The Epic of Gilgamesh: Values, & Serpents vs. Bible

The True Value of Life Sometimes, in order for you to change, it takes losing something so dear to you. This is proven in one of the oldest stories ever written, “The Epic of Gilgamesh”. Although the main plot is focused on Gilgamesh losing is closest friend and going on a journey of immortality, by studying Gilgamesh’s idea of avoiding death, we can see throughout the story that death is inevitable, lack of humility is an issue, and the symbol of the serpent. Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, is a mighty king that built magnificent temple towers and high walls that surrounded the city.
However, he came about these building projects by forced labor. The gods heard the people of Uruk’s pleas, so the gods created Enkidu, who is just as magnificent as Gilgamesh, to challenge him. The gods’ plan took a different turn when the two became best of friends. Gilgamesh’s happy adventurous life soon takes a tragic turn when Enkidu falls ill and dies. Gilgamesh now fears for his own life. Heartbroken, Gilgamesh sets out on a journey to find the key to eternal life. His journey leads him to Utnapishtim, who he and his family’s lives were spared by Ea, the god of wisdom, from the flood.
As a result of this, Enlil, the god of earth, rewards Utnapishtim with eternal life. Gilgamesh assumes Utnapishtim can grant him eternal life as well, so he puts him to a test. Gilgamesh has to stay awake for a week; this is a trick because immortals don’t ever sleep. Gilgamesh immediately fails. As a second chance Utnapishtim gives him a plant of youth. On his journey back home a snake steals the plant while Gilgamesh is in the pond. Gilgamesh returns to Uruk empty handed; however, he returns as a different man. The greatest lesson Gilgamesh learns is that death is inescapable.

Siduri, the goddess of wine disguised as the tavern keeper, warns him of seeking immortality. “As for you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full, make merry day and night. Of each day make a feast of rejoicing. Day and night dance and play! Let your garments be sparkling fresh, your head be washed; bathe in water. Pay heed to a little one that holds on to your hand, let a spouse delight in your bosom” (Tablet X). This is her telling him it would be pointless and to just enjoy what he has in his life now. It was Enkidu’s fate to die as a consequence after him and Gilgamesh killed the Bull of Heaven.
Gilgamesh realizes in the end that it is also man’s fate to die, as it is for humankind to live on. Death is inevitable and immortality is promised only to the gods. Life must be treasured. Life isn’t worth living if you don’t take what is has to offer, for death will come faster than you know. Gilgamesh may have started his quest as two-thirds god and one-third man, but he returned as a man, realizing his own inevitable mortality. From being two-thirds god and one-third man, Gilgamesh is destined for perfection. He is blessed with the luxurious life and all the riches he could possibly want.
Unfortunately his greatest flaw is his arrogance and lack of humility. Gilgamesh was created by the gods to be perfect in every way. However, the gods couldn’t prepare him for life, its challenges, and how to be a true king. Gilgamesh lived like a god amongst his people and was hated for it because he didn’t care about anyone but himself. The gods didn’t know what to do with Gilgamesh’s life so they sent Enkidu which gave him true friendship. Gilgamesh started in the story as a cruel king that used forced labor to build his kingdom and would rape women.
He would do whatever he wanted to do and get who and whatever he wanted. He was loathed by his people. The first transition to his change was Enkidu. They both became heroes. When his journey ends he returns to his kingdom as a new selfless man who thinks no more than do right by his people. Serpents play similar but at the same time different roles in Gilgamesh and the Bible. In the story of Gilgamesh the serpent changes Gilgamesh’s perception of life. After his long quest he is given an herb that restores his youth. He hasn’t yet used it when a snake steals it.
Though the snake robs Gilgamesh of his chance to enjoy youth again, it restores Gilgamesh’s sanity. The snake is a benefit. Gilgamesh now carries back the gift of wisdom. He now focuses on what is in front of him and doesn’t take life for granted. In the Bible, the serpent is a source of evil that brought life-long punishment to humankind. The serpent tempts Adam and Eve to disobeying God into taking what rightfully belongs to God – knowledge. As punishment, God exiles Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and brands them as sinners.
The serpent stole their innocence, so in a way the serpent brought both death and knowledge into the world. As descendent of Adam and Eve we also hold the name as a sinner. “This is the wall of Uruk, which no city on earth can equal. See how its ramparts gleam like copper in the sun. Climb the stone staircase, more ancient than the mind can imagine a temple that no king has equaled in size or beauty, walk on the wall of Uruk, follow its course around the city, inspect its mighty foundations examine its brickwork, how masterfully it is built, observe the land it encloses” (Book XI).
Shortly before Gilgamesh’s eyes truly opened he was in despair because he lost his opportunity of immortality when he lost the plant of youth. In the end as he looked upon his kingdom he established wisdom. He realized that death cannot be avoided, and he became a humble king. If it wasn’t for the serpent he would still be the arrogant king he was and he wouldn’t have gain this knowledge. If the serpent didn’t bring along the idea of eating off the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve would still be in the Garden of Eden and wouldn’t have the knowledge of the world.

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