Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Genesis 9: Maybe Noah Needed A Drink!

In Elie Wiesel's book, Sages and Dreamers (p.33). Wiesel seems to suggest that Noah "haunted by his memories...escapes into drink and sleep." It may be my imagination but Wiesel seems to have some sympathy for this. As do I. We are told that majority opinion of the rabbis is that Noah errred in planting the vineyard, drinking the wine, getting drunk and all that. I wonder if Proverbs is commenting then in favor of the minority opinion: "Give strong drink to the hapless and wine to the embittered. Let them drink and forget their poverty and put their troubles out of mind." If a man comes to me from the battlefield, straight from the bowels of hell, I hope that I would have decency to pour him a stiff drink if need be. Elie Wiesel knows something about that kind of hell. An army chaplain needs not only food on hand but a private bottle of whiskey for emergencies; to my mind, an hour's rest--sweet nothingness, to the trembling soldier still in the depths of the nightmare is not to much to ask.

Genesis 6: Noah and Moses

Elie Wiesel, in his book "Sages and Dreamers" sums it up this way, with the flood, God was "starting all over, another draft." God preserves Noah and his family but abandons the rest of creation to the flood. It's interesting to me then that the children of Israel refuse to be abandoned, they cry out to God, they put off all their jewelry in mourning, they plead...and...their cause is upheld by the Lord. They are original squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Israel had sinned. God, who seems to have had it up to here with them, proposes that a glorious angel will lead them to the Promised Land...instead of him. He's had enough. The people respond with a might outcry; ice cream is no substitute for true love and an angel, however glorious, is no substitute for God.
Something has changed between Noah and Moses, and the Bible wants to let us in on it. Not only will Israel not be abandoned by God, they don't even have to accept a beautiful substitute. God's faithfulness seems to be coming into sharper and sharper focus, its glory is growing. We will see the glory of his faithfulness and love most in his son, Jesus Anointed, whom he sends because he refuses to abandon the world ("God so loved the world"). Nor will he send a substitute ("God saw that there was no man...he himself brought the victory." Is. 59:16), instead "the word became flesh and tented among us."

Genesis 5: Cursed Soil

Elie Wiesel notes in his book, "Sages and Dreamers(p. 20) that in Noah's time (ten generations from Adam) the ground is still under a curse. Wiesel correctly observes that this, by all rights, should not be; the sons are not to be punished for the sins of the fathers. In Romans chapter 5 Paul also observes much the same thing, "nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses." Paul is saying that death reigned in these days in order that the generations from Adam to Noah might be wakened from the dead by Jesus Anointed. Death did not reign because of "original sin" or any notion of sin being passed on like a disease down from Adam. Rather, death reigned (prior to the law) in order that death might be thoroughly overcome by grace. This thought is not unprecedented. Consider Micah 5 and the rabbinical commentary on its first few verses (The Jewish Study Bible:Jewish Publication Society, p.1213). The jist is that great hardship ("birthpangs") precede the Messiah. Some of the rabbis preferred not to see the Messiah because of the hardships that would that would come before the advent of the Anointed One.

The death that reigned from Adam to Moses are part of these birthpangs.

Sin is not an inescapable, inevitable disease to Paul but an inexplicable fact that has plagued the generations.

Genesis 6: Chamas

Why does the Bible leave the sin of the people shrouded in mystery? We know they are guilty of "chamas," lawlessness or violence, but what are there particular sins. And yet we know from the New Testament, that the people of Noah's time were the worst of the worst.
It's interesting that neither are the sins of Canaanites catalogued. We have reports here and there of child sacrifice and prostitution but no detailed analysis. Is it possible that the Bible does not want to introduce such horrors to its pages?