The Ideal World: Created by God and Spoiled by Man
• Adam’s sin ruined God’s world
• God did not give up on the world but immediately began to redeem it.
God creates the ideal world for man (Gen. 1:1 – Gen. 2:25)
Man spoils God’s ideal world (Gen. 3:1 – Gen. 3:24)
I. God Creates the Ideal World for Man (Gen. 1:1 – Gen. 2:25)
A. General Analysis
Ideal environment (Gen. 1:1 – Gen. 1:19)
Ideal creatures (Gen. 1:20 – Gen. 1:31)
Ideal worship (Gen. 2:1-3)
Ideal work (Gen. 2:4-17)
Ideal marriage (Gen. 2:18-25)
B. Detailed Analysis
Having noted the general literary structure above, the “Detailed Analysis” will highlight more detailed historical, literary, and thematic analysis as the text demands. New Testament Analysis will be covered in a separate section (C). This is the pattern all lectures will follow apart from the “Overview” lecture on each book.
1. God’s World
Genesis 1 places its stress upon God. The word God (Elohim) occurs 32 times. God created (3 times), said (10 times), saw (7 times), divided (once), called (3 times), made (3 times), set (once), blessed (twice).
Genesis chapter 1 is monumental in character, and exhibits a stately cadence of grandeur as it reveals the sovereign Creator uttering his will, and that will coming into immediate fulfillment.[footnote]E J Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (London: The Tyndale Press, 1953), 54.[/footnote]
The passage introduces us to the main characters of the biblical drama (God and humanity) and describes the stage on which their relationship will be enacted (Creation).[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Baker Books, 1999), 79.[/footnote]
The purpose of the Creation narrative is not only to teach religious truth, but also to establish a claim about the nature of the world and God’s relationship to it. He made the world. It is thus His world, and He can do with it what He pleases. This was an important message for Moses’ original audience, on the border of Canaan and about to begin the God-ordained conquest of the Canaanites. If these nations should say to Israel, “You are thieves because you have stolen our land,” they may reply, “All the earth belongs to God. He made it and gives it to whoever He pleases.”
Moses’ Message: Israel’s God made the world and therefore can give it in whole or in part to whoever He wants.
2. Defense of the Faith
There are other non-biblical texts that present elaborate and mythological descriptions of primeval history. These usually included a cosmogony, a description of how the world was made. The Enuma Elish (Akkadian title meaning “When on high”) is a creation myth. The Mesopotamian document The Epic of Atrahasis is the oldest Near Eastern primeval history in nearly complete form (early second millennium).
This epic…presents in historical sequence both the creation of humanity and his near extinction in the flood in a sequence similar to that in Genesis. The Atrahasis epic confirms that the basic plot of Genesis 1-11 was well known throughout the ancient Orient.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 78.[/footnote]
The pattern in these texts is – Creation, corruption, destruction, re-organization, and are, at best, poor imitations or perversions of the original story found in Genesis. Having had an Egyptian education, Moses was probably very aware of these mythical corruptions of the truth. In a very real sense, Genesis is the first apologetic, or defense of the truth.
While the myths emphasized polytheism and the insignificance of man, Moses’ account emphasized the oneness and uniqueness of the sovereign God and the significance of humanity. Also, contrary to the ancient belief in the eternality of matter, Genesis makes clear that only God is eternal and that matter was created ex nihilo (out of nothing), not, as The Enuma Elish suggests, out of the bodies of the gods.
The relative minimizing of the sun, moon, and stars in the creation account, together with the emphasis on God’s control over all creatures, may also have been a deliberate attack on the prevalent Near Eastern worship of heavenly bodies and marine monsters.
The many comparisons between Genesis 1-11 and ancient Near Eastern literature should not give the wrong impression. There is no evidence that the Old Testament borrowed any of these parallels. Instead the Old Testament answered the same questions other authors of the ancient world were considering – and in unique ways that expressed Israel’s distinctive theology. Only the Bible gives an inspired answer to these important questions of life.[footnote]Ibid., 78.[/footnote]
Moses’ Message: Israel’s God is the one eternal God who made everything out of nothing
3. From “Shapeless and Empty” to “Ordered and Full”
Gen. 1:1 is a summary statement that describes the relative beginning of everything, without any reference to specifics. Verse 2 presents the first stage in the six-day creation process. The result of verse 1 is stated in verse 2 as a world that is deliberately formless (shapeless) and empty (nothing in it). God then took this material and began to shape and form and fill it over six days. This is not the same as the “Gap Theory” which attempts to reconcile the biblical account of creation with geology, by teaching that creation in Genesis 1:1 was followed by catastrophe (Gen. 1:2), then (many millennia later) by God’s re-creation or reshaping of the physical world (Gen. 1:3-31).
