Chapter Two

Parashah 2: Noach (Noah) Chapters 6:9–11:32

The Flood – Redemption; the Tower of Babel

There is no question that the time from Adom to Noach was a time of trouble, strife and rebellion against God.  Truly, it could be considered a failure.  After watching His children spiral down into chaotic sinful behaviour, it was time to start again.  And this brings us to the story of Noach and a new chapter in the relationship between Yahweh, God, and His children.[1]

O.K., here we have Noach, Noah, and his family building this enormous floating zoo, with only hand tools and not very sophisticated hand tools at that.  You may know they lived in the Stone Age, before iron was discovered.  Thus, their tools consisted of hewn stone attached to pieces of wood.   How long would it have taken them to complete this task?  It is estimated, from clues given to us in the Book of Genesis about 144 years.  Let’s take a little break now.  Imagine you and your family are working on a project, which your friends and neighbours all regard as idiotic.  Would you have the courage to continue, just because you had a vision of God telling you to do this?  This is the faith Noach had – the complete trust in God to act on His Word to him.  Do you have this much trust in anyone or anything?  Do many of us have this depth of trust?  We really don’t know until we are tested, do we? In Hebrew, this level of trust is emunah, trust-in action.  In other words, stepping out in trust of God, without really knowing where you are going or what you are doing.  Man, I wish I had that depth of faith.

Well, they finished their construction, to the specifications God ordered, and, on the date announced by the Almighty, the heavens opened up and the rain began to pour down.  For forty days and forty nights it rained; eventually, there was enough water on the earth to cover everything, even the highest mountain tops.  Then the rain ceased, the clouds vanished and the sun emerged, to begin its task of evaporating the water and drying the land.  How long did the ark float on the waters?

Faith, in Hebrew – emunah –  means Trust-in-Action

[1] Rav Yitzchok Abarbanel translated by Rav Israel Lazar, 2015, , Abarbanel – Selected Commentaries on the Torah: Bereishis – Genesis: Volume 1, Atlantic Publishers.

We are told the waters remained on the earth for 150 days (Genesis 7:24) and then they began to recede.  During this time, every living thing on the earth perished – plants, animals and people.  Only the fish in the sea survived.

We are told the waters remained on the earth for 150 days (Genesis 7:24) and then they began to recede.  During this time, every living thing on the earth perished – plants, animals and people.  Only the fish in the sea survived.

For all this time, Noach, his family and all the animals and birds in the ark were kept dry and safe from all harm.  Then the ark came to rest on the top of a mountain, which many believe to be Mount Ararat, in either Turkey or Armenia.[2] You may have read of the many expeditions sent out to locate this wonderful artifact of biblical history.

Forty days after having settled on the mountain, Noach sent out a raven, to determine where there was dry land.  This bird flew over the earth but did not return.  Then, Noach sent a dove, which could not find any land and returned to the ark.  One week later, the dove was sent out again and she returned with a twig from an olive tree.  Noach knew then that life had once more started to emerge from the ground.  One week later he sent the dove out; this time she did not return and Noach knew it was time to leave the ark.  On the twenty-seventh day of the second month, the month of Lyar, according to the Biblical Calendar, which corresponds to our April/May, the earth was dry.

It was at this time God told Noach and his family to release the animals and then He gave us His covenant or His promise to never again destroy the earth with water; we read this in Genesis 8: I will never again curse the ground because of man, even though man’s inclination is evil from his youth. And I will never again strike down every living thing as I have done.

 As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease. (Genesis 8:21-22)  This is the second of God’s promises to or covenants with us.  Whenever it rains, look into the sky.  You might see a rainbow; this is the sign God gave Noach and us of His covenant, His promise to never again flood the entire earth.  As we go through the Torah, we will read of other covenants (promises) that are still in force today.

The Tower of Babel

The next story that emerges from the pages of Genesis, my dear friend, is that of the Tower of Babel.  It appears that only a few hundred years following the Flood, the people of the earth, who were from Noach and his children, lived in only one place in the world – Babel.  In Hebrew, the name for this place, baval, means confusion; however, in the ancient language used at the time, Akkadian, the word Bab-ilu means ‘gates of heaven’ and perhaps refers to the site current city of Babylon, in Iraq.  But let’s get back to the story.  I do hope you read Genesis 11:1-9.  We find all the peoples of the earth had one language and one vocabulary.  As they came together from the east and west, they settled in the Shinar Valley, where Babylon stands today.  They wanted to be a great people, known far and wide as a powerful people.  To achieve this recognition, the people decided to build a tower reaching to the heavens, so they could have the same status as God.

I find it interesting; God looked down on them and found their little plan to be arrogant and presumptive.  Listen to what He decided to do: If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.   Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech. (Genesis 11:6-7)  And, at that point, all the different languages of the world were created, such that the people of Babel were unable to understand each other.  What a simple solution to this problem; God created an obstacle to their communicating with each other and thwarted their plans to share heaven with Him.  I find amongst human beings the greatest obstacle to getting along is lack of communication; the inability to get an idea across without insult or arrogance.  Often, when we want to win an argument, rather than debate a point, arrogance and pride become more important than the idea itself.  Have you noticed that?

There is another issue emerging from God’s decision to create different languages.  Please read the last verse, verse 7, again: Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech.  I have wondered for many years now how it was all the nations of the earth, existing during the time of the Israelites, worshipped other gods, while Israel worshipped the One True God.

All the world’s languages originated at Babel

[2] See Pg. 98, Possible Site of Noah’s Ark – Mt. Ararat, Turkey

I believe the answer is found here, in understanding what Adonai meant when He said, let Us go down.  Jewish scholars believe Adonai was speaking to the angels. 

For example, Rashi, or Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the great French Rabbi, who died in 1105, called these “God’s Celestial Court.”[1]  However, it is my belief, totally without support, that these were the angels of God who revolted against Him; in His wisdom, Adonai invited them to become the gods of the known nations of the world.  This, in part answers the question for me of how all the known nations of the world came to worship so many different idol-gods.  This is just conjecture and ought not to be taken as either biblical or theological truth.

There is another legend, which emerges from this time.  Ever/Eber, the grandson of Shem, the son of Noah, refused to participate in the building of the Tower of Babel and, with his family, fled across the Euphrates River.  Thus, Ivrim,[2] the only original language at the time, was retained and became the language of Ever’s descendants – Hebrew.

[1] Midrash, Genesis Rabbah 8.3 – Midrash consists of the explanation, analysis and commentary of early rabbis.  This particular reference was attributed to Rashi, Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac 
[2]  Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius (1952). “The NAS Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon”. Oxford University Press

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