Jim's Sunday Sermon
Written by Jim Brochu
In H.G. Wells novel, The Time Machine, a Scottish scientist fashions a device that hurtles him 802,000 years into the future. There, he liberates the childlike nation of Eloi slaves from the bondage of their masters, the all-powerful Morlocks.
PART 3: NOAH - CAPTAIN OF
THE FIRST LOVE BOAT
In order to build a new civilization, he climbs back into his his time-hopping sport's coupe and scoots back to 1894 in order to retrieve three books from his library. At the conclusion of the novel, Wells asks his readers, "Which three books would you have taken?"
I always thought the protagonist came back to fetch "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare," A Dictionary of the English Language" and The Bible. (Today, I myself would bring The Odyssey by Homer, The History Of Civilization by Will and Ariel Durant and My Most Personal Beauty Secrets by Kathie Lee Gifford. The future must have fashion!
If the hero of The Time Machine brought The Bible back to the Eloi, he brought it to a people who had never heard of God, had never experienced religion, and because of the hypnotic spell cast over them by their masters, weren't too sure what mankind was either.
Reading the Bible from the Eloi's point of view, as one coming to the story for the first time, God reveals Himself as an entity who wants to be feared rather than loved.
In Genesis 6:1, God looks down upon the earth and sees nothing but corruption and wickedness. The year (according to the ages of the generations) is about 8,500-9,000 A.C. (After Creation.) It seems that God has been totally silent for all this time and the only rule he's given man so far is don't eat the fruit from the tree. He has never once said "Don't kill, don't hit, don't steal don't fold, staple or mutilate." He is silent with His approbations but He does give to man two affirmative directives: a) be fruitful and b) multiply. (Genesis 1:27)
God hasn't been watching his monitors because when He tunes back into The Earth Show some 8,000 years later, He is appalled by what he sees - violence and wickedness (Gen 6:12). We all know what violence is. It's a tangible thing. But what is wickedness? If it's sex, then man is only doing what God had told him, nay commanded him to do.
Wickedness couldn't be defined as stealing since everybody was related to each other back then - first, second and third cousins - and you really can't steal from family - right?
It's coincidental that I had just come back from seeing the very loud movie "Armageddon" just before reading the Noah story. Total destruction of the human race can be a provocative topic. But not once during the film did anyone suggest that man had become so evil that God was pitching a Texas-sized boulder at them in retribution. It seems that sometimes catastrophic destruction just happens.
But God's destruction of the earth by water, as told in the story of Noah, was a well thought-out and meticulously planned act of vengeance. In fact, God commits premeditated mass murder. But His creation was acting exactly as it was supposed to. And because man is behaving the way God programmed him to behave, He decides to destroy them all.
Why? Why is He punishing his creation? It's like a delusional toy maker holding the doll responsible for not being pretty. Why doesn't He punish Himself for the mistake, or just walk away and start over with another galaxy? And if He decided to really start over from scratch, why didn't He wipe out everyone including Noah and replace the population with a new and improved model of man?
In Genesis 9:20, we get a glimpse into the character of Noah. We find that Noah has his own vineyard and likes to drink. In fact, he's quite a tippler. And when Noah gets drunk, his favorite thing to do is to take off all his clothes and sleep in the nude.
Considering that the desert temperature hovers around a hundred and twenty four at night, this is not unreasonable. But knowing that Noah was inclined to sleepwalk, his sons try to cover him up. Noah doesn't like this. He's hot, loaded and starts cursing them out. So if this was Noah's behavior, I guess the rest of humanity must have really been something. It proves that my sainted grandfather was right, "God loves babies and drunks."
Now remember, God hasn't said "boo" in 8,000 years and there was no organized religion yet to keep his memory alive through formal worship. Some people have heard of this mythological creator of the earth, others don't quite remember. To most people, He was just "The Big Voice" telling people not to eat fruit.
So Noah is having a few cocktails after work one day when The Big Voice says, "Noah. I like you you but the rest of mankind really pisses me off so I'm going to kill everybody except you, your immediate family and a representative sampling of flora and fauna. I'm going to send a big flood to cover the earth and I want you and your family to build a great big boat."
Now, if I were Noah, I would have quit drinking on the spot. He must have been scared out of his wits. Can you imagine going home to tell Mrs. Noah, "Honey, you'll never guess what happened today." Mrs. Noah didn't believe that her husband had actually heard The Big Voice but perked up considerably when she caught the part about "going on a cruise."
The Big Voice is very specific about how and of what the Ark should be made. The measurements were 300 cubits long by 50 cubits wide by 30 cubits high. Looking up "cubit," I found it was a measurement of length equal to a man's forearm. Given that, the Ark was approximately 600 feet long by 100 feet wide by 60 feet tall, making it look like a puffy barge.
God tells Noah to use a certain wood. (Gen 6:14) My three Bibles each cite a different kind. One says gopher wood, one says resin wood while the last says cypress. The wood is to be strapped together with reeds and then covered with pitch inside and out. There is to be one door very up high on the side and a little window at the top.
So Noah tells his three sons - Shem, Ham and Japeth - "Let's get cracking!" The three sons, who aren't the most productive kids in the world, are sitting there with their mouths open because their six hundred year-old, alcoholic father has just told them that they had to build a boat the size of the Royal Viking Princess all by themselves.
