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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.