Show produced by Cooper Peltz with Associate Producer Lindsey Ponder, Lead Editor Dan Gummel, and Editors Tyler Bailey and Frank Garza. Mixed by Tyler Bailey. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by Hannah Woo.
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Speaker 1: Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain becomes jealous of his brother Abel, and he kills him. Cain, the first murderer in the Bible is also the founder of the very first city in the Bible. Cain builds a city as a place of protection, but the city embodies the fear and jealousy and violence of Cain. And so it's no surprise that the next person that we learn about in the city of Cain is a vicious man named Lemek.
Speaker 2: What God appointed Adam and Eve to do together, the two to be one and to rule together over the animals. Now you get one guy who takes two, so he begins to treat women like animals to be accumulated. And then he mutates or distorts the rule or power that he has to take life instead of to preserve life. So he's, he's the anti-Adam.
Speaker 1: As the story of humanity continues to unfold, the violence of humanity increases. In Genesis 6, we learned that things get so bad that the whole land is full of violence.
Speaker 2: That little phrase, the land was full, is a tragic inversion of God's blessing, be fruitful and multiply and fill the land. And humans have multiplied all kinds of stuff. And what they've multiplied is the innocent blood that is crying out from the ground.
Speaker 1: God's response to human violence is to flood the earth. And if that response feels complicated, well, it's because it is
Speaker 2: God's purpose to rule the world through humans, that's the thing God never gives up on. But now what he's acknowledging is humans are bad. Humans are a mix of good and bad, but that bad tends to scale. God is saying, okay, if this is the partner I have to work with, I have to concede to the state of their heart, which means that God is going to begin to engage in what looks to us, the reader, like moral compromises as he works with these humans. What else is the story of the Old Testament but God behaving in really complicated ways?
Speaker 1: Today, Tim Mackie and I talk about God's response to the cycle of human violence in the scroll of Genesis. I'm Jon Collins, and you're listening to BibleProject podcast. Thanks for joining us. Here we go. Hey, Tim.
Speaker 2: Hey. Hello, Jon. Here we go.
Speaker 1: Here we go. In the city. We're talking city.
Speaker 2: Yep. We're talking city. We're living in a city. We are having this conversation right in the heart of our city.
Speaker 1: There's a little, little window behind us. Some apartments. And if you just keep going, you're downtown in the heart of it.
Speaker 2: We used to be able to look out the recording room window and see downtown Portland. Like the skyline.
Speaker 1: And then they built the apartment,
Speaker 2: And then there was a big apartment building that completely blocked our view.
Speaker 1: Cities.
Speaker 2: There you go. Life in the city.
Speaker 1: More people.
Speaker 1: Do you know, do you notice that this intersection right here often smells like sewer?
Speaker 2: Oh yeah. Walking by it? Yes. Oh, yeah. Yeah. It rises up. On a really cold day, you can see the steam from the manhole cover, you know, there's little holes. It comes up and it smells terrible.
Speaker 1: It's pretty consistent. Like something's wrong right there.
Speaker 2: You think it's wrong? Or is it just, I don't, we're also close to the river, which divides Portland between east and west. And so I think there's a lot of sewer lines that, from all the east side of Portland, all start channeling together in this literally between here and the 10 blocks in the river.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Welcome to the city.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the city. Anyhow, we are in the city, or as they used to say in, uh, the upper Midwest where I live for many years, anyhoo.
Speaker 1: Anyhoo.
Speaker 2: Anyhoo.
Speaker 1: So yeah, we live in this city, and most of the world's population lives in the city.
Speaker 2: Dude. Yes. And the UN, this is the middle of November 2022, the UN just released a report that's, by the end of this year, there will be 8 billion humans on the planet. I've been saying seven and a half for a number of years, but —
Speaker 1: No, it took, I don't know how many tens of thousands of years for humanity to get to 1 billion. Like a lot.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah.
Speaker 1: And I mean, depending on how you count. And then three centuries,
Speaker 2: Mm.
Speaker 1: Less than three centuries. To get from one to eight.
Speaker 2: Yeah. It's gonna be 10 point something by 2050. It's wild.
Speaker 1: And all these people are living in cities and there's a, the urbanization trend is also growing rapidly. So more and more people living in what we call cities. And what we call a city goes from anything to like a suburb to like a metropolis to like a mega-metropolis.
Speaker 2: Yeah. It's blurry in my mind what constitutes a town, and when a town transitions to a city.
Speaker 1: This is the classic thing, like with all, with everything. Like what's a stream versus a river?
Speaker 2: Yeah. Versus a brook.
Speaker 1: Versus a brook.
Speaker 2: Or a creek.
Speaker 1: Or when does a, when does a pond become a lake?
Speaker 2: Yeah, right. There you go. Yeah. Or a lake become a sea?
Speaker 1: Yes, exactly.
Speaker 2: Anyhow, we digress, but not, not fully. I think the point maybe that you're moving towards with that comment is that the way we conceive of cities is based on some set of blurry criteria, uh, that are really different than how the biblical authors thought about what a city is and how they describe them. And therefore, the role that they play in the biblical story is both similar, but also different from how we imagine cities.
Speaker 1: Yeah. In the simplest form, a city is a place where people live, where they, you have a wall, right?
Speaker 2: Yeah. And the walled enclosure is key. So in other words, the Hebrew word is ir, and it can refer to what we would for sure call a town, or even, medieval like a hamlet.
Speaker 1: That's right. Hamlet was the word.
Speaker 2: Yeah. But if it has a wall around it, it's ir in Hebrew. So it could be a few hundred people, few thousand, tens of thousands. And tens of thousands is reaching, like, the upper end. In the book of Jonah, Nineveh is described as a city with 120,000.
Speaker 1: And that's the one that's huge.
Speaker 2: That's like megalopolis.
Speaker 1: That's like our equivalent of, like, a Tokyo or something.
Speaker 2: Yeah, exactly.
Speaker 1: Now, empire is like, Babylon is not a city. It's like a lot of cities. Was there a different Hebrew word for kingdom, empire? Like how does that relate to city?
Speaker 2: Oh funny. That’s so, we're gonna look at that today. Actually, yeah. Once you transcend to networks of cities out of one central hub or capital, you just start getting the language of kingdom in mamlaka or [Hebrew]. So yeah, different. So cities are talking about walled enclosures that are hubs of networks of unwalled towns right outside, branching out from the city where, where all the farming takes place.
Speaker 1: So in these conversations, we're really laser-focused on the city and not as the city's become what we would call kingdom. Or is that, are we gonna get a blurry line between those?
Speaker 2: Ah, cities become emblematic of, or icons for kingdoms. Yeah.
Speaker 1: Okay. That's what I was kinda expecting.
Speaker 2: And actually, this was in our first conversation, but the whole of the ancient Near East in the time of the, especially the earlier parts of the Bible, the stories about Abraham, and even into Joshua, it was a city-state society. So each large city had its own king and could be called a kingdom. But then there's, it's just scaling up. Babylon just becomes the kingdom of kingdoms kind of thing. And every king of every city becomes, you know, like a subordinate to the king of Babylon. Yep.
Speaker 1: Okay. So as we started this conversation, you set the stage to kind of say, look, the way the Bible begins is in a garden. And where people actually thrive is amongst trees and water and kind of garden settings.
Speaker 2: Yeah, exactly.
Speaker 1: And when a city, that is a place where people are gonna live and create a wall around, when that shows up, that shows up amidst violence and revenge and, like, fear. And this is the story of Cain.
