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Many people are aware of the famous Genesis flood story, but few are aware of its similarity to Utnapishtim's Gilgamesh flood story. Their resemblance, which happens to be the main theme of their contrast, is somewhat perplexing. They vary considerably in terms of the events that happened during that time period. The number of days for the events of both accounts differs, but the events that occurred are essentially the same. As a consequence, the information that happened inside undermines their resemblance. Even before 2000 B.C, the story of Gilgamesh flood had already been written. On the other hand, the story of Genesis flood was written 400 B.C. It implies that the Biblical authors may have revised the Gilgamesh story to fit their own historical view and mythology. In spite of many similar events happening in both stories, differences that show the variation between the two versions is revealed in various ways.
In both versions of the story, there is the element of anger. In Genesis, something upsets God and the case is true with Gilgamesh story. However, the reason for gods to get angry in the Gilgamesh story seems illogical. “The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of babel” (Gilgamesh 12). Probably, the gods could have blocked the noise instead of destroying mankind because of making noise. In Genesis, the reason why God eliminated mankind is somehow acceptable. The humankind was so wicked and evil such that “It repented the Lord that he had made the man on earth and grieved him at his heart” (Gen. 6:6). For that reason, God decided to eliminate them.
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Another major difference is seen by how the floods begin and how the events end. In both storms, a great storm is seen to wipe out everyone expects the people who boarded the boat or ark. In the flood story by Utnapishtim, an incredibly destructive flood is created when gods cry. Then, it rains for six days and six nights. When the waters recede, the boat lands on Nisir. It stays on the mountains for seven days. In the Genesis story, God uses his divine power to cause the flood. It rains much longer. Forty days and Forty Nights. When the water recedes, the ark lands on Mt. Ararat. It stayed there for months. Therefore, it is clear that smaller details are different even though the storyline is quite similar.
A significant similarity is shown by a number of people gods or God is willing to save. In both versions of the story, good men are chosen and directed to build an ark or boat. In Genesis, God made the decision to destroy everyone but saves Noah who at the end symbolizes God’s mercy and a chance for the human race to survive. The same case applies to Utnapishtim who is saved and by that, the human race is saved. Another similarity is that both men chosen to save the human race sends birds to find out whether the land has dried.
Another important similarity comes out towards the end of the story. Noah and Utnapishtim are rewarded when they show proper reverence to their gods. Utanapishtim offers sacrifice to the gods and is granted immortality. In the Genesis story, Noah offers a sacrifice to God when he is ordered to leave the ark. For that reason, the first covenant between a man and God is made that, he will never destroy the earth with the flood again. Both men are provided with signs.
Comparing the two versions of the flood stories, one finds a diverse category of similarities and differences. However, it becomes confusing to explain this interconnection and one is left thinking, the Genesis story was developed from the concept of the Gilgamesh flood unless there is another way to prove the differences and similarities.
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Whitcomb, John C., and Henry M. Morris. "The genesis flood." DOCUMENT RESUME 60 (2015): 60.
Kovacs, Maureen Gallery. The epic of Gilgamesh. Stanford University Press, 2014.
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