Cain, the patriarchs and Noah
We have seen how Adam's people probably came from Anatolia. We will later see how the conflict between Yahweh and Eve was over Eve's son Cain, the metal worker. We cannot know for certain (at this stage in history we only get glimpses) but the serpent shaman may have come from the pre-Cain metal workers in Anatolia:
The above quote goes on to say that in Genesis the serpent changes, and now represents deception. That is the supernatural view imposed by later Jews and Christians. But in the Bible text, if we reject the supernatural, the serpent represents exactly what the serpent always represents, intelligence. Hence Jesus would later say,
The shaman ends up encouraging Eve to rebel. He acts as a "satan" (the Hebrew word for "opponent") to his master. However, in this case the opponent (the satan) was right, and the ruler (the Yahweh) was wrong:
Until now we had "God" (i.e. words of logic). Now we have the "Lord God" again. See below for the difference: this is the first sign of the ruler's weakness. He is responding to a failure. Yet he has not yet fallen: the punishment is not petulant, it is logical (i.e. God-like): the shaman had an implied contract to serve the lords and he broke that contract.
The shaman claimed the wisdom of serpents, so it is fitting that he is thrown out on his belly, like a serpent. He was previously allowed to enjoy the garden, but has lost any privileges: he is now like a beast of the field, to earn his living in the dusty lands outside, like Adam.
God can see that the shaman has opened a Pandora's box. If people can question their rulers they can question their shamans even more. So the shaman's head (his claim to special knowledge) is bruised. He still has influence, he can still bruise the heels of the ordinary people, but he has lost he power to claim he is always right.
Since the beginning of time, rulers have claimed supernatural superiority. The shaman has undermined that. He has let the people challenge the rulers through logic and experiment. The power of the supernatural is fatally wounded.
Here the ruler was inconsistent. It was the first of a series of inconsistencies:
So the ruler was no longer unquestioned: he was no longer Elohim Yahweh. He was just plain Yahweh, a mortal.
Eventually we return to logic and the name Elohim.
We are back to logic. Man is in the likeness of logic: spirit equals ideas, and God (logic) is the great spirit (idea) above all.
Some early Christians saw this difference as central to what Jesus taught: that we should worship God (logic) and not man. They became known as the learned ones (gnostics) and became a threat to the elites. See the later parts of part nine of this book for details. For gnostic teachings on Genesis, see gnosis.org/genesis.html
A Gnostic work "The Testimony of Truth" says the original god was envious of Adam and Eve, whose knowledge (writing?) brought power and freedom. "The Hypostasis of the Archons" says that wisdom (Sophia) entered the serpent, who told Eve that she had a noble origin and was not to be a slave. It explains the later flood as further evidence that the mortal god envied the achievements of Adam's descendants and saw them as a threat, much as he did with Babel.
A key figure in the fall of the old gods (the mortal rulers) was Cain. He is the spirit of the major historical trends from the fourth millennium BC:
For simplicity we shall follow Genesis and treat Cain as an individual rather than a composite person.
Cain is probably the most misunderstood person in all history, and the victim of the greatest miscarriage of justice. Let us begin when Adam and Eve left the garden, and we first hear of their son:
'Conceived': Hebrew harah - it can just mean she was with child.
So Adam sleeps with Eve. Then Eve tells Adam she is pregnant and says ' my child is from the mortal ruler. 'This could just be unfortunate phrasing, but there is other evidence that what Eve said was correct:
According to The Apocryphon of John, Cain and Abel were both fathered by the mortal ruler of Eden (an archon is a ruler), and Cain grew up to be the more righteous of the two:
Confusingly, this refers to Yahweh as a righteous name and El as not. This may be because, after the time of Abraham, Yahweh was seen as a purely spiritual force, whereas El became more common as a general name for gods, including false gods. But before Abraham el was still the generic term for god, whereas Yahweh was the name used whenever a ruler acts with mortal weakness.
Most of the Gnostic teachings regarding Cain are lost, but we can gather from fragments that they considered that Cain served the true god (logic) whereas Abel was subservient to the mortal ruler.
There are two Sumerian myths that may refer to Cain and Abel: the story of Emesh (Cain) and Enten (Abel), and the story of Enkimdu (Cain) and Dumuzi (Abel). The stories are so old, and rely so heavily on word of mouth that they may have become a little confused, but they give some very interesting clues. The Sumerian version is more detailed and has different kings. So it may be seeing the point of view of the later gods, or the Cainites, or some other group.
In both Sumerian versions of the story the two men reconcile at the end: 'nobody is killed. '
The Enkimdu and Dumuzi version is especially interesting. The two men make offerings to one goddess in particular: they are both in love with Inanna. Inanna prefers the more peaceful Enkimdu (Cain), but her brother Utu /Shamash persuades Inanna to marry Dumuzi (Abel).
It looks like the gods were pleased with Abel, they let him into their city and he ran off with the hot young goddess. This is of course a highly shortened version. That may be why the gods are angry, why Abel is nowhere to be seen, and why the gods want revenge on Cain, the one who doesn't fear them. the one who they blame for putting ideas in the kid's head.
Maybe the real significance of blood is not murder, but descendants. Abel have lost their daughter, and the human who once served them. Abel is dead to them.
What happened next? Dumuzi (Abel) is listed in the Sumerian king lists as the shepherd king of the city of Bad-tibira, which means Wall of the Copper Workers or fortress of the smiths. Cain's name means metal smith, and he was the father of the city builders and metal workers.
Dumuzi and Inanna, better known as Tammuz and Ishtar, became known through rituals of death and rebirth, linked to the cycles of nature. Abel and his bride were dead to the old gods, but they survived.
