Chapter summary. God exercises His creative power and, by merely speaking, brings the universe into being. He focuses His attention on Planet Earth, carefully shapes it to support life, and populates it with living creatures. Finally God creates humankind in His own image, and sets man to rule over His Creation. The chapter emphasizes the awesome power of our Creator, and yet reminds us that human beings are the clear focus of God's loving concern.
Yet God's revelation of Himself is the heart of this chapter. His majestic name is found no less than 32 times, usually the subject of some active verb. He speaks, makes, separates, sets the sun and stars in the heavens, and blesses. He demonstrates His trustworthiness in the regularity of day following night, and season succeeding season. He displays His love and unselfishness by sharing His likeness with human beings. In everything we are reminded that God is a Person—vastly intelligent, but also caring and warm. The Creation story, like Creation itself, reveals our God.
Key verse. 1:27: God affirms our significance.
Personal application. God has shared His own image with you.
Key concepts. Creation »p. 430. Dominion »p. 352. Trinity »p. 797. Image of God »p. 28. Holy Spirit »p. 73. Heavens »p. 437.
"In the beginning." The two-word Heb. phrase (reʾsit) occurs 51 times in the O. T., and indicates the launching of a series of events. God's creative acts set history in motion, and determined its flow toward an intended end. From the very beginning God has known, and indeed controls, the end (cf. Prov. 8:23; Isa. 41:4, 20, 26). What a reminder that God is sovereign. And what reassurance.
Creation myths. Ancient explanations of the universe ranged from the Mesopotamian claim that matter represents the corpse of a slain deity, Tiamat, to the Greek conviction that the physical universe preexisted the gods. Only Genesis exalts God above His Creation. And only Genesis gives human beings a central place in Creation, as persons made in God's image who are deeply loved by Him. Thus the biblical view of Creation has always been radical—and remains in direct conflict with the modern notion that everything is the product of chance evolution.
The creative "days." Sincere Christians hold differing views. Some hold each "day" represents a geologic era—a vast period of time. Some hold the days are symbolic, or are seven literal days Moses spent on Mt. Sinai (cf. Ex. 32:16), during which God showed Moses how He created all things. Still others assume seven literal days, separated by long ages, while yet another group argues for seven consecutive days.
There is no certain resolution of the conflict. But it may well miss the point. We must focus on the fact that God created, not on disputes over how long it took Him. Our world is no product of blind chance. A living Person lovingly, carefully designed all that is. We live in a personal rather than impersonal universe, and because of this, we have hope. God is! As we commit ourselves to Him, our emptiness will be filled, and we will find life's meaning.
"Be fruitful and increase." Christians have sometimes argued that Adam and Eve's fall was sexual: that they abandoned celibacy, and this was the "original sin." But Gen. 1:28 makes it clear that God intended a sinless Adam and Eve to have children and "increase in number." Human sexuality was invented by God Himself, and is intended as a gift. Within the framework of marriage (Gen. 2) sexual expression is a joyful affirmation of a couple's intimacy, and every pleasure is blessed by God Himself. Sex »p. 836.
"Very good." God evaluated each of the first five days' creative work and called it "good" (attractive, useful, desirable, morally right). The work of creating man is called "very good."
Chapter summary. God rests from His creative work (2:1-3), and the author returns to look in depth at the creation of mankind. This is not a second Creation account, but a close-up look at the most significant of God's works (vv. 4-7). Note how carefully God shapes Eden, to permit Adam to use those capacities of personhood the Lord shared with him, such as: a love of beauty (v. 9), delight in meaningful work (v. 15), moral responsibility (vv. 16-17), and even a capacity for invention (vv. 19-20). Yet despite these fulfilling gifts, Adam gradually realizes something is lacking, and so God makes Eve, a "suitable helper" for him (vv. 18, 20). God's method, taking a rib from Adam, teaches that man and woman share a common identity: they are equals, each fully participating in God's gift of His image and likeness (vv. 21-23). Yet they are different, so that a man and woman can bond together as husband and wife, and so meet each other's deepest needs for intimacy, lifelong commitment, and mutual support (vv. 24-25).
Key verse. 2:23: Woman shares fully in all that man is.
Personal application. What needs can be met only by the lifelong commitment God intended marriage to be?
Key concepts. Sabbath »p. 71. Marriage »p. 801. Shame »p. 356. Women »pp. 394, 723. Work »p. 28.
Eden. Eden lay somewhere along the Tigris/ Euphrates Rivers, possibly in the mountains of Armenia. In later Scriptures Eden stands for a "delightful place" (cf. Isa. 51:3; Ezek. 28:13; Joel 2:3).
Dust and breath. The Creation account reminds us that we human beings are spiritual as well as biological creatures. When God breathed life into Adam, He made him a spiritual being. Man is no animal, but is God's direct, special creation.
