BEMA 2: Knowing When to Say “Enough”
27 Feb 22 — Initial public release
25 Feb 22 — Transcript approved for release
Knowing When to Say “Enough”
Brent Billings: Welcome to the BEMA Podcast with Marty Solomon. I’m his co-host, Brent Billings. Today we are talking about the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2 and 3, and what the story might really be getting at. Marty, welcome.
Marty Solomon: Thank you.
Brent: Take it away.
Marty: Genesis 2, we’re going to pick up where we left off, verse 4. “This is the account of the heavens and the Earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the Earth and the heavens and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the Earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprung up. For the LORD God had not sent rain on the Earth, and there was no man to work the ground. Streams came up from the Earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. The LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Right off the bat here, we’re going to have problems.
I think we hinted at this last week but if we’re just going to read the Bible — this idea that “I’m just going to read the Bible, literally” — we’ve run into problems yet again. We had problems in Genesis one and now we’re having problems here too because this creation story does not pick up where the last creation story left off. The very best we could do is start this creation story somewhere around day three of the first creation story, but according to the details we just read in that paragraph, they don’t overlap correctly, as far as the shrubs being there, which are supposed to appear on day three, and man being there, which appears on day six. These are on some level, two different creation stories.
They’re about the same creation but these stories are being told from two different perspectives. It’s always helpful just to notice our Western tendencies to just want to read this in this chronological fashion. Nevertheless, I digress. “Now, the LORD God had planted a garden in the East, in Eden. There he put a man he had formed, and the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground, trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”
It’s interesting in the Hebrew language there. You read that in English, and it very clearly seems to read that both trees are in the middle of the garden. The Hebrew only directly says that the tree of life is in the middle. You can read the Hebrew, I think the Hebrew still implies in a sense that both trees are in the middle. I bring that up because there is a Rabbinic tradition that teaches that the Tree of Life was in the middle of the garden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was not.
What’s interesting is later on the story, when Eve talks to the snake, she’s going to say, “We can’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden,” referencing the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which, in this Rabbinic tradition, they point out, the tree isn’t in the middle of the garden but Eve has made it the middle of her garden, which is an interesting spin. I’m not going to take that — we’re not going to talk a whole lot more about that, especially on the podcast — but it is one of the strings of Rabbinic tradition that I like.
Brent: It says middle of the garden, Tree of Life and that’s one thought.
Marty: Right. In the Hebrew, those are directly linked.
Brent: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it could be next to it in the area of the middle of the garden, or it could be somewhere completely different.
Brent: It doesn’t actually say.
Marty: Right. In the Hebrew, you have that kind of latitude. It doesn’t directly tell us. I think you can assume it on some levels and yet the Hebrew language gives you that latitude to make that change and observation. “Now, the LORD God had planted--” Let’s not read that over again. “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden. From there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is Pishon, it winds through the entire land of Havilah where there is gold. The gold of that land is good, aromatic resin, onyx, are also there. The name of the second river is Gihon. It winds to the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris and it runs along the east side of Ashur. The fourth river is the Euphrates.” We have this weird paragraph just dropped in the middle here about a bunch of rivers.
Brent: They become less and less detailed. The first river is you know all about it.
Brent: Then it’s like, “Oh, and then there’s the Euphrates.”
Marty: Then the weird fourth river just dropped in there at the end. It’s a really weird paragraph when you step back and look at the story. Seems like there’s no reason for it being there. When you actually study what it says about those rivers, it makes no sense. One river in the Hebrew is actually flowing in a circle. This is a weird, nonsensical paragraph. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the story of Adam and Eve.
Brent: Now, would this be in reference to the — what does it say back in verse six — streams came up from the Earth and watered the whole surface of the ground?
Marty: You might be able to link the two. I think the idea is that rain hasn’t fallen yet. The narrator is doing that on purpose. Rain has not fallen yet and so the way that the Earth is going to water itself is from underground. I hear that in addition to that, there are rivers. I think those rivers are obviously coming from underground as well. I don’t think you’re incorrect to think that way. It’s like this weird paragraph that may come up later. I don’t know, maybe. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Who knows? We’ll find out.
