Common Thoughts (A Genesis Study 3)

I, personally, have no date for creation. For me dating begins after Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden of Eden and the ability to formulate any kind of dating begins here. And the only dating formula we have are the generations listed from Adam and Eve to Noah which puts the flood 1,656 years after them. Was the flood local or universal? There is inconclusive evidence for either argument. The Mesopotamian story, The Epic of Gilgamesh, has a flood story that was written before Genesis leading some to believe the Genesis writer copied it. There is certainly no reason for this to be necessarily true because God is the God of everyone and information is available to everyone. Who wrote the story doesn’t belong to the writer of the event, it’s just the retelling of the Flood, however the meaning of it takes on different life.

What was going on in the Earth during those 1,656 years? Good question. Not going to have a good answer. Evidence suggests that nomadic people began to gather and form what we call civilization around 5,000 BC. That date comes from backwards counting from 0 AD, not forward counting from 0 BC. Science study suggests homo sapiens were around at least 300,000 years. We want the Bible to say something about this, and some Christians who are also scientists try to answer the questions we have, but the truth is the Bible is silent on this subject. What the Bible clearly tells us is that all creation came from Him and that man is one of His creations.

The Genesis story begins with intelligent mankind who are able to communicate with God and with each other. This is clearly seen when Cain is sent east and communicates with others and builds a city. The Bible not being an encyclopedia God ignores questions we naturally have because that’s not the purpose of why he gave us the information we find in the Bible. We know the number in the family of Adam and Eve, we know there are others “out” there, but we don’t know how many there were or how long they were living. If Cain built a city that would qualify as defining an existing civilization, but which one, Sumerian or Egyptian? Well, it couldn’t be those because life continued on with these civilizations so they came about post-Flood. The Flood would have wiped out all civilizations prior.

In Genesis 5:1 we read this:This is the written accountof Adam’s family line.”It’s an interesting accounting because it gets so specific to include how long each lived. For instance, we read thisin verses 9-11:When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.”That’s a whole lotta years to be alive. This would also mean everyone lived that long. The years, at least as we read in Genesis, changes after the Flood. There is this curious verse in Genesis 6:3: Then the Lordsaid, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”Most commentaries suggest that this doesn’t mean the physical years of each person but a reference to the time left before the Flood and that makes sense. By this time the wickedness of man was getting so bad there wasn’t going to be any other conclusion than God wiping out what he created. Indeed the story of Noah and the Flood begins six verses later. While it seemed important to know the years of life before the Flood it wasn’t after the Flood except for Abraham and Sara and that because, at least for Sara, they were too old to have children. At birth a woman has all the eggs available to her for producing children and when they’re gone they’re gone, and that happens in the late 30’s or so. Sara was 90 when she had Isaac. Prior to the Flood that wouldn’t mean anything, but after the flood when length of life changed downward it was a miracle.

In Genesis 9:1 we find these words: “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” This is a restatement of Genesis 1:25 and since that first filling was washed away peopling the earth now starts over. With the exception of Cain, whom we are told went east and built a city, we then have a long list of Adam and Eve’s ancestors. Here we have limited reference to Noah’s three sons who among them had 70 descendants who established nations (though the word used for nations doesn’t mean what we mean by the word, more like a peopling of an area). It supposedly looks like this:

 

List of Nations Descended from Noah’s 3 Sons
Shem (Semitic Race) Ham (Turanian Race) Japheth (Aryan Race)
Elam (Elamites) Cush (Ethiopia) Gomer (Celts)
Asshur (Assyrians)  Seba (meroe)  Ashkenaz (Nysia, Phrygia)
Arphaxad (Chaldeans)  Havilah (Arabia)  Riphath (Riphaean)
 Shelah  Sabtah (Sabbatha)  Togarmah (Armenia)
  Eber  Raamah (Persian Gulf) Magog (Scythians)
   Peleg   Sheba Madai (Medes)
   Joktan (Arabia)   Dedan Javan (Greeks)
    Almodad  Sabtecah  Elishah (Aeolians)
    Sheleph  Nimrod  Tarshish (Tartessus)
    Hazarmaveth Mizraim (Egypt)  Kittim (Cyprus)
    Jerah  Ludim (Nubia)  Dodanim (Trojans)
    Hadoram  Anamites Tubal
    Uzal  Lehabim (Libya) Meshech
    Diklah  Naphtuhitim (Napetu) Tiras (Thracians)
    Obal  Pathrusim (Pathros)
    Abimael  Casluhites (Philistia)
    Sheba   Philistines
    Ophir  Caphtorites (Crete)
    Havilah Phut (Libya)
    Jobab Canaan (Canaanites)
Lud (Lydians)  Sidonites
Aram (Syrians)  Hittites
 Uz  Jebusites
 Hul  Amorites
 Gether  Girgashites
 Meshach  Hivites
 Arkites
 Sinites
 Arvadites
 Zemarites
 Hamathites

If all these people came from Noah and his family you would assume they spoke the same language. In Genesis 11:1-9 we take a break from the family with the story of the Tower of Babel. This story which comprises only 9 verses is also found both in Sumerian and Babylonian myths and takes place in Shinar (Babylon). Some think it happened some 339 years after the Flood. The reason for the tower is found in verse 4: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

However long after the Flood you would think the lesson from the devastation from the Flood (killing all living things except Noah and his family) would be permanently learned. Looking at this special creation—mankind—from one man’s perspective it is one giant disappointment (of which I am part). Following Gottfried Leibniz who said, “This is the best of all possible worlds,” I see God saying about mankind that given what he created us to be we are the best of all possible creations and that included our ability to fail and our failure. We can’t be like Him if we do not have the choice to be like Him also implying the choice to choose not to be like Him. So our history is like riding one giant roller coaster: we begin on a high, then from the high we fall into a great crevasse, then work our way back up to a high only to fall once again and on it goes.

Beginning in Genesis 11:10 we return to the children of Noah and follow the line of Shem which leads us to Terah, age 70, the father of Abram, this happening 950 years after the Flood.

Beginning with Abram, who God changed to Abraham, born around 1996 BC, most every Bible book is rooted in history that is unambiguous. What we have found up until now is that God directly spoke to Adam and Eve and their children, then to Noah, and now to Abram. I do believe God spoke to those in-between, it just wasn’t important for us to know what he said. Beginning with Abraham we find God speaking more personally and often, yet nowhere will we find Him outlining a religion until Moses. From this point forward God is involved in our history and through that, not dissertations on theology, we learn about God and ourselves through contextual history. Starting with Exodus we find those events being written down and it’s those collections that becomes the canon for a Bible. Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, and perhaps Job are exceptions. They are more like commentaries.