The Animals Went in Two by Two, According to Babylonian Ark Tablet

Recently translated Old Babylonian flood tablet describes how to build a circular ark

The so-called Ark Tablet, recently translated by Irving Finkel, is an Old Babylonian (1900-1700 B.C.E.) account of the flood in which the god Enki instructs Atrahasis--the Babylonian Noah--on how to build an ark. The twist? This Babylonian ark would have been circular.

We all know the story of Noah’s Ark. Ever since George Smith’s 1872 translation of Babylonian texts similar to the Biblical Deluge (see “George Smith’s Other Find” below), we’ve also known about echoes of the Genesis narrative in pre-Biblical Mesopotamian texts. A recently translated Old Babylonian (c. 1900–1700 B.C.E.) tablet has literally reshaped our vision of the Babylonian vessel used to weather the storm and builds bridges across the floodwaters dividing the Biblical and Mesopotamian accounts of the flood.

The Babylonian Flood Tradition

Babylonain flood traditions have been familiar material for BAR readers since the early days of our magazine. Tikva Frymer-Kensky’s 1978 feature “What the Babylonian Flood Stories Can and Cannot Teach Us About the Genesis Flood” introduced the Sumerian Flood Story, the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic and the Atrahasis Epic:

The Babylonian flood stories contain many details which also occur in the flood story in Genesis. Such details in the story as the building of an ark, the placing of animals in the ark, the landing of the ark on a mountain, and the sending forth of birds to see whether the waters had receded indicate quite clearly that the Genesis flood story is intimately related to the Babylonian flood stories and is indeed part of the same “flood” tradition. However, while there are great similarities between the Biblical and Babylonian flood stories, there are also very fundamental differences, and it is just as important that we focus on these fundamental differences as on the similarities.

The Babylonian accounts differ from each other. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the god Enki tasks Utnapishtim to save the world from the flood, and for his good deed, he is granted immortality (and subsequently, Gilgamesh’s envy). Later discoveries revealed that the account was an abridged and modified version of the Akkadian Atrahasis epic, a similar flood myth that was copied and adapted for centuries in the ancient Near East. Memories of an antediluvian (pre-flood) period were preserved throughout Mesopotamia: The Sumerian king list includes antediluvian kings, and reliefs of antediluvian sages known as apkallu figures (winged genies) lined the walls of Assyrian palaces and remain one of the most iconic forms of Mesopotamian art to this day.

How to Build an Ark

The Ark Tablet describes a gufa or coracle--a round boat that would have been familiar to Mesopotamian audiences. Unlike the boat shown above, Atrahasis's gufa would have had a base area over 35,000 square feet, with 20-foot-high walls. Picture from Atlantic Ship Model.

With such a well-documented Mesopotamian flood tradition, why is this newly translated cuneiform tablet making waves in our understanding of the Babylonian flood myth? The so-called “Ark Tablet”—a cell-phone sized piece of clay inscribed on both sides—is essentially an ark builder’s how-to guide, according to its translator, British Museum scholar Irving Finkel. Enki gives Atrahasis instructions on how to build an ark, but the resulting boat isn’t what you’d expect. According to Irving Finkel, this boat was round. In an article in The Telegraph, Finkel writes:

The most remarkable feature provided by the Ark Tablet is that the lifeboat built by Atra-hasıs— the Noah-like hero who receives his instructions from the god Enki—was definitely, unambiguously round. “Draw out the boat that you will make,” he is instructed, “on a circular plan.”

The text describes the construction of a coracle or gufa, a traditional basket-like boat that would have been familiar to Mesopotamian audiences. Of course, this is no average coracle—Atrahasis is to build a boat with a diameter of close to 230 feet across and 20-foot-high walls. The boat is made out of a massive quantity of palm-fiber rope, sealed with bitumen. This isn’t exactly the same ark that Noah built—or Utnapishtim, for that matter:

Epic of Gilgamesh Tablet XI, 54-65

On the fifth day I laid out her exterior. It was a field in area, its walls were each 10 times 12 cubits in height, the sides of its top were of equal length, 10 times It cubits each. I laid out its (interior) structure and drew a picture of it (?). I provided it with six decks, thus dividing it into seven (levels). The inside of it I divided into nine (compartments). I drove plugs (to keep out) water in its middle part. I saw to the punting poles and laid in what was necessary. Three times 3,600 (units) of raw bitumen I poured into the bitumen kiln, three times 3,600 (units of) pitch …into it…

Genesis 6:14-15

Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks.

