Now that the film Noah has been released and been reviewed, more elements of the film version of the story are known and I found it interesting that the filmmaker Darren Aronofsky seems to have brought to the fore some odd aspects of the biblical story that are usually glossed over so that most people are ignorant of them.
The main story is found in the book of Genesis chapters 6 through 9. The familiar Adam and Eve story takes the first four chapters and then in chapter five the Bible zips through the genealogy until it gets to Noah and then the going gets weird.
When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. [Genesis 6: 1-4]
Who were these Nephilim? And what of these ‘heroes of old’ and ‘men of renown’ who apparently were the off-spring of ‘sons of God’ who were commandeering any beautiful woman they desired and having children with them? What kind of hybrid genetic structure did they have? And what happened to them subsequently? The Bible is strangely silent and there is only one further mention (in Numbers 13:33) where some scouts tell Moses “We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” So they were still being remembered in Moses’ time as being giants. Apparently Aronofsky has taken some liberties and interpreted them as giant six-armed rock people who not only help Noah build the Ark but also fight off the locals who were trying to get a free ride on the boat.
Then there is the perennial biblical problem of incest. In the Bible, the Ark occupants were Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives. Since they were the ones who had to populate the Earth, there had to be some incest going on, at least among cousins. But Aronofsky has made it worse. He has dispensed with the three daughters-in-law and introduced a young woman Ila (played by Emma Watson) who is adopted by Noah as a daughter. She now has to bear the full burden of propagating the species after the flood, making the incest problem even worse. And what about the rock giants? What happened to them after the flood?
Another popular belief is that there were only two of each kind of animal in the Ark. Actually, Noah’s god seems to be a bit confused, like an annoying homeowner who keeps changing their mind and creating headaches for the contractor.
First, in Genesis 6:19-20, god tells Noah “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.” This is what everyone remembers.
But then in Genesis 7:2-3, god distinguishes between those animals that are ‘clean’ (does that mean kosher?) and unclean and says, “Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.”
To cap off the weirdness, we are told that after the flood is over, Noah goes on a major bender and falls asleep exposing himself. He then gets ticked off with one son Ham (a strangely non-kosher name) for seeing him naked and curses Ham’s son (Genesis 9:20-24). Apart from the unfairness of cursing Ham’s son who seems totally innocent, I can’t image that within the confines of the Ark, there was much privacy to begin with. So why the fuss?
I can see why religious people are annoyed with the film although it seems to be doing well at the box office. Changing Noah’s family structure would be a big problem for biblical literalists and the introduction of the rock giants as the Nephilim seems a bit of a stretch and more of a deus ex machina plot device.
I have not decided if I will see the film. I definitely won’t see the film in theaters but may watch it when it comes out on DVD. From what I have read, Aronofsky seems to have done what I thought he would do, and that is to make the people who were left out of the Ark to drown into villainous types so that their deaths are seen as somehow deserved, so that god is not portrayed as a total monster.