Beneath the chatter

What underlies our conversation? From so many words, what is essential? Before Noah’s flood, the Bible records only nine ‘speeches’ by human beings. The Hebrew sages regard first or early occurrences in the Bible as critical to understanding what follows. So, what do these early speeches tell us?

A clear, and discomforting, pattern emerges. Taking the nine speeches in order :

  • Adam is impatient with God to find his companion (Genesis 2:23). Obscured by most translations but see here.
  • Eve corrects the serpent about what God said but gets it wrong (Genesis 3:2). See here.
  • Adam explains to God why he is hiding: he is afraid of God (Genesis 3:11).
  • When asked to explain, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent (Genesis 3:12-14).
  • In the first human to human speech recorded, Cain says to his brother …. nothing, and then murders him (Genesis 4:8). Obscured by most translations but see here.
  • Cain denies knowledge of Abel to God Word map of Obama speech (ex NYT)and then complains of his punishment for murder (Genesis 4:9 and 13-14).
  • Lamech bemoans, boasts or threatens (opinions differ) to having killed or being prepared to kill people, and compares himself to Cain (Genesis 4:23-24).
  • Eve names her new son – replacement for Abel – Seth (Genesis 4:25). Seth means ‘appointed’ in Hebrew.
  • Lamech calls his son Noah, saying “This one shall give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed. ” (Genesis 5:29). Noah means ‘rest’ in Hebrew.
  • We begin with Adam’s impatience for a human companion. The next six speeches reveal a growing mess. Then, in the last two – the naming of Seth and Noah – we find hope for a human figure to put matters right.

    In naming Seth, Eve is reflecting God’s remark in Genesis 3:15 that Eve’s seed will crush the serpent’s head. Both Judaic and Christian literature see this passage as Messianic. Eve is placing her hopes on Seth. Similarly, Lamech places his hopes of rest from toil – also a consequence of the interaction with the serpent – on Noah.

    In sum, this record shows humanity as either: (i) longing for another human to fulfill them or to put matters right; or (ii) making a mess. Based on the first nine speeches, this is the Biblical view of what lies beneath our chatter.

    A stark view of humanity! It shows the problem – us – and where we look for the answer: somebody else. This perspective gives the foundation to understand what happens after the flood.

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