Category Archive: Bible – OT – Genesis

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September 11, 2007

Beast, Woman, & Man

Category: Bible - NT - Romans,Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

In a footnote in The Gospel in Genesis (p. 101n6), Warren Austin Gage points out that when Paul traces the revelation of God’s wrath against ungodliness in Romans 1:18-32, he follows the order of God’s judgments in Genesis 3:14-19: first the beast (Rom. 1:23, 25; Gen. 3:14-15), then the woman (Rom. 1:26; Gen. 3:16), and finally the man (Rom. 1:27ff.; Gen. 3:17-19).

Posted by John Barach @ 2:27 pm | Discuss (1)
August 7, 2007

Thorns and Sweat

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

In his Trees and Thorns, James Jordan points out the connection between Genesis 2:5 and Genesis 3:18.  In Genesis 2:5, we’re told that before the Fall there were no shrubs and, while there were grain plants (Gen. 1), they hadn’t sprouted.  Because of man’s sin, however, the shrubs come up and the grain plants sprout in a way that carries out God’s judgment:

The judgment pronounced by God in Genesis 3:18 is phrased in terms of the two kinds of field plants.  The shrubs will now grow “thorns and thistles,” and the grains are eaten by the sweat of the brow.  The orchard trees are not mentioned, and in a sense are excluded.  Throughout the Old Covenant, men were never allowed to drink wine in the presence of God, and the Nazirite had to swear off all grapes and raisins as well.  The priests were, however, allowed to eat the showbread and the cereal offerings in holy places.  Man could fellowship with God in the field under the Old Covenant, but he was not admitted back into the Garden until the New (p. 10).

This judgment, therefore, points forward to one of the great privileges of the New Covenant.  We not only eat bread in God’s presence, which is something only the priests did in the Old Covenant; we also get to drink wine at God’s Table, which even the priests didn’t get to do.  The judgment is still in place and we still eat our daily bread by the sweat of our brow, but because Jesus bore the thorns and died, we get to eat bread and drink wine by the blood and sweat of His brow.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:34 pm | Discuss (1)
July 31, 2007

Names and the Original Language

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

This afternoon, I read part of G. C. Aalders’ commentary on Genesis.  I was struck by the frequent repetition of a certain warning.  It shows up first when we hear about Eve naming her son “Cain” and punning on the Hebrew word for acquiring.  We aren’t to make too much of that, Aalders cautions.  “It should be borne in mind that Eve did not speak Hebrew” (p. 118).

The warning comes up again in connection with Abel, whose name means “futility” in Hebrew.  What did Eve have in mind when she gave him that name?  Uh uh.  You don’t ask that question: “There is … no way of knowing just what Eve had in mind with this name.  Again, we must be reminded that Eve did not speak Hebrew” (p. 119).

We go a bit farther and we hear about Cain building a city and naming it after his son, Enoch.  “Attempts have been made to relate this name to similar names that appear later,” Aalders says, “but we should remember that Cain did not speak Hebrew” (p. 130).

What about the other names in this chapter?  Same thing.  “All attempts to discover meanings for the names which are listed here on the basis of similarity to various Hebrew words end in complete failure” (p. 130).  That goes for Adah and Zillah, too: “Once again, we caution against treating these names as being Hebrew before the Hebrew language was a reality” (p. 130).

The same is true at the end of the chapter.  Yes, Aalders says, the name “Enosh”

is formally the same as a Hebrew word which means “man” or “humanity.”  We may not conclude from this, however, that this is the meaning of the name Enosh.  We are reminded, once again, that prior to the confusion of speech there was no Hebrew language.  The similarity between the name given by Seth and the similar Hebrew word must be explained by the existence of a Hebrew word which happens to have the same sound (p. 135).

Aalders doesn’t address the pun on Seth’s own name in Genesis 4:25.

Get the picture?  Time and again, we’re told that the meaning of these names — and even the pun by which Cain’s name is explicitly related to the Hebrew word for acquiring — are not to be matters of our inquiry because, Aalders says, the people back then didn’t speak Hebrew.  The names just happens to have the same sound as some Hebrew words.

