The Passover Lamb

The Passover is an important celebration in ancient Israel that is largely overlooked by Christians today as ancient history.  Nevertheless there is much that we can learn from the first Passover that applies to Christians still today.

The first Passover came as a part of the tenth and final plague upon Egypt that would deliver freedom to God’s people who were held in captivity.  Exodus 13 addresses the Israelites and gives them instructions on what is going to happen.  Although this day would be the worst in the history of Egypt, it would be a day of celebration that the Jews celebrate to this very day, thousands of years later.

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

There are three times each year that the Israelites were called together to celebrate – the Passover, the feast of weeks (which is when Pentecost took place), and the feast of tabernacles which follows the Day of Atonement.  While sacrifices are a part of all three celebrations in the Passover and the Day of Atonement blood sacrifice is central to what takes place.

On the Day of Atonement a sacrifice was made on behalf of all the people of Israel.  But it hasn’t been instituted yet in Exodus.  As opposed to the Day of Atonement, the Passover is a very personal matter.  Each family must sacrifice a lamb.  This is not something that is bought at a market and is ready to eat.  This is a lamb that the family has raised for the last year.  The father would personally have to slaughter the lamb.  The blood from the slaughter – on this first Passover – was used to cover the doorpost of the household.  In the following years the lamb was slaughtered in remembrance of what the Lord did when the Israelites left Egypt but as they place the blood on their doorposts, during this first celebration, they are literally covered by the blood of the Lamb as we like to say in Christian circles.

The Passover is an important celebration that wasn’t to be taken lightly.  In the book of Malachi the Israelites are reprimanded because they were bringing worthless sacrifices.  They sacrificed crippled and diseased animals that had no value to them.  In Jesus’ day the priests had made a mockery of the system because they had to approve of each lamb that was sacrificed.  Often they would reject the lamb that a family had brought from afar and force them to purchase a lamb from the temple at exorbitant prices.

The unblemished lamb is a picture of the sinlessness of Jesus.  Sacrificing anything else is the equivalent of saying that Jesus didn’t have to be perfect or that God accepts sin.  Aside from the general taking advantage of people, the priests of Jesus’ day turned the sacrifice into an issue of money and made salvation available for purchase, but worst of all, only through them.

The Passover points to a personal need for Jesus.  Just being an Israelite didn’t save anyone on the night of the Passover.  Only those who were covered by the blood of the lamb on their doorposts were spared on the night of Passover.  Were there some Israelites who didn’t take part in this or who didn’t believe it?  The answer is most likely yes.  The angel of death passed through all of Egypt and it didn’t discriminate based on nationality, it struck down the first born male of every household that didn’t have the blood on the doorposts.

There is some archaeological evidence that suggests that there were hurriedly dug graves in the region of Goshen – where the Israelites were – that date back to around the time of the Exodus.  It’s likely that not all of the Israelites listened and they had to hurriedly bury their family members before they left Egypt.

Exodus 13:14-28 gives instructions for not only the night of the Passover but also the week surrounding it.  The entire time was a festival known as the feast of unleavened bread.  Unleavened bread is bread made without yeast in it.  It is an important reminder of the Passover.

There are two significant reasons for using unleavened bread in this festival – one practical, the other theological.  For practical reasons, yeast takes time to rise before you bake it.  This is a remembrance that the Israelites left Egypt in a hurry and didn’t have time to wait for yeast to rise.  When God acts, He does so according to His timetable which may be years or at a moment’s notice.

The theological issue with yeast is that it is a picture of sin.  The modern equivalent to this is an apple.  You’re probably familiar with the phrase “one bad apple.”  The entire phrase is that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch.  If a rotting apple is next to apples that are fine, then the rot will spread to the apples that are fine more quickly than if the apples are left on their own.  Yeast works similarly.  It spreads quickly.  If there is even a small bit of yeast, it will quickly grow and spread over everything.  This is the way that sin works as well.  If we clean up our life but leave just a bit of sin left, that sin is going to grow and spread and soon we’ll be consumed by sin again.  As the Israelites left Egypt to go and worship the Lord they were to rid of their lives of sin.

As Christians we know that Jesus was crucified on Passover.  But He also celebrated Passover the night before with His disciples in what we know as the Lord’s Supper.  This isn’t a mistake by the biblical writers.  By Jesus’ day there were so many Jews who came to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover that it was impossible to sacrifice all of the lambs on one day.  As it was blood flowed like a stream from the temple mount where the sacrifices were performed.  As it became impossible to do all of the sacrifices in one day the northern Jews from Galilee celebrated the Passover feast on one day and the southern Jews celebrated the Passover the following day.  So Jesus was able to celebrate the Passover with His disciples and hang on the cross the following day as the Passover lambs were being slaughtered as well.

The Lord’s Supper that we as Christians commemorate was the celebration of the Passover that was initiated in Egypt.  It too was the result of blood sacrifice.  Of course Jesus was the Passover lamb.  Like the previous lamb, He too was spotless and perfect.  We celebrate the Lord’s Supper in order to remember Jesus’ sacrifice, His body broken and His blood shed.  The Passover was a commemoration of the day that the Lord rescued the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh but it also looked forward to Jesus.  In Exodus, the people were saved from physical death thanks to the sacrifice of the lamb.  In Jesus we are also covered by the blood of the lamb as we are saved from spiritual death.

God destroys the Egyptian gods through ten plagues

When it came time for the Israelites to leave Egypt it wasn’t an easy task.  Pharaoh wasn’t about to let the Israelites go but it wasn’t up to Pharaoh.  God had foretold of the Israelites time in Egypt way back in Genesis 15:13-16:

13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

Finally the time is up and the Israelites are to enter the Promised Land.  What stands between them and that goal is Pharaoh who will not release them.  So God institutes a series of ten plagues in order to get him to change his mind.

It may appear that the ten plagues that fall upon Egypt are simply disasters that bring the country to a screeching halt and make the people cry out for mercy.  Nothing God does is random however and the ten plagues is no exception.  The ten plagues are a direct attack on the gods of Egypt.  God is showing Himself to be all powerful while the gods of the Egyptians are worthless and unable to help those who are crying out to them.

The first plague strikes the Nile River and all of the water in Egypt.  The Nile River was by far the most important geographical feature in Egypt.  Even today the vast majority of the population of Egypt is along the Nile River.  Every year the Nile floods its banks and provides water for crops and otherwise makes the soil fertile in a land that is mostly desert.

The god Hapi was associated with the Nile River and the annual flooding is sometimes even considered the arrival of Hapi.  One of his titles was Lord of the Fish and Birds.  When the first plague strikes, all of the water of the Nile is turned to blood.  This causes the fish to die and is overall disgusting from the stench throughout Egypt.

One might have tried to explain away the corruption of the Nile as a disaster of some sort that flowed downstream.  But not only is the Nile turned to blood, so is all of the water in Egypt, including even what was just sitting in buckets according to Exodus 7:19.

