1 Chronicles 1-2: The Never-ending List


They say it’s important to begin a story in media res, start with a bang, start with something that will grip your audience and leave them salivating for more.

The Chronicler took this advice and decided to do the precise opposite. And so we begin 1 Chronicles with what is little more than an incredibly tedious list of names. This isn’t even like Genesis, where at least “the begats” were interspersed with narrative. No, not here. Our very first paragraph is composed of thirteen names and one conjunction. It certainly does set a tone!

There are, of course, many theories as to why the Chronicler should choose to begin this way. My study Bible argues that the genealogies are provided to “make it clear that he [the Chronicler] was dealing with the true Chosen People.” Personally, I liked James Pate’s thought that:

I Chronicles may have genealogies as a way to affirm a societal structure in post-exilic Israel and to connect it with pre-exilic Israel, to tell Israel who she is, and to convey that God is preserving God’s people, notwithstanding the exile.  There were a lot of people-groups that became lost once they went into exile, but I Chronicles may be trying to demonstrate that Israel did not.

In the beginning…

To being our journey, the Chronicler condenses all of Genesis 5 into these names: “Adam, Seth, Enosh; Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared; Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech; Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (1 Chronicles 1:1-4).

Here, Brant Clements notes that this is first mention of Adam that we’ve seen since Genesis 5:5, and that he will not be mentioned again in the Old Testament. “Adam actually featured more strongly in the New Testament. The ancient Hebrews didn’t put much emphasis on him at all.” It’s a very interesting observation, and clearly an indication of theological evolution. I hope that we get to find out some more about that when we finally reach the New Testament (in, oh, about five years).

Up until Noah, this is a list of generational patriarchs, a direct line from father to son to grandson, and so on. But abruptly, without any indication of change, it presents us with three brothers: Shem, Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah.

That’s because it’s with Noah’s sons that we see our first ethnic branching.

The sons of Japheth: According to my study Bible, the sons of Japheth represent Indo-European populations. The section is taken from Genesis 10, and the sons are Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.

In the next generation, the sons of Gomer are Ashkenaz, Diphath (who appears as Riphath in Gen. 10:3), and Togarmah. The sons of Javan are Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim (who appears as Dodanim in Gen. 10:4).

It’s worth noting that Javan (literally Ionia) represents the Greeks. According to James Pate, the discrepancy between Dodanim (Gen. 10:4) and Rodanim (1 Chron. 1:7) may be due simply to the fact that the “d” and “r” sounds are represented in Hebrew with letters that look similar and may have been confused at some point by some hapless copier. Pate goes on to propose another possibility:

Relying on Mefaresh’s interpretation, which is based on Genesis Rabbah 37:1, the Artscroll says that, when Israel sins, the people-group subjugates Israel and is called the Rodanim, from the Hebrew root r-d-h, which means ruling or oppressing.  If Israel controls the people-group, however, the people-group is called the Dodanim, for it is telling Israel that she is its friend, or dod.

Of course, this presents a number of problems, but it’s certainly an interesting proposition.

The sons of Ham: Ham’s sons are Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. In the next generation, the sons of Cush are Seba, Havilah, Sabta, Raama (here spelled without an ‘h’ at the end, though he has one later in the same verse, as well as in Gen. 10:7), and Sabteca. We are also told that Cush was the father of Nimrod, who “began to be a mighty one in the earth” (1 Chron. 1:10). In the generation after that, we have the sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.

Back up the line to Egypt, his sons were Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim (whom the Chronicler tells us fathered the Philistines), and Caphtorim.

Next comes Canaan, for whom the pretence of personification is dropped. Rather than naming his sons, we are told instead that he was the father of Sidon, Heth, the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites.

The sons of Shem: The final son of Noah is the sire of the Semitic group, the population from which Abraham will emerge. The sons of Shem are Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, Aram, Uz, Hul, Gether, and Meshech (who appears as Mash in Gen. 10:23). This is either an error or deviates quite a bit from the Genesis 10 version, in which Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash are the sons of Aram, and the grandsons of Shem.

In the next generation, Arpachshad was the father of Shelah, who in turn was the father of Eber. Eber had two sons: Peleg and Joktan. Joktan was the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Ebal (given as Obal in Gen. 10:28), Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab.

Father of sand, father of stars

We move next to Abraham, who is descended from Shem by way of Arpachshad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, and Terah. This portion is lifted from Genesis 11:10-26. Abraham had two sons: Isaac and Ishmael.

