Notes and Questions for Noah and the Flood (Genesis 6-10:32)

6:2 sons of God --translations will differ. Literally, the Hebrew text says "sons of elohim" (Speiser 44). In the next verse, "the Lord" translates the Hebrew Yahweh.
6:4 Nephilim were on the earth --Some translations will say "giants were on the earth." My Bible notes that the Nephilim were men of gigantic stature whose superhuman power was thought to result from divine-human marriage."
7:2 clean = animals suitable for sacrifice.
8:4 Ararat = mountains (note the plural) in Armenia, north of the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys.
8:21 I will never again curse the ground --translations will differ. The Hebrew word here is different from the one translated as "curse" at 3:14, 3:17, and 4:11. Speiser translates the word here as "doom" and says it means "not so much 'to curse' as 'to belittle, slight, mistreat,' and the like" (53). A more accurate modern translation might be "I will never again disrespect the ground."
9:20 Noah was the first tiller --translations differ. For example, Speiser translates, "Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard" (60).

1. What similarities and differences do you see between Genesis 6:1-4 and Hesiod's accounts of the Prometheus-Pandora myth and the Five Ages?

2. What do you think the Lord is mandating at 6:3? Why?

3. Many scholars see clear evidence that the flood story in Genesis combines two separate accounts of the flood. After studying the "Two Floods?" chart, find differences and similarities between a) reasons given for flood, b) the relations between Noah and the deity, c) the number of days and animals, and d) the sacrifice and promoses at the end. Do you think the number of days or animals is an important issue? Why or why not? What do you think is the message of a) each flood account and b) the story as a whole?

4. In rereading the flood story, did you notice any details which seemed surprising or unexpected? Are there any details that you thought were in the text but are not there?

5. Notice the reasons that the text gives for the flood. How are these reasons like and unlike those given for the Greek flood? Why do you think God would destroy a people and much of the world that he had just created?

6. In what ways can you connect this story to the Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel stories? How are the results (promises) like or unlike the results in the other two stories? In what ways are the relations between men and the deity similar / different?

7. What do you think the flood could symbolize? Do you think it's important for the flood actually to have occurred? Why or why not?

8. What do you think are some meanings of the sacrifice and promises (covenant?--see Genesis 6:18) at the end of the story?

9. Why do you think Noah gets drunk? Why do you think his son Ham (father of Canaan) is cursed? (See "Noah's Descendants" for the importance of these names.)

Two Flood Stories? ó The Flood Story Side-by-Side

Noah's Descendants

Generic Flood Questions

1. Why do you suppose flood stories are so popular? What events or religious tenets might flood stories explain?

2. Floods may cleanse but they also destroy. Why do you think flood stories often occur shortly after the creation?

3. Why are humans destroyed in each story? Why are the flood heroes picked to survive? What do your answers reveal about each culture's concerns, and its view of the relations between men and gods?

4. How does the flood affect the gods? (Note their reactions to sacrifices.) How does various gods' behavior before, during, and after the flood affect each culture's and / or your view(s) of these gods?

5. Compare and contrast the rewards that each flood hero gets after his journey. (Ziusudra gets eternal life--packet 101.) Why do you think these particular rewards are given in each case?

6. Compare and contrast the covenant and / or promise given at the end not send another flood. No covenant or promise?--why?

7. In what ways is the world different after the flood? What does each story tell us about the relations between gods and men in each culture?

8. Some flood stories end with an emphasis on the descendants of the flood hero (packet 88). Do you see any significance in the ways mankind reproduces (or in the ways the gods limit life-spans or reproduction) at the beginning or end of each story?

9. Do you think the lessons that each story teaches are similar or slightly different? Do the gods learn any lessons after the flood?

10. Study flood questions in the packet, pp. 43, 86-87, 102, 107.

Works Cited

Back to ENG 204 World Mythology Course Index

LINKS to Web Sites to Hebrew, Sumerian, and Babylonian Cultures

The Book of Genesis (Revised Standard Version):

Search Eight Different Translations of the Bible:

Oriental Institute, University of Chicago:
 [Authoritative, impeccable scholarship, if a bit puzzling to navigate--check out their ABZU index to Ancient Near Eastern Resources on the web.]

Origins of Western Religion Netcourse
[From Santa Clara University, with lots of biblical information, especially on Mesopotamian influences on the Bible.]

Exploring Ancient World Cultures: The Near East:

Christopher Sirenís Sumerian Myth site:

Christopher Sirenís Babylonian Myth site:

Christopher Sirenís Canaanite Myth site: