Genesis (Part 37)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find the previous posts HERE.

Genesis 8:20-22

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”


Noah exited the ark and the first thing we are told that he did was build an alter for Yahweh. We have not read Eden mentioned in recent chapters, however, with the Flood we know that Eden officially is missing from the record. Paradise is lost.

I remind you of the timeline to put the loss of Eden into context. Noah was a living contemporary of Seth’s son Enos. He only recently missed both Adam and Seth. The “abode of Adam” outside of Eden was realistically a living memory for him.

So what do you do when there are no holy places anymore? You consecrate one by building an alter. This is noteworthy, also because this is the first “alter” mentioned in the Bible.

מִזְבֵּחַ mizbêach, miz-bay’-akh; from H2076; an altar:—altar.

It might also jump out to you that, with so few animals on the ark (and in the world) Noah sacrificed some of them. It seems likely that this was planned on in advance. Noah brought with him a greater number of “clean” animals – more clean than those that were not clean – and that left him some that could be sacrificed as an offering.

Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

Verse 20

(20) Noah builded an altar unto the Lord (Jehovah).—The account of this sacrificial act is said to have been an interpolation of the Jehovist. Really it forms an integral portion of the numerous traditions of the flood. Thus in the Chaldean Genesis, after the sending forth of a dove, a swallow, and a raven, we read (p. 280):—

“I sent them forth to the four winds; I sacrificed a sacrifice;

I built an altar on the peak of the mountain.”

This extreme antiquity of sections ascribed to the Jehovist, and supposed to be an after-thought, is seriously detrimental to the whole theory.

One result of the flood was to sweep away all traces of the earthly paradise and of the subsequent abode of Adam; and it is probable also that Noah was removed far away from his previous home by the floating of the ark. Thus to him and his family it was a new earth, with no holy places, no spots hallowed by the past history of man. He therefore determines to consecrate the earth to Jehovah, who had been the object of the worship of his family since the days of Enos, and therefore builds an altar, the first mentioned in the Bible. By so doing he provided for future generations a central spot and sanctuary, round which their religious ideas would group themselves. The animals offered were probably the seventh of all clean kinds (see Note on Genesis 7:2). With Noah’s burnt offerings we must not connect any of the later Levitical ideas. Apparently it was a simple thank-offering, the dominant thought of which was the hallowing man’s future life by commencing it with worship. It thus contained within it the presage that a better state of things had now begun. Subsequently the thank-offering became a feast, at which the offerer and his family partook of the victim as Jehovah’s guests; and as God during this sacrifice gave Noah permission to eat flesh (Genesis 9:3), it is probable that such was the case now, and that the eating of flesh was inaugurated in this solemn way. We have, however, previously seen reason to believe that the flesh of animals had occasionally been eaten before, though not as an ordinary article of diet.

The Commentary makes reference to The Chaldean Genesis which I referred to in a previous post.

Looking further ahead in the text:

“smelled” = רוּחַ rûwach, roo’-akh; a primitive root; properly, to blow, i.e. breathe; only (literally) to smell or (by implication, perceive (figuratively, to anticipate, enjoy):—accept, smell, × touch, make of quick understanding.

“pleasing / soothing” = נִיחוֹחַ nîychôwach, nee-kho’-akh; or נִיחֹחַ nîychôach; from H5117; properly, restful, i.e. pleasant; abstractly, delight:—sweet (odour).

“aroma” = רֵיחַ rêyach, ray’-akh; from H7306; odor (as if blown):—savour, scent, smell.


Some more from Ellicott:

Verse 21

(21) A sweet savour.—Heb., a smell of satisfaction. The idea is not so much that the sacrifice gave God pleasure as that it caused Him to regard man with complacency. The anger at sin which had caused the flood was now over, and there was peace between heaven and earth.

