Genesis 11:1-9

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’ The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the Lord said, ‘Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Laziness sometimes has it’s own rewards, rarely, but it does sometimes. Or maybe I should say distractions have their rewards. Either way, it has been far to long since I blogged about the bible. Work sometimes consumes one’s life, and then the addition of study and class; moving and a cluster of other distractions and then you noticed you have fallen down on one of your commitments, to blog the bible.

Yet there are times when it is a benefit. Allow me to explain.

Today’s passage is the story of the Tower of Babel. It comes from J’s hand and is a mythological story to explain how and why people have different languages.

In this passage, Yahweh is one god among many. If you notice in verse 7, Yahweh says to the council of other gods, “Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” It was J’s understanding that there were multiple gods throughout the world, yet Yahweh was the ruler, or king or lord of all the other gods; a trait very common throughout the Torah of J and an easy way to discern his penmanship.

I find this passage striking for many reasons, but one of the reasons is fear; fear that God displays about humanity and more specifically about humanity working together. “And the LORD said ‘Look, they are one people, and they all have one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing they propose will now be impossible for them.”

Fear of humanity’s potential drives God to confuse their language so that they no longer understand one another, and then God scatters them abroad, over the entire face of the earth.

While this passage is also the mythological explanation as to why there are many languages if we all descended from Adam and Eve, it also tells us a truth today. It is a truth that is present in any who have power and want to hold their power; they confuse first and then they divide. Machiavelli would be proud.

My distractions have allowed me to come back to this passage now, during the Occupy Wall Street protest that have grown to other cities and other countries, such as Canada, who is all set to begins its Occupy Bay Street protest this coming weekend.

Truly there is a subtle message in here about power dynamics between ruler and ruled. A message that when humanity comes together and unites under one voice, one language and works in unison there is nothing that is impossible.

The Arab Spring has lead to more open democracies in the Middle East, the Western Fall seems to be a time when we as a people are awakening from a long slumber to cast off the systems of oppression and domination that control our lives. For the West, the dictator is not an individual or an oppressive regime, but an economic system that rewards greed and a few people at the expense of the majority. A system that oppresses many and that has been growing in power.

Yet, this system like all tyrants can be confronted, but must be confronted jointly, together and as one voice. In doing so there is nothing that we, as the people of God, cannot do, nothing is impossible for us. But we must be vigilant. The system will attempt to confuse us; separate us into different focus groups and divide and scatter us.

This passage speaks about the mythological understanding of how many languages came to be. But it also speaks about humanity’s potential, a potential that God himself saw and fears. What will we do with this potential?

Genesis chapter 10

These are the descendants of Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; children were born to them after the flood.

The descendants of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The descendants of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The descendants of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim. From these the coastland peoples spread. These are the descendants of Japheth in their lands, with their own language, by their families, in their nations.

The descendants of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The descendants of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to become a mighty warrior. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. Egypt became the father of Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim, and Caphtorim, from which the Philistines come.

Canaan became the father of Sidon his firstborn, and Heth, and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterwards the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon, in the direction of Gerar, as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. These are the descendants of Ham, by their families, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born. The descendants of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. The descendants of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arpachshad became the father of Shelah; and Shelah became the father of Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan became the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the descendants of Joktan. The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar, the hill country of the east. These are the descendants of Shem, by their families, their languages, their lands, and their nations.

These are the families of Noah’s sons, according to their genealogies, in their nations; and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.

The sons of Noah: Shem, Ham and Japeth, or were they Japeth, Ham and Canaan?

This chapter and the last are very good examples of the editor’s pen at work, cutting and slicing, adding where necessary to make the story move more smoothly. The idea behind all the editorial work is to make sure that the people of Israel do not exist in isolation from the rest of the world.

This is one of our examples of universalism found in the Old Testament. Examples like all of humanity stemming from one man and one woman. The redactor used this material to provide a background of world history, however rudimentary, for the people of Israel, which was to begin, or take its foundational root with Abraham. This becomes more apparent later when Israel’s vocational role is to become a light to lighten the Gentiles. (Isa 49:6) Although we are getting way ahead of ourselves here, after all we are still in Genesis and have not reach Isaiah.

This history of the world and therefore the people of the world is meant to explain how the coastal people came to be and how they are related to Israel. As well it explains who the hill people are and also who are all the tribes that inhabit the land of Canaan, which will eventually become the Promised Land.

