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Down Came the Rain: Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin on Noah and Gilgamesh

In this week’s Parasha, Noah is chosen by God to perpetuate the human race after his wicked contemporaries perish in the flood.

Rabbi Professor David Golinkin, President of The Schechter Institutes, points out that despite the general similarities between the story of Noah and the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh there is a major theological difference between the stories.

See the comparison chart below:


A Comparison of Noah and Gilgamesh edited by Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin

Aspect of Story Gilgamesh & Parallels The Torah
1. Characteristics of God X1:20 gods; one tells hero.X1:113 they fear the flood One omnipotent God
2. Reason for flood X1:14 no reason or population control or gods cannot sleep 6:11-12 earth corrupt, lawlessness
3. Warning to hero X1:20 & 173 Gods don’t plan to tell; Ea tells the hero. 6:13ff. God warns Noah
4. Why hero chosen to be Saved? X1:23 no reason or righteous (Sumerian) or power plays, 6:9 צדיק תמים Righteous,walked with God.
5. Hero’s origin royal family commoner
6. Structure of ark X1:58 120 amot, 7 levels,9 sections per level. 6:15-16   300 amot,3 levels
7. Who closed door? X1:93 the hero 7:16 God.
8. Who steers ark? X1:94 sailors and captain God, no steering wheel, it’s an ark.
9. Who is saved? X1:86 family of hero, builders and sailors 6:18 Noah and family
10. Length of flood X1:127    6 or 7 days 7:24   150 days.
11. The birds X1:146   dove, swallow, raven 8:7         raven, dove, dove
12. The mountain X1:140 Nisir: 35th parallel 8:4 Ararat: 40th parallel
13. Thanksgiving sacrifice & God’s reaction X1:159 “the gods crowded like flies”. 8:20-21 “God smelled the pleasing odor
14. After the flood X1:173 Enlil angry that people were saved.X1:194 Enlil grants hero and wife eternal life = they became gods. 8:21-22 God promises not to curse earth again9:1-17 “seven mitzvot of sons of Noah”;

Covenant of rainbow.

David Golinkin is President of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and President Emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. For twenty years he served as Chair of the Va’ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly which gives halakhic guidance to the Masorti Movement in Israel. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah at Schechter and also directs the Center for Women in Jewish Law. Rabbi Professor Golinkin made aliyah in 1972, earning a BA in Jewish History and two teaching certificates from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Rabbinics and a PhD in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as Rabbi. For a complete bio click here.

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