Archive for the ‘Genesis’ Category

Why was Cain’s offering not accepted?

January 5, 2010

Scholars have speculated for years the reason why God did not accept Cain’s offering.  It is important for us to remember that speculation is a BAD method of interpretation.  The text doesn’t say that Cain’s offering was deficient in some way, but Abel’s offering is described as being the best of what he had (first born cattle, fattest portions), Cain’s offering was not described in this way.   This of course could be a commentary on the kind of worship and sacrifice that God wants from his people, he wants the very best of what we have, however, it may still be difficult to draw this conclusion because it does not say for sure why God does not “look with favor” on Cain’s offering.  If we’re going to assume anything we should assume that that information was not important for what the author was trying to communicate to his readers.

What was the significance of the Cain and Able narrative?

This begs the question, what was the important idea communicated by this narrative?  I think that the clearest explanation is that this is a narrative about the destructive nature of Sin.  This narrative sets the stage for a long history of violence within the world.  There is pride there is jealousy, and there is murder.  Cain did what he wanted to do, not what God asked him to do (Genesis 7).  Sin is a potent enemy and just as with Cain, sin crouches at our doors as well, but we must to our best to master our desires to do our own will.

What is the significance of Genesis 4:23-24?

January 5, 2010

23 Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.

24 If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.

These two verses in Genesis 4 make up what is referred to as Lamech’s “Song of Vengeance”.  There is literary and theological significance that comes from Lamechs words, I will list some of them as follows…

1. Lamech is the end of Cain’s line of descendants.  His behavior as a murderer shows the depth of curruption that had come from the line of Cain who himself was the first murderer.

2. There is a parallel here with the line that came from Cain and the line that came from his brother Seth.  Cain’s descendent named Lamech represented murder, death, and the end of Cain’s line.  But with Seth’s descendent named Lamech the line did not end, rather was the father of Noah who would be God’s instrument to save humans from the flood.

3. We know that only death can come from Cain’s line, because we know from Genesis chapter 6 that all people on earth, except for Noah’s family, will be wiped out.

4.  Finally, there may be some literary tie via the Gospels.  Lamech represents vengeance, murder and unforgiveness.  He says “If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”  But Jesus came with a very different paradigm, one of grace in which he says just the opposite of Lamech.  Matthew 18:21-22 says:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? up to seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Clearly there is a juxtaposition taking place in the texts, not only between the line of Cain and the line of Seth, but the world view of Lamech and the world view of Jesus.

How important and how accurate are the life spans of men listed in Genesis?

January 5, 2010

When interpreting scripture it is important to consider it’s communicative intent.  In other words, what were the authors trying to communicate their contemporary hearers (not us).  Many of us make the mistake when reading scripture of thinking that the words were written to us.  The words of scripture are definitely for us, and all people, but they were not written to us (see the About the Bible page).  Many people may come to the texts of the bible looking for facts, evidence, etc.  but in doing so we miss what the scripture was actually trying to communicate.  We must also remember that we are dealing with ancient texts written in a time when ideas about things like dates were completely different from today, and numerical systems, and even written languages, were still in their infancy.

That said, let’s consider something like the problem of life span in Genesis 5.  How could people have lived hundreds of years, and how could those men have fathered children at such ridiculously old ages?  When considering the births of the children, I think it is important that we understand that the term beget, or the idea of becoming the father of, does not necessarily mean that that person is the father of the child that was born.  In fact it is more likely that he is the grandfather, great grandfather, or great great grandfather.  Those who recorded these genealogies likely only included the ancestors who lived lives of some type of significance, thus eliminating those who were less significant.  So when it says that at age 187 Methuselah became the father of Lamech it doesn’t necessarily mean that Methuselah was Lamech’s father, he may have been his great great grandfather.

