Genesis is the book of beginnings. In a well-known passage early within its pages, we find the beginning, not only of humanity, but also the source of humankind's separation from its benevolent Creator:
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'" Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:1-5)
The words of the Serpent in verse 5—from the mouth of a being who had already rebelled against God—contain a motivating spirit of defiance. As the story unfolds, a promise of being just like God, able to choose for herself what is good and what is evil, sways the woman. The phrase "good and evil" is a merism, meaning that it includes everything in between those extremes. The Serpent was promising Eve that she could choose and then experience for herself anything that she wanted.
This biblical story is the true account of Eden, but it is not the only account. Another ancient description is penned by a Babylonian poet named Enheduanna. In her carnal depiction, we can glimpse an influential spirit that has endured the millennia to ensnare the present Western world. By contrasting the Babylonian version of Eden with the truth of God, we can better recognize the spirit of Babylon and why God tells us to "come out of her" (Revelation 18:4).
Some literary and historical scholars regard Enheduanna, a high priestess and daughter of a king, as the earliest known author and poet. Best known for producing a collection of temple hymns used throughout Mesopotamia, she exerted considerable influence in the religion of the ancient world. She lived in the city-state of Ur, from whence God called Abraham. Despite the dates being uncertain, Abraham and Enheduanna likely lived in Ur at roughly the same time, with Enheduanna slightly pre-dating Abraham. God called Abraham out of the very city and culture in which Enheduanna was a significant figure.
Apart from the hymns, Enheduanna is also known for her devotional writings to the goddess Inanna. Not a commonly recognized false deity, Inanna, the goddess of both war and erotic love, is better known by the names Ishtar (Easter), Astarte, Ashtoreth, Isis, and much later, Venus. She embodied wild abandon and willfulness. We can readily see the spirit of Inanna in the music videos of any number of pop tarts of the recent past: Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Brittney Spears, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna. (The name Rihanna even means "great queen" or "goddess.") These women and their ilk are essentially channeling the spirit of Inanna.
In her poems, Enheduanna wrote about a place called Ebih, the Babylonian version of Eden. She describes Ebih as a remote paradise—remote from Babylon—a place of harmony where animals live together in peace amid lush trees and abundant fruit. Unlike the perspective of Genesis, the Babylonians did not regard this paradise as desirable but as inferior, a place to reject and even defeat! Babylonians viewed this place of peaceful abundance as something a person should overcome as part of the process of personal growth. They thought that Ebih, with all its bounty, represented dependence—particularly on the Creator—which is contrary to personal freedom and self-determination.
The Babylonians placed an extremely high value on civilization. In the idyllic Garden, however, the individual was dependent on the cycles of nature and natural law. The Babylonians considered civilization to be a way that a person could escape dependence and determine his or her destiny apart from the natural order. They also believed that the Supreme Deity held a grudge against them because of their civilization's accomplishments. They saw Him as oppressive, believing that He worked to limit human potential and prohibit humanity from determining its own destiny through the advancements of civilization, a possible reference to His intervention in both the Flood and at the Tower of Babel.
At this point, the goddess Inanna returns to the story. Enheduanna describes how Inanna overcomes Ebih—how she defeats the Garden of God!—through asserting her independence and her absolute right to self-determination. Enheduanna expresses this point by demonstrating Inanna's freedom from any constraint. She can be good or bad, but above all, she can do anything she wants. Whereas Ebih represents yielding to divine control, Inanna conquers this by appropriating to herself the right to complete freedom to determine her own conduct.
In one of Enheduanna's poems, she praises Inanna with these words: "To destroy, to build, to lift up, to put down, are yours, Inanna." She asserts that Inanna already possesses these rights innately, whereas, in reality, they belong only to the Most High God. He at times gives such authority to His servants. For example, He tells Jeremiah, "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant" (Jeremiah 1:9-10). According to the poet, though, the goddess Inanna possesses this authority without any reference to God.
The poem continues, proving that there is nothing new under the sun: "To turn man into woman [and] woman into man are yours, Inanna." This poem is 4,300 years old, yet it is describing something that is all the rage today. The media herald transgenderism as new and progressive, but the spirit behind this perversion of the natural order is very, very old. That spirit is now gaining influence and wreaking havoc on a new civilization—one that has the knowledge and technology to do gender-reassignment surgeries and hormone therapies.
Remember, Inanna's actions are part of overcoming Eden. There, God created humanity "male and female" (Genesis 1:27) and established the institution of marriage (Genesis 2:22-24). But to overcome Eden, Inanna must oppose all aspects of the divine order, so she takes to herself the right not to be constrained even by gender. Wikipedia points out that, not only was temple prostitution a major part of her worship—and may have originated with her—but also that persons of asexual or hermaphroditic bodies and effeminate men were particularly involved in her worship. Inanna was the champion of overturning the social order.
In Part Two, we will discover more modern worldviews through the eyes of this ancient Babylonian priestess, revealing the pervasive spirit of Babylon to be alive and well today.
- David C. Grabbe
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