Generations?


#1

“These are the generations of Noe: Noe was just and perfect man in his generations, he walked with God. And he begot three sons, Sem Cham, and Japheth.” Genesis 6:9-10

What does scripture mean by Noe being perfect in his generation?:confused:


#2

He was a just man who lived in a time of injustice.

This is the set-up for the flood story: God chooses the one just family from among all the sinful people on earth. God destroys all the sinful people. And then, when there’s only the people who had been shining examples of sinlessness, what happens? Noah gets passed-out drunk; his son commits a heinous sin against him; and Noah curses his (as-yet-unborn) grandson.

The point of the flood epic is that we can’t eliminate sin from the human condition by partitioning off ‘sinners’ from ‘saints’; sin is something that we each have to decide to accept or reject, each day of our lives. This verse you’ve brought to our attention is the verse that helps establish the story that’s about to come…


#3

The funny thing is, there’s actually this Jewish idea that states that Noah was only relatively righteous compared to his contemporaries (the emphasis is on the words “in his generation”).* In other words, God only saved the lesser of two evils. :smiley: It’s a perennial debate in Jewish exegesis: was Noah among the truly righteous (on the caliber of, say, Abraham), or was he only relatively so (when compared to everyone else in his time)?

  • Because note: unlike Abraham who bargained with God for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah didn’t seem really concerned with the judgment that was to befall the wicked: he only acted to save himself. He didn’t try to plead for mercy like Abraham did: he just built the ark, loaded the animals and his family on it, and then left everyone else to drown. That’s why Hasidic commentators sometimes called Noah a tzaddik im pelz, ‘a righteous man in a fur coat’: what kind of righteous man would respond to the cold by wearing a coat - rather than building a fire that could warm everyone around him?

In fact, there’s another comparison made in Jewish thinking between Noah and Abraham: Noah walked “with” God (Genesis 6:9), but Abraham walked “before” Him (Genesis 17:1). In other words, Abraham was mature in his faith, but Noah was immature, like a child who needed to walk ‘with’ his parent.


#4

I have heard other theories that Noah was perfect in regard to his “pure” and unpolluted bloodline back to Adam and by pure I mean no angelic/nephilim DNA. This is rather than “perfect” meaning he was a particularly good man.


#5

LOL! OK … fair enough!

Yet, v6 asserts that “Noah found favor with the Lord.” He might have been only the most righteous of a wicked population, or even the least obnoxious among them, but v6 establishes that, whatever his ‘qualifications’, God looked down on him with favor.

Because note: unlike Abraham who bargained with God for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah didn’t seem really concerned with the judgment that was to befall the wicked: he only acted to save himself. He didn’t try to plead for mercy like Abraham did

Hmm… that’s an odd assertion, isn’t it? Did Abraham bargain with God for the sake of all the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, or did he do so only for the sake of his relatives, who happened to live there? Even if we admit that he argued against them being destroyed, he only did so incidentally, right?

That’s why Hasidic commentators sometimes called Noah a tzaddik im pelz, ‘a righteous man in a fur coat’: what kind of righteous man would respond to the cold by wearing a coat - rather than building a fire that could warm everyone around him?

What kind, you ask? The kind who explicitly was commanded by God, “put on a coat”… right? :wink:

In fact, there’s another comparison made in Jewish thinking between Noah and Abraham: Noah walked “with” God (Genesis 6:9), but Abraham walked “before” Him (Genesis 17:1). In other words, Abraham was mature in his faith, but Noah was immature, like a child who needed to walk ‘with’ his parent.

Nice analysis. :thumbsup:


#6

I think the point in the interpretation is Abraham bargained; he did something. Noah was simply like, “You’re going to destroy the earth? 'Kay, fine, let’s build this boat you’re asking.” When God revealed He’s going to destroy the two cities, Abraham reacted actively (“Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”) When God revealed He’s going to send a flood, Noah was ambivalent - he simply did only what he was told (“Build this ark”). He never even bothered to say anything to God: “Noah did so; just as God commanded him, so he did.”

