Editor: This is the fifth article in a series of adaptations from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s recent talk at the “Temple on Mount Zion” Conference, sponsored by the Interpreter Foundation (www.mormoninterpreter.com). Read Part One: Taking the Stories of Adam, Eve, and Noah Seriously, Part Two: Temple Symbolism in the Form of Noah’s Ark, Part Three: Temple Symbolism and Noah’s Ark, Part Four: Temple Symbolism in the Garden of Noah.
Part 5: Temple Symbolism in the Story of the Tentof Noah
There are rich thematic connections between the emergence of the dry land at Creation, the settling of the Ark at the top of the first mountain to emerge from the Flood, New Year’s Day, and the temple. In ancient Israel, the holiest spot on earth was believed to be the Foundation Stone in front of the Ark of the Covenant within the temple at Jerusalem: “[I]t was the first solid material to emerge from the waters of Creation, and it was upon this stone that the Deity effected Creation.” The depiction of the Ark-Temple of Noah perched upon Mount Ararat would have evoked similar temple imagery for the ancient reader of the Bible.
Fall and Judgment
20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
Looking at the passage more closely, however, raises several questions. To begin with, what tent did Noah enter? Although the English translation says “his tent,” the Hebrew text features a feminine possessive that normally would mean “her tent.” The Midrash Rabbah explains this as a reference to the tent of Noah’s wife, and commentators, ancient and modern, have often seized upon this detail to infer that Ham intruded upon his father and mother during a moment of intimacy.
A very intriguing alternative explanation, however, is offered by Rabbi Shim’on in the Zohar, who takes the he of the feminine possessive to mean “the tent of that vineyard,’ namely, the tent of Shekhinah.” Shekhinah is the Hebrew term for “the divine feminine” that was used to describe the presence of Yahweh in Israelite temples. The idea of Noah having erected a sacred “tent of meeting” is perfectly consistent with the previous report that he built an altar and established a covenant with the Lord. Indeed, in a variant of the same theme, at least one set of modern commentators take the letter he in the Hebrew text of Genesis text as referring to Yahweh, hence reading the term as the “Tent of Yahweh,” the divine sanctuary.
In view of the pervasive theme in ancient literature in which the climax of the flood story is the founding of a temple over the source of the floodwaters, Blenkinsopp finds it “safe to assume” that the biblical account of “the deluge served not just as a paradigm of judgment but also as the Israelite version of the cosmogonic victory of the deity resulting in the building of a sanctuary for him.” It is significant that in the old Mesopotamian deluge myth that, according to Blenkinsopp, “could and did function as a creation myth in its own right,” this sanctuary is not located at the top of the mountain, but at the edge of a swamp, an abzu. Similarly, Lucian reports that “the temple of Hierapolis on the Euphrates was founded over the flood waters by Deucalion, counterpart of Ziusudra, Utnapishtim, and Noah.” Consistent with this theme, Psalm 29:10 “speaks of Yahweh enthroned over the abyss.”
Given the many allusions in the story of Noah to the Tabernacle of Moses, the ancient reader would naturally have seen in Noah’s tent at the foot of the mount where the Ark-Temple rested a parallel with the sacred “Tent of Meeting” at the foot of Mount Sinai, at whose top God’s heavenly tent had been spread. Clifford explains this recurrent phenomenon with respect to the “ancient religious principle, like is like'”: “The similarity in form between the earthly dwelling of the god and its heavenly prototype brings about the presence of the deity.”
How are we to understand the mention that Noah “was drunken?” Nibley associated the incident with the eleven-day “Feast of Intoxication” and other rituals related to flood motifs in the ancient world. Given the Mesopotamian context of the Flood story, an even closer connection might be found in the beer-and-liquor-filled celebration that accompanied the completion of Enki’s journey by water to Nibru to visit the god Enlil in which “there is no food-only alcohol is consumed.”
Most rabbinical sources, however, make no attempt at explanation or justification but instead roundly criticize Noah’s actions. In light of such condemnation, should we take the incident simply as an etiological statement-an anticipatory explanation of the reason priests were later forbidden drink before officiating in the sanctuary? The difficulty with that explanation is the that the Bible offers not one iota of condemnation for Noah’s supposed drunkenness, nor does Scripture give any hint of an accusation of hypocrisy or self-righteousness when Noah pronounces judgment upon his grandson Canaan. Joseph Smith likewise refrained from any criticism of Noah-indeed, he asserted unequivocally that Noah “retained all the power of his priesthood” after the incident.