Brent: It’s almost like every word is meaningful in some way.
Marty: There for a reason. Weird. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it, to take care of it. The LORD God commanded the man, you are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil for when you eat of it, you will surely die. The LORD God said, it is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him. Now, the LORD God had formed out of the ground, all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air, he brought them to the man to see what he would name them. Whenever the man called each living creature, was his name. The man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air, and all the beasts of the field,” which is really weird.
God says at some point in the story, He looks at Adam and says, “It’s not good that Adam is alone.” The next thing He does is have him name all the animals, and almost, it’s just weird. Why doesn’t God have him name the animals, and then make an observation? What an odd job? In the story, apparently, the naming of the animals has to do with the fact that he’s alone, or God’s incredibly ADD. This must be something — there must be something else going on here.
“As for Adam, no suitable helper was found. The LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs, and closed up the place with flesh. The LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” Interesting, in the Hebrew, it doesn’t actually say rib, it says a “round” is what it says, which I think in Hebrew here he took a part of the man out. This man, his name is Adam, which by the way, Adam means dirt, dust, dirt, Earth is what his name literally means. It’s dirt.
We’ll come back to that idea, I think in a few lessons, actually, we’ll come back to that. He creates this man and then later in the story when he needs to create his companion, He takes something away from Adam, which is why Adam is going to go and he sees her, the man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called ishah.” The way you say male in Hebrew is ish. The way you say female or woman is ishah. She shall be called ishah, for she was taken out of ish. In the Hebrew, you can even hear it, and when you hear that, as we talk about it, you can hear this, there’s this interplay, she is directly related to Adam, there’s ish and ishah. There’s this direct correlation.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard within the Christian tradition, the fact that man was made in the image of God but then, woman was taken out of man, like, she’s so subservient to him. She was taken out of him. He is the amazing creation, and she’s created — no, it’s not at all what’s being said. In fact, Genesis 1 told us, “That in the image of God, He created them, male and female, He created them,” so she is also a bearer of the divine image.
The driving point here between ish and ishah is that Adam was this representative of humanity and mankind and yet there’s some kind of tension in the created order. It’s not just companionship, it’s not good for a man to be alone. It’s not just companionship. Although that’s a significant part of it. It’s also that in order for life to exist, and for life to thrive, there has to be a tension. That’s why loneliness isn’t good. There has to be. What He does is He makes her. Genesis is going to call her, we sometimes say helpmate, but that is a really poor idea. In the Hebrew, it says ezer k’negdo. Ezer is the word for “help” in the Hebrew. K’negdo literally means “against” or “opposition.”
She is the “help that comes against him” or the “help that opposes.” The picture of the ishah, the picture of the woman is that it wasn’t good for humanity to be alone because, in order for humanity to thrive, it needs some tension. God takes out of ish a part of him — a “round” — and He fastens a woman. Woman is the part that’s now missing in man. Man is now incomplete. Woman is that piece of him that he’s now missing. Ish and ishah. You have this: only when male and female are together is when life — and I’m not just talking about marriage, I’m talking about something far larger than that — only when male and female are together, do you see humanity in its fullness. Because if there’s only a bunch of men in the room, you’re missing a large piece of humanity.
It’s only when male and female together make what we have to be humanity. She’s the help that opposes. One of the things that we find in marriage all the time for any of us that have been married is this idea and this concept that the woman opposes us, but in her opposition, she is our greatest help. The rabbis talk about two planks. If you can imagine two two-by-fours, resting against each other to form like a pyramid shape. If you take any one of those two by fours away, the plank falls over, but because that plank is opposing the first plank, it stands. And in marriage, because that other person is the part of me that I’m missing, only together are we the full picture. Then it’s in that way that they come against our design, that they support us.
