Archives for posts with tag: Adam

One of the things I most appreciate about my seminary experience was the opportunity to study the Bible. Growing up in a Christian home I had, of course, read the Bible. I was quite familiar with what the Bible said. But I learned at seminary I often did not know what the Bible meant. Beginning at seminary, and continuing to this day, I have made an effort to better understand what the Bible means. I have learned not to take for granted any word that is used, any paragraph that is written, no matter how minor or tangential it may seem. Often, it is in these short clips we capture the essence of the Bible.

Today’s post on Genesis 21, and specifically verses 8 through 21 (the story of the departure of Hagar and Ishmael) is one of nearly countless examples of such an occurrence. In our normal reading of the Bible, we tend to gloss over 14 verses like this. It doesn’t seem to have much to do with the biblical story; but, in fact, these passages are crucial.

To understand why I am saying this, let’s step back to a topic I have mentioned before. Probably all of us are familiar enough with the Bible to understand the main thrust of the narrative is the story of Israel. We tend to focus on major figures—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, etc. And certainly these men were vital to the story. But in so doing, we should not neglect to look at the bigger picture. As I have said before, Genesis is an introduction to the Bible. In Genesis, we find key words, phrases, promises, characters, etc., preparing us for the rest of the story. And as I have also mentioned, Genesis begins not as a story of Israel, but as a story of humanity. The story does not begin in chapter 11 with Abraham, but in chapter 1 with the creation of the cosmos and, shortly after, the introduction of Adam and Eve, the father of all humanity. It is my firm belief the Bible begins this way by no accident, but as a way to show that this biblical story is meant to instruct not only the Jews, but all nations; for God cares not only about the salvation of the Jews, but of all humanity.

In the 14 verses referenced in chapter 21, we are reminded once again of this greater context. Although the biblical story and, more specifically, God’s promise to Abraham, will not continue through Ishmael, God still shows his concern for Ishmael and his mother, Hagar. God assures Hagar that, although Ishmael is not the son of the promise, He will nevertheless care for Ishmael and make of him a great nation. In other words, God does not simply dispose of or overlook Ishmael and Hagar because they are not “chosen.” He still loves and cares for them—they are still His children. They will not be the main characters in God’s plan for salvation, but He is still their God and behaves in a fatherly way towards them. It is important for us Christians to remember this lesson in our dealings with non-Christians. They, too, are God’s children. God cares for them and loves them. So should we.


The most insightful book I have read about the Old Testament is “Land and Covenant” by V. Rev. Paul Nadim Tarazi.  I wrote a book review about this book for The WORD Magazine (begins pg. 24 –  Besides showing how well the Old Testament and New Testament work together, the book clarified for me the role of Israel in the Old Testament and helped show how God, according to Scripture, has cared for all people and all nations from the beginning.  What I share here is some insight I learned primarily from reading “Land and Covenant.”

When we think of the Old Testament we generally think about the history of Israel–God’s dealings with them and care for them.  This is not surprising since most of the Bible focuses in on the descendants of Abraham, and more specifically the descendants of Jacob (who was re-named Israel).  However, we should give great importance to the fact that the Bible does not begin with the “story of Israel,” but rather with the “story of all humanity.”  In other words, the Bible does not begin with Abraham, it begins with Adam.  And from Adam, through Noah, all peoples are born.

The first 11 chapters of Genesis do not deal specifically with Israel.  They deal with all humanity.  And the much larger story of Israel will unfold the way the summarized story of all humanity unfolded: with the people constantly disobeying God and in need of forgiveness and salvation.  This introduction to the entire Bible is essential because an introduction to any book sets the tone and audience for the book.  So although most of the Old Testament will focus on the story of Israel, the first 11 chapters show us that the story is in the much wider context of all humanity.  In other words, this story is not for Israel alone, but for all people and all nations.  Israel is simply an example.  Any nation would have behaved as they behaved–in fact, they did in Genesis 1-11.

That God is concerned with all of humanity is not seen in Genesis 1-11 alone.  Even after the Bible focuses in on Abraham and the chosen ones after him, God shows He still is the God of all people.  For example, God shows his concern for both Ishmael and Esau later in Genesis, even though it is not through them that the blessing given to Abraham continues.  Moreover, in the prophetic literature, there are numerous references to God reconciling the divisions between Jew and Gentile when the Messiah comes and in the heavenly Jerusalem. Certainly, the New Testament takes off from there with Jesus and His apostles opening up the table of fellowship to the Gentile outsiders so there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile.

