Study of Genesis/Creation
|Bible Tour: A Tale of Two Cities (section)|
- Read Genesis 1:1 - 2:4
- Take note of any structure or methodology apparent in the order that God created the universe.
- Take note of any repeated words/phrases
- Read Genesis 2:5 - 25
- Take note of any apparent contradictions between this text and the previous one. Are there any ways to resolve these contradictions?
- Compare/contrast the description of the Garden of Eden and the New Jerusalem found in Revelation 21 and 22.
- Prepare yourself for a massive first lesson
Today's reading will be dealt with in four sections. First we'll deal with the general creation of the world, then we'll focus on the creation of Man, the Garden of Eden, and finally the creation of Woman. At the end of each section, there will be some notable verses from the passage, which are worth thinking about. The debate between Creation and Evolution is beyond the scope of this study; however a guide to the various arguments has been created. If you're interested in the debate, check out the guide.
Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a :: General Creation
This very first passage in Genesis deals with the creation of the world, and the universe that contains it. A cursory reading of the text will reveal a running theme of speech; the phrase "Then God said" appears nine times, demonstrating that God's creative actions are performed by His creative Word.
Another theme is the imposition of order onto chaos, not unlike the creation myths of other cultures. Unlike other accounts, however, God is intimately involved in every creative act. In verse two, His Spirit (which can be translated as "Breath") is hovering over the formless earth, preparing to speak order into the chaos. In contrast to a god vomiting creation into existence, the Hebrew God creates intentionally and intimately, and He declares His creation to be "good".
There are six days during which God created the world; a summary is presented below:
|First Three Days||Second Three Days|
|Day 1: light
||Day 4: light-bearers
|Day 2: waters and sky||Day 5: waters and sky animals
|Day 3: dry ground & vegetation
||Day 6: ground-based animals
Day 7: God rested
Structure of Creation
A good look at the above table will show that there is a definite structure to the six days of Creation. First of all, there is an overall crescendo as God moves from less complexity to more complexity, arriving finally at Man. Secondly, there seems to be a parallel between the first three days and the second. It appears that during the first three days, God created habitations for the creatures of the last three days; hence, the first three can be classified as non-living habitats, and the last three can be classified as living inhabitors.
This distinction breaks down, however, in two places. First of all, in Day Three God creates plants along with the dry ground. If the above classification is accurate, Then plants are to be considered both non-living, and part of the habitat (as opposed to inhabitors). This actually may not be too far-fetched, however; notice that the term "living" is only really applied to creatures of the second three days. Perhaps scripture considers plants to be more or less an extension of the ground rather than an inhabitor.
Day Four also provides an exception to the rule as the sun, moon and stars are not considered to be "living" either by science or by scripture. They are, however, inhabitors of light/darkness, so that aspect of the classification still holds. Perhaps a better classification system, then, would be to simply say that the first three days evinced the habitats, and the last three days begat the inhabitors.
As a side note, it is often speculated as to when God created the Angels. I (User:Opensourcejunkie) personally suspect that it was during Day Four, when God created the light-bearers. Throughout scripture, stars are often used as a type of angels, particularly in the book of Revelation (an excellent companion book of Genesis). It would make sense to me, then, that God would create the angels when He created the stars, being the spiritual actuality of the physical type.
Representative Dominion of Man
Although scripture expounds upon the creation of Man in chapter 2, it is touched upon here, and it introduces an interesting concept that runs throughout scripture. On the sixth day, God formed a creature "in [His/Their] image, according to [His/Their] likeness...[to] have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." This creature, Man, was created to exercise God's rule over the other living creatures of the earth.
Walvoord & Zuck say the following concerning this passage: "God's purpose in creating human life was functional; man is to rule or have dominion (1:26, 28). God's dominion was presented by a 'representative' (Egyptian kings later, in idolatry, did a similar kind of thing: they represented their rule or dominion by making representative statues of themselves.) However because of sin all things are not under man's dominion (Heb. 2:8). But Jesus Christ will establish dominion over all the earth (Heb. 2:5-8) at His second coming."
Too, Paul writes the following concerning the end times: "The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all."
Thus we see at the beginning of history that God hands rule over to man, who because of sin loses dominion; then we see at the end of history that Christ, in defeating sin, places dominion back into the hands of man, and eventually returns it to God who gave it to Him. The passages act as bookends to the concept of man's dominion, tracing the fall and resurrection of his rule.