Dumuzi the shepherd (Abel?) is listed as the fifth of the eight kings before the flood, and Bad-tibira is the second city after the first (Eridu) fell. Eridu was founded some time around 5400 BC, and was where kingship first descended from heaven. This all fits with the theory that the kings or patriarchs in Genesis and the king lists of Sumer are actually dynasties and the gods ruled their city before Adam appeared on the scene.
We can speculate that the gods (kings) of Genesis 1 settled Eridu around 5400 BC, Adam and Eve rebelled around 4000 BC, and soon after that Cain built his city Enoch (Bad-Tibara). Its kings were eventually known by Abel's name Dumuzid. The old lords in Eridu (the Yahweh) naturally resented losing their power, and treated Cain and his city as enemies.
The first thing we learn about Cain's character is that does not shed blood. Abel gets his food by killing, but Cain devotes his life to making things grow peacefully. This is confirmed in the other legends of Cain and Abel (see below): Cain is the peaceful one. Genesis then tells how the ruler accepted Abel's offering yet rejected cain's. From the little we know of Cain the gods probably saw him as a threat. Cain went on to found a city and be a rival to the mortal rulers, whereas Abel as a shepherd would never challenge the gods' power. Plus Cain and Abel loved the same woman from the rulers. The rulers would want rid of them both.
The political significance of the offering
The requirement for Cain to give farm produce (Genesis 4:3-5, where God liked Abel but not Cain) may have had political significance:
Note that Cain later left and he or his descendant founded his own city. His descendants were noted for their metalwork and music: they were probably very smart. There is a good chance that they were better farmers than the rulers of Eden. As noted earlier, Yahweh's name and authority were based on his ability to produce good crops. Cain was a potential threat to their power.
Tax in the days of Cain
Cain and Abel's tribute in crops or animals is a form of tax. One historian from the Sumerian city of Lagash, writing circa 2400-2200 BC (the earliest date when we have high quality records) looks back to the start when "the seed of man came forth" and then laments about the large burden of taxes since then:
So the wealth of the gods, their oxen and houses, came from the people. In the earliest documents, the rulers' property was called the property of the gods. Hence "the oxen of the gods ploughed the ensi's onion patches" This identification of the lord with the gods could be straight from Genesis. The anger at paying taxes could come straight from the mouth of Cain. While Abel was submissive and gave his oxen, Cain resented giving his onions.
Cain the tax rebel
We can probably infer from Genesis 4:3-5 that Cain was not enthusiastic about tax. If Cain had enthusiastically given tribute surely the rulers would have accepted it:
'If thou doest well': What else do the gods want from him? The difference in Abel's offering was that Abel offered blood. Do they want blood?
'Sin': Hebrew chattara'ah - it always implies impending punishment. For example, the next appearance of the word is Genesis 18:20 "the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous" or Exodus 32:34 "I will visit their sin [punishment] upon them. "
'Sin lieth [or crouches] at the door': "The Hebrew word for 'crouching, ' (robetz), is the same as an ancient Babylonian word referring to an evil demon named Rabisu, which awaits its prey along the roadside or at the door of a building. Sin may thus be pictured here as a demon, waiting to devour Cain like a wild animal attacking its prey. [. . ] the Akkadian sources portray the rabisu as a being that attacks its victims, not as one that tempts them to commit sin" (rabbimichaelsamuel.com/ 2012/01/ thoughts-on-genesis-47-demons- at-the-door)
The author says that Cain did not understand. But perhaps Cain understood perfectly.
'And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him': This sentence is just two words in Hebrew: desire and rule. This could be read as a threat: the rulers will attack and rule over Cain.
We saw that the rulers prefer blood sacrifice. When they said that, Cain's countenance fell. The old gods liked to sacrifice the first born. See Abraham and Isaac for example. Cain was the first born son. Did they want his blood? Is that why people accepted the story hat the dispute became violent?
This is the crucial verse. If we reject the supernatural then this is simply the word of somebody who is a known enemy of Cain. There were no witnesses, no evidence of a dead body or blood (see below), and Cain denied it. All we know for sure is that Abel had gone, and tHe local ruler was angry.
This suggests that there is no evidence at all for the death: the rulers give the excuse that: the ground opened its mouth and swallowed the blood. So there is no body, no blood, nothing. The rulers claim supernatural knowledge of the death, but if we reject the supernatural they have nothing.
No court would convict on that evidence. But the other witnesses, the Sumerian accounts, tell a different story. Cain did not kill Abel: Cain and Abel both angered the rulers, so they both had to leave. Genesis 4 is written by those who stayed behind with the rulers, and recorded the ruler's version of the story.
There are three main ways for elites to control trouble makers like Cain. They can use violence, but that creates sympathy. They can use painful taxes, but the rebel may just pay them and make a bigger noise. Or they can accuse the rebel of some crime, such as murder.
Trumped up charges were not unknown in Sumer. Hence the enlightened reformer Urukagina "amnestied and set free the citizens of Lagash who had been imprisoned for debt or failure to pay taxes or on trumped up (presumably) charges of theft or murder." (Kramer, p.82)
Part eight of this book notes that the best guide to early Christianity is the movement now known as "the learned". They recognised that the "lord" in Genesis was not always right. So it was common for them treat Cain with respect. There was even a group that other called "Cain-ites." Very little is known about the Cainites, except from their enemies, who saw support of Cain as support for murder. But we need to remember that the pro-Cain argument is based on rejecting the supernatural. In other words, pro-Cain mean pro-logic, that is, pro-God. Anti Cain is therefore anti logic or anti-God.
The following commentary tries to piece together what is known about the Cainites. (It is from Hermann Detering's web site: English is not Detering's first language, so the wording is sometimes odd.)
