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Shem, Ham, and Japheth

Shem, Ham, and Japheth

Now that we have had some time to digest the things that were covered in part one of Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion, it’s time for us to get back to our analysis of Vignette #9 of Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story.  As a little reminder, just before our break, we were introduced to the idea that Noah was, in his cursing of Ham and blessing of Japheth and Shem, prophetically assigning them (and their descendants) to their respective roles as the corporate Body, Soul, and Spirit of humanity—roles naturally bringing with them some specific responsibilities.  In this part of our critique, we will take a look at these responsibilities in an effort to see…

  • How well Noah’s sons fulfilled their prophetic assignments;
  • How one line of Ham’s descendants rebelled against their divinely ordained destiny; and,
  • How that rebellion led to the division of languages which resulted in the development of nations.

Additionally, in the process of all of this, we will meet two of the shady and rather illusive New Characters who will be playing such vital yet largely unseen roles throughout the remainder of the Heavenly Story now unfolding before us.

The Prophetic Assignments of Noah’s Sons

1. Ham

Ham as the Body of MankindAlthough Ham was the youngest of Noah’s sons, since he was the first son that Noah dealt with, we will also begin with him.  As we learned last time, because of his fleshly response to his father’s drink-induced nakedness, and his apparent disregard for the spiritual position and reputation of his father, Ham and his descendants were “cursed” by being relegated to the role of the corporate Body of mankind.  In this capacity, their chief responsibility was to learn how to make the best use of the natural resources around them so they could provide not only for their own physical or material needs, but also for those of Shem, Japheth, and their descendants.  In so doing, they would be fulfilling Noah’s charge for them to be “…a servant of servants” to their brothers.

As for how well they served their “brothers” in this capacity, history has shown that, for the most part, Ham and his descendants have been highly successful in the accomplishment of this task.  For, if we were to research the history of their contributions to mankind, we would find that the development of…

…almost any essential element of our highly complex civilization—aircraft, paper, weaving, metallurgy, propulsion of various kinds, painting, explosives, mechanical principles, food, the use of electricity, virtually anything technological in nature…leads surely and certainly back to a Hamitic people and exceedingly rarely to Japheth or Shem.[1]

Through their development of such things as new farming techniques, writing and printing, the domestication of animals, fabrics and weaving, and building tools and materials…

…the Hamitic peoples have shown an amazing ability to exploit the immediate resources of their environment to the limit…”[2]

…and have, in the process, made life on the earth sustainable and far more comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.

2.  Shem

Shem as the Spirit of MankindAfter assigning his youngest son to the task of service to his brothers, Noah redirected his attention from the physical to the spiritual, and from cursing to blessing, as he called upon God to bless his son, Shem.  Although his reason for singling Shem out in this way remains unclear—especially considering that, in Genesis 9:23, both Shem and Japheth had responded to their father’s unfortunate situation in the same thoughtful and respectful way—in his blessing of Shem, Noah was prophetically elevating this son to the role of the corporate Spirit of mankind.

In other words, Shem was being designated as the conduit through whom God would progressively reveal Himself to humanity; first through the Law and the Prophets, and then through His Own Son, Jesus Christ.  However, in order for them to fulfill the responsibilities associated with this role, Shem and his descendants would have to maintain a unique relationship with God by being obedient to His laws (so that when the Lord blessed them for their obedience, they would become witnesses of the reality of God to the rest of the world) and, protecting and preserving that which would be entrusted to them by God.

As for how well the Semites fulfilled this assignment, they were successful in that the revelation of God was preserved until it was made flesh in the coming of Christ; however, this was due more to the faithfulness of God than to the faithfulness of the people.   Had God not preserved a righteous remnant to guard this divine treasure, it would have been lost to the world as a result of Shem’s descendants’ flagrant violations of God’s statutes and their repeated disavowals of their unique relationship with Him.

3. Japheth

Japheth as the Soul of MankindOnce the roles of the Body and Spirit had been filled, Noah turned to assigning the role of the corporate Soul to his son, Japheth; something he accomplished by pronouncing a blessing on Japheth; a blessing in which he asked God to enlarge Japheth and his descendants, and to allow them to eventually become partakers in the spiritual blessing of Shem.

