Reflections on Genesis 2

If Genesis 1 doesn’t make you feel special by being God’s final, very good creation Genesis 2 should do it for you. Of all six days of creation the story focuses on the sixth day when God created man. God takes the lifeless dust of the ground and forms a man out of it. God breathes into his nostrils the breath of life and Adam comes to life. Now, man was not the only one to receive the breath of life. Animals got that too (7:22) but nowhere in the text does it give such a personal account of the animal kingdom getting such hands on treatment. Then Genesis leaves you hanging for about eight verses wondering what this new, belly buttonless, guy is up to. Rivers are named and treasures are mentioned.

Life and death:
God takes Adam and places him in the garden. What it means for God to take him and put him is beyond me. Was he lifted up and dropped in there walked by the hand? Who knows but God did it. God gave him one command, the first command ever given, don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eat it and you will certainly die. You might think he would have been banned from eating of the tree of life (2:9 & 2:24) but that isn’t mentioned here. As Sarna points out…this story is more interested in how we live than it is preoccupied with keeping people from dying as the Egyptians and many other people around them were obsessed with.

In 2:18 God recognizes Adam’s need for community. Just as God lives in community so should his people. Just as we are made in God’s image God produces from Adam’s very body a companion. Walton explains that what is called a “rib” in 2:21-22 is more like the flesh and bones of his side. That makes since because following that Adam calls her “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” They were together. They were naked. They were one. They were not ashamed.

What they had can be described as perfect intimacy. There were no other people to compete for their attention, just them and God. They didn’t have any walls to put up. They didn’t have to worry about fidelity. They were perfectly vulnerable, naked, unashamed and safe. That is how God meant for all this to be but too often we get in the way or we do things that bring shame into it all and goof it all up.It would be so nice if the story could just go on like this but right when it seems like it couldn’t get any more perfect we hit the very next verse in 3:1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God has made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'” and it all comes crashing down. Some commentators link up 2:25 and 3:1 noting a play on words between “naked” and “crafty” because they are very similar in Hebrew. Maybe there is a connection we can draw from that. When things are going well, Satan does his best to trip us up. That brings up the question of whether or not the serpent is Satan. I will get to that in the next post. But either way one of Satan’s purposes in life is to destroy appropriate intimacy between people and between God and to foster inappropriate intimacy, lighting fires of passion where they should not be.


Reflections on Genesis 1 – Background

I recently realized that our men’s class hadn’t studied a single Old Testament book in depth in at least five years. So last night we started a class on Genesis and from time to time I want to share some reflections that come out of preparing to teach that class.

First there is the title. Our title “Genesis” comes from the Greek Old Testament (aka Septuagint) and means “origins.” The Hebrews were far more innovative in creating titles for their books than that. They just took the first word in Genesis and made it the title. That word means “In the beginning.” Genesis is a book of origins. It explains the origin of people, the world, sin and redemption, the Hebrew nation (not to be confused with Gator nation) and last how God’s people ended up in Egypt. There is one origin that is left out and that is the origin of God. Unlink the other ancient religions the God of the Hebrews had no beginning or end.

Then there is the issue of time. Genesis presupposes that God is without beginning or end. Time doesn’t even appear to be an issue until the fourth day when God made the sun, moon and stars to designate set periods of time. The issue of seven days doesn’t seem to be so much an explanation of how long creation took more so that there was order to it and that it grew out of God’s creative speech in a certain order. The first 12 chapters spans thousands (or millions of years depending on your point of view) but the last 39 chapters is really about one family spanning a few hundred years at best.

Genesis never tells us who wrote it. It is anonymous. The Pentateuch is referred to as the “Law of Moses” in several places in the OT including Joshua 1:7-8 and 2 Chronicles 25:4. Jesus refers to Moses being the author (Mtt 19:7, Mark 7:10). So we assume that Moses was the primary author of Genesis-Deuteronomy. However, we know there are certain passage that did not come from Moses (see Numbers 12:3 & Deut 34). That is not earth shattering and should not be a stumbling flock to our faith. It is also not an issue when it comes to acceptance as inspired scripture. Genesis through Deuteronomy are still useful for building and informing our faith regardless of the process in which it was completed in the form we have today.

