Myths of Babylonia and Assyria
Lord of the harvest lands ... lord of the grain fields,
being "lord of the anunnaki", or "earth spirits". As agriculturists in early times went to war so as to secure prisoners who could be sacrificed to feed the corn spirit, Enlil was a god of war and was adored as such:
The haughty, the hostile land thou dost humiliate ...With thee who ventureth to make war?
He was also "the bull of goring horns ... Enlil the bull", the god of fertility as well as of battle.
Asari, one of Merodach's names, links him with Osiris, the Egyptian Tammuz, who was supplanted by his son Horus. As the dragon slayer, he recalls, among others, Perseus, the Grecian hero, of whom it was prophesied that he would slay his grandfather. Perseus, like Tammuz and Osiris, was enclosed in a chest which was cast into the sea, to be rescued, however, by a fisherman on the island of Seriphos. This hero afterwards slew Medusa, one of the three terrible sisters, the Gorgons--a demon group which links with Tiamat. In time, Perseus returned home, and while an athletic contest was in progress, he killed his grandfather with a quoit. There is no evidence, however, to show that the displacement of Enlil by Merodach had any legendary sanction of like character. The god of Babylon absorbed all other deities, apparently for political purposes, and in accordance with the tendency of the thought of the times, when raised to supreme rank in the national pantheon; and he was depicted fighting the winged dragon, flapping his own storm wings, and carrying the thunder weapon associated with Ramman.
Merodach's spouse Zer-panitum was significantly called "the lady of the Abyss", a title which connects her with Damkina, the mother, and Belit-sheri, the sister of Tammuz. Damkina was also a sky goddess like Ishtar.
Zer-panitum was no pale reflection of her Celestial husband, but a goddess of sharply defined character with independent powers. Apparently she was identical with Aruru, creatrix of the seed of mankind, who was associated with Merodach when the first man and the first woman were brought into being. Originally she was one of the mothers in the primitive spirit group, and so identical with Ishtar and the other prominent goddesses.
As all goddesses became forms of Ishtar, so did all gods become forms of Merodach. Sin was "Merodach as illuminator of night", Nergal was "Merodach of war", Addu (Ramman) was "Merodach of rain", and so on. A colophon which contains a text in which these identifications are detailed, appears to be "a copy", says Professor Pinches, "of an old inscription", which, he thinks, "may go back as far as 2000 B.C. This is the period at which the name Yaum-ilu, 'Jah is god', is found, together with references to ilu as the name for the one great god, and is also, roughly, the date of Abraham, who, it may be noted, was a Babylonian of Ur of the Chaldees."
In one of the hymns Merodach is addressed as follows:--
Thy will is an eternal mystery!Thou makest it plain in heavenAnd in the earth,Command the seaAnd the sea obeyeth thee.Command the tempestAnd the tempest becometh a calm.Command the winding courseOf the Euphrates,And the will of MerodachShall arrest the floods.Lord, thou art holy!Who is like unto thee?Merodach thou art honouredAmong the gods that bear a name.
The monotheistic tendency, which was a marked feature of Merodach worship, had previously become pronounced in the worship of Bel Enlil of Nippur. Although it did not affect the religion of the masses, it serves to show that among the ancient scholars and thinkers of Babylonia religious thought had, at an early period, risen far above the crude polytheism of those who bargained with their deities and propitiated them with offerings and extravagant flattery, or exercised over them a magical influence by the performance of seasonal ceremonies, like the backsliders in Jerusalem, censured so severely by Jeremiah, who baked cakes to reward the Queen of Heaven for an abundant harvest, and wept with her for the slain Tammuz when he departed to Hades.