Flood Essay The Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis are ancient texts that were widely read and are continually examined today. Although both stories discuss global floods enforced by the gods, there are both similarities and differences of time, historical background and context, the way the stories are told, and the animals and people on board the arks. These two stories have similar plots that involve the lessons that teach one to embrace the reality of their mortality, to do right, and stay on the straight and narrow which will lead to reward.
In modern day life, these morals are still enforced and can lead to success, good fortune, and honor. The two floods incorporate long, treacherous processes to gain lengthened life. Utnapishtim from The Epic of Gilgamesh and Noah from the Bible portray the benefits of sacrifices made. The Epic of Gilgamesh was written around 2000 B. C. , while the oldest parts of the Old Testament of the Bible were written around 1000 B. C. This suggests that “The Story of the Flood,” from Genesis, was based off the original “Story of the Flood” from The Epic of Gilgamesh.
In correspondence with time, the duration of the flood was a precise period of time in both texts. However, in The Epic of Gilgamesh, “For 6 days and 6 nights, the winds blew, torrents and tempests and the flood overwhelmed the world,” and in Genesis, “…the rain was upon the earth for 40 days and 40 nights,” (7:12). The time it took to build the ark was approximately seven days for Utnapishtim and up to one hundred years for Noah.
The time period that these two renowned pieces of literature were written are important parts of information that affect the historical background and context. The historical contexts of the two works are similar in the sense that both stories took place in the Middle East. However, after the flood, the ark was grounded on Mount Nisir in The Epic of Gilgamesh while it was grounded on Mount Ararat in Genesis. The Epic of Gilgamesh specifically takes place in Mesopotamia, one of the first civilizations, which explains why this epic was the oldest work of Sumerian literature.
Both stories were passed down and continually reshaped. The Epic of Gilgamesh was reshaped by Babylonians and preserved in an Assyrian King’s library. Although both of the texts were narratives, The Epic of Gilgamesh was written in first person point of view, told by Utnapishtim, and Genesis was written in third person point of view. The authors of both stories are undetermined because The Epic of Gilgamesh does not have a determined single author and many people believe the Bible to be “the word of God. The two pieces of literature have many constant underlying similarities. In relation to the animals and people on board the ark, there are common occurrences with slight variations.
A man was chosen to survive both floods. Utnapishtim in The Epic of Gilgamesh, explained to Gilgamesh, “Ea because of his oath warned me in a dream. He whispered their words to my house of reeds, ‘…tear down your house and build a boat, abandon possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul alive. ” On the other hand, Noah was told to “make thee an ark,” (6:14) because “…Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord,” (6:8) and was “perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God,” (6:9). Both men could bring others upon the ark. Utnapishtim says “I loaded into her all that I had of gold and of living things, my family, my kin, the beasts of the field both wild and tame, and all the craftsmen,” while God informs Noah that “thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee,” (6:18).
Utnapishtim and Noah each brought a male and female of each animal, but in Genesis, Noah took “…every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by the sevens… and of beasts that are not clean by two. ” Man and mankind as a whole were the reasons behind the flood. Specifically, “The uproar of mankind [was] intolerable and sleep [was] no longer possible by reason of the babel. ” in The Epic of Gilgamesh, and, “…God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually,” (6:5), in the Bible.
Once the floods ended, both men sent birds to test for land; a dove, swallow, and then a raven from Utnapishtim and a raven and dove from Noah were used. After the flood, both heroes made sacrifices. Utnapishtim “…threw everything open to the four winds, made a sacrifice and poured out a libation on the mountain top,” using the seven cauldrons, and Noah “…builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean foul, and offered burnt offerings on the altar,” (8:20).
The gods in both stories smelled the “sweet savor,” protruding from the sacrifices. The two stories discussing the destructive floods put into action by the gods portray the morals learned by Utnapishtim and Noah. These morals include: coming to an understanding of their mortality, embracing their humanity, and being rewarded for doing something right. After both floods, the chosen men were granted an “extension of life” or “ensured safety. ” Utnapishtim was granted immortality in The Epic of Gilgamesh.
God made a promise to Noah of the Bible, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake… neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done,” and “I will establish my covenant in you, [Noah],” (9:11). This covenant, or promise, was established in Noah and symbolized by a rainbow. The variations of historical background and context, the way the stories are told, and the animals and people on board the arks illuminate how stories with similar plots, archetypes, symbols, themes, and underlying ideas can still differ from one another and also share many similarities.