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The New Unger's Bible Handbook
By Merrill Frederick Unger
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2005 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
All rights reserved.
The book of creation
Nature of the book. Genesis, 'the Book of Beginnings,' is the indispensable introduction to the entire Bible, the foundation of all revealed truth. The book takes its name from the title given to it by the Septuagint (Greek) Version, derived from the heading of its ten parts he biblos geneseos (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12; 25:19; 36:1; 37:2). The title of the book in the Hebrew is beeresit ('In the beginning').
1-11 Primeval History of Humanity
3 The Fall
4-5 From the Fall to the Flood
6-9 The Flood
10-11 From the Flood to Abraham
12–50 Patriarchal History of Israel
1. The beginning of the earth as man's habitation
God. In the first phrase of revelation occurs the declaration of the existence of God, whose eternal being is assumed and asserted, and in no sense argued and defined. He is presented here as the infinite First Cause, the Originator and Creator of all things.
'In the Beginning.' Evangelical scholars have taken a variety of positions concerning the significance of the creation account in Gen 1: 1-2:3. The opening words of Genesis have been commonly assumed to refer to the original creation of the universe. Some scholars prefer, however, to envision a relative beginning, allowing events such as Satan's fall (cf. Ezk 28:13-14; Isa 14:12) and the geological ages of the earth to precede 1:1 or 1:2 (the Gap Theory).
The issue of a relative beginning (re-creation) principally revolves around three considerations: 1. Is the phrase, 'in the beginning,' absolute or relative? 2. Does the word 'create' (Heb. bara) possibly mean 'fashion' or re-create'? 3. How do Gen 1:1 and 1:2 fit together grammatically and chronologically (i.e., is it possible that a gap intervenes)?
The phrase, 'in the beginning', is construed by most Hebrew scholars as absolute. It should be noted though that the phrase, 'in the beginning' of John 1:1 antedates the 'in the beginning' of Gen 1:1 in any case.
The Hebrew term bara' has the basic meaning 'create' in distinction from the word yasar (to fashion, form). In most of its OT usages bara' speaks of 'creating something new' or 'bringing into existence' (cf. Isa 41:20; 43:1; Ezk 21:30; 28:13, 15). As a result, most exegetes argue that bara' serves as testimony to God's ex nihilo (out of nothing) creation.
The phrase, 'Now the earth was formless and empty,' has been rendered, 'and the earth became ...' to portray a chaotic visitation of divine judgment upon the original earth. To place a gap in 1:2 is untenable by the Hebrew text, which shows that all three clauses are circumstantial either to the main clause in 1:1 or that in 1:3. If a gap exists it must occur prior to 1:1 rather than after it. Gen 1:1-2 appear as a unit and serve as a summary introduction to the creative activity that follows. Although the gap theory framework seems to be declining in support, it does commend itself as a potential explanation for the fall of Satan and for the findings of modern science that suggest long geological ages in earth's prehistory.
Creation and the six days of Genesis 1. The six days of creation in Gen 1 can represent either (1) literal 24-hour days of creation, (2) literal 24-hour days of divine revelation of creation, (3) extended geological ages or epochs preparatory for the eventual occupancy of man, or (4) a revelatory framework to summarize God's creative activity, asserting that 'by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth ...' (Col 1:16).
3-5. First day–light. The account of God's first creative acts contains several important affirmations. (1) God created by his word ('and God said'). The rest of Scripture echoes the power of God's creative word, culminating in the incarnate Word (Jn 1:1) who fulfills God's work of redemption. (2) The creation of light before the sun, moon, and stars (the agents of light) reminds us that light ultimately proceeds from God and only secondarily from His created 'lamps.' (3) The light also prefigures the 'light of God' come to earth in the person of Christ (Mt 4:16, Jn 1:3-9). (4) The state of Gen 1:3 is to be renewed in the New Jerusalem, where 'the city does not need of the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp' (Rev 21:23).
6-8. Second day–firmament. The second day involved the separation of the mixture of atmospheric waters from the terrestrial waters. The separation of the waters may well have resulted in vast amounts of subterranean and atmospheric waters (vapor) that remained in place until the cataclysm of the Flood.
9-13. Third day–land, sea, plants. After the separation from the atmospheric waters on the second day, the terrestrial waters were separated from the land to constitute the earth and to form the seas, making possible luxuriant plant and tree growth.
14-19. Fourth day–sun, moon, and stars. God now fills the universe He formed on the first day. These heavenly bodies (together with the vast galaxies in space) are now given responsibility as the source of light and heat on earth. Concerning the order of the creation that places light before the sun and stars, see the 'First Day'.
20-23. Fifth day–sea life and birds created. As God created the universe on the first day and filled it with the astral bodies on the fourth day, He filled the waters and atmosphere (created on the second day) on the fifth day, bringing forth fish and birds.
