Hardly was the work of creation completed when God decided to destroy what he had made. “The earth became corrupt before God,” as the Torah tells us in Genesis 6:9; “the earth was filled with lawlessness.” And so, as the familiar story goes, God told Noah to build an ark and sent the flood to drown every man and animal who had not been granted refuge inside. When the waters receded and Noah, his family and the animals left the ark, God promised never to send such a flood again, and the rainbow was the sign of his covenant.
The Noah story has inspired puzzled theologians and commentators throughout the ages. What kind of deity exterminates his own creatures on a whim? Did God not know – how could he not? – that the human beings whom he himself had created would act lawlessly? As we look back through our own bloody history, and even at the pandemic ravaging the world today, can we be certain that God has kept his promise?
The Bible is not the only sacred scripture that imagines a global destruction when the world was young; other traditions also describe similar catastrophes, even floods. Among these, the ancient Iranian account is not only especially interesting to compare with the Noah story, but has a particular contemporary resonance.
Read the whole story from 2020 in The Jerusalem Post.