Hollywood missed a great opportunity to make a powerful movie about Noah and the deluge. Instead they made a flashy film with little real substance. The Noah story is actually part of a puzzle that has been with us as long as has the Bible. Thinking through the puzzle can help us understand our ancestors. I am strongly of the view that when we understand our past (as opposed to having idealized notions that are abstracts devoid of reality) we help define our future and gain a chance to influence what happens to us and our descendants.
There are a number of ways to visualize the Noah story. One way is to simply consider the story of Noah and the deluge as folklore. But how to explain the folklore?
The key passage in Genesis reads: “And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. ” If this passage means exactly what it says, then it is very difficult to explain. While man’s sins can be understood to have angered God, the destruction of all the animals on earth is not understandable from a moral point of view.
This leads to the thought that the story of the deluge or flood is not a folk tale. It is something that happened. Noah is in the story to help explain how some survived and the rest did not. And it manages the thought for man; but not for the animals that died. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. … Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. ” There is a presumption that animals don’t count in God’s eyes, something that offends our modern sensibilities.
If the story of the deluge has historical truth, how can we be sure? As Immanuel Velikovsky explains to us, the story of the deluge is found in traditions all over the earth, and many of the cultures that have this memory have had no contact with western religion. There is so much evidence behind the story of the deluge, both from historical memory preserved in religions and in cultural traditions, and physical evidence, is it possible that the world was inundated by rainfall sufficient to cover all of the earth except some high mountain peaks?
Before answering the questions, we need to consider the condition of mankind before the deluge, accepting that a deluge did in fact occur.
Generally speaking, most contemporary science and archaeology thinks of man as slowly evolving technologically, starting out living in caves and opportunistically hunting, eventually moving to a more settled life, cultivating trees and vegetables and managing herds of animals. Along with these developments, man starts using stone impelements, then learns to fashion copper, then bronze and eventually iron.
There are some significant problems with this comfortable analytic view of man’s “progress.” To begin with, the changes in technology, in animal husbandry, in cultivation and farming did not occur evenly in all places. There were clusters where development was rapid; in other places there was hardly any change. Embedded in the Biblical texts, in writings from ancient Summaria and Babylonia and elsewhere, there is a suggestion that something dramatic happened, essentially changing mankind and vesting him with considerable technological tools that he hitherto lacked. Perhaps this is what is meant in Genesis which declares, “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God (bnei Elim) came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”
Plenty of people have been looking for evidence of these giants, called Nefilim in Hebrew. Nefilim are the sons of Gods and man. The idea that they were actual giants is either accepted for what it is, or hotly disputed even by Rabbinic authorities. In particular Rabbi Akiva (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, 100-160 AD) would actually curse anyone who made this translation. But one way to view it that bridges both the literal translation and the various interpretations offered by authorities on the matter is that Nefilim certainly means very wise men who came from afar, an image that carries on down into Christianity’s three wise men. Velikovsky thinks that it was an encounter with beings from another planet that transferred a block of knowledge that transformed mankind. As he says, “But if we are today on the eve of interplanetary travel, we must not declare as absolutely impossible the thought that this Earth was visited, ages ago, by some people from another planet. “
There is one feature in the Bible, that may be an actual give away. It has to do with the life span of man. In Genesis God says, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” Noah on the other hand is given a life span of over 900 years. As one author writes: “the Bible teaches quite plainly that the early patriarchs often lived to be nearly 1,000 years old and even had children when they were several hundred years old! Similar claims of long life spans are found in the secular literature of several ancient cultures (including the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Indians, and Chinese).”
A year is measured today as 365 days. In ancient times it was variously measured as 360 or 365 days. It would be obvious to anyone in ancient times, that attaining even a life span of 120 years would be something of a miracle. So what is going on here? Is it possible that others living on the earth (those with wisdom and power) had different biological clocks than we? And can be think that assigning extremely long lives to the founders of the Hebrew religion and many others was intended to directly associate them with the Nefilim?
Most cultures report that the period before the deluge was one of great prosperity. There was more than enough food to supply mankind’s needs, and the climate was reported as excellent. Before the deluge there was no environmental disaster.
So was the deluge some kind of climate change? Maybe, but not the way environmentalists would lead you to believe.
As many scientists have pointed out, even if it rained and rained, there is simply not enough water, hydrogen or oxygen on earth that if it all spilled down at once could cover the earth more than a foot or two.
Thus if the deluge happened, something extraordinary occurred.
It is Velikovsky’s contention, which I accept, that what happened as a startling interplanetary event that impacted the earth. Vastly simplified the story is that Saturn and Jupiter essentially were twin stars that formed a kind of super nova. In ancient times Saturn was an extremely bright planet. Over a number of encounters the nova exploded. As Velikovsky explains: “The prevalent view is that a nova results from the interaction of two stars in a binary system when the two members disrupt one another on close approach. In such a case filaments of the disrupted star are torn out of its body and hurled in great spurts, to be absorbed by the companion star. The sudden transfer of matter is thought to set off the star’s cataclysmic explosion.”
From the earth looking out, the prelude to the vast explosion went on for some seven days, marked by a immensely bright light in the sky. When the explosion happened, the earth was thrown into disarray, its orbit was disrupted, and the fallout from the planetary collision was immense amounts of hydrogen and water coming from the nova raining down on earth. This caused massive flooding, changed the boundaries and size of the sea, and may also affected nearby planetary objects including the moon. For Saturn it meant a result in a greatly diminished size, a further out orbit from the sun, and it was seen as much dimmer.
It is possible during the ancient time when Saturn was in orbit much closer to the earth, its rings were observed by astronomers, because (as far as we know) the ancients did not have the optical technology needed to see Saturn’s rings in its present-day orbit. However we do know that most ancient cultures relied heavily on astronomical observations, and what they recorded was generally highly accurate. Saturn’s rings, or “chains,” are depicted on many ancient sculptures. Saturn was also worshiped by many cultures, including Middle Eastern. Names for Saturn included Kronos, Osiris and Tammuz; also Kevan and Adonis. Speaking of both Saturn and Jupiter as binary stars they were referred to as Adonoi (“my lords”).
Hollywood missed the big story.