This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 28 - The Genealogy of Abraham (11:10-32)

This lesson brings us to a new threshold in the study of Genesis, as a lot is about to happen to narrow the focus of the story to one family, that of a man named Abram.   There are a lot of things going on in this time frame, as the Flood has happened, the nations are scattered from Babel, and the earth has also drastically changed physically as well, as the continental plates were forced to shift by seismic activity during the Flood, and the climate is changing.  We begin to also see something else happen.

In the genealogy that dominates the remainder of Genesis 11, we begin to notice that people are not living quite as long now.  As a personal theory based on my own research, I would propose that the Flood - in particular the loss of the firmament - altered the environment in such a way that the lifespans of people were affected.  Of course, this takes place over a period of roughly 700 years after the Flood, and we see a gradual decline in longevity to the point that by the end of Genesis, the longest-lived person is about 120 years old as opposed to the 900-year lifespans we saw before the Flood.  That being said, we now want to take a look at the generations following the Flood.

(Courtesy of Creation Science Evangelism, Pensacola, FL)

The above chart was designed by Dr. Kent Hovind, who is a leading Creationist speaker from the Fundamentalist Baptist tradition.  It is a good chart to use, and I have a full-size one I use as a teaching tool in Sunday School classes.  The focal point of our chart is the generations from Shem onward, or the bottom half of the chart, in this passage.  Note in particular Shem's lineage, which extends all the way to when Jacob would have been around 80 years old, so Shem actually lived to within 500 years of the Exodus.  The reality of this suggests then that even if Genesis were to have been drawn primarily from oral tradition, as some argued, the memory of these earlier generations would have been relatively fresh at the time of Genesis being committed to writing.  However, I want to give you my own theory about the writing of Genesis at this point, as it does bear significance on the lessons presented.

It is generally accepted by conservative Bible scholars of all traditions (Protestant and Catholic) that Genesis is a product of divine revelation, as is all of Scripture.  It is generally (and correctly I believe) assumed that Moses received that revelation during his long sojourn on the Mount with God, and what I believe happened there is this - Moses had questions about the stories his mother Jochebed had told him, which were probably passed down over several generations, and as Moses was raised in the Pharaoh's household up until young adulthood, his adopted guardian, the Pharaoh's daughter, would have also probably made sure he had some exposure to his people and his heritage.  This would mean that Moses would have crossed paths with people who may have either been very young with Joseph passed away, or they were of such advanced age that they heard it from their own grandparents.  As Moses and God were having the conversations on the mountain that resulted later in the Book of Genesis, I would propose Moses was asking for clarification on these stories, and God would have given him that directly.  And, since God doesn't lie, this means two things.  First, any embellishments that may have crept into the stories Moses heard from the older generations would have been clarified by God, as God doesn't lie.  Secondly, since God was calling Moses to be a deliverer of His people, God was giving Moses the historical premise for heralding this deliverance, as it would preserve the very lineage through which God would bring redemption to all mankind, so this would have been something not to take lightly.  Therefore, if we trust in God for our salvation as Christians, then we need to take Him at His word and not try to rationalize it to fit our own limitations. 

The main focus of this passage however is not so much about how long these great men lived (although that does figure into it) but rather how we begin to see God narrowing the focus of His plan of redemption down to one family.   As the Genesis narrative continues from this point, that narrowing will trickle from Shem, to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, and eventually to one of Jacob's twelve sons (Judah), from which later one family - that of King David's - will be chosen for the royal lineage of the Messiah.  We will also continue to note the names of these ancient Patriarchs, as again the meanings of several of them carry significance. 

In verses 10-11, Shem's son Arphaxad (name means "a jar pouring forth") is born when Shem is 100 years of age. After Arphaxad's birth, Shem lives another 500 years, dying at age 600.  When Arphaxad is only 35, we read in verses 12-13 that Arphaxad's son Salah (meaning "Sprout") is born, and afterward Arphaxad lives another 403 years, dying at age 438.  In verses 14-15, we note that Salah's son Eber (meaning "he who passed over") is born when Salah is 30.  Eber is important in that it is his name that the Chosen People receive later - Hebrews - and ironically it is a "passing over" that liberates them from bondage under the leadership of Moses.  Salah then lives another 403 years after Eber's birth, passing away at age 433.  In verses 16-17, Eber's son Peleg (along with his twin brother Joktan we read about in Genesis 10) is born when Eber is 34 years old.  If you remember what we discussed, Peleg (meaning "division") is the guy in whose lifetime the nations were dispersed at Babel, and the implication here is that his name is prophetic in that regard.  After Peleg is born, Eber lives another 430 years before dying at age 464.  In verses 18-19, we have the birth of Reu, Peleg's son, when the latter was 30 years of age.  After Reu's birth, Peleg lives another 209 years, dying very young (at least compared to his ancestors!) at the age of 239.  In verses 20-21, Reu's son Serug (meaning "branch") is born when Reu is 32 years of age.  After Serug's birth, Reu lives another 207 years before dying at the same age his father Peleg does at 239.  At this point, I want us to note something here.  Note those names which mean "sprout" or "branch" coming from the names of these ancient ones.  If you remember at the beginning of this series of lessons, one thing we wanted to do was to see a Christocentric imagery in the Old Testament, and here is one.  In taking Salah's and Serug's names, we now want to look at something in Isaiah 11:1:

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.

Look now at verse 10 in the same chapter:

And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious

Let us now go to the New Testament, and look at how Jesus describes Himself in John 15:5:

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

We can also go back to Genesis 2, where the Tree of Life in the Garden is a typology of Calvary and the Cross, as through the Cross we receive eternal life.  It is therefore no accident that these people had the names they were given, in that even in three generations we see a picture of the Church - Peleg symbolizes division, which is bridged by Reu ("friendship") through a "branch" (Serug) - God restores, in His son, our full communion with Him.  We will see more of this sort of thing later too, but the implications here is that sometimes even in the "boring begats" of Scripture, a rich truth can be revealed.

Back to the genealogy, we are at Serug, and in verses 22-25 his son Nahor (meaning "labored breathing") is born when Serug is 30.  Serug then lives an additional 200 years after Nahor's birth, dying at age 230.  In verses 24-25, Nahor's son Terah (meaning "you may breathe") is born when Nahor is 29, and Nahor only lives abot 119 years after, dying at a really early age of 148.  With the genealogy thus far, the story now shifts more to a focus on Terah from verse 26 onward.

Terah, at the age of 70, witnesses the birth of three sons - Abram, Nahor, and Haran.  In verse 27, Haran comes of age and gives birth to a son named Lot, whose story we will discuss later in Genesis, and he apparently dies very early on in verse 28.  In verse 29, Abram and Nahor take their wives, with Abram marrying Sarai, and Nahor marrying Milcah, the daughter of another Haran.  In verse 30, we are told Sarai (whose name means "quarrelsome") is barren, which is something of significance as it sets the stage for what God is to do later on.  One other detail is that all of these people were born in or around the city of Ur at this time in southern Mesopotamia, which is a city in Nimrod's kingdom.  As we discussed in the last lesson though, Terah takes his family from Ur and leaves, probably at about the time the nations were dispersed at Babel, and there may be another reason too as we read in Jasher.  In Jasher, the story is that for some reason Nimrod wants to kill Abram, and Terah, being a good father, wants to protect his son so they flee. They settle for a time in upper Mesopotamia in a place called Haran, which is believed to be named after Abram's brother who later passes away.   Haran still exists as a city interesting enough today, and in the early centuries of the Church, the region was a vibrant center of Syriac Christianity, as it was close to the ancient cities of Edessa and Nusaybin, both of which were ancient centers of Eastern Christianity. 

The ruins of the ancient city of Haran today in northern Syria - note the beehive-style roofs, which are an architectural style dating to Abraham's time.

