It is a strange text, but then, there are many in the Hebrew Bible's first entry. Genesis, or "beginnings," seeks to introduce us to some of the first people on earth.
Reading from my new copy of The Poverty and Justice Bible, I came across it all marked up in bright orange:
Lamech said, "I'll name him Noah because he will give us comfort, as we struggle hard to make a living on this land that the Lord has put under a curse. (Genesis 5:29)
It helps to know that the Hebrew name Noah sounds a good bit like the Hebrew word that we translate "comfort."
Nice play on words. The Hebrew Bible is filled with these little word plays that enhance the meaning of the message.
From the start people faced the challenge of wrestling a life out of the raw resources of the earth. The Genesis story tells of a curse placed on the ground due to the rebellion and mistakes of our first parents.
"Making a living" has never been an easy matter.
Lamech knew what was needed, what he hoped for when his son came along: Comfort in the work!
Noah comes to the world tagged as a community builder, a person who will lighten loads and lift spirits for the benefit of others--comforting the community will be a huge part of who he becomes.
Life can be very, very difficult.
At the same time, we are not meant to face life alone. The importance of being together, of receiving comfort from others, especially those gifted to share it, can't be over emphasized. When community is present and honored, the land loosens its grip on its wealth, people flourish in spite of the harshness of things.
Noah begins his life with a direction. Great advantage that.
To be called "Comfort" in the midst of hard circumstances is a very good thing. May we share and receive it in abundance in the year that is ahead of us.