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Group Read: Bible as Literature

This topic was continued by Group Read: Bible as Literature, #2.

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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Dec 20, 2016, 9:51pm Top

Hi all! A few of us plan on reading the Bible from cover-to-cover and discuss literary interpretations. I plan on reading from the above Bible, but the more Bibles the merrier! We will roughly follow this schedule:

Anyone is welcome to join for some or all of this discussion. Please keep it educational and civil, though.

Dec 20, 2016, 10:10pm Top

Also on the group wiki!

Dec 21, 2016, 5:35am Top

I am going to try to join in for some of this read (pretty sure I won't manage the whole Bible) and follow the discussions. What are you planning on reading for Introductions (1st Jan - 14th)?

Edited: Dec 21, 2016, 6:08am Top

>3 souloftherose: Well, just introductions to my Bible and to some of the supplementary books I'm reading.

>2 drneutron: Thanks Jim!

Dec 21, 2016, 7:39am Top

I starred this and will follow along.

Dec 21, 2016, 10:02am Top

I won't re-read along with you, but I'll likely lurk, if that's okay.

Dec 21, 2016, 11:26am Top

I'm currently doing an interesting Coursera course on "The Bible's prehistory, purpose and political future": https://www.coursera.org/learn/bible-history/home/welcome and plan to read the Bible after that. I'm interested in it from a historical perspective, but literature sounds good too!

Dec 21, 2016, 11:31am Top

Also planning on lurking.

Dec 21, 2016, 10:22pm Top

I may lurk or I may read along, if my discipline improves. I've got several versions of the Bible (O.T. only, Standard Revised and King James) on the shelf, and may have time to compare and contrast, selectively, as I go. Thanks for the schedule - that will help a lot!

Dec 22, 2016, 6:23am Top

I have a lot of versions of the Bible. I have a ESV, ASV, NLV, KJ, but I am intrigued by the Literary Version so will be interested in Rachel's comments.

Dec 22, 2016, 7:06am Top

I'm glad so many people are joining / lurking! :)

>8 susanj67: I've thought about taking that course a few times now. In fact, I think I signed up for it once. I don't have the discipline for Coursera courses because they move faster than I want them to - I want time to read all the supplementary literature. So because I'm a perfectionist I finish nothing. I need to work on that. In fact, this scheduled reading of the Bible is my first step to working on that "failing." I have some Great Courses Bible lectures (mostly historical, but one literary) that I was going to go through slowly, and then I decided that I'd just read the Bible and THEN worry about the supplementary stuff. That way, at least, I'll have it read. Now that I have a group to hold me accountable, I'm sure I'll get it done.

>11 Kristelh: I have a lot of versions of the Bible too and originally thought I'd find time to compare and contrast. But I think that makes the project too big for me. Especially with my other challenge I'm participating in.

Dec 22, 2016, 7:52am Top

One of the most common reasons for failing to finish a read through of the whole Bible is that most people start 'at the beginning' and get bogged down early on in the project. Leviticus and Numbers are really hard to get through. Exodus and Deuteronomy have a lot of repetitions.

Note that you seem to be using the Protestant Bible. Catholics and Orthodox have more OT books (but not the same selection) and more chapters in some books. (Esther and Daniel if I remember correctly.) Sometimes this material is published in Protestant Bibles as the Apocrypha. It is worth reading the Greek additions to Daniel, if only because they were favourites for painters. And Tobit is a delightful story. Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) is a wisdom book. Some passages that may sound familiar, as they are often used as readings for certain occasions. 'Let us now praise famous men...'

The Jewish Tanakh is the same selection of books as the Protestant OT, but the order is different. (The JPS translation is excellent.)

Dec 22, 2016, 7:59am Top

I have both a Catholic Bible (I'm Catholic) and a Bible which includes the Apocrypha. This sounds silly when I say it "aloud" but I was careful to use the Protestant version when I made my schedule because I know a lot of Protestants are turned off by Catholics. Of course, now that I think about it, I don't think I'll find that sort of ignorance here on LibraryThing. I'll probably get to the Apocrypha sometime near the end of the year, or beginning of the following year.

Dec 22, 2016, 11:43am Top

>13 MarthaJeanne: That's exactly what happened to me. Got bogged down and quit. Then I decided to pick and choose and hop around a bit: Song of Solomon, Ruth, a few others, but then got distracted.

Not sure what version of the Bible I have. I had to replace the annotated version with maps and other interesting supplementary material when it fell apart (not from my use, though).

It will be an interesting experience for me because I grew up without religion beyond a few not really remembered Sunday school classes before my parents divorced. And I no longer try to figure out where I might fit in Christianity but just go along my agnostic way.

Dec 22, 2016, 11:59am Top

>13 MarthaJeanne: >15 justchris: Yeah, I thought about following a different schedule for reading the Bible, because I know there are some really unexciting parts in there. But I think reading each book of the Bible as a single literary unit is still the best way to go. I guess we'll see!

Dec 22, 2016, 8:13pm Top

1 Chronicles 1-9 ranks right up there with the most boring passages. It's a 9-chapter genealogy. Most people tend to skip it. My father actually used it as a sermon text, and it was one of my favorite sermons!

Dec 22, 2016, 11:16pm Top

I will likely lurk. I've already been lurking anyway! :) I tried to read through the Bible way back when, but only made it 1/2 way through. I like the NIV version for reading.

Dec 23, 2016, 5:35pm Top

I will definitely be a lurker, and may join in with the read. I have read the whole (Protestant) Bible twice before in my life, but not for several years. When I did it, I used a daily schedule which started with both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and assigned a few chapters from each every day. Gave a little more variety in reading, and helped me to stay on track.

Karen O.

Dec 24, 2016, 12:34pm Top

I'm also planning to join in periodically (wish I could committ to the whole thing, but I suspect I'll be in and out on this one.) I plan on buying a JPS Tanakah (haven't decided whether it'll be electronic or paper yet, but I'm leaning toward an electronic version.)

I grew up in a Protestant (United Methodist) family, was involved with an evangelical group in college which developed my interest in social justice, and am now a member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation.

Looking forward to the literary perspective!

Edited: Dec 26, 2016, 1:59pm Top

When time permits, I will be a lurker as well. Several years ago, I followed Jeff Cavin's "The Great Adventure Bible Timeline Learning System" which my church presented. I'll dig up my notes and cheat sheets. A literary perspective should be quite interesting.

Dec 26, 2016, 2:28pm Top

Two books I have that might be related to this are The Great Code: The Bible and Literature and The Literary Guide to the Bible. I'll try to pull them out. Both are from the 80s. Does anyone know any good recent works?

Dec 26, 2016, 4:22pm Top

I'm currently working on The Literary Guide to the Bible and hear that The Art of Biblical Narrative is THE book to read. Don't know of anything recent, though.

Dec 26, 2016, 4:43pm Top

I have (the first edition) of that as well.

Dec 26, 2016, 5:17pm Top

I have created a tagmash http://www.librarything.com/tag/Bible,+literature if anyone else wants to look.

Very Short Introductions that I intend to order:

The New Testament as Literature: A Very Short Introduction Ratings here are very low for this series.

The Hebrew Bible as Literature: A Very Short Introduction This is brand new.

Dec 26, 2016, 11:01pm Top

>22 MarthaJeanne: Ah, the wondrous Northrop Frye! His work wasn't without controversy, even though he himself was ordained. Trying to bring together his analytic scholarship and the Bible predictably got many people's feathers ruffled, I recall. (I was living in Canada at about the time the book appeared, and knew many people who studied with Frye.)

Edited: Dec 27, 2016, 2:20am Top

>26 Chatterbox: I continue to be amazed at what some people consider to be controversial. But then, in the seventies my mother was teaching Bible as literature as a unit in her middle school English classes. She felt that the kids needed to know some of the stories as stories. Especially the ones that were coming up in other works she meant to read with them.

Dec 27, 2016, 6:26am Top

I'm also going to try to follow this thread. My day to day Bible reading is from a Danish translation which is essentially a "literal" translation or close to the original text or what you would call it, something like the ESV in English, I think. I also listen to Eugene Petersons translation The Message which I enjoy a lot. (Both Protestant Bibles for you Catholics).

At the moment I'm reading Scot McKnight's The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible.

Dec 27, 2016, 7:04am Top

I have Alter's The Art of Biblical Narrative on loan from the library to read.

Dec 27, 2016, 10:53am Top

I'll be joining when I can and lurking when I can't! I have the ESV (favorite), NASB (2nd fav), KJ, NKJ, NIV, and the Message. I have an old Swiss (Calvin) Bible given to me by a great Aunt in the 1960's and it also has the books divided differently: I,I, III Kings, etc, but as far as I can tell seems to be pretty much like the KJV.

Being a history teacher/professor, if/when we would discuss the King James Version, I can add a little bit.

Dec 27, 2016, 11:06am Top

I'm going to try to join in; I'm notorious for joining group reads and not actually following through. I'll certainly follow the discussion, though. I'll be reading in the ESV.

Considering I've got a theology category over in the Category Challenge group, I'm declaring 2017 the Year of Reading about God.

And despite being Protestant, I'd be game for the Apocrypha. But maybe in 2018; 2017 is filling up fast. :)

Dec 27, 2016, 1:22pm Top

I am in, Rachel, and am excited about this project!

I come from a long line of devout Protestant Christians with husband's family the same. I, however, am a Liberal Theist, not a Christian.

But as the keeper of family records and books I have acquired 23 copies of the Bible, the newest acquisition being The Literary Study Bible purchased just for this class.

For the heck of it, I inventoried the Bibles. KJV is the hands-down winner, but I have a few other interesting ones, too. I didn't include The Beginner's Bible, given to daughter by a family friend and nestled comfortably with the other Bibles.

Dec 27, 2016, 6:59pm Top

>26 Chatterbox: and >27 MarthaJeanne: Ooooh, Frye. I've had The Great Code on my bookshelf since college (don't ask) and never read it, so this is a great time to do so. I also have a new translation with commentary of the first five books, still pristine. That along with the King James (also pristine), the Oxford Annotated, and a bible I got when I graduated from religious school. This may turn into a ROOTS event.

Edited: Dec 28, 2016, 1:20am Top

>33 ffortsa: 'a new translation with commentary of the first five books'. Just checked, and you must be talking about The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. I haven't read my copy yet either. I really like Alter's translations, and have several, so this would be a good opportunity to read as many of those as possible. Or finally read the Martin Buber translation Die Schrift. Actually, I bought a few interesting German translations a few years ago...

Dec 28, 2016, 4:18am Top

I downloaded The Bible: A Beginner's Guide by Paula Gooder yesterday from the library. It's short - I read for not very long and already I'm 25% of the way through it - but looks like a good start (I'm starting from a position of knowing nothing). I have a Good News Bible from Sunday School days, and a King James Version (my grandmother's), and I'll be using the KJV for this challenge. The library also has The Bible: The Biography by Karen Armstrong and The Book of the People by A N Wilson, which I might also look at once I've read at least one book from my Overdrive bookshelf and opened up another loan slot :-)

Dec 28, 2016, 4:53am Top

I have Five Books of Moses as well.

Dec 28, 2016, 9:24am Top

Hi! I'll more than likely be lurking mostly here, but I'll be following along.

Dec 28, 2016, 10:45am Top

I am still not sure if I will lurk or really join...

Dec 28, 2016, 3:15pm Top

I read the Bible anyway, but not from cover to cover, I prefer to read two chapters in the OT and two in the NT, that would bring me through the Bible within a year (but it usually takes longer).
I will lurk and join at times, I guess, if that's okay.
I can use eight German and four English translations, some including the Apocrypha. We also have Korean, French, Swedish Bibles at home

Dec 28, 2016, 7:54pm Top

I had read bits and pieces of Frye, but much of it shot way above my head. The last religion/scripture classes I had were at the age of 11/12, Church of England variety at school in London -- then we moved back to Canada. Parents not at all religious, so that was that, and while I was interested enough in the literary aspect and especially the language of the KJV (and the history of how the "authorized" books came to be "authorized...) I don't think I've ever read the whole thing cover to cover. Doubt I'll manage it this time either, but it would be fun to figure out what I'd need to read in order to try Frye again and form my own understanding of his arguments from soup to nuts, vs a partial reading and second hand analysis. I've read many of his other works, and adore them. Shall try to figure out what portions of this project are must-reads for this purpose.

Dec 29, 2016, 10:05am Top

>17 cbl_tn: Are you trying to say the genealogies are boring? Don't you want to enter them in your genealogy database and add the documentation? LOL

Seriously though, a few gems are hiding inside those genealogical passages. If one reads them too quickly, he might overlook something.

I already stated I plan to read the Bible in a year, but I do not plan to read it straight through. I've done that before. I prefer the plans that offer both OT and NT selections daily with a little from Psalms and/or Proverbs. The YouVersion Bible app offers many reading plans which can be used with any of the versions offered on the app. Some are available to use only while you are online; others can be downloaded and used offline also.

Dec 30, 2016, 7:01am Top

I'm not reading the OT again, but I will follow the discussion, which seems to be off to a really nice start. I'm tempted to join once you begin the NT.

Edited: Jan 1, 8:01am Top

>41 thornton37814: Bishop Ussher found the genealogies fascinating and made a chronology of how old the world is based on them. :) I had to memorize it in Catholic school in the 8th grade. I refused to memorize something so silly though, and ended up in detention.

Happy New Year everyone!

Here's an abridged copy of my first blog post about the Bible. I've already started reading, and have a few posts scheduled on my blog. I'll start out analyzing it story by story as the mood hits me.

Many people think that reading the Bible as literature betrays a liberal bias, that it's foreign to the original intent, or that it implies the Bible is fiction and not divinely inspired. I say that the Bible is, by nature, a literary work.

"Without literary form, no content can exist. We can not extract the moral or theological meaning of a story without first assimilating the plot, setting, and characters of the story." (1)

Thus a literary reading is a good place for anyone, conservative or liberal, antiquated or modern, theological or non-religious, to start.

One very important starting point to reading the Bible as literature is to recognize that the Bible is a meta-narrative - it's an anthology of books written over many eras by people of different cultures and languages. But the overall structure of the Biblical narrative has a U shape: it tells an overall story, starting with paradise for the innocent (Eden), flowing through depths of sin and deprivation, and then ending in paradise for the faithful (Revelations). The Biblical anthology has many genres including the narrative (hero story, gospel, epic, tragedy, comedy, and parable) and poetic (lyric, lament, psalm, love poem, nature poem, wedding poem). Of these, the far most common is narrative.

Over the next two weeks, I'm going to read the book of Genesis, which is an epic narrative.

(1)Ryken & Ryken in their introduction to The Literary Study Bible

Jan 1, 8:44am Top

I'll be reading the New Living Translation this year. I have a print edition of this version, but I've signed up for a reading plan through BibleGateway.com. I get a daily email reminder with a link to the plan I've chosen (beginning-end). I've also installed the free BibleGateway app on my iPad and set up the daily reading plan there. Just about any translation you can think of is available on the site or through the app, as well as audiorecordings of various versions. For instance, you can listen to David Suchet reading the NIV. Study resources include Bible dictionaries and topical indexes. https://www.biblegateway.com

Jan 1, 8:58am Top

I've got a Bible Study app on my phone so that I can get some reading done at work. It's a shame to read on my phone when I have 5 beautiful study Bibles, but I need to make the best use of my time, too. I've also got the ESV in audio.

Jan 1, 9:40am Top

LOL. Whatever works. I've ordered a JPS study Bible in hard copy, but til it gets here I'll be using my New Oxford RSV.

I've also got Alter & Kermode's Literary Guide to the Bible on deck, and am curious about the assertion in the main introduction that the Bible is becoming part of the literary canon. This surprised me, because I assumed it always was.

Jan 1, 10:04am Top

I assumed it always was, too. I mean, it's a foundation of so many literary allusions.

Jan 1, 10:59am Top

>43 The_Hibernator: nice post, Rachel. There is a lot to think about along this theme, if anyone wants to go there. My first thoughts are to add that reading the bible as literature also allows a non-confrontational conversation to occur between people with different levels of belief. We can all appreciate the craft and methodology and the many special touches that are here and unique to here. And, it's a path for people who aren't deeply religious to get close to the bible. As an atheist and with Jewish connection, this was a way for me to approach it and it was very rewarding. And, the bible is, essentially, underneath everything we read that is touched by western culture. So anyone who reads literature will be rewarded by knowing the bible.

Jan 1, 11:34am Top

>44 cbl_tn: Like Carrie, I too will be using Bible Gateway due to the convenience. I like the NIV version and will occasionally take advantage of the audio option, especially during the dry parts. Nothing dry about the first three chapters of Genesis. God creates the world and two people to populate it. Right away we have the dilemma of the two trees in the very center of Eden which have forbidden fruit...and a sneaky snake. I know the story well but I'm still hooked!

Jan 1, 12:45pm Top

>43 The_Hibernator: What a great beginning to the Beginning. I'm reading my sons New American Bible "The Catholic Youth Bible". It is a study bible and is indexed so nicely I've got to give it a try.

>49 Donna828: Nice comments, Donna. Intrigue right from the get go. Choices!

Jan 1, 12:51pm Top

I am as much interested in the Bible in literature as I am in the Bible as literature. Biblical themes and allusions crop up in so many literary works, both classic and contemporary. I've started a list for Genesis in literature and I hope you'll help me add to it as we progress through the book of Genesis.

Jan 1, 1:16pm Top

>51 cbl_tn: What a good idea! Can't wait to see how this list progresses as we read!

I've only ever read the Bible as a religious book and I'm so interested to explore it in a new way. I feel like I should do some brushing up on literary styles and elements! I'm starting with the New American Bible but I have a new testement study Bible I'll switch to later.

Edited: Jan 1, 5:34pm Top

I decided to order the literary Bible. It should be here Tuesday. For now, my thoughts, after reading through the above. The Bible was referenced as a important to literature in How to Read Literature Like a Professor with many references to how it has contributed to literature. Yet, it is not included in Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die which states that it is a list of books that have contributed to the development of the novel.

Jan 1, 5:38pm Top

>51 cbl_tn: fascinating!
I'll be a lurker here, even though I am sure that I ought to read the bible at some time in my life. Along with the other big religious texts.

Jan 1, 5:46pm Top

>48 dchaikin: So true, Daniel. It's hard to appreciate the Biblical allusions which abound in Western culture without familiarizing yourself with the Bible - therefore, all our lives will be enriched by reading it, whether we feel a spiritual connection to it or not. And you're also right about it being a way to encourage discourse between people of different beliefs, though some people will unfortunately hold fast to their own beliefs of what the Bible says, even if what the Bible actually says is different from what they believe it says. Hopefully this discussion will help dispel some of my own erroneous beliefs about what the Bible actually says.

>49 Donna828: I, too, love the first few chapters of Genesis. It's so rich!

>50 Carmenere: Thanks Lynda! I hope your efforts to read to your kids will work out well!

>51 cbl_tn: I'm totally with you on that, Carrie. I hope to find some interesting allusions in literature throughout this year and in the future, too. That's part of my reason for reading the Bible.

>52 jennyifer24: I've dabbled in reading the Bible from a historical perspective, but this is my first time looking at it from a literary perspective, jennyifer.

>53 Kristelh: I hope you like the Literary Study Bible, Kristel! I don't know why the Bible isn't listed in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, but I don't always agree with their choices. Regardless, I'm sure they wouldn't say that the Bible was NOT a book you should read before you should die - maybe they were just trying to avoid religious undertones. They don't list any religious texts, do they? Harold Bloom's Western Canon, on the other hand, lists the Bible, the Apocrypha, and several religious texts from other cultures.

Edited: Jan 1, 6:40pm Top

1001 Books has these books which I think would count for Christian literature;
Pilgrim's Progress
Ben Hur
Quo Vadis

I recommend all of the above as important Christian literature.
Pilgrims' Progress is allegory
Ben Hur I haven't read recently
Quo Vadis is excellent
Barrabbas is interesting and the author has some other Christian type literature
Another book that makes interesting reading is Cain by Saramago. story of Cain after he receives his mark and goes wandering.
Another one with a lot of Christian theme is Brother's Karamazov. Really, so much literture has been influenced by the Bible.

Jan 1, 6:51pm Top

>56 Kristelh: I meant more that it didn't have any sacred texts like the Bible, Koran, or Bhagavad Gita. Right?

Jan 1, 8:02pm Top

>57 The_Hibernator:, no it does not have any sacred text, poetry, plays, etc (except when it breaks its own rules)

Jan 2, 12:07pm Top

Hi all!

I'm off to a pretty good start, I think. Yesterday I read the Introduction, Preface, and Features of The Literary Study Bible and read chapters 1-3 of Genesis.

Edited: Jan 2, 4:49pm Top

<51 What a great idea! I'll definitely add to the list as I think of things.

Jan 2, 8:31pm Top

I'm gonna try to keep up with this challenge! It sounds like it will be a very interesting approach to the Bible. I will be using the Catholic Youth Bible (NRSV), as that is the one I have on hand.

Jan 2, 9:32pm Top

I'm planning to participate in this. I have the 400th anniversary edition of the King James Bible on my Kindle so will be working my way through that. I'm not religious myself and have never read the Bible in full but I think it's one of those few books that everyone should read at least once, given its importance to western literature and culture.

Jan 3, 6:10am Top

>59 karenmarie: Wow! You're just buzzing along. I'm a little ahead, but then I started a week early. lol.

>60 markon: I agree!

>61 smilez4u1390: >62 harvey.g: Welcome Silvia and Harvey.g

Jan 3, 6:13am Top

Chapter one of Genesis sets the scene. The creation story is filled with beautiful imagery. My favorite line is before God actually creates anything. "And the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." (Genesis 1:2 ESV) Because I liked it so much, I found it interesting to see how this line was translated in the different versions:

NABRE: And a mighty wind sweeping over the waters.

NRSV: While a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

kjv: And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

Personally, I like the ESV best.

The style is formulaic with a certain set of ingredients on each of 6 creation days: 1) the announcement "and God said," 2) a divine command beginning with "let" 3) the report "and it was so" 4) an evaluation "God saw that it was good" and 5) placement in time "there was evening and there was morning, the _______ day." (1)

There is only one character in the chapter - God - and very little is said about who he is...only what he does. What we should think of God? He created the earth, but was he omnipotent? What were his reasons? Who was God? These issues are left a mystery. Most people already have an idea of who they think God is before starting the Bible. Is this why God was left a mystery? Or is it because God is a mystery?

(1) Ryken, Leland. Ryken, Philip.(2001) The Literary Study Bible, Wheaton, IL, Good News Publishers.

Jan 3, 6:30am Top

Above was my blog post about the Creation story after reading the Bible. Below is a blog post (from a couple of months ago) with my notes from Chapter 2 of Kugel's How to Read the Bible.

The second chapter of Kugel's tome covers the creation of the world and the story of Adam and Eve (Genesis Chapters 1-3).

Modern Biblical scholars theorize that the Pentateuch was actually accumulated from four sources: J (Jahwist or Yahwist), E (Elohist), D (Deuteronomist), and P (Priestly). Kugel discusses J and P in his second chapter. The P source is concerned with enumerating (for instance, counting the days of the creation in Genesis 1) and with priestly rules. It refers to God as "God" until the revelation of the name "Yahweh" to Moses later in the Pentateuch. The J source focuses on human corruption and the relationship between humans and the soil. It refers to God as "Lord God." For example: "Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground." (Genesis 2:7)*

This difference in sources explains why there are seemingly two slightly different creation stories. Genesis 1:1-2:3 covers a day by day account of the creation of the world, ending in a rest on the seventh day. In it, God creates plants on the third day and man on the sixth. Then Genesis 2:5-9 goes on to explain how the Lord God formed man before there were any plants. Modern scholars consider the first creation story to be from P source and the second creation story, and following story of Adam and Eve, to be from J source.

The focus of the creation story in the P source was to display the importance of resting on the Sabbath - something the P source is concerned about throughout the Pentateuch. That's why it counted the days of creation and made such a big point of God resting on the 7th day.

On the other hand, J's creation story, and following story of Adam and Eve, is an allegory for how humans developed from hunter gatherers to farmers: "therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken." (Genesis 3:23) Historically, as cultures develop agriculture, they also develop more hardy clothing to protect them in their toils. This parallels Adam and Eve beginning to wear clothes when they are sent away to work the ground.

Like Kugel's first chapter, the second chapter discusses inconsistencies that are explained away by readers - for instance, God told Adam and Eve that "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:17). But after Adam ate of the tree, he lived to the ripe old age of 930. Why didn't he die the same day? Would God give an empty threat? No. Of course not. Because a day in the life of God lasts 1000 years:

"But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Peter 3:8)

*Quotes from the Bible are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Edited: Jan 3, 7:10am Top

I started reading Genesis again and I am fascinated by this author. And now we are talking about authorship. I think the fact that Moses is able to use different names for God is an indication of his skills as author and not hints for other authors. There are ancient and modern authors who can change the style of their narrative, there are repetitions of story lines etc. So I enjoy Genesis as literature and enjoy the different ways to tell a good story and the things he reveals about God and the things he keeps to himself.
Creation: a great piece of literature, starting a day-to-day activity of God and then retelling the same story from a different angle. I think there was one single author - a great story teller.

Jan 3, 9:21am Top

I like this thread for several reasons, not least that I've been stunned and dismayed when younger people miss biblical allusions completely because they haven't even heard the most familiar stories, let alone read any of it for themselves. Whether a believer or not, any student of Western Literature needs a working knowledge of large parts of the Bible.

Old Lady Teacher rant now over.

>65 The_Hibernator: Lots of information there! I hope you'll keep sharing from your blog post and from Kugel's book.

Thank you for taking on an arduous task!

Edited: Jan 3, 9:41am Top

>66 paulstalder: Personally, I believe that there is no way of knowing whether there was one (Moses) or many authors of Genesis. These theories brought up by Kugel make a good points, but they are simply theories. You're certainly right that whoever wrote these stories did an excellent job of speaking to the heart - the fact that these stories are so resounding throughout Western culture shows that much!

