The Twin Redemptive Themes of Genesis

As I continue to work and teach through the book of Genesis each week several things have become apparent. First, Genesis is a really mysterious book. Many people would freely offer up this label for some of the Old Testament prophets or even Revelation, but Genesis? That’s for beginners right? Well yes, but the mysteries of God are there as well and He has not chosen to unveil them all. Second, people are really messed up. In Genesis, of course, we are introduced to the reason for this – sin, and we see that the condition of mankind’s heart degenerates quickly culminating in a worldwide flood of judgment. Even among the people whom God had chosen for His purposes and for the continuation of the Seed-line (Gen. 3:15) there is an element of degeneracy that the Scriptures do not hide. For evidence of this, I simply refer you to Genesis 29-30 and the episode of Jacob and his wives (4). Third, there is an element of recapitulation even in this first book. It is not difficult to read God’s Word and find themes throughout that tend to rewind and repeat, often this is expressed in promise/fulfillment, prophecy, typology, etc.while other times it is a direct recap of what was previously revealed. One such example would be the command to be fruitful and multiply that was originally given to Adam (and Eve) in the Garden, but is later repeated to Noah upon exit from the ark.
With that in mind, there are two twin themes that are intertwined and run throughout Genesis like scarlet threads. These two themes specifically concern the seed and the land, or what others have labeled as Genealogy and Geography (see also Stephen Dempster’s Dominion and Dynasty). In fact, the entire book of Genesis is structured around the introduction of genealogies or toledots often distinguished by the phrase, “These are the generations of” which occurs ten times and introduces each subsequent narrative focus. The foundation for these themes is established early on in Genesis, but it wasn’t until around the thirtieth chapter or so that our group was discussing the focus again moving toward offspring and land when a question was asked, “Do you think that the men are focusing on land while the women are focusing on children (offspring)?” Initially, my answer was that I think that seems to be the case. But then the light bulb went off and I enthusiastically replied, “Yes! And do you know why? In the opening chapter of Genesis we see the familiar landscape development out of which man was created and into which man was placed. The relationship between man (Adam) and land (Adamah) is clear not only in that Adam was made from the dust of the ground but in the very words used. If we are to begin to understand the progression and emphasis on seed or offspring, we certainly must begin where God does in His creation of mankind, both male and female, in the image of God. This distinction separates mankind from the rest of creation through endowing them with dignity and worth and assigning the role of king and priest. The original purpose given to man, “let them have dominion over…” is followed with the command to, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” So we see that in his origination, man was given the duty of multiplication (seed/offspring) and dominion (expanding God’s kingdom on earth). Further insight into this, which some have called the creation mandate (whether rightly or wrongly) comes in the subsequent chapter of Genesis as we are given more details, via recapitulation, into the creation of mankind and the duties that were assigned to them.
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:5-7
Here we see the creation of man (Adam) from the ground (adamah).
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Genesis 2:15
In this passage, the duties assigned to man – which were primarily priestly in nature. This is an important detail that Lord willing we will look at in another post.
Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.” Genesis 2:23
Finally, with this passage we see the creation of woman (Ishshah) from man (Ish).
Arriving at chapter 3 we read the familiar account of man’s fall as the first couple seem to ignore or at best delay in obeying the command to multiply and neglect completely the command to take dominion as the serpent is able not only to find his way into the garden but subsequently cozy up to Eve and begin his deception. As the serpent promises that should Eve (and Adam; note that Chapter 3 of Genesis the “you” are all plural, similar to the use of y’all; see here Passivity) eat of the tree they would be “like God” it’s important to note that they were already “like God” having been created in His image and likeness and given duties as vice-regent to both be God’s representation and God’s representatives. It is here, subsequent to the fall, that we reach the point upon which the twin themes of Genealogy and Geography will take on their most prominent meaning. In the midst of the Genesis 3 pronouncements of judgment we find salvation. In the midst of curses we find blessing. As God, the prosecuting Judge, calls His defendants to the witness stand He begins with Adam, then Eve, then skips the serpent before beginning with it as He delivers His sentence, followed by Eve, and then concluded with Adam. It’s a chiastic structure of confrontation and judgment that would look like the following:

Confrontation: Adam–>Eve–>Serpent (skipped)
Judgment: Serpent–>Eve–>Adam
The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
    cursed are you above all livestock
    and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
    and dust you shall eat
    all the days of your life.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15
This address by way of meting out a curse to the serpent, “cursed are you…” is followed by God addressing the cozy relationship between Eve and the serpent by placing enmity between them. Then the pronouncement of salvation (Gen. 3:15) and vindication through the serpent crushing Seed (offspring) of the woman. We ought to take note of this, our first introduction to the significance of seed/offspring and its specific relationship to the woman is given in the pronounced curse on the serpent.
Next, as God turns His address towards Eve, we observe a rather challenging passage that has created no shortage of disagreement and debate.
To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
    but he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16
It is evident that the immediate context out of which this pronouncement is made follows the expectation that the woman’s offspring will crush the head of the serpent meanwhile causing His own wound, though not a mortal one. So there is a link between each individual addressee of both curse and blessing. We then see that pain will accompany the birth of this offspring, setting up the link with Adam. Pain here is perhaps of two varieties: both the obvious physical pain that could realistic cause death, as well as the anxiety of a mother that accompanies the entire child-rearing process from conception, to gestation, to birth, and beyond. From this declaration by God, in which the explicit language of “curse” is not used, God switches towards the relationship between man and woman. At this point we will not dive into the exegetical difficulties which have led to differing views (we will pick this up in another post). We will only here assert that regardless of one’s view on this passage we have enough information to conclude that the woman will indeed be concerned with offspring. Following upon the pronouncement concerning the man and women’s relationship, God shifts His attention clearly and directly to Adam. Note the language below and specifically the direction of the curse
And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19
Here God addresses man (Adam) and curses the ground (Adamah) thus severing what was once a relationship declared “good” and originally meant to bring about kingly dominion. The emphasis within this entire pronouncement of judgment clearly concerns the land and man’s relationship to it. No longer would they work in harmony with one another but now man’s efforts would be purposefully inhibited by the land. Whereas before the fall the land would yield her fruits, now only frustration in the form of thorns and thistles.
From this point in history throughout the book of Genesis we are given narrative passages that unfold the character of God and His working through His creation to bring about His sovereign purposes. Through each encounter, and the varying toledots, we see the consistent themes of both genealogy and geography. Often the transition between the two in a passage is sharp and distinct while other times they are intertwined as with the introduction of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3
When we consider the desire of the women such as Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel for children and how they considered barrenness a reproach we are watching the unfolding of the judgment as well as the salvation which was promised in Genesis 3:15-16. Further, when we note that it is God who both opens and closes the womb along with determining who, against the natural order, would be the blessed son, then we are more aware that it is God who is bringing about the fulfillment of building a dynasty. Additionally, when we see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s relationship to the land – being frustrated by famine, inhabited by other nations, and other times receiving the “fatness of the earth” (Gen. 27:39) then we may be reminded as well that it is God who is bringing both blessings and frustrations to extend His dominion for His own glory. The book of Genesis is a fascinating recount of the history of man beginning with a literal Adam and literal Eve before progressing to the history of God’s chosen people through whom He would preserve the line for His Son Jesus Christ. What man lost from the original creation due to his fall into sin, namely the expectation of dominion and dynasty, God would take upon Himself to progressively bring about through the promise/fulfillment of His many covenants. Throughout, man’s emphasis was upon dominion with the help of woman; woman’s emphasis was on dynasty with the [implied] help of man. Together they were to be the complimentary regal image of God, multiplying His image and extending His reign upon all the earth. But sin…until…But God. Now God through His only Son Jesus Christ is accomplishing the building of His dynasty through the spiritual offspring of Christ and the extension of His dominion through the Kingdom of Christ.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

About the author

Christian saved by grace through faith.

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