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History 3: Antiquity

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  1. 1. Orientation
    12 Steps
  2. 2. Imago Dei: Creation
    13 Steps
  3. 3. The Two Cities: The Fall & Two Lineages
    11 Steps
  4. 4. Look On My Works, Ye Mighty: Babel & Mesopotamia
    11 Steps
  5. 5. The Waters of Life in the Everlasting Hills: Ancient Egypt
    11 Steps
  6. 6. Lekh-Lekha: Abraham & The Patriarchs
    11 Steps
  7. 7. On Eagles' Wings: The Exodus & The Law
    12 Steps
  8. 8. The Sacrifice of Praise: Worship in Ancient Israel
    13 Steps
  9. 9. A House of Prayer for All Nations: Samuel to Solomon
    11 Steps
  10. 10. The Ways of the Father: Prophets & Kings
    11 Steps
  11. 11. I Form Light and Create Darkness: The Exile, Medes & Persians, and Israel's Return
    11 Steps
  12. 12. Beyond Life and Death: India
    11 Steps
  13. 13. Immutable Tradition: China
    12 Steps
  14. 14. Honor Versus Life: Old Japan
    13 Steps
  15. 15. The Smoke of 1,000 Villages: Sub-Saharan Africa
    11 Steps
  16. 16. In Search of the Unknown God: Greek Stories & Early History
    12 Steps
  17. 17. Nostoi & Empire: Greece Versus Persia
    11 Steps
  18. 18. The Glory That Was Greece: The Golden Age
    11 Steps
  19. 19. The One and the Many: The Peloponnesian War & Philosophers
    11 Steps
  20. 20. To the Strongest: Alexander the Great
    11 Steps
  21. 21. Make Straight the Highway: Between the Testaments
    12 Steps
  22. 22. The Grandeur That Was Rome: The Roman Republic
    11 Steps
  23. 23. The War of Gods & Demons: The Conquest of Italy, Carthage, and Greece
    13 Steps
  24. 24. Crossing the Rubicon: The Fall of the Roman Republic
    11 Steps
  25. 25. Pax Romana: Caesar Augustus
    11 Steps
  26. 26. The Everlasting Man: Jesus Christ
    12 Steps
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The following transcript was automatically generated and may contain errors in spelling and/or grammar. It is provided for assistance in note-taking and review.

Well, welcome to our fourth lecture for this week. We’re going to take a look today at the story of the flood. Another very familiar story, one that we have a lot of toys, a lot of decorations that sometimes relate the story. But the toys and decorations, usually with cute puffy animals and rainbows don’t always communicate is the fact that this is the greatest judgment of God in world history save the apocalypse in the future but the other curious thing to keep in mind here is this also is a new creation or a recreation story when for example we have the lower waters the great deeps and the upper waters the torrential rains coming together kind of of undoing the separation work of day two.

Or after the flood, for example, when we have new land rising out of the water as the waters recede, or when we have a wind that pushes away the water, kind of reminiscent of that wind at the beginning of creation.

And also the fact that we have Noah, who is in himself a type of new Adam because all of the people of the world come from Noah and come from Noah’s three sons. So he really does have this unique place in history as being the first person in this restart of this new world, although this new world, however, is still fallen.

And we see that in the life of Noah himself. But it’s also worth pointing out that the flood, like creation, is a controversial event. It’s something that is seen even by people who take the Bible literally as being maybe simply a local event. Maybe the flood was just a flood that happened in a local place, or maybe it is simply a myth, or maybe it’s a copy of other myths. And we’re going to actually talk about how the flood and the Mesopotamian flood stories kind of line up and how they don’t line up, because I think that’s really helpful to seeing how the flood is unique. But it is worth mentioning at this point that Jesus treats it as a real event, or at least seems to be a real event, in both Matthew 24 and in Luke 17, when he talks about how the flood destroyed everyone besides Noah and his family.

In the book of 1 Peter, he talks about how only eight people were actually saved, Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives.

