Come Follow Me: Genesis 5-11; Moses 8
President Russell M. Nelson encouraged us in the October 2021 General Conference to seek "pure doctrine, pure truth and pure revelation."
In stating this, it opens up several questions. If there is a pure form of these, are there impure forms? What if our doctrine, truth and revelations are only 75 percent pure? More or less?
Clearly, we seek the pure forms because previous teachings and concepts have occasionally come to us in impure versions, often because the teacher/receiver is not ready for the fullness.
For example, Nephi noted to his brothers that in the Vision of the Tree of Life, Lehi did not notice the filthiness of the waters, because his mind was caught up elsewhere (1 Nephi 15). Our current understanding, our biases, our beliefs can hinder our receiving greater inspiration. Why could God only go to Joseph Smith in the First Vision? Probably because others were already too steeped in traditional Christianity to be able to open their hearts and minds to a radical new revelation.
So it often is with scripture and teachings. In D&C 88:78, we read:
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand...
Here we learn that we must teach and learn doctrine AND theory. It is okay to learn theory. The problem comes when we confuse theory with doctrine. Humans do it all the time. We theorized why there was a priesthood ban, blaming ancient curses (discussed below). We theorized over whether plural marriage is required for exaltation. We theorize over the age of the earth and of creation. We theorize over how the atonement works.
Theorizing is not a problem. The problem lies in moving theories into the pure doctrine category, when they don't belong there. Members, including some past church leaders, are guilty of doing this. Such was very common in the 20th century. The Church has sought to move away from such theory as doctrine, since then.
Latter-day Saint scholar Ben Spackman asks us to consider a road map. You can use it to plan trips across the country, finding interesting stops along the way. Can you use that same map to determine the altitude of a city? The depth and width of a river? How many trees are in a forest, and what type trees are there? No. The map is a representation of the real thing. It isn't the exact same size as reality. It is flat, while the earth is round. It doesn't really show the height of hills or mountains, nor the depth of valleys. There is a purpose for a road map, and as long as we use it for that purpose, it works well.
However, we enter into problems when we use the map for other purposes. A state map will not show you how to cross the country. It also won't show the little streets in a small town. It is a representation of the real thing, but doesn't contain all the information found in reality.
So it is with theory. We use a theory from Newton to figure movement and gravity of normal sized things. We use another theory to determine sub-atomic particles, which are not affected by gravity. Currently, we do not have a theory that fits all things, so we use two different maps, understanding neither is complete.
And in the gospel, we find theory, also. In modern scripture and the temple, there are at least 7 differing Creation stories. In seeing the differences, such as Genesis 1 creates a flat earth and all the universe is tiny; to Abraham's Kolob preceding the creation of the earth and heavens, showing a very expansive universe. Each story is a map to show important things of the reality of God's creations. They are not a scientific explanation of how the earth was created, as science completely disagrees with a young earth creation. The religious map does not include science in it, when it comes to the Creation. Also, ancient Hebrews did not understand history and science as we do today. Noah's flood was about 20 feet deep, which would not begin to cover Mt Everest, the Andes, nor the Rocky Mountains. However, for ancient people whose mountains were only a hundred feet high, perhaps it would seem all could be covered up.
And so there are different theories on Noah's flood, which we'll discuss more below. There is nothing wrong with most of the theories, as long as we recognize they are maps or representations of the real thing, often missing key pieces of information.
Examples of actual pure doctrine: God lives, Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, the Word of Wisdom.
Examples of theory, sometimes taught as doctrine: How the atonement happened, Joseph Smith and his successors are infallible, Diet Coke is against the Word of Wisdom.
In the end, we find that we have very little pure doctrine, and a lot of theory built up around the doctrine as we attempt to understand it. There's nothing wrong with this, as long as we recognize that theory doesn't equal doctrine, while still being useful as a representation that helps us understand the doctrine.
"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times" or so Charles Dickens described the circumstances in Europe when one compared London to Paris. The peaceful and calm order of London seemed preferable to the chaotic mob violence of revolutionary France. Yet while many fled France for safer shores, others were drawn to the insanity (Dickens, Tale of Two Cities).
