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Session Two! (finally -_-)
by Gigi (oldschoollozfan)
at April 4th, 2009 (09:04 pm)

Yipes, we've gotten behind! RL just decided to be extra-spicy this month. We considered making a longer session this week as an attempt to make up fr the loss, but that would be unfair to you guys (and would likely have killed us, since Genesis is proving to be one of those books that provides more questions than answers, thus far), so this week we're going to cover Genesis 4-6 (from Cain & Abel up to Noah being chosen to build the ark).

Since this is proving a bit more challenging than we'd anticipated, given our current RL scheduling, we're going to shoot for an entry every other week. With luck, this will allow us to get a bit ahead of the comm so we can start cranking these out faster. In the meantime, every other week will be more manageable for Laura and for myself.

A special note before we proceed, since we've noticed something important about this book: the Old Testament, and Genesis, in particular, was written for people who were already part of the culture, who would know certain things from experience. The followers of the religion would already have known certain things, so the need to include them in this account was likely not felt, which means that for people like us, who AREN'T as familiar with ancient Hebrew lore, a lot of terminology and events seem to pop up out of nowhere. If anyone reading this is well-versed in Jewish folktales and traditions, or knows someone who is and would be willing to comment, we'd REALLY love your input!

Without further ado:


Genesis 4

1. (Gen 4:3-5) Why do you think the Lord did not look favorably upon Cain's offering versus Abel's? As you think about this question, consider the following:

A- In some translations, this passage mentions that Abel brought the "firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions", whereas there is no detail given regarding Cain's offering of "the fruit of the ground". It is possible that by "fruit of the ground", the passage not only refers to an offering of plants, but, literally, "fruit that had fallen to the ground". Could this have been the key difference? Where Abel raised his flock and brought God the first pick, Cain waited until his harvest had already fallen? Could this have been viewed as lazy, or offensive in some other way? Also, notice the emphasis on mentioning the flock's "fat portions".

B- Going by the translation above, keep in mind that in other cultures it was traditional to offer up to the gods the fatty portions of the meat as sacrifice. In fact, there is a Greek myth about Prometheus hiding the more useful meat and organs of edible animals "under white bone and glistening fat", to distract the other gods when they were looking over the animals to determine which portions they wanted humans to offer up in sacrifice. Upon realizing what they'd done, these gods became angry with Prometheus, for tricking them into choosing the less savory portions as tribute.

C- Early Hebrew tribes were NOT shepherds, but agriculturalists. However, they later merged with other tribes in the area who DID raise flocks. Still, why would early Hebrews have a story that considers their own product inferior to that of their neighboring tribes? Is it possible this story in Genesis was not, in fact, a story the early Jews told, but rather one that their competitors told?

2. (Gen 4:6-7) Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
"If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."

Do you think God knew already what Cain was thinking, and was warning him to rethink? Could God have told Cain this with the hope that he would take the words to heart and work harder or cease being petty? And if so, why not simply tell Cain what He wanted? What does this tell us about jealousy and harboring resentment for those who seem to do better than us?

3. (Gen 4:9-10) Just as in Gen. 3:9-11, when God, who is believed by his followers to be omniscient, asks Adam where he is and who told him he was naked, and asked if Adam had eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, so does God here ask Cain things God should already know: "Where is Abel your brother?" and "What have you done?". Do you interpret this as proof that God isn't omniscient, or is God simply asking to see if the guilty party will confess or own up to his misdeeds? If you believe the latter then, if Cain or Adam and Eve HAD taken full responsibility for their actions, do you think their punishments would have been different?

4. (Gen 4:15) God cursed Cain, and yet when Cain complained that he would be killed by any who thereafter found him, God said, "Therefore, whosoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold."
Do you believe that this idea of not seeking vengeance upon Cain the murderer is solely limited to Cain, or was God trying to say something about revenge or capital punishment?

5. (Gen 4:23-24) Cain's son, Lamech claims, after confessing he has killed both a man and a boy,

"If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold."

What do you make of this seemingly extraneous passage? Does its inclusion in the Bible serve to illustrate God's will on the matter of repeat offenders, or merely to highlight the moral degeneration of Cain's bloodline? Consider also that this man takes not one, but TWO wives, seemingly simultaneously (since he speaks to both when confessing). If the above passage refers to the cursed bloodline, do you think there is a Biblical point to mentioning this particular detail, as well?

6. (Gen 4:17 and 4:26) Where did Cain and Seth's and all the other men's wives come from? Three logical possibilities exist (that this student can see, at least):

A- There were other humans created outside of Eden, but the Bible only focused on the group derived from Adam, who himself was born outside Eden and set there by the Lord.

B- God created new humans AFTER Adam.

C- God created wives for Cain and Seth the same way he created Eve for Adam. Which theory makes more sense to you, and why? (If possible, offer Biblical sources.)

Which do you believe is most likely? Is there another theory we've overlooked? Also, why do you suppose the Bible neglects to mention their origin?

7. (Gen 4:26) "Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord".

