Genesis #3 – What is Man?

Today we are part of a civilization that raises its fist up against the One True God.  The vitriol and violence that consumes this generation is a tragedy of epic proportion.  Thinking just of our own country, America sinks under the weight of indulgence in sex and drugs, its blind enthusiasm for horrible moral failures such as abortion and homosexuality, and the individual hedonism that drives our society’s psyche.

It is sobering to be living in that context today as we consider the work of our sovereign God bringing the worlds into existence and then placing man here as the great and gleaming capstone of His creative work.  It’s as if we aren’t reading the text right when He declares us to be in His image!  How can that be?

David expresses that wonder in Psalm 8, and reminds us that even despite our failings, God intends to crown us with glory and enable us to exercise dominion over the world.  We do bend under the weight of that challenge, but it is still our birthright to go to and fro on the earth expressing the greatness of His glorify.

That answers the question:  What is man – what is every man and woman’s primary mission on earth? The answer to that profound question according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism is that we are to “Declare the glory of God”.   You can grab the graphic at the bottom of this page and use it as a computer wallpaper to remind you of this grand assignment.  To Glorify God means to express, ascribe, declare His glory. He already is all that He shall be, we don’t somehow add to His character by glorifying Him. We are in the highest sense “stating the obvious”.
The High Point of Creation

  • Image – By making us in His image, we are self-conscious, personality, cognition, create, love, immortality – a mind
    • Being in God’s image can’t refer to our actual body, since God is spirit
    • We communicate – Unique about our One True God, He is a communicator – e.g. John 1:1,  in the beginning was the Word
    • We have an insatiable desire to create, procreate
    • We have Reason, rational thought
    • Holiness, the desire and capacity to commune with God, spiritual understanding (Job 32:8), functional conscience (Prov 20:27)
  • God breathed
    • Hebrew “ruoc”, meaning “wind”, “spirit” – this is an “anthropomorphism”, God is spirit but sometimes expresses Himself with physical characteristics to help us understand
    • The spiritual work in the physical body of Adam, putting oxygen in the lungs, started his heart pumping, all of the body’s parts working in harmony, all as a result of the “breath of life“,  that is “breathed in life”, expressed by “nephesh” which we translate as “breath” – this Hebrew word is also used for “life” being in the blood (Leviticus 17:11).

The Greatness of God’s Creation

Gen. 2:10-17 – This new paragraph is dedicated to this amazing place called Paradise or the Garden of Eden.  This one place was like a microcosm of all that is expressed by God’s creative power.  He provided for man’s every need and embellished it with the beauty of the natural creation.

From Eden, one river became the source of three more, perhaps originally in what is now eastern Turkey.  The present tense allows that the four rivers may have still existed in Moses’ time, and perhaps Eden as well.   Note the rivers on the map, although there is much uncertainty about their actual locations.  The Pishon is possibly near Arabia/Havilah – the Gihon is possibly the pre-flood Nile, as Cush usually refers to Ethiopia – and the Tigris & Euphrates are associated with Babylon.

Other Passages on Creation

take notes Study Journal
Here are 4 additional great passages that help our understanding of God’s creative work.  Make some notes for each passage.

      • Psa. 33:6-9
      • Prov. 8:22-31
      • Job 38:1-39:30
      • Jn. 1:1-14

A Transition to Man’s History

  • Genesis 2:4 – With the word “account” (NAS) or “generations” (KJV), Moses uses the rather common Hebrew word “toledoth” for the first of at least 10 distinctive times in Genesis to express a move forward in man’s  history – actually in this instance it is uniquely a move from the chronology of creation to the history of man himself – the first major transition in Genesis – the word means “this is the history of…”. Or “what became of…“
  • Moses used this term to introduce new sections throughout Genesis, as a major structural indicator for the book, often related to God’s blessing & cursing

take notes Study Journal
Take a few minutes to look at each of these references in Genesis.  Note for each passage what the transition is “from” and “to”:
2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1 (9); 37:2

The Accounts of Man’s Creation & Fall

There are many ways that we observe unique grammatical “devices” in the Bible’s Old Testament.  One very interesting such device is called a “chiasm”, which is used several times in the Bible.  In Genesis 2:4-3:24, we have a great example of this writing emphasis.  It really is an emphasis, since God inspired Moses to make this content stand out in a special way.

  • This major passage takes through the accounts of Man’s creation and his fall.
  • The chiastic symmetry of the content is expressed with cascading points which are stated in an initial form, and then repeated in a reverse parallel format.
  • The segments of the passage are presented in a logical forward manner, then repeated in reverse, which produces a “mirror” effect; each point is reflected in its “mirror” point with a word or concept; this structure is a great illustration of the richness & complexity of God’s Word
  • A chiastic passage is generally outlined in this fashion:

  • The Tradition of History

    Moses lived around 1500 BC.  See the timeline at the bottom of this study to have an idea of the lifespans and relationships of key people in Genesis.

    In Gen. 17:14, the Lord said to Moses, “write this in a book”.  It would seem that God had already been in the process of revealing to Moses much of the information that we read in Gen. 1-11

      • 34:1, 27, the LORD said to Moses… I will write on the tablets… Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you
      • Think of the processes that God enabled for all of man’s history to be communicated to Moses, by word and written

    Genesis is the “seed plot” of the Bible (J.Vernon Mcgee)

      • The Pentateuch as a whole is what Moses experienced leading the nation
      • The necessary prologue for the Pentateuch is Genesis – especially Gen 1-11 – then the Patriarchal age begins
      • His people needed to know their Sovereign God and understand the great works He accomplished before them
      • The “Primary divide” of the book is Gen.12

Use this outline of Genesis to think through what is being taught as you read through the book.

Where’s the emphasis of the book: chapters 1-11, or 12-50?

    • 11 chapters covers 1800 years which amounts to about 29% of total world history
    • Then Gen. 12-50 covers just  300+ yrs,  which is just 3% of history
    • Conclusion:  God slowed down the Genesis narrative and gave much more detailed history once His covenant with Abraham and His commitment to His people Israel is declared

Genesis Timeline

It is helpful to see the timeline shown below in order to appreciate the interwoven lives of people who lived much longer than we do.

  • Note who is living while Adam was still alive
  • Note who is alive when Noah lived

We can begin to appreciate how the true history of man from Adam’s day into Moses’ lifetime began to be understood.

take notesStudy Questions

  1. Why was Adam & Eve put in the Garden?
  2. How did God know Adam needed a wife?
  3. Why did God make Adam work in the Garden?
  4. How did work change when sent out of the Garden?
  5. Why did God allow the possibility of disobeying?
  6. In Gen.3, why were Adam & Eve tempted?
  7. How is this temptation similar to Satan tempting Jesus in Matt. 4?
  8. What broke their relationship with God?
  9. Do people today face temptation they can’t withstand?
  10. When you fail to stay faithful in obedience, do you hide from God? Or else, what do you do?