The Epic of Gilgamesh is a poem about king Gilgamesh, thought to
have been a ruler during the 3rd millennium BC although what is fact and
what is myth is hard to say. The eleventh (XI) tablet contains a flood
myth with amazing parallels to the story of Noah in the book of Genesis
as the following extracts show:
The Epic of Gilgamesh
O man of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu, demolish the
house, and build a boat! Abandon wealth, and seek survival! Spurn property,
save life! Take on board the boat all living things’ seed!
The Bible - Genesis
And God said to Noah, “I have
determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with
violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make
yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside
and out with pitch.
Everything I owned I loaded
aboard: all the silver I owned I loaded aboard, all the gold I owned I
loaded aboard, all the living creatures I had I loaded aboard. I sent on
board all my kith and kin, the beasts of the field, the creatures of the
wild, and members of every skill and craft.
Tablet XI 81-86
Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals,
the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the
male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male
and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth”.
For six days and seven nights, there blew the
wind, the downpour, the gale, the Deluge, it flattened the land.
Tablet XI 127-129
"For in seven days I will send rain on the earth
forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will
blot out from the face of the ground.”
I looked at the weather, it was
quiet and still, but all the people had turned to clay. The flood plain was
flat like the roof of a house. I opened a vent, on my cheeks fell the
sunlight. On the mountain of Nimush the boat ran aground, Mount Numush held
the boat fast, allowed it no motion.
Tablet XI 134-137, 142-143
The fountains of the deep and
the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was
restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of
150 days the waters had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth
day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.
The seventh day when it came, I
brought out a dove, I let it loose: off went the dove but then it returned,
there was no place to land, so back it came to me.
Tablet XI 147-150
Then he sent forth a dove from
him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. But the
dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for
the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand
and took her and brought her into the ark with him.
I brought out a raven, I let it
loose: off went the raven, it saw the waters receding, finding food, bowing
and bobbing, it did not come back to me.
Tablet XI 154-156
He waited another seven days,
and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. And the dove came back to
him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive
leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he
waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to
I brought out an offering, to
the four winds made sacrifice, incense I placed on the peak of the mountain.
Tablet XI 157-158
Then Noah built an altar to the
Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and
offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Then at once Belet-ili arrived,
she lifted the flies of lapiz lazuli that Anu had made for their courtship:
O gods, let these great beads in this necklace of mine make me remember
these days, and never forget them!
Tablet XI 164-167
I have set my bow in the cloud,
and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I
bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will
remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of
all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all
Although some people may see the ‘flood’ story
appearing in both the Epic of Gilgamesh and in the Noah story of Genesis
as evidence that a real flood occurred thousands of years ago
Swedenborg offered a different explanation:
The most ancient people who lived before the
flood, and whose age was called the golden age, had immediate
revelation, and hence Divine truth was inscribed on their hearts. In the
ancient churches which were after the flood, there was a Word, both
historical and prophetical. Its historical parts were called the Wars of
Jehovah, and its prophetical parts, Enunciations. That Word was like our
Word as to inspiration. It is mentioned by Moses. But that Word is lost.
New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 255
In this extract Swedenborg uses the term ‘churches’
to describe a spiritual epoch and he explains that there was a 'Word' or
sacred scripture much earlier than the books of the Old Testament but
that it is now lost. Thus it is possible to see that the Epic of
Gilgamesh and the Genesis account of Noah are both from a common
story - one full of wonderful spiritual symbolism.