- 1:2 - 'the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.' In the original transcript, the word 'hovering' can also be interpreted as 'brooding'. Some feminist theologians have gone for the latter translation, thus feminising the Holy Spirit. The theory behind it is that the Spirit being female would put things into balance: God being sexless, Jesus being male, and the Spirit being female.
- 1:3 - 'Let there be light.' Many Christians link this with the theory of the 'Big Bang', as being a sudden explosion of light. Some go so far as to say that this is the author's way of simplifying the 'Big Bang' in order to be more easily understood.
- 1:26 - 'Let us make man' The usage of the plural 'us' here indicates the presence of the trinity already, although some have interpreted the usage of the plural here to possibly provide evidence for the idea of other Gods.
- 1:30 - 'I have given every green herb for food.' Note here, and in the previous verse, that God is only giving the plant life for the animals and humans to eat. It is only later, in 3:21, that God uses animals in order to provide for humans, when he gives them clothes of skin to wear. It is likely that the eco-system before this time revolved purely around animals eating the plants, with no animals eating others.
- Throughout the passage - day This word in Hebrew is exactly the same word used in most other parts of the bible when referring to a 24 hour period of time. However, this is the only time when the meaning of the word is called into question. There is a significant debate over whether the term is actually referring to a 24 hour day, or if it is referring to a larger unit of time. If this was the case, it would seem odd that the same term is used later in the bible clearly meaning a usual day, and here it being used to mean a longer period of time.
Genesis 2:4b - 7 :: Creation of Man
This passage details either an alternate or a supplemental account of the creation of Man.
Apparent Contradiction - Man Before Plants
An obvious (possible) contradiction between this passage and the one previous occurs in verses 5 and 7. "before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown...the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground..."  The first account tells us that man was created three whole days after the plants, while this account seems to indicate that man came first.
This needn't be a contradiction, however, because the word for "earth" in verse 5 can also be translated as "land", referring to a geographical span instead of the entire realm of existence. So, another way to interpret this verse would be to assert that the majority of the earth had not yet been covered with plant life, but God had indeed created the plants, perhaps all in a single locale. Verse 8 seems to agree with this, indicating that God had already planted a garden before He'd created man.
Whatever your views concerning Creation, and a Pre-Flood Vapor Canopy, scripture seems to indicate that the topography and hydrosystem of creation was quite different from the one we have now. Consider verse 6, which says that either a mist or streams came up from the ground, and watered the entire earth. Rain had not yet fallen - that came during the flood; rather, the hydrosystem seemed to flow primarily from the underground.
Moreover, the rivers described in verses 10-14 are vastly different from the ones in Mesopotamia today. We still have two rivers named Tigris and Euphrates, but the Pishon and the Gihon remain unidentified (if still existent).
Breath of Life
Verse 7 presents us with an interesting scene; God breathes life into Adam. Many theologians view this as an initial indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Holy Breath) of God, comparable to the indwelling that occurs when a person turns to Christ. It makes sense to view this in such a way, because it explains why there is such an emphasis on the indwelling of the Spirit in the New Testament. Consider the logic:
- Man (Adam) is given the Holy Spirit upon creation. The Spirit is a life-giver , so it makes sense that a living soul should have such a fountain of life within him.
- Man rebelled against God. Because a perfect God cannot tolerate sin, he could no longer live inside of man, so His Breath (Spirit) left.
- Through sin, Death (separation from Life) set in, and man died both spiritually, and eventually physically.
- However, God so loved the world that He sent His only Son to take the blame for our sin.
- Thus we are positionally sinless in God's eyes, allowing His Spirit to indwell us once more.
- 2:7 - 'The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground' The idea of man being created from the dust links with Ecclesiastes 3:20 - 'all come from dust, and to dust all return.' It is symbolic in that man is created the same as everything else on the earth so far. There is one difference separating him out from the rest of creation: the breath of God. It shows that man is a part of the earth, yet also at the same time a part of God. Some have linked this to the idea of Jesus being part man and part divine, in effect having replaced Adam after he fell.
