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Marduk, the Chief God of Babylon in the Time of Nebuchadnezzar

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

Introducing Marduk, who was not just the chief god of Babylon but also the chief god of all Mesopotamia.

Marduk was the chief god of Babylon, but not necessarily all of Mesopotamia. When we talk about him here, it is crucial to keep in context that he was part of a larger pantheon. In the Enuma Elish myth, Marduk is not even the chief god of Babylon specifically; he is just a minor deity who happens to be near the top of his family tree.

It is not until later that Marduk becomes supremely powerful and recognized as king among gods ("King of Heaven"). We will discuss when that happens in another section.

He was one of the oldest gods in Babylon, but it is unlikely he was the first.

The god Marduk was the chief deity of Babylon, and his worship spread to Sumer, Assyria, and Babylon itself. Marduk is one of the oldest gods in Babylonian mythology. In all likelihood, he was a local god from a small city in Babylonia.

Marduk appears to have been a protector or tutelary deity for some people or places. The earliest mention of him is in Enuma Elish (c. 2100 BC), where he acts as the patron of Eridug, an important city that later grew into the city called Babylon (then known as Akkad). This indicates that Marduk was worshiped before Eridug's existence was recorded on clay tablets. Further evidence comes from the fact that other deities predating him were considered his ancestors and successors; Nabu (the god who would eventually become Marduk's successor) was considered his father. These early appearances were probably defensive techniques by the high priest to convince people not to kill him when they saw him appearing in their dreams.

He was one of the oldest gods in Babylon, but it is unlikely he was the first.

It is unlikely that Marduk was the primary deity in Babylon during this time, but rather a minor god who rose to prominence over time. It is unknown whether Marduk was the guardian god of a small town or a city before he became significant enough to be considered the chief god of Babylon. A more likely explanation is that several gods were worshiped in Babylon before Marduk’s rise to power and prominence.

Marduk’s origins are unclear, but it is known that Nabu, another god of Babylon, was considered to be his successor and guardian. Whether there is any connection between Nabu and Mercury (the Roman counterpart of Hermes) remains unknown, although some have speculated that they are the same.

The Enuma Elish myth lists his parents as Anu and Antu and his siblings as Nanna and Mummu.

To understand the origins of Marduk, we must turn to the Babylonian creation myth, The Enuma Elish. According to this text, Marduk was the child of Anu and Antu. Anu was the god of the heavens, and Antu was the goddess of the heavens. His siblings were Nanna, later called Sin by Semitic speakers, who became the moon god, and Mummu, who personified a rising mist from primordial waters. Nanna and Mummu were also said to be children of Anu and Anta. This myth suggests that Marduk inherited his power from his father Anu but did not inherit his status as king since he was said to have had no rival as a ruler among gods or men.

It seems unlikely that Anu and Antu were considered deities themselves because they were merely the sky gods' wives.

You may wonder why Antu and Anu are included in the pantheon since it seems unlikely that they were considered deities themselves. After all, the only sources of information about them seem to come from their husbands' myths; Antu was rarely mentioned outside of her role as Enlil's consort. Likely, they were not significant enough to warrant any power or significance in their own right. If this is the case, these two goddesses would have been among the lower tier gods in Babylonian religion.

Marduk's death at the hands of Tiamat would have been a bad omen for other gods.

When Tiamat was slain, and the battle ended, Marduk's death would have been a bad omen for the other gods. Death is always a bad omen, but in this case, Marduk's death at the hands of Tiamat would have been particularly worrisome.

The fact that a monster defeated a god would not have been good news for humanity. Without Marduk's power to protect them, humankind would likely have feared another attack from Tiamat and her monsters.

Marduk's sister was Ninshubur, also known as Ninib or Queen of Heaven.

According to the Babylonian Creation Story, Marduk was the son of Enki and Damkina. His siblings were Enbilulu and Ninhursag. His sister was Ninshubur, also known as Ninib or Queen of Heaven. She was a goddess of fertility and occasionally became a male deity. In one story, Ninshubur saved the day by commanding the gods to help Dumuzi when she found out that his sister Geshtinanna had agreed to take his place in Kur (the Underworld) for six months out of every year so that he could be with her on Earth for the other six months.

Ninshubur is sometimes listed as the daughter of Enlil, but there is no evidence to support this claim. Some sources list her as a consort of Marduk, while others say that they were siblings who did not marry each other. Her name "Queen of Heaven" may indicate that she was a moon goddess. She presided over several different realms, including being a goddess of the Underworld, goddess of earth and vegetation, goddess of agriculture, and finally being associated with sun worshipers like Nimrod, who is often listed as an early king in Babylonian history.

Ninshubur may have left with Marduk when he abandoned Akkad, suggesting that she may have been associated with him from before.

Ninshubur was the daughter of the Akkadian god Anu, an early ruler of the gods, and she was often associated with Marduk. As a messenger of the gods and queen of heaven, Ninshubur is also known as the Prince of the gods.

Ninshubur may have left with Marduk when he abandoned Akkad, suggesting that she may have been associated with him from before.

She is mentioned several times in cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia, including her work as a messenger for Marduk. She has listed Enheduanna's great poem to Inanna, among other significant females: "You sent forth your lady Ninshubur to Papsukal, your beloved minister who never turns his back on you."

Several other gods had titles like Chief of Ancient Gods and King.

Several other gods had titles like Chief of Ancient Gods and King. Examples:

Enlil, the god of wind, was sometimes called Lord of the Command. He was also referred to as the Chief of Ancient Gods (en si-Kalama).

Nuska, a Minor God in Sumerian times, later became identified with Enlil's son Ninazu. He was initially only a minor deity, but much later, he took on more importance and became known as Chief of Heaven (anna ki-ag-gi).

The god Sin often became known as The Lord who Rests in Heaven (DU4-anna). His role was to drive the moon across the sky as it waxed and waned each month. He was commonly known by his epithet Nanna, meaning Shining One.

The god Nabu was considered Marduk's ancestor, successor, and guardian.

Marduk's son Nabu was regarded as the god of wisdom and writing. He was the patron deity of Borsippa, the second most important city of Babylon, and he had his temple and priests.

In some versions, Marduk is given Anu's chief military advisor title to prove that he was an important god in his own right.

Although Marduk was the main god of Babylon, he was not the only Babylonian god. Indeed, Marduk's story is a testament to his rise in political power. In at least one story, Marduk usurps another god named Anu as the patron deity of Kingship. This "chief military advisor" title made its way to Marduk to show that he was an important god in Mesopotamia and showed that he was eventually considered a more critical deity than Anu (who had previously held this title).

There are many exciting details about this powerful Babylonian god.

Marduk was a dominant god in Babylon, the capital city of ancient Babylonia in Mesopotamia. The Mesopotamians introduced Marduk to the rest of their pantheon. Some legends trace his origin to pre-Babylonian times, but he did not become significant until the eighteenth century B.C. when he became the protector of the city of Babylon and the chief god of all Mesopotamia (the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers).

Marduk's association with Babylon predates its political heyday as one of the great empires of antiquity under Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar II.

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