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The Flood of Noah vs Gilgamesh Epic

Four variations of a worldwide flood have survived the passage of time. In order of their ages there is the Sumerian Flood Story, the Eleventh Tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, the Atrahasis Epic and the most well know, the biblical Flood of Noah. The first three stories are from Babylonia and the fourth is said to have been written by Moses who was inspired by God to write down the story while he was leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land. Jewish scholars believe that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible commonly referred to as the Torah.

In 1872 George Smith wrote a paper titled “The Chaldean Account of the Deluge” which was a part of the Gilgamesh Epic Story. The clay inscription he was translating from was written in the 7th century B.C. and was discovered in the city of Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria. Nineveh was the largest city in the ancient world with a population of approximately 500,000 citizens. Other fragments of the story date to perhaps 1,000 years earlier.

All three Babylonian stories have many similar details, many of which are found in the Biblical flood account. In all four versions we have a man who built an ark in order to survive a coming flood created by an angry god. The man brought animals onto the ark in order that they too would survive the great catastrophic flood.  The man sends out a series of three birds to see if they could find dry land beyond the watery horizon. The ark survives the flood and comes to rest on a mountain. The man in gratitude for his survival, sacrifices to the gods. At first glance, theses similarities would suggest that the stories are simply different accounts of the same event. But when one takes a closer look at the details, the stories are actually very dissimilar in many major ways despite some broad commonalities.

In the Gilgamesh Epic, the man Gilgamesh is trying to achieve immortality. A relative of his has achieved immortality and is telling Gilgamesh his story as to what he had to do to become immortal. However, Gilgamesh is told that he cannot become immortal by simply copying what his relative had already done. He tells Gilgamesh that the god Ea told him to build an ark and fill it with the seed of all living things. It seemed he had angered the god Enlil and the only way for him to survive was to be inside an ark protected by Ea the god of the ocean. A rain storm came and caused a massive flood that destroyed all of mankind over the course of a week. The ark came to rest on Mount Nisir in Iraqi Kurdistan. The man first sends out a dove then later a swallow and finally a raven that did not return. He then left the ark with his wife and built an alter to the gods who now felt sorry for the destruction of mankind. Out of sympathy, the god Enlil gave the man and his wife the gift of eternal life. But the relative reiterated that this reward given to him was not available to Gilgamesh.

This story is fundamentally a very different story than that of the Biblical flood account. For example, Gilgamesh seeks to be immortal and is told immediately that this is not possible for him. The relative has no information on why the god’s decided to destroy all mankind. The gods were not united in this plan. The god Ea decides to save the relative but no reason is given. The deluge was apparently more terrible than the gods expected and they regretted their decision. The storm lasted only one week. The god Enlil repented for his ghastly and poorly thought-out plan of destruction and the gods rewarded the relative and his wife with eternal life.

The Sumerian Flood Story has only survived in fragments but appears to be the same basic tale only this time it involves a man named Ziusudra who survives a flood, becomes a hero and is rewarded with immortality.

The most recent Babylonian flood story is the Atrahasis Epic. This story is different from the first two but also very different from the Biblical account. This epic begins with a world before the creation of man. At this time there were 3 great gods. The god An who controlled the heavens, Enlil who controlled the earth and Enki who controlled the oceans. There were also seven smaller less powerful gods and the remainder of the gods were force to actually work and tend the earth. The work was very hard and eventually these worker gods rebelled by refusing to perform all the heavy tasks required of them. Enki suggested that the gods unite to create man to do the work. They agreed and Enki with the help of a goddess created man from a combination of clay and the bloody remains of a dead god.

Thus, mankind was created to do the work of the gods. But mankind was eventually found to be a nuisance in that they were noisy and they overpopulated the earth. So, the gods thinned out the population first with a plague then a drought and finally a famine. However, the population was still too large, so the gods decided to end the problem by ending mankind with a flood. The god Enki has the man Atrahasis build an ark to survive the flood. The gods regret their solution because it turns out they in fact need the work of mankind in order for them to exist in a tranquil state. So, they come up with a plan. They call upon a goddess to create a new and improved model of man but this time with some intended design flaws to help stop overpopulation. To help keep down the population, some of the new human females will either not marry, some will not be able to get pregnant, some will miscarry and some will have children who will die in infancy. This way the population will stay in check and there will be no more need to occasionally destroy all of mankind.

