Biblical Archeology Course 7, Lesson 3

Oct 21, 2020 | Biblical Archeology Course | 0 comments

Copyright, John T. Stevenson, 2000

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1). So begins the text of Genesis 1:1. Though it points back to the creation of all things, it must be understood that this was not the first thing ever to be written. Moses wrote these words in the 15th century B.C. There had already been many books written before this time and some which dealt with the question of creation.

Among the multitude of tablets found in the Library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh were a group of seven tablets known as the Enuma Elish. Though the library dates only to the late 7th century B.C., the present form of the epic itself goes all the way back to the days of Hammurabi (1700 B.C.), while the story descends from the days of the Sumerians.

The Enuma Elish (“When on high”) draws its title from the first sentence of its narrative: “When on high the heaven had not been named, firm ground below had not been named…”

The text was found written on seven tablets, but this has no bearing on the seven days of the Genesis account. If the tablets had been larger then there would only have been six.

    * Tablet 1: Aspu and Tiamat come together to give birth to the primitive forces and gods. However, Aspu turns against his offspring, but is slain by them. Tiamat is enraged at the death of her husband and she prepares to avenge his death.

    * Tablet 2: Marduk, one of the second generation gods, is elected to fight Tiamat.

    * Tablet 3: The assembly of gods decrees the outcome of the battle and the glory of Marduk.

    * Tablet 4: They each create seven assistants to help them. Marduk wins the conflict and dissects the body of Tiamat.

    * Tablet 5: From the body of Tiamat, Marduk creates heaven and earth. The moon and the stars are established to mark the seasons.

    * Tablet 6: Tiamat’s second in command, Kingu, is slain and from drops of his blood Marduk creates man so that there will be one to sacrifice to the gods.

My blood will I take and bone will I fashion
I will make man, that man may be his name,
I will create man who shall inhabit the earth,
That the service of the gods may be established, and that their shrines may be built.
But I will alter the ways of the gods, and I will change their paths;
Together shall they be oppressed and unto evil shall they….

    * Tablet 7: Marduk advances from the chief god of Babylon to become head of the entire pantheon. He is given 50 names representing the power of the various deities.

It can be seen from this brief outline that this account is only superficially related to the Genesis account.

Similarities and Differences with the Genesis Account

(1) Both accounts speak of a time when the earth was without form and void.

(2) Both accounts have a similar order of events in creation. (3) There are seven tablets and seven days of creation.
(1) One account is grossly polytheistic while the other is strictly monotheistic. (2) One accounts confuses spirit and matter while the other carefully distinguishes between the two.

Since the initial discovery of the seven tablets, other copies have been found relating the same story but on ten tablets.

There is a real difference between the Genesis account and the creation accounts of other pagan religions. In other religious systems, the natural world was seen as a manifestation of all of the deities – the sun, moon, stars, oceans, storms. The cosmos always had the status of deity. The Bible is unique in that the cosmos is merely creation. Only God is GOD.


A reading of Genesis 1-2 will show immediately that we have two separate and distinct accounts of creation.

The heavens and the earth are created in six days.Creation of the man and the woman (no time element mentioned).
Shows man in his cosmic setting.Shows man as central to God’s purpose.
A panoramic view of creation as a whole.A detailed view of one particular aspect of creation.
Centers on God creating the heavens and the earth.Centers on man as the crowning of God’s creation.

Rather than being contradictive, these two accounts are complimentary. Indeed, this method of first giving a panoramic view and then coming back to focus on important details is found all through Genesis.

For example, in the account of Jacob and Esau, Esau’s story comes first, but it is Jacob’s which is more fully developed and which holds the place of higher importance to the theme of the book.


The six days of creative work are topical in nature. This does not rule out a literal interpretation, but the topical nature should also be realized.

DAY 1: Light.DAY 4: Light-givers (Sun, moon & stars).
DAY 2: Water & sky divided.DAY 5: Fish and birds.
DAY 3: Land & VegetationDAY 6: Land animals & man.

The Jews delighted in this sort of parallelism – it was akin to poetry. This does not take away from its inspiration or its value as an authoritative historical account of creation.


Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27).

The creative work of God reaches a crescendo when it reaches the creation of man.

a. The plurality of the Planner.

Notice the use of the plural pronoun (“Let US make man in OUR image”).

The Jews held this to be a conversation that the Lord was having with the angels. However, the fulfillment of the plan in verse 27 does NOT say that God created man in the image of God and the angels. Indeed, angels are nowhere mentioned in the first half of the book of Genesis.

It has been suggested by some that this may be a foreshadowing of the doctrine of the Trinity. On the other hand, it may also be a literary device known as a “plural of majesty.” Even today in the English language, it is customary for edicts coming from a royal personage to speak in the plural even though it is a single person doing the speaking.

b. In the image of God.

