The Mabbul and Mesopotamian Myths

Introduction

Flood stories have survived in many cultures from the Central American Maya to the Hindu in India. The closest parallels to the Biblical account, not surprisingly, are the Mesopotamian versions. These are similar to the Biblical story not only in the general concept of a divinely wrought flood wiping out mankind, but also in many of the particulars describing the event. It is the differences between the versions, though, that are most telling as they highlight the unique values and belief systems of the Children of Israel, distinguishing them from their polytheistic neighbors. For extended analysis of the many parallels and contrasts between the different accounts, see the commentary of U. CassutoFrom Noach to Avraham, Introduction, p.1From Noach to Avraham, Introduction, p.18-19About Prof. U. Cassuto.

Mesopotamian Accounts

Parallels to the Biblical Account

Contrasts

Analysis

Many of the differences between the Mesopotamian and Biblical accounts of the flood reflect the cultures' differing belief systems and notions of a deity:

Summary Chart

Torah Mesopotamian Versions
Description of Deity Sole God Pantheon of gods
Just and moral Capricious
Omnipotent and omniscient Neither omnipotent nor omniscient
Above physical desires Physically needy
In control of nature Afraid of nature
Description of Hero Layman, simple name King, glorified name
10th generation24
Passive; simply obeys God Active
Remains mortal Raised to status of gods
Pre-Flood Preparations Explicit sharing of plan Secret divulging of plan
Building of boat/ark
Salvation of family and animals Salvation of family, animals, craftsmen, and possessions
Sealing of door by Hashem Sealing of door by hero
The Flood Water from heavens and depths Windy storm
40 days and nights of rain 7 days and nights of rain25
--- Gods tremble and cower in fear
Boat rests on mountain and sending of birds
Divine command to exit Hero exits boat on own
Post-flood Bringing of sacrifices
--- Gods swarm over sacrifices
Blessing of progeny Blessing to be like gods
Promise not to being another all devastating flood Deity angry that there are survivors; new solutions for population control
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