We now undertake the third in our series of Studies in Biblical Exegesis. Our approach has been, and continues to be, to identify patterns in the arrangement of the Biblical text that enable us to extract the meaning of the text. Thus far, our emphasis has been on parallelisms. Using that as our principal guide in Lesson 2, we took note of an inclusio in the text of the story of the Fall of Man, running from Genesis 2:7 through 4:1. Inside of that, we identified a number of other parallelisms that yielded a picture that the first humans, Adam and Eve, transitioned from God-centeredness to human-centeredness. Though the onset of sin, death and spiritual separation remain dominant explanations of the Fall in the Christian world, the text reveals an accompanying drive by created beings to exert autonomy and independence from the One who created them. With this understanding in tow, we move forward to a reading of Genesis 10:21 through 12:3.
Even a cursory reading of this passage reveals a very large parallel development in the text. There are two separate genealogies of Shem. The first is found in Genesis 10:21-32 and the second is found in Genesis 11:10-32. While they are parallel, they diverge at a certain point. In Hebrew, the word, shem, means name. The first use of the word, shem, is found in Genesis 2:8 which reads: “And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there (shem) he put the man whom he had formed.” In Genesis 2:10, we read “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there (shem) it divided and became four rivers.” Therefore, shem refers to a point of origin or a source of some sort. As a consequence, we find in Chapters 10 and 11 two separate genealogies of names whose source was a common ancestor named “name.”