Asaf Bartov (ijon) wrote,
Asaf Bartov
ijon

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Thinking about Genesis 2, 3

Reading the book of Genesis, ever so slowly and between a lot of other things, I came upon a few interesting points:

1. The name Ashur (Assyria, אשור) appears in Genesis 2:14 -- "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." [KJV], וְשֵׁם הַנָּהָר הַשְּׁלִישִׁי חִדֶּקֶל, הוּא הַהֹלֵךְ קִדְמַת אַשּׁוּר; וְהַנָּהָר הָרְבִיעִי, הוּא פְרָת. Now, I could have sworn Assyria is not mentioned in Genesis, or anywhere in the Pentateuch (Torah). The Assyrian empire only comes into play much later on, and I did not remember it was explicitly mentioned right at the beginning of Genesis, assumed to be the earliest material in the Bible. The myths presented in the first chapters of Genesis are strongly influenced by other Mesopotamian cultures, of course, but the Assyrians became culturally meaningful much, much after the Genesis myths were formed. Why would the city/land of Ashur be used as a coordinate when describing the physical location of the Garden of Eden?

I can think of only two explanations:
  • This version of the myths, i.e. the myths as written by the author of Genesis (or of this section of Genesis), was written when Assyria was a meaningful power and therefore a meaningful landmark. I.e. the author is trying to explain the location to his contemporaries, and to them, "east of Assyria" is meaningful, whereas perhaps "Northwest of Sumer" would be less so.
  • This is a later edit of the text; the original author gave coordinates that struck the later editor as incomprehensible or merely obscure, and so the reference was changed to Ashur.
My Bible encyclopedia is, sadly, silent on this point. It does not annotate this mention of Ashur at all.

What do you think?

2. A linguistic shot in the dark: The Canaanite (originally Ugaritic) goddess Anat (or Anath, or Tanith, or Antit, etc.) was known throughout the east Mediterranean, from Syria through Canaan to Egypt (the mysterious Hyksos named their capital Tanis!).

Now, in Genesis 2:23, in the original Hebrew, we find the first mention of 'man' and 'woman' (איש, אשה), complete with a proposed etymology: וַיֹּאמֶר הָאָדָם זֹאת הַפַּעַם עֶצֶם מֵעֲצָמַי וּבָשָׂר מִבְּשָׂרִי; לְזֹאת יִקָּרֵא אִשָּׁה, כִּי מֵאִישׁ לֻקְחָה זֹּאת. This etymology is probably just a "folk" etymology, as the roots are different: א.י.ש לעומת א.נ.ש. The plural of איש is אישים, and the form אנשים is much later.

So, אשה is from א.נ.ש, and if we just take that root and transform the Shin into a Tav, as is common between Aramaic and Hebrew (שור = תורא etc.), Arabic and Hebrew and, I think, also between Ugaritic and Hebrew, we have אנת (Anat), which is certainly one variant of the goddess's name, although the canonical Hebrew form is ענת, using the different consonant Ayin. Anat is the wife of the god Baal, which literally means "husband". Adam and Eve were Ish and Isha (from 'anash'), like Baal and Anat. I have no theory, but it just strikes me as a fun resemblance.

And what about the Arabic root int- (as in 'inte', 'inti', you (sg.))? Is that at all related to the Hebrew א.נ.ש? Why would it be? I don't know...

I'm way out of my depth here, but I sure am curious! Can anyone shed light?

3. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are cast away from the Garden of Eden. They are apparently driven east, because God "placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.", "וַיְגָרֶשׁ אֶת הָאָדָם; וַיַּשְׁכֵּן מִקֶּדֶם לְגַן עֵדֶן אֶת הַכְּרֻבִים, וְאֵת לַהַט הַחֶרֶב הַמִּתְהַפֶּכֶת, לִשְׁמֹר אֶת דֶּרֶךְ עֵץ הַחַיִּים."

Now: never mind the double pluralization of 'Cherubims' (heh); what I want to know is this: what became of the Garden of Eden? We're not told, but this seems to suggest that it's still right here, between the four rivers, east of Assyria, and is still accessible, or God would not bother to put guards with kick-ass swords on the path... What's the common view on this?

4. God's punishment for Eve includes the agony of giving birth (Gen 3:16): אֶל הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ--בְּעֶצֶב תֵּלְדִי בָנִים. My Bible encyclopedist remarks that interestingly, the extreme pain of giving birth is unique to humans among mammals, and that no other animal suffers greatly in giving birth. To me, this sounds patently untrue; I recall, for instance, two rather painful cow births -- one I witnessed with my own eyes (in Germany, of all places), and one reported oh-so-vividly in one of James Herriot's books. This particular annotation was written by Dr. Haim Cohen and Prof. Yehoshua Leibowich. Am I missing something?
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