This is installment 3 of my “An Atheist Reads The Bible” adventure. I should be studying for tests that are actually relevant to my immediate future, instead of reading the Bible and/or blogging…but I’m not going to give up on day 3, dang it!
When we last left off, Noah and family were in the floating zoo. Everyone else: dead.
Chapter 8- It only took 40 days to make this flood, but a looong time for it to go away. Noah sends out some birds to scout for dry land. Everyone finally disembarks.
Verse 1: “Then God remembered Noah…” Did he forget? This flood was his idea, and then he just up and forgets about it?!
As they’re waiting for the waters to recede so they can get off the boat, Noah sends out some birds to check for dry land. First a raven, which is described as “going to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth.” Then a dove, which comes back empty beaked, then comes back with an olive leaf, then doesn’t come back at all, signalling that the land is now dry.
I’m curious about the symbolism of the raven not coming back meaning no-go, but the dove not coming back being a good thing.
Also, couldn’t Noah have just looked out the window to see if there was dry land? He doesn’t officially remove the covering of the ark until after the dove doesn’t return, but he was obviously letting the birds out somehow…he could’ve just stuck his head out too and had a peek.
Then all the animals leave the ark, which has perched upon Mt Ararat. After an event like this, we would expect to find a place on earth with extreme animal diversity. Why isn’t there somewhere (besides a zoo) where Australian kangaroos, African Elephants and Antarctic penguins all live together? Why/how did rare rainforest bugs migrate to the Amazon, while Tasmanian devils went the other way? Flightless birds would have a long walk…
I think I’ve found the answer to my question about having 7 of each clean animal. In verse 20, Noah builds an altar and offers up one of every clean animal. Poor 7th wheel, just along to be roasted at the end. (And aren’t burnt offerings such a waste? Those animals get killed and roasted just so God can smell their burning flesh and feel good about Himself. It’s my understanding from what I know of the rest of the Bible that people weren’t supposed to eat the burnt offerings…so…just wasted.)
Chapter 9- God promises never to flood the whole world again, puts a rainbow in the sky, commands Noah’s family to repopulate the Earth. Noah learns to farm, grows grapes, makes wine, gets sloshed, gets naked, sobers up, curses grandchildren.
Just as Adam and Eve were told to “be fruitful and multiply” so were Noah and family. Seems like we’re in for another case of brothers boffing sisters. You’d think they’d have succumbed to diseases from all the inbreeding after this genetic bottle neck. Guess Tay-Sachs disease wasn’t a thing yet.
9:2- “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth and on all the fish of the sea.” Yeah, tell that to anyone who’s been mauled by a bear or attacked by a shark.
9:3- “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.” Two things here. One, from prior biblical knowledge, I know God wasn’t that liberal with his dietary restrictions. Was pork okay during this brief window? Two, I think someone should use this verse to start a bible-based campaign to legalize marijuana. He did say *all* the green herbs are okay, after all.
Verses 9-17 really embodies why the bible is such a dull read. In those 8 verses, God establishes his rainbow covenant over-and-over-and-over again. So repetitive.
Then there’s this story about Noah getting drunk. Look, if I’d just spent months and months trapped on a floating zoo with just my family, I’d want to get drunk too. I can sympathize with Noah here. But, then he gets naked and things get weird. His son Ham sees him naked, then tells his brothers about it. Said brothers then go cover their father’s shame (without looking upon dad’s nakedness- just to be clear). When Noah wakes up and hears this story, his response is to curse Ham’s son Canaan and ask God to make Canaan into a servant to his uncle Shem. Wtf? The kid had nothing to do with this! Disproportionate– and completely illogical– punishment rears its head again.
Chapter 10- Genealogies
More awesome biblical names: Dudanim, Put, Nimrod (the mighty hunter), Asshur, Mash, and Peleg.
Chapter 11- The tower of Babel. More genealogies.
Everyone on earth speaks the same language, and apparently hangs out in the same region. They decide to build a city with a big tower in it. They plan for that tower to reach the heavens. God doesn’t approve of this civic minded team work, it seems.
Vs 6-8 “And the Lord said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the earth; and they ceased building the city.”
Why is God so insecure that humans banding together to build a big tower is a threat to him? The humans were getting too…smart? strong? cooperative?… so he decided to scramble their language. What a bully. I’ve heard some interpretations that take the “to the heavens” bit literally, and claim that the people were trying to poke around where they didn’t belong. But, that doesn’t make sense. Even with modern architecture we can’t build towers that reach space. These people had “brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar.” So, what was God so afraid of?
Sounds to me more like a story ancient people made up to explain why different languages exist, before we understood linguistics.
The people in the genealogies that follow supposedly lived to be in their 400s. But Genesis 6:3 said God was limiting the days of man to 120. What gives?
The genealogy ends with Abram, his barren wife Sarai, and his nephew Lot leaving Ur of the Chaldeans to go live in Canaan. Keep and eye out for these characters later!
**Extra credit reading, for those that may be interested: other ancient flood stories exist, most of which pre-date the bible. I know of the Epic of Gilgamesh (Mesopotamian) and the Popol Vuh (Mesoamerican, from Guatemala) off the top of my head. Is more than one religion correct? Did the Bible plagiarize? Did multiple ancient peoples experience devastating local flooding, and then add a little hyperbole when retelling the story? I suspect it’s some combination of the second two, but you should judge for yourself.