When we last left off, God had made the universe and everything in it, decided to make a tree people shouldn’t eat off that he’d do better to keep a secret, told the curious apes he’d made about the tree, they inevitably ate from it, God kicked them out of Eden, they had kids despite one of them possibly being a sex-manipulated clone of the other, and apparently their kids had kids with magic women from nowhere or possibly their own sisters, one, Cain, killed his brother, Abel, and was rewarded for this deed by being removed from God’s overbearing presence and being allowed to make his own way in the world, and lots of people had lots of kids until we were finally left with Noah and his sons who shall forever be known as “The Ham Sandwich.”
We discussed the notion of man’s dominion over nature and animals and how I think it is a misguided view of custodianship of nature, the role of the serpent in the temptation of Eve, how God was actually the one who lied and the serpent deceived nobody, how God’s punishment was unjust, the potential reasons why he might want to keep humans from having knowledge of good and evil and a lot of stuff about how, biologically, none of this could have happened because incest would have killed us all.
This chapter has some interesting shit in it!
This is the chapter in which a distinction is made between ‘the sons of God’ and ‘the daughters of man’.
God decides, arbitrarily, to limit human lifespans to 120 years, after having given close to a millennium to all the previous generations. No explanation for it, he just says it so it’s true.
But “The Nephilim” often translated as ‘Giants’ were said to be on the Earth in those days.
Now it is debated as to whether or not ‘The Nephilim’ refers to the ‘Sons of God’, or ‘The Nephilim’ refers to the children of the sons of God and the daughters of man.
It is also debated whether ‘The Nephilim’ or ‘The sons of God’ refers to angels, or some other being divine in nature, or just very big people.
Even the very etymology of the term in its original Hebrew is debated. There are those who believe it is from the root of the Hebrew word ‘To fall’, therefore the Nephilim could be ‘fallen ones’ i.e. angels descended from heaven. There are others who believe it is actually rooted in the idea of ‘to cause others to fall’, which, in ancient Hebrew, could be analogous to an overseer, or a captive.
What we have here, then, is the first bit of the Bible where there is something mythologically disputed and interesting to discuss.
Indeed, this notion of the ‘Sons of God’, of the ‘Fallen Ones’ – these Nephilim, would go on to be used in various crackpot theories about ancient visitors from outer space, giant people in the past and all sorts of weirdness.
It doesn’t help that it all gets associated with the so-called ‘Book of Enoch’, supposedly written by Enoch before he ‘walked with God’ into the sunset, these represent some of the most eschatological and odd works in the Apocrypha – the Hebrew-Christian associate texts considered non-canonical.
In those books the author makes it quite clear that the ‘Sons of God’ were a group of angels who came to Earth and ‘knew’ human woman, often said to have taken them for wives, because they perceived them as so fair. This is disputed because Jesus would later say something about angels not having wives, but, what the hell would he know? He was literally my age now when he died, what he didn’t know could fill a fucking firmament.
Another suggestion, and one that follows conventional rabbinical thought on the matter is that, being in favour with the Lord, the ‘Sons of God’ refers to the descendants of Seth, versus the ‘daughters of man’ who were the descendants of Cain. But what, then, of this word Nephilim? Is that referring to a ‘fall’ in standards, the pure line from God, via Adam, to Seth and his kin, tainting itself with this murderer’s blood? Why do the children of these unions get their own, special name?
What we have here is a genuinely interesting biblical mystery. These Sons of God and Nephilim are actually interesting. Especially since these terms are pulled from nowhere in Genesis 6:1. What it all means is massively open to interpretation and without a time machine to go back to those days and figure out quite what the hell they were on about, it shall remain that way.
