January 5, 2015.
This is day two of our journey together through the bible. If you are just getting here today, you still have ample opportunity to jump in the journey as we set out to read and study though the entire bible in one year. If you have not read yesterday’s post, I would encourage you to start there. Or if you are just interested in the opening of Genesis, read on. If you would like to follow this series as we walk through, you can either subscribe via email on the right or follow me on twitter (@dailydevotion14). I am still playing around with the format to present the information and I would love to hear some feedback on what you think the format should be. Each day of the week is devoted to a different section in the bible and Monday’s are devoted to the Law. As we get into this series, I will try to link each passage mentioned with the post that is dedicated to that specific section as it becomes available. Let’s begin.
Daily Reading: Genesis 1-3.
In terms of time, there isn’t much of a background to the book of Genesis. Before Genesis 1:1, there was only eternity. God has no beginning or end, but this physical universe does. The opening of the book of Genesis, which is considered to be the first book of law written by Moses (obviously by after the events of Genesis took place either by direct revelation from God and/or from histories that had been providentially preserved), recounts the Hebrew story of creation and the fall of man.
Highlights and key concepts.
(I’m trying out this section where I will quickly pull out some points in the story that will be further elaborated in the summery section below. This is also a place for ideas about the overall picture that do not fit well in confined sections. Let me know what you think.)
1. Interpretations on the creation story: Throughout the years, different interpretations have been made concerning the events that took place during the creation. Two major ideas have been proposed, though there are many interpretations within the spectrum. Young earth creationists (YECs) tend to believe that each day mentioned in Genesis 1 was a literal 24-hour period of time, as is evidenced by the Hebrew word for day and the lack of any implication in the text to lead the reader to believe that it was any other length of time. YECs assert that God is omnipotent and that He created the universe with age, just as He created man fully grown. Their name comes from the idea that the earth has been in existence for around 6,000-10,000 years old, though it appears to be much older since it was created “fully grown,” so to speak. Old Earth Creationists (OECs) take the opposite view, interpreting the creation story as more of an allegory that is not focused on the actual chronology and mechanisms that God used for creation, as the people who would be given this law would not understand the actual physical creation. They would say that we today still do not fully understand the creation, and that the beginning of Genesis is not for the purpose of explaining science, but rather for setting up a foundation for theology. There are different ideas amongst OECs about how creation actually happened, but one prevailing thought is that God ordered creation through His natural laws that He put in place, guiding the creation of the universe and evolution of mankind and then giving Adam and Eve a soul when He “breathed the breath of life” into them. They would assert that this harmonizes the creation story with what we have observed through science and even better explains the presence of other people in Genesis 4, including Cain’s wife, when it would seem unlikely that the world would have been that populated just by Adam and Eve, especially through children that aren’t mentioned in scripture. Time does not allow the discussion of merits and shortcomings of each interpretation here, but regardless of the correct position, both sides gain spiritual truths and theology from these first three chapters, and this is what will be examined further.
2. Everything that God created was good: Over and over again is the phrase “and God saw that it was good” found in the first chapter of Genesis. There is a reason that this is emphasized, as it points to the eternal nature and characteristic of God. God is the definition of good, which allows us to distinguish between what is righteous and what is unrighteous. When God creates something, it is good.
3. It is not good for man to be alone: If everything that God created was good, then this should further emphasize the first time God said something was not good. This is a strong statement, and it holds true throughout the ages. We are a race that is designed to be with other people; a social species, as is it is termed in science. We are not meant to be alone, but we are made for each other.
4. God’s reckoning of time: For each day of creation, the phrase “there was evening and morning, the [insert day number] day.” Whereas we often think of time through the Roman perspective, in which the new day starts at midnight, the Jewish concept of time was that a day started at sunset and went on to the next sunset. This is likely derived directly from the Almighty, as it would seem that He set forth this principle in the creation story.
