Tag Archives: Book of Genesis

In the beginning…Part Three

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, saw it was good, but then he had to destroy everything with a flood because humans messed it up. Right?

Well, nothing is that simple.

In my Bible class, the professor directed us to look closely at the pre-flood world and the post-flood to help us draw conclusions about what significance the great flood in Genesis really had.

As we examined and discussed, the stereotypical idea of God–a powerful deity angry enough to wipe out his unruly creation–started to become increasingly false.

In the pre-world flood, after the expulsion from Eden, what was the first major event? The murder of Abel by his brother, Cain. God responded by saying:

“‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’”

Cain complained he would be killed…

15 But the LORD said to him, ‘Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.’ Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.”

According to Jewish law, Cain was not really punished; he should have suffered death for committing murder. And in Genesis 4: 23-24, a similar story takes place, when Cain’s son Lamech was also protected from death after he murdered a man.

But note how God said the earth swallowed up Abel’s blood, and therefore the ground became cursed because of it. In this pre-flood era, God seemed to put less emphasis on personal guilt than on the fact the earth had become defiled through bloodshed. Genesis 6:11-13 follows this concept:

“11Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.’”

From these passages, it seems God cared more about the affects of sin rather than sin itself; the people weren’t simply horrible sinners, they were killing each other and defiling the land by the bloodshed. I think that is the real issue God has with sin–as much as we would all like to believe sin is personal, it always ends up affecting another.

Therefore, the rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights.

After the land dried up enough for the inhabitants of the ark to come out, God established a covenant with Noah (Gen 8:20-9:17), saying first:

“I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

God continued to tell Noah and his descendants to “be fruitful and multiply” the earth, and prohibited them to eat the blood of an animal or commit murder, at penalty of death.

At a close glance of this new covenant, each element favored the human race’s existence; rule 1: have lots of babies, rule 2: don’t eat raw meat, rule 3: don’t kill each other, and if you do, you will die so you can’t kill anyone else.

I don’t know what you’re seeing here, but this is what I see: a God loving enough to be willing to clean out the earth and give it a fresh start to keep his creation from corrupting and destroying itself any further.

End of Part Three.


In the beginning…Part Two

In the beginning, my Bible class found out two creation accounts exist in the book of Genesis.

In the beginning, we also found out parallels exist between the book of Genesis and a Babylonian creation story.

Ooh…interesting.

The story, called Enuma Elish, I have summed up in a brief nutshell version (at least compared to the seven original tablets):

In the beginning, there was the god of freshwater, Apsu, and the god of saltwater, Tiamat. They came together and produced little gods, but eventually the little gods became so loud and annoying that Apsu wanted to destroy them. One of the gods, Ea, heard about it and didn’t want to die, so he killed Apsu. Angry that her man-god had been killed and encouraged by the god Kingu, Tiamat decided she must now destroy the other gods. Ea’s son, Marduk–god of the Storm–rose up and offered to kill Tiamat on the condition that the other gods would make him supreme over all and allow him to create the world. The gods heartily agreed, and Marduk lured Tiamat into a duel, taunting her until she rushed to him, infuriated. When she opened her mouth to retort, he blew a storm wind into her, incapacitating her. Marduk then slew Tiamat’s and finishes her off by ripping her body in two and using one side to separate the waters of the sky and the other to separate the waters of the ocean from the land. He set other gods in the sky as heavenly bodies, and then Marduk and Ea created humans out of the blood of Kingu, so the gods would have people to do their work.

At first glance, this story may seem not very similar to Genesis, but…

Genesis 1: 2, 6-10–”2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters…6And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 7And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.9And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas.”

So, in the beginning, there was chaos, and the waters were separated to make the sky and divide the land and sea. In the beginning, Tiamat, the unruly saltwater goddess was separated to make the sky and divide the land and sea.

Fascinating.

The concept of creating humans is not dissimilar, either; in Enuma Elish, the gods create the humans to work the earth, make food for them (sacrifices), and build their houses (temples). In Genesis, God sets forth humans into the garden of Eden, giving them the land to till to produce food, as well as dominion over the rest of creation. In Enuma, man was created from the blood of a rebellious god, and in Genesis 3, man rebels from the LORD God.

In addition, this Enuma was traditionally recited every new year, the time of the harvest, in the Babylonian temple of Marduk. Genesis 1 also was recited at the new year in Solomon’s temple.

Now, the fact that these two creation stories have similarities may not completely terrify–quite a few creation stories I have heard bear some similarities. It might be slightly unsettling to know that Enuma Elish was dated previous to the writing of Genesis, though.

Here’s something else that may seem a little disconnected, but worth considering: what genre is Genesis 1 told in? Historical? Well…not really. Like Enuma Elish and many of the other stories told around that time, Genesis 1 seems to have the personality of a mythic tale.

No, I’m not saying Genesis is a fairy tale; the Merriam-Webster definition of myth is: “a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.”

Personally, this concept was very new to me. Genesis, mythic? I don’t know what to say…

Except for that stories such as C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia hold more revelations of truth than many “non-fictitious” stories.

End of Part Two.


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