The Epic of Gilgamesh compares to the Bible in many different ways. The epic has a different perspective than the Bible does. This paper is a contrast and comparison between the two books. The three main points of this paper will be the Creation, Flood and the Hero.
The way these two books start out is creation. This is the first similarity that we can state. God created man out of the earth, “In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth”. In the epic, Auru, the goddess of creation created a man called Enkidu, she molded him out of clay. He was the keeper of the forest and brother to Gilgamesh. Another similarity is the fall of man and the search for everlasting life. The snake is represented in both of the stories.
Gilgamesh is searching for everlasting life, and the everlasting life is within a flower. Gilgamesh finds the flower but is confronted by the snake and drops it. However, in Genesis, a snake confronted Adam and Eve. It was Eve who would not have even thought about eating the forbidden fruit without the snake tempting her. She then turns around and offers the fruit to Adam. This causes them to know about sin. As a result of their sin it continues throughout all mankind. This causes God to Flood the earth.
When the flood came it was all over the world in both of the books. Noah and Utnapishtim were both righteous men. They were both told to build a boat and they both complained about it. The flood was a result of man’s wickedness. Utnapishtim said “the world teemed, the people multiplies, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamour”. The noise was so harsh that they agreed to “exterminate mankind”. Genesis states that “the earth was filled with violence” and that the world was “corrupt” . So God told Noah that “the end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth”. The difference here is the way that the way the gods/Gods got the idea to destroy the Earth.
Since man was sinning and making all this noise God wanted to destroy his creation and start over. The flood came by heavy rains in both Genesis and Epic of Gilgamesh. The flood was different by several of the following ways. The first thing to note is who instructed Noah to build a boat? The instruction in Genesis was Yahweh (God). Now in the Epic, there was an assembly of gods. Second is the whole dynamic of the boat structures. The height, width, compartments, and the shape. Noah’s boat was three stories high and Utnapishtim’s was six stories high. The shape of Noah’s boat was rectangular and Utnapishtim’s was square. On Noah’s boat the only human passengers allowed on the boat were family members which was his three sons and their wives and of course, Noah’s wife. Utnapishtim’s boat contained family members. A few other people were permitted to aboard the Boat.
Another aspect of the flood is the length. The length of the flood in Genesis was forty days and forty nights, whereas, in the epic the flood only lasted six days and six nights. When the rain ceased and the sun was out, both of the heroes needed to know if there was land out there. Noah and Utnapishtim sent out birds. This concept is the same but the types of birds were different. The birds that Noah released to find land was a Raven, and three doves. The birds that Utnapishtim released to find land was a dove, a swallow, and a raven. When Noah finally landed, he was on Mt. Ararat. The mountain that Utnapishtim landed on was Mt. Nisir.
They both sacrificed after they reached land and they both were blessed. God made a covenant with Noah, saying that he will never flood the earth again. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim was given eternal life. Whereas, man received everlasting life at creation.
The two heroes have many qualities about them that are the same as well as different. Noah and Utnapishtim were the heroes. The difference between them basically was that Utnapishtim obeyed many gods. Each god had a different job to do. One that created him, a different god that was the keeper of nature and animals and another one for the weather. At the end of the book there is a special page that has a character description. For Utnapishtim it says “ Old Babylonian Utnapishtim, Sumerian Ziusudra; in the Sumerian poems he is a wise king and priest of Shurrupak.
He is the son of Ubara-Tutu, and his name is usually translated, ‘He Who Saw Life’. He is the protégé of the god Ea, by whose connivance he survives the flood, with his family and with ‘the seed of all living creatures’; afterwards he is taken by the gods to live for ever at ‘the mouth of the river’ and given the epithet ‘faraway’; or according to the Sumerians he lives in Dilmun where the sun rises.” “There were so many gods responsible in this man’s life. However in the book of Genesis, Noah had only one God. This God created and destroyed mankind and he then made a covenant with Noah and then he repaired the damage that he caused. Noah had a special relationship with Noah. In the Bible it decries Noah as a righteous man, who loves the Lord.
In conclusion, these to books are so much alike yet, so different. The comparison between Genesis and the Epic of Gilgamesh is remarkable. There are some things that are hard to decipher, but most was understandable. The Epic of Gilgamesh was hard to get started on, but was easily finished.
- The Holy Bible. KJV. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville. 1984.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin Books, London. 1972.