Monday, January 15, 2007

The answer to yesterday's Enigma-inspired question

Yesterday, you were asked to identify the biblical character who was born in secret, hidden in a basket caulked with tar, and sent sailing down the river. Many of you knew the answers: Moshe, and also Sargon of Akkada.

Here is Moshe's story:

The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a good child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank...Now,the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river... she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it...and he became her son.

And this is Sargan's story:

My high priestessmother conceived me, in secret she bore me. She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid. She cast me into the river which rose over me. The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water. Akki, the drawer of water, took me as his son and reared me.

How can we explain the similarities between the two tales? Take your pick:

1 - The Akkadians appropriated the Hebrew story
2 - The Hebrews appropriated the Akkadian story
3 - Some time after the revelation at Sinai, well-meaning Jews used the Sargan story to embelish Moshe's story to make him seem more heroic.
4 - In writing the Torah, God made use of the stories and myths that would have been familair to His audience.

What's the right answer? I don't know. [Emphasis added for people who think I am "saying" something here.]

UPDATE Other possible solutions.

5 - Moshe's mother knew the Sargan story, and when the time came to save her own son, she did what Sargan's mother did.
6 - These are independant stories that have nothing to do with each other, ie, the similiarities are a coincidence.
7 - Both stories draw on an earlier, common myth.

What's the right answer? I don't know. [Emphasis added for people who think I am "saying" something here.]

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