Day 8 (Jan. 8): Abraham dies, Esau and Jacob are born

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 25:1-4

1 Chronicles 1:32-33

Genesis 25:5-6

Genesis 25:12-18

1 Chronicles 1:28-31

1 Chronicles 1:34

Genesis 25:19-26

Genesis 25:7-11

Questions & Observations

Q. (25:1): Abraham remarried and had other children, but in other verses, 1 Chronicles 1:28, the Bible says he only had Isaac and Ishmael for sons.

A. I guess the answer is that the Chronicler is limited in space (if you will) and he is choosing to focus only on the significant (in his mind) sons of Abraham.

Q. (25:23): When God tells Rebekah that her sons will be two rivaling nations, He makes it that way for a reason?  This goes against the thought that God gives us free will.  Like Hagar accepted God saying that she must yield to Sarah, Rebekah accepts that her twins will be rivals.

A. There’s a difference between saying that a person has free will and saying “God does not know what this person will become, regardless of free will.”  Jacob and Esau were born to be rivals (and if anything their parents encourage this, as we will see shortly).  Keep in mind that rivaling nations does not necessarily mean “enemy nations.”

I think the situations you are comparing point to two different concepts.  While Hagar’s story is about her submission to Sarah, it was better than dying in the wilderness, as she would have without God’s help.  But when God tells Rebekah that she will have twins- well, there’s no way around that.  She didn’t have a free will consideration in how many babies she had.  As to whether they would be rivals, as I mentioned, Rebekah herself will have a hand in creating their rivalry.  I wouldn’t read this scripture as God CREATING the fate of her boys, but rather INFORMING her of the path that her twins will walk.

Regardless of ones feelings about free will and predestination (the other side of the free will coin), the two sides agree completely in the fact that God knows the whole life of every person and what actions they will take.  This is an example of what we refer to as God’s omniscience- that He knows everything that there is to be known- including the entire lives of human beings.  The true consideration of FW/Pred is not whether God knows everything (He does), but whether the will of God can be rejected by human choice.  Predestination argues that the will of God is unavoidable because of His ultimate power, and Free Will argues that the will of God can be resisted because He chooses to not force us to choose Him.  I hope that is helpful.

Day 7 (Jan. 7): Isaac is born, Hagar and Ishmael leave, Abraham told to sacrifice son, Sarah dies, Isaac marries Rebekah

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 21:8-23:20

Genesis 11:32

Genesis 11:32

Genesis 24

Questions & Observations

O. (21:12): God seems to be saying that both women are important, but Sarah is Abraham’s wife and he should please her.

O. (21:28): Abraham added 7 ewes to the covenant he made with Abimelech.  If you recall in Day 3’s answers, the number “7” signifies completeness.

Q. (22:9-11): It’s hard to imagine Abraham willingly ready to sacrifice his son and Isaac willingly lying on the altar ready to be killed.  Abraham’s trust in God has grown since he was afraid of the rulers killing him, a foreigner, and taking his beautiful wife.  Abraham willingly sacrificing Isaac foretells God sacrificing his own son?

A. This passage, above all else, demonstrates Abraham’s absolute trust in God’s goodness and direction, even when the direction itself did not make sense to him.  Since Abraham had such great trust in God, however, we should understand a few things.  Abraham understood that this was the child that God had promised him; all of Abraham’s descendants were going to come from Isaac.  So there had to be some way that this was going to be true — God had proven Himself faithful to Abraham, and Abraham’s obedience I think reflects this in his decision making.  Abraham understood that God was going to provide for him in some way (see 22:8 and 13).  Note that when Abraham leaves his servant and he and Isaac continue on together, he uses the word “we” when talking about his return (22:5).  He fully expects to return with his son.  The writer of Hebrews also points to Abraham’s thinking: that even if he killed Isaac, God was capable of bringing him back from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19) and restoring him to Abraham.  So there certainly was a great deal of trust in Abraham following God’s commands, but the text implies Abraham believed that the loss of his son would not be permanent.

Q. (22:11) The text says that an Angel of the Lord spoke to Isaac.  I always thought it was the Lord himself.  Angels seem to have a lot of authority with God.  Will we learn more about angels later?

