When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”  Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died. – GENESIS 5:28-31

My Kindle app informs me that after a rather lengthy preface and six chapters of Genesis I am 0% of the way through this edition of the ESV.  There’s a long way to go, but I’m enjoying myself so far and am eagerly pushing forward.

Genesis 3 is the well-known story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden.  Of all the chapters in all the books of the Bible this is clearly one of the most influential, and like Genesis 1 it probably deserves a more thorough treatment than I am going to give it.  It’s impressive to realize just how many times I have heard the story of “the Fall,” and how many variations and criticisms of it I have been exposed to even as a young, secular American born near the end of the twentieth century.  Genesis 3 is etched not only in our collective Western and perhaps global psyche but in my own individual memory.  I’ve read Milton, and I frequently think about his version of events, but Paradise Lost didn’t cross my mind during the couple of minutes it took to get through this chapter.  The non-subtle gender dynamics and God’s strangely gender-specific punishment of Eve, so often highlighted in critiques and retellings, was of course impossible to ignore, so I would be remiss not to acknowledge it here.  I’d like to know more about the exact properties of the forbidden tree (by the way, were there actually two trees, one for knowledge and one for eternal life?  I wonder how things would have played out differently if humans had eaten the fruit of the latter rather than the former.)  The flaming sword blocking the entrance to Eden was a nice touch — was it the first sword that was created, and did humans base their design of future blades on this original, divinely-created one?  I’m somehow more interested in these props than in the story itself and whatever it purports to tell us about human nature.

On the other hand, I found Genesis 4 and 5 genuinely engaging.  Of course Cain kills Abel in another story we all know pretty well, but in short order there’s a second murder which I hadn’t heard about previously.  The culprit is a man named Lamech.  He’s the great-great-great-grandson of Cain and he has two wives, Adah and Zillah.  We don’t even know the name of Cain’s wife (let alone when or how she came to exist, another one of those relatively cliched criticisms), but we are given these specific details about Lamech’s family.  Anyway, Lamech murders someone for “wounding” him and states, “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-seven fold.”  I think this is all we hear about Lamech (Wikipedia tells me that he is NOT the same Lamech as the father of Noah mentioned in the passage at the top of this post; there are two Lamechs around the same time period.)  The brief story of the polygamous, murderous Lamech must have meant something to the author, but it seems quite random to me.  It actually feels like a reference to some separate folk tale that contemporary readers and listeners would have recognized and that storytellers imported into the Genesis text in an early example of crossover fiction.  I think this Lamech needs a spinoff series.

Genesis 5 lists Adam’s lineage through a series of first-born sons and gives the precise ages of each in years.  This is the section of the Bible where people are said to have lived into the hundreds of years.  I’d heard of this, and in particular of Methuselah who lived the longest at 969 years.  The descendants of Adam typically decreased in age with each generation, which at first I took as a metaphor for their increasing distance from godly perfection.  But things got complicated with Enoch, the father of Methusaleh and five or six generations removed from Adam, who lived a very short time (a paltry 365 years, poor guy) but was said to have “walked with God,” something not said about everyone.  That’s the kind of detail that undercuts my preconceived notions and my expectations of narrative simplicity, and I like it.  As we see in the excerpt at the top of this post, the chapter concludes with the birth of Noah and what may be the Bible’s first prophecy: that Noah will somehow bring relief to humanity.  Knowing what we all know about Noah, I find it hard to see how his actions directly help anybody but his immediate family and animals, but we shall see.

I don’t think I need to comment on Genesis 6.  A chapter-by-chapter commentary is unnecessary and tedious, and this post strays too close to it already.  Like I said, I’ve got a very long road ahead of me, and I’ve got to be selective if I hope to keep up the pace and not burn out on the blog.  As I get further along and further away from these relatively familiar stories, I think it will be easier to pick and choose what to write about. I also think things will only get more interesting as I encounter obscure, new-to-me characters like Enoch, Lamech, and Lamech.

