The Book of Genesis can be described as a story, a historical account, or just as a written set of answers to questions that may seem unanswerable. Aside from which category this section of The Bible this may fall into, it has been one of the most influential texts of all time. For this reason, it is pivotal that we examine the text more closely in order to determine certain patterns which may lead to a valid interpretation of a book that has an infinite amount of interpretations. One of the most vital patterns to identify is the growth of God’s relationship with man. By analyzing the passages in The Book of Genesis and how they intertwine, one can see that the relationship is positively advancing in terms of trust and confidence.
The text begins describing an account of creation. This is of significant value in establishing God’s relationship with man as it marks the beginning and gives insight pertaining to his intentions with man. As this piece of The Bible unfolds, there is an underlying question that is never firmly answered in the text. That is, “Did God build man for Earth or Earth for man?” The latter interpretation seems to have more textual support. Some evidence that leads to this conclusion is in Genesis 1:26 when God says ‘”Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” It seems logical that if God gave man dominion over earth and all that inhabit it that he would have intended for it to be a gift to man. A less obvious piece of information that points to the latter interpretation is found in Genesis 1:6-8 while introducing the “firmament.”
God creates the firmament, also known as Heaven, on the second day before he creates any life or even any land. Heaven is later determined as the dwelling place for man in afterlife (as seen in Revelation 21:3). This also implies that earth was created for man because it is illogical that God would create the dwelling place for man before earth if earth itself were not made for man as well. Lastly, Chapter 2 in the Book of Genesis is based around man. In the second account of creation (although it is not specified as that in the original text) only verses 4-6 are based around earth and 7-25 is about man. The fact that the second account of creation is much more closely concerned with and focused on the creation of man is resounding evidence that earth was created for man. These pieces of evidence support that God created earth for man, which in turn means God is establishing a relationship with man for man’s sake, rather than the earth’s sake. This reveals the importance God is placing on man, and how much he is willing to invest in man.
Despite ho much God has shown he is willing to invest (created a whole planed for man), the relationship must start somewhere. Chapter 3 of The Book of Genesis discusses the fall of man. The introduction of the serpent leads to another possible split in interpretations as the serpent’s actions arguably indicate an intended “plan” for man. I would disagree with this notion for a few reasons. The story of creation pointed out that God separated the light from the darkness – he never actually rid the world of the darkness. Whether this is a literal or figurative statement is another question entirely, but let us assume the latter. The fact that darkness was separated implies that it still exists. Darkness is a metaphor for evil, which, according to the prior statement, would mean evil still exists. The serpent in The Bible acts as the product of darkness or its living remnant.
God also warns Adam of the dangers of evil when he commands him to never eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God would not have warned Adam if he were not aware that there would be an unfavorable outcome to man’s association with evil. Furthermore, he wouldn’t have punished the serpent along with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14) if God had planned for the serpent to taint man. For that reason, the serpent was not created with intention of introducing man to the wicked. Disproving the belief that the serpent was all a part of God’s plan is essential in proving the theory of the reality of man. This theory reveals that all the events happening on earth are not just projections of God’s plan. God acts as the creator and overseer of man, but he is not “pulling the strings.” This is also a positive shift in the relationship because it shows that God is not a manipulator of man, which would not promote a healthy relationship.
Because God is an overseer, rather than a controller, it leaves opportunity for man to act in ways that God does not approve of. This brings forth the era of Noah. By the time Noah is introduced, God has a growing dissent with man. He has experienced immense disappointments from Adam and Eve, as well as Cain and Abel, and is basically ready to give up on man, as seen in Genesis 6:5-6, “The Lord saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts in his was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” Noah saw this sadness in God took that opportunity to dissuade him from his plan to “blot out man” from existence.