In his Lectures on Genesis, Professor Richard Pratt tabulates this as follows:
|Day 1: Light and Darkness||Day 4: Sun and Moon|
|Day 2: Waters/Sky||Day 5: Fish and Birds|
|Day 3: Land/Vegetation||Day 6: Animals and Man|
In the first three days God gave the earth form by separating the light of day from the darkness of night, the sea below from the clouds above, and the dry land from the sea. In the second three days God filled these realms. The clear teaching is “Emptiness and formlessness + God = Order.” As Dorsey says: “The whole structure conveys a sense of orderliness.”
The story is designed so that the descriptions of the creative days grow progressively longer. The first two days are briefly recounted (with 31 and 38 words respectively). The next three days (days 3,4,5) are approximately double that length (69, 69 and 57 words respectively); and the account of the final creative day (day 6) is doubled again (149 words). This structuring technique conveys the impression of ever-increasing variety and profusion.[footnote]D Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 49.[/footnote]
A question we should continue to ask as we read these narratives is, “What was the original message to the original audience?” As we have already noted, the original audience was either the first generation of Israel who had come out of Egypt and were wandering in the wilderness, or (more likely) the second generation which was now on the border of the Promised Land, looking ahead to Canaan. What did Genesis 1 say to them? It said, the Creator God is in control, and, just as He transformed the “chaos and disorder” of Genesis 1:2 into that which was good, so he would do the same thing in their own experience. God had created and controlled the disorder of the creation in the Egyptian plagues, but now He was taking the Israelites out of that “chaos” to a land that was good (Deut. 1:25), where nature would exhibit the bounty of God’s blessed order again. The Israelites exodus from Egypt and entry to Canaan may therefore be viewed by Moses’ original readers as a re-run of Genesis 1, a re-creation by the God who creates order and light out of disorder and darkness.
This is further emphasized by the language of Deuteronomy 32:10-11 where Moses used not just the concepts of Genesis 1 but the language of Genesis 1 to describe the Israelites experience in the wilderness. Just as God’s Spirit hovered over the formless earth and brought it to a state that was good, so God will hover over the wandering Israelites and bring them into a state that is good.
He found him in a desert land, and in the waste [formless] howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth [hovering] over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings (Deut. 32:10-11).
God found Israel in Egypt in “formlessness and emptiness” and “hovered” over them through the wilderness, bringing them into the form and fullness of the Promised Land.
Moses’ Message: The God of Genesis 1 is taking Israel out of Egyptian disorder and darkness, hovering over her, and will re-create order and light in her experience in Canaan.
4. Image of God (Gen. 1:26-30)[footnote]R Pratt, Designed for Dignity (Philipsburg: P&R, 2000).[/footnote]
In the ancient Near East, the kings and Pharaohs were regarded as sons of God with the privilege of ensuring that the will of heaven be enforced on earth. Here, Moses takes the term “image of God” and applies it to every human being, not just royalty.
The Egypt of the original audience was dominated by images of the Pharaoh to display his alleged divine authority and power. Moses is here teaching that just as human kings had their images, the Divine king ordained that the human race would be his royal image/representatives. “Image” suggests a title of humility. None are divine but all are equally images/clay. “Of God” suggests a title of dignity. God did not make them to resemble rocks or animals but Himself. All were equally in God’s image. Think how wonderful this must have sounded to Moses’ original audience of ex-slaves wandering or encamped in the wilderness. They must have looked at themselves with amazement that they all had this dignity – representative images of the Creator.
The dignity of humankind and his unique position in creation are marked by the image of God. Again, biblical truth aggressively attacked the prevailing doctrines of that day. Other ancient Near Eastern creation accounts such as the Enuma Elish and the Atrahasis epic portray the creation of men and women as a slave force for the gods. Humanity was more or less a means for the gods to avoid physical labor. But in Genesis 1, humankind is the jewel in this literary royal crown, the climax of God’s creative ability.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 80.[/footnote]
Moses’ Message: Regardless of the claims of human kings, the Divine King has made Israel in His royal and representative image.
