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Published: Tuesday, 10/5/2004

Health, safety regulation of biblical proportion

In the time of Noah, it rained 40 days and 40 nights - and it wasn't even the hurricane season in Florida.

Those of us who spent many a morning in Sunday school and many a day in Bible camp learned stories of heroic exploits from a harsher, but simpler, time. One has to suppose that today, the ancients would face a raft of regulatory, legal, and financial problems.

Given the extremely bad weather experience, survivors of such a flood today would find property insurance unaffordable.

The Coast Guard probably would want to look at that ark, too: A vessel of that length (300 cubits, or about 500 feet) doubtless would need a steel hull and bulkheads and an adequate supply of life preservers. Was the ark even inspected?

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would be incensed at crowding that many animals onto one vessel. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency might be very concerned about how Noah treated the sewage from all those animals.

The EPA would have a fit over the pollution potential of Moses' parting of the Red Sea, especially after the Egyptian chariots and horses got swamped. And surely those commandments would be the subject of lengthy court challenges.

Methuselah would need a lot of financial planning today. Anybody who lives to be 969 has to worry about outliving his money. Will Social Security be there for anyone with that kind of life expectancy?

Abraham and Sarah might have health-insurance problems today, as would any couple over the age of 90 having a child. Without a doubt, any HMO would immediately cancel coverage.

When Joshua signaled for the army to shout, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, where were the building inspectors?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture would be very concerned about those plagues of frogs, gnats, flies, and locusts, not to mention Joseph's hoard of grain and the price of grain in Egypt.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would take a look at the chariots that constantly broke down in the heat of battle.

And that chariot of fire? Whoa! Something was definitely wrong there. When a customer pays 600 shekels for a chariot, it had better be safe.

Speaking of chariots, it would be interesting to see the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration report on working conditions in Solomon's stables - which had either 4,000 or 40,000 stalls for horses and chariots, depending on which account you believe.

The riches of King Solomon and some other kings, such as Nebuchadnezzar and Jehoshaphat, would today come under scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and perhaps even New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Residents of Sodom and Gomorrah might need to adopt a "sin tax" to support their economy.

The American Civil Liberties Union would have plenty of work to do if the ancients were doing their deeds today.

Clearly, it was self-defense when Samson slew 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass and was unfairly treated later.

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