The Mayans and the Jewish Midrash


The biblical Enoch was the son of Yered who was the great great grandson of Seth, a son of Adam. Enoch lived 365 years, from 622 to 987 on the Jewish calendar. The beginning of the long count Mayan calendar is taken to be in August of the year 3114 BCE, (-3113). This corresponds to the year 647 on the Jewish calendar. After the Rosh HaShanah holiday in the year 3114 BCE, the year on the Jewish calendar would be 646. From these dates, we can infer that the beginning of the Mayan calendar occurs during the life of Enoch.

According to the Midrash in Seder Hadorot, (Vol 1, p. 89), Enoch served God and despised the wicked people of his generation. He separated from them and hid himself away. One day when he was praying, an angel of God spoke to him telling him to go out from his house and teach the people about the ways of God and the correct ways to live.

In the book Sefer Hayashar, ( see Ancient Tales, ASIN: B000QGVNQS ), we read about Enoch,

He gathered people around him and taught them about God. Word was sent around everywhere announcing that whoever wanted to know the ways of God and the good life should come to Enoch for instruction. Hungry for the truth, people eagerly gathered around him and he taught them the wisdom of God. Thus the people served God all the lifetime of Enoch. Rulers, princes, and judges, all came to hear him. He was loved and respected so much that three hundred rulers proclaimed him king over them. With gentle persuasion he was able to establish peaceful relations between all these rulers. He reigned for two hundred and forty-three years guiding all people in the ways of God.

Seder Hadorot tells that Enoch was the first one to write a book on astronomy. In the pseudepigraph Book of Enoch, a compilation of books detailing the experiences, the prophecies, and teachings of Enoch, there is a book entitled The courses of the Heavenly Luminaries. This is chapters 72 through 82 of the Book of Enoch, and they are devoted to describing the changing times for the rising and the setting of the sun through the solar year, the waxing and waning of the moon through the lunar month and year.

The ancient Greeks identified Enoch with Hermes Trismegistus. The Greeks wrote that Enoch taught the sons of men the art of building cities, the knowledge of the Zodiac, and the course of the Planets. We also find Enoch's association with astronomy and arithmetic in Sefer Yuhasin. In the Book of Jubilees, Enoch was the inventor of the art of writing. This is also so according to Masonic lore. The correlation of these accomplishments of Enoch and the meaning of the term Maya in different cultures is immediately apparent and surely not a coincidence.

The Midrash explains how Enoch obtained his knowledge. In The Zohar, Rabbi Aba said,

A book was indeed sent down to Adam through which he discerned and comprehended the supernal wisdom. [This is the book of The Generations Of Adam.] This book later came into the hands of the sons of Elohim, the sages of their generation, who were priviledged to learn from it and to glean the supernal wisdom. They grasped it and comprehended it. This book was brought down by the guardian of the secrets who is the angel Raziel and was given to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Three guardian angels went before him and guarded the book so that the external forces would not have access to it.

When Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden, he still held on to the book. Yet as he stepped out, the book flew away from him. He prayed and cried out to his Master, and the book was returned to him again so that this wisdom would not be forgotten and the people would endeavor to attain knowledge of their Master.

We have been told that Enoch had a book, which originated from the same place as that of the Generations of Adam. And this book contains the inner secrets of wisdom. (The Zohar, Vol 1, The Kabbalah Centre International Inc., New York, 2003, p455-456)

Shem, a son of Noah, was a fourth generation descendant of Enoch. Eber was a great grandchild of Shem. Eber's first born son was Peleg and his second son was Yoktan (Genesis 10:25). Peleg, פלג, comes from the root meaning to divide. The Torah commentators tell us the Eber prophetically named his first born son, meaning divide, because during the days of Peleg's life, the earth was divided (Genesis 10:25). Yoktan's name is based on the Hebrew root יקטן meaning to make small or belittle oneself in the sense of making oneself humble. From this root arises the adjective קטן , meaning small. The Torah commentators tell us that Eber named his second son Yoktan because he prophetically knew that Yoktan would lead a humble life. Thereby he was rewarded with 13 sons (Genesis 10:26-29).

The Torah does not give information to exactly place Yoktan's time of birth or death, but from the geneologies and ages given in the Torah, his older brother Peleg was born in 1757 and died in 1996 on the Jewish calender. Sefer Hayahsar says that after the incident of the Tower of Babel Peleg died. From this we infer that the building of the Tower of Babel begins just before 1996 on the Jewish calendar which is 1765 BCE on the proleptic Gregorian calendar. This clearly implies that if Yoktan lived as long as Peleg, then Yoktan lived during the time of the Tower of Babel.

Shem's brother was Ham. He had a son Cush. And among the son's of Cush was Nimrod, נמרד, the mighty man and hunter. The root of Nimrod's name is Marad, מרד, which means rebellion. Nimrod was a rebel against God. Nimrod believed that man could survive without God. It was under Nimrod's direction that the Tower of Babel was built so that the people could make a name. It is written

Make no mention of the name of the gods of others. (Exodus 23:13)

The commentators tell us that name in this context means idol. For them to build an idol means they wanted to replace God.

