Sunday, June 30, 2019

Was Noah a Farmer?

Was Noah a Farmer?
Glenn R. Morton  April 14, 2020

Genesis 9:20 says: "And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: "1

The Hebrew words mis-translated as 'husbandman'  are ish ha Adawmah.  Ish is "man". Adawmah is translated as 'land' 125 times, as 'earth' 53 times, as  ground '43' times, as 'country' once, as 'husbandman' twice, and as 'husbandry' once.

Clearly the normal meaning of this word is not husbandman. That is an interpretation of the translator.  Let's translate this verse as:

"And Noah began to be a man of the ground, and he planted a vineyard;"1

Does this make him a farmer?  Not necessarily.  I once owned a 100 ac ranch in east Texas and miss it greatly but my health made it impossible for me to take care of it anymore.  But a wild grape vine was intentionally planted next to the house.  That grape vine would give me two the three buckets of grapes each year, enough to make one bottle of wine or about 30 jars of jelly.  I made the jelly.  But if that was all I had, did that make me a farmer?  No.  Merely planting a couple of vines does not make one a farmer.  The nice thing about this wild grape was that I didn’t have to spend time ‘tending the branches,’ nor did I have to worry about birds eating the grapes. The skins were quite sour, so the birds turned up their beaks at these grapes. On the inside of the grape was an extremely sweet pulp. The blended mash, produced a flavorable juice that made excellent jelly. But I wasn’t running a vineyard. I didn’t have to.

Loads of hunter-gatherers plant plants they want more of, but they too are not farmers. But they are people of the ground.

With only 8 people initially, hunting and gathering would be on Noah's to-do list.  They couldn't wait 3 months or more for the harvest.  Thus they could not have been classical farmers.  But planting a few plants for fun certainly isn't out of the question for a hunter-gatherer.

"Studies of modern hunter-gatherers show that there is a correlation between population density and the specialised use of particular foods.  Examples include the systematic exploitation (in some cases even involving the sowing) of wild grasses and other herbaceous plants for their seeds, and the replanting of wild yams and other tubers to ensure continuity of supply."2 

"The closest parallel to planting practice in Aboriginal gathering pertains to the Dioscorea yam in subtropical and tropical Australia.  Observations of replanting, describedin detail for Arnhem Land by Jones 1975) and Jones & Meehan , for the easter Cape York Peninsula by Harris, and deduced on historical evidence for Western Australia, entail a rather casual replacement of the stem-attached top of the tuber at harvest, and are identical both to the informal procedures of the Tasaday oragers of the Philippines." 3


1The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ge 9:20). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

2D. R. Harris, "Human Diet and Subsistence,"  in S. Jones et al, editors, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 72-73

3D. E. Yen, Agronomy of Asutralian Hunter-Gatherers,", in David R. Harris, Gordon C. HIllman, Foraging and Farming: The evolution of Plant Exploitation, Routledge, 2014, p. 59.

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