>67 bohemima: There are some stories in the Bible that I know are very common themes in literature, but that I only have a glancing knowledge of. That is part of the reason I want to read the Bible through.

Jan 3, 1:17pm Top

>64 The_Hibernator:, >65 The_Hibernator: Interesting notes Rachel. I like the rhythm and sense of poetry in the first creation account in Genesis (Ch 1 - Ch 2:4).

I'm reading Robert Alter's translation and commentary of the first five books of the Bible in The Five Books of Moses and finding the commentary very helpful for a literary read.

One point Alter made which I thought others might find helpful/interesting was to note that the first creation story ends in Ch 2:4 with a summarising phrase: "This is the tale of the heavens and earth when they were created." which mirrors Ch 1:1 (When God began to create heaven and earth in Alter's translation). Although looking at the ESV other translators link Ch 2:4 with the second creation account so I suppose which section 2:4 belongs to may be open to interpretation.

Jan 3, 4:04pm Top

>68 The_Hibernator: I find it interesting that we start dividing up the text before we have even read the whole story.

Creation: We have a Hebrew text in the original, and in Hebrew thinking one shows the big picture first and goes into details. Elohim starts by creating heavens and earth. Elohim is a plural stemming from the word 'eloah' which means 'awe' and 'object of awe', so the plural hinting at the multitude of honor/awe which belongs to that god. Elohim is a fitting name here since he is the creator and all possible awe/reference belongs to him. Later in the text other names of god show up, always in connection and suitable to the story told. God has not just one sole appearance. He appears with different types/characters as befitting the story. Great idea to hint at the different attitudes/characters of god in different stories.

Fun: verse 2 speaks about 'formless and void', reading 'tohu wa bohu' which became a German word: das Tohuwabu, meaning mess, chaos. I guess that word exists in English, too, showing (as stated by others already) the influence the Bible has on our culture.

Interesting: verse 16ff God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. -- A great idea showing god's purpose in creating the stars, they are not souls of the dead or dreams of humans or whatever, they are there because god put them there to differentiate day and night, to 'govern' even day and night.

Interesting, too: God created the plants and seeds, but then later created more plants, the shrubs etc. There are all different words used in 1, 11-12 and 2, 4-5. Hebrews start with the big picture and then 'zoom' in to the more detailed parts. So in chapter 2, the 6th day is looked at more closely. There are plants which are useful for man, so god makes more plants, suitable for man to cultivate and also sends water - from below. Not rain, but from the earth streams/wells are coming up to water the earth. And so the scene is set for man to appear and do his job, taking care of the earth. All eloah to Elohim.

Edited: Jan 3, 4:33pm Top

I may start out lurking but may join in, from time to time if, as someone said, "my discipline improves."

I've pulled out my Bible (I've got a New Catholic Bible and an NIV one as well) and perhaps a group read will give me a better, more organized plan.

So glad I found this!!

Jan 3, 5:18pm Top

One other thing to note beginning in Genesis, but continuing throughout the Bible, are numbers. They're frequently symbolic. My daily readings have taken me through Genesis 11, and so far I've noted:

7 - days of creation; pairs of animals
3 - creation can be subdivided into two cycles of three days each (day & night, sky separated from water, dry land; sun, moon & stars, birds & fish, animals & humans); sons of Adam; sons of Noah
4 - branches of the river
40 - days and nights of rain; 120 year lifespan is 3x40

Jan 3, 5:41pm Top

I came home from work today with A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible edited by Leland Ryken and Tremper Longman III. I had a plethora of choices since nearly 40% of our library's collection is biblical studies & theology. I chose this one because there are individual essays for most of the books of the Bible that I can read as I reach that book in my daily reading. It also includes the essays "The literary influence of the Bible" by Leland Ryken, "The novelist and the Bible" by Chaim Potok, and "The Bible through a poet's eyes" by Gene Warren Doty. I'm really interested in biblical themes in literature, so I may end up reading those essays first!

Jan 3, 6:06pm Top

>71 lindapanzo: I have The Five Books of Moses on my Nook and thought about reading it, but I don't really have the time to read more than one version of the Bible at once. Too many commitments. But I plan on reading it in the future! Please do continue sharing anything he says that's useful!

>70 paulstalder: I was originally going to talk about Genesis as one unit, but then I decided that each story was worth mentioning. Or do you mean "dividing up the text" as in dividing it by multiple authors (a theory with which you don't agree)?

Interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing.

>71 lindapanzo: Welcome!

>72 cbl_tn: I thought about buying that book, too, but I already have enough supplementary literature to last. Please share anything interesting you get out of it.

Edited: Jan 3, 8:20pm Top

so quick question, is the plan, to be done with Genesis by January 15 or to start Genesis on January 15. I got my Bible today and ordered Triumphs of Imagination: literature in Christian perspective by Leland Ryken from the library.

Jan 3, 8:21pm Top

To be done by the 15th, but feel free to read at your own pace!

Jan 3, 9:58pm Top

Catching up a bit. I read through the introduction which I loved and I am so happy that I decided to purchase this Bible. Now from chapter one. First I do have to say that Genesis is one of my favorite books, I love reading it. So rich, I never fail to find new things and enjoy the past verses. I like the fact that God "speaks" His creation into being. I often think about Narnia when I think about God speaking creation. I also like verse 26, where it says "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds...."

Chapter 2: love the intro part that talks about the enclosed garden, the domesticated plants and animals and the motif of the things God provided for his human creatures. 1. physical life, 2. perfect environment, 3. food, 4. work, 5. moral choice, 6. human companionship, 7. marriage and 8. communion with God.

Edited: Jan 4, 4:54am Top

>72 cbl_tn: well observed. The numbers do play a role in the whole Bible

>74 The_Hibernator: Yes, I meant the latter. When reading a book as literature I'd like to read it first before I look into reviews and such. And literary seen, ther is no reason to divide that book into different authors. There are different genres applied, but that's not unusual in a book with such length. Theologically there may be reasons splitting the book into different parts but that has nothing to do with reading literature.

Creation of man: Chapter 2 can be divided into two parts: If taken the 'then' in v. 18 we have a first part telling us what God on the 6th day as an overview and a second part in which we learn the specifics of woman's creation. That would make three parts for creation: ch 1-cha 2,4 (overview), 2,5-2,17 (6th day), 2,18-25 (creation of man and woman). Since the Hebrew text didn't have any verse nor chapter divisions, such views are conceivable. (Okay, that's just my interpretation here, I didn't check any commentaries on this, but it just came to me when reading these chapters again.)

Man and Woman: So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
-> the image is both: male AND female, they are of the same quality and worth

-> man alone can not survive and do the task God gives him

Interesting: the man leaves his parents in order to join his wife (no mother around 'dealing' with his wife)

Jan 4, 6:21am Top

>77 Kristelh: Yes, I was wondering who the "us" was. Is he using the "royal we"? Glad you're enjoying your Bible.

>78 paulstalder: Well, I have no idea how many authors there were and I probably wouldn't have thought about it this early if Kugel hadn't brought it up. But I'm going to continue posting Kugel's thoughts, anyway.

male AND female, they are of the same quality and worth

I'm not one to point out the "sexism" of the Bible very frequently, but note that male was mentioned first and there are passages later on that imply that woman has less worth or quality, or at least that she has to bow to the will of her husband.

Jan 4, 6:23am Top

Like Chapter 1, Chapter 2 is also filled with vivid imagery: man being formed of dust, woman being formed of man's rib while he sleeps, a description of the four rivers emerging from the Garden of Eden. All beautiful and worthy of perusing slowly.

In this chapter, though, we have two characters - God and Adam. Little is said about Adam, other than that he is lonely, but God appears in this chapter to be sympathetic and compassionate to his lonely creation, even to the point of making it clear that God put Adam to sleep before taking out his rib to make "Woman" (who remains unnamed in the second chapter).

There's an ominous last line: And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25 ESV). The assumption here is that the reader believes that being naked is something to be ashamed of. It also sets up Adam and his wife for a rather nasty discovery. But for now, Adam and his wife seem innocent and child-like.

Chapter 3 of Genesis describes the Fall of Adam and his wife (who remains unnamed until after the Fall). A clever serpent tempts Adam's wife into eating of the forbidden Tree of Life by telling her that she will "be like God" and know good from evil if she eats. She eats, and shares a piece with her husband who was with her. When God finds out, Adam, like a whiny child, blames it on his wife, and his wife, also whiny, blames it on the serpent. Indeed, it is the fault of both Adam and his wife that they ate of the Tree of Knowledge. They both could have said no.

God punishes Adam's wife by giving her pain in childbirth and saying that her desire shall be contrary to Adam's, and that he will rule over her. He punishes Adam by making him toil the land for food and foretelling his eventual death. And he punishes the serpent by making him crawl upon the ground and foretelling how he shall be the enemy of woman and her children. After all this, Adam names his wife Eve because she shall be the mother of all peoples. Perhaps he doesn't name her before because she was not to be a mother until after the Fall?

Here's where the action begins in the Bible. There are four main characters: God, Adam, Eve, and the serpent. They are following a temptation/punishment motif. God here appears to be a just judge, and Adam and Eve are whiny children from whom the truth is to be wheedled. It is also an how-it-came-to-be story which explains why there is strife and labor.

One thing that struck me while I read this chapter is when "The LORD God said 'Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.'" (Genesis 3:22 ESV). Who is he talking to? And who are "us?" There's no mention before this of other gods or other creatures like God. Was this written at a time when the worshiping of other gods was so accepted that it was assumed others existed? Kugel, in his book How to Read the Bible, suggests that this is so. That Hebrews were supposed to worship the LORD God alone, but that they accepted that other gods existed.

Another striking issue is that God walks among Adam and Eve like a creature rather than as a spirit. Was God supposed to be incarnate like His animals and people?

Jan 4, 6:37am Top

>80 The_Hibernator:, the four rivers emerging from the Garden of Eden. I've always been intrigued by the four rivers, it makes me think you should be able to pinpoint this garden of Eden. But thinking about the 4 rivers as a literary device, rivers are bodies of water, water holds depth and secrets but rivers are flowing and moving. We are also given names to these rivers. The names maybe tell us something, too. The rivers are flowing toward or too Eden? They come from four corners or go to four corners.

man is from the dust and woman from man's side. This is used by "man" as a reason to consider woman less, I am not so sure the protagonist (God) meant it to be so. Woman was to be his helpmate, his companion, his partner. It does not imply that woman is his slave or servant. I do think there are passages (NT) that talks about man is made in God's image and woman is made in man's image.

As far as author's go, I think, even the other Bible translaters tell you, that it is assumed that so and so is the author but they are never able to proove authorship and does it matter. In the intro, the editor of the literary Bible just says men inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote.

Jan 4, 6:57am Top

>80 The_Hibernator: "Us" appears as early as 1:26 - Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...

If your Bible has cross-references, there is probably a reference to John 1:1 from Genesis 1:1. John 1:1 ff. is also a creation account:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (ESV)

Jan 4, 7:08am Top

In the beginning there were no words. In the beginning was the sound, and they all knew what that sound sounded like.

Toni Morrison, in Beloved

Jan 4, 7:34am Top

>80 The_Hibernator: You missed one of the whiny blames. It's really all God's fault : ' The woman who you gave me.'

Jan 4, 8:40am Top

>83 dchaikin: Interesting! I've been meaning to read Beloved for ages but haven't managed to fit it in yet.

Jan 4, 9:49am Top

>85 cbl_tn: It just might make an interesting co-read. Beloved interweaves biblical references throughout (I have an old post about some of it here)

Jan 4, 10:02am Top

I'm really enjoying this, Rachel! I had a bout of insomnia last night and read through chapter 16. Your discussions are quite wonderful.

The Literary Study Bible has 77 pages for Genesis, so I'm trying to make sure I read some each day and stay somewhat on target.

Edited: Jan 4, 11:21am Top

Beloved would be excellent, it especially ties in with the horses of the apocalypse (From How to Read Literature Like a Professor.

Edited: Jan 4, 2:54pm Top

Rachel and all - for my ease of reference, I'm keeping a page of links to Rachel's posts related to this read here on my blog. I know this is something I'll want to look at down the road. You are welcome to use it if you find it helpful.

P.S. I stole your graphic & schedule Rachel. Hope that is OK.

Edited to fix hyperlink

Jan 4, 2:31pm Top

>80 The_Hibernator: For the first few chapters of Genesis there was a translation choice Robert Alter made which really struck me because of its difference to the translations I'm used to. I'm not saying his translation is more correct (I do not know Hebrew or understand the translation process!) but this made me think a lot so I thought it might be worth sharing.

In Genesis 1, 2 & 3 Alter translates the Hebrew 'adam' as 'the human' not as 'man' or the proper name 'Adam' as most other translations I've seen.

He notes that adam is a generic term for human beings and does not automatically suggest maleness. I think most Bible translations that translate this as man have a note in the front somewhere explaining that man means men and women but the decision to translate this has 'the human' instead really brought this point home to me. In Ch2 and Ch3 when other translations start to refer to the man as Adam, Alter does not do so and continues to use 'the human'. I couldn't see a point in the text that explicitly names Adam in the way Eve is named in Ch 3:20 (although I may have missed it) and I'd never noticed that before.

>84 MarthaJeanne: Yes, I always smile at that bit. And the curse in 3:14 -19 reverses the blame order.

Edited: Jan 4, 4:35pm Top

>90 souloftherose: The entry for adam in the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis seems to support Alter's translation decision. The entry says that "More versions are opting for 4:25 as the first instance {of Adam as a proper name} because it is the first time where adam occurs without the definite article, and in the Heb. language of the OT proper names rarely, if ever, take the definite article."

Edited: Jan 5, 5:03am Top

>81 Kristelh: I do think there are passages (NT) that talks about man is made in God's image and woman is made in man's image. You refer to 1 Corinthians 11,7 where it says: 'For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.' Woman is not made in the image of man. She is made in the image of God.

>90 souloftherose: >91 cbl_tn: You are right pointing that out. In German we have Mensch for human and Mann for man. So reading a German translation avoids that ambiguity.

Human named Eve first 'Woman' in ch. 2,23 and then after the fall called her Eve, and I guess that Adam became a name at the same time. Before that translating adama as Adam is misleading because for us that sounds like a name.

Naked: Mentioning the nakedness in 2,25 foreshadows the consequences of the Fall: Human's and woman 's eyes were opened to good and evil and shame came into their relationship. In consequence, they try to cover themselves inadequately and then God himself has to make them garments (the first spilling of blood in the Bible). It's a good piece of story telling. It also gives some cultural and climatological hints to the time.

God walking in the garden: God appears to different people in different ways. Later in Genesis 18 it says: 'And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him.' Later Abraham accompanies the men and then the Lord discusses the fate of Sodom with him. It's God's creation and therefore he move unhindered within his creation.

2,15 'he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.' Genesis talks about the offspring implying many but then God tells the serpent about the 'he', the single offspring/seed of woman who will later crash the serpent's head. A reference to Christ who defeated Satan.

Edited: Jan 5, 6:17am Top

Alter mentions the idea that the original human was undiferentiated as being a feminist idea. I was under the impression that this was an old Jewish concept. If you google Chagall Adam you will find several instances of Marc Chagall depicting this idea.

Jan 5, 6:46am Top

>82 cbl_tn: I don't think the Literary Study Bible has cross references, but I do have other study Bibles.

>83 dchaikin: >85 cbl_tn: >86 dchaikin: >88 Kristelh: I almost read Beloved last year. I loved Song of Solomon. Perhaps I should try to squeeze it in this year, but don't hold your breath. I've made a lot of commitments.

>84 MarthaJeanne: haha, I didn't even think about that!

>87 karenmarie: I've assigned myself about 5 pages a day for Genesis. When I made the schedule, I tried to mostly evenly spread it out among the pages, though there are some that are a little longer or shorter than others. Nothing too bad. I'm on Genesis 19 right now, which puts me two chapters ahead of schedule.

>89 markon: That's fine Ardene. You can use my graphic.

>90 souloftherose: >91 cbl_tn: I've heard that before. I studied Hebrew for a while when I was dating an Israeli. Perhaps it was then that I heard it. I didn't get very far on Israeli, though. I've tried to learn a lot of languages, but I must take the wrong approach or something because it never seems to work for me. :(

>92 paulstalder: Interesting that the German translation would make that more clear, Paul. I guess that's one benefit of Alter's translation, which I'll probably get to one day.

Jan 5, 6:49am Top

Adam and Eve at first bear two sons - Cain and Abel. These two offer sacrifices to God, who smiles upon Abel's offering but is not pleased with Cain's offering. In a jealous rage, Cain kills his brother. When God discovers the murder, he banishes Cain to a life of wandering - he can no longer work the land to get food, so he becomes a nomad. Cain worries that someone will kill him for what he has done, but God says that anyone who kills Cain will be punished seven-fold.

This story is the crime and punishment motif. It begins with Cain offering disrespect to authority (God) by offering "fruit of the ground." I take this to mean he just picked up some fruit off the ground. Potentially it was rotten or had worms in it, but at best he didn't toil or sacrifice in order to give this offering to God. Abel, on the other hand, offered the firstborn of his flock and some nice juicy fat - a real sacrifice. Was Cain lazy? Selfish? Or simply disrespectful? When God rejected Cain's sacrifice, Cain held a grudge. He then committed murder. And murdering his own brother makes the crime even darker. Finally, he lied to God when asked if he knew where Abel was.

Clearly, Cain had the heart of a criminal. His crime was even worse than that of his parents. So why did God say that if anyone murdered Cain the murderer would be punished seven-fold? Was that to show the mercifulness of God? Or was it to explain the existence of nomadic peoples (Cain's descendants)? Also, given that Cain was an evil person, what does that say about the Hebrews' view of the nomadic peoples that descended from Cain? Were they viewed as evil as well?

One thing that struck me is that God does not appear to be omniscient in this story. He does not know where Abel is at first, and thus asks Cain. Or was he simply setting Cain up for a lie? That seems unmerciful, and contrasts with the mercy shown when God says that anyone who murders Cain will be punished seven-fold. Did God have human-like flaws like inconsistencies? Unlikely. Therefore I'll have to assume that God is not omniscient in this story.

Another thing that stuck me is the assumption that there were enough people out there that someone would murder Cain if he wandered away from his family. And whom did he marry? This wife of his was not mentioned in the genealogy of Adam and Eve (which occurs at the end of the chapter). Though women are notably absent from the genealogy. But if he did marry his sister, what does this say about her, that she would marry her brother's murderer? I feel that the story means to imply that there were more than just Adam and Eve's family, but that contradicts Genesis 3:20 which said that Eve "was the mother of all living." I am tempted to consider each story as partly independent from the others.

Jan 5, 7:01am Top

I'm catching up with the posts here and I'll soon be catching up with the readings. I'm so happy to find this challenge. I have a reasonable familiarity with the bible, although I've never read it straight through. I've been a member of church-related study groups in the past in several Protestant denominations, including Episcopal and Baptist (but not at the same time, since that might cause whiplash--ha). I've used an older version of the Oxford Study Bible, which I like a lot. The version I've probably studied most from is the New International (NIV). I keep my grandfather's King James Version close by because I love the language. I've ordered a copy of the Literary Study Bible, and I'm looking forward to reading in that one.

Thanks for doing this!

Jan 5, 7:03am Top

And https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baculum gives another theory about what really happened with Adam and Eve.

Jan 5, 7:03am Top

A third option for God's question to Cain is that God was giving Cain an opportunity to confess. Cain chose instead to cover up his sin. Cain's reponse does suggest that Cain believed that God isn't omniscient.

Edited: Jan 5, 7:07am Top

At least for the first 5 books I'll be using Alter's translation into English and Buber's 'Verdeutschung'. I've wanted to read both. I think I have most of the OT by Alter. With Buber, I have it, just not sure how much of it I will be up for, as the German is very peculiar. I also have a couple of other German translations that I am interested in getting to know better.

Jan 5, 7:15am Top

Chapter 3 of Kugel's How to Read the Bible covers the story of Cain and Abel, who were the first sons of Adam and Eve. In a fit of jealousy, Cain killed Abel. Cain was scolded by God, who told Cain that as punishment he would wander the earth for life. (Thus he is interpreted to be the fore-father of the nomadic group Kenites.) Frightened, Cain told God that he, Cain, would be murdered by those who knew his deed. "Then the Lord said to him, 'Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.'" (Genesis 4:15)* This is why the Kenites, who were a brutal tribe, would kill seven people to avenge one of their own.

Of course, there are problems with the ancient interpretation that the Kenites were the descendants of Cain - according to the story of Noah, everyone but himself and his household died in the flood; thus, how did Cain's descendants survive? Unless of course one of his son's wives was a descendant of Cain? Or, as Kugel suggests, Cain was not originally meant to be the son of Adam and Eve - but that he was later incorporated into that part of the Bible.

Ancient interpreters couldn't believe that one of the first men could be so terrible as to murder his own brother, so they cast about for a reason. They settled upon this verse:

"Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord." (Genesis 4:1)

Why use the Hebrew word 'ish for "man" instead of the word for child? This word is never used to refer to children. Furthermore, a literal translation of the Hebrew says "I have gotten a man with the Lord." Because the word 'ish is also used to refer to angels, ancient interpreters concluded that, in this case, the word "Lord" referred to a wicked angel. Thus Cain's wickedness was explained.

Kugel says this interpretation was widely accepted in post-Old Testament times. In fact, it's referenced in the New Testament:

"By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one anther. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother." (1 John 3:10-12)

*Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version

Jan 5, 7:21am Top

>96 labwriter: Welcome!

>97 MarthaJeanne: Thanks Martha!

>98 cbl_tn: That's true. Hadn't thought about that. But I'm still thinking God wasn't meant to be portrayed as omniscient in this passage.

>99 MarthaJeanne: This is only my second time reading the Bible, and my first time was by audiobook. I think it would be a bad idea for me to read Alter's translation when I'm not very familiar with the more accepted translations. But I'll definitely get to it one day. It's hanging out there on my phone!

Jan 5, 7:55am Top

>95 The_Hibernator: >98 cbl_tn: I would go with 'confession idea'. God was merciful and therefore gave Cain the opportunity to confess everything and talk with God about his short comings. But Cain refused God's offer to talk.

I guess that God didn't want to set an idea about revenge among his humans, therefore he forbid to kill Cain.

Jan 5, 8:41am Top

I like to think of Cain and Abel as Canaan archtypes. The cities were in the lowland where agriculture could support them. In the hills are the shepherds. So, maybe Able represents the shepherds and Cain represents farming and cities. And the confrontation represents a culture clash - a primeval one. (I'm pretty sure I stole this idea from Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines.)

Jan 5, 9:00am Top

It is a joy to read all the insightful comments on this thread! I plan on reading Genesis in its entirety this weekend. I'll keep many of these comments in mind. Thank you.

Jan 5, 10:23am Top

wonderful comments and thoughts on this thread.

In the novel Cain, Saramago presents the idea that Cain is the son of one of the angels guarding the Garden of Eden. Thus he will always be different from his brother, and created with secrecy and shame. Interesting idea. Saramago goes on to involve Cain, Zelig-like, in many known stories, and through it all Cain argues with God.

I've just started the Alter translation (just in the preface, actually), and I've also started Karen Armstrong's The Bible: A Biography. I'll catch up this weekend.

Jan 5, 11:34am Top

>94 The_Hibernator: I did the same, Rachel - parsed it out to 5 pages a day! If I read my 5 today, I'll be on target.

>95 The_Hibernator: I don't see anything that Cain did that was disrespectful up to and including his offering of fruit of the ground. He was a worker of the ground and brought an offering of fruit of the ground - the results of his work. I still don't understand why God had no regard for Cain and his offering. It never says anything about Cain doing anything wrong in his work or offering the results of his work. From the ESV translation it's not clear why God didn't appreciate Cain's offering compared to Abel's.

And regarding Chapter 4, Verse 1, the use of LORD (I don't know how to type Large capital L and small capitals ORD) implies using the personal name of God, YHWH, rendered as Large Capital L and small capitals ORD as described in the Preface section The Translation of Specialized Terms. This section of the preface explaining the translation of biblical terms referring to God says that ESV "takes great care to convey the specific nuances of meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek Terms". So the use of Large Capital L and small capitals ORD would not imply that Cain was the son of the evil one or a wicked angel according to this translation/preface's rules.

Jan 5, 11:38am Top

>98 cbl_tn: This is how I've always read the passage. God is omniscient. I look at it as God's indirect way of telling Cain He knows exactly what he did.

Jan 5, 12:50pm Top

>106 karenmarie: I'm with you--Cain was a farmer, and brought what he had brought forth from the ground, and it wasn't acceptable to God--I don't understand that, either. Had God told humans that he required a meat sacrifice at this point in time?

I'm using the Harper Collins Study Bible which uses the New Revised Standard version of the Bible. It was the text we used when I took Old Testament classes at the U of Minnesota in the early 2000s. The emphasis was very much on the literary origins and meanings of the texts--much like this thread is turning out to be. It feels good to be back in this kind of study.

Karen O.

Edited: Jan 5, 1:01pm Top

>95 The_Hibernator: >106 karenmarie: >103 dchaikin: I agree. I've always had a problem with this story, because I don't understand what Cain did wrong, and it to my ears it echoes conflicts between farmers (fence the fields & keep the animals out!) and herders/ranchers (no fences! our animals need to roam to graze!)

>105 ffortsa: I read The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Saramago a few years ago and loved it. I'll have to give Cain a try.

Jan 5, 1:08pm Top

>106 karenmarie: >108 klobrien2: This comes up again in Hebrews, which we won't get to until December.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4, ESV)

Not a lot of explanation here, either, although it may suggest that it had something to do with what was in Cain's heart rather than in the contents of the sacrifice.