 

The Animals Went in Two by Two

This reconstruction accompanied the Telegraph article by Finkel. Photo: Stuart Patience @ Heart Agency

At first glance, it would seem that the Ark Tablet, while extremely descriptive in its instructions—it features twenty lines just describing the waterproofing of the vessel—is describing an ark narrative that differs more from Noah’s than its other Babylonian counterparts. However, according to his Telegraph article, Finkel was shocked by the rare cuneiform signs sana in the passage describing the animals on the boat. Sana is listed in the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary as “Two each, two by two.” Compare this with the Biblical text:

And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive.”

The cuneiform wedges were pressed into Babylonian Ark Tablet a full millennium before the Genesis narrative was written down, but the two bear a strong thematic resemblance in their treatment of the animals. However, this tablet describes how to build an ark, and the resulting vessel couldn’t be much more different from the Biblical boat. Would a round gufa-style boat weather the Deluge? Irving Finkel points out that a pointed ship may be easier to sail to a particular destination, but Atrahasis’s ark had nowhere to go—it merely needed to support its human and animal occupants for the duration of the flood. He told The Telegraph:

In all the images ever made people assumed the ark was, in effect, an ocean-going boat, with a pointed stem and stern for riding the waves – so that is how they portrayed it. But the ark didn’t have to go anywhere, it just had to float, and the instructions are for a type of craft which they knew very well. It’s still sometimes used in Iran and Iraq today, a type of round coracle which they would have known exactly how to use to transport animals across a river or floods.

Click here to read his account in The Telegraph.

Learn more about Irving Finkel’s book The Ark Before Noah.
 


 
In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s latest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldeans, the birthplace of Abraham.
 

 

George Smith’s Other Find: The Babylonian Flood Tablet

Originally published as the sidebar to “The Genesis of Genesis” by Victor Hurowitz in Bible Review‘s anniversary issue. Click here to read the full article in the BAS Library.

The Babylonian Flood Tablet translated by George Smith in the mid/late 19th century. The British Museum.

In 1866, George Smith, a British bank-note engraver, wrote a letter to the famed Assyriologist Sir Henry Rawlinson, asking if he might have a look at the fragments and casts of Assyrian inscriptions in the back rooms of the British Museum. Rawlinson agreed—thus initiating what would become an unusually fruitful friendship between an eager amateur and the man who had deciphered cuneiform.

Smith so impressed Rawlinson that the latter hired him in 1867 to help catalogue the museum’s cuneiform inscriptions, including those excavated by Austen Henry Layard at Kyunjik (ancient Nineveh) in the 1840s and 1850s.

In the accompanying article, Victor Hurowitz describes one of Smith’s most significant discoveries: the Babylonian poem Enūma Eliš. But Smith’s most famous “find” in the British Museum store rooms was undoubtedly the Epic of Gilgamesh, with its dramatic account of a Great Deluge that threatened to wipe out humankind.

In his popular book The Chaldean Account of Genesis, Smith described the discovery: “I soon found half of a curious tablet which had evidently contained originally six columns of text; two of these (the third and fourth) were still nearly perfect; two others (the second and fifth) were imperfect, about half remaining, while the remaining columns (the first and sixth) were entirely lost. On looking down the third column, my eye caught the statement that the ship rested on the mountains of Nizir, followed by the account of the sending forth of the dove, and its finding no resting-place and returning. I saw at once that I had here discovered a portion at least of the Chaldean [Babylonian] account of the Deluge.”

According to a later source, Smith then “jumped up and rushed about the room in a great state of excitement, and, to the astonishment of those present, began to undress himself.” The British Museum has dubbed Smith’s Tablet 11, shown, “the most famous cuneiform tablet from Mesopotamia.”

After he calmed down, Smith scoured the museum’s holdings for further fragments, and soon found that his Flood tablet was the 11th tablet in a 12-tablet epic poem. On December 3, 1872, he presented his findings to the newly founded British Society of Biblical Archaeology and speculated that more of these tablet fragments remained buried in the sands of Nineveh.

Soon after, Edwin Arnold, owner of London’s Daily Telegraph, proposed that his paper sponsor renewed excavations at Nineveh, with Smith at the helm. Smith, and the museum, agreed.

Smith later wrote, “Soon after I commenced excavating at Kouyunjik, on the site of the palace of Assurbanipal, I found a new fragment of the Chaldean account of the Deluge belonging to the first column of the tablet, relating the command to build and fill an ark, and nearly filling up the most considerable blank in the story.”
 


 
The FREE eBook From Babylon to Baghdad: Ancient Iraq and the Modern West examines the relationship between ancient Iraq and the origins of modern Western society.
 

