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Interpretation of Scripture

How much biblical text are we improperly interpreting?

In an on-line discussion I once had regarding the Genesis account of the flood, I asked the person who initiated the discussion, what his reply would be to those who question how and why it is that certain animals are considered native to and/or originating from certain geographical areas, in light of the Bible’s claim that Noah released all the animals from the ark at the same time in one location.

Here is the crux of his response…

First, Genesis 10:25 declares that in the days of Peleg the earth was divided. It’s my understanding that this refers to the division of the earth into Continental Plates. You see, before the earth was divided into continents as we know it today, it used to be one single land mass some scientists call “Pangaea.”

The Bible agrees with the concept of one landmass because in Genesis 1:9 it states, “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.” Now, correct me if I’m wrong but on planet earth today oceans separate the various continents and continents separate the various oceans, right?

In other words, water divides land and land divides water, so if in the beginning all the oceans were gathered together as one body of water, this means that all the continents were gathered together as one solid landmass, right?

That’s what God said, “Let the waters… be gathered together unto one place,” so if there was only one ocean then there was only one continent

Therefore, from Genesis 1:9 we conclude that the Bible supports the concept of the earth existing as a single landmass during the time of early human civilization.

So, when the Bible records that the earth was divided in the days of Peleg it’s reasonable to assume that this is in reference to the shifting of the Tectonic Plates resulting in what scientists call “Continental Drift” thus forming the various continents. This becomes even more apparent when we discover that the name “Peleg” means “division” and “earthquake.”

My point is this, according to the Genesis account in chapters 10 and 11 the dividing of the earth into continents occurred about 100 years after Noah released all the animals on the earth giving them enough time to travel to the farthest regions.

So, when the division took place those animals that were located in certain geographical regions became what we now call indigenous to those regions. In some cases these regions became sealed off from the rest of the world so the animals located there couldn’t migrate to other areas, the island continent of Australia is a perfect example.

I have always bought into the explanation relating Peleg and the 'Continental Drift' theory. But I got to thinking about the waters under heaven being gathered together unto one place and the division between water and land. I also got to thinking about the meaning of the words divide and division, as more than one meaning can apply to both of these words – though they basically refer to the same thing, regardless of which meaning is meant.

Genesis 10:25 - To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.

Peleg (peʹleg), the ancestor of the Mesopotamian branch of the sons of Eber (‘Hebrews’)—those who lived by irrigation (cf. Hebrew peleg, ‘canal’)—through whom Abram was descended from Shem (Genesis 11:16-26). ‘In his days the earth was divided’ (Genesis 10:25), an allusion to the tower of Babel story, plays on a word meaning ‘divide’ (palag). As an ancestor of Abraham (Genesis 11:16-26), he was also an ancestor of Jesus (Luke 3:35).[1]

As we see from the reference above, the statement in Genesis 10:25 that ‘the earth was divided’ has absolutely nothing to do with geographical activity. Thus, the explanation given by the gentleman (and the one that I have held to all these years) is based on conjecture, rather than straight-forward research and study of the biblical text.

Such a finding causes me to wonder how much more biblical text I (and countless others like me) are improperly interpreting.

Christ’s Glory and the Prophetic Word

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation, For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. --2 Peter 1:16-21, ESV

[1] Achtemeier, Paul J. ; Harper Row, Publishers ; Society of Biblical Literature: Harper’s Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco : Harper Row, 1985, S. 767

ADDENDUM: The expression “the earth was divided” may refer to dividing the land with canals, but more likely it anticipates the division of languages at Babel. The verb פָּלָג (palag , “separate, divide”) is used in Ps 55:9 for a division of languages.


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