Monday, August 19, 2019

Reed House in Jerusalem

At the end of the street I'm staying on in Israel, there's a house that's almost entirely surrounded by tall reeds. They've turned golden brown in the summer heat.

I'm reminded of a passage from the Gilgamesh flood story. This story appears in the book of Gilgamesh, although it didn't originate there - it's an independent story. Gilgamesh has gone to Utnapishtim, the Babylonian Noah figure who survived the great flood with his wife, and to whom the gods gave immortality.

The gods had decided to destroy humanity, because we were very noisy and disturbed their sleep. The "great gods" - Anu, Enlil, Ninurta, Ennuge [his name means "inspector of canals"] - had made the decision. Another god, Ninigiku-Ea, was "present with them," and was disturbed by this decision, he decided to warn Utnapishtim. Utnapishtim said to Gilgamesh:
"I will reveal to you, Gilgamesh, a hidden matter
And a secret of the gods I will tell you:
Shuruppak - a city which you know,
And which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates -
That city was ancient, (as were) the gods within it,
When their hearts led the great gods to produce the flood."
Ea told Utnapishtim:
"Their words he repeats to the reed-hut:
'Reed-hut, reed-hut! Wall, wall!
Reed-hut, hearken! Wall, reflect!
Man of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu,
Tear down (this) house, build a ship!
Give up possessions, seek life!
Forswear (worldly) goods and keep the soul alive!
Aboard the ship take the seed of all living things.'"
Source: Tablet XI of Gilgamesh, published in Pritchard, ANET, p. 93.

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