So we have a treatment by the New Testament at least of the flood of being a real event that really happened at a certain time in history.

I think of course, in fact I’ve been saying that over and over again, that’s because that’s what we’re getting over and over again here, this is a major theme of Genesis. But I think I want to point out to you about the flood and how it really is different than other flood stories is that this flood is an ethical flood.

to use Paul Johnson’s distinction here. Keep in mind that in all the other mythologies, they usually don’t begin with the creation of the world. They usually focus on the creation of the gods or how the gods create each other. It’s called a cosmogony. And when they do this, they often show us how the gods are pretty much messed up from the beginning and how they war against each other and how they give floods and things like that, often for no good reason.

But of course, Genesis gives us a good reason for why the flood is sinned when we are told that all of mankind, save Noah, was wicked and that his heart was dwelled upon evil all of the time.

Paul Johnson talks about it like this. He says the Gilgamesh story, which has a famous flood story, he says, “It recounts isolated episodes, “but they lack a unifying moral or historical context.” But the Jewish version, that is the story of the flood as found in Genesis, sees each event as involving moral issues and collectively bearing witness to a providential design that was actually sent by God for a reason.

It’s the difference between secular and religious literature, it’s the difference between the writing of mere folklore, and the conscious history of the ancient Hebrew mind. He also points out that the flood narrative is kind of curious because it gives a whole lot of detail. It gives very specific times, very specific numbers, even specific locations. It is true that we don’t know exactly where the Ark landed. It was in the mountains of Ararat, but the point is this. It gives a lot more detail than any other flood stories that we actually have, and yet, curiously, it does this more efficiently because it’s shorter than most of the other flood stories that we actually have. It’s also an enormously important story because it’s the first instance or usage of the word “covenant” which shows up in Genesis chapter 7. So it’s showing the relationship that God has with man and how the relationship actually matters to him and how he is essentially going to remake mankind through Noah.

Anyway, it’d be helpful to talk about some of the Mesopotamian flood stories at this point. We have several. For example, we have the one from Gilgamesh, probably the longest Mesopotamian story that we actually have from antiquity. There’s also the Atrahasis. There’s also what’s called the Eridu Genesis. It’s also mentioned, at least, in the Sumerian king list. Beyond that, as you may have heard, we have more than 200 flood stories from around the world, from Deucalion of the Greeks, from Manu of the Hindus, Ganyu in China, as well as the Maya in the Americas, or the Aborigine people in Australia.

They all have flood stories along with many other cultures and civilizations. Let’s go and talk now about some of the similarities, though, between the Mesopotamian flood stories and Genesis. So, these have been pointed out by other writers. I’ll just kind of summarize them for you. But one of the similarities, as pointed out, is in both flood stories, all the Most Highly Amen ones and the Genesis story, the flood happens by divine power.

And it’s the gods or God who actually decide to make it happen. In all the stories, there’s always one man and his family who is chosen to survive. There’s always a great flood that destroys all life on earth that’s not on the vessel. The boat or the vessel of their surviving in always lands on a mountain. To find out if there’s dry land birds are always sent forth. This is in all of the longer stories especially the Gilgamesh story. In all of the stories afterwards the Noah character offers a sacrifice and then somehow mankind is renewed on earth and begins having children once again.

But it’s where the differences are that make, well, a huge difference. It’s where we actually see that these are not the same thing. So for example, we look at the Mesopotamian versions in general, usually the reason for the flood is very different. It’s not based upon the wickedness of man, which is an affront to God’s holiness. Instead, the reason for the flood in the Mesopotamian story is that mankind has had too many people, which seems to go against “be fruitful and multiply,” and also primarily that he is too loud. In fact, in one of the versions, his parties are so loud that they bother the sleep of the god Enlil. Once again, showing you a difference in how the Mesopotamians viewed their gods versus how we actually view our God, who we’re told neither slumbers nor sleeps. It’s also worth noting that in the Mesopotamian versions, the flood is typically concealed. It’s hidden from man. Whereas in Genesis, God speaks to Noah no less than seven times to tell him that this flood is coming and to prepare him for it.