This occurs after the birth of Seth. First question here, "what other men?" Adam already knows of God, Abel is dead, Cain and his descendants have been cursed, so they know of God (though are most likely not too happy with Him), so who else does the Bible refer to, here? Could these other people be related to the seemingly mysterious appearance of the wives of Seth, Cain, and others after? Or could this be a reference to the beginnings of actual religion, when humans actively began calling God as opposed to letting Him contact them first? And if so, what do you suppose prompted Man to begin calling upon the Lord?

Genesis 5

8. The idea that Man was made "in the likeness" or "in the image" of God is a recurring theme throughout the Bible, but the specific ways in which Man resembles God are not outlined. What is your interpretation of this comparison? If we do resemble God, how so? What "godly" features do we, as a species, possess?

9. What do you make of the listed lifespans for each of Adam's descendants? With minor deviation, there seems to be a general down-trend in the number of years each generation lives. Why do you suppose that is? Do you think the filtering of Adam's original bloodline could be culprit? If it's an inherited trait that is being diluted over the generations, what could it be attributable to? Perhaps to partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Or to Adam and Eve's unusual creation (Divine Intervention vs simple biology)? Could it have been caused by being banned from Eden? For that matter, why are these numbers given in such great detail? The lives these men lived, both in total and at the age at which they conceive children, are listed.

10. Lamech, the father of Noah, says of his son, "This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed." Earlier in Genesis, it is mentioned that Adam's line would toil the land, as part of their punishment, but it doesn't mention God cursing the land itself. Provided this isn't simply misinterpretation on the part of Lamech looking at his bloodline's legacy, or mistranslation, what could this refer to? "Lamech" is also the name given to one of Cain's children, and his bloodline was CERTAINLY cursed (Gen 4:12: "When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield strength to you; you will be a vagrant and wanderer of the earth."). Could the bloodlines somehow have gotten crossed together again, or is the repeat name merely coincidence?

Genesis 6

Things to Note: nearly all cultures have some version of the flood story. It is believed that this "flood" correlates to the end of the Ice Age, when the ice melted and many regions were submerged. Also, the remains of a large boat with similar proportions to Noah's ark HAS been unearthed atop a mountain in the Middle East.

11. (Gen 6:1-2) Who are these "sons of God" that are mentioned? The standard assumption is that this refers to the angels, and that the "Nephilim" (Gen 6:4) are therefore the result of angels and humans interbreeding. Here, it specifically says the "sons" of God mingled with the "daughters" of men. But if angels can mate with humans, doesn't this contradict the popular view that angels are genderless and asexual? Why are angels depicted this way, then? Notice, also, that the existence of any heavenly beings besides God has not yet been addressed by this point in Genesis, except maybe this passage and perhaps one other vague reference (back in Gen 2:22: the mysterious "Us" we spoke of last session). Why do you suppose this is so?

More Things to Note: The Nephilim are the "mighty men who were of old, men of renown", yet what they were renown for is never said.

Even More Things to Note: This particular branch of Adam's lineage is not comprised of rulers, or men of wealth or distinction (this will change in later generations). However, many of Adam's other heirs had "other sons and daughters", some of which may have mingled with these "sons of God" and begotten Nephilim, yet the Bible only tracks the apparent humblest of direct lines from Adam. In fact, after the flood, Noah's is the only line left that directly connects to Adam, so out of all of Adam's descendants, only ONE bloodline proves worthy of saving, because their father Noah is "blameless" and "walks with God".

12. Do you think there is a connection between the emergence of Nephilim and the growing wickedness of man? It's never specifically said, but the passages describing these hybrid humans and thecorruption of man and God's resultant anger ARE written as follow-ups. If this is the case, do you find it ironic that the sons of God (assuming this refers to angels) mixing with humans produces something unwelcome in God's eyes? Or, since it's the THOUGHTS of man, which are filled with evil intent, that are deliberately pinpointed as the cause for God's grief and resultant wrath, could this perhaps be a case of "power corrupts", since Nephilim were the "mighty men" and "men of renown"?

13. (Gen 6:5-12) Of what wickedness were the people so guilty that God decided to wipe them out? It is stated, regarding men, that "every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen 6:5), that "the earth was filled with violence" (Gen 6:11) and, "all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth" (Gen 6:12). It's fairly clear that violence, which is repeatedly mentioned, was one of the factors, what else could man's "wickedness" have been, that made God regret ever creating him? What could, "all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth", and, "evil continually", mean?

14. It is at this point in time that God determines the age of men should number no greater than 120. What significance is there to this number, do you think?


Posted by: Lady Norbert (ladynorbert)
Posted at: April 5th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)

Question #14 actually reminds me of a question I asked my own Pastor. The Bible seems to place a lot of emphasis on the number 40 -- 40 days and nights aboard the ark, Jesus in the desert for 40 days, 40 years for the Israelites to reach the Promised Land, etc. I figure 120's significance may lie in it being a multiple of 40. (I don't remember what the answer was to the question about 40, unfortunately. I'll ask him again.)

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