The Bible and Mesopotamian Flood Stories
There are very noticeable similarities between the flood story in the Bible and the Mesopotamian flood story. However, there are also differences that cannot be ignored. Various aspects of each story differ from the other account. The idea behind each is nearly the same. In the Bible, God was very disappointed in the people on earth. They committed many sins and strayed from Him.
He decided to send a flood to wash all living creatures off the face of the earth so he might start all over again. In Mesopotamian history, five gods decided to send a flood. The story is unclear as to why they came to this decision, but it happened. The gods sent a flood onto earth. In each flood story, there was one key person.
In the Bible, it was Noah. In Mesopotamian culture, Utnapishtim took the spotlight as the human that lived. They both took their family and many animals. However, in the Bible, God chose Noah because he was a devout godly man, while Utnapishtim was merely favored by one of the gods. Noah and Utnapishtim were both commanded to build large boats, capable of holding them, their families, and many animals. For Noah, it was two of every kind of animal.
Utnapishtim’s commands concerning animals were unclear. God gave Noah very precise instructions on the construction of his ark, down to the very type of wood required. Utnapishtim was commanded to make a square ship with many levels and decks. Both ships succeeded in staying afloat during the flood. In the Bible, the rains came from the heavens for forty days and forty nights. The Mesopotamians only told of seven days and nights.
Needless to say, the boats endured. When Noah’s ark and Utnapishtim’s boat hit their own mountains, they each did similar things. They sent various birds to test whether the waters had receded. When they knew the land was safe to walk on, they both sacrificed to their god(s) and let the animals loose. The Bible’s flood story says God promised Noah never again to send a flood to wipe humans off the earth, sealing this testament with a rainbow.
The Mesopotamians say that the gods granted Utnapishtim and his wife immortal life as a type of apology for slaying the other people around him. he deities in each of these stories differ greatly. In Mesopotamian culture, the decision of sending the flood came as an idea with no real reason behind it. The gods and goddesses themselves were terrified by the flood and cowered at the gates of heaven. In the Bible, God sent the flood to punish humans for their ungodly behavior and sins. He wanted to start fresh and make a new human race.
During the flood, the Bible doesn’t mention what God felt as the waters covered the whole earth, and his people drowned. The accounts tell of very different deities. In conclusion, while the stories follow the same general plot, the details vary. In one story, justice is dealt on the people of earth, and in another, the people are merely victim to a sudden desire. In each, only one person lives.
They are both symbols of the mercy of the deities, providing hope for future believers of each religion reading the stories.