A clue I see in the Genesis narrative is that Cain brought an offering "in the course of time" while Abel brought "of the firstborn of his flock". Now I'm wondering if the Hebrew translated "in the course of time" in the ESV has a connotation of delay.

Jan 5, 1:47pm Top

>110 cbl_tn: I believe this is absolutely a heart issue for Cain. It has nothing to with farmers and shepherds. Cain took his time and did not give of the fullness of his first fruits. He gave what he thought was adequate. I think God is clear in his questioning of Cain (Genesis 4-6,7). God says: 'If you do well, will you not be accepted?'. Subsequently, he warns Cain that sin is stalking him and that he should rule over it. Cain did not rule over it. The sin of jealousy became murderous.

Edited: Jan 5, 4:32pm Top

>106 karenmarie: YHWH is God's name used in this passage and the previous (3,8; 3,14; 3,24). When dealing personally with humans this name is used most of the times. The 'I am' speaks personally with his creation and so gives the story a personal touch. God is here not a far-away God who is powerful and eternal etc but specifically a God who is involved. A 'Thou' as Martin Buber would say.

Edited: Jan 5, 5:49pm Top

Wow, interesting stuff!

>110 cbl_tn: Hi Carrie - if I just go by the ESV in the Literary Study Bible,

Chapter 4 verse 3 says
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground,

and the beginning of verse 4 says
and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.

Just parsing the sentence, it says "In the course of time Cain thus-and-such and Abel also thus-and-such", which implies to me that there was no time difference between the two actions.

If God preferred Abel's offering, I can't see anything in the chapter to state or imply that. I don't see how "an offering of the fruit of the ground" is less than "of the firstborn", although 'and of their fat portions' may have had more value. But there is no fat portions in fruit of the ground, so Can couldn't have offered that.

I pulled my KJV and my Revised English Bible out, and didn't get any clarity.

Abel's more acceptable offering to God by faith may be so, as per Hebrews, but it's just not clear in Genesis 4 as an explanation for God having no regard for Cain's offering.

It's all good, I'm thrilled to be reading the Bible and actually looking at the verses from a literary point of view, which to me also becomes, I have to say, a somewhat logical point of view.

Jan 5, 6:04pm Top

>113 karenmarie: Yeah, that's why I would like to know what the Hebrew says instead of English translation. I'll ask one of my Hebrew specialists next time I see one. I saw one of the OT translators of the version I'm reading this morning, but it was before this question came up. I still think the Hebrews passage sheds a bit of light on this. I don't think it's really about fruit and veggies vs meat or farmers vs shepherds.

Edited: Jan 5, 6:14pm Top

>113 karenmarie: If God preferred Abel's offering, I can't see anything in the chapter to state or imply that.

It may not be clear as to why God was not pleased with Cain's offering, but in verse 5, it is clear that he was not. In Verse 7, God tells Cain he did not 'do well' and that his anger is leading him toward sin.

Jan 5, 6:28pm Top

This is one of those questions that scholars have been debating for centuries, so I don't think we'll come up with a definitive answer here! The Genesis account doesn't provide an explanation, and our views and opinions will differ according to the lens through which we view the text.

Edited: Jan 5, 6:32pm Top

Looking at my interlinear, it doesn't seem to be a time difference, but that Abel chose 'of the firstborn' 'of his flock' 'and from their choicest'. The quotes indicate separate words. That means that the special character of Abel's offering is pointed out twice. Certainly Cain could have given of his first fruits, or made a special selection, but apparently he didn't.

We aren't told what the sign is that Abel's offering was accepted, but Cain's not. Was Cain upset at the nice fire the fat made? Did the younger brother make a big deal of upstaging the older brother by pointing out the high quality of his animals? Did the rest of the family act as though the meat was the important part of the feast with bread and veggies as side dishes?

I wish to make it clear that although my younger sister often drove me crazy, and I was often justifiably very angry with her, she is still alive. I did not kill her.

Jan 5, 9:14pm Top

In re: to Cain and Abel. For a long time I thought it was one sacrifice was a blood offering because "blood is required" but recently I changed my idea as God says in other places that he doesn't want the sacrifice he wants the "heart" so now I think it reflects something about the attitudes of Cain and Abel and not the sacrifice that God was disappointed in.

I think it probably is the jealousy and anger that have been commented on above.

Jan 5, 9:19pm Top

Yes, I've come to that way of thinking, too. It was the timing of the gift, the intention.

Great discussion--I'm learning so much from you all.

Karen O.

Edited: Jan 5, 10:03pm Top

I have read through chapter 13 now.

Thoughts on Noah: I often think about Noah and I wonder at his faith. He was building this huge boat on dry land without water in any proximity. He must have looked like a lunatic to the other people. I often wonder if I could have that kind of faith.

Another part that I noted this time. This is before the Jewish laws regarding clean food but it mentions clean animals vs the not clean animals. I love the dove story. Never sat down and really thought about how long they spent in the ark. It was about a year before they actually left the ark. A story of rebirth. Often water is used in novels to depict rebirth. Again deep, raging waters equals danger.

Chapter 9: I like to think about food a lot. I have studied these first chapters in Genesis many times. I think man did not eat animals until chapter 9 when God says "as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything..." I don't think this is exactly a good thing but the further man moves from the garden and the direct communion with God the more man is given up to his own choices. I think eating meat even though we can do it may not be in our best interest.

Family tree of Noah (I liked the comments Ryken makes about it symbolizes totality, all the nations of the earth and the implied unity and interrelatedness of all people).

Chapter 11, Tower of Babel, (the first skyscraper) another favorite story for me. Again I liked the editors comparison to our own culture. Man's desire for fame, self reliance, technology, environment for society, control human destiny

Chapter 12/13. I've liked the call of Abram to "go" and his obedience. I think how hard it is to leave ones family and go. I've thought that Abram was obedient except that one small bit where he takes Lot. God said, Go from your country and your kindred, but Abraham took Lot which did lead to some problems later.

Jan 6, 3:00am Top

Cain: his name means 'gotten', 'achieved'
Abel: 'nullity', 'vanity'

The author of Genesis gives as Eve's saying: “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” She is apparently looking back to what YHWH told her after the Fall: That there will a descendant who will crush the serpent's head and Eve thought that she now has gotten that offspring. That may shed some light on Cain's attitude towards God and his brother. Why Eve named Abel that way is not explained.

Nomads: Cain's son was Henoch who built a city, so was well settled. 5 generations later three sons were born: Jubal, Jabal and Tubal-Cain. 4, 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.
So to say that all nomads are descendants of Cain and therefore somehow linked to his deed is a bit off the story. Jabal was a tent dweller, Jubal a lyre-player and piper, Tubal-Cain metal worker. Abraham later was a tent dweller, too. So there is not so much ground to single out the tent dwellers as a bad lot because of Cain.

Edited: Jan 6, 4:21am Top

>102 paulstalder: The confession idea is a good one. Though I still think that God was not interpreted as omniscient at the time the OT was written. I'll have to look for further evidence for and against that theory. Surely Cain did not think that God was omniscient.

>103 dchaikin: I see nothing wrong with considering it an allegory for culture clash. There are other bits of the OT which can be interpreted in such a way.

>104 Carmenere: Have fun getting ahead!

>105 ffortsa: That's sort of the same theory Kugel was getting that - that Cain was the son of an evil angel and not human at all. I loved the one book by Saramego I read, I should really read more of his.

>106 karenmarie: Yeah, when I reread the passage I can see why my interpretation of it being picked up off the ground is probably false. But it leaves a big gaping hole in the narrative that we shouldn't know what Cain had done wrong. And I know this is an argument that has been going on for thousands of years.

>107 brodiew2: It is reasonable to read the passage as God being omniscient when our current concept of the Christian God is omniscient. However, that doesn't mean (to me) that the ancient Hebrews considering him such.

>108 klobrien2: I keep forgetting you're from MN! Lol. I don't know the answer to your question, I'm pretty new to Bible interpretation.

>109 markon: The one I've always had difficulty with is the one where Jesus shrivels up the fig tree. Allegorical, I know, but that poor fig tree! At least Cain turns out to truly be a horrible person.

>110 cbl_tn: Kugel would say that this reference in Hebrews was an example of the later scholars' (as in first century AD) attempts to justify the treatment of Cain by God.

>111 brodiew2: Yes, it apparently is a heart issue - Cain turns out to be a horrible person, so there was likely something unsavory in his intentions to begin with.

>112 paulstalder: Hmmm, that's interesting.

>113 karenmarie: As Brodie said in >115 brodiew2: it does explicitly say that God was less satisfied with Cain's offering.

>114 cbl_tn: Wow. That would be great if you could ask. But as Carrie says in >116 cbl_tn: this is something scholars will differ on in opinion because it's an age-old argument.

>117 MarthaJeanne: Yup! There was clearly more than just jealousy in Cain's heart, that he should murder his brother.

>118 Kristelh: Jealousy in itself isn't as horrible as murder! I still think there was worse in Cain's heart than jealousy. Everybody feels jealousy sometimes.

>119 klobrien2: I agree, this is a great discussion!

>120 Kristelh: Yes, it took a lot of faith to build that ark! But if God spoke to me personally, I would like to think I'd have that much faith! I hope!

>121 paulstalder: I was just going by what Kugel said about Cains descendants being the nomadic people. Was Abraham a descendant of Cain? I guess I missed that. Should read the genealogies more closely. I thought he was the descendant of another of Adam and Eve's children. Also, I'm not a huge fan of Abraham. Turning his wife over to prostitution like that!

Jan 6, 4:22am Top

One of the best known stories of Genesis is that of Noah's Ark:

Because the world was filled with evil people, God "regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart." He decided to blot humans out. Luckily for humanity, though, Noah found favor in God's eyes. God gave Noah precise instructions on how to build an ark to protect Noah, his family, and pairs of every living thing of the world from the flood. After they were safely ensconced in this ark, "the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened" (Genesis 7:11). The rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights. The earth was covered even to the tips of the highest mountains. And the water remained for 150 days. Another 40 days elapsed, and Noah released a dove from the ark to determine if it were safe to disembark. On the second attempt, the dove returned with an olive branch, and on the third, it didn't return at all. But Noah still waited until God told him to come out before disembarking. (I'd say this was probably the wisest choice.) When the occupants of the ship were safely on dry ground, God made a covenant with Noah and his descendants that he would never again destroy the earth by flood. The rainbow is the sign of that covenant.

This flood story is likely one that was well-known in the region when the book of Genesis was written, given its similarities to Utnapishtim's flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh (which precedes the book of Genesis). In order to determine what was important in this story, it is interesting to compare the similarities and differences between the two legends.

For instance, both stories have a flood that destroys the earth - leaving only one protagonist, his family, and a pair of every living thing to survive. Both have an ark, in which all of these lucky survivors seek refuge. Both end in a covenant saying the earth's occupants will no longer be destroyed. This is the skeleton of the story around which the author of Genesis and the author of Gilgamesh weave their details. This is the adventure part of the story. The part we all remember. But the differences are the parts that make Noah stand out from Utnaphishtim.

The main differences I notice in the story are all about righteousness. First of all, the reason the gods had to destroy the earth in Utnapishtim's story was simply that men were loud and annoying. The LORD God's reason, on the other hand, was because men were enmeshed irrevocably in evil. In Noah's story, therefore, there is a moral - if we become evil, we will suffer for it. Whereas in Utnapishtim's story the moral (if there is one) is that the gods make arbitrary choices that we have no control over.

Another difference is that in Utnapishtim's story, he was told to lie to his neighbors, telling them that if they helped him build the ark for the gods, a season of plenty (beginning with some nice heavy rains) would ensue. Noah, on the other hand, was saved because he was a righteous man, and God wouldn't tell a righteous man to lie to his neighbors. In fact, the author of Genesis leaves it a complete mystery how Noah's neighbors reacted to his ark and how Noah managed to build the thing all alone.

(I've always thought that Noah warned the people around him of the impending flood, but to no avail. I see no reference to that in the Genesis story. Does this omission mean that Noah kept it a secret? Is that really a righteous thing to do?)

Noah's story continues with a debacle which throws a shadow on Noah's righteousness. After the flood disperses, Noah goes into his tent and drinks to the point of passing out. His youngest son, Ham, enters the tent, finds his father naked, and goes out to gossip with his brothers. His brothers don't find the situation worthy of gossip, though, and they back into the tent (so as not to see their father naked) and cover him with a blanket. When he awakens, Noah curses Ham and his descendants and blesses his older sons.

Why did the author of Genesis include this little tail end to the story, which until then held Noah in such a fine light? Was it to show that evil did still pervade humanity despite the flood?

Jan 6, 4:25am Top

Chapter 4 of Kugel's book How to Read the Bible discusses the story of Noah's ark, delving into details about how the flood story was predated by a strikingly similar story in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Kugel's point was that the similarities were very striking in a literary sense - they didn't only agree on the basic idea of a flood, which could have been observed by two distinct cultures, but also on how the events took place. For instance, a god telling a human to build a boat and take a pair of each animal, and the god being pleased at the smell of the sacrifice at the end of the flood. Such similarities showed that the later story was almost certainly derived from the earlier story. This idea enraged (and still enrages) many people since it draws into question the divine source of the biblical story.

Kugel also pointed out an inconsistency in the Noah story which suggests that it was written by two different sources. God instructs Noah to bring seven pairs of all clean animals, and one pair of all others.

"Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate." (Genesis 7:2)*

The reason for the seven pairs is because Noah will need a sacrifice when he has finished his journey. Such a sacrifice must be a clean animal, and he wouldn't want to kill the only surviving members of a species to do so. Later, Noah seems to disregard this order, and brings only two of each animal.

"Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah." (Genesis 7:8-10)

As in Chapter 2, scholars believe that the two sources are J and P because the word "Lord," an indication of J source, was used when God ordered Noah to bring the seven pairs and when Noah made his sacrifice. Kugel suggests that the reason this sacrifice wasn't included in P source was because the priests who wrote it would be disturbed by the idea of a non-priest preparing a sacrifice. P source doesn't refer to sacrifices until the existence of priests later in the Bible.

*All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version

This is part of a series of posts for my upcoming Bible as Literature Group Read. To read the rest of my notes, go here.

Jan 6, 5:00am Top

Just a thought here: Cain and Abel again.
If Cain did believe God to be omniscient or not, is not clear. It's more likely that he doesn't care. God talks to Cain after the offering and warns him. God tells him: 'if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.' (v. 7) Maybe Cain remembers Eve talking about the Fall and the relationship between Eve's son and the serpent. That's why he may have talked with Abel afterwards in order to ask him how to 'rule over sin' since Eve's son should bruise its head. So he may compare 'sin crouching at the door' with the serpent's have a go at Eve. And since the bodily death did not appear at once, but the spiritual dead came around (we are all dead in our sins), Cain's answer to God's question may only state that he doesn't know where Abel is now spiritually (his soul). Death didn't occur among humans so far, so Cain has really no idea where Abel (Abel's soul) is now. He is the first to have beaten a human to death, how should he know that Abel is not recovering??

Abraham was a descendant of Seth.

Edited: Jan 6, 6:51am Top

John H. Sailhamer's essay on Genesis in A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible points to the flood account as an example of the narrative technique of recursion. There flood account has several points of similarity to the creation account in Genesis 1. (Sailhamer lists 10 points, starting with And darkness was over the face of the deep (Gen 1:2) and And the sources of the great deep were broken up (Gen. 7:11)) He also points to man's creation and fall in Gen 2-3 and Noah's drunkenness in Genesis 9 as another example of recursion.

Jan 6, 8:01am Top

These are great posts Rachel!

Food for thought:

Jan 6, 10:09am Top

I agree with >127 dchaikin:!

Since these things have been argued for thousands of years, I accept that we won't resolve them here. But the discussions are great and I appreciate everybody chiming in.

Jan 6, 12:00pm Top

A thought about the flood from a different angle: Dendrochronology calculates with the annual rings of trees (okay, are these the correct English words?). As far as I know, they can calculate a few thousand years back and then there are irregularities - probably showing a no-growth-year (since the flood covered the whole earth, that would be the case). Any dendrochronologists around?

Jan 6, 12:46pm Top

Paul - We know sea levels over time in detail from a variety of geological means.

Jan 6, 1:03pm Top

>130 dchaikin: well, yes, but how do you measure the age of these geological findings? If you want to measure the half-life of elements more than a few years you run into the problem of the flood stories all over the world: the water covers everything and the half-life spans change. So, going beyond a few thousand years you assume/believe that was no such flood and that for millions of years the atmosphere and the lands of the earth were all the same as they are today.

Just want us to think about the presuppositions we take as granted or believe.

Jan 6, 1:28pm Top

Paul - if you like, let's do this discussion with personal messages. It's a good one, but distracting from our book. (And Noah's story is beautiful and curious and disturbing on many levels. Much to discuss there, if the conversation goes that way)

Jan 6, 2:59pm Top

Actually, when we look at "heroes" of the Bible, quite a few of them slipped up at some point. I'm thinking of Noah, but also Abraham (told the Pharaoh that his wife was his sister so that the Pharaoh wouldn't kill him). It doesn't make me like them less, but maybe more. In any case, it's easier to identify with them.

Karen O.

Edited: Jan 6, 3:16pm Top

Daniel - Yep, I'll do that.

God's name: 7,16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as Elohim had commanded him. And YHWH shut him in.
Using different names for the same character is a well done literary feature. Splitting verses is not doing justice to the text.

Jan 6, 3:28pm Top

There are parallels to flood stories of the Aztec, the Chinese, and the Indians (and Gilgamesh of course). Alle speak of a time around 5-10 000 years before our time. The Biblical story has the longest duration of the Flood (371 days).

Edited: Jan 6, 4:28pm Top

Fun fact: the Chinese sign for 'ship' is 船, consisting of the words 'vessel' , 'mouth', and 'eight' - an ark containing 8 mouths - there were eight persons on Noah's ark.

The sign for 'Flood' 洪 contains the words for 'eight', 'together', 'earth' (which gives the word for 'completely') and 'water' = eight together, earth completely covered with water.

Edited: Jan 7, 1:23am Top

4.1 adam knew eve
The word 'knew' here is 'jada' in hebrew, meaning to have sexual intercourse. It is not used for animals. But is also used in the sense of getting 'to know god'. 'Jada' does imply that adam and eve had sex in paradise already. There is another word for having sex the first time, which is 'bo'el' (eingehen zu. I don't the english translation at the moment). The idea, that they had sex only after the fall, came up in the early church and was not a jewish idea.

Jan 6, 10:47pm Top

I'm just de-lurking for a moment and to say how much I'm enjoying the discussion, and Paul Stalder, I think you are adding so much .

Jan 7, 3:45am Top

>138 vancouverdeb: Welcome, Deborah, I am pleased you follow and enjoy the discussion. Rachel is doing a good job leading us along.

Edited: Jan 7, 7:36am Top

>125 paulstalder: That's a really good point Paul. We make the assumption that Cain killed Abel knowing full well what he was doing. But Abel was the first person to die, so this was all new to him. On the other hand, they were killing and eating animals at this time, so he was familiar with slaughter.

>126 cbl_tn: Interesting, Carrie. Yes, I can see that.

The essay on Genesis that I read in The Literary Guide to the Bible was not so interesting. It was so dense that I got very little out of it and am wondering if I should give up on the book because I have so many more interesting books that I'm reading on other topics. (After all, I'm supposed to be leading The Unwinding and Evicted discussions too!) I'm enjoying Kugel's book quite a bit, but I won't be able to keep pace in the Kugel book with my Bible reading because it's so long and has so much to say on each story. So my own discussion may be based only upon my humble opinions soon - unless I can do some reading time management!

>127 dchaikin: Thanks Daniel. And thanks for the link. I've definitely heard of some of the archaeological evidence of a flood in the area which may have been the origin of the flood myths. But I didn't know enough about them to make much of a comment in my blog post. Interestingly, Heidel's The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels discussed origin floods (and even origin tsunamis) in great detail considering the size of the book. The section itself may have been 10-15 pages, so it's not a go-to reference on the topic. But it certainly covered a broad range of theories. I'd be interested in a whole book which covered a broad range of theories on the subject, but I'm a scientist, so it would have to be something that had a scholarly feel to it.

>128 karenmarie: Thanks Karen! And I agree that we will not find a solution to this question, but discussion is fun for the sake of discussion.

>129 paulstalder: That's an interesting way to look at it, Paul, but wouldn't the trees have to be many thousands of years old in order to predate the flood?

>130 dchaikin: Yes, that's probably true, Daniel.

>131 paulstalder: Another good point, Paul, but I would think these things are taken into consideration when calculations are made?

>132 dchaikin: You're probably right, Daniel. I guess this is way beyond the topic of this thread.

>133 klobrien2: I think Noah feels more human to me because of his slip-up. But I have a hard time liking someone who sold his wife into prostitution.

>134 paulstalder: :) Again, Paul, I'm just giving notes about what Kugel says. I don't know enough on the subject to have a solidified opinion, though my instinct agrees with Kugel that Moses was not the (sole) author of the Pentateuch. For one thing, in Exodus he certainly said some nice things about himself considering he was so "humble." ;)

But as I said to Carrie, I can't keep up pace in Kugel's book because I've over committed myself for the next couple of months. So Kugel's theories on the different authors of Genesis will soon disappear and you will have to suffer the wrath of my completely uneducated thoughts (which will not include comments on multiple authors). :)

>135 paulstalder: Yes, I find it interesting that the story is so widespread. But that could speak to the drama of the story rather than to an actual flood, right? It's a fantastic story.

>136 paulstalder: Hmmm. Interesting. :)

>137 paulstalder: Again, interesting.

>138 vancouverdeb: Hi Deb! I agree, Paul is adding a lot to the conversation. And for someone who clearly is more educated on the subject than I, is a lot less wordy.

>139 paulstalder: Thanks Paul!

No blog post for a few days. I have my weekly update on my blog today, and then two days of book reviews. Then I'll be at it again on Tuesday.

Edited: Jan 7, 8:07am Top

Thanks Rachel.

Moses 'humble': just a short remark: Numbers 12,3 is translated by Luther like that: 'Mose war ein sehr geplagter Mensch über alle Menschen auf Erden.' = Moses was a very troubled man about all men on earth. I didn't check the Hebrew yet, because Numbers will be read later. So Luther translated differently, thinking that Moses was troubled, laden by his chores leading the people ...

Jan 7, 8:29am Top

I'm enjoying the discussions here very much. People have indicated that they're using different versions of the bible. It would be helpful for me, and maybe for others as well, if after a quotation the version could be noted in parentheses (e.g.--NIV or KJV). Thanks!

Jan 7, 8:30am Top

>140 The_Hibernator: On the other hand, they were killing and eating animals at this time, so he was familiar with slaughter.

They were at least sacrificing animals (and possibly making additional clothes from the skins), but if they were eating them here, then why does God say to Noah in 9:3 "Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything." (ESV)

Jan 7, 8:54am Top

>140 The_Hibernator: One of the sources for the Wikipedia article on the Black Sea deluge hypothesis is Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History. It's written for a popular audience, but the authors are scientists. Even if the text isn't written at the level you're looking for, you might be able to get something out of the reference list (although it's nearly 20 years old now...)

We have The Literary Guide to the Bible in our reference collection, which is one of the main reasons I came home with The Complete Literary Guide to the Bible instead. I could check that one out! I think it may be more readable. It's one I would recommend to lower-level undergraduates. The essay on Genesis is 12 pages plus about a 1/2 page further reading list. I read it in about 15-20 minutes last night, and the only reason it took me that long is because I was almost too sleepy to read. Anything too dry would have put me right to sleep!

Edited: Jan 7, 10:18am Top

I'm grateful for the mention of Northrop Frye's book The Great Code: The Bible and Literature. The Introduction has a useful discussion of the various translations and versions of the bible. I thought others might be interested as well. Below is a summary. His first lecture from his Bible and Literature course, from which this information was taken, is online HERE, dated 1980.

Old Testament--written in Hebrew . . . . "all the vowels are editorial."

Septuagint--Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.

Vulgate--Latin translation of the Bible; made by St. Jerome. Used for the next 1,000 years.

Wyclifite Bible--John Wyclif, a contemporary of Chaucer, 14th century. After his death, his disciples produced an English translation of the Vulgate Latin text. The basis for all future English translations.

Luther's German translation, 16th century.

The English Bible--various translators during the reign of Henry VIII, including William Tyndale (burned at the stake, along with copies of his Bible); Miles Coverdale.

Two Bibles during Queen Elizabeth's reign: (1) the Bishop's Bible, "largely a product of the right-wing establishment of the Church of England;" and (2) a Puritan bible, "produced by refugees on the Continent during Queen Mary's reign." Also called the Geneva Bible. The Bishop's Bible was approved during Queen Elizabeth's reign; the Geneva Bible was not.

During the reign of King James I--an attempt to reconcile the Episcopal right wing and the Puritan left wing. An English translation of the bible, by a committee of scholars, which was produced in 1611 and known as the Authorized Version--also often called the King James Bible. (As an aside, there's a recent book about the making of the King James Bible, God's Secretaries, by Adam Nicolson.)

Douay Bible--finished in France in 1609. Based on the Vulgate, "which the Roman Catholic Council of Trent in the sixteenth century had declared to be the authentic version of the Bible, and had stipulated that any Catholic translation of the Bible into English would have to follow the Vulgate original." I've participated in bible study groups where people would use nothing but the Douay Bible, but I haven't used it myself.

British Revised Version, 1885; American Revised Version, 1900. Both, says Frye, were "flops."

Revised Standard Version, 1952.

The New English Bible, 1970.

The Jerusalem Bible--"the leading Roman Catholic Bible at present (c. 1981)

Frye also mentions the Apocrypha, "a group of fourteen books which were almost certainly written originally in Hebrew."

ETA: I probably have 10 or so versions of the Bible on my shelves, but I tend to use The New International Version (NIV) a lot of the time, not mentioned by Frye. Mine was published in 1978, and it has been revised twice--in 1984 and 2011. This is a new translation "in idiomatic twentieth-century English." Probably the reason I use it is because it was my dad's favorite, and he "knew" the bible better than anyone I've ever known.

