Basis of Human Law Part 6

In previous posts we have seen God’s supremacy, man’s accountability, God’s rights and judgements and the consequences of wrong-doing.

We saw first the actions of an individual and married couple. Then we saw evil invade a family. With the growth of human society we now come to see what happens when individuals live as they please.

Noah and the Ark

The days of Noah reveal some key observations about humanity and God’s dealings with us. Our reference is found in Genesis 6.

The chapter starts with description of two groups of people on the earth. There were the godly, known as the ‘sons of God’. Then there were the rest of humanity, living in their self-will, as Cain had done. The godly men, with God’s grace and destiny on their lives, became distracted with the natural issues of life. They raised children who were powerful and who became people of renown.

However, this whole course of events left very few righteous people on the face of the earth. People were preoccupied with their natural existence, not their place before God. Noah’s family line, however, remained faithful to God.

God decided to destroy the people of the earth and repopulate the earth through the godly man, Noah.

Evil People

God’s description of the evil which prevailed at that time is worth noting. God could see the evil actions of the people, but God could also see what was going on in people’s hearts. The Bible informs us that God looks on the hearts of men.

“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5

Notice that there was great wickedness in the earth. While we do not know what that wickedness was, we have already seen from Cain, and then again from his descendent, Lamech, that murder was committed. In Genesis 6:13 God uses the term “violence” to describe the actions of the people.

Notice also that the hearts of the people were preoccupied with nothing but evil, continually. Whether those evil imaginations became actions or not is not important. In a moral universe even the imaginations of the heart are moral issues. We saw previously that people are commanded to give honour to their parents and not to covet another man’s goods. These are attitudes of heart, which God will judge people for holding. So it is not only actions which are of consideration to God, but intentions, attitudes and thoughts of the heart.

Corrupted Ground

In Genesis 4 we saw that the ground is impacted by man’s sinful actions. Psalm 106:38 tells us that the ground is polluted by murder. We can reflect back to Genesis 3 as well, where Adam’s sin brought a curse upon the ground (Genesis 3:17,18). So it should not surprise us that the evil of the people in Noah’s day caused the ground to again be affected.

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” Genesis 6:11,12

Man’s actions have direct impact upon the land in which he lives. The physical, geographical space which man occupies is impacted by the morality of the people living there. That is why God could make the promise that if the people repented of their evil God would “heal their land”.

“If my people, which are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2Chronicles 7:14

Judgment

God sentenced the people of Noah’s day to capital punishment. They would all drown in a universal flood. Only Noah’s family would be spared.

The whole earth would be judged and punished. Everyone, except Noah’s family, was worthy of death and destruction. Noah’s ancestors all died before the day of the flood, since they were righteous and would not be judged with the wicked.

We see a similar concept of broad-based judgement when Sodom was destroyed many years later. We also see in the Bible the destruction of whole nations, such as Edom, when those nations broke God’s holy standards.

Because of God’s sovereignty and excellent supremacy over mankind, He is able to bring judgement on any scale. He can deal with the individual – as with Cain, the person and their generations – as with Adam and Eve, or the entire planet at one time.

Set Apart

In this chapter we also see that not all people are equal. Due to the invasion of sin into people’s lives and the subversion of people by the power of sin, there are different possibilities open to individuals, families and nations.

Noah found grace in God’s sight (Genesis 6:8). Therefore God blessed him and his family. Noah had three sons and three daughters-in-law. Noah, his wife, his sons and his daughters-in-law were the only 8 people spared from the global flood. Noah’s family was set apart from the rest.

This principle of privilege and blessing resting on people and their descendents based on the actions of the ancestor is one that people have resisted through human history. The French Enlightenment declared its devotion to ‘egality’, trying to throw off the positions of privilege which were enjoyed by some in their society. They despised the reality of inherited privilege. The same occurred in the Marxist revolutions. Yet we see from the early pages of human history that some people are set apart for blessing and others for curse.

Cain became a vagabond because of his murder. Noah became the source of hope for his children, because he found grace in the eyes of God. Today there are families and individuals which experience better or worse possibilities than others, based on their personal or inherited conditions.

This is a matter of divine prescription, outside the jurisdiction of man’s law. When God is on our side, no human law can be successful against us.

No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that will rise against you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:17

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Let them curse, but you bless: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let your servant rejoice.” Psalm 109:28

Chinese Link to Noah

There is an ancient Chinese account of Noah’s flood. Amazingly the Chinese glyph or character which is written for the word ‘boat’ includes the symbols for eight mouths or people. There were eight people on Noah’s ark, and in the Chinese character for boat (or ark) the idea of eight people is embodied. Interesting. To see one of the many links to this information go to: http://creationwiki.org/Chinese_characters_for_Noah%27s_ark

Human Law

Following the flood of Noah’s day we have the first indication that God is placing the privilege and responsibility of judgement into human hands. Human law has its earliest manifestation at that time. So we will investigate that in the next post.

Sumerian King List

The Bible account of history should be confirmed by ancient historical documents. Corroboration of Bible history is found to some degree in the ancient Assyrian texts excavated from Nineveh, which hark back to ancient Sumerian myths and historical records.

Mythical Documents

Those ancient Assyrian texts, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enuma Elish and Epic of Atrahasis do relate aspects of human history reflective of Biblical history. Those reflections are tainted, however, by the polytheistic mythology interpolated into the historical record, such that the documents are considered mythical, rather than historical. Nonetheless, spontaneous creation and a global flood are significant aspects of Biblical history which are clearly celebrated in the ancient Sumerian legends.

It is worth noting that the ancient Assyrian writings do not involve myths about evolution, millions of years, ice-ages, missing links, spontaneous generation, punctuated equilibrium, a big bang or life from outer space. Yet those myths do speak of divine creation, mankind under divine accountability and a global flood. It is logical that these myths involved such events because they were part of the true history within human consciousness.

Non-Mythical History

What we should expect to find and what would be valuable in support of the Bible is a non-mythical historical document which attests to creation and the flood, and therefore supports the Bible narrative. We should expect to find a document which is not tainted with mythology, but which reflects from ancient times an independent affirmation of what the Bible declares is to be our human history.

The Sumerian King List is such a text.

The King List

An historical record of kings has survived from the Sumerian age, speaking from antiquity and tracing human history from the very beginning though to the time of Hammurabi of Babylon. This record offers a window into the ancient past which lends historical support to the Bible record.

The list appears to have developed through history, with successive kingdoms taking charge of continuing the record from earliest times. Sixteen copies of the list have been identified, but not all are in good condition. Some later versions display the process of later kingdoms adding themselves and their kings to the continuing genealogy.

As one kingdom conquered the dominant kingdom of the day it then added its lineage of kings as an extension of the historical record. Then when that kingdom was overthrown the conquerors maintained the record and added their own names in succession, until they, in turn, were overthrown.

There is no reason to doubt the validity of the list, except for some omissions and disparity among the records. Many of the names and places have been confirmed by archaeology. The list attests to its own accuracy by giving specific detail, such as one king whose reign was detailed down to include the three months and three and a half days, as well as the total of years. Another person is detailed as having ruled for forty days. Yet another person is identified as the older brother of his predecessor and also son of the predecessor’s father, Sargon.

Corroboration

The Sumerian King List is an independent corroboration of the Biblical record of divine creation followed by a global flood just a handful of generations after the original creation.

Yet it stands independent from the Biblical record. Where the Bible record follows one of the family lineages from Noah’s three sons, the King List follows a different line. Where the Bible record focuses on a family lineage the King List records successive kings, who are from various families.

The King List, then, cannot be argued as some kind of religious source for the Bible record. The two stand independent from each other, yet they support each other in several significant facts.

The King List is a secular document. It is not maintained as part of religious worship, nor does it set out to deify the Kings or invoke particular religious sentiment, as the Epic of Gilgamesh was made to do. This is significant, because it stands as a secular, non-mythical, historical account of ancient times, yet with remarkable corroboration of the Biblical historical record included in its content.

Creation

The Sumerian King List totally ignores any notion of evolution through vast ages, and speaks from a divinely initiated beginning, as does the Bible. Its opening words are, “After kingship had descended from heaven, Eridu became the seat of kingship.”

Just as the Sumerian and Assyrian mythologies and epics speak of a divinely motivated creation, albeit with grotesque, polytheistic artefacts included, this ancient Sumerian historical record attests to the same reality. Spontaneous creation was not only a fact in the distorted mythical legends, but also in the historical records, just as it is a fact of the Bible record.

The Flood

This King List also attests to a unique flood event very early in the earth’s history. The Bible describes a flood which occurred in Noah’s day. Noah was the tenth person in the historical lineage from the creation of Adam.

The King List speaks of a unique flood event after the eighth generation from the beginning.

“Total: Five Cities, eight kings, reigned 241,200 years. The FLOOD then swept over.”

No other natural or astrological event is referred to in the entire list. The only such event is this reference to “the flood”. All other floods were ignored. No other natural or astrological event was worth reference, but this one flood event was enshrined in the record. Such significance given to the flood attests to it fitting the Bible account of Noah’s global flood.

In the light of this historical record, the mythological references to a global flood which destroyed almost all of mankind, as in the Epic of Gilgamesh, give even more resoundingly credibility to the Bible account.

Kings in Mind

The King List is exactly that: a list of kings. The King List identifies eight kings before the global flood. The Bible records ten generations before the global flood. It is logical that both the King List and the Bible account came from the same information carried on Noah’s Ark. So, why the discrepancy?

The Bible record identifies ten family generations, but only eight patriarchs. Neither Enoch nor Lamech outlived their father, so there were only eight “kings”, or heads of the family line, before the Flood. Thus, even in this detail, the King List corroborates the Bible account.

Mythical Life-spans

Scholars refer to the Sumerian King List as a “mixture of fact and fantasy“. One of the principal reasons for the ‘fantasy’ charge is the unbelievable life spans attributed to the earlier members of the list. The earliest kings were recorded as living for tens of thousands of years.

This problem has been successfully tackled, at least in part, by John Walton, writing in the Fall 1991 issue of Biblical Archaeologist. Walton attributes the problem to an error made along the way, probably when one kingdom took new possession of the list by overthrowing the previously dominant kingdom. The error would have related to the Sumerian numerical use of base 60 in its calculations. In simplified terms this would mean that the numbers were blown out by a factor of 60 times.

Walton was able to rework the ages of the eight persons listed prior to the flood and found that they came very close to the ages ascribed to the eight people between Adam and Noah in the Bible.

Walton’s work brings the King List into greater correlation with the Bible record, but also reveals that the Sumerian document supports the Biblical history of people who lived for close to 1,000 years. He also removes the mythical quality from the list and brings it back into the realm of factual history.

Observations

The Sumerian King List brings the following relevant observations to our understanding of ancient times.

Genealogical records were kept from the earliest of time. Moses was able to provide acurate and detailed information about events which occurred thousands of years before he was born, in the same way successive generations of kings were able to refer back to the Sumerian list.

Genealogical records summarised history around significant personalities, in the same way the Bible accounts for history along one principal family lineage. The Sumerian King List records those who were “king” or head of the family or clan at the relevant time. On that basis we discover that Noah was the eighth in lineage from Adam, even though he was the tenth generation by birth order. Thus Peter records Noah as the “eighth person” in 2Peter 2:5

“And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” 2Peter 2:5

Expanding Record

These Sumerian records were passed down from generation to generation. Conquering kings took over the records in their own court, adding themselves to the grand list. The record grew in stages over time.

The King List record is therefore a true account of people that did live and victories that did occur. The record traces the kings of each dominant kingdom in a succession of kingdoms. We see that several kingdoms enjoy repeated dynasties as the dominant kingdom.

Those who perpetuated the ongoing genealogy understood the record to be fact and worthy of adding their inclusion.

Mathematics Mixed

As discussed earlier, the earliest age accounts were misunderstood at some point in the passing of the records, causing a blow-out of the figures, as per John Walton’s 1991 calculations.

John Walton’s assumptions result in the record of the ante-diluvium kings matching the Genesis record. The error most likely occurred when a new conquering kingdom updated the records, but without understanding the original Sumerian mathematical base.

Genesis Supported

The Sumerian King List is a sound attestation to several elements of the Genesis record.

It accounts for a divine element in the creation.

It accounts for a time of creation, with a beginning that did not need a preceding extended evolutionary history.

It accounts for the limited number of generations before the global flood.

It concurs with the long lives of the ante-diluvium generations.

It confirms the unique global flood incident, worthy of being recorded apart from all other flood or natural events, and thus matching the flood of Noah’s day.

It attests to the process of passing down historical records and “generations” as was done from Adam to Moses, in the compilation of the Genesis historical record.

It allows for misunderstanding in the passing down of the record, as conquering kings took possession of the record but may not have fully understood the basis on which it was maintained. This is different to the lineage record passed down to Moses, as that record was kept in the family, along with a supporting oral tradition. The Biblical detail is therefore factual and reliable.

It allows for the interpolation of spurious divinity into the record, as a conquering king made his self-appointed assertions of the basis of his authority, without denigrating the actual record itself. When King Meskiaggasher of Eanna conquered Kish he had his scribes add him to the list, but as a “son of Utu” (the sun god). This deistic insertion would have been an attempt to aggrandize and elevate himself, as was done in the deification of Egyptian Pharaohs and others.

The list confirms the real existence of Gilgamesh, and thus reveals the encroaching religious mythology which developed in some kingdoms over time. The Epic of Gilgamesh, a real person, presents a perverted mythological tale involving polytheistic deities who were imagined and interposed into human consciousness somewhere during the time of the Sumerian kings.

The emergence of polytheistic concepts represents a degeneration of human consciousness, rather than the forward movement of the evolution of religious thought.

The King List starts with reference to heaven, as per the Bible account, but degenerates into mythology as the centuries pass. The Bible account has maintained its integrity, being preserved by God from the deception and delusion which shrouded the minds of those influenced by the serpent ‘Satan’ character described in Genesis 2.

A Valuable Find

In light of the points mentioned above, the Sumerian King List proves to be a valuable document in support of several aspects of the Biblical record. I commend it for inclusion in discussions on the historicity of the Book of Genesis.