Answers from Jeanson: Revealing the Truth of Joseph’s Global Famine?

Excellent article by @Joel_Duff on the meaning of the “whole earth” in Scripture.

A few years ago I wrote a satire piece titled Answers from Genesis: Reclaiming the Biblical Authority of Joseph’s Global Famine. It was meant to call attention to the fact that Hebrew words used in Genesis 41 to describe the severe famine at the time of Joseph are the same as those used in the Creation Account of Genesis 1 and 2 and Noah’s Flood in Genesis 6-9. An example of this language can been seen in verses 56 and 57 (ESV) of Genesis 41 which reads: “So when the famine had spread over all the land (erets) Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land (erets) of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth (erets) came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth (erets).”

My understanding of the original text follows the conventional interpretation of this passage by orthodox biblical expositors over many millennia; namely the term all the earth is used to indicate either the known world at that time (accommodationist) or is hyperbole to emphasize the importance of the event (i.e. everyone came from everywhere to come to the fair).

My purpose for the satire account was to illustrate that when young-earth apologists insist upon a static literal interpretation of certain words or phrases that support their positions, there can be great consequences. If they are fair and apply a consistent hermeneutic they must also interpret both the Great Flood and the severe famine in Joseph’s time as truly global (planet-wide) events. Furthermore, this interpretation would require that people from the entire earth would have been fed by Joseph’s storehouses of food. As such, even native North and South Americans and Australians must have also experienced this same seven-year famine and, minimally, representatives of each people group around the world would have traveled to Egypt to obtain food from Joseph.

The same observation might be made of Paul’s statement in his letter to the Colossians, when he says that the gospel already had been ‘preached in all creation under heaven’ (Colossians 1:23). Was Paul intending his audience to understand that the gospel had been presented to the Native South Americans or Aboriginal Australians at this time?

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In an interesting and related finding, Nature today just published scientific findings indicating humans occupied Central America as early as 30,000 years ago. That’s at least 10K years earlier than any previous discovery.

Abstract

The initial colonization of the Americas remains a highly debated topic, and the exact timing of the first arrivals is unknown. The earliest archaeological record of Mexico—which holds a key geographical position in the Americas—is poorly known and understudied. Historically, the region has remained on the periphery of research focused on the first American populations. However, recent investigations provide reliable evidence of a human presence in the northwest region of Mexico, the Chiapas Highlands, Central Mexico and the Caribbean coast, during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene epochs. Here we present results of recent excavations at Chiquihuite Cave—a high-altitude site in central-northern Mexico—that corroborate previous findings in the Americas of cultural evidence that dates to the Last Glacial Maximum (26,500–19,000 years ago), and which push back dates for human dispersal to the region possibly as early as 33,000–31,000 years ago. The site yielded about 1,900 stone artefacts within a 3-m-deep stratified sequence, revealing a previously unknown lithic industry that underwent only minor changes over millennia. More than 50 radiocarbon and luminescence dates provide chronological control, and genetic, palaeoenvironmental and chemical data document the changing environments in which the occupants lived. Our results provide new evidence for the antiquity of humans in the Americas, illustrate the cultural diversity of the earliest dispersal groups (which predate those of the Clovis culture) and open new directions of research.

Evidence of human occupation in Mexico around the Last Glacial Maximum

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Great article. I agree that the word eretz is used to mean the “known world” in many cases in the bible. The example for hyperbole from Paul’s writing was thought provoking.

I hope you dont mind some push back. There are evidences of eretz being used to mean the whole earth in the book of genesis. The verses are :
Genesis 1:1, 2,17, 20,22,26,28,29,
Gen 2:1,

The crucial question is how one interpretations Gen6:6,7…
Gen 6: 6 Then the LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and he was deeply grieved about that.

7 So the LORD said, “I will annihilate these human beings whom I’ve created from the earth, including people, animals, crawling things, and flying creatures, because I’m grieving that I made them.”

@Joel_Duff; @swamidass : how do you understand Genesis 6:6,7.

First think to point out is that "Human beings’ is the same word for Adam, “adam”. So the literal reading is that God regretted making Adam.

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I thought about it… but there are issues with that idea.

Besides, those who hold to a local flood account should be having some alternate explanation.

That is my explanation…why do I need another?

We have discussed this before. I am assuming you are postulating a local flood approx 5000 years ago.
If “humanness” is limited to those affected by the flood, then it excludes a lot of people, like Indians, chinese, american Indians, Europeans etc of that time.
This raises many questions. Those who weren’t of “Adam” were obviously homo sapiens… were they another kind of “human”. There is also the problem that the bible identifies “Adam” as having the image of God.

I come from a country where one caste has dominated the rest of the people based on the claim that they are somehow more favored by God than the others.A lineage chosen by God to be his priests. so I am sensitive to such claims.
This is different from the nation of israel as it at least had the ritual of circumcision through which people of different stock could become part of the nation
. And you have instances of countries like Nineveh interacting with God.

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No, I do not say “humanness” is limited to AE’s descendents or they are more favored. You are adding that on yourself. In fact, I’ve argued precisely the opposite.

