Imagine that slavery is all that you, your parents, and your grandparents remember.
While living in the New Kingdom of Egypt, you learned that the sun god Re spoke the god Ptah—his Word—into being as the firstborn of all creation. Then Ptah created the rest of the gods and the entire universe out of nothing.
You have heard the Babylonians tell another part of the story. They say that a problem arose: the gods got tired of having to work to provide food for themselves. At that time, the god Kingu chose to align himself with Tiamat, the cosmic sea monster. The hero Marduk split her in two, separating the vapors in the sky from the waters of the seas. Then he executed Kingu and mixed his blood with dirt to create the first people to do the gods’ work.
About a year ago, a man named Moses emerged from the desert to confront the pharaoh. He claimed that the God of your ancestors had sent him to deliver you from the horrors of Egyptian servitude (Exod 3:7–9; Exod 4:29–31).
You watched in awe as the one who called himself “I AM” (Exod 3:14) used Moses to bring judgment upon the gods and goddesses of Egypt: those of the Nile (Exod 7:20–21), the sun (Exod 10:21–23), agriculture (Exod 9:22–26, 31–32), and cattle (Exod 9:1–7).
I AM did not spare even the future god of Egypt, the son of Ramesses the Great (Exod 12:21–30). Amazingly, the region where your people lived remained untouched by most of these plagues.
After Ramesses freed you from slavery, he changed his mind, sending chariots to prevent your escape. I AM split the Sea of Reeds so that you could walk through and then destroyed Pharaoh’s army as it followed you (Exod 14).
While much of what you heard sounded similar to what you had been taught in Egypt, there were shocking differences. This is what you learned:
The cosmos arose from nothing, coming into being by the spoken word of God. Order emerged from disorder.
Even the deep waters obeyed the Lord’s commands, for the Spirit of God hovered over them as a witness of and participant in this divine activity.
Then the Lord split the primordial waters into vapor in the heavens above and water in the seas below. He collected the waters below together so that dry land appeared and produced various types of vegetation. This set the framework necessary for living creatures to survive.
In a second set of three days, God created the inhabitants of the cosmos which he formed on the first triad of days.
These lights enabled vision and set the secular and religious calendars. People tracked star movement to synchronize the lunar and the solar calendars. In contrast to the ANE focus upon worshiping these lights as gods, the Lord created them to serve.
Among these were “the great sea monsters.”
You would have associated these with the forces of anarchy who ruled the cosmic waters in ANE creation epics. However, these monsters were not chaotic rivals of God but merely creatures whom the Lord made, living under their creator’s command.
God saw that it was good, and he blessed them.
On the sixth day, God brought forth living creatures from the earth. These animals fell into three categories: domestic animals, prey, and predators. Together, the Lord described them as, “every living thing which moves on the earth.”
By constructing plants and creatures which self-propagate “according to their kind,” the Creator produced creators.
You can fulfill his purposes through your faithful stewardship in tending, guarding, and governing the earth while displaying the Lord’s glory to other people and extending his kingdom among them.
After creating men and women in his own image, God rested from his work of creating the cosmos as his temple.
Therefore, he provided us with an example to follow by ceasing from his labor on the Sabbath.
After forming Adam from the ground and breathing a living soul into him, God placed him into a well-watered, luxuriant garden to perform the priestly function of serving, working, cultivating, and keeping it.
This beautiful park full of trees produced wonderful food, including the tree of life which stood at its center. The Lord gave Adam freedom to eat from any of these.
However, he made one prohibition. “The Lord God laid charge upon the man, saying, ‘From all of the trees of the garden you are able to eat, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, because in the day you eat it, you shall surely die.’”
God expected Adam to acquire wisdom through their relationship, rather than seeking it on his own.
While exercising the authority of an image-bearer of God by naming each animal, Adam reached a devastating conclusion: all of the animals had their partners, but an equal and adequate helper did not exist for him.
Now that Adam’s longing had been awakened, the Lord placed him into a very deep, supernatural sleep. God took raw material—not from the ground—but from Adam’s side to fashion the first woman.
Upon awakening, the man recognized his true counterpart and enthusiastically uttered a covenant of unalterable loyalty:
“This, this time, [is] bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This shall be called woman, for from man was taken this!”
In harmonious intimacy, the two became one flesh. Despite their nakedness, they knew no shame.