5. “Let us make man in our image”: In the opening chapter of Genesis, God is recorded to be talking to a quorum just before He creates man. This plurality was viewed in Jewish eyes as a way to ascribe more power to God, as the Jewish faith was monotheistic as can be seen from Deuteronomy 6:4 and is echoed by Jesus in Mark 12:29. The Christian ascribes this plurality of God to the Godhead, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are all one. The theology of the Godhead is a difficult concept to understand fully, as man cannot fully understand God. One analogy put forth is that the Godhead is like three flames on three candles that are combined into one flame. The fire is the same when they are combined, but you can separate each candle for a specific purpose and then reunite the flame once again. This does not deny the oneness of God, for Christianity is also a monotheistic religion.
1. Hebrew writing is not always written in chronological order: Chapter two doesn’t follow in succession to chapter one, but rather goes back and recounts the creation of man, giving more attention to detail. This is a common technic used in biblical writing, and it sometimes confuses people who read as though the bible were always written in the order of events as they happened. This will be important when reading through the rest of the law, some of the gospels and especially the book of Revelation.
2. Free will from the beginning: When God placed man in the garden of Eden, He gave two commandments, one positive and one negative. Man was to keep the garden (positive command) and was not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (negative command). These two commands were set in place that mankind might be giving the opportunity to choose to serve God rather than being programmed to serve God. We call this free will. The purpose of free will, or at least on of the purposes, is to allow for love. Love cannot exist without free will, for we cannot be programed to love, but rather we must choose to love. Though this would give the opportunity for man to sin against God (as they would in the next chapter), it was a risk that God was willing to take so that love could exist. For this reason, God had a plan even before creation to redeem mankind after the fall (see I Peter 1:13-21).
1. Free will often lends itself to sin (at least when it comes to humans): Though free will is necessary for love, the trade off is that it lends itself well to sin. By the time that the sixth chapter, we see that “every intent of the heart of man was only evil continually (ref. Genesis 6:5). This is why a plan was needed to reconcile mankind back to God, for He cannot be associated with anything unrighteous, for He defines righteousness (see Isaiah 59:1-2). God, knowing all, made a plan before the fall ever occurred, which He would implement when the right time came (see Galatians 4:3-5). This does not negate free will just because the plan was made before the fall, but only pays homage to the omniscience of the Almighty and His response to our free will choice.
Summaries, connections and lessons.
v. 1-2: This is a common memory verse for children as it sets the foundation for faith. “In the beginning, God…” The opening verse of the Bible does exactly what it should, it lays out the foundation that God created the heavens and the earth. The gospel of John starts out in a similar manner with “in the beginning was the Word… (see John 1:1)” who would be revealed as Christ. Since the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are one, it would make sense that Jesus was with God from the beginning as the first chapter of John asserts. Verse 2 adds that the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Through Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1, all three parts of the Godhead are mentioned.
v. 3-5: Day 1- Light and Dark. The first thing that God creates was light, and He separated it from the dark. God is always associate with light, and evil with darkness. Paul makes a reference to this first day of creation in II Corinthians 4:6, combining it with this association.
v. 6-8: Day 2- Sky and Water. When we think about the days of creation, we often say that the sky and waters were created on the second day. This is not exactly true, as the record says God merely separated the waters and the sky on day two, for the waters were present even in the second verse of the chapter. If anything was considered to be created on this day, it would be the expanse between the waters and the sky.
v. 9-13: Day 3- Dry Land and Vegetation. God gathers the waters and causes dry land to form. God appeals to this part of creation when He addresses Job at the end of the book of Job (see Job 38:8), relating to Job His divine power and letting Job know who he is in relation to God. Romans 1:19-20 also appeals to the creation as evidence for God’s divine and eternal nature and power. Then vegetation came, with each plant bearing according to its kind. This where the natural order of biogenesis is founded.