This story has its own different set of problems. First, the gods are able to create but at the same time apparently have to work to provide for their needs. Mankind is created as an afterthought to do the work of the gods. They create mankind not knowing the outcome will irritate them because of the noise associated with their activities and they will ultimately overpopulate the earth. They use their powers over nature to kill many people in various ways. However, their solution is again flawed so they decide to destroy mankind forever. They come to realize this too was a mistake. They then knowingly create a new type of man with intentional design flaws so that a large percentage of offspring will die with apparently little or no concern for the emotional welfare of their creation. This story is more about a series of solutions after the flood than before the flood.

The flood story of Genesis has a very long explanatory introduction. It begins by revealing that there is only one Creator God and not a pantheon of lesser gods. This God creates a man and a woman out of love and in His own image. He marries them in a beautiful garden created especially for them. The garden is lush with a multitude of food and fresh water sources. He personally meets with them every afternoon to talk and answer their questions. The only thing God asks of them in return is that they do not eat the fruit of one certain tree. God only requires this of them as a test to see if they are virtuous. He wants to see if they love and respect him as much as He loves and respects them. God allows them to be tested by a fallen angel called Lucifer and they fail. Still, out of an abundance of love, He provides them a way to reconcile themselves to Him through a sacrificial system. He provides them with clothing and the skills to survive and thrive in the world. He sends His creations into the world with a blessing that they be fruitful and multiply. He gives them life spans of almost 1,000 years to help ensure that they establish themselves as the dominate life force of the world just as He intended (Genesis 1:28, Genesis 9:1, 7).

After the fall, Adam and Eve are eventually forcibly escorted out of the garden and we begin to see events take a turn for the worse. Adam initially has two sons named Cain and Abel. Some Jewish scholars believe they were twins possibly born in the Garden of Eden after the fall but before God escorted them out. Thus, God in His mercy, both assisted in their births, and gave the couple time to acquire the necessary survival skills to survive and thrive outside the Garden (Genesis 3:21-24). As adults, the two men get into an argument and in a rage, Cain kills Abel. God meets with Cain and tries to reason with him but he refuses to take responsibility for his action. God is forced to banish him from civilized society. Cain goes into the Land of Nod and founds his own kingdom with its own god and a tribe known as the Canaanites. Then, in the seventh generation of Cain we read that his great, great grandson murders him during a violent fight. Please read paper: “Who Killed Cain". Immediately after this incident we read that some of the angels or “sons of God”, who perhaps at one time served as guardian angels, saw that the human daughters of men were beautiful and began to marry and have children with them (Genesis 6:1-4; Job 1:6, Job 2:1; Jude 1:6-7). This was in defiance of God’s marriage covenant between a human man and a human woman. No doubt Lucifer {Satan} was the mastermind behind this attack on mankind. By corrupting man’s gene pool, he could permanently thwart God’s own prophecy concerning the “Seed of the woman” defeating the serpent (Genesis 3:15). The children, produced from these unholy unions, were a satanic hybrid race of extremely violent men known for their conquests in war. These men were called Nephilim or giants (Genesis 6:4).

Who Killed Cain
The death of Cain was the world’s first perfect crime. In fact, it was so well done that even today, most Biblical scholars read the passages concerning his death but never notice the clues given as to why and how he died and who killed him. In order to
“Sala dei Giganti” by Giulio Romano (Orbetto)

This genetic mutation had spread rapidly throughout the entire earth and in turn, the world was becoming more and more violent. Now mankind had only continual thoughts of violence, vengeance and death. The earth is now saturated with the blood of both wicked and innocent men, women and children (Genesis 6:11-13). Because of the actions of man, God is forced to step in and remedy this situation, or there will be no hope of mankind’s survival (Genesis 6:6-7, 12-13). He first commands that literally the life span of man will gradually decrease from 1,000 years to an average of 120 years (Genesis 6:3).  This will mercifully help reduce the sin debt that each person accrues and will be judged for over their lifetime.