If you feel like delving into it then see if you can source yourself some Apocrypha, especially the Enochian books, have a read, have a compare, find some rabbinical discussion and thought on it. Frankly I feel like a lot of the Christian discussion against the idea of angels descending to Earth is effectively done to remove divinity from the clutches of humanity. The idea that the ‘Great and Good’ would not ‘taint themselves’ is frankly farcical to anyone who has nominally studied power balances, and given that God and/or angels have the power to impregnate a woman divinely according to the New Testament, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to do it in the Old Testament.
But, again, it’s a genuine mystery. I have no answer or conclusion to draw other than – I dunno! So let’s move on.
Remember in the first part (Chapters 1-5) when I told you to remember that God, the supposedly infallible, all knowing, all powerful God, looked upon the Earth and all of his creation, including humans and said that it was all – and I quote – “Very Good”?
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”
GOD MADE A MISTAKE!
God admits God made a mistake!
As far as I am concerned this knocks any notions of the omnipotence, the omniscience and the omnipresence of God out of the window. God created humans, and later regretted it. God, then, did not foresee the ‘evil’ that was growing in humans.
How does he rectify this mistake? By using his Godly powers to influence the hearts and minds of all the people of the Earth to behave more holy?
No, he drowns them.
“I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Wow…What a dick! I mean, okay it’s one thing to have a go at people but kill all the birds and animals too? Dick move, God. Major dick move.
Thankfully for, you know, all existence, God favours Noah and tells him to build a fuck off massive boat because he’s got to fit an estimate 2 million to 1 trillion species on it, at least two individuals (male and female) of each. Quite what they did with hermaphroditic species such as earthworms, or various gastropods (snail/slug species) is anyone’s guess.
God commands Noah to build a boat out of an unknown type of wood called ‘gopher wood’ and gives exact dimensions. He tells Noah to put a bunch of animals and food and seeds on it, because he’s going to make it rain for forty days and forty nights (otherwise known as British Spring and Autumn) and blot every living thing off the face of the ground.
So, instead of talking about how God is a murderous dickbag I want to talk about the Global Seed Vault at Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway. An absolutely remarkable, ark-like project, intended to act as both a catalogue of extant plant species on the planet right now, as well as a backup genebank should local biodiversity end up being lost due to natural disasters, war, drought or other strife. There is also the potential that it can act as a global store should something on the level of a planetary catastrophe or extinction-level event occur.
There are other seed banks around the world, but the project in Svalbard acts as a backup to all of these. It’s a remarkable project, the building of which was entirely funded by the Norwegian government, and the maintenance of the stores is paid for by the Crop Trust, an international Non-Governmental Organisation dedicated to preserving crop biodiversity.
This is something that humans did, of their own accord, without needing a helping hand from a lunatic God who just wants to watch the world drown. I think it significantly better to focus on monumental human efforts like that than give any time, thought or consideration to a God so petty and petulant he’d kill everything because he doesn’t like it.
So Noah, his family, including his sons, the Ham Sandwich trio, and all of their wives, are allowed on the boat but no other people.
…Wow God really has a thing for fucking up the human genome with inevitable inbreeding…
Everything flooded, mountain deep flooding!
There is no specific mention of the extinction of unicorns here, but for all of you unicorn fanatics out there, this is when God killed all unicorns because people were bad. Let that sink in.
The flood subsides, but there’s still a lot of waiting for the waters to go down. While we’re waiting why don’t we do some comparative mythology?
Whilst the Bible may contain the most popularly well-known flood myth, it was by no means the first and only.
It is commonly believed nowadays that the flood myth from the bible is likely inherited from an older myth from Mesopotamia. The always-mentioned-in-comparative-mythology ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ flood myth actually closely resembles the biblical version. The God, Enlil, wants to destroy the world because humans are annoying, however Ea, who created humans, decides to warn them through Utnapishtim and gives him instructions on how to build a boat.
There are so many commonalities that it seems more than likely the Hebrew traditions inherited this Babylonian account, itself believed to have stemmed from the earlier Sumerian creation myths.