A. The word “angel” means messenger, and it is tough for us to understand that cultural understanding of the ancient messenger.  Basically, an official messenger (sometimes called a herald) was seen and treated as though they were actually the king or ruler who sent them; the mindset was that they did not merely speak on behalf of the king, but AS the king (hopefully you can see the difference).  In this light, it is more clear what the OT writers want us to understand: a messenger or angel of God should be read as the actual presence of God being there.

This helps explain why sometimes the language gets a bit murky when describing an angel appearing, but God doing the talking (we will see several more examples of this, notably in Exodus 3 in the call of Moses).  This appears to be strictly an OT distinction: angels in the New Testament (such as Gabriel in Luke 1) speak on BEHALF of God, rather than as God.  Honestly, I am not sure the reasons for this, but it might have to do with a cultural shift in the understanding of the role of angels.

One other note: the concept of angels is not one scripture appears very interested in fleshing out (no pun intended) for us.  While scripture makes it clear that angels (and demons frankly) are real, it almost never provides detailed accounts of them.  This ultimately is because the focus of the reader should be on God, not on God’s messenger.

Q. (22:18): This is telling of Israel.  What is the significance of Israel?  Or, do we get into this later?  This verse says “all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”  What does this say about predestination and the chosen that I have heard about?

A. I think that this question has multiple answers that will unfold over the remaining course of the Biblical story.  On one level, we see in Exodus that God describes the Israelites (you’ll see where the name comes from shortly) as a chosen people to show what right relationship with God should look like- this is part of how the Ten Commandments will come into play (more on that later).  The problem is that (he he, spoiler alert) the Israelites fail to live up to the promises that they make to God, despite Him remaining faithful.  But where Israel fails, God sends the Messiah into the world to succeed where ordinary human fell short.  A central theme of Jesus’ ministry is continuing this quest to reunite God and man: Jesus speaks of the ways that people can walk in right relationship with God, and that He himself is at the heart of this message.  And since Jesus (the Messiah or Christ) is Jewish or an Israelite, Christians often assume that the promise to Abraham that the entire world would be blessed by his offspring refer to Jesus himself.

Q. (23:5): The Hittites respect Abraham calling him “my lord” and an “honored prince.”  Is this because he had favor with God?

A. I think so.  Abraham had clearly proven himself a force to be reckoned with (because of God, not because of anything Abraham had done), so that even the elders of other clans and tribes show their reverence for him.

O.  (24:26-27): There is a strong respect between the Lord and Abraham.  They both serve one another.  Abraham’s servants carry the same trust in God as Abraham.  Abraham must have been a successful champion for the Lord to his people.  I like to see the strong relationship that God makes with his followers and how much He will work for them.

Q. (24:40): Abraham must be in God’s presence a lot if he can say that an angel will be with his servant on his trip to find Isaac a wife?  How can Abraham order God’s angels?

A. Perhaps God informed Abraham of the way He would help Abraham’s servant.  I don’t think Abraham is bossing any angels around.

Q. (24:48): Why was marrying relatives OK in Bible times?

A. Family relationships (which frankly border on what we would understand to be incest- the married relationship between close relatives) were more common in the ancient world than today.  Though I would point out that even in the fairly recent modern world, we see things like closely interrelated monarchies of various countries who intermarry, so perhaps we are not as distant from this situation as we would like.

OK, here’s the bigger picture response: the big problem was not Abraham seeking a close relative for his son to marry; the big problem was intermarrying with the local tribes, which is clear Abraham does NOT want to do.  Thus, when presented with the choices of either marrying close kin or intermarrying with other tribes, the choice is clear: Abraham and the generations of Israelites that follow him will choose to “preserve” their ethnic heritage.  This will actually become part of the Law: there will be particular commands against intermarrying, again for the purpose of being a nation set apart for God’s purposes.

O. (24:54): Serving meals and washing feet have been shown to be proper ways to serve guests.  I like to see the love for the Lord and love of one another displayed throughout Abraham’s extended family.

Day 5 (Jan. 5): God and Abraham’s covenant, sacrifices, Hagar’s relationship with God, circumcision

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 15-17

Questions & Observations

O. (15:5): I would love to be a fly on the wall at this conversation.  I can’t imagine the Lord telling me that I am the root of all of these descendants.  How incredible that must have felt to be handed that kind of “trophy.”  If we all trust in God, we can feel that way too.