There’s this idea that a woman is just supposed to just blindly submit because the man is the head, and that’s not at all what Genesis teaches us, because Genesis teaches us that she opposes the man. However, she opposes the man in a way that supports him. It’s not subservient. There’s no plank that stands by itself. Only the two planks standing together. I digressed a little bit about male and female.
Brent: Well, we’ll come back to this idea throughout the scriptures in various places in a lot of ways. We’re not done with the conversation.
Marty: No, we’re not. That’ll be a big deal. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”
Brent: Now I have a quick question.
Brent: The man leaves his father and mother.
Brent: We haven’t gotten to it yet, but this seems like it goes against the idea of insula.
Brent: How does that work?
Marty: I have a hunch about, and I’ll just say, I would save that for later. It’s going to come back in the New Testament. When most literary scholars will look at this, they’ll definitely see the narrator, the author, adding a thought into this story. It’s like you’re hearing the story and then the author goes, “By the way, it’s this reason that man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.” You are correct, in this ancient culture, that’s not how it works. In the ancient culture, the woman leaves her family and cleaves to her husband. This is spoken backwards. There’s a couple of different ways we could explain that, but we’ll try to make sure we come back to that and say like a year or two or three. How about that?
Brent: Fair enough.
Marty: All right, good.
Brent: I’ll be here.
Marty: “The man and his wife were both naked and felt no shame. Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat from any tree of the garden?’ Then the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, but God did say you must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. You must not touch it or you will die.’ ”
Now immediately, there’s another thing that jumps up here, “God, didn’t say ‘don’t touch it’.” So what’s going on? Is the woman adding to God’s commands? The Jewish oral tradition actually teaches that Adam added to God’s command because the only way that Eve knows the command that God gave Adam, unless there’s some part of the story we’re not told about is Adam must have told Eve.
Eve is either making up additional commandments or Adam made up a commandment. If Adam, some of the rabbis teach, if he would’ve just given her the command as God gave it to her, maybe we wouldn’t have had the problem. This whole idea, that it’s all Eve’s fault — in Jewish tradition, perhaps that question should be raised a whole lot earlier than when she even gets to the tree in the first place. I digress again.
“ ‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be open and you will be like God knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate and the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. The man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord, God as He was walking in the garden, cool the day. They hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden, but the LORD God came to the man, ‘Where are you?’ ” He called to the man, excuse me. “The LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ ” “He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’
He said, who told you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? The man said, the woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it. The LORD God said to the woman, what have you done? The woman said, the serpent deceived me and I ate. The LORD God said to the serpent, because you have done this, cursed are you above the livestock and all the wild animals. You will crawl on your belly. You’ll eat dust all the days of your life, and I’ll put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel. To the woman He said, I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing. With pain, you’ll give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband, he will rule over you. To Adam, He said, because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree, which I commanded you, you must not eat of it, cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil, you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you’ll eat plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground. Since from it you were taken, for dust you are, and to dust you will return.” Remember Adam means earth.
“Adam named his wife Eve because she had become the mother of all the living. The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife clothed them. The LORD God said, this man has now become like one of us knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and live forever. So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the garden of Eden, cherubim and flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way of the Tree of Life.”
As we look at the story, we ought to pause and ask ourselves, do we have — one of the things we do with Genesis chapter one, and one of the things that we’re not used to doing in our world is asking ourselves, “what are the problems in the story?” Like our Western world has taught us to not identify problems, do not ask questions to the text, do not ask about that, resolve the problems as quickly as possible.
Yet one of the things we looked about in Genesis 1 is the author is going to intentionally bury treasure inside the story. The author is going to let you know where that treasure is buried by giving you a treasure map. Those treasure map flags are the things that stick out of the story, the problems that are in the story. One of the things that we have to get used to doing that we’re not used to doing is asking the question, “Wait a minute, what are the problems in this story?” Because those problems are eventually going to lead us to the questions we ought to be asking, to find what the authors were really trying to tell us. Brent, as you read this story, are there any problems that just jump out at you?
Brent: There’s a talking snake.
Marty: Indeed, which I’m shocked to find how we just very rarely bring that up as a problem in the story. It’s just one of the oddest details. There’s a rabbi that I’ll talk about a lot in Genesis, his name is Rabbi David Fohrman. He talks about the lullaby effect. When you’ve heard a story so many times, you no longer pay attention to the details. We have a talking snake in this story. That’s weird. Animals don’t talk. There’s one other story in the scriptures, in the book of numbers with a talking donkey. It also is really striking and odd. The whole point of the story is that the donkey shouldn’t be talking. In Genesis 2, nobody seems to be surprised about a talking snake. Like this is totally normal. But it’s not totally normal. That should totally grab our attention, but there’s all kinds of other problems with this story too. What else, Brent?
Brent: You have the fruit, the woman saw the fruit was good for food and that seems reasonable. Pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom... How does she see that?
Marty: Right. We’ll come back to that one. We’re going to let that one hang, but that’s a problem because it’s this added element. When God made the trees at the beginning of the story, we were told that they were pleasing to the eye and good for food, but then she has this third element that’s added in there. That’s weird. Do you have any other problems with this story, Brent?
Brent: Well, I don’t know if this one’s a problem but I am intrigued by the thought of the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
Marty: It’s actually a really good question.
Brent: I definitely identify with that, the cool of the day. I’m like, “I like to walk in the cool of the day.”
Marty: There’s actually some good stuff about the cool of the day. We won’t go there today but I like that question. I’ll give you a few problems with that story that I have. First of all, they call it the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Only, it’s not apparently, because Eve has the knowledge of good and evil before she eats of the tree. She’s fully aware when she talks to the snake, she’s not supposed to eat. So she has a knowledge of good and evil before she eats from the tree. Let alone the fact that if it was a tree of knowledge of good and evil, it would not make any sense.
It would not be fair or just for God to punish somebody for eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil if it actually bestowed the knowledge of good and evil because they didn’t possess the knowledge before they ate of the tree. You could only punish them for eating from the tree the second time if it really was a tree of knowledge of good and evil because only then would they have the knowledge they needed to make the choice that they’re being punished for. This tree isn’t the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Not only that, well, the serpent says, “If you eat it, you will be like God,” which it seems like they are already made in the image of God.
Weren’t we just told that they were made in the image of God? They should already have that. There’s that going on there. What about the issue of who’s actually lying in the story? What did God say? “If you eat of the tree, you will surely die,” God said. The snake says, “You will not surely die.” Now, I know we’re used to reading the story and that lullaby effect, but step back for a moment and tell me if you were in any relationship in our real world.
You had two children and then one child said, “Oh, yes, that’s totally going to happen.” And the other child said, “No, it’s not going to happen.” But when it came to pass, it was like, “Oh, yes, that’s going to happen. It’s going to happen way later.” Which one is more true? You’re going to totally feel like the first person duped you. God has this really weird stance in the story where the snake and when you go back and you look at the snake, the snake really doesn’t lie. Oh, the snake’s doing all kinds of things with the truth, but God is telling a lot more half-truths in the story than the serpent is. That’s weird.
It continues to raise questions for me because what kind of dad sets up his kids for failure? What kind of sick story is this where God’s like, “Okay, you can do anything in the garden you want. Just don’t touch the tree.”
I have a son. His name’s Zeke and Zeke has always been just fascinated with swords, in today’s world it’s Light Sabers, but when he was younger, it was swords. Maybe not the six-year-old Zeke of today, but the three or four-year-old Zeke of a few years ago just loved knives, swords. What kind of dad would I be if I took the knife block from my kitchen and set it up in the living room whether it was in the middle or over in the corner of the living room and I was like, “Listen, do whatever you want. I’ll be around to walk with you in the cool of the day every now and then but whatever you do, don’t touch the knife block.”
