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The Story of the Flood in Three Gilgamesh, the Metamorphosis and Genesis

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    It is apparent in our class readings, that when the gods are angry at the humans they created, these gods unleash unforgiving rains to flood the earth, and kill the human race. Over the years, there have been various texts about these floods. While the occurrences of the floods themselves are continuous throughout these texts, they have varying reasons for the cause of the floods and different aftermaths or consequences. Three of these texts in particular which tell the story of these floods, are Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell, Metamorphoses by Ovid and Genesis.

    The main factor in these floods was of course the god or gods who created it. Therefore, the floods in each of these three texts were different, because the gods who created the floods were different. Even though a flood occurs in all of the three texts, the cause, the flood itself and the aftermaths of the floods are different. The reasons for the flood depended on the gods who created the flood. In Gilgamesh, the gods were arbitrary because they had no proper reasoning or explanation as to why they sent a flood to kill the human race.

    Because of this, it can be concluded that these gods did not have the wisdom of other gods, like in the other two works. These gods made rash decisions without thinking about the consequences. Gilgamesh’s Utnapishtim explains his story, “I was king once, a long time ago, / when the great gods decided to send the flood. ”(pg181) These gods just decided to send a flood. They don’t give any reasoning. This shows that they don’t have the people in their interest. In Metamorphoses, the god says that people are becoming wicked, “The Iron Age succeeded…and righteousness fled earth. (pg7) Similar to Genesis, this god is aware of what he is doing because he even came down to earth to survey the situation. This god actually wanted to give the humans another chance, unlike the god in Gilgamesh. But when someone tried to kill him, it was the last straw. This god was outraged with the wars breaking out on earth. This shows that this god has a much better sense of what he is doing than the gods in Gilgamesh. The god in Genesis, however, has the best sense of what he is doing, in all three of the works.

    This god is stronger than the gods in Gilgamesh because this god created the world out of nothing, while the gods in Gilgamesh needed clay to create Enkidu. He “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,” so he sent a flood. (6. 5) This god is more aware of what he is doing because he has a justification for causing the flood. He even said it grieved him at his heart. This god is not rash like those in Gilgamesh. He doesn’t want to send the flood, but knows that he has to. In the cause of the floods, it is evident that the god in Genesis had the best knowledge of the situation.

    After him is the god in Metamorphosis, and lastly the gods in Gilgamesh. The floods in the three texts are mostly similar. The flood in Gligamesh however, was a disaster. The gods did not plan it out at all. When the flood came, they could not control it. Stephen Mitchell writes, “Even the gods were afraid. The waters rose higher and higher until the gods fled to Anu’s place in the highest heaven. ”(Page 186) These were the most cowardly of the gods. This shows that these gods could not control the power they had and were not fit to be gods in the first place.

    Jove, in Metamorphosis has more control over the flood than the gods in Gilgamesh. He was aided by Neptune who “let the river horses run as wild as ever they would. And they obeyed him” (page 11) This was a powerful flood, but Neptune had it under control. While the flood in Gilgamesh lasted six days and seven nights, we are unsure of how long the flood in Metamorphosis lasted. An explanation for this can be that since the gods in Gilgamesh could not control the flood, they had to wait it out, while Jove stopped the flood when he saw there was only one man and one woman left.

    Of course the most powerful god, that of Genesis, was able to make the flood last forty days. Genesis reads, “The rain from the heavens was restrained. (8. 2) This gives us the sense of a truly powerful god, with his control over the heavens. The aftermaths in each of these texts were different because the gods had different views on whether the human race should be saved, or completely destroyed. In Gilgamesh, the god Ea tells Utnapistim about the flood by whispering it to a fence. It is not clear if Ea spares Utnapistim in order to help him, or to anger Enlil.

    Here there is a continued sense of randomness with the gods in Gilgamesh. This uncertainty leads us to believe that these gods took the lives of the humans as a game. We see that these gods did not care about the humans because when Enlil sees the ship Utnapistim created, he says, “Who helped these humans escape? Wasn’t the flood supposed to destroy them all? ’(pg189) Enlil obviously wanted to kill all of humankind, and if it wasn’t for Ea, they would all be dead. Enlil wanted to start fresh with the human race. Again, there is no reason why Enlil makes Utnapishtim immortal.

    The aftermath in Metamorphoses is similar to that in Gilgamesh for the reason that the god wanted to kill all the humans on earth. The god did not intend for humans to survive, but two did: Deucalion and Pyrrha. Ovid writes, “There was no better man than this Deucalion, No one more fond of right; There was no woman More scrupulously reverent than Pyrrha. So when Jove saw the world was one great ocean, Only one woman left of all those thousands, And one man left of all those thousands, Both innocent and worshipful, he parted The clouds, turned loose the North-wind, swept them off,

    Showed earth to heaven again, and sky to land, And the seas anger dwindled, and King Neptune Put down his trident, calmed the waves” (pg13) Deucalion and Pyrrha just happened to be rowing on the water at that time, so they were spared. When Jove saw that they were good people, he stopped the flood. This shows that he was more in control than the gods in Gilgamesh. He also cared about the people a little more. But he did stiil expect all of the humans to die, unlike the god in Genesis. The aftermath in Genesis is much better than the aftermaths in Gilgamesh and Metamorphoses.

    The god in Genesis picked Noah to survive because he did not sin. Instead, Noah “found grace in the eyes of the lord. ”(6. 8) The god told Noah to “Make thee and ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt though make in the ark, and shalt pitch it with and without pitch. ”(6. 14) We see that the god in Genesis is much more powerful than those in the other two works because he knew humans survived before the flood ended. In the other two works, the gods found this out after they stopped the flood. The god in Genesis does something different, that the gods in Metamorphoses and Gilgamesh would not even think of doing.

    He established a covenant with the humans he saved. The god says, “And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood: neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth. ”(9. 11) This reflects how much this gods cares about the humans he created. While in the other texts, the gods saved humans either by mistake or to anger another god, the god in this text did it because it was just. Noah committed no sins and did not deserve to die, so he was saved. This god even takes it one step further by leaving a symbol of his covenant.

    He says, “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. ”(9. 13) This god makes a promise and even shows how he will keep that promise. The Gods in Gilgamesh had no sense of unity. When they all agreed on the flood, Ea told Utnapishtim. When the flood came, and the gods were hiding, Aruru says, “How could I have agreed to destroy my children by sending the great flood upon them? ”(Page 186) The other gods were lamenting with her. These gods are not only disjointed, but are also impetuous. This is seen when some of the gods lament over the destruction the flood is bring upon the humans.

    The gods in Metamorphosis and Genesis do not have the unity problem because they both have only one god. The god in Metamorphosis is a little better than that of Gilgamesh because he was not angered when he saw the humans Duecalion and Pyrrha alive. He accepted their lives because they were both innocent and worshipful. There is no sign of Utnapishtim being either of those. However, the god in Genesis is the most favorable because he picked a human to survive beforehand. He did not do it randomly or by coincidence. He picked Noah because he committed no sins in his life.

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    The Story of the Flood in Three Gilgamesh, the Metamorphosis and Genesis. (2017, Jan 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-story-of-the-flood-in-three-gilgamesh-the-metamorphosis-and-genesis/

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