The Last Quest of Gilgamesh

The Last Quest of Gilgamesh
The Last Quest of Gilgamesh

After the death of Enkidu in The Revenge of Ishtar, Gilgamesh is in despair and distraught.  Afraid of death, Gilgamesh decides to find the secret to immortality in The Last Quest of Gilgamesh by Ludmila Zeman.

Guided by the spirit of Shamhat, Gilgamesh sets off to the Mashu Mountains where he rescues a lion cub.  Helped by scorpions and traversing a desert, Gilgamesh meets a woman named Siduri who warns him to give up his quest and stay with him for he will only meet with death.  Determined, Gilgamesh continues through the Waters of Death to the island where Utnapishtim lives, a man made immortal by the gods when he saved all the animals in a flood (think Noah).

Utnaptishtim tells Gilgamesh if he can stay awake for 6 days and 7 nights he will have immortality as well.  Gilgamesh fails and feeling sorry for him, Utnaptishtim tells him to retrieve the Plant of Life which will make him young again.  Gilgamesh retrieves the plant from the bottom of the sea but it is eaten by a serpent.

Enkidu in the form of an eagle returns to Gilgamesh and flies him over his great city of Uruk.  “Here, Gilgamesh, is the immortality you have sought.  The city you built, the courage you showed, the good you have done.  You will live in the hearts of people forever.”

Great story of the true meaning of immortality.  It’s not life itself, but the life you bring to others that is important.  Great conclusion.  Fabulous pictures.  Not to miss!

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 8, Day 5: Daniel 7

Summary of passage:  Daniel dreams of 4 beasts during the reign of Belshazzar king of Babylon:  a lion, a bear, a leopard, and one with horns.  A little horn appeared among them and spoke.  It was slain and thrown into a fire.  A son of man appeared and was given authority, glory, and sovereignty over all peoples, nations, and men.

The four beasts represent 4 kingdoms (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome).  Rome is the last and will last the longest.  But in the end Jesus’ kingdom will be established for eternity.

Questions:

11a)  Daniel saw the son of man come and establish an everlasting kingdom, attended by thousands, and slaying the other beasts.

b)  Jesus is the Ancient of Days in verse 22 and he will judge all.

12)  Personal Question.  My answer:  God is in control.  He allows earthly kingdoms to exist.  But in the end, His kingdom shall reign.

13)  Personal Question.  My answer:  It does neither.  It doesn’t trouble me because as a student of history, I know all kingdoms/rulers/countries/tyrants/leaders are transitory and die and Jesus reigns.  It doesn’t encourage me either because the world is a fallen, sad place and even though I know Jesus is coming it doesn’t make living here all that much easier.  I’m ambivalent.

Conclusions:  Weak lesson without reading the commentary due to the fact we are studying prophecy here again and as we’ve learned, prophecy is impossible to understand until it has passed.

We’ve been asked a lot of questions involving encouragement. The definition of encourage is “to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope; hearten; to spur on, stimulate, to give help or patronage to; foster.”  Our world is so different from Daniel’s world.  Perhaps we know too much. We know all those empires fell.  We have God’s written word about the future and Jesus.  And we have Jesus.  We are so jaded by bad things happening in this world that encouragement is hard to come by.  At least for me, I wall out all the evil happenings in this world, so I’m not a ball of goo.  Thus encouragement is kept at bay as well.

End Notes:  Four winds of heaven connects to Revelation 7:1 and is probably satanic forces.  Four seems to be the number of created universe.  We’re talking Mediterranean Sea here.

Four Visions are Four Kingdoms:  Lion is Babylon, Bear is Medo-Persia, Leopard is Greece, Horned beast is Rome.

A lion is majestic.  A bear is ferocious (think mama bear and her cubs).  A leopard is quick and unexpected.  The horned beast was powerful and lasting.

This is Greece under Alexander the Great who conquered the entire known world in 12 short years. When he died, his empire was divided 4 ways (four heads).  Alexander the Great was a genius–put on earth for the task he performed.  He spread Western culture to most of the known world.  He ushered in the era of rule of the Ptolemiac Kingdom in Egypt.  He forever changed the known world.  He was also taken out most probably by a mosquito (malaria) at the age of 33.  Who else but God could orchestrate such talent and such tragedy?  And all for His divine purposes.

