Genesis 5 through 11 - a Punishing yet Saving God

The next seven chapters of Genesis set forth the early history of "fallen" man as they saw it. The descendants of Adam and Eve are told of and some early legends and myths set in the narrative build a sense of God's frustration with how his creation has turned out. Man's heart "fashioned nothing but wickedness all day long" (5). So God decides to basically start over again, to wipe everything out, saving only Noah and his family to start the "human being project" over again. Noah's name means "may this one comfort our sorrow" and I do think it is God who is sorrowing. It's kind of interesting but God's work too - like man's - is burdened with a sense of frustration and futility. 

God tells Noah to build an ark and give him very specific instructions for constructing it. He will be equally specific later when He instructs His people to build an ark for the covenant and even later to build a Temple under Solomon. Whenever God punishes us in the narrative - in Eden - and now here, He also helps. Throughout the story we see the same paradox - God punishing man and simultaneously offering the hand of salvation.

What is also interesting is that the story shows us a God who punishes the innocent along with the guilty. The innocent animals God created to be with man in the creation. There is a sense in these early stories that the one given dominion by God - here generic "man" but later the kings and priests set over "man" - stands for everyone over whom they wield authority. So here, when man does evil, all the innocent creation must endure the punishment imposed on those in position of responsibility. Later, when there is a monarchy, or a priestly leadership class, the innocent, poor and dependent people they are responsible for also bear the chastisements brought on by the "shepherds" who fail. There is a tension in the story between this kind of "collective" vision and an equally strong vision of individual responsibility and existence before God. Later we will be told in no uncertain terms that children will not be held responsible for the sins of their fathers, that each person will be judged on his or her own "merits" whether those merits be earned or won through faith in Christ. But the "collective" dimension has a continuing reality too. We do bring the innocent down with us when we sin.

So Noah and his family build the ark , gather a remnant of the creation onto it, and endure  forty days of God's wrath. Forty is a magical number in Scripture. Later there will be forty years in the desert for Moses and the people with him. And Christ will spend forty days and nights in the desert as well. When Noah and his family leave, they offer up a sacrifice of those "clean animals" on board [there are two accounts woven into the story - one giving two of each animal and one that provides a few others so that this offering can be made]. God makes a "covenant" with Noah, expanding his "dominion" over the creation by giving him meat to eat as well as plants, but man is to refrain from eating the blood of the animals, and God places a rainbow in the sky as a "sign" of his covenant with man.

So God tries to start the project over, but it doesn't take long for us to see that things are not going to change much. Noah, being a descendant of Cain, is a tiller of the soil and he plants a vineyard. He gets drunk on its grapes and his son Ham disgraces himself by looking on his father's nakedness while he is drunk. In punishment for this, Ham is consigned to a destiny of servitude. 19th c. pro-slavery apologists used this to justify the perpetual slavery of the black race, which was believed to be included as descendants of Ham. 

And chapter 11 describes the splintering of man's language into many tongues as a result of man's pride in building a tower of Babel to "make a name" (11:4) for themselves. So the overall narrative leaves us with a creation still far from what it is God intended. In His next attempt, he will take another tack, starting instead with one faithful man.

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Comment by Rickey D. Whetstone on 5th mo. 7, 2011 at 2:08pm
there was a time . . . that I  also thought  . . . God punishes people.  Since I've meet God . . . I know that the idea of a punishing God is now a fable taught by Jewish Culture.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 7, 2011 at 2:19pm

Let's say... a metaphor favored by many people because their experience with other people has largely consisted of punishing and being punished.


It does not, by the way, imply our foolish human notion of "due" or "deserved" punishment, rather of a corrective action that may entail suffering, but might also include compensation. Being sold by one's brothers into Egyptian slavery, for example.

Comment by Rickey D. Whetstone on 5th mo. 7, 2011 at 2:41pm

So . . . what did the big mean God do to Lucifer . . . when he rebelled and convinced one third of the angels to join him in trying to overthrow God and take over heaven?    


And what did Jesus do to the men that crucified him?

Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 7, 2011 at 11:27pm

As I was saying, people like to imagine God being vindictive. They can relate to that. They think there's something wrong if the consequence of having killed Jesus... is simply having killed Jesus.


While there are some pretty silly ideas about God circulating among various people... there are also some that can give us a sharper, truer picture. We can just snipe at the silliness, but it seems wasteful somehow...

Comment by Rickey D. Whetstone on 5th mo. 8, 2011 at 10:46am

Exactly . . . the answer . . . is to talk to God . . . and not study  a book.   The silliness will rob us of our potential place in the kingdom of God.  

You wrote about corrective action . . . are you pointing to God . . .. as a being that uses corrective action . . . or that corrective action is a  event that happens in our environment . . . if we will see it  . . . as a spiritual hurtle . . . that we should understand.    

Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 8, 2011 at 1:00pm
I see God as creating conditions-- and determining their outcomes. If we screw up and suffer consequences, that too is God at work. We need to recognize and cope with our own vindictiveness, which makes this possible & necessary.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 8, 2011 at 3:52pm

The books we find-- like the people we meet and the situations we find ourselves in-- are among the ways God talks to us.


So the trick isn't in trading one set of inputs for another... but in how we attend & respond. If we could study everything like a good synagogue considers the week's Torah reading...

Comment by Rickey D. Whetstone on 5th mo. 9, 2011 at 12:02am
It's interesting that a person would prefer indirect contact with the most wonderful being in the universe.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 9, 2011 at 1:32pm

Adam had direct contact... but God told him, "It is not good for 'the man' to be alone."


I prefer to contact God the way I do contact God.  (He says to tell you hello!)


This contact business is a work in progress... We start where we start, try to follow God's lead (but often find out we've been following some conclusion we'd jumped to 'on our own' (as if that were strictly possible-- but that's how it feels) and then God conveys something like, 'No, follow what I'm showing you now!'


'Getting better at it' must be something akin to 'forgetting we think we know how to do this.' But the means God has provided in the past-- did serve.


I think thee errs... through bronzing thy own baby shoes. But do keep dancing in what you're Given!

Comment by Rickey D. Whetstone on 5th mo. 9, 2011 at 4:13pm

This reminds me of the old westerns . . . when the cowboy puts his ear on the railroad tracts to find out how far away the train is. . . . however he may know the distance but he does not know direction . . . he can only guess.   

I prefer to use my personal soul phone to talk to the engineer.   Then I  have first hand information . . . knowing the speed and number of cars in the train  . . .  instead of listening to pages rattle or tumble weeds blowing in the wind  . . . or a coyote howling in the back round.    


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