In time, Abram would journey further southwest, coming to the region we know today as Israel, which would be the home of his descendants.  Terah would unfortunately not make that journey, as he would die in Haran at the age of 205, as Genesis 11:32 tells us as the chapter concludes.

The location of Haran

As Genesis 11 closes, so too does the first segment of the story.  From this point, and over the next few lessons, the focus now will be on Abraham and his story, as it is given almost 12 chapters in Genesis of its own.

The etymology of names in this lesson is courtesy of Judson Cornwall and Stelman Smith, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names (Plainfield, NJ:  Bridge-Logos, 1997).  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 27 - The Tower of Babel: an Occultic Portal? (11:1-9)

As we have discovered in the last lesson, after the Flood the population began to increase again, as God gave Noah and his sons the mandate to "be fruitful and multiply" in much the same way He did Adam.   At this point in history, everyone spoke the same language, and due to the close proximity to the ark's resting-place on Ararat, most people lived in close proximity, with a population center being on the Plain of Shinar in central Mesopotamia.  However, although the earth was renewed, human nature was not, and in time man's inherent concupiscence began to manifest itself again in sinful behavior, but this time in a way totally different.   In Genesis 10, we introduced an enigmatic character who was a great-grandson of Noah by the name of Nimrod, and as we also examined, Nimrod was a person who more than likely inherited corrupted recessive genes probably through his grandmother, Ham's wife.   Other than the fact that he founded Babel and eventually lived there and ruled from it, not much specifically is mentioned of Nimrod in Genesis 11 except to say that traditionally the events that happened at Babel are thought to be an instigation of Nimrod.  We are now going to examine some extrabiblical texts regarding Nimrod's life, and this will shed light on the events we see in Genesis 11, in particular this section.

Artistic rendering of Nimrod

The connection of Nimrod to the events of the first few verses of Genesis 11 are an inference based on Genesis 10:10 which states that Nimrod was king over Babel.  Nimrod is also historically thought to be a prototype of the future Antichrist, one of many we see in history (others being Nero, Napoleon, and Hitler).  The ancient Book of Jasher has quite a bit to say about Nimrod, so we will take up his story from Jasher as it also connects the story of Nimrod to the Tower of Babel incident. 

The version of the Book of Jasher we will utilize for this particular study is Dr. Ken Johnson's Ancient Book of Jasher (Olathe, KS: Biblefacts, 2008).  Johnson is a minister in the Calvary Chapel denomination, and although on some things he has some Fundamentalist Protestant bias in his writing, he does have a very handy translation of these ancient books, and it is a good ready reference if you are interested in getting something like that without spending a lot of cash.  In the first reference, we go to Jasher 11, where it is recorded that Nimrod built four cities (which we also see in Genesis 10) and they are named Babel ("confusion"), Eched ("dispersion"), Calmah ("consumption") and Echad ("conflict") (Johnson, p. 23-24).  In Jasher 11:6, it states that Nimrod dwelt in Babel, which can be inferred to be his administrative capital.  In Jasher 7, Nimrod's birth is recorded as the year 1908 AM, and in 7:29 it records that Nimrod inherited (dishonestly, as we see later) the garments of Adam (Johnson, p. 17).   In Jasher 8, we see an interesting story of Nimrod's interaction with Abraham, which was actually a very hostile one - Nimrod for some reason sought to kill Abraham at his birth (Genesis 3:15 coming to life, maybe?) but his father Terah hid him in a cave. As he grew, he was taught the ways of God by his own ancestor Shem, who was still alive at this point (Jasher 9:6), and at the time Nimrod began construction on the Tower of Babel, Abraham is reported in this text as being age 45.   Abraham is eventually arrested as an adult by Nimrod as Abraham had refused to follow Nimrod's false religion, but he is able to flee when Nimrod tries to kill him (Jasher 12) (Johnson, pp. 26-28).  Nimrod's death is also reported in Jasher 27, and it ironically corresponds with Genesis 25:28-33, as it is of all people Esau, Abraham's grandson, who kills him! As that story goes, Nimrod and Esau had a rivalry, as both were "mighty hunters," and on one occasion Esau seizes the opportunity to decapitate Nimrod in a field, and also absconds with the garments of Adam.  Given the effort and the struggle such a battle must have entailed, this would also correspond with why Esau was so tired and hungry when he gives up his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup in Genesis 25.  At this point, Nimrod would have been close to 300 at his death then.

Bodie Hodge, in his book Tower of Babel (Green Forest, AR:  Master Books, 2012) notes also the title of Nimrod as "the mighty hunter," and as he notes on page 90, the speculation is not someone who hunts deer or wild boar, but rather one who hunts men to enslave them.   Again too, we come back to the question we asked in Genesis 10 - was Nimrod a giant?  The thesis I have here remains the same, in that the Hebrew word Gibborim when used in this context infers a super-human person who in some ways surpasses the average man, and the reason for this is Nimrod possessed the same recessive gene his uncle Canaan did, which resulted in him becoming a Gibborim.  If this be the case, then we do have an event that reflects the playing out of Genesis 3:15, in that Nimrod then was the "serpent's seed" whereas his adversity with both Abraham and Esau as recorded in Jasher reflected the "enmity between the seeds," which is probably why he sought to kill Abraham.  And, when the languages are scrambled and the population disperses at Babel later on, many legends arise which feature demigods with many similar traits to Nimrod, which is why many writers believe that all these names in different cultures (Gilgamesh, Heracles, Osiris, etc.) all refer to the same person, and that is Nimrod.  Below is a chart showing some of the names associated by some with the personage of Nimrod, and when their myths are read in context with the way Genesis describes Nimrod, the uncanny similarities actually do jump out:

At this point now, we go to the Tower itself in verse 3.

There are some things about the tower itself we will now discuss, and they are as follows:

1.  How it was constructed
2.  Why was it built?

In verse 3, Genesis tells us that the Tower was built out of bricks plastered with "slime," and in looking up that word, some translations render this as asphalt.  It you recall when Noah was constructing the ark, he used a material called pitch to waterproof it, and as we discussed, this pitch came from naturally-occurring petroleum tar pits in the region (in southern Iraq, oil is an abundant commodity, as much of the world's supply does come from this region).  The names "pitch" and "slime" are talking about the same thing used two different ways - one was for waterproofing, and the other acted as a sort of mortar or cement in building.  As we see below, this is still a practice used by peoples in that region even today:

As for the construction itself, the Tower was probably a ziggurat, which was common to the region, and more than likely it looked more like the illustration below rather than the conical thing we see in classical artwork:

Keeping this in mind, the next question then is why did they build this thing?  In verse 4, the Tower is described as "a tower whose top will reach heaven," and this also leaves questions.  As the tower was probably a ziggurat, it was also imposing, given the flat plains of Shinar where Babel was located.  However, I have come to believe that size is not the real problem with the Tower, but rather something else.  After all, if God were against tall skyscrapers, he would have flattened New York long before 9/11 happened!  Therefore, be assured that God is not against tall buildings, but the purpose of the structure rather than its physical attributes are why God had concern.

It also said in the same verse that this tower was built by the people (possibly under Nimrod's mandate) to "make a name for ourselves."  Nimrod was the absolute ruler of most of the population of the earth at this time, and it is one possibility that this structure was built to consolidate his rule in the region.  In doing so, the people would be drawn toward it, and the consolidation of the majority of people on the earth into one area would have made it easier for Nimrod to rule them.   However, I am about to propose another purpose that is much more mysterious for this structure, and it is now being talked about more in some circles. 