24-31. Sixth day–land life and man created. Man was created (not evolved) and appeared as the crown and goal of all God's creative activity with regard to the earth as man's special home. The expression 'Let us' (1:26) intimates the Triune God's counsel and activity in man's creation (cf. Jn 1:3; Col 1:16), as well as God's foreordained redemptive plan and purpose for man upon the earth (Eph 1:4-6). Man was given dominion over the earth.
2. Man in Eden
1-3. God's rest. God rested from His creative work of Gen 1 on the seventh day. This sabbath rest of God became the basis of the Mosaic Sabbath (Ex 20:11) and a type of the believer's rest in God's redemption to be realized in Christ. Elohim, the generic name of God, appears (1:1-2:3).
4-6. Edenic climate. The creative work of God is summarized and the prediluvian climate is described: 'but streams came up'. This passage may suggest that prior to the Flood the earth was watered by vapor from subterranean water (cf. Gen 7:11-12).
7. Man's creation. The creative act of 1:27 is here described in detail. YHWH (Yahweh, traditionally vocalized Jehovah, printed LORD), the redemptive name of Deity, is introduced in vv. 4, 7, when man filled the scene and assumed control of the earth recreated for him. In His Jehovah character, God is introduced in special revelatory and redemptive relationship to man.
8-14. The Garden of Eden. It was provided for unfallen man, 8-9. Its location, 10-14, was somewhere in the Tigris-Euphrates region, evidently in the easternmost end of the Fertile Crescent (the moonshaped rim of ancient civilization, with one point at Palestine-Syria and the other point in the lower Tigris-Euphrates Valley). The Hiddeqel is the ancient name of the Tigris River (Babylonian Idigla, Diglat). The Pishon and the Gihon were probably smaller channels that connected the Tigris and the Euphrates as ancient river beds. The accumulation of vast deposits of silt has changed the coastline of the Persian Gulf, pushing it farther out to sea.
A.H. Sayce and others located Eden near Eridu, anciently on the Persian Gulf (Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments). Friedrich Delitzsch (Wo Lag das Paradies?) placed it just N of Babylon where the Tigris and the Euphrates come close together. But changing topography renders any precise location now only a guess. It is significant, however, that both archaeology and the Bible concur that the Eastern Mediterranean Basin and the region immediately to the E of it (Breasted's Fertile Crescent) is indeed the cradle of civilization.
Creation tablets discovered. Between 1848 and 1876 the first tablets and fragments of tablets of the Babylonian creation epic called Enuma elish were found. Written in cuneiform characters the seven cantos of the epic were inscribed on seven tablets and were recovered from the library of the Assyrian emperor Ashurbanipal (669-626 B.C.) at his capital Nineveh. This version, though late, goes back in its political mold to the days of Hammurabi the Great. (1792-1750 B.C.), and beyond that to the Sumerians, the earlier inhabitants of Lower Babylonia.
Tablet 1. Tablet 1 presents the primitive scene when only living uncreated world matter existed, personified by two mythical beings. These two, Apsu (male) representing the primeval fresh water ocean and Tiamat (female) the primeval salt water ocean, gave birth to a brood of gods who were so ill-behaved that their father Apsu determined to slay them. But Ea, the father of Marduk, the city-god of Babylon, instead slays Apsu, thereby transforming Tiamat into a raging avenger of her slain husband.
Tablets 2-7. Tablets 2 and 3 recount how Marduk is selected to fight with the raging Tiamat. Tablet 4 tells how Marduk is chosen and how he defeats Tiamat (chaos) and brings about an ordered universe out of Tiamat's carcass. Tablet 5 describes Marduk's setting up the heavenly bodies for light. Tablet 6 sets forth the creation of man out of the blood of Kingu, Tiamat's commander-in-chief, who is slain. Tablet 7 describes Marduk's elevation as the chief of Babylon and head of the Babylonian pantheon because of his role in creation.
Similarities and differences with Genesis. The Babylonian account and that of the Bible are similar in that (1) both accounts speak of the primeval ocean, though the Heb. tehom (the deep) has been demonstrated not to be derived from the mythological Tiamat (cf. TWOT, pp. 2495-96). (2) Both accounts have a similar order of events – light, firmament, dry land, luminaries, man, and God or the gods of Babylon at rest. (3) Both accounts have a predilection for the number seven, seven days, seven cantos. But this similarity is superficial, and the differences between the gross polytheistic Babylonian version and the Genesis account are vast. The Babylonian account is a corrupted version of an original tradition, the truth of which was granted to Moses by inspiration and thus freed from its polytheistic incrustations.
The Myth of Adapa. This account of creation was discovered on four cuneiform fragments, three from Ashurbanipal's library in Nineveh (7th cen. B.C.) and the fourth from the archives of the Egyptian kings Amenhotep III and IV at Amarna (14th cen. B.C.). This legendary tale, although not really parallel to the fall of Gen 3 as sometimes claimed, does contain striking similarities, such as 'the food of life' corresponding to the fruit of the tree of life (Gen 3:3, 22). The two accounts agree that eternal life could be obtained by eating a certain kind of food or fruit. Adam, however, forfeited immortality for himself because of a wrong desire to be like God. Adapa was already endowed with wisdom by the gods and failed to become immortal, not on account of disobedience or presumption, like Adam, but because of his obedience to his creator, Ea, who deceived him. Both accounts deal with the problem of why man must suffer and die, but are poles apart in the matter of an actual fall from a state of innocence, of which the Adapa myth knows nothing.
