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The Book of Genesis may be one of the most controversial books in the entire Bible. Many people with an opinion assert that it tells us about the creation of the physical universe. Genesis certainly is the book of beginnings, but the beginnings of what?
The phrase “heavens and earth” conjures in our mind today a picture of a “big blue marble” hanging in space. We see Planet Earth from an outer space vantage point, from God’s eye-view, not a historical human view. The ancients, though more sophisticated than we often give them credit, could not have imagined that image we find so common now. It seems strange to us, but the concept of Planet Earth is only about 400 years old. Johannes Kepler invented it during the time that the King James Version of the Bible was being translated. “Heavens and earth,” as we tend to understand that phrase today, was completely unknown to those who translated the King James Bible.
The first two chapters of Genesis are often referred to as an “ancient cosmology.” That means that temple illusions are used to describe the creation of the physical universe. John Walton (in his book The Lost World of Genesis One) tells us that this cosmology was not the physical creation, but the “assigning of functions,” a sort of dedication ceremony for “God’s cosmic temple.” Audience relevance is a foundational component for interpreting the book of Genesis, as well as the other books of the Bible, accurately. How did the original audience whom the book of Genesis was written to understand it?
As was mentioned earlier, the 17th century started with the translation of the King James Bible and Kepler’s invention of the modern Planet Earth. We really don’t know what the translators had in mind when they penned the phrase “the heavens and the earth,” but common sense would indicate it almost certainly wasn’t what we understand today about the physical universe. Agreed?
The 1860s saw the discovery and reading of earlier forms of writing, including Akkadian cuneiform and pictographs, the parent writing system of Hebrew and Aramaic. These writings included other creation accounts which were somewhat similar to Genesis 1 and 2 in character and an Epic about a herculean figure named Gilgamesh. (Gilgamesh was the King of Enoch, many years after the flood.) Though Moses probably couldn’t have written in Hebrew, he could’ve written in Egyptian or one of these older forms.
The 1920s saw the Leonard Woolley’s excavations of Akkad in Northern Iraq. Documents uncovered there described an older land to the south, a land that had been destroyed by a great flood and rebuilt. This led Woolley to discover another civilization to the south which the Akkadians called “Sumer.
In Sumer, Woolley discovered the remains of a temple and an altar. Older temples have been discovered, but this seems to be the oldest altar ever found. This temple appears to be the first used to offer sacrifices. This altar was either dedicated to a god named Adam or owned by a man named Adam. Was this Adam the same Adam as in Genesis chapter one? Today, some propose that the theory of molecules to man evolution has disproved creation, and thus the foundation of Christianity. Yet, molecules-to-man evolution is a theory that has already been proven untenable in the light of genetics, the complexity of created beings, and the complex universe. Scientists are increasingly speaking out that random chance could not have made the universe, and us. For one, life cannot randomly come from non-life (the big bang). Two, all species adapt to the environment through the loss of genetic information, and remain the same species. These are two fundamental indisputable scientific facts. The Privileged Planet is a recommended resource.
Woolley also discovered the city of Ur where Abraham was born and the remains of an extensive flood. This was a river flood which was confined to the Tigris-Euphrates flood plain and destroyed an area which was about 100 miles wide and 400 miles long. This was possibly the flood of the Epic of Gilgamesh and is the most similar, although certainly not identical, to the Biblical account. Other flood accounts from the Greeks and the Indians have some similarities to Noah’s flood. While flood stories from places further away such as China, Sumatrans, Aborigines, Fijans, Cherokees, Aztecs, Incas, and the Hawaiians are less similar. In sum, the greater the distance from the Middle East, the less Biblically accurate the flood account is. In this case, distance and time equals distortion.
Woolley’s diggers uncovered thousands of clay tablets written in Akkadian and Sumerian cuneiform and pictograph. Woolley’s librarian, PJ Wiseman (author of Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis: A Case for Literary Unity), cataloged and supervised the packing of every tablet. Wiseman discovered that every tablet had a title of sorts and ended with a colophon. In Akkadian the colophon started with the word toledah (Hebrew for account or generations), with the author’s name, and with something Wiseman ascertained as a date.
(More recently, this commentator has looked at dozens of these tablets, and the colophon jumps out as a very prominent feature.) Examples of Sumerian and Akkadian colophons in Genesis are the verses “these are the generations of…” or “this is the account of…” found in Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 27, 25:12, 19, 36:1, 36:9, & 37:2. Both the Sumerian
and the Akkadian tablets employed the same basic structure for the colophons, but Wiseman noted some other, more subtle differences, between texts written in the two languages.
