Since the early days of study between the flood accounts found in the Epic of Gilgamesh and Genesis, there has been a general consensus that a relationship between the two accounts is undeniable. Throughout the existence of the human race, many flood accounts have been brought to light. However, the Book of Genesis is typically regarded as a historical work while the Epic of Gilgamesh is typically viewed as a mythological account. While both of these works are regarded in different lights, both offer insights into the way society was. The flood account, according to the Epic of Gilgamesh, shows how women and men interacted in a hierarchical way. However, the Bible shows men and women hardly interacting. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the gender relations are more futile than in the Bible emphasizing a hierarchical form of thinking found during the times of Gilgamesh.
In the flood account found in The Bible, the gender relations are relatively smooth. While women and men don’t interact very often, when they do, the interactions are harmonious. For example, verse 7 states that “Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.” Both men and women are going into the ark together. The word “together” is used twice in this account (ll.13&18) and serves to highlight the harmonious relationship between men and women. For example, “together” is used in line 13: “Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark.” This line shows them entering the ark together and line 18 describes everyone coming out of the ark together. All of the acts done by women and men occur in a harmonious fashion in the Biblical flood account.
On the other hand, the same can’t be said for the flood account in The Epic of Gilgamesh. In this account, everyone goes into the ark just as in the Biblical account. However, the men and women are described very distinctly. For example, “the reed worker carried his stone…the men… The child carried the pitch, the weak brought whatever else was needed.” This line exemplifies how the “men” are strong enough to carry the stone, but the women and children are “weak.” In the Biblical account, the women and men all pitch in together as shown with the pronoun “they” in “They had with them every wild animal.” While the Biblical account takes everyone into consideration in a harmonious way, the Epic of Gilgamesh clearly doesn’t. This is further shown in lines such as “Ishtar shrieked like a woman in childbirth, the sweet-voiced Mistress of the Gods wailed.” The use of verbs like “shrieked” and “wailed” highlight the ‘soft’ image women had in those times. Even the description “sweet-voiced Mistress” shows how the male gender viewed the female gender.
Similar to the way in which the Bible blames the origins of sin on a woman, the Epic of Gilgamesh flood account blames the origins of the flood on a woman, Ishtar. She is described as having “said evil things in the Assembly of the Gods!” While she cries and blames herself for the demise of her people, the gods of the Annunaki stay “weeping with her” and “sobbing with grief.” This detail highlights how much the gods loved people because this is the only time they cry in this account. Even though women are portrayed as weak and the ones to blame, they are still included in the account unlike the few female mentions in the Bible. Still, their inclusion doesn’t mean they are treated equally as the men are. For example, when Utanapishtim’s wife replies to Utanapishtim, she tells him to “touch the youth who wanted eternal life” and “let him return to his land,” he tells her to “come [and] bake loaves for him and keep setting them by his head.” As a woman, Utanapishtim’s wife is unnamed and is expected to serve her husband. She listens to her husband’s commands, but he doesn’t listen to her requests of touching the young man. However, when she asks her husband: “What can you give [Gilgamesh] so that he can return to his land (with honor),” she is shown as a caring female who is concerned with the well-being of those around her, fitting for a female in these times.
Throughout the Biblical flood account, gender relations are shown to be harmonious. However, in the Babylonian flood account, gender relations are described as tumultuous at times. While the men are considered stronger than the women in The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Bible insinuates the women and men working harmoniously. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, some of the women are described as Mistresses and their requests aren’t always considered. However, in the Biblical account of the flood, women are hardly described and there’s even a section dedicated to Noah and his sons leaving out women entirely. Even though the Epic of Gilgamesh includes women more than the Biblical account of the flood, the Epic of Gilgamesh paints a more realistic viewpoint on gender relations than the Biblical account.