Amidst the countless biblical narratives, there are few as recognisable as the tale of Noah’s Ark (found in the book of Genesis, chapters 6-9). In this nation’s once-great education system, a child progressing through the primary school system would inevitably encounter the story of Noah and his Ark, along with the shepherding of all the species in the animal kingdom, two-by-two, onto the vessel.
I have little hope in the current liberal establishment reading the story with its original purpose – if the story isn’t vaporised completely, it would at the very least undergo an extensive progressive makeover.
A ‘male’ and a ‘female’ from each species being rescued by the ark? What about all the non-binary hyenas? And why only two from each species?
Is the ark not inclusive enough to accommodate all members of said species? Of course, in the age where 2+2=5, the logistics in saving every single animal from every single species isn’t exactly difficult to calculate for progressive Noah. But back in ancient times (as recently as ten years ago), it was biblical Noah that was taught in schools. To assist the children’s understanding of the story, perhaps the teacher could organise an art project consisting of building a model ark out of paper mache, which is then covered with various shades of brown paint? For the final piece of the puzzle, the tiny stuffed animals that have been perched on bookshelves and windowsills for the past millennia could finally be called into action, and placed in the model ark?
Alternatively, if the teacher does not want to discipline the class, who find nothing more joyful than flicking paint at their classmates, they could stick a cartoon adaptation of the story on the seventeenth-century black box TV that has to be wheeled in from the shed. Remember those? However, all of this effort is inadequate as the children walk home holding their parent’s hand knowing what happened in the story, but not why it happened. The important question being, why did God send a flood to destroy the Earth?
The reasoning God gives for destroying the Earth is, to quote scripture, that ‘the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’ (Genesis 6:5).
In the world described here, Man’s natural instinct is drawn towards the use of violence for his own benefit – to pillage for resources and murder rivals. The corrupt nature of man is easily seen in the two biblical tales which precede the story of Noah’s Ark; the story of Adam and Eve, and of Cain and Abel. Adam and Eve became greedy by going against God just to consume from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge, whereas Cain murdered his own brother, Abel, out of envy.
God had unintentionally created and allowed for a boil to fester and grow on the Earth’s surface which caused him to regret every creating humanity. So, to make amends for the past error, he elects to send an apocalyptic flood to drown and destroy all living creatures. However, in Noah, who is ‘a just man and perfect in his generations’ (Genesis 6:9), God sees the potential for humanity to prosper without delving into vices and unimaginable levels of violence.
If God hadn’t seen this potential, he would never have ordered Noah to make the ark and herd in the animals two-by-two, but instead let humanity reach its final demise, never to be revived on the Earth again. Through his actions, Noah is saved from the flood because he resists the corrupt impulses that have plagued the rest of humanity. At the end of the story, when God swept the floodwaters away from the Earth, he told Noah and his family to ‘be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth’ (Genesis 9:1).
Because Noah chose to be a beacon of light in a universe of darkness, Noah had not only saved himself and his family from the flood, but the whole human race. A crucial lesson here is that humans have free will, whether we use it for good or evil. The story is also a tale of rebirth – of second chances. But more specifically, when destruction must occur, it is just as necessary to rescue the good (Noah’s family) as it is to destroy the bad (the wickedness of humanity). This balance must be struck because destroying the good along with the bad leads to no improvement, whilst retaining the good along with the bad only leads to further decay.
Lastly, God accepts that ‘the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth’ (Genesis 8:21), however, he explicitly states – several times – that he will not destroy the Earth again.
Despite the imperfections and often cruelty of humanity, it must learn to live with the fact that God will not arrive to restart humanity all over again – that would be the definition of insanity. If humanity shapes the world in an identical way to that which bound God to destroy the Earth in the story of Noah’s Ark, there is no escape because humanity must learn to live with the world it had created.
Good people such as Noah will not be rescued, but left to the sadistic predators that roam the land. Therefore, to avoid a state of perpetual strife, humanity must learn to suppress its primal instincts and passions – to act like humans instead of wild animals. If humanity learns from its previous mistakes, the world can be a safe place, a just place and a place where God would never dream of destroying.
Image from Anton Koberger’s German Bible (available HERE.)