Genesis 11:10–26

1110 The descendants of Shem:
Two years after the Flood, Shem was 100 when he begot Arpachshad. 11 After begetting Arpachshad and other sons and daughters, Shem lived 500 years. (600 total years)
12 Arpachshad was 35 when he begot Shelah. 13 After begetting Shelah and other sons and daughters, Arpachshad lived 403 years. (438)
14 Shelah was 30 when he begot Eber. 15 After begetting Eber and other sons and daughters, Shelah lived 403 years. (463)
16 Eber was 34 when he begot Peleg. 17 After begetting Peleg and other sons and daughters, Eber lived 430 years. (464)
18 Peleg was 30 when he begot Reu. 19 After begetting Reu and other sons and daughters, Peleg lived 209 years. (239)
20 Reu was 32 when he begot Serug. 21 After begetting Serug and other sons and daughters, Reu lived 207 years. (239)
22 Serug was 30 when he begot Nahor. 23 After begetting Nahor and other sons and daughters, Serug lived 200 years. (230)
24 Nahor was 29 when he begot Terah. 25 After begetting Terah and other sons and daughters, Nahor lived119 years. (148)
26 Terah was 70 when he begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

It was only 9 verses ago that we had a long genealogy of Noah’s three sons. Upon the scattering of people after the confusion of languages at Babel, we track a single language or lineage—Shem, oldest son of Noah (in the line of Seth, youngest son of Eve* and ’adam).

Numerologically, there are 10 generations from Shem to Abram, just as there were 10 generations from ’adam to Noah. This symmetry is carried along in ’adam’s 3 sons, Noah’s 3 sons, and Abram’s being the first of 3 sons. We might say that ’adam’s first son, Cain, is contrasted with Abel’s replacement, Seth, Noah’s first son, Shem, and Terah’s first son, Abram.

Those interested in numerology might also appreciate knowing that there were 365 years from Shem’s son to Abram’s migration to Canaan (land of those cursed by Noah). We’ve run into this year of years before.

After some repletion of Shem’s descendants, we come to Peleg. The previous genealogy only mentioned Peleg and went on to detail his brother’s line. In this genealogy of Peleg, we follow his line down to Abram, Nahor, and Haran. [Note: Not mentioned in this listing of male descendants of Shem is Sarai—daughter of Terah by another mother than Abram’s. This will come to play its part later in the story and will be revealed then. You can check then to see if you still remember this detail.]

Back before the Flood, 6:3, we heard G*D’s displeasure with human creatures and decreed the limit of a lifespan to be 120 years. The genealogy here shows a progression toward this limit. Shem begins with a life of a nice round 600 years. By the time we get to Peleg, his lifespan was 239 years. Terah lived 205 years. We will come to learn that Abram made it 175. The mills of the gods grind ever so slowly. 

Genesis 11:1–9

111 Now all Earth was one language, one set of words. 2 When they migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said, “Gather up! Let us make bricks and burn them hard.” The bricks were a substitute for stones and raw-bitumen for mortar. 4 They said, “Together! We will build us a city and a tower topped with heavens. We will build us a name and not be scattered over all the earth.” 5 And YHWH came down to see the city and the tower the human creatures had built. 6 YHWH said, “One people with one language—with this beginning, nothing they scheme to do will elude them. 7 Come! Let us go down and mix their language so they will be confused by their neighbor’s language.” 8 And YHWH scattered them over the face of the earth, stopping them from building the city. 9 Therefore it is called Babel, for there YHWH baffled the language of all earth-folk. From there, YHWH scattered them over the face of all the earth.

More is going on in the story of Babel than meets the ear. Robert Alter puts it this way, “The story is an extreme example of the stylistic predisposition of biblical narrative to exploit interechoing words and to work with a deliberately restricted vocabulary…. The prose turns language itself into a game of mirrors.” This leads to, “the blurring of lexical boundaries culminating in God’s confounding of tongues.”

This small story, these nine verses, is sandwiched between extensive genealogies. It is set off as a way of looking at all post-Edenic connections, partnerships, and differentiations of post-Tree-of-Knowledge attempts to make sense of good and not-good definitions of interpenetrating intersections between what is too easily named divine or human.

From one language, one “’adam,” the peoples, nations, spread further east than East of Eden. They found themselves interacting on a large “new earth” of Shinar (“land,” as in “land of Shinar” is the same Hebrew word for “earth” or soil; hearkening back to creation 1.0).

