Even those of you not religiously inclined, shall we say, know the story of Noah’s Ark.
The population of the Earth was so wicked that God decided to wipe them all out, much as Israel is threatening to do now with Hamas, the terrorist organization that has taken over Gaza. The Israelites — I should say the Israelis — are using the word annihilate to indicate their intention to destroy the latest of their enemies.
Perhaps Israelites is a better word. The similarities between the biblical crowd and the current generation are striking. Either then or now, it isn’t a good idea to run afoul of God’s “chosen.” Ask the people of Jericho, men, women and children, what happened after “the walls “come a-tumblin’ down” (from an old Negro spiritual). That good man Joshua marched in with his army and wiped them all out.
And who can blame them? Surrounded by enemies determined to destroy their nation, they have little choice but to defend themselves with all the ferocity of a wounded badger. Sometimes, though, right and wrong are too easily judged in an extremely complicated situation such as theirs.
But I was talking about Noah’s Ark and the wicked of the world. The story goes that God looked down and saw that all mankind — and possibly a fair number of womankind — were exceedingly wicked and deserved to be “annihilated.” That’s the way you dealt with your enemies in biblical times. If they got in your way, wipe them out.
The Bible doesn’t say what people were doing that was so wicked, although Moses made a good attempt to enumerate in the Ten Commandments and the book of Leviticus the sins he observed to be fairly common. If they were into all that, make no wonder God wanted to destroy them, so He did — men women and children, in an extremely nasty and violent way.
It wasn’t a very good example to be setting for His people, which is possibly where Joshua got the idea of putting everyone in Jericho to the sword, although their chief sin seems to be that Jericho was in the way of the Israelites settling in “the Promised Land” — but not promised to anyone who was already there.
Anyway, they were so bad that God drowned them all, which is probably a better way to go than being “sworded” (sounds better than stabbed) to death. To be fair to him, Joshua probably couldn’t command floods.
How bad were they at all? At the same time when one looks back over the long and agonizing history of man’s inhumanity to man, surely the days of Noah could not have been worse than what they have been since. The atrocities committed under the “incentives” of religious and political strife, even in our own lifetimes, are too great to contemplate without becoming totally mindsick, gutsick and heartsick.
So how bad are we now, compared with that biblical crowd? Difficult to compare centuries, let alone millennia. But if they were so bad back then that God felt it was necessary to drown them in a violent cataclysm, the prognosis for our own future might not be all that promising. After all, they didn’t have that much to sin with way back then, except each other.
On the other hand, what other kind of really effective sinning is there except with, for and against each other?
So perhaps they did deserve their watery fate. Still, the old Israelites made it across the desert with all their sins, and they could have used some of that water.
If we are as bad now as I, and probably you, think we are, what will be suitable retribution for us (forgetting hell for a moment)? God didn’t even send the first crowd to hell — perhaps too much water. I know, I know — I’m being blasphemous. By the way, those who have studied ancient civilizations know that in cultures thousands of years before Noah, there are several stories of floods that destroyed the world. One even has a character named Noah. Difficult for me to take epic flood stories too seriously. Sorry.
However, to be fair (which I always am), there is some geological evidence that at least in some of the stories, including the biblical account, something of the sort did happen at that time in that region. The point is that in all those cases people were deemed to be so wicked that they had to be destroyed in order to clean the place up or as punishment for the wickedness of their ways.
If we were to extrapolate all that to our own times, what on Earth can we expect to happen to us? It’s generally conceded at the moment that the world is going up in flames. “Wars and rumours of wars” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Natural disasters and threats of epidemics and viruses are almost daily occurrences.
And now we have Ebola.
In all seriousness, dear reader, have fun with all this as we will (and frankly as I tend to do), none of this is very funny. The world is a powder keg with a whole series of short fuses and no one seems to know how to stop it. There is no sign of a charismatic leader who will somehow call the warring nations together and make peace among them.
Too much to ask? You’re probably right. The stage is bare and all is “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
I tell you, if I believed in imminent divine retribution for the whole Earth, I’d be worried. But we don’t need any supernatural interference in our affairs to cause us to go the way of the dodo bird. Leave us alone and we should do a pretty good job of wiping each other out, all by ourselves, without help of any kind.
And that’s what makes me really worried.
Ed Smith is an author who lives
in Springdale. His email address is email@example.com.