This week’s Parasha is Noach (Genesis 6.9-11.32).[i] Chapters 6 through 9 cover the account of the flood and subsequently the repopulation of the earth with the command to Noach and his family to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the land,” ״פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ״ (Genesis 9.1 & 7). This, by-the-way, is an exact reiteration of the Almighty’s command to Adam and Havah (Eve) in Genesis 1.28. The first command was before the fall and the second after the flood and the renewal of life on the earth. Chapters 8 and 9 also record the LORD’s covenant that promises not to destroy His creation by the “waters of the flood” again, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, even though the inclination of the heart of humankind is evil from youth. Nor will I ever again smite all living creatures, as I have done,” (Genesis 8.21 & 9.11). As we know, the sign of this covenant is the rainbow (9.13-16). Chapter 10 deals with the sons of Noach and the nations that sprang from their lineage. Next, in chapter 11, there is the account of the building project that became to be known as the tower of Babel “because Adonai confused the languages of the entire world there, and from there Adonai scattered them over the face of the entire world” (Genesis 11.9). Finally, in the Parasha, we are introduced to Shem’s greatest descendent, Abram (aka Abraham) avinu.
Before continuing with Abra(ha)m, let’s stop for a moment and look at the building project at Babel. “Adonai said, ‘Look, the people are one and all of them have the same language. So this is what they have begun to do. Now, nothing they plan to do will be impossible’” (Genesis 11.6). This sounds like a unity of mind and spirit that most businesses or even congregations would die for. In Matthew, Yeshua taught His disciples, “And whatever you (communally) ask in prayer, trusting, you shall receive” (21.22). Earlier He taught, “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father in heaven” (18.19). Thus, being of one mind and spirit is not the cause of HaShem’s concern at “Babel”. It was not the people’s unity, but rather the fact that they decided to congregate in one place and erect an edifice to honor themselves, instead of being obedient to the command of God, to “fill the land”. Disobedience and arrogance brought about the LORD’s actions at Babel, not unity of purpose and direction. Ya’acov wrote, “Therefore whoever knows the right thing to do and does not do it—for him it is sin” (James 4.17). Mankind was told what to do by the Creator and choose to do their own thing; and paid the penalty – further separation not only from the LORD but from each other.
Now back to Abra(ha)m and Genesis 11. There is a very interesting proclamation at the end of the chapter that states “Terah took Abram his son and Lot, Haran’s son, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and he took them out of Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there,” (Genesis 11.31). Next week’s Parasha begins with the LORD telling Abra(ha)m לֶךְ-לְךָ, “you get out.” It is often thought that Abra(ha)m was the first to begin the movement from Ur to Canaan, but it was his father Terah that began the journey, he just got side-tracked. There is no question that Terah was an idolater, “Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor—lived beyond the River and worshipped other gods,” (Joshua 24.2). But one has to wonder how the narrative would have gone if Terah had completed his journey to then the land of Canaan. Would he have remained an idolater or would he have come to know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Only a speculation for sure but one never knows what life directions might be altered by a single decision.
The Haftarah (Isaiah 54.1-10), according to Sephardic tradition, has an obvious connection to the Parasha as the LORD compares the unending strength of His covenant not to destroy the earth again by water to His own love and care for His chosen nation Israel.
“For a brief moment I deserted you, but I will regather you with great compassion. In a surge of anger, I hid My face from you a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says Adonai your Redeemer. “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me: for as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more cover the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, nor will I rebuke you. Isaiah 54.7-9
But there is another connection between the Parasha and the Haftarah. Remember that the LORD told Noach and his family to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the land.” In Isaiah the LORD, after disciplining Israel, tells them to
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch out your tabernacle curtains. Do not hold back—lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right hand and to the left. Your offspring will possess the nations and will resettle the desolate cities. (Isaiah 54.2-3)
Just as the LORD promised Noach that all creation would be restored, He promises to return Israel to the land of milk and honey. Not only will she return but she will stretch out and extend her dwellings to encompass the lands around about her. Remember the promise to Abra(ha)m, “On that day ADONAI cut a covenant with Abram, saying, “I give this land to your seed, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River: the Kenite, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Raphaites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (Genesis 15.18-21). These borders have never been realized, even at the height of the biblical monarchy. But this does not mean that the word of the LORD in incorrect or invalid. “God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes his mind! Does He speak and then not do it, or promise and not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23.19) In fact, the writer of the book of Hebrews affirms that there are two things that are irrefutable, the unchanging nature of the LORD’s purposes and His inability to lie (Hebrews 6.17-8). Just as sure as a rainbow appears in the sky, so Israel remains and will continue – because our God does not lie!
[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.