Flying Upside Down: Part II

EPSON DSC pictureThe following post is Part 2 in a series. While this post is rather lengthy, and may not be the most culturally engaging, it is foundational for a biblical understanding of manhood, and grounded in Genesis 1 & 2. 

PART 2: “THE INSTRUMENTS” GENESIS 1-2

As the previous post explained, it is critical to pay attention to the “instruments.” Specifically, the Bible is the instrument that MUST be understood and applied. We will start “in the beginning.”

Many scholars refer to the first two chapters of Genesis as “The Creation Account.” However, the story of the Bible is the story of God. As explained in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The subject of this sentence is “God.” The text that follows is primarily about the Creator of the universe. The final book of the Bible, Revelation, explains that God is “the alpha and the omega—the beginning and the end.”  He was in the beginning; He will be there in the end. Everything begins and ends with God. Genesis 1–2 is primarily about God, and secondarily about the creation of the earth. As William Dumbrell suggests, “The biblical account makes it clear that whatever follows in revelation must be understood within this comprehensive first movement of Genesis 1.”

Genesis 1

Genesis 1 is a brief explanation of how God created the earth in six days. Scholars agree that the Genesis 1 text, the first creation account, is a crescendo from the simple to the complex, or the simple to the most beautiful. For example, on day one, God created the light. On day two He separated the land from the water. Leading up to day six, the pinnacle of creation, God created the most beautiful, or the most complex, of all created beings, mankind. An examination of the text describing the creation of man is warranted here.

Genesis 1:26–29 is clear that God created mankind in His image. Additionally, both the male and the female have been given a mandate to be fruitful, multiply, and rule over the earth.

Imago Dei

What is the imago Dei? The Bible does not explain exactly what it means to be created in the imago Dei (Latin for “image of God”). Outside of Genesis 1:26–28, only two other Old Testament passages use the term imago Dei: Genesis 5:1–3 and Genesis 9:6.

The term “imago Dei” has brought much debate through the centuries. Bruce Ware explains, “Through the history of the church, there have been many and varying proposals as to what it means that man is created in God’s image. While one would hope to find more agreement, this is not the case.”  D. J. A. Clines makes a valid point that must not be overlooked,

“One essential meaning of the statement that man was created ‘in the image of God’ is plain: it is that man is in some way and in some degree like God. Even if the similarity between man and God could not be defined more precisely, the significance of this statement of the nature of man for the understanding of biblical thought could not be over-emphasized. Man is the one godlike creature in all the created order.”

Clines’ point is important to keep in mind as the conversation continues. Additionally, Gilbert Bilezikian makes an important comment about the duality of mankind, and the trinity of the Godhead. Bilezikian argues that the three lines of poetry in Genesis 1:27 demonstrates a parallel line of thought in lines one and two, which is reconciled in line three. The biblical text reads in the following manner:

God created man in his own image,
 in the image of God he created him;
 male and female he created them.

Bilezikian explains,

“The poetic structure of Genesis 1:27 suggests an explanation for the nature of the image of God or imago Dei. The parallelism of lines one and two is resolved in the formal synthesis of line three. The third line provides a definition of the imago as male and female. Although sexuality does not exhaust the meaning of the imago, it expresses an essential trait of the divine nature. In other words, the difference between male and female in human life is similar to the distinctions between the persons of the Trinity within the being of God. The imago concept justifies this analogy while allowing for unity, equality, and complementarity within the plurality of persons in the divine mode of existence as well as in human life. The fact that the Trinity is imaged by a duality in human life instead of a human “trinity” indicates that the intent of the imago is not to create miniature duplicates of divinity. There can be only one God.”

Bilezikian has just submitted that sexuality is an essential trait of the imago Dei.

While much more could be explained here (scholars have debated this topic for centuries), it is the opinion of this author that sexuality is somehow related to the image of God. In other words, a man’s “male-ness” is a demonstration of the image of God, while a woman’s “female-ness” rightly reflects a varying image of the same God. This idea will be explained more fully in the forthcoming posts.

