By now, you know the scoop. We often use scripts at the youth group (aka, the Edge). They are discussion starters, not finishers. They are created to make people think, not to give them answers.  And they are meant to help people see some of the stories in the Bible with new eyes or maybe even to feel the story for the first time. This script, I believe, does all those things. But you need to know a few things before you read it.

First, you’re going to have to sing. Now, the songs should be familiar (except, perhaps, in one case), but unfortunately the words have all been changed. Sorry. The four songs are (in the order they appear in the script), “Sing to the Power of the Lord Comes Down,” (if you don’t know it, do me a favor and just pretend like you do), “God Bless America;” “Our God is an Awesome God,” and last but not least, “Angels We have Heard on High.” So, be prepared to sing along.

Second, you’re going to have to pronounce a strange name; that name is Atrahasis (it is pronounced Atra-ha-sis). The Epic of Atrahasis is the hero of the Akkadian/Babylonian story of the flood. He is “saved” because the god Enki warned him to build an ark (Atrahasis means “exceedingly wise”). As a result of his righteousness, Atrahasis saved the world. And in case you were wondering, The Epic of Atrahasis was written down in the mid-17th century BCE, although the story itself is even older. The Sumerian flood story (also known as the “Eridu Genesis”) tells the same story, but is much older (written around 2300 BCE). The Epic of Gilgamesh, which also tells the story of the great flood, is thought to be even older than that. By the way, Marduk was the patron deity of Babylon and chief among the gods.

And that means, third, that our flood story in Genesis 6-9, shares some startling similarities to numerous ancient Mesopotamian flood stories (like all the ones I just mentioned), all of which were written down long before the Genesis account (but the oral tradition may be just as old). In any case, to understand the Genesis account properly, it is best to see how these stories are similar and how they differ from our account of Noah and the flood.   

Last, it seems very likely that during the Babylonian exile, the Jewish people became familiar with these other stories and intentionally went about shaping their story of the flood as an apologetic against the beliefs of the Babylonians, beliefs that were sadly being assimilated by the Jewish youth in exile. In other words, the Genesis flood story is written to win back the hearts and minds of those living in exile who are being immersed in the Babylonian way of life. It was written for God’s people to convince them that Israel’s God is far superior to the gods and stories of Babylon. That is also (in part) the background to the script. 

Today’s script has six parts. There is a narrator. He only has one line, but it sets the stage. Then, there is the Chorus (I warned you there was singing). There is Chorus 1 and Chorus 2. Then, we have two Babylonians: one named Nebo and the other, Ishtar. And then, we have two Jewish believers: one named Jacob, and the other is a rabbi named Samuel.


The Story of the Flood

Narrator: The place: A neighborhood pub in Babylon. The year: 551 BC. 

Chorus 1 (singing): There—was—a—flood. 

Chorus 2: The—skies—opened—and–the—rain—came—down

Chorus 1: There—was—a—flood

Chorus 2: The—skies—opened—and–the—rain—came—down

Chorus 1: The—waters—rose—up

Chorus 2: The people went under — they didn’t float.

Chorus 1 and 2: All except Atrahasis because he —– had a boat! 

Nebo: The gods were angry that day, my friends. The gods were angry.

Ishtar: What gods?

Nebo: Son, where do you live?

Ishtar: I live in Babylon. 

Nebo: Then, don’t you think I might be talking about our gods, the Babylonian gods.

Ishtar: Yeah, but, now that we have these Jews living with us, I’m getting all confused because they have all these other stories. 

Nebo: What stories? You know you can’t listen to those Jewish stories. Not only do they get things wrong, but they are the worst storytellers ever! Have you ever tried to read Leviticus? Holy Marduk; it’s boring!

Ishtar: That may be, but their stories are very different from our stories. Hey, look there’s one of the guys I was talking to the other day. Wait ’til you hear his take on the flood. Hey Jacob, can you come here for a second?

Jacob: Gentlemen, what can I do for you? Perhaps, you would like to buy some gefilte fish or some chicken soup with matzo balls?

Ishtar: Not today. We need you to tell us the story of the flood.

Jacob: The flood? That old story? Well, first thing to know is that there was a flood.

Chorus 1 (singing): There—was—a—flood

Chorus 2 (singing): The—skies—opened—and–the—rain—came—down

Jacob: Stop the singing already. I’m making a simple point. There was a flood, and everyone knows it. Your people. My people. The Assyrian people. Even the Persians and the Greeks know it. Everyone tells the same story. There was a flood.

