09 January 2016

Stone 1 - Genesis

Thank you for taking the time to join me on this journey through the Bible. Our adventure begins in Genesis.

There is an awful lot going on in Genesis. As I understand it, there are four main events and four main people that sit as central themes to the book.

  • Creation
  • The Fall
  • The Flood
  • Expansion
  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • Joseph
Creation Account
I accept what the Bible says as truth. I also find the debate over the age of Earth to be of particular interest. In reading through this account multiple times over the years, however, I am unable to find any claims to the age of Earth. I will admit that at one point in my life I was a Young Earth advocate. I recognize that the Young Earth concept derives in great part from the geneologies and ages of people given throughout Genesis and other books all the way back to Adam as a way to come up with a ballpark age. I have since shifted to more of an "on the fence" stance. While it is all interesting to me I have to question whether it really matters...? If we were to conclusively prove the age of the Earth one way or the other, it wouldn't discredit the Bible since it makes no claims to the age of Earth in the first place. Secondly, our relationship with Jesus Christ is what makes the difference in the end anyway, right?

The Fall
All the way back to the beginning we find example of deception and blaming others. The serpent asks the question of whether or not 'God really said' (Gen 3:1) and sows seeds of doubt and ultimately a poor choice is made. When Adam and Eve are confronted, Adam points the finger at God and Eve (Gen 3:12). God then questions Eve and she points the finger at the serpent (Gen 3:13). Can we really deny that type of behavior continues to this day?

The Flood
Remember 'The Fall'? Well, things were still falling and falling hard. A great deal of time has gone by and things got so bad that God decided to exercise his right to judgement and  "restart the computer" as it were. Continuing forward, we have more of the same, really, but God promised that he would not wipe us out in that fashion again (Gen 9:8-17). Instead, something different takes place.

As the people gather to build a tower that would reach the heavens in order to make a name for themselves, (Gen 11:4) God comes and confuses their language and they stop for lack of communication (Gen 11:7-9). I imagine that they all scattered into groups based on who could understand each other.

As the book transitions to talking about Abraham and his family, I thought I would mention that throughout the book there has been a lot of family lineage presented. That kind of reading, quite frankly, can be dry but I think it is important to consider why it is there and the tone it sets for the book as a whole. This information is presented as a historical record and was meant to be such. I recognize that other books of the Bible are written in a certain style or genre and should be treated as such when interpreting them.

When I served in the Iraq war from 2003-2004, I stayed several months at Tallil not far from a place known as Ur. I have often said to people that if Iraq was not such a volitile place that it would be an amazing tourist destination. The history there is amazing. I was never a big fan of history in school but after visiting Iraq I did develop a new appreciation for it. To experience and be in those places brought some realism to it all. I had an opportunity to visit Ur, the birthplace of Abraham (Gen 15:7).

There is not much left of the place but it was amazing nonetheless. Although the picture below is not my own, I can remember seeing it exactly like this. At some point, I may convert my hard copy pictures to digital. You can see the Ziggurat Temple in the background. I stood atop that temple and was able to look out over the ruins in the foreground. I could also detect the color brown as far as the eye could see.

At any rate, Abraham is the one with whom God chooses to create a covenant. What I find interesting here is the impatience that we see displayed. God tells Abraham that he will have offspring (Gen 15:3-4), but they are old and eventually, I suppose, after some trying without success, take matters into their own hands (Gen 16:1-2). Ishmael was born with Hagar the slave. This was not God's plan. To this day we continue to try and do things on our own.

Eventually, roughly 14 years later, Abraham and Sarah have Isaac. Personally, I cannot imagine the thoughts that were going through Abraham's head as he went up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22:1-2). Now, I am not sure how old Isaac is at this point but he is old enough to talk (Gen 22:7). This portion of the story often makes many question God. I don't think that God ever intended for Abraham to follow through - God provided the sacrifice just as Abraham said He would (Gen 22:12-13).

Next we learn about Isaac who marries Rebekah and eventually has twin sons Jacob and Esau. The lineage now passes from Abraham to Isaac and God reaffirms the covenant with him (Gen 26:2-5). Interestingly, Esau, as the firstborn of the twins and therefore entitled to particular birthrights of that culture, gives up his birthright and also loses the blessing intended for him when Isaac is dying. This was due to Jacob's scheming.

Oddly, to me, we have Jacob's wife, Rachel who is having trouble bearing children (Gen 30:1) for her husband. Sarah and Abraham had this issue (Gen 16:2) and so did Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 25:21). Now Jacob had several wives and children. We see that Jacob wanted Rachel but ended up with Leah, her sister and both of their slaves. Jacob ended up having 12 sons with the four of them. 

Now, let me just interject here that I do not see this as some sort of endorsement for polygamy. As a historical record of events these things are stated as such. God endorses every event of human history in the Bible no more than McGraw-Hill endorses every act of history in the history books they publish.

Rachel finally has a son which they name Joseph (Gen 30:22-24), Jacob has his name changed by God to Israel (Gen 32:27-28), and then Rachel has a second son named Benjamin but she passes away from labor complications (Gen 35:16-18).

Now, Joseph was Jacob's (Israel's) favorite son (Gen 37:3), but that pretty much makes all his brothers angry (Gen 37:4), so after he has some dreams where they are bowing to him they conspire to kill him (Gen 37:18-20). They ended up deciding to sell him into slavery instead. Another curious thing to me is that he was sold to the Ishmaelites. Remember Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar? Anyway, Joseph ends up becoming one of the head honchos in Egypt under Potiphar not without some additional trials.

Can you imagine what Joseph went through and what he may have been thinking? How easy would it have been for him to blame God for his circumstances...!? How difficult a situation.

Joseph does some dream interpretation for Potiphar and sees that there is a great famine to come. Eventually the great famine brings Josephs's brothers, who think he is dead, to Egypt for help. Later, Jacob, who is now Israel and the rest of the family make it to Egypt where they are all reuinited and live well with Joseph... for now...

I think I would be remiss if I did ot mention Judah. Judah was actually the third son born to Leah and Jacob. God's promise will move through the line of Judah. Genesis 38 shares a bit about Judah and Tamar who have twins where Zerah sticks out a hand and "gets credit" for being the firstborn. However, he pulls his hand back in and Perez actually comes out first.

After the whole family get to Egypt, they stay and we pick things up in Exodus.

Here are a couple videos from the Bible Project that I think are nicely done. Their plan is to do all of the books of the Bible this way. I, for one, look forward to them. I will include as many of them as part of the Stones as they have available.

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