Tag Archives: Genesis

A New Heaven And a New Earth

Are they one and the same?

In The Bible’s book of Genesis, humankind are given “dominion” over the plantet upon which we live. At the end of The Bible, in Revelation, we are told of “a new heaven and a new earth”, which are also the final words of the book Unveiling a Parallel. which I reviewed here, that inspired this post.

At the end of the Unveiling a Parallel story, the unnamed traveller to the planet Mars saw in the society of that planet what could be a different way of living for the humanity of this Earth. He came to appreciate how the people of Mars lived an idyll; a new heaven. Or, what could be heaven like if Earth’s humanity could learn to live peacefully together.

Earth’s humanity has taken “dominion” as giving ourselves the right to exploit the planet, usually for profit. We have forgotten that dominion also confers responsibility to respect and protect, to manage and steward Earth’s resources in a way that does not harm the planet. We have ignored these inconvenient aspects of dominion.

Humankind has taken oil and coal, metals and minerals from planet Earth with little regard to the consequences. We have poisoned great tracts with chemicals and pumped greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. We have cut down great swathes of the trees that make the oxygen we breathe. Ee face global warming and an uncertain future, largely due to our quest for profit, which ignores the inconvenient truths.

What if, taking Revelation as as a illustration, a new parable maybe, the new heaven and new earth were one and the same?

The traveller to Mars sees a society, and a way of living, that he perceives as a potential heaven on Earth, if only we people of planet Earth could overcome our petty squabbles, wars, injustice, violence and exploitation of the the Earth’s resources for profit.

What might be our new heaven and new earth? Could the new heaven and new earth be one and the same? We are, albeit slowly, beginning to realise the harm we are are doing to our planet. The only planet we know that can support human life.

Could it be that if we fully realise the extent of our destruction of the planet, it is not too late to do something about it?

It took millions of years for planet Earth to evolve to a human habitable environment. It took only a few hundred to strip it and damage it, to its present state. As with everything, damage to the planet was inflicted much, much faster than its evolution and our ability to repair that damage.

But suppose for a moment we do repair the damage. It will probably take generations; thousands of years to return it to the state it took hundreds to bring to its current state. If all the people of the planet started tomorrow to repair the damage, it would take generations to repair and recover but at the end of it all, our descendants could once again live on a clean, fecund planet. Perhaps a new Heaven and a new Earth.

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Noah

A review of the 2014 film starring Russell Crowe.

Noah is, as far as I am aware, director Darren Aronofsky’s first foray into dramatising for the big screen a story from The Bible. It stars Russell Crowe in the title role, with fine support from his co-stars including Emma Watson, Ray Winstone and Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah.

I’ve read the book and I’ve seen the film and the film Noah is nothing like the book. Ok, so I haven’t actually read the whole Bible but I have read the passage in Genesis that tells us the story of Noah. The film is not much like the book, it is however clearly inspired by the book.

Those who have read at least a little of The Holy Bible will surely know the story of Noah. I suspect though that a great many of teenagers and younger in 2014 might not know the biblical account, so that to them the movie will be just another Hollywood film, with a good story to tell, or should that be sell. Whilst Darren Aronofsky, the film’s director, included all the essential elements of the biblical account of Noah in his film, he also added much that the bible does not include.

From the point of view of making a good action and adventure film I can understand the additions Aronfsky made, although there is at least one glaring error that any Christian or Jew should spot, from the original account in the book of Genesis that inspired the movie. The Bible tells us that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless of the people of his time.” (Genesis 6: 9, NIV), however in the film (not exact dialogue but no mistake in the interpretation) Noah himself, played by Russell Crow, tells us that he was chosen by God not because he was a good man but because he would ‘get the job done’.

Without going too far into the critique with respect to the film’s Bible inspiration, what about the movie, as a movie? I found it entertaining but not too demanding of concentration. If it were an original story I would have to say that it was well told, although there was an element of the film I would have found ‘hard to swallow’ even if I were not familiar with the original account; I had trouble with the Watchers.

The Watchers are, purportedly, fallen angels who disobeyed God and as a punishment were exiled to life on earth, encased in stone. The angels, we are told in the film, having originally been beings of light. It was not the concept of the fallen angels that I had trouble with, just the way that it was portrayed in the film. For me, they somehow just didn’t fit and I would have trouble expanding on that short statement.

