BACKGROUND NOTES (& OTHER NEAT INFO)
The story of intrepid Noah and his incredible ark is found in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis.
Introductory notes on Genesis in the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB)/NRSV call the flood and creation stories 'primeval'
history. Stories under this heading focus on "all of humanity," whereas other Genesis stories deal with "ancestral history,"
meaning about Abraham and his descendants.
Is it really history?
Genesis is the first book of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, also referred to as the Torah (NOAB).
This edition's introductory notes on the Pentateuch offer some good perspective on the question in our subheading:
"...in contrast to modern editing, which is fundamentally interested in articulating a single viewpoint, the redaction [fancy
word for editing] of the Torah, like the editing of other ancient works, was not interested in creating a purely consistent,
singular perspective but incorporated a variety of voices and perspectives.
"The ultimate result of this redaction, which most likely took place during the Babylonian exile (586 - 538 BCE) or soon thereafter
in the early Persian period, was the creation of a very long book, narrating what must have been felt to be the formative
period of Israel from the period of the creation of the world through the death of Moses."
Big happy family of flood stories
Lots has been written on the similarities between the tale of Noah's ark and other ancient stories of a deluge. The NOAB notes
for example, that "the Mesopotamian Atrahasis epic [a precursor of the epic of Gilgamesh] was written hundreds of years before
chs 1 - 11, yet it parallels numerous particulars of the biblical narrative as it describes the creation of the world, a flood,
and the vow of the gods (here plural) not to destroy life with a flood again."
For more detail on the Gilgamesh and related ancient near eastern deluge stories, click here.
The NOAB's footnotes at Gen 7.17 point out that "flood imagery seems to have been a powerful image of chaos worldwide. Though
many world traditions speak of floods, there is no geological evidence of a global flood of the sort described here."
Great, but how does Noah fit into the Christian story?
To answer this, we have to look at the body of images (or metaphors) and story cycles (or 'myths' in the Frye-esque sense
of basic narratives) shared by the story of Noah and the rest of the Bible. And for that, we need look no further than The
Great Code, by Canadian writer and scholar Northrop Frye.
The dual nature of water imagery
"The Deluge itself is either a demonic image, in the sense of being an image of divine wrath and vengeance, or an image of
salvation, depending on whether we look at it from the point of view of Noah and his family or from the point of view of
everyone else...in one aspect of the symbolism we are all fish in a symbolically submarine world of illusion," Frye writes.
"Hence both Noah's flood (I Peter 3: 21) and the Red Sea crossing (I Corinthians 10:2) are regarded in the New Testament as
types [sort of like prototypes] of the sacrament of baptism, where the one being baptized is symbolically drowned in the old
world and awakens to a new world on the opposite shore."
Where there's water, there's fish
Frye adds, "We can now, perhaps, understand why there should be so much fishing in the Gospels, and why Jesus himself should
be so often associated in later legend with a fish or dolphin... "
What about all those cute little animals?
Writes Frye, "Two versions of the Nativity are given in Matthew and in Luke: tradition has never had any difficulty in adding
Matthew's wise men to Luke's shepherd, but has adopted Luke's "manger" in preference to Matthew's "house " (2:11)... The
manger, with its fertility overtones, contains a vestige of Noah's ark in the animals inhabiting it."
What about the big boat?
Frye explains: "Noah's ark, floating on a drowned world and coming to rest on top of a mountain, a gigantic seed of a new
world with all the future of human and animal life in it, completes the first great cycle of human existence."
How about that pretty rainbow
According to the footnotes in the NOAB at the end of Noah's voyage at Gen. 9:13: "This is the first 'covenant' explicitly
described as such in the Bible, and it encompasses all of humanity [as well as the animal world and the earth]. A "covenant"
is a formal agreement, often between a superior and inferior party... This agreement is often sealed through ceremonies. In
this case, God sets his weapon, the bow (Ps 7.12 - 13; Hab 3.9 - 11), in the sky facing away from humanity as a sign of God's
commitment not to flood the earth again."
Lots of wonderful images from our friends at Biblical Art on the WWW. A couple of my favourites are:
* this Phillip Ratner sculpture
* this piece by Marc Chagall.
Okay. There's absolutely no link between GF Handel's famous Water Music and the Noah story. Except for H20. And I happen to
really like this piece. Here are a few minutes of the Hornpipe from Handel's Water Music. Look down to the 'Hear the Music' section and click the underlined text for Water Music. Enjoy!
Time for a little Can-con. I'm still stuck on Montreal poet AM Klein. Test your Biblical allusion skills with this piece,
"A Psalm or Prayer — Praying His Portion with Beasts" from Poems, 1944:
The better to understand Thy ways,
Divinity I would divine,
Let me companion all my days
The more-than-human beasts of Thine;
The sheep whose little woolly throat
Taught the child Isaac sacrifice;
The dove returning to Noah's boat,
Sprigless, and with tearful eyes;
The ass instructing Balaam
The discourse of inspired minds;
And David's lost and bleating lamb,
And Solomon's fleet lovely hinds;
Enfold me in their fold, and let
Me learn their mystic parables —
Of food that desert ravens set,
And of the lion's honeyed fells.
Above all, teach me blessedness
Of him, Azazel, that dear goat,
Sent forth into the wilderness
To hallow it with one sad note.
[There's a great clue, I think, to the key point of this poem from the author of 'Portrait of the Poet as Landscape' in 'The
Scholar,' in Hath Not a Jew from 1940. Both poems can be found in AM Klein, Selected Poems (Toronto: U of T Press,
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What does the flood represent?
2. How can it be seen as a destructive image?
3. Have you ever felt pressured in a wrong direction by forces beyond your own control? How did you deal with this or keep
4. How can the flood be seen as a symbol of baptism?
5. What does the rainbow represent?
6. What is a covenant?
7. Have your ever had to make an important deal with someone. What was it. What was your end of the deal. Was it hard to keep
8. Name some Bible stories with lots of water (or large rivers) in them. [Creation, Garden of Eden, Job, Jonah, Calling the
Disciples/Galilee, Revelation 22/New Jerusalem/river of the water of life.]
9. Name some Bible stories with boats in them. [Jonah, Moses' reed basket, Calling of Disciples/fishing boat, preaching from
boat, revelation to disciples at John 21/more fishing boat , Acts 27/ Paul gets shipwrecked.]
10. Name other Bible stories that feature animals. [David, Garden of Eden, 23rd Psalm, Christmas story.]
11. Name some Bible stories where the protagonist goes through rough times, then bounces back again. [Prodigal Son, Job,
Please find below suggested workshops for this unit. For each one, when you are in real time with the children:
1. Quickly review or recap the story with them before starting activity. Each week, see how much more detail each group of
kids can supply on the story they've been studying.
2. Link or explain your activity to the current story.
Arts 1 -- bar of soap carvings.
Why: I figure those passengers on the ark with opposable thumbs who could whittle would need something to do to pass the time.
How about whittling. Revisit this great old art form to get the kids to sculpt an image of hope or trust in God that would
sustain them through a long dark voyage.
Materials: cheap bars of soap (3 for $1 at dollar store), kitchen knives of varying sharpness depending on the age of the
Arts 2 -- pom pom animals.
Make pairs of animals using pom poms, googly eyes, cut out extras from paper scraps.
Instructions easily found by searching through Google on internet.
Material: bag of mixed size pom poms, googly eyes, white glue (or glue gun).
Arts 3 -- make pipe cleaner animals.
I love pipe cleaners. They are so bendy and stick together well without much glue being needed often times.
Instructions also available by searching thru Google on internet.
Materials: chenille stems (lots, various colours), scissors to trim some stems, glue, eye.
Kitchen -- Fish and chips
Well, what else are you likely to whip up when spending 40 days and night on the water.
