Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

“Women Sitting There Weeping for Tammuz”: Hebrew Religion and the Descent into the Netherworld in Mesopotamia

Author: Archie LEE, Chinese Univeristy of Hong Kong



This article aims at tracing the religious and literary writings surrounding “Tammuz”(‘Dumuzi’ in Sumerian) – the Babylonian God monitoring the growth of agricultural produce and animals – and analyzing the literary theme of love about Tammuz and the Goddess Ishtar (‘Inanna’ in Sumerian). Through the Sumerian epic poem “Inanna’s Descent into the Netherworld”(Akkadian version of “Ishtar’s Descent into the Netherworld”), we can have a glimpse of the literary imagination of the netherworld in the religious world of West Asia; also through the investigation of Inanna’s self- initiated descent into the underworld and Dumuzi’s being forced to be the substitute of Inanna (Ishtar), we may understand how the Hebrew Bible, in accordance with the religious mythological materials of Mesopotamia and Canaan,  established the concept and relations of the three realms: heaven/ earth/underworld; through which to enter into the context of Hebrew monotheism as shown in the captivity in Babylon, and how the power of Heaven and Hades were compressed and transformed. The article is composed of three parts: the first part mainly analyzes the Mesopotamian story of Inanna (Ishtar) descending into the netherworld, from which religious imagination is to be investigated; the second part elucidates the meaning of Inanna’s replacement by Dumuzi as it appeared in the Biblical literary descriptions; and the third part attempts to explain the concepts of Heaven and Hades in the Hebrew Bible and their transformation.



Mesopotamian Religion and Mythology; Inanna’s Descent into the Netherworld; Hebrew Biblical Studies; Heaven and Hades


Full Text (International Version):

Archie LEESCN JSCC.pdf


Full Text (Simplified Chinese Version): 

Archie LEESCN JSCC.pdf


Abstract & Key Words: 

Archie LEE.pdf