Speaker 2: Exactly right. Yep.
Speaker 1: And so cities are a problem.
Speaker 2: Cities are a symptom of what is not good outside, outside of Eden.
Speaker 1: That's, that's good to say. The city's not the problem. The cities are the symptom.
Speaker 2: It's a, it's a result. Yeah. So where we went in the first few conversations was the first thing that is not good in all of God's good world — seven times God pronounces it good after creating the sky and the land and the sea — is a human alone. Because a human alone can't accomplish the human vocation, which is to multiply and to steward and have responsibility over creation. So God splits the human, and the human, um, the woman that is the delivering ally for the lone human, she is called the ezer, which means delivering ally. And so God provides that as the resolution of this crisis of what is not good. But then that partnership gets fractured through folly and breaking God's wise command as the humans wanna take wisdom for themselves. So they're exiled from Eden. They have children, Cain and Abel. And then we watched how Cain replays his parents' failure and folly, not with a tree, but with a brother. And he murders his brother. And so God does to Cain what he did to Adam and Eve, which is exile them to the east. And so Cain is freaked out.
Speaker 1: Yeah. He's now, like, wandering in the east. He is worried that someone's gonna like avenge —
Speaker 2: Yeah. Whoever finds me will kill me. Yeah. Not an unwarranted concern. And so what Yahweh’s —
Speaker 1: And what's interesting is how you set this up, the thing that was not good was being alone. And here's Cain out alone.
Speaker 2: Now. Yeah. He's out a wanderer again. Yeah. Yeah. It's not good. And so God also provides something for Cain. What he provides him is an ot in Hebrew, which is the word for sign or symbol. And so this is the last conversation that we just had. But Cain apparently doesn't find that symbol trustworthy enough.
Speaker 1: And the symbol was a sign that God will protect him.
Speaker 2: Actually, that God would avenge anybody who kills him. The way you put it actually made me think of it in a new way. Which is kind of like a, so how about just preventing me from being killed? Like, that's what I would prefer. And so —
Speaker 1: I guess I have to do that for myself.
Speaker 2: Yeah. So Cain goes out from that, and in this very not good situation of being alone, he goes out and two things happen. He finds a wife for himself, which is what God provided for the not good situation in Eden. Now here's Cain in a not good situation outside of Eden, and he obtains a wife. We're not told who or how, he just does. And then we're told that they had a baby together. And then he builds a city. And building of a city. That little phrase build, the last time it got used is when God builds the woman. And what God built was the ezer, delivering ally. And what Cain builds is an ir, a city, which is, the words look almost identical graphically to the word ezer.
Speaker 1: And for him it's a delivering, like, fortress. Ally.
Speaker 2: Yeah. But the contrast is that in this not good situation, God gave him something
Speaker 1: A sign.
Speaker 2: A sign, a symbol. And what he decides to do is build his own means of deliverance, which is the city.
Speaker 1: So you're saying if we just trust God, we don't need cities.
Speaker 2: That and remember, the primary association with cities is a walled enclosure to prevent people from attacking and killing you and taking your stuff. So you don't, you wouldn't need that inside of Eden.
Speaker 1: And we talked about fences and, like, gates and stuff.
Speaker 2: Oh yeah, exactly right. Yeah. So cities are a symptom of, that things are not good outside of Eden. Because we can't trust each other. You might have a different idea of good and bad than I do. Your knowledge of good and bad might be different than mine. And your version of good might involve, like, beating me up and taking my stuff. So I'm gonna build an ir and protect myself ‘cause I can't depend on God to do that. And so this idea of the protection of the city and who, the city of man versus the garden of God as this un-walled place that's safe and secure, these become contrasting images.
Speaker 1: There’s not a wall, but there's like a bouncer.
Speaker 2: . Oh yeah, totally. Yeah. There's the fiery sword.
Speaker 1: Yeah. It's got its own type of,
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Speaker 1: You know, wall, I suppose.
Speaker 2: Yeah, totally. But the point is that it's, it's a wall of God's own security. God's presence and his messengers are the security. Whereas here, it's a human providing security for themselves. So what we're gonna track in this conversation is two parallel stories that flow out of Cain and his city. The narrator of Genesis follows the genealogy of Cain down through the generations. And what we see is the intensifying of human murder and spilling of innocent blood in the land. And that leads God to deal with it. So — I'm so sorry. So we have a YouTube channel and uh, have you seen the YouTube channel called the Hydraulic Press Channel? It's this guy —
Speaker 1: You introduced this to me years ago. You said you watched it with your kids. And so I started watching it with my kids.
Speaker 2: We, so we watched some recently. So I, I forget where the guy's from. He has a thick eastern European accent. And, um,
Speaker 1: There’s a couple of these, but I know the guy you're talking about.
Speaker 2: Yeah. And so, basically he has this hydraulic press in his shop and he just —
Speaker 1: Smashes things.
Speaker 2: Yeah. And, and now he has people send him suggestions, and then he smashes them and films them with super high resolution GoPros from every angle. And then you just watch it in super slow motion, like, get crushed and explode. And it's, I don't know why it's so entertaining. But half an hour can go by and we'll watch a dozen things get smashed and it's mesmerizing. So every time he smashes an object, what he says is like, he'll be like, and here is the bowling ball we're about to press. We shall have to deal with it.
Speaker 1: In his Scottish accent?
Speaker 2: Well, no, it's a Eastern European. Yeah, totally. And, uh, we shall deal with it And so God has to deal with, uh, deal with the open flow of human violence.
Speaker 1: He’s gotta put the press down on humanity?
Speaker 2: Yes and it's, it all flows out of this city. The whole thing is that all, everything bad that leads up to the flood, it narratively flows out of this city. And then that leads to the flood. Then what we'll see is the moment Noah and his sons get off the flood. One of his sons, his youngest son, Ham, who also we begin a lineage from him that leads to yet the building of another city that God will have to deal with it. And we're gonna look at these two parallel stories. The city of Cain that leads to the flood. And we're gonna look at the city of Nimrod that leads to the great scattering. And these are two parallel stories that the nar— author of Genesis has put next to each other. And that's all a study in the nature of human cities and how they scale and escalate human evil to systemic and corporate levels. It's really fascinating. And this is a relevant set of meditations, I think, to understand human life. That it's not just, a city isn't just like a conglomeration of individuals. When you put a bunch of individuals together, it becomes something bigger and more that is its own category of thing that can only be dealt with on a corporate or a communal level.
Speaker 1: What do you mean dealt with?
Speaker 2: Well, deal with it. Uh. It's sort of like if you and I have a problem individually, you and I can sit down and, you know, we can talk about it. We're business partners in the BibleProject, like we've been — And so, like if you and I had a conflict, it may come that we have to like —
Speaker 1: Deal with it.
Speaker 2: But get some papers out and, like, talk about well here's what we just said yes to or no to, I don't know, whatever. But the, what if there's a hundred of you and a hundred of me? Like, it's just, it's different.
Speaker 1: Now we're getting judges and we're getting, like, the body politic is happening.
Speaker 2: Sys, systems. Yeah. Systems, politics. And the biblical authors are very, very interested in the relationship between individual folly and failure and moral compromise and systemic evil and folly. And they are, you know, they're similar to each other, but they're also different. And the city is the image of systemic corporate human evil. That's what we're looking at.