Adam/mankind. "Adam" is a Heb. word, the name of the first man, but also the Bible's term for humanity. Man alone was: (1) directly, personally shaped by the Lord and given breath by Him, Gen. 2:7, (2) created in God's image and likeness, 1:26-27 »p. 28, (3) granted the right to rule Creation as God's representative, 1:26, 28-30, (4) morally responsible to obey God's commands, 2:16-17, and (5) given a nature which requires intimate, lifelong relationships with others as well as with God. Thus persons have infinite worth and value.
Flesh. The Heb. term, basar, has a wide variety of meanings, ranging from the physical body, to the self, to all living creatures, to family relationships. Yet when used of human nature, "flesh" draws attention to our mortal life; the life we presently live in the material universe. Thus 2:24's affirmation that a married couple become "one flesh" implies more than sexual union. It indicates that God intends a husband and wife to share the joys and sorrows that life in this world holds. To be "one flesh" is to be bonded together in a loving, supportive union that not only lasts but becomes deeper and more significant as the years pass. See also »pp. 458, 743.
Marriage. The phrase "suitable helper" has often been misunderstood, and used to support a distorted view of marriage. Helper here is ʾezer, and means "a support," "a helper," or "an assistant." It does not imply subordination, for the same word is used to describe God as man's helper. The concept strongly supports equality of women. Only one who is "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh," and thus fully shares the human identity, could possibly meet anyone's deeper needs. In its original conception, then, marriage was the union of equals, each respecting as well as caring for the other, and each committed to be the other's helper.
Adam's rib. A lovely Jewish tradition notes that God did not take Eve from Adam's foot, lest he try to dominate her, or from his head, lest she see herself as above him. Instead God took Eve from Adam's rib, that the two might go through life side by side.
Chapter summary. The innocence and harmony of original Creation are shattered when Adam and Eve choose to disobey God, with consequences that affect the entire human race. The story of the Fall is Scripture's explanation for the sin and evils that mar society, corrupt personal and international relationships, and doom us to biological and spiritual death. The chapter explores temptation (3:1-6), the impact of sin on relationship with God (vv. 7-12) and with other persons (vv. 12-13). It records God's devastating judgment on man and woman, and the impact of human sin on nature itself (vv. 14-20). Adam and Eve are exiled from Eden (vv. 21-24). But first God Himself provides them with coverings of skin: Scripture's first word of a forgiveness won through the shedding of blood (v. 21).
Key verse. 3:10: Sin alienates us from God and His love.
Personal application. Sin does have consequences. Only by fleeing to God rather than from Him can we find help.
Key concepts. Curse »p. 138. Death »p. 741. Sacrifice »pp. 78, 862. Satan »pp. 501, 655. Temptation »pp. 655, 871.
Temptation. Satan's devious enticement of Eve reminds us that we cannot be forced to sin. But we are vulnerable to temptation. Satan first misrepresented God's word (3:1; cf. 2:16-17), then directly denied it (3:4), and finally questioned God's motives (v. 5). Her confidence in God thus undermined, Eve relied on what seemed pleasurable to her physical senses, and what seemed desirable to her human understanding (v. 6)—and sinned. To overcome temptation we need to know God's Word accurately, trust His judgment completely, and obey in the full assurance that what God chooses for us is both right and best.
Know. The fruit forbidden Adam and Eve is on the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (v. 17). The Heb. word here, yadaʾ, suggests a wide range of ideas. But basic to them is both the capacity to make distinctions and to experience. As long as Adam and Eve "knew" only good, they remained innocent, choosing and experiencing only what was right in God's sight. They did not even see opportunities to do wrong! The Fall introduced the capacity to see evil choices as well as good ones, and with it the desire to try both! How urgently you and I today need to know good. But not to know evil.
"I was afraid" (3:10). How stunning this reaction of Adam's is. He has walked and talked with God. He has known God's love in a deeply personal way. Yet now, aware of his guilt, Adam runs from God and tries to hide. Adam's reaction helps us understand our own sense of alienation from God when we sin.But God's search for Adam and Eve reminds us that, even when we sin, God does not abandon us. He continues to care. We need to remember this, and when we fall, we need to hurry to Him rather than run away.
"She gave me" (3:12). It's so hard to take responsibility for our own acts. Adam tries to blame God, who put the woman there, and Eve, who gave him the fruit. And Eve tries to blame the serpent (v. 13). Sin not only alienated Adam from God: it introduced hostility into his relationship with Eve as well! The only way we can keep our relationship with God and others pure is to accept responsibility for our sins and failures, and rely on forgiving love to heal the damage done.
"Pains in childbearing" (3:16). Some take this to refer to the introduction of a monthly, rather than a more widely spaced, menstrual cycle.
"He will rule" (3:16). Male dominance in the family is a consequence of sin. Why perpetuate it in the Christian home? »p. 801.
Expelled from Eden (3:21-24). Banishment from Eden was not punishment. It was for Adam's and Eve's benefit. How terrible if they had been forced to live forever (v. 22), and see the anguish and suffering their sin brought on their descendants! Biological death is in fact a gift of grace. In the resurrection we will shed the stain of sin that keeps us company here, and know the full extent of the redeeming love of God.