Showing posts with label Genesis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genesis. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Israel vs. Abel, Cain vs. Jesus

The story of Adam's two sons, Cain & Abel, is a miniature story of Yahweh's two sons, Israel & Jesus. 

Cain is the firstborn, and is given precedence within the unfolding story. He is also given a name which resembles the theme of a new "creation." ("Cain" means "created" or "forged") Abel is the secondary, lesser son of the story, and is given a name by his parents which resembles this fact. Abel's name means "mist" or "vapor," which illustrates partly what must have been the expectation of is parents when they named him. Cain was the firstborn son, the son of promise, and was therefore named in light of a new creation and hope for Adam's seed--hope that Cain would strive alongside God and conquer evil in the land for the glory of Yahweh. Abel, on the other hand, is given the name that implies striving with the wind, a life that is fleeting and vanishes away like vapor. 

A similar image of Jesus and Israel is given to us as well. Israel was Yahweh's firstborn son, the son of promise. Israel was "created" by God to be the hope of the nations, conquering God's enemies and bringing rest in the land for the glory of Yahweh. Israel even means "one who strives with God" or "God strives." Jesus' name means "Yahweh saves" and is related to the word which means to "cry out to Yahweh." Jesus is the greater Abel who cries out to Yahweh for help, and whom Yahweh saves.  Israel, on the other hand, is the one who strives with God but fails to enter God's rest because of his evil deeds, becoming the one with whom God strives against. 

Another parallel idea is seen in the offerings of Cain and Abel. Cain offers to Yahweh a tribute offering all by itself, whereas Abel offers an entire animal with it's best portions--it's fatty portions--along with his tribute offering (which is reminiscent of the required ascension offering and tribute offering together on Yahweh's altar). Because of this act of faith, Yahweh reckons Abel as "just" for his offering. Cain, on the other hand, is not accepted because of his offering. Cain offers the work of his own hands and nothing more, as though Yahweh should accept Cain's own works alone before he offers anything more (an ascension offering perhaps??). Cain has faith in his own works alone, which is the same thing as saying that Cain has faith in himself, not Yahweh. 

Cain is then given a warning and a subsequent opportunity to repent of his angry countenance: Sin is crouching at the door, but he can rule over it. He can overcome it by doing what is good, offering to Yahweh what is acceptable and pleasing in His sight. We all know the way Cain responds to Yahweh's merciful warning though. Like Israel with Jesus, Cain slays Abel because his deeds are righteous. And like Yahweh's treatment of Cain, Israel was given an opportunity to repent and turn to Christ in faith before he was cut off from the people of God. 

Adam's firstborn destroyed the brother who was least esteemed, just as Israel--Yahweh's firstborn--did with Jesus. And just as the blood of Abel cried from the ground after his brother slew him, and still speaks to us today (Gen. 4:10; Heb. 11:20), even so the blood of Jesus speaks today as well (Heb. 12:24). Like Abel's righteous blood which cried out to Yahweh for justice after Cain slew him, and was heard because of his righteous deeds done in faith, even so Jesus' blood cried out and was heard by Yahweh. Yahweh then saved him from the grave because he was just, because his deeds were righteous altogether, because he literally offered the best sacrifice before Yahweh--the sacrifice of himself as the spotless lamb--along with his tribute offering, his works done in faith. 

Moreoever, just as Adam fathered a son named "Seth" (meaning, "appointed one") in his own likeness, after his image, even so Jesus, the second Adam, would appoint children to walk faithfully in his footsteps, in his own likeness, after his image.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A voice was heard in Ramah (Matthew 2:13-23 part two)

Continuing where we last left off in this series, Matthew 2:13-23 reads: 
Now when thy had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet,  
“Out of Egypt I called my son."1  
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:  
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
 weeping and loud lamentation,
 Rachel weeping for her children;
 she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” 
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 

St. Jerome makes an interesting observation concerning this “fulfilled” prophecy of Jeremiah in Matthew’s gospel. He writes,
Certain of the Jews interpret this passage thus: when Jerusalem was captured under Vespasian, countless thousands of captives were led through this way by Gaza and Alexandria to Rome. But others say that in the final captivity under Hadrian when the city of Jerusalem was overthrown, innumerable people of diverse ages and both sexes were sold at the marketplace of Terebinthus. …Let these people say what they want. We say that the Evangelist Matthew has rightly taken up this testimony because it is the place where Rachel was buried and she wept for the sons of those nearby in the surrounding houses as if she were weeping for her own sons.3 

Some questions arise from these comments of Jerome: Why would Jewish scholars consider this passage from Jeremiah as needing to be fulfilled around 70 A.D.? Why insist upon a specific exile of Jews to Rome under Vespasian or a general dispersion of Jews across the Roman empire by Hadrian? Why not view Jeremiah’s prophecy as already being fulfilled in the Israel's history? After all, Jeremiah seems to have been describing events in Israel’s near future, events surrounding their return from Babylonian captivity.

