Posts tagged “Creation

Genesis 4:10-14, The Way of Qayin Was and Is the Way of the Serpent

The LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground.   Now you are cursed because of the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  From now on, when you till the ground, it won’t yield its strength to you. You will be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me out today from the surface of the ground. I will be hidden from your face, and I will be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth. Whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:10-14)

The majority of our Bibles translate YHVH’s words to Qayin (Cain) as “What have you done?” but I say we should interpret this as “what have you made?”  The verb in question is the Hebrew asah, which is used interchangeably with its synonym bara (to create) to describe God’s ordering of the heavens and the earth, as well as His creation of Mankind (ref. Genesis 1-2).

By design, YHVH also responds with “asah” to Havah (Eve) and the serpent after their transgressions at the Tree of Knowledge (cf. Gen. 3:13-14).  These responses indicate that we who were created in the image of God are creative in nature, but we can “make” (asah) acts of mischief that are foreign to YHVH.  When we create such evil, God asks, “What is this you made?” for this is not the handiwork He respects.  Selah.

So the question to Qayin after he murdered his brother Hevel (Abel), “what have you made?” is similar to God’s response at the Tree, but it’s the fates of the serpent and Qayin that are eerily similar.  However, before delving into this mystery, we must understand how similar paths led to similar fates.

At first, both Qayin and the serpent were “the man”.  We know that the serpent was the wisest among the animals and Qayin was the stronger son who learned his father’s trade.  They were as privileged as royalty until someone else came along who – in their eyes – stole their favor.  To them, it wasn’t supposed to go down that way!

“Dumb humans, who don’t have any knowledge of good and evil? How could they be favored before me, the serpent, who is the wisest of all the beasts!? I will make them as I am and conquer them, and regain my rightful place over all creation!”

“Hevel!? That runt!? How can he be favored instead of me, Qayin!? I’m the one who was born strongest, and followed in my father’s footsteps!  Now it looks as if my parents favor him, along with God!  Nonsense! I will eliminate this competition, and regain my proper place!”

Thus the similarities in motivations led to similar fates:

 The Serpent’s Fate (Gen. 3:14-15)
Qayin’s Fate (Gen. 4:10-14)
Because you have made (asah) this…  What have you made (asah)? 
Cursed are you… Now you are cursed…
From all the cattle and every beast of the field… From the ground, which opened its mouth to receive the blood of your brother by your hand.
Over your belly will you go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life. If you work the ground, it will not continue to give its produce to you. A waverer and a wanderer shall you become in the Earth.
And I will put enmity between your seed and her seed… he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel… It will come to pass, that anyone who comes upon me will kill me. 
X Rightly so. Whoever smites Qayin, seven times will I avenge him.  And YHVH set upon Qayin a sign, lest anyone come upon him to kill him.

Both the serpent and Qayin were judged by God for their mischief (what they made/worked), and cursed them from their previous, comfortable lives.  Both of them were informed of how they would experience life as a “wanderer”, and would have to rely on a new means of sustenance.  Both of them also knew of the enmity they would experience with Mankind in the future.

I’ve written before how at the Tree of Knowledge we became more like serpents than gods, and this seems to bring that theory home to roost.  Qayin’s motivations were like the serpent before him, which is why the shared similar fates. Thus we have our main takeaway:  God is showing us that we might all become like the snake. The serpent’s venom is within us. 

If we don’t control our lusts, we might go what the Apostle Yahudah (Jude) calls
“the way of Qayin” (Jude 11). Jude explains how this theme reoccurs throughout the Bible, and so we also have to expect it in our own lives.  We must constantly be on guard against politicians, pundits, predators, and false prophets who want to manipulate us, and subjugate us under an insatiable lust for power.

There is one and only thing that differs between the fates of the serpent and Qayin, and that is the mercy which is inexplicable to most of us.  We all struggle with Qayin’s “punishment” – or lack thereof.

I want to encourage you that there is always an answer for what we don’t understand in the Word of God.  The reasons for Qayin’s banishment are both practical and prophetic, and we will get to those answers soon, Lord willing! Ω

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liberal Christian Beliefs and the Genesis Accounts – Embracing the Future of a Non-Existent Past?

And [the serpent] said to the woman… (Genesis 3:1)

I’ll be the first to admit, the talking snake’ used to make me uncomfortable, so much so that I avoided it, wondering if it were some kind of metaphor. Eventually though, I came to the conclusion that I must face ‘the talking snake’. I realized that it was impossible to claim ‘the Bible is the inerrant Word of God!’ but then substitute metaphor for history when its stories disturbed my modern sophistications.

There are many liberal Christians (and for that matter Jews) who explain Genesis 1-3 as poems or metaphors, but what is the end of such reasoning? Figures like Moshe, David and even Yeshua quoted Genesis as actual history – do we know better than these unenlightened ones? And why not stop at Genesis – why not just explain the Exodus, the words of the Prophets, the nation of Israel, and the Resurrection of the Dead as additional moral metaphors, just like Aesop’s Fables?

So before I dive into Genesis 3 as historical fact and the lessons that transpired, I want to challenge these liberal beliefs. After all, if you cannot picture humanity in the Garden of Eden, then you also can’t picture yourself in the Kingdom of God, can you? …Now what do I mean by that?

Consider Adam’s creation. Let’s say you’re a liberal Christian, and you accept man’s proposal that evolution is the true anthropologic history of human beings. If that’s the case, then you could not literally believe that “Yahweh Elohim formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). But my question is, if you cannot believe the beginning, how can you hope for the end: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2). Did not Adam also awake from the dust? What’s the difference between his creation and your resurrection?

Herein lies my point. Every fulfillment that we hope for in Messiah Yeshua – which includes all the promises of God for the olam haba, are prototyped in Genesis. If we expect to enter the Kingdom of God, we must also embrace our ancestry in the Garden… for our salvation is seen through our past.

Taking another example, if the Tree of Life is a myth andwhich never existed, how then can it grow in the age to come (cf. Gen. 3:24, Rev. 2:7)?

Or, if an orchard of ever-bearing fruit is chalked up to an old farmers’ tale, how could God be expected to plant a tree “offering different fruits each month” (cf. Rev. 22:2)?

Even taking the example of my own faith nemesis, the talking snake – if I couldn’t believe God once gave animals the ability to speak (which would include Bilaam’s donkey -cf. Numbers 22:28), then it stands to reason that four living creatures in Heaven “having voices” would be just as ludicrous (e.g., Rev. 6:1).

So is this Genesis story a fairy tale, or not?

If you call it a myth, and you deny God created and sustained what Genesis portrays… then using the same logic, you must reject what the Bible calls “the restoration of all things” (cf. Acts 3:21)… for how can God restore what never happened?

Can’t you see, that ever-bearing fruit, thornless trees, healing waters, cherubim, gemstones, lush gardens, the Tree of Life, perfect climates, incorruption, even talking animals and ETERNAL LIFE, as well as anything else promised through the mouths of both prophets and apostles… is not new to the earth? Can’t you see when you reject your past you reject your future?

Just believe! The earth as we never knew it may be lost, but you must realize that you’re not waiting for anything new – you’re waiting for things to be re-newed. So, examine yourselves, you quasi-believers, you liberal theologians and cowards in spirit. Get past your insensibilities and comfort-levels. Accept that the Almighty was as powerful as He claims… lest you find your faith to be weak and meaningless when you need it the most.♦

Genesis 2:21-24, Why I No Longer believe Eve Came from Adam’s Rib

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:21-24, NKJV)

This story used to make me uncomfortable.

