Thursday, September 08, 2005

The flood decayeth and drieth up (Gen 8)

I added one more paragraph to the previous post, as I started some commentary here that I realized belonged with that material.

Now, I already talked about the overall length of the flood in the previous post, so I won't go over that again, but there are a few notes in the SAB about time frames specifically for this chapter that ought to be addressed. (This chapter is much more coherent in general than the previous.) The first new thing noted is that there seems to be an inconsistency between verses four and five, which is strange, since I've never heard anyone elsewhere having a problem with these verses. The fact is that I think the answer is so simple I'd never thought there was a problem. Boats run aground onto things that are submerged under the waters all the time. While the tops of the mountains were not visible until the tenth month, that doesn't mean that the ark was not sitting low enough in the water to rest on them earlier. One might even interpret it as providence that the ark, which was not exactly built for navigational purposes, managed to find landing even before a landing was obviously available. If the ark had ended up bobbing about in the ocean, Noah, his family and all the animals would have been screwed.

The other timeline note is on verses 13-14, asking when exactly did the earth dry. I think the King James is lacking a bit in its translation here, as the meaning is not made clear as it could be, but actually when looking at the Hebrew words, I'm not sure I agree with any translation, but then, I'm hardly a Hebrew scholar. Note that even in the KJV, different phrases are used in the two verses. In verse 13, "the waters were dried up from off the earth" while in verse 14, "was the earth dried." The idea here is that at first, Noah sees that there's no more standing water, but everything is pretty much mud. Later, he sees actual dry land. Many other translations say "dry" and then "completely dried". The original Hebrew uses the words "charab" and "yabesh" which of course have different meanings that can include "dry". The thing I find interesting is that "charab" is also often translated as "desolate", which seems like it could be fairly appropriate in this context; one certainly could imagine that the ground must be rather desolate. However, one of the copies of the book of Genesis I own notes that these two Hebrew words appear together in Job 14:11 and Isa 19:5, suggesting a natural temporal sequence of drying.

The SAB notes that it's rather strange that a Dove could find a living olive tree. It does indeed seem unlikely that any tree would survive such a massive flood, and if indeed there were any olive seeds that had a chance to germinate after the flood, could they have produced leaves so quickly afterwards? I really don't know. I'm thinking this is likely to be another miracle to pile on the ones of the previous chapter, but if anyone knows how long it takes for an olive seed to germinate and produce leaves, let us know if it's anywhere in the neighborhood of 50 days.

While it is a good question to wonder what the animals leaving the ark had to eat, I wonder why the SAB waits until now to ask that question. As I mentioned earlier, I think it's much harder to imagine what they ate while on the ark. If there are olive trees, there may be many other kinds of plants. I don't know what the carnivores may have eaten, but really, it's the same problem we had on the ark. Oh, I still don't have any better, more scientific answer than I had then, in case you were holding out for one.

Noah then proceeds to give a sacrifice to the Lord, which is not a logistical problem if he had more than two of each of the animals suitable for sacrifice, and of course, he had seven of each of those. God does require animal sacrifice, yes, and I covered that somewhere way

God promises that He will not curse the earth again, but the SAB points to a verse in Malachi that seems to be God threatening to do so. What's up with that? Well, I'm going to stick with my first interpretation of this, especially after looking at the Hebrew behind it. At the end of a previous post, I implied that what I think God is saying here is that there is an intrinsic property of the ground in general that God placed upon it to make agriculture particularly difficult for Adam, and He's reversing that decision ("not again" thus taking the connotation of "not any more"). The thing that's interesting in the Hebrew is that the words for "curse" and "ground"/"earth" are different in both cases. I think the Genesis verse is saying, as it is put "curse the ground", but the Malachi passage is carrying a meaning more like "I will destroy (or maybe take away?) their territory."

So long as I'm leaving the flood behind, I'd like to point out something I didn't point out yet, nor did I see it in the article I linked to in the last post. Fish. I don't think anyone ever assumes that Noah took marine life into the ark with him, but it would present problems whether he did or not. If he took fish and the like onto the ark, where did he store them? If the entire world was one big body of water, was it salt or fresh water? I think we'll have to lean on another miracle here as well, but it may be that a miraculous saving of marine life is a possible answer to the dilemma of what carnivores ate after the flood. Many modern carnivores do eat fish, and as a source of meat, it may have been quite plentiful at this time. It's something for people on both sides to think about, in any case.

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