This marks the first major step in the evolution of God’s relationship with man. Noah initiated a trend throughout The Book of Genesis in which God had a respondent on earth who basically acts as a messenger, servant, and correspondent to God (first Noah; then Abram). God first saw that the man was “blameless in his generation” and then “chose” him. Noah established himself blameless when he found “favor in the Lord’s eye” and was able to save mankind, which obviously was considered blameless. Abram gave Lot the choice between lands in Genesis 13:8-12 so God gave him the opportunity to prove himself. He did so by following God’s directions and not taking any gifts from the King of Sodom after rescuing Lot in Genesis 15:1. From there God makes a covenant with those he entrusts. All of this is significant because it marks the first time throughout the text that God is finding good in his creation and establishes the beginning of a positive relationship between God and man.
One passage that seems out of place or non-cohesive is Chapter 11, the story of The Tower of Babel. The story seems out of place because it doesn’t include any of the characters from the chapter prior to it nor does it from the chapter following it. However, when looking through a lens that analyzes the relationship, one can see the significance of its placement. God has just become comfortable with a man, Noah. It can be interpreted that man is also getting comfortable with God, as Noah acts as as a representative of man in a way. This can be seen in Chapter 9 when God makes a covenant with Noah. The creation of a language barrier by God can be characterized as an action of authority. By adding the story of The Tower of Babel in that spot, the author of the text took that chance to establish God’s superiority over man, which again, marks a new step in the evolution of this relationship. He is willing to have a relationship with man as seen by his covenant with Noah but he must also assure man that he is different than God and man can never be at the same level as God. This may sound negative but the relationship between man and God is finally gaining some definite characteristics.
The relationship between man and God is undeniably growing. Noah found favor in the Lord’s eyes but yet; the Lord is still skeptical, as made obvious in the story of the Tower of Babel. This skepticism induces agreement with man. God will perform some action contingent upon the fact that man must fulfill his end of the deal. This relationship maturity is actually pretty outright. The first covenant with man was more of a command but it still marked an agreement. Genesis 2:16-17 reads, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’” This passage shows an obvious lack of trust in man because of that fact that he gave a command and a threat, rather than a suggestion or request. Then Noah comes into existence and brings about a greater trust for man. After closely examining the covenant between God and Noah a slight distrust is still evident. In Genesis 8:21, God says “in his heart” (not aloud) that he will never again destroy the earth AS he had done. The word “as” is probably the most important word in that phrase based upon the fact that God is vague in saying “as” – he could still destroy the earth in another way than a flood without breaking the covenant.
Wouldn’t he have just say he would not destroy the earth again if had had full trust that man would not again disappoint as they had before? With Abram’s covenant, the vagueness seen in Noah’s covenant certainly disappears. One could easily interpret God’s covenant with Abram to be more specific and therefore portraying less confidence in man to follow directions. A more sensible analysis would show that God is still developing his opinion of man and what type of relationship they are going to have. Specifically outlining circumcision is a test of dedication to God, so by being specific, he is testing man’s commitment to not breaking the terms of his covenant. A much more in depth analysis of covenants in the Book of Genesis would reveal numerous other perspectives but in analyzing a growth or gradual maturity of God’s relationship with man, this analysis clearly outlines the expanding complexity and sheer presence of said relationship. This relationship reaches its final stages of evolution as we approach Chapter 22.
Abram seems to be the man that truly has a connection with the Lord. He has gotten to a point of comfort where he can even negotiate terms with God. This can been seen when Abram attempts to protect the righteous people of Sodom and Gomorrah when the Lord decides he should tell Abram of his plan (Genesis 18:22-33). In contrast, Abram seemed afraid of God in a way in previous stories. For example, God tells Abram to leave his home and literally just wander the country without any reason. Abram follows without hesitation, while not even weighing the ramifications of staying (Genesis 12). Not only does telling Abram this plan show progression in trust of man, but also the plan itself. When Noah confronted God, he wanted to destroy all of earth. Now God just wants to destroy a city of the non-righteous. This advancement in the relationship leads into what can be seen as Abram’s final test, as well as the final test for man. Chapter 22 acts as this final test.