Views: 139

Tags: Abel, Adam, Bible, Cain, Eden, Eve, Genesis, Lamech, Milton, review

Comment by Doug Reardon on June 27, 2012 at 11:06pm

You're in for a sad disappointment, I'm afraid.

Comment by archaeopteryx on June 28, 2012 at 10:19am

David - RE: "" The brief story of the polygamous, murderous Lamech must have meant something to the author, but it seems quite random to me.  It actually feels like a reference to some separate folk tale that contemporary readers and listeners would have recognized and that storytellers imported into the Genesis text in an early example of crossover fiction."

Do you suppose that that could have anything to do with the Documentary Hypothesis I mentioned in my comments on your last blog post, explaining how four different groups, J, E, D and P, plus a redactor, were responsible for writing the five books, the Pentateuch, between 950 and 400 BCE, and piecing it together like a patchwork quilt?

Additionally, you've minimized the story of Cain and Able. If you'll recall from Gen 2, Man was told that He was to eat grass and the "herbs of the field" - strictly a veggie diet. In fact one has to wonder how many times poor Adam came home to dinner, after a hard day of planting herbs in the field, only to be heard to exclaim, "Grass again?! We just had grass last night!!"

So in considering the validity of biblical stories, and no matter how many allegories and metaphors you believe you see, for every one of those, there are at least a thousand thumpers out there who believe that every word of the Bible happened exactly as written, it is for the sake of those that those little details must not be glossed over - if anything, they must be spotlighted, drawn out into the light, and dissected.

In that vein, why, we must ask, would Able even remotely consider offering his god a sacrifice consisting of, the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. Admittedly my experience in these matters is limited, but I would suspect it’s extremely difficult to get a sheep to part with its fat. Nine times out of ten, you'd probably have to kill it first, liposuction not having been invented yet. Does this mean the First Family was supplementing Their diet of grass, herbs and fruit with a little mutton on the side? Well, it must be admitted that They had an example to follow: Their god set the precedent when he slaughtered an innocent animal just to make loin cloths to unnecessarily cover the Human body.

Cain, on the other hand, does exactly as he's told - he brings a sacrifice consisting of the herbs of the field, which was rejected. So this Bible's god rejects the sacrifice of one following his own commandment, and accepts the one of the man who killed, in violation of that commandment - after all, if not for meat, why would Able be raising sheep in the first place, pets?.

Can you imagine being a parent and having your two little tykes come running home from school, each waving something made in class that day? Fairly beaming, they offer you what, in their innocent eyes, is their finest work. Can you envision telling one that you absolutely love what he’s done, and telling the other that it's really a piece of crap? Could you actually imagine crushing your little child’s feelings like that? I can’t, and neither can you - we’re Human. This Bible’s god can, and does.

So a rivalry was created by playing favorites, that resulted in displaced anger, born of envy and frustration - displaced, because Cain resented his brother for what was rightly his god's fault, with the result that Cain killed Able, pure and simple - He didn’t have Johnny Cochran on His legal team and there was no way He could wiggle out of it - the glove fit.

The Bible's god punished Cain by proclaiming that henceforth, a fugitive and a vagabond thou shalt be in the earth.” Cain is concerned that everyone that findeth me shall slay me.” Does anyone ever really think about this statement? According to the Bible's own words, there were only four people on the planet, and Cain had just narrowed that down to three - who did he think was going to kill him?

So the fugitive and vagabond strolled over to Nod County, where he found himself a spontaneously-generated wife, the two had a child, then, with only five people left on Earth, what would you imagine to be the last thing this man would do? Exactly what he did - "...he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch," presumably replete with a couple of dozen Starbucks!

Suddenly, there was no shortage of spontaneously-generated wives to be found. Enoch had one and they begat Irad, who found one and begat Mehujael, who wooed one and begat Methusael, who met one and begat Lamech. By the time Lamech was begat, there were enough spontaneously-generated wives to go around, for Him to have two!

