The Right Man for the Task

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. Genesis 6:9-22 ESV

Despite the seemingly detailed genealogy found in chapter five, it is impossible to know exactly how much time had elapsed before God made the determination to destroy mankind. At least six generations had transpired, leaving a legacy of moral corruption and spiritual degradation. God’s assessment of mankind’s condition was not flattering or hopeful.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5 ESV

The problem was pervasive and it permeated to the very core of man’s existence. Far more than just a behavioral problem, the wickedness of humanity emanated from the heart. This was not a case of good people occasionally doing bad things. It was a pandemic of wickedness that flowed directly from the rebellious hearts of those whom God had created. And the prophet Jeremiah provides God’s further assessment of the fallen state of the human heart.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?
But I, the Lord, search all hearts
    and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
    according to what their actions deserve.” – Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT

As God surveyed the state of affairs on earth, He discovered one man whose life found favor in His eyes. But this revelation did not come as a shock to God. He was not surprised or relieved by Noah’s seemingly inexplicable existence. In the midst of all decadence, immorality, and unrestrained evil, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation” (Genesis 6:9 ESV). And God had sovereignly ordained Noah’s existence. From before the foundation of the world, God had a plan in place that included Noah’s birth, his faithful life, and his role as the future “savior” of mankind. Even Lamech, Noah’s father, had somehow understood that his infant son was destined to be some kind of deliverer who would rescue humanity from the curse. At his son’s birth, Lamech offered up a prayer of hopeful anticipation.

“May he bring us relief from our work and the painful labor of farming this ground that the Lord has cursed.” – Genesis 5:29 NLT

Noah was an anomaly. He was an alien and stranger who stood out from the rest of humanity. In reality, he was the sole image-bearer of God. In fact, Moses compared Noah to another godly man when he declared that “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9 ESV). Noah was cut from the same cloth as Enoch (Genesis 5:22). In Enoch’s case, he had lived his life in faithful obedience to God and, as a reward for a life well-lived, God graciously transported him from earth to heaven.

Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him. – Genesis 5:23-24 NLT

But God had other plans for Noah. This righteous and blameless man had a divine assignment to fulfill. Because of His justice and holiness, God was obligated to punish wickedness. But because of His infinite love and mercy, God had a plan in place that would allow Him to redeem and rescue a remnant of humanity.

In some sense, Noah was an aberration, a departure from the norm. But in reality, he was a reflection of what God had always intended for mankind. Despite Moses’ description of him as “blameless,” Noah was not a sinless or perfect man. He too suffered from the effects of the fall. Like every other human being, Noah had inherited a sinful nature from Adam.

just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – Romans 5:12 ESV

Noah’s blamelessness refers to his wholeness. The Hebrew word is תָּמִים (tāmîm) and it means “complete, whole, entire, sound.” It has to do with integrity. Noah was not duplicitous or deceitful. He refused to live a compartmentalized life, attempting to hide things from God or displaying a false outer piety that camouflaged an impure heart.

Yes, because Noah was a descendant of Adam, he was a sinner just like all his peers. But despite his sinful disposition, Noah was able to maintain a vibrant relationship with God. He lived His life in keeping with the will of God, refusing to follow the example of his friends and neighbors. While “everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil” (Genesis 6:5 NLT), Noah’s mind and heart were fixed on God. According to Moses, Noah was “the only blameless person living on earth at the time” (Genesis 6:9 NLT). And it will become increasingly clear just how willing Noah was to obey God – at any cost.

The situation was dire. The moral state of mankind had reached an all-time low. And their sinfulness had infected the entire creative order.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. – Genesis 6:11-12 ESV

God assessed His creation as having been ruined by mankind’s sinfulness. The Hebrew word, שָׁחַת (šāḥaṯ), can mean “spoiled, ruined, corrupted, or rotted.” The pervasive presence of wickedness, particularly in the form of “violence,” had permanently damaged what God had made. Mankind had un-made God’s beautiful creation. This Hebrew word is the same one used by the prophet Jeremiah when referring to a loincloth that God had commanded him to bury then later retrieve. He writes:

Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled (šāḥaṯ); it was good for nothing. – Jeremiah 13:7 ESV

That is exactly how God viewed the earth. It had been ruined or spoiled by the damaging effects of sin. Humanity had been given the divine mandate to “fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). But rather than steward and care for God’s creation, mankind had contaminated and condemned it. To the point that it was “good for nothing.”

So, God divulged His plan to Noah.

“I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” – Genesis 6:13 ESV

But God followed up this less-than-happy news with the rest of His plan. He let Noah in on the role he would play in the redemption of creation. And this information must have left Noah’s head spinning. He was given very detailed instructions by God for the construction of an ark or large boat. And Noah is informed that first-of-its-kind vessel will become the key to God’s redemption of creation. And as if that wasn’t enough pressure for Noah to bear, God sealed the entire agreement with a legal contract.

“I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you.” – Genesis 6:18-19 ESV

But this covenant was not the terms of an agreement between God and Noah. God was not obligating Noah to uphold his end of the contract. This was a divine statement of promise, whereby God was guaranteeing to deliver Noah, his family, and all flesh from judgment. They would be graciously and miraculously spared.

All Noah had to do was believe and obey. His part was to build the ark and then to fill it with “two of every sort.” Not an easy task to be sure. But Noah’s construction of the ark was an act of faith, not a form of works. He didn’t earn his salvation. He received it as a gift from God. And the author of Hebrews makes this point quite clear.

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith. – Hebrews 11:7 NLT

And Moses confirms that Noah obeyed God.

So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him. – Genesis 6:22 NLT

God had promised salvation, and Noah believed Him. And Noah proved his belief through faithful adherence to God’s command. Despite the formidable nature of the assignment and the countless questions that must have filled his head, Noah did exactly what he was told to do. And in doing so, he proved himself to be the right man for the task. The man of God’s own choosing.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

A Costly Choice

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
    but he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:16-19 ESV

God cursed the serpent and, by extension, Satan, the one who had been behind the entire forbidden fruit incident. But now, He turns His attention to the two VIPs of His creation. Adam and Eve had been formed by the very hand of God and given the exclusive privilege of bearing His image. Not only that, they had been given the distinctive responsibility to act as God’s vice-regents, ruling over and caring for all that He had made. They were to have been stewards over the vast and diverse earthly domain God had created.

Eve had succumbed to the serpent’s temptation and eaten the fruit of the one tree God had decreed as off-limits. And it wasn’t so much the act of fruit consumption that got Eve in trouble. It was the motivation behind the act. When Eve heard the serpent promise that eating the fruit would not lead to death, she had believed him.

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. – Genesis 3:6 NLT

Eve was out to satiate a hunger that had nothing to do with food. She wanted to “be like God, knowing both good and evil” (Genesis 3:5 NLT). Eve’s brief exchange with the serpent had left her with a seemingly insatiable desire for sovereignty and autonomy. Eve didn’t suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. She wasn’t born with a forbidden fruit fetish. No, she had an authority problem. She wanted to be in control. And it seems that her mate shared her predisposition for independence and self-rule because he quickly joined her in eating the fruit. And, according to the book of James, they had no one to blame but themselves.

