January 26, 2015.
Daily Reading: Genesis 9-14.
Background: Genesis 6-8.
Concepts and Connections.
1. A new beginning and a new covenant: After Noah and his family were brought safely through the flood via the ark, it was time for a new beginning and a new covenant between God and man. There were a few differences between this beginning and the beginning that was set up at creation, but the overall concept was the same. Noah and his family were given the command to “be fruitful and multiply” and have dominion over the earth, just as Adam and Eve were told to do in Genesis 1:28. This flood served as a type of reset for earth after man had become so wicked and an echo of the salvation that was to come through the waters of baptism via the blood of Christ (see I Peter 3:18-21). Just as the water cleansed the world from the sin of man and brought Noah and his family safely through to the other side, so does baptism for us by uniting us with Christ through His death, burial and resurrection, bringing us to the other side, dead to sin and alive to Christ (see Romans 6 and Colossians 2-3).
Once Noah and his family were safe on the other side, God made a new covenant with Noah and further with all creatures on the earth. God gave mankind the blessing of animals for food, as before this only the plants were given to man as food (see Genesis 1:29). Only, man was not to eat the blood of animals, for in the blood was life. Thus, shedding the blood of another man would be punishable by death, life for life. It is interesting to note that it was evident to the Jews through the revelation of God that there was life in the blood, when it took the realm of science thousands of years to understand the true importance of blood, as just a few hundred years ago we were still draining “bad blood” from patients with certain illnesses.
The new covenant that God made with all creation was that He would never again destroy all flesh through the mechanism of a great deluge as had just been done. To signify the covenant, God placed a rainbow in the cloud to remind everyone of the covenant. Still today when we see a rainbow we have the opportunity to think back to the new covenant that God established with man after He had cleansed the earth.
2. Wine and the curse of Canaan: It is interesting to note that this is the first time that wine is mentioned in the bible, and it leads to a very bad situation. This even probably occurs many years after the flood as it would have taken time to set up the infrastructure and planning to make a vineyard after the flood had destroyed all that was there before the flood, and then more time for the wine to ferment. Regardless, it would seem that Noah became a vinedresser and on this occasion got himself drunk, which lead him to lay uncovered in his tent, where his son Ham saw his nakedness. Some commentators suggest that Ham might have committed sexual acts with his sleeping father, but others note that this is unlikely due to the nature of how his other two sons handled the situation, purposefully averting their eyes from their father’s nakedness, thus implying that the act of looking was indeed a serious grievance. Regardless of the offense, it warranted Noah to curse Canaan, Ham’s son, when he realized what Ham had done. There are different explanations of why Noah cursed Canaan instead of Ham, but this curse would follow the generations as the land of Canaan would be given to the children of Israel under the hand of Joshua and the inhabitants would be driven out, or at least to the extent that the children of Israel would obey the command of the Lord (see Numbers 13 and Joshua 3-5).
Noteworthy names and nations in the genealogy of Noah: Though there are some tough genealogies in the bible with names that today are relatively unheard of, the genealogy of Noah after the flood is rather important in terms of the nations of the earth and also very interesting. Though this lineage, many of the nations that the Israelites would deal with throughout the years are mentioned, showing where they came from and how they were founded. Though there is little information about each of the names here, it is very interesting simply to see them mentioned. Assuming a worldwide flood, the nations that came afterwards would have to have originated from some where, and this chapter along with the next gives some insight about how God orchestrated this feat. Of Noah’s three sons, these are some of the notable names and nations that came from each.
The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. Cush became the father of the nation of Ethiopia, and his son Nimrod would go on to establish many cities, two of the most notable being Babel and Nineveh in Assyria. Egypt and his descendants would obviously spread to the land of Egypt, one of his sons, Casluhim, would father the nation of the Philistines, a constant enemy of the children of Israel as history progressed. Canaan would become the father of the nations in the promised land that the Israelites were told to drive out when God gave them the land. It is interesting to note that most of the descendants of Ham would be the enemies of God’s people.
The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. Gog and Magog would often be used as a pair, representing the nations of the world, usually in the context of evil.
In a few generations of Shem’s lineage, Eber was born, who was an ancestor to the Israelites. Eber had a son name Peleg, meaning division, for in his lifetime the earth was divided (see chapter 11). Peleg would go on to be included in the genealogy of Christ (see Luke 3:35).