The sons of Ishmael: This section is lifted from Gen. 25:12-16. I’ve always found it an interesting twist that Ishmael should be the first born, yet did not inherit divine attention. We see this motif a great deal in Genesis, of younger sons usurping their older brothers. It would be nice to have an explanation for this, though I suppose it could be as simple as inversion of expectation making for psychologically satisfying (and entertaining) stories. Ishmael, of course, sired the Arabic people.

Ishmael was the father of Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.

A painting of Abraham's departure, by József Molnár 1849

A painting of Abraham’s departure, by József Molnár 1849

The sons of Keturah: Though 1 Chron. 1:28 implied that Abraham only had Ishmael and Isaac, we know from Gen. 25:1-4 that Abraham remarried after his wife Sarah’s death, a woman named Keturah. Here (1 Chron. 1:32), she is demoted to the status of concubine.

Through her, Abraham was the father of Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. In the next generation, Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan (the same two sons given to Raamah in 1 Chron. 1:9). Jokshan’s brother, Midian, fathered Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah.

The sons of Isaac: We next move over to Abraham’s son by his first wife, Sarah. Isaac had two sons, Esau and Israel. Esau is the progenitor of the Edomites. Israel was born with the name of Jacob, but received the name Israel after an encounter with the Divine. While Genesis used the two names inconsistently, he is here referred to only as Israel.

Esau’s sons were: Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam, and Korah. In the next generation, Eliphaz fathered Teman, Omar, Zephi (appears as Zepho in Gen. 36:11), Gatam, Kenaz, Timna, and Amalek. Reuel fathered Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. These are taken from Genesis 36:10-14, where Timna appears as a concubine of Eliphaz, not as his son, and she is the mother of Amalek.

The sons of Seir: We run into a difficulty here, since this is the first mention of a Seir. So where is he meant to fit? My study Bible notes that Seir is “another name for Edom”, referencing Gen. 36:8, and in Gen. 36:20, we learn of a Seir the Horite who lived in Edom. Yet none of this helps to explain how Seir is meant to fit into this genealogy.

In any case, Mystery Seir’s sons are Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. He also had a daughter, named as a full sister of Lotan, by the name of Timna.

In the next generation, Lotan fathered Hori and Homam (appearing as Hemam in Gen. 36:22). Shobal fathered Alian (appearing as Alvan in Gen. 36:23), Manahath, Ebal, Shephi (appearing as Shepho in Gen. 36:23), and Onam. Zibeon fathered Aiah and Anah (he either fathered a daughter by the same name, or there is some confusion – in Gen. 36:2, Zibeon had a daughter named Anah, who married Esau). Anah (Seir’s son, not Zibeon’s) fathered Dishon. And Dishon (again, Seir’s son) fathered Hamran (appearing as Hemdan in Gen. 36:26), Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran. Ezer fathered Bilhan, Zaavan, and Jaakan (appearing as Akan in Gen. 36:27). Dishan fathered Uz and Aran.

The kings of Edom: Before Israel had a king of its own, Edom had plenty. This record may be compared to Gen. 36:31-43. They begin with Bela son of Beor, who ruled from Dinhabah. When he did, Jobab son of Zerah, of Bozrah, took over. After him came Husham, of the lands of the Temanites. Then Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian and ruled from Avith. Then came Samlah of Masrekah. Then Shaul of Rehoboth. Then Baalhanan son of Achbor. Then another Hadad (appearing as Hadar in Gen. 36:39), whose city was Pai (which appears as Pau in Gen. 36:39) and whose wife was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, daughter of Mezahab.

The chiefs of Edom were Timna, Aliah (appearing as Alvah in Gen. 36:40), Jetheth, Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel, and Iram.

The sons of Israel: These are, of course, our twelve tribes. Israel fathered Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. This is, of course, parallel to Genesis 35:22-26.

Focus on Judah

The next few chapters cover will cover each individual tribe in excruciating detail. But we begin with Judah, who fathered Er, Onan, and Shelah, via Bathshua the Canaanite.

God killed Er for wickedness (and Onan, but not mentioned here), which leads to Judah impregnating Er’s wife, Tamar, himself. This produced two more sons: Perez and Zerah. This rather sordid story can be found in Genesis 38.

In the next generation, Perez fathered Hezron and Hamul (this corresponds to Gen. 46:12). His brother, Zerah, fathered Zimri (appearing as Zabdi in Jos. 7:1), Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara. If several of these names seem familiar, it might be because they appear in 1 Kings 4:31, as the men of great wisdom to which Solomon is favourably compared. Except, of course, that the version in Kings describes them as the sons of Mahol, not Zerah.