 
The copies of the Gilgamesh Epic discovered by Layard and Smith came from the world-class library of the Assyrian king Assurbanipal (668–627 B.C.E.). The tales of Gilgamesh, the bold warrior-king of Uruk, are much older, however; many of them date back to the Sumerian period (third millennium B.C.E.). In the Old Babylonian Period (early second millennium B.C.E.), the various adventures of Gilgamesh were strung together in a cohesive narrative, which was rewritten many times. By the 12th century B.C.E., an 11-tablet version of the epic had emerged. In the eighth century B.C.E., a 12th tablet describing the death of Gilgamesh was added to the series.

The Flood story does not number among the original Sumerian tales of Gilgamesh. Rather, it was inserted into the narrative in about the 12th century, and thus appears only in the 11- and 12-tablet versions of the tale (called the Standard Babylonian versions).

According to the tale, after the death of his beloved friend Enkidu, a disconsolate Gilgamesh searches for ways to live forever. His quest leads him, on Tablet 11, to the immortal Utnapishtim—often referred to as the Mesopotamian Noah, because he saved his family from a devastating worldwide Flood. Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that he, too, was once a mere a mortal and a king, of Shuruppak-on-the-Euphrates. In his day, five of the gods plotted to send a Flood to destroy humankind. One of the gods, Ea, surreptitiously informed the king, whispering, “Quickly, quickly tear down your house and build a great ship, leave your possessions, save your life … Then gather and take aboard the ship examples of every living creature.” Utnapishtim finishes the ship and loads his family and animals just in time: “Ninurta opened the floodgates of heaven, the infernal gods blazed and set the whole land on fire. A deadly silence spread through the sky and what had been bright now turned to darkness. The land was shattered like a clay pot. All day, ceaselessly, the storm winds blew, the rain fell, then the flood burst forth, overwhelming the people like war … For six days and seven nights, the storm demolished the earth. On the seventh day, the downpour stopped. The ocean grew calm. The land could be seen, just water on all sides, as flat as a roof. There was no life at all.” The boat runs aground on Mount Nimush. Utnapishtim sends out a dove, which flies right back, having failed to find land; he sends a swallow with similar results. Finally, he sends a raven, which never returns. The waters have begun to recede.

The gods convene and offer Utnapishtim and his family immortality. Having heard this tale, Gilgamesh recognizes he has little chance of being offered the same, and he returns home to Uruk to die.—Molly Dewsnap Meinhardt

Passages from Gilgamesh come from Stephen Mitchell’s new translation Gilgamesh: A New English Version (New York: Free Press, 2004).

BAS Library Members: Read “The Genesis of Genesis” by Victor Hurowitz as it appeared in Bible Review‘s anniversary issue.

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The harshness of the curse of Ham, his son Canaan and their descendants after the ark narrative has been a source of scholarly debate for millennia. A new reading of the Dead Sea Scroll 4Q180-4Q181 provides a fresh perspective on Canaan’s transgression.

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  1. Edward J. says

    As I recall, there is nothing in the Biblical account about Noah’s ark being pointed. Rather, it’s a rectangular box whose purpose is also to float on the flood waters.

  2. David says

    God is merciful. While the Bible recounts a flood story believed by many to be true, those believers – myself included – have tended to also believe that Noah’s was the only ark. Could it be that a merciful God provided direction and inspiration to others throughout the world so that they too might be saved?

  3. Karim says

    This is another evidence among hundreds that the Hebrew biblical tradition is based on Mesopotamian historical accounts. That being said, we conclude even more than before that the Semitic Hebrew people were not but Babylonians basically from the city of Ur. Hence, Jews were Iraqis.

  4. Kurt says

    A Whole World Destroyed!

    Look at the world around you, with its cities, its culture, its scientific achievements, its population of billions. It is easy to be impressed by its apparent permanence, is it not? Do you think that some day this world could completely disappear? That may be difficult to envision. However, did you know that according to a very good source, a world existed before this one and it was completely destroyed?

