Let’s go! Babel and beyond

In this post, I want to look at the story of the tower of Babel, but to get the background of the story, we need to go back Genesis 10 where we read the genealogy of Noah, through the lines of Shem, Ham and Japheth. And we want to focus especially on the line of Ham – remembering that he is the one whose family was cursed by his father Noah. Building of cities And among one of the first things we see in the story of the sons of Ham is the building of cities. Ham had four sons, Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan. The oldest son was Cush. And so we are told: “Gen 10:8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.” Now before we focus on Babel, we need to note that […]

Genealogies – words of hope

When we look at Genesis 5 and we see the genealogy of Adam, we wonder why on earth should we bother reading it; what hope do we have of understanding the purpose of all these names? Why bother with all these unpronounceable names? To answer that we should have a look at where these names have come from. In Genesis 4, and we saw the cycle of sin gaining intensity and momentum. From the disobedience of Adam and his wife, we have seen that rebellion fester into hatred and murder, then moving out further into a whole society that turned its back on God and sought independence from Him. And at the end of that story we saw a glimmer of hope at the birth of Seth, when people once again began to call upon the name of the Lord. Now in Genesis 5, the story takes a bit of a break, and the writer seems to stand back, catch his breath and think about what has happened so far. This genealogy marks the end of the first section of the story, and it summarises what has gone on before. In the original oral version of this story, this may […]

Life outside of the Garden – Cain in the land of Nod

GE 3:21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. So now we have moved into the next stage of human history. We have seen the creation of the world, how God created it perfectly and took delight in it. How God blessed the seventh day as a day of rest, so that God, humanity and the rest of creation could relax and enjoy the beauty of God’s work. But then we saw the entry of sin, mankind wanting to be able to judge between good and evil, and in doing so, to […]

The broken image

In Genesis 2 we saw Adam and his wife in the garden of Eden, surrounded by an abundance of food, of beauty and the good provision of God. They were living the perfect life, living in perfect unity with God, with each other and with the creation around them. It was a picture that God had declared so good, that He announced a day of rest to enjoy it all. But then in the first part of chapter 3, we see all of that picture change. Through the skilful subtlety of the serpent, Adam and his wife decide that they want to be equal to God, and take for themselves the knowledge of good and evil, setting themselves against God and His provision for them. And as a result of that seemingly innocuous act of eating the fruit, they come to know the evil of their own natures, and they discover the reality of their guilt and shame. Whereas before they were naked and without shame, now they are naked and fully exposed to shame. So from here on the picture begins to crack and crumble. For Adam and his wife, their shame and guilt overwhelms them when they hear […]

Back to the future

The second main creation story, starting at Gen 2:4, starts in an unusual way. It begins “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created on the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven.” Now that’s probably not quite what your NIV text says, but it’s what the Hebrew says. The verse begins “Elle toldot”, “these are the generations”, and it’s the same phrase that we find in Genesis 5 and 10 where it reads “These are the generations of Adam”, or “These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth”. So what we have here is a different sort of account to Genesis 1. This is a story about relationships, about genealogies. It tells us why things came to be what they are today and traces the roots of people and places Now we’ll come back to this later, but first we want to note another difference in this story. In the first creation account, God is referred to as Elohim, the mighty creator. But in this second account, God is referred to as Yahweh Elohim. God is not only the might creator, but he has a name, […]

Knowing good and evil

Arom = naked, transparent At the end of Genesis 2, we are told that the man and woman were naked and felt no shame. The root of the Hebrew word used here is “arom”, meaning naked, open to full view. This is how God created them – to have such perfect unity and love for each other that there was no reason to hide anything from one another or from God. They were totally exposed to God – nothing was hidden and there was no reason to feel ashamed. They were transparent to God’s view. The only thing God saw in them was His clear image, as the governors over creation and a loving community at peace with one another. The only thing they saw in each other was the clear image of God, their loving creator, who formed them to live in communion with Him and with each other. This is the peace, the wholeness, the shalom, that God created; where we can be fully human, fully loved and fully united with one another, with God and with His creation – perfect harmony that echoes the praise of its creator. This is how life and human relationships were meant […]

Creation Stories (part 2)

Creation – Separating and populating We have seen that there are several creation stories in Genesis, each telling the story from a different perspective. This repetition is a typical Hebrew way of writing. Something is said once, then it is repeated in a different way, and then perhaps repeated a couple more times each in different ways again. This structure is typically used in poetry, so the Psalms and the wisdom literature are full of this type of writing. Now what’s interesting is that we find this repetition, this poetry, even in this first story of creation. Notice Day One – what does God create? Light. How does He do it? He separates the light from darkness. Day Two? God creates the sky, and He separates the waters above from the waters beneath by creating an atmosphere. Day Three? He creates dry land by separating the waters. So he creates light, then sea/sky, then land – by separating things. Moving on to Day Four, and what does God do? He creates the sun, moon and stars. In other words, He populates the light he has created on Day One. On Day 5, he populates the waters and sky he has […]

Out of Egypt I called my Son – exile and return.

In Genesis 14, we come to the story of Abram’s visit to Egypt and the somewhat peculiar incidents that follow. I say peculiar, because they are strange events to us, even though similar events occur later in Genesis. But what seems to us a strange and quirky little story has a far greater significance for the story of God’s people than we could imagine at first glance. This story of Abram descending to and ascending from Egypt becomes prototypical, it sets a pattern, for the whole history of Israel that follows. And that’s what we want to explore in this article. We pick up the story at chapter 12, verse 7, where Abram has recently come into the land of Canaan, only to find it inhabited, strangely enough, by Canaanites. “The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. […]

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