When you see an instance, in which this Bible's god actually drops in for a visit, at least that portion of the chapter was written by the Yahwist (J) Group, who always portrayed their god as being anthropomorphic, popping in for walks, "in the cool of the day" (which should tell us that the air conditioning in Heaven is probably not much better than it is in Hell), or for a midday snack, as you will discover when you get to Honest Abraham.

Comment by archaeopteryx on June 28, 2012 at 10:48am

RE: "Genesis 5 lists Adam’s lineage through a series of first-born sons and gives the precise ages of each in years.  This is the section of the Bible where people are said to have lived into the hundreds of years."

This section was plagiarized, though not verbatim, from the Summerian Kings List. The ancient Summerians ruled a mighty theocracy, unbroken for 4,000 years, until the Akkadians entered Mesopotamia, gradually and peacefully at first, then invaded in full force and eventually overcame and destroyed the Summerian civilization, to the point where, much like Latin today, the Summerian language went entirely out of use, except in religious ceremonies.

The Sumerian King List was originally carved in stone:

Translated, this is what it said:

Four copies still exist, the last one having the original Sumerian names translated into Greek. Mostly, each list has names of different kings, with only a few similarities. Interestingly, they all end with, "And then the flood swept over --"

There just is no substitute for research.

Comment by archaeopteryx on June 28, 2012 at 10:55am

You may notice that the thousands of years the Summerian kings lived, has been reduced to hundreds in the Bible - apparently the authors realized, "Hey, even OUR idiots ain't gonna fall for THAT crap!"

At best, it serves as a literary device for filling in large amounts of time, about which, little is known. One of the greatest flaws of the Judeo/Christian/Islamic religion lies in the inability of its leaders to say, "I don't know."

Comment by archaeopteryx on June 28, 2012 at 11:11am

RE: "I don’t think I need to comment on Genesis 6."

How could you possibly resist one of the most delicious chapters in Genesis?

    6:1 “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
    6:2 "That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.”
    6:4 “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also, after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children unto them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of reknown.”

    Nowhere else in this entire book is it mentioned that god had a passel of kids! John 3:16 informs us, as we shall later see, that he had only one begotten boy, but there’s not a clue, neither before this chapter, nor anywhere else between those covers, that gives any indication that there’s a clan!

    A horse and a donkey can interbreed. They’re genetically closely enough related - i.e., neither has evolved far enough from their common ancestor for their DNA to be sufficiently different as to make conception of a viable embryo impossible. The offspring we know as mules.
    Lions and tigers can also interbreed, for the same reason - their offspring are known as tiglons.
    In both these cases, their offspring, the mule and the tiglon, are sterile from birth.
    In the case of the anthropoids, the gorilla, the orangutan, the chimpanzee, and that nearly naked ape, Man, interbreeding is impossible - the four species have simply evolved so far from their common ancestor - a chimp-like little guy we’ve come to call Proconsul (what his friends called him, we have no idea) - that our DNA just isn’t sufficiently compatible, though in all honesty, I must confess I’ve never really tried.
    Yet the DNA of all of the little Jehovah Juniors appears to have been compatible with our own: “...and they (the daughters of Men) bare children unto them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of reknown.” It would appear then that the DNA of the sons of god was less evolved from our own, than ours from gorillas, orangs and chimps. Oh my!

Here’s a thought - assuming all god’s chillun’ to be immortal, could they still be down here, hard at work begetting? That could explain Arnold Schwarzenegger - who's your daddy, Arnold?

Comment by archaeopteryx on June 28, 2012 at 12:14pm

And how could you possibly bypass the building plans for the ark? I won't go into any great depth, so let's just discuss the window. Yep, that's what I said, THE window. 6:16 tells us that Noah's god told him personally, "A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above...." That means the window was one cubit square. Now a cubit was a rough unit of measurement, the equivalent of the length of a man's arm, from his elbow to the tip of his middle finger (normally reserved strictly for saluting Army officers), and since men varied in size and consequently arm-length, so then, did the cubit. In modern times, that unit has been averaged to mean 18 inches. So we have a single window, 18 inches square - god was very specific on that - to accommodate the entire ark.

