SEDER OLAM - Revisited

סדר עולם - חדש



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Index of names


Generations  1-14
(3760 - 2080 BCE)

Generations 15-21
(2080 - 1240 BCE)

Generations 22-28
(1240 - 400 BCE)

Generations 29-35
(400 BCE - 440 CE)

Generations 36-42
(440 - 1280 CE)

Generations 43-49
(1280 - 2120 CE)

Generation 50

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From Adam to Noah

Noah's Ark

The Flood
(1656 AM - 2104 CE)

The Epic of Gilgamesh

End of the Early Bronze Age

Og survivor of the Flood

After the Flood

The 7 Noachide Laws

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Hebrew years 1560 to 1680 (2200-2080 BCE)

From Adam to Noah

In Hebrew year 1651 (2109 BCE), Lemech died at the age of 777. Then his father Metushalach died in 1656, reaching the longest human life duration of 969. Because he walked in the path of God, God postponed His decree to eradicate His creation. But more importantly, Metushalach lived long enough to be a good influence over Sem, Noah’s first son: Metushalach died when Sem was already 100 years old.

The 10 human generations from Adam until the Flood have been as follows:

Pre-Flood generations

Noah's Ark

The scene was now set for God’ s punishment: the Flood. God ordered Noah to build an ark 120 years before the Flood came, according to Jewish Tradition.

The ark was to be made of gopher wood and coated with kopher (Genesis 6:14). Both words are similar in their Hebrew roots: gopher is written גֹפֶר and kopher is כֹּפֶר, the difference being the first letter.[1] We can assume that both materials were of course complementing each other in the same role of keeping the ark afloat and dry in the inside. But the word גֹפֶר is the root for Sulphur, and the word כֹּפֶר is the root for "expiation".

There is another parallel between the detailed orders from God to Noah to build the ark, with what materials to build it and with which dimensions: it is with the detailed orders from God to the Hebrew people in the desert on how to build the Tabernacle, after the Exodus. This gives a strong suggestion that God saved His creation at the time of Noah, in the same way that God will later save the Hebrew people at the time of Moses. And that this divine salvation came as an expiation for previous sins.

There is also another parallel between the main characters of both stories, the Flood and the Exodus: Noah was saved from the Flood with the ark, and Moses will be saved from the Nile waters with the cradle. The English translation of both words doesn't highlight anything particular but, in fact, both words ark and cradle use the same Hebrew word: Teva תֵּבָה. And this word  is not used anywhere else in the entire Bible except for these two occurrences: this shows that the divine salvation, seen as an expiation in both case, have been unique in our History.

The ark’s dimensions were as follows:

And this is how you will do it: 300 cubits for the length of the ark, 50 cubits for its width, and 30 cubits for its height.
--- Genesis 6:15

The cubit was one of the first measures of length used during the Antiquity and several rods were found in Egypt and Turkey as a sample of its length. The cubit was based on a human feature that would be common everywhere: it was roughly the length of a human arm, so about half of a meter. It was also divided in units, of the size of one palm (hand width), and sub-units being the size of a finger’s width. These were convenient human-based measurements for constructions in these old times, even if not accurate.

Egyptian cubit

Egyptian cubit, about 52 cm long

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Year 1656 – 2104 BCE – The Flood

The ark was complete when Metushalach died in Hebrew year 1656 (2104 BCE). Noah was then 600 years old and Shem was 100 years old. Then, at that time, continuous rain started to fall upon the earth:

Noah was six hundred years old and the Flood was water upon the earth. 
--- Genesis 7:6

This verse is Genesis 7:6 so it is the 6th verse of the 7th chapter of Genesis.[13] And the 5th word of this verse is the word Flood (מַּבּוּל). The divine punishment came upon the earth by the word Flood in position 7:6:5 in the Biblical text. Maybe there is a message behind this particular sequence: the Creation was done in 7 days and included Shabbat, the 7th day, which was supposed to be the spiritual day for mankind; but mankind erred and behaved as a mere human being as God created him in the 6th day; but then mankind sinned in greater ways to the point that it turned the Creation back to the animal behaviour, as God created them in the 5th day. The sequence 7 > 6 > 5 symbolized the descent of mankind from spiritual life into animal behaviour. This is when God had to intervene and stop the decadence of His Creation. The fact that this sequence is symbolised in three steps also means that the decadence was complete.[2]

In the 600th year of Noah’s life, in the 2nd month, in the 17th day of the month, on that day, all the springs of the great abyss busted and the windows of the skies opened up. 
--- Genesis 7:11

The waters that fell upon the earth were waters that were brought in by God, and were not rain waters that resulted from climatic conditions on earth. Already in the tale of the Creation, it is mentioned that the waters created then were separated in two parts: one part consisted of waters that "were above the firmament." (Genesis 1:7) The firmament is the atmosphere that protects the earth. The waters "above it" are waters that came from space. Science is looking for proofs of the presence of water on the planets of the Solar Systems, but there is plenty of water in the Solar System itself ! For example, water and dust is what compose the comets that orbit in our system. The Tunguska Event that occurred in Siberia in 1908 can give us an idea of what a relatively small ball of ice,[3] which was only a mere fragment from a comet, can do to Earth when it collides with it. The blast was 1000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima ! And the Solar System is full of comets and meteorites. In the 1980s, the number of them thought to be in the hundreds. Twenty years later, it was thought to be in the thousands. The truth is that we do not know for sure how many comets are in the Solar System. There are today over 7000 asteroids which have been discovered and it is estimated that there are at least 400,000 of them with a radius over 1 km. One expert from NASA even stated that our Solar System may contain "billions of moving bodies beside the planets and satellites" and he went on describing comets as "dirty ice balls".[4]

Another report states that the Oort Cloud  is "estimated to contain trillions of comets."[5] The Oort Cloud orbits the Solar System at about 1 light-year it and is predominantly composed of ice (comets).

Oort Cloud

The icy Oort Cloud with the Solar System at the centre

In addition, if we go further out in the Universe, astronomers have found in 2011 a mass of water located at 12 billion light years from the Solar System, and which  is nearly as old as the Universe itself: this mass contains "140 trillion times more water that all of Earth’s oceans combined."[6]

The simple conclusion is that there is plenty of water inside and outside our Solar System, however we wish to interpret these Biblical words that waters "were above the firmament", which, for sure, means at least that they were outside the view of our naked eye. 

The continuous rain started on the 17th day of the 2nd month and stopped at the end of the 3rd month.

And the rain was upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.
--- Genesis 7:12

Interestingly, the text shows a reverse order from the one used in the days of the Creation when each "day" was completed by the expression "there was evening, there was morning." With the Flood, the expression is "forty days and forty nights", as it is signified a de-Creation process. And it was so: with the Flood, God also removed some qualities that His Creation had been previously given, such as an extent of free will to all parts of the Creation, earth, water, animals, plants, etc.  

And yet there is hope. Because the punishment lasted for 40 days. The number 40 is significant in Jewish tradition as it corresponds to the coming of the age of reason. Indeed, it took 40 years for the Hebrews to wander in the desert as a punishment after the Exodus, until they could then be allowed to enter the Promised Land.[7] It may not be surprising that the Hebrew letter which has 40 for value is the letter מ because this is the letter that is exactly positioned at the middle of the Hebrew alphabet,[8] therefore the letter which is pivotal and provides equilibrium between two antagonisms, equally balanced. In other words, 40 days of Flood meant that God considered that, after this time had elapsed, mankind had paid the price of punishment, and that a new chapter of His Creation would be started. 

But the return to normal life was not an easy process, because the waters didn’t die out quietly. Instead they had to be forced to, as it is illustrated by the details of the text that proved that God had to impose His will against the waters that He unleashed upon the earth:

God caused a spirit to pass over the earth and the waters appeased (וַיָּשֹׁכּוּ). And the springs of the great abyss and the windows of the skies took a toll (וַיִּסָּכְרוּ) and the rain was imprisoned (וַיִּכָּלֵא) from the heavens. 
And the waters came back above the earth, were going and coming back. And the waters ceased (וַיָּשֻׁבוּ) at the very end of one hundred and fifty days.
--- Genesis 8:1-3

We can only see how ending the Flood was not an easy task (even if some of the text is obscure), as the waters once unleashed would not stop until God finally put a stop to their on-going rampage when they refused to recede. Only then the waters started to retrieve and reduce their strength continuously. And the ark came to a rest, after 150 days of ordeal, "upon the mountains of Ararat".[9a]

And the ark came to rest on the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. The waters were going and diminishing until the tenth month. In the tenth [month], on the first [day] of the month, the tops of the mountains became visible.
--- Genesis 8:4-5

So the Ark finally rested on top of Mount Ararat on the 17 Sivan.[9b]

Mount Ararat culminates at a height of 5137 m (16,854 feet) which is higher than the highest mountain in Europe (Mount Blanc).

Mount Ararat
Mount Ararat, seen from Armenia (photo: Martin Gray, National Geographic)

Due to the rotation of the Earth, the warm ocean waters of the northern hemisphere flow from the south-west towards the north-east. This means that, as the waters covered the globe, the Ark had arrived to Mount Ararat by having started in a location south-west from this mountain. This is the place where the land of Canaan is located, thus demonstrating that Noah would have started his journey from there before reaching Ararat after 1200-1500 km drifting on the surface of the waters.

