Sunday, May 29, 2005


Who Made Fun of Noah?

An important part of most sermons and Sunday School lessons about Noah and the flood is the account of how Noah's neighbors ridiculed him for building a boat in the middle of dry land. Or, they made fun of him for preaching that God would send a flood of water to drown everyone. Everyone knew, the story goes, that it had never rained so much as a drop. The idea was preposterous and people let Noah know it. But, according to the sermonic point, Noah believed God and continued building the ark, to the salvation of his family and all the animals.

Only one problem: the Bible nowhere mentions that people made fun of Noah. If we read Genesis 6-9 with our eyes open, we will notice that there is no hint of ridicule or mocking of Noah's plan. True, there is no indication that others accepted the fact of their danger and sought to be saved along with Noah's family. But, in their fatal unbelief they did not persecute him with laughter or name-calling. Several other Scripture writers mention Noah and the flood, but none of them talks about mockery or making fun of Noah, either.

Someone replies, "Well, maybe not, but isn't it just human nature to ridicule what we do not believe? Even if the Bible doesn't say they did it, can't we assume that they did?"

My answer: "Let's put what the Bible teaches in one category and our speculations about events in another." What Moses wrote down in Genesis may not be all the details that actually happened, but it is all the details God thought were important for the teaching He was giving through the Scripture. God guided the Biblical authors in the selection of details to include as well as in the instruction built into the stories.

When we add from our own imagination any details God did not include, we are not reading with our eyes open. Especially when the teaching point we draw from the story comes from the details we have added, our teaching is something other than what God is saying.

The Apostle Peter refers to the flood in 2 Peter 3:5-6 as a reminder that God has judged the world suddenly in the past by breaking the normal rules of nature. And, his point is, God will do it again. This reference is in the context of predicting that a later generation of unbelievers will scoff at the notion of Christ's return. It would have been helpful to Peter's argument here, if he could have mentioned that people in Noah's day also scoffed and ridiculed. The argument from silence here is strong, meaning that the Bible is not only silent on the suggested ridicule but also favors the conclusion that people did not ridicule Noah's faith.

Let's read with our eyes open.

Does the Bible say it had never rained before the flood?

Or is that more speculation to make the story more powerful?
The surmise that it hadn't rained before the deluge is loosely based on Genesis 2:5-6, 'God had not sent rain upon the earth . . . but a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.' However, there was a lot of water under the bridge between chapter 2 and chapter 6.
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