101 Myths of the Bible

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Part One Myths of the Beginning

Myth 1: In the beginning everything was without form and void.

The Myth: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)
The Reality: Genesis uses the Hermopolitan Creation scheme to describe the state of the universe before Creation begins. The four male deities have been omitted from the story but their essential characteristics have been retained.

The first two sentences of Genesis describe the state of the universe prior to the Hebrew god initiating the Creation process. In the beginning, it says, God created the heaven and the earth, but we know from later passages that the heaven and earth were submerged within the “deep” at this early stage, waiting to be lifted out and transformed into their present physical state.
The words translated as “without form” and “void” appear in the original Hebrew as “tohu” and “bohu,” and those two words sometimes appear in popular writing as an idiomatic way of expressing chaos or disorder, as in “all was tohu and bohu.” The sense of these two Hebrew words combine to indicate a vast empty space, a desolate area. In biblical context, we have an undefined space forming some sort of bubble within the primeval “deep.”
The word translated as “Spirit” in the phrase “Spirit of God” appears in the original Hebrew as “ruach,” and it doesn’t mean “Spirit”—it signifies “wind” or“ violent exhalation.” By translating “ruach” as “Spirit,” biblical interpreters have attempted to translate it in a manner consistent with their theological understanding of the biblical text, but without regard to its true meaning and original context. Let’s substitute “wind” for “Spirit” and see what we have in the original Hebrew.
The opening verses describe four things:

1. an earth and heaven that took up space but had had no form or content;

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2. darkness;
3. a watery deep, within which the unformed space existed; and
4. a wind (i.e., “Spirit of God”) hovering upon the face of the waters.

These four elements constitute what the biblical authors believed to be the four basic components of the universe before the start of Creation, one of which, the wind, was identified with the Hebrew god. They correspond precisely with what Egyptian priests in Thebes and Hermopolis believed to be the four primary components of the universe at the beginning of Creation, but the Egyptians identified each of these four elements with a pair of male and female deities, something that was taboo in Hebrew theology. That the Hebrews adopted the Egyptian scheme can be seen from the following description of the first four pairs of Egyptian deities and the elements they represented.

1. Huh and Hauhet—unformed space, i.e., the shapeless bubble within the deep, as described in Genesis as tohu and bohu;
2. Kuk and Kauket—the darkness on the face of the waters;
3. Nun and Naunet—the primeval flood, “the Deep,” the same as the biblical deep; and
4. Amen and Amenet—the invisible wind, the biblical “wind” that hovered over the deep.

Although the Hebrew priests adopted this Egyptian view of the primeval universe, their monotheistic theology caused them to disassociate these four natural elements from the Egyptian deities with which they were identified, retaining only the physical attributes with which these deities were associated. Additionally, the Genesis author of this Creation story accepted the Theban tradition that the primary Creator was identified with the wind. They simply changed the Egyptian god’s name of Amen to the Hebrew name of Elohim, and described him as “ruach,” the wind. As we work through the first Creation story in Genesis, we will see how closely and precisely the Genesis author continued to follow the Egyptian myths.

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Myth 2: God initiated Creation with a spoken word.

The Myth: And God said…. (Genesis 1:3)
The Reality: The initiation of Creation by spoken word comes from the Egyptian Creation myths.

The process of biblical Creation begins when God utters a commandment for light to appear. The idea of Creation by command has no counterpart in the Mesopotamian Creation myths. Among the Egyptians, however, Creation by command played a basic role.
The Egyptians believed in the power of the word to create and control the environment, and many Egyptian texts speak about Creation beginning with verbal commands. One describes Amen as “the one who speaks and what should come into being comes into being.” Another text describes Ptah in a similar manner when it says, “Accordingly, he thinks out and commands what he wishes [to exist]. ”A reference to the actions of Atum in the creative process tells us “he took AnNunciation in his mouth.”
In the Theban Creation scheme, after Amen (i.e., the wind) initiated Creation, he first appeared in the form of the four primary elements. He next appeared in the form of Ptah, the Creator god of Memphis, who initiated Creation by speaking a command. This is the same sequence as in the Genesis account, where “the wind” issues forth a spoken command, but the biblical author has eliminated any reference to Ptah as the speaker and merged the Memphite Creator deity (Ptah) with the Theban Creator deity (Amen). This distinction, however, is only cosmetic, since in the Theban view “Amen the wind” and “Ptah the Speaker” are both forms of the same deity.

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Myth 3: Creation began with the appearance of light.

The Myth: Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:3)
The Reality: Genesis follows the Theban Creation doctrine when it begins the Creation process with the appearance of light.

In Genesis, God’s spoken command causes light to appear suddenly, an event that signifies the start of the creative process. No such doctrine appears in the Mesopotamian myths, but many Egyptian myths follow the same sequence. After the Egyptian Creator god speaks, light suddenly appears. One particular passage from a hymn to Amen shows how closely the biblical sequence follows the Egyptian.

[The one (i.e., Amen)] that came into being in the first time when no god was [yet] created, when you [ Amen-Re ] opened your eyes to see with them and everybody became illuminated by means of the glances of your eyes, when the day had not yet come into being.

This is interesting because it states not only that light appeared at the beginning of Creation but that it appeared when the day had not yet come into being, and Genesis makes the same claim. Immediately following the appearance of light, the Bible says:

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. (Genesis 1:4–5)

In both the Theban and Memphite Creation myths, after Ptah appears, he commands the appearance of Atum, the Heliopolitan Creator god who first appears in the form of a flaming serpent, the first light.
In Genesis and Egyptian myth, Creation began when a deity summoned forth the first light by verbal command. This light originally corresponded to Atum, but the Hebrew writers eliminated the direct reference to this deity and simply described the appearance of light.

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Myth 4: God separated light from darkness on the first day.

The Myth: And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. (Genesis 1:4–5) And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. (Genesis 1:16–19)
The Reality: Genesis has two contradictory stories about how and why light was separated from darkness. The confusion came about because the first story takes place before the appearance of the sun and moon and later biblical redactors no longer remembered why the original Egyptian story had day and night appear before the solar disc and the moon. As a result, they added in a second division of light after the appearance of these two heavenly bodies.

After the appearance of the first light on the first day, Genesis says that God divided the light from the dark and called the light “Day” and the dark “Night". Yet, on the fourth day, God once again separated the light from the dark and divided time into day and night. Why does this happen twice?
The nature of the light that appeared on the first day is puzzling. In Genesis, the sun, moon, and stars do not appear until the fourth day. How can we have light on the first day, and how can it be separated from the dark such that we have a day and night that is to be followed by two more periods of light and dark, all before the creation of the sun? And, if we already have alternating periods of light and dark, in what manner did appearance of the sun require a new separation of the light from dark?
The confusion arises because the Genesis story, following the Egyptian myth, has light appear at the start of Creation. This light was an attribute of Atum, a sun god,

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but it was not the solar disc. In the Egyptian view, the sun had many forms and different gods represented different aspects of the sun. In its daily journey across the sky, for example, different gods represented the location of the sun at different times. The morning sun was Khepera, the beetle god, and the afternoon sun was Re. The solar disc was known as the Aten and came to be thought of as a separate deity, signifying just one visual manifestation of the sun, but it was not all of the sun’s physical being, and it didn’t appear until later in the Creation process.
The Egyptians also had a philosophical view of day and night. According to a passage in the Egyptian Book of the Dead: “As for ‘eternity’ that is the day; as for ‘everlastingness,’ that is night.”
This view reflected the Egyptian idea that life continued throughout all time. Philosophically, this idea evolved from the daily cycle of the sun, which Egyptians considered to be a daily rebirth and renewal of life. The morning sun was a young child, the setting sun an old man. The onset of “eternity” and “everlastingness” coincided with the appearance of the first light of the sun at the beginning of Creation. Therefore, the Egyptians saw “day/eternity” and “night/everlasting” as an attribute of the first sunlight.
The same idea appears in Genesis. God’s creation of day and night with the first light signified the Egyptian idea of “eternity” and “everlastingness” and they represented different phenomena than the day and night associated with the appearance of the solar disc and the moon and the stars.
To the Hebrew monotheists, however, writing hundreds of years later, the solar disc was all of the sun. There were no god or set of gods hiding behind it. They only knew the sun as a physical entity that moved across the sky and separated night from day. For them, day and night resulted from the rising and setting of the solar disc, as expressed in the description of events on the fourth day of Creation. “Eternity” and “everlastingness” were not part of Hebrew religion and the Hebrew priests no longer recalled or understood the philosophic meaning of the first day and night. If day and night appeared on the first day, it had to be the normal separation of daylight from darkness as caused by the setting of the sun. And so the authors of Genesis described day and night on the first day in terms of current convention, ignoring or not recognizing the inherent contradiction between events on the first and fourth days.

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Myth 5: A firmament arose out of the primeval waters.

The Myth: And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. (Genesis 1:6–7)
The Reality: This firmament arising out of the waters is the primeval mountain of Egyptian myth.

After calling forth the first light and dividing the light from the darkness, Genesis tells us that God caused a firmament to rise in the midst of the waters, and this firmament divided the waters from the waters. As the verses quoted above clearly show, the dividing of “the waters from the waters” refers to the separation of water above the firmament from the water below the firmament.
In all the Egyptian Creation myths, following the appearance of the first light (usually identified with the god Atum) the Creator god caused a mountain to emerge out of the primeval waters. This mountain, by its nature, was a solid physical entity, a firmament, and according to the Egyptian view, it separated the primeval waters into waters above and waters below. The Egyptians viewed the sky as a waterway through which the sun god Re sailed the solar barque. The primeval mountain became the space in between the waters above and below and provided the force that held them apart.
The rising firmament in Genesis is indistinguishable from the primeval mountain that emerged out of the Nun, the primeval waters, and in both the biblical and Egyptian stories, the rising occurs in the same sequential order in the Creation process, after the summoning forth of the first light by the spoken word.

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Myth 6: God called the firmament “heaven".

The Myth: And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:8)
The Reality: The identification of the firmament as heaven results from an erroneous interpretation by later biblical redactors.

Genesis describes only one event occurring on the second day, the appearance of the firmament. (Later, we will see that the second day included some additional events.) Although the narrative locates it between the waters above and the waters below, equating it with the sky rather than the heaven above the sky, some Hebrew scribe wrote that God called the firmament “Heaven.” The author must not have been familiar with the original Egyptian story in which this firmament represented a primeval mountain that arose out of the waters and separated the waters above from the waters below.
In Creation stories throughout the Near East, in Egypt as well as in Mesopotamia and the Levant, the heavens rested on a vault over the sky. This vault of necessity constituted a transparent but solid platform that kept the heaven from falling down through the sky. In Egypt, the sky between heaven and earth, originally the firmament that emerged out of the waters, came to be associated with the god Shu, son of the Heaven and Earth, and Egyptians depicted him as holding heaven aloft over the earth.
The Hebrew scribes believed that there should be some hard surface up in the sky holding up the heaven, but as monotheists, they could not accept the idea that the sky was a deity separate and apart from the Hebrew God. Therefore, they once again disassociated the Egyptian deity from the phenomena represented by the deity. They transformed the Egyptian sky deity that held up the heavens into the heaven itself.

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Myth 7: God gathered the waters in one place.

The Myth: And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:9–10)
The Reality: The gathering of the waters refers to the creation of the Nile River.

The third day of Creation began with the gathering of the waters in one place.
Then God named the gathered water “Seas,” a plural term indicating multiple bodies of water. Each sea would be a separately bounded area. Are the waters in one place or several places?
The problem arises because Hebrew scribes influenced by Babylonian surroundings and cultural influences in the latter part of the first millennium B.C. applied their current geographical understandings to a passage reflecting a different geographical environment. In Mesopotamia and the Levant, people knew of many separate and important major bodies of water, including the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and the Orontes River in Syria.
The Egyptians, on the other hand, while knowledgeable about many bodies of water, considered only the Nile to be important. Herodotus referred to Egypt as the “gift of the Nile.” The most important feature of the Nile was its annual flooding, which provided the country with an abundant supply of fertile farmland. In addition, the river teemed with fish, fowl, and animal life, providing additional sources of food, and it gave Egyptians access to all the major cities along and near the Nile banks.
The Nile played such a prominent role in Egyptian life that it provided the setting for much of its mythology. Mythic ideas about the primeval flood at the beginning of Creation and the mountain that emerged out of it derived from images of the Nile. As the annual Nile flood produced life, Egyptians envisioned an initial world flood that gave rise to life. As the floodwaters retreated back to the Nile basin, leaving large

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mounds of fertile black soil in its departure, the Egyptians imagined a first hill emerging out of the floodwaters and the waters gathering together into a single stream.
An Egyptian Creation Myth (preserved in a document known as Coffin Text 76) describing the separation of heaven and earth tells of Shu (the sky), son of Atum (the first light), gathering the waters together. “This god (Shu) is tying the land together for my father Atum, and drawing together the Great flood for him.”
The drawing together of the flood refers to the creation of the Nile and the text goes on to say that the event occurred on the same day that Atum appeared on the first mountain. If we strip this Myth of its polytheistic elements, as the Hebrew scribes would have done, it provides a perfect parallel to the events transpiring across the second and third day of Genesis Creation.
Shu, who signifies the sky, is the offspring of Atum, the first light whom Egyptians associate with the emergence of the primeval mountain. Shu came into being on the very day that Atum appeared, following the emergence of the mountain from Nun (the Great flood). He (the sky) then separated Nut (heaven) from Geb (earth), tied the land together, and gathered together the waters of the flood into one place, (which created the Nile), the very same set of events as in Genesis.
The biblical Creation sequence, therefore, follows the Egyptian scheme. Shu’s gathering of the waters describes the origin of the Nile and corresponds to the biblical gathering of the waters in one place.
As with the description of heaven, one of the Hebrew scribes misunderstood the initial description of the waters because he no longer understood events in an Egyptian context. The final editing of the Bible occurred after the Hebrew elite were captured and moved to Babylon, and Babylon, as a great center of learning, exercised a powerful influence on the later biblical redactors. Since the Babylonian perspective recognized several separate important bodies of water, the Hebrew scribes took what was originally a description of the Nile, the waters gathered in a single place, and appended to it a phrase indicating that the gathered waters constituted several large bodies of water, again either ignoring or not recognizing the contradictory claim that resulted.

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Myth 8: Vegetation appeared before the sun.

The Myth: And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:11–12)
The Reality: Genesis follows the Egyptian Creation sequence in putting the appearance of vegetation before the sun.

The third day in Genesis finishes with the appearance of vegetation: grass, seed, and fruit. Parenthetically, this creates problems from a scientific view, since plant life requires sunlight to survive and grow and the sun has not yet appeared. But, we concern ourselves here only with the mythological aspects of the discussion.
Keeping the Genesis description of the third day in mind, consider this brief excerpt from the [[Egyptian Book of the Dead]], c. 79:

Hail Atum!—
Who made the sky, who created what exists;
Who emerged as land, who created seed.

This passage describes the same precise sequence as in Genesis, the appearance of sky, followed by land, followed by vegetation. The same sequence appears in other Egyptian texts describing the Creation process. The oldest son of Heaven and Earth, for example, was Osiris, whom Egyptians identified with grain, again showing that vegetation appeared right after heaven and earth.
Throughout the Egyptian Creation tradition, vegetation appears right after the division of heaven and earth and the gathering of the waters. This is the sequence followed in Genesis, and shows the continuing parallel, event for event, between Egyptian Creation myths and the Genesis Creation story.

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Myth 9: God created the heavenly bodies.

The Myth: And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. (Genesis 1:14–19)
The Reality: The biblical editors began with the correct Theban chronological sequence for the arrival of the sun but then Amended the story by following the Babylonian tradition for the appearance of the heavenly bodies.

The fourth day of Creation brings about the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. The narrative initially describes the creation of lights in the firmament (without specifying which lights they are) in order to divide the night from day. This presents a puzzle as God already had separated night from day, darkness from light, on the first day of Creation, a paradox discussed earlier in Myth 4. These unspecified lights created on the fourth day served a variety of calendar functions, marking off days, seasons, and years. Next, after telling us about the function of these lights, Genesis finally describes them, a greater light to rule the day and a lesser light to rule the night. And, almost as an afterthought, it adds, “he made the stars also.”
These two major lights are the sun and the moon. We have already noted that in the Theban doctrine of Creation, the Sun appears in the form of Re as a child after the events involved in the divisions of heaven and earth and waters and the appearance of vegetation, which is consistent with Genesis. But we don’t have any corresponding Egyptian references to the appearances of the moon and the stars in connection with the sun. We know only that in the Theban MythAmen (the Theban Creator deity),

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appearing in the form of Re (the Hermopolitan Creator deity), would have been responsible for the organization of the rest of the creative process, including the appearance of the moon and the stars.
In some Egyptian texts, the sun and moon each form one of the eyes of Horus (a solar deity identified as the son of Re or Osiris), but we have no particularly useful account of the moon’s origin. Egyptians considered stars to be inhabitants of the underworld and, since Osiris (the son of heaven and earth) ruled the underworld, they called the stars “Followers of Osiris.”
While the Theban tradition places the creation of the sun at the same sequential point as Genesis, we have to acknowledge that the thrust of the Genesis narrative for the fourth day does not flow from Egyptian ideas. The sun has a significantly diminished role, placed on a par or slightly more important level with the moon and the stars, a concept inconsistent with the Egyptian view.
However, a passage from a Babylonian Creation text known as Enuma Elish (Tablet V), shows that Babylonian ideas influenced the Genesis description. It describes events that took place almost immediately after the god Marduk had slain the monstrous Tiamat and formed heaven and earth out of her severed parts. In it, there are detailed descriptions of how he created the sun, moon, and stars and their roles in marking out time periods. To quote just one passage that parallels the biblical description, “The moon he caused to shine forth; the night he entrusted (to her). He appointed her, the ornament of the night, to make known the days.”
Compare that with the biblical phrasing: “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.”
The ideas in both passages clearly share common concepts, but the Babylonian phrasing reflects the polytheistic nature of the myths. The Hebrews, as with the Egyptian myths, accepted the Babylonian science but separated out the gods from the functions. Still, we see how closely the Hebrews followed the Babylonian model, eliminating the deities but embracing their roles as rulers of the day and night.

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Myth 10: Birds emerged from the primeval waters.

The Myth: And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. (Genesis 1:20)
The Reality: Genesis has two contradictory accounts of the creation of bird life, one reflecting the Egyptian viewpoint, the other the Babylonian.

On the fifth day of creation, Genesis describes the creation of sea life and fowl, and says that the fowl emerged from the waters. By contrast, in the second Genesis Creation story, attributed to the J source, it says, “And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air” (Genesis 2:19).
Did birds emerge out of the primeval waters or out of the ground? Once again, the Bible provides contradictory accounts of an event, reflecting the reliance on a variety of materials from different cultural perspectives. The primeval water account suggests an origin in a society that sees water as the source of life, as in Egyptian mythology. The land-based account suggests a society in which the land played a more important life-sustaining role, as in ancient Babylon.
In Egypt, the Nile was the source of life and a large variety of waterfowl inhabited the banks. Egyptian myths associated the flood as the source of life and several myths associate waterfowl with the Creation process.

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Myth 11: God created man and woman in his own image.

The Myth: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:27)
The Reality: The idea that God created humanity in his own image comes from Egyptian beliefs about the relationship between humanity and the Creator.

The Bible says that God created man and woman in his own image but it doesn’t explain what it means to be created in God’s image. Do they share the same physical form, or physical characteristics such as immortality or just some of sort of spiritual similarity? None of these options seem to be the case.
We know from the story of Adam and Eve that knowledge of good and evil (the fundamental basis for spiritual similarity) and immortality (a physical characteristic) were attributes of God and his angels but they were not attributes given to humanity when it was first created. Also, God assumed many shapes in the Bible, including that of a burning bush and a cloud of smoke, to describe just two. So, God and humans did not share a similar physical form.
Another question raised by the biblical passage concerns the sex of this image. Was the image of God male or female or both? Although the English translation initially says God created “man” in his own image, it then goes on to say,“male and female created he them.” The problem is that the English translation does not accurately reflect the underlying Hebrew text. The Hebrew does not say God created “man”; it says he created ha-Adam, which means“ the Adam,” and he created “the Adam” male and female. Since the Hebrew word for “man” is “ish”, what we may ask is an Adam?
Underlying the English translation is the idea that Adam means “man,” but this is actually a speculation by biblical scholars who have assumed this meaning. It derives primarily from a pun based on the belief that Adam was made from clay.
In Hebrew and other Semitic languages, the word for clay is adamah, and, since Genesis says that God made the being later named Adam out of clay, the biblical

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scholars have assumed that the word for clay became a metaphor for man. In fact, there are a couple of non-biblical references to indicate that such might be the case but this is limited to a handful of personal names found in texts in the library of ancient Ugarit and dating to about the fourteenth century B.C. We have no general evidence of any widespread use in Semitic tongues for the use of Adam to mean “man.”
The problem here is that the Hebrew scribes adopted this idea that man was formed in the image of God from Egyptian traditions. That belief remained with the Israelites throughout their history but, because they didn’t believe in any form of physical representation of deity, by the time that Genesis assumed its final written form, the concept of an “image of god” no longer had a specific meaning.
To trace the concept back to its roots, look at the Egyptians’ view. The Egyptians believed both that humanity was created in the image of the Creator and that the Creator had both male and female characteristics. A passage from an ancient text known as The Instruction Book for Merikare, illustrates the first principle.

Well tended is mankind—god’s cattle.
He made sky and earth for their sake
He subdued the water monster,
He made breath for their noses to live.
They are his images, who came from his body.

Note the parallel here to the biblical passage, where it talks not only about humanity being in the image of god, but also incorporates both male and female within the image.
This text apparently had wide circulation in Egypt. It dates originally to the twenty-first century B.C. and the present form of the text cited here comes from a papyrus written during the New Kingdom period, several centuries later. Hebrew scribes in Egypt almost certainly would have been familiar with the ideas expressed.
While Egyptians had several ideas about how humans were created, this particular version indicates that men and women were parts of the body of the Creator and it is in this sense that humanity had the image of a god. Several texts also show that the Creator incorporated both male and female characteristics, explaining how both male and female forms could come from the same source.

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In the Hermopolitan scheme, for instance, the Creator was comprised of four males and four females as a single entity. In the Heliopolitan and Memphite traditions, Atum, without benefit of a mate, actually gave birth to two deities, Shu by sneezing him out and Tefnut by spitting her out. He did so, according to one text, after first having “acted as husband with my fist.” Atum has also been called the “Great He-She.” Ptah, the Memphite Creator, also exhibits male and female characteristics. As one text puts it:

Ptah-Nun, the father who made Atum;
Ptah-Naunet, the mother who gave birth to Atum

So, we find that Egyptian texts depict the Creator as having male and female aspects and that humanity was formed in the Creator’s image. This translates into Genesis as, “So God created man [i.e., humans] in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
Finally, we come to the question of the identity of ha-adam, the being created male and female. Since the names Atum and Adam are pronounced in an almost identical manner, the “d” and “t” being interchangeable on a phonetic level, it makes sense that “the Adam” would be a collective term for the multitude of beings that came forth from Atum, the Heliopolitan Creator.

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Myth 12: God created Adam and Eve on the sixth day.

The Myth: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26–27, 31)
But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:6–7)
The Reality: The male and female created on the sixth day of Creation were not Adam and Eve. The story of Adam and Eve belongs to a separate mythological tradition than that of the seven days of Creation.

When did God create Adam and Eve? Ask almost anyone familiar with the Book of Genesis and they will tell you that they appeared on the sixth day of Creation. When the biblical redactors edited the Bible into its present form, they wanted the reader to believe this to be true. Yet, examination of the relevant biblical verses shows that the male and female created on the sixth day were not Adam and Eve.
In the first Creation story, God proceeded in an orderly fashion to organize the universe and create all the things within it. On each of six consecutive days he performed various tasks.
On the third day he created plant life, on the fourth, heavenly bodies. And on days five and six:

God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters

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brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:20–28)

Notice the sequence of events. God created plant life; then the heavenly bodies; then sea life and fowl; then beasts, cattle, and crawling things; and, finally, man and woman. Readers routinely assume that the man and woman were Adam and Eve, but let’s see what the Bible actually says.
Adam and Eve belong to the second Creation story. They first appear together in the second chapter of Genesis.

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:4–8)

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While this passage tells us precisely when this man appeared, most people who read it ignore the meaning of the text. This man appeared “in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” and before there was any vegetation on the earth. When exactly was that?
In the present version of Genesis, this occurred sometime on the third day of Creation. According to Genesis 1:6–13, God created the heavens on the second day and the earth and vegetation on the third day. This places the creation of Adam in the middle of the third day, after the creation of heaven and earth and before vegetation. (Later, in the discussion of Myth 14, we will see that heaven was originally created on the second day, and that is the day that Adam appeared.) So, if Adam first appeared on the third (or second) day of Creation, he therefore cannot be the man created on the sixth day.
But what about Eve? After the creation of Adam, the story shifts to events in the Garden of Eden. We learn about the planting of trees, especially the Trees of Knowledge of Good and Evil and The Tree of Life, and we learn some geographical details about the Garden, but nothing yet about a woman. Then:

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. (Genesis 2:18–19)

The beasts and birds didn’t end Adam’s loneliness. The man was still lonely. Man needed another “help meet” and God set about to remedy the situation.

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. (Genesis 2:21–22)

In the earlier account, God created the man and woman simultaneously on the sixth day, both after the appearance of vegetation and animals. But in the story of

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Adam and Eve, God created the male (Adam) before the appearance of vegetation and animals, and created Eve after those events.
Reading Genesis in a simple and logical manner, therefore, Adam and Eve cannot be the man and woman created on the sixth day of Creation. But if God created Adam on the third day (or second day) and he created man and woman in the image of God on the sixth day, who were the first humans, Adam and Eve, or the male and female from the sixth day? We will answer this question in our discussion of Myth 16.

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Myth 13: God gave man dominion over the creatures.

The Myth: Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth…. I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat:…. (Genesis 1:26, 29–30)
The Reality: Granting man dominion over life on earth derives from Egyptian myths about the relationship between gods and humanity.

In the Genesis Creation story, God grants humanity dominion over the living things on earth, creatures and plant life, to use and to eat. (Notice that in making this gift, God allowed man to eat from every tree, free of the restrictions imposed in the story of Adam and Eve.) These Genesis passages portray a mutually benevolent and friendly relationship between God and humanity.
Such a view differs quite substantially from that in the Mesopotamian literature. There, while occasionally one particular deity or another favors some particular human, the gods have a generally negative opinion of mankind and see them mostly in a servile role intended to make life for the deities more pleasant. In the Babylonian flood myth, for example, the gods decree the destruction of mankind because they make too much noise.
By way of contrast, Egyptian texts paint a most positive picture of the relationship between the gods and mankind. The Instruction Book for Merikare provides a good illustration.

Well tended is mankind—god’s cattle.
He made sky and earth for their sake
He subdued the water monster,

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He made breath for their noses to live.
They are his images, who came from his body,
He shines in the sky for their sake; He made for them plants and cattle, fowl and fish to feed them.

This advice was given by a Ninth Dynasty king (c. 2200 B.C.) to his son. Such philosophical sentiments would date prior to the Exodus and overlap Israel’s presence in Egypt, suggesting that such a view may have had a strong literary impact on the Hebrews. Indeed, the last sentence practically reads like a verse from the particular section of Genesis we are discussing.

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Myth 14: God created earth on the third day.

The Myth: And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.…And the evening and the morning were the third day. (Genesis 1:10, 13)
The Reality: God gathered the waters and created dry land on the second day of Creation.

