As mentioned previously, I will be endeavoring to read through the entire Bible, one book per month. No slant, no colorfully formed arguments, just reading and talking, asking questions and maybe some thought provoking and sharing together. I’ve heard a lot of opinions on where people should start reading the Bible, but I prefer to begin at the beginning. It’s what makes sense to me. So we begin with Genesis, which is fifty chapters long. I have no intention of covering fifty chapters in one post, it may even take more than one month. Instead of cramming together the many stories included in that one book, let us begin with the first four chapters.
For those unfamiliar, these chapters begin with the Christian creation story. God states what will be done, and then it happening. Light comes out of the darkness, land comes out of the water, animals populate each in it’s time. Then come humans. The humans don’t listen to God and punishment is required, for the original pair of them first and their child later.
This one is interesting because of the way it relates it’s information. Things may not come in the same time as that which evolution espouses, but it comes in the same order. Now, I’m not one to speculate on what a day or night is for the Divine nor in poetry, so I’ll leave the timing alone. It all relates to the many forms of old Earth creationism.
This chapter relates an entirely different order of things. It was pointed out by The Woman’s Bible and glossed over by Wesley as a more detailed explanation of the first. But it’s not. It’s a different account of the order of things. How do we reconcile two different explanations of how creation happened in one work that is supposed to be infallible?
Don’t get me wrong, I am a believer. I’m just having a hard time with that this chapter and the last one are the same story. Is it possible that these are simply two common stories that were passed down, the writer’s not knowing which is true and which is not, and so recorded both? I know we’ll never know fully, but it is again interesting that the first chapter appears to coincide with the current knowledge that we have of the order of the fossil record and evolution (unless I read the evolution book wrong, than my apologies and someone let me know).
The second chapter is also where the “helpmate” argument comes in. At the writing of the two commentaries that I am using to help me on my way, this was not yet a thing. I found it first in Jesus Feminist, and later in Let My People Go. It basically goes that the word that has been translated as simply “helper” or “helpmate” all this time has been taken out of context. The word that is used, prior to translation, is the same word that is later used when God helps the people out of whatever troubles they’re in. This is said to mean that the traditional interpretation of the kind of helper that Eve was meant to be may be wrong. She was not a helper that was subordinate or inferior. She was there to help Adam with the things that he could not do for himself, to be there for him, but not subject to him. Please refer to Let My People Go: A Call to End the Oppression of Women in the Church for the particulars.
Whatever the original intent was for Eve, she quickly squandered it in the infamous “Fall.”
This is where the trouble really starts. Let us not gloss over any part of this. The Bible verses themselves have a conversation between Eve and the serpent that culminates in her eating the forbidden fruit and handing it to Adam to eat as well. No matter the commentary and poetry written about this moment, there are some things that I’d like to look into a bit more. First of all, it says clearly that he was right there with her in verse six. That’s important because Wesley asserts that he must not have been and that’s the way that it was always taught to me. It was taught that she went to him later and told him to eat it because it was fine to eat or something like that. It was never mentioned that he was right there with her. Furthermore, I couldn’t ignore the question that Stanton brings up about why was he not part of the conversation?
I’m not saying he should or should not have been, but it’s curious, especially if she was inferior at the time. If she was inferior, and he was right there, why wouldn’t he stop her? If not, why wouldn’t he at least say “hey, I don’t think that’s the best idea.” But he does neither, he just takes it from her and eats it too. I won’t go down the rabbit hole about what kind of equality or lack of it this might suggest that followed Stanton’s questioning of this event, though. Adam’s lack of intervention, of course, does not excuse Eve, but it also doesn’t give him a better leg to stand on when confronted shortly after.
I always get a giggle out of their responses to God’s questioning. Here we find the first record of shifting the blame. Adam shifts to her and by extension God, and she shifts to the serpent. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when Wesley points out that Adam is shoving some of the blame at God because she was “the woman you gave to be with me.”
Punishment is doled out and it’s a little harsh. It’s not so much that they were specifically punished, but was it really for all women and all men for all of time? It doesn’t sound that way to me.
To the woman he said:
I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children
Your desire shall be for your husband
and he shall rule over you
It sounds like He’s only talking to her. It also sounds like childbearing was always painful, but it will be more so for Eve specifically through the curse. It makes sense that childbearing is painful without the curse because pain tells us to pay attention to our bodies. Different women also go through different levels of pain and it’s not even the same per pregnancy.
Stanton suggests that it is a bit more of a prediction than a curse or outright punishment. God tells them that the behavior they have displayed will only lead them to worse things. Except that it doesn’t read that way to me. It does make for an interesting theory, though.
There’s also a punishment for Adam that doesn’t sound like it’s for all men for all of time. Especially when you consider the wide range of men who no longer toil in the fields for food at all these days.
Here we are again looking at the way that God confronts people. Whether or not you believe that He is all knowing and all seeing at all times, He gives Adam, Eve, and Cain the opportunities to tell the truth first and hand out punishment afterward. As a parent, I totally get this line of questioning and punishment given. He asks, lets you answer and then tells you why you are being punished and in what way. It’s some pretty solid parenting, I don’t care what anyone says. He also gives second chances sometimes, as was done for Cain before the murder. Cain gives an offering that God doesn’t like and he asks God why. God’s response is again the kind of thing that any parent might say. It boils down to what’s in your heart when you give a gift. Give out of love and the gift will be joyfully received. Give out of obligation and you might as well have not bothered. It’s something I want my kid to understand.
But Cain doesn’t learn and takes it out on his brother. When God confronts him and gives him that opportunity to be honest, Cain outright lies. I wonder how different the punishment might have been had he not lied. It’s still murder, but there wasn’t a hint of regret in the lie. He only regrets the punishment and the fear of his own death afterward. And that brings up another question. Who was he worried about killing him?
Some suggest that Adam and Eve had enough children that these were the others. Some suggest that we trace Adam and Eve as the line that is important in our religion and others were made at the same time, but only they were in the garden, chosen above others. I don’t know about any of that. There are others, though, and Cain is worried about them. Maybe these others are also where Cain and everyone else get their wives….
Yep, everyone gets married but there are only two sons mentioned so far and one is dead. The fourth chapter ends with a bunch of begetting and some city building and we still don’t know where anyone else came from except this family of four, now three. Through the rest of the chapter the only other women that are mention are Namaah, and we don’t know anything about her other than name and that she was Tubal-cain’s sister, and Lamech’s wives.
Lamech is an interesting character. He addresses his wives like they’re his dogs and then appears to overestimate his relationship with God in asserting that revenge for killing him would be seventy-sevenfold after he killed a man. He gets this from that Cain’s revenge is sevenfold. Now, we heard the story about Cain’s revenge a few verses before this, but God doesn’t address Lamech. Lamech just assumes this, which sounds like he’s a bit of a diva to me. Plus, he took two wives. “Took” how? Were they willingly taken? I wouldn’t have thought to ask the question, except that it was pointed out by Stanton. Even Wesley calls him a degenerate for it, asserting that it “transgressed that original law of marriage, that two only should be one flesh.”
It’s after Lamech’s mention when Adam and Eve have a third son, Seth, which is made to sound like a gift in replacement of Abel. That sounds to me like Eve had only the three boys if one had to be a replacement of the other. Let’s not get into how I feel about “replacement” children, either.
So there are my feelings and impressions on the first four chapters of Genesis. Have you read them? What do you think?
*updated for formatting and to include a quote of the curse given to Eve.