Course: Old Testament Survey
I. Orienting Data for Genesis
Let us begin to talk about the material that we deal with in today’s class, mostly Genesis, but we will start in on some aspects of Exodus as well. Let me do two things at once. What I will do is I will talk about Genesis a little bit and then I will talk about the Old Testament as a whole in some cases also. I begin with this overhead projection titled “Orienting Data for Genesis.” This is an attempt just to be simple in summarizing what we’ve got.
If somebody says to you, “Well, what is in Genesis?” You hopefully would eventually be able to say, “The origins of the world, humanity, and Israel.” If you get that, boy are you saying a lot. Origins, very big theme. How did everything start? Where did everything come from? The origins of what exists in our world, certainly that is the first part. But then it is not going to deal only with that, sort of the physical world, but it deals with the origins of humanity. Where did humans beings come from? How did they get organized into human society? What are human beings like? Where did sin come from? Those are all things that relate to our world and to humanity as it now stands because humanity is a corrupt thing. Human beings are imperfect, not perfect; impure, not pure; sinful, not sinless. So when we talk about humanity we are talking about the way humanity is not just who made man. Finally, the origins of Israel actually occupy more space in the book of Genesis than anything else. From the story of Abraham on in chapter 12, the big picture of Genesis is about the origins of Israel, God’s people.
B. Human author
Having said that, Moses is the author. There are many things you can read about this. I believe it is true and will talk about it this way, but you may know that there are people who doubt that. Of course, you can find people who doubt anything. You could probably find six percent of the American population believe that Frank Sinatra never existed. It is amazing what people will answer on those surveys. “You are an Evangelical Christian, you are born again, you believe in reincarnation, right? O yeah, that’s right, sure I do.” You can almost trick people into saying things. So there is a debate on anything, but we are taking the approach in this class that good arguments can be and should be made for Moses as the author of the entire Pentateuch. That is what it claims and I think it is very defensible.
C. Date of Composition
But, he did not live during any of the time described in the book of Genesis; he comes after it. So of course he is a historian and he is putting the book together on the basis of a structure that we will talk about using sources and records from before his time as God leads him to do that. When he wrote the book, I think it is more likely to be around 1400 B.C. but there are some difficult chronology issues related to when Moses lived, when the Israelites came out of Egypt. You can read about those in the New Bible Commentary. You can also read about it in the New Bible Dictionary or any Bible dictionary under the title “Exodus” and it will describe for you what the challenges are. We just do not know as much about chronology prior to about 1000 B.C. as we would like and there are really many debates and mysteries about how it all fits together. I will take the date 1400, the so called “early chronology,” for which I think there are some advantages but that could be wrong; it could end up being 1220. It is actually that much of a difference in when Moses would have lived and written this. But the presumption is that he wrote it during the time that the Israelites were in the wilderness to help the new nation, the nation that had just come about at Mount Sinai. All these people did not know much about their own past or many of them had joined the Israelites during the exodus. The Israelites were not a ethically unified people. Exodus 12 tells us that large numbers of other ethic groups joined the Israelites when they left Egypt and headed for Mount Sinai. So a lot of those people said, “Who’s Abraham? Who’s Isaac? Noah?” They did not know anything. So they are learning from Genesis how it all happened because their own religious background did not tell them any of that and so he puts it together for their benefit. If you are interested, one of our faculty members, Professor Garrett, wrote a fabulous book called Rethinking Genesis and it is a very fine analysis of how and why Moses wrote the book. It is really good, Rethinking Genesis by Duane Garrett.
D. Historical Coverage
The coverage of this book is, of course, creation through the death of Joseph. I say “of course creation,” you would not necessarily say “of course through the death of Joseph,” that happens to be what it is. Joseph is probably the last of the “patriarchs” that is the immediate family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So that is the span that the book covers.
With regard to emphases, here is a list. These are great things. Think about preaching the book of Genesis. Let us say that sooner or later, some of you as I look around I know are pastors, I know you preach regularly, but let us say you wanted to preach the book of Genesis sooner or later. Think of these great things:
1. Think of preaching on God’s nature. You can do that out of Genesis, a lot of material there. God’s purposes for the world, a lot of it is there. We will talk about some of those tonight.
