A Modern Retelling of Job
Suffering has been described as, to undergo or to feel pain or to sustain injury or loss. When the lives of Gilgamesh, Enkidu and Job are placed on a comparative level, clearly one can see that they all suffered some loss or pain. When one examines further their loss or pain, evidently their suffering is placed on different levels as they differ in their intensity even though their suffering share some of the same characteristics. Therefore, it can be argued that Gilgamesh, Enkidu and Job all suffered but the result Gilgamesh and Enkidu's sufferings were self-inflicted by a self serving quest to obtain glory, honor and immortality whereas Job's suffering was inflicted upon him by Satan with the permission God to prove a point that Job, no matter his suffering would not curse God and would remain faithful (Wood-Langford, 120-121). "But put forth thane hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face”(Job 1:11).
In "The Epic of Gilgamesh", Gilgamesh was a powerful figure, a king who was not very good to his people. Gilgamesh was self-serving whereas the gods should be the ones being served. This type of treatment towards the gods proved to be extremely devastating to the fate of Gilgamesh and his close companion Enkidu (Wood-Langford, 120-121). With the power that he had, Gilgamesh often tyrannized his people; he would triumph over men in combat and claimed the right to sleep with any woman before her marriage, "[Gilgamesh] lets [no] girl go free to [her bridegroom]" (I. 76). He was unmatched among warriors and loves athletic contests especially because he knew of no one who could beat him; ""¦he has no equal when his weapons are brandished"¦" (I. 82) "The young men of Uruk he harries without warrant (I. 67)”. The women often made complaint of Gilgamesh's behavior to the gods. Out of these complaints the gods felt the need to create a match for Gilgamesh.
Enkidu was created. Enkidu and Gilgamesh meet and match each other's strength in combat and neither was victorious over the other but with their strengths combined they were able to inflict even more terror. As a result of a close friendship with Gilgamesh, Enkidu would suffer pain. It was bad enough that Gilgamesh ignored the gods but he also influenced Enkidu to follow his self-seeking ways. For both Gilgamesh and Enkidu, seeking glory and honor was more important than serving the gods and for Gilgamesh, it was more important that being a good ruler, "On my return [I will celebrate] New Years [twice over,] I will celebrate the festival twice in the year.
Let the festival take place, the merriment begin, Let the drums resound before [Wild-Cow] Minus" (II. 268-271)! Gilgamesh made the error of putting or thinking himself on the level same as the gods. Indeed Gilgamesh was two thirds god and one third human, but somehow did not grasp the concept that he was not in fact a god, only a king, "Gilgamesh was his name from the day he was born, two-thirds of him god and one third human”(I147-148). It was because Gilgamesh saw himself equal to the gods he neglected to recognize the place and responsibilities of his as immortal in society and as a king. He only sought to earn an immortal reputation and by seeking this somewhat unattainable goal, Gilgamesh failed to serve the gods and his people, which was something that was not pleasing in their sights, "Let me start out, I will cut down the cedar, I will establish forever a name eternal"(Y. 186-187)!
As aforementioned, Gilgamesh and Enkidu sought to make a great name for them yearning to have glory and honor bestowed upon them. They thought that they would be praised like gods, Gilgamesh especially. They had killed Humbaba, the Guardian of the Forest even though they were advised against doing so, " Gilgamesh heard the words of the senior advisers, he looked with a [laugh at] Enkidu"(II. 300-301) Isthar, the goddess of sexual love and war asked Gilgamesh to marry her but instead he insulted and scorned her. Wanting to see Gilgamesh dead, Ishtar commissioned the Bull of Heaven to kill him but this proved futile. Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu slaughtered the Bull of Heaven and also threatened to kill Isthar. The gods and Ishtar were unhappy with Gilgamesh and Enkidu's behavior by killing both Humbaba and the Bull of Heaven and felt that they should be punished, bringing death to Enkidu and extreme loss of his close companion to Gilgamesh (Manguel, 150-151).
Through the wrath of the gods Gilgamesh and Enkidu felt true human suffering; Enkidu was not dying in battle, where he could make his reputation great, but rather he was dying in bed, of some mysterious illness. Enkidu grieved even more because he was leaving his friend Gilgamesh, who would continue to build up his own reputation. Enkidu, like Gilgamesh sought glory and honor and soon realized that he would not die a honorable death but he would die a death not of a warrior in battle but instead his death was something that he could not physically fight and overpower, "[My god] has taken against me, my friend" [I do not die] like ones who falls in the midst of battle (Nir& Shipp, 135-136).
I was afraid of combat, and, my friend, one who [falls] in combat [makes his name,] But I, [I do not fall] in [combat, and shall make not my name.]" Gilgamesh's suffering came in the form of the death of his companion and the realization that he was not immortal, and that death came to all (Wolde, pp 200-201). Gilgamesh was devastated at the lost of Enkidu, which ultimately sparked his quest to obtain mortality. His suffering extended even further when he searched for immortality because he found that he could not obtain it because it was some reserved only for the gods. Gilgamesh's soon resolved that he like other humans was destines to die and gave up his quest and became at peace with himself, "People go to their doom before their time” (VII. 89). Just as both Gilgamesh and Enkidu suffered, so did Job (Crenshaw, 100-101).
Gilgamesh and Enkidu's suffering was self inflict due to their glory and honor "hungry" quest to build up great reputations for themselves whereas Job's suffering was inflicted upon him because God was using him to prove a point to Satan. Job was a perfect and upright man who feared God and did nothing evil, ""¦though has blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land” (Job 1:10). Satan felt that Job was so upright because God blessed him abundantly, but God want Satan to see the truth about why Job was so blessed. He wanted Satan to see that Job was blessed because of his faithfulness to living a righteous life under the law. Satan was given permission to inflict suffering upon Job, having full reign to do as he pleased with Job without putting his life in danger. Satan thought that once inflicted with suffering that he would immediately curse God but instead we see that instead of cursing God and turning away from his righteous life, Job continued to remain a good servant of God, "But put forth thane hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face” (Job 1:11). Job lost all that he had with no explanation as to why suffering had befallen him for he was a righteous man who did what was expected of him. Job realized that all that he once had was provided by God and resolved that God had the power to give and to take away, "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Job's suffering included with the loss of his children and substance and he was covered in sore from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head but through it all he remained righteous. Before Job would succumb to Satan's prediction, he refused to cast away God instead he chose to curse the day that he was born, "Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, there is a man child conceived” (Job 3:3).
Job's suffering continued as well as his firmness to remain faithful to God. God was pleased with his servant Jobs' faithfulness and humbleness thus he rewarded him richly, he was given more than he had before he was tested, "...the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).
Conclusively, through the suffering of Gilgamesh, Enkidu and Job one can appreciate that human suffering exist in "The Epic of Gilgamesh" and the book of "Job" and it can be seen that the suffering mentioned occurred as a result of different things. In the case of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, it has been acknowledged that their suffering occurred because of their own self-seek desire to be admired for brave feats and because of their total disregard for the gods who were the immortals, and the ones who should be receiving the recognition that Gilgamesh and Enkidu search for. As we see, Job suffered as a result of God proving to Satan Job's faithfulness. All of the mentioned men experienced loss and pain on different levels and in different forms thus provided a clear view of human suffering.