I’d heard all the anecdotes proffered in commentaries – perhaps the curve-shaped “rib” represented a woman’s curves, or that ‘marriage requires losing something to gain even more’, etc. – but these explanations didn’t dissuade my dissonance. ‘Why did God need anything from Adam at all? Couldn’t He have just made Eve from the ground like he already did with Adam?’

I resisted calling this word ‘absurd’ because I didn’t want to sound like the skeptics and scoffers. After all, they claim ‘the rib story’ is a paraphrased ancient myth like Ninti, while the Web is full of memes and atheist jokes about “the rib woman.”

Yet once again, Hebrew came to my rescue, and studying reproved my ignorance. The Hebrew word for ‘rib’ (tsela) also means ‘side’ –and appears as such throughout the Tanakh, most often as sides are constructed into the Ark of the Covenant, Tabernacle, and Solomon’s Temple. After YHVH took Adam’s tsela, the verb used with the making of Eve is yiven, literally “He built”. This of course is a prophetic hint -that YHVH built our women like a sanctuary, and should be offered respect and honor men afford to the House of God.

Additionally, Adam just named all the animals, yet couldn’t find his neged, a word meaning “equal” at its core. If the overall point of the story teaches that women should be valued far above animals as men’s equals – then it’s easy to see that “YHVH took from one of his sides…” This makes much more sense than breaking off one-twelfth of a rib cage, as “side” is yet another term signifying the equal-footing of women in the context of the story’s lesson.

The translation of ‘rib’ is a red herring which distracts from the focus of the story. It isn’t what was taken from Adam, but what was ADDED to him. The text reads wa-yisgor basar tach’teh-nah: “closed up flesh in its place.” The text doesn’t say God “closed up the flesh in its place” as there is no –ha representing a “the” article. Although Bibles commonly read “the flesh” here it’s incorrect. This suggests that God healed Adam’s own flesh after supposedly extracting one of his ribs, but we also see no possessive pronoun, which if it were present, would read ‘wa-yisgor basar-o tach’teh-nah’ (-o representing “his”, as in “his flesh”). Therefore, the text suggests that God takes from Adam’s side, but immediately repairs him with flesh – brand new flesh to be exact. This is key, because “flesh” is the real focus of the story. “Flesh” represents things added to Adam. The mini-parable then becomes apparent: Just as God uses real flesh to repair Adam’s physical body, Eve comes and is called “flesh of my flesh” – because she repairs the breaches of Adam’s companionship. This sums up the story nicely, which started with God declaring “it is not good the man be to his self!” The original problem was that Adam was destined to his own flesh, but God’s solution was to add new “flesh” in the form of a wife!

Thus my discomfort with the “rib story” was turned into inspiration. The reason God just didn’t create Eve from the ground or out of thin air was to teach future generations. In this teaching point, the “side story” is one of many reproofs equating women with men, and the choice of words hint at a greater truth – that women are sanctuaries for men.

There are other beautiful revelations hidden in this text which demonstrate the majesty and fingerprint of God, but it so happens that there are too many to include in one post! For now, I am assured that elaborate works of God – even when they seem unnecessary or absurd – hide revelations for those who are diligent enough to seek them. Scoffers will always miss the Holy One, but those who love Him will surely be blessed in uncovering His veiled Word.

Genesis 2:18-24, God’s Premarital Counseling

And Yahweh Elohim said, “Not good the man be to his self! I will appoint him a rescue as his opposite.” And Yahweh Elohim had formed from the clay every beast of the field, and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see how he called to them. And all which the man called the living creature – it’s its name. And the man called names to all animals, and therefore to birds of the sky, and to all beasts of the field; but there was not found a rescue for Adam as his opposite. So Yahweh Elohim fell a deep sleep over the man, and he slept. And He took first from his side, then closed up flesh in its place. And Yahweh Elohim built the side – which he took from the man – into a woman, and brought her to the man. And the man said, “This is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh. Thus I will call her ‘woman,’ because she was thus taken from man.” For yes, a man leaves his father and his mother, and clings to his wife: and they become as one flesh. (Genesis 2:18-24, my personal interpretation)

Recently I proposed that there is no such thing as a “helpmate”, which implies a subtle inferiority in women. On the contrary, the text identifies women as equals, who are a type of “rescue” for men… but the question is, rescue from what?

As the text literally says “not good the man be to his self” I suggest that a woman rescues a man… from himself! While this does not mean that men are complete messes until they are “rescued” (sorry ladies), it clearly suggests that men are not meant to be ‘lone rangers’. In fact, a remez (the implied or hinted interpretation) of “not good the man be to his self” shows that a mark of manhood is to long for a woman’s companionship. This text speaks to a man – not to a boy. It’s natural for a man coming into his own to want a wife, and God calls this “good”. King Shlomo (Solomon) repeats this in his proverbs: “whoever finds a wife finds good, and secures delight from the LORD.” (Prov. 18:22)

Refusing Commitment = Evil

However, the alternative to marriage is “not good”, which is another way to say “evil”. A man who refuses commitment will not secure any delight from YHVH. Such men show their evil through their words and actions. The ‘ladies’ man’ flaunts his sexual promiscuity; the hermit lives in his fears of failure and rejection. There are also workaholics who choose careers over a family, but this shows they are really slaves to work and greed – yet another evil. With the exception of men who remain single for furtherance of the Kingdom of God (ref. Matt. 19:11), any refusal to marry is founded on a path of evil intentions.

As this story ends with the man calling the woman “flesh of my flesh”, a rejection of female companionship equates to hatred of a man’s own soul. In Genesis 2:18, God specifically calls the future wife man’s “neged” “opposite”, which is understood as if a man looked at his “opposite” in a mirror. All single men await a “neged” but the thought is terrifying to some. A man can hide a multitude of voids gazing at his reflection, but a neged sees him as he truly is. A man’s soul is… naked before his neged!

Animals are Help, Women are Rescue

Obviously, most men seek marriage’s benefits and make the ‘good’ choice to find a wife. This featured passage of Genesis 2:18-24 was written for men, to have the right mindset when meeting their neged for the first time. In other words, this story is God’s pre-marital counseling!

Through most of history, and even today, man lived with an agarian point of view. I previously suggested the preamble to Genesis 2 showed the chapter was written with such a perspective, and this sort-of-strange story about Adam naming animals further supports that position.

Mankind has shared most of his days with animals – shepherding flocks, using beasts of burden, raising birds for eggs, hunting game, etc. Animals are a gift for men, as they make life a little easier. However, even with their help, life is rough. Life was still laborious in agrarian society, and still is for most of the world. However, young men can grow up with a hope that a rescue is on the way!

In this story, God makes a vast contrast between women and the animal kingdom as a type of reminder. Men may become attached to his horse or his dog, but that companionship falls far short of a woman’s love. A woman’s arms are his rescue from the day. As such, men must take heed how he talks to his equal; he mustn’t beckon to her like she’s his donkey or his ox.

Animals are taken from flocks and herds, but Adam knew knew his woman “was taken from man“. By this account God warns young men to know the difference prior to finding his neged. This word ends with “A man leaves his father and mother, and cleaves to his wife, and they become as one flesh.” When he leaves his parents, he mustn’t speak to his wife like his father’s cattle.