Jan 7, 10:25am Top

God's Secretaries is an excellent book! My vsry first research paper in 10th grade English was on the history of the KJV.

Jan 7, 10:25am Top

>145 labwriter: nice post!

My understanding is that the King James Version (KJV) largely follows Tyndale. And plus that it's a response to the somewhat rebellious Geneva bible. Geneva bible somehow undermined the English monarchy, and the KJV tried to reinterpret so as to support King James I.

As many here know, the KJV is aesthetically special.

Jan 7, 11:18am Top

>146 cbl_tn: I have a copy of God's Secretaries on my shelf, bought not too long ago. I started it at a time when things in my life were "complicated" and I felt like reading only fluff--so I didn't get very far. I'm looking forward to reading it.

>147 dchaikin: Yes, Nicolson discusses Tyndale at length.

Jan 7, 12:02pm Top

>143 casvelyn:, I also don't think they were eating meat until after the flood. I made a note about this but now I don't see it, maybe it didn't save or I put it in a strange place. It also says here that prior to the flood the animals were not afraid but now they will be afraid.

I feel that eating meat isn't the best option for human beings. As we move further and further from the garden, the state of man is worsening (showing evidence of that death). The length of days are shortening. Now man is eating meat when before man's diet was plant based.

Jan 7, 12:59pm Top

I've gotten through chapter 11 in the Alter translation, and must say I'm enjoying it in ways I didn't expect. His footnotes are mainly, but not exclusively, about translation issues, but for the most part are still interesting. What amazes me is how often I think 'what's going to happen next?' when I know full well what will happen next. LOL. I figured that I'd stop for now at the first book of Abraham's journey, and pick up again later.

I've also been reading Karen Armstrong's book The Bible: A Biography, and she provides a pretty compressed overview of the E, J, and P sources. I haven't taken a look yet at The Literary Guide to the Bible, but I have Frye's book on the shelf and may take a look later.

Like you, Rachel, I'm distinctly overbooked(!) for this month, so we'll see how far I get.

Jan 7, 4:39pm Top

>149 Kristelh: diet: they did not eat meat before the flood - and look at the age they died! Now they were given meat to eat and the life span was reduced to 120 years....

Jan 7, 6:57pm Top

>151 paulstalder:, exactly my point, I quit eating animal based products in April of last year and feel great. Notr that I will live for 600 years.

Jan 8, 10:02am Top

Genesis 6-9 Noah's story as literature.
Moses did a great job the way he tells us that story. There are several literary devises he used, one is a repetitious form, telling us things in small passages, then repeating a part in the next and adding new things. Each passage ending with a simple statement. He also gives different names for God in different verses.

6,1-8 is the first such passage where we are told how God looked upon the earth and mankind and is quite disappointed by their behavior, but Noah is different and find favour in God's eyes. This passage ends with 'But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.' (using YHWH showing his personal dealings with Noah)

6,9-22 starts with an introduction of Noah, explaining the previous verse. God tells Noah his thoughts about mankind and his plan to save Noah's family and a pair of all creatures. And God gives the instructions how to build the Ark (a kind of huge box). It ends with 'Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.' (using Elohim showing God's creative and judging side)

7,1-5 The author starts this new passage with the speaking of God again, telling Noah to enter the Ark, and repeating the issue about the creatures coming to the Ark and telling him now to take 7 pairs of clean animals along. The instructions to build the Ark or to take food along are not repeated, but gives new instructions. The repetition of the animals coming in pairs into the Ark is repeated here and in the next paragraph to our (the readers) benefit. The instructions are all given once to Noah but God's taking care of the creatures coming into the Ark is so important that it is told three times. The author thought that be important for us to notice - the instructions were important for Noah then and Noah apparently did everything which he was told, even if only told once. 'And Noah did all that the Lord had commanded him.' (using YHWH showing that God personally instructed Noah in detail)

7,6-10 Now the authors points back to 6,9 and picks the story up from there. Here we learn the age of Noah and we are told that he just was doing what God told him. Ends with 'And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.' (using Elohim in v. 9 showing whom Noah is honouring: the creator and judge)

7,11-16 Now the story line switches to the Flood, the water comes and Noah's family and all creatures in the Ark are safe. Telling us basically the same thing as the previous passage in order to heighten tension. We would like to push the author and tell him: Come on no, we know that already, how's the story going on?? And the passage ends with 'And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him and the Lord shut him in.' (using Elohim because he is the creator and all awe belongs to him, and YHWH showing God's personal interest in Noah and the others in the Ark). God closes the door and shuts everybody else out.

7,17-24 Now the Flood is described. The waters come from below, and the from heaven. Remember: the Garden was also watered from below and from rain. The whole earth is covered by water, a dreadful judgement. How high were the mountains then? We don't know. Did Mt Everest already exist and was it over 8000 m high? If the waters came from below and from above and the waters covered the earth for a whole year, it is very likely that that had a great impact on the earth and brought along quite some upheavals. Maybe, thanks to the Flood, Mt Everest became so high. Who knows? It ends with the statement 'And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.' (prevailed in the sense of getting stronger and stronger, indicating that the waters were raising for 150 days)

Edited: Jan 8, 10:23am Top

8,1-5 After these dramatic events Elohim thought of his judgment and the salvation of the inhabitants of the Ark and he closes the 'wells of the depth and the windows of the heavens'. Now the story is told in a 'slower tone', taking time for us to realize that Noah, his family and all creatures were locked in the Ark for quite some time. Then the Ark came to a halt and the waters abated.

8,6-12 Remember: the Ark was basically a hug box, a container with no portholes or open windows, no open deck to stroll on. But now Noah opened a window in order to let out birds. They could not see if the waters were gone or so. Another ending statement: 'Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.'

8,13-22 A time stamp again and then Elohim speaks to Noah again: Go out of the Ark (using Elohim because he is the creator of the new life given to Noah and the new earth which came about through God's dealing). And built a altar to bring sacrices to YHWH (the personal God who saved him through the Flood).

9,1-17 Elohim, the creator blesses Noah and gives new instructions: Now they are allowed to eat meat - but withoug the blood in it. And he makes it clear, that to shed human blood is a sin against God. All humans are made in the image of God - and that the life of a human being is not to be taken lightly. Happy ending: 'God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”' (Elohim will not bring such a flood as a judgement on the earth) It's God' covenant and God's sign. (Elohim to whom all awe belongs)

Edited: Jan 8, 11:44am Top

>126 cbl_tn: the flood account as an example of the narrative technique of recursion

Carrie, this is the sort of thing that also interests me, from the standpoint of the Bible and Literature.

From a literary point of view, how were these stories constructed in terms of narrative techniques, etc.? In The Complete Literary Guide to the Bible, by Ryken and Longman III, eds., it's mentioned that recursion is deliberately used to shape the narrative using repeated key elements. So that in this sense, Noah's drunkenness (Genesis 9:20), mentioned by Rachel in >123 The_Hibernator:, can be seen as a repetition, or echoing, of the story of the Fall (Genesis 2-3).

ETA >153 paulstalder:, >154 paulstalder: Hi Paul, I haven't read and digested your posts yet. I had constructed my paragraph and then got busy, so I posted it a couple of hours later. I will read yours soon.

Jan 8, 1:32pm Top

>126 cbl_tn:, >155 labwriter: Very interesting points. One of the things I'm appreciating about this read is that reading the Bible in larger sections and reading with the 'Bible as Literature' in mind is helping me spot and appreciate things like this (the comments by Robert Alter and the comments here are also helping of course). Before I'd always found the duplication frustrating as I couldn't understand why they did it.

I'm actually finding it harder to keep up with the discussion on this thread than I am keeping up with reading the Bible at the moment (which is the opposite problem to the one I thought I'd have before starting this read)!

Some comments on Noah from Robert Alter:

Genesis 8:21 'And the LORD smelled the fragrant odor....' (Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses) - Alter comments on a key difference between the Mesopotamian flood stories and the story we have in Genesis. In the Mesopotamian stories a thanksgiving sacrifice is also offered after the flood but there the gods are thought to be dependent on the offerings made by humans and swoop down on the offerings 'like flies'. In Genesis there is a sacrifice which God seems to enjoy but without the suggestion that God is dependent on the sacrifice.

Genesis 9:8-17 On the repeated use of 'And God said to Noah...' with no response from Noah in between, Alter notes that this is a common convention of biblical narrative (and I have since noticed this in later chapters too). The lack of response from the other party is significant and indicates silence for a reason - a failure to comprehend, a resistance to the speaker's words etc. Here Alter theorises that Noah is so 'flood-battered' that he cannot initially respond to God's promise and so God rephrases and repeats.

Genesis 10 - the long genealogies seem to indicate a formal closure of the story before moving on to the next episode. So here, we close the story of Noah and move on to the tower of Babel (Genesis 11) where there is then another short genealogy before we move on to the story of Abram/Abraham starting in Genesis 12. There was an earlier genealogy in Genesis 5 to indicate the close of the story of Adam. I found this really interesting because I had always seen the genealogies as rather boring and a bit pointless and never realised they might serve a literary purpose!

Jan 8, 1:49pm Top

>156 souloftherose: I still find that 8:21 relationship to Mesopotamian literature facinating. It's one of my strongest memories from Alter's notes.

Jan 8, 3:03pm Top

>155 labwriter: Have some digestive, that may help :)

Jan 8, 3:04pm Top

>156 souloftherose: The link to the Mesopotamian flood story is quite interesting, thanks for hinting to that.

Jan 8, 3:24pm Top

>95 The_Hibernator: Cain and genealogies: Cain's descendants were all killed in the Flood, so there can be no (nomadic) descendants of Cain be around today. So any idea about low status of nomads today cannot be based upon Cain.

Methusalem died with 969 years - that means, he died when the flood came. Lamech, Noah's father, died a few years before the Flood.

Fun thought: There are similar names in some genealogies (like Enoch, descendant of Cain (4,17) and Enoch, descendant of Seth (5,18). As today, names are en vogue and then disappear again.

Edited: Jan 8, 4:07pm Top

>153 paulstalder: I am enjoying the back and forth of YHWH and Elohim. Thanks for doing that.
I've always liked that part "the Lord shut shut him in."
Good point about not knowing what the earth looked like prior to the flood. How high was a mountain then compared to after.
I had never really thought about how long the water was on the earth and how long they spent in the Ark until this reading and I have read Genesis many times.

>126 cbl_tn: Looking through the NKJV comparing (recursion)
God's action with Adam and Eve: created (2:7) God's action with Noah: saved Noah and family from distruction (7:23)
God's provision: planted a garden and gave plants to eat. (1:29-31 and 2:8)God's provision for Noah/family: saved animal species and gave animals for food (6:17-22)
God's blessing: Adam/Eve-be fruitful and multiple and have dominion over all living things (1:28) Noah/family: be fruitful and multiply, all living things filled with fear and dread of you (9:1, 2).
God's Covenant Adam/Eve none listed, but there is a blessing and a curse in my opinion the having to work the land, weeds and the blessing of an offspring to the woman that will defeat Satan Noah/family: never again will God Destroy earth witha flood but will provide the annual seasons. (8:21,22; 9:11)
God's Prohibition: Adam/Eve: don't eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (2:16) Noah and family: Do not shed the blood of a person (9:5,6) I add (don't eat the blood, because the life is in the blood)
God's Warning: A&E Those that eat of it will die Noah et al: those that shed blood god will demand a reckoning (9:5)
God's evaluation: A&E "it is very good" 1:31 and Noah et al: "Humanity's heart is evil (8:21)

8:15, God had shut Noah in, in this verse he invites them to leave (did God also need to open the door perhaps)?

>160 paulstalder:, I noticed the two Enoch's, I don't know if I had ever noticed that before.

Jan 8, 5:43pm Top

>160 paulstalder: Kugel explained that by saying that the stories were written by different people.

Jan 8, 6:47pm Top

The IVP Bible dictionaries are one of my go-to reference sources. The IVP Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch has several articles that survey the history and current state (as of about 15 years ago!) of Pentateuch* criticism, form criticism of the Pentateuch, and literary/narrative criticism of the Pentateuch. What I picked up here is that, sometime in the late 20th century, there was a recognition among some scholars that focusing too narrowly on small sections of the text (i.e., stories) risked missing a book's broader theme or literary structure. Scholars have started taking a big-picture approach to studying the literary construction of these books. There are even some scholars who are approaching the Pentateuch as a single literary unit rather than five separate books. The different critical approaches (form, literary/narrative, historical, textual, etc.) are not mutually exclusive, and there is something to learn from each approach. A lot of this conversation takes place in journals and at scholarly conferences like the Society of Biblical Literature's annual meeting, but at some point I think we'll see more books for non-specialists taking this approach.

This makes sense to me. It's informative to look at the possible sources for different sections of the text, but there is a complete book of Genesis, a book of Exodus, etc. I want to make sure I don't "miss the forest for the trees"! I hope we keep getting both comments about the individual stories like Rachel has been sharing from her study of Kugel's book and comments about the broader literary structure of the book like Paul has been sharing. There are things to learn from both approaches to the text.

*The Pentateuch is Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I'm not sure if that's common knowledge, so I thought I'd provide a definition!

Jan 8, 7:28pm Top

I'm a little behind the conversation, just finishing Genesis 5. I have a note about the lifespans: "The long lifespans attributed to these ten antediluvian patriarchs have a symbolic rather than a historical value. Babylonian tradition also recorded ten kings with fantastically high ages who reigned successively before the flood." (NABRE)

antediluvian= pre-flood (I had to look it up!)

I'm interested in how the different traditions and literature have similar styles and how they've changed over time and also how that change affects our reading of the text today. So much has changed over time that we are looking at the Bible with a completely different lens from those who've read it before us.

Jan 8, 8:09pm Top

I have a question which I've never thought about till today and I hope someone here has some knowledge about this. Due to Ham's indiscretion, God gives him Canaan. Abram comes along and God then gives Canaan to him and changes his name to Abraham. Is it just a coincidence that ham is added to Abram's name or does it indicate that Abram has assumed Ham's land and his name as well?

Jan 8, 8:26pm Top

>165 Carmenere: Interesting question! I have a concordance with a Hebrew dictionary, and there's no indication in the dictionary that the names are related.

Jan 8, 9:11pm Top

>165 Carmenere: How observant of you!

Jan 8, 9:26pm Top

>165 Carmenere: I found this interesting discussion of the Hebrew meaning of Ham. (http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Ham.html) It appears there are two different pronunciations and meanings for Ham. The entry for Abraham is here: http://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Abraham.html It does appear to be the same sequence of letters at the end as Ham, but the narrative suggest this is a pronoun meaning "they" or "them."

Jan 8, 10:02pm Top

Oops. I just realized that I've been say teeing through Genesis reading all the footnotes and I'm only up to chapter 12! Yikes.

Edited: Jan 8, 10:19pm Top

Ham = חָם

Abraham = אַבְרָהָם

Abram = אַבְרָם

Keep in mind to read left to right in Hebrew. And the vowels, under the letters, aren't in the older texts. That's a later addition. Abraham adds the חָ, ha sound to Abram.

Edited: Jan 9, 4:05am Top

>165 Carmenere: Just a short hint at an answer (I should be working here): Canaan was one of Ham's sons. What I find interesting is, that the curse was put on Canaan rather on his father. Canaan's brothers were 'Cush, Egypt, Put'. So like Egypt, also Canaan was a man who lived in a certain era which was later known under that name. Abraham was later given that land which was given the name Canaan, and in Canaan lived different peoples at the time of Abraham, not just the Canaanites. There is no connection between the name Ham (Canaan's father) and the much later born Abram (in names, that is). Abraham just takes over the land Canaan.

And >170 dchaikin: Daniel showed that there is חָ in Ham = חָם and a הָ in Abraham = אַבְרָהָם

Jan 9, 8:08am Top

>163 cbl_tn: Thanks for the mention of the IVP Dictionaries. I have a Harper's Bible Dictionary, published in 1985. There's a revised and updated version published 2011.

I found the discussion of YHWH vs Elohim in >153 paulstalder: and >154 paulstalder: to be quite interesting. The distinction isn't so clear when reading in Bible versions that were produced from the English translation of the Vulgate Latin translation. I'm looking at my Comparative Study Bible, and the names for God used in all four versions are "God" and "Lord," as in

Genesis 6:2 (KJV): "That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair"

Genesis 6:3 (KJV): "And the Lord said, My spirit will not always strive with men"

It's reasonable to infer that generally YHWH = Lord and Elohim = God, although that's probably a simplification. For example, using that rubric, I'm not sure what to make of Genesis 2:4 (KJV): "in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens."

My Harper's dictionary says that YHWH is the "most important" name for God in the OT, occurring about 6,800 times. One interpretation of the name is that it is "understood to signify God's presence." Another interpretation is the meaning, "He causes to be what exists (happens); i.e. YHWH is the creator and ruler of history."

The Harper's continues with other names for God, including the "generic" name Elohim. "Occurring about 2500 times in the OT, Elohim is one of three common generic names for the deity in the OT." On occasion the word means "gods" (as in Exodus 20:3), "but most often it is a plural of majesty for Israel's 'God' (e.g. Genesis 1:1)."

For me, it's enough to know that there's a distinction to be made when either "Lord" or "God" is used in any of my English versions. I have a feeling that this subject has been fodder for many dissertations, etc., and it's far beyond my expertise.

Jan 9, 8:36am Top

>168 thornton37814: >171 paulstalder: Well, I am disappointed and deflated! Although it was an overly simplistic thought, I had hoped that naming Abram Abraham was God's way of unifying factions in a land which had always seen turmoil. Too bad.

Jan 9, 9:06am Top

My reading plan has taken me through Chapter 29 of Genesis. I love the verse I read a couple of days ago at the end of chapter 24:

And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife. He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother. (24:67, NLT)

Genesis does not speak of Isaac having other wives or concubines like Abraham and Jacob did. There's just Rebekah.

Jan 9, 9:24am Top

I'm having trouble keeping up with my own Bible Read thread. :) I'm a little behind in my Bible reading because I didn't get any read over the weekend, but I believe I'm supposed to be on Chapter 30. My posts will lag behind a bit because I'm releasing one post a day on my blog, and then I copy/paste from there. Hopefully no one minds. I'll try to catch up on this thread's comments today or tomorrow.

Jan 9, 9:32am Top

>173 Carmenere: Don't get deflated because of that. You were noticing something and started to make connections and then you formulated a new thesis, something which no-one previously noticed (or said out loud).
A Hebrew professor (in Talmudic studies) once told one of the more diligent students who was always referring to, or quoting of, 'You don't speak up in class anymore until you say something which nobody else before has said.'
Do go on noticing such little things and ask, that makes all the others check their brains (and books).

Edited: Jan 9, 9:47am Top

A verse which is often over read: 4, 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the YHWH.
They started to call God's name as YHWH - ages before the Flood, more ages before Moses :)

The verb 'began to call' in Hebrew can also be translated 'began again to call' (some Hebrew verbs make no distinction between doing something for the first time or -re-doing something, like 'build' and 're-build' is the same verb)
After Cain's leaving the family, there may have been a break in worshiping YHWH and now with the birth of Seth's son (grandson of Adam and Eve) they take up worshiping YHWH again.

ETA: The name Henosh does also mean 'human', similar to 'adama'. Seth may have chosen that name in order to indicate that here is a new beginning after all the tragedy.

Jan 9, 9:54am Top

>176 paulstalder: Thanks for your kind and reassuring words, Paul!

Jan 9, 1:36pm Top

Just stumbled across this in the book I'm reading, Those who leave and those who stay by Elena Ferrante:
...he questioned me, he asked: for you, the woman, in the biblical story, is no different from the man, is the man himself. Yes, I said. Eve can't, doesn't know how, doesn't have the material to be Eve outside of Adam. Eve is Adam as a woman. And the divine work was so successful that she herself, in herself, doesn't know what she is, she has pliable features, she doesn't possess her own language, she doesn't have a spirit or logic of her own, she loses her shape easily. A terrible condition, Nino commented...

Edited: Jan 9, 2:12pm Top

>177 paulstalder:, Verse 4:26, that is how I read it too. I read that man's relationship with God is being come more and more distant and that now rather than communing with God (like in the Garden) man drifts away and occasionally comes back to worship. We will run into that concept again as we read along.

>173 Carmenere: I was excited about the Abraham/Ham thought. I had never noted that before but I don't believe that there is any connection other than the meaning of the words Abram and Abraham. Abram meaning exalted father and Abraham "father of a great number"

Edited: Jan 9, 10:04pm Top

Reading through Chapter 30 today, I noticed a few places where the future seems predetermined. Not only will Abraham's family end up in Egypt for 400 years, but they will return and achieve their homeland when the existing tribe has become bad enough to punish. It has a nasty sound to it. I've always felt that about the idea of predestination.

Jan 10, 7:50am Top

>141 paulstalder: That's an interesting alternative to the word "humble" Paul. Worth thinking about.

>142 labwriter: Sorry Becky, I thought I'd been doing that, but I skipped a couple, didn't I?

>143 casvelyn: Well, that's true, I didn't think about that. I don't know if that's what that sentence was meant to imply, but I can see why people would interpret it that way.

>144 cbl_tn: Thanks for the resource Carrie! As for the book, I had been contemplating that one for when I finish the ones I have but I haven't been doing a very good job on the The Literary Guide to the Bible and am loving Kugel's How to Read the Bible but am having trouble keeping up right now.

>145 labwriter: That's interesting to use as reference, thank you Becky.

>146 cbl_tn: I hadn't heard of it before this thread, Carrie. But it does look good.

>147 dchaikin: I've never read the KJV (though I have a copy with the Gustave Dore pictures), so I don't understand why everyone thinks it has such literary value. I mainly chose the ESV because it was the translation of the Literary Study Bible that I'm reading. I have about 5 translations, and was originally going to make this into an even bigger project in which I compared translations, but then I added other things to my to-do reading list this year. Probably for the best. :) But some day I'm going to have to read the Bible through using the KJV.

>148 labwriter: I've been in those fluffy stages of life. I totally feel you.

>149 Kristelh: That's an interesting interpretation, Kirstel. Never thought about a Biblical interpretation for why people shouldn't eat meat. :)

>150 ffortsa: Hi Judy! You're really making me curious to read the Alter translation. And there it is sitting on my Nook. But I just don't have the time. :)

I like that you're feeling suspense even though you already know the stories. That's evidence of a good story and good writing/translation.

Jan 10, 8:04am Top

>151 paulstalder: That's certainly one way of interpreting it Paul! I certainly see the connection.

>152 Kristelh: Living 500 years would be a lonely life in this world, Kristel.

>153 paulstalder: >154 paulstalder: Thanks for the synopsis and thoughts Paul. I especially liked your ruminations about Mt. Everest. A flood like that certainly would be tumultuous enough to make mountains.

>155 labwriter: Yes, this sin-at-the-end-of-a-story recursion is repeated in the rescuing of Lot from Sodom, when his daughters essentially rape him in his drunkenness.

>156 souloftherose: I'm having trouble keeping up with the discussion, too, Heather. It's moving along quite quickly isn't it? I wonder sometimes what the points of the genealogies are. But I see that they do make a good separation point from one story to the next.

>157 dchaikin: Interesting that Alter included that in his notes, Daniel. Becoming more and more interested in reading that translation.

>158 paulstalder: Thanks. I needed that.

Edited: Jan 10, 8:21am Top

>183 The_Hibernator: I wonder sometimes what the points of the genealogies are.

Besides providing a breaking point between stories, I wonder if they also reflect the kinship-based culture from the time the books were written? Knowing who your relatives and ancestors were wasn't just important for tribal affiliation, but also in the legal system (see Ruth).

Jan 10, 8:22am Top

>161 Kristelh: I know Kristel! They were on the ark for a really long time. The smell must have been horrible. :)

>163 cbl_tn: This is a very good point Carrie. My guess is that Paul is much more educated on the topic than I am and is much better able to make "forest" comments than I am. I'm just writing as I come across thoughts to write about. Unfortunately my technique means that my writing is lagging behind my reading, though!

>164 jennyifer24: So much has changed over time that we are looking at the Bible with a completely different lens from those who've read it before us.

Yes, I know. I was try to keep in mind what the original intent was when I read so that I don't judge the characters to harshly (like Lot offering to give his virgin daughters to the evil men of Sodom instead of his guests). It's the only way for me to safely get through a reading of the OT without losing respect for all the characters in it.

>165 Carmenere: It was a really good thought Lynda!

>172 labwriter: Very true that it has been the subject of much discussion. It's one way modern scholars use to separate the books into more than one author. Paul, of course, would disagree with that technique, but who am I to argue with modern scholars or with Paul on this subject?

>173 Carmenere: Awww. It was a really great thought, Lynda!

>174 cbl_tn: That's an interesting point about Isaac's wives, Carrie. I didn't notice that.

>177 paulstalder: Interesting Paul.

>179 dchaikin: Thanks for sharing Daniel. That's a sad passage.

>180 Kristelh: Kristel, the relationship between God and Abraham, on the other hand, seems to get more and more intense. It starts out with a few promises and grows into a relationship in which Abraham can question God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

>181 ffortsa: I haven't gotten that far yet. But there certainly is a lot of foreshadowing!

Jan 10, 8:22am Top

>184 casvelyn: That's very true! Good thought.

Jan 10, 8:24am Top

Until this year, I wasn't very familiar with the Tower of Babel. I'd heard of it, of course, but never thought about it. The story is one paragraph in Chapter 11 of Genesis. The people, who were united and had only one language, said "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11: 3 ESV) And God came down to see the tower and was displeased because "Nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them." (Genesis 11:6 ESV) So God confused the language of the people so that there were many languages. The people could no longer understand each other, so they dispersed across the earth.