To make this activity more interesting than plunking frozen chunks on a baking sheet, you could try:
- rolling fish pieces in crumb mixture and then baking.
- wash, peel and cut potatoes into slices, wedges or normal ff shapes (find one of those cool ff cutters!) and bake on a baking
Turn this into a fellowship opportunity by serving Noah's 40-day Fish & Chips after church.
Computer -- Where's Noah
This game comes with Fall of Jericho from Sunday Software. A Where's Waldo type concept. Has timer and level of difficulty
dimensions, I believe. It's fun.
Game 1 -- Animal Crackers.
Like the game 'Fruit Salad.' Have the kids form a circle. Number the kids off in 2s, 3s, or 4s -- whatever fits. Tell them
1s are giraffes, 2s are lions, etc. (or let them define.) A caller says, Giraffes hop on one foot. Giraffes go around circle
on one foot. You can combine, so 'Lions and bears do crab walk.' When you call 'Animal Crackers,' all the cabin fevered animals
on the boat go zoo-ey and run around the circle showing what they would do when they found dry land.
Game 2 -- Design your own Noah board game.
On a large piece of poster board, sketch a race track style oval. Draw an inside edge for the oval. Mark off in approx 1 inch
squares. (You can try a more complex shape like figure 8 or wobbly circle if you feel more adventurous. Colour in the squares
(or save this for the kids to do).
Make instruction card for centre of board. These are the cards players will pick up when they roll the dice. You will write
simple instructions on recipe cards. Or you can type and print off. Short strips would be fine.
Here's the text for 14 sample game cards:
* God sends flood to make a fresh start on earth. Move ahead 2 spaces.
* God finds Noah, a good man, who will build a large ark and take care of all the animals. Move ahead 5 spaces.
* Building ark is pretty complex and tricky. Move ahead 3.
* Collecting 2 of every kind of animal is a big job. Move ahead 3.
* Rain falls for 40 long days and nights. Move ahead 1.
* But at least you've got a seat on the ark. Move ahead 4.
* You're getting just a bit weary of feeding hungry animals and smelly hay. Move back 1.
* Those cows are really starting to smell. Move back 1.
* Dogs are chasing cats and it's raining cats and dogs. Move back 2.
* But those baby lambs are pretty cute. Move ahead 2.
* You have moments of doubt, worrying if the rain will ever stop and if the boat will ever land. Move back 4.
* Raven keeps coming back (that means it can't find a tree to land on). Move back 2.
* Dove comes back with an olive branch in its beak. Hurray, dry land is out there somewhere! Move ahead 4.
* God sets a rainbow in the sky as a sign of promise that from this moment on, God will protect all humans and animals in
the whole world. Move ahead 10!
Once you get your cards made, you can decorate your game board with lots of colour. YOu will need counters (little plastic
animals?!) and a die or spinner. If you have a lot of kids, think about making 2 game sets.
Beat Box -- make up rhythm routine to go with story.
Divide class into 4 groups. Brainstorm with 4 movement and voice parts to go with 4 key point of story. Practice parts one
at a time. Try parts together in a round for full routine. Have older class perform for younger or during worship if you just
Ideas for 4 parts.
1. Say, 'Build the boat, build the boat,' 2x. Make hammering, paint/pitch sealing, board sawing motions.
2. Drip drop, drip drop (4x, increase in intensity, slap hands on tops of thighs).
3. Coo coo coo coo (4x). Make wings flying motion, twig in beak(?)
4. Rainbow, ahh, rainbow ahh (2x). Raise arms straight up over head, pull arms down to shoulders on each side to draw rainbow.
** You could easily expand the number of animal sounds in this routine.
Act out 1-act play, "Noah, a man who walked with God, and a few of his new best friends."
Click here for the script.
Review, Activities from Noah 1
* Arts 1/plasticine animals
* Arts 2/papier mache boats
* Kitchen/banana boats
* Computer/digital photo album of the trip