The motif of ‘land’ is important in Genesis.
There is special relationship between the first man and the ground - “adam” and “adama”.
But when they committed sin, two things happened.
1. Their relationship with the ground was severely affected - the earth will not give willingly of its bounty to satisfy their needs;
2. They were expelled from Eden and so deprived of a unique environment in which to commune with God.
The further alienation from the land followed with Cain killing Abel and finally the flood.
Therefore, the divine gift of land to Abraham is very significant.
Three terms for ‘land’
In the Hebrew text:
“erez” - (312 times in Genesis) - the earth as a whole (Gen 1:1) or a particular country (12:1,5).
“adama” - (43 times) - ground or soil (Gen 2:5,7,19);
“sadeh” - (around 50 times) - wide-open space, “field” (Gen 2:19,20)
The Creation of the Earth
The earth is created by God.
God brings order to what is “formless and empty” (Gen 1:2).
God establishes three distinct realms: “sky”, “land”, and “sea”(Gen 1:6-10).
The land is the most important: it is commanded to produce both vegetation and living creature.
Human are mandated to govern it.
The unique relationship between the man and the ground is in the second account of creation.
Man is made from the ground (Gen 2:7);
Man freely enjoys the product of Eden with one exception (Gen 2:16-17).
Humans are charged by God to exercise authority over the earth and the earth is divinely empowered to produce food in abundance for humankind.
Dependant on each other, humanity and the earth are both accountable to God.
Expelled from Eden
Gen 3:1-13; 2:16-17 - consequences:
1. God curses the ground because of Adam’s disobedience. Man must work by the sweat of his brow in order to eat.
2. The man and the woman are banished from Eden (Gen 3:23). Like a landlord expelling an unsatisfactory tenant, God ousts them from Eden.
The reason - Gen 3:22 - if no tree of life than death shall come (Gen 2:17);
Gen 3:24 - cherubim and a flaming sword guards the way to the tree of life.
Cain, a restless wanderer on the earth
Gen 4:2 - Cain works the soil;
But when he kills his brother he becomes a wanderer (Gen 4:10-12) - driven from the ground.
1. The ground is stained by Abel’s blood.
2. Each unrighteous action increases humanity’s alienation from the ground.
The ground becomes hostile, and the degree of this hostility is determined in some measure by the extent of human unrighteousness.
The Flood Narrative
Gen 5:28-29 - “the ground the Lord has cursed”
Will Noah reverse the ever-worsening relationship between humanity and the ground?
Gen 6:5 - the reason for the flood (Gen 6:11-13).
It seems that the task of tilling the ground had become almost unbearable by the time of Noah.
The flood brings the earth to its original state before the separation of the land and the sea (Gen 1:9-10) - the water again covers everything.
But, with the waters subsiding and Noah’s coming out of the ark, we have the recreation of the earth.
The ground has been cleansed from the pollution caused by unrighteous behaviour.
The earth is recreated but not the human nature (Gen 8:21).
Gen 9:1-7 - another change; people can eat meat, but they can treat “blood-life” with respect.
Noah, a man of the soil
Gen 9:20 - see 5:29
Noah is a “man of the soil [ground]” and the ground becomes fertile again.
The table of nations
Gen 10 - the sons of Noah settles in different places.
Gen 10:15-18 - Canaan (cursed by Noah Gen 9:25) and his sons.
Gen 10:19 - describes the borders of the land of Canaan.
Why this focus on Canaan?
Gen 15:18-21 - the land of Canaan is promised to Abraham.
Gen 15:16 - because of the iniquity of its inhabitants.
The Abraham narrative
God’s gift to Abraham and his descendants.
1. The gift of the land is conditional on Abraham’s obedience to God (Gen 12:1; 12:5-7).
People lost land because of their disobedience; they can gain the land through obedience and trust in God.
2. The land will be given only after a period of 400 years (Gen 15:13-14).
The Pentateuch narrates the story of the fulfilment of this promise;
3. The land promised to Abraham is already occupied. How can it be given to Abraham?
The inhabitants of this land are unworthy occupants - Gen 9:20-29; 10:15-19; 13:13; 15:16.
The example of this unworthiness are the people of Sodom (Gen 18:20-21) and the story of the angels going to Sodom (Gen 19).
The land of Canaan shall be taken from its inhabitants and given to Israelites because the Canaanites are unworthy to possess it due to their sin.
4. Although Abraham will not possess the entire land, he gets a small piece of it - the cave of Machpelah (Gen 23:1-20).
This is a token what will come in the future.
The Jacob story
Gen 28:4 - the promise of the land to Jacob
Gen 28:13-15 - the promise of the land from God
Gen 35:11-12 - again the promise
Jacob had to leave the promise land because of his brother Esau;
He lived in the “exile” for twenty years but then comes God’s command in Gen 31:3.
So, Jacob returns.
There is a beautiful relations between Jacob’s going out and coming back.
Gen 28:11 - the sun was setting when he left the land
Gen 32:31 - the sun was rising as he entered the land.
Before that, He met with God (Gen 32:22-32).
Then comes the reconciliation with Esau (Gen 33:1-16).
Jacob left the land because Esau threaten to kill him.
Now he can settle in the land because he reconciled with his brother (Gen 33:17-20).
And Esau left the land of Canaan and settled in the land of Seir (Gen 33:16; 36:6-8; see separation between Abraham and Lot - Gen 13:5-18).
The Joseph Story
Gen 15:13 - predicts the Joseph story
Famine in Canaan brings the brothers of Joseph to Joseph in Egypt.
Famine is yet another consequence of sin of Adam (the curse of the ground).
But, Joseph’s preparation helped to survive the famine.
Jacob is not so eager to leave Canaan again. After all he lived outside of the promised land for 20 years before.
Before, we have two stories od famine (Gen 12:10-20 - Abraham; Gen 26:1-2 - Isaac).
God encourages him to do that (Gen 46:3-4).
Going down to Egypt is not a permanent move (Gen 46:4).
Abraham, Issac, and Jacob’s burial takes place in Canaan (Gen 49:29-50:14).
Joseph also wants to be buried there (Gen 50:24-25; see Ex 13:19).
New Testament Connections
Rom 8:19-25 - the nature like humanity awaits redemption.
The climax of redemption - restoration everything in Christ (Col 1:20; see 2 Cor 5:17-21; Eph 1:7-10) - will be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1).
Rev 22:3 - “no longer there be any curse” goes to Gen 3:22, 24.
In this new Jerusalem, there is no mentions of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but only the tree of life (Rev 22:2; Gen 2:9).
Hebr 4:1-11 - entering God’s rest is the goal of redemption.
It means restoring that Eden’s reality of harmony between God, humans, and nature.
The land also gets expanded in the New Testament.
Ex 20:12 and Deut 5:16 - refers to the promised land, but Paul in Eph 6:2-3 had in mind the whole earth.
Thus at first it was from Abraham to Israel and to the Promised Land,
But now, the Gospel goes to all nations and the land becomes the whole world.