The Pulpit Commentary says this about verses 21 and 22

Verse 21 – And the Lord (Jehovah) smelled – as is done by drawing the air in and out through the nostrils; from the root ruach, to breathe; high., to smell – a sweet savor. Reach hannichoach literally, an odor of satisfaction, acquiescence, or rest; from nuach, to rest, with an allusion to Noah’s name (vide Genesis 5:29); ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας (LXX.); (cf. Leviticus 2:12Leviticus 26:31Numbers 15:3Ezekiel 6:13). The meaning is that the sacrifice of the patriarch was as acceptable to God as refreshing odors are to the senses of a man; and that which rendered it acceptable was

(1) the feeling from which it sprang, whether gratitude or obedience;

(2) the truths which it expressed – it was tantamount to an acknowledgment of personal guilt, a devout recognition of the Divine mercy, an explicit declaration that he had been saved or could only be saved through the offering up of the life of another, and a cheerful consecration of his redeemed life to God;

(3) the great sacrifice of which it was a type. Paul, by using the language of the LXX. (Ephesians 5:2), shows that he regarded the two as connected. And the Lord said in his heart. I.e. resolved within himself. It is not certain that this determination on the part of Jehovah was at this time communicated to the patriarch (cf. Genesis 6:3, 7 for Divine inward resolves which were not at the moment made known), unless the correct reading be to his (Noah’sheart, meaning the Lord comforted him (cf. Judges 19:3Ruth 2:13Isaiah 40:2Hosea 2:14), which is barely probable. I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake. Literally, I will not add to curse. Not a revocation of the curse of Genesis 3:17, nor a pledge that such curse would not be duplicated. The language refers solely to the visitation of the Deluge, and promises not that God may not some. times visit particular localities with a flood, but that another such world-wide catastrophe should never overtake the human race. For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Genesis 6:5 assigns this as the reason for man’s destruction; a proof of inconsistency between the Elohistic author and his Jehovistic editor (Bleek). “Hie inconstantiae videtur Deus accusari posse” (Luther). “God seems to contradict himself by having previously declared that the world must be destroyed because its iniquity was desperate” (Calvin). Some endeavor to remove the incongruity by translating כִּי as although (Bush, Inglis), but “there are few (if any) places were כִּי can be rendered although” (T. Lewis). Others connect it with “for man’s sake,” as explanatory not of the promise, but of the past judgment (Murphy), or as stating that any future cursing of the ground would not be for man’s sake (Jacobus). The true solution of the difficulty appears to lie in the clause “from his youth,” as if God meant to say that whereas formerly he had visited man with judicial extermination on account of his absolute moral corruption, he would now have regard to the circumstance that man inherited his depravity through his birth, and, instead of smiting man with punitive destruction, would visit him with compassionate forbearance (Keil, ‘Speaker’s Commentary’). Tayler Lewis regards the expression as strongly anthropopathic, like Genesis 6:6, and indicative of the Divine regret at so calamitous an act as the Deluge, although that act was absolutely just and necessary. Neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done. There should be no more deluge, but –Genesis 8:22While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.Verse 22. – While the earth remaineth. Literally, as yet, all the days of the earth, i.e. henceforth, so long as the earth continues, עֹד expressing the ideas of repetition and continuance (vide ver. 12). Seed-time and harvest, – from roots signifying to scatter, e.g. seed, and to cut off, specially grain; σπέρμα καὶ θερισμὸς (LXX.) – and cold and heat, – ψύχος καὶ καῦμα (LXX.) – and summer and winter. Properly the cutting off of fruits, from a root meaning to cut off, hence summer; and the time when fruits are plucked, hence autumn (including winter); the import of the root being to gather, to pluck off; θέρος καὶ ἔαρ (LXX.). The first term of each pair denotes the first half of the year, and the second term of each pair the second half. And day and night (cf. Genesis 1:5) shall not cease. Hebrew, lo yish-bothu, shall not sabbatise, or keep a day of rest; i.e. they shall continue ever in operation and succession. This Divine promise to conserve the orderly constitution and course of nature is elsewhere styled “God’s covenant of the day and of the night” (cf. Jeremiah 33:20, 25).

There is some implication that prior to the Flood, the earthly Paradise did not experience “seasons.”

Verse 22: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Alternatively though, the more recent context of the Flood is that the year of rain and high water had halted the usual seasons. Verse 22 thus might be interpreted as an extension of verse 21’s promise never again to curse the ground or to strike down every living thing with a Flood. Never again will God halt the usual seasons and harvest times with such a Flood.

The Pulpit Commentary makes a short list of Deluge Traditions around the world.