Why is this short story included in the Bible between the story of Noah and the story of Abram? I suppose if you look at Genesis as a history of the people, this story was necessary to show how people dispersed around the world and developed different languages. It introduced the fact that there were now many peoples, and that Abram would have to navigate through some of those peoples in his migration later in the biblical narrative.

Looking at the story more minutely, though, why was God displeased by the city and tower? Is it because humans aspired to become like God? Was he teaching them a lesson in humility? That's what many scholars think of this story. But that makes little sense to me because of verse 6. If everything humans aspire to is now possible to them, then that implies that it is possible to be like God. It implies that God felt threatened. This is not our modern conception of God, certainly. Was it the ancient perception of God?

Ryken and Ryken point out in The Literary Study Bible that the story is satirical. The people are trying to build a tower that reaches the heavens, and yet God has to "come down" from the heavens to look at it. Also, they were building with bitumen and asphalt instead of mortar. But, again, if their attempt was in vain, then why did God say that everything they aspire to will be possible to them?

Ryken and Ryken also point out that this story is typical of human nature. We strive to develop technology that will make us more comfortable and more powerful - in essence, we strive to be like gods over our planet.

Edited: Jan 10, 8:26am Top

Chapter 5 of How to Read the Bible discusses the tower of Babel. In the story, the people were building a city with a tower that reached up to heaven. God saw the tower and decided to confuse their speech so that they couldn't understand each other anymore.

Ancient interpreters added context: They believed that everyone at that time spoke exactly the same language. As such, they could accomplish anything. When God saw that they had such high aspirations as to reach heaven, He confused them so that they would be unable to ever reach that high again. It is a story of human arrogance.

To ancient interpreters, it is the tower that angered God - because it reached so high. However, modern scholars question this emphasis on the tower. If the tower were the whole point in the story, why mention that they were building a city as well? In fact, after God confused the language and scattered the people, the Bible says "and they left off building the city." (Genesis 11:8)* The Bible doesn't even say a word about the tower's fate. Thus, modern scholars are saying that the point of the story isn't human arrogance at all. The story is actually an indication of how the Biblical Israelites thought about Babylon. Babylon's civilization must have seemed like teeming conglomerations to the sparsely populated Israelites. The story is about how God does not favor such a living situation. God also did not favor the use of metal tools to quarry or shape the stones of an altar, which is something the Babylonians were doing:

"If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it." (Exodus 20:25)

Well into modern times, people believed that all languages were corruptions of the one original language. Ancient interpreters believed that this original language was Hebrew. After all, in the Bible, God always spoke to Himself, and to people, in Hebrew. There was plenty of Aramaic included in the Bible, so why have God speak in Hebrew rather than Aramaic? Because, clearly, Hebrew was the original language.

Modern linguists mostly agree that all Semitic languages do go back to one root language, but that this language is not Hebrew. This theoretical language is called Proto-Semitic. Biblical Hebrew is several developmental jumps away from Proto-Semitic. In fact, Moses couldn't have written the Bible, modern linguists say, because his Hebrew was much older than that used in the Bible. Nor can the Pentateuch, or the book of Psalms, be the work of one author because the Hebrew used is from at least two different periods or regions.

*All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version

Jan 10, 8:37am Top

>184 casvelyn: Adding on to my previous thought: Knowing the genealogies also allowed your people group to create narratives about other people groups, like "Well, they're descended from so-and-so, and we all know he was a very bad person, so we can't trust them/should take their land/whatever."

Edited: Jan 10, 9:58am Top

I found an article on genealogies (by J. W. Wright) in the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. The article's author points out a difference in the Hebrew used to introduce 11 of the genealogies in Genesis, and indicates that this Hebrew phrase doesn't have a good English equivalent. These 11 genealogies seem to have an important role in the structure of Genesis. The Hebrew phrase is ʾēlleh tôlēdôt, and it is often translated "these are the generations." The phrase appears 5 times in Genesis 1-11 and 6 times in Genesis 12-50. It is used twice in Esau's genealogy, so Wright counts this as one instance.

Wright sees a pattern in the use of this phrase, with the 1st, 3rd, and 5th genealogies in each section of Genesis (1-11 and 12-50) being expanded upon in the narrative, while the second and fourth genealogies in each section are not further developed in the narrative. It's easier for me to see this pattern in ch. 12-50, where the 1st, 3rd, and 5th genealogies are Terah, Isaac, and Jacob, and the 2nd and 4th are Ishmael and Esau.

I thought that this paragraph pretty well sums up his point:

"The genealogical structure of the tôlēdôt formula gives Genesis its distinct nature as the story of a particular family amidst all the families of the world. Even as the narrative develops linearly, the genealogical structure brings the readers’ attention back to this particular family, the family of Jacob/Israel, as it heads into the future. Yet this family stands in particular relationships with other families, indeed, all other families of the earth, and thus continues the “tôlēdôt of the heavens and earth” with which the story began." (I'd reference the page number, but I'm using an online version that doesn't have them!)

ETA: I should have been more clear that the phrase is used 11 times in 10 genealogies.

Jan 10, 11:00am Top

>190 cbl_tn: Yes, I can see that very clearly, the focus on one family. In fact, it has been making me a little claustrophobic about the story. It seems SO personal at this point, and I think will feel that way throughout Genesis, at least to me.

It also contrasts with the inclusiveness of the New Testament, where belief is the critical factor, not lineage.

Jan 10, 3:10pm Top

Hi all! I've read through Chapter 30, reading The Literary Study Bible. I've been feeling rather shocked, frankly, because I've heard quite a few of these stories but never in church, and was expecting to hear that the people God chose were righteous and good. It's not always the case, especially as I read chapter 29 about Jacob and Leah and Rachel. But then I read the commentary after Chapter 29 and before Chapter 30 that ended with "...the story of Jacob once again shows God's choosing difficult and unpromising material to accomplish his purposes, that there is more shadow than light in the stories of Genesis, and that it was from an unedifying thicket of human passions that the twelve tribes arose."

For some reason, reading an acknowledgement that some of the men and women God chose were less than perfect makes the stories even more accessible.

One thing I can't help thinking about is how are these nasty situations/devious behaviors/and etc. presented to little kids? I wasn't raised in church, so don't have that perspective.

Jan 10, 3:54pm Top

>188 The_Hibernator: In fact, Moses couldn't have written the Bible, modern linguists say, because his Hebrew was much older than that used in the Bible.
In fact, Moses wrote an old Hebrew, actually the language of Canaan, and the priests preserved it. When King Josiah found scrolls in the temple and started to reform the cult (cf 2 Kings 22-23), he did not start to compose/put together/write the Pentateuch in order to unite and centralise the cult, he reformed the whole thing and took up the old ways again. If he should have introduced a new canon of Scripture at that time, there would have been no time to make that into a undisputable tradition (as it was), his successors were keen on reversing his reforms. So can a reform which was reversed by the successors become so widespread and accepted that no-one ever doubted Moses' authorship until our modern time?

Mose wrote: Exodus 24,4 and 34,27 and 17,14; Numeri 33,2; Deuteronomy 31,9 and 31,24. What did Moses write? He learned Egyptian and then the language of his people - and they came from Canaan into Egypt.

Moses couldn't have written the Pentateuch because he was using an older Hebrew? We have no records of older Hebrew than the Bible. I think I just don't understand that sentence.

Gilgamesh: There are different documents from different times with significant variations. The epos is dated around 2400 BC, the oldest copy being around 1000 BC. We have different documents from the Bible also around 1000 BC with minor variations. And we already have a translation of the same text around 400 BC. But we do not dare give it the same age

Jan 10, 4:10pm Top

>190 cbl_tn: Thanks for bringing that topic up.
Genealogies are quite important in Jewish thinking (or Korean for that matter or many other people). I find it interesting that they were leaving Egypt as tribes which knew each others kins. The Egyptians did not achieve in destroying their idea and feeling of a people made of different families (now tribes). It later became important again after the Exiles when coming back: who belongs to a tribe and who doesn't, only the true descendants were allowed to help in rebuilding Jerusalem etc. And moving to Israel today one will have to prove his/her ancestors were from Jewish origin.

The Roman emperor at the time of the fall of the Temple was using Jewish genealogies in order to find out if there are any relatives left of Jesus Christ...

Jan 10, 4:40pm Top

Genesis 10,8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man... 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, ...
Nimrod was into city building. He built Babel, Nineveh etc.
13 Egypt fathered Ludim, ..., Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came) -> the Philistines were descendants of Cush, the brother of Canaan and later lived in the area of Canaan, too.

Tower of Babel: Yes, the story of Babel is satiric in that Moses wants to tell everybody where the Babylonians came from, and of their failure to build a large tower - confused by God through a simple trick... :)
The humans should conquer the whole earth and not squat together in the same place, 'fill the earth' was God's commandment. They wanted to make themselves a name, 'lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.' The rebelled against God and therefore God intervened - not with punishment but with an efficient trick: he made them use different languages :) clever, humans were not able to overcome that barrier and therefore left their city and tower unfinished - and did what God has commanded, they spread over the whole earth.

Linguists: There was one single language before Babel, and then suddenly came different languages into being. There is no way in constructing a 'proto-lingo' because we don't know if the former language is still around.

Jan 10, 5:01pm Top

>187 The_Hibernator:, >188 The_Hibernator: As always, very interesting posts Rachel. I don't pretend to understand the story of the Tower of Babel but I think there's a bit of an anti-urbanisation theme throughout Genesis which this may tie into.

>190 cbl_tn:, >194 paulstalder: Thanks for sharing - always helpful to understand more about those genealogies.

>192 karenmarie: 'was expecting to hear that the people God chose were righteous and good.' Karen I used to find that really confusing! I did attend church when I was younger but don't remember much about the presentation of these stories (plus I've read them since and then that's replaced the earlier memories I expect). I think they focus on the ones that are easier to explain (like Noah and the ark being saved but spending less time on the people and animals not on the ark who die). They definitely left out the sex and the bloodshed and the getting drunk and the rape. Hopefully someone else will have a better memory than me!

A theme in Genesis seems to be God choosing the younger son over the elder (the culture of the time would have expected the elder son to be chosen) and often he chooses quite unpleasant people (I really dislike Jacob). I'm glad you're finding the stories more accessible now - maybe appreciating less than perfect characters is something it's harder to do as a child? Children have such a strong sense of justice.

Jan 10, 5:06pm Top

The genealogies will come up again when we get to the New Testament in the fall. Two of the four gospels open with the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew in chapter 1 and Luke in chapter 3.

>191 ffortsa: I've always read Genesis 12:3 and similar passages as being more inclusive.

I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (ESV)

I do see your point, though!

Jan 10, 5:22pm Top

>192 karenmarie: I've been in church all my life so I really don't remember how early I learned about the flaws in the character of so many of the patriarchs. Like Heather mentioned in >196 souloftherose:, for preschool children the focus is on stories like creation, Noah's ark, Jacob and Esau, Jacob wrestling the angel. I seem to think that we started looking at the >196 souloftherose:"sex and the bloodshed and the getting drunk and the rape" around junior high.

I'm not really sure how parents handle things today. The modern translations like the NIV didn't start appearing until I was 10 or 11 years old, so we read from the KJV when I was in Sunday School. If/when we read Genesis 4:1 in Sunday School, we got:

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. (KJV)
Today's children would get Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. (NIV)

Jan 10, 5:23pm Top

A quote about 'levels of narratives' from How to read the Bible for all its worth by G. D. Fee and d. Stuart:
It will help you as you read and study Old Testament narratives to realize that the story is being told, in effect, on three levels. The top level is that the whole universal plan of God worked out through his creation. Key aspects of the plot at this top level are the initial creation itself; the fall of humanity; the power and ubiquity of sin; the need for redemption ...
Key aspects of the middle level center on Israel; the call of Abraham; the establishment of an Abrahamic lineage through the patriarchs; the enslaving of Israel in Egypt; God's deliverance from bondage ....
Then there is the bottom level. Here are found all the hundreds of individual narratives that make up the other two levels: the narrative of hos Joseph's brothers sell him to Arab caravaneers heading for Egypt; ...

- applying that to the Tower of Babel narrative:
3rd level: Humans want to build a city and a tower, but God comes along and changes the languages.
2nd level: Israel was part of these people who thought to disobey God, their ancestors were part of that rebellion.
1st level: God wanted humans to spread and occupy the whole earth. So he had to confuse their languages in order to achieve his goal.

Jan 10, 8:20pm Top

Tower of Babel>199 paulstalder:, Israel was part of these people who thought to disobey God, 10:25, (the sons of Shem) Two sons were born to Eber; the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided (this probably refers to 11:9) There the Lord confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the Lord Scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

I find the story of Babel interesting and it represents for me, man's continual rebellion and defiance of God's commandments.

What I remember from Sunday school was that the Bible stories were made into children's stories and taught with the use of flannel boards so the actual Bible stories as found in KJV or any other was not read to us but was told in an adapted manner. The story of Adam and Eve was told with the emphasis on the eating of the wrong tree, the trying to cover self and God seeking them and then leaving the Garden. The next story I remember was probably Noah and the Ark and the emphasis on Noah alone was found to be worth saving and his obedience in building the Ark and the animals going in 2 by 2. Etc with Moses being found in a basket on the river. Mostly the stories didn't have a lot of substance and sometimes were inaccurate such as David a boy when he was probably an older teen, not a boy. The church made these stories appealing to children with only simple messages.

Jan 11, 6:33am Top

We were telling our kids the Biblical stories as well, and we didn't leave things out. (I was telling them in Swiss German, having a German book in hand.) We didn't start with all the wars, obviously. Compared to Struwwelpeter or the tales of the Grimm's the Biblical stories are less violent and better to understand the punishment in terms of teaching or consequences of deeds. And in Korea my wife witnessed corruption and murder (remember the Kwangju massacre) daily. If children only are confronted with violence when they are over 18 or so, they may react stronger to it that when they were told by their own parents what the world is filled with. A father/mother can tell stories better, that the kid doesn't get problems, than when it is given clips on whatsapp etc by their classmates.

My father had a dozen chickens and we kids were helping when the chicken were slaughtered. I remember holding a chicken when my father cut off its head and then, when I let it go, it flew away several meters. Death was part of life.

Telling Harry Potter to kids is more confusing for kids because the violence there is sometimes just inexplicable.

Jan 11, 7:18am Top

>199 paulstalder: Paul, thanks for the reference to How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. I think it's hugely helpful when we make statements or assertions here about the "meanings" of biblical stories or about biblical study that we also give an indication about where the information we are referencing can be found. For every statement made (such as, for example, >195 paulstalder: "the story of Babel is satiric,") other scholars can be found who interpret the story differently.

For example, a biblical scholar I hugely respect and rely on is Walter Brueggemann. He's written many books on biblical exegesis, including the book on Genesis for the Interpretation series--Genesis: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching.

Brueggemann's discussion of Genesis 11:1-9, the story of the Tower of Babel, this one short story, goes on for 9 pages in his book about Genesis. Nowhere in his discussion is the idea mentioned that the story of Babel is "satiric."

We all come to this book with different ideas about it; we come from different religious traditions (or no particular religious tradition--or very particular non-religious traditions) and our conversations here are obviously respectful of each others' views. I'm intrigued to hear views about the Bible that I haven't heard before. It's interesting to consider that the story of the Tower of Babel is considered to be satiric by some people. However, it makes me very nervous when we make assertions here as if one point of view is the end-all of the discussion--especially when there is no source mentioned for a particular point of view.

Obviously it's everyone's prerogative to post anything here the way they would like to post it. What I'm saying is merely a suggestion--that it would be more helpful, and also more interesting, if assertions made about the text are accompanied by a source.

>200 Kristelh: I agree with you about the Sunday School stories that were taken from the Bible. When we were small children, the stories we learned in Sunday School were made appropriate for small children. I'd forgotten about the flannel boards. We had those too.

There are also many story books for children about the Bible. One that I read to my son, published in 1982, that I think is particularly excellent is Catherine Marshall's Story Bible. What makes it really special is that the illustrations are made by children. This sort of book is a good way to introduce a little bit older child to bible stories.

Jan 11, 8:32am Top

>202 labwriter: Thanks, Becky, for your speaking up for sources! But I must confess, that a lot of things I said above is 'made up' by myself :) When reading a book as literature my attitude is: Take the assertion of the author as it is shown on the book, then read the whole thing, and then come back to passages I didn't understand. Reading Agatha Christie: When I come to the end and I have missed a hint, I may go back and look for it and try to understand everything from the text. The same thing here: I don't understand something, I read it several times and look for clues for understanding. Only afterwards I go to commentaries etc. So realizing that God has different names, I got intrigued and tried to find a pattern/explanation and so I came up with the flood paragraphs. And sorry, when I formulated my messages as being the finite truth, that was not my intention. I want to bring my ideas as clear and simple as possible, and sometimes I miss being English-mother-tongued.

But I do have my sources, books I have read ages ago and some I do consult again.
Kurzgefasste Einleitung in die heiligen Schriften Alten und Neuen Testamentes : zugleich ein Hilfsmittel für kursorische Schriftlektüre by F. W. Weber, published 1902. Being the 11th edition, Weber is replying to Wellhausen and others about the document hypothesis in the introduction. on wikisource https://de.wikisource.org/wiki/Kurzgefa%C3%9Fte_Einleitung_in_die_heiligen_Schriften_(11._Auflage)

The documentary hypothesis and the composition of the Pentateuch : eight lectures by Umberto Cassuto, originally published 1941. Eight lectures given then by this outstanding Jewish scholar.

Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels (1905) by Julius Wellhausen, the 'father of the document hypothesis'. He had a problem: He could not understand how a people with different tribes were having such a centralised cult and law as the Israelites has it. So he came up with the idea of a late centralising force in Israel's history. I think, pointing out that he was German and the Germans had a long way to go before their 'tribes'/principalities/kingdoms etc were centralised and had a single law. There were always German emperors but they always introduced new law and a new capital. Wellhausen had no idea that a people could be united 'centralised' as a people already in Egypt and then stuck together because they understood themselves as a people under God's guidance.

Erinnerungen an die Genesis : die Chinesen und die biblische Urgeschichte by C. H. Kang. Explaining Chinese characters

Linguistics & biblical interpretation by Peter Cotterell and Max Turner. Cotterell was missionary in Ethiopia. This book has some good insights into linguistic topics.

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by Gregory K. Beale

Scripture and truth edited by D. A. Carson. Interesting articles on hermeneutics and inerrancy.

Hermeneutics, authority and canon edited by D. A. Carson. Interesting articles on hermeneutics and authority.

Genesis : an introduction and commentary by Derek Kidner

The Genesis enigma : why the Bible is scientifically accurate by Andrew Parker

Das erste Buch Mose : 1. Teil Kapitel 1 bis 11 by Hansjörg Bräumer

and my favourite (used with salt): The book of Genesis illustrated : all 50 chapters by Robert Crumb :)

Jan 11, 8:46am Top

>202 labwriter: very nice post. It's a quite an amiable (and smart and diverse) group here.

Jan 11, 11:17am Top

>203 paulstalder: Thanks for the list, Paul. You've certainly read deeply in this subject. I may look for the Cassuto (it being in English, after all!)

Jan 11, 11:49am Top

>202 labwriter:, Catherine Marshall's book is excellent.

Jan 11, 2:29pm Top

Reading on through the Jacob stories in Genesis, I kept thinking of him portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal. I don't think it's just the name coincidence - JG can always muster up a sneaky appearance.

Edited: Jan 11, 5:35pm Top

>203 paulstalder: Great, Paul. You have a perfect right to post whatever you want here, in whatever way you want to post it. It's just that I've been in enough diverse Bible study groups that I'm just a little sensitive to emphatic biblical exegesis.

I'm a little miffed at Amazon. I still don't have my Literary Study Bible. Maybe tomorrow.

Jan 12, 4:16am Top

I've been doing other things the past few days, and need to catch up from >129 paulstalder:.

The Hebrew Bible as literature : a very short introduction came in the mail, and I can only recommend it. It talks mostly about the differences between Biblical prose and poetry, and how they complement each other. The final chapter on 'Connections between texts' is also very interesting.

Edited: Jan 12, 5:09am Top

>209 MarthaJeanne: >140 The_Hibernator: Oh, thanks for reminding me of dendrochronology. I didn't answer Rachel's question.
When cutting a tree, one sees 'tree-rings' of different thickness. Good growth means thicker rings, bad growth, thin ring. Finding trees from different ages in the same area allows us to compare these rings and come up with a 'growth-history' of a tree, which indicates the climatic particularities of the time the ring was added by the tree each year (it doesn't work with human belly rings, though :) ).

A picture showing the findings of the trees, the cut-through of a tree, and the overlapping parts, which then allow a history line backwards. Quite fun, actually.

Edited: Jan 12, 5:24am Top

>204 dchaikin: :) 'amiable' I had to check the pronunciation of that word, it has a nice ring to it. Thanks.

>208 labwriter: Thanks, I think reading the Bible together must bring us to formulate our thoughts carefully and to listen to each other carefully, too. But you know, we are a GAP (a Group of Amiable People).

Jan 12, 6:21am Top

I have just found this thread and starred it. I will follow this group read and do my best to keep up. Not sure which Bible version I will use yet though. I will probably start with Louis Segond or Parole de Vie (both French) as that will fit with my language category challenge too.

Jan 12, 12:31pm Top

It's interesting that there is such a variety of Biblical knowledge here. My personal approach is to read The Literary Study Bible and not get diverted with other sources or detailed explanations of various interpretations.

I'm a simple soul.....

And, I've read through Chapter 35. The story of Jacob, Leah, Rachel, and Jacob's two sons is not particularly edifying.

Edited: Jan 12, 12:46pm Top

>213 karenmarie: Gen 34 is one of the darkest chapters, I think.

(ETA - you're in The Red Tent territory. )

Jan 12, 2:10pm Top

I finished Genesis yesterday, before I had to fly off for a visit to my sister. The Alter book is heavy and I didn't want to carry it with me, and the story was more and more engrossing thanks to the footnotes.

Jacob and Joseph are - I'll be kind - wily people. But today we would probably say the family is damaged. Was life so difficult that it required guile to survive?

Alter really stresses the pattern of favoring the younger over the elder son, and reading the whole story through as I did, the point is well taken. I don't know what to make of that. It's so specific at the end, when Jacob blesses Joseph's sons. And after all, it started back with Cain and Abel, from God's preference. A puzzle.

Jan 12, 2:36pm Top

>215 ffortsa: I never thought of that, but it also a theme exemplified in Jesus' parable of the prodigal son. The older, faithful son, feels dismissed when his erstwhile younger brother not only disrespects their father by askign for his inheritance early, but then squanders it on riotous living. Why does the father so cherish the return of the younger, when the older has been there all along. I have been challenged by this parable over the years as I identify more with the older brother than the younger. the trouble with falling into the older brother trap is that he never asked his father for anything. He simply existed in his role as the oldest. The younger returns, but is humble and seeking forgiveness.

I know this is not about Jacob or Joseph, but it does speak the younger son theme.

Jacob was indeed a stinker. But, God intended for him to be blessed and Jacob was faithful therein.

In Joseph's case, he was a smart man. I'm sure he was humbled by his experiences as well. But he was faithful throughout.

Jan 12, 4:12pm Top

>202 labwriter: babel as satiric: Cassuto calls it that. Gerhard von Rad calls it irony. Humans try to reach heaven and god has to come down from heaven to actually see something ...

Jan 12, 8:55pm Top

>217 paulstalder:, God having to come down to actually see something, that is irony!

Jan 12, 10:25pm Top

Genesis 27: The Stolen Blessing. The Hebrews take serious this blessing of their children. Since my grandchildren have been in Kindergarden, I take them once a year to Grandcamp and we spend time together in God's word, memorizing verses and just enjoying camp. The last day, Grandparents speak a blessing on their grandchildren as a closing ceremony. My granddaughters love going to Grandcamp. It's a great thing to do, speaking blessings on your children and grandchildren.

Vs 36: Esau blames Jacob for cheating him twice but the first time Esau dispised his birthright. Esau is not accepting how he chose to give up his birthright for a bowl of stew. Jacob is a usurper but later he comes to terms with his faults where Esau cries and then begs for a blessing which when given, you wouldn't really want. A wise person once told me, be careful what you ask for.

I do blame their mother for interfering. She did not trust God but thought she had "to help things along". When humans act this way there usually are some very serious consequences. Because of this, Rebecca loses her favorite because he has to flee.

Chapter 28: Jacob as "coming of age" fugitive fleeing for his life. The Divine-human encounter. This is one of my favorite stories. If Jacob is a Mommy's boy he probably is feeling pretty scared and lonely. God pursues Jacob and He blesses him with the covenant blessing. God did this, not because Rebecca forced His hand. Maybe God also wanted to maneuver Jacob away from his mother so Jacob could grow up a little. I like how Jacob recognizes God and says "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven." vs 17. Bethel (house of God). Kind of ends with Jacob "bargaining with God".

Chapter 29: Jacob gets a little lesson in being trickster from the master, his Uncle Laban. Love story of Jacob's courtship.

Chapter 29:31 through 30:24. The births of the "12 tribes". Now we have two sisters competing with each other to have children. If Jacob didn't like Leah he still spent a lot of time having sex with her. Also it seems like Jacob is just doing whatever these women are telling him to do.

Jan 13, 4:11am Top

Sorry for my absence. I work physically trying 16 hour days, and sometimes I just want to sleep and not look at LibraryThing. I have a backup of blog posts, so they post regardless of my daily internet activity, so I'm behind on transferring them here!

>189 casvelyn: That is a good point. And there's a lot of taking over other people's land in the Pentateuch.

>190 cbl_tn: That's interesting, I never thought about it as a story of one family, but it really is. But that family was the basis of the entire Jewish race, according to the Bible. So it's an important family to them. Origins seem to be important human nature, as you can see from in myth, religion, and science.

>191 ffortsa: By the time the NT started, the Jewish race already existed. It was no longer an origin story. Notice the term Genesis implies origin. By the time we get to Exodus you're including a whole race of people. And by the time of the NT, you're including all people. Each step broadens the scope.