But this is not the only flood myth. Flood myths exist in Hindu mythology, in Plato and the Greek tradition, in various African traditions, in North American native traditions, Mesoamerican traditions, South American traditions, The Great Flood of Gun-Yu from Chinese mythology, many different Asian traditions, Irish traditions, Bergelmir in Norse tradition survives a flood of blood, and given that the water and seas are central to their beliefs, there are flood myths in Polynesian tradition.
It’s ubiquitous. Why?
Well the simple answer is so is flooding in human history. We have to consider a site like Gobekli Tepe in Turkey is estimated to be around 11,500 years old, we have evidence of other sophisticated objects of culture and worship that date back to that time. I’ve no doubt that as we uncover more and more of the early human record, often so ill-preserved due to the materials used and the conditions in the places they exist, we will discover evidence of sophistication, symbolism, language and communication pre-dating even this.
If we consider, then, even with a figure dating back say, 12,000 years, that’s a lot of time living in fertile areas. Humans tend to gather around water, seas, rivers, lakes. These, inevitably, flood. We are coming to understand that these would have been sophisticated humans creating myths to pass down the generations. All it would take is one flood of significance to people to create a legend.
12,000 years ago is long enough ago that waters were settling from the last glacial period. Land-bridges would have existed in Beringia, connecting Siberia and the Americas, Doggerland, connecting Britain and mainland Europe, Indonesia and Malaysia and the Asian island chains would likely have been a big peninsula attached to mainland Asia, Australia likely had a land-bridge with Papua New Guinea.
Large areas would have been flooded, large areas that people would have inhabited. I know artefacts are regularly dredged up by trawlers and fishing boats in the North Sea leading to suggestions that the Doggerland, between Britain and the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark, potentially as far north as Norway, was not only inhabited but a bustling thoroughfare for life and trade.
How quickly these areas flooded is anyone’s guess. Whilst it can be safely assumed many areas would have seen a steady rise in sea levels, mountain glaciers may have held back the deluge of lakes that came cascading as those glaciers melted. It would be impossible to think there would not be cataclysmic events affecting early human populations during that time, even if only one major event happened on every continent it would be of such terrifying magnitude, to what would have been a relatively small population, that it would likely endure in legend. As we do today, people would have sought to make sense of the events. Nowadays we have a greater understanding of climate and geology, we have satellites that can witness events from low-earth orbit. Back then all they would have had is stories around the fire and their own imaginations.
Combine that with sedimentary rocks, built up over millions of years with deposits of fossils of seemingly mysterious sea-creatures that could be found by ancient peoples as high up as mountains and I think you have a perfect combination of conditions for creating a lasting mythos of flooding on the earth.
I certainly find it to be a very interesting motif, especially the numbers of victim-blamey reports, where a God specifically floods an area because people are the problem. Naturally I’m an atheist so I believe if these are descriptions of historical events the notion that it was done as ‘divine punishment’ is interesting from a social, behavioural perspective. Why, after a catastrophe, do people feel the need to ascribe it to a problem of the people who succumbed to the catastrophe? Psychology would tell us that self-preservation, maintaining sanity through the ‘Just World’ likely plays some part and yet as evidenced by the way the Gods are portrayed in Homer, there is clearly absolutely no need to consider the ‘victims’ as the problems when the ‘Gods’ can be considered capricious.
Is there something in the nature of certain belief systems, certain social structures, that lends itself to a need to justify a gross natural disaster as having been deserved? Well, you only need look at modern Christian idiots who, when a flood strikes, when a mass shooting happens or when an earthquake shudders the ground immediately note any supposedly un-Christian liberality of that society as the problem. “The UK legalised gay marriage and a few months later was flooded…Clearly God is angry!” They say. It’s nonsense, of course, but there are, clearly, individuals, systems of thought and belief and perhaps societies who feel the need to justify natural injustice in this way to make themselves feel happier with their place in an innately chaotic and completely human-oblivious universe.