The significance of these finds cannot be underestimated. We have historical and archeological evidence of one of the most devastating events in early human history. Fully half of ancient Sumer was destroyed by this flood. Two independent historical accounts of the event and numerous ancient documents discovered in Akkad and Sumer are dated with respect to this flood, and even a few documents in Egypt attest to its occurrence. Was this Noah’s flood?
But wasn’t Noah’s flood global? In truth, there exists scientific evidence in support of a global flood such as: multiple strata laid down quickly, little to no erosion between strata, sediment transported vastly and at great distances, rapid burial of animals and plants, and fossils of marine life buried well above sea level. Moreover, geological evidence from the Grand Canyon, as well as time specific evidence gleaned from the explosion of Mount Saint Helen’s in the 1980’s, has solidified scientific support for major rapid catastrophes.
Yet context is critical in understanding Noah’s flood. If I am writing a book about Ireland, and in the book it says “All the hills,” it would not include the mountains in Tibet. Likewise, in Matthew chapter 24 Jesus was talking about the destruction of the temple and the end of the old covenant age; not the physical world as we know it today. That is the context. Jesus uses the word “you” to the apostles
/ disciples eighteen times. Audience relevance and context are foundational principles in rightly dividing the Word of God. So when you read in Matthew 25:32 about “all the nations”, you would rightly understand that in context and with audience relevance as being all the nations of Palestine, not all the nations as we know them in our present day outside of the old covenant Holy Land. Apply this same Biblical principle to the flood and you will understand it was likely regional, and probably not global.
Biblical examples of this concept of all the nations / all the earth applying regionally, instead of globally, include, but are not limited to, the following: Genesis 41:57, 1 Kings 10:24, 1 Chronicles 14;17, 2, Chronicles 32:23 & 36:23, Ezra 1:2, Ps. 118:10, Jer 27:7, Dan 4:1, Hab 1:6, Acts 2:5 & Matt 24:9.
The question of “which came first?” might be the wrong question. According to Wiseman, Genesis 1–11 was originally written in Sumerian. Abraham and his father Terah left Sumer at the end of Genesis 11 and settled in Akkad. From that point until the last colophon in Genesis 37:2, the text was originally written in Akkadian. Israel then left for Egypt where colophons were not used. Robert Best’s Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic states that Noah is the source of that oral account of that flood. The Genesis 10:1 colophon supplies the names of Noah’s three sons as the authors of that written account. Neither text was copied from the other. Both accounts were based on different eyewitnesses of the same event.
In the 1970s and 1980s, linguist Yehuda Radday, using the new science of statistical linguistics, developed a series of tests to shed some light on the authorship of several books of the Old Testament. For example, the traditional view of Isaiah is that Isaiah wrote the book, part early on and the rest years later. The results of this statistical linguistics? One man likely wrote the whole book of Isaiah as the traditional view suggests.
For the five books of Moses, Radday’s results were a bit complicated. Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers were likely written by the same person as the speaker identified as Moses, as claimed by the traditional view. Deuteronomy was written by the speaker identified as Joshua. Though not the traditional view, it does not contradict God’s Word, and might not harm tradition.
But what about Genesis? It is extremely unlikely that Moses was the author of Genesis. The idea that Moses wrote Genesis is not supported by either the Bible itself, or by the length of time in between the writing of Genesis and Moses’ lifetime. Instead, Genesis probably had about three authors following the same divisions Wiseman noted. This multi-authorship of Genesis does not disqualify it from being part of God’s Word.
An interesting finding was that none of Radday’s hypothesized authors appear to be major speakers in the text. This agrees with Wiseman’s claims for the identity of the authors of the various sections from Genesis 1:1–37:2, suggesting that, instead of Joseph, a contemporary of Joseph wrote the final chapters of Genesis. Beyond what God’s word tells us, we can only speculate. This brings us to the present day. Conservative scholars such as John H. Walton are recognizing that “the heavens and the earth” phrase does not always refers to the physical universe, but to a covenant. “The new heavens and new earth” refers to the new covenant in Christ, and “the first heavens and first earth” refers to the old Jewish/Mosaic covenant. This certainly begs the question: “When did this practice start?” Let’s let Scripture interpret Scripture in order to discover the most Biblically harmonious answer.