How do we know that?  Aalders points to the confusion of tongues at Babel, but the fact that tongues were confused doesn’t necessarily mean that no one retained the original language that everyone once spoke, does it?

Doesn’t the evidence seem to suggest that Hebrew was the original language?  If not, then the original language was one from which all the puns could be translated exactly into Hebrew, and having done some translation myself, I find it hard to imagine such a language.  But for some reason, for Aalders and for many others, the idea that Hebrew might have been the original language is the one thing we must not consider possible.

After all, Aalders tells us so every few pages.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:49 pm | Discuss (3)
July 5, 2007

Ten Words & Ten Toledoth

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

In Trees and Thorns, James Jordan suggests that Genesis has an introduction (Genesis 1:1-2:3), which presents the seven days of creation, followed by seven sections which parallel those seven days.  For the most part, I find that to be a helpful way of looking at the book of Genesis and I commend what he says to you for your meditation.

As I’ve worked on Genesis 1, however, and as I thought about the things Jordan said about these seven sections, I began to wonder if there might not be another set of parallels going on here, not in conflict with but perhaps in addition to the seven-day structure Jordan speculates about.  Ten times in Genesis 1 we are told that God spoke (“And God said…”) and ten times in the rest of the book a section begins with some variation on this line: “These are the begettings of….” 

Is there some connection?  In what follows, I’m drawing heavily on what Jordan has already said in Trees and Thorns, though I’ll be diverging a bit as we go.

Genesis 1:3: “Let there be light”
Genesis 2:4-4:26: the begettings of the heavens and the earth.

The very first part of Genesis 2 is closely parallel to the first day of creation, but where Day 1 ended up with light, Genesis 2 has the creation of man.  Man is the lightbearer in creation, the one begotten by the heavens (God’s breath in his nostrils) and the earth (adamah, the mother earth, the dust from which he was made).  But in Day 1, we also hear about the separation of light and darkness, and in this section of Genesis we also find the separation of light (Abel, Seth’s line) and darkness (Cain).

Genesis 1:6: “Let there be a firmament….”
Genesis 5:1-6:8: the begettings of Adam

On Day 2, the second time He speaks, God creates the firmament to separate between the waters above, which later on in Scripture will appear to be the sea before God’s throne in heaven, and the waters below, which will later be gathered into seas.  The firmament thus mediates between heaven and the earth.  What corresponds in Genesis may be, as Jordan suggests, the godly line of Seth, through whom God interacted with the world, but whose sin led to the world’s destruction.

Genesis 1:9: gathering the waters into seas; dry land appears.
Genesis 6:9-9:29: the begettings of Noah

In Genesis 1:9, God’s Word initiates the gathering of the waters into seas, which causes the dry land to appear.  In Genesis 6:9-9:29, the corresponding section, we have the Flood, which is a reversal of what happened in Genesis 1, followed by a new separation of the waters and a reappearance of the land.  This is probably the clearest correspondence between Genesis 1 and the sections of the rest of the book, whether in Jordan’s seven-day analysis or in my ten-word analysis.

Genesis 1:11: earth produces green plants and fruit trees
Genesis 10:1-11:9: the begettings of the sons of Noah 

After the parting of the waters and appearance of the dry land, God speaks a second time on Day 3, this time to call the earth to produce green grain plants and fruit trees.  Even within Genesis 1, there’s a parallel between Day 3 and Day 6, which sets up a parallel between plants and men, and that parallel is worked out in the rest of Scripture (e.g., Psalm 1).  So the multiplication of plants on the earth after the parting of the waters parallels the section in Genesis which deals with the multiplication of the nations after the Flood and their scattering over the face of the earth.

Genesis 1:14: lamps in the firmament
Genesis 11:10-26: the begettings of Shem 

On Day 4, God speaks to create lamps to bear light in the firmament and to rule in the heavens over day and night.  The correspondence with Genesis 11:10-26 isn’t completely clear to me, but it may be something along the lines Jordan suggests: “Not only are the godly called lights, but the patriarch’s lives were marked out in years that are the same as significant astronomical numbers” (Trees 3). 

Genesis 1:20: fish and birds
Genesis 11:27-25:11: the begettings of Terah

On Day 5, God’s Word calls the waters to produce fish and other swimming creatures and causes birds to be created on the earth.  But this is also the day in which God first speaks a command, a command which is also a blessing: “Be fruitful and multiply.”  Jordan says, “These themes, multiplication and law, are highlighted in the story of Abraham” (Trees 3), which is the main story in this section of Genesis. 

Genesis 1:24: living creatures on earth
Genesis 25:12-18: the begettings of Ishmael 

As on Day 3, so on Day 6 God speaks more than once.  In his first speech on Day 6, God has the earth bring forth land animals.  These animals, as Genesis 2 makes clear, are to be helpers for man, though none is a helper corresponding to him, as the woman would be.  The Ishmaelites, whose story is told in Genesis 25, are not enemies of Israel nor are we to regard Ishmael and his descendants as apostate and ungodly, for God blesses Ishmael and makes of him a great nation (Gen. 17:20).  The Ishmaelites therefore correspond to the helpful land animals created on Day 6.

Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man….”
Genesis 25:19-35:29: the begettings of Isaac

God’s Word creates the land animals first as helpers for man, and then goes on to create man.  So, too, God creates Ishmael first and makes his descendants into helpers and then goes on to create Isaac and his seed.  Man is created in the image of God in Genesis 1, and the corresponding section of Genesis deals mainly with Jacob, who wrestled with God and man and prevailed. 

Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion….”
Genesis 36:1-43: the begettings of Esau

When God creates man on Day 6 in Genesis 1, he then blesses him with a blessing that entails a mandate to multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and rule over it.  The corresponding section in Genesis deals with the offspring of Esau, and I have to admit that I don’t really see a close correspondence.  But perhaps this section deals with Esau multiplying and taking control of a territory, something that Israel didn’t get to do in Genesis.

Genesis 1:29: provision of food for man and beast
Genesis 37:1-50:26: the begettings of Jacob

God’s tenth word in Genesis 1 is his invitation for man to eat the grain plants and the fruit of the green trees.  In the same speech, he tells man that he has given the plants to the beasts for food, as well.  The begettings of Jacob are concerned mainly with Joseph and Joseph’s story has a lot to do with the provision of food, not just for Joseph’s own family but for the world.

Some of these suggested correspondences seem a bit more iffy than others, but I find that some work particularly well, well enough that I suspect there’s something to this approach to Genesis 1.

If so, then there’s something else we can notice here, namely, the big correspondence throughout Genesis between God’s speaking in Genesis 1 and begetting throughout the rest of the book.  That shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise, though, considering that Peter talks about how we were begotten by the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23), but it does bear thinking on.

And if you’re still thinking this all sounds a bit farfetched, I can only echo what Jordan says at the close of his essay: “Is all of this speculative?  Sure.  What’s wrong with tossing around some possibilities?  Give it a thought, and see what you think” (Trees 3).

Posted by John Barach @ 1:57 pm | Discuss (1)
June 2, 2007

Ten Words

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

I’ve fallen behind in blogging my sermons on Genesis, I see.  I may try to catch up sometime in the future, but … we’ll see.  I had originally intended to preach two or three sermons on Genesis 1 and then move on to Genesis 2.  Instead, I ended up preaching a sermon on each of the days of creation.  When you start looking at the symbolism and thinking about what the events on these days are intended to teach us, there’s a lot there!

Here’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about.  In Genesis 1, God speaks ten times (“And God said”: Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28, 29).  In The Gospel in Genesis, Warren Gage links these ten speeches with the Ten Words.  We call them “the Ten Commandments,” but the Bible refers to them as the Ten Words.  We have ten words, ten statements, in Genesis 1 and in Exodus 20, God gives Israel ten words, ten statements including ten commandments.  Gage writes: “As God created the cosmic order with ten words, so he creates social order with ten commandments.”

Gage doesn’t elaborate, but what he says here is thought-provoking.  James Jordan and others have shown that the building of the tabernacle in Exodus involves seven speeches, the last of which is about Sabbath, and therefore the construction of the tabernacle is the construction of a new world.  The fact that God gives Israel ten words, as he spoke ten words in the beginning, may also suggest that God is building a new world at Mount Sinai.