The next plague is a plague of frogs.  Frogs cover the entire land.  Personally, I wouldn’t be too bothered by frogs.  I wouldn’t like them everywhere but I can think of worse things to have all over the place.  The irony of this plague is that frogs were a sacred animal in Egypt.  The goddess Hekt was depicted with a head of a frog and often with the body of a frog as well.  The Egyptians worshipped a frog so God gives them so many frogs that they become sick of them.

Because the frogs are considered a sacred animal, the Egyptians couldn’t do anything about them.  They couldn’t kill them or otherwise get rid of them.  Even though the magicians could make more frogs come up onto the land, they couldn’t do anything about the frogs all around them.  Pharaoh has no option but to plead with Moses.

The third plague to strike the nation is gnats.  Gnats don’t sound too bad until you remember that these would number in the millions.  Also, these are not gnats like we probably think of.  These are called sand flies or fleas.  They burrow under the skin and cause irritation.

These gnats attack the Egyptian religion in several ways.  Even though the pests are in the air, this is actually an attack against the earth god Geb because the gnats are formed from the dust of Egypt.  Egypt was wealthy because it had fertile soil.  All of the fertile soil is gone in an instant and instead it has become an irritant for the Egyptians.

The other thing that happens with this plague is the disruption of religious activities in Egypt.  The gnats would cause the priests to be ceremonially unclean, either through their actual presence or by the scratches left by the people seeking relief from the itching.

Unlike the previous signs that Pharaoh has witnessed, the magicians are unable to reproduce what has taken place.  They recognize that this is a power greater than their own.

When the magicians declare that “This is the finger of God” it could mean one of two things.  They may be declaring that the infestation of gnats could only be done with the power of their god of insects Seb.  If they believe that this is something that Seb has caused they would have reason to hate this god for what was occurring.

If the magicians recognize that this is the power of God, big G, then they are informing Pharaoh that this power is beyond them.  Pharaoh would be wise not to cross a power that is above them and their gods.  Once again however, Pharaoh’s heart is hard and he does not listen to Moses, nor his own magicians.

The gnats are not gone before the land of Egypt is covered in flies as well.  God does something different with this additional plague however.  God spares the land of Goshen where the Israelites live.  They will not be harmed by this plague.  It will be the same in the book of Revelation where tribulation believers are spared of some of the perils that fall on humanity.

Once again, this is a direct attack on an Egyptian goddess, Hatkok.  He was worshipped as lord of the flies and he is shown to be powerless to help the Egyptians from what had befallen them.  If they considered him to still be in power, then he would be the cause of the troubles and would be hated.  He is either not the cause of the flies and powerless or he has brought calamity on the Egyptians and thus worthy of hatred.

Exodus 9 features the 5th, 6th, and 7th plagues.  Plague number 5 is upon the livestock of Egypt.  Bulls were among the most sacred animals in Egypt.  One of the most popular cults worship Apis the bull god.  Several temples kept live bulls there to be worshipped and at one point in Egypt’s history bulls were even given sacred burials and placed in vaults.

The pervasiveness of bull worship is seen as the Israelites construct a golden calf while waiting for Moses to return from Mt Sinai.  Several other gods were depicted as cattle – Ptah, Hathor, Bakus, and Mentu.  When Israel constructed their golden calf, it wasn’t to honor just one false god but many.  This is why they said in Exodus 32:4

“These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

God shows power over all livestock and the gods of Egypt are shown to be powerless to stop the deaths of one of the most sacred animals in Egypt.  As with the plague of flies, God makes a distinction between Egypt and the Israelites.  Not a single animal belonging to the Israelites died.

The next plague is the plague of boils.  It was common for the ashes of a sacrifice to an idol to be cast into the air.  Those whom the ashes landed on were considered to be blessed.  This time the opposite occurs.  Moses throws soot from a chimney in the air.  As the ash descends, festering boils break out on the people and the animals all over the land.  Obviously this is unpleasant for all who have to endure the painful boils but once again it strikes at the heart of the Egyptian religious culture.

Egypt was noted in the ancient world for its skill in medicine.  This was attributed to their gods who were known to be gods of healing.  Once again, this shows their impotence as they are unable to heal the boils that broke out over the people of Egypt.  In particular, this is an attack of the god Typhon who was believed to control such diseases

The seventh plague is a plague of hail.  Most of us have probably seen hail at some point in our life.  Even small hail can cause a great deal of destruction but this is no ordinary hail storm.  Verse 24 states that this is the worst storm that struck Egypt in its history.  What is particularly interesting is that ordinarily it doesn’t storm in Egypt.  They rarely even get rain and there are entire years where they may get no rain.  So any kind of storm would be rare and this storm obviously is unprecedented.

Yet again, this is an attack of the Egyptian gods.  Shu was the god of the atmosphere while Nut was the sky goddess.  Both are powerless to stop the storm or protect anyone from it.

Plague number 8 is a plague of locusts.  These locusts devour whatever wasn’t destroyed by the hail previously.  There are over 90 varieties of locusts and any of them could cause devastation like the Bible tells when in groups so large.  There have been swarms of locusts that are so big that they have blocked out the sun before.  This swarm is even more massive than those large, naturally occurring swarms.

After the devastation is seen, once again it is evident that the gods of the Egyptians have failed them.  Nepri, the grain god, Anubis, the guardian of the fields, and Min, deity of harvest and crops have not saved the Egyptians.

Plague number 9 really starts to hit the heart of Egyptian worship.  Ra was known as the sun god and he was the most important of the gods whom the Egyptians worshipped.  Ordinarily light defeats darkness.  When you turn on a light, the darkness goes away.  You can’t bring more darkness into a room to smother out the light that’s already there.  God is in control of the laws of nature however and He can snuff out light with darkness and show the sun god to be powerless as well.

As for the actual plague, God may have used a natural phenomenon to bring about this supernatural plague.  There is a yearly phenomenon known as khamsin where for 50 days in the spring the wind blows off of the Sahara Desert.  For two or three days the wind really picks up, picking up sand and dust with it.

Now, consider the state of Egypt at this time.  After all of the plagues, the land is devastated.  All of the vegetation has been destroyed and there is nothing to hold the sand in place at all.  What might have been a normal, yearly sandstorm came out of nowhere and darkened the sky for three days.  This would have been an oppressive darkness.  Today, when it is dark, we turn on a light and the darkness goes away.  Even with lamps, they would have had little success.  The wind would have made it impossible to keep the lamps lit.  And even if they could keep them lit, the light would have reached a foot and reflected off of all the sand in the air.

The tenth plague is the killing of the firstborn males.  It introduces the Passover to the Israelites but that is another important discussion for another time.  Ra, the sun god may have been considered the most important god in Egyptian worship but Pharaoh himself was considered to be a god as well.

