Comparing Gilgamesh to Noah and the Flood
In both Gilgamesh and Noah and the Flood, man’s wickedness leads to death, destruction, and rebirth all caused by billions of gallons of water sweeping the earth’s surface. The flood in both stories destroys most of mankind. The floods represent rebirth and a new beginning for mankind, as well as the gods and God’s wrath. In Gilgamesh, the gods decide to destroy mankind by flooding the earth for six days and nights. Utnapishtim is chosen to build a boat in order to restart mankind after the flood. In the Bible God also decides to flood the earth due to the increase in wickedness.
God chooses Noah to build an ark and store seven pairs of every clean animal and two of every other kind of animal on it so the earth can have a fresh start. God says to Noah: “Go into the ark, with all your household, for you alone have I found righteous before Me in this generation. Of every clean animal you shall take seven pairs, males and their mates, and of every animal with is not clean, two, a male and its mate; of the birds of the sky also, seven pairs, male and female, to keep seed alive upon all the earth.
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For in seven days time I will make it rain upon the earth, forty days and forty nights, and I will blot out from the earth all existence that I created.”(Genesis, pg. 171-172)
This quote describes how long God will have the rain go for. It also gives orders to Noah from God to collect all the animals. Noah and his family are the only ones chosen by God to survive the massive flood. After living right outside Houston for so many years, the flood in Gilgamesh seems more realistic because it only rains for 6 days and nights. I can’t imagine it raining here for 40 days and nights. God Promises Noah he will never flood the earth again by creating a rainbow. He describes it by saying:
‘I now establish My covenant with you and your offspring to come, and with every living thing that is with you. – birds, cattle, and every wild beast as well – all that has come out of the ark, every living thing on earth. I will maintain My covenant with you: never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”(Genesis pg. 174) This is God’s way of letting Noah know that he will never again flood the earth again.
In Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim is chosen to survive the great flood because he too is faithful to his lord, God Ea. They each prepare for their journey by building a large boat and bringing with them two of every animal and their families. Noah’s ark is thirty cubits high, and three stories while Utnapishtim’s boat is two hundred feet tall, with six stories.
When asked to build this huge ship Gilgamesh replied: “When I had understood I said to my Lord, Behold, what you have commanded I will honour and perform, but how shall I answer the people, the city, the elders?”(Gilgamesh pg. 146) This proves that Utnapishtim, like Noah, was true to his Lord, God Ea, and was willing to do whatever he was asked to do.
Utnapishtim didn’t know what to tell his people about where he was about to go so Ea responds: “Tell them this: I have learned that Enlil is wrathful against me, I dare no longer walk in his land nor live in his city; I will go down to the Gulf to dwell with Ea my Lord.”(Gilgamesh pg. 146)
This quote tells Utnapishtim what to say to his people about where he is going without letting them know what is about to happen. When onboard the ship he sends out a dove, swallows, and a raven in hopes of finding dry land somewhere beyond. In Genesis, Noah sends a raven and three doves in hopes of an end to the great flood.
In conclusion, there is an obvious relationship between the two flood accounts of Gilgamesh and Genesis. The widespread nature of flood traditions throughout history has become part of the human race. Dating from the earliest accounts of Gilgamesh that are assumed to be older than those from Genesis.
Although, the Biblical account had been preserved either as an oral tradition or written by hand and passed down from Noah, thereby making it actually older than the Sumerian accounts which could just be restatements but fixed up to fit their culture.
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