Of course this still leaves us with the more difficult issue of the very old ages.  Hard to believe, right?  At this point I think it is important to do some interpretive work, i.e. what is the author trying to say to the people.  Specifically, what is he saying about God and people.  If you look closely at the entire chapter of Genesis 5 we shouldn’t be distracted by the great ages of these men, rather we should be struck by one recurring phrase… “and then he died.”  The significance of the Genesis genealogy is not how long these men lived, it is the fact that they died.  The idea being communicated here is that the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin is real.  God wasn’t kidding around when he said “if you eat the fruit of the tree you will surely die.”  And furthermore, it shows the serpent to be a liar, because he said to Eve “you will not surely die”, yet clearly people are dying.  The phrase “and then he died” is repeated 8 times in Genesis 5.  Only Enoch in verse 21 does not die, and the significant difference between Enoch and the rest of Adams line was that “he walked with God” (but that’s a discussion for another post). In Genesis 6 God makes it clear that most humans are not walking with him.  Thus he limits the life of humans, because he does not want to “contend with them forever”.

I believe that Adam and his ancestors did live those long lives, but whether or not they did or did not is not the key issue, the significant issue is that they died.  And that is what the author of Genesis was trying to communicate.

Why does the bible tell us two slightly different creation accounts?

January 5, 2010

There are a couple reasons for this, neither is exclusive of the other.

1) The two creation accounts tell us different information.   The first account is a larger over-arching account that covers all of creation, while the second account focuses more on the creation of humans, and specifically the man and the woman.

2) The other reason is that these two accounts may have come from  dual sources.  Authorship for Genesis is attributed most often to Moses, but obviously the contents of Genesis happened before he was alive.  Moses likely collected these accounts that had been handed down from his ancestors, some written perhaps some oral.  And it is possible that these two accounts originated from two different sources.  In other words, authors who had been inspired long before Moses, wrote or told different versions of the creation accounts.  Then, generations later, Moses played the roll of God’s editor, and he put in Genesis the accounts of creation that were true to communicating the truth.

Neither account contradicts the other.  They just give us deeper insight into who God is and who we are.

Who wrote the book of Genesis?

January 5, 2010

First of all, we hold that the Bible was divinely inspired, in other words, God wrote it through people.  So at the end of the day, whatever human hands wrote Genesis, it was inspired by God.  This is a critical part of our faith, see About the Bible.

Tradition holds that Moses wrote the book of Genesis and the other books of the Law, or Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy).  Yet clearly, Moses lived long after the creation accounts so he could not have written eyewitness accounts of creation.  Thus it is likely

Tradition holds that Moses is the author of Genesis and the other books of the Law.

that there were several generations of oral tradition.  Even this though is debatable, as written tradition may have existed earlier then Moses.  Whether it was written or oral Moses is traditionally the one credited with putting the Torah together for the first time.  It is important though that when we consider the idea of ‘oral tradition’ that we understand that it was a much more sophisticated tradition then we can comprehend.  Our spiritual ancestors used very unique memory devices to ensure the proper passing of history from generation to generation.  They sang songs, they wrote poems, and structured stories in a way that allowed them to remember.  You’ll see the depth of details in places like the genealogies in Genesis 5.

One of the toughest things to understand is how the creation account could have been recorded, remembered, or understood.  Rather then getting into the different areas of debate (between believers, and between believers and non believers) I would rather emphasize the fact that God was there, and he communicated with his people.  That is important for us, and while it may be difficult for some of us to understand or swallow, it is also a great comfort to me that God does speak to his people, and inspire his people.

What’s the deal with with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

January 5, 2010

Wouldn't it have been better if God didn't make The Tree of Knowledge and Evil?

