Defending 'Noah' Movie, Daily Beast Writer Hints God's 'Bad Guy' of Biblical Story
In the process of defending Darren Aronofsky's Noah as a film which "make[s] us think about how the biblical story might still speak to us today," Yale University Old Testament professor Joel Baden suggests in a Sunday, March 30 Daily Beast article -- "'Noah': The Bible vs. the Blockbuster" -- that he considers the Almighty the villain of the biblical story (emphasis mine):
This is the flood story with fight scenes. Plenty of them. Every movie must have its bad guy, I suppose, but in the Bible the only characters in the Flood story are either on the ark or in heaven. And I’m tempted to say that there is already a bad guy in the story.
While Baden doesn't explicitly argue as such, the logical inference is that, in the biblical text, God is, well, at the very least a cosmic jerk for wiping out the inhabitants of the Earth, save for Noah and his family.
Baden's beef with God aside, he concluded that "[o]ne could pick on other little differences were one so inclined," but despite some dramatic alterations and finer points here and there, Aronofsky's work "is a deeply, deeply biblical movie." Baden even praised the inclusion of an incident that occurred after the flood account:
Immediately after the flood Noah gets stark naked drunk, so that his kids have to cover him with a blanket—yes, that’s what the Bible says.
That's fair. Noah was a righteous man, but certainly not a perfect one, and a serious cinematic portrayal of the biblical epic should show the character warts and all. That said, even in that account, Noah is not condemned by the author of Genesis, while Ham, the son who uncovered Noah's nakedness, is.
But the bigger problem for Baden's conclusion is that he's hailing Aronofsky's work as eminently biblical when, in the movie itself, "God doesn’t speak." In the biblical text, God does speak, both directly to Noah and indirectly in prophecy through Noah's father Lamech:
When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” (Genesis 5:28-29 ESV)
In the biblical account, after the flood, God brought such relief in a covenant with Noah and his sons and hence all mankind that followed thereafter (emphasis mine):
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:1-17 ESV)
In the biblical account, God is a God who is not inscrutably silent but who reveals himself by word and covenant to man. In the biblical account, God is a holy judge who punishes wickedness yet saves those who trust in Him and blesses generations that follow afterwards.
By all indications, this is not the picture which Noah the motion picture presents.
Baden may prefer the flights of fancy on the silver screen, but I'll stick with the biblical "myth" any day.
P.S.: One last quibble: in his article, Baden casually mentioned that in the biblical account, Noah and his sons constructed the ark in the span of seven days, whereas in the movie it takes 10 years.
The length of time it took to build the ark, however, is not specified in the biblical text, although the way the narrative unfolds it's logical to conclude it took a few decades, starting sometime after Noah's three sons (around when Noah was 500) and when the flood began (Noah's 600th year).