Monday, November 28, 2011

Jehovah Swallows his Pride -- Bible Study, Night Three

Reading The Bible My Late Mother Left Me


It's the big do-over, this part of Genesis, and all that goes before it is a false start, proving that God isn't perfect, after all, and that His creation passed through a first-draft stage before being disposed of and revised. I like God for this; He's a writer too, it seems. I admire His willingness to swallow his pride. To gaze down upon all the characters He'd made and deem only one of them worth keeping must not have been easy. I sympathize.

O, lucky Noah! But his sons were luckier. Simply by virtue of being the descendants of the only man in  history who'd managed to win approval from Boss God  (other than Enoch, who God was so in love with that He snatched him straight up into heaven before the fellow even died), they were spared from the world's first genocide. Along with their mother and their wives, of course, who were the luckiest ones of all. They sure married well, those women. By accident? Or did they see something in the Noah men that told them to ignore all other suitors? I'd love to know, but I guess I never will. At this point in the Bible wives and daughters are basically just anonymous wombs for boys. (Is there a counter-Genesis somewhere, still buried in a desert cave, perhaps,  in which all these women actually have names? If not, some clever feminist should write one -- or what are Women's Studies departments for?)

The ark is built, is filled, the rains arrive, and Noah, his family, and the beasts float off for what must have been the wildest adventure ever, as well as the most claustrophobic domestic drama in the annals of the genre. Strangely, we're told very little about this interlude, which must have been marred by endless shouting matches and, if human nature was human nature then, numerous threats by Noah to park the ark and let one or more of his kin get off and swim. But instead of this unimaginably rich material we get a lot of dry and technical details about the precise duration of the deluge, the depth of the waters, and the rate at which the flood subsided after the storm had ceased. God may be a great writer, but not his scribes. The greatest melodrama of all time they left unexplored in favor of meteorology.

The best part of the narrative is the epilogue, which gives one a sense of all the crazy business that must have gone on during the cruise. Noah, having survived his awful voyage, understandably goes into business growing wine grapes. He promptly gets drunk on his own product, only to fall asleep naked in his tent. Shem and Japheth, two of his three sons, alerted by their brother Ham, find him in this condition and cover him up, and when he awakens he does something God-like: he destroys someone's life for a minor lapse of conduct. This would be Canaan, Noah's grandson by Ham, who didn't assist him during his cold night of slovenly, forgetful intoxication and gets made a slave or servant to Uncle Shem. All for the crime of not being co-dependent.

Thus did dysfunction come into the world.

[For more about this project, see prior posts]


  1. it's disheartening that someone with several lovely books done and printed can still end up with such a patchy blog appearance. But I love, love the enormous photo and tiny-text invitation. Don't change that.
    I'm looking forward to when you arrive at Daniel and the lions' den. Or schrack meshach and abednego. I don't hear much about them anymore.

  2. this is a do it yourself blog, all the way. thus the patchiness.

  3. I am enjoying these stories immensely. You are right: Shem's wife, for example, is pretty much the luckiest woman ever. Do we even know her name? Or was her prime virtue in "marrying well"?
    ps: I'm "questionable7" on Twitter.

  4. Canaan isn't son #4-- he's the son/line of Ham, a line that needs to be weeded out-- can't have Canaanites in the land that's promised to Abram and his descendants. And Ham was pretty disrectful, telling his bros to go check out naked and drunken dad. We need to narrow the line to Shem, hence the Shemites or Semites.....

    (btw... this is Bender.)

  5. bender,

    i'm expecting to make many corrections as i go forward on this project and welcome all the help i can get. i'll go back and figure out how to re-word this. not sure if i got the name wrong or the relationship wrong. i do this at night and my eyes swim.

  6. A critical element missing from this discussion is the issue of universal sovereignty (Who has the right to rule/God's rule verses rule by humans or other power) that was raised in Eden (by Satan and involving the rebellion of Adam and Eve). It takes time to resolve such an issue... a LOOOOOONG time. By the time of Noah the condition of human society was so depraved (the Bible says: "The badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time. . . . The earth became filled with violence."—Genesis 6:5, 11) that the preservation of faithful worshipers was threatened with extinction and yet more time needed to be allowed for all variations of human rule to be tried. Hence, intervention by God.

    The judgement in Noah's day also served as a preview of future judgement (see 2 Peter 3:3-7.)

    Re: "only one of them worth keeping" The invitation to be saved was extended to all of Jehovah's free moral agents. People had to make the decision to get on the ark. Only 8 responded (not 1) so re: "... his sons were luckier...Along with their mother and their wives, of course, who were the luckiest ones of all", it wasn't luck.

    Re: "They sure married well, those women. By accident? Or did they see something in the Noah men that told them to ignore all other suitors?" Well, duh! Smart, God loving women who married smart, God loving men.

    Re: "he destroys someone's life for a minor lapse of conduct" Jehovah sees the heart while we can only see the a portion of a person by their actions/lack of actions, etc.

    Re: "Instead of this unimaginably rich material we get a lot of dry and technical details" Jehovah is indeed a writer but with a purpose greater than entertaining or tickling ears. Come on! Can you imagine how huge the entire Bible would be if all the details were included? Yet often there is much more than just the dry facts. A mind greater than yours or mine determined what needed to be conveyed.

    Of course this debate is too involved for this forum and much more serious than no doubt the intent of your post.

  7. my posts are very serious, garden grow, whether they look that way or not, and i hope you'll write in again. you know your stuff, it seems.

  8. Walt
    My favorite OT portions, comfort wise, are Jeremiah, Job, Isaiah, and most most most of all, the Psalms. You're in the law section; later comes the mercy section. To put it crudely. And my advice is be as irreverent as possible: there are three mysterious forces at work in the world that convince me of the existence of a knowledgeable intentional creator: love, mathematics, and humor.

    I was very sorry to hear about your mother; and very happy for your other recent news. You know, living each night with her bible must be a notably tactile experience; perhaps tell us more about the pages, her commentary, the book itself? (I haven't been able to navigate to night one, so perhaps that's all there; I did read the short bit about her all caps and red ink...) If you were a Native American, say (at least as sensitive depictions since the mid-70s - Walking Tall, Little Big Man, the one with Richard what's-his-name Harris? hanging by his nipples -- have led us white boys to believe), it would not be what the book says but what it exudes that would most powerfully heal you.... years of a woman's devotion, desire and belief in that small, dense-leafed talisman.

  9. Walt:
    In order to post I had to type in the magic letters which happened to be SEMICUL, which I take to mean "half-asshole". Which, I mean, is accurate to a point....