I wonder, though, if there are correspondences between the ten words in Genesis 1 and the Ten Words in Exodus 20:

(1) Let there be light (Gen. 1:3) & You shall have no other gods before me (Ex. 20:2-3).

Yahweh God is the only giver of light and you are not to seek light (and hence life) elsewhere.  Apart from him, there is only darkness.

(2) Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters (Gen. 1:6) & You shall not make for yourself a carved image … you shall not bow down to them nor serve them (Ex. 20:4-6).

The firmament is between the waters above and the waters below.  The firmament includes everything we call “outer space,” since the sun, moon, and stars will be placed in the firmament on Day 4.  The waters above the firmament reappear later in Scripture as the sea below God’s throne (e.g., Rev. 4:6).  Thus the firmament is the barrier and the mediator between heaven and earth.  It’s a veil, corresponding to the veil in the tabernacle.  The tearing of that veil represents the rending of the mediator (Heb. 10:20).

The second commandment has to do with bowing to images in order to worship Yahweh through them.  The images are false mediators.  So both the second word in Genesis 1 and the second word in Exodus 20 have to do with mediation in some way.

(3) Let the waters … be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear (Gen. 1:9) & You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain (Ex. 20:7).

I’m not sure about this one.  The dry land emerging from the parted seas parallels Israel, as a new creation, emerging from the parted Red Sea, which is also a baptismal image.  Israel is the nation that bears God’s name, as the church now bears Christ’s name.  There may be some sort of connection along these lines, then, between the dry land emerging from the water and the bearing of God’s name.  But it isn’t obvious.

(4) Let the earth bring forth grass, etc. (Gen. 1:11) & Remember the Sabbath day, etc. (Ex. 20:8-11).

The Sabbath day is the time of rest and refreshment, though.  It’s a time for feasting.  The fourth word has to do with the growth of grain plants and fruit trees, from which we get bread and wine.

(5) Let there be lights, etc. (Gen. 1:14-15) & Honor your father and your mother (Ex. 20:12).

This one is fairly easy.  There is a connection between the heavenly lights and rulers.  The lights are said to rule the day and the night (Gen. 1:16) and when we hear about heavenly bodies later on in Scripture they often symbolize rulers (e.g., the passages where stars fall from the heavens).  The Fifth Word in Exodus also has to do with rulers, focusing in particular on rulers in the home.  Dad is the Sun.  Mom is the Moon.

(6) Let the waters swarm … and let birds fly above the earth (Gen. 1:20) & You shall not murder (Ex. 20:13).

The sixth word in Genesis 1 is the creation of life.  Plants were created on the third day, but plants in the Bible are not seen as being alive, the way animals and men are.  Plants grow up; they don’t run around.  Plants are machines that take the earth and convert it into glory and food.  But now, in this sixth word, God commands the waters to produce a swarm of swarming things (note the emphasis on motion) and he orders there to be birds flying (again: notice the motion) above the earth.  The Sixth Word in Exodus has to do with the unlawful taking of human life.

(7) Let the earth bring forth the living creature, etc. (Gen. 1:24) &  You shall not commit adultery (Ex. 20:14).

The land animals which were created by the seventh word in Genesis 1 are helpers for man.  Adam was to name them all, to see that they were paired up, male and female, and to recognize that he didn’t have a helper corresponding to him.  None of these animals was the helper that Adam needed.  Adam recognized, too, that he was similar to the animals.  He didn’t say, “Well, these animals have pairs and I don’t.  I guess that’s a difference between animals and humans.”  Rather, he would have recognized that if animals come in sexual pairs, so should humans.

Perhaps there’s some connection here between animals as helpers and a wife as a helper, between the proper pairing of animals and the need for men and women to be properly paired.  Or maybe that’s a stretch.

(8) Let us make man in our image (Gen. 1:26) & You shall not steal (Ex. 20:15).

