Problematizing Noah

As I continue to Tweet the Bible, I’ve been working through the story of Noah. Considering the number of children’s items imprinted with the friendly, smiling Noah and Mrs., and the cute, predatory animals they’re taking aboard their private yacht, the utter belligerence of the story is frequently lost. There is one seriously peeved God behind this. “And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart,” Genesis 6.6 states. And it only gets worse from there: “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth… for it repenteth me that I have made them.” Indeed, the wrath of God is emphasized more than the wickedness of the humans that have spawned it. No matter what is done, it seems, God will still be in a rage.

The truly striking aspect of this account comes, however, when Noah is instructed on whom to save. “Thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife,” verse 18 dictates. Men first. Now, we cannot judge a product of the past against standards of the present day, but it is quite clear why many women find the biblical text less-than-friendly. Even the animals are explicitly paired from the start do not receive the radical disjointing that the women receive from the men. If the purpose is to procure a new generation, arguably pregnant women could have done that with the men treading water above the remains of Eden. If survival is the point of the story, as the saying goes, ladies first.

The flood story is a complex account of a deity with anger management issues and a preference for the company of men. Although theologians may say with a wink that God has no gender, clearly the Bible begs to differ.

Humans and animals alike are victims of the divine wrath, and even though humanity survives the flood can the relationship with deity ever be the same again? How do humans face a creator turned destroyer, knowing that they will never really please him again? The weight of such divine displeasure is surely greater than all that water pressing our ancient cousins into fossils on the primeval sea bed. I think back to all the children’s toys with the happy little animals and a smiling Noah and I know they resemble the biblical version only in the most fleeting of fashions. Yet the myth lives on.

What shape is your ark?

3 responses to “Problematizing Noah

  1. Pingback: And God said, “Noah, I choose you!”

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