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World-Wide Flood Myths
The story of a Great Flood sent by a deity or deities to destroy civilization as an act of divine retribution is a widespread theme among many cultural myths.
Though it is best known in modern times in the Western world through the Biblical story of Noah's Ark, it is also well known in other versions, such as stories of Matsya in the Hindu Puranas, Deucalion in Greek mythology and Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
The earliest extant Flood myth is the fragmentary Sumerian Eridu Genesis, datable by its script to the 17th century BC.
The Sumerian myth tells how the god Enki warns Zi-ud-sura (meaning "he saw life," in reference to the gift of immortality given him by the gods), of the gods' decision to destroy mankind in a flood - the passage describing why the gods have decided this is lost. Enki instructs Ziusudra to build a large boat - the text describing the instructions is also lost. After a flood of seven days, Zi-ud-sura makes appropriate sacrifices and prostrations to Anu (sky-god) and Enlil (chief of the gods), and is given eternal life in Dilmun (the Sumerian Eden) by Anu and Enlil.
The Akkadian Atrahasis Epic (written no later than 1700 BC, the name Atrahasis means "exceedingly wise"), gives human overpopulation as the cause for the great flood.
After 1200 years of human fertility, the god Enlil felt disturbed in his sleep due to the noise and ruckus caused by the growing population of mankind. He turned for help to the divine assembly who then sent a plague, then a drought, then a famine, and then saline soil, all in an attempt to reduce the numbers of mankind
All these were temporary fixes. 1200 years after each solution, the original problem returned. When the gods decided on a final solution, to send a flood, the god Enki, who had a moral objection to this solution, disclosed the plan to Atrahasis, who then built a survival vessel according to divinely given measurements.
To prevent the other gods from bringing such another harsh calamity, Enki created new solutions in the form of social phenomena such as non-marrying women, barrenness, miscarriages and infant mortality, to help keep the population from growing out of control.
Babylonian (Epic of Gilgamesh)
In the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh toward the end of the He who saw the deep version by Sin-liqe-unninni, there are references to the great flood (tablet 11).
The hero Gilgamesh, seeking immortality, searches out Utnapishtim (whose name is a direct translation into Akkadian of the Sumerian Zi-ud-sura) in Dilmun, a kind of paradise on earth. Utnapishtim tells how Ea (equivalent of the Sumerian Enki) warned him of the gods' plan to destroy all life through a great flood and instructed him to build a vessel in which he could save his family, his friends, and his wealth and cattle. After the Deluge the gods repented their action and made Utnapishtim immortal.
The record in the book of Genesis says, "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am grieved that I have made them.'"
God selects Noah who "found favor in the eyes of the Lord" and commands him to build an ark. God instructed the ark's construction to be three hundred cubits (450 feet/137 m) long, fifty cubits (75 feet/23 m) wide, and thirty cubits (45 feet/14 m) high. Then God commanded Noah to put one pair of unclean animals and seven pairs of clean animals
After Noah builds the ark, "all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened" by God. It rains for 40 days. "The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days." The water recedes for 150 days. On the seventeenth day of the seventh month, the ark rests upon the mountains of Ararat. After 40 days on the mountain, Noah opens up the ark. "Then God spoke to Noah, saying, 'Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons' wives with you.'" Everyone and every animal exits the ark to fruitfully repopulate the Earth.
Greek mythology knows three floods. The flood of Ogyges, the flood of Deucalion and the flood of Dardanus, two of which ending two Ages of Man: the Ogygian Deluge ended the Silver Age, and the flood of Deucalion ended the First Brazen Age.