As for the significance of the order of Noah’s cursing and blessing, and of Japheth’s positioning in between his two brothers, we need only refer back to But Why Couldn’t We Stay the Way We Were…, where we learned that, on an individual level…

…when God created man, He first fashioned a physical Body for him, then He breathed His Spirit into that body, and when He did, the human Soul came into being.  This, then, set up the system that God intended to use when He wanted to relate to and to communicate with the man that He had created.  Once again, this is the way it worked:  God’s Spirit would speak to man’s spirit, man’s spirit would speak to his soul, and then man’s soul would speak to his body—each part relaying to man the will that God wanted to be carried out on the earth on His behalf.

As we can see, this was the very same order in which Noah prophesied over his sons; first, he dealt with Ham as the Body, then with Shem as the Spirit, and finally with Japheth as the Soul, in the middle, acting as mediator between his two brothers.  There, he was in a position to take the spiritual revelations given to Shem and, through the use of his “soul” attributes of intellect and communication, relay them to Ham for their implementation.  Or, as Arthur Custance explains the process, as it has taken place over time…

Thus it has come about that the pioneering task of opening up the world, subduing it, and rendering it habitable, was first undertaken by the descendants of Ham…

Centuries later, Japheth settled slowly into the areas already opened up by Ham, in almost every case adopting the solutions, suited to local survival, which the predecessors had already worked out.  Yet in all cases Japheth took with him a certain philosophizing tendency which acted to modify the somewhat materialistic culture which he was inheriting…

In the providence of God the Semitic people, represented in Israel, remained at the center until their spiritual education had reached a certain point.  They were then scattered among the nations and carried with them their pure monotheistic faith.  But when they should have received their King, they failed to recognize Him, and their particular Kingdom was taken from them and the responsibility of its administration given to Japheth instead.

The enlargement of Japheth has continued to this day…frequently at the expense of the Hamites who first possessed the land…This “enlargement” has also brought its own undesirable consequences.  Perhaps this is because the spiritual responsibility taken over from Shem has never been completely undertaken by Japheth who received the commission.[3]

The First Big Rebellion at Babel 

From what we can gather, then, each of Noah’s sons managed to fulfill his prophetic assignment to some degree. While the divine revelation entrusted to Shem was “stewarded” by him, it was not always done faithfully; and, even though Japheth did take up that revelation, he has not been entirely successful at passing it on to the rest of the world. Likewise, in spite of his many successes at subduing the earth and exploiting its resources—and, given the natural conflict existing between the flesh and the spirit— Ham has all too often rejected the revelation of God, and rebelled against submitting to any higher spiritual authority other than himself, something which this revelation has always demanded.

We witnessed our first recorded instance of this sort of rebellion in Vignette #9 where, from Genesis 10:6, 8 and Genesis 11:1-9, we learned that Ham’s grandson, Nimrod, rather than submitting to his God-ordained assignment to serve his brothers, determined that he would rule over them instead.  In his efforts to seize control, we also have documented for us man’s first attempt at hijacking and corrupting the system of human government, which had so recently been established by Noah at God’s direction.

Although the Bible tells us very little about Nimrod, there are numerous references to him in ancient extra-biblical literature.  We find one such reference in Antiquities of the Jews, compiled by the Jewish historian, Josephus

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…

From what we read here, Nimrod sounds very much like “the man of lawlessness” the Apostle Paul warned his readers about, later in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10.  There, he described this man as…

…the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God…The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and be saved.

