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Relationship to Genesis 1-11b. Chapter 6b-9 is the story of the flood. The relationship of Chapter 6b-9 to the rest of the Adam-Noah cycle is discussed at Genesis 1-11b.
Story. Chapter 6b-9 consists of six major sections:
- Verses 6:9-13: earth corrupt, Lord repents of creation and plans destruction
- Verses 6:14-22: Noah is told to build ark, covenant to be established with Noah]]
- Verses 7:1-24: enter ark, flood begins, waters rise, 7 + 40 + 150 days
- Verses 8:1-19: waters recede, flood ends, leave ark, 150 + 40 + 7 + 7 days
- Verses 8:20-9:17: ground no longer cursed, told to multiply and replenish earth, covenant of rainbow to not again flood
- Verses 9:18-29: Noah unaware naked, curses son Ham (and his son Canaan)
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 6b-9 include:
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- Outline. The major sections of Chapters 6b-9 can be outlined as a chiasmus.
- a. earth corrupt, Lord repents of creation and plans destruction (6:9-13)
- b. told to build ark, covenant to be established with Noah (6:14-22)
- b. ground no longer cursed, told to multiply and replenish earth, covenant of rainbow to not again flood (8:20-9:17)
- a. Noah unaware naked, curses son Ham (and his son Canaan) (9:18-29)
- Creation parallels. There are some strong parallels between what Noah and his sons were told here and the account given of the creation. In verse 1, God tells Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply, as the first people were told in Genesis 1:28. They were given authority over animals, as the first people were in Genesis 1:28. More interestingly, after the Fall, the Lord provided angelic beings to keep Adam and Eve from the tree of life Genesis 3:24, but presumably anything else edible could be eaten. Here (verse 4), they could eat anything except that which had "life," symbolized by blood.
- Gen 9:3: Even as the green herb. This is likely a reference to the Garden of Eden when God gave Adam and Eve permission to eat seeds and fruit (Moses 2:29, Gen 1:29).
- Gen 9:5: Repetition of "require." Cassuto (p. 127) notes that repitition of require three times in this verse emphasizes the sanctity of life, symbolized by blood.
- Gen 9:5: And surely your blood of your lives will I require. This phrase could be read as God saying he will avenge the blood of any human killed (see the Leibowitz reference below). Alterntively, a slightly different translation, "And surely for your own blood" suggests this could be saying that the injunction in v. 4 not to drink blood (eat raw meat?) is a commandment that will be beneficial for humans to follow (blood stands for human life in this reading; see the Cassuto reference below).
- Gen 9:22: Saw the nakedness of his father. Some scholars think that Ham is punished (verses 24-25) for some unchaste act that is described euphemistically as "saw the nakedness of his father" (see related links below). Others argue that the text should be read more literally: Ham not averting his eyes to his father's nakedness like his brothers did (v. 23) shows disrespect for his father and for God's law of chastity (cf. Lev 20:17 and Hab 2:15); see Cassuto reference below).
- Gen 9:25: Why is Canaan cursed? Verses 9:22-24 describe actions by Ham that may be deserving of a curse, but the curse is directed toward Canaan not Ham. There are at least four different ways this verse can be been interpreted:
- (1) Posterity bears consequences. One view is that Ham's posterity will bear the consequences of Ham's act, either because the blessing in verse 1 cannot be reversed for some reason, or because the punishment for Ham should fit the crime: if Ham caused Noah not to have a fourth son, then Ham's fourth son Canaan is appropriately cursed.
- (2) Canaan really means Ham. Another view is that although the name of Canaan is mentioned, the reference is really to Ham, Canaan's father. One conjecture is that the text was changed historically "to conform to the fact that the Canaanites were subjugated by the Israelites."
- (3) Canaan was the transgressor. Another view is that Canaan was the transgressor, or at least involved in the iniquity against Noah. This view can be found in traditional Jewish literature more modern scholars (see the Cassuto reference below for details).
- (4) People of Canaan cursed. Cassuto argues that Ham represents the Canaanite people who were guilty of sexual immorality. Thus "[t]he Canaanites were to suffer the curse and the bondage not because of the sins of Ham, but because they themselves acted like Ham, because of their own transgressions, which resembled those attributed to Ham in this allegory."
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- Gen 7:23: Was the flood literal and universal? In the following article Duane Jeffery explores the problems related to interpreting the flood as an event that covered the whole earth and recounts theories of a localized flood. Jeffery also considers what LDS leaders have said on the topic: "Noah's Flood: Modern Scholarship and Mormon Traditions", Sunstone Oct. 2004, pp. 27-45.
- Gen 8:4: 277 days. Building on the rebirth/creation motif, Sheldon Greaves notes that this totals 277 days, or 9 months and one week, "almost precisely the period of human gestation. More interestingly, the waters reach their height at 150 days (7:4, 7:24), which also corresponds to the point at which the waters of the uterus swell to their maximum point of expansion." See the following article for this quote (p. 159); other sources are given in footnote 4: “Cosmos, Chaos, and Politics: Biblical Creation Patterns in Secular Contexts.” Dialogue 31 (3) Fall 1998: 157-166.
- Gen 8:7: Raven. For a poetic attempt to think through the presence of the raven in this story, see User: Joe Spencer/(a quaint, but curious) volume of forgotten lore.
- Gen 8:10: Creation motif. Greaves article. The seven days referred to in v. 10 is reminiscent of the seven days of creation (cf. Gen 2:2 and Moses 3:2). In the following article, Sheldon Greaves discusses the creation motif in various scriptural contexts and how mankind's measure of creation has boundaries which, if overstepped as in Noah's days, may lead to a new destruction and creation process: Greaves, Sheldon. “Cosmos, Chaos, and Politics: Biblical Creation Patterns in Secular Contexts.” Dialogue 31 (3) Fall 1998: 157-166 [p. 158]
- Gen 9:3: Moving things as meat. Contrast what God seems to be saying here about eating meat with what God says in Moses 2:29-30 about eating seeds and fruit with no mention of eating "moving things" (animals).
- Gen 9:22: What did Ham do to Noah? Hugh Nibley in Temple and Cosmos pp. 128-130 discusses some history of a sacred garment and how Book of Jasher 7:27 relates that Ham stole the garment from Noah.
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