I’m not sure about this one.  But I do note that man was created in God’s image, according to God’s likeness, but that man could also grow to be more and more like God.  After all, in Genesis 3, God says that now man has become “like one of us.”  That is, in some sense man has become more like the Triune God than he was before.  But that happened precisely as the result of theft: Adam stole what God had put off limits.  The true imaging of God and growth in the true likeness of God requires that we do not steal from God, that we do not grasp for that likeness but that we wait for God to give it to us.

(9) Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion, etc. (Gen. 1:28) & You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Ex. 20:16).

I’m not sure about this one.

(10) See, I have given you every herb … and every tree …, etc. (Gen. 1:29-30) & You shall not covet, etc. (Ex. 20:17).

Again, I’m not sure.  But here God gives Adam every tree for food (“to you it will be for food”).  That includes the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  But not right away.  Adam has to wait.  The knowledge of good and evil is a good thing. It’s something that will make Adam more like God.  It’s something kings have later on in Scripture.  But for now Adam has to wait for God to give it to him in due time.  But patient waiting requires that Adam not covet.  Adam’s covetousness leads to Adam’s sin.

That’s as far as I can go right now.  Some of these connections seem to work, but others don’t or don’t work easily.  Still, enough do seem to work that I wonder if I’m just missing something with the others that don’t seem to.  If you have suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:42 pm | Discuss (4)
March 8, 2007

Henry Law: Gnostic?

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis,Theology :: Link :: Print

Henry Law was one of the leading evangelicals in the Anglican Church in the 19th century, according to the blurb on the back of the Banner of Truth edition of his The Gospel in Genesis.  I was surprised, though, by what he says about the creation of Adam from the dust (Gen. 2:7):

When we go back to the birth of him, who is this common birth [i.e., who is the father of the whole human race], we naturally ask, of what material is the work?  Pride would conclude, that no mean quarry could produce such frame.  But pride must lie low before the unerring word: “Dust thou art.”

Ponder this first truth.  The mightiest monarch, — the Lazarus at his gate, — are one in base original.  The common parentage is that of worms.  The flesh of each is but the filth, which our feet scorn.  Who, then, will boast of beauty or of strength?  There is a voice in dust which mocks such pitiable folly.

But man is more than a shell of clay.  The mean case holds a matchless jewel.  God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul.”  The flesh is of the earth and earthy.  The spirit is from on high and heavenly.  One is the clog of matter.  The other is a ray from God.  One soon crumbles back to vileness.  The other is a deathless principle.  One sinks as to the level of the beasts.  The other gives the wings of immortality.

Reader, you cannot think too highly of the soul.  It cannot cease to be.  Age after age imprints no wrinkle on it.  It neither withers nor decays.  Its time is timeless.  Its death is never (pp. 18-19).

Isn’t this the heresy of gnosticism?  While he doesn’t quite say that the body is bad, he does describe it as made out of “filth” and “vileness” and as “the clog of matter” as opposed to spirit.  Quite clearly, to Law “spirit” is good and the body not so good.

If he’s thinking of human nature after the Fall, then he’s forgetting that the whole man fell, not just his body, that the whole man, including the spirit, experiences death because of sin, and that the sins that Paul characterizes as “fleshly” include what we often think of as sins of the “spirit.”   But if he’s thinking of human nature before the Fall (which I assume he is, given that he’s meditating on Genesis 2:7), there’s an even greater problem, because he’s saying that even apart from sin, our bodies as God made them were mere clay shells and filthy, the kind of thing we scorn.  Of course, he’s also forgetting that the term “living soul” here is the same term that’s used for the animals and fish back in Genesis 1.

Weird stuff.  I’ll have to see if the book gets better later on.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:04 pm | Discuss (1)
January 25, 2007


Category: Bible - OT - Genesis,Theology - Liturgical :: Link :: Print

The life of Adam and Eve was … to be completely circumscribed by worship.  On the first day, they were to appear before the Lord in the Garden to worship and commune with Him, to enter into His sabbath rest.  Empowered by God’s blessing, they were to go about their royal tasks for six days, only to return at the end of the week to offer themselves and their works to the Lord for His evaluation and judgment and to be refreshed for another week of royal labor.  The life of Adam and Eve displays human history in miniature.  Human history began in the Garden with Adam and Eve worsihping God, and will end with the church gathered in a glorious temple-city.  Worship is the alpha and the omega of human life and history. — Peter Leithart, The Kingdom and the Power, pp. 27-28.