Genesis 2:8 - 17 :: Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden starts an interesting study concerning the dwelling place(s) of God. Specifically, the Garden of Eden can be compared/contrasted with the city of Jerusalem, the city of Babylon, the New Jerusalem, and the camp of the wandering Israelite. At this point I would like to compare it with the New Jerusalem described in the book of Revelation, chapter 21-22.
|Garden of Eden||New Jerusalem|
|Planted on the earth after creation||Arrives on earth after re-creation|
|A river flows from the garden, watering both the garden and surrounding areas.||A river "of the water of life" flows through and from the city.|
|There is a Tree of Life that provides eternal life to its eaters.||There is a Tree of Life, which is apparently huge, standing across the breadth of the river, and yielding twelve crops of fruit year-round.|
|There is a Tree of the knowledge of good and evil.||There is no Tree of the knowledge of good and evil.|
|The land of Eden is known for its gold, and precious stones.||The city of Jerusalem is wrought with jewels and precious stones, and the city is made out of pure gold.|
|The garden is small enough for two people to tend.||The City is huge, approximately 2200 kilometers wide, long, and high.|
|Eden knows nothing of Israel or the church||The city foundations and gates are named after the tribes of Israel and the apostles.|
|God's dwelling place is with man.||God's dwelling place is with man.|
Eden as a Type of Fellowship
One of the striking things about the Garden of Eden is that it parallels nicely our spiritual communion with God. Fellowship with God occurred within the context of Eden; also, the Tree of (physical) Life was in the center of the Garden. When man was separated from Eden, he was separated from both God (his source of spiritual life) and from the Tree (his source of physical life), thus resulting in spiritual and physical death.
Moreover Adam, according to Hebrew tradition, sacrificed at the entrance to Eden, where God had placed an altar and His throne. (This is shadowed in the imagery of the tabernacle in Exodus) Hence his return to fellowship with God was marked by a return to Eden, under the covering of animal sacrifice.
A Theory About Eden
A number of theologians believe that Eden is a type of the New Jerusalem, and vice versa. I however suspect that Eden isn't simply a type of New Jerusalem; rather, Eden actually is the New Jerusalem.
Consider with me the following idea. Eden was created on earth to be the place where man lived, and fellowshipped with God. When Man sinned, he effectively separated Himself from Eden, and thus from God, but God kept it as His place of residence on the earth. When the flood came, Eden could have been destroyed, but the fact that we see the (definite article) Tree of Life once again in the New Jerusalem suggests to me that it (along with the rest of eden) was preserved somehow.
Now, it seems highly unlikely that Eden is still on the earth; Modern technology and archaeology has virtually guaranteed us that. Also, scripture seems to indicate that it is not. The Tabernacle and subsequent temples of Israel served as God's earthen dwelling place after the flood; now He dwells within the believer. Hence, if the Garden was on earth, having these other dwelling places would be superfluous.
Moreover, the New Jerusalem (along with the Tree of Life) was seen as descending from heaven, the very place in which I suspect the garden has been kept. Perhaps the garden was taken to heaven at the time of the flood, cultivated by Christ Himself to be a dwelling place for the believer, and returned at the end as a fully developed, significantly larger city to once again be God's dwelling place upon the earth.
It's one possible explanation of scripture, at any rate, although I'm sure that other plausible interpretations exist. Feel free to study scripture yourself and come to your own interpretation.
- 2:15 - 'The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it' This is another possible contradiction from later in the bible. Later, Adam is cursed with having to work the land in order to find food. This implies that at this point, he does not have to work for his food, or for the plants to flourish. Why then, is God putting him there to work?
- 2:17 - 'you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.' People today often mistake the meaning of this at first reading, and then assume it to be a contradiction a little later in the bible. It is often interpreted to mean that the moment the fruit is eaten, the consumer will die. The fruit would be acting as a poison, of sorts. However, this doesn't happen. A solution, of course, as briefly noted above, is that the fruit makes you spiritually dead, and means that in the future you will become physically dead, and not live forever.
Genesis 2:18 - 25 :: Creation of Woman
This final section of today's lesson deals with the creation of woman, a topic that was touched on in chapter 1, and expounded upon here.
Naming of the Animals - an Object Lesson
The first (and only) time during creation that God declares something "not good" occurs in verse 18. God mentions that it is not good for man to be alone, so he prepares an object lesson for Adam. He parades a number of animals and birds (possibly all of them, but the grammar doesn't require this) before him, and has him give them names.