1. The Babylonian.

(1) From the Chaldean monuments. As deciphered from the eleventh tablet of the Izdubar series, the story of the Flood is briefly this: – Izdubar, whom George Smith identifies with Nimrod, the founder of Babylonia, is informed by Hasisadra, whom the same authority believes to represent Noah, of a Divine commandment which he had received to construct a ship after a specified pattern, in which to save himself and “the seed of all life,” because the city Surippak wherein he dwelt was to be destroyed. After first attempting to excuse himself, as he explains to Izdubar, on the ground that “young and old will deride him,” Hasisadra builds the ship, and causes to go up into it “all my male servants and my female the ants, the beast of the field, the animal of the field, the sons of the people, all of them,” while the god Shamas makes a flood, causing it to rain heavily. The flood destroys all life from the face of the earth Six days and nights the storm rages; on the seventh it grows calm. Twelve measures above the sea rises the land. The ship is stopped by a mountain in the country of Nizir. After seven days Hasisadra sends forth a dove, “which went and turned, and a resting-place it did not find, and it returned;” then a swallow, and finally a raven. On the decrease of the waters he sends forth the animals, and builds an altar on the peak of the mountain, and pours out a libation (‘Chaldean Genesis,’ Genesis 16; ‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 7:133-141)

We will meet “Nimrod” pretty soon in the Bible’s Genesis. There are numerous people in the Book of Genesis who are believed to be identified by other names, by other regional cultures. Make note though that though the two accounts have similarities, there are also important differences. Nimrod, assuming George Smith correctly identifies him, in the Chaldean Genesis, predates the Flood.

(2) From Berosus. The god Kronos appeared to Xisuthrus, the tenth Mug of Babylon, in a vision, and warned him of an approaching deluge upon the fifteenth day of the month Desius, by which mankind would be destroyed. Among other things the god instructed him to build a vessel for the preservation of himself and friends, and specimens of the different animals. Obeying the Divine admonition, he built a vessel five stadia in length and two in breadth, and conveyed into it his wife, children, and friends. After the flood had been upon the earth he three times sent out birds from the vessel, which returned to him the second time with mud upon their feet, and the third time returned to him no more. Find. ing that the vessel had grounded on a mountain, Xisuthrus disembarked with his wife and children, and, having constructed an altar, offered sacrifices to the gods, in reward for which he was raized immediately to heaven (‘Chaldean Genesis,’ Genesis 3; Kalisch, p. 202; ‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ art. Deluge, ninth edition).

Who is Berosus? He was a writer of Babylonian history. Once again, we see some remarkable similarities with some notable differences.

2. The Egyptian. Though commonly alleged to be entirely unknown in the Nile valley, it is certain that the germs of the Deluge story are to be discovered even there. According to the Egyptian historian Manetho, quoted by Eusebius, Thoth, the first Hermes, erected certain pillars with inscriptions, which, after the Deluge, were transcribed into books. Plato also states in the Timaeus (chap. 5.) that a certain Egyptian priest informed Solon that the gods, when wishing to purify the earth, were accustomed to overwhelm it by a deluge, from which the herdsmen and shepherds saved themselves on the tops of the mountains. Josephus (‘Ant.,’ I.3.9) certifies that Hieronymus the Egyptian refers to the Flood. A conception altogether analogous to that of Genesis is likewise to be found in a myth belonging to the archaic period of Seti I., which represents Ra, the Creator, as being disgusted with the insolence of mankind, and resolving to exterminate them (vide Inscription of the Destruction of Mankind, ‘ Records of the Past,’ vol. 6. p. 103). In short, the Egyptians believed not that there was no deluge, but that there had been several The absence of any indications of this belief in the recovered literature of ancient Egypt is not sufficient to set aside the above concurrent testimonies to its existence (Kitto, ‘Bible Illustrations,’ vol. 1. p. 150; Rawlinson’s ‘Historical Illustrations of O. T.;’ ‘Encycl. Britan.,’ art. Deluge, ninth edition).

The Egyptians believed not in one “Great Flood” but in many Great Floods. Probably the most poplar Egyptian Flood myth was the destruction of Atlantis. Atlantis was “the island of Atlas.” I’ve always found the similarities in the names Atlas and Adam vaguely suggestive of a common link in the remote past. But I’ve also wondered the same about the Adam and the Egyptian Aten. [I’m telegraphing some of my future research endeavors, I think.]

