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Helaman 7:


David Bokovoy

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Iâ??m a bit tired of exploring biblical Hebraisms, so I thought Iâ??d move on to Akkadianisms.

â??In Mesopotamia, there is considerable evidence for the cultic significance of gardens. The gods are associated with gardens. Inanna, Enlil, Anu, and Adad all have gardens associated with themâ? Dexter E. Callender Jr., Adam in Myth and History: Ancient Israelite Perspectives on the Primal Human (Eisenbrauns: Winona Lake, 2000): 61

Several examples of Mesopotamian iconography provide a depiction of the tree or plant of life directly associated with the temple over which the king and priests appear pouring ritual libations.

According to Geo Widengren, in Mesopotamian thought, â??the Tree of Life is watered by the king, who pours out over it the Water of Life which he has in his possession; the Tree of Life constantly needs the Water of Life near which it is growing in the garden of paradiseâ?; Geo Widengren, The King and the Tree of Life in Ancient Near Eastern Religion (Uppsala: Uppsala Universitets Arsskrift, 1951): 15.

Apparently, the connection between king, gardener, and temple was widely attested throughout the ancient Near East. As Nicolas Wyatt explains: â??the man in his garden is a symbolic allusion to the king in his sanctuaryâ?; Nicolas Wyatt, â??Interpreting the Creation and Fall Story in Genesis 2-3,â? Zeitschrift Fur Dei Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (1981): 15.

With this background, I canâ??t help but find the portrayal of Nephi in Helaman 7 very Mesopotamianlike in its details. Lamenting over the iniquity of his people, Nephi escapes to â??a tower which was in the garden of Nephiâ? (Helaman 7:10). It is there, on the tower, in the garden that Nephi seeks the Lord.

In an account whichâ??in good biblical traditionâ??typically remains sparse in its literary detail, the author/editor clearly sees some sort of meaning in the location for the event. Once again, the author notes: â??Nephi had bowed himself upon the tower which was in his garden, which tower was also near unto the garden gateâ? (v. 10). I donâ??t know why, but this mention of a tower, garden, and gate in the Book of Mormon clearly relates to concepts traditionally associated with ancient Babylon.

With its references to brick burning and a â??tower whose top may reach unto heaven,â? Genesis 11 provides an Israelite polemic directed against Babylon. In Akkadian, the language of ancient Babylon and Assyria, the name â??Babylonâ? itself derives from two words, bab meaning â??gateâ? and ilim meaning â??godâ? ; see Jeremy Black, et al., A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2000): 36, 127.

Weâ??re left therefore with a view in the Book of Mormon in which Nephi stands upon his tower in a garden near the gate: â??And it came to pass that there were certain men passing by and saw Nephi as he was pouring out his soul unto God upon the towerâ? (Helaman 7:11 ).

The entire experience depicted in the Book of Mormon is really quite Mesoptoamianlike. However, in addition to these interesting details, Nephi specifically tells his audience that unless they repent, God will â??scatter you forthâ? (Helaman 7:19 ).

From a literary perspective, Nephiâ??s use of the word â??scatterâ? provides a nice sense of irony, for the account states: â??when Nephi arose he beheld the multidues of people who had gathered togetherâ?¦and said unto them: Behold why have ye gathered yourselves togetherâ? (vv. 12-13; see also 15). The word â??scatteredâ? used by Nephi in his tower sermon, delivered in the garden at the gate seems to invoke the imagery witnessed in the biblical depiction of Babel, a tower built so that the people could avoid being â??scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earthâ? (Gen 11:5 ).

Genesis states, however, that the Lord came down to see â??the city and the towerâ? whereupon he â??scattered [the people] abroad from thence upon the face of all the earthâ? (Gen 11: 8 ). Again, the word â??scatterâ? receives emphasis in the account, for when providing the biblical name â??Babel,â? the author notes for a third time that â??from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earthâ? (v. 9).

Of course these connections between the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and ancient Mesopotamian may be a mere coincidence.

They are, however, certainly an interesting link.

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Is there a magic number of required coincidences before we see significances? Wasn't Joseph Smith lucky as he wrote about these things in a haphazard fashion and they happen to show up in ancient texts and lore.

edited to add: David, I really appreciate these little tidbits that you let us partake of. Is there a book coming?

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edited to add: David, I really appreciate these little tidbits that you let us partake of. Is there a book coming?

No. A disertation and a few non-LDS articles first. But I really appreciate your interest. It's fun to share ideas with others--especially the Dude since I know he's been waiting for an Akkadianism.

Warm regards,

--David

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According to Geo Widengren, in Mesopotamian thought, â??the Tree of Life is watered by the king, who pours out over it the Water of Life which he has in his possession; the Tree of Life constantly needs the Water of Life near which it is growing in the garden of paradiseâ?; Geo Widengren, The King and the Tree of Life in Ancient Near Eastern Religion (Uppsala: Uppsala Universitets Arsskrift, 1951): 15.

Awww, I thought this was going to connect to Lehi and Nephi's visions...

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Davidâ??

The connection you're attempting to draw here seems a bit six-degrees-of-separation-esque to me. If I may:

(1) Gardens have cultic significance in ancient Mesopotamian culture

(2) Several examples of Mesopotamian iconography provide a depiction of the tree or plant of life

(3) Trees and plants are associated with gardens

(4) Nephi escapes to a tower in a garden

(5) Genesis 11 deals with the tower of Babylon

(6) The name â??Babylonâ? itself derives from two words, bab meaning â??gateâ? and ilim meaning â??godâ?

