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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

From a Farmer to a Builder

''And he called his name Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.”

(Genesis 5:29 NKJV)

Lamech had wished at the birth of his son that he might bring refreshment, consolation and relief from the hard work of the earth, cursed after the fall of Adam and Eve. And that is why he chose for him the name "Noah," from the verb "nhm," which means to console and give relief, but also to repent in something, to grieve. And Noah's story will end precisely with an action of which to sorrow. What is encapsulated in the name will later find explicitness in the events of the flood, which God will decide to send to put an end to humankind, saving precisely Noah, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation" (Genesis 6:9 ESV). If he found favor in the eyes of the LORD it certainly was not because of his gifts as a farmer or his innate quality as a builder that he will manifest in the making of the ark. The two adjectives righteous (Heb. saddiq) and blameless (Heb. tamim) reveal to us a special character. The first includes the meaning of sympathetic, loyal, not so much the relationship with the Creator: he is the one who behaves in a way that conforms to the customs of the community, who shows solidarity with his neighbor. The second could render himself with upright, trustworthy in his ways and actions; devoted to God.

To this man God will look to, a farmer, a man with calluses in his hands and a sun-scarred face, wearing the smell of the animals that populated his fields, to entrust him with the opportunity to set humanity on a new course. Since he has decided to destroy everything, he is to build an ark of gofer wood, sprinkle it with bitumen inside and out, take with him his wife, three sons and three daughters-in-law first and then pairs of each animal species. If the construction is a "megalomaniac" undertaking, convincing the family members and then gathering the animals is beyond my imagination and ability to qualify. Once again God shows that he knew what he was doing, that he could choose ordinary people to accomplish something extraordinary. A farmer becoming a carpenter, an architect, a helmsman, an expert in navigation. In the work of the fields Noah has learned to know how to wait for the seasons, knows the rhythm of the earth and as such raises no temporal objections. As a wise and prepared leader he is a person of action. He has such character that he has aligned his thoughts with those of God. As a "patriarch" (leader) he does not see as others do, nor does he raise any obstacles. By faith, the writer to the Hebrews will say, and moved by holy fear he will take action (11:7). He knows that He who commanded him to build the ark will be His help, and, despite the remonstrances of some and the resistance of others, it will be possible. I imagine how many times he will have shouted to his own like Caleb, "we are well able to overcome it" (Numbers 13:30).

In the section of Genesis that collects the whole story, we read several times that "Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did" (6:22; 7:5). To overcome the time of destruction, the times of adversity, the community of believers needs people who are authoritative, spiritual and ready to sacrifice like Noah. He set to work, answered the call, without receiving material relief. God commanded him to build and coat with bitumen. The wood, the bitumen, everything needed did not rain down from heaven. At least Genesis does not tell us that. He who responds to the calling receives nothing material. Any spasmodic pursuit of success and wealth and any possible bargaining by merchants that may be set up before accepting the divine call will only be elements to discern that this is not a genuine vocation. Genesis does not give us the details of the fulfillment, nor does it give us the details of the working in progress. It merely gives us a few time elements to scan the progress of God's plan. What happens once the work is completed is public knowledge. Those who wish can stretch out in reading the biblical text until chapter 9. At the end of the flood our surviving builder will return to work the land by planting a vineyard, from which he will make wine for his own pleasure. Scripture does not hesitate to show us divine action through people who are our equals, with abilities and weaknesses like us. Men, parents, children, artisans and farmers, modest or wealthy in condition, who at God's side accomplish extraordinary things, but in private are not free from slips, who in cultivating personal passions risk leaving bad examples. After all, "For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again" (Proverbs 24:16).


Weekly Bible Reading Plan #36

August 28, Psalms 123-125; 1 Corinthians 10:1-18

August 29, Psalms 126-128; 1 Corinthians 10:19-33

August 30, Psalms 129-131; 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

August 31, Psalms 132-134; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

September 1, Psalms 135-136; 1 Corinthians 12

September 2, Psalms 137-139; 1 Corinthians 13

September 3, Psalms 140-142; 1 Corinthians 14:1-20

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