The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Book of Exodus

One of the most famous works of the Sumerian literature is the Epic of Gilgamesh ”“ the collection of the Sumerian legends, which later were translated to the Akkadian language. The tables with the Epic were found in the king Ashurbanapal’s library. The Epic tells about the king of Uruk Gilgamesh, his friend Enkidu, and searching of the immortality secret. One of the chapters is about the history of Utnapishtim, who saved the humanity during the world flood. This fact is close to the biblical story about the Flood (“He who restored living things to their places, Those which the Flood had destroyed”), thus we can even make the supposition that the Epic of Gilgamesh was even known by the authors of the Old Testament. And it is possible to suppose that both stories are about the same event, which was fixed in the people’s memory independently. The Epic of Gilgamesh, the famous king of Uruk in Mesopotamia, was written during times, which were forgotten till the nineteenth century, when the archeologists began to explore the ruins of the Middle Eastern cities. Till that time the history of quite long period of time, from Abraham to Noah, contained only in two chapters of Genesis. In this collection of legends about the Gilgamesh we recollect the events of that mysterious time.

The main examination for Gilgamesh is not the struggle with the keeper of the wild cedar forest Humbaba (or later Hubaba), but the overcoming the temptation of the goddess Ishtar (Inanna). Powerful goddess suggested to the hero everything about he could only dream before his meeting with Enkidu ”“ power in the whole world, wealth, immortality”¦ But Gilgamesh, ennobled by his friendship with person of the nature, rejected Ishtar’s presents and justified his choice by the arguments which Enkidu could give: enslavement of the animals (curbing the freedom-loving horse, entrapping the lion, the transformation of the gardener into the spider, the destiny of which is hopeless labour).

It is should be mentioned here that the idea of hostility between the civilization and nature, injustice of the relationships, and power, which were set by gods, and which turned the humanity into slaves of profit and ambition firstly appeared then – at the beginning of the civilization. Debunking the merits of Ishtar, the poem’s author turned ambitious Gilgamesh to the rebel theomachist.

Without any doubt scientists all over the world have considered the similarities between Epic of Gilgamesh and the Old Testament. Till present day scholars argue how much of the Old Testament is closely connected to the old pagan stories. But in any case these similarities are obvious and people who study the Bible (regardless of his or her religion) should know about them. This courageous and wise epic poem, heroes of which are upholders of the humanity’s good and theomachists is opposite to the idea of the fear of God and humility, which we can see in the Book of Exodus, according to which Moses called to the obedience to God and fulfillment of all His wishes and exhortation. We can notice that in the Epic of Gilgamesh characters of gods and goddesses are shown from the bad side: they are cruel and authoritative, but in the Book of Exodus God is a guiding light for the Hebrew people, and He chose Moses as a leader of his people, who was able to provide them better life. And this mission was the duty of all his life and this fact directly affected his activities. The God helped Moses and his people to overcome difficulties (for example, during the passing of Red Sea, the ten plagues of Egypt ”“ when the Pharaoh didn’t want to permit the Exodus).

Gilgamesh didn’t have any duties to follow, he was the powerful king, but sometimes he abused this power, and his people asked gods to create the person or creature, who could be equal in the power and strength with Gilgamesh.

Gilgamesh was the king and he already was the person, who had power and the opportunity to judge and punish, so he was a leader from the very beginning.

He is the hero, He is of Uruk, He, the butting bull He leads the Way, He, the Foremost, He also marches at the rear, a helper to his brothers He is the Great Net, protector of his men. He is the furious flood-wave, Who destroys even stone walls.

His task was to prove that he could be a good leader and reliable friend, who considered needs of the other person or people more important than his own desires, even when he was so close to them. Moses also was high in the social scale but he had to prove his devotion and connection with the God, he was the example for the whole people, and he maintained their respect by his pious way of life. “Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, “The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.”

“So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.”

This is in stark contrast to the age of the main story in the Book of Exodus where Moses leads the Hebrews out of Egypt. The commonly accepted dates for this story, if it ever happened, would be circa 1300-1200 B.C. If we were to accept these dates as being true this would make the tales told about Gilgamesh some eight hundred to nine hundred years older than any possible oral telling of the Old Testament stories in the Book of Exodus. (, 2007)

At all times the humanity is in need of a leader, it doesn’t matter whether it is ancient times or the present time. This person should embody the model of conduct, way of life, and moral values. From the very beginning of the human civilization our moral values were dictated by religion and our leader must follow these demands, religious demands.

The interconnection between people-the leader-gods became the base for all epic poems, religious books (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). They represented the idea of better and correct life and became the standard of this life, they showed great strength of will to prove us their rightness and show the correct and single way ”“ that is why we should respect them and even follow.

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