Is The Story of Noah
Just About Noah's Ark?

No it isn't.

The story of Noah is about the making of a covenant...a contract...
between God and humanity.

It is a story full of drama with God angry at the wickedness of his creatures...and Noah's ark riding the waves for more than a month.

And because the story is so dramatic...we must look carefully in the text for the elements that make up the real point of the story which is...the covenant with Noah.

Dramatic elements in the story of Noah

There is God full of regret that he made humans...because they thought only of doing evil (Gn 6:5ff).

God is so distraught that he plans to wipe mankind...and all the rest of his creation...from the face of the a massive flood.

However...God's disgust is melted...and his hand stayed...because he would also be destroying Noah...a good and blameless man...who walked with God.

By inviting Noah to contract with him...God will try again to salvage his creation and his relationship with humanity.

But the plot underlying and driving the story of Noah is a contract...a covenant...with the exact same structure and elements as the covenant God made with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Now most people know that God saved a reproducing pair of all the animals on earth (including pesky mosquitos!). He designed an ark for Noah to build...where they all would survive the flood he was determined to send to punish his creation.

Well...Noah survives with his family and companions.


A new contract between God and humanity is drawn up

The new covenant with Noah (Gn 9:1ff) is like all other covenants or contracts.

The benefits...or contents...of the various covenants change...but their formal elements remain the same. They are the same strict conditions that make up modern civil contracts.

Just as with Adam and Eve...and later with Abraham and Moses and David and all the others...the covenant has the strict elements of all contracts.

  • There are mutual benefits exchanged

  • There are terms and conditions on the enjoyment of those benefits

  • There is a penalty clause

How do God and Noah both benefit?

In the story of Noah...the benefit to God was for Noah to be fertile and repopulate the earth...hopefully with good human beings like himself.

The benefits to Noah were generous and sweeping...

  • There are mutual benefits exchanged

  • There are terms and conditions on the enjoyment of those benefits

  • There is a penalty clause

  • Noah will fill the earth with his progeny.

  • All the creatures of the earth are put under Noah's dominion and power.

  • He may use all of the animals and plants for food if he wishes.

But these benefits are conditional.

All contracts have conditions...strings the benefits received.

What are the conditions?

God may love us profoundly and be profoundly grieved when that love is mocked by ingratitude and we see at the beginning of the story of Noah.

But even Noah...favored by God out of all creation...does not get benefits as mere gifts. There are strings attached to benefits in all covenants and contracts...right down to modern day credit card contracts.

The conditions are just as sweeping that God attaches to the generous benefits he awards Noah.

Just as Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from a certain tree...the conditions in the story of Noah (Gn 9:4ff) are...

  • Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it shall you not eat

  • Noah may not shed the blood of humans

What's the penalty clause?

God warns Noah sternly that he will demand a strict accounting from him to see that he complies with these conditions.

Then he tells him what the penalty will be if Noah defaults.

If anyone sheds the blood of man will his blood be shed.

Having made himself clear to Noah...God then reiterates the benefits he has bestowed.

God binds himself in the covenant

God promises...

  1. He will not default on the benefits he has given Noah.
  2. He promises never to destroy the earth again by flood.

Then God signs the covenant with Noah by placing a rainbow in the sky as a symbol to the ages of those promises.

Those who maintain that God loves his human creatures unconditionally have failed to heed the conditions...the strings God the benefits and advantages he gives us with such generosity.

The covenant...made up of benefits (or graces)...conditions...and the form that God uses to close the gap that Aristotle said exists between God and humanity.

God binds himself to act in certain ways under a covenant just as much as he binds his humans.

There is no penalty that humans can apply to God...because God is true to his his word...even if it means enforcing the penalty clause against those he he did with Adam and Eve and with Moses.

From the story of Noah you can return to the covenant page.

Or you can...

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