I suspect, as I do with other post-70A.D. Jewish commentaries, that Jewish tradition has kept a close watch upon the Christian scriptures, especially those Christian gospels which reveal that their promised Messiah did come, and a massive exodus did occur, and that their promised Messiah did deliver Israel out of their long-awaited exile. It seems that they were diverting attention away from the historic Christ-centered reality of Jesus tabernacling among Israel and leading a great exodus of His people out of the land of Israel prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., in order to retain their views about Jesus not being the promised Messiah.

In the last post I mentioned a few times that Matthew’s gospel is about Israel. But it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that Matthew’s gospel is about Jesus too. Yet it’s not about both isolated from each other. It’s about Jesus as Israel. It’s about Jesus and His covenant people together, both head and body together, dying and rising together. As Jerome noted well, Matthew has “rightly taken up” the testimony of Jeremiah 31:15 in the events surrounding Jesus and Israel’s life together. If we stop and think about it a bit more, Matthew's reference from Jeremiah 31 only makes sense if both Jesus and Israel are identified as God’s Son.

In chapter 31, Jeremiah’s message is particularly noteworthy because it is directed to Ephraim by name. “I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn,” says the Lord (Jer. 31:9). Ephraim is also described as Yahweh’s “dear son” and “darling child” (v. 20), always expected to live up to the image of Yahweh’s Son. However, Ephraim was not Joseph’s actual firstborn son. When Joseph brought his firstborn son before his father, Israel laid hands on Joseph’s second child, Ephraim, instead, blessing him as the firstborn even though Manasseh was the actual firstborn. This typology of first and second sonship is nothing new to the history of Israel, being seen in numerous other examples (e.g. Ishamel and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Reuben and Joseph, Levi and the twelve tribes, Adam and Jesus), and it runs through the message of Jeremiah 31 too. Ephraim, like Jesus, is the second son, a second Adam, chosen to receive the promised inheritance of the actual firstborn. But in the context of Jeremiah 31, when the Lord speaks of Ephraim, He speaks as though Ephraim bears the image of the first Israel, the first Adam, who fell in the garden sanctuary and was later exiled into the land. He speaks as though His son had already been disciplined, as though Ephraim had already been taken into exile. Time and time again, the northern kingdom of Israel broke covenant with Yahweh, and Yahweh responded by showing mercy time and time again; but when Jeremiah spoke in chapter 31, northern Israel had already been taken captive. Ephraim was already no more, which is why Rachel is described as weeping for her children. Rachel was the wife of Jacob (i.e. Israel) and therefore the mother of Israel’s children, but now Ephraim had gone into exile, finally receiving his due for repeated breaches of God’s covenant; and in exile, what hope could there possibly be for the future of Yahweh’s people? This is the context in which Matthew (2:18) quotes Jeremiah 31:15 as finally being fulfilled:
A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children because they are no more.

Matthew does something unexpected with this “fulfillment” passage though, something similar to what Jerome described the Jewish scholars doing in his own day. Matthew interprets Jeremiah 31:15 as fulfilling events within his own generation. Instead of interpreting those events as being fulfilled in the past when Israel actually returned from Babylonian exile, Matthew interprets Jeremiah 31:15 as fulfilling the events of Herod slaughtering the innocent children of Israel around Bethlehem. Jeremiah describes Rachel as hearing the cries of her children being deported into captivity from Ramah, yet Matthew cites this as fulfilling the theme of continued exile for God’s firstborn son. What gives? This type of prophetic "fulfillment" is not ordinary, or is it?