Possible journey of the Ark
Possible journey of the Ark from Canaan to Mount Ararat

Forty days later, Noah sent a dove for the first time, but the bird returned as it couldn’t find dry land. Noah waited 7 more days and tried again. The dove came back to the ark again but, this time, with a branch of olive tree. Then, after waiting another week, and trying again, the dove didn’t come back. 

In the Talmud, the dove has become the symbol of Israel:

Because the Congregation of Israel is likened to a dove, as it is said, as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her pinions with yellow gold [Psalms LXVIII, 14], just as a dove is protected by its wings, so with the Israelites, their precepts protect them.
--- Talmud, Shabbat 130a

Noah then opened the ark on the 601th year of his life, on the first day of the first month of that year, meaning the Rosh Hashanah day of Hebrew year 1657. But they only came out of the ark on the 27th day of the 2nd month, waiting for the land to be totally dry. But, in fact, God had to intervene and ordered them out:

God spoke to Noah saying: "Come out from the ark."
--- Genesis 8:15-16

The timing of the Flood corresponds to a period between 2200 and 2000 BCE where archaeologists have noticed that mankind abandoned the city-states and went back to nomadic tribal style of life. This sudden change, noticed in all civilizations, cannot find a reasonable explanation except for a catastrophy of global nature when cities were abandoned: the Flood is the answer to this enigma.

The story of the Flood has been found in many ancient civilizations, from the Mesopotamian earliest ones but also from other cultures such as the Pre-Colombians. It was one of the very first story that was recorded in human texts, which is probably a proof of its happening because of the obvious psychological impact it left on the ancient human race. In Mesopotamia, the same story has been found in many cuneiform texts (written on clay tablets) of which the famous Epic of Gilgamesh which was a story told and recorded over most of the Antiquity. The tablets found with this story have been dated of about the 18th century BCE but they tell of a story that was supposed to have happened earlier than their recording, before 2500 BCE, which is sufficiently contemporary with the Biblical account of the Flood. The existence of a hero Gilgamesh is possible, if we refer to the Bible which mentions that the fallen angels (Nephilim), who took human women for wives, gave birth to reputed people:

The Nephilim [= the fallen angels] were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God [= the Nephilim] came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them; the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.
--- Genesis 6:4
Beside the Flood, the epic contains other similarities with the Biblical account of Creation, and narrates what happened to a human hero called Gilgamesh. Here are some extracts from the earliest tablets found with this text:[10]

Epic of Gilgamesh


Anu [the main god] granted him [Gilgamesh] the totality of knowledge of all

The tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden

He brought information [of the time] before the Flood

God told Noah ahead of time that He will bring the Flood and when it will occur

[He] who explored the world regions, seeking li

The human race populated the entire world

[He] who restored the sanctuaries [or cities] that the Flood had destroyed

Some of the survivors of the Flood went back to the old cities and restored them

[…] for teeming mankind

The human race is tasked to grow and populate

Stars of the sky appeared and some kind of meteorite(?) of Anu fell next to me

God brought waters from "above the firmament" [comets?] to flood the earth

The Archaeology also bears witness that something unexplained had happened around that time: many of the Early Bronze Age civilisations simply disappeared around the time of the Flood (the Early Bronze Age, so-called EB, is supposed to have ended around 2200 BCE). Some cities became deserted, such as Tel Arad in the Negev, with no trace of battle or destruction. But no scientific explanation was ever found. For Bible believers, the Flood had caused these eradications. And a new generation of people emerged, who built cities differently, and who used new techniques or designs never seen before.

Og, the other survivor of the Flood
According to the Bible, Og survived the Flood. He was one of the Rephaim, from the Anakim giants, who were born from the coupling of the fallen angels (Nephilim) and human women they took for wives. About Og, his descendance became kings of Bashan, and the Biblical text mentions his giant size:

The Emim dwelt therein aforetime, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakim; these also are accounted Rephaim, as the Anakim; but the Moabites call them Emim.
--- Deuteronomy, 2:10-11

For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the Rephaim; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbah of the children of Ammon? Nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man.
--- Deuteronomy, 3:11

How he survived the Flood is told in midrashic account:[14]

And all living things which were upon the face of the earth decayed, as it is said, "And every living thing was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground", except Noah and those who were with him in the ark, as it is said, "And Noah only was left, and they that were with him in the ark", except Og, king of Bashan, who sat down on a piece of wood under the gutter of the ark. He swore to Noah and to his sons that he would be their servant for ever.'' What did Noah do? He bored an aperture in the ark, and he put (through it) his food daily for him.
--- Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 23

According to the same source, Og and his descendance served Noah and his descendance, until the time of the Patriarch Abraham who had one of Og's descendants as the servant called Eliezer.