    WE ARE not talking of a world of primitive tribes. The world that perished was civilized, with cities, artistic achievements, scientific knowledge. Yet, the Bible record tells us that suddenly, on the 17th day of the 2nd month, 352 years before the patriarch Abraham was born, a deluge began that swept away a whole world.*
    Is that record correct? Did such a thing really happen? Was there really an ancient world before the present one that flourished and was then destroyed? If so, why did it end? What went wrong? And is there any lesson that we can draw from its demise?
    Was an Ancient World Really Destroyed?
    Such an awesome catastrophe, if it really happened, would never have been completely forgotten. Hence, in many nations there are reminders of that destruction. Consider, for example, the precise date recorded in the Scriptures. The second month of the ancient calendar ran from what we now call mid-October to mid-November. So the 17th day corresponds approximately to the first of November. It may not be a coincidence, then, that in many lands, festivals for the dead are celebrated at that time of year.
    Other evidences of the Deluge linger in mankind’s traditions. Practically all ancient peoples have a legend that their ancestors survived a global flood. African Pygmies, European Celts, South American Incas—all have similar legends, as do peoples of Alaska, Australia, China, India, Lithuania, Mexico, Micronesia, New Zealand, and parts of North America, to mention only a few.
    Of course, over time the legends have been embellished, but they all include several details indicating a common source narrative: God was angered by mankind’s wickedness. He brought a great flood. Mankind as a whole was destroyed. A few righteous ones, however, were preserved. These built a vessel in which humans and animals were saved. In time, birds were sent out to search for dry land. Finally, the vessel came to rest on a mountain. Upon disembarking, the survivors offered a sacrifice.
    What does this prove? The similarities cannot possibly be coincidental. The combined evidence of these legends corroborates the Bible’s ancient testimony that all humans descend from the survivors of a flood that destroyed a world of mankind. Hence, we do not need to rely on legends or myths to know what happened. We have the carefully preserved record in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible.—Genesis, chapters 6-8.
    The Bible contains an inspired record of history extending back to the dawn of life. Evidence proves that it is more than mere history, however. Its unfailing prophecy and deep wisdom demonstrate that it is what it claims to be—God’s communication to mankind. Unlike myths, the Bible includes names and dates as well as genealogical and geographical details in its historical accounts. It gives us a picture of what life was like before the Flood and reveals why a whole world came to a sudden end.
    What went wrong with that antediluvian society? The following article considers that question. It is an important question for those who may wonder just how secure the future of our present civilization is.

    Genesis 7:11; 11:10-25, 32; 12:4.

    Flood Legends Worldwide
    Country Correspondencies 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
    Greece 7 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    Rome 6 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    Lithuania 6 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    Assyria 9 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    Tanzania 7 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    India – Hindu 6 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    New Zealand – Maori 5 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    Micronesia 7 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    Washington U.S.A. – Yakima 7 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    Mississippi U.S.A. – Choctaw 7 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    Mexico – Michoacan 5 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    South America – Quechua 4 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    Bolivia – Chiriguano 5 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    Guyana – Arawak 6 ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆ ◆
    1: God angered by wickedness
    2: Destruction by a flood
    3: Ordered by God
    4: Divine warning given
    5: Few of mankind survive
    6: Saved in a vessel
    7: Animals saved
    8: Bird or other creature sent out
    9: Finally comes to rest on a mountain
    10: Sacrifice offered
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2002160
    Flood Legends
    Samples from six continents and the islands of the sea; hundreds of such legends are known
    Australia – Kurnai
    Destruction by Water
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Babylon – Berossus’ account
    Destruction by Water
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Babylon – Gilgamesh epic
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Bolivia – Chiriguano
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Borneo – Sea Dayak
    Destruction by Water
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Burma – Singpho
    Destruction by Water
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Canada – Cree
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Canada – Montagnais
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    China – Lolo
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Cuba – original natives
    Destruction by Water
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    East Africa – Masai
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Egypt – Book of the Dead
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Fiji – Walavu-levu tradition
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    French Polynesia – Raïatéa
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Greece – Lucian’s account
    Destruction by Water
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Guyana – Macushi
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Iceland – Eddas
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    India – Andaman Islands
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    India – Bhil
    Destruction by Water
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    India – Kamar
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Iran – Zend-Avesta
    Destruction by Water
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Italy – Ovid’s poetry
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Malay Peninsula – Jakun
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Mexico – Codex Chimalpopoca
    Destruction by Water
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Mexico – Huichol
    Destruction by Water
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    New Zealand – Maori
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Peru – Indians of Huarochirí
    Destruction by Water
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Russia – Vogul
    Destruction by Water
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    U.S.A. (Alaska) – Kolusches
    Destruction by Water
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    U.S.A. (Alaska) – Tlingit
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    U.S.A. (Arizona) – Papago
    Destruction by Water
    Warning Given
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    U.S.A. (Hawaii) – legend of Nu-u
    Destruction by Water
    Divine Cause
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Vanuatu – Melanesians
    Destruction by Water
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Vietnam – Bahnar
    Destruction by Water
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    Wales – Dwyfan/Dwyfach legend
    Destruction by Water
    Humans Spared
    Animals Spared
    Preserved in a Vessel
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200000758?q=flood+legends&p=par
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/s/r1/lp-e?q=flood%20legends