So it was in the days of Enoch. Because violent secret combinations were abounding in the world, many sought safety and refuge in the City of Enoch. Over several centuries, Enoch's people had refined themselves spiritually. They found that great faith and obedience brought God's protection and blessings. Finding themselves surrounded by evil men and the Watchers (fallen angels), meant they had to rely on God to survive. Under Enoch's guidance, they put their enemies to flight, even though they were vastly outnumbered. Enoch's city eventually became so righteous as to become Zion, the City of God. In time, Zion was taken from the world, as "God received it up into his own bosom" (Moses 7:18-21, 64-69), where it would remain until it returns to earth at the Savior's second coming.
With Zion gone, there are few righteous left on earth. Methuselah, Lamech and Noah preach repentance among the people. As additional people believe on their words, the Lord either translates them to the city of Enoch, or allows them to peacefully die prior to the Flood.
Satan doesn't have original ideas. In deceiving the world, he convinces them of the rightness of his methods.
We are told that there are two people: the sons of God, and the sons of man (vs. 13-14). The sons of God gave heed to the things of God. Meanwhile, the sons of man focused on the worldly things, such as the physical beauty of their women. More and more of the sons of God were enticed by the pretty daughters of worldly men, and left their holy callings to join the Watchers, fallen sons of God who used holy secrets for wicked purposes.
The Watchers are mentioned in several ancient writings, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. The early texts state that the women stayed fair and comely by taking a potion that terminated pregnancy. For those who did have children, they bore giants. The writings state they were as tall as a tree, consuming and destroying as they went forth. In Moses 8:18, we read that the giants sought to kill Noah. Moses 8 ties in perfectly with the ancient stories of the Watchers.
Apostates always seek to have their methods accepted as part of the norm. They insist they are just as good as everyone else, and attempt to convince all to accept their ways. In vs. 21, the apostates begin by proclaiming they are "sons of God." They have worked hard in order to eat and drink. They married and had children, seeking to multiply and replenish the earth. And while their sons were not active priesthood bearers, they were "mighty men," like the ancient heroes (action figure sold separately). They were convinced that God accepted them on their terms. In reality, "God saw that the wickedness of men had become great in the earth; and every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart, being only evil continually (vs. 20-22).
As with France in its revolution, violence became the norm. Mobs and secret combinations ruled, many innocent people were falsely accused and murdered. Spiritual peace was replaced with a frenzied blood lust. God had no choice but to destroy those who were ripened in iniquity.
Today we see nations, cultures, religions and people, who believe God will accept them on their terms. Our nation is obsessed with selfishness, sex and violence.
Potions and pills are used to end unwanted pregnancies. Our heroes are mighty men of renown on the gridiron or on the big screen. You can purchase the action figure. Spirituality is okay, as long as its rules and expectations aren't imposed on everyone.
People eat, drink, marry and are given in marriage. In fact, when marriage bores us, society encourages us to divorce and marry several more times. Marriage becomes just one of many forms of relationship.
Sexual sin is no longer a sin, but a freedom of expression. True intimacy is replaced by a new norm: free sex. It is the norm in media and in most homes.
While the story of Noah briefly notes the apostate version of marriage and intimacy, violence is the big focus of concern. Our society is as addicted to violence as it is to sex. Movie blockbusters are exciting because of the violence. The biggest video games are based on some level of violence. Grand Theft Auto and other extremely violent games are based on glorifying vice and violence.
Our world is quickly resembling Noah's.
Several issues come up when discussing the Flood. We’ll look at several of the issues.
Issue #1: Was it a global flood?
Various Christians, including LDS, are divided on this topic. The standard is to believe that the flood covered the entire earth. One of the main reasons for LDS is because it was the baptism of the earth (which will also be baptized with fire/Spirit at the last day). Those who have this view see the earth as a sentient being, taking literally the event in Moses 7, where Enoch sees the earth languish and speak out against the wickedness of mankind. If the earth is a sentient being, can think and speak, and requires baptism, then the world would necessarily have to be fully immersed.