If something doesn't seem right, it may be because we are assuming too much about what it means for prophecy to be "fulfilled." Far too often Christians assume that fulfillment of a prophetic narrative is the same as a prophecy that predicts future events. Or, to put it another way, Christians often fail to distinguish indirect typological fulfillment of prophecy from direct fulfillment of prophecy. "The main difference between direct fulfillment of prophecy and indirect typological fulfillment is that the direct fulfills what was explicitly predicted by the words of the prophet, while the indirect fulfills what was implicitly foreshadowed by historical events, which have been narrated."4 As Craig L. Blomberg has noted,5 Matthew is not interpreting the text of Jeremiah 31:15 as a prediction of future events, but rather is employing a similar kind of typology6 to his interpretation of Hosea 11:1, as seen moments earlier (Matt. 2:15). I wrote about the typology of Hosea 11:1 in the last post (here).

Matthew has very good reasons for employing a typological fulfillment here. In the narrative of Israel’s life, Ramah was, in fact, a place where captives were taken and stationed before their exile to Babylon (Jer. 40:1). Ramah, as Jerome noted, is also the region in which Rachel was buried near Bethlehem (the city in which Herod slaughtered the innocent children). Yet if we go all the way back to the Genesis narrative, there is more to the story of Rachel’s death and burial than what ordinarily meets the fundamentalist eye. It is also significant that Rachel dies while giving birth on the road to Bethlehem, and it’s in the midst of her suffering that her midwife tries comforting her with news that she has another son. After her son is born, she names him Benoni, which means “son of my sorrow,” but Israel renames him Benjamin (“son of my right hand”) as a sign of hope for Israel’s future. In the Genesis narrative, Rachel weeps over her son, yet afterward he becomes Israel’s hope. In Jeremiah's prophecy, Rachel weeps over her children once more, but this time it’s as they’re being exiled to Babylon; and just as Israel renamed her "son of sorrow" into a son of hope, Yahweh speaks words of comfort to Rachel again. This time Yahweh promises that her children will return from exile. Yahweh promises to show mercy toward his rebellious son. He promises to restore their fortunes, replenish their languishing souls, and deliver them from exile. “There is hope for your future, declares Yahweh, and your children shall come back to their own country” (v. 17).

In Matthew's day, Rachel’s weeping is finally filled full. This time her weeping is over the slaughter of the children at Bethlehem. No direct words of comfort are given her in Matthew, but the very next verse speaks of the return of Jesus to the land of Israel after the sure death of Herod (Matt. 2:19-21). Just as it was in Jeremiah's day, Israel’s life in the promised land seems hopeless in the days of Jesus' birth too, yet the hope of redemption and faith in Israel's Redeemer lives on. Even though there was a great slaughter of Rachel’s children in the region where she was buried, a corresponding promise of resurrection was also promised. That resurrection would entail a greater “exodus” than ever before in Israel’s history. That exodus from continued exile is what Jesus was born into the world to accomplish. Jesus came to save His people from bondage. Jesus came to deliver them from exile and inaugurate a new creation in the world. A voice was heard in Ramah, a voice of innocent children being slaughtered by a new Pharaoh. But without a new Pharaoh there would be no Egypt to call his faithful Son out of; and without a faithful Son there would be no Israel to die and rise with Him.

1.  Hosea 11:1
2.  Jeremiah 31:15
3. St. Jerome, Ancient Christian TextsCommentary on Jeremiah (translation by Michael Graves) [Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press; 2011], p. 194-5
4.  G.K. Beale, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic; 2012], p. 58
5.  Craig L. Blomberg, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament; eds. G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic; 2007] p. 10
6.  G.K. Beale defines "typology" this way: "the study of analogical correspondences among persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God's special revelation that, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature. [Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, p. 57]

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Out of Egypt I called My Son (Matthew 2:13-21 part 1)

Matthew 2:13-23 reads: 
Now when thy had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, 
“Out of Egypt I called my son."1 
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
 weeping and loud lamentation,
 Rachel weeping for her children;
 she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”2 
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 

Matthew's gospel is about Israel. In Matthew 2:13-21, an angel of Yahweh appears before Joseph in a dream, telling him to flee to Egypt with Mary and their son, Jesus, and remain there until the death of Herod because Herod was determined to search for their son and kill him. Herod, like the Pharaoh before him, did not know Joseph or the God he worshipped, and because their son was the promised deliverer of Israel, Herod had no interest in entertaining a threat to his own throne. The most effective way to eliminate this threat, he thought, was to kill all the newborn male children, like Pharaoh did (Exodus 1). In Matthew's gospel, Israel's life is in danger from a new Pharaoh, and is in need of a great deliverer like Moses. Joseph proves himself to be a faithful servant of Yahweh by doing as he was told by the angel of Yahweh. He flees to Egypt and remains there for a while. Even more to the point, he flees to Egypt from Judea and remains there for a while, and Matthew says, "This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, 'Out of Egypt I called my son.'

