LEGENDS by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: Last week was very busy at Clearview with our VBS. We had a record attendance, and all the staff and volunteers worked so hard and did an amazing job! For me, it was also a great time to connect with the children and their families. As I was chatting with one of our church families, they shared with me how their son had built our church building in Minecraft, a video game with 3D objects and computer-generated landscapes and characters. Of course, I was intrigued! I asked them to send me the video. It was fascinating to see how he had designed the sanctuary, the pews, the pulpit, and even the fellowship hall. My favorite part is of me doing a dab behind the pulpit! Folks, that’s success to me! Our children are not just the future, but, as Ryan likes to say it, they are the present; and I would like to add that they are the builders of our church, spiritually and literally! What is most interesting to me is his perception! There are many more things here at Clearview, but he chose those things that appealed to him the most. In a way, that sets up today’s message of Noah’s flood. We’re going to see how the ancient cultures remembered certain aspects of the global flood. Main point: The global flood left a lasting impression on the memory of the ancient peoples. Even though their recollections are distorted, they testify to the truth of the biblical account of God’s judgment on a sinful world in a not-so-distant past. It also testifies to his grace in saving Noah and his family along with the all the animals on the ark.
2 Peter 3 5 “For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.”
Context: In Greek, that is “lanthanei…thelontas,” which comes from the words “lanthano” (forget or ignore) and “thelo” (to will or intention). It is exactly as it is written – “willfully forget” or “ignore intentionally.” What exactly is happening here? There were 8 people on the ark who passed down the history of how things went down at the Great Flood. It could be that at first everything was very plain and clear. In time, if you know Noah’s account, horrible sin came in. Could it be that at least one of them began to distort willfully the account of the past? We tend to do that when an event from the past is not to our liking. We give it our own spin. With each successive generation, the spin just got faster or wobblier. In other words, there is some truth there, but there’s also plenty of myths and legends. Why do people do that? Several reasons – to save face, to avoid changing behavior, to downplay the seriousness of the incident.
Some people have challenged the biblical account of Noah’s flood by claiming that it’s just an ancient myth like those in other ancient cultures and religions. Some even go one step further and accuse the Bible of plagiarism, borrowing from these ancient myths. To the contrary, it is only the Bible that maintains the most objective account of the Great Flood. Think about it – Which is most possible? Converting history into legends or legends into history. Of course, the former. The Bible did not borrow from other cultures. It contains the most accurate and historical account of this global catastrophe. To the contrary, other cultures have distorted accounts due to poor memory, misunderstandings, and more than anything – intentional corruption. Nonetheless, the fact that they talk about a global flood tells us that this was real!
For the next few moments, I want us to quickly look at what ancient peoples passed down about the Great Flood:
1. Mesopotamians: This is considered to be the birthplace of civilization. There are actually 3 accounts here (Taken from Jason Landless, “The Mesopotamian Deluge Accounts: Neither History Nor Revelation) – the Atrahasis poem, the Eridu Genesis poem, and the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the Atrahasis poem, “The deluge bellowed like a bull, The wind resounded like a screaming eagle. The darkness was dense, the sun was gone” (Foster 2007). In the Eridu Genesis: “All the evil winds, all stormy winds gathered into one and with them, then, the Flood was sweeping over the cities of the half-bushel baskets for seven days and seven nights. After the flood had swept over the country, after the evil wind had tossed the big boat about on the great waters, the sun came out spreading light over heaven and earth” (Arnold and Beyer 2002). In the Gilgamesh epic, “The…land shattered like a…pot. All day long the South Wind blew…blowing fast, submerging the mountain in water overwhelming the people like an attack. No one could see his fellow they could not recognize each other in the torrent” (Kovacs 1998).
There are many differences from the Genesis account (A. Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and the Old Testament Parallels). In the Babylonian myths, Enlil, the god of wind and storm, destroyed the earth because humans were making too much noise and disturbing his sleep! The god Ea gave Utnapishtim (Noah) a hint, but the flood was kept a secret by the gods. After Noah came out of the ark, he offered a sacrifice unto God. In the Mesopotamian account, the gods gathered over the sacrifices like flies because they were hungry for so long.
2. India: In the Mahabharata, there is mention of the Flood. By the way, the Mahabharata is part of the Smriti, that which is remembered, rooted in history, unlike the Vedas, which are Sruti, that which is heard (not historical). It is found in the “Fish story of Manu.” Apparently, Manu was a wise man who was standing by a riverbank when a small fish asked him to save it from a larger fish. So, he saved the fish by putting it in a jar, then to a pond, then to the river, and then to the ocean. The fish warned him that a great flood was coming and promised to help him one day. It told him to build a ship and take with him 7 rishis (sages) and all kinds of seeds. By the way, what would 8 men do to repopulate the earth! When the Flood came, the fish kept its promise and came to Manu’s rescue. It had grown a big horn and Manu tied the rope from the ship to the horn, and it dragged him everywhere until it reached the mountain top. For more information, see Charles Martin, Flood Legends: Global Clues of a Common Event.