Competing Stories:
People have wondered where the world came from since the beginning of time. Many have attempted to answer that question by telling stories of their own to give explanation to what they see around them in the world. Many of the cultures surrounding God’s people in the ancient world had their stories. One of the most prominent creation stories was the Babylonian creation story Enuma Elish. Without getting into too many details their story says that matter was pre-existent. The gods were created and created more gods. They got disgruntled and battled it out. The result was Marduk, one of the elder gods, was killed and his body split in two. One half was made into the heavens and the other half made the earth. Mankind was created out of dust and demon blood (really a great beginning to our story…right?). What you end up with are “gods” that look and act a whole lot like people.

Our Story:
One thing I love about our story as Christians is that it is so unlike any other competing story about the super natural or eternal life out there. Yes there are some similarities in teaching with other religions but when you look at the broad theology of both testaments there is nothing else out there quite like it. So the Genesis creation story becomes that much fuller when you hold it up alongside the competing stories of their day and so does the rest of scripture. God is sovereign. He is not vying for power or in competition with anyone else for authority. God speaks and it happens. But He is also willing to set aside his immortality, take on flesh, and show us how to live. He confronted sin and death in a gruelling death match that lasts less than 48 hours (late Friday through early Sunday) and paved the way for us to live life as it was intended to be lived, eternal.

Study Guide – Philemon 1:1-7

Philemon Study Guide (1:1-7)

First we notice that Paul is in prison. Philemon is one of four letters Paul wrote from prison. The other three are Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Colossians has some interesting overlap with Philemon. Both are introduced as coming from both Paul and Timothy. Both introduce Paul as a prisoner (Philemon 1:1, Col 4:3). Both mention Onesimus and Archipus (Philemon 1:1:2, Col 4:9, 17). In the final greetings section of both letters, 5 out of 6 of the people mentioned are in both Philemon and Colossians. So we would probably be correct to assume that Philemon lives in Colossae.

In 1:2 we notice that Philemon is probably the head of a house church. The early church didn’t meet in large auditoriums. They met in homes and were probably congregations of 50 or less scattered throughout the city.

In 1:3 Paul writes, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” When you read through Philemon were there any things Paul wrote that could bring you grace and peace just as he intended Philemon to experience it?

Next we find the thanksgiving and prayer section. It sounds like Paul prays specifically for Philemon, by name, and on regular occasions. Who do you find yourself praying for on a regular basis and what makes those people different from others you might pray for regularly?

In verse 6 he prays that Philemon would basically be more evangelistic. We typically think we evangelize to bring a benefit to someone else. But notice Paul flips it here. What benefit does he pray for Philemon to experience in verse 6 as the result of sharing his faith with others?

How do you think you might be benefited in the same way when you share your faith with those around you?

It makes sense that the more we share or tell something to others, the better, richer and deeper understanding we will personally have regarding what we share. You might have thought Paul would have told him to “share the Gospel” but instead what does he tell him to share? What is the difference/is there a difference?

What does Paul say Philemon has done that has given him great joy?

How might you go about “refreshing the hearts of the saints” today?

When Did Eve Get Her Name?

A – Adam named her when he woke from his post-op slumber (Gen 2:22)
B – Right after her title of wo-man was given (2:23)
C – Before she ate the fruit
D – After she and Adam sinned

When the woman took Adam the fruit to eat, she was still just “the woman.” It wasn’t until after they sinned, after they received their curses, and even after they were told they would die that Adam named her Eve (Gen 3:20). That seems strange doesn’t it? Genesis 3:19 ends with “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” The very next words…”Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” (Gen 3:20). You might have thought he would have named her “Mot” (the Hebrew word for death) considering the bad news they just received.

Fresh from the curse, learning they will die, he turns to her and gives her a name that inspires hope (Eve means something like “living”). In naming her “Eve” Adam recognizes their present condition and possiblities for a lineage rather than focus on the future results of the curse they would personally experience (isn’t that what most guys would focus on if they found out they were going to die?). He focuses on the one hopeful command God gave them at first – “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28) rather than allowing himself to be filled with bitterness and anger over the outcome of their fatal decision. I am very grateful to Adam for his perspective because here we all are. I am grateful that Adam was obedient in the first command (be fruitful), even if he messed up on the second one (don’t eat that fruit)!

How Archaeology Helps Us Understand Scripture

Archaeology plays a major role in how we understand the Bible. It is more than Indiana Jones style trips to far away lands in search of lost treasures or the holy grail. In a practical way, archaeology illuminates scripture as we come to understand the culture and language of the time in more precise ways. Imagine if you lived 2000 years from now and the only thing you had to understand America was a DVD of Ferris Beuller’s Day Off and a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Once you learned English based on the best available evidence, you could come up with some pretty strange things that American’s must have been like. From the vantage point of the year 4007 something from 1776 and 1986 may seem relatively contemporary. But from our vantage point we can tell that culturally they are extremely different. Archaeology opens a window to the past that helps us understand their language and customs better as we get closer and closer back in time to those who have gone before us and recorded the history of God’s interactions with His people that was couched in a language that would otherwise be far removed from our understanding.

Archaeology and Translation:

Language and culture change over time. It has only been in the last 300 years or so that we have understood the differences between Classical/Attic Greek and Hellenistic/Koine Greek, which has some implications for the accuracy of our older translations. Additionally, the number of words we have parallels for in extra-bibilical literature also increases our understanding of the biblical text. In 1886 Thayer listed 767 Greek words that were distinct to the New Testament. Today there are less than 50. Do you think that has a profound effect on our understanding of how to translate particular passages? Absolutely. How do we come across these words in extra-biblical literature? Archaeology. For the 50 or so we have left in Greek (more in Hebrew) it makes it difficult to understand what these terms mean when you only have them in one passage. With only a few data points our knowledge of the words in scripture are often not as concrete until we get more and more pieces of the puzzle – land deeds, wills, legal documents, personal letters, etc in biblically contemporary Hebrew and Greek all help us fine tune our understanding of scripture. When you read a modern translation you benefit from those who have looked at these pieces of the puzzle and have put the fruit of their labor into the translation process to give us accurate translations.

God has not handed down an inspired dictionary or lexicon of the Greek or Hebrew languages. We don’t have anyone who was frozen in the year 600 B.C. or 55 A.D. and has recently been thawed out to tell us how things were or what the words meant. There is much to be discovered and that comes through the reconstructive process of archaeology and lexicography. Imagine if you lived 2000 years from now and the only way you could understand what the word “cool” meant was from Ferris Beuller? That would severely limit your understanding of that word and its nuances. Could it be a term about temperature, about popularity or both? But imagine how much your comprehension would improve if you then discovered a Webster’s dictionary and a complete set of Encyclopdia Britannica. Likewise, advances in archaeology give us a greater number of instances and usages of biblical language that give us a richer understanding of the biblical text.

How does this play out practically in scripture? Here are just a few small examples.

Cultural practices:

In Deuteronomy 14:1ff the Hebrews are told not to cut themselves. Why? “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.” In Canaanite religion the story was told how the God El would cut himself in mourning Baal’s death. The point God is making is that his people are not to look like a bunch of pagans. Notice that matches with the rational God gives them in this verse yet the story of the surrounding culture is not present in the Bible. It is only found in the extra-biblical account about Baal and Canaanite religion. That is one example of how reading the literature of the surrounding cultures gives insight into how scripture was heard and understood in their day.


Exodus 15:2, Psalm 118:14, and Isaiah 12:2 all contain a term that has traditionally been translated “song.”

Exo 15:2 – “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”

Psalm 118:14 – “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

Isa 12:2 – “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

The translation of that word has recently been changed to “defense” rather than “song” based on some South Arabic (a cognate of Hebrew) inscriptions that may give some insight into how this term was used by surrounding peoples. The interesting thing here is that in each of these contexts both song and defense seem to fit

Exo 15:1 – “I will sing…the Lord is my strength and my _________.”

Psalm 118 – psalms are associated with song and the surrounding context of this verse is one of battle, so again either translation could fit the context.

Isa 12:1 – “I will praise you, Lord…the Lord is my strength and my ________.”Again, song or defense would fit the context of Isa 12 as well.

We may not all be archaeologists or lexicographers, but it is still important to realize the role these discoveries play in our understanding of scripture. We benefit from them indirectly as we read our Bibles today and all of the work that went on behind the scenes to bring about an accurate translation. Without a doubt archaeology helps us understand the language and culture of scripture.

Familiarizing Ourselves with Biblical Culture

The following quote is from Peter C. Craigie in Ugarit and the Old Testament,

“The Bible in not a difficult [book] to read…It was written for the ordinary person. But the modern reader faces a problem unknown to the original readers and hearers of the biblical message: the passage of time has imposed the gulf of centuries between the modern reader and the text…It is difficult for a citizen of the 21st century simply to sit down and read all of the Bible with understanding…For the majority of modern readers, the problem created by the passage of time is aggravated still further by other difficulties, specifically those of language and culture…If through some warp in time the figures of the biblical world could enter into our modern world, they would be totally lost, and the reverse would be no less true; if we were present briefly in the biblical world, we would not be attuned to its norms and patterns of activity. Thus every modern reader of the Bible…faces a problem, that of bridging the gaps that separate the ancient world from the modern. If not attempt is made to bridge those gaps, then the lack of familiarity which biblical language and culture will contribute to a failure to understand the biblical message.

I really appreciate what Craigie has to say on this issue. While not all of us will be able to be scholars or world-renowned archaeologists, I think we do need to attempt to understand that the majority of people who have ever lived have not shared our world view. I think it is important to remember that even just 150 years ago in the U.S. people were still riding horses, using outhouses, and talking to each other in person. We live as though all people live like we do and that is not the case.

This becomes particularly difficult when those we wish to model our morality and lifestyle, no, even identity from, belong to a world long past with cultures and norms we will never even hear about much less understand. The trick is helping people familiarize themselves with the culture of the Bible, A) Without saying we are exactly the same as they were and B) Without spending countless hours droning on and on about the Hittites. That is a difficult task but it is one that needs to occur in some way shape or form.

The History of Samaritan-Jewish Enmity

In the New Testament there are several stories that give us a taste for the distaste of Jews for Samaritans in the first century. The two most prominent passages are in John 4 and John 8:48. In John 4, Jesus makes his way to Galilee by way of Samaria. In the city of Sychar he meets a woman at a well and has a discussion about worship and the messiah. In verse 9 John gives us an aside further explaining a statement made during the conversation – “For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” The second instance in John 8:48 the Jews believe Jesus to be “a Samaritan and demon-possessed.” They may be saying that they believe he is not a true Jew and that his lineage is in question (which would cast doubts on the possibility of him being the Messiah).

The Fall of Samaria & the Exile:

In 2 Kings 17:1-2 Hoshea is the last king of Israel. Shalmaneser, king of Assyria had attacked Israel, subdued them and forced them to pay revenues to Assyria on a regular basis. When Hoshea decided to stop paying the tribute, he went So of Egypt to seek out help. His effort failed. Shalmaneser attacked Israel and laid siege to its capital city Samaria for three years. Shalmaneser did not live long enough to see victory but his successor Sargon II did. He ultimately defeated the city (722 B.C.). Here is Sargon’s record of the events from the Annals of Sargon II:

The governor of Samaria, in conspiracy with another king, defaulted on his taxes and declared Samaria’s independence from Assyria. With the strength given me by the gods, I conquered them and took 27,280 prisoners of war along with their chariots…The rest were deported to Assyria. – B&M, 127-129

Sargon mentioned deportation of many of the inhabitants of Samaria. The most affluent inhabitants of the land were taken by the Assyrians and settled in other lands throughout their empire. In the vacuum that their removal left, other defeated peoples were settled in their place. These Gentile settlers brought with them their foreign gods and practices of worship. Josephus sheds some light on that:

But now the Cutheans, who removed into Samaria, each of them, according to their nations, which were in number five, brought their own gods into Samaria, and by worshiping them, as was the custom of their own countries, they provoked Almighty God to be angry and displeased at them, for a plague seized upon them, by which they were destroyed; and when they found no cure for their miseries, they learned by the oracle that they ought to worship Almighty God, as the method for their deliverance. So they sent ambassadors to the king of Assyria, and desired him to send them some of those priests of the Israelites whom he had taken captive. And when he thereupon sent them, and the people were by them taught the laws, and the holy worship of God, they worshiped him in a respectful manner, and the plague ceased immediately; and indeed they continue to make use of the very same customs to this very time, and are called in the Hebrew tongue Cutlans, but in the Greek tongue Samaritans. – Antiquities 9.3