The following is a list of some passages in the Bible where the phrase “the heavens and the earth” may not be referring to the physical creation, but instead to God’s covenant people. Read them in context and decide for yourself. Old Testament passages include: Deuteronomy 31:28, 32:1, 1 Chronicles 16:31, Isaiah 1:2, 13:13, 49:13, 51:16,
65:17, 66:22, Jeremiah 4:22 & 23 & 28, Hosea 2:21, Joel 3:16, and Haggai
2:6 & 21. New Testament passages include: Matthew 5:18, 2 Peter 3:7 &
10 & 13, as well as Revelation 21:1.
Biblical examples of something in the natural also being referred to as something in the spiritual are too numerous to list in this commentary. One prime example would be Jesus’ flesh and blood in the natural as being communion in the spiritual; the bread and the wine. The reader is encouraged to read the Gospels, and to write down the numerous examples of this Biblical principle the reader discovers (2 Timothy 2:15).
As believers in a fulfilled covenant, we also recognize “the first heavens and the first earth” as the old covenant which has been fulfilled. “The new heavens and the new earth” is the covenant in Christ, the last Adam. “The first heavens and the first earth” is the covenant in Moses, the covenant in Abraham, the covenant in Noah. And dare we continue? The covenant in the first Adam.
Genesis starts with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. In English we place a title before that sentence, but in Hebrew that sentence is considered to be the title. If the original was written in Sumerian, then it is the title, and we perhaps put too much meaning into the words. Whether it is the first sentence of the book or the title, we need to ask some questions: What beginning? What does “create” mean? And to what does “the heavens and the earth” refer to? The beginning is commonly assumed to mean the beginning of time. Is that reasonable? The end of which the Bible speaks in the book of Revelation and elsewhere is not the end of time, or even the end of history, but rather the end of the Old Covenant age, the Old Covenant heavens and earth, the entire Old Covenant.
In Matthew 5:18 Jesus said, “For truthfully I say to you, until heavens and earth pass, one jot or one small mark will in no way pass from the law, until all be fulfilled.” Has the law passed away? Do you observe the Sabbath or offer sacrifices? Numerous jots and marks have passed away. Some say the entire law has passed away. But what did Jesus say had to pass away first? “Heavens and earth.”
In Revelation 21:1 John wrote, “I saw a new heavens and a new earth: for the first heavens and the first earth had passed away; and there was no more sea.” What was this first heavens, first earth, and sea? The only places these things are mentioned are in the opening verses of Genesis 1 and in the judgment of them in Revelation 20.
So, based on Matthew 5:18, the heavens and earth have passed away, for whatever it was passed away at the end with the Law. The Old Covenant ended, and the Old Covenant people lost their “power” and were “destroyed” (Dan. 8:24 & 12:7).
A lot has been written about the Hebrew word for “created” (Gen. 1:1, etc.); unfortunately, little of it stands in the context of Scripture. The claim is often made that it means “to create out of nothing, ex nihilo.” Yet we see in the next few verses that the heavens and the earth were created out of the sea, and God “created” Adam from mud. David asked God to “create in me a clean heart.” The word translated “create” literally means “to cut.” It is the verb form of the Hebrew word translated “covenant.” A covenant is literally “the cut thing” or “the created thing.”
Genesis 1:2 tells us about the state of the entity called “earth”: it was “formless and void.” Jeremiah 4:22-23 tell us what that phrase means: God’s creation were like children. They had no law. They were experts at doing evil because, being in intellectual darkness, they didn’t know any better. In Jeremiah’s day, God judged His people because they had forgotten the Law.
In Genesis 1:3 God gave them light. In John 1, we learn that the light was the Word. In some sense that we can’t ascertain today, they received Christ and the Law.
In Genesis 1:6 & 9 God divided the heavens and the earth from the sea. The heavens and the earth were not created from nothing, but rather divided (cut?) from the sea.
Genesis 1 tells us of the creation of day and night. Revelation 21 & 22 tell us there will be no night. Genesis 1:14-16 = the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. Revelation 21:23 = “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it.” Revelation 22:5 = “they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God gives them light.” This fulfills Isaiah 60:19 = “The sun shall no more be your light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light to you, but the Lord shall be unto you an everlasting light, and your God your glory.” Genesis 1:14 = seasons. Revelation 22:2 = “in the midst of the street, was the tree of life, which bore twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month.”
