Stumbling openings 1: the serpent
The serpent in the garden of Eden seems nervous; his opening words to Eve like a fumbled 'pick-up' line. They usually translate something like: ”Has God said ”You shall not eat from any tree of the garden“?“ (Genesis 3:1). A more literal translation would be:
”Even if God said do not eat from any of the trees of the garden...“
The sentence is stumbling and unfinished.
It also - presumably deliberately - misrepresents what God has said. Eve does not hesitate to correct the serpent. Yet, she gets it wrong too and soon succumbs to his suggestion.
As the serpent is described as
”more cunning“ than any beast of the field and Eve has not yet succumbed to eating the forbidden fruit, the performance of both might seem unimpressive. Or is there more going on here?
The careful reader is drawn into the text in trying to resolve its puzzles (there are other oddities and hints). What is often presented as a simple children‘s fable turns out to be multi-layered.
Why the stars are there: humanity at the centre, part 2.
The Bible states a specific purpose: the lights in the expanse of the heavens are for signs (oth
) and for fixed times or seasons (moed
) (Genesis 1:14).
There are many signs of the Lord‘s actions,
including signs in the heavens (Jeremiah 10:2). The covenants between God and His people each have a sign associated with them. In Jeremiah 33:25 the Lord links His covenant and the fixed patterns of heavens and earth with His relationship with Jacob (Israel).
The word (moed
) (season) also means ‘feast’ or ’festival‘.
In Leviticus 23:2, the Lord says ”The feasts of the Lord which you shall proclaim to be holy gatherings, these are My feasts“. The seven Levitical feasts - celebrated in Judaism - mark key points in the year from Passover (Pesach
) to Tabernacles (Sukkot
) and are God‘s feasts. Each feast brings out a different aspect of our relationship with the Creator to mark, act out and contemplate upon.
So, the stars in heaven are to mark God‘s actions and relationships with us and particularly with Israel. We are created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). The stars both witness His glory to us and enable us to reflect that glory.
Quantum physics tells us
that every particle in the universe is linked instantaneously with every other particle. All is connected: the stars and distant galaxies with events here on earth. More mundanely, the rabbis, in preparing the annual calendar of feasts according to Biblical rules, achieved greater accuracy in calculating the length of the year
than other ancients. They were not astronomers, yet their accuracy was only slightly less than that attained by modern satellite technology.
In whose image
God made and created us - adam
- in His own image (Genesis 1:26-27). Where can we look for that image? These verses imply that there is an image of God for us to seek and find and refer to. They are the first time that adam
(humanity) is referred to and the first use of the possessive (‘his’ and ‘ours’) in the Bible. The word adam
in Hebrew means 'ruddy' or 'of the blood' or 'of the soil'. The statement in Genesis is central to who we are: caught between Creator and creation.
In Genesis 5:3, Adam‘s son Sheth is said to be in Adam‘s likeness and image. To be in God‘s image entails having a close bond with Him and to be called beyond ourselves as mere creatures. But father God seems remote. There is no evident image to refer to. Exodus 20:4-5 forbids the making of any idols or likeness of the Creator. If we look to ourselves to discover the image we are made after, then either we are going round in circles or we place ourselves in the position of God. But ”You shall have no other Gods before Me“ (Exodus 20:3). These verses in Exodus 20 comprise part of the first of the ten commandments. Above all, it is vital we get this right.
Throughout the Bible, God both hides and reveals Himself.
The whole book is a quest for His image.
Humanity at the centre, part 1
The Bible presents a huge tension. Like all other forms of life, we are created creatures, not Creators - a mere part of God‘s creation.
In the vastness of the universe, we can seem insignificant.
Yet, the creation account in Genesis also tells us we are distinct in three ways:
- the Hebrew word barah
(creation) is used three times of our creation, once only for other aspects of creation;
- we are created in His image (Genesis 1:27);
- we are given responsibility for the earth and every living thing upon it (Genesis 1:28-29)
between our status as a mere part of creation and as holding unique status and responsibility before the Creator is explored throughout the rest of the Bible.
How can this be resolved? Genesis is telling us what to watch out for.
God comes in third
(Lord) is the third word in the Bible. So, not:
”In the beginning God“ as many English translations put it, but:
”In the beginning of creating, God“
Also, the Hebrew of the Bible begins with a beth
- the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet- to provide the ”in“ of ”in the beginning“. Elohim
begins with an aleph
Couldn‘t God have arranged to begin His book with an aleph
and with His name?
No, because we can only comprehend God in time and through His presence and action in creation. As a timeless being He is inconceivable and unknowable to us created and time bound beings. Hence we need the first word in the Bible - beresheith
- meaning ”in the beginning“ and the second word - barah
- meaning ’creation‘ or ’creating‘. (In fact, the first two words are very difficult word to grasp and to translate, but more of that another time.) Only then can God become knowable to us: He is Elohim
(Lord) of creation, not an abstract proposition or a projection of our imagination.