Genesis starts with the familiar phrase, “In the beginning God…” This is a fitting introduction to Genesis and for the entire Bible, as God is the reason and purpose that the Bible exists.
Genesis contains stories of some of God’s followers and other notable characters whose actions are sometimes hard to understand and occasionally, shocking. Yet this is life: raw, perplexing, and occasionally appalling. Through it all, God is there – and at work.
Genesis begins with creation and it’s corruption (chapters 1 through 11) and then settles down on the life and family of Abraham, patriarch of the nation of Israel (chapters 12 through 50). A succinct and effective overview of Genesis chapters 12 through 50 is found in Acts 7:2-16 as part of Stephen’s defense before the council.
The authorship of Genesis is attributed to Moses, who recorded the oral accounts passed on from prior generations. Genesis is one of the four most quoted books in the New Testament (the others are Isaiah, Deuteronomy, and Psalms.
The book of Genesis in the Bible gives a concise three-point teaching about sin. This was written about Cain, but equally applies to us.
1) Sin is crouching at our door: The word “crouch” reminds me of a cat getting ready to pounce on its prey. The situation is ominous.
2) Sin desires to have us: Once the cat leaps for its quarry, there’s little doubt over the outcome. Sin is crouching for us; it is getting ready to leap and destroy us. There’s little we can do — or is there?
3) We must master it: Sin is much easier to master beforehand rather than in the midst of it. When it is crouching, the potential for sin is there, but it’s not actual sin; it’s temptation. We know what to do with temptation and the devil who promotes it; we are to resist.
Abraham, the great man of faith, did not always act that way. Once, when fearing for his safety, he lied to king Abimelech, claiming that Sarah was his sister and hiding the fact that they were married.
Assured by Abraham’s lie, Abimelech felt free to take Sarah into his harem. Fortunately, God intervened before anything happened to her, revealing the truth of the situation to Abimelech in a dream. God’s instructions to Abimelech were simple: return Sarah to Abraham and then Abraham would pray for Abimelech.
Abimelech quickly returned Sarah as instructed. He also gave many gifts to Abraham, as well as to Sarah. Then Abraham prayed for Abimelech and everything was made right.
What is interesting is that God never told Abimelech to give gifts to Abraham and Sarah. Abimelech did that on his own; God did not require that.
I wonder how many times we act in the same way, doing things that God didn’t ask us to do and that he didn’t require.
Asking respectful questions about the Bible is not a sign of rebellion or indication of disbelief, but can be a means of more fully pursuing the God who is revealed in the Bible. It is from this perspective that I’ve been pondering the creation account and asking some questions. My final query is:
6) People were not made until midway through the sixth day, so there were no eyewitnesses to most of God’s creative efforts. How then could details that no one saw have been known, passed down from one generation to the next, and then recorded in the Bible?
The solution is that God would have had to tell his creation how they came to be. Just as a parent leaves out details when a young child asks “Where do babies come from?” so, too, God must have left out details when he explained our origins to us. Still, I want to know more.
However, Moses puts my inquiring mind into perspective, confirming that God has kept some things from us:
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.”
God is, in many ways, a mystery — and that is one of the things that draws me to him.
Continuing with my questions about the Genesis account of creation — but never doubting that we and the world we live in were created by God — I focus on the person of Cain — who killed his brother Abel — asking questions 3, 4, and 5.
3) At this point in the story, only three (living) humans have been identified: Adam, Eve, and Cain (Abel is dead). So, who did Cain marry? The conventional answer is his sister. Yuck! In addition, it would have been a genetic disaster. A more reasonable answer is that God had created other people as well, and from them, Cain picked his bride.
4) If there were only Adam, Eve, and their offspring, why would Cain need to build a city? Surely, one couple and their offspring would not warrant Cain constructing a city. The reasonable explanation is that as Cain wandered the earth, he encountered other people to live in it.
5) Cain was afraid that the people he encountered in his wanderings would kill him. God’s solution was to put a mark on him to protect him. Why did Cain need this mark for protection? Certainly, his family would know him. Only if there were numerous other people, would this be an issue.
Again, I ask these questions, not to poke holes in the Bible’s creation account, but to acknowledge that we are lacking details. In my next post, I will pose my final question and offer my conclusion.
By faith, I believe that God created us and the universe in which we live. But that resolute statement does not preclude questions about the biblical account of our origin. Here are two of them:
1) On the fourth day of creation God made the sun to separate day from night and to mark the passage of time. If it wasn’t until day four until we knew what a day was, how then could the first three days have been measured and counted? Consider that if someone was in pitch-black, solitary confinement for a period of time and then later given a watch, he would still not know how much time had already passed.
2) What about Eve? In Genesis 1, it says that on the sixth day God created man and woman — at the same time. In Genesis 2, the timeline is different. The world is made; Adam is created and placed in the garden of Eden to care for it and all the animals. Then God realizes that his creation is incomplete. Adam is alone. So then God makes Eve. This occurs after he made everything else and not at the same time he created Adam. Which is it?
The Bible’s book of Genesis provides us with an explanation of how things began. This is an account that would have been comprehensible to ancient man, one that would have sufficiently answered the timeless question of “Where did we come from?” in a way that a primitive people would have understood.
But the debate for a modern man is if the Genesis saga is mere mythology, scientifically sound, or theological truth. I hold firmly to this third view and am simultaneously open to the second, while firmly rejecting the first.
As I read the creation account in Genesis, many questions come to mind. These are not faith-confronting issues, but rather ponderings that lead me to conclude that there is more to the story than what the Bible provides.
I will share my creation queries in future posts, not to poke holes in the creation narrative, but to stand in awe of a creator who has all the answers, but didn’t feel it germane to share the details.
So, despite unanswered questions, I am unfazed. Isn’t that what faith is?
Exploring the Biblical Narrative with Peter DeHaan