God now looks to find a man who is still righteous and genetically perfect in his generation. In all the world He finds only one man who was named Noah (Genesis 6:8-9). God has Noah and his three sons build an ark to save them from the coming flood tribulation. God gives Noah a building plan that contains very specific materials, design and storage needs to insure the survival of the passengers both animal and human (Genesis 6:14-16). Bible scholars have calculated the timing of the births of Noah’s three sons and have concluded that it took no longer than 75 to 80 years for him to complete the building of the ark. God then directed the animals to enter the completed ark (Genesis 6:18-22). Whether the animals migrated to the ark over a number of years, or were raptured to the site from their land of origin is not stated in Scripture. Noah’s grandfather Methuselah dies at 969 years of age. This was the sign from God that the flood would begin. Noah left the loading ramp down for 7 days to mourn his grandfather’s death and to allow anyone who was repentant of their sins to enter and be saved from the approaching flood. But not a single person took him up on his offer. Finally, Noah with his wife, three sons and their wives went into the ark and God personally closed and sealed the doorway (Genesis 7:7,10,16).

While rain did begin to fall, it was when all the fountains of the great deep burst open that the earth's land liquified as with quicksand and the people with all their homes and possession began to quickly sink into the mud and were buried alive (Genesis 7:11). Today we know that if all the fresh water of the earth were to be pushed up to the surface, the entire world would be covered to a depth of 60 feet. The ark drifted for one full year and came to rest somewhere in the mountain rage of Ararat located in extreme eastern Turkey.

Many Biblical scholars have calculated how many days Noah was in the ark. The average consensus is 365 days. The calculations vary by as much as 5 or 6 days either way. The civilizations of the world at that time based their calendars on a 360-day year according to the cycles of the moon. Therefore, it appears that God chose a 365 day judgement period as a way to subtly inform the world that a year could only be accurately based on the earth’s rotation around the Sun and not the cycles of the moon.

Scripture tells us that mankind had become violent of its own accord. Also that there was an angelic attack on the very genetic makeup of mankind. There were hybrid monsters roaming the earth bringing terror and destruction on civilization (Genesis 6:4). God first attempted to save mankind by lowering his longevity but still mankind was in a genetically induced downward spiral into oblivion. This one move by itself would not rectify the major problem of the corruption of man’s gene pool. God searched and found the only “just” man left in the world to save from the flood.

Noah was 500 years old when he started having children and 600 years old when the flood began. If his youngest son was old enough to be married, then Noah must have been approximately 520 years old when he started construction on the Ark and it took approximately 75 years to finish the project (Genesis 5:32, Genesis 6:18, Genesis 7:6). God then made a covenant with Noah and mankind that the earth would never again be destroyed by water (Genesis 9:12-16). He did this, not because He regretted His decision concerning the flood, but because He had accomplished His goals. He had stopped the seemingly endless cycle of violence of man against his fellow man and had destroyed for a time, the hybrid bloodline of the Nephilim. He also introduced a commandment concerning three new laws. The first was to allow man to eat meat, as the people of God were vegetarians up to this time (Genesis 1:29). The second was that the blood of an animal was not to be ingested. And the third command was for civil laws to counteract the constant issue of man’s inhumanity to man. The civil laws also included capital punishment (Genesis 9:3-7).  God then blessed man and commanded that they “..., Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." (Genesis 9:1,7-11) God even gives Noah and mankind a beautiful seven colored rainbow in the sky as a reminder that no matter the severity of a storm, His covenant with man to never destroy all life again by water is eternal.

