The Observant Astronomer

The passing scene as observed by an observant Jew, who daylights as an astronomer.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

VC: Noach (Season 1, Episode 2)

We see Noach, with whom the last episode ended, in a tight shot. As the camera pulls back we see that he is walking in an ancient marketplace. We see him staring at the ground, so as to avoid seeing what is going on around him. As the continues to widen we see in full the corruption hinted at in the previous episode. We see idols all over and demonstrations of various sorts of sexual immorality. What are that dog and cat doing in the corner over there? We see evidence that the market is barely functioning, however. To one side, as we pass through, a bargaining session ends with the purchaser just grabbing a jar and walking off with it, only to have it stolen in turn by a passing gang.

We cut to Noach, now reaching his home outside the town. He stops when he hears G-d speak to him. We hear G-d's instructions for the ark, and we see the ark take shape, first as a vision, and then in reality as Noach takes 120 years to put it together. He is working on a hill, in full view of the town below. People stop by to ask what he is doing, but ignore his warnings of doom. "Life is good", they say, laughing at him. With the ark finished, Noach starts gathering food and loading it in to the ark. Still, no one listens.

***

At the funeral of his grandfather Methuselah, Noach stops as the procession continues. Again G-d speaks to him, this time with his final instructions. Once the seven days of mourning are over, the flood will begin. The animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects started coming. Most in single pairs, some few of seven.

It is a week later. Noach, his sons, and their wives are by the ark atop a hill outside the town. It is starting to rain. The last of the animals have boarded when an angry mob approaches from the town. We hear them threatening to destroy the ark and kill Noach. Bears and lions intercept them before they can come close, and, as the rain becomes heavier, Noach and his family reluctantly climb aboard, and the door slams heavily behind them.

***

Then the rain really lets loose. Water starts welling up from the ground, as well as falling heavily from the sky. It rains and rains and rains. The water rises rapidly and lifts the ark off its hill. The stormy waters climb higher and higher, covering the hills and the mountains. And still it rains. Inside the ark, Noach struggles to feed and care for all the animals in his keeping.

An outside view. The rain and wind have stopped. Outside the ark there is nothing but water. Endless, endless, expanses of water. The ark floats on the now calm water, but we have no sense of it actually going anywhere. The ark starts to rise out of the water. Unnoticed until now, the water level has been dropping, and the ark has obviously grounded. Before long, the highest mountain tops are emerging from the flood.

Noach unlatches a window and looks out. Around him are the mountains of Ararat. Further beyond there is still water. We see the ark from outside. Noach reappears at the window and releases a raven. The bird flies about and insists on going back inside.

With the landscape somewhat drier, Noach again appears at the window, this time with a dove. The bird flies off, below it we see nothing but water beyond the mountains. It cannot land and returns to the ark. Again Noach sends out a dove, this time to a yet drier landscape. This time the dove picks up an olive leaf and brings it back. And yet a third time the dove flies off, and this time does not return. So Noach opens the door, and there is no water to be seen anywhere. The earth was dry.

***

The door to the ark is wide open, and all the animals are coming out again and heading off in various directions. Noach builds an altar and selects one each from the groups of seven to bring as sacrifices. G-d speaks to Noach and blesses him and his family, commanding him to be fruitful and multiply, but to take care that his descendants not fall into bloodshed or immorality.

***

Above Noach a brilliant rainbow appears and we hear G-d promise not to bring another flood. His rainbow, he says, will be a sign and reminder of his promise.

***

His great task complete, Noach leaves his sons to carry on with things and tends to his newly-planted vineyard instead. The vineyard bears fruit, and before long the first vintage is ready. Noach gets drunk and goes to his tent to sleep it off, his clothes in disarray. His son, Ham, sees him there naked, and goes in. Later, the other two sons cover up their wounded father, heads averted so as not to see his shame. When Noach wakes, he curses Ham's descendant Canaan, while blessing Shem and Yaphes.

We now have a series of vignettes introducing the descendants of of the three brothers, the nations coming from them, and their lands. We also meet Nimrod, a powerful leader from the family of Ham.

***

In the last ascent of the episode, we see all the people travelling and arriving in a river valley in a land they call Shinar. They like the look of it, and, after a great meeting and long discussion, the decide to settle there and build a city and a tall tower. So amidst scenes of brick making, and urban construction, the city begins to grow and the tower climbs towards the heavens.

We sense, as at the end of last week's episode, G-d's displeasure with the activities of man. And then things start going horribly wrong. We'd been watching some bricklaying high on the tower. Up until now it had been an orderly process. Now when the bricklayer asks for bricks, he gets mortar. Or at least we think he asked for brick, because suddenly we can't understand him. Nor can we understand anyone else. Construction stops. Various groups head off in different directions, trying to get as far as possible from these sudden foreigners.

Again, as in the first episode, we see a line of familial descent leading from Shem through nine generations to Terach, his three sons, Avram, Nahor, and Haran, their wives and families living in Nimrod's city of Ur Kasdim. After Haran's death at the hand of Nimrod we see the remainder of the family flee the city planning to go to the land of Canaan. The episode ends with them settling in Charan.

Last updated: 2006 October 26

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