+JMJ+ Welcome to The Story of Salvation, Part 7. We’re going to look at patterns in this episode, the way the patterns repeat through the Bible and in Noah’s story. (I think this series is going to take more than ten posts, but we’ll see.) You’ll find notes and links below at the end of this post.
According to Scott Hahn, in Our Father’s Plan, there are four basic themes in the Bible:
- God as Father: He adopts us through the covenant;
- Salvation as divine sonship: God allows us to participate via covenant in what Jesus has and is in His essence;
- Covenant is the over-arching theme of the Bible from the beginning all the way to the end;
- And the Catholic Church is the Family of God: A worldwide Family of God, that is, whereby all the nations are brought into the covenant and participate in the divine sonship of salvation, with God as Our Father and each other as brothers. Otherwise we are brothers only in an imperfect sense if at all.
By the way, the worldwide Family of God is not about domination, though that is exactly how the worldly see it, reflecting the attitude of the Cainite line rather than the Sethite line, and seeking to dominate others themselves. To a hammer everything looks like a nail. A thief meets a saint and all he sees are the saint’s pockets. To a tyrant everyone looks like someone to conquer and lord it over.
The same basic pattern occurs over and over in the Bible. The specifics change but the pattern remains the same. The genealogies in the Bible are important because they show to which family line persons belong, and they help explain their conflicts, and give insight into the meaning of those conflicts. And all of their conflicts go back to the root in Genesis 3: the sin of disobedience, and refusal to accept suffering, trusting in the Lord. The very next thing that happens after that initial disobedience is the sin of pride that leads to envy that leads to murder. Unrepented sin festers and finally erupts into violence. Over and over and over again. We will see the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, in perpetual conflict until the end of time.
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat, all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”Gen. 3:14-15, RSVCE (See notes below.)
Last week we saw the Sethite line of descendants (Seth was another son born to Adam and Eve) and the Cainite line and how they were very different: Seth was righteous and from his line came those who would “call upon the name of the Lord.” But Cain gave in to the temptation of pride and wanted to make a name for himself. He was marked with a sign showing that he was in a covenant with the evil one. As the original family begins to grow and become more numerous (we’re not told how many daughters Adam and Eve had, or how many their children had, either), they form two distinct cultures, one righteous, and one given to all sorts of evil and perverse practices which are also ritual worship practices, which makes them even worse. Worse practices? Or worse cultures? Yes.
But the two cultures don’t remain distinct. Over time the two begin to mix and the unrighteous corrupt the righteous. Not totally, there is always a faithful remnant, which brings us now to Noah, the mediator of the second major covenant.
Noah and the Household of God
The seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Both phrases are strange. The seed of the woman refers here to the righteous Sethite line. But seed of the serpent? Doesn’t the serpent represent the evil one, a fallen angel? He can’t have a physical line of biological descendants, having no biology of his own. But he can and does have spiritual descendants. And at this point in the narrative his descendants have become very wicked indeed. (See Gen. 6:5.) (By the way, the verses about the seed of the woman crushing the head of the serpent, or the variant version, the woman crushing the head of the serpent, are known as the Protoevangelium or Protevangelium, the Proto-Gospel or the First Gospel.)
But “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord, for he was a righteous man” (see Gen. 6:8-9).
Now Noah is to embody and deliver the human race and “refound God’s family, like a new Adam.” And did you notice this? The description of God’s judgment here resembles the pattern of Creation:
“…a new world would emerge from the chaotic waters of “the deep” (see Gn 1:2; 7:11). The number “seven” also stands out prominently in both accounts. As the sign of God’s “rest” at Creation, it is closely linked to Noah (whose name means “rest” or “relief,” see Gn 5:29). Likewise, Noah was ordered to take seven pairs of clean animals into the ark (see Gn 7:2), which he did, before closing the door: “After seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth” (Gn 7:10). And in the seventh month, the ark came to “rest” upon Mount Ararat (see Gn 8:4). After a long wait, Noah sent out a dove every seven days (see Gn 8:10-12), until his family was finally able to disembark.A Father Who Keeps His Promise: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture, by Scott Hahn, page 85. (Re page number, see note below.)
Just look at all of those sevens. Covenant and restoration is written all over the account of Noah. He’s even told to be fruitful and multiply, as Adam was. Noah is given dominion over the beasts, as Adam was. The covenant is renewed and God sets His Bow “in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (See Gen. 9:13.)
I did not see these things any of the times I read Genesis. Not when I was a kid, not as an adult. Not until I watched Our Father’s Plan and read A Father Who Keeps His Promises. Blew my mind when I first discovered this stuff and blew it again re-reading it for this series. (It’s amazing how much one can forget and rediscover. Feels like Fifty First Dates. Ahem!)
Oh, and there are more parallels between Adam and Noah. The creation and the re-creation story, the garden or vineyard (Gen. 2:15, 9:20), they both consume a fruit that exposes their sin and nakedness (Gen. 3:6-7, 9:21), and a curse (Gen. 3:14-19 and 9:25) is triggered that affects their descendants, Cain and Canaan. Whew! Who had any idea that the Genesis was so tightly structured with so many parallels so full of meaning?
Now, you might think that after the flood wiped out the evil people from the face of the earth that everything would be smooth sailing from now on. But you would be wrong. Noah planted a vineyard “and enjoyed the fruits of his labor too much.” He became drunk and lay naked in his tent and Ham looked upon his nakedness (Gen. 9:22).
