Hayes on God’s Struggle with Man

From Yale University Professor Christine Hayes:

So God’s focus has shifted dramatically, the text’s focus has shifted dramatically. Why? When you get to the end of Genesis 11 you feel that God has been rather shut out. Things aren’t going well. Although God created the earth as an intrinsically good paradise, he created humans in his image, he provided for them, humans to this point have put their moral freedom pretty much to poor use.

Many scholars, Kaufman, Sarna and others, say that one of the differences then between these myths of Israel and the mythologies of their neighbors is that in Ancient Near Eastern mythologies you have the struggle of good and evil cosmic powers. In the myths of the Bible this is replaced by a struggle between the will of God and rebellious humans. So these myths are telling also of a struggle, but it’s on a different plane. Adam and Eve, Cain, the generation of the flood, the builders of the tower of Babel — God has been continually spurned or thwarted by these characters. So he’s withdrawing his focus, and is going to choose to reveal himself to one small group, as if to say, “Okay, I can’t reach everybody, let me see if I can just find one person, one party, and start from there and build out.”

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