We then skip to a Carmi, who fathers Achar. Achar is described as “the troubler of Israel” (1 Chron. 2:7). Carmi’s link to the rest of the genealogy is omitted, and the description of Achar as “the troubler of Israel” suggests a story with which the reader ought to be familiar. One possibility is that Achar is the Achan from Joshua 7, who cursed the Hebrew army by keeping some of the spoils of war. He is identified in Jos. 7:1 as “the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah.” This would explain his inclusion here. Except, of course, that it completely screws up the timeline of the Hebrews’ sojourn in Egypt.

In very next verse, we return to the explicit relations with Ethan, who fathered Azariah.

The sons of Perez: Back over to the line of Perez, we move down through his son, Hezron, who fathered Jerahmeel, Ram, and Chelubai. Much later, we learn that Hezron, at the age of sixty, married the daughter of Machir (the father of Gilead). Through her, he had a final son named Segub, who fathered Jair. Jair controlled 23 cities in Gilead until Geshur and Aram conquered a bunch of them.

In the next generation, Ram fathered Amminadab, who fathered Nahshon (described here as the “prince of the sons of Judah” – 1 Chron. 2:10). Through Nahshon, we get Salma (who appears as Salmon in Ruth 4:18-22), through whom we get Boaz (the love interest of the book of Ruth), and through him Obed. Then, through Obed, we get Jesse.

The sons of Jesse: Jesse fathered Eliab, Abinadab, Shimea, Nethanel, Raddai, Ozem, and David. Though only these seven sons are listed here, 1 Sam. 16:10-11 and 1 Sam. 17:12 both explicitly state that he had eight (of which David was the youngest).

He also had daughters: Zeruiah and Abigail. Zeruiah gave birth to some rather plot critical characters: Abishai, Joab, and Asahel, who play a fairly important part in 2 Samuel and 1 Kings. Abigail married Jether the Ishmaelite (named Ithra the Israelite in 2 Sam. 17:25), and bore Amasa. It’s interesting that the children of David’s sisters should be worth mentioning, but not those of his brothers.


The sons of Jerahmeel: The narrative is jumping around quite a bit, making it difficult to follow. We now bounce back to Jerahmeel, Hezron’s eldest. Jerahmeel is a bit difficult, since he is listed specifically as being a member of the tribe of Judah here, yet 1 Sam. 27:10 and 1 Sam. 30:29 refer to the Jerahmeelites as if they were a separate, non-Israelite, group. To smooth this over, my New Bible Commentary argues that “it is much simpler to suppose that the descendants of Jerahmeel, who in any case were settled in the south of Judea, retained their nomadic habits longer, and so in the days of David were reckoned separately from the rest of Judah” (p.372).

Jerahmeel fathered Ram, Bunah, Oren, Ozem, and Ahijah. In the next generation, Ram fathered Maaz, Jamin, and Eker.

Jerahmeel also had a second wife, Atarah, who bore Onam. Onam fathered Shammai and Jada. Shammai fathered Nadab and Abishur. Abishur married a woman named Abihail, and they had Ahban and Molid. Nadab fathered Seled (who died childless) and Apparim, who fathered Ishi. Ishi fathered Sheshan, who fathered Ahlai.

Despite what I said just above, we are told that Sheshan had no sons (this isn’t necessarily a contradiction, as Ahlai might either have died young or been born after the events I am about to relate). To continue his line, he married his daughter to his Egyptian slave, Jarha, and they had Attai.

Brian Shwimmer (of the University of Manitoba’s Department of Anthropology) addresses this in the broader context of inheritance:

Inheritance by daughters imposed a particular difficulty, which is acknowledged in several biblical passages. After Moses first promulgates the rule (Numbers), he is confronted with a problem: if females inherit land from their fathers they will pass it on to their children and therefore into the patrimony of another tribe or lineage. His solution is to institute a parallel cousin marriage regulation. Thus a woman who inherits from her father is to marry her father’s brother’s son so that property will automatically be retained within the wider patriline. A second mechanism for maintaining the continuity of lineage holdings was to marry inheriting daughters to household slaves. Since these dependants had no partilineages of their own, their children were by default incorporated into their mothers’ lineages. The arrangement of marriages to slaves created a number of segments that originated with female rather than male founders (see I Chronicles 2:34-36 for an example.) This institution directly mirrors a solution to the reverse problem of a daughterless family among the Akan, a matrilineal people of West Africa.