2. The reasons why humans exist. That ought to keep people’s attention for twenty minutes or so, at least.
3. The first divine covenants. A lot of people are clueless about covenants and what they mean and why. That is a term they do not even know. But it is just a rich concept; it is wonderful. It is what one scholar described recently in a very impressive book as “extended kinship.” A covenant is a way of making people act like they are part of a family. The concept of a covenant very much related to the idea of the way that maybe a father in a family makes sure that he is good to that family and in return expects that family to be obedient to his wise and proper direction. That kind of thing, God functioning that way.
4. The nature of sin. A lot of people are clueless about sin. We live in an age in which a lot of people think that is a funny notion, weird. You can watch twelve hours of TV in a row and nobody will say, “That was a sinful action, shame on you!” An awful lot of people it is just nowhere in their consciousness. Unless people are alert to it, how in the world are they going to repent of their sins and get saved? It is a good thing for people to get.
The perpetual corruption of human society. We live in a world that has fooled us into thinking that people are basically good and they have just been manipulated. But if you just take away the manipulating factors they will all turn out to be great. This is sort of a naive, liberal, humanitarian, humanistic approach and zillions of people think that way.
God’s intolerance of sin. There is no thought that sin is so widespread because God does not mind it. So why in the world can it happen and what does he do about it and how does this work in our world today?
God’s choice of a people, which is a big theme of Scripture. There is always a people and election is basically corporate. When the Scripture speaks of election there are a couple of places which debatably talk about individual election but all the time talking about God’s chosen people. So the people is primarily the elect and individuals are elect in as much as they relate to the people. An interesting concept that not many people have even heard about, but it is a very Biblical concept.
God’s great plan of redemption, which is really the beginning of the whole Bible story. In some ways you could say that the Bible is the story of redemption.
The fact that God works through sinful people. It is a wonderful, wonderful lesson from Genesis. You can see it everywhere else too, for that matter. In Genesis it is very vivid. If God accomplishes his purpose through people who lie, who cheat, who are sneaky, who are afraid to tell the truth and so they do not, who manipulate one another, who are afraid of the consequences of being honest and descent or afraid of the losses of being honest and descent and sometimes it is family members being manipulative and dishonest and so on, yet these are the people through whom God works. If you can show to your youth group, your class, your congregation that God knows how to do this, many people will suddenly say, “What, God can use me that I love to sneak looks at pornography?” or “I love this,” or “I have had these thoughts,” or “I have this background,” or “I’m not very nice,” or “I pretend to pray but I really don’t like to do it,” or whatever, and you can get the point across to them, yes, God knows how to work through you to accomplish his purposes. That is a great thing for people to get a concept of. An awful lot of people say, “In the Bible they have these hugely dedicated people, but I’m just not one of them. How in the world can I do anything for the Lord?” They would like to but they honestly do not believe that they are qualified. And if you say to them, “That’s right, you too are not qualified so just watch what God will do.” It is a wonderful thing, greatly encouraging, and one of the most wonderful themes of the book.
II. Outline of Genesis (Origin Stories)
Here is the way, in part at least, that Moses put the book of Genesis together.
A. We have here a structure of the book that has a prologue and then ten origin stories. So that is really the big overview that I want you to be sure to get. You just need to know that that is the structure. I have made it more detailed than you might need just to be able to prove as you even look at a little bit of this overhead that this is the way the thing really fits together. So what Moses did was to structure the book rather strictly and precisely and he says at ten different points, “This is the origin story of…” and then he tells you something. Now the first place he does that is 2:4 where he says, “This is the origin story of the heavens and the earth.” In the King James it translates, “These are the generations of…” And that is a possible translation. It is a Hebrew word in the plural toledoth but it also can mean in the singular in English, “account”. So the NIV says, “This is the account of…” You might say this is the story of; a story kind of gives you background. You might call it a background. This is the background of or this is the overview of. I prefer the term “origin story” to translate it. He gives a prologue and that prologue obviously must give some kind of introductory overview of things, and I will talk about how it does and then he gives ten origin stories.
