Once upon a time, God looked down on the Earth that he’d created and saw that everyone on it had become very, very naughty. He read their minds and saw that even their thoughts were naughty. This really made God mad because he loved them all and had created a plan for all of their lives, and clearly none of them were following the plan.
Now, God was omniscient, which is a big word that means he knew everything there was to know. So he knew way back when he created the people that they were going to turn out wicked, so he probably shouldn’t have been so surprised. Maybe he knew it all along, but he didn’t know know it. Like how one “knows” one shouldn’t eat too many sweets, but one doesn’t know know it until one actually does it and becomes ill.
Regardless, God was deeply troubled, and he regretted having created the people in the first place. So he decided to kill every last one of them.
He also decided to kill every other living thing on Earth. The animals and plants may not have been wicked, but maybe God was so angry that he wasn’t thinking clearly. Have you ever been so angry that you broke a toy, even though it wasn’t the toy that made you cross? God’s decision to kill every living thing instead of just humans was a bit like that.
There was a man named Noah, however, whom God liked. When God remembered Noah, he backtracked a little (God is a bit forgetful sometimes!). He decided not to wipe the slate completely clean, but to push a sort of “reset button” on life. So God went to Noah and said, “I have decided to kill everyone.” Then, God gave Noah very detailed instructions on how to build a boat. He told Noah to take a pair of every living animal into the boat, and also Noah’s sons and their wives. But then he remembered that there were certain animals whom he liked to smell burning, so he made a point to tell Noah to bring seven pairs of those animals, so that Noah could kill them later, so God could smell them burning right away.
Noah did exactly as God asked. If he thought perhaps God was being unfair, we don’t know. If he was sad about all of his daughters and friends and relations who were going to be drowned, we don’t know. We don’t know what Noah said when people asked him why he was building a boat big enough for two of every living thing (and fourteen of some of them), or why he was building it on land and not near the water. Whatever Noah said to them, it must have been pretty clever because nobody suspected anything! We don’t know if Noah warned anyone that they were all about to die. I’m not sure what I would have done. What would you have done, children?
One thing that might have puzzled Noah was how to bring pairs of animals that were too small to see without microscopes. Or the vicious, poisonous animals. Or the parasites that were living inside and on all of them. Maybe God reached inside the bodies of all those animals and killed all but two of every tapeworm, trypanosome, and blood fluke!
We don’t know what Noah did with animals that can reproduce asexually, like bacteria, aphids, parasitic wasps, and boa constrictors. Maybe he only brought one of those–that ark was probably pretty crowded with all 300,000 species of beetles! That’s over half a million beetles! Yuck!
We also don’t know if Noah’s sons and their wives were naughty or not. They probably were, since earlier God saw that absolutely everyone was naughty except for Noah. But they got a free pass anyway. Bet they were glad about that, those naughty boys and girls!
Just as he’d promised, God sent a great flood. He made it rain for forty days and forty nights! He also opened up giant springs underwater and let water in that way, too! (Don’t look for them now–they’re not there anymore.) The water covered up every bit of land, including the mountaintops, and everything died except those lucky ones in the ark.
Here is how God killed the puppies: when the rains came and the oceans swelled, water covered the land. The puppies didn’t know how to seek high ground, so they just ran around in circles until the waters came. Once they grew tired of swimming, their heads went under and they drowned. Drowning is one of the most painful ways to die, but it only takes a minute or two to lose consciousness, so the pain didn’t last very long. As you’ll soon see, the puppies were the lucky ones because they died quickly!
Here is how God killed the kitties: the kitties were smart enough to climb trees, but eventually the waters covered the trees as well. Kitties don’t swim as well as puppies do, so they drowned pretty quickly after that.
Here is how God killed the ducklings: the ducklings could float without any effort, so they didn’t die. At first. Soon, though, the weren’t able to find any fresh water because the rain had mixed with the salty sea, making the water undrinkable. So the ducklings died of thirst, which is a much longer and more unpleasant way to die.
Here is how God killed the pretty birdies: the pretty birdies could fly, so at first they were okay, but eventually their little wings got tired and they fell to their deaths.
We don’t know exactly how God killed the fishies, but he did. Maybe the fresh water from the rain mixed with the salt water from the sea and threw off the balance of salt and the fishies drowned slowly.
What about the people, you ask? Well, here’s how God killed the mommies and daddies and children and grandmas and grandpas and babies: when the flood waters came, many of them could not swim, especially the babies. They drowned quickly. Others could swim, so they spent a few hours in terror, wondering why God had forsaken them before they died. Others found things that floated, like tree branches, so they might have lasted for days before succumbing to dehydration or exposure. Sill others owned boats and were able to climb onto them.