The reference to Numbers, of course, relates to the daughters of Zelophehad, whose story can be found in Numbers 27 and Numbers 36.

Attai fathered Nathan, who fathered Zabad, who fathered Ephlal, who fathered Obed, who fathered Jehu, who fathered Azariah, who fathered Helez, who fathered Eleasah, who fathered Sismai, who fathered Shallum, who fathered Jekamiah, who fathered Elishama.

After all that, we move back up the line to Onam’s second son, Jada, who fathered Jether (who died childless) and Jonathan. Jonathan fathered Peleth and Zaza.

A Tale of Two Calebs

I am moving the two sections about Calebs to the bottom for special treatment. The first originally began with 1 Chron. 2:18. The mention of a Caleb is rather odd. It appears to be yet another sui genesis dynasty. In looking for more information, I am finding that the consensus makes Caleb a variant spelling of Chelubai, making him the son of Hezron, grandson of Perez. Except that that Caleb will be mentioned later on, leaving this one still without explanation.

Whoever he is, this Caleb married a woman named Azubah. The verse (1 Chron. 2:18) is rather difficult to parse out, suggesting that Caleb had sons with both Azubah and Jerioth. My interpretation was that this might refer to an arrangement similar to the one used by Abraham in Genesis 16. My New Bible Commentary, however, argues that “either Jerioth was another name of Azubah, or there is a textual corruption” (p.372). The Commentary goes on to suggest that the original wording might have had Azubah give birth to a daughter, Jerioth, who in turn had the sons who will shortly be listed. In any case, Caleb had the following sons: Jesher, Shobab, and Ardon. After Azubah died, Caleb married Ephrath (later listed as Ephrathah, compare 1 Chron. 2:19 to 1 Chron. 2:24), who gave birth to Hur.

Caleb, who apparently lived up to his name (kelev means “dog”), impregnated his father’s wife, Ephrathah – though he at least waited until his father was dead. Through her, he fathered Ashhur, who fathered Tekoa. (There is no mention of either of them being put to death, which would be required by Leviticus 20:11.)

In the next generation, Hur fathered Uri, and Uri fathered Bezalel. This appears to be the same as Bezaleel, named in Exodus 31:2.

Further down (I’m putting it here for convenience), we will get another section headed: “The sons of Caleb the brother of Jerahmeel” (1 Chron. 2:42). The two genealogies are different, though my New Bible Commentary insists that the names here are meant to supplement the ones above. To me, this suggests that either Caleb was a quasi-mythic figure in a few different spots, each with their own traditions that had to be amalgamated, or there were a few different Calebs that somehow became conflated.

In any case, the Caleb specifically identified as the brother of Jerahmeel fathered Mareshah, who fathered Ziph and Hebron. Hebron fathered Korah, Tappuah, Tekem, and Shema. Shema fathered Raham, who fathered Jorekeam. While Rekem fathered Shammai. Shammai fathered Maon, who fathered Bethzur.

This Caleb also had a concubine named Ephah, who bore Haran, Moza, and Gazez. Haran also fathered a Gazez, though hopefully a different one.

There is another sui genesis patriarch listed among the descendants of Caleb: Jahdai. Jahdai fathered Regem, Jotham, Geshan, Pelet, Ephah, and Shaaph.

Caleb had yet another concubine, this one named Maacah. She bore Sheber and Tirhanah. We are told that she was also the mother of Shaaph (if the same as above, the implications are even more headache-inducing). Shaaph fathered Madmannah and Sheva. Sheva fathered Macbenah, and was the father of Gibea.

Finally, Caleb had a daughter, Achsah. It is on this basis this Caleb is identified with Caleb the Kenizzite, who appears, for example, in Joshua 14:6, and who also had a daughter by the same name (Jos. 15:17). The theory, if I understand it correctly, goes that he may have been an honorary Israelite, perhaps adopted into Hezron’s family.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that several of Caleb’s descendants are also the names of towns. So are we to understand that Caleb (and his lineage) founded those towns? Or that these individuals gave their names to the towns that they founded?

The sons of Hur: I am continuing this out of order, just to keep Hur in the same section as Caleb. Hur was the son of Ephrathah (called Ephrath in 1 Chron. 2:19), Caleb’s second wife. He fathered Shobal (who “fathered” Kiriath-jearim), Salma (who “fathered” Bethlehem), and Hareph (who “fathered” Beth-gader).