Genesis 1:26 tells us that God said, “Let us make man in our image” referring to Man with the plural pronoun “them.” So here Man equals a people, not an individual as we are traditionally taught. This is very meaningful when we get to the New Testament. Man acts or is made in the image and in the New Testament, Christ is the image. 2 Cor. 4:4. Christ is the male image of God. Who then would be the female image of God? Since Genesis is about a male and female image of God. The New Testament says the church is being conformed to the image of His Son. Here we see the corporate fulfillment of Gen. 1:26-28. The church is the bride of Christ. 1 Cor. 12:12 says that as the body is many members and yet one body so also is the Christ. The word for man in Genesis 1:26 is not the proper noun for man. It is the common noun “adam”, not Adam. For example if I had a cat named ‘Tiger’, tiger would be a proper noun and I would capitalize it because it is my cat’s name. If I were writing about a tiger in a cage or in the jungle, I would not capitalize it because it is a common noun even though it is spelled the same way.
“Make” is a very general word which could either mean to actually make man or to make man responsible for certain things. [Make also has the meaning of acting or doing which would make man as an acting God on the earth and doing what God does on the earth. In His likeness in resembling God to the earth. This is what the One New Man is supposed to being doing responsibly to all in the world. We are love one another and act as God in this world and do the things He does. John 14:12-14, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. NASU. The he is the one new man! In this love has been made complete with us, that we may speak freely in the Day of Judgment: because as He is, so are we in this world. 1 John 4:17 TKB. Perhaps Genesis 1 is a prophecy of the New Testament period like Paul uses it in 2 Cor. 4:4,6. Genesis 2 is the beginning of the saga.
After six days the heavens and the earth were finished, and God entered into His eternal rest (Gen. 2:3 & Heb. 4:11). This whole structure has the form of an ancient temple dedication: a seven day ceremony where, after six days of dedications, God enters His temple — His heavens and earth, the place He’s expected to dwell forever and rests on the throne, His mercy seat. This may be why Noah sent out a dove, but came back because there was no resting place. Gen.8:9. God finally gets a resting place in type. Now therefore arise, O Lord God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your might; let Your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation and let Your godly ones rejoice in what is good. 2 Chron. 6:41 NASU. For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” Ps 132:13-14 NASU. But what was created in the first heavens and first earth, because it was symbolic, has actually passed away, and we are now in the new heavens and new earth of Revelation 21-22. The Genesis 1 creation has been fulfilled with the bride of Christ, the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, the new heavens and new earth.
Genesis 2:4 is the first example in Genesis of what might be a Sumerian colophon, the end of the first tablet. It is usually translated, “the account (or the generations) of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” If it truly is a colophon, it should be translated, “Written by The Heavens and The Earth on the day they were created (cut).” Either way, the word translated “account,” “generations,” or “written” always refers to people, never to things. This is evidence that the heavens and the earth are God’s covenant people, and not the physical universe.
The second part of Genesis 2:4 reads like a title to the second Sumerian tablet. It makes reference to the first: “the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” What follows is a physical description of “the land” where God’s people were placed. It is confusing because this is the same word translated “earth”; but, when considering the interesting hydrology, the access to the oldest known mines, the confluence of four rivers (two of which are still known today, while the dry beds of the other two can be clearly seen in satellite photos), only one place corresponds to this description—the land of lower Mesopotamia near the ancient city of Eridu.
In Genesis 2:16, Adam was told to eat. Augustine argued that this proved Adam was not created physically immortal. Genesis 2:17 reads, “But you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of good and Evil, for the day that you eat of it, you will in death die.” But in Genesis 3:6 Adam and Eve ate it, but did not physically die. In fact, Adam lived 930 years. So what happened? Did God lie? Of course not! It was the manner of their death that had changed (separation from God and His covenantal presence). Adam and Eve were never meant to be immortal physically. Augustine was right. Genesis 3:22 confirms this.
In Genesis 2:18-25 there is an interesting story of Adam naming the animals and the making of the woman. There are two ways to go with this story. First, Adam was told that whatever he names the animals, “that is what they will be called.” Adam named the lion “does violence,” and the eagle “tears flesh.” But why would God show Adam the pairs of animals in this passage? This was to give him a revelation that there is a counterpart in all of creation. This was God’s way of revealing to Adam that he has a counterpart, a complement, a match.
