Genesis 1-2 Parallels #3: Ninti, “Lady of the Rib”

Parallels

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Because Adam is lonely and lacks a helper as his partner, Yahweh puts him to sleep and makes a woman out of his rib (Gen. 2:21-23).  Again we return to a story of the deities Enki and Ninsikila/Ninhursaga, starting with Enki’s attempt to win the love of his great granddaughter, Uttu; he does so by finding a gardener to help him grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Upon accepting Enki’s gift, Enki takes her by force until Ninhursaga arrives – removing Enki’s semen from Uttu’s body and planting it in the ground where eight plants then grow. Later, Enki comes across the plants and asks his page Isimu if he should eat them to “find out their nature.”[1]  Isimu says he will name each one and give it to Enki to eat. Doing so he becomes pregnant, but suffers great for being unable to give birth as a male. Ninhursaga decides to help by placing him in her vulva and gives birth to eight deities, each of which is created from a different part of Enki’s body. As you may have already guessed, one is from his rib:

“My brother,
what part of you hurts you!”
“My ribs hurt me!”
She gave birth to Ninti out of it. [2]

Upon a comparison, I would argue that this myth encompasses four of the five general motifs present in Genesis. First, as explained earlier, both Eden and Dilmun are depicted as a peaceful, heavenly garden-land where God/gods roam. Second, a tree/plants of life grow there (though in the Enki myth, it literally contains life). Third, although not labeled explicitly as trickery – and therefore allowing for fair criticism – like the serpent it was Isimu who convinced Enki to eat the plants, resulting in knowledge but also misery. Finally, we have the creation of a lady of the rib (lit. “Ninti” in Sumerian)[3] from a male with the help of a god/goddess.

Are these the only parallels scholars have made concerning the first few chapters in Genesis? Far from it! In the next entry we’ll dissect Genesis 3-4 to reveal fascinating parallels dealing with the Tree of Life, the Serpent, Man’s fall from grace, and a dispute of Shepard vs. Farmer that results in murder.

Sources and Further Reading:


[1] Enki and Ninsikila/Ninhursaga, 226

[2] Enki and Ninsikila/Ninhursaga, 298-300

[3] S.M. Kramer and John R. Maier, Myths of Enki, the Crafty God (Oxford University Press, 1989), 22.

Next: Deleted Scenes ⇨

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