B. The first one is “the heavens and the earth” and that includes the Garden of Eden and the first human family.
C. Then Adam.
D. Then Noah.
E. Then Noah’s three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
F. Then Shem specifically meaning that the story narrows down. Shem is the ancestor of the Semites and within the Semites are the Israelites. So, of course, the focus is narrowing down to one particular people. So already by chapter 11 things narrow down.
G. They narrow down even more at 11:27 where you get the stories of Terah, Abraham’s father. And, in fact, Terah is mentioned for a half a verse and then you get Abraham; it is really about Abraham, he is the focus of it. But in the ancient near eastern style you would always honor the ancestor and then even if it is your story it would be the story of your father’s son or whatever. So it is called that of Terah but really the focus is on Abraham not on Terah by any means.
H. Then Ishmael and his twelve sons. Notice that the guy Ishmael had twelve sons, very interesting relative to the story. The Bible does not give a lot of detail about the Ishmaelites but it certainly describes them as also a great people, also to have numbers like the sand on the seashore, etc., and the Ishmaelites are who today? Arabs. This is a promise to the great Arab people that they too will have God’s blessing and protection. Will they be his covenant people? No, that is not so. It is not that he hates them or rejects them or something, they are the descendants of Abraham and a special people all by themselves and very worthy of love and respect and also evangelism as everybody who you love and respect is.
I. Origin stories of Isaac.
J. Then of Esau. And again that is kind of a side shoot so you see that God does not just love and care about only Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he also cares about Ishmael and Esau and so on; they are important to him. Already in Genesis you see the emphasis of God’s concern for all peoples and races. His election of a people is not an election of favor so that he only likes Israelites and hates everybody else. It is a choice to give them a job assignment to do something for him through whom eventually the whole world will be blessed.
K. Finally, the biggest chunk of all, the origin stories of Jacob, which focus more on Joseph than anybody else.
Again, you can find this list in a lot of places, it is not mysterious or complicated to get at, but that is the way Moses put the book together. It is not the kind of thing that everybody would notice as they would read along, but once you tell somebody, “Hey, just look for, when it says, ‘This is the account of …’ or ‘Here are the stories of…’ or whatever, just look for it.” Once they know to look for it they will see the structure. Once they see the structure some of the points made by the structure will come out. The way you put a thing together is part of the emphasis, part of the message. So what Moses has done is to show that God created the world, then he created humanity, then he created a people for himself, and the process of how that happens is covered by ten individual story blocks that get down to where the Israelites are a people of God and are in Egypt and are ready to become an actual nation with their own special covenant and so on. That is the way the book of Genesis operates.
Let me then from this point start narrowing down on what we have in Genesis 1 in particular. That is part of the prologue. This is not the entire prologue; this is certainly a part of it. In this course we do a lot of sampling. How could it ever be that I would be able to talk about every chapter; there is not the time for it. This is an overview. But in order to help you appreciate the material I will pick and choose particular things, particular passages, particular problem issues, sometimes little detail things that you might say are kind of narrow details compared to the big picture. I do that in order that I might give you a feel for how to interpret and use material and so on or things that I just think that you probably will not pick up by doing the reading. If I know that you will pick up lots of good things from the reading but that there would be some things you would not pick up from the reading; I will just sort of fill in some of those spots or things that I think you might not notice. There are a lot of different reasons for picking and choosing what I have chosen to deal with.
III. Genesis 1: Creation Story Structure
In the creation story in Genesis 1 there does appear to be also a very strong structure that Moses has chosen to employ. When we appreciate this structure we actually get some insight into how this story should be employed. It is very easy to think that it must be a series of six steps, six stages, that are described in the six days of creation. Stages one, two, three, four, five, and six; six at the end, one at the beginning. And that then there is stage seven which is the day of rest and that is the pattern. In fact, that does not appear to be the pattern. It appears to be rather that there are three stages and then a day of rest and it is a lot more “stylized” than it is what we would call incremental. This is important for usage because many people get hung up right away on the question of whether Genesis can be squared with what science tells us. Now any of you who majored in science know that science tells you a whole bunch of things depending on who is doing the telling. All kinds of people debating all kinds of basic things in science all the time. But there are people who say, “Science is my criterion for whether or not Genesis is true.” I hope in the next few minutes just to talk about what Genesis is saying, what it is asserting, how it is put together in a way that may be of some use with regard to answering the question do science and Genesis line up properly.
