Bible Study 9.5.11, 9.8.11. 9.11.11 for Worship 9.18.11Posted: August 29, 2011
Bible Study 9.5.11, 9.8.11, 9.11.11 For Worship 9.18.11
Genesis 6:8 – 9:17
Genesis 6:8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.
10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.
12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.
15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.
16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and set the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks.
17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall die.
18 But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.
20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive.
21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.”
22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
7:1 Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.
2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate;
3 and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive upon the face of all the earth.
4 For in seven days I will send rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”
5 And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.
6 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth.
7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark, to escape the waters of the flood.
8 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground,
9 two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah.
10 And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.
12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark,
14 they and every beast according to its kind, and all the cattle according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth according to its kind, and every bird according to its kind, every bird of every sort.
15 They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life.
16 And they that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in.
17 The flood continued forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.
18 The waters prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters.
19 And the waters prevailed so mightily upon the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered;
20 the waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.
21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, and every man;
22 everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.
23 He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark.
24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days.
8:1 But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided;
2 the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained,
3 and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated;
4 and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest upon the mountains of Ararat.
5 And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.
6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made,
7 and sent forth a raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth.
8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground;
9 but the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put forth his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him.
10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark;
11 and the dove came back to him in the evening, and lo, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth.
12 Then he waited another seven days, and sent forth the dove; and she did not return to him any more.
13 In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry.
14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.
15 Then God said to Noah,
16 “Go forth from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.
17 Bring forth with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh — birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth — that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.”
18 So Noah went forth, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him.
19 And every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves upon the earth, went forth by families out of the ark.
20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered.
3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.
4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
5 For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.
7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.”
8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
9 “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you,
10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.
11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:
13 I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,
15 I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.”
17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”
Most cultures around the world have some kind of flood myth. The story of Noah seems to have been borrowed with distinctive Hebrew changes from the Epic of Gilgamesh. The existence of so many flood myths points to three possibilities. The first is a deep memory of a flood experience very early in the history of modern human existence, so that the memory recurs in many different cultures. The second possibility is floods occur all over the world, so many different cultures how developed flood myths independently. The third possibility is that the myth of a flood that wipes out most of the human race, in order to start over again, expresses deep wishful thinking in the human psyche. Starting over again is an attractive theme. Remember when we were kids playing games and everyone wanted a “do over?” Well in the Noah Story God wants a “do over.” That’s kind of hard on humans, but in a fanciful imagination maybe we would all like a “do over.” The problem with God’s “do over,” is the incredible suffering that results from God having a temper tantrum. Just imagine all the people pounding on the door of the Ark after it has been sealed, and then the eerie silence after the Ark begins to float.
The funniest modern retelling of the Noah Story was created by Bill Cosby:
I believe Cosby captured the issues of primary interest for modern folk. First, is the issue of how do we know when God is speaking? The UCC insists that God is still speaking, but how do we know and in what forms does God speak today? “Am I on Candid Camera?” Am I really hearing or seeing or communicating with God or is someone, maybe my own subconscious, playing a joke on me. We always have to be careful, when we think God is communicating with us.
So how can we discern God’s messages. First, when God communicates the message is often something we don’t want to hear. Think about most of the prophets. The messages they had to share were not things they or their listeners want to hear. Those messages didn’t make them popular or comfortable. People in the scriptures to whom God speaks almost never profit from God’s messages. This doesn’t mean that all of God’s messages are angry diatribes. Sometimes like in second Isaiah, or even the messages of Jesus there is a word of comfort. Although we should note that Jesus’ gospel is not very comforting for the rich and powerful. As a rule of thumb, God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.
Scripture and prayer can be helpful in discerning God’s movements and messages in our lives. Spiritual Directors often advocate the Benedictine spiritual discipline of Lectio Divina that attempts to combine prayer and scripture in seeking God’s direction.
Good spiritual friends are also important in discerning God’s messages and direction in our lives. A Bible Study where the members have grown close enough to speak truth to one another. A spiritual director, who listens and reflects and offers direction. Fellow members of our congregation who have covenanted with us to pray with us and for us, all can play an important role in helping us to discern what God might be up to in our lives. A well developed sense of humility is also a good guard against presuming to know God’s intentions, when it is really the devices and desires of our hearts that are speaking.
The second issue Cosby addresses is whether or not God is vindictive. “How long can you tread water?” By treating the issue with laughter I think Cosby is poking fun at the image of a vindictive God. While many fundamentalists still believe in an angry vengeful God, I think most progressive Christians have moved beyond such a primitive image of God.
