The Internal Chronology of Noah’s Flood, Part 3: The J Source Chronology

For Part 1: An Overview, Click here.

For Part 2: The P Source Chronology, Click here.

Let’s now look at the J source chronology. As with the P source analysis, I will list only the verses relevant to the J chronology. Again, I will omit the two verses that Friedman assigns to P and take them up in the discussion of harmonization. Numbers in parentheses are the Genesis verse numbers.

  1. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights [emphasis added]; (7:4a)
  2. And after seven days the waters of the flood came on the earth [emphasis added]. (7:10)
  3. The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights [emphasis added]. (7:12)
  4. and the LORD shut him in. The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep [emphasis added]. (7:16b–20)
  5. Friedman’s 7:24 omitted.
  6. the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters gradually receded from the earth. (8:2b–3a)
  7. Friedman’s 8:3b omitted.
  8. At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made [emphasis added]. (8:6)
  9. Then he sent out the dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground; but the dove found no place to set its foot, and it returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took it and brought it into the ark with him. He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. Then he waited another seven days, and sent out the dove; and it did not return to him any more [emphasis added]. (8:8–12)
  10. and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and saw that the face of the ground was drying.

The J source chronology has some ambiguities. It is not as straight forward as the P source. Let’s take a closer look and outline the events in chronological terms. Note specifically, there are no calendar dates as in the P source. Also notice that there is no anchor date enabling us to determine in what year after Creation the Flood occurred. The J story depends upon the P source for that purpose. This suggests that the J source was not date-specific.

Paragraphs 1–3 tell us that there was a seven-day warning to Noah that the downpour would begin. After the week is up the rains began and they fell for forty days and forty nights. This brings us to the first problem. How does this set of verses align with the P source?

The traditional analysis is that the J rains began on the same day as the P rains. If so, this would be the result of the Redactor’s actions. But what can we say independent of any Redactor’s activity?

First, are the J and the P Floods based on the same story? The J source only talks about rain falling to cause the waters to rise. P, however, says that not only did the rains fall, but “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth.” This is a very different account from J. The rising waters were due not only to rain but the waters of the oceans breaking open before the rain even began to do its work. This is a good literary clue that the two Flood stories were originally unrelated to each other.

Second, there is a chronological issue. The J source describes a time period of 7 days followed by forty days of rain. So the rains end 47 days after the initial warning. Coincidentally, the P Flood story starts on the 47th day of the calendar year. So, counting from the first day of Noah’s six hundredth year, the one-week warning and forty days of rain end precisely at the point where the P Flood begins. (The P Flood starts on the 17th day of the second month. Using the average lunar month length of 29.5 days for the first month and 17 days for the second month , the total duration is 46.5 days, which means we are into the 47th day.) This suggests that the Redactor arranged for the J  source rain to end when the P source ocean upheavals begin, along with further P rainfall when “the windows of the heavens were opened.” If that were the case, then the time frame for the warning was invented by the Redactor so that J rains would end when the P rains began.

In any event, whatever the Redactor had in mind, we nave two pieces of chronological data from J. There was a seven-day warning and the rains fell for forty days. Moving on.

In Paragraph 4, the J source says, “The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth.” Is this a second period of forty days, following the rain fall, or is it what happened during the rainfall? The chief clue is that the passage says, “the flood continued.” This suggests that we are talking about a second forty day period. The rain fell for forty days and then the waters remained on the earth for another forty days.

On the other hand, the J verse in Paragraph 6 says that the rains were restrained and the waters receded. This seems to introduce ambiguity into the narrative. It could be interpreted to mean that the rains stopped at this point rather than forty days earlier. But it could also mean that after the waters rose for forty days after the rains stopped, the waters receded. So, we may have a second forty-day period here.

If the Redactor intended for the J rains to stop at the time that the P rains began, as suggested above, then we can assume that this second forty day notice should refer to a time contemporaneous with the start of the P rains, making the second forty day additive.

Then we have a third forty-day notice. After the rains were restrained and the waters receded, “At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made” Depending upon how you resolve the second forty-day notice, this is either the second or third consecutive period of forty days. At least this forty day period appears to be different from the forty days of rain. So either eighty or one hundred and twenty days have passed.”