Any making of a common, collective identity here is an equivalent of an individual fig leaf to cover their separation, their difference from one another and G*D. This is an attempt to hike a community up by its non-existent bootstraps. A prior unique shaping of clay turns, here, into a mechanized uniformity of a rectangular brick burned into an unchangeable cog in a larger mechanism privileging unity over unique gifts. [Try reading the last sentence backward to get a feel for the mirror effect of a restricted vocabulary.]

A single-minded assault on heavens continually runs into the multi-valence of creation. The very focus on defining the cosmos based on any current technology, from sewing fig leaves or burning bricks onward, runs up against its own limit that there must be only one creation.

The very attempt to avoid being scattered leads to a static structure unable to deal with tectonic changes shaking and scattering every firm foundation, every next creation, every settled doctrine of divinity and humanity. Of building and rebuilding, there is no end.

Genesis 9:28–10:32

928 Noah lived 350 years after the flood. Altogether, 29 Noah’s days were 950 years. Then he died.

101 These are the descendants of Noah’s sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. After the flood they sired sons.

2 Japheth had Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3 Gomer’s sons: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 Javan’s sons: Elishah, Tarshis, Kittim, and Rodanim. 5 From these, the Sea Peoples divided into languages and clans and spread out. [These are the sons of Japheth.]

6 Ham had Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. 7 Cush’s sons: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. Raamah’s sons: Sheba and Dedan. 8 Cush begot Nimrod, the first warrior on earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter. So it was said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD. 10 He began his kingdom with Babylon, Erech, and Accad—all in the land of Shinar. 11 Asshur rose and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen, (a great city between Nineveh and Calah). 13 Mizraim bore the Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhims, 14 Pathrusim, Casluhim, and the Caphrorim, from whom arose the Philistines. 15 Canaan’s sons: Sidon and Heth, 16 the Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 17 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 18 Arvadites, Zemarites, and Hamathites. The Canaanite clans dispersed. 19 Their boundary was from Sidon through Gerar to Gaza and to Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim to Lasha. 20 These are the sons of Ham according to their languages and clans.

21 Sons were also born to Shem, father of all the sons of Eber and older brother of Japheth.

22 Shem had Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. 23 Aram’s sons: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. 24 Arpachshad’s son: Shelah. Shelah begot Eber. 25 Eber’s had two sons. One was named Peleg for in his time the earth was split apart. His brother was Joktan. 26 Joktan begot Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All of these were Joktan’s sons. 30 Their settlements went from Mesha to Sephar in the eastern highlands. 31 These are the sons of Shem—their clans and tongues, lands and nations.

32 These are the clans of Noah according to their generations. From these, the nations of the earth branched out after the flood.

A short genealogy is followed by a fulsome one—unto seventy generations, a biblical number for a sizable or complete list. The command was to be fruitful and multiply. Multiplication has occurred. At question is the fruitfulness, the quality of each generation as the people ebb and flow, are endangered and flourish.

As this Table of Nations proceeds, it fluctuates in its criteria for national identity—geography, ethnicity, and language.

Within this long catalog of the compiler’s known world, the genealogy is in the reverse birth order of Noah’s sons: Japheth, Ham, and Shem.

From Japheth, we only hear of the grandchildren and further generations of two of his seven sons. Included are the Sea Peoples.

Ham, the one whose line, through Canaan, was to be enslaved by his brothers, has the longest report. Of note, Ham had three more sons than the Noah-cursed Canaan. One of these, Cush, begat Nimrod—mighty warrior and hunter. These are notably different characteristics than Noah’s orientation toward the soil. It sounds as if Nimrod also founded a Mesopotamian empire that included Babylon. We will hear more of that empire in chapters and books to come.

The cursed Canaanites inhabit a wide swath of the current Palestine/Israel. Their land includes the infamous Sodom and Gomorrah we will hear about in Abram’s story coming shortly.

Shem’s lineage will be the one we will directly follow, but there will be encounters galore with the rest of the relatives.

For now, note Eber (sounds like what we know as Hebrews). One of Eber’s sons, Peleg, is associated with the earth splitting apart and we will follow one side of this split (different from previous interactions of creation where it is just one “family” that multiplies). The line of Noah to Shem to Eber to Peleg will bring us to a more detailed genealogy in the next chapter leading to Abram and Sarai.

There is a unity here in all that follows Noah. From this single source, post-Flood multiplication is going strong.

Genesis 9:18–27

The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. From these three, the whole earth was populated.

Noah was a man of the soil and the first to plant a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, exposing himself in his tent. Ham, father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness, went outside, and told his brothers. Shem and Japheth took a cloak, spread it over their shoulders, and walked backward to cover Noah. With their faces turned backward, they did not see their father’s nakedness.