On the third day of Creation, according to Genesis, God gathered the primeval waters together and created dry land. He called this dry land “Earth. ”We already have seen that this story constitutes a piece of the Egyptian Creation myth. But there is another problem—while Genesis places this event on the third day, a careful reading of the Genesis Creation story indicates that the biblical redactor made a mistake and that this event, in the original Genesis account, occurred on the second day.
The Bible, like many ancient texts, often uses literary formulas, short phrases that a scribe employs either as an idiomatic expression or to indicate something about the nature of the text. These textual formulas most often appear as elements in a listing, where they divide one section of a list from another, as is commonly done in ancient king lists. The biblical stories of the kings of Israel and Judah illustrate this technique. At the end of each story, the biblical scribe often attached the following sentence (or a slightly altered version of it): “And the rest of the acts of [king’s name], and all that he did, and his [attributes associated with the king], are they not written in the book of [source work cited]?”
The Bible has many such textual formulas. On occasion, for instance, it introduces a section of narrative by telling us “These are the generations of…” where the material describes the events associated with a particular family. The Genesis Creation story also makes use of a textual formula.
At the end of each day’s activities, except for the second day, god reviewed what he did and then declared “that it was good.” On the seventh day, god Rested so he had no

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act to declare good. The narrative, however, still has him bless and sanctify the last day. On the third and sixth day, however, God also declares something good in the middle of the day. We will consider the first mid-day declaration in this discussion, and the other mid-day declaration when we look at Myth 15.
The phrase “that it was good” constitutes a textual formula. Its placement at the end of each day’s activities serves to signify that the day’s actions were completed and that God liked what he saw. So, why is there no such declaration at the end of the second day, and why does the third day have two such declarations?
The mid-day declaration on the third day takes place after God gathered the waters and created the dry land. The second declaration on that day occurs after God created the vegetation. This textual arrangement is puzzling.
Most biblical scholars accept that the Creation account is mythological but they offer up no useful explanation for why biblical scribes omitted the textual formula on the second day and introduced it twice on the third day. Many religiously orthodox interpreters, on the other hand, suggest that God intended to gather the waters together and create dry land on the second day, after raising the firmament, but he didn’t have time to complete the task. Therefore, he reserved the blessing until after completing the task on the next day.
Although this explanation assumes a literal interpretation of the day as a fixed duration of time, it overlooks God’s omnipotence and that the tasks in question were certainly far less taxing than, say, creating the sun or any other single star, which would take far more energy than simply raising a firmament and gathering the waters on the tiny little earth. Yet, God created all of the stars, as well as the planets and the moon all on one day.
The obvious solution to this paradox is that the biblical redactors made a mistake, the equivalent of a misplaced cut and paste job. Since the blessing for the second day doesn’t occur until the middle of the third day, it seems reasonable to conclude that the gathering of the waters together was part of the second day’s events, a logical follow-up to the raising of the firmament in the middle of the waters. The biblical redactor appears to have assumed that the emerging dry land belonged more logically with the appearance of vegetation, so he prematurely inserted a break in the second day and

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carried the second day’s events over to the third day. But he wasn’t free to insert a blessing at the point where he ended the second day. Instead, he left the blessing in place as it appeared in the original text, after the gathering of the waters.
By transferring the story of the emerging dry land to the second day, we solve the problem of the missing benediction. Such restoration places the textual formula at the end of each day’s events, where it belongs.

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Myth 15: god Rested on the seventh day.

The Myth: And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:3)
The Reality: In the original Genesis account of Creation, God did not rest on the seventh day, but he did create humanity on that day.

As we discovered in the discussion of Myth 14, the biblical narrative includes a textual formula that marked the end of each day’s activities. We saw that in the present version of Genesis, the scribes omitted the blessing from the end of the second day but inserted one in the middle of the third and sixth days. Logical analysis showed that the omission of the blessing on the second day and its insertion in the middle of the third day resulted from a scribal error. Moving the events in the first half of Day Three to the second half of Day Two restored logical and textual consistency to Genesis. Such an arrangement caused each of the first six days to conclude with a blessing, but it still left an extra blessing in the middle of the sixth day.
That blessing occurs after the creation of beasts and crawling creatures and before the creation of humans. A second blessing occurs after the creation of humanity. Following the logic of the textual formula, we should conclude that in the original source for the Creation story, beasts and man were each created on separate days. This would push the appearance of mankind to the seventh day and moves God’s day of rest to the eighth day.
The Sabbath rest on the seventh day of the week constitutes one of the holiest traditions in Western civilization. But if god rested on the eighth day, not the seventh, then the practice derives from a scribal error.
The idea of a Sabbath rest appears to be of late origin. Evidence that ancient Israel actually observed such a practice is faint at best. The Bible records no such observance in any portion of Israel’s history prior to the Exodus from Egypt. True, in the story of the Exodus some biblical passages include a commandment by God to observe the

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Sabbath, but these verses also may be late additions. In fact, Deuteronomy 5:15, which reflects the views of King Josiah shortly before the Babylonian captivity, says that God gave Israel the Sabbath commandment not because he rested on the seventh day but as a reminder that he delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt:

And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.

Even after the Exodus and down to the late monarchical period the Bible remains virtually silent about observing the Sabbath.
For these reasons, it is likely that the idea of a Sabbath on the seventh day originated late in Israel’s history. The concept may have originated in Babylon, where certain days of the month—7, 14, 19, 21, and 28—were considered unlucky, and Babylonians believed no work should occur or sacrifice be performed on those days. While not conforming to a perfectly repetitive seven-day cycle, the Babylonian tradition certainly reflects the seeds of a seven-day cycle, with every seventh day of the month being unlucky. Or, the idea may have been picked up from Canaanite agricultural traditions. In any event, it couldn’t have been picked up from the original biblical Creation story, because God’s sanctified day would have been the eighth day of the Creation cycle.

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Myth 16: god Rested after the Creation.

The Myth: And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. (Genesis 2:2)
The Reality: God did not take a day of rest.

Regardless of whether God sanctified the seventh day or the eighth day, we must still ask whether God actually rested on this sanctified day. After all, what need does an omnipotent deity have to sit around relaxing?
A careful reading of the actual biblical text seems to contradict the idea of a day of rest. It says “on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made” and then he rested. But if the creation of humanity constituted the final act in this enormous scheme of events, the Bible should say that God ended his work on the sixth day, the day of completion. Instead, the text says that he finished work on the seventh day. The text implies that God performed additional acts after he created humanity. The reference to finishing work on the seventh day may have resulted from sloppy editing of the original story in which God created humanity on the seventh day rather than the sixth.
This error closely follows the efforts to create a Sabbath on the seventh day. In order to insert a day of rest for God, the biblical scribes had to combine the events of the sixth (animals) and seventh (humanity) days together. In doing so, the scribe overlooked this little phrase—“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made”—that appeared after the creation of the human race on the seventh day. The scribe forgot to move those words to the end of the sixth day after he combined the seventh day’s activity (humanity) with the events of the sixth day.
There may be a Near Eastern precedent for this belief that the Sabbath and the day of rest are inextricably intertwined. One likely explanation comes from Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Creation epic. In it, Marduk, who defeated his enemies and became chief deity of Babylon, summoned forth the god Kingsu, one of the ringleaders

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of the opposition, and as a punishment hacked him in pieces. From his blood, mankind was created, and Marduk imposed upon humanity the duty to serve the gods. In a passage echoing the biblical claim that god Rested after creating mankind, we find the following passage from the Babylonian text.

Who removed the yoke imposed upon the gods, his enemies;
Who created mankind to set them free;
May his words endure and not be forgotten
In the mouths of mankind, whom his hands have created.

In other words, after Marduk created humanity, the gods were free to rest. This Babylonian tradition parallels the biblical account. Both stories show the gods resting after the creation of human beings. In the Babylonian account, Marduk created humans to act as servants for the gods and attend to their needs, freeing up the gods from their labor. In Genesis, god Rested after the creation of humans, but did not condemn humanity to servitude. Of course, the later biblical tradition holds that God and Israel had a special covenant, with Israel devoted to serving God.
While it is true that in the Babylonian story humans do not rest along with the gods, as Hebrews are required to do by the Ten Commandments, the Genesis Creation account talks only about god Resting and says nothing specific about humans refraining from work. That humanity should rest entered the biblical tradition much later on, perhaps no earlier than the seventh century B.C.

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Myth 17: The heavens and the earth had children.

The Myth: These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. (Genesis 2:4–7)
The Reality: In the second Creation story, the heavens and the earth are deities, a wife and husband capable of having children.

The second creation story begins at Genesis 2:4 with the phrase, “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth. ”The first five words are a textual formula used on ten occasions in Genesis, and only once outside of Genesis (Ruth 4:18). In all instances outside of Genesis 2:4, the formula serves to introduce stories about particular families, as, for example, “These are the generations of Isaac,” or, “These are the generations of Jacob.” In each such instance, what follows are stories about the parents and their children and the events in their lives. There is no logical reason to think that any different interpretation attaches to Genesis 2:4.
The opening phrase, therefore, means that what follows are stories about the family of the heavens and the earth and their children. In other words, the second Creation story is a throwback to an earlier polytheistic account of Creation in which the heavens and earth are cosmic beings, deities, capable of having children.
This conclusion disturbs theologians because it contradicts the idea that the Bible is a monotheistic treatise. Consequently, they reinterpret the passage to reflect their own religious point of view. They argue that what follows are only stories that take place after the Creation. Not only does this misrepresent the plain and simple meaning, it runs into another roadblock. The stories don’t take place after Creation, but during Creation, on the second day to be precise.

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As the rest of the passage states, the stories about the heavens and the earth occur “in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” and before the appearance of vegetation. In our discussion of Myth 14, after reconstructing the original sequence of Creation, we learned that the heavens and earth were created on the second day and vegetation on the third. The day that god made heaven and earth corresponds to the second day of Creation.
This establishes a link between the first and second Creation stories in Genesis. In the first Creation story, the events on the second day of Creation were based on the Heliopolitan Creation myth, the rising of Atum as a firmament in the waters, the separation of heaven and earth and the gathering of the waters. In that account, the Genesis editor stripped off the persona's of the Egyptian deities and left us only with the natural phenomena that they represented. Something else happened in the second Creation story. As we will see in the discussion of some of the next few myths, the biblical editor preserved the persona's of the Egyptian deities but depicted them as humans and removed their identifications with natural phenomena. But on occasion, they slipped up and failed to recognize all the earlier associations, as in this case where they left in a reference to “the generations of heaven and earth.”

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Myth 18: Adam and Eve were the first humans.

The Myth: This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. (Genesis 5:1–5)
The Reality: Adam and Eve were the Egyptian deities Geb (earth) and Nut (heaven). Their children were the children of the earth and the heavens.

At the beginning of the second Creation account in Genesis, we are told that the stories that follow are about the family of the heavens and the earth (see Myth 17). The chief characters in those stories are Adam and Eve and their children, Cain and Abel, implying that the family of Adam is the family of the heavens and the earth.
Initially, the Bible refers to Adam and Eve as “the Adam” (see Myth 11) and Eve as “the woman.” During the course of the story, a subtle transformation in terminology takes place and they become known as Adam and Eve. Although it is implied in these early tales that Adam and Eve were the first humans, it is not until Genesis 5:1 that a direct connection is made. At that point, the Bible presents the first of several genealogies that make Adam the ancestor of the human race, tracing a line of descent through Noah and down to the biblical patriarchs.
In Myth 12, we learned that Adam and Eve were not the same as the humans created on the sixth day. They were created “in the day that God made the earth and the heavens,” which is the second day. Were they a different set of humans from those created on the sixth day or were they originally some sort of cosmic deities?
In the Babylonian Creation myth, heaven and earth were the severed halves of a dead monster known as Tiamat. Since these two inanimate chunks of corpse did not

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give birth to any children, Babylonian Myth can’t serve as a prototype for the biblical story. But, if we look to the Heliopolitan Creation myth, we find some of the source material for the second biblical Creation story.
According to Heliopolitans, Geb (earth) and Nut (heaven) had three sons— Osiris, Set (or Seth), and Horus—and two daughters.
The relationships among members of this family play an important role in Egyptian mythology. One story tells how Geb (earth) and Nut (heaven) disobeyed the chief deity and how he punished Nut with difficulties in childbirth. Another tells how Shu (the sky, son of Atum and father of Geb) pulled Nut from Geb’s body and separated heaven and earth. And still another tells of how one of the brothers killed one of the other brothers, and how the third brother founded the line of legitimate heirs to the Egyptian throne.
These plot lines should sound vaguely familiar to those who know the story of Adam and Eve. God separated Eve from the body of Adam; the two of them disobeyed God’s order; God punished Eve with difficulties in childbirth; Adam and Eve had three sons—Cain, Abel, and Seth—one of whom (Cain) murdered one of the others (Abel) and the third of whom (Seth) went on to found the line of heirs from Adam to AbraHam.
The two genealogical patterns coincide so closely that one can’t help but conclude that the Egyptian model influenced Genesis. This means that Adam and Eve had an original incarnation as the Egyptian deities Geb and Nut and their three sons (Cain, Abel, and Seth) corresponded to the three sons of Geb and Nut (Osiris,Horus, and Set).
Later biblical editors, however, had problems in presenting these stories about the ancient Egyptian deities. On the one hand, the Hebrews were monotheistic and didn’t believe in these gods; on the other hand, these stories were widespread and well known. The biblical editors hit upon the solution of demystifying the deities and recasting their stories as if they were about humans instead of gods.
Subsequently, when they attempted to integrate the two biblical Creation stories into a single continuous account, they reworked the stories so as to convey the impression that Adam and Eve were the first humans, identical with the humans born on the sixth day, which interpretation has remained highly influential throughout history

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among Jewish and Christian theologians. Yet, despite the editors’ skillful and successful efforts, we still see a good deal of the original mythological symbolism.

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Myth 19: God formed Adam from the dust of the earth.

The Myth: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
The Reality: The biblical editors confused the birth of Atum (the Heliopolitan Creator deity) in Egyptian mythology with the birth of the first human.

Genesis says that God created the first man from the dust of the earth and breathed life into him through his nostrils. Mesopotamian myths make some similar claims but they differ from Genesis in two significant details: 1) the gods created man from a mixture of clay and the blood of a slain deity, and 2) they did not infuse him with divine breath. So, while the Mesopotamian story might have influenced the biblical account, the details suggest otherwise.
In Egyptians myths, we find a closer parallel to the biblical account. While Egyptians have several inconsistent stories about the Creation of humanity, they are not mutually exclusive. Different portions of humanity could have been created at different times by different methods. In most versions, though, gods created humanity through some sort of sculpting process. In one well-known tradition, the god Khnum makes humanity on a potter’s wheel, indicating a clay-based origin as in Genesis. In another version, the crafts god Ptah builds man, although the process isn’t described.
In addition to the sculpting process, an essential part of the Egyptian belief about life is that it comes from breathing life into the nostrils, as indicated in the Genesis account. In Coffin Text 80, for example, Atum (the Heliopolitan Creator) gave birth to Shu (the Sky) through his nostrils and identified Shu as the life force. Also in that text, Nun (a personification of the flood) tells Atum to put his daughter to his nose so that his heart will live. And elsewhere in that text, Shu, the life force, says:

I will lead them and enliven them,
through my mouth, which is Life in their nostrils.
I will lead my breath into their throats...

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These Egyptian traditions show several parallels to the Genesis account, in which man is shaped from the earth and God breathes life into his nostrils. But the most important influence on Genesis was probably the birth of Atum. In the Heliopolitan Creation Myth that lies behind the stories of Adam and Eve, the first being was Atum, whose name is phonetically identical to that of Adam. Atum was formed out of the first land that emerged from the primeval waters. He was literally a figure made of the dust of the earth. Additionally, like Adam, the first female emerged from him without the benefit of sexual intercourse with a woman.
As we note in Myth 11, when the Bible says that God created man from the dust of the earth, the phrase translated as “man” is actually “ha-adam,” the Adam, and the term is a plural form incorporating both male and female: “and [God] called their name Adam, in the day when they were created”(Genesis 5:2).
The name Atum also has a plural sense, encompassing both male and female. It means “he who is completed by absorbing others,” the others being the male and female members of the Ennead.
Since the stories of Adam and Eve derive in part from the Heliopolitan Creation myth, the several parallels between Atum and Adam indicate that originally the Hebrew scribes named the first being Atum, after the first being in the Heliopolitan story. Later, because of confusion between Atum and the Semitic word for “ground,” adamah, the first being’s name evolved into Adam.

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Myth 20: God planted a Tree of Life and a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The Myth: And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8–9)
The Reality: These two special trees symbolically represent the Egyptian deities Shu and Tefnut.

In the Garden of Eden God planted two trees, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and The Tree of Life. Eating from the former gave one moral knowledge; eating from the latter conferred eternal life. He also placed man in that garden to tend to the plants but told him that he may not eat from The Tree of Knowledge (and therefore become morally knowledgeable). About eating from the Tree of Life, God said nothing: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
Later, the supposedly evil serpent told Eve that God’s threat was empty.

Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:1–5)

Adam and Eve did not die when they ate from the tree. Indeed, God feared that they would next eat from The Tree of Life and gain immortality.

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And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: (Genesis 3:22) Why did God fear that Adam and Eve would learn about morality and become God-like? And why did he fear that they would become immortal? As an all-powerful deity, he can reverse the cause and effect and return things to the status quo ante. (And, who is this “us” he is talking to? See Myth 25 for an answer.) The answers can be found in Egyptian texts and traditions.
Egyptian Coffin Text 80 contains an extensive philosophical presentation of the Heliopolitan Creation Myth and it contains some interesting and overlooked passages about life and morality. The most significant portions for our purpose concern the children of Atum, the Heliopolitan Creator.
Atum’s two children are Shu and Tefnut, and in this text Shu is identified as the principle of life and Tefnut is identified as the principle of moral order, a concept that the Egyptians referred to as Ma’at. These are the two principles associated with the two special trees in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Not only does the Egyptian text identify these same two principles as offspring of the Creator deity, the text goes on to say that Atum (whom the biblical editors had confused with Adam, see Myth 19) is instructed to eat of his daughter, who signifies the principle of moral order.

It is of your daughter Order that you shall eat. (Coffin Text 80, Line 63)

This presents us with a strange correlation. Both Egyptian Myth and Genesis tell us that the chief deity created two fundamental principles, Life and Moral Order. In the Egyptian myth, Atum is told to eat of moral order but in Genesis, Adam is forbidden to eat of moral order. Why God forbade Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil will be explained in Myth 21.
It’s also worth noting that the “serpent in the tree” motif associated with the Adam and Eve story comes directly from Egyptian art. The Egyptians believed that Re, the sun god that circled the earth every day, had a nightly fight with the serpent Aphophis

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and each night defeated him. Several Egyptian paintings show a scene in which Re, appearing in the form of “Mau, the Great Cat of Heliopolis, ”sits before a tree while the serpent Aphophis coils about the tree, paralleling the image of rivalry between Adam and the serpent in the tree in the Garden of Eden. By the time Israel resided in Egypt, the images of Re and Atum were closely associated, and Egyptians actually recognized a composite deity called Atum-Re. Replacing Re with Atum in the “Serpent in the Tree” motif brings the image even closer to that of the biblical account, which confused Atum with Adam.

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Myth 21: Adam would die if he ate from the Tree of Knowledge.

The Myth: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:17)
The Reality: The purpose of this story is to condemn the Egyptian idea that knowledge of moral order would lead to Eternal Life, which conflicted with Hebrew monotheistic teachings.

In the previous myth, we saw that Egyptian ideas about the relationship between moral order and eternal life lay behind the biblical story about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. Yet, despite the close parallels between the two descriptions, there is one glaring conflict. In the Egyptian text, Nun (the personification of the Great flood) urged Atum (the Heliopolitan Creator) to eat of his daughter Tefnut, giving him access to knowledge of moral order. In Genesis, God forbade Adam to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, denying him access to moral knowledge.
This inconsistency appears in the face of a moral conundrum in the biblical account. It would seem that God lied and the serpent told the truth. Initially, God ordered Adam not to eat from The Tree of Knowledge, telling him that he would die on the very day that he did so. Yet, later, after eating from the fruit of this tree, Adam not only lived (for about another nine hundred years), but God feared that he would obtain eternal life if he ate from the Tree of Life and it became necessary to expel him from the Garden.
If Genesis draws upon the Egyptian doctrine, why does the biblical story take such a radical turn when it comes to eating from the Tree of Knowledge? The divergence in the two stories results from fundamental differences between Egyptian and Hebrew beliefs about the afterlife.
The Egyptians believed that if you lived a life of moral order, the god Osiris, who ruled over the afterlife, would award you eternal life. That was the philosophical link

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between these two fundamental principles of Life and Moral Order, and that is why Egyptians depicted them as the children of the Creator. In effect, knowledge of moral behavior was a step towards immortality and godhood. That is precisely the issue framed in Genesis.
When Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, God declared that if Adam also ate from the Tree of Life he would become like God himself. But Hebrews were monotheists. The idea that humans could become god-like flew in the face of the basic theological concept of biblical religion, that there was and could be only one god. Humans can’t become god-like.
The Hebrew story is actually a sophisticated attack on the Egyptian doctrine of moral order leading to eternal life. It begins by transforming Life and Moral Order from deities into trees, eliminating the cannibalistic imagery suggested by Atum eating of his daughter. Then, Adam was specifically forbidden to eat the fruit of Moral Order. Next, Adam was told that not only wouldn’t he achieve eternal life if he ate of Moral Order but that he would actually die if he did eat it. Finally, Adam was expelled from the Garden before he could eat from the Tree of Life and live for eternity.
Note here that the biblical emphasis is on knowledge of moral order and not eternal life. The biblical message is that you cannot achieve eternal life through knowledge of moral order. God will tell you what you need to know and how you should behave and you will do it because God tells you to do it, not because you will live forever.
When God told Adam that he would surely die the very day he ate from the Tree of Knowledge, the threat should be understood to mean that humans should not try to become like a deity. God didn’t mean that Adam would literally drop dead the day he ate the forbidden fruit; he meant that the day Adam violated the commandment he would lose access to eternal life. Remember that God did not initially prohibit Adam from eating from the Tree of Life. (Presumably, one bite of that tree’s fruit did not confer immortality. One needed to continuously eat from it and replenish one’s life.) Once he violated the commandment, he lost access to the Tree of Life and could no longer eat the fruit that prevented death.

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Myth 22: God forbid Adam to eat certain fruit.

The Myth: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (Genesis 3:3)
The Reality: The Forbidden Fruit motif comes from Sumerian myths about life in paradise.

In Myth 20, we saw that the Hebrews replaced the Egyptian deities associated with Moral Order and Life with two trees, one of which bore forbidden fruit that carried a threat of death if consumed. This Forbidden Fruit motif comes from ancient Mesopotamian myths and was picked up when the Hebrews came under Babylonian cultural influences.
The best-known of these stories, The Myth of Enki and Ninhursag, tells of two important deities known as Enki and Ninhursag, who were brother and sister and who lived in an earthly paradise named Dilmun. On one occasion, Ninhursag managed to trap some of her brother’s sperm and used it to create eight previously unknown plants, which were to remain untouched by others. Her brother, curious to know what these plants were, tasted each of them. When his sister saw the damaged plants, she cursed her brother, saying, “Until he is dead I shall not look upon him with the eye of life.”
Soon, Enki began to waste away, but a fox appeared and arranged for Ninhursag to return. When she came back, Ninhursag asked her brother what bodily organ ailed him and he named each of the painful spots, eight in all. For each illness mentioned, his sister proclaimed the birth of a deity, and each birth cured a corresponding illness. (The text doesn’t say who the parents were for these births.)
In this major Mesopotamian myth, which would have been well-known to the Hebrew scribes in the Babylonian era, we find the motif of forbidden fruit in an earthly paradise coupled with a curse of death upon eating the fruit, themes presented in the Genesis story. Ninhursag’s curse against Enki provided the motif to challenge the Egyptian idea of “eating moral order,” leading to the biblical theme of “forbidden fruit.”

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Myth 23: Eve came from Adam’s rib.

The Myth: And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:21–24)
The Reality: The story of Eve’s birth integrates the Egyptian story of the separation of heaven and earth with portions of the Sumerian Myth of Enki and Ninhursag.

The character of Eve draws upon a number of myths, both Egyptian and Sumerian. According to Genesis, God created Eve out of Adam’s rib. As a result of this relationship, God instituted the idea of marriage.

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

Initially, Adam’s wife was known simply as “the woman,” because “she was taken out of Man.” Only after she and her husband were expelled from the Garden of Eden did she receive the name Eve. In giving her that name, Adam says it was because “she was the mother of all living.”
In Myth 17 we saw that Adam and Eve corresponded to the Egyptian deities Geb (Earth) and Nut (Heaven). According to Egyptian Coffin Text 80, Atum said he created Nut so that “she could be over my head and Geb could marry her.” In other words, the Egyptians saw the union of Earth and Heaven as the basis for marriage, and this principle is carried over into Genesis with Adam and Eve.
While Adam became the sole parent of Eve, just as Atum (the Heliopolitan Creator) became the sole parent of his children, the idea that Eve came from Adam’s rib

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derives from a pun in ancient Sumerian, Mesopotamia’s earliest literary language. It originates with the Sumerian Myth of Enki and Ninhursag (see Myth 22).
In that myth, Enki suffered from eight pains, one of which was in the rib.

“My brother, what hurts thee?”
“[My] rib [hurts me].”
(ANET, 41.)

The name of the deity who cured Enki’s rib was Ninti—a name that in Sumerian has a double meaning. The first part,“Nin,” means “the lady of” but the second part, “ti” (pronounced “tee”), means both “rib” and “to make live.” Ninti, therefore, signifies both “the lady of the rib” and “the lady who makes life.”
Eve, too, combines both titles. She is truly the “lady of the rib,” as she came from the rib. And, as her earlier title, “mother of all living,” indicates, she is the “lady who makes life.”

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Myth 24: Adam gained wisdom without immortality.

The Myth: And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: (Genesis 3:22)
The Reality: The story of Adam’s loss of immortality and mankind’s punishment borrows from the Mesopotamian Myth of Adapa.

When God expelled Adam from Eden, the man had wisdom but not immortality and his descendants had to suffer for his sin. This aspect of the story borrowed elements from a Mesopotamian Myth about someone named Adapa.
According to this story, the god Ea created Adapa to be a leader among humanity and gave him wisdom but not eternal life. Adapa served well in his role but one day, while out sailing, the South Wind overturned his boat and plunged him into the water. Angrily, Adapa cursed the wind and broke its wings. Anu, the chief deity, learned of this deed and demanded that Adapa be produced before him.
Ea, one of the chief Mesopotamian deities, befriended Adapa and prepared him for the meeting. Among his instructions, he said:

They will offer thee the food of death;
Do not eat (it). The water of death they will offer thee;
Do not drink (it). A garment they will offer thee;
Do not clothe thyself (with it). Oil they will offer thee; anoint thyself (with it).

In these instructions, EA referred to the offerings as “the food of death” and “the water of death” but when Adapa appeared before Anu’s court, the deity described the offerings as “the food of life” and “the water of life.” In obedience to Ea, Adapa declined Anu’s hospitality and in doing so won the god’s favor. As a reward, Anu freed Adapa from compulsory servitude, but because his sin had to be punished, Anu caused humanity to suffer disease and illness.

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In the Adapa story, the hero had wisdom but not immortality; he sinned against the gods and had to be punished; as a result of his sin, he lost the opportunity to eat certain foods that would have conferred immortality upon him, and, as a result of his sin, humanity had to suffer illness and disease. While Adapa’s sin differs from Adam’s, they endured similar fates, humanity suffered and each lost immortality.
Fragments of this Myth have been found in a fourteenth century B.C. library in Egypt (before the Exodus) and a seventh century B.C. library in Assyria, attesting to its literary longevity and widespread influence. Such a legend would have been wellknown among Hebrew scribes. The similarity to the Genesis story line indicates that the Adapa Myth helped shape the biblical narrative.

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Myth 25: There were other beings in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve.

The Myth: Let us make man in our image ...And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us... (Genesis 1:26, Genesis 3:22)
The Reality: Genesis preserves traces of Atum’s conversations with Nun in the Heliopolitan Creation myth.

On two occasions in the second Creation story, God talks to one or more other beings of a non-human nature. Before he made Adam, he said, “let us make man in our image.” And later, after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, he said, “man is become as one of us.” Who is this “us”?
Once again, we have an obvious indication of other deities in the Creation story. As the second Creation story draws upon the Heliopolitan myths, Coffin Text 80 provides a reasonably good clue as to whom God was speaking. In that text, Atum (the Heliopolitan Creator) and Nun (a personification of the primeval waters) carried on a conversation.

Then said Atum to the waters (i.e., Nun): “I am floating, very weary, the natives inert...” The Waters (i.e., Nun) said to Atum: “Kiss your daughter Order [i.e., Tefnut, who signified moral order.]”

The “us” in the Genesis story would originally have referred to Atum and Nun. As the Hebrew Creator replaced Atum in the Creation process, the story went through transformations. The retention of the “us” preserves a remnant of the polytheistic Heliopolitan source for the biblical account.

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Myth 26: God planted a garden eastward in Eden.

The Myth: And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. (Genesis 2:8–14)
The Reality: Eden originally represented the Isle of Flames, the first land in the Egyptian Creation myths. In the Heliopolitan tradition, that would locate Eden at Heliopolis.

Where did God plant the Garden of Eden? Much has been written on this subject but without any definitive answer. The text provides few clues. Genesis places it in the east, which is where the sun rises, and also locates it west of Nod, where Cain built the first city. Unfortunately, no one knows where Nod is.
The chief clues to Eden’s location are the references to the four rivers, Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates, all of which split off from a main river that flows out of Eden but which is not named.
The first river, Pison, encompasses all the land of Havilah, which has very good natural resources, such as gold, bdellium, and onyx. The location of Havilah is unknown, but most scholars believe it corresponds to Arabia. Genesis 10, however, which describes various geographical relationships, depicts Havilah as a son of Cush, and Cush is Ethiopia.