1896-1902Do we have a better explanation for Noah’s unexpected behavior? Yes. According to a statement attributed to Joseph Smith, Noah “was not drunk, but in a vision.” This agrees with the Genesis Apocryphon which, immediately after describing a ritual drinking of wine by Noah and his family, devotes nearly three columns to a divine dream vision that revealed the fate of Noah’s posterity. From their study of Genesis, Koler and Greenspahn concur that Noah was enwrapped in a vision while in the tent, commenting that “This explains why Shem and [Japheth] refrained from looking at Noah even after they had covered him, significantly ahorannt [Heb. “backward”] occurs elsewhere with regard to avoidance of looking directly at God in the course of revelation.”
Noah’s fitness to enjoy the presence of God is explored in detail by Morales. Though not applying the concept to Noah’s tent, he argues the point convincingly with respect to Noah’s qualifications to enter the Ark “sanctuary.” Following Wenham, Morales discusses scriptural assertions about the “righteousness” and “blamelessness” of Noah and:
… its correspondence with Psalm 15:1-2, considered by Koch the clearest example of a temple entrance liturgy:
Yahweh, who may dwell in Your tent, who may tabernacle on Your holy mount?
Whoever’s walk is blameless, whoever’s deeds are righteous.
… puts Noah on a par with Enoch… It thus appears that there is a progressive build-up in Noah’s characterization: he was a good man (righteous, like the majority of Israelites). More than that, he was blameless, the goal of all but achieved by few. Finally, he walked with God like Enoch, the only man in Genesis to have been translated to heaven. Utnapishtim went to dwell with the gods after the Flood, but Noah enjoyed God’s close presence beforehand.
As the righteous man, Noah not only passes through the [door] of the Ark sanctuary, but is able to approach the mount of Yahweh for worship…. As the priestly figure able to ascend the mountain of Yahweh…, Noah stands as a new Adam, the primordial man who dwells in the divine Presence-homo liturgicus. As such, he foreshadows the high priest of the Tabernacle cultus who alone will enter the paradisiacal holy of holies…
How does wine play into the picture? It should be remembered that a sacramental libation was an element of the highest ordinances of the priesthood as much in ancient times as it is today. For example, five chapters after the end of the Flood story, we read that Melchizedek “brought forth bread and wine” to Abraham as part of the ordinance that was to make the him a king and a priest after Melchizedek’s holy order. Just as Melchizedek then blessed the “most high God, which had delivered thine enemies into thine hand,” so Noah, after partaking of the wine with his family, blessed “the God Most High, who had delivered us from the destruction.” The book of Jubilees further confirms that Noah’s drinking of the wine should be seen in a ritual context and not merely as a spontaneous indulgence that occurred at the end of a particularly wearying day. Indeed, we are specifically told that Noah “guarded” the wine until the time of the fifth New Year festival, the “first day on the first of the first month,” when he “made a feast with rejoicing. And he made a burnt offering to the Lord.”
We find greater detail about an analogous event within the Testament of Levi. There we read that as Levi was made a king and a priest, he was anointed, washed, and given “bread and holy wine” prior to his being arrayed in a “holy and glorious vestment.” Note also that the themes of anointing, the removal of outer clothing, the washing of the feet, and the ritual partaking of bread and wine were prominent in the events surrounding the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. Indeed, we are told all the righteous may joyfully anticipate participation in a similar event when the Lord returns: “for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth.”
This and related subjects will be the focus of a forthcoming book of scripture commentary, “In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel.” This book, which is co-authored with David J. Larsen, will appear in late 2013 or early 2014. See www.templethemes.netfor other writings and presentations by the author.]
bin Gorion, Micha Joseph (Berdichevsky), and Emanuel bin Gorion, eds. 1939-1945. Mimekor Yisrael: Classical Jewish Folktales. 3 vols. Translated by I. M. Lask. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1976.
Black, Jeremy A., G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zolyomi. “Enki’s journey to Nibru.” In The Literature of Ancient Sumer, edited by Jeremy A. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson and G. Zolyomi, 330-33. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2004.
—, eds. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “The structure of P.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly38, no. 3 (1976): 275-92. Structure of P.
Bradshaw, Jeffrey M. Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. Salt Lake City, UT: Eborn Publishing, 2012.
Butterworth, Edric Allen Schofeld. The Tree at the Navel of the Earth. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter, 1970.
Clifford, Richard J. The Cosmic Mountain in Canaan and the Old Testament. Harvard Semitic Monographs4, ed. Frank Moore Cross, William L. Moran, Isadore Twersky and G. Ernest Wright. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972. Reprint, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, n.d.
