Write on the board:
Because this is the first story that we study from the OT and because pretty much everyone is already familiar with it, it is a good opportunity to explore some issues that come up repeatedly in the study of the OT. Weâ€™ll look at several big issues and consider how they apply to our study of the flood.
–Read 6:19 and 7:2. There are many small differences in the OT and this is how scholars explain them: The Documentary Hypothesis (i.e. JEPD). I am explaining this because you are very likely to encounter it since it is presupposition of virtually all OT scholarshipâ€”even the kind that makes it into Newsweek.
–The position thru history and of the Church today is that Moses is the author. So there is a disconnect.
(1) JEPD may be flat wrong (one of its weaknesses is that at some point an editor thought 6:19 and 7:2 could exist together, so why couldnâ€™t an author have thought this?)
(2) Traditional history could be wrong in ascribing it to Moses.
(3) Some middle ground. Many possibilities: either many texts before Moses and he was the editor, or Moses writes an original that goes through many other editors after him, or in bulk it is all Mosesâ€™ with small exceptions inserted or deleted by others (i.e., end of Deut described Mosesâ€™ death).
–Discuss how authorship issues affect us when we read. Iâ€™ll assume that your testimony of the restored gospel doesnâ€™t hinge on how many animals Noah took on the ark! Big point: to some extent it doesnâ€™t matterâ€”what matters is what the text teaches. And be grateful that we have prophets to clarify that!
–Questions or comments?
–The big question is: Did the flood really happen?
–Good reasons to believe it was universal:
(1) more natural reading of Genesis 7:19-21
(2) better to err on the side of literal readings
(3) traditional reading; no church leader has taught otherwise and most seem to assume that it is literal
(4) issue of earthâ€™s baptism
–Poor reasons to believe it was universal:
(1) because the scriptures must always be read literally
(2) because traditional readings are always right
–Good reasons to believe it was localized:
(1) â€˜earthâ€™ in Heb. Also means â€˜landâ€™ (cf. Genesis 4:14â€”Cain wasnâ€™t kicked off the planet!)
(2) Nibley said that the story was literally true from Noahâ€™s perspective, which explains above data points
(3) Moses 7:52 makes no sense unless people besides Noahâ€™s lineage survived the flood because Noah is the great-grandson of Enoch
(4) several â€˜parlor tricksâ€™: extraterrestrial water, keeping those animals alive and fed, etc.
(5) Elder John A. Widstoe (an apostle and a scientist) suggested that a heavy, all-over rain could constitute immersion for purposes of flood and baptism, which suggests a willingness to tweak the story
(6) this story isnâ€™t mentioned by prophets much at all, and the baptism angle gets very little attention; plus, would it have to be full immersion?
(7) it agrees with science
–Poor reasons to believe it was localized:
(1) Because it couldnâ€™t have really happened. (I believe in a God who can raise the deadâ€”a flood is small potatoes.)
–Cautions with either belief:
(1) cause of contention in Sunday School
(2) spending time justifying your view instead of working out â€˜the moral of the storyâ€™
(3) assuming that it matters
(4) assuming that the other side is apostate or fundie nuts
(5) assuming that you are right (i.e., being unteachable)
–To sum: I think a faithful LDS can take either view; I think it is virtually impossible to change someoneâ€™s mind during a SS lesson; I think focusing on making your case can be detrimental to understanding what the story can teach us.
–Questions or comments?
–The idea that a number could be symbolic is very foreign for us, very normal for the Hebrews.
threeâ€”symbolizes God (the Godhead has three members)
fourâ€”symbolizes the Earth (see Isaiah 11:12, Ezekiel 7:2, and Jeremiah 49:36)
fiveâ€”symbolizes the Law of Moses (the five books of Moses)
sevenâ€”symbolizes completeness or perfection (seven days in the Creation week)
tenâ€”symbolizes the Law of Moses (Ten Commandments, tithing)
twelveâ€”symbolizes all of Israel (twelve tribes)
–So when we encounter a number, we have to decide whether it is just a number, just a symbol, or both. Example: when Jesus tells us to forgive 7 * 70, I donâ€™t think that means you get to punch someone for the 491st infraction. 7 is a symbol for completeness or totality, multiplying symbolizes, well, multiplying, and factors of 10 symbolize â€˜a lot.â€™ This means that Jesus is really emphasizing the idea of complete forgiveness.
–A good way to go about trying to decide whether a number is literal, a symbol, or both is to think about other uses of that number in the scriptures.
–One example: It rains for 40 days and 40 nights (7:4). What else are there 40 of in the scriptures?
(a) period of embalming (Gen 50:3)
(b) children of Israel in wilderness (Ex 16:35)
(c) Moses on mount with Lord, fasting (Ex 24:18)
(d) spies in land of Canaan (Num 13:25)
(e) Jesus fasts (Matt 4:2)
(f) Jesus with disciples after his death (Acts 1:3)
–So: is the 40 days and nights of rain literal, symbolic, or both? If it has a symbolic element, what is it? What do we learn from it?
–I am hesitant to ever dismiss a literal reading without a solid reason.
–There seems to be a symbolic level.
–The references involve a trial, but also Godâ€™s care during that trial.
–Other symbolic numbers in the story (seven animals?)?
–Read 9:8-13 and discuss. (Note that â€˜bowâ€™ means hunting bow. What is the suggestion?)
