; her carcass blown up, tumescent,. She gaped- And now he shot the arrow that split the belly, that pierced the gut and cut the womb. 10

After the return Marduk, the Bull, is crowned King of Kings and the gods set him as ruler of all gods. From the remains of the fierce Tiamat; Marduk creates the earth, cycle of Days, and years. Once more where there was disorder there is order. After his battle, with order restored, creation completed and his temple built he rests. The heavenly council (the Igigi shouts with Joy the works of the mighty Marduk.

They stood in front of him, low they bowed and they shouted

‘He is king indeed!’

When all the gods in their generations were drunk with the glamour of the manhood of Marduk, when they has seen his clothing spoiled with the dust of battle, then they made their act of obedience…

He bathed and put on clean robes, for he was their king… A glory was round his head; in his right hand he held the mace of war, in his left grasped the scepter of peace, the bow was slung on his back; he held the net, and his glory touched the abyss…

He mounted the throne raised up in the temple. Damkina and Ea and all the Great Gods, all the Igigi shouted,
‘In time past Marduk meant only “the beloved son” but now he is king indeed, this is so!’

They shouted together, 11

In the next portion of our study we will examine similar battles when discussing the dragon slayer of the Hebrews, the storm god, bull of heaven, Yahweh. We have seen, as the culture shifts, the mythology and rituals also demand a change. For if frozen the metaphors no longer are relevant and archetypes no longer work for the believer. So the shift from one god to the next, allows the attributes of the imagery to be used and internalized. Rituals are reworked to serve the needs of the evolving cultural pattern. From farming, to raiding, then to city states, we see the change in the literature from Agni to Indra, from Apsu to Marduk, from El to Yahweh, and from El to Baal.12

1. Sandars, Nancy K. Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia. New York: Penguin, 1971. “Enuma Elish”. Tablet 1.

2. Dally, Stephanie. Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood Gilgamesh, and Others. Oxford University Press Inc., Oxford, New York 1989. p.231

3. Sandars. “Enuma Elish”. Tablet 1.

4. Sandars. “Enuma Elish”. Tablet 1.

5. King. L.W. “ENUMA ELISH THE EPIC OF CREATION” The Seven Tablets of Creation. London 1902. Tablet 3.

6. King. Enuma Elish”. Tablet 3.

7. Sandars. “Enuma Elish”. Tablet 4

8. Sandars.” Enuma Elish”. Tablet 4

9. King. Enuma Elish. Tablet 4.

10. Sandars. “Enuma Elish”. Tablet 4

11. Sandars.” Enuma Elish”. Tablet 5

12. See: Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions.. Anchor books 2007.

This essay was written by the author of http://www.religionthink.com

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Responses

  1. When Ea who begot him saw him he exulted, he was radiant, light-hearted, for he saw that he was perfect, and he multiplied his godhead, the one to be first and stand highest.

    amazing 😀

  2. Actually, when Marduk became the supreme god of earth is when he had his priests rewrite all very important scriptures giving him the credit from Eternal Being, to the Creator of all, to the Slayer of the dragon, to the creator of mankind by taking for himself all the attributes of every god, that is why our Bible was corrupted to display only a one Godhead, where in reality there were many gods. My God of choice is the Great Belus Enlil, now He was a Great God! Marduk was the supreme god from Genesis 24 through the end of the chapter, but thereafter, a more supreme being moved Marduk aside and took charge of the rest of the old testament!


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