If we’re going to extend the Hasidic analogy, God may have told Noah to put on the coat, but he stopped then and there: he just followed the instructions to the letter. If this was Abraham, he would have gone beyond what he was told and built a fire or sew more coats. :wink:

You might say that this is a sort of tendency in Jewish thinking: it doesn’t look favorably upon passive quietism, which Noah exemplifies. It instead prefers the activism of Abraham; you cannot just be passive, even if it’s God talking with you. There are of course times when you do what God commands with no question (for example, Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac), but at the same time God prefers that you be mature, to stand on your own feet to the point of being able to talk with Him, to question Him, to struggle with Him. You can’t always be a child forever - there’s a time for everything. That’s why this Jewish interpretation thinks that Abraham who walked “before” God is greater than Noah, who walked “with” Him: Abraham was the more mature person. He stood on his own feet.

Funny thing is: Abraham struggled with God, and Jacob also wrestled with God (literally). I mean, what does the term ‘Israel’ mean? “He who struggles with God.” You might say it’s in the blood. :smiley:


#7

Very intriguing post!


#8

Just to follow up:

Jewish exegesis would even compare Abraham and Noah in this instance. Even during the near-sacrifice of Isaac, when Abraham is at his most ‘passive’ and unquestioning mode, Scripture records him saying something to God: “Here I am.” He was still active; he still did something. Noah, however, never says anything at all; in fact, no dialogue of his is recorded when God orders him to build the ark. He was passive through and through. And that’s why this particular stream of interpretation sees Noah as lesser than Abraham in righteousness: he (literally) never spoke up to God. Noah was just a passive listener. Abraham is seen as more righteous because he had chutzpah: he had the guts, the audacity even, to speak to God - to speak up to God. :stuck_out_tongue:

And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood …]” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. …] Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. …]” And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.

…]

After these things God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his ***, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

Speaking of which, I’m somewhat reminded of that quote by St. Teresa of Avila: “If this is the way You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few!” Now there’s another saint with chutzpah. :smiley:


#9

The Zohar even imagines a conversation between God and Noah after the Flood.

Our Rabbis have taught: How did the Blessed Holy One respond when Noah came out of the ark and saw the whole world destroyed and began to cry over the holocaust! Noah said, “Master of the world, you are called Compassionate! You should have shown compassion for Your creatures!” The Blessed Holy One answered him, “Foolish shepherd! Now you say this, but not when I spoke to you tenderly, saying, ‘Make yourself an ark of gopher wood … As for me, I am about to bring the Flood … to destroy all flesh … [Go into the ark, you and all your household,] for you alone have I found righteous before me in this generation,’ (Genesis 6:14, 17; 7:1) I lingered with you and spoke to you at length so that you would ask for mercy for the world! But as soon as you heard that you would be safe in the ark, the evil of the world did not touch your heart. You built the ark and saved yourself. Now that the world has been destroyed, you open your mouth to utter questions and pleas?” Seeing this, Noah presented offerings and sacrifices, as it is written: “Taking of every clean animal and of every clean bird, he offered up offerings on the altar.” (Genesis 8:20)

Rabbi Yohanan said, "Come and see the difference between Noah and the righteous heroes of Israel! Noah did not shield his generation and did not pray for them like Abraham. For as soon as the Blessed Holy One said to Abraham, ‘The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is so great,’ immediately, ‘Abraham came forward and said, “Will you sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?”’ (Genesis 18:20, 23) He countered the Blessed Holy One with more and more words until finally he implored him to forgive the entire generation if just ten innocent people could be found. Abraham thought there were ten in the city, counting Lot and his wife and his sons and daughters; that is why he entreated no more.

“Moses also shielded his entire generation. As soon as the Blessed Holy One said, ‘Israel has sinned, “quickly they have turned from the way,”’ what is written? “Moses implored.” (Exodus 32:8, 11) What does ‘implored’ mean? It means that he prayed until he was overtaken by trembling.”