Many reading this I am sure are familiar with a science fiction TV series called Stargate SG-1.  That series is one of my wife Barb's favorite shows, and it is a very good program.  The premise of the program was that some US military people unearth an ancient inter-dimensional portal, and it becomes a top-secret project of the government to travel to other galaxies and even alternate universes.  It comes into play here because if size was not an issue in the construction of Babel, then what was?  Also, was it just merely a symbol of the pride of man, or was there more to it?  Many rulers, and even some not-so-powerful, have symbols of their pride displayed all the time;  statuary, monuments' plaques, etc.  For the most part, they just preserve the legacy of the one whose likeness is reflected by it, and God really doesn't seem to be too worried about mere monuments to leaders or civilizations.  Therefore, an "I love me" display in the central square is not really the issue, and the Tower of Babel was not necessarily built for that purpose either.   However, what if I were to speculate that Babel may have been a portal of some sort?   Opening "portals" to supposed "other dimensions" has been done before, as occultists are constantly playing around with that stuff in order to initiate contact with "higher consciousness," which they fail to realize are actually demonic spirits.  One such example of this happened in 1918 with notorious occultist Aleister Crowley, and I want to discuss that now.

Occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) in his "tinfoil pyramid hat"

Crowley is perhaps the most notorious occultist of all time, and despite being brought up in a strict home with devout Plymouth Brethren parents, he was actually an evil and perverted soul who many believe inspired much of the modern "Satanic Church" movement.  In 1918 Crowley attempted a ritual that was supposed to bridge the visible and invisible dimensions which he called the Alamantrah Working, and when he opened this rift he was attempting, a weird being called a "lam" named Aiwass came through it (Thomas Horn, Nephilim Stargates.  Crane, MO:  Anomalos Publishing, 2007.  p. 94).  Crowley sketched this entity, and what he drew looked like this:

Doesn't that look familiar??   Today, we would associate this thing with the "little green Martian men" we see in sci-fi movies, but in reality what it really is actually is a demon.  Some researchers would also call this thing an "alien gray," and keep in mind when Crowley conjured this thing, it was a good 28 years before the UFO sightings began, and another similar coincidence relates to that too.

Two other occultists, one being an otherwise brilliant rocket scientist named Jack Parsons and the other being the founder of the Church of Scientology,  L. Ron Hubbard, attempted a similar experiment in the year 1946 called the Babylon Working (begin to put all this together, and you will see where we're going in case you are wondering why we are even discussing this in a study about the Tower of Babel), and a big part of that was what was called ritual sex magick (called the "Great Rite" in Wiccan traditions - George Mather and Larry Nichols, Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions, and the Occult.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1993. p. 317).  While Parsons was performing this sexual act with a prostitute (representing the Whore of Babylon) in order to call down the spirit child into a human womb (sounds like a Genesis 6 attempt, doesn't it?) thus embodying the supernatural forces of "Babylon," Hubbard acted as a scribe recording it all (Daniel V. Boudillion, "Aleister Crowley's Lam and Little Gray Men," published August 2003 at Accessed July 8, 2016).   Two interesting facts emerge about this.  First, Parsons and Hubbard were attempting to harness the "spirit of Babel," which no doubt has a connection to Genesis 11 (a fact not lost either in Peter and Paul LaLonde's 1997 Christian thriller Tribulation) and thus has some relevance to what I will say momentarily.   Secondly, this "Babalon Working" (the spelling Parsons used) corresponded so closely with Roswell a year later, when the UFO hysteria began officially.   Oddly about that, whereas Crowley had mastered closing the portal some 30 years earlier, somehow Parsons and Hubbard were unable to do so, and that may have something to do with all these UFO sightings.  That could all be a study in itself honestly.  Bottom line, with a limited tangent here, people who see these UFO's are seeing something, but it isn't what they think - what they are seeing are not aliens from other galaxies, but rather demons who appear as friendly little extraterrestrials.  Now, to connect this with Babel.

Rocket scientist and occultist Jack Parsons (1914-1952)

The question here to ask then is this - was the Tower of Babel a similar portal?   Remember what we talked about when we studied Genesis 10, about Nimrod wanting to "seek vengeance" on God for killing off his possible Nephilim ancestors before the Flood happened?  It is possible that Nimrod was trying to summon the "spirits" of his ancestors to become part of him so that he would be able to "vanquish God."   And, this is a reason why Nimrod is the first Antichrist figure we see in the Old Testament, for when we look at the description of the future Antichrist in Revelation 13:4-6 (NKJV):

So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the Beast, and they worshipped the Beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"  
And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue forty-two months.
Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.

Remember the description of Nimrod in Genesis 10 - "a mighty hunter before the Lord" - which means something very different from what many reading this may think?   St. Augustine acknowledges that Nimrod founded Babylon, and in his City of God he refers to Nimrod as a "giant." Although some Fathers - such as St. Chrysostom in his Homilies on Genesis - take on a view that Aquinas would formulate later that even Lucifer in his being was good, as was Nimrod because God initially created him.  But, as even St. Chrysostom acknowledges, Nimrod has a weird change in his being, and the phrase "before the Lord" then means standing defiantly in the face of God - what I would propose happened here is that Nimrod's pride got the best of him, and he became transformed into something evil, even super-human, as this pride animated the possible recessive Nephilim gene within him.  Perhaps also he was indwelt by the spirits of the Nephilim themselves, hence giving him a delusion of godhood that those he ruled over bought into as well.  The similarities between the descriptions of Nimrod and the Antichrist in Revelation are striking, and it is believed to be the same spirit animating them.  Perhaps then, the Tower was a portal of some sort to channel that demonic power to focus on Nimrod, and thus he had the delusion of thinking he could take on God.   But, God has other plans, as the passage continues.

In verses 7-8, God stops this whole scheme before it gets out of hand by confusing the languages, and hence this is why the "Table of Nations" precedes the story of Babel.  Genesis 10 documents 70 original nations, and these may not even be all of them, but the ones mentioned have significance in the narrative of salvation we read throughout Scripture it seems.  When the nations are scattered, work on the Tower stops, and Nimrod is thwarted in any possible plan to get revenge on God and overthrow Him.   But, Nimrod retains his kingdom, and becomes still mightier as the nations scatter and begin to embody his legend in their own mythologies.  In time though, the Tower does fall into ruins, and although Babylon in various incarnations would continue to be a great power for many generations to come, nothing of this magnitude was ever attempted there again, although it is taught by some that the Antichrist will, with the image of the Beast we read about in Revelation 13, seek to resurrect the very plan Nimrod started.  The confusion of languages is why Babel has its name, which means "confusion" (and also the source of the English word babble, which means to speak incoherently about absolutely nothing, confusing the listener).  In God's plan though, He desires us to be one family, but on His terms, and that is where Acts 2 comes in - God sent His Holy Spirit to the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost, and people of different nationalities were able to glorify God together.  Although I grew up myself in a Pentecostal denomination and understand all about speaking in tongues (which I believe to be known languages and a real gift of the Holy Spirit), the miracle of Pentecost has another dimension for us as Catholic Christians I have never noticed before now - if you go into one of our Anglican Catholic parishes anywhere in the world, we may speak in different languages but we know what is going on and can worship Jesus together as one Church, because as Ephesians 4:5 reminds us, we the Church have "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism."  When Jesus Christ is at the center, true unity exists, but where man tries to dominate others and imposes unity upon people by force (as Nimrod did here), it leads to something intrinsically evil. That is the lesson for the Church in the Babel story.

As we noted in our look at Jasher, Nimrod wanted to kill Abraham, so when the confusion of languages happens at Babel, Abraham and his family are able to escape Nimrod's wrath, although it says Nimrod did try to pursue.  Another interesting fact here is the descendant of Shem named Peleg, whose name we recall means "scattering" or "division."  Again, this indicates that the confusion of languages at Babel happened in Peleg's lifetime, and Peleg's father Eber named him that prophetically.  In other words, it has nothing to do with geologic plate shifts, as that would have occurred during the Flood. 

