Let there be light

In the beginning (the Book of Genesis)

Let there be light! Genesis starts with the majestic description of the creation of the universe, life and mankind specifically. The Book of Genesis provide us a Earth centric view of the creation for the audience an audience with very limited scientific, philosophical and theological knowledge of the world around them.

The narrative has a mankind perspective and the purpose to show that our God created everything, loved us and wants a relationship with us.
According to John Stott in “Understanding the Bible”, there is no biblical reason to deny that God could have used some sort of evolutionary process in His creation process. Stott also argues that it is possible that Adam and Eve were amongst other pre-adamic hominids, but the first to be formed ‘the image of God’, therefore, the first Homo Divinus.

In summary, we should keep in mind the Bible is not a science textbook, but God’s revelation to mankind.

Genesis is divided in three main themes: i) The beginning of all things; ii) The covenant; and iii) God’s redemption masterplan in action

  • In chapters 1–11:28, Genesis explains the creation of all things, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1). He quickly switches to the fall of man in sin and separation from God in chapter 3; then, how God implemented His judgment on the wicked earth. Through a universal flood and by selecting and sparing Noah, a faithful man, and his family, God wipes out humanity and starts again, with one secluded family.
  • From chapters 11:28–36, Through Abraham God calls and promises to bless with a multitude of people and through them bless the entire world, “…and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (12:3).
  • In chapters 37–50 God faithfully carries out His plan of redemption, rising up and protecting the generations from Abraham as He had promised, all the way through unto Joseph while in Egypt. God blesses Abraham’s son and their son’s. Through their disappointments and failures, He displays His power and sovereignty in their lives; but in at the end of the book of Genesis, God’s people are in a foreign land and wondering about the promise land.

Chapter by chapter twitter summary from Bible Summary

Gen 1: God created the heavens, the earth and everything that lives. He made humankind in his image, and gave them charge over the earth.
Gen 2: God formed a man and gave him the garden in Eden, except the tree of good and evil. Adam was alone so God made a woman as his partner.
Gen 3: The serpent deceived the woman. She and Adam ate from the tree. The ground was cursed, and God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden.
Gen 4: Eve’s sons made offerings to God. Only Abel’s was acceptable, so Cain killed him. Abel’s blood cried out and God sent Cain away.
Gen 5: Adam’s line was: Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech and Noah. Noah’s sons were Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Lessons learned: 
Creation was good in God’s eyes 
Man is in charge of the Earth and therefore should take good care of it 
Man should rest 
Man and God had a close relationship 
Sometimes we have it all but our natural dissatisfaction push us to look for greener pastures and risk what we have 
We discussed the nature of evil and corruption (with TED video)

Gen 6: Humankind corrupted the earth with evil. God decided to destroy them. He told Noah to build an ark to be saved from the flood.
Gen7: Noah and his family went into the ark with two of each creature. It rained for forty days and forty nights and the earth was covered.
Gen 8: The flood abated. Noah sent out a raven and two doves. When the earth was dry God called them all out of the ark. Noah built an altar.
Gen 9: God blessed Noah and set the rainbow as a sign that he would never flood the earth again. Noah got drunk and cursed Ham’s son Canaan.
Gen 10: Japheth’s line lived in the coastlands; Ham’s included Nimrod and the Canaanites; Shem’s lived in the East. These formed the nations.
Gen11: They began building a great tower for themselves, but the Lord confused their language. Shem’s line included Abram who married Sarai.

Lessons learned: 
God is always trying to rescue mankind from itself 
The flood was a second change, a sign of mercy, to give mankind a fresh start 
Nimrod was perhaps the first tyrant and the tower a babylonian ziggurat 
We also talked about the the nephilims, described as ‘sons of God’
We watched a chapter of The Bible series showing Noah in the Ark telling his family the narrative of creation illustrating the how the oral tradition was passed from the generation to generation until Moses recorded everything in the Torah

