Numerology and the reversal of creation

Numbers in the Bible often have symbolic or idiomatic meaning. The 40 days and 40 nights for which rain fell on the Earth indicates a complete cycle.  The flood began on the 17th day of the second month.  On the 17th day of the seventh month the ark rested on the mountains, as the waters continued to fall.  The ark was uncovered on the 1st day of the 1st month of Noah’s 601st year, and it was opened on the 27th day of his 601st year.  The period from the beginning of the flood to the landing on the mountain is five months or 150 days, five months of 30 days each.  The number was schematic, based on the Babylonian astronomical calendar of 360 days with 12 months of 30 days each.  This means that the flood lasted 36 weeks according to the flood calendar, in which an extra day is added to every third month.  The number of weeks was symbolically significant, representing the biblical cypher for destruction, the number 6, expressed as 6×6=36, while the number 7, the number of days in a week, represented the persistence of creation during this time of destruction.  The period while the ark was afloat represented a gap in time, as is confirmed by the strange details of the ages of Noah and Shem.  Noah was 600 years old when the flood came and it ended in his 601st year.  He then lived another 350 years before dying in his 950th year.  The year taken up by the flood was not counted.  Scholars have long puzzled over the significance of the flood lasting one year and eleven days.  One solution was that the basic calendar was a lunar one of 354 days, to which eleven days have been added to match a solar year of 365 days.  The “original” Jahwist narrative of the Great Deluge was modest, a week without rain, followed by a forty-day flood with a mere week to recede.  It was the Priestly source that added more fantastic figures of a 150-day flood, which emerged by divine hand from the heavens and earth and took ten months to finally stop.  The Jahwist source’s capricious and somewhat simplistic depiction of Yahweh is clearly distinguished from the Priestly sources.  The Priestly flood narrative is the only Priestly text that covers dates with much detail before the Exodus narrative.  This is perhaps due to a version of the flood myth that was floating around at that time.  The primeval history was first and foremost about the world God made, its origins, inhabitants, purposes, challenges, and failures.  It asked why the world which God has made is so imperfect?  What was the meaning of human violence and evil?  The solution to these problems cantered around the notions of covenant, law, and forgiveness.  The most significant such echo was a reversal of the Genesis creation narrative, the division between the “waters above” and the “waters below”.  The dry land was flooded.  Most life was destroyed.  Only Noah and those with him survived to obey God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.”  The flood was a reversal and a renewal of God’s creation of the world.  Even the sequence of the flood events mimics that of creation, the flood first covering the earth to the highest mountains, then destroying, in order, birds, cattle, beasts, “swarming creatures”, and finally mankind.  The Ark itself was likewise a microcosm of Solomon’s Temple.  Do you think numbers have a special meaning?


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