The Bible Says What? ‘God destroyed the world to save it’

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The Bible Says What? ‘God destroyed the world to save it’

Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a progressive Jewish response

Flood (Photo by rachman reilli on Unsplash)
Flood (Photo by rachman reilli on Unsplash)

The story of Noah is morally complex. It begins by telling us ‘the earth was corrupt’ and full of violence. And when God saw this, God decided to put an end to all living things on the earth with the exception of one family – the family of Noah – and the animals Noah took into the ark.  

In the creation story, we are told that of all living things, only human beings have the ability to know the difference between good and evil and to make moral choices.

If so, why should all living creatures be destroyed? 

We are not alone in asking or struggling with this. The rabbis of the Talmud wrestled with these questions, too. But in their attempt to find an answer, they also found a different aspect to the story. For the story is not just about destruction.  

God did not wipe all of creation off the face of the earth. Instead, not only Noah and his family, but every kind of animal was saved. It was important to preserve one of every single species, so no aspect of creation should be permanently lost. 

Not only this, but Noah had to make sure there was enough food for them all. And so the story becomes about saving and caring. Noah and his sons learnt what it meant to look after every creature according to its needs. 

In recent months, we have also learnt anew the importance of

The pandemic has forced us to re-examine our priorities as a society. We realise that it not acceptable to exploit either people or resources. We have to value and care for
each other.  

May those lessons, which Noah learnt the hard way in the ark, remain with us and influence us so that, although the future is uncertain, we can shape it for good. 

  •  Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi serves Birmingham Progressive Synagogue

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