Monday, March 23, 2020

Mining Gems in Genesis

Reading Genesis calls for humility and a willingness to learn new ideas and information. Genesis 3:8 and 10:9 are examples of where this may be needed, and are even about how the Tetragrammaton can be used in language. This is pointed out in the NET Bible footnotes.

Genesis 3:8
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord [sic LORD] God moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the orchard.

  • The Hitpael participle of הָלָךְ (halakh, “to walk, to go”) here has an iterative sense, “moving” or “going about.” While a translation of “walking about” is possible, it assumes a theophany, the presence of the Lord God in a human form. This is more than the text asserts.
  • The expression is traditionally rendered “cool of the day,” because the Hebrew word רוּחַ (ruakh) can mean “wind.” U. Cassuto (Genesis: From Adam to Noah, 152-54) concludes after lengthy discussion that the expression refers to afternoon when it became hot and the sun was beginning to decline. J. J. Niehaus (God at Sinai [SOTBT [Studies in Old Testament Biblical Theology]], 155-57) offers a different interpretation of the phrase, relating יוֹם (yom, usually understood as “day”) to an Akkadian cognate umu (“storm”) and translates the phrase “in the wind of the storm.” If Niehaus is correct, then God is not pictured as taking an afternoon stroll through the orchard, but as coming in a powerful windstorm to confront the man and woman with their rebellion. In this case קוֹל יְהוָה (qol yehvah, “sound of the LORD”) may refer to God’s thunderous roar, which typically accompanies his appearance in the storm to do battle or render judgment (e.g., see Ps 29).
Genesis 10:8, 9
Cush was the father of Nimrod; he began to be a valiant warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord [sic LORD]. (That is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD.”)

  • The Hebrew word for “hunt” is צַיִד (tsayid), which is used on occasion for hunting men (1 Sam 24:12; Jer 16:16; Lam 3:15).
  • Another option is to take the divine name here, לִפְנֵי יִהוָה (lifne yehvah, “before the Lord [YHWH]”), as a means of expressing the superlative degree. In this case one may translate “Nimrod was the greatest hunter in the world.”
So the “breezy time of the day” may actually refer to the original idea of divine judgment “in the wind of the storm,” with God “coming in a powerful windstorm to confront the man and woman with their rebellion” with a “thunderous roar.”[1] This is much more dynamic than how we usually read it!

Lastly, with Nimrod, it is being proposed that the Tetragrammaton is being used adjectivally describing his might as a warrior, being “the greatest hunter in the world.” What a fear-inspiring person!

A description of his fame as a city-founder is then given—and here too we must be open-minded. Is verse 11 describing his might as the greatest warrior in the world with an invasion and conquest of the Assyrians?

Genesis 10:10-12
The primary regions of his kingdom were Babel, Erech [Uruk], Akkad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar. From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen, which is between Nineveh and the great city Calah.

First, it is interesting to note both lists close with the similar-sounding Calneh and Calah. However, the NET Bible footnote cautions us about Calneh that “No such place is known in Shinar (i.e., Babylonia). Therefore some have translated the Hebrew term כַלְנֵה (khalneh) as ‘all of them,’ referring to the three previous names (cf. NRSV).” Robert Alter concurs, and in his new translation he explains in a footnote: “all of them. This translation adopts a commonly accepted emendation wekhulanah, instead of the Masoretic Text’s wekhalneh, ‘and Calneh.’”

Returning to the question if this is referring to a conquest of the Assyrians, another footnote informs us: “The subject of the verb translated ‘went’ is probably still Nimrod. However, it has also been interpreted that ‘Ashur went,’ referring to a derivative power.” Indeed, this is how Robert Alter translated the Hebrew text:
The start of his kingdom was Babylon and Erech and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land Asshur emerged, and he built Ninevah…”
Thus, verses 11-12 may not be about Nimrod at all, but instead be a parenthetical note that Ashur was also building cities to the north.

These gems have been mined for your evaluation of their worth.

[1] This reading appears to be supported in verse 10, where Adam and Eve are hiding from His voice. Interestingly, in verse 9 where God asks “Where are you?” a footnote explains:
The question is probably rhetorical (a figure of speech called erotesis) rather than literal, because it was spoken to the man, who answers it with an explanation of why he was hiding rather than a location. The question has more the force of “Why are you hiding?”
In response, Adam answers: “I heard you moving about in the orchard, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” A footnote explains regarding what Adam heard:
If one sees a storm theophany here, then one could translate, “your powerful voice.”
So they were cowering in fear, and Adam blamed it on being naked. This motif of nudity was introduced in Genesis 2:25, where it conveyed a sense of innocence. Interestingly, the next verse in 3:1 says the serpent was “shrewd.” A footnote here points out a lingual connection:
There is a wordplay in Hebrew between the words “naked” (עֲרוּמִּים, ʿarummim) in 2:25 and “shrewd” (עָרוּם, ʿarum) in 3:1. The point seems to be that the integrity of the man and the woman is the focus of the serpent’s craftiness. At the beginning they are naked and he is shrewd; afterward, they will be covered and he will be cursed.
Another footnote here explained about the serpent:
He showed knowledge beyond the capacity of animals. He lied and so was disloyal to God. These facts indicate control of the serpent by a supernatural being.

See also:
  • Depiction of Nimrod from Gilgamesh-Art on Deviant Art.