This is the oddest story. There’s so many problems in the story and I’ll tell you another thing that stands out. When I started to look at the structure of the story, I noticed that the story starts with, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” It doesn’t start there but part of the narrative starts there. Then at the end of the story, Adam is essentially banished with Eve, he’s not typically alone but it goes from Adam being alone, which he’s really not alone, to Adam being banished from the Garden, and ends up being alone again. If we go backward, it’s not good for man to be alone. The very next paragraph is about how God gives him a woman and then He names her woman. Right before Adam is banished, he gives her a name and calls her Eve. I don’t know if you’re noticing anything, Brent, but do you notice anything here?
Brent: It seems like we’re developing a pattern.
Marty: We’ve seen this pattern in our last podcast. It’s called a…
Marty: Exactly. We have another chiasm in this story, which is again, one of those roadmaps and treasure maps the author uses to bury a treasure and so we have a chiasm. We have bookends that are Adam being alone and then Adam being banished. Adam giving her the name woman and Adam giving her the name Eve and you can actually follow if you look at the story, it’s relatively easy to follow this pattern of the very next thing we’re told about at the top of the story is the snake. The very last thing to happen in the story is the snake gets cursed.
It’s pretty easy to follow this chiasm but if you follow the chiasm to the dead center, you find that the center verse of this chiasm is that the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked. That ends up being the phrase at the center of the poem, which does raise an issue. It’s an odd center until you think about it because when you go back to the story, isn’t nakedness a really, really odd, awkward detail of the story? Even if you were to go back to when you first heard the story of Adam and Eve, isn’t it one of the most awkward things that stands out about the story is its routine referring back to nakedness.
Of all the things that God wants to tell us about the male and the female, is that they were naked and they had no shame. Then, when they eat of the tree, of all the things that could happen, like imagine if they eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Of all the things that could happen, we’re told that their eyes are open and they realize they’re naked. Then God comes and says, “Where are you?” Adam says, “Well, I hid because I was naked.” Of all the things that Adam needs to tell God right now. He wants to focus on nakedness? Then of all the things God could say — He could focus on the tree — His first words are, “Who told you that you were naked?“
Nakedness is super awkward. It should not be this prominent and yet this whole story is a story about nakedness. It’s just nakedness, nakedness, nakedness. The whole story is about nakedness. It’s the weirdest. There’s something that we have to understand about the Hebrew that you don’t hear in English. It’s really not fair because you don’t hear in English, unfortunately, but you hear in Hebrew. The word for naked in the Hebrew is the word arowm, A-R-O-W-M. Later in the story, it’s going to turn from naked to nakedness and the word in the Hebrew is erowm, E-R-O-W-M, naked, arowm, nakedness, erowm.
Then one of the words that you don’t hear is in verse 3:1. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. The word for crafty in Hebrew is eruwm, E-R-U-W-M. That’s significant because if you’re hearing this story, which of course, you were in the ancient world, you’re not reading the story. They don’t have the printing press. This is not meant to be a read word. It’s going to be a heard word, a spoken word.
If you hear it, those words come from the same root base. They’re almost indistinguishable. You’re almost going to have the person telling you the story stop and go, “Okay, wait a minute. Say that again. Did you just say the serpent was the most naked person?” “No, the most crafty. Oh, okay.” It’s such a similar-sounding word, that it stands out to you. When you look at the story, you realize that the snake is oddly human. You mentioned what attribute about the snake?
Brent: He’s talking.
Marty: The snake is reasoning. He’s having a very logical argument. He’s not just talking, the snake is also actually quite smart. Intelligent. The snake is relating. In fact, the Midrash teaches that the snake is actually trying to usurp Adam’s role and marry Eve in order to have children which is why they say in this tradition God chooses enmity between the two offsprings, but nevertheless… Then there’s the fact that the snake is walking. I feel like, “This snake’s not walking! That’s ridiculous.” If you remember, the curse of the snake is that the snake is going to crawl on its belly, meaning the snake is not crawling on its belly.
