Does any Babylonian spiritual literature refer to a goddess of wisdom like the hypostasis in Proverbs?

First of all, for those of you who, like me, struggle to grasp the term “hypostasis,” here is one useful definition: “in Stoicism,  hupostasis comes to be used to refer to being that has “attained reality,” that is, objective or concrete reality.”  I think of the devil, who is real to us through an accretion of cultural associations but who had no basis in early Hebrew scripture. 

When you ask about a Babylonian goddess of Wisdom like the character in Proverbs, I recall that the Proverbs character represents the domain of Wisdom but is also a mother-of-mankind-midwife figure. While there’s no one-to-one corresponding goddess in Babylon, several gods and goddesses possessed aspects of Wisdom.

Mesopotamian literature usually attributes wisdom to male gods, especially Nabu. However, there is a story of a mother goddess who, very much like Wisdom in Proverbs, is credited with creating humanity. Her name was Ninmah or NIntud (a couple variations of the name). More at this handy resource:

In the Mesopotamian flood story, Atrahasis, the goddess Ninmah was credited with making humanity by mixing the blood of a dead god with clay (note that “adam,” the word for “the human” in Genesis 2, means “clay.”) Ninmah was gradually replaced with a male god, Enki, in later tradition. Enki was associated with wisdom. Apparently, Babylonian myth gradually marginalized female gods, just as the Hebrew bible seems to have done. 

In one Akkadian (Babylonian language) tablet attributed to Ashurnasipal I (11th c. BCE), the goddess Ishtar is endowed with wisdom:

To the creator of wisd[om, . . . (are) worthy of r]enown,
To the one who dwells in the Emashmash, [Ishtar . . .] (who) extols my name,
To the queen of the gods, into whose hands [all(?)] the cultic rites are [be]stowed,
To the lady of Nineveh, the he[ro of the god]s, the most exalted one....
To the one who decides lawsuits, the goddess of absolutely everything,
To the lady of the heavens and the earth, who receives petitions,
To the one who hears prayer, who accepts supplication,
To the merciful goddess, who loves justice..... (source is Akkadian Prayer Miscellany)

In the Enuma Elish, the goddess Tiamat is the mother of all the gods (she is the primordial sea deity that Marduk defeats to create the world, using her belly and limbs to do it). Her name, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, is the word in Genesis 1 for “deep.” She combines two even older traditions, the sea goddess Namma, out of whom Gods were created, and the mythic bird “Anzu.” Anzu is usually a male bird-monster god, but Tiamat takes on some of his qualities. We can see references to both aspects of Tiamat  in the first couple verses of Genesis 1, in which God’s wind “broods” over the deep. The word for brood or hover, “Rachaph,” is used only three times, one of which is in a description of an eagle brooding over her young. And the word “ruach” or wind (sometimes translated spirit) reminds us that in the Enuma Elish, the god Marduk defeats Tiamat with an “evil wind” and then cuts her in half, using her sea-belly as the sky dome and the rest of her watery substance as the earth. More on this here:

Those Jews returning from Babylon would have grown up with these stories. The Enuma Elish was performed publicly in Babylon on the winter solstice, and all residents would have learned it. The murder of Tiamat and the creation of the world from her body may even have been graphically re-enacted. It would not be surprising if these story elements found their way into the Hebrew bible’s origin stories, especially Genesis 1, which was probably written in exile by someone very much like Ezra (if not Ezra himself). Genesis 1 contains echoes not only of the Enuma Elish but also of the Babylonian seven-day lunar week. However, in Genesis 1, El takes over the functions of all the other Babylonian deities. 

Note: I owe most of my knowledge of these deities to this wonderful scholarly source:
“Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses”: It has an incredible bibliography. Funding limitations allowed them to cover “only the first 50 gods and goddesses.”

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