In the aftermath of Babel, we have a scattering of nations, and many begin to move away from knowledge and worship of the true God, and a series of myths and legends develop within each culture.  Many of those legends no doubt deify Nimrod under other names as a "hero," and in some cases he personifies the dominant deities of those cultures, such as Osiris in Egypt or Apollo among the ancient Greeks.  As Fr. Warkulwicz notes as well in his book The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11 (Caryville, TN:  The John Paul II Institute of Christian Spirituality, 2007) on pages 395-397, Nimrod became a hunter "before the Lord," meaning "against the Lord," and was thus corrupted by his own power and began to manifest traits of latent recessive DNA that lay dormant in other members of his family.  Therefore, God dispersed the nations for their own good, and this too is another sign of His mercy, as He could have destroyed them all there with one move of His hand, yet His love for mankind restrains Him from doing so.  As St. Jerome observes regarding Babel also, "where sinners dwell together, the worse they are," in contrast to what the Psalms say about the people of God:  "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133:1, NKJV).  It is Pentecost vs. Babel, and the challenge for us today is which we will be part of?  

In the next study, we begin the first of several centering on the life of Abraham, as the narrative of salvation begins to narrow down to one family, and in time one Man, Jesus Christ.  The first part of this will be the genealogy leading up to Abraham.  

References to the Church Fathers are taken from Andrew Louth and Thomas Oden, ed.  The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture - Old Testament Vol. 1:  Genesis 1-11.  Downer's Grove, IL:  Intervarsity, 2001.  pp. 166-170.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 26 - The Table of Nations (Chapter 10)

Now that we have examined the story of Noah in-depth, what we begin to see as we launch into Genesis 10 is that the population begins to increase and recover, and in a few short generations Noah's family repopulates the earth.  From this repopulation now comes the first nations, something that was not seen prior to the Flood as their appeared to be no national boundaries then, even between the descendants of Cain and Seth.  Genesis 10 also sets up the stage for what we see in the first few verses of Genesis 11 in the next lesson, because as in many Scriptures, these two chapters are not exactly linear in sequence, but rather occur simultaneously. We need Genesis 10, in other words, to see what happens in Genesis 11.  The general structure of Genesis 10 is sort of like a family tree, but it goes in a specific order that also sets the stage for the rest of the Genesis narrative as it unfolds.  The first genealogy dealt with is Japeth in verses 1-5, whose descendants really don't come into their own yet until sometime later.  Secondly, it is Ham's genealogy - Ham's descendants are significant at this point as many of them were responsible for the first major civilizations that were on the earth following the Flood, but they also harbored a resurrection of the evil Nephilim seed as well.  From verse 21 until the end of the chapter, the focus is then on Shem's lineage, as it will be from this point onward.  It is through the lineage of Shem that God will begin to narrow and focus in on a specific plan of salvation of mankind which eventually culminates in the person of Jesus Christ, and that is why Shem's lineage is given more emphasis.  In the middle of the chapter, there is also considerable attention devoted to a grandson of Ham's named Nimrod, as we'll see in verses 8-13.  Nimrod is dealt with due to his role that is played out in Genesis 11.   That is a basic overview of the chapter.

The "Table of Nations" of Josephus

The genealogy of Japeth is discussed first in the chapter, and here is a chart I found that maps it out more clearly to follow:

As we can see, Japeth has seven sons, but only four of them are addressed in the Table of Nations, those being Gomer (meaning "Complete"), Magog (meaning "Expansion"), Madai (meaning "Extended of the Lord"), and Javan (meaning "He that deceives).  Gomer, who is believed by some to be the progenitor of the Germanic peoples, is listed in this chapter as having three sons:  Ashkenaz (meaning "The Fire that Spreads"), Riphath (meaning "Crusher of enemies"), and Togarmah (meaning "Breaking bones" or "rugged").  The name Ashkenaz is still associated with Germany by Jewish sources today, as Yiddish-speaking Jews from central Europe are still called Ashkenazim.  Magog, the next son of Japeth, is not mentioned a whole lot in this chapter, but his descendants come into play later on, as they are the prophetic end-times invaders of Israel according to Ezekiel 38-39.  For many years, many Protestant ministers who address Bible prophecy have associated Magog with Russia, largely due in part to a Cold War mentality that we heard a lot of from about the 1950's onward.  However, the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's has sort of made that whole hypothesis look stupid at best, and many are rightly re-thinking the idea that Magog is Russia and are noting that it may signify something else, which I tend to agree.   The descendants of Magog occupy what is called the region of Transoxiana  in central Asia, and this region is the historic home of various nomadic tribes such as the Tatars, Mongols, and Turks.  A number of ancient sources, including the Armenian writer Agat'on, as well as more recent scholars and writers such as Apostolos Makrakis (Makrakis and A.G.Alexander, trans, Interpretation of the Book of Revelation.  Chicago:  The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1972.  pp. 252-270).  A more in-depth discussion of this would be more appropriate in a study series on Bible prophecy, but reading this in lieu of Ezekiel 38-39 does give some perspective on where Magog's origins are. Very little is said in this chapter about the next son, Madai, either, except that in my research Madai is often identified as the ancestor of the Medes and Persians.  A little more is mentioned about Javan, who had four sons - Elisha, Tarshish, Kittim, Dodanin - that are said in verse 5 to be the ancestors of the "coastland peoples of the Gentiles," namely the ancient Greeks.    At any rate, these particular nations are mentioned in that they would play a big role in the rest of the Scriptural narrative later on.

Beginning in verse 6, we have the genealogy of Ham, and specifically he had four sons.  Although Ham's name means "dark" and many scholars have Ham's physical descendants based in Africa (although some definitely were), in reality Ham's descendants were much more diverse.  In my research, the main attribute of Ham's descendants is their association with many of the first and oldest civilizations - Sumer, Egypt, the Minoans, and Mohenjo-Daro.  In other words, his family was quite scattered, and would be more so later.   Some writers I have come across have even proposed that Ham's descendants were the progenitors of the ancient American civilizations such as the Olmecs, and although possible, for the sake of both time and lack of source material we'll leave that one to personal opinion.  The chart of Ham's descendants is included below:

The first of Ham's four sons discussed is one who would play a major role in affairs to come later, and that is Cush.  Cush had six sons, but only one - Nimrod - is actually given any real attention in the narrative.  I will deal more with Nimrod in the next paragraph, as there is a lot to say.  The next son of Ham's was Mizraim, who is generally credited with being the progenitor of the nation of Egypt.  Mizraim had six sons as well, but one in particular stands out in this narrative, and that one is Clasluhim, who is also called in some translations Caphtorim.  The chart above actually has this wrong, in that it lists Caphtorim as as  separate son of Mizraim, but the Biblical record makes no such distinction.  The reason Caphtorim is mentioned specifically is for two reasons.  In the context of the Biblical record, it is because it is his lineage that produces the future Phillistines.  On a more historic and general level though, Caphtorim is the progenitor of the great Minoan civilization from which the Phillistines were said to also have their origins, and as such they are the first and most ancient of the Greek cultures.  Although later on Japheth's descendants - the sons of Javan - would ultimately overtake and assert their own culture on Caphtorim's descendants (reflected historically as well with the later Mycenaeans uprooting the Minoans), at this point Greece (in particular Crete) was an advanced Hamitic civilization.   The next son of Ham's, Canaan, is someone we already discussed in the last chapter in that he was dealt a blow when he transgressed his grandfather Noah.   Canaan's claim to fame is that his descendants were the various "ite" nations the Hebrews would have to contend with when Moses led them out of Egypt.   Many of these "ites" were also believed by many to be giants, and therefore would represent a new incursion of Nephilim seed upon the earth which would cause problems for the children of Israel well into the time of King David.  And, as Noah's prophecy mentions, Canaan became a slave to Shem, as in time the original Canaanites would be uprooted and would disappear from the land they were settled in, as Semitic peoples would later assume their identity and become the new rulers of that region.  The final son of Ham was one named Put, who settled the area in what is now called Libya and Tunisia.  Put's descendants are the modern-day Amazigh tribes (Berbers) of the region, and some of those people would play a very important role in the early spread of Christianity.  One of Put's descendants, Symeon of Cyrene, even helped Jesus bear the Cross to Calvary, and another, the famed St. Augustine of Hippo, would become the greatest Doctor of the Western Church.  