And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. – James 1:13-15 NLT

This raises a somewhat disconcerting question. Why did God place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden in the first place? It seems that, in so doing, God provided a form of “temptation” for Adam and Eve. It seems only logical that had the tree not been there in the first place, Eve would not have been tempted to eat of its fruit. But this is an overly simplistic deduction. According to the Westminister Confession of Faith, God had preordained the potential for sin because He had also preordained the solution to the problem it would cause.

Our first parents, begin seduced by the subtlety and temptations of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory. – Westminster Confession of Faith, 6:1

By placing the tree in the garden, God established a test, but not a temptation. Notice what the text states about the tree and its fruit.

…the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes… – Genesis 3:6 ESV

There was nothing inherently wrong with the quality of the fruit. It was not poisonous or potentially deadly. In fact, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they remained fully alive. Satan had been partially correct when he stated, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4 ESV). The tree and its fruit were not the problems. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not, in and of itself, evil. It was as holy and pure as any other tree that God had placed in the garden. But God had set it apart and declared it off-limits to Adam and Eve. He deemed one tree as forbidden. And that one tree would become a test of Adam and Eve’s obedience. Would they obey God’s command and refrain from eating the fruit of that one tree? God knew the answer to that question because He had already come up with the solution to the problem it would cause. As was revealed in God’s curse of the serpent, He had already pre-ordained the coming of the offspring who would eventually bruise the serpent’s head.

God had created the universe and all that it contained, and He had declared it all to be “very good.” Then He had placed Adam and Eve in that perfectly holy and sinless environment. Hermann Bavinck provides us with a somewhat head-scratching analysis of the situation in which Adam and Eve found themselves.

“The possibility of sinning is from God. The idea of sin was first conceived in his mind. God eternally conceived sin as his absolute polar opposite and thus, in that sense, included it in his decree, or else it would never have been able to arise and exist in reality. It was not Satan, nor Adam and Eve, who first conceived of the idea of sin; God himself as it were made it visible to their eyes. By means of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the probationary command, he clearly showed human beings the two roads they could take. And before the fall he even permitted an evil power from without to insinuate itself into Paradise, using the snake as its medium, and to discuss with Eve the meaning of the probationary command. There is therefore no doubt that God willed the possibility of sin.” – Hermann Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics

Notice his emphasis that God “willed the possibility of sin.”  God did not force Adam and Eve to eat the fruit. They made that decision on their own. God had provided them with more than enough food options to fulfill their daily nutritional requirements. But they wanted the one thing they were told they could not have. They made a choice. In choosing the forbidden fruit they were really choosing to doubt and disobey God. Their decision revealed their unwillingness to trust God and submit to His will for their lives.

God had created Adam and Eve with the capacity for reason and self-determination. They were not automatons, operating by pure animal instinct. Created in God’s image, they bore an intelligence unequaled by any other living creature. They could speak, discern, process information, and make rational decisions. In other words, they had the ability to choose what they would do. Built into the kingdom mandate God had given Adam and Eve was the possibility that they might decide to disobey it. He had commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. But they could have chosen to disobey that command. The rest of the creative order procreated according to instinct. The other living creatures lacked the God-given capacity to think for themselves.
They did as God had designed them to do. But Adam and Eve had been equipped with the God-ordained capacity to obey or disobey.

And because they had chosen to exercise their option to disobey, they were doomed to suffer the consequences. The painful lesson Adam and Eve learned that fateful day was that, as finite creatures, they were completely dependent upon God for their very existence. They owed Him their lives and they were reliant upon Him for all their needs. And yet, they had chosen autonomy over dependency – a decision that would cost them dearly.

God communicated His displeasure with Eve by explaining the “fruit” of her sin.

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
    and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
    but he will rule over you.” – Genesis 3:16 NLT

From this point forward, the woman would find obedience to God’s command to be fruitful and multiply marked by pain and suffering. And the complementary and co-equal relationship God had given her and Adam would be replaced by a competitive and sometimes combative spirit. With the introduction of sin, the “one flesh” nature of the husband and wife relationship would be difficult to maintain. Selfishness would replace the symbiosis God had originally planned for marriage.

But God saved His harshest words and strongest punishment for Adam. Because Adam had chosen to listen to his wife and eat of the fruit that God had forbidden, he would find his role as steward of God’s creation to become a burden rather than a blessing.

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
    whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
    All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. – Genesis 3:17 NLT

God had always intended for Adam to labor. Work was always intended to be a blessing, not a curse.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. – Genesis 2:15 ESV

But because Adam chose to disobey God, he would find His God-ordained mandate to be burdensome and back-breaking. God actually cursed the ground, causing it to sprout thorns and thistles. Planting would become difficult. Harvesting would be hit or miss. The ground would still provide the food man needed, but it would not release its bounty easily. God warned Adam:

“By the sweat of your brow
    will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
    from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
    and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:19 NLT

For the first time since God placed Adam in the garden, He reveals the invading presence of death. He had warned Adam that eating the fruit of the forbidden tree would result in death. But the fruit would not be the source of Adam’s demise. His body would now suffer the consequences of living in a fallen world where the ravages of time and toil would take their toll. Man, whom God had formed from the dust of the ground would return to from whence he came. The breath of life would be removed and his body would be returned to its original state.

This section of the creation narrative paints a bleak and sobering picture. And with it, Moses provides the backdrop for all that will follow. The rest of the book will detail the subsequent and far-reaching ramifications of that one fateful decision. Sin had entered the world and its influence would be felt for generations to come.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

A Match Made In Heaven

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:18-25 ESV

During each phase of the creation process, God had repeatedly declared His divine satisfaction with His handiwork.

And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:25 ESV

And after “God created man in his own image…male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 ESV), He “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV). The sixth day of creation ended with God’s resounding approval of all that He had made, including the first man and woman.

But in chapter two, Moses reveals that there was a moment in the creation story when God was not satisfied. He had formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). Then God had placed Adam in the garden He had created for him to live in and care for. Yet, while Adam bore God’s image, had been animated by God’s breath, and lived in an idyllic environment where He could enjoy God’s constant presence, there was something missing. God evaluated the situation and concluded, “It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:18 ESV). 

This should not be construed as a mistake on God’s part. It was not a case of divine oversight or a sudden revelation on God’s part that His creation was somehow flawed. As chapter one revealed, it had always been God’s plan to create man (‘āḏām) in His own image, and that image would include two genders: male and female. This biological diversity was absolutely necessary if ‘āḏām was going to obey God’s mandate to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV).

In chapter two, Moses is simply revealing the underlying purpose behind God’s delay in making the female version of ‘āḏām. Because God had endowed Adam with the ability to reason and the capacity to create, He assigned Adam the responsibility of naming every living creature He had made.

