The Epic of Gilgamesh is another myth from Mesopotamia that points to unexpected change in weather when the immortal man Utnapishtim
tells Gilgamesh about the Great Flood.
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim
knows that he is near land, though he cannot see it, when he releases a raven and it does not return to him, having navigated to safety.
An epic hero like Gilgamesh will both leave his community behind and exceed its limitations as he searches for the secrets for immortality from Utnapishtim
, but he also reinforces the importance of the community when he praises Uruk's walls and, by extension, its inhabitants upon his return.
In this Epic, Gilgamesh, totally distraught by the death of his friend, sets out on a precarious journey to satisfy this human longing for immortality, only to learn from the wise old Utnapishtim
that "from the days of old there is no permanence.
Genesis borrowed many items from its pagan predecessors, like the figure of Utnapishtim
(=Noah; but the Noachian covenant, with its noble theme of a new birth for humanity, introduces us to a friendly God who makes reliable treaties with his creatures).
None of the birds bring anything back to the hero, Utnapishtim
. See Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter, 1972) 6:1354-58; Victor H.
Jewish scholar Everett Fox observes that in Gilgamesh, "the gods plan the destruction of the world for reasons unclear (or in one version, because humankind's noise is disturbing the sleep of the gods), and...the protagonist, Utnapishtim
, is saved as the result of a god's favoritism without any moral judgments being passed." (83)
Gilgamesh's journey takes him to Utnapishtim
(literally, "He Found Life"), the survivor of the great flood whom the gods had specially granted eternal life.
All humans die, except for the legend about one human who was granted immortality by the gods, one called Utnapishtim
, who may know of a way to teach him to conquer death as well.