Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Cycles of Noah (Part II of Noah Series)

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah, saying, “This one will bring us comfort from our labor and from the painful toil of our hands because of the ground that the LORD has cursed.” Lamech lived 595 years after he became the father of Noah, and he had other sons and daughters. The entire lifetime of Lamech was 777 years, and then he died.

Noah was a son of 500 years, and he had begotten Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Gen 5:28-32, NET Bible)

These are the last verses of the mini-book or list of Adam’s lineage via Seth. Chapter 5 of Genesis is a genealogy.  I suppose that is was originally inscribed during the lives of the antediluvian patriarchs. Long after the Flood it was eventually assumed to what we know today as Genesis, or Bereshit or Torah pending your tradition. This original form of the genealogical list was probably similar to the genealogical table Abraham recovered when he was sent to Egypt on account of the famine. Blessed Anne describes this genealogical table:

I also saw Abraham with Sara in Egypt. He went thither in obedience to a command from God; first, on account of the famine; and, secondly, to take possession of a treasure which had been carried there by one of Sara’s relatives. The treasure consisted of triangular pieces of gold strung together to form a genealogical table of the children of Noah, and especially of Shem down to Abrahams own time. It had been taken into Egypt by a daughter of Sara’s maternal aunt, who had gone thither with a pastoral tribe, some of Jobs lateral descendants, who afterward degenerated into a wild state. She had there hired herself as a servant. She had stolen that treasure as later on Rachel did the gods of Laban. The genealogical table was made like the scales of a balance hanging on cords. The latter consisted of small triangular pieces strung together, and from them depended single collateral strings. On the gold pieces were figures and letters denoting Noah's, and especially Shem's descendants. When the cords were let down, the various pieces all lay together in the dish. I heard, but I have forgotten, the number of shekels (so the sum is called) to which the whole amounted.
This family register had fallen into the hands of Pharaoh and the priests. They made on it various reckonings connected with their own unending chronological calculations, but they never rightly understood it.(Mysteries of the Old Testament)

Most if not all the modern English translations of the Bible have the Hebrew word transliterated ‘shanah’ translated as years, e.g. When Lamech lived 182 years he had a son. A shaneh refers to a concept. The concept could be defined as a temporal revolution or change in lieu of an object's original location or condition. A shaneh refers to a cycle of time. A shaneh is a time metric, a metric of motion. This time metric was defined by the antediluvian Patriarchs. For example, once Adam hit the ground he may have eventually conceived a time metric to help organize his family’s life and not lose track of his days. Adam may have arbitrarily established a temporal cycle or he may have defined it based on a cycle of nature such as three new moons. Who is to say? 

The point is that their antediluvian time metric was not the same as our modern time metrics. We have decided to define our year as roughly 365 days based on our refined astronomical understandings and calculations. Most the entire world has agreed upon this quantity and applies it to their lives. Yet Adam and the antediluvian Fathers likely did not understood the Earth’s orbit around the Sun or the Earth’s axial tilt in relation to the Sun.  They had no conception of a solar year or sidereal year and there is no reason to think that their shaneh equaled 365 days, especially in light of the quantities modifying the shanah.

There is nothing mystical, magical or mythic in the numbers. The mystique is in how the antediluvian Fathers defined their shanah. I have no manner of knowing for certain so I assume one shaneh equals somewhere between 84 and 90 days.  
I suppose that in this antediluvian context, a shaneh was defined roughly as a duration of three new moons (3 cycles on average of 29.530589 days), or a duration of twelve sevens (84 days).  Every 84 days or every 4th new moon was a shaneh.  This is my rational solution to the perennial problem of the antediluvian patriarchs so called ‘years’. A better translation could be ‘cycles’ and from here on out I will translate ‘cycles’ in place of the Hebrew ‘shanah'.    

The other interpretations of this word have been to my mind unsatisfactory. The interpretation that supposes a shaneh equals 365 days is irrational since assuming Faith in the veracity of the Sacred Text, Adam would in reality have lived for 930 solar/sidereal years. That is clearly out of proportion. The other interpretation I've seen supposes the shanah refer to the years of influence a Patriarch had in the world.  This contradicts the Script since the number of shanah is predicated on the life of a person or in a genitive relation to the individual, e.g.

The entire lifetime of Adam was 930 cycles, and then he died. (Gen 5:5)
In the six hundredth cycle of Noah’s life . . . (Gen 7:11)

An advantage to my interpretation is that it takes the myth, magic and mysticism out of these numbers. So now applying my interpretation to the verses about Lamech and Noah I will round to 87 days:

When Lamech had lived 182 cycles, he had a son.

182 cycles times 87 days per cycle equals 15834 days

15834 days divided by 365 days per solar/sidereal year equals about 43 years.

According to my system Lamech was about 43 solar years old when he had Noah.

Lamech lived 595 cycles after he became the father of Noah, and he had other sons and daughters. The entire lifetime of Lamech was 777 cycles, and then he died.

777 cycles converts to 185 solar/sidereal years. Perhaps Lamech lived to be about 185 years.  I think this is a little more rational. In my system Adam would have lived to just beyond two hundred years but well less than three hundred years. 

