Tag: Genesis

11Sep

Circumcision in the Center


Genesis 17 contains another interesting and important chiasm surrounding the covenant circumcision, which was given to Abraham just before Isaac was born:

– When Abram was ninety-nine years old (1)
— the LORD appeared to Abram (1)
— that I may make my covenant between me and you (2)
—- Then Abram fell on his face (3)
—– you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. (4)
—— your name shall be Abraham (5)
——- Every male among you shall be circumcised. (10)
—— As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah (15)
—– she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her. (16)
—- Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed (17)
— I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. (19)
— God went up from Abraham.(22)
– Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised (24)

There are a number of different patterns different writers have pointed out in this passage –but the important point is that in each of them, circumcision is given the weight and focus of the passage. It’s clearly a crucial piece to understanding God’s covenant with Abraham, and the centrality of circumcision within that covenant structure.

 

31Aug

Focusing on Rememberance: A Second Chiasm in the Flood

It’s an open question whether this chiasm should be considered part of the first chiasm in the Flood narrative, or whether this is a separate overlapping chiasm in the same story — I’ve separated them here to make them easier to see and understand. The focus is the same as the first chiasm in the Flood narrative, the remembrance of Noah, and the turning point in the fulfillment of God’s promise to him.

A: Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals… and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also… Genesis 7:2,3
B: For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights… Genesis 7:4
C: And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. Genesis 7:12
D: And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. Genesis 7:24

But God remembered Noah… Genesis 8:1

D': At the end of 150 days the waters had abated… Genesis 8:3
C': At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made… Genesis 8:6
B': He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. Genesis 8:10
A': Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove… Genesis 8:12

You can see the 7->7->40->150->center->150->40->7->7 pattern clearly when the elements are arranged this way. The main problem with this chiasm is the two mentions of sevens in the beginning of the series — there doesn’t seem to be a perfect match at the end of the series unless you take the two pairs of sevens as one mention of the number seven (or I’ve missed another seven in the text someplace, which is possible). The chiasm is strengthened by the tying of the birds in A and the dove in A’, which may overcome this objection.

23Aug

Focusing on Remembrance: Chiasm in the Flood

We all know the story of the Flood, right? What is the focus of that story, though? What is it that God would have us remember about the Flood? Is it the death of all those people? The judgment of God? The miracle of Noah?

The chiasm of the Flood gives us the answer to this question.

A: Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. -Genesis 6:11
B: And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them.” -Genesis 6:13
C: Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.” – Genesis 7:1
D: In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. -Genesis 7:11
E: The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. -Genesis 7:17

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. – Genesis 8:1

E': And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. -Genesis 8:1
D': At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. -Genesis 8:6-7
C': Then God said to Noah, “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. -Genesis 8:15-16
B': ….the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. -Genesis 8:21
A': And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. -Genesis 9:21

A second time, with just the themes rather than the verses:

A: Man’s broken covenant with God
B: God’s determination to destroy his creation
C: Command to enter the Ark
D: Beginning of the Flood
E: Rising flood waters

God Remembers Noah

E': Receding flood waters
D': Ending of the flood
C': Command to leave the Ark
B': God’s promise to never destroy by water again
A': God’s new covenant with man

So what is the center of the chiasm? God remembers Noah. But why should this be the central point of the entire story? Because God promised to save Noah through the flood, and the center of the chiasm shows God remembering, and preparing to keep, his promise.

The Flood, then, centers on the promise making and promise keeping character of God — as much of the rest of the Scriptures.

10Jul

The Ground of Focus: Genesis 3:19

Eve has eaten from the fruit, and Adam has followed suit. They have hidden from God in the Garden, and finally admitted what they have done. Now comes the scene in Genesis 3 where God lines them up and gives three speeches, one to the serpent, one to Eve, and one to Adam. We normally call these curses, they aren’t really curses, they’re consequences. God laid down the rules before the foundation of the world, and he is now telling them what is going to happen because they broke the rules.