But didn't Jesus say that Cain killed Abel?
Jesus once warned the Pharisees:
This does not say Cain killed Abel, but it is possible that Jesus thought he did. Jesus probably did not own a copy of the Bible - books were very rare before the days of printing. What Jesus knew was what he heard and read at synagogue, so he probably did not examine obscure stories in depth. But it is also possible that he did: and this verse does not mean what modern readers assume.
The Zacharias son of Barachias is often assumed to be the father of John the Baptist but is probably an obscure prophet in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22. See the Pulpit Commentary for a lengthy discussion of why. If this is not the famous Zacharias it may not be the famous Abel either. There is another Abel that fits what Jesus said better than Cain's brother.
Abel is the name of the place where the Ark of the Covenant came to rest after being stolen by the Philistines and then sent back to Israel. The Philistines suffered a plague and sent the infected mice and boils ("emerods") back to the Israelites in the ark. See 1 Samuel 6. The Israelites took the bait, looked inside, the plague spread, and thousands of innocent people died. The Pharisees did not go around physically murdering prophets, but in their hypocrisy and elitism they were metaphorically just like the Philistines: poisoning that which is holy.
So the blood of the town of Abel fits Jesus' message better than the blood of Adam's son Abel. Both the town of Abel and Zacharias son of Barachias died because the guardians of the holy place had let it become corrupt.
'The mark': the earliest law code allowed the death penalty for murder, and even for stealing. The gods did not demand this, perhaps because there as no body so there was actually no proof that a murder had taken place.
Branding someone was punishment for slander (e.g. for slandering a married woman or virgin). The punishment suggests that Cain's real crime is disagreeing with the leaders. They have no actual evidence of a murder, but are angry that Cain disagrees with them.
More commonly, branding showed a person was a slave, and harming them would lead to repercussions from the master. The gods were claiming ownership of Cain, so he would not be able to start a rival city.
Cainites created cities, metalwork and music. They are the advanced ones.
'Young man': Hebrew "'iysh", a contraction of "chanowk" which is normally translated Enoch, the "one dedicated" or "city dweller. " In other words, Lamech killed a special person or city dweller, one of the rulers. Hence he will be punished ten times harder than Cain who was only accused of killing one of Adam's people.
Lamech accepted that punishment follows killing. Compare the rulers, who felt that killing everybody was perfectly acceptable (in the great flood). Who is more moral?
With the story of Cain finished, Genesis speeds through the next thousand years, with very little detail. Most of the time we just have a name and an age, and the ages are very long. E.g.
All the ages are in more or less this form, e.g.
Why the repetition? The earliest dates are from before 3000 BC, when writing was still very primitive: possibly just a few marks on a stick to remember numbers. Something like this:
...and the scribe filled in the rest when he "read" the text.
These names and dates make more sense as names of places or tribes (see below). For example, "cainan" means "make a nest", "mahalaleel" means "insane or boasting", and "Jared" means "go down". So the original text might be read as something like...
The time periods may seem long, but recall that the western Roman empire had a decline that lasted 400 years, and during that time it gave birth to the eastern Roman empire that had a decline lasting over a thousand years! The eastern empire in turn gave birth to Eastern Europe, and so on. So we could say "the arrogant began the bureaucrats, and the bureaucrats begat the slavs" with similarly large numbers.
Any national history could be described in the Genesis style. Take British dynasties for example. We could perhaps write:
The round numbers (ten patriarchs before and after the flood) are further evidence for these being dynasties or eras and not individuals. Historians divide long time periods into neat sections purely for their own convenience. For example, is Sax Coburg Gotha the same as Windsor? (They are the same family but changed their German name when the war began). It depends how you look at it. A historian can choose whatever makes the history easier to remember.
Note that a name for a dynasty can also refer to an individual. For example, in Egypt "Pharaoh" was both a person and a title. So when we read that "Lamech said I have killed a man" there could be a dynasty called Lamech and also an individual king who killed a man.
Let us now look at each dynasty. Often the only clue we have is the name. The meanings given here are are based on the detailed analysis at abarim-publications.com/ Meaning/. We will then speculate on why each name might have been given.
'Adam': "mankind" or "red" as in red earth, the land worked by his tribe.
'Eve': "all living" or "tent" or "village" (the same word is in Deuteronomy 3:14 and Joshua 13:30).
'Seth': "foundation. "
Next we follow Cain's descendants, the ones who developed cities:
'Enoch': "dedicated" - the name of the Cainite city.
'Irad': "return to city. "
'Mehujael': "god destroys" or "wipe out God" - perhaps a reference to a battle between the gods' tribe and the Cainites? It's another clear example of a tribal name, probably given years later, and not a name you would give an individual!
'Methusael': "I'm A Mortal; Where's God?" - another good name for a group in defiance of the gods. The Mehujael period was a battle with the gods, and the Methusael period is a time of insults and defiance. Perhaps that explains why we have so little detail from this period: if the gods lost they would not want to dwell on this.
'Lamech': either "strong" or "made low. " This is not a Hebrew word so this is only a best guess. The Lamech in Cain's lineage was a murderer and proud of it - perhaps he killed one of the gods, hence he expected to be avenged seventy times seven whereas Cain who killed an ordinary man, was only avenged seven times.
'Jabal, Jubal and Tubal': these are closely related words meaning stream of water (cities are usually built by rivers) and the world of economy and interaction.
In Genesis 5 we go back to Seth's descendants:
'Enos': "Mankind Frail And Miserable" - a good title for the head of a weak tribe. At this stage in their history mankind is growing, and Cain's descendants are creating cities, metalwork and art, while Seth's descendants are just herding sheep. They would be forced onto the worst land.
'Cainan (Kenan)': "Make a nest" - a good name for a village builder.