The significance of The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil has everything to do with God’s glory and the way that God is glorified when we do his will.  Yes, God could have made a creation where it would have been impossible for us to sin and disobey God.  But instead he designed a creation that had the potential to give Him the utmost amount of glory.  Let me explain…

When God made everything, it’s very existence and perfection radiated glory to Him.  But God designed his creation in such a way that he could be even more greatly glorified…  He made humans in His image who could choose Him or not choose Him.   As humans, when we choose to worship God, when we choose to do his will, he is glorified more greatly.  God is not conceited, but He is perfectly self-centered, after all, what else would he be centered on, He’s God!  That is often hard for us to understand because it is so hard for us to grasp the infinite worth of God.  But God gets it, so he designed a creation that he could love and that could choose to love him back, and in doing so he would be most greatly glorified.

Enter the tree… God made the Tree of Good and Evil because he wanted us to be able to choose him.  If he had made us robots without a will, then we would not have been able to choose him, obey him, and worship him.  Think about that for a minute… think how great God’s glory must be if he was willing to make a creation where his creatures could choose to not even believe him.  This may seem like a great design flaw, but if you think about it, this really points to how much God is glorified when we do choose him, when we do worship him.  It was worth it because God wanted us to choose him.  And when we do he get’s what he deserves… supreme glory.

Why does the bible refer to Abraham instead of Noah as “the father of all nations.”

January 4, 2010

Question:

Since God gave Noah the responsibility of saving his family as well as the animals and to also then be fruitful and multiply, after He decided that the people He created were ‘evil’, then why does the bible refer to Abraham instead of Noah to be the ‘father of all nations’?

Answer:

In Genesis chapter 17 God Covenants with Abraham that he will be the father of many nations.  There is an important distinction that should be made though.  The promise was a genealogical promise it was a spiritual promise, a promise of salvation. Genealogically, Abraham was the father of three distinct people groups through his two sons Ishmael and Isaac.  Ishamael was his first born but he was the son of his wife’s servant Hagar, Ishmael’s descendants were the Ismaelites. Isaac was the son of his wife Sarah.  From Isaac’s first born son Esau would come the Edomites, and from his other son Jacob (later named Israel) would come the nation of Israel from whom would come Jesus the savior.  It is the later that is most significant when considering the Covenant with Abraham.

While all people are descended from Noah by blood, the significance of God’s Covenant with Abraham (that he would be Father of Many Nations) is not a promise of blood relation, it is a promise that all people would be blessed through him (Genesis 12).  Ultimately that blessing would come through his descendent, Jesus Christ.  Abraham is the father of many nations because all nations have access to Jesus, and can be heirs of Abraham’s blessing.   This is a huge part of the Apostle Paul’s teaching in letters like Galatians and Romans.

God chose Abraham not Noah to be the line through whom the blessing would come.  Why?  All we know is that Abraham believed God when God promised him that he would be a Father of Many Nations.  That’s no small thing, especially considering that Abraham and his wife Sarah could not bear children.  In Genesis 15 it says, “Abraham believed God, and God credited to him as righteousness.”  Like anyone else, Abraham wasn’t perfect, he made big mistakes, but he put his faith in God and His promise.

What does it mean that we are “made in the image of God”?

January 1, 2010

There are a few important points to see here…

Firstly, it is clear in Genesis 1 & 2 that human beings are different from the rest of creation.  So while evolution may be a part of God’s creation, it is unlikely that humans evolved from some other animal, because we were set apart and made differently.

Michelangelo portrayed God as looking like a human. While that is not the meaning behind "being made in the image of God" it is a powerful reminder that humans have uniquely close relationship with our creator.

Secondly, this statement from Genesis is not about what we look like or what God looks like.  Rather, the concept of being “made in God’s image” is about our role on earth.  It says in Genesis 1 that God commanded humans to rule over creation, to subdue it.  In other words, just like God is a ruler, he made us stewards and rulers over creation.  No other part of creation has ruler-type status, humans are on top, for better or worse.  So you can forget those movies like “Avatar” or “Day After Tomorrow” where Mother Nature steps in and takes control.  That’s not the way God made it.

