Prologue to Genesis

The Unauthorized Version

Genesis 9

Elohim blessed Noah and his sons and said, “Bear fruit, multiply, and fill the land! The fear of your force will take hold of every animal, every bird, every fish, and every creeping thing – you will grasp every one of them! Every creeping thing is food for you, just as you have been given every plant. But all flesh sustained by blood you must not eat. I will take your blood for every animal whose blood you take. And for the life of one of the adam, must be given the life of another.”

“Whoever pours out the dam of the adam, by the adam their own dam will be poured. For adam was created in the image of Elohim.”

“I stand to make a covenant with you, and your children, and their children, and with every living creature – the birds, the cattle, every animal of the land – all who have come out from the ark. I make this covenant with you and all flesh that never again will a flood destroy the land. This is a sign of the covenant I am making with you and every living thing for all successive generations: I set my bow in the cloud as a sign of a covenant between me and the land. When a cloud covers the land, then a bow will be seen in the cloud and I will remember this covenant which is between me, and you, and every living creature. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

The sons of Noah who came from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham is the father of Canaan. From these three sons of Noah the entire land was smashed open and scattered.

Noah polluted the adamah and planted a vineyard. He became drunk on the wine and exposed himself among his tents. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his brothers. But Shem and Japheth took a piece of cloth, held it between their shoulders, and walked backwards towards Noah so they wouldn’t see him, and covered him up. When Noah sobered up he knew what his younger son had done. So he cursed Canaan, “a slave of slaves to his brothers.” And then said, “Blessed be Yahweh, the god of Shem; let Canaan be his slave! Elohim make room for Japheth to live in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his slave.”

The age of Noah was 350 years following the flood. He died aged 950.

Translation notes

– The opening para is almost never translated as an injunction for vegetarianism. However, in my opinion it becomes much easier to make sense of the command re blood and life to translate it this way. It’s worth looking up other translations to see how much the language has to fall over itself to avoid prohibiting the eating of meat.

– I translated rainbow literally as ‘bow’, which is a weapon. The image is obviously a rainbow, but keeping the military allusion keeps the contrast with Yahweh’s role as a storm god. In addition I translated literally that the Elohim would put his bow in the ‘cloud’ rather than ‘sky’, since Yahweh, as storm god, is rider of the clouds. Make of that contrast what you will!

– The word for populated has allusions to breaking something apart, so I went for ‘smashed open and scattered’.

– Where I have used ‘polluted’, most English translations use ‘began’! The reason for this quite extreme change is that the word is full of really negative connotations in Hebrew, but this doesn’t usually come out in translation. It is the same word that opens the story of Noah in Chapter 6, and concludes it here at the end of Chapter 9, so it feels like a meaningful bookend. In Chapter 6, I said that ‘the adam polluted the face of the land’ where English translations usually translate that ‘humankind began to multiply on the earth.’ And here in Chapter 9, ‘Noah polluted the adamah’, where translations usually say ‘Noah began farming’. This is obviously quite a significant change to how the whole Noah story gets read.

Prologue to Genesis

The Unauthorized Version