>192 karenmarie: I went to Catholic school as a child, and was raised by very Catholic parents (also, I AM Catholic...it's not just my background). I, also, was taught children's stories as a child - and they were nice and tame. The stories were changed to focus on the good and not the bad. I remember when I first read the OT as an adult I was shocked at some of the awful things that happen.

>193 paulstalder: So can a reform which was reversed by the successors become so widespread and accepted that no-one ever doubted Moses' authorship until our modern time?

Until modern time, the Catholic Church was in charge of what people believed, and the masses of people were uneducated and unable to make their own decisions about religion. So it's not a surprise that people bought into myths that were started by who knows whom at who knows what point in history. Yes, it took a little time for scholars to catch up and start thinking critically about the Moses story, but it takes time to develop scholarly movements against a force such as religious beliefs.

That said, I really don't care who wrote the Bible. It doesn't change the content of the Bible one iota, as far as I'm concerned.

>194 paulstalder: You are right. Genealogies are important to most people. Even aboriginal tribes seem to have a "son-of" naming system. It defines who a person is, for some reason.

>195 paulstalder: I beg to differ, there seems to be a proto-lingo. But to me that doesn't change the moral of the story.

>196 souloftherose: You really dislike Jacob? What about his murderous brothers? :)

>197 cbl_tn: And I see your point.

>198 cbl_tn: Yup!

>199 paulstalder: I hadn't thought about the "God wanted (and ordered) people to spread the earth, as to why God disapproved of the Tower of Babel. Thanks for pointing that out.

>200 Kristelh: Again, thanks for pointing that out.

>201 paulstalder: I agree that people shouldn't shelter their kids as much as they do. Until recently, I volunteered at a suicide help hotline (I wish I still did, but it is not to be at the moment), and I have not hesitated to talk about my experiences there in front of my nephew who was 10-12 during that time. I think it is good for him to understand that suicide is something that it's ok to talk about, then if he ever gets suicidal, he can talk about it. I was shocked when I dated a guy with kids during that time and he refused to answer when one of them asked "How did Marilyn Monore die?" I mean, just the fact that she asked suggests that she has some inkling of it, and he taught her it's not ok to talk about suicide. But this is a digression from the Bible, of course.

Jan 13, 4:26am Top

>202 labwriter: I, too, noticed Paul's habit of saying things in definite terms. But I decided not to let it bother me because he's just showing what he believes and that's ok. I feel that so far this conversation has gone very well - there has been no hostility, as I was afraid there might be when I openly named the thread exactly what it was. Janet (streamsong) advised me to name it secretively because she has had experiences with people on LibraryThing who do get nasty when talking about the Bible. But I wanted to encourage more people to join, so I decided to not to err on the side of caution. I am very pleased at how the conversation is going so far.

>203 paulstalder: Good point about reading something carefully oneself before using secondary sources. But some people reading the Bible do not have the leisure time or the wish to study the Bible closely like that. However, I would like to point out that you, like all people, irregardless of reading supplementary material are entering this reading with preconceived notions that were taught starting childhood. These notions are influencing our interpretations just as surely as supplementary material would.

>204 dchaikin: Indeed.

>205 ffortsa: Agreed.

>206 Kristelh: Good. :)

>207 ffortsa: I'm not sure who Jake Gyllenhaal, but I'm culturally illiterate in terms of pop culture.

>208 labwriter: I was a little sensitive at first, too, but after thinking about it I decided not to be.

>209 MarthaJeanne: I wish I had time to read all this supplementary material!

>210 paulstalder: Thanks Paul!

>211 paulstalder: GAP - I love it.

>212 sirfurboy: Welcome!

>213 karenmarie: There's a lot of the OT that I don't find very edifying.

>214 dchaikin: I've always thought Joshua with all that genocide is the darkest moment.

>215 ffortsa: Wow! Finished already? Good job. I'm only on chapter 40

>216 brodiew2: I hope Joseph learned from his mistakes as well.

>217 paulstalder: I see nothing wrong with interpreting it as satiric. But, then, I also consider it allegory.

>218 Kristelh: Yes, indeed, since it was intended to reach to heaven.

>219 Kristelh: I agree Jacob must have been pretty scared, though I hadn't thought of it before.

Jan 13, 4:27am Top

Genesis 12 describes God's call to Abram to leave his home and family in the land of Chaldea and travel forth to the land which God appoints for him. God promises "And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse," (Genesis 12:2-3 ESV). So Abram, his wife Sarai, and his nephew Lot all traveled forth to the land of Canan, where they settled.

But a famine drove them to Egypt. There, Abram was afraid that he'd be murdered because his wife Sarai was so beautiful, so he told her to call him her brother. Pharaoh took Sarai into his harem, and Abram became rich because of his "sister." But soon, a curse fell upon Pharaoh, who discovered that Sarai was Abram's wife not his sister. He was angry at the deception, but sent Abram and Sarai safely on their way. Presumably for fear of Abram's god. This lie is how Abram made his fortune.

Later, Abram and Lot separate, both to build their families in peace. Lot went to live in Sodom. But there was war going on between rivaling cities, and Lot was taken prisoner by Sodom's enemy. Abram built and army and saved his nephew. The king of Sodom then praised Abram and told Abram to take the goods that he had rescued, but Abram refused, saying he didn't want people to say that he had become rich because of the king of Sodom.

These chapters (Genesis 12 - 14) introduce a hero, Abram, who becomes a lasting part of the biblical narrative henceforth. Abram is considered righteous - why else would God have chosen him - but he also has his flaws. Instead of telling the truth and hoping for the best, Abram lies about Sarai in Egypt. Despite Sarai's probable mortification of being part of Pharaoh's harem (did she deserve this fate?), Abram profited greatly off the situation, and then happily left with his wife and his fortune when he was found out. He could be said to have been made rich by Pharoah, but then later he refuses to be made rich by the king of Sodom. Why is this? Does he have more respect for the king of Sodom (a city later destroyed by God because of its wickedness?) than he did for Pharaoh? Or did he simply want to be more careful when he was so close to home?

I also wonder about Abram's lack of faith in God during his time in Egypt. Why didn't he trust that God would keep him and Sarai safe? Why, instead, did he put Sarai in harm's way? And why did God save Abram despite his lack of faith? What had Abram done that was so respectable in God's eyes?

Jan 13, 4:28am Top

Abram's story continues with a vision from the LORD. Abram complained to the LORD that despite His promise when Abram left Chaldea, God had given Abram no offspring. So God renewed his promise that Abram would have numbers of descendants to rival the stars. But Abram was still not satisfied. He asked: "O LORD GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?" (Genesis 15:8 ESV). God requested a sacrifice, which Abram provided. Thus a covenant was formed. But the LORD said "Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgement on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions." (Genesis 15:13-14 ESV).

Because Sarai had given Abram no children, she told him to sleep with her servant. When the servant, Hagar, became pregnant with Ishmael, Hagar scorned Sarai for being barren, and Sarai became so angry that Hagar ran away. But the LORD found Hagar and told her to return to Sarai, and that her descendants would be innumerable.

Time passed until the LORD again reminded Abram of the covenant. The LORD said "No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations." (Genesis 17:5 ESV). God told Abraham that for him to keep the covenant he must circumcise himself and his entire household, including family, servants, and slaves. God also changed the name of Abraham's wife from Sarai to Sarah. God promised to bless Sarah and make her the mother of nations. But Abraham laughed at this proposal. Weren't he and Sarah too old to bear children? Couldn't God bless Ishmael? But God told Abraham that Sarah would bear a son, and that he should be named Isaac. But that Ishmael, too, would be the father of kings.

So Abraham circumcised himself and his entire household.

This story shows the patience of God despite the ongoing doubt of Abraham - a doubt which foreshadowed those of Abraham's many descendants during the Exodus from Egypt - a doubt which seemed to encourage God to punish Abraham's ancestors by bonding them into slavery for centuries.

But why was God so patient with Abraham. What was so special about him? And why the name changes? What did these changes signify?

In addition to further developing the characters of God and Abram/Abraham, this story also developed the character of Sarai. Before this, she was only mentioned as a passive character, but here she was shown to love her husband so much that she wanted him to bear a child, even from someone else. But when that someone else, a servant, scorned her, Sarai was no longer placid and giving. She became bitter and angry. This character development foreshadows further angst later in the narrative.

Jan 13, 4:28am Top

Sorry my blog posts are lagging behind my schedule. I figure once I get to the later parts of the Bible it will slow down a bit, so the backlog will catch up.

Edited: Jan 13, 4:33am Top

>220 The_Hibernator: >195 paulstalder: There might be a proto-lingo, I agree, but to construct one we have not enough knowledge.

BTW 11,7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.
The verb translated 'understand' here means actually 'hear'. God made them not to hear each others speech. Looking to Pentecost where it is reported that the people listening to Peter's sermon 'heard' everything in their own language. Most interpreters say that the apostles did speak different languages, but the text only says that everybody understood everything in his language. So in a sense me saying there was one language and then many different ones, is not quite right. It could also be that they all spoke different languages but they had the ability to 'hear' = 'understand' each others lingo and then God changed their hearing. When one can not hear the other, there is no team work possible.

Edited: Jan 13, 5:18am Top

Chapter 6 of Kugel's How to Read the Bible covers the call of Abram to leave the land of Canan (Genesis 12 - 15).

Abram (or Abraham) is thought of as the first monotheist, but where did this legend come from? It is not explicitly stated in the story of Abram that he is monotheistic (though allusions to it are included in the New Testament and supporting documents written later in the Hebrew history). This belief that Abram was a monotheist comes originally from early scholars who believed that Abram must have done something to deserve being singled out by God and given great nations of descendants.

Philo suggested that the people of the land of Chaldea, whence Abram was said to have traveled, were astronomers. They had calculated the movements of the sun and stars very well, and worshiped the sun and stars as Gods. Therefore, when God said to "Leave Chaldea!" he was telling Abram to believe in only one God.

Josephus, had a similar theory about the astronomy of Chaldea. The Chaldeans had calculated the number of days in a year to be 354.25. But what kind of number is 354.25? Wouldn't a god have chosen a nice round number? This inconsistency with god's order suggested that the sun was not a god.

Early scholars probably believed Abram was a historical figure, but later scholars (modern scholars before the 1900s) tended to believe that he was metaphorical. However, starting in 1933 archaeologists discovered a huge library of clay tablets in the ancient city of Mari. These mentioned many of the cities that were described in Abram's narrative. Some of these documents date back to the time when Abram probably would have lived if he lived. After this, biblical archaeology was explored with fervency.

Jan 13, 5:17am Top

That will be the last post from Kugel's book because I've set it aside due to my work schedule and how many other bookish commitments I've made.

Edited: Jan 13, 5:19am Top

>225 paulstalder: Good information to know.

I'm going back to bed. I've been up since 2am and it's a day off work (otherwise I would have been there by 2:45am)

Edited: Jan 13, 8:26am Top

While I wait (shipped, but still waiting) for my Literary Study Bible, I'll just make a few points about what the Abraham narrative means to me.

Abraham--the father of a multitude.
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. (Genesis 17:5, NIV)

Abram was a man of faith. He answered the call of God. The theme of the Abraham narrative is the theme of God's promise and of Abraham's response through faith. "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you." (Genesis 12:1, NIV)

"So Abram went as the Lord had told him;" (Genesis 12:4, NIV)

Abram was leaving his home and community, a place that was known (his kindred, his father's house), a place of security, not for something that was known, but for a promise. As Walter Brueggemann puts it in his Genesis commentary: "The whole of the Abrahamic narrative is premised on this seeming contradiction: to stay in safety is to remain barren; to leave in risk is to have hope" (118).

Abram was not perfect--he was flawed because he was human. Will there be an heir? Can God be trusted? "And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai." (Genesis 16:2) He should have been listening to the voice of God. His conduct towards Hagar was mistrustful of God and cowardly.

Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah were hopeful for an heir--for the fulfillment of God's promise--but they were also human. They doubted and they were impatient. Ultimately, his faith permits Abraham to trust God.

I recommend a book by Jonathan Krisch, The Woman Who Laughed at God (because, as we know, Sarah also laughed). The book is subtitled, The Untold History of the Jewish People.

Another book I like is The Story of Ruth: Twelve Moments in Every Woman's Life, by Joan Chittister. We'll get to the story of Ruth and Naomi later, but I wanted to say that sometimes we seem to focus only on the men of the bible. The women are a fundamental part of the stories as well.

Jan 13, 9:01am Top

>214 dchaikin: Hi Daniel! I read The Red Tent when it first came out in trade paperback and was fascinated by it. I then read or heard somewhere that it was historically flawed, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of it.

>226 The_Hibernator: I'm fascinated with biblical archaeology, Rachel. I've read two of Bruce Feilor's books (Where God Was Born and Walking the Bible) and recently watched a very strange and edifying CBC show called The Naked Archaeologist. Plus I've always been fascinated with the Dead Sea Scrolls and even went to see them at our local History Museum several years ago, when there was an exhibition. I did a bit of searching just now (I don't use Google, so can't really say I 'googled' them), and see that The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library offers them online now. I think that there was always a kerfuffle about who could view/study them, so it's good to see them available to all.

Jan 13, 9:26am Top

>229 labwriter: I agree that there was a lot of faith (and doubt) involved that Sarah would bear a child. Also, thanks for the recommendations.

>230 karenmarie: I, also, have read and enjoyed The Red Tent and Walking the Bible. At least I think I've read Walking the Bible. It doesn't appear to be in my library.

Thanks for the website recommendation.

Jan 13, 9:58am Top

I haven't brought my book on my vacation, so I can't look this up. Is it stated anywhere that Abraham had an older brother?

Jan 13, 10:22am Top

>230 karenmarie:, >231 The_Hibernator: Walking the Bible is also a PBS series.

Jan 13, 12:48pm Top

>232 ffortsa: Terah's genealogy in Genesis 11 names two sons besides Abram - Nahor and Haran. Since Abram is named first, it might be reasonable to assume that he was the oldest brother, but I don't think it can ever be more than an assumption. Genesis doesn't give us that much information.

We'll see another instance of God's preference for a younger son when we get to the story of David in 1 Samuel. We get a clue there as to God's reason for preferring the younger son over any of his older brothers:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7, ESV)

Jan 13, 3:32pm Top

With chapter 12 'the real history' begins, I guess. So far the Bible gave us a bird's view of important events. There are 10 generations from Adam to Noah and ten generations from Noah to Abram - 10 being the number of completeness, responsibility of human. Human had time to find the way back to God, but it always got worse with the rebellion against their creator. After Seth's birth people honored the name YHWH (again), but always human went astray and just knew that Elohim was behind everything but otherwise didn't care about God (far away or personal).

Noah was looked upon God because he was righteous, Abram was chosen - not because he was righteous, but because God wanted to start something new. He wanted to start a whole nation and YHWH did not chose the strongest or the best or the biggest or the richest people, He chose a single couple without children in order to make clear that there is nothing special in the people of Israel than their being chosen.

Jan 13, 5:06pm Top

I dug out another interesting book: Sprachliche Stilfiguren der Bibel: von Assonanz bis Zahlenspruch by Walter Bühlmann. About rhetorical figures of style which appear in the Bible. (cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_rhetorical_terms)

so far we had the following examples:
Figura etymologica in 1,11 (Let the earth sprout vegetation = Let the earth green Greens)
Paronomasie in 2,23 (she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man, ishshah = woman, ish = man)
Geminatio (iteratio) in 22,11 (Abraham, Abraham!)
Geminatio (reduplicatio) in 1,1-2 (God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was... -> repetition of earth)
Inclusio in 4,23-24 (Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, ... Lamech's is seventy-sevenfold)
Hendiadyoin in 3,16 (in Hebrew: pain of childbearing)
σχημα καθ' ολον και μερος = shape over the whole and part in 3,15 (he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel
Palindromy in 1,27 (God created man (a) in his own image (b), in the image (b) of God he created him (a). )
Chiasmus in 9,6 (Whoever sheds (a) the blood (b) of man (c), by man (c) shall his blood (b) be shed (a). )
Prolepsis in 1,4 (Hebrew: God saw the light, that it was good. and not: God saw that the light was good.
Intensification in 12,1 (Go from your country (1) and your kindred (2) and your father's house (3). )
Metonymy in 3,15 (seed = offspring)
Metonymy in 18,27 (I who am but dust and ashes = I am just a man)
Concretum pro abstracto in 6,6 (heart as the center of emotions)
Ideogram in 15,17 (a smoking fire pot = God from Mt Sinai)
Enallage in 29,14 (Hebrew: the days of a month or a month of days = a whole month)
Pars pro toto in 19,8 (Hebrew: under the shadow of my roof = roof for house)
Hyperbole in 11,4 (a tower with its top in the heavens)
Catachresis in 27,44 (Hebrew: heat meaning fury)
Euphemism in 24,2 (Put your hand under my thigh)
Ambigua in 20,2.12 (She is my sister. - she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father ...)

Edited: Jan 14, 9:34am Top

>51 cbl_tn: Carrie, I was looking over your list of books--Genesis in Literature. Thank you for posting this! I'm so tempted by John Woods' translation of Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers. I'm warned by other readers that the book is about 1500 pages of smallish text. And then Woods warns in his Introduction not to begin at the beginning--but to get involved with the book first (for example, read "The Story of Dinah," Chapt. 3) so that the reader gets hooked on the book--and then go back to the Prelude, "Descent into Hell." The sample on Amazon reads well, but if I try to read this along with my other reading, I'm sure it would take me to the end of the year. Might be worth it anyway.

God's promise to Abraham continues through Abraham's son Isaac and then through Isaac's son Jacob.

A listing of Abraham and Sarah's family:

Abraham + Sarah = Isaac

Isaac + Rebekah = (twins) Esau and Jacob

God changed Jacob's name to Israel, and from his sons came the 12 Tribes of Israel--the Israelites. All Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews.

Jacob married two sisters, Leah and Rachel.

Jacob + Leah = The daughter Dinah comes from this union--Genesis 30:21--the "Dinah" of The Red Tent (see >230 karenmarie:, >231 The_Hibernator:. Dinah was Jacob's only daughter. The sons from this union:

Levi: From him came the Levites (Moses, Aaron, and John the Baptist were descended from Levi)
Judah: It was from Judah that the Jews were descended, including Jesus and most Christians in the earliest days of the church.

Jacob + Rachel = Joseph and Benjamin (Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin). Joseph was his father's favorite son from his favorite wife. Joseph had two sons: Ephraim and Manasseh.

Jacob + Bilhah (Rachel's maid) = Dan and Naphtali

Jacob + Zilpah (Leah's maid) = Gad and Asher

What we might call the "Jacob Narrative" runs from Genesis 25:19 through 36:43.

Edited: Jan 14, 5:30pm Top

I mulled over the flood again (I like that word 'mull over'). Here the literary structure of the text.
12 paragraphs
1. 6,9-12 world before the flood
2. 6,13-22 god tells Noah of his decision
3. 7,1-5 God speaks to Noah to go into the ark
4. 7,6-9 entering of the ark
5. 7,10-16 the flood begins
6. 7,17-24 the waters rise
7. 8,1-14 the end of the flood
8. 8,15-17 God tells Noah to leave the ark
9. 8,18-22 leaving the ark and sacrificing
10. 9,1-7 God blesses Noah
11. 9,8-11 God promises the covenant
12. 9,12-17 the sign of the covenant

The first 6 paragraphs depict the acting out of God's justice and the destruction of the earth till there is only the little spot of the ark on the water filled earth. In the second 6 paragraphs we see the subsiding of the waters and the beginning of a new peaceful earth.

Par. 1 and 6 end with 'upon the earth'. The para. inbetween with parallel expressions of Noah's obedience to God's instructions. Para. 7-12 all end with 'the earth' (8 and 12 actually 'upon the earth'), taking up the ending of the first para. again. Wording of the Hebrew text.

What a clear structure throughout the whole story. Amazing piece of literature.

Jan 15, 6:29am Top

According to the schedule set up for the readings, this is the last day I'm going to spend on Genesis.

The Abraham Narrative, Genesis 11:30-25:18

The Jacob Narrative, Genesis 25:19-36:43

The Joseph Narrative, Genesis 37:1-50:26

Jan 15, 7:48am Top

In Chapter 18 of Genesis two angels and God appeared at Abraham's tent. Abraham saw them and thought they were three men, so he rushed to extend his hospitality to the guests. Hospitality was of very high importance to Abraham's culture, and he did everything right. He set Sarah to work kneading flour, prepared a calf, and provided curds and milk. After this, the angels and the LORD revealed themselves to Abraham and told him that Sarah would bear a child. Sarah, who was eavesdropping, laughed at this, and the LORD scolded her. Sarah, afraid, denied laughing.

After this, the LORD forewarned Abraham that he was going to destroy the city of Sodom. This was a turning point in the narrative - God had never before used Abraham as a confidant, and Abraham jumped right on top of his new level of relationship by questioning "Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?" (Genesis 18:24 ESV). When the LORD said that he would not sweep away the city for the sake of the fifty, Abraham questioned about forty-five, forty, thirty, twenty, and ten. Each time the LORD answered that he would save the city for the sake of those righteous people.

Then, the two angels went down to Sodom. Lot saw them, and thinking they were men, invited them to his home, and provided a feast. But the evil men of Sodom surrounded Lot's house and demanded the guests be sent out so the men could sodomize them. Lot stepped out into danger himself and refused to send out the guests, instead offering his virgin daughters as an exchange. When the evil men of the city threatened to worse-than-sodomize Lot, the angels intervened and struck blind the men at the gate. They told Lot to take his entire family, including his daughters' grooms, and leave the city for it was about to be destroyed. But Lot's sons-in-law thought he was joking and didn't heed the warning. The angels insisted, and finally Lot left the city with only his daughters and wife. They were told not to look back, and because Lot's wife looked back, she was turned to a pillar of salt.

Lot was living in a cave alone with his daughters, who were concerned that there were no longer men to marry. They worried that Lot's line would thus end. So they got Lot drunk and raped him while he was passed out.

This is an early example of the thriller/suspense genre. The reader hears that these cities will be destroyed, and wonders (along with Abraham) whether God will destroy the righteous with the evil. And how will God respond at being questioned so closely by Abraham? Did Abraham overstep his relationship with God? It seems not, because God answered Abraham patiently and kept his promise.

The suspense heightens throughout the story, with each incident showing how evil the men of Sodom were and how righteous Lot was. That is, assuming that when the story was written readers would interpret Lot's offer of his virgin daughters instead of his guests as the height of hospitality (and therefore worthy of God's smiles). Of course, to me, sending out innocent girls doesn't seem a good solution at all.

The action peaks when Lot's wife is turned to a pillar of salt because she looks back at the destruction of Sodom. This don't-look-back plot point is similar to the older story of Orpheus, who went on a quest into Hades to rescue his deceased (and dearly loved) wife Eurydice. He was told not to look back when leaving Hades, but couldn't resist looking back to see the face of Eurydice, who then disappeared back into Hades.

The end of the story is a bit puzzling. Why, after Lot had been so righteous throughout the story, was he rewarded by being raped by his daughters? Surely this incest was just as disgusting to the readers of the time as it would be to us?

The notes in The Literary Study Bible have a different interpretation of Lot's righteousness than I do. It points out that despite the New Testament commentary on Lot as a righteous man (2 Peter 2:6-8), Lot was closely tied to the evil city of Sodom. This close tie was shown by his reluctance to leave the city, even when the angels said that it would be destroyed. They had to drag him out of the city by his hand, in fact. The commentary ends by saying "it is easier to get the family out of Sodom than it is to get Sodom out of the family."

Jan 15, 12:24pm Top

I'm rather proud of myself - I finished Genesis today, as per the schedule. It's been an interesting read. Some of the stories I knew a little bit about, some nothing. The commentary is helpful for broad themes and the occasional foray into the NT for comparative insights or contradictions.

Onward to Exodus tomorrow.

Jan 15, 1:14pm Top

Genesis is one of the most commented upon books of the Old Testament. Two books that I have enjoyed that are not scholarly works are Genesis by Bill Moyers, where there are small group discussions of the book with a fascinating array of people (this was also a TV documentary on PBS at the time) and Madeleine L'Engle's The Genesis Trilogy, which includes her reflections upon the stories in Genesis.

Jan 15, 1:47pm Top

>242 ronincats: Thanks for mentioning those, Roni! I enjoy Madeline L'Engle, and I may look for this trilogy sometime.

The BibleGateway reading plan has me in Genesis for a couple more days. According to this plan, I should finish Exodus right on time at the end of the month.

Edited: Jan 15, 4:38pm Top

I have been enjoying my daily Bible readings which I follow up with some short comments in The Bible Reader's Companion by Lawrence O. Richards. He is very readable and gives some real-life applications which I enjoy. I received my copy of The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter but havent started it yet. The discussion on this thread has been top-rate. I feel like I am sitting in the back row of a very fine class of Bible scholars!

I have two more days in Genesis. So many good stories...

Jan 15, 5:18pm Top

Just catching up with this thread (and LT generally) at the end of your first book. Fascinating to read all your comments, questions and amiable discussions! Thank you.

Coming to this late, I'm certainly not going to commit myself to a catch up read of Genesis, and haven't decided whether I will join you in a full reading of the rest of the Bible through the year. But I'll certainly be following the discussion as much as I can, and make any contributions I am able from my own reading and study.

It was interesting to see some discussion of close reading vs seeing the bigger picture, and historical/literary/critical reading vs whole book or whole bible story arc. Reminds me of my experience, first as a student of medieval literature in my undergraduate and graduate studies - I chose to study a course called 'Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic' because I loved what I knew of the old stories and myths, and wanted to read more of them. After a year or two of having to write lots of essays on whether x text was really written by y author, or whether z poem dated from the 7th century CE as it claimed or was actually written in the 10th century, or how far the written texts truly preserved a much older oral tradition, eventually I got rather fed up and wanted to be allowed to think and write instead about what the stories and poems meant to me today, and to pay attention to the narrative shape, the imagery and language because of their emotional and aesthetic power rather than as clues to the age or authorship of the text. In other words, I wanted to be allowed to think about whether and why these texts still mattered, hundreds or thousands of years after they were first formed.