“Landscape with the peace offerings of Noah” by Joseph Koch

The specific facts of the Biblical flood; i.e., the moral state of mankind on the earth and the invasion of an angelic host intent on corrupting the genetic blood line of man, is remarkable in its revelations. The construction of the ark from its size and deck divisions down to the waterproofing of the wood are all remarkable in detail. The story does not involve a number of capricious gods bickering among themselves. It does not involve one god bent on the destruction of man while another makes plans to save him. Or, that the gods created man as an afterthought and then decided to destroy him because he was irritatingly noisy and overpopulating the earth. The Genesis story is not about gods deciding to create man a second time only less healthy so that their population is kept under control by the premature death of infants and children. The Biblical account is a story about the one true creator God countermanding the evil of man, and exacerbated by a demonic genetic attack by Satan. The God of Genesis is a long suffering and loving God. One who will not stand by and let the depravity of man get to the point where life is only an unending cycle of cruelty, violence and death with no hope of love, happiness and peace.

The story of Noah literally occurred as it is depicted in the Bible. The story is figurative in that it shows a loving spiritual God who will step into the physical world when necessary in order to save mankind from itself. And the story is prophetic in that whenever the time comes for God to bring an end to an age or dispensation of time, He always protects His people of faith by removing them out of the sea of humanity so that the righteous do not suffer judgement with the unrighteous. God raptured His friend Enoch in order that he would not drown in the coming flood (Genesis 5:24). God allowed His friend Methuselah to die of natural causes before the flood. Noah and his family were safe above the terrible judgment and tribulation of the earth below.

This same desire of God to not destroy the righteous with the unrighteous is found in the story of Sodom and Gomora. There we see the angels of God cannot destroy these perverse cities without first removing righteous Lot and his family to safety (Genesis 19:21-22). In the Book of Jonah, we see a prophet sent by God to the city of Nineveh, the largest and most wicked city in the ancient world. Jonah was sent to tell the city that it would be completely destroyed in forty days unless it repented of its violence and cruelty. The city repents and God explains to Jonah that He did not want to destroy the city if only for the sake of the 120,000 innocent children that lived there (Jonah 4:11). And, at the end of this age, God will rapture His righteous people of faith up into the heavens to celebrate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. While down on the earth, God in His mercy attempts one last time to bring as many people as possible into His will during a 7 year tribulation period. The God of Noah is a thoughtful, merciful and loving God who is patient because He is in Eternity. This means He has all the time necessary to make a righteous, well considered decision when it comes to punishment and redemption. And God has always been willing to change His plans if and when the people change their ways (Jonah 3:9-10). The God of Noah only wanted His creations to love and respect Him and their fellow man as much as He loves and respects them.

It is interesting to note that Noah’s grandfather Methuselah lived to the age of 969. This makes him the oldest living person in recorded history. His name means, at his death the deluge will come. Methuselah personally knew Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, all the patriarch up to Noah, Noah’s wife, his three sons and their wives. Methuselah was able to pass down to every generation up to and including his grandson Noah, the details of the creation story as he was told firsthand by Adam who was told firsthand by God. What a tremendous continuity of firsthand information for the first 1,000 years of creation. In fact, biblical timelines show that Noah was still alive when Abraham was a young man. And Noah’s son Shem is thought by Jewish scholars to have been the King-Priest Melchizedek of the city of Salem that invited Abraham to participated in a literal, symbolic and prophetic communion (Genesis 14:17-20).  Many scholars believe Shem was the first-born son of Noah and thus received the spiritual blessing of God. He founded the tribe of the Shemites later known as the Jewish race. Therefore, to be anti-Jewish is to be anti-Shemite or anti-Semitic.

