For many people the Bible seems like a puzzle. It feels like a thousand piece puzzle dumped on the table in front of us. None of the pieces seem to fit together and there is no clear way to know how to make them fit. I’ve got some good news for you. If the Bible feels that way for you, even a little, use this series of blogs as the box top for the puzzle of the Bible. The best way to successfully put a complex puzzle together is to look at the box top of the puzzle that shows you the big picture.
The first pieces of the puzzle of the Bible are naturally found in its first book, Genesis. Genesis is an amazing book, and a crucial book in the story line of the Bible. Getting a firm grasp of this first book will be key to get a grasp of the whole Bible.
What is Genesis all about?
The book of Genesis is a big book that informs us about a lot of important themes that we will find through out the Bible. Genesis is a book of beginnings. In it we find the beginning of the universe, life on earth, humanity, sin and God’s plan of salvation. But Genesis is also a controversial book. Right in the first few chapters we find heated debates on things like the intersection of science and faith, and Christians even argue about and cast aspersing remarks towards fellow brothers and sisters in Christ over how to understand the origin of the universe. So, from the beginning, we must be careful how we understand Genesis.
What’s the best way to understand Genesis? Since the book is complex and controversial it may be best to simplify the book first. The book can be understood as having two main sections with four parts each.
- The First Section of Genesis: World History (Chapters 1-11). The Four Parts are four events: (1) Creation(2) Fall (3) Flood (4) Languages
- The Second Section of Genesis: Family History (Chapters 12-50). The Four Parts are four men: (1) Abraham (2) Isaac (3) Jacob (4) Joseph
The Adamic Covenants (Edenic, Redemptive, Noahic)
In this post we will focus on the first section of Genesis: World History (1-11). In these chapters we find the first of the five covenants we talked about in the introductory post. But this first covenant is really a set of covenants. I call them the Adamic Covenants because they define and shape what might be called the Adamic age or epoch. The rest of this post will be fleshing out this covenant in the four great events of the first eleven chapters of Genesis.
The story of the Bible begins with such beauty and grandeur that is hard to take it all in. The first event we see in Genesis 1-11 is creation. The creation of the universe is recounted for us in the first two chapters of Genesis. The first chapter of Genesis majestically conveys the creation of all things and life on earth, while chapter two has a narrower focus on the creation of humanity and their relationship with God.
In chapter one (1:1-2:3) we note four important features of this part of the creation story.
- God created the heavens and the earth by his word. Seven times in the first chapter we find the phrase, “And God said” (1:3,6,9,14,29,24,26).
- God created everything out of nothing. To say that God created out of nothing is to say that there was no material, physical substance before God created. This is sometimes conveyed by the Latin phrase, “Creatio Ex Nihilo.”
- God created humanity, male and female, in his image. One often sees this great truth expressed in the Latin phrase, “Imago Dei.” This separates humanity from the rest of creation and makes them the crown of God’s creation.
- God created his world good. Seven times in chapter one we find the phrase, “And God saw that it was good” (1:4,10,12,18,21,25,31).
In chapter two (2:4-25) we also note four important features of this part of the creation story.
- The Lord made the man out of the dust of the ground and he became a living being. The focus here in chapter two in on the man and the woman.
- The Lord made a garden and put the man in it to work the garden.
- He gave the man all the trees of the garden to eat, but commanded that he not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or else he will surely die.
- The Lord made a woman to be a suitable helper for the man. Here the Lord establishes the institution of marriage between the man and the woman.
In chapter two we see the first of the three Adamic Covenants, the Edenic Covnant. Covenant language is not used, but the idea of covenant is here. Remember that a biblical covenant is a relationship between God and his people with promises and responsibilities. God blessed the man with garden but commanded him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil with death as the consequence.
Genesis three records the second of the four events in chapters 1-11, the Fall. The Fall of humanity is cataclysmic and epic in its scope. The events of Genesis three radically change the relationship of humanity with God, the course of human history and the fabric of nature its self. Everything was right, good and beautiful in chapters one and two. Now, in chapter three, everything is wrong, evil and ugly. God’s good creation is broken beyond repair by anybody but God himself. All the pain, sorrow, misey and struggle people face today are a residual effect of the Fall. It was the moral tsunami of the history of the universe.
The story of the Fall in Genesis three has three movements. It begins with the temptation of the woman by the serpent (the devil). The serpent questioned the command (Word) of God and denied the consequence of sin, thus leading the woman to see the fruit as the promise to fulfill her desire. As a result of the disobedience of the man and the woman, their eyes were opened.
