Yesterday I mentioned the story of Noah briefly in the context of being within site of Mt Ararat. In the time since, at the end of a very long day yesterday, when I was back at the hotel after a roundabout walk after a late dinner of goat cheese salad (goat cheese encrusted with pistachio, greens, and grapefruit) and musaka, I went back and reread the story of Noah. Really read it. A few things made an impression on me to ponder.
First, in the Bible it is shown as a typical paragraph-by-paragraph story. However, when I read it carefully it was clear that like many traditional stories it had a nearly lyrical quality. Not when it was talking about the wickedness of man, but when it talked about who Noah was supposed to bring with him. Repeated references to animals, birds, and creeping things is one great example. There are other places where there is some sort of repetition. It gives the story a feel for how it would be easy to share in an oral form, which at some point before it was written down it surely was.
Second, while the first reference to animals talks about taking them two-by-two and the last reference to animals talks about taking them two-by-two, chapter 7 verse 2 actually talks about seven pairs of all clean animals and a pair of animals that are not clean. It is almost as if when the seventh chapter was written or translated there was something different in mind than when the sixth chapter was written or translated. But even later in the seventh chapter it was back to two-by-two. So, I see this as an interesting mystery of why there was a different expression.
It is also interesting to see how the Lord shut Noah in. My image had always been Noah and his sons shutting the “door” to the ark. But the Lord shutting Noah in gives a sense of finality and security to the whole thing that might not be there if Noah and his sons had been responsible for themselves.
Two final thoughts. First, there are many numbers. Numbers of animals. Numbers of years Noah is old. Number of days till the flood and of the flood. The month and day of certain events. It gives a sense of precision that is interesting and I find it interesting given that for a time every creative writing I did began with a date.
Second, in the process of reaching reading about the covenant that God made with Noah and his sons, there is something lyrical about part of the promise. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” It reads sort of like Ecclesiastes where we read about a time for this and a time for that. Full of contrasts. A sign that the world is supposed to be full of contrasts and that contrasts are part of the natural rhythm of life.
Even in my time in Yerevan I have experienced the contrasts of hot and cold, not many people being up when I run in the morning at 7 AM and many people at 10:30 PM, the heat of the day and the cooler evenings. The pressures of work and the amazing experience of learning about my colleagues. The many, many blessings that I have received.