Remember, Matthew's gospel is about Israel. The passage Matthew cites here "to fulfill what the Lord had spoken" comes from Hosea 11:1, and as expected, is also about Israel. But Matthew sees something within the scriptures given to Israel that is not commonly seen today. Matthew is not viewing Hosea 11:1 as predictive prophecy, which is how most evangelicals view it today. Instead, Matthew is viewing Hosea's prophecy about Israel (and to Israel) and seeing Jesus in it. And in Matthew's eyes, Hosea's prophecy manifests Jesus in the most obvious way. Matthew sees Jesus as Yahweh's firstborn son. Matthew sees Jesus as Israel,3 Yahweh's firstborn son (Exod. 4:22-23). That is why he can safely regard Hosea's prophecy about Israel being called out of Egypt as Jesus being called out of Egypt. Jesus is like Moses, the "head" of Israel. He's the baby who needs rescuing from the slaughter of the innocents. He's the promised deliverer of Israel who flees from Egypt and then returns to save Israel (Exod. 2). The land of Israel had become another Egypt with their people under bondage again. The people of Israel under Herod's rule were like Egypt under Pharaoh's rule in the days of Moses' childhood, hoping and waiting for Yahweh to send His promised deliverer to them--hoping and waiting for their great exodus as promised to their father Abraham (Gen. 15:13-14). In Matthew's gospel, Jesus has come to provide that promised exodus for the Israel of God. But just as Moses must first flee Egypt before returning to save Israel, Jesus must flee Judea before returning. Not only has Jesus come to save Israel, Jesus has come to be faithful to his heavenly Father in every way which the people of Israel never did, and never could. Jesus has come to be the faithful son, leading an exodus of spirit-filled disciples into the promised land. This time, the faithful Israel will succeed.

In the next post I'll continue this train of thought and connect it with Matthew's next citation from Jeremiah 31:15.

1.  Hosea 11:1
2.  Jeremiah 31:15
3.  For an excellent essay on the typology of Matthew's gospel, see Peter J. Leithart, Jesus as Israel: The Typological Structure of Matthew's Gospel

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jesus vs. Goliath (John 19:17-30)

John 19:17-30 parallels 18:13-27 in various ways, as seen also in John's neat chiastic arrangement (here). In 19:17-30 Jesus is taken from the Gentile "world" of Pilate's headquarters and back into the "land" near the city to be sacrificed on a cross, and eventually buried in a garden-tomb. Earlier in 18:13-27 Jesus was taken from the garden and sentenced to "die for the people" in that same land (v. 14). There in the land, Jesus declared that he had "spoken openly to the world" (v. 20), and in 19:17-30 Pilate writes an inscription above Jesus' cross for all to see, and he writes it in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek, the three dominant languages of the world. Last of all, John the author is present in the background of both scenes, labeled as "the disciple" (18:15 & 19:26-27). In chapter 18, John is the disciple "known to the high priest" and allowed to enter his house (v. 15), whereas in chapter 19 John is known by Jesus, the true High Priest of God, and adopted into the "temple-house of Jesus' Father."

The literary structure of 19:17-30 carries some interesting parallels as well. 

A)  Jesus carries his own cross (19:17)
   B)  The soldiers crucify Jesus, dividing two others, one man crucified on each side of him (19:18)
      C)  Pilate writes: "Jesus the Nazarene,2 the King of the Jews" (19:19)
         D)  Many Jews read the inscription; the inscription was in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek (19:21)
      C')  Chief Priests of the Jews correct what Pilate wrote: "This man said, I am King of the Jews" (19:21-22)
   B')  When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his garments, one for each soldier (19:23-24)
A')  Jesus dies on the cross He carried (19:25-30)

In verse 17 (section A) Jesus is taken by soldiers, carrying his own cross to a place called Golgotha, which in Greek means "Place of the Skull." One Hebrew variant of Golgotha is gulgolet (גלגלת), which also means "skull," and is used throughout the old testament to describe "heads" of Israelites taken into the inventory of God's people. There are, however, a handful of other intriguing uses of gulgolet in the old testament which illuminate the significance of this name and place. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains lists three occurrences especially worth noting: Judges 9:53; II Kings 9:35; and I Chron. 10:10. 