So in the last episode, we actually tracked with Cain building his city. And he names it after his firstborn son Enoch. So all of a sudden, the story about Cain stops and he just disappears. He's gone from the story. We just get a short genealogy going down the generations: to Enoch was born Irad; Irad, Mehujael; Mehujael birthed Methushael; and Methushael birthed Lemek.
Speaker 1: Lemek.
Speaker 2: Lemek.
Speaker 1: Is that seven generations?
Speaker 2: It's the, Lemek is the seventh from Adam.
Speaker 1: Seventh from Adam, okay.
Speaker 2: Yeah, from Cain's dad.
Speaker 1: All right, here we go. Seventh.
Speaker 2: Lemek. And this is old, like years ago, little detail, but it's worth noting. There's two Lemeks in the Bible. This guy. And then if you follow through Adam and Eve's other son, Seth, Lemek is the father of Noah.
Speaker 1: Yeah. This gets so confusing. There's so many repeat names in those two genealogies.
Speaker 2: The line from Cain, son of Adam, and the line from Seth, son of Adam, are all filled with names that are full of the identical letters but just, like, switched around. Because they're mirror images of each other. The line of — the snake-like line, this one, and the line of the seed of the woman.
Speaker 1: Oh, Cain’s line versus Seth's line.
Speaker 2: Seth's line is about the snake versus the woman. And they're hard to tell apart. Even their names are all spelled similarly.
Speaker 1: Interesting. Oh, that's fascinating. Okay. Hard to tell apart.
Speaker 2: Just like the tree of knowing good and bad, it was hard to tell because it looked like all the other trees.
Speaker 1: Just like it's hard to separate wheat from the chaff or the weeds from the grain.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Like in Jesus' parable.
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Speaker 2: Yeah. It's exactly right. So Lemek all of a sudden, just right there, his name is king spelled backwards. Just the Hebrew word for king, melek, Lemek. And Lemek took for himself two wives. Now just right there.
Speaker 1: Yeah. It's like, if it's good to have one wife, it's doubly good to have two wives.
Speaker 2: It's very interesting. But in the little poem about the union of the man and the woman in Eden, it says that the union in Eden, let's kind of set this paradigm for the, uh, a man and a woman, the two become one. And now here is one, not becoming one with another one.
Speaker 1: But like taking two.
Speaker 2: But one taking two. Yeah. And you're like, oh, I don't think that's good. Like, that's not what God provided. He takes more for himself than what God had provided in Eden. This is, we're like, this guy's kind of like Cain.
Speaker 1: In a very fundamental way of, like, what does it mean to be the image of God?
Speaker 2: Yes. Yeah. That’s right.
Speaker 1: Kind of immediately goes, like, image of God is presented as male and female together as one. And he's saying, actually I'm gonna, like, take women and, almost making himself more the image of God.
Speaker 2: Yeah. So this is a great example of the biblical narrator doesn't say, and what he did was bad in the eyes of the Lord. But that's the conclusion you're supposed to draw based on comparing the Eden ideal. And also by looking at the kind of character who does this thing and what happens to them or what they cause in the world. So he took for himself two wives. The name of one was “ornament,” Adah. And the name of the other was, uh, “shelter,” Zillah. Now Adah gave birth to “stream.”
Speaker 1: Ja-bal. Jabal.
Speaker 2: He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. And you're like, oh, all right. We're getting branches off of like animal husbandry. It’s turning into a whole trade and a whole family business. The brother's, his brother's name was “creek,” Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the lyre and the pipe. He’s got like the, what, the guild. The guild of musicians.
Speaker 1: Okay. Artists here.
Speaker 2: Yep. Now Zillah, shelter, she also gave birth to Tubal-Cain, which is another word for stream.
Speaker 1: Oh really?
Speaker 2: So they have three sons named —
Speaker 1: Three waters.
Speaker 2: Creek, Brook, and Stream.
Speaker 1: How does Jubal-Cain means stream?
Speaker 2: Jubal?
Speaker 1: Oh no, sorry. Tubal.
Speaker 2: Tubal. Ah, Tual means stream. And then Cain is his ancestor all the way back to six generations earlier. So stream of Cain.
Speaker 1: Stream of Cain, okay.
Speaker 2: And he literally flowed from Cain’s seed, so to speak. So, and he was the forger of all implements of bronze and iron. That's a little ominous.
Speaker 1: Because those are kind of like —
Speaker 2: Weapons. I mean, there's two things you're doing with those. You're either, like, striking the ground to farm, or you're striking animals or you're striking humans. What do you, what do you need metal for? Except to, right? Work the ground —
Speaker 1: They're not building skyscrapers
Speaker 2: Or, not yet. And not with metal.
Speaker 1: And not with metal.
Speaker 2: Yeah, totally.
Speaker 1: So this might be not where you're going with this, but why this little, you know, to me this always struck me as, let me tell you about the invention of technology in the world or like, how humans progressed in culture and technology.
Speaker 2: Yeah, that's right. That's the motif here. Totally. Yeah. All flowing outta the city.
Speaker 1: Okay. And to me that feels like cool. This is like, we're progressing, like, we're learning. how to dwell in tents and have livestock. That's great.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Totally. Yeah.
Speaker 1: Like before that, what were we,
Speaker 2: Yes. Yeah.
Speaker 1: That we didn't have tents and we didn't, we just always had to just hunt and now we got music. And we're, like, learning metallurgy. Is that the right word?
Speaker 2: Yeah. This is exactly the right word.
Speaker 1: Like that's, this is great.
Speaker 2: It is great. Yeah. It's not inherently bad. No, it's be, I think it's the aspect of being fruitful and multiplying. Just like —
Speaker 1: But it's actually, but it's positioned here right after being introduced to Lemek, and what we haven't talked about yet, but we know Lemek's a bad dude.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. What's he gonna do with his ax?
Speaker 1: And it's positioned here after being introduced to the city via Cain and his, like, paranoia. So it's situated in a place where I, I guess, am I supposed to be suspicious of all of this?
Speaker 2: But also in the midst of this city that was born out of fear and because of a need, out of the fear of human violence, you also have all these births, all these children.
Speaker 1: And the births are streams. And streams are like a really good thing, right?
Speaker 2: Right. Yeah. Like the streams of Eden.
Speaker 1: The streams of Eden. So I’m like, we're still getting streams and we're getting, humanity’s progressing.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Remember there were four streams out of Eden. Now we're here. And we just went through three sons all named Stream, Crook —
Speaker 1: Yeah, coming out of Cain.
Speaker 2: Creek and Brook, coming out of Cain. And then you're given a fourth. A daughter. The sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah, which means delight. It's a synonym of Eden.
Speaker 1: Oh wow.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Speaker 1: What did she invent? She doesn't get an invention.
Speaker 2: No. She just gets this awesome name.
Speaker 1: Yeah. The, like, pinnacle name. Delight.
Speaker 2: Yeah, exactly. So just like there were four rivers, four rivers that flowed out of the one river of Eden. So now here's Cain who just got exiled out of Eden. And out of him come four descendants named Stream, Creek, and Brook and Delight.
Speaker 1: Okay. So this actually is feeling like a heaven and earth hotspot just kind of appearing in the wilderness suddenly, in a way. When you describe it that way.
Speaker 2: Yeah. It's being fruitful and multiplying. I think it's this image, narrative imagery associating the blessing that follows Cain. So even though humans are not in Eden, the blessings of Eden can still sprout and surprise.