When Noah woke from the wine, he discovered what his youngest son had done to him. Noah said:

“Cursed be Canaan:
the lowest slave shall he be
to his brothers.”

And he continued:

“Blessed be the LORD,
God of Shem;
Canaan will be their slave.
May God enlarge Japheth,
may he dwell in Shem’s tents,
Canaan will be their slave.”

This passage is cryptic enough to loose much speculation and, for some, justify dominion over a whole line of cousins. In specific, Ham is connected not just with Canaanites, but, later with Africans and their enslavement.

The narrative here is the national history of Israel anticipated (meaning written back into this account) as they will enter Canaan and subjugate that people.

Ham is introduced as Noah’s middle son. What his offense was has been mightily debated to no useful conclusion. Just before Noah’s curse of Canaan (instead of Ham?) and blessing of Shem (and, secondarily, Japheth), Ham is referenced as the youngest son. This confusion about Noah’s reasoning and Ham’s birth order give pause to any over-application of this narrative to living people.

In general terms, Noah’s response is based on saving face. Noah (a “man of the soil”—’adam?) plants a vineyard and gets drunk. To deflect from his self-pollution, Ham becomes the fall-guy—perhaps deservedly; perhaps innocently. The multi-valence of this passage is a Rorschach-like test where readers can have their biases confirmed.

If there is anything in pushing the story backward from Ham to a fault lying with Noah, the Drunk, it may be further pushed to the very earth itself, from which came the fruit of the vine. If so, we return to the strange story of the Nephilim (6:11–12)—”the earth was corrupt” as well as “outraged.” A choice then comes to push “earth” back to the soil East of Eden that is so difficult to till or to 1:9, the appearance of dry land and eventually shaped into ’adam. Fault and dealing with fault is a persistent theme through the bible. Does fault automatically lead to a curse or is there another response available to us (and, in particular, to you, the reader)?

Here is a little ditty from my lectionary reflections in Wrestling Year A: Connecting Sunday Readings with Lived Experience.

Noah co-conspirator
in global destruction
can see the benefit
of everything blotted out
leaving him standing
on a mountain top
surveying all as his

Noah comes forth
savoring being a savior
all creation owing him
a debt of gratitude
wrapping a rainbow
about his shoulders
and gets drunk

Genesis 9:8–17

98 And God said to Noah and his sons, 9 “And I, I am about to set up my covenant with you, your descendants, 10 and every living creature—birds, domesticated animals, and all else that came out of the ark. 11 I will establish my covenant with you all that floodwaters will never again destroy all flesh and destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “The sign of the covenant between me and you and all living creatures will be for all generations: 13 I have placed a bow in the clouds that will signify this covenant between me and earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the bow will appear. 15 Then I will remember the covenant between me and you and all creatures, that the waters will not destroy all flesh. 16 Upon seeing the bow in the clouds, I will remember this everlasting covenant between God and all creatures.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the covenantal sign I have established between me and all life that is on earth.”

There is not a spoken covenant that precedes the first creation stories—they just appear. Having some history leading to a regretful/repentant wiping away or reboot with programs reinstalled at their present locations, we have heard promises of persistent presence (seedtime and harvest) and commands to effect behavior choices (no shedding of blood), we now come to a covenant agreement instituted by and guaranteed from only one side—G*D’s.

This covenant is generic, not for or with Noah in particular, though incorporating him. The covenant is with all that have ridden out the flood. The covenant begins to be made with yet another promise, in the guise of a covenant, that there will not be another flood.

At this point there is an implied silence on the part of Noah and all his cargo. And so the formula, “And G*D said…”, is repeated and given a visible token—a bow in the clouds.

At question is whether this is an extraordinary storm cloud about to rain flaming arrows down on creation, destroying it without technically breaking the covenant promise, or an ordinary cloud receding after rain to become the backdrop for a rainbow.

Is the bow a vehicle of a next repentant action or a sign that G*D is also not to shed blood, life?

This generalized covenant will need to be repeated in individual circumstances because such a general statement loses touch with the reality of individual lives—Abram to Abraham will be the next example.

All of this is difficult for any PTSD Noah has after seeing everything beg to come aboard and be denied by him—Noah, Destroyer of Life. Noah is not responding to such grandiloquent language. And so the formula is repeated a third time, “And G*D said…,” again, a fleeting rainbow will protect all flesh that is on earth.