Gen 12: God told Abram, “Go, I will make you a great nation. You will be a blessing.” In Egypt Abram lied about Sarai and Pharaoh was cursed.
Gen 13: Abram journeyed with his nephew Lot. Their servants argued, so Lot went to Sodom, Abram to Canaan. The LORD promised Abram the land.
Gen 14: The kings went to war and took Lot captive. Abram rescued Lot. Melchizedek blessed Abram and Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
Gen 15: The Lord promised Abram an heir and many descendants. Abram believed. He was told that they would be enslaved but would then return.
Gen 16: Sarai told Abram to have children with Hagar. Hagar conceived, then ran away, but an angel sent her back. Hagar’s son was Ishmael.
Gen 17: God made a covenant with Abram and renamed him Abraham. He renamed Sarai Sarah and promised them a son. The men were circumcised.
Gen 18: Three visitors came and said that Sarah would have a son next year. Sodom was very evil; Abraham pleaded with the LORD for the city.
Gen 19: Angels took Lot out of Sodom. The city was destroyed by fire and Lot’s wife was turned to salt. His daughters had children for him.
Gen 20: In Gerar Abraham said, “Sarah is my sister.” King Abimelech took her but God warned him in a dream. He restored Sarah to Abraham.
Gen 21: As promised, Sarah had a son: Isaac. She had Hagar and Ishmael sent away but God preserved them. Abraham and Abimelech made a treaty.
Gen 22: God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. As Abraham obeyed, an angel stopped him. The LORD provided a ram instead and blessed Abraham.
Gen 23: Sarah died in Kiriath-arba. Abraham asked the Hittites for a burial site. He bought a cave from Ephron and buried Sarah there.

Lessons learned: 
God loved Abram first 
A weak and hesitant Abram is gradually shaped into Abraham, the Father of Faith 
The covenant with Abraham will culminate with the reconciliation of mankind through Jesus Christ 
Don’t look back! We discussed how paralyzed our lives can be if the insist in looking at the past, including traumas, resentments, old lives, etc. God sometimes wants to destroy everything to give us a new life. looking back will turn us into statues of salt 
God repeatedly reinforced His promises to Abraham 
We discussed that Sarah tried to lie to God. Can we lie to God? 
We learned about intercession and the fact that Abraham prayed for Lot’s family 
In various occasions we debated how the characters tried to help God, not trusting Him completely — This is seen in Sarah advising Abraham to have a son with Hagar 
We studied that the Koran has a different view of who is the son of the promise: Ishmael vs. Isaac — Muslins believe Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice Ishmael, not Isaac since he is the first born 
Discussing Isaac’s sacrifice we concluded God was trying to show Abraham that he was capable of doing a great act of faith — we also leaned that in Abraham’s time human sacrifices were somehow normal practice amongst pagan nations surrounding the land of Abraham 
God provided the sacrificial lamb — God always provide 
Abraham was a pilgrim, as we are in this world

Gen 24: Abraham’s servant went to Nahor to find a wife for Isaac. He met Rebekah by the well. She went back with him and married Isaac.
Gen 25: Abraham died and was buried with Sarah. Isaac and Rebekah had twins: Esau and Jacob. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a meal.
Gen 26: In Gerar Isaac lied about Rebekah. He grew so rich that Abimelech sent him away. He dug wells, and at Beersheba the LORD blessed him.
Gen 27: Rebekah and Jacob tricked Isaac into giving Jacob his blessing. Esau vowed revenge so Rebekah told Jacob to go to her brother Laban.
Gen 28: Isaac sent Jacob to marry one of Laban’s daughters. On the way Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching to heaven and the LORD blessed him.
Gen 29: Jacob worked for Laban seven years to marry Rachel, but Laban gave him Leah and made him work seven more for Rachel. Leah had sons.
Gen 30: Rachel’s maid had sons for Jacob, then Leah’s maid, then Leah. Finally Rachel had a son. Laban allowed Jacob flocks as wages to stay.
Gen 31: The Lord told Jacob to return home. Jacob left in secret and Rachel took Laban’s idols. Laban chased Jacob but they made a treaty.
Gen 32: Jacob heard that Esau was coming to meet him. He was afraid and sent gifts. That night he wrestled with a man who renamed him Israel.
Gen 33: Esau and his men arrived. Jacob bowed down but Esau ran to embrace him. Jacob settled near Shechem and built an altar.
Gen 34: Shechem raped Jacob’s daughter and asked to marry her. Jacob’s sons told him to circumcise his men, then Simeon and Levi killed them.
Gen 35: Jacob went to Bethel and God renamed him Israel. They journeyed on. Rachel died having Israel’s twelfth son. Isaac died in Hebron.
Gen 36: Esau’s sons were Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam and Korah. Esau and his family moved away to Seir. They became the Edomites.