I took that experience with me when a few years later I began serious biblical studies as part of my training for ministry in the Church of England. And I was fascinated to discover that the history of biblical criticism from the 19th century to the present had gone through stages very like my personal journey - with the earlier emphasis on types of study which tend to fragment the text:
-historical linguistic questions in textual criticism
-source criticism (trying to unravel the possible different strands of authorship underlying the form we have today)
-form criticism (looking at the genres of smaller units of text - hymns, poems, letters, stories - and trying to discover the particular social contexts in which they arose)
leading on to a variety of approaches which move towards re-integrating the text and reading it as a whole, paying attention to what it says to us today:
-redaction criticism (paying attention to the apparent work of editors weaving together the strands of earlier sources)
-canonical criticism (looking at the final form of particular biblical texts in relation to the rest of the biblical canon ie how it fits in with overarching themes and narrative arcs)
-reader-response and narrative criticism (more literary approaches)
and all the variety of ways of reading (among them feminist and liberation theology readings) that acknowledge that our starting point influences our interpretation or that encourage a 'hermeneutic of suspicion', reading to notice who or what is left out, what is not being said, who does and does not have a voice...

I was also grateful to bring into the mix of modern biblical study what I could remember of some of the approach taken by medieval scholars and readers - particularly the idea that the same passage could be read not simply literally but also in three different allegorical ways: typological (connecting Old and New Testament eg the near-sacrifice of Isaac seen as a type or pre-echo of the sacrifice of Jesus), moral, and anagogical (prophetic or predictive of future events) - see Wikipedia summary here.

While the results of much medieval bible interpretation would probably read as very strange and strained to modern readers, I did like the encouragement to playful, imaginative freedom which this allegorical approach provides.

Sorry, I didn't mean to write such a long post - but there was so much in this thread that prompted thoughts and memories...

Jan 15, 5:49pm Top

I have read up to the story of Dinah. A sad story. I like the comment in the Literary study Bible. Jacob is a weak father in this story and if he had followed God's command, his daughter would not have been raped. Consequences.

Jan 16, 7:56am Top

Some random thoughts:

I watched the Walking the Bible series in PBS over the weekend. I was able to find 3 hour-long episodes--I wish there were more. The series is really excellent, and I recommend it. I'm also reading the book on which the series is based, Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses, by Bruce Feiler.

>243 cbl_tn: Thanks for mentioning the Bible Gateway reading plan. While I've read many parts of the Bible many times, I've never read it from beginning to end before. I think having a more specific plan, like the one found at the Bible Gateway, will help me to stick to the task.

>245 gennyt: That's quite an esoteric jaunt through the application of lit crit to biblical study. I'm particularly drawn to your "hermeneutic of suspicion"--who or what is left out, what is not being said, who has a big voice, who has no voice at all. However, "suspicious" reading also implies a measure of distance from the text, and "distance" is probably the exact opposite of what I'm hoping to gain from biblical study. While I want to scrutinize facile assumptions, I don't seek an adversarial attitude towards the biblical text in the way I might when reading other literature.

As you demonstrate with your enumeration of many approaches to modern biblical study, it's impossible to pay attention to everything as we read through the text. What I seem to be drawn to this time through is the issue of "character"--who are these people and what do they have to tell us? I'd like to be able to put them into a geographical/historical context, which is why I like Feiler's book.

Happy reading!

Jan 16, 8:49am Top

>247 labwriter: " I don't seek an adversarial attitude towards the biblical text in the way I might when reading other literature."

This is a really interesting comment and has me thinking.

Jan 16, 12:34pm Top

>247 labwriter: While I want to scrutinize facile assumptions, I don't seek an adversarial attitude towards the biblical text in the way I might when reading other literature.

I agree that an adversarial attitude toward the text of the bible may not feel appropriate for everyone, or indeed necessary anyone, taking part in this group read - whether or not they approach the text from a position of faith. And I certainly wasn't advocating that approach personally. Though as I understand what it means, a hermeneutic of suspicion is not necessarily a starkly adversarial approach, more a matter of 'reading between the lines', at least in its gentler forms. Like for example being aware of the possibility of unreliable narrators in other texts. Of course some may not be comfortable with the idea of unreliable narrators among biblical authors.

You are right that we can't pay attention to everything at once - your choice of responding to characters and understanding their context sounds like a fruitful one. I need to decide if I'm going to try to do a complete read or not, and then decide what I'm trying to focus on.

Jan 16, 5:32pm Top

>245 gennyt: That's a very helpful summary of the history of biblical criticism!

>247 labwriter: I keep meaning to read Walking the Bible but I haven't managed to fit it into my reading plan yet. Maybe I can at least find time for the PBS series.

I index several journals for a published index. This afternoon I picked up the latest issue of Leaven, one of the journals I index, and discovered that it's a theme issue on The Joseph Story. I read the first three articles this afternoon. The first article included an intriguing observation on Genesis 37:2, Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. (ESV). The author of the article (whose last name I forget but whose first name is Andy, the same as my brother) mentions that one possible translation of the Hebrew would have Joseph shepherding his brothers as well as the sheep. Many interpreters see Joseph as a tattletale. However, if it's correct to translate the Hebrew as Joseph shepherding his brothers, he may have been the one in charge even though he was the youngest of the brothers. Joseph was the son of the favorite wife, and the brothers who received a bad report from him were the sons of Rachel and Leah's servants and possibly held a lower status within the family.

Edited: Jan 16, 7:51pm Top

Joseph. I believe that he was a favored child of his father and that he had a vision of himself "shepherding" his brother's. I think it his youth he probably stepped on a few of his brother's toes and sibling rivalry being what it is, got himself sold off and ended up in Egypt which was God's purpose so that he could take care of his people during the drought.

I like t he idea of reading for what is not there as well as what is there and I don't see that as adversarial at all. Things that are not there also have meaning and purpose.

Edited: Jan 18, 7:14am Top

I've studied the Bible with several different church groups, but I've never read it straight through before, from beginning to end. Normally our study group would spend weeks or even months on just one book.

One of the challenges of reading the Bible from beginning to end is that the order of the books doesn't always make sense chronologically, narratively, or from the standpoint of authorship. That's just something that has to be accepted when reading the bible straight through. For example, we're going to hear a lot about Moses in Exodus. However, there are many other books of the Bible that will (later) fill out his character. Reading Bible commentaries helps.

I think another thing that helps is a specific reading plan, like the one at biblegateway.com. Biblegateway allows you to choose any version you want along with a reading plan. I'm mainly reading the New International Version (NIV). The reading for January 18 is Exodus 1-3. I read it online, and I think it took me about 10 minutes.

If you've never read the Bible before, then my advice if you get behind in the reading is to jump back in--if you get a week or two behind and you don't have time to catch up, don't worry about it. Just start again and do that day's reading. If you have time, find something online that gives an overview of the book you're reading.

So in Exodus we encounter Moses. Does anyone know the book An Educated Man: A Dual Biography of Moses and Jesus, 2010, by David Rosenberg? I found most of it online as a Google book. It's pretty helpful in answering the question, "Who was Moses?"

Edited: Jan 18, 7:37am Top

>247 labwriter: I've been reading Walking the Bible off and on for ages. I didn't know about the PBS series. Thanks for mentioning it, I'll check it out.

>252 labwriter: Somehow I've fallen behind so it was nice to see this ....."if you get a week or two behind and you don't have time to catch up, don't worry about it. Just start again and do that day's reading. " Great idea!

Jan 18, 10:48pm Top

>247 labwriter: Today was a sick day for me. After I got back from the doctor, I stopped at the library to pick up the DVD set of Walking the Bible and I watched it this evening. I also thought it was excellent. It's a good way to picture the landscape that provides the background for Genesis-Deuteronomy.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Father Justin, librarian of St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, in the third episode. I've met him and heard him speak!

Jan 19, 7:47am Top

I'm going to try to keep going here. I'll post things that capture my interest, but there's lots more to post. I hope others will join me. Bible quotations from the NIV. In my plan, the reading for Jan 19 is Exodus 4-6.

>253 Carmenere: Glad to help; >254 cbl_tn: Hope you feel better.

Exodus 4:19--"Now the Lord had said to Moses in Midian, 'Go back to Egypt . . . .'"

Here's a map of the area that includes Midian and Egypt.

Moses says to God, Exodus 4:13--"Please send someone else." Moses struggled with the call. He finds reasons to be excused. He had some sort of speech impediment, so God told Moses to find his brother Aaron--Exodus 4:16 "'He will speak to the people for you,'"

In Exodus 4:27, Aaron meets Moses at the mountain of God. The Mountain of God is also referred to as Mt. Horeb, or Horeb, aka Mt. Sinai. Here's an interesting discussion about the location of Mt. Sinai. The article includes a map that shows the location of St. Catherine's Monastery, mentioned above (>254 cbl_tn:).

Moses and Aaron say to the Pharaoh in Exodus 5:1: "'Let my people go,. . . .'"

Exodus 6:28--"Now when the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt, he said to him, 'I am the Lord. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you.'"

Jan 19, 8:00am Top

I am still checking in off and on. I am going to read as I go and not worry if I miss. I've read the Bible straight through many times and there fore it is not a problem to drop in and out. I've noticed a decrease in activity here. Too bad.

Jan 19, 8:51pm Top

I've started a list for Exodus in Literature: http://www.librarything.com/list/11217/all/Exodus-in-literature#

I'd love for others to add to it, and also let us know which ones you've read. The only one on the list I've read is The Grapes of Wrath, and that was so long ago that I don't remember any parallels to the Exodus story.

Jan 20, 5:04am Top

Just finished my reading of La Genèse - Louis Segond Version of the Bible

I am 5 days late but that's not bad as I started on January 12th. I have already started on Exodus.

My brief review: well this was a familiar story to me, although my first time reading it in French. Having recently read The Bible Doesn't Say That, I was struck by a difference between Genesis 1 and 2 that Joel Hoffman had pointed out but just seemed more obvious in the French. Where Genesis 2 starts speaking of the LORD God instead of God, I tend not to notice this in English. However the difference between "Dieu" and "L'Eternal Dieu" was much more noticeable to me in French, as is all use of "L'Eternal" on its own for "The LORD".

Other than that I had no great new insights, although enjoyed reading what others have said here. The story begins with the creation and then the flood narratives before moving onto Abraham. Isaac gets little attention, whereas Jacob gets a lot, and then of course there is the Joseph narrative, leading to the children of Israel living in Egypt, nicely setting the scene for the sequel... Exodus :)

Jan 20, 5:23am Top

>257 cbl_tn: That's a good list. I was a huge Leon Uris fan when I was young. I think I read Exodus when I was in high school in the late 1960s. Ditto Herman Wouk, although I haven't read The Lawgiver, published in 2012 when he was 97. Seriously? My favorite book of his is still The Caine Mutiny, published in 1951.

The reading for Jan 20 found in the Bible Gateway reading plan is Exodus 7-9. In this reading we get 7 of the 10 plagues of Egypt. In keeping with my focus on "character" in these readings, I was thinking about the character of the Pharaoh (the term "Pharaoh" isn't a personal name, but is the equivalent of "king of Egypt"). Evidently there is much scholarly debate about who this Pharaoh was. As I was reading these chapters, I remembered a poem I once studied in college by Percy Bysshe Shelley, representing the impermanence and inevitable decline of great leaders. This sonnet was in my mind as I was reading about this Pharaoh who would not listen to God:


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Jan 20, 12:05pm Top

>255 labwriter: I've always enjoyed the story of Moses; he's another of the very-much-human characters of the Pentateuch (first 5 books). He tries so hard to get out of taking on the task that God wants him to do; one can almost read the account as comic (in fact, I can't read it without smiling now). Nevertheless, Moses did step up, did do what God wanted him to (and then some).

Karen O.

Jan 20, 3:32pm Top

Oh, my, two posts in a row from me!

I just wanted to post about my good news in getting a copy of Alter's The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary from the library. I'm looking forward to seeing what Alter has to say about Genesis (and the rest of the books).

Karen O.

Jan 20, 7:22pm Top

>261 klobrien2: I don't have that one. I'd be really interested to hear what you think of it.

Jan 21, 11:50am Top

I've only read the first few pages, but already I learned what "Tanakh" stands for the three types of books in the OT. So much to learn!

Have you read any of his other books? He has one about biblical narrative that sounds very applicable to this thread, as well.

Karen O.

Jan 21, 2:14pm Top

My reading today took me through the last of the plagues and the start of the Exodus. I've often heard the plagues interpreted as being directed at the gods of Egypt. I have Tremper Longman's How to Read Exodus and he takes this view as well, although he doesn't go as far as some who suggest that there is a specific god against which each plague is directed. Some would be obvious, like darkness corresponding to the sun god, Ra. Other plagues like hail or locusts don't seem to have an obvious correlation to a specific god.

Edited: Jan 22, 7:11am Top

>263 klobrien2: Alter's written a lot of books, but I don't think I've read anything by him. I'd be tempted to get that one or the one on biblical narrative.

>264 cbl_tn: I'm in Exodus, too. Today it's chapters 13-15.

Moses says to the people, 13:9--"the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand."

The place names in Exodus are very specific:

13:20--"After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert."
14:1,2--"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon.'"

Moses tells the people, when they doubt, to "Stand firm" (14:13).

The Song of Moses, Exodus 15: 1-18.

Exodus 15:20--"Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron's sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing."

The Song of Miriam, Exodus 15: 21.

Miriam the prophet was the sister of Moses and Aaron. She will be mentioned again in Exodus and also in Numbers, Deuteronomy, and 1 Chronicles.

Jan 22, 7:44am Top

One of the frustrations I have with reading the Bible straight through like this is that there isn't time to read supplementary material the way that's possible if a group is spending months on one book of the Bible at a time. I bought Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers, translated by John E. Woods. I didn't add the touchstone because I didn't see the Woods translation. It was published by Everyman's Library in 2005.

This is a novel--I don't think it's an exaggeration to say this--of epic proportions. If you know the "Everyman's" series, you'll know that these are relatively small volumes printed on thin paper. The font is very small and the book has almost 1500 pages. Oh woe.

I would really like to stop where I am and read Mann's book. On the other hand, I'm enjoying the daily readings and feel like I'm accomplishing something. So what will probably happen is that this book will go on my towering pile of TBR's.

Jan 22, 8:47am Top

I would like to read Joseph and His Brothers some day but not now, it will be when I have an epic amount of time which isn't now. I agree, reading the Bible and reading other sources at the same time would require reading the Bible much slower, maybe 5 years instead of 1 year.

Looking at Exodus: From Nelson study Bible, NKJV
The first section (chapters 1-18) written as a story of epic prose portrays God as the Savior and Provider of His people.
God saves the infant Moses from a death by water
Put's him in Pharoah's court where he gets the finest education of ancient times
Then he get's the next education in the Midianite wilderness. God is shaping him to deliver His people. When Moses tried to do this on his own and in his own timing, he failed.
God works in periods of 40 years with Moses.
God shows his power with miraculous signs and plages over the gods of Egypt. Pharoah himelf proclaimed himself to be an inacarnate diety.
Pharoah had proposed to distroy the first born sons of Israel, God destroys the first born of the Eygptians in the 10th plague and saved Israelites who placed the blood on the door posts so that the destroyer would passover.
At the Red Sea, God again saves Israel from the Egyptian army.
The enslaved were saved, God was the Saviour of his people.
On their way out of Egypt, God causes the Egyptians give them gifts (provisions) that will help them survive.
God gives them water
God gives them manna
God gives the quail

Edited: Jan 23, 8:00am Top

Jan 23, Exodus 16-18. I often use Harper's Bible Commentary and Harper's Bible Dictionary to flesh things out.

The people found in these two chapters:

Moses and his brother Aaron are still together with the Israelites.

Joshua--he was of the tribe of Ephraim. He leads the first battle fought by the Israelites, against the Amalekites.

Hur--he was the husband of Miriam, so he was Moses and Aaron's brother-in-law. Hur was the son of Caleb, descended from Judah.

Exodus 17:10--"So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill."

The Amalekites were nomads inhabiting the desert south of Judah.

Jethro--the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, father to Zipporah, Moses' wife. Moses is united with his wife and sons (the names of his sons aren't mentioned here).

Jan 23, 8:33am Top

Canaan again: Genesis 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan;
a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said,
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;
and let Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth,d
and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be his servant.”

The curse is against the (later) Canaanites. In Gen (10,19 And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.) We read where the Canaanites will live: Sodom and Gomorrah and other cities which where subjects to descendants of Shem (cf Gen 14,4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer...) and Japheth, and Japheth was was allied with Shem and was therefore allowed to dwell in the tents of Shem. The sins of the Canaanites of Sodom and Gomorrah were (among others) of sexual nature.

Jan 23, 9:56am Top

Due to my father's health I got behind in my reading over the past week. Haven't even started Exodus. But after my dad's surgery on Tuesday I promise I'll catch up and get back on track with my posts. :)

Jan 23, 2:29pm Top

>270 The_Hibernator:, thoughts and prayers with you and your father for Tuesday.

Jan 23, 3:08pm Top

>270 The_Hibernator: sorry to hear about your father. Wish you allthe strength and wisdom to deal with the situation. Great you are taking care of your dad

Jan 24, 1:47pm Top

>270 The_Hibernator: Sorry about your father. Take all the time you need.

Jan 24, 4:56pm Top

Jan 24, Exodus 19-21

This is today's reading in my reading plan. Everyone else is probably doing something different.

Jan 24, 6:41pm Top

>274 labwriter: I'm using the same reading plan from Bible Gateway. :-)

Edited: Jan 25, 10:04am Top

>275 cbl_tn: Great! I find that following the "read-in-a-year" plan at Bible Gateway is keeping me on track in a relatively painless way. I'm not very good at reading many pages at one sitting.

Jan 25, Exodus 22-24

Exodus 23:31--God says to Moses, "I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River."

A map showing the area described in Exodus 23:31

I received a copy of The Literary Guide to the Bible, ed. by Alter and Kermode, and I'm reading the Introduction. For all of the literature I studied in college, and all of the Bible study I've done in small groups, I've never studied the Bible this way--as literature. My copy is the first edition, published in 1987. Alter is Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, U of CA at Berkeley, and Kermode is an English critic and Fellow of the British Academy. So their commentary is coming from a decisively secular point of view. It helps me to know that--for others it might not make any particular difference. Another educator who writes extensively about the Bible is Harold Bloom, a literary critic who wrote The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation, 1992; 2nd edition, 2006 (a book I haven't read, but IMO he certainly seems to have his finger on the pulse of the way we lean towards religion (or away from religion) in this country these days. For this Bible read-through, I'm going to be reading Bloom's The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible, 2011.

So Alter and Kermode present essays by various scholars on the books of the Bible. The Genesis and Exodus essays are written by J.P. Fokkelman.

Jan 25, 5:25pm Top

Wow. So many interesting titles in this thread!

I haven't started Exodus yet, but I did manage the time to finish The Bible: A Biography by Karen Armstrong

This book is more or less a survey of the history of all the various components and possible authors of both the Old and New Testament, along with the various Jewish commentaries. I found it interesting, but now I'll need to go into some of these subjects in more depth.

One set of ideas, however, was VERY interesting. Armstrong talks about the clash of religion and science that generated the Scopes trial for teaching the theory of evolution, and states that the literalist fervor with which some fundamentalist Christians endow the story of creation came as a reaction to this trial, and thus created a great divide in the United States that is very much in evidence today. Although Scopes lost, the ferocity of the prosecution (by William Jennings Bryan) and defense (by Clarence Darrow) caused people to adopt more radical, unbending positions than they had had before.

She also talks about the American fundamentalist support of Israel as much less benign to Israel and Jews than it might appear. Some of the communities of faith believe that at the end of days, which the existence of the state of Israel precedes, 75% of all Jews will be slaughtered by the forces of the second coming.

There and elsewhere in the history of the bible, the forces of polarization recapitulate the effects of the story of the Tower of Babel, and keep us from peace.

Jan 26, 4:21am Top

>276 labwriter: I read The book of books : the radical impact of the King James Bible, 1611-2011 by Melvyn Bragg with much interest. It's more about social and political impacts than literary.

Edited: Jan 26, 9:08am Top

Jan 26--Exodus 25-27

The Tabernacle and "all its furnishings."

Exodus 27:21--"keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning." That verse reminds me of a gospel hymn we used to sing in our church choir: "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning." Which also reminds me that the hymns we sang in church were also ways of teaching and learning and repeating stories from the Bible.

Jan 26, 6:35pm Top

I'm chugging along in The Literary Study Bible, reading Exodus.

The thing that I find interesting is that God continually tells Moses to warn Pharoah about various plagues if he, Pharoah, does not let Moses and his people go, but God also says at each telling that he will harden Pharoah's heart, not giving Pharoah the free will to acquiesce to Moses' requests. Pharoah is just a puppet. I'm not saying Pharoah is good, just that he has no chance to be good in this scenario.

Edited: Jan 27, 7:09am Top

Jan 27, Exodus 28-29

The instructions from God about ordination and worship continue.

Aaron was of the tribe of Levi, and was chosen by God to be the interpreter of his brother Moses. Later in Numbers we will see that there is conflict between the Aaronid Levites (those who descend from Aaron) and the Mushite Levites (those who descend from Moses).

Aaron was chosen by God to be the first high priest of the Israelites. His sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, were also chosen by God to be priests. The priesthood would descend through Aaron's male line.

29:29--"Aaron's sacred garments will belong to his descendants so that they can be anointed and ordained in them."

29:44--"So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God."

Elie Wiesel writes about the character of Aaron, about his "supporting role," in his essay, "Aaron in the Bible."
"He is a man of peace. He succeeds at everything. Everyone admires, even loves him. Whether great or small, they need him, his understanding and his mediation. Whatever he does, he is well regarded." But as we shall see, Aaron, like all biblical characters, "must be imperfect."

Harold Bloom, in The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible, indicates that while Aaron is a close ally to his brother, the prophet Moses, yet he is also "potentially an antithetical rival."

Jan 27, 9:17am Top

I also read Exodus 28-29 today. This passage includes the establishment of the priesthood through Aaron and his male descendants. The priestly descendants of Aaron are the Cohanim. There are some fascinating Y-DNA studies involving men who claim descent from the Cohanim. If you're interested in this sort of thing, you'll find more information here and in the external links to the Wikipedia article on Y-chromosomal Aaron.

Edited: Jan 28, 8:05am Top

I was having a conversation with someone on my thread about this group. The comment made was, "I feel like the group has turned it into a religious reading of the Bible, which just isn't for me." The title for this group read is The Bible As Literature. I have a feeling that we never really identified what that phrase means--which may be why we're not getting the participation here that (I, at least--I don't know about anyone else) had hoped for.

My religious tradition is Christian, specifically Episcopalian, but I didn't come to this group looking for a religious reading, or interpretation, either. What I was looking for here was a way of reading the Bible that I haven't experienced before--a literary reading. However, I've struggled here in my posts with what that means. What I eventually decided to do was to take one literary element--character--and try to apply it to what I was reading. To some extent, that's worked pretty well for me. What I'm concentrating on--at least at this point--is the human experience to be found in these biblical writings.

One book that has been a help to me in looking at the Bible as literature is Harold Bloom's The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible. He's a literary critic (to my mind a giant of a literary critic), who describes himself in the Introduction as "desperately secular," and says that he rereads the Bible in many of the ways that he turns to Shakespeare or to Walt Whitman. The God, or Yahweh, of the Bible, according to Bloom, "is in the first place a literary character and has to be interpreted as such."

I hope that some of the many people who signed up for this group will weigh in on this issue. I'd like to know what others think of this--how do we talk about "the Bible as Literature"? What were people looking for, originally, when they signed up for this group? How can we open up the discussion, rather than narrowing it?

I'm going camping for a couple of days, so I'm unplugging from the computer and the phone. I do hope that people will post their thoughts here.

Jan 28, 11:41am Top

In response to the thoughts in >283 labwriter:, I came here to read the Bible with other people who like to read and I bought the Literary Bible for that particular reason. I did not need another Bible, I wanted to read the Bible with people here on LT. I've noticed that comments have fallen off. People who were really active are not stopping by anymore. Too bad. I had been looking forward to reading with others.

Jan 29, 8:52am Top

I've been reading along with the group, and commenting occasionally. I've really enjoyed a lot of the discussions, but have to admit I'm dismayed when the posts move into really detailed textual analysis--if we are reading the Bible as literature (and I've been through it a few times), I think we need to focus on the larger pictures of characters, plot, themes. We really don't have time for much else.

Is the pace just too fast for literary discussion? The Bible is huge, with all kinds of literature, so much to consider. Is it too late to change the scope? Maybe to make the yearly goal the first five books? It's not my thread, but personally, I haven't started Exodus yet (although I'm hoping to do some catch-up reading). I think there are stories enough (and then some!) to last us through the year in Genesis through Deuteronomy.

One theme we've picked up on already is that the characters we meet are all so very human--they have their foibles, their bad acting, their cowardice. But they also are heroic, people of faith--they are the building blocks of the biblical story.

I hope the thread continues on--but maybe we need to be a little more realistic about our scope? Now I'm off to get started on Exodus!

Karen O.

Jan 29, 10:29am Top

I'm nearly finished with Exodus in my daily reading schedule. There aren't as many stories as there are in Genesis, but there are some important themes that will come up again in other books. Here's the list I have so far:

Exodus/departure from Egypt
plagues (directed at gods of Egypt)
leaven/unleavened bread
Mount Sinai
Ten Commandments
ark of the covenant
presence of God/glory of God (pillar of cloud/fire)
40 days and nights

Important characters

Edited: Jan 29, 5:16pm Top

>285 klobrien2: Karen, you ask an interesting question about pace and literary discussion. I'm used to spending about 15 weeks (corresponding to a semester) on one or two or at most three books of the Bible. So I would agree that this pace is very fast for any kind of cogent literary discussion. It's not my thread either, so I only speak for myself.