Global flood stories are found all over the world. One of the earliest stories is the Epic of Gilgamesh. In the story, Gilgamesh seeks the secrets of happiness. Through his world travels, he runs across an ancient man, who with his wife survived a global flood. Among the Inca of South America, the great Flood was a major event that occurred prior to their peoples being established.
The opposing viewpoint is that the Flood was a local phenomenon. Several arguments are used. First, there is no geological evidence for a global flood, at least not in human history. With a global flood, one should be able to find a very thick layer of sedimentary rock everywhere in the world dating to the time of Noah (believed to be around 2500-2000 BC). Geology has used such evidence to show major asteroid strikes in the past, including one 65 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs. This strike left a global layer of iridium dating to that period. So, where is the flood layer?
Second, would be the problem of gathering all of the animals into the ark. With the thousands of species available today, there is no way he could easily have fit them into the ark. Or feed them for 13 months, for that matter. If we suppose there were just a few species that evolved later into other species (black bears into grizzlies, polar bears, etc), then we have a problem with the distribution of animals after the flood. Evolution, according to science, does occur, but not quite that much in just a few thousand years. Also, each of these species would somehow have to repopulate the world, crossing oceans and other barriers. Polar Bears would only go to the Arctic. Penguins only go to the Southern hemisphere. Animals with placentas (kangaroo, koala) would go to Australia.
If Noah were to gather up two of every kind of insect (creeping thing), then the ark would have been filled with just the insects, which are found in the millions of species. And how would earth worms crawl from one continent to the next?
Finally, there is archaeological evidence of civilizations continuing throughout that period. If there were a global flood, we would not see thousands of human and millions of animal remains dating to that time period. If only two bears were on the ark, it would take hundreds of years for them to repopulate even a small portion of the earth.
So, did the global Flood really occur? Maybe.
It is in issues like this that, at least for now, we must separate science and religion. When God reveals all things, we will see the two work hand in hand. With science as incomplete and religious texts as occasionally literal and occasionally metaphor, it is difficult to know where the facts end and the theories/assumptions of either begin.
If we keep an open mind, we can gain much good from considering any or all theories regarding the Flood (and other Bible stories). For example, there are scientists and Bible scholars today, who suggest the Flood may have been a regional, rather than global, phenomenon. For Noah, such a giant flood would have seemed to engulf the entire world. Think about the tsunami of 2004, which inundated coast lines across the ocean, but primarily around Indonesia and Thailand. Over 100,000 people died that day. For those involved, it would definitely have seemed that the world was drowning in water.
Issue #2: Was it two or seven animals?
In Genesis 6, God commands Noah that the ark was to be loaded two by two. In Genesis 7:2, God commands him that 7 clean animals were to be loaded. Then in Genesis 7:9, only two of each are loaded. So, which is it?
The Documentary Hypothesis, which was discussed in a previous lesson, also applies to the Flood. In his book, Who Wrote the Bible?, scholar Richard E. Friedman shows that we actually have TWO stories of the Flood combined in one story. One story, from the ancient author J tells us that there were two of each animal going aboard the ark, and that “the flood was upon the earth 40 days” (Gen 7:17). The second story, from the Priest (P) source, was only interested in boarding the clean animals, and so updated the story to include 7 clean animals. The seventh animal was for an animal sacrifice. Meanwhile, P’s story had the waters “prevailing upon the earth” for 150 days (Genesis 7:24). In Genesis 8, we see the waters settling both after 150 days (vs. 3) and after 40 days (vs. 6). One story tells of Noah sending a raven out, while the other tells of a dove being sent out. Dr Friedman shows how you can literally pull two separate Flood stories out and have two perfectly good, but different, Flood stories.
We tend to read the Bible as if it were written by one person, or a closely knit group of people, who all had the same information and purpose. According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the Bible had several editor/authors, who took their oral/written version of ancient stories and spun them to meet their religious and political views. As we continue through the Bible, we’ll see more evidence of the DH and how the political winners tried to rewrite history. This is perfect evidence of the LDS teaching, “we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far it is translated correctly” (Article of Faith 8).