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” -Genesis 3:17-19

It’s the last verse in this section we’re really interested in:

A you return
B to the ground
C since (kî) from it you were taken
C´ for (kî) dust you are
B´ and to dust
A´ you will return

The center of this chiasm emphasizes the state of Adam before God put his spirit into him in contrast to his state at this moment. Now that Adam has eaten of the fruit, he is as the dust of the ground from which he was taken.

This isn’t physical death, as most readers assume. People have two parts, a body and a soul. When those two are separated, physical death surely follows. What God is saying here is that as you were spirit separated from body before you were created, you will now be spirit separated from body now. You remain spirit separated from God, but you also become spirit separated from body.

Spiritual death is the result of the sin of Eden —though physical death follows on its heals, spiritual death is what God covers with the institution of the sacrifice, and provides a permanent solution for in the death of Christ.

This chiasm emphasizes the importance of the concept and nature of death in the life of Adam, and hence emphasizes the importance of life in Christ.

19Apr

Genesis 3: The Consequences of Sin (Part 5)

There is one final component in the consequences of sin we need to understand before we can fully understand sin and it’s impact in our lives. While separation is the main theme in Genesis 3, there is another component we don’t often look at —what is it Adam and Eve gained when they gained “the knowledge of good and evil?”

It’s easy enough to shrug the question off with an easy answer, such as: “Adam and Eve experienced evil, where before they had only known about evil in an intellectual way.” There’s a simple reason this explanation won’t work.

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. -Genesis 3:22

Think this through:

  • Adam and Eve knew good and evil through experience —by actually doing evil.
  • Adam and Eve knew evil just as God did.
  • God, therefore, must know evil in the sense of actually doing evil.

Do you see the problem? Clearly the simple explanation won’t work here! So what does this “knowledge of good and evil” really mean? Our problem is we are trapped in a false dichotomy —we think of the word “know” as having two possible meanings. The first is to know something intellectually, and the second is to know something through experience. But there is another meaning of the word “know,” one we use every day, and yet we pass over without thinking about it.

Much of modern engineering is, in fact, based on this third meaning of “know” —only we use the word technique. People who are technical are called knowledge workers because they know how to manipulate ideas and objects to reach a specific outcome. It’s this third sense of know we want here, the sense of knowing how to manipulate things to reach a specific goal.

But what does this have to do with knowing good and evil?

When you turn a piece of wood, or mill a piece of steel, you are conforming the wood or steel to a standard you have set. In fact, any time you manipulate an object, you are bringing that object into conformance with a standard you’ve set.

The word “know” is used in the same sense here. In the Garden, God sets the standards. He chose the order of creation, the creatures that would be created, the creation of Eve, the tress that would be eaten and those that would not. God, as the creator, set the standards.

What Eve did when she ate the apple is this: she set her own standards. In this way, Eve now made herself into a little god. She has decided which of her desires should be fulfilled, and which should not. She “knows” good and evil in the sense that she is now deciding what is good, and what is evil.

And here we find the ultimate separation from God —for there can only be one real standard setter in the universe (whether we like that or not). Our standards can accord with God’s, or they can not. If our standards don’t accord with God’s standards, then we are, in essence, creating our own little idea of good and evil, and attempting to create a little world that matches those standards.

This is the key to understanding the final consequence of sin, that of separation from the Tree of Life. We’ll examine this separation in another line of posts which consider God’s reaction to man’s sin.

27Feb

Genesis 3: The Consequences of Sin (Part 3)

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
-Genesis 3:15

Just as Satan bound to the Earth, so Eve’s offspring will be separated from Satan’s offspring —because of the fall, there is continual strife between humans and the spiritual world, specifically Satan and his followers. But this verse goes farther than simple separation or strife.

The seed of the woman will one day have a more direct confrontation with Satan. In that confrontation, Satan will bruise his heel, and Eve’s seed will bruise his head.

This is a prophecy of the coming Messiah —notice this is the woman’s seed, not the couple’s seed, and the seed in this verse is a collective singular, which means it can refer not only to a group of people, but also a singular person.

