Sunday, February 27, 2005


I must correct the previous post. There is no emphasized "am" in Jesus' words nor in the original from Exodus 3. Rather the emphasis may be on God: I, the GOD of Abraham. The implication being that the dead cannot praise God, the shades do not lift up their voices to sing as we learn in Isaiah. Anyway this is the hypothesis. I feel that I don't completely understand.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Genesis 3: Grace

Though the punishment for eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is death, Adam and Eve are not struck down. Interestingly, the serpent is correct in his assesment of God, "you are not going to die." Or as Jonah says mournfully (seeing that Ninevah the archenemy of Israel is likely NOT going to be destroyed) "I knew you were a God merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in grace!" That grace is already at work here in Genesis, prolonging Adam's life for 930 years. Adam must recognize it too even as God speaks his judgment, he must realize that the judgment means not death but a "life," that he and the woman are not going to keel over on the spot, but become farmers, and his wife will bear children. In recognition of this grace and pardon, Adam names his wife, Eve, for he sees that instead of death, she will be "the mother of all living." And yet, I think that there is something more going on here than Adam recognizing that he has been given something of a reprieve. It is that, "something of a reprieve," not full pardon, not life everlasting in the garden doing good work and being taught by God. Things were not supposed to go this way. Adam and Eve were not supposed to die. They were not supposed to have bitterly hard labor. The last words in God's judgment are "you are dust and to dust you shall return," what a terrible defeat for Adam and Eve! What a terrible defeat for mankind! Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, they all die! The history of death in the Old Testament, as one after the other of God's friends die, is the biggest bummer ever! All this makes Adam's next words deeply surprising. The words "dust to dust" still ringing in Adam's ears, he does not name his wife "Mother of dust" or "Woman who did me wrong." No, he names her mother of all living. Does Adam know something? Is he a prophet? He must be because in Jesus Anointed (Christ) his words come true. Doesn't King Hezekiah make a similar prophecy under similar circumstances in Isaiah 26? Seeing the uselessness and vanity of Israel, "we brought forth wind...we have wrought no deliverance in the earth" Hezekiah predicts life from the dead for his people, for himself, "thy dead shall live, my dead body shall arise." All of this comes true in Hezekiah's descendent, King Jesus whose dead body did arise and who brings about our resurrection. In other words, Hezekiah was right, Adam was right about God, God is the god of the living. As Jesus teaches, "as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I AM the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead but of the living." (Matthew 22:31ff, citing Exodus 3:6)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Genesis 3: Because You Have Done This

Throughout the Bible, God makes the punishment fit the crime. When the Israelites are disheartened, refusing to enter the Promised Land and enraged against Moses and Aaron they say, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt. Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why does the Lord bring us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?" Because of Israel's fit of cowardice, their forgetfulness of the what God has done for them, God says that the Israelites will wander for 40 years in the wilderness while the children whom they said would be "prey" will enter the land and conquer it.

We see this same sort of geometry in God's judgment on the serpent, Eve and Adam. The serpent acted as an enemy to Eve in tempting her to do this thing, so the serpent will be an enemy to her and to her children in the future. (In Revelation we see this motif appear again when the dragon, a great serpent, seeks to swallow up the child of a woman. The woman perhaps standing for Jerusalem...) Now let's look at Eve. Her "desire will be for her husband." When she ate the fruit she did not keep it for herself but shared it with Adam. In other words in her disobedience she was looking for a collaborator. She was not free and independent and bold but sought the approval of her husband. So God's judgment on her is that she will continue to seek Adam's approval "and he will rule over you." Adam's judgment is harder for me to understand. The ground is cursed because of Adam's sin. Is this because he turned his back on all the good growing things of the garden and takes what is forbidden instead? Is the idea that since Adam turned his back on the good earth of Eden and all its blessings, the good earth will respond in kind, turning its back, that is, denying, Adam its fruit, "thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread"?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Question and Polemic

In "The Torah: A Modern Commentary," we read the following note to Genesis 3:3, " Eve said to the serpent that she was not even allowed to touch the fruit, although this was a not part of the original prohibition. The Rabbis consider this (and any) embroidery of the truth to be the opening wedge of sin." (pg 41).
My question is what is the difference between Eve's "embroidery" and what is known as "fencing the Torah?" Could it be that some of the Rabbis are a wee bit too hard on Eve--"Thank God I was not created a woman" and all that... a foolish prayer indeed if there ever was one.

What if Eve is simply the first theologian?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Genesis 3: The Serpent

"And the serpent was cunning above every beast in the field"

Later in the Bible at 2 Samuel 13 we read of the "very wise" Jonadab. Amnon the son of King David loves his half sister Tamar. He despairs of her but his cousin Jonadab advises him, "Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And your father will come and see you and you shall say to him, 'Please let my sister Tamar come in and give me food to eat, and she shall make food before my eyes so that I may see and may eat from her hand.'" So ends the advice of Jonadab but it is enough. It leads to the rape of Tamar, her subsequent bereavment and desolation, and the revenge of Absolom against his brother Amnon. As Amnon is about to force Tamar, she tries desperately to reason with him, "No, my brother do not humble me, for it is not done so in Israel. Do not do this foolishness. And I, where should cause I my disgrace to go? And you, you will be as one of the fools in Israel. Please speak to the king for he will not withold me from you." But Amnon is not willing to listen and forces her. We read then, "And Amnon hated her with a very great hatred and the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he loved her."

Jonadab's advice is truly good advice. Amnon wants Tamar and this is the quickest way to get her. But Tamar speaks the truth when she says that Amnon will be as one of the fools in Israel. He could have asked his father to give him his half sister in marriage but no. Amnon in his borrowed wisdom is an utter fool whose end is death at the hand of his own brother Absolom and hatred for the woman he loved so much.