It’s all very interesting stuff, and it’s why I love comparative mythology so much. You end up coming to an inevitable intersection of belief, mythology, anthropology, sociology and psychology. All of these things feed the traffic to the others. Systems of belief rarely exist without some rituals and behaviours to enforce those beliefs. These are generally built around narratives, myths, and mythological figures, that in turn promote certain ways or systems of being, or certain end-goals, certain virtuous ways of living and, often, of dying.
To quote the Book of Austin Powers – “This sort of thing is my bag, baby!”
Back to Genesis – The flood subsides and Noah establishes an altar to God. He makes offerings, and God’s like “Sorry, G. Won’t happen again.” I don’t trust a word that deity says.
God goes through the same set of rules with Noah and his kids as he’s already been through with Adam and Eve. Fruitful multiplication, all of Earth is your dominion, the birds, the animals, the plants, they’re all yours, etc.
He does not permit the eating of something’s blood, meaning black pudding is a sin. How Lancastrian Christians reconcile this, I do not know.
So God goes on a long-winded apologia about how he’ll never destroy everything on the earth in a flood again and gifts us rainbows as a means of signing this covenant. So, if you thought this was caused by a combination of reflection, refraction and scattering of light through water droplets, better think again. It’s actually God promising not to drown everything in a flood again.
Note the easy get-out clause, though. He promises not to drown everything, basically all at once. So God is still permitted to drown things in batches. Remember that.
Then Noah grows a vineyard and gets drunk, and Ham sees him naked and tells his brothers, Shem and Japheth. Shem and Japheth cover Noah’s nob, and deliberately avoid looking at their naked dad.
As a result of these events Noah, presumably very hungover, curses Canaan (Ham’s son) and blesses Shem and Japheth.
I literally don’t get it. Since when was it a crime to see your pissed-up dad naked? Why does he take it out on Canaan and not Ham? Well let’s go to our good friends at EnduringWord for some analysis.
Apparently the words used to describe Noah’s nakedness ‘become uncovered’ could also mean he was sexually molested in his drunken state, perhaps by Ham and/or Canaan.
They then go on to make what I can only interpret as a couple of Christian prohibitionist statements about alcohol – my suspicion is the bible intends to mean that Noah got drunk and nekkid, no specific assault took place, and EnduringWord have imparted their own sensitivities on the idea to put people off drinking.
They do mention, usefully, however, that the Hebrew indicates that Ham ‘told with delight’ his brothers what he had seen in his dad’s tent. So Noah, in a sensitive, hungover state, curses his own Grandson for his son taking the piss out of him being a drunken sod.
Yup, still doesn’t make sense. Although, having had many an irrational state caused by hangovers I can understand why Noah would be angry, but, come on, cursing your kids and grandkids?
Anyway, Noah lived 950 years and then snuffed it.
It’s time for another thrilling instalment of BIBLICAL KIDS!
Yup, it’s a chapter of a list of children again. Please note, these are all sons, where there is a nested set of bullet points these are the next generation.
These guys apparently lived on the coast.
- The Jebusites
- The Amorites
- The Girgashites
- The Hivites
- The Arkites
- The Sinites
- The Arvadites
- The Zemarites
- The Hamathites
Nimrod is noted as a ‘mighty hunter’.
Ham is noted to have lived in Babel, Erech, Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From there they moved into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah and Resen.
It is noted that the Philistines came for Casluhim.
Given that Canaan apparently fathered two sons and nine tribes it must be assumed he was a very busy boy. There’s no explanation as to how he ‘fathered’ tribes, but they are named as such.
They are said to have lived 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.
- All the children of Eber?
These guys lived from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the East.
These are literally all the men left alive after the flood killed literally everything, and a selection of their kids. Apparently wives and daughters are fit to be ignored further proving the Bible is sexist as fuck.
I am assuming by saying “Shem fathered all the children of Eber,” it means he is responsible for a whole family by patrilineage, effectively the father-of-the-tribe, and not that he fucked his own great-grandson and got him pregnant. This is the Bible, though, so you never know!
