The Nature of God and
His Role in Book of Job and The Story of Gilgamesh
Who is God and what is the role of God in the destiny of Man; no man has ever understood but the Book of Job has put God, an ultimate supreme being on trial. The book has tried to answer the questions why God bestows suffering on a man who is righteous, and the reasons behind evilness in the world. On the same hand, The Story of Gilgamesh traces the journey of human beings for whom death is inevitable and how Gods play their role and take them toward their ultimate death. The following essay will take the readers into the world and attributes of God as developed in the Book of Job and The Story of Gilgamesh. Readers will understand how the Book of Job and the Story of Gilgamesh describe the role of God in controlling the destiny of man.
The Book of Job begins with a discussion between the Lord and the Satan. Satan naturally has hatred for Job because his nature is good and he is God’s favorite. Job has an unfound faith in God and on his steadfastness and principles and on the other hand God also has full faith in Job but at the behest of Satan, God decides to put him on test. He orders Satan to inflict maximum sufferings on him. Satan destroys him of all his possessions. At the onset, it appears that the book is more about the Job and his questions and unflinching faith on God and his trial but ultimately it is the God who is on trial. From the earthly people and the Job’s sufferings develop the feeling that God is entirely malevolent sufferer and insensitive. The question thus comes to mind is why God showers sufferings and misery on the human beings who have utmost faith in him? But in the divine council of God, it is the God and other divine beings that are putting Job and human beings on trial in general. While The Story of Gilgamesh is the God’s role in controlling the destiny of man, which God himself cannot prevent. What has to happen will happen and the God also could not prevent it from happening. Human beings are mortals and all mortals have to die whatever efforts they make, they cannot escape death. Gilgamesh was half-human and half divine and as a part of the mortal human being, he was supposed to die. He took upon a long journey with numerous hardships on the way to find out the way to escape death and he even found the medicine by eating of which could prevent him from death, still he could not eat anything as he was destined to be mortal and could not attain the gift of immortality. In this sense, God is described in the Gilgamesh as an all-powerful and supreme. All actions of God are conducted to make the man realize their importance on the Earth and their duties and actions.
While in Book of Job, Job tries to understand misfortune as a divine punishment for sins and in fact, Job’s friends also feel it is a punishment for a sin Job must have unknowingly transpired. But when Job contends that he has always been a righteous man, and therefore his misfortune is not a punishment for everything, this shows that Job is questioning the ways of God and makes the God as a capricious being. But when wife of Job asks him to curse the God and dies, he negates the thought and replies, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) In next verse, he does not charge God for any wrong, yet God repeatedly put Job to test and asks him about his existence when God created the world. At the onset, we feel that God is egoistic, but it is the way of God to test the human beings for their un-flinching faith. However, God speaks directly to Job and condemns his friends when they say that faith and righteous deeds are rewarded but God recognizes Job as a true representative of God, because Job has provided unflinching faith in God. Even in the deep sufferings, he shows self-restraint and treats sufferings as another form of blessings from God.
But overall concept of Book of Job is every thing what God determines for human beings is the way of God and underlying in it is the way of showing the God’s faith in human beings and his love for them. Imparting of misery among human beings is also its way of love towards human beings. Through sufferings God conveys to human beings that what ever happens on this earth is governed by the laws of nature and cosmic judgment and there is a reason behind everything. Wisdom says that sufferings and bad things can never happen to good people. It is a cosmic ideology and to pose question on this aspect is to question the entire structure of wisdom ideology. With the scene of Job’s home burning down by whirlwind and fire all his animals and his whole family got killed except his wife God wants to test Job for his wisdom and ideology. When Job raised the question when he did not do any wrong to any one then why God inflicted grave injury on him, there the God asked where was Job when the Earth was founded and what Job knew about wisdom and the ways of God? This implies that Job did not know anything. Even though he had always been righteous and did not commit any harm to anybody yet he was not greater than God, he could not be greater than the ways of God behind whose actions there is always a reason. God wants human beings not to comprehend the ways of God and divinity and keeps it mystery. No man can understand the ways of God and his work and never should understand the same. This was the bet God played with Satan. When Satan said Job would fell from his trust on him and would impose all the questions in case of misery and poverty, God put a bet that he would not. In this bet God proved right. Though Job did pose questions but his questions were like a child asking his parent. All human beings should show humility when faced with any misery and always show faith on divinity. And when Job and his friend offered prayers and offerings to God, Job was again restored with more wealth than before, more beautiful daughters and strong children.
