Original post at http://jmsmith.org/blog/noah/
Hi Dojo readers,
In preparation for a Bible study I’m currently leading on Tuesdays in which we’re going through the book of Genesis, I’ve been studying the account of the flood of Noah’s day found in Gen. 6-9.
Part of what stands out to me when I read it in Hebrew (rather than particular English translations) is how much interpretive room there is over the details. So much of what we see and hear as kids growing up learning this story is really artistic license on the part of whichever Sunday school teacher or animated vegetable is telling the story!
To compound the issue, there is strong (and sometimes less-than-charitable) debate among interpreters regarding the nature and the extent of the flood itself. Was it truly a global flood where Mt. Everest was covered by 15 cubits of water? Or was it a widespread, but geographically contained, flood that wiped out all human beings throughout the Mediterranean basin and Ancient Near East?
To help the folks in my Bible study make their way through the account, I put together an interlinear translation of the story this week. (You can download it as a PDF document HERE.) I felt that it was important because there are many wordplays and verbal images that simply do not translate well into English, and which most Bible translations gloss over in an effort to maintain readability and good English. But I believe by doing this, the reader misses many nuances in the text, as well as the clear verbal links back to the Genesis creation account, as well as forward to the Exodus event.
Here is the rough, somewhat woodenly-literal translation I put together which seeks to leave the ambiguities of the text in place for the reader to wrestle with, and also leaves untranslated various Hebrew terms which are found particularly in the Creation narratives or which can be interpreted in more than one way.
I hope it helps you in your own reading and study of this well-known, but often-overlooked story in Scripture…which is most definitely NOT a children’s story!
(Hebrew terms in italics)
6:7 YHWH said, “I will wipe out adam (humanity) who I have created from the face of the adamah (ground)—from adam (human) to behemah (livestock) to remesh (crawler) to oph (flying thing) I have made, because I am sorry that I made them.”
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of YHWH. 9These are the toledoth (the generational account) of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, tamim (blameless) among his generation. Noah walked with God. 10Noah fathered 3 sons: Shem, Cham and Japheth.
11Now the land had become ruined before God. The land was filled with violence. 12God saw the land, and behold, she was ruined because all flesh had ruined his way upon the land. 13So God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh is coming before my face because the land is full of violence before their faces. Behold, I myself will ruin them along with the land.
14Make for yourself an ark of gopher (?) wood. Make ‘nests’ (compartments) in the ark and cover her inside and out with pitch. 15And this is how you will make her: The 300-cubit-long ark, 5o-cubit-wide and 30-cubit-high. 16You will make a roof for the ark and you will finish it to a cubit from on top/upwards. You will put a door in her ‘rib’ (side). You will make lower, 2nd and 3rd levels.
17For behold, I myself am bringing a cataclysm of water upon the land to ruin all flesh in whom there is ruach (spirit/breath) of life from under the sky—everyone that is in the land will breathe his last. 18But I will establish my covenant with you and bring into the ark you, your sons, your wife and the wives of your sons along with you.
19You will bring some of every chaya (animal)—from all flesh, two from each—into the ark to keep alive with you. They will be male and female. 20From oph (flying thing) according to his kind, and from behema (livestock) according to her kind, from every remesh (crawler) of the adamah (ground) according to his kind—two from each will come to you to be kept alive. 21And you be sure to take for yourself some every kind of food that will be your food. Gather it for yourself; it will be food for you and for them.
22So Noah did everything just like God commanded him. Thus he did.
7:1YHWH said to Noah, “Go, you and all your household, into the ark. Because you, I see, are righteous before me among this generation. 2Take for yourself some of each clean behemah (livestock)—7 by 7, a husband and his wife—and some behemah (livestock) which are not clean, 2 of her, a husband and his wife. 3Also, some oph (flying thing) of the sky—7 by 7, male and female—to keep alive seed on the face of all the land. 4Because in 7 more days I myself will be raining down upon the land 40-of-day and 40-of-night. I will wipe away all subsistence which I made from on the face of the adamah (ground).
5So Noah did everything just like YHWH commanded him.
6Now Noah was a 600-year-old when the cataclysmic waters came upon the land. 7So Noah and his sons, his wife and the wives of his sons went with him into the ark from the face of the cataclysmic waters. 8From the clean behemah (livestock) and from the behemah (livestock) which were not clean, and from of the oph (flying thing) and all that crawl upon the adamah (ground), 92 by 2 they came to Noah, into the ark, male and female, just as God had commanded Noah. 10And after the 7 days the cataclysmic waters were upon the land.
