The Rib That Became "Woman"

BIBLE STUDIES  l  HOME

This article is from Dr. David Rohl's book Legend: The Genesis of Civilization.  It is a remarkable book that provides the reader with a wealth of archaeological, historical, and linguistic information about the ancient world from which the words of Genesis came forth.  This is a book that will have a profound impact on biblical scholarship - once they allow themselves to see beyond their doctrinal walls.  Legend isn't available in the USA yet, but it can be shipped to you from England (see add inside).

 

Hawwah (CHAVVAH), mistakenly called Eve by generations, is probably one of the best-known women in the world throughout the ages.  The Hebrew name Hawwah links this very rare name with the prime verbal root "to make live" - hayah - which is in itself an Akkadian word.  This concept is no doubt connected with her magnificent epithet or title.

Adam named his wife Hawwah because
she was the "Mother of All the Living" (Genesis 3:29).

Is it pure coincidence that the "Mother of All the Living" is precisely the title born by Ninhursag, the Sumerian "Lady (or even more stricktly Mistress) of the Mountain"?  I don't think so.  Earlier, in Genesis 2:21-23, we read of the creation of Hawwah.  The first woman and great mother is not formed from clay or the earth, like her mail counterpart:

Yahweh Elohim made the man (Adam) fall into a deep sleep.
 
And, while he was asleep, he took one of his ribs and closed
the flesh up again forthwith.  Yahweh Elohim fashioned the rib
he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to 
the man.  And the man said: "This one at last is bone of my 
bones and flesh of my flesh!  She is to be called Woman 
(Heb. ish-shah), because she was taken from Man (Heb. ish)."

Here, again, we find a remarkable parallel with the Sumerian paradise myth, this time, the extra-biblical text provides a fascinating explanation for the strange biblical motif of "Woman being crafted from the rib of Man."

In the Sumerian version we find that Enki (who we now identify with Yahweh) is cursed by the great mother-goddess, Nisnhursag, because he has eaten forbidden plants growing in paradise.  Kramer, the translator of the text, notes yet another parallel with the biblical paradise myth.

"Enki's eating of the eight plants and the curse uttered
against him for his misdeed recall the eating of the fruit 
of the tree of knowledge by Adam and Eve and the 
curses pronounced against each of them for this sinful action."

Enki's health begins to fail and the other gods realize that he is dying.  They persuade Ninhursag to relent and she sets about the task of curing Enki's sickness, creating a goddess called Ninti to cure his failing bones.

"My brother (Enki), what hurts you?
 My rib hurts me.  
To the goddess Nin-ti (`Lady of the Rib') 
I (Ninhursag) have given birth for you."

Now the word for "rib" in Sumerian is "ti" which happens also to be the Sumerian verb "to make live."  So the Mesopotamian author of the myth is employing a pun to equate the "Lady of the Rib" (Ninti) with the "Lady Who Makes Live" (Ninti) - that is the goddess who brings Enki back to life from his near-death condition.

When Kramer first translated the ancient text of the Sumerian paradise myth, he immediately saw in this passage an explanation for the biblical story of Adam's rib.  The author (or perhaps the later redactor) of Genesis when he adapted this myth in order to incorporate elements of it into the biblical narrative, was clearly unaware of the fact that the Sumerian tale involved a play on words and so simply translated ti as "rib."  Thus "Eve" is created from a rib and, because there is no similarity between the Hebrew word for "rib" (tsalah) and "to make live" (hayah) the pun is lost. 

What remains of the hidden meaning, however, is the epithet "Mother of All the Living" which is in itself the predominant attribute of the great mother goddess, Ninhursag (also known as Nintu and Mami), who bears the epithet "Mother of All Offspring" (Sum. Ana-dumu-dumu-ene).  It seems, then, that Eve may have begun her existence in the literature of mankind as a goddess but, because of the monotheistic tenets of the Israelite religion she becomes humanized - made mortal - and, although retaining her status as "Mother of All Living" is demoted to the role of the spouse to the first man to be made of clay by the god of creation.  

Alternatively, one might see a human Eve as the original inspiration behind the worship of the divine mother-goddess of ancient Mesopotamia.

 Conclusion: 
Eve is closely associated with the Sumerian high goddess
Ninhursag through her epithet "Mother of All the Living."

Source: Legends: The Genesis of Civilization by David M. Rohl (pp. 209-10)

For more information or to order this book click here.

 


BIBLE STUDIES  l  HOME

 

Free Web Counter
free counter

Thank you for visiting our site!
Sign up to receive BHC News & Updates by e-mail.

Tell a friend about BHC & FOLLOW BHC ONLINE -- click here.
Copyright 1999-2014 Biblical Heritage Center, Inc.
* Information on this website comes from a wide variety of sources and the inclusion of any source is not to be understood as an endorsement of the position, person, or group.   All comments or statements are those of the source and have been included for educational and research resources.
Jim Myers, Webmaster