(7) Nephi prayed near the garden gate

(8 ) Nephi warns that God will "scatter" them unless they repent

(9) The Babylonians built a tower so that they wouldn't be "scattered abroad"

Therefore,

(10) The mention of a tower near a garden gate in which Nephi prays to God in Helaman 7 and from which warns of a potential scattering clearly harks back to a Mesopotamianâ??and, linguistically, Akkadianâ??worldview

I realize you haven't formally deduced my (10) from your (1-9), but the connection, at least to my mind, seems too strained to be significant.

Best.

CKS

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Hello Cksalmon,

Gardens have cultic significance in ancient Mesopotamian culture

Correct. A strong link exists in Mesopotamian and Israelite tradition concerning gardens and temples. The Babylonian temple appears in Genesis 11 as a â??tower.â?

Nephi escapes to a tower in a garden

Correct. Nephi escapes to a tower in a garden to pray. For those familiar with Near Eastern imagery, the link between tower and garden invokes a Babylonian type scene.

Genesis 11 deals with the tower of Babylon

Correct. The account serves as a polemic against Babylon.

The name â??Babylonâ? itself derives from two words, bab meaning â??gateâ? and ilim meaning â??godâ?

Correct. Bab in Akkadian means â??gate.â? So to backtrack, we have a Book of Mormon account in which Nephi prays to God on a tower, in a garden, near a gate.

Nephi warns that God will "scatter" them unless they repent.

Correct. Following his interaction with God via prayer, Nephi warns the people that God will "scatter" them as Nephi stands upon a tower, in a garden, near a gate.

The Babylonians built a tower so that they wouldn't be "scattered abroad"

Correct. The Babylonians, whose city means â??gate of god,â? worshipped on a tower directly associated with gardens. Genesis 11 states that the tower builders of the garden gate were â??scattered.â?

The mention of a tower near a garden gate in which Nephi prays to God in Helaman 7 and from which warns of a potential scattering clearly harks back to a Mesopotamianâ??and, linguistically, Akkadianâ??worldview

Truth is I believe that the Book of Mormon harks back to a biblical depiction in a way that correctly reflects both Genesis 11 and Babylonian traditions.

the connection, at least to my mind, seems too strained to be significant.

We have scattering, a tower, a garden, a gate, and a prayerful encounter with deity. Given these elements, I disagree that the connection between Genesis 11 and Babylonian tradition is too strained to be significant.

I do, however, appreicate the critique.

--David

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Iâ??m a bit tired of exploring biblical Hebraisms, so I thought Iâ??d move on to Akkadianisms.

Good post, David. Ironically, I have been reading a bit about this myself although not for any comparative purposes. I am immediately reminded of the Taj Mahal which is finite representation of paradise, aka Eden. More importantly, the concept of Paradise was mentioned in regards to three forms. One, the home of the deity. Two, the abode of our earthly parents. Three, an heavenly result of a hard earned life.

Zorasterianism which integrates various ancient beliefs talks of a original pair who sprang from a tree in Heden where the Tree of Life, haoma, sprang. The woman, at the behest of Ahriman, the spirit of evil, in the guise of serpent, ate of the fruit and gave it to her husband.

In the British Museum is a seal which shows this scenario.

seal.jpg

In this scene the figures are clearly attempting to eat of the tree while the serpent is behind the woman. What is particular noticeable to me is the male figure is wearing horns which is symbolic of a god.

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Why was Dude's testimony of his faith in coincidence removed. It was really rather touching.

The cylinder seal is not Zoroastrian. It is Neo-Sumerian, 1000-15000 years before Zoroaster.

http://www.greatcommission.com/london/2003017.jpg

(This is a photo someone took of the display of the original in the British Museum.)

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Hello David,

I found the post very interesting. I don't really have anything to add, just wanted to say I enjoyed it.

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EnemyAce/David, et. al.

I would be interested in sources about this seal and the idea of horns representing a god. I am really interested in exploring some apparent (to me) connections with ideas about the creation.

I should have been more specific. The horned deity was more than likely the Sumerian god, Enki or Ea, which conflates with the Semitic Ya which we know as Yahweh. In Black and Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia,

"In art Enki is represented as a seated god with long beard, wearing a cap with many horns and a long, pleated robe. Streams of water flow from his arms to the ground, sometimes with little fish swimming along the flow. Enki was god of the subterranean freshwater ocean (abju), and was especially associated with wisdom, magic and incantations, and with the arts and crafts of civilization."

ENKI.GIF

Bill Hamblin is also correct. I inadvertantly didn't specify that the Zorasterian account was not in context with the seal image. However, the Zorasterian account is indeed based on earlier accounts of creation laid down by the Sumerians.

Why was Dude's testimony of his faith in coincidence removed. It was really rather touching.

The cylinder seal is not Zoroastrian. It is Neo-Sumerian, 1000-15000 years before Zoroaster.

http://www.greatcommission.com/london/2003017.jpg

(This is a photo someone took of the display of the original in the British Museum.)

The photo's caption relates that it shows a banquet scene. I would think that the entire Garden of Eden scenario is akin to a heavenly banquet. It would interesting to explore the banquet in the garden thing.

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Enemy Ace,

Hope youre well.

Is this in any way related to bull worship?

BTW

The correlations between Enki and symbology in the bible is impressive. Very interesting stuff. How much does the enki myth predate the oldest books of the old testament.

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Enemy Ace,

Hope youre well.

Is this in any way related to bull worship?

BTW

The correlations between Enki and symbology in the bible is impressive. Very interesting stuff. How much does the enki myth predate the oldest books of the old testament.

I was wondering the same thing. The worship of bulls throughout the world is widespread. Shiva in India, Osiris in Egypt, Enlil in Sumer, etc. It probably goes much further back to the worship of the virility of the bull.

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