Lessons learned: 
God shape us in our individual journey in this world as He did with Abraham and subsequently will do with Jacob and Joseph 
God has a masterplan and sometimes we don’t understand it upfront
In class we debated the characters and characteristics of Jacob and Esau 
We studied the relationship of Jacob with God and despite all his mistakes in life, his attitude of total dependence of God is clear

Gen 37: Joseph was Israel’s favourite son. He had dreams and his brothers were jealous so they sold him. He was bought by Potiphar in Egypt.
Gen 38: Judah’s sons Er and Onan died, leaving Tamar a widow. Judah sent her away but she put on a veil and he slept with her. She had twins.
Gen 39: Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his house. His wife tried to seduce Joseph, then lied about it, so Potiphar put Joseph in prison.
Gen 40: Pharaoh put his cupbearer and baker in prison. Joseph interpreted their dreams. The cupbearer was restored but the baker was hanged.
Gen 41: Pharaoh had a dream and called for Joseph to interpret it. The dream predicted a famine. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of all Egypt.
Gen 42: Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to buy grain but didn’t recognise him. He kept Simeon in prison and sent the rest to fetch Benjamin.
Gen 43: When the grain ran out, Joseph’s brothers went back to Egypt with Benjamin. Joseph invited them to his house and gave them a feast.
Gen 44: Joseph hid his cup in Benjamin’s sack, then sent a steward after his brothers. Judah offered himself as a slave instead of Benjamin.
Gen 45: Joseph told his brothers who he was. They were afraid, but he told them, “God sent me here.” His brothers went to fetch their father.
Gen 46: So Israel set out with all his household. God told him not to be afraid. Israel and all his family came to Egypt and Joseph met him.
Gen 47: Pharaoh allowed Joseph’s family to settle in Goshen. The famine continued and the Egyptians sold all they had to Pharaoh for food.
Gen 48: Jacob became ill, so Joseph took his sons to see him. Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons as his own, putting Ephraim ahead of Manasseh.
Gen 49: Jacob gathered his sons and blessed each of them. He charged them to bury him with Abraham in the cave in Canaan, and then he died.
Gen 50: Pharaoh allowed Joseph to go and bury Jacob. Before Joseph died, he said that God would lead his people back to the promised land.

Lessons learned: 
In Joseph we see God’s masterplan for Jacob’s descendants 
God operates since the beginning dislocating Joseph to Egypt, preparing him, giving him strength, knowledge and developing his faith 
A distinct characteristic of Joseph is the fact that he seems to be able to see God is in control of his life and all things will contribute to his good 
Joseph is merciful — we discussed in class the power and benefits of forgiveness 
God is able to make bad things into good things; we just need to trust and let God be God in our lives 
The same way God saved the Jacob’s people from starvation, God used the evil and injustice of those who put His son Jesus on the cross to bring about His masterplan of providing salvation to us 
Now the Hebrews are settle in Egypt… (to be continued)

John Stott on evolution and pre-Adamic ‘hominid’

Not many Christians today find it necessary to defend the concept of a literal six-day creation, for the text does not demand it, and scientific discovery appears to contradict it. The biblical text presents itself not as a scientific treatise but as a highly stylized literary statement (deliberately framed in three pairs, the fourth “day” corresponding to the first, the fifth to the second, and the sixth to the third).”

“It is most unfortunate that some who debate this issue (evolution) begin by assuming that the words “creation” and “evolution” are mutually exclusive. If everything has come into existence through evolution, they say, then biblical creation has been disproved, whereas if God has created all things, then evolution must be false. It is, rather, this naïve alternative which is false. It presupposes a very narrow definition of the two terms, both of which in fact have a wide range of meanings, and both of which are being freshly discussed today…”

“But my acceptance of Adam and Eve as historical is not incompatible with my belief that several forms of pre-Adamic ‘hominid’ may have existed for thousands of years previously. These hominids began to advance culturally. They made their cave drawings and buried their dead. It is conceivable that God created Adam out of one of them. You may call them homo erectus. I think you may even call some of them homo sapiens, for these are arbitrary scientific names.”

“But Adam was the first homo divinus, if I may coin a phrase, the first man to whom may be given the Biblical designation ‘made in the image of God’. Precisely what the divine likeness was, which was stamped upon him, we do not know, for Scripture nowhere tells us. But Scripture seems to suggest that it includes rational, moral, social, and spiritual faculties which make man unlike all other creatures and like God the creator, and on account of which he was given ‘dominion’ over the lower creation.”

(John Stott, Understanding the Bible: Expanded Edition; 54–56)

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