Shobal’s sons were Haroeh, and half of Manuhoth. Yeah, I’m scratching my head as well.

The families of Kiriath-jearim were the Ithrites, the Puthites, the Shumathites, and the Mishraites. From these came the Zorathites and the Esthaolites. The families of Bethlehem were the Netophathites, Atrothbethjoab, the Zorites, and half of the Manahathites. The families of the scribes who lived in Jabez were the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, and the Sucathites. These, we are told, were the Kenites who came from Hammath, the father of the house of Rechab.

And now I think I need to go detox my brain for a while.

A man has need of a companion

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Joke - Billy the Rib

Joshua 3-4: Throwing rocks in the water


Likely itching at the sandals, the Israelites finally move out from Shittim and camp on the banks of the Jordan River to wait out the final three days before the conquest is officially slated to begin.

At Joshua’s request, the officers tell the soldiers to keep an eye out for the ark; when Aslan – I mean the ark – is on the move, they must follow. But they must also practice good road safety and travel a minimum of 2,000 cubits behind, just in case the ark needs to hit the brakes.

While they wait, they must sanctify themselves. It’s quite clear that this is to be a holy war, not just an invasion.

Crossing the Jordan River, by Christoph Unterberger, 1780s.

Crossing the Jordan River, by Christoph Unterberger, 1780s.

Meanwhile, God hands Joshua the keys, telling him that he has the authority to tell the priests where to go. It feels like this points to monarchic involvement (perhaps commissioning or patronizing) in the composition of Joshua. It’s like for all that the Deuteronomic History we’ve read so far as consolidated power in Levitical hands and warned the future monarchy against getting grabby, we’ve also seen little reminders like these that the king is still king.

Because God just can’t see a river without seeing an opportunity for a little peacocking, he makes the Israelites stand on the shores of the Jordan and watch while the Levites step into the river with the ark. The river’s flow miraculously stops, and “the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap” (Josh. 3:16). Downriver, the flow was cut off entirely (yet another of Joshua’s lovely narrative details – I’m really enjoying this book much more than the slog we’ve been having since Genesis ended!).

This is clearly a repetition of the Red Sea parting, linking Joshua to Moses and indicating a continuity of leadership. Numbers had mentions of Joshua continuing after Moses, but I get the impression that Deuteronomy and Joshua have really been thumping the point, making me wonder if perhaps there was an alternative successor that the Deuteronomic History authors were competing against. Anyone know if there’s something to this?

It would never have occurred to me to look into the actual depth of the Jordan, but David Plotz mentioned it in his post: “I know what those of you who have been to Israel are thinking: The Jordan “river” is about as deep my bathtub, and not much wider! But the book specifies that the crossing was at flood stage, when the river is somewhat more intimidating.”

Tim Bulkeley also commented on how unimpressive the Jordan River is today, and warns his listeners against using today’s river to imagine what Joshua’s army would have encountered. It would have had a very variable flow in ancient times. And, “even today the Jordan valley has (in places) dense bush, making it a strange and dangerous place for people more used to dry pastureland.”

Joshua’s stones

40,000 soldiers cross with the ark.

At some point during this time, something happens involving twelve stones. Unfortunately for literalists, what happens is a little fuzzy.

Joshua calls for one representative from each tribe to collect one rock each from the river bed (while it’s still exposed) and bring them to their first camp-site in the Promised Land – in Gilgal. Joshua also places twelve stones into the riverbed (replacing the ones taken?) which the book’s author(s) claim are still there to their day. But then Joshua brings the twelve stones to Gilgal and sets them up there, so that they clearly can’t still be in the river.

It seems that two, or possibly three, separate narratives got shoved in together.

J.R. Porter writes:

The character of the Gilgal legend indicates that it was a pre-Israelite holy place, probably the site of a Canaanite festival, which re-enacted the victory of a deity over the forces of chaos, as in the stories of the gods Baal and Marduk. The events at the Jordan and at Gilgal may well be the real source of the tradition of Israel’s crossing of the sea. (The new Illustrated Companion to the Bible, p.63)

In other words, it’s possible that this episode wasn’t added to link Joshua onto Moses’s authority, but rather that Moses was given his crossing to link him to this holy site.

I wrote in What’s the deal with Joshua that his appearances in Exodus and Numbers feel very forced, like he was stitched in to lend legitimacy to his future appearance as Moses’ successor. Now, I wonder if he wasn’t at one time a competing Moses figure (which would explain his presence on the mountain in Exodus 24 while Moses is receiving the commandments, his presence with Moses again during a revelation in Exodus 32, and his association with the tent of meeting in Exodus 33).