The neighbors got a huge kick out watching Noah and the boys build a boat, knowing that the nearest body of water was at least 40,000 cubits to the West. In the meantime, the women have been gathering the animals when The Big Voice comes back to Noah and says, "The flood is coming in seven days. Take seven each of every animal and food enough for you and the gang." Noah wanted to say, "But you said two (Gen 6:19) and now you want seven? (Gen 7:2)"
Now, if you take the dimensions of the ark, considering the three decks, the total living area is about 60,000 square feet. It may be a palatial number even by Beverly Hills standards but when a family of 8 has to share the public rooms with 14,000 four-legged animals, 14,000 birds, leaping lizards, snapping crocodiles, fornicating scorpions, peeved rattlesnakes and a few hundred thousand bugs, it can get a little cramped. After a month the cabin fever was at the boiling point and the smell was hallucinogenic.
Then The Big Voice told Noah to get everybody on board because he was about to destroy the earth. God made the earth I suppose He could destroy it if he really wanted, but my biggest problem with this story is the way He did it.
Since I've been a child, I've always had an inordinate fear of drowning. I learned to swim because I never wanted experience the sheer horror of feeling your lungs fill with water as your body spasms, realizing that there is no hope. And to hold your victim's head under the water increases the terror to Pirandellian heights.
Couldn't God have just erased the slate in some other way? Couldn't he just de-materialize all the people of the earth except Noah and his family? And why did the poor animals who got left behind deserve such a fate? The only species unfazed by the flood were the fish who were being fruitful and multiplying under the seas.
The Big Voice went to a lot of trouble to kill people and He does it in this story most sadistically. Drowning is a cruel way to go and it's almost as if God held the head of every human under the water while Noah went sleepwalking around the Ark exposing himself to the gnus.
The Bible also gives the dates of the flood and the Ark's itinerary. According to Genesis 7:11, the flood starts around the year 9000 After Creation on February 17th. It rains for 40 days and 40 nights and then the rain stops and they float for the next seven months.
At this point (Gen 8:1), it says that God remembered Noah. Does that mean God wiped out all of mankind except for eight people, flooded the earth and then the incident slipped his mind for five months? I can picture Ed Wynn as Uncle Arthur in Mary Poppins, laughing on the ceiling and saying, "Dear me. I seem to have forgotten something. Hmmm, what could it be? Oh, nothing important I guess. Just the earth." So anyway, God remembers Noah and makes the flood waters start to recede.
On July 17th (Gen 8:5), they have a stopover at Mount Ararat, but the waters don't officially start receding until October 1. When Noah looks out, all he can see is mud and dead bodies. He's between a rock and a hard place - the rock being The Big Voice and the hard place being his wife who isn't any too thrilled about the way this luxury cruise turned out.
She is at her wit's end after being cooped up for seven months with the Bronx Zoo. She had long gotten used to the smell of the dung of 20 thousand moving creatures and their ever hatching-offspring, but it was the constant mooing, baaing, honking, snorting and screaming that was driving her out of her mind. She wanted off.
It says that the earth didn't become dry enough to walk about on until the 27th of February of the next year (Gen 8:14), so all-totaled Noah and his family spent one hundred and ten days on The Loathe Boat.
When Noah gets off, He remembers that The Big Voice is fond of barbecue and cooks himself up a few cows and turkeys. God catches the smell (Gen 8:21) and comes over to see Noah. The Big Voice tells Noah that he enjoyed the barbecue and wants to make a covenant with him. Can you imagine how Noah felt?
It would be like an old gangster movie with Humphrey Bogart as The Big Voice collecting protection money. You're the poor sucker living on a nice quiet street in the suburbs - pretty house on the corner- you like your neighbors and they like you (maybe there's a few you'd like to see hit by lightening) - but mostly it's a nice neighborhood with no problems.
You're sitting in your house and Humphrey Bogart knocks at the door and says "Hello, I like you but I don't like anybody else on the block and so I'm going to destroy everybody but you."
Before you can answer, all the other houses explode and your next-door neighbors fly past you like pieces of shrapnel spinning toward an unsuspecting oblivion. Everything is gone and you are alone. Bogie turns and says, "Now, let's make a deal!"
What are you going to do, say no? But we make this deal out of fear and not love. God behaves in such a way that He doesn't care if you love Him, only that you fear Him. It works. What can Noah do? He says, "Sure Mr. Big Voice, sir, let's make a covenant."
In Genesis 9:4, The Big Voice gives Noah two more rules. The first is not to eat of the animals with blood in them. (Back in Eden, He was against eating fruit and now He has a problem with meat.) I'm not sure if He's saying not to eat meat at all or just to make sure that it's well done.
The second rules is "don't kill other people." (Gen 9:6) This is the first we've heard about it. Maybe God wouldn't have had to kill so many people if only He had given this rule a little earlier. That being said, The Big Voice says, "Now be fruitful and multiply!" Yikes! Isn't that what they were doing that brought on His wrath in the first place. Here we go again!
To make a nice end to the story, The Big Voice gives Noah the rainbow as a sign that He will never destroy the earth by water again. He leaves the fire and brimstone option open but no more floods. (Gen 9:12)
Noah and his family look at the rainbow and feel filled with a sense of pride and wonder, knowing that five thousand years into the future, the colors of the rainbow will make a marvelous flag for a disenfranchised minority group.
NEXT: THE STORY OF ABRAHAM:
HOW THE WEST BANK WAS WON
NEXT: PART 1: THE ADAM FAMILY
PART 2: CAIN & ABEL
PART 3: NOAH, CAPTAIN OF THE FIRST LOVE BOAT
PART 5: SODOM, SARAH & ISAAC
PART 6: THE ISAAC FAMILY PLOTS
PART 7: JACOB & HIS WILD KIDS
PART 8: I DREAM OF JOSEPH
© 1998, 1999 by Jim Brochu. All rights of reproduction are reserved.
This book originated at Bonusround.com.