We now at this point want to backtrack a little and talk some about Nimrod, as he would be pivotal in the events we see in Genesis 11.  Nimrod was a son of Cush, and therefore a descendant of Ham, and his name translates as "We will rebel."  I would assert, as do others, that the name "Nimrod" is in reality a title rather than a proper name, and as the theory goes on this, the writer of Genesis (which we have established as Moses) probably knew Nimrod by another name - as we see later on, this enigmatic son of Cush has a lot of names!  The hypothesis here is that due to the contemporary nature of the story with the mythological Epic of Gilgamesh, it is highly possible that Nimrod and Gilgamesh were the same person.  The writer of Genesis uses the title "the Rebellious One" as a literary device therefore to prevent drawing attention to Nimrod and thus giving him undue honor, as Genesis was God's book and God was to be the focus of honor in it.  This view may have some merit, as it would make sense.  Nimrod is described in this passage as being "a mighty one," which translates from the Hebrew word Gibborim, but at this point there is an important distinction to be made.  When Genesis describes this person Nimrod as a "mighty hunter before the Lord" in this passage, it is not saying it to flatter or honor Nimrod, but rather it is saying something else.  Both Saints Augustine and Chrysostom interpreted this as saying that Nimrod "began to be a giant," or "giant hunter," and in Augustine's classic theological text City of God, he says this without any ambiguity.  This is a little unusual for St. Augustine to say, in that Augustine would have normally subscribed to a more Sethite view of Genesis 6 as proposed indirectly by Julius Africanus and others.  Yet, here is St. Augustine calling Nimrod in essence a giant!   The ancient Jewish writer Josephus also indirectly equates this personage Nimrod with Gilgamesh in his Antiquities of the Jews, and when compared with a similar passage from the Epic of Gilgamesh, the similarities are uncanny.  Josephus, for instance, writes this:

 So they followed Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, who set up a tyranny and began building a tower higher than any water could reach in case God ever wanted to flood the earth again.  (Paul A. Meier, trans. and ed. Josephus:  The Essential Writings.  Grand Rapids:  Kregel, 1988.  p. 22).

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, we read this description at the time of Gilgamesh's death:

THE destiny was fulfilled which the father of the gods, Enlil of the mountain, had decreed for Gilgamesh: ‘In nether-earth the darkness will show him a light: of mankind, all that are known, none will leave a monument for generations to come to compare with his. The heroes, the wise men, like the new moon have their waxing and waning. Men will say, "Who has ever ruled with might and with power like him?" As in the dark month, the month of shadows, so without him there is no light. O Gilgamesh, this was the meaning of your dream. You were given the kingship, such was your destiny, everlasting life was not your destiny. Because of this do not be sad at heart, do not be grieved or oppressed; he has given you power to bind and to loose, to be the darkness and the light of mankind. He has given unexampled supremacy over the people, victory in battle from which no fugitive returns, in forays and assaults from which there is no going back.  (N.K. Sanders, trans.  The Epic of Gilgamesh.  New York:  Penguin Classics, 1960. p. 24).  

If this is talking about the same person, then one thing could be concluded - this was a powerful king who subdued and subjugated a vast population of people.  And, that leads to the next question.

Was Nimrod a Nephilim?   In the Sandars translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh is described as being "two-thirds god and one-third man," and this would correspond as well with what Augustine, Josephus, and others wrote about him being of giant stature.  As a tyrannical world ruler, he was the first to embody the spirit of Antichrist, and the fact he is described in Genesis as being "mighty before the Lord" suggests that he had a defiant, rebellious attitude against God, and he openly blasphemed God, vowing revenge for the death of his "forefathers" (the Nephilim destroyed before the Flood, not Noah, Ham or Cush).  As Josephus aptly described, Nimrod was a tyrannical ruler and a slave to his own ambition.  In verses 10-11, Nimrod's kingdom is described as being several cities he founded - Babel, Erech, Arkad, and Caineh in Shinar (southern Mesopotamia) and Nineveh, Rehobeth, Ir, Calah, and Resen in northern Mesopotamia (Assyria).   Resen in the north was his de-facto capital from which Genesis says he ruled, but Babel would become the center of his empire later.  More will be discussed about Nimrod in the next lesson as well.

The end of Genesis 10 now focuses on the descendants of Shem for an important reason, in that from Genesis 11:13 onward it will be Shem's lineage from which the story of salvation will generate.  Not all of Shem's sons are listed, although three - Elam, Aram, and Arphaxad- are.  The main focus of this passage is on Arphaxad's lineage.

The interesting thing though about this particular genealogy in the table of nations is that it ends with the twin sons of Arphaxad's grandson Eber,  Peleg and Joktan, and although it is Peleg's lineage from which the future Messiah would come, the nations that generated from his twin brother Joktan are listed here.  At this point, let us look at some names.  Arphaxad's name means "a jar pouring forth," and his son Salah's name means "sprout."   What is really interesting though is the meaning of Eber's name, which is "passing over," and this is significant because it is Eber's name from which the ancient Hebrews take theirs, and the very event that freed them from Egyptian bondage in Exodus, that faithful Jews still observe today, was the Passover.  It could be said then that the very definition of the word "Hebrew" is "one who passes over," and that carries with it significant prophetic significance.   But, as it relates to the current text, the name of Peleg is of significance, as it bridges the "Table of Nations" with what happens at Babel in Genesis 11.

The name Peleg is translated "the earth was divided," and a debate about this has come up among those who study this passage.  There are some that would contend that it was during Peleg's lifetime when the continents shifted, becoming what they are today.  However, the Flood had already taken care of that, as we saw in the last two lessons.   More likely, Peleg's name has significance when it comes to the events that occur at Babel in Genesis 11, in that the people of the earth were divided into different ethnolinguistic groups when God scatters them at Babel.   Looking at it in that context, it would make much more sense as well.  And, at this point this lesson will conclude, as we now have the groundwork laid for discussing Babel in Genesis 11 in the next lesson. 

References to the Church Fathers are taken from Andrew Louth and Thomas Oden, ed.  The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament Vol. 1 - Genesis 1-11.  Downer's Grove, IL:  Intervarsity, 2001.  pp. 160-165.

The meanings and translations of Biblical names in this lesson are referenced from Judson Cornwall and Stelman Smith, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names.  New Brunswick, NJ:  Bridge-Logos, 1998. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 25 - The Story of Noah Part II (Genesis 8-9)

As the story of Noah continues, the Flood has happened now, and the earth has been covered with water completely.  After about 40 or so days, the rains stop, and the seismic activity causing the water to come out of the earth ceases, and at this point God sends a wind to blow over this massive amount of water.  With the winds, the waters begin to decrease after 150 days.  Now, the question here is this - did this 150 days include the previous 40 days of rain, meaning that 110 days after the rain stops the water starts to recede?  Or, did it mean that the water began to recede after the rain stops, making the rain and the time the water stood on the earth to be 190 days?  The Bible is not too specific about the either/or on this, so either theory could be safely held I would think.  However, what is obvious is that trillions of gallons of water take time to dissipate, so any way you look at it, Noah and his family were going to be on that boat for a while!

At the seventh month (using the Hebrew rather than Gregorian calendar in this case) the waters have receded enough that the ark comes to rest on what we know as Mount Ararat (the name Ararat translates "the curse reversed," and symbolizes a fresh start for humanity).  It took about 3 more months after that, according to Genesis 8:4-5, for the tops of the mountains to emerge from the water. At this point, Noah releases a series of four birds to gauge the surroundings to determine if they could safely disembark.