3. The Indian. Through the theft of the sacred Vedas by the giant Hayagrivah, the human race became fearfully degenerate, with the exception of seven saints and the good King Satyavrata, to whom the Divine spirit Vishnu appeared in the form of a fish, in. forming him of his purpose to destroy the earth by a flood, and at the same time to send a ship miraculously constructed for the preservation of himself and the seven holy ones, along with their wives, and one pair of each of all the irrational animals. After seven days the rain descended, when Satyavrata, confiding in the promises of the god, saw a huge ship drawing near, into which he entered as directed. Then the god appeared in the form of a fish a million miles long, with an immense horn, to which the king made the ship fast, and, drawing it for many years (a night of Brahma), at length landed it upon the highest peak of Mount Himavau. When the flood abated the god arose, struck the demon Hayagrivah, recovered the sacred books, instructed Satyavrata in all heavenly sciences, and appointed him the seventh Mann, from whom the second population of the earth descended in a supernatural manner, whence man is styled Manudsha (born of Mann). Vide Kalisch, p. 203; Auberlen’s ‘Divine Revelation,’ p. 169 (Clark’s ‘For. Theol. Lib.’ ).

Here we have a geographically more distant land – though one which certainly traded in goods and ideas even in the remote past – with a similar Flood myth. We have a human race which became degenerate after taking something it should not, a small group who are saved, humans and animals alike are saved on a boat, and the boat lands on a mountain.

4. The Grecian. It is sufficient here to refer to the well-known story of Deucalion and Pyrrha, first given in Pindar, and afterwards related by Apollodorus, Plutarch, Lucian, and Ovid, whose account bears so close a resemblance to the Biblical narrative as to suggest the probability of access to Hebrew or Syrian sources of information. The previous corruption of manners and morals, the eminent piety of Deucalion, the determination “genus mortals sub undisperdere,” the construction of a boat by Divine direction, the bursting of the storm, the rising of the waters, the universal ocean in which “jamque mare et tellus nullum discrimen habebant,” the subsidence of the flood, the landing of the boat on Parnassus with its double peak, the consultation of the Deity “per sacras sortes,” and the answer of the god as to how the earth was to be re-peopled “ossaque post tergum magnae jactare parentis,” are detailed with such graphic power as makes them read “like amplified reports of the record in Genesis.” Indeed, by Philo, Deucalion was distinctly regarded as Noah. Cf. Ovid, ‘Metamorph.,’ lib. 1. f. 7; ‘Kalisch on Genesis,’ p. 203; Kitto’s ‘Bible Illustrations,’ p. 150 (Porter’s edition); ‘Lange on Genesis,’ p. 294, note by Tayler Lewis; Smith’s ‘ Dictionary of the Bible,’ art. Noah.

Yet another Flood myth which is strikingly similar to the one in the Bible.

5. The American. Traditions of the Flood appear to be even more numerous in the New World than the Old. The Esquimatux in the North, the Red Indians, the Mexicans and the Brazilians in the central parts of America, and the Peruvians in the South have all their peculiar versions of the Deluge story. Chasewee, the ancestor of the Dog. rib Indians, on the Mackensie river, according to Franklin, escaped in a canoe from a flood which overflowed the earth, taking with him all manner of four-footed beasts and birds. The Astees, the Mixtees, the Zapotess, and other nations inhabiting Mexico all have, according to Humboldt, their Noahs, Xisuthrus, or Manus (called Coxcox, Teocipactli, or Tezpi), who saves himself by a raft, or in a ship, which lands upon the summit of Colhuacan, the Ararat of the Mexicans. The legends of the Tamanacks relate that a man and woman saved themselves from the Deluge, and repeopled the earth by casting behind them the fruits of the Mauritia palm tree (Kalisch, p. 205; Auberlen’s ‘Divine Revelation,’ p. 171; Smith’s ‘Dictionary,’ art. Noah). What, then, is the conclusion to be drawn from this universal diffusion of the Deluge story? The theory of Schirren and Gerland, as stated by the writer of the article Deluge in the ‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ is that the Deluge stories were originally other-myths, descriptive of the phenomena of the sky, which have been transferred from the celestial regions to the earth; but, as Kalisch justly observes, “the harmony between all these accounts is an undeniable guarantee that the tradition is no idle invention;” or, as is forcibly stated by Rawlinson, of a tradition existing among all the great races into which ethnologists have divided mankind, – the Shemites, the Hamites, the Aryans, the Turanians, – “but one rational account can be given, viz., that it embodies the recollection of a fact in which all mankind was concerned.”