Exile Reversed:

You can see the problems brewing as the influx of other cultures bring in other religions and “gods.” That is the first major problem. The second major problem comes with the fall of the Assyrians and the rise of the Persians. The Assyrians conquered people and maintained stability through deportation. King Cyrus of the Persians took a different approach. He decided to worship all the gods of his empire. He took over a kingdom that was full of displaced people who were not able to worship their gods as they once had. His approach to bringing peace to his kingdom and to worship all gods was to send those who wanted to go home back to their homes. He encouraged them to rebuild their temples and even provided means to finance it (Ezra 1:1-4 &6:3-5. 2 Chronicles concludes with Cyrus giving approval for a new temple to be built in Jerusalem (2 Chron 36:22-23). The Cyrus Cylinder records the following:

I returned the images of their gods to their sanctuaries which had been in ruins for a long period of time. I now established for them permanent sanctuaries. I also gathered all the former inhabitants of these places and returned them to their homes…and I endeavored to repair their dwelling places.” – M & B, 149-150

While this was a huge step forward for God’s people, it did not come without difficulties. Imagine returning to the homes of your fathers and grandfathers only to find strangers living their. These were not just any strangers. These were Gentile strangers who had been moved into your homes through the deportation of the Assyrian regime. Some Jews intermarried with them and Samaria became viewed as a place of Gentiles and even worse – the offspring of Jew-Gentile marriages. Additionally, it was the Samaritans who opposed the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem when Cyrus sent the Jews home (Neh 6:1-4). The Sanballat in that passage was governor of Samaria.

Enmity Due to Samaritan Worship:

A third problem that arose was a matter of worship. The Samaritan woman in John 4 said, “Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” (John 4:20). The mountain she references is Mt. Gerizim. The Jews believed that one should only do formal worship at the temple of God in Jerusalem. There were not supposed to be any competing sanctuaries. The temple at Gerizim was established at the end of the Persian period (400 B.C.). Sanballat, governor of Samaria had a daughter who married Manasseh, son of John the high priest (thanks to F.F. Bruce for putting those pieces together). It was not viewed favorably for the son of the high priest to marry a Samaritan (because of the two problems mentioned above). He refused to divorce his Samaritan wife and her father, Sanballat, built a temple at Gerizim for Manasseh to serve as high priest – Josephus, Antiquities 11.8.1-2 & F.F. Bruce, Israel and the Nations, 110-111.

It should be noted that the Samaritans were religiously very similar to the Jews. While their genetic makeup may have had some Gentile lineage, they did get their act together in following the Torah. By the first century, the main problem with the Samaritans was their failure to worship at Jerusalem. The other issues probably had some bearing on the negative feelings toward Samaritans but not as major as the location of their worship.
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Ancient Near Eastern texts – Part 3

Ra and the Serpent
Date: 2400 B.C. Egypt
From comparing this online translation to others, I am not quite sure how accurate it is but it does get the general idea across. In this story, Ra, the god of the son, was the first thing in all creation. They believed that Ra created everything by speaking it into existence. It starts with a similar line to what God tells Moses at the burning bush – “I am” which Matthews and Benjamin translate “I am who am.” Ra creates creatures and then puts the creatures into a deep sleep until Ra can find a place to stand (sounds pretty weak to me). Ra creates Egypt as the center of the universe and brought out beings from the sea. The creation of man has much more sexual overtones than in the biblical account.

What can we learn from this? They believed they were chosen as the center of the universe while the Hebrews were not chosen because they were the greatest but because they were the least. A story created by man would be one that would tend to make man the center of it all. Not so in the Bible. The Egyptian description of creating man resembles procreation, not so in scripture where God creates man from the dust of the ground and the breath (or spirit) of life. Our God does not need a place to stand. Our God did not “appear” as Ra appeared.

"God and" or "God alone"?

