The Enuma Elish is the best-known Babylonian creation account. It existed
in various versions and copies, the oldest dating
to at least 1700 B.C.E. According to this account, before heaven and earth were formed there were two vast bodies of water.
The male freshwater ocean was called Apsu and the female saltwater ocean was called Tiamat. Through the fusion of their
waters successive generations of gods came into being. As in the Genesis 1 story, water is the primeval element, but here it
is identified with the gods, who have unmistakable gender.
Younger gods were created through sexual union. These younger, noisy gods disturbed
the tranquillity of Apsu, so Apsu
devised a plan to dispose of them. The wisest younger god, Ea, found out about the plan and killed Apsu. To avenge her
husband Tiamat decided to do away with the younger gods with the help of her henchman Kingu.
When the younger gods heard about this, they found a champion in the god Marduk.
He agreed to defend them only if they
would make him king. After they tested his powers, they enthroned him. When finally they met on the field of battle, Tiamat
opened her considerable mouth as if to swallow Marduk and plunge him into the immeasurable deeps. Marduk rallied by
casting one of the winds into her body, expanding her like a balloon. He then took his bow and shot an arrow into her belly,
splitting her in half. Marduk cut her in two like a clam, and out of her carcass he made the heavens. The "clamshell" of heaven
became a barrier to keep the waters from escaping, a parallel to the Genesis notion of a barrier or firmament. Marduk also
fixed the constellations in the heavens. They, along with the moon, established the course of day and night as well as the
Then Marduk devised a plan to relieve the drudgery of the gods. They were tired
of laboring to meet their daily needs, so
he created humanity out of the blood of Kingu to be the servants of the gods. In appreciation for their deliverance, the gods
built Marduk a palace in Babylon, called Esagila, meaning "house with its head in heaven." There Marduk sat enthroned.
The similarities and differences between Genesis 1 and the Enuma Elish are intriguing (see Heidel 1963). One of the most
striking features of Genesis that the Enuma Elish helps bring to light is the struggle between order and chaos that lies just
under the surface of the Genesis text. Marduk's battle with Tiamat reveals that the effort to create the world, took the form of a
battle. The victory secured Marduk's position as king of the world. The comparison may help to explain the claims of
Yahweh's kingship over creation in such places as Psalm 29 and Psalm 93, where he is pictured as sitting enthroned over