By the way, in case you’re wondering about “the first day” here, I think what Leithart means is that Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day, and so their first full day of life would have been the seventh day, when they, as the children of the Father, would have shared in the Father’s rest.

I’m not sure Adam and Eve did actually worship God on the seventh day or had a proper first week.  I suspect the Fall happened right away instead.  But Leithart is correct that the pattern set up here in Genesis is the pattern of world history, beginning and ending with worship and rest.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:31 am | Discuss (0)
January 22, 2007

Adam and the TOTKOGAE

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis,Theology :: Link :: Print

Bill Wilder‘s fascinating article, “Illumination and Investiture: The Royal Significance of the Tree of Wisdom in Genesis 3″ is now available online here.

It overlaps quite nicely with Jim Jordan‘s thesis that “the knowledge of good and evil” in Scripture is not, as some claim, experiential knowledge of sin or something like that, but rather is the wisdom kings need — the wisdom Adam would have needed — in order to rule well.  God’s promise to Adam that he would eat of all the trees included the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which means this tree was off limits to Adam only at first.

I’m glad to see that the Westminster Theological Journal published this article, and I’m glad to see it available online.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:16 pm | Discuss (0)
November 20, 2006

Genesis 1:6-8 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters.
And let it be a separator between waters and waters.
And God made the firmament and separated between the waters that were under the firmament
     and the waters that were above the firmament.
And it was so.
And God called the firmament “Heavens.”
And it was dusk and it was dawn: second day.

The second day is probably the strangest of all the seven days of creation. What happens on the other days makes more sense to us.

We compare the way God created the world with the way the world is now and it’s pretty obvious to us what had to change to get from the one to the other. It was dark and so God created light and had it come from stars. It was covered with water and so God made dry land appear. It was empty and so God created plants and fish and birds and animals and people.

That seems obvious to us because of the way the world is now. And it’s also obvious that we’d need air to breathe and we might think that’s what Day 2 is all about. It’s about God creating the atmosphere above the earth and giving us air to breathe.

But Genesis 1 doesn’t say anything about air here. Instead, it talks about something that separates waters above and waters below. And that isn’t immediately obvious to us. It isn’t immediately obvious as we look at our universe that there are waters up above us. Rain? Yes. Clouds and water vapor? Yes. But not a great sea of waters like there is on earth.

Day 2 is hard to figure out. But it’s worth thinking about. In Proverbs 25:2 we hear this: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”

God conceals things. That’s part of His glory. He doesn’t make everything obvious. But the glory of kings is to search out what God has hidden, to figure things out. And so we need to act like kings and search out what God is telling us here in Genesis 1 about these waters above and these waters below and the firmament that separates them.


Posted by John Barach @ 2:27 pm | Discuss (6)
November 18, 2006

Genesis 1:2-5 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Now the earth was unstructured and empty and darkness was on the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light.”
And there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good.
And God separated between the light and the darkness.
And God called the light “Day” and the darkness he called “Night.”
And it was dusk and it was dawn: one day (Genesis 1:1-5).

The Bible is all about development and maturation and progress. God created the heavens and the earth and from then on the heavens serve as the blueprint for earth as God works progressively, through history, so that His name is hallowed, His kingdom comes, and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

The first day started with God creating heaven first and then earth. But it continues as God takes hold of the world by His Word and Spirit and begins to work with it to make it more like heaven. The first day starts with the brightness of heaven and the darkness of earth. But it moves from darkness to light.

And that first day is foundational for all the other days. It sets the pattern of what a day is. And this day sheds light on our days and the meaning of the constant cycle of day and night, night and day, in which we live.These verses are foundational, not just for this chapter but for the whole of history, for the whole of our lives. They’re foundational for our understanding of the world and of God’s work in it. What is God doing in history? He’s doing what He did on this first day. He’s moving things from darkness to light by His Word and Spirit.


