“One reason people are leaving traditional Bible-based religions is that they are told they have to read the Bible literally rather than metaphorically.” So what happened to the poop on Noah's ark?
Children’s Bible stories annoy me. The reason for this is simple: The Bible wasn’t written for children. It is a violent, sexually explicit, ethically challenged and challenging, and philosophically rich collection of stories, myths, legends, laws, and historical fictions written by adults for adults. I love the book, but it is wasted on the young.
Take the story of Noah’s ark, for example.
God is disappointed by humanity. Seeing that people are inexorably evil, God decides to murder all but one family of humans along with most animals. It seems that fish, who would, presumably, not be negatively impacted by the Flood, are to inherit the planet. How are you going to explain this to an eight–year–old?
Look at any version of Noah’s ark for kids and you will be hard-pressed to find an illustration of the ark floating through a sea of bloated corpses, human and animal. On the contrary, life on the ark is depicted as a five-star cruise where no one suffers. And if you ever do read a story book of Noah’s ark to an eight–year–old, you are going to have to deal with a literalist mind unafraid to ask the hard question: What did Noah do with all the poop these animals generated every day?
Luckily there is one adult with the answer. Perhaps sharing the literalist mindset of an eight–year–old, Pastor Perry Stone, in a video series called Exposing Satan’s Secrets, says, “It is estimated that there was five to 12 tons of manure a day on the ark. Now there was a window on top of that ark that could be opened—it actually was on the side, not the top, it’s on the side—where they could throw it out if they needed to, so it doesn’t necessarily mean it piled piled piled, they had a way getting rid of it, no doubt.”
According to Torah, there were three doors on the side of the ark, one each on the lower, second, and third decks (Genesis 6:16). But whether we are talking about one door or three doors, five to 12 tons of manure a day is a lot of manure—especially when you consider there were only eight people to do the shoveling.
Of course, this might make for a good children’s book, with Noah and his family vomiting from the stench and shoveling one ton of hot steaming manure every hour as the ark tossed and turned in the raging flood waters. I doubt, however, that anyone will write it.
But the real problem is that taking the story literally rather than reading it as a parable to be unpacked in search of some ethical insight asks all of us to be eight-year-olds. One reason people are leaving traditional Bible-based religions is that they are told they have to read the Bible literally rather than metaphorically or as a parable. Childish religions demand child-like adults. This is sad.
The Bible demands adult minds capable of critical and imaginative thinking. Too bad we would rather discuss the poop in the ark and the humans who shovel it, than the morality of the Flood and the God who causes it.
Satisfied that you understand what happened to the poop on Noah's ark? Read more from Rabbi Rami.