Comparing the Great Flood in Epic of Gilgamesh and the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark

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Comparing the Great Flood in Epic of Gilgamesh and the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark

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. The story of Noah’s Ark, found in the Christian Bible, seems to do the same thing; teach obedience to God.
     Many aspects of both stories are the same. Both sagas start with the earth being extremely populated, with no foreseen break in the continuation of a booming culture. The earth was too full. People were rowdy and reckless. Crime was widespread and grew day to day. The difference pertaining to this, is the reason the flood was sent.
     Noah’s story rules that the flood was sent because the earth had become corrupt and filled with violence, (Genisis, 6). The only way to destroy this violence was to drown everyone but the chosen few. These chosen few were hand-picked by God as good people to start a new, more wholesome and obedient civilization. Gilgamesh’s story says the reason for the flood was the volume the people created. The noise was intolerable and the gods insisted on ending the racket at once, (Duiker, 20).
     The singular reason Gilgamesh was spared is that he was informed of the flood by Ea, the water god, through a dream. Ea was one of many gods in this time. He told him to build a boat of equal width and length. He was to tear down his house for wood and tell the curious townspeople that he was instructed to leave the city and go out to sea so as to please the gods. Ea also instructed him to take the seeds of life onto the ship with him. Meaning two of each animal, enough food for them and his family to eat for some time, and whatever grain was left over would be planted once the water receded, (Duiker, 20) .
     Noah was also instructed to do the same. Only his orders came from the one and only God. The Jewish culture believes in one supreme being. God told Noah ...

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...o, there is one known flood that occurred in ancient times. The Black Sea used to be smaller than it is now. Archeologists have proven this by finding remnants of structures below the present water level. The water also used to be fresh, not salt water. When the ice from the Ice Age melted, the lake started to dry out because the rivers began to flow backwards towards the sea. Then the ocean water rose very high and salt water rushed back into the empty sea, (Lecture, 9/7/1999).
     With so many different cultures trying to explain a great flood, there are bound to be differences in each account. The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark are different in small details. The fact that the two stories are so close in account to each other, with regard to general storyline, is quite amazing when considering the fact that these two cultures are so very different.


1. Duiker, William J. and Spielvogel, Jackson J. World History, Comprehensive Volume, Second Edition. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1998.)

2. (Genesis 6-9.)


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