The Sumerian Eridu Genesis (1 Chronicles 1)

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1 Chronicles opens with historical genealogies that provided needed continuity for the royal and priestly lines. Many of the individuals included had been prominent in their time, looked up to as rulers of specific areas and as builders of early cities (1 Chronicles 1:43, cf. Genesis 10:8-12)

The Eridu Genesis, reconstructed from various fragmented texts dating form as early as the sixteenth century B.C. (pictured above), likewise deals with ancient rulers and cities. This important ancient Near Eastern writing constitutes the Sumerian version of creation, the first rulers, the first cities and the great flood.

According to this unique perspective on ancient history, after the gods had fashioned humankind the mother-goddess Nintur somehow sent down intact from heaven the institution of kingship (in the form of scepter, crown and throne). Each king was entrusted with advising people, overseeing their labour and leading them as a cowherd does his cattle. He was expected to perform services for the gods and to found cities, for which endevors he was to be economically rewarded. Each city was assigned its own patron deity to protect it.

The Eridu Genesis cuts off at this point, but other versions indicate that what originally followed was an account of the rulers who had lived before the flood and the story of how the clamour of their people had so irritated the gods that they had decided to destroy humanity in a great deluge. The text resumes when Enki, the god of the waters, revealed the gods’ intent to the mortal king Ziusudra, instructing him to construct a large boat and to load it with pairs of animals. When the waters subsided, Ziusudra disembarked from his ship and offered lavish sacrifices to the gods, who in turn bestowed upon him eternal life for having safeguarded the future of humanity and the animal kingdom.


 

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