Noah and the Jaredites
If the flood were a regional flood, Noah would not have to carry thousands of species with him, and then have them repopulate the entire earth after the Flood. Instead, he would stock the ark, just as the Jaredites stocked their barges (Ether 2). Since the Jaredites did not know where they were going, how long they would be traveling, or if the flora and fauna in their new promised land would be different than what they were accustomed to; they took everything in their own locale with them. They took fish and honey bees with them (vs. 2-3), as well as seeds of plants they were familiar with. Clearly they took their prophet’s guidance on food storage seriously. They had prepared their ark, just as Noah’s ark was prepared (Ether 6:7). In fact, according to Hugh Nibley, some ancient texts teach of an ancient stone/plant, called the Pyrophilus, which shined in the darkness and was used by Noah (http://emp.byui.edu/MarrottR/NoahsArkShiningStone.pdf)
Whether it was 40 or 150 days, the Flood eventually receded enough for Noah and the animals to disembark. Noah makes a sacrifice, obviously from the spare 7th clean animal. Had he sacrificed one of the two clean animals of J, there would not have been sufficient to repopulate the world. Of course, in Noah’s day, there was no separation of clean and unclean animals. The concept of clean and unclean came with the Mosaic Law, which would not happen for another thousand years. However, the Priest “P” author(s) who updated the Flood story, felt it imperative to ensure Noah was kosher in his sacrifices according to their own laws.
The Lord is pleased by the sacrifice and promises to never flood the earth by flood again. As a token of this promise, God places a rainbow in the sky. Some Christians believe this is the first time a rainbow was ever seen on earth. However, this is an argument from silence, as there is no evidence that rainbows were not seen prior to the Flood.
According to Joseph Smith, the bow does signify a major promise. “I have asked of the Lord concerning His coming; and while asking the Lord, He gave a sign and said, “In the days of Noah I set a bow in the heavens as a sign and token that in any year that the bow should be seen the Lord would not come; but there should be seed time and harvest during that year; but whenever you see the bow withdrawn, it shall be a token that there shall be famine, pestilence, and great distress among the nations, and that the coming of the Messiah is not far distant” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, section 6, pg 340).
I have seen a rainbow already this year (2010), so we’re safe for now.
The Noahic Covenant
The covenant of Noah is the covenant given to the Gentile nations, according to the Jews. It is the covenant Gentiles are expected to live by, if they wish to have God’s blessings; while the Jews have the Law of Moses to guide them.
The Noahic Covenant contains the following agreement: God will bless Noah and his children, and not destroy them by flood, if they do the following:
1. Be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth (Gen 9:1).
2. You can eat meat, but do not eat blood of the animals you kill (9:4).
3. Do not murder (9:5-6).
Each of these commands ties in directly with the sins of Cain and the wicked, prior to the destruction of the world by flood. As mentioned above, ancient texts suggest the Watchers had potions to end pregnancy. The people were not interested in replenishing the earth. The people had blood lust, and were not concerned about eating not only the flesh of animals, but also the blood. And violence and murder had become the norm among mankind.
Curse of Canaan
For many years, traditional Christians and many Latter-day Saints believed that the Canaanites (Gen 9:18) were black skinned. This belief added to the concept of the “curse of Cain” being promulgated through the lineage of Ham (with a black wife descended from Cain). Archaeology has proven that the Canaanites were a Semitic/white group, not black. If there ever were a curse given to Canaan by Noah, or on Cain by God, it was not passed down to black Africans. Sadly, traditions that are based on speculation often hurt groups of people. The ban on the priesthood may have been put in place by God and his prophets, but it had nothing to do with a curse. As mentioned in an earlier lesson, Pres David O. McKay and other prophets researched the priesthood ban, and could not find an original commandment or revelation regarding it. All we know is it took a revelation in 1978 to lift the ban, and I’m thankful to live in this time when we are beyond the ban and embracing people of all races as members in full fellowship (see more at Black LDS Mormons).
