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A World-Destroying Flood

But the very brief text does not, in other ways, bear extensive similarity to the Biblical account. The "destruction" of the human race is the purpose given by the God who caused the flood but there is no trace of a reason given for this destruction--though there is a clear indication by the god who speaks that he wishes humanity to make a new start in their worship of the gods (Handcock 20). The storm is said to rage "for seven days, for seven nights" and the principal figure, Ziusudu, emerges from a closed boat and offers sacrifices to the gods (Handcock 21). The importance of the existence of the Nippur tablet is that it demonstrates that the flood account preceded by centuries the composition of the Gilgamesh epic. The tendency of oral traditions to circulate for many centuries prior to being preserved in written form demonstrates the flexibility that must be maintained when judging the age of stories in middle-eastern literature, especially when looking at them in terms of influence.

The historical Gilgamesh, for example, was a Babylonian king who lived c. 2700 B. C. The legends surrounding him grew over the centuries into a Sumerian tradition which was later "utilized by the Babylonian Semites in the production of their great national epic" (Heidel 14). The legends of Gilgamesh were probably first compiled around 2000 B. C., as internal evidence related to the names of the deities indicates. But, since the tablets by which we know the epic date only to the seventh century B. C. it is clear that the various episodes, including the flood story, "did not spring into existence at the time of our poem but must have been current long before they were compiled and woven together to form out epic" (Heidel 15).

The Gilgamesh epic as it is known today was discovered by archaeologists on twelve large tablets in Nineveh, the later capital of the Assyrian empire, in the ruins of a temple library and the palace library of Ashurba...

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A World-Destroying Flood. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 07:25, November 26, 2015, from
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