Thursday, March 21, 2013

Genesis 10 & 11: God Doesn't Want You to Succeed

Check out today's episode

Nations Descended from Noah (ch. 10 v. 1-32)

A huge worthless list of genealogies, guess I'll do two chapters today. The only thing in this chapter that was even mildly interesting was that Ham the ancestor of Canaan, Sodom, and Gomorrah. All places that were "evil" and eventually will suffer a bad fate at the hand of God. 

Oh, also in the middle there is a guy named Nimrod who was the first "mighty man", whatever that means.

The Tower of Babel (ch. 11 v. 1-9)

The section starts off by describing the material that the bricks and mortar would be made from. I didn't mention it myself as I thought it was uninteresting, but Guzik says that they are waterproof, and this is evidence that the people didn't believe God when he said he wouldn't flood the earth again. That seem idiotic to me, do you really think a tower would stand a global flood just because it is waterproof? And if it would that God couldn't just strike it with lightning or something.

Everyone spoke the same language, and a bunch of people settled in the land of Shinar. They said they wanted to build a huge tower with the top in the heavens, otherwise they would be dispersed over the whole earth.

I'm not really sure how these 2 things are connected, the way this reads there are 2 options, either build a tower to the heavens or spread out on the earth. Is this tower full of condos? That might make sense "we need to build a bunch of condos, otherwise we will have to spread out to find a place to live". Seriously though, it seems like a weird dichotomy to me. Also, it doesn't say "tower to heaven", it says "tower with a top in the heavens". I'm not totally sure of the significance here, but it seems important.

Guzik definitely focuses on this detail, these people are being disobedient to God as they are building the tower instead of dispersing.

He also addresses the heaven vs heavens thing...sorta. I'll just quote it as it is hilarious
The top of the tower was intended to be in the heavens. It is doubtful they thought they could build a tower to heaven. It is more likely they built the tower as an observation point of the heavens.
Yeah, it's not ridiculous now. He also says
If they really wanted to build a tower to reach heaven, it is unlikely they would start on the plain of Shinar, which is about Sea Level. Common sense says they would start on one of the a nearby mountains.
Fair enough, but doesn't that logic also hold if they are trying to avoid a global flood? 

God came down to see the city and the tower, he said that this is just the beginning and that nothing will be impossible for them. Therefore, he came down and confused everyone's speech so they couldn't understand one another. They dispersed instead of building the city and the tower.

First, God is clearly not omniscient in this story, as he had to come down to check out the city and the tower. 

Second, why does he not want people to be able to do stuff? It very specifically says that God confuses their language because they will be able to accomplish anything they want if he doesn't. It's not because they are trying to reach heaven, it's because they will be able to do anything. What is god afraid of here?
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The way Guzik tries to explain this is that God is putting a check on the power of the fallen nature of man. He then cites the evils of 20th century men. So basically, God just delayed these things, he didn't actually stop it. Well done. He also says this is more mercy than judgement, again, if this were true wouldn't God have to come back and do this over and over again as soon as a critical mass of people speak the same language?

Third, who is God talking to? verse 7 "let us go down and confuse their language". I'm guessing Christians will say that he is talking to angels, but I bet he's supposed to be talking to other Gods.

Guzik goes a different way than I was expecting, he say it is a reference to the trinity. He also says that when God came down he was in the form of Jesus, I love how they just make this stuff up.

Guzik talks for 3 paragraphs about how language must be from God and can't be man figuring it out on his own. He says that the only way linguists can explain it without God is if language went through and evolutionary process. Yeah, no shit. I guess if you don't believe in evolution that argument looks like a slam dunk, but really it just makes him look stupid.

Guzik also mentions that after people spread out they have to get by in different environments and have different stresses and with small populations their small genetic differences spread quickly. He's basically describing evolution, well done. I'm sure he would say "it's micro-evolution not macro-evolution", of course what he doesn't understand is that they are the same thing on different time scales.

Finally, Guzik says that man rebelling shows that people are no better after the flood than they were before it.  Now God will start to make man better by starting with a man who will do his will. Why didn't he just do that with Noah then? If people are just as evil now as they were before then what was the whole point of the Noah story?

What is good about this story?

This is a new thing I'm trying, which I mentioned a few days ago. I want to try to find a good angle on the story, or at least explain why people have thought it valuable for thousands of years. The only thing I can really think of here is that it attempts to explains why we have languages. For people who don't understand how language could evolve, this would give them an answer. That's basically what all old myths are for right? To give an explanation when the real answer is out of reach.

Shem's Descendants (ch. 11 v. 10-26)

Just a bunch of genealogies. I suppose one interesting bit is that people seem to be living shorter lives as time goes on.

Terah's Descendants (ch 11 v. 27-32)

There is nothing of value here.

For the "verses of note" post:

--Knowledge--

Genesis 11:6-7 God wants you to fail

"And the LORD said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.'"

--Obedience--

Genesis 11:4 They didn't want to follow God's command to spread out on the earth

"Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.'"

--Properties of God--

Genesis 11:5 God is not omniscient or omnipresent

"And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built."

5 comments:

  1. For a supposedly omnipotent being, Yahweh is certainly paranoid about humans overpowering him. First, he kicks Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, fearing that they'll eat of the Tree of Life as well as the Tree of Knowledge and become godlike. Second, he causes the Tower of Babel mess because he feared its creators would breach the heavens. If he's a god, what would he be afraid of?

    "I'm guessing Christians will say that he is talking to angels, but I bet he's supposed to be talking to other Gods."

    See Psalm 82:1-8 for another example of Yahweh addressing other deities. Maybe some henotheism got past the Bible's monotheistic editors?

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    1. Agreed, there is plenty in the old testament already that suggests that God is not thought of as omnipotent at this time. And I have read that there are quite a lot of passages that suggest these people were polytheists. IIRC even in Genesis 1 there was hints at polytheism. Unfortunately, between the angels and the trinity, it will be easy enough to explain all of these things away.

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    2. I don't know whether they were polytheists - it's possible, but henotheism is pretty clearly the dominant viewpoint for most of the OT.

      And I think you've got it with the origins of language stuff. This is clearly a Just So Story. Most Christians who think about it for a moment would agree that at least the first 11 chapters of Genesis are myth, but it amazes me how many seem to treat these stories as if they have some theological significance.

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    3. Interesting, I've never heard of henotheism. It does seem to fit well with the bible as well.

      And I totally agree about Genesis so far. Actually reading this stuff and thinking about it, I find it amazing that anyone would read it and think it is literally true. I grew up learning that, but looking back I just think, what were all of the adults thinking?

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