Concepts of the Divine (Geographical Affects 4)

beautiful clouds

The Hebrews viewed both the Egyptian concept of a never changing cyclic circuit of nature and the¬†Sumerian/Mesopotamian fear of uncertainty¬†as false. All things came to pass by God’s overall plan(Frankfort: Kingship of the Gods:1978: 6). It may seem random and tragedy may result for society or for an individual. But misfortune, if it occurred, was for the overall good. God’s divine plan was complex to the Hebrews and it was futile for any man or woman to comprehend it. Therefore, it was ridiculous for man to attempt a harmony with nature.

There seems to be some parallel between the Hebrew religion of the Old Testament and the early Sumerians. There was one such Manuscript found in Nippur that is now called the Sumerian Job. The man of the story is nameless. He is a righteous man who is very well off but falls into misfortune. He bewails to a divine power and finally confesses his guilt. His misfortune then ceases. Even though the Sumerians believed that a sinless person has never existed and that a person suffers because of his or her failings(Beek: Atlas of Mesopotamia:1962: 62,65). This is also the theme in the book of Job because even though Job is righteous to the limit that is humanly possible he is not perfect and therefore must suffer before he can truly appreciate God. For Heaven would not look as beautiful without the contrast of Hell.

The Sumerians had a dismal view of Death unlike the Egyptians who in a sense denied flat out it’s realities. Sumerians believed that a person’s spirit after death went into the underworld , a place which one could not return. They called this forbidding place Kur. A place which could be translated to mean mountain(Beek :1962: 62,65). This was because Sumer was bordered by highlands in the west that were occupied periodically by nomads who were hostile. Going to Kur both in the spirit form and in life was frightening, dismal and undesirable. This seemed to influence Jewish concept of death who’s founder Abraham did in fact come from Ur a city in Sumer. For we read in Genesis how Jacob reacts to the new of perceived death “Now I shall go down to my son mourning”(Gen: 37:35). This Sheol is very likely a Hebrew translation for Kur(Beek: 1962: 65).

A polarity between the divine and man seems to be more readily accepted in Judeo-Christian values, as is the concept that no one can fool the divine. For example in the Book of the Dead written in the Middle Kingdom, one could trick their way into heaven by swearing up and down as not to have committed any sins. In the Sumerian/ Mesopotamian theory of a divine justice system the dead try to fool the deities by covering up their iniquities but to no avail. “When a fault had been committed, through whatever cause, the gods struck automatically”(Frankfort:1978: 279).

Both Egypt and Sumer/Mesopotamia were essentially polytheistic. Egyptian society because of it’s peaceful and stable environment viewed the universe as static. Nature and the community were considered one and the Pharaoh was believed to be a god. Conversely, Mesopotamia was a more harsh and unstable land and it’s rulers were reluctant to associate themselves with the supernatural. This resulted in a polarity between man and nature. Some scholars believe the Hebrews later adopted this Sumerian/Mesopotamian belief, thereby they say setting the religious foundation for themselves and their spiritual descendants.