The Church has a list of gospel topics, which includes "race and the priesthood." The essay notes that while earlier church members and leaders believed and taught about the curse of Cain, it is not believed nor accepted today. It was an instance of a theory being taught so much that it became doctrine - until modern revelation showed that it wasn't.
So, Noah got drunk and Ham saw him naked. Why curse Canaan, if Ham saw him naked? Why not curse Ham, or why curse just one of Ham’s sons, and not all of them?
In the ancient Book of Jasher (Sepir Ha Yasher or Book of the Upright), we find an interesting reason why this occured. The tradition had it that Adam’s garment was a special treasure and keepsake for the sons of God. It was handed down from righteous father to righteous son (Jasher 7:24). Noah received the garments at the death of Methuselah and took them into the ark with him. It is possible Noah used the garment to attract the animals, and to get them into the ark, just as Adam used them to name the animals in the beginning.
However, some time after leaving the ark, Ham stole the garment from Noah. It is very likely that Ham stole it while Noah was drunk in his tent, and the garment of Adam was replaced with another garment by Shem and Japheth. The Book of Jasher tells us that Ham gave it to his son, Cush, who passed them down through his own lineage. Cush gave the garments to Nimrod (the same one mentioned in the Book of Abraham), who used the garments to create his hunting prowess and power.
Is it possible that Noah cursed Canaan and the other children of Ham, because of this theft?
Jasher tells us:
27 And in their going out (of the ark), Ham stole those garments from Noah his father, and he took them and hid them from his brothers.
28 And when Ham begat his first born Cush, he gave him the garments in secret, and they were with Cush many days.
29 And Cush also concealed them from his sons and brothers, and when Cush had begotten Nimrod, he gave him those garments through his love for him, and Nimrod grew up, and when he was twenty years old he put on those garments.
30 And Nimrod became strong when he put on the garments, and God gave him might and strength, and he was a mighty hunter in the earth, yea, he was a mighty hunter in the field, and he hunted the animals and he built altars, and he offered upon them the animals before the Lord.
31 And Nimrod strengthened himself, and he rose up from amongst his brethren, and he fought the battles of his brethren against all their enemies round about.
32 And the Lord delivered all the enemies of his brethren in his hands, and God prospered him from time to time in his battles, and he reigned upon earth.
According to this story, due to his use of the garment, Nimrod gained control of the world around him. Just like the Watchers before the Flood, Nimrod was using the powers of heaven for evil purposes. (See: Book of Jasher 7)
The Tower of Babel
Eventually, Nimrod became powerful enough that he ruled everything. The Book of Jasher states:
And all nations and tongues heard of his (Nimrod’s) fame, and they
gathered themselves to him, and they bowed down to the earth, and they
brought him offerings, and he became their lord and king, and they all
dwelt with him in the city at Shinar, and Nimrod reigned in the earth
over all the sons of Noah, and they were all under his power and
46And all the earth was of one tongue and words of union, but Nimrod did not go in the ways of the Lord, and he was more wicked than all the men that were before him, from the days of the flood until those days.
Or maybe he could see it. According to George Laub’s autobiography, Joseph Smith taught him the following possible theory:
|“Now I will tell the story of the designs of building the tower of Babel. It was designed to go to the city of Enoch for the veil was not yet so great that it hit it from their sight, so they concluded to go to the city of Enoch. For God gave him (Enoch) place above the impure air for he could breathe a pure air and him and his city was taken” (George Laub Autobiography, pg 14).|
God had no option but to scatter the people at the tower, for “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Gen 11:6).
Isaiah would prophesy centuries later against Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon in 600 BC, who would seek to restore the glories of Nimrod’s Babylon:
|“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning? How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations? For thous hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High (El Elyon). Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isaiah 14:12-15).|
describes Nimrod, Nebuchadnezzar AND Satan. Each sought to overthrow God
and his kingdom. The stars of God were the divine sons of God. The
“mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north” represented the
divine council in heaven, all divine sons of El Elyon, God Most High. In
overthrowing the city of Enoch, Nimrod sought to do exactly as Satan
tried to do in the Grand Council in heaven. He gathered his strength and
armies, and sought a war in heaven. Only God could end each rebellion.