The snake is walking, the snake is talking. The snake is reasoning. The snake is relating, this snake is incredibly human and yet we’re told clearly that the snake is a beast. The story makes that incredibly clear which raises the question in the story about nakedness. What is the real temptation? What’s the temptation that the snake actually issues towards Eve? The rabbi that I heard this from went back to the statement that the snake starts with.
The snake says, “Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” What’s interesting is where we put the emphasis in that statement because when we read it in the English, I think sometimes we emphasize “did God really say you must not eat from any tree of the garden?” I think that’s where I put the emphasis in English, but the rabbi that I learned this from, Rabbi David Fohrman, he pointed out in the Hebrew, you can put the emphasis there.
It’s impossible because that doesn’t exist in the Hebrew. The emphasis, as you read in the Hebrew, has to rely on the word, “say.” Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden? Did God really say that? Which is an interesting way to hear that phrase and to hear the question being asked because if we were to — now think about that question again. Let’s say somebody were to come to me and say, “I heard that the podcast recording went really poorly the other day. Brent said it was just an absolute mess.” I would respond with, “Did Brent really say that?” The assumption of that statement is what, Brent?
Brent: That seems like a private conversation.
Marty: Or that Brent must be lying because that’s not at all the truth. The emphasis, if I say, “Did Brent really say that?” That emphasis changes the statement, the entire tone of the sentence changes that statement to that’s not true at all. The snake’s temptation with Eve is to put in her mind, “God would never have put you in a garden with all these trees if he didn’t want you to enjoy it.”
Now, let’s pause the story right there for just a moment and ask ourselves, “What is the difference?” This snake is looking awfully human and yet the snake is a beast. Why did God have Adam? When he said, “It’s not good for Adam to be alone?” Why was his first project to do what, Brent?
Brent: To find a suitable helper.
Marty: And had him do?
Brent: Name the animals.
Marty: Name the animals. Why was that God’s first assignment to Adam? This whole story seems to be about the fact that human beings are not beasts. The snake is not human even though he looks, walks, talks, reasons, relates. This whole story is about what it means to be human. This whole story is about Adam, it’s not good for you to be alone, but you’re not an animal. I’ve got to teach you that you’re not an animal. This whole story is about how being human means that you’re not an animal.
What is the difference between being a human and an animal that would still work in Genesis 2 and 3? I think the reasons that we typically come up with no longer work in Genesis 2. “To be human means that we have an intellect and an ability to reason,” but that doesn’t work in Genesis 2 because the snake is reasoning. “Being human means to relate to other, to have relationship,” but that didn’t work because the snake is relating in the story. The one thing that sometimes gets pulled up in our study is being human means being made in the what, Brent?
Brent: In the image of God.
Marty: In the image of God. That begs the question: what does it mean to be made in the image of God? One of the names for God that Fohrman brought up when he taught this lesson, one of the names for God that we have is the name El Shaddai. We sometimes translate it “God Almighty.” The problem is El Shaddai doesn’t really translate, it’s this weird word. We don’t really know exactly what it comes from. The best that we had was this idea of Almighty but it’s really not what El Shaddai means. It’s this weird word. Fohrman says, “There’s many rabbis throughout the ages that have looked at the consonants of the word Shaddai instead as representing words.”
Then what that means is “the God who knows when to say enough.” If you were to take the consonants of El Shaddai and turn them into a phrase, El Shaddai means “the God who knows when to say enough,” which is interesting because that’s exactly the God that we met last week, if you remember. We remembered we told the story about a God who knew when to stop creating.
Brent: Six days of creation. Then He rests.
Marty: Then He rests. This is a God who knows when to say enough because we talked last week about that sculptor making the Michelangelo statue. The sculptor has to know when to stop because if he takes one more swing of the hammer, it ruins the whole thing.
Brent: I’ve seen the David and the defining feature of it is how large the hands and the feet are. If you keep doing it, then it doesn’t have that.
