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Sunday, 8 July 2018

Noah, and the Flood: part 2

In the previous post (which, ideally, should be read before this one!) we started to look at the record of the man, Noach - the only righteous man that Almighty God could find on the earth, so soon after the creation. Because of the rebellion, and sinfuness, of the rest of mankind, God decreed that He would cause a great flood to envelope the earth, destroying all land-based life - including all humans except Noach and his immediate family.

"I, Myself, will bring the flood of water over the earth to destroy from under heaven every living thing that breathes; everything on earth will be destroyed. But I will establish my covenant with you; you will come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife and your sons’ wives with you." (Gen.6:17; CJB).

God instructed Noach to build a huge box ('tebah' in Hebrew; not a boat!) capable of holding one breeding pair of every animal, and seven pairs of those that were considered to be 'clean'. "From everything living, from each kind of living being, you are to bring two into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they are to be male and female. Of each kind of bird, each kind of livestock, and each kind of animal creeping on the ground, two are to come to you, so that they can be kept alive." "Of every clean animal you are to take seven couples, and of the animals that are not clean, one couple; also of the birds in the air take seven couples - in order to preserve their species throughout the earth." (6:19-20, 7:2-3; CJB)

Now a box may not be as difficult to constuct as a boat would have been - but the dimensions of this particular box show that this was no small undertaking! The ark was some 500 feet long; 75 feet wide; and 45 feet high! (Precise measurements depend on the interpretation of the 'cubit' which was between 18" and 20", but this was no toy from the "Early Learning Centre"!). Sceptics scoff, and say that even such a vessel could not hold, along with the food necessary for their survival, approximately 1 million species of insect; 25,000 species of bird; 2,500 species of amphibians; 6,000 species of reptile; and several thousand species of mammals; together with cultures of tens of thousands of micro-organisms that can be identified without the aid of a microscope! What such people fail to realise is that the Biblical record doesn't refer to "species", but to "kinds" or "families" from which the various species descended - each according to its "kind"! So, for example, there may well have been just one pair if "felines" from which all of the 'cat' family descended - not by "evolution", but by adaptaton!

The fact is that there may only have been about 16,000 creatures aboard; the median size would have been no more than that of a large rat (only young would have been rescued!), and no more than 12% larger than a modern sheep! Considering that, even using the 'short' cubit, there would have been some 1.5 million cubic feet of space, there was definitely no overcrowding in the ark!

Of course, the ark had to be water-tight, and so Noach is commanded to seal it, on both the inside and the outside, with pitch (tar), thus ensuring its 'floatability'. Of course, it also has to withstand 40 days and 40 nights of continuous rain, together with the tossing caused by gigantic waves. Even after the rain stops, another 150 days would pass before the waters had receded. So, adequate provisions are taken aboard: "Also take from all the kinds of food that are eaten, and collect it for yourself; it is to be food for you and for them." (6:21; C.J.B.).

Finally, the ark "... came to rest on the mountains of Ararat." (8:4; C.J.B.). No single 'mountain' is named! It is a bit like saying that something happened "in the Grampian Mountains" (in Scotland!). That covers a wide area! However, when the waters appeared to be receding, Noach checked by sending out one of the ravens. It could not find anywhere to rest, so "... flew back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth." (8:7; C.J.B.). After another week, he sends out a dove - but the end result was the same. Then, later, he sent the dove out again and, this time, it returned with a freshly-plucked olive leaf, and Noach knew that the waters had dried up sufficiently to allow vegetation to grow again. He waits a further week and sends the dove out again. This time it does not return, and he realises that it is safe to leave the shelter of the ark.

Then in a scene, reminiscent of the Creation, "God said to Noach, 'Go out from the ark, you, your wife, your sons and your son’s wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing you have with you - birds, livestock and every animal that creeps on the earth - so that they can swarm on the earth, be fruitful and multiply on the earth.'" (8:15-17; C.J.B.).  "God blessed Noach and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will be upon every wild animal, every bird in the air, every creature populating the ground, and all the fish in the sea; they have been handed over to you. Every moving thing that lives will be food for you; just as I gave you green plants before, so now I give you everything - only flesh with its life, which is its blood, you are not to eat. I will certainly demand an accounting for the blood of your lives: I will demand it from every animal and from every human being. I will demand from every human being an accounting for the life of his fellow human being. Whoever sheds human blood, by a human being will his own blood be shed; for God made human beings in his image. And you people, be fruitful, multiply, swarm on the earth and multiply on it." (9:1-7; C.J.B.).

So, humans are now permitted to eat meat - but not the blood of the animal; and the death penalty, for the murder of another human being, is instituted. This passage is a reminder that, when we look at others, we must view them as having been created in the image and likeness of Almighty God. It is this that marks us out from the animal kingdom.

Okay, that's all for now. Part 3 will be published, D.V., in a couple of days' time.

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