In what way was man created in the image and likeness of God? The context suggests only one way – the area of rulership. As God was sovereign over all that He had created, so now man was placed into a position of relative sovereignty over all that was upon the earth.


And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. (Genesis 2:8).

Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.
The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.
And the gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there.
And the name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush.
And the name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10-14).

This passage has been a source of great confusion because it seems to join geographical areas which are far removed from one another.

Verse 10 says literally, “from there it divided and became four heads” .

a. Pishon – “Full flowing).

The Pishon “flows around the whole land of Havilah.”

Havilah is a reference to lands in northern Arabia where the descendants of Ishmael made their homes (Genesis 25:18).

In the 1990′s, Boston University scientist Farouk El-Baz used photos from satellites orbiting the earth and space Shuttle Imaging Radar to locate an underground river which now runs under a portion of the desert of Saudi Arabia (James A. Sauer, “The River Runs Dry,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 22, No. 4, July/August 1996, pp. 52-54, 57, 64 and Molly Dewsnap, “The Kuwait River,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 22, No. 4, July/August 1996, p. 55.).

In Kuwait, a dry riverbed (Wadi Al-Batin) cuts through limestone and appears to disappear into the desert of Saudi Arabia. Actually, the river ran underground along a fault line under the sand. From the Hyaz Mountains in Saudi Arabia, this river carried granite and basalt pebbles 650 miles northeast to deposit them at its delta in Kuwait near the Persian Gulf.

Some have theorized that this lost river corresponds to biblical descriptions of the Pishon River. This one discovery was enough to make Sauer, the former curator of the Harvard Semitic Museum’s archaeological collections, reverse his previous skepticism regarding the historical accuracy of the Bible.

b. Gihon – The root word means “to bring forth, gush.”

The Gihon is said to flow around the whole land of Cush (Genesis 2:13). This presents a difficulty in that Cush was the land to the south of Egypt. However, there was also an area to the east of the Tigris River which was known as Cush. If this is the case, then this could be a reference to the Karun River which flows into the Tigris and Euphrates just before they enter the Persian Gulf.

c. Tigris: The Hebrew name comes from a compound made up of two words:

          o “Sharp.”

          o “Arrow.”

The Persian word tir also means “arrow” and is the designation for the Tigris River.

d. Euphrates.

          o Eu is the pronoun “it” (or “he”).

          o Phrates means “sweet water.”

The last two rivers are known to us. The first two are not. However, they come with geographical identifiers. This perhaps indicates that they were not well known to the readers of this account as they are not well known to us.

The location of the last two river points to a location for the Garden of Eden at the northwest end of the Persian Gulf. There is the possibility that the first two rivers can also support such a location.


1. The Temptation Seals.

In the 1930′s a seal was found at an excavation at Tepe Gawra, a few miles to the north of Nineveh. It depicted a man, a woman, and a serpent.

Another excavation in Nineveh uncovered a seal (now in the British Museum) showing a tree in the center with a man on the right, a woman on the left plucking fruit, and a serpent standing erect behind her.

2. The Prophecy of the Seed.

The first prophecy of a coming Messiah was not made to either the man or the woman, but to the serpent.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15).

This verse provides the theme of the rest of Genesis. This will be a book about two seeds. Even though Cain was descended from Eve, he eventually follows the way of the Serpent in rebellion against God. While he is the physical descendant of Adam and Eve, he is the spiritual descendant of the Serpent. Like the Serpent, he rebels against God. And like the Serpent, he is cursed for his rebellion. The story continues as we are given two separate genealogies representing each of these two seeds.

Lamech is the culmination of the Seed of the Serpent through Cain. He takes Cain’s sin and compounds it, threatening to do seven times the damage that Cain had done. In contrast, Enoch walks with God and Noah obeys the Lord in the building of an ark. But after Noah, there is again a departure of a seed to follow after the Seed of the Serpent.

Ham sins and shows by his sin that he is of the Seed of the Serpent. His son Canaan is cursed and continues to be a curse to the Israelites. The pattern continues as Ishmael is cast out while Isaac shows himself to be the son of faith. And again when Esau despises the promises of God, it is to Jacob that the promise is given.

Moses writes the book of Genesis to the Israelites in the wilderness. It is much more than a mere history book. It is a call to be a seed and a generation and a people.

The question before the Israelites in the wilderness is which seed they will be a part of – the seed of the serpent or the seed of the woman?

Genesis will be a book about a line of children. Thus, a key word in Genesis will be “generations.”

          o The Hebrew word for “generations” is toledoth.

          o It is taken from the root word , “to give birth.”

Each new generation will determine which seed it is. Will it continue in the covenant relation to God and show itself to be a part of the promised seed? Or will it turn from God to join and be a part of the seed of the serpent?

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