Chapter 13

Biblical Flood Stories

The account of the Biblical flood, like other stories of destruction, describes a new beginning. In this instance, a covenant is forged between human beings and God. This agreement spells out God's promise to accept humans in their imperfect state and to refrain from destruction in the future. As a result, especially in the Yahwist account of the flood, God is seen as engaged in the lives of humans, rather than aloof. (For more on this, see Chapter 5.) The covenant also reflects political relationships established in the ancient world between a king and his subjects.

As you read, you may want to refresh your memory of Chapter 5's introduction to the various sources woven together to form the text you are reading. That will enable you to note the different ways in which the Priestly, Jehovist, and Elohist writers handle details of the story. Another useful perspective may arise from comparing this flood story with those in Ovid's Metamorphoses (Chapter 12) and in the Epic of Gilgamesh (Chapter 16). Look also for examples of the cosmological and aetiological aspects of myth (Chapter 1).

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