The Old Testament of Gilgamesh
The Old Testament is a compilation of writings that were collected and revised by members of the Hebrew and Jewish society. The information in the text ranges from prophetic advice, strict rules from priests, and early accounts of when things happened in history. The significant and factual material in the ancient book allows us to examine how it connects to the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a fascinating story that has been passed down from generation to generation. This famous legend has earned its reputation through its heroic myth that has lots of rich history embedded in the epic poem. The Epic of Gilgamesh is split into two parts. First part deals with the background of Gilgamesh (king of Uruk) and Enkidu (man/animal created by the gods) and how their journeys intertwine. When they meet at first they are rivals but soon forgive and become friends. They both join forces and are determined to slay Humbaba and later the Bull of Heaven. Soon after they defeat the giants, it has come to a situation in which the gods decide to sentence Enkidu’s death and kill him thus. In the second half, Gilgamesh becomes depressed because of the loss of his best friend Enkidu. This depression causes Gilgamesh to travel on a long journey to discover the secret of having an immortal life. With this background in mind, I will examine the early Old Testament stories such as Jacob and Esau, the flood, and the dreams that Jacob had and correlate those stories with the main characters in the Epic of Gilgamesh such as Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and Ut-napishti.
The appearances in a story tell the reader how a character presents himself. It seems that brothers Jacob and Esau have very similar looks to friends Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Esau and Enkidu seem to have very similar if not identical appearances that seem to have animal like qualities. Ester Hamori adds in her article that “Esau is a wild man, at home in the fields” and “all of him was like a garment of hair”. Esau was so mated in hair that Jacob tried to fool his father by dressing up in animal skins to compare himself to his brother Esau. This explains why Esau had the animal like hairiness that Enkidu also had. Enkidu is comparable to Esau because his appearances were described as a bush of hair from head to toe. He also had animal like characteristics because he raised himself with the animals. He never entered civilization until he meets Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was the opposite; he was civilized and contrasted the qualities of the wild Enkidu. The hero was too fair in appearance and was favorited by many. Likewise did Jacob present himself the same way. Jacob was the favorited child of his twin Esau. He was tamer, liked the indoors, and was known to be “smooth”. Jacob and Gilgamesh seemed to be the favorited ones of the two because they were normal in appearance and social skill. Jacob and Esau were twins and Enkidu was the “feral double” to Gilgamesh. As both pairs seem to be contrary to each other, both seemed complimented one another in a suitable way for them to get through conditions as one.
The dreams that Jacob and Gilgamesh have, display a connection between God, gods and mortals themselves. In Genesis 28 it tells the story about Jacob and how his dreams show him images that he will experience in the future. Jacob was very faithful and obedient to the Lord. In this chapter of Genesis, it explains how Jacob feel into a deep sleep with a stone as his pillow and the Lord spoke to him saying that the ground he is laying on will be the land of his descendants. “All people on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” This showed a connection between Jacob (man) and God. When Jacob awoke from his dream he placed the stone on a pillar, and poured oil over it to dedicate the place to God. Jacob was ready to take on this adventure in that he believed the Lord would watch over him. Gilgamesh on the other hand had many dreams in his expedition. All his dreams foretold the events that were going to happen. Not only did Gilgamesh have dreams, about how he would encounter Enkidu and anticipate his arrival in the future. Enkidu had a dream about his own death and knew that he soon was going to be punished by the gods for doing something he shouldn’t have done. These dreams were ultimately a communication between the gods and the beings. They asked the gods to have dreams so that it would help them accept their own or another’s fate. The characters played different roles at a different time, but they had vivid dreams received from a higher power that excited them up for the trip they had ahead of them.
As the story of Gilgamesh wraps up, we hear about the flood destroying the people because of the sinfulness that was populating the earth. Through this story we see similarities between themes and details of the biblical flood and the Gilgamesh flood. I couldn’t agree more with Ester Hamori in the fact that we see similarities in a general sense. We aren’t shown the verbal parallels or other linguistic evidence of direct copying, because we didn’t witness the accounts ourselves. Seeing both accounts side by side we see that Genesis six through eight has the information we need to compare it to the Gilgamesh account. There are three major points that seemed the most prominent in stories. First, the righteous men who were chosen to lead their ship were obedient to their higher power. In Genesis 6:9 it talks about how Noah was directed by God to build the ark to save his family and all species of animals that existed on the planet. Ut-napishti’s calling came from a dream that was intentional from the gods. He also was ordered by a higher power to save a group of people and the animals as well. Second, the boats themselves would of had to been massive in order to fit all the animals. In content both boats in the stories were huge. As Noah’s boat was rectangular, Ut-napishti’s was square. Despite the shape, they both had a single door and at least one window. Third, after the rain stopped both boats came to a rest on mountains. The mountains were only 300 miles apart from each other even though they are held in a different story and time period. Noah’s boat rested on Ararat and Ut-napishti’s on Nisir. Fourth, sacrifices were made in honor of the survival and for that, God (or gods) were pleased and granted Noah a blessing to populate the earth and Ut-napishti eternal life.
The relationship between Bible stories and the events of the Epic of Gilgamesh have much in common. From the foretelling dreams to how long the flood lasted made an impression on these famous stories. We can see that the characters in the stories share similarities through the journeys that they both endured of hardship and jealousy. The stories were passed down from generation to generation for its significance to mean something to the following generations to come. Reading the accounts of both recognized stories, we see that the characteristics of Esau and Enkidu makes them seem like there twins. Gilgamesh and Jacob both had dreams that were predictions of future events that were given to them by a higher power for them to realize they were the chosen to follow the commands of their leaders. Ut-napishti and Noah had gone through the same event to where they both had a boat, saved people and the animals because they were obedient to their divine instructer. These stories blend together to make one common theme of trust. Noah and Ut-napishti both trusted their God (gods), Esau and Enkidu looked different than their opponents but trusted them anyway, and Jacob and Gilgamesh trusted their calling from the higher power to lead the future generation. Through all of this we see that both the Bible and The Epic of Gilgamesh have an importance in today’s society.