It’s also worth noting that in the Mesopotamian stories, the only way that the hero, the Noah character, is actually saved is because he is told about the coming flood by another god, Enki, who reveals it to him in a dream.

The shape of the boat is also sometimes different. Noah’s dimension of the ship has a very realistic dimension for a boat. It’s something that you’ve probably seen mock-ups of what it might have looked like and how it was engineered to not easily be overturned. Whereas, in the Samian stories, the boat is usually described either as a cube or it’s described as a floating ziggurat, neither one of which would be very seaworthy shapes or so we would imagine. Actually, we can do more than measure, we can test it. But the point is this, we have all of these differences, even things like the timing, the Mustamian stories all happen in much less time.

There are usually extra characters saved in the Mustamian stories, such as sometimes the pilot of the boat, as if it had to be steered, sometimes the craftsman who worked on the boat, implying it wasn’t just Noah and his family. It’s also worth pointing out that the sacrifices are different, because at the end of the Nestamian story, sacrifices are offered to win the favor of the God rather than offered as a thanksgiving for the fact that God has saved mankind.

It’s another huge difference in the flood stories. Another difference, of course, would be the fact that the sacrifices offered are for different reasons. No offer is sacrificed as a form of thanksgiving at the end of the flood narrative, Whereas Utnapishtim, the hero of Gilgamesh’s flood story and others, they offer the sacrifice as a way to appease the gods themselves. Now, if we look at the text of Genesis leading up to this, and we’ve already talked about how mankind was wicked, and how the text doesn’t really spare many words or talk kindly about mankind this time. But we’re given a reason before this when we’re told that the sons of God married the daughters of men. And this has been like a huge theological can of worms for a lot of people, but if we’re viewing this as two different cities, city of God, city of man, then it makes a little more sense that those who came from this line, the city of God, who had a faithful devotion to God, if they’re marrying into those who do not, it’s going to affect culture. going to affect culture negatively in this case. It’s also curious that we’re told that they act kind of like Eve because they see the daughters of men as being beautiful. Well, they look at them first, they see that they’re beautiful, and then they take them. It’s very similar language to what happens when Eve looks at the fruit, sees it as desirable, and then eats it. But they produce a race of people who are again kind of mysterious in the history of the past in the history of Genesis known as the Nephilim, a word that means something like the fallen ones or perhaps the aborted ones.

They’ve often been seen as a race of giants and we have some other textual evidence that may suggest that. But either way, we have this picture of a world that is dominated by wicked mankind. It’s at this time that God says, He’s going to limit man’s time to 120 years, probably meaning that much time until the Flood actually occurs, not that being some kind of cap on how long man can live.

We have patriarchs, for example, who live longer than 120 years after this, although it is curious that they begin having shorter lives after this as well, but that’s a whole another story altogether. Anyway, as this flood story actually comes, it’s important to keep in mind that this flood is meant to be a relief for the creation that is that is groaning. Now it’s not a full relief, it’s not the final redemption by any means, but it really is a relief towards that idea of a new creation. It’s also worth pointing out that Noah himself was a type of prophet or witness as he built this ark for a number of years that was most likely visible to other people.

Something that I’ve already mentioned to you was built in such a way that it was seaworthy, was built in such a way that it could probably hold as much stuff as over 500 railway cars.

