by Mineke Schipper, Humanity’s End as a New Beginning: World Disasters in Myths

2. Noah

(Hebrew)

The LORD saw how bad the people on earth were and that everything they thought and planned was evil. He was very sorry that he had made them, and he said, “I’ll destroy every living creature on earth! I’ll wipe out people, animals, birds, and reptiles. I’m sorry I ever made them.” But the LORD was pleased with Noah, and this is the story about him. Noah was the only person who lived right and obeyed God. He had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. God knew that everyone was terribly cruel and violent. So he told Noah: “Cruelty and violence have spread everywhere. Now I’m going to destroy the whole earth and all its people. Get some good lumber and build a boat. Put rooms in it and cover it with tar inside and out. Make it four hundred fifty feet long, seventy-five feet wide, and forty-five feet high. Build a roof on the boat and leave a space of about eighteen inches between the roof and the sides. Make the boat three stories high and put a door on one side. I’m going to send a flood that will destroy everything that breathes! Nothing will be left alive. But I solemnly promise that you, your wife, your sons, and your daughters-in-law will be kept safe in the boat. Bring into the boat with you a male and a female of every kind of animal and bird, as well as a male and a female of every reptile. I don’t want them to be destroyed. Store up enough food both for yourself and for them.” 

Noah did everything the LORD told him to do.

The LORD told Noah: “Take your whole family with you into the boat, because you are the only one on this earth who pleases me. Take seven pairs of every kind of animal that can be used for sacrifice and one pair of all others. Also take seven pairs of every kind of bird with you. Do this so there will always be animals and birds on the earth. Seven days from now I will send rain that will last for forty days and nights, and I will destroy all other living creatures I have made.” 

Noah was six hundred years old when he went into the boat to escape the flood, and he did everything the LORD had told him to do. His wife, his sons, and his daughters-in-law all went inside with him. He obeyed God and took a male and a female of each kind of animal and bird into the boat with him. Seven days later a flood began to cover the earth. 

Noah was six hundred years old when the water under the earth started gushing out everywhere. The sky opened like windows, and rain poured down for forty days and nights. All this began on the seventeenth day of the second month of the year. On that day Noah and his wife went into the boat with their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives. They took along every kind of animal, tame and wild, including the birds. Noah took a male and a female of every living creature with him, just as God had told him to do. And when they were all in the boat, God closed the door. 

For forty days the rain poured down without stopping. And the water became deeper and deeper, until the boat started floating high above the ground. Finally, the mighty flood was so deep that even the highest mountain peaks were almost twenty-five feet below the surface of the water. Not a bird, animal, reptile, or human was left alive anywhere on earth. The LORD destroyed everything that breathed. Nothing was left alive except Noah and the others in the boat. A hundred fifty days later, the water started going down. 

God did not forget about Noah and the animals with him in the boat. So God made a wind blow, and the water started going down. God stopped up the places where the water had been gushing out from under the earth. He also closed up the sky, and the rain stopped. For one hundred fifty days the water slowly went down. Then on the seventeenth day of the seventh month of the year, the boat came to rest somewhere in the Ararat mountains. The water kept going down, and the mountain tops could be seen on the first day of the tenth month. 

Forty days later Noah opened a window to send out a raven, but it kept flying around until the water had dried up. Noah wanted to find out if the water had gone down, and he sent out a dove. Deep water was still everywhere, and the dove could not find a place to land. So it flew back to the boat. Noah held out his hand and helped it back in. 

Seven days later Noah sent the dove out again. It returned in the evening, holding in its beak a green leaf from an olive tree. Noah knew that the water was finally going down. He waited seven more days before sending the dove out again, and this time it did not return. 

Noah was now six hundred one years old. And by the first day of that year, almost all the water had gone away. Noah made an opening in the roof of the boat and saw that the ground was getting dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the earth was completely dry. 

God said to Noah, “You, your wife, your sons, and your daughters-in-law may now leave the boat. Let out the birds, animals, and reptiles, so they can mate and live all over the earth.” After Noah and his family had gone out of the boat, the living creatures left in groups of their own kind. 

Noah built an altar where he could offer sacrifices to the LORD. Then he offered on the altar one of each kind of animal and bird that could be used for a sacrifice. 

The smell of the burning offering pleased God, and he said: “Never again will I punish the earth for the sinful things its people do. All of them have evil thoughts from the time they are young, but I will never destroy everything that breathes, as I did this time. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat; winter and summer, day and night.” 

God said to Noah and his sons: “I am giving you my blessing. Have a lot of children and grandchildren, so people will live everywhere on this earth. All animals, birds, reptiles, and fish will be afraid of you. I have placed them under your control, and I have given them to you for food. From now on, you may eat them, as well as the green plants that you have always eaten. But life is in the blood, and you must not eat any meat that still has blood in it. I created humans to be like me, and I will punish any animal or person that takes a human life. If an animal kills someone, that animal must die. And if a person takes the life of another, that person must be put to death. I want you and your descendants to have many children, so people will live everywhere on earth.”

Again, God said to Noah and his sons: “I am going to make a solemn promise to you and to everyone who will live after you. This includes the birds and the animals that came out of the boat. I promise every living creature that the earth and those living on it will never again be destroyed by a flood. The rainbow that I have put in the sky will be my sign to you and to every living creature on earth. It will remind you that I will keep this promise forever. When I send clouds over the earth, and a rainbow appears in the sky, I will remember my promise to you and to all other living creatures. Never again will I let floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the sky, I will always remember the promise that I have made to every living creature. The rainbow will be the sign of that solemn promise.”