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Comparing the Epic of Gilgamesh Flood Myth and Book of Genesis Biblical Flood Myth

Comparing the Gilgamesh and Genesis Floods

The rendition of the historic, worldwide Flood recorded in Genesis of the Old Testament is similar to the account recorded on Tablet 11of the Sumero-Babylonian version of the epic of Gilgamesh, discovered in the 1800’s by British archaeologists in Assyria. Let us compare the two in this essay.

Alexander Heidel in his book, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels, provides a background for the survivor of the Sumero-Babylonian Flood, Utnapishtim:

Utnapishtim was the son of Ubara-Tutu, the Otiartes, or, rather, Opartes of Berossus. According to Berossus, the deluge hero was the tenth Prediluvian king in Babylonia. Also in the Sumerian inscription he is referred to as king; there he occupies also a priestly office, viz., that of the administrator of the temple provisions of a certain god. In the Gilgamesh epic, Utnapishtim is not invested with any royal power or entrusted with any priestly office; from it we learn simply that he was a citizen of Shurippak (Tablet XI:23) and a man of considerable wealth (XI:70ff). (227)

N.K. Sandars in the Introduction to his book, The Epic of Gilgamesh, sums up the involvement by the pagan gods in the Sumero-Babylonian Flood narrative:

In the Gilgamesh flood Ishtar and Enlil are as usual the advocates of destruction. Ishtar speaks, perhaps in her capacity as goddess of war, but Enlil prevails with his weapon of the storm. Only Ea, in superior wisdom, either was not present, or being present was silent, and with his usual cunning saw to it that at least one of the race of men should survive. (41)

Column 1 on Tablet 11 begins the Sumero-Babylonian Flood narrative (Gardner 226). The sage Utnap…

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…nd his family to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” God promises that “never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” The offering of sacrifice, and its acceptance by God – these are repeated in both accounts of the Flood.


Gardner, John and John Maier. Gilgamesh: Translated from the Sin-leqi-unninni version. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Harris, Stephen L. “Gilgamesh.” The Humanist Tradition in World Literature. Ed. Stephen Harris. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1970.

Heidel, Alexander. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.

Ignatius Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1966.

Sandars. N. K. The Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Penguin Books, 1972.

Flood Myth of Epic of Gilgamesh and Book of Genesis of the Holy Bible

A Comparison of the Flood of Gilgamesh and the Bible

People grow up listening to the story of Noah and the flood. They remember the length of the flood, the dove, and the rainbow very vividly. However, most people do not realize that the story is told throughout many different cultures and with accounts older than Genesis¹s version in the Bible. Although each of the accounts tells of the flood, there are many variations to the story. One such story can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Although the Epic of Gilgamesh is similar to the Genesis version, there are some differences in the days leading to, during, and after the flood.

The days leading to the flood are different as well as similar in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Genesis version of the flood. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the gods decided to send a flood because the people on Earth were noisy. One man, Utnapishtim, was given a dream by one of the gods because of an oath. Contrastingly, in Genesis, God sent a flood to destroy the evils that man had created. He warned Noah about the flood because Noah was good. Both Utnapishtim and Noah constructed boats to survive the flood. Utnapishtim¹s boat was 120 cubits and a perfect cube. It was completed with seven decks that were divided into nine sections each. On the other hand, Noah¹s ark was three hundred cubits in length, fifty cubits in width, and thirty cubits in height. It had a skylight and a door in the side. It was only three stories high. After the boat was constructed, Gilgamesh ³loaded into her all that I (he) had of gold and of living things, my family, my kin, the best of the field both wild and tame, and all the craftsmen²(p. 37). Noah, similarly, loaded his family, food, and a male and female pair of each…

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…oth men were told of the flood. They both constructed boats and filled their boats with animals and their families. Next, they released birds to test the waters, and both made sacrifices. However, the boats were different in construction. The number of days differed in how long the flood lasted, when the waters receded, and when each man left their boats. The birds that did not come back to their boats were also different. It is very easy to see that the flood story can be true based on these two accounts because it is easy to see how two different cultures, the Samarians and the Hebrews, molded the flood story to fit their cultures. Although the stories are different, there seems to be one major common thread, the flood.


Mack, Maynard, ed. World Masterpieces. The Norton Anthology. Expanded Edition. W.W. Norton and Company: New York, 1995.

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