Pre-Flood Society Was Too Noisy

03 Nov

In the ancient tablets of the Atrahasis Epic we are told that a great flood destroyed nearly all of mankind with a flood. The reason given was that men were just too noisy! There are many differences between it and the Genesis Flood account, but because they are both accounts of a great flood, and in each a hero was saved in a large boat, it is considered by scholars to describe the same event, and generally I agree, but what should we make of those differences, particularly the reason for the flood. Notice:

The country was as noisy as a bellowing bull
The God grew restless at their racket,

Enlil had to listen to their noise.
He addressed the great gods,
“The noise of mankind has become too much,
I am losing sleep over their racket.” [Atrahasis II; Dalley 18]

By our standards this seems silly in the extreme—to actually destroy civilization because they were too loud. But, that’s the point – “by our standards.” What does the Bible say about the “noise” that comes up to God that displeases him? In Genesis 4:10 it was Abel’s blood that cried out to him. Later, concerning Sodom and Gomorrah it was said:

Flood Traditions (Image from Google Images)

Flood Traditions (Image from Google Images)

So the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so blatant that I must go down and see if they are as wicked as the outcry suggests. If not, I want to know.” (Genesis 18:20-21 NET) – emphasis mine.

In the context of God’s word the noise is the outcry of injustice (cp. Nehemiah 5:1-6), and Genesis 6:5 tells us the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention his heart was continually evil. In his book, War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage, anthropology professor Lawrence Keeley (University of Illinois at Chicago) makes a point concerning how violent men seemed to be in ancient times. For example:

“…the available evidence shows that peaceful societies have been very rare, that warfare was extremely frequent in nonstate societies, and that tribal societies often mobilized for combat high percentages of their total manpower

“Obviously, frequent, even continuous, warfare is as characteristic of tribal societies as of states…The high frequencies of prestate warfare contrast with those of even the most aggressive ancient and modern civilized states.”

“Several of the rare burials of earliest modern humans in central and western Europe, dating from 34,000 to 24,000 years ago, show evidence of violent death. At Grimaldi in Italy, a projectile point was embedded in the spinal column of a child’s skeleton dating to the Aurignacian (the culture of the earliest modern humans in Europe, ca. 36,000 to 27,000 years ago). One Aurignacian skull from southern France may have been scalped; it has cut-marks on its frontal (forehead)… ample evidence of violent death has been found among the remains of the final hunter-gatherers of the Mesolithic period (ca. 10,000 to 5,000 years ago). One of the most gruesome instances is provided by Ofnet Cave in Germany, where two caches of ‘trophy’ skulls were found, arranged ‘like eggs in a basket,’ comprising the disembodied heads of thirty-four men, women, and children, most with multiple holes knocked through their skulls by stone axes. Indeed, some archaeologists, impressed by the abundant evidence of homicide in the European Mesolithic, date the beginnings of “real” war to this period.”[1] (emphasis mine throughout)

Except for the dating method used, the archeological evidence seems to support the kind of thing to which Genesis 6 alludes. Certainly the outcry against all this wickedness would be largely from the innocent, the injustice done to babes and children. They were being ignored by their parents[2] as the latter were wholly engaged in war and theft.[3] The violence and evil permeated the entire populace of the earth (Genesis 6:5). Why wouldn’t God judge this behavior? How could anyone accuse him of immorality in doing so?

[1] Lawrence Keeley; War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage, Oxford:1996, pages 25-38

[2] David Leeming and Jake Page; The Mythology of Native North America, (Pomo Indian);  University of Oklahoma Press:1998; page 113.

[3] J.F. Bieflein: Parallel Myths, (Egypt) Ballantine, 1994; page 134-5.

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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Biblical Critics, Genesis Flood


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