Scholars think the 3 ribs represent the kingdoms Persia conquered:  Egypt, Babylon, and Lydia.

Scholars suggest “the Ancient of Days” is God in Daniel 7:13-14.  Here, the white clothing and hair seem to suggest God and His eternal nature.  Since the son of man is separate here, it makes sense the Ancient of Days is God.  In Daniel 7:22, the “Ancient of Days” is Jesus since he pronounced judgment.  All are one as the Triune God.  We were asked to read this passage in Lesson 3, Day 5.

Fire is judgement in the Bible.

Angels and man surround God as well as books (Book of Life, remembrance, and living).

Revelation 13:5-6 speaks of the boastful words spoken by the Antichrist.

Fun Fact:  The Son of Man was used more than 80 times in the Four Gospels to describe Jesus.

Daniel 2 also discusses the 4 empires–just from man’s perspective.  Here we have God’s.

Daniel is interested most in the fourth beast because it is the most ferocious.

“Against the saints”.  The saints can either be the church or the Jewish remnant (Revelation 12:17; 13:7), causing confusion as to whether we will be on earth for the Tribulation or not.

Most scholars believe the conspicuous horn to be the Antichrist, arising out of some group of ten nations, which in some way has the Roman empire being re-established here on earth.  John Calvin interpreted the 10 rulers as actual Roman emperors, thus saying this prophecy has already been fulfilled.

Number 10:   ten toes (Daniel 2) and ten horns (Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 and 17).

“…time, times and half a time.”  This is three and a half years.  In Revelation (11:2-3, 12:6 and 13:5) this refers to half of the last seven-year period of man’s rule on this earth (the seventieth week of Daniel) otherwise known as the Great Tribulation.

Final thought:  Ready to return to the book of Revelation.

Conclusions to Lesson 8:  In studying Daniel, we are studying a man of faith.  He lived his whole life for God and God rewarded Daniel in return.  He’s a great example of how to live your religion in a secular world.  He stood on faith.  In relation to the book of Revelation, Daniel is one of the people God chose to reveal the future to.  The future we have seen revealed (the fall of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome) and the future yet to come (the horn that arose from the 10 horns–the Antichrist).  Albeit the interpretations differ from scholars, God revealed enough to us about the future to be helpful and full of hope.

We see what a life can look like empowered by God.  That is the best lesson of all this week.  This alone is encouraging as we strive for such a life and discouraging as I know my life is no where close to Daniel’s and seems at times impossible to reach.

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 8, Day 4: Daniel 6

Summary of passage:  Daniel advanced in the kingdom of Darius of Babylon to the point he was about to be set above the whole kingdom.  His enemies tried to find something to take him down.  All they could find was his God.  So they suggested and had King Darius make a law that says anyone who prays to a god or man except to the king in the next 30 days be thrown into the lions’ den.

Of course, Daniel was discovered praying to God.  Much to Darius’ dismay, he was thrown into the lions’ den.  Darius worried all night.  The next day, Daniel was found unharmed thanks be to God.  The men who had urged the king to issue the decree and their families were thrown into the lions’ den and killed.

Darius issued a decree that God be revered throughout the kingdom.  Daniel prospered throughout Darius’ and Cyrus’ reigns in Persia.

Questions:

8 )  A decree was issued that no god or man be prayed to except the King of Persia, Darius.  Daniel was a loyal subject of the king, but he was also a loyal subject to the King of Kings.  God won and Daniel prayed to God and he was thrown in the lions’ den.

9)  He was thrown into the lions’ den.  He stood for God.  God saved Daniel.  Darius issued a proclamation that the God of Daniel be revered.

10)  Personal Question.   My answer:  Kingdoms today could be “your little world and anything in it”.  For example, your job, your family, your schools, church, etc.  Truthfully, I’m not really facing any hard choices right now between my faith and the world.  I believe I’m following Him in all that I do and am blessed to be able to do so.  I pray every day for His will and not mine.  I pray for others around the world who do face such choices with such dire consequences.  In the United States, God has blessed the majority of us with an ease in life that we all should be grateful for.

The story alone encourages all Christians to stand tall for Him no matter what the consequences in the big and little things in life.

