Genesis 1 & 2
Genesis 1 and 2
The first chapters in the book of Genesis are arguably the most important passages in scripture (Brueggemann, 2010, p. 11). A correct understanding of these chapters can only be obtained by viewing them in the greater context of the entire Bible (ibid). Without proper historical markers to guide (ibid), exegesis can be challenging. This challenge is not without reward, and the diligent will gain a clearer understanding of what God has to say about creation and its timeless application.
Genesis chapters 1 and 2 record several key concepts that are integral to understanding the rest of scripture. A reader must acknowledge God as the Creator and 'let God be God' (Duvall & Hays, 2012, p. 349). Genesis' footing, or pre -foundation, addresses the notion of the singularity of God as Creator and His paramount love and interest for humanity (Wenham, 1987). Due to His preoccupation with humanity, it is no surprise that He chose to give mankind a special directive separate and distinct from other forms of creation (ibid). This paper provides an exegetical analysis of Genesis chapters 1 and 2 and concludes that God is sovereign and has mandated men to have dominion over the earth.
Grasping the Text in Their Town
Possibly written in the 5th or 6th century B.C., Genesis stands as one of the older books in the Bible (Barton & Muddiman, 2001, p. 37). Genesis is perhaps the most important book in canonized scripture and holds the lens through which one should read the rest of the Bible (Brueggemann, 2010, p. 11). Understanding Genesis requires the reader to know the historical and cultural context when it was written 2500 years ago.
Genesis 1 and 2 is a narrative that tells the story of creation. Although contested, it is commonly believed that Moses penned the words of how God systematically shaped the world as it is presently known (Robinson, 2008, p. 97). Genesis 2 expounds upon the creation of the first man and woman.
Genesis answers many philosophical questions, including how evil entered into the world (Brueggemann, 2010, p. 11), and how the world was created. The main question addressed by the first two chapters of Genesis deals with the relationship between the Creator and the creation (Brueggemann, 2010, p. 12). This central question is the foundational crux addressing human authority, power, order, and freedom (ibid). To understand humanity, one must understand the Creator: and in order to understand the Creator, one must understand humanity (p. 13). A proper understanding of God requires the knowledge that He has no rival and is the singular Creator (Wenham, 1987).
Genesis is at odds with many of the Near East views of the supernatural world at the time it was written (Carson & et al., 1994). It is both a story of creation and political treaties, describing the framework for Hebrew thought and morality (ibid). Although several other stories of creation and the great flood were around at the time Genesis was written, it is doubtful that the author had come in contact with those other tales (ibid).
Measuring the Width of the River to Cross
The main points Genesis addresses were concerns of the ancient world that are not at the top of the list of issues for modern readers (Wenham, 1987). In a world of polytheists, Genesis was most concerned with the unity of one God (ibid). Modern readers looking into Genesis are more interested in other implications (ibid). Christians reading Genesis often bring the basic framework of a sinful man and an omnipotent God into account, failing to appreciate the radical views of a single deity the scripture advocated for at the time of its writing (ibid).
Because the starting points of the modern readers and ancient readers are so diverse, modern readers can miss the main points of Genesis 1 and 2 (Wenham, 1987). When the main points of Genesis 1 and 2 are kept in mind, more light can be shed on the subsequent chapters, adding detail and depth to different supporting stories (ibid). Genesis shows the graciousness of God and emphasizes the promises made to the patriarchs (ibid). With these two concepts in mind, a more comprehensive understanding about the nature of God and His relationship to humanity can be garnered.
Crossing the Principlizing Bridge
The first two chapters establish God as the sovereign law giver who loves and cherishes mankind (Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown, 1871). Modern society often rejects the concept that 'God is God and I am not' (Sire, 1990). Humanity still struggles with the sovereignty of God and His authority as lawgiver. This is the struggle that determines if one places any faith in the rest of the Bible. Genesis plainly shows one sovereign, one creator (Wenham, 1987) and just as Adam and Eve, modern society struggles with submission to external, objective authority in favor of pseudo-authority in close proxy. Stanley Milgram (1978) agrees with this assessment when he argues that humanity is hardwired to obey those who are perceived as authority figures (p. xx, 10), and are more prone to immoral obedience by perceived authority figures who are in close physical proximity.
Biblical Maps and Modern Life
The idea that God is both the sovereign Creator and greatly desires a connection with humanity (Wenham, 1987) is echoed throughout the Bible. The entire Old Testament builds toward the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The idea that God is sovereign, the Creator, and is deeply interested in the activities of every human is crucial to the message of Christianity. To have the understanding that 'God is God and I am not' (Sire, 1990) is the very foundation of Christian identity. Holding God's word as the objective touchstone where one can draw direction, hope, and instruction all rests on the same principles advocated in Genesis 1 and 2.
Contemporary Leadership Application and Analysis
God has placed man in a global leadership role by giving him dominion over all the earth (Brueggemann, 2010, p. 11). Man was meant to be the caretakers of the earth, laboring to fulfill the commandments of God. In leadership today, those who hold power over others are likewise caretakers of their micro-dominion. Leaders are to engage in caretaking, expanding upon their particular areas of influence.
Man's original design gave him dominion, but not the right to tyranny. As a caretaker, man was required to work to improve or idealize what was under his care. Man was commanded to subdue the earth and bring it under his control (Wenham, 1987). Man was given the objective of control and thereby leadership; a design to be used as the caretaker and nurturer of the earth (ibid).
Biblical depictions of leadership are often not focused on the particular traits of a leader, but rather how a leader handles certain situations (Wildavsky & Hazony, 2005, p. 4). The first chapters of Genesis deal with foundational aspects of the biblical definition of great leadership: the divine mandate and the responsibility of men to be caretakers. The individual traits of a leader are secondary to how well one fulfills these two concepts.
In the first few verses of Genesis 1, creation as a whole is seen as a unity (Brueggemann, 2010, p. 11). It is not until the creation of man that a hierarchy arises between the diverse creations (ibid). Humanity is seen as superior and especially crafted to 'order, rule, and care' for other creations (ibid). The scriptural text cares foremost about humanity and discusses other creations only within their relation to humans (p. 12).
The phrase 'in the beginning' denotes a timeless age, long before the age of man (Jamieson et al., 1871). This phrase begins the prologue to the ten divisions of Genesis (Wenham, 1987). The first two chapters hold the key to understanding the rest of the Bible (ibid). The carefully arranged order of God's creation was made manifest over 6 days with 8 distinct actions (ibid). God asserted Himself in the very first verse of the Bible, 'sweeping aside' atheism, polytheism, and pantheism (Phillips, 2001, p. 36).
The second verse begins to narrow down the focus from the universe to the earth itself. Here, the earth is described before life and light were created (Wenham, 1987). The verse describes the power of God hovering over the water in preparation for more creative acts (ibid).
Verses 3-5 denote God as not just the Creator, but also as law giver (Wenham, 1987). Not only does God separate light from dark and day from night, but in the consecutive verses, He begins to set the natural order and roles of the diverse species within His creation (ibid). Therefore, for species to act within their natural order, they must adhere to the directives of the Creator (ibid). These creations were bent to the will of God, following His commands explicitly (ibid). This absolute subjection is denoted in the phrase 'and it was so' (ibid).
The latter part of the first chapter sheds light on the role and true nature of mankind (Wenham, 1987). Humanity was at the apex of the created order and the caretaker of the earth; everything on the earth was made for the benefit of mankind (ibid). While the animals were given the command to multiply, man was given the command to subdue the earth (ibid).
The Garden of Eden is a simple narrative that offers mankind a choice; to serve Almighty God, or to serve man's own ingenuity (Wildavsky & Hazony, 2005, p. 31). The main message extrapolated from this text is that God is the Creator, yet man created evil (ibid). It is because of this evil that God sent mankind on the first exodus, which was expulsion from the Garden (p. 32).
Genesis 2 describes the care that God took in creating man in a perfect environment (Wenham, 1987). This passage indicates God's love for, as well as His sovereignty over, mankind (ibid). The phrase 'LORD God' used in verse 4 conveys God's sovereignty and his covenant-like relationship to humanity (ibid).
The two trees specifically mentioned in verse 9, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, hold specific importance. The tree of life granted man immortality while the tree of knowledge granted man access to wisdom (Wenham, 1987). Man was allowed to eat of the tree of life, but was restricted from eating of the tree of knowledge (ibid). The presupposition here is that once man gains wisdom, he will no longer have the ability to engage in a trusting relationship with the Creator (ibid).
In verse 18 God recognized that 'it is not good for man to be alone' (Carson & et al., 1994). God then brought each beast of the earth before Adam to name, yet this action did not meet the needs of companionship (ibid). At this point, God created woman, and while she was meant to compliment man, she was of equal nature with man (ibid).
To be a biblical leader, one must focus on handling situations in a way that brings glory to the divine directive given by God in the book of Genesis (Wildavsky & Hazony, 2005, p. 4). The directive included the notion that God is sovereign Creator and that man is to subdue and tend the earth. When a leader has a clear understanding of these two concepts, both humility and meekness, best personified by Moses (Wildavsky & Hazony, 2005) are exemplified in critical leadership situations.
The book of Genesis lays the foundation for the entire Bible, and chapters 1 and 2 are the footing upon which the rest of the Bible rests. These facts place Genesis in a prominent position as perhaps the most important book in the Bible for forming a well rounded Christian worldview and chapters 1 and 2 are the apex of that understanding (Brueggemann, 2010, p. 11). Christian leadership should stem from the idea that God is Creator and that humans are the mandated caretakers of His divine creation. As stewards, we recognize His authority and submit to His edicts. God is the sovereign Creator (Wenham, 1987) and humanity is the creation. Although humanity has been given a divine directive to subdue the earth (ibid), it is important to keep the understanding that God is God and humanity is not (Sire, 1990).
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