And, from Josephus’ description of them, it would seem that those who were following Nimrod were very much like those just described by Paul…

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.[4]

It should be noted here that the building of this tower…

…was not an innocent, scientifically naive, primitive effort to reach the highest heavens! It was, instead, a brilliant but blasphemous effort to dismiss forever the God who had commanded Noah and his three sons after the Flood to ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1). Instead of honouring His name (i.e. His character and attributes), they said, ‘Let us build for ourselves a city … and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’ (Genesis 11:4).[5]

Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel

In reality, this tower was created to be a religious center; one designed in the shape of a mountain which, when “scaled” through the accomplishment of varying degrees of religious ritual, would elevate men to the status of deity and to the pinnacle of human power.  The ziggurat—or stepped tower–is probably what this “mountain” would have looked like; a place where…

The top compartment represented heaven. The inner walls, in all probability, were decorated with blue glazed tile, with the sun, the moon, and the five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) lined up along the plane of the zodiac. In the centre of the room would be their “god” seated upon a throne! Nebuchadnezzar later rebuilt such a tower in Babylon, which the Sumerians had called E-TEMEN-AN-KI (‘the building of the foundation-platform of heaven and earth’).  The pyramids of Egypt and, much later, the great Mayan temples of Central America, reflected the design of the original Tower of Babel.[6]

So, in addition to his corruption of the established governmental system and the establishment of himself as the first tyrannical emperor in human history, Nimrod was also responsible for the development of the first false religious system in the world; one…

…based primarily upon a corruption of the primeval astronomy formulated by Noah’s righteous ancestors before the flood. In the original this system depicted by means of constellations the story of Satan’s rebellion and the war in the heavens, his subversion of mankind, the fall of Adam and Eve, the promise of One to come who would suffer and die to relieve man from the curse of sin then be installed as Lord of Creation, and the final re-subjugation of the cosmos to God through Him.

[However] These eternal truths were corrupted…into a mythic cycle wherein the great dragon is depicted as the rightful lord of the universe whose throne has been temporarily usurped by One whom we can recognize as the God of the Bible. The serpent creates man in his present miserable state, but promises that a child would one day be born of a divine mother—which child would supplant God, become a god himself, and return rulership of the Earth to the serpent. These fables were based upon the then widely-known story of the constellations, and were introduced under the guise of revealing the hidden esoteric knowledge concealed in them (regardless of the fact that the original was quite straightforward).

…this esotericism…only masked the actual goal which was the worship of the “heavenly host,” which the Bible equates with Satan’s army of fallen angels. Satan was quite willing to receive worship “by proxy”, hence the third major element of the mystery religion was emperor-worship. This religion was propagated by a hierarchy of priests and priestesses, to whom were assigned the task of initiating the populace at large into its ascending degrees of revelation, culminating at the highest level in both direct worship of Satan and demon-possession.[7]

The Division of the People into Nations

Given the true nature of this rebellious and blasphemous endeavor—and the fact that it was God’s declared will from the beginning that human beings scatter abroad over the earth so that the earth would…

…be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)…

…it was no wonder that God so quickly “came down” to earth and put a stop to it.  In the face of these men’s arrogant aspirations, He simply confused “…their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech…” and, in this way, He “…dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:7-8).”  From this map, we can see which way each of Noah’s sons went…

Table of Nations

Noah’s Descendants Scatter

The Introduction of New Characters

From what we have just learned about Nimrod, it should now be easier for us to see that, with his appearance on the earthly stage of God’s One Big Story, we are also being introduced to a sinister new character, simultaneously making an entrance onto the heavenly stage of our Story.  This character is none other than the Antichrist—and even though he will not always be visible to us, we will certainly be able to see evidences of his work throughout the remainder of the Story.  That’s because he will not be working alone, but with a co-conspirator—one who also made her first appearance on our stage at the Tower of Babel.  Her name is Mystery Babylon and she became a reality in our Story in the following way…

As the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham, and Japheth made their way into strange new lands, one of the familiar things they all carried with them was the false religious system which had first been established in the land of Shinar at Babel—later to be known as Babylon.  And, it was…