1. Lessons from the tower of Babel: The tower of Babel is a very interesting story that sheds at least two important lessons on the characteristic of mankind. The first lesson is that man is more often than not arrogant and self-centered. Notice what the people of Babel (or what the place would later become know as) cite as their purpose for building a tower to the heavens: they want to make a name for themselves. Mankind is always seeking to make a name for himself amongst the children of men (and perhaps even with God). The tower of Babel which would reach to the heavens was purposed as a symbol of man’s equality with God, or at least in their mind. Due to their conceit, the Lord God came down to visit Babel and ultimately disperse the children of men across the face of the earth, with different languages and groups.
The second, and perhaps even more interesting characteristic of mankind that this story reveals comes through the statement that God makes when He comes down to Babel. God looks at what they are doing and comments that since they are one people and of one language, there was nothing that they set in their heart that they could not accomplish. God has given the ability to do great and wonderful things to mankind when they work together. This is why a single invention, the printing press, was such a key factor in the Renaissance. With this invention, mankind could really begin to communicate with each other and spread ideas across the nations. History bears out that when language and cultural barriers are overcome and men start working together as a single unit, inconceivable feats begin to become possible. Today it would seem that we are progressing to the way it was at Babel, pushing towards a universal language and a world market and spread of ideas. Even today, we can see the ingenuity of mankind when ideas are spread throughout the world.
2. The genealogy of Abram (Abraham):
Noah’s descendants (through Shem) to Abram (“Child Bearing Age” denotes the age at which they had the child that is listed below):
|Name (son of above)||Child Bearing Age||Full Age|
1. The call Abram: The call of Abram is a pivotal point in both Jewish and Christian theology, as Abraham would go on to become the father of the Jews, and by extension Christians as well. It was to Abraham that the promise was given that his seed would bless all the nations of the world, and that seed being Jesus (see Romans 4:16-19 and Galatians 3:16). The calling of Abram in this chapter is often considered his second calling, as Stephen points out in his address to the Jews that before Abram lived in Haran, God came to and called Abram to come out of his land and go into a land that the Lord would show him (see Acts 7:1-4). This is seen in Genesis 11 when Terah takes Abram and Lot, Abram’s nephew, from the Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan. But they stopped and settled in Haran before they got to Canaan. Thus, God has to call Abram a second time after his father dies so that he can complete the will of God. Through this call, Abram and his offspring would be extremely blessed. He was going to give Abram the promise of the land of Canaan that He would give to Abram’s offspring. He was going to give him the promise of the coming Messiah. But it would seem something distracted him from completing the call. A lesson that we can draw from this is that when we are called by God, we should not halfway answer the call as Abram did the first time. When God calls us for the glory of His kingdom, it is a big deal. Abram would go on to become the father of many nations, and ultimately the Christ would come through his lineage to save the world. But this would not have been accomplished (at least not through Abram) if he had not answered his calling completely. Fortunately for us and him, God doesn’t readily take no for an answer, just as he didn’t accept Jonah’s denial of preaching to Nineveh (see Johan 1-2). When God calls, we should listen.
2. The faith of Abram: The faith of Abraham is a constant motif in Jewish and Christian theology. He has his place in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 for obeying the call of the Lord. Abraham was called to come out of the land that he lived in with the people that he knew and was just told to go to the land that God would show him. That seems to be asking a lot. Yet, as far as we know, Abram went without question. Abraham had an extraordinary amount of faith in God, from following the command here to offering his son on an alter as a test of faith (see Genesis 22 and Hebrews 11:17-19). This is not to say that Abraham was without his faults, as we will see next, but rather to say he had a consistent faith in God throughout his life, a faith that we should try to mimic. With the faith of Abraham, we could do many great and wonderful things for the glory of the kingdom of the Lord.
