SEDER OLAM - Revisited

סדר עולם - חדש

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Hebrew years 1441 to 1560 (2320-2200 BCE)

By this time, several civilizations had established themselves across the known world: from Sumer in Lower Mesopotamia over the entire Fertile Crescent, across Canaan and down to Egypt, but also across Turkey into Greece and in the Aegean Sea with the Minoan islands. Further east, people had settled in the Hindus Valley and until the last shores of China.

Just before the end of this generation, in year 1556, Noah begot three sons:

And Noah was 500-year old and Noah begot Shem, Cham and Yafeth. 
---Genesis 5:32

It is the second instance of the Biblical text where the birth of three sons from one individual is mentioned. The previous occurrence was with Adam who begot Cain, Abel and Seth, at different times. Abel died and his life was therefore wasted. Cain turned to the evil ways, and brought wickedness on earth. Seth was the worthy one who survive, and he begot multiple sons and daughters, from which only one lineage kept in the path of God. Similarly, with Noah’s sons: Cham will choose a sinful path; Yafeth, despite his pleasant physical looks (as depicted by the root of his name, meaning beauty), will bring evil kingdoms and wars; and Shem will give birth to multiple people from which a small portion would eventually continue in the path of God.

The order of these births is actually reversed from the order in the Biblical text: first Yafeth was born, in year 1556, followed by Cham in year 1557, and then by Shem in year 1558 (Genesis 11:10). Because of the worthiness of Shem, God spared His creation from total annihilation. Indeed mankind got so evil that it made the entire creation unworthy. But one single person, who walks in the good way, has the power to change God's initial decree. The world had indeed become impossible for righteous people to live in:

And the Earth corrupted itself in front of God and the earth was filled with violence. God saw the Earth and, behold, it was corrupted because it corrupted every flesh from its path on earth. 
--- Genesis 6:11-12

Mankind ruined the earth and all the creatures that God created. In fact, there was no more mankind as the boundaries between man and beast became so blur that God had recourse to mention them as every flesh

Looking at the two above verses from the Bible, in the first instance the Earth corrupted itself (תִּשָּׁחֵת הָאָרֶץ) and then it became irreversibly corrupted (הָאָרֶץ... נִשְׁחָתָה) and finally it corrupted (הִשְׁחִית) every flesh on Earth. This three times mention of the same verb indicates that the corruption was total, complete, because this is the meaning of the number three.

It is also noticeable that the word used for the total corruption of the Earth (נִשְׁחָתָה) uses the same three letters (נשח and נחש) that form the word Snake (הַנָּחָשׁ) who caused the original sin of Adam and Eve. In other words, it was one of the animals (the snake) who caused the corruption of the first man, who then produced corrupted mankind, who in turn corrupted the enitre Creation, every flesh. The root of the word snake also gives the name to the copper and bronze (נחושת),which has been indicative of the Bronze Age and the era when the Earth became filled with violence. By mixing up different ores of metal found in the earth, mankind created a new metal (bronze) so, in other words, he interfered in the elements of the Creation and corrupted it. But, as the Biblical text states it: mankind was not the sole responsible from the deviation from the divine Creation because the Earth corrupted itself. In fact the Earth had already disobeyed God's orders in the course of the Creation (in the Third Day):

And God said: "Let the Earth sprout vegetation, herbage producing seed, and fruit-tree making fruit according to its kind, containing its own seed, upon the Earth.' And it was so.
And the Earth sprouted vegetation, herbage producing seed according to its kind, and tree making fruit, containing its own seed, according to its kind; and God saw that it was good.
--- Genesis 1:11-12

Where did the Earth deviated from God's order? A careful comparison of the two above verses shows that, for example, God ordered that the trees would be fruit-trees themselves, meaning that the tree itself would be a fruit, and not simply a producer of fruit. Man would have been able to eat the fruit and the tree, if the Creation had been according to the divine plan. But the Earth, at a time when some free will existed in all elements of the Creation, diverted from God's will. Although the result was nonetheless pleasing as God saw it was good, it nonetheless represented a corruption from God's will, and the start of sin. The parallel between the Earth's corrupted way during the Creation and the corruption that continued later can also be understood in the number of these verses: Genesis 1:11-12 for one and Genesis 6:11-12 for the other.

God's punishment would not be directed at mankind only but at the entire Earth and what it contained. God would have to correct the ways His Creation was going, and stripped some of the original benefits from it so that the corruption of the created world would become harder, if not impossible, to achieve by itself

Copyright Albert Benhamou 2013 - All rights reserved.