  5. wayne says

    a round ark? sure, whatever… first wave comes along and spins that ark and everyone else in it and you’ll then see why God didn’t instruct Noah to build it round. Be for real people. Satan is always trying to distract from the truth

  6. jose says

    And if it was the other way, if the sumerians took the flood story of residents nearby to Noah, since biblical times are calculated fom Abraham about 2000 years BC, and not from Noah…That have been found sumerian stories from 3000 years BC not mean they are the oldest, but simply the oldest found.

  7. Robin says

    Interesting article. Interesting subject.

  8. Ken says

    The comet that hit the ice sheet on Canada about11500bc explains the flood

  9. Paul says

    In his booklet, “Hurrian Hebrews; Ea as Yahweh,” Forrest Reinhold points out the similarities between the epic of Gilgamesh flood narrative and the account given in the book of Genesis (p.72, 73), and the fact that the god of wisdom, Ea, who warned Utnapishtim of the impending disaster, had the sacred number of 40 (40 days and nights of the flood, Gen. 7:4,12, 17). The mountains of Ararat where the ark rested was the kingdom of Urartu, whose inhabitants spoke Hurrian. It is likely the Hebrews recieved these Mesopotamian traditions from the Hurrians.
    As for the dimesions of the ark being 300 cubits long, it is worth noting that in the Ethiopic book of Enoch (1 Enoch 7:2) the height of the pre-diluvian giants were also 300 cubits. In his “Cipher Genesis,” Carlos Suarez states that the number 300 symbolizes cosmic fertility, and we find a hint of this in the book of Baruch 3:24-26:
    ” O Israel, how vast is the house of God, how broad the scope of his dominion. Vast and endless, high and immeasurable! In it were born the giants, renowned at the first, stalwarts, skilled in war.”
    The Dead Sea Scrolls contain fragments of a lost Book of Giants (http://www.gnosis.org/library/dss/dss_book_of_giants.htm) and a giant named Gilgamesh is mentioned. The king of Uruk fits the description of the Nephilm who were “heroes of old, the men of renown” (Genesis 6:4). It seems this fictional account of giants is really an invectivtive againts the abusive power of temporal rulers. Gilgamesh was said to be 2/3 god and 1/3 human, and this also places him with the sons of God who conspired to enter the daughters of humanity, as it is related in an older version of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh, like “Caligula,” expands his rule to include being the first to copulate with the bride before the groom:
    “He has [intruded] into the meeting place that is set aside for the people…for brideship. He has heaped [defilement] on the city, imposing on the unlucky city strange customs” (“Gilgamesh”, by John Gardiner and John Maier, p.96).
    A literary “giant” by the name of Frank Herbert co-wrote a sci-fi book with Bill Ransom entitled, “The Jesus Incident.” Years ago I read this while listening to “Tales From Topographical Oceans” and “Close to the Edge” by Yes. It is set far in the future with a type of Noah’s ark bringing humanity to colonize a planet inhabited by predators which made it uninhabitable for humans. The space vessel which brought the cargo had an artififical intelligence and thought that it was God. The ship’s Chaplain/Psychiatrist, who was awakened out of suspended animation and sent on a mission to save the colony, is wondering if the ship really is God. His name was Raja Thomas and this invokes the image of the disciple of Jesus, otherwise known as” Doubting Thomas” (John 21:24-29). Ironically, though equipped with advanced technology, the humans bring to this new world their own shortcomings, particularly at the management level, which succumbs to an attitude of bigotry and sexism.
    An older version of Gilgamesh portrays the king as a maniac hacking his way through the cedar forest with an axe and felling trees until he reaches the abode of the sky gods, like the enviromental destruction depicted in the film “Avatar.” Raja Thomas learns that the oceanic kelp that holds the ecosystem together is sentient, and its destruction will affect the whole planet. The kelp forms a telepathic bond with the ship’s computer, which enables Raja Thomas to be transported in a vision to a place where people had gathered who wore ragged clothing and had a strong body odor to witness the crucifixion of Jesus.
    In the 11th tablet of the epic of Gilgamesh, composed by the Babylonian shaman/exorcist priest Sin-Leeqi-Unnini, Gigamesh is instructed by Utnapishtim (whose name contains the word “napishtu” meaning “life-breath”) to obtain a hard to find plant that grows under water, (the domain of the god Ea) and when he obtains it, Gilgamesh declares:
    “This is the plant of Openings, by which a man can get life within. I will carry it to Uruk of the Sheepfold; I will give it to the elders to eat; they will divide the plant among them. Its name is The-Old-Man-Will-Be-Made-Young, I too will eat it, and I will return to what I was in my youth” (Gilgamesh, p.249).
    “The-Old-Man-Will-Be-Made-Young” reminds me of an episode of “The Simpsons” entitled “Dohin’ In the Wind” which features two old men under the influence of peyote uncontrollably laughing. .