The second movement of Genesis three is the Judgment and Salvation from God. The Lord questions the man and the woman, but they hide and blame others for their sin. These two reactions to the presence of the Lord is the lingering effect of the rupture of their relationship with God.
The Lord pronounces judgment on the serpent, the woman and the man. But he did offer a promise in verse 15, which is often called the Proto Evangelium, the first gospel. The Lord told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed; he will bruise your head and you will bruise his heel.” This can be referred to as the Redemptive Covenant, the promise of redemption through a redeemer in embryonic form.
The third movement of the Fall in Genesis three is the Expulsion of humanity from the Garden. Now the man and the woman are exiles in a broken and unforgiving environment. They have no way back into the relationship with the Lord except through the promised redeemer.
The impact of the Fall is immediately seen in the conflict between the first two children born into the fallen world. Cain murders his brother Abel in a jealous rage because the Lord accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not his own.
Things only go down hill from there. Wickedness increases in the world until the man Noah and his family are the only righteous people left. The Lord commands Noah to build an ark, a large boat to house his family and many animals. The Lord is going to wash the world of its wickedness and begin again.
Noah obeys. They enter the ark and the waters come. The entire earth is inundated with the waters of the judgment of God. When the waters abate, Noah, his family and all the animals depart from the ark to begin life anew. But the old problem is still with them.
At this time we see the third and last of the Adamic Covenants, the Noahic Covenant. God promises to never destroy the earth by flood again. The rainbow in the sky will be the sign of the covenant. While judgment by flood will never come again, other forms of judgment will follow, because the fallen sinful nature of humanity is still alive and well.
As the world begins to fill with people, they congregate in one location rather than disbursing over the earth, as the Lord commanded. Here the people build a city and a culture. They build a tower to the sky to make a name for themselves. A culture that rejects God’s will and creates its own destiny will be judged. Their problem was that they sought security in human power rather than security in the Lord. They desired praise for human achievement rather than praise for the Lord. The Lord confused their languages and their plans were thwarted. They were dispersed over the earth, just as the Lord commanded.
God communicates important things to us in the story of the Bible. We can discover what he’s saying to us by noticing the major themes that develop. The major themes in this first section of the book of Genesis (chapters 1-11) will be discussed as the major themes of Creation and the Fall.
Major Themes of Creation
Let’s think about what God is saying in the story of the creation in five themes. These themes will have an impact on the rest of the story of the Bible.
- God is the eternal, transcendent and sovereign creator. He is indeed awesome and awe inspiring. There is no one like him.
- Everything owes its existence to God, therefore we owe him worship.
- All things have value and purpose (“God saw that it was good”). Therefore, there is a moral law that is part of God’s nature.
- God created humanity in his image as the crown of his creation. The image of God distinguishes human life from all other life and makes it special in a unique way.
- God provided the Garden as a Sanctuary of his Presence. We will find the Presence of God as a central theme in the developing story of the Bible.
Major Themes of the Fall
So many important themes we see throughout the Bible begin in Genesis three with the Fall. Let’s examine five of those major themes.
- Commandment – God gives commands to his people. God’s commands reveal his will and express his character.
- Obedience/Disobedience – The command of God requires obedience. Disobedience is sin and brings judgment from God.
- Temptation – Temptaion is the lure away from the love and blessing of God toward what displeases God and brings his judgment.
- Judgment – Disobedience to the commands of God have grave consequences.
- Sinfulness – Because of the Fall, humanity not only commits acts of sin, but are sinful in their hearts.
Christ in Genesis 1-11
We noted in the previous post that Christ is found in all the Bible. He claimed that for himself. Foreshadows of Christ in the Old Testament are numerous. They communicate God’s eternal plan in the Gospel. God determined before the foundation of the world to redeem a people for himself. Here are four:
- Adam is a type of Christ. In the New Testament Christ is called the second Adam. Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded. Adam plunged the world into sin and death, Christ redeemed the world from sin and death.
- Christ is the creator of all things (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-16).
- Christ is the seed of the woman who crushes the head of the serpent. God became a human person to defeat the work of the devil (1John 3:8).
- The Cross of Christ is like the Ark that God called Noah to build. By grace it rescues us from the judgment of God. God provides a way of salvation.
The puzzle pieces are falling into place. The picture is coming into focus. It is clear. God loves us and has a plan for our lives. That plan is revealed in his Word. If we know it, believe it and follow it, we will be blessed. Praise be unto his name!