The point of this exercise may have been two-fold. First of all, God seems to be showing Adam that there is no other creature on earth that comes close to being like him. Secondly, and this is conjecture, God may have been showing him the pattern of male/female that tends to run among birds and beasts, hinting that Adam was lacking something (or someone :-)
The object lesson worked, because Adam admits that as wide and varied as God's creation is, there was no suitable (corresponding) helper found.
A Suitable Helper
Hence Woman (later called Eve) was created; she was taken out of Adam's side and formed into her own person. Now, some women (as well as some men) take offence to this, because such difference in creation technique starts a theme of differences between men and women throughout scripture. Personally, I would rather be created from somebody's rib than from a pile of mud, but that's just me. ;-)
Whatever scripture says concerning male/female roles underneath the curse of sin, Man and Woman seemed to have operated quite happily in their respective roles before the fall. That which Adam lacked was provided for in Eve, and that which Eve lacked was provided for in Adam. They each bore God's image in separate and complimentary ways, and had no qualms about doing so.
Naked and Unashamed
The last verse in chapter 2 is something of a precursor to chapter 3. The author of Genesis likely inserted this phrase to prepare us for the broken relationships that would result from the fall. Beforehand men and women were completely comfortable with their nakedness, possibly because men and women had no inadequacies or flaws. However after sin entered the picture, Adam was no longer the man he should have been, and Eve was no longer the woman she should have been. Hence embarrassment, and the need to cover up one's flaws was established, lasting even to this day. But, more on that in the next lesson
- 2:18 - 'I will make a helper' Here, God refers to woman simply as a 'helper'. Many Christians today and in the past, including St. Paul, have referred to this as a part basis for their own teachings about the roles of men and women. Some believe this to mean that although woman is equal in some respects, since she was also created by God, she is here only as a helper for man, and is therefore subject to his wishes. A large propertion of Christians would say that women are completely equal to men, regardless of who was created when, and for what purpose.
- 2:24 - 'they will become one flesh.' Jesus talks about this too, specifically in Matthew's Gospel. It is important to note that 'becoming one flesh' does not constitute marriage, and vice versa. What becomes clear in Matthew is that it is actually referring to sexual intercourse when Jesus talks about 'becoming one flesh'. This is another argument that Christians and Jews have supporting marriage: In order to 'become one flesh', as God has said man will do, they must marry first, since this was the teaching of Jesus.
- Why do you think that God decided to create the universe? Create Man? Can you find any clues in this text, or others?
- What differences are there between the pre-Fall Eden and the post-Redemption (New) Jerusalem? Is all of humanity present in Jerusalem, or just a part of it?
- In what ways was man dependent upon God in this passage? What do you think would happen if man were to reject God's provisions? (no peeking ahead :-)
- How do you feel about the distinctions between men and women in scripture? How would you feel about them if men and women consistently sacrificed their own good for the good of their spouses?
In the next lesson, we reach the fall of man, which becomes the central problem of scripture.
- Sermons Through the Bible - Pastor Joe Focht
- Vision Ministries' handling of male/female roles in scripture
- Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 29
- see also John 1
- see creation myth of Bakuba
- Gen 1:6 has the precondition of water's existence. perhaps water is the definition of "deep" in 1:1
- Gen 1:20, 1:24, 2:7
- Gen 1:16
- Isa 14:12-14, Dan 8:10, Rev 12
- Gen 1:26
- Walvoor & Zuck 1984, p.29
- 1 Cor 15:26-28
- Gen 2:5, 2:7
- NIV footnote
- John 7:37-39, Acts 2, 1 Cor 3:16, Gal 2:21-22, Rom 8:9-11
- Romans 8:1-11
- Gen 3
- Hab 1:13a
- Romans 5:12
- Gen 5
- Heb 9:11-14
- 1 Jn 3:5, Rom 3:21-26
- Gen 2:9
- Gen 3:22
- Jer 31:31-34, Matt 27:51-53, Acts 2, Rom 8:9-11
- John 14:1-6
- Acts 17:11
- Culturally in O.T., explicitly in N.T.: 1 Tim 2:8-15, 3:1-13, 1 Cor 11:2-14, 14:33b-35
- Gen 1:27, 2:18