The Lord God formed out of the ground every living animal of the field and every bird of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them, and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. – Genesis 2:19 NLT

While the creatures had been formed out of the ground just as Adam had been, that is where their similarity ends. They lacked the ability to name themselves because they had no capacity for reasoning or speech. They were driven by their natural animal instincts. But Adam, who had been made in the image of God, was able to think, discern, create, and comprehend in ways that set him apart from every other living creature. That is why God had assigned to him the sole responsibility of subduing and having dominion over the rest of creation.

Adam’s God-ordained assignment to name the animals had a secondary purpose behind it. As he observed each species of creature, Adam realized that each of them had a corresponding mate. There was a male and a female. But Adam quickly noticed that there was no one who looked like him.

…but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found. – Genesis 2:20 NLT

It seems quite likely that as Adam carried out his creature-naming assignment, he observed some of them carrying out God’s divine mandate to procreate. Yet, he had no companion or female counterpart. God had already recognized this void in Adam’s life and had predetermined to remedy it.

“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” – Genesis 2:18 ESV

But it was important that Adam recognize his own insufficiency. He was not meant to be alone. So, as this lone male observed the natural state of God’s creation and saw that every other male creature had a female counterpart, he developed a growing awareness of his need and of his own inability to do anything about it. According to the NET Study Bible notes, Adam suddenly realized “there was not found a companion who corresponded to him.”

God had always intended for Adam to have a companion. But this “helper” was meant to be far more than a friend. She was to complement and complete Adam. Only as male and female could they successfully bear God’s image and spread His glory across the earth. Without Eve, Adam would have been unable to carry out God’s Kingdom mandate. He could not have multiplied and filled the earth. He would have been incapable of making more of his own kind. And as soon as Adam recognized his need, God stepped in to do something about it.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. – Genesis 2:21-22 ESV

God performed the first surgery. He anesthetized Adam, removed one of his ribs, then miraculously closed up the wound. In Hebrew, the word translated as “rib” is צֵלָע (ṣēlāʿ), and it can also be translated as “side.” It was used to refer to the ribs of a boat or the planks of a house. The imagery is meant to convey the woman’s intimate and interconnected relationship with Adam. God could have formed the woman out of the dust of the ground, just as He had done with Adam. But instead, God chose to make the woman from man. Unlike any other “companions” in God’s creation, the man and the woman would share a unique and irrevocable bond.

“. . . the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” – Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible

They were the same, but very different. Adam was זָכָר (zāḵār) – a male. Eve was נְקֵבָה (nᵊqēḇâ) – a female. The Hebrew word for “female” is derived from another word, which means “to pierce.” It seems that Eve’s designation as a female has biological implications that demonstrate the complementary nature of her relationship with Adam. But while all the living creatures were given the ability to copulate and procreate, man and woman were to enjoy a relational intimacy that went far beyond the act of breeding and propagating their kind.

When Adam awoke from his divine surgical procedure, he was given his first glimpse of his new companion and he shouted, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23 ESV).

The Hebrew term הַפַּעַם (happaʿam) conveys a sense of extreme relief. It could be better translated, “now, finally, at last” (NET Bible study notes). During all the time he had spent naming the living creatures, Adam had grown increasingly more frustrated with his inability to find a mate. He knew something was wrong but had no way of fixing the problem. Yet, when Adam saw what God had done, he was blown away. And true to his original assignment, Adam immediately gave this striking creature a name, “Woman.”

The Hebrew word for “woman” is אִשָּׁה (‘iššâ), and, in the Old Testament, it is most often translated as “wife.” When spoken, this word sounds similar to the Hebrew word for “man” – אִישׁ (‘îš). It seems that Adam immediately recognized that this creature was meant for him. In a real sense, she was the answer to his prayers. And he knew that her link to him was more than simply biological – it was physiological. She came from him. She was “flesh of his flesh” (Genesis 2:23 ESV). They shared a unique and inseparable bond that was unmistakable and undeniable. Adam knew that they were meant for one another. Nothing else would do.

And Moses provides a summary statement to underscore the unique nature of the relationship between a man and a woman that would later manifest itself in the marriage union.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24 ESV

Moses recognized the long-term implications of this first union between a man and a woman. It was far more than a sexual relationship. At this point in the story, Adam and Eve had not had time to consummate their union. The term “one flesh” speaks to their “blood” relationship. They literally shared the same “flesh and bone.” And Moses understood that this unique relationship shared by the first man and his wife was to be a model for all future couples. From that point forward, Adam and Eve were considered as one in God’s eyes. Their divine union was to be inseparable and indissoluble.

Jesus would refer to this very moment in time when giving His insights regarding marriage and divorce.

“…from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” – Mark 10:6-9 ESV

God had made Eve from Adam. And God had returned to Adam what He had taken from him. According to God’s divine mathematical formula, these two individuals were no longer two but one. And Moses accentuates the “very good” nature of this God-ordained union.

And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. – Genesis 2:25 ESV

There is a sense of innocence and intimacy in this statement. At this point in the creation story, the first man and woman were completely content with everything about their circumstances. They lacked nothing. They had no need for clothing, food, water, or shelter. The world in which they lived was perfect. They were able to enjoy one another’s companionship and live in intimate and unbroken fellowship with God. And yet, we know how the story ends. This perfectly matched couple was about to experience the very real danger of discontentment and doubt. It was just a matter of time before they succumbed to the very thing that Jesus would later warn about in His sermon on the mount.

“…do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? – Matthew 6:25-27 ESV

The peace and joy of the garden were about to be replaced by anxiety and discontentment. This perfectly paired couple would soon reveal humanity’s predisposition for self-deception and self-determination. While God had provided them with everything they could ever need, including one another, they would soon reveal their dissatisfaction through an act of blatant disobedience. And the world would never be the same.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

A Garden of Earthly Delights

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  Genesis 2:8-17 ESV

Once again, Moses provides some much-needed context to set up the next phase of the creation account. He relates that God planted a garden in a region known as Eden. The Hebrew word of “garden” is גַּן (gan), which was typically used to refer to an orchard. In this eastern section of Eden, God had prepared a grove filled with trees that were “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9 ESV). From the wording of the text, it appears that God did not create fully grown trees, but chose instead to have them grow from seeds.

…out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree… – Genesis 2:9 ESV

In Hebrew, the term, “spring up,” means “to sprout, spring forth, to grow.” It should not be overlooked that God caused these trees to spring up from the “ground”(ăḏāmâ).  God used the same ground from which He had formed Adam (‘āḏām) to produce the food that would feed and sustain him. And Moses points out two particular trees that existed in the garden God had created: The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These two trees will become key factors in the unfolding story.

It was in this idyllic spot that God placed man. This location was intended to be much more than a home for the first couple. In a sense, it was to be a place of worship, a precursor to both the tabernacle and temple that God would later ordain as holy sites in which His presence might dwell and His people could worship Him. In this setting, Adam and Eve would enjoy unbroken fellowship with God. Chapter three reveals that God regularly made His presence known to the first couple.

