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Dreams and visions convey the inevitable in The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Hebrew Bible because they surmount all efforts to prevent them and they are sent by the gods. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the title character’s desperate attempts to alter the dreams and thus fate of his friend Enkidu are ultimately useless. After Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the Bull of Heaven in battle, the gods resolve that one must die in retribution and decide on Enkidu (122). In a dream, Enkidu sees this decision and tells Gilgamesh, to which the king replies, “Now I shall go pray to the great gods I will make your image that of gold beyond measure,” (123). In this assurance, Gilgamesh promises to plead for Enkidu’s life and detail his many positive attributes to the gods with the intention of changing his fate.
Unfortunately, the king’s efforts are in vain, as Enkidu falls ill and, after twelve days, dies (126). Gilgamesh’s pleas for the life of his friend cannot do anything in the face of Enkidu’s unchanging destiny from his dream. Joseph’s dreams in The Hebrew Bible come true in spite of his brothers’ attempts to stop them. Joseph is the youngest and most beloved son of Jacob, his favored status acting as a source of contention between him and his brothers. While working, Joseph recounts two of his dreams: that in the field the brothers’ sheaves “drew round and bowed to [his] sheaf,” (174) and that “the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing to [him],” (174). Joseph’s dreams center around his superiority to his siblings and parents, predicting his future rule over them. The dreams outrage the other sons of Jacob and they resolve to sell Joseph to be rid of him, in the hopes that his absence alone will prevent the dreams from coming to fruition (175). However, after being sold, Joseph eventually gains high standing in his new home of Egypt, and when God brings down a famine upon the land, the Pharaoh tasks Joseph with allocating resources to the people (178).
Hoping to receive food, Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt and “[bow] down to him, their faces on the ground,” (179) thus fulfilling the prediction in Joseph’s dream. In the end, the brothers betray themselves and actualize Joseph’s dreams by submitting to his authority, showing that none of their efforts could have inhibited the destiny from the dreams. The dreams sent to Gilgamesh by Shamash in Gilgamesh correctly predict the outcome of his battle with Humbaba because of the omniscient nature of gods. On Enkidu and Gilgamesh’s journey to defeat the beast Humbaba, Gilgamesh, seeking divine guidance, ascends a mountain and requests, “‘O mountain, bring me a propitious dream!” (110). His appeal attests to his belief that the gods will not only send him dreams, but will send him dreams that will foretell the future. Enkidu acts as an interpreter for the messages the gods send to Gilgamesh, relating scenes of the battle in which the bull Humbaba “split the earth” (113) and “raised clouds of dust,” (113). Later, in combat, “the earth split apart” (115) at the feet of the beast and “the white clouds turned black,”(115). These close parallels exhibit the prophetic abilities of the gods, validating their capacity to show the future through dreams. Introduction (about dreams coming true because they are sent by God)
In Abraham’s vision of God, He promises, “to your seed I will give this land,” (162) forming a covenant that gives Israel to Abraham’s descendants. Unfortunately, Abraham’s children are repeatedly forced out of their promised homeland, seen in Jacob’s flight. In Genesis 27, Jacob tricks his father, Isaac, into blessing him in place of the intended recipient, his brother Esau (170). Jacob’s mother urges him to flee to avoid the wrath of his brother, but God assures Jacob in a dream, “I will bring you back to [Israel], for I will not leave you until I have done that which I have spoken to you,” (171). In saying this, God affirms the covenant formed with Abraham, promising to return Jacob to his home. Jacob works in Haran for fourteen years, but is eventually forced to leave in fear of the wrath of his wives’ brothers. The Lord tells him, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your birthplace and I will be with you,” (173) fulfilling his promise to bring Jacob back to Israel. The return of Jacob after many trials and years of absence proves the word of God in dreams is a promise that will always be satisfied. While the outcomes of visions from deities can change and one can request a dream rather than having it simply sent, The Hebrew Bible and The Epic of Gilgamesh still contain fixed predictions from the divine.
One can argue that God’s request in a vision to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac is not inevitable because it did not end up happening. In Genesis 22, God ordered Abraham to “offer [Isaac] up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains,” (163) in devotion to Him. But, as Abraham is about to fulfill God’s wishes, a messenger stops him, saying, “‘Do not reach out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him,” (164). This sudden adjustment could be seen as the vision from God changing, thus disproving the certain nature of dreams and visions from the Lord. However, this limited perspective does not take into account that God’s agenda was to prove Abraham’s faith, and that never changed. The only factor that changed was God’s requests to Abraham, originally being to sacrifice his son, then changing to sparing him. This alteration in requests does not equate to a change in motive or the predestined outcome of Abraham’s message from God. It could also be seen that because Gilgamesh requests his dream from Shamash instead of having it outright sent, the dream’s outcome would not be inevitable.
This argument stands that while the higher power sends the dream to the king, it is not caused by the god because Gilgamesh requests it. This asserts that the dream is Gilgamesh’s and Shamash only helped to deliver it, so the godly influence assuring the outcome is not present. This argument fails to recognize the larger result: regardless of whether the the king wanted the dream or not, it came from a god and came true. These two factors alone hold true the assertion that divine messages in dreams come to fruition in the real world. Although the God’s requests can change and people can ask gods to send dreams, the destined outcomes of dreams and visions from higher powers are never altered. The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Hebrew Bible both use dreams and visions as powerful tools to communicate the predetermined future. The influence of these forces is seen in both works through Enkidu’s death, Joseph’s rule over his brothers, Gilgamesh’s battle with Humbaba, and Jacob’s return to his homeland.
The idea that dreams and visions show what is already destined to happen implies that people have a limited amount of influence over outcomes in their own lives.
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