5. Multiply and Rule
After making man in His image (Gen. 1:27), God defined how that image should function and represent Him (Gen. 1:28). Just as in creation God had made the earth fruitful in a great display of power, so His representative images were to continue this multiplying and ruling work on earth.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Gen. 1:28).
Mankind, and especially Israel, were to fill and to rule, to multiply and have dominion. In Designed for Dignity, Richard Pratt argues that because the ancient Near Eastern kingdoms stretched for thousands of miles, the ruler erected self-images all over the kingdom to remind the people who ruled. In like manner, Moses is here teaching, God chose to establish and represent His authority on earth through His images multiplying and ruling, both physically and spiritually.
God made the earth productive and inhabited by his creative activity, and humanity is to continue the process.[footnote]Ibid., 81[/footnote]
Just as Moses used creation language to describe God’s purpose and method in bringing the Israelites out of chaotic Egypt, through the wilderness and into the order of Canaan, Moses also used the language of the creation mandate to teach the responsibility of his original audience.
Israel is not only given this command, however. Abraham, the father of Israel, is promised a fulfillment of it:
And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee (Gen. 17:6; see also Gen. 28:3-4; Ex. 23:30; Lev. 26:9).
Under God’s blessing this is exactly what happened:
And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them (Ex. 1:7).
Moses’ Message: Israel must not misrepresent God by being weak, timid and defensive, but rather display His character by multiplying and ruling with His blessing.
God was pleased with his whole creation and this is especially clear in days three and six, where he twice evaluates his creation as “good.”
Genesis portrays God as the divine artist who stands back to admire his handiwork. All is just as it should be, including humanity.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 80.[/footnote]
7. Sabbath Rest (Gen. 2:2-3)
After six days, God finished his creative work and rested. If Israel’s exodus from Egypt and wandering in the wilderness is represented by the six days, then Israel’s rest in Canaan is represented by the seventh day.
The establishment of the Sabbath prefigured Moses’ goal for this book: to move the nation toward the gift of God’s finished redemption, namely rest in the promised land.[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2003), 10.[/footnote]
Using parallel Hebrew words, Moses teaches his original audience that the once-perfect created order would be similar to the rest of the Promised Land. After all the labor of Egypt, the upheaval of the exodus and the many wanderings, in Canaan the creation Sabbath will be re-created (Ex. 20:8-11; Lev. 25:2; Gen. 49:15; Ex. 33:14; Deut. 3:20; Deut. 12:9-10).
And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest (Ex. 33:14).
Moses’ Message: Israel should look ahead and work towards the promised rest of Canaan.
8. Ideal existence for humanity (Gen. 2:8ff)
In the literature of the ancient Near Eastern world kings and “gods” had beautiful and idyllic gardens that surrounded their palaces. They would use these to relax in with their family and friends, and also to rest in after the labors of the day. Moses describes Eden as the Garden of God in which he meets with his “family and friends.” He also uses “Edenic” language to describe Canaan.
Moses later described Canaan in similar terms to teach that God will, to some extent, re-create the ideal world of Eden in Canaan (Gen. 13:10; Deut. 11:8-15; see also Isa. 51:3). The later prophets also developed this theme.
For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody (Isaiah 51:3).
And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited (Ezekiel 36:35).
Moses’ Message: In Canaan God will meet with Israel in a re-created Eden.
