Scripture: Genesis 1-8
Significant Moments in The Story
Creation – Genesis 1 & 2
The Fall of Humanity – Genesis 3
Noah & The Great Flood – Genesis 6:5 – Genesis 8
An Introduction to God
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,” – Genesis 1:1
The main character of Scripture is God. From the very first words until the end of the Biblical narrative, we are reading a revelation of the God who created the universe and all life. In these first chapters of Genesis, we see God’s power (he can create life simply by speaking), God’s love (every part of creation is “good”; creation is not a series of completed tasks but a source of joy), and that God has a plan and purpose for His creation (Genesis 1:22, 28-30).
Where do we come from?
“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:26
The Creation story not only introduces us to God, but also answers one of the fundamental questions of existence – where do we come from? The creation story tells us that we are not the results of a cosmic accident, but a part of God’s design for His creation. What more, we were created to have a purpose. We are not just background or filler in the picture; we have an important role to play in how God’s creation operates.
The problem of sin
The first 8 chapters of Genesis reveal the fundamental causes and effects of sin. Sin is when creation acts in a way counter to God’s intended purpose. Sin is when humanity decides they do not need God, they can be their own gods. As a result, relationships throughout creation are disrupted. Rather than fellowship with God, humanity chooses to hide from God. Rather than act as helpers to one another, humanity passes blame to one another. God created everything with a purpose, but sin seeks to undermine God’s good purposes.
How will God respond to sin?
“And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. As long as earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.'” – Genesis 8:21-22
The good news of the first 8 chapters of Genesis is that God is not passive or uncaring about the problem of sin in creation. He is not the watchmaker who wound everything up and then just lets it go. God is actively involved in trying to solve the problem(s) of sin in creation. By removing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and limiting their life span, God limits sin’s impact. The flood represents God’s attempt to wipe the slate clean and start over with Noah, who has proved himself righteous. However, at the end of the flood story, God says that destruction is not the answer to the problem of sin.
The image of God – Genesis 1:26-27
This is drawing on an ancient idea where a representative of a king was known as the king’s “image”. This representative was sent forth by the king to act with authority delegated by the king. Perhaps one of the issues that leads to the fall of humanity is that humanity seeks to act not as those who have received authority from another but as those who possess authority inherently.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil – Genesis 2:9
In Hebrew, “to know” is not just a matter of the mind. Knowledge included the ability to do. Thus, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents the knowledge and the ability to do anything and everything, right or wrong. Interesting enough, the only thing that Adam and Eve were forbidden from doing was eating of the fruit of this tree. However, they choose to make God and his commands unnecessary by eating of the tree so that they can do whatever they want.
The serpent’s temptations – Genesis 3
First off, it should be noted that the idea that the serpent is an embodiment of Satan is not found in the Genesis story. The connection between Satan and the serpent is more indirect based on other biblical passages, primarily Revelation 12:9 – “The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” Genesis 3 simply describes the serpent as “more crafty” than any of the other animals.
It is interesting to note the three temptations that the serpent brings to Adam and Eve:
- Is God trying to deprive you of something that you need or desire? (Genesis 3:1). Notice that Eve’s response in 3:2 is actually stricter than God’s original commandment. God never said anything about not touching the tree.
- God does not really mean what He says. (Genesis 3:4)
- We can do whatever we want. God is just a jealous and insecure dictator. (Genesis 3:5)
Some questions that might come up
Who is God talking to in Genesis 1:26 when he says, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness”?
Passages such as 1 Kings 22:19 indicates an idea of a heavenly court. Many interpreters believe that God is addressing this court in Genesis 1:26. Others over the centuries have speculated that this a hint of the idea that would become our belief of God as the Trinity – one God, three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). What does seem pivotal is the importance of relationship from the very beginning of our story with God. Relationship is a significant part of understanding who God is, and God invites others to be a part of His work.
Why does chapter 1 describe the animals as being created before humanity but chapter 2 describes man being created, then animals, and then woman?
Genesis 1 & 2 have long been held up as a prime example of what scholars call “the documentary hypothesis”. In short, the “documentary hypothesis” states that many of the books of the Old Testament, especially the first five, were not the work of one author but were instead compilations of several different traditions that had been passed from generation to generation orally. Evidence to support such a view cites the different order of creation in chapter 1 and chapter 2 as well as the consistent use of different names for God in each of the chapters (chapter 1 consistently uses the Hebrew word Elohim, “God”, while chapter 2 consistently uses the Hebrew word Yahweh, “LORD God”). At some point, these various oral traditions were compiled and written down to create the book of Genesis. Rather than choose one over the other, the author of Genesis kept both traditions side by side.
While some form of the “documentary hypothesis” is claimed by a large number of biblical scholars, there are those who dispute its claims. However, most scholars at least agree that Genesis 1 and 2 tell stories of creation from different perspectives. Genesis 1 seems to focus on God’s majesty and power, while chapter 2 seems to focus on God’s immediacy and intimacy with His creation.
Was it seven literal 24-hour days?
The truth is, we don’t know. Arguments have been made on every side of this issue. While these issues are certainly interesting and of value to discuss, we should not miss the bigger issue, which is why the Creation story was told in the first place: to introduce us to God and to explain why the world is as it is.
What does the phrase “stiff-necked people” mean?
A “stiff-necked people” is a phrase used to describe a people who are rebellious or unwilling to change their ways. The phrase originated out of an agricultural world view. An ox might stiffen its neck when it was resisting changing direction or turn a shoulder away to resist being yoked by a farmer. The reference to “a stiff-necked people” was a reference to a people who were rebellious towards God or who were unwilling to learn His ways or change their ways.