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Genesis 10, 11 – The Nimrods of Babel

It’s really too bad that most of the biblical names we see in modern American society are only from the more popular and well known characters.  Aside from my earlier mentioned affinity with Enoch, we’re missing out on such exciting options as Magog, Togarmah, Erech, and Joktan.  It sounds like a veritable Star Trek convention of Klingon cosplayers.

There’s not too much here of interest among the genealogical record-keeping, but we do get this gem about Nimrod being a mighty hunter before the Lord, which gave rise to that old saying we all know and love, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.”  Got a bit of poetry to it, don’t you think?  It seems that he was the founder of Babel, which may have contributed to the fact that we commonly use this name in the modern day as an insult to someone’s intelligence.  But since it simply means a great hunter in every place aside from America, we really have Bugs Bunny (using it in poorly understood context) to thank.  No, I’m not kidding.

This family tree really only seems to try and account for the existence and spread of the several nations after the flood.  I realize that “nations” doesn’t have an equivalent meaning with the way we understand nations in the modern day, but the most interesting sections top note in this chapter are undoubtedly verses 5 and 31.  These explicitly point out that each nation was separated out according to their families, lands, nations, and most importantly languages.

This may be just a big snore along with the roll call, except when put into context with chapter 11, which begins by saying that “now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.”  It’s arguable that all those people mentioned previously only separated into nations after the tower of Babel incident (sorry, spoilers), since Nimrod was the founder of this city and only 3 generations removed from Noah.  Once again the bible fails to equip us with an adequate understanding of the chronology and proves itself to be confusing and poorly written storytelling.

And once again I find myself at odds with the traditional church narrative on how things went down.  I was always told that Yahweh caused the tower to crumble and confused their languages because they were arrogant people who tried to rival and challenge god with their project.  Sounds to me more like a collaborative enterprise to build a nation and do great works.  Sure they mention that the tower will reach into heaven, but they don’t talk about rivaling god or his power.  In fact, the only one who’s mentioned this idea so far is Yahweh himself when he kicked out Adam and Eve in a fit of paranoia.

His inherent fear of being overthrown by his creation is documented explicitly here when he says,

“Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language.  And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.”

This feels more and more like Yahweh learned his paranoia from all the other Mesopotamian and Greek myths about creator gods being overthrown by younger generations (Tiamat/Marduk, Ouranos/Chronos, Chronos/Zeus, etc.).  He speaks not as if they are arrogant and forget their place in the cosmological hierarchy, but as a threat to be swiftly dealt with lest they actually gain the power to usurp him.

If this were true, why does Yahweh allow large, cooperative enterprises like skyscrapers now?  Could it be that this thought doesn’t bother us because we no longer think that he literally resides in the clouds (even though we still depict him this way in cartoons)?

Hell, maybe he’s just a capricious prankster god with a mischievous sense of humor.

And there’s sadly no mention of a Barad-dûr-like cascading demolition of the tower.  In fact, it’s presumably left undisturbed, for all that we hear about it.  The only thing we’re told it just that the trickster god Yahweh switched all their languages around so they couldn’t collaborate any longer and whisked them around the planet.  Is this where biblical literalists think that the Native American, Australian, and Pacific Islander peoples and languages came from?  And that they gained that kind of genetic diversity over a period of a few thousand years?

At least human lifespans are getting down to a more reasonable range of four hundred years or so, though how this is in line with Yahweh’s pronouncement in Gen 6:3 is anybody’s guess.  Nahor is the first person noted to fall within the decreed lifespan boundaries, and this isn’t until humanity is eight generations removed from Noah.  Could it be that he’s simply titrating down the actuarial tables to avoid system shock?  Who knows…

And then we get another anomaly when Nahor’s son Terah lives to be two hundred and five.  Not that I wouldn’t like some of those genetics, but I’m beginning to suspect that this data is untrustworthy…

Genesis 5 – Why don’t we just beat biology with a brick?

Thus we have the first of the myriad genealogical books of the bible, the existence of which are really only relevant to long-dead patriots of ancient tribes proud to see the long record of noble individuals among their heritage and young earth creationists trying to establish the age of the earth and the historical accuracy of the bible.

The only thing in this chapter more ludicrous than the ages that most of these descendants of Adam live to is the age at which most of them father children.  

Arguably, the only thing Christians are more certain of than Jesus’s infinite capacity to forgive even the most outrageous transgressions is humanity’s capacity to fall from God’s grace through the wicked opportunities of sin.  No sin preoccupies the mind of the modern American Christian more than of SEX.  It’s the most wicked and debasing thing in the world, and the veritable pink elephant in the room.

Certainly Adam and his progeny are supposed to represent the most righteous examples of nobility and virtue that humanity can muster up, but if you expect me to believe that Adam and his wife Eve were together for 130 years before they had sex enough times to have a third child, then you’re crazier than Abraham when he heard the voice of God telling him to kill his son.

After this, there are quite a few claims of nigh immortality as it lists off a dozen people who lived on the order of 900 years without being taken away by disease or wild animals.  We’ll just bypass the biological impossibility of such claims, because it seems pointless to bring them up now after already skipping by the fact that Eve was of post-menopausal age twice over when giving birth to Seth.  Perhaps most of these men’s wives were much younger than the men (not an impossibility especially considering the culture of arranged marriages of the ancient middle east), but I must admit that the ethical issues of a man 100 or more years older than his barely post-pubescent bride are far more disturbing to me to consider than anything else I’ve mentioned.

So, we get a bunch of admittedly cool-sounding names but not much else along with a woefully skeletal story about a man called Enoch.  There must undoubtedly be gobs of apocryphal stories surrounding this man because it is said that he “walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”  Notable certainly for having walked with God, a privilege that all the fervently religious in the modern world wish that God would bestow upon anyone so that all the non-believers could see he’s real, but also because the wording of this verse could be interpreted to mean that Yahweh took Enoch straight to heaven without him suffering death.

It could also mean any number of other things, such that God entirely erased his spiritual existence in an existential fit, or that Enoch got sick of all his family’s fanatical shit and wandered off into the desert where no one discovered his body so they assumed that God had whisked him away three-hundred-sixty-five years young for scotch and good company.

We also have the famous Methuselah notable entirely for his extraordinary ability to refrain from kicking the bucket for nine-hundred-sixty-nine years.  One has to admire his restraint.

Amid all the populating of the earth (which really still has yet to explain the population distribution of races on the various continents without invoking a rate of biological mutation that certainly would have killed off the entire species by now) Noah is born.  His father Lamech prophesies that Noah will relieve his people from the toil they’ve endured due to the cursed earth, which is rather a lot of responsibility to lay on an infant’s shoulder’s for a gut instinct.

And lastly, when Noah was five-hundred years old he begat three sons, but presumably not all at once.  That would be pretty unlikely.

(Your irony meters should be going off.)

Now, we all know what’s coming so I don’t think I need a spoiler alert to make a quick commentary on the chapters to come.  It says in Gen 9:28 that Noah lived to be 950 years old, which was 350 years after the flood.  That works out to make Noah (break out the calculators) 600 years old at the time of the flood.  Still with me?

Now, Methselah, Noah’s grandfather, was 187 years old when giving he fathered Lamech.  Lamech was 182 years old when he fathered Noah.  That means that Methuselah was 369 years old when Noah was born.  So Methuselah was 369+600=969 years old when the flood hit the earth.

This is exactly the age that Methuselah died.  This leaves one of two possibilities.  Yahweh waited until just after this man died to wipe away the pestilence of his own creation, or he killed Methuselah in the flood along with every other human being on the planet but Noah’s family, compassionate god that he is.

Just a thought.

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