…from Babylon this mystery-religion spread to all the surrounding nations…Everywhere the symbols were the same, and everywhere the cult of the mother and child became the popular system…The image of the [Madonna] queen of heaven with the babe in her arms was seen everywhere, though the names might differ as languages differed. It became the mystery-religion of Phoenicia, and by the Phoenicians was carried to the ends of the earth. Ashtoreth and Tammuz, the mother and child of these hardy adventurers, became Isis and Horus in Egypt, Aphrodite and Eros in Greece, Venus and Cupid in Italy, and bore many other names in more distant places. Within 1,000 years, Babylonianism had become the religion of the world, which had rejected the Divine revelation.[8]

As a result of this, Babylon came to be known as the “mother” who had given birth to every pagan religious system in the world— the system referred to in the Bible as Mystery Babylon.  This system is described in Revelation 17:1ff as…

…a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality;

…the great prostitute…with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk; and,

…having written on her forehead a name of mystery: Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations… 

…and it will be through her and the Antichrist that Satan will, throughout the remainder of our Story, attempt to deceive and seduce people into worshiping him, rather than the true God.

Mystery Babylon5 Ottheinrich_Folio300r_Rev17 Matthias Gerung [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mystery Babylon, the Mother of all False Religions

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
In spite of all the lies Satan has put out, Steve Green reminds us that there is only one who is deserving of our worship, and that is “God and God Alone”…

 

 

 

[1] Arthur C. Custance, Noah’s Three Sons: Human History in Three Dimensions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 37-38.

[2] Custance, Noah’s Three Sons, 27-28.

[3] Custance, Noah’s Three Sons, 42.

[4] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960), 79-80.

[5] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/

[6] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/

[7] Bryce Self, Semiramis, Queen of Heaven (http://www.ldolphin.org/semir.html)

[8] Harry A. Ironside, Babylonian Religion (http://www.biblelineministries.org/articles/)

 

 

Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion

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Now that all nine Vignettes, or mini-stories, in Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story have been presented, you might be thinking that the time has come for us to leave Stage #1 and press on to Stage #2, where the second scene in our production is waiting to get underway.  However, before we can move on from here, there is still the matter of our critical analysis of Vignette #9, which has yet to be completed.  Given that this particular Vignette was packed with a lot more action than most of the previous ones, there will be a considerable amount of material for us to discuss; so let’s not waste any time changing into our Critic’s Hat and getting this challenging critique underway. The episodes from this Vignette that we will be focusing on are…

Noah’s Drunkenness;
His Blessing and Cursing;
The New Characters Introduced into the Story; and,
The Rebellion Taking Place at Babel.


Noah’s Drunkenness 

I don’t know about you but if I had been unfamiliar with this particular episode in Noah’s life, I would have been surprised by behavior so seemingly out of character for such a perennially pious hero as he.  After all, up until this point in our story, Noah has lived for well over six hundred years without a blemish on his scriptural record.  He has maintained his integrity while living in a thoroughly corrupt society, even in the face of ridicule, persecution, and personal loss; and, he has remained obedient to God before, during, and for some time after the Deluge which had completely destroyed the world he had known before.  So, what could possibly have driven him to drink at this point in his life; and, why is this lapse in his behavior significant enough to be recorded for us here?

Some have speculated that due to the vastly different environmental or atmospheric conditions existing before the Flood, grape fermentation would not have been possible; implying that, without any previous experience with the process, Noah would have been ignorant of the intoxicating properties of the wine that it produced.  But this may not have been the case at all; for, even if winemaking had been a possibility before the flood, as a man on a mission for God, Noah may have been so focused on the completion of his task that drinking wouldn’t even have been a consideration.  At this stage in his life, however—as a man without the sense of purpose he once had and with so much time on his hands—he may have resorted to drinking in order to fill this newly created void in his life.

Of course, there could have been a number of other reasons to account for his lapse at this juncture.  Since no mention has been made of Mrs. Noah since her departure from the Ark, it is altogether possible that she has already passed away; a circumstance which would certainly have left Noah feeling sad and alone, and in a state of grief over her death.  Or, it could have been that he was just feeling old, tired, and discouraged, or maybe even a bit disappointed in the way some of his children or grandchildren were turning out.  Since no one really knows for sure and since the scriptural record neither condemns nor tries to justify Noah’s behavior—it must have been recorded for some other reason.