I think it’s safe to say that if there was travel and trade between the Americas and Europe, Asia, and Africa, prior to the time we believe the Bible to have been written, that the records of this crossing of cultures is lost and now forgotten. As a result, the shared mythology of a Great Flood with tribes in the Americas is deeply suggestive that either 1) trade and travel existed across the Atlantic MUCH earlier than science now believes (and that we should consider more seriously that a lost chapter of human civilizlation has been forgotten), 2) the settlers of the Americas and the people in the Mediterranean have some common ancestry through which a deeply distance story has been passed down separately, or 3) there were people living on both sides of the ocean who experienced a Great Flood. The story is not one that is passed down. It is a story that was experienced – and remembered – by desperate groups of people.

  1. Is there any evidence that pre or early Bronze Age trade may have existed across the Atlantic? Actually, yes, there is *some* evidence. Perhaps the most notable evidence found to date is the “cocaine mummies” of Egypt. How could American narcotics have been found in Egyptians mummies without trans oceanic travel? Henut Taui is one Egyptian (1000 BCE) who is alleged to have had American narcotics found on her mummy. We know that Bronze Age trade routes extended a relatively great distance at this time. Is it possible that the distance occasionally crossed the ocean?

    The Egyptians believed themselves to be descended from a much earlier empire based on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, west of the Strait of Gibraltar. Atlantis. If that is true, then is it possible that the island empire could have made the voyage across the Atlantic? Or, alternatively, could Atlantis have been destroyed by THE Great Flood (with some people fleeing and surviving on both sides of the ocean)? Looking at a map of the world, the distance between the westernmost point of Africa and the easternmost point of South America is tantalizingly close.

    Speaking of the Atlantis myth, the myths of Mauretania, in far western Africa, evoke Atlantean themes. Like Atlantis (or at least what Plato tells us of Atlantis), the people of Mauretania credit “Atlas” as being their first King. It is certainly possible that the Mauri adopted this myth from hearing about it from traders. However, it is also possible that traders learned of the myth from the Mauri. We just don’t have answers for that yet.

    One big problem with conducting archaeology in Northern Africa is the Sahara. We simply do not know how much history is buried beneath it. To add to the intrigue, northern Africa was lush and green for thousands of years prior to the beginning of the Dynastic Period in Egypt. It was undoubtedly home to people and settlements. If the Atlantis story as told by the Mauri and Egyptians comes from a common source in the distant past, one might expect to find evidence in the lands between Egypt and Mauretania to connect the stories. We may have to look beneath the sand to find those connections.
  2. Getting back on track, as for point two, nobody really disputes the notion that some common ancestry exists between the people of the Americas and the people of the rest of the world. A Biblical historian might argue that Native Americans are descendants of Noah. Scientists have believed for decades that humans crossed the Bering Land Bridge during the most recent Ice Age. However, for the purpose of a shared Flood myth to have been transmitted, rather than resulting from a shared experience, the story in the Americas needs to have come about as a result of communication of the story after it happened. It stands to reason that if the American Flood myths date back to the Ice Age, then they are wholly separate in origin from the Flood myths originating in the Middle East.
  3. If the Flood myth originated on both sides of the ocean, separately, then perhaps these myths all point back toward a distant memory of an actual global Flood.

Bible historians will look at the above section regarding the Americas/Atlantis/etc. and note a few things: 1) All of it is very unsettled as to timelines, 2) some of the above presupposes that not everyone on the globe died in the Flood. I’ll readily admit both things and have discussed how point one creates some significant issues with respect to resolving the Biblical timeline with scientific evidence – which does exist – for The Great Flood. As I have mentioned before, I am open-minded about all of this. The account in Genesis makes reference the world with the word ‘erets. The interpretation of that word can be small enough to mean “country” or broad enough to mean “planet.” The writer – as far as we know – did not have a conception of the earth being a planet. God obviously did know though we are not told if God communicated that globe concept with Moses. It is reasonable to assume then that either interpretation is possible (i.e. Moses might have meant, by ‘erets, “all the land my people know about” or he might have meant “every place on a globe including those that I do not even know to exist.” If the word means the former, then it’s possible that some people survived outside of the writer’s known Flood zone. It should be assumed, though, that nothing survived within the writer’s Flood zone because he is explicit in saying that nothing survived that was not on the ark.

We’ll be better able to analyze this when we get further into Genesis and make a determination as to whether the Bible implies that people other than those on the ark survived the Flood.

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