The Rephaim lived on the Golan heights (the old kingdom of Bashan), up to Mount Hermon. There is archaeological remains of what is thought to have been either a place of cult or an astronomical observatory that they have built. It is called Gilgal Rephaim (the Rephaim Circle), also called Rujm el-Hiri in Arabic (rujm means tumulus). Some people call it the "Stonehenge of the Middle-East". The outer circle is about 500 feet (160 meters) of diameter. At its center was found a sort of tumulus that was used as a burial place in a later period, while the main structure is estimated to date from the Early Bronze Age period (3000-2200 BCE), so it was built in the pre-Flood period.

Gilgal Rephaim
Gilgal Rephaim (aerial view)

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After the Flood

In the Sumerian King List,[11] there is a clear distinction made about rulers before the Flood, who had long life spans, and the rulers after the Flood, who had  much reduced life spans. This is compatible with the Biblical account as seen below for the lifetime of the main Biblical characters where a clear reduction started after Shem, son of Noah:

Life durations since Adam

The 7 Noachide Laws

After the Flood, evil was still present in mankind. God only required from Noah and his sons to respect basic laws, so-called the Noachide Laws. They were supposed to form the foundation of a civilized world. These laws were seven in total to promote justice and prohibit idolatry, immorality, blasphemy, murder, cruelty to animals, and theft. The number 7 is reminiscent of the will of God, who fixed the Shabbat (7th day) and punished Lamech by 7 generations, and more.

But not all three sons of Noah were equal in character. When Noah got drunk from a vine he planted, and was naked, Canaan, Cham’s son, humiliated his grand-father. But Shem took the initiative to cover their father’s nakedness without looking on, and engaged Yafeth to help him. When Noah recovered from his state, he got angry:

And he said: "Cursed be Canaan, a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers."
And he said: "Blessed be God, the God of Shem, and let Canaan be a slave to him. Let God embellish Yafeth, let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be a slave to him."
--- Genesis 9:25-27

The three sons of Noah then went off in three different directions, probably as a means to avoid any future conflict because of Noah's curse. According to traditions, Cham went down to Africa, Yafeth went over to Europe, and Shem remained in Asia. The world started to re-populate from the three sons of Noah, and his sixteen grandsons. Genesis 10 gives an account of the generations since the Flood.[12]

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[1] While nobody knows for certain what gopher wood may have been, it is generally admitted that kopher was a sort of pitch or resin to keep the ark water-proof.

[2] In Jewish tradition, the number 3 is synonymous of totalness or completion; examples are numerous: three judges are necessary to cast a judgment in court, three prayers complete the day, three festivals complete the Jewish year, 3 patriarchs, and so on.

[3] It was small because it was estimated to be of about 100 meter radius.

[4] Short, Nicholas M., Asteroids and Comets, 2002, for the article online, click here.

[5] Yep, Jeffrey, Number of Comets, The Physics Factbook, 2009, for the article online, click here.

[6], Largest, oldest mass of water in the universe discovered, 2011, for the article online, click here.

[7] Similarly, it took 40 days for Moses to remain on Mount Sinai and to receive the divine word, the Torah. It is at the age of 40 that a man is allowed to start the study the Kabbalah. It also not before the age of 40 that Rabbi Akiva started to study of the Torah. And, in Jewish tradition, it takes 40 days for a foetus to be considered "human" (meaning that the spiritual faculties are formed) and therefore a time from which it would be considered as a murder to abort a pregnancy.

[8] The Hebrew alphabet contains 22 letters, but 5 of them are doubled with final forms; the letter מ is located at the centre of the extended alphabet of 27 letters, with 13 letters before and 13 letters after; we can also note that 13 is the age of Bar-Mitzvah for the Jewish boys, which is the passage from childhood to adulthood, a maturity in other words.

[9a] Mount Ararat is located in Turkey and is the highest mountain in the region with a peak culminating at 5165m (about 17,000 ft); some expedition has found wooden frames quite high up on this mount, and speculated it came from Noah’s Ark; for the article online, click here.

[9b] For a chronology of the Flood according to Jewish scriptures, click here.

[10] To read the Epic of Gilgamesh online, click here.

[11] The Sumerian King List is the record of rulers and dynasties from Sumer, the oldest human civilization; it is available online in Wikipedia.

[12] Some have also speculated over the various people of the ancient world and their possible lineage to one of the three sons of Noah;see this Table of Nations online in Wikipedia.

[13] God intervened in His creation every 7 generations of mankind, as it is shown in various pages of this site; to check this cycle, click here

[14] Beside the source mentioned here, the fate of Og is also given in the Talmud, Nidah 61a and Zevachim 113b

Copyright Albert Benhamou 2013 - All rights reserved.