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.
Enki and Ninmah19
8 After the gods were forced to [work for?] their food...
for their dining halls,
9 The great gods stood at the work, the lesser gods bore the labor.
10 The gods dug the canals, they heaped their dirt in Harali.
11 The gods were sweating, they complained about their lives.
12 Then the one of broad intelligence, the creator of the great gods;
13 Enki in the deep abyss, in the flowing water, a place whose interior
no god can look on,
14 Lay on his bed, did not rise from sleep.
15 The gods wept: "He (Enki) brought about (our) lamentation" they said.
16 To the one who was in the swamp, who was lying down, who did not rise from his bed,
17 Namma, the primordial mother who gave birth to the great gods,
18 brought the weeping of the gods to her son.
19 "Lord, you are certainly lying down; you are certainly sleeping.
20 You [yourself do not] rise [from your sleep.]
21 The gods you created are smashing [their tools].
22 My son, rise from your bed; with your knowledge it is you who have sought out skills.
23 Make a substitute for the gods: they will let go of their toil".
24 Enki at the word of his mother Namma rose from his bed.
These two different topoi must not be confused. In the first two texts a god wishes to sleep but cannot because of human (Atrahasis I) or divine (Enuma Elish) noise. In the other two texts (Enki and Ninmah as well as Atrahasis II) a god is sleeping and must be awakened.
In the biblical texts we have emphasized the awakening of the divinity. This awakening is either requested (1 Kings 18,27; Ps 44,24) or takes place spontaneously (Ps 78,65). Although the context of these texts is different, the awakening of the divinity is common to them all. In Ps 44 God is called upon to wake up and save his people. The community of believers insistently asks that God intervene, that he wake up and act in its favour (44,24). In Ps 78 God appears as a hero who awakens (78,65) and gets