Q. (15:9): You talked about sacrifices in Day 4’s readings, but I still don’t get it.  Killing animals seems so violent.  I just don’t understand why such violence would be pleasing.  Maybe it’s something for me not to understand?  Also, I see the three’s in this passage — a goat, a ram and a heifer, all 3 years old.

A. I’m afraid there’s not much I can do to help you address the violent aspects of the usage of animal sacrifices; this was simply the world that they lived in, and, frankly, our entire world lived in until a couple of generations ago.  Today, we are mostly spared from the sight of animal slaughter, but it is a reality in our continued survival, vegetarian and vegan company excluded.  Let’s stick to this passage for the moment, and I will address the reasons for the sacrifice system when that comes up in Leviticus.  There are particular circumstances going on in Gen 15 that I want to make sure we understand.

This ceremony that takes place between Abram and God in this passage is unique as it comes to sacrifices.  The animals are not sacrificed to cover sin, but rather to confirm a covenant.  As I understand it, in the ancient Middle East, a king would hold a covenant ceremony with a servant or vassal who agreed to serve the king (God of course is the King, and Abram the vassal).  The king and servant would conduct a ceremony in which animals were sawed in half (violent, I know, but it was the ritual) and the participating parties would walk between the two halves (as God does in verse 17 with the movement of the torch) to symbolize the establishment of the covenant relationship.  The sawed animals represented the punishment is either party broke the covenant, though not in a literal way.  The parties basically said, “may I be sawed in half like these animals if I violate this sacred relationship.”

God is using this ceremony to formalize the relationship between Himself and Abram in a way that Abram (and the subsequent readers) would clearly understand.  Though it seems foreign and violent to us, it would have been an especially significant experience to Abram and the ancient Jews who read these words.

I will try to keep addressing the sacrifice system as it comes up, but frankly, the Bible does not shy away from the violence (of many sorts) that takes place on its pages.

O. (15:13-16): The Lord tells of the Israelites saga.  There’s so much back-and-forth references in the Bible that it’s foolproof.  I am surprised that people still try to dispute it!

Q. (16:12): If the Lord or anyone told me that I was going to have a child wilder than a donkey, I would be a little upset.  And, God tells Hagar to go back to live with Sarai who was treating her poorly.  Hagar does not seem to be troubled with any of this.  God said that he had heard her cries, so maybe she was a believer and trusted God?

A. While it seems harsh (a common theme so far I guess), the story of Hagar is actually one of my favorites from the OT.  God made His promises to Abraham and Sarah, and a slave like Hagar could be excused for thinking that her actions (and her child) did not matter to God.  But she is wrong!  God sees her, as she points out, and cares greatly for her needs, as well as the needs of her son.  We will see more of this story in a few chapters, because it happens again.

Q. (17:12-14): Circumcision is something I totally don’t understand.  It is such a violent act for a newborn boy.  And, if it’s the mark of the everlasting covenant, no one can visibly see it unless they are naked.  So, what is the purpose?  Is this still one of God’s requirements today?

A. Regarding the current requirement of circumcision: yes, pious Jews will tell you that circumcising a male child on the eighth day is one of their most sacred duties as a new parent: the circumcision is the ritual for a child becoming “part of the family”.  And just FYI, it is part of pious Muslim ritual as well, and called “Khitan”.  Some Christians choose to participate, but there is disagreement about the requirement.  Christians who argue that we are no longer under the Law because of Jesus may still choose to do so in order to honor God.

Circumcision was (and frankly still is) a unique way of marking a person as a follower of God — and it would have been completely unique in the ancient world.  This gets at a larger theme of the first five books of the OT: that God is requiring that His chosen people act in various ways to show that they are set apart from the world (and other tribes) around them.  I won’t try to defend the violence of the act (like a broken record, I guess that would be the title for our Day 5 discussion), but there are Jews, Muslims, and Christians who to this day see circumcision as bringing their children into covenant relationship with God — something that can literally have eternal consequences.

