Shavua tov! (sha-voo-ah tove) Good week to you!
Today I want to show you a little trick, something very cool you can see in a Hebrew Bible that isn’t visible in an ordinary English Bible.
This Hebrew Bible contains chapter numbers and verses, but it also contains something that was in the original Hebrew manuscript — paragraph divisions! Our Bible wasn’t divided up into chapters and verses until around A.D. 1227, but the original had paragraphs. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to learn more and to discover how you can easily see them yourself.
If you’re reading along with Christine Miller each day, you’ll see her talk about chiastic structures and paragraph divisions. In today’s reading (overlapping a little bit into yesterday’s), she makes a chiastic structure from three weak paragraphs: Genesis 8:15-22, Genesis 9:1-7, and Genesis 9:8-17.
The theme is easy to see: It’s all about the covenant YHVH made with all mankind.
To explain this as simply as possible, a chiastic structure is when themes are stated, then a key point is made, and then the themes are repeated again, usually in backward order.
1a) Roses are red.
1b) Violets are blue.
1c) Dandelions are yellow.
central axis) I love all the flowers God made.
2c) Dandelions are healthy plants.
2b) Violets make the fields look beautiful.
2a) Roses are majestic.
Do you see how I repeated all these elements? The “central axis” is the statement I made in the middle: I love all the flowers God made. That’s the key point!
So the reason we look for chiastic structures is so that we can find the key point.
In today’s reading, we can see two key points. Can you see them?
Gen 8:15-9:7 s
1a) Gen 8:15-19, Be fruitful and multiply;
1b) Gen 8:20, Noah blessed YHVH by offering the lifeblood of the olah sacrifice;
central axis) Gen 8:21-22, YHVH smelled the soothing aroma and declared three promises;
2b) Gen 9:1-6, YHVH blessed Noah; instruction concerning the lifeblood of animals and men;
2a) Gen 9:7, Be fruitful and multiply.
Gen 9:8-17 p
1a) Gen 9:8-11a, “I establish My covenant with you + your descendants + every living creature with you;”
1b) Gen 9:11b, “Never again shall all flesh be cut off + earth destroyed by flood;”
1c) Gen 9:12, “This is the sign of the covenant between Me and you + every living creature;”
1d) Gen 9:13a, “I set My rainbow in the cloud;”
central axis) Gen 9:13b, “It shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth;”
2d) Gen 9:14, “It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud;”
2c) Gen 9:15a, “I will remember My covenant between Me and you + every living creature;”
2b) Gen 9:15b, “The flood shall never again destroy all flesh;”
2a) Gen 9:16-17, “The rainbow/ sign of the everlasting covenant which I have established between Me + all flesh.”
Let’s talk about each of these.
Do you remember how Noah took 7 pair of clean animals on the ark? Later in the book of Leviticus, we read that these animals are acceptable to YHVH as a sacrifice. Noah must have known this, because the first thing he did when he got off the ark was to make a sacrifice.
“Then Noah built an altar to YHVH, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And YHVH smelled a soothing aroma” (Genesis 8:20-21).
Have you ever thought about how an ox would smell if it were butchered and placed over a hot fire? Steak! It smells so good! And it smelled good to YHVH also! And as we continue into chapter 9, it looks to me like YHVH offered some of that steak to Noah, along with instructions for how to eat meat in a way that was acceptable to Him (Genesis 9:3-4).
Right after dinner, YHVH made a covenant with Noah and his descendants forever (which includes you and me).
The word covenant (Strong’s #1285) is breet, and it can also be translated as “selected, meat, and fattened.” It comes from a Hebrew root meaning “animal feed, grain, and fat.”
Everyone knows that you get the best steaks by finishing a cow on grain to get him nice and fat. But it’s funny to me that the word for a covenant has so much to do with a steak dinner!
Sometimes the Hebrew word brit means to cut, and they indeed “cut a covenant” as those steaks were prepared for dinner.
And if you’ll be watching as we continue through the Bible, you’ll see that when a covenant is made, it always goes along with a juicy steak dinner — and usually a bunch of other great food on the menu as well. Sometimes all the steak is burned up in the fire so that only an amazing smell goes up, and you’ll see that YHVH continues to think that’s a “soothing aroma.”
A meat offering to God is a barbecue.
And it’s going to become apparent that when we sit at a meal together with someone else, that meal usually has a purpose.
We are saying that we’re together. We’re in agreement. We have the same purpose. We’re going to follow through.
There are so many other things I could say about today’s reading, but I’m going to stop there. As you sit at the table with your family for dinner tonight, keep these thoughts in mind. And if you attend a wedding this week, think about how you’re in agreement that the bride and groom should get married. And that business lunch on Tuesday? How about the football game and chicken wings? Do you eat with friends on Sabbath? What do all these meals say?
“For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,
Nor shall evil dwell with You…
But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;
In fear of You I will worship [offer sacrifices] toward Your holy temple…
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name be joyful in You.
For You, YHVH, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:5, 7, 11, 12).
“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person” (1 Corinthians 5:11).
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
To Study Further:
- Christine explains how Hebrew paragraphs work and introduces the teaching tool of common themes.
- Read Genesis from the Hebrew Bible, including paragraph markings <<== Bookmark this site
- Take this master class on YouTube to help you understand chiastic structures and the other teaching tools of Scripture:
- Why did YHVH get so upset with Ham that He even cursed his son Canaan? Find out more of what YHVH thinks of this sin by reading Leviticus 18:7-8.
- Some people think that Ham actually slept with his mother (Noah’s wife), who then became the mother of Canaan. We can’t know for sure, but the Torah seems to allow for this interpretation, and it could explain much ancient mythology and the mother-child cult that many believe had its roots in this incident.