Apparently things were getting out of hand. The humans just weren’t behaving themselves so God decided he’d hit the reset button; flood the earth, kill everybody and be done with it.
But for some reason God liked Noah. He liked him so much he decided to save him and his family and a bunch of animals. So he gave him plans for a boat and some instructions on how to build it.
Taken literally, this story says a six hundred year old man and his three sons built a boat almost two football fields long by themselves with stone age tools. And then, a pair of every animal on the planet flew, walked, crawled or slithered to the boat so they could get on.
Just the logistics of this defies any sort of logic. Imagine two penguins walking all the way from Antarctica1. And what about the food it would take? And who’s cleaning the stalls? Remember, it’s just Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. They weren’t getting any help from the neighbors because the neighbors thought they were nuts. And there’s no mention of slaves or servants or anything so again, taken literally, it was just the eight of them.
One other thing that’s always bugged me is when God says to take one pair of all the ‘unclean’ animals and seven pairs of the ‘clean’ animals2. The thing is, up until now there was no mention of what animals were ‘clean’ and which were not. Moses was the one who set that up over a thousand years later. So, at this time, there was no such thing as a clean or unclean animal.
And then there’s the forty days and forty nights thing. There’s really no way to tell how long it rained because ‘forty’ in Aramaic really means ‘a long time’. It doesn’t literally mean an actual forty days and nights like you and I might think of it. The ‘forty’ thing will show up later when the Jews were wandering around the desert after escaping Egypt.
Nonetheless, they were in the boat for at least another 150 days. Once they got out, God put the fear of man in the animals, which was a good idea since he also gave all the animals to man for food. Remember, up until now everything on earth had been vegetarian. Why it had to change now is beyond me but, there it is.
This is also when rainbows came into being, supposedly as a sign that God wouldn’t kill everybody again. I guess he was sorry. Too bad for all the people and animals who got wiped out before he had a change of heart. This God seems very impulsive. He doesn’t really think it through.
Again, it smacks of mythology to me. Flood mythology is littered throughout history3. When taken allegorically, there are huge, eternal life lessons in the Flood story. Maybe that’s why so many cultures have similar stories in their archives. Taken literally, it’s a little hard for an intelligent person not to have doubts. But as an allegorical life lesson, it makes perfect sense.
One last thing before we leave Noah. It seems one night he got drunk and passed out naked in his tent.4 Well, his son, Ham, came in and saw him. Ham immediately went out and told his brothers Dad was drunk and naked in the tent. Why they just didn’t leave him is beyond me, but they decided to walk in, backs turned, and covered Noah up with a blanket.
I guess seeing your dad naked was a really bad thing because when Noah woke up he somehow knew Ham had seen him naked and immediately cursed Ham’s son, Canaan.
What? Why Canaan? He wasn’t even there. But from that moment on, any reference to Canaan, the sons of Canaan, the land of Canaan, anything to do with Canaan bears this curse. And for what? Noah getting drunk and passing out naked? What power did Noah have to do that anyway? He’s not God. But from then on, Canaan gets the short end of the stick.5
Seems to be a pattern here though. God cursed Adam and Eve and all humanity had to pay for it forever and now Noah curse’s Canaan and so his family bears the curse forever. How petty. Doesn’t make an ounce of sense but, as we’ll see later on, we’re just getting started on this curse (and blessing) thing.
1 I guess they could swim
2 Genesis 7:2
4 Genesis 9:20
5 It’s no coincidence that the Israelites, many years later, conquered the Land of Canaan