Conclusions:  I enjoyed just reading the story of the lions’ den again.  Such a powerful story it always strengthens my faith.  What does it have to do with Revelation?  Not sure.  Except to stand for God no matter what kingdom is in power.  The kingdom of God is supreme and no one on earth or in the universe will usurp God.  All kingdoms/governments exist because God allows them to exist for His purposes.  God is in control.

End Notes:  Daniel is in his 80’s now.  He’s been a powerful leader in Persia for six decades and his faith in God has never wavered despite being surrounded by a pagan society.  God used Daniel to spread His name and power to others.  Soon, the Jews will be allowed to return to the land of Canaan and rebuild their temple.  I’m sure the leadership and example of Daniel has gone a long way in bringing this to fruition.

Daniel was such a shining example of integrity that his political enemies had to make up something.  Not the first time man will resort to lies for political gain.

The men played off Darius’ pride.  Darius agreed immediately to such a decree.  Why not?  Who wouldn’t want to be worshipped for 30 days?  Also, this would bring some of the conquered peoples together.

The edict could not be undone because the king was thought to represent the gods.  And what god was ever wrong?

In today’s society, it seems as if men are the ones making our lives miserable by hiring or firing us, breaking our hearts, evicting us, etc.  Really God is in control of everything.  Obey Him and we will never be heartbroken or miserable or downtrodden.  Circumstances come and go but not God.

Daniel changed nothing after the decree.  He still prayed–no more, no less.

Darius did not blame others; the fault was his.  He took responsibility.  Great lesson for us.  Albeit we make foolish mistakes, God can and will amend them for good.  Like with Daniel here.  And the king never stopped working to fix his mistake.  Another good lesson for us.

Sealing the stone was for Daniel’s protection so his enemies couldn’t break in and kill him if they so desired.

Daniel had lions and angels for company all night.  Who wants to sign up for that?

Daniel did not wrong the king with malicious intent.

Daniel was saved by faith alone.  God honored and protected him.  Daniel’s testimony shone God to others.  This should be the pattern for our lives as well.

Key Point:  After the exile in Babylon, the Jews are never known again to practice idolatry. Lesson learned the hard way but one that has lasted!

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 8, Day 3: Daniel 2

Summary of passage:  King Nebuchadnezzar was troubled by dreams.  He asked his sorcerers, magicians, enchanters, and astrologers to interpret his dreams for him but if they were wrong, he’d kill them and destroy their houses.  If they were right, he’d reward them.  Not trusting his advisors, the King asked them to tell him the dream first, then the interpretation so he’d know they weren’t lying to him.

The advisors told him what he was asking was impossible.  The King, angry, ordered all the wise men killed.  Daniel, wisely, asked for time.  He, Hannah, Mishael, and Azariah asked God for help.  God answered.  Daniel praised.

Daniel told the King his dream:  Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a statue made of various metals.  A rock struck the statue and turned it into chaff, becoming a huge mountain and filling the earth.  Daniel’s interpretation:  the metals represented different kingdoms with the golden top being Babylon that will conquer one another.  God will set up His kingdom which will conquer all and endure forever–that was the rock cut out of the mountain.

King Nebuchadnezzar praised God and rewarded Daniel with ruler over the entire province of Babylon.  Daniel had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego appointed administrators as well.

Questions:

6a)  Part personal Question.  My answer:  He praised His name, wisdom, and power.  God changes times and seasons, He sets up kings and deposes them, He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning, He reveals deep and hidden things, He knows what lies in darkness and what light dwells within.

Daniel thanked and praised God for having given him wisdom and power, made known to him what he asked, and made known the dream.

I learned nothing I didn’t know before:  God is ruler of all earthly kingdoms and people.  He stands above and they exist only because He allows them to exist.  His kingdom is the only eternal kingdom.

Summation:  Praise for power, might, and communication to man.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Given us a house, given me hope my novel may be published by having agents interested in it, kept my husband’s job safe, healed some physical pain I’ve had this year, made my kids happy with all their activities, blessed us financially, and all the little daily things such as food, clothing, shelter, pets, etc.

7a)  Kingdoms exist only because God allows them to exist.  Kingdoms come and go upon God’s will.  Only God’s kingdom is forever and eternal.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  My faith and my life lies with Him.  Period.