While living, Pharaoh was thought to be the embodiment of the god Horus.  Upon his death, Pharaoh became the god Osiris or god of the underworld.  The firstborn son of Pharaoh would be the next to become Pharaoh and thus a god as well.

The final plague on the firstborn will strike the house of Pharaoh and kill his son.  God will show himself to be more powerful once again.  Not only is God more powerful than all the other gods, only He is capable of striking one of these supposed gods dead.

The final score of the plagues is God 10, Egyptian gods 0.  God has shown all of the gods to be worthless and powerless.  They have done nothing to protect their worshippers because God holds all of the power.

Jacob the Deceiver

It is interesting that some people offer an excuse that they can’t come to church or they can’t be a Christian because they’re not good enough.  Obviously the goal of church and Christianity is to make people more holy and Christlike but there has never been a holiness requirement to get in the doors of a church.

Instead, the Bible is full of scoundrels whom God chooses to use for His purposes and in spite of their flaws.  Jacob is one of many of these less than perfect people.  From the time of his birth, it would appear that Jacob has been branded.  Even before his birth it was prophesied that he, the younger would be the greater of the brothers.

At his birth, Jacob came out second, holding onto his brother’s heel.  Thus he was named Jacob which means “he grasps the heel.”  But this name has a double meaning – grasping the heel is a Hebrew idiom for a deceiver.  Now you’ll certainly think that this is a very odd thing to mean deceiver but we actually have a very similar expression in English.  If someone is deceiving another person in a joking manner we might say that they’re “pulling someone’s leg.”  The English expression might even be derived from the Hebrew one but I couldn’t begin to tell you how the expression ever came to be.  For our purposes it’s important to note that Jacob is named as a deceiver at his birth and he will live up to that reputation.

There is a bit of family heritage of deception for Jacob to follow.  We don’t think of Abraham and Isaac as deceivers so much but they both played the same trick, and Abraham did it more than once.  Because they thought that powerful men might kill them in order to take their wives they lied and said that she was a sister instead.

In Genesis 27 Isaac is old and believes that he is about to die.  He calls his son Esau in and asks that he prepare his favorite meal and then he will bless Esau.  Rebekah overhears this and hurriedly puts a plan in motion that allows Jacob to steal the blessing.

Jacob has already obtained the birthright from Esau in a less deceptive manner.  In short, his brother sold it for a bowl of soup because he was hungry.  A birthright traditionally meant that the eldest son received a double portion of the inheritance at the passing away of his father.  So this wasn’t just a symbolic thing but it was a very substantial amount of money that was paid for a bowl of soup.

With the blessing however, Jacob intentionally deceives his father.  He wears his brother’s clothing in order to smell like him and covers his arms and neck with fur because his brother is a hairy man.  This wouldn’t work if Isaac’s eyesight wasn’t failing but it is enough to trick his father into blessing him instead of his brother Esau.

This isn’t the end of deception in Jacob’s life however.  Unfortunately for him he will be the victim of deception as well.  Deception runs in his family not only from his father and grandfather but also on his mother’s side.  Rebekah played her own role in the deception of her husband Isaac.  But her brother Laban was also a deceiver.

As Jacob reaches his mother’s home he meets Rachel and immediately falls in love.  He agrees to work for Laban for seven years to be allowed to marry Rachel.  On the wedding night however, Jacob is deceived and the marriage is consummated with Leah in the darkness of the night.

After seeing what has taken place, Laban tells Jacob that tradition is that the oldest daughter must be married first.  Whether that was an actual tradition or not, seven years time would have been an ample amount in order to warn Jacob of this.  Instead, Jacob must work another seven years for Rachel.  The only upside to this ordeal is that he is allowed to marry Rachel “on credit” so to speak and can marry her as soon as the bridal week is completed with Leah.

The deception continues after Jacob has paid his 14 years of service to Laban.  He works for another 6 years and during that time Laban changes his wages 10 times.  Finally it is time to leave Laban but Jacob is afraid of a direct confrontation with his father-in-law so he leaves without warning.  Genesis 31:20 describes the situation succinctly: Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away.

Still there is one final deception involving Laban.  Rachel took her father’s household gods when they left but didn’t tell Jacob this.  There’s no indication why she did this.  They could have been valuable or it may have been a way of getting revenge on her father for the way he treated Jacob.

When Laban catches up to Jacob, because he didn’t know that Rachel had taken the idols, he states that anyone who is found with them will be put to death.  Obviously he would not have made such a statement if he had not been deceived by Rachel and not told about her theft.  Rachel then deceives her father by sitting on the idols and telling him that she can’t get up because she is having her period.

Even though Jacob has been blessed by God and has been following Him in his life, he will have a life changing experience when he wrestles with God.  Then Jacob’s name is changed from deceiver to Israel which means “he struggles with God.”  Jacob is no longer the deceiver that he once was.  But that doesn’t mean that his children still haven’t learned his ways.

Jacob is the victim of one more deception and it is perhaps crueler than any other that he was the cause of or the victim of.  Because of the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers, they sold Joseph into slavery but led Jacob to believe that he had been killed by a wild animal.  They even brought back his infamous coat of many colors covered in blood.

Jacob’s life was surrounded by deception and he was a victim of it as often as he was the culprit.  He had a family heritage of deception and ultimately he paid the price by passing the deception onto his children who ultimately deceived him as well.

The Sacrifice of Isaac

Isaac was born to Abraham at a very old age.  Abraham was 100 years old at his birth while his wife Sarah was just a young 90 years old.  Isaac was the child that God had promised Abraham 25 years beforehand when he called him to leave the land of Ur and to go to a place that he would be shown.  God promised to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and they would possess a tremendous amount of land.

Abraham’s positive response to God by picking up everything and going to a place he had never been didn’t mean that there weren’t bumps along the way.  After about ten years of waiting on the Lord, Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands.  Sarah gave her maidservant Hagar to Abraham to conceive a child for her and Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86 years old.

Another 13 years pass and God speaks to Abraham and essentially tells him that the time has arrived for Him to begin fulfilling the covenant.  While I believe most people would understand considering the circumstances, Abraham had jumped the gun by 14 years.  Even though Ishmael is not the son that God had promised, God promises to make him into a great nation as well.  But Isaac would be the son of promise and the covenant that God had made to Abraham would be fulfilled through him and not Ishmael.

This sets the stage for Genesis 22 where God speaks to Abraham and asks for a sacrifice to be made.  God doesn’t ask for just any sacrifice but he asks that Abraham sacrifice his only son.  There is an obvious parallel here between the sacrifice of Isaac and God sacrificing His only Son.  One can imagine the great difficulty Abraham must have had when he was asked to give up his only son.  But God the Father must have had the same difficulty in giving up His only Son.

One might try to argue that God knew what would happen to Jesus and the decision to sacrifice His Son was easier for this reason.  There was obviously no faith required on God’s part.  But this also meant that God sent His Son into the world knowing exactly what Jesus would endure in life and in death.

