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The First Encounters
Divine Encounters are the ultimate human experience -- the maximal, the utmost possible when alive, a:s when Moses encountered the Lord upon Mount Sinai; and the final, terminal, and conclusive, as that of Egyptian Pharaohs who at death assumed an eternal Afterlife by joining the gods in their Divine Abode.
The human experience of Divine Encounters as recorded in scriptures and texts from the ancient Near East is a most amazing and fascinating saga. It is a powerful drama that spans Heaven and Earth, involving worship and devotion, eternity and morality on the one hand, and love and sex, jealousy and murder on the other; ascents unto space and journeys to the Netherworld. A stage on which the actors are gods and goddesses, angels and demigods, Earthlings and androids; a drama expressed in prophecies and visions, in dreams and omens and oracles and revelations. It is a story of Man, separated from his Creator, seeking to restore a primeval umbilical cord and, by so doing, reach for the stars.
Divine Encounters are the ultimate human experience perhaps because they were also the very first human experience; for when God created Man, Man met God at the very moment of being created. We read in Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible, how the first human, "The Adam," was brought into being:
And God said:
Let us make Man
in our image, after our likeness...
And God created the Adam in His image,
in the image of Elohim created He him.
We can only surmise that the newborn, at the moment of being brought forth, was hardly aware of thenature and significance of that first Divine Encounter. Nor, it appears, was The Adam fully aware of an ensuing crucial encounter, when the Lord God (in the creation version attributed to Yahweh) decided to create a female mate for The Adam:
And Yahweh Elohim
caused a deep sleep to fall upon
the Adam, and he slept.
And he took one of his ribs
and closed up the flesh instead of it.
And Yahweh Elohim formed the rib
which He had taken from the Adam
into a woman.
The first man was thus deeply anesthetized during the proceedings, and therefore oblivious to this crucial Divine Encounter in which the Lord Yahweh displayed his surgical talents. But The Adam was soon informed of what had happened, for the Lord God "brought the woman unto the man" and introduced her to him. The Bible then offers a few words of commentary on why men and women become "one flesh" as they marry and ends the tale with the observation that both the man and his wife "were naked, but were not ashamed." While the situation seemed not to bother the First Matchmaker, why does the Bible imply otherwise? If the other creatures roaming in the Garden of Eden, "the beasts of the field and the fowl of the skies," were unclothed, what on Earth should have caused (but did not) Adam and Eve to be ashamed of being naked? Was it because the ones in whose image the Adam was created were wearing clothing? It is a point to be kept in mind -- a clue, an inadvertent clue provided by the Bible, regarding the identity of the Elohim.
No one after Adam and Eve could attain the experience of being the first humans on Earth, with the attendant first Divine Encounters. But what has ensued in the Garden of Eden has endured as part of human yearning unto our own days. Even chosen Prophets must have longed to be so privileged, for it was there, in the Garden of Eden, that God spoke directly to the first human beings, instructing them regarding their nourishment: They can eat of all the garden's fruits, except the fruit of the Tree of Knowing.
The chain of events leading to the Expulsion from Paradise raises a lasting question: How did Adam and Eve hear God -- how does God communicate with humans at such, or any, Divine Encounters? Can the humans see the divine speaker, or just hear the message? And how is the message conveyed -- face-to-face? Telepathically? In a holographic vision? Through the medium of dreams?
We shall examine the ancient evidence for the answers. But as far as the events in the Garden of Eden are concerned, the biblical text suggests a physical divine presence. The place was not a human habitat; rather, it was a divine abode, an orchard deliberately planted "in Eden, in the east," where God "put the Adam whom He had fashioned" to serve as a gardener, "to till it and to keep it."
It is in this garden that Adam and Eve, through the intervention of the Divine Serpent, discover their sexuality after eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowing that "makes one wise." Having eaten the forbidden fruit, "they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons."
Now the Lord God -- Yahweh Elohim in the Hebrew Bible -- enters the stage:
And they heard the sound of the Lord God
walking in the garden in the cool of the day;
And Adam and his wife hid themselves
from the presence of the Lord God
amongst the trees of the garden.
God is physically present in the Garden of Eden, and the sound of his strolling about the garden can be heard by the humans. Can they see the deity? The biblical narrative is silent on the issue; it makes clear, however, that God can see them -- or, in this instance, was expecting to see them but could not because they were hiding. So God used his voice to reach them: "And the Lord God called unto the Adam, and said unto him: Where art thou?"A dialogue (or more correctly a trialogue) ensues. The tale raises many issues of great import. It suggests that The Adam could talk from the very beginning; it brings up the... Divine Encounters. Copyright © by Zecharia Sitchin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.