Our Rabbis have said: “Moses did not leave the Blessed Holy One until he pledged his life for them both in this world and the world that is coming, as it is written: ‘And now, if you would only forgive their sin! If not, erase me from the book that you have written.’” (Exodus 32:32)

Rabbi Yose said, “[Moses’ bravery is demonstrated] from this verse: ‘He would have destroyed them had not Moses, his chosen, confronted him in the breach’” (Psalms 106:23)

So all the righteous heroes shielded their generations and did not allow the attribute of Judgment to have power over them. And Noah? The Blessed Holy One lingered with him and spoke many words to him; perhaps, he would ask for mercy for his generation. But he did not care and did not ask for mercy. He just built the ark and the whole world was destroyed.

And for some balance, now here’s a more positive Jewish assessment of Noah.

Note how the account about Noah begins: “These are the generations of Noah.”

Modern scholars would try to explain the rather mysterious use of the word toledoth ‘generations’ here (because it doesn’t really follow some sort of genealogy): they would point out that the word occurs ten times in Genesis, where it introduces major sections (“these are the generations of the heavens and the earth/Adam/Noah/the sons of Noah,” etc.); half of these do act as headings for genealogies, but the other five (the one with Noah included) seem to be more like general section headers. In these cases, they would say the word toledoth is better translated as ‘story’ or ‘account’.

Traditional Jewish exegesis, however, connected the use of the word ‘generation’ here with the other instances where genealogies follow. “These are the generations of Noah,” the text says, but curiously, Noah’s genealogy is not given at this point. This interpretation notes that it was Noah’s righteousness, not his biological children, that is mentioned immediately after this sentence. Therefore, it was Noah’s righteous actions that were his true “generations,” his most enduring offspring.

These are the generations of Noah—Noah was a righteous man: Since Scripture mentions him, it tells his praise, as it is said (Prov. 10:7): “The mention of a righteous man is for a blessing.” - [Pesikta Rabbathi 12]. Another explanation [for why the names of the children are not mentioned immediately following “These are the generations of Noah”]: To teach you that the main generations [progeny] of the righteous are good deeds. — [Mid. Tan. Noah 2]


#10

From ODR Annotations on Genesis6:9-10:

Just…in his generations, distinguishes between consummate justice (of the next life) and justice of this generation (this life). “walk with God” means that Noe “did follow [God’s] steps”.(S. Jerome).

Noe was called just in his generation, not as the citizens of God’s city are to be perfected in that immortality, in which they shall be equal to Angels, but as they may be perfect in this pilgrimage…a perfect man, that runneth without blame towards perfection, void of damnable [mortal] sins, and is not negligent to cleanse venial sins by alms, prayers, and other good works. (S. Augustine).

With respect to the Abraham v. Noe Rabbinic comparisons above: it seems to me the Rabbis are a somewhat disrespectful towards the one just man in a time of much, much greater iniquity than what Abraham faced (in other words they are Monday-morning quarterbacking). It is one thing to be a Godly man among sinners but where there are a few other God-fearing men (Abraham) it is another thing entirely to be the only God fearing man in a world of great sinners (Noe).

With respect to Noe, I’m not troubled by the exact meaning of perfect in the quote, what troubles me is Genesis VIIII:15 God promised not to destroy the world again in a deluge, He did not promise not to destroy the world again. The sign of God’s covenant with Noe is the rainbow, a rainbow is in the form of a parabolic arc, and an ideal rainbow rises from, and returns to, the Earth. Thomas Pynchon noted that V2/ICBM’s make a parabolic arc as they rise and return to Earth, he called this Gravity’s Rainbow. What he doesn’t comment on directly (as I remember, been a while since I read the book, though I think it is implicit in the title) is that man’s new rainbow and covenant of Mutually Assured Destruction is a mockery of God’s rainbow, and God’s covenant, if the world is destroyed through ICBMs, then it is destroyed through Fire, not Water. Which of course brings us back to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil discussion, and the statement in Genesis III:22 “Lo, Adam has become, as it were, one of us.” We have become like unto God in our ability to destroy the Earth and all that walks, swims, flies or slithers on it.

