Why the Genesis Account
The early chapters of Genesis have been debated and written about for thousands of years, and it is easy to see why anyone who reads it comes away with many questions. After studying many different views, I want to share what I think is the proper way of understanding the account of creation.
Some suppose that if Genesis is not literal, the rest of the Bible is not literal, which is a false claim. Jesus said if your eye offends you, then pluck it out, and I have never met a Christian who took that literally and cut out their eye. Yet everyone who believes Jesus would tell you He was expressing a literal truth. Read the prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah, and you will read a lot of imagery that describes literal events.
People can understand those stories and decipher their narrative type. So with Genesis, we should be able to see keys to help us determine how we understand the narrative. Take the term “the morning and the evening were the x day.” The people Moses wrote this to people who were not less intelligent than we are today, and they understood that what determined an evening and a morning was a sunrise and sunset. Yet there were three of these events before we are told the sun was made.
I could point out many of these points, but one that should seem obvious to the readers is the mention of God resting. Moses quotes this and expresses it this way. “it is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. Exodus 31:17.” We need to ask ourselves. Does God need rest? Does He need to be refreshed? Maybe after six thousand years of recorded history, he is pretty tired, which is why we don’t see Him working in the world like the accounts in the Bible. Of course, I hope you realize that is foolishness, and I hope that demonstrates my point. We must ask what type of narrative, why Genesis was written, and what it is meant to teach.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”Genesis 1:1
The word for created is a Hebrew word that means “out of nothing.” In other words, there was nothing, and now there is something. None of the other environmental elements are said to be created this way. For these, the physical elements are told to do certain things. Like the water is told to divide itself.
The beginning is a starting place, and we have no idea when that was. Some think God created it billions of years ago when the universe was created, while others think it was thousands of years ago. There is no need to argue this for Genesis’ sake because Genesis is not answering that question. That is my why Genesis was written.
The creative acts
Then we read the words, “And God said.” Notice these words come before each creative act (Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26,28,29). So this is where life on our earth started. How long ago did God take the earth without form and start to set it in order? Again there is no need to argue this for Genesis’s sake because Genesis is not addressing this.
We read about God creating everything, and Moses does not leave one thing unaccounted for. That is the primary purpose of the first chapter. Any reader must decide if there is a God who created everything or if we live in a pointless world. The account could not be more important than it was to its original audience, enslaved people under heavy taskmasters (Exodus 3:7).
Seven literal days
What are we to believe about the days mentioned here? I believe it is pretty simple. Our lives are ordered by weeks, and we all live by them. The enslaved Hebrews probably didn’t realize it, though, having to work endless days. Genesis chapter one is about setting things in order (Genesis 1:4). So we should believe that Moses is speaking about literal twenty-four-hour days (Genesis 1:14). However, that does not mean God’s creative acts were confined to these hours. Using days is just a simple way to organize the story as God organized the creation.
It was good.
Another repeating phrase, “it was good.” After God completed a project, he announced what He thought of it. The last time God made this statement was before He created man (Genesis 1:25). Now we get into some interesting details.
The creation of man
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26
If we skip ahead, we can see more details about the creation of man. In chapter two, we are told that before God could plant the herbs and cause rain, He needed a man to care for the garden.
“And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.”Genesis 2:5
Now, wait a minute! Many people have caught that God created plants before man in the first chapter (Genesis 1:11-13), but now God waits until He creates him (Genesis 2:7-8). It is easy to sort out if we realize two different domains are being discussed here, which is very important to my understanding of the account.
If we go back to Genesis chapter one, verses twenty-six through thirty-one, and realize this is talking about the creation of the garden, it makes sense. So if you don’t see it, let me clarify it for you.
If the world is so “good,” why is God giving humans the command to subdue and have dominion over the earth? What is there to subdue in a perfect world? Remember, that command was before the fall. We can also bring other parts of the story to make sense of this.
“So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”Genesis 3:23
It appears the garden was a special place, or why was kicking them out a punishment? So wouldn’t it be safe to say that the earth was good, but the garden was “very good?” Wait a minute that is what it does say! If we consider verses twenty-six through thirty-one as a description of the garden, then ending with the words “very good” instead of just “good” makes sense.
Now we need get to why Genesis is important. So let me put this together. God created life on earth and then created humans in His image as caretakers of it. With all its other life forms, the earth needed to be subdued and ruled over (Isaiah 11:6-9). It was man’s job under the authority and relationship with the Father to make this happen. They were offered a choice of two trees to follow God’s lead or take off in their own direction, and they chose the wrong one (Genesis 2:15-16; 3:6).
God removed them from the garden to live outside and face death (Genesis 3:23-24). More importantly, they were forbidden to understand how to obtain eternal life by God blocking the way to the tree of life. It would not be until Jesus came that God would reveal the way to eternal life.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.John 14:6
Humans fall into total depravity, even killing one another (Genesis 6:5). God had to destroy the earth and start over, commanding Noah to institute the death penalty to prevent the violence of the previous generations (Genesis 9:5). People then gathered themselves to oppose God as their ultimate authority. They built a tower to express that rebellion (Genesis 11:3-4). God had to divide them into different groups/nations by language.
That division was not ideal and was not what God had wanted with the garden. The garden was a place to bring all the earth into subjection under the Father. So God found a man named Abram, whom God promised to make a great nation that could bring back all the nations under His rule (Genesis 12:1-2).
From there, the story continues of man’s failure to bring about God’s will. God finally has to come as the Son of Man, Jesus Christ (Luke 19:10). Jesus came to do what no sinful human could do, restoring the rule of God to the whole earth. He became the tree, the way to eternal life with the Father in the garden (Luke 23:43, Acts 5:30, 10:39).
Now there are many stories and details that one will read, but if they keep this narrative in their minds, they won’t lose the forest by walking among the tree. Lastly, everyone is part of this story, whether they accept it (Philippians 2:9-11). The critical question is, where do you fit into it? Are you one of the sinful humans that refuses to be in subjection to a God (John 3:16-21)? Or are you willing to humble yourself before Jesus the King of kings, repent of your self-will, and come under His authority (Matthew 4:17)?