Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oddities of the Flood Legend

In the previous post, I discussed the impetus for The Flood of Noah.

God has Noah build the Ark, a boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high, and gather up pairs of animals into the Ark to repopulate Earth after The Flood. God Floods the Earth for about a year, wiping out all land creatures, including man, and all birds.

Christians often site the fact that the majority of cultures have a legend of a great flood as evidence for historical proof. At one time, a part of the Ark was thought to have been discovered on a mountain, but this ended up to be a big hoax.

Oddities of the Flood Legend
Humans need fresh water to survive. As such, any self-sustaining community had to locate itself near a fresh water source. Humans learned long ago that the same water that sustained life could easily end it. If there was too little, the drought would claim lives as crops and people died of thirst. If there was too much, the flood would wash away belongings, houses, livestock, and drown loved ones.

Most legends have a basis in fact, it's true. With nearly every community of mankind depending on and living near fresh water to survive, it is no surprise that legends would spring up about floods. Also, we would expect several variations on those flood legends due to the imagination of the local populous. This is exactly the case. Anyone claiming that many cultures having a flood legend would be proof of The Flood obviously hasn't thought very hard about why that may be true.

Moving on to The Flood at hand, there are several oddities about The Flood legend, such as why would God want to kill the animals (Genesis 6:17), and why would God tell Noah to collect pairs of every animal (Genesis 6:19-20), only to tell him seven days before The Flood that he instead needed seven pairs of all the “clean” animals (Genesis 7:1-4). I'm not going to discuss them all here, but I will hit some of the highlights.

Many miracles in the Bible strike me as an odd mix between the natural and the supernatural. The Flood is a prime example. God's objective was to kill all of mankind, except Noah and his family, and kill off all the animals except the ones on the Ark. He chooses to do so with a natural event of unnatural proportion, and it takes a year to do it. Why wouldn't God just instantaneously kill them all and disintegrate them to dust? Such an act would have been even more miraculous, as nothing natural could have possibly done that. The Flood was not to test Noah's heart, as he already had favorable status. To me, such natural miracles suggest that the origin of the legend is a natural event which has been woven into a story about divine power.

The next couple oddities come as Noah disembarks from the Ark in Genesis 8:20-21:
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done." NIV
Why is the smell of burnt flesh a “pleasing aroma” to God? This is something repeated over and over again in the Old Testament. Modern Christians debate about whether or not a fiery Hell is the destination of unsaved sinners. If it is, God is going to be incredibly pleased with the aroma from all those sinners roasting! Maybe that's why only few will enter at the straight gate of salvation...

In these verses, we get a rare glimpse at the heart of God. What does it say? Even though all of mankind's inclinations are evil from childhood on into adulthood, He will not curse the ground again or destroy all living creatures. Those with standard-Christian-issue rose-colored glasses will say that this shows God's great mercy. Under honest scrutiny, the message of mercy is not the only thing revealed. Paraphrasing the full meaning; “Mankind is a failed experiment that has resulted in only evil creatures. I want to just wipe them all off the Earth, but I will not do this.” So, yes, it does show mercy, but not due to some pleasure God takes in man, or out of some great love God has for man.

Closing this legend out, in Genesis 9:8-16 God makes a covenant with Noah that specifically He will never again destroy all life with a flood, and He makes rainbows as a reminder for Him of the covenant. We'll forget that God would need a reminder at this time to tackle a bigger issue. The issue is that God's covenant essentially means nothing! Why? Because, as I hinted earlier, an omnipotent God could wipe out mankind in any number of ways, not just a flood. Not only that, this covenant hasn't stopped God from killing hundreds of thousands with floods through the centuries. So this covenant is worthless, except for the rainbows. Those are nice. :-)


  1. Not to mention, if rainbows had not existed pre-flood, think of the difference in the UNIVERSES color prism system! Talk about an upgrade! Surely there must have been a rainbow or two during those flood showers eh?

  2. You're not kidding! The world would have looked completely different. Staring into a lake or the ocean would have been like looking through the air without the property of refraction!

  3. well god,[hashem in the torah]had to save someone, who would burn the flesh,no? "it is a sweet savor to hashem" [torah]. that bbq smell must be addictive for higher beings.[gods?]and the reason for the extra animals?thats easy;the 3 best of each group of animals,were to sacrifice,the last 2 were for repopulation.they got to eat the dying or sick animals and redrink their urine most likely.of course man was a failed experiment,he did'nt do "everything" he was told mindlessly.

  4. Yup, nothing quite pleases God like returning carbon-based life forms to charred carbon!

    This is one of the largest inconsistencies with the Christian belief that everything in the Old Testament was pointing to Jesus. Now if Jesus had died on a burning cross, it would be a different story...