This essay seeks to analyze the subject of death in two epical stories. It is based on the critical analysis of the epic of Gilgamesh and the book of Genesis in the Bible with regards to the issue of death. The theme of death in both Genesis and Gilgamesh takes the form of the protagonists' realization of their own mortality, which is attributed to disobedience in both narratives. Gilgamesh falls asleep although instructed to remain awake. This is similar to the case of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. Having witnessed both Enkindu and his flower dying, Gilgamesh came to realize that death is inevitable. Death, in both the book of genesis and the epic of Gilgamesh, is inescapable and is portrayed as a means to cut life short. However, there is more with regards to death in the book of genesis as seen in the epic of Gilgamesh. Despite the fact that both literature materials present death as inevitable, there is some sense of hope for human beings and mortal living things to escape death.
In the epic of Gilgamesh, the theme of death comes out clearly. In general, the book portrays death as an inevitable aspect of life. Nothing that has life in it can actually escape from death. The protagonist, Gilgamesh found himself in bitter moods in the end of story after realizing that it’s only the gods who are immortal . Even when he got into the fight with Humbaba against the will of the gods, he realizes that the gods live forever. Basically, in epic of Gilgamesh, the protagonist agrees to the fact that life is too short and he has to leave fame behind once he dies.
As they confronted each other on the way to the cedar forest to contend with Humbaba, the two warriors convince themselves that the only thing that lasts for mortal human beings is there fame and legacy. Otherwise, everything else the existence of human beings becomes history when they die. This argument with Enkindu seems to be true as only the people who left huge significant marks in the society seem to be remembered. Even though they all succumbed to death, the legacy in which they left behind remains immortalized.
Similarly, in the epic story, Gilgamesh was a great warrior who was determined to fight for what he believed in. His biggest legacy came at the point where he fought the monster of the cedar forest, Humbaba, and killed it. Considering the fierceness of the monster, any man who dared standing before it would be regarded as brave. However, Gilgamesh went a notch higher to contend with it and killing it.
The death of Enkindu simply makes Gilgamesh to be terrified and to develop weird thoughts about how he will meet his own fate. This is found in tablet 8 of the book. Gilgamesh not only laments the death of Enkindu but also becomes grieved. According to the book, lamentation was not sufficient for Gilgamesh he just had to become grieved in order to show how terrified he was about what he just discovered about mortal people. In his mind he knew he would live forever but reality dawned on him and it became hard to accept the fact that he too will follow suit and die live Enkindu. He therefore kept on imagining how his own death would turn out. In tablet nine of the story, one of Gilgamesh’s plants dies out and this reveals to him that living things also experience death.
The book also offers some theological beliefs of the then Mesopotamian world. They offered insight into the idea of life after death. However, the belief was slightly different since it was also clear that they believed in the dead being comfortably dead. Despite the contrast created by these conflicting theological beliefs, there was still some hope for those who died to get into a different sphere of life.
The quest of Gilgamesh into the cedar forest would be regarded as a means in which he faced death. However, his quest to Utnapishtim would be regarded as means in which he tried to escape from death. The accounts of the floods according to the Utnapishtim, just shows how much of the unlikely such a goal is. This is because we all base our assumptions on the fact that death is deeply stitched into the fabrics of the creation. But, the one thing that is clear is that life too is stitched into the fabrics of creation as well. This means that in as much as human beings would die, the nature of existence of humanity would still live on. It can be further argued that Gilgamesh did not really learn about death from his experiences, but rather, he learnt about the nature of life.
This inevitability of death is also exhibited in the book of Genesis. From the moment when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they were condemned to death. Basically, God made a clear order to Adam not to eat from the tree of good and evil, not unless he will die. But when they both disobeyed, death entered into the world through sin and every person born of Adam was automatically under the curse of death. God used death as the ultimate punishment of sin. No mankind therefore could escape death.
The issue of life and death has been touched on severally in the book of genesis. Before the God wipes out almost the entire humanity during the floods of Noah’s time, there are two main incidences of death which support the thesis of this paper. The first one is when Cain murders his brother Abel while the second incident is Lamech’s vengeful response. There is a lot that can be drawn from Genesis 5 with regards to life and death. We see humanity making effort to be successful and flourish in fulfilling the mandate of the creation. However, all their efforts are checkmated by death.
There is a huge contrast between the desire of God to have humanity flourish and the reign of death. Severally, throughout the entire chapter of Genesis 5, the phrase, “and then he died”, appears. This is after the said person seems to flourish in the accomplishment of the creation mandate. Through the book of genesis, one can gradually begin to understand the diminishing life span of human beings. On the contrary, the pattern to cut short success of human beings in accomplishing the mandate of the creation through death was interfered with the narration of Enoch’s life. The story of Enoch in genesis 5, fails to support the thesis of this paper.
It is actually written that Enoch walked with God and one day he was just removed from the face of the earth. He lived for 365 years and throughout his entire life he walked faithfully with God and had a personal fellowship with God. It is for this reason and strong devotion with God that it is believed that Enoch escaped death. Other sections of the Bible also tend to support the escape of Enoch from death. For instance, in Hebrews 11:5, the author acknowledges that it took Enoch’s faith for him not to see death. Nobody found him, because he was taken by God. Despite the contrast created by the narration of Enoch’s faithful life and personal fellowship with God, death still remains an inevitable aspect of humanity. There are numerous individual, still in the book of Genesis, who were equally faithful and God was pleased with them. However, they still ended up dying as everyone else.
Looking back at the story of Adam and Eve, it is clear that death entered into the face of the earth through disobedience of the two. This means that if Adam and Eve had not partaken of the forbidden fruit, then death would not have entered into the face of the world. Basically, human beings would be immortal and we would not witness the case where the flourishing of human beings is checkmated by death. Even though physical death is referred to as “death”, in reality it does not imply total extinction. It is just that its outcome is separated from the world of the living.
Basically, this implies that it would be possible to escape death and mankind will be once immortal again. Similarly, the aspect about bringing hope to humanity is clearly brought out in verses 28 and 29 of Genesis 5, when at 182 years Lamech had a son whom he named Noah. A closer look at what this name means, one will realize that it actually refers to comfort. This basically brought the hope that at one point, human beings would begin to experience comfort and relief from the struggle that they have to return to the cursed ground. Even though some literature scholars would argue that this event was specifically referring to the ark, a critical look into it reveals that it is more than the ark. It can even make a lot of sense in today’s religion and literature world.
In conclusion, the idea of death and its inevitability has been effectively analyzed from the two books. Both Gilgamesh and the book of Genesis reveal that death is inevitable. This can be seen in the dying of Enkindu in the epic of Gilgamesh and God using death to checkmate the success of human beings in leaving according to the mandate of the creation in the book of Genesis. Despite death being inevitable, one can critically argue that there is some ray of hope for mankind to avoid facing death at some point in the future. At the same time, the nature of humanity will still live even though people we still be experiencing physical death.
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