As we have been looking at a couple of ancient near eastern texts that help us see how surrounding cultures tried to explain the world around them I want to mention this quote from Nahum Sarna in Understanding Genesis

Since, according to pagan concepts, man’s destiny is controlled by two separate forces, the gods and the powers beyond the gods, it was inevitable that magic became an integral part of pagan religion. Man had to be able to devise the means of activating those forces superior even to the gods. Religion, as a consequence, became increasinly concerned with the eloboration of ritual designed to propitiate the numerous unpredictable powers that be. Anyone who reads the Hebrew Bible, especially the Book of Psalms, is aware that the ancient Israelite was as struck by the majesty of natural phenomena as was any of his pagan neighbors. But unlike them, he did not profess to see God within those prenomena. The clear line of demarcation between God and His creation was never violated…Here we find not physical link between the world of humanity and the world of the divine. There is no natural connection between the Creator and his handiwork. Hence, there is no room for magic in the religion of the Bible. The God of Creation is eternally existent, removed from all corporeality, and independent of time and space. Creation comes about through the simple divine fiat: Let there be!


There can be no manipulation of our God through natural means. There is no ceremony we can perform to force His hand to act. The surrounding cultures thought that power came through gods and…We believe it comes just through God and that leaves no room for “going over God’s head” to a greater power, aka through magic or ritual. God is other than us. He is holy and there is nothing like Him. Sarna is not saying that God has no connection with us. He is saying the connection is intimate but in no way can it be manipulated through natural means. It is humbling that God’s power is the only power. It is not God and…it is God alone and nothing else.

Ancient Texts – Part 2: Enuma Elish & Atrahasis

Enuma Elish – Mesopotamia

One of the biggest and earliest questions mankind has tried to deal with is “How did we get here?” The question we Americans tend to have today is “Why am I here?” with little concern for the bigger issues. One of the earliest attempts to answer that question was mythologized by the Mesopotamians in Enuma Elish. King Ashurbanipal (of Ezra 4:10) had this text copied and placed in the Assyrian library in the 7th century B.C.

There are several polemics against pagan “gods” in the Old Testament. Some of them are found in the psalms (psalm 148:8 – Yahweh is God of the storm, not Baal). Others are found in our earliest biblical texts, such as Genesis. Genesis tells us how the one true God created everything. In Genesis we learn something of God and we learn something of man. God is eternal, without beginning. He made order out of chaos. He made humanity with a purpose.

The Mesopotamian story of creation starts with nothing except for father and mother gods Apsu and Tiamat. The gods start with two bodies of water and make them one (in contrast to the Genesis account of separating the water – Gen 1:2-6). Unlike our God, their “gods” had origin from the “Divine womb.” Marduk is god of the storm and fills the divine warrior motif by taking on bow and arrows. The earth and the heavens were formed from the two halves of Tiamat’s corpse, whom Marduk slayed. These gods were granted their divinity and some were made more divine than others. Quite a contrast to our God.

Mankind – They believed that mankind was created to do work for the gods. In essence, mankind was an afterthought to keep the gods from having to labor. “The Aborigines will do the god’s work. The savages will set the gods free.” This is not the kind of relationship between humanity and divinity that is found in scripture.

Atrahasis – Sumeria:

Mankind aleviating the work of the gods is also echoed in the Sumerian flood story of Atrahasis. The Sumerians believed mankind was made by the gods from a mixture of clay (Gen 2:7), flesh, and blood. Soon mankind multiplies out of control and makes so much noise it disturbs the gods’ sleep! The gods decide to send a plague to kill mankind. But the gods fail. So they send drought and famine on the land to make the noisey humans quiet. But the gods’ plan fails. In fact it turns out that, “the people are not diminished. They are more numerous than ever.” So the gods decide a flood is the only option (Gen 6-8). The plan is revealed to Atrahasis and he is told to build a boat and fill it with animals. The gods are saddened, not because of the loss of life but because there are no more people to carry out their work! The flood subsides and Atrahasis emerges from the boat and makes a sacrifice to the gods. Their reaction? “The gods smelled the aroma. They swarmed like flies around his sacrifice.” Not a very pleasing or picturesque portrait of the gods. In Genesis 8, God’s reaction to the sacrifice is a promise to mankind.

What do we learn from these tails? When cultures attempt to answer questions about their origin and about the nature of divinity they end up creating gods that look a lot like themselves. When we open the Bible and read about God – we find someone not like us. He is not having relations with other gods. He does not have a beginning. He was not bestowed divinity. Our God does not resemble mankind and that is what gives us hope!

For more on these texts see: