Comparing the Epic of Gilgamesh Flood Myth and Book of Genesis Biblical Flood Myth

argumentative Essay
1787 words
1787 words

Comparing the Gilgamesh and Genesis Floods

The rendition of the historic, worldwide Flood recorded in Genesis of the Old Testament is similar to the account recorded on Tablet 11of the Sumero-Babylonian version of the epic of Gilgamesh, discovered in the 1800’s by British archaeologists in Assyria. Let us compare the two in this essay.

Alexander Heidel in his book, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels, provides a background for the survivor of the Sumero-Babylonian Flood, Utnapishtim:

Utnapishtim was the son of Ubara-Tutu, the Otiartes, or, rather, Opartes of Berossus. According to Berossus, the deluge hero was the tenth Prediluvian king in Babylonia. Also in the Sumerian inscription he is referred to as king; there he occupies also a priestly office, viz., that of the administrator of the temple provisions of a certain god. In the Gilgamesh epic, Utnapishtim is not invested with any royal power or entrusted with any priestly office; from it we learn simply that he was a citizen of Shurippak (Tablet XI:23) and a man of considerable wealth (XI:70ff). (227)

N.K. Sandars in the Introduction to his book, The Epic of Gilgamesh, sums up the involvement by the pagan gods in the Sumero-Babylonian Flood narrative:

In the Gilgamesh flood Ishtar and Enlil are as usual the advocates of destruction. Ishtar speaks, perhaps in her capacity as goddess of war, but Enlil prevails with his weapon of the storm. Only Ea, in superior wisdom, either was not present, or being present was silent, and with his usual cunning saw to it that at least one of the race of men should survive. (41)

Column 1 on Tablet 11 begins the Sumero-Babylonian Flood narrative (Gardner 226). The sage Utnap...

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...nd his family to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” God promises that “never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” The offering of sacrifice, and its acceptance by God – these are repeated in both accounts of the Flood.


Gardner, John and John Maier. Gilgamesh: Translated from the Sin-leqi-unninni version. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Harris, Stephen L. “Gilgamesh.” The Humanist Tradition in World Literature. Ed. Stephen Harris. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1970.

Heidel, Alexander. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.

Ignatius Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1966.

Sandars. N. K. The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Penguin Books, 1972.

In this essay, the author

  • Narrates how noah opened the window of the ark and sent forth a raven to see if the waters had subsided from the earth.
  • Explains that the sumero-babylonian flood narrative continues with a similar technique used by utnapishtim for determining the end of the flood.
  • Explains that utnapishtim offers sacrifice, whose fragrance appeals to the gods, who gather around him.
  • Analyzes how god tells noah and his family to go forth from the ark and offer burnt sacrifice. god promises that "never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."
  • Compares the sumero-babylonian version of the epic of gilgamesh with the one recorded on tablet 11 by british archaeologists in assyria.
  • Explains that there is no reason given by utnapishtim for the deluge. the judaic version of the flood in genesis states in 6:5-8 a very clear, explicit reason: the lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.
  • Narrates how the sumero-babylonian flood narrative continues with the measurements and construction of the ark.
  • Explains that noah's ark has twice the number of floors as noah’s. the jewish old testament establishes reasons for the flood, then proceeds with specific building instructions to noah.
  • Compares genesis omits considerable detail in the construction of the ark, compared to the sumero-babylonian flood narrative.
  • Explains that nisir is sometimes identified with the biblical ararat (238). in the six hundredth year of noah's life, the waters prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth.
  • Explains gardner, john and john maier's gilgamesh: translated from the sin-leqi-unninni version. harris, stephen l., and heidel, alexander.
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