The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, writes that it was at the time that Nimrod was the king and was teaching that it was cowardice to submit to God, that the tower was built. It was built under his organization and direction.

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and being in any degree negligent about the work. And, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than any one could expect.

God saw that their purpose in building the Tower was not good. He divided and confused the people by making them speak many different languages. This stopped the building of the city and the development of the Tower. Then God scattered the people all over the world (Genesis 11:8-9).

The scattering of the people, each people speaking a different language led to the 70 nations, each nation coming from one of the 70 descendents of Noah listed in Genesis chapter 10. The division of the earth (Genesis 10:25) which happened during the life of Peleg, is sometimes explained as this division of the people into 70 nations. But the Hebrew root פלג also can mean division by water. Putting the two meanings together, we get a picture of people being divided by language and then the land being divided by water, physically separating at least some of the groups of the peoples. This is one way that we can understand how all the continents of the world were populated with speaking people. We say speaking people here because Jewish tradition teaches that the distinguishing characteristic of man is that man is a speaking person. Other levels of life may communicate, even with sound, but not with all the linguistic capabilities that man has.

The beginning ancient Mayan civilization occupied the eastern third of Mesoamerica, primarily the Yucatan Peninsula. The earliest archeological evidence associated with the Mayan civilization was discovered in Belize and is currently dated about 1200 BCE. There are some who think that the beginning of the ancient Mayan civilization was about 2000 BCE, but there is no hard evidence for this. According to the Torah, the scattering of the people after the Tower of Babel must have occured around 1765 BCE. So it is possible that one of the Yoktan's 13 sons and his clan was scattered, wandered around, eventually settling in the eastern third of Mesomerica, and named the area Yucatan in honor of his father Yoktan. Particularly interesting is that there is a Mayan word babel and its meaning is confusion, exactly the meaning of Babel in Hebrew. This is surely not a coincidence.

Tower of Babel
Tower of Babel by Flemish painter
Lucas Van Valckenborch (1594)

And the earth was of one tongue, and of common purpose. And it came to pass, when they migrated from the east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar, and settled there. And each one said to his neighbour: Come, let us make brick, and bake them with fire. And the brick served them as stone, and the bitumen served them as morter. And they said: Come, let us build a city and a tower, (מגדל) with its top in the heavens: and let us make a name for ourselves lest we be dispersed across the whole earth.

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of Man were building. And He said: Behold, they are one people, with one language for all: and they have begun to do this! Neither will they leave off from their designs, till they accomplish them in deed. Come let us descend, and there confound their language, that they should not understand one another's language.

And so the Lord scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth; and they ceased to build the city. And therefore the name thereof was called Babel, because there the language of the whole earth was confounded: and from thence the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:1-9)

The Torah speaks of the city and the tower, the tower presumbly to be in the center of the city. When God scattered the people, the building of the city stopped. But what happened to the tower? In the pseudepigrapha, The Book of the Jubilees, we read,

And the Lord sent a mighty wind against the tower and overthrew it upon the earth, and behold it was between Asshur and Babylon in the land of Shinar, and they called its name Overthrow.

It is explained that the name Overthrow is a play on the preceding verb overthrew. But the real name of the tower was Babel.

Flavius Josephus quotes from the Sybil, the name given to pagan oracular seeresses.

The gods sent sent storms of wind and overthrew the tower and gave every one his peculiar language.

The Talmud tells us differently.

A third of the tower was burnt, a third sunk [into the earth] and a third is still standing. (Sanhedran 109a)

Mayan Central Temple Palenque
Mayan Central Temple Palenque

It is interesting that what the Torah calls מגדל, translated as tower, is not the kind of structure in our day that we call tower. A building or structure that is much higher than it is in cross-section and high relative to its surroundings is named tower. In our times, this includes narrow steel towers such as those used for antennas and electrical tower transmission lines. But the biblical meaning of tower is not that. It really corresponds to the first generic meaning of tower: a building or structure that is much higher than it is in cross-section. The renaissance painters often portrayed the Tower of Babel as a structure with circular cross-section, such as that shown here by the Flemish painter Lucas Van Valckenborch. But their portrayal may not be historically accurate. Indeed the stepped pyramid structure, called ziggarats, may be more accurate, similar to the Mayan pryamids.