Chorus 1 (singing): There—was—a—flood.

Chorus 2 (singing): The—skies—opened—and–the—rain—came—down.

Nebo: That’s what I’ve been saying! The gods were angry that day, my friends. The gods were angry.

Ishtar: That’s right! They were so angry; they flooded the whole earth!

Samuel: Well, let’s not get too wild here. I mean, you know that is just an expression, right?

Ishtar: Who are you? 

Samuel: I’m Rabbi Samuel, and I know things. And I know a few things about this flood of yours, things you might not have thought of before.

Nebo: Yeah, like what?

Samuel: For instance, you just said the gods were angry so they flooded the whole world. Now, we all know today’s date. It’s 551 BCE (Babylonian Central Everywhere). But in two thousand years from now—some guy we don’t know—from a country we haven’t heard about yet—is going to sail across an ocean we’ve never seen—and discover a whole other side of our world. That’s right, there’s a whole other part of our world that we’ve never seen or heard about, but it is sitting right over there just waiting to be discovered. 

Chorus 1: God Bless America (North, Central, South and Latin). Land that I love!

Samuel: That’s right, God bless this other part of the world. Now, this guy didn’t mean to do that. He was hoping to sail straight to China. And here’s the thing—we’ve never even heard of China either—and yet, there are thousands and thousands of people living there right now.  

Nebo: So, you are saying that when WE say that the whole world was flooded, we shouldn’t intend that to be taken literally. Instead, we are only saying that the whole world that WE know about today was flooded and not China, this new world or any of the other parts.  

Samuel: Exactly! Think of it this way. Some 550 years from now, some other guy from some place called Rome is going to issue a decree that all the world will be taxed. Now think about that. Do you think that he taxed the whole other side of the world? Do you think he taxed China? No! He taxed the world that he knew, and that was just under his jurisdiction. That’s why 2500 years from now, most Bibles (that’s a book that hasn’t been written yet, but one day it will be a great read) will stop saying, “all the world should be taxed” and, instead, say, “all the Roman world” should be taxed because when the Bible says, “all the world,” it doesn’t necessarily mean “ALL the world.” So “the whole world” is a figure of speech and is not speaking literally, scientifically or historically.

Ishtar: Who are you again, and how do you know all this stuff?

Samuel: I’m Samuel, dufus, and I know stuff.

Ishtar: Yeah, but where is your proof?

Samuel: Will a lack of proof serve as proof. See, if the whole world had experienced a flood, there would be tons of geological evidence all over the place, but there isn’t. There is no geological evidence whatsoever that a global flood ever happened. And to prove that, just look at the Grand Canyon. If there was proof, we would see it in the sedimentary deposits there, but none exists. 

Ishtar: Listen, I may not know what the word “geological” means or what a “Grand Canyon” is, but this one thing I absolutely know. The world is flat, flat, flat; and if you think it is a globe, as in a “GLOBAL flood,” you are the dufus. You “round earthers” make me sick!

Jacob: Ah, see, you exaggerate to make your point more emphatic. I don’t make you sick. You just disagree with my position. That is also what our story of the flood does. It says the whole earth was covered by a flood. It says that the ark that saved humanity was 450 feet long. It’s all exaggeration used to make a point. 

Samuel: Good point. Right now, here in 551 BCE, the largest boat we have is around 10 feet in length.  It’s basically a canoe. 100 years from now, people will figure out how to make a boat that is 100 feet long. A thousand years from now, people will have figured out how to make a boat that is 121 feet long.  2000 years from now, people will try to make a wooden boat that is 449 feet long; but because of its extreme length, it will leak like a sieve; and when it encounters rough seas, it will sink. Why? Because you can’t navigate a 450-foot, wind-powered wooden boat. In fact, the whole idea of such a boat is impossible. It would be like saying Boeing made a plane that is a mile long.

Jacob: He’s right. It’s all exaggeration. I have no idea what a mile, a plane or a Boeing is, but he’s right.

Samuel: Plus, think of the Himalayan mountains.  If the flood covered all the earth, it would have to cover the whole Himalayan Mountain range. But to do that, you would need 8 times more water than our planet now possesses. If I told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times—the story is clearly exaggerated to make a point.  