Again, although the Old Testament will focus in on Abraham and Jacob’s descendants, the first 11 chapters set both the tone and the audience for the book.  God’s dealings with Israel are an example for all of us.  The instruction in the Old Testament is meant for everyone because God cares for all humanity.


Today’s post, in many respects, is a continuation of yesterday’s post.  Today, however, I will focus on Noah and his obedience to God.

Noah’s Obedience
Noah is introduced as having “found grace” with the Lord (Genesis 6:8). I’m sure this subject will come up again in more depth, but for now let me simply point out that the grace of God comes first–not last. In other words, the grace of God is given to us in advance. The question for us is not if we will receive the grace of God, but what we will do with it

Noah is presented in the flood story as the anti-Adam: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Geneis 6:22). Whereas Adam disobeyed the simple commandment of God to refrain from eating of one of the trees, Noah obeyed perfectly all the things God commanded him.  Noah, whose names means ‘rest,’ symbolizes the rest we will receive in the end if we are obedient to God.

As I mentioned yesterday, we are tempted to think of God in abstract terms. We are tempted to think of faith, religion, and God in creedal terms, or in intellectual statements of faith. I “believe” in God in my head–I think or believe He exists. These creedal/intellectual notions of God manifest themselves uniquely in different denominations. We Orthodox and Roman Catholics tend to think of our faith as confessing the Nicene Creed. Evangelicals have their own “creeds,” like the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

Yet, true faith is not in confessing a creed or saying a prayer, but living a way of life. Specifically, true faith is living like Noah, obeying what God commands us to do. As James says in his epistle: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

In many instances in the Bible, names have significant meaning.  They often relate to a theme of a story or function of a biblical character.  This is definitely the case with the three sons of Adam in Genesis 4 and 5: Cain, Abel, and Seth.

Cain and Abel

Cain is introduced via a strange comment by Eve: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have acquired a man from the Lord'” (Gen. 4:1).  I ask mothers if they said something like that when they first conceived.  Thus far, I have yet to meet a mom who announced her pregnancy by saying she “acquired a child.”  This peculiar verbiage is a good translation, which is intended to sound strange to our ears.

The name Cain is related to the Hebrew verb we translate as “acquired.”  As with the case of Eve being “built,” Cain being “acquired” tips us off that Cain will not be trustworthy.  Sure enough, shortly after his introduction Cain murders his brother, Abel, whose name means “breath” or “vanity.”  Abel disappears from the story almost as soon as he appears, just like our breath in the winter can be seen for just a brief moment before it disappears.  The significance of Cain and Abel, their names, and their function should become clear when we discuss Seth.


The name Seth means to be “appointed” or “posited.”  Thus, Eve announces Seth’s birth in quite a different manner from that of Cain.  She says: “God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed” (Genesis 4:25).  In the next chapter, Genesis 5, the biblical story continues through Seth, the one “appointed,” rather than through the eldest son of Adam (as would normally be the case), Cain, the one “acquired.”

This distinction between Cain and Seth is of the utmost importance.  We learn the world, and more specifically, God’s plan for the world, continues through God’s appointment/providence rather than through human acquisition.  Genesis 4 and 5 teaches us to view all things (and especially our children!) as being appointed by God–to refer all things back to Him for His glory.  When we focus on what we acquire–a big temptation in our society–we will find ourselves estranged from God.

While discussing Genesis 3, people tend to focus on the sin of Adam and Eve, their breaking of God’s commandment to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Obviously, this sin of partaking from the tree is extremely important, but the story of Genesis 3 reveals problems much deeper than simple disobedience.  Let’s take a look at the story and see the three problems highlighted by the text.

Eve listens to the cunning serpent and eats of the forbidden tree.  She then gives some of the fruit to Adam, who also consumes it, violating the direct commandment given to him by God.  This is the first problem: Adam has disobeyed God’s commandment.

