Rainbows


(Originally published 2013-07-04 at Trojan Horse Productions.)

Baltimore is more likely than other places, to have weather when you can see rainbows. We are coming now into a period when this is especially so. We will probably have another such time again in September.

The key to seeing rainbows is, three things have to happen at the same time:
(1) The sun is shining
(2) while it rains, and
(3) there is blue sky somewhere.

If you happen to see the sun shining while it rains, then turn your back to the sun and look for blue sky straight ahead of you. That is where the rainbow may appear. The lower the sun is in the sky, the bigger the rainbow will be. The brighter the sun is, or the harder it’s raining, the brighter the rainbow will be. You may even see two or three rainbows, one inside the other.

Lessons from the rainbow

At the time of Noah, God decided to wipe out all life on earth and start over. God made it rain for forty days and forty nights, until the whole surface of the earth was under deep water. When dry land appeared again and Noah and his people left the ark, God promised them that God would never use a flood like this, to do this, again.

God had a bow and arrows, like hunters use. As a sign of God’s promise to Noah, God said, “I have put my bow in the clouds,” so that when it (the rainbow) appears God will remember this promise.

Another important part of this story:  In our world of social turmoil — back-stabbing, injustice and crime — it can be easy to lose hope, and wonder if there is anything in the world that can make sense. God’s promise to Noah includes an important reminder of the fundamental order God has built into creation. God said:

As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night
shall not cease.

There are things you can count on.

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3 thoughts on “Rainbows

    1. Actually, it’s nowhere near that simple.

      First, I think it’s essential not to lose sight of the truths the myths convey. I have had occasion even this past week — even yesterday — to recall this story as indicating that despite the chaos my life may appear to be, the cosmos is ultimately a well-ordered place.

      Whoops — Nature calls. I must submit the rest of this later.

    2. It can be misleading to suppose certain entire books are “older” than others, and I suspect the term “mythological” is itself misleading.

      According to the “documentary hypothesis,” which I subscribe to, Torah did not exist as a unit — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy did not exist as such — until about the time of Ezra, when “the Redactor,” very likely Ezra himself or a team of scholars working under his direction, wove together these accounts from a number of pre-existing sources. Some of those sources are much older than others. That doesn’t necessarily mean the “older” sources are any more “mythological” than the more recent ones.

      On the one hand, it seems clear to me that some accounts, like that of the conquest of Jericho or of the Plagues of Egypt, became increasingly embellished as they were passed down from generation to generation prior to Ezra. On the other hand, I wind up being concerned less with mythology or embellishment than with outright fabrication. The most sophisticated or astute theology in Torah is found in Deuteronomy — a formless, universal god of mercy and compassion. This is the work of “the Deuteronomist,” from roughly the time of Josiah. At the other extreme is “the Priestly source,” who wrote during the Babylonian Exile and is responsible for Leviticus and Numbers — and their portrait of a highly anthropomorphic, jealous and vindictive god.

      The Deuteronomist may incorporate mythological elements, but its theology can still hold its own against the most sophisticated theologians of our time. The Priestly Source, several centuries later, seems to me largely to have invented pre-kindergarten-level fictions to the end of scaring, as it were small children, into obedience.

      As Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:19, one may choose between death and life; or, as Joshua exhorted the people in Joshua 24:15, one may choose one’s God. There are definitely different conceptions of God to choose from.

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