The Temptation Seal portrays two persons sitting beside a fruitbearing tree, and behind one the upright figure of a serpent. But this is scarcely an accurate picture of the temptation scene, since both figures are fully clothed, contrary to the fact that both are explicitly said to be unclothed in Gen 2:25.
Adam and Eve Seal is from the fourth millennium B.C. level at Tepe Gawra near Nineveh, and now in the University Museum at Philadelphia. This small stone engraving found in 1932 shows a dejected naked man and woman followed by a serpent, and suggests to some the expulsion from Eden.
Worldwide traditions of the Fall are found among Chinese, Hindu, Greek, Persian, and other peoples and, like similar creation and Flood stories, go back to an actual event in history, being corrupted in transmission.
15-17. Man's testing in Eden. Created innocent, placed in a perfect environment, man was put under a simple test of obedience, to abstain from eating the fruit of 'the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.' The penalty for disobedience was death – immediate spiritual death (Mt 8:22; Eph 2:1-5), eventual physical death (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21-22). 'Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died' (Gen 5:5), and ever afterward death has 'reigned' in the fallen human family (Rom 5:14).
18-22. Man provided a companion. The Lord God declared that a sexless or unisexual race would not be good and enunciated His purpose to create 'a help suitable to man to be in his presence' (lit.), 'a helper suitable for him' (AV). Adam named the animals and birds; but these, although companions in a sense, were not suitable partners on the same physical, mental, moral and spiritual plane as he.
21-23. Woman created. (Cf. 1:27). The Lord God made woman from the man, and presented her to him. Only in this manner could man have 'a helper suitable for him.' Man is man by that spirit by which he differs from the beast. Gen 2:21-23 with 2:7 presents the details of man's creation in distinction to 1:26-27 which presents the general truth that man was created, not evolved, and that woman was created in man (issâ, because she was taken out of is, man).
24-25. Marriage instituted. The union of husband and wife prefigured the union of Christ and His church, the woman becoming a picture of the church as Christ's Bride (Eph 5:28-32; cf. Mt 19:5; 1 Cor 6:16; Eph 5:31).
3. The Fall Of Man
1. The Tempter. This verse introduces Satan, identified by subsequent Scripture (2 Cor 11:3, 14; Rev 12:9; 20:2), with his tool the Edenic serpent. Though the serpent (Satan) is presented here, many interpreters believe that he is introduced in Ezk 28:12-19 and Isa 14:12-14 where the king of Tyre and the nation of Babylon reflect the rise and fall of an exalted angelic being, Lucifer (Satan). The Edenic serpent (Satan's agent) was not a writhing serpent, which was the result of God's curse (Gen 3:14), but doubtless the most cunning and beautiful of God's animal creatures.
2-5. The woman tempted. Satan began by questioning God's word: 'Did God really say ...?' then he denied its teaching: 'You will not surely die.' Finally he substituted his own gospel, the immanence of God: 'You will be like Elohim,' 5. The woman's fall involved the basic ingredients of temptation; (1) the lust of the flesh, 'the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food;' (2) the lust of the eyes, 'and pleasing to the eye;' (3) the pride of life, 'and also desirable for gaining wisdom' (cf. 1 Jn 2:16).
6-7. The Fall. The woman was deceived, but Adam sinned knowingly (1 Tim 2:14-15). Both lost their innocence, became conscious of sin and shame, and tried to cover this guilt and nakedness by some form of human effort (works).
8-13. The Lord God seeks fallen man. God's Sabbath rest of creation was broken by sin, 8, and He took the first steps in His new work of redemption to rescue fearful, ashamed, alienated, and confused fallen man. Adam hid from God, because of a change in him, not in God, His self-provided clothing seemed all right till God appeared and then it was found to be worthless. Similarly, sinners attempt to clothe themselves with their own righteousness.
14-15. The curse of sin in the serpent. Satan's tool, the serpent, was cursed and transformed from what probably was an upright, beautiful, intelligent animal to a revolting, crawling snake, 14. But in connection with the serpent not only was the deepest mystery of redemption-atonement hinted (typified by Moses' brazen serpent in Num 21:5-9; Jn 3:14-15; 2 Cor 5:21), but the first promise of a Redeemer was made, 15. This predicted that He would be of the human race, and would come through Abel, Seth, Noah (Gen 6:8-10), Shem (9:26-27), Abraham (12:1-3), Isaac (17:19-21), Jacob (28:10-14), Judah (49:10), David (2 Sam 7:5-17), culminating in Christ (Mt 1:1).
Excerpted from The New Unger's Bible Handbook by Merrill Frederick Unger. Copyright © 2005 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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