Adam and Eve were constituted differently prior to their sin. They may have had larger and denser bodies which could hold up longer against the Earth’s gravitational tug that with time rips the atoms of a body apart. And their bodies would have also been healthier since they had not yet interacted with the objects of the fallen Earth some of which can induce harmful change effects in the body. After their sin Adam and Eve’s body mutated along with their germlines nevertheless they had not inherited their bodies from other animals which interacted with the fallen Earth. Once they fell to the surface of the Earth from Paradise they fought the tug of Earth’s gravity, interacted with the objects of the Earth, mutated and passed on their genetic codes to the children who mutated and so on. The human family's stature, density, health, along with their longevity diminished after so many generations.

The last verse of Genesis Chapter Five does not seem to belong to the genealogical list of Adam via Seth:

Noah was a son of 500 cycles old and Noah had begotten Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

I understand the last verse of Chapter 5 in Genesis as an inserted Script. This Script is clearly a foreign variation of Adam’s genealogical list via Seth. Perhaps Noah or Shem or one of his descendants added it to the list as a sort of conclusion. This verse makes use of different concepts. Noah is not plainly described as having lived for X amount of time when he generated a son. In the Hebrew, he is rather described as 'a son of' 500 cycles. 'Son of' is a figurative concept meaning AS IF the 500 cycles begot Noah. In other words he was an old seasoned man.

In my system 500 cycles amounts to about 119 solar years. The second part of the verse states that Noah generated Shem, Ham and Japheth. Like the rest of the genealogical table it does not describe how old Noah was when he conceived each of his three sons, thus I understand the generations in the past perfect. When Noah was a son of five hundred cycles, or an old seasoned man, he had already been married and had three sons. This interpretation is justified by comparing this verse with the rest of the verses of Gen 5. There is a clear cut contextual difference. It is as if Gen 5:32 does not belong to the genealogical list and a few Bibles have Gen 5:32 as Gen 6:1.

All the Patriarchs of Seth’s line had conceived at least one son by the time they were in their mid forties. The oldest listed generation is Methuselah at 187 cycles. This, in my calculation, is about 44 solar years old. Methuselah had Lamech when he was about 44 solar years old.  The rest from Seth had their listed sons, younger than 44 solar years old.  There is no reason why Noah would have broken the example of his fathers. So I suppose that by the time Noah was an old seasoned man around 120 solar years old his sons, namely Shem, Ham and Japheth were adults who themselves had wives and children. It was also around this time (son of 500 cycles or about 120 years) that Noah received prophetic communications from God about the Flood. The time between Noah’s first communication of the Flood and the event of the Flood was probably around twenty eight years.

The Flood happened in Noah’s six hundredth cycle:

Noah was 600 cycles old when the flood waters engulfed the earth. (Gen 7:6)

In my calculation this amounts to about 143 solar years. So from 500 shanah (119 solar years) to 600 shanah (143 solar years) is about 24 solar years, but above I supposed that the time between Noah’s first communication from God concerning the Flood and the event of the Flood was about 28 solar years. The difference is taken from the chapter six of Genesis:

So the LORD said, “My spirit will not remain in humankind indefinitely, since they are mortal. They will remain for 120 more cycles.”

This quote, I suppose, is an abstract of God’s first interior instruction given to Noah concerning the Flood. 20 cycles at about 87 days per cycle amounts to about 4 solar years. So by the time Noah was around 115 solar years old he was first instructed about the future destruction of mankind and given the command to build the Ark. And he had about 28 solar years to complete the Ark. By the time he entered the Ark, Noah’s sons were adults.  At the Flood event, Noah had grandchildren of all ages with perhaps a few great grand children.

Another interesting thought to consider is that nowhere in the Sacred Script does it say that Noah had other sons and daughters whereas all the other Patriarchs in both Seth and Shem’s line are described as having had other sons and daughters (see chapter 5 & 11 of Genesis). Noah had three sons and that is all. His sons took wives from other families, and had children who perhaps also were married and had children. On the Ark there were four generations from Noah to great grandchildren: Noah—Shem, Ham, Japheth---their sons, e.g. Canaan---and perhaps a few young children of a fourth generation. The eight souls referred to by Saint Peter in his Epistle (1 Pet 3:20) represent the four ancestral couples who were to repopulate the Earth, namely Noah and his wife, Shem, Ham, Japheth and their wives. But there were many more on the Ark and my ‘shanah’ logic seems to fit together well with that.

After the flood Noah lived 350 cycles. The entire lifetime of Noah was 950 cycles, and then he died. (Gen 9:28)

In my system, 350 cycles equals 83 or 84 solar years. 950 cycles equals about 226 solar years. After the Flood and the event of the confusing of the tongues at Babel, I think Shem's descendants changed the scalar quantity of their 'shanah' or cycles. That is why the supposed ages of the Patriarchs in Genesis 11, or Shem's line are markedly different than the Patriarchs in Genesis 5.

for more see The Noah Series: Part III

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