Day 4 (Jan. 4): Babel, Abram and Sarai, Lot

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 11-14

1 Chronicles 1:24-27

Genesis 12

Questions & Observations

Q. (11:9): So this was the start of nations spread far apart?  This is a science question, but I have to ask, weren’t people in other parts of the world before the tower of Babel fell?

A. The science as I understand it, tells me that there were humans outside of this region before this story takes place.  This is one of the places where, to me, it is dangerous to try to read too much science into the story the author is telling us about the descent of humanity into sin and the tribe of people that God will begin to work with in chapter 12.

There’s a few things that can be helpful to understand here.  First, when we use the word “world”, we mean all seven continents and billions of people.  But the author of this text would have thought of the whole world as basically the Middle East and North Africa.  So put in that perspective, we can see a more appropriate understanding of the distribution of people (if that makes sense).

The other thing to bear in mind is the regression we have made in the first 11 chapters.  The whole point of building the tower (according to 11 v.4) is to generate fame and power for the creators.  In other words, they are attempting to create a place where the creators are worshipped, rather than God.  So if you follow from Adam and Eve on down, we have moved from disobedience to murder to pride in oneself and the things one has made.  And while to us pride sounds a lot better than murder, we see in pride the ultimate culmination of sin: we desire to have the throne that rightly belongs only to God: all other sins come from this starting point- when we decide that we should be “running the show” instead of God.  This is why the first commandment (Exodus 20) is a warning against worshipping other gods, and the first god that we must remove is the one within each of our hearts.

I honestly could not tell you what the original writer thought he was producing in terms of “how true is this history of the world as I know it?”  But what I can tell you is that Tower story represents the depths of humanity’s fall before God acts in the person of Abram to begin to “right the ship.”

Q. (12:1): Any idea on how God talked to Abram?

A. Well, since the Bible (James 2:23 specifically) talks about Abraham as being God’s friend, it is in my mind reasonable to assume that God spoke to Abram/Abraham in conversation as you would speak to any of your friends.  God is perfectly capable of speaking to us in any manner He chooses, though in my opinion He most commonly chooses to speak to a person’s mind, conscience, and sense of right and wrong.  The text tells us that God appeared to Abraham in various instances (see the dialogue in Gen 18 for example), but does not share exactly how God spoke.  I see nothing wrong with assuming that God spoke to Abraham in an audible voice.

Q. (12:12) I am surprised that Abram did not trust God to protect him?

A. Like all of the people God will use throughout the Bible (except Jesus of course), Abram is a deeply flawed person who is capable of sin and deception.  This is actually testimony in my mind to the power of God at work.  God does not look for perfect people, but instead uses those who will be faithful to what He has called them to do.  Just a few examples: Noah (as we read recently) got drunk and wandered around naked, Moses lost his temper repeatedly and was adamant that God didn’t really want him to speak.  Aaron, while the first high priest, also created the golden calf while Moses was gone.  David got a married woman pregnant and then tried to cover it up before having her husband murdered.  Peter denied Jesus, Judas betrayed Him, and all but one of Jesus’ handpicked men fled in terror when He was arrested.  I am certain that God is still using flawed people today.

If this piques your interest, Max Lucado (one of my favorite Christian writers) has a great book on the subject of the imperfect people God has used throughout the ages called Cast of Characters.

O. (13:15): It’s interesting that God “gave” Abram the land of Canaan.  Times are so much different now.  God is nowhere in land negotiations, unless you ask Him to be.

Q. (13:18): Building altars and sacrifices have come up several times already.  What is the meaning of sacrifices to the Lord?  The aroma is pleasing to Him?  Sacrifices are no longer needed after Jesus died on the cross?

A. Before the formal giving of the Law to the Israelites (found in the next few books), we see several instances of altars and sacrifices, though as you observe, they are often recorded without explanation.  I think part of the reason for this was because the first audience for this story (i.e. the original readers/hearers of Genesis) already knew what an altar was and about sacrifices, so the author does not feel compelled to explain.

Basically, at this point, an altar is a collection of stones (sometimes wood is used) assembled and put together as a way of remembering an event, especially as it relates to interactions with God.  Abram seems to be using altars as a way of marking important interactions between himself and God.