This passage also tells another story though, a story of family united, but about to be divided. I refer you to verse 32. These are the families of Noah’s sons, according to their genealogies, in their nations; and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.

All the people of the earth are of one family, united together after the flood, building nations and populating the land. A group of humans dedicated to each other and in community. Together they can accomplish anything, they have survived the flood and they have spread to all parts of the earth. But interesting enough, they have different languages. This of course will become of definite interest to us in the next chapter and also shows us how the redactor had insert this into the original material.

There are many ways we can read this passage in a postmodern world. But stepping back from the desire to explain away this passage or read it through the eyes of our time, I think this passage is simply supplying history for the people of Israel. It is simply redacted back into the foundational story so to support the idea that the people of God, Israel, come from a common and single ancestor.

Although, having said that, I would love to hear your opinion on chapter 10.

Genesis 9:18-28

The sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was peopled.

Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backwards and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said,
‘Cursed be Canaan;
lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.’
He also said,
‘Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem;
and let Canaan be his slave.
May God make space for Japheth,
and let him live in the tents of Shem;
and let Canaan be his slave.’

After the flood Noah lived for three hundred and fifty years. All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.

A drunk man falls down and passes out naked in the street, or in his tent. And for his drunkenness he blames his youngest son for embarrassing him in front of his other two children. And then he curses not his son Ham who found him, but his son’s son, Canaan and all his descendants. And from that incident we have the biblical justification for slavery, or at least the first one.

This passage, therefore, has been used by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa and by American slave owners in the South to justify the Apartheid system and the slave trade respectively throughout the years.

But before even that, this passage allowed for the justification of the Israelites to invade, conquer and take the land of Canaan for themselves from the Canaanites, who they proceeded to enslave. And one wonders how much it still influences the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Untangling this passage is difficult. It seems to come from the J source and was redacted later to occur after the flood, instead of appearing before the flood as seems more natural. As well, this passage looks to have been adapted slightly to have Noah the vine grower practice husbandry as the hero from the Gilgamesh epic. In this manner the epic has been converted into Yahwism and eventual finds its place in the Old Testament canon.

This passage therefor comes not only from the J source, but also from Babylonian myths. Something not often spoken about in Christian churches I would imagine. But we have tackled the question of myth already. Let’s turn to other questions that this passage raises.

So what are we to do with a passage that has Noah curse an entire future population to be the slaves of others? Is slavery okay then? It is biblical after all. Is this another caution against sexual perversion? Or is it the ranting’s of a drunkard with a hang over? Where is the kernel of truth in here that God wants us to see?

If you asked me, and I assume you have since you are reading my blog, I think the caution in this passage is to maybe ignore the preacher sometimes. Seriously, I just said that.

Here we have a man speaking on behalf of God, cursing and blessing. Noah, who God said was righteous, was asked to build an ark and save a holy remnant. He was never tasked with the prophetic role for after the flood receded. He was asked to be fruitful and multiply, but not to curse and not to bless.

So do we discount this passage? Well maybe we discount the blessing and curses because they come from a man and not from God. And maybe we learn to be more discerning and have received a warning from God about people who bless and curse in his name. Maybe we see in Noah’s actions, the actions that will lead to evil and we are to learn from them, so as not to repeat them and not follow the path of evil.

The bible, I believe holds up for us examples of what to do, but also what not to do. And this I think is an example of what not to do, which is not take the Lord’s name and act in the place of God. The only one who can bless or curse is after all the one who created us.

Genesis 9:1-17

God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life.
Whoever sheds the blood of a human,
by a human shall that person’s blood be shed;
for in his own image
God made humankind.
And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.’

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’

For many years the bible has been used to justify all kinds of atrocities. After all if it is in the bible, then that must be the way God intended it. For instance a passage that we will look at next time, Genesis chapter 9:18-28, has traditionally been used to justify slavery in the United States of America before and during the civil war. As well, this same passage was fundamental to the Dutch Reform Church in South Africa in their theological justification of Apartheid.

Our sacred texts have often been used to justify people’s earthly desires through the evoking of God’s holy name and scripture. And it can be hard to argue if your belief of scripture is that it is the inherent accurate word of God. But that also assumes you take each passage separately from the whole and ignore many contradictions. But then again that is the whole purpose of this blog, which is to explore some of these contradictions.