…the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day… – Genesis 3:8 NLT

And in that same chapter, it becomes clear that Adam and Eve were accustomed to communicating with God. This garden-temple was meant to be a place of intimate communion between man and his God. And its beautiful surroundings point to the glory and holiness of its designer and creator. There was a river that flowed into the garden, providing pure drinking water for Adam and nourishment for the trees. Moses describes the prevalence of gold, bdellium, and onyx stone – natural resources that would later become coveted for their rarity and subsequent value. These same precious metals and priceless stones would become key decorative elements in the tabernacle and temple that God would ordain.

“Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them. Here is a list of sacred offerings you may accept from them:

gold, silver, and bronze;
blue, purple, and scarlet thread;
fine linen and goat hair for cloth;
tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather;
acacia wood;
olive oil for the lamps;
spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense;
onyx stones, and other gemstones to be set in the ephod and the priest’s chestpiece.

“Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them.” – Exodus 25:1-8 NLT

While we can’t know for certain the exact location of the garden, Moses’ description of the four rivers provides a general idea of where this region may have been. Two of the rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates are located in what would become the land of Babylon. What is interesting to note is that these two rivers flow from the north to the south and encompass two regions that would later be associated with Abraham: Ur and Haran.

Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. – Genesis 11:31 ESV

God would call Abram and command him to travel to a land that would become an inheritance to his ancestors.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. – Genesis 12:1-5 ESV

And God would later describe two rivers that would form the boundaries of the land that He would give to Abram’s descendants.

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates…” – Genesis 15:18 ESV

The land that God promised to give Abram’s offspring, the nation of Israel, would stretch from the Nile in the west to the Euphrates in the east. So, the garden in which God placed Adam must have been somewhere within this vast region. And this insight was meant to provide Moses’ readers with a reminder that, from the very beginning, God had intended this land to be the home of His children and the place where He dwelled among them. But this recounting of the creation story was also meant to remind every Israelite who would read it of their own rebellion and subsequent rejection from the land.

Moses makes it clear that God placed man in this very spot and gave him a job to do.

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. – Genesis 2:15 NLT

This verse helps to explain one of the responsibilities that had come with the command that God had given to Adam and Eve:

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28 ESV

Adam had been placed in the garden by God and ordered to manage and maintain it. But the garden would also provide for all of Adam’s needs. It was a place of complete sufficiency that was intended to sustain mankind for generations to come. It was in the garden that Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply. But, ultimately, God expected them to leave the garden and fill the earth with more of their kind. They were to procreate and populate the entire earth and, in so doing, spread the image of God all throughout His creation.

But upon placing Adam in the garden, God gave him yet one more command that came with a sobering warning.

Then the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.” – Genesis 1:16

Adam was free to eat from every tree of the garden except one. That means he had free access to the tree of life, and it would appear that this one tree was to be the means by which God sustained and prolonged Adam’s life. As long as he had access to the tree of life, he would live. But there was another tree that would produce the opposite effect. If Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die. Here, for the first time, we see the disparate distinction between life and death, blessings and curses. As long as Adam obeyed the will of God, he would live. But if He chose to disobey, his actions would result in a deadly curse from God.

And as will soon become apparent, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil offered a tantalizing fruit that could give man the ability to self-govern. It would appeal to his desire for autonomy and self-rule. The knowledge of good and evil refers to man’s inherent desire to decide for himself, to self-determine what is right and wrong. In essence, to be his own god and create his own sense of what is just and acceptable behavior. Adam had everything he needed to live in unbroken fellowship with God, but that relationship required that he constantly submit his will to that of God. As long as he did, he would thrive and enjoy the undiminished blessings of God. But, we know how the story ends, because Moses provides all the sordid details.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Real Dirt on Adam

These are the generations
of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:4-7 ESV

In the opening chapter, Moses revealed that God made the first man and woman.

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27 ESV

But it’s not until chapter two that he tells how God created them. As we saw in yesterday’s post, God spoke the rest of the creation into existence. Repeatedly, Moses wrote, “God said…and it was so.” But that was not the case when it came to God’s creation of man.

…then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. – Genesis 2:7 ESV

The Hebrew word יָצַר (yatsar) means “to form” or “to fashion,” and it was often used in the context of a potter using his hands to form a lump of clay into a particular shape. The intended connection between God forming man and a potter fashioning clay can be seen in the similarity between יָצַר (yatsar) and the Hebrew word for “potter” – יוֹצֵר [yotser].

Moses’ description of God’s creation of man adds another intended pottery reference. He states that God formed man, אָדָם (‘āḏām), from the dust, עָפָר (ʿāp̄ār), of the ground אֲדָמָה (‘ăḏāmâ). Verse 7 could be translated, “And Yahweh God formed the man, soil, from the ground.” The first man’s name, Adam, has direct links to the soil from which he was made. Like a potter, God took common, lifeless clay and fashioned it into the form of a man. In a sense, He used the same process that mankind would later use to fashion their false gods. But rather than making a lifeless idol to be worshiped, God was creating a living human being whose sole purpose would be to worship Him.

God made the man, but something was missing. The ‘āḏām had form but no ability to function. He remained lifeless and useless ‘ăḏāmâ until God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). This important distinction helps to set man apart from the rest of the creative order. God took the time to personally create man’s form. Moses describes God as taking a “hands-on” approach to forming the one creature who would represent the pinnacle of His creation. This living being would be different from all others. He would bear God’s image and contain the “breath” of God.

Once the breath of God entered the lifeless clay form of man, life was generated, along with the attributes of understanding and conscience.

But there is a spirit within people,
    the breath of the Almighty within them,
    that makes them intelligent. – Job 32:8 NLT

The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord,
    searching all his innermost parts. – Proverbs 20:27 ESV

The essential role of God’s breath in the creation of man should not be overlooked. No other creature came into being through this unique life-giving action. And it brings to mind a similar scene portrayed in the book of Ezekiel. The prophet of God was given a vision of a valley filled with bones. Ezekiel describes the bones as being scattered all over the valley floor and dried out – as if they had been there for some time. But God spoke to the prophet.

“Son of man, can these bones become living people again?” – Ezekiel 37:3 NLT

Don’t miss the image being conveyed. The bones, which represented former human life, were slowly turning back to dust. They were lifeless and without form and covered the ground all around Ezekiel’s feet. And addresses Ezekiel as “son of man (‘āḏām), a reminder of his descent from the first ‘āḏām, who was made from the dust of the ground. God questions Ezekiel’s faith in His creative power, and the prophet responds,  “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know the answer to that” (Ezekiel 37:3 NLT).

Ezekiel hedged his bets and made no commitment. This was all out of his area of expertise. But God gave his prophet a faith-stretching assignment.

“Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” – Ezekiel 37:4-6 NLT

God commanded Ezekiel to address the bones, declaring to them God’s intentions to revive them. God was going to reform and refashion them, returning each scattered bone to its proper place in a particular body and covering them with organs, muscles, sinews, and skin. But the key to their restoration to life would be the breath of God.

And Ezekiel describes the somewhat macabre scene that took place.

Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them. Ezekiel 37:7-8 NLT

The valley was now filled with a host of fully formed human beings, but they still lacked one thing: Life. So, God commanded Ezekiel to speak to the bones one more time.

“Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’” – Ezekiel 37:9 NLT

And when Ezekiel faithfully followed God’s command, something truly incredible took place.

So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army. – Ezekiel 37:10 NLT

This entire scene was intended as an object lesson for Ezekiel. He had just been given a visual metaphor for the spiritual state of God’s chosen people.

“Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’ – Ezekiel 37:11 NLT

They were hopeless and helpless because they were missing the life-giving breath of God. Their ongoing rebellion and refusal to live in obedience to God had left them lifeless and as useless as dry bones scattered all over a valley floor. And even when God miraculously recreated them into fully formed human beings, they were missing the one thing they needed to go from being ‘ăḏāmâ to ‘āḏām. They needed the breath of God. And God promised them that the day would come when He would restore them back to spiritual life by revitalizing them by His Spirit.

“I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!’” – Ezekiel 37:14 NLT

The first man, while formed by the hand of God Himself, remained nothing but dirt. He was a lifeless and completely useless icon of God’s creative capabilities because He lacked the one thing that would allow him to not only bear God’s image but put it into action. By breathing life into Adam, God transformed ordinary clay into “a vessel for honor: sanctified, useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21 BSB). God had great plans for Adam and fashioned him in such a way that he would be able to accomplish all his divinely ordained responsibilities. But the primary ingredient that would make possible man’s fulfillment of God’s kingdom mandate was the breath of God. And the apostle Peter reminds us that all those who place their faith in Jesus receive the same life-giving, mission-empowering Spirit that gave God gave to Adam.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. – 2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT

We, like Adam, have all we need to accomplish all that God has called us to do. We have been given life and the Spirit-enabled ability to live in obedience to the will of our Creator. It is the Spirit of God that makes obedience to the will of God possible. And even Ezekiel was given a promise from God that guaranteed the future transformation of the disobedient people of Israel.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. – Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT

God made man in His likeness. But it would be the Spirit of God that transformed lifeless clay into a vessel of honor, capable of bringing glory to its Creator and pouring out His blessings on the rest of the creation. Without the Spirit of God, humanity remains as lifeless and useless as a valley filled with dry bones. And without the breath of God, ‘āḏām would have remained nothing but ‘ăḏāmâ.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Requirement of Rest

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:1-3 ESV

With the opening of chapter two, Moses begins a more detailed synopsis of the seven days of creation with a special emphasis on the creation of the first man and woman. The first three verses provide a summary of all that was described in chapter one. In six days’ time, God had finalized His creation plan. He had made everything that He had planned to make. And with His work done, God rested. But God was not in need of rest because He was exhausted from His efforts. He had spoken the entire universe into existence.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. – Genesis 1:3 ESV

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters”…. And it was so. – Genesis 1:6, 7 ESV

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. – Genesis 1:9 ESV

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. – Genesis 1:11 ESV

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.”… And it was so. – Genesis 1:14, 15 ESV

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” – Genesis 1:20 ESV

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. – Genesis 1:24 ESV

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. – Genesis 1:26 ESV

God spoke, and what it was so. He sovereignly declared something to come into existence, and it happened just as He said. No effort was exhausted. No energy was expended. No rest was necessary. What God did on the seventh day was cease from any further act of creating. He had done all that He was going to do. His creation was complete and perfect. This divine pattern of work and rest was meant to set the standard for the first man and woman God created. Adam and Eve, made in the image of God, were to emulate His work ethic but also model His example of rest or cessation from work. God had given them a very clear mandate.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28 ESV

And as chapter two will reveal, Adam and Eve were given very specific instructions concerning their “work” of managing God’s creation. According to verse 5, they were to “work the ground.” God had created a lush garden filled with fruit trees, which became the first couple’s home and the primary focus of their stewardship.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. – Genesis 1:15 ESV

Moses indicates that “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Genesis 2:3 ESV). He purposefully set that day apart from the other six. The Hebrew word translated as “holy” is קָדַשׁ (qāḏaš), and it means “to consecrate, to set apart, to regard as sacred.” By resting on the seventh day and then declaring it to be holy or set apart,  God was establishing His expectations for humanity. They would be expected to follow His pattern of work and rest. This explanation of the “genesis” of sabbath rest would have resonated with Moses’ original audience. He had repeatedly given the people of Israel God’s commands concerning the Sabbath.

“This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” – Exodus 16:23 ESV

You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. – Exodus 31:14-15 ESV

The real point of the Sabbath was to teach the people of Israel to rely upon God. They were not meant to live self-sufficient lives, depending solely upon their own resources or capabilities. By ceasing from work on the seventh day, they were demonstrating their complete dependence and reliance upon God. They were resting in His ability to provide for all their needs. God never intended mankind to be autonomous and self-reliant. While He gave them dominion over His creation and delegated to them the stewardship of all that He had made, He expected them to remain submissive to His will and subject to His gracious care. He could and would provide for them.

The entire creation had been designed with mankind in mind. The placement of the sun and moon to determine the times and seasons, the presence of life-giving oxygen in the atmosphere, the abundance of edible plants, and the provision of a day of rest, all point to God’s gracious care and concern for humanity, the pinnacle of His creation.

From the very beginning, God desired that His children would enjoy His rest. Their partnership with Him would be filled with responsibilities but marked by a constant supply of rest and restoration. Adam was made in the image of God, but he was not divine. He could emulate God’s work ethic but would require rest. He could steward God’s creation but would need constant sustenance to maintain his energy.

From day one, God has desired to provide His children with rest. But the book of Genesis provides a sad recounting of mankind’s refusal to remain in a state of rest and reliance upon God. The garden was meant to be a place of unbroken fellowship with God where every possible human need was graciously provided for. There would be no want. There would be no lack. There would be no need to seek sustenance from anywhere or from anyone else.

But mankind has repeatedly demonstrated a sad proclivity to seek rest and comfort from all the wrong places. Ever since the beginning, humanity has displayed a self-reliant tendency to stubbornly refuse God’s offer of rest. Rather than humbly relying upon God’s all-sufficient power to supply every need, mankind has chosen the path of autonomy and self-determination.

The author of Hebrews recounts a time when the people of Israel had stood on the brink of the land of Canaan but had refused to go in. God had promised to give them the land as their inheritance, but they would have to cross over the Jordan River and conquer the nations that occupied it. It was a land of abundance, flowing with milk and honey. But before they could enjoy the rest it offered, they would have to do the work God had called them to do. Yet, they refused. And the author of Hebrews warned the readers of his letter not to follow the example of the Israelites.

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled,
    when they tested me in the wilderness.
There your ancestors tested and tried my patience,
    even though they saw my miracles for forty years.
So I was angry with them, and I said,
‘Their hearts always turn away from me.
    They refuse to do what I tell them.’
So in my anger I took an oath:
    ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’” – Hebrews 3:7-11 NLT

He goes on to use this Old Testament story as a lesson for his Christian audience. He reminds them that God has not reneged on His offer of rest.

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. – Hebrews 4:1-2 NLT

Adam and Eve were meant to enjoy the rest provided for them in Eden. The Israelites were to enjoy the rest made possible in the land of Canaan. But the first couple, just like the chosen people of God, refused to take God at His word. Yet, as God’s children, followers of Christ are extended the promise of God’s rest.