Regarding the sacrifices, basically what we are taking about is burnt offering (see Leviticus 1 for a description. Warning, this can get graphic if you have a sensitive stomach!).  Basically, an animal is killed (usually by slitting the throat) and the blood is drained.  The animal is split into pieces and put on a fire to be fully consumed by it.  It is the smoke from this ritual that generates the pleasing aroma.

The Old Testament describes a number of types of sacrifices (not all of which involve animals) and the reasons for their use.  In the formal sense of the Law, there were three purposes for sacrifice: to honor God (as Noah did), to create a covenant as God does with Abram (coming up in chapter 15 of Genesis), and to make atonement for sin.  We’ll talk more about each of those as they come up in subsequent chapters.

O. (14:1-16): This sounds like an extreme Cliffs Notes version of this account.  Reading it, I just imagine all the spies that must have been sent ahead to assess their enemies, the attack strategies used, Abram training his army, etc.

O. (14:23): I had to read the account of how Abram rescues Lot a couple times to sift out Abram’s part in it.  My understanding is that Abram took no sides in this battle.  His mission was to save Lot.  I like how he refused to take battle spoils from the King of Sodom because he did not want his fortune tied to a King who reigned over wickedness.

See you tomorrow!

Day 3 (Jan. 3): Flood, Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth, murder

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 7-10

1 Chronicles 1:5-7

1 Chronicles 1:8-16

1 Chronicles 1:17-23

Questions & Observations

Q. (7:4): I saw a skit in church that told of how many years it took to build the ark, but here it’s saying 7 days?  Also, I’m starting to see a lot of 7’s.  What is significant about the number 7?

A. 7:4 doesn’t say the Noah build the ark in seven days; it says God told Noah to be ready, because the flood was coming in seven days.  7:1 tell us that the boat was already ready when God spoke to Noah and told him the flood was approaching.

Regarding your noticing the significance of seven, you have definitely hit upon something.  Seven is one of the most significant numbers in the Bible.  It signifies completeness and fulfillment, and traces its roots back the seven days of creation.

A few other numbers to watch for (some of which are shown in this reading): 3) Either representing the Trinity (which we established is strictly a NT concept), or also a form of emphasis.  Things that the Bible repeats three times (Holy, Holy, Holy from Isaiah 6 is just one example of many), it is to draw attention to something important.  So if you see a portion of narration repeated, its not because the author screwed up and forgot what he wrote, it is to show that the thing repeated is really important.  4) Four is also a number you see frequently, and it tends to identify a completed set of something important (the four living creatures of Ezekiel and Revelation 4-6, the four horsemen of Zechariah 6 and Revelation 6).  6) Six represents humanity, incompleteness (as in not seven), and inferiority to God.  40) Forty represents a trial period or time of cleansing.  You have the flood which lasts forty days and nights, the Israelites in the wilderness forty years, and Jesus in the desert for forty days.

O. (8:3-14): The childhood accounts of Noah and the flood usually say it lasted 40 days and 40 nights.  I always thought that after that time Noah and the boat’s inhabitants walked off after 40 days.  But as the Bible describes, the total time from when the flood started to when they walked on dry ground was more like a year.

 O. (8:20): We know that the Lord is all-powerful.  It amazes me though how in many passages in the Old Testament, God is very angry and doles out punishment.  I would think that because he is all-powerful, he could control his anger.  Passages like these tell me how emotional God is — punishing and then promising to never destroy all living things again — making it easier for me to understand the reasoning of His actions. I appreciate that these dramatic descriptions of his feelings — anger, jealousy — are shared with us throughout the Bible.

Q. (9:5-7): God says if someone kills, they should be killed.  This changes after Jesus dies on the cross where all sins are forgiven?

A. This is the subject of some debate.  Here we see clearly God’s command to avenge murder (along the lines of eye for an eye, Leviticus 24:20), but this command is honestly not consistent throughout the Old and New Testaments.  While the (capital L) Law (which we get from the next few books of the Old Testament) prescribed retribution killing- a death for a death, it is unclear if the Jews actually practiced this as their standard of law.  Certainly by Jesus’ time (First Century AD), it is quite clear that the people did not have the stomach to kill people for the sins prescribed in the Law.  Thus we see the seeds of mercy that Jesus preached (Matthew 5-7) already taking shape in the world into which He was born.

