Some thoughts as I begin a new year of Bible reading:
As reads these opening verses of the Bible, perhaps one should dim the lights, recline a little and have a hot cup of tea or cocoa within reach. The more sci-fi inclined might enjoy a window seat at a place like Milliways (“The Restaurant at the End of the Universe”—to be reached by Near-instant transportation via time-travel or by being very patient[i]). This kind of atmosphere comes to mind (I’ll leave you to decide which setting I prefer) because there is nothing one can do but sit and listen and watch.
"I wonder if they serve my kind here?"
What amazes me about this is God in His wisdom helps me to understand there is nothing I can do but sit and listen and watch. This deepens my worship of God because in reading, God gives opportunity for one to see what no person should not be able to see. He lets us do the unimaginable. We get to see Him. We get to see Him at work. We get to hear His voice. We get to see something come out of nothing. We get to reach toward the concept of eternity being cross-sectioned by these little things called “time” and “space”. Impossible, you say? Alice had the same attitude, telling the Queen, “one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."[ii] We get six DAYS of impossibilities in this chapter!
Another feature that grabs me is that all I think about God or have thought about Him gets a reboot. I get to start fresh and check what I’ve understood about him and make adjustments where necessary. I suspect this is a primary reason for inspiring Moses to write this to begin with! The recipients of Moses’ writings were the Israelites, those whom He led from Egyptian bondage and were to deliver to the Promised Land. What did they know?
- They knew they were descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
- They knew they were surrounded by a pantheon of so-called deities who were not gods of their fathers.
- They knew that their overall experience in their deliverance from Egypt was a great display of power from a God who claimed them and each plague was a polemic against the gods of their task-masters who were forgetters in their own tradition.
They knew that this God who claimed them was to be worshipped and Moses was taking them out of the land to do just this.
I get the idea that Moses was inspired to write Genesis as a reintroduction of the people of Israel to the God of their Fathers. And it starts at the very beginning (a very good place to start).
By starting at the ultimate beginning, we get to learn along with the Israelites there is no other god save the Creator God. In the record of creation the Genesis Cosmology is also a record of those that are not gods[iii]: Elohim created tehom (the deep). In other words, Nun the mother of all gods (“she who bears Re [the sun god] each day”) is in fact no god. Re is no god. Ptah is not the creative force through which Atum (earth) and all other gods were created. Ta-tenen (“the first land”, also known as “Egypt”) is no god and did not arise out of Nun. Elohim started His work with tohu wavohu (“formless void”), therefore, the gods of chaos Nun, Kehu, Amun could not have existed as there was nothing before! [iv] Everything the Israelites were exposed to as pantheonic has now been destroyed by the one true Creator God.
Each reader from the moment of writing and the first public reading until the consummation gets to have his or her belief system challenged right here in the beginning. The “what” of belief matters, but the “who” of belief is the superstructure of all that “is”.
If you’ve not taken a sip of tea or cocoa yet, or perhaps have not yet placed an order for eggs and coffee, you might not get a chance to now.
We’ve heard Him speak all things into existence and seen the formless void become separated (Days 1-3) and filled (Days 4-6) and all was pronounced, “good”. Now that we all are on the same page, understanding that we have absolutely nothing to do with all that is, except for the fact that we are a part of creation, Moses was inspired to do a couple of close-up shots:
God is no longer called “God” (elohim), but is now called “the LORD God” (YHWH elohim). His covenant name coupled with his “general” name.
Day 6 is brought into shaper focus.
Back up to Day 5: no shrubs, no plants, no sprouts, then Day 6: the LORD God formed man out of the dust of the ground a man. Next, the LORD God plants a garden, where out of the ground comes every tree that is appetizing and delicious, including two specific trees with odd fruit: “life” and “knowledge of good and evil”.
God the creator places man in the garden with a command: you may eat freely (He is the provider, you know), but do not eat FROM IT [mimenu] (tree of knowledge of good and evil) because if you do, you die. (2:17)
God creates with language. Man gets to be creative with language.
I am sitting on the edge of my seat: God divides out the ground. God brings plants, man and beasts from the ground. Hmmmmm.
A serpent and the woman talk. She says, “God has said, ‘You shall not eat FROM IT [mimenu] or touch it least you die.” (3:3)
The serpent says, “God knows that in the day you eat FROM IT [mimenu] . . .” (3:5)
And they eat. And they die. And they point the finger.
Note 3:17, “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat FROM IT [mimenu], cursed is the ground because of you . . .”
God cursed the serpent (3:14), and God cursed the ground (!) (3:17), but not woman nor man. Since man was made in God’s image, God could not curse the man or He would be cursing Himself. Since woman came from the man, the same idea follows. But God cursed that from which all things were formed!
Oh, then there’s this little verse: “Then the LORD God said, “Behold, man has become like one FROM IT [mimenu] knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch our his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” (3:22)
Reflection and summary:
- Introducing: God;
- God commands, God expects things to happen. He does not merely “give permission” or suggestions;
- God commanded man, “eat, but not this;”
- Man inherits the consequences of rejected sovereignty.
God expects to be known, heard and obeyed.
Man can do nothing to get himself out of his situation—God does (Gen 3:15).
[i] Adams, Douglas. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. New York: Harmony, 1981. Please don’t pursue this further.
[ii] Carrol, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland. http://www.sabian.org/alice.htm [If you've done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliway's - the Restaurant at the End of the Universe!]
[iii] Hasel, Gerhard. “The Polemic Nature of the Genesis Cosmology.” Evangelical Quarterly. Vol. 46, 1974.
[iv] Hoffmeier, James. “Some Thoughts on Genesis 1 & 2 and Egyptian Cosmology.” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Vol. 15, 1983.