But our passage is one in which I actually wish people would use to help justify a position and that is the environmental position. While God tells Noah and his son that they are to have the plants of the fields to eat as well as the animals, birds and fish, God does something absolutely remarkable here; God makes his covenant with all of creation. Not just with humanity, not just human centric, but with all of creation.

Listen, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.”

This passage is often sited for the “bow in the sky”, the rainbow, as a sign of the covenant. But the covenant itself, I believe, is much more important and striking. The covenant is made between God and all of creation. We are all, human, animal, bird, fish, creepy thing of the earth, we are to all go forward and multiple. And God places the bow in the sky, the rainbow, to remind him of his covenant with not only humanity, but with the all of creation.

God is presenting to us something fundamentally important. We are not to have dominion over the earth and subdue it, as often quoted reason for raping the earth of its natural resources. That command was giving before the flood, at creation and God saw the evil that is humanity and eliminated humanity from the earth, all but Noah and his sons and their wives.

Having seen the type of evil that humanity, unchecked, can produced when they have dominion, God chooses now, to exercise his free will and change his mind, and instead he makes his covenant with everything and not just humanity.

Something to keep in mind the next time you throw your coffee cup out the window of the car I would think.

Genesis 8:20-22

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelt the pleasing odour, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.
As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease.’

This final passage of chapter 8 demonstrates further some of the problems we have been having with Genesis thus far and also is an excellent example of the two different and distinct sources being blended together into one final text.

In the J source, 2 of every kind of animal, male and female, had gone into the ark. This is so the population of every kind of animal may be renewed after the flood, from 2 shall come all. This is very reminiscent of Adam and Eve being the progenitors of all human beings.

Yet this passage at the end of chapter 8 comes from the P source. Because the first thing that happens after the flood subsides is Noah builds an altar and sacrifices the clean animals to God. Well if there were only two of each then there would be no clean animals left to re-populate the earth and no more sacrifice to be had for God.

This type of revision of the J source was done earlier if you remember, when Noah took two of every kind of animal into the ark and then later the text was amended to say two of every kind of unclean animal and seven pairs of clean animals.

P is concerned about temple practices of sacrifice and revised the holy text so that P’s agenda would be writing into the history and sacred texts of the Jewish people.

Which begs the question, or two or three questions; why would God allow that to happen? How many times has it happened? And how can we know what is the definitive word of God?

Without giving some trite answers, let me say simply this, the bible has been translated many times. The originally meaning has gotten further and further away from us after each new translation, since translations are just interpretations anyway. The meanings of certain terms or words do not transfer from one language to another. Often a joke in one language just sounds strange in another.

For example, the Old Testament is full of puns, puns that we don’t get because we are not Jews or reading Hebrew. And in a rush to claim authority and divine revelation for the bible we have forgotten some fundamental facts, namely we are reading someone else’s interpretation and not the definitive word of God. It has passed through the hands of many a translator.

Does that mean we throw it all out? No. It just means that P interpreted the flood event so that it would make sense in his world. Likewise we are going to have to interpret God’s words and God’s already interpreted words so they make sense in a post-modern secular world that we find ourselves in.

Do we add new words like P did to the sacred texts? Some would argue that tradition, liturgy and ceremony are additions to God’s holy words, especially surrounding the sacraments. So yes I think we do add to the singularity of God’s words with our own words, ceremonies and rites. They help us make sense out of the bible and God’s plan for us. They help us interpret the world around us through religious eyes and to see God’s glory in all things.

So I guess the next time we celebrate the Eucharist or a baptism, we should remind ourselves that each choice we make and each words we use, add or change is an adjustment to what came before, just like P did. P adjusted the sacred texts to fit the style of worship of the people of God at that time. We adjust words as well, with new translations of scripture, new versions of the Lord’s prayer, new authorized Eucharistic prayers, gender inclusive language, etc…

Additions can add to the diversity of our worship, which can be good or bad. Whether P’s additions are good or bad I will leave up to you to decide.

Genesis 8:1-19

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters gradually receded from the earth. At the end of one hundred and fifty days the waters had abated; and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.

At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent out the raven; and it went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more.

In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’ So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.

This part of chapter 8 gets more confusing as the two sources have been comingled again. Both P and J have pieces in this part of the flood story.