Now, the people with boats had all the fresh water they wanted from the rain. As long as they were able to bail out their boats, they could stay alive. For food, they could just pluck dead animals directly from the water. You might think they were the luckiest of all, but you’d be wrong! For one thing, they had plenty of time to contemplate the horrors they’d seen and wonder if they were doomed as well. They had weeks and weeks to sit and eat dead fish and think out how everyone they’d ever known or loved had drowned.
You might say, “But surely all the dead animals would have rotted and people wouldn’t be able to eat them, so they starved to death after a few weeks!” And you’d be right, except for one thing: God had killed all of the bacteria and other decomposers, too. So those dead fish didn’t rot one little bit!
What finally killed those sailors? We don’t know for certain, but we do know that God killed them, because the Bible says so. Maybe they died of sadness. Maybe God just stopped their hearts in their chests. How would you have killed them, children?
After a little over a year, the Earth was finally hospitable to life again, so Noah and his family came out of the ark. They probably smelled pretty bad! You might think the first thing Noah would do would be to build a house, or figure out what to do with all the unrotted animal corpses lying around everywhere. But instead Noah built an altar, killed some animals, and set their body parts on fire so that God could smell them. And God sure was glad he did!
God was so happy that decided that he would never kill the entire human race ever again! He recited to Noah a little poem he’d written; I bet Noah was impressed with God’s creativity! Then he made sure to tell Noah that he would be very angry if people killed other people, and that if people killed people, they should themselves be killed. Noah didn’t point out the horrible irony of those words coming from someone who’d just committed universal genocide. Maybe he didn’t want to spoil the moment! “Irony” is a fancy word that means a contradiction between what someone says or does, and the context in which they say or do it. Can you spot the irony in what God said?
To show Noah that he was serious, God created the science of optics, so that when sunlight strikes raindrops at an angle, the differential refraction of light on their curved surfaces would break apart into their constituent wavelengths. Neat! God told Noah that whenever he saw a rainbow, he would remember his promise not to kill everyone. I hope we don’t go too many days without rainbows, don’t you? Like some grandmas and grandpas, God is a little forgetful sometimes.
The next thing Noah did was plant some grapes, so he could make wine. As soon as he made the wine, he got very drunk, took all his clothes off, and fell asleep. Noah’s son Ham saw him lying there naked and told his brothers about it. “Hey, guys,” he said. “Dad is naked. We should do something about it.” Ham’s brothers agreed. They didn’t want to see their father naked, so they walked backward and covered him up without looking. When Noah woke up, he was angry! He put a curse on Canaan, who was Ham’s son because Ham had seen Noah naked. He said that Canaan would be a slave to his brothers!
We don’t know why Noah did that, since Canaan wasn’t even there when it happened, or why he singled out Canaan from Ham’s sons and made him be a slave. Maybe Noah was still drunk and was just saying things that didn’t make any sense! Or maybe he had a really bad hangover and was just grumpy. A “hangover” is when grownups drink too much and then feel sick the next day, with a tummyache and a headache. Sometimes grownups regret drinking too much and promise to stop drinking, just like when God promised to stop killing everyone. Sadly, sometimes grownups can’t stop themselves from drinking. Maybe they should have a rainbow of their own, to remind themselves!
After all of those crazy things happened, Noah lived another 350 years, and then he died. Noah’s sons went off and had kids of their own, and their kids had kids. Some of those people had funny names, like “Gomer” and “Nimrod” and “Arphaxad.” They went and covered the Earth again and had lots of adventures of their own. And for a while, God was happy… until the people started building a tower.
But that’s a story for another time.
Thanks for listening, children!
1. If you were an omniscient, omnipotent being, and you saw that something you’d created had gone wrong, what would you do?
a) work with them to make them better people.
b) change them all so that they weren’t wicked anymore.
c) not have made them that way in the first place.
d) kill them all.
2. If you decided to kill every living thing on the planet, how would you do it?
a) simply make them cease to exist all at once; that way they wouldn’t suffer.
b) I wouldn’t! Killing everyone is a bad idea!
c) make them sterile. That way they could live out their natural lives. As an eternal being, a few extra years wouldn’t matter.
d) send a giant flood that causes an intense amount of damage and suffering.
3. After leaving the ark, everyone living was a first cousin or closer relation. If you’d been someone in the next generation, which recessive genetic disease would you choose to have?
b) reduced fertility
c) Ellis-van Creveld disease
d) Huntington’s disease
e) Marfan syndrome
f) cystic fibrosis
g) Tay-Sachs disease
h) all of the above
i) other: ________________
4. If you were Noah, how would you bring blue whales onto the ark? What about sharks? What about sea creatures that can only survive at great depths? What about animals who reproduce more than once a year? Explain your answers.
5. Why do you think that Noah got angry about being seen naked and cursed his grandson Canaan? What might the connection have been?
6. How do you explain the discrepancy between this story and the concept of an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God? Show your work!