While Abraham was certainly ready to sacrifice his son, he also expected to receive him back from the dead.  Abraham’s faith had grown since the time that he and Sarah had taken matters into their own hands and Ishmael was born.  Abraham knew that God’s promise was fulfilled through Isaac and that even if Isaac was sacrificed he couldn’t remain dead because there was a covenant between him and God.

Hebrews 11:17-19 tells of Abraham’s faith:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Abraham is told to go to the region of Moriah and he will make an offering on a mountain that God will show him.  As one may expect, this area is not a random selection by God but rather a very important place.  Mt. Moriah is one of several mounts that make up, or rather will make up after Abraham’s time, the city of Jerusalem.  So Abraham is instructed to travel to the site where Jerusalem will be in order to make the sacrifice.

But there is more significance than this.  Mt. Moriah is also where Solomon’s temple will be located and the sacrifices for sin would be performed.  It will be the location of the holy of holies, the most sacred part of the temple where the Ark of the Covenant resides and the presence of God Himself will be.

Through no coincidence I am sure, Mt. Moriah is also likely to be the place that Jesus hung on the cross.  You might wonder how that could possibly be if the temple was there but there are two very easy ways that this could be the case.  The first is that Solomon’s temple was destroyed.  Where Herod’s temple was built centuries later was not necessarily the exact same spot where Solomon’s temple had been.  The other easy explanation would be that while the temple was big, so are mountains and the temple and the spot of the crucifixion could have been on the same mount.  Realistically though, it is more likely that Herod’s temple was not in the same location as Solomon’s.

When the time comes for the sacrifice Isaac asks where the lamb for the sacrifice was.  I can only imagine that Abraham had to look away with tears in his eyes when he told his son that God would provide the sacrifice.  Of course Abraham is prevented from actually sacrificing his son and God provides a ram to sacrifice in place of Isaac.

If Mt. Moriah is where Jesus would also hang on the cross, then Genesis 22:14 provides a bit of prophetic foreshadowing.  So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Quite literally on that mountain it was provided, Jesus being the once for all sacrifice.  Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son as an offering to God but instead a ram was provided as a substitute.  While Solomon’s temple stood on Mt. Moriah sacrifices were made year after year as an atonement for sin, in order to cover up the sins of the people.  And then finally Jesus was provided as the once for all sacrifice for sin.  No more sacrifices were needed.  The blood of Jesus didn’t just cover up sin like the previous sacrifices did.  Instead it washed it away completely.  God provided it all on Mt. Moriah.

Promises to the Patriarchs

The intent of this writing is not to discuss the life and major events of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but rather to track the promises, blessings, and covenants that were made with the three patriarchs.

Out of all the people on earth, God chose to bless Abraham and his descendants.  Unlike in Noah’s day where Noah was apparently the only righteous person left, there is nothing spectacular about Abraham.  We can assume that he worshipped the Lord before God spoke to Him but he is not the only follower of God at the time.  God may have chosen Abraham because he was a man of great faith or there may be some other reason that Abraham is chosen.  The truth is that we don’t really know why Abraham was chosen by God as opposed to anyone else.  What we do know is that Abraham responded to God’s calling.

In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham to leave his country and family and to go to a place that God will show him.  At that time God makes several promises to Abraham which are found in Genesis 12:2-3:

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

After Abraham picks up his possessions and his family and goes, God makes another promise as they arrive near Shechem in Canaan.  Genesis 12:7 says, “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

Of course there is a small problem with God’s promises because Abraham is 75 years old, his wife is ten years younger at 65, and they have no children.  If Abraham had any doubts about God’s plan early on, they aren’t stated.

In Genesis 13 Abraham and his nephew Lot decide that they can’t stay in the same place because their herds are too large.  Lot moves to the lush land to the east.  After they part ways, God speaks to Abraham again and expands upon the original promise that he was given.  Genesis 13:14-17 says:

14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

Genesis 15 moves from simple promises of God to an actual covenant.  We can trust God to keep His promises but in Genesis 15 a covenant is made which would be the equivalent of a contract today.  This is a guarantee that what God has promised will be fulfilled.

Genesis 15 is the first time that the elephant in the room issue of offspring is addressed.  God promises Abraham that the promises will be passed on to his own flesh and blood and that the inheritance would not just go to a trusted servant as Abraham had apparently believed.  Genesis 15:6 is one of the more important verses of the Bible in that it explains the simplicity of faith to us.

Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

In short, God said it, Abraham believed it, and that faith was rewarded.  This chapter doesn’t just address the issue of offspring however.  It once again renews the promise of land.  This is where God makes a covenant with Abraham and the promise of land is expanded.  Genesis 15 ends with verses 18-21.

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—  the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites,  Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

If you look carefully, this land stretches down to Egypt and over to the Euphrates river in modern day Iraq.  The nation of Israel has never occupied all of this land.  There are three things that we can do with this promise then.  The first would be to dismiss it; God got it wrong and Israel just never became as great as was promised.

The second option is to spiritualize it.  There are many who believe that God is through working with Israel because they rejected their Messiah.  Therefore all of the promises that were given to Israel are being fulfilled or will be fulfilled within the church.  I personally believe that there are some problems with this view but that is a whole other topic.

The third option is to maintain that this is a literal promise that has yet to be fulfilled.  It’s much easier to see this being fulfilled since 1948 when Israel became a nation again.  If I had to guess, this won’t be fulfilled literally until the Millennial Kingdom but I could be wrong.  In the 1930’s or even the early 1940’s I’m sure that no one saw a way in which Israel would become a nation again so anything could happen.  Just know that this covenant has not been completely fulfilled if you take it literally.

Genesis 17 has another covenant given.  The covenant of circumcision is instituted.  God’s promise is expanded once again when Abram and Sarai are given new names, Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham is told that nations would come from him as well as kings.  He is also told that the covenant would be an everlasting covenant and his possession of the land would be an everlasting one.

Genesis 17 also tells us that God will bless Ishmael even though he is not the child that God had promised Abraham.  He and Sarah would yet have their own son at their old age.  Ishmael would be made great and would be blessed but God’s covenant would be with Isaac who would be born within a year.

In Genesis 22 Abraham is tested and called upon to sacrifice his son Isaac.  God spares Isaac and blesses Abraham once again by saying that his descendants would capture the cities of their enemies and that all nations on earth will be blessed through his offspring.  Originally God told Abraham that all people would be blessed through him, now they will be blessed through his offspring.  There is a present day blessing that surrounds Abraham and his descendants but ultimately this is a prophecy that Jesus would be a descendant of Abraham.

Not much is said about Isaac.  Only a few chapters of Genesis focus on him compared to Abraham and Jacob.  God renews His covenant with Isaac in Genesis 26 while there is a famine in the land and Isaac contemplated leaving for Egypt.  Instead God tells him to remain in the land where he will be blessed.