Conclusions:  Similar questions we’ve had before for 7b–hope the Second Coming gives us.  This passage relates to Revelation–the fact God’s kingdom is eternal and He will set up one that will never be destroyed (Second Coming).  Great reminder that kingdoms (governments for us) are transitory by God’s design.  Why worry over something God has?  Good lesson despite the preponderance of personal questions.

End Notes:  Debate continues over whether or not Nebuchadnezzar remembered the dream or not.  It’s hard to say from this passage.  What Nebuchadnezzar was asking from his advisors was not a stretch–their job was to be in contact with gods–the ones who sent Nebuchadnezzar the dream in the first place–so why shouldn’t they be able to tell it to him?

The Babylonians believed dreams were how the gods communicated to people.  If you try to remember this,  you can see how important this dream was to the King of Babylon and how important its interpretation would be.

Fun Fact:  Daniel 2:4-7:28 is written in Aramaic.  This is the only section of the Bible written in Aramaic.  Only the book of Ezra is similarly split.

Why?  Aramaic was the most common language of the people at this time (Alexander the Great is still 300 years away from conquering these peoples and spreading Greek culture and language throughout Asia).  Scholars say the people would have been interested in these sections of the Bible so Aramaic made it accessible to more people.  Furthermore, the astrologers spoke in Aramaic.

The astrologers knew only a god could interpret the dream.  Obviously, no god they knew could.

Why kill all your intelligent men?  Nebuchadnezzar was a new king at this time.  Perhaps he was seeking a reason to rid himself of the old king’s advisors and start anew.  He was probably also testing their loyalty to him and not to the old king (his father).

What do you do in a crisis?  What Daniel did.  Stay calm, ask God, listen and wait on God.  Awesome!

The power of prayer with friends! Awesome!

God reveals Himself to us.  It’s our job to understand His revelations–not to understand God’s ways.

Praising God indicates our faith.

Daniel gave God all the credit and diminished himself.  Do we?

Note the order of the metals–from most precious to least:  gold, silver, bronze, iron, clay–all destroyed by a mere rock–Jesus is the Rock.

The other three kingdoms:  Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.  Babylon was at the top because it was an absolute monarchy.  The others were in a sense but by the time we get to Rome, power by the people had taken root.  God is our absolute monarch and is the ideal kingdom.

Babylon lasted 66 years.  Medo-Persia 208.  Greece 185.  Rome over 500.

This prophecy is still in the future.  We will get to the number 10 (Daniel 7:24; Revelation 17:12).  Rome was the last great empire and not one single event (the shattering of the statue) has eliminated governments today.

Interesting how man begins with gold and ends up as dust.  Amazing God’s power and our insignificance.

Friends were promoted as well–they helped when they prayed together.  Powerful!

BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 8, Day 2: Daniel 1

Summary of passage:  Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered Jerusalem and carried off artifacts from the temple of God.  He brought in some Israelites of royal blood to train for the king’s service.  Among these was Daniel as well as the famous Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Daniel refused to partake of the royal food offered and instead consisted of vegetables and water.

God gave these four increased knowledge and He blessed Daniel with the ability to understand dreams and visions.  These four were the best than the pagan magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom and were prominently rewarded.  They served Nebuchadnezzar through King Cyrus.

Questions:

3)  Daniel resolved not to defile himself with royal food and wine.  He set up a test for ten days to consist on nothing but vegetables and water and at the end of ten days he and others looked healthier and better nourished than those eating royal food.  Result:  Daniel did not have to defile himself.

4)  Part personal Question.  My answer;  God gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.  He gifted Daniel with the ability to understand visions and dreams.  They rose in prominence in the Babylonian political realm.  This shows me how God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him.  He rewards faithfulness.  God is good.  God never abandons His people.

5)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Daniel is the prime example of a Christian living amongst pagans. He excelled with God’s help, achieving success without bending his own principles of integrity and personal and religious beliefs.  He’s the perfect example of how one can serve both God and the state.  His story is encouraging especially today where society is pushing beliefs against the Bible on others.  If we are faithful, God will be as well.

Conclusions:  I’m always skeptical as to why we interrupt our study of one book of the Bible and jump to another book.  I’m so chronologically oriented that I’d prefer to chug on through the book and then come back to others at the end of the study.  I like Daniel and studying him but we can do that in the “study of Daniel”.  I’d rather have spent this time on exploring the subtle nuances of the book of Revelation.  There is so much in Revelation we could spend years studying it.  Will be interested to see how this connects with this study.