>286 cbl_tn: I like your mention of the theme of "complaining." (smile)

Jan 29, Exodus 33-35

Jan 29, 6:54pm Top

so, I read through the first 5 chapters again today, taking some notes as I went.

Chapter 2: 16, Moses meets the 7 daughters of Midian waterning their father's flock....what is this with wells and women. Rebecca and the servent of Abraham, Rachel and Jacob, Moses and the 7 daughters, the woman at the well (Jesus), NT. I think it would make an interesting study. But wells as motif or symbols. These are men seeking brides or seeking safety. In the case of the woman in NT it is spiritual life. Water is necessary. Women are pretty important parts of these scenes. Then there is all the wells that Abraham and Isaac dug. There is the well that Joseph's brothers threw him into before they sold him. (That is a dry well, without life giving water).

Chapter 4: 23, Moses is to say to Pharoah; "Israel is My son, My firstforn son. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeen I will kill your son, your firstborn." Pharoah is forewarned. God (Omniscience knows that Pharoah will refuse). Pharoah considers himself a god, he sees no reason to listen to this unknown God.

Chapter 5: vs 2, Pharoah said "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice..."

Jan 30, 9:04am Top

>288 Kristelh: You might enjoy a book called Back to the Well: Women's Encounters with Jesus in the Gospels, by Frances Taylor Gench, 2004. Gench says in the Introduction that her own encounter with the Bible "recently" has included "a fascination with women in the biblical world--how their lives and experiences are represented and refracted, and how their stories might illumine contemporary Christian life (and, I would say, contemporary life) and faith."

Jan 30, Exodus 36-38

Edited: Jan 30, 9:56am Top

I was away from the thread for some time, I know. I am not the fastest reader and I like to check the original if I read a foreign book - which is easier with some languages like German or English :)

I read the reminder of Genesis but do not comment on that because it looks that I am far behind the pace here.

Exodus takes up the same wording as Genesis 46,27: 70 souls are mentioned to be the offspring of Jacob. In verse 7 we read 7 times how much the people grew: fruitful, increased greatly, multiplied, grew mighty, with strength, strongly, land was filled (in Hebrew). Like after the flood it started all over with a small number.

The new Pharao (later the two storage cities are named, Pithom and Raamses, which point towards Ramses II.), has no connection with Joseph and becomes afraid of the Hebrews and 'he made their lives bitter' (vese 14). The 'bitterness' is then later taken up again at the passah where the Israelite should eat bitter herbs before they leave Egypt in order to remind them of their bitter service they had to do in Egypt.

Jan 30, 10:58am Top

Interesting: First Pharao talks about the 'people of Israel' in v. 9, but later when they were enslaved he talks about the 'Hebrew midwives'.

The Pharao was afraid of the people of Israel as later Moab was afraid of them, too. (1.9 too mighty for us = Numeri 22.6: 'are too mighty for me' and Exodus 1.12: were in dread of the people of Israel = Numeri 22.3: was in great dread of the people)

Fun fact: The Egyptians believed in a god Khnum who was forming humans from clay on a potter's wheel. The word for his instrument of(for?) forming men is used here for 'birthstool'. The word means literally 'two stones' and is used in Jeremia 18.3, there the meaning is clearly 'potter's wheel'.

Exodus 2: 'a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman' no names are give. A literary devise for heightening the importance of the coming infant. The people of Israel are not to point to important forefathers who were doing great things. God choses an ordinary couple as the parents of the saviour in their distress. 2.2 'and she saw that he was a goodly child' takes up the words of God from creation: and God saw that it was good.

2.3 'a basket' that is the same word as 'ark' asn in Genesis 6.14 (Make yourself an ark), and both vehicles are daubed with pitch. As Noah was saved in an arc drifting on the waters, so Mose is saved in a such a thing.

Edited: Jan 30, 3:07pm Top

>291 paulstalder:, good point about the basket (arc)

From a literary perspective, being saved (out of water) represents a rebirth (sometimes). How to Read Literature Like a Professor

Jan 30, 5:53pm Top

>283 labwriter: I do agree that the pace is not that conducive to literary research and discussion. I haven't even started Exodus yet, so I'm officially behind as of yesterday. But I will try to keep up just for the discipline of it, and may stretch out my own reading over two years instead of one.

I like your decision to focus on character. I might add the repetition of symbols and metaphor as we go. Repeating forms are extremely important in literary analysis, and this material is so basic to Western culture, the tropes we find here repeat a lot in other works.

Edited: Feb 1, 7:25am Top

I agree with the post at >284 Kristelh:.

Jan 31, 4:45am Top

Ex 2,10 She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.
There was a word mōse in Egyptian meaning 'son'. So I guess that she named him just 'Son' and the sentence 'I drew him out' is more in the sensce of 'I found him, he is mine'. Later was the alliteration of משה (Moshe) and משיתיהו (meshitihu) 'I drew out' noticed and the name became that flavour.

Jan 31, 6:47am Top

Jan 31, Exodus 39, 40

My last day for Exodus.

Jan 31, 7:15am Top

Interesting: Three important women went to a well to draw water and draw a husband: Rebekka (Genesis 24) found Isaac, Rachel (Genesis 29) finds Jacob, and Zippora (Exodus 2) finds Moses.

Jan 31, 9:41am Top

>297 paulstalder: exactly the kind of observation I find so interesting. We should therefore be on the lookout for instances in other writing.

Jan 31, 3:18pm Top

Elohim / YHWH again.

We know from Genesis 4.26 that 'At that time people began to call upon the name of the YHWH.' Now in Exodus reminds Moses again of his name and gives him a task. The author is going into great detail and sensibility - and flair to weave a story using the two names of God at the respective places: When God is the subject, he uses YHWH, when the story is viewed from Moses' point (passive), Elohim is used.

3 And the angel of YHWH appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, ... Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When YHWH saw that he turned aside to see, Elohim called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 ... take your sandals off your feet, ... 6 And he said, “I am the Elohim of your father, the God of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohimd of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at Elohim.

7 Then YHWH said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people ... I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to Elohim, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve Elohim on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to Elohim, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The Elohim of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 Elohim said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘YHWH the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘YHWH, the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you ... And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘YHWH, the Elohim of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’

Moses has some ideas about Elohim but doesn't know him personally as YHWH. So when the bush is burning but not being comsumed and then he hears the voice he knows that a God is speaking to him. God introduces himself first as Elohim of the fathers, of the people of Israel, giving Moses a hint about who this God is he meets in the desert. But when going back to his people he wants to tell them more than just saying: 'I had a vision of God', so he asks for God's name. A thing you can name, a person you can call by his name, does exist. So YHWH gives him his name. Note verse 15: Say this to the people of Israel: ‘YHWH the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob, has sent me to you.'
v. 12: God says to Moses: I will be with you (-> I will be AHYH 'eheye) later God says in v. 14: I am ('eheye) who I am ('eheye), he takes that sentence up again and reminds Moses that he is already promised his presence

Jan 31, 3:29pm Top

When Abraham went down to Egypt, he denied his wife Sara and called her his sister (Genesis 12,12). He was afraid that '... they will kill me, but they will let you live'. The Pharao in Exodus now starts killing all the males and letting the females live ....

When Abraham left Egypt, he was made rich in Egypt. A similar situation we have already promised here in Exodus 3 (and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.)
Notice: each woman shall ask ... !!
This was fulfilled in Exodus 12 (35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.)

Feb 1, 4:41am Top

>299 paulstalder: That is fascinating, and yet I cannot help feeling there is more going on there that I do not have the Hebrew knowledge to follow.

Feb 1, 6:41am Top

I'm starting Leviticus today. A primary theme of this book, and perhaps the main theme, is God's holiness.

Feb 1, 7:48am Top

>302 cbl_tn: Me too.

Feb 1, Leviticus 1-4

Leviticus 1:1--"The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting." So the relationship continues, not only with Moses but also with the people of Israel.

Feb 1, 9:06am Top

I am also starting Leviticus today. I don't mind the fast pace at all during the slaughter passages! I tend to skip over any kind of animal killing when I read fiction and will do the same with the Bible. So much blood...

>300 paulstalder: I've always been confused by the use of "plunder" to describe the free will of giving possessions away. I looked up the history of the word and learned that our present-day understanding of plunder meaning "goods taken by force" started in 1647 via the Thirty Years War.

Feb 1, 10:36am Top

>304 Donna828: the word 'plunder' can be translated as 'spoil'. And actually Exodus regards that more as earned slave wages. In Leviticus or Deuteronomium there is the law that when freeing a slave one should give him abundantly so he can start a new life. So, the Egyptians are actually paying the slave labour after so many years.

Feb 1, 7:34pm Top

I received my copy of The Literary Guide to the Bible yesterday, and will read the notes on Genesis and Exodus as I read Exodus this week.

>299 paulstalder: Paul, I'll be sure to compare the text you are using to the Alter translation, and note the differences. Thanks for your comments. Very interesting.

Edited: Feb 2, 8:26am Top

>305 paulstalder: Interestingly, the word in the King James version isn't plunder or spoil, it's "borrow": Exodus 12:35, 36--"And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: (36) And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians." To spoil, as used by Wycliffe (1388), has the sense of divesting a person of their clothes. See the OED (I use the online version).

I'm not saying that the KJV has authority over other translations or versions; I'm simply pointing out that the concept of what the Israelites were doing in Exodus has a bit of a different spin, depending on which version you are reading. I'm not interested in debating which is "correct"; I'm more interested in looking at the different ways people had or have of interacting with the text.

Feb 2, Leviticus 5-7

The Literary Guide to the Bible, pg. 66: "Perhaps the greatest problem facing students of the Bible as literature is the fact that so much of the Bible is not literature." As the writer for the Leviticus chapter states (David Damrosch), the book is composed largely of "ritual ordinances which have warmed the hearts of few, if any, literary readers in any period." I would second that.

I notice that Harold Bloom, in his Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible, simply skips Leviticus. I don't plan to skip it, but I might not have a whole lot to say about it.

Damrosch continues on in his essay to say why Leviticus is important: "for the understanding of the overall role of law in the Bible."

Feb 2, 9:32am Top

I will be starting Levitus today, a bit late, but with every intention of getting through Numbers 18 by the 12th.

From The Literary Study Bible, page 139-140, Tips for Reading Leviticus:

We need to abandon all expectation that we will be reading a story when we read Leviticus. We mainly read compilations of rules and regulations. It is a literary principle that literature portrays the universal by means of the particular. We therefore need to note the literal details that are presented, at the same time extrapolating general moral and spiritual principles from the concrete particulars. There is no way to avoid being struck and sometimes shocked by the huge gap between our own way of living and the practices of ancient cultures; this gap is evident when we observe the Bible’s total lack of reserve in descriptions of the slaughter of animals, human diseases, bodily functions, and sexual behavior. The literary term for such material is realism.

There are 5 inferred literary intentions, but the one that struck me and that I will keep in mind as I read Leviticus is awaken our sense of the holy or numinous (four categories of the sacred emerge from the book – sacred persons like the priests; sacred rituals; sacred places and objects; sacred seasons and times)

Edited: Feb 2, 9:49am Top

>308 karenmarie: Thanks for the tips from the Study Bible. I tend to forget to read that one.

Feb 2, 11:15am Top

I am catching up slowly. Just finished Exodus only four days late (I was 5 days late with Genesis).

A standout passage for me this time, because I reached it the day after a certain controversial ban was enacted, was Exodus 23:9, which in my version (Louis Segonde) read:

"Tu n'opprimeras point l'étranger; vous savez ce qu'éprouve l'étranger, car vous avez été étrangers dans le pays d'Égypte."

Or in English:

You shall not oppress the stranger/alien; You know what the alien feels, for you have been aliens in the land of Egypt.

I won't say any more for fear it would be taken as a political comment. Just saying that for me, the timing was spot on.

I also learned a bit of old fashioned French reading this. "Thou shalt not ... " uses the formulation "Tu ne ... point" rather than what I was expecting: "Tu ne ... pas". The ne ... point formulation, it seems, is very old fashioned.

There is some discussion of it, along with other negation adverbs (in French) here:


Feb 2, 6:32pm Top

>310 sirfurboy: Yeah, it's a political comment, and you probably know that. Could we try to keep those out of here, please? I realize that "all literature is political," but honestly, I come here in hopes of getting away from the politics for awhile.

Feb 3, 5:22am Top

I know that the timing was spot on for me, as I said above. You can take what you like from it, but I will not curtail my own insights from the texts for fear that it might be seen as political. I expect to be pulled up if I launch into a political rant here, but that is not what I did. I am sitting firmly on my hands.

Feb 3, 4:55pm Top

>312 sirfurboy: I saw a protest sign with the same verse on it, and I thought, "how appropriate!" I think your bringing this verse into the discussion of the Bible as literature is quite appropriate, as well, and I like your discretion and sensitivity.

Karen O.

Edited: Feb 3, 7:40pm Top

Actually this is a discussion of Bible as literature. The laws teach about the nature of God. I found it interesting in the Literary Study Bible on page 112 that it references the legislative section of the Exodus as haivng affinities t the literary genre of "utopian literature".

Tabernacle: a place to worship God, The holy ark of the covenant symbolizes the throne of God on which the blood of atonement was sprinkled at the mercy seat. vs 10-22.
table for the bread of the Presnce, symbolizes God's fellowship with his people and provision for needs
Golden lampstand, symbolizes light and the life of God. vs 31-39.

Motif is "the sacred".

I don't think anyone mentioned Chapter 32 where Aaron makes a golden cow for the people. (what the people come up with on their own). Essentially breaking the first law.

Aaron saying "I threw it into the fire and it came out a calf" reminds me of Adam and Eve making excuses to God.

Moses offers his own life to atone for the people's sins (he is a Christ like figure).

Chapter 33: Moses asks to see God but is told that he can't look on God (God is too holy for man to look and live) so Moses sees the backside of God's glory. Narrative motif the "divine-human encounter".

And a favorite of mine is chapter 34: Moses spends so much time with God on the mountain top that his face shines with the reflection of God's glory (vv 29-35). We humans are to reflect God's glory, we are made in His image. The veil as a literary archetype of the numinous (sacred, holy).

Chapter 40: God's glory fills the tabernacle. (cloud and fire)

Feb 4, 4:56am Top

God's names again:

As we have seen in Exodus 4,12 and others YHWH shows himself to Moses as the 'One-who-is-with-him'. In Ex 6 we read: 2 Elohim spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am YHWH. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as El Shadday, but by my name YHWH I was not known to them.

God was known to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as 'El Shadday', the God who made them fruitful and multiplied them, and provided the land. (cf. Genesis 17,1-2, 28,3, 35,11 for 'El Shadday bless you, make you fruitful etc.). They experienced God in that respect: multiplying their goods and their families. But they did not know him in the sense, that God is always with them (I am with you). That is what Moses now explains to the leaders of Israel. Again, how careful and sensitive the author uses the different names of God in order to heighten some aspects of God (and the experience people make at that time).

Three times we read in this short passage 'I am YHWH': God is speaking as a king would. Like, say: And the Queen said, I (am), Elisabeth, Queen of so-and-so and I declare ... It's not a new revelation of the name but the normal beginning of a royal speech (there are old examples of that also from Canaanite and Ugarit sources).

Ex 6 4 I also established my covenant with them...
There is a difference between making (cutting) a covenant and establishing a covenant (in Hebrew). Making one means to start, to initialize one, to establish one means to fulfill it, to bring it about. These two words do not mean the same and are not replaceable one by the other. God made a covenant with the Patriarchs to give them the land, now he remembers that covenant and wants to fulfill it.

Feb 4, 10:55am Top

I have read through Exodus 19 (putting me on my personal target to have read through Numbers 18 on the 12th.

>314 Kristelh: I, too, found the discussion of the laws as utopian literature fascinating, Kristel.

Up next is Exodus 20, the first explication of the Ten Commandments.

Feb 4, 10:56am Top

>308 karenmarie: and for those on Leviticus - Robert Alter talks a lot about the ideas of Purity in Leviticus and cites and discusses Mary Douglas, specifically her book on Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo.

These are my old notes, but I think they might be of interest when trying to make heads or tails of why all this in is there. This all comes from Alter's take of Douglas, by the way. I haven't read Douglas. Apologies.

Douglas reads the books in terms of analogies and sees a tripartite system

So the split of Sinai
- mountain top for God
- perimeter for Aaron & elders
- foot of the mountain for everyone else

is analogically incorporated into the temple
- Holy of Holies
- Sanctuary for priests
- outer court

and sacrificed animal parts
- entrails-intestines-genitals - Sinai summit
- midriff with fat - for altar
- head and meat - for the people
with the suet marking a boundary of the forbidden

(>310 sirfurboy: perfect timing)

Feb 4, 11:10am Top

More on Leviticus. Back in 2012 I wrote a review of this oddball Biblical book and, actually, I kind of like that review. It's only three paragraphs, and only the third is really snarky. If anyone is interested see (message #169): http://www.librarything.com/topic/128182#3350780

Edited: Feb 5, 9:26am Top

>317 dchaikin: OK, but are you conflating two different references? The Literary Guide to the Bible published in 1987, although I think there's a more current edition. The editors are Robert Alter and Frank Kermode. Alter wrote the Introduction and one of the General Essays. The author of the essay on Leviticus is David Damrosch, Professor of Comparative Lit at Harvard. The different authors are the strength of this book, IMO.

I read your 2012 review, but you're discussing a different Alter book--The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. I'm just trying to keep the references straight. Is that where you get Alter's take on Douglas? Because while Damrosch lists Douglas in his suggested readings, I don't see where he has any particular "take" on Douglas. Your review isn't particularly snarky--kudos to you for having something to say about Leviticus. So far, I've got nothin'.

So I guess if we refer to Alter, it's useful (at least it is for me, and I can only speak for myself) to know which Alter.

Frankly I give Damrosch props for having anything cogent to say about Leviticus. I'd never read Leviticus before, and now I know why.

Feb 5, Leviticus 14-15. Cleansing from defiling skin diseases. Go Falcons! For me, the timing is spot on. ;-)

Feb 5, 8:51am Top

Apologies. I meant Alter's translation with notes - in The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary

And, yeah, it's not an easy book to talk about.

Feb 5, 9:23am Top

>320 dchaikin: No problem. I was interested in what you had to say and wanted to make sure I was getting the references right.

Feb 5, 9:35am Top

Thanks. It was confusing. I hadn't realized while posting. So glad you had me clarify.

Ps - Appreciate your note on timing.

Feb 6, 3:28am Top

Leviticus is not so easy to read as Exodus, but it is still narration - narrated law. Pentateuch is like a 5-book-series (LT definition) and Leviticus is not a stand-alone volume. It is connected to Exodus and Numeri and is not making much sense without the knowledge of Exodus. Exodus ends with YHWH filling the tabernacle and Leviticus starts with giving the appropriate laws concerning that sanctuary. Then laws are given for the wilderness and, at the end, for the time the people of Israel will be settled in Canaan (but the book as a whole is unsuited for past-exilic times, for example we have no laws concerning intermarriage with the Canaanites which was a major issue in the time of Ezra and Nehemia -> the book must be older). That here already appear laws for a settled people is an indication that God wanted to prepare the people for a life in towns in the near future. But then in Numeri we have the catastrophic comments from the spies wo came back from Canaan and so made the people's mind change and so they wandered around in the desert for some time, instead of entering the land. So, in a way, Leviticus is preparing us for Joshua and not for Numeri.

There is almost the same beginning of Leviticus (The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting...) and Numeri (The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting...)

A striking feature of Leviticus is the recurring phrase 'And the Lord spoke to Moses...' at the beginning of most chapters and even in between. It is a story of what God told Moses and then Moses told the people and wrote it down.

Feb 6, 3:40am Top

side thought about literature:
The Code of Hammurabi is one of the oldest and lengthy law we know about. It consists of a 'foreword', 282 §§ of laws and an epilogue. http://www.general-intelligence.com/library/hr.pdf So, that is law. (I only read a few before skipping it.) The funny, or interesting thing is, that some scholars regard that Code not as law but 'just a piece of literature', as https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Hammurapi puts it. The code is never quoted in regard to actual cases or court stories of time but often appears in scribal schools where the text was often copied.

So, some scholars regard the 282 §§ of boring laws of Hammurabi as 'literature' and other scholars regard the narrated law of Leviticus as 'not literature'.

Feb 6, 7:55am Top

>324 paulstalder: Interesting, Paul, and ironic.

I'm soldiering on.....

Feb 6, 8:33am Top

>323 paulstalder: Yes, I understand that there is narration in Leviticus. And if I had a couple of months to study up on the literary devices employed by ancient literary works, I would undoubtedly be able to find something to discuss in this book "as literature." For example, a useful resource, written for "any interested reader," might be Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy by Stephen K. Sherwood (2002), part of the Berit Olam series. Sherwood also references The Book of the Torah: The Narrative Integrity of the Pentateuch, by Thomas Wingate Mann (1973). Mann's book looks particularly good.

In keeping with my focus on "character" as I read these books, Sherwood writes, in his Introduction, "The extended speeches of the character YHWH in Leviticus contribute greatly to the reader's perception of who YHWH is, what YHWH does, and what YHWH wants or does not want. Moses' particular way of retelling the events that the reader has witnessed in the previous books of the Pentateuch affects the characterization of Moses."

Sherwood goes through several pages in his chapter on Leviticus, fleshing out the character of YHWH. I won't go through all of them here, but simply say that his commentary is very useful for understanding: Who is YHWH?; What does YHWH want for and from his people? (please don't ding me for using a male pronoun--it's simply easier).

There is self-characterization (e.g. YHWH characterizes himself as holy); there are YHWH's commands (e.g. YHWH commands what he regards as acceptable); there is instruction, details for penalties, prohibitions (e.g. YHWH's name must not be profaned); there are punishments (e.g. YHWH will set his face against the guilty person); there are promises (e.g. YHWH promises to provide extra food for the fallow Sabbath year); there are threats (consumption, fever, pining, food stolen by enemies, defeat in battle, lack of rain, etc.). Finally there is YHWH's speech (someone who calls, who gives commands, someone who speaks in the first person, etc.) and YHWH's actions (he appears in a cloud which is potentially lethal).

Sherwood goes through the same kind of characterization of Moses.

So obviously there is much here in Leviticus, but at the same time it is not a page turner.

Feb. 6, Leviticus 16-18--The Day of Atonement, Eating Blood Forbidden, Unlawful Sexual Relations

Edited: Feb 6, 8:50am Top

I am only half way through Leviticus, and of course it is heavy going. However, just as in nature, I like to see some underlying principle to laws, and so I am attracted to Mary Douglas' hypothesis that I was introduced to many years ago: that you can make a lot more sense of the levitical laws if you see the underlying assumption that the body is a container, and that unnatural breaches of that container thus point to something being wrong.

This view is discussed in Milgrom's Leviticus 1-16 A New Translation and Commentary and I found it discussed online in Maps and Meaning: Levitical Models for Contemporary Care - Wiener and Hirschmann, available on Google Books.

Now if that is right then one can find a wider symbolic meaning in Leviticus and the laws therein that you would miss if you just spent your time looking at the laws one by one.

Feb 6, 9:09am Top

Today's reading from Leviticus (ch. 16-18) introduces the scapegoat. There are lots of cultural references to scapegoats, and lots of references in literature. For example, The Scapegoat is the title of one of Daphne du Maurier's novels.

Feb 7, 7:42am Top

Feb 7, Leviticus 19-21: Various Laws, Punishments for Sin, Rules for Priests

I don't have a lot to say about this from a literary perspective, but I guess I could sort of generally discuss a couple of resources.

>327 sirfurboy: I'm not sure which writing by Mary Douglas you're referring to when you reference her hypothesis. She was a British anthropologist who, according to Wiki, was known for her writings on human culture and symbolism. She published Leviticus as Literature in 1999. In the Acknowledgements, she highlights her debt to Jacob Milgrom, whom you also mention. Milgrom spent most of his career at the U of Cal, Berkeley where he headed the Department of Near Eastern Studies. Wiki says he was considered "the world's leading expert on Leviticus."

Douglas's book, Leviticus as Literature, can be found on the internet in PDF format.

Jacob Milgrom published a version of his study of Leviticus that is marketed as "accessible to all readers": Leviticus, by Jacob Milgrom, 2004, 412 pages. Someone describes this book as a condensation of Milgrom's Anchor Bible commentary.

Edited: Feb 7, 7:09pm Top

I think we should start a new thread--I would do it, but don't want to overstep.

Instead, I'll tell you about my new plan for my reading of the Bible this year:

Recently there has been discussion of Gen 23:9: "You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." (all my quotations are from the New Revised Standard version) Is this just a law given to the Israelites? Does it have further implications? What are the stories of the Israelites who were aliens?

I felt that the concept of "aliens in the land" was a true literary theme, and it's all through the OT, and all through Israel's history. I decided to trace the occurrences of the theme through Genesis and Exodus (that's as far as we've read so far).

I think I've found my personal focus for this year's read of the Bible--the literary motif of Israel as the "stranger in a strange land," as resident aliens in a land not their own.

My list of biblical "aliens" is here, if you're interested: http://www.librarything.com/topic/245357#5925465 (I hope that works -- it's message 70).

Karen O.

Edited: Feb 8, 7:06am Top

>331 labwriter: I think a new thread is a good idea. I'll do it.

Feb 8, 5:36am Top

>330 klobrien2: you mean Exodus 23.9 not Genesis 23.9, I assume

Feb 8, 4:31pm Top

Oops, yes! Thanks, Paul! I was in too much of a hurry, I guess.

Karen O.

This topic was continued by Group Read: Bible as Literature, #2.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

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