Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Hebrews

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October 10th, 1994

Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Hebrews

Their development from the 3rd millennium to 2nd C.E.

When the canonization of the Hebrew Holy ("TaNaKh") took place.

Frank Mancini

irg@ix.netcom.com

MESOPOTAMIA

Mesopotamia was the land of four primary civilizations: the Sumerian, the Akkadians, the Babylonian and the Assyrians. The Hebrews, like the Akkadians, belong to a group of people known as Semites and from there we can see the influence of Mesopotamian culture in some of the Hebrews traditions. During the same time, civilization began in Egypt, and there can be seen a distinct difference in the social, religious and political system from Mesopotamia; that the link between the two civilizations are the Hebrews, and although no historical records are available aside from the Holy Scriptures, it is believed that the Hebrews settled in Egypt during the era of Hyksos domination in the seventeenth century B.C.E. These three civilizations to be discussed were the foundation of today's society and provided the common era with concrete religious beliefs still practiced today.

Evidence of the mechanics on the evolution of social, religious and political values, as well as the fluctuating development of the role of women then and now, are present in these documents, beginning with the oldest document which is most likely the Epic of Gilgamesh, first passed on by word of mouth and later recorded by the Sumerians around the third millennium and finally edited and written down in cuneiform by the Babylonians.

This legend appears to have been used by all the civilizations in Mesopotamia in order to satisfy the need to know why we die and to justify the instincts that drove the people of these societies to war, to kill and to control as a must for survival. The gods were the only outlet available to justify such behavior to grant permission to rule, to kill and subdue the weak.

The Epic of Gilgamesh does just that: It serves as a model for the warrior, the king and the tragic hero and the standards for divine right, friendship, brotherhood and loyalty. Finally, it becomes evident from the beginning of a higher consciousness that justifies love, brotherhood and loyalty in the midst of this need for war and gods.

The Epic is divided into seven main parts: the "Coming of Enkidu", the "Forest Journey", "Ishtar", the "Search for Everlasting Life", the "Story of the Flood", the "Return", and the "Death of Gilgamesh".

The Creation of life was, and is, a mystery and therefore must be justified as it shows in the "Coming of Enkidu", where he was created by Aruru by dipping "her hands in water and pinching off clay" (EOG 62). Clay was the most used material at the times, used to create structures from bricks to kitchenware and so used from the gods to create man.

In the "Forest Journey", there is justification used by Gilgamesh and Enkidu to slay Humbaba, the guardian of the cedar forest, by labeling him evil, in order to fulfill the need for lumber by conquering the forest. The value of dreams is especially noted in this section and "Ishtar". Dreams, a combination of reality and fantasy, where strange and seemingly unexplainable visions which were assumed to play a part in a communication system between the gods and the people.

The roles of women in the Epic are mixed. Women are represented as harlots, as wise and as gods, to present multiple feelings in regards to them. There are a substantial amount of gods which are represented as women and it could represent a society with multiple views towards women. A society where no definitive set of rules were made for women and perhaps more open to a equal perspective.

In "Ishtar", the feelings of hate, love, rejection and punishment come to the surface as to show that killing was not for all to do and that is permissible to a king two-thirds god and not to...
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