v. 14-17: Day 4- Sun, Moon and Stars. It might seem strange that God created light first and then the sun, moon and stars. There are two ways of thinking about this. Either the creation story is not concerned all that much with a chronological timeline, or the light that was in the beginning was not from stars, but would later be given to the starts, which would keep the times and the seasons. In this section we can see the natural laws that were set in place that guide the heavenly bodies in the universe with such precision that astronomers can calculate the exact day and place a planet or object will be years into the future.
v. 14-19: Day 5- Sea Animals and Birds. On the fifth day, God created sea creatures and birds, telling them to be fruitful and multiply over all the earth. This would be a phrase that is told to all animals, including humans, that they bear seed after their own kind.
v. 20-25: Day 6- Land Animals and Man. As with the other days, on day six God creates the land creatures and man, seeing that everything that He created was good. Common commands given to these creatures were to “be fruitful and multiply” and to bear seed “after their kind.”
v. 26-31: Here we are given a more detailed description of the creation of man. Man is made in the image of God, which would mean that we are like God in our attributes, though not eternal in nature, power or knowledge. We are like God, not God. There is an idea that is put forth do discredit Christianity (or any Abrahamic faith that uses at least parts of the bible for that matter) that the God of Christianity is merely a human invention because He acts in a very human way. However, it is exactly the opposite. God does not have emotions because He has human characteristics, but rather humans have emotions because emotions are godly characteristics. We see God as “acting in a human manner” because we miss the idea that we are actually acting in a godly manner, though sin has tainted our emotions and actions.
It is interesting to note here that God told man to “be fruitful and multiply” before the fall, indicating that bearing children would happen regardless of whether or not mankind transgressed the commandment of God. It is also interesting that according to verse 30, it would see that all animals, including humans, were vegetarians at the onset of creation. This would not change until after the flood (see Genesis 9:1-6), where God gives the same command of “be fruitful and multiply” to Noah, and relates back to the creation story for the offense of murder.
v. 1-3: Day 7- God rests. On the seventh day of creation, God did not actually create anything, but rest from His creation. It is interesting that this makes the 7-day week that we still adhere to to this day. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, as it would become known as the sabbath day. In the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20), the children on Israel were told to remember the sabbath day and keep it holy, doing no work
v. 4-14: In this section there is a retelling of something that has already occurred, yet in much more detail. God is seen making man from the dust of the earth and breathing into him the breath of life. Some would take this “breath of life” to mean the soul, perhaps even meaning the point at which mankind became mankind (see note on OEC in the highlights). This would imply, however, that all living creatures have a soul, as 1:30 makes reference to the “breath of life” in all creatures. This thought may actually harmonize well with the concept of the resurrection being a rejuvenation of creation back to the state it was in in the garden of Eden (see Isaiah 65:17-25, Romans 8:18-25, II Peter 3:11-13 and Revelation 21).
v. 15-17: God places man that He has just made in the garden of Eden and gives two commands, one positive and one negative. The positive command was for man to work and keep the garden, whereas the negative command was that man was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest he in that day would die. Note that this is all that is said by God, though Eve would add to it in 3:3.
v. 18-25: God looked down and saw that it was not good for man to be alone. This is a significant phrase, as it is the first time that God says something is not good. The search was on to find a helper that was fit for him, but none was found though all the beast of the field were tried. Thus, God causes a deep sleep to come over Adam and takes a rib from his side to form woman. She is called woman because she was taken out of man. Adam recognizes that she is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and therefore a suitable companion for him. Then the note is made about marriage, appealing to this concept for the reason that a husband and wife leave their father and mother and become one flesh. This is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:17. Paul cites this passage in his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 5:31) and makes an interesting appeal to this text when relating to the Corinthian church that committing fornication with a prostitute is joined to her as one flesh just as in marriage (I Corinthians 6:15-16).