What’s the big deal, you say? I said that, too. But we usually forget that we’re reading a translation (most of us do; I know I rely on translations). English doesn’t have the same words, the same idioms, figures of speech, that ancient Hebrew has. I’ve been told by several non-Catholics over the years that I shouldn’t waste time studying my faith or the Bible. But if I didn’t, I wouldn’t know that “looking upon his father’s nakedness” is an idiom that refers to incest. That’s right. Sexual immorality has reappeared. Ham doesn’t merely see his father passed out drunk and naked. He commits incest with his mother who was also there in the tent. That’s why he sees his father naked. Moses will use a similar phrase later when warning the Israelites about the perversions of the Canaanites.
Not surprisingly, what heads the list of Canaanite vices is maternal incest, followed by various other forms of incest, which were actually practiced as part of the ritual worship in Canaan.
It is also significant that the only other time drunkenness is mentioned in Genesis occurs when Lot’s daughters deliberately get him drunk—precisely for the purpose of committing incest with him (see Gn 19:30–35). Like the story of the drunkenness of Noah, this incident of paternal incest is recounted in Genesis for the purpose of revealing the origins of Moab and Amon (see Gn 19:36–38), two of the most perverse enemies of Israel, alongside the evil Canaanites.Ibid., 87.
Shem and Japheth stop their brother and Noah pronounces blessings upon the them, and a curse upon Ham. And that, says Hahn, is the “rest of biblical history in a nutshell” (Pg. 88).
When Israel goes to conquer the Promised Land later, it’s important to note that they are not arbitrarily attacking people, making war on these poor peaceful people out of the blue. They are taking back what was rightfully theirs, their inheritance from the beginning as descendants of the Sethite line, of Shem. The Cainite line and after them, the Canaanites, are given to perversions and making a name for themselves, and I guess they did, but things didn’t turn out well for them. Think about it: the Canaanites were practicing the same sexual sin that brought them about in the first place, the one that led to Canaan’s birth, their founding father. Proof that the effects of sin don’t end with the death of the sinner but ripple down the generations and centuries and outward into the world “unless those sins are repudiated through acts of repentance and renunciation.”
If you still wonder why Ham (or anyone) would sleep with his mother, Hahn invites us to read about Jacob’s son Reuben “taking his father’s concubine” (and Jacob himself, what is he doing having a concubine?) or Absalom driving King David out and sleeping with his father’s concubines in public—to show he was taking his father’s power. All this lust for power, what in the City of God St. Augustine called the libido dominandi—the lust to dominate (others) that comes to dominate the one who would dominate. (And again, what is David doing with all of these concubines? Isn’t that an act of sheer paganism? Did these men think that God didn’t see what they were doing? It will catch up with Solomon when he takes 700 wives and 300 concubines. That’s just too much and God finally says He’s had ENOUGH!)
Hahn says that all of this is made clear in a book that was popular around the time of Jesus, a commentary on Genesis called Jubilees (See Jub 7-10.) “At least five copies were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.” So when we come to the story of Abram, we discover that he was a descendant of Shem’s, and he is to go to Canaan, not some randomly chosen land, but because it was supposed to be Shem’s and Canaan took it for himself. His father Ham had tried to take it and failed. Canaan did not.
I noticed something here and now I can’t unsee it.
Ham attempted to usurp Noah’s power before the father could give it to Shem; so later on, Canaan seized Shem’s landed inheritance, “in the middle of the earth” (Jub 8:12).Ibid., 89.
I watched The Lord of the Rings all the way through in January, and started over again more recently. And I’ve been watching a lot of podcasts about The Hobbit and The LOTR, so all I can think of is battles over land and power, and feuds and grudges, and pacts and betrayals and lies, and broken oaths and murders and evil. Just like in the Bible. Just like in our world today. And I’m so glad we have a Father Who keeps His promises.
Thanks for visiting and reading. I hope you’ll join me again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and most of all, become who you were meant to be: a SAINT! May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Notes and Links
- A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love In Scripture, by Scott Hahn. Paperback, Kindle. (Affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.) Logos or Verbum format. (Requires Logos or Verbum software.)
- Our Father’s Plan, series by Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn. Video series, from EWTN Religious Catalogue.
- The Bible Timeline Study, part of the Great Adventure series by Jeff Cavins. See this page with introduction and options.
- Footnote to Gen. 3:15
…he shall bruise your head: i.e., the seed of the woman, that is, mankind descended from Eve, will eventually gain the victory over the powers of evil. This victory will, of course, be gained through the work of the Messiah who is par excellence the seed of the woman. The Latin Vulgate has the reading ipsa conteret, “she shall bruise.” Some Old Latin manuscripts have this reading and it occurs also in St. Augustine, De Genesi contra Manichaeos, II, which is earlier than St. Jerome’s translation. It could be due originally to a copyist’s mistake, which was then seen to contain a genuine meaning—namely, that Mary, too, would have her share in the victory, inasmuch as she was mother of the Savior.Footnote to Gen. 3:15, RSVCE.
- Re page numbers: I’ve discovered that, depending on which digital edition I use, the page numbers vary wildly. This quote was taken from the middle of Chapter Four, which is given as page 138 in one edition, and as page 85 in another. Quite a difference! I’ll use the page numbers from Biblia, part of Faithlife, parent company of Verbum software and compare it to the printed version—when I find my copy. I really need that library/studio room.
- Promises: Not that we always do. All too often we get in our own way and we forget that without Him we can do nothing.
Images: Noah’s Ark, by Edward Hicks. The Virgin of the Apocalypse (Detail, The Virgin Crushing the Head of the Serpent), by Miguel Cabrera. Both of these are from Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Noah Offers Up Thanks, by Joseph Anton Koch, Wikiart.org, public domain. Qumran in the West Bank, Middle East. In this cave the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, photo from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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