This week’s Bible reading is the story of Noah and his ark. While the rabbi bellowed the Hebrew from the Torah scroll, I followed the English, hunched over my Bible in the synagogue.
God’s a good writer. To be one you have to tap into universal emotions. As a boy I began a model pirate ship. I glued the hundreds of parts together, then realised you needed to paint the parts before glueing them together, and threw the whole kit out in impotent rage. So I can relate to God’s fury that His project - humankind - which he had created only one twirl of the Torah scroll earlier, hadn’t worked out.
And the Lord saw that the evil of the human creature was great on the earth. And the Lord said, “I will wipe out the human race from the face of the earth, from human to cattle to crawling thing to the fowl of the heavens, for I regret that I have made them.
I had no plan after binning the pirate ship. God, being God, did have a plan, with the thematic connective tissue of a sea vessel.
Noah was a righteous man, he was blameless in his time. Noah walked with God and begot three sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth. (Hey rabbi, how come there’s ham in this Torah? Teehee.) And God said to Noah, “Make yourself an ark of cypress wood.”
God told Noah to usher into the ark his family and one pair of each animal. He added that for certain animals, make it seven pairs. I think God did this because ‘kooky people’, a key Bible reading demographic, obsess over the number seven, trying to crack the code of why it appears so often in the Bible. So it’s an Easter egg, thousands of years before Easter.
In the following chapter (chapter seven, fellow kooks!) God releases the Flood.
And the water surged and multiplied mightily over the earth. And all flesh that stirs on earth perished, all humankind.
Atheist Richard Dawkins can’t get passed this bodycount, commenting in his book The God Delusion:
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser.
That’s wrath so wrathful methinketh Professor Dawkins should look in the mirror before worrying about God’s anger management issues. Those are the words of a person dealing with Bible stories in a very reductive way. Those are the words of a person who painted the parts before glueing the model together.
Here’s the thing. As much as I respect God as a writer, we now approach what appears to me to be a plot hole. First came the Flood, now comes the flub.
The Flood over, the water drained from the land, Noah’s family and the animals, from aardvark to zebra, disembark the ark. And God roars to Noah:
All stirring things that are alive, yours should be for food.
What’s happening here? Both the footnote in my Bible and the rabbi who I sprang at after the service, told me that up to this point, people had been vegetarian. Yes, flicking back the pages I saw, after God created the first human, Adam, He instructed:
Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the earth, yours they shall be for food.
So this was a new order God was giving Noah. Eat meat. The footnote offered a guess at God’s reasoning: perhaps He intended eating bloody meat to be an outlet for violent impulses, the same impulses that pushed humankind into the spiral of evil that forced God to snuff it out (minus Noah’s family) in the first place.
Ok, so far the story scans. But then I remembered last week’s Bible reading. After God creates the universe, blah, blah, blah, and Eve eats the forbidden apple and condemns humankind to dystopia, yada, yada, yada, she gives birth to Cain, who becomes a farmer, and Abel, who becomes a sheep herder. A sheep herder! What was he herding sheep for, if not to slaughter for meat to eat?
I know you, dear reader, have already turned against me. “Hey Safran, what about wool?” Wool? There are four people on earth - Adam, Eve, Cain and Able, how many jumpers do you need? You can factor in a different jumper for every day of the week, plus beanies, plus mittens, and I’ll throw in a tea cosy too. You don’t need to maintain a herd of wool sheep for that. And, now that I think of it, I remember something else from last week’s Bible reading. Adam and Eve felt shame in their nakedness after eating the forbidden apple from The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, so:
The Lord God made coats of skins for the human and his woman, and He clothed them.
So God was doing their wardrobe. One more piece of evidence wool sheep were not required. Let us consider another possibility. The rabbi tried this one on me. Abel’s flock was there to provide milk. How do you need more than one sheep for that task when there are four inhabitants on earth? There’s 5,000 people in my suburb but only one Slurpee machine at the 7-Eleven. Crunch the numbers. Plus, we learn Abel sacrificed at least one sheep to the Lord. So you’re telling me he killed a sheep and just left the meat to rot? I’ve been to a voodoo temple in Haiti and everyone gobbled the goat after they slit its throat and did a little dance.
No, all signs point to these sheep being meat sheep. Which means God bungled the later scene in His book, presenting Noah as the first meat eater. No biggie. Between the first and second pressing of my latest, Puff Piece, the good people at Penguin Random House corrected a few tiny errors of my own. Yes, God, mistakes are made by the best of us, even me. I guess the difference is, God, the people around me don’t fear I’ll drown them if angered, so they’re less nervous to point out my little blunders.
That night God visited John Safran in a dream. He said unto him, “What about grazing, you pinhead? Sheep graze the land. Grazing is essential in maintaining the ecosystem by stimulating plant growth. That’s what Abel’s flock was for.” Later God tweeted unto John, “Tell me you’re an inner-city doofus without telling me you’re an inner-city doofus.”
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Gen. 7:2 You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female;
Why the difference? Because Noah and company ate up to 5 of the CLEAN animals (for food) and did NOT eat the "unclean animals."
Sorry, no plot hole.
Hi john always been a fan of your unbiased opinion since your days on "race around the world" or whatever the fuck it was so thanks for the continuation from then to such gems as your further work "vs god" etc...music jamboree never was fortunate enough to hear much of what you said on radio but soon enough ill read your book, send me a signed copy and ill read it sooner lol.