The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”
5 And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.
6 Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. 7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8 Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, 9 male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.
13 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark.14 They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind,everything with wings. 15 Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16 The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in.
17 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18 The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. 21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.
24 The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.
The flood story has fascinated me since sixth grade, where I distinctly remember learning in Mrs. Fowler’s 4th period Social Studies class that Sumerian culture also had a flood story. And indeed, many, many cultures have a flood story – Wikipedia has a whole list of flood stories from around the world, beyond the famous Noah of the Bible and Gilgamesh of Mesopotamia. Here was hard proof that MY religion was based on historical facts, not just some nebulous mythology. Perhaps other civilizations had missed the boat (ha, ha I know, I’m a total cornball) on recognizing the Abrahamic God as the true God, but that flood happened and they knew it was because some deity was angry.
It’s funny how as you get older you don’t know it all anymore. I’m sure I’ll say the same thing about my current self in 20 years. But anyway-I’m still excited about the pervasiveness of the flood myth, but less as a validation to my own religion and more as a validation to the greater truths of humanity.
What are the greater truths we share, beyond a more-or-less “historically accurate” flood story? That’s what I’m reading the Bible to find out. But my hypothesis lies in the subtitle of this blog: Radical Love. Human history is filled with examples of radical love – stories of sacrifice, of miracles, and, yes, of epic romances. This flood story is a story of God’s wrath, but also a story of His love for us. God looked upon the Earth and humanity in despair. But in his despair he found love for Noah and his family, enough to carry them through an earth-ending calamity. If He can find the one good man out of an entire world of wickedness, don’t we owe it to Him to search for the good, for to common ground, in our fellow man?
I’m not saying to turn a blind eye to injustice in order to keep the peace. But do recognize that your opponent, whoever that may be, is a person. A living, breathing person who eats and sleeps and fears and feels. Better yet, recognize that your opponent may not be a person at all, but a larger system of injustice, such as institutional racism, and that your opponent is a product of their environment. Call out the wrongs in society, for sure, but also extend a hand of recognition, too. It’s been a while since I’ve used a parenting analogy, so here we go: Sometimes, when one of the kids is throwing a shit fit, the best way to calm things down is to drop everything and hug them, let them know that I am here and listening to them and that it’s going to be alright – no need to throw things and hit and yell. I recognize their human needs, and they calm down (usually, unless someone has the Leapfrog counting phone out of turn, then all bets are off). Simply acknowledging the anger (fear) of another person can help to calm the storm.
Hope is another “greater truth” from this flood story. Many (not all, but many) of these similar flood stories start with God (or whoever) being willing to save the flicker of good left in humanity, and ends with God (or whoever) making a promise to carry on the Earth after the flood. That little flicker of a divine flame can literally save the world. So again, I repeat: If God can place the hope of mankind into one flawed man, don’t we owe it to Him to search for the divine flicker good in our fellow man? I think it’s a good place to start.