This may seem superfluous, but many cultures throughout history and even some today denigrate women to the status of livestock or slave. However, it is not so with Yahweh Elohim. He commands men to view their women as complete equals – as their counterparts, their true companions, their queens.♦

Genesis 2:18, There is No Such Thing as a “Help-Mate”

And Yahweh Elohim said, “Not good the man be to his self! I will appoint him [ezer] as his opposite.” (Genesis 2:18, my interpretation)

What if “helpmate” did not actually appear in Genesis 2:18?

“lo-tov heyot ha-adam l’vad-o / eeseh-l’o ezer k’neged-o” (not good be to his self / I will appoint for him aid as his opposite)

This is the only passage “ezer” is translated as “helper”, “helpmate” or “help-meet” in the whole Hebrew Bible, which is quite suspect. Such a translation makes it seem like a woman was designed for a support role, an ‘executive assistant’ to a man’s entitlement of ‘CEO’. The rest of the passage hangs on the proper translation of ezer; if it implies a sense of inferiority, then women would be viewed slightly more valuable than the cattle or birds of the air which Adam would eventually name (see vv. 19-20).

The fact is, the rest of God’s Word does not define ezer with even a hint of inferiority. In actuality, it fits a context similar to:

And the name of the one- Eliezer, for [Moses said] “the God of my father (brought) my ezer, and he would take me from the sword of Pharaoh.” (cf. Exodus 18:4)

Moshe felt rescued from the hand of Pharaoh, as ezer describes a type of deliverance or relief from distress. In the Psalms, the power to “ezer” is ascribed to Yahweh, continuing the praises of Moshe in the Torah. According to the rest of Tanakh, YHVH brought ezer by swallowing up Pharaoh’s armies in the Sea of Reeds, or becoming an ezer to shield Israel. Therefore, Almighty God didn’t just “assist” Israel, He brought about great rescues!

Thus, it seems the real reason God created a woman was for a man’s rescue… and how does she rescue him? As the text literally says “not good the man be to his self” it’s apparent she rescues a man… from himself!

This is not to say that men are complete messes before women enter their lives… sorry ladies. The text also says that a man’s alternative is “to be to his self.” God calls such solitude as “not good”, a paraphrased way of saying “it’s evil.” Therefore, a woman’s open arms rescue him from a boring, lonely, and thus evil life. Yet there is even another way a woman rescues a man from himself.

The word ezer is paired with neged, meaning a “counter, opposite, side.” When placed together in the phrase “ezer k’negedo“, it means “rescue as his opposite.” This phrase appears not once, but twice in the passage (vv. 18 and 20) to emphasize the role of a woman, which reads like an oxymoron! So how does a woman rescue but oppose a man at the same time?

She does this by providing her point of view. You see, women have to counter the rationale of their men with her intuition and reasoning, which may save him from making mistakes and error. For this reason, society makes a grave error by condoning that women be and think exactly like men. The Bible would argue that she must be a type of opposite to think differently and provide such intelligence to her spouse! Otherwise, the world would be trapped in man-think and be doomed.

A man with his wife is like a man talking to himself in a mirror… but his reflection – his opposite – answers. So it is when a man looks at his wife. For this reason the Scriptures are filled with words such as:

“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:28)

Such words are a continuation of the precedent set forth by God in the Beginning. From Genesis to Ephesians and beyond, it’s quite clear the text of the Bible calls woman complete and utter equals to men, a valuable rescue in the life of man. It is not right to call her a “helper”. She can and does provide so much more. ♦

Genesis 2:16-17, Who Can Eat from the Tree of Knowledge?

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

This verse provokes a reasonable question from both skeptics and believers: ‘If God didn’t want Adam to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, why put it within his reach?’

Skeptics usually ask this question from a sarcastic point of view – often accusing God of entrapment. Believers on the other hand ask this question to better understand God’s will. However, both sides seem to think it would make better sense for God to put the Tree of Knowledge as far from Adam as possible so he would not sin.

I believe the answer to the question is more simple than complex. First, let’s look at what YHVH actually says to the man:

In the day YOU eat from it, dying YOU shall die.” (vs. 17). The Hebrew records the –echa suffix making it quite clear God is speaking directly to Adam. However, the Bible never claims the tree’s fruit wouldn’t be eaten… it only says mankind is forbidden to eat it. This of course provokes another question: ‘who CAN eat the fruit?’

The Tree of Knowledge was in a garden planted by God. He is the owner; its trees and fruit belonged to Him. Adam worked and preserved the garden but was allowed to reap its bounty – including the fruitful delicacies that were seemingly always in season. However, the placement of the Tree of Knowledge at the center of the Garden shouldn’t be viewed solely as the entrapment or temptation of Adam. Perhaps there is another explanation.

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Spirit is the form by which God is historically known – omnipresent and always near. Of course, God never changes – He was Spirit when Adam kept the Garden of Eden. However, the Bible records God in another form back then:

“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day… the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:8-9, ESV)

Sometimes, God manifests Himself in our dimension, though He is always Spirit. In such manifestations, He walks, He talks, and looks like a man. In fact, His whole purpose of creating Mankind was to eventually become a Man, as He did through His promised visitation to Israel as Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). In those days, He was accustomed to eat and drink with those who desired His company. After ultimately demonstrating God’s plan of atonement through His death, He even ate in His resurrected body:

“Yeshua himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were terrified and filled with fear, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. He said to them, “Why are you troubled? …Touch me and see, for a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” …While they still didn’t believe for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. He took them, and ate in front of them. He said to them, “This is what I told you, while I was still with you, that all things which are written in the Torah of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, concerning me must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:36-44)

God is Spirit indeed, but in times past and future, He desires to eat and drink with men. At His last Passover, Yeshua gave us a glimpse of this fellowship in the olam haba (age to come):

He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will no longer by any means eat of it until it is fulfilled in God’s Kingdom.” He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until God’s Kingdom comes.” (Luke 22:16-18)

There is a day known to God when we will once again eat with Messiah Yeshua in His Kingdom. Until that day, we find joy that God has always desired fellowship with men by eating and drinking in flesh and bone:

The LORD appeared to (Abraham) by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and saw that three men stood near him. When he saw them, he ran to meet them… and said, “My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please don’t go away from your servant. Now let a little water be fetched, wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. I will get a piece of bread so you can refresh your heart… He took butter, milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them. He stood by them under the tree, and they ate. (Gen. 18:1-8)

Just as He did through the life of Yeshua, YHVH ate with His servants. He dined with Avraham, and He walked and talked in the Garden of Eden to have fellowship with Adam. Unfortunately, Adam failed where Avraham later succeeded.

The Tree of Knowledge’s fruit was tasty, being “good for food” (Gen. 3:6). However, no one may eat from the Tree of Knowledge unless first possessing “knowledge of good and evil”. Based on the Scriptures, YHVH was the only one who was able to eat from both the Tree of Knowledge AND the Tree of Life concurrently. When broadcasting how mankind became like God -“knowing good and evil” – God knew Adam might also become like Him by eating from the Tree of Life, and thus regain immortality (see Gen 3:22). However, as Genesis 2:16-17 clearly shows, Man was never forbidden to eat from the Tree of Life! Adam had possessed eternal life before he lost it; it was a gift of God (isn’t it interesting that eternal life has always been a gift of God?)! However, as YHVH possesses both eternal life and the knowledge of good and evil, He alone could eat from both trees at the same time.