There is no mention of that window ever having been opened for 11 months and ten days (see Gen 8:5-6), and we need to bear in mind that those boys were operating on a ten-month calendar, so we're talking roughly 410 days.

We have no way of knowing how many species of animals were on that boat - clearly, tree-dwelling koalas and tree sloths managed to swim all the way from Australia to Iraq - but in total, we do not know how many individual animals there were. So let's talk for a minute about a species we DO know something about - let's talk about cows.

One cow - ONE, count 'em, ONE! - produces 157 gallons of methane every single day! Can you see where I'm going with this? That's 64,370 cubic feet of methane gas for the entire journey, from just a single cow.

Now the ark, by this god's own blueprints (Genesis, 6:15) was three hundred cubits long, by fifty cubits wide, by thirty cubits deep - that means the ark was 450 feet long, by 75 feet wide, by 45 feet deep - basically the size of a small ocean liner. Volume-wise (450 X 75 X 45), that amounts to an entire volume of 1,518,750 cubic feet.

Do the math (I have) less than 24 cows would fill the ark with cow farts by the end of the journey, and how could Noah and the gang see in a watertight, thus airtight ark with only a single, closed window? Lanterns? Candles? If you ever decide to bring a flame near a boatload of methane gas, if I'm on the boat, give me a little warning, OK? And a life preserver would be nice --

I'm not criticizing your work, David - I just think you're missing the fun part!

As for the rest of the Noah tale (and oh yes, I wouldn't miss that!), I believe Bertrand Russell said it best: ""Why should I allow that same god to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown his own?"


Comment by onyango makagutu on June 28, 2012 at 1:25pm

i am enjoying this commentary

Comment by David Conrad on June 28, 2012 at 9:34pm

LOL, thanks again for the extensive discussion, archeopteryx.  Again, if you're hoping for me to do that kind of thing in my blog posts, you'll be disappointed...  As a graduate student I research for a living, so I don't tend to go that route with my pleasure reading, which is what this is.  My intent here is to review the Bible as I would review a significant work of fiction.  So I'm not concerned with proving that it's fiction; that's a given for me, with or without background research.

As to why I didn't write about Cain & Abel or the building of the Ark, it's because I already know those stories pretty well.  I found other parts of this section more interesting because they were new to me, and because in one way or another they did not match my expectations.  I'm in this with a determination to enjoy the experience, or else I'd never be able to get through such a relatively inaccessible document as the Bible.

That's not a criticism of your comments--I welcome and enjoy them and have learned a lot from them, and if you've got the energy to keep it up, please do!  I just wanted to reiterate that that's not going to be my approach.

Comment by David Conrad on June 28, 2012 at 9:44pm

Oh, but I did want to write about those giants in 6:4.  I'm aiming for just a few hundred words in each post, so I omitted it, but that was one of the greatest off-hand remarks of the Bible so far.  It fits well with my Tolkien fandom.  I wasn't sure whether it was saying that certain humans became giants (which would be odd) or that giants were created at some point (even odder, I'd say), or whether the word giant is perhaps the product of a debatable translation.  I don't know, but in any case it was an unexpected and fun, though fleeting, remark.

Comment by archaeopteryx on June 28, 2012 at 11:30pm

David, if you are just doing this for your own enjoyment, then you really don't need my comments, which, though they're well-meant, could be mistaken for criticism, or an implication that you're not doing enough.

The giant story alone, though a mere patch in the quilt, has inspired many, many efforts to explain them, which itself could well fill a volume.

I'll stand back and let you have fun, and there's nothing in the world wrong with that, but after you've written yours (so you won't feel influenced by anything I've written) feel free to pop over to my site and read the same chapter there, just to see my interpretation. Be sure and subscribe, to be automatically notified by email of new posts.

I have to warn you, I'm stalled out at Gen 30, because I have so many outside things to do this summer - I generally reserve the majority of my writing for cooler weather.

My site is best read from the beginning, like a book, so if you do decide to check it out, click on any page, then scroll down to the bottom and click on the button marked, "First," which will take you to the beginning.

pax vobiscum,


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