Subscribe to this Blog
The Creation Era contains five stories and four genealogical records that together establish a unified storyline.
In Genesis 1–11, Moses records God’s revelation of Himself in creation, including His eternality and power; His design and desire for human flourishing; the origin of sin and its universal impact on individuals, marriages, families, and communities; and God’s promise of redemption. The original recipients of this written record were the Israelites, God’s chosen people, who had been liberated from slavery in Egypt. These stories were critical to their understanding about God, themselves, and their world. And for all readers, these stories are foundational for our understanding of God and His work in the world.
The creation story sharpens its focus on the first humans, Adam and Eve, who are made in the image of God and placed in the Garden of Eden. God places two special trees among all the other trees in the Garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He gives a single prohibition regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, promising death for disobedience. As long as Adam believes in God’s goodness and the trustworthiness of His word, he would practice self-restraint and obedience.
But one day, Satan—God’s enemy—enters the Garden disguised as a cunning serpent. This serpent misrepresents God and deceives Eve. She eats fruit from the forbidden tree and gives some to Adam, who is by her side, and he also eats. Immediately, their eyes are “opened” (Genesis 3:7), but what they experience is fear, shame, and guilt. Naked and ashamed, Adam and Eve hide from God.
The Lord confronts the couple. Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the serpent. In response, the Lord curses the serpent and promises a Coming Seed (or offspring) who would destroy Satan. God sheds innocent blood to produce the skins to cover Adam and Eve’s shame. He slays an innocent animal that He had just declared “good” (Genesis 1:24-25) in order to cover their nakedness, foreshadowing the means He would use to pay the penalty for sin. The promise of the Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) and the picture of redemption (Genesis 3:21) form the foundation of the messianic promises and the way God would deliver His people (substitutionary atonement—the shedding of the blood of the innocent on behalf of the guilty); these themes will appear throughout Scripture. In His mercy, God prevents the couple from going back into the Garden, eating from the tree of life, and living eternally condemned lives without the hope of redemption.
Adam and Eve have children, born in their image and according to their kind—broken image bearers of God. When the time comes to worship God, Cain offers the fruit of the ground, while Abel sacrifices the firstborn of his flock. God looks upon Abel’s sacrifice with pleasure, but He does not accept Cain’s offering. (Perhaps animal sacrifice—which would become central in dealing with sin among God’s people—had already become known as God’s preference for offerings; see the article “Altar People Are Altered People”). God confronts an enraged Cain and warns him to resist sin’s temptation. Cain, however, kills Abel; consequently, God curses Cain. Cain and his descendants develop a world for themselves apart from the presence of God.
God replaces Adam and Eve’s dead son with another son, Seth (see Genesis 4:25). Through this son, the Seed who would crush the head of the serpent would come. Seth’s descendants begin to worship the Lord by name.
The descendants of both Cain and Seth multiply and fill the earth. Genesis 6 seems to indicate that, over time, Seth’s male descendants notice the beauty of Cain’s female descendants and begin to intermarry with them, filling the world with violence and corruption. God grieves over humanity’s wickedness, so He promises to destroy the earth and all its inhabitants with a flood. Noah, however, finds grace (or favor) with God. God instructs Noah to build a large boat with enough space for his family, a male and female of every animal, and seven pairs of each clean animal. Noah believes and obeys God.
All flesh on the earth—every animal and human outside the ark—dies in the flood. And after they spend a year on the boat, Noah, his family, and all the animals are released by the Lord. Noah’s first action is to build an altar to the Lord on which he offers clean animals as a burnt offering. The sacrifice pleases the Lord, who says, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). Noah’s altar and offering echo both Abel’s offering and God’s sacrifice in the Garden. Noah understands—and has now experienced firsthand—that people are guilty sinners who deserve to die for their sins. Yet, as will be seen throughout Scripture, God accepts the substitutionary death of an innocent animal offered in faith.
God makes a covenant with Noah that He will never again destroy the earth by flood. He places a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His covenant and as a reminder to people of His faithfulness. Whenever God’s people see the rainbow, they can remember this story and God’s faithfulness.
Noah’s sons and their wives begin to repopulate the earth. Their descendants, unwilling to obey God’s command to fill the earth, stay in one place and build a huge tower called Babel. In response, the Lord scatters the people over the face of the earth and confuses their language.
The Creation Era reveals a God who speaks: He ascribes names, assesses goodness, gives instructions and boundaries, confronts and judges sin, and promises redemption. The Creation Era reveals a God who acts: He provides for His image bearers, slays innocent animals on behalf of sinful people, opens the floodgates of heaven in judgment, and scatters people throughout the earth. God reveals Himself as good and just, willing to redeem broken, sinful humanity.