Describing the Devastation Caused By Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane, has devastated the northern section of the Bahamas. When the hurricane made landfall, Dorian had winds that reached 185 miles per hour. Whole communities were affected, and many people lost their lives. In an article published by Time, Tara Law describes the extent of the devastation. She wrote,

Bahamians are scrambling to respond to a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane that the nation’s Prime Minister has described as a “historic tragedy” since the slow-moving storm made landfall Sunday. Hurricane Dorian has claimed at least 30 lives and destroyed many buildings, especially on the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco.

Governments and nonprofits are offering money, workers and other aid to help with the rescue and recovery effort. According to the Red Cross, about 45% of the homes on Grand Bahama and Abaco — about 13,000 houses — are believed to be severely damaged or destroyed as a result of the storm, and some 62,000 people will need clean drinking water. U.N. officials said that more than 60,000 people will need food assistance.

Thousands of people have been touched by the power of Hurricane Dorian. The loss of lives will continue to grow, and the destruction of property is beyond understanding. The pain and suffering caused by Hurricane Dorian cannot be expressed in simple words.

The media has provided a great service by providing graphic views of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian. Reporters risked their own lives to bring live pictures during and after the onslaught caused by Hurricane Dorian.

KSDK Chanel 5, an NBC-affiliated television station in St Louis, called the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian “a disaster of potentially Biblical proportions.” Lucia I. Suarez Sang, writing for Fox News, called Hurricane Dorian “a biblical flood”: “Hurricane Dorian sets sights on Canada after ‘biblical’ flooding in North Carolina.” Scott Maxwell writing in the Orlando Sentinel wrote that “The leadup to a storm is a dizzying affair — an Armageddon-themed game of whiplash.” And a headline on PBS announces that “Hurricane Dorian leaves ‘apocalyptic’ damage in the Bahamas.”

It is not surprising that members of the media are using biblical terminology to describe what happened in the Bahamas, for their descriptions of what is happening is very close to the biblical events that are behind the words they use.

For instance, when KSDK Chanel 5 referred to Hurricane Dorian as “a natural disaster of biblical proportions,”  these words may be a reference to the destruction by fire of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), or even to the ten plagues that afflicted the people of Egypt during the Exodus (Exodus 7-10). When Lucia Suarez Sang called Hurricane Dorian “a biblical flood,” her words is a direct reference to the great flood that happened in the days of Noah (Genesis 7).

When PBS described the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian as “apocalyptic,” they were referring to the events that will happen in the last days before the second coming of Christ. These events are mentioned in the book of Revelation. The word “revelation” is a translation of the Greek word apokalypsis. The English transliteration of the Greek word is “apocalypse” and the adjective is “apocalyptic.” The apocalyptic disaster is described in detail in Revelation 15:1-16:21.

When the Florida reporter saw the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas and said that preparing for a hurricane was like “an Armageddon-themed game of whiplash,” he was referring to the battle of Armageddon, the final battle between the forces of good and evil that will happen in the last days (Revelation 16:16). In popular usage, the word Armageddon has become a reference to the catastrophes that will happen on earth near the end times. The word also refers to any great loss of life caused by natural disasters or wars.

The most amazing thing about those reporters who used biblical terminology to describe the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian is that most of them probably had no idea of the biblical context behind the biblical terminology. Here is why: what is the common theme behind “a natural disaster of biblical proportions,” “a biblical flood,” “apocalyptic,” and “Armageddon”? The answer is: judgment!

The flood came as a result of the sins of the generation of Noah’s day. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the immorality of the people who lived in those two cities. The plagues came as a judgment on Pharaoh and his people because of the oppression of the Israelites. The battle of Armageddon and the plagues of the book of Revelation will come as part of the final judgment upon the people who refuse to abandon their sins and acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

Did the reporters say that Hurricane Dorian was sent by God as a judgment? I doubt it. They probably were just using words they learned in their studies, words that are used popularly to describe natural disasters. I am sure these reporters did not see Hurricane Dorian as a divine judgment upon the Bahamas.

I believe we can learn a great a lesson from the way the media described the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian. The lesson we learn from these descriptions of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian is that people must be careful about how they use words. A word spoken at the wrong time can be as sharp as a sword. The wise man said: “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing” (Proverbs 12:18).

So, where was God in this tragic event? In my next post I will discuss how natural events such as a hurricane can exist in this world created by a loving and caring God. Until then, let us pray to God and ask for grace and strength for those who are suffering because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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Studies on Hurricane Dorian

Describing the Devastation Caused By Hurricane Dorian

God and Natural Disasters

Hurricanes and the Goodness of God (forthcoming)

This entry was posted in Evil, Hurricanes, Natural Disaster, Suffering, Theodicy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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