So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. – Hebrews 4:6-7 NLT

God has offered a Sabbath rest, made possible through the work of His Son. Jesus obeyed the will of His Heavenly Father, faithfully completing the assignment He had been given. He offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, satisfying the just demands of His Heavenly Father and providing the ultimate Sabbath rest for the wicked and weary.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

Jesus offers an invitation to find rest in Him. He invites the weary to cease from their labors and rely upon His finished work on the cross. When Jesus had completed His redemptive work on the cross, He stated, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). He had successfully completed His assignment and then entered His Father’s rest. And now, He offers sinful men and women the opportunity to enjoy the reward of never-ending rest through reliance upon the gift of God’s grace and forgiveness. And the author of Hebrews reminds us that this rest is real and readily available to all who will believe.

Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall. – Hebrews 4:8-11 NLT

God has done it all. The only thing required of mankind is reliance upon and rest in the work that Christ has already done. It is finished.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

It Was Very Good

29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:29-31 ESV

After God made the first two humans, He blessed them by providing them with the capacity to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). This blessing was not unique to mankind because God had done the same thing with the animal kingdom.

And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” – Genesis 1:22 ESV

The Hebrew word for “blessed” is בָּרַךְ (bârak) and it can mean “to cause to prosper, to enrich, to endow.” God blessed all His living creatures, including humanity, with the capacity to reproduce and make more of their kind. And each time they did, they would extend God’s blessing by continuing the creative process He had begun.

Adam and Eve were blessed to be able to share in God’s creative capabilities by reproducing more of their kind. God could have made all the fish, birds, and animals at one time, but He chose to endow all “living creatures” with the ability to reproduce. This unique relationship between procreation and blessing is seen again when God pronounces His blessing on Abram and his wife Sarai.

No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. – Genesis 17:5-6 ESV

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” – Genesis 17:15-16 ESV

Abram was a 99-year-old man with a barren wife when God pronounced this blessing. But despite those seeming disadvantages, God assured Abram that He would multiply him greatly (Genesis 17:2) – and God kept that promise. God graciously allowed an elderly man and his barren wife to participate in the creation of a mighty nation whose number would exceed that of the stars in heaven.

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” – Genesis 15:5 ESV

In chronicling the story of creation, Moses was providing his fellow Israelites with a much-needed lesson in God’s gracious provision of procreative capabilities. Like Adam and Eve, and Abraham and Sarai, the people of Israel had been given the opportunity to work alongside God and assist Him in fulfilling His divine mandate to “fill the earth.” But unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, humanity was given the unique responsibility to subdue the earth and have dominion over all that God had made. God had given mankind the job of stewarding or managing His creation. Everything God had made was ultimately for mankind’s use, including the plants. It seems that the original humans were herbivores, who subsisted on a completely vegetarian diet. The same was true of the rest of the animal kingdom.

“Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food. – Genesis 1:29-30 ESV

 While this opening chapter contains no clear prohibition against eating meat, it would appear that the original state of creation was carnivore-free. None of the animals consumed one another, which meant there was no shedding of blood. And that would remain the case until “Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:8 ESV). As a direct result of the fall, Cain, consumed by jealousy and anger, would spill the blood of his own brother and bring down a divine curse on his head.

And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. – Genesis 4:10-11 ESV

Up until that fateful moment when Cain slew Abel, there appears to have been no blood spilled. And it’s interesting to note that the whole reason Cain spilled the blood of his brother was that “the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Genesis 4:4-5 ESV). The Genesis 4 account reveals that “Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock—even the fattest of them” (Genesis 4:3-4 NET). While some scholars believe that Abel’s offering was accepted by God because it was a blood sacrifice, the text does not seem to support that conclusion. There is no mention of Abel taking the life of the animals he offered. It simply states that he offered the “fattest of them” – in other words, Abel gave God the best of what he had. And when he dedicated those animals to God, they were no longer his to breed. All of this took place long before God gave the Mosaic law with its painstaking instructions regarding animal sacrifice. Abel was simply offering to God the best of what he had. But Cain offered God “some of the fruit of the ground.” There was no real sacrifice involved. Cain didn’t give up the tree that bore the fruit. He didn’t dedicate to God the land that had produced the grain. It seems that Cain was guilty of giving God a small and somewhat stingy token of his appreciation. And God was not pleased. But it was not the offering that was the problem. It was Cain’s heart or motivation behind his offering.

But back to the beginning. God had provided for all of Adam and Eve’s nutritional needs. Before He had even created Adam, God had caused the earth to bring “forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind” (Genesis 1:12 ESV). He had prepared the environment to fully meet the needs of His future image-bearers. They would have air to breathe, plenty of food to eat, and an abundance of pure water to drink. He had created a veritable garden of delights for His first son and daughter.

And at the close of the sixth day of creation, after God had made man and woman, He looked over His handiwork and pronounced His divine delight.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. – Genesis 1:31 ESV

For the last six days, God had declared His pleasure with His creation.

God saw that the light was good. – Genesis 1:4 ESV

God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:10 ESV

The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:12 ESV

And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:17-18 ESV

So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:21 ESV

And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. – Genesis 1:25 ESV

But with His creation of man, God’s work was complete and He deemed all that He had made as very good. This statement of satisfaction or approval does not portray God as egotistical or boastful. It is simply a reminder that all of God’s actions regarding the creation of the universe were righteous, holy, and flawless in every regard. The closing verse of chapter one sets up all that is to come in the rest of the book of Genesis. When God’s work was complete, all was well – all was very good. And chapter two will pick up on that theme, providing a more detailed account of man’s creation and setting the stage for the surprising events of chapter three and beyond. All was very good, but it would not stay that way for long.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

Image Bearers

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:24-28 ESV

God’s timeline for creation was unfolding according to His perfect plan. He was methodically replacing the former chaos and darkness with order and light. And every phase of the divine process was well-orchestrated and designed to prepare the way for what would be His crowning achievement: The creation of man.

God had created the land on which man would exist. He had prepared the oxygen-rich “heaven” or lower atmosphere that would be necessary for man’s survival. There was the sun and moon to determine the days and seasons of man’s life. The sun’s distance from the earth was perfectly planned so that the ambient temperature on earth would be conducive to human life. And God had even created a protective barrier in the upper atmosphere that would prevent the harmful rays of the sun from doing irreparable damage to His creation. And to top it all off, God had provided an abundant source of food and nourishment in the form of fruit-bearing trees and vegetation.

There was nothing haphazard or random about the creation. It was all well-ordered and highly intentional. God was preparing the perfect environment in which to place the crown jewel of His creation plan. The all-knowing God of the universe was not making this up as He went along, but it was all part of the well-designed strategy He had developed long before He had initiated the creation process.

