The Words of the Haines Family

Midrash and the Principle

William Haines
September 24, 2009

Recently I taught a seven day Divine Principle workshop -- my first in decades -- and while doing some research for the lectures came across this passage from Ibn Isahaq, a Muslim who wrote a commentary on the Qur’an and was Muhammad’s first biographer:

Adam ordered his son Cain to marry his twin sister to Abel, and he ordered Abel to marry his twin sister to Cain. Abel was pleased and agreed with that but Cain refused thinking himself better than the sister of Abel. He desired his own sister instead of Abel having her.

So Adam said, “Son, offer a sacrifice and your brother Abel will offer a sacrifice. Whichever of the two of you has his sacrifice received by God will have the more right to her.”

I thought this was interesting as it is gave a plausible reason for why the two brothers made their offerings in the first place. The stories in the Bible, Genesis in particular, are very terse and there are many details that are missing. The rabbis have always recognized this and over the centuries have filled in the gaps with midrash -- extra details. I first came across this in 1982 as a student in Manchester while I was browsing through the stacks at the John Rylands Library. I was taking a break from my philosophy studies and wandered into the section on Judaism where I happened upon the books of the Talmud.

As there are about 15 volumes and they didn’t seem to be organized rationally I looked Noah up in the index. I followed the reference and found the surprising statement that Noah had told his sons and daughters-in-law that they were not to have sexual relations during the period of the flood but that Ham and his wife had had sexual intercourse. Suddenly I understood why Ham had felt ashamed when he saw Noah lying naked in the tent. I had always felt it odd that Ham should have been judged for feeling that way and had never found the explanation in the Divine Principle book completely convincing. One’s feeling are generally quite spontaneous and uncontrollable. Who can stop themselves blushing?

Now I realized that Ham had felt ashamed because he had sinned and was projecting his own sin onto Noah. He felt this way because he had made a condition for Satan to invade his feelings and reaction to seeing Noah naked. More recently while studying the church fathers I found that they had noticed that in the Bible God told Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives to enter the ark separately. In other words the men and women slept in different rooms. But after the flood God told them to leave the ark as husbands and wives and thus to engage again in conjugal love.

This of course made me think about the status of the Principle. Was it the book? What happens when one comes across sources that the authors were naturally unaware of but whose inclusion gives a more “Principled” explanation than the one in the book? I realized that the Divine Principle books are “expositions” or “applications” of the Principle but not the Principle itself and that one should search for and integrate sources other than the Bible which give a fuller and more complete explanation. One of these is the Talmud, another the Qur’an and its commentaries. Of course one has to be very discerning, sifting through the material, listening to one’s heart and soul, praying and seeing what fits. 

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