[Anyone else hear, “And lo, the angel messengers pointed toward a baby….”? Trusting rainbows and babies, we are encouraged to carry creation on for one more day.]

Genesis 9:1–7

[Note: I am finding the King James Version to not be doing what is needed here and I am switching to my own presentational pastiche. Time will tell if I will return to the KJV or stick with this mishmash.]

91 God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them,”Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. 2 All the animals on earth shall dread and fear you—beasts of the field, foul of the heavens, crawling creatures, and fish of the sea. They are in your hand. 3 Every living thing that moves shall be your food, just as you were to eat green plant life. Everything is yours. 4 But, you shall not eat meat with its blood, its life, still in it. 5 I will require your blood for human blood you shed, animals blood for human blood, and your blood for your brother’s blood. I will demand satisfaction for the taking of human life.

6 The one who sheds human blood
will have their blood shed by humans,
for in the image of God
were humans made.

7 And you, be fruitful and multiply,
swarm through the earth and hold sway.”

In early creation stories ’adam is a vegetarian namer of animals. This next creation story has a second ’adam (Noah) authorized to be omnivore predator of animals who, at base, are fearful of humans (notwithstanding the domestication of some species for pets, food animals, and work animals.

Along with this shift in diet and violent dominion-ship, there is the introduction of retributive justice different than a protective mark for Cain. It suggests that murder is a too-easy choice for humans. Though Noah follows in the line of Seth, at the least there is a recessive Cain gene that is carried along upon which a propensity for murder is lodged within each person. If you want an “original sin,” murder, the first act in this world East of Eden, is as good a source as any. Thus a need for an external control mechanism on murders—the antithesis of “be fruitful and multiply.”

This controller of retributive justice is lined out by a poetic form that mirrors the content: spilled; blood; of a human; by a human; this human’s blood; shall be spilt.

Noting that humans are in the image of G*D, does not strengthen this rule of retribution. This rationale has never stopped a war. In war, those we are murdering are designated as the opposite of G*D’s image and therefore we are exempt from a rule to keep our inner-Cain contained.

Different versions of the Masoretic text conclude this poem differently. Some say, “holds sway over the earth” and some repeat the end of the previous phrase and say, “multiply.” The near relationship of these to concepts is very colonial in nature—to multiply is to hold sway or have dominion over. Pre-flood, indiscriminate multiplying (sons of god and daughters of humans) led to behavior worthy of destruction. Post-flood, the language of “be fruitful and multiply” feels more like a curse than those same words at the end of Day Six (Genesis 1:28), where it is a blessing.

Genesis 8:15–22

815 And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons’ wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.

18 And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.

20 And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

Even though the waters receded and the ground was dry, yet Noah waited until there was direction given to exit the ark. What G*D saw in Noah as “blameless in his time” does not seem to include a direct relationship. There is revelation given and response made, but no conversation. The new creation does not have a “cool of the evening” aspect to it.

What is now said to Noah is an announcement of a time of re-seeding the earth (land and water) with what had been stored on the ark, including all that is not mentioned—seeds and aquariums (freshwater and saltwater).

There is no mention of what may be Noah’s first independent action—building an altar and presenting burnt offerings. The last mention of an offering to G*D did not include an altar, nor was burning mentioned—just an “offering” by Cain and Abel.

As one who does appreciate the burnt edges of casseroles and ribs, I can understand a resultant sense of beneficence from just the odor of burnt food—flavor is on its way. Even so, it is a significant jump from regret and flood to an aromatic offering and a pledge of allegiance.

A connection between these responses is marked by the same formula of “the Lord” and “heart.” In the first instance, G*D’s heart was grieved. That grief is now assuaged by the odor of a burnt offering? Overeaters Anonymous may be a helpful interpretive tool. Using food as a response to grief or loss is both very much of the earth (human) and suspect as motivation for change.

One learning is to recognize that a ritual offering is not a place for thoughtful decision-making. Its opposite impulse of relief cannot offset the impulse of grief.

A jaded thought raised: if G*D’s not going to be responsible for the equivalent of a next flood, G()D will also not keep such from occurring at the hand of Noah’s descendants. Seedtime and harvest may yet cease, and G*D’s heart again be grieved at the personal and environmental pollution of a profit-driven economic system such as capitalism.

Genesis 8:1–14

81 And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged; The fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained; And the waters returned from off the earth continually: and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated.

4 And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.

5 And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen.

6 And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:

7 And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.

8 Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.

10 And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

12 And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.

13 And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth dried .

It is recorded that G*D “remembered” Noah. An unasked question is whether Noah “remembered” G*D while the waters rose, at some indeterminate amount of time above the peaks, or during their long ebbing.

