Kingship and Carpe Diem, Between Gilgamesh and Qoheleth

In: Vetus Testamentum
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  • 1 University of Maryland
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The comparison of Qoheleth and Gilgamesh begins with the so-called carpe diem advice of Siduri and Eccl 9:7-9. Additionally, the rhetoric of kingship evoked through Gilgamesh’s narû (“stele”) at the beginning of the epic parallels the royal voice of Qoheleth beginning in Eccl 1:12. Yet these similarities raise several historical issues. First, Siduri’s speech is only found in an Old Babylonian fragment of the epic. The redaction of this advice was part of a process of adapting kingship motifs in the Standard Babylonian Epic. This process appears to bring Gilgamesh closer to Qoheleth, particularly in its reference to narû literature. But in reality the message of later versions of the Mesopotamian epic diverges from that of Ecclesiastes. Furthermore, Qoheleth’s royal voice finds a closer parallel in Northwest Semitic memorial inscriptions. A careful reconsideration of these factors will show that the similarities and differences reflect how both works interact with kingship.

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