'Mahalaleel': "shine / praise / boast / be insane, to / from God. " This is a good name for a group who broke away to do their own thing. Perhaps they tried to be wildly enthusiastic towards the old gods in the hope of better luck for their sheep. Or perhaps they opposed the gods?
'Jared': "go down" - could mean going down to a new location. Seth's god-fearing line is not doing as well as Cain's god-rejecting line.
'Enoch': "dedicated" - the Enoch people return to live with the gods:
'Methuselah': "mortal sent out. " Seth went back to live with the gods. But Noah did not live with the gods, so what happened? The dynasty in between either rebelled or the gods could no longer feed them: the mortals were sent out again.
Lamech (Noah's father): "strong" or "made low" again. At this late point the Seth line must be in crisis. For a thousand years the Cain people have developed technology, and no doubt taken the best land. Enoch finally gave in and moved back to the old gods, but the old gods must be in a bad way as well, because Methuselah's group was sent out again. The people of Lamech are trying to survive as old fashioned sheep farmers on the worst land in a desert, so they have to be tough but humbled.
Soon we shall finish the list of dynasties up to the time of Abraham, when we seem to be dealing with individuals.
We have very little to go on, but we may gain extra clues from the Sumerian king lists of the same time. They may not be the exact same dynasties, but they come from the same period, the same part of the world, and share the same legends.
In this period and this part of the world we have another short history: the Sumerian king list. As with the first chapters of Genesis, this is mostly pre-3000BC. Writing was little more than numbers at this point, and the rest had to be memorized, so we get very little detail.
"kingship descended from heaven": The Sumerians were very proud of having the first cities and first kings in the world, and even remembering their names and how long they ruled. Kings claimed to represent the gods - they claimed their authority "from heaven". It is clear from the creation myths that when the Sumerians talk about "the gods", the "annunaki" they mean the elite people: when they "created" man it means they took a lower caste group from elsewhere to dig their ditches for them (e.g. to irrigate their gardens and fields). But at the earliest time the gods dug their own ditches.
"kingship was in Eridug": Archeologists confirm that this was the first city in Sumer. It originated as a village circa 5400 BC. It's not clear how much later somebody called himself king, and how much longer after that they brought in lower cast people to dig their ditches - that is, when the gods took the "red earth" or "adam" man from the dusty desert and placed him in the garden to serve them.
"sars": A mark that later came to mean 3, 600. Or could mean a garden of size 36 square meters. The Sumerians like the number 36 because it divided easily, making mathematics easier. It also worked well with 12 months in a (close to) 360 day year. Hence they invented a 360 degrees for the circle. A sar is often translated as 3600 years, giving absurdly long reigns of 28, 800 years, 36, 000 years, etc. The sar almost certainly meant something else originally.
"ners": one sixth of a sar.
"the shepherd": this is the only king to be described with more than just a name. Presumably he was important. Other legends suggest he was the same as Abel (who fled and the gods said he was dead and blamed Cain).
"1 king": something happened at the end of the shepherd's reign. Before that life was more stable. After that, each city only has one dynasty, and the longest one was only as long as the shortest of the earlier dynasties.
"the flood": this is around the time of Noah's flood, so is presumably the same one. There were other great floods, but this one seems to be remembered as particularly bad for the cities they were i at the time.
This is of course speculative because we have so little to go on, but this order of events seems plausible:
Now back to the account in Genesis.
In Genesis 5 we return to the mortal rulers without the Elohim title. This is centuries later, so of course refers to others in the ruling tribe. We recall how a mortal ruler, angry at being questioned, had cursed the ground. In chapter 4 Cain had left, and despite the ineffectual curse he made a good living. But Seth and his descendants tried to appease the elites.
By chapter 6 the mortal rulers' weakness is reaching crisis point. The more logical members of the elite tribe (the sons of logic, i.e. the sons of Elohim) actually prefer Adam's people!
This makes the mortal rulers angry again. They act in an offended, petty manner:
But he cannot stop the younger generation from defecting to the Adamic people.
'Giants': Hebrew nephilim or fallen ones in the sense of apostasy from old traditions. The apocryphal books of Enoch elaborate on this story, referring to angels (i.e. servants of the gods) called watchers.
So the mortal rulers in despair give up on their ungrateful servants. It is unclear whether the 120 years was added by a later copyist with the benefit of hindsight, but it is clearly a threat.
'Made': Hebrew aw-saw' a primitive word that can mean "made" but also "to deal (with)", to act, to attend to, put in order, to observe, celebrate, to acquire (property), to appoint, ordain, institute, to bring about, to use
'Man': Hebrew Adam.
'Earth': Hebrew "'erets" or land: it can mean the whole world or just a region.
So the rulers regret ever placing Adam on the good land in Eden. It made everything go wrong. Here the mortal rulers admit an error. They hit their lowest point.
Mortal gods have risen and fallen throughout history. An elite acts like it is smarter than the common people and should therefore rule and take a bigger cut of the wealth. The people being ruled eventually see that their masters are just people. Perhaps the biggest example of elites falling was in the twentieth century, where around the world the entire class system, began to crumble.
This fits the concept of Hebrew prophecy discussed in part two: prophecy is about recurring patterns more than particular dates.
Rulers often rule by fear, either direct or (if they are smart) indirect. They use their superior information sources to draw attention to great dangers. They then say "give us more power and we will protect you. " Until modern communication it was normal to use neighbouring states as the bogeymen. But trade and communication shows were are all basically the same. So elites must use hidden dangers like terrorism or global warming to justify their power. Those dangers are sometimes genuine, but the result is the same: it allows elites to gain power.
