Asaf Bartov (ijon) wrote,
Asaf Bartov
ijon

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Reading that yummy Bible encyclopedia I got, I learned of an interesting hypothesis about the word "tehom" used in Genesis 1:2 (the King James translation renders it "the deep"; bear in mind that the Hebrew is not quite that). I bring a free translation of part of the entry:
Tehom is used in the Bible in three senses:
1. In contexts of genesis, it denotes "primordial sea" (see Psalms 104:6);
2. in poetry and prophesy, where there remain traces of ancient traditions of God's war with primordial sea monsters who defied him, tehom appears as one of several aliases to yam (Hebrew for 'sea'), who is the rebel leader (see Isaiah 51:10, Habakkuk 3:8-10, and Psalms 33:7). In Ugaritic literature, too, tehom appears alongside yam, but usually in the dual number THMTM (equivalent to the Hebrew tehomotayim);
3. tehom also denotes "subterranean water" (Hebrew: mey tehom), usually in contrast with heavens/skies (shamayim), as in Genesis 7:11, 8:2, 49:25; Psalms 104:6; Proverbs 3:20.

There is a known equivalent to the word tehom in Akkadic literature, which serves the first two senses mentioned above: the Mesopotamian goddess Ti'amat (תִאַמַת) is the deified form of the monstrous primordial sea; whereas the noun ti'amtu (or tâmtu) is the common term for "sea, ocean". The Babylonian story of genesis, the Enuma Elish, mentions that Mardukh, the Mesopotamian storm god, defeats Ti'amat in combat, and creates the world out of her corpse divided in two [as in the separation of water from water in Genesis 1:6-7 --Ijon].

Additional evidence of the kinship of Mesopotamian Ti'amat and Biblical Tehom may be found in the following facts:
1. The name tehom, despite having a masculine form, sometimes appears alongside feminine verbs [verbs and nouns must 'agree' in gender in Hebrew --Ijon], as in Genesis 7:11, 49:25, and others.
2. It never appears after the definite article (ה"א הידיעה), like personal pronouns (see Ezekiel 26:19, 31:16 for instance; and compare על פני תהום to על פני המים in
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Reading <a href="http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?journal=ijon&itemid=60357">that yummy Bible encyclopedia</a> I got, I learned of an interesting hypothesis about the word "<i>tehom</i>" used in <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen001.html">Genesis 1:2</a> (the King James translation renders it "the deep"; bear in mind that the Hebrew is not quite that). I bring a free translation of part of the entry:<blockquote><i>Tehom</i> is used in the Bible in three senses:
1. In contexts of genesis, it denotes "primordial sea" (see <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Psa/Psa104.html">Psalms 104:6</a>);
2. in poetry and prophesy, where there remain traces of ancient traditions of God's war with primordial sea monsters who defied him, <i>tehom</i> appears as one of several aliases to <i>yam</i> (Hebrew for 'sea'), who is the rebel leader (see <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Isa/Isa051.html">Isaiah 51:10</a>, <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Hab/Hab003.html">Habakkuk 3:8-10</a>, and <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Psa/Psa033.html">Psalms 33:7</a>). In Ugaritic literature, too, <i>tehom</i> appears alongside <i>yam</i>, but usually in the dual number THMTM (equivalent to the Hebrew <i>tehomotayim</i>);
3. <i>tehom</i> also denotes "subterranean water" (Hebrew: <i>mey tehom</i>), usually in contrast with heavens/skies (<i>shamayim</i>), as in Genesis <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen007.html">7:11</a>, <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen008.html">8:2</a>, <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen049.html">49:25</a>; <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Psa/Psa104.html">Psalms 104:6</a>; <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Pro/Pro003.html">Proverbs 3:20</a>.

There is a known equivalent to the word <i>tehom</i> in Akkadic literature, which serves the first two senses mentioned above: the Mesopotamian goddess Ti'amat (תִאַמַת) is the deified form of the monstrous primordial sea; whereas the noun ti'amtu (or t&acirc;mtu) is the common term for "sea, ocean". The Babylonian story of genesis, the <i>Enuma Elish</i>, mentions that Mardukh, the Mesopotamian storm god, defeats Ti'amat in combat, and creates the world out of her corpse divided in two [as in the separation of water from water in <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen001.html">Genesis 1:6-7</a> --Ijon].

Additional evidence of the kinship of Mesopotamian Ti'amat and Biblical Tehom may be found in the following facts:
1. The name <i>tehom</i>, despite having a masculine form, sometimes appears alongside feminine verbs [verbs and nouns must 'agree' in gender in Hebrew --Ijon], as in Genesis <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen007.html">7:11</a>, <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen049.html">49:25</a>, and others.
2. It never appears after the definite article (ה"א הידיעה), like personal pronouns (see Ezekiel <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Eze/Eze026.html">26:19</a>, <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Eze/Eze031.html">31:16</a> for instance; and compare על פני תהום to על פני <b>ה</b>מים in <a href=""http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen001.html">Genesis 1:2</a> (in English it is lost, because KJV has "the deep".</blockquote>The now-almost-obvious link between <i>tehom</i> and Ti'amat never occurred to me. And I did know the name Ti'amat: I first encountered it thirteen years ago, perusing the pages of the AD&D <b>Monster Manual</b> (ahem).

I just <i>love</i> the comparative study of Biblical and Mesopotamian myths. I am tempted to try to study Akkadic, but I must prioritize ferociously, and Akkadic just can't make it, for now.
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