Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Churchology Poster: Genesis

I’m reading through the Bible book by book, with a specific focus on how the Bible describes God. It’s easy to make knee-jerk assumptions about God when reading selected passages of the Bible. I’m curious to see what a total package, cover-to-cover view of God looks like. I want to see all of his attributes combined into one big fat list. What I’m going to do is read each book and summarize God’s actions throughout it. Once I’ve completed that, I’ll go back and write up my thoughts, questions, insights on how the content of each book add up to a total picture of the Bible’s God.

The Biblical narrative starts off with God making the cosmos. God methodically creates everything with the end results being a “good” world populated by “good” creatures. When God gets to man, he creates the human race differently from everything else. Man is symbolically formed in “God’s image” and is set apart as being more important than the rest of creation. God makes other symbolic gestures in the creative process. Genesis says that God rested on the 7th day as an example for man to follow—a six day work week with a seventh day of rest. God’s formation of Eve out of Adam’s rib is also symbolic of the marriage relationship that God later establishes.

Once creation is completed, God explicitly communicates to humanity in the primordial world. He instructs Adam and Eve to rule the world, to name the animal kingdom, to tend the garden in which they live, and to have lots of children. God then presents humanity with a loyalty test. He has mankind purposefully choose to either obey or disobey him through the use of free will. God warns that if man chooses to know good and evil, death will enter the world. Adam and Eve eventually chose to disobey. God judges them for their actions. He curses the animal kingdom, childbirth, and the growing of crops. He then kills an animal to clothe Adam and Eve. It doesn’t spell it out in scripture, but from that point on, God apparently instructed Adam to practice animal sacrifice during the act of worship. God also symbolically states that a “snake-bit” descendent of Adam’s will crush the head of the snake that bit him, i.e. one of Adam’s descendant’s will overcome sin’s curse of death in the future.

Cain and Able
Following this, we get an account of God responding to sacrificial offerings from Adam’s sons, Cain and Abel. Abel offers a sacrifice that is accepted by God and Cain offers one that isn’t accepted. It looks like Cain’s sacrifice is rejected because it doesn’t follow God’s instructions. God’s sacrificial system was meant to teach man that we can only be forgiven of our sins through the substitutionary death of an innocent being. Cain’s sacrifice usurped the sacrificial symbol with a works based symbol, which is anathema to God. God confronts Cain and Cain murders Able out of anger. God confronts Cain a second time and punishes him by removing his ability to successfully grow crops. Because of this, Cain is forced to become a nomad for the rest of his life. Cain complains that God’s punishment is too drastic and also states his fear that he’ll be murdered out of revenge.  God places a protective mark on Cain and pronounces a curse on anyone who attempts to physically harm him.

The prodigy of Adam then populate the world and grow more and more “wicked” in the eyes of God.  God allows this to continue until every “imagination of mankind becomes only evil continually". At this point, God has had enough of humanity’s evil and decides to hit the reset button. He preserves Noah and his family, who are the only god-fearing people left in a corrupt civilization, and destroys the world in a global cataclysm. Afterwards, God makes a legal covenant with Noah that he will never again destroy the world with a global flood. He tells Noah to repopulate the world, to practice capital punishment for murder, and (oddly enough) to abstain from eating bloody meat. God also says that he’s going to limit the lifespan of human beings because “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”.

Civilization rebuilds. This time, civilization doesn’t spread out; it stays unified in a single people group. God sees this as a bad thing. I’m not entirely sure why, possibly because a unified world would lead to people becoming corrupt faster and to greater extremes. My assumption is that if mankind remained unified, the world would rapidly fall into total depravity like it did before the flood. God says that if mankind remains unified, the race will be limitless. God creates a language barrier that causes civilization to disband and migrate. 

After Babel  God sets out to build the family line that will eventually become the nation of Israel. He chooses a god-fearing man named Abram to be the progenitor of the Jewish nation. God tells Abram to leave his hometown and to travel to a geographic location that will one day become the home of the Israel. During Abram's travels, God enters into a legally binding agreement (i.e. covenant) with Abram. God has Abram act out a legal procedure practiced by the people of that time period which places God under the penalty of death if he doesn’t fulfill his part of the agreement. God says that he will bless Abram with wealth, land ownership, and a massive brood of children (one of whom will bless the entire world). God makes it explicitly clear that Abram will have a naturally-birthed child with his wife Sarah that will kick off his family lineage. God changes Abram's name to Abraham to signify that he'll be the father of an expansive nation. God also reveals that the Abraham’s offspring will be enslaved in Egypt in the future, but that they will eventually be freed, be blessed with wealth, and will be returned to the land once “the iniquity of the Amorites is full”. God also pronounces a blessing and a curse. Whoever will show kindness to Abraham and the Jews will be blessed by God, but whoever antagonizes the Jews will be antagonized by God.  

Despite God’s covenant, Abraham remains childless for decades. His childlessness causes him to doubt Gods promise, but God constantly reaffirms his promise to Abraham.  On several occasions, God even has to circumvent situations that Abraham puts himself into that threaten the fulfillment of God’s promise. Eventually, after it seems utterly impossible for Abram's wife to have a natural childbirth, God gives them a son named Issac. After Issac’s birth, Abraham's family grows rapidly. 

God then tests Abraham’s faith again, this time by telling him to do the unspeakable, sacrifice his son. Abraham attempts to obey, but God stays his hand and says that since he was willing to give up his son, God will extend his promises of material blessing from Abraham to Issac. God commands that Abraham and his family practice male circumcision as an outward display of their participation in God’s covenant with Abraham.

Issac and Jacob
Once Abraham passes from the scene, God tells Issac he will bless him because of Abraham’s obedience and faith. Issac has two sons, Jacob and Essau. Of the two sons, Jacob is chosen by God to receive the family blessing and to continue the family bloodline, while Essau rejects the family faith and is excluded from the line. During Jacob’s life, God appears to him in both dreams and in physical manifestations, each time reiterating his covenant with Abraham and extending it to Jacob. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel (and gives him a wrestling war-wound) to signify his participation in God’s divine blessing. Jacob’s sons become the foundation of what will become the twelve tribes of Israel.

Joseph and Egypt
Once Jacob’s twelve sons have matured, God communicates to Jacob’s youngest son, Joseph. Joseph experiences prophetic visions that he shares with his brothers. Joseph’s descriptions of his visions are so obnoxious, that his brothers sell him into slavery to shut him up. Joseph’s heavenly visions continue even when he gets condemned to prison on trumpted-up rape charges. Eventually, his circumstances improve when he is dragged from jail to appear before Egypt’s Pharaoh. Pharaoh is plagued by dreams which warn of a coming famine that will devastate all the countries surrounding Egypt. Pharaoh makes Joseph his second in command to prepare the country for the coming famine. Joseph prepares Egypt so well, that Egypt becomes the Middle East’s Famine Relief Center. Joseph is eventually reunited with his family and he relocates his relatives to Egypt, where they are treated like royalty due to their association with Joseph.

After the Israelites relocate to Egypt,  Joseph’s father gives a death-bed prophecy. God gives Jacob prophetic knowledge of what will happen to his children and their tribes after his death. Some of their tribes are punished for sins their father’s committed. The family of Judah is specifically singled out as being the family line that will birth kings.

The book ends with the Jewish people living in prosperity in Egypt where they will grow in such numbers that they threaten to overtake the indigenous Egyptian population. In the book of Exodus, their growth will be so massive, that the political leaders take drastic measures to curb their expansion.

No comments:

Post a Comment