Regardless, Adam spent a substantial amount of time looking for a suitable bride. Similarly, the Christ, who Paul called the last Adam, spent about 3.5 years wandering around Israel searching for a suitable bride. Both men were put into a deep sleep (a Biblical euphemism for death), and something was taken from their sides: for the first Adam it was his rib (thought in Sumerian for breath or life); for the last Adam it was blood/water (symbolic for life). Both men gave their lives for their brides. Both men were awakened from death. Then years later both men received their wives. In the case of the first Adam, “Finally [indicating a lengthy amount of time had transpired between when he first began looking for a spouse to when God presented Eve to him], now bone of my bone … .” In the case of the last Adam, “then I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of the heavens, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
Genesis 2:23 is the first time the Hebrew word for man (ish) is used. The Hebrew word “adam” is more frequently translated “man” than “Adam.” The common noun ‘adam’ is 552 times in Old Testament. [Adam was a man. Adam was a people. But Adam is not a generic word for man. There is a difference. There is a noun “adam” that is translated man and it is related to man in general. There is also the word “ish”, which is translated man or husband and multiple other designations for types of men like warriors, fellow, manchild, people, etc. Then there is the proper noun, “Adam” which is the name of the first man. Adam, the man and the people, were in covenant with God. That is not true of all men in general. This proper noun is used 10 or 12 times depending on the set of manuscripts you draw from.
In Genesis 3 the serpent beguiled the woman. Jesus called the Jewish leaders the brood of this serpent, and in Revelation 12 this serpent was still alive and tormenting the followers of Christ who were rejected by most Jewish leaders. This was not some ordinary snake — this snake was the adversary, the accuser. He was a supernatural being working behind the scenes, and/or he was a person in authority within the covenant itself. In the latter case, each generation may very well have its own accuser, possibly even one of their own, a leader who falsely accuses God’s people. In the book of Acts, the high priest filled this role. An interesting difference occurs in Revelation 12, the woman didn’t stick around. She fled into the wilderness to escape the serpent. It was the land that took the flood that flowed from the mouth of the dragon. She fled into the wilderness to escape the serpent. Ultimately, it was the seed of the woman who gave birth to the corporate Christ who defeated the serpent.
Adam was promised that he would die the day he ate. What was the first sign that Adam had died? Was it when he was thrown out of the Garden? Was it his physical death many years later? Jesus and the apostles spoke of “the resurrection of the dead”; that is not the “awakening from the dead” of Jesus — it is “the standing again of the dead ones.” Adam, when he sinned, hid from God; he could not stand. While the last Adam’s resurrection (Christ’s resurrection) points to Adam’s awakening in Genesis 2, the so-called general resurrection points to Adam’s hiding from God in Genesis 3.
The curse is given to us in terms of thorns and thistles and an “increase” in labor. In Isaiah 65 we learn a bit more about the curse. In the new heavens and new earth the curse would be removed. Verses 23-25 say, “They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for calamity; for they are the seed of the blessed of Yahweh, and their offspring with them … and dust shall be the serpent’s food.” The curse would be removed from Adam and the woman. What would be removed would be the futility of living, working, and raising children under the law of sin and death. But for the serpent his curse would never be removed. In the new heavens and new earth, there is no more curse (Rev. 22:3), no more thorns and thistles (Isa. 55:13). And while Adam was returned to the dust, many would rise from the dust (Dan. 12:2, Isa. 26:19, Eph. 5:14). Most of all, God drove Adam out of the garden so he wouldn’t have access to the Tree of Life; in the new heavens and new earth, we have access to the Tree of Life (Rev. 2:7 & 22:14) who is Christ as the LIFE.
In Genesis 2:24 God placed cherubs to guard the garden. “Cherub” is a loan-word from ancient Sumer. A cher was a customs agent, while a rub was an officer. In Ezekiel 28 we see that one of the guarding cherubs was an officer who became rich by the spoils of Eden. The King of Tyre inherited that covenant and was about to be punished for breaking it.
In Genesis 4 Cain kills Abel and is “driven from the face of the earth” (vs. 14). This “earth” is the same land described in Genesis 2:5ff, the land destroyed by the flood in Noah’s day. The place wherein Cain was when he killed Abel was destroyed, but the place to which Cain was driven was untouched by the flood. In Genesis 4:16 Cain went outside the covenantal presence of God, east of Eden, to the land of Nod. This implies there were other people alive at that point in time. Here’s one question that needs to be asked of those who believe death in Genesis 3 is physical death: Who died first, Adam or Abel? Adam died for his own sins; Abel died for his brother’s sin. Jesus died to undo Adam’s death, not to undo righteous Abel’s death; instead He took vengeance on those responsible (Matthew 23:35-36).
Of whom was Cain afraid? Some say his brothers. If so, then why were Cain’s brothers in the land of wandering? Who had his brothers killed, causing them to also be driven from the face of the earth (the land)? And why would these brothers let Cain subjugate them and rule over them as the king of Enoch the city?
