Having to do this daily – with limited time in my schedule – is curtailing some of my tendency to be long-winded. So from now on, I’m not going to say, “I’ll have to make this short,” because I’m going to be taking that for granted.
The first part of this chapter is God’s covenant with Noah – or his contract, in the Japanese. “Covenant” is a nice, old-fashioned word, but in the end it means a contract, as it’s a formal agreement between two parties. In Japanese, they just have the word keiyaku, “contract,” using two characters that mean “vow” and “promise.”
I heard a sermon here in Japan that discussed just how cold the word keiyaku is in Japanese, and I do think “contract” has a similar business-like analytical feel to it. Small wonder we go with “covenant” whenever it appears in the Bible.
Reading this portion, I realized I’d made a mistake with the “everyone is vegetarian, so why are they killing animals?” line of thought, because those passages with the animal-killing were all LORD God narratives, and the “now you can eat animals for the first time” thing is in a God narrative.
Another difference between the two narratives is on God’s pledge of not destroying the world. The LORD God portions have God say he will never “again destroy every living creature” (8.21), but in the God portion, God hedges his bets by saying he’ll never destroy the world by a flood (v 11).
There’s an interesting translation quirk with the word the NRSV translates as “remember” in v 15 and in 8.1. The Japanese uses mi-kokoro ni tomeru in the Japanese. There are other words in Japanese that can be used for “remember,” including oboeru (which has the connotation of memorization, which is heavy on my tongue as I prepare for a recital) and omoidasu (to recall). Kokoro ni tomeru (the mi is an honorific) means to remember not in the sense of pulling up a memory, but in the sense of not forgetting. Thus while the English seems to imply that God forgot about Noah and his family and then suddenly “remembered” them, and that the rainbow will remind him to not destroy the world when he gets angry in case he forgets, the Japanese makes it explicit that God is not forgetting. I wish I knew the Hebrew to know whether they’re forcing theology onto vocabulary or not – but again, translation is interpretation.
The second part of the chapter is Noah getting drunk and the aftermath. The English says “Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard.” (v 20) The NCT doesn’t mention anything about him being “first,” and says he “became a noufu,” the word for a farm-working peasant. Either way, he gets drunk, Ham spies on him and tells his brothers, who carefully cover their father up without looking at him like good sons. And then Noah curses… Ham’s son?
This is an odd passage for a number of reasons. Obviously it’s partly intended as set-up for why it’s okay for the Israelites to have conquered Canaan, but surely it could have been better set up. Maybe have Canaan (Ham’s son) himself come in and spy on Noah rather than having the curse skip a generation without reason? And for that matter, why does the curse apply? God’s not mentioned once in this story, but Noah’s curse seems to have potency on its own. If I recall from my reading through Genesis years ago, there are other moments where blessings and curses from the patriarchs seem to work like magic. Was this something the writers believed really worked?
The next two chapters are mostly begats, so I’ll try playing some catch-up tomorrow and cover them both.
New words: ononoki, “shudder, dread” (v 2), yudanerareru, “are entrusted” (v 2), baishou, “indemnity” (v 5), youkyuu suru, “to demand” (v 5), minarazu, “as well as” (v 10), wakiokoraseru “to let/make arise” (v 14), and noufu, “peasant” (v 20). It was also sort of funny seeing the “garment” in v 23 referred to a kimono. I know that kimono just means “something you wear,” i.e. a garment, but the idea of Noah in traditional Japanese garb is a nice assumption-breaker.