A. First of all if you will look at the way the days correspond; one and four, two and five, and three and six. Let me just describe that. In day one in Genesis we have the following described for us. “Let there be light, there was light. The light was separated day from night and there was evening and morning, day one.” Okay, now you might think everything after that follows along at some length but then if you actually go to verse 14 you see that it is going back to pick up what was said about day one. It is day four but it goes back and it says, “God said let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night.” That is almost what he said before. “Let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days, let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth. It was so. God made two great lights,” in other words the sun and the moon, “and God saw that it was good and there was evening and morning the fourth day.” This starts the pattern, at least this is the first complete cycle of the pattern, day one and day four; basic creation of light and the separation of light from darkness, more specifically identification of what that light is and where it comes from. That is the way it works. Day four seems to be presumptive. It seems to be going back and just fleshing out the details of how that creation, described more briefly and sort of in a more overview manner in day one, actually took place.
B. Without spending lots of time on this you can do this with day two and you can see how it is that the skies and the seas get created and therefore the birds and the water animals.
C. And then day three land and plant life and you will see how it is that the land animals eat the plant life and the humans are over the whole shebang. It is not a description of six discrete stages; it is really three major stages in six days suggesting that what Moses was trying to do was two things at once. He was trying to say that God created everything and broadly speaking here is what he did and how, as time went by, he fit everything in his basic framework of light and darkness and water and sky and land and plants and so on.
D. Then on the seventh day he rested. Moses makes a big point about that as he is inspired by God to do it. We know, and Moses knew, that God probably would not get exhausted. Instead, God does something by example. We have this in the New Testament. John the Baptist says to Jesus, “You don’t need to be baptized, I know that,” and Jesus says, “I know it too,” I am paraphrasing. But he does, he says, “Nevertheless,” which is the equivalent of I know it too, “we have got to fulfill all righteousness. I want my people to follow what I have done. They are going to be baptized just as I am baptized.” This is very important because it is the symbol of confessing your sin and being forgiven for your sins and understanding that you should not have done it and that you need forgiveness. “They are going to follow me in death, in a certain sense as well, I am going to die for them, however, so that the second death won’t apply and they are going to follow me in resurrection.” So he is our leader in a lot of the big events of life, conversion and so on, and we need to appreciate that. It is not unusual that people do things that they do not need to do for our benefit. God does it; rest as a basic example for all his people and even for animals. Later on in the law when it talks about the Sabbath it says “Do not make your animals work.” Don’t say “I don’t work but my animals will.” No, give everything a break, everything needs rest, everything cannot work constantly. So what Moses has done is something really quite nice. He said I will give you an overview, highly stylized, not very, what we might call, scientific; we would say it’s more like a prose poem or something. Highly stylized of the way it all worked and I will emphasize that God did it; that is the first thing I will emphasize. Second, I will emphasize that he liked it; it was not a screw-up. That is important. We should appreciate that creation is the way God wanted it to be. He says it was good, he keeps saying it is good. Then I will use a week formula. I will say about each day evening and morning, day, one, day two, day three and so on. That is the way the Israelites counted days. They concluded that when the sun was going down it must be the end of one day; therefore, sunset must represent the beginning of another. Other people have concluded other things. Other cultures have said the day begins when the sun rises. We do another thing, we say let’s begin the day in the middle of the night; we actually do that because it is the direct opposite of high noon, that is how we figure it. It is all just somebody’s decision. What Moses does then is to get you thinking in a pattern of a daily life; the evening comes and the morning comes and that is a day and so on. Every sunset you look back and say that was another day and that went by and you think of these six times over while you are also telling the creation story and then you say, “Even God rested, and by gum if God rested shouldn’t we?” Because one of the most basic features of this creation story is that God made the Sabbath for the benefit of human beings. The Sabbath is a big theme in Scripture and I would encourage you to preach it and teach it when you preach Genesis. There is in the Evangelical world a considerable group of people who do not get either any Sabbath to speak of or do not get much of a Sabbath and they are called “women.” In many Evangelical churches you have mothers and spouses; women, who basically are working seven days a week. They are doing on Sunday as much or more than they had to do during the week. During