Conclusion

The Tree of Knowledge’s sweet fruit wasn’t meant to entrap Adam – it was for YHVH to eat while He fellowshipped with Adam Man-to-man. I believe YHVH expected Adam to offer Him the sweet fruit in the same way Avraham offered YHVH a fatted calf. This is evidenced by YHVH’s question after Adam fell, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9) It’s as if God was saying, ‘you used to run to greet me, where are you today?’ However, Adam didn’t run to YHVH that day – His eyes were opened to evil, and mankind would forever run the opposite direction, with the evil inclination of his heart.♦

Genesis 2:4-10 Part II: Putting Man in His Place, in More Ways than One!

In my first post, I developed my own interpretation of Genesis 2:4-10 after showing (in my own way) the differences between translation and interpretation. Now, I defend my interpretation and suggest why we may be missing the real intent of Genesis 2 – to put man in his place, in more ways than one!

This is my interpretation of Genesis 2:4b-10:

In the day Yahweh Elohim made land and sky-
before any shrub of the field was on Earth,
before any plant of the field had sprouted,
when Yahweh Elohim did not bring rain over the Earth,
without a man to work the soil.
Yet fog ascended from the Earth
and watered the entire face of the soil.
And Yahweh Elohim formed “the man of clay” from the soil
and breathed into his face a breath of life.
Then man became a living being.
Now Yahweh Elohim had planted a garden in Eden long ago,
and there emplaced the man whom He formed.
Now Yahweh Elohim sprouted from the soil every tree pleasing to sight,
and good for food-
including a tree of the Life in the midst of the garden,
and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now a river flowed from Eden and irrigated the garden;
but from there it was scattered
and became four heads.

Establishing Author Intent

A common sentiment of commentaries on Genesis 2:4-10 (especially vv. 4-7) is the complete lack of confidence in current versions! Statements such as “what did God mean by this” or “perhaps” or “mystery” are common descriptors. As I demonstrated in my last post, such lack of confidence has led some theologians to accept “contradictions” between Genesis 1 and 2. Lack of confidence is also evidenced by the various translations existing amongst contemporary English Bibles. I think the reason there is no confidence in these interpretations is because there is too much focus on translation of the words, but not enough energy devoted to interpreting author’s intent. However, the key to establishing confidence in any interpretation is to portray the original intent of the author(s). This includes establishing his point-of-view.

I’ll use the very first word of the passage in Genesis 2:4b – b’yom – as a prime example of establishing intent. b’yom is the -b preposition (equivalent to “in/on/among”) followed by yom, the Hebrew word for “day”. Critics argue b’yom could be translated “in a day” thus “in a day Yahweh Elohim made earth and heaven” contradicts the six-day creation account of Genesis 1. In a separate example, an old earth creationist interprets yom to justify his agenda. However, it is doubtful ultra-meticulous scribes (or a culture based on a strict oral history) would have gloriously missed “contradictions”. Secondly, several other scriptures establish the correct context and translation of b’yom as “in the day” – a Hebrew idiom meaning “when”. Here, the correct interpretation is made by comparing the phrase’s use in other scriptures, and understanding the rendering of b’yom as an idiom fits the context of Gen 2:4. As noted, it also does not contradict earlier parts of Scripture, thus truer to the intent of the originating author(s) and culture.

My interpretation of b’yom as an idiomatic “when” underlines the rest of the chapter. Also, we gain insight to intent: the author(s) is romanticizing history, like the way “once upon a time” is an idiomatic, romantic beginning for an epic. Therefore, the next few clauses are also introductory, complimenting the author’s retrospect from the future:

“When God made earth and sky (IT WASN’T ALWAYS AS IT IS TODAY):
-There wasn’t always shrubs or plants in cultivation just anywhere in the Earth (v. 5a-b).
-It didn’t always rain over the Earth like it does today (v. 5c).
-We didn’t always have to work the soil (v. 5d).
-Back then, a fog used to water the soil, not the rain (v. 6).

These introductory clauses “set the scene” for an author writing in ancient Israel. It is well known that ancient Israel was an agrarian culture, a continuous cycle of plowing and reaping cultivated fields (filled with shrubs like pomegranates and herbs like emmer wheat). Perhaps most important to Israel’s agrarian culture was predictable rainfall “in due season”, which was necessary to her survival. Israel is not like Egypt which relies on irrigation from the Nile; Israel’s hilly terrain requires rain from heaven. For this reason, the Hebrews invested many prayers to implore God for rain – a common theme in the Prophets and Psalms.

Therefore, this author contrasted the distant past with his present agrarian culture. That is why he his introduction begins and ends as “when Yahweh Elohim made land and sky… without a man “to work the soil”’. The phrase “to work the soil (laavod et-haadamah)” portrays hard labor of ‘turning the soil’, like when a man ‘puts his hand to the plow’ (cf. Luke 9:62). Contrary to how modern translations read, this is a knock on mankind. It doesn’t romanticize God making man to gently “till” a flower garden- it’s says ‘oh, there was a time we didn’t have to blister our hands, break our bones, and have sweat roll in our eyes!’

Throughout the next chapters of Genesis, the author(s) shows how each of his introductory clauses come to pass as facts of life. First we read “before any herb of the field had sprouted”… but later – after given a fully developed garden he didn’t have to plow (which would have been viewed as a great gift by the agrarian Hebrews) – Adam was banished to plow, seed, weed, and reap his own “herbs of the field” (Gen. 3:18). Instead of living off the land, he had to “work the soil” for himself “in the sweat of his face” (Gen. 3:19, 23). So much for “no man to work the soil”!

Several contrasts are made between the present culture of the author (s) and the pre-Flood world. First, he describes the soil of that time as being watered by ed arising from the earth. [N.B.: There is much speculation about how ed should be defined; I have interpreted it as “fog” though some translate it “streams” or “flows”. In Job 36:27, ed’s only other occurrence, the context seems to portray a fog, or vapor]. In Adam’s terrarium world water came from the ground, not the sky, denoting phenomena totally different from the author(s)’s climate. Additionally, he writes about the “Garden of Eden long ago” stressing an ancient past. Then, he describes the river of Eden as being “scattered” – which I presume happened through a worldwide flood, and redrawn in a new world as four separate rivers. Eventually, he climaxes what he originally said about the world without rain in Genesis 2:5 with the first rain of the Great Flood (cf. Gen. 7:4,7).

[Note: it would be too lengthy to discuss the “curse” of that world here; I’ll write it up in a later post.]

Other nuances through this text tell the “heavy heart” of the author(s). They lament this life of labor, not celebrating it! They describe “the man of clay”. There are many awkward readings of Genesis 2:7 (as shown through this parallel), but the phrase “He formed man from the dust of the ground” is non-existent. It actually says ‘He formed “the man of clay” from the soil’ which biblically makes more sense. It portrays God as a potter and man as clay, a theme in many later biblical parables (e.g. Job 10:9, Isa. 64:8, Jer. 18:1-6). This builds up to the fall of man, a curse on the soil, hardships, the murder, until the fall ends with the Great Flood.

In fact, it appears the author(s) puts “man in his place” before God puts man in any place!

In Conclusion

While Genesis 1 describes God’s creative approach to our heaven and earth, Genesis 2 is an indictment of man from the perspective of author(s) in an agrarian future looking back in retrospect. It does NOT begin a second creation account. If anything, it describes what mankind made- a complete mess! The events described are certainly not in chronological order, but they are not contradictory – which is why theologians should not accept “contradictions” in Genesis, it’s simply a matter of knowing the perspective and intent of the author(s).