Nebo: Let’s just agree to disagree here. Plus, it’s not that important if the whole world was flooded or just OUR Ancient Near Eastern world. What is important is that we all agree that the gods were angry that day, my friend, very angry.

Jacob: Would you mind if I asked what your gods were so angry about?  

Nebo: No problem, but first some background. According to the story of Atrahasis—that’s our story of the creation and the flood—long before there were people, there were the gods. And the gods were divided into two groups; there were the powerful gods and the lesser gods. Now, all of our gods have real needs. They want food and drink and love and sleep. And so, to meet these needs, the powerful gods forced the lesser gods to dig irrigation ditches, plant crops and do other grunt work so that all the needs of the powerful gods could get met. But one day, the lesser gods revolted. They said it wasn’t right that gods should have to do this hard work and that somebody else should have to do it. And so, the powerful gods created people to do the work so that the lesser gods could have a break.  

Ishtar: And things were going great, but then, humanity grew too large. And that was a problem. See, the more people there were, the more noise there was. And suddenly, the gods had a problem. They couldn’t sleep at night because we humans were making too much noise. And so, the gods decided to wipe us all out by creating a world-wide flood. But one of the gods felt that there had to be a different way to solve the noise pollution. And so, this god told Atrahasis about the coming flood and told him to make a honking big boat that would hold his family and a zoo-full of animals. And that is how humanity was saved!

Samuel: Wow, what a story! I can’t wait for HBO to make a movie about it, but I will have to wait for at least 2500 years. HBO is good, but they are a long time coming.  

Jacob: Let me see if I understand what you said. Your gods were angry because WE were making too much noise? The whole flood was because your gods couldn’t sleep?

Chorus 1 and 2 (singing to the tune of “Our God is an Awesome God”): “Our god is a grumpy god; he can’t sleep in heaven above, cuz there’s too much clamor and noise; our god can’t sleep at all. Our god is a grumpy god.”

Ishtar: Wow, when you put it that way, our gods sound like jerks. 

Nebo: Fine!  Maybe our gods don’t come out looking that great. But your God killed everybody, too, so we’re even.

Samuel: We’re not even close to even! Listen, 950 years from now, you will be able to get the whole Bible in hardback and read it cover to cover. I would highly recommend you do that because it tells the story of a God that is good and not grumpy and a God of love and not hate. 

Jacob: For instance, the Bible tells us that God created us, not to do his grunt work, but because he wanted to have a relationship with us. What can I say, our God loves people. And in the beginning, he blessed us saying, “be fruitful and multiply.” And he never said, “But keep the noise down.” And God didn’t create people so that they could make food so they could offer it to him. He created food for people so that THEY could eat and enjoy it. And the true God doesn’t sleep. He is God, not a human.

Nebo: Yeah, then why did he flood the earth? Ha! You can’t answer that! Babylonian logic 1. Jewish logic 0.  

Jacob: I can answer that, but first you have to understand that God didn’t want to flood the earth. He hated doing it. It was a last resort. BUT your gods couldn’t wait to flood the earth! And they danced when it happened. They could finally sleep!

Samuel: See, Genesis lays the blame for the flood on us, not on God. It wasn’t because of our noise. It was because of OUR SIN. And not tiny sins like white lies and cheating on our taxes. Genesis says that every inclination of the human heart had become evil. There was violence and murder and stealing and brutality. In short, people had become a cancer that was destroying God’s whole good creation. So, God had to cut this cancer out or else our world would be turned into a cesspool of violent sin. 

Ishtar: Hey, I read your Genesis, and that is not what it said! It said that the flood happened because angels came down from heaven and took human wives and made little evil babies with them. And some of these babies became giants. That’s why the flood came—to wipe out these giants. And you need deep water to drown a giant!

Samuel: Oi vey! Do you even know how to read? Let me teach you. Some paragraphs are introductions. Some paragraphs contain the body of the argument. And some paragraphs are conclusions. YOU are assuming that this paragraph is an introduction to the flood story.  BUT it could also just as easily be the conclusion to the previous section. And if it was, then it would not have anything to do with the flood. And if that is the case, then it is far more likely that these weren’t angels. They were just guys who liked women and had children with them. And some of these kids turned out to be famous people. It’s far less exciting, but it makes a whole lot more sense.

Chorus 1 and 2 (tune: “Angels We Have Heard on High”): Angels didn’t come down to earth / and take human women as wives / angels don’t do such things / they are really good guys / Glor-or-or-or-ria in excelsis Deo / Angels are good guys.