The first bird Noah releases in verse 7 is a raven.  The raven just kept flying until the water receded, and with good reason.  In Levitical law, the raven is considered "unclean" because it was noted to eat carrion, and it is possible that this raven was feeding on dead carcasses exposed by the flood waters, and therefore it had a food source to sustain it.  In verse 8, Noah releases a dove at around the same time as he released the raven, but the dove returns because she cannot land.  The dove - a universal symbol of the Holy Spirit - eats a "clean" diet of grain and fruit, and due to the fact there were no trees, she probably could not find a place to go and returned to Noah.  Seven days after the initial dove is released, Noah sends out a second dove, and after flying around for some time, she brings back an olive branch.  The olive branch is a symbol of peace and also symbolizes grace, and it was God's way of telling Noah that peace has been restored to the earth.  Also, the appearance of olive trees, which at this point may have been mere saplings, signified that the water had begun to recede significantly.   However, sufficient growth of vegetation was not yet happening, which is why the dove returns.  14 days later, Noah sends out the last dove according to verse 12, and this one does not return, signifying that it would soon be time to disembark from the ark.

Mt. Ararat in Armenia as it appears today. 

Noah and his family do come forth from the ark after one year, when Noah opens the large door in the side.  This door on the side of the ark has some very significant symbolism in that it prefigures our own intiation into salvation through the side of Christ.  The image here is the same typology we saw in Genesis 2:21-22, when Eve was created by God when He extracted a rib from Adam's side, and it prefigures again what we see in John 19:33, when as Jesus hung on the Cross the Roman soldier pierced His side with a spear, and blood and water issued forth.   As we know from an earlier lesson, the blood and water symbolize the two Sacraments by which we enter the Church - baptism and Eucharist.  (Stephen Beale, "Ten Ways Noah's Ark Prefigured the Church," at  Accessed June 15, 2016).  There is a lot of baptismal imagery in the ark as well, as the very wood of the ark, according to St. Augustine in his Contra Faustum, Book XII, represents the wood of the Cross, and the waters of baptism which washed sin away (Beale, p. 1).  Indeed, the Flood itself prefigures baptism in its own merit because God used water to wash away sin and corruption, and thus made the earth "born again" in a manner of speaking.  Any rate, when Noah opens the great side door, he notes the ground is dry.  Noah and his family, along with the animals, continue to live on this ark for another month, and in verse 14 it gives the total duration of the Flood as being 14 months.  At the 27th day of the second month of the next year, God gives Noah the go-ahead to disembark the ark in verses 15-17, and in verses 18-19 all the animals, along with Noah and his family, leave.

Notice that the first thing Noah does upon disembarking is to build an altar and offer sacrifices from among those surplus "clean" animals he took on-board with him.  The sacrifice pleases God, and God establishes a covenant with Noah that He would never destroy the  ground for man's sake again in verses 21-22.  It is at this point that the seasons, as well as times of planting and harvest are set.  In the antediluvian world, there was apparently no set growing season as the firmament kept the climate ideal for growth all year long.  But, with more exposure to the elements and the firmament removed, the earth changes now in that seasons happen, and agriculture will be largely determined from this point by those seasons.  Now, although God vows not to destroy the earth, it does not mean that man can't destroy it, but rather that God will not. This is a big difference as we see how man often exercises poor stewardship over the natural world, and at times his own selfish ambitions overshadow the well-being of the world he lives in.  We see that more so in recent times.

As we enter Genesis 9, it is a new beginning for the earth and for mankind.  God gives man the command to multiply and repopulate the earth in verse 1, and again gives man dominion over the earth in verses 2-4.  In verse 3, man also can now eat meat as well as vegetation, although originally God's plan for man was a vegetarian diet, as we saw in Genesis 1:29.  We begin to see the first signs of a dietary code that would be greatly expounded upon in Leviticus, as God lays down some guidelines for meat consumption beginning in verse 4 - the consumption of blood is prohibited due to blood signifying life.  However, what is interesting about this is that the life God is prohibiting man from consuming is mortal life, for in the Gospels God tells us to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, symbolizing a new covenant - although this seems to be contradictory, the blood still symbolizes life in both cases, and the Cross then becomes a new "Tree of Life" in which the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, is to be imparted to us to give us life as well. We partake of that every time we receive the Eucharist in the Mass, and the more we partake of that sacrament, the more of Jesus's transforming life is imparted to us, transforming our own.   So, in the dietary laws even in Leviticus, there is a foreshadowing of the Eucharistic mystery.  

Related to this is what we see in verses 5-6, in that the moral law of God begins to be elaborated to Noah.  A cardinal part of this moral law is the prohibition of murder - if you kill, you will be killed back, in other words!   Again, it goes along with the previous command in that life is in the blood, and human life is precious to Him who created it.   The reason for this is the imago Dei, which affirms that we are made in God's image.  Therefore, to murder another human being in cold blood is in essence to desecrate God, and that is also why the dignity of the human person is affirmed even from the beginning in Scripture, and it's the reason why murder always has been and always will be a sin of the highest order.

We now come to the details of the covenant God makes with Noah in verses 8-17.  As Dr. Hahn notes in his book First Comes Love (New York:  Doubleday, 2002), Adam's covenant was within the marriage, and established the marriage union as a sacramental act.  At this point, God extends the covenant to include the family of Noah as well, because as Dr. Hahn explains, the family was a religious community above all, and all family members were charged with upholding the family honor - common worship united a family across generations (Hahn, pp. 19-20).  This is why in verse 8 the covenant is given by God not only to Noah, but to his sons.  The visible sign of this covenant was the rainbow, and it was a reminder that God would never again destroy the whole earth with water - local floods, many devastating, still happen (the November 1985 Flood I lived through in my home state of WV is a good example), but never anything of the magnitude of what Noah and his family just experienced.  The rainbow is a covenantal sign, but like so many sacred things, it has been perverted by man's carnality - in recent decades, the rainbow has been corrupted by two specific groups as a symbol it was never intended to be.  The LGBT community has done this in one way, and they fail to realize that the rainbow has nothing to do with "gay marriage" or anything related to the lifestyle that fosters it.  The other group that has misappropriated the rainbow to suit their own agenda is the New Age movement, which uses the rainbow to symbolize their pantheistic, reincarnation-based belief in an evolving "brotherhood of god-men."     One day, many people who bastardize and misappropriate sacred symbols will be in for a rude awakening when God stands as their judge.

As Genesis 9 continues, we notice that in the concluding verses some bizarre things began to happen. As the family disembarks the ark and begins to set up housekeeping, the one thing that sticks out is the identification of Noah's grandson Canaan, who is Ham's son.  An incident happens at this point involving Noah imbibing too much wine and then passing out in his tent while in an embarrassing position.  Somehow Ham finds out about it and shames his father, but the other two sons, Shem and Japeth, cover Noah to protect him from this embarrassment.  Noah recovers from his "buzz" and is actually not very happy when he found out what happened to him, and there are several things to note about that now.

