Here Merodach, it will be observed, though “lord of all that exists,” is nevertheless only the first-born of the gods.
There were gods older than he, just as there were cities older than Babylon. He could not therefore be absolute lord of the world; it was only within Babylon itself that this was the case; elsewhere his rule was shared with others.
Hence it was that while Nebuchadnezzar as a native of Babylon was the work of his hands, outside Babylon there were other creators and other lords. This fact is accentuated in an inscription of Nabonidos, belonging to the earlier part of his reign, in which Merodach is coupled with the Moon-god of Ur and placed on an equal footing with him.
One of the epithets applied by Nebuchadnezzar to Merodach is that of riminu, or “merciful.” It is indeed a standing epithet of the god. Merodach was the intercessor between the gods and men, and the interpreter of the will of Ea, the god of wisdom.
In an old bilingual hymn he is thus addressed: “Thou art Merodach, the merciful lord who loves to raise the dead to life.” The expression is a remarkable one, and indicates that the Babylonians were already acquainted with a doctrine of the resurrection at an early period.
Merodach’s attribute of mercy is coupled with his power to raise the dead. The same expression occurs in another of these bilingual hymns, which I intend to discuss in a future Lecture…
“(Thou art) the king of the land, the lord of the world!
0 firstborn of Ea, omnipotent over heaven and earth.
0 mighty lord of mankind, king of (all) lands,
(Thou art) the god of gods,
(The prince) of heaven and earth who hath no rival,
The companion of Anu and Bel (Mul-lil),
The merciful one among the gods,
The merciful one who loves to raise the dead to life,
Merodach, king of heaven and earth,
King of Babylon, lord of E-Sagila,
King of E-Zida, king of E-makh-tilla (the supreme house of life),
Heaven and earth are thine!
The circuit of heaven and earth is thine,
The incantation that gives life is thine,
The breath that gives life is thine,
The holy writing of the mouth of the deep is thine:
Mankind, even the black-headed race (of Accad),
All living souls that have received a name, that exist in the world,
The four quarters of the earth wheresoever they are,
All the angel-hosts of heaven and earth
(Regard) thee and (lend to thee) an ear.”
[ … ]
A.H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., London, 1898, pp. 98-102.