The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria HTML version
Chapter 6. Problems Which The Study Offers
As the matter of Babylonian monotheism has been publicly touched upon by Fried.
Delitzsch in his "Babel und Bibel" lectures, a few words upon that important point will be
regarded in all probability as appropriate. It has already been indicated that the giving of
the names of "the gods his fathers" to Merodach practically identified them with him,
thus leading to a tendency to monotheism. That tendency is, perhaps, hinted at in a letter
of Assur-bani-apli to the Babylonians, in which he frequently mentions the Deity, but in
doing so, uses either the word /ilu/, "God," Merodach, the god of Babylon, or Bel, which
may be regarded as one of his names. The most important document for this monotheistic
tendency, however (confirming as it does the tablet of the fifty-one names), is that in
which at least thirteen of the Babylonian deities are identified with Merodach, and that in
such a way as to make them merely forms in which he manifested himself to men. The
text of this inscription is as follows:--
". . . is Merodach of planting.
Lugal-aki-. . . is Merodach of the water-course.
Nirig is Merodach of strength.
Nergal is Merodach of war.
Zagaga is Merodach of battle.
Bel is Merodach of lordship and domination.
Nebo is Merodach of trading(?).
Sin is Merodach the illuminator of the night.
Samas is Merodach of righteous things.
Addu is Merodach of rain.
Tispak is Merodach of frost(?).
Sig is Merodach of green things(?).
Suqamunu is Merodach of the irrigation-channel."
Here the text breaks off, but must have contained several more similar identifications,
showing how at least the more thoughtful of the Babylonians of old looked upon the host
of gods whom they worshipped. What may be the date of this document is uncertain, but
as the colophon seems to describe it as a copy of an older inscription, it may go back as
far as 2000 years B.C. This is the period at which the name /Yaum-ilu/ "Jah is God," is
found, together with numerous references to /ilu/ as the name for the one great god, and is
also, roughly, the date of Abraham, who, it may be noted, was a Babylonian of Ur of the
Chaldees. It will probably not be thought too venturesome to say that his monotheism
was possibly the result of the religious trend of thought in his time.
Damascius, in his valuable account of the belief of the Babylonians concerning the
Creation, states that, like the other barbarians, they reject the doctrine of the one origin of
the universe, and constitute two, Tauthe (Tiawath) and Apason (Apsu). This twofold
principle, however, is only applicable to the system in that it makes of the sea and the