the week it might have been very easy for them to get one kid to school at this time, another kid at that time and so on but they got to get them all at the same time to Sunday school and they have to be dressed extra-special and they have got to have a lunch ready for people that get invited over and that is a bigger deal than ever. That is a lot harder than sending off a kid with another bologna and cheese sandwich. There may be other kinds of things that are far more difficult on Sunday than the rest of the week and they will be working seven days a week. So I say to all of you who are married, will be married, might get married, whatever, especially if you are male, just remember do not take a Sabbath yourself and say, “Boy am I honoring the Lord,” and not ask the question, “How can I be sure that my wife gets the same equivalent time off?” God wants everybody to have a break. It is a very important teaching of Scripture. I had a former advisee who is now in ministry tell me just today that, this was now about twenty years ago but he happened to come by and drop by my office and he told me, “You know,” he said, “you gave me some of the greatest advice twenty years ago.” I said, “I did? What?” I had forgotten all about it. He said he would come by. I believe this is true though I really have forgotten it. He was talking about how discouraged and depressed he was and I just asked him, trying to find out why. He was working an evening job and a day job and trying to study and he was married with a couple of children and he had all these demands on him and he was trying to pastor also on the side and everything. He said I told him, it sounds very wise now that I hear it twenty years later, “You can do any of those things but you can’t do all of them.” So he quit one of his jobs and he said it gave him time and his depression lifted and so on. So he was praising me how brilliant I was. I was not brilliant; I was just following what the Scripture says, nobody should work all the time, nobody. And you should not think that you can do it. Can pastors get trapped into this? The answer is yes because there is always some need, there is always a need, there is always somebody else you can witness to or spend time with. There is always somebody else in the hospital or just out of the hospital. There is always that group of people who are suffering and you could make one more visit again tonight. Would they appreciate it? They would love it if you came by. It would mean the world to them, all the different shut-ins and so on. You can end up not only neglecting your family and making them resentful but you can also end up just working around the clock all the time in ministry. And God says to you, “I want you to have a day off.” So one of the challenges of ministry is to be able to hold people off. Most of them do not know what your day off is. If your day off is Monday they do not know it, their day off is not Monday, they never heard of anybody with a day off on Monday. Who would do that? So they feel free to call you on a Monday and say, “So and so just went into the hospital; I know you will want to go over there,” or whatever. You have to be able to say, “Aw, I am totally tied up but I think I can get there first thing tomorrow.” You have to say that. This is advice that you want to listen to. Let’s say that you have been doing a lot of things and tonight is your night to watch television with the kids and eat popcorn and you promised them that and you get a call. Mary so and so is dying, she is dying and they need you there. You need to be able to say, “This is awful, I am totally tied up with a very, very important thing but I think I can get free by eleven. Let me pray with you right now over the phone and I will be there just as soon as I can after eleven, meaning you will get the kids to bed, everything will be settled, you will finish the popcorn and then you will go. You have to do that because God says you need a day of rest. He puts it right in the Genesis story right in the beginning and says “I did it and I don’t need to rest.” It really is important advice. What Moses has done is these things all together, he packaged it all together and he said, “Yes, God created everything and he created it just the way he wanted it, no screw-up, no foul up, he did it and it is the way it should be.” Now that is in contrast to many creation stories floating around in his day where many gods and goddesses created and all things were born into existence and the mother goddess bore the moon and bore the sun and bore the earth and they grew up and became shapes and all kinds of myths. So Moses says, “No, God did it, it is separate from him, it is anti-pantheistic, it is all his creation, he looked at it and said it is good, it is the way I want it to be but at the same time he is teaching us that his great work of creation functions as an example to us that we all need to rest. So let’s have nobody who tries to honor God not give himself a day of rest, his family a day of rest and all who work for him a day of rest and even the animals a day rest. Important teaching. It makes almost no sense today to many people, not any sense at all of a Sabbath. Why would you do that? If you can work eighty hours a week and make more money and you put it into a 401K plan, that is great. Lots of Christians, on a basic feature of the Ten Commandments and of creation, are just off somewhere in the distance.
IV. Man Created in the Image of God
We then come in that same story, Genesis 1, to this very interesting statement in verse 27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” It is real clear that men and women are parallel, created in God’s image. What does this mean?
