Chronological Bible 1: Creation, the Flood, Abraham, and Isaac

In his book Read the Bible for Life, George Guthrie makes a point several times to encourage students of the Bible to always ask the questions “What does this story tell me about God?” and “How does this passage fit into the bigger picture of Scripture?”. The passages for this week’s readings through the Chronological Bible were packed with important concepts that I won’t have time, or take time, in this post to deal with at depth. The texts include Genesis 1 through Genesis 24 (and related genealogies from 1 Chronicles 1), from the Creation story, the sin of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham and God’s Covenant, Ishmael and Isaac. Considering though, the two questions above, here are some thoughts regarding the following events:

Creation

After verse 1 (discussed last week), Chapter 1 picks up with the focus on the earth, where the events of the Bible take place. All 3 parts of the Trinity are present here, with God the Father (as Creator), God the Son (God’s speaking), and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is “hovering over the face of the waters” in verse 2. The days of creation are important because they establish the 6 day work week that God will later specify to the Israelites as part of His covenant with them. Remember, the primary audience for Genesis is the recently freed Israelite nation coming out of Egypt. The days of creation are not primarily about specifying the “how” and “when” of creation, but rather identifying the “who” and the “why”. There is a natural astronomical cycle representing a month (the moon’s orbit) and a year (the earth’s orbit), but not one for our week. God reveals later, as part of the ten commandments recorded in Deuteronomy, that he intended the days of creation to be a model for our work week, with a setting aside of a day of rest to worship our God. Therefore, each week can serve as a reminder of our Creator.

I believe in an old universe (13+ billion years) and old earth (4+ billion years), and I also believe that God has built into living things remarkable abilities of adaptation. That being said, I also believe that God has specially created humans and at the very least, vertebrates, rather than setting things in motion for evolution to play out. Notice in Genesis 2 the implication of individual special creation of all these.

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens… (Genesis 2:9)

God also specially created humans, male and female, to bear His image. I do not believe that we evolved from pre-existing creatures, but rather that God specially created Adam and Eve.

Then God said, “Let us make manThe Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam” href=”https://www.esv.org/Genesis+1/#f8-“> in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

Chapter 2 elaborates a bit more on the creation of humans.

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature…. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:7, 21-25)

Humans are unique among all living things because we bear the image of God Himself.

The First Sin

God placed Adam and Eve in a garden designed specifically for their enjoyment and care. He also gave them free will along with a command to not eat of the fruit of one tree (the tree of knowledge of good and evil). They, however, chose to disobey, following their own desires. Yes, Satan was there to tempt them, but they made their own individual choices to disobey. When God confronted them with their sin, he provided both a judgment (curse) and a promise. Speaking first to Satan, God said

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

Note the singular pronouns used here: “He shall bruise your head”. This is pointing to a future contest in which a human descendant will ultimately conquer Satan’s attacks.

The Flood

Fast forward many generations, and we find that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Verse 11 goes on to say that the earth was corrupt and filled with violence. God chose at that point to bring his judgment on the earth through a flood, but also chose to save one family, because “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). Notice that Noah’s righteousness stemmed from the fact that he walked with God. Contrast that with Adam, who following his sin, chose to hide from God rather than to walk with God (Genesis 3:8).

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife  hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

God promised Noah,

I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark… Noah did this; he did all that God commanded. (Genesis 6:17-18, 22)

Note that God provided salvation along with judgment. When the floods came, God himself closed up the ark for Noah and his family’s protection, and the ark lifted them up through, and in the midst of, the judgement that God brought on the inhabitants of the earth.

Abraham

Again, many generations later, with all humans now descending from Noah’s family, we come to Abram (later called Abraham). Abram is really the first point in the Bible in which we can infer specific dates. Abram lived approximately 2000 years before the time of Christ. I like to point this out because, while it seems to us that it has been a long time since Jesus’s birth, Abram was that same amount of time on the other side of this great event. Yet he was looking forward to it in the same way that we look back at it. For God promised him,

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:2-3)

Abram was looking toward the time when all people of earth would be blessed through his descendant. Notice also that the response of people to that promised blessing will determine whether they receive God’s blessings or God’s curse.

Isaac

Isaac was the son promised to Abram through whom the aforementioned covenant would be propagated. Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah after they were beyond child-bearing years (ages 100 and 90, respectively). God would have to intervene to bring this child’s conception about. Sometime after Isaac was born, God told Abraham to sacrifice him. Abraham knew that Isaac was the one God had promised to be Abraham’s heir and to further the lineage, but Abraham trusted God and obeyed all the way through to raising the knife to slay the boy. It was at that point that God stopped him and showed him the ram he’d provided to be used in place of Isaac. The passage is found in Genesis 22.

Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

This is a beautiful picture of God’s grace and foreshadowing of the substitutionary sacrifice that God would provide for all of us through Abraham’s future descendant, Jesus!

Next week, we’ll trace the life of Isaac and Jacob and begin Joseph’s story (all from Genesis).

For Further Investigation

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