Biblical Flood Stories

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. The prologue explains the reasons for the flood (6:5.

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Biblical Flood Stories

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1. Chapter 10 Biblical Flood Stories

2. The prologue explains the reasons for the flood (6:5.–8). A brief account of the flood by the Priestly (P) writer (6:9–22) starts with an account of the “generations of Noah,” explaining who has a right to be considered a member of the family of Noah. The account of the Priestly (P) writer is then interspersed throughout the lengthier narrative of the Yahwist (J) writer. It can be found at: 7:6, 11, 13–16a, 17a, 18–21, 24; 8:1–2a, 3b, 4–5, 7, 13a, 15–19. Later, the Priestly (P) writer describes God’s covenant with Noah (9:1–17), emphasizing how to prepare meals in accordance with God’s plan (9:3–4). The Yahwist (J) and the Priestly (P) writers produce versions of the flood story that feel quite different from each other: The Priestly (P) writer emphasizes the religious aspects of the agreement between God and humans, describing the progress human beings have made in understanding their relationship with God. In contrast, the Yahwist (J) tells a story with characters who feel for and care about each other. He represents God in a quite anthropomorphic way. In his version of the story, God is “grieved to his heart” at the wickedness of humans (Genesis 6:8), and when Noah enters the ark, it is God who shuts him in (Genesis 7:16).

3. Two versions of the cosmology of the Biblical flood story 950 B.C.E. – The Yahwist (J) calls God “Lord.” The Israelites who came to Canaan encountered an independent tradition of a great flood. E. A. Speiser points out that the basis of the Biblical flood may be found in the geological background of Lower Mesopotamia, and that stories about it may be based on a geological era when the waters of the Persian Gulf rose and flooded a large area of its coastland (55–56).

4. Two versions of the cosmology of the Biblical flood story 550 B.C.E. – The Priestly (P) calls God “God.” The Priestly writer’s story was influenced by the Mesopotamian view that the earth had been created out of a watery waste or chaos. In accordance with Mesopotamian cosmology, the Priestly writer explained that before God created the world, there existed only an expanse of waters (Genesis 1:1). In creation, God fixed into place the firmament, a giant hemisphere that became a separating wall between the waters. Then the area under it became dry land; this is the earth, a disk resting on and surrounded by water. Above were the waters dislocated from around the earth. In accordance with this cosmology, the Priestly writer describes the flood not as rain, but as the release of part of the world structure, the ocean above the firmament. For the Priestly writer, the flood was a catastrophe on a worldwide scale. Its destruction, which lasted a year and ten days, in comparison with the Yahwist’s 61 days, threatened to return the earth to primeval chaos.

5. The Covenant The formal agreement between God and his people that extends God’s protection, to be reciprocated by the incurring of certain obligations to God on the part of the humans who enter into the covenant with him. A series of covenants described in the Old Testament of the Bible as the precursor of the agreements that God makes with Abraham (Genesis 17), and Moses (Exodus 31). Varies with the writer: The Yahwist portrays God simply as declaring that he will never again destroy every living creature as he did in the flood (Genesis 8:21–22). In the Priestly version, God’s promise is presented in a more elaborate and formal way. He concludes an agreement with Noah that he explicitly calls a covenant. This agreement completes the creation of human beings by protecting them from destruction, and God gives humans the right to eat meat. This is in accordance with their usual violent practices, and represents God’s willingness to enter into a relationship with them nonetheless.

6. J Version: the Animals 7:1 Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate; 3 and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive upon the face of all the earth....”

7. P Version: the Animals 6:18 But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive.

8. P Version: the Flood 7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.... 21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, and every man; 22 everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out.

9. J Version: the Covenant 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

10. P Version: the Covenant, 1 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood....

11. P Version: the Covenant, 2 ... 9:11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

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