Hespeler, 11 March, 2018 © Scott McAndless
Genesis 9:8-17, Hebrews 8:6-11, Psalm 136:1-16
he ancient Babylonians had a myth about a great universal flood sent by their gods to destroy the life of all the humans on the face of the earth that they had made. Only one man and his family made it through – survived by building a great ship and riding it out. And if that story sounds a bit familiar it should. It is a basic plot that I am sure all of us would recognize if we know anything about the Bible.
The ancient Babylonian story was not exactly the same, of course. The hero of the story was named Utnapishtim instead of Noah – a fact that I share with you mostly because I just like to say “Utnapishtim.” And, of course, the deity involved in the Babylonian story was not the God of Israel but rather a collection of ancient Babylonian gods. But the story corresponds so closely that most scholars would say that the biblical story is dependant on the much older Utnapishtim story.
This is, in itself, not all that surprising. The ancient Hebrews were a part of the ancient world in which they lived and they knew the stories of their neighbours. They quite naturally developed their own versions of those stories which they told for various reasons. Some of these stories they told to work out their understanding of ancient events – and there may well be ancient events behind this one – the memories of some ancient flood that was likely not universal but that devastated an entire region. But these stories weren’t just about things that