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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Genesis - Chapters 6-9

Lesson 4: Noah’s Flood: Genesis 6-9

What if… faith and science could agree on the flood?

The Nephilim: Genesis 6

What if… we really don’t know who the Nephilim are?
See Genesis 6:4. In mythology, the Nephilim are seen as fallen angels or demons, the demon possessed or the demon impregnated. They’re becoming more popular now in modern horror stories.

One possibility is that they’re simply evil people—perhaps the descendants of Cain. Or they might represent a different branch of humanity, still able to reproduce with humans, but doomed to die out in time. After all, Neanderthal man died out. We don’t know (and neither do those who write their stories of angels and demons), so we guess; we interpret; and we wait to learn more.

Noah’s Ark: Genesis 6-8

What if... the Bible really was written from more than one record?
1. Read Genesis 6:3-8, 7:1-5, 7,10, 12, 16b-20, 22-23, 8:2b-3a, 6, 8-12, 13b, 22-22. This is the southern, Judah version of the story, where God is called Yahweh. (Remember the two creation stories?) This one emphasizes God’s human qualities. (He closes the door.)

2. Read Genesis 6:9-22, 7:6, 8-9, 11, 13-16a, 21, 24, 8:1-2a, 3b-5, 7,13a,14-19. This is the northern, Israel version, where God is called El. This emphasizes God’s authority. Now ask:

1. How many of each animal went onto the ark? 2 or 14?
2. Which came first, the rain or the flood?
3. How long did the flood last? 40 days or 150 days? 7 months, 10 months?
4. How deep was the water? 15 cubits above the mountains, or 15 cubits deep?

The inconsistencies might remind you of supposed “inconsistencies” in the New Testament resurrection stories. But if a story is recorded by more than one person, we’d expect the important details—God’s action, God’s protection, the ark, the water, the flood—to be the same. And we’d expect some differences in remembered details, or else we’d call them fabrications.

What if… they didn’t make a hole for the dinosaur’s head?
How big was the ark? Could it really hold all the animals? Could all our current species have evolved from the animals in the ark? And could all our current human races have arisen from the people in the ark? (Would that mean we were descended from Noah rather than Adam?)

Some people might imagine an ark built to God’s measurements with holes in the ceiling to accommodate dinosaurs. Others believe the unicorn got left behind. And still others might assume “all the animals” just means the ones accessible to Noah. In the end it’s a question of interpretation, but what matters more is that God provided a way for some—those who listened to Him—to be saved.

How big was the flood? Did it cover all the world, or just all the known world? And when did it take place?

And why did God punish animals when it was people that were at fault? But of course, God might have seen the flood coming and might have tried to tell everyone how to escape. Maybe Noah really was the only person left who cared to listen. What we, or Noah, see as punishment, God might have seen as just another example of a fallen world bringing disaster and ruin. And the fallen world is the consequence of our sin, not God’s will.

What if… there really was a Black Sea Flood?
Did you know there probably was a real, historical flood? Civilization is believed to have developed in the fertile crescent—modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, and parts of Turkey and Iran. In a mini-ice age, some 6,000 years ago, the seas froze up and shrank. The Black Sea would have been a river flowing toward the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea basin would have been a warm, fertile valley. There is evidence that people lived there, where the Sea now exists. For people there, the valley and its river would have constituted all the known world. Then sea levels rose and the Mediterranean inundated the land, flooding the Black Sea Valley to an enormous depth in (strictly) less than a year! (Geological evidence, particularly the presence of seeds in underwater soil samples, confirms this.) Was this Noah’s flood?

What if… the ancient myths came from Biblical facts?
Many mythologies include flood stories. In one, the gods are at war in heaven. A goddess’s jeweled necklace becomes the rainbow. And a hero undertakes a quest to find the secret of eternal life. It’s an exciting story, much more so than the Biblical one. But then, myths usually are exciting.

And just for reference, Genesis never says rainbows didn’t exist before the flood; just that God chose to use them as a sign afterwards.

Noah’s Sin: Genesis 9

What if… the meat was spoiled and the grapes had fermented?
Meat eaters:
Did humans start eating meat before or after the flood? (Did Cain and Abel eat meat? Does the Bible have to tell us?) It’s possible that the restriction on how to eat meat is given to protect Noah from the temptation, after months at sea, to cook and eat flood-kill.

Covenant:
Is God’s covenant just a promise not to flood us, leaving Him free to destroy us in other ways? What would Noah have thought it meant? Note, it’s a covenant with the whole world, not just with mankind—an interesting thought.

Drunkenness:
Is there some reason wine might be discovered after a flood (or used to excess)? If Noah has been afloat all this time, with stored food, and fruit, on his boat, there’s a distinct possibility that the grapes might have turned to wine while other fruits went off. Maybe this is why Noah got drunk.

Consequences:
(See Genesis 9:25-28) Japheth lives in Shem’s tent, and Canaan (Ham’s descendant – see Genesis 10:6) is condemned to be their slave. Some suggest that this is the Bible predicting, even prescribing, African and Canaanite slavery. But we should remember this is man’s covenant, Noah’s covenant, not God’s.

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