Adam, as the representative for all of humanity, underwent a time of probation to determine whether he would accept his vassal-king position under God, his emperor. The Lord accomplished this by presenting him with a seemingly arbitrary command.
By twisting God’s words, the serpent snared Eve into allying herself with him in her quest for divine wisdom, causing her to covet the forbidden fruit.
Events cascaded rapidly: “And she took of [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’s] fruit, and she ate, and she gave [it] also to her husband [who was] with her, and he ate.”
Each fell because of the other, in unity yet carrying the entire burden of guilt.
With their innocence replaced by shame, they quickly made coverings for themselves out of fig leaves.
In his attempt to evade answering God’s question, Adam immediately indicted himself by declaring that he knew he of his nudity.
The divisive effects of sin quickly emerged. Adam blamed Eve as well as the Lord for creating her. Eve admitted that she was deceived and pointed to the serpent.
Sin had obliterated the harmony between God and humanity, men and women, and people with animals.
Unlike with Adam and Eve, the Lord neither interrogated the serpent nor allowed him an opportunity to explain his behavior.
By being forced to crawl on his belly and eat dust, God reined in the snake’s aggression and hinted at his demise.
In the aftermath of eating the forbidden fruit, the arrival of the seed which Eve would conceive would cause her agony.
In addition, she would long for the intimate, equal relationship she had previously experienced with her husband. Instead, Adam would rule over her.
After informing Eve of the results of her sin, the Lord shifted his focus to Adam.
Since Adam had disobeyed the Lord and eaten of the forbidden fruit, God cursed the ground. He made it dry and unfruitful by withholding his blessing.
Thus, the toil behind the preparation of every meal reminded Adam and Eve of their guilt.
By calling her “Eve”—which means “the mother of all the living”—Adam spoke in faith that God’s promise of progeny would come to pass. Despite the Lord’s pronouncement of death, Adam named his wife in terms of life.
Clothing also provided protection from the thorns and thistles which awaited Adam and Eve as they cultivated the ground which the Lord cursed.
By eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the former priests of Eden became intruders.
God placed new protectors at the entrance to the garden: a pair of cherubim and “the flame of a sword turning this way and that.”
Consequently, all of us have been born outside of Eden, with our natural inclinations and thoughts confirming our status as outsiders.
No longer do we automatically enjoy a personal relationship with the Lord.
Image via Wikimedia Commons
John A. Wilson, trans., “Theology of Memphis,” in ANET, lines 53–4, 4–6, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n29/mode/2up.
E. A. Speiser, trans., “Enuma Elish (The Creation Epic),” in ANET, 4.135–40, 67, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n91/mode/2up.
W. F. Albright and George E. Mendenhall, trans., “The Amarna Letters, RA XIX,” in ANET, lines 1–10, 485, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n509/mode/2up.
John Walton, Genesis (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 73.
Meredith G. Kline, “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony,” PSCF 48, no. 1 (March 1996): 2–15, http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1996/PSCF3-96Kline.html.
Walton, Genesis, 71–2.
Walton, Genesis, 79.
Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1998), 20.
Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 129.
Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 24.
Walton, Genesis, 126–7.
Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 24.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3 (ed. Martin Rüter, Ilse Tödt, and John W. De Gruchy; trans. Douglas Stephen Bax; DBW; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2004), 58.
Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 132.
 “The Creation Epic” (Enuma Elish), ANET, lines 6.1–36, 68, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n93/mode/2up.
 Ian Hart, “Genesis 1:1–2:3 as a Prologue to the Book of Genesis.” TynBul 46, no. 2 (November 1995): 315-36, 317–9.
 Walton, Genesis, 130.
Meredith G. Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2006), 75.
Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 69–70. Translation by Wenham.
 Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 104–5.
Victor H. Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (IVPBBCOT) (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Gen 3:1, electronic ed.
Bruce K. Waltke and Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 90.
Walton, Genesis, 204.
Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 105.
Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 188.
Walton, Genesis, 206.
Walton, Genesis, 206.
Walton, Genesis, 224.
Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 3:8.
 Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 78.
Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 93.
Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 196.
Walton, Genesis, 225.
Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 198.
Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 93.
Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 200.
 Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 82.
 Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 134.
 Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 95.
Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 72.
 Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 205–7.
Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 216.
 Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 151.
 Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 141.
 Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 137.
 Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 85.
 Holladay, “שָׁלַח” (shalakh), CHALOT, 372.
 Walton, Genesis, 232.
 Alexander, From Paradise to the Promised Land, 132.