Of Rosemary and Flies to Wanton Boys

Fri 09/09/05 at 7:14 pm

In 1988, I decided to read the Bible cover to cover. Before that, of course, I’d read (or heard read) a good bit of it. I made it midway through The Psalms before abandoning the effort. I discovered that reading the Sunday School stories in context often resulted, to quote Paul Harvey, in getting to “know the rest of the story.”

Take, for instance, the story of Noah. Genesis 5-9. I trust everyone knows that God, having become disenchanted with humankind, commanded Noah to build a really big boat and to load his family members and two of every kind of animal onto it, after which God caused it to rain forty days and forty nights. As a result, “every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.” Id. at Genesis 7: 23. How many of you, however, remember the details of the next two verses? Specifically, Chapter 7 ends with the pronouncement “the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.” I, for one, was dumbstruck the first time I actually read the opening words of Chapter 8, to wit:

“And God remembered Noah.”

Let’s see, 150 days, that’s about 5 months before God thought about the fellow he had chosen to repopulate the earth after The Deluge. Now, I don’t know about you, but I was taught that God was an omnipotent, omnipresent grandfatherly type who would know every time I used a swear word. Based on the above, I’ll just say, NOT.

Then there’s the story of Job. For those of you who don’t already know, Job “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” He had seven sons and three daughters. He was also quite rich. He had “seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household.” He was “the greatest of all the men of the east.” Job 1: 1-3. And then, as is so often the case when things are going exceptionally well, the other shoe dropped. (Maybe, it’s because of Job we experience the free-floating angst that harbingers the undropped shoe.) As with the story of Noah, sitting down and reading the account of what actually led up to the dropping of Job’s shoe also left me dumbstruck. Id. at 6-12.

It seems that “there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” Seeing him, God asks Satan, “Whence comest thou?” Satan answers, “From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” God inquires whether Satan happened to run into his “servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” Satan retorts with something to the effect of, “Well of course he’s perfect and God-fearing, he doesn’t have a care in the world, ‘but put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face’.” To make a long verse short, God replies, “Wanna bet?” God then tells Satan, “Behold, all that he hath is in thy power” with one exception; God forbids Satan to kill Job. The next thing you know, “BAM,” Satan kills his entire family. And we’re off and running.

Given the foregoing, you can now understand why, in the novel, I intend to portray the God of Noah and of Job as a somewhat out-of-touch compulsive gambler — at least metaphorically speaking. (And now you also know the answer to why bad things happen to good people.)

Oh, and if you haven’t yet connected the title of this post with its content, brush up your Shakespeare, or, alternatively, search Google. For continuity, you’ll also need to add the following parenthetical to the end of Gloucester’s lament: (or at least, our families).

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