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The second river, Gihon, “compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. ”This places two rivers in the vicinity of Cush, an area south of or near the south of Egypt.
Hiddekel, the third river, goes toward the east of Assyria, and clearly corresponds to the Tigris River, one of the two great waterways of Mesopotamia. The fourth river is still known as the Euphrates, the other great river of Mesopotamia.
What’s wrong with this picture? We have two rivers in Asia and two south of Egypt. How can these four rivers be connected to a single source? What is the mighty water source from which the other four rivers split off? And where is the Nile, which runs through Egypt, between Asia and Ethiopia? The story in its present form represents a late editing by someone familiar with Babylonian traditions but not knowledgeable about African geography.
Several clues suggest that the unnamed mighty river from which these other four rivers flow is the Nile.
1. The Nile is the only major river not listed in the text.
2. Such identification would account for how Eden’s geography could include two rivers south of Egypt that link up to other river sources far to the north.
3. The Garden of Eden story derives from the Heliopolitan Creation myth. In that story, after the first land emerged and the waters drew together in the Nile, the god Shu went down to Heliopolis and became Osiris in the form of the grain, thus planting a garden east of the Nile.
4. Egyptian tradition placed the Tree of Life in Heliopolis.
5. The first land in Egyptian tradition came to be known as The Isle of Flames (because of the flaming mountain that arose out of Nun) and each of the cult centers claimed to be the site of the first land. In Genesis, after God expelled Adam and Eve from the garden, he blocked the entrance with fire-wielding cherubs, which suggests the idea of an “isle of flames.”
These points indicate that the story about four rivers flowing from one river coming out of the Garden of Eden had nothing to do with the two Asian waters described in the Genesis story. Originally, the four branches would have been Nile tributaries, two of which split off in the north and formed the Egyptian delta, and two of which split off in the south by Ethiopia.

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Subsequently, when the Hebrews came to Babylon, they replaced the names of the two Nile branches forming the Egyptian delta with the names of the two Mesopotamian rivers forming the Mesopotamian delta. They left the two southern branches intact.
As the Hebrews began to look at their history from a Babylonian perspective, they identified many of the biblical stories with similar tales in Mesopotamian literature, often losing track of the original Egyptian roots. As they transferred the rivers from the Egyptian delta to Mesopotamia, the Isle of Flames no longer held any meaning for them. The flames associated with the original isle were transformed into fiery swords wielded by cherubs.
In Mesopotamia, the Hebrews learned stories about a place named Dilmun, which was widely known in that region as an ancient paradise from the first times. As they substituted Mesopotamian traditions for the Egyptian, they believed that Eden and Dilmun may have been one and the same place.

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Myth 27: Adam and Eve lived a simple primitive lifestyle while in the Garden of Eden.

The Myth: And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it...
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him....And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:15, 18–20, 25)
The Reality: The sketchy images of life in Eden derive from Sumerian descriptions of primitive humanity.

Genesis gives us only a brief glimpse of life in Eden. God created man to till the garden, which provided an abundance of food. But man was lonely so God created animals to help him and provide companionship. In addition to the helpful animals, God also brought forth from the ground all the other fowl and animals, but they did not alleviate man’s loneliness. God then created a woman to assist him. The man and woman were naked and unashamed, but after eating the forbidden fruit, their nakedness became an embarrassment. Other than the incident with the serpent and the subsequent punishments, we have no other details about life in paradise.
The images presented in Genesis parallel those in the early Sumerian legends. In one Sumerian account from the seventeenth century B.C., we learn about a time when:

Mankind’s trails when forgotten by the gods were in the high (i.e., not subject to flooding) desert.
In those days no canals were opened, no dredging was done at dikes and ditches on dike tops.

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The seeder plough and ploughing had not yet been instituted for the knocked under and downed people.
No [one of] all the countries were planting in furrows.
Mankind of [those] distant days, since Shakan [the god of flocks] had not [yet] come on the dry lands, did not know arraying themselves in prime cloth, mankind walked about naked.
In those days, there being no snakes, being no scorpions, being no lions, being no hyenas, being no wolves, mankind had no opponent, fear and terror did not exist. (Lines 1–15.)

When Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursaga
fashioned the black-headed [people(—i.e., the Sumerians)],
they made the small animals [that come up] from [out of] the earth come forth in abundance
and had let there be, as befits [it], gazelles, wild donkeys, and four-footed beasts in the desert. (Lines 47–50.)

The text resumes after a gap of about thirty-seven lines with an indication that kingship had been established from heaven and that the designated leader should oversee the labor of the others and teach the nation “to follow unerringly like cattle!”
The view set forth above shares many similarities with the portrayals in Genesis. As in the biblical story, it focuses narrowly on the need to develop farming and the nakedness of humanity. It also tells us that helpful creatures were brought forth from the ground. And, implicit in the Sumerian text, humanity knows nothing about morality. People existed to serve the gods and follow direction like cattle. The king, representing the gods, would teach them what they needed to know.
The above text has no story about an expulsion from paradise, but in the few remaining passages preserved on the tablet we have an account of the building of the first cities. This continues the parallels to the Genesis story line, which tells us that Cain, son of Adam and Eve, built the first city after the expulsion.

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Myth 28: The serpent was more subtle than any beast.

The Myth: Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. (Genesis 3:1)
The Reality: Genesis modeled the clever serpent after the Egyptian God Set, who took the serpent form of Aphophis, enemy of Re.

Adam and Eve were ordered not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As the story unfolds, Eve came upon the tree and found a serpent dwelling there. The serpent encouraged Eve to taste some of the fruit, but she told him about God’s prohibition and the threat of death. The serpent replied, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4–5).
The serpent, who may have already eaten from the tree himself, obviously knows the secret of the fruit, that it represents the Egyptian concept of Ma’at, (i.e., moral order, see Myth 20) and eating of it gives one eternal life.
In our discussion of the Trees of Knowledge and Life, we observed that the Egyptians had a mythic image of the serpent in a tree. In pictures from this story, the Egyptian artists showed a cat with a stick bruising the head of a serpent that dwells in a Persea tree. The cat in this Myth is Re, the sun god, and the serpent is Aphophis, the enemy of Re who tries to swallow the sun at the end of each day. The bruising of the serpent’s head, incidentally, represents exactly what God directed Adam to do to the serpent and its progeny after the expulsion from Eden.
The Egyptians often identified Aphophis with the god Set, a clever and ambitious deity who wanted to seize the Egyptian throne from his brother Osiris. Towards this purpose, he conspired with allies to assassinate Osiris and usurp the monarchy.
First, he feigned friendship with his brother and offered him a gift of a chest. After presenting it to him, he asked Osiris to lie down inside and see how it fit. Right after Osiris lowered himself inside, Set and his allies killed him, sealed the chest Shut, and

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disposed of it. Despite his assassination, Osiris survived his death and became king of the afterworld.
This brings us full circle to the serpent in the Tree of Knowledge. As we noted earlier, the point of the story about forbidding humanity to eat from the Tree of Knowledge was that the fruit of the tree represented Ma’at, and in order for an Egyptian to live forever, he or she had to prove to Osiris that they lived in Ma’at. This contradicted the religious principles of Hebrew monotheism and the mythical images of Osiris had to be banned.
With the serpent in the tree corresponding to Set, the killer of Osiris, we have an ironic denouement. As punishment for seeking immortality by worshiping Osiris, the sinner lost immortality through the actions of Osiris’s mortal enemy, the wily and subtle Set.

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Myth 29: God punished Adam, Eve, and the serpent.

The Myth: And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis 3:14–19)
The Reality: The punishments meted out to Adam, Eve, and the serpent draw upon the Egyptian Osiris cycle.

Because they violated God’s commandment, Adam, Eve, and the serpent had to be punished. The nature of the punishments draws upon themes in the Osiris cycle of myths.
In the Osiris story, after Set killed Osiris, the deceased god managed to impregnate his wife Isis. Fearful that Set would also kill her son, Horus, she hid him away in a swamp. Set discovered the hiding place and in the form of a serpent slithered up to the child and nipped at his heel. But for the intervention of the gods, Horus would have died. When Horus reached adulthood, he challenged Set and won the right to succeed his father.
Consider some of the images in the Egyptian myths and compare them to the Genesis story. God punished the serpent by having him crawl on his belly and putting

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enmity between him and the woman and him and the child. While crawling on his belly, he would seek to bruise the child’s heel. In the Osiris cycle, Set crawled on his belly towards the child, nipped at his heels, and became enemies with the mother and child.
In the Egyptian scenes depicting the Great Cat of Heliopolis, Re in the form of a cat is shown bruising the head of the serpent who resides in a tree. In Genesis, Adam is directed to bruise the head of the serpent that dwelled in the tree.
The last of the major punishments was pain in childbirth for womankind. Implicit in this infliction is that childbirth until then had been painless, an idea that we find in the Sumerian Myth of Enki and Ninhursag, where childbirth in paradise is painless. That myth, however, has no punishment resulting in painful deliveries. The Osiris cycle, though, does have a story about difficulties in childbirth and it is in connection with the violation of a directive by the chief deity.
According to the Egyptian story, Geb and Nut were lovers, and Re forbade them to couple. Ignoring Re’s commandment, they made love and outraged the chief deity. He ordered Shu to separate them (the separation of Heaven and Earth) and declared that Nut would not be able to give birth on any day of the year, causing her no end of personal discomfort. The god Thoth took pity upon her and managed to obtain some light from the moon and used that light to create five extra days at the end of the year. Since these five days did not belong to the regular year Thoth’s action enabled Nut to give birth to her five children on those five days.
We have previously identified Geb and Nut with Adam and Eve, and the parallels continue here. Both sets of spouses ignored a direct order from the chief deity and both women were punished with difficulty in childbirth. Because the biblical authors needed to portray this history in monotheistic terms, it became necessary to transform the many Egyptian deities into humans. In doing so, they transformed the specific story of Nut’s difficulty with childbirth into a general Myth about the birth process for all women.

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Myth 30: Cain killed Abel.

The Myth: And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. (Genesis 4:1–9)
The Reality: The story of Cain and Abel had its origins in the conflict between Set and Osiris but subsequently the story was influenced by Sumerian myths about a shepherd named Dumuzi.

Adam and Eve had three male children named Cain, Abel, and Seth. Cain killed Abel, and Seth founded the Hebrew line of descent from Adam to Abraham. In Myth #17, we showed the parallels between these three sons of Adam and Eve and the three sons of Geb and Nut in the Heliopolitan Creation cycle—Osiris, Horus, and Set. Not only does the Genesis story preserve one of the Egyptian names (Set and Seth are philological equivalents) but, as in the Egyptian story, one brother killed the other and the third founded the legitimate line of rule. Despite the parallels, the Genesis author seems to have been confused about who was who in the original story.

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If Genesis had relied solely on the Egyptian legends, Osiris and Cain, the oldest brother in each story, should correspond to each other, and there are some parallels. Osiris symbolized the grain and Cain became a planter of crops. Osiris wandered the world teaching skills to humanity and Cain wandered the world teaching skills to humanity. Genesis describes some of Cain’s descendants as the founders of various arts, such as metalworking, music, and cattle raising. And, according to their respective stories, Osiris and Cain each built the first city.
But if Cain corresponded to Osiris then the Egyptian plot requires that Cain be the brother that gets killed instead of the brother that does the killing. This suggests that other influences caused changes to the story, confusing the identity of the victim. The source materials appear to have been Sumerian legends about a shepherd named Dumuzi. In post-Sumerian times, Mesopotamians changed Dumuzi’s name to Tammuz, whose name corresponds to one of the months in the Hebrew calendar.
Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. Both sought God’s favor by presenting samples of their produce to God. The Hebrew deity chose Abel’s gift over Cain’s and the farmer was upset. Soon after, he killed Abel, although no specific reasons are given.
In a story known as Dumuzi and Enkimdu, we find the theme of competition between a shepherd (Dumuzi) and a farmer (Enkimdu). In this instance, both sought the favor of the goddess Innana, and she made her decision based on the importance of the respective produce. At first, Inanna preferred Enkimdu the farmer, but Dumuzi the shepherd pleaded his case and she eventually chose him to be her husband. By way of parallel, in both the Sumerian and biblical stories, the deity chose the shepherd over the farmer, but in the Sumerian account no one is killed.
In a second story known as The Descent of Inanna, however, Dumuzi, like Abel, dies a horrible death. The death of Dumuzi appears to have substituted for what would have been the death of Cain, but because Dumuzi was a shepherd rather than a farmer, the biblical editor, in order to conform to the Babylonian tradition, changed the identity of the deceased brother from farmer to shepherd, from Cain to Abel.
In The Descent of Inanna, the goddess descended into the underworld in order to take it over from her sister, but failed to do so. Before her sister would allow her to

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return to the land of the living, Innana had to find a substitute to take her place. Accompanied by a host of demons known as the galla, Inanna traveled from city to city in search of her replacement, eventually arriving in the city where Dumuzi, her husband, ruled as king. Dumuzi angered Inanna and she put the eye of death upon him. He then raised his hands in prayer to the sun god Utu and begged for help in escaping the demon horde. Unfortunately, the tablet breaks off at this point but a separate set of tablets, dating to about 1750 B.C., has a related account of Dumuzi’s efforts to avoid death. In this version, Utu intervened on several occasions to assist Dumuzi but to no avail. Finally, Dumuzi surrendered to the demons.

The first galla enters the sheepfold,
He strikes Dumuzi on the cheek with a piercing (?) nail (?),
The second one enters the sheepfold,
He strikes Dumuzi on the cheek with the shepherd’s crook,
The third one enters the sheepfold,
Of the holy churn, the stand (?) is removed,
The forth one enters the sheepfold,
The cup hanging from a peg, from the peg falls,
The fifth one enters the sheepfold,
The holy churn lies (shattered), no milk is poured,
The cup lies (shattered), Dumuzi lives no more,
The sheepfold is given to the wind.

In this Sumerian tale of the shepherd’s death, we may have the missing details from the biblical account of how Cain slew Abel, with Cain replacing the galla as the killer. Dumuzi’s various prayers and cries to Utu on the several occasions when the galla try to drag him into the underworld echo in Genesis when God says to Cain, “What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). We see that the story of Cain and Abel started out as a variation of several of these myths and evolved to the story we read today.

Myth 31: Cain built a city east of Eden.

The Myth: And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. And unto Enoch was born Sippur: and Sippur begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech. (Genesis 4:16–18)
The Reality: The four possible sites for the mythological first city are Heliopolis or Thebes in Egypt or Eridu or Bad-tibira in Mesopotamia.

When God discovered that Cain murdered Abel, he declared, “When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth” (Genesis 4:12). Yet, almost immediately thereafter Cain built the first city, a sign of permanence inconsistent with being a fugitive and vagabond. That contradiction underscores the confusion of the biblical editors over the identity of Cain.
Initially, Cain stood in for Osiris (oldest son of the heavens and the earth). In Egyptian tradition, Osiris wandered far and wide to teach skills to humanity. He also built the first city at the site of the primeval hill and each Egyptian cult center claimed to be the place where Osiris built the city. In the Mesopotamian tradition, cities were built at the instigation of the gods with humans doing the dirty work. Various texts refer to five cities being built in the earliest times: Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larak, Sippur, and Shurrupak, all of which date to early in the third millennium B.C.
In Hebrew, the name “Cain” means “smith” or “metalworker.” Smiths were artisans and the repositories of crafts knowledge. The early Egyptian myths do not talk about metalworkers, but in Mesopotamia, one of the first cities, Bad-tibira, means “fort of the metalworkers” or “wall of the metalworkers.”
Genesis gives few clues about the identity of the city built by Cain. It lies east of Eden in a land called Nod , and Cain named the city after his son. His son’s name was

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Enoch, but ancient custom treated grandsons as if they were sons and the city could have been named for Sippur, Cain’s grandson.
On the one hand, given that Cain the wanderer built only one city, not five as in the Mesopotamian tradition, and that he originally represented Osiris, we should assume that he built the city in Egypt. Since his story originated with the Heliopolitan Creation myth, the most likely choice of city would be Heliopolis,“city of the sun,” east of the Nile where the sun rises. Or, given that the first Creation story in Genesis derives from the Theban Creation account, of which the second Creation story is an offshoot, the first city might be Thebes. The biblical name for Thebes was No, a close approximation to Nod.
On the other hand, as noted in Myth 30, biblical editors displaced the story of Cain as Osiris with Sumerian stories about Dumuzi, who, according to the Sumerian king list, ruled in Bad-tibira, “fort of the metalworkers,” suggesting that the biblical editors intentionally or mistakenly moved the first city from Egypt to Mesopotamia. The identification of Bad-tibira with metalworking provided a good connection to Cain, the metalworker, at least in the mind of the later biblical editors.
Finally, we have one other city as a plausible candidate. Eridu, one of the first five cities lying southwest of Babylon, always appears first in the list of the five, indicating that Mesopotamians considered it the most prominent and most important. As the first and most important Mesopotamian city, it makes a good choice as the place where Cain might have built his urban center. Cain’s grandson was named Sippur, a close approximation to Eridu, suggesting another possible connection.
In addition, Mesopotamians made Eridu the city of the god Enki. There could be some connection between the names Enki and Enoch, establishing a direct link to Cain’s son. Also, some of the ancient literature gives Enki the additional name of Nudimmud, which seems to provide a root connection to the land of Nod, making Eridu the land of Nod.
Any connection between Cain’s city and Mesopotamia, however, would be a late linkage. The city would originally have been located in Egypt.

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Myth 32: God sent a flood to destroy mankind.

The Myth: The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Genesis 6:11–13)
The Reality: The story of Noah and the flood originated as a monotheistic version of the Hermopolitan Creation Myth and presented an expanded account of events on the first day of Creation.

In the Hermopolitan Creation myth, four males and four females emerged from the primeval flood and crawled onto the first land. These four males and four females, known as the Ogdoad (i.e., group of eight) collectively gave birth to Re, the Hermopolitan Creator deity, who floated on a lotus while the benben bird flew above.
The four male deities were Nun, Huh, Kuk, and Amen, who represented the four primary elements of the universe before Creation, but in some texts other deities were substituted. Nun signified the primeval flood and Egyptians usually portrayed him in anthropomorphic form, standing waist-high in the primeval waters and holding aloft the solar boat that carried other deities.
In the story of Noah, too, four males and four females emerged from a worldwide flood after a mountain arose out of the waters, during which time a sole child may have been born (see Myth 33) with some interesting questions about who his parents were. It also includes the appearance of birds, one of which behaves differently than the others (see Myth 34). In addition, the names of Noah and his three sons closely resemble names associated with the Egyptian Creation cycle.
In old biblical Hebrew, the name “Noah” (which should be transliterated as “Noach”) consists of only two letters “Nun” and “Ched. ”We don’t know what the original vowels were because old Hebrew text did not use vowels. The present assignment

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of vowels is speculative. It is interesting that “Nun,” the Hebrew name for the first letter of Noah’s name, is the same word the Egyptians use to name the primeval flood. The name of the biblical flood hero, therefore, corresponds to the name of the Egyptian deity who represents the great flood of Creation and guides the solar boat across the waters.
Another interesting coincidence between Noah and Nun involves the image of a serpent. Egyptians depicted the four males of the Ogdoad (the eight gods, including Nun, who emerged from the flood) as serpents. In early Hebrew writing, the letter Nun evolved from the image of a serpent.
The names of Noah’s three sons—Ham, Shem, and Japheth—also show connections to the Hermopolitan Creation story. Shem is the oldest of Noah’s three sons and he has a most unusual name. In Hebrew, it means “name.” Therefore, Noah named his son “name,” something that doesn’t quite make sense. Among religious Jews, though, the word "Shem" is often substituted for God’s name, and it seems unlikely that Hebrew scribes meant for Noah’s son to be equated with the Hebrew deity.
The word “Shem” also forms the root of the Hebrew word “Shemoneh” meaning “eight.” This gives us a connection to the Egyptian city of Hermopolis. Hermopolis is the Greek name of the city but Egyptians called it Shmn, which means “eight-town,” after the eight Hermopolitan deities that emerged from the flood. (The Hebrew and Egyptian words for “eight” are the same.) The name of Noah’s son—Shem—and the Egyptian name for the city of Hermopolis—Shmn—therefore, both refer to the eight Hermopolitan deities that emerged out of the primeval flood.
Ham, the name of Noah’s second son, is pronounced “Chem” in Hebrew, and he is depicted as the father of the Egyptian and African peoples. The name derives from the Egyptian word “Keme,” an ancient name for Egypt. It means “the black land” and refers to the fertile black soil left behind when the annual Nile flood withdraws to its banks.
The third of Noah’s sons is Japheth, and many people have tried to identify the name Japheth with the Greek Iapetos, a mythological deity whose son, Deucalion, was the hero of a Greek flood myth. Tempting as that correlation may be, it only makes sense if the Greek Myth influenced the development of the biblical story, a conclusion for which we have no evidence.

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Turning to the Egyptian sphere, though, again we have a connection. The name Japheth in old Hebrew consists of three consonants, “J-Ph-Th.” The “ph” and “th” sounds are linguistically equivalent to “p” and “t,” so we can write the name as J-PT. In Hebrew, when combining the name of God with another word, one would use a “J” for God’s name, which usually appears in transliteration as “Ja” or “Jo.” In J-PT, the PT part of the name contains the same letters used for the name of the Memphite Creator deity, Ptah, so Japheth would be the linguistic equivalent of the name “God-Ptah.” This is a typical form of Egyptian combination name, such as Atum-Re or Re-Herakhte. It also suggests the frequently used Hebrew term “LORD God.”
In our explanation of the first day of Creation (see Myth #2 & Myth #4) we noted that the first day consolidated the appearance of the eight Hermopolitan deities with the presence of Ptah, who called forth the first light. The name “God-Ptah” symbolizes that relationship, combining the eight Hermopolitan deities with Ptah.
The names of Noah and his three sons, therefore, can be seen to provide close correspondences to the Hermopolitan Creation myth. Noah equals Nun, the primeval flood; Ham signifies the first land to emerge from the waters; Shem represents the city of Hermopolis, Shmn, built on the first land (according to the Hermopolitan tradition); and Japheth corresponds to the primary Creator deity, a combined form of the Hermopolitan Ogdoad and Ptah. Because Hebrew scribes needed to present a monotheistic history of the world, they had to recast the story so that the well-known Egyptian deities in this Myth appeared in human form.

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Myth 33: Ham was the father of Canaan.

The Myth: And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. (Genesis 9:18)
The Reality: Canaan was originally the god Re in the Hermopolitan Creation Myth and he was the son of all four males on the ark.

According to the Hermopolitan Creation myth, the four males and four females collectively gave birth to the god Re, the Hermopolitan Creator deity and a solar deity. In the story of Noah, we also seem to have a sole child born during the flood period. He was named Canaan and the biblical writer is adamant about identifying his parentage.
First the text says, “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.” The passage implies that Canaan came off the ark also but doesn’t quite say so. Only three verses later, the author reminds us again of Canaan’s parentage, “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without” (Genesis 9:22).
These are the first two mentions of Canaan in the Bible and on both occasions the verse implies the birth of Canaan has taken place but doesn’t explicitly say at what point in the story it has occurred. Yet, it twice says that Ham is the father. Immediately afterwards follows an enigmatic passage:

And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. AndNoahawoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. (Genesis 9:23–27)

In the above scenario, Ham had previously seen his father naked and told his two other brothers what he saw. The other two brothers then covered their father. But, when Noah awoke he cursed “his younger son,” Canaan, not Ham, who had seen him naked. Since this occurs shortly after Noah and his family came off the ark, where did this Canaan come from and how could he be old enough to cause such mischief unless he had also been on the ark?
Lest there be any confusion that the author mistakenly substituted Ham for Canaan as the youngest child, we should note that on all the occasions when the Bible mentions Noah’s three sons together, Ham’s name appears in second place. This would have been a literary formula intended to convey to the reader that Ham was the middle son, not the youngest.
Who fathered Canaan: Noah or Ham? Some confusion must have surrounded this issue because somewhere along the way at least one biblical editor felt it necessary to repeatedly stress that Ham was the father. The confusion stemmed from the fact that in the Hermopolitan tradition all four males on the ark were the fathers of the same child and this didn’t make sense to the monotheistic Hebrews in later times. The question of parentage had to be re-examined.
The identification of Ham as father of Canaan would have been a late development, well into the period of Hebrew monarchy (see Myth 45). It originated from the idea that the land of Egypt (i.e., Ham) fathered the land of Canaan, a belief reflected in Genesis 10, which purports to trace the origins of nations after the flood.
This suggests that Canaan originally had a different name, one that reflected his connection to the solar god Re in his form as a child. (Re had many different names. One litany lists at least seventy-five.) That would explain why Noah cursed Canaan instead of Ham. Canaan originally represented the god Re, the Hermopolitan Creator deity, and Hebrew priests needed to diminish the influence of the Egyptian Re on the beliefs of the early Hebrew refugees from Egypt.

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Myth 34: Noah released birds to determine if the land had dried.

The Myth: And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckted off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more. (Genesis 8:7–12)
The Reality: The biblical redactor combined a scene from the Egyptian story of the benben bird at the birth of Re with an episode from the Babylonian flood stories.

Another piece of the Hermopolitan Creation Myth tells of the appearance of the benben bird at the birth of Re. Though, as we saw above, the biblical redactors presented a confused account of Canaan’s birth, the context made it clear that he was born during the flood. It also implied that he was more than a baby when he came off the ark, a rather puzzling problem that we shall deal with in a moment.
While we can’t correlate the appearance of the benben bird to the birth of Canaan, we can show that the benben bird appeared in the original flood story.
In Genesis, after Noah and his family arrived at the top of a mountain, he simultaneously released a raven and a dove in order to see if they could find a place dry enough on which to land. The dove returned, but the raven flew about for two weeks while the ground dried out. Noah released the dove two more times and, on the third flight, the dove failed to come back, indicating that the flood had receded. Why Noah couldn’t simply look around the mountaintop to see if they could get off the boat isn’t explained. Nor do we have an explanation for why he released two birds on the same day.

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The incident of the birds presents a startling parallel with the Mesopotamian flood Myth persevered in the Gilgamesh epic. In that story, Utnapishtim, the hero of the flood story, also landed on top of a mountain and on three occasions he released birds for the same reason Noah did. It is this sort of detail that leads to the conclusion that the Gilgamesh author and the biblical author shared common sources in telling their tales.
But the Gilgamesh and Noah bird stories have some confusing differences. In the former, Utnapishtim released three different birds in the following sequence: dove, swallow, and then raven. Noah, however, released four birds on three occasions. At first he let go a raven and a dove. The dove returned, but the raven kept flying about. He then released the same dove two more times. Why four bird releases in Genesis and only three in the Gilgamesh story?
The contradiction underscores the problems facing the biblical redactor. On the one hand, he had a story from Egypt in which a single bird flew above the flood. On the other, he had a story from Mesopotamia in which three birds were released and two returned. Altogether, he had four birds, two that returned and two that didn’t.
The biblical editor put all four birds into his revised account, but the raven presented a special problem. In the Gilgamesh epic, the hero released a dove at the beginning of the sequence and a raven at the end; the dove returned and the raven didn’t. In Genesis, Noah released a dove and a raven simultaneously and, as in Gilgamesh, the dove returned and the raven didn’t. In Gilgamesh, the hero also released a swallow, but Genesis has no such bird. Instead, Noah released the dove two more times.
The biblical redactor must have been faced with more than one Babylonian source for the flood story, the traditional Gilgamesh version with a dove, swallow, and a raven, and another account with all doves or unidentified birds. We know from the writings of Berossus, a Babylonian priest from the time of Alexander the Great, that at least one version of the story involved releasing three groups of unidentified birds.
In the Egyptian source, the non-returning bird would have been the benben bird, which Egyptians identified with the heron, and it behaved differently than did the Babylonian birds, especially since it had no need to search for dry land. It remained in the air and flew about until the first land appeared.

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The biblical author, knowing from one of the Babylonian accounts that he had to account for a raven not returning, simply substituted the Babylonian raven for the Egyptian heron, and left it flying about until it found a place to land.

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Myth 35: The flood occurred in the tenth generation of humanity.

The Myth: And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. (Genesis 7:6)
The Reality: In order to conform to Babylonian traditions, biblical redactors moved the flood story from the first day of Creation to the tenth generation of humanity.

Genesis places Noah in the tenth generation from Adam and places the flood in Noah’s six hundredth year. From Genesis chronology (in the Masoretic text), we know that the flood occurred 1,656 years after the birth of Adam, but due to inconsistencies and contradictions in biblical data concerning the date of the Exodus (see Myth 72), we can’t determine the precise year in which Adam was created. Within the accepted parameters, though, we can date his appearance to somewhere between 4004 B.C. and 3761 B.C. The latter date comes from Jewish traditions while the former derives from the calculations of the seventeenth century Bishop Ussher. Other informed estimates have given us a flood date between 2348 B.C. and 2105 B.C., a thoroughly implausible timeframe.
Egypt’s First Dynasty dates to about 3,100 B.C. and we have a large enough body of Egyptian, Near Eastern, and Mediterranean archaeological evidence to know that no worldwide (or at least major Near Eastern) flood happened after the start of Egypt’s First Dynasty. So, on archaeological evidence alone, the biblical flood couldn’t have occurred at any of the times indicated for Noah.
Since the Bible also tells us that Moses grew up as an adopted child of the royal family, he would have received a first-class Egyptian education and would have known about Egypt’s history from the First Dynasty down to his own time. If he believed in any major flood, he would have placed it well before Egypt’s First Dynasty, not in the time of Noah.
As we saw in Myth 32 & Myth #33, the story of Noah’s flood originated with the Hermopolitan Creation Myth and should have occurred before the appearance of humanity.

