In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. Genesis 7:11
Who hasn’t heard the tale of Noah and his ark? Well, for those who haven’t,….
The story goes that Noah was a righteous man in his generation. Because of this, God commanded that he build an ark (to exact specifications) in preparation for a great flood. You see, God had become extremely saddened by the wickedness of His creation. He decided to wipe them all from the face of the Earth, save Noah and his family….and all the pairs of animals to be saved. Noah was probably mocked and tormented, but remained faithful to his task. A task that took approximately 120 years. At the appointed time, Noah’s family and the animals entered the ark and were shut in. It rained for 40 days and nights. All of humanity perished. The ark floated for around 150 days before coming to rest on Mount Ararat. Forty days later, Noah sent forth a raven who found no dry place to land. He sent forth a dove, who also returned. The last time he sent the dove, it returned with an olive leaf, indicating dry ground. After the doors of the ark were opened, Noah’s family and the pairs of animals exited the ark. Noah set up an altar where he made sacrifices to God. God, in turn, sent a rainbow as a covenant with man. It signified that never again would the Earth be destroyed by a flood.
Before I tackle Noah and his family, read this summation.
One of the high gods, Enlil, became increasingly annoyed at the “noise” of human beings. He decided to destroy them in a deluge. Enki, the god of waters, revealed this plan to Utnapishtum. Enki told Utnapishtum to demolish his home and build a big boat and load it with pairs of animals. Utnapishtum was to keep his plans secret from the council of high gods, even to lie if he had to. He followed the instructions. At the appointed time, he entered the boat with his wife and the animals. His craftsmen, along with his gold and silver were also taken aboard. A downpour ensued. The flood lasted for 7 days. Utnapishtum sent out a dove, swallow, and raven to test whether it was safe to emerge. When the raven did not return; he, his wife, companions, and the animals left the boat. Utnapishtum and his wife offered sacrifices to the gods and were granted eternal life.
These two tales sound eerily similar, right? The first, of course, is biblical in origin. The second is found in the Epic of Gilgamesh. This was a Mesopotamian tale, written around 2500 BC. That makes it the earliest known tale of a great flood. Scholars believe that since the two stories are so similar, that the biblical version was most likely modeled after the Gilgamesh epic. Bam!! This proves the fact that Noah’s story is false. Right?
Before we decide, let us also keep in mind…
– Sumerian poetry (dating back to 2000 BC) mentions Gilgamesh’s journey to meet the flood hero, Utnapishtum.
– The Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian) account has flood stories dating to around 3300 BC, starring hero Atrahasis.
– Greek legend tells of Deucalion. He, too, was a wine maker who was forewarned of a great flood. He, likewise, built an ark and saved animals.
– An Ojibwa indian legend (from around Lake Superior) tells of a great snow that fell one September at the beginning of time. A bag, containing the sun, had a hole nibbled in it by a mouse. The warmth escaped and spilled over, melting the snow, and causing a flood. Everyone drowned, except one old man who drifted in his canoe rescuing animals.
Also of interest…
Although the idea of massive flooding has been mocked, geologists Walter Pitman and William Ryan proved it possible. The pair was the first to gather evidence that the Black Sea, indeed, flooded around 7500 years ago. They wrote a book in 1998 entitled Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History. In the book, they detail how the Mediterranean Sea flooded the Black Sea basin. And while not a worldwide catastrophe, it might certainly appear that way to any who lived in the nearby plains, with water rising approximately 6 inches per day. It’s not difficult to see how it would feel like it was the end of the world.
So..Here are my thoughts.
Do I think the flood was real? Yes. There is scientific evidence that a great flood actually took place. I believe there was massive flooding. However, I believe that it was not a global one, in the technical sense of the word. Noah’s story stems from tales told by one tribe of people who had no means to travel far. To themselves, they were all there was. As far as Gilgamesh and the other tales… They all stem from different areas, yet they all have a deluge story. I am of the mind that names and places may change, but for a tale to endure..some grain of truth exists. Also, remember that the story didn’t start with Noah. He, nor his children, wrote it. We are talking about generations of oral storytelling. Nothing written for many many years. All of these tales may seem so similar because they describe the same event. One was simply translated to written form sooner than the others, therefore names/locations would fit each’s culture. If, indeed, the flood was not global; that eliminates the necessity of bringing pairs of every kind of animal along for the ride. In this case, I lean more toward the Gilgamesh version, where he brought along the animals he had.
Now, I would like to focus on Noah. He is where the moral of the story lies. The type of person he was, and became, intrigues me. He was a descendant of Seth and the narrative tells us he was “righteous in his generation”. That means, what? Remember, his generation was quite wicked. Was he righteous, or was he more righteous than everyone else? We really don’t know since very little is mentioned about Noah’s personal life. I find this interesting. He was, after all, the man responsible for keeping a few humans alive to repopulate the world.
Noah’s most favorable attribute was his faithfulness. He was given a commandment from God. He obeyed. He was given specific instructions on how to complete the task. He obeyed. For a Christian, that type of faithfulness is the most honorable trait to have. I, personally, like to think I would be able to follow a direct commandment from God, should He require it of me. Noah’s character also demonstrated remarkable patience. It took quite a many years to complete the construction of the boat. Not to mention the fact that he had to live on it for practically a year! Christians are repeatedly reminded that God does things in His own time, and that we are to have patience. There is also no mention of anger. I am certain Noah would have faced much mockery and contempt from such a wicked bunch of people. Yet, there is no mention of him becoming angry or resentful. Again, a wonderful trait for a person of faith to have.
Noah had some faults, as well. He did not (like his future descendent, Abraham) pray to save anyone. He did not ask God to forgive any – or all – of mankind and give them another chance. And later, after he and his family were saved, he planted a vineyard. One night, he became drunk and was naked in his tent. Rather than taking responsibility for his actions, he blamed his child. He not only blamed his son, but took farther drastic action. He cursed him!
We are told that his two of his sons, Shem and Japheth, didn’t look upon him and covered him. We know that Ham (the father of Canaan) was cursed for calling attention to, and possibly snickering at, his father’s drunken state. The following morning, Ham and his descendents were cursed to be slaves of the tribes of his brothers. Shem’s tribe would be the most revered- as Ham’s descendents were slaves to his, while Japheth’s would live in Shem’s tents. After 950 years of life, Noah died. His sons settled eastward, attempted to build a tower to the heavens, and were punished by being scattered all over the Earth unable to understand each other’s language. From Shem’s line, would come Abram.
Like Noah– my goal is to be faithful, patient, determined, and even-tempered.
Unlike Noah– I aim to be my brother’s keeper, while taking responsibility for my actions.