The Jewish people have always had a longing for Messiah. In Part I of this series we learned that the Hebrew prophets spoke of two archetype Messiahs – the Suffering Servant, one who would save them from the war against human sin within, and the Triumphant King, one who would save them from the political war without. In much of Jewish literature outside the bible, including the Talmud and the Targums (sermons delivered in the common language of the people) the rabbis speculated about how these two contrasting depictions of the Messiah would manifest. Of the various scenarios they envisioned, the Gospel was not one of them – that the Messiah would appear at the beginning of a new age as Suffering Servant, one who would die for atonement of sin, and then the same figure would return at the end of the age as Triumphant King ushering in a Golden Age.
Proof by Contradiction
This Gospel scenario came as a surprise to many Jewish people in the first century, so much so that some had trouble accepting the ”Gospel Messiah” as “The Messiah”. But the fact that it was surprising was no surprise; for the prophet Isaiah had spoken centuries earlier, “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” Isaiah 64:4
The same sentiment was expressed by Paul of Tarsus after Jesus ministry on earth as the Suffering Servant had been completed, paraphrasing the same scripture, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 The Messiah was intended as a surprise.
This is the first of two proofs by contradiction, and not an easy one to dispel. (By not easy, I mean that it is possible to dispel, and I extend the invitation for readers to try their hand at it in the comment section). The first of two proofs is that the learned rabbis, yearning for Messiah, had envisioned at least three other scenarios for the coming of Messiah, but the Gospel scenario that changed the world had not entered into their hearts, attests to the Gospel Messiah’s credibility, having fulfilled the words of Isaiah concerning the element of surprise. We will discuss the second proof by contradiction, the predicted rejection of Messiah by his own people, in a future part of this series.
Legacy of Noah’s Sons
Genesis describes the continued decline of mankind into every kind of corruption. According to it, the sons of God were having orgies with the daughters of men. Genesis 6:4-5 If you will, this a metaphor describing how man’s lower nature, when predominating too long, suppresses the capacity to receive enlightenment from the heavenly realms, channeling whatever Light that does come through into perversions. This perversion of the Light is sort of like an apostate Christian buying a married friend a beer at a tavern to celebrate his baptism, then buying him another, and then another, then introducing him to the ladies upstairs. I know this sounds far-fetched, but this is approximately what happened to former “Praise the Lord” TV evangelist, Jim Bakker.
In the story of the flood, corruption due to undeveloped consciousness reaches the desperate level required to trigger a need for a complete makeover. Realizing the great suffering that selfishness brings to mankind, the divinely inspired soul of man longs to start over again with a more successful game plan. Noah is starting to wake up to the change. He can sniff it in the air as if perched on his shoulders.
And so he makes preparations for that change, listening intently to the guiding voice of divinity within, as if telling him, “Stop drowning in the mire. Build an Ark and extract yourself and the ones you love most from this chaotic corruption and the deluge of its consequences.”
Noah is deemed righteous because he listens to the inner voice with intent to obey, unperturbed by the distracting forces of the lower nature trying to pull him away. Listening to the inner voice and taking action with accordance to it – that, and that alone- is the necessary ingredient for the soul to survive and flourish; everything else must go, tossed over the side like flotsam and jetsam, useless dead weight. It’s either that or drown in the deluge. The fundamentalist version of this is “trust and obey”, but unless we want to get invited back to the tavern, which is now hundreds of feet underwater, we better make sure who to trust and what to obey.
The water that was the great threat is now the instrument of salvation, lifting the Ark out of danger to the height of the tallest mountains, where it safely lands with its cargo of 8 humans, the 8 signifying new beginnings, and with every seed of life necessary to start over anew. The Light has pierced the darkness. It will never be necessary for everything else to get tossed over. The turning point has come. God makes a promise in the sign of the rainbow never again to take such desperate measures, because as scripture declares, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD”. Genesis 8:9 So whenever the rainbow appears, it is a reminder to appreciate what catastrophic consequences from which grace has saved us.
Now that consciousness has more fully matured, it is time for man, uplifted by grace, protected from evil influences inside the protective womb of the Ark, to be reborn with a new heart back into the material world. This rebirth brings Noah’s three sons into it. One of them, his youngest, Ham, who is the father of Canaan, has awakened prematurely with a touch of perversion still lingering, causing him to dishonor his father instead of serving him. But the order of the day in this new age of awakened consciousness is to be trained and disciplined instead of destroyed. The vision in Genesis is that, one day, the descendants will grow out of this immaturity through service to the descendants of Shem and Japheth; and when they do mature, they will be honored with full equality and responsibility; but like everything else that is good, they will learn its full worth by struggling to attain it. The descendants of Shem and Japheth will likewise struggle and prevail in the end to fulfill their archetype legacies to humanity.
This is a difficult pill to swallow, and I am hesitant to even bring any of this up because of the racial connotations. It might help to premise this by explaining that each of Noah’s sons was bestowed with a mixed destiny of trouble and blessing. Often it is the lessons from the trouble that brings the most blessing in the long run. As we may already be aware, Shem’s descendants, the Semitic peoples, are slated to be persecuted, dislodged and scattered, subject to genocide, and then endure the worst horrors, including corporate annihilation in the end times. In comparison, Japheth will launch out in a hundred false directions, following futile religions and empty philosophies, pitting strength against strength in wars and economic competition, only to be drawn back to the tents of Shem to find real fulfillment.
