In a paper to be submitted soon, I elaborate on Anne Kilmer’s provocative proposal of the author(s) of the Genesis flood narrative prominently utilizing motifs associated with pregnancy/gestation — the centerpiece of her hypothesis being a correlation between the duration of the flood in Genesis, and the average length of human gestation (270-280 days). I suggest, further, that “beyond the flood period proper and into the intermediate period of the drying up of the waters before Noah’s exit from the ark, we might detect a…connection with the length of postpartum impurity set forth in the childbirth laws of Leviticus 12.”

Up until this point, I’ve considered that there was merely a conceptual parallel between the waters “abating” (from קָלַל) from earth, on one hand, and the cessation of the postpartum bleeding in Lev. 12, on the other. But I just realized that there may be a little more specific (quasi-)linguistic connection between the two texts that I hadn’t noticed before.

In Leviticus 12, an offering is made by a priest on behalf of the new mother, after her bleeding has stopped. Lev. 12.7 reads “[The priest] shall offer it before the LORD, and make atonement on her behalf; then she shall be clean from her מְּקֹר of blood” (NRSV). מָקוֹר is translated here as “flow” – used similarly in Leviticus 20 to refer to menstruation – and yet, more literally, it means “fountain.”

Is it possible to see here a connection to the “fountains of the great deep” (מַעְיְנֹת תְּהֹום רַבָּה) that the floodwaters issue from, in the Genesis flood narrative (7.11)? Granted, the word for “fountain” there, מַעְיָן, is not the same word used in Leviticus; and yet the presence of similar terminology in both texts is interesting (the “fountains” appear again, at the end of the issuing of the waters in Gen 8.2: “the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed” [סָכַר]).

Advertisements