Perhaps, it was included as a warning to us that even the righteous “Noahs” in this world are still sinners and capable of falling victim to temptation at any time; or, maybe it was merely to serve as the catalyst for, or as an explanation of, the curious events which were to follow.  I say “curious” because, just as we could not have predicted that Noah would end up in a drunken stupor, there was no way that we could have imagined that the godly man who had gone to such great lengths to secure the deliverance and safety of his family during and after the Flood would so soon afterward be cursing one line of the descendants within that family.  So, let’s dig a little deeper to see if we can get a better idea of what this blessing and cursing was really all about.

Noah’s Blessing and Cursing 

According to Dictionary.com, to bless means to consecrate or sanctify by a religious rite; to make or pronounce holy; or, to request the bestowal of divine favor on something or someonewhile to curse is to express a wish that misfortune, evil, doom, etc., befall a particular person or group.  And, in our travels through the Word thus far, we have witnessed several occasions when God carried out these very actions in regard to His creation.  For…

Noah's curse

Noah damning Ham, 19th-century painting by Ivan Stepanovitch Ksenofontov

  • In Genesis 1:22 and 1:28, He blessed both the living creatures and the man and woman with fruitfulness;
  • In Genesis 2:3, He blessed and consecrated the seventh day and set it apart as holy;
  • In Genesis 3:14, He cursed the serpent because of his involvement in the fall of man;
  • In Genesis 3:17, He cursed the ground because Adam listened to the voice of his wife and ate from the forbidden tree, instead of obeying God;
  • In Genesis 4:11-12, following Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, God cursed Cain’s ability to derive a living from the land; and,
  • In Genesis 9:1, after their departure from the Ark, God blessed Noah and his sons with the same blessing of fruitfulness that He had bestowed upon Adam and Eve.

In other words, in each of these circumstances, God decreed—or, issued “…a formal and authoritative order, especially one having the force of law”[1]—either a benediction or bestowal of good things, or a malediction of evil in response to someone’s offense or sin.  When we come to the pronouncements of Noah, though, we find that his blessing and cursing, unlike those righteous decrees of a holy God, take on the form of prophetic utterances—that is, they become the divinely inspired foretelling or predictions of things that are to come.  We find these prophecies or predictions in Genesis 9:24-27, where we read…

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son [Ham] had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan [the youngest son of Ham]; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.’  He also said, ‘Blessed be the LORD,the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.’

As an aside here, when we compare the circumstances surrounding Noah’s “Fall” with those of Adam and Eve’s “Fall”, we find the following interesting parallels…

Adam versus Noah
I tend to think that when Noah awoke and learned what had happened earlier, he was not at all surprised to find out who had done what.  Having lived with his sons through thick and thin for over a hundred years, he surely had to have developed a keen insight into the nature of their individual personalities.  In fact, it was his discernment of these natures which lead him to “curse” and “bless” them in the way that he did.  And, while it might seem to us that he was making a mountain out of a molehill, if we are going to understand the significance of his blessing and cursing to our story, we will need to make an effort to view this situation from his perspective.   Probably the best way to do that is by answering the following questions:

  1. What did Ham do that was so bad that it provoked a curse from his father?

While it may not seem like a very big deal to us, especially in our nudity-saturated and authority-rejecting society, Ham’s reaction to his father’s embarrassing display would have been a major faux-pas during his time.  That’s because, instead of showing respect for his father by compassionately and discreetly covering his nakedness—as his brothers later did—he apparently reveled in the fact that this man of God had “finally” fallen.

This reaction is very telling; for although Ham had been “saved” from the Flood, just like the others in his family, his response to his father’s drunkenness exposed a decidedly carnal nature in him—one in which…

  • He showed no respect for his father as the spiritual head and high priest of his family, and as the one who was chiefly responsible for his own salvation;
  • He extended no grace to his father, but seemed to take delight in his failure; and,
  • He demeaned and ridiculed his father to his brothers, and possibly to other members of the family or camp.