Which brings us to the great flood:
The rulers would be happy to see the Cainites wiped out due to their arrogance in disrespecting the old ways. But Noah (Utnapishtim) was a friend. If Noah survived then perhaps people would return to worshipping the elites again. So the rulers told Noah to build a boat to save what he needed.
This was the whole world, as far as Noah knew. But Noah did not know what was over the horizon: he had to send out a dove to learn of any land that was out of sight.
In the same way, when Luke says "all the world" was taxed, he means all
the Roman world, and not Antarctica, Australia, etc.
Sumerian boats were very simple: the prevailing north-south winds meant long journeys were not practical: you can go south but not north, unless the prevailing winds change or you use oars. This is confirmed by every description of the Ark: it was more like a box than a ship as we know it (the word ark just means container). So when the flood pushed Noah down into the Persian Gulf he could have drifted with no sight of land for months. But eventually the winds changed and he began to see land again.
For the details of the flood we need to read some of the source material for Genesis: tablet 11 of the Gilgamesh epic (where Noah is called Utnapishtim) and the Atrahasis text: a similar account that gives more details of the famine and decisions that led to the flood.
There is nothing supernatural about the Genesis flood. This is
clearer when we look at the surviving source material. The best known is
the Gilgamesh account:
Here we see that this was planned in an ordinary, familiar city. The
people called "gods" are described like ordinary human rulers: the boss
(Anu), his adviser (Enlil) and chamberlain (Ninurta) and the minister of
canals (Ennugi). It appears that these gods names were titles of
government positions. This is true throughout. For example, when Utnapishtim was asked why he was building a boat, he was told to say this:
So it was considered normal and unremarkable for gods to speak to
people they did not like. And it suggests that these gods did not have
the power to simply throw somebody out. So they sound like human rulers.
Let us look at those rulers:
Ancient Sumer, like many ancient civilisations, was based around the
temples run by priests. In Atrahasis for example, they react to a crisis
by paying more attention to the temple:
The top priest of the top temple in each city was in effect the king:
The priest of course can speak on behalf of the god of the temple. So when a god says something it probably means his representative, the priest-king, said it.
Remember how the flood was introduced in Gilgamesh:
It was arranges by the top god: so humans would hear of it via his representative the priest-king. He involved his adviser and chamberlain, and the minister of canals. This was a government operation.
Modern governments are not so different. A modern government has an imposing central palace, and people bring offerings in a hope of special treatment (we call it lobbying and campaign donations).
The president supposedly represents the
nation. The nation is an imaginery concept (it only exists because
enough people believe in it). Like a god, the nation has a distinct
personality. Like a god, the nation is often personified: uncle Sam in
America, Britannica in Britain, lady Liberty in France, etc.
Modern priests controlling the weather
In a modern government, ministers often work with nature. For example the minister of agriculture will ensure crops grow. It was the same in Sumer. For example, the cause of rain was not understood, but was called Adad. So if there was a priest of Adad he would be responsible for ensuring sufficient rain. Hence you have Adad the god (the force of nature) and Adad's representative on Earth. What the Sumerians did may appear irrational, but look closer. Take for example their response to the famine:
At first glance it looks like sacrificing food caused rain. But it
did not: there was no rain, just morning and evening mist (as mentioned
earlier in Genesis). The resulting growth was "furtive" - almost hidden.
But it was enough to solve the problem of the famine. Why? Well the
people united (they no longer focused on different gods) and they shared
their food (by bringing it to the temple).
Remember that the famine was caused by a growth in population, not a
change in the weather. So this change in behaviour was enough to make a
Now let's focus on the minister for canals: the only ministry involved when the king, adviser and chamberlain planned the flood.
The decision to cause a flood was taken by the most senior ministers,
and the minister of canals. Canals explain everything. It's time for a
refresher course on Sumerian canals:
So we see that without constant maintenance of canals, the annual
floods would cover everything. So the easiest way to cause a flood
(appealing to Occam's razor as usual) is to neglect or sabotage the
Why would a spring flood kill everyone? The Atrahasis account answers the question: population growth and famine.
Remember that this was the third millennium BC, and in a desert.
Houses would be simple and food would be scarce. An expanded population
would put immense strain on the desert. This explains why "the land was
bellowing": when people think they might starve, they are more likely to
fight each other. This is probably what Genesis refers to when it says
The famine that caused the unrest was encouraged by official commands:
Thousands of years later Stalin in Russia had a similar policy: if a
group was causing trouble and there was a shortage of food or water, he
let that group starve.
This may appear to say "we will cause this" but "let" simply means
"allow". In the same way a modern person might say "let the famine
happen, let mother nature do her worst". Note that rain did fall, but in
very small amounts, in "drips". This is perfectly normal for a desert
outside of the rainy season. The problem was not the rain, but the
number of people trying to survive in the desert, and the rulers'
unwillingness to help.
The concept of "above" and "below" was probably similar to the Egyptian concept of the "upper" land (where the Nile comes from) and "lower" land (by the coast). This will be discussed later.
In a desert in times of famine the people would naturally stay as
close to the rivers and canals as they could: nothing grew elsewhere.
And because of the famine they would have no spare resources: they would
be weak, with very poor houses, and no money for personal flood
defences. Blocking the canals would man the spring floods killed
everyone. The elites, the gods, would of course live on higher ground or
have better houses, and thus survive.
This flood was important not because it was a natural disaster, but
because it was deliberately caused by the leaders: the gods did an evil
act. The Atrahesis account says so explicitly:
The other reason why this genocide was so effective is that it was combined with burning all the houses.
Gilgamesh gives a very simple reason why this genocide was so
effective: when the floods came the gods' people (the Anunnaki) not only
destroyed the canals, but pulled out mooring poles and set fire to
everything. There was so much fire that black smoke swept over the
Utnapishtim was too busy with the flood to pay much attention to the fire.
