Genesis 7

We cannot call this justice. If anything, I think the lesson to be learned from this chapter of Genesis is how not to think and act. The given trajectory is thus:

7.1, 21-23: “Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, with all your household, for you alone have I found righteous before Me in this generation.’ …And all flesh that stirred on earth perished – birds, cattle, beasts, and all the things that swarmed upon the earth, and all mankind. All in whose nostrils was the merest breath of life, all that was on dry land, died. All existence on earth was blotted out – man, cattle, creeping things, and birds of the sky; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.”

The repetitiveness of these verses only adds to the shock of reading them. Every scrap of non-water based life on the planet – save those in the ark – is asserted to have been utterly destroyed due to the failure of the human population to attain to the standards of righteousness which, we must presume, they had not even been properly instructed in since by the outline of this very Genesis narrative after Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden the discourse with the divine was sundered as well; the only exception up to this point is the dialogue between God/“God” and Cain in Chapter 4 (remarked on in our earlier post). Further exceptions would of course follow – the entire line of prophets and some amongst the priests – but not yet. If we wish to find a reasoning here we might suggest that perhaps everyone failed to live up to the voices of their own consciences, and those were the communicative and educational methods employed; but even if we try to thereby find some redeeming quality to this myth as told in the way it is, there remains the intensely disturbing fact of the treatment of non-human life-forms. What faults were theirs?

We are naturally never given an explanation for that: Genesis, and arguably the entirety of the scriptures in the various Western traditions (spread across numerous religious systems), operate from the point of view of non-human animals – from the “creeping things” on to elephants – being mere tools for human consumption and use. Whether deemed “clean” or “unclean”, no non-human life is given any dignity beyond that gained from her/his (gender being present everywhere) utility. This line of thought is directly foundational to factory farming, mass slaughter, growth hormones, feedlots and the rest. Such is as obvious as it is horrific, and we do not need to belabor the discussion further; instead let us note it and turn to some related concerns.

As the previous chapter detailed, Noah is the recipient of a divine audience wherein he is directly told that God/“God” plans to exterminate “all flesh under the sky in which there is breath of life” (6.17), but he does not argue the case for mercy as Abraham and Moses were later to do for the sake of the city of Sodom (Genesis 18) and for the nation at large following the infamous Golden Calf incident (Exodus 32). Some sages have faulted Noah for this; others have emphasized the high praise he receives as “blameless” (6.9) and his obedience in building the ark. None of this, however, is history; these are stories meant to relate certain qualities, to promote and encourage this over that. Thinking along those lines we might find a few facets for reflection: For me firstly is the utter importance of forgiveness and grace: no one was seemingly given a chance in this tale, the humans were not taught what they ought to do and the non-humans form an unbelievably massive collection of collateral damage. Secondly I think is the dual importance of taking a stand for what one finds right and worthy while accepting how very much is outside of one’s control. Thirdly might be that justice must be aimed at individuals, and whatever policies are established to pertain to such they should seek to be blind to categorizing: for instance, in verse one we are told that Noah alone has been determined righteous, yet his family is still saved with him; lest we conclude that Noah’s sons and daughters-in-law should also have been drowned, we remember our initial aspect of forgiveness and grace. Cherish life and try to advance it.

There is undoubtedly much to be gleaned from the book of Genesis, but in this chapter – my goodness – I can only conclude that we learn negatively, that we are pushed oppositely. From there though we may find an encouragement to treasure each other in these short years we have. After all, one never knows when a “flood” might come.

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