Andrzej Mrozek - Silvano Votto, «The Motif of the Sleeping Divinity», Vol. 80 (1999) 415-419
This note discusses biblical and Mesopotamian texts that contain the motif of a sleeping divinity. Their comparison shows that the presence of the same theme, sleep, is not sufficient of itself to make the texts parallel. The other common element, the need to awaken the sleeping divinity, must be present in the texts for parallelism. The note shows that the biblical texts have their Mesopotamian parallel not in the texts where a deity wishes to sleep and cannot, but rather where he is sleeping and must be awakened.
In Enuma Elish the primordial gods cannot sleep because of the noise made by the younger gods.
"Their behavior is noisome to me!
"By day I have no rest, at night I do not sleep!
"I wish to put an end to their behavior, to do away with it!
"Let silence reign that we may sleep"14.
The second topos the sleeping god who must be awakened appears in Atrahasis II. Here Enlils sleep is interrupted because the lesser gods, tired of working to support the greater gods, are about to attack his house.
Nusku woke [his] lord,
He got [him] out of bed,
"My lord, [your] house is surrounded,
"Battle has run right up [to your gate].
"Enlil, your house is surrounded,
"Battle has [ru]n right up to your gate!"15.
This same topos also appears in the Sumerian poem Enki and Ninmah, a text which, as far as we know, has not yet been noted in the discussion of the sleeping biblical divinity.
The text is known from fragments of three different copies16 from the old-Babylonian period. Unlike most of the texts that made up the Sumerian literary corpus of this period, Enki and Ninmah continued to be copied after the old-Babylonian period and even exists in a fragmentary bilingual edition from the neo-Assyrian period in which the Sumerian is accompanied by an Akkadian translation. The Sumerian text in the old-Babylonian version differs in places from that in the neo-Assyrian version. The translation that follows uses, as much as possible, the old-Babylonian version.
The first part of the poem states that, after the separation of heaven and earth, the gods had to work for their sustenance. They found this unacceptable. Enki, the clever water god, is asleep "in the deep abyss". As in Atrahasis II the lesser gods rebel and refuse to work to support the greater gods17. Namma, Enkis mother, goes to awaken him. She asks him to create a substitute for the gods, a creature that would work in their place and maintain them18.