Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Flood Myth

According to the account given in Genesis[1], God had come to regret creating man and the Earth due to his corruption and iniquity.  It was due to this displeasure that God decided to destroy man and all creeping things on the face of the Earth.  However, Noah managed through his righteousness to find grace with God and gained a covenant that he and his family would not be destroyed in the flood[2].  Along with his family, Noah was commissioned by God to save a selection of all the animals of the Earth.  Contrary to the popular belief that there was two of every animal saved, the account in Genesis states that there was two of every unclean animal to be saved, but seven of every clean animal and fowl[3].  These were saved so that the Earth may be repopulated following the destruction of the wicked.  The flood lasted[4] for a period of one year and ten days[5].  At the end of the flood, Noah used birds to test if the floodwaters had receded to a point that everything could leave the ark[6].  When the dove failed to return on the third release, Noah knew that it was safe to leave the ark. 

The story of the flood indicates that the relationship between people and God is similar to that of a loving parent and disobedient children, where God has the role of the parent and the people that of children.  Have been pushed to the limits of what disobedience He could tolerate, God chose to help His children (the people) the best way he could; by removing them from the Earth before they could do any more harm to themselves, and starting over with Noah and his family.  The authorship of Genesis is credited to Moses, who is purported to have been a prophet of God.  Assuming that this is accurate, the authorship of Genesis can be taken as coming from both a record keeping point of view as well as that of an instructional and warning nature.

When comparing the flood in Genesis with the Epic of Gilgamesh and of Atrahasis, there are a lot of similarities.  In all three stories, the populace of Earth is destroyed by flood due to the people angering a god.  However, in both Gilgamesh and Atrahasis, there are multiple gods, whereas in Genesis there is just one.  Also, in Genesis, the cause of God’s anger was the peoples iniquity, as opposed to the other two, which was the loudness of the people keep the god Ellil awake[7].  The flood in Gilgamesh only lasted for seven days; in Genesis it was a year and ten days.

Taking the recorded dates of when Genesis, Atrahasis, and Gilgamesh were written, Atrahasis would seem to be the oldest, at approximately 1700BC[8], where as Genesis, even though it is recording an event that supposedly took place in 2300BC, was reputedly written by Moses, which puts it as being written at around 1400BC.


Atrahasis.  Tablet I.vii, II.i, III.i-vii.  Weekly Readings

Gilgamesh.  Tablet XI.i-iv  Weekly Readings

The Holy Bible.  (King James Version)  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, 1989. 

[1] Genesis 6:5-7
[2] Genesis 6:18
[3] Genesis 7:2-3
[4] From the beginning of the rain until the return of the dove.
[5] Starting in Noah’s six hundredth year, second month, and seventeenth day and abating in his six hundred and first year, second month and twenty-seventh day.  Genesis 7:11 & 8:13-14.
[6] Genesis 8:7-12
[7] Atrahasis
[8] Atrahasis

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