Genesis 6-10

What would really make the Kindle easier to use is a fast forward function.

6: God tells Noah to build an ark. It’s a significant question in this chapter, who are the sons of God? The phrase is used in Daniel of the fourth man in the fiery furnace, and of Job of beings who shouted for joy when God laid the foundations of the earth and of those who present themselves in heaven, including Satan. There are a lot of speculations built up from single verses, but this again sounds to me like a leftover account from a different sort of religious tradition where gods had the characteristics of men. A good number of Christians believe the sons of God to be generic angels, but I’ve never heard this ability for procreation to come up in any description of angels unless explaining this passage. It doesn’t seem fortunate to be an angel. After all, their action is said to be because they found the daughters of man to be comely, not because they were making a symbolic gesture of rebellion. If they’re capable of desiring wives but are eternally forbidden to have any, it doesn’t sound ideal. Other Christians believe the sons of God to be Seth’s descendants and the daughters of man to be Cain’s descendants, but this doesn’t seem to have any evidence beyond speculation.

The Nephilim are the children of these mysterious unions, and were the ancient heroes. Some Christians as well as some apocryphal books have suggested that the flood was partially necessitated by destroying the Nephilim, but Numbers says that their descendants were giant Canaanites. I remember the need to synchronize, to attempt to show how every word of the Bible could be literally true. But without that assumption, there’s simply no answer as to exactly who the Nephilim are and how they descended.

Here God regrets having made man, or maybe he repents or is sorry depending on translation. Throughout Genesis, there are stories of how God is persuadable or seems to run into problems that he hadn’t considered. Why attach the notion of perfect foresight to a story that doesn’t indicate it?

Although God tells Noah that he will destroy all living things, the author of Genesis never seems to have any knowledge of any parts of the world except those that could be known to the ancient Hebrews. The tower of Babel event hasn’t happened yet. Is there any need for a worldwide flood if everyone in the known world might be near Mesopotamia?

7: Noah and the flood. There are two accounts of the number of animals taken on the ark. In the previous chapter, two of every kind and in this chapter, seven pairs of clean animals and one pair of unclean animals. The commentary says that cleanness refers to fitness for sacrifice and not eating. Perhaps there was a Cain and Abel style trial and error about what was appropriate for sacrifice. At any rate, it’s not explained anywhere what the notion of cleanness meant to Noah.

There is a lot of discussion available on the feasibility of Noah’s ark and a worldwide flood that I don’t have the energy to summarize right now. I’ll only point out that the text says that the waters surged fifteen cubits (22.5 feet) above the highest mountains. To believe in inerrancy, it must also be necessary to believe in divine inspiration. There’s no way that anyone could have measured this, as even if Noah were measuring the depth of the flood, he couldn’t have known when he was over the highest mountains. To believe in its exact truth, we would also have to believe that God put that number into the head of the writer. If one does not believe in inerrancy, one could figure that the survivor of a flood may have estimated the water depth, perhaps on the relatively flat Sumerian plains.

The rain was over the earth for forty days, and then the waters surged over the earth 150 days. The accepted timeline appears to be that the forty days are part of the 150 days.

8: The end of the flood. If we Google “Noah flood chronology”, we discover that Biblical literalists are not in perfect agreement regarding the length of the flood and that their website design peaked with Geocities. After the ark rests, Noah opens the window and sends out a raven, then a dove. Some scholars believe that these two birds (along with the difference in animal numbers and some other things) represent two different versions of the story, not least because the dove story makes the raven redundant and unnecessary.

God concludes that the devisings of the human heart are evil from youth. He does not mention Adam or a doctrine of original sin. If everything was part of an eternal plan, why would he not have had this rationale previously?

9: The Noahic covenant. Again with the doctrine of original sin, I have heard it taught that carnivorous behavior in both people and animals was directly related to Adam’s fall. Here God tells Noah that animals will be afraid of him, that he mustn’t eat the lifeblood of the animal, and that he will requite human lifeblood from both animals and people. This doesn’t seem like something Noah was necessarily familiar with before. What does it mean that God will requite human lifeblood from animals? It seems more specific than simply allowing people to eat animals.

If there is remembering, is there a possibility of forgetting? Previously, God remembered the ark and stopped the flood. Now he will remember his covenant when he sees the bow. I have always heard it that the rainbow is people’s way of remembering the promise, but the story makes it sound like it is just as much of a memory aid for God.

Ham sees his father’s nakedness and tells his brothers. Alter believes that this is part of a larger narrative, since we aren’t told exactly what Ham does wrong. It doesn’t say if he’s mocking his father, or staring at his father (since he goes outside again), or violating his father. Seeing his nakedness could be a euphemism, but we aren’t certain. Although Ham is the sinner, his punishment is transferred to Canaan. This may have been to give a reason for the enmity with the Canaanites, just as the Moabites are given a shameful origin story later. Ham is listed second in all other places, but is called the youngest son in this story.

10: Genealogy of Noah’s descendants. In genealogies, typically the oldest son is listed first, but here, Canaan is listed forth. There’s no explanation given why Ham’s wrongdoing would affect his youngest son. The commentary says that this genealogy is likely an attempt to map all the cultural groups of the ancient Near East. Shem is called the father of all the sons of Eber, whose name is considered to be the root of the word Hebrew.

I’ve heard fundamentalists teach that the earth splitting apart in the days of Peleg was a very fast continental drift. Considering that they also teach that this was roughly 6000 years ago, there’s no reason to believe this. Even Answers in Genesis doesn’t support the theory. Other theories are that this refers to the splitting apart of languages at the tower of Babel, or that it refers to a large earthquake that was a major event in the area.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: