601 Animals per Square Foot

Everyone remembers the story of Noah and the Ark…two of every animal, right? Nope. In reality it is seven pairs of “clean beasts” and one pair of unclean beasts, and seven pairs of birds. So the whole “two by two” thing is basically wrong. Also, at this point in the Bible, there has been no indication about what differentiates clean animals from unclean animals. The fact that we get this information later in the Bible, such as in Deuteronomy which is obsessed with cleanliness and purification, casts some light on when the book of Genesis was actually written: concurrently or sometime after books that are placed later in the Torah. This anachronism casts some serious doubt on the veracity of the text, from a literary criticism perspective, since we know we have an unreliable author/narrator, since he is coloring his report of history with the knowledge and cultural norms of his time period.

Anyway, God appears to tell Noah that the flood is coming in seven days, and will last forty days and forty nights, and will obliterate all of creation that is not in the boat. Noah doesn’t protest or plead for mercy on creation, he just gets to work on the boat. Then weirdly, we do get the “two by two” line that we all know from the sunday school song, and “after a seventh of the days” whatever the hell that means, earth gets flooded. The water comes from “the fountains of the great deep” despite the fact that science has definitively shown that there are no giant, earth-flooding reserves of water under the crust of the Earth (or empty pockets where they would have been) but just dirt, rocks, minerals, magma, et cetera. God chivalrously closes the door behind Noah and his family, and it starts raining.

About the severity of the flood, the text says:

20 fifteen cubits upwards have the waters become mighty, and the mountains are covered;

which, to me, looks like it means the water was 15 cubits high, or about 22.5 feet. However, looking around at other translations and secondary sources, people tend to interpret that as 22.5 feet above the highest mountains. I think that’s the wrong way to read it, since the “and the mountains are covered” is an independent clause that comes after “fifteen cubits have the waters become mighty,” but people go through mental gymnastics to make the text say what they want it to say, and water that is 30,000 feet high sounds a lot mightier than 22.5 feet, so that interpretation has stuck.

The next couple verses are a sad and terrifying account of genocide, for which we never received any concrete justification:

21 and expire doth all flesh that is moving on the earth, among fowl, and among cattle, and among beasts, and among all the teeming things which are teeming on the earth, and all mankind;

22 all in whose nostrils [is] breath of a living spirit — of all that [is] in the dry land — have died.

23 And wiped away is all the substance that is on the face of the ground, from man unto beast, unto creeping thing, and unto fowl of the heavens; yea, they are wiped away from the earth, and only Noah is left, and those who [are] with him in the ark;

I have to make a point here about something that never occurred to me until now. What happened to sea creatures? It appears they were spared the mass extinction. Why? A divine oversight? Intentionally? God’s universal retribution is either negligently incomplete or strangely arbitrary. I don’t see a reason to spare fish but destroy every puppy and kitten on Earth. Israel! Bow before your god, Jehovah, puppy killer.

After these sobering verses about wiping out all of creation, we get the info that the waters last 150 days, then the chapter ends. Where the fuck does 30,000 feet of water go? I need a mathematician to figure out for me what volume of water that represents. The circumference of the Earth covered 30,000 feet high. Here’s my math formula: This story = Bullshit. I have absolutely no clue how anyone can believe this is literally true. It is utterly ridiculous, and scientifically impossible.

P.S.

I was thinking more about yesterday’s post, specifically the size of the ark. It is supposed to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high, or 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet long. That sounds large, but when you are supposedly packing multiple pairs of all of creation inside, it is stupidly, ridiculously small. The total surface area of a boat that size, containing three decks, is 101,250 square feet. That sounds big, until you consider that the largest zoo in the world, the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha Nebraska requires over 130 acres to hold about 17,000 animals in 960 species. 130 acres is 5,662,800 square feet, which is FIFTY-SIX times the size of the ark. Oh, and by the way, the current estimate for the number of species on earth is 8.7 million. So in a boat that is 1.8% the size of a zoo that holds 17,000 animals, Noah would have to fit somewhere between 17.4 million and 60.9 million animals (depending on which ones are “clean” and which ones are “unclean”). Sounds a bit, you know, implausible. Seriously, how is Biblical literalism a thing?

P.P.S. What about microbes? Did Noah round them up? Did they hitch a ride on the Ark?

GENESIS 7

1 And Jehovah saith to Noah, `Come in, thou and all thy house, unto the ark, for thee I have seen righteous before Me in this generation;

of all the clean beasts thou dost take to thee seven pairs, a male and its female; and of the beasts which are not clean two, a male and its female;

also, of fowl of the heavens seven pairs, a male and a female, to keep alive seed on the face of all the earth;

for after other seven days I am sending rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and have wiped away all the substance that I have made from off the face of the ground.’

And Noah doth according to all that Jehovah hath commanded him:

and Noah [is] a son of six hundred years, and the deluge of waters hath been upon the earth.

And Noah goeth in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, unto the ark, from the presence of the waters of the deluge;

of the clean beasts and of the beasts that [are] not clean, and of the fowl, and of every thing that is creeping upon the ground,

two by two they have come in unto Noah, unto the ark, a male and a female, as God hath commanded Noah.

10 And it cometh to pass, after the seventh of the days, that waters of the deluge have been on the earth.

11 In the six hundredth year of the life of Noah, in the second month, in the seventeenth day of the month, in this day have been broken up all fountains of the great deep, and the net-work of the heavens hath been opened,

12 and the shower is on the earth forty days and forty nights.

13 In this self-same day went in Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, unto the ark;

14 they, and every living creature after its kind, and every beast after its kind, and every creeping thing that is creeping on the earth after its kind, and every fowl after its kind, every bird — every wing.

15 And they come in unto Noah, unto the ark, two by two of all the flesh in which [is] a living spirit;

16 and they that are coming in, male and female of all flesh, have come in as God hath commanded him, and Jehovah doth close [it] for him.

17 And the deluge is forty days on the earth, and the waters multiply, and lift up the ark, and it is raised up from off the earth;

18 and the waters are mighty, and multiply exceedingly upon the earth; and the ark goeth on the face of the waters.

19 And the waters have been very very mighty on the earth, and covered are all the high mountains which [are] under the whole heavens;

20 fifteen cubits upwards have the waters become mighty, and the mountains are covered;

21 and expire doth all flesh that is moving on the earth, among fowl, and among cattle, and among beasts, and among all the teeming things which are teeming on the earth, and all mankind;

22 all in whose nostrils [is] breath of a living spirit — of all that [is] in the dry land — have died.

23 And wiped away is all the substance that is on the face of the ground, from man unto beast, unto creeping thing, and unto fowl of the heavens; yea, they are wiped away from the earth, and only Noah is left, and those who [are] with him in the ark;

24 and the waters are mighty on the earth a hundred and fifty days.

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