Famine, Pestilence & Death
One of the most popular stories of the bible is that of the Ten plagues of Egypt. What if this tale is a combination of tales from both Akkadian and Egyptian mythology combined into one story? Enlil is replaced in the newer version of the myth by “Pharoah”. The similarities are too numerous to be coincidental yet the newer version of this story contains details that may have been lost forever in the lines missing from the face of the ancient tablets.
From the end of the creation story the second tale within the three tablet epic of Atrahasis begins after some time has passed and the population of people has expanded. The god Enlil tells the gods that there are too many people on earth and they are too loud; they disturb his peace. Enlil commands that the gods to cause disease to break out upon the earth. We next see Atrahasis implore the god Enki for help. Enki instructs Atrahasis to gather the elders and tell them to stop praying and offering items to their usual gods and instead build a temple to Namtara and offer him offering of bread. Atrahasis and the people do so and Namtara ends the plague of disease from the people.
Six hundred years pass and Enlil again tells the gods there are too many people, they are too loud and they disturb his sleep. Enlil orders the vegetation killed and that the god Adad withhold rain and cause a drought. As ordered, Adad withholds rain and a drought sweeps across the land. Atrahasis again implores the Enki for help. Enki gives the same advise as before. He tells them to withhold their offerings and prayers to the gods and instead build a temple to Adad and gift him offerings of bread. Atrahasis and the elders build a temple to Adad who finds their offerings pleasing and he allows it to rain saving the people from drought.
The story continues repeating this pattern. Time passes, Enlil is disturbed by the noise of the people and he sends drought again, he orders the land bleached and unable to support livestock. As the land is ordered baron from producing life so are the women and they are unable to have children. The earth is brought down to only a few weak starving families with scabbed faces.
While most notably the ten plagues of Egypt do not occur in the Torah until after the flood, this is the story within Akkadian mythology that occurs directly before the flood. Many scholars try to explain the ten plagues as natural occurrences that happened in a relatively short period of time from a volcanic eruption or some other natural disaster. The Egyptians were not without their own literature and recorded their history in writing. There is no evidence to suggest that the ten plagues of Egypt literally occurred within Egypt from their own Egyptian writings or Akkadian writings. Akkadian was used as language in which Egypt and Mesopotamia communicated with each other. It was the English of the time. The Egyptian court kept scribes fluent in Akkadian to communicate with the those across the fertile crescent. It is unlikely that within the thousands of communications that have been found between the Egyptian and Akkadian cultures there would exist zero accounts of these troubles in Egypt if they had actually occurred around 1800 BCE as biblical scholars suggest was the time in which Moses was in Egypt.
In continuing with the theme regarding the transformation of similar ancient mythological stories, In particular to the first plague listed within the Ten Plagues of Egypt is the river’s of blood. As scholars have tried to suggest this is a red algae bloom and it’s probable that something of that nature could have been but the Egyptians tell a story similar to what we have read in Atrahasis.
The period of time known as The Middle Kingdom in Egypt was a time in which Egypt produced amazing works of Art And Literature roughly 2040 BCE to 1750 BCE. In the Book of the Heavenly Cow written during that ancient time is the story similar to the theme of an angry authoritian unleashing his fury upon human kind.
In this story the Sun god Ra is angry that humans are ungrateful and evil and needs to be punished for their sins. Ra sends Hathor down to unleash fury and destruction upon humanity destroying everything in her path. Upon witnessing the absolute blood lust and destruction of humanity, Ra and the gods come up with a plan to stop Hathor (or rather Sekhmet as she is called during the destruction). Ra instructs the Egyptian Goddess of beer, Tenenet, to create a particularly strong brew of beer. They then dye the beer red with the juice of pomegranates and pour the red beer into the Nile River whereupon Sekhmet drinks the beer until she is becomes drunk and falls asleep. Sekhmet then awakens as Hathor and has nothing but love and guidance for humankind.
In closing, regardless of where the story has been recorded, many ancient cultures have created a narrative to explain the difficulties in which ancient cultures experienced such as plagues and droughts. Cultures created villain’s and saviors to reconcile man’s constant struggle to survive in nature. As I have written about 3 very similar and specific myths across 3 cultures that existed very close within time and proximity they do reflect that these myths persist across an expanding area. The names of the gods and the details of the stories change but the existence of humankind finding a way to explain the extreme difficulties of ancient survival is a universal theme. These stories are not reflection of any real history that occurred during ancient time and allegorically represent the same difficulties we face today.