In Genesis of the Old Testament the account of the Flood approximates 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.
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 Utnapishtim from Shurippak (100 miles south of Babylon), says:
The great gods stirred their hearts to make the Flood.
[. . .] Build an ark.
[. . .] Load the seed of every living thing into your ark,
the boat that you will build.
Let her measure be measured;
let her breadth and length be equal.
Cover it with a roof as the abyss is covered. (Gardner 226)
There is no reason given by Utnapishtim for the deluge. On the contrary, the Judaic version of the Flood in Genesis states in 6:5-8 a very clear, explicit reason for the Flood:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that very imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the L...
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... and the creatures; then he builds an altar to the Lord and offers burnt sacrifice. The Lord is pleased so that he tells Noah and 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.
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.
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