Wine made Noah vulnerable, and although this happened, Noah's consumption of wine is not evil in and of itself.  It is even possible that Noah may not have consumed as much either, as a long period of abstinence on the ark would have lowered his tolerance for alcohol and perhaps made him more susceptible to the subsequent "buzz" that made the exposure incident happen.  However, in Shem and Japeth's integrity, chastity covered what drunkenness exposes, and those who protected Noah by covering his shame were to be blessed.  Oddly, some of the Church Fathers saw here a typology of Christ's Passion in Noah's state, in that the dishonoring of Noah by the "elder son" Ham is a prefigurement of the Cross, in that in a similar way the "elder sons," meaning the Sadducees and Pharisees, dishonored Christ by exposing His vulnerability to their enemies, the Romans.  However, for Ham's transgression here, Noah curses Canaan rather than Ham, and there are questions as to why that happened?   As we mentioned in the study on Nephilim and fallen angels in Genesis 6, there is a slight possibility that a recessive gene of some sort got through (perhaps via Ham's wife) and Canaan was manifesting Nephilim traits.   If that is the case, why did God allow it?  Although a futile effort, Satan is still trying to reverse what God pronounced on him in Genesis 3:15, and the fact that some corrupted DNA "slipped through the cracks" gave Satan the opportunity he needed;   there would be no more fallen angel incursions, as Nephilim DNA was a latent and recessive part of some bloodlines and could manifest itself with the right manipulation.  God may have allowed it because it would be a test for man, and through it God would be able to unfold a greater plan He had for the ultimate defeat of Satan through his own "seed."  At any rate, it must be remembered that it is Canaan, and not Ham, who is cursed, and we shall spend some time on that now.

Beginning in Genesis 9:25, the details of the curse that Noah (not God) pronounced on Canaan are given.  First, Canaan will serve his brethren, and what St. Ephrem proposes is that it may have been actually Canaan who exposed Noah, but when Ham learned of it, he turned it into a sick joke and attempted to gossip to his brothers about it.   At any rate, Ham is not the cursed one though, as later we will see that many of Ham's descendants created the most ancient of civilizations (Egypt, Sumer, Mohenjo-Daro, the Minoan civilization, etc.) although many of them were later supplanted by others who were descendants of Shem or Japeth.  In contrast though, for their integrity Shem and Japeth are blessed by Noah in verses 26-27, and that blessing entailed several things.  First, Canaan is to be the servant of Shem, which is something we see played out later in the time after the Exodus some centuries later.   Japeth is to be "greatly enlarged" and will "dwell in the tents of Shem," which could be an allusion to two things.  First, being many of  Japeth's descendants fathered the Indo-European nations of Europe and Asia, they would also be among the first Gentile nations to become Christian later - Rome and Greece, for instance, would occupy Palestine and "dwell in the tents of Shem" in a literal way, but also in a spiritual way as well - one of the earliest people Jesus ministered to was a Roman centurion who, Jesus said in His own words, in Matthew 8:5-13 displayed a faith that He had not seen in all of Israel.  In a broader sense (and the subject of a whole other study!) Japeth literally "dwelling in the tents of Shem" would make it possible for the Gospel to be spread and the Church multiplied later.  So, Japeth would participate in Shem's blessing.

A second aspect of the curse pronounced upon Canaan is the introduction of the institution of slavery. Slavery, as it was originally intended, was to be a temporary punishment in which the person accused would render restitution to his or her victim by labor.  However, like so many things, in time corrupt men would find reason to profit from slavery, and turned an act of repentance into a sinful institution itself.  That is why, much in the same way polygamy was initially tolerated as a sort of "lesser evil" to prevent a greater one, slavery was initially instituted for punitive purposes but was only meant as a temporary state.  God's original plan was never inclusive of dehumanizing others by using slavery as a selfish means of acquiring wealth, and those who have corrupted it over the centuries are guilty of violence against their fellow man.  In that context, in time Canaan may have been able to redeem himself had he followed the guidelines and done what he was supposed to have done, Again, the temporary nature of slavery is a measure of God's great mercy extended to us, and the corruption of it is what truly becomes the curse.

The typologies within the Flood narrative are myriad, and in conclusion we will discuss some of those now.  For one, the duration of the rains (40 days) prefigures our own Church year, in particular Lent and the sacrament of Holy Baptism.   God allowed, in His great mercy, the 40 days of rain in order to allow for the possibility of repentance and salvation even in perishing.  That means that not everyone who perished in the Flood was necessarily lost for eternity.   Noah and the ark are likewise symbols of Christ and the nations.  God made creation by a word, and could remake it by a Word (Logos)  and indeed He did.   Noah and the ark can also be a prefigurement of the Church as well.

The clean and unclean animals on the Ark also prefigure many of Jesus's Kingdom parables - there are bad and good in Christ's Church, and only at the final Judgment can they be sorted out.  And, despite Noah being spared, concupiscence was already a consequence of the Fall and would manifest itself time and again.  There are also typologies of Mary in the imagery of the ark as well - the door on the side is seen by some scholars as a picture of Mary being Ever-Virgin, in that the "closed door" of the ark is something that can be passed through but not opened.  (Fr. Stephen Manelli, "The Mystery of Mary in the Old Testament," in Miravalle, ed.  Mariology.  Santa Barbara, CA:  Queenship, 2007.  p, 38).   The ark also prefigures Mary as a Mediatrix of all graces as well - Mary's participation in the salvation given by Christ prefigures the ark's role in preserving Noah.   The ark had no saving grace in itself, but because God ordered it, the ark becomes a vehicle of salvation for Noah and his family.  

An aerial view of what is believed to be the remains of Noah's Ark on Ararat today.

Noah's death is recorded in verses 28-29.   After the Flood happens, Noah lives another 350 years, finally reposing at age 950.  The Flood and redemption of Noah by God signifies to us that God is a God of mercy who loves His creation at times in spite of creation's disobedience.  The Jesus who loves sinners in the New Testament (particularly the Gospels) is the same who extends loving mercy in events like the Flood in the Old Testament.  The question for us is, how will we respond?  God has given us the mercy, so now it is up to us to accept it.  May we be, as Noah, faithful to make the right choice. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 24 - The Story of Noah, Part 1 (6:13 - 7:24)

In the first 12 verses of Genesis 6, we read about three things happening:

1.  The population increased
2.  The earth was filled with violence and corruption
3.  A hybrid race of beings called Nephilim emerge, corresponding with the other two items.

God is not happy about this violence and corruption at all, as it essentially is the full fruition of the Fall we read about in Genesis 3.  Therefore, He resolved that He is going to destroy all living beings on the earth, as they are tainted with the corruption which is indicated to be the result of the activities of fallen angels and their Nephilim offspring.  But, God doesn't want to totally ditch His original plan, so He separates Noah out.  Noah needs an escape plan, and in the remainder of Genesis 6 God gives him one.

Beginning in verse 14, God gives Noah detailed instructions to build a huge boat called an ark.  The primary material God wanted Noah to construct the ark from was something called "gopherwood," which has no connection with the burrowing ground squirrel of the same name, but rather is derived from the Hebrew word gofer, which is translated into Greek in the Septuagint as xilon tetrakonon, which is roughly translated as "squared wood."  Henry Morris III, in the second volume of our primary text The Book of Beginnings (Dallas:  ICR, 2013), notes on page 30 that this "gopher wood" would have had to have been something dense and strong, such as ironwood, but the actual tree is not revealed except to say it must have been an abundant supply.  In reading this as well, it has made me rethink my own hypothesis that it possibly was balsa wood too, because although balsa or cork have the buoyancy to float, they may not have been durable enough to maintain structural integrity in the midst of rough weather.  At any rate, the "gopher wood" was a tree of God's choosing, and He instructed Noah to use it because of its durability. 

The ironwood tree, a possible candidate for "gopher wood." 

Looking at the Greek translation of "squared wood," perhaps gofer was not the name of the tree at all, but perhaps the cut of the lumber, as the Greek term suggests a sort of 2-by-4 board.  There are some translations that render the Hebrew word kofer in this context, but that would be redundant as that word denotes "pitch," which would have been used as a sealant to waterproof the vessel, as we read later.  However, it is not out of the question to understand that the similarity between gofer and kofer may not be confusing at all, in that gofer constructed the vessel and it was sealed with kofer.   We will see this word kofer used again in reference to "slime" as a building material in Genesis 11 for the Tower of Babel, and in both cases it could have referred to a naturally-occurring petroleum-based asphalt which could be obtained from tar pits.  

A naturally-occurring asphalt pit located in Los Angeles at the site of the LaBrea Pits - this is similiar to the "pitch" Noah would have used in the construction of the ark.

