Prehistory
Creation to Abram
Reading Assignment: Genesis 1-11
Dates: ? to 2091 B.C.

FAQs

1.    What are the words in italics? They are foreign words written in English characters.  The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic.  Theological terms are usually Latin terms. Often times the English equivalent is the word that precedes the slash (/).  The foreign word is sometimes placed between parentheses.
2.    Why do you use those strange English words? Because they are used in the academic discipline we are studying. If you don't understand a word that is used in an article then by all means go to http://dictionary.reference.com/.
3.    Do you (the professor) believe all the things you have us read or what you teach?  Not always.  In fact I may change what I teach tomorrow, if I find out I am wrong.  Not all things are matters of saving faith.  Scripture is true, but I doubt I am 100% correct in understanding and I have a hunch that you are not either.


    The book of Genesis falls into three major sections: The Prehistoric Period, the Patriarchal Period, and the Sojourn in Egypt.  The first of these, the prehistoric period is story of man's earliest ages on the planet earth.  It begins with the creation of the universe and moves in a series of broad strokes to the story of Abraham.  Why Abraham?  The answer is that he is the starting point of Israel's history.  It is from this individual that the Jewish people trace their heritage and find their identity.  We call it prehistoric only because we cannot place accurate dates on the events and because it precedes the main history which is Abraham and his descendants..

    The narrative that leads up to Abraham is terse (sketchy).  It has a limited number of people and events that it wishes to discuss.  For the most part the story will be told through the use of genealogies.  The genealogies should not be used to form a chronology of ancient history because they contain gaps.  Ancient people used these lists to establish links between important people in their past.

    An events importance is oftwn measured by the length of the discourse.  For example the judgment that we call the flood is of greater importance than the dividing of the earth in the days of Peleg.

 I.    Theological Themes:  The stories that are told develop certain theological themes.  The individual stories are often said to be etiological stories.  That means they are stories that are told by the writer to explain something in his world.  For example, if someone would ask the question as to why people speak different languages, then the story of the Tower of Babel would be told.  Why is it all right to eat the flesh of animals if a person choses to do so? Because the God who created man gave Noah and his descendants permission to do so after the flood.

A. Creation:  There are two accounts of creation.  The first account (Genesis 1:1-2:3) is systematic in approach and focuses on the creation of the entire planet.  The second (2:4-25) is a popular account and focuses on a section of the planet which is called the Garden of Eden.  Both accounts present the God (elohim) as the creator of all things.  What one must discover as he studies the text are the main concepts that are presented.
1.    The first point is that God created in an orderly fashion a universe that was very good (tob meod).  It is not portrayed in the text as a Nirvana, a place that is absolutely calm, but as a place that was to be the domain of the creature who bore God's image.  Any harshness that was there could be subdued by man (Gen. 1:28).

2.    Man/adam was the only creature that was made in the image of God (imago dei) and as such was the unique creature in the world.  Man's creation is the most discussed topic in the creation narratives.

a.    He was created a sexual being like other creatures.  He was made as two complementary beings: a male (zakar/stick) and a female (neqebah/crevice) who would fill and rule the world along with their offspring.
b.    They, both the male and female bore the image of God and as such would carry on the task of subduing the chaos which remained in creation.
c.    Man was portrayed not only as the master of the physical world, but of the animals as well.
d.    He was also a moral being who was given freewill, moral guidelines, and desires.
e.    The ultimate purpose of man was to commune in the created order with the creator.
3.    Initially only part of the created order was to be inhabited by man.  God made a garden as man's initial habitat.  It was a special place that  was a safe haven in which man could develop numerically and spiritually before spreading to the rest of the world.
B.    Fall: The Breaking of the Created Order
1.    Man fell into sin through the female being tempted by a creature (a serpent/nahash) who was obviously from another realm.  She in turn got the male to transgress God's command.
a.    How the tempter/serpent became evil is not explained by the text.
b.    The serpent is portrayed as not being God's equal. He was confronted for his actions by Yahweh, cursed above all animals, and was not allowed to make a response in his own defense.  In fact he after this incident he vanishes from the story.
2.    As a result of this "original sin" Man and his world were changed.
a.    Man (Adam)
1.    Man would experience death.
2.    Man was expelled from the garden and would live in a world that was in opposition to his rule.
b.    The woman would experience increased pain in childbearing and her husband will "rule over her".
C.    The theme of the  growth and development of sin is presented twice within the text.  In both cycles the sin starts out simplistically (Adam ate the fruit; Noah got drunk) and ends in a judgment event (flood; confusion of languages). Be sure to note from the class lectures and from the reading of the text how each of the following sinned.
1.  Cycle #1: The people progressively get worse until God judges them by killing them in the flood.
a.    Adam & Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
b.    Cain committed multiple sins
c.    Lamech like Cain committed multiple sins, but two are noteworthy.  The first is that he married multiple wives and thus broke the creation pattern of a man and a woman.  He also killed a person, but instead of fearing the consequences he boasted in a song..
d.    The people of Noah's day (Gn. 6:1-5) reach the zenith of sinning.  There are many questions that arise from the text, but the one that cannot be ignored is that of what they did.
(1)    "They took wives for themselves as many as they chose."
(2)    "Every thought of man's heart was continually evil always."
2.    Cycle #2: Just like the events before the flood sin invades the life of the chosen person and then grows in the lives of his offspring until God must judge them.  In this cycle the judgment is the confusing of languages at the tower of Babel.
a.    Noah:
c.    Nimrod
d.    The People at the Tower of Babel
D.    Judgment and Calamity
1.    Judgment on Individuals
a.     Adam and Eve
b.    Serpent
c.    Cain
2.    Judgment on Mankind
a.    The Curses on Adam and Eve
b.    The Flood
c.    Tower of Babel
3.    Calamities
a.    The Days of Peleg
C.    The Remnant:  The remnant is the idea that within society there are those that are still God's person.
1.    Abel
2.    Enoch
3.    Noah (ham, Shem, & Japheth)
4.    Abram


Study Questions:

1.    Be able to reproduce the creation chart on Geneisis 1:1-2:3 and write a brief discussion of each section of the chart.
2.    How does the second creation story differ from the first? What is that story trying to teach about God's dealings with men.
3.    Discuss the fall story in Genesis 3
4.    Read the Atrahasis Epic which is an ancient creation-flood myth.  Be able to  note the similarities with the Genesis account and the differences as well.
5.    Be able to discuss the "sinners" about which the text tells a story. What did they do that made them sinners.
6.    Be able to draw and label the timeline of this period.  This was given in the class lectures.