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So, why did the biblical editors change the time frame? The answer lies with a corrupted form of the ancient Sumerian king list, which recorded the sequence of kings that ruled in ancient Mesopotamia, both before and after the flood of Babylonian myth.
In Mesopotamian versions of the flood story, the deluge occurred long after Creation. In a Sumerian document dating to about 2000 B.C., we have a list of the first eight kings of Sumer. These kings had a combined reign of 241,000 years and the flood occurred during the eighth reign. But in a later version of this king list, dating to the fourth century B.C., the flood took place during the reign of a tenth king named Xisouthros and 432,000 years elapsed before the flood arrived. Xisouthros does not appear in the earlier list of Sumerian kings, but his name corresponds to a Hellenized pronunciation of Ziusdra, one of the names for the Babylonian flood hero. (We can’t say when in time the list of Sumerian kings names was altered, only that it happened between about 2000 B.C. and 400 B.C. If we knew precisely, it would have an enormous impact on dating the formulation of the biblical text.)
While the Babylonian texts also date the flood tens of thousands of years before the time of Noah, the placing of the flood in the tenth generation of kingship parallels Noah’s place in the tenth generation of humanity. The figure of 432,000 years from the later list of kings, as we shall see in a moment, adds a second corresponding parallel to the biblical story that connects the biblical account to this later form of the list.
The Babylonians used enormous and implausible time periods in their king lists, tens of thousands of years for each of many early kings. They also divided these time frames into smaller units, one of which was known as the saroi and lasted 3,600 years. A period of 432,000 years, therefore, equals 120 saroi. This reminds us that in the biblical story, God says to Noah, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3).
What does it mean to say that “his days shall be an hundred and twenty years”? One interpretation is that 120 years defined the longest life span allowed to humans. But, after the flood, several generations lived longer than 120 years, so this cannot be correct. Another interpretation is that this was a warning that the flood would come within 120 years. This would be the correct meaning, but the 120 years would originally have been 120 saroi, and the warning would have been that the flood would

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occur 120 saroi after the first king came to power. The biblical chronology could not allow for such a huge time period and the redactors simply assumed that “years” should be substituted for “saroi” in order to accommodate the pre-existing chronology in Genesis.

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Myth 36: All earthly life had become wicked and had to be destroyed.

The Myth: The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Genesis 6:11–13)
The Reality: The theme of earthly corruption and punishment combines an Egyptian Myth from The Book of the Divine Cow with Babylonian stories about the drowning of humanity.

Genesis gives two different explanations for God’s wrath against humanity and the reason for bringing on the flood. In Genesis 6:5–7, God’s anger initially arose from the wickedness and evil present in humanity, but for some unexplained reason he chose to destroy not just humans but beasts, creeping things, and fowl.

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. (Genesis 6:5–7)

Genesis 6:11–13 is concerned with corruption and violence rather than wickedness and evil, and it imputes such behavior to all creatures, not just humans, saying all the earth was corrupt and all flesh (not just humanity’s flesh) had corrupted God’s ways.
The one explanation suggests a natural disorder among all species while the second implies moral disorder only among humans. In the Egyptian Book of the Divine Cow we have a similar situation to the first explanation. Humanity had become corrupt and rebelled against the authority of Re,

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who, in this story, was the chief deity of the gods. Re targeted his retribution only toward the corrupt elements. Encouraged by Nun, the anthropomorphic representation of the primeval flood, Re sent down the heavens (in the form of the goddess Hathor) to destroy the enemy. As in Genesis, the deity regretted his violent response and called a halt to the destruction. The Egyptian story also incorporated a modest flood, but its purpose was to divert Hathor from her mission of destruction rather than to drown humanity. Nevertheless, having Nun, the primeval flood, direct Hathor, the heavens, to destroy the earth provides a powerful poetic image of the waters above and the waters below combining to destroy humanity. This is consistent with the picture presented in the Bible.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. (Genesis 7:11)

The Egyptian tale corresponds to that part of the story in which only humanity’s wickedness was at issue: mankind had been evil and needed to be punished. But the Bible also goes on to condemn all living creatures to death whereas the Egyptian story punishes only the wrongdoers.
This inconsistency between the two explanations of the flood derives from the efforts of the biblical redactors to integrate Egyptian and Babylonian myths. In both instances, the foreign sources tell of a time after Creation when the chief deity became angry with humanity and attempted to destroy the race. But the two source stories had some differences.
In the Egyptian story, mankind acted with evil intent and the god directed his vengeance only against the wrongdoers. In the Babylonian story, the gods simply decided to wipe out all living creatures, man and beast. Surprisingly, the author of Gilgamesh presents no explanation for this destructive action. Indeed, at one point in the story, one of the deities chastises the chief god for his senseless actions,“O warrior, thou wisest of gods: How, o how couldest thou without reflection bring on (this) deluge?”
An earlier version of the Babylonian flood story known as Atrahasis supplies the missing reason: humanity had become too noisy and its behavior irritated the gods and goddesses. Consequently, the chief deity sent a flood to wipe out all earthly life.

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Because the Babylonian flood story described the destruction of all earthly life except for that on Utnapishtim’s ark, consistency required that the biblical editors change the ending of the Egyptian story from one in which Re destroyed only the wicked to one in which he destroyed all earthly life except for that on Noah’s ark. In retelling the flood legend, the biblical redactors combined portions of both the Egyptian and Babylonian stories.

Myth 37: The sons of God married the daughters of man.

The Myth: [T]he sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:4)
The Reality: This story describes political conditions during Egypt’s First Intermediate Period (c. 2300 B.C.–2040 B.C.).

The biblical redactors dated the flood to somewhere between 2348 B.C. and 2105 B.C. This time frame falls within Egypt’s First Intermediate Period, an era of great chaos, corruption, and civil war. As one papyrus puts it:

The bowman is ready. The wrongdoer is everywhere. There is no man of yesterday. A man goes out to plough with his shield. A man smites his brother, his mother’s son. Men sit in the bushes until the benighted traveler comes, in order to plunder his load. The robber is a possessor of riches. Boxes of ebony are broken up. Precious acacia wood is cleft asunder.

At the core of Egypt’s political problems at this time was the diminishing authority of the ruling kings in Memphis and the rising rebelliousness of local warlords from the Egyptian city of Herakleopolis. The challengers achieved enough power to declare themselves the official rulers of Egypt, but later Egyptian writers considered the Herakleopolitan dynasty illegitimate, and several Egyptian king lists even omitted it from the roster of Egypt monarchs.
According to Egyptian beliefs, the king personified the god Horus, a solar deity who became ruler of Egypt after the death of his father Osiris, and any challenge to the authority of Horus/Pharaoh constituted a challenge to the natural order of the universe. The Egyptians were very conservative in their traditions and did not easily recognize major changes. Memphis had been the seat of royal authority for almost eight hundred years when Herakleopolis challenged it for the right to rule. The opposition

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claim had to be based on both theological and political arguments. Theologically, Herakleopolis had to show that its kings, not those of Memphis, continued the line of Horus. Politically, they had to have a reasonable basis for making such a claim. The unity of the theological and political arguments would most likely arise from a marriage between members of the Herakleopolitan and Memphite ruling families. The children from that marriage would provide a basis for a political and theological challenge to any alternative successor favored by Memphis.
This brings us to Genesis, which places the flood and its preceding era of wickedness during Egypt’s First Intermediate Period (c. 2300 B.C.–2040 B.C.). Genesis 6:5 indicates God’s desire to destroy humanity because of its wickedness. Immediately prior to this verse, Genesis provides an introductory passage to explain why things had gone wrong. The “sons of God” had married the “daughters of man” and they had children. As a result, the offspring had become corrupt and wicked.
Who were the sons of God and the daughters of man? The traditional explanation holds that the sons of God were the descendants of Seth (the third son of Adam and Eve, and the ancestor of the Hebrew people) and the daughters of man were the descendants of Cain. This created a bloodline mixing the cursed and the blessed. But, if we look at the story in an Egyptian context, another interpretation makes more sense.
The sons of god would be the sons of a ruling pharaoh, i.e. the sons of Horus. The daughters of man would be the daughters of a non-royal family. In the First Intermediate Period, Herakleopolis challenged Memphis for the right to rule. Behind that challenge would have been a marriage between a son of the Memphite royal family and the daughter of the Herakleopolitan ruling family. When the pharaoh died, various factions from Memphis and Herakleopolis would have jockeyed for position as the legitimate successor. The power vacuum resulted in competing claims to the throne, a period of widespread corruption and chaos, and civil war. The events of this time found their way into Genesis as the story of the sons of God and the daughters of man.

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Myth 38: Noah saved only two of each species.

The Myth: And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. (Genesis 6:19)
The Reality: Genesis has contradictory claims about how many animals were brought aboard the ark.

Most of us have heard that Noah brought two of each species aboard the ark in order to repopulate the world after the flood. But Genesis preserves a contradictory claim about the number of animals brought aboard. Genesis 7:2–3 says:

Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.

This contradiction arises from religious conflicts over the issue of animal sacrifice. The authors of the J source believed in the practice of animal sacrifice. The authors of P source did not.
After the flood, Noah sacrificed animals to God. If he only had two of each species, a male and a female, the animals sacrificed wouldn’t be able to breed and repopulate the species. So extra sacrificial animals had to be brought along. Since the authors of the P source didn’t believe in animal sacrifice, they only required the one basic male and female pair for breeding purposes.
Why, however, did any animals have to be saved? We know from Genesis 1 that God could create animals out of the water and from Genesis 2 that he could create animals out of the ground. After the flood, God could have created all the animals he wanted.

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Myth 39: The rain lasted forty days and forty nights.

The Myth: For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth...And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. (Genesis 7:4, 12)
The Reality: The J source and P sources disagree about when the rains stopped. J source says forty days, P source 150.

The biblical redactors worked from two different flood chronologies, one from the J source and one from the P source. In the J source, the rains lasted for forty days. In the P source, the rains lasted for 150.
Genesis 7:12 says that the rains lasted forty days and Genesis 7:19 says that the flood was on the earth for forty days. Then, Genesis 8:6 says that forty days passed and Noah opened the window of the ark so that he could release the birds. Although all three forty-day periods could be one and the same, in context they appear to be sequential periods. Interestingly, three periods of forty days add up to 120 days, the length of the Egyptian flood season in the solar calendar.
Mingled among these three verses are some other passages that also talk about the flood chronology. Genesis 7:24 says that the waters prevailed for 150 days and two verses later it says, “The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained” (Genesis 8:2). Reading the story in chronological order as the biblical editors intended, we find a period of 150 days passed as the water increases in depth and then the rains stopped.
There are two different rain periods because the biblical editors worked from two different stories. In the one version, derived from the J source, the flood story was based on the Egyptian solar calendar, which Egyptians divided into three seasons of 120 days, one of which was the flood season, with five additional days tacked on at the end of the year. In the other, derived from the P source, the flood story was based on the

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Egyptian solar-lunar calendar, a calendar cycle that lasted twenty-five years, with 309 complete months. The conflict between the two sources can be seen further in the claims about when the earth dried off. Genesis 8:13 says that the earth dried off by the first day of the first month of the 601st year of Noah’s lifetime. The next verse says that the earth dried off on the twenty-seventh day of the second month of Noah’s 601st year. Some of this confusion occurred because the first dry period occurred on the 309th day of the P source chronology, which marks the connection to the solar-lunar calendar, but at the same time marks the 360th day after Noah’s six hundredth birthday in the J source chronology, which marks the connection to the solar calendar.

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Myth 40: The flood covered the entire earth and all the mountains.

The Myth: Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. (Genesis 7:20)
The Reality: Fifteen cubits equals a depth of approximately twenty-five feet, enough to cover land, but not any mountains.

Although Genesis says that the flood rose high enough to cover all the mountains, it gives that height as fifteen cubits. The cubit has an approximate length of fifty centimeters or about twenty inches. Fifteen cubits measure about twenty-five feet, not quite high enough to cover a good size hill, let alone mountains.
The discrepancy in the Bible between the images of a worldwide flood covering mountains and of a shallow flood only twenty-five feet deep arises from the fact that one of the two flood stories in Genesis was based on the seasonal calendar and referred to the annual Egyptian flood season, during which the Nile overflowed its banks, while the other Genesis flood story referred to the Nun, the primeval flood in Egyptian mythology.

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Myth 41: After the flood, Noah sacrificed all the clean animals.

The Myth: And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Genesis 8:20)
The Reality: Noah couldn’t sacrifice all the clean animals because some of them were necessary to breed more of the species.

Noah brought aboard the boat seven pairs of each clean species, i.e., species fit for sacrifice. Genesis 8:20 says that after the flood, Noah sacrificed all the clean animals on an altar. Since clean animals survived down to the present time, Noah couldn’t have sacrificed them all.

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Myth 42: All living creatures not on the ark perished.

The Myth: And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. (Genesis 7:23)
The Reality: A race of giants, called Nephilim in the Bible, survived the flood.

Before the flood, the Bible says that there was a race of giants (see Genesis 6:4). The Hebrew word translated as “giant” is Nephilim. In Numbers 13:33, we learn that after the Exodus the Israelites “saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants.” Again, the word translated as “giants” is nephilim. So, we have a race of nephilim before the flood and a race of nephilim in the time of Moses. Since there were no nephilim aboard the ark, how did the race survive? Some folk traditions hold that the nephilim grabbed onto the ark during the flood and floated alongside it, but the biblical passage specifically states that only Noah and those aboard the ark survived. If the nephilim survived the flood, perhaps others did also.

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Myth 43: God confused the common language of humanity and scattered the people about the world.

The Myth: And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:1–9)
The Reality: The children of Noah’s sons spoke different languages and lived in different nations long before the events described in this account.

The biblical story of the Tower of Babel begins with the claim that the entire world spoke one language. It then says, “they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar.” Who is this “they” mentioned in the story?
Presumably, “they” refers back to the last mentioned group of people to precede the reference. That would be the “generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Genesis 10:1). Genesis 10 divides the descendants of Noah into three branches, each associated with one of his sons, and, according to the account, these descendants founded numerous nations and spoke different languages. About the sons of Japheth,

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for example, the Bible says, “By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations” (Genesis 10:5).
Between the genealogy of Noah and the claim that “they journeyed form the east,” we have no other antecedent defining who “they” refers to. Since Genesis 10 reports that the world had already been divided into nations and spoke many languages before we get to the story of the Tower of Babel, it contradicts Genesis 11:1, which claims that the entire world spoke one language. The Noah genealogy, which divides his family into several nations, also contradicts the claim that humanity was scattered around the world after the attempt to build the tower to heaven.

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Myth 44: The Ark landed on the mountains of Ararat.

The Myth: And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. (Genesis 8:4)
The Reality: The mountain in the flood story originally referred to the primeval mountain in Egypt. After the Israelites moved to Canaan, they changed the location to the mountains of Ararat, believed to be the highest point in the world.

According to Genesis 8:4, Noah’s ark landed on top of the mountains of Ararat. Most people who refer to this event speak of the location as Mt. Ararat, but the Bible says only that it was one of the mountains of Ararat. It doesn’t say which one. The area encompassed by ancient Ararat now crosses the borders of modern Turkey, Russia, Iran, and Iraq.
Genesis 11:2, however, implies that the survivors of the flood landed at a far different location. According to that verse, the survivors traveled from some unidentified location east of Babylon and moved westward towards Babylon. It was in the plain of Shinar, the territory surrounding Babylon, that those survivors incurred God’s wrath by attempting to build the Tower of Babel.
Ararat, however, is way to the north and slightly to the west of Babylon. The survivors would have had to travel southeast of Ararat, not west, to get to Shinar.
If you are at Ararat, you can’t get to Shinar by traveling towards the west. You have to go southeast. That the travelers came from the east reflects the flood story’s origins as a variation of the Hermopolitan Creation myth. In the Egyptian story, the Creator god Re first appeared as a young child floating on a lotus. When he became an adult, he initiated the acts of Creation. This means young Re traveled west on his lotus leaf, growing older as the sun moved through the sky.
The mountain where the ark landed would have been the primeval mountain in Egypt, the first land where the Egyptian Creator stood and performed his acts. When biblical editors no longer identified the flood story with Egyptian Creation myth, they

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moved the ark to a mountain range believed to be higher than any other. Since the biblical story has a different mountain name than in the Babylonian flood myth, the change of locale from Egypt to Ararat probably occurred before Babylon conquered Israel in 587 B.C.

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Myth 45: The sons of Noah formed the nations of the world.

The Myth: These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood. (Genesis 10:32)
The Reality: The list of nations attributed to Noah’s family is a late addition to Genesis, reflecting political relationships in the early first millennium B.C.

Genesis 10 lists the three branches of Noah’s genealogical tree, one for each of his three sons. The Bible implies that each of the children mentioned corresponds to some geographical entity. These lists usually are referred to as the “Table of Nations” or “Family of Nations.”
Several of the names on the list correspond to known territories or peoples but the vast majority of names cannot be linked easily to other specific entities. Most of these unrecognizable place-names are usually classified as belonging to tribes of Arabia. This presents the somewhat puzzling situation of having a biblical Table of Nations overloaded with obscure Arabian tribes having virtually no impact on biblical history.
In broad terms, the three branches represent three main geographical areas. Ham and his family correspond to Africa and Canaan; Shem and his family correspond to the Near East; Japheth and his family correspond loosely to the island nations in the Mediterranean and parts of Europe.
One difficulty with accepting Noah’s genealogy as a Table of Nations is the presence of duplicate names in the list. Havilah , for example, appears as a son of Cush (i.e., Ethiopia) in the Ham branch and as a son of Joktan in the Shem branch, locating the territory simultaneously in both Africa and Asia.
In the same vein, Sheba appears as both a grandson of Cush and as a son of Joktan. Cush also has a brother named Seba. Seba is philologically identical to Sheba.
Another form of duplication occurs with the names of Lud, a son of Shem, and Ludim, a grandson of Ham. In Hebrew, the im ending signifies a plural form. When

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used with a nation it signifies the people of the nation. The difference, therefore, between Lud and Ludim is akin to the difference between Egypt and Egyptians.
A similar duplication also occurs with the coupling of Dedan, grandson of Cush, and Dodanim, a son of Javan in the Japheth list. Biblical Hebrew had no vowels, so the written word Dedan would appear as Ddn and Dodanim would appear as Ddnm, the plural form of Ddn.
The presence of so many duplicates in the genealogy indicates the artificial nature of the catalog. But other evidence also points to a late composition.
Perhaps the oddest aspect of the Table of Nations concerns the treatment of Assyria and Babylonia. Nowhere do we find Babylon, a major power, identified as a descendant of Noah. On the other hand, Assyria appears as a son of Shem (by the name Asshur). According to the story, Nimrod, a son of Cush (i.e., Ethiopia), conquered four cities,“Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar” (Genesis 10:10). These four cities belong within the realm of Babylon, but nowhere in the Table of Nations do we find these four cities identified with the sons of Noah. However, the story says that Asshur (i.e., Assyria) came out of the land of Shinar and founded the main cities of Assyria.
The text is ambiguous about whether Assyria controlled Babylon or Babylon controlled Assyria. Neither scenario properly depicts the relationship between these two countries for almost a thousand years after the time of the flood. Not until the thirteenth century B.C. did Assyria become the first of the two nations to control the other. In the seventh century B.C., a Babylonian alliance conquered Assyria. The biblical description is simply garbled history that gets many of the facts all wrong.
Several other nations mentioned in the rosters, such as Madai (the Medes), Javan (the Ionians), and Tartessos, didn’t emerge as political powers until the first millennium B.C., indicating that the compilation occurred sometime during the first millennium.
The above instances of duplication, historical inaccuracy, and chronological impossibility cover only some of the errors contained within the Table of Nations and shows that Noah’s genealogy was composed during the first millennium B.C. based on existing geopolitical divisions and mythic traditions.

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Myth 46: Nimrod conquered Babylon.

The Myth: And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. (Genesis 10:8–10)
The Reality: This story preserves an ancient legend about Pharaoh Sesostris, who ruled during Egypt’s Twelfth Dynasty.

This brief story about Nimrod is puzzling because it presents a completely distorted history of the Near East in the second millennium B.C. (see the discussion in Myth 45 about the Table of Nations). As set forth, it says that Nimrod was a son of Cush and that he began an empire in the cities of Babylon. Cush represents the nation of Ethiopia, Egypt’s southern neighbor and the Bible makes him a son of Ham, who represents Egypt in the Table of Nations. The implication of the story, then, is that a descendant of Egypt, associated with Ethiopia, conquered the cities of Babylon in the second millennium B.C. Historical evidence completely discredits this claim.
A better explanation recognizes that the Table of Nations derives from a variety of legends about national origins. In fact, the Greek historian Herodotus, often called the “Father of History,” records a particular legend about an Egyptian pharaoh named Sesostris, who came to the throne about 1897 B.C. during Egypt’s twelfth dynasty. His account seems to be based on the same legend that inspired the Nimrod story. An identification of Nimrod with Sesostris also is chronologically consistent with the Table of Nations, which places Nimrod in about the same time frame as Egypt’s twelfth dynasty. According to Herodotus, Sesostris was the only Egyptian king to conquer Ethiopia. He subsequently launched a military campaign into Mesopotamia and across Asia, conquering every nation in his path until he reached Europe.
Herodotus says he learned of Sesostris from discussions with Egyptian scholars, and it is evident that legends of this king were part of Egyptian folklore. The story

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clearly identifies an Egyptian king, coming from Ethiopia, marching through and conquering Mesopotamia, moving first through the Babylonian region and then turning towards Assyria, finally stopping somewhere in Europe. We also should add that during the twelfth dynasty, Ethiopia came under Egyptian rule.
The elements of the Sesostris legend correspond precisely with the Nimrod story. In both accounts, a son of Egypt who controlled Ethiopia marched into Mesopotamia and conquered Babylon and Assyria.
The only significant difference between the two stories is the name of the hero. Herodotus and others identify him as Sesostris whereas the Bible calls him Nimrod. However, Sesostris was not the pharaoh’s true name. It was a Greek corruption of the name Senusret or Senwosret. The name Nimrod appears to be phonetically similar to the last part of Senusret’s name, and the Hebrew rendition may be a slight corruption of the Egyptian, much as Sesostris was a Greek corruption.

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Myth 47: The Sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan.

The Myth: And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan. (Genesis 10:6)
The Reality: This genealogy parallels that in an earlier Greek Myth about the origins of the Danoi, the Greeks who allegedly invaded Troy in the twelfth century B.C.

The Table of Nations makes Ham the father of four countries, Cush, Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan. Ham, as we noted earlier, has a name identical to one of the ancient names of Egypt, Keme. Three of his sons have names that easily can be identified with nations in the Egyptian sphere. Cush is the ancient name of Ethiopia; Mizraim is the Hebrew name for Egypt; and Canaan obviously corresponds to the land of Canaan. The name of the fourth son is not as easily identified but it is usually equated with Libya, which makes good geographical sense. Libya was the Greek name for all of Africa west of Egypt.
In this genealogy, we have a geographic scheme in which Ham generally corresponds to the area of Egypt and its surrounding neighbors, and his four sons constitute four divisions within that region, Ethiopia to the south, Libya to the west, Egypt in the center, and Canaan to the north.
The genealogy reflected in this branch of the biblical story closely adheres to that appearing in a Greek Myth about the origins of the Danoi, the Greek people who, Homer wrote, conquered Troy at about the twelfth century B.C.
According to the Greek story, the god Poseidon (the Greek God of the seas) mated with a woman named Libya. They had twin sons named Belus and Agenor. The latter moved to Phoenicia where he became king, and Greeks believed him to be the ancestor of all the Phoenicians.
Belus became king of Egypt and, according to the mythic traditions, he had four sons, a set of twins named Danaus and Aegyptus and two other sons named Phineas and Cepheus. According to the Greek stories, Aegyptus was king of Egypt, Danaus of

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Libya, and Cepheus of Ethiopia, but ruling in Joffa in Canaan. The fourth son, Phineas, has a name meaning Ethiopian.
Belus and Ham share a number of characteristics.

1. Belus is the son of Poseidon, god of the oceans, and Ham is the son of Noah, who is not only the survivor of a worldwide flood, but has been identified herein with Nun, an Egyptian equivalent to Poseidon.
2. Each is the father of four sons, three of whom are identified with Egypt, Ethiopia, and Libya.
3. Belus’s fourth son, Cepheus, is sometimes identified as a Canaanite king and Ham’s fourth son corresponds to Canaan.
4. Belus is portrayed as the brother of the King of Canaan while Ham, his biblical counterpart, appears as the father of Canaan. However, the biblical genealogy is ambiguous and, as we saw earlier in Myth 33, the Bible at times suggests that Canaan was the brother of Ham rather than the son.

Although the genealogical structure between the two family trees is almost identical, there is one significant difference in emphasis. Genesis relates the genealogy to the evolution of mankind immediately after worldwide destruction. The Greek Myth is simply couched in geopolitical symbolism. Nevertheless, it shows an early tradition in which Egypt appeared as the brother of Libya, Ethiopia, and Canaan.
Finally, we should note that the Greek Danoi, who disappeared from the historical record by the first millennium B.C., were one of the “Sea Peoples,” a group of Greek allies (among whom were the Philistines) who invaded Canaan in the thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C., about the same time that Israel settled there after the Exodus from Egypt. This would suggest that the Greeks brought the Myth into Canaan where Hebrew scribes picked it up and incorporated it into their world history.

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Part Two Myths of the Founders

Myth 48: Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldees.

The Myth: And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. (Genesis 11:31)
The Reality: Ur of the Chaldees did not exist until about the eighth century B.C., about one thousand years after the time of Abraham.

The Mesopotamian city of Ur has a history dating back to at least the third millennium B.C., but the association of the city with the Chaldees dates to only about the eighth century B.C. The name Chaldees refers to the “land of the people of Chaldea,” located just south of Babylon in southern Mesopotamia. Little is known of Chaldea prior to the eighth century B.C. At this time, it temporarily captured the throne of Babylon and ruled the entire region, including Ur. From that time on, although it didn’t rule continuously in Babylon, its name came to be associated with southern Mesopotamia. In 587 B.C., the Chaldeans conquered the kingdom of Judah and transferred the Hebrew elite to Babylon.
Confounding the situation further, the biblical Hebrew does not call the city “Ur of the Chaldees.” The word translated as Chaldees actually reads“ chesdim,” meaning either the “people of Chesed” or “land of Chesed.” The identification of this city with Chaldea in the King James Version derives from the Greek translation of the Bible, which used the name Chaldee.
chesdim appears to be a West Semitic variation of the name Chaldea, and is the word used in Aramaic for that territory. The Aramaic language came into use in the Near East during the first millennium B.C. and eventually became the lingua franca of the region. We have no evidence for the existence of the Arameans prior to about the tenth century B.C. Some of the last books of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic and that is almost certainly the language that Jesus spoke.

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Still further confusing the matter, despite its antiquity and importance in ancient Mesopotamia, Ur is not cataloged in the Table of Nations descended from Noah’s children.
Although the Bible omits the origin of Ur, it does make reference to the birth of both Chesed (i.e., the alternative name for Chaldea) and Aram (i.e., Aramea). They are, respectively, the son and grandson of Abraham’s brother Haran (Genesis 22:20–22). Since Abraham was born only 290 years after the flood, there is no way that the Chaldees could have been associated with Ur in his time frame. The references to Chesed and Aram as his contemporaries are equally anachronistic. These references to Ur of the chesdim, Chesed, and Aram obviously stem from a time when:

1. Aramea and Chaldea had come into existence;
2. the Hebrews started to adopt Aramaic terminology;
3. Chaldea had become a major force in Mesopotamia;
4. the collective memory of Chaldean and Aramaic origins had receded into myth; and
5. the Hebrews would use the Aramaic pronunciation rather than the native dialect for the Chaldean name.

This suggests a timeframe well after the Babylonian conquest of Judah and almost certainly into the Persian or Hellenistic period (fifth century B.C. or later.)
The anachronistic Mesopotamian genealogy of Abraham and his relatives shows that it was a late invention intended to place Hebrew origins in the cultural center of the powerful Mesopotamian empires that followed after the defeat of the Chaldeans by the Persians, and intended to enhance Hebrew prestige within the Babylonian community.

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Myth 49: Abraham left Egypt to go to Canaan.

The Myth: And Abram [i.e., Abraham] went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And he went on his journeys from the south even to Beth-el, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Beth-el and Hai.... (Genesis 13:1–3)
The Reality: Abraham went into southern Egypt, not Canaan.

The above passage raises some puzzling questions about the historical roots of Abraham. It suggests that Abraham went from Egypt into Canaan, towards the region of Beth-el where he originally placed his tent. But the Hebrew text says that Abraham left Egypt and went “into the south.” One can’t get to Canaan by going south from Egypt.
Ancient Egypt thought of itself as two lands united together, Lower Egypt in the northern delta formed by the Nile and Upper Egypt in the south. This tradition is preserved in the Table of Nations, which makes Ham’s son Mizraim (the Semitic name for Egypt) the father of several children, among whom are Naphtuhim and Pathrusim, which names refer to Lower and Upper Egypt. In the late first millennium B.C., Egypt’s neighbors tended to equate Egypt primarily with the richer fertile northern delta and confused Upper Egypt in the south with Ethiopia, Egypt’s southern neighbor.
Abraham went to Egypt because of a famine in Canaan and would have traveled to the fertile delta in northern Lower Egypt for the purpose of obtaining food. If he went into the south, he would have been heading into Upper Egypt, away from Canaan. To get to Canaan from the Egyptian delta one would travel on an approximately easterly to northeasterly route. How then did Abraham get to Beth-el in Canaan by traveling into southern Egypt?
The biblical description of Abraham’s route obviously creates a problem. While the King James Version gives the translation “into the south,” many other versions of

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the Bible give a different translation. They say that Abraham traveled not “into the south” but “into the Negev,” the vast desert region in southern Canaan.
This alternative translation resulted from the idiomatic meaning of “south” for “Negev,” in much the same way that Americans use the term “south” to define the southeastern United States. For example, if one flies north from Mexico to Florida, one flies “into the south” because Florida is part of the American South.
But there are some problems with this alternative translation. First, the Hebrew word used is not“ Negev” but“ Negevah.” The first form is a noun and could be used in an idiomatic way to refer to Southern Canaan. The second form, however, is an adverb, referring specifically to a direction of movement. Abraham wasn’t traveling “into the South,” which could refer to the Negev, but in a “southerly direction,” which means towards southern Egypt.
Second, a route through the Negev desert makes no sense. Abraham departed his Egyptian locale with great wealth and a large cattle herd. One doesn’t drive cattle into a vast waterless desert waste, especially when there is a major highway leading from Egypt to Canaan that goes along the Mediterranean coast, avoids the desert and provides water for the cattle. The Egyptians called this highway “The Way of Horus” and the Bible refers to it as “The Way of the Philistines.”
Third, the name Beth-el didn’t exist in the time of Abraham, at least according to the Bible. The city received that name from Jacob, long after Abraham died, and the Bible usually indicates that the city used to be called Luz, although that gloss is missing in the present story. Beth-el simply means “House of God” and could easily refer to any place where there is an altar or temple dedicated to any of the deities, in Egypt or in Canaan. Abraham could have built an altar anywhere and called it Beth-el.
In context then, the King James Version has it right and the alternative translations are wrong. Abraham headed into southern Egypt and not to Canaan. This raises some interesting questions about the roots of ancient Israel.
Prior to Abraham’s arrival in Egypt, we have hardly any information about his background. The Bible says that in Abraham’s seventy-fifth year God told him to move from his home in Mesopotamia to Canaan, where he would “make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.”

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But, no sooner does he arrive in Canaan than he finds a great famine requiring that he move to Egypt.
If God had this great plan to give Canaan to Abraham and wanted his heir to move there to establish his name, why did he wait seventy-five years to tell him to move, and why did he wait until there was a famine requiring him to leave the land right away? Something is wrong with this picture.
As we saw in Myth 48, the early genealogy and history of Abraham was a late anachronistic invention. If we strike that portion of the narrative from Abraham’s biography, we find the story of Abraham beginning in Egypt, where he has some sort of confrontation with the pharaoh. This indicates that the original biblical history of Israel began in Egypt, not Canaan or Mesopotamia.
Biblical redactors, living amidst a culturally sophisticated Babylonian cultural and long out of touch with their Egyptian roots, sought to show that the Hebrew people stemmed from the same intellectual roots and influences as that of the highly regarded Babylonians. Consequently, they took advantage of ambiguities in their early historical traditions and added in a journey from Mesopotamia to Canaan in order to show that they had roots in the Babylonian world long before they resided in Egypt.

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Myth 50: God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Myth: And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know....Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. (Genesis 18:20–21, Genesis 19:24–25)
The Reality: Sodom and Gomorrah were mythical cities that never existed.

When Abraham and Lot left Egypt, the Bible says they went up to Beth-el, which is located in the middle of the hill country of central Canaan, north of Jerusalem and northwest of the Dead Sea. He and Lot were so rich in cattle that the land could not support both of them and the native population. Being a generous man, Abraham gave Lot first choice of a territory and offered to move somewhere else if need be.
Lot looked east towards Jordan and from the middle of this hilly territory somehow managed to see the fertile plain on the other side of the Jordan River. The topography of that territory, however, appeared to be somewhat different than indicated by the geological record for that time.

And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. (Genesis 13:10–12)

The picture presented here is of a lush fertile plain extending from the Jordan Valley to the area where Sodom and Gomorrah were located, a well-watered region that

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Genesis compares to the Garden of Eden. Nobody knows where Sodom and Gomorrah actually were located, but the Bible locates them somewhere near the southern part of the Dead Sea, in a region known as the Vale of Siddim, which, according to Genesis 14:3, “is the salt sea” (i.e., the saltwater Dead Sea). This indicates that at some point in time the Salt Sea covered over the Vale of Siddim. In other words, Sodom and Gomorrah were located in a well-watered fertile plain that existed in the location now covered by the southern tip of the Dead Sea.
However, Genesis also says that Lot drove his herd from that part of the plain closest to Beth-el, north of the Dead Sea, to the southern tip of the Jordan Valley at the south end of the Dead Sea. Implicit in this claim is that the entire area where the Dead Sea exists was all arable farmland and well-watered pastures, a fact completely at odds with the geological record, which indicates that the Dead Sea is, in fact, millions of years old.
After Settling at Sodom, the Bible tells us that four powerful Mesopotamian kings united together for an invasion of Sodom and Gomorrah and some local allies. The Mesopotamian coalition ruled the cities for fourteen years, using them as a base for further conquests. In the fourteenth year, the cities revolted, but the Mesopotamians sacked the rebellious communities and took Lot prisoner, presumably because he was an important figure in the region. The biblical authors, apparently forgetting how lovely the region was supposed to be before Sodom’s destruction, describe the territory around Sodom as “full of slime pits” (Genesis 14:10), an editorial lapse describing the actual geological condition of the region. When Abraham learned of Lot’s capture, he raised an army of 318 soldiers from among his many servants and chased the Mesopotamian army “unto Dan” (Genesis 14:14). The expression“ unto Dan” would be an idiomatic way of saying “to the northern part of Israel,” which is where Dan was located. But Dan wasn’t located there in the time of Abraham. That region didn’t become Dan, according to the Bible, until after the Exodus when the Tribe of Dan moved into that territory.
After Abraham rescued his nephew, Lot returned to Sodom. At this time, Abraham had no sons to whom he could pass on his covenant with God, the promise that Canaan would belong to Abraham and his heirs. As Abraham’s nephew, Lot was obviously

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a close relative who traveled with him over long distances from Mesopotamia to Egypt and back to Canaan; Lot looked like the heir apparent. Twenty-five years later, God told Abraham that he would have a son named Isaac (Abraham was one hundred years old when he got the news) and this son would be the heir to the covenant. Coincidentally, following this announcement, God determined that the wickedness of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah required that he destroy the two cities. When Abraham learned of God’s plan, which would exterminate even the good and pious Lot, he negotiated: “And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23).
Eventually, they made a deal. If God found ten righteous men in Sodom he would not destroy the city. Two angels were thus sent on a scouting mission. At Sodom they met Lot, apparently an important town official who sat in judgment by the city gate, and he offered them the hospitality of his home. While Lot shared his meal with the angels, several Sodomites came to Lot’s door and demanded that he turn his guests over to them “that we may know them,” a euphemism for carnal knowledge (Genesis 19:5). Lot begged them to withdraw and offered the crowd his two virgin daughters as a substitute. This offer did not satisfy the Sodomites and they threatened harm against both the guests and Lot.
Lest we think this story involves some claim that homosexuality was a sinful act even greater than rape, we should understand that the crime of the Sodomites was not homosexuality or rape but lack of hospitality.

Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. (Genesis 19:8)

In much of that region in ancient times, hospitality towards travelers and guests played an important role bordering on obligation. The biblical narratives portray many such accounts, as do myths from other cultures in the Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures. In one story, for example, Abraham:

lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And

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said, My LORD, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. (Genesis 18:2–5)

And in another instance, when Abraham sends a servant to fetch a wife for Isaac, the servant remarks:

Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water: And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master. (Genesis 24:13–14)

The two angels in Lot’s house pulled their host inside and struck the intruders blind. They then warned Lot that God planned to destroy the town and that he and his family should flee. When Lot informed his relatives, they thought he was joking and ignored him. Only his wife and two daughters joined him in attempting to escape the city unharmed.
The story continues once Lot and his family leave town:

Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. (Genesis 19:24–25)

Subsequently, Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt and died when she looked back at the destruction (see Myth #51) and Lot fathered upon his daughters two nations, Ammon and Moab (see Myth #52). At the final moments in Sodom’s destruction, Abraham witnesses the fate of the two cities: “And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:28).
The story of Lot contains several anachronisms. For example:

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1. Several members of Abraham’s family have names associated with territories that didn’t come into existence until hundreds of years after the time of Abraham;
2. Abraham and Lot moved to Beth-el, which, according to the Bible, didn’t have that name until the time of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson; and
3. Abraham rescued Lot from the territory of Dan, which didn’t have that name until long after the Exodus from Egypt.
4. Other anachronisms are discussed in Myth #52, which profiles Lot’s two sons, who are identified as the founders of the nations of Moab and Ammon.

No historical records provide evidence for the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah. The name “Sodom” comes from a root word meaning “scorched,” a name that would have arisen only after its alleged destruction, not before. That fact, together with the many anachronisms associated with events in Lot’s life, shows that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah achieved its present written form late in the first millennium B.C., based on legends about earlier times.
In addition, the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah bears a suspicious parallel to another legendary story in the Book of Judges, concerning the destruction of the Tribe of Benjamin (see Judges 19–21). That story concerns a Levite priest traveling with his concubine who passed through Gibeah, where an elderly Ephramite came out of the fields and saw him. The Ephramite offered the priest the hospitality of his home. While entertaining his guests and offering them some bread and wine, some citizens of the town approached the Ephramite’s house and demanded that the guest come out so that the men “may know him.” The host pointed out that the man was his guest and offered up his own daughter and the priest’s concubine as an alternative. The townsfolk took the concubine and abused her to death.
The priest took her body, cut it into twelve pieces and sent one part to each of the Israelite tribes, demanding revenge on the city. With God’s help, the city, belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, was destroyed and, “when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven” (Judges 20:40). This is the same scene witnessed by Abraham after the destruction of Sodom. Subsequently, the Israelites wiped out almost the entire tribe of Benjamin, with but a

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handful of men escaping. Later, the Israelites agreed to allow the remaining Benjaminites to take wives among some non-Hebrew women so that they might preserve their line.
Substituting the priest, a religious figure, for the angels, we find the two stories offer almost identical plot lines and on some occasions share almost identical phrases and ideas. In both stories, for instance, the men of the town want to “know” the male religious figure. And in offering up the two women inside the house as substitutes, the two stories use similar phrases.
In the story of Lot, the host says, “do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof” (Genesis 19:8). And in this later story the host says, “do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing” (Judges 19:24).
Both stories feature a phrase telling the sinful men to do what is “good” with the woman. This phrase is also linked to a request that the men not violate the principle of hospitality.
Consider how many touch points the two stories have:

1. A religious figure (angel/priest) approaches an evil city;
2. A townsman offers the guest his hospitality and gives him a meal of bread;
3. While in the host’s residence, men of the town demand that the religious figure come out so that they can “know him,” i.e., sexually force themselves upon him;
4. The host pleads that the townspeople should respect the right of hospitality and offers up two women as an alternative, telling the intruders to do what seems “good” with them;
5. A female companion dies;
6. A city is destroyed, with smoke rising high into the sky;
7. The act of destruction nearly wipes out the entire population of the city, with only a handful of inhabitants escaping; and
8. At the conclusion of the stories, a special sexual arrangement with women other than wives enables the escapees to preserve their line.

Such a close parallel between the two stories, including the occasional use of almost identical phrases or story elements, indicates that both follow from a single legendary

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tale about the destruction of an evil city that abused the right of hospitality. We can conclude that Sodom and Gomorrah were mythological cities that existed only as regional folktales based on the following: the lack of archaeological evidence for the existence of Sodom and Gomorrah, the alleged location of those cities under a salt sea that had existed there for millions of years, the many anachronistic elements in the story, the name Sodom meaning “scorched,” and the later duplication of the story elements and phrases from an earlier story with a different locale.

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Myth 51: Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt.

The Myth: But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26)
The Reality: This tale attempts to explain the presence of salt in the desolate southern shore of the Dead Sea. Underlying the story is a myth about an escape from the underworld.

When Lot and his family left Sodom, the angels told them not to look back lest they be consumed by the destruction. But his unnamed wife did look back and she turned into a pillar of salt.
The region around the southern shore of the Dead Sea (which is 25 percent salt) was a major salt-mining community and it should not surprise us that legends would evolve from the unusual phenomena of large inland salt deposits. The story of Lot’s wife is one such tale. But the basic story itself originates from a different mythic idea, one similar to the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydike. In the Greek myth, Orpheus sought permission to bring his deceased beloved out of the underworld. He was allowed to do so on the condition that he not look back on his lover until they arrived above ground. But he couldn’t control his desire to see her and turned around as they traveled upward. She disappeared and returned to the underworld.
Entering and testing the underworld and seeking favors therein is a common mythological theme in the Near East, as in the Sumerian story of The Descent of Innana (see Myth #30). The ancient Greeks had many such legends including the descents of Odysseus, Herakles, and Orpheus.
The wicked city of Sodom was a stand-in for the land of the dead, and at the end of the story everyone there is dead. But there is some additional biblical evidence that Sodom originally signified the underworld.
When the alliance of Mesopotamian kings attacked Sodom and established a stronghold there, they then went out and conquered several other groups, among

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whom they “smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim” (Genesis 14:5).
Rephaim, Zuzim, and Emims are names for groups of giants. While they are usually thought of as different groups, they are sometimes considered one and the same. For example, in Deuteronomy 2:11, the Emim and Rephaim are equated and the text places them in Moab. (The English translation says “giants” for “Rephaim.”) And Deuteronomy 2:20 says that the Ammonites called the Zamzummim (a variation of Zuzim) “Rephaim.”
Rephaim” has a second meaning: in addition to “giants,” it also means “shades of the dead.” Since the territories associated with Lot, Moab, and Ammon, were inhabited by a variety of Rephaim, the inhabitants were either mythological giants or “shades of the dead.”
The Bible, therefore, describes this wicked city as being in a land inhabited by many varieties of Rephaim because Sodom originally signified the underworld, which was inhabited by the “shades of the dead.”
In later times, when biblical editors compiled the stories about Lot, they had forgotten that Sodom represented the underworld and they confused the Rephaim meaning of “shades of the dead” with the Rephaim meaning of “giants.”
In the incomplete story that we have, the escape of Lot and his family from Sodom described an attempt by Lot to bring his wife back from the dead. As in the story of Orpheus, the arrangement included a proscription against looking back at the underworld, and when his wife violated the terms of the bargain she could not come out with her husband.

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Myth 52: Lot fathered Ammon and Moab.

The Myth: And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father...Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Ben-ammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day. (Genesis 19:30–32, 36–38)
The Reality: This story continues the anachronistic genealogy through which educated Hebrews in the Babylonian/Persian periods, hoping to impress their culturally sophisticated neighbors with claims of a common Mesopotamian background, attempted to associate members of Abraham’s family with a Mesopotamian background.

After the destruction of Sodom, Lot and his two daughters thought they were the only survivors in the world, and his daughters thought they should sleep with their father in order to have children and propagate the race. As their father would have considered this immoral, they first got him drunk on wine and then came to him, each on a separate night. As a result of these unions, each daughter had a child. The first child born they named Moab and he was the ancestor of the Moabites. The other child they named Ben-ammi, a strange name meaning “son of the people”—what people would this be?—and he was identified as the ancestor of the Ammonites. Both territories were neighbors near the southern portion of the Dead Sea. During the first millennium B.C., they were constant enemies of the Israelites.
The earliest known reference to the existence of Moab as a territory occurs in an Egyptian inscription dating to the reign of Ramesses II (thirteenth century B.C.). As to the Ammonites, the evidence of their existence in the time of Lot is even sparser.

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The earliest written evidence for the name dates to AsSyrian records from about the eighth century B.C.
Egyptian inscriptions from earlier periods refer to the people of that area but none mention either the Moabites or Ammonites. Nor do we have any evidence that the Moabites and Ammonites constituted particular ethnic groups having a common ancestry. They both appear to have roots among nomadic peoples who could have come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds within the ancient Near East.
In the Bible’s Book of Numbers, there is a claim that Moses defeated a King Sihon who had a stronghold in the Moabite city of Heshbon, near the Moabite, Ammonite, and Israelite borders. This city allegedly served as the center of a large Moabite kingdom. However, recent excavations at what should have been the site of Heshbon, Tell Hisban, show that it was unoccupied until the first millennium B.C. Clearly, the Bible has erroneous information about the early Moabite period.
As was common in ancient times, most cultures claimed that they were descendants of some ancient hero. Both the Moabites and Ammonites would have had legends about these ancestors. Because of their proximity to ancient Israel, similar lifestyles, and frequent territorial conflicts and counter-claims with Israel, biblical scribes attempted to establish some subordinate connection between these nations and the Israelite kingdom. Since the genealogy is attached to the false genealogy for Abraham, we can assume that it originated even later in time than that for Abraham.

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Myth 53: Abraham pretended that Sarah was his sister.

The Myth: And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee. (Genesis 12:11–13)
And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. (Genesis 20:1–2)
The Reality: Genesis has three different stories about a patriarch who feared that a foreign king would kill him in order to take his beautiful wife for a queen, so the patriarch’s wife pretended to be his sister. All three stories stem from a common mythological source.

When Abraham left Mesopotamia and came to Canaan, a famine plagued the land and he had to go to Egypt for food. For some reason, he feared that the pharaoh would be aware of his presence and find his wife most attractive and desirable. (Sarah was about sixty-five years old at the time.) Abraham figured that if the pharaoh thought Abraham and Sarah were husband and wife, the monarch would have him killed so that he could take Sarah into the royal household. Therefore, he asked her to pretend to be his sister. Presumably, Abraham tolerated his wife becoming concubine to the pharaoh.
The pharaoh did indeed learn about the beautiful Sarah and did take her as a wife. But great plagues struck the king’s household and he learned the truth. The pharaoh returned Sarah to Abraham and sent them out of the country with great wealth cattle, gold, and silver.

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Some twenty-five years later, Abraham and Sarah traveled to the city of Gerar, a Philistine city ruled by a king named Abimelech, who had an army captain named Phicol. Sarah, now about ninety, was still a great beauty, and once again Abraham feared the king would kill him in order to take Sarah as a royal wife. So, again, he had Sarah pretend to be his sister and again the king took Sarah into the royal household. But this time, before the king consummated his affair, he had a warning from God and returned Sarah to Abraham. He, too, bestowed great wealth on Abraham. Subsequently, Abraham and Abimelech feuded over some wells and they resolved the dispute with a treaty. They named the site Beer-sheba, meaning “well of an oath.”
About forty-five to sixty-five years later, another famine struck Canaan and God directed Isaac, Abraham’s son, to go not to Egypt but to Gerar. Again, the city belonged to the Philistines, Abimelech ruled as king, and Phicol headed up the guard. When Isaac arrived at Gerar with his wife, Rebekah, the townspeople saw how beautiful she was and Isaac, fearing the king would kill him, said that Rebekah was his sister.

And Isaac dwelt in Gerar: And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon. (Genesis 26:6–7)

Again the king discovered the cover-up, made peace with Isaac, and subsequently feuded with him over some wells. They concluded a treaty and named the site Beer-sheba.
Gerar and Beer-sheba lie on the southern border of Canaan, in the Wilderness of Shur. In describing the length of the Israelite territory, biblical writers occasionally described it as running from Beer-sheba to Dan. In tribal terms, the territory belonged to Simeon, the second oldest son of Jacob.
These three stories present alternative accounts of the same event, but the biblical redactors don’t agree on whether the incident happened in Egypt or Canaan or if it involved Abraham or Isaac. The incident of Abraham at Gerar belongs to the E source but the story of Isaac at Gerar belongs to the J source. The Egyptian Abraham story also belongs to the J source, and both J accounts involve a famine.
In the Abraham famine story, Abraham went to Egypt, but in the Isaac famine story God told the patriarch, “Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall

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tell thee of ”(Genesis 26:2). Why? Egypt was the breadbasket. That’s where Abraham and Jacob’s children went during the famine. There seems to be a conscious effort here to downplay both the connection to Egypt and Abraham’s connection to Beer-sheba.
The E source tends to reflect ideas from the northern kingdom while the J source tends to favor the southern kingdom. That the two sources present conflicting claims over which patriarch went to Gerar and how Beer-sheba got its name suggests some esoteric political feud in the period after Israel and Judah split into separate kingdoms.
One can tell that both the Abraham and Isaac Gerar stories have a late origin because they each claim that Philistines controlled and lived in and about Gerar. The Philistines didn’t arrive in Canaan until the twelfth century B.C., about six hundred years after the time of Abraham and Isaac. So, the Gerar stories are false. But what about the first story, taking place in Egypt?
As we saw in Myth #49, when Abraham left Egypt he headed south into Upper Egypt, not into Canaan. This suggests that the story of Abraham and the pharaoh stems from an Egyptian source. Following the traditional Jewish chronology of the Bible, Abraham arrived in Egypt during the latter half of the eighteenth century B.C. For the Egyptians, this was a troubling time that Egyptologists refer to as the Second Intermediate Period.
During this era, a coalition of non-Egyptians residing in the Egyptian delta began to seize power. Known as the Hyksos, they eventually took control over most of Egypt and ruled for almost two centuries. The legitimate Egyptian kings in Thebes either kept control over some portion of Upper Egypt or served as vassals to the Hyksos rulers in Lower Egypt.
In an interesting mythological/literary twist, the Hyksos kings worshiped the Egyptian god Set, the only recognized mythological rival to Horus. The Hyksos Thebes conflict mirrored the Horus-Set conflict, and later Egyptian literature tended to identify foreign invaders as agents of Set. The Hyksos interregnum had a powerful impact on the Egyptian mind and generated much mythic and literary imagery.
The Hyksos built their capital at Avaris and dedicated the city to Set. About 450 years later, well after Egypt expelled the Hyksos, pharaoh Ramesses II changed the name of Avaris to Pi-Ramesses. This city was one of the two cities that Hebrew slaves

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worked in, although it is not clear whether they worked there before or after the name change. The city continued to be a center for Set worship. Israelite tradition, therefore, would recall Set as an enemy king who persecuted them.
When Abraham arrived in Egypt during the famine he would have arrived in the Egyptian delta at about the time that the Hyksos had already established a stronghold in that region. The desire of the pharaoh to marry Abraham’s wife would have been a metaphorical portrayal of the negotiations and feuds between the rising Hyksos princes and the opposing local princes. The Hyksos leader wanted a treaty. Abraham, corresponding to a local Egyptian governor, at first acquiesced and then rebelled. He fled south to Thebes, joining the legitimate rulers in their struggle against the invaders.
The city of Gerar was located in the Wilderness of Shur, the territory that Egyptians associated with the god Set. In post-Hyksos times, the rebellion of an Egyptian Abraham against a Set-worshipping king in the delta came to be equated with a rebellion against the forces of Set in the Wilderness of Shur. Abimelech of Gerar, whose name means “Father-King,” would have originally been a symbolic representation of the last Hyksos ruler, but since Gerar lay in what later became Philistine territory, the biblical redactors assumed that Abimelech must have been a Philistine king. This later rewriting of the story reinforced the idea in the mind of biblical editors that when Abraham left Egypt he went to Canaan.
So, while the story of Abraham and the pharaoh originally symbolized the conflict between Thebes and the Hyksos kings, and took place in Egypt, the story evolved into a conflict with a king in the territory of Set, and evolved further into a conflict with a Philistine king. In the meantime, political factions argued over whether Abraham or Isaac established a better claim to Beer-sheba, an argument that no doubt had something to do with resolving territorial claims among the Israelites.

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Myth 54: Jacob and Esau fought in the womb.

The Myth: And Isaac entreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was threescore years old when she bare them. And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison: but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:21–28)
The Reality: Jacob and Esau corresponded to the Egyptian gods Horus and Set, who struggled in the womb and fought over who would become the leader of the nation.

Jacob and Esau were twins who struggled even in the womb. Esau came out first, “red, all over like an hairy garment,” but Jacob tried to pull him back in. This story presents just one of several incidents involving Jacob and Esau that draw upon the Egyptian myths about the conflict between Horus and Set.
We have several pieces of evidence concerning the original identity of Jacob and Esau, but they are scattered throughout several stories and need to be reassembled. The salient features will be discussed here and some others will be mentioned in more detail in other relevant myths.
Perhaps the most important clue about their identity comes from Esau’s physical description. He exited the womb quite a hairy child, cloaked in red hair so thick it seemed like a garment. So hirsute was he that in later years Jacob disguised himself as

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Esau by covering his own arms with a goat skin. Esau’s physical characteristics are those of the Egyptian god Set, brother and rival to the ruling god Horus. Egyptians frequently portrayed Set in the form of a red haired donkey.
According to Plutarch’s account of the birth of Osiris, god of the afterlife and brother of Set, the latter was born ahead of his appointed time by forcing his way through his mother’s side, not unlike Esau’s action in forcing himself out ahead of Jacob. In the same account, Set followed immediately after the birth of Horus the Elder but appeared well before Horus the Son of Isis. Because Egyptians merged the identities of several Horus gods together, Set and Horus were twins who also shared the relationship of uncle and nephew.
Esau and Set also share the trait of being mighty hunters and warriors, more so than any of their comrades. And both were loners who did not mix well with other members of the family.
As the first born, Esau should have been heir to the covenant and Issac favored him. But his mother loved Jacob more and conspired to trick Isaac and Esau into transferring the birthright to her beloved son. The Egyptian story has the same scenario. Re, the chief deity, favored Set as the successor to Osiris. Isis, however, favored her son Horus, who was also Set’s brother. Ultimately, Isis enabled Horus to succeed to the throne (see Myth # 55).
Another interesting parallel between the Egyptian and biblical stories about Set and Esau concerns Esau’s name. When Set arranged to trap Osiris in a chest and float him out to sea, an Ethiopian queen named Aso aided him. Although Set’s ally has a female persona, her name is philologically identical to Esau’s, sharing the same consonants. (Neither Egyptian nor Hebrew used vowels.) This indicates that when the Hebrews adopted the story, they substituted the name of the deity’s chief human assistant for that of the deity himself.
By implication, the above correspondences between Set and Esau also contribute to identifying the nature of Esau’s brother. Horus the Elder was Set’s twin brother and the two struggled in the womb. So did Jacob and Esau. Horus the Child and Jacob both relied on their mother to help them trick their brother out of the leadership role. Horus and Jacob both faced opposition from the head of the clan. In addition,

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Plutarch tells us that long after Set’s birth, Horus the Son of Isis was born lame. Jacob, too, became lame, long after Esau’s birth but just before he changed his name to Israel. Contextually, the name change should be considered a form of new birth, as it signifies a new stage in Jacob’s life.

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Myth 55: Jacob cheated Esau out of his birthright.