Pure conjecture on my part, but I wonder if Joshua wasn’t at one time a competing forefather figure who lost out to the far larger Moses camp. Yet, he had achieved enough of a following to remain in the oral narrative canon, eventually becoming a successor rather than competitor.


Genesis 5: Genealogy – The Sons of Adam

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Chapter 5 is pretty boring. As the first verse says: “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” We’re just given a list of Adam’s descendants (through Seth), with the ages of each individual when they had a particular son and when they died. We’re also told with each that they had “other sons and daughters” who are not named or numbered.

  • Adam: 130 when Seth is born, 930 at death.
  • Seth: 105 when Enosh is born, 912 at death.
  • Enosh: 90 when Kenan is born, 905 at death.
  • Kenan: 70 when Mahalaleel is born, 910 at death.
  • Mahalalel: 65 when Jared is born, 895 at death.
  • Jared: 162 when Enoch is born, 962 at death.
  • Enoch: 65 when Methuselah is born, 365 when taken.
  • Methuselah: 187 when Lamech is born, 969 at death.
  • Lamech: 182 when Noah is born, 777 at death.
  • Noah: After reaching 500, he has three sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

The only real variation in this chapter is that Enoch doesn’t die, but rather “walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). I take this to mean that he was swooped off by God rather than dying a more earthly form of death.

One thing that struck me as I was reading this is the similarity in many of the names to Cain’s descendants. Even the order is intact (although some individuals are missing). This leads me to wonder if the two genealogies didn’t begin as a single line that was split into two variations and then harmonised at some point by sticking one to Cain and the other to Seth.

My study bible notes that the “Babylonian tradition also reckons ten heroes before the flood.”

Genesis 3: The Fall

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When we left Adam and his wife (so far still named “woman”), they had just met and, determining that she made a better companion than cattle, beasts of the field, and birds of the air, Adam decided to tie the knot. The scene closed with the two of them naked and unashamed. In Chapter 3, we get to find out why Adam starts to think that maybe he should have made do with the cattle…

Paradise by Hieronymus Bosch c.1485-1490

Paradise by Hieronymus Bosch c.1485-1490

We jump right into the action with the serpent, who is “more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1). It may seem trivial to note, but it’s explicit here that God created the serpent – presumably in nature as well as in form. It’s been pointed out many times, but it bears repeating that God created two people who cannot yet tell right from wrong, who have no idea what death (or anything less than an Edenic existence is like), then gave them a tree and told them that they can’t eat from it on pain of death (once more, these two people have no concept of what that is), and then unleashed a “subtle” trickster into their environment. How can Adam and Eve, who at this point are little more than moral infants, be held responsible for anything that follows as a result of these conditions?

Moving on…

The Temptation

In a story that shows some resemblance to the Sumerian tale of Inanna and the Huluppu tree, the serpent begins by asking Eve if God has said anything about not eating from trees. Eve, who was not alive yet when God gave his commandment, is able to spout it off nearly verbatim, including the warning that “in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen. 2:17). No, says the serpent. “You will not die” (Gen. 3:4). In fact, he goes on, God only said that because he “knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).*

I want to draw attention to the fact that it’s God who is shown to be the liar here, not the serpent. When Adam and Eve eat the fruit, they do not die (not that day, nor the day after, nor the day after that). Just as the serpent tells them, they live and they acquire knowledge of good and evil. Furthermore, the serpent’s explanations for God’s motive is not all that far-fetched – God lied to them because he doesn’t want them to be his equals.

On my other blog, I recently wrote a post about the emphasis in certain religious sects on parental authority, and the dom/sub relationship between parents and children. And here I am, reading about a situation that looks eerily familiar. God is that parent, the one who wants submissive, well-behaved, ignorant children who never question his authority. He does not want children who are capable adults, who are able to reach moral conclusions on their own without being given explicit instruction from their parent. He doesn’t want children who grow up.

But Eve does what I wish all children from such families would do – she refuses to go along with an expectation of blind obedience and she grows up. Better than that, she takes her poor docile sibling/husband Adam along with her. It’s hard to see her as anything but a hero!


Eve gives three reasons for eating the fruit (Gen. 3:6):

  • It’s “good for food” – Yum yum!
  • It’s “a delight to the eyes;”
  • And, it’s “to be desired to make one wise.”

