Heroic Pursuits in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament Flood Myths

Exclusively available on PapersOwl
Updated: Sep 03, 2023
Cite this
Date added
Pages:  5
Order Original Essay

How it works

The Ancient Narratives of Cataclysmic Floods

There have been various flood stories identified from ancient societies’ sources spread around in many places. The accounts that were found on cuneiform tablets, which include the oldest enduring tales of epic floods, have clear similarities. The Sumerian flood is a myth in which Sumerians were a non-Semitic, non-Indo-European people who lived in southern Babylonia from 4000-3000 B.C.E. The Old Testament (flood myth) was connected to the same myth. The Sumerian flood myth and the Old Testament flood myth both express the actions and sacrifices taken to remain or be powerful.

Need a custom essay on the same topic?
Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay!
Order now

Utnapishtim’s Tale: A Glimpse into the Sumerian Epic

The Sumerian flood myth found in the Deluge tablet was the epic of Utnapishtim, who heard the Gods’ plan to destroy humanity. In response to this, he constructed a vessel that delivered him from great waters. This highlights how the story of a great flood that destroyed the Earth was not unique to the Hebrews, who recorded it in the Bible. The mid-nineteenth century was a time when many Western people began to doubt the historical truth of the Bible. For many centuries, the story comforted people. Scholars from various young fields, geology, archeology, paleontology- were producing evidence that Earth was much older than anyone thought.

They also believe that stories of the adventures of Gilgamesh, the Sumerian hero, that existed in the oral tradition of Sumer were first written down in approximately 2100 B.C.The Sumerian hero Gilgamesh traveled the world in search of a way to cheat death. On one of his journeys, he came across an old man, Utnapishtim, who told Gilgamesh a story from centuries past. The Gods brought a flood that swallowed the Earth. The hearts of the Great Gods moved them to inflict the flood.

They were told to tear down a house and build a boat. Abandon wealth, seek living beings, spurn possessions, and keep alive living beings! Make (the seed of) all living beings go up into the boat. Whatever I had, I loaded on it; whatever silver I had, I loaded on it. Whatever gold I had, I loaded on it. All the living beings that I had I loaded on it, I had all my kith and kin go up into the boat, all the beasts and animals of the field and the craftsmen I had to go up,” he mentioned. The sun God, Šamaš, had set a stated time: ‘In the morning I will let loaves of bread shower down and in the evening a grain of wheat! Go inside the boat, seal the entry!’ That stated time had arrived. In the morning, he let loaves of bread shower down, and in the evening, a grain of wheat. All day long, the South Wind blew, blowing fast – and then the flood came, overwhelming the people like an attack. Six days and seven nights came the wind and flood, the storm flattening the land.

When the seventh day arrived, the storm was pounding. All day long – quiet had set in, and all the human beings had turned to clay. When a seventh day arrived, he sent forth a dove and released it. The dove went off but came back to him. No perch was visible, so it circled back to him. He then sent forth a swallow and a raven, but only the swallow circled back. As they arrived, all Gods were shocked because the flood was supposed to diminish every human, as for Utnapistim and his wife, who were both human beings. Enlil went up inside the boat and, grasping his hand, made him go up.

He had his wife go up and kneel by his side. “He touched our forehead and, standing between us. He blessed us: ‘Previously, Ut-napištim was a human being. But now let Ut-napištim and his wife become like us, the Gods!” Utnapistim mentioned. They were told they must not lie down for six days and seven nights to be as immortal as them. The God Ishtar created the rainbow and placed it in the sky as a reminder to the Gods and a pledge to mankind that there would be no more floods.

Gilgamesh’s Quest for Immortality

Gilgamesh was trying to become immortal and a God. He was challenged to not sleep for a week. If he wished to become a God and immortal, he’d have to stay on his feet and awake for seven nights and six days to prove he was as weak as a human. Gilgamesh was going to try and deceive. Gilgamesh obediently squatted down and tried to stay awake. He was struggling to stay awake, but sleep eventually overtook him. Utnapishtim’s wife advised her husband that Gilgamesh would try to deceive him and say he had been awake. His wife each day adds a loaf of bread until he awakes. Since Gilgamesh made a long, difficult, and crazy journey to meet Utanapishtim, Utanapishtim generously sent him back with a secret thing created by the heavenly Gods. The secret was a plant, “This plant cannot make you live forever, but it will keep you young and strong all the days of your life,” mentioned Utanapishtim.

Gilgamesh lost the plant on his journey home. As they walked towards their city, Gilgamesh admired his city and told Urshanabi to pay attention to the strong walls in the city of Uruk. “I built these walls on a foundation created in ancient times by the seven wise men, who brought knowledge to our land,” Gilgamesh proudly mentioned. Gilgamesh was apparently a real king of Uruk, sometime between 2700 and 2500 B.C. The writings of the time showed that the people valued justice, freedom, and compassion. Gilgamesh inscribed the travels upon stone tablets that were placed on the strong walls of Uruk so that his people could gain wisdom and remember him.

The Old Testament’s Flood Story

The flood myth, the Old Testament, recounts God’s choice to restore the Earth to its pre-creation condition of crazy water madness and afterward change it in an inversion of creation. The account has exceptionally solid similitudes to parts of the Epic of Gilgamesh, which originated before the Book of Genesis. A worldwide flood, as written, conflicts with the physical discoveries of geography and paleontology. A part of creationism known as flood geology is a scientific aim to contend that such a worldwide flood really happened.

The Bible and God were mad at people because they all turned on God. So God said he would wipe everyone out for not believing in him. He told Noah to build an ark, and he gave him a plan and blueprint on how to build it. Noah tried to warn people, but since everyone had turned on God, they considered him crazy. God told him to get him and his family on the ark. Noah was given instructions to take two animals of every kind, one boy and one girl, with them on the ark. They were in the ark for 40 days while the storm was in progress. Meanwhile, everyone died. After the days passed, they sent a dove to see if it was good to come out. The dove returned but with a plant to indicate the flood was over.

Comparing the Myths: Parallels and Distinctions

Both Gods wanted to get rid of humanity. The difference is that in Noah’s Ark, the people didn’t want to save themselves. As for the other myth, they banished everyone without them knowing. Many of the same ancient stories can be found in different cultures. Each story differs in a small way, but the general idea remains synonymous. One story that is paralleled in several cultures is the legend of a great flood. The epic of Gilgamesh resembles the Bible’s story of Noah’s Ark, but specific details differ in several aspects. The story of Gilgamesh originates from twelve fire-hardened mud tablets, written in cuneiform, in the Mesopotamian culture from around 2500 B.C.E. It has been passed down through generations for centuries, teaching obedience to Gods.

There have been various flood stories identified from ancient societies’ sources spread around in many places. Gilgamesh and Noah both struggle with sacrifices to become powerful in the myths of The Sumerian flood and Old Testament flood. But these sacrifices lead to a strong sense of personal development on who they are as gods.


  1. George, A. R. (2003). The Babylonian Gilgamesh epic: Introduction, critical edition and cuneiform texts. Oxford University Press.
  2. Kramer, S. N. (1963). The Sumerians: Their history, culture, and character. University of Chicago Press.
The deadline is too short to read someone else's essay
Hire a verified expert to write you a 100% Plagiarism-Free paper

Cite this page

Heroic Pursuits in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament Flood Myths. (2023, Sep 03). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/heroic-pursuits-in-the-epic-of-gilgamesh-and-the-old-testament-flood-myths/