9. Two Creation Accounts?
Genesis 2 presents a picture of creation that complements and supplements that of chapter 1. The Nelson book of bible maps and charts sets out the differences between the two chapters as follows:
|Genesis 1||Genesis 2|
|God the Creator
God as powerful
Creation of the universe
Climaxes with man
The six days of creation
|God the covenant-keeper
God as personal
Creation of man
Climaxes with marriage
The sixth day of creation
Chapter 1 portrays in broad strokes the creation of heaven and earth, and in a general way, all the universe’s contents. Chapter 2 uses finer strokes to paint in the specific features…The creation of humanity is the climax of chapter 1 but the centerpiece of chapter 2.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 81.[/footnote]
Ch. 2 in relating the planting of Eden, is not chronological, but topical in its method of treatment. It serves as an introduction to the narrative of the fall (ch. 3). Thus it explains the nature of man, his body formed from the dust and his life inbreathed by God. This is to enable the reader to understand how the possibility on the one hand of elevation to a higher immortality could be offered man and on the other how the sentence of dust returning to dust could be imposed. It also sets forth Eden, which was to be the scene of the temptation and introduces the reader to Adam and Eve, the actors in the temptation. In addition the chapter calls attention to the two trees and to the covenant of works which God in grace made with Adam. It thus sets the stage for the tragic action of ch. 3. When the purpose of ch. 2 is thus clearly recognized, it will be apparent that any contrasts made between the two upon the assumption that each is an independent account of creation are beside the point. There are different emphases in the two chapters, as we have seen, but the reason for these is obvious. Ch. 1 continues the narrative of creation until the climax, namely, man made in the image and likeness of God. To prepare the way for the account of the fall, ch. 2 gives certain added details about man’s original condition, which would have been incongruous and out of place in the grand, declarative march of ch. 1.[footnote]E J Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (London: The Tyndale Press, 1953), 55.[/footnote]
10. The Prohibition (Gen. 2:17)
This prohibition was the only stated exception to man’s dominion and rule. Its sole purpose was to assert the Creator’s overall rule. Obedience would bring life and disobedience death. The Westminster Confession of Faith explains:
After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures (Chapter 4.2).
The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience (Chapter 7.2).
C. New Testament Analysis
1. God created by words
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear (Heb. 11:3).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things were made by him (John 1:1-3).
In other words, God the Creator, by His own will, by His own purpose, and through His own word brings into existence out of chaos, out of darkness, a world that is ordered, and a world that is good.
2. Salvation as re-creation
Just as the Israelites rest in Canaan is represented as a re-creation, salvation in Christ is also represented as a new creation (2 Cor. 4:5-6; 2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 1:15; Heb. 4:6; Rev. 21:1).
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The Christian is found formless and empty and is ordered and filled by the creative work of the Holy Spirit.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).
3. New man and new image
The ultimate image of God is Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:4) and we are to be conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29).
The Christian is being re-formed into the image of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10).
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24).
4. Sabbath rest
Salvation both in its inauguration and consummation is depicted as a “sabbath,” a rest (Mat. 11:28; Heb. 4:9)
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his (Heb. 4:9).
5. New heavens and new earth
The end of history is like the beginning, in that a harmonious and wonderful relationship with God in a harmonious and wonderful environment is re-established. Heaven is depicted as a re-created and renewed world.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea (Rev. 21:1).
II. Man Spoils God’s Ideal World (3:1-3:24)
A. General Analysis
a God puts Adam in garden with commission to cultivate (Gen. 2:4-25)
b Adam and Eve violate commission (Gen. 3:1-7)
a’ God expels Adam and Eve from garden for violation of commission (Gen. 3:8-24)
B. Detailed Analysis
1. Two worldviews
The worldview of the original audience was wrong in many ways. One of the areas where they erred in their thinking was in how they viewed the Egypt they had left behind.
The Israelites viewed Egypt as a place of abundance and security in contrast to the poverty and danger of the wilderness wanderings under Moses’ leadership. Moses, on the other hand, viewed Egypt as a cursed place of death in contrast to the life and blessing of the Promised Land.
One of the reasons Moses had for writing Genesis was to bring the Israelites over to his own correct viewpoint. He does this by writing of pre-fall Eden in a way that paralleled his view of Canaan. Also, he wrote of post-fall Eden in a way that paralleled his view of Egypt.
Canaan in the OT is not only paralleled at times to Eden (Isa. 51:3; Eze. 36:35) but also is fulsomely presented in Deuteronomy as an Israelite correspondence to Eden (see Deut. 8:7-10; Deut. 11:8-17).[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 20[/footnote]
God, who created the world with a New Creation in ultimate view, to be achieved ideally by human cooperation, had given Israel a model in the Eden narrative of what the world was to be….The failure of representative humanity to rise to this task in Genesis 3 meant the call of Israel as the world’s evangelist; Israel would be the nation calling the world to be the new model of God’s government. This was to happen as Israel endorsed kingdom of God values in her Promised Land, the new Eden.[footnote]Ibid., 9.[/footnote]
Moses’ Message: Israel must leave behind Egypt with all its similarities to the fallen world and press on to Canaan which is portrayed as a re-created ideal world.
