Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Tale Of Two Sighs

There are many kinds of sighs, a contented sigh say at the end of a productive day, an anguished sigh of frustration when your computer crashes again. and many more shades of sighing. You can read about some of the science of sighing at Scientific American blog [1]. But I know what you're thinking, "what's that got to do with Noah's flood?" Noah's father Lamech said this when he named baby Noah.
Gen 5;29 And he called his name Noah, saying: 'This same shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, which cometh from the ground which the LORD hath cursed.' 
Birth of Noah []
"Shall comfort" is translated from y'nachámënû יְנַחֲמֵנוּ. See the nacham? That's the root of the word, and it originally meant "to sigh". It also means comfort.
Strong's #5162: nacham (pronounced naw-kham') a primitive root; properly, to sigh, i.e. breathe strongly; by implication, to be sorry, i.e. (in a favorable sense) to pity, console or (reflexively) rue; or (unfavorably) to avenge (oneself):--comfort (self), ease (one's self), repent(-er,-ing, self).
A little speculation here. We know that Noah didn't give them comfort - after all, they all died in the flood, and Lamech himself died five years before the flood. Lamech's statement was prophetic, but perhaps it was more of a question than a statement. I can picture Lamech (and all mankind) scrabbling out an existence due to the curse of thorns and thistles (Gen 3:17), heaving a sigh saying "May this one bring us comfort". Was it hope or frustration?


Lamech wanted relief from "our work and in the toil of our hands". I know what you're thinking, "What's this got to do with Adam and Eve?" There is the obvious connection that the curse of thorns and thistles was Adam's punishment. But there is a linguistic connection as well, the Hebrew for toil (some translations say labor) is itzavon עִצָּבוֹן, the same word used in Gen 3:17. 

Gen 3:17 cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life
Gen 3:18 Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee
Some translations say toil, some say labor or even painful labor, some say sorrow.  So it would appear that the curse on the ground was still in force in Lamech's day, but was lifted after the flood. While gardens and fields today produce some weeds and some thorns and thistles, it is not the hard labor described by Lamech. But today's harvest does not compare to the prophecies, for example Amos 9:13. While Adam's curse may have been partially lifted by Noah so to speak, the ultimate fulfillment of that is still to come, and will be lifted by Christ at His return.

But that's not all. Eve's punishment involved pain too.
Gen 3:16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children." 
In fact, it's the same word for pain as in Adam's curse - itzabon. It's the same in English too, women suffer labor pains in childbirth, and men labor making a living from the earth. Since woman still suffer greatly in childbirth, it appears Eve's curse has not been lifted yet, not even a little. If Lamech's wife had made the prayer, perhaps it would have been...


Noah's name also means rest. The New American Standard Bible translates it this way.
Gen 5:29 Now he called his name Noah, saying, "This one will give us rest from our work"
It seems even easier to imagine Lamech sighing and saying "Perhaps this one will give us rest".  Rest fits nicely with the Sabbath day of rest, six days of labor, a day of rest, 6000 years of strife, 1000 years of peace, all foreshadowed by Noah. It also fits nicely with Christ's words.
Mt 11:28 Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Heb 4:9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.

Sigh Two

Now let's see the other sigh of the story. When God saw that all mankind was wicked, it records this.
Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
Gen 6:7 The LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them."
Gen 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
Model of Noah'sArk [2]
The phrase "was sorry" is translated from YiNächem, the same word nacham used earlier when Lamech sighed and named Noah. I picture God sighing in frustration and saying he was sorry he made man. How sorry was He? "Grieved Him to His heart" translated from Yit'aTZëv el-liBô יִּתְעַצֵּב אֶל־לִבּ.  Atsav, the root word of Yit'aTZëv, means to carve. Taking some license in translation, it carved His heart out. (By the way, Gen 6:8 is the first time grace is used in the Bible.)

God Suffers With Us

We can think of God as unfeeling, as the Prime Mover, not subject to pain like humans. "Classic theism teaches that God is impassible—not subject to suffering, pain, or the ebb and flow of involuntary passions." God Without Mood Swings  [3]. This notion came from the Greeks, not the Bible, The God Who Suffers, Christianity Today  [4]. The articles quoted here show that God suffers with us, arguably suffers more than us. 
As John Austin Baker says, "The crucified Jesus is the only accurate picture of God the world has ever seen." The sight of Jesus on the cross disclosed God as one who suffers with humanity. [4]
 the God who suffered for us also suffers with us The God Who Suffers With Us [5]
This isn't some literary device so we humans can comprehend that God is "feeling our pain", this was real pain that carved His heart out. It is not just the pain a parent feels when their child is ill or hurts themselves, worse than the pain I caused my mother in my misspent youth. He suffers right along with us. I have felt abandoned by God even though I knew the scripture that He will never forsake us (Heb 13:5), but that is nothing compared to how Christ must have felt on the cross.

And Hope

These two sighs seem to be born of frustration, but they also reveal insights into the gospel of God, one foreseeing mankind's salvation through Noah, and one speaking of mankind's destruction. 

Lamech: Perhaps he will give us rest.
God: I'm sorry I made man.

Notice that the salvation was arranged before the destruction. The fix was in. The same is true of Christ's second coming, rescue planned long before the end time destruction on the earth.