Let’s look at how understanding ancient culture and ancient writings affects the way we interpret the meaning of Gen 1–2:3. First, we’ll read it.
Next, imagine that you are a Hebrew person who left Egypt.
Slavery is all that you, your parents, and your grandparents remember.
Marduk also solved the gods’ problem of having to produce food. He killed the rebel god Kingu and mixed his blood with dirt to create the first people.
Now humans could do the gods’ work.
About a year ago, a man named Moses came from the desert to challenge the pharaoh.
Best of all, the blood of a lamb spread on your door frame protected your oldest brother from dying with the firstborn sons of the Egyptians (Exod 12:21–23).
Soon after Ramesses freed you from slavery, he changed his mind. He sent over six-hundred chariots to keep you from escaping.
Just when you were trapped, I AM split the Sea of Reeds so that you could walk through.
As soon as you reached the other side, the chariot wheels broke and the water returned to its place, destroying Pharaoh’s army (Exod 14).
When you reached Mount Sinai, I AM made a formal agreement, called a covenant, with your people (Exod 24:3–8).
You spent one-year camping at Sinai while skilled people built a replica of the universe, called the tabernacle, as a place for God to live with you.
During that time, Moses called everyone together to learn the history of the Lord’s dealings with your ancestors.
While much about how the universe was created sounded like what you had been taught in Egypt, there were some shocking differences:
- Only one God created everything which exists.
- Like Ptah, I AM spoke to make the universe out of nothing.
- I AM separated the waters in the sky from the water in the seas without conflict.
- God spoke so that sea water came together. Then, dry land appeared.
- I AM created with a plan of order. On the first set of three days, God made the universe. On the second set of three days, he made what fills the universe.
- Day 1 (light) goes with Day 4 (sun, moon, and stars) (Gen 1:1–5; Gen 1:14–19).
- I AM made the sun, moon, and stars to give light and to set a calendar of festivals. They are not gods and cannot predict the future.
- Day 2 (sky and seas) goes with Day 5 (birds and sea creatures) (Gen 1:6–8; Gen 1:20–23).
- God made the great sea monsters and he even blessed them!
- Day 3 (dry ground) goes with Day 6 (land animals and humans) (Gen 1:9–13; Gen 1:24–27).
- The gods did not make your ancestors from the blood of a rebel god.
- Most importantly, the one who spoke the entire universe—his temple—into being made you in his image and placed you in his temple.
You can fulfill his purposes for humanity by 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 said that everything was the very best it could be.
Then, the Lord rested from his work of creating the universe as his temple.
He gave us a command to follow his example by stopping our work on the seventh day, the Sabbath.
Discuss how you can apply what you have learned here to your life and ministry.
Image via Wikimedia Commons This photo was taken at Abu Simbel, a temple built by Ramesses II to display his power. Deep inside the temple, there are four statues of gods. Ramesses II is one of them.