Marty: You’re going to ruin the entire statue. It’s just this God is a God who knows-- That’s the exact lesson we just learned about last week, the God who knows when to say enough. When God created this garden and he puts Adam and Eve in the middle of it, he places them in this garden, He says, “I want you to help me take creation somewhere. I’ve got this good creation, loaded with potential, we can do anything we want with it, but I’m going to put this tree in the garden because I need you to know that you’re not an animal. You’re a human and you’re made in my image, and I need you to know how to say enough. I need you to know your desires are good.” Our desire to eat, it’s a good thing, keeps us alive. Our desire to sleep, that’s a good thing. Their desire is not evil, desire is a part of us. Hey, by the way, Brent, what did you point out about what she saw in the tree?
Brent: She said that it is good for food, pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom.
Marty: What was the missing component?
Brent: The wisdom.
Brent: Oh, desire.
Marty: Desire has all of a sudden entered the story. Desire is this defining mark that finds its way into the story. We have desire at play now. We have this God trying to teach His people, you are not a beast, what is the temptation of the snake? The temptation of the snake is “Eve, you’re just a beast, you have desires in you. Let me tell you what beasts do when they have desires.” Beasts act on their desires every single time, you will never find a beast practicing self-restraint. You’re never going to be out in the woods and find a deer that’s out there going, “You know what’d be good for me today? To just pass on a meal. It’d be good for me, I might shed a few pounds.”
No, a deer is always going to eat. When a deer is hungry, it eats. When a beast is in mating season, it mates. The defining characteristic of what it means to be made in the image of God is that we are people who know how to harness our creative powers and our desires, just like the God who made us. This God is inviting Adam and Eve to the very same invitation that He invited us to last week in the story of creation.
He’s inviting Adam and Eve to just trust the story. “Just trust me, Adam and Eve. Just trust me, Adam. I made this creation good. There’s everything that you need. You need to know when to say enough. You need to know when to say, ‘I don’t need anymore because God’s given me everything I need.’ ” Don’t believe that God is holding out on you. Everything you need is right here. The snake says, “No, of course not. You’re just a beast. You’re just an animal. You’re hungry. You want to eat. That’s what you should do.” God’s trying to teach us, people. I find it interesting and maybe I can start working towards a close enough that there’s so much to talk about here.
Brent: Oh man, I just had this crazy thought. I don’t know about this. Let me just throw it out. God formed the man from the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. We talked about ruach.
Marty: Ruach. Not yet, but we can.
Brent: I thought we talked about last week.
Brent: I think you maybe briefly mentioned it. Anyway, Hebrew word, ruach. I can’t say it… “ruach.”
Marty: Can use [chah sound]
Brent: Anyway, wind, breath, and spirit. Same word.
Brent: The Spirit of God is breathed into Adam and that’s how he becomes a living being.
Brent: Then later on, we find out that the fruit of the Spirit is, among other things, self-control.
Marty: Oh, absolutely. Yes, absolutely. Huge connection. That’s one of the most defining — and for me, when I learned about fruits of the Spirit, self-control gets tagged on to the end here, you cannot forget about.
Brent: It doesn’t seem like the rest of them, really.
Marty: No. It’s one of the most defining fruits of the Spirit because that’s what makes you most like God, is your ability to harness your — we’re not talking about willpower here. We’re talking about that piece of the divine that resides in you. It’s not about willpower, it’s about trust. It’s about not letting your desire be the narrative that you’re going to listen to. It’s about letting in God’s invitation of “You’re loved, you’re valued, you’re accepted, you have everything you need.”
Now, a closing thought about the story. I find it interesting when Adam gives names to his wife. The first name is ishah, woman. And ishah speaks of who she is. It is her essence. She is the piece of me that’s now missing. She is ishah. What I find striking is after they’ve eaten from the tree, he names her Hava, Eve, which refers to what she can do. Like in their beautiful, in their good, pre-fall state, Adam is enamored with who she is, not what she can produce. Not what she’s done, not the fact that she’s a birthing machine. She’s the part of me that’s missing. That’s who she is.
