A Promise of Stability

promise of seasons (2)

c) Gen 8:22: In this new creation after the flood (Gen 8:13–19),[1] the Lord’s blessing resulted in global stability. During our era the earth will return neither to primordial chaos nor to paradise (Cf. Gen 1:1–2; Rom 8:18–23).[2] God will not add to the curse upon the ground (Gen 3:17–19).

The Lord promised:

“As long as all the days of the earth,

sowing and harvesting,

and cold and heat,

and summer and the beginning of winter,

and day and night shall not cease.”

This statement limits the continuation of these patterns to as long as the earth remains.[3] Once again, the natural world would return to a predictable rhythm.[4]

The Lord assures us of regular cycles of the seasons and times of day until we enter the new creation (Rev 21–22:5).[5] Although the human heart remains erratic, nature will not be (Gen 8:20–21).[6]

God promised this in a series of four poetic couplets.[7].

“Sowing (zera) and harvesting (qatsir)” alludes to the seasonal cycles of cold (qor) and heat (khom) necessary to maintain a food supply (Gen 1:11–12). “Day (yom) and night” (laylah) refers to the diurnal pattern which began in Gen 1:14–18.[8]

The word translated as “cease” (shabat) comprises the verb corresponding to the noun “Sabbath.”[9] It points to something coming to an end (Gen 2:1–3).[10]

God promised that ruptures of this order shall not occur as long as this world exists in its present form.[11]

This concept flatly contradicts the premise of the fertility cults which many of the people of Israel soon accepted as reality (Num 25:1–9; 2 Ki 23:4–8).[12]

Adherents of these sects contended that the sexual activities of the gods directly affected the earth’s productivity.[13] Consequently, people engaged in sacred prostitution to prompt the gods to act.[14]

In the Canaanite pantheon, the storm god Baal produced fertile rains. His consort Anath and the goddess Asherah were both highly sexualized figures. Their adherents believed that divine amorous activities increased the yield of their harvests.[15]

One poem about Baal and Anath recounts this assertion by Asherah:

Now, too, the seasons of his rains will Baal observe, the seasons…with snow; And [he will] peal his thunder in the clouds, flashing his lightning to the earth…The Maiden Anath rejoices, stamps with her foot so the earth quakes. There, she is off on her way unto Baal upon Zaphon’s summit, o’er a thousand fields, ten thousand acres.

Laughing, the Maiden Anath lifts up her voice and cries, “Receive, Baal, the glad tidings I bring thee. They will build thee a house like thy brethren’s and a court like unto thy kindred’s. Summon weeds into thy house, herbs into the midst of thy palace. The mountains shall bring thee much silver, the hills a treasure of gold; they’ll bring thee god’s grandeur aplenty, a house of most pure lapis lazuli.”

Puissant Baal rejoiced.[16]

A hymn to the Mesopotamian goddess Inana makes an explicit connection to agricultural fertility. It claims, “You are she who creates apples in their clusters…You are she who creates the date spadices in their beauty.”[17]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Gen 8:22. What are the implications of God’s vow to not add to the curse upon the ground? Why did he make that promise? How does this poem differ from other Ancient Near Eastern accounts? Why did fertility cults ensnare so many people in ancient Israel?

 

 

 

 

Go to A Renewed Mandate

 

[Related posts include In the Beginning of God’s Creating (Gen 1:1–2); Dry Ground Appears (Gen 1:9–13); Greater and Lesser Lights (Gen 1:14–19); God Completes the Heavens and the Earth (Gen 2:1–2); The Lord Blesses the Seventh Day (Gen 2:3); Thorns and Thistles (Gen 3:17–18); Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); Renewal of the Earth (Gen 8:6–14); Bring Them Out (Gen 8:15–19); Noah’s Grateful Response (Gen 8:20); A Rest-Inducing Aroma (Gen 8:21); Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18); Creation’s Eager Expectation (Rom 8:19); Subjected to Futility (Rom 8:20); The New Holy City (Rev 21:10–11); A Return to Paradise (Rev 22:1–5, 20); Hebrew Poetry; and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: A Covenant with Noah (Genesis 8:20–9:17)]

 

[1]Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 224.

[2]Walton, Genesis, 330–1.

[3]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 143.

[4]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 310.

[5]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 191.

[6]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 310.

[7]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 310.

[8]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 143.

[9]Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “שָׁבַת” (shābath), BDB, 991.

[10]E. Haag, “שָׁבַת” (shābath), TDOT, 14:381–6, 382.

[11]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 190.

[12]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 310–1.

[13]Eugene Fisher, “Gilgamesh and Genesis: The Flood Story in Context,” CBQ 32 (1970): 392–403, 393, Http://www.godawa.com/chronicles_of_the_nephilim/Articles_By_Others/Fisher-GilgameshAndGenesis.pdf.

[14]Joseph P. Healey, “Fertility Cults,” ABD 2:791–3, 792.

[15]Healey, “Fertility Cults,” ABD 2:792.

[16]Ginsberg, “Poems About Baal and Anath,” in ANET, IIAB5:64–97, 133, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n157/mode/2up. Italics original.

[17]Naomi F. Miller, “Symbols of Fertility and Abundance in the Royal Cemetery at Ur, Iraq,” AJA 117, no. 1 (1 January 2013): 127–33, 128, http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/10.3764/aja.117.1.0127.pdf.