11In the 600th year of Noah’s life, in the 2nd month, on the 17th day of the month—on that day the springs of the great tehom (deep/abyss) burst open and the windows of the sky were opened, 12and the rain showers were upon the land 40-of-day and 40-of-night. 13On that very day they went into the ark: Noah, Shem, Cham, and Japheth the sons of Noah, Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with him. 14Them and every chayah (animal) according to their kind, every behemah (livestock) according to their kind, every remesh (crawler) crawling upon the land according to their kinds and every oph (flying thing) according to their kinds—every bird, every wing. 15For they had come to Noah into the ark 2, by 2, from all flesh in which there was ruach (spirit/breath) of life. 16So coming, male and female from all flesh, they came just as God commanded him and YHWH shut [the door] behind him.
17And the cataclysm was upon the land 40-of-day. The waters increased and lifted the ark and she rose from upon the land. 18The waters prevailed in battle and increased greatly over the land and the ark traveled upon the face of the waters. 19The waters prevailed in battle greatly—greatly!—over the land. All the high mountains which are under the whole sky were kussah (covered/clothed). 2015-cubit from on top/upwards the waters prevailed in battle and the mountains were kussah (covered/clothed). 21And every flesh crawling upon the land breathed his last—among oph (flying thing) and among behemah (livestock) and among chayah (animal) and among every sherets (swarmer) swarming upon the land…and all the adam (humanity). 22Everyone in whom was the breath of the ruach (spirit) of life in his nostrils, everyone who was on the dry land died. 23He wiped out all subsistence that was upon the face of the adamah (ground)—from adam (humanity) to behemah (livestock) to remesh (crawler) to oph (flying thing) of the sky, they were all wiped from the land.
Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. 24And the waters prevailed in battle over the land 150-of-day.
8:1But God remembered Noah and every chayah (animal) and every behemah (livestock) that was with him in the ark. So God caused a ruach (wind/spirit) to pass over the land and the waters abated. 2The springs of the deep and the windows of the sky were stopped up and the rain shower from the sky was held back. 3The waters returned from upon the land to where they came from. The waters diminished until the end of 150-of-day. 4And the ark rested, in the 7th month on the 17th day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. 5The waters were diminishing until the 10th month. On the 1st [day] of the 10th month the tops of the mountains were seen.
6At the end of 40-of-day Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7and he sent out a raven. But after going out it would return until the waters had dried up from upon the land. 8And he sent out a dove from inside [the ark] with him in order to see if the waters had gone down from upon the face of the adamah (ground). 9But the dove did not find rest for the sole of her foot so she returned to him into the ark, for water was over the face of all the land. So he stretched out his hand and he took her and brought her to him into the ark. 10He waited another 7 days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11The dove came back to him around evening and behold! A freshly-plucked leaf of an olive tree was in her mouth! So Noah knew that the waters had gone down from upon the land. 12He waited another 7 days and he sent out the dove. But she no longer returned to him again.
13In the 601st year, in the 1st month, the waters dried up from upon the land and Noah removed the covering of the ark. he looked and behold! The face of the adamah (ground) was dried up. 14In the 2nd month on the 17th day of the month the land dried. 15And God spoke to Noah saying, 16“Go out from the ark—you and your wife, your sons and the wives of your sons with you, 17every chayah (animal) that is with you from all flesh, among oph (flying thing) and among behemah (livestock) and among all remesh (crawler) crawling upon the land. Bring them out with you. Let them swarm on the land and be fruitful and increase upon the land. 18So Noah went out—his sons and his wife and the wives of his sons with him, every chayah (animal), every remesh (crawler), every oph (flying thing) and everything crawling upon the land—according to their clans, they went out from the ark.
20Noah built an altar to YHWH and he took from every clean behemah (livestock) and from every clean oph (flying thing) and he sacrificed them on the altar. 21YHWH smelled the soothing smell and YHWH said to his heart “I will never again curse the adamah (ground) on account of adam (humanity). Though the tendency of adam’s (humanity’s) heart is evil from his youth I will never again destroy all life like I have done. 22 Throughout all the days of the land—seed and harvest, cold and heat, Summer and Winter, day and night—they will not cease.