Through all of the flood, as before it was announced, there is no indication that Noah returns praise to G*D. Noah simply does what he understands as necessary. In the first place, Noah simply follows a command. Subsequently, Noah builds, gathers, boards, cares for, and comes to rest on a mountain top.

With Moses (yet another ’adam?), rituals will be instituted, but Noah appears to be a Jerzy Kosiński character from Being There, Chance the gardener. For now, the last offering we know about is that of Cain and Abel, and that didn’t turn out all that well.

The earth East of Eden has now been thoroughly washed and dried. Though the waters above and below abide, the surface of the earth is dry and ready for Creation 3.0.

In this prose telling there are two words used for “dry” in verses 13 and 14. In other poetic settings, they are used in parallel to suggest a drying up and then a complete dryness. This takes us back to Creation 2.0 in terms of structure. However, we are not at a complete remake. The genealogy that leads to Noah’s story still holds. We are still working with the same genetic material.

One implication of this restart is that G*D is also continuing outside of Eden and is as subject to evolution and learnings as is the rest of creation.

For now, G*D and Noah continue along parallel paths but are not interacting.

G*D has remembered. Will Noah remember and, if so, how will that be expressed?

Genesis 7:6–24

76 And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.

8 Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

10 And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in.

17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

24 And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.

That which was brought into existence in six Days is reversed in forty. There are many echoes, here, of the 1st creation story. It is probably worth skimming the first chapter again.

One of the key phrases in the creation story is “be fruitful and multiply.” With the multiplication of the waters, flooding everything back to where it had once not been, this phrase is effectively reversed—”multiply and wipe out.” (Later this will be the mantra of entering an already occupied land.)

Readers are reminded to hearken back to what they have previously heard (connecting their eye for reading to their ear for listening to what was written). In so doing, they will know good and not-good available for application in their context. Additionally, such contrasts provide an openness beyond the present to what yet might arrive. In this case, we are hearing a forty-day prelude to the context for a new creation.

Including this prelude and subsequent removal of the water for a second time, opening space, creating an arc of space for an ark of life, we will have slightly more than a year’s time. Though the time frame is significantly longer and there is not a need to repeat the creation of species being carried along, we are in the midst of a next creation story. With the potential of a nuclear winter or hothouse climate disaster, the time frame of yet a next creation will be much longer than a year. Storing food for a year will seem like child’s play.

In the context of such mythical realities as creation, deconstruction, next creation, next deconstruction, we don’t need to speculate about species that don’t live as long as it took the waters to come and go (how did mosquitoes make it through the flood?), what an aquarium of cosmic proportions was made of before there was glass, or other flood questions. What we might have is a moment of thankfulness for what has been and spend more than a moment in thought regarding a next better iteration than our current limits.

Genesis 7:1–5

71 And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.

2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.

4 For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.

5 And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him.

The instructions for ark building have been pretty straight-forward. Vacation Bible Schools can still impress children with outlining the dimensions. G*D’s longest speech so far in Genesis has been carried out, Noah did what he heard he was to do.

G*D’s details continue. From “on your mark” to “get set,” Noah hears, “Go!” The requisite animals and birds are boarded (and possibly insects and heritage seeds and and two aquariums—the extra water may make the sea not salty enough for sea creatures and leave it still too salty for freshwater fish). This task takes a symbolic seven days (a new creation’s worth of time). Even if looked at literally, absent the institution of a Sabbath ritual, we don’t know if this is simply a random 7-day period or a significant Sabbath-to-Sabbath time.

What is told is a mathematic story problem. Given the volume of space from sea level to the highest peak of the time, minus the volume of land in this time period, how much water will it take to fill this amount of space? For extra credit, with what speed must the water flow to fill this space in 40 days and nights (give your answer in liters per hour)? For extra extra-credit, given the different volumes from sea-level to one-third the height of the tallest mountain, then from one-third the height to two-thirds the height of that same mountain, and then from two-thirds to peak, how far up the mountain would the water be at the end of day 20?

This story problem is for an inquiring reader as Noah asks no questions, not even about the order of boarding or which deck-mates will ease the feeding schedule or manure clean-up process. A similar question about placing predator and prey on separate decks does not occupy Noah. All we hear about the projected destruction is that Noah followed orders.

G*D is not ready for bargaining, as Abraham would later do. Noah is not prepared for Nuremberg-type questions regarding responsibility beyond the following of orders. These realities indicate how mythologically readers must engage this episode.