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In Genesis, it is inherent that power always originates with God, but it is also possible for people to get power from God indirectly. Noah, an ordinary man, is tasked by God with building a giant ship capable of holding beings of every species without sinking during a severe flood. Obviously, this would be a very difficult task for a normal family, so Noah has to gain the power necessary to complete the task, but God never explicitly gives it to him. Noah’s devotion is what gives him the power to carry through with the project. He is devoted to serving God, and wants to please him; this extreme devotion is what gives him the stamina to carry through with such an arduous task. However, the book fails to explain why Noah was chosen to take on this task. The Bible never explicitly states what Noah did to be chosen to build the ark; nothing sets him apart from the other commoners alive at the time in which the story is set.
Noah’s father believed that he had potential since his birth, saying that Noah “shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands” (5:29). He is likely foreshadowing that Noah will complete a great project; one larger than life that had never been completed before. His father likely did not know at the time that he would do this for God himself. When building the ark, God gives Noah very exact requirements that Noah must follow meticulously to make the creation perfect. He is told to “make it with lower, second, and third decks” and to make “the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits” (6:15-16). Given that a cubit is approximately one and a half feet (“Convert Units”), Noah is taking on a task bigger than any other attempted by the few humans to have lived before him. God’s exactitude when giving Noah directions could be part of what drives him to finish the project. Because Noah is just a mortal, he probably would not know much about building a giant boat, but God gives him direction and helps him determine what he needs to do to finish the ark. However, God never seems to instruct Noah on how to gather the animals; the animals all just “went into the ark with Noah” (6:9). This part of the text leaves the reader without a real answer as to how Noah managed to gather pairs of every species on earth and load them onto the ark with ease in only the first seven days of the flood, with the only logical explanation being that his devotion gave him the stamina to do so.
Perhaps there’s something about Noah that’s even more surprising than his ability to build an ark almost entirely by himself: at the time of the flood, he “was six hundred years old” (7:6). Even at this age, an age not possible for humans to reach, he was still able to carry out the last part of what God tasked him with. The only reason Noah could’ve possibly lived as long as he did is because God gave him the power to do so. Noah had already proven his devotion to God at this point by building the ark to the specifications God laid out, and for waiting patiently for the flood to hit. Noah, however, still had to carry out the remainder of his duty. He had to rebuild civilization and work with his family to completely repopulate the earth and establish his bloodline. After the flood was over, Noah further proved his devotion to God by building “an altar to the Lord”, and never changing the fact that he had unwavering devotion to God (8:20).
Once the animals are off the ark and Noah and his family begin to settle into the land, God tells them to “[b]e fruitful and multiply” (9:1). By telling Noah and his family to procreate, God is leaving the rest of humanity in the hands of Noah’s bloodline. This is a supreme display of trust on God’s part; he believes that Noah’s descendants will be better than the humans he had to eradicate, and likely assumes that they will be as devoted as Noah. Because God is so optimistic about Noah’s descendents, he tells him that he will ensure that “never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood,” implying that Noah’s descendents are safe from disaster (9:11). However, God is only promising not to bring a devastating flood on earth, leaving all other means of destruction as fair game if he really does get fed up with humanity again. In a final thanks to Noah for his devotion, God allows him to help rebuild humanity for another three hundred fifty years, before he dies at age nine hundred fifty. God kept Noah alive for such a long time because he knew that he deserved to stay alive for his devotion. Noah’s devotion led him to do what God wanted done, and as a result, God gave him power above other human beings–both to allow him to finish the ark, and to help him with rebuilding society with his children, which may be even more time consuming than building the ark itself.
One question still remains unanswered: what did Noah do in the first place to be chosen as the best person out of a plethora of other humans? The Bible says very clearly that he “found favor in the sight of the Lord,” but never mentions what he did to earn God’s respect (6:8). Prior to this, God determines that “the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth,” but similarly, he doesn’t mention exactly what humans have done that is so wicked (6:5). Although stories such as that of Cain and Abel and that of Eve eating the forbidden fruit have already been told, you would think that God would have decided to eradicate mankind long ago if he believed humans to be truly corrupt and irredeemable. There is no clear reason for which God would allow the birth of hundreds of descendants since Cain killed Abel; you would think he would bring a worthy human to earth, and simply ask them to kill those who continuously sin. Because Noah is never mentioned as being special or above others for any specific reason, God’s preference probably isn’t only towards Noah. He is one of many people who are righteous and do not commit heinous sins, but God had to choose one. There are simply too many people listed in Genesis who are never mentioned as doing anything sinful for all of humanity to be a torrid mess.
When you look at every aspect of how Noah is presented in the Bible, it is actually very easy to determine that he is not special. He is simply chosen because God needs to choose somebody to do the job. Noah is extremely devoted, and that gives him power, but much of the power that God gives him is not out of the ordinary for that time. Although Noah’s power made him able to live for nine hundred fifty years, he was already five hundred years old when he began to build the ark. Although God nearly doubled his life span after this, it is not as much of an honor considering his prior longevity and that of others. Even Enosh died at age nine hundred five, and Seth at nine hundred twelve years old. In spite of all this, his devotion, at least according to the Bible, is the only reason why humanity continues to live on today. Had Noah’s devotion failed him, he would have either declined God’s request, or failed to properly execute it, and God would have eradicated humanity and there would have been no other humans left to repopulate the earth. Additionally, Noah did manage to influence God: something most mortals fail to do. Noah’s devotion, which gave him the power to build the ark, also gave him the power to convince God to spare earth from another catastrophic flood. Although God can still end the lives of all beings in another way, it is extremely important that Noah was able to exercise any level of influence over God; a divine creature with power over all living things.
Noah’s devotion, which empowered him to create the ark and fulfill God’s wishes, is the only biblical rationale behind why human beings still exist. Had Noah not been devoted to God, and refused or failed to build the ark, God would have destroyed all people, leaving nobody behind to restore humanity. Noah was not a particularly special man, but because of what he did and how he used his power, he inadvertently convinced God to never flood the earth again, and even makes his bloodline the root for all future humans. Noah is extremely devoted, and as a reward for his unwavering fidelity, he is given power above almost every other mortal to live.
“Convert Units – Measurement Unit Converter.” ConvertUnits.com. Web. 9 Oct 2016.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible. Fourth Edition. Oxford University Press, 2010.
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