Keyword:

Light from the Sidra

Noach

Genesis 6:9-11:32. Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24

My wife has a fridge magnet that says, “I’d give up chocolate, but I’m no quitter!”

In Genesis 6:7, it looked as though God had given up on mankind but with the appearance of Noach, events take an unexpected turn. God sort of gives up on us; but he doesn’t. Instead, he presses the rewind button and recreates the world.

The world in Genesis 1 came out of the waters; in our Sidra for this week, it will once again be immersed in water. Even the high mountains will be covered so that a new world can appear out of water. Noach will be the head of a new humanity and as three of the many sons of Adam and Eve were singled out for us (Cain, Abel and Seth) in Bereshit, so Noach’s has three sons from whom the world will be populated. Two of Adam’s sons were righteous (Abel and Seth) and two of Noach’s sons (Shem and Yaphet) proved to be more righteous than their brother Ham. Unlike Ham, instead of exposing their drunken, naked father to ridicule and shame, Shem and Yaphet covered his nakedness (Gen 9:22).

Nevertheless, although man is given a fresh start, he blows it again. Once more, the fruit of a tree proves to be the fall of the head of the human race, only this time Noach has no need of a serpent or a woman to tempt him. When Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they knew they were naked and made a futile attempt to cover themselves; Noach, by contrast, drinks of the fruit of the vine and makes himself naked. But he doesn’t know what he has done. The contrast is perfect: one man becomes aware of his nakedness through eating of a tree; the other becomes ignorant of his nakedness by drinking from a tree. However, the bottom line is the same; Noach and Adam sinned, and their sins had a knock-on effect for us, their offspring. Mankind seems to fall into two camps: there are those who, like Adam, recognise their nakedness before their Creator and try to cover themselves with religious acts; there are others who, like Noach, are totally oblivious to the fact of their nakedness before God and blissfully dream that all is well with them. In the case of Adam and Noach, coverings were provided for them. Adam was clothed by God, and Noach was covered by his sons Shem and Yaphet.

But all was not lost. Just as hope was held out to humanity through the cursing of the serpent in Genesis 3:15, in the curse on Canaan in Genesis 9:25 a light shines through the darkness. The cursing of the serpent carried with it the prophecy of the future the “seed of the woman” who would crush (the great Jewish commentator Rashi says “pound”) the head of the serpent; Noach’s curse on Canaan contains the prospect of the descendants of Yapheth one day dwelling in the tents of Shem, the line from which the Jewish people – the people of God – would come. Here is the first hint that the "seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15 ("I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they shall strike at your head, and you shall strike at their heel” Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures) will come from the line of Shem.

In Genesis 1 we saw that God is beyond our human comprehension. He is “one” and yet, as some Jewish Kabbalists recognised, he is more than that (which is probably why the most frequent name for God is the plural Elohim. When God created man, he declared, “Let us create man”; when he decided to frustrate the defiant attempt of Noach’s descendants to consolidate themselves into a godless, autonomous confederation, he said, “Let us, then, go down and confound their speech…” (Gen 10:7, Tanakh – The Holy Scriptures, the New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew text).

Just as astonishing is that in Genesis 6:6 we see a God who is so hurt and saddened by mankind’s rebellion and inhumanity that he “regretted” making man. Try as theologians and commentators may to soften “saddened” and “regretted” by recourse to a big word like “anthropopathism”, the terms must mean something. A God who can be hurt by our actions? An all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful Creator who regrets forming his greatest creation? Go figure.  

But God is no quitter. Hurt as he is by our rebellion, he has not given up on us. He is still working on his purpose to make creation once again very good. His plan is about to go in to its third phase with the coming of Abram…


© Shalom Ministries     email: comms@shalom.org.uk      site map
We do not necessarily endorse the contents of this site.