Saturday, June 19, 2010

Genesis 6-9: God's first major temper tantrum

Chapter 6 starts with God deciding that the human life span will be 120 years (up til now they all lived to about 900 years). Why does he decide that? Of course, it’s not clear.

God is upset about how his own creation turned out, though it’s not clear from the text why omniscient God wouldn’t have known exactly what would happen. So he decides to destroy everything. But he likes Noah, who was apparently less evil than everyone else at the time.

So God says to Noah, (paraphrasing) “I’m about to destroy everything, so you better build yourself an ark.” And the ark had to be 450 x 75 x 45 feet, made of cyprus, with a roof that is 18 feet tall, and a door in the side, with little rooms inside in 3 levels. And since Noah is the favorite, he can go on the ark, with his wife and sons and daughters-in-law. And Noah has to collect 2 of every animal and take them in the boat with him.

Chapter 6 ends with a statement that Noah did all that God asked.

I do find it interesting that for all the lack of details so far (Cain’s wife, etc.), that the description of the boat is so detailed.

Chapter 7 starts with God changing his mind…now he wants 7 of every kind of clean animal, 7 of every kind of bird, and 2 of every kind of unclean animal. Chapter 6 ended with Noah having finished building the ark and collecting 2 of every animal…how funny is it that, after all that, God apparently comes down and says, “Actually, make it 7 of every animal.” I’d be pissed at this point, if I was Noah.

So now Noah goes onto the ark with his family all these animals, and it rains for 40 days…it says the water got high enough to cover the tops of the mountains by 20 feet, and the earth was flooded for 150 days. There is also some detail about how every single thing on the earth died.

Then “God remembered Noah.” Aww, that’s sweet. After 150 days of doom, God finally stopped going “mwah ha ha” or whatever he was doing all that time, and “remembers Noah,” and causes the water to recede. 7 months later the earth is dry again, everything comes out of the ark, and the first thing Noah does is sacrifice some of those clean animals to God. Ah, so that’s why God decided he wanted extra animals! It seems a bit ridiculous to me that God told Noah to save those animals from the flood, just so when it was over they could be sacrificed. God was pleased with the sacrifice (that he himself ordered), and promised to not wipe out everything ever again. Again, aww, that’s sweet.

God sets up a covenant with Noah et al…he gives them dominion over everything, and also sets up the death penalty (as punishment for murder), which is a bit weird. It’s not consistent anyway, Cain’s “punishment” for murdering Abel was to fail at growing crops, and to have God set it up so no man could ever kill him.

Then God promises to never again kill everything with a flood (that sounds like he’s leaving a loophole for later…yeah, I’ll never wipe out all life with a flood again, but maybe by some other means I will, you never know), and says he’ll put rainbows in the sky whenever it rains, as a reminder of his promise…not for people, but for himself, oddly enough. Yeah, seriously. Genesis 9:16, God says, "Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

So that’s the story of Noah’s flood… which cannot possibly be interpreted literally, if you think about it logically. Just the logistics of it are overwhelming…all-powerful, benevolent God left it up to Noah to collect 2 (7) of every kind of animal…that’s at least a million different species, from all over the world. Impossible. And kind of a jerk move on God’s part, when he, being all-powerful, could have just poofed them all into the boat himself. Or better yet, he could have just poofed everything else dead without all the trouble for Noah. Or even better, he could have made his creation more to his liking in the first place.

The ark is 450 x 75 x 45 feet… that’s about 5 football fields in area, and about as tall as a 3-story building. There’s no way there is enough room on that boat for 2 (or 7) of every kind of animal; I bet a pair of brontosauruses would take up almost that much space on their own. There is no way that Noah could have rounded up all of these animals from all over the world on his own. There’s no way that, being on this boat for about a year, the carnivores didn’t eat any of the other animals, or that Noah didn’t make some species of insect extinct by stepping on them. And there is no way that after the ark landed, all the species ended up where they were supposed to be…with all the marsupials in Australia, etc.

