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Editor's Note:
This thread is for posting Bible background, discussion questions, and interpretation suggestions about the story of Noah that will help teachers get beyond "a cute story about animals and rainbow."

Bible Background and Discussion Questions for Teaching the Story of Noah
Submitted by Peggy Franciosa, Thorndale UMC, Thorndale PA

Genesis 6:9-9:17

Key/Memory Verse:

Genesis 9:13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

Objectives for this Rotation set:
Children will be able to find the story of Noah in the Bible, they will learn that God decided not to destroy the Earth because Noah was a good and faithful man. Noah showed his obedience and faithfulness by believing what God said was true even though he had no proof. He built the Ark before it started to rain, therefore showing his faith and obedience. The rainbow is a sign of the covenant that God made with Noah that he would never destroy the Earth.

Bible Background:

Genesis 6:9 - 9:17

This story is one of the first in the Bible and begins to explore the nature of God. He has created the Earth and man and sees our sinful nature and is saddened to see that man has resorted to sin. He decides he cannot allow this to continue and is going to destroy his creation. The only good thing he sees is Noah. Because of Noah's faithfulness and obedience, God decides to allow Noah and his family, along with some animals, to survive the flood. Noah lives up to God's trust in him and begins to build the Ark. This is no easy feat, and takes much time.

The text doesn't mention it, but we can imagine what the other people thought of Noah and his family as they built this huge structure. They may have laughed at all Noah's hard work while there was no flood in sight. Once Noah has completed the Ark, the rains began to fall. He and his family, along with the pairs of animals entered the Ark and God shut them in. It rained for 40 days and nights and flooded the Earth. All that was not in the Ark perished. Once the rain stopped, it took an additional 150 days for the flood to begin to recede. Noah sends out a dove, and it returns. He waits a week and sends it out again. This time it returns with an olive branch. He waits another week and sends it out again. This time it does not return, so Noah knows that the flood waters have receded.

When Noah and is family leave the Ark, the first thing he does is build an altar and make a burnt offering to the Lord. God is very pleased with Noah and makes a covenant with him that he will never destroy the Earth again. The rainbow in the sky will be a symbol of the covenant and whenever God sees the rainbow, he will remember the covenant.

This story illustrates God's unending love for us. He loved his creation and did not want to destroy it. When he saw Noah and his faithfulness, he used Noah to continue his creation. It was Noah who demonstrated that there is good in the Earth and that it was worth saving. God promised Noah that he would never destroy the Earth again. God has kept his promise.

Discussion Questions:

  • Why did God want to destroy the Earth?
  • Why did he allow Noah to survive the flood?
  • Why do you think that Noah had faith in God?
  • How did Noah show his faith?
  • What covenant did God make with Noah?
  • Do you think God keeps his promises?
  • Why is it important to keep promises?

Contributor Peggy Franciosa

Last edited by Lesson Forma-teer
Original Post

Editor's Note:

This post was originally made by Rotation member LD McKenzie in another thread and moved here because it's too good to get lost!

LDM's Background on the Flood is significant, particularly as it helps the teacher understand the importance of teaching the Theological Metaphors of this story, --beyond rainbows.

Noah Background Notes

'Primeval History'
The story of intrepid Noah and his incredible ark is found in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. Introductory notes on Genesis in the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB)/NRSV call the flood and creation stories 'primeval' history. Stories under this heading focus on "all of humanity," whereas other Genesis stories which deal with "ancestral history," meaning about Abraham and his descendants.

Is It History As We Currently Think Of History?
Genesis is the first book of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, also referred to as the Torah (NOAB). This edition's introductory notes on the Pentateuch offer some good perspective on the question in our subheading:
" contrast to modern editing, which is fundamentally interested in articulating a single viewpoint, the redaction [fancy word for editing] of the Torah, like the editing of other ancient works, was not interested in creating a purely consistent, singular perspective but incorporated a variety of voices and perspectives.
"The ultimate result of this redaction, which most likely took place during the Babylonian exile (586 - 538 BCE) or soon thereafter in the early Persian period, was the creation of a very long book, narrating what must have been felt to be the formative period of Israel from the period of the creation of the world through the death of Moses."

One Of The Big Happy Family of Ancient Flood Stories
Lots has been written on the similarities between the tale of Noah's ark and other ancient stories of a deluge. The NOAB notes for example, that "the Mesopotamian Atrahasis epic [a precursor of the epic of Gilgamesh] was written hundreds of years before chs 1 - 11, yet it parallels numerous particulars of the biblical narrative as it describes the creation of the world, a flood, and the vow of the gods (here plural) not to destroy life with a flood again."
For more detail on the Gilgamesh and related ancient near eastern deluge stories, click this link: .
The NOAB's footnotes at Gen 7.17 point out that "flood imagery seems to have been a powerful image of chaos worldwide."

  • [Editor's Note: Recent scientific investigations suggest that a massive flood may have indeed occurred in and around the Black Sea north of Mesopotamia in paleolithic times. These cultures preserved the memory of that calamity, and it also helped them explain the presence of sea fossils on top of mountains. Various cultures used this to teach religious meanings.

