The Genesis flood narrative

This flood story is among the best-known stories of the Bible, found in chapters 6–9 in the Book of Genesis.  In this account, Noah labored faithfully to build an ark at God’s command, ultimately saving not only his own family from extinction during the great flood, but mankind itself with all kinds of land animals.  God created this flood after realizing that the world was full of sin. Afterwards, God made a covenant with Noah and promised never again to destroy all the earth’s creatures with a flood.  After this flood, God commanded Noah and his sons to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth”.  This story may have been two independent stories put together, since God is sometimes called Yahweh and other times just called Elohim.  This united narrative indicated that God intended to return the earth to its pre-creation state of watery chaos by flooding the earth, because of humanity’s misdeeds.  Then God was going to remake earth from those in Noah’s ark.  Thus, the flood was no ordinary overflow but a reversal of creation.  This narrative discussed the evil of mankind that moved God to destroy the world with a great big water flood.  Noah was to prepare the ark for certain animals.  Noah, and his family had God’s guarantee for a continued life existence, with the promise that God would never send another flood.  Scholars believe that the Noah flood myth originated in Mesopotamia during the Old Babylonian Period (1880-1595 BCE) and reached Syro-Palestine in the latter half of the 2nd millennium BCE.  Numerous and detailed parallels made clear that the Genesis flood narrative was dependent on the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, which is thought to date from 1300-1000 BCE.  The Mesopotamian gods decided to send a great flood to destroy mankind.  There are various other correlations between the stories of Noah and Gilgamesh, including the flood, the construction of the ark, the salvation of animals, and the release of birds following the flood.  The Hurrian people had a territory that included the city of Harran, where Abraham had his roots.  The Hurrians may have inherited the flood story from Babylon.  Gilgamesh’s historical reign is believed to have been approximately 2700 BCE, shortly before the earliest known written stories.  For Christians, Noah and his ark have become a figure or image of the Christian Church.  This was like the baptism of the world with all this water, that prepared the salvation of the world to come with Jesus Christ.  The family of Noah was saved by water and wood, just like how Jesus saved the world by the wood of the cross and Baptism.  All the animals saved were like precursors to the fact that the gospel word of Jesus was to spread to the whole world to save them.  There was a new creation after the flood like there is a new person after the Baptism of Jesus Christ.  At the conclusion of the flood, there was an agreement with Noah and God.  So too, there is the new covenant with Jesus Christ.  Thus, Noah and the flood was and is a very strong image for most Christians.  What do you know about Noah and his ark?


A new class of people appeared in Genesis, chapter 6:4, called the Nephilim, נְפִילִים (Nefilim), who were very tall giant warriors. Somehow these mysterious Nephilim people were involved with the sons of God in this narrative, as they were large and strong. The word Nephilim was loosely translated as giants in some translations of the Hebrew Bible, but left untranslated in others. Jewish explanations interpret them as hybrid sons of fallen angels.  They may have later inhabited Canaan at the time of the Israelite attempted conquest of Canaan.  The majority of ancient biblical translations interpret this word to mean giants, the violent ones, or fallen ones.  It is unclear if they are the sons of God or their offspring.  They could be the warriors of old, who descended to Sheol with their weapons of war.  Most of the contemporary English translations call them giants, just like the Greek Septuagint translation, οἱ δὲ γίγαντες (oi de gigantes), which then led to the Latin Vulgate translation as giants, gigantes.  In the non-canonical 1 Enoch, they were great big giants, whose height was three hundred cubits, 450 feet tall.  They may have survived the flood, because they were so tall.  The story of the Nephilim was further elaborated in I Enoch, as it connected the origin of the Nephilim with the fallen angels who came to earth to have sexual intercourse with human females.  Thus, the Nephilim were the offspring of their union.  Seth was said to have disobeyed God, by breeding with the Cainites and producing wicked children, thus angering God into bringing about the deluge.  They may also have been part of Sumerian mythology.  Other anthropologists have looked to find the remains of tall ancient giants with little success.  Nevertheless, these giant Nephilim have been part of medieval and contemporary popular culture.  What is the tallest person that you have ever seen?

The anthropomorphic God and limited human life

In the sixth chapter of Genesis, God decided that he would limit the age of humans to 120 years, because the world was getting overly populated.  He should see it today!  Yahweh felt that these humans that he had created were evil.  He was sorry that he had made them.  He was tired of them, so that he did not want his spirit with them forever.  Thus, he decided to get rid of them all, including the animals and birds, as if they were somehow related to the humans and their evil ways.  The earth was corrupt and filled with violence, a theme heard among some Christians today.  Once again this was an anthropomorphic way to talk about God.  As God, Yahweh was often described as having hands, arms, feet, white hair, and a face, with a mouth and ears.  Various human attributes of different kinds of feelings were applied to the divine eternal God, so that he could communicate with humans.  How do you communicate with God?