Very large fires can trigger more dramatic rainfall
So when looking back at the flood, and the thick smoke, Noah would
also remember rainfall that seemed far more violent and dramatic than
The idea of Adad withholding rain may sound supernatural. But apply
Occam's razor: we do not need the supernatural to explain this. We saw
that the gods were represented by government ministers, and how they
could cause a famine or a flood. Now let us look at the cosmology of
"above and below" and how north and south were linked to sky and sea. Continuing the Atrahasis text:
What are the upper and lower regions? Guarding "the bolt and bar of
the sea" together with plants, suggests a coastal region. So "down" is
the coast. The Egyptians had the same idea: in any land dominated a
river (or rivers that flow in the same direction), "up" is up river, and
"down" is down river. So the upper region would be toward the
mountains, middle earth is the main part of the river, the earth below
would be near the coast, and at the bottom of the country is the sea.
Water comes from above, and from the north. Rivers come from mountains, and mountains are near the sky where rain comes from. And rain comes from mountains, which in Sumer meant the north or north west.
Rainfall mainly from the north in Sumer is to be expected, even when
the winds are from all directions. While air gains its moisture over the
sea (and there is plenty of sea in the south), it is most likely to
fall as rain only after the air has risen and fallen over mountains, and
the mountains are in the north.
'Upon': this word is not in the Hebrew: Noah could have been on, near, or just in the direction of Ararat.
'Mountains': Hebrew 'har' which can mean either mountains or just "hill country". If Noah was caught in a large flood he could float randomly with no sight of land, until he hit higher ground. This would of course be further north. As we just saw, north meant the direction of the mountains.
Some time later the cities begin to combine into the first empires and the old rulers seem irrelevant. The people are even led by the old elite's personal hunter, Nimrod, the mighty hunter before Yahweh.
The elites traditionally lived on higher ground in the best houses, but Nimrod has the audacity to build a great tower, using new brick technology to make his house bigger and higher than the gods' houses. Bab-el means gate of God. The gateway to being a god.
The mortal ruler can see the writing on the wall. The people can do anything, they no longer need him.
The Tower of Babel illustrates the rise in the city state and the decline of the old gods. It also reinforces the whole Bible is about the question of sovereignty over land. The old lords' authority was crumbling. They had to sabotage the project:
'Let us go down': a reminder that Yahweh at this point refers to a group of people who live on high ground and consider themselves morally above the Adam people.
'Confound': Hebrew "balal" meaning "mix". This was around 2000 BC. Writing was still in its relative infancy. A major project like the tower would require multiple taskmasters to work together, with instructions on clay tablets. It would not be hard to mix up a few tablets and cause great chaos.
'Speech': Hebrew "saphah" meaning lip, language, speech, shore, bank, brink, brim, side, edge, border, binding etc., with the suggestion of sweeping or snatching away or ending. This is not the normal word for speech, "dabar", used in the start of the Babel story. The gods did not change the language but rather mixed up the edge or ending of their speech: that probably meant altering writing, that dangerous technology that was such a threat.
The Sethites were sympathetic to the old ways of the mortal ruler, and saw this attack on new technology as an act of God, an act of logic.
When the whole project became disorganised each group would naturally blame the others, and drift apart. No longer friends, their accents and languages would diverge. Genesis is of course just a record of the ancestors of Israel, and says nothing of all the other languages and groups that already existed.
YWHW had won this round, but he was no longer the power he was. Soon Abraham would arise and reject the idea of a mortal lord completely. But let us go back and look in more detail at the fall of the mortal gods: the story of Cain.
The first chapters of Genesis are a triumphant message of equality. They show the origin of a civilisation, how Eve broke free from slavery and founded a nation. It shows the fall of the old gods: the rulers of Eden who wanted to keep the lower classes naked and ignorant. Later chapters of Genesis show a higher concept of God: as an abstract principle of logic, not tied to any person. It is a message of freedom.
But later generations created their own elites. Elites do not like
books about freedom. So the fall of Eden was reinterpreted as the fall
of mankind: Israel was encouraged to look back on captivity in Eden as a
paradise, and the genocide of the flood was re-interpreted as the
inscrutable act of a wise and perfect ruler. Later we will see that the
triumph of the judges period was re-interpreted as a failure. Elites always re-interpret history to suit themselves. History is re-written by the winners.
The Cainites were technologically more advanced, and more open to new ideas. But eventually their discoveries - metalwork, musical instruments, etc. - spread more widely. The generally faster level of change is reflected in shorter and shorter dynasties. Let us look at the remaining dynasties:
'Noah': "to rest" or settle down. This title only makes sense if it is given after the flood. This is more evidence that the names are titles of groups, not personal names. Note that Cain went to the land of Nod (meaning Restless Wandering) whereas Noah's title is rest or settle down. Noah had the last laugh.
'Shem': "name" - can you imagine calling a son "name"? But it makes sense as the name of a tribe that considers itself "the tribe" just as we might call our village simply "the village". Shem is apparently the root of the word "Semitic": it is a title for the whole peoples and not just one man.
'Arphaxad': "boundary of the Chaldeans" - a straightforward name for a tribal region.
'Salah (Shelach)': "sent out a shoot or branch" e.g. the branch of a family sent out after the flood?
'Eber': "the region beyond" - another name that is clearly a region, not a person. Eber is the Hebrews.
'Peleg': "divided" referring to the dividing of the earth. Yet another name that makes sense as a description given later, not a name given as a child.
'Reu': the name of an ancient god. Close to the word pasture - both suitable names for a tribe.
