When writing blogs is something that you love to do, you usually write on a topic or event that has inspired you in some way or another. Then there are times the topic or event chooses you. And the topic of this blog has chosen me at this time.
I had contemplated writing on this topic in the future but in a different direction. But here recently I have had some contact me with questions about the passage in Genesis 8, and the Jewish teaching surrounding it.
As a Noahide I try to learn everything I can pertaining to the 7 Noahide Laws and Noahide life. I admit that there are times I come across a teaching like the one about Genesis 8:22 that causes me to stop in my tracks and scratch my head. So I have to put it on the back burner for awhile and continue on with my studies.
To be honest, because of our past Christian experience, many of us has adopted a kind of warning system within ourselves. This warning system is there to protect us from being lied to again when it comes to the spiritual matters.
We so desire to walk with our Creator in truth that we become suspect very easily. We can no longer just take a biblical teaching from someone at face value. We have the need to prove something before we can trust it.
Our trust factor has been damaged by those in whom we trusted to teach us what the bible said and meant. The church system from early on was built on lies and so many of our teachers taught us lies without them even knowing it themselves.
In our search for truth, after coming to the knowledge that we had been lied to, it has become very hard just to accept the teachings from the Orthodox rabbis and Sages of Israel on face value.
So many times we come to the teachers of the Torah like a hurt puppy that shrinks back and snaps at those who are trying to help.
When we of the nations come to the Torah – the instructions of our Creator – we are in a state of starting over. We have to approach this new life and understanding like a new baby that has not reached the point of chewing solid food, nor are they able to walk yet.
The Torah way of understanding and wisdom is ancient and there is no place for western, Roman, Greek thinking when it comes to Torah knowledge. Torah has 3300 years of a study system built within it. What I am saying is that our western way of thinking and studying does not work with Torah based studies. We have to relearn what we think is theology and how it has been understood and taught within Israel since the days of Moses.
How can we know that our western ways does not work with the Torah of our Creator?
Pslams 147: 19-20
He proclaims His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances unto Israel. He has not dealt so with any nation; and as for His ordinances, they have not known them.
This passage is clear, the Torah was not given to any nation but Israel, the children of Jacob. Matter of fact it tells us that, we of the nations have not known them; we may know something about them but we do not know them.
Even though we had Christian bibles that contained a form of the Hebrew Scriptures, that we could pick up and read at any time. We were not given the true knowledge of the Torah itself nor its ancestral teachings. The only way we can find out what it really says and means is to come to Israel for the answers like we know nothing at all.
We are shown in three places within the Hebrew Scriptures about the people of the nations coming to Israel.
1. King Solomon’s Temple dedication prayer. He talks about the stranger that is not of His people who comes to the Temple from afar.
2. Deuteronomy 4, Israel is told that the guarding and observance of the Torah would be their wisdom and understanding in the sight of the other nations would cause the nations to declare the greatness of Israel.
3. Zechariah 8 tells us that the nations will come to the Jew to learn about God.
These examples show that God works through Israel and He has not done the same thing with those of the nations.
Now we are ready to look into that verse afresh.
While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.’
One of the rules for Noahide study is reading the text of the Torah from a plain and simple meaning of the text. This helps us from creating our own ideas that can cause to be back in the boat we came out of.
Even the Sages and rabbis teach that verse alone, simply teaches us that the natural order of the earth will not cease, i.e. stop.
Understand, like I said before the Torah Jews have studied verses like this for 3300 years in its original language not from a translation. Over the centuries the Jews have developed a Hebrew exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Remember, the Hebrew Scriptures was given to Israel as their heritage, they belong to them. The Creator gave it to Israel and commanded them to be a guard over it. We are the strangers treading into their territory.
I admit that when I read the Jewish exegesis of this passage my warning sirens went off and thought they were doing the same thing to this verse that Christian pastors and teachers have done in the past. But I also know from my 6+ years of Jewish studies for conversion that the Jews had a way of understanding the Scriptures that was foreign to my western trained mind set, so I backed off and waited for the Creator to show me what I was missing in understanding their interpretation.
We need to look at the verse in Genesis 8:22 along with the next verse in Genesis 9:1. The Torah scroll is not divided up into Chapters.
Lets take a close look at these scriptures and do some digging.
Genesis 8:22 – 9:1
While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.’ And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.
The mission of man is to settle and populate the whole earth. And this is what the nations have done for the most part.
There is a Jewish teaching on Genesis 8:22 that shows us that gentiles are not required to keep a Sabbath.
This teaching has causes a lot of issues with gentiles trying to learn Torah. Some and even I at first that the rabbis twisted things up to keep gentiles out.
Before we get into the above passage, understand that the prohibition of a gentile and Sabbath is in the setting up a “ritual Sabbath”. There is an English word that throws so many gentiles off. That is the word, ‘rest’ in conjunction with the word Sabbath, like a ‘Sabbath rest’
The Jewish Sabbath is something few gentiles would know about unless you have studied for conversion. Just to be simple, a gentile never keeps Sabbath like a Jew because they do not know all the details in making a Sabbath the way the Jews were commanded in keeping it.
The word Sabbath means to cease, which the Creator never commands the general population of man to do. To understand Sabbath is to understand what the Creator tells Israel to cease from. And in a short, the cease to Israel is the ceasing of all creative activity on the 7 day.
“While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.’ And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.”
We have to look deeper beyond just the plain text here and find an internal teaching that supports what the Torah shows us in other places. If an interpretation goes against anything in Torah, it is thrown out. It all has to align.
Now, we find in these two passages that the nature of the earth is not going cease, and man was created to populate and inhabit the earth.
What is this telling us?
The earth does not cease in its function – seed time and harvest is continual as day and night. Man was created to live and operate within this system.
The Sabbath was given as a commandment to a people and a land outside of this natural system, the people and land of Israel. They have a special job to do that is separate from the rest of mankind. The mixing of their commands with ours does not work and causes a lot of confusion.
We the people of the nations were placed in an earthly and spiritual system where there is no ceasing from creative activities. We and the earth were created to work together to fulfill the will of the Creator for which He designed us for.
Now this does not mean that we can not take a day off to rest our bodies and minds, to refresh ourselves, play if we need to, read a book, spend time with family and friends, get some extra Torah study in or do extra praying.
But we are not to make a ritual Sabbath any day of the week.
The earth’s natural system does not take time off, we are to settle the earth and inhabit it and this means a 7 day a week involvement with it. And that includes taking time to enjoy what the earth has to offer. At anytime of the week we can take off and go to the beech, the mountains, a park and enjoy the fruits of the earth and our labors. But we do not cease our involvement with it. Our settling the earth is a 7 day a week job and this includes a lot of activities that does not involve manual labor.
For me it is a day to catch up on things like hair cuts, grocery shopping, sleeping in, short day trips – I love using Saturdays as a writing day when I can.
To my current knowledge, there is no spiritual benefit in a gentile trying to keep any form of a so called ritual/spiritual Sabbath day. That is not our commandment nor our mission on the earth. The earth does not cease nor should we. We are to continue on with our everyday life. And this pleases the Creator.
When we settle the earth in an unceasing way, we partner with the Creator in His dream of an earth filled with moral and ethical people.
There are ways we can make the 7 day special and this leads me to another topic for another blog.
Terry W. Hayes
Photo Credit: Vince Fleming on Unsplash