Speaker 1: So this paragraph is the blessing of Eden, surprisingly coming in this setting where we are like really worried and suspicious.
Speaker 2: Yeah. But things are not all okay. ‘Cause this is one man producing all of these kids from two wives. That's not cool. That's not Eden. And then what this guy's about to do, is also not cool. So this paragraph about Lemek is designed in three parts. We're told he takes two wives.
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Speaker 2: This first line. The middle part is about the four descendants. And then he gives a speech to his wives, and you hear that he's a murderous guy. So you get a bad thing, he takes two wives. You get a good thing, fruitful and multiplying in all the descendants. Then you get another —
Speaker 1: Streams of progress.
Speaker 2: Yeah. And then you get another bad thing. Lemek’s even more murderous than Cain. So it, outside of Eden, it's a mix of good and bad. Yeah. Bad, good, bad. In other words, the literary design of this paragraph about Lemek is itself a meditation on how —
Speaker 1: The complexity of life outside the garden.
Speaker 2: It's not all bad. It's a mix of good and bad. And sometimes they're hard to tell apart.
Speaker 1: But God still wants to show up in the midst of — He gave, he gave Cain a sign. And then even in this city with Lemek, who we're gonna learn about, the descendants are described as streams. And there's kind of, civilization is growing.
Speaker 2: That's right. And the invention of metallurgy is also not inherently bad. But if it produces farm implements, it can give life. And if it produces ax heads and war hammers and battle axes, then it will take life. Which is —
Speaker 1: Well maybe no one will think of that.
Speaker 2: Maybe no one will think of that.
Speaker 1: We’ll just make plows.
Speaker 2: And Lemek said to his wives, Ornament and Shelter, Ada and Zillah, listen to my voice. Wives of Lemek, hear my speech. It's, this is very, uh, classic Semitic-style poetry. So he's, he's about to say something important. I have killed a man for wounding me and a boy for striking me. This word kill, harag. It's the same word of what Cain did to Abel in the field. And if Cain is avenged seven times, then let Lemek be avenged 77 times.
Speaker 1: Hmm.
Speaker 2: And this is the song of Lemek.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Steer clear of this guy.
Speaker 2: Yeah, totally. Don't get in a bar fight with Lemek. He’ll chop your head off. He'll chop your head off. So it's a song. The poetic form turns this into like a boast, a glory hymn of his battle prowess.
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Speaker 2: And even for someone, striking is, you know, kind of could be anywhere from a slap to, like, you can kill by striking. But wounding specifically, like, it's not a mortal blow. But your pride or your honor might be wounded. And so he's just chopping heads for anybody who's in my way.
Speaker 1: These are two different people. Is it and a boy?
Speaker 2: Well it's just, it's two lines of poetic parallelism. But I think the contrast of man and boy and the contrast of wound and strike, it's kinda like from young or old. nd from a more severe strike to a severe wound. Basically, if anybody does anything to me, I'm gonna kill you. That's kind of the idea.
Speaker 1: And I'm in the right. Get outta my way.
Speaker 2: Yeah. And then —
Speaker 1: God will protect me.
Speaker 2: He appeals to the protection God vowed for Cain. And says, well man, if I am the seventh generation from Adam through Cain, then I don't just get seven times, I get 77 times. But he takes what was a gracious gift of mercy to Cain and he uses it to, like, write his own, as license for, for his own revenge.
Speaker 1: And where does he get this seven times, 77 times? Cain was given a sign. He was given one sign.
Speaker 2: Yes. And then God said, whoever strikes Cain, I will avenge seven times over.
Speaker 1: Oh, okay. Okay.
Speaker 2: So he's taking what God offered to Cain as a gracious gift of mercy and protection and he's turning that into license to kill. 77 times over. So, incidentally, this is surely what Jesus is alluding to when Peter comes to him and says, how —
Speaker 1: How often should I forgive?
Speaker 2: Forgive my brother. Seven? Up to seven times? And he says, I tell you 77 times. He's playing with,
Speaker 1: He's reversing this.
Speaker 2: Yeah. He's playing with Peter's use of seven and then he's alluding to this story. But he’s, essentially what he's saying is, my disciples should be the kind of forgiveness people who are about reversing the spiral of violence from Cain to Lemek.
Speaker 1: Yeah, human nature is to take God's protection and abundance and turn it up for their own advantage in a way that just brings violence. And Jesus is saying, take God's protection and forgiveness and abundance and turn it up towards more abundance and forgiveness.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. Abundance of forgiveness instead of an abundance of violence.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Wow. Cool.
Speaker 2: Yep. So, you know, it's a short little story about Cain's line, but all of a sudden you have seven generations later and it's what Cain was, but just scaled up. And it's all streams out of the city.
Speaker 1: And it's connected to the city because, one, his name means king, or it's a play on the word king.
Speaker 2: Correct. Yep.
Speaker 1: And is that the only real connection?
Speaker 2: Well, he builds a city, he names it Enoch. Then you get the genealogy that goes directly from Enoch to Lemek, that is king. And then here's king.
Speaker 1: So what happens to cities, people in cities as the cities grow with people and with new inventions.
Speaker 2: You get the growth of creativity, technol — specialization.
Speaker 1: This could become just great. Like we could just be better at finding food and harvesting food and —
Speaker 2: Playing music. Art.
Speaker 1: Playing music. And you're like cool —
Speaker 2: Metallurgy. And remember, the flow of the list goes from animal domestication to music to metallurgy to —
Speaker 1: Delight.
Speaker 2: To naamah. Yeah. Which is the synonym for delight. Eden. Eden.
Speaker 1: Yeah. So this is where it could go. And instead, where does it go? Goes to a guy going, I'm gonna show you what it means to be king.
Speaker 2: Yes. Yeah, that's right.
Speaker 1: And it means like, you mess with me at all and I'm gonna kill you. And I'm in the right.
Speaker 2: Yeah, that's right. So what God appointed Adam and Eve to do together, which is to, the two to be one, and to rule together over the animals. Now you get one guy who takes two. So he, yeah, begins to treat women like animals to be accumulated.
Speaker 1: He takes the delivering ally and turns it into a possession.
Speaker 2: Yeah. And then he mutates or distorts the rule or power that he has to take life instead of to preserve life. So he's, he's the anti-Adam. And he's —
Speaker 1: Let's get outta cities. Let's just get out.
Speaker 2: Well, so the narrative does, the narrative switches back to Adam and Eve and says, man, I hope there's like another line here ‘cause this one's not going well. And it shifts the focus to Seth. There was another son born to Adam and Eve, named Seth. And because Eve said, because God appointed me another seed in the place of Abel. So Cain killed him. And Seth also had a son and he named him Enosh. So it's the —
Speaker 1: Yeah. Enoch versus Enosh.
Speaker 2: Exactly. Cain gave birth to Enoch and that led to the city and murder. But now here's Seth, and through Seth is born Enosh, which has similar spelling and rhymes. And Enosh leads to worship. Then it was begun to call on the name of Yahweh.
Speaker 1: So this is the line of the seed promised.
Speaker 2: Seed of the woman. Yep. And then what follows is your favorite type of literature in Genesis and mine, genealogy. Yeah, totally. So the story stops and we just pause and go through 10 generations of Seth's line leading up to the ninth generation, a guy named Lemek. And when he's 777, he gives birth to Noah.
Speaker 1: Okay. So Noah's 10 generations from Adam?
