Almost every religion in the world has a story about the “Great Flood” which destroys the earth, and each teaches its followers a different story about this disaster. While the Babylonians have the story of Utnapishtim from the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Judeo Christians have Noah from the Bible. Both men save a few people and many animals. In these stories, Noah and Utnapishtim seem to have similar situations, but a further analysis shows how truly different the two stories are. The boats in each story are exceptionally different.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim’s boat was six stories high, had nine apartments in each story, had a flat bottom, and was one hundred and twenty cubits high as well as wide (par 5-6). Utnapishtim covered the inside of his boat with bitumen, and covered the outside of it with pitch (par 6). Noah’s ark was made of cypress wood, and was coated in pitch on the inside and out (6:14). It was three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high (6:15). It had three decks, a door, and a roof (6:16).
The Lord shut Noah in the ark with his family and the animals, and Utnapishtim shut himself in when the flood waters came (7:16; par 9). Each story tells of a storm, but there are conflicting differences in each one. The storm in Utnapishtim’s story lasted for six days and six nights (par 14). On the seventh day, the rain stopped and the waters receded (par 14). They stayed in the boat for at least another week before they decided the land had dried enough (par 16). The storm in Noah’s story lasted for forty days and forty nights (7:17).
The floods were on the earth for a hundred and fifty days (7:24). Noah, his family, and the animals stayed on the ark for three hundred and ninety two days (7:6, 8:14). Utnapishtim stayed on the boat until the raven did not come back, and Noah stayed on the ark until God told him to come out (par 16; 8:15-16). Noah and Utnapishtim each sent out birds to let them know when they could leave the boat, but sent out different ones in different parts of their stories. When the waters started to recede, Utnapishtim sent out a dove first, and she came back finding no place to rest (par 16).
He then sent out a swallow, which also returned (par 16). The third bird he sent out was a raven, and she did not return, for she had found a place to rest (par 16). The first bird Noah sent out was a raven (8:7). He sent out the dove next, but she returned with no place to rest (8:8-9). He waited for a week and sent the dove out again, and she brought back an olive branch (8:10-11). He waited yet another week and sent her out again, but this time, she did not return (8:12). In each story, the birds that let them know the water is gone are different.
Noah and Utnapishtim seem to survive similar situations in each story, but they are a far cry from each other. Each of their boats is built in different dimensions, are made from varied kinds of materials, and structured differently. The storms in each story lasted for assorted periods of time, and they were inside the boats for different lengths of time as well. They both sent out different birds for various reasons in their stories. Each story clashes with the other in numerous distinctive ways.
Courtney from Study Moose
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