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It's always good to start at the beginning, yet at the beginning of the Bible we find God already present (Genesis 1:1). The theological belief that God is eternal means not only that he will exist forever into the future but also that he has always existed into the eternity of the past.
Creation (GENESIS 1-2)
You'll notice that it's completely dark as we begin our journey through the Bible. We're also in a place that is formless and empty. But all it takes is a word from God and immediately there is light. Another word, and the sky and earth separate. A few more words, and the new world is teeming with plants, animals, and the first human beings (see pages 97-98). After each day of Creation, God declares his work "good." After humankind is established, however, God evaluates all he has done and deems it "very good" (Genesis 1:31).
Adam and Eve (GENESIS 2:15-3:24)
Adam, the first created human, is assigned the task of naming all the animals. In doing so, he notices that for him there is "no suitable helper" (Genesis 2:20), so God places him in a deep sleep and uses one of his ribsto create Eve. God places them in the Garden of Eden, naked but without shame.
Eden is a paradise. But in time, Adam and Eve do the one thing God has instructed them not to do. After being tempted by a serpent, they succumb and eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As a result, they recognize their nakedness and hide from God.
This "original sin" initiates a separation from God that has made it more difficult for humans to interact with him throughout the centuries. It results, too, in a curse on the serpent, on Adam (thorns, thistles, and sweat as impediments to future work) and Eve (pain in childbirth and subjection to her husband). But it also results in the Bible's first messianic prophecy: a time will come when a descendant of Adam and Eve (Jesus) will "crush the head" of the serpent (Satan), even though the serpent will "strike his heel" (Genesis 3:14-19).
Cain and Abel (GENESIS 4:1-16)
After Adam and Eve are evicted from Eden (to prevent their eating from the tree of life and living forever in a state of separation from God), it doesn't take long for sin to spread. When God rejects an offering from their older son, Cain, and accepts one from their younger son, Abel, Cain responds in a fit of jealousy. He lures Abel into a field and commits the first premeditated murder. When questioned by God, he tries to plead ignorance-to no avail.
Early Personalities (GENESIS 4:17-5:32)
Soon afterward we come to Lamech, who was the first known polygamist, and boastful as well. But we also read of the first rancher (Jabal), musician (Jubal), and metalworker (Tubal-Cain). And this is where we find the Bible's oldest character: Methuselah, who lives to be 969 years old. With such age spans, it's no surprise that people are fruitful and multiply, and the population grows.
But so does sin. People live and die and generally ignore God. Yet a couple of people stand out as positive examples. One is Enoch, the father of Methuselah. We are told, "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away" (Genesis 5:24). This cryptic statement is better explained in Hebrews 11:5, which tells us that because Enoch pleased God, God didn't require that Enoch face physical death.
Noah (GENESIS 6-9)
Another exception is Noah, who "was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God" (Genesis 6:9). Sin has finally reached the point where "the LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain" (Genesis 6:6). At this time, God limits human life spans to 120 years (Genesis 6:3). He also tells Noah to build a three-deck ark in anticipation of a devastating flood. The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. By the time he finishes it, Noah is six hundred years old. Two of every kind of bird and animal come to him, and he boards them along with seven pairs of clean (kosher) animals and birds, which can be used for food and later, for sacrifices. Then God shuts the animals and eight people (Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives) in the ark.
The rain begins to fall, and the waters also rise up from "all the springs of the great deep" (Genesis 7:11). After forty days, the earth is covered. It takes time for the waters to recede, however. Noah and his family are in the ark for just over a year before a dove indicates the land is dry enough for them to disembark (Genesis 7:11, 8:13-14). It is at this point that God provides the rainbow as a sign of the covenant he makes with Noah to never again destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 9:11-17).
And although God has given humankind a second chance to eliminate the wickedness that had become so rampant, it doesn't take long for sin to return. Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk, gets naked, and is observed by one of his sons, who ridicules him. When he discovers his son's insult, he places a curse on that son's descendants (who will become the Canaanites).
The Tower of Babel (GENESIS 11:1-9)
And the next major story we come to is of the Tower of Babel, where a community of people are determined to build a tower into the heavens in order to "make a name for ourselves" (Genesis 11:4), and ostensibly, to share God's glory. But God "confused their language" (Genesis 11:7) so they can no longer communicate with one another, and they scatter to various parts of the world.
So although we've only just begun our journey through the Bible, it's already filled with action. And from here, the pace just picks up. Next comes the era of the patriarchs.
Excerpted from Bible to Go by Stan Campbell Copyright © 2006 by Stan Campbell. Excerpted by permission.
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