God’s plan for the earth [is]
The creation of an extraordinary temple-city where God will dwell in harmony with humanity (see Rev 21:9 ff).
Two creation stories
These two stories are followed by "The Fall of humans" (Gen 3:1-24)
Gen 1:1-2:4 - The Creator is always addressed as “Elohim”, which means “God”;
Gen 2:4b-3:24 - The Creator is addressed as “YHVH Elohim” (Lord God), with an exception of Gen 3:1-5, where only “Elohim” (God) occurs.
In Gen 1:1-2:4a - God is transcendent, mighty, and organizer;
From Gen 2:4b - God is immanent, close to humans, shaping them - like a potter (Jer 18:1-10).
Thus, both accounts complement each other portraying God as both transcendent and immanent.
Elohim is a general designation for a deity - points to transcendent nature of God;
YHVH is a personal name revealed to Moses in Ex 3:14 - points to immanent nature of God.
The serpent - the enemy of God never uses God’s personal name but only calls Him “Elohim” (Gen 3:1-5).
The earth as God’s temple-city
The Seventh Day
The first creation is completed with the seventh day when God rested from all His works and blessed this day (Gen 2:1-3).
This rest seemed to indicate God’s intention of creating the universe.
The cosmos is God’s temple where He will find rest (Is 66:1)
The garden of Eden as Sanctuary
If Gen 1:1-2:4a describes the creation of the temple;
Then the garden of Eden in Gen 2:4ff is a sanctuary where God dwells and where man should worship Him.
There are clear parallels between the creation of the world, the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple in Jerusalem:
1. All of them can be divided into three parts (sea, land, Eden; the outer-court; the holy place, and the holy of holies;
2. The Lord God walks in Eden as He later does in the tabernacle (Gen 3:8; Lev 26:12; Deut 23:15; 2 Sam 7:6-7).
3. Eden and the later sanctuaries are entered from the east and guarded by cherubim (Gen 3:24; Ex 25:18-22; 26:31; 1 Kings 6:23-29).
4. The tabernacle menorah (or lamp stand) possibly symbolises the tree of life (Gen 2:9; 3:22; Ex 25:31-35);
5. The river flowing from Eden (Gen 2:10) resembles Ezekiel 47:1-12, which envisages a river flowing from a future Jerusalem temple and bringing life to the Dead Sea.
6. Gold and onyx, mentioned in Gen 2:11-12, are used extensively to decorate the later sanctuaries and priestly garments (Ex 25:7,11,17,31).
7. Gen 2:15 - two verbs “to work (avad) it and keep (shamar) it.”
Avad - to serve, to work, to till;
Shamar - to keep, to guard
There are also used in Numbers describing the duties of the Levites in the sanctuary (Num 3:7-8; 8:26; 18:5-6).
The man was appointed as a guardian of sacred space.
Humanity’s royal statues (Gen 1:26-28)
1. People are to govern all land animals, birds, and fish. We should rule as God’s representatives.
2. We are the “image of God”. In other cultures, this phrase is only used for kings who were the living ‘image of a god’.
To be made in the ‘image of God’ is to be given regal statues.
3. God’s desire is to make the earth a dwelling place for himself.
We should participate in transforming the earth into a divine dwelling. That is priestly calling.
By filling the earth (Gen 1:28), we are called to expand Eden into a worldwide sanctuary.
The great betrayal (Gen 3)
1. By letting the serpent in, Adam and Eve neglected to guard the sanctity of the garden. As priests, they should have expelled the serpent from the garden.
By letting it in and listening to it, they lost their priestly role and the cherubim took over the responsibility of ‘guarding’ the Garden temple (Gen 3:24; Ezek 28:14,16).
2. They should rule over all the other creatures, but instead they obeyed one of the animals.
By obeying it, they fail to exercise authority over it.
Siding with the serpent, they rejected God.
3. The humans have been made in the “image of God” and the serpent was not. By listening to it, that they shall become “like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5), they image the disobedient serpent rather than God.
4. They lost God’s presence - that intimate relationship with God.
5. But, there is the promise in Gen 3:15 - the first Good News.
6. The tragic outcome of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God is reported in Genesis 4-11 and the last among them is the construction of a city.
The tower of Babel
The city is a godless project.
New technology gives rise to this project - humans on their own are capable of achieving great things.
But, we are also arogant - we reject God’s sovereignty over us.
The Babel project
On one side it expresses human longings for:
community, achievement, civilisation, culture, technology, safety, security, permanence and fame.
But on the other hand, the biblical author senses here
Idolatry, pride, self-reliance,
The urge of material power,
And the human illusion of infinite achievement.
Babel is a construction by people and for people alone.
People use God’s given ability but without any reference to God.
They aim to dethrone God from earth and heaven as well.
Thus, Babel typifies every human enterprise that seeks to exalt the creature over the Creator.
Babylon and Nimrod (Gen 10:8-12)
Nimrod built Babel-Babylon and Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.
Both, empires destroyed Israel - 721 BC - Assyria destroyed Northern Israel, and in 586 BC - the Babylon destroyed Judea.
Both kingdoms established by Nimrod are the opposite of God’s kingdom.
It is through Abraham that God will begin the process of establishing His kingdom and temple-city.
God will make Abraham’s name great (Gen 12:2).
New Testament connections
- Hebr 11:8-10, 13-16.
Looking forward to the city (Hebr 11:10)
Looking for better country - a heavenly one (Hebr 11:16)
Hebr 12:22 - the city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem;
Hebr 13:14 - looking for a city that is to come.
And this city comes in the book of Revelation (Rev 21:1–2).
And it is an extraordinary city (Rev 21:10-27).
The extraordianry city
1. It fills the earth;
2. It is made of gold and other precious stones.
3. It is inhabited by people drawn from many nations - and they see God’s face;
4. There is no temple in the city - everyone has direct access to God.
Another city (Rev 14-18)
Babylon the Great (Rev 14:8)
1. It is again a God-less city
2. It is the great enemy of those who belong to the kingdom of God.
Those who stand in opposition to God continue to create their own cities and kingdoms, often through violence and the exploitation of others.