Once again, Moses reveals a deliberate order to the events of creation. This next phase involves God’s creation of “living creatures” (Genesis 1:24 ESV). The Hebrew word is נֶפֶשׁ (nep̄eš), and while it can be translated as “soul,” the surrounding context dictates that it refers to animal life. Moses describes three different kinds of creatures: “livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth” (Genesis 1:24 ESV). Livestock refers to what will come to be known as domesticated animals such as cattle or sheep. Creeping things describes all those creatures whose physical stature place them close to the ground. This will include everything from reptiles to rodents. The final category, beasts of the earth, appears to indicate all remaining species of wild animals. 

While the Hebrew word, נֶפֶשׁ (nep̄eš), can be translated as “soul,” it will soon become readily apparent that these “living creatures” are meant to be viewed as quite different from humanity. As Moses recorded the unfolding nature of God’s creation process, he kept his audience in mind. He wanted the people of Israel to understand the unprecedented role that they, as human beings, played in God’s plan for the universe. They were not just another form of animal. The living creatures, while conscious and capable of thought, were not made in the image of God.

Moses is very deliberate and specific when he writes, “God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind” (Genesis 1:25 ESV). These creatures, while made by God, did not bear the image of God. They were of a completely different “kind.” They bear God’s handiwork but do not share in His character or nature. And their creation is followed by an important and relationship-defining statement from God.

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” – Genesis 1:26 ESV

Here, for the first time in Moses’ narrative, we find God referring to Himself in the plural. Over the centuries, this verse has been used to defend the concept of the Trinity or God in three persons. While this verse does not explicitly teach a trinitarian doctrine, it does support the concept. And if this verse is viewed in relationship with other passages, it is easy to see the plurality of the Godhead displayed. In the opening lines of his gospel account, John declares that Jesus played a key role in the creation.

In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
    and his life brought light to everyone. – John 1:1-4 NLT

The Godhead, consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, enjoyed a unique three-in-one relationship that was totally non-replicable and inexplicable. Yet, man was created in such a way that he could emulate, albeit imperfectly, this divine co-dependency and relational intimacy. Humanity would be given the unique ability to mirror the Godhead and experience the joy of fellowship and the gift of God’s blessing. Man was to be a decidedly different form of “living creature.”

“First, God’s deliberation shows that he has decided to create man differently from any of the other creatures—in his image and likeness. God and man share a likeness that is not shared by other creatures. This apparently means that a relationship of close fellowship can exist between God and man that is unlike the relationship of God with the rest of his creation. What more important fact about God and man would be necessary if the covenant at Sinai were, in fact, to be a real relationship? Remove this and the covenant is unthinkable.” – John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis,” in GenesisNumbers, vol. 2 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

Another key difference between man and the rest of creation was his dominion role. God clearly articulated the unique role that man would play in His newly created universe.

“…let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26 ESV

The Hebrew word is רָדָה (rāḏâ), and it conveys the idea of rule or authority. God was delegating His sovereign authority to mankind. The King and creator of the universe was passing on to humanity a responsibility to care for all that He had made.

God’s purpose in giving humankind his image is that they might rule the created order on behalf of the heavenly king and his royal court. So the divine image, however it is defined, gives humankind the capacity and/or authority to rule over creation. – NET Bible Study Notes

Once again, it must be remembered that this “history” of the creation was intended as a much-needed reminder for God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Moses was trying to help them understand the unique role entrusted to humanity by God. From the very “beginning,” mankind was to have acted as God’s vice-regents, bearing His image and carrying out His divine will for His creation. They were to have been stewards over all that He had made. And, as God’s precious possession, the Israelites had an even greater responsibility to reflect God’s glory, power, and authority through their lives.

Moses was reminding his fellow Israelites that they had a two-fold responsibility to act as God’s faithful stewards. They, along with all humanity, had been created with one purpose in mind: To rule as God’s vice-regents over His creation. But as the heirs of the promises made to Abraham and the recipients of God’s law, they had the extra-added responsibility to live in keeping with His divine will as His children. This entire retelling of the creation story was meant to remind them of their unique status as the apex of God’s creative order and to encourage them to do what the first man and woman failed to do.

God had originally created a pair of individuals who would bear His image, share in His royal rule, and spread His glory across the face of the earth.

God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27 ESV

God created this first couple, blessed them, and then reiterated the divine mandate He had assigned to them.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28 ESV

They were to procreate, making more of their kind – those made in the image of God. In obeying this command, they would spread the glory of God throughout the earth. They would populate the planet with more godly image-bearers and, in so doing, the invisible God would be made visible throughout the earth. They would reflect His nature and demonstrate His goodness and glory through their daily lives and their interactions with one another and the rest of His creation.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Blessing of Procreation

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. Genesis 1:14-23 ESV

At this point in his creation account, Moses describes God’s making of the sun, moon, and stars. This appears to be a summary statement that would include the entire solar system. But out of all the innumerable celestial bodies, Moses places special emphasis on the three that would be the most familiar to his Hebrew audience. While the average Israelite would have had no scientific knowledge of the vast source of energy emanating from the sun, he would have understood and appreciated its role in producing crops, providing warmth, and sustaining life. The moon, while considered a “lesser light,” would have been equally vital in Jewish thought, playing a special role in daily life. According to JewishEncylcopedia.com:

Like the other celestial bodies, the moon was believed to have an influence on the universe. Its injurious influence on man is referred to in Ps. cxxi. 6, which passage probably refers to the blindness which, according to Eastern belief, results from sleeping in the moonlight with uncovered face (Carne, “Letters from the East,” p. 77). It was also believed that the moon caused epilepsy (comp. the Greek σεληυιαζόμευος and the Latin “lunaticus”; Matt. iv. 24). On the other hand, there are “precious things put forth by the moon” (Deut. xxxiii. 14); that is to say, the growth of certain plants is influenced by it.

According to verse 14, God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night.” This Hebrew word for “lights” is different than the one used in verse 3 where God said, “Let there be light.” On the first day of creation, God made light – אוֹר (‘ôr). But now, on the fourth day, He made the lights – מָאוֹר (mā’ôr). The “light of day” was created three days before any physical sources of light even existed. This order of events establishes God as the source of all light and life, and explains why the worship of the sun or moon was to be off-limits to God’s people. Worship of the sun and moon was common among the ancients, but it was forbidden for the Jews. 

“…when you look up into the sky and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the forces of heaven—don’t be seduced into worshiping them. The LORD your God gave them to all the peoples of the earth.” – Deuteronomy 4:19 NLT

When the people of Israel were preparing to enter the land of Canaan, God had warned them again about the worship of the sun, moon, and stars.

“When you begin living in the towns the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman among you might do evil in the sight of the LORD your God and violate the covenant. For instance, they might serve other gods or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars—the forces of heaven—which I have strictly forbidden. When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5then the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death.” – Deuteronomy 17:2-5 NLT

God provided the sun and moon as visible and tangible sources of light. Their regular appearance in the sky would help to determine the length of a day and the various seasons of the year. They would be regular reminders of God’s faithfulness and life-sustaining power. The wording of the original text seems to stress that the sun, moon, and stars were to be viewed as created entities to be appreciated, and not deities to be worshiped.

