Noah’s Fludde on Ice

The upcoming Noah movie sounds like it could be quite interesting. Beth is a big fan of Darren Aronofsky, and she appreciates the bleakness of his movies. While I’m not so much about that, I liked the films of his that I’ve seen. Aronofsky mentioned that the movie would present Noah as having survivor guilt after the flood, which makes sense. You might not like your neighbors, but not having more than seven other people around would still be pretty disturbing. I know Beth has asked whether Noah was a jerk for letting everybody else drown, and this question has been asked by rabbis in the past. The Jewish Encylopedia refers to a passage in the Kabbalistic Zohar Hadash on this subject. Upon seeing the devastated, deserted state of the world, Noah called out, “Lord of the world, Thou art merciful; why hast Thou not pitied Thy children?” God replied, “Foolish shepherd! Now thou implorest My clemency. Hadst thou done so when I announced to thee the Flood it would not have come to pass. Thou knewest that thou wouldest be rescued, and therefore didst not care for others; now thou prayest.” In other words, God basically told Noah the near elimination of the entire human race was his fault! No wonder the rest of what we see in the Bible about him shows him getting drunk and cursing his own children.

Other Biblical figures were shown to have tried to intercede with God on behalf of others, sometimes successfully (Moses) and other times not so much (Abraham). Noah repented and made sacrifices for atonement, but there’s really no way that kind of guilt would ever go away. There are shades here of the people awaiting the Rapture nowadays, as well as the survivalist movement. Sure, Noah’s contemporaries didn’t believe him about the flood, but what evidence did they have that it would actually happen, other than his word? People are so eager to be proven right so that they can lord it over others, when it seems like the truly righteous thing to do would be to forgive and help the people who were wrong.

We’re never actually told what the sins of the people were, but apparently Noah was the only righteous one among them, and that counted the children. Flood stories from other cultures give a little more detail on this, like how the Mesopotamian story says that the gods wanted to destroy humans because they were too noisy (which sounds petty, but there are times when I can identify with this), and the Greek has Zeus punishing the people for not practicing hospitality. I can see the latter applying to the Bible story as well, as being bad neighbors is often cited as the main sin of Sodom. Not providing for the poor is also a frequently cited sin throughout the Bible. Other possible reasons that have been proposed are nakedness, licentiousness, theft, and denying God. It appears that the movie will add a lack of respect for the environment to this list, to the extreme displeasure of one particular Christian reviewer. Aronofsky has apparently had some arguments with Paramount over the movie, with the latter wanting it to appeal more to religious audiences. Personally, I like the idea of a film based on a Bible story that has a more secular take on the subject. We’ll just have to see how it finally works out.

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12 Responses to Noah’s Fludde on Ice

  1. Pingback: The Bible add on:Evening at home « How my heart speaks

  2. Go, Aronofsky! Here’s one Christian who heartily applauds at least that part of your interpretation. I’m actually reading a book right now, it’s even published by a Christian press, it’s about the link between creativity and spirituality and is VERY spiritual (The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright), and the author outright said that creativity WILL shake things up, make the people in authority uncomfortable at least, and that includes religious authority. This sprang immediately to mind reading this. Paramount and conservative religious types may want to play it safe and stick to tried-and-true interpretations, but true art is prophetic, it should make people see things in new ways. And environmental irresponsibility bringing on God’s wrath? SO TRUE, so something I myself keep wanting to express but not nearly doing it so cleverly.

    • Nathan says:

      It seems like critics want to accuse things like this movie of being non-Biblical, when of course there isn’t just one interpretation of the Bible even for people who believe it’s the Word of God.

  3. I’ve been reading the Book of Enoch these days, and it describes the world at the time as being extremely violent. Then, of course, there’s the Nephilim, the extra-large size sons of angels and men, whom Genesis says were the “men of legend,” and who are described as the ultimate bullies. Violence and oppression seem to be the main motivating factors. It’ll be interesting to see if Aronofsky goes there. Either way, I like him and Crowe, and am looking forward to the film, particularly since it won’t be catering to the right-wing crowd.

    Rockinlibrarian: That book sounds good! And I’m onboard with the idea of Art being prophetic and shaking up both secular and religious authorities. Also, environmental irresponsibility bringing on God’s wrath? In 1 Enoch 7:6, after describing how the Nephilim sinned against the birds, beasts, reptiles and fish, it says “And the Earth brought an accusation against the oppressors,”

  4. Josephus writes of Noah: “Noah was very uneasy at what they did; and being displeased at their conduct, persuaded them to change their dispositions and their acts for the better: but seeing they did not yield to him, but were slaves to their wicked pleasures, he was afraid they would kill him, together with his wife and children, and those they had married; so he departed out of that land.”

    He’s not alone is saying that Noah tried to get the people to change their ways. The apostle Peter calls him a “preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5)

    The Sibylline Oracle says: “Noah, be of good cheer
    In thyself and to all the people preach
    Repentance, so that they may all be saved.
    But if, with shameless soul, they heed me not
    The whole race I will utterly destroy”
    (Sib. Or. 1:156-61)

    The Babylonian Talmud has Noah urging, “Repent; for if not, the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring a deluge upon you and cause your bodies to float upon the water like gourds, as it is written.”

    The Jewish Midrash seems to support the idea that during the 120 years, Noah also tried to get the people to change their ways. It’ll be interesting as well to see if Aronofsky follows on this train of thought.

  5. Pingback: God Said to Noah, There’s Gonna Be a Floody-Floody | VoVatia

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