Genesis 1-3; Psalm 1
Genesis, along with the rest of the Torah (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are traditionally said to be written by Moses. It is, however, much more likely that these books are a collection of Israelite stories that have been edited together throughout their history. Some scholars argue that the final version, as we have it now, was finished as late as the 5th Century BC.
An exact structure of Genesis is hard to pin down. The book often goes back and forth between characters, to compare and contrast their stories. Below is a simplified structure.
Genesis 1 - Creation of heaven and earth
Genesis 2-3 - Creation and fall of Adam and Eve
Genesis 4-11 - Humanity continues to implode
Genesis 12-50 - God chooses a family to restore humanity
Genesis 12-23 - Abraham’s story
Genesis 24-26 - Isaac’s story
Genesis 25:19-36 - Jacob’s story
Genesis 37-50 - Joseph’s story
There are many themes in this book. Too many to name here. Some key ones are God’s order and purpose for the world, people seeing what they think is good and taking it into their own hands, and God taking what humans mess up and turning it back into good. Let’s jump in.
These first 3 chapters have so much in them you could spend an entire lifetime unpacking them. So here are a few key beats.
In the beginning, the earth was disordered. It was like a lump of clay that had yet to be shaped. So God begins to bring order and beauty out of the disorder. First he divides the day into a period of light (day) and a period of dark (night). Then he divides the earth into sky, land, and sea. He is bringing order to his creation.
Then God begins to populate his creation. He begins with plants and trees, and then populates the sky with the sun, moon and stars. This bring an extra level of order to creation by giving us seasons. This is followed by birds, fish, and animals to populate the sky, seas, and land. Finally he creates a place that is perfectly ordered and beautiful, a garden and places human in it.
He makes these humans in his image, to be like him. Their mission is to use the garden as a model and to expand this order and beauty outwards. To take the whole earth and make it ordered and beautiful. Genesis 1:1-2:3 are to be read as one story. One series of events. It begins with the declaration that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. proceeds to tell us how he made the heavens and earth, and finishes declaring that "the heavens and the earth were finished” and so God rested.
Having given us this broad overview, the writer now zooms in on the creation story to focus specifically on what happened with the creation of humanity. God creates the man from dust and his own Spirit. We are empowered by God’s very Spirit. God then gives the man a decision in the form of a tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The man can journey with God and learn from him what order and beauty look like. Or they can ‘take the fruit’ and decide for themselves what is ‘good’ and beautiful. If they do this however, they will ultimately die because they are stepping out of God’s protection and life giving support. Then realising that man needed a partner in his work, God created the woman.
Unfortunately, as we continue in to Genesis 3 we see the man and woman choose to do things their way rather than God’s way. They are convinced by a talking serpent that they don't need God, and so they take the fruit that was forbidden. Immediately they are filled with the knowledge of all the evil that could be done, and without the wisdom to hold that properly they feel vulnerable and naked.
When God returns to the Garden and finds Adam and Eve, he curses the serpent. This is one of the most important, and least mentioned, parts of this story. God specifically mentions to the serpent that his descendants and the women's descendants will constantly be at war (Genesis 3:15).
If you've heard mentioned of this verse before, it will likely have been as a prophecy towards Jesus, which it is. But before we get that far I want you to fix in your mind two new categories; children of the woman (the image of God), and children of the serpent (beings of chaos and destruction). At different times throughout the Old Testament, and the New, we're going to see humans play the role of children of the woman and children of the serpent at different points.
God then turns to Adam and Eve, and while the word curse is never used he does now tell them the consequences of their action. There is going to be division between them and life is going to be harder. At that, God casts them out of the Garden, away from his presence to the west.
This is often called the fall, but what isn’t as commonly known is that the fall doesn’t stop there. As we’re going to see, the fall really stretches out from chapters 3-11. In some early Jewish writings (the bits written in-between the Old Testament and New Testament) we see that the people during that time saw the fall as a 3-part drop. We’ll have a look at this over the next few days.
While Psalm 1 has no author attributed to it, it falls into the category of Wisdom Psalm (see also Psalms 25; 34; 37; 49; 73; 111; 112; 128). These psalms focus primarily on sharing wisdom with the reader and often reference the Torah or God’s law (the scriptures). The structure of this psalm is interesting, and is known as a chiasm. This is where a passage mirrors itself. This psalm then ends with a comparison between the righteous and the wicked. See below.
(a) Psalm 1:1-2 - A blessed man should not stand in these contexts
(b) Psalm 1:3 - A blessed man is like a well-watered tree
(b) Psalm 1:4 - A wicked man is like chaff
(a) Psalm 1:5 - A wicked man can not stand in these contexts
(c) Psalm 1:6 - The comparison between the righteous and the wicked
The focus of the psalm is to layout the key difference between those who are blessed or happy, and those who are wicked. Those who are blessed avoid anything wicked and take delight in God’s law. They meditate on it. The wicked do not.
As a result, the blessed will be sustained by God’s law and prosper, while the wicked will dry out and perish. Here, right at the start of the book of Psalms, the psalmist is laying two paths before you. Are you going to join with many before you as they have meditated on God’s law to write these psalms, or are you going to ignore or reject them? One leads to life and prospering with God. The other to death.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.