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The Yahwist Source
Written August 25, 2021


Welcome back to IT'S IN THE BIBLE.  I'm Brother Billy.  And my next guest is one of the authors of the book of Genesis!

But wait a moment, you say.  Didn't Moses write all of the Torah, the “Five Books of Moses”? 

Many people doubt it, because Moses couldn't have described what happened after his own death.  Deuteronomy 34:5-9  And even the Ten Commandments were in God's handwriting.  Exodus 31:18`

So where did these first five books come from?  Bible scholars have developed a theory they call the Documentary Hypothesis.  Not everybody agrees, but basically the idea is that the Torah was assembled in ancient times by cutting and pasting from four different source documents.


The Priestly source described a majestic God who had created the world from nothing.  Genesis 1:1-2:3  It gave formal instructions for priests on how to preserve holiness through specified rituals.


The priests didn't want competition, so they wrote a second document, Deuteronomy.  In it, God insisted that only He should be worshiped.  This scroll was discovered in the Temple during the days of Josiah.  When it was read to the king, he learned for the first time that venerating other gods was forbidden.  He and his people had been sinning for centuries!  He tore his robe in shame.  2 Kings 23:8-13`


We can often tell the sources apart by which name they use for God.  The tribe of Judah worshipped YAHWEH, or “Jehovah.”  Their document, the Yahwist source, included stories for a less sophisticated audience.


Other Israelites, mostly the tribes in the northern part of the kingdom, worshipped EL.  They usually used the plural form Elohim, “the gods.”  Their Eloist source recorded their tribal stories.

Today's guest actually wrote part of the J narrative.  Moreover, she's a woman!  Her contribution is principally found in the first four chapters of Genesis.  I'd like to welcome Havah to the program.

Thank you, Brother Billy.  Shalom.

Shalom, likewise.  I must first express my surprise that in ancient Israel, a woman could be an author.  Weren't most women illiterate?

My grandson Enos invented writing, and he showed me how.

Yes, IT'S IN THE BIBLE.  —No, wait, it isn't!  Genesis 4:20-22 attibutes herding and music and metalworking to Jabal and Jubal and Tubal, but when Genesis 5:9-11 speaks of Enos, it doesn't say anything about writing.

We were too modest to mention it.  But I used the new art to write down the bedtime stories that I once told my children and grandchildren.

How many offspring did you have?

I lost count.  My first son was a farmer, but he got into trouble and his crops failed.  My second son was a herdsman, but he died. 

We don't need to go into the details.  Genesis 4:1-12`

Then we had a third son, Seth.  About that time was when we decided to use the name Yahweh to call upon God.  Genesis 4:25-26`

Do I understand that you lived on a farm?

Yes, we had good land — red clay, for the most part.  The Hebrew word for red clay is adamah.  Back when Seth was still very young, he wanted to know where babies come from.  So I made up a story.  I said Yahweh had picked up a handful of the adamah, molded it into his father, and breathed life into Adam's nostrils.  Genesis 2:7`

That was before your son learned about “the birds and the bees.”

Yes.  However, he was very observant.  He noticed that each of our male sheepdogs had a bone to stiffen its penis, but he didn't.  Neither did Adam.

Ahem.  We really shouldn't speak about certain body parts.  Our scientists call refer to that bone as a baculum.

Of course, Seth wanted to know why his “baculum” was missing.

What did you tell him?

I didn't know the reason, of course, but he kept asking.  Why, Mom?  Why?  So I had to invent a just-so story.

I said that Adam did have a penis bone at first, but what he lacked was a wife to help out around the farm.  So God anesthetized him, surgically removed the bone, and used it to clone another creature — the first woman.  Me.  Genesis 2:20-23`

I know that story.  IT'S IN THE BIBLE.  But the way I've heard it, a different bone was removed:  a rib.

Some pious priests probably rewrote my story to make it less offensive.  I've noticed that most people are embarrassed about reproductive organs.  That's why Adam and I made ourselves loincloths to wear.

Sewn from hides and leather?

No, that would be animal cruelty.  We used leaves.  Genesis 3:7`

But Havah, didn't it bother you that your story contradicts Genesis 1:27?  There we're told that on the sixth day of Creation “God created human beings in his own image; male and female he created them.”

That doesn't necessarily mean he created both at the same time.  He could have created the male in the morning, then cloned the female in the afternoon.

I suppose.  So your family lived on the farm.  Tell me about your life there.

Well, childbearing is great labor, I must say, and growing crops is also a lot of work.  The ground is cursed.  Only thorns and thistles grow there, and only by the sweat of our brow can we win produce from the fields.  We ourselves were taken from the ground, we now must till it, and when to the ground we shall return when we die.  As dust.  Genesis 3:16-19,23`


But I wanted happier tales that I could tell my children.  I made up another story about a beautiful tree-filled garden called Eden, far away to the east, where Adam and I lived before I started bearing children and clearing weeds.  Genesis 2:8-9`

My “Eden” was well-watered, with no danger of droughts.  Its river was the source of both the Tigris and the Euphrates, plus two other rivers with fabulous golden treasures.   Genesis 2:10-14`

Seth wanted to visit this magical place, but I told him we could never go back.  Adam and I once stole some fruit there, and now there was an armed guard to keep us out.  Genesis 3:6,23-24`

Yes, I know that story.  And the Torah is full of other made-up fairy tales.  They include:

A talking snake.
Genesis 3:1-6,13-15

Yahweh taking
an evening stroll.
Genesis 3:8-10

Giants who were half human, half divine.
Genesis 6:4

A tower all the way
up to Heaven.
Genesis 11:2-6

A bronze serpent
that could magically cure snakebites.
Numbers 20:6-9

And an invisible angel that spooked a donkey into speaking.
Numbers 22:22-33

IT'S IN THE BIBLE, all of it.  We do need the Priestly inspirations and the Deuteronomist admonitions and even the Elohist tribal traditions, but our scriptures wouldn't be the same without your charming Yahwist fables.  Thank you, Havah, for giving them to us.

You're welcome.  And I believe my name is pronounced Eve in your language, so that's what you can call me.



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