The third issue Cosby addresses is what does it mean to be faithful and obedient. God asks an awful lot of poor Noah. “Who’s gonna clean the bottom of that Ark?” And sometimes while we are waiting for God to move in history, we can become very impatient. Like Noah complaining about all he has had to do and there still isn’t a cloud in the sky. But once the rain begins, “you and me Lord, you and me.” We are encouraged to be patient in our waiting for God to move in history. Even when the forces of evil seem to be riding high, God is still unseen and at work, until suddenly everything changes. Who could have predicted the Arab Spring? No one. Who would have predicted the end of Gaddafi? God’s time is not our time. We are asked to be patient and faithful.
This is a long passage, but let’s take a few minutes to examine a few issues in the text. Noah is described as a “righteous” man in chapter 6:9. And yet again and again we see that Noah was not perfect. “Noah walked with God.” We too are allowed to make mistakes, we are simply called to daily “walk with God,” daily prayer and a consciousness of trying to choose goodness rather than evil.
Not to support a literal interpretation of the text, but the dimensions given for the ark in 6:15 would have been a very stable craft. We should also consider the concern to have all living things represented on the ark, even animals that humans might consider to be useless or even destructive. Every creature has its place in the balance of nature. In chapter 7:2 we do see the peculiar Hebrew concern to make sure that extra “clean animals” are included to propagate food for the humans.
In chapter 7:23 we have the image of the ark serving as a life boat. Indeed, the ark has sometimes been used as an image for the church. The church is the life boat that goes out to save people who get into trouble. Too often however, the church has used the image of the ark to imply that only those who are in the church are saved, thus consigning anyone outside the church, or your particular denomination even to hell. I think slowly we are coming to a different appreciation of a God whose mercy extends far beyond the boundaries that humans would draw.
In chapter 8:8-12 we have the lovely image of the dove. Noah sends forth the dove to determine whether the land has dried up. The dove has also been used as a sign of peace, and in the church the dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
In chapter 9:9-17 we have the establishment of the covenant of the rainbow. God promises never to destroy all living things again. God gives up the option of the “do over.” Of course just because God has made that promise, humans should not be complacent. If humans continue to destroy our environment, weaponize the atom, ignore climate change, and overpopulate, we may create our own “do over.”
While the story of Noah has often been considered a children’s story, probably because of the animals and the rainbow, Noah is probably even more problematical for children, especially younger children than the story of the snake and Adam and Eve. The god in the Noah story is positively vindictive. People behave badly, well wipe them all out, “how long can you tread water?” I think the vindictive part of the story can be finessed, by focusing on God “warning” Noah of the coming of a flood, so Noah could prepare to save the animals. This presentation could then lead to a discussion of endangered species and saving animals from extinction today. The rainbow covenant is also an appropriate focus in this scripture. This is the first covenant God makes with humans, and affirms that God even when natural disasters happen like Hurricanes, and tornadoes, and earthquakes, God does not want to destroy the earth.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. What subtle differences are there between: found favor in the eyes of the Lord; righteous man; blameless in his generation; walked with God?
2. What behaviors of the humans particularly disappointed God?
3. What was God’s message to Noah?
4. How was Noah to waterproof the ark?
5. What humans are to be allowed on the ark?
6. How many animals are to be brought aboard the ark?
7. Are there any distinctions made between different animals brought onto the ark?
8. What two birds does Noah use to determine whether or not the waters of the flood have dried sufficiently to open the Ark?
9. What is one of the first things Noah does upon leaving the Ark?
10. What is God’s response to Noah’s action?
11. What does God promise?
12. What are the “terms” of the Rainbow Covenant?”
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. What do you think it means to “walk with God?”
2. For you what does it mean to be “righteous?”
3. Do you think God would ever like to have a “do over?”
4. Would you ever like to have a “do over?”
5. Do you think it is possible that human could cause their own “do over?” How would we handle that theologically?
6. How do you process theologically the “vindictive” portrayal of God in this story?
7. What is your favorite part of this story?
8. How would you present this story to children?
9. Do you think there are ever times in life, when there are consequences? If so, how do you process those theologically?
10. Genesis 9:4 is a prescription for Kosher butchering. Why do you think fundamentalists ignore this verse?
11. Chapter 9 verses 5 and 6 are often cited as precedent for capital punishment. How do you feel about that?
12. What is your interpretation of the “Rainbow Covenant?”