The final end of the old gods
Shem's dates overlap with Abraham's. So the Shem-itic meta-dynasty covers everything from Noah to the Abrahamic revolution. During that time "the gods" were still ordinary humans: they walked in groups, visited Abraham and Lot, ate food, and so on. But Abraham makes the end of the period of questioning that began with Eve. He rejected the old ways, left the region of Sumer and Eden, and embraced new thinking.
From dynasties to individuals
From the period of Abraham, social change accelerated. We see this in the declining lengths of dynasties. Previous dynasties were stable for up to nine hundred years. But now a dynast might be represented by just one or two people before the next change occurred. The last dynasty to last more than a normal lifespan was Moses, at 120 years (he was not merely extremely long lived: he was fit and healthy at the very end.).
Moses spent his first 40 years in Egypt and 40 years in Midian, hundred of miles away, before returning. This was long enough that nobody would remember what he looked like. We saw in part two that identity rests in the ideas, not in the body. The Moses who returned from Midian was probably the son of the man who left, but he was the same Moses. We see a similar pattern with Abraham: his great age is conveniently split between different nations.
The name Moses
"Moses", the last mini-dynasty, means "he who extracts" or "he who draws out of water" (see the detailed study at abarim-publications.com. Note the symbolism: Hebrew prophecy works on repeated patterns (see part two of this book). Dry land was rescued from water in Genesis chapter one: early civilisations were coastal dwellers, and their world view was dominated by the dangerous seas and the need to tame the periodic floods. The last great triumph of the old gods was in rescuing Noah from the floods.
Moses, in his legendary origin, was drawn out of the river Nile. His understanding of the Nile allowed him to predict the ten river plagues and then cross the "red" sea (see part three of this book). In the desert Moses found water under the rocks. He gave rules for hygiene that involved ritual washing. Later prophets would symbolise rebirth by baptism: immersion then coming out of the water. Moses' dynastic name represents his role as creator of the nation.
It was common for important figures to have many titles, which makes life challenging for archaeologists! According to the ancient Jewish collection "Yalkut Shimoni", Moses had no less than ten different titles. Some scholars have suggested that Moses could be the Egyptian Amenmesse or Amenemhet IV. The book "The Exodus Reality" suggests that Moses may have been a mix of Senenmut (a son of an Egyptian princess) and Amenhotep who led survivor out of the flooded city of Thebes - note the water motif again.
Now back to Abraham.
Up to the time of Terah the Seth-ites followed the old traditions. They deferred to the gods, the old elites. But in the face of the Cainites' technology and Nimrod's empire building the old gods seemed weak. But a weak god is not a god, so what were the believers to do?
The wars of kings
Abraham was a kind of lord himself: he had many flocks and followers. He walked and ate with other Yahweh. But he apparently had no lands. And he was unhappy with the old ways, the idols that did not work.
This was a time of a famine (Genesis 13). This, and the rise of the first empires, led to wars between the various local kings (Genesis 14). This was a perfect opportunity for Abraham to grab a birthright: his own land, he would be father (or landlord) "of many nations". He discussed it with the other Yahweh and they advised him to go for it:
Abraham decided to never again follow earth-bound gods. Now he would follow "el shaddai" or "the almighty God" - that is, the abstract one above all. He would no longer see himself as inferior, but as somebody who could aspire to be perfect, like God:
Until that time, Abraham was a servant to the old gods. The people were part of a class system. But from here on there would be no limits: he would be the father of kings.
The name "Abram" meant "my ruler or father is exalted" (literally "ab-ram", "father - high"). It reflects the old class system, where older elites are exalted above us, and we must obey. The new name "Abraham" means "they fly" ("abr" or "abar" - "hem"), meaning we (or Abraham's descendants) can soar on high, like the birds. Compare Psalm 36:7 where God metaphorically has wings. Or compare Psalm 8:
The word translated "angels" is "eloheem", "the gods." The Psalmist agrees with Abraham and with the serpent shaman in Eden, that mankind is only a little lower than the gods.
This freedom does not please elites. They want blind obedience. Eventually kings ruled Israel again, and they wanted an Abraham who would support old hierarchies, not challenge them. So the tradition arose that says Abraham means "ab - hamon -goyim" or "father of the multitude". But that ignores the vital letter "r": he is Abr-hem or Abar-hem, not Abhamongoyim. (For more details see the word studies at abarim-publications.com.)
Abraham and his descendants would now question any message that claimed to be from God. The clearest example of that is in the sacrifice of Isaac:
The sacrifice of Isaac
When Abraham arrived in the new land he was advised by some Yahweh to sacrifice his son to ensure success. This was common practice, so Abraham considered it a message from God. He almost went through with it, but at the last moment he looked up to the sky and decided that a true God would not want him to do that.
We see this pattern repeated at key moments in history. Two thousand years earlier Eve rejected the command of the gods, and two thousand years later Jesus would reject the priests of his day.
So it is that when Abraham's grandson Jacob meets a man who claims to represent God, Jacob does not just obey, they wrestle to see who is really the strongest!
Abraham's religion was to no longer accept anybody's claim to represent God. Abraham and Jacob and Moses were skeptics. They demanded proof!.
Abraham introduces the idea of a covenant people:
A covenant is always two way: conditional.
Note the ' if '
That oath was to give them land. That particular covenant, which was conditional on what Abraham did, was fulfilled, and finished when they settled in Canaan.
At that point in time that was true: the people were superior because, at that time, they had better economic rules. Once they adopted kings and ignored those rules this was no longer as true.
That is the other side of the covenant. If Israel is a blessed people it is also a cursed people to the same extent.
Again we see that Israel is cursed just as much as it is blessed.
So we see that the promises are conditional and can easily be removed.
