The Flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Flood of Genesis
The Biblical book, Genesis, of the Old Testament contains an account of an historic Flood which has never been equaled in intensity. Tablet 11of the Sumero-Babylonian version of the epic of Gilgamesh also records a Flood quite expansive and quite devastating. Are they a record of the same event?
E.A. Budge states in Babylonian Story of the Deluge and the Epic of Gilgamesh that the narration of the Flood in Sumero-Babylonian records may simply be related to a local flood instead of a worldwide Flood such as the Bible narrates:
It is not too much to assume that the original event commemorated in the Legend of the Deluge was a serious and prolonged inundation or flood in Lower Babylonia, which was accompanied by great loss of life and destruction of property. The Babylonian versions state that this inundation or flood was caused by rain, but passages in some of them suggest that the effects of the rainstorm were intensified by other physical happenings connected with the earth, of a most destructive character. (27)
Column 1 on Tablet 11 begins the Sumero-Babylonian Flood narrative (Gardner 226). The sage Utnapishtim from Shurippak (100 miles south of Babylon), says:
The great gods stirred their hearts to make the Flood.
[. . .] Build an ark.
[. . .] Load the seed of every living thing into your ark,
the boat that you will build.
Let her measure be measured;
let her breadth and length be equal.
Cover it with a roof as the abyss is covered. (Gardner 226)
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)
There is no reason given by Utnapishtim for the deluge. On the contrary, the Judaic version of the Flood in Genesis states in 6:5-8 a very clear, explicit reason for the Flood:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that very imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”