—. “The temple and the holy mountain.” In The Temple in Antiquity, edited by Truman G. Madsen, 107-24. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1984.
Cohen, H. Hirsch. The Drunkenness of Noah. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1974.
Fitzmyer, Joseph A. , ed. The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (1Q20): A Commentary Third ed. Biblica et Orientalia 18/B. Rome, Italy: Editrice Pontificio Instituto Biblico, 2004.
Haynes, Stephen R. Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery.
Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Holloway, Steven Winford. “What ship goes there: The flood narratives in the Gilgamesh Epic and Genesis considered in light of ancient Near Eastern temple ideology.” Zeitschrift fr die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft103, no. 3 (1991): 328-55.
Kee, Howard C. “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. Vol. 1, 775-828. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.
Lundquist, John M. The Temple: Meeting Place of Heaven and Earth. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1993.
Matt, Daniel C., ed. The Zohar, Pritzker Edition. Vol. 2. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.
—, ed. The Zohar, Pritzker Edition. Vol. 1. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004.
Morales, L. Michael. The Tabernacle Pre-Figured (pre-publication draft). Leuven: Peeters, 2013.
Neusner, Jacob, ed. Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis, A New American Translation. 3 vols. Vol. 1: Parashiyyot One through Thirty-Three on Genesis 1:1 to 8:14. Brown Judaic Studies 104, ed.Jacob Neusner. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985.
—, ed. Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis, A New American Translation. 3 vols. Vol. 2: Parashiyyot Thirty-Four through Sixty-Seven on Genesis 8:15-28:9. Brown Judaic Studies 105, ed.Jacob Neusner. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985.
Nibley, Hugh W. n.d. Leiden Papyrus T32 Translation. In. www.bhporter.com/Porter PDF Files/Book of breathing.pdf. (accessed June 7, 2012).
—. 1975. The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment. 2nd ed. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2005.
—. 1981. Abraham in Egypt. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley14. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2000.
—. 1986. “Return to the temple.” In Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, edited by Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 12, 42-90. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1992.
Orlov, Andrei A. The Enoch-Metatron Tradition. Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism107. Tbingen, Germany Mohr Siebeck, 2005.
Pseudo-Lucian. 1913. The Syrian Goddess: ‘De Dea Syria‘, ed. Herbert A. Strong and John Garstang: Forgotten Books, 2007. (accessed August 8, 2012).
Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969.
Speiser, Ephraim A. “The Creation Epic (Enuma Elish).” In Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, edited by James B. Pritchard. 3rd with Supplement ed, 60-72, 501-03. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Tissot, J. James. The Old Testament: Three Hundred and Ninety-Six Compositions Illustrating the Old Testament, Parts 1 and 2. 2 vols. Paris, France: M. de Brunhoff, 1904.
Vogels, Walter. “Cham dcouvre les limites de son pre No.” Nouvelle Revue Thologique109, no. 4 (1987): 554-73.
Walker, Charles Lowell. Diary of Charles Lowell Walker. 2 vols, ed. A. Karl Larson and Katharine Miles Larson. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1980.
Wenham, Gordon J., ed. Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary 1: Nelson Reference and Electronic, 1987.
Westermann, Claus, ed. 1974. Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary 1st ed. Translated by John J. Scullion. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994.
Wintermute, O. S. “Jubilees.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. Vol. 2, 35-142. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.
J. M. Lundquist, Meeting Place, p. 7. Ancient temples found in other cultures throughout the world also represent-and are often built upon-elevations that emulate the holy mountain at the starting point of Creation (see, e.g., E. A. S. Butterworth, Tree; R. J. Clifford, Cosmic Mountain; R. J. Clifford, Temple). Nibley writes that the temple is (H. W. Nibley, Return, p. 48):
… the “hierocentric point,” the place where all time, space, and humanity come together. The word templum not only designates the template, the point of cutting between the cardo and decumanus from which the observer of the heavens makes his viewing, it is also the diminutive of the word tempus, denoting that it measures the divisions of time and space in a single pattern. There, all the records of the past are kept and all of the prophecies for the future are divined.”
I.e.:”In the biblical text the final letter of oholoh, his tent, is a he, rather than the normal masculine possesive suffix (vav). The suffix he usually denotes the feminine possessive, her” (D. C. Matt, Zohar 1, 1:73a-b, p. 434 n. 700).