Israel includes converts: Those who joined Israel through circumcision and keeping the law (Exodus 12:48) and strangers :
Israel today is mostly converts, and any genealogy that could link some to the original Israelites is lost (the records were in the temple):
Most modern Jews trace their ancestry through Europe. The Rhineland hypothesis is that their ancestors were descended from ancient Israel and settled in the Rhineland before multiplying. The Khazarian hypothesis is that most Jews are descended from converts in Khazar, and are not descended from ancient Israel. The Khazarian hypothesis is supported by the genetic evidence.
The Bible is about Israel and her promised land. Famously, Moses conquered Israel and today the state of Israel claims the land as its god-given right. All nations obtain their land by force, but Israel is the clearest example. This process began with Abraham.
Abraham arrived during the battles over land. Melchizedek, king of Salem, made an alliance with Abraham (Genesis 14:18-20). This was the breakthrough that allowed Abraham to survive and later triumph.
Meanwhile Sodom and Gomorrah kidnapped Lot and made themselves Abraham's enemies. God (probably Melchizedek, as he was priest of the most high God) planned to attack Sodom and Gomorrah, then they would not longer be a threat. Abraham was uneasy about this, but after some discussion eventually agreed (Genesis 18).
What was the easiest way to defeat Sodom and Gomorrah? In that region at the time there were extensive slime pits - that is, surface deposits of bitumen, a mix of heavy oil and sulfur (brimstone).
The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah died in these pits, which weakened the cities and would have been seen as a sign from God. To complete the conquest all Melchizedek's people needed to do was set fire to the bitumen, and throw burning lumps over the walls. Archers or men with slings would do the job easily. Or they could use a shadouf (the common device for lifting water from the Dead Sea: it easily doubles as a catapult). The result is the same:
This attack seemed logical (i.e. godly) at the time, and the same policy was followed centuries later by Moses: if you need land, fight for it. But it is no long term solution, as war just breeds more war. Jesus brought a better method. It made more sense, and was therefore more logical, more godly.
All modern nations occupy their land by force or the threat of force. Jesus showed how sovereignty could work without using force: replace taxation with land rent, so people are no longer rewarded for occupying land. By removing the possibility of unearned wealth the incentive for conflict ends. By charging for land, nobody wants to occupy more than they absolutely need, so there is plenty of land for everybody.
Earlier we saw that Cain was probably innocent, and has been falsely
accused. Close behind Cain in the history of libel come the innocent
people of Sodom.
The men of Sodom are often blamed for wanting homosexual rape, and
Lot is often blamed for giving hem his daughters to rape instead. But
here is what the Bible actually says:
This chapter is part of the wars of the kings, the explanation of how Abraham claimed ownership of Canaan. Melchizedek wanted to control the fertile lands of the plains near the Dead Sea. To do this He planned to destroy the town of Sodom. But Abraham's nephew Lot was camping at Sodom, so two messengers (translated "angels") went to warn him.
Lot made them dinner and they talked until bed time.
The men of Sodom want to know who the visitors are. They are right to be suspicious: The visitors were plotting to destroy the city!
Some scholars think the word "know" (Hebrew "yada") refers to sex. For a detailed analysis of why it does not, see the essay "Does Lot Know About Yada?" in "Universalism And Particularism At Sodom And Gomorrah: Essays In Memory Of Ron Pirson".
In ancient times hospitality was taken extremely seriously, because it was often the difference between life and death. Being unwelcome to guests was considered wickedness. The "iniquity of Sodom" was nothing to do with sex, it was in not helping these "poor and needy" travelers.
Genesis shows us that Sodom was right to be suspicious of these particular travelers.
But history is written by the winners, so Sodom had to be guilty of something.
Back to the account in Genesis. Clearly somebody has to talk to the
men outside. Lot cannot leave his tent (he is protecting the visitors)
and his daughters' husbands (verse 14) don't seem interested, so that
leaves his daughters themselves. But will tey be reated with suspicion?
No, because they are innocent of the ways of men.
By the time of the Septuagint this verse was treated as being about sex (see "why the obsession with sex"?), so it has always been translated that way. But the original text was probably not about sex. Here are some of the reasons:
For a scholarly analysis of the topic, see Ron Pirson's essay referred to earlier.
The word "do" is the Hebrew "asah", and is translated "shewed" in verse 19:
So "do ye to them as is good good" is a close match to "show mercy".
Lot is sending out his daughters because they are the only people he can
send: they are innocent, they do not know anything of the evils of men, so the angry crowd will be sympathetic.
Lot followed his flocks, so his house was a tent. He has settled at the gates of the city (verse 1) and it was dark (verse 4). The Hebrew word "canver" eaning "sudden blindness" and only appears in one other place, in 2 Kings, in a similar story where it is dark and enemies are searching for something. Both stories involve fire.
So applying Occam's razor, Lot simply put out all the lights. So when he pulled the tent door tight it was impossible to distinguish it from the tent wall. So the local people, lacking any firm evidence against him, would decide to come back n the morning by which time Lot had gone.
Genesis 19 makes no hint of sex, yet the passage is routinely translated as if the context demands sex. Why? The reason is easy to see.
The whole purpose of Genesis is to defend the Hebrew's claim to the
land. So when they drove out, burned and killed people they had to make
those people look as bad as possible. So from an early date (at least
as far back as Josephus) they decided that the Sodomites must be really,
really bad, and interpreted the text accordingly.
Of course, if the Sodomites were a city of rapists then this makes Lot look bad. It also butchers the scriptural text. But that is a small price to pay for land.
Lastly, this is not an attack on the Jews: every nation steals
land. And we all write history to make it look like we were the good
In the final analysis it's about land.
It's always about land.
Part four: genocide and miracles?