Apparently after 150 days the water abated and the ark came to rest upon Mount Ararat.  Okay, sounds good.

But it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, after which Noah sent out a dove to look to see if the flood was over, but it found no place to land so the dove returned.

Noah waits another seven days and again he sends out the dove.  This time the dove returns with a freshly plucked olive tree leaf. But Noah brings the dove back in and waits again another seven days.

Again Noah sends out the dove.  This time it does not return.

At this time Noah removes the cover of the ark and God commands him to leave the ark….after 40 days and nights, plus 14 days of waiting for the waters to subside.

Obviously the math does not calculate properly here. How can Noah leave the ark after 54 days, but the ark has not come to rest upon Mount Ararat, which is due to happen 96 days after the flood began?

So was it 54 days or 150 days?

It may in fact have been both. The reason I say this is there is much archeological evidence to support a great flood that occurred roughly 10 000 years ago. Many of the costal regions flooded, never to return, when the ice caps began to melt and sea levels rose.

This type of cataclysmic event would naturally be documented in the sacred texts of many people, which could explain why the days do not line up.  But just because the days do not line up does not mean there was not a “Great Flood”.

For instance, here is an example of a 10 000 year village in the English Channel.

There are also other examples, a 10 000 year old pyramid off the coast of Japan, another temple complex off the coast of India from the same time period. There obviously was a great flood that people interpreted as an act of God.

So does it matter then that the Great Flood may not have happened, at least not according to the biblical version? Does it matter that the flood can be shown to be the melting of the ice caps after the last ice age?

Maybe it matters to some, but not to me. It doesn’t matter to me whether this story is “true” in the historical sense, it still carries with it many truths that God wishes us to know and understand.

Stewardship of the earth is vital, as we learn from this passage, because the earth is a delicate balance. And if we continue down the current path, then we may see another great flood as the ice caps melt from global warming and New York city disappears, along with many costal towns and cities

Looking beyond the history or interpretation of history, it is always important when reading the Torah to remember that God preserved this story not because of its scientific factual-ness, but because within it is a truth that He wishes us to understand.

So let’s sit down and keep reading our way through the Torah and eventually through the rest of the bible.

Genesis 7

Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.’ And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.

Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came on the earth. And Noah with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. And after seven days the waters of the flood came on the earth.

In the six-hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. The rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah with his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons, entered the ark, they and every wild animal of every kind, and all domestic animals of every kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every bird of every kind—every bird, every winged creature. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.

The flood continued for forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, human beings and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred and fifty days.

We have arrived at the Great Flood in Genesis. This is an intricate story that needs to be broken down to see the various parts, namely the different sources or editors of the text.

The first thing we should notice is that in the previous chapter (6:19) Noah is told by God to bring two of every kind of living animal, male and female. Yet at the beginning of this chapter in verse 2 Noah now is to take seven pairs of the clean animals and only a pair of the animals that are not clean.

This discrepancy is due to the first part of chapter 7 is written by P (the Priestly source), while chapter 6 was written by J (the Yahwist source). And if you remember there was some 5 or 6 centuries between those two sources.

But why add to the story and scripture? Well for the priestly source, which is concerned with their worldview, the Temple and sacrifice at the Temple is central to the worship of God. The extra clean animals would therefore be needed for sacrifices, while the pair of unclean animals was brought on board the Ark to keep them alive. A slight revision.

Something for us to consider then is how does our world and our worldview affect scripture? As language evolves, do we change the meaning of scripture and re-interpret or translated it in new and perhaps misleading ways? Should we only read scripture then in its purest form or translation, like the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) and ignore all copies of the Message (scripture in today’s vernacular?)

There definitely seems to be a longing in humanity to twist scripture to their own ends, as did the Priestly source. If we can add, or alter scripture just enough then the more difficult parts can be removed and it can be sanitized for us. But then it is obviously not the word of God anymore, or at least not entirely.

We are also introduced to the number 40 in this passage. 40 is important because it comes to signal the amount of time required for trial and/or testing. For example the Israelites wondered in the desert with Moses for 40 years, Jesus is tempted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights and likewise God makes it rain for 40 days and nights, causing the flood.