 For example, Cohen, having explored the “symbolic meaning of wine in ancient cultures,” concludes that Noah’s actions in this regard have been completely misunderstood, the result of “biblical scholarship’s failure” in explaining the meaning of the enigmatic incident. Summarizing Cohen’s view, Haynes writes (S. R. Haynes, Curse, pp. 188-189; see H. H. Cohen, Drunkenness, pp. 8, 12):
Cohen explores Israelite and other traditions to elucidate a complex relationship between alcohol, fire, and sexuality. Drawing on this connection, he surmises that Noah’s drunkenness is indicative not of a deficiency in character but of a good-faith attempt to replenish the earth following the Flood. Indeed, Noah’s “determination to maintain his procreative ability at full strength resulted in drinking himself into a state of helpless intoxication.” How ironic, Cohen notes, that in acceding to the divine command to renew the earth’s population, Noah suffered the opprobrium of drunkenness. In Cohen’s view, he “deserves not censure but acclaim for having played so well the role of God’s devoted servant.”
 Indeed, the Hebrew term for Tabernacle, mishkan (literally “dwelling place”), comes from the same root as Shekhinah. The idea of the Tabernacle being a “tent of meeting” is clearly expressed in Exodus 29:42 where the Lord says it is a place “where I will meet you [i.
e., the children of Israel], to speak there unto thee [i.e., Moses].” In other places in scripture (e.g., Exodus 25:8), the Tabernacle is sometimes called a mikdash(= “sanctuary”), emphasizing its role as a holy place.
 Koler and Greenspahn, as discussed in W. Vogels, Cham Dcouvre, pp. 566-567. Cf., e.g., D. C. Matt, Zohar 2, 1:80a, p. 18 n. 128: “Rabbi Shim’on interprets the final he… as an allusion to the divine, because Shekhinah is symbolized by the final he of the name YHVH, or because the letter he stands for ha-shem, “the [divine] name.” See also ibid., 1:84a, p. 34.
J. Blenkinsopp, The structure of P, p. 285. See also S. W. Holloway, What Ship, p. 334-335, which cites Patai’s account of related rabbinic legends about the capping of the Deep with the foundation stone of the temple, on which was written the forty-two letters of the ineffable Name of God.
 http://thewinehub.blogspot.com/2011_01_01_archive.html, 26 June 2012.
The festival of Deucalion (Noah) was celebrated in wine with songs about the great storms and the destruction of the world by the force of the black waters, and about how Zeus suddenly dried up the waters and the race of Japetus (Japheth) came forth to repeople the earth.
J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 7 November 1841, p. 193. At the time he made the statement, in the context of a talk where he urged the Saints to give up petty faultfinding, the Prophet seems to have believed that “Noah was a righteous man, and yet he drank wine and became intoxicated; the Lord did not forsake him in consequence thereof, for he retained all the power of his priesthood.” This agrees with Westermann’s argument that “Noah’s behavior was regarded as quite acceptable in biblical times” (C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11, p. 487 n. 9:21, as summarized by G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 198 n. 21). However, a presumed later statement attributed to Joseph Smith expressed the view that he “was not drunk, but in a vision” (Joseph Smith, Jr., as reported by William Allen to Charles Lowell Walker (C. L. Walker, Diary, 12 May 1881, 2:554).
So striking is the contrast between Noah the saint who survived the Flood and Noah the inebriated vintner that many commentators argue that the two traditions are completely incompatible and must be of independent origin.
Scholars have elsewhere described instances of deliberate efforts to denigrate or minimize the character of Noah in Jewish tradition (see, e.g., A. A. Orlov, Enoch-Metatron, pp. 306-320).
Given the analogy between the Garden [of Eden] and the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle/temple, and that between the Ark and the Tabernacle/temple, Noah’s entrance may be understood as that of a high priest… ascending the cosmic mountain of Yahweh-an idea “fleshed out,” as it were, when Noah walks the summit of the Ararat mount. The veil separating off the Holy of Holies served as an “objective and material witness to the conceptual boundary drawn between the area behind it and all other areas,” a manifest function of the Ark door.
J. Tissot, Old Testament, 1:47. The Jewish Museum, No. 52-94. In the public domain. See Genesis 14:18-20.
O. S. Wintermute, Jubilees, 7:2, p. 69. Cf. J. A. Fitzmyer, Genesis Apocryphon, 12:13-17, p. 87. In the same scene, the Genesis Apocryphon has Noah saying: “I blessed the Lord of Heaven, God Most High, the Great Holy One, who had delivered us from the destruction” (ibid., 12:17, p. 87). Ostensibly, Noah is referring to his preservation in the Flood (cf. O. S. Wintermute, Jubilees, 7:34, p. 71), but J. A. Fitzmyer, Genesis Apocryphon, p. 163 notes that there are multiple OT connotations to the Hebrew term used for “destruction.”