Once the people at the Tower of Babel could no longer speak the same language, they were unable to continue in unity, and dispersed. Nimrod’s hopes of overthrowing Enoch’s city and the kingdom of Heaven were thwarted.
Nimrod’s power diminishes as his people disperse. But we will see more of Nimrod and Adam’s garment again.
Satan Seeks Continually to Overthrow Heaven
But a few centuries had past after the destruction of the world by the Flood, and Satan again had created a new set of Watchers, sons of Adam/Noah, who should have used their power and responsibility for good purposes, but used them to get gain and power, instead. Only by a show of great force was God able to thwart Satan’s efforts to unite the world in overthrowing heaven.
During the Millennium, Satan will be bound for a season. At the end of the thousand years of heavenly peace on earth, Satan will be loosed again. He will tempt and sway the sons of God in that day to reject the heavenly plan, and many will join him in the last day as Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38) in a final effort to throw God out of the earthly “heaven”, and to reestablish it as Satan’s throne.
In the temple, we practice ascending to the Celestial Kingdom. In our daily walk, do we seek to ascend in the manner God wants us to, humbly and meekly serving? Or do we seek to gain power and force our way into heaven?
Indications of Multiple Authorship in the 5 Books of Moses
For many Christians, the idea of multiple authorship of the Pentateuch/Torah is heresy. Yet, it is clearly illustrated, as they now exist, the first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses but by later writers. And while there are many theories that scholars now have to argue against the Documentary Hypothesis, the idea of multiple authors isn’t questioned.
Internal evidence begins with verses that easily demonstrate that portions were written long after Moses’ time. At the end of Deuteronomy, it talks about the death of Moses – something that would be very difficult for Moses to write about. The Pentateuch notes that during the time of Genesis, “Canaanites still dwelt in the land.” Why make such a statement, if Moses is writing this? Of Course, the Canaanites are still in the land! Only later, in King David’s time, do we see an end to the Canaanites.
Scholars began to note that there was special use of the two major names of God: El Elyon and Yahweh/Jehovah. Rarely are they used together in the Torah, but they still create conflict in scripture. God said to Moses that he appeared to Abraham as El Shaddai (God of the Mountain), but never as Yahweh. However, in Gen 4, people are calling upon the name of Yahweh during the time of Enoch, and the name is used frequently in regards to Abraham’s time, as well.
Therefore, we can presume that Exodus 6:3 comes from another source that was not aware of the name Yahweh being used at the time of Abraham and before.
Richard E Friedman, in Who Wrote the Bible?, explains that El was the chief God of the Palestine region, ruling over the council of gods. “The God of Israel was Yahweh. He, too, was male, patriarchal, a ruler, and not identified with any one force in nature.” We will see that early Hebrews saw Yahweh as a member of El’s council, assigned Israel as his kingdom to rule over. Later, the Jews would combine El and Yahweh into one god and remove God’s consort and the divine council.
Doublets and triplets are noted in the scripture – where events and sayings are said twice or even three times. We have Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on both Mt Sinai and Mt Horeb. Moses twice goes to Meribah and brings water out of a rock – in one version, the angel of the Lord stands upon the rock Moses is to strike, while in the other version, Moses is disobedient to God and ends up losing his right to enter into the Promised Land (Nephi only notes the first version in the Book of Mormon).
The story of Noah’s Flood is the perfect example of a doublet that was combined. We have Noah commanded in one story to build the ark, because a flood is coming. In one story, he brings in animals two by two, while in the other, 7 clean animals are brought in (clean/unclean only occurs in the Mosaic law, and shows a later story line development). One story gives 40 days and nights for the flood, while the other floods for almost a year. One has a dove, the other a raven. One story consistently calls God, Elohim, while the other consistently calls him Yahweh.