Speaker 2: 10 generations from Adam. From Adam to Noah, 10 generations. Now the biblical authors have one more story to tell us connected to what was going on in the time of Cain.
Speaker 2: So the three stories after Adam and Eve are exiled from Eden are the story of Cain, then that story we just looked at just now, Lemek and the city, what happens out of Cain's city leading to Lemek. And then we get a third story about what, the last cap of what's going on down here. And it's Genesis 6:1-4, the well-known story about the sons of Elohim that take human daughters. And they took wives for themselves, whomever they choose. And you're like, well that's kind of a Lemek move.
Speaker 1: Hmm.
Speaker 2: In fact, it's that little detail that has led some interpreters throughout history to believe that the sons of Elohim are humans. That the sons of Elohim are the descendants from the line of Cain. And that the daughters of Adam, or humanity, are daughters from the line of Seth. It's a very —
Speaker 1: It's a common interpretation.
Speaker 2: It's an interpretation that began, uh, uh, I'm pretty sure, this has been a while since I've looked. I'm pretty sure the first signs of that interpretation are in early Christian circles and then in some early Jewish circles after that. But the earliest known interpretation in Second Temple Judaism is that this is about spiritual beings because taking human daughters, ‘cause that's what the Sons of Elohim —
Speaker 1: Sons of Elohim is a phrase often or primarily used for deities.
Speaker 2: Only ever used.
Speaker 1: Only ever used.
Speaker 2: To describe spiritual beings.
Speaker 1: So the argument, if this was like the kings from the line of Cain, you know, these little rulers of their own little hamlets taking daughters from the line of Seth, you would have to say the sons of Elohim is just a, a figure of speech?
Speaker 2: Figure of speech. And that this one time out of every other time it's used in the Hebrew Bible, it refers to humans. And again, people can, have made that case. And there are some parts of that case that is persuasive, but I also think there are other parts that are not persuasive.
Speaker 1: But we would get these characters who are taking wives.
Speaker 2: And whomever they want, whomever they choose. So at the least, whether you take this to be humans or spiritual beings, they are being set on analogy to Lemek, who takes as many wives as he wants, so to speak. I'm persuaded that the escalation goes from what Cain did, escalated through seven generations,
Speaker 1: Killing his brother.
Speaker 2: Yep, killing his brother.
Speaker 1: Taking his brother's life.
Speaker 2: It gets escalated to Lemek, which is —
Speaker 1: He'll take anyone's life, and he'll take wives as he pleases.
Speaker 2: And now it's not just a human rebellion. That human rebellion is —
Speaker 1: Connected to some sort of spiritual rebellion.
Speaker 2: Mirrored in, as part of a heavenly rebellion. And what it leads to is the sons of Elohim doing what Lemek did. And then that is connected to the origin of warriors, warrior giants who also do what Lemek did, which is just kill. That's what, um, the Nephilim and the mighty warriors do, is they kill.
Speaker 1: The warrior giants being the offspring of this, uh, the sons of Elohim taking the daughters of humanity. This introduces these characters.
Speaker 2: Called the Nephilim.
Speaker 1: Called the Nephilim.
Speaker 2: That’s right.
Speaker 1: These are the warrior giants. These are the, like, if Lemek’s a king, these are like the real baddy kings. Like they're the, they're the Goliaths.
Speaker 2: Yes. Goliath is one of these. Yeah. Totally. And so was a guy named Nimrod that we're gonna meet in a little bit. But the, the important is like the tight narrative parallelism through hyperlinks from Cain to Lemek to the sons of Elohim to the Nephilim and the mighty warriors. And it's just, we're watching out of the city — this all comes outta Cain’s city. And even though right here the story doesn't use the word city, in terms of the narrative sequence, all this began with the murder and the building of the city. And the city is the place where things get scaled up. And we're watching that scaling happen in the narrative.
Speaker 1: I think that's a good way to put it is, you said the city is not the problem, it's a symptom. But also the city is the scaling of the problem.
Speaker 2: That's right. But we learned with those four descendants of Lemek, through Cain's line, that you can also scale blessing.
Speaker 1: Yeah. So it's just, the city is scaling. And how's that scaling gonna go? It could scale blessing, but what it's gonna do is it's gonna scale evil.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. It's sort of like cities magnify what's going on in the human heart. It's the human heart magnified. And whatever are the values or the desires animating the human heart, they will get structured into the processes. Right? Into the systems and the way things are ordered. Just like heaven and earth are an expression of God's generous order, right, in the seven days of creation, now the city becomes this little microcosm, a microcosmos of what's in the human mind and heart. So yeah, scaling. Scaling. Yep. So I think we'll just, there's just one more detail. So after this, God says, yeah, that's enough.
Speaker 1: After the Nephilim.
Speaker 2: After the Nephilim.
Speaker 1: This is where we're getting to the flood.
Speaker 2: It’s like this is just out of control. And so what God does is hand-select this one guy named Noakh.
Speaker 1: Rest.
Speaker 2: Yep. Named rest. And we're introduced to Noakh, who is, uh, righteous and blameless and he walks with Elohim.
Speaker 1: Is this the first time those two words show up? Righteous and blameless?
Speaker 2: Yes.
Speaker 1: And blameless, that's the word used for the animal sacrifices. Is that tamim or is that —
Speaker 2: Yeah, tamim. Yeah. Yeah. It means whole. Without any cracks or blemishes. And righteous means he lives in right relationship with God and neighbor.
Speaker 1: So he is in contrast to not only Lemek,
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Speaker 1: Who's like the big bad king, but also the Nephilim who are the biggest, baddiest of the kings.
Speaker 2: Yeah, totally. Yeah, that's right.
Speaker 1: Who are scaling evil. Here comes a man who lives in right relationship with people and his whole —
Speaker 2: God and neighbor. His character’s flawless and he walks with Elohim. And that phrase was used in the garden of Eden story. It's what God came to do with Adam and Eve one afternoon in the wind of the day.
Speaker 1: How did Noah come to be this kind of person?
Speaker 2: You know, well, he's 10 generations from Adam. And what we know is that was a whole
Speaker 1: Line of people who worship Yahweh.
Speaker 2: Line of people who were devoted to the worship of Yahweh. Yeah. And that is the kind of family that becomes a vehicle for the preservation of life.
Speaker 1: Mmhm. Wow.
Speaker 2: And he births three sons, just like Lemek. Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Right? Through Lemek and his two wives was born three sons.
Speaker 1: Oh yeah. And then the daughter.
Speaker 2: Yep. Yeah. And then the daughter. Yep. And so now here Noah has three sons. And through them are going to spread all kinds of things. But the land was ruined before Elohim.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Remember the Nephilim?
Speaker 2: Yep. The land was full of violence. So what Cain did, as scaled through Lemek, add those Nephilim to the mix and you just got the whole land. They're ruining the order that God has appointed. So Elohim saw the land and look. Ruined.
Speaker 1: It's interesting here because when Cain murders his brother, God's like, this is bad, but I'm gonna protect you and we're gonna keep moving forward. This, it's like, it's scaled up and God doesn't say, okay guys, this is bad, but I'm gonna protect you. It's like, nope. It's ruined.
Speaker 2: It's ruined. And that little phrase, the land was full, is a tragic inversion of God's blessing be fruitful and multiply and fill the land. And humans have multiplied all kinds of stuff. And what they've multiplied is the innocent blood that is crying out from the ground. So once you hear about that, the next thing you hear is God says to Noah, the end of all flesh has come up before me.
