Mesopotemain Civilization and the Bible

Genesis 12:1 Leaving Ur and Mesopotamia

The Calling of Abram 1Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you: 2And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: 3And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Genesis 12:1 Abraham leaving UR


The history and culture of the Mesopotamian civilization is inextricably connected to the ebb and flow of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The earliest communities developed to the north but since rainfall in that area was so unpredictable, by 5000 B.C. communities had spread south to the rich alluvial plain.



In addition to the civilization of Mesopotamia the economy of these communities was primarily agricultural and approximately 100-200 people lived in these permanently established villages. The alluvial plain in southern Mesopotamia was far more fertile than the north but because there was little rainfall, irrigation ditches had to be constructed.

Civilization emerged in Mesopotamia because the soil provided a surplus of food. With this surplus, people could settle down to village life and with these new settlements, towns and cities began to make their appearance, a process known as urbanization. With settlements and a surplus of food came an increase in the population, a well-defined division of labor, organization, cooperation and kingship.
The emergence of cities involved interaction between people. Most cities evolved from smaller farming villages and with the practice of irrigation, which was necessary for villages distant from the Tigris and Euphrates, a stable food supply was produced. This, in turn, allowed increases in the number of people who inhabited each settlement in the Mesopotamian civilization.

Because the land closest to the river was the most fertile, there was a variation in terms of the wealth of these early farmers, which led to distinct social classes. At the same time, the construction of canals, ditches and dikes essential to irrigation demanded cooperation between different social groups.


The Mesopotamians built massive temples or ziggurats which housed the priestly class, the human representatives of the gods. The priests controlled the religious life of the community, the economy, land ownership, the employment of workers as well as the management of long distance trade.

The achievements of Mesopotamian civilization were numerous. Be it in Agriculture, all credit to the construction of irrigation ditches, which became the primary method of subsistence, be it Farming which was simplified by the introduction of the plow, or be it craft specialization and industries that began to emerge (ceramic pottery, metallurgy and textiles).

Moving on to the other advancements like the invention of writing (cuneiform) which helped maintain records, the Hammurabi code of law which contributed in maintaining justice etc all these activities added on one by one, bit by bit to what the world is today.

Mesopotamian religious practices varied through time and distance, it was basically characterised by polytheism. Mesopotamian mythology suggests a number of gods and goddesses. Gods represented places and powers in ancient Mesopotamia. Priests were an important part of the Mesopotamian social structure. Temples could be found anywhere in the city.

There were hundreds of thousands of deities. Each god had priests, temples and followers. An was the primary god of Mesopotamians who was the god of heavens. He was also the over arching bowl of heaven.


Enlil was the god of the air and the storms. Enlil produced storms or stopped them in order to help men. Enki was the god of water and the earth. Enki was also the patron of wisdom. The goddess of love and war was Inanna.

Sometimes, gods represented certain places. Ashur was the patron god of Assyria and Marduk of Babylon. Enki was associated with the city of Eridu. Dingir was the Sumerian name for the gods and they were called as ilu in Akkadian language.


Mesopotamian religion was not only polytheistic, but also henotheistic, where certain gods are viewed superior to others. It was in the later period that the Mesopotamians began ranking the deities in order of importance.

Some gods had human form requiring food and drink. According to J Bottero, gods were not viewed mystically. They were rather seen as high masters who were to be obeyed and feared.


“the Subartu (mountainous tribes of) the upper country-in their turn attacked, but they submitted to his arms, and Sargon settled their habitations, and he smote them grievously”.
Babylonian Text


It was the Akkadians who established the first empire of Mesopotamia. The great king Sargon, popularly known as Sargon of Akkad was one of the greatest kings of the ancient times. The Akkadian empire was established in 2300 BC. The state of Akkad was the predecessor of the empires of Babylonian and Assyria. It was situated in the northern side of Mesopotamia.





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