bible blog 1256

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline form world news:


Catherine Ashton (EU) and Mohammed Javad Zarif (Iran) in negociation

Catherine Ashton (EU) and Mohammed Javad Zarif (Iran) in negociation

Genesis 7

Good News Translation (GNT)

The Flood

7 The Lord said to Noah, “Go into the boat with your whole family; I have found that you are the only one in all the world who does what is right. Take with you seven pairs of each kind of ritually clean animal, but only one pair of each kind of unclean animal. Take also seven pairs of each kind of bird. Do this so that every kind of animal and bird will be kept alive to reproduce again on the earth. Seven days from now I am going to send rain that will fall for forty days and nights, in order to destroy all the living beings that I have made.” And Noah did everything that the Lord commanded.

Noah was six hundred years old when the flood came on the earth. He and his wife, and his sons and their wives, went into the boat to escape the flood. A male and a female of every kind of animal and bird, whether ritually clean or unclean, went into the boat with Noah, as God had commanded. 10 Seven days later the flood came.

11 When Noah was six hundred years old, on the seventeenth day of the second month all the outlets of the vast body of water beneath the earth burst open, all the floodgates of the sky were opened, 12 and rain fell on the earth for forty days and nights. 13 On that same day Noah and his wife went into the boat with their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. 14 With them went every kind of animal, domestic and wild, large and small, and every kind of bird. 15 A male and a female of each kind of living being went into the boat with Noah, 16 as God had commanded. Then the Lord shut the door behind Noah.

17th cent Noah's Ark

17th cent Noah’s Ark

17 The flood continued for forty days, and the water became deep enough for the boat to float. 18 The water became deeper, and the boat drifted on the surface. 19 It became so deep that it covered the highest mountains; 20 it went on rising until it was about twenty-five feet above the tops of the mountains. 21 Every living being on the earth died—every bird, every animal, and every person. 22 Everything on earth that breathed died. 23 The Lord destroyed all living beings on the earth—human beings, animals, and birds. The only ones left were Noah and those who were with him in the boat. 24 The water did not start going down for a hundred and fifty days.

If I thought of the flood as a divine strategy for sorting out the evil of the world. I wouldn’t give it more than 2 out of 10-it’s incredibly destructive and it won’t work. After all the destruction God’s only back where he started with one family of humans and of each creature. So what’s going to make a difference this time? Will the humans be so impressed by the wrath of God that they clean up their act? Both the author and the reader know the answer to that. 

So what’s the story for?

In an almost humorous way, it’s there to show the stubborn love of God for his creation, including humanity. The picture of the flood itself is not a joke. There were other old stories of a cosmic flood which the Genesis author knew. These concerned strife amongst the Gods but the Genesis author focuses solely on the overwhelming anger of God at the violence and evil of humanity. The chaos of the flood is an image of the formless void (tohu wabohu in Hebrew) which is the absence of God. And yet, against his own wrath, God decides to persevere with his creation. He will not let it go. But,as the storyteller knows, God cannot preserve his creation without the active cooperation of his human creatures. Either he has to take away their independent wills (in which case they will no longer be human) or he has to persuade them to go his way. manual

For people who are awake to contemporary ecological issues, the ark with its frail cargo of life looks like the earth on its voyage through space. It is imperilled by the violence and evil of humanity. We can see, as the author of Genesis saw, that the chaos lurks threateningly near, because God does not impose his will by force and human beings are free to do as they will. Only a conversion of humanity to the creative process of God can protect the vessel. God’s stubborn love is expressed by those who denounce the violence done to nature and call for a creative conversion.

This interpretation reminds me that the Noah story is not some Mesopotamian myth that found its way into the bible. Rather, it’s a powerful image of the folly and destructiveness of humanity; the fragility of creation; the need for human conversion; and the love of God.

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