Perhaps the 40 days and 40 nights as a time of trial and testing for Noah may also be a time of trial and testing for us also. We are after all approaching Lent soon, and using those 40 days that are designed for us to walk with Jesus in the desert would be a good time for us to sit down with scripture and really dive deep into the word of God.

40 days to sit with scripture, whether that is one passage that you have always struggled with, or one chapter each day, the time of trial and testing that we endure, like Noah can help us come to understand what the word of God is truly saying aside from what our own worldviews and desires would prefer.

Genesis 6:9-22

These are the descendants of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.’ Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

God’s decision to destroy all flesh he created because they were evil and filled with violence should give us pause. Especially as we look around at our world and the amount of violence that occurs each and every day. If this passage doesn’t worry you as a person of faith, then I am not sure any amount of discourse will help.

But as much as it worries, it should also give hope. Noah, who walked with God, is being saved from certain death because he was a righteous man. Now while God took Enoch, who also walked with Him, he decides instead to save Noah and his family and all the innocent animals of the earth.

Noah is to build the ark according to the instructions that he receives from God and when the time is right Noah is to save humanity and indeed all of creation. And for doing this, for obeying God, God promises to establish his covenant with Noah.

This is the first mention in the scriptures of a covenant, let alone “the” covenant. And it comes about because God promises to do something, flood the world and destroy all creation, and Noah promises to do something for God, obey God, build an ark and save what God has created.

The covenant is a joint endeavour and it requires a balance of sorts. It is like an equation, each side must be equal. Now I don’t mean to say that humanity is equal to God. What I am inferring here is that without the equal obligations or promises a covenant cannot exist.

This is the first example of the covenant in scriptures and the recipe is simple. God will protect you and give you life if you but obey. And if you obey, then God must fulfill His obligations.

Theologically this type of thinking has many problems and it is a problem that Paul will address in his letters when he talks about faith and works. But that would be getting way ahead of ourselves I think. We are after all only in Genesis at this point. And what is of interest is the contractual nature of the covenant, the quid pro quo.

This type of legal basis for the covenant will come to dominate the Jewish tradition. This is extremely important for Christians as we will see much later in scripture. But it is best that we keep this tucked away in the back of our mind. What should be noted and filed away in the back of your mind is how a covenant is established and administered.

Two promises fulfilled; one by God, another by Noah. Obey and you shall be saved.

Genesis 6:1-8

When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not abide in mortals for ever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterwards—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favour in the sight of the Lord.

I apologies for taking so long to update. I have been struggling with this passage and what to say about it. The amount of questions that come from reading it just seemed to increase each time that I come back to it. In many ways it felt like I was reading the teaser for a new program on Space.

In this passage we have the sons of God who take human wives and have children. The children born are the heroes of old. Sounds very similar to Hercules and much of ancient Greek mythology. God, the high God has sons who are also divine that wonder the earth and take human sexual partners.

Also The Nephilim were on the earth in those days. The Nephilim are mythical giants. Perhaps similar to the Titans from Greek mythology, but that is nothing but shear speculation on my part.

I feel as though I should be getting my popcorn out and a giant diet Coke, sitting back and getting ready to watch the new screening of The Clash of the Titans. This is followed up with God watching humanity, seeing the wickedness of humans and deciding to blot out all of creation. Except that Noah has found favor with God.

Clearly those in ancient Israel did not see God has omniscient. God did not or could not foresee the wickedness of humanity. But this does explain previous passages where God spoke in the plural. God clearly was referring to his divine sons when speaking in the plural, perhaps even to a divine council of gods over which Yahweh was the supreme ruler.

Obviously this is pre-Christian understanding of the world, but what should be troubling for Christians in this passage is that according to doctrine, Jesus is the only son of God. Except here we have scripture that clearly stipulates to their being many sons of God. Of course this does not change that Jesus Christ is the first born of all creation and the first born of the dead. Those pieces of doctrine are unaffected by this passage.

The next thing we grapple with is that God is sorry that he had made humanity. Sorry implies that God is less than perfect. God made a mistake, or so he seems to be admitting.

Frankly, this passage should trouble Christians greatly because it challenges some of our basic assumptions about God. What it does highlights for us though is the mythological nature of Genesis and the first five books of the bible really. These foundational myths and stories are exactly that, stories. It is difficult for many Christians to accept that maybe God didn’t create the world according to the tales in Genesis. Having said that, that doesn’t preclude God from still being the creator.