Isaac has two sons, Jacob and Esau.  God says that there are two great nations within Rebekah’s womb but one would be greater than the other.  It is Jacob who would be the greater nation.  We know that he bought the birthright from his brother Esau for a bowl of soup and that he deceitfully stole his father’s blessing.  More importantly though, Jacob is the one whom God will bless and to whom the covenant will be passed on.

Jacob must flee from his brother’s wrath over the stolen blessing and as he does so, God speaks to him in a dream at Bethel.  Genesis 28:13-15 records God’s words to Jacob.

13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

God is with Jacob over the next 20 years as he marries Leah and Rachel and fathers 11 of his 12 sons in that time.  After Jacob leaves Laban to return to his homeland he receives word that his brother Esau is coming to meet him.  Fearing the worst he sends his family away and cries out to the Lord for help.  Genesis 32 doesn’t record another confirmation of God’s covenant but is still significant because Jacob wrestles with God on that night.  Jacob will not let go until he is blessed.  His blessing was a new name.  Instead of being called Jacob, he would be called Israel which means “he struggles with God.”

Finally in Genesis 35, God speaks to Jacob once again at Bethel and blesses him and reconfirms the covenant one more time.  Assuming that this is written chronologically this last blessing is important because Genesis 35 also tells of Israel’s final son Benjamin being born.  But with joy also comes sorrow because Rachel dies while giving birth.  Israel’s family is now complete but at the cost of beloved wife.

The chapter then closes with the death of Isaac.  While Isaac thought that he was dying many years before as he called his sons to him, he has hung on for at least another 20 years.  But finally at the age of 180 he dies.  Thus the blessings and covenant are officially passed on to Israel where they will be fulfilled in his twelve sons.

Who or What are the Nephilim?

The story of the Nephilim is one of the more bizarre stories in the Bible.  If you enjoy stories such as Greek mythology you’re probably a fan of this story as I am.  The difference is that the story of the Nephilim is a true story unlike the stories of mythology.  The issue is what the story actually means and how literally should we interpret it.

In Genesis 6 we’re given an account of how wicked the world had become by the time of Noah.  In Genesis 6:1-3 we’re told that the earth is wicked and that God had numbered the days of humanity at 120 years.  But why were they considered so wicked?  We’re only given a few clues.

“When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.  Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.’”

The problem appears to be that the sons of God are intermarrying with the daughters of men.  But who are these two parties?  There are two commonly given answers.  The first is that the sons of God are those who are following God while the daughters of men are the pagans who have rejected God.  This is an intermarrying of faiths or what we might call being unequally yoked.  It is an understandable problem and one can see how the sons of God would be led away from God through this intermarrying.

The other possibility is that the sons of God are not human but rather angels who are fallen.  This is a problem on a whole other level than just an intermarrying of faith.  If this is taking place, women would be giving birth to essentially demonic children.  It is the kind of story that serves as the main plotline for a horror movie.

Some will immediately dismiss the notion of fallen angels marrying humans as absurd or impossible.  Some point to Matthew 22:30 that angels don’t marry.  Jesus said, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”  Some have mistakenly taken this verse to mean that angels are neuter in gender and/or that they can’t marry.  Jesus never said that angels can’t marry, only that they don’t marry.  There is apparently no need for marriage in heaven.

But if these are indeed fallen angels, they wouldn’t follow the rules of heaven.  Likewise, while there is no need for marriage in heaven, these angels would be here on earth.  So as they interact with humans they would take part in human activities, marriage being one.

It is at least theoretically possible that these are fallen angels that are called the sons of God.  Or they are religious followers of God on earth.  The next verse gives us reason why we should believe one or another.

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

The Nephilim are the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men.  If these are simply human offspring, they are particularly wicked as a product of their parents.  There have always been mixed marriages of the religious and non-religious, so this must be a special construct that is particularly wicked if the offspring are worthy of their own separate classification.

The biggest hang up with this theory of the Nephilim is why this offspring are the heroes of old, the men of renown.  This would seem to imply that there is something physically special and impressive about these offspring and there is no reason to reach this conclusion if these are just the product of a godly parent and an ungodly one.

On the other hand, if they are the offspring of an angel and a human, it makes good sense why they would have impressive physical qualities as well as requiring their own classification.  But is this just pure speculation?  In Greek mythology there are similar tales of gods having children to earthly women and it is possible that this is the true source of such myths.  Stories of demigods would have some slight basis in reality if that were the case.

There is more reason to believe this rather than just the fact that it is similar to some mythology.  In 1 Peter 3 there is a very odd allusion to the story of Noah.  Verses 19-20 state   After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

Jesus is making a proclamation to imprisoned spirits from the days of Noah.  It does not say that these spirits are angels here.  It is possible that these are the spirits of the wicked specifically from Noah’s day, but why single out those from all of the wicked in history through Jesus’ day?  2 Peter gives us a better indication that these just might be angels to whom Jesus is making a proclamation.

2 Peter 2:4

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;

We know that Satan took a third of heaven’s angels with him when he fell.  We also know that there are still fallen angels, we refer them commonly as demons, in the world today.  So the angels who sinned and have already been punished can’t be just a reference to those who rebelled alongside of Satan.  They must have done something so heinous that God sent them to hell before the rest of the demons.

Now we’re onto something.  I can’t be sure, so this still amounts to little more than reasoned speculation, but I believe that the Nephilim are the half-demon offspring of fallen angels.  It feels absurd and a bit scary as well, but no more than the reality that demons are real and influence our world today.  There are a group of angels that did something so terrible that God locked them away before the rest of the demons.  I believe that marrying humans and having children with them would certainly meet those criteria.

Although it feels more logical that the sons of God are just followers of God who are led astray by pagans, I don’t believe that this is the logical conclusion that we can reach based on what we’re told in Genesis 6.  This story is one right out of the pages of mythology and it seems absolutely incredible.  But on the other hand, so does the story of the world being so evil that God had to destroy it with a flood and we have no problem believing that.  So just maybe the Nephilim are something that seems too crazy to exist but actually did.

Why did people live so long in Genesis?

When you look at the life spans that are recorded in the book of Genesis it is easy to dismiss them as something that is an exaggeration or otherwise unbelievable.  In short, no one lives nearly that long today with all of our medical knowledge.  So why should we believe the biblical account that tells of tremendously long life spans?

For starters, the incredible life spans pretty much end after the flood.  We can’t know for sure how much the world physically changed as a result of the flood.  I’m not talking about just damage that was done as a result of floodwaters but physical properties of the earth that may have been different from today.  We simply can’t know how things were changed but we can speculate based on what the Bible tells us and some of what science is telling us as well.

