One of the most ancient pieces of literature known to man is called the Gilgamesh Epic. Gilgamesh, the hero of the story, was a king who did not want to die. So he traveled to see a man named Utnapishtim, who had reputedly survived a flood. According to the story, this tragic flood had been brought about by the gods, who were angry that the human race was multiplying so rapidly and was so noisy that the gods’ peace and quiet was being disturbed. However, not all the gods were in favor of this “final solution” to the problem of noise. One of them, Ea, broke ranks and warned Utnapishtim of the impending tragedy. Forewarned, Utnapishtim built a boat and with his family escaped destruction.
This ancient story has been preserved for millennia on clay tablets. The interesting thing about the story is its remarkable similarities to the Noah account—and the striking dissimilarities to it. No one knows which version of the flood story was written down first. Clearly, though, these stories reflect a historical event, which was handed down verbally and then recorded. But there the similarity ends! The Gilgamesh story is all about squabbling, petty, selfish deities who reflect the sordid actions and attitudes of the men whose imagination created them. The biblical account records the gracious actions of the holy God, who is deeply distressed at human sin, and how he reaches out in grace, saves Noah and his family, and makes a solemn pledge never again to destroy the earth with a flood.
According to the Gilgamesh Epic, when Utnapishtim saw the weather worsening, he got into his boat and battened down the hatches. But according to the biblical account, Noah heard the Lord command, “Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I consider you alone to be righteous” (Gen. 7:1). When Noah was inside with his family and the animals, “the Lord shut them in” (7:16).
Noah’s salvation was based on the grace of the Lord, who had seen in Noah a man who walked before God in righteousness. Noah was not perfect, but he was obedient, loving, and trusting. He was instructed by the Lord to make the ark, and he did it. When he was invited by the Lord to enter the boat, he responded. And once inside, he was secured by the Lord, who personally battened down the hatches!
When the calamities of life overtake us, there are those who have nowhere to turn. Like Gilgamesh, who did not know how to cope with life, they turn to people whose luck has held and seek comfort from them. But those who know the Lord, like Noah, trust him and find him sufficient in their hour of need. They float when others sink
For Further Study: Genesis 7:1-24
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Stuart Briscoe, please visit TellingtheTruth.org.