Day 2: Genesis 5-8

Genesis 5: Adam’s Descendants

This entire chapter is a list of Adam’s offspring, their offspring’s offspring, and on and on and on. As mentioned in my previous post, only the male line is followed. Though in this chapter, daughters are mentioned—not by name, but as “daughters.”

Most of the descendants didn’t start having children until they were well into their hundreds. And most lived to be 300-900+ years old. Great genetics in that family line.

Just five chapters in, and I’m starting to see a pattern: the representations of time in the Bible don’t align with our modern conventions. In chapter 1, the world is created in 6 days (plus a rest day). That seems unreasonable or potentially hyperbolic. But maybe the issue lies in different meanings of what a “day” is. We know what a modern day is, but maybe when the world was created, a day is more like 1,000 years.

In a reverse scenario, Adam and his descendants are recorded to have lived well past our traditional definitions of life expectancy. Again, it seems hyperbolic and unrealistic. But what if here, a “year” meant something different than how we define a year today?

Is this something you’d like me to research and report? Tell me in the comments.

Overall, chapter 5 was tough to get through. It was like reading a giant Ancestry.com listing.

And I learned a very disappointing fact: The Bible doesn’t use the Oxford comma! I’m very pro Oxford comma, so this is a tough hit. Most joking aside, I’m actually surprised the Bible doesn’t use serial commas; the style of leaving them out didn’t become widely accepted (though still hotly debated) until fairly recently.



 

Genesis 6-8: The Flood

The great flood is another story I learned in my childhood. I’m now realizing that a story about the purposeful destruction of the entire human race is an odd lesson for a youngster to learn.

As the story goes, God decided the world was overpopulated and filled with wicked men. So he decided to wipe them from the face of the earth with a great flood.

I find God’s disdain for mankind very contradictory. It was said he made humans in his image (well, the men at least), so why does he hate us so much?

The only man God thought was righteous enough to save was Noah, along with his wife, his sons, and his sons’ wives. God instructed Noah to build an ark to his specifications, including the following dimensions: 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, 45 feet high.

Just like the seemingly strange time translations, I wonder how these dimensions actually compare to how we’d interpret them today.

On the ark, Noah was supposed to gather two of every animal, one male and one female, along with all the food they needed. However, the “clean” animals (those used for sacrifice), were to be saved in sevens. Thanks to my Bible’s footnotes, I know this is seven pairs, not seven individuals. That wasn’t clear in the main text of the chapter.

To flood the earth, God made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights straight. The water got high enough to cover all the mountains, and the entire world stayed flooded for 150 days total.

Once the rain stopped, Noah sent out a raven, which flew around until the waters receded. He also sent out a dove, which returned empty-beaked from the first trip, found an olive leaf on the second trip, and didn’t return at all from the third trip. I remember the part about the dove from this story, but I don’t recall anything about a raven. These two birds are apt choices with all of their literary symbolism.

As I re-read the story about the dove, I wondered if this is where the phrase “extend an olive branch” came from, even though the dove found an olive leaf (which I suppose came from a branch). My guess was correct. To extend an olive branch is symbolic of offering peace or reconciliation, which is what God was doing when he stopped the rains.

In the end, the earth went back to normal, once the animals and people re-populated the planet. “By the twenty-seventh day of the of the second month the earth was completely dry.” Completely dry? What about lakes, oceans, and other bodies of water? This must mean that the land portions of the earth were dry…I think.

Before I wrap this up, I want to pick apart the last paragraph of chapter 8:

“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creates, as I have done.”

Lots to unpack there.

First, animal sacrifice was definitely not mentioned in my experiences with the church.

Second, “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma…” referring to burnt animal carcass? I wish I could have seen my own face when I read that sentence.

Third, “…every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.” I don’t particularly like this outlook on life. I prefer to believe everyone is inherently good in them and that evil is only in a very small percentage of humans. I was really surprised to read this sentiment in the Bible.

More Misogyny

As with Genesis chapters 1-4, there was plenty of gender disparity in this reading. I understand the Bible is from a different time, but I think it’s a really important topic to discuss and question.

Here are two quotes that stood out to me:

“When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them…”

(Quick question on that one first, that relates to questions I had on day 1. Were daughters not a thing up until now? Why are women skimmed over? As I mention, I plan to research and report on these questions.)

And:

“When the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them…”

The language and syntax used in these phrases show that, from the writer’s perspective, women are less than men. The two genders* are talked about as if they’re completely different species. Men are “sons of God,” but women are “daughters of men.”

Two days in and I can already see that gender and sexism are going to be themes I discuss quite a bit. As always, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Post them in the comments or shoot me a note privately.

*I say “two genders” in this context because the Bible only recognizes two genders. I, and many others, view gender as non-binary and much more fluid, but the Bible is pretty clear about its male/female lines.

 

Research Alert

I did some additional digging into the topic of Noah’s Ark. You can read that in The Science Behind Noah’s Ark.

 


 

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About Megan Horn

I'm spending portions of the next 365 days reading the Bible. And document my thoughts as I work through the Holy Book.

5 thoughts on “Day 2: Genesis 5-8

  1. I think you’re right about how they viewed a day back in the day. Probably viewed age differently too. Really it’s the only explanation that makes sense given none of us have ever met a 300 year old person.

    1. And in Noah’s chapters, it’s 600 – 900 years. But in later chapters (spoiler alerts), it’s more like 180 years. So either life expectancy drastically changed, or the measure of time did.

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