What, then, is the significance of the detailed account given us of the works effected on the successive days of creation? Why are we told that light was made on the first day, the firmament on the second, dry land on the third, and so on? Probably for two reasons.
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First, that the rehearsal, as in a catalogue, of the leading classes of natural objects, might give definiteness and precision to the teaching that each and all were creatures, things made by the word of God. The bald statement that the heaven and the earth were made by God might still have left room for the imagination that the powers of nature were co-eternal with God, or were at least subordinate divinities; or that other powers than God had worked up into the present order the materials He had created. The detailed account makes it clear that not only was the universe in general created by God, but that there was no part of it that was not fashioned by Him.
The next purpose was to set a seal of sanctity upon the Sabbath. In the second chapter of Genesis we read—. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made. In this we get the institution of the week , the first ordinance imposed by God upon man. For in the fourth of the ten commandments which God gave through Moses, it is said—. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed. God made the sun, moon, and stars, and appointed them "for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years. These were divisions of time which man would naturally adopt.
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But there is not an exact number of days in the month, nor an exact number of days or months in the year. Still less does the period of seven days fit precisely into month or season [ 24 ] or year; the week is marked out by no phase of the moon, by no fixed relation between the sun, the moon, or the stars. It is not a division of time that man would naturally adopt for himself; it runs across all the natural divisions of time.
What are the six days of creative work, and the seventh day—the Sabbath—of creative rest?
They are not days of man, they are days of God; and our days of work and rest, our week with its Sabbath, can only be the figure and shadow of that week of God; something by which we may gain some faint apprehension of its realities, not that by which we can comprehend and measure it. Our week, therefore, is God's own direct appointment to us; and His revelation that He fulfilled the work of creation in six acts or stages, dignifies and exalts the toil of the labouring man, with his six days of effort and one of rest, into an emblem of the creative work of God.
Sculpture from the Palace of Assur-nazir-pel, King of Assyria. Now in the British Museum. Damaged by fire. Supposed to represent the defeat of Tiamat by Merodach. The second verse of Genesis states, "And the earth was without form and void [ i. If this theory were substantiated, it would have such an important bearing upon the subject of the attitude of the inspired writers towards the objects of nature, that a little space must be spared for its examination.
From it we learn that the universe and all the parts that make it up—all the different forms of energy, all the different forms of matter—are neither deities themselves, nor their embodiments and expressions, nor the work of conflicting deities. From it we learn that the universe [ 26 ] is not self-existent, nor even as the pantheist thinks of it the expression of one vague, impersonal and unconscious, but all-pervading influence.
It was not self-made; it did not exist from all eternity. It is not God, for God made it.
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But the problem of its origin has exercised the minds of many nations beside the Hebrews, and an especial interest attaches to the solution arrived at by those nations who were near neighbours of the Hebrews and came of the same great Semitic stock. From the nature of the case, accounts of the origin of the world cannot proceed from experience, or be the result of scientific experiment.
They cannot form items of history, or arise from tradition. There are only two possible sources for them; one, Divine revelation; the other, the invention of men. The account current amongst the Babylonians has been preserved to us by the Syrian writer Damascius, who gives it as follows:—. George Smith, in the form of a long epic poem, on a series of tablets, brought from the royal library of Kouyunjik, or Nineveh, and he published them in , in his book on The Chaldean Account of Genesis.
None of the tablets were perfect; and of some only very small portions remain. But portions of other copies of the poem have been discovered in other localities, and it has been found possible to piece together satisfactorily a considerable section, so that a fair idea of the general scope of the poem has been given to us.
The genealogy of the gods follows, and after a gap in the story, Tiamat, or Tiamtu, is represented as preparing for battle, "She who created everything. But first Anu and then another god turned back baffled, and finally Merodach, the son of Ea, was asked to become the champion of the gods. Merodach gladly consented, but made good terms for himself. The gods were to assist him in every possible way by entrusting all their powers to him, and were to acknowledge him as first and chief of all.
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The gods in their extremity were nothing loth. They feasted Merodach and, when swollen with wine, endued him with all magical powers, and hailed him—. At first the sight of his terrible enemy caused even Merodach to falter, but plucking up courage he advanced to meet her, caught her in his net, and, forcing an evil wind into her open mouth—.
He then proceded to furnish the heavens and the earth with their respective equipments; the details of this work occupying apparently the fifth, sixth, and seventh tablets of the series. Under ordinary circumstances such a legend as the foregoing would not have attracted much attention. It is as barbarous and unintelligent as any myth of Zulu or Fijian. Strictly speaking, it is not a Creation myth at all. Tiamat and her serpent-brood and the gods are all existent before Merodach commences his work, and all that the god effects is a reconstruction of the world. The method of this reconstruction possesses no features superior to those of the Creation myths of other barbarous nations.
Our own Scandinavian ancestors had a similar one, the setting of which was certainly not inferior to the grotesque battle of Merodach with Tiamat. From Ymir's blood they made the sea and waters; from his flesh, the land; from his bones, the mountains; and his teeth and jaws, together with some bits of broken bones, served them to make the stones and pebbles. It will be seen that there is a remarkable likeness between the Babylonian and Scandinavian myths in the central and essential feature of each, viz. Yet it is not urged that there is any direct genetic connection between the two; that the Babylonians either taught their legend to the Scandinavians or learnt it from them.
Under ordinary circumstances it would hardly have occurred to any one to try to derive the monotheistic narrative of Gen. But it happened that Mr. George Smith, who brought to light the Assyrian Creation tablets, brought also to light a Babylonian account of the Flood, which had a large number of features in common with the narrative of Gen.
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The actual resemblance between the two Deluge narratives has caused a resemblance to be imagined between the two Creation narratives. It has been well brought out in some of the later comments of Assyriologists that, so far from there being any resemblance in the Babylonian legend to the narrative in Genesis, the two accounts differ in toto.
Pinches, for example, points out that in the Babylonian account there is—. Yet on this purely imaginary resemblance between the Biblical and Babylonian Creation narratives the legend has been founded "that the introductory chapters of the Book of Genesis present to us the Hebrew version of a mythology common to many of the Semitic peoples.
Friedrich Delitzsch have claimed that the Genesis narrative was borrowed from the Babylonian, though "the priestly scholar who composed Genesis, chapter i. If the Hebrew priest did borrow from the Babylonian myth, what was it that he borrowed?
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Not the existence of sea and land, of sun and moon, of plants and animals, of birds and beasts and fishes. For surely the Hebrew may be credited with knowing this much of himself, without any need for a transportation to Babylon to learn it. What else, then, is there common to the two accounts? Here, and here only, is a point of possible connection; but if it be evidence of a connection, what kind of a connection does it imply? It implies that the Babylonian based his barbarous myth upon the Hebrew narrative.
There is no other possible way of interpreting the connection,—if connection there be. The Hebrew word would seem to mean, etymologically, " surges ," " storm-tossed waters ,"—"Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts.
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