O. (9:24): To me, passing a punishment to someone else almost makes it worse for the offender, especially if it is passed on to your own sons or daughters.  Also, this seems to foreshadow Jesus taking on all of our sins.

Day 2 (Jan. 2): Cain and Abel, Noah, ark

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 4-5

1 Chronicles 1:1-4

Genesis 6

Questions and Comments

Q.  (4:14,17): If Adam and Eve were the first ones on Earth, then why was Cain worried that others may kill him?  And, likewise, where did Cain find his wife?

A. Ok, let’s see what we have here.  At this point in the narrative, we have the author telling us about exactly four people: Adam, Eve, Cain (their oldest, or at least older son) and Abel (their youngest or at least younger son).  Since there are references to other people around (not to mention no other women!), the story is, to me, NOT saying that these are the only four people on earth.  There are two possibilities: either the author is assuming that readers will know there are other people around from other parental lines that are not mentioned (in other words, different tribes or families), or that Adam and Eve had many children (male and female) but the author is choosing to only focus in on these two.  I honestly couldn’t tell you exactly which.

One other things that is going on that is worth mentioning is that the author does not appear interested in telling the story of the ENTIRE human race, which tends to be the way we read this story.  Instead, what he appears to be doing is setting up to paths of Adam and Eve’s descendants: the noble way of Abel and later Seth, which honors God (and will be our primary focus in subsequent chapters), and the way of the descendants of Cain, which culminate in “evil” Lamech (since Seth’s descendants had a Lamech as well- see 5:25)

Q.  (4:17-22): Are these verses describing a nomadic culture?  Before that, they were agrarian?  I always thought nomadic ways predated agrarian.

A. While agrarian society did come after hunter/gatherer days, I don’t think the concepts you are describing here are applicable to the story.  What you’re talking about is called the Neolithic Revolution, which is the transition that happened somewhere around 10,000 BC (some say it was much later, like 5000 or 6000 BC).  Over a long period, human kind moved from being primarily hunters and gatherers to relying on agrarian means of creating food and other crops for survival.  This is how we got the beginnings of modern cities and culture.  But when it says that, for example, Abel kept flocks, it doesn’t mean he is a hunter: that is still an agrarian method of survival; Abel wasn’t hunting wild sheep, he was keeping domesticated ones.  BOTH Cain and Abel were agrarian, just not in the same way.  If I were guessing, I would say that none of the people described are hunters; they all appear to keep animals or grow crops.

Q.  (4:24): Why would someone be punished 77 times if they killed Lamech?

A. One of the important concepts to grasp here (and throughout Genesis) is that the author does not appear interested in answering all of our questions, especially about secondary characters such as Lamech.  We have no idea who the men (or man, it might be one) were that he killed, or what is so “special” about him.

Here’s my guess (for what its worth): Lamech is saying that he has killed two people- the “man” and the “young man”(rather than the one person Cain killed), and therefore he would receive “twice” the punishment of his ancestor Cain (i.e. 2 sevens of punishment rather than just one).

The larger point that the author is pointing to, however, is clear: the sin that mastered Cain continued down his family line, so that his descendent would brag about being a murderer.  The evil of Cain has culminated in the corruption of his descendant.  Thus, with the corruption of Cain’s line established, the author steps back and shows how the death of Abel did not prevent God’s people from having in ancestor in Seth.  The rest of the chapter follows the line of Seth as a contrast to Cain, and culminates with Noah.  So Lamech is the culmination of Cain’s line (a bragging polygamous murderer), and Noah is the culmination of Seth’s line, walking in good relationship with God.

Q.  (4:24): God took Enoch? Why?

A. Another one of those questions the author does not feel compelled to answer explicitly.  The implication of the passage is that since Enoch walked in faithful relationship with God, and because of Enoch’s faith (according to Hebrews 11:5, where Enoch makes the spiritual “hall of fame”), God honored him and spared him from death.

Q.  (6:3): God is talking of the Holy Spirit not putting up with humans for so long?  So, God is introducing the The Holy Spirit here and likewise, the Trinity.