If we were unfamiliar with the biblical story and listened only to popular talk of Genesis 3, we would be inclined to think God came down from heaven and struck Adam and Eve with curses and death.  But this is not the biblical story.  Rather, immediately after Adam and Eve sin, we hear of a very gentle God: “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (vs. 8).  God comes to check up on Adam and Eve, giving them an opportunity to come clean, acknowledge their sin, and ask forgiveness.  But Adam and Eve have a different plan: they hide from God.  This is the second problem: Adam and Eve do not confess their sin, choosing to run from God.

God, of course, finds Adam and Eve hiding in the garden.  Again, rather than immediately striking them, God presents them with an opportunity to acknowledge their sin.  This time, rather than admitting wrongdoing and asking God to forgive him, Adam blames Eve.  Eve, in turn, blames the serpent.  Neither Adam nor Eve takes responsibility for disobeying God’s commandment, preferring to make excuses for sin.  This is the third problem.

In the story of Genesis 3, we have a classic example of “three strikes and you’re out.”  Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God’s command to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Strike one.  After committing this sin, Adam and Eve did not come forward to confess their sin and ask forgiveness, but hid from God.  Strike two.  When God finally confronts Adam and Eve directly, they both make an excuse, blaming someone else for their own sin.  Strike three.  Notice, only after strike three does God issue curses (which, essentially, make the blessings he had already given more difficult to achieve).

The story of Genesis 3 should have serious implications for how we live our lives.  Yes, it is bad to sin, but we compound our problems and the break in our relationship with God when we do not come forward to confess our sin and take full responsibility for our actions and inactions.  A close reading of Genesis 3 shows God is practically begging us to confess our sins and to be accountable, so He may forgive us. 

Before reading today’s entry, I recommend reading or, if you have already read it, calling to remembrance the 2nd half of yesterday’s entry.  In that entry I alluded to man being created in God’s image as an anti-kingly proposition.  Keep in mind the Hebrew root word for king relates to the word “possession” or “ownership,” which is very bad in the Bible–only God authentically possesses or owns things.  In Genesis 2 this criticism of the attitude of ownership and possession continues.

Eve Being “Built”

In most English translations of the Bible, Genesis 2:22 says something like: “Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman…” (NKJV).  Unfortunately, this is a poor translation.  The reason for the poor translation is understandable because a more literal translation sounds strange to the ear.  Let’s look at the Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) as an example: “And Jehovah God buildeth up the rib which He hath taken out of the man into a woman…” 

This YLT is more precise/accurate.  The Orthodox Study Bible follows this more accurate translation by also using the phrase “built” rather than “made” in reference to Eve’s creation.  While this difference may seem like a minor issue to many, the distinction is important.  Keep in mind Genesis is the first book of the Bible; thus, it builds the foundation for the rest of the Bible, introducing key terms and concepts.  Throughout the rest of the Bible–clear up through the New Testament–we find God does not like humans building things.  A few chapters later in Genesis, we will hear quite clearly God’s displeasure with buildings in the story of the Tower of Babel.  Human building in the Bible generally represents human arrogance and human attachment to earthly things.

Far from being a general criticism of women, Eve being “built” is simply a sign of what is to come through Eve and through human building: disobedience towards God.

Adam’s Attitude Towards Eve

Notice in Genesis 2:18 God desires for man to have a companion “comparable to him.”  In verse 19, God made the animals of Adam’s domain and “brought them to Adam to see what he would call them.”  Adam then names each of the animals.

But the story is slightly different when Eve is built.  After building Eve, God “brought her to the man.”  Notice what is different from this approach when compared to the animals.  With Eve, God did not “see what he would call them.”  Yet, Adam, in his presumption, decides to name Eve himself.

Why is this important?  Think about the things we name: our children, our pets, perhaps our vehicles.  In all cases, when we name something it is because we have a sense of ownership (ideally, we would also have a sense of stewardship).  If we have the right to name something, it is because that person or thing is subservient to us.  Our children have no right to tell us what to do–we teach and instruct them.  We are their senior and superior. 

The attitude of ownership towards Eve is evident in Adam’s statement in verse 23.  Rather than seeing Eve as God’s gift to him and someone who God created to be comparable with him, he says: “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” and goes on to name her, as though this new creature is his personal property. Throughout most of human history, the attitude, or even legal principle, of men owning/possessing women has prevailed.

In Genesis 2 we begin to see how humanity’s sense of ownership/pride/arrogance drives a wedge between our relationship with God, but also between our relationships with each other.