The sons of God

Once again, this was an odd strange Jahwist story about the sons of Elohim, in Genesis, chapter 6:1-7.  These sons of Elohim were enamored over the daughters of men.  Who were these sons of the Elohim God?  Apparently, they could be divine beings who belonged to the heavenly court, maybe related to the cherubim.  Perhaps, it was something like the various Greek and Roman gods who had intercourse with humans.  Maybe it was the line of Cain marrying with the line of Seth.  Most of the early biblical sources refer to the “sons of heaven” as angels.  From the third century BCE onwards, there were non-canonical references to the “sons of heaven” being enamored by human women, like some kind of superhumans.  Likewise, a long-held view among some Christians was that the “sons of God” were the formerly righteous descendants of Seth who rebelled, while the “daughters of men” were the unrighteous descendants of Cain.  Orthodox Judaism has taken a stance against the idea that angels could marry with humans. They have suggested that this text should read “the sons of noble lords”.  Jesus said that angels did not marry, but these may have been fallen angels.  Who are the sons of God?

3 Enoch

The Third Book of Enoch is another biblical apocryphal book, whose origins can only be traced to the fifth century CE.  3 Enoch was supposedly written by Rabbi Ishmael, a leading figure of Merkabah mysticism, who lived after the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.  Hugo Odeberg (1898-1973) edited a critical edition of this work in 1928, 3 Enoch, or the Hebrew Book of Enoch.  Some of the same ideas that there were in 1 Enoch appeared here in 3 Enoch.  Enoch went to heaven in a chariot, was transformed into an angel, and was enthroned in heaven, as well as receiving some cosmological secrets about creation.  The main themes running through 3 Enoch were the ascension of Enoch into heaven and his transformation into the angel Metatron.  This Enoch, whose flesh was turned to flames, his veins to fire, his eye-lashes to flashes of lightning, his eye-balls to flaming torches, received a heavenly transformation into Metatron.  It is impossible to reach a very firm conclusion as to the date of 3 Enoch.  The main problem is the literary character of the work, since it is not the product of a single author at a particular point in time.  This work appears to be from a community tradition which incorporated elements from widely different periods.  Certain rough chronological limits can be established.  3 Enoch can hardly have been written later than the tenth century CE.  This work drew some of its materials from the Babylonian Talmud, so that its final redaction can hardly be earlier than the fifth century CE.  Many of 3 Enoch’s ideas about Metatron and about the heavenly world were known in magical circles in the sixth and seventh centuries CE.  Even though 3 Enoch contains some very old traditions and stands in direct line with developments which had already begun in the Maccabean era, a date for its final redaction in the fifth or the sixth century CE seems appropriate.  Thus, it was probably written after the New Testament but before or during the time of the Quran.  Did you ever think that Enoch was this important?

2 Enoch

The Second Book of Enoch is an apocalyptic text, describing the ascent of the patriarch Enoch, an ancestor of Noah, through ten heavens of an earth-centered cosmos.  2 Enoch is distinct from 1 Enoch, and there is also an unrelated 3 Enoch.  The cosmology of 2 Enoch corresponds closely with beliefs about the ancient metaphysical structure of the universe.  Some scholars attribute 2 Enoch to an unidentified Jewish sect, while others regard it as the work of some first-century Jewish-Christians, but it is not included in either the Jewish or the Christian biblical canons.  Thus, 2 Enoch’s composition must be later than that of 1 Enoch. Scholarly efforts have indicated that the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem when this book was written, since there was no indication of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.  In fact, 2 Enoch emphasized the importance of sacrificial practices and pilgrimages to this Temple itself.  2 Enoch is also known as “The Book of the Secrets of Enoch”, with its many descriptions of multiple heavens and accounts of battles between angels and devils.  In the first section (chapters 1–22), Enoch, at the age of 365, is taken by two angels through the ten heavens, one by one.  The first heaven is just above the firmament.  The second heaven is where the fallen angels are in prison.  The third heaven is the Garden of Eden.  The fourth heaven is the place of the movements of the sun and the moon.  The fifth heaven is where soldiers of Satan look like human giants.  In the sixth heaven, he sees the angels in charge of governing the cosmos and people.  In the seventh heaven is where the Lord is on his throne.  The eighth heaven is just below the upper firmament in the sky with the constellations.  The ninth heaven is where the change of seasons come from.  The tenth and final heaven is where God’s throne resides and people see God face to face.  In the second section (chapters 23–37), Enoch, now guided by Gabriel, speaks with God in the tenth heaven face to face.  The third section (chapters 38–68) is a list of doctrinal and ethical instructions given by Enoch to his sons.  The last section (chapters 69-73), is sometimes referred to as the Exaltation of Melchizedek.  Thus, some have seen a connection between the Book of Hebrews, chapters 6-8, and this work.  The theological universe of 2 Enoch is deeply rooted in the Jewish Apocalyptic literature of the Second Temple period.  What do you know about apocalyptic literature?

