And then God wept over the fate of his creation. Unfortunately, that just made things worse.
The story of the great flood in the Bible is one of the core concepts of the Abrahamic faiths. Enraged by the despicable acts he witnesses upon Earth, God commands the rain to fall for forty days and forty nights. The wicked people upon Earth who have turned their backs on their creator are drowned and only one righteous man and his family are left alive. Of all the people on Earth, only Noah was wise enough to heed the commands of his Lord and build an ark on which his family and the innocent animals of Earth could survive the flood. For the entirety of the rains, the ark stayed strong and, when the rains finally ceased, Noah released a single dove to search for land. It returned with a branch not long after, signaling the fact that it had found dry land. Noah, his family, and the animals eventually landed and began life anew in ways that were more in line with the commands of God.
It is an interesting story to say the least and a powerful morality tale about the dangers of ignoring God’s word. It is not, however, unique or even the first of its kind.
The flood tale has been seen seen in cultures around the globe and throughout all of history. The story of Gilgamesh, a Mesopotamian epic from the 7th century BC tells a similar story about a man named Utnapishtim who survives a great flood with his wife Ea sent by the Gods after they have determined that mankind is not worthy of the gift of life. Even the elements of the boat, the dove, and the twig from a tree are found within the text. Going back even further (specifically to about 1460 BCE), the Greeks were telling the story of Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, survivors of a great flood sent by Zeus after witnessing the wicked acts of men like Lycaon on Earth. Only with the assistance of Prometheus, that great savior of men, did they survive in a chest (box, boat) as the rains came down night after night.
So what does it all mean? It’s hard to say, really. It seems likely that there was, at some point, an incredible flood in the ancient cradle of civilization. It’s possible that the memory of the flood was handed down through stories that have been changed and transformed through time to suit the needs of the people telling the tale. It’s equally possible that it is pure fiction, a powerful story with the ability to transcend time and warn humanity about the dangers of excess pride.
Either way, it’s hard to deny the power of the tale. Floods and natural disasters happen every day and if you believe in a supreme deity, it can be hard to reconcile the tragic loss of human life when God is supposed to be watching over you. These stories offer up the concept of a divine plan, that there is always a reason, even if it isn’t clear to human eyes. That’s much more palatable for most people than a ruthless and chaotic world where tragedy simply strikes without reason.
If there is a God of this nature out there, I suppose it’s entirely possible that he is simply accident prone. A being of such indescribable power would likely have trouble performing even small tasks without setting the orbits of planets spinning out of control or the laws of physics into disarray.
Or maybe he just knocks over his glass of water and causes a flood for forty days and forty nights.
If you’d like to read about more flood myths from around the world, there’s a nice website that has plenty!