In Judges 9:53, a woman crushes Abimelech's gulgolet with a millstone, both echoing and foreshadowing the seed of the woman (Christ) promised to crush the "skull" of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). In II Kings 9:35, Jehu storms into the courtyard of Jezreel to fulfill the word of Yahweh's curse against Jezebel, the king's daughter. In Hebew, Jezreel means "that which God planted." There, where Yahweh had planted a wicked queen over Israel to chasten His people, Jehu would come to uproot both the fruit and the root of Israel's idolatry. Where the house of Ahab sowed seeds of wickedness, Israel's Queen would be trampled down by Jehu, leaving behind only her gulgolet, feet, and hands. By coming to crush the skull of Jezebel, Jehu foreshadows one aspect of Christ's work, by crushing a type of seductive harlot-bride, the King's daughter and persecutor of Yahweh's covenant people, as unveiled by Jesus to John (Rev. 2:18-29). 

Finally, in I Chronicles 10:10 we find the Philistines taking the gulgolet of King Saul and bringing it to their central city of worship and into the temple of Dagon. That event echoed King David's triumph over the Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath, whose gulgolet was cut off and taken near the city of Jerusalem (I Sam. 17:51-54). There, where the skull of Goliath of Gath was placed, is where Jesus was crucified: Gol-Gath-a. In the place where King David brought the crushed skull of the giant, there Jesus, the son of David, King of Israel, crushed the skull of the serpent. But John tells the story of skull-crushing a bit different than one might expect. In first Samuel, David carries his victory trophy while Yahweh scatters his enemies. In John's gospel, this section (19:17-30) begins with Jesus carrying his own cross to Golgotha, the "Place of the Skull," and he ends with Jesus on the cross he carried. Like David, Jesus also carries his victory trophy as the Father scatters his enemies, but unlike David, Jesus becomes the trophy lifted up for all the world to see.  His cross is the means of becoming lifted up, drawing all nations unto himself. As Jesus told Nicodemus at night, the Son of man must be lifted up so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life (John 3:14). Even during the day, within the temple, Jesus proclaimed the same message, saying "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me" (8:28). And in case John wasn't clear enough in that passage, describing the necessity of being lifted up on a cross, it was before Jesus' arrest in the garden that He cried out one last time: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." But then John adds, "He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die" (12:32-33). 

In John 19:17-30, Jesus is hung on a tree, cursed of God, crushed for our iniquities. But in dying, the sins of the world are crushed with Him.  When both the "Head" and "Body" are crushed, the Spirit of God raises up a new body, a glorified Body, and they --being one with Him-- crush the head of the serpent. It is through the work of the cross that Satan's head is crushed and Jesus achieves victory, as promised in Genesis 3:15. It is through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our union with His resurrected life that new creation begins, light overcomes darkness, and the powers of evil are destroyed.

1.  Peter J. Leithart, "We Saw His Glory" Implications of the Sanctuary Christology in John's Gospel, (published in Christology Ancient & Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics; Oliver D. Crisp and Fred Sanders, Editors) p. 128
2.  Peter Leithart makes this interesting remark about the inscription of Pilate: "Pilate's inscription on the cross identifies Jesus not as a but the Nazarene (John 19:19). In John, Nazareth is barely mentioned (cf. 1:45-46), and in John's view Pilate's titlon likely alludes not to Jesus' hometown but to Isaiah 11's prediction of a Messianic Branch (neser) from the stump of Jesse. Pilate's declaration means: "Jesus the Branch, King of the Jews." Qumran texts link Isaiah's Branch to the temple-building Branch (semah) of Zechariah 6:12: "Behold the man whose name is the Branch." Neser and semah are synonymous titles for the Messianic King who will build the eschatological temple. With his famous Ecce homo, Pilate quotes the first half of Zechariah 6:12 as he presents Jesus to the Jews, and then by putting "Nazarene" in the titlon he finishes the sentence and names Jesus as the Messianic temple-builder, a new Solomon." Ibid., p. 127. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Temple-Oriented Creation

In his book, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus, L. Michael Morales comments on the hermeneutically significant position of Genesis 1-3:

That creation is portrayed as a cosmic temple means not merely that the temple cultus is infused with creation theology, but the creation itself informs the cultus because it is itself temple-oriented. Now while the argument has already been made that the cosmic mountain forms a conceptual backdrop to ANE1 literature, including that of Israel, it may also be the case that the creation account(s) of Gen 1-3 function to establish the sacred mountain paradigm fundamental to Israel's tabernacle/temple cultus. For examplle, v 2 of Gen 1 may be read as key to understanding the nature of the waters surrounding the cosmic mountain, through which one crosses to approach the divine abode. God's division of those waters may also be understood as determinative for his judicial role in relation to them. The abundant life in the divine Presence narrated in Gen 2 would explain humanity's need to approach the mount of God, and the expulsion narrative of Gen 3 to justify the tabernacle cultus as the divinely revealed means for that approach. This expulsion, we will argue, establishes the "descent" that generates the question of ascent so central to the cultus of Israel (cf Pss 15, 24).2

1.  Ancient Near East
2.  L. Michael Morales, The Tabernalce Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus [Leuven-Paris-Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2012], pp. 52-3

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What Godly People Do

When God created man in knowledge,1 righteousness, and holiness,2 with dominion over the creatures,3 and told him to be fruitful and multiply, that was a mandate to fill the earth with godly people who would produce a godly culture. That is what godly people do. The goal was not to multiply misery or to populate hell but rather to advance God and His kingdom. The introduction of sin fouled the planet. In fact, it made it green: green with envy. Sin corrupted the culture. Soon thereafter, God promised a Redeemer.4 

1.  Col. 3:10
2.  Eph. 4:24
3.  Gen. 1:26; Psa. 8:6-8
4.  Randy Booth, The Church-Friendly Family [Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2012], p. 1

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Adam the Priest, not the Farmer

In his masterful work, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus, L. Michael Morales examines the creation, de-creation, and exodus themes of the Bible in relation to ancient Near East literature, in order to present a compelling case for approaching the divine presence of God via a tabernacle/temple system. The codified narratives of the Torah in connection with the rest of Scripture symbolically portray a mediated return to the Garden of Eden, the original telos, or goal, of all creation. Regarding the thematic connection between Adam and the law pertaining to priesthood, Morales notes:
Within the overall context of viewing creation as a macro-temple in Genesis 1 and Eden as its holy of holies in Genesis 2-3, the priestly nature of humanity becomes apparent. That the garden narrative indeed portrays Adam as an archetypal priest ministering before YHWH is supported also by use of the verbs defining the divine intent, to "work/serve" (עבד abad) and to "protect/guard" (שׁמר samar) being used together again within the Pentateuch only to describe the duties of the Levites.1 These terms may more suitably be translated as "to worship and obey." ...Further, there is the parallel, already noted, between Adam's post-fall vestments and the investiture of the Levitical priests, both needing their nakedness covered (Gen 3.7, 21; Exod 20.26, 28.42) and utilizing the noun כתנת (tunics) and the hiphil form of the verb לבשׁ (clothe): 
Gen 3.21:  YHWH God made for Adam and for his wife tunics (כתנת) of skins and clothed them (וילבשׁם) 
Lev 8.13:  And Moses brought Aaron's sons and clothed them (וילבשׁם) with tunics (כתנת). 
Likely then, Adam was placed in the garden to fulfill his priestly office.
...There has been, in fact, a continuous tradition with respect to Adam as priest and sacrificer, from Jubilees (second century BC) to the Rabbinic period, Adam sometimes portrayed specifically as a high priest. Consistent, then, with creation's being a cosmic temple and with the garden being a holy of holies, Adam is portrayed as an archetypal priest -- not a farmer.2

1.  Numbers 3:7-8, 8:26, 18:5-6
2.  L. Michael Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus [Leuven-Paris-Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2012] pp. 99-100

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Adam as the Priest-King of Eden

