Genesis 9-11 and Early Church Writings [Clement of Rome] 46-50

Genesis 9 - God makes a covenant with Noah, expanding Noah’s “dominion” over the creation by giving him meat to eat as well as plants, providing man refrains from eating the blood of the animals, for the blood is the life of the animal and “the life” is God’s in a special way--man’s lifeblood especially for God will require “an accounting” for the “life” that is so precious to him:

 

“I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life. If a wild animal kills a person, it must die. And anyone who murders a fellow human must die. If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image. Now be fruitful and multiply, and repopulate the earth” (9:5-7).

 

In this way God seems to concede man his freedom and imperfections while at the same time insisting on accountability for what he chooses to do. 

 

Wildlife will look at man with “fear” and “dread” just as man will now look to God (9:2). The familiarity and warmth of relationship that characterized pre-fall Genesis is now a thing of the past. But there is to be a covenant between the Creator and His Creation; it is the first of many: “Then God said, ‘I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the flood-waters destroy all life” (9:12-15). I see in this a covenant with our Creator to always bring life out of death, hope out of the clouds that cast shadows over our days on earth. It is the first “covenant” mentioned in the scripture narrative. 

 

Noah, being a descendant of Cain, is a man of the soil (9:20); he plants the first vineyard.  Then he proceeds to get drunk, and his son Ham, “the father of Canaan” (9:18), disgraces himself by looking on his father’s nakedness while he is drunk.  In punishment for this disrespect, Ham is consigned to servitude.  19th century Southern pro-slavery apologists used this to justify the perpetual slavery of the black race, which was believed (by them) to be included as descendants of Ham.  Noah dies when he is 950 years old. Noah is a redemptive figure for Cain, a new man of the soil.

 

Genesis 10 - The text traces the descent of the sons of Noah. If one looks at a map outlining Josephus’ understanding of the people generated by these three line, the “sons” of Japheth are located in the islands of the Mediterranean and the lands to the north. Europeans were said to have come from this line. Ham. The “sons” of Ham are located in the Mesopotamian region and the “sons” of Shem, Semites, were located along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean and into northern Africa. This map is accessible on Wikipedia.

 

There is a lot of legendary detail given in this chapter. Cush [Hamite] was an ancestor of Nimrod, “the first heroic warrior on earth” (10:8); and founder of the cities of Babylon and Akkad and Nineveh. Another Hamite, Canaan was the “ancestor of the Hittites” (10:15). One of the “sons” of Shem, was named Eber and he “had two sons. The first was named Peleg, which means ‘division,’ for during his lifetime the people of the world were divided into different language groups” (10:25). This is just a tiny bit of the detail given, the ones that I recognized as having later importance in the story.

 

Genesis 11 - The splintering of man’s language into many tongues is gone into in this chapter. “At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words” (11:1). As they [the Shemites] go east, they arrive at a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there” (11:2). They set their sights on building a “’great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world’” (11:4).

 

“But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. ‘Look!’ he said. ‘The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.’” (11:5-7).

 

Then the line of descent is traced from Shem to Abraham: Arphaxad > Shelah > Eber > Peleg > Reu > Serug > Nahor > Terah > Abram, Nahor and Haran.  Haran dies in Ur, where he was born. Abram and Nahor marry. Abram’s wife is Sarai and Nahor’s wife is Milcah [daughter of Haran – his niece].

 

Then Terah, Abram, Haran’s son Lot, and Abram’s wife leave for Canaan but only get to Haran (now a land or city, not his son). Terah dies in Haran.

 

First Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (96 AD)

Section 46 - It is the example of such Old Testament men who suffered at the hands of the wicked – men like Daniel, Ananias, Azarias and Misael – who should be our heroes. “[L]et us take the innocent and the upright for our companions, for it is they who are God’s chosen ones” (42).

 

“Why must there be all this quarrelling and bad blood, these feuds and dissensions among you? Have we not all the same God, and the same Christ? Is not the same Spirit of grace shed upon us all? Have we not all the same calling in Christ? Then why are we rending and tearing asunder the limbs of Christ, and fomenting discord against our own body? Why are we so lost to all sense and reason that we have forgotten our membership of one another?” (42)

 

The disunity in Corinth has led many astray.

 

Section 47 – He tells them they should read Paul’s letter to them again. The divisions he addressed there were not as serious as today’s. “It is shameful, my dear friends, shameful in the extreme, and quite unworthy of the Christian training you have had, that the loyal and ancient church of Corinth, because of one or two individuals, should now be reputed to be at odds with its clergy” (42).

 

Section 48 – Do not lose any time putting an end to this state of affairs. Let us all “fall on our knees before the Master and implore Him with tears graciously to pardon us, and bring us back again into the honorable and virtuous way of brothers who love one another. For that is the gateway of righteousness, the open gate to life” (43).

 

“There are many gates standing open, but the gate of righteousness is the gate of Christ, where blessings are in store for every incomer who pursues the path of godliness and uprightness, and goes about his duties without seeking to create trouble” (43).

 

If you are a true believer and able to “expound the secrets of revelation” and virtuous in all your ways, the higher your reputation, “the more humble-minded” you need to be; and your “eyes should be fixed on the good of the whole community” (43), not just on your personal advantage.

 

Section 49 – “No tongue can tell the heights to which love [for God] can uplift us. Love binds us fast to God. Love casts a veil over sins innumerable. There are no limits to love’s endurance, no end to its patience. Love is without servility, as it is without arrogance. Love knows of no division, promotes no discord; all the works of love are done in perfect fellowship” (43).

 

“It was in love that the Lord drew us to Himself; because of the love He bore us, our Lord Jesus Christ, at the will of God, gave His blood for us – His flesh for our flesh, His life for our lives” (43).

 

Section 50 – “Let us beg and implore of His mercy that we may be purged of all earthly preferences for this man or that, and be found faultless in love” (43).

 

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