Wednesday

“And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.” (v. 5)

Genesis 7:1-5, 10 Wednesday 9 September 2015

Psalm: Psalm86


Background

God now gives Noah instructions for loading the ark. Contrary towhat is popularly said and thought, verse 2 tells us that it is nottwo of each animal but two of some kinds ("not clean") and fourteen("seven pairs") of others ("clean" - kosher or sacrificialanimals). The fact that Noah is observing the dietary distinctionsgiven to Moses at Sinai (eg Leviticus chapter11) should be a cause for reflection by all readers that thisis a story told by a community which is looking backwards at itsorigins.

The numbers themselves are interesting too. Seven is seen as theperfect or complete number in the Bible. Jesus tells us, inresponse to Peter's question about how many times the discipleshould forgive, to forgive "seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21,22). Seven was seen as perfectly fulfilling what was required,whereas seven times ten times seven, is an extravagant,off-the-scale target of divine perfection. Of course filling theark with 14 cows and sheep, etc also steers us away from wrestlingwith the capacity of the ark and how impossible quantities ofanimals were fitted in. God also gives Noah seven days warning(verse 4).

The other number that jumps out at us is "forty" (v. 6), anothersignificant number, reminding us of Jesus and his forty days whichwere the opposite of a flood in the dry wilderness (Luke4:1-13). It is a precise number giving reality to rather out ofthe ordinary situations, it has a kind of poetic quality. So itreminds us that this is a story.

We tend not to focus on a God who blots out, but believe in aGod who identified with human suffering so much that it was Jesuswho died at human hands. The point of the story of Noah is toremind us of the survival of Noah, the representative of the wholeof humankind. Noah's great age of 600 (verse 6) is undoubtedlyanother indicator that this story is more parable than history.


To Ponder

  • How does the idea of Noah's story as parable strike you? Whatother Biblical stories might be parables?
  • How should we read the story of Noah after reading the story ofJesus?
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