A. There are some options.
1. One option is we look like God. If you are in the image of God that means that in some way you look like him. There are references in the Bible to God having arms, his great mighty arm, you could argue that, or swearing with uplifted hands to honor his promises or the eyes of God being on everything. There are references to the earth being his footstool so he must have feet. Is that what it means? I would suggest, no, it really is not the point.
2. There is another way that people tend to think of it, that we in effect by being especially rational beings, you can do algebra a lot better than a hamster; you are real rational. That is the reflection— that is really what it is. You are a person with intelligence and reasoning power and all of that, interrelationships of important kinds, that is the way we reflect God. That is what it means to be in his image. And other people have tried different things.
3. Let me suggest to you that it actually means this: We represent God and are supposed to do his will.
B. I want to help you see something. The word that is used in the Hebrew for this language, “He made man in his own image,” is this word in Hebrew, tselem. This word is a standard word in Hebrew and Aramaic and other Semitic languages, for that matter, because they all have a reflex of it, for “idol”— standard word for idol. Thus when you see this in the Hebrew you could actually translate it if you wanted to, “God created man as his idol.” Why would it say that? What in the world could possibly be meant by that kind of wording? Let me suggest what is going on; it will help you understand idolatry on the one hand and help you understand what it means to be in God’s image on the other. In the ancient world people did understand the concept of representation. This morning I talked with my mom on the phone. Now, what I really did was make airwaves with my mouth into a mechanism and that mechanism translated those into certain kinds of signals and my mom did the same thing in her telephone and it came back as airwaves out of a device into my ear. That does not bother me. I could say I talked with my mother; I talked to my mother even though I was talking with a representation of her voice created by a device. People understood that basic concept. They knew that if you drew a picture of something in a certain sense it captures some of the essence. They knew if you mention somebody’s name, bingo, the person comes to mind; you visualize the person. They understood the concept of representation of something. The world quickly became pagan, of course, right after Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden, secular humanism set right in and it got worse and people began going to movies and stuff like that and playing cards. No, I am just kidding. Certainly any form of sin, major and minor started, it was terrible. You read a lot about the degeneration of humanity in the book of Genesis. One of the things that happened very, very early on is that people began using this concept of the fact that an image represents something for idolatry. They began saying there must be lots of gods and goddesses. This is an easy assumption to make that there would not be only one, that there might be many. If we want to have some sense of communication with them we better get a device that represents them and what better thing to do than to make something that looks like, in some way, what we think that god or goddess looks like. People thus made up a religion and based it on idolatry. By Moses’ day the concept of idol, that is in Hebrew tselem, everybody knew, everybody in the whole culture knew it. It is a corruption of what the original plan of God was as announced here. But God inspires Moses to be sure to get it across in that language. So I am not saying that it did not happen this way, it certainly did happen this way. I am just saying that what God chose was to inspire language that everybody would instantly understand. We will have man be our idol. What is that? The tselem is the thing that you use to represent you or the thing that somebody else uses to represent you. If you are a god or goddess people use this statue to represent you to them. If you are a person who wants to worship the god so and so and you do not have a statue of him, you feel kind of like you cannot do it real well. So the idol is conceived to be a device for making that god or goddess present in your midst so that you can have some sense of contact with them. You might say, “Well, that is a dumb thing,” but you know hundreds of millions of people still worship idols around the world today. They do not think it is a dumb thing. It is the most natural thing to them, they are real used to it. In the ancient world everybody did, everybody practiced idolatry. So this made sense to say it this way. What really should have happened, what the original intention was, is that there would be no representation of God on earth in any way. No pictures, no nothing except for us. We are his representatives on earth. Not because we look like him, that if you could see God you would say, “I like his cheekbones, they are kind of nice.” Not that at all but rather that we stand in his place. What we are supposed to do is treat this world and relate to it just as he would do. That is basic creation theology and that is what he goes on to say. “Let them fill the earth, let them have dominion over all the animals that are in it, let them till the garden and let them work the soil. I give all of this to the humans to do.” It is a basic theological point. In the New Testament we have the Lord’s Prayer. What does Jesus say? “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are God’s representatives to make that happen and that is why he created man. He created human beings to do his will on earth. So it is a job assignment. To be in the image of God is essentially an assignment rather than something that is of our essence. It does not relate to our intelligence per say. Does it have a connection? Sure, you have to be intelligent to do it and all that. It really is not appearance; it is not really the way our minds work or something. It is a job assignment. That is really what the Hebrew is emphasizing. Every human being has great worth and is very precious because every human being is supposed to be a representative of God on earth. That is your purpose in life. You do not have to go further than Genesis 1 to answer the question, “What am I doing here?” If you tell people that, for many of them it will turn a light bulb on. They will suddenly see the dignity of who they are and they will suddenly say, “Wait a minute, my life has purpose. I get it. I am supposed to accomplish on earth what God wants just as in heaven, what he wants is always accomplished.” People do not say, “I’m not sure I can get to that, God.” No. Not in heaven. You do not get that. No such reaction. Is that clear, as we say in Boston?
