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The Epic of Gilgamesh spiritual wisdom logo

gilgamesh tabletThe Epic of Gilgamesh has been hailed as one of the great masterpieces of world literature ever since its first translation into modern languages. The original manuscripts of the Epic of Gilgamesh are cuneiform tablets – small rectangles of clay inscribed with wedge shaped writing – found in a number of ancient cities especially in the land now called Iraq. This style of writing developed in about 3000BC and the Epic of Gilgamesh was first written down about 2000BC at least 1000 years before the story of Noah in Genesis was committed to a written record.

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!

Tablet XI 23-27


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.

Genesis 6:13-14


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”.

Genesis 7:2-3


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.”

Genesis 7:4


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.

Genesis 8:2-4


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.

Genesis 8:8-9


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 him anymore.

Genesis 8:10-12


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.

Genesis 8:20


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 flesh.

Genesis 9:13-15



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 Emanuel 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.


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