How The Accounts Are Both Alike And Different

The accounts are alike in that the flood event actually happened. They are different because the flood story was originally passed down orally for thousands of years. When writing was eventually developed in Babylonia or modern day Iraqi around 3,300 B.C., the versions of the story that then existed was scratched into wet clay tablets. The Babylonian tablets we have today are dated to around 2,100 B.C. These tablets have been excavated over the past 150 years. When the flood story was still in oral form, people had the basic outline of the account but apparently no longer the specific details. In other words, they knew a man built an ark because an angry god decide to destroy mankind with a flood. They knew the man was allowed to take his wife and all living things into the ark to save them from destruction. That the world was then flooded by rain for a time. That the rain stopped and the man sent out three birds at three different times to see it there was dry land somewhere beyond the horizon. That the ark came to rest on a mountain and the man, his wife and the animals were all saved. That the man made a sacrifice to the god(s) that was so pleasing to them that the god(s) decide to never flood the earth again.

However, by the time the flood story was written down, thousands of years of oral traditions had taken the original bare bones of the plot and added embellishments for a number of reasons. First, the people telling the story were now pagans. They had lost touch with the one true Creator God and instead lived in a world of many gods that constantly fought among themselves. Many times these battles were fought by proxy using people as pawns to ultimately pay the price for their character faults and poor planning. So now we have the story told in three different pagan versions with slightly different outcomes. The stories were now used to help explain to the reader that because there was a pantheon of gods, one should expect disagreements to exist which will in turn affect an outcome. And, they wanted to encourage the idea that the gods had the power to reward certain men with the greatest gift of all, the gift of immortality. They gave the hero of the story a name and they gave the god(s) involved in the plot the names of the gods they worshiped at that time. They wrote of the gods bringing plagues, droughts and famines because these were major events in their survival and the explanation was that the gods were the cause of these catastrophes. And why were the gods mad? Because man was misbehaving and not making enough sacrifices or donating enough money to the temples. Or sometimes, it was simply that the gods were fickle and imperfect like the men they created. They wrote that the flood lasted one week, included the birds being sent out to find land, kept in the ark resting on a mountain, kept in a final sacrifice with some versions ending with the man being rewarded with eternal life. Again, this was considered the highest reward men could attain.

The Eternal Father Appears to Moses 2"- Jacopo Tinturetto (Robusti)

Fast forward to 1,500 B.C. and Moses is now leading the children of Israel from the delta valley of Egypt into the Promised Land. It is a ten day walk to the southern border of Israel. But the children of Israel showed a complete lack of faith in the promises of God thus the 10 day walk turned into a forty year struggle. During this time period, either the Israelites asked Moses to tell them how the world was created and about the flood, or more likely, God decided to have Moses transcribe word for word how the world was created, why the flood occurred and the rest of the events of Genesis.

Moses as an infant, along with his mother and sister Mariam, had become wards of pharaoh’s daughter named Utnapishtim, or according to Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, Thermuthis. Over a 40 year period he was schooled in the royal palace and appointed commander over an Egyptian military force that saw battle in Ethiopia (Acts 7:20-22). As a student in the palace of Pharaoh, he was taught by some of the most respected professors or Magi in the Middle East. He also had access to the largest known library of the ancient world. Moses no doubt was introduced to the Babylonian and Egyptian stories of the creation of the world and the flood. And no doubt Moses’ mother had taught him the oral traditions of the followers of Yahweh. But Moses also personally met and talked with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-17). Then, over a 40 year period, God spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11). Thus Moses received from God an eyewitness account of the earth before, during and after the flood. He was given unprecedented details of prehistoric events not found in other ancient writings. These events included the down fall of man, the life and death of patriarchs, a satanic attack on the gene pool of mankind, giants roaming the earth and the flood. With the flood story, God told Moses the reasons for the flood, names and locations of the people involved, design plans and materials used in the construction of the ark, its cargo, the scientific hydrodynamics of how the entire earth could be flooded at one time and the duration of the flood to the month and day. All these details of the flood had either been accidently forgotten or intentionally changed over thousands of years. At the same time, Moses was also given the creation story and various important events leading up to the flood. He was also given the genealogy of the patriarchs and their ages from Adam, Cain, Abel and Seth to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his famous son Joseph.

Therefore, the Biblical eyewitness account of the flood as dictated by God to Moses is a much more detailed, believable and meaningful account of an actual event. This account shows a loving and merciful God initiating a well-considered plan to save mankind from itself.

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