The next few verses in Genesis 4 provide Cain’s genealogy. Cain’s descendants were the fathers of ancient high technology. This technology required division of labor. That these technologies (as well as Cain’s own descendants, Num. 24:22, Jdg. 1:16, 4:11, 17, & 5:24) survived the flood demonstrates that “the face of the earth” was a limited area, a parcel of ground/land, something prominent within covenant relationships. Note: The Hebrew word “erets” can mean earth, land, region, country[ies], ground, soil, dirt, or territory.
Genesis 5 starts with the second colophon, the ending of Adam’s book. Verse 2 contains the title of the next tablet and follows with the genealogy of the covenant line. Note that no ages were given for Cain and his descendants in Genesis 4. Those in the covenant line—Seth’s line—all have ages attached to them, ages which serve a covenant purpose.
Some numbers are Biblically symbolic such as:
3 – God’s actions/Triune God
4 – creation/universality
6 – man’s imperfection/created man 7 – fullness/perfection/covenant
12 – Divine Government 24 – restoration
40 – testing
144 – perfect completion 666 – depraved man
1000 – qualitative importance/immortality
Genesis 5 ends with Noah begetting sons, but Noah didn’t die until the end of Genesis 9. The part in between (the Flood) was not part of Cain’s genealogy or history — it was part of Seth’s genealogy and history. The Flood was a judgment against the covenant line, of which Noah was the chosen remnant.
Genesis 6 starts with a cryptic story of the daughters of men [improper noun – adam] and the sons of God. Kings were generally considered sons of god, and at the time of Noah every city had a king. Some confusion occurs in verse 4, for it speaks of marrying that occurred at a time when giants were in the land; and it says that these sons of God (giants/kings?) and daughters of Adam gave birth to the mighty of old. Most people assume that the mighty of old and the giants were the same people, but the text does not say that; all the text says is that one purpose of the flood was to judge these mighty. The giants, however, survived the flood, prospering until the time of Moses, finally being killed off during the time of David.
Genesis 6:19 tells us that two of each kind of flesh was to be taken on the ark, male and female of the unclean animals and seven of the clean animals. Due to the discussion in verse 20, we generally assume this means animals; yet when God repeats the command in Genesis 7:2, He instead said “beast, a man and his wife,” which was followed by “fowls of the air, male and female.” This is a glorious picture of God’s perpetual purpose and mystery at the end of the age. Noah is commanded to build a vessel, (ark) and gather the clean and the unclean into one vessel and bring them into the new creation. This is the picture of Christ building His church and gathering the clean (believing Jews) and the unclean (believing Gentiles) and taking of the two kinds and creating one new man in Christ thus establishing peace and bringing them into the New Creation in Him in AD 70. Eph. 1:10; 2:15; 3:3-7. This is noteworthy that the name Noah means rest or peaceful.
The total depth of the flood, we are told in Genesis 7:20, was 15 cubits, about 22 feet, and we are told that this covered the “high har,” typically translated as “mountains.” Ancient Sumer is one of the flattest places on Planet Earth—there are no mountains or even hills there; the highest things in ancient times were buildings, dikes, and berms built for irrigation and flood control. In the 1960s, the translators started rewording their translations, changing the depth of the flood from 15 cubits total to the height of the high mountains plus 15 cubits. Sadly, they changed the translations to match their new doctrine.
The landing place of the ark in Genesis 8:4 might best be translated as “the hills of Iran.” These low hills form the northeast boundary of Mesopotamia and the northeast shore of the Persian Gulf. With the slow river flow, the strong prevailing winds and tide action, the ark could have been driven into those hills rather than drifting out to sea. Regardless, the ark came to land in a place somewhat familiar to Noah. There were olive trees growing there (which, by the way, grow very slowly, but die very quickly in floods), indicating a low elevation like the hills of Iran and not Mt Agri Dag (aka Mt Ararat) up in Turkey. It also indicates that Noah ran aground near the edge of the flood’s physical extent.
The Jewish Historian Josephus records: “After this the ark rested on the top of a certain mountain in Armenia; which, when Noah understood, he opened it; and seeing a small piece of land about it, he continued quiet, and conceived some cheerful hopes of deliverance; but a few days afterwards, when the water was decreased to a greater degree, he sent out a raven, as desirous to learn, whether any other part of the earth were left dry by the water, and whether he might go out of the ark with safety; but the raven, finding all the land still overflowed, returned to Noah again. And after seven days he sent out a dove, to know the state of the ground; which came back to him covered with mud, and bringing an olive branch. Hereby Noah learned that the earth was become clear of the flood. So after he had staid seven more days, he sent the living creatures out of the ark; and both he and his family went out, when he also sacrificed to God, and feasted with his companions. However, the Armenians call this place (Apobaterion) The Place of Descent; for the ark being saved in that place, its remains are shown there by inhabitants to this [Josephus’] day.