Growing to a mature faith in God we come to realize that faith doesn’t provide certainty. Faith still is the confident belief or trust in a person, idea, or thing that is not based on proof. But we need to mix our faith with reason and understanding that within these stories is God’s revealed truth, maybe not literal truth but allegorical, mythological, eschatological and so on.

The sons of God took human wives and giants once roamed the earth. What does this tell us of our world and God’s action in it? To that I have no answer today, but a renewed desire to keep reading scripture in hopes that the answer will soon be found.

Genesis Chapter 5

This is the list of the descendants of Adam. When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them ‘Humankind’ when they were created.

When Adam had lived for one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.

When Seth had lived for one hundred and five years, he became the father of Enosh. Seth lived after the birth of Enosh for eight hundred and seven years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died.

When Enosh had lived for ninety years, he became the father of Kenan. Enosh lived after the birth of Kenan for eight hundred and fifteen years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years; and he died.

When Kenan had lived for seventy years, he became the father of Mahalalel. Kenan lived after the birth of Mahalalel for eight hundred and forty years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years; and he died.

When Mahalalel had lived for sixty-five years, he became the father of Jared. Mahalalel lived after the birth of Jared for eight hundred and thirty years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years; and he died.

When Jared had lived for one hundred and sixty-two years he became the father of Enoch. Jared lived after the birth of Enoch for eight hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years; and he died.

When Enoch had lived for sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah for three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.

When Methuselah had lived for one hundred and eighty-seven years, he became the father of Lamech. Methuselah lived after the birth of Lamech for seven hundred and eighty-two years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died.

When Lamech had lived for one hundred and eighty-two years, he became the father of a son; he named him Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.’ Lamech lived after the birth of Noah for five hundred and ninety-five years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years; and he died.

After Noah was five hundred years old, Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

The desire to show that the history of Israel was no human accident, but that from the beginning it had been shaped by the sure and sovereign will of God, Genesis has constructed for us a genealogy. The descendants of Israel begin the telling of their history with the purposeful creation of Adam by God and then trace their genealogy from Adam to Noah, and then from Noah to Abraham.

This long chapter of begatting is P’s (the priestly source) attempts to draw a divine origin for the people of Israel, probably over and against the other surrounding peoples, such as the Babylonians. In such manner Israel becomes the People of God and all other civilizations become the “other” and need not be treated as equal.

For one, this would allow the People of God to justify their entry into the Promised Land as conquerors. So you could see how P would want to re-write divine origins to justify the actions of the nation. In a way it makes perfect sense.

It also allows a people to perform acts of brutality and aggression as the Chosen People of God. It is this same mentality that has lead the United States of America to the belief that their way of life is the best, since they are the new chosen people. Which prompts the desire to impose their way of life upon others in the name of freedom.

Aside from this there are a few other things that I wish to draw your attention to and perhaps this may support the idea that P has revised some of the early tradition and oral sources of J and E. In the previous chapter Cain knew his wife and she bore Enoch. And from Enoch line comes Lamech. But in this chapter we pick up the genealogy from Adam’s third son, Seth.

And from Seth we get a line that leads to, well you guest it, Enoch. Then it leads to Mathuselah and then Lamech, just like the previous chapter.

Is this P blending again, or is this a different genealogy altogether, but wiyj the same names? After all, the people of Israel cannot be descended from Cain; they would have to have a divine ancestry that traced back to Adam through his third son or they would be just like everyone else in the world. So is this revisionist again? Or are there two genealogies wit the same names?

The next thing of course is Enoch himself. Enoch walked with God. Does this mean he was a priest or prophet? Did he somehow know God while others did not? It would seem to be the case to me at least that he did know God in a special way.

And then he is no more because God takes him. Takes him where? Heaven? Since all others die, this seems very important in some way. Later in the tradition there is Elijah, who was taking up bodily into heaven, but others die and then ascend, like Moses. So is this a case of bodily going to heaven? Is it like Elijah’s bodily ascension?

Whatever the answer is, the importance of having a genealogy that has divine origins or divine creation is very important to every culture. As such we should not be surprised to see such a genealogy amongst the Hebrew scriptures, nor surprised that Christians claim this same genealogy.

The question is this though, does one need claim this genealogy to be considered made in the image and likeness of God?