We have now begun again in Genesis with the creation. For now, let’s skip though the first 10 generations to Noah. Now Noah is a righteous man, who walks with God. Unfortunately, the rest of the world was not righteous. Humans were originally made of flesh but in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26, and Genesis 2:7) which meant that they can function both on the flesh level, and on level where one can reach to God. But, except for Noah, the rest of humankind had given themselves over to the flesh, to the extent that the entire earth had been corrupted. Instead of taking care of the earth, humankind in fact, had done the opposite:
“The earth had become corrupt in God’s sight, full of violence. And when God saw how corrupt the earth had become, all flesh corrupting its ways upon the earth, God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is full of violence because of them.” [Genesis 6:11-13] Now the Hebrew word translated as violence, is חמס – Hamas. Based on the past several weeks which have been filled with the news about the terrible violence and destruction inflicted on Israel by Hamas, the name is appropriate.
God’s response to this corruption is to instruct Noah to build an ark, which will carry a small part of His creation, into a new world. One point to note, is that God does NOT build the ark Himself; He instructs Noah on what and how to do it. Only after Noah finishes the ark, does God cause the flood to wipe out the rest of His creation. Noah, his family and the animals who occupy the ark are all that is left to repopulate the earth. Although God himself was the One that brought the flood to destroy the corruption and violence, the simple obedience of Noah was the spark that allowed it to happen according to God’s plan, and to preserve enough of creation to allow it to begin again.
So Noah had three sons – Shem, Ham, and Yafet. Ham appears to have brought the corruption through the flood and after exposing his father’s nakedness, was cursed by his father, Noah. He was the father of Canaan and a number of the other tribes that ended up being at odds with the Israelites. As we discuss further below, the land in which Canaan and his tribe lived, was subsequently given by the Lord to Abraham. Interestingly, the boundaries of the land of Canaanites go “from Sidon toward Gerar near Aza (Gaza), and toward Sedom (Sodom), Amora (Gomorrah), Admah, and Tzevoyim (Zeboiim), near Lasha.” Genesis 10:19.
If we skip through another 10 generations (through the offspring of Shem), we get to Abraham, who, like Noah, hears and follows God. In Genesis 12, God tells Abraham to leave his land, his birthplace, and his father’s house, “to a land that I will show you. I will bless you and make your name great. You will become a blessing.” Genesis 12:1-2. So God not only blesses Abraham, but promises to make him a blessing to others. This is a promise to Abraham and, through Isaac, to and through the Israel nation.
God continues: “And I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will curse.” Genesis 12:3. What does this really mean? The Hebrew words for blessing always use the same three letters (ברכ). But the two words translated as “curse” in this verse are different. What does it mean to curse or to be cursed? My Hebrew is elementary, and I expect that there may be more complete explanations, but my understanding at this point (please feel free to enlighten me if you know more) is that when someone curses Abraham (קלל), he is insulting, despising, dishonoring, treating with contempt, or considering him to be of little account. On the other hand, the result is that the person “cursed” (אאר) will find themselves exposed to God’s light (אר). In other words, who they are, and what they do shall be exposed for all to see.
But that is not the end, because God continues: “And through you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.” So the emphasis is clearly on the blessing; the curse is almost irrelevant (as the word קלל implies!), as it will not divert Abraham from following God’s purpose.
After this Abraham has a number of adventures, during which he travels through the land of Canaan, goes down to Egypt, comes back up, rescues Lot from the four kings, meets Malki Tzedek king of Shalem, and receives a covenant from the Lord, that his descendants shall be given the land which encompasses not only the current land of Israel, but much more. But then we come back to the Lord meeting with Abraham and telling him what he intends to do about the wickedness in Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleads with God and God agrees that if he can find even 10 righteous people in Sodom, he will not destroy it. Alas, not even 10 righteous people were to be found, and except for Lot and his family who were rescued by the Angels, the cities were destroyed.
In Deuteronomy 29, Moses tells the people that if they turn away from the Lord to serve other gods, the Lord’s anger will fall on them and that a future generation will find “a burning waste of sulfur and salt, nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it, like the ruins of Sedom and Amora, Adma and Tzevoyim, which the Lord overturned in His fierce rage.” Deuteronomy 29:22-23. It would appear that Gaza (see reference above) narrowly escaped this judgment, as all of the other cities mentioned in Genesis 10:19 did not escape destruction.
But Gaza has apparently continued to be a thorn in the side of the Jewish nation. See Gaza in the Bible for more of the biblical history of this city. IMHO, we are now in a place where Gaza is clearly filled with Hamas (violence) that has spilled out into Israel. And as was said of Sedom and Amora, the outcry against Gaza is great and their sin is very grave. My prayer is that somehow, this time the very basis of the evil is dealt with, so that it cannot spring up again, but that at the same time, the Angels open the prison doors and let all the captives (both Israeli and Palestinian) go free before the judgment comes.
Translations are from The Koren Tanakh (The Magerman Edition, published by Koren Publishers Jerusalem, 2021)