–Notice how in 6:17-18 covenants are set in opposition to destruction.
–Number symbolism is a special type of this, but there are many others. This is one of the best ways of getting more out of the scriptures.
–Parallels to the creation story:
1:2 the deeps (tehom)………………………….7:11 the deeps (tehom)
1:2 the wind………………………………………..8:1 the wind
1:6-7 splitting of waters……………………………7:11 reuniting of waters
1:14 rhythm of nature……………………………..8:22 rhythm of nature fixed
1:26-27 create humanity………………………….6:7 wipe out humanity
1:28 divine blessing……………………………….9:7 divine blessing
1:11-12, 21, 24-25 classification of animals…..6:20, 7:14 classification of animals
1:29-30 provisioning of food…………………….6:21 provisioning of food
1:28 divine blessing ………………………………9:7 divine blessing
[Please forgive funky formatting and if you know how to do charts in WordPress, lemme know.]
So: What do we learn from these parallels?
–Noah as Gabriel:
While speaking in 1839 to members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and some Seventies prior to their leaving for missionary service, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: â€œNoah, who is Gabriel, â€¦ stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood; he was called of God to this office, and was the father of all living in his day, and to him was given the dominion. These men held keys first on earth, and then in heaven.â€? . . . After his death, Noah continued his role as a great preacher of righteousness. In his role as the angel Gabriel, he visited Zacharias to announce the birth of John, called the Baptist, and to Mary to announce her calling as mother of the Savior (see Luke 1:18â€“19, 26â€“27). Less well known is Noahâ€™s appearance to Daniel to instruct him about the coming of the Messiah in the last days (see Dan. 8:15â€“19; Dan. 9:21â€“23). Joseph B. Romney, â€œNoah, The Great Preacher of Righteousness,â€? Ensign, Feb. 1998, 22
These other activities of Noahâ€™s are intertextual events. What do they teach us about his role in this story?
–â€˜Arkâ€™ is a loanword from Egyptians; it has an underlying meaning of â€˜coffinâ€™ (relative dimensions are about right!) and is the same word used for Mosesâ€™ basket in Ex 2:3,5. (Note that it is not the same word as â€˜arkâ€™ of the covenant.) Can we learn anything from comparing Noahâ€™s ark with Mosesâ€™ ark? Interesting idea of salvation through death; waters are chaos which the Lord or intermediaries (women!) protect us from.
–(If time) Matthew 24:37: What does this mean?
–(If time) Moses 7:32-47: What does Enochâ€™s vision add to our understanding of Noahâ€™s experience?
–If time, read Hebrews 11:7.
–For further study: Ether 2:15-25: The brother of Jared builds a boat. 1 Nephi 17:8-19: Nephi builds a ship. How does he compare with Noah?
–These three boats are the only things in the scriptures besides the temple that has a â€˜divine blueprint.â€™ Why?
Ask: What moral lessons do you learn from this story? My thoughts:
(1) God will not allow wickedness to take over. This can be great comfort given current conditions. (Read 1 Nephi 3:7)
(2) Noahâ€™s obedience is a huge issue in this story. Note that he chose this despite all that was going on around him. (And he probably looked reeeeaaally stupid building a boat that big.) Ask: What is the tipping point in ensuring your own obedience? What makes it hard for you to obey and how do you overcome those things? My thought: focusing on One Specific Thing in Church can let God tell you what you need to know and improve your obedience.
(3) God is the creator and is in control of the creation. Ask: Does knowing this make any concrete difference in your life?
(4) Idea of the â€˜righteous remnantâ€™ (also Lehiâ€™s people, etc.) They will be preserved by Godâ€™s hand. Ask: Do we think of ourselves this way? Should we?
(5) Note that this story is all about the wicked but they are barely mentioned. Why? (Maybe because we are supposed to identify with Noah.)
(6) Preparednessâ€”spiritual and temporal. Note that the whole reason this happens is because some people were not spiritually prepared, but the key to surviving it is temporal preparedness as well:
â€œWe all need to build a personal ark, to fortify ourselves against this rising tide of evil, to protect ourselves and our families against the floodwaters of iniquity around us. And we shouldnâ€™t wait until it starts raining, but prepare in advance. This has been the message of all the prophets in this dispensation, including President Hunter, as well as the prophets of old. Unfortunately we donâ€™t always heed the clear warnings of our prophets. We coast complacently along until calamity strikes, and then we panic. When it starts raining, it is too late to begin building the ark. However, we do need to listen to the Lordâ€™s spokesmen. We need to calmly continue to move ahead and to prepare for what will surely come. We need not panic or fear, for if we are prepared, spiritually and temporally, we and our families will survive any flood. Our arks will float on a sea of faith if our works have been steadily and surely preparing for the future. The key is to accept the invitation of our prophet, whom we sustained this morning, â€œto live with ever more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially the love and hope and compassion He displayedâ€? –W. Don Ladd, â€œMake Thee an Ark,â€? Ensign, Nov. 1994, 28
This story is a good example of a precious treasure from the OTâ€”is needs special handling, but will yield great things. We should be aware of some of the critical issues, but they need not be the focus of our study. When we focus on what the text teaches (regardless of who wrote it or how literal it is), we learn that God protects those who are true and faithful.