Speaker 1: That's a weird phrase.
Speaker 2: It is a weird phrase. Because the land is filled with violence and so I'm going to ruin them with the land. So this is a weird phrase. It's the Hebrew word haqetz, the end. And it's gonna, this is gonna be the root of a key word play ‘cause it's the same letters in swapped order as the word outcry. And the outcry rising up before God, that's what Abel's blood did, right? God heard the outcry of the blood. This is the same letters, like, transposed. The end of all flesh has come up before me.
Speaker 1: That's interesting ‘cause, like, for something to come up, I'm like, that felt weird. But as a play on words for outcry, suddenly it starts to make sense.
Speaker 2: Make sense. Yeah. So ‘cause the land is full of violence, that is blood.
Speaker 1: So the end of all flesh, meaning, what is that referring to?
Speaker 2: Well, if the land is ruined, they're ruining the land by filling it with violence. Essentially they are going to destroy the cosmos.
Speaker 1: The end of all flesh. So basic — is he saying, I see where this is going and everyone's gonna kill each other?
Speaker 2: Yes. Yeah. You're all gonna die. You're go — all going to destroy each other. So what God's decision is, is to accelerate the process that humans’ violence has already begun.
Speaker 1: Oh, okay. I've heard you say that, but that's interesting to see that now here with that phrase.
Speaker 2: Yeah. And actually there's uh, a little, sorry. You and I are looking at a, a nice little chart here, which I know those of you listening do not have in front of you. But it is a, it's a three-line statement. And the two outer lines are paired so that the end of all flesh is in parallelism with I'm going to ruin them with the land. So humans have set themselves on a course towards their own end because of violence. And so what God is doing with the flood is handing humans over to the consequences that they've already set in motion.
Speaker 1: You know, in a way this would make a, like, if we just ended the story here, this would be kind of one of those dark kind of fairy tales where it's like, you know. God created humans, like wanted this great thing, but it just spiraled out of control. And then God was like, man, this is horrible. I'm gonna just, yeah. It's spiraling down. Let me just intensify the spiral and be done. And then it's over. And it's like, wow. Well that was an intense little story.
Speaker 2: That didn't work. Next time that I'm God, I'll remember not, not to make humans. Is that the moral of the story?
Speaker 1: Yeah. Or just like, uh, the moral of the story too is just like, look how quickly we can screw everything up to the point of no return. You know? And so there's that, but I'm looking ahead at where we're going and the story continues though.
Speaker 2: Yep, that's right. So God selects one out of the end and that righteous blameless one, is gonna put them in a little Eden boat where they live with the animals at peace. And it's not just one man and his wife, it's four men and four women that are in the ark and all the animals. And God gives them all this food. And it's exactly the same type of language used when God provides the humans with food in Eden. Yeah. Yeah. It's all the same words. But it's a little micro-Eden that can float in the midst of the chaos waters, just like the dry land was surrounded by the chaos waters in Genesis 1.
Speaker 1: This is a new creation. A new humanity.
Speaker 2: And I, I'm fast forwarding and summarizing. And it deposits on a high mountain and Noah gets —
Speaker 1: This floating Eden ark.
Speaker 2: Yeah. The little floating Eden. And so Noah gets off and, um, remember how he was righteous and blameless. And blameless is the same word to describe human character as it is to describe animals that are fit for sacrifice. So Noah gets off the boat and he just like somehow knows, he starts selecting ritually pure animals.
Speaker 1: Right. This is well before the Torah. Or before the covenant commands.
Speaker 2: But just, he's so in tune with God, he just knows what are, like, right sacrifices. So in, like Abel knew. And so he causes this ascension offering to go up on the altar. And Yahweh smells it, and he says in his heart, you know, here's the thing, humans are just as bad as they were before the flood. But you know what I'm gonna do because of a guy like Noah? I'm gonna make a promise to never again do this cosmic de-creation thing.
Speaker 1: And this kind of introduces the intercessor, the, the one who can, on behalf of others, kind of mediate blessing.
Speaker 2: Yeah. The reason why I'm taking us through here is this is all gonna pay big dividends in the next conversation we have about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Speaker 1: Okay.
Speaker 2: Because the parallel —
Speaker 1: I was thinking about that, like, ‘cause if one is blameless?
Speaker 2: Yes. Yeah. So we'll get there in the next conversation. But the point is the, this portrait of Noah, because of the city of man unleashed violence that brought de-creation, God preserved one out of the many, starting a new humanity over with them. And if that humanity is in a posture of complete surrender, which is what sacrifice represents, then God says, man, if I can just, if if one righteous one will appeal on behalf of the corrupt many, then I will preserve life instead of take it. Which is what God did with Cain. He wanted to preserve Cain's life. Even when Cain took life. So that's version one that took us eight chapters. So what's gonna happen now is within the span of just two and a half chapters, that whole exact narrative cycle that we just went through is gonna replay, but at a more rapid pace. Leading from another bad seed, Ham, leading to another really violent, bad guy, Nimrod. Leading to another flood-like de-creation, which is called the scattering of Babylon.
Speaker 1: Okay. So this is all about the theme of the city.
Speaker 2: Mm-hmm.
Speaker 1: So we're talking about also just the theme of image bearers, like, spiraling into violence and de-creation and like other themes.
Speaker 2: I've been saying this for years, that choosing one theme and separating it out to study it is like pulling one string out of a tapestry. Because once you tug on it, everything else starts moving. So yeah, all the themes come bundling together here. The image of God, intercessor, the test. All that kind of stuff.
Speaker 1: Yeah. But what do we, what do we learn about cities? As we isolate this theme, how do we isolate it in a way that we can learn something really important but keep in mind that this, we that we can't truly isolate it?
Speaker 2: Yeah. A quick sketch is cities have their origin and human fear of violence, but that fear of violence ends up actually creating more violence. And that's from Cain building a city then to Lemek.
Speaker 1: But here's the thing is, we don't, we don't get a story of, well, when we trace the line of Seth. We don't hear about their, like, how they're living.
Speaker 2: No.
Speaker 1: We don't hear about like, and they're living in tents with flocks and they're doing metallurgy and that stuff. It's just like, here's their names.
Speaker 2: Yeah, that's right.
Speaker 1: So are they in cities? Right? Like the only portrait of the city we have is from the line of the snake.
Speaker 2: Correct.
Speaker 1: And so like you're gonna see the city scale up in snakey ways.
Speaker 2: Mm-hmm.
Speaker 1: And so from there you can say, well then cities are bad. But that's the only portrait of the city we're given. Because I'm trying to imagine —
Speaker 2: So far.
Speaker 1: Yeah, so far. I'm trying to imagine like what, you know, Seth and his line leading to Noah, who's this guy who's like blameless. He's living somewhere and he's got neighbors and, like, they're dealing with life and they're learning stuff.
Speaker 2: In fact, remember the word righteous presumes that he has neighbors because it's a word that means you're in the right relationship with other people.
Speaker 1: Yeah. So kind of like, in kind of the subtext here is some sort of community that's figuring out how to live together in a way that's good.
Speaker 2: Yeah. But instead of describing their social arrangement, all that's said about them is it's a — that lineage is dedicated to worship and allegiance to Yahweh. And I —
Speaker 1: So are they just hanging out in gardens with, like, animal skins? Is that like the extent of, of their life?
