Genesis 6:9 to 11:32
The stories of Noah and the Tower of Babel document the corruption and evil that had taken over the earth. This week’s text tells of God’s response.
The Torah tells us that “the earth became corrupt before God, the earth was filled with violence, and God saw how corrupted the earth was, how all flesh was acting in a corrupt way upon earth…” (Gen. 6:11) … We all know the story… God saw a single righteous man, Noah, and told him to build an ark which would house his family and representative animals of the earth. Then a great flood destroyed all that was evil on the planet.
Noah is called a righteous man; but, many have asked: “If he was so righteous, why didn’t he argue with God to save those people who may not have been guilty? … if such people existed. Why didn’t he argue on behalf of the innocent animal life that was also destroyed?
Noah may not have said anything verbally….. But, his actions gave the other people plenty of warning. Midrash tells us that Noah planted the trees that would be used to create the ark. He built the ark by himself. He collected all the animals that would board the ark. All this took time. Surely the neighbors of Noah would have seen these activities. And if asked why he is doing all this, Noah most likely told them why.
The other people had time to change. The span of this time had to be decades. There was no change. The people continued their evil and corrupt ways.
But this tale of Noah may be just a story. Many people think that that it never happened. Maybe there was a great flood. All cultures seem to have a similar story. But, Noah, the ark, all the animals…. that’s just a myth in the minds of most progressive Jews. They say that the message of the story is most important.
We are reminded of the Noahide laws which included the following seven laws…. People may not worship idols … They may not blaspheme God … They must establish courts of justice … They may not kill … They may not commit adultery … They may not rob … And, they may not eat flesh cut from a living animal. This last law was added after. the flood. The others all have a basis from text in B’reishit. (Plaut, The Torah – A Modern Commentary, Revised Ed, p. 75)
Then, several generations later the people spread out and some settled in the land of Shinar. They said, “Come let us build a city with a tower that reaches the sky, so that we can make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over all the earth!” (Gen 11:4) These structures were not build for shelter; but, to “make a name” for the builders. By doing this, the intent was to build a structure that could admired or worshiped by the people. God saw this as a form of idolatry and responded by causing the people to have differing languages. Because of the differences in language, the people separated and went to other locations. As a result, the structures were never completed. The location of the unfinished towers became known as Babel.
So, as the text tells us, the laws were still not followed. God realizes that without laws, the world would be evil and corrupt like that of Noah’s time. However, God’s efforts will not be focused on the entire world… as we will see in next week’s reading, God chooses to focus on a single family – the family of Abraham – to become a “light unto the world.” As time went on, more laws were added with the intent of creating a better world… a world filled with love and justice.
Today, we have laws to protect people and create a better world. Most people follow these laws and desire the better world. …… Yes, most people follow the letter of the law. But, sometimes the spirit of the law is overlooked. This writer looks at the Torah, then at the world, and I am worried.
Torah tells us on the sixth day of creation God created man to “fill the earth and tame it; hold sway over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, and over every animal that creeps on the face of the earth.” (Gen. 1:29) God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden “to work it and keep it.” (Gen. 2:15) Mankind is God’s representative to keep and maintain all life on earth.
Noah took decades to build the ark and carry out God’s plan. The people had a chance to change their ways; but, didn’t. Today, mankind still has the responsibility to keep and maintain the planet on which we live. Scientists have been warning of global warming and climate change for decades….Little action has been taken.
Today, average temperatures everywhere on the planet are rising…. There are more storms, hurricanes, and droughts…. Weather conditions are becoming more intense.
Most experts agree that man-made pollution is a major cause of these conditions.
Just as Noah’s ark building was a sign of future events; the climate changes today are a sign of coming events. Yet, little is being done. If current trends continue, the eco-systems may change for the worse.
Mankind has the given responsibility to care for the planet. But, it seems that comfort and short term economic issues are preventing any changes that could improve our climate conditions..
It seems ironic that one of the predicted results of the current climate change will be a rise in sea levels……. Maybe, a second flood is approaching because mankind is not taking responsibility for “keeping and maintaining” the planet. Is history repeating a biblical tale?
Mankind has had decades to change… Maybe now is the time