Epic of Gilgamesh Sippar Tablet

Ancient Near East

The life that you seek you never will find: when the gods created mankind, death they dispensed to mankind, life they kept for themselves. But you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full, enjoy yourself always by day and by night! Make merry each day, dance and play day and night! Let your clothes be clean, let your head be washed, may you bathe in water! Gaze on the child who holds your hand, let your wife enjoy your repeated embrace! For such is the destiny [of mortal men,] that the one who lives ... [Said] Gilgamesh to her, [to the ale-wife:] O tavern-keeper, why do you talk [this way?] My heart is [still very] sick for my friend. O tavern-keeper, why do you talk [this way?] My heart is [still very] sick for Enkidu. But you dwell, O tavern-keeper, on the shore [of the ocean,] you are familiar with all [the ways across it.] Show me the way, [O show me!] If it may be done [I will cross] the ocean!

Ecclesiastes 9:7

Hebrew Bible

6 What they loved, as well as what they hated and envied, perished long ago, and they no longer have a part in anything that happens on earth. 7 Go, eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, because God has already approved your works. 8 Let your clothes always be white, and do not spare precious ointment on your head. 9 Enjoy life with your beloved wife during all the days of your fleeting life that God has given you on earth during all your fleeting days; for that is your reward in life and in your burdensome work on earth. 10 Whatever you find to do with your hands, do it with all your might, because there is neither work nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave, the place where you will eventually go.

 Notes and References

"... Although other similarities have since been identified, these words spoken to the epic hero remain the most recognizable feature linking Gilgamesh to Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes 9:7-9). Of course, this comparison raises historical issues because the tavern keeper’s speech is only found in the epic’s Old Babylonian version. This episode was later redacted and removed, and therefore does not appear in the Standard Babylonian version, which was closer in time to Qoheleth. But the process that saw the redaction of this speech also added literary elements taken from royal inscriptions. Specifically, the reference to a narû in the Standard Babylonian Epic invokes a Mesopotamian genre of literature that emulates the speech of a king. The allusions here to this form of royal autobiography offers a productive place to re-examine the epic’s similarities to Qoheleth. The link between Gilgamesh and Qoheleth is thus seemingly supported by their interaction with genres of royal inscriptions, whether it is explicit as in Gilgamesh or implicit as in Qoheleth ..."

Suriano, Matthew J. Kingship and Carpe Diem, Between Gilgamesh and Qoheleth (pp. 285-306) Brill, 2017

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