Genesis 8:6-9, the Epic of Gilgamesh

After forty days Noah opened the window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find no place to set its feet because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark.

//Flood myths are numerous outside the Bible, but the Mesopotamian story is particularly fascinating when compared to Noah in the Bible. This story can be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

In this version, the ark builder’s name is Utnapishtim, who is warned ahead of time of the gods’ plan to flood the earth. In seven days, he built a ship with seven decks, and loaded his family and goods (including animals, of course). The weather grew frightful and rained seven days. Water covered the land. On the seventh day, the sea quieted, and the boat came to rest on Mount Nisir. (Noah’s ark rested on Mount Ararat.)

Utnapishtim then waited seven days and released a dove. The dove came back. He tried a swallow next, which also returned. Finally, Utnapishtim sent out a raven, which did not return. It had found dry land. So, Utnapishtim disembarked and, like Noah, offered sacrifice.

Fascinating, but not nearly as fascinating at this little tidbit: The Epic of Gilgamesh is perhaps the oldest written story on earth, penned about 2,000 BC. Long before any of the Bible was written. It’s about the adventures of the historical King of Uruk, who reigned around 2,500 BC or a little before. The traditional Biblical dating of Noah’s flood agrees within a couple hundred years.

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