But from this perspective, the creation of man isn’t as romantic as we interpret it today. They lamented working the soil as the no-name Adam “the man of clay” was forced to do. They lamented growing their own shrubs and fields. For them, it would have been a much more pleasant life picking apples off of trees than a life of plowing and weeding. And of course, they’re right! Who wouldn’t want that?

As the rest of Genesis proceeds, nothing good happens until the end of the flood, with the promise of its new start. In the meantime, we have to view Genesis from the perspective of a perfect, workless garden, that despite how much man could toil in the soil, he could never duplicate the Garden of Eden. I think that’s the point-of-view we miss, from the perspective of farmers who lost the farm!♦

Genesis 2:4-10 – Part 1: Run Down on the Run-On

Genesis 2 is admittedly a difficult passage to understand. The author uses ambiguous words, wordplays, idioms, grammar rules foreign to English speakers, and did not record events in a chronological order. In some places, the author(s) appear to leave incomplete sentences!

After interpreting Genesis 2:4-10, I found that I did not arrive at the same conclusions as the mainstream, but that’s fine, because I didn’t discover any common trends in its translation. At any rate, I feel that we are missing the point because we are so preoccupied by what the author said that we don’t consider what the author intended.

This first post is a study in the awkwardness of translation versus interpretation using Gen. 2:4-10 as an example, which concludes with my own interpretation of the text. Hopefully, it will also conclude with YOUR interpretation as well! The second post will be my apologetic explanation of why I think in Genesis 2, God puts man in his place, in more ways than we realize!

Translation Vs. Interpretation

Translation is difficult enough, but interpretation is an attempt to convey foreign thought into modern grammar and culture – which is far more challenging. As an example, the word-for-word, literal translation of Gen 2:4b-Gen 2:5d reads:

in day made yahweh elohim earth and sky and every shrub of the field before it was in earth and every shrub of the field before it was in earth and every herb of the field before it sprouted when did not send rain yahweh elohim over the earth and man no to work the ground

You see, this is translated, but how do we interpret this!? Which words must we add (for it) to make sense in English? Should we insert ‘a’ or ‘the’ modifiers for the sake of ‘flow’? Do we translate words like shamayim by its practical term “sky” or by its more bias meaning of “Heaven?” What words should I capitalize? What about punctuation? How do I distinguish commas from periods; do I need brackets and/or parentheses?

However, the most important question of all is, ‘how do I determine the original author point-of-view and intentions!!?’

If I reading the above translation word-for-word, it may seem that Yahweh make heaven and earth, along with every shrub and plant before they even appeared on the earth… which is exactly how some interpret it! A certain religion headquartered in Utah interprets Genesis 2:5 to justify a “prior spirit creation“. In a similar vein, the 19th Century Methodist theologian Adam Clarke explained that this statement “describes how God made everything in maturity before placing it on the earth.” [N.B.: For the sake of brevity, I did not include other sources that support a similar interpretation, though there are several more.]

However, what if the statement “every shrub of the field before it was in the earth” is just an awkward way (for us) to say “before every shrub was in the earth”? Translated, this grammar confuses us Westerners, but it is just fine in Hebrew. You see, this second interpretation is vastly different than what some religions and theologians were inclined to believe because it accounts for the ancients’ style of writing. Now it’s true faulty interpretations could be nefarious, like say to satisfy a doctrinal agenda, but most of the time misreadings of the text miss something, like the context and culture of the ancient manuscript.

Returning to the translation of Gen. 2:4b-5, did shrubs and plants not sprout because there was no rain? Did God withhold rain because there were no men to work the ground, which suggests that all men were created to be farmers?

Furthermore, the translation “as is” suggests God delayed the creation of vegetation until He made man to cultivate the ground… sooooooo was mankind created before plant life? Isn’t that a contradiction of Genesis 1, where plants sprouted three days before mankind (cf. Gen. 1:11-13, 27-31)!? As exemplified at the 3:54 mark of this video, some theologians have just given up trying to harmonize Genesis 1 and 2, all because Genesis 2:4-7 is interpreted as if humans preceded vegetation.

I raise these thematic questions because all of them are subjects of commentaries and articles internal and external to the Kingdom of God. However, all such arguments have one thing in common: they are interpretations. While interested parties should investigate Genesis 2’s many interpretations for themselves, I also challenge readers to compare parallel translations of Genesis 2:4-10 and observe the differences in punctuation, sentence division, and to consider what these readings imply from the text.

Let’s Run Down the Run-On

With so many different interpretations of Genesis 2, why not try it ourselves?

The first difficulty is getting past its form, which is similar to an English run-on sentence. The “run-on” has a clear break in verse 10, but in actuality continues to verse 25. My focus will be on Genesis 2:4b-10.

Thoughts of the author(s) are separated by clauses, which are introduced by vav (-v; often transliterated -w) conjunctions. –v/w is usually translated “and” but can also mean “and therefore, also, then, or yet.”

Though -v is often used in a continuative sense, it can also be adversarial (and vs. but, respectively). It may also introduce circumstantial clauses, causal clauses, comparative clauses, purpose clauses, etc.1

The lone exception is the Hebrew kiy. Like –v, it also introduces clauses, such as “object clauses, clauses introducing direct narrative, causal clauses, conditional clauses, confirmatory clauses, adversative and exceptive clauses, temporal clauses, or result clauses.”2 It has about two dozen translations in biblical texts.

To demonstrate the run-on, I’ve transliterated Genesis 2:4b to Genesis 2:10 (where the run-on clearly breaks), separating each clause containing its own verb, while leaving every conjunction as is.

As you read, YOU will be responsible for identifying each kind of clause (conditional, causal, etc) which will determine how YOU translate each conjunction (and, because, but, then, yea, etc.). Additionally, YOU will be responsible for punctuation, and the insertion of any words conducive to “flow”. Therefore, modifiers such as a/an/the will be marked by (?). Additionally, hads/haves may be required – even if the verb form is active yet the context implies a passive event. YOU will simply have to judge if the context warrants it. Yes, there will be some words requiring an extra English word or verb to work; I did not translate these but hyperlinked them so YOU may pick the translation and verb combination to make it work. Don’t worry, you can italicize such inserts, but YOU will also have to omit any words you deem unnecessary. For ambiguous words having two or more possibilities, I simply used hyphens and translated all possibilities… all for YOU. You are encouraged to read further in the Bible to find contextual clues, or to compare usage of terms elsewhere. You may even use other Bible translations if you do not like my listed options, but your final translation must be easy-to-read, which means YOU must rearrange the word order as they originally appeared.

Fear not! All of the rules I’ve just levied on YOU, dear reader, are used by all translators of every holy book, everywhere! Now, YOU get to play by the same rules. Have at it!