Speaker 2: No, it's a great example of how the biblical authors are only telling us what we need to focus on the things that the authors wanna focus on. So we have all these questions that are interesting for us to think about, but the narrator wants to associate the city with the bad guys.
Speaker 1: Okay. So the city —
Speaker 2: And associate the good family with something else.
Speaker 1: Kind of this ambiguous like setting, you don't know.
Speaker 2: Yeah. With the garden blessing. Yeah. Living with animals.
Speaker 1: So the city is associated with the problem of, of violence and evil. And it's showing how that scales up. And it's the setting of the scaling of violence and evil.
Speaker 2: Yeah. As well as good. I think that was, actually that from this conversation we just had, that's something I'm walking away with —
Speaker 1: A little bright spot.
Speaker 2: Appreciating more is that the scaling of violence and of men abusing women, right, accumulating them like property, that —
Speaker 1: Those bookend —
Speaker 2: Those bookend the being fruitful and multiplying and the multiplication and scaling of human creativity. Which is a sign of blessing and ruling the land. So cities scale what is bad and good. Which makes them truly human. A mix of good and bad.
Speaker 1: But the, but the narrative focuses on how it gets twisted into bad.
Speaker 2: Yeah, that's right.
Speaker 1: Because when it gets to Noah, it's not focused on cities anymore, the cities become less important. So when cities are brought up, it's about look at how scaling can go wrong. And how it goes wrong is in specifically violence, which ultimately gets ratcheted up to the most violent thing you could think of with these Nephilim kings. And it gets so bad that when God looks down, he's like, everyone's gonna die.
Speaker 2: Yeah. They’re all —
Speaker 1: This is all going down.
Speaker 2: Yeah. The end has come up before me. You're all gonna kill each other. Sorry, and let's remember, let's go from root to branch. If the Nephilim are like the fruit on the branch, the root all the way back to Cain and Abel is all about fear that Yahweh giving blessing and abundance to my brother might mean that I'm left out in the cold. Is there any for me too? And that fear drives him to envy, drives him to anger, to murder. And then that cascades.
Speaker 1: You're kind of connecting this back to some of the ah-has I was having with the firstborn conversation. Like what's the root of all this? It's this, like, fear that I can't trust in God's generosity. The timing of his generosity.
Speaker 2: And then the city is an icon of humans not trusting other people and not trusting God's protection.
Speaker 1: The city is like, how do I protect myself? And how do I then take the, when we all get together, there's gonna be a scaling of not only relationships and networks and relationships, but also in just how we can live in the world and things we understand. We're scaling our knowledge and abilities and skills. And all of this stuff can now be weaponized. To extend our violence.
Speaker 2: Yeah. It can be put in the service of great good. It can be put in the service of great evil. And that, it's the great evil that —
Speaker 1: Gets highlighted.
Speaker 2: Is the main focus.
Speaker 1: Because, yeah. ‘Cause that great evil gets to a point where like the undoing of humanity is upon itself.
Speaker 2: Correct. Yeah, that's exactly right. Humans are gonna bring an end to themselves. So God, in a severe mercy, accelerates that end through the cosmic de-creation
Speaker 1: And the story could end there. But we have a blameless one who lives in right relationship with others, who God says, I can work with this guy. And I can recreate Eden and while the cosmos is de-creating, I can then recreate. And then we are back to it. And then he says, I won't curse the ground on account of humanity.
Speaker 2: Well, that guy intercedes and appeals, surrenders everything before God.
Speaker 1: So he becomes this righteous intercessor. And where the ground was cursed with Adam and Eve taking of the fruit, also — was the ground? That was when the ground was cursed?
Speaker 2: Yep. God cursed the ground in Genesis 3. In Genesis 4, he curses Cain from the ground, that is, to be an exile and a wanderer.
Speaker 1: So what is this referring to? Is it referring to the first curse or the second? Or is it referring to the curse of the flood?
Speaker 2: Yeah. What Yahweh says in response to no sacrifices, I will never again curse the ground on account of humans because the purpose of the human heart is bad from its youth. And I will never again strike all life as I just did. And the poetic parallelism of the lines, Yahweh said in his heart, in contrast to what people purpose in their hearts. And then, I will never again curse the ground is in parallelism to I will never again strike all life.
Speaker 1: Okay, so, so the curse here is referring to the flood.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yes. Yeah.
Speaker 1: Okay. So God isn't going to accelerate de-creation to wipe out all humanity again like he is doing here.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Instead, he's going to sustain the order of creation, even amidst the spread of human evil. If it happens again, God's going to deal with it in other ways.
Speaker 1: Yeah. And what's so surprising here, we've talked about this before, is after Noah gives his intercessory, like, sacrificial offering and it's soothing smell to Yahweh, you would kind of expect Yahweh going, okay, you know what? I think these humans are gonna get it, and so I'm gonna like not curse the ground again.
Speaker 2: Oh yeah. Right, right, right.
Speaker 1: But it instead , he says, I'm not gonna curse the ground again because, well, they're not gonna get it.
Speaker 2: Yeah. . Totally. Yep. He can see that Noah's, as he's, this is my imagination, as Noah's making his offering, he's like thinking about the really strong Manhattan that he wants to make for himself from the fruit of his garden. And he's looking at Ham, and Ham is eyeing his dad and is being like, I wanna be alpha male, I wanna be alpha male, I want, right? And he can, like, they’re humans, are gonna, the children are gonna replay what their parents did.
Speaker 1: But in spite of that —
Speaker 2: In spite of that, yeah.
Speaker 1: He's going to, this intercessory sacrifice has created enough of a mark or enough of a shift in — whoa, what? Whoa, what?
Speaker 2: No, what, so what this is, is this is God conceding to human evil.
Speaker 1: Hmm. What do you mean?
Speaker 2: So the whole thing is God's purpose to rule the world through humans. That's the thing God never gets up on. But now what he's acknowledging is humans are bad, humans are a mix of good and bad. But that bad tends to scale. And so what God is conceding to is saying, okay, if this is the partner I have to work with, I have to concede to the state of their heart.
Speaker 1: Oh, interesting.
Speaker 2: And I'm gonna work with the humans in that state moving forward, which means that God is going to begin to engage in what looks to us, the reader, like moral compromises as he works with these humans. And the — totally. What else is the story of the Old Testament but God behaving in really complicated ways? That feel like, wow, I thought God doesn't do that kind of thing.
Speaker 1: Right. You're talking about conquest stuff.
Speaker 2: God defending Abraham, sending —
Speaker 1: Well, Abraham lies and he creates problems and God defends him.
Speaker 2: And God sends plagues on Egypt because Abraham's a liar. You know, stuff like that. And the Caananite conquest. Yes. Yeah.
Speaker 1: Okay.
Speaker 2: This flood story is so important, man. It continues to sink in for me why it's the next story cycle after Adam and Eve. It's hugely foundational for presenting how God deals with the real world as he finds it, which is conceding, to some degrees, to human evil.
Speaker 1: And he's been doing that from the very beginning. It's not like all, all of a sudden he is like, okay, I get, I get it now. I have to concede to humanity's evil. Like, he conceded when he protected Adam and Eve and he gave them this, the animal skins and he protected them. He conceded with Cain in the —
Speaker 2: But, but then he also exiled them.
Speaker 1: But he exiled them.
Speaker 2: Yep. So just mercy and judgment. Yep.
Speaker 1: And then he conceded with Cain, but he exiled them. And here, is this fundamentally different than those times?