1 Enoch

Three books have been ascribed to this Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah, the seventh generation after Adam.  1 Enoch is an ancient Hebrew religious work, attributed to Enoch, but probably dates from about the third century BCE, with the last part belonging to the first century BCE, written in either Aramaic or Hebrew.  Enoch occupied an important position among the Old Testament men of God.  When removed from the earth, Enoch and the prophet Elijah were carried directly to heaven because of their contact with God.  Thus, this apocalyptic writing appeared, purporting to have been composed by Enoch himself, around 200 BCE.  This Book of 1 Enoch was already known to the author of the Book of Jubilees and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, as it became a great favorite in the Christian Church, even quoted in the Epistle of Jude.  Many of the early Christian Fathers used it without hesitation as the genuine production of Enoch, containing authentic divine revelations, although it has never been officially recognized as part of the Hebrew Bible or the canonical New Testament by the Christian Church.  In the twentieth century, Aramaic and Hebrew fragments from four of the five sections of this book were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  This book was arranged in five sections, just like the Psalms and the Pentateuch.  Section I (chapters 1-36) is mainly concerned with pronouncing God’s judgment on the angels who fell, through their love for the daughters of men in Genesis, 6:1-4, with Enoch’s intercession for them.  There also is a weird description of Hades in this section.  Section II (chapters 37-71) has three parables, or apocalyptic revelations, together with the story of Enoch’s transportation into heaven.  Section III (chapters 72-87) is primarily concerned with furnishing a treatise on astronomy, the secrets of the movement of the stars as revealed to Enoch, who sees with his own eyes their very course, transmitting this information to future generations.  Section IV (chapters 88-90) runs along lines laid down in the first two portions dealing with the problem of sin and the suffering of Israel.  Enoch relates to Methuselah his visions of the deluge, the fall of the angels, and their punishment in the underworld, the deliverance of Noah, the Exodus, the giving of the Law, the conquest of Canaan, the time of the judges, the establishment of the United Kingdom, the building of the Temple, the story of the two kingdoms, the fall of the Northern Kingdom, and the Exile.  This was followed by four periods of angelic rule up to the time of the Maccabean Revolt, the last assault of the gentiles, and the great Judgment.  The last part of Section IV (83-90) contains the prediction of the foundation of the new Jerusalem, the conversion of the gentiles, the resurrection of the righteous, and the coming of the Messiah.  Section V (chapters 91-107) is without any account of the origin of sin but seems to be mainly devoted to the problem of suffering of the righteous and the prosperity of the oppressing sinners.  It denounces evil and utters woes on sinners and promises blessings to the righteous.  Within this section is an older work “The Apocalypse of Weeks”.  Have you ever heard of Enoch?

The genealogy of Seth, the other son of Adam

The Priestly tradition (P) in chapter 5 tried to tie up things nicely with a long genealogy of about 1,000 years from Adam to Noah.  Adam died at age 937.  Seth was born when Adam was 130 and died at age 912.  Enosh, his son, was born when Seth was 105 and died at age 905.  Kenan was born when Enosh was 90, and died at age 910.  Mahalalel was born when Kenan was 70, and died at age 895.  Jared was born when Mahalalel was 65, and died at age 762.  Enoch was born when Jared was 162, but lived to age 365, a big drop off in age here.  Methuselah was born when Enoch was 65.  Enoch was Cain’s son in chapter 4 above.  All of these people are only mentioned six or seven times in the biblical literature, here and in chapter 1 of 1 Chronicles.  Only Enoch, Lamech, and Noah were mentioned more often. Maybe we have a tie in with Cain’s genealogy.  However, this Enoch has this strange remark that God took him, not that he died.  He was considered the seventh generation, the lucky number.  In fact, there were three books of Enoch, from around 200 BCE and later, that some considered canonical.  Methuselah lived to age 969.  Lamech was born when Methuselah was 187.  This name is close to Cain’s great-great grandson.  The other anomaly is that he is the oldest when he bears his first child, 187, and lives the longest, 969, even more than Adam.  Thus, it became a saying that an old man was as “old as Methuselah.”  Lamech lived to age 777, a lucky number.  Noah was born when Lamech was 182.  Once again there was a tie in with the family of Cain with the same name.  Is this the same Lamech who was descended from Cain?  However, Noah was somehow special, since he was 500 when he had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  Obviously, Noah had a long puberty.  Instead of one son, all three were mentioned.  Noah was the tenth in this line from Adam.  The Babylonians also had ten heroes before their flood experience.  Most of them seemed to reach puberty and bear children around 100.  There were about ten generations, so if the first born had children, this genealogy took about 1067 years to go from Adam to Noah.  Most of them would have known each other since they lived such long ages. This is how a literal interpretation could lead to Dispensationalism, like that of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882).  His basic idea was that the earth is six thousand years old, which then led to the confusion with Darwinism.  Many of the ages given in this Priestly text are extremely long, but could have been considered modest in comparison to the ages given in other works like the Sumerian King List.  The ages include patterns surrounding the numbers five and seven, for instance the 365-year life of Enoch was the number of full calendar days in a solar year, and the 777-year life of Lamech, emphasized the lucky number seven.  Overall, the ages displayed clear mathematical patterns, leading some people to conclude that number symbolism was used to construct them.  Nevertheless, since this genealogy provided the age of each patriarch at the birth of his named descendant, it also appeared to present a gapless chronology from Adam to Noah, even if the named descendant was not always a first-generation son.  Some of the names in this genealogy were variants of those in the genealogy of Cain, though their order differed, with the names of Enoch and Mahalalel/Mehujael switching places in the two pedigrees.  Thus, there seemed to be different versions of the same underlying tradition.  This has led to speculation that a single original genealogical descent had diverged during independent transmission, only to be brought back together and put to different uses when the Book of Genesis was compiled from its Jahwist and Priestly sources.  What do you know about genealogies?

