Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Noah vs. Abraham

We often treat OT heroes as parade of equivalents, but as a key example, Abraham was a much greater man than Noah. And we often imagine that the absence of sins of commission is the goal or something particularly praiseworthy-- when sins of omission are often a far bigger deal.

Noah's famous sin is in chapter 9. But his key failure (a symptom of the greater problem) is the sin just after the flood (8:16,18). See also: Noah's voiceless sin of omission (as Adam in 3:6): he and Abraham were both brought into God’s counsel (6:13,22 vs. ch. 18), but Noah was apparently silent whereas Abraham went into full advocacy mode.

Jonathan Sacks' conclusion: "God seeks from us something other and greater than obedience, namely responsibility...the hero of faith was not Noah but Abraham”—fought a war for his nephew and prayed for the people of the plain, even challenging God: “What might an Abraham have said when confronted with the possibility of a flood?...Abraham might have saved the world. Noah saved only himself and his family. Abraham might have failed, but Noah—at least on the evidence of the text—did not even try…Noah’s end—drunk, disheveled, an embarrassment to his children—eloquently tells us that if you save yourself while doing nothing to save the world, you do not even save yourself…”

Along the same lines, Alan Jacobs quotes Bonhoeffer: “The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask is not how to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live. It is only this question, with its responsibility towards history, that fruitful solutions can come…”


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