After the fall, after their eyes are opened after they experience shame, all of a sudden he becomes enamored with what she can do. I think every single one of us that has ever experienced shame and the invitation is still the same. Now,1 final thing I thought of while we were talking about this. Remember the question that God asked, remember the question after Adam says, “Well, I knew we were naked, so I hid,” what does God say next?
Brent: Is it, what have you done?
Marty: Nope. That’s to Eve.
Brent: “Who told you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
Marty: The first words out of God’s mouth are, “Who told you you were naked?” By the way, what was your other question? This is so good too. About God’s question of where are you?
Brent: The word for called is like an interesting word, because up to this point, like God says this, Adam says this, everybody’s saying something, but then you have this whole different word, God called to the man.
Marty: Right and he asked this question, that’s weird. Does God like, not know where they’re at? I thought God was confused. Does God not know where Adam and Eve were? Where are you? Fohrman goes on to teach in his lessons around this story. There are two Hebrew words for “where.” There’s two different ideas for “where are you?” There’s a Hebrew word that means “where is this thing?” Like, as in, “Hey, where did I put my keys?” Then there’s another Hebrew word that’s used here and it assumes that something is supposed to be there. Meaning “I put my keys right here and I know that they were right here. Where are they?” If that makes any sense.
One of them is an inquisitive “Where are my keys? I don’t know.” The other one is, “My keys have moved. Where are they?” which is what God is asking here. Not “I don’t know where you’re at,” but “Adam and Eve, you’re not where you’re supposed to be. You’re supposed to be walking with me in the garden. You’re supposed to be by my side. You’re not where you’re supposed to be. Where are you?”
And Adam says, “Well, I hid because I was naked,” and God’s question is brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant. God says, “Who told you you were naked?” I love that question because they were naked the whole time and it wasn’t a problem. “I created you naked. Why is all of a sudden being naked, a bad thing? You were naked before.” I love that question. Why have you become ashamed of how I created you?
Then your next question, have you eaten from the tree? Skip Moen has a teaching where he says, God’s question, really on a larger scale, is “what voices have you been listening to? I created you naked and I told you, you were good and now all of a sudden you are ashamed of the very way I created you. What other voices have you been listening to?” Which is like this ringing question that I think is a great place to end this podcast. Like we have this, we walk around with so much shame of who we are and I wonder if God asked the question to us today, “Why are you ashamed of the very way that I — who told you you were naked and why is being naked all of a sudden a bad thing? What other voices have you been listening to?”
The invitation for us is to not listen to the other voices that tell us to be ashamed of the person we are, because the person we are is the person that God created, made in His image, loved, valued, and accepted. And He invites us just to rest in that. “Just join me Genesis 1, in Sabbath rest, just trust the story. Just trust me. Trust Genesis 1. Trust it. Don’t listen to any other voices. Just trust that you have everything that you need and be fine in your nakedness.”
Brent: What’s also interesting is they realized they were naked so they sewed the fig leaves together and they covered themselves, and they were still ashamed.
Marty: Absolutely. And what I love, this is just so good. What I love is that God doesn’t respond to that by trying to just fix their misconceptions. Like you could just be like, “No, guys really nakedness is fine.” He meets them in their shame and he sews them clothes. I just love that. The first act of God, the rabbis have always taught is an act of benevolence, by the way, the last act of Torah, God, buries Moses. So Torah opens and closes with God’s benevolent acts. So the first two acts of God we see interacting with his creation are benevolent acts. Nevertheless, I just love the fact that God hears our shame. He sees our shame and in love, he benevolently gives us this comfort, even though I think in reality, they didn’t even need it and yet He met him and He made him clothes. Anyway, just an incredible part of the story.
Brent: All right. I think that does it for us.
Marty: I think so.
Brent: If you live on the Palouse, we hope you join us for discussion groups in Moscow on Tuesday or in Pullman on Wednesday. If you want to get a hold of Marty, you can find him on Twitter at @martysolomon, you can find me on Twitter at @eibcb, and you can find more details about the show at bemadiscipleship.com. Thanks for joining us on the BEMA Podcast and we’ll talk to you again soon.