There are implications to ideas.

I am not accusing you of anything.

I say that there is humanness outside the Garden. There is no way that this could possibly imply there was NOT humanness outside the Garden.

Depends on how you view the image of God. As far as I can see, the most compatible way for this scenario is to see Adam as a representative of human beings called out by God.(federal headship).
So the image of God is shared by Adam and all human beings.

Too much of an emphasis on descent from Adam is in conflict with such a view.
If God still reckons “humanity” as Adam and his descendents several generations after Adam, then it indicates that those not descended from Adam are not humans in Gods eyes.
If people are associated with a recent Adam through descent and not through federal headship, then salvation is also not for those who aren’t of Adam’s lineage.
You need to choose what you want to emphasis.

@Ashwin_s, this just turns out to be a totally unnecessary and false conflict. It does depend on how we see the Image of God, but definitely not in the way you’ve laid it out here.

This is one place where slowing down and thinking well is necessary.

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@Joel_Duff wrote:

The same observation might be made of Paul’s statement in his letter to the Colossians, when he says that the gospel already had been ‘preached in all creation under heaven’ (Colossians 1:23). Was Paul intending his audience to understand that the gospel had been presented to the Native South Americans or Aboriginal Australians at this time?

I too like to cover Joseph’s famine and the Colossians 1:23 when exposing the flaws in the traditional “global flood” hermeneutics. And I also include Acts 2:5 describing the circumstances of Peter’s Pentecost sermon:

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. (KJV)

The Greek word ETHNOS can be translated as “nation” or “people-group”. Either way, there were NOT devout Jewish men present in Jerusalem who had come from literally every ethnic group on planet earth. I think we can agree that there were no Jewish Lakotas present, for example.

Incredibly, the Institute for Creation Research provides a rebuttal to this obvious argument. (Every Nation Under Heaven: Using Scripture to Understand Scripture | The Institute for Creation Research) They claim that ETHNOS refers to every nation/people-group of the Genesis 10 “Table of Nations.” ICR asserts that at least one person from each of those seventy Genesis 10 people-groups was present.

Of course, a major problem with that claim is that Acts 2:5 doesn’t say that each people-group/nation of planet earth was represented at that Pentecost by at least one person in general. It says that “Jews, devout men” were present from every nation. To claim that all of the traditional “Table of Nation” people-groups of Genesis 10 had at least one devout citizen-Jew present in Jerusalem on that day is bizarre indeed. Were there devoutly Jewish Lakotas and devoutly Jewish Amazonians in the first century A.D.?

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Of course, ERETZ is Hebrew so we generally apply its meaning in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. In the New Testament we have the Greek words GE and KOSMOS often translated as world and things can get both complicated and interesting as a result. (I will resist the temptation of starting a tangent which becomes a new thread.)

Lexicographically speaking, I recommend applying words like land , country, and region wherever one sees ERETZ. (Whether or not they are “known” is not distinguished within the word itself, of course.) Indeed, ERETZ can even refer to a particular wilderness where the Children of Israel wondered.

The ERETZ can refer to one’s own vicinity (especially, “everything under heaven”, that is everything one can see to the horizon in all directions.) ERETZ can also refer to one’s own land or country, as in the name of the modern day nation of Israel today: ERETZ YISRAEL. (Thus, those who insist that ERETZ must apply to the entire earth as in “planet earth”, should consider that no one mistakes ERETZ YISRAEL for “planet Israel.”)

If you mean that ERETZ in Genesis can refer to the whole land, I agree. But if someone assumes that anyone at the time of the writing of Genesis understood ERETZ in a global sense of a spherical planetary body, that is a blatant anachronism. Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” could be translated as “In the beginning God created the sky and the land.”

Today we often slice-and-dice the concept of ERETZ/land in ways quite foreign to the Semitic culture of the Genesis document.

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The shape of the world is an irrelevant distraction. “Global” doesn’t always refer to a globe, just to “everywhere”. “Eretz” can mean all the land, everywhere, and apparently does in the flood story.

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Doesn’t really matter for the flood story, as a regional flood makes no sense in context unless the region encompasses the known world at least, and probably what was believed to be the entire world. A regional flood that fits the actual evidence of real floods is just way too small.

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There is the flooding of the Persian gulf oasis, high amount of evidence there :).

Not even close to big enough. Or fast enough.

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I was thrilled to see this article today. I was just wrapping up my follow-up post which focuses on the 10,000 year old ochre mining sites in drowned caves on the Yucatan peninsula but I will have to work in this new paper.

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The idea here is that the writer would have the "whole land or “all land” in mind.

So, the next question is whether the context in Gen 6:6,7 points to all land and all humans…

Its seems that it must atleast cover all the land occupied by “all humans”.
@swamidass has a work around based on the argument that the “humans” mentioned are Adam and his descendants. Hence limiting the area to wherever Adam and his descendants have spread.

I am wondering what other options are on the table when it comes toninderstanding Genesis 6:6,7.