This article was found in the April 1952 copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church. It was written by Rev. Ronald M. Ward.
I have not had a lively interest in Noah for years. I have been inclined to think of him more as the founder of a remarkably representative zoo than anything else, but the other day I started reading "Ur of the Chaldees" by Sir Leonard Woolley who spent seven years excavating Ur and its suburbs. I suppose that few people who read the Old Testament realise how remarkable was the civilisation which existed at the time of Abraham and even of Noah. Unfriendly critics have tried to make us believe that these ancient peoples were crude and ignorant, and in fact until the excavation of Ur in the thirties there was little evidence to show what they were like.
The archaeologist's description of the reforms or rather religious innovations of Nebuchadnezzar as shown in his alterations of the temples and holy buildings adds to our understanding of the story of the Three Children in the Book of Daniel, and his drawings on the ziggurats or stage-towers of which the Tower of Babel was a type made me think about the Bible story with more interest. If we are sceptical about the account of people building a tower with the idea that it should reach to heaven, the learned comments of Egyptologists on the meaning of pyramids and stage-towers will probably make us change our minds.
Writing about excavations of a suburb of Ur Sir Leonard Woolley describes a small relief in alabaster which he dug up under the foundations of a house attached to a temple. It was a high-prowed boat with a cabin amidships and on one side a man was shown standing in the stern and a cow in the cabin and on the other were two fish and a goose. Apparently this was the type of boat used by marsh dwellers of that period, and it was so like the Ark that it was jokingly called Noah's Ark by the excavators. Having read this I immediately began to imagine Noah as a marshland farmer who spent most of time in the lonely flat country by the river. Probably he was skilled at hunting wildfowl and fishing and was used to handling boats, because that part of Mesopotamia was liable to flood. What better place could there have been for religious contemplation and for observing the signs of the weather and that behaviour of the river. As a countryman Noah probably had definite options about the life of the cities in the plain, and we know that Ur had an advanced civilisation at the time of the Flood. As a man used to working hard and with strong religious feelings he may not have approved of the luxurious life of some of the citizens of Ur. We might imagine him perceiving with a Churchillian grimness the signs of the gathering storm and receiving as a Divine message the warning of coming disaster. Like the man in the alabaster relief he took his domestic animals and his family on board this marsh-boat, and as for the "creeping things of the earth" mentioned in Genesis, they probably came in with the beasts without any organised assistance from Noah. The Kon-Tiki Expedition has shown us what perils a frail craft can endure, and we can imagine Noah's ark weathering the storm which destroyed all the villages over a vast area measuring 400 by 100 miles, and left a few of the cities which were built up high but which must have suffered severely from the flooding of so much agricultural land.
If anyone is inclined to draw an unfavourable comparison between this disaster and the Biblical implication that it was universal, it should be pointed out that the near destruction of the Sumerian civilisation was of the greatest significance because it was from the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates that culture passed to Egypt and so through Crete to Greece and Rome.
It is a pity that the results of these excavations cannot be popularly presented. Many people have not enough imagination to picture the social life of the times from its remains, nor enough patience to follow the detailed accounts of scholars. Perhaps where Noah is concerned my imagination has wandered off in the wrong direction but at any rate it has restored him to reality.