You probably all know some
version of the story of Noah
and the Ark, and you might be more or less familiar
with the story of the Tower
of Babel as well. The focus of this week's reading
is to introduce you to different versions of these
stories. First, you will read the account of Noah and Babel
from three different translations of the Hebrew Bible: a modern
20th-century translation, the 17th-century "King James
version" and a 16th-century translation, prior to King
James', by William Tyndale. Then you will read some stories
about Noah and about the Tower of Babel that were told as
Jewish folklore, and collected in The Legends of the Jews
by Louis Ginzberg. These include the story of Adam and Eve
as cannibals (!), the strange relations between Noah and the
raven, and the magical powers attributed to Nimrod, the builder
of the Tower of Babel.
Here are some quotes:
And Noe made an aulter vnto the LORDE and toke of all
maner of clene beastes and all maner of clene foules and offred
sacrifyce vppon the aulter. And the LORDE smellyd a swete
savoure and sayd in his hert: I wyll henceforth no more curse
the erth for mannes sake for the imagynacion of mannes hert
is evell even from the very youth of hym. Morover I wyll not
destroy from henceforth all that lyveth as I haue done.
When Adam came back from a walk in Paradise, he found
a howling, screaming child with Eve, who, in reply to his
question, told him it was Samael's. Adam was annoyed, and
his annoyance grew as the boy cried and screamed more and
more violently. In his vexation he dealt the little one
a blow that killed him. But the corpse did not cease to
wail and weep, nor did it cease when Adam cut it up into
Satan thereupon slaughtered a lamb, and then, in succession,
a lion, a pig, and a monkey. The blood of each as it was killed
he made to flow under the vine. Thus he conveyed to Noah what
the qualities of wine are: before man drinks of it, he is
innocent as a lamb; if he drinks of it moderately, he feels
as strong as a lion; if he drinks more of it than he can bear,
he resembles the pig; and if he drinks to the point of intoxication,
then he behaves like a monkey, he dances around, sings, talks
obscenely, and knows not what he is doing.
In the case of Samson
you probably know part of the story - but not all of it. For
example, you might know about Samson and Delilah - but what
about Samson and his first wife? (also not a happy story!)
Do you know the story of Samson and the foxes that he set
on fire? Samson breaking down the door of the town of Gaza
in order to escape from a whorehouse? Samson the riddler?
Or Daniel - you've probably heard of Daniel in the lions'
den, but what about Daniel and the sacred dragon of Babylon?
The story of the rape of Susannah? All the translations for
this unit come from the King James' version, including chapters
that come from the Apocryphal Books, which used to be printed
with the King James' version, but which are now omitted in
many Protestant Bibles.
Here are some quotes:
And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle
unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven
days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty
sheets and thirty change of garments: but if ye cannot declare
it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change
of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle,
that we may hear it. And he said unto them, "Out of the
eater came forth meat,
and out of the strong came forth sweetness."
And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE,
TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing:
MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL;
Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and
Now there was in Jewry a prophet, called Habbacuc, who
had made pottage, and had broken bread in a bowl, and was
going into the field, for to bring it to the reapers. But
the angel of the Lord said unto Habbacuc, "Go, carry
the dinner that thou hast into Babylon unto Daniel, who is
in the lions' den." And Habbacuc said, "Lord, I
never saw Babylon; neither do I know where the den is."
Then the angel of the Lord took him by the crown, and bare
him by the hair of his head, and through the vehemency of
his spirit set him in Babylon over the den.