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    Aug 03, 2014

    Class 2: Genesis 1-11

    Series: Old Testament Overview

    Category: Core Seminars, Creation, The Wrath of God, Imputed and Original Sin, Nature of Sin, The Fall




    Welcome back to our second class in the Old Testament overview!  This morning we turn our focus from the whole of the Old Testament—where we looked last week—to narrow in on the book of Genesis.  And in particular, the first 11 chapters of Genesis.  We’ll actually be spending two weeks to study the book of Genesis because of how foundational it is to understanding the rest of the Bible.


    But changing topics for a moment . . . did you ever have the experience of taking apart a seed?  Maybe it was your introduction to dissection in a junior high biology class.  Why do we do this?  You’d think that we’d be better off learning about a beanstalk, for example, by studying the stalk itself instead of the seed.  But there are things we learn by looking at the seed that you just don’t get from looking at the mature plant.  We can see what’s most important.  We can see a bit of how the plant will develop.  And as Christians, we can marvel at the ingenuity of our creator in putting all that is needed for that entire plant there in the seed in your hand.


    In much the same way, that’s why we’re going to take two weeks to look carefully at the book of Genesis.  Can anyone tell us some examples of big themes of the Bible that are there in seedling form in Genesis 1-11?  [Wait for a few answers].


    Yes!  It’s all there.  Now . . . what are some of the advantages of studying it all here in seedling form?  Why not just study the finished plan of redemption in the New Testament?  [Wait for a few answers.  Some are below; you’ll want to pick out any significant ones the classes misses.]

    • Shows how in-control God is, that all the strands of creation and redemption are here at the beginning
    • Helps us understand God’s intent for what he has done
    • Shows things very simply, so we can understand what’s most important (like the seed example above)
    • Because of all this, Genesis 1-11 are referenced again and again through the Bible


    OK.  With that as starter, let’s get on to the book of Genesis with a bit of an introduction.


    Historically, the context for Genesis is actually hundreds of years after the last events described in the book.  This portion of the Bible was written by Moses.  As a side note, there has been some discussion as to whether or not Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.  You’ll find an answer to that question in the handout titled “Who wrote the Pentateuch and when?”  But back to context: as Genesis was being written, God was doing something special: creating a people of his own by which he would reveal himself to the world.  And this book provides background for that people, telling them where they came from.  But more importantly, it informs them of the problem God is solving through them, the problem of sin—and it prefigures how he will solve it.


    Aside from straight historical context, however—the context of when and to whom the book was written—I’ll introduce something each week called the “redemptive-historical context.”  What I mean by that is where this book fits into the larger story of the whole Bible.  The one story that is holding the Bible together is God’s work in history to redeem, to rescue, to save a people by His grace and for His glory.  So it’s important where a book fits in that long story of redemption.  So each week when we look at a book, we’ll ask the same question. “What has God been up to, what has he accomplished in his plan so far,” up to the point where we are studying?


    Obviously, the first eleven chapters of Genesis are at the very beginning of history.  And, in fact, until we hit chapter 3 there is no need for redemption at all. But as we turn to Genesis 3, we will see that no sooner do our first parents plunge us into ruin, God begins his plan to save us from that ruin.  Every week we’ll be checking in to see where God is in that plan.


    Theme and Outline


    So, on to Genesis 1-11.  The theme of these chapters is simple: God reveals his character through the world he has created.  And you’ll see an outline on the back of your handout that I hope you’ll find useful in your own study.


    [This outline does not need to be covered in the class.  They just need to know that it is in the handout]


    1. Genesis 1:1-2:3[1]

    The Telling of the Seven Days of Creation

    1. Genesis 2:4-4:26

    The Dawn of Humanity: 2 Seeds

    1. Genesis 5:1-6:8

    The Descendents of Adam and Their Sin

    1. Genesis 6:9-9:29

    The Punishment for Sin: Un-Creating the Universe . . . and Grace: Re-Creating the Universe

    1. Genesis 10:1-11:9

    Humanity after the Flood: Still Sinful

    1. Genesis 11:10-26

    The Seed of the Woman Continues On


    The story of Genesis 1-11 unfolds something like this (you’ll see it traced out along your handout): There exists an eternal and self-sufficient God, who by sheer verbal fiat has created the universe and all that is in it, in order to display his glory.  The crown of his created order is mankind, the only creature created in God’s image.  Mankind display God’s glory as they obediently govern the earth while enjoying loving fellowship with God and each other.  But our first parents choose to set themselves up as equals with God, disobeying him and incurring the just wrath of God.  While expelled from that pristine fellowship with God, they do not receive the complete wrath they deserve.  In fact, God has already begun a plan to overturn the curse of sin by placing enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.  As generations continue, the sin resident in the hearts of mankind goes from bad to worse (yet the seed of the woman continues).  And even partial judgment of the world does not end the world of sin.  And so rebellion against God continues.