The introduction of Seth

All of a sudden, this Jahwist author brought us back to Adam and Eve.  To replace the killed Abel, Seth was born, the forgotten third son of Adam and Eve, who was actually mentioned as often as Abel, 8 times in the biblical literature.  However, he became a genealogical hero.  A genealogy tracing the descendants of Seth down to Noah appeared in Genesis, chapter 5.  Scholars have noted similarities between the genealogy of Cain and Seth.  Some of the same people were mentioned in the genealogy of Cain and that of Seth.  Seth also had a son called Enosh, without mentioning where his wife came from.  Thus, we have the same problem as we had with Cain’s wife. Who is this female and where did she come from?  His son Enosh was one of the first to invoke the name of Yahweh.  This Jahwist author repeated the theme of Genesis, chapter 1.  God had created humans in the image of God, male and female.  However, there was very little about females.  The offspring of Seth, and not Cain, were to lead to Noah.  Most of these patriarchs began having children in old age and continued on.  This was the list of the first-born males, but in each case they all “had other sons and daughters,” even Adam.  This genealogy in Genesis, chapter 5, included the age at which each patriarch had children, as well as the number of years he lived thereafter.  Have you ever heard of Seth?

The genealogy of Cain

Adam’s lineage in Genesis, chapter 4:17-24, mentioned the descendants of Cain first.  All of a sudden, this wandering tattooed Cain had a wife, who was nameless.  Where did she come from?  Where did he get a wife?  She was either his mother Eve, or an unnamed sister from Adam and Eve, or his niece from Abel, but there was no mention of Abel’s descendants.Cain could have had sex with some animals as part of some evolutionary movement.  You cannot be literal here.  Obviously, this was just one family among many other families.  Some other females were involved, but where did they come from?  We do not know.  The first city was named Enoch after Cain’s only son, probably in the land of Nod.  Although there are more people called Enoch in biblical literature, this is the only mention of his three descendants, Irad, the son of Enoch, Mehujael, the son of Irad, Methushael, the son of Mehujael, and Lamech, the son of Methushael.  After six generations, this story got a little more complicated.  There must have been a lot of incest or family sex, since there is never any mention of other families.  Lamech, whose name appears 11 times, got special attention, since he had two wives, Adah and Zillah.  Adah had two sons, Jabal, who represented the wandering style of living in tents with livestock, and Jubal, a musician.  Neither of these names ever appeared again, but Adah appeared 8 times.  Now Lamech’s other wife Zillah had a son and a daughter.  The son Tubalcain worked with metals, while his sister was called Naamah, the first named female after Eve. These three people only get mentioned in genealogies.  Lamech killed a man who wounded him saying and chanting that as the descendant of Cain, he would have vengeance “seventy-sevenfold,” not just seven times like his ancestor Cain.  Violence was a way of life.  These descendants of Cain were technologically advanced.  They seem to have started urban cities such as Enoch.  But who else was around to share these cities with?  They were into music such as lyres and pipes as well as metal working in bronze and iron.  They appear to have had a culture where human achievement was rewarded.  Somehow, this genealogy ended with Lamech and his killing.  These were the skilled but killing people, the descendants of Cain.  Would they be the bad people?