2:4b b‘yôm ásôt y’hwäh élohiym eretz v’shämäyim [in (?) day yahweh elohim made (?) earth/land vav (?) sky(ies)/Heaven]

2:5a w’khol siyach haSädeh terem yih’yeh äretz [vav every/any shrub of the field before it was/became in (?) earth/land]

2:5b w’khäl ësev haSädeh terem yitz’mäch [vav every/any plant/herb of the field before it sprouted]

2:5c kiy lo him’tiyr y’hwäh élohiym al-hääretz [kiy did not himitiyr yahweh elohim  over/upon the earth]

2:5d w’ädäm ayin laávod et-häádämäh [vav man/Adam ayin to work/till the ground/soil]

2:6a w’ëd yaáleh min-hääretz [vav mist/fog/river ascended from the earth]

2:6b w’hish’qäh et-Käl-P’nëy-häádämäh [vav watered/irrigated (?) entire face of the ground]

2:7a waYiytzer y’hwäh élohiym et-häädäm äfär min-häádämäh [vav formed yahweh elohim the man of clay from the ground/soil]

2:7b waYiPach B’aPäyw nish’mat chaYiym [vav breathed in face/nose (?) breath of life(ves)]

2:7c way’hiy häädäm l’nefesh chaYäh [vav was/became the man to being of life]

2:8a waYita y’hwäh élohiym Gan-B’ëden mi-Qedem [vav yahweh elohim planted a garden in eden from East/long ago]

2:8b waYäsem shäm et-häädäm ásher yätzär [vav emplaced/gave there the man whom he formed]

2:9a waYatz’mach y’hwäh élohiym min-häádämäh Käl-ëtz nech’mäd l’mar’eh [vav yahweh elohim sprouted from the ground/soil every tree delightful to sight]

2:9b w’tôv l’maákhäl [vav good to eat]

2:9c w’ëtz hachaYiym B’tôkh’ haGän w’ëtz haDaat tôv [vav (?) tree of the life(ves) in center of the garden vav (?) tree of the knowledge of good vav evil]

2:10a w’nähär yotzë më-ëden l’hash’qôt et-haGän [vav river sprang from Eden to water/irrigate the garden]

2:10b vmi-SHäm yiPärëd [vav from there it parted/divided/scattered/separated]

2:10c w‘häyäh l’ar’Bääh räshiym [vav was/became four heads.]

So, did you get something similar to me?

In the day Yahweh Elohim made land and sky-
before any shrub of the field was on Earth,
before any plant of the field had sprouted,
when Yahweh Elohim did not bring rain over the Earth,
without a man to work the soil.
Yet fog ascended from the Earth
and watered the whole face of the soil.
And Yahweh Elohim formed “the man of clay” from the soil
and breathed into his face a breath of life.
Then man became a living being.
Now Yahweh Elohim had planted a garden in Eden long ago,
and there emplaced the man whom He formed.
Now Yahweh Elohim sprouted from the soil every tree pleasing to sight,
and good for food –
including a tree of the Life in the midst of the garden,
and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now a river flowed from Eden and irrigated the garden;
but from there it was scattered
and became four heads.

In my interpretation, the clauses are variable, the -vav conjunctions do not always begin continual clauses, and I’ve used “now” to denote clauses which are clearly not chronological. I used scare quotes to carry over an intricacy of the text. Additionally, I used hyphens and different translations for some of the words, including where I think verbs are better understood in a different tense!

If you’ve played along you may have arrived to a different conclusion. Hopefully, I’ve at least demonstrated how difficult translating versus interpreting can be, especially with awkward readings in Hebrew. Once again, I invite enquiring minds to read parallel versions of this passage, to see how many scholars can reach different conclusions.

In my next post, I will defend my own interpretation by establishing the author’s point-of-view and thus, proper context.♦

¹ Mickelson, A Berkeley. “Interpreting the Bible”. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1972; p. 141.
² ibid.

Why Genesis 2:4 Should Be Divided

The following is the current translation of Genesis 2:4 in today’s most popular Bibles:

  • 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, (KJV)
  • This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. (NIV)
  • 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. (ESV)
  • This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.

The Man and Woman in Eden

When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, (NLT)

Of all the top four English versions, I believe only the New Living Translation got it right, because it divides Genesis 2:4 into two parts. The NLT grouped 2:4a with the rest of the first week (Gen. 1:1-2:4a), while the second part is grouped with the creation of mankind (Gen. 2:4b-24). In this post, I will also propose why Genesis 2:4 should be read as separate thoughts.

In the other three versions, Gen. 2:4 is redundant and looks like circular reasoning – saying the exact same thing twice. While it is true Semitic writings feature synonymous parallels, this text doesn’t substitute synonyms for its nouns, nor is it poetry.

This awkward reading is the first indication that an improper scriptural division took place – perhaps 800 years ago! While chapter-and-verse divisions have given the Judeo-Christian world a valuable convenience, improper divisions can be misleading. I am not saying divisions are unnecessary, but I do believe after 800 years of scholarship that it might be time to reevaluate them.

First, let’s consider that Genesis 2:1-3, explaining the Seventh Day, is separated from the other six days of creation (Genesis 1). However, it makes more logical sense if it were read as one continuous thought with the rest of creation week. Assuming this for the sake of the argument, a “reorganized” Genesis 2 begins with the redundant Genesis 2:4.

Why Genesis 2:4 Should Be Divided

The first part of Genesis 2:4 reads: “this is the history of the heavens and the earth in their creation” (elleh toledot ha-shamayim v’ha-aretz b’hi-baram). Of course, this line is quite similar to Genesis 1:1’s “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Therefore, it might be that Genesis 1:1 and 2:4a are “bookends” for the Creation Week, acting as introductory and closing statements. There is nothing contextually wrong with this reading. The Hebrew elleh (this) can be an antecedent or precedent modifier; it can definitely be used as an antecedent, in this case describing things aforementioned (the creation of the heavens and the earth). While this is not “proof” by any stretch, the close resemblance of Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:4a is a second indicator that Genesis 2:4 should be split (the first being an illogical and awkward reading).

Additionally, the author of Genesis 2:4a uses the root bara (“create” in an absolute sense); bara is used five other times in Genesis 1 but not found again until Genesis 5 – the third indication Genesis 2:4a and Genesis 1 belong together.

Additionally, Genesis 2:4a also uses definitive articles ‘the’ with shamayim and eretz (ha-shamayim; ha-aretz) – also matching Genesis 1, but Genesis 2:4b (b’yom asot y’hwh elohim eretz w’shamayim) does not (Note: This could lead to different interpretations of the text, see below); In other words, we have a fourth indication the verses do not belong together.

Speaking of heavens and earth, the order in which the two terms appear in the written text is switched; in 2:4a hashamayim precedes haaretz, but in 2:4b eretz is before shamayim). This is the fifth indication that the two lines were written by separate authors.

By Context

Context also plays a part in determining its placement, and is the sixth indication Genesis 2:4 should be read as two thoughts. For instance, Genesis 2:4 reads “elleh toledot ha-shamayim v’ha-aretz b’hi-baram”, literally “This is the history (lit. generations) of the heavens and the earth in their creation.” However, in context, the rest of Genesis 2 doesn’t address “generations” of the heavens and the earth; it portrays an intimate creation of man and woman, and the role of mankind on the earth with His creator. The generations of the heavens and the earth are detailed in Genesis 1, which is a day-by-day historical account, which makes more sense. Likewise, the absence of a definitive article “ha” with eretz and shamayim in 2:4b can arguably be translated more generally as “land” and “sky” (b’yom asot y’hwh elohim eretz w’shamayim: When YHVH Elohim made land and sky…)

Additionally, the author of Genesis 2:4b uses the Hebrew word for day (yom) in the context of an idiom (b’yom; lit. “in the day” but simply meaning “when”), the title of YHVH, and lumps elements of creation together when read with Genesis 2:5: land, sky, shrubs, herbs, rain, etc.). Lumping these elements together does not describe a history, just an introduction to his real intent of portraying man’s relationship to YHVH Elohim.

