Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bible Study #3

A Continuation of our Look at the Creation Story in Genesis 1

Genesis 1:11-13

11. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. 12. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 13. And the evening and the morning were the third day.

Having made a congenial place for further creation, God now plants a garden; this garden will provide food for the creatures he will bring into being. But there’s a catch: he brings them into being because he needs someone to tend his new garden! This is mentioned early in the next chapter of Genesis where it says:
“and there was not a man to till the ground.” (Genesis 2:5)

So, too, did the Sumerian gods have a lovely garden spot.... It was called Dilmun and was the place where Enki (called Ea in Babylonian myth) and Ninhursag created humans. It was referred to as “the place where the sun rises” (which usually indicates the direction of east) and “the Land of the Living.”

Genesis 1:14-18
14. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15. and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 17. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18. and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

God realizes that the light of consciousness is not going to be quite enough; his creation now has physicality—substance—and to go along with that God fashions light of a physical kind. He makes a light to rule the day—the sun—and a lesser one—the moon—to rule the night. In addition, he makes the stars. Then he sets sun, moon, and stars in that dome of a firmament to give their light and mark the division between day and night.

Genesis 1:19
19. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

The fact that the time periods referred to in Genesis do not refer to 24 hour periods should be evident by the fact that the earth itself is not created till the third day, and the time-marking, day-creating solar body does not come into being until the fourth day. So when God said, “Let their be light” on the first day, it was not the light of sun or moon he was referring to. It was the light of consciousness.

Genesis 1:20-25
20. And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. 21. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his 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 fowl multiply in the earth. 23. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. 24. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

In this newly created planet earth, there is now air, water, and land, so God seeks to fill each of these with appropriate forms of animal life, all of which can reproduce themselves so that life may continue. They live in his lovely garden, but he requires someone to tend his garden....

Genesis 1:26
26. And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

The creation of humankind has been dealt with in a previous posting, Bible Study #1, so I refer you to that:

In verse 26 God gives humans “dominion” over the rest of earth’s animals. The Hebrew word translated as dominion is
rdh or râdâh It means to govern, to hold sway over. It implies a position of responsibility for what is governed, which, in turn, implies a duty to care for it properly. The word does not mean “dominate” with that word’s usual implications of conquering and subjugating.

In these verses God says—or the gods say to each other—“We’ve made this beautiful place, this garden, and many wondrous creatures to inhabit it. Let’s make beings who can caretake it for us.”

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

This, also, has been dealt with in a previous posting but I’d like to add a few more thoughts.

What is the “image of God?” This has been argued over the years, some holding that it refers to man’s immortal soul, and some thinking that it refers to mankind’s special mental abilities, the ones that separate us from the animal kingdom. Some believe that this verse means that God has a physical body, complete with all the parts possessed by humans. This last belief seems to echo the stories of the ancient gods and goddesses of mythology, who were quite often portrayed as having human type bodies and being subject to human type injuries and emotions.

I think the intention in this passage is the second option—to indicate that humans, although animal in physical form,
do possess mental and spiritual abilities beyond those of the rest of the animal kingdom.

Genesis 1:28
28. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

There’s that word “dominion” again. To me it seems that in this passage God is saying, “Here’s the lovely garden I’ve made you. It’s now your home and contains all you need to live. But you must take care of it so that it will continue to be healthy. In fact, I’m appointing you my deputy, my proxy here, to make sure all goes well and the garden—and all its plants and animals—stay in good shape.”

The implication being that if they fail to do their caretaker duties,
they themselves will not thrive.

It should be noted that in the Babylonian version of the story, humans were created as workers to serve the gods, who were tired of all the grunt work and warfare they’d been doing. After the battle with Tiamat, Marduk announces:

My blood will I take and bone will I fashion
I will make man....I will create man who shall inhabit the earth,
That the service of the gods may be established, and that their shrines may be built.

Genesis 1:29-30
29. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree-yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

God now has his gardeners. Previously he has encouraged them to reproduce. Now he shows them all the lovely things that are there to eat so that they and their progeny may continue in life, and continue to care-take his beautiful garden. He even tells them about seeds, so they can plant new herbs and trees.

Genesis 1:31
31. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

This is an interesting and unique feature of the Hebrew version of the story. At the end of every day of creation, God looks upon it and is pleased with his handiwork.

Genesis 2:1-3
1. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

The “host of them,” when referring to the earth means all the creatures of the earth; when referring to the heavens the term means the stars and planets. In Sumerian & Babylonian mythology these were the gods and goddesses.

2. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

And of course we all know that on the final, the seventh day—the day after creating humanity to tend his garden—God rested, just as the Babylonian gods rested after humans had been created to be their servants.

It should be noted that biblical scholarship tells us that these first chapters of Genesis were most likely written in the late 7th century BCE. The parallel Sumerian and Babylonian stories date back to perhaps 2000 years before that time.

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