In this video, Dr. Ken Keathley, Senior Professor of Theology, Jesse Hendley Endowed Chair of Biblical Theology and Director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, contrasts Genesis with the Babylonian creation myth. Read a transcript below.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
When we read it, we think, well yeah, how else could it have happened? And so we don’t quite realize just what an amazing statement Genesis 1:1 really is. When one looks at the Babylonian traditions like the Enuma Elish, Marduk creates the world out of a female dragon deity that he had killed. He cuts her in half. With the lower half he makes the earth, and with the upper half he makes the stars.
All of the other deities had to surrender him in order to talk him into defeating Tiamat, that was the name of that deity. And he said, “Sure, I’ll slay her for you just as long as you will serve me forever.” Well, they do that for a while, but they hate it. And so they said, “Look, we knew we said we’d do whatever you told us to, but we’re gods for crying out loud.” He said okay. So they had a captured god, so they go over to him and they cut his throat. And as his blood gushes out, Marduk and Ea the god of wisdom mash together the blood of that dead deity and they compact humans. These humans are now to be slaves of the various deities. And it said,
I will make man let his name be called man, and he will ease the burdens of the gods.
So what you see in the Babylonian movement you have the one dictator Marduk and everyone else is in a hierarchy of slavery and serfdom. And we are to obey without question, and we are to just be glad that we have this deity on our side. Because there’s nothing good about Marduk; he just happens to be the gangster in charge.
Contrast that with the God of the Bible. He enters into a loving relationship. It’s very clear in Genesis 1 that everything that’s being done is to prepare a beautiful wonderful place for man and woman so that he might enter into a covenant of love with us. The contrast could not be more stark. In Genesis you have a God who is truly sovereign because he’s outside of creation and he calls all of creation into existence.
The God who’s leading Israel is very different than any other god, whether it’s the Babylonian, Egyptian, or Canaanite god. Their god was qualitatively different. In all the other traditions, humans are presented as slaves. They are created for the explicit purpose of making the life of the god easier and taking their burden. Whereas in Genesis, we are his co-regents and we enter into a covenant relationship with God.
Genesis is a wonderful good news for Moses’ audience. He’s telling them they have a God who can truly save them, truly deliver them because he is truly sovereign and that he is entering into a relationship with them unlike any other relationship they’ve ever seen or heard of. They are not the slaves merely of the one true God. They are his vice regents. They are his priests. They are his ambassadors. And they are created in his image.
And so for Moses’ original audience, this was really good news. Which is why I like to call Genesis 1-2 the gospel according to Moses.