3. The fault of Abram: Though Abraham is a key figure in three major faiths in the word today, he was certainly not without his faults. This shows the realistic nature of the bible as the word of God. Abraham wasn’t painted as a pure figure without any flaws as other religious figures in different faiths are. The bible clearly records the faults of many godly men throughout its pages. Here, Abram decides to have his wife Sarai lie to the people of Egypt and say she was his sister instead of his wife out of fear of being killed by the Egyptians because Sarai was very beautiful. God does not approve when Pharaoh takes Sarai as his wife on account of Abram and sends plagues on the house of Pharaoh until it is discovered what Abram did. What’s worse is the fact that he doesn’t seem to learn his lesson, as we will see him do the same thing just a few chapters later (see Genesis 20). This lie is even passed on through the generations as Isaac does the exact same thing about his wife Rebekah out of the same fear (see Genesis 26). In all three instances, God did not approve of the lie and there were consequences for it. This goes to show that God uses broken people who are not perfect to carry out His will.
1. Sometimes separation is necessary: When Abram and Lot set out towards the land of Canaan, problems started to arise. We are told that both Abram and Lot had flocks and cattle, so much so that the land could not support the two of them together. Aside from this, a strife had arisen between the two’s herdsmen probably due to the small amount of space that they had. Thus Abram told Lot that they should separate that there be no strife between their men. Sometimes it is necessary to separate from people in order to keep the peace. As we will see in the next chapter, this does not necessary mean that there is bad blood between the two. A similar story of separation (though it would seem to be with much more conflict) occurs in the New Testament between Paul and Barnabas over a disagreement they had on bringing John Mark with them on a missionary journey. There was such a sharp disagreement between the two that they had to separate (see Acts 15:36-41). Separation is not always a bad thing and is sometimes necessary to keep the peace.
2. Selflessness versus greed: When they separated, we see two very different characteristics in each of the men. Abram acted in a very selfless manner, given Lot the first choice of where he wanted to go, saying that he would turn the other way. Lot acted in a very selfish manner, seeing a well watered plain near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot’s selfishness would prove to almost cause his ultimate downfall, as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were so wicked that God would eventually destroy them with fire and brimstone. Lot and his two daughters would be the only ones to survive, and that with nothing on their backs. Abram’s selflessness on the other hand would prove to be a blessing to him as God blessed him with the promise to give the land that he saw to his children as a possession forever. We can see from this story the benefits of being selfless in our daily lives and putting the needs of others before our own (see Philippians 2:3).
1. Separation did not mean disfellowship: Continuing on with the story from the last chapter, Abram and Lot had separated due to the small amount of space and strife that had arisen between their herdsmen. However, it would seem that this did not mean there was a lot of hard feelings between the two. When Lot and his family were taken as prisoners of war, Abram swiftly came to his aid, defeating Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and the kings who were with him and rescuing Lot and his family. It is refreshing to know that people can separate and still act as brethren.
2. The importance of Melchizedek: When we are reading through this chapter of Genesis, this last portion is so sort and may seem unimportant, so much so that we read right over it and not think all that much about it. However, there is a huge theological truth about Jesus Christ as our great High Priest that comes from this section about Melchizedek. The Hebrew writer goes on to elaborate extensively on why this interaction between Abram and Melchizedek is so important. What we must first understand is who Melchizedek was. Melchizedek was king of Salem. His name meant “king of righteousness” and his title meant “king of peace” (see Hebrews 7:1). Melchizedek is called a priest of the God Most High. We know that he was a man of great importance, for Abram gave a tenth of everything to Melchizedek, showing his relationship towards the King. Melchizedek has no lineage. He appears out of nowhere and vanishes just as quickly as he appears. We are not told of his birth or of his death. Further, Salem is traditionally associated with the city of Jerusalem.
All of this information is important, for Melchizedek would serve as a shadow of the Christ. In Psalm 110:4, there is a Messianic prophecy that says that the Christ will be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. The Hebrew writer explains this to mean that Jesus was now our great High Priest forever, just as Melchizedek had no beginning or end. Further, Abram, being inferior in status to Melchizedek, was blessed by the High Priest, the lesser being blessed by the greater. By extension, Christ was blessed by Melchizedek because he would come through the lineage of Abram. Christ came from the tribe of Judah, and thus would not have been able to be considered a priest, for priests only came through the tribe of Levi. However, perfection could not come through the priesthood of Levi, and thus this is why the prophecy said that Christ would be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Where there was a change in the priesthood, there was necessarily a change in the law. Now, Christ reigns forever, unlike the Levitical priesthood that changed constantly, after a higher order, through the blessing of Abram by Melchizedek. For more information and a better explanation of this concept, refer to Hebrews 7.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 16-20.
Stand strong in the faith.