Rube Goldberg, as many people may know, was a well-known cartoonist who was best known for his cartoons featuring absurdly complicated devices for accomplishing the most simple of tasks, hence the phrase “a Rube Goldberg contraption.”
In one of the most well-known stories from the Bible, the tale of Noah’s Ark, God takes a Rube Goldberg approach in punishing humanity for the wickedness of men. God is so angry with mankind that he decides to wipe out every person on the face of the Earth, except for a man named Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives. You see, Noah was a righteous man who “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Apparently, Noah’s righteousness did not rub off on his brothers and sisters, because Noah does not utter a peep of protest when God informs Noah of his plans. We are also informed that Noah was 500 years old before he had his first child. In other words, Noah was the 500 year old virgin. How’s that for a movie title? His father Lamech, on the other hand, only had to wait 182 years before he impregnated his wife and fathered baby Noah.
Now, we are told to believe that the God of the Bible is the creator of everything in the universe and is omniscient and omnipotent. Therefore, when it comes to punishing mankind, God surely had a lot of options available to him for striking down the wicked. For starters, God could have cause every evil person on the Earth to spontaneously combust. Poof! Everybody is dead and vanished except for Noah and his family. The human race can start over again. Alternatively, God can make all of the wicked people sterile (after all, if he can make a virgin pregnant, surely he can cause men to have low sperm counts) and after a few hundred years, all of the wicked people die out and there is just Noah and his family still standing. Again, the problem of bad people is solved.
But no, we’re talking the God of the Bible here, which means nothing is ever simple and efficient. You see, God has decided that he will punish mankind by flooding the Earth so that it resembles Kevin Costner’s ‘Waterworld’. Unfortunately, this means that not only are all of the bad people going to be killed, but just about everything else as well. For some strange reason, in his anger, God is resolved to destroy not only all of the wicked people, but the “animals and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air.” Why animals have to suffer because of God’s anger with the human race is unexplained.
However, since God has decided to spare Noah and his family, along with two (or seven) of each living thing in order that life can start anew after the flood waters have receded, he has a number of options available to him as he is omniscient and omnipotent. As the flood waters arise, he could form a protective bubble around those he intends to save so that they do not drown, sort of like Jean Gray in X-Men II holding back the waters of Alkali Lake to protect her comrades on the jet. Nope, fat chance there. God could also send Noah and pairs of every living thing to dwell at the top of the highest mountains and cause the flood waters to stop rising just shy of those mountains. Tibet comes to mind as an ideal place. Sorry, can’t do that either.
God’s solution to save Noah and the fortunate few is for Noah to construct a vessel called an ark. God gives Noah very specific instructions as to how the ark should be built, from the type of wood to be used, the height, width, and length of the ark, even where to place the doors. You know right away though that there is going to be trouble on the ark, because there is no mention of God consulting with Noah’s wife about where to put the curtains. After all, you can’t expect a woman to be holed up in a stinking putrid wooden vessel for a year without trying to lighten the place up a bit.
God then commands Noah “to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.” (Genesis 6:19). But God must have altered his plans slightly, because in Genesis 7:2-3, he tells Noah to “take with you seven of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate (seven being an odd number, some animals are going to be stuck on the ark without a date), and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.” Noah has seven days to perform this task, whereupon God informs him that he will cause it to rain for forty days and nights.
According to Genesis 7:15, “pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark.” How these creatures got to the ark is left unexplained. Did Noah and his sons go off and capture them when they weren’t busy building the ark, or did the lucky creatures embark on a mass migration across the Earth? This is a very important question. After all, many creatures subsist on a diet that is particular to the geographic location where they live. Koalas, for instance, eat the leaves of the eucalyptus tree. Did the koalas on the ark bring their own stash of eucalyptus leaves with them, or did Noah make a trip to Australia in his spare time? And then there are some animals and insects that live only in the canopy of a tropical rain forest. How could they be expected to survive the journey to the ark?
Regardless, the seven days passed and when Noah was a sprightly man of 600 years, “all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights.” The ark, we are told “floated on the surface of the water”, and so began the odyssey of Noah and his family, as they realized to their consternation that in all of their planning for the flood, they forgot to bring with them a deck of cards and Monopoly®.
(To be continued.)