Conclusion 

Nothing I proposed in this post is earth-shattering; on the scale of relevance this would register a low input. However, this is a good example of improper biblical division, and can serve as a good reminder that while chapters and verses are convenient, they are not absolute.

I based my decision on at least six indications that Genesis 2:4 was written by two separate authors:

  • In its entirety, Genesis 2:4 is circular and doesn’t make sense in translated English or the original Hebrew.
  • Genesis 2:4a appears to be a closing statement, just as Genesis 1:1 is an opening statement.
  • The author of 2:4a uses the bara verb, which is used five other times in Genesis 1 but never again in the second creation account.
  • The author of 2:4a uses definitive articles (hashamayim and haaretz); the author of 2:4b does not.
  • The word order of shamayim and eretz is switched as one reads 2:4a to 2:4b.
  • The context of the statement “toledot hashamayim v’haaretz” – generations of the heavens and earth – matches the historical context of Genesis 1 but not the context of the second creation account’s focus on intimacy.

Genesis 2:4a should finish Chapter 1, and 2:4b should begin Genesis’s second chapter. This may seem like a minor thing, but I believe starting the second creation account with its rightful introduction will help alleviate confusion and help establish proper context, which I will address in later posts.

The Hebrew Genesis and Ancient Near East Creation Accounts

Before delving deeper on the two complementary creation narratives of Genesis, I wanted to address a fairly common argument I’ve encountered on and off the past couple years, both in personal conversations and in the media. By “media” I mean blogs, forums, and scholarly journals, to include theses from theologians and Christian apologists! Every so often I encounter claims like the following:

  1. “Most Egyptian Creation stories predate [the earliest Genesis texts] by many centuries.” http://www.free-online-bible-study.org/egyptian-mythology.html
  2. Since the Nile river, with its annual floods played a critical role in this cosmic order, water was the first element in the cosmos that existed before anything else, and this was passed to the Hebrews in a slightly different form…in fact we have to wonder how much the ancient Hebrews borrowed from Egyptian mythology to explain the creation of the universehttp://www.aldokkan.com/religion/creation.htm
  3. “Evidence for this lies in the many allusions to Egyptian creation motifs throughout the Genesis creation accounts. But, rather than being a case of direct borrowing, they demythologize the Egyptian concepts and form a polemic against the Egyptian gods.” (From Dallas Theological Seminary, via https://bible.org/article/genesis-1-2-light-ancient-egyptian-creation-myths)

Besides Egyptian sources, other Ancient Near East (ANE) mythologies are claimed to have influenced Genesis:

  1. “findings at Ugarit… predate the Hebrew settlement at Canaan… some of the same gods that appear in the (Old Testament), produced after the Hebrew contact with the Ugarit region.” http://freethoughtblogs.com/axp/2007/08/27/ugarit-and-the-bible/
  2. “My research indicates that, at times, “reversals” are occurring in the Hebrew transformation and re-interpretation of the Mesopotamian myths.” http://www.religioustolerance.org/com_geba.htm

There are dozens of more resources available on these topics; these are merely a sampling.

Such comparisons highlight the similarities between ANE (hereafter defined as Ancient Egypt and its surrounding area) and Genesis, such as linguistics, literary structure (the order of the stories), and topics. Truth be told, the arguments are intriguing. There are in fact many similarities between Genesis and ANE pagan myths: all feature an earth created out of a primitive “water world”, the sky is separated from the earth, land emergences after a recession of water, the seat of a chief god from which flows waters, as well as several others.

Some names of deities are also shared. Especially in the case of Ugarit, there is reportedly a “court of elohim” (the gods) with various names, such as Baal, Asherah, and Yhw (yahweh). They all sit under the throne of Ilu, the chief god (comparable to the Hebrew ‘El’).

Not surprisingly, these interpretations are spun in a way to show how the Hebrews reinterpreted monotheism from polytheistic sources, and adopted ‘Yahweh’ as the chief God of Israel. [Note: Most theologians and apologists cite the many differences; most atheist and skeptical sources do not].

The fact is, creation accounts of the ANE and Genesis do share too many similarities to be coincidence, except of course for the differences in monotheistic and polytheistic nuances. For example, in Genesis God creates the sky, but in Egypt the chief god Ra creates the sky god, Nut. In other words, the objects of God’s creation in Genesis seem to equate to a corresponding ANE deity and/or power.

All these critiques are based off of one key assumption: ‘the ANE myths preceded the Biblical narrative’. Even an apologetic article from Answers in Genesis (AiG) speculates that “Moses challenged all the false ideologies around him.” Such comparisons leave many in an defensive position apologizing for Genesis as type of an anti-myth. However, this is an untenable position; the Bible teaches in several places that the six-day creation was real history, confirmed by the Torah (i.e. Exodus 20:11), Prophets, Psalms, and the words of Messiah Yeshua (i.e. Matt. 19:5-6).

While it is a possible that Moshe “myth busted” local creation myths with the original story, I think there is a better explanation, as all writers are missing the point on this topic – especially theologians and apologists (exemplified in the sources above) – for reasons I address below.

Does “Older” Mean “Original”?

The first assumption to address is that ‘because ANE sources are older than any Hebrew source, the Hebrew source borrowed the material’. I believe it is intellectually dishonest to even attempt this comparison.

First of all, the Egyptian sources are hieroglyphics, which are useful waypoints in history but hardly proof of originality. The answer to ‘what inspired the hieroglyphics?’ lies beyond our current knowledge.

Secondly, Hebrew sources are missing because of the nature of Israelite civilization. The Hebrews did not build pyramids made of mortar and brick; their “original sources” would have been written on scrolls of skins or papyri – biological materials that could never designed to withstand the test of time, nor could they – as Jerusalem was destroyed over two dozen times and its only prized hardened structure – Solomon’s Temple – was demolished long ago.

Thirdly, the Hebrew Bible (aka tanakh) is assumed to be a recording of oral histories finally appearing in written form between Moshe and the the Babylonian captivity. For this reason, we will see statements like “the Egyptian sources predate the Hebrews’ by many centuries” because no one really knows the dates of either! [White Rabbit: Yet whenever written artifacts are found Biblical dates magically bump up overnight…]

Because of the lack of evidence, dating the Bible depends – ironically –on textual criticism (aka biblical testimony). As an example, Judges 17:6 reads “there was no king in those days…” Therefore, textual criticism demands a date when there was a king in Israel, with a minimal time of the reign of Saul. [White Rabbit: the reason I say “ironically” is because while a statement like “I know the Flood happened because the Bible records it” is begging the question, yet “the Bible is X years old because its own textual criticism demands it” is considered scholarship].

We should keep in mind, though, that textual criticism, like the documentary hypothesis, is only evidence of compilation, not originality, no more than Egyptian hieroglyphics are a date of inscription, not originality. The term “original” is one of speculation, not fact.

However, other textual criticisms are largely ignored, such as indicators that the Bible was compiled from pre-existing written sources, and evidence of a common oral history.