V. The Fall
A. Let me add an interesting phenomenon. Right away we get the story of Adam and Eve and the temptation in the garden so it is obvious that Satan was already here. From this and many other places in Scripture it is pretty clear that you can say the following: God chose to create human beings on the very planet to which he had already previously banished Satan. There is no mystery there. Satan does not show up and God said, “I forgot to put a Satan barrier up.” No. It is not that at all. Satan was already here. I think that is the pretty clear teaching of Scripture. He was already around, already knew the territory. That is significant. We were placed on a planet that is Satan’s home territory. Jesus in John 12 calls him the archon, the ruler of this world. Jesus says that about Satan. This is the guy that runs the world and that is how he describes Satan. There is a lot in Scripture about the importance of the suppression of Satan, the binding of Satan, the opposition that Satan can give because he would of course not like anybody encroaching on his territory but the ultimate victory of Christ will be that Satan will be destroyed and this world transformed into a new heaven and a new earth. From the beginning there was a great challenge. Humans were not in an easy place. I think it is great to give people a clear understanding that they, from the beginning, have got to have God’s help because otherwise you are going to be ruined by Satan. He knows how to handle you. He has been around longer. He knows just what to do with you so you desperately need help. You cannot avoid sin by good will, good cheer, and hard effort. It is just not that easy. That is an important thing to get. The fall did not eliminate job assignment, did not eliminate the fact that it is shared by male and female, etc. The fall demonstrated an interruption of the tendency to fulfill the job assignment. We still have the image of God, that is our job and that is what we are put here for and we have the ability to do it, technically. We lack the ability because our sinful nature prevents us from it. That is what I think the fall introduces. The imperfection of fulfillment of the image, but it does not eradicate the image. What God did was to banish Satan to a planet that he created and liked. That means that there is nothing, per say, wrong with the planet. What would you infer from that? Some people would say, “There are earthquakes, it is a bad planet.” I would say no. You cannot say that Scripturally. You cannot say, “Hey, there is more rainfall in Massachusetts than there is in Mexico. What a screw-up.” No. The way the planet is, is by design and God likes it. But he did then put here not only Satan and quite a number of angels who followed Satan but then thereafter put here humans. There was always, from the beginning, the possibility of serious temptation and trouble. Those are realities that people should face. The more you know what the facts are the better you are able to respond to them. That is how I would put it as a way of thinking about it. There is nothing wrong with the planet per say. The planet, however, is in futility. Paul says, “God has placed as a result of the fall all nature in futility.” So the planet now has been what it could be is not what it is by reason of sin. But, not that what it is in essence is somehow a mistake. No, it is the way it should be. When it gets transformed into a new heaven and a new earth it will be fine. I would not say that you can therefore infer that the only way God will then work is through humans—the only way, but I think you can infer that a huge amount of what he does he will do through people. If the gospel is going to be heard in your neighborhood chances are the Holy Spirit will not go door-to-door saying, “Pssst, you ought to believe.” It will be people that the Holy Spirit moves to do it. So God works through people. Actually Satan does this too. Satan and his angels work through people also. Remember, Satan is finite. He cannot be everywhere tempting everybody at every moment. So are the number of fallen angels finite. That is why the Bible says resist the devil and he will flee from you. He has intelligence enough to say, “I’m wasting my time on this person, I have been here eight minutes trying to get this person to do something and it is not working. It is a total waste of my time. I could be tempting somebody else and get somewhere.” What does Satan do? Satan tries to build a general corruption in society so that the culture will trap us. That is a very important theme of Scripture. John calls it “the world”, the kosmos. The world traps you into opposing God. We are putting a lot of time in the beginning of Genesis, I know that, but it is well worth it. The major theological themes of the Bible are all found in one way or another in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. There are people who have taught theology courses from Genesis 1 to 11. You can do it. We are putting a little bit of heavy emphasis on it. Here is another one that I think is just useful for you to be alerted to.
