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Man and woman want to be autonomous, they no longer want to remain simple workers in the garden desired by God, they are destined to gradually acquire power, to become tyrants. There is a subtle paradox: the serpent has insinuated that the Creator is a tyrant and that is what the descendants of Adam and Eve are going to be, and the reason why the path to the tree of life will be barred. It is meant as a stop to the arrogance of mighty men as Lamech and of powerful women as his wives: Adah and Zillah. "Then the Lord said, ‘My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, in as much as he, too, is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.’" (Gn 6:3). The peremptory limit placed at the age of man is a new element in the story of Genesis. The new restriction makes two senses: the number 120 unequivocally leads us to Egypt, to the so-called "decans", that is, those stars or groups of stars, which with their acronychal rise – their rise to the east at sunset – served to indicate the hours of the night (Neugebauer 1955 [1]; Neugebauer-Parker 1969 [2]; Parker 1974 [3]; Böker 1984 [4]; Quack 1995 [5]; Gallo 1998 [6]; Hübner 2016 [7]). This connection with Egyptian astronomy is assured for three reasons: decans are "sons of God" (Horus) in Egyptian solar clocks; they are visible for 120 days and invisible for 70; these are stars visible on the eastern part of the horizon (Conman 2003 [8]: 37) and therefore directly touch the myth of Eden, which is located to the east. The interesting aspect of the matter is the iconography of these stars, which in the New Kingdom no longer have the shape of the gods: from "sons of Horus" (Kákosy 1982 [9]: 164) they gradually turn into "snakes of the horizon" (Arquier 2013 [10]: 371-374). The association between the stars and the primordial men in Genesis was favored, as I have argued in Iron, by the idea that heroes such as kings had iron bones, a metal of celestial origin, and finds a biblical equivalent in the oracle of Ezekiel against the King of Tyre (Ez 28:11-16 [Alter]): "You were a cherub anointed and sheltering. And I set you on a holy mountain. A god you were. Among stones of fire you walked about." Beside the explicit elevation of a man to the dignity of a god, the "stones of fire" may hint at astral entities or at meteorites (Wood 2008: 65, 68, 75). From this standpoint it would be possible to also interpret the shame of the first couple. The King of Tyre has become ashamed, he has risen to the dignity of a cherub, which shines as a rising star on the mountain of Eden. Now God knocks him to the ground, where that arrogant brilliant will be extinguished Ezekiel (Ez 28:17). The verb used in Genesis 2:25 for shame (בּוּשׁ, bōš) is also used to mean the darkening of a star, its invisibility (Sawyer & Stephenson 1970 [11]; de Jong & van Soldt 1989 [12]) The idea of the hundred and twenty days of visibility of the stars corresponds to their "birth" to the east, shortly after sunset: "The stars, like the sun, are born daily from Nut in the east, though not at the same time. It must be assumed […] that the stars are born at sunset" (Neugebauer & Parker 1960 [13]: 68; Depuydt 2010 [14]: 248-249). Only for that number of days will a star be allowed to "work", that is, to appear in the night sky. The limit placed by God at the age of the first men is to be understood as a brake on their arrogance and therefore as a divine limit to tyrants (Giorgini 1993 [15]), whose typical behaviour is exemplified in their taking for themselves a number of women at will, as is typical of kings or warriors dedicated to looting. In the East, where Genesis imagined the beginning of humanity, famous men have been raised in ancient years, who have shone brightly in the Olympus of heroes. In Egypt, these supernatural beings are stars of the night, to turn to for protection, to be put as an amulet around the neck, mythical characters who gradually take on the appearance of snakes and offer the starting point for a syncretism (Quack 2005 [16]: 254-255). In Genesis, within a "demythologized" account of creation, "the enigmatic notice about the Nephilim, the human-divine hybrids of the primeval age, concludes with these words: ‘They are the heroes of yore, the men of renown’ (Genesis 6:4)" [Alter] That’s enough to admit allusions to those "sons of God" (benē ʾĕlōhīm) as "morning stars" we hear from Job 38:7, where "the stars, which were deities in the idolatrous cult, were transformed into servants of the Lord in Israel’s religion (Cassuto1 293; Cho 2013: 283). In fact, in the Fall narrative, we are confronted with one of the most typical survivals of this Hebrew "secularization": the cherub, armed with a flaming sword, who is the term of comparison for any attempt of human "divinization". I just mean "attempt" and also in the second name given by Adam to his woman, namely Eve, "mother of all living", the echo of an astral mythology can be heard, as the Egyptian decans are called "the living", because they appear and disappear in the night sky, they are born and die, unlike the imperishable stars (von Bomhard 2012 [17]: 73 n. 73).

Originally Published: April 29, 2021

Last Updated: April 29, 2021


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