As a corollary to the Punishing Humanity the Rube Goldberg Way series, I wanted to do a post about the central character of the Flood Story, old man Noah himself, so here we go.
The Book of Genesis tells us that Noah's father Lamech was 182 years old when Noah was born. But poor Noah didn't become a daddy himself until he hit the ripe age of 500. Given what we know about God's displeasure with premarital sex, there can only be one of two possibilities for Noah. Either he was trying to impregnate his wife for centuries without success, or he was a virgin until his 500th year. Given that Genesis tells us Noah fathered three sons between his 500th and 600th years, the latter possibility would be the more likely one.
When you think about the fact that most guys can't get past their teenage years without getting laid, even if they have to resort to desperate measures like getting the fattest girl in school passed out drunk at a keg party, Noah's 500 years of virginity is truly an astounding feat. One might ponder whether or not Noah availed himself of any farm animals to help him get by, but the Bible clearly tells us that God found favor with Noah, and we know how God feels about sex with animals, so Noah must be innocent on that account too.
Since Biblical literalists believe that people who lived before the Flood really did have life spans many times longer than present day humans, I think we need to ponder the implications of that. The typical American lives to be about 75 years old, having entered the labor force in his or her late teens and retiring around the age of 65. Now take that same American and extend his or her life span to 900 years. If you have a job right now, whether it be a grocery store clerk, a plumber, a school teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, a postal carrier, or a farmer, just imagine being consigned to a life where you work that same job for century after century. Or how about being a housewife for 800 years! Imagine being married to the same person for 800 years and having to be badgered by your meddling parents for centuries on end. Even the most loving of couples and families are bound to get sick of each other eventually.
Noah, so we are told in Genesis 6:9, "was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God." The Bible does not give us any examples of what made Noah such a righteous brother, so we are expected to take the Bible at its word. What we also know about Noah from Genesis 5:30 is that he had brothers and sisters, though no number is provided.
Now many of us either have or know of people who have siblings that are, to put it delicately, not exactly the most shining examples of human decency. I myself have two older brothers whose character and conduct in life have left and continue to leave much to be desired. Nevertheless, they are our family and most of us try to love our siblings in spite of their flaws. Now if some disembodied voice from the heavens called down to me and told me that he was going to wipe out all of humanity except for me, my wife, my kids and their spouses, I would vehemently protest such a thing, and would demand that I be able to take the rest of my family with me if I could not convince this deity to cease his madness. And if this would be Supreme Being did not accomodate me, then I would absolutely refuse to build the ark and I would challenge this God to kill me and my family along with the rest of the human race.
But what does Noah do when God announces his intention to destroy all life on the Earth save Noah's immediate family and two of every animal? Does he try to speak out in defence of humanity? Does he make a plea on behalf of his brothers and sisters? After all, are we to believe that every single person on the planet, including all of Noah's brothers and sisters, were wicked and evil people who deserved to die? All that Genesis tells us is that "Noah did everything just as God commanded him."
One of the first things that Noah does after leaving the ark according to Genesis 9:20, was to plant a vineyard. He then proceeds to get drunk as a skunk and passes out naked. His son Ham happens to find him in this state, and evidently concerned (he by account being the youngest of the three sons) informed his older brothers Shem and Japheth. The two elder brothers proceed to cover their naked father. In a normal world, that would have been the end of the story. But not so with Righteous Noah. In a fit of rage, he curses Ham's youngest son Canaan, who was not even involved in the incident.
So let's do the tally here. Noah is described as being a righteous man, but he does not utter a word of protest when God tells him that his brothers and sisters will die in a flood, and he curses a child who caused him no offense because of his own poor judgment in getting drunk. And what is the big deal about being seen naked anyway? God gets mad at Adam and Eve because they had covered themselves instead of going about naked, yet seeing Noah naked is seen as legitimating the cursing of a blameless child and his descendants. Yep, that sounds fair to me. After cursing Canaan, all that we are told of Noah is that he lived for 350 years after the Flood and that he was 950 years young when he finally kicked the bucket. Well, you know what they say, once you've hit your 600th birthday, it's all downhill from there!
As an aside, the drunken Noah story, like the Tower of Babel story, seems like a later interpolation. If you take out the drunken Noah section, and make Genesis 9:28 immediately follow 9:17, the story has a smoother narrative flow. It is almost as if Hebrew priests felt they had to insert into Genesis a few lines of text to provide some sort of theological justification for their conquest of Canaanite lands. It wouldn't be the first time someone tried to alter the past to justify the actions of the present.