This concept of single individuals representing entire groups is common in the Scriptures —David represents Israel as the Messiah represents all men.

But the separation doesn’t end with Satan and Satan’s seed.

I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
-Genesis 3:16

Eve is also separated from her children through pain in childbirth, and from her husband in marriage

The result for Adam also has separation as a theme:

,,,cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
-Genesis 3:17-18

Adam is separated from the ground, yet he must work the ground in order to survive. Work has gone from a matter of guarding and worship to a matter of survival, so Adam is also separated from the purpose for which God put him in the Garden.

As you can see, the motif in the consequences of sin is separation —but this isn’t all the separations there are as a consequence of sin.

16Feb

Genesis 3: The Consequences of Sin (Part 1)

You’ve probably seen it before —the comedian who stands on stage blaspheming God, challenging him to “strike me right now!” For some reason, we hold views of sin and its consequences that ultimately contradict one another.

The first is that if sin doesn’t have an immediate impact we can see, touch, hear, or feel, sin has no impact at all. The second is that all of sin’s impact comes in the afterlife, and not now. Both of these views are wrong. To really understand the results of sin, we need to return to the first time man sins, and the consequences of that sin —as God laid them out.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” -Genesis 3:9-10

The first consequence of sin is the desire to hide from God. “But wait —aren’t those people who beg God to strike them down standing tall out in the open? They aren’t afraid of God, and yet they’re sinning.” But they aren’t standing in the presence of God, either. They’re standing here in Satan’s domain cursing God, and laughing because they no longer care about sin. It’s much easier to believe you’re not in God’s power when you’re not in God’s immediate presence.

They believe they’re covered up well enough not to worry overmuch about God. What happens when God actually appears on the Earth?

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” -Revelation 6:15-17

This attempt to hide isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course; it simply shows that we understand our inability to stand before God. In fact, God provides coverings throughout the Scriptures to hide our sin from his wrath.

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. -Genesis 3:21

Ultimately, our sins are covered by the blood of Christ.

But while Adam and Eve hid from God in fear, and the kings hide in fear in the last days, we hide in Christ, in faith.

And that makes all the difference in the world.

23Jan

Genesis 3:1-7, The Process of Temptation (Part 3)

Have you ever lost something? Silly question —of course you have.

The real question is, where did you find it? Have you ever noticed that you always find in the “middle” of something else? “I couldn’t find my keys, but then I looked, and there they were in the middle of the desk.” Rarely is the item in the literal middle of wherever we find it. So why do we use this sort of language?

Because whatever it is we’ve lost is in the middle of our thoughts. It’s the one thing we’re thinking about, the one thing we want, so long as we are looking for it. You might see this like taking a picture —not everything can be in focus at the same time. In this case, the word “midst,” really means that which you have in focus. The rest of the picture is there, but it’s out of focus, it’s not what you’re thinking about.

Now, let’s turn to the story of Eve’s temptation and ask what seems like a simple question: Where is the Tree of Knowledge?

And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. -Genesis 2:9

Was the Tree of Life in the physical center of the Garden? I doubt it. But God, when making the plants, placed the Tree of Life in the center of his attention; he considered the middle of the forest, the one tree worth thinking about. What about Eve?

…but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Genesis 3:3

What does this tell us about Eve’s focus? That she’s focused on the one thing she can’t have. In fact, her focus has turned that which is a fountain of broken relationship with God, and hence a fountain of evil, into something that is good.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise… -Genesis 3:6

Eve focused on sin, and ended up sinning. There is a great lesson here for our lives, of course —the path to walking with God is to turn from thinking about sin, and our desires, and focus instead on simply following God. While much of modern Christian thought seems to be centered around focusing on eliminating evil in our lives or societies, this isn’t the pattern the Scriptures lay down for us.

Our focus should be on making God’s priorities our priorities, and on our relationship with him.

Christians often think about sin, avoiding sin, what sin does in their lives, etc. But we rarely think about the process of sin —how does temptation work? In this series of posts on reading Genesis 3:17 I’m going to talk about four different possible ways to see the process of Eve’s acceptance of Satan’s invitation to sin: obedience/disobedience, challenge to God, need/fulfillment, and the dialectic process.

