The creation of humans in the Sumerian Myth of Enki (Psalm 8)

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Illustration: Enki

The Sumerian myth of Enki and Ninmah describes the creation of humankind and a subsequent contest between these two deities regarding the value and occupation of disabled individuals. The myth begins when the earth was newly created and the lesser gods were charged with drudge work in service to the greater gods. Consigned to digging irrigation canals and providing their superiors with food, their toil became so wearisome that they rebelled against the high god Enki. The mother goddess, Nammu, encouraged Enki to relieve the gods’ labour by forming a creature who could do the work for them. Enki accordingly devised the form of humanity and commissioned Nammu to create man and woman, using a pinch of clay (cf. Genesis 2:7).

Afterward Nammu boasted that she could make a person in any form she wished, and Enki replied that he could find compensation for any deformity. Nammu deliberately fashioned a series of individuals with various disabilities, including a blind man, a cripple, a barren woman and an eunuch. Enki proceeded to find an honourable occupation for each of these persons in which their handicaps proved no obstacle. The text ends by praising the superiority of Enki.

The Biblical presentation of humanity’s creation is quite different from the Sumerian myth. In the Bible men and women are not an afterthought but the pinnacle of God’s creation, crowned with glory (Psalm 8:5). Work itself (tending God’s creation and caring for His creatures) is a God-given vocation (Genesis 1:26, 28, 2:15), not a form of drudgery to relieve God’s burden but a means for participation in His creative work and an opportunity to act as His representatives on earth. Human sickness and malfunction, far from being the result of some divine game, are a product of humanity’s fallen condition and, in God’s sovereign plan, vehicles through which God can display His greatness in the lives of individuals (John 9:2-3).


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