Epic of Gilgamesh and Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible form a foundation for the Christian Old Testament. Unknown to most people is that there exists another much older text that dates as far back as 18th century BC, The Epic of Gilgamesh. Many similar events exist in the two accounts, and this paper seeks to explore such in regards to some of the stylistic devices employed.
These elements feature in a repetitive manner in literal work that can be used to develop themes or support a certain general idea in the text. They are used for symbolic purposes within the story.
Sex and seduction are concepts that feature in both the Hebrew bible and in Gilgamesh. In both cases, sex plays a critical role in how story unfolds. In the Hebrew bible, Abraham, who is the ancestor of the Jewish race, had two sons. God’s promise was to be fulfilled through his son. Now since he got another son through his house help, contrary to the original plan of God, he had to send him away (Ishmael) (Toorn, 76). Ishmael, being a son to Abraham had also to be blessed by God as is stated in Genesis 16:3. The plan that God had for Abraham in a way becomes more complex since God had planned for Abraham only one son. In another instance after Lot and Abraham had separated, in Genesis 19, the men of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to have sex with the angels that had come to rescue Lot. Their immorality and pervasiveness led to this city destruction. In Genesis6:4, the sons of God had intercourse with the daughters of man thereby producing giants. Due to despicable things that the human beings were doing, God sent the flood that destroyed every living thing.
This recurrence idea of sex and implications thereof seems to feature also in Gilgamesh. In Gilgamesh, Enkidu is seduced by the temple prostitute who helps change his primitive and animalistic ways and become more civilized. In the worldview of the inhabitants of Mesopotamia back then, there was no eternity as this was the only life known to exist. They further believed that the act of sex would supernaturally connect someone to the life force. Gilgamesh later on, brings misfortune upon himself and Enkidu when he shuns the seduction of the goddess Ishtar. In so doing, he spurns the only chance he had of an afterlife since he did not understand the purpose of her seduction.
The Hebrew Bible is a book that to a great deal tells the story of the journey of the descendants of Abraham. The journey begins with Abraham commanded to move to the land that God would give him. Many years later, his descendants take a forty-year long journey to get back to, this is the Promised Land. A lot happens in this journey and the end only two people from the original group that began the journey make it to the Promised Land (Shavit, Eran and Shavit, 56). In Gilgamesh, once Enkidu and Gilgamesh are united, they embark on journeys to different places where they have different experiences. They travel to the underworld, the Cedar forest, to Urshanabi among other places.
These patterns seem to be repeated in life and in literal work. There are three types of Archetypes that are made use of in literature; these include symbols, types of characters and motifs.
In the two texts, there is a detailed account of the hero’s journey and the challenges faced along the way. In the Hebrew bible, there is a detailed account of the journey that the Israelites embarked on in a quest to reconnect with their ancestral land and their God. Likewise, in The Epic of Gilgamesh the book focuses on the quest of Gilgamesh for fulfillment and eternity.
The Hebrew bible and the Epic of Gilgamesh do share in some of the literal features employed. They are both great texts that are very rich in wisdom and moral lessons and are compatible with the postmodern era of today’s world. Motifs and archetypes are both used in many instances to give flow and help in expressing the message.
Shavit, Jacob, Mordechai Eran, and Jacob Shavit. The Hebrew Bible Reborn. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2007. Print.
Toorn, K. van der. Scribal Culture And The Making Of The Hebrew Bible. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007. Print.