    LDM, the original poster provides us with some excellent "so what" in this next section... showing us that the "flood" and "waters" had metaphorical significance which should also be taught to our children. ]

Great, But How Does Noah Fit Into The Christian Story?
To answer this, we have to look at the body of images (or metaphors) and story cycles (or 'myths' in the Frye-esque sense of basic narratives) shared by the story of Noah and the rest of the Bible. And for that, we need look no further than The Great Code, by Canadian writer and scholar Northrop Frye.

'The Dual Nature of Water Imagery'
"The Deluge itself is either a demonic image, in the sense of being an image of divine wrath and vengeance, or an image of salvation, depending on whether we look at it from the point of view of Noah and his family or from the point of view of everyone one aspect of the symbolism we are all fish in a symbolically submarine world of illusion," Frye writes.
"Hence both Noah's flood (I Peter 3: 21) and the Red Sea crossing (I Corinthians 10:2) are regarded in the New Testament as types [sort of like prototypes] of the sacrament of baptism, where the one being baptized is symbolically drowned in the old world and awakens to a new world on the opposite shore."

Where There's Water, There's Fish
Frye adds, "We can now, perhaps, understand why there should be so much fishing in the Gospels, and why Jesus himself should be so often associated in later legend with a fish or dolphin... "

What About All Those Cute Little Animals?
Writes Frye, "Two versions of the Nativity are given in Matthew and in Luke: tradition has never had any difficulty in adding Matthew's wise men to Luke's shepherd, but has adopted Luke's "manger" in preference to Matthew's "house " (2:11)... The manger, with its fertility overtones, contains a vestige of Noah's ark in the animals inhabiting it."

What About That Big Boat?
Frye explains: "Noah's ark, floating on a drowned world and coming to rest on top of a mountain, a gigantic seed of a new world with all the future of human and animal life in it, completes the first great cycle of human existence."

How About That Pretty Rainbow?
According to the footnotes in the NOAB at the end of Noah's voyage at Gen. 9:13: "This is the first 'covenant' explicitly described as such in the Bible, and it encompasses all of humanity [as well as the animal world and the earth]. A "covenant" is a formal agreement, often between a superior and inferior party... This agreement is often sealed through ceremonies. In this case, God sets his weapon, the bow (Ps 7.12 - 13; Hab 3.9 - 11), in the sky facing away from humanity as a sign of God's commitment not to flood the earth again."

Map Link
Here's a neat old-fashioned map of the area of the Noah story:,0.949,0.948,0.372,0 . In this map's legend, you will recognize the names of the sons of Noah listed at Gen. 9.18 and their tribal allotments.

Awesome Art Links
Lots of wonderful images from our friends at Biblical Art on the WWW. Engravings by Doré on the flood are positively Miltonic: . Here's Bruegel's 'Animals entering the ark:''s-ark-flemish-1613/. Here's Bosch's ark perched on the mountaintop: . And why not wrap it up with Chagall's rainbow: .

Water Music Link
Okay. There's absolutely no link between GF Handel's famous Water Music and the Noah story. Except for H20. And I happen to really like this piece. Here are a few minutes of the Hornpipe from Handel's Water Music: . Look down to the 'Hear the Music' section and click the underlined text for Water Music. Enjoy!

Fine Poetry Link
Time for a little Can-con. I'm still stuck on Montreal poet AM Klein. Test your Biblical allusion skills with this piece, "A Psalm or Prayer — Praying His Portion with Beasts" from Poems, 1944:

The better to understand Thy ways,
Divinity I would divine,
Let me companion all my days
The more-than-human beasts of Thine;
The sheep whose little woolly throat
Taught the child Isaac sacrifice;
The dove returning to Noah's boat,
Sprigless, and with tearful eyes;
The ass instructing Balaam
The discourse of inspired minds;
And David's lost and bleating lamb,
And Solomon's fleet lovely hinds;
Enfold me in their fold, and let
Me learn their mystic parables —
Of food that desert ravens set,
And of the lion's honeyed fells.
Above all, teach me blessedness
Of him, Azazel, that dear goat,
Sent forth into the wilderness
To hallow it with one sad note.

[There's a great clue, I think, to the key point of this poem from the author of 'Portrait of the Poet as Landscape' in 'The Scholar,' in Hath Not a Jew from 1940. Both poems can be found in AM Klein, Selected Poems (Toronto: U of T Press, 1997).]

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What does the flood represent?
  2. How can it be seen as a destructive image?
  3. Have you ever felt pressured in a wrong direction by forces beyond your own control? How did you deal with this or keep your bearings?
  4. How can the flood be seen as a symbol of baptism?
  5. What does the rainbow represent?
  6. What is a covenant?
  7. Have your ever had to make an important deal with someone. What was it. What was your end of the deal. Was it hard to keep your promise?
  8. Name some Bible stories with lots of water (or large rivers) in them. [Creation, Garden of Eden, Job, Jonah, Calling the Disciples/Galilee, Revelation 22/New Jerusalem/river of the water of life.]
  9. Name some Bible stories with boats in them. [Jonah, Moses' reed basket, Calling of Disciples/fishing boat, preaching from boat, revelation to disciples at John 21/more fishing boat , Acts 27/ Paul gets shipwrecked.]
  10. Name other Bible stories that feature animals. [David, Garden of Eden, 23rd Psalm, Christmas story.]
  11. Name some Bible stories where the protagonist goes through rough times, then bounces back again. [Prodigal Son, Job, Ruth, Jesus].


Moderator updated links that no longer worked.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

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