Torah Study Notes 10-25-14

October 25, 2014

p.61 – This parsha covers the end of the story of Noah. Human being have become wicked and must be wiped from the face of the earth by God. Note that the precise nature of human failings is not identified. Noah and his family have found favor in the eyes of God and are to be rescued.

7:24 And the waters towered over the earth… CL: The hydraulic theory of civilization has to do with man’s ability to control water – for irrigation and other purposes.  See:http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/278180/hydraulic-civilization Most contemporary scholars believe that the Noah story is designed to be a response to the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_of_Gilgamesh

About 150 flood myths have been discovered. Gilgamesh stories go back to about 2000 BC. Gilgamesh was given knowledge of how to worship the gods, why death was ordained for human beings, what makes a good king, and how to live a good life. The story of Utnapishtim, the hero of the flood myth, can also be found in the Babylonian Epic of Atrahasis.

8:6  Sending out the raven and then the dove.  The dove returns with an olive branch. We know the imagery of the dove but what is the raven?  Raven’s are carnivorous and would have to return with an animal. This is an admixture of two stories. In Gilgamesh the raven is sent out. Ararat is part of a range in Turkey – the end of the earth as far as the Judean’s were concerned. We get an image of the earth as sitting in a bowl of mountain ranges. When Elijah goes into the wilderness the raven feed him as he makes his way to where he will hear the still small voice. SF: The dove represents compassion. The raven represents the warrior in us as we work toward peace. PG: Noah is more complex and layered than that.

8:13  In Noah’s six hundred and first year… be fruitful and multiply. On the 27th day of the second month the earth had dried up. The numbers are very precise here. The date gives a sense of the passage of time but also a sense of verisimilitude.

8:20 …the Eternal upon inhaling the soothing fragrance…says never again… although the human mind inclines to evil. PG: what is bracketed out is the inclination of humans to good as well. Note the piece of song in verse twenty two which is likely taken from a much longer song that everyone knew. This song might well be the basis for the entire story – the Noah song that everyone knew. Gilgamesh is searching for immortality. Here it is suggested that humankind will have immortality as a species.

9:1 Note that the word “tref” comes from the Hebrew for “rip off.” Here we are told that we may not eat from a living being. “Moreover for your own bloodguilt I will require your lives…” The notion of capital punishment is essentially destroyed by subsequent rabbinical discussion of this section. This text recognizes that the ideal doesn’t work for a flawed people. This is an idealized text that cannot be lived by precisely.

From Plaut at page 57: With the flood over, humankind begins once more to face the problems of existence. We are reassured that God will not again “destroy every living being” and that there is an immutable order that God will not abrogate.

An interesting comment found at gnosticteachings.org:

In English, the Bible says:

“Make thee an ark of gopher wood…” – Genesis / Bereshit 6:14

By popular interpretation, this has been understood to be “a boat.” Yet in Hebrew , the original writing, it says:

“Make thee a תבה tebah of gopher wood…” – Genesis / Bereshit 6:14

Tebah תבה means “chest, box, case,” or “hull, body.” In short, tebah indicates a container. In Hebrew , there are many words for boat or ship, but tebah is not one of them.

Obviously, the word tebah is pretty far from the word ark. So where did the word Ark come from?

Although the word ark does not appear in the Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh or Torah), it does appear in the Latin translations of the Bible as “arca,” which translates into different words, including 1) a chest, both as a box and the trunk of the human body, and 2) also as a coffin, as that which Joseph in the Old Testament was placed within when he died.

Of course, in the Bible, there are several types of “arks.” In each case, the “ark” is a container that protects something sacred. It is not a literal ship or a boat; rather, it is like the “hull” of a seed: it protects the life-giving elements inside.

The word “ark” is obviously related to “arcane, arcanum” which means something hidden, a secret, known only to those specially informed. Therefore, the Ark of Noah refers to something unbeknownst to the public level of religion. The arcane knowledge has always been reserved for those who were prepared beforehand to use it.

In order to understand that secret and what it means, we have to look at the implications of the story and the meanings of the Hebrew words used in it.

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