Evidences of oral tradition appear very earlier in the biblical text. For example Lamech, the father of Noach (Noah), said “This one will comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, caused by the ground which the LORD has cursed (Gen 5:29).” According to “textual criticism”, Lamech (and Noach) knew the history of Adam and his curse which happened centuries earlier. At the burning bush, Moshe – and later the elders – was not surprised he had ancestors named “Avraham v’Yitzhak v’Yaakov”. Israel knew enough oral history to carry Yosef’s bones from Egypt. All of these – plus many more – are evidences of oral history.

In Genesis, “These are the histories of the heavens and the earth” (2:1) dictates that Genesis was compiled from pre-existing historical scrolls, as does “the book of the history of Adam” (Gen 5:1). Therefore, Genesis itself testifies that it cannot be an original source – just an original compilation. Other verses indicate the Tanakh had much older written ancestors (Exodus 24:7, Num 21:24, etc.), leaving us evidence that the Tanakh is a compilation of much older “originals”.

All attempts to judge “historicity” of original ANE sources is flimsy scholarship. In the case of Egypt and Israel, comparisons are made between assumed originals versus known compilations, respectively. This is merely “apples-to-oranges”, a faulty comparison fallacy.

I believe the theologians and apologists should dismiss claims that Egyptian “originals” predate Biblical “originals”. There is simply no reason to accept the presumptions and associated faulty logic, nor can originality be proven in antiquity.

A Note on Egyptian Chronolog(ies) (?)

The chronology of Ancient Egypt is still a contested subject. Egypt’s chronology has been bumped forward several times by secular Egyptologists, popularly in 1906 by J.H. Breasted, and in the Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (2000). In fact, in last thirty years there has been a flurry of activity in revising Egypt’s chronology, as every few years “New Dates for Egypt’s Pharaohs” are announced. Critical reviews always reveal various inconsistencies and problems in the dating record, such as corresponding Egyptian dates with historically knowns and contemporary empires.

You don’t have to be an Egyptologist to understand the shaky nature of its chronological record. For example, it is well established that the oldest written synchronism linking Egypt’s timeline to another empire – Babylon – is a stele of Neferhotep I of the 13th Dynasty. On his Wikipedia page, seven alternative dates are given for his reign! Wikipedia cites links to regal predecessors, and Neferhotep I’s predecessor, Sobekhotep III, has a timeline of “1740 BC or 1700 BC” (give or take 40 years). His predecessor Seth Meribe, ruled “less than 10 years, probably less than 5 years, ending 1749 BC” (Assuming Sobekhotep III began his reign in 174o BCE, there are still nine unaccounted years between him and Seth Meribre!). We might surmise that these unaccounted years begin to accumulate, especially when clicking through the predecessors makes you surf in circles! However, anyone can see that successions of pharaohs are contested, and contain a lot of “circa” and (?) symbols. In my opinion, nobody really knows what happened before the 13th Dynasty – if then!

The concerning fact is that Egyptian chronology helps determine all the other chronologies of the ANE – including Ugarit and Canaan – the sources of other creation myths which “inspired” Genesis. But if Egypt’s timeline is shaky, then the others are shaky as well.

With such inconsistencies, the historical “evidence” of creation myths inspiring Genesis based on assumed ANE chronologies is a flawed premise. However, Dallas Theological Seminary and the aforementioned article from AiG have argued under this assumption. However, AiG does offer another article written by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell. She cites work by David Down, who postulated an alternate chronology of Egypt based on overlapping (non-successive) dynasties and known historical events. In such models (there are others), Dynasties V-VI appear well after the time of Bavel (Babel) and Avraham’s sojourn in Egypt (Abraham). This is significant because of my next points.

Who Influenced Whom?

The oldest written ANE creation myth comes from Egyptian hieroglyphics called the “Coffin Texts” dated to Dynasties V-VI (?). In traditional scholarship, these appear 200 years before Bavel and 400 years before Avraham. In revised chronologies, these dynasties appear after Avraham visited Egypt (ref. Gen 12:10-20).

In the biblical text, Avraham left in the original exodus. Though Pharaoh had clear indications that Elohim was with Avraham, he expelled Avraham rather than make him an ally, showing that Egypt’s hard-heartedness began long before Moshe. Nevertheless, Gen 12:16 says that Pharaoh treated Avram well for Sarai’s sake, sustaining Avram, his servants, and livestock in the famine. Since the Bible holds that Pharaoh’s house related to Avram’s, exchanges of oral traditions are not out of the question. If the power of God was clearly demonstrated to Pharaoh and his advisors, who is to say Avraham’s traditions did not influence Egypt?

Everything that deals with Egypt’s chronology is pure conjecture anyway, why not use the Bible as a historical source to make a hypothesis of “textual criticism”?

One Language, One Speech, One Common History

I understand the above scenario is imagination, but the real key to understanding history lies with Bavel, where “the whole earth was one language, and one race” (Gen 11:1). Research also attests to people groups sporadically appearing all over the world, inexplicably linked to linguistic histories.

Besides one language, the world shared one common history, and one oral tradition. After the dispersal, these families developed their own versions from the earth’s common history, which may be why every culture has similar creation, giant, flood, and tower legends. In fact, the various creation stories should bear some resemblance to each other – an indicator of a common oral history up to the dispersal of Bavel. However, because the nations distanced themselves from a Holy and All-Powerful God (the essential teaching of Genesis 11), we should also expect variations reflecting the lusts of the nations, which are present in ANE creation myths. Pagan mythologies are highly sensual and portray entities grappling for power by violence… which generally reflects Mankind before and immediately after the Flood!

One of those who left Bavel was named “Mizraim” (Gen 10:6). Mizraim was the uncle of Nimrod, who “began to be a god in the earth… a mighty warrior against YHVH (vv. 8-10)” Mizraim and its Semitic cognates comprise the universal term in ANE sources for that civilization in the Nile River Valley, known today as “Egypt”. According to the Bible, Nimrod did not make war with his fellow descendants of Ham. Nimrod conquered Eastward, where Asshur, the descendant of Shem had settled (cff. Gen. 10:8-10, 22). A few generations later, the Mitzrim flourished in a fertile Nile valley, capitalizing from Nile inundations, arable lands and abundant crop harvests, all the while separated from Nimrod’s wars. The rest is history, or shall we say – a perverted history (?) of sensuality, Nile gods, and sun worship.

Conclusion

From times following Nimrod’s Bavel, each dispersed world culture developed its own history, but kept variations of the common world history within their creation, giant, flood, and linguistic myths. This indicates why ANE mythologies lose similarity to biblical narratives beginning with Avraham in Genesis 12, but leads to speculative academic opinions based on nothing but conjecture, summed up as ‘ancient polytheistic sources influenced monotheistic Genesis!’

However, this is based on several assumptions and flawed logic, based on 1) commonly held assumptions about ancient chronologies built on shaky dating methodology, 2) oral histories of civilizations are not considered, especially with regards to the ancient Hebrews, 3) alternative ANE chronologies are not considered, and 4) the Bible indicates that all myths were influenced by a common world history.

While secular academia are making claims about religious inspirations based on assumptions and conjecture, theologians and apologists should weigh all the indicators, before making unnecessary claims about Moshe, Genesis, and therefore God that would portray them as “mythbusters” or adoptees of pre-existing literature.

Either the Bible is a record of infallible truth, or its integrity is questionable. I suppose it’s a matter of whose report you believe, but as for me, I will continue to believe the report of YHVH Elohim. All arguments made against His report fall short of the indicators that He was there before the world began, and with mankind… well, at least until they chose to run from Him!