  10. Paul says

    It wasn’t my intention to mislead, but I think was off about the number 300 symbolizing cosmic fertility, when it’s more like cosmic germanation and such was Noah’s ark; an experiment in the implementation of the seeds of life with the blessing of divinity. The number 600 would symbolize cosmic fertility, the blessing being transmitted through divinely inspired tradition. I do know that the Hebrew letter mem has a numerical value of 40 (like that of the god Ea) and the final letter mem is 600. Such is the case in the word for Egypt; Mizraim, as in “you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:20). This would refer to the tribes of Joseph, of whom it it written that he was the elect (nazir) of his brothers (Genesis 49:26, Dueteronomy 33:16). You’ll recall the tradition of the Nazirites abstaining from wine and letting their hair grow long like Enkidu in his natural state before being given wine by the prostitute and having his hair shaved.
    “Gilgamesh is also the story of the double. If Gilgamesh is two-thirds god and only one-third human, his double, Enkidu, seems to reverse the ratio. If Gilgamesh is outwardly the same at the beginnig and the end of the work, the story of Enkidu everywhere emphasizes change … It is the story of Everyman. It is also the story of the emergence of mankind from the wild, a parable of culture, the best worked out Mesopotamian speculation about lullu-amelu, the First Man” (Gilgamesh, p.15).
    Joseph married the daughter of the priest of On (Genesis 41:45), this being Heliopolis, where there was an ancient tradition where the company of the gods originated there, emerging out of the Great Egg, the offspring of the earth god Geb or Seb:
    “Seb was the god of the earth, and the Heliopolitans declared that he represented the very ground upon which their city stood, meaning that Heliopolis was the birthplace of the company of the gods, and in fact that the work of creation began there” (“The Gods of the Egyptians vol. 2″ by E.A. Wallis Budge, p.97).
    I remember reading about a prehistoric goose (Geb is sometimes represented as a goose) that lived 30 million years ago in southern France that could swim underwater. It was in Provence, France in the late 12th century that the Kabbalah began to take it egg-like form:
    “In this generation in France and especially in its southern part we hear with increasing frequency of scholars called by the epithet ha-perush, the ascetic, or ha-nazir, the Nazirite … There it is said that ‘one should appoint scholars whose vocation it is to occupy themselves incessantly with the Torah, so that the community might fulfill the duty of the study of the Torah, and in order that the reign of heaven sustain no loss’” (“Origins of the Kabbalah” by Gershom Scholem, p,229).

  11. Jim says

    A round, uncovered ‘boat’? The alleged deluge would have filled and sank the ark rather quickly, wouldn’t it?