Posted by John Barach @ 2:08 pm | Discuss (0)
November 7, 2006

Genesis 1:1 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis is the book of beginnings.  It’s all about beginnings and what develops out of them.  And so we hear again and again about “the generations of” various people, that is, about what came from those people.  But before all the other beginnings, we hear about the beginning of the whole of creation: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

That first verse is like the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: “Dah dah dah DUM.”  Those notes in that particular rhythm jump out at you at the very beginning of the symphony, and that’s all most people know of the symphony.  But if you listen further, you’ll hear those notes or that rhythm again and again as Beethoven works out that theme in various ways.  That’s how it is with this verse.  Already in this verse, we encounter themes that are going to be worked out and developed and unpacked in the rest of the symphony, in the rest of God’s Word, in the rest of history.


Posted by John Barach @ 5:15 pm | Discuss (3)
October 12, 2006

The Corporate Image of God

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Though we often think simply of individuals being created “in the image of God,” Herman Bavinck reminds us that the image is also corporate.  More than that, that corporate imaging of God becomes richer and deeper through time.

Adam was not created alone.  As a man and by himself he was incomplete.  He lacked something for which no lower creature could make up (Gen. 2:20).  As a man by himself, accordingly, neither was he yet the fully unfolded image of God.  The creation of mankind in God’s image was only completed on the sixth day when God created both man and woman in union with each other (cf. ‘wtm, Gen. 1:27), in his image.

Still even this creation in God’s image of man and woman in conjunction is not the end but the beginning of God’s journey with mankind.  It is not good that the man should be alone (Gen. 2:18); nor is it good that the man and woman should be alone.  Upon the two of them God immediately pronounced the blessing of multiplication (Gen. 1:28).  Not the man alone, nor the man and woman together, but only the whole of humanity is the fully developed image of God, his son, his offspring.

The image of God is much too rich for it to be fully realized in a single human being, however richly gifted that human being may be.  It can only be somewhat unfolded in its depth and riches in a humanity counting billions of members.  Just as the traces of God (vestigia dei) are spread over many, many works, in both space and time, so also the image of God can only be displayed in all its dimensions and characteristic features in a humanity whose members exist both successively one after the other and contemporaneously side by side.

But just as the cosmos is a unity and receives its head and master in man; and just as the traces of God (vestigia dei) scattered throughout the entire world are bundled and raised up into the image of God of humankind, so also that humanity in turn is to be conceived as an organism which, precisely as such, is finally the only fully developed image of God.  Not as a heap of souls on a tract of land, not as a loose aggregate of individuals, but as having been created out of one blood, as one household and one family, humanity is the image and likeness of God.

Belonging to that humanity is also its development, its history, its ever-expanding dominion over the earth, its progress in science and art, its subjugation of all creatures.  All these things as well constitute the unfolding of the image and likeness of God in keeping with which man was created.  Just as God did not reveal himself just once at the creation, but continues and expands that revelation from day to day and from age to age, so also the image of God is not a static entity but extends and unfolds itself in the forms of space and time.  It is both a gift (Gabe) and a mandate (Aufgabe).  It is an undeserved gift of grace that was given the first human being immediately at the creation, but at the same time the grounding principle and germ of an altogether rich and glorious development.

Only humanity in its entirety — as one complete organism, summed up under a single head, spread out over the whole earth, as prophet proclaiming the truth of God, as priest dedicating itself to God, as ruler controlling the earth and the whole of creation — only it is the fully finished image, the most telling and striking likeness of God (In the Beginning, pp. 212-213).

I’m not sure Bavinck is entirely right about the image itself here.  It sounds as if he’s saying that a man by himself really can’t do justice to the image of God, and yet Jesus, as a man, was the perfect image of God.

But I do think Bavinck is right that God’s intention for humanity was that it would grow up, as his image and as his individual images, to a maturity that better and better reflects his likeness. My quibbles with some of what Bavinck says here don’t take away at all from my appreciation for his history-long, humanity-wide scope.

Posted by John Barach @ 4:54 am | Discuss (3)

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