Now of course this raises all kinds of questions about the animals coming and how many animals could get on board and things like that.

where creation scientists have really delved into this area and have said things like, “Well, animals go back to kines and we think there would have been kines that came on the board the ship, not all the species that we see in existence to this day, but I’ll let you listen to them because they can explain it better than I can.” But anyway, one thing that I want to mention too about the animals coming on board is that they come on board and food is put on board for them as well, but there’s no mentioning of personal possessions. Whereas the character of Atna Pishtim, a Mesopotamian Noah figure, loads up his ark with silver and gold. Or we’re told that Atrahasis, another Mesopotamian Noah figure, loads up his ark with slaves. Like, they’re still thinking in terms of property. They’re not thinking in terms of this is going to be like a new Eden once again. It’s another huge difference that we actually have here. It’s also worth noting that the Ark is like a new garden, it’s a new sanctuary out on these floodwaters. And this begins to make sense if you look at a verse like 1 Peter 3.21, which links together the flood and baptism, that you have life coming out of death. This is an image that’s gonna show up throughout the scriptures over and over. You’ll see it at the Red Sea Crossing, for example. Another thing we should point out about the flood story is that the flood story itself has a very interesting pattern. It begins with this 40-day period of rainfall, and we’re told that the waters which cover all the mountains, all the land on Earth, prevail for a hundred and fifty days. I’m missing some details here because the theologian Gordon Winnem, when he comments about this, he talks about how the flood is a cohesive story, how it has this deliberate structure.

It’s called a kiastic structure, based upon the Greek letter ki, where things kind of come together in the middle and you actually make a climax or a central point right in the middle.

And he points out how these numbers are shown again later on with when the water starts going away, it recedes for 150 days, and then 40 days later, Noah releases these birds into the air.

In fact, he actually goes a lot further and shows how the whole text of the flood story, from the very beginning to the very end, has this chiastic structure where everything lines up.

But he does this to show what’s at the middle, which is chapter eight, verse one, which the very beginning of it says simply, “But God remembered Noah.” It’s a sign of his covenant. It’s a sign that, as we’re looking at history, as we’re looking at kind of these big, broad brush strokes of everything, We have to remember we have a personal God who actually remembers us.

And of course, Noah responds with worship. He offers, he builds an altar first of all, and then he offers sacrifice when he leaves the ark, having brought on board multiple clean animals.

He was not actually eradicating an entire species, as my students usually ask me. But of course, God responds with developing the covenant or showing further what he has always had in mind, which is he promises to never again destroy man with a flood or with the ground, giving the rainbow as a pledge of this.

And then of course the call to be fruitful and to multiply comes once again, but this time it’s given with something different. It’s given along with the penalty for what happens if one man murders another, and that is death. this huge importance is put upon life and how blood must be answered with blood. At the same time, God tells mankind that I’ve given you all the animals for food. It’s the first time we have this. And at the very beginning in the creation, mankind was given plant life for food. So we have some major changes going on here. Once again, it’s worth contrasting it to the Mesopotamian story. In the story of Utnapishtim, the story that’s found in Gilgamesh of the Flood, Utnapishtim and his wife, because they have survived the flood, which by the way, annoys the gods, who are all surprised, except for the one god who helped them, but in either case, they actually have to go and live apart from the rest of mankind.

Atrahasis, the other one of the Mesopotamian Noah-like characters, we’re told that the gods inflict upon him sterility. He can no longer have children. I guess he somehow has a future one that survived that reproduced mankind. But the point is this, the gods are almost angry that they didn’t completely wipe out mankind. It’s very different in the story of Genesis where we have Noah who not only offers the sacrifice but then goes on to plant a vineyard.

This of course brings up the whole story of him getting drunk off of the wine he produces. That’s in our story as well. But according to some translations, he’s described as the first to plant a vineyard. If we think of him as the new Adam who was made to till the soil, then it makes sense that we have someone here tilling the soil, creating a vineyard, and making something marvelous to mankind.

Something that figures prominently in the Last Supper of Christ, as well as in Communion, and something that the ancient world desired because it was so important to them that the Egyptians had Osiris, their god of resurrection, creating the very first vineyard and wine, and the Greeks had it as Dionysus, also their god of resurrection, creating the very first vineyard, or planting the very first vineyard, and making the very first wine.

Something that Noah actually does, or has done, something that points to the reality of the redemption to come.