Before he created Adapa, Enki felt a strong desire to gain a son of his own. Instead of creating one from clay such as he did with Adapa, he tried to create one through more ‘regular’ means: by trying to conceive a child with his half-sister, Ninhursag.
Keeping it in the family
Enki and Ninhursag both had the same father, but they had different mothers. It was the start of godly civilization, so incest and extramarital relationships were not deemed that much of a problem. So as Ninhursag became pregnant, Enki was overjoyed.
His joy soon turned to disappointment when he found that his firstborn turned out to be a daughter. This was the moment he had waited for, and it turned out that his heir would be a daughter. Yet Enki had a winner’s mentality, seeing opportunities instead of problems. He was, after all, the god of creation. No obstacle would keep him from gaining a son. This is when he started a relationship with his daughter.
By now, we understand that Enki was a weird dude. Things got even worse when his daughter bore him another daughter (who would ironically be her own mother’s halfsister and both Enki’s daughter and granddaughter (and cousin, but let’s not overcomplicate)). Since Enki was not one for giving up, you can imagine what happened next. He started a relationship with his granddaughter, whom he soon got pregnant with the child that would turn out to be his daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter.. and lover.
By now, we understand that Enki was messed up. Can you even imagine how awkward his family gatherings would have been? The pattern of having extramarital relationships with his daughters continued for multiple generations to come until Ninhursag finally decided she had had enough. It is bad enough to find out that your husband has been cheating on you, but to find out that he is in a relationship with your offspring is imaginably way worse. So as she decided that she was fed up with her husband’s lust, she came up with a trap.
She knew her Enki’s desire to ‘consume’ anything that came onto his path, especially when it was forbidden fruit. So she planted eight plants in her garden and explicitly told Enki not to eat from them. These plants were in fact poisoned, but she knew that Enki was a rapscallion that would not be able to resist. And indeed, Enki decided to ignore his wife and ate all eight plants. Each plant infected a vital part of his body.
Having eaten the poisonous plants, Enki was now mortally ill. As he was dying, the other Gods decided that maybe Ninhursag had gone too far with her harsh punishment. They gathered around and each of them healed a part of his body. Unfortunately, the problem was that there were only seven gods helping him, whereas Enki suffered from eight mortal infections. One part of his body remained mortally infected.
The good thing is that this body part turned out to be his rib. Since no one could heal the rib (it is unknown if Ninhursag and her offspring stepped in to participate in the healing process), the gods simply decided to remove it. No point in letting Enki die over a single rib.
As he recovered, Enki had learned a valuable lesson: never trust your wife.