This is from the view of a Hebrew slave freed from Egypt.
He said, “The man Adam knew his wife Eve intimately. She became pregnant and gave birth to Cain, and said, ‘I have given life to a man with the Lord’s help’” (Gen 4:1–2).
They had enjoyed a loving relationship which resulted in sex. I do not know if that was before or after they sinned.
Coming so soon after the Lord’s promise that the offspring of the woman would defeat the serpent, Eve probably thought that Cain was the one God meant (Gen 3:15).
Later, she gave birth to Abel. The battle between the “offspring of the serpent” and the “offspring of the woman” began.
God accepted Abel’s offering (Heb 11:4). However, the Lord refused Cain’s gift.
After God spoke to Cain about his attitude, Cain was so angry that he killed his brother (Gen 4:3–12).
When God asked Cain where Abel was, Cain replied, “Should I be shepherding the shepherd?”
The Lord said, “What have you done? The blood of your brother is crying out to me from the ground!”
Then, God cursed Cain and sent him away from places where he could grow food easily.
Cain built the first city. He named it after his son instead of calling it a place to worship God. This was like saying that his son took God’s place in his heart, and that he rejected God (Gen 4:17–24).
Even Seti I, the father of Ramesses II, knew a little better.
Just before he built the city called Abydos as a resting place for the gods, he wrote, “Another good thought has come into my heart, at the command of the god, even the equipment of a town, in whose…midst shall be a resting place, a settlement, with a temple. I will build a resting place in this spot, in the great name of my fathers, the gods. May they grant that what I have wrought abide, that my name will prosper.”
Living in a city made Cain feel safe.
His descendants made things from metal, wrote poetry, and made musical instruments. These are all things done in great nations.
However, evil grew in each generation of this family. One of Cain’s descendants wrote a poem to brag that he killed a man who had hit him.
Meanwhile, Eve gave birth to another son. She saw that Seth would be the godly offspring to replace Abel.
People began worshiping Yahweh by his name (Gen 4:25–26).
Thousands of years later, powerful, evil kings ruled.
In Egypt, we were taught that a pharaoh “is the being of a god, the son of a god, the messenger of a god.”
People living in other places believed this too. They wrote about Gilgamesh: “Two-thirds of him is god, [one-third of him is human].”
Those kings also called themselves “the sons of the gods.”
Moses said, “The sons of the gods saw the daughters of men, that they [were] beautiful. And they took to themselves wives, whomever they chose” (Gen 6:1–4).
How I wish that kings didn’t act this way. My wife and I suffered just like the people who lived near the god-king Gilgamesh did.
“Gilgamesh leaves not the maid to [her mother], the warrior’s daughter, the noble’s spouse…Gilgamesh, king of…Uruk…He is the first, the husband comes after. By the counsel of the gods it has (so) been ordained. With the cutting of his umbilical cord it was decreed for him!”
Those women gave birth to strong people called “the Fallen Ones” (Nephilim).
God decided to destroy humanity due to this sexual sin and the violence that came from it.
Even many of Seth’s offspring stopped living in a godly way. People of God were nearly gone (Gen 6:5–7, 11–12).
In other flood accounts I know, the gods destroyed humanity for selfish reasons.
“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Noah brought relief (noah) for humanity, beginning a new era in history.
Since Noah was a righteous and blameless man, he lived to please God. The Lord decided that Noah would not die with the rest of the world (Gen 6:8–10).
In other flood accounts, a man lived through the flood by luck or by tricking the gods.
The Epic of Gilgamesh says that one god wanted to save humanity from the god Enlil’s plan to kill everyone.
He spoke to a man’s house, knowing that the man would hear him. He said, “Reed-hut, reed-hut! Wall, wall! Reed-hut…Man of Shuruppak…tear down (this) house, build a ship! Give up possessions, seek thou life. Forswear (worldly) goods and keep the soul alive! Aboard the ship take thou the seed (offspring) of all living things.”
However, the salvation of Noah and his family was not an accident or a defeat of God’s plan (Gen 6:14–8:19).
The Lord told Noah exactly how to build the ark. He did not make him guess how to escape.
Also, there was no way to steer the boat. God took Noah to the right place.
Only after God gave him the plans did Noah learn why God told him to build a huge boat.
One pair of each kind of animal they could not eat or sacrifice would come to him. Seven pairs of each kind of animal they could eat or offer to God would arrive.
All others would die.
Using an ark, the Lord would save the righteous “offspring of the woman” and some animals (Gen 3:15).
God shut Noah and those with him inside the ark. He kept them safe in the middle of the strong storm.
By releasing the water from underground and from the sky, the Lord returned the earth to how it began.
The waters in the sky joined the waters from underground to reverse creation (Gen 1:2, 9).
The waters lifted the ark above the mountains.
The second half of the flood story occurs in reverse order of the first half.
The Lord sent a wind to blow over the earth to dry up the water.
God also stopped the water from coming from the ground and from the sky. He again separated the waters (Gen 1:7).