The Myth: And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom [i.e., “red”]. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me? And Jacob said, swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:29–34)
And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, ...that my soul may bless thee before I die. And Rebekah heard when Isaac spake to Esau his son...And Rebekah spake unto Jacob her son...And thou shalt bring it to thy father, that he may eat, and that he may bless thee before his death. And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man: My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing. And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them...And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son: And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck:...And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son? And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me...And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him. (Genesis 27:1–41)
The Reality: These two stories about Jacob getting Esau’s birthright were adapted from an Egyptian tale about how Isis, mother of Horus and brother of Set, tricked Set into giving up his challenge to Horus for the throne.
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Genesis tells two stories about how Jacob got the birthright from his older brother and neither casts Jacob in a very good light. When Jacob and Esau were in the womb, God told their mother that the elder would serve the younger, meaning that somehow the person entitled to the birthright would lose it. Why? If God wanted Jacob to be the principle heir, why didn’t he just arrange for Jacob to be born first? And why should God consign his hope that Jacob would succeed to a plan of outright dishonesty?
In the first incident, Esau returned from the hunt near death and faint with hunger. He sought help from his brother who had a bowl of lentiles. Jacob, instead of sharing the food with his brother, as any humane family member would do, took advantage of the situation and offered to sell the food to Esau in exchange for the birthright. Is this Jacob the role model for a God who supposedly gave a commandment not to covet another’s property?
Jacob’s purchase of the birthright, despicable an act as it was, could at least be defended on pure contract principles. The second incident cannot be so described. Jacob committed acts of theft and false witness.
In the second incident, Isaac, old and blind, wanted to pass on the blessing to Esau, his favorite son and rightful heir. In preparation, he sent him out to bring back some venison and promised to bless him when he returned.
Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, overheard the conversation and instructed Jacob to kill a goat so she can prepare the meal for Isaac and have Jacob pretend to be his brother. Jacob worried that his skin would be too smooth and Isaac would know the truth, that he would be cursed rather than blessed. (He does not worry about doing wrong, only about being caught.) Rebekah told him that she would absorb the curse, and that Jacob should cover his hands with goatskins and wear Esau’s clothing.
The ruse worked. Jacob lied to Isaac and cheated Esau out of his inheritance. It’s not entirely clear, though, how the birthright and the blessing were different. Jacob had already purchased the birthright with the bowl of lentiles. What did the blessing add to the package that he didn’t already have?
The account of how Jacob got the inheritance bears a remarkable similarity to an incident in a twelfth century B.C. Egyptian text known as The Contending's of Horus and Set. The story tells of a lawsuit between the gods Horus the Child and Set over the

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right to succeed Osiris as king of Egypt. The council of gods served as Judges. The document brings together several tales that record older myths.
At one point in the contest, Isis, mother of Horus the Child, had convinced everybody but Re, chief deity of the gods, that her son Horus should be the king. Set became angry and declared he would not follow any decision by a tribunal that included Isis. Re directed the gods to reassemble at a place called the “Isle in the Middle” and told the ferryman not to let Isis or anyone who looks like her come across. The goddess disguised herself as an old hag and told the ferryman that she had a bowl of porridge for the hungry young man who had been tending cattle. Her costume fooled the ferryman and he took her across to the island. When she landed, she saw Set and transformed herself into a beautiful woman.
Set, his lust aroused, approached her. When he came to her she told him a tale of woe. Her husband, she said, had been a cattleman by whom she had a son. The husband died and the son tended the cattle, but a stranger came into the stable and threatened to beat up the child, take the cattle, and evict the child. Isis concluded by asking Set for his protection.
“Is it while the son of the male is still living,” replied Set, “that the cattle are to be given to the stranger?” These words by Set indicated that the rule of law should be that the son has a stronger claim to a father’s property than does a stranger. What he didn’t realize as he said these words, was that he was also describing the legal conflict between himself and Horus the Child for the right to rule Egypt. Horus the Child was son of Osiris, the prior king, and the title was a form of property that should go to his heir, his son, not a rival. Set was acting like the bully in the story told by Isis.
Immediately after these words escaped Set’s lips, Isis transformed herself into a bird and called out that Set’s own words did him in. When Re heard what Set said, he declared that Horus must become king. But Set was not a gracious loser and refused to abide by the declaration. More tests, tricks, and deceptions were yet to come.
This Egyptian tale sets forth essentially the same story as the Bible. The head of the clan favored the older claimant, the mother favored her son; the older son traveled away from the home before the blessing was to be given; the mother found out about the plan to bestow the blessing; the mother arranged for a bowl of food to be carried

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to one of the rivals by a person in disguise; one of the rivals was tricked into saying words that awarded the blessing to the younger son; one of the rivals was determined to kill the younger son.
The detailed parallels between the Egyptian story of The Isle in the Middle and the actions of Rebekah and Jacob leave little doubt as to the Egyptian influence on the Genesis account.

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Myth 56: Jacob dreamed about a ladder to heaven.

The Myth: And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set ; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Beth-el: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. (Genesis 28:10–19)
The Reality: This scene derives from Egyptian writings from third millennium B.C. pyramids that describe funerary rituals for the deceased king.

When Esau learned that Jacob cheated him out of Isaac’s blessing, he vowed, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.” Jacob’s parents feared for their younger son’s safety and sent him off to Padanaram (i.e., Syria) to live with Rebakah’s brother Laban (an eponym for Lebanon).
On the way, he had an unusual dream. He saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven and upon it angels went up and down. At the top stood God, who promised to

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give all the land of Canaan to Jacob, the heir to Abraham and Isaac’s covenant. When he awoke, Jacob declared that this spot must be the house of God and the gate to heaven. There he built and consecrated an altar and named the site Beth-el, which means “House of God.”
The dream appears in an ambiguous context. Isaac, described as old and blind and about one hundred years of age, had just given Jacob his blessing. Esau declared that the days of mourning for his father were at hand, implying that Isaac was near death. Curiously, Isaac makes only one more brief and minor appearance in the Bible. Some twenty years after Jacob fled, he went to visit Isaac, who would be about the age of one hundred and twenty years. The verse doesn’t actually say that Jacob saw Isaac, nor does it attribute any action to Isaac. In the very next verse, the Bible says that Isaac died at the age of one hundred and eighty.
These last two verses about Isaac come from the E source. The previous stories about Jacob and Esau and their conflicts belong to the J source. This suggests that in the J source, Isaac died shortly after the blessing. Only in the E source does the father survive, and those mentions encompass only two minor verses that were added at a later time.
Jacob’s dream, therefore, occurs in the following context. He has just received the blessing from his father; his father died shortly afterwards; he dreamed about a ladder to heaven; and he became the new heir to God’s covenant.
Keeping this setting in mind, let’s look at some excerpts from the Pyramid Texts of ancient Egypt, dating to the period from about 2500 B.C. to 2100 B.C. From the Fifth dynasty pyramid of pharaoh Unas, we read:

Ra setteth upright the ladder for Osiris, and Horus raiseth up the ladder for his father Osiris, when Osiris goeth to [find] his soul; one standeth on the one side, and the other standeth on the other, and Unas is betwixt them. Unas standeth up and is Horus, he sitteth down and he is Set.

And, from the Sixth Dynasty pyramid of Pepi I:

Hail to thee, O Ladder of God, Hail to thee, O Ladder of Set. Stand up O Ladder of God, stand up O Ladder of Set, stand up O Ladder of Horus, whereon Osiris went forth into heaven.

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What these texts describe is an Egyptian belief about how the soul of the dead king enters heaven. When the king is alive he is the god Horus. When he dies he becomes the god Osiris, father to Horus. The dead king as Osiris climbs a ladder from earth to heaven, and the ladder consists of the bodies of his two brothers, Horus and Set.
If we ignore the polytheistic Egyptian imagery and compare these descriptions with the biblical portrayal, we see what the Bible describes. The Egyptian ladder, consisting of the bodies of two Egyptian deities upon which Osiris ascends into heaven, has been replaced by a ladder with several supernatural beings, angels, climbing up and down between earth and heaven. The Egyptian ritual takes place in the context of replacing the deceased king with a new king. The biblical context describes the replacement of the deceased king-figure, Isaac, with the new king-figure, Jacob. One other connection between the two sets of images should be mentioned. Jacob named the site of the ladder Beth-el, which means House of God, and says that this was the gate to heaven. The Egyptian name for heaven is Hathor, which means House of Horus. Hathor and Beth-el both signify the same thing—the connection between a ruling god’s house and heaven.
Finally, if Jacob and Esau signify Horus and Jacob, and Rebekah signifies Isis, wife of Osiris, then Isaac signifies Osiris, the dead king who climbs the ladder.

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Myth 57: Jacob wrestled with a stranger.

The Myth: And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank. And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came.... (Genesis 32:24–33:1)
The Reality: This wrestling story is a corrupted account of the daily struggle between Horus and Set, a battle between the forces of day and night.

Jacob remained with Laban, his uncle, for twenty years. During that time, he acquired four wives, eleven sons, and a daughter. (Jacob fathered a twelfth son after he returned to Canaan.) At the end of the twenty years, God told Jacob and his family to return to his native land. On the journey, Jacob decided to pay his respects to Esau and see if they could come to a peaceful arrangement.
When Jacob arrived near the planned meeting site, he Settled his family into a camp and went off on his own. That evening, a stranger appeared to him and the two of them wrestled throughout the night. Neither could gain a victory, but the stranger managed to lame Jacob in the course of the struggle. As morning light appeared, the stranger offered to break off the fight, but Jacob agreed only on condition that he

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receive a blessing. The stranger blessed Jacob by changing his name to Israel and declared him a prince of power.
Jacob asked his opponent to identify himself, but the stranger declined, and since Jacob believed that he had looked into the face of God, he named the place Penuel, “Face of God.” (The story uses both Peniel and Penuel as the name of the place. Subsequently, the Bible just refers to Penuel.) The sun then rose in the sky and Jacob began to limp. Immediately after his confrontation with the unidentified stranger, Esau appeared. The two brothers professed peace, hugged, and were gracious to each other. Then, Jacob made a rather curious statement, “I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God” (Genesis 33:10). The statement implies that Esau had been the stranger that Jacob wrestled.
In the earliest Egyptian myths, as recorded in the Pyramid Texts, Horus the Elder and Set, the twin Egyptian deities, constantly fought with each other. Horus represented the force of day and light, Set the force of night and dark. Egyptians believed that the sun traveled a circular path between the light and the dark. At the end of the light there resided a huge serpent that sought to devour the sun. The Egyptians divided the full day into twenty-four periods, twelve day and twelve night. As the solar barque entered into the night realm, it confronted a series of challenges through twelve zones.
The myths sometimes depict Set as the serpent that tried to devour the sun. Horus functioned as a solar deity, and in Egypt’s earliest times may have been the original Creator deity. In any event, the fighting between Horus and Set signified the daily battle between the sun and its enemy.
The various icons in the story of Jacob’s wrestling match correspond to the Egyptian symbolism. Jacob, the Horus figure, wrestled all through the night with a stranger. He believed the stranger to be God, although the story does not make that direct claim. He named the location “Face of God” because he believed that he looked on the face of god during his wrestling match. But because the night was dark, he could not have seen much. The first person he saw when the light appeared was Esau, the Set figure. And he said to him, “I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God,” identifying him with the stranger.

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In addition, Jacob received a new name, a functional rebirth, and in this new identity began to limp as soon as the sun appeared, equating his new physical form with that of Horus the Son of Isis, who was born lame after Horus the Elder and Set made peace (according to Plutarch’s account).
One other coincidence should be noted. The Egyptians divided the day and night into twelve zones each, and Jacob and Esau each had twelve sons.
Although the biblical story presents a corrupted account of the Egyptian tradition, we can see that underlying the story of Jacob and the stranger is the Egyptian account of the daily battle between Horus and Set, that originally Esau was the stranger with whom Jacob wrestled and that Jacob can be identified with Horus the Son of Isis, who was born lame.

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Myth 58: God changed Jacob’s name to Israel.

The Myth: And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name; and he called his name Israel. (Genesis 35:9–10)
The Reality: Genesis gives two different accounts of how Jacob came to be called Israel, reflecting the views of two rival factions in the kingdom of Israel.

In the previous myth, we saw that when Jacob wrestled a stranger, the stranger blessed him by changing his name from Jacob to Israel. This event occurred at the site of Penuel. Although Jacob believed that he had looked on the face of God (the stranger), we know that couldn’t be the case because in the Book of Exodus, when Moses asked to see God’s face the deity replied, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20). So, according to that story at least, God couldn’t have been the one who changed Jacob’s name, because Jacob, as a human, couldn’t look on the face of God and live. Additionally, in the discussion of Myth #57 we saw that the stranger was actually Esau.
However, the Bible has a second story about Jacob’s change of name. In this account, occurring some time after the reunion with Esau, God directed Jacob to go to Beth-el, the place where he dreamed of the ladder. At Beth-el, God directly told Jacob that henceforth his name would be Israel and then renewed his covenant to give Canaan to Israel and his descendants.
These two stories show how rival factions attempted to change incidents in biblical history to suit their own purposes. Here, we have one story claiming a name change in Penuel and another saying Beth-el. The histories of these two cities provide clues as to why two different stories came about.
When King Solomon died, Jeroboam led a revolt against Solomon’s heir to the throne, and split off the Kingdom of Israel from Judah. Jeroboam established two

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major cult centers, one on the southern border at Beth-el and one at the northern border in Dan. He also built one of his chief cities at Penuel, an administrative center for the government.
Initially, Jeroboam had the support of the Shiloh priesthood, which thought that breaking away from the Jerusalem-dominated priesthood would enhance their own power and prestige. But Jeroboam didn’t believe in formal priesthoods and declared that anyone who wanted to be a priest could be. This caused a split between him and the Shiloh priests.
Since the northern kingdom was called Israel, it had a special interest in explaining how the name Israel came to be associated with the northern territories. Since Jeroboam and the Shilohite priests were in political conflict with each other, each faction came up with its own version of how the name Israel originated. The Jeroboam faction associated the name with Penuel, his administrative center. The Shiloh priesthood associated the name with Beth-el, the southern cult center that competed with Jerusalem.
It’s interesting to note that in the Penuel story, the role of religion is downplayed. In that story Jacob received his new name because he was a prince of power, who prevailed against God himself. Jeroboam’s primary interest was military defense, not religion.
The Shiloh priesthood, on the other hand, in order to compete with Jerusalem for the religious loyalty of the Israelites, used the Beth-el naming story to invoke a connection between the covenant with Israel and the cult status of Beth-el.

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Myth 59: Esau is Edom.

The Myth: Thus dwelt Esau in mount Seir: Esau is Edom. And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir.... (Genesis 36:8–9)
The Reality: Biblical redactors erroneously identified Esau with Edom.

Genesis depicts Esau as the father of the Edomites, but such connections arise from a variety of errors on the part of the biblical editors.
Esau’s most notable physical attribute was his thick red hair all over his body. The name Edom, with which Esau is identified means “red” and the name arises from the large amount of reddish sandstone found there. The Bible also places Mount Seir within Edom, which territory is an important part of the Edomite region. The name Seir means “hairy” and it is the combination of this name together with the name Edom meaning “red” that accounts for the connection of the red-haired Esau with Edom. Genesis even attempts to give Esau the nickname of Edom in the story of his selling the birthright: “And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom” (Genesis 25:30).
According to the biblical account, Esau conquered Edom by defeating a native group known as the Horites. No archaeological evidence tells us who the Horites were or when they existed. They appear only in the Bible.
Since the character of Esau is derived from images of the god Set, Esau’s victory over the Horites would correspond to the Set-worshipping Hyksos kings in Egypt defeating the army of the Horus king of Thebes. The biblical redactors, having erroneously connected Esau with Edom, wrongfully assumed that he conquered the Horites in Edom when the story actually reflects historical events in Egypt.

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Myth 60: Jacob buried Rachel in Bethlehem.

The Myth: And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Beth-lehem. (Genesis 35:19)
The Reality: Genesis has two stories about Rachel’s burial place, reflecting the political factionalism between Israel and Judah.

Rachel was Jacob’s favorite wife and the mother of his two youngest and favorite children, Joseph and Benjamin. While Joseph was born in Syria, Benjamin was born en route to Canaan, but Rachel died during childbirth.
According to Genesis, Jacob buried Rachel in Bethlehem, in the territory of Judah and “The Tomb of Rachel” in that city is currently one of the more popular tourist spots in Israel.
However, 1 Samuel 10:2 places Rachel’s tomb in the territory of Benjamin: “When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah.”
Since the Benjaminites claimed descent from Rachel, this difference of opinion was of no small moment. The dispute reflects the feuding between Judah and Israel, with each kingdom trying to identify itself with the mother of the House of Israel.
Bethlehem lies within Judah and was the home city of King David. Benjamin was the home territory of King Saul, the first king of Israel. David and Saul were political rivals. When King David came to power, contrary to his modern public image, he did not remain very popular. Northern Israelites twice led military rebellions against him, once even ousting him temporarily from the throne.
This conflict over where Jacob buried Rachel had important political significance in the feuds between Judah and Israel. The location would have been considered a site of great religious and political importance, an omen as to which territory should rule the other.

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Myth 61: The prince of Shechem raped Dinah.

The Myth: And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her...
AndHamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him...And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longeth for your daughter: I pray you give her him to wife. And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. And ye shall dwell with us: and the land shall be before you; dwell and trade ye therein, and get you possessions therein... And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister: And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us: But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised; Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people. But if ye will not hearken unto us, to be circumcised; then will we take our daughter, and we will be gone. And their words pleased Hamor, and Shechem Hamor’s son... And unto Hamor and unto Shechem his son hearkened all that went out of the gate of his city; and every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city. And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out. (Genesis 34)
The Reality: The Leah branch of Israel adopted this story from the Greek myth about Danaus and Aegyptus.

The Egyptian story of The Contending's of Horus and Set sets forth a series of events concerning the contest between Horus and Set for the throne. In the discussion of Myth #55 we saw that the biblical account of how Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright and blessing shared several similarities with one of the episodes in that story, the one where Isis disguised herself and carried a bowl of food to Set.
As the Egyptian story continued, there came a point when Re, the chief deity, fed up with the continued complaints, directed Horus and Set to stop feuding and to eat together. Set agreed and invited Horus to a feast but he had other purposes in mind. After Horus visited, ate, and fell asleep, Set sexually abused him. For some legal reason, if Set could show this, he would become king instead of Horus.
When Horus learned what Set had done to him, he went to his mother for help. Utilizing her magical skills, she made it appear to the council of gods that Horus abused Set rather than the other way around.
In Genesis, with Jacob and Esau in the roles of Horus and Set, a similar scenario started to develop. When Jacob returned to Canaan, he sought out Esau to make peace. Esau (after the incident where Jacob wrestled with the stranger) invited Jacob and his family to come back with him for a feast. Jacob, suspicious of his brother’s motives, told Esau to go on and he would follow after. Instead, he skipped out of town and brought his family to Shechem. Strangely, the Bible says nothing further about Esau’s reaction to being left in the lurch.
If the Genesis account were truly following the Egyptian storyline, Jacob should have followed Esau to his home and Esau would later subject his brother to some sort of sexual abuse. That scene doesn’t occur in Genesis, but at the very point where we would expect such a story, the narrative shifts to another scene of sexual abuse, in which the son of Hamor, king of Shechem, raped Jacob’s daughter Dinah. Given the narrative context, it shouldn’t be too surprising to discover that the name Hamor has the meaning of a “red ass,” the very image associated with Set.
In the biblical story, after the son ofHamor raped Dinah, he asked his father to arrange a marriage. Hamor proposed to Jacob that the children of both families intermarry. Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, replied that the Israelites would go along with the marriage if the Shechemite males all agreed to be circumcised. The Shechemites

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accepted this condition but Simeon and Levi had a secret agenda. When the males were recovering from the operations and unable to fight well, the two brothers secretly entered the city and slaughtered the king’s family. Jacob, afraid of the consequences, fled with his family from Shechem to Beth-el.
It would seem that for some reason the biblical editors substituted the story of the rape of Dinah for the story about the homosexual rape of Horus/Jacob by Set/Esau. The basis for the story was the Greek myth of Danaus and Aegyptus, a source that we previously noted (see Myth #47) had an influence on the genealogy of the Hamitic branch of Noah’s family.
The only complete account of the Greek myth appears in the writings of Apollodorus, a Greek writer of the first century B.C. The summary presented here is adapted from his narrative.
Danaus and Aegyptus were the twin sons of Belus, king of Egypt. The monarch appointed Aegyptus ruler over Arabia and Danaus ruler over Libya (i.e., that part of Africa west of the Nile). Eventually, Aegyptus conquered Egypt and named the country after himself. Danaus, fearing his brother’s power, fled from Libya to the Greek kingdom of Argos, where he persuaded the current ruler to make Danaus king. Aegyptus pursued Danaus and proposed that his fifty sons marry Danaus’s fifty daughters (called the Danaides in Greek myth). Danaus, fearing a plot against his life, agreed, but secretly instructed his daughters to hide knives in their wedding beds and kill their husbands on the wedding night. All but one of the daughters carried out the instructions and the surviving husband succeeded Danaus to the throne.
On the surface, the biblical story of Dinah bears a startling resemblance to the Greek legend. In both stories, a king proposed a group marriage between the members of his family and a less powerful family; the less powerful family consented to the marriage but secretly plotted to kill the king’s sons; the less powerful family massacred the king’s sons and move to a new territory. (In an isolated fragment of text from another source, the Danaides killed Aegyptus’s sons while still in Egypt and then fled to Argos.) Also, the daughters of the less powerful family are known as the Danaides (i.e., “daughters of Danaus” in Greek) and the central character of the less powerful family in the biblical story is Dinah, sharing the same root name as Danaus and the Danaides.

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The main distinctions between the biblical and Greek stories are:

1. Jacob and Hamor are not brothers, let alone twins; and 2. the biblical story lacks a counterpart to the two groups of fifty children in the Greek story.

As to the first point, we have already observed that Hamor/“red ass” stands in as a substitute for Esau/“the hairy red” man, and both substitute for the red-skinned donkey god Set. Since Hamor substitutes for Esau, and Esau is Jacob’s twin, we have eliminated the first distinction. As to the second objection, we can show that Genesis, too, has a family of fifty children.
Genesis divides the family of Jacob into two main factions—a Rachel group consisting of the two sons of Rachel and the two sons of her handmaid Bilhah, and the Leah branch, consisting of her six sons and the two sons of her handmaid Zilpah. Genesis 46 gives a list of all the sons and grandsons born to each of Jacob’s wives before they came into Egypt. In that list, Leah has thirty-four sons and grandsons and her handmaid has sixteen more, a total of fifty. Since the biblical authors generally count grandsons among the sons of a family, the Leah branch has fifty sons. And not only do we have fifty children of Jacob, both Genesis and Apollodorus divide the fifty children into eight subgroups.
Because Leah is the mother of Dinah as well as of the two sons who avenge her, Simeon and Levi, we can conclude that this story originated within the Leah branch of Israel.

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Myth 62: Abraham named his son “He Laughed.”

The Myth: And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac [Hebrew for “he laughed”]: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. (Genesis 17:15–19)
The Reality: Biblical redactors changed the name of Abraham’s son to Isaac because his original name recalled his connection to Osiris, the Egyptian god who granted eternal life.

Abraham named his son Isaac, which means, “he laughed.” Genesis has several incidents of laughter in connection with the naming of the child.
The first occasion occurred when God told Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son. Since he would be one hundred years old at the time, and Sarah ninety, he thought this pretty funny and fell on his face laughing. God basically ignored Abraham’s less-than-faithful reaction and reassured him that Sarah indeed would give birth to Abraham’s sons. He then told him to name the child Isaac. This story belongs to the P source tradition.
The J source has a slightly different account. In that version, God told Abraham that he would have a child and Sarah overheard the news. She had the same reaction that Abraham had and for the same reason, she laughed. This time, God expressed anger at hearing laughter—he saw it as questioning his power—and inquired of Sarah why she did so. She tried to hide her reaction, denying the act altogether. But God knew she didn’t tell the truth.

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In the E source, Sarah laughed after the child was born and said, “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6).
Each of the three sources talks about the birth of Isaac in the context of laughter, but each from a different perspective. In P source, God had no problem with Abraham laughing after hearing the news. In J source, God became angry when Sarah laughs at the same news. In E source, the laughter occurred after the child’s birth. J source sees the reaction as bad, P source sees it as harmless, and E source sees it as positive. Why so many views over what should be a rather simple story?
Consider this additional piece of information. In the previous myth, we saw that the story of Dinah incorporated the Greek myth of Danaus and Aegyptus into the patriarchal history. When Danaus fled to Argos, he replaced a king named Gelanor, which is Greek for “laughter.” (Isaac’s Greek name is Gelanos.) In Genesis, Jacob, the Danaus character, replaced Isaac, the “laughter” character, as leader of the Hebrew people. This suggests that Isaac was not the original name of Abraham’s son.
Another indication that “He Laughed” would not have been Isaac’s original name can be seen from the fact that on at least two occasions “Fear of Isaac” appears as an alternative name for the God of Israel (Genesis 31:42, 53). How awe-inspiring can it be to have a god named “Fear of He Laughed”?
If Isaac wasn’t the original name, what might it have been? One clue might be Isaac’s relationship to the other members of his family. Earlier, we saw that his sons, Jacob and Esau, corresponded to Horus and Set, brothers of Osiris, and that his wife, Rebekah, corresponded to Isis, wife of Osiris. This would indicate the Isaac corresponded to Osiris, and had a name that suggested that relationship.
In Egypt, Osiris ruled the underworld, bestowing eternal life. We saw earlier in the discussion of The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden (see Myth #20) that the biblical editors sought to discredit the theology associated with Osiris. When the story of Danaus entered the corpus, it provided one of the early Israelite storytellers the opportunity to change the name of Abraham’s son to that of the king replaced by Danaus/Jacob. The authors of the sources, also being storytellers, offered their own rationales for how the name Isaac came to be, and the biblical redactors retained all three versions.

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Myth 63: Jacob’s sons became the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

The Myth: And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days. Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob; and hearken unto Israel your father... All these are the twelve tribes of Israel: and this is it that their father spake unto them, and blessed them; every one according to his blessing he blessed them. (Genesis 49:1–2, 28)
The Reality: Jacob’s twelve sons were the mythological founders of various political groups that merged into the House of Israel.

Jacob had twelve sons by four wives. The following chart shows which wife had which son and the numbers in parentheses show the birth order.

Leah Bilhah Zilpah Rachel
Rachel’s Leah’s
Handmaid Handmaid
(1) Reuben (5) Dan (7) Gad (11) Joseph
(2) Simeon (6) Naphtali (8) Asher (12) Benjamin
(3) Levi
(4) Judah
(9) Issachar
(10) Zebulun

Subsequently, Joseph had two sons named Manasseh and Ephraim, and Jacob adopted them as if they were his own sons. Each of the two sons were treated as a separate tribe, creating confusion as to whether there were twelve or thirteen tribes in the House of Israel. In the Overview to Part II, I briefly describe the geographical and political arrangements between the children and the wives.
The idea that Jacob had twelve sons and that these sons formed the twelve tribes of Israel constitutes one of the most fundamental beliefs of Old Testament tradition.

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You would think, therefore, that the biblical writers would preserve a fairly consistent account about the number of and names of the tribal groupings. Yet, that is not the case, suggesting that there is something wrong with the historical tradition. Putting aside the problem of whether there were twelve or thirteen tribes, depending upon whether you count Joseph as one or two tribes, let’s see what the Bible actually has to say about this issue.
In Deuteronomy 33, Moses delivered a blessing to the tribes of Israel. Conspicuously absent from this recital is the tribe of Simeon. What happened to the descendants of Jacob’s second son?
A different roster appears in Judges 1, which describes the efforts of the tribes to conquer Canaan. In this particular list, Joseph appears as a tribe separate and apart from those of his two sons, and four tribes are omitted altogether: Reuben, Gad, Levi, and Issachar. Where did they go?
1 Kings 11 presents another ambiguity. The prophet Ahijah, forecasting the breakup of King Solomon’s kingdom, ripped his cloak into twelve pieces, giving ten to Jeroboam for the ten tribes that would make up the northern kingdom and declaring that Solomon’s heir would have only one tribe. So, who gets the twelfth piece of the garment, the kingdom of Judah or the kingdom of Israel, and which tribe did it represent?
The most important piece of evidence about the nature of Israel’s earliest political structure comes from the Song of Deborah, in Judges 5. This may be the oldest textual fragment preserved in the Bible, dating to about the twelfth or eleventh century B.C. and possibly contemporaneous with the events described therein. It tells of the efforts of Song of Deborah to rally the tribes of Israel against a powerful Canaanite king who dominated most of Canaan from a northern base in the tribal territory of Naphtali. The passage sets forth which tribes answered the call and which didn’t, but the collection of tribal names differs significantly from what should be the list of twelve or thirteen names associated with the sons of Jacob.
The Song of Deborah names eleven political entities, three of whom do not bear names of sons of Jacob: Gilead, Machir, and Meroz. It also omits five tribal groups descended from Jacob: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Manasseh, and Gad. The picture pre-

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sented, therefore, is an Israel that consists of only eleven political entities, eight with names the same as sons of Jacob and three with different names from those of Jacob’s sons. Because this is one of the oldest textual passages in the Bible, the inclusion and omission of names provides solid clues about the emergence of Israel and any connections to the sons of Jacob.
The missing tribes include three of Leah’s four oldest sons (Simeon, Levi, and Judah), Joseph’s oldest son (Manasseh), and Zilpah’s oldest son (Gad). The absence of these five tribes from Song of Deborah’s list strongly suggests that they had not yet come into existence as political entities until later and that their namesakes had no earlier existence as sons of Jacob.
Two of the three tribes with names different from the names of Jacob’s sons were Machir and Gilead. Machir, as a person, first appears in the Bible as a participant in the Exodus from Egypt and a descendant of Manasseh, so he could not be one of Jacob’s sons. Gilead, on the other hand, appears in the Bible as a very old territorial name for Jordan. During the tribal distributions after the Exodus, Gilead was divided into three parts and distributed to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. This suggests that Manasseh was later created out of a merger of Machir and part of Gilead, and because Manasseh became the largest tribal territory in Israel, it was portrayed as a descendant of Jacob.
The third territory with a name different from that of any of Jacob’s sons was Meroz, which name appears only in this passage of the Bible. Although it is described as being part of Israel, it does not occur in any genealogical or territorial listing in or out of the Bible, suggesting that it disappeared early in Israel’s history.
Based on the Song of Deborah, then, we have a very different picture of what political entities formed the nation of Israel during the period of Judges, and it differs from the evolution suggested by the names of Jacob’s sons. At this early time, Israel appears to have been a confederation of at most eleven political entities: Reuben and Gilead on the Jordanian side, and Benjamin, Ephraim, Machir, Naphtali, Zebulun, Asher, Issachar, and Dan on the Canaanite side, with Meroz at some unknown location. At least six of these territories have connections to the Rachel branch of Israel: Benjamin, Ephraim, Machir, and Gilead (these last two through Manasseh), and Dan and

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Naphtali (these last two through Rachel’s handmaiden), suggesting that the Rachel confederation was the core group of ancient Israel.
Those who responded to Song of Deborah’s call were the Rachel group in Canaan and the two lesser tribes associated with Leah. None of the main Leah tribes took part in the battle, suggesting that the marriage of Jacob and Leah was a late addition to the biblical story in order to account for the appearance of the south Canaan tribes in the Israelite coalition.