It seems to me that the serpent is something like Jonadab. The serpent is wise, his advice is sound. The tree DOES make Adam and Eve as God, knowing good and evil. The serpent points out the quickest path to the desired result, just like Jonadab. And yet following the serpent, Eve and then Adam become fools. They hide from their friend, the Lord. They know they are naked but casting about they are only able to cover themselves with just about the worst kind of covering, leaves. Had they obeyed God he would have taught them good and evil himself and in the best kind of way (see note below). The kind of knowledge that they have acquired will only torture them. God sends them out from the garden of Eden because he knows that in the Garden they could live forever, and be tortured forever by their ill-gotten knowledge. He sets a cherubim at the tree of life to guard it for just this reason. Amnon too is only tortured by his ill-gotten "knowledge" of Tamar, hating her afterwards with a hatred greater than the love he once bore her. He is slain in the end, just as Adam and Eve in the end must succumb to death. God sustains them in his grace for a long long time but in the end they return to the dust, a thing God never wanted for his children.

God's commandment to Adam looks almost foolish, simple besides the wisdom of the snake. His gift of marriage seems old-fashioned and quaint. Why take the long way when you get there by a short cut? And yet, God's foolishness, as Paul said, is wiser than the wisdom of men.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Genesis 2: Ishah, Woman

"Then God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man; and while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs and closed up the place from which he took it with flesh. And the Lord God made the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman and he brought her to the man. Then the man said: 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called Woman for from Man she was taken.'"
Take it from me and a lot of other people, it is painful to have an operation even when they put you under. An operation is an operation. Adam suffered. But after this painful experience Adam comes nearer to praising God than he ever has. Let's look back over chapter 2, Adam did not praise the beautiful garden that God had made for him, he did not comment on the variety of plants, he did not start in wonder when he saw the giraffe, he did not praise God for the elephant, he did remark on how cute the wee mousies were ala Robbie Burns, but when he saw the woman, then a song of praise and thanks came out of his mouth for the first time.

Israel was in pain during their bondage in Egypt, for four hundred years that were in Egypt. But when they came out of that bondage when they saw the bodies of the dead Egyptians wash up on shore, they believed in God and in his servant Moses, and then their belief blossomed into song, "I will sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation."

Some ask, "Would it have been better if God had just created Eve from the dust with no operation and no pain?" No, because Adam would not have had joy then, he would not have given thanks. Some say,"It would have been better if Israel had not suffered for four hundred years. Why couldn't God just transport them on a magic carpet to the promised land?" Had this happened Israel would never have believed, Israel would never have sung out in joy.

Some ask, "Why did Anointed Jesus, God's only begotten son have to die on a cross? Why couldn't he have just said the word and we would have been saved?" This is not how God works as we see from the very beginning. Through his own suffering and pain, the Lord now brings belief, eternal joy, life, righteousness, "all things excellent", to Israel and to all the nations, "for God so loved the world."

Genesis 2: Tree Control

Notice that God does not put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil out of Adam's reach. He does not put it seven feet up in the air, he does not put barbed wire around it, or install an alarm system. From the first he puts trust in his son Adam. He doesn't treat Adam like he's a disobedient fool but a beloved son. Have you heard those who believe in"gun-control"? I know this much, God says no to "tree-control."

Genesis 2: Two Trees

The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Notice that God does not forbid Adam to eat of the tree of life. The idea was that when Adam had any pain or disease he would eat of the tree. Picture how it would have been. One day Adam feels arthritis coming on in his joints, he simply strolls to the middle of the garden and eats some of the fruit and the pain goes away. But Adam is not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. This is because God wants to tell Adam all about what is good and what is bad. As Adam and God walked in the garden God would tell Adam that it is good to tell the truth, bad to lie, it is good to brush one's teeth, but it is bad to brush too hard, things like that. One day on one of their walks God would gently break it to Adam that he is naked, "oh look here son, a nice toga for you to wear, why not try it on? God wants to slowly, gently educate Adam in all these things and more, God does not want it all to break in on Adam suddenly. And so when Adam and Eve eat of this fruit, it is all too much, shocking and hurtful. They realize they are naked and are ashamed. God did not want them to be ashamed, but happy. As happy as a child who is gently dressed and taught and helped.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Genesis 2:4ff

I think that it was interesting that God created man (Adam) BEFORE he made the garden to put him in. My father once asked in order to illustrate this point, "Did God put Adam on a shelf while he planted the garden?" But you know I am glad that God created man first of all, not setting it all up and then creating man. It shows that Adam was first on God's priority list, first in his heart. Maybe I'm being sentimental here but I like that God doesn't seem to be a kind of Martha Stewart (though I love you Martha!) planning everything out ahead of time, superorganization, micromanaging and all that. Is God is laid back in a way that the subtle serpent is not?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Genesis 2: The Sabbath Day

We read that after all his work, God rests on the seventh day. It is interesting that there is no evidence that God ever took another day off. He is a workin' man. Later he will command the people of Israel to honor the sabbath day and keep it holy, doing no labor on that day but resting. In other words, God is saying to Israel, his "first born" child, "Relax son!" "I will handle this." We see that in the New Testament, Jesus is the very embodiment of this command. Jesus is Israel's (and the nations') sabbath, "come to me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Jesus is the living embodiment of that hymn that goes "It is finished, the battle is over, there will be no more war...I have heard he has fought all my battles for me." The word to us today is the same as it was then, "Relax son!" only now it is even more glorious.