It’s hard to see what humanity’s great crime, our “original sin,” is. Was it just disobedience, the placing of a toy near an infant for the purpose of tempting them so that a lesson can be taught (as the Pearls advise in To Train Up A Child)? Was the sin to aspire to be more like God (even though we were supposedly created in his image, as we read back in Chapter 1)? Or was it the pursuit of wisdom and moral knowledge?

And I must state again that, whatever humanity’s sin, it was committed prior to our having any capability of moral reasoning. It makes the whole idea of punishing humans reprehensible! In our society, we understand that a person cannot be held responsible for crimes unless they knew they were doing something wrong – that’s why our justice system includes protection for minors and the mentally disabled.

We’re Naked?!

Now that Adam and Eve have tasted the fruit, they realize that they are naked at suddenly feel ashamed, so they sew aprons for themselves out of fig leaves. But then they hear God walking around in the garden and hid themselves.

“Where are you?” calls out God to the man (Gen. 3:9). God, apparently, hasn’t yet developed omnipotence.

Adam, the eternal tattle-tale, immediately fesses up that he and Eve were hiding because they didn’t want God to see them naked.

“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” asks God (Gen. 3:11). Once again, God does not know what’s happened (and he might never have found out if it weren’t for Blabbermouth Adam).

Adam, being a gentleman, immediately squeals on his sister/wife. “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3: 12). To be fair to Adam, Eve then promptly squeals on the serpent. Apparently, having knowledge of good and evil doesn’t necessarily mean that one takes responsibility for one’s own actions.

In Which Punishments Are Dolled

The next long bit is a list of punishments that God gives out to the various parties involved.

  • The serpent is cursed “above” all other cattle and wild animals. “Upon your belly you shall go” (Gen. 3:14). Not really a punishment for a snake…
  • The second part of the serpent’s curse is that he will be in “enmity” with humans, so that “he shall bruise your head,/and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). I’ll have to let Ray know about this…
  • For the woman, God will “greatly multiply your pain in childbearing” (Gen. 3:16). Conscious as always of reading too much into the wording of a translation, the use of the word “multiply” seems to suggest that woman would have had pain in childbearing even in Eden, and it’s only getting increased because of the fall. This puts an interesting perspective on God’s creative direction.
  • Woman’s second curse is that “in pain you shall bring forth children,/yet your desire shall be for your husband” (Gen. 3:16). In other words, women won’t be able to stop having sex with men, even knowing the consequences. Also, ancient Hebrew men seem to be flattering themselves.
  • And the third part of woman’s curse is that her husband “shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). Not much of a difference there. Adam got to name woman, displaying his ownership, and she was created as his helper rather than his equal. So where’s the change?
  • Adam is punished “because you have listened to the voice of your wife” (Gen. 3:17). I would like to see Christian feminists try to explain this one away.
  • Serpents and women are cursed because of their part, but when it comes to Adam – “cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen. 3:17). Men are just too special. They may have to suffer the consequences of the earth now being cursed, but they themselves are not cursed for their actions even though their part was just as grievous as that of the woman and the serpent.
  • In any case, the cursed ground means that earth will bring forth “thorns and thistles” and having food to eat will now require “toil” (Gen. 3:17).
  • Adam’s final punishment is that he gets to eat bread “till you return to the ground” (Gen. 3:19). The punishment here is a bit ambiguous since this is directed towards Adam and not towards Eve. Since women also “return to the ground,” the only possibility I can see is that Adam is glucose intolerant and the actual punishment here is that he’s got to eat bread. Could have been made clearer, especially since we’ve had a couple millennia of terribly mistaken theologians thinking that the punishment is the mortality portion, but at least we know the real answer now. Better late than never!

Only now does the woman finally get a name – not content with having displayed his ownership by naming her once, Adam now does so again by naming her Eve (Gen. 3:20).

Sent Forth

“Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:22).

God makes some clothes for Adam and his wife to wear, and then, “lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Gen. 3:22), God sends Adam and Eve out of the garden.

This lends some support to the idea that humanity’s true sin is becoming too much like God, becoming too powerful, and coming close to being able to address him as an equal. The wisdom that Eve gave to humanity made us God’s intellectual equal and he now fears that we might become his full equal if we achieve immortality. When seen like this, it’s hard to view God in any kind of positive light. He’s the parent who does everything he can to keep his children down, stunting their growth so that he can extend his own personal power trip. This is not the mark of a good father.

In any case, he places the cherubim and a flaming sword to the east of the garden to guard the way to the tree of life.