“Now many writers of the barbarian histories make mention of this flood and of this ark; among whom is Berosus the Chaldean; for when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: — “It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyaeans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs.” Hieronymus the Egyptian, also, who wrote the Phoenician Antiquities, and Mnaseas, and a great many more, make mention of the same. Nay, Nicolaus of Damascus, in his ninety- sixth book, hath a particular relation about them, where he speaks thus: — “There is a great mountain in Armenia, over Minyas, called Baris, upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the Deluge were saved; and that one who was carried in an ark came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved. This might be the man about whom Moses, the legislator of the Jews wrote.”
But as for Noah, he was afraid, since God had determined to destroy mankind, lest he should drown the earth every year; so he offered burnt offerings, and besought God that Nature might hereafter go on in its former orderly course, and that he would not bring on so great a judgment any more, by which the whole race of creatures might be in danger of destruction; but that, having now punished the wicked, he would of his goodness spare the remainder, and such as he had hitherto judged fit to be delivered from so severe a calamity” Antiquities, Book 1, Chapter 3.
“Now the sons of Noah were three, — Shem, Japheth, and Ham, born one hundred years before the Deluge. These first of all descended from the mountains into the plains and fixed their habitations there; and persuaded others who were greatly afraid of the lower grounds on account of the floods and so were very loath to come down from the higher place, to venture to follow their examples. Now the plain in which they first dwelt was called Shinar.” Antiquities, Book 1, Chapter 4.
Did Noah go down with them? There is an indication in, of all places, ‘Gilgamesh’ that he may not have, but stayed in the mountains. In Gilgamesh, the man we call Noah is called Utnapishtim. But not simply that. He is referred to consistently as “Utnapishtim the remote one.” In order to get to him, Gilgamesh records, “I turned, wandering, over all the lands. I crossed uncrossable mountains. I traveled all the seas.”
Something of great interest is the paucity of miracles in the flood account. The animals coming to Noah and the closing of the ark door might qualify as miracles; but, other than those, the only real miracle was that someone got a weather report right … 120 years in advance! At Genesis 10:1 we learn that Noah’s sons were the authors of the flood account, and thus not Moses.
Genesis 10:2 commences the genealogy of Japheth. Verse 5 mentions the tongues or languages of the Nations (the descendants of Japheth), saying that they spread out over the islands. Verse 6 commences the genealogy of Ham. Ham’s son Cush had five sons (vs. 7), and another man Nimrod (vs. 8). This is odd, for why is Nimrod not included in the first list of sons? Nimrod became a mighty one, like the mighty of old in Genesis 6:4 who were destroyed by the flood. Verse 20 again mentions tongues and that Ham’s descendants moved to what we now call Israel and Lebanon.
Genesis 10:21 commences Shem’s genealogy, which includes Arphaxad > Salah > Eber > Peleg, in who days “the earth divided”; this would appear to be a mention of the upcoming Tower of Babel account, while some Christians assert it is the time when the continents separated and drifted apart. We typically see each man in the Scriptures as having two or three sons. If every man on earth was descended from Noah, then likely there were no more than about 80 men in Eber’s generation (minus the ones Nimrod killed). Some views require all mankind to have been widely dispersed due to God’s judgment at Babel, long before Peleg’s birth. Remember Cain’s descendants were the fathers of ancient high tech; so such a few people spread out over millions of square miles means no division of labor. In verse 31 we have more tongues or languages, but Shem’s descendants didn’t spread very far.
Archeology supports the Bible. Numerous ziggurats have been discovered in the Middle East, of which the Tower of Babel was the beginning of one. Genesis 11 starts by saying that “the whole earth was of one lip and one utterance”; not one tongue, but one lip. The tower they began to build, “whose top is heavens,” was made of fired brick and tar for mortar, meaning it was waterproof. They were building it so they could not be judged again by a flood. In response God confused their “lip” and scattered them over “the face of the earth,” that is, over the entire land that the flood destroyed. A lip is not a tongue. So what was confused? Not language. The people had a common purpose, a common religion, a common confession … that’s what was confused by God. It was restored on the Day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two with the creation of the new heavens and the new earth.
Genesis 11:10 commences a genealogy from Shem to Terah, the covenant line, again with ages ending in verse 26 and followed by Terah’s colophon. It has been noted by numerous scholars over the centuries that a major change in the style occurs at this point. In verse 31 Terah takes his family, leaves Ur in ancient Sumer, and settles in Haran in ancient Akkad.
