I went to see the movie Noah last week and I’ve been going back and forth about writing about the movie. I was tempted to just call your attention to my friend Denny Burk’s and encourage you to read it, but I do think I want to jump in and give you my take. (Spoiler alert! If you intend to watch the movie you may want to wait to read this until you see it!)
First, what did it get right? Let’s start with the positives. In terms of genealogy they did get Noah’s father was Lamech and his grandfather was Methuselah, who was also the oldest man in the Bible. Noah was a son of Seth and he had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. They got that right.
In terms of the setting of Noah’s day…well, let me just say they did give us a picture of the depravity of man during that time. Genesis 6:5 says, “The LORD saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” I’ll come back to this in a moment, but at least we do get the picture that man was wicked and that he deserved judgment. I appreciated the fact that the movie did not try to make God a monster that would dare judge innocent people…it rightly showed that man was sinful and deserving of judgment. They got that right.
In terms of the ark…well they did get the building of the ark and the fact that the animals came onto the boat right. They also showed us the flood covering the entire earth, and the sending out of the raven and the dove. They got that right.
So let me wrap up what they got right in these terms: there was a man named Noah, he built an ark, animals came on the ark, God sent a flood, and the flood destroyed everything on land except for that which was in the ark. That is what they got right.
Second, what did the movie get wrong? Where do I start? Let’s start at the beginning. Do we have any evidence that Tubal-Cain killed Noah’s father? No. All we know for sure is that the Bible says, “Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.” There was a man by the name of Tubal-Cain. There was another Lamech in Cain’s line and he fathered Tubal-Cain, but we have no record of him killing Noah’s father.
In terms of the wickedness of Noah’s day the movie would have you believe that it was all about the spread of industrialism and environmental issues. Somehow the rise of the wicked industrialist caused God’s wrath to come down upon them. They were wicked, but there is no evidence of this being a environmental judgment or that only the wicked ate meat and all God’s true people were vegetarians. It is true that the Bible allows for the eating of meat after the flood, but there is no evidence that the eating of meat was a cause of judgment and that God was somehow going to save the only innocent things on earth—the animals! That was man’s fabrication and it was a violence to the text.
In terms of those who were on the ark. The Bible says, “And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood.” Everything surrounding the wives of the sons in the movie was fiction and I would add the attempt to make Methuselah some type of hermit magician was also fiction as was the stowaway Tubal-Cain. That was man’s fabrication and it was a violence to the text.
In terms of God’s specific communication with Noah—I think this may be my greatest disappointment. I understand the director’s dilemma. How does one accurately picture God speaking to man? But if you watched the movie and accepted it as your authority on all things Noah you would walk away thinking that God just gave Noah a few dreams and silently left him to figure it all out. That is not the case. God spoke clearly to Noah. In Genesis 6:13 we find, “And God said to Noah,” in Genesis 7:1, “Then the LORD said to Noah…,” and in 8:15 we find, “Then God said to Noah.” God spoke to Noah, God told Noah specifically how to build the ark, and He told Him what to do about the animals, and he spoke to Him when it was time to leave the ark. God spoke specifically. Anything else was man’s fabrication and it was a violence to the text.
The movie also portrayed Noah as a good man at first, but the character took a dark turn and he became driven by the idea that God was going to destroy all of man after they accomplished their goal of saving the innocent animals. Noah, in the movie, was so driven by this idea that he was determined to kill his grandchildren when they were born. God was ready to destroy all of mankind in Genesis 6 and verse 7 says, “So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them…” and the next two words are critical to our understanding of Noah, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” Verse 9 specifically says, “These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” In all of human history from Adam to Noah we find the phrase, “walked with God,” being said about two men and only two men—Noah and Noah’s great grandfather Enoch. Noah wasn’t chosen just to save the innocent animals—Noah was chosen by God to continue the line that would fulfill God’s Gospel promise in Genesis 3:15. God made a covenant with Adam and Eve and He intended to keep it.
The movie had nothing to say about the covenant of God and the rainbow at the end was just weird, but Noah was not some bumbling vegetarian who was better than the sons of Cain simply because he wasn’t an industrialist—he may have been a vegetarian, but this much is true—Noah was a man who walked with God and God saved him in order to keep His covenant.
This blog is already longer than I intended it to be, but let me wrap it up. I’ll give the director a pass on the fallen angels. Theologians have wrestled for years with the mystery of the Nephilim, but rock monsters? Really?! They looked like lava-covered transformers and there is no indication that they were cursed because they tried to help man—the exact opposite is true. They were fallen because they followed Satan. Any attempt to make them helpers in the building of the ark and of somehow being able to return to heaven is both a fabrication and a real act of violence to the text.
Should you go see the movie? That depends. Do you want to go and see a word-for-word description of the Flood account of Genesis 5-9? If that is true, then by all means do not go see the movie…you will be disappointed! Do you want to go and see a movie that is loosely based on the Bible’s character Noah and the flood? Then go and see it. It is action packed. The scene where the animals come onto the ark is worth the movie and the heartbreaking reminder of God’s judgment is something with which we should all wrestle.
Just remember—you can’t improve upon God’s Word. That is especially true when you take away from it or add to it. As Christians we should never expect a movie to do something that only God’s Word can do, but we can take full advantage of using this movie as an opportunity to dialogue with people about the God of the Bible. I hope God gives you the opportunity to do just that!