* * * *

*I’ve heard apologists say that Adam and Eve really did die on that day, in that they ceased to be immortal and began that slow march towards the inevitable. I’m inclined to literalism, and since none of this is actually stated in the text, it’s hard for me to see it as anything other than post hoc excuse making. Maybe they are right, maybe that’s the original intention of the passage, but I see little (other than wishful thinking) to suggest it.

EDIT: James McGrath has an interesting thought-jiggle post about the two trees:

This one highlights the fact that young-earth creationists say there was no death in God’s original creation, prior to Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. Yet there was supposedly a tree of life eating from which would allow humans to live forever. And there was no need for such a tree in a world in which death did not exist.

Genesis 2: Creation Continued

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Thus the heavens and the earth were finished. (Gen. 2:1)

Garden of Eden by Jacob de Backer

Garden of Eden by Jacob de Backer

Last week, we read about the first six days of creation and how God created the various attributes of the world during those days (I’m sure he fit the rest of the universe in somewhere, probably after tea time on Day 4 or something). Today, we open with God resting. And resting. And resting. He pauses for a moment to bless the day on which he gets to rest (perfectly understandable – I do the same). Then he goes back to resting. And resting. Oh ancient Hebrew poetry – why must you be so repetitive?

But then we shift gears a bit and we get into a second creation story!

Genesis 2 Creation

This version is a little different. For one thing, the daily breakdown motif is completely removed. While the narrative flow is far more pleasant, this version may prove problematic for the Christian reader  it directly contradicts the Genesis 1 story right from the first verse.

We are told specifically that, before there are any plants or herbs, God causes a mist or flood to rise from the earth to water “the whole face of the ground” (Gen. 2:6). He then creates man out of dust and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7). So we go from man being created last to man being created first (in both cases, this creation takes place on a pre-existing world that God is merely shaping to his preferences).

So while Adam is standing around on completely barren ground, God created all the trees that are “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen. 2:9). All other trees need not apply. Only the Gen 2 story refers to the creation as a “garden.” This garden is a heavenly paradise, and the name “Eden” means “delight.”

Note: Some apologists will claim that the Gen 2 creation account really is the story of the creation of the garden, and not of the rest of the world (which is what is described in Gen 1). In other words, Gen 2 is a flashback to describe how humans are created on Day 6. This is not the scholarly consensus (which instead believes that we have two religious traditions that have been collected into a single book), but it is a common apologetic view.

Features of the Garden

In addition to all the other pleasing and tasty trees, God also creates the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The former is believed to confer eternal life while the latter confers wisdom.

We are also told in Gen. 2:10-14 that God creates a nameless river that flows out of Eden (“to water the garden”), and then splits into four rivers: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. These four rivers each flow into the various lands that were known to the ancient Hebrews. Someone reading this passage from Ottawa, ON (for example) may be confused as to the Biblical source for our Rideau river. Perhaps God gets to that later on so that the descendants of Adam and Eve have somewhere to conquer when they get bored of just hanging around in the Old World.

Adam was apparently created to be God’s landscaper. Like many landscapers today, Adam isn’t even offered minimum wage, but is instead allowed to “freely eat of every tree of the garden” (Gen. 2:16). There’s an exception, of course. Adam is not allowed to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or else “in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen. 2:17).

Adam’s Helper

God then realizes that Adam is looking pretty lonely, so he decides to “make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). What kind of helper is he going to make? Well, he tries beasts, birds, and cattle and brings them to Adam to name (which expresses Adam’s dominion over them – the knowing of the name being equivalent to the controlling of the named is a classic theme in mythology, consider the story of Rumpelstiltskin).

But none of these animals are good enough for Adam. Out of all of them, “there was not found a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:20). Adam apparently isn’t into the kind of kinky stuff God is trying to push on him.

So God gives up with the whole bestiality thing and instead “caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man” (Gen. 2:21). While Adam is sleeping, God takes one of his ribs and uses it to create a woman, whom he presents to Adam. Adam then promptly names her “Woman,” forever asserting men’s dominion over women.

So as Genesis 2 draws to a close, we are left with a note that Adam and “the woman” are both naked and “were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:25).

EDIT: I was skimming through David Leeming’s anthology The World of Myth, and he notes that the story told in Genesis 2 is probably quite a bit older than the Genesis 1 story. The dates he gives are “probably as late as the fifth century B.C.E.” for Genesis 1, and “a much earlier text, perhaps as early as 950 B.C.E.” for Genesis 2.