Book Reviews

From Noah to Israel

Realization of the Primaeval Blessing after the Flood

Carol M. Kaminski London 2005-02-15

According to Kaminski, “there has been a widespread scholarly consensus that the creation blessing is fulfilled in the Table of Nations” (p. 139). She adds, “Scholars maintain that Noah’s descendants are not only multiplying, but also filling the earth in accordance with 9.1. Since the dispersion is introduced in Gen. 9.19, this verse is understood to contribute positively to the multiplication theme. Scholars further argue that YHWH’s scattering the Babelites brings about the dispersion, thus YHWH himself is ensuring that his creational commands are fulfilled” (ibid.).

In this exegetically oriented monograph Kaminski challenges this consensus, concluding that the fulfillment of the creation blessing begins with Israel, not the Babel dispersion. She constructs her argument as follows (the numbers correspond to the chapters of the monograph).

1. The verb ≈WP in Genesis 9:19 means “to scatter,” not “to populate.” Thus the connection with the creation blessing to “fill” the earth is not as apparent as some have suggested, “since God did not command Noah and his sons to scatter, but to fill the earth” (p. 140, italics hers). “Moreover, given that scattering seems to be negative in the Babel story, it is unlikely that Gen. 9.19 would be as positive as scholars suppose” (ibid.).

2. The Babelites’ statement in Genesis 11:4, “otherwise we shall be scattered abroad,” needs to be reexamined. Kaminski concludes that “the ‘scattering’ of the Babelites is not to be equated with ‘filling the earth.’ Accordingly . . . Noah’s descendants are not rejecting the command to ‘fill the earth,’ but are fearful of being scattered” (p. 140).

3. The verb ≈WP “is often associated with judgment and is used to represent one of the curses of the Mosaic covenant” (p. 140). Kaminski suggests that the term should not be understood as positive in Genesis 9:19 and 10:18, and she concludes that “YHWH’s scattering Noah’s descendants does not restore the created order intended from the beginning, since God did not command Noah and his sons to scatter. On the contrary, ‘scattering’ could even have an adverse effect on the realization of the primaeval [sic] blessing after the flood” (pp. 140-41, italics hers).

4. Kaminski acknowledges that “the primaeval [sic] blessing is clearly in the process of being realized in the Table,” but she argues that “there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that the blessing is fulfilled in Gen. 10.1–32” (p. 141, italics hers).

5. From an analysis of the Table of Nations Kaminski concludes that Shem’s line is primary. This “intimates that the primaeval [sic] blessing will advance in his line in particular,” as it did in the Sethite line before the Flood (pp. 141–42).

6. The focus on Shem’s line “intimates that divine grace has not been fully exhausted after the Babel judgment” but “is effective in the Shemite genealogy” (p. 142). 

7. The primeval blessing is passed on to Abraham’s offspring through a promise. “God’s intention for his creation is not being accomplished through scattering, but through a divine promise” (p. 142). This means that the patriarchs are “bearers of the creation theme” (ibid.).

8. God’s “creational purposes will be realized through Jacob and his twelve sons” (p. 143). Kaminski sees the number of Jacob’s descendants in Genesis 46:27 (seventy) as mirroring the number of nations in the Table (also seventy) and concludes that the patriarch’s family is “depicted as a small-scale world comparable to the large-scale world represented by Noah’s descendants” (p. 143). The subsequent increase in the number of Jacob’s offspring is “an initial fulfillment of the promise of increase,” but “the blessing is largely unrealized in the book of Genesis” (ibid., italics hers).

9. Kaminski points out that “Israel’s multiplication is couched in creation language” in Exodus 1:1–7 (p. 143). She concludes, “Israel’s proliferation in Egypt marks both the fulfillment of the promise of increase to the patriarchs and the primaeval [sic] blessing” (ibid., italics hers).

Kaminski should be commended for her close reading of the text and for her commitment to sound exegesis. Her thesis certainly deserves careful consideration. If correct, it has important implications for biblical theology, as she points out. “God’s intention for his creation, which is largely unrealized in the primaeval [sic] history, is being taken up by Israel” (p. 145). This in turn means that Genesis “establishes an intrinsic connection between the creation story and salvation history” (ibid.). “In other words, salvation history is the continuation of the creation story. Our study thus suggests that the doctrine of creation is the theological basis for the doctrine of redemption” (ibid., italics hers).

One should not be surprised by her thesis. The relationship between creation and redemption suggested by Kaminski appears in other portions of the Old Testament, especially in hymnic and prophetic poetic literature. Several poetic texts depict the creation event as Yahweh’s victory over the forces of evil (symbolized by the sea and its cohorts) and as the first in a series of redemptive events that includes the Exodus and Yahweh’s eschatological victory over Leviathan (Pss. 74:12–17; 89:8–12; Isa. 27:1; 51:9–16; cf. Job 26:5–14).

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