A Look at The Epic of Gilgamesh

Published by Lois Clymer on

We are intrigued by Gilgamesh, a King who lived 4000 years ago! He is the main character in the poem, The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is the oldest or one of the oldest poems we have found. It was written on cuneiform (the kind of writing pictured above on this photo from istock). Gilgamesh is widely accepted as the historical 5th King of Uruk, who reigned sometime before 2000 BC. The Sumerian King List records his reign as lasting for 126 years.

In my book, Sacred Strands, I have a chapter on the Epic of Gilgamesh. This poem contains some biblical and extrabiblical correlation. The city of Uruk is mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 10:10, “The first centers of his (Nimrod) kingdom were Babylon, Erech (Uruk), Akkad and Calneh, in Shinar.” The long reign of Gilgamesh (126 years) which supposes also a long life span corresponds with the life spans of the Biblical patriarchs who lived at that time. Abraham’s father lived to be 205 and Abraham himself lived to be 175 years.

The Epic begins by Gilgamesh bragging that he has seen everything and has experienced all things, and has seen the secret, and handed down things known before the flood. Gilgamesh and his friend, Enkidu, go to the forest to hunt and kill the mighty and evil Humbaba, whose roar was a whirlwind and who had flame in his jaws. Sometime later Enkidu gets sick and dies, and Gilgamesh now has a fear of death and decides to ask the secret of immortality from Uta-Napishtim, who appears to be the Biblical Noah.

Gilgamesh travels a long perilous path to find Uta-Napishtim, including crossing the river of death without touching the waters. When he finally reaches him, Gilgamesh asks Uta-Napishtim how he was able to stand in the Assemblage of Gods to ask for life everlasting.

Uta-Napishtim proceeds to tell the story of the flood. In a long speech he tells how the gods were moved to inflict the flood, how he was told to build a boat, how he was to build it, and how it was divided sevenfolds, and the inside of it had nine compartments. He tells how he made it and the huge amount of raw bitumen and pitch and oil he used. He tells how he had his kindred and family go up into the boat and also the cattle and beasts of the field at the stated time set by the god.

Uta-Napishtim said the wind and flood lasted 6 days and 7 nights and then the sea calmed. On Mount Nimush the boat was lodged. On the seventh day he sent forth a dove which came back to him. He sent forth a swallow which came back to him. Then he sent forth a raven which did not come back to him. He then sent everything out and sacrificed a sheep and offered incense. Uta-Naphishtim tells Gilgamesh that none may know when he will die, nor can anyone avoid death. But he says he will tell him a secret, about a plant that would renew his youth. However, when Gilgamesh tries to get the plant, a snake snatches it away from him.

We find in this flood story many similarities of the Biblical Flood of Noah, which shows they were writing of the same event. The epic itself suggests a lost immortality which Gilgamesh is searching for among his ancestors. This lost immortality is found in the first chapters of Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned, but at that time God promised a Redeemer who would restore what was lost. You can read more about this in my book, Sacred Strands, the Story of a Redeemer Woven Through History which can be purchased here.



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