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B'resheet/Genesis 8:17 Every living thing that is with you ... bring them out with you
This text contains an interesting difference between the way the text is written (k'tiyv) and the way it is traditionally understood and read (q'rey). A fair number of these text/tradition differences occur in the Hebrew text of the Bible and the usual reason for them is a scribal mistake at some time in the far distant past. The most common is confusion between a vav and a yod: the vav was written too short, so is taken and copied on as a yod, or a yod was written too long, so has been taken and copied as a vav. The context usually allows for them to be resolved without too much difficulty, but as the written text has long been a 'sacred' text, it cannot be altered, so there are a number of standard ways of marking or identifying them. The earliest signal we have of this particular occasion is provided by the rabbinic commentary B'resheet Rabbah, probably edited in the same time-frame as the Jerusalem Talmud (up to 400 CE), where "Rabbi Judan said: is written, but it is read " (B'resheet Rabbah 34:8). Notice that this is simply a piece of textual information and does not include any interpretative or semantic comment. Both forms come from the same root: , to go out. Grammatically, is a Hif'il imperative - "bring out" - while is a variant form of Qal imperative - "go out".
The commentators, on the other hand, seem to want to make a point out of using both forms. Rashi, for example, comments that the Qal implies, "tell that they should go out", and that the Hif'il implies "if they do not want to go out, you should take then out". Umberto Cassuto compares the way that Noah, his family and the animals entered the ark before the flood with the way they are to leave afterwards1: "Just as Noah and his family were told to "come into" the ark (B'resheet 6:18), followed by "you shall bring" the animals (6:19), so here after Noah and his family are told to "go out" (8:16), they are to "bring out" the animals. Noah was instructed to permit the animals to enter the ark as they came two by two, so now he is to permit them to leave." Commenting on the type of action involved,Hirsch points out that "being 'brought out' is entirely passive, very much a secondary action to the one bringing them out ; 'come out' allows independence. Only give them permission and they go out by themselves. The whole relief, the breathing freely again of those going out of the unnatural restriction of their stay in the ark, out into the free air again, is expressed in .
As his last act before going up Mt. Nebo to see the Land of Israel that he was not permitted to enter, HaShem instructs Moshe to write a prophetic poem-song (Parasha Ha'azinu), that he is then to teach the people of Israel. Describing the way that HaShem looked after His people both in the desert and once they entered the Land, the song says, "Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The L-RD alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him" (D'varim 32:11-12, NASB). Now while there is no support in the scientific world for eagles actually dismantling their nests in order to force their young to fly, parent eagles nevertheless often have to work quite hard to persuade their young eaglets to get out of the nest. Techniques include eating just out of beak's reach of the nest so that the youngsters have to step out if they want food and lots of demonstrations of how flying is supposed to be be done. But flying alone is not enough to ensure a smooth passage from eaglet to adult eaglehood; the mortality rate for young eagles during their early years before reaching maturity (at around 4 year or so, depending on which eagle), is greater than 40%. Many young eagles simple don't make it. Eagles need to know where and how to hunt, how to watch their backs and - at least in some areas - how to compete for and defend a territory.
This speaks to our need, as believers in Messiah, to grow up and move on as mature and well-seasoned believers, capable of leading and encouraging others, schooled and disciplined in the word and the ways of the kingdom. Many young believers simply don't make it. Rav Sha'ul wrote to the Corinthians about his frustrations with their lack of growth and maturity: "I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?" (1 Corinthians 3:2-3, ESV). The squabbling and petty tribalism being exhibited by the Corinthian believers showed so clearly that they hadn't moved beyond the milk stage.
The writer to the Hebrews could see the same thing happening: "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of G-d. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:12-14, ESV). By now, he says, you should have moved on, you should be teaching others, but you don't seem to have grasped even the basic things correctly. You can't move on because you haven't even got the foundations laid correctly. Just as babies need their digestive system, designed to process milk, to develop and grow so that it can process a mixed diet in order that the whole body can grow, developing healthy bones, teeth, muscles and so on, so believers need to develop and grow so that we can be effective and committed members of the body of Messiah, serving our G-d and King as His ambassadors in this generation.
Perhaps it's time to ask the question, where are you in the L-rd? Are you moving on, growing up and stretching your wings, or are you still on baby formula? Have you heard the L-rd's call to get out of the ark? Have you heard the words Noah did: "Every living thing with you ... bring them out with you" (B'resheet 8:17))? The writer to the Hebrews urged his readers, "Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment" (Hebrews 6:1-2, ESV). Shocking as this may seem, it means that we need to stop feeding the established congregation the basic gospel message in every sermon; we need to move beyond the basic themes of repentance and faith in G-d when we are in core group or house-group meetings (unless it is an outreach group). Instead we need to work on discipleship, prayer, sharing our faith, integrity and consistency, worship, intercession, deliverance, character development - and other themes that will build up and encourage the people of G-d, "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of G-d, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Messiah, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:13-16, ESV).
No member of Noah's family could stay in the ark - they were needed to work the ground and populate the earth; without any of them the list of the nations found in B'resheet chapter ten would be short. Similarly, none of the living creatures saved through the flood by being in the ark could remain, otherwise that species would become extinct - this is an existential necessity! Noah had to invite them to leave, open the door and finally, even if they wanted to stay - shoo them out so that they could take their place in the ecology of G-d's world. As believers in Messiah, we are called in no less certain a way. We have to play our part in extending the kingdom, the reach and witness of the gospel; we cannot become extinct - it is an existential necessity for us too!
1. - Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part Two - From Noah to Abraham, Magnes Press Jerusalem 1984, 965-223-540-7, page 115
Further Study: Jeremiah 17:12-14; Philippians 3:13-16
Application: Are you working your way steadily upstream, or are you treading water so drifting downstream in the current? Time to sharpen up and get focussed on your real destination: in the clear living freshwater of the kingdom, not washed out to sea or wallowing in the brackish tidal waters.
© Jonathan Allen, 2013
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