Oppenheimer misspoke when he said at the Trinity Test, “I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.” His timing was off by several thousand years. We became like unto the Angel of Death back in Genesis, the Trinity test was just the inevitable result of the fall, foreseen before the fall by God: “For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.” (Genesis II:17). Perhaps Adam’s (and our) mistake is thinking “day” in that context meant something unlike the eons that are days to God in Genesis I. In which case The Serpent was telling a half-truth to Eve, eating the fruit wouldn’t cause her to die (that human day). Note that God doesn’t say that He will destroy Adam (and us) just that Adam (and we) will die. Perhaps what He meant is that eating the fruit will result in us destroying ourselves, utterly, at the end of God’s next day (the Eighth?).

In which case, it’s just a matter of time until God’s Eighth Day finally ends and we’re destroyed by Man’s covenant and Man’s rainbow.


#11

There were two ways the Rabbis took Noah’s righteousness: one opinion thought that had he lived in a time where there were more righteous people he would have been counted among the righteous. The other thought that Noah’s righteousness would not be enough had he lived in those times; his righteousness would be (to put it bluntly) worthless.

Besides, Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation. Of course they’d be biased. :wink:

Oppenheimer misspoke when he said at the Trinity Test, “I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.” His timing was off by several thousand years.

As an aside, that was actually a garbled quote from the Bhagavad-gita:

“I am the world-destroying Kāla (Time/Death), fully developed, now engaged in annihilating the [peoples of the] worlds;
[even] without you all these warriors arrayed in hostile armies will cease to exist.
Therefore, arise, gain glory, conquer your foes and enjoy a flourishing kingdom.
All of them have already been killed by me. Be just my instrument, Arjuna.
Drona and Bhishma and Jayadratha and Karna and the other heroic warriors have already been killed by me - destroy them.
Do not be dismayed; fight, and you shall conquer in battle your foes.”


#12

I agree with Norm. God had no choice but to destroy every living thing on earth because it was becoming polluted with this odd nephilim DNA. Even in America there have been discoveries of giant skeletons with 6 fingers per hand. This has been kept secret by the government. This is why Jesus said “as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when the Son of man returns”. Today science is working on modifying human DNA. They are creating humanlike drone soldiers and other strange ideas that are against creation.


#13

As an aside, that was actually a garbled quote from the Bhagavad-gita:

Thanks. Doesn’t alter my point, but interesting to see the original quote nevertheless.

But Noe via Sem/Shem was the ancestor of Abraham (and thus the Jewish nation), so again, short-sighted.

As to righteousness, per ODR commentary on the literal implications of Noe getting drunk, this was not a sin as Noe did not understand what would be the effect of drinking the wine. The only sin was Cham/Ham looking at his father naked and telling the other sons instead of covering Noe himself.

So those Rabbis condemning Noe are falling into the same error for which Christ condemned the Pharisees

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, that build the sepulchers of the prophets and adorn the monuments. And say: if we had been in the days of our Fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” Matthew xxiii:29-30.

From Catena Aurea commentary on these verses:

Pseudo-Chrys.: “What they thought in their hearts, that they spoke by their deeds. Christ lays bare here the natural habit of all wicked men; each readily apprehends the other’s fault, but none his own; for in another’s case each man has an unprejudiced heart, but in his own case it is distorted. Therefore in the cause of others we can all easily be righteous judges. He only is the truly righteous and wise who is able to judge himself. It follows, ‘Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that you are the children of them which killed the Prophets.’”

The Rabbis of the Talmud who you are quoting are judging their father’s father’s father’s… etc father, and thus, pursuant to Christ’s message in this passage, and God’s commandment to honor thy father, someone they are in no position, and have no right, and for which it is arguably sinful for them, to judge.

With respect to Noe’s nakedness and the behavior of Cham/Ham, Sem/Shem and Iapeth/Japheth generally there’s a lot more Church Father/Doctor commentary on the allegorical implications of Noe’s children seeing him in his weakness and naked as compared to Christ on the Cross, who was then also seen naked and in his weakness, some of which you can read in the ODR annotations or other places.

Yours in Christ


#14

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