Whilst there is much cultural insensitivity that could be milked from some of these ancient names, I am going to leave that up to your own sick, sick minds to do. I think it would be irresponsible to disrespect ancient peoples and cultures in this way.
Almost as disrespectful as naming a child ‘Mash’. It roughly translates in Hebrew as ‘departed’ – So not only does this kid have a horrible name for English, being named after a potato dish, but his Hebrew translation basically means ‘Fuck Off!’ Which is what I intend to call my firstborn son on a regular basis, just not on his fucking birth certificate!
It becomes quite clear that many of these names represent tribes or nations, rather than just an individual son. Again, Canaan being the father of nine tribes makes this pretty apparent! I think a lot of biblical naming seems to do this, with tribes or groups of people named collectively.
We’ve already had him flooding the whole world, killing everything besides what was on the ark. Surely God couldn’t do anything else to demonstrate the levels of dickery he’s willing to sink to in this instalment?
Well let me tell you a little story about the people of Babel.
Apparently everyone was of one language, and they moved to the East in the land of Shinar and settled there. They had ample materials for bricks and apparently said to one another;
“Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.”
…I assume they mean ‘kiln fire’, and not burn. Because burning rock would take some intense heat and serve very little purpose. They continue;
“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.”
Well isn’t this good? Everyone is communicating effectively with one another, they are all united under a common mission to build a town, and a tower, and to leave a mark should they disperse so they can all have this unifying sense of identity. What a noble aim.
UNLESS YOU’RE GOD!
“Behold,” says the insecure little prick, “they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
Cheers God you massive, overly-sensitive, puerile twat!
Now I often hear it told that this story is about humankind’s ambition to be God, or be better than God. God had to punish humanity thus because they were building a tower to the heavens to ‘challenge’ him. But, err, I read no such thing.
In fact I read unity, common purpose, goodness in the words of the people of Babel and insecurity in God who fears the potential achievements of a united humanity.
It’s the same shit as when he kicked Adam and Eve out of Eden. God is scared of the abilities of humanity. It is almost like he needs to exist as a force to hold humanity back.
What this move does is create literal division among humankind, leading to inevitable failures of communication, causing endless suffering, needless squabbles, pointless wars and loss of life when actually all people wanted to do was build a really big building.
There follows a bunch of stuff about Shem’s descendants, the only stuff I haven’t included is ages, otherwise the genealogy is included in the nested lists above, I can’t be arsed to write it out again.
The story moves down several generations to the descendants of Terah, who are the sons Abram, Nahor and Haran, and Haran fathers lot.
Haran dies in the presence of Terah in the land of Ur, of the Chaldeans.
Abram and Nahor take wives, named Sarai and Milcah respectively.
They all travel together from the land of Ur to the land of Canaan and settle there. In a place called Haran, not to be confused with the person Haran, Terah dies.
And that’s the end of the chapter!
I don’t know if you know your bible but Abram is a pretty significant figure in world religion and when we pick up we will be dealing with the story of this person who, if they were ever a genuine, real, historical figure, has potentially affected the morality of humankind, from the past all the way to our future, more than anyone else in history ever did (including Jesus).
As I said in my introduction, whether you believe in it or not there is much that can be learned from the Bible. Today we have discussed seed banks, universal human mythological motifs and the notion of God as a deliberate hindrance on humanity!
So, the Sons of God mated with the daughters of man, then God flooded everyone except a handful of people, one of whom got drunk and naked, then people started to grow and flourish again, so much so in fact that God had to hold them back because they were getting too good!
Whatever you might think of it, it’s a mad, hell of a story!
Want to catch up on your We Lack Discipline: Preaches?
Introduction – Why I am doing this and the validity of studying the bible for an atheist.
Genesis Chapters 1 to 5 – The creation, Adam and Eve, the Fall and Cain and Abel.