20Jan

Genesis 3:1-7, The Process of Temptation (Part 2)

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” -Genesis 3:1

“Has God really said?” This reverberates through our lives today —around every corner is a challenge to God’s word. The comedian who blasphemes God and then says, “where’s the lightening?” The popular book that claims the Bible is all a made up lie? The college professor who says life came from nothing?

“Has God really said?”

Satan’s words to Eve attack God’s word the same way.

There is no record of Eve being told of this commandment by God —so we must assume Eve received the commandment from Adam, the same way we receive God’s Word through others.

“Did God really say that?”

Are the Scriptures for real? Were they carried through the centuries accurately, or were parts added, and subtracted?

“Did Adam really tell you what God said? He just wants all the power for himself.”

Is there a nub of truth in the Scriptures that’s been modified to give one person power over another? What about “liberation theology,” or “feminist theology,” or… ? How do we know people are telling us the truth?

“Did you really hear what God said? Maybe you just misunderstood, or maybe Adam misunderstood.”

Since everyone who reads the Scriptures comes out with a different understanding, how do you know your beliefs are right? Don’t you need a church, or a pastor, or someone with really special training, to explain the Scriptures to you?

Eve’s response? She modifies what God actually said —presumably in an attempt to show she really does know what God said, and as a weak attempt to defend God’s character. Satan pushes back, of course, attacking God’s character as well as God’s word.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. -Genesis 3:4

Not only might God have spoken in a riddle, instead of plainly, and not only might you have misunderstood because you can’t understand, and not only is it possible something was lost in transmission, but you can’t trust God anyway.

There’s nothing more damaging to a relationship than a failure of trust.

What does Eve teach us?

First, that we need to learn what God said. This isn’t just about God’s commandments, but also his promises —we need to learn that we can trust God’s character, not just obey because we should obey.

Second, we need to trust what God says. Once we know God, we need to trust that his way is better than ours, his commandments aren’t radical but reasonable, and his truth is the real truth.

Christians often think about sin, avoiding sin, what sin does in their lives, etc. But we rarely think about the process of sin —how does temptation work? In this series of posts on reading Genesis 3:17 I’m going to talk about four different possible ways to see the process of Eve’s acceptance of Satan’s invitation to sin: obedience/disobedience, challenge to God, need/fulfillment, and the dialectic process.

17Jan

Genesis 3:1-7, The Process of Temptation (Part 1)

Eve was given a direct commandment, and she disobeyed it. Simple and straightforward. Or is it?

For instance, why shouldn’t they eat of this tree? The commandment seems so arbitrary, doesn’t it? If the commandment is truly arbitrary, then God can be painted as capricious, simply commanding things to test obedience. Does this fit our picture of God? It doesn’t fit mine. How can we resolve this?

Contrary to popular myth, the commandment about the tree wasn’t the only commandment God gave Adam.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” -Genesis 1:28

Somehow, eating the tree relates to the proper care and control of the Earth in some way —to put it in more modern terms, use and misuse of the resources God has given. The commandment is not arbitrary; God designed the Earth for a purpose (a final end), and he designed man to fit within the overall purpose in a particular way. These commandments can almost be described as an explanation of God’s purpose, and a path on which man must stay to make that end come about.

This is more than simple disobedience, it is a breaking of trust within a relationship. To put it in stronger terms, Eve’s sin wasn’t in eating some unknown fruit, it was in breaking a trusting relationship between creator and creature.

This puts an entirely new spin on the idea of obedience and disobedience, original sin, and the need for salvation.

Christians often think about sin, avoiding sin, what sin does in their lives, etc. But we rarely think about the process of sin —how does temptation work? In this series of posts on reading Genesis 3:17 I’m going to talk about four different possible ways to see the process of Eve’s acceptance of Satan’s invitation to sin: obedience/disobedience, challenge to God, need/fulfillment, and the dialectic process.

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