*Note: There are no spoilers in this post if you know the gist of the Noah story from the Bible or the movie trailer or general knowledge.
Here’s my caveat. This is not a movie review. I loved the movie. If you didn’t, you can still read this, though.
There’s one part of the movie that is totally biblically accurate, or, in non-christian-speak, it’s true to the book, and it’s the part that caught me off guard and has had me thinking about it ever since.
Noah got drunk.
This is after the climax of the movie. But it’s odd, because where we’d expect easy resolution to the tension of the plot line, all the sudden it just kind of fades into a weird side note about Noah getting drunk. Because Noah is a real guy, and in real life, when the storm ends and the rainbow comes, you still have to live the rest of your life.
Here it is from the book: “Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent” (Genesis 9:20-21 NIV).
This is the part that hit me hard. I had always read that at face value. Noah got drunk. I always saw it as humorous, like it was something that had never happened before. Like if your sweet, goody-two-shoes grandma had too much to drink one time.
But in the movie, it portrays Noah alone, apart from his family, spending time in a cave on the shore getting drunk. Getting wasted. Until he’s face-down, passed out in the sand, and naked.
It’s heart breaking. It’s a man who, despite the symbols of peace and hope we use to this day being delivered to his door step — a dove with an olive branch, and the rainbow of promise — he’s left alone in a new world being told it has to all start again with him. And he goes through the long process of planting a vineyard. Waiting for it to grow. Cultivating and fermenting the grapes to make wine. So finally, finally, he can have something to numb the ache. Something to drown out the screams of the drowning world that weigh so heavily on his shoulders.
Because God, in sparing Noah, pulled a merciful, jerk move. He left Noah in a place that he was never meant to be. A new Adam, so to speak. Facing a new world knowing how humans messed it up the last time, and knowing deep down that it will happen again, and that this time it will start with him and his family line.
This passage doesn’t talk about avoiding drunkenness.
It just tells it like it is. Noah got drunk.
But it took the movie to show me why. It wasn’t celebration or carelessness like I had always assumed. Noah — despite being spared from destruction, despite the promise of the almighty Creator that He would never destroy like this again — is left having lost everything. Having to rebuild. It takes him months of preparation to get drunk. Those vineyards had to be an intentional decision.
I know what it is to start over on a minor scale — to see people in my wake drowning — to be hurt by where my choices, other people’s choices, and God’s path have taken me. And I know that at the end of the day, the rainbow doesn’t just take all that away. We’re still left with a muddy, barren world. And a God who seems so merciful and loving through the storm, but who feels so distant in the rebuilding. He is there. I am sure of it. But while we’ve been rescued, we’re still reeling from everything that was lost.
If Noah was the most righteous guy out there, if he was God’s go-to, start-over-with-him guy, and the pressures of the path turned him into a hopeless drunk, what will become of me?
We don’t hear about him after that. We’re told: “After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Altogether, Noah lived 950 years, and then he died.”
Did he spend 350 years blacking out to avoid the pain? I don’t know. Did God use him again in unrecorded ways? I don’t know. Did God ever work in his life and his heart to the point where he didn’t hear the screams at night anymore? I so desperately hope so. Did he get to the point where doves, olive trees, and rainbows really did give him hope for the work God was doing in the world? The part of me that begs for resolution says: I’m certain he did. But to be honest, the Bible does not say.
Assuming we both end up in heaven, I’m going to find Noah, and I’m going to buy him a drink. Not a sad drink. It will be a drink to celebrate that the hope has been fulfilled and that the ache is no more.
It’ll also give me a chance to teach him about umbrellas (since they’ll be in our drinks, obviously).
Joanna O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.
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