After Noah opened the ark windows we have another anomaly. He sent out a first dove and the dove returned. Then “He waited another seven days, and again he sent out the dove from the ark [emphasis added.]” Something is missing here. If he waited “another” seven days, there must have been an earlier seven-day waiting period. Implicitly, after Noah looked out of the ark’s window, he must have waited seven days before sending out the first dove. So, from the opening of the ark window to the third dove not returning we have either a two-week or three-week time frame. Scholars are divided on the issue.

Note here, that the waters are still receding when the first dove is sent out. If we accept that the narrative somehow dropped out a period of seven days before the first dove took off,  the waters receded for forty seven days plus some possible additional days in the following week before the second dove takes off. On the release of the second dove, we are told that the waters were off the earth. But the ground was still soaked. When the third dove is released, a week later, Noah looked out the window and saw that the ground the ground “was drying” so it was still not dried out.

The J source chronology end with Noah seeing the earth was drying, but doesn’t say when the earth dried out. The P source says the face of the earth dried by the first day of the first month of the second year. But P also says that earth dried out about a month and a half later, on the twenty-seventh day of the second month of the second year. The Redactor relies on the P source to tell us when the earth was actually dried off.

Sequentially,  J seems to provide the following periods of time, a seven day warning, forty days of rain, a possible forty day period of rising waters, another forty day period while the waters were receding and the ark rested on the mountain, and a releasing of the dove over either two or three weeks. The maximalist interpretation is that the total time frame is 148 days from the initial warning until Noah saw that the earth was drying. Omitted from J is the time period between the time Noah saw the drying and the actual drying of the earth. Within this context, one can, depending on preferences for interpretation, exclude one or more of the following time periods: the seven-day warning as the rain hadn’t started yet; the second forty-day notice; and the week before the first dove was released. I’ll comment on this further in a moment. First let me briefly remark on how this coincides with the P source.

According to P, “and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. The waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.” (Gen. 8:4–5).

The seventeenth day of the seventh month, in the P source, falls five full months after the rains began on the seventeenth day of the second month. The P calendar, as I pointed out in the previous piece, was based on a lunar calendar. Five lunar months equal 147.5 days, rounding off to 148 days. This means that in P the ark landed 148 days after the rains started. But in J, using the maximalist count, this is the same time period as the entire J chronology through the drying of the earth. And P still has another seven and a half months to go before its chronological narrative ends with the earth dried off. On the other hand, the Redactor implies that there is a chronological extension of the J source from the time Noah released the third dove and saw the ground was drying, to the several months later when P says the earth did dry off.

Clearly, based solely on the separated sources, J and P are simply not in alignment with each other. In the next installment of this series I’ll look at the Redactor’s efforts to harmonize the two sources into a single chronological narrative. At that time, I will also look at the role played by the two verses, 7:24 and 8:3b, that Friedman assigns to P and I assign to the Redactor.

That said, let me comment briefly on my take on the J chronology. The issue is highly complicated because at some point the J source was further redacted in order to harmonize with the Babylonian Gilgamesh Flood story.

It is my view that J was originally an Egyptian Flood story that lasted one hundred and twenty days, corresponding to the first season of the Egyptian Calendar, which season the Egyptians called “Inundation” and coincided with the annual flooding from the Nile river. The Egyptian calendar had three seasons and the story would originally have been part of a triptych, in which there would have been a second story dealing with the 120-day Egyptian planting season and a third story dealing with the 120-day Egyptian harvesting season. There are very faint traces of these other two stories in the narration of events surrounding Noah and his children after the Flood.

The bird scene, I suggest, is not original to J. It was added when the story was harmonized with the Babylonian Flood story, which includes the bird episode. Much of my thesis can’t be explained in a short blog post, but will be more fully developed in Volume 2 of Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-Lists: the Egyptian Origins of Genesis History: The Mythic Period, which, I hope, will be available by summer or soon after. In the meantime, for more on the Egyptian origins of Noah’s Flood, you may want to look at my essay, Noah’s Flood: Babylonian or Egyptian in Origin?

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