Finally, there is a very specific thing that comes along with the whole package of being made in the image of God.  Namely, that we have a will.  We can choose what we want to do, we can go the direction we want to go, just like God.  So when God gave humans the command to care for and rule over creation, we actually have the option to say ‘no’.  No other creature is like that.  God has a will and as creatures who are made in his own image we have our own wills.  God gives us commands to follow, but we can choose to disobey.  Thus sets up the great tension of the Bible.

Was the world really created in 6 literal days? (Creationism vs. Evolutionism)

December 30, 2009

What's the deal with evolution?

This is a question that comes up often when considering the first 2 chapters of Genesis.

As I read Genesis 1 and 2 and I think about creation and evolution, I think that there is only one question and one answer that means a whole lot to me.  Q: Where did the world come from?  A: God made it.  One thing all scientists have had to conclude is that the world had to have a beginning, no matter what got us here in 2009, it had to start somewhere.  Some scientist give it a name like “the big bang” and that’s fine,  but who made the big bang?  The fact is, that if evolution does exist God made evolution.  God also made science. And he made our minds, and gave us freedom to deny him or believe him with those minds.  Pretty trippy, huh?

But it is important when considering this to do a real heart check about why you think or do not think it is an important question to answer.  You can almost bank on the fact that any time you put an “ism” at the end of the word, it means that there are lots of people out there who have made a religion out of whatever that ism is about.  CreationISM and EvoltionISM are two good examples.  I think that these are people in two distinct groups who sound like they are talking about the origin of humanity but between-the-lines they are saying either “the bible is literally accurate” or “the bible is a fraud”.  Of course they are both making it far too simplistic.  Personally, I believe in evolution, but not the way the evolutionists do.  I also believe in creation, but not the way the creationists do.  Creationists want to say that the world was created in 6 literal days as described in the bible.  Pictures of people with dinosaurs are ways of emphasizing those believes.  These people are also called literalists.  While I do believe that God could indeed created the world in 6 days (or a mere snap of his finger), I don’t think this is the point of Genesis 1 and 2.  The point is simply that God was first, and he is the one who created.  The 6 days may simply represent some important divisions of God’s creation, as well as emphasizing the all important 7th day where God rested (something I hope to do someday too).

By the way, this worldview has a name, it’s called “Intelligent Design”.  It’s simply the belief that our world was indeed created by a higher being.  Whether that was in 6 days, or 600 billion years, it was still created by something, someone, greater.  2 Peter 3 says that “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.”  So even 6 days as written in Genesis, could really be a long long time.  As a follower of Jesus, I believe that the higher being that created everything was God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Most evolutionists who don’t believe in a creator are atheists who don’t believe in God at all, or agnostics who believe that even if there is a creator or ‘initiator’ that being has no connection or interaction with us.  These are also the same people who hold up Charles Darwin as a kind of ‘hero’ of evolutionary thought.  However, what is rarely discussed among evolutionists today, is the fact that Darwin’s theory of evolution has very serious scientific holes in it.  If you’re curious, check out best sellers like “Darwin’s Black Box”.   This is not to say that evolution is not credible, but only to say that the man that is so widely renown as a hero to scientists and atheists was really only the author of a theory not a scientifically proven fact.  Even my high school science book called it Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, but this theory was  taught like it was fact, and it is always talked about like that, as if the word ‘theory’ doesn’t mean what it really means.  I mention this only to point out the fact that there must clearly be some religious-like biases on the side of many people to promote the ideas of evolution as if they are proven fact.  Similarly there are religious-like biases on the side of the creationists who talk about 6-day creation like it is a proven fact.  Obviously we are dealing with a case of radical beliefs that have radical followers.  But at the end of the day the important thing is still who made it, not how it was made.

The final thing that I didn’t mention is that it’s not just a creation vs. science thing.  Science is often on the side of the idea of creation, and there are lots of great, credible scientists out there who are great men and women of faith.  They simply know when to stop looking for proof, and when to start believing in something greater than they could ever comprehend.

Any thoughts?