2. Adam/Israel Comparison
Moses also writes of Adam in Eden in a way that parallels Israel in Canaan.
Israel, like Adam is created outside the space to be occupied by the divine. Adam, like Israel, is put into sacred space to exercise a kingly/priestly role (Ex. 19:4-6). Israel, like Adam, is given law by which the divine space is to be retained; Israel, like Adam, transgresses the law; and Israel, like Adam, is expelled from the divine space. The placement of Adam and Israel in divine space was conditional. Both parties had to obey the divine mandate to retain the sacred space. Adam possessed an immortality that was limited, and Israel possessed a covenant that could be revoked for national disobedience. The creation account further indicates to Israel the nature and purpose of her special status, of exercising dominion in her world that Adam had once occupied.[footnote]Ibid., 21.[/footnote]
Moses’ Message: Israel must obey the sacred mandate to occupy the sacred place (Canaan) and so fulfill her sacred purpose.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God and this led to shame, fear and death. They lost their original innocence, their immediate and easy access to God’s presence, and the paradise and freedom of the Garden of Eden.
Moses’ Message: If Israel doubts and disobeys God then they will suffer serious consequences.
4. The Divine Curse
While we have noticed that Moses used parallel terms for pre-fall Eden and Canaan, he did the same with post-fall Eden and Egypt. He used terms to describe the Divine curse resulting from disobedience which his original audience would have closely associated with Egypt. Humanity is fallen and debased, women experience “pain” in bearing children (Gen. 3:16 and Ex. 1:15-22), men experience “pain” in work (Gen. 3:17-19; Ex. 1:11-14; Deut. 26:6), and death characterizes their existence.
Moses’ Message: Leave the cursed land and experience of Egypt behind and move on to the land of Canaan where the effects of the curse are (at least partly) reversed.
5. Gen. 3:15: Key to Scripture
This verse is a key verse that unfolds the whole future revelation of God. All that God shall reveal in the future is but a commentary on verse 15. Man has created a problem. The rest of Scripture is the divine solution.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Gen. 3:15).
C. New Testament Analysis
1. Christians are pilgrims on the way to the heavenly Canaan
This world is not the ideal. It is only a temporary staging post on the way to the heavenly Canaan – a place where the curse is reversed – a royal, splendid, spacious, restful garden where human dignity is restored and we live in marital bliss – married to the Savior.
Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:12-13).
Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come (Hebrews 13:13).
2. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)
The New Testament expands on the death that sin caused (Eph. 2:1-10; Rom. 5:12ff).
3. The Serpent
In Revelation 12:9 the term serpent and Satan are put together as identical. Just as the serpent wrongly rose from subservience to man to superior to man and then was cursed and put under man’s feet, so the devil will follow likewise (Rom. 16:20)
4. The beginning of sin
James 1:14-15 describes exactly what happened in the Garden of Eden.
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15).
5. Two seeds
Ever since Genesis 3:15 there have been two seeds in the world, each opposed to each other.
Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it (Jn. 8:43-44).
Adam is a type of Christ (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:45-49). Both are representative heads of humanity though the actions and consequences of their actions were polar opposites.
The first Adam, representing all humanity, disobeyed and brought death upon all. The last Adam, Jesus Christ, representing the elect, obeyed and so gave them eternal life.
7. Jesus Christ the seed of the woman who crushes the serpent’s head
Romans 16:20 and Revelation 12:9.
8. Covering by sacrifice.
God took away the skimpy coverings Adam and Eve had made for themselves and replaced them with “garments” of skin. This covering entailed killing an animal. There would seem to be a hint of restored fellowship through sacrificial death which provides a covering. If so, this would also be the first hint of God’s method in restoring His people to fellowship with him – through sacrificial death.
III. The Message
Original Message: The God who created order and light out of “disorder and darkness” is able to do the same for Israel if she obeys His commandments, but disobedience will spoil everything.
Present Message: The God who created order and light out of “chaos and darkness” is able to do the same for the Church if she obeys His Word, but disobedience will spoil everything.