Soon, Noah could see the tops of the mountains, just like the dry ground showed on the third day of creation (Gen 1:9).
In all, Noah and the others stayed on the boat for exactly one year. Can you imagine having to stay inside a boat for a year?
Then, God told him to leave the ark and to let the animals go, so they could have babies and once again fill the earth (Gen 8:20–22).
The first thing Noah did when he left the ark was build an altar and sacrifice an animal.
When the Lord smelled the offering, he accepted it. God made an agreement with all humanity that he would never again destroy the earth by such a great flood (Gen 9:7–17).
Against the clouds—which once brought great destruction—God placed a bow pointing away from the earth up to the sky. It could not be used for fighting.
Each rainbow reminds God of that covenant.
One day, Noah planted a vineyard. While the wine brought Noah comfort from his hard work, it caused trouble (Gen 9:18–27).
He became drunk, took off his clothes, and was sleeping uncovered in his tent.
Canaan’s father, Ham, took a good look at Noah before making fun of his father to his brothers. Shem and Japheth covered their father without looking at him.
After waking up, Noah learned what his youngest son had done.
He cursed Ham’s youngest son, saying, “Canaan be cursed. The lowest of slaves he will be to his brothers.”
At the same time, Noah blessed the God of Shem, saying that godly people would come from that son.
In all, people from seventy different nations came from Noah. The photo at the top of this page shows a map of the world which was made in Babylon. It has the names of many of Noah’s descendants.
One of Shem’s descendants was named Eber, which sounds like “Hebrew” (Gen 10:21).
In Moses’ final writing about very ancient history, he wrote, “All people on the earth had one language and the same words. When they traveled east, they found a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there” (Gen 11:1–9).
In the Ancient Near East, people made cities for religious reasons and to make money. Sometimes, a group of temple buildings was all that was in a city.
It was a man-made mountain to allow the gods to move between heaven, the earth, and the underworld.
A small room at the top had a bed and a table, where priests left food for the god. Most importantly, stairs ran from the top to the bottom.
The gods could come down the stairs to visit the temple next to the ziggurat and meet with the people who worshiped them.
By building a ziggurat, the people in Shinar were saying that the creator of the universe could not travel to them without their help. They made God as small as people are.
This made the Lord angry. Yet, the tower did what the builders hoped. God came down to them.
To stop them from working together, God made the people unable to understand each other.
Once they couldn’t speak the same language, they moved far away with the people they could still understand.
Here, Moses reached the end of the very ancient history of humanity. Except for a few people, Gen 4–11 shows the deep sin of humanity. I wish that surprised me.
But Moses left us with hope: many years later, God helped our ancestor Abram. The Lord would once again save his people.
Main points to remember:
- God refused Cain’s gift but accepted Abel’s because of their attitudes. It was not what they brought that made the difference.
- Cain’s descendants were even more evil than he was.
- Eve saw that God would save humanity through Seth, her third son.
- Powerful kings took married women for themselves. Their sons were also strong men.
- God brought the flood because of this sexual sin and violence.
- However, God saw Noah as a righteous man, so he saved Noah, his family, and animals.
- The second half of the flood story occurs in reverse order of the first half, with the main idea being that “God remembered Noah.”
- When he got off the ark, Noah offered a sacrifice of thanks to God.
- The Lord then turned his bow up, a sign of peace. Every rainbow reminds God and us that he will never again destroy the earth with a flood.
- Noah got drunk and lay naked in his tent. Ham, his youngest son, made fun of him. Noah cursed Canaan, Ham’s youngest son. Someday, Israel would take Canaan’s land.
- Noah’s descendants made a great stairway for a god to come visit them. When the Lord saw what they could do by working together, he changed their languages. Not able to understand each other, they moved away with the few people they understood.
- God reversed what happened in Shinar on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–11, 37–47).
Discuss how you can apply what you have learned here to your life and ministry.
[You can find more information on this by finding the right verse in your bible, clicking on Chapters on my web site, clicking on the correct chapter, then on the correct verse]
Image via Wikimedia Commons This clay map, made in Babylon sometime between 700 and 500 BC, names many of Noah’s descendants.
James H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt (5 Vols.) (ARE) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1906), section 172–173, 3:82–83, https://archive.org/stream/cu31924082479241#page/n113/mode/2up.
Speiser, trans., “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” in ANET, 1.2.1, 73, https://archive.org/stream/in.gov.ignca.16119/16119#page/n61/mode/2up.
Speiser, trans., “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” in ANET, 1.8–32; 4:31–9, 73–4, 78, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n103/mode/2up. Italics original.
W.G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, trans., “Epic of Atra-Khasis,” in Readings of the Ancient Near East (RANE) (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 26, https://www.livius.org/sources/content/anet/104-106-the-epic-of-atrahasis/.
Speiser, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” in ANET, 11:9–27, 93, https://archive.org/stream/in.gov.ignca.16119/16119#page/n85/mode/2up, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=309929&partId=1.