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Myth 64: Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son.

The Myth: And these are the names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons: Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn. (Genesis 46:8)
The Reality: Reuben was called Jacob’s firstborn because that territory was where Israel first Settled after the Exodus.

As we saw in the discussion of Myth #63, tribal territories were not named after the sons of Jacob. The names reflected existing land designations and as the territories evolved into a political union, mythological ancestries developed. The identification of territories with eponymous ancestors was a common practice in ancient times. The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 shows that the practice continued well into the first millennium B.C.
As ancestors came to be identified with territories, historical events affecting that territory and its neighbors came to be identified as human interactions. The conquest of a city might be described as a marriage between members of the royal family from each city. A vassal kingdom might be described as a son of the domineering state.
This practice often led to confusion and such was common in the Bible. Consider, for instance, how the Bible portrayed the territory of Gilead as both an existing entity prior to the birth of the twelve tribes and as a descendant of a son of one of the twelve tribes that conquered the territory.
The identification of Reuben as Israel’s first son illustrates one way in which such mythologies developed. Genesis depicts Reuben as the first born son of Jacob. Therefore, it should not be surprising that when we look at the political history of Reuben in relation to the larger group, we find that Reuben was the first territory to be Settled by the Israelites.
When Israel came out of Egypt and circled around to Canaan, it first went through Jordan. The southernmost Israelite territory in Jordan was Reuben, hence, poetically, Reuben was the firstborn of Israel. The poetic metaphor became the biblical fact.

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As Jacob’s firstborn, Reuben should have been expected to be the heir to the covenant, yet, in fact, he wasn’t. scribes needed to explain this discrepancy and competing stories emerged, one from Judah and one from Ephraim.
The Ephramite story simply held that Ephraim was heir to the covenant through Joseph and that Joseph took precedence over Judah because he was the first son of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. As the rival Leah faction emerged with Reuben at the head, Judah, fourth in line for the leadership, put out the story that Reuben had been disqualified from leadership because he attempted to sleep with Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaid and wife of Jacob. This story moved Judah into the number three position and he only had to remove two more opponents, Simeon and Levi (See Myth #65).

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Myth 65: Jacob disqualified Simeon and Levi from leadership.

The Myth: Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. (Genesis 49:5–7)
The Reality: As Judah emerged on the political scene, it absorbed Simeon and placed Levi under its control.

Jacob’s final blessing to his children (Genesis 49) groups Simeon and Levi together and singles them out for particularly cruel and violent behavior. For these reasons, Jacob disqualified them from a leadership role in the family. Since Reuben had been previously disqualified, the elimination of these two sons, the second and third in order of birth, cleared the way for Judah, next in line. The Judahites would have been responsible for circulating this story as part of their efforts to justify Judahite domination over the Israelites.
This is the second time in Genesis that Simeon and Levi are specifically linked together. The first occasion occurred after the rape of Dinah, when the two of them sneaked into the Shechemite camp and slaughtered King Shechem and his sons as revenge for their sister’s treatment by the king’s son.
At the time, Jacob severely denounced their actions, claiming that it made him odious in the eyes of his neighbors and that he and the family would have to move. The brothers replied, “Should he deal with our sister as with an harlot?” In denying them a leadership role, Jacob said, “for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel.”
It is not entirely clear that Jacob, in this last statement, is referring to the incident at Shechem but it would seem to be the only earlier incident in Genesis to which the

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description would apply. As punishment for their actions, Jacob declares, “I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7).
Jacob’s decree brings to mind the distribution of tribal territory after the entry into Canaan. Simeon’s territory consisted of several areas within the southern portion of Judah. It did not receive a separate bounded territory of its own. Effectively, it was scattered. Levi, too, received no bounded territory. It was granted special cities within the territories of the other tribes. However, the reason given for this arrangement was that Levi was the priestly tribe and they were scattered about so that there would be priests throughout the kingdom and cities of refuge for them to administer. The scattering was not punishment.
The description of these two tribes as cruel and violent presents some difficulties. While we have insufficient information about Simeon as to the validity of the charge, Levi presents a split personality: violent warrior and temple priest.
On the one hand, not only does Levi join Simeon in the attack on Shechem, it also has militaristic episodes in its background. During the Exodus, after the golden calf incident, it slaughtered over three thousand Israelites who rejected the LORD. Additionally, it was assigned to guard (as opposed to care for) the Ark of the Covenant.
On the other hand, Levi was the tribe of Moses and Aaron, the two great moral leaders of Israel. The Levites served as a priestly class and the Aaronites served as the chief priests. If Levi was denied a role in the leadership, how did Moses come to lead the nation and Aaron come to lead the priesthood?
These contradictions suggest the existence of two independent groups of Levites. The one, linked to Simeon, must have been a militaristic group allied with the Simeonites. The other must have emerged in later times as a class of priests. The two groups may have had similar names, and Judahite scribes, anxious to justify Judah’s role as leader in Israel, may have taken stories about the former and attached them to traditions about the latter.
In this regard, we should note that less than a century before the Exodus, there existed in the city of Shechem a king named Labaya. This regional monarch managed to put together a modest kingdom that encompassed much of central Canaan, and he made much of his opposition to Egyptian hegemony in the region. At the time of the

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Exodus and thereafter, he would have been a figure of some substantial reputation in the region around Shechem, the territory associated with Levi’s actions. After his death, Labaya’s sons took over, but the Shechemite kingdom seems to have faded not long after. Shechem itself became an important Israelite cult center. Joseph’s bones were supposedly buried there and Joshua formed a tribal coalition at the city. There is no story about Shechem being conquered by Joshua so the city must have had a close relationship with the Israelites.
The names Labaya and Levi are remarkably similar, with “v”s and “b”s being somewhat interchangeable in Semitic languages. It may be that recollections of this militaristic Labaya in the city of Shechem provided a paradigm for the description of Levi as a cruel and violent man. His strong opposition to the Egyptians may have led to his being associated with the Levite Moses who led the Israelite opposition to Egypt.
The Simeonites occupied the territory associated with Abraham and Isaac, southern Canaan. One of its cities was Beersheba, the place where both patriarchs confronted an enemy king and made a treaty over a well. This connection to the patriarchal homelands no doubt accounted for its being thought of as one of Jacob’s oldest sons.
The linking of Simeon and Levi together on two occasions suggests that they had once been allied. In this regard, we should note that Simeon and Levi also are linked implicitly together in that they, along with their chief rival Judah, were omitted from the tribal roster in the Song of Deborah. This indicates that the emergence of all three tribes occurred late in Israelite history, well after the Exodus. The Levite group denounced as cruel and violent would have been an earlier group unrelated to the Israelites.
While a new entity seems to have emerged under the Levite name, Simeon appears to have disappeared. It is the tribe that Moses omitted in his blessing of Israel (Deuteronomy 33, a late composition probably dating to the seventh century B.C.). The failure of Simeon to have its own tribal boundaries, existing only as a limited presence within Judah, indicates that when Judah finally emerged as a political presence, it absorbed Simeon and integrated it into Judah.

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Myth 66: Jacob awarded the scepter to Judah.

The Myth: Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the Gathering of the people be. (Genesis 49:8–10)
The Reality: This prophecy was made by a Shilohite priest opposed to King Solomon and put into the mouth of Jacob.

With Reuben, Simeon, and Levi disenfranchised by Jacob, Judah emerged to the fore. Although Joseph remained heir to the blessing, Jacob declared that the scepter would not depart from Judah. If Joseph carried the blessing and the covenant, what did it mean that Judah inherited the scepter?
The scepter symbolized the kingship and, not surprisingly, David and Solomon came from the tribe of Judah. But Israel didn’t have a king for hundreds of years after the Exodus, and a significant faction of the Israelites objected to the institution of kingship.
While the prophecy says that the scepter shall not depart from Judah, according to the Bible, the first king, Saul, came from the tribe of Benjamin. The scepter had departed from Judah. When Saul died, his son, also a Benjaminite, succeeded him, while King David only ruled in Judah. It was not until two years after Saul’s death that King David become king over all of Israel.
If Jacob uttered this prophecy, his forecasting skills were seriously impaired. Anyone predicting that the scepter would not leave Judah would have to have done so from the perspective of the scepter already being in Judah, sometime after David ascended the throne (but not necessarily during King David’s reign). But that is not the case. More importantly, Jacob’s prophecy is conditional. The scepter would remain with Judah

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and law would issue from his family only “until Shiloh come.” When would that be? Is this some apocalyptic vision?
Shiloh was a key cult site in Israel before the monarchy. Prior to that time, the Ark of the Covenant was housed there. When King Solomon was king, Ahijah, a Shilohite priest, designated Jeroboam of Ephraim to lead Israel out of Judah’s camp. When King Solomon died, Jeroboam did lead a civil war and Israel seceded from Judah.
The prophesy, therefore, reflects a Shilohite point of view and suggests that it was uttered during the reign of King Solomon or immediately thereafter. It recognizes King Solomon as the lawful king but predicts that Judah’s authority will end when Shiloh, in Ephramite territory, moves back into prominence, which was what happened under Jeroboam.

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Myth 67: Benjamin was born in Canaan.

The Myth: And they journeyed from Beth-el; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin. (Genesis 35:16–18)
The Reality: Benjamin’s original name of Ben-oni indicates a connection to the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, known as On in the Bible.

Earlier, we discussed the location of Rachel’s tomb (see Myth #60), noting alternative traditions about where she died. Implicit in both claims was the idea that she gave birth to Benjamin in Canaan.
Benjamin was the twelfth child of Jacob but the second child of Rachel. He was Joseph’s only full brother. After Joseph’s brothers secretly delivered him into slavery, Benjamin became Jacob’s favorite.
The naming of Benjamin presents an interesting question of tribal origins. His father called him Benjamin but his mother called him Ben-oni, which means “Son of On,” and On was the biblical name for the Egyptian city of Heliopolis. That city, one of the main cult centers in Egypt, had an important connection to Joseph, Benjamin’s only full brother. When Joseph became Prime Minister of Egypt, he married Asenath, daughter of the chief priest of Heliopolis. (Her name means something like “She belongs to the goddess Neith.”) She was the mother of his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. The Joseph branch of Rachel, which formed the central core of Israel and which shared borders with Benjamin, had its roots in the city of Heliopolis.
If the main branch of Rachel had Heliopolitan associations, it would not be unexpected for the minor branch to also have an Heliopolitan connection. That Rachel called her younger child “Son of Heliopolis” indicates that Benjamin’s roots sprouted in Egypt soil.

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The biblical stories of Rachel’s and Leah’s descendants indicate a strong rivalry between the two factions. The Song of Deborah shows that with the exception of Reuben the main Leah branch (Simeon, Levi, and Judah) had not come into existence until long after Israel settled into Canaan. The Rachel branch exhibits several connections to Egypt.
These bits of evidence suggest that the original Exodus group must have been primarily a Rachel faction and that the Leah grouping didn’t fully emerge as a political entity until long after the Exodus. Later scribes created the mythological Jacob family as an attempt to give the various factions a common history.

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Myth 68: Dan was an Israelite tribe.

The Myth: And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan. (Genesis 30:5–6)
The Reality: The tribe of Dan was one of the Greek Sea Peoples that came to Canaan with the Philistines and it subsequently joined the Israelite confederation.

According to the Bible, Dan was Jacob’s fifth son and the first son of Bilhah, Rachel’s handmaiden. The tribe of Dan initially occupied territory on the Mediterranean coast of Canaan, alongside the Philistines, but it eventually moved to the northern tip of Israel and Set up a cult center there. Geographically, northern Dan forms a small tip at the top of the territory belonging to Naphtali, Dan’s brother.
The most famous Danite was Samson, whose stories took place while Dan still resided by the Mediterranean coast. Curiously, Samson had virtually no contact with the Israelites and spent most of his time hanging out with Philistines. In the Song of Deborah, Dan is described as remaining on his ships, an indication that Dan was a sea-going people who were still by the coast in the late premonarchical period.
In the Blessing of Jacob, the patriarch says, “Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel” (Genesis 49:16). This statement is a pun on Dan’s name in that “dan” means “judge.” But why does it add “as one of the tribes of Israel”? That phrase isn’t attached to any of the blessings for the other tribes. How else would Dan judge Israel except as one of the tribes of Israel? Unless, of course, prior to the blessing Dan wasn’t one of the tribes, and by implication, not one of Jacob’s sons.
The description of Dan as remaining on his ships in the vicinity of the Philistines provides an important clue to Dan’s origins. The Philistines arrived in Canaan close in time to the Israelite entrance into Canaan after the Exodus, coming in three major waves. They were among a group of invaders known as the “Sea Peoples,” a somewhat misleading modern term as they attacked both by land and sea.

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The Sea Peoples were not a united political or geographical entity. They were a loose coalition of several groups, the composition of which constantly changed. Primarily, they came from Anatolia, Crete, and other Mediterranean locations. Their archaeological remains in Canaan show a close cultural connection to the Mycenaean Greeks.
The Philistine faction appears to have come from Crete and occupied five major cities in CanaanAshdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Gath (where Goliath came from). Each city functioned as an independent city-state, and the leaders of the city were called “seranim,” which a number of scholars have, coincidentally, translated as “judge.” Among the Sea Peoples arriving in Canaan was a group known as the Danuna, and the Danuna appear to be the remnant of the Greek Danoi, the people identified by Homer as the invaders of Troy. In fact, several of the Sea Peoples groups have names similar to those of some of the participants in the Trojan War. For example, the Drdnw appear to correspond to the Dardanians of Homer, the Trs to the Etruscans, and the Lukka to the Lycians.
The Danuna first appeared in the records as part of a major Sea Peoples advance during the reign of Ramesses III at about 1190 B.C., a date that precedes the Song of Deborah.
Another Sea Peoples group, the Ekwesh, is sometimes identified with a group referred to in Hittite texts as the Ahhiyawa, and this suggests Homer’s Achaeans. Homer uses Danoi and Achaean interchangeably to identify the invaders of Troy. The Ekwesh and the existence of Israel are both mentioned for the first time on the same Egyptian stele, erected during the reign of Merneptah at about 1220 B.C.
Sometime after 1220 B.C., the tribe of Dan relocated itself from the coast to the far north of Israel, supposedly because of Philistine pressures. Interestingly, archaeologists have found some Philistine style pottery in northern Dan, one of the few areas in Canaan outside of the main Philistine center where such materials have been found. This suggests that the Danites/Danuna split from the Philistines, were chased north, and joined the Israelite confederation for protection.
Dan, therefore, was not a son of Jacob. The tribe named after him was descended from the Greek Danuna, which explains why it was identified as a sea-faring people and why the Danite hero Samson spent so much time with the Philistines.

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Myth 69: Jacob gave Joseph a coat of many colors.

The Myth: Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. (Genesis 37:3)
The Reality: The Hebrew text makes no mention of a coat of many colors.

One of the most famous icons in biblical history is the many-colored coat that Jacob gave to his beloved son Joseph. There was even a hit Broadway play about it, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.
A nineteenth century B.C. Egyptian tomb painting depicts a group of Semites wearing what may be just such a garment, a multi-colored tunic, and scholars have suggested that it functioned as a symbol of leadership. However, the Hebrew phrase translated as “coat of many colors”—“kethoneth pac”—does not have that meaning. It means “long-sleeved tunic” or “wide-tunic,” and many modern translations substitute the correct meaning for the traditional “coat of many colors.”
The “coat of many colors” translation comes from the Greek version of Genesis, but we don’t know where the Greek translator got the phrase. Nor does it appear that this coat has anything to do with symbols of leadership.
We have one other reference in the Bible to such a coat. Tamar, daughter of King David, wore it.

And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her. (2 Samuel 13:18)

The phrase “garment of diverse colours” comes from the same Hebrew words used to describe Joseph’s coat. Again, it should actually read “long-sleeved tunic” or “wide tunic.” Here, the function of the coat is to signify that the king’s daughter was a virgin. If we take the term “virgin” in its wider sense of “a young woman,” then by analogy we can assume that Jacob’s gift of the coat signified that Joseph was a young man ready to take a wife.

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Throughout the Near East and the Mediterranean, the symbol of leadership was not a multi-colored garment but one that was either all purple or with purple trim. In Jacob’s blessing, Judah had just such a coat: “he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes” (Genesis 49:11).

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Myth 70: Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.

The Myth: And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more....And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead, with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt. (Genesis 37:4–5, 18–28)
The Reality: The story of Joseph’s conflict with his eleven brothers draws upon an Egyptian legend about twelve kings.

The story of Joseph and his brothers sets forth one of the most touching and dramatic tales in all the Bible. As with many ancient sagas it draws together a number of

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separate works about different characters and weaves them together into a single narrative, merging a variety of identities into individual characters. Although it hangs together as the work of primarily a single author, the story contains some traces of the later political feuds between Reuben and Judah, with one or the other competing to be the least culpable of wrongdoing in their brother’s treatment.
Like the earlier cycles about Abraham’s children and then Isaac’s children, the story continues the theme of tribal competition and jealousy among the brothers. In this account Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son, had a number of dreams foretelling that he would become head of the household, with even his parents bowing down before him.
In the early stages, Joseph comes across as a rather pompous and obnoxious young teen, with an “I’m Joseph and you’re not” sort of attitude. In one account, he insists on telling his brothers about a dream in which, “For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf” (Genesis 37:7).
But one dream wasn’t enough. He had to rub it in with more visions of the future: “Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me” (Genesis 37:9).
No wonder his brothers “hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words” (Genesis 37:8).
Not long after Joseph told his brothers of his dreams, Jacob’s other eleven sons conspired to get rid of their obnoxious brother. Initially, they planned to kill him and toss him into a pit. But Reuben had second thoughts about actually having blood on their hands and suggested that they just leave him in the pit, presumably to starve to death. No doubt some biblical scribe saw this action by Reuben as either more humane or less culpable.
After placing him in the pit, Judah, not to be outdone by Reuben’s sudden burst of compassion, argued, “Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content”(Genesis 37:27).
Thus was Joseph sold into slavery and transported to Egypt, where his skills in dream interpretation eventually led him to the top spot in pharaoh’s pecking order.

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This portion of the story of Joseph shares some remarkable similarities to an Egyptian tale preserved in the writings of Herodotus in his history of Egypt. According to this Greek historian.

After the reign of Sethos [i.e. Set], the priest of Hephaestus [i.e. Ptah], the Egyptians for a time were freed from monarchical government. Unable, however, to do without a king, for long they divided Egypt into twelve regions and appointed a king for each of them. United by intermarriage, the twelve kings governed in mutual friendliness on the understanding that none of them should attempt to oust any of the others, or to increase his power at the expense of the rest. They came to the understanding, and ensured that the terms of it should be rigorously kept, because, at the time when the twelve kingdoms were first established, an oracle declared that the one who should pour a libation from the bronze cup in the temple of Hephaestus [i.e., Ptah] would become master of all Egypt.

Herodotus then went on to discuss other events in the history of Egypt, but after a while he returned to the above story.

Now as time went on, the twelve kings, who had kept their pact not to molest one another, met to offer sacrifice in the temple of Hephaestus. It was the last day of the festival, and when the moment for pouring the libation had come, the high priest, in going to fetch the golden cups which were always used for the purpose, made a mistake in the number and brought one too few, so that Psammetichus, finding himself without a cup, quite innocently and without any ulterior motive took his helmet off, held it out to receive the wine, and so made his libation. The other kings at once connected this action with the oracle, which had declared that whichever of them poured their libation from a bronze cup, should become sole monarch of Egypt. They proceeded to question him, and when they were satisfied that he had acted with no malice, they decided not to put him to death, but to strip him of the greater part of his power and banish him to the marsh-country, forbidding him to leave it or have any communication with the rest of Egypt.

After giving some details about Psammetichus’s background and of a second oracle predicting that bronze men from the sea would aid the king, Herodotus tells us

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that the exiled monarch met up with a group of bronze-armored Sea-raiders forced ashore on Egyptian soil. Seeing this as a fulfillment of the prophesy, Herodotus says, Psammetichus made friends with the raiders and “persuaded them to enter into his service, and by their help and the help of his supporters in Egypt defeated and deposed his eleven enemies.”
Note the numerous parallels between the biblical and Egyptian stories. In both tales, a group of twelve men related by intermarriage live in a state in which no king presides; a prophecy foretells that one of the twelve would be ruler over all of them; when the other eleven learn who will become the new leader, they plan at first to kill him but then change their minds and banish the offender from their territory; after being banished, the hero enters Egypt in the company of foreigners; the hero ultimately arises to a position of power in Egypt; and in fulfillment of the original prophecy the hero rules over the eleven rivals.
One other parallel suggests itself. In the Egyptian story, a cup belonging to the hated king plays a role. Similarly, a cup belonging to Joseph plays a key role in the biblical story. After becoming Prime Minister of Egypt and seeing his brothers appear before him to buy wheat, Joseph tested his brothers by hiding his silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. While the cup symbolized Joseph’s power, the holder of the cup, Benjamin, became the forefather of Israel’s first king, ending the period of kinglessness in Israel.
Herodotus’s Psammetichus may be based on a historical figure of the same name who ruled Egypt in the seventh century B.C. The king in Israel at the time was Josiah, the great religious reformer under whom the Book of Deuteronomy may have been written and whose administration had an active interest in rewriting the earlier history of Israel. Like Joseph, Josiah was a child when he was thrust into a leadership position, taking the throne at the age of eight.
Psammetichus’s successor, Neco II, killed Josiah in battle and conquered Jerusalem and most of Canaan. He installed an Egyptian vassal, Jehoiakim, as king of Judah. Hebrew scribes at this time would have been familiar with stories about Psammetichus.
While the parallels between the biblical and Egyptian stories closely follow the same plot, a question remains as to whether Herodotus’s story about the twelve kings was history or fiction and whether it originally applied to Psammetichus or to some earlier king.

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The Herodotus account begins with a claim that prior to Psammetichus, Egypt experienced a period of kinglessness and prior to this period a King Sethos reigned. This does not coincide with Egyptian history for the seventh century B.C. There was neither a period of kinglessness nor a King Sethos in this time frame. (By the seventh century B.C., Sethos, i.e., Set, had strong negative connotations as a symbol of evil.)
The last known King Sethos was Sethos II and before him Sethos I, both from the Nineteenth dynasty in the thirteenth century B.C. There was no period of kinglessness prior to their reigns, either.
Throughout Herodotus’s history of Egypt, he frequently distorted and inaccurately recorded the dynastic chronology, having earlier dynasties following later ones. In fact, Herodotus places Psammetichus’s predecessors from the Twenty-fifth dynasty immediately after the kings of the fourth dynasty, an error of almost two thousand years.
This suggests that Herodotus’s King Sethos and period of kinglessness belong more properly to the Hyksos period, when Set-worshipping aliens displaced the legitimate Theban rulers. The Egyptians considered the Hyksos period to be one without a legitimate Egyptian king.
Whether the Egyptian story of the twelve kings originated in the sixteenth century Hyksos period or the seventh century Psammetichus period, there was ample opportunity for the story to have influenced the biblical writers who finalized the biblical text.

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Myth 71: Potipher’s wife tried to seduce Joseph.

The Myth: And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out. And she laid up his garment by her, until his LORD came home. And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out. And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. (Genesis 39:7–20)
The Reality: Older mythological variations of this story were widespread in Egypt and the Near East. Biblical scribes reworked the tale and inserted it into the story of Joseph.
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After Joseph’s brothers sold him to the Ishmaelites (or was it the Midianites—the story gets the two confused), his purchasers in turn offered him to an Egyptian official named Potiphar. Joseph’s new master put him in charge of the household and he performed well, greatly increasing the family wealth.
Potipher’s wife took a liking to him and tried to seduce him, but Joseph thought it wrong and a betrayal of his master. While the biblical account clearly shows Joseph blameless, his resolve may have benefited from the presence of nearby witnesses. Apparently, he continued to avoid her charms even as she removed his clothes. When he fled her room, he left his clothes in her hand. She panicked at the thought that someone might find her with his garment clutched to her bosom—witnesses were apparently about to enter the room—and she cried rape. Potiphar, faced with the dilemma of either calling his flirtatious wife a liar or having to punish his innocent servant, took the expedient political route. He jailed Joseph.
The name Potiphar provides a clue as to when this story may have been written. Not only is Potiphar the name of Joseph’s first master, a variant, Potiphera, is the name of his father-in-law, the chief priest of the temple at Heliopolis. The Egyptian name Potiphar is used sporadically prior to the tenth century B.C., and doesn’t come into general use until at least the seventh century. A story having two such characters with that name, both in important positions, indicates a very late authorship, seventh century or later. This would be consistent with a post-Psammetichus (see Myth #70) authorship of the main narrative.
The story of a young hero rejecting the wiles of a jealous woman was a frequent theme in ancient myths. One of the most famous versions appears in the Egyptian story known as The Tale of the Two Brothers. The story’s origins may go back as far as the third millennium.
The Egyptian text tells of two brothers, Anubis, the older one, and Bata, the younger. The younger lived with his brother and brother’s wife. The story describes Bata as “a perfect man” who performed most of the household and field chores. One day, Anubis’s wife came upon him and confessed her desire for carnal knowledge. He rejected her advances, saying she and the brother were like parents to him. He promised to say nothing of her actions. The wife, afraid of being found out, arranged to look

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as if she had been assaulted and accused her brother-in-law of the act. Despite Bata’s denial, Anubis became enraged and the younger brother left the household.
In the course of the story, Bata acquired a beautiful wife as a gift of the gods but she wound up abandoning him for a position as the pharaoh’s concubine. On several occasions, the younger brother took on new life forms—pine cone, bull, persea tree—and his estranged wife arranged for each of Bata’s new physical forms to be destroyed. Eventually, the king learned of the young man’s accomplishments and made him crown prince of Egypt.
From a false accusation of rape, to marrying a wife with religious connections, through several tests and trials, and finally becoming crown prince of Egypt, the Egyptian and biblical stories follow the same general plot line. The Egyptian story, however, is more deeply immersed in polytheistic life-death symbolism than the biblical tale. Anubis, the older brother, for example, is the deity that guides dead souls into the underworld to meet Osiris. The biblical account purges the polytheistic mysticism but retains much of the basic structure, substituting alternative problems for the life-death-rebirth sequences.
The Mycenaean Greeks, Homer’s Danoi, had a similar story, which would have been brought into Canaan by the Sea Peoples and the tribe of Dan (see Myth #68).
In the Greek story, Bellerophon, while visiting the court of Proetus, was approached by Proetus’s wife for sexual purposes. Bellerophon rejected her proposals and the wife, to save her reputation, told her husband that Bellerophon had threatened her. Proetus, like Potiphar, believed his wife over the accused and made arrangements for punishment.
In Bellerophon’s case, Proetus wrote a letter to another king and asked Bellerophon to deliver it. The letter requested that the king have Bellerophon killed. To accomplish the goal, the king sent the hero out on several dangerous missions, but the hero always survived. So impressed with Bellerophon’s exploits was this king, that he bequeathed his kingdom to the hero.
Here, again, we have a false accusation, punishment of the hero, survival through tests, and elevation to the throne. Worth noting are some other connections between the Bellerophon story and the patriarchal history. The king who wanted Bellerophon

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dead had a twin brother named Acrisius, and the two of them struggled in the womb. Acrisius had a daughter named Danae.
Joseph’s father Jacob also struggled in the womb with his brother and he had a daughter named Dinah, essentially the same name as Danae. Additionally, Proetus and Acrisius were descended from Danaus, whom we identified with Jacob in the story of Dinah’s rape. So the story of Bellerophon has close mythological connections to the story of Danaus and Aegyptus. If the one influenced biblical history, it is probable that the other also was adapted by Hebrew scribes.
The biblical version of Joseph’s betrayal by Potiphar’s wife has several widespread antecedents and the two reviewed here, the Egyptian Tale of Two Brothers and the Greek myth about Bellerophon would have been well-known among Hebrew scribes and easily incorporated into a larger epic.

