The Making of a Nation eBook

Charles Foster Kent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 125 pages of information about The Making of a Nation.

On the basis of the preceding comparisons some writers attempt to trace tentatively the history of the flood tradition current among the peoples of southwestern Asia.  A fragment of the Babylonian flood story, coming from at least as early as 2000 B.C., has recently been discovered.  The probability is that the tradition goes back to the earliest beginnings of Babylonian history.  The setting of the Biblical accounts of the flood is also the Tigris-Euphrates valley rather than Palestine.  The description of the construction of the ark in Genesis 6:14-16 is not only closely parallel to that found in the Babylonian account, but the method—­the smearing of the ark within and without with bitumen—­is peculiar to the Tigris-Euphrates valley.  Many scholars believe, therefore, that Babylonia was the original home of the Biblical flood story.

Its exact origin, however, is not so certain.  Many of its details were doubtless suggested by the annual floods and fogs which inundate that famous valley and recall the primeval chaos so vividly pictured in the corresponding Babylonian story of the creation.  It may have been based on the remembrances of a great local inundation, possibly due to the subsidence of great areas of land.  In the earliest Hebrew records there is no trace of this tradition, although it may have been known to the Aramean ancestors of the Hebrews.  The literary evidence, however, suggests that it was first brought to Palestine by the Assyrians.  During the reactionary reign of Manasseh, Assyrian customs and Baylonian ideas, which these conquerors had inherited, inundated Judah.  Even in the temple at Jerusalem the Babylonians’ gods, the host of heaven, were worshipped by certain of the Hebrews.  The few literary inscriptions which come from this period, those found in the mound at Gezer, are written in the Assyrian script and contain the names of Assyrian officials.

Later when the Jewish exiles were carried to Babylonia, they naturally came into contact again with the Babylonian account of the flood, but in its later form, as the comparisons already instituted clearly indicate.  It is thus possible, these scholars believe, to trace, in outline at least, the literary history of the Semitic flood story in its various transformations through a period of nearly two thousand years.

IV.

AIM OF THE BIBLICAL WRITERS IN RECOUNTING THE FLOOD STORY.

The practical question which at once suggests itself is, What place or right has this ancient Semitic tradition, if such it is, among the Biblical narratives?  At best the historical data which it preserves are exceedingly small and of doubtful value.  Is it possible that the prophetic and priestly historians found these stories on the lips of the people and sought in this heroic way to divest them of their polytheistic form and, in certain respects, immoral implications?  A minute comparison of the Babylonian and Biblical accounts indicates that this may perhaps be precisely what has been done; but the majestic, just God of the Biblical narratives is far removed from the capricious, intriguing gods of the Babylonian tradition, who hang like flies over the battlements of heaven, stupefied with terror because of the destruction which they had wrought.

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The Making of a Nation from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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