Let’s Talk About Noah

By R.M. Huffman

I’d like to talk about Noah for a second.

NOAH Children


No, not that one. The Noah in the book of Genesis is described in Ezekiel 14 as one of the three most righteous men (with Daniel and Job) in history up to that point, and in Hebrews 11 as one of the great heroes of faith. HAPPY SMILING NOAH may be the version commonly taught in Sunday School, but he’s most definitely a watered-down (flood joke!) version of the historical figure, whose story, properly told, isn’t really appropriate for small children.

Let’s back up and look at the earth in which a young Noah lived. The geography was different; both secular and Christian geologists accept the concept of a single supercontinent (called “Rodinia” in modern scholarship), which broke apart in the cataclysmic, literally-earth-shaking global flood described in Genesis, when “the fountains of the great deep burst open.” A few of this original earth’s features are mentioned in Genesis 2; we know that four rivers – Tigris, Euphrates, Gihon, Pishon – arose from headwaters in the land of Eden, and we know that there existed such places as Havilah, Assyria, Cush, and the city of Enoch in Nod. Beyond that, we have no Biblical details, but one can hardly conclude that a human population commanded to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” would have failed to spread about the globe in the 1600 years between Adam’s creation and the destruction of the antediluvian world. Most else is conjecture – did the mists that God caused to rise from the ground entirely replace the role of rainfall today? – but it’s a near-certainty that the earth lost in the flood would be utterly alien to us.

Let’s consider what sort of man Noah was. “Righteous.” “Obedient.” Yes, but I mean what sort of human he was. From the genealogy in Genesis 5, we see that he and all his forebears except for his great-grandfather Enoch (translated into heaven at age 365) and his father Lamech (died at age 777, which is curious – see below), lived to be around 900 years old. The lifespan of his father overlapped Adam’s, and the lifespan of his son Shem overlapped Jacob’s. Noah didn’t have children until he was 500 (as opposed to his forefathers, who procreated within the first two centuries of life – also curious). Speaking of children: Genesis 6:1-4 mentions human women bearing the progeny of the “sons of God” (bene Elohim) called the Nephilim, so there’s a powerful Scriptural case to be made that Noah lived concurrently with, yes, a population of half-angel giants. He also lived in a world where existed every kind of animal created, including the monstrous creatures only known to us by the fossil record; although there isn’t any way to know his interaction with the animal world in six centuries before the flood, he certainly became familiar with all of its members during his year on the ark, from picture-book standbys like sheep and oxen to (almost certainly juvenile) pairs of sauropods, theropods, paraceratheriums, chalicotheres, and rauisuchians.

Now, imagine this world – this antediluvian world with angel-blooded Nephilim and tyrannosaurs, with technology of unknown sophistication (comparable to Egyptian? Roman? Medieval?), created by men who lived ten times as long as we do now – going bad. I don’t mean “making fun of Noah as he builds an ark in the desert” bad (where did the whole “desert” idea come from anyway? It’s commonplace, but it isn’t in the Bible). I mean: take the worst elements of the most evil human practices in history. Ethnic cleansing, child sacrifices, cannibalism. The Nazis, the Huns, Rome under Caligula. It’s my belief that followers of God would likely have been hunted down and slaughtered (was Lamech’s death five years prior to the flood a result of some sort of pogrom against believers?), but no doubt Noah also watched men and women – friends? family? – succumb to evil over time, possibly over centuries, until they were so warped and twisted that their just Creator had no recourse but to utterly destroy them. The Nephilim are described as “heroes of old, men of renown,” but certainly they wouldn’t have been regarded as such at the time of the flood’s judgment.

Noah, though, remained faithful to God throughout the devolution of humanity into an universally-irredeemable monstrosity and its complete destruction, along with everything and everywhere Noah had known for longer than Europeans have been aware of the Americas. I’m sure he was grateful beyond words for his and his family’s salvation. I very much doubt that he was happy and smiling about it.

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