v. 1-7: This is the serpent’s attempt to deceive Eve. Notice that the serpent goes to Eve first, who had not actually been created at the time that God gave the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. When he says “did God actually say…” he is attacking her understanding of the commandment. Eve’s response for what God told them to do is not actually a correct statement, for she says that God told them not even to touch of the tree (v. 3), when God only said not to eat of it (2:17). God emphasizes what He actually told Adam in 3:11. This is the first indication that Eve is in trouble, for she (and/or Adam) had added to the word of God. Then the serpent gives Eve an alternate truth, or rather a lie, saying that she would not die, but would be like God, knowing good from evil. This is referenced by Jesus in John 8:44 as He denotes the devil as being the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning, which is found here. Notice that the lie is grounded in some truth, for indeed if they ate of the tree, they would gain the knowledge of good and evil. Most of the best lies that deceive people are rooted in some truth, and the serpent has been at this from the beginning. Being deceived, Eve took the fruit (for it was desirable, see James 1:14 on being enticed by our desires) and gave it to her husband and he ate. After eating, they understood that they were naked, and they made clothes out of fig leaves to cover themselves. Notice that the serpent only had to deceive one person, and then that one person did the rest. This is very applicable today, as one person’s sin can lead many others down the same path.
v. 8-13: Having the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were afraid when they heard the footsteps of God in the garden, for they knew they were naked. They tried to hide from God, as if that were possible. When they realized they couldn’t hide, they gave the excuse that they were hiding because they knew they were naked, and to this God asked “How did you know that?” When God asks a question like this, it is for the benefit of us, not Himself, for He is omniscient. Questions are often used by God to make a point (see Job 38-41). The answer that was given, however, is the very first instance of passing the blame. It seems to be almost in our nature to pass blame instead of taking responsibility for our actions. Adam told God, “Well the woman (who you gave me!) gave me the fruit and I ate.” Adam blames Eve, and by extension possibly even God, and Eve then blames the serpent. Though they passed the blame, they were still guilty, for they knew what they were not supposed to do.
v. 14-19: Three curses are presented in this passage, with the first containing a Messianic prophecy. The Lord begins with the punishment of the serpent, causing it to go forth on its belly (can you imagine a snake with legs?), but more importantly a prophecy to the devil that the Messiah would come and deliver a crushing blow to his head, though he could only bruise the Messiah’s heel, which would be non-critical. This was fulfilled as Jesus went to the cross to die (the bruising of His heel) and subsequently raising from the dead to defeat the power of death (the crushing blow to the head of the devil). See Romans 16:20, I Corinthians 2:8, Hebrews 2:14 and Revelation 12, 20.
The curse on the woman was the pain in childbearing and her submission to her husband throughout the generations. Paul makes a reference to this in I Timothy 2:12-15, appealing to the fall as the reason for the role of women in the assembly. Gender roles in the home are discussed in Ephesians 5:22-33, Colossians 3:18-25 and I Peter 3:1-7. As an application today, we can see that the consequences of sin (not the sin itself) can be passed down through generations and on to other people. The curse of man was hard labor and pain in harvest/work. The ultimate curse, however, was that death would now come to mankind. Elihu, Job’s young friend, makes a reference to this curse (“you are dust, and to dust you shall return”) in Job 34:15. Solomon makes a direct reference to this in Ecclesiastes 3:20 and 12:7. Paul appeals to this story for the theology of sin and death in Romans 5:12-14.
As a note, some would object that God told Adam that he would die in the day that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and yet he didn’t die that day. However, Adam and Eve did die that day in the sense that they were separated from God through sin (see Isaiah 59:1-2). Separation from God is spiritual death. In another sense, Adam and Eve died when they ate of the fruit in that they no longer would have access to the tree of life, which sustained their immortality (see note on v. 20-24) because of their banishment from the garden.
v. 20-24: It is interesting that Eve is not given a name other than “woman” until this point. Then the Lord made garments for the two, and sent them out of the garden, placing a cherubim with a flaming sword to guard the tree of life, lest Adam and Even eat of it and live forever. It seems that the fruit of this tree (which was not forbidden while they were in the garden) was what sustained Adam and Eve as immortal. There is another reference to the Godhead in verse 22.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 1-5.
The Lord grant you wisdom from above.