Speaker 2: Uh, I think it, hmm. He brought judgment, the flood. Pretty severe. I mean, the most severe one. But then also mercy, he preserved this righteous remnant.
Speaker 1: But the righteous remnant is great, but it's, he just immediately is like, yeah, but it's not gonna work.
Speaker 2: Yeah, yeah. Totally. Nah, I think, yeah. Just —
Speaker 1: The heart of humanity is bad from its youth. But I'm gonna concede and not strike life.
Speaker 2: Strike all life. God will strike life.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Yeah. But basically it's like, I'm gonna reboot this, but where's this gonna go? It's gonna get back to the exact same place. And I'm gonna have to just wipe out the flood again and find another, if there is another Noah. But here you're saying there's a concession of sorts of saying okay, well that's not gonna be a great way to exist with these partners.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. If I strike all life every time humans scale up their violence and build violent cities, then there'll be no more humans to partner with.
Speaker 1: Well, unless there's another Noah.
Speaker 2: Unless — then that's exactly right. So the story just keeps cycling through again. And I guess what I'm, what really struck me when you were saying that a few minutes ago was the surprise of the city. The city exists as a symptom of human violence. But the fact that God would, as he goes through his purpose to bring about the new creation, that would make a garden city becomes the image of the new creation. It's the healing of the city. He'll concede to the city but work it into his plans for new creation. Remember, this was the surprise of the city. Why doesn't it go from garden to garden in the story of the Bible? It goes from garden to garden city. And the city was the innovation of humans because of violence. But God weaves it into the story.
Speaker 1: I, I like that framing. However, what I struggle with is how else are humans gonna all live together and multiply and subdue the earth except build cities?
Speaker 2: Oh, sure. But remember the fundamental association of city is the wall.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Okay.
Speaker 2: That keeps out violent animals and violent humans.
Speaker 1: So we're not introduced, even though we are alluded to the fact that a city can actually extend blessing, the streams and the stuff. What we aren’t introduced to is a city that does that.
Speaker 2: Correct. Yeah, that's right.
Speaker 1: We’re introduced to cities that do the opposite.
Speaker 2: Yeah. They're meant to keep humans out ‘cause humans wanna kill each other.
Speaker 1: So —
Speaker 2: That's Cain's original fear. Whoever finds me will kill me. So I build a wall.
Speaker 1: So what God is saying is like, look, human scaling, you can think of it in the setting of a city, it's gonna lead to violence. So much violence that the really only reasonable thing to do is just to end it.
Speaker 2: Hmm hmm.
Speaker 1: And that's just gonna keep happening. So, the surprise or the concession is instead of, I'm gonna find another way through this.
Speaker 2: Hmm.
Speaker 1: And I'm gonna figure out how to work with humans who are gonna scale violence and I'm gonna somehow get in the mix. And what you're saying is it's gonna be messy.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Yeah. To bring about the seed of the woman through real human partners who are really like us means it's gonna be a morally complicated venture. Yeah.
Speaker 1: To let humanity exist in cities and is,
Speaker 2: It’s gonna be complex.
Speaker 1: It's just go, it's gonna, yeah.
Speaker 2: Gosh, this is so, this is really profound, as, as the longer word it's kind of circling around this. It's like, what else? We just had an election cycle here in Portland, and um, there was some significant city measures for, like, systems and structures for how things work in city government. And as Jessica and I were learning about them, the pro and con arguments, for example, were really, they all had really good points. And it was really complicated.
Speaker 1: Yeah, right.
Speaker 2: And whatever it was, it wasn't just a simple yes or no. Even though, though of course that's how both sides wanna persuade you to think. And that's just the nature of scaling up human, the human project, it's, it's complex. Requires wisdom.
Speaker 1: I think what's striking me too though is I think often we think of the story of the flood as like, man, what a bully God is.
Speaker 2: Oh, God's a bully. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Speaker 1: And the way that we've been working through this, you can actually look at it in terms of like, God was running this, you know. The Creator of everything, creating stuff, was giving away power and responsibility. What a generous, cool thing. It backfired on him. And he just was like, man, like the most gracious thing is just to shut the project down. Just shut it down. And instead, we are then introduced to a God who's saying, you know what? It's worth it, all the pain and all the moral compromise, or all the things that are just gonna feel so —
Speaker 2: The complexity.
Speaker 1: All the complexity. Like, it's worth it. So then when we think about humanity and our cities, and we think about the complexity of a city, the story here is God's saying —
Speaker 2: There’s something here that's worth it.
Speaker 1: It's worth it. It's, it's messy and, and there's so much horrific violence and oppression and problems. And it's so much that if you actually had my point of view, of God's point of view, you'd be like, you know what, let's just shut it down. That would be the most reasonable thing. And um, from our point of view, it's like, don't shut it down. I mean like, you know —
Speaker 2: Well, let's, we're like, well, but shut down —
Speaker 1: Yeah, shut them down.
Speaker 2: Shut them down. But keep, keep us going.
Speaker 1: Keep me and God's like —
Speaker 2: Keep my city going.
Speaker 1: But you and your people, like it's gonna, the same thing's gonna happen.
Speaker 2: Totally. Yeah. Or it probably is happening and you're not aware of it.
Speaker 1: It’s happening and you're not even aware of it. And so as we just contemplate existence and the complexity of human societies, it’s this vantage of the patience of God saying, I'm gonna do something with this in spite of the fact that it's so messy.
Speaker 2: Mm-hmm.
Speaker 1: And it's worth it.
Speaker 2: Yeah. Man, that is a profound meditation. And I just wanna flag that we've been led here by following the portrait of the city. The scaling of human good and bad, most — but bad somehow seems more overwhelming. Leading to a de-creation. And then the narrative is giving us a window into the purpose and heart of God for humanity. And these are really profound meditations, I think. Both on the ways of God and the world, but also on the ways of humans in the world. And you're just like, man, nothing new under the sun. Like these stories are millennia old, right? And they're working out the same stuff. They just didn't have pocket computers.
Speaker 1: So I guess the question becomes then like, okay, if that's the case, how do we work with God to make this the best case scenario? And how do we work with God so that the city can actually become a garden city?
Speaker 2: Right. Totally. So here's what is fascinating is that this negative portrait of the city is just gonna be the main theme on replay through the Genesis scroll into Exodus and on into the story of Israel. It is only until you get into 2 Samuel that you get the building, or in this case the capturing and repurposing, of a city that becomes positive. Jerusalem is the first positive city in the Bible, and it becomes positive when David brings the ark of the covenant and dedicates it as the place to call on the name of the Lord. That's when it becomes positive.
Speaker 1: When it becomes the Seth line.
Speaker 2: And every story before then, cities just ratchet up what we just did. So we could go at great length through these negative cycles. I just wanna take us through a few as we go forward, but the portrait of what happens with Jerusalem, with the tabernacle and the temple and David, becomes the pivot where the hope of a garden city starts to invade earth. So that's where we're going in the next many conversations. But for now, I think this is a great point to pause these reflections, and they'll get escalated even more when we get to Babylon in the next conversation.
Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to this episode of BibleProject podcast. Next week, we're talking about the building of the second city in the Bible, a city called Babylon, and its founder, Nimrod.
Speaker 2: You know how in Marvel movies, sometimes the bad guys in Marvel movies are just like somebody who got hurt and they're good with electronics. And then sometimes, like, the bad guys are these cosmic demigods from another reality. So Gilgamesh is like that.
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