In short, he failed to respond to the situation in a way that honored both his father and God—which was, in the way that Shem and Japheth did.

2.  Why was Canaan cursed instead of Ham?

Although this question has long been a puzzling one, of the several explanations which have been put forth, the two most frequently offered appear to be these…

  • That in recognition of an already obvious proclivity to sin in his grandson, Noah’s curse was actually the prediction of (and therefore the justification for) the eventual judgment and destruction of the Canaanites at the hands of the Israelites, as ordered later by Moses in Deuteronomy 7:1-3; and,
  • Noah cursed his youngest son’s youngest son because Ham, in Genesis 9:1, had already been blessed by God.  From an incident recorded later in Numbers 22-24, we learn that when a prophet-for-hire named Balaam, was paid by the King of Moab to curse the Israelites, he was compelled by God to bless them instead.  His explanation for this bizarre behavior is found in Numbers 23:8, where he tells the King of Moab…

How can I curse whom God has not cursed?  How can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?

Based upon this, then, it would seem that once anyone or anything has been blessed by God, he, she, or it cannot afterward be cursed by man.

Undoubtedly, a lesser known but much more reasonable explanation has been posited by Arthur Custance in his book, Noah’s Three Sons, where he explains that…

“It is a common social custom among many primitive people to attribute the greatness of a son to the father, who then receives the honor for having raised such a worthy child.  This is clearly reflected in Scripture where Saul seeks to honor David after the slaying of Goliath.  He asks his general whose son the lad is (1 Sam. 17:55)… Undoubtedly Saul knew David well enough, but evidently he did not know who his father was.  It was his father he was seeking to honor according to social custom…A man in blessing his own son was in fact blessing himself.  This was true when Noah blessed Shem and Japheth.  By the same token, however, if he had cursed Ham, the real offender, he would at the same time have been cursing himself.  Quite logically, he could only pass judgment upon Ham by cursing Ham’s own son, which is what he therefore did.”[2]

3.  Does this mean that when Noah was cursing Canaan, he was in reality cursing Ham, and sentencing both him and his descendants to lives lived in perpetual states of servant-hood or slavery?

While many have interpreted this passage to mean that very thing—especially those who have sought to justify their involvement in the buying, selling, or owning of slaves—it is really a far cry from the true prophetic meaning of Noah’s pronouncement.  For, in designating Ham as “… a servant of servants…to his brothers,” rather than sentencing him to the lowest form of human service, Noah was actually calling on him to carry out the highest form of service to his brothers.  That is, because Ham and his offspring’s interests were focused on the natural, more fleshly concerns in life, they were being given the task of providing for the physical or material needs of Seth, Japheth, and their descendants.  In order to understand what I mean by this, we will have to expand our view of the role that Noah’s sons were to play in the new civilization that about to be generated through them and their children.

You see, in much the same way that an individual person is made up of a body, soul, and spirit, here at the head of this new era in human history, the three sons of Noah were being singled out as the representatives of the collective body, soul, and spirit of mankind, just as it was being launched out into the world—with Ham representing the corporate body of mankind, Japheth representing its corporate soul, and Shem acting as its corporate spirit.  And, as you may recall, back in Another Learning Interlude, in our discussion of the way in which each of these three aspects of man’s nature was to function, we learned that…

  • The Spirit was the means by which God’s Spirit would communicate with man;
  • The Soul, consisting of the mind, will, and emotions, was to act as the means of communication between man’s spirit and body; and, once it made known the will of God to the body…
  • The Body was then to carry out God’s will on the earth while, at the same time, providing for the physical needs of the person.

As this graphic helps to illustrate, in his blessing of Shem, Noah was designating him and those who came from him to be the spiritual stewards of God and His revelation to the rest of mankind.  In blessing Japheth with enlargement, Noah was calling upon God to not only extend this son’s territory but, more importantly, to expand the collective mind and thinking of mankind which Japheth and his progeny were meant to represent.  And, in making Ham a servant to each of them, Noah was assigning him and his children the task of guaranteeing mankind’s physical survival, which would eventually make it possible for the revelation of God to be carried to the ends of the earth.

