Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Genesis (Bereshit) My Three Sons Part 4

Genesis 8:15-9:29 After the Flood

The Flood has subsided. Man again begins to face the problems of existence. God speaks and gives instructions to Noah, his wife and sons and their wives and all the beasts from the ark. Noah’s sons and all the beasts under their care are sent out to repopulate the earth.

The first thing that Noah does is build an altar and make a sacrifice unto the Lord.

Here the Lord enters into the first Covenant with man. These are the provisions:

God realizes that the mind of man is evil and will not change. Therefore, He promises never to destroy every living thing again.

He orders man to procreate.

He fills the beasts with fear of man.

He gives dominion of the beasts of the earth to man. He also allows man to eat every creature and every grass. The exception would be that which has its lifeblood still in it.

He also requires a reckoning of every beast and man for taking a human life. The Lord states that whoever sheds the blood of a man, by man his blood will be shed. God states that this is because man was made in the image of God. God makes this Covenant not just with man, but with all living creatures.

There will never be a flood to destroy the earth.

As a sign of this Covenant He puts His rainbow in the sky and instructs us that we are to be reminded of His everlasting Covenant when we see the rainbow.

There are some interesting facts that can be gleaned from words and phrases within these verses.

As I have pointed out earlier, some accept the Noah saga as fact, others accept as perhaps a myth. In any event the purpose of the tale is to provide morality. Once again there are many Flood stories in different cultures. Truth is truth.

First let me point out some thoughts regarding Noah building the altar and sacrificing the clean animals and the birds. Part of a Covenant is a feast that is shared with those entering into a covenant. In this case it is Noah and his family and the Lord God Almighty. The meat of the sacrificed animals was offered up to the Lord, but was eaten by the participants.

How then did God partake of the feast? We are told that "the Lord smelled the pleasing odor . . . " and then began announcing the Covenant. In the language of the Torah, smelling the pleasing odor is equivalent to accepting favorably.

We can compare this to a parallel incident in the epic Gilgamesh wherein the gods smelled the savor (of the sacrifice)/ the gods gathered like flies over the sacrificer. This goes to show not only the difference between the one True God and the false gods of ancient legends, but what those that told the legends thought about their gods.

If we look back in Chapter Six, we see that the Lord had promised to make a Covenant with Noah before the flood. God now fulfills His promise and in Hebrew He states that He has cut a berit or concluded a covenant.

The remainder of these chapters prove to be very disturbing.

We are reminded that the sons of Noah are Shem, Ham and Japheth. We are told that Noah was a tiller of the soil. In these times there were but two professions. You were a farmer or a herder. Noah was a farmer.

Noah planted a vineyard, produced wine and Noah got drunk. Noah was not a Baptist. Not only did Noah get drunk, he got stinkin' plastered. He was inebriated to the point where he took off all of his clothing and was stark naked within his tent. Ham tells his brother of his father’s nakedness.

Upon hearing of this, Shem and Japheth take a large cloth and place it against their backs and walk backward into the tent to cover their father’s nakedness, so that they did not see him.

When Noah sobers up, he curses Ham and his offspring. Ham is the father of Canaan.

Noah then blesses the Lord, the God of Shem (implying of course that Shem was blessed.) He blesses Japheth that he may live in harmony with his brother Shem. But he curses Ham and Canaan by admonishing that Canaan will live in slavery.

What is this all about? Is it a curse to see your father or a family member in the all-together?

The punishment meted out to Ham seems extreme, but this harshness suggests that the Bible was referring to a far more serious transgression than seeing his father naked. Uncovering a relative’s nakedness was a euphemism for sexual relations. See Leviticus 18. This story is one of sexual perversion. We see a further motif of sexual perversion in the story of Lot and his daughters. Additionally in this tale there is a subtle assertion that the Hamites were the Egyptians. They along with the Canaanites were the descendants of sexual deviates. The crime of Ham therefore belongs to Israel’s nearest neighbors and nearest enemies. The story of Lot also implies that the nations of Moab and Ammon were also nations sprung from an indecent sexual background.

It is no small wonder that Shem and Japheth got a cloth and walked backwards to cover there father. They wanted to disassociate themselves with this travesty.

One can conclude from the Lord’s pronouncement, "the mind of man is evil from his youth" is of course true as seen in these latter chapters.

In my opinion Ham represents those that are evil at heart, Japheth represents those that are good people, but do not follow, perhaps do not recognize God and Shem represents all those that love and follow the Lord.

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