A. I think this is actually an “O” statement and not a “Q” statement, but I will try to address it anyway.  I would disagree with this as the “moment” of the Spirit’s unveiling: the Spirit had an active role in the story of Creation (Gen 1:2), so we have already seen the Spirit person of the Trinity at work.  The Old Testament in general, gives the implication of multiple “persons” at work in the Godhead, but the revealed presence of all three (the Trinity) is not revealed until the New Testament, and the word Trinity is never used in scripture; it is a concept word created by the Church fathers to explain the realities of what God had revealed to them.

Q. (6:4): My Bible dictionary says that Nephilites are heavenly beings that had intercourse with human women?  This passage seems to come out of nowhere, but it brings up a subject that I have never known or studied.

A. There are lots of conjectures about the meaning of this passage (the beings are some sort of fallen angel or other “heavenly being”), but there is really nothing solid to go on.  One more instance where we as readers are left scratching our heads and saying “what?”  Once again, the main point of this passage is to point to the corruption of all of mankind, except for Noah and his family.

Q. (6:5): Again, if God made everything and humans are made in His image, then where does all the wickedness come from?

A. As I answered yesterday, the wickedness comes from us as a race choosing to indulge our selfish choices (our sinful nature) rather than the divine image that remains with us (our divine nature).  We see the continued descent of the human race over the first six chapters of this story.  Things will continue to get worse until the introduction of our hero, Abram, in chapter 11.

Day 1 (Jan. 1): Creation, sin, free will, punishment

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Genesis 1-3

Questions & Observations

We all have heard the story of creation so many times that you would think it would be an easy read with no questions.  But, I find myself pondering the same age-old questions and wanting definite answers or ways of looking at them.

Question.  (1:3): How can there be light on Day 1 without the sun, moon and stars in verse 1:14-19?

 Answer. Genesis, and the Creation chronicle in particular were not written as science textbooks, and it is unfair to think of them as such.  I tend to think of this story as an epic poem that conveys to us numerous spiritual truth, while not necessarily giving us the details of “how” God brought all of it about (aka, I personally do not read Genesis 1-3 literally, though there are plenty of people who do and love Jesus).

With those guideposts in place, it is important to understand what the text is saying: that light itself predates the creation of the source of our light: the sun (and to a lesser extent the moon) and other stars.  Genesis was originally written into a world where the sun, moon, and stars (along with countless other entities such as rivers, crops, etc.) were worshipped as gods (we call this polytheism).  What the Jewish authors of this passage (whoever they were) set out to say is that polytheism is wrong: there is only one God who rules over all things, including these objects that you worship like the moon and sun.  We can actually see some holdover here from the original thinking of the writers: the words “sun” and “moon” do not appear in the text (see 1:16), but instead are referred to as the greater and lesser lights.  Why is this?  Because the writer is pointing to the inferiority of these objects to the one true God.  He’s saying: the very light you worship does not come from sun and moon, but from the God who predates them all.

Observation.  (1:11): In Genesis, we already see how tightly God weaves the world.  He made so many likenesses and connections between different things he created.  Two points: 1) Like plants having seeds to make more of their kind, God gave this same ability to humans, making families.  2) All of creation is so interconnected that it helps us to understand other creations and we must respect and rely on them to survive.

O. (1:16): I am amazed that the vast universe and all of it’s huge lights were created to give light to little-bitty Earth.

O. (1:18): Stars are something so vital to a culture such as the ancient Polynesians for navigation, yet they did not know God.

O. (1:20): The eccentricity of some of God’s creations, like fish in the deep sea having their own lantern or birds who do a spectacular mating dance demonstrate God’s boundless creativity.

Q. (1:25): What is the explanation for dinosaurs?  Genesis doesn’t talk about them that I can tell.  Aren’t dinosaurs dated before Adam and Eve?  What is the real time line here?

 A. This part of Genesis is, in my mind, undateable, and if we interpret the story in the non-textbook way that I described above, we find it to be a difficult thing to do indeed.  There are no direct references to dinosaurs in the Bible (though there are hints and various ways of interpreting certain passages in the book of Job), but this does not in my mind mean that the Bible is telling us dinosaurs did not exist.  If you desire, you can interpret the creation of land animals (earlier in day 6) as occurring (properly) before the creation of human beings.  Honestly, that’s about as far as I feel the text can get you.  It has bigger “fish to fry” if you will.