“The narrative stresses their function as servants, subordinate to the interests of the earth. . . . This differs significantly from the superstitious belief within pagan religion that the earth’s destiny is dictated by the course of the stars.” – Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 111:26

God gave these greater and lesser lights specific roles to play. They were to separate day from night, provide divinely ordained signs, distinguish the seasons, and illuminate the earth. This brief synopsis of creation should have reminded Moses’ Hebrew audience that their God had created the so-called “gods” their pagan neighbors bowed down before and worshiped. He was the ultimate source of light and life, not the sun, moon, and stars. And yet, as the apostle Paul would later reveal, humanity has regularly mistaken the created order as the source of power, light, and life. Rather than recognizing the hand of God in all that has been made, they worshiped the creation instead.

They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! – Romans 1:19-23, 25 NLT

Once again, Moses points out how God separated one thing from another. He used the sun and moon to separate the light from the darkness. There is a distinct differentiation established. From that point forward, there would be evening and morning, two diametrically opposite but integrally interwoven periods of time that, together, would form a single day. God had made land and sea. He had created earth and sky. Now He had formed day and night. Everything God created was to exist in a well-balanced and divinely ordered system that functioned according to His perfectly designed plan.

And it is at this point in the process that God begins to create new forms of life to populate the new environments He has made for them. First, He creates the fish and the birds.

“Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” – Genesis 1:20 ESV

Then God gave these creatures a mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth” (Genesis 1:21 ESV). They were made to procreate and populate the planet and, in doing so, they would constantly demonstrate the ongoing nature of God’s life-giving power. God could have created a distinct number of each species and filled the earth with them. But He chose to give them the ability to mate and make more of their own kind. And with each new birth, they would illustrate the amazing nature of God’s power through His ongoing creation of life.

One of the primary ways in which God bestows His blessings on His creative order is through the birth process. Even the ability of plants to propagate more of their own is a reminder of God’s goodness and grace. Birth is a blessing and not a curse. Fruitfulness is a gift from God. It is, as God deemed it: Good.

God has given His creation the ability to procreate, to beget, to generate life. Every plant that sprouts from a seed, every oak that grows from an acorn, every chick that hatches from an egg, and every child that comes forth from a womb, is intended to shout the glory and goodness of God. His life-giving power is on display each and every day throughout His creation. And mankind, as the apex of His creative order, are to marvel in it and rejoice over it because it provides with undeniable proof of His power and presence.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

A Predetermined and Perfect Plan

And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. Genesis 1:4-13 ESV

As Moses began his record of the creation account, he described a darkness being “over the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2 ESV). The Hebrew word he used is חֹשֶׁךְ (ḥōšeḵ), which can be translated as “darkness, obscurity, or secret place.” It comes from the root word חָשַׁךְ (ḥāšaḵ), which was used to refer to the absence of light. Unlike everything else Moses is about to describe, the darkness was not created by God. It was simply the void created by the absence of light. For the ancients, darkness became a symbol for evil. It came to represent such things as misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, and wickedness. In the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures, darkness is used to represent all that stands in opposition to God. It was also associated with God’s judgment.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. – Exodus 10:21-23 ESV

The prophet Isaiah wrote of a coming day when darkness would be invaded by another source of light.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. – Isaiah 9:2 ESV

And the apostle Matthew would later reveal that Isaiah’s prophecy had been predicting the coming of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel.

Now when he [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.” – Matthew 4:12-16 ESV

God’s great work of creation began with the coming of the light. And His grand plan of redemption began the same way. In Jesus, the light entered the darkness once again, setting in motion the divine plan for the re-creation of all things. The theme of darkness and light will continue all throughout the pages of Scripture, setting up an ongoing contrast between the forces of righteousness and wickedness, the godly and the ungodly.

But the glaring difference between darkness and light is not the only contrast found in the opening chapter of Genesis. As Moses presents the sequential nature of God’s creation timeline, he records a number of important divisions or contrasts that seem to separate one thing from another.

On the first day, God invaded the darkness with His light, providing a stark contrast between that which was good and all that would later come to represent evil. Moses states that God “separated the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:4 ESV). The Hebrew word is בָּדַל (bāḏal) and it refers to a separating or distinguishing of one thing from another. God set apart His light from the darkness and deemed it “good” or טוֹב (ṭôḇ). According to the NET Bible study notes, the Hebrew word ṭôḇ refers to “whatever enhances, promotes, produces, or is conducive for life.” By contrast, the darkness was unproductive and incapable of promoting or sustaining life. It represented the absence of God’s life-giving light and, therefore, was deemed as being the opposite of “good.”

The separation of the light and the dark established the end of the first day of creation. But God was far from done. There was another separation or division to take place. On the beginning of the second day, God created the “expanse.”

“Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters…” – Genesis 1:6 ESV

The Hebrew word is רָקִיעַ (rāqîa) and it refers to what we would call the upper atmosphere. But to the ancient Hebrews, it was used to describe “an expanse of air pressure between the surface of the sea and the clouds, separating water below from water above” (NET Bible Study Notes). In we recall, the creation story began with the earth was shrouded by water.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. – Genesis 1:2 ESV

At this point in the story, God separates the waters and, in so doing, He creates the upper atmosphere or what is sometimes translated as the “firmament.” There are some biblical scholars who believe that this separating process created a band of water vapor around the earth that would later become one of the primary sources of water that helped to create the worldwide flood recorded in chapter 6-8 of Genesis. There we read, “on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (Genesis 7:11-12 ESV). It is believed that, at this time, the canopy of water surrounding the earth was released and acted as a major source of the water necessary to flood the entire earth in a very short period of time. It is also believed that this canopy served as a protective barrier from the sun’s harmful rays and helps to explain the longevity of human life prior to the flood.

But God separated the waters, creating yet another distinction between one thing and another. He “separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse” (Genesis 1:7 ESV) and He called His creation, “Heaven.” While the Hebrew word can be used to refer to heaven, in this context it makes more sense to translate it as “sky.” On this second day of creation, God separated the earth from the sky.

At this point, God turned His attention to the earth, where He performed another act of separation or division.

“Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” – Genesis 1:9 ESV

The earth, which had been covered and obscured by water, was suddenly exposed. God separated the water, allowing the formerly hidden land masses to become visible for the first time. What is significant about this phase of God’s creative act was that the land was going to be necessary to sustain human life. Man would not be able to exist in an atmosphere of total darkness or in an environment consisting of nothing but water. So, God sovereignly separated one thing from another so that mankind might have a proper place in which to live. This was all preparatory work for God’s greatest act of creation: Humanity.

Moses states that “God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:10 ESV). God deemed it good because it was all part of His perfect plan. It was all according to His sovereign will and just as it needed to be to support the human life He would soon be creating. He knew that humanity would need air to breath, water to drink, and dry land on which to live. And so, He created all this for mankind’s good, long before they even existed. But God was far from done. Humanity would also need food to eat. So, He began the next phase of His preparatory work.

“Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” – Genesis 1:11 ESV

And, once again, God declared His work to be good. Everything He made was just as He had planned it and every aspect of His creative work had a purpose. There was nothing that God created that lacked a reason for being. It was all highly intentional and pointed to something even greater to come.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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