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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Old Testament Tales - Noah's Ark

Noah’s Ark and the Tower of Babel
1. Which came first, Noah’s flood or the Tower of Babel?
2. Which came first in Noah’s flood, the rain or the rising waters?
3. Where might Noah’s flood have taken place?
4. How many of each animal did Noah take into the ark?
5. How long did the flood last?
6. What is the first incidence of drunkenness in the Bible?
7. When did God tell man not to eat meat with the blood in it?
8. Who was Methuselah?
9. Who was Enoch?
10. Where was Babel?

The Bible records early people living to great ages (Genesis 5). Adam is recorded as dying at age 930, his son Seth at 912, grandson Enosh 905, etc. with Methuselah (Noah’s grandfather) reaching the grand old age of 969—a Biblical record! Some traditions describe the miracle of God’s giving us long life. Others suggest that the patriarch’s name is used throughout the existence of the tribe, not just the man. Non-Biblical documents seem to record great ages as proof of great wisdom and power. For myself, I struggle to remember my own age, even with the aid of calendars, newspapers, internet, commerce etc. Still, it’s interesting to note that the Biblical numbers imply Methuselah died in the same year as Noah’s flood (Genesis 6), while Noah’s great-grandfather, Enoch, appears to have died miraculously, with his body never being recovered.

There are many flood myths besides the Biblical account, which could mean the Bible was based on legend, but could also mean the legend was based on fact. The Bible account is somewhat boringly factual—lengths and measures given more space than fear and feelings—making it sound more like an original document. By contrast, the Babylonian myth depicts war in the heavens and a goddess throwing her necklace into the sky to make a rainbow. (Note, the Bible doesn’t say God waited till the flood to make rainbows; just that he pointed one out after the flood—see Genesis 9.)

Physical evidence suggests the Black Sea was once a fertile plain watered by a narrow river. Much of civilization appears to have settled there. The earth would have cooled in a mini-ice age, making the valley the most fertile spot remaining. Then global warming caused the Mediterranean to rise over the Bosporus Straits (the river still hides a reverse current in its depths). The valley would have flooded very quickly and cataclysmically, with almost all life washed away. But Noah survived. According to the Bible (Genesis 7), the floods came up before the rains came down, suggesting this might be an accurate picture.

After the flood (40 days, or 150: Genesis 7), Noah lands on dry ground and makes sacrifice to God (Genesis 8). During the intervening period, the family must have been eating on the boat. Perhaps that’s why Genesis 7 suggests there were 7 pairs of each clean animal carried, while Genesis 6 says one pair of everything. (It’s also likely that the Bible account is a combination of two other written records.) The ground around their landing place would have been littered with carcasses, which might explain why God gives the command not to eat meat with the blood in it (Genesis 9), i.e. only meat they’ve personally killed rather than flood-kill or victims of plague. Of all the fruits carried on the boat, grapes were the most likely to still be palatable. Unfortunately they were probably also rather alcoholic, and in Genesis 9 we read tate Noah became drunk, resulting in his cursing his sons, a very human tale.

Genesis 10 continues with lists of descendants, providing an interesting picture of how early human tribes spread out. And in Genesis 11 we see the building of a tower in Babel, or Babylon, resulting in mankind’s being scattered and our languages divided. Certainly by this period of prehistory, tribes were splitting and spreading, and different languages would have developed.

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