Obedience and Arrogance in Epic of Gilgamesh and Book of Genesis of the Holy Bible

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Obedience and Arrogance in Gilgamesh and Genesis

The issue of obedience figures prominently in both "The Epic of Gilgamesh" and the book of Genesis in the Bible. These works were produced by very different cultures and traditions (Middle Eastern and Hebraic, respectively) and the characters in each react to authority or advice with very different levels of obedience. Noah is found to be righteous by God and is rewarded with a means to escape the devastation of the flood. Gilgamesh, in his arrogance, thinks himself to be above the mortal concept of death. I have chosen the two opening paragraphs from the seventh chapter of "The Epic of Gilgamesh" and Genesis 6:8-22 to illustrate the conflicts between obedience and arrogance.

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He rejects her proposal by insulting her. Ishtar now has reason to despise Gilgamesh and can easily persuade the other gods and goddesses to deny him help. He offends the supernatural powers to whom he would later appeal for immortality. Noah, on the other hand, is ever faithful to his God. When the whole of the earth is overcome by wickedness, Noah alone "found grace in the eyes of God." When God gives Noah specific instructions on how to build and fill the ark, Noah follows these divine instructions perfectly. While Noah is saved through his obedience, the arrogance of Gilgamesh leads to his own downfall.

The conflict between diligence and arrogance surfaces again when Gilgamesh is given his first chance at immortality. After a long and grueling journey to find the man-turned-immortal Utnapishtim, Gilgamesh is presented with this deal: if Gilgamesh can stay awake for six days and seven nights, immortality is his. Gilgamesh does not even respond to this proposal, he simply closes his eyes and falls asleep. Seven nights later when Gilgamesh wakes up, he cries out "What shall I do, O Utnapishtim, where shall I go?" He doesn't want to believe that the trial is over and he has failed. Gilgamesh is given simple instructions but he does not follow them. One can imagine what would happen if Gilgamesh and Noah were to switch places. If God had offered Gilgamesh a way to escape death during the flood, his reaction

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