  12. Kurt says

    The Flood—Fact or Myth?
    Taking us back to some 4,500 years ago, to about 2,500 B.C.E., the Bible tells us that rebel spirit sons of God materialized in human form and “went taking wives for themselves.” This unnatural interbreeding produced the violent Nephilim, “the mighty ones who were of old, the men of fame.” Their lawless conduct affected the pre-Flood world to the point that Jehovah said: “‘I am going to wipe men whom I have created off the surface of the ground . . . because I do regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah.” The account then continues with the specific and practical steps Noah had to take to save himself, as well as his family and a variety of animal kinds, from the Flood.—Genesis 6:1-8, 13–8:22; 1 Peter 3:19, 20; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.
    The record of pre-Flood events related in Genesis is branded as myth by modern critics. Yet, the history of Noah was accepted and believed by faithful men, such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jesus Christ, and the apostles Peter and Paul. It is also supported by the fact that it is reflected in so many mythologies worldwide, including the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh as well as the myths of China and of the Aztecs, Incas, and Maya. With the Bible record in mind, let us now consider the Assyro-Babylonian mythology and its references to a flood.—Isaiah 54:9; Ezekiel 14:20; Matthew 24:37; Hebrews 11:7.
    The Flood and the God-Man Gilgamesh
    Going back in history possibly some 4,000 years, we encounter the famous Akkadian myth called the Epic of Gilgamesh. Our knowledge of this is based mainly on a cuneiform text that came from the library of Ashurbanipal, who reigned 668-627 B.C.E., in ancient Nineveh.
    It is the story of the exploits of Gilgamesh, described as being two-thirds god and one-third man, or a demigod. One version of the epic states: “In Uruk he built walls, a great rampart, and the temple of blessed Eanna for the god of the firmament Anu, and for Ishtar the goddess of love . . . , our lady of love and war.” (See box, page 45, for a listing of Assyro-Babylonian gods and goddesses.) However, Gilgamesh was not exactly a pleasant creature to have around. The inhabitants of Uruk complained to the gods: “His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior’s daughter nor the wife of the noble.”
    What action did the gods take in response to the people’s protest? The goddess Aruru created Enkidu to be the human rival of Gilgamesh. However, instead of being enemies, they became close friends. In the course of the epic, Enkidu died. Shattered, Gilgamesh cried: “When I die, shall I not be like Enkidu? Woe has entered my belly. Fearing death, I roam over the steppe.” He wanted the secret of immortality and set out to find Utnapishtim, the deluge survivor who had been given immortality with the gods.
    Gilgamesh eventually finds Utnapishtim, who tells him the story of the flood. As found in Epic tablet XI, known as the Flood Tablet, Utnapishtim recounts instructions given to him concerning the flood: “Tear down (this) house, build a ship! Give up possessions, seek thou life. . . . Aboard the ship take thou the seed of all living things.” Does this not sound somewhat similar to the Bible’s reference to Noah and the Flood? But Utnapishtim cannot bestow immortality upon Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh, disappointed, returns home to Uruk. The account concludes with his death. The overall message of the epic is the sadness and frustration of death and the hereafter. Those ancient people did not find the God of truth and hope. However, the epic’s link to the Bible’s simple account of the pre-Flood era is quite evident. Now let us turn to the Flood account as it appears in other legends.
    Flood Legend in Other Cultures
    Even earlier than the account in the Epic of Gilgamesh is the Sumerian myth that presents “Ziusudra, the counterpart of the biblical Noah, who is described as a pious, a god-fearing king, constantly on the lookout for divine revelations in dreams or incantations.” (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament) According to the same source, this myth “offers the closest and most striking parallel to biblical material as yet uncovered in Sumerian literature.” The Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations, which came later, were influenced by the Sumerian.
    The book China—A History in Art tells us that one of the ancient rulers of China was Yü, “the conqueror of the Great Flood. Yü channeled flood waters into rivers and seas to resettle his people.” Mythology expert Joseph Campbell wrote about the Chinese “Period of the Great Ten,” saying: “To this important age, which terminates in a Deluge, ten emperors were assigned in the early Chou-time mythology. Hence, it appears that what we are viewing here may be a local transformation of the series of the old Sumerian king list.” Campbell then cited other items from Chinese legends that appeared to “reinforce the argument for a Mesopotamian source.” That takes us back to the same basic source of many myths. However, the story of the Flood also appears in the Americas, for example, in Mexico during the period of the Aztecs in the 15th and 16th centuries C.E.
    Aztec mythology spoke of four previous ages, during the first of which the earth was inhabited by giants. (That is another reminder of the Nephilim, the giants referred to in the Bible at Genesis 6:4.) It included a primeval flood legend in which “the waters above merge with those below, obliterating the horizons and making of everything a timeless cosmic ocean.” The god controlling rain and water was Tlaloc. However, his rain was not obtained cheaply but was given “in exchange for the blood of sacrificed victims whose flowing tears would simulate and so stimulate the flow of rain.” (Mythology—An Illustrated Encyclopedia) Another legend states that the fourth era was ruled by Chalchiuhtlicue, the water-goddess, whose universe perished by a flood. Men were saved by becoming fish!
    Similarly, the Incas had their Flood legends. British writer Harold Osborne states: “Perhaps the most ubiquitous features in South American myth are the stories of a deluge . . . Myths of a deluge are very widespread among both the highland peoples and the tribes of the tropical lowlands. The deluge is commonly connected with the creation and with an epiphany [manifestation] of the creator-god. . . . It is sometimes regarded as a divine punishment wiping out existing humankind in preparation for the emergence of a new race.”
    Likewise, the Maya in Mexico and Central America had their Flood legend that involved a universal deluge, or haiyococab, which means “water over the earth.” Catholic bishop Las Casas wrote that the Guatemalan Indians “called it Butic, which is the word which means flood of many waters and means the final judgment, and so they believe that another Butic is about to come, which is another flood and judgment, not of water, but of fire.” Many more flood legends exist around the world, but the few already quoted serve to confirm the kernel of the legend, the historical event related in the book of Genesis.