Odds are good that the supernaturally long life spans are a result of a combination of many things.  So, what are the things that could have contributed to an exceptionally long life?  The first is that God is supernaturally expanding people’s life spans.  God keeps people alive longer so that they populate the earth.  With a normal life span and normal child bearing years, Eve may have been able to have between 20-40 kids.  I give that big range because Eve would have been an adult at creation and could have immediately started bearing children.  But of course perhaps she also starts aging like an adult from the beginning in which case when she would be 20 years old, perhaps she has the physical body of a 35-40 year old.  Whatever the case may be, even on the high end things with 40 children, it will be several generations before there is a sizable population on earth.  Can God wait out the natural process for the earth to be populated?  Of course.  But it is quite possible that God grants long lives in the beginning for the purpose of speeding up the population of earth.

The second possible explanation for long lives is genetics.  In short, there is a longevity gene.  Noah is the last to have it before it is lost with the flood.  He passes it on to his children, but they only receive half of the benefits because they don’t receive it from their mother.  Their half gene is then passed on to their children who only have one quarter of the benefits as Noah.  This would explain why the ages rapidly decrease and at a rate that is essentially halving every generation.  If you look at the generations following Noah, they are roughly half of Noah and then half again the following generation.

The third explanation is the environment before the flood.  Going back to the second day of creation, we should note what takes place.

Genesis 1:6-8

 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.”  So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so.  God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

We know that the air contains moisture and that clouds are a collection of water in tiny droplets but this appears to be more.  At creation, the earth is more like a tropical rain forest that does not need rain because of the canopy of water overhead.  Genesis 2:4-6 gives more indication as to what all of this looked like.

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens-  and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.

There was no rain and the earth essentially took care of itself because of the streams that sprung up and the moisture in the air.  The thick atmosphere served as protection from the sun and numerous harmful things like radiation which we know about now.  There is no telling what kinds of diseases did not exist because it could not live in such an environment.  Obviously fewer diseases mean fewer things to die from.

There is one more likely difference that contributed to long lives and that is atmospheric pressure.  The water in the air weighs more than simple oxygen and thus creates more pressure.  Scientists have researched this and believe that the atmospheric pressure was possibly double what it currently is.  Now I couldn’t begin to tell you how that is a benefit aside from the fact that it apparently is.  If you’re interested, there are all kinds of research into how greater atmospheric pressure my help the body heal.  Hyperbaric chambers are designed specifically to increase the pressure around the body which helps with oxygen in the bloodstream.  Football players have started using these in their homes to recover from injuries.  The medical community is using them for everything from treating burns, to carbon monoxide poisoning, to healing crush injuries.  There are also studies being conducting regarding the use of hyperbaric chambers for the treatment of autism and even certain types of hearing loss.  In other words, the world before the flood could have been an environment that allowed the body to heal itself much better than today.  If the body is capable of healing itself better, longer life spans would naturally follow.

As a man of faith I don’t have a problem just believing the ages given in the Bible as truth.  The Bible is full of miraculous events so I don’t have any difficulty accepting supernaturally long life spans.  But I also believe that God uses natural phenomenon to accomplish incredible things as well and there are some natural things that could have been different about the ancient world that would have led to much longer lives.  Whatever the case may be, the incredible life spans drop off after the flood so that by the time of Abraham people were living roughly as long as we do today.  God may have still blessed people with long lives but it was a matter of 110 or 120 years which isn’t unbelievable compared to the 7,8, or 900 years before.

Cain and Abel: A Lesson in Worship

The story of Cain and Abel is one of the more tragic stories of the Bible because Abel’s death seems so needless.  The story is more than just an intense sibling rivalry however.  To view it as just a matter of jealousy or the first murder in the Bible is really missing the point.

The story of Cain and Abel is in Genesis 4, immediately following the fall of man.  One way of looking at this story is to see how quickly sin grows and escalates.  Yeast is used in the Bible as a picture of sin because of the way it grows and this is definitely what Genesis 4 shows.  Even though a number of years pass for Cain and Abel to be born and grow into men, the narrative of Genesis goes from a relatively innocent sin of eating forbidden fruit to murder in the following chapter.

The real story of Cain and Abel is a matter of worship however.  And it is a very important matter that I believe the church doesn’t always get.  Take a look at verses 2-4 of Genesis 4.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.

If this were the first time you read this passage, you might not think that there was anything wrong here.  Cain and Abel both brought an offering to the Lord in accordance with their occupation.  But there are two things wrong with Cain’s sacrifice.

We’re not told in Genesis 4 why Cain’s sacrifice is wrong, but we know elsewhere in the Bible that sacrifices involve the shedding of blood.  This may seem barbaric to our modern sensibilities but all of the blood sacrifices pointed to the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross.  It is reasonable to believe that Cain and Abel both knew that an acceptable sacrifice was a blood sacrifice because this is the sacrifice that was established in Genesis 3 after the fall of man.

Adam and Eve’s fig leaves did not cover their spiritual nakedness even though it may have physically covered their bodies.  God had to provide the skin of an animal to cover them which meant that blood had to be shed to cover their nakedness.  Cain and Abel would have known this story and it is likely that all sacrifices were to involve the shedding of blood.  So that being the case, Cain’s sacrifice is not acceptable to God.

We often like to tell God how we’re going to worship Him rather than listen to how He demands to worship.  It’s not an audible thing but in our actions and attitudes we tell God that we’re not getting up too early to worship, because Sunday is our only day off.  Or maybe we declare that we can only give a certain amount of money because money is tight and bills are due and God understands.  Or maybe we tell God that we aren’t going to attend a church that sings boring hymns or we aren’t going to attend a radical one where people raise their hands.  We often tell God how we will and won’t worship Him rather than seeking out how He desires to be worshipped.

There is another thing that makes Cain’s sacrifice unacceptable however.  It is subtle but the text tells us that Cain gave some of the fruits of the soil.  Later on God established a sacrifice known as firstfruits but this is not the case here.  This isn’t the first of Cain’s harvest.  It’s not said or even implied that it’s the best of the harvest.  It’s probably the leftovers.  It’s probably whatever would have otherwise gone to waste anyway.  It is just some fruit.

Now compare that sacrifice to Abel’s.  Abel did bring the firstborn of his flock and it is the best portions, the fat portions.  It isn’t a sickly animal that he had no use for, instead it is the best that he had.

Attitude matters as much as what we give.  Paul tells us to be cheerful givers.  I believe in a ten percent tithe and I believe that God blesses those who do so.  But people should give to the Lord because they want to do so and not because I instructed them to do so.  If you give ten percent to church because you feel obligated to do so, you’re not going to be blessed as if you gave it freely.

So God confronts Cain about his sacrifice.  Picking up in the middle of verse 4 it says:

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,  but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

It is implied here that Cain has done wrong with his sacrifice.  His sacrifice is not acceptable and he knew it.  As I already said, I think that Cain knew that the physical substance of the sacrifice was not what God wanted but I also believe that the attitude towards the sacrifice is not one of thanksgiving.  It is a begrudging sacrifice that is probably just given out of a sense of duty.

