A reader of my writings raised some thought-provoking questions about the book of Genesis. These questions, which delve into the actions of certain biblical figures, are not only intriguing but also relevant to our understanding of the text. I am sharing the answers on my website to ensure that others who share these queries can benefit from them. I may have changed the wording of some of the questions.

Questions: I have found a few exciting things in my study of Genesis. Several people in the Bible were recorded as doing something out of the ordinary and, more often than not, wrong according to the mitzvahs. I wondered if the author of Genesis called out these people for a reason. Enoch was the first person who was said to be taken by G-d instead of dying, Lamech was the first mentioned polygamist, and Nahor was the first mentioned to marry a niece. Do you think the Bible is pointing out these people (Lamech and Nahor specifically) to say that what they did was wrong?

 

Answers: I think the Torah begins with stories of non-Jews to highlight the Jewish belief that God created all people and that they are essential to God. Jews are told to observe specific laws and are good when they do so. Non-Jews were not given these laws and are good without observing the Torah laws.

The Torah shows us that virtually every person mentioned, including the forebearers of the Jews, the patriarchs and matriarchs, did wrong acts. Everybody makes mistakes. People are given free choice and often misuse them. People should learn to (1) recognize their mistakes, (2) resolve to correct them, and (3) develop habits that help ensure that they will not make the mistake again. They should not rely on prayer, fasting, charity, or clergy to absolve them. The four previously mentioned items are good only if they remind individuals to correct their behavior by doing the three before-mentioned acts recommended by Maimonides.

When the Torah states that God took Enoch, it means he died. The same euphemism is often used today by some clergy who say God took this person.

 

 

Question: I find it interesting that the male side characters in Genesis are often said to have wives, but the women are never named. In Lameh’s case, both were named Adah and Zillah, and I think his temperament and pride were also called out; Nahor’s wife was also named Milcah, and it was stated that she was his niece. If this is the case, why wouldn’t Sarai have been mentioned initially and said to have been Abram’s sister? A few sentences later, Sarai was named instead of being “Abram’s wife.” Would this mean that Abram lied when he said Sarai was his sister to avoid being killed by the Pharaoh? Also, would this mean there was a code of law before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses if the biblical author calls out these relationships?

 

 

Answer: The Torah does not generally place women on the same level as men. This was because the people, when the Bible was given, stupidly thought women were inferior, a foolish notion that still exists in the minds of too many people. Yet, it hints in many ways that this is wrong. One of the many ways is that it shows that the Torah disliked polygamy. Whenever a man, even Lamech and Abraham, took more than one wife, there was strife in the family.

Some rabbis thought a code of conduct was hinted at in the Torah, which they called Noahide Laws. Others accepted the idea of Noahide Laws even though they are not mentioned in the Torah because they are an excellent code of conduct.

Nachmanides felt that Abraham did wrong when he claimed Sarai was his sister. He said Abraham should have relied on God’s help. Maimonides disagreed. He said God gave humans intelligence, and they should use their intelligence, as Abraham did, to save themselves.