16 October 2006

The Power of Story

My husband and I have been reading through Genesis. Here’s the thing about Genesis: Moses is telling this story to the Israelites, who are about to enter this scary land of Canaan with “giants” and all sorts of warriors. Moses can’t go with them. He’s staying behind, so he tells them this story to encourage them, something to take with them to remember about their God and their history. Some of those “what on earth?” passages begin to make sense.
Take, for example, the Nephilim and the whole bout with “sons of God” having sex with the “daughters of humankind” and producing offspring. These sons of God were most likely some sort of spiritual being, whether demon possessed men or angelic beings (compare with the usage of this phrase in Job). The text makes it very clear that this was not a good thing. A horrible thing, actually, that causes God to shorten lifespans of these immoral mortal humans. These “biblical relations,” shall we call them, produced offspring. The text implies, although it does not actually say, that these Nephilim, these giants who became mighty warriors, were a product of this horrid event. And then the text continues to talk about God’s disappointment with wicked human and the flood.
Here’s the deal: Canaanite leaders (the Canaanite leaders whom Israel would fight) claimed to be divine because they were descended from Nephilim, whom they believed to be divine. Intimidating.
Not so much, Moses said. Not so much divine as wicked. Yes, they may have been great warriors, Moses concedes, but just mortal, and wicked mortal at that. Caused things like shorten lifespans and the flood. No reason to fear them. Our God is greater.
Than there’s the story of Noah’s drunken stupor. He goes to bed naked. His youngest son, Ham, walks in on him and goes out making fun of him. Shames his dad, disgraces him. Bad son. Shem and Japheth, however go through great pains to make sure they cover their father and preserve his honor while averting their eyes. (It’s a middle east shame-honor thing. We westerners don’t always get these things.) Noah cursed Ham and his descendents but blessed Shem and his descendents. (Whatever happened to poor forgotten Japheth?)
So from Ham, we learn in begets, comes Canaan. From Shem comes Israelites. You, Moses tells the Israelites, are the blessed ones. Those Canaanites? Cursed. You’re good to go.
Love how Moses weaves these stories.


Michelle Pendergrass said...

I love that about the whole Bible.

Thank you!!

My favorites right now is Joshua and David.

People miss that Joshua was in God's presence. Moses usually gets all the credit for it, but Joshua was there. He even (pretty well demanded) that daylight be kept until he finished a battle and God let it be. Amazing stuff.

Mirtika said...

Yeah, think how totally convinced one must be in one's mission to just say, "Sun, be still," knowing God will take care of it.



Jennifer Tiszai said...

To me that just one of the coolest things about being a storyteller, having this special gift of using words.

Gina said...

We've been studying the Old Testament with my kids for the last three homeschooling years and the recurrent theme we've picked up with in every story is obedience!

We also wrote out the geneology of Adam to Noah and noticed who the first man was to have more than one wife.

Another take on the "Sons of God" and "Sons of Man" is that the sons of man were descendants of Cain while the son's of God were descendants from Seth. It's amazing when we went back through the chronology we saw sinful line of Cain while Seth's lineage followed after God.

I've really learned so much since homeschooling!

Pamela said...

Our home group just did a study in Genesis.
Two things struck me.. the first being very silly, I know.

I can't get over that Sarah (Abraham's wife) was at 90 years old such a beautiful woman, that he lied -- said she was his sister, so he wouldn't be killed.

Then, the thing with Noah... and the purity. Were the other people being made impure through the "blood" of sexual relations with supernatural . Noah was chosen because he still had the pure line for the Savior to be born through?

L.L. Barkat said...

Okay, this was beautifully written!

My favorite line... "So from Ham, we learn in begets, comes Canaan." ... I think you've got something with this biblical discussion media...

Beyond Words said...

Heather, are you saying Moses was telling (inpsired) camp fire stories? This is wonderful. And timely. I begin teaching a youth group study tomorrow night giving an overview of themes of the Bible. I would love to know more of the Moses-as-storyteller context. It seems like something 9-10th graders could latch onto.

Heather said...

BW-The Israelites lived in an oral culture. These stories were told around camp fires all the time. Moses wrote them down, inspired by God. I believe he told these stories to the Israelites as he was leaving them and they were moving on for a specific purpose, to remind them of God's redemption and promises to them.
The whole story of the Bible intriques me, comparing Rev. 21 & 22 to Genesis 1&2. Creation - fall - redemption - restoration & recreation. And the end, the recreation is more amazing than the creation. After we fell, God loves us that much.

sage said...

the theological depth of the stories in Genesis--and what they say about God and humankind--are often missed today

You noted you were interested in a Craig Child's after reading my quotes, I recommend "The Secret Knowledge of Water" instead of "Soul of Nowhere" Child's is a hydrologist--who wanders around studying water in the desert.

Dineen A. Miller said...

My brain is too weary to follow all this tonight. LOL! Been reading Daniel. God is one amazing storyteller!