If the waters really covered the entire earth, up to 20 ft higher than the mountain tops, wouldn’t that have killed all of the plants? Noah didn’t save any plants on the ark…so clearly we should have no plants today. Noah sent a dove out of the ark, which came back with an olive branch…where did that come from? After 150+ days underwater, every plant would have been dead and rotten. Also, how is it possible for the entire earth to be covered in that much excess water? I mean, if you get a flood in one place, it’s because it has extra water that came from somewhere else. You can’t flood everywhere at the same time, unless God created some extra water just for the occasion. And then reverse it… when localized flood waters recede, it’s because they are going somewhere else; if the entire earth was flooded, there would be nowhere for the extra water to go. The flood waters would never recede. Unless, again, God made it magically disappear…but then, why wouldn’t he just do it all at once, instead of making them all wait in the ark while he slowly disappeared the water over 7 months; is it because he’s a jerk?

This whole story gives the impression that God is kind of an asshole, and not really all that perfect. There are so many stages along the way where God demonstrates his ineptitude. He creates something, man, which turns out so wrong it makes him want to destroy everything. Why would a perfect God mess up his own creation so badly?

Then, to deal with his own fuck up, he decides to kill everything in a big, doom-filled flood. This is so much overkill, and more what I would expect an ill-tempered, angry, imperfect deity than a benevolent, perfect, all-powerful one. A benevolent God would have gone down there and done something to make man better…a vengeful God throwing a temper tantrum would decide that the thing to do is kill everything.

Assuming that it’s OK for God to decide that the thing to do is just kill all the evil people, rather than make them better, even the way he goes about it is absurd. Rather than using his perfect knowledge and supreme power to only destroy the evil people, he decides to kill everything…evil people, good people (surely in all the world, Noah was not the only good person), animals, plants…except for Noah et al.

Even at that, surely God could have used his omnipotent power to simply kill everything in the world, except for Noah et al, and 2 (or 7) of every animal. It would have been much less trouble for Noah. But God, the jerk, decides to make Noah traipse all over the world, collecting 2 (7) of everything, then put him and his family through the ordeal of being stuck in a boat with all these animals for a year.

Then, when it’s all over, he invents rainbows as a reminder to himself of his promise to not kill everything with a flood again. Because being perfect and all-knowing, he might have forgotten otherwise? I don’t get it.

Anyway, chapter 9 continues with the story of Noah, being drunk and naked in his tent. Yeah, after that ordeal he just went through, who can blame him. One of his 3 sons, Ham, sees him. His 2 brothers cover Noah up without looking. Noah woke up and was apparently pissed off that Ham had dared to look at him naked, and cursed him and his descendents to be slaves forever; the other 2 brothers he blessed. Overreact much? Maybe he was still drunk at that point. This story is a bit random, and all I can figure is that it was stuck in as a lame justification for slavery.

Ham just looks at his drunk and naked father. From what I’ve heard of Christianity, it’s generally a bigger sin to be drunk and naked, rather than to be the person who happened to see you that way. But, whatever. Then Noah, possibly still drunk, or maybe hung over and grumpy, curses Ham and all his descendents to be slaves forever. But this is just Noah...Noah shouldn’t have the power to actually curse people; he’s just a man. I thought that was some sort of blasphemy, anyway. So I guess God must have seen all this and thought, “What a good idea, I’ll go ahead and do that,” which would fit right in with that picture of God as a total dick that I’ve been seeing so far.

Seriously, this is the actual bible story (one of them, anyway) that was cited in support for slavery in America. (Disclaimer: I am not a history buff, and I may be wrong about this. I have the impression, mostly from this book, that Christians back in the day generally opposed abolition, mainly because of bible stories like this one.) What a stupid story. It pisses me off just to think of all the people who suffered because of this idiotic story. Yes, I know that people who wanted to have slaves would have probably done it no matter what the bible says. But it is there...the bible, the literal word of God, supports slavery. Seriously.

1 comment:

  1. Wait... What about the fish? Wouldn't we have a huge over-population of fish compared to animals?