Professor Andy Stanfield
27 January 2018
The Two Great Floods
Chaos, madness, destruction, and the end of the world as was foretold is a common theme shared between the stories of “The Epic of Gilgamesh” and “Noah and the Flood”. It is amazing that despite these two stories are from different time periods they have many similarities and differences. The stories seem to be intertwined, which makes one wonder which one could have truly occurred? They both deal with a great flood caused by the gods to eradicate mankind.
In the story “Noah and the Flood”, the world was in a state of absolute corruption. The sons of God would come down to mate with humans and gave spawn to Nephilims. Nephilims were regarded as “humans of yore” because they had been born from angels and humans (122). These atrocities born between humans and sons of God are only part of the large corruption on the earth that led God to desire the destruction of the human race. The Lord began to see humans as the epitome of evil. This saddened Him greatly, and as a result God wanted to destroy His creations and start from scratch. Although there was corruption throughout the world, God found favor in Noah, because he was still a righteous man. Noah lived his life in a just manner. He always walked with God. This lead God to confide in Noah his plan to eradicate mankind with a flood. He instructed Noah to build an ark, and to take his family along with pairs of each animal into it. There were then to wait out the flood that God would make rain down for forty days and forty nights. The water surged over the earth for another one hundred and fifty days. As soon as the water subsided, Noah exited the ark and made an offering to the Load. God then decided to make a covenant with Noah stating that he will never destroy humankind with a flood again. He died at the age of nine hundred and fifty years.
“The Epic of Gilgamesh” can also be referred to as Utnapishtim flood story. This is because the flood happened to Utnapishtim, and “The Epic of Gilgamesh” tells an account of Gilgamesh’s pursuit of immortality after the great flood. Gilgamesh was supposedly two-thirds gods and one-third man. It was after the death of his best friend Enkido that he realized that all me must die. This realization led him to set out on a quest to find the secret of immortality. This quest led him to Utnapishtim. Utnapishtim then told Gilgamesh about the great flood which he survived. He told Gilgamesh that the gods once had a meeting in the ancient times and were resolved to eradicate mankind by a huge flood. This was because the gods were annoyed by the uproar which humans had made. Ea, the god of wisdom had decided to go against he wishes of the gods and told Utnapishtim in a dream to build an ark, so that his family along with several of every living creature might survive the disaster. Utnapishtim did what the gods asked of him and built the arc. After the water had subsided, Utnapishtim left his ark and made a blood sacrifice to the lord. The gods regretted their decision and promised never to destroy mankind again, and they rewarded Utnapishtim by making him immortal. Utnapishtim ended by telling Gilgamesh that no one could assemble the gods again to obtain immortality, but there was a plant under the sea which could grant him his wish of immortality. Gilgamesh obtains the plant, but it is snatch away by a serpent and he gives up his quest of immortality. He decided to resign to the fate of living with death, but he also decides to enjoy his limited time on earth. He believed that mankind would obtain immortality through their ongoing civilization, even if individual man did not live for eternity.
The two main stories may be from different civilizations, but the main plot between the two stories are very similar. In both stories, the gods are angry with mankind and resolve to destroy it with a flood. The gods in both stories also saw one human who they deemed fit to live and told him to build an ark. The boats were built with specific instructions in order to withstand the torrents of rain. Both men followed the instructions of the gods and built arks and weathered out the flood. Once they decided the flood had subsided, the two men sent out birds to see if it was safe to step out. The idea behind this was that if the birds had found a place to perch, and did not return to the ark, it would mean that the earth as dry. Once they stepped out of their respective arks, both men made a sacrifice to the gods. The gods accepted the offerings and blessed both Utnapishtim and Noah. The gods then regretted their actions which led to the destruction of mankind and promised to never destroy the human race again. One thing both Noah and Gilgamesh had to accept was the ultimate powerlessness of not being able to control the inevitability of death. Gilgamesh came to terms that every human had to eventually and realized that he should enjoy his time on earth, and in the joy that anything he and mankind creates will outlast the ands of time. Noah may have lived for nine hundred and fifty years, but he died as well.
Although the plots of the stories are similar, there are numerous differences included in the detail of the stories. One difference is that Noah receives the instructions to build the ark directly from God, whereas Utnapishtim receives the instructions in a dream from Ea. Another difference is in the instructions of how to build the ark. Noah was instructed to build ark four hundred and fifty feet long, seventy-five feet wide, and forty-five feet wide. Gilgamesh built ark one hundred and fifty-five feet high, and it was one hundred and seventy-five feet wide. When the flood had passed, and the earth had dried up, both Noah and Utnapishtim were blessed by the gods. The only difference was that Utnapishtim was given immortality.
The stories also had a difference in the way of worshiping the gods. In the “Epic of Gilgamesh”, they practiced polytheism. Polytheism is the worship of many gods. The humans worshipped a council of a gods. Each of the gods represented a different virtue in life. The humans in “Noah and the Flood” practiced monotheism. Monotheism is the worship of one god, and in Noah’s story the humans worshipped the God Yahweh.
Another difference is in the motives of the God’s. Yahweh destroyed mankind out of love. He could not stand to see his creations filled with corruption. They were the epitome of evil and the sight of this disgusted Yahweh. He wanted to destroy them in order to start over again, but he wasn’t unfair. Amongst all the humans in this corrupted world he chose to allow Noah to live, because he ha lived a righteous life. In “Epic of Gilgamesh” the gods decided to destroy mankind, because they were annoyed by the noise the humans generated. It was not out of love, but they did it our of rage and hate. The council of gods decided to eradicate all of mankind, but it was thanks to Ea betraying the gods that humankind survived.