O. (1:26):  The verse says, “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.”  God includes Jesus in this passage.  I didn’t realize until I became an adult Christian that Jesus was with God from the beginning.

Q. (1:27):  If God made us in his image, then why are we full of sin?

A. Actually, I think that Genesis 3 answers that question quite well: because we misused the gifts and blessings that God has given us, including the gift of intellect and free choice.  As a free will person, most of my understanding about God’s love and our sin is that in order for us to truly express love for our Creator, we must have the option of saying no to Him.  Real love always involves a choice.  But given that choice, we have the option to go our own way, which is basically how the Bible defines sin — choosing our own path rather than the path of God.  The New Testament in particular tells us that we are BOTH loved greatly by God, and that we still bear His image (see for example Matthew 22:15-22), but also that we are corrupted by the power of sin.

Q. (2:1): Is the 7th day really Sunday?  Is a creation day 24 hours like today?

A. Jews and Seventh Day Adventists will be happy to tell you that the Sabbath is Saturday, and has been for centuries.  Christians began to treat Sunday as a Sabbath after the resurrection of Jesus, which of course happened on a Sunday (what the gospels call the “first day of the week”)

Q. (2:9): Why were the two special trees even in the Garden of Eden?

A. According to the narrative, we were permitted to eat from any tree we desired, and to me that includes the tree of life, which represents God’s provision for us.  The tree of knowledge was, in my mind, the test: it was the place where the desire to follow after God or go our own way was presented.  And just as Adam and Eve did, we have all chosen to go our own way.

Q. (2:25): What is the significance of nakedness?

A. If you mean symbolically, I suppose it represents our pre-fall lack of desire to hide ourselves and have any sense of shame.  As I understand it, some young children run around naked with no shame to this day.

Q. (3:1): The serpent was Satan, right?  Then, what was he doing in the garden?

A. Actually, its Revelation 12:9 that comes the closest explicitly telling us that the serpent is Satan, but yup, that’s him.  Like the tree itself, in my mind, Satan appears in the garden in order to test the humans, which God permits.

Q. (3:7):  So they learned from eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that nakedness is a sin?  Why is it shameful?

A. Hum, I think that’s the wrong way to interpret the passage.  The nakedness wasn’t the sin: the sin was the disobedience of God’s command.  But in committing the sin, and becoming aware of themselves, they discover that they are naked and hide in fear of God.  They are ashamed of themselves, again symbolized by the hiding and fear described in the passage.  In their innocence, they were naked in front of God and each other for who knows how long and were never ashamed, much like the little kid I talked about earlier.  Shame and fear are learned, and taught if you will.  To this day, they are not our natural instinct: before we “know better”, we can be naked and unashamed.

Q. (3:14): Was this a curse to Satan or snakes?  How does this apply to snakes today?

A. Honestly I have no idea.  Sorry!  Can’t win em all

Q. (3:16): Why does Eve’s sin carry down to all women?

A. Not just all women, but all people (except one).  That was the price paid in the fall, according to the narrative.  The danger of sin is not just in the moment, but how the sins of fathers and mothers to this day affect the next generation.  If you want a real clear example of it, look up statistics on fetal alcohol syndrome or drug addiction: we can clearly see how the actions of the mom directly effect the next generation.  This happens outside the womb as well.  Children who are abused are more likely to abuse the next generation.  Sin has consequences, and sometimes those consequences are frequently “taken out” on the innocent.  Unfortunately, that’s the messy life we live in, and the Bible does not shy away from that.

Just as a partial aside, part of what the first 11 chapters of Genesis do is trace the “fall” of humanity over many generations, culminating in the Tower of Babel story, which shows humanity as its worst (for reasons we’ll get into in a few days I guess).  So even in these first few chapters of the story, we see the Bible point to the theme of multi generational thinking.  So that is definitely something to watch for in future readings, and I will try to point it out as we go along.

Q.  (3:19): Some work, some don’t, like folks who take advantage of government welfare.  So, how does this verse apply to those who don’t work but still get food?

A. Once again, we must understand the context of the verse: there was no welfare programs in the ancient world- if you didn’t work, you starved.  I would be very hesitant to apply this verse to modern circumstance.