Re: [asa] Land Animals and the Flood

From: <philtill@aol.com>
Date: Sun Aug 26 2007 - 07:35:20 EDT

I think that a comparison with the Epic of Gilgamesh (from Babylonian literature) and with Mesopotamian history sheds some light on this.

The Biblical theme is that mankind was originally intended to farm in the Garden of Eden, but?Adam and then Cain were cursed from agriculture, and Cain was sent out to wander the earth as a fugitive.? But in just a few verses later we see Cain building the city "Unuk" (per Dick, transliterated as Enoch in our Bibles).? Well, this is really strange, because we know that any city requires agriculture, and we know historically that?Unuk and the other mesopotamian cities in particular were able to exist?precisely because of the recent technological advances in irrigation.? So the Bible tells us that Cain was doing the exact thing that he had been cursed from doing (farming), and his building of a city represents that he is no longer wandering but has chosen to settle down despite the curse to wander.? I think we miss this point today (for some reason?!) but it was supposed to be obvious to the readers, and it probably was obvious to the readers in an agrarian society who knew tha
 t settling implies farming.

But the text does not leave us thinking that Cain is now happily farming and has thus escaped the curse!? It also shows us a deep irony in that mankind's attempt to overcome the curse against farming only compounds the curse.? The Hebrew author works this out very carefully and purposefully.? He names Cain's grandson (Unuk's son) as?"Irad", which is a distortion of the name parallel in the Seth geneology, "Jared".? "Irad" means "city of a fugitive."? So while Cain was supposed to be a fugitive on the earth, driven from societal life because of his lack of agriculture, we see that his descendants are still fugitives even though they are now in their Mesopotamian cities!? That is because they are fugitives from God in their rebellion.? Isn't that a delicious irony that the Bible gives us?!? Furthermore, the naming of Cain's descendant "Mehujael" is a distortion of the godly "Mahalalel" from Seth's geneology.? "Mehujael" means "cursed of God," whereas "Mahalalel" means "praised
 of God."? And so we see this intentional commentary in Cain's geneeology all the way down to Lamech who boasts of his violence as being greater than God's curse on Cain.? So we are supposed to realize (but usually don't!) that the Cain geneology is telling us that the curse is becoming only worse through the introduction of agriculture and civilization in Mesopotamia.? Their agricultural practice?was not blessed by God; it was an evil distortion of what God intended.? Rather than repenting to remove the curse and learn how to farm in obedience to God, mankind is farming in disobedience and is making a mess of it.? And the civilization that develops around this rebellion is very violent and deserves judgement.? So we should realize that the buildup to the Flood doesn't just start in chapter 5 or 6.? It has already been going on ever since chapter 4 as the main theme of the Bible beginning with Abel and Cain.

These themes are parallelled and perhaps explained somewhat in the Gilgamesh epic.? In that polytheist account of the flood, the older generation of gods were upset at mankind for their agricultural practices in Mesopotamia because the farming was too "noisy" and so the gods couldn't get any rest.??In what sense?is agriculture "noisy"?? What was the Mesopotamian author communicating of relevance to his contemporaries through this account?? It seems to me that the only answer is that "noisy" may be a figure of speech or an allusion to more than mere noise.? I suspect it means that the overall lifestyle in that culture was somehow unethical and displeasing both to "gods" and to man.? Maybe it was a reference to the noise of slaves in the fields crying out in their suffering, which kept the gods from getting any sleep.? Maybe it was simply a comment that society was an ugly thing and that it was better to not have civilization at all if that is what it was going to be like.

What we know historically is that makind did invent agricultural practices at the Neolithic, and that was precisely what led to the birth of cities in Mesopotamia.? We also know that these cities were dependent upon highly labor-intensive practices of digging irrigation canals and working the fields with human labor, and that it was probably a miserable life for those trapped in the life of those cities (unless you were a ruler, administrator or priest).? We also know that the cities that developed at that time were always having wars with each other.? So it was a dark civilization and certainly not raising mankind to new heights or glorifying God (or the "gods") through its practices.

A common root can be found behind these Biblical and Babylonian accounts (and with the historical record) if we understand that mankind developed agricultural practices that were abusive to people (and animals?), involving slavery or other forced work, involving violence to force people to work, as well as the fighting and warfare over croplands, etc.? This would unite the two Biblical themes of violence and farming (in rebellion to God) with the Babylonian theme that mankind's farming was "noisy" and upsetting to the gods.

In any case, both the Babylonian and Biblical accounts involve the displeasing practices of agriculture as a reason for the buildup to the flood.

So, to get to the question:? why were the animals judged along with mankind?? I think it is because the judgement wasn't just against the people, but against the entire society that was based on the those brutal agricultural practices.? It was a curse on "Cain" (wandering mankind who chose in rebellion to farm by his own brutal methods and thus form cities against God's command), thus fulfilling a great sweep of pre-history from Cain to the Flood.? It was not just a judgement on the individuals who lived at that time. ?God was sending the judgement against that overall system, including the animals that were involved in it for tilling the ground, etc.

Phil

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Received on Sun Aug 26 07:35:53 2007

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