The story ends unhappily.  Cain kills his brother Abel.  There is probably jealousy involved and there is undoubtedly anger as well.  Cain has no reason to be angry with his brother because Abel gave a proper sacrifice.  God didn’t play favorites with Abel so there is no reason to be jealous.  If Cain had done as he should have done, he would have been accepted by God as well.  But he didn’t and he is cursed and given a mark so that no one kills him.

I’ll very briefly address two areas of controversy in this passage before I close.  We have no idea what this mark is.  Some people have said that God made Cain black as his mark and therefore dark skinned people are descendents of Cain.  I’ll just say that there is no reason to conclude that based on this passage.  It would in some way explain the hardships that dark skinned people have endured if they were in fact cursed but that would also somehow excuse the atrocities that they have suffered at the hands of light skinned people as we would say they somehow deserved it.  So, I think that to say Cain’s mark is one of skin color is a dangerous assumption that shouldn’t be made.

The other question that people like to ask is “where did Cain get his wife?”  Of course the question is valid for all of the early generations that are descended from Adam and Eve.  We are only told of three children that Adam and Eve had but they undoubtedly had many.  Given their supernaturally long lifespans, God may very well have extended Eve’s child bearing years and it is at least possible that she had hundreds of children.  That’s purely speculation on my part.  And of course those children would have children and could have started to do so as soon as puberty began.  Mathematically there could be a sizeable population in a short number of years.

Genetics is the real issue though.  It is immoral, illegal, and disgusting to have sex with a relative today.  But in Cain’s day it was a different culture and we see this even later on in Genesis.  More importantly though, there is a reason why relatives can’t have children with one another today.  Our genetics are too similar and birth defects are likely.  Adam and Eve carried the genetics for the entire human race however.  One child may be born with blond hair and blue eyes while the next may have a dark complexion with dark hair and brown eyes and the third child may have a fair complexion with red hair and green eyes.  Adam and Eve’s children would have been genetically diverse unlike our children today.  So even though the thought of marrying a sister or cousin makes us cringe today, it wasn’t immoral then and there wouldn’t have been the harm that we have today.

The Fall of Man: Satan’s Tactics

The fall of man obviously isn’t good news for humanity.  Man was given a perfect world to live in and we royally messed it up.  Perfection was destroyed and the result was the world that we see now.  Ever since the fall of man, God has been working to restore the perfection that was present in the Garden of Eden.

Even though the outcome was anything but good, there is a lot that we can learn from the story of the fall of man.  Satan’s tactics haven’t changed any since the serpent tempted Eve so if we learn from this story we learn what to expect virtually any time that we are tempted.

Genesis 3:1 begins “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?””

There is debate whether the serpent is actually Satan, if it is controlled by Satan, whether it is a metaphor for Satan, etc.  I’m not really concerned about that debate right now.  Regardless whether this is actually Satan or a devil like creature, it uses the same tactics as Satan.  And I will interchangeably refer to the serpent as the devil just to clear up any confusion.

The serpent starts by questioning God.  This is a very indirect approach here.  And that is the power of the attack.  Satan doesn’t come out and declare that God’s rules are stupid.  But what he does is get Eve to start wondering about the rules that God has given.  Why is this one tree forbidden?  What is so special about one particular tree?  What is she potentially missing out on?  Why would God place something in the garden that was forbidden?

Eve tells the serpent that they are forbidden to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden and that they will die if they do.  The serpent’s response is another classic tactic of Satan.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan constantly twists God’s words.  He tells half truths.  In short, he deceives.  Jesus called Satan the Father of Lies so this tactic shouldn’t be at all surprising to us.  Eating from the tree would bring about spiritual death and it would bring about spiritual death.  What the serpent declares is that eating the fruit would not bring about immediate death which was true.  The death it did bring was far worse than immediate death but of course he’s not going to reveal that.

Satan loves to twist God’s words and confuse us with double talk and nonsense.  Is it any wonder how Christians could all have the same Bible but have so many different interpretations of God’s teachings?  There is only one right interpretation of what the Bible says but there are many different views on everything from birth control to homosexuality.  Satan twists and confuses the issue and he does so from the beginning with Eve.

The second part of what the serpent tells Eve is completely true but still told with the intent to deceive.  In church we constantly teach that we are striving to be like Jesus, to be holy like God.  But while Adam and Eve still had their innocence, they did not want to be like God.  To have the knowledge of good and evil was a curse, not a blessing.  But of course it is sold as a blessing that God has been withholding from Eve.

The fall of man is recorded quite simply but there’s a lot that happens in Genesis 3:6.  When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Eve saw that the fruit was good for food.  I can’t be certain of it, but I assume that Eve looked at the fruit and compared it to the other fruit that she had eaten.  It looked like other fruit that she had eaten and had no consequences from eating.  It’s not like this fruit was covered in spikes or had anything to indicate that this was bad aside from the fact that she had been told to avoid it.  Sin often looks the same as non-sinful things.  Or in other words, it seems like a perfectly good idea beforehand.  Only after the fact does sin seem like a bad idea.

We also see that the fruit was pleasing to the eye.  Satan sells us a lot of things because they are pleasing to the eye.  Not only does sin not appear to be harmful, it looks good.  There is something that is enticing about sin because we’re convinced that not only will it not be bad for us but that it is something that we should want for our lives.

So we have that the sin is not bad, but also pleasing.  And finally it is sold as beneficial.  There is something to be gained that isn’t just a self satisfying fulfillment of some desire but there is a tangible benefit.  One can imagine Eve’s thought process as she fell for this deception.

The fruit is commonly pictured as an apple.  We have no indication what it actually was but let’s just use an apple as our image.  Eve sees the apple hanging on the tree.  She realizes that this fruit looks similar to the other fruits that she’s eaten before and had no ill effects, so there’s a good chance that it’s not poisonous like she had been led to believe.  And the apple looks good.  It’s shiny.  It looks like it is crispy but juicy when you bite into it.  It looks like something that she’d enjoy eating.  And then finally there’s the fact that this fruit will make her wiser.  How can you pass up an unharmful, delicious looking fruit that will make you wiser?

And after Eve ate some, she gave Adam some to eat as well.  I won’t go into it in any depth, but we always speak of Adam as being the source of sin and not Eve.  The short answer is that Eve was deceived when she sinned while Adam should have known full well that what he was doing was wrong.  This doesn’t mean that we are off the hook if we sinned and didn’t know better or were deceived into doing so.  Eve is still punished for her sin.  Adam takes the full blame here because his was a willful sin without deception or coercion of any kind.  With Adam’s sin there is also a matter of seminal headship and federal headship which I won’t really get into.  That’s a different theological discussion.