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Part Three Myths of The Heroes

Myth 72: Egypt enslaved Israel for four hundred years.

The Myth: And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. (Genesis 15:13–16)
The Reality: The Bible has several contradictory passages about how long Israel remained in bondage, and even ancient Jewish scholars were confused about the duration.

One of the biblical myths most widely accepted as fact is the claim that the House of Israel spent four hundred years as slaves in Egypt. This belief, contradicted by other passages in the Bible, stems from a reading of Genesis 15:13–16, which mistakenly combined two different traditions as if they were one.
In the text, God spoke with Abraham and predicted that his seed would be afflicted for four hundred years in a land where his descendants shall be strangers but in the fourth generation they would return (implicitly, to their home land). As presently written, the narrative indicates that the four hundred years and the four generations encompass the same timeframe. There is an error in this standard biblical interpretation, and we will reconstruct the original intent, but first, let’s look at some of the other evidence concerning the duration of Israel’s stay in Egypt.
According to the Book of Exodus, Israelite slavery began sometime after Joseph died when “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1:8). Exodus also says that the total sojourn (i.e., the period of freedom plus the period of slavery) of Israel in Egypt lasted 430 years (Exodus 12:40). The sojourn began with the arrival in Egypt of either Joseph or Jacob—the text is not specific. Joseph came to Egypt at the age of seventeen; Jacob arrived during Joseph’s thirty-ninth year. Joseph

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lived to the age of 110. Since the bondage didn’t begin until after Joseph’s death, Israel had to be in Egypt prior to the bondage for at least seventy-one years if we count from Jacob’s arrival. If the total sojourn in Egypt lasted 430 years, then the maximum period of slavery could only be 359 years (430 – 71 = 359).
Were there four hundred years of bondage or only 359 years? Actually, neither, because other biblical passages shorten the period even further.
The line of descent from Jacob to Moses spans five generations: Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, and Moses. According to various passages in Exodus, Levi lived 137 years, Kohath 133 years, and Amram 137 years. Moses led the Exodus at the age of eighty. Since Levi and Kohath both came into Egypt with Jacob, the maximum period of the sojourn could only be 350 years—Kohath’s 133 years, Amram’s 137 years, and Moses’ eighty years—and only if we assume that Kohath fathered Amram in his last year of life and that Amram fathered Moses in the last year of his life, neither of which assumptions are very credible. Therefore, if the maximum sojourn is only 350 years, the maximum period of bondage could be no more than about 280 years (since the bondage started about seventy years after the beginning of the sojourn).
As early as the first century A.D. and probably well before that, the Jewish historians and biblical scholars of the time recognized that something was wrong with the numbers. A tradition developed that the 430-year sojourn actually combined two separate periods of 215 years each, the first beginning with the arrival of Abraham in Canaan and the second beginning with the arrival of Jacob in Egypt. By this tradition, the sojourn lasted no more than 215 years, and the bondage, therefore, couldn’t have been more than about 145 years. Genesis states that the period of time from Abraham’s arrival in Canaan to Jacob’s arrival in Egypt is 215 years, but there is no direct evidence that the period of time from Jacob’s arrival to the Exodus lasted 215 years.
To appreciate the confusion this caused in the first century A.D., consider that Josephus, the leading Jewish historian of that time, wrote in one part of his biblical history, Antiquities, that the sojourn lasted 215 years, but elsewhere in the same book wrote that the bondage lasted four hundred years, and made no effort to reconcile the two conflicting claims. Furthermore, in his calculation of the 215-year span he used data that contradicted the chronology in Genesis.

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Despite these errors, he and the other scholars of his time were on the right track in counting the 430-year sojourn in Egypt from Abraham’s arrival in Canaan. In that same year, Abraham moved to Egypt, so an Egyptian sojourn actually began at that time. Further, as you may recall from the discussion in Myth #49, the biblical authors tried to place Abraham in Canaan right after he departed the pharaoh’s household, but the preceding biblical text says that he headed into the southern part of Egypt.
This brings us back to the prophecy to Abraham. The text indicates that the four hundred years of affliction would begin with his seed, i.e., his children: “thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years.”
If we take this to mean that the four hundred-year period of affliction begins with Abraham’s seed, to wit, the birth of Isaac, and ends with the Exodus from Egypt, as the biblical author surely intended, then we have an interesting chronological congruence between the prophesy to Abraham and the 430-year sojourn. Isaac was born in Abraham’s one hundredth year, and Abraham began his sojourn in Egypt in his seventy fifth year. Counting from Abraham’s sojourn instead of Jacob’s gives us a total period of 425 years from Abraham’s arrival in Egypt to the Israelite departure from Egypt. This is reasonably close to the duration of the 430-year sojourn mentioned in Exodus.
But, you might ask, where are the four hundred years of affliction? This is where the biblical redactors confused two stories. One was about Canaanite affliction over Egypt, a description of the Hyksos era when Canaanites ruled Egypt. The other was about a departure of Israel from Egypt. Let’s look at the Genesis prophecy to see how these two stories were combined.
The first thing we notice is that the affliction takes place in a land where Abraham’s seed “shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs.” Where is that land? The assumption has always been that the strange land was Egypt, but throughout the Bible, it is Canaan that is identified as the strange land, not Egypt. Consider these statements appearing in Genesis:

And I will give unto thee [i.e., Abraham], and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. (Genesis 17:8)

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And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou [i.e., Jacob] art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham. (Genesis 28:4) And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father [i.e., Isaac] was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. (Genesis 37:1)

The first stage in our reconstruction, then, is to recognize that Canaan caused the affliction, not Egypt, and that in the prophecy, the seed of Abraham will “come out” of the land of affliction. Next, look at the passage about “the fourth generation.”

But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

This passage has always been interpreted to mean that Israel will come out of Egypt, but that it will have to wait until problems with the Amorites disappear. It is then argued that Moses fulfilled the prophecy in that he was in the fourth generation after Jacob. But the prophecy says in the fourth generation, not after the fourth generation. Since Moses is in the fifth generation beginning with Jacob, he doesn’t fall within the terms of the prediction.
The Hyksos, the basis of the story about affliction, were of Canaanite origin, but which Canaanites they were we don’t know. They ruled parts of Egypt from about 1750 B.C., and all or most of Egypt from about 1680 B.C., and remained in power to about 1572 B.C. The name Hyksos means “chieftains from the hill country.”
The term Amorite originally meant specific groups of people in Canaan. It eventually evolved into a term describing Canaanites from the central hill areas in Canaan. So, Hyksos and Amorite both referred to people from the hill country, although the similar definitions don’t necessarily mean they referred to the same groups of people.
In any event, when Abraham went to Egypt, the Hyksos were in charge of the northern delta and Abraham later fled from that territory. The very next Israelite to come to Egypt was Joseph, and lo and behold, Joseph is in the fourth generation from AbrahamAbraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Chronologically, following the Jewish tradition, Joseph arrived in Egypt at about 1564 B.C., which is right after or just about when the Egyptians decisively defeated the Hyksos.

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Reducing God’s prophecy to Abraham to its essential components, we have the following scenario:

1. Abraham sojourned in Egypt.
2. Canaanites (i.e., Hyksos) afflicted Egypt.
3. The prophecy said that the strange land (i.e., Canaan) would afflict the seed of Abraham. The Canaanite Hyksos dominated Egypt and Canaan.
4. The prophecy said that in the fourth generation there would be a return from the strange land, i.e., from Canaan, when the power of the Amorites (i.e., Hyksos) had ended.
5. Joseph, in the fourth generation from Abraham, returned to Egypt.
6. God’s prophecy said that Abraham’s seed (Isaac and his descendants) would come out of a country after four hundred years.
7. Moses led an Exodus out of Egypt and into Canaan.

What we have here are two separate stories that have become entangled due to confusion by the biblical redactors. The first story described an affliction by Canaanites in Egypt for four generations. The second described a departure from Egypt after four hundred years. Both stories included a period of affliction, one by Canaanites over Egypt and one by Egyptians over the Israelites.
The biblical redactors, who no longer remembered that the Israelite ancestors of the patriarchal age had lived in Egypt, only knew of Israelites as a Canaanite people who had been afflicted in Egypt. They read these two stories from a Canaanite rather than Egyptian perspective. From that point of view, persecution in a land of strangers meant persecution in Egypt rather than Canaan. They integrated the first story with the second story to reflect a single affliction. For this reason, they assumed that the time spans of four hundred years and four generations were one and the same when in fact they actually measured two different durations. Consequently, the biblical redactors erroneously created a period of four hundred years of slavery in Egypt.
Because we have no actual direct evidence for Israelite slavery in Egypt, it is difficult to determine when (or if) Israel ever suffered under bondage in Egypt. In my previous book, The Bible Myth, I present an extensive argument that the Israelites

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originated in Egypt and that the period of slavery lasted less than thirty years, from about 1340 B.C. to 1315 B.C.

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Myth 73: Jochebed placed the infant Moses in an ark.

The Myth: And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink. And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him. And the daughter of pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children. (Exodus 2:1–6)
The Reality: This story, invented by allies of Moses, was patterned after an Egyptian myth about the birth of Horus (the only legitimate ruler of Egypt) in order to give Moses a valid claim to the throne of Egypt and to challenge the newly installed ruler.

At the time Moses was born, the pharaoh had decreed that all male Hebrews should be put to death. Moses’ mother, Jochebed, hid him away at first but after three months placed him in a small ark that floated down the Nile. The pharaoh’s daughter saw the basket and fetched it. She recognized the infant as one of the Hebrew children, took pity on him, and raised the boy as if he were her own son. Having now become a member of the royal family, Moses had a potential future claim to the Egyptian throne, depending upon the existing line of succession.
It has been frequently pointed out that the story of Moses’ birth resembles the Mesopotamian legend of the birth of Sargon I, king of Agade (also called Akkad), who conquered Babylon around 2300 B.C. and established one of the first major Semitic kingdoms. This legend, preserved in some Assyrian texts written long after his reign, says that Sargon’s mother was a priestess and his father was unknown. Born in secret, his mother placed him in a basket of rushes sealed with bitumen and cast

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him into the river, from which he was rescued by Akki, the “drawer of water.” Akki taught him to be a gardener, but the goddess Ishtar favored him and with her guidance in battle he became a powerful king.
The texts do not give any explanation for why he had to be born in secret, although his mother’s embarrassment at being a priestess pregnant by an unknown father may have had something to do with it. In any event, other than the child in the ark theme, the story-line bears no similarity to that of Moses and makes a poor literary model.
A better and more logical literary model occurs in Egyptian literature, based on the images of the mythical conflict between the Egyptian gods Horus and Set over the right to rule. In the Egyptian myth, Horus the Child was hidden away on a floating island by his mother after Set killed Horus’s father and seized the throne. When Horus became an adult, he returned from hiding and challenged Set for the throne. After a series of magical confrontations, Horus defeated the usurper in combat and became king, driving his enemy into the wilderness.
The image of the true Egyptian ruler floating on the water as a child is an important motif in Egypt theology. Not only does the Horus-child float on the water, the Egyptian Creator god, Re, first appears as a child floating on a Lotus. This motif was often used to describe historical events concerning conflicts over the throne. The legitimate ruler was identified with the Horus-child, who was given a fictional background as a youth fleeing Egypt to avoid an evil ruler and who later returns to confront the villain and take back the throne. The Jewish historian Josephus preserves two excellent examples of such a literary motif.
Quoting from the writings of a third century B.C. Egyptian priest named Manetho, Josephus tells of an Egyptian priest named Osarseph who seized the Egyptian throne. The displaced pharaoh and his five-year-old son had to flee the country while Osarseph cruelly oppressed the Egyptians and desecrated the country and its religious symbols. Thirteen years later, the child returned at the head of an army and drove the priest and his followers out of Egypt.
In a variation of this story, attributed by Josephus to an Egyptian writer named Chaeremon, the pharaoh’s child was born in secret after the cruel emperor came to the throne and his mother hid him in a cave to save him from execution.

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These two Egyptian stories describe actual historical events, but in disguised and exaggerated form. They tell of the reign of pharaoh Akhenaten (c. 1372 B.C.), the monotheistic ruler who unsuccessfully tried to impose his religious viewpoint on the Egyptian people and persecuted his chief opponents in the priesthood of Amen. Although the stories had a historical core, the incident of the young hidden pharaoh who returned to expel the heretic pharaoh is fiction. It is based upon the Horus-Set literary motif.
Josephus, by the way, added an interesting claim to the story. According to Manetho, he said, this priest changed his name to Moses and led his Egyptian followers to Jerusalem. Whether or not one chooses to believe this allegation about Moses, it shows that from an Egyptian perspective the story of Moses easily adapted to the Horus-Set motif.
What are the main characteristics of the Egyptian stories? We have an illegitimate seizure of the Egyptian throne; a young child hidden away by his mother to protect his life; persecution of the people by the usurper; a return by the child in his adult years to confront the tyrant; and the expulsion of the tyrant into the wilderness outside of Egypt. These are essentially the plot details in the Egyptian myths concerning the conflict between Horus and Set over the right to rule Egypt. The myths, however, add the element that the child floated on the water and on his return engaged in contests of magic with the evil king.
The scribes took the Egyptian myth of Horus and Set as a motif, and recast it as a story about actual events in ancient Egypt, substituting historical figures for the deities, with the legitimate king being identified with Horus and the illegitimate king being identified with Set. With only slight but insignificant changes, this adaptation of the Egyptian myth is also the story of Moses.
In the Egyptian stories, it was the Egyptian people who were persecuted and their pharaoh that fled Egypt and returned to liberate the people. In the biblical story it is the people of Israel, residing in Egypt, who were persecuted and an Israelite who fled Egypt and returned to liberate the people. In both the Egyptian myths and biblical stories, the liberator’s mother hid the child-hero away, at first leaving him floating on the water, to avoid execution by a cruel tyrant; the liberator’s people suffered under

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cruel oppression; the liberator fled Egypt; the liberator returned to Egypt to free his people; the liberator and the evil king engaged in a series of magical confrontations; and, finally, the liberator defeated the oppressor.
In the biblical version of the Horus-Set motif, the House of Israel replaced Egypt as the center of legitimate authority. The role of the legitimate king belonged to Jahweh because only the Hebrew god could be king over the House of Israel, and Moses served as the king’s representative. pharaoh, although the legitimate king of Egypt, played the part of “Set the Usurper” because he had no moral authority to rule over the House of Israel and subject it to tyranny. Moses was the Horus-child, the rightful heir hidden away to avoid execution by the evil king, who later returned to defeat the illegitimate king and liberate his people from tyranny.
In the biblical version of the story, however, there was one small but important change to the Egyptian storyline. It was Moses, the victor, who went into the wilderness, not the evil king. This was the result of unavoidable historical circumstances. So, to make history conform to the Egyptian myth, the scribes portrayed Egypt, decimated by the Ten Plagues, as the wilderness, and depicted the actual journey into the wilderness as the true victory because the hero led his people to the real kingdom in the Promised Land.
On a political level, the Bible depicted Moses as an adopted member of the pharaoh’s family. If no other son had been designated as the pharaoh’s successor, Moses would have had a legitimate claim to succeed the king as the next pharaoh. This would have been especially true if there were no other royal blood heirs to the throne.
That, not surprisingly, was the historical context in which Moses did confront the pharaoh. The Exodus occurred sometime between the reign of Horemheb and the next three pharaohs, Ramesses I, Seti I, and Ramesses II. None of these pharaohs were descended from the royal blood line, which petered out just four years before the reign of Horemheb. These subsequent rulers were military figures who took control in the political vacuum.
According to the biblical account, Moses returned to Egypt upon the death of a pharaoh. Since the pharaoh who died would have been one of the kings without royal blood, a legitimate question existed as to who had the right of succession. A member

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of the preceding royal house, as Moses appears to have been, would have had a superior claim to rule Egypt than any of these “usurping” kings.
When Moses appeared before pharaoh, he did so as a possible legitimate claimant to the throne. This identified him with the Horus-child, the legitimate king, and explains why the Bible told a story about his being hidden away in infancy. In the political context, Moses was the Horus-child.

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Myth 74: pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses a Hebrew name.

The Myth: And the child grew, and she brought him unto pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water. (Exodus 2:10)
The Reality: The name “Moses” comes from the Egyptian word “msy” meaning “is born.”

After the Egyptian princess adopted the infant found in the ark, she allegedly gave him the name Moses because she “drew him from the water.” In Hebrew, the name Moses is rendered “mosheh.” The biblical explanation for the origin of his name assumes that the Egyptian princess gave the child a Hebrew name derived from the Hebrew word “mashah,” meaning, “to draw out.”
This explanation for the name of Moses introduces several problems. First, “mosheh” and “mashah” are different words. Second, grammatically, “mashah” means, “to draw out,” not, “I drew out.” Third, it makes no sense for the Egyptian princess to give the child a Hebrew name because the king had ordered the deaths of all male Hebrew infants and drawing attention to his Hebrew origins would be the last thing the princess would want to do if she planned to raise him in the royal household.
The name Moses actually comes from the Egyptian word “msy,” meaning “is born,” which is usually appended to the name of a god, as in Thutmose or Ramose (i.e., Thoth or Re is born). The Greeks transliterated the msy element as “mosis” and in English it became Moses. Since the names of other gods were taboo among the Hebrews, the front part of Moses’ name was dropped, leaving only the msy element.

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Myth 75: God sent ten plagues against Egypt.

The Myth: And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth. (Exodus 9:13–16)
The Reality: The plagues in the Bible are ordinary events described in typical Egyptian literary metaphors.

When Moses returned to Egypt to confront the pharaoh, the two of them engaged in a duel of wills. Time after time, Moses would make a threat against the pharaoh and the pharaoh would disregard it. With each rejection, Moses brought down a terrible plague upon the Egyptians, and after each plague, the pharaoh would agree to Moses’ demands, provided he withdrew the affliction. Over time, the horror of the plagues escalated until eventually every firstborn child of Egypt was killed.
The give and take between Moses and pharaoh corresponded to the contest between Horus and Set before the tribunal of the gods. Set would challenge Horus to a contest to resolve their dispute over who would succeed Osiris on the throne and Set would agree to abide by the result. Horus, through magic and skill, always defeated Set, and after each defeat, Set reneged on his promise to let the winner have the throne.
What reads to us like a series of escalating plagues brought upon Egypt by Moses actually presents an exaggerated account of the trials and tribulations of life in ancient times. That the biblical author drew upon common scribal practices in Egypt can be seen from a comparison between the biblical account of the ten plagues and events Set forth in an Egyptian document known as the “Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage,” also

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referred to as the Ipuwer papyrus. Although the papyrus itself may date to the Nineteenth dynasty, the writing style embraces Middle Egyptian, an indication that the text was copied from a much older document.
Among the biblical plagues unleashed by Moses were: 1) blood in the Nile; 2) frogs; 3) gnats; 4) boils on the skin; 5) flies; 6) destruction of cattle; 7) thunder, hail, and fire in the fields that destroyed crops; 8) locusts; 9) darkness; 10) death of Egypt’s firstborn children. Keep these in mind as we compare the incidents in the “Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage” with the biblical events.
The papyrus tells of an era of great anarchy, perhaps the First Intermediate Period (c. 2200 B.C.–2040 B.C.). Some of the events described bear a remarkable similarity to the effects of the plagues unleashed by Moses. Consider these comparisons:

Bible: And all the waters that were in the river were turned into blood.... The Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. (Exodus 7:20–21)
papyrus: Indeed the river is blood, yet men drink of it. Men [shrink] from human beings and thirst after water.

Bible: [T]he fire ran along upon the ground. (Exodus 9:23)
papyrus: Indeed, gates, columns, and [walls] are burnt up...Behold, the fire has gone up on high, and its burning goes forth against the enemies of the land.

Bible: And the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field. (Exodus 9:25) papyrus: Indeed, trees are felled and branches are stripped off.

Bible: And there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the fields, through all the land of Egypt. (Exodus 10:15)
papyrus: Neither fruit nor herbage can be found...everywhere barley has perished.

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Bible: And there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt. (Exodus 10:22)
papyrus: [The land] is not bright because of it.

Bible: And all the cattle of Egypt died. (Exodus 9:6)
papyrus: Indeed, all animals, their hearts weep; cattle moan because of the state of the land.

Bible: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die.... (Exodus 11:5)
papyrus: Indeed men are few, and he who places his brother in the ground is everywhere... Indeed [hearts] are violent, pestilence is throughout the land, blood is everywhere, death is not lacking, and the mummy cloth speaks even before one comes near it.

Reading the two sets of passages side by side, one might conclude that Egypt in the First Intermediate Period was not very different from Egypt during the ten plagues of Moses. From a literary standpoint, the Bible and the “Admonitions” each described Egypt under similar circumstances but in different time frames. To the extent that one believed that the Hebrew god caused these bad times, one was inclined to let him take the credit. But there was nothing miraculous about the conditions described, nor do we have any evidence from Egyptian records that the firstborn child of each Egyptian family died on one night. Such an event would not have gone unnoticed.

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Myth 76: pharaoh’s army drowned in the Red Sea.

The Myth: And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians, And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians. And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. (Exodus 14:21–30)
The Reality: The drowning was a metaphorical description for the defeat of an enemy in battle, as used in other Egyptian writings.

After Israel left Egypt, pharaoh had a change of heart and chased after the Israelites, mobilizing his entire chariot fleet. They came upon the Israelites encamped by the Red Sea and thought they had them trapped. But God parted the Red Sea so

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that the Israelites could travel across. When the Egyptians followed in after them, the waters reunited, flooding over all of pharaoh’s chariots and over six hundred soldiers. For many people, the defining image of the drowning of pharaoh’s army comes from the Cecil B. DeMille production of The Ten Commandments, which used cherry gelatin to simulate the parting and reassembling of the Red Sea.
The Red Sea is the northwest corner of the Indian Ocean that separates Africa from the Arabian Peninsula. It is not improbable that the Israelites might have crossed from Egypt to Arabia by this route, but is this where the crossing actually occurred? The chief difficulty with assuming that is that the Hebrew words translated as “Red Sea,” “yam suf,” actually mean “Sea of Reeds,” a description inconsistent with the physical setting of the Red Sea.
So where is the Sea of Reeds? If the description applied to an actual location, the most likely area would be in the Egyptian delta, which has numerous reed marshes, but there is no particular marshy area known as the Sea of Reeds. Egyptians, however, did know of a mythological Sea of Reeds where enemies of Re, the chief deity, were destroyed and covered over by a flood of red waters.
This sea was described in the Book of the Divine Cow in a story about a time when humanity had revolted against the rule of Re. Angered by the apostasy, Re sent Hathor, a sky goddess, to wipe out the rebellious humans, which she did with great relish. Her joy at the devastation gave Re second thoughts about his goals and he decided to cancel his vendetta. In order to distract Hathor, he arranged for a mixture of red ochre and barley beer to fill the fields where Hathor was to continue the final acts of destruction. The beer served its purpose and Hathor fell into a drunken stupor.
After a break in the text, Re declares, “How peaceful it is in this field!” The god then planted green plants there and called the place the Field of Reeds. However, the word translated as “field,” “sekbet,” usually refers to marshy locations with birds and fish. So, this myth tells about a Reed Marsh, or the equivalent of a Sea of Reeds, where the enemies of Re lay slaughtered and the fields flooded over with a red liquid. This might easily lead to confusion between an actual Reed Sea and a Red Sea.
The drowning of the pharaoh’s army draws primarily on this story. The location is the same, a Sea of Reeds, and the pharaoh’s army takes on the role of the humans who

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were destroyed for rebelling against Re’s supreme rule, with Jahweh replacing Re as the chief deity.
What is missing from the Egyptian story is the parting of the waters, a biblical claim that is probably a late addition to the story. In Exodus 15, considered the oldest original poem in the Bible (perhaps twelfth to tenth centuries B.C.), and which follows right after the story of the drowning of the pharaoh’s army, we have the Song of Moses, a recap of the pharaoh’s defeat. In it there is no mention of the splitting of the sea, just the drowning of the soldiers. Particularly interesting in this poem is the following passage: “And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble” (Exodus 15:7).
Note here the basic theme from the Book of the Divine Cow. The biblical poem depicts the pharaoh’s army as rebelling against God, a slightly different image than that generally presented in the rest of Exodus, and God sent down his wrath to destroy them. In the Book of the Divine Cow, we have a rebellion and Re sent down his wrath, in the form of Hathor. While the Bible understandably omits the image of Hathor, a Hathor substitute appears in the story.

[T]he angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. (Exodus 14:19–20)

The angel described above substitutes for Hathor as the agent of God and even retains some of Hathor’s characteristic as the place where the sun shines.
In addition to the Divine Cow myth, Egyptians also used the drowning theme on occasion to metaphorically describe the defeat of an enemy. Ramesses II, for example, in describing a battle with the Hittites, claimed to have single-handedly drowned the enemy in the Orontes River, despite the fact that he: entered into the host of the fallen ones of Khatti [i.e., the Hittites], being alone by himself, none other with him. And His Majesty went to look about him, and found surrounding him on his outer side 2500 pairs of horses with all the champions of the

fallen ones of Khatti and of the many countries that were with them. (Gardiner, Egypt of the pharaohs, 263)

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Ramesses actually lost the battle and the only thing that saved him was the timely arrival of a rescue brigade. Nevertheless, where the Israelites only faced six hundred Egyptian soldiers, Ramesses faced nearly four times as many and claimed to have drowned them all. In the Moses story, Hebrew scribes simply followed Egyptian literary traditions in claiming that God drowned the enemy forces.

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Myth 77: Aaron fashioned a golden calf.

The Myth: And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD. (Exodus 32:1–5)
The Reality: The story of the golden calf was invented after the split between Judah and Israel in order to discredit the Aaronite priesthood in Israel.

While Moses was on the mountain, the people of Israel became worried and asked Aaron, brother of Moses, to make gods for them. This violated two of the Ten Commandments, the prohibition against worshiping any god but Jahweh and the prohibition against graven images. Because of textual inconsistencies it is not clear that the Israelites knew yet that such behavior was sinful. Nevertheless, Aaron made them a golden calf and when Moses came down from the mountain with the two engraved stone tablets containing the law and saw the idol, he angrily smashed the tablets.
What is particularly puzzling about the story is that when Aaron finishes making the statue, he says about this idol, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” He made only one statue. Why did he use the plural term “gods” to describe this single creation?
The answer lies in the politics of the split between Judah and Israel. When Jeroboam split Israel from Judah, he needed to develop an alternative Set of religious sym-

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bols to challenge the theology of the Judahite priests at Solomon’s temple, which had become the central religious symbol of the united kingdom.
Jeroboam feared that once the important holidays came, which required the Israelites to go to the Jerusalem temple, he would lose his hold over their loyalty.

If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their LORD, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. (1 Kings 12:27)

So he Set up rival cult centers, one on the southern border of Israel at Beth-el and one on the northern border of Israel at Dan.

Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he Set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. (1 Kings 12:28–29)

Note the language used here: “behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” These are the same words previously attributed to Aaron, but here the use of the plural form is proper because there are two calves.
Israel and Judah were engaged in a theological and political conflict. The two golden calves served as a throne for God and they were meant to compete with the throne of God in Judah, the Ark of the Covenant housed in the Jerusalem temple, which had two golden cherubim mounted on top.
The Judahite throne was a modest-sized chest with two golden statues on top to serve as a footstool. Located in the temple, few people had access to it. The Israelite throne straddled the entire kingdom, bringing into its embrace everyone within Israel’s borders but pointedly excluding the territory of Judah.
The Judahites could not allow such a rebuke to go unchallenged so they invented a story about Aaron sinning against God by building a golden calf. They took Jeroboam’s words about the golden calf and put them in Aaron’s mouth, but they forgot to edit the plural form and change it to the singular.
This, of course, created an additional problem. Associating Aaron with a sin against God undermined the authority of the Aaronites. Among the many priestly

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schisms in ancient Israel was one that pit the Aaronites, one branch of the Levite tree that claimed to be the main priest class, against the other branches of Levi that held lesser posts in the priestly pecking order.
Following the discovery of Aaron’s sin, Moses called out, “Who is on the side of the LORD?” and all the sons of Levi came forward and they slaughtered three thousand of the Israelite sinners. In recognition of their actions, Moses declared, “Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day” (Exodus 32:29).
This declaration gave all Levites equal authority and shows that the golden calf incident must have originated with non-Aaronite members of the Levite faction who were based in Jerusalem. They were trying to undercut the religious authority of the Aaronite wing and at the same time enhance their own prestige.

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Myth 78: Moses gave Israel the Ten Commandments.

The Myth: And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LO