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Genesis 1-2: Reflections on God

Posted by Gary Labels: ,

In the last note, I played story-teller and tried to bring to life the story of creation. This time, I want us to look at this gem of scripture through another facet, and see even more of how it reflects God's beauty. Specifically, we're going to be focusing on the theological statements of Genesis 1.

The "Word of the Day"
I'm not sure how many of you are interested in analyzing the structure of how things are worded. If you're not, then feel free to skip this. But if you're curious, Hamilton provides a great model for how the days of creation are structured:
1. Introduction: "and God said"
2. Creative word: "let there be"
3. Fulfillment of the word: "and there was/and it was so"
4. Description of the action: "and God separated/and God made/and God set/so God created"
5. Name-giving or blessing: "and he called/blessed"
6. Divine commendation: "and it was good"
7. Concluding formula: "there was evening and there was morning"

Theology: what this teaches us about God
This section implies a compare/contrast with other ancient Near Eastern creation myths. Sometimes what is not said speaks more loudly than what is said. That said, the first observation is the oneness of God. Unlike with pagan gods, God has no wife or consort. He is self-sufficient and everything God wants for fulfillment is found within himself - particularly in His ability to create. As I'm writing this, ironically, my worship playlist turned to "Shema Yisrael," a song based off Deuteronomy 6:4 which is the foundation of Judaism: "The Lord our God, the Lord is one."

The second major truth revealed here is that there is a clear distinction between deity and humanity, between creator and creature. His nature is different from that of humanity in some way. By comparison, if you trace back most ancient kings' genealogies, many claim they descend from a deity. The Sumerian kings of ages past claimed that their remote ancestors were divine, for instance. Egyptians kings claimed to be fully divine in their own right, as (eventually) did Rome's Caesars. Arguably, so did the emperors of Japan and China. This distinction between humanity and divinity in our Bible is completely unique.

A third truth is that God is plural in his nature. As Gen. 1:23 says, "let us make man in our image and our likeness." This can be interpreted many ways. Despite what might seem obvious, this statement has nothing whatsoever to do with the Trinity. However, God is plural in majesty. There is a grammatical concept called the "plural of majesty," which is where monarchs refer to themselves as "we" instead of "I." It's dropped out completely in American English, of course, since we are democratic. Something similar exists in the German polite address, and I've seen remnants of the royal "we" in Japanese. The main character in the anime Bleach, Kurosaki Ichigo, encountered a runaway princess and he was quite confused that she referred to herself as "we."

The reason royals use "we" is that it instills the image that they are larger than life. The Royal Person is to be addressed uniquely because of His or Her unique majesty. God's use of the royal "we" achieves much the same effect but on a grander scale: He is the cosmic Creator-King. He is also communal and intimate, intensely desiring our fellowship. In fact, some say He is not speaking royally, but is communally inviting another force to give Him a hand in crafting humanity. The three "communal" interpretations that make sense are: 1. He was speaking to His angels (for surely angels had a hand in crafting woman!), 2. He was speaking to His spirit (not yet fully revealed as the Holy Spirit), or 3. He spoke to the heavens and the earth. This last one is most interesting, because it really fits 2:4, which reads like a genealogy. It almost implies that the heavens and earth took part in creating Adam and Eve.

A fourth truth is that God is both moral and holy. My true goal in this study of the Pentateuch is to discover the meaning of holy. It is the full essence of God's nature, and it is separate from simply being morally good. However, God's holiness is the basis for His moral demands.

A fifth truth emphasized in these two chapters is God's sovereignty and majesty. God effortlessly binds the Deep Abyss, the waters, and the dry land beneath to take form and produce life, and does this by simply telling them to do it. You can tell a creature with ears, like your annoying little sister, to do something simple and the kid might still not do it, but God can tell something without ears to do something impossible, and that thing obeys.

Nowhere does God meet any sort of resistance or antagonism in this story of creation. For instance, he does not have to slay mighty Tiamat the dragon, then split her hide in two and use one half to fashion the earth and the other half to fashion the skies. God doesn't have to battle any celestial monsters or rival gods. Another illustration is that the stars, sun, and moon, which many in the Near East revered as gods, are nothing but an afterthought. The Bible makes a point of saying what they are to do: they are God's vassals who rule over the day and night, but are subject to God. So, God creates effortlessly with mere words and encounters no resistance because he is sovereign. From a pacifist's perspective, God's power for peace flows from his sovereignty.

So, in short:
1. God is Self-sufficient
2. God is clearly different from humanity, and vice-versa
3. God is plural in His nature
4. God is both moral and holy
5. God is uniquely sovereign -- everything is at His command.