Eve got exactly what she wanted and what the serpent told her would happen.  Her eyes were opened in verse 7 but the result was not what she wanted.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Adam and Eve’s new found knowledge tells them that they are naked.  They are physically naked so they sew fig leaves together.  But those fig leaves can’t cover up their spiritual nakedness so they attempt to hide from God in the garden.  Of course they are not hidden from God and He knows of their sin.  Judgment will come upon Adam, Eve, and the serpent.  But rather than end on a negative note, I’ll close with a positive note.  Despite all of the ugliness that occurs with the first sin, there is still some good news.

Genesis 3:15 is what is known as the protoevangelium, or first gospel.  Adam and Eve need some good news now that they have sinned.

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.

This is the announcement that Jesus, the offspring of the woman, was going to come and crush the head of the serpent.  Fig leaves couldn’t do anything to deal with the spiritual nakedness that Adam and Eve had so God gave them the permanent solution in Jesus.

Looking at a literal six day creation

There is an obvious debate over whether the biblical account of creation is true or not.  I think that part of this debate is blown out of proportion while another part is perhaps oversimplified.  In short, if you don’t believe the Bible, you really have no reason to believe in creation.  People who don’t must come up with some theory on our origin and evolution is the most popular theory to explain our existence.

That’s the part that I believe is overblown.  Why should I expect non-religious people to hold to an obviously religious theory of our origin?  I’m using the word religious here because Christians and Jews both follow the Old Testament and have the same creation story as a part of our heritage.  However there are many religions that have some kind of creation story as well.  I, as a Christian, hold to a Christian interpretation of the creation story.  My point is, why would someone who holds no value for a creation story choose to believe it over supposedly scientific theories?  We shouldn’t be surprised that non-religious people don’t want to be taught a religious theory of our origin any more than religious people don’t want theories taught that appear to contradict their religious beliefs.

So, with that in mind, I’m not trying to debate or convince a non-religious person that the biblical story of creation is the correct one.  My goal today is to discuss what the Bible says about the story of creation and how Christians should go about interpreting it.  This is where I think things have been oversimplified and perhaps we’ve failed in our teaching as a church.

The assumption is that Christians believe in creation and non-Christians believe in evolution.  But there are a number of people who consider themselves Christians who also believe in some form of evolution.  The question is, does the Bible support that.  For starters, there are some people who call themselves Christians who pretty much say, the scientific evidence is overwhelming, the Bible can’t be trusted as far as science is concerned.  This really isn’t a debate for these Christians either.

At the heart of Christianity is the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Science says that people don’t rise from the dead.  Science says that miracles don’t exist.  I am not saying that you ignore everything science says just because you believe the Bible teaches differently.  What I am saying however is that there are obvious contradictions between what the Bible says occurred at times and what science says is possible.  All religions require some amount of faith.  And for that matter, so does science.  We weren’t there to witness creation so we have to believe that it happened as it was recorded.  In the same vein, scientists have not been watching evolution for millions of years.  They deduce their own conclusions based upon only what they can observe in the here and now and hypothesize what it took to bring about what they now see.

So, let’s go back to the Bible.  I won’t read the creation story because it is quite a familiar story to most people but if you haven’t read it in a while, it’s in Genesis 1-2.  One of the things that we are told, and this is probably the most important detail for our debate, is that all of creation was made in six days and that God rested on the seventh day.

Now some people will say, it’s there in black and white, God created in six days.  If you believe the Bible is true, you have to believe in a literal six day creation.  This is obviously the most literal way of interpreting the story.  I will say that I believe in interpreting the Bible as literally as possible except where it is obvious that something is not meant to be literal.

What do I mean by this?  The short explanation would be a case where in the Psalms it may say something like “God will shelter you under His wings.”  This probably should not be interpreted to mean that God literally has wings.  It should be understood as a metaphor for God’s protection.

The creation story, however, is one that can be taken literally without any stretch of the imagination.  But let’s look at a few other possibilities for the sake of argument.  The most popular belief other than a literal six day creation is what is known as theistic evolution.  This is not to be confused with atheistic evolution which denies the existence of God.  Theistic evolution is an attempt to combine what science is telling us and what the Bible says.  Ordinarily I believe that this is an admirable goal because God is the creator of all the science around us.  The things that we can’t explain around us are not unexplainable; we just haven’t explained them yet.

Theistic evolution says that God created us as the Bible says but He used the process of evolution and millions of years to do it.  In theistic evolution, God is still involved in the creation process as He guides our evolution to make us into what we are today.

There is another similar theory to theistic evolution.  It is called the day-age theory.  The day age theory contends that the days of the creation story should not be considered literal days but rather ages.  Each day or rather age is a description of our stage of evolution.

These theories sound good on the surface but you also have to discount certain details of the creation story to fit them in.  On the third day we have the creation of plants and trees.  It is not until the fifth day that we have the creation of animals in the sea and air and finally on the sixth day that we have animals on the land.  At first glance the evolutionist may say that this is in line with what they believe as things become more complex and we even see creatures come up from the water and onto the land.

But here’s the problem with the order of creation and the idea that each day is an age representing millions of years in the evolutionary process.  In short, plants can’t survive without animals.  We know that plants are essential for our survival as they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen so that we can breathe.  But the opposite is also true.  Plants need animals to produce carbon dioxide so that they can breathe.

Furthermore, plants need animals to reproduce.  A few years ago there was some concern because of a big drop in the bee population.  This meant more than just a lack of honey.  Bees are particularly important for pollinating plants so that they can reproduce.  Other insects do this as well, but the point is that plants wouldn’t survive millions of years without pollination.  And of course there are plenty of other benefits that animals provide for plants.

So if you want to believe in creation by evolution you don’t take the creation story literally but you must also discount the order of creation as it is described .  That’s a problem in my book but still others will contend that the story was not meant to be taken literally.

One final theory that I’ll briefly touch upon is the Gap Theory.  This theory contends that there is a large gap in time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

This theory contends that God created everything good in verse 1.  But formless and empty with darkness in verse 2 is an indication that something went wrong.  There’s different interpretations as to what may have happened here.  Some believe that the fall of Satan occurred during this time and that is what had corrupted the world.  Others say that this is when dinosaurs were in the world and that what takes place in the rest of the creation story is actually a “recreation.”

The problem with the gap theory and all of the many permutations it takes is that there’s no reason to conclude any sort of gap between 1:1 and 1:2.  It is purely speculative.  Sure, science says that dinosaurs existed long before man ever did but that can’t be true if creation is a literal six days, but why jump to the conclusion that God then recreated the earth after the dinosaurs?  The Gap Theory takes a whole lot for granted and makes far too many assumptions for me to feel the slightest bit comfortable with the idea.

Obviously I didn’t address all of the theories surrounding the creation story.  I didn’t provide the counter arguments for some theories about theistic evolution.  There’s plenty of science around creation that I didn’t address.  This is simply meant as a brief overview of the topic of creation and what Christians believe about it.  I recommend further investigation on the topic before forming an opinion on the issue.