Noah's Sons
As you can see, at this point, we have only covered about half of the material in this Vignette, meaning that we will need to take a break and continue at a later time with our analysis.  We will, at that time, learn more of how these prophetic utterances of Noah have been fulfilled, and about the parts they have played in the on-going action of our story–so don’t take your Critic’s Hat off quite yet!  Until then, though, here is…

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Tracey Campbell, singing a song by Secret Garden, reminding us that in the middle of a difficult situation, “Sometimes a Prayer Will Do”…

 

[1] decree. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/decree.

[2] Arthur C. Custance, Noah’s Three Sons: Human History in Three Dimensions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 26.

The image of “Noah Damning Ham” courtesy of Wikimedia.com.

 

 

A New World, An Old Nature

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In our recent critique of Vignette #8 in Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, we talked at length about the many changes thought to have been brought about by the Flood which occurred in Noah’s day.  The ones we discussed were…

  • The change in climate;
  • The change in the landscape;
  • The change in man’s diet;
  • The change in the way society was to be governed;
  • The change in the configuration of the continents; and,
  • The beginnings of the formation of fossils and fossil fuels.
Noah leaving the Ark

Noah and His Family Leaving the Ark

With so many innovations having taken place in such a relatively short space of time, I think that it is safe to say that when Noah and his family stepped out of the Ark,  they stepped into a whole New World.  For all of its power to effect change, though, there was still one thing the Flood wasn’t able to alter—and that was the fallen nature of the eight people who had survived its ravages.  For, when they entered the Ark, they did so as sinful human beings and, when they exited it, they were still in the same fallen condition.  This is the sad truth that will be documented for us in Vignette #9 which, if the flashing lights in the theatre are any indication, is just about ready to begin.

As we settle into our seats once more, with the theatre going dark and the curtains parting yet again, we hear the familiar voice of our offstage Narrator as he announces the inauguration of this whole new era in human history with…

The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  (Ham was the father of Canaan.)  These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.  (Genesis 9:18-19)

With this announcement, the lights come up on stage, revealing a rustic scene set in a hilly landscape, with a good-sized tent occupying the center of the stage, and with what looks to be a variety of crops growing up behind it.  To one side of the tent, there is a large grape vine and it is here that we see a much older Noah hard at work, tending to his vines.  Mrs. Noah is nowhere to be seen, so we have no idea if she is still alive at this point—and, there are no signs of Noah’s sons either.

Upon first view, the sun is high in the sky—so we know that it is about midday when this scene begins.  But, as we watch Noah continuing to toil, first with the weeding and then with the harvesting of the ripest of the grapes, the sun slowly sets in the background, letting him—and us—know that it is time for his workday to come to an end.  Tired, dirty, and obviously thirsty, Noah goes to the tent, picks up a wineskin and begins drinking from it.

It is here that our Narrator interjects…

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.  He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.  (Genesis 9:20-21)

It is not long after this that Ham appears on the scene, followed at a short distance by his two brothers, Shem and Japheth.  Ham calls out several times to his father but when he gets no response, he bursts into his father’s tent—creating a scene described by our Narrator in the following way…

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.  Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father.  Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.  (Genesis 9:22-23)

Shem and Japheth Cover Noah

Shem and Japheth Cover Noah

With nighttime quickly setting in, the three brothers close up the tent and leave, only to return the next day after the sun has been up for a few hours.  By this time, Noah has slept off his inebriation and is starting to recall some of what happened the night before.  As our Narrator relates it…

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan:  a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.’

