Posts tagged innocence
There is a lot of ground covered in these four chapters. Any discussion of Abram would be incomplete without mentioning the covenant that God initiated with Abram (and, ultimately, with his ancestors). We’ll get to that in a moment. But first, I want to take a moment to consider the theme that we’ve been exploring thus far in the book of Genesis – namely that the choices made by human beings continue to lead to a loss of innocence, which then leads to more severe consequences.
Now, at first glance, you may wonder where I’m coming from on this one, but consider this: the land that Abram initially moves his family to is called Canaan. It is a land that is inhabited by people who are potentially hostile toward Abram and his family. That is why Abram didn’t stop there, but moved on. Eventually, because of a famine, he and his family ended up in Egypt, a place where Abram felt so threatened that he had his wife pretend to be his sister so that the Pharaoh wouldn’t have him killed. The question is, where did these ruthless people come from?
For the answer, we only need to back up a couple of chapters to Genesis 10:6:
The sons of Ham:
Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan.
That’s right! The ruthless, bloodthirsty heathens inhabiting these two lands – Canaan and Egypt – were the extended families of Ham’s sons. Egypt and Canaan were grandsons of Noah! Abram, you’ll recall was a descendent of Shem, one of Noah’s sons and the brother of Ham. And so, when God started over with 8 humans and a boat full of animals, it took less than 10 generations for this righteous group to splinter into multiple factions and to begin to be hostile toward each other.
So what in the world sparked this animosity? Well, if you recall in yesterday’s reading, we read how Noah got drunk and naked and how his son Ham essentially made a spectacle of him, while Shem and Japheth covered him up. Noah, in his anger, cursed Ham’s son Canaan (and ostensibly all of Ham’s offspring) saying “May Canaan be the slave of Shem.” What we see in these passages today, then, is the direct result of this family feud and curse. It’s another incredible reminder that our choices have lasting consequences even after we’re dead and gone!
Now, for a brief word about God’s covenant with Abram. While I may only write a few sentences here, this was one of the most important acts recorded in the Bible. Without going into great detail, you should first understand that the splitting of animal carcasses was a common way of sealing a contract or covenant in those days. They would split the animals in half and each party would walk between the halves to symbolize their commitment to keeping their agreement.
This is the initiation of the nation of Israel (which would later be formed by Abram’s descendents) as God’s chosen people. This covenant would last at least until Jesus came and established a new covenant. Some argue that the old covenant is still in place and that the people of Israel (Jews) are still God’s chosen people. Others argue that the new covenant established by Jesus abolished the old covenant and that all who follow Jesus are the “new people of Israel.” Whatever the nuances of your beliefs, most agree that God’s establishment of the initial covenant is one of the most important acts contained within the pages of the Bible.
In the first seven chapters of the book of Genesis, I’ve noted a common theme – the loss of innocence – which leads to severe calamities for the human race. First, there was Adam & Eve eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That led to the murder of one of their sons by one of their sons. Eventually, the whole world became full of wicked people who had to be destroyed in order for God to start over with his creation.
Now, in chapter 8, we find a new day dawning – a new era for the human race. With these 8 people and the animals that they rescued from the flood, God would start afresh. Of course, one problem remained. These people weren’t pure and perfect like Adam & Eve. And if the actions of the perfect first couple led to destruction, how in the world were these 8 going to have any better results?
That’s where God provides some reassurances. First, God promises not to destroy the earth by flood again. He takes that one off the table. Instead, he signals to Noah and his family that a new order is now in place. How does he do this? When God tells Noah and his family “Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything,” he isn’t just saying that they can eat meat. He’s saying that they are now living under a different system entirely.
Meat would have been foreign to Noah and his family. They probably had no desire to eat it. It may have even been repulsive to them. But in his instructions, God creates a symbolic representation of the reality of the situation. He continues to build on the theme of innocence lost. The animals which, up to this point, had been simply for work or pleasure, now had an additional function in the world which was caused by the loss of innocence and the resultant choices that inevitably had to be made because of it.
The loss of innocence, then, would lead mankind to eat meat – a concept that wasn’t part of the original created world, but which was clearly acceptable to God in this new order of things. In fact, it was God’s suggestion.
As I embark on this journey of reading and blogging through the bible over the course of a year, I am confronted immediately with one of the most discussed and controversial portions of the Bible. Perhaps that’s because it involves the creation of the universe, or perhaps it’s because countless others have embarked on a journey to read through the bible and this is as far as they were able to get!
Whatever the case, I have no desire to dive into a discussion or debate about intelligent design. What I would like to point out instead is the very first case of “unintelligent decision-making”. In Genesis 2 and 3, we’re told all about this incredible garden that God had set up for Adam and Eve. The place was perfect – a real heaven on earth where human beings walked with God.
By all indications, this garden had only one rule – do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was as if God, in his desire to offer free will to us, had to give Adam and Eve some kind of choice to make. Therefore, he made it really simple for them:
In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9b)
Two trees. You choose which one to eat from: the tree of life, which comes with very little in the way of responsibility, a whole lