Professor Neiman examines the intriguing ways in which the author of the first chapter of Genesis uses loaded, polemic language to starkly contrast Israelite cosmology with the pervasive pagan cosmologies of the first millennium B.C.E. While the Canaanites, Greeks and Babylonians turned natural phenomena into a multitude of gods and goddesses, the Israelite cosmology saw only one God.
In this lecture, Professor Neiman explores the rich language and imagery found in the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden. Dr. Neiman follows Adam and Eve through their various trials in the garden, from the creation to their expulsion from Eden, and at each episode, focuses on the ways in which the Biblical writer artfully expresses the realities of the human condition.
Although many find the genealogies in Genesis 4 and 5 difficult to read and comprehend, Dr. Neiman explains how both chapters, when read in their proper historical and cultural context, are in fact highly nuanced writings that reveal two different stories of origins
Dr. Neiman examines the similarities and differences between the Biblical story of the flood and the earlier Babylonian tradition on which it was based, while also theorizing about the nature of the disaster that may have led to the story’s creation. After providing historical context to the story of the flood and its aftermath, he then considers Genesis 10, the so-called “Table of Nations”.
The Bible refers to Abraham as Abraham the “Ibri” or “Hebrew”. But who are the Hebrews and what role does the this tribe play in the socio-political world of the time? Dr Neiman paints a detailed portrait of the world in which Abraham’s story takes place.
The zenith of the Amarna age was reached during the reign of Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti. Akhenaten built a new capital and in El Amarna. The tablets found there known as the Amarna letters, give further historical context to the story of Abraham.
Dr. Neiman reads from the chapters of Genesis that deal with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abimelech, the birth of Isaac and the covenant of the circumcision. Dr. Neiman explains how the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar fits into the legal system of the time – The Code of Hammurabi and the significance of Abraham’s purchase of his burial plot, the cave of Machpelah from the Hittites.
Chapter four finds Abraham old and wealthy. He sends his servant off with 10 camels laden with gold. The servant meets Rebecca at the well where she draws water for him and his camels. The Lord predicts that she will give birth to two nations; one will be stronger than the other and the elder will serve the younger. Esau sells his birthright to Jacob, the shepherd, for a bowl of porridge.