Friday, November 27, 2015

The Structure of Genesis


The word Genesis has become synonymous with beginnings. In Hebrew this book is called “Bereshith” meaning "in the beginning" because that’s how this book starts. It is generally believed that it was written by Moses, inspired by God, of course. The major themes of Genesis are beginnings and the self-revelation of God.  This is the book you read to find the stories of the creation, the fall and redemption of man, the story of Cain and Abel and then Cain and Seth, the great flood, the tower of Babel and the call of Abram (Abraham). There is the story of Lot and Sodom & Gomorrah, the lives of Isaac, Jacob and Esau and, finally, the story of Joseph
In Genesis we find that God makes several covenants with man: the Edenic Covenant (1:28), the Adamic Covenant (3:14), the Noahic Covenant (9:1), and the Abrahamic Covenant (15:18).
The first book of the Bible coordinates amazingly with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet: aleph. Verse 1 of Genesis says: “In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heaven and the earth.” The name Elohim starts with aleph, in fact many of God’s names start with this letter : El (God, Mighty One), El Shaddai (God Almighty), El Olam (God Everlasting), El Elyon (God Most High). Also many facets of God’s nature begin with this letter as well: love, light, truth, faith, Sovereign Lord. These are all Hebrew words that start with aleph.
Bear with me as I get a little deep here: When you write the three letters in Hebrew that spell “aleph” you get 3 different words - eleph which mean “ox” or “thousand”, alaph which means “teach”, “learn” or “tame”, and aluph which means “prince”, “chief”, “leader”, “master”, “ruler”, “guide” and “teacher”. The first one, eleph, may seem weird at first if you’re trying to relate the letters to Biblical symbolism. What has an ox to do with anything Biblical? Well, I'm going to tell you: An ox signified strength. It was the chief domesticated animal of the time and had to be “tamed”. That brings us to the second word, alaph, which means “tame” (as well as "teach" and "learn"). The last word, aluph (prince, leader, etc.), appears in Genesis 52 times, that’s 64% (!!!) of all the times it appears in the entire Bible. I think Genesis is showing us very clearly who our leader, master and guide is: God.
There are many words that begin with aleph besides God’s names, such as “one”, “love”, “light”, “truth” and “faith”. This are such important words to our beliefs that I suggest you pause a moment and think about why they would all begin with this first Hebrew letter.

Now think of the Ten Commandments (you can find the in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5). What’s the first one? No other gods before me! God is Number 1, the One and Only, the Eternal Omnipotent God. His first initial is the first Hebrew letter. Throughout Genesis we get a good picture of God as our Father: He keeps reaching out to man, provides new covenants, never gives up on us and blesses us. He is the Sovereign Ruler over all of His creation. 

Let’s start at the beginning. Read Genesis 1:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 
Now, what can you argue with there? We’ve got a beginning. We’ve got a Creator and we’ve got the creation. Science can (and does) present a number of “theories” and not one is in conflict with this first verse. (These theories do keep changing or getting updated, but the Bible stays constant.)
There are 5 major views about the 6 days of creation. One view, that there was a gap between verses 1 and 2, seeks to explain where to put the fall of Satan as well as how to fit in the time spans of dinosaurs. Thus, those who subscribe to this view believe that there was an original creation in verse one and then a re-creation in verse 2. However, Exodus 20:11 states clearly that God created the heavens, earth, sea and all within in 6 days. Does this negate the “gap” view?
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
The Talmud (a collection of ancient Jewish writings) says that the darkness was the absence of light. This is an important and deep understanding. Science can measure light, but can only measure darkness in terms of light, that is, the absence of light. Next God named day and night, then there was evening followed by morning and thus the first day. Day One. Time was created on Day One. The Hebrew words here for evening and morning are "erev" (disorder) and "boker" (orderly).  I think it’s important to see that here, with the creation of light, God brought order from disorder. Or, to “coordinate” with the scientists, cosmos from chaos.
Also note that God saw that the light was good.
 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault [an expanse] between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
I once heard a sermon explaining in very scientific terms how there was no rain on earth at first. Much like a moist terrarium the earth produced its flora naturally. The first mention of rain in the Bible is, of course, the great flood.
 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
Again God saw that it was good.
 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
Again God saw that it was good. Plants and trees and vegetation are good.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky [the heavens] to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
Finally, the sun and the moon and the stars. And God saw that it was good.
20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
Day 1 – light and dark, day and night
Day 2 – the sky between the waters above and below
Day 3 – dry land and vegetation
Day 4 – the sun, moon and stars
Day 5 –the sky and waters fill with birds and fish. And God saw that it was good.
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
    26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
   in the image of God he created them;
   male and female he created them.
    29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
    31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
 27 So God created mankind in his own image,
 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Day 6 – Wow, that was a big day. Animals first (and they were good) and finally man. And God gives man a job – to rule over all the other living creatures.
Man is created in God’s image. The Hebrew word here is “tselem” meaning shade, phantom, illusion, resemblance, representative figure. Think about that. This little word’s most celebrated use is right here in this first chapter of Genesis.
God created male and female. Later, in chapter 2, the account backtracks and gives the specifics of Adam and Eve’s creation, Adam from dust and Eve from his rib. But in chapter 1 we see that God blesses mankind and gives him food, animal and plant. Thus ends the sixth day of creation. But wait. This time God says, as he looks at all that he has created, that it was very good. Big day, big week.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

 And there you have the creation account. As I said before there are 5 views about the length of the days. I mentioned the “gap” view. There is also the intermittent day view which allows for eons of time between literal days. The pictorial day theory asserts that there were 6 days during which God told Moses about each part of creation. The day-age theory declares that each day was of indeterminate length, thus allowing for the age of the dinosaurs. The literal day premise maintains that each day was a literal 24 hour period. I believe God created the heavens and the earth. Done deal. But after further research I now see a perfect alliance between the Big Bang Theory and Creationism. I'll cover that next week.