    In a moment, we’ll look into how that story plays out through these first eleven chapters of the Bible.  But as we do that, I want to leave a question with you.  Genesis isn’t just historical background for the Bible, it is the foundation for the rest of the Bible.  So the question for us to think about together over the next few minutes: what would be missing in our understanding of the rest of the Bible if we didn’t have Genesis 1-11?  I’ll ask you that at the end of today’s class.


    Genesis 1:1-25

    There exists an eternal and self-sufficient God, who by sheer verbal fiat has created the universe and all that is in it, in order to display his glory.


    Let’s read Genesis 1:1-5.  [READ]  What’s the subject of this first sentence in the Bible?  God.  The creation account is primarily about God.  The creation account tells us a lot about who He is, and, derivative from that, who we are.  So in this class, and I recommend this practice for your own study, we will always ask first, “What does this passage teach us about God?”  Only then will we rightly understand what it tells us about ourselves as we consider who we are in reference to the Creator.  So what do we learn about God?

    • God is eternal.  Verse 1 does not begin with an explanation of where God came from.  This book about beginnings starts with God, who never began.
    • From this first point, we see that God is self-sufficient.  We see in verse 1 that he made everything out of nothing.  God’s word is so powerful that even that which does not even exist yet has to obey it! (Isaiah 55:11)
    • And we see that God is sovereign.  What God determines, he speaks, and what he speaks comes to pass.
    • God is also revealed as good.  Seven times in Genesis 1 God looks on what he has made and calls it good.  And that’s because God is good.


    That’s some of what we learn about God in this first chapter.  And then we come to mankind.


    Genesis 1:26-2:17

    The crown of his created order is mankind, the only creature created in God’s image, who display God’s glory as they obediently govern the earth while enjoying loving fellowship with God and each other.


    Let’s read Genesis 1:26-28.  [READ]  Human beings are presented as the ‘crowning act’ or ‘pinnacle’ of God’s creative activity.  And unlike every other creature, they fulfill a unique role in the created order.  Let’s look at that special relationship and role.


    Notice in verse 26 that human beings are said to be created in the image of God.  God made everything else ‘after their kind’ (1:12, 21, 24, 25). Human beings were not created after the pattern of some other creature, but of God himself – in His “image,” in His “likeness.”  God has reason, intelligence, memory, ethical norms, the capacity to love and have relationship with others, the ability to speak and communicate ideas, and so forth.  That is what it means that we are created in His image.  And so we have a distinct relationship to God, in that we have the ability to have a personal relationship with God.  But being made in God’s image also carries with it a distinct role in the created order.  We are to take these attributes of God, which He has instilled in us, and thereby shine His characteristics all over the earth.  In doing so, we image His glory to creation. 


    Do you see there in verses 26 and 28 that man is called to have dominion over the various parts of the creation?  The best way to think of this is that man’s job was to make the rest of creation like the garden of Eden, the place where man had fellowship with God.  This is a spiritual reality as much as it is an organizational one; man acts as a king over, and a priest for, creation.  In that sense, the goal of man’s calling in these verses is best expressed in the prophesy of Habakkuk: “for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (2:14)


    And now as we get into chapter two, we see this focus on mankind played out with a second telling of the account of creation that focuses on Adam and Eve.[2]  Here is a clear picture of the peace and harmony of this created order.


    But this idyllic role for mankind was to be under the greater kingship of God.  That’s why we see that command in verses 15-17 [READ]   If they do eat of it, what will happen?  They will “surely die.”


    Now this tree was not a magical tree.  It’s not like they were morally unaware and once they ate from the tree they’d suddenly know good from bad.  Nor are we to think of it as some kind of cruel tease, placed there by God as a way of tempting Adam and Eve.  Rather the tree is symbol.  It was placed right there in full sight, to remind Adam and Eve that, although they are given great privilege and many freedoms (in fact, freedom to eat of every other tree as much as their hearts desire), they are nonetheless not God.  With this tree God is saying something important to Adam and Eve. “I alone have the right to determine what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong in my universe.”


    Now, why is Genesis 1-2 so critical as a foundation to the rest of the Bible?  Because it describes what the rest of the Bible is getting back to.  Not until Revelation 21 is this fellowship restored, with God’s perfect people again in God’s place under God’s rule.  And so if you were to study Genesis 1 and 2, you’d see God’s perfect plan for gender, for marriage, for work, for the physical creation, for government, for our relationship with God and with each other.


    We’ve seen all that is revealed about God, and about ourselves, in these first two chapters.  But notice how much is missing!  If Genesis 1 and 2 were all there was, we would never know about God’s commitment to justice, his patience, his holiness, or the glory of his mercy.  Why did God let sin enter the world?  I don’t know.  But I do know that the perfection of his character is displayed more clearly because of his plan of redemption that rescued us from sin.  God is given glory in creation, but so much more in redemption.  And that takes us to chapter 3.