These archetype traits of Noah’s three sons are easy to accept as allegorical. They represent tendencies in every people and in each one of us. What is harder to accept, and what may invoke inquiries in the comments sections to this post, which I would welcome, is that this is not simply a fairy tale. It will play out in history. It will produce unbearable strife, but out of it will come heroic visionaries like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr who changed the world by inspiring all men to stop oppressing minorities. This is a struggle that belongs to all of us who are conscious of it. It is both a historical struggle and a symbolic struggle of all mankind, a lesson for the soul.
The decedents of Japheth who have formed all the nations, and who after futilely fighting two devastating World Wars, wars that were supposed to end all wars, will seek a higher path by sitting down at a United Nations to try to hash out their differences; and yet still they will not be entirely satisfied, and will thus continue to be drawn to the tents of Shem where the spirit of the Messiah dwells. This too is both a historical struggle and a symbolic struggle of all mankind, a lesson for the soul.
My point is, that as allegorical as most of the Book of Genesis may seem to us, from which valuable metaphorical applications may be derived to raise our consciousness; yet there is another reality to these stories, in that they prophetically foretell world history in a manner that is astoundingly accurate. Some of it is awesome, and some of it is so scary we would like to discount it.
The good news is that the historical implications – some better, some worse – are also for our spiritual edification. They establish the credibility of Messianic prophecies, some of which have already been literally played out in history, and the others will continue to be literally played out, working their way beyond the predicted tribulations and, at last, to a happy ending in the world to come.
An even greater implication that is relevant to us in our day, and that will be borne out further in later parts of this series, is that the Suffering Servant Messiah’s appearance in Israel, which was foretold by the prophets to occur before the destruction of the second Temple, was as historical as the destruction of the Second Temple itself. It was not merely metaphorical, although the metaphorical implications are extremely relevant. Written in our scriptures, written in our history, and written in our very own lives, the Messiah is as real as our next meal.
Getting back to Noah, according to the bible story, when Noah discovered what Ham had done, he pronounced a blessing on two of his sons, but a curse on Ham’s son, Canaan, “Blessed be the LORD, The God of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant.” Genesis 9:27
Japheth is a strong and handsome lad, and will spread the double-sided coin of the delights and enticements of both physical attractiveness and physical strength throughout the earth. His name means enlarge, and his descendants will expand to populate the nations of the world as the Gentiles. Rabbis believe the Hebrew root “yapht” is contained in his name, which is used in Psalm 45:2 to connote physical attractiveness, “Thou art fairer (yapht) than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever”.
Shem, who is said to be less physically handsome, has a more subtle type of attractiveness that is spiritual. His descendants will start the world’s monotheistic religions and carry the seed of Messiah. Japheth will be attracted to the tents of Shem for that reason. When he is not so engulfed in expansive competiveness, or driving a steam roller over the tent, Japheth will protect the tent and yearn for the spirit of Messiah dwelling in it. Can anyone deny that history attests to that? (Another invitation to comment).
The bible starts out as what we understand as an allegory, and then moves slowly into the realm of the real. Whatever similar stories may have appeared in the sacred literature of other cultures (see references 3, 4, 5) whether they have been borrowed or lent, and which have great significance to those cultures and to us, they do not have the same direct impact enfolding into human history, such as the account of Noah’s sons have.
This does not mean that all of human civilization has been traced back to one man, Noah. DNA evidence of that is presently either inconclusive or skewed the other way. However, what was foretold either metaphorically or literally, and what was then recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures millennia ago, has literally manifested throughout human history to this present day. We would be hard pressed to explain this apparent coincidence any other way. (Another invitation).
We have seen in Part I of this series that the rabbi’s hoped for the Messiah promised to Eve who would be both wounded and triumphant. He would be descended through her third son, Seth, whose name means “appointed”. We discovered in this present post, part II, that the lineage from Seth would pass selectively through Noah, whose name means “repose”, down to his son Shem, whose name means “renowned”.
As we shall discover in the next part of this series, the actual bones of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Ishmael are said to be laying in the carefully guarded “Tomb of the Patriarchs” in the Holy Land. As we have discovered in a previous post discussing Jericho2, there is considerable archeological evidence showing that the Hebrews did actually sack Jericho after coming across the Jordon on their way to conquering the land of Canaan. Ruins that are considered to be King David’s palace have in recent times been unearthed in an archeological dig in Jerusalem. There are gaps in historical records because Rome ransacked Jerusalem. There are records from surrounding cultures about first century Israel that are sometimes sketchy and suspected at times of partial fabrications. Yet still, what the prophets predicted about Israel and the nations is still coming true. The rabbis guessed incorrectly about how the Messiah would manifest, just as the prophets foretold they would; and in this age Israel continues to reject the Gospel Jesus as the Suffering Servant Messiah, just as the prophets foretold.
With all this in mind, the most important question to be pondered by each one of us throughout this series on “Understanding the Messianic Prophecies” is as follows:
Why would we think Messianic prophecies, which have had excellent credibility in foretelling historical events, and which point through a myriad of voices toward a visitation of Messiah specifically in first century Jerusalem… why would they be fulfilled by a myth instead of flesh and blood. (Comments invited).