As far as the performances went. all the parts were competently played with, in my opinion, the top honours going to Emma Watson as Ila and Ray Winstone as Tubal-cain. Although the acting in all the major roles was proficient, I thought that the casting might have been better. In particular I found Noah’s oldest and youngest sons, Seth and Japheth respectively, too pretty.

This was the first major production I have seen Emma Watson in since her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise. She handled the role if Ila well and is developing into a fine actress. She has a beauty about her, although I do not think she could be described as pretty, and she conveys much with her face and small changes of expression. And of course the reliable Ray Winstone who, if Tubal-cain’s role in the movie had been bigger, Ray might have upstaged Russell Crowe’s eponymous Noah.

One aspect of the film I found to be slightly incongruous was the style of wardrobe, especially for the male characters. Although it would not be appropriate to wear in an office or retail environment, it would not look too out of place as street fashion today.

This might not be an epic of biblical proportions, nevertheless I enjoyed the film although I would have been equally happy to wait for it to be shown on TV, as to pay to see it at the cinema.

Shem: “I thought you were good. I thought
that was why He chose you.”
Noah: “He chose me because He knew I would
complete the task. Nothing more.”

Chariots

 Their importance in biblical history.

Kurkh stela of Shalmaneser depicting the battle of Qarqar (Karkar)

We can find reference to chariots in the Bible going back to it’s first book, Genesis. Such references are not all used in merely historic record, sometimes also figuratively in some texts.

In 2 Kings 18:20 we are given to understand that King Hezekiah would rely on Egypt to assist in Judah’s defence by the dispatch of chariots. It seems, though, that that help was never forthcoming however given the hilly nature of much of Hezekiah’s kingdom, it is questionable how much help chariots might have been, unless the Egyptians arrived early enough the meet an encroaching army on the coastal plains.

Chariots would most likely be the preserve of men of wealth, influence and power, or of officers and noted warriors in a professional army, where the men fought for pay. It is extremely unlikely that any member of a citizens army would have had a chariot. We find an illustration of this in 1 Samuel 8: 11 where Samuel, when asked by the people to appoint a king to succeed himself, warns them tat a king would‘ “take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.”

Where opposing forces met in battle, it is probable that as much as a practical effect in battle, the chariot divisions would incite fear in an opposing force, particularly where such force be comprised largely of a citizens army, with relatively basic weaponry and without access to that battle winning ‘technology’ of the time. In terms of actual lethality the chariot was not always that efficient, as it would be hard for the warrior on board to take a good aim with spear or bow from a moving platform. On battle tactic where the chariot was particularly useful though is on splitting, or dividing the opposing force’s formation, giving a tactical advantage to their own infantry coming up behind the chariots and cavalry.

When Ahab takes to the battlefield against the Assyrian forces at Karkar (c853 BC) We are not told directly in the Bible that the Judahites and Israelites had chariots of their own, however there is evidence that they did. An inscription of the Assyrian king, Shalmaneser III tells us that at the battle of Karkar, Ahab had been able to put 2000 chariots into the field but that they were no match for the Assyrian chariot forces.

This might be accounted for not only in the numbers of Assyrian chariots but possibly also in their design. The Assyrian chariots were generally bigger, heavier and drawn by a more horses. Although I have no description of the terrain of the battle, the maps would suggest a relatively flat region where those bigger. heavier Assyrian design of chariot should have an advantage.

In 2 Kings, in chapters 2 and 13, we find ‘chariot’ used figuratively in relation to the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The first occasion in 2 Kings 2:12, is when Elijah is taken to heaven carried on God’s flaming chariot. Elisha reportedly said of this event ,at which he was present, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” A possible interpretation of Elisha’s reaction is that he though Elijah was, or had been, more valuable to Israel than its armies. This impression is reinforced when Elisha is dying and Jehoash comes to him on his death bed and reputedly says “My father, my father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”.

In the New Testament (NT), chariot is only mentioned in 2 places. In Acts 8 when Philip talks with the Ethiopian. Here the chariot is being used only a a means of transport. Yet even this minor use supports the probability that only the wealthy, influential or those with authority would have a chariot; the Ethiopian was “an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace (Queen of the Ethiopians).

The second use we find in the NT is in Revelation 9:9, where chariot is used as a metaphor “the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots” for the sound of the wings of a plague of locusts. The book of Revelation is itself full of metaphor and symbolism which,  I have to admit, I struggle with.

Adapted from an article I wrote for a course on the Bible’s prehistory.