As mentioned earlier, Yoktan himself had 13 children. Among them are Ophir and Chavilah. The Torah commentators associate these children with the Americas. In the book Seder Hadorot, The Order of The Generations, and in the book Maor Einayim, Illumination of the Eyes, it says that the new world (the Americas) that Columbus discovered is really the land of Ophir. And it is to this land that King Solomon sent his boats once in three years (I Kings 10:11-12) to bring back precious corals from the sea which he used for the temple. If indeed the Land of Ophir corresponds to the Americas, then King Solomon sent his boats to the Belize Barrier coral reefs. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 300 kilometers (186 mi) long section of the 900 kilometers (560 mi) long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancun on the northeast tip of the Yucatan Peninsula through the Riviera Maya up to offshore Guatemala, making it the second largest coral reef system in the world. From this perspective, it is no surprise that one of the 31 states of Mexico is named Yucatan, and is located just north of the Yucatan Peninsula. The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the areas populated by the ancient preclassic Mayan people and as well populated by the later Mayan people of the classic period. The Yucatan is known to have been named from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word Yokatlan, meaning place of richness. The Yucatan itself does not have any precious metal deposits. However, the mountains of Veracruz, where the early Olmec people lived and the area north of Yucatan where the later Aztecs lived do have gold deposits.

As a side note, America in Hebrew is spelled אמריקה and thus has gematria 356. The land of the Chavilah, in Hebrew is spelled ארץ החוילה. This has gematria 355 and one more for the kolel make 356. The land of the Chavilah and America have the same gematria. But there is something yet more interesting. The land of the Chavilah first appears in Genesis.

A river issues forth from Eden to water the garden, and from there it is divided and becomes four headwaters. The name of the first is Pishon, the one that encircles the whole land of Chavilah, where the gold is. The gold of that land is good. (Genesis 2:10-12)

Recall that one of the early motivations for the Spanish conquest of Central America and Mexico was that the conquistadors were interested in pillaging all the gold that could be found. That is why they were particularly interested in conquering the Aztecs, who lived north of the Mayans once they determined that the Aztecs had more gold.

One wonders, therefore, whether there is any evidence from the Mayan culture of an historical connection of them to the Biblical ancestors of the Jews. Indeed, there are at least two such connections. One is found in a manuscript written 1554 in the Quiche language of Guatemala. The Quiche people are descendants of the Mayans. The manuscript contains a brief history of their origin to their greatest king who ruled in the second half of the fifteenth century. This manuscript was translated into Spanish by Dionisio Jose Chonay and into English by Delia Goetz. The title of the manuscript is Title of the Lords of Totonicapan. Here is what it says about the connection:

These then were the three nations of the Quiches and they came from where the sun rises, descendants of Israel, of the same language and customs. ... When they arrived at the edge of the sea, Balam-Qitze touched it with his staff and at once a path opened which then closed up again for thus the great God wished it to be done, because they were the sons of Abraham and Jacob. (Delia Goetz, The Annals of the Cakchiquels; Title of the Lords of Totonicapan University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1953, p170.)

The name Balam-Qitze, a leader in the description given in Title of the Lords of Totonicapan, has a Hebrew cognate. Baal, בעל, is a Hebrew word meaning Lord, Master, owner, possessor. The Torah discusses idol worship of the principal Canaanite idol called Baal. There is also a biblical character Balaam (Numbers 22:5). There is an adjective in Hebrew Qatzar, קצר, which has a form Qitzar which is cognate to Qitze. This leader's name is then Short Master. The Mayans are genetically short measuring about 4 foot 8 inches from archaeological skeletal remains. They were the pygmies of Central America.

To put some perspective on the dates. The Tower of Babel is around 1996 on the Jewish calendar which is 1765 BCE on the Gregorian calendar. Abraham is born in 1948 on the Jewish calendar which is 1822 BCE on the Gregorian calendar, some 48 years before the Tower of Babel. Jacob dies in 2255 on the Jewish calendar which is 1515 BCE on the Gregorian calendar, some 259 years after the Tower of Babel. The history transmitted in Title of the Lords of Totonicapan mentions Jacob. So this history must take place not much earlier than 1515 BCE.

There is another reference linking the Mayans to the biblical ancestors of the Jews. It is in a book manuscript dating from 1566 by the priest Friar Diego de Landa. This is the priest who is infamous for what is known as the Auto de fe event of July 1562 at Mani, at which in addition to burning some 5000 Mayan idols, he burned 27 Mayan hieroglyphic scrolls. Friar de Landa wrote a book whose title in English translation is Yucatan Before and After the Conquest. In the beginning of the book he writes;

Some old men of Yucatan say that they have heard from their ancestors that this country was peopled by a certain race who came from the East whom God delivered by opening for them twelve roads through the sea. If this is true, all the inhabitants of the Indies must be of Jewish descent because, the straits of Magellan having been passed, they must have spread over more than 2000 leagues of territory now governed by Spain. (Friar Deigo De Landa, Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan, Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, English translation by William Gates, Dover, New York 1978, p8.)

All this hints that it was the some of the descendants of Yoktan, particularly descendants of his children Ophir and Chavilah, who eventually settled in the America's carrying with them some of the knowledge of their great ancestor Enoch. It was they who were the biblical forbearers of the Mayans.