I"m trying to contemplate the place of the flood story in the Torah.

The story of the flood spans roughly three chapters of the Torah, seemingly implying its importance, yet:

  1. it has no Halachic implications - no Halachah is learned from it
  2. it bears no applicable scientific knowledge, on the contrary, it presents an empirically wrong picture
  3. its miraculous events have no relation to the Jewish people - Noah wasn't a Jew, and his personal behavior - saving only himself from the flood and then getting drunk is not exemplary in any aspect
  4. God's judgment of the sinners, as described, made no dent in human moral behavior, and no future developments in the Torah depend on this story.
  5. Unlike the Exodus, G-d didn't fight other gods or forces, so the story wasn't about Him being "tremendous" and praiseworthy.

Did anybody address the necessity of the Torah to lengthen the story so much? In other words, why it was necessary to present this story in such great detail?

  • Your comment “Neither it has any scientific knowledge or value that can be learned from” contradicts this comment “ we learn from everything.”
    – Jonathan
    Oct 28 '19 at 22:04
  • It could have been dragged out because G-d wished to inform us of the true event with details or it might have been a myth with a moral lesson as Rambam suppose. That would lend the story being dragged because the pagans dragged their stories without any value attached to them.
    – Jonathan
    Oct 28 '19 at 22:05
  • 1
    I’m a little confused as to what type of answer you are seeking. The end of your post seems to indicate that you don’t want an answer that explains that it was necessary in order to teach us stuff. So do you just want an answer that says it was unnecessary? Or that it was just following some stylistic format?
    – Alex
    Oct 28 '19 at 22:07
  • @Alex I asked once about the uniformity of the information in the TOrah, IMHO, the biggest passages should provide the biggest information. I'd like to know whether the story of the flood aligns with this principle or contradicts it.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 28 '19 at 22:10
  • @Jonathan Nothing scientific, but some moral lessons.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 28 '19 at 22:13

At the end of the Prefatory Remarks to Guide for the Perplexed, Rambam writes:

An adequate explanation of the figure having been given, and its meaning having been shown, do not imagine that you will find in its application a corresponding element for each part of the figure; you must not ask what is meant by "I have peace offerings with me" (ver. 14); by "I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry" (ver. 16); or what is added to the force of the figure by the observation "for the goodman is not at home" (ver. 19), and so on to the end of the chapter. For all this is merely to complete the illustration of the metaphor in its literal meaning. The circumstances described here are such as are common to adulterers. Such conversations take place between all adulterous persons. You must well understand what I have said, for it is a principle of the utmost importance with respect to those things which I intend to expound. If you observe in one of the chapters that I explained the meaning of a certain figure, and pointed out to you its general scope, do not trouble yourself further in order to find an interpretation of each separate portion, for that would lead you to one of the two following erroneous courses: either you will miss the sense included in the metaphor, or you will be induced to explain certain things which require no explanation, and which are not introduced for that purpose. Through this unnecessary trouble you may fall into the great error which besets most modern sects in their foolish writings and discussions: they all endeavour to find some hidden meaning in expressions which were never uttered by the author in that sense. Your object should be to discover inmost of the figures the general idea which the author wishes to express. In some instances it will be sufficient if you understand from my remarks that a certain expression contains a figure, although I may offer no further comment. For when you know that it is not to be taken literally, you will understand at once to what subject it refers. My statement that it is a figurative expression will, as it were, remove the screen from between the object and the observer.

(Friedlander translation, my emphasis)

While Rambam does not specifically say that this particular story is metaphorical, perhaps the same underlying reasoning applies — the length and details of the story are simply there to flesh out the story, and not because each word or phrase is teaching us an important new lesson.

See also my answers here, here, here, and here for some comments from Ralbag about the Torah's tendencies regarding giving lots of details in certain parts.

  • Alex, here is an interesting study done by Rabbi Marc b. Shapiro regarding the theological meaning of Noah’s flood.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 29 '19 at 12:48
  • Well, IMHO, saying "that's common with Torah" helps very little. I'm tired to hear "of course it's very important, but we have no idea why". My Q. was specifically about that story - do we know or not what it's listed for. Your answer just proves, we don't.
    – Al Berko
    Oct 29 '19 at 18:27
  • @AlBerko See my comment on the question. I’m not sure what other type of answer you want.
    – Alex
    Oct 29 '19 at 18:41
  • Something lie "without the story of the flood we would know that Hashem is ... He does ... Matan Torah wouldn't happen... Imagine the Torah without the flood - does it lack anything we can't learn from other places? I'm trying to grasp the idea of Torah's "perfectness", as some try to claim that "any kid could make it better".
    – Al Berko
    Oct 29 '19 at 18:46
  • @AlBerko But your question didn't ask why we have the story at all. It asked why the story is so long.
    – Alex
    Oct 29 '19 at 23:30

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