    Genesis 3:1-24

    But mankind’s first parents choose to set themselves up as equals with God, disobeying him and incurring the just wrath of God.  While expelled from that pristine fellowship with God, they do not receive the complete wrath they deserve, for God has already begun a plan to overturn the curse of sin by placing enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. 


    Look at verses 1-5.  [READ]  What a lie!  The serpent of course is the devil (see Revelation 12:9), and he would have us think, “I am like God. I know what’s good and what’s evil. What’s worthy and unworthy of worship. What’s weighty and of great consequence and what’s not.”  It’s arrogant.  It’s idolatrous.  It’s insane.


    But sin didn’t work.  Both Adam and Eve fall for this lie, and immediately, in verses 7-8, they are not behaving like gods, but like people ashamed of what they’ve done.  They now hide from each other in verse 7, and they hide from God in verse 8.  The death that was promised as a consequence in 2:17 has begun. 


    And how does God deal with these rebels?  All of them, the serpent, Eve, and Adam, fall under God’s curse.  But there is grace.  Adam and Eve are not destroyed on the spot.  And he gives hope for redemption.


    Look at verses 14 and 15, God’s words to the serpent.  [READ VERSES 14-15]  God says that He is putting enmity, that is, “hostility to the point of killing each other,” between two parties.  There are three levels of enmity here.  The first, it says, is enmity between the devil and the woman.  What does that mean?  Well, it means that Satan and the human race are enemies.  It may not sound like such a great plan of redemption to us if the first thing God does is make us enemies to Satan.  But…consider the alternative.  The alternative would be to be friends with Satan and therefore permanent enemies of God.  So God is saying that humanity still belongs to Him.  Satan cannot steal away His image-bearing creatures.  They still belong to God.  So enmity with God’s enemy is a good thing.


    The second level of enmity, it says is where? God says it’s between the woman’s offspring (literally “seed”), and the serpent’s offspring (or “seed”).  A pronouncement that humanity will be divided into two camps.  One is called the “seed of the woman.”  And that other is called the “seed of the serpent.”  Of course, everyone will physically be descendents of the woman Eve (since she is the first mother of everyone).  Nonetheless some of those physical offspring of Eve will spiritually be the “seed of the serpent.”  That means that they will, like Satan, not obey God, but will throughout their lives fall for the deceits of the devil.  Think of 1 John 3:8: “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning[3].” (see also John 8:44)  Others, though, will seek God. And this verse is saying that these two groups are irreconcilable.  (See also John 15:9, 1 John 3:13)


    Now, the third level of enmity is the most crucial.  Look again in verse 15.  It ends by saying “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”  Suddenly God is not talking about a group of people, a line of descendents.  Instead He is speaking about one descendent who will deliver the fatal blow to the devil, and end the enmity.  Do you see that there?  He is using singular pronouns: “he” and “him.”  Out of the woman’s seed will arise one man who will crush the head of Satan, thereby ridding the creation of the deceiver that initiated this whole mess.  However this One Seed will not come out of the battle unscathed.  His heel will be struck.  Who is this?  Jesus, of course.  (See John 1:31-33, Col 2:13-15, Heb 2:14-15)


    Genesis 4

    As generations continue, the sin resident in the hearts of mankind goes from bad to worse (yet the seed of the woman continues) . . .


    Well, the rest of the Bible now is an outworking of Genesis 3:15 – the three levels of enmity being played out in history.  Satan is always trying to destroy God’s image bearer.  And more specifically, he is using his own spiritual seed to corrupt or destroy the godly descendents of Eve.


    In the very next chapter we see Cain killing Abel.  So has the serpent won?  Is the godly line ended?  No.  In verses 25 and 26 Adam and Eve have another son to carry forward the line that will someday birth the savior.  But as the story continues we are again and again brought to wonder: will Satan win at snuffing out the line? Or will the promises of God be fulfilled?  Consider the flood.  Was Satan able to corrupt humanity so badly that God would destroy them all?  No, by his grace he delivered one family.  Will the promises to Abraham, through whom the Seed will come, fall to the ground because his wife is barren?  No, God will miraculously provide a son.  Will the descendents of Abraham be snuff out by a famine?  No, God will send a savior ahead of them to Egypt in their brother Joseph.  And so forth.  Finally, it looks as though the devil has won when Jesus is dying on the cross.  But that’s actually Christ’s victory, not his defeat, for there He defeated sin.


