What I found myself thinking about the most as I was reading these chapters is our perspective of God. Any listing of characteristics attributed to God will include things like: eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, infinite, incomprehensible, and transcendent. I’m not saying that these things are not true of God, I just wonder if they’re true in the way we imagine them to be.
In my experience, I’ve seen how this perspective of God tends to set Him apart from us, or maybe more accurately, sets us apart from Him. Many seem to characterize God as being unaffected by mankind, but I don’t see that in these passages.
In looking down on the corruption of humanity, he does not simply decide to destroy mankind, he is sorry he created them (6:7). This does not appear to be a God unaffected by his creation. It may not fit with traditional theology, but this seems to say God is moved emotionally by what he sees; he was not sorry when he created, but he is sorry now.
Really, I’m not sure what this means, it could simply be authors anthropomorphizing God in a way humans could understand; while divinely inspired, Scripture is still literature, and utilizes literary styles and features. Or maybe God is bigger than our comprehension of him; maybe he is closer to us than we imagine, more in tune with our lives than we’ve ever guessed. This theme comes up again a couple times in this reading, including chapter 9.
12And God said,”This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. – Genesis 9:12-15
Something I never noticed before: the rainbow is for God to remember his covenant, not for mankind to remember. Does God really need reminding? Probably not, but still, what does that say about the character of God? And this covenant even seems to come about as result of Noah offering burnt sacrifices (8:20-22).
Again, I don’t know what this means for who God is, but maybe it’s telling us God might not fit in that little box we’ve put him in. We like the box because it’makes us feel safe, but is God safe?
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” – C.S. Lewis, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Chapter 8
No discussion including Genesis 9 would be complete without addressing drunk and naked Noah (9:18-28). This is kind of an odd interjection in the story of Noah: Ham sees his father passed out naked, he tells his brothers who cover their father (without looking). Noah wakes up, finds out what happened (I suppose this is the ancient equivalent of the morning after a drunk-dial), and curses, not Ham, but his son Canaan (who had no part in this story!).
The best explanation I’ve heard regarding this passage is that it addresses the topic of how we treat the vulnerable, a topic of vital importance to God as we see throughout Scripture. We can see this in contrasting the characters of Ham and Shem/Japheth (On Reading and Interpreting Biblical Narrative). While Ham exploits his father’s vulnerability (nakedness) by telling his brothers, Shem and Japheth protect their father’s vulnerability by carefully covering him without looking.
- 6:1-6 tends to be overlooked – what does it mean? “Children of God” usually in reference to angels. Angels and humans procreating?
- Really picking up on the differences between Yahwist and Priestly sources (see Intro to Genesis for more on source criticism): 6:1-8 = J; 6:9-22 = P; 7:1-5 = J; 7:6-? = P.
- Priestly source has God telling Noah to take two of every kind of animal, Yahwist source has him taking seven pairs of the clean animals and birds. (Also, how do they know what animals are clean? Those laws don’t come until Deuteronomy and Leviticus!)
- “the intention of man’s heart is evil from youth” (8:21) – not a lot of hope for us on our own
- We don’t have to be vegetarians!!! (9:3, compare with 1:29)
- First law given by God and recorded in Scripture: a life for a life (9:6)