So, we end up with scholars, such as Wellhausen, suggesting 4 major writers for the Pentateuch. Friedman writes, “There was evidence that the Five Books of Moses had been composed by combining four different source documents into one continuous history. For working purposes, the four documents were identified by alphabetic symbols. The document that was associated with the divine name Yahweh/Jehovh was called J. The document that was identified as referring to the deity as God (in Hebrew Elohim) was called E. The third document, by far the largest, included most of the legal sections and concentrated a great deal on matters having to do with priests, and so it was called P. And the source that was found only in the book of Deuteronomy was called D.”
Friedman suggests that J and E were two rival priestly authors. King David had two priests, Abiathar from the lineage of Moses and keepers of the tabernacle in Shiloh (northern kingdom), and Zadok, who descended from Aaron. When Solomon became king, Abiathar had supported Solomon’s brother, so the new king sent him into exile back to the Northern Kingdom, and created laws that benefited Judah and the southern kingdom, while creating bigger burdens on the north. This political division likely created the sources for J (southern kingdom of Judah) and E (northern kingdom of 10 tribes).
In Genesis 1 and 2, we get two different creation stories. Genesis 1 calls God, Elohim 35 times. Genesis 2 calls God, Yahweh 11 times. They get the orders of things different. Genesis 1 has plants, animals then man and woman. Genesis 2 has man, plants, animals, then woman. While most now think Genesis 1 was a P document, Friedman suggests it was inspired by E, while Genesis 2 is agreed to be by J. Later, Friedman notes that P is clearly influenced by the E source on its writings.
We also see this in the story of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. For J, Judah is the hero of the story, stopping his brothers from slaying Joseph and later offering himself as a slave in the stead of Benjamin. Judah gets the birthright and kingship. Meanwhile, E has Reuben stop the slaying, and Joseph is the hero – receiving the birthright and a double portion (Ephraim and Manasseh) for his inheritance.
Friedman also gives this interesting concept that divides E and J: “In E, Moses’ faithful assistant is Joshua. Joshua leads the people in the battle against the Amalekites; he serves as watchman inside the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) whenever Moses is not meeting with the deity there; he is the only Israelite who is not involved in the golden calf incident; and he seeks to prevent the misuse of prophecy. In J, on the other hand, Joshua plays no role. Why the special treatment of Joshua in E but not in J? Joshua was a northern hero. He is identified as coming from the tribe of Ephraim….”
E never mentions the ark of the covenant, seeing it as made of gold, and therefore, against the 10 commandments. J’s version of the 10 commandments states that things of molten gold are prohibited, and so both the ark and cherubim of the Mercy Seat are allowed, being plated with gold. However, the Tabernacle IS important to E, as it dwells in the northern kingdom in the city of Shiloh. For E, the Tabernacle represents the presence of God.
Meanwhile, J never mentions the Tabernacle. The ark represents God’s presence. It goes before Israel into battle and while the Tabernacle remains in Shiloh, the ark is carried to Jerusalem by David (whom J celebrates).
The Deuteronomists lived during the time of King Josiah. During his reign, the temple priests "found" the book of the law, while renovating the temple. This book, Deuteronomy, charged Israel with removing all altars and places of worship, including any altars to Yahweh, outside the Temple. So, while Hezekiah removed altars to other gods, leaving any high places (Bamoth) dedicated to Yahweh, Josiah removes everything. Josiah's reforms will include changing the Temple, as well. No longer will it have God's consort, Asherah within it (represented by the Tree of Life). No angels, no visions, etc. It is now a place for animal sacrifice, and not much more. Temple centric worship is possibly one of the major issues brought up by the prophets of Jeremiah's day. Lehi would go against the Deuteronomists, by building altars in the wilderness, as will the Rechabites, whom Jeremiah praised.One of Lehi's major visions, that of the Tree of Life, has the Tree representing the love of God, which is shown to be the mother of Jesus. The Nephites understood the importance of God's wife, his Asherah, in the creation of Life and religion.
These are just a few examples of the religious/political divisions that occured in Israel. They were written into their earliest memories, as each side had its heroes and villains, holy laws and beliefs. And this understanding is important for us to understand conflicting scriptures, and conflicts between the various factions in Israel, as it shared with us its story(ies).
Book of Jasher: Book of Jasher 7