Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Anakim

This year, for the first time, I committed myself to read through the Bible in one year. I'm actually a couple of days ahead in my reading--a pace, I have to admit, that is hard to keep up!

Anyway, when I don't get bogged down too much in the details, I do see some things with this rapid reading that I don't normally notice.

Today I began reading in Deuteronomy. In chapter 2 verses 10 and 11, I read,
The Emim formerly lived there, a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim. Like the Anakim they are also counted as Rephaim, but the Moabites call them Emim.
I was reminded of something I had read several months ago in a book by my acquaintance Tim Martin and his writing partner, Jeffrey Vaughn, Beyond Creation Science.

Martin and Vaughn argue for an old earth on biblical grounds. One of their arguments (just one, out of close to 20, I'd guess) has to do with the Anakim.

In Genesis 6:4--prior to Noah's flood--we read, "The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them." And then, in Numbers 13:33, we read: "And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them."

I'm not quoting Tim and Jeff exactly, here, but in essence they say, "Here we have evidence from the Bible itself that a certain group of people outside of Noah's family survived the flood. Otherwise, how could they have descendants hundreds of years later living in Canaan?"

And now, again (in Deuteronomy 2:10 and 11), we come across a reference to the Anakim . . . "who come from the Nephilim" . . . who, apparently, weren't killed in the Flood.

When I first read Numbers 13:33 a couple of weeks ago, I looked up that word Nephilim. I found is that it is sometimes translated giants, though it comes from a Hebrew root that means "fallen." For some reason when I first read that, I thought, "Perhaps Tim and Jeff have raised a false argument based on the manner in which our English translators have turned a broadly descriptive noun into a proper name for a people group."

Today, for some reason, I am unable to see how my reasoning two weeks ago can really work.

At worst, I am thinking, if someone is able to show me how my reasoning from two weeks ago is correct, then I will at least give Tim and Jeff credit for raising a potential argument for the idea that Noah's flood was not fully universal--i.e., in the sense that it covered the entire globe. [Let me note, however: My previous sentence, as written, is anachronistic. It uses modern language and concepts to describe something that no one back in the times of the Old Testament could have conceived of. No one in the Old Testament would have conceived of the world as a globe! . . . But let us move on.]


While thinking about using descriptive nouns as proper names, I thought I would throw in another observation of which I was reminded during our pastor's sermon two weeks ago when he began a brief series on the book of Ruth.

As you may be aware, Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi (literally, in English, "pleasant"), was married to a man . . . --Well, let me quote: "The name of [her husband] was Elimelech . . . and the names of [their] two sons were Mahlon and Chilion" (Ruth 1:2).

I am familiar enough with Hebrew to be able to interpret Elimelech. El: God. Eli: my God. Melech: king. . . . "My God is king."

But I seemed to remember from seminary--and this morning I checked to be sure (and my memory did, indeed, serve me correctly)--Mahlon means "sick" and Chilion means "wasting away" or, let us not beat around the bush: "dying."

So Naomi's sons' names were . . . Sick and Dying. Pleasant was married to My God is King, and the names of their sons were Sick and Dying.


. . .And that reminds me of something another acquaintance of mine, a deacon (licensed preacher) in the Charismatic Episcopal Church and a deeply thoughtful professor of literature, once wrote to me:
[T]hink as honestly as you can about how you would treat a story in English in which:
  1. The main character is called "Man" or "Humankind" (Adam) because he was made from the dust (adamah);
  2. He lives in a garden named "Delight" or "Pleasure" (Eden; Gr: Hédoné [hedonist])
  3. Knowledge is gained by ingesting a fruit instead of by experience;
  4. Animals talk;
  5. Gaining knowledge results in expulsion from the Garden of Delight.
  6. Characters regularly speak in poetry.
I would suggest that if we were to read this story in English and it were not in the Bible, we would immediately conclude . . . that we were reading some sort of symbolic or allegorical story or possibly a moral fable.

Since we tend to assume that the Bible is always true in exactly the same way ("factual"), we simply set aside judgments that would otherwise be [John: "seem"] obvious. I think it's a great mistake to do so.
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