3. China: In the Chinese “book of all knowledge” (4,320 volume collection) mention that “The Earth was shaken to its foundations. The sky sank lower towards the north. The sun, moon, and stars changed their motions. The Earth fell to pieces and the waters in its bosom rushed upwards with violence and overflowed the Earth.” Another tradition also mentions a brother and sister that were saved in a huge chest which also contained all kinds of animals. For more information see Theodor Herzl Gaster and Sir James George Frazer, Myth, legend, and custom in the Old Testament; a comparative study with chapters from Sir James G. Frazer’s Folklore in the Old Testament. Not only that, but even the Chinese alphabets give testimony to the Great Flood. “There are at least 24 characters associated with boat, flood, and eight mouths (heads)” (See “Noah’s Ark hidden in the ancient Chinese characters” by Kui Shin Voo, Rich Sheeley, and Larry Hovee).
4. Aborigine: The following is taken from the article “Flood!” by Rebecca Conolly and Russell Grigg – “It came about that the earliest-time children tormented and ill-treated the Winking Owl, Dumbi. Ngadja, the Supreme One, was inwardly grieved and felt deep sorrow for him. He instructed Gajara, ‘If you want to live, take your wife, your sons and your sons’ wives and get a double raft. Because of the Dumbi affair, I intend to drown everyone. I am about to send rain and a sea flood,’ he told them. ‘Put on the raft long-lasting foods that may be stored, foods such as gumi, banimba, and ngalindaja, all these ground foods.’ “So Gajara stored all these foods. He also gathered birds of the air such as the cuckoo, the mistletoe-eater, the rainbow bird, the helmeted friar bird and finches; these he took on the raft, and also a female kangaroo. Gajara gathered his sons as the crew, and his own wife and his sons’ wives together.” On and on.
5. Scandinavian: Taken from Conolly and Grigg’s article – One such tale portrays the chaos of the world when the mighty wolf Fenrir shook himself and “made the whole world tremble. The aged ash tree Yggdrasil [envisaged as the axis of the earth] was shaken from its roots to its topmost branches. Mountains crumbled or split from top to bottom … ” Men “were driven from their hearths and the human race was swept from the surface of the earth. The earth itself was beginning to lose its shape. Already the stars were coming adrift from the sky and falling into the gaping void. … Flames spurted from fissures in the rocks; everywhere there was the hissing of steam. All living things, all plant life, were blotted out. … And now all the rivers, all the seas rose and overflowed. From every side waves lashed against waves. They swelled and boiled and slowly covered all things. The earth sank beneath the sea …”. Then slowly “the earth emerged from the waves. Mountains rose anew … . Men also reappeared. … Enclosed in the wood itself of the ash tree Yggdrasil … the ancestors of a future race of men had escaped death.”
6. Native Americans: many many stories. Among the Pawnee of South Dakota and Kansas, the story goes – “Now, these giants did not believe in any of these things (the creator Tira’wa and life after death). They did not pray to Tira’wa, and they thought that they were very strong, and that nothing could overcome them. They grew worse and worse. At last Tira’wa got angry, and he made the water rise up level with the land, and all the ground became soft, and these great people sank down into the mud and were drowned…” (Taken from Echoes of Ararat by Nick Liguori). There is also the story of Waynaboozhoo and the Great flood among the Ojibwe. After the flood, this one man was clutching to a log/raft with several other animals. They decided to swim down and get a handful of dirt to remake the earth, but it was too late. Finally, a muskrat that everyone was looking down on went down and brought the earth but died in the process. There are plenty of variations as well.
7. Peru: water above the mountains, man and a woman in a box.
8. Egypt: The god Ra sends Hathor (cow) or Sekhmet (lion) to destroy all humanity. It is so bad that Sekhmet is wading in human blood. Ra feels sorry and looks for a way to stop anymore destruction. He decides to flood the land with beer. Sekhmet drinks the beer and forgets to finish the job.
9. Japan: In Chinese legends, it is the god Hakudo Maru who came down to teach people how to make ships. It probably comes from the Indian “Manu.” The Japanese attach the word “Maru,” to all the names of their ships. It means round enclosure or circle of refuge. (See “Noah and Human Etymology” by Bengt Sage)
10. Greek: Legend of Deucalion
There are as many as 500 legends according to some estimates!
Most scholars agree that Job is probably the oldest book in the Old Testament, more than likely written about a couple of hundred years or so after the Great Flood. If that is the case, something very interesting is being implied in the passage we will read. Eliphaz the Temanite, one of Job’s friends who came to “comfort” him, repeated the arrogant remark of the ungodly – Job 22 13“What does God know? Can He judge through the deep darkness? 14 Thick clouds cover Him, so that He cannot see, and He walks above the circle of heaven.” Then, he reminded them of some other ungodly people who had made similar remarks and what happened to them – 15 “Will you keep to the old way which wicked men have trod, 16 Who were cut down before their time, whose foundations were swept away by a flood?” In other words, the ungodly in Job’s time had already forgotten God’s judgement of the wicked in the global flood!
Romans 1 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Invitation: Have you intentionally forgotten the holiness and judgment of God to come? Do you know Jesus Christ, the ark of God? Are you saved?