  13. Vincenzo says

    Haven’t read all the comments, but someone is missing the detail that Genesis’ ark is the only ark that has been proven (via computer simulation as published in Journal of Creation (formerly TJ) 8(1):26–36 April 1994) to be able to stand a global flood as described in Genesis. All other so called arks wouldn’t stand a chance. Also, the many different flood accounts only prove they are all accounts of the same event and they have not necessarily been copied from each other. Only an inspired version of the account could get certain details just right, like the actual ark.

  14. philip says

    You religious nuts are totally insane!

  15. D says

    The ark had a cover, no doubt, so it wouldn’t fill up with water.

    But that two by two, male and female, business — sounds very heteronormative to me :)

  16. David says

    Philip,
    Are you saying you don’t believe the Biblical account of a flood – or you believe the Gilgamesh view and not the Bible view – or you don’t believe any view of a flood. If the latter, then aren’t you saying that these ancient ‘coincidences’ mean NOTHING – or that the scholarship of them all is wrong? If so, why are there so many versions worldwide and so similar? So far, I have seen from the above ‘quotes’ from scientific studies that a lot of people believe there too many coincidences to be discounted. You, however, have different proof? So far you have just jumped in with a slur (insane) on the Bible’s version. Why? What facts can you contribute here? Please, impress us with your important – different -scholarly view.

  17. Paul says

    A loon! It is the loon, which is smaller than a goose, that has the ability to swim underwater. It’s ancestor was Colymboides that thrived 37 to 20 million years ago. Fossils were found in Aquitaine which is southwestern France (and Provence is in southeastern France). The creature was not adapted to land and laid its eggs on the banks of the water. Interesting how we have this early version of the flood story with the term “sana” denoting two by two, not found in later Mesopotamian flood narratives and yet this appears in the Genesis account. Judging by the comments made above, the circular design described on the tablet may have had flaws but was improvised in the later accounts, as if someone with knowledge of a localised nautical design had hatched the inceptive plan that others would improve upon. The Hebrews and/or Hurrians recieved this tradition apparently from the earliest source.

  18. Dan says

    My intuitions tell me it was oblong and rounded, not exactly round. Kind of barge shaped. With this compromise everyone could be satisfied and sleep easier. The cuneiform philologists and the holy book believers could just get along.

  19. Joris says

    My conviction remains that these stories are important for us and our faith–but NOT for history, science, or “back then.” The (divinely inspired) writers wrote for eternity not for a textbook. They spoke of God, not of historical events as history. They inspire us, rather than provide facts.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. The Babylonian Ark linked to this post on February 1, 2014

    [...] 1, 2014 by Walker Leave a Comment The Biblical Archaeology Review has a write-up on a newly-translated Old Babylonian (1900-1700 B.C.E.) tablet. The tablet’s [...]

  2. Babylonian Tale Of Round Ark Draws Ire From Some Christian Circles | inagape linked to this post on February 2, 2014

    [...] their Babylonian exile in the 6th century B.C. and served as the basis for the Genesis story. Biblical Archaeology Review’s Noah Wiener said the cuneiform tablet was created “a full millennium before the Genesis narrative was [...]

  3. Noah Review: Before Al Gore, there was Noah pushing aggressive environmentalism linked to this post on March 23, 2014

    […] are build in the Sumerian and Jewish stories of the ark. And we also now have the so-called “Ark tablet” which tells how to build a third type of ark – an ark that is a very Mesopotamian […]

  4. The Search for Noah’s Flood - Creation RevolutionCreation Revolution linked to this post on March 27, 2014

    […] c. 1100 B.C.E.) and the Atrahasis Epic (Old Babylonian, c. 1700 B.C.E.).3 In these stories we learn of a wise man named Atrahasis (later known as Utnapishtim) whom the god Enki saves from a c…, put all animal species on it, and save himself and his family. The ark eventually lands on a […]

  5. The Search for Noah’s Flood | newsantiques.com linked to this post on April 2, 2014

    […] version, c. 1100 B.C.E.) and a Atrahasis Epic (Old Babylonian, c. 1700 B.C.E.).3 In these stories we learn of a correct male named Atrahasis (later famous as Utnapishtim) whom a God Enki saves from …, put all animal class on it, and save himself and his family. The ark eventually lands on a […]


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