I’ve been gradually reading through the book of Genesis and on Wednesdays I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve been reading.
Cain’s great-great grandson, Lamech, is the first man in Genesis who has two wives, which might indicate the continuation of patriarchy. He brags to his wives that he has killed a man. He boasts that just as Cain would be avenged seven times, he would be avenged seventy times if someone killed him. YHWH intended to punish Cain for murdering his brother. Instead, Lamech is making Cain his inspiration. Did YHWH’s curse backfire?
However, at this stage a new thread is also introduced: Adam and Eve have another child called Seth. This time it is Eve who does the naming, and she says that Elohim has given her another child in Abel’s place. We’re told that Seth also has a son, and that at this time people began to call on the name of YHWH.
This looks to me like a comparison of two different lineages, headed in different directions.
I’ve been gradually reading through Genesis and each Wednesday I’ve been posting some reflections. I recently appreciated getting a question from my friend Nat:
‘What’s your take on the significance (i hope I’m remembering this properly) of there being no death in the garden? …ie, if it’s not literal truth’
When Nat asked me this I also wasn’t sure if I was remembering properly. I had a sense that I’d heard people say that there was no death before the humans ate the forbidden fruit. I wasn’t sure whether I’d read that in scripture or whether it was part of the folklore that’s attached to the story. So I thought I’d go back to the text and see if I could find anything suggesting that there was or wasn’t death in the garden.
In the first section of Genesis I couldn’t find anything saying that their was no death in the garden. What I did find was YHWH Elohim becoming concerned about what would happen if the humans ate from the tree of life (and became immortal) after having already eaten from the tree of knowledge.
I’m wondering if other people presumed, like me and Nat, that the story said people were immortal in the garden? If human beings are descibed as already having a limited lifespan in the garden, does that change our attitudes about death?
I’m also wondering if there may be something I’m missing? If you can see something in the text suggesting that humanity was immortal, we’d be keen to hear.
You might be wondering why I’m posting a drawing of a fantastical creature on a blog called Ordinary Time. Fair enough! One of my working assumptions about stories, however fanciful or mundane they might be, is that they always have something to say about ordinary life. I’ll write a bit more about this tomorrow in a post about Dungeons and Dragons.
In the main D&D adventure that I’ve been running, the adventurers have previously encountered kobolds, which are considered to be a bit like small, unintelligent, cowardly dragons. What I’ve appreciated while reading the most recent D&D book, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, is that familiar monsters are described in much greater depth. Volo’s Guide suggests that kolbolds are part of a collectivist society, which is why one kobold might choose to fight aggressors alone, while their comrades escape. It might seem foolish to other creatures, but it might also ensure the survival of the wider group.
I’d say that rather than being alien to us, monsters are very human, and they invite us to explore the monstrous and alien aspects of our humanity.
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I’ve just today kicked off my Patreon page, where I’ll be posting weekly monster illustrations for folks to use in fantasy RPGs. Head over and become a supporter: patreon.com/ChrisABooth