In verse 16, we see the instruction God gives Noah to cover the vessel inside and out with this "pitch," and the waterproofing qualities of this stuff today still make it an ideal roofing material for houses. 

At this point we talk about the dimensions of the ark, which are given in these same verses.  As God was revealing much of this to Moses, it is very possible Moses used the Egyptian Royal Cubit as a reference to measurement with which he was familiar.  An Egyptian Royal Cubit is equivalent to 1 and three-quarters of a foot (21 inches) and it is this measurement we will use here to get the specs for the ark.  Its overall dimensions were 450,000 cubits cubed, or 1,973,700 cubic feet.  The length of the vessel was 300 cubits (450 feet), it was 50 cubits (86 feet) wide, and 30 cubits (51 feet) tall.  In other words, it was a big boat!   However, it would have to be, as Noah would be carrying aboard the whole stock of renewed life which would seed the planet after the Flood.  

The ark consisted of 3 decks, with rooms and a door on its side (vv. 14,16), and on the top level was a window (v. 16).  Again, the reason for this gigantic size would be the number of creatures Noah was instructed to take on with him by God, for the purpose of replenishing the earth.  In verses 19-21, Noah is instructed to take two of every kind (as opposed to species) of animal into the ark, and he is also to stock up on food supplies for both his family and these animals.  Note here that the Biblical term kind is roughly equivalent to the biological term genus, and therefore it can be concluded that God planned on diversifying species later.  Now, the logistics of this endeavor lead to a problem - how could Noah take on literally thousands of animals?  If we think in terms of adults, it makes no sense, but when we look at it from a different perspective - that the animals were juveniles - it begins to be more practical.  For one thing, baby animals eat less, and also the time on the ark would give them time to mature and be ready to procreate once the ark rested and the waters receded.  Therefore, it seems to be the logical position that the animals Noah had on the ark were young, and that they were also free of any corruption which caused the Flood in the first place to happen.   Additionally, there was a male and female of each kind, and these would be the breeding pairs from which all the fauna of the earth would repopulate themselves. 

Backtracking to verses 17-18, God decrees the Flood, but institutes the Noahic Covenant to preserve and spare his family.  The Noahic Covenant is the second major covenant we read about in Genesis, and its significance is that this time instead of primarily the marriage covenant, as it was with Adam earlier, Noah's covenant with God was directed to extend to a whole household, or family.  This "trustee aspect" of the Covenant, as Dr. Hahn calls it in his book First Comes Love (New York:  Doubleday, 2002) in which the individual is incorporated into something greater (Hahn, pp 35-36).   In other words, much as the other Covenants of the Old Testament would do so, the one God establishes with Noah had as its ultimate objective the redemption of humanity.   Noah's life was, in essence, the salvation of our lives today.  But, as we see throughout the Old Testament, God narrowed down the vehicle of the fulfilled Covenant eventually in the person of one man, Jesus Christ, and through Him all mankind would be given the opportunity to receive salvation.  So, when we read about Noah's family being spared in verses 17 and 18, it is an expression of God's mercy that transcends time and space, for in Noah's salvation from the destruction of the Flood would be our salvation in Christ.  

In Genesis 7:1-3, God gives Noah provisions for stocking food on the ark in preparation for the duration of time he and his family would have to be on the ark until the Flood waters subsided.  This is one of the first instances in which God instructs Noah concerning "clean" and "unclean" animals, and this predates the Levitical and Deuteronomical criteria by millennia.  Although it is a bit of a stretch to say it, the possibility here is that for the first time God is going to allow man to eat meat, as the likely case is that the change in environment which was to come would alter man's dietary needs to incorporate animal protein into his diet, something that was not heard of before this point.  So, God instructs Noah to take seven additional of each "clean" animal with their mates, and two of every "unclean" animal with their mates.  God additionally commands Noah to take seven males and females each of birds, possibly for keeping the species alive (?).  The food supply therefore seems to require than just one mating pair, although it is also highly possible that God wanted to institute a sacrificial system with Noah, and some of these animals were for that purpose as well. 

We are told in verse 6 that Noah is about 600 years old when the Flood starts, and the first precipitation happens about seven days after God transmits the initial instructions to Noah.  However, there is something very interesting about this passage, as in verse 6 it says that the waters also came from the "fountains of the deep," meaning from under the earth as well as from the atmosphere.  This may be the first instance of seismic activity that God caused to release it too.  In his 2001 book Before the Flood (New York:  St. Martin's Press), author Ian Wilson discusses at length a phenomenon called the "Black Sea Burst-Through" which proposes that prior to this epic Deluge, the Black Sea was a low-lying freshwater lake.  However, with the "fountains of the deep" being opened, to use the Genesis wording, it caused a rapid surge of sea-water to flood the Black Sea, killing the freshwater life almost instantly (Wilson, p. 49).   Morris also concurs with this to a degree, but supplements by adding that the burst of the sub-surface reservoirs of water would have caused continental plates to rip apart and form, and the magma underneath the earth would have been a trigger to set off a mass seismic episode in the earth (Morris, p. 63).  With many of these events happening, this would explain the appearance later of mountain ranges as well as canyons and other natural phenomena, which I want to briefly discuss.

When I first presented the evidence for a young earth in our parish Sunday School class, I encountered some resistance from a couple of older parishioners.   Although an "old-earth" Creationist himself, one of these parishioners - a very astute and intelligent retired accounting professional and former West Point graduate - contended that the earth had to be "millions of years old" because of the Grand Canyon.  However, is that factual?   When I was a teenager growing up in West Virginia, our state underwent one of the worst disasters it ever experienced when a catastrophic flood devastated many communities in November of 1985.  When the flood water receded, there were places where the landscape was radically altered in such a way that it doesn't look the same even today.  Walt Brown, who holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, wrote a monumental book entitled In the Beginning - Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood (Phoenix, AZ:  Center for Scientific Creation, 2008).  In it, he notes that the evidence of parallel strata - meaning the earth's sedimentary layers are typically parallel to adjacent layers - indicates that the layers of strata measured in the Grand Canyon were rapidly deposited as long-term erosion would have washed them away long ago (Brown, p. 11).  Also, 150 million supposed years are missing in the Grand Canyon's imaginary "geologic column."  (p. 35).  Another fact is that the Colorado River would have been too small itself to initiate this canyon-carving, so a bigger impetus must have been at play.  That impetus, we find out, was called Lake Bonneville, a huge inland sea that was located in the area where the Great Basin is today.  With the great waters of the Deluge, the proposition here is that this great body of water - also called Grand Lake - overflowed its banks rapidly and carved out the Grand Canyon fairly rapidly as we know it today.   Another example too is the 1958 Lituya Bay megatsunami in Alaska, which stripped trees away up to an elevation of almost 1800 feet.  In short, it doesn't take millions of years of geologic evolution to produce alterations to landscapes.  

These "fountains of the deep" opening, along with a great amount of precipitation from the "windows of heaven being opened,"  made for a lot of water, and by no means was this just a localized event.  Also, the "windows of heaven" allude to the collapse of the protective firmament we spoke of back in Genesis 1, which would likewise alter the earth's environment.  

The Genesis account tells us that the duration of the rains was 40 days, and that was just the rain.  The waters became so rampant that they eventually eclipsed and submerged hills, and all life was killed as a result.  After the rains, the water prevailed on the earth, submerging it an additional 150 days.  The total time of the Flood then would last for almost one Gregorian year, according to verse 24 of Genesis 7.  The only life that was left on the earth as a result of this was what could be found on the ark - Noah and his family, as well as the animal life he took on board with them. 

In the next part of the story, we see the flood waters recede, and Noah emerges from the ark.  When he does, civilization starts anew, but as subsequent lessons teach us, the lesson was not learned by mankind.  

(the cubit measurement figures courtesy of