A New World, An Old Nature

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In our recent critique of Vignette #8 in Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, we talked at length about the many changes thought to have been brought about by the Flood which occurred in Noah’s day.  The ones we discussed were…

  • The change in climate;
  • The change in the landscape;
  • The change in man’s diet;
  • The change in the way society was to be governed;
  • The change in the configuration of the continents; and,
  • The beginnings of the formation of fossils and fossil fuels.
Noah leaving the Ark

Noah and His Family Leaving the Ark

With so many innovations having taken place in such a relatively short space of time, I think that it is safe to say that when Noah and his family stepped out of the Ark,  they stepped into a whole New World.  For all of its power to effect change, though, there was still one thing the Flood wasn’t able to alter—and that was the fallen nature of the eight people who had survived its ravages.  For, when they entered the Ark, they did so as sinful human beings and, when they exited it, they were still in the same fallen condition.  This is the sad truth that will be documented for us in Vignette #9 which, if the flashing lights in the theatre are any indication, is just about ready to begin.

As we settle into our seats once more, with the theatre going dark and the curtains parting yet again, we hear the familiar voice of our offstage Narrator as he announces the inauguration of this whole new era in human history with…

The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  (Ham was the father of Canaan.)  These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.  (Genesis 9:18-19)

With this announcement, the lights come up on stage, revealing a rustic scene set in a hilly landscape, with a good-sized tent occupying the center of the stage, and with what looks to be a variety of crops growing up behind it.  To one side of the tent, there is a large grape vine and it is here that we see a much older Noah hard at work, tending to his vines.  Mrs. Noah is nowhere to be seen, so we have no idea if she is still alive at this point—and, there are no signs of Noah’s sons either.

Upon first view, the sun is high in the sky—so we know that it is about midday when this scene begins.  But, as we watch Noah continuing to toil, first with the weeding and then with the harvesting of the ripest of the grapes, the sun slowly sets in the background, letting him—and us—know that it is time for his workday to come to an end.  Tired, dirty, and obviously thirsty, Noah goes to the tent, picks up a wineskin and begins drinking from it.

It is here that our Narrator interjects…

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.  He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.  (Genesis 9:20-21)

It is not long after this that Ham appears on the scene, followed at a short distance by his two brothers, Shem and Japheth.  Ham calls out several times to his father but when he gets no response, he bursts into his father’s tent—creating a scene described by our Narrator in the following way…

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.  Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father.  Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.  (Genesis 9:22-23)

Shem and Japheth Cover Noah

Shem and Japheth Cover Noah

With nighttime quickly setting in, the three brothers close up the tent and leave, only to return the next day after the sun has been up for a few hours.  By this time, Noah has slept off his inebriation and is starting to recall some of what happened the night before.  As our Narrator relates it…

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan:  a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.’

He also said, ‘Blessed be the Lord the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.  May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”  (Genesis 9:24-27)

Following these rather enigmatic pronouncements, and without any further explanation as to their meaning or significance, the lights dim and the stage goes dark—while our Narrator brings closure to Noah’s life with the following remarks…

After the flood Noah lived 350 years.  All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.  (Genesis 9:28-29)

Thinking that this Vignette is over, we begin to stir in our seats—only to be startled into stillness again by the sudden appearance of three spotlights focused on the front of the stage—with one on our left, one in the center, and one on our right.  We then hear our Narrator as he speaks again…

These are the generations of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.   Sons were born to them after the flood.  (Genesis 10:1)

After pausing briefly, he continues with…

The Sons of Japheth…

…and, as he does, Japheth steps out of the still darkened set at the rear of the stage and moves forward into the spotlight on the left.  Resuming his commentary, our Narrator begins calling out the names of Japheth’s sons

Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.

As each name is called, a man enters from offstage, walks over to Japheth, and takes his place behind him.  Then, for some reason, our Narrator calls out names of a few, but not all, of Japheth’s grandsons…

The sons of Gomer were Askenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.  The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.  From these the coastland people spread in their lands…

As he does, they, too, appear on the stage and take their places behind their respective fathers.  When the last one is in place, the process is repeated for Ham and, as he is called out to his place in the center spotlight, our Narrator announces that…

The sons of Ham were Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan

These men also take their places behind their father and as they do, our Narrator, calls attention to Cush, and one of his more notorious sons…

The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca.  The sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.

Cush fathered Nimrod:  he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.  He was a mighty hunter before the Lord.  Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’  The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.   From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen…

Then, after naming the many sons of Egypt and Canaan, our Narrator calls Shem forward to take his place in the spotlight on the right side of the stage, and begins introducing his descendants in the following way…

To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born.  The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram.  The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.

Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber.  To Eber were born two sons:  the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.

As the lengthy list of Joktan’s sons is called out, each one takes his place behind his father; and our Narrator concludes this second of the Bible’s genealogical line-ups with…

These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies with their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.           

Immediately upon the conclusion of his remarks, the men who have been standing at the front of the stage turn and circle around to the rear of it, where they take up new positions and assume their roles as Noah’s descendants for next part of our story.  As they do, the spotlights at the front of the stage dim while the lights come up on the rear of it, exposing a brand new set.  In place of the hilly, farmland one depicted in the previous scene, we now see a flat, virtually tree-less plain, full of ditches and mounds of straw.  We also see many men laboring to make bricks for the partially built tower located at the back of the set.

Building the Tower of Babel

“Building the Tower of Babel” by James Tissot

As we familiarize ourselves with this new scene, our Narrator proceeds to explain the activity we see taking place here…

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’  (Genesis 11:1-4)

However, unknown to these men, as these they continue to work feverishly at their tasks, the clamor created by their labors rises heavenward—something which God takes immediate notice of, and a problem that our Narrator alerts us to when he says…

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.  (Genesis 11:5)

And, as soon as these words are spoken, we hear the deep, resonant Voice of God as it once again reverberates throughout the theatre…

Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.  (Genesis 11:6-7)

The Lord Confuses the Languages at Babel

The Lord Confuses the Languages at Babel

Suddenly, a warm wind sweeps across the stage and as it does, all construction on the tower comes to a halt.  We watch as the workmen try feverishly to communicate with one another but, when all their efforts prove futile, they throw down their tools and walk away from the project in anger.  It is at this point that our Narrator adds…

So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.  (Genesis 11:8-9)

With these words, the stage goes dark, the curtains close, and Vignette #9 comes to an end. As promised, this Vignette has demonstrated that even those who were righteous enough to be saved in the Ark were still  sinners by nature after the Flood; and that, sadly, it would be this fallen nature that these regenerators of the earth’s population would pass down to all of their descendants.

To be sure, there has been a lot of material covered in this Vignette.  What, with Noah’s drunkenness, his curse and blessings on his sons, some new characters added to the Story, and a rebellion at Babel, there will be a great deal for us to critique during our next analytical pause.  So, be sure to put your Theatre Critic’s Cap back on in preparation for what promises to be a very informative session about this often problematic portion of our play.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

As the Sidewalk Prophets remind us, all things can and will be made new through Christ…

Image of God confusing the languages at Babel courtesy of www.freebibleimages.org.
Other images courtesy of www.commons.wikimedia.org.

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