    Genesis 5

    As we move into our next section, in chapter 5, which lists out the godly line from Adam through Seth, we see this theme continue.  It’s a record of God’s faithfulness to his promises.  But death lingers as part of the curse.  These verses all end with the same phrase: “and then he died.”  “and then he died”—a constant drum beat, reminding us of the dreadful certainty of what awaits sinners in this world, even those who are of the “seed of the woman” and mean to be obedient to God.  They are still sinners. 


    Genesis 6:1-9:17

    . . . and even partial judgment of the world does not end the world of sin.


    In chapter 6 we see more of mankind’s descent into depravity and evil.  And in verse 7, God announces his judgment: essentially reversing the creative acts of chapters 1 and 2.  The flood.  That this judgment is meant to be understood as an un-creating of the universe can be seen most clearly in chapter 7.  Look at verses 11-12.  In chapter 1, verses 6 and 7, we read about how God separated the waters below from the waters above (that is to say in the clouds in the atmosphere).  Then in verses 9 and 10, about how He separated the waters of the sea to make room for dry land.  Well now, in this flood account, the sea is bursting forth to swallow up the land, and the skies are dumping all their rain. 


    But again, God’s wrath is mixed with mercy, for he will not fail to deliver his promised Seed.  In the midst of God’s wrath, through the ark, God has Himself provided a way of escape. And that leads to a re-creation.  Look at 8:17. [READ]  Again, the language here is plucked right out of Genesis 1 and 2.  God is starting over again, the old promises of Genesis 3:15 still in tact.


                Okay, so man has become exceedingly sinful.  And God has judged him for it.  Yet all the while God has still had grace on mankind, and He’s still faithful to His promises.  But why did we need to go into all that detail about judgment taking on the form of un-creation, and grace taking on the form of re-creation?


                Well, I want to introduce you to something called typology.  Typology is this: God in His providence has done things in the Old Testament – caused events, created institutions, used people – that are types of the things he will do in the future.  Generally things about Jesus.  God has carried His plan of redemption forward in the Old Testament in such a way to get us ready for Christ.  So the flood narrative in Genesis, the un-creating and the re-creating, is a picture of a future, cataclysmic undoing and redoing of the universe.  Not by water this time, but by fire. The flood was a real historical event.  But the next time will be a far more terrible judgment, and the re-creation will be a return to paradise.  Because at that second coming of Christ sin will be eradicated for good.  Turn to 2 Peter 3 for a moment.  Look at verses 5-7, [READ] and verses 11-13.  So Noah’s flood is both historical event and a picture of a greater judgment and re-creation at the end of time.  It is a “type” of judgment—prefiguring the final judgment.  Thus the language of “typology.”


    As we move through the Scriptures we will see many other Old Testament events, institutions, and persons prefiguring Christ’s work like this. 


    Genesis 10-11

    And so rebellion against God continues.


    But though creation is re-made, the problem of sin remains.  And so first Noah, and then the entire human race, show their sin as we move into chapters 10 and 11.  In chapter 11, the Tower of Babel, humanity wants a name for themselves.  But weren’t they supposed to about the business of promoting God’s name, and God’s glory, not their own?  And furthermore, they don’t want to be scattered over the earth.  But weren’t they commanded to multiply and fill the earth, by spreading out?  Once again we see mankind ignoring God’s right to rule and foolishly determining his own agenda in the world.  Well, as expected, God will not allow such mutiny.  Their plans are halted, and the nations are created, who will not come together again until this part of the curse is reversed when Jesus inaugurates the multi-ethnic church.




    And that takes us through these first 11 chapters.  So let’s go back to my earlier question.  What would we lose if God had simply started the Bible with Genesis 12 when God’s story of redemption begins in earnest with Abram?

    • Chapters 1 and 2: God’s perfect design, the reality of our past and future, and our guide for the present.
    • Chapters 3-11: the nature of our sin. Not until Romans 1 will we again see in the Bible such a plain depiction of the absolute and whole-hearted rebellion of mankind against its creator.


    What we are seeing here in these crucial chapters of Genesis is what happens when sinful man intersects with a holy God.  There is just consequence for sinners’ actions.  But there is also a patient and gracious response from a loving God.  Redemptive-history has begun.  God has set out on His course to redeem fallen humanity and the corrupted universe.  He is out to restore the pristine environment and perfect peace, love, and fellowship that existed in the original creation.  To do this He will deal with sin and conquer death, through keeping the promise which He made the woman that one of her descendents will triumph over the enmity of Satan.  That’s where we’re going as we continue through the Bible.


    [1] These divisions are not arbitrary, but textually determined.  Each section begins with the phrase “This is the account of . . .”  This repetition shows a natural break in Moses’ writing.

    [2] This idea of two telling is not unique to Genesis; elsewhere in the Bible, say in the account of Deborah in Judges, we see first a lyrical, poetic account and then a more straightforward, event-by-event account.

    [3] The next verse, 1 John 3:9, contrasts this group with those who are born of God—who have his “seed” in them.