From the Old Testament book of Genesis, the serpent is a representation of the devil. God had strictly warned Adam and Eve not to eat from a particular tree in the Garden of Eden but Satan, in his crafty ways, managed to convince them to partake of its fruit promising it would give them unending wisdom. When God finds out what the two have done, He declares that from then henceforth human beings shall grow old and die while the snake would be subjected to physical violence from humans.
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In the epic of Gilgamesh, the quest for eternal life by the lead character takes him to the particular flower that could accord him this wish (Shin-eqi-unninni 30-35). The serpent however causes him to let go of it. The serpent is responsible for Gilgamesh not getting everlasting life in the same way that the serpent in the Bible led Adam and Eve to lose a chance at eternal life.
In both stories, the serpent uses well thought out trickery to accomplish his mission. In the Bible story, the snake isolates Eve and then gets her to believe that God had a hidden motive not to let them eat the fruit from the particular tree. The temptation to go against God’s commands proves too strong and finally Eve gives in and finding out the goodness of the fruit manages to convince Adam to have a taste as well.
In the Gilgamesh story, the serpent tracks Gilgamesh’s movements all the way to the flower of immortality wish (Shin-eqi-unninni 30-31). While Gilgamesh stops to rest and have a bath, the serpent snatches the flower of eternal life from him consequently taking away immortality from mankind.
In the Bible creation story, he serpent chooses Eve’s time of weakness (when Adam is not present) to corrupt her brain with physical desires. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the serpent strikes at him (Gilgamesh) in his time of weakness- that is, whilst he is taking a bath. This similarly illustrates that the serpent knows that he is no match for the human when he (the human) is well aware of its strength and therefore preys on him during his weakest.
In both the Gilgamesh and the Old Testament story, the serpent is used as a representation of Satan. The crafty ways that Satan uses to get people to do things his way, is well manifested in the way that the serpent carries itself.
In both myths as well, the serpent has been given some human characteristics, in the sense that it can communicate to its victims by speech. Though in reality it is impossible for a snake to talk or even have such desires as eternal life, the humanization from both stories of this particular reptile is strikingly similar.
The main difference between the serpent incidents in the Bible story and the Epic of Gilgamesh is the fact that in the latter, the serpent snatched eternal life for itself.
This is as opposed to the creation story whereby Adam and Eve already had been accorded eternal life by God and only lost it as a punishment for their disobedience. Secondly, the repercussions are not clear on the part of the serpent in the second story. To some extent he actually gets rewarded with eternal life as opposed to the Bible story where he is cursed to walk on his belly.
Shin-eqi-unninni. “Gilgamesh”. The Norton Anthology of World Literature, Vol. A: Beginnings to A.D. 100, 2nd Edition. Ed. Sarah Lawall et al. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 10-41. Print.