B. In Genesis 2:17 where you have the Garden of Eden story and God’s prohibition he says, “You can eat of any tree you want but you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Now, I have a question. Why wouldn’t he want them to eat of that tree most of all? Wouldn’t God want them to know all about good and evil? Isn’t that just the right tree to eat from? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil—know what is good, know what is bad, be able to choose between them, right? Actually it is misleading. Here is the situation. The knowledge of good and evil is what is called a “merism”. Let me give you some examples very quickly. This is just to give you a feel for it, you do not have to memorize these or copy them all down. In the Bible we really have a lot of merisms. A merism is an expression of totality by the mention of polarity. You mention some opposites and it implies everything in between. For example, the west and the east are used as merisms. Heaven and hell, if I ascend to heaven there you are, if I go to Sheol there you are. Does that mean that God is only at the two extremes? No, he is everywhere, that is the point. Near and far are used as merisms. “Peace to the far and peace to the near,” says the Lord. In other words peace to everybody. More examples of merisms— “going out and coming in” is a fairly common merism. “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in,” meaning the Lord will take care of everything in your life. Then “good and evil” actually a very common merism. It means “any kind of thing” or it means “everything”. Their idols cannot speak, cannot walk, cannot do evil, cannot do good, meaning they just cannot do anything. The knowledge of good and evil is a way of saying in Hebrew “all knowledge, knowledge of everything” and that is what God does not want people to know. If you read the story, you see that is what Satan says. He says, “Hey, he knows you will become like gods knowing everything. That is what he is trying to keep from you. Don’t you want to know everything?” Knowing everything sounds interesting. And they do and after the fall God says, he is speaking again in heaven as he often does in many places in Scripture not just Genesis, “Look they have become like one of us, they know good and evil, they know everything.” Does that mean that they actually know everything? You say, “Alright, immediately draw me a graph for the following equation.” No, it takes time to know that. The idea is that we now have more knowledge than we can morally handle. That is the point of what is emphasized here in this story.
C. Part of the human dilemma as a consequence of the fall is that humans have enormous knowledge of how to do bad things as well as how to do good things. The same human being that knows how to create a computer and all the bandwidth that they use for all the good communication purposes so you can get e-mail from your cousin in Mongolia also has provided a way for a vast increase in the dissemination of pornography in our age. The same skill that uses atomic energy for good makes weapons out of it. The same skill that does anything can be used for bad. Human beings, unlike hamsters and June bugs, have enormous capacity for choices; taking skills that they could use and should use for good and employing them for evil. That is part of the human dilemma. We are in trouble because we are so good at doing bad. That is, I think, the message that you are supposed to get out of this whole story about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There is a second question raised by this. How come they did not die? It says, “the day they eat thereof they shall surely die,” but they did not. The answer is they did in this sense, mortality came into the picture. They really did die in the sense of losing immortality, losing the ability to continue to live. They are thrown out of the garden; they cannot eat the tree of life and continue to live. That is restored in the book of Revelation but it is gone for them at this point. Thus, another effect of the fall is that we live with mortality. This makes an enormous difference to people. They are all living with the awareness that death is coming for sure. It affects the way people plan and think and live. You get all these midlife crises. You get everything else under the sun because people are worried about how their life is ebbing away and so on and they cannot any longer do jump shots or whatever they were good at when they were seventeen. But far more than that it is a reality that you just have to face, quite honestly, you cannot live forever. Thus, if you want to keep living there has to be a rescue, there just has to be, because now you have become mortal. Those two themes are very big themes in terms of consequences of the fall.