Nebo: So, wait. The big difference between our stories is that WE blame the gods and YOU blame people? 

Jacob: In a nutshell, yes! But there are other differences, too. If you read your stories and then read Genesis, you can see all sorts of differences. 

Nebo: Okay, fine. There are differences, but it still boils down to this: Our gods tried to kill off humanity because we made too much noise. Your God tried to kill off humanity because we were too sinful and violent. Dead is dead. It really doesn’t matter. Ha! Babylonian Logic 2. Jewish logic 0!

Jacob: Oi-vey, Babylonians are dense. Of course, it matters! If you have a lot of people, there will be a lot of noise. There is nothing anyone can do about that. If the gods want to kill us for making noise, well, we all better learn how to tread water. But if the problem is our sin, then there is something we can do! We can stop killing people! We can stop stealing from others! We can stop hating people! And we can always repent and find God’s forgiveness. In your view, we are helpless. The gods are going to get us. In our view, we are not helpless. We can do something. We can stop the violence and the hatred and learn to be kind and loving.  

Nebo: Fine, we can change. Good luck with that. But my point still stands. It doesn’t really matter because in both our stories God is judging humanity and doing so pretty harshly.

Jacob: No, no, no. Don’t you see it? You Babylonians want to picture the flood as a story of judgment with a little sliver of salvation and hope (Atrahasis builds a boat and escapes). But the story of the Bible is that the flood is a story of grace—God saves his people—set in the context of a terrible judgment.  

Nebo: I don’t care how you read it, it is still a miserable story and I am so glad that it is over and done with. The gods were angry that day, my friend, the gods were very angry.

Jacob: But that’s the thing. The story is not really over because it still speaks to us about our lives today. 

Ishtar: Is that so? Do you have a little ark building business that I don’t know about?

Samuel: Think of the story of the flood as the story of Israel.

Nebo: The story of Israel? I thought it was a story of our gods being angry.

Jacob: Nope, not the way we tell it. When we tell it, it is the story of Israel. Okay, maybe it is more the story of the God of Israel, but you get the idea. See, the flood story speaks to us about our lives and failures and sin and rebellion against God.  And the flood story reminds us again and again that while our sin may be terrible, God’s grace is always greater. Here’s the story of the flood for us today. We (Israel) rebelled against God. We were violent and evil and corrupt. We even started worshiping idols. Not to be offensive, but I’m sad to say, we went completely Babylonian on God. 

Nebo: Don’t worry about it. No offense taken. We’ve all gone Babylonian every now and then.

Ishtar: You idiot. We are Babylonians! Everywhere we go, we go Babylonian.  

Jacob: Be that as it may. In any case, God warned us over and over not to do such things, but we refused to listen. We sinned just like the people in Genesis sinned—only worse, because we knew better.  

Samuel: So, God had to do something. Yes, in part to punish us, but more importantly, to get our attention and to call us to return to him.

Jacob: But we wouldn’t listen. And so, God sent a flood. He sent an army of Babylonians to “flood” over the land. But God, because he is a God of grace, put some of us in an ark and saved a remnant. 

Samuel: So, there you have it. The flood story speaks to the story of Israel. We sinned violently against God and others. God sent a Babylonian “flood” to put an end to our world. That’s right—“all the world” means “all of Israel!” But God saved a remnant. The question now is: In light of all this, how are we going to live out our faith today? Will we return to our old ways and live without God in violence and in sin? Or will we respond to God’s grace and turn back to him? That’s the story of the flood for us today.  

Ishtar: What did I tell you, Nebo? These guys are crazy! What a story! I just thought it was about a flood. Who knew it was supposed to teach us something? 

Nebo: And who knew it was inviting us into a relationship with God? I’m a Babylonian! I didn’t know any of that stuff. But I do know the song! Sing it, boys!

Chorus 1 (singing): There—was—a—flood

Chorus 2 (singing): The—skies—opened—and–the—rain—came—down

Chorus 1 (singing): There—was—a—flood

Chorus 2 (singing): The—skies—opened—and–the—rain—came—down

Chorus 1 (singing): The—waters—rose—up

Chorus 2 (singing): The people drowned; they didn’t float.

Chorus 1 and 2 (singing): All except Noah because he —– had a boat!

The end.

© 2023, “A Flood of a Story,” Dane Lewis, River’s Edge Community Church