We also find here that the long ages don’t add up: Terah was 70 when Abram was born (vs. 26), and Terah died at age 205 (vs. 32, some 75 years later, 12:4). Robert Best, in his book Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic (p. 113), suggests that the confusion of the “languages” at Babel led to the misreading of the numbers in the old tablets. If that is the case, Joseph and his father Jacob/Israel copied the old tablets down into the new script of their day and, misreading them, tried in vain to correct the numbers. Mr. Best’s explanation looks reasonable, and his correction solves this problem, but the method of his correction is questionable. There may exist another better explanation.
In Genesis 14, Abram’s nephew Lot was taken captive by a foreign king in a raid on Sodom. To rescue Lot Abram took 318 fighting men born in his household and went to war. This gives us the first indication of the size of Abram’s household. These were young men, trained to fight. Author Gary North worked out the numbers and determined Abram had a minimum of 3,000 servants.
In Genesis 15:19 we see the descendants of Cain mentioned: “the Kenites” or more literally “the Cains.”
In Genesis 17 Abram’s name was changed to Abraham when he circumcised himself, his son Ishmael, the 318 fighting men, and every other male in his household, implying that the covenant was not limited merely to Abraham, but included every person in his household.
Genesis 19 contains the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus compared this judgment and the flood with the imminent destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was bigger.
At Genesis 37:2-3, verse three is a second significant change in style: verse 2 ends the Akkadian style that began in Genesis 11:27 and begins a new style, possibly some sort of Egyptian style.
Joseph dreamed of the sun, moon, and stars; symbolic of governing authorities. Everyone knew that they were his parents and brothers, the rulers of many thousands of servants. His father rebuked him, and his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. From there he rose to be the second in command of all Egypt.
Only one man in Egypt’s history fits that description, Imhotep. Imhotep means “I come in peace,” and hotep sounds like the Hebrew Yosep. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and there is no record of Imhotep’s birth or childhood. Joseph came from prison to rule in one day, and Imhotep came quickly to power under Djoser. According to the Famine Stele, Imhotep interpreted a dream for pharaoh, first taxed Egypt, and subsequently saved Egypt from a seven- year famine. Djoser was the first pharaoh wealthy enough to build pyramids, and Joseph’s family came from Sumer which had built step pyramids. Imhotep built the first step pyramid in Egypt, and Imhotep is credited in Egypt with the invention of writing. Joseph’s bones were carried out of Egypt, and Imhotep’s tomb has never been found. The biggest problem with identifying Joseph as Imhotep is dating. Typical dates generated from the Bible put the flood around 2400 BC and Joseph some 13 generations or nearly 600 years later. The flood Wooley discovered dates to about 3000-2900 BC, and Djoser’s reign dates from about 2668-2649 BC. If these numbers are accurate, it would require 19 to 25 years between generations. This requires adjusting at least one chronology.
During the famine, Joseph’s father (Jacob) moved the family to Egypt. Genesis 46:27 says that 70 souls from Jacob’s house went down into Egypt, taking all their cattle and all their goods with them. There seems to be no mention of the thousands of servants they likely possessed. Were they left behind? Were they counted as cattle, even though they were circumcised? This is a problem all through Genesis. Thousands of people were ignored by the writers, yet everyone was part of the covenant; these were God’s people, the Israelites, whose children would come out of Egypt, not as a family with servants, but as a nation of free men.
Genesis is the book of beginnings; and is more closely connected to the book of Revelation than the average Christian presently realizes. Both books are also more spiritual (John 3:10) than the average Christian realizes. By reverse engineering the Old and New Testament Scriptures back to Genesis, and connecting the dots, a more Biblically consistent view of Genesis emerges. Genesis is the beginning of God’s covenant with a portion of mankind; and just as the serpent bit Adams’ heel, so the last Adam, Christ and His corporate body, crushed the serpent on the head. God’s covenantal presence with mankind was interrupted in Genesis 3:24. Jesus’ presence has now been restored to us; read Revelation 21:3 & 22:2.
The Genesis commentary expressed here is primarily from a Biblical-Covenantal perspective; as expressed in the book Beyond Creation Science. A somewhat different interpretation of the book of Genesis can be found through the ministry of Answers In Genesis. Like the wise man in Proverbs 18:17, the reader is encouraged to study multiple points of view and after applying Acts 17:11, prayerfully arrive at his own conclusion based upon God’s Word.
-Jeff Vaughn & The Editors