He also said, ‘Blessed be the Lord the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.  May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”  (Genesis 9:24-27)

Following these rather enigmatic pronouncements, and without any further explanation as to their meaning or significance, the lights dim and the stage goes dark—while our Narrator brings closure to Noah’s life with the following remarks…

After the flood Noah lived 350 years.  All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.  (Genesis 9:28-29)

Thinking that this Vignette is over, we begin to stir in our seats—only to be startled into stillness again by the sudden appearance of three spotlights focused on the front of the stage—with one on our left, one in the center, and one on our right.  We then hear our Narrator as he speaks again…

These are the generations of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.   Sons were born to them after the flood.  (Genesis 10:1)

After pausing briefly, he continues with…

The Sons of Japheth…

…and, as he does, Japheth steps out of the still darkened set at the rear of the stage and moves forward into the spotlight on the left.  Resuming his commentary, our Narrator begins calling out the names of Japheth’s sons

Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.

As each name is called, a man enters from offstage, walks over to Japheth, and takes his place behind him.  Then, for some reason, our Narrator calls out names of a few, but not all, of Japheth’s grandsons…

The sons of Gomer were Askenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.  The sons of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.  From these the coastland people spread in their lands…

As he does, they, too, appear on the stage and take their places behind their respective fathers.  When the last one is in place, the process is repeated for Ham and, as he is called out to his place in the center spotlight, our Narrator announces that…

The sons of Ham were Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan

These men also take their places behind their father and as they do, our Narrator, calls attention to Cush, and one of his more notorious sons…

The sons of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca.  The sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan.

Cush fathered Nimrod:  he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.  He was a mighty hunter before the Lord.  Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’  The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.   From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen…

Then, after naming the many sons of Egypt and Canaan, our Narrator calls Shem forward to take his place in the spotlight on the right side of the stage, and begins introducing his descendants in the following way…

To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born.  The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram.  The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.

Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber.  To Eber were born two sons:  the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.

As the lengthy list of Joktan’s sons is called out, each one takes his place behind his father; and our Narrator concludes this second of the Bible’s genealogical line-ups with…

These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies with their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.           

Immediately upon the conclusion of his remarks, the men who have been standing at the front of the stage turn and circle around to the rear of it, where they take up new positions and assume their roles as Noah’s descendants for next part of our story.  As they do, the spotlights at the front of the stage dim while the lights come up on the rear of it, exposing a brand new set.  In place of the hilly, farmland one depicted in the previous scene, we now see a flat, virtually tree-less plain, full of ditches and mounds of straw.  We also see many men laboring to make bricks for the partially built tower located at the back of the set.

Building the Tower of Babel

“Building the Tower of Babel” by James Tissot

As we familiarize ourselves with this new scene, our Narrator proceeds to explain the activity we see taking place here…

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’  (Genesis 11:1-4)

However, unknown to these men, as these they continue to work feverishly at their tasks, the clamor created by their labors rises heavenward—something which God takes immediate notice of, and a problem that our Narrator alerts us to when he says…

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.  (Genesis 11:5)

And, as soon as these words are spoken, we hear the deep, resonant Voice of God as it once again reverberates throughout the theatre…

Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.  (Genesis 11:6-7)

The Lord Confuses the Languages at Babel

The Lord Confuses the Languages at Babel

Suddenly, a warm wind sweeps across the stage and as it does, all construction on the tower comes to a halt.  We watch as the workmen try feverishly to communicate with one another but, when all their efforts prove futile, they throw down their tools and walk away from the project in anger.  It is at this point that our Narrator adds…

So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.  (Genesis 11:8-9)

With these words, the stage goes dark, the curtains close, and Vignette #9 comes to an end. As promised, this Vignette has demonstrated that even those who were righteous enough to be saved in the Ark were still  sinners by nature after the Flood; and that, sadly, it would be this fallen nature that these regenerators of the earth’s population would pass down to all of their descendants.

To be sure, there has been a lot of material covered in this Vignette.  What, with Noah’s drunkenness, his curse and blessings on his sons, some new characters added to the Story, and a rebellion at Babel, there will be a great deal for us to critique during our next analytical pause.  So, be sure to put your Theatre Critic’s Cap back on in preparation for what promises to be a very informative session about this often problematic portion of our play.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

As the Sidewalk Prophets remind us, all things can and will be made new through Christ…

Image of God confusing the languages at Babel courtesy of www.freebibleimages.org.
Other images courtesy of www.commons.wikimedia.org.