Through the Book of Job, God is omnipresent, and all his actions are mysterious, and any actions of his should not be questioned by any human beings and in his faith and humble trust lays the value of human being and his esteemed life.
Whereas in The story of Gilgamesh, God is presented as the doer of all kinds of actions undertaken by human beings. God also punishes all who acts against his will. When Enkidu and Gilgamesh occupied Humbaba and murdered the Bull of Heaven, which the goddess Ishtar had sent to kill as a revenge for Gilgamesh’s refusal to marry her, the gods showered curses on them.
When Gilgamesh was shown as a cruel ruler treating himself above everything, Gods instead of punishing him created Enkidu another human being. It is a mysterious role played by Gods in the sense that instead of redeeming the sins of Gilgamesh they created another mortal being half human and half beast to make Gilgamesh realize his cruel deeds and his role on this Earth and worth and value of other human beings. Enkidu was an innocent and quite contrary in nature to Gilgamesh. Enkidu’s innocence changed Gilgamesh raging power and inferno educed and again he was likened by all. Here one more point needs to be noticed that Gilgamesh’s aim of conquering Humbaba was the work of Shamash, the God who instilled in him the desire for fame and immortality. It was Shamash who gave strong allies to Gilgamesh; first were the two sacrifices for God and the verses of God to them and the weapons for their adventurous journey. Secondly, both of them also visited the counselors of the city of Uruk who told them about the dangers they had to face while battling with Humbaba. They also paid visit to Ninsun, who was divine mother of Gilgamesh who made Enkidu her second son and ordered him to look after Gilgamesh and put a watch on him. Weapons were given to them and after adopting these weapons as their force and powers they began their journey.
All through their journey, both of them realized the fact that the Gods are dangerous for mortal human beings. Gods have their own laws and many times their behavior is also shown as irrational and childish. Showing mercy and piety is very important and if human beings show submission to their will and sacrifices are made to them, they can shower their blessings on humans otherwise they would show their curse. Gods are often very helpful and can help anyone who so ever seeks their help but if some one does not obey them or cause anger to them then any curse can befall on them.
When God sent floods on Gilgamesh, Ea rescued Utnapishtim and rest of the living beings of this world. Ea is the God of wisdom and crafts and controls the various characters and nature of human beings like their clever nature, their skills in crafts and creativity, which allow people to make their independent living. God Ishtar is a God of fertility increasing among human beings their sexual desires; increases the fertility in the agricultural land, their domestic lands and controls the way human beings should spend their lives. It is also pointed in Gilgamesh that it is not the moral obligations for the Mesopotamians to show their respect for the gods yet they need to acknowledge the power of nature and help the human beings to realize their place in the world of God and his ways.
Gods control the human beings no doubt but they are also presented as the partner of human beings and acts as their parents. The covenant has made promises to the people that they would receive all the worldly as well as heavenly pleasures if their behavior is good and disobedience means inviting miseries and troubles.
It’s also shown that Gods can assume the role of humans to show the path and lessons to humans and even goddess can act like humans for fulfilling their needs and desires as Ishtar acted in her role of goddess of love. The goddesses used their power of sexuality to overpower men and controls and dominate them.
Gods are shown in similar yet different lights in both the Book of Job and The story of Gilgamesh. You cannot question the ways of God in the Book of Job in the same way you cannot question the ways of God in The Story of Gilgamesh. All the actions and destiny of human beings are destined by the God is revealed to us in both the Book of Job as well as in The Story of Gilgamesh. Yet in the Book of Job it is God who is shown as insensitive yet he is the one who again restores the wealth and health to Job. God is therefore divine, spiritual, and mysterious whereas in Gilgamesh, Gods have attributes of both human beings as well as divine. They control the destiny of human beings yet cannot change the same as they cannot give immortal life to Gilgamesh and cannot save Enkidu. They unleashed bull to resist Gilgamesh but could not kill him.
In both The Story of Gilgamesh and the Book of Job, suffering is a part of life. Even the good ones may suffer but the persons who can sail away from sufferings are only those who have utmost faith in God. Job also sailed away from sufferings when he entrusted his life on God and realized the fact that it is destiny. In the same way, Gilgamesh also sailed away from the suffering when realization daunted on him that death is inevitable and no human being can avoid death. All human beings should enjoy most in their present lives. When Gilgamesh realized this, he got both the wealth and fame.
In short, Book of Job is the test of faith in God and the God’s mysterious ways whereas The Story of Gilgamesh is a faith on oneself, and the destiny and the respective jobs God has destined for us. Ultimately, it is the faith that wins.
Kovacs, M. G. (trans.) 1989. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.