We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

Gilgamesh Epic

Source:
The Oxford Companion to the Bible What is This? Provides authoritative interpretive entries on Biblical people, places, beliefs, events, and secular influences.

    Gilgamesh Epic

    The Gilgamesh Epic is the greatest masterpiece of literature prior to the Bible and Homer. Episodes of Gilgamesh such as the flood (from which Genesis 6–8 is in part derived) have survived in older Sumerian tablets, but the epic as a whole was the later creation of the Semitic Babylonians and Assyrians. It circulated widely in the ancient Near East, and was translated into other languages, including Hittite and Hurrian. As the foremost classic of Mesopotamian civilization, it penetrated Palestine prior to the Israelite conquest, and Anatolia, where it was available to the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor.

    The twelve tablets of the Gilgamesh Epic form a unified composition dealing with the serious problems of life and death as experienced by the hero Gilgamesh. The milieu of the epic is urban: Gilgamesh is the king of Uruk (biblical Erech), described as a well‐planned walled city of superb construction.

    The Gilgamesh Epic deals with heroic values. Gilgamesh gives up selfish tyranny for the noble but dangerous aim of eliminating evil from the face of the earth. Because he needs a friend to help him in this awesome mission, a worthy companion, named Enkidu, is created for him out of clay. Together they triumph over the forces of evil in the forms of monsters and dragons.

    For offending the goddess Ishtar, Enkidu dies, which reminds Gilgamesh that he too is mortal and will someday perish. For, like Adam, Gilgamesh has gained knowledge but not immortality. Frightened by the prospect of death, Gilgamesh undertakes a perilous journey to the hero Utnapishtim, who survived the flood and had immortality conferred on him by the assembled gods. On the way, Gilgamesh stops at the tavern run by the goddess Siduri, who tells him to make the most of life: to eat, drink, be merry; to wed and sire children whose little hands he could hold. Such are the joys within the grasp of mortals; but the gods had reserved immortality for themselves. Nevertheless, Gilgamesh persists in traversing land and sea until he finds old Utnapishtim, who explains that the gods had made him immortal because of a unique event, the flood, which would never be repeated. The gods could not be reconvened merely to immortalize Gilgamesh. So Gilgamesh returns to Uruk, whose magnificence he admires. If we mortals cannot have heaven, we can at least enjoy the comforts of our native city.

    The final tablet tells how Gilgamesh interviews the dead Enkidu and learns that the underworld is dreary at best, but utterly wretched for those who die without progeny to offer them food and drink. One's state there is alleviated by leaving children on earth—and the more, the better.

    The message is clear: Make the most of the life that is given to us. Ecclesiastes (3.22; 5.17–19; 8.15) makes the same point.

    Cyrus H. Gordon

    • Previous Result
    • Results
    • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
    • Highlight On / Off
    • Next Result
    Oxford University Press

    © 2021. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice