We study the Torah according to the triennial cycle every Sabbath (Why?), being aware of the teaching tools employed by Torah, and looking for them, so that we can get the message God is trying to convey.
Parsha (paragraph) divisions in this week’s Torah portion:
Gen 8:15-9:7 ends in a parsha stumah, a weak paragraph division.
Gen 9:8-17 ends in a parsha p’tuchah, a strong paragraph division.
This means that Gen 6:9 (where the last p’tuchah was found) through Gen 9:17 forms a single strong paragraph according to God’s paragraph divisions.
Upon outlining, I discovered a chiastic structure in the Gen 8:15-9:7 parsha:
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.
The Gen 8:15-9:7 parsha topic might be YHVH’s blessing on the righteous to be fruitful and multiply. But I note that the chiastic structure points to the heart of the parsha, YHVH’s three promises which are made to the earth, not solely to Noah; and that YHVH blessed Noah but that Noah also blessed YHVH by the olah sacrifice offered in heartfelt worship and thanksgiving. In fact, the chiastic structure is so constructed, that it reveals that Noah blessed YHVH and YHVH blessed Noah, it reveals the reciprocal nature of the relationship.
The Gen 9:8-17 parsha topic might be YHVH’s everlasting covenant with Noah, and the earth.
Today’s reading ends with a p’tuchah, which means a strong paragraph has been completed. But this strong paragraph was begun several weeks ago, so in order to discover the point God is trying to make in Torah, I outlined everything from the last p’tuchah to this. The last p’tuchah came at the end of Gen 6:8, so the Lord considers everything from Gen 6:9-9:17 to teach a single strong point:
Gen 6:9-12 s contrast righteous Noah / corrupt earth
Gen 6:13-8:14 s righteous preserved through the judgment of the wicked
Gen 8:15-9:7 s blessing on the righteous, be fruitful and multiply
Gen 9:8-17 p Elohiym’s everlasting covenant with the earth
The overarching theme of this section might be that God preserves the righteous and destroys the wicked.
While I was outlining, I noticed a pattern established in Torah from the beginning: that every time the Torah tells of the judgment or punishment for sin, the thought, the paragraph is not completed until there has been a promise given of deliverance or preservation or hope.
Gen 2:4-3:21: first sin and its punishment, followed by a promise of Messiah in Gen 3:15;
Gen 4:1-26: Cain’s sin – murder of the righteous seed – and punishment of banishment, followed by birth of Seth, the promise of righteous seed in Gen 4:25;
Gen 5:1-31: judgment of mortality promised for sin, followed by promise of life in that Enoch did not die in Gen 5:24, and promise of comfort and rest in the birth of Noah in Gen 5:29;
Gen 6:1-7: announcement of judgment coming on the wicked, followed by promise of Noah finding grace in Gen 6:8;
Gen 6:13-8:14: judgment of the Flood, followed by the covenant and the promise of the rainbow in Gen 9:8-17.
This pattern teaches us that what the world believes about the God of the Old Testament is wrong: that all He is interested in is judging sin. Yes, God is holy and He judges sin – very important truth! – but NEVER without a promise of hope, life, and an invitation to come through the open door and escape the judgment.
This parashah also introduces one of the most important teaching tools of Torah: common themes. I was struck, in reading today’s parashah, how alike the blessing and the covenant was which God made with Noah in Gen 9:8-17, to the blessing and covenant He made with Adam in Gen 1. In fact, the situations of the two men, Adam and Noah, are very similar, when Noah came out of the ark. There were no humans but Noah and his family, as with Adam. There was no animal life but the male and female pairs with him, as with Adam. The earth was empty of sin, as with Adam. The blessing God spoke over Adam and the animals at the beginning of creation, God repeated to Noah and the animals. The similarities are so striking that it is safe to say that these two passages are linked by a common theme. Why is that important?
What was desirable with Adam’s situation in the beginning, was he dwelt with God. He walked with God and talked with Him, and he remained in His presence. By linking Noah’s situation with Adam’s we can see that Noah and his family had a similar opportunity to dwell with God, to interact with Him — and the reciprocal nature of their relationship which the chiastic structure of Gen 8:15-9:7 revealed hints at a interactive relationship. It was not just Noah doing obligations, with his prayers hitting a heaven like brass, and God afar off.
Then, if we consider that Noah’s Flood is a picture of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits, which is itself a shadow cast by Messiah, we can understand that by entering His covenant God has made a way for us to dwell with Him. It is a picture of restoration and return to Eden!
Finding Messiah in Torah
This week Torah introduces a foundational spiritual truth:
“But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” Gen 9:4-6
Life is in the blood. Now on the most basic level, in this passage God authorizes governments for man, for the purpose of punishing sin to deter it. For the man who sheds blood must have his blood shed. This is why we have capital punishment for murder.
But on another level, God is saying, “For your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning.” Our sins make us guilty before God, and our lifeblood then becomes forfeit. For our lifeblood, God will demand a reckoning – a recompense. Then He goes on to say, “From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.” Who is the one who is the brother to every man? Yeshua the Messiah – He is the firstborn among many brethren (Rom 8:29). From His hand, God required our life, and Yeshua paid the price for us as a substitute, in full. His blood was shed. This Torah prophecy of the Messiah also shows us that the Messiah would accomplish this work as a man — only a man can atone for the lifeblood of another man. I believe this is why, all through the Gospels, Yeshua refers to Himself as the Son of Man and not the Son of God.