This week we covered a lot of material from the first four chapters of Genesis. Because these chapters are so compact, I want to do a quick summary to highlight the main points that we covered. I also included a lexicon for those who want to keep track of the Hebrew words we’ve been learning.
In our initial post, The First Woman, we looked at how women were created, and questioned whether we should translate the word tsela as “rib,” or as “side.” We discussed how the Bible never again translates tsela as “rib,” and then envisioned the creation story anew with God using the human’s side to create the woman. We found a beautiful pattern of God splitting the human in half to create the woman, and then bringing the two back together again to form “one flesh.” We closed with the challenge to recognize the perfect balance that God craved for us all along, and to claim our identity as one flesh, made in the image of God.
The next post was Were We Ever Cursed? In it, we explored the temptation narrative in Genesis 3, and then looked closely at the punishments and curses God doles out at the end of the chapter. We found that God curses the snake and the ground, causing them to physically change. We also discovered that God punished, rather than cursed, the man and the woman. That encouraged us to embrace the knowledge that The Fall in Genesis 3 did not inhibit our relationship with God.
We used the next post, The Calling of Genesis 3, to explore what we are meant to do now with the punishments God gave to the man and the woman. We learned that rather than using the punishments to prescribe what the world should look like, the text actually shows God describing what the world will look like. That distinction allows us to embrace the knowledge that God still wants us to return to the balanced, perfect system that He created in Genesis 1 and 2, and gave us a kick in the pants to begin working toward that equality and peace.
The following post introduced Why Names Matter in the Bible. We learned the meaning of “Adam” and “Eve” and set the stage for how other names will impact the way we read the Bible.
I found myself in tears while writing Finding Eve Among Cain and Abel. We read the story of Cain and Abel from the perspective of Eve, who was booted from the land of Eden, but then had the blessing to celebrate the births of her sons. Over the course of the story, we watch her lose Abel at the hands of Cain, and then lose Cain entirely as well. We discussed grief and the amount of silent heartbreak she endured.
Lastly, we discussed yesterday The Silent Stories of Genesis 4, paying attention to the unnamed women who show up all over the Bible, and the men who have names, yet whose stories are never told. We discussed how we should honor the women who continually move the biblical story forward, and we closed considering those individuals in our lives who are not especially gregarious and outgoing, but whose quiet work has changed our lives and the way we see the world.
I told you it was a lot of material! This coming week we will begin with Genesis 5 and move on from there. I will do another recap next Monday as well. For those of you who want to track the Hebrew words we’ve learned, I included a list below. Thank you for your continued love and support!
Hebrew Words That Change How We Read The Bible:
ha adam = the human, found in Gen. 2, often mistranslated “the man”
ezer k’negdo = parallel/equal partner, used by God in Gen. 2:20 before creating the woman
tsela = side, found in Gen. 2, often mistranslated “rib”
ish = man, first used instead of ha adam after the creation of the woman in Gen. 2
ishah = woman, used to describe Eve before she receives her name in Gen. 3
arar = to curse, applied to the snake and the ground in Gen. 3
amar = to speak, used to communicate punishments in Gen. 3
teshukah = desire, used to describe what the woman will feel for the main in Gen. 3
chavah = life, also the name Eve
canah = possession, also the name Cain
hevel = breath, puff of air, vanity, also the name Abel
As I’m writing this post I am also preparing to bake a King Cake for the first time. A King Cake is a traditional Mardi Gras dessert that’s essentially a hybrid between cinnamon rolls and birthday cake, and it is delicious. I am bringing it to a Mardi Gras-themed Birthday Party and Crawfish Boil tonight. Had we gone the more traditional route, this party would have happened on Tuesday this past week, as it was Mardi Gras: a day dedicated to gorging oneself with food, beverage, and celebration in preparation for the solemn season of Lent that begins the following day.
Mardi Gras is often associated with the idea of temptation: parades, drinking, food, parties. Yet, the picture of temptation that we see in the biblical text is far different.
Matthew 4:1-11 tells us that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, where he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and was tempted by the devil. The whole fasting for 40 days and 40 nights thing points us back to Moses in Deuteronomy 8, 9, and a number of other texts, all emphasizing the connection between Moses’ and Jesus’ stories. The temptations that the devil then poses to Jesus are: 1) to turn stones into loaves of bread (he’s hungry from the fasting), 2) to jump off the Temple to prove that he’s the Son of God (Psalm 91 says that the angels would catch him), and 3) to worship the devil, and in return receive power over the entire world. In each instance, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy — the book in which Moses instructs the Israelites on how to best live in relationship with God — to explain why he refuses to give into the temptation.
While we could get into the minutia of each of the temptations and what they mean for us, at the end of the day we have the devil trying to get Jesus to abandon Deuteronomy, the words of Scripture, and therefore to let go of God. The devil tempts Jesus to do something antithetical to what God desires of Jesus and of us.
Jesus wasn’t comfortable when this temptation took place — he was starving and alone in the sweltering heat of the wilderness. I don’t know about you, but it takes so much less than that for me to start doubting and questioning God. There have been times in my life when a good traffic jam could have me asking, “What’s the point, God?!” I’ve become a bit less melodramatic over time, but you get the point: Jesus was actually struggling during his temptation. He easily could have given in — he could have abandoned his faith and his God, and taken actions that would have provided the food he craved, the safety he desired, and power over the earth. Instead, he chose to cling to God by citing the verses that speak of what God desperately wants of us: relationship.
We all have moments of doubt, concern, disbelief, and struggle. They are foundational elements of the complex lives we live. The lesson Jesus demonstrates in his temptation is that we are never alone in those moments — we have been given a guide to strengthen and to lead us in our darkest trials. At the end of the narrative, Matthew writes, “The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him” (4:11). The God who accompanied Jesus during his temptation is the same God who goes with us every moment of our lives. And, in the end, God shows up to provide the comfort, the care, and the love we’ve needed after our time in the wilderness.