Genesis 2

Genesis 2 is a retelling of the creation account with a focus on the pinnacle of God’s creation: the man, the woman, and the first wedding. In fact, the language of 1:1 and 2:4 are intentionally similar, making a rather clear demarcation between the two accounts. It is as if the sixth day of creation is so important that God wants to describe the details of that beautiful day.

Genesis 2:7 explains that God created the man out of the dust and breathed life into him. The text indicates that it was only then, after the creation of the man, that the Lord “planted a garden in Eden” and placed the man in the garden.  The Genesis 2 account portrays the Garden of Eden as a sanctuary or a temple.  In the ancient Near East, temples were often located on the side or top of a mountain. Eden is portrayed as an elevated sanctuary. Notice that the four rivers flow downward implying that the garden was elevated. Ezekiel 28 gives the impression that the Garden of Eden was a mountain sanctuary.

In Genesis 2:15, God took the man and put him in the garden to “work it and to keep it.” Those Hebrew words “work” and “keep” elsewhere in the Old Testament have also been translated as “worship” and “obey.”  Numbers 3:7–8 and 8:26 uses those verbs to require the Levites to be responsible to “guard” and “minister” to the people. Adam was a royal gardener, the priest in the sanctuary.  He was a royal priest, a holy caretaker (see 1 Peter 2:9). Made in the image of God, Adam was God’s representative, His vice-regent, who had dominion over all the created things, and was placed in charge as governor of this majestic Garden (Genesis 1:26–28).  His care over the Garden is an act of worship before the Lord. The manner in which Adam “tends the Garden,” or rules over the created order, is an act of worship to God (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17).

In Genesis 2:18–20, God says that it is not good for man to be alone, and that He will make a “helper fit for him [Adam].” It is important to note that it was God who highlights Adam’s aloneness, not Adam. Adam had unhindered communion with Almighty God; therefore, it is likely that Adam did not recognize his aloneness.  Additionally, it should also be noted that the most important aspect of this verse is the fact that God created woman with the purpose of being a helper for Adam. Adam was commissioned to “be fruitful and multiply;” he could not do that alone. At this point in the story, Adam needed Eve to help him be fruitful and multiply.

A point worth mentioning is that God created man from the dust of the earth and breathed life into him. When God created the woman, however, He took a rib from the man’s side and from the man He created woman. Man was created from the dust of the ground; the woman was created from the rib of the man. God could have created her from the dust, but He did not.

Once again, this idea that the creation account is a crescendo from the simple to the most beautiful lends itself to Paul Jewett’s suggestion that perhaps the woman is the most beautiful of all the created things.  Perhaps she is the crown jewel of creation (see Proverbs 12:4; 31:10). She is the delicate, priceless vase or the “weaker vessel” as 1 Peter 3:17 explains her. She requires the special care, and guardianship of the royal gardener. She is to be cared for and treasured as a beautiful gift. Adam certainly recognizes the goodness of this gift as demonstrated by his joyous poetry in Genesis 2:23. The royal gardener’s responsibility is to be sure that this gift is nourished, cared for, and flourishes. Perhaps Paul has this garden imagery in mind as he calls husbands to cleanse their wives “in the water of the word” (Ephesians 5:26). It is the responsibility of the man to nourish the woman in the fertile soil of God’s goodness and His truth. He is to wash, cleanse, and sanctify this precious gift so that she might flourish and grow in the sweetest place on earth. When rightly tended, she will be a gift of grace, a joyous help to him as he rules over all creation as God’s appointed governor. Let it also be stated that the woman, Eve, is not simply an adornment or an ornament to be displayed. She was specifically designed to be Adam’s “helper” and a joyous one she certainly would have been within the sin-less protection of the Garden.

The Creation Account culminates with a wedding ceremony and marriage. Like all great stories, the pinnacle is reserved for the end. The first two chapters of Genesis are a beautiful story of God’s grand design as He builds the crescendo to the wedding ceremony. At the conclusion of chapter 2, God has created the entire world, Adam and Eve included, which culminated at their wedding ceremony. God called it “very good.” All is right in the world.

** STAY TUNED: in Part 3, things get turned upside down!

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