End Notes: We are now in the 500’s BC–close to 600 years before Revelation was written.  Nebuchadnezzar showed his sagacity by taking the young men for indoctrination.  This was the best and brightest Judah had to offer and he didn’t want them rising up against him.

Food was a big deal back then.  Royalty obviously ate better than the plebeians–MUCH better.  Most peasants’s diet consisted of watered-down wine, bread or other grains, and little meat.  Royalty ate meat, vegetables, and other exotic foods.  This tactic was to turn the captives dependence on Babylon.

This food was not kosher (acceptable food that satisfies the Jewish law) and was food used to sacrifice to idols and was used socially.  Daniel wanted no part of it.

Great example of being faithful to God in the little things.  Faith first.  The rewards.

Also note Daniel’s protest is peaceful and courteous.  You gain nothing with meanness.  Furthermore, he showed concern for the chief who was worried about repercussions.  He did not put that man’s life at risk.  Godly wisdom at its best.

Just for Fun:  Actual menu served at a royal feast in 1387 (Medieval Times):

14 oxen lying in salt

2 oxen, fresh

120 heads of sheep, fresh

120 carcasses of sheep, fresh

12 boars

14 calves

140 piglets

300 marrow bones

lard and grease, enough

3 tons of salt venison

3 does of fresh venison

50 swans

210 geese

50 capons of high grease

8 dozen other capons

60 dozen hens

200 pair rabbits

4 pheasants

5 herons and bitterns

6 young goats

5 dozen young hens for jelly

12 dozen young hens to roast

100 dozen pigeons

12 dozen partridges

8 dozen young rabbits

10 dozen curlews

12 dozen whimbrels

12 cranes

wild fowl, enough

120 gallons milk

12 gallons cream

40 gallons of curd

3 bushels of apples

11 thousand eggs

Taken from It’s Disgusting and We Ate it! by James Solheim

Typical Roman Fare (Taken from Ancient Agriculture by Michael & Mary B Woods):

The poor Romans lived on bread, olives, mashed beans, chickpeas, wine, cheese, salted fish, and very small amounts of meat.  A treat would be honey, milk, or porridge.

Rich Romans had lavish banquets, a sampling of which would consist of oysters, mussels, swans, venison, lobsters, pheasants, pig, duck, turkey, gazelle, etc.

Wealthy Romans would often stuff themselves at these banquets and then would visit the vomitorium, a room just off the banquet hall, where they would stick a straw down their throats, vomit, and then return to stuff themselves again.

All such a waste when the poor all around would be starving.

Prayer Requests for Week of October 25th, 2015

Hey all,

Please post your requests and/or praises below or email them to me at atozmom.wordpress@gmail.com

We’d love to hear them and pray for you.

Mine:  protection over husband’s job as we enter the slow time of year and guidance in writing.

Have a blessed week!

The Revenge of Ishtar

The Revenge of Ishtar
The Revenge of Ishtar

The second installment of our Epic of Gilgamesh, The Revenge of Ishtar, retold by Lyudmila Zeman finds Gilgamesh and his good friend, Enkidu, in the peaceful city of Uruk, spending their days planning the city and their evenings listening to Shamhat sing and playing games.

One evening the monster Humbaba attacks the palace, killing Shamhat.  Both Gilgamesh and Enkidu track down the monster so he will not harm people again.  They find him and both work together to slay him.  The goddess Ishtar witnesses the battle and invites Gilgamesh to be her husband.  Gilgamesh refuses, saying he won’t leave his people and friend for her.

Ishtar in revenge sends the Bull of Heaven to Uruk where it too wrecks havoc.  Again, Gilgamesh and Enkidu team up to destroy it.  Angry, Ishtar makes Enkidu sick until he dies.  Enkidu is angry but he learns he “found a friendship few every know and the lasting love of a people.”

Gilgamesh, heart-broken, vows as his last quest to find the secret of immortality so he too won’t be taken from his people.

Love the pictures which are bright and vivid.  The two monsters are cute and not scary at all.  Very condensed version.  Good lesson on the value of friendship.  Nice historical background page at the end.