Abram is asked to blindly follow directions to kill his son and he does just that. Just before he murders his son, God recognizes his dedication, which seems to be the main purpose of the test to begin with, and allows him to withdraw from killing Isaac. From there on God takes a much less active role with man. This test defines the relationship between God and man. The trust has grown enough to this point where man has established himself and can live a more independent lifestyle on Earth. God can be seen taking an active role in Chapters 17-22 consistently, and after that he is not seen actually acting on earth until a brief moment in Chapter 26 and then Chapter 30. He is taking that more omniscient role as God, which leads into how this evolution affects us today.
It is difficult to affirm this with full confidence, but it seems the general consensus today is that God does not appear on Earth and interact with people very often if at all. Although he may take an active role, this relationship between the Lord and man has gotten to the point where he no longer is as humanly as he is described in the Book of Genesis. That is not too say he doesn’t take part in our every day lives but he at least doesn’t show his face while doing it for the most part, unlike the Genesis era. This has shaped our society in that belief in God is, although still prevalent, much less common than it was throughout these stories. How can our generations know God is real if we have not seen his face? For this reason the Bible has become more of a guide to living for a belief system, rather than a text looked upon as an account of history.
Therefore, the evidence of the evolving nature of God’s relationship with man is resounding. It began with creation and through the trail of descendants throughout The Book of Genesis; the growth of this relationship can be traced for hundreds, even thousands of years. The impression left resonant in my mind is that our relationship with the Lord is dynamic and ever changing. It took its major stages of maturity through The Book of Genesis but still continues to evolve. The identification of such a relationship allows modern society to better understand The Bible and hopefully attain knowledge that may answer the unanswerable.
Grade : 94.00 out of 100
Thanks for writing this first essay, Chris. From the first paragraph, it has the spirit of inquiry that I hope to find in ACS papers. You are constantly asking questions and looking for evidence. Though there are plenty of areas where your work can get more refined over the year, you’ve already got momentum in the right direction. Your early investigation of man’s place in the world is a fine example. We couldn’t know in advance whether the earth was created for man or the other way around, so you start collecting evidence to find out. As you argue, the second account of creation appears to put human beings as the goal. I’d mention, however, that you could go even further in wondering about this … if there’s a difference between Genesis 2-3 and Genesis 1, why have Genesis 1 at all, if it doesn’t somehow correct the idea that the world is for us? Worth pondering further. Your essay as a whole is about the evolving relationship between human beings and God. It’s a great topic to focus on in the essay, and by the end you are reaching in a very interesting direction.
You really try to comment on what each new story is showing as a new development in that relationship. When you find it difficult to fit a story in the overall progression — notably the story of Babel, which comes between Noah and Abram — you treat it as a puzzle and try to figure it out. That’s very good. I’m not sure I’m always convinced by your results; they sometimes do seem speculative rather than well-grounded. As I said, however, this is a very good thing you’re trying to do here. The best part of the paper comes near the end. Although the discussion of Abra(ha)m is fairly brief, you make a very fine observation when you note that not only does Abraham differ from Noah, but God with Abraham differs from God with Noah. It’s a big deal that God reveals more instead of just resolving things in His heart. I think you could develop this idea much further.
What you do discuss at the end of the paper is also good — namely, the fact that God seems to have gone back to revealing less of himself, and that this poses challenges to our faith today. I’d love to see how your thoughts about this continue to develop in years to come. My biggest advice would be to keep working on examining the text all the more carefully. Sometimes cautious observation actually leads to the biggest breakthroughs. In any case, make sure you can demonstrate what you say to the reader, e.g., when you assert that Noah actually intervened with God on behalf of the world. I don’t yet see that he does; but even if he doesn’t, noticing he doesn’t leads you to a clearer knowledge of how Abram moves beyond Noah. Overall, thank you for your work, and welcome to ACS!