In The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, G. K. Beale describes the Garden of Eden as the place of God's presence and of God's first Priest-King, Adam. He writes:
  Israel's temple was the place where the priest experienced God's unique presence, and Eden was the place where Adam walked and talked with God. The same Hebrew verbal form (stem) mithallek used for God's 'walking back and forth' in the Garden (Gen. 3:8), also describes God's presence in the tabernacle (Lev. 26:12; Deut. 23:14 [15]; 2 Sam. 7:6-7).1  
  Genesis 2:15 says God placed Adam in the Garden 'to cultivate [i.e., work] it and to keep it'. The two Hebrew words for 'cultivate and keep' are usually translated 'serve and guard [or keep]' elsewhere in the Old Testament. It is true that the Hebrew word usually translated 'cultivate' can refer to an agricultural task when used by itself (e.g., 2:5; 3:23). When, however, these two words ...occur together in the Old Testament (within an approximately 15-word range), they refer either to Israelites 'serving' God and 'guarding [keeping]' God's word ...or to priests who 'keep' the 'service' (or 'charge') of the tabernacle (see Num. 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 18:5-6; 1 Chr. 23:32; Ezek. 44:14).2 
  The best translation of Adam's task in Genesis 2:15 is 'to cultivate (work) it and to keep it [the Garden]'. Regardless of the precise translation, however, the preceding observations suggest that the writer of Genesis 2 was portraying Adam against the later portrait of Israel's priests, and that he was the archetypal priest who served in and guarded (or 'took care of') God's first temple. While it is likely that a large part of Adam's task was to 'cultivate' and be a gardener as well as 'guarding' the garden, that all of his activities are to be understood primarily as priestly activity is suggested not only from the exclusive use of the two words in contexts of worship elsewhere but also because the garden was a sanctuary... If this is so, then the manual labour of 'gardening' itself would be priestly activity, since it would be maintaining the upkeep and order of the sanctuary. 
  After telling Adam to 'cultivate' and 'guard/keep' in Genesis 2:15, God gives him a specific 'command' in verse 16. The notion of divine 'commanding' (sara) or giving of 'commandments' (miswot) not untypically follows the word 'guard/keep' (samar) elsewhere, and in 1 kings 9:6, when both 'serving' and 'keeping' occur together, the idea of 'commandments to be kept' is in view. The 1 Kings passage is addressed to Solomon and his sons immediately after he had 'finished building the house of the Lord' (1 Kgs. 9:1): if they do 'not keep My commandments . . . and serve other gods . . . I will cut off Israel from the land . . . and the house [temple] . . . I will cast out of My sight' (1 Kgs. 9:6-7). Is this a mere coincidental connection with Genesis 2:15-16?
  Hence, it follows naturally that after God puts Adam into the Garden for 'cultivating/serving and keeping/guarding' (v. 15) that in the very next verse God would command Adam to keep a commandment: 'and the Lord God commanded the man . . .' The first 'torah' was that 'From any tree of the Garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die' (Gen. 2:16-17). Accordingly, Adam's disobedience, as Israel's, results in his being cut off from the sacred land of the Garden. This is an indication that the task of Adam in Genesis 2:15 included more than mere spadework in the dirt of a garden. It is apparent that priestly obligations in Israel's later temple included the duty of 'guarding' unclean things from entering (cf. Num. 3:6-7, 32, 38; 18:1-7), and this appears to be relevant for Adam, especially in view of the unclean creature lurking on the perimeter of the Garden and who then enters.
  ...Adam's priestly role of 'guarding' (samar) the garden sanctuary may also be reflected in the later role of Israel's priests who were called 'guards' (1 Chron. 9:23) and repeatedly were referred to as temple 'gatekeepers' (repeatedly in 1 and 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah: e.g. 1 Chron. 9:17-27) who 'kept watch [samar] at the gates' (Neh. 11:19, 'so that no one should enter who was in any way unclean' (2 Chron. 23:19). Consequently, the priestly role in both the Garden and later temple was to 'manage' it by maintaining its order and keeping out uncleanness.3 
  There may also be significance that the word used for God 'putting' Adam 'into the garden' in Genesis 2:15 is not the usual Hebrew word for 'put' (sum) but is the word typically translated as 'to rest' (nuah). ...That this verb ...was intentionally chosen is pointed to further by the observation that it is used elsewhere to refer to the installation of sacred furniture (2 Chron. 4:8) and divine images into temples (2 Kgs. 17:29; Zech. 5:5-11) and especially of God's 'resting place' (so the noun form) in his heavenly palace-temple (Ps. 132:7-8, 14; Is. 66:1). Thus, the implication may be that God places Adam into a royal temple to begin to reign as his priestly vice-regent. In fact, Adam should always best be referred to as a 'priest-king', since it is only after the 'fall' that priesthood is separated from kingship, though Israel's eschatological expectation is of a messianic priest-king (e.g., see Zech. 6:12-13).4

1. G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission: A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press; 2004], p. 66
2. Ibid., pp. 66-7
3. Ibid., pp. 68-9
4. Ibid., pp. 69-70