Tag Archives: noah

Same-sex Marriage in Classical Biblical Commentary

As I researched an upcoming post on Enoch, I stumbled upon this passage in Genesis Rabbah:

“The generation of the Flood was not blotted out of the world until they had begun writing nuptial hymns for marriages between males or between man and beast.”
Genesis Rabbah 26:5:4

That does say what you think it says: Fifth century Jews, at least some of them, thought that Noah’s flood was caused by gay marriage. I was shocked by this, but more because I didn’t think of same-sex marriage as a social issue until the modern era. The very fact that it was condemned fifteen-hundred years ago means that the practice must have existed in some form. I subsequently learned that there was a controversy about it in the Roman Empire and was banned right around the time the commentary was written. It is a small world!

This isn’t a post in favor of gay marriage or against it, but rather I want to look at the two (that I found) references in early Jewish sources which talk about the practice– and if you know of early Christian sources, please share them with me. It should go without saying that while the bible doesn’t mention the practice directly, the prohibitions against same-sex relations are clear and as I strive for the “plain meaning” of the text in my blog, I won’t apologize for that. I support same-sex marriage, but this post isn’t a biblical defense of that practice.

I hope too many people don’t unfriend me for posting this. Read on for more!

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Timeline of Genesis From Adam to Joseph

According to the story in Genesis, there were around 2,300 years from the creation of Adam in the Garden of Eden to the exodus of the Israelites in Egypt. Along the way, there were 23 generations, a flood, several famines, and generation after generation of lost stories. Many readers skim over these sections for the narrative portions of the book, but if we look carefully at these “begats” we can not only seeing biblical man becoming more like us, but there is also plenty of room for surprise. Did you know that Abraham could have met Noah? Or that Eber, for whom the Hebrew tribe is named, outlived his great-great-great-great grandson?

Come, take a look! There will be graphs!

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Va-Yera – Lot’s Final Indignity

Lot is the Rodney Dangerfield of early biblical figures: he really gets no respect. Only a few verses after Lot flees from the burning ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, his story ends. Not with a triumph. Not even with any dignity. No. Lot gets raped by his daughters who, apparently, are tremendous idiots.

More after the break.

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Va-Yera – Justice in the Torah (So Far)

Obviously, my posting schedule has not been what I would hoped it would be. But, I have promised a friend that I would post weekly again and so I will desperately try to do that, despite whatever other challenges life throws at me. And to start, I’m picking up where I left off: a brief survey of justice in the bible prior to Abraham.

As I said in my previous post, the genius of Abraham was not just that he argued with God’s punishment (the first biblical figure to do so), but rather that he seemed to articulate a UNIQUE (to Genesis) view on justice. Up to that point, I postulated, all punishments and rewards were to families and clans rather than individuals. With one huge exception, that’s true. His view was that a small number of good people could keep from punishment a larger number of bad people. What he didn’t do was what we really might wish he had done: request individual justice. Save the good people, punish the bad ones. That’s what we all look for in divine justice, isn’t it? Sadly, it wasn’t to be. But, this is the closest we come up to this point, so that’s something. “Sins of the father”, or clan-guilt, is never fully expunged from the Bible, though later passages will also stress individual justice and the Book of Job will suggests that not all apparent punishments are for crimes anyway.

More after the break.

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Noach – The Curse of Ham

Many people  call the Bible, “The Good Book”, but it’s not really always good. In its volumuous pages, it describes heroes and villains, depicts triumph over adversity, and even provides a set of rules to live by. But sometimes the Bible doesn’t live up to its reputation, or at least doesn’t appear to. There are passages that extoll the subservience of women to men, insist that parents should kill their children if they do not behave, and even depicts God declaring genocide against nations that opposed Israel, including women and children. Rabbis and theologians have debated these portions and have found ways to look at many of them, sometimes to the extent of saying that a text means the opposite of what it says, like God has put a riddle in the Bible for us to solve. Despite that, the face readings of these texts have caused significant hardship and strife over hundreds of years. The “Curse of Ham” is one of these unfortunate portions.

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Noach – A Covenant for All

I may have been too hard on poor old Noah, I admit. But aside from the mythological rainbow connection, the outcome of the flood was notable because God finally chose to set down the rules.

Enter, the Noahic Covenant. In the Hebrew Bible, there are many covenants, the best-known being the covenant that God gave the children of Israel in the form of the Ten Commandments and Mosaic law. In specific, this covenant is the only one that covers all of humanity, whether Jewish or Christian, Hindu or Buddhist. These are the new rules, at least according to the early Jews, that applied to all humanity for all time:

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Noach – Noah and the Flood

Okay, enough procrastinating and creating charts! It’s time to get to Noach because the rest of the world has already moved on to the next portion, Lech-Lecha.

The Noach portion, named for Noah’s name in Hebrew, covers Genesis 6:9, the beginning of the Noah story), to 11:32 the beginning of the Abraham story. That includes three main “tales”: the story of Noah and the Ark, the story of Noah and his drunkenness, and the Tower of Babil.

For me, the story of Noah has always been one of the more difficult for me to wrap my brain around. It’s not that the story is complex – it isn’t. My problem with the story is that it feels too much like mythology, like something that would happen to Odin,  Zeus, or Heracles, rather than a story that we should take any great meaning from. It doesn’t help that God acts “out of character” and lots of innocent lives, human and animal, are lost. And, like all great mythology, it aims to explain in a supernatural way a natural phenomenon: the rainbow. This isn’t something that fits well in modern Judaism or Christianity, but still it’s an important story, certainly one of the most well known, and here it is already in week #2.

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