Genesis 1-4 (January 1)

Good morning, and Happy New Year! I’m grateful for your interest in this daily reading of the Bible together in 2016, and am excited to get started! We start today with the book of Genesis, at the beginning of the first five books of the Bible (often also called the Torah). Genesis contains creation stories, prehistoric myths, and family narratives of those who will become the ancestors of the Hebrew and Christian faiths.

Today’s reading is Genesis 1-4, which is a lot to start with, I know. But these stories are probably familiar to you already, as they’re among the most well known in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The two accounts of creation are quite different from one another, but give important and complementary perspectives on the role of God in creation. Chapter 1 gives a poetic, cosmic description of creation. Features of this narrative include the precise order of creation by days, God’s activity through speech, repeated refrains, and the arrival of human beings (plural) as stewards and caretakers of the earth near the end of the creation, before even God takes a break and models Sabbath rest for us. The contrasting creation account that starts in the middle of 2:4 (chapter 2, verse 4) places humanity at the center of creation, the focal point of God’s activity. God gets physical in this account: playing in the dust, breathing life into nostrils, and performing surgery! Other features of this second narrative include a different name for God in the Hebrew (which is one marker of a different author’s voice), and the importance of companionship to God. I believe the sages who put these two creation narratives side-by-side were wise to not leave either one out, though if you take them at face value they appear to contradict each other. It helps me to see from the very start that multiple voices and opinions are included in our sacred text, honoring differences rather than insisting there is only one “correct” story. What insights do you gain from these two accounts of Creation?

God’s creation is blessed and good from the very beginning, but things turn sour quickly. I look forward to your thoughts about what the sin was that got Adam and Eve rejected–desire? succumbing to temptation? refusal of personal responsibility? Like all the best Bible stories there’s plenty of room for interpretation here. Regardless of the cause, humanity is no longer fit for paradise and God expels the first humans into the world of hardships we know now. The first sin is followed swiftly by a second. Firstborn son Cain murders his brother Abel, faces God’s judgment, and flees from the rest of his family. Note that even though God condemns Cain’s action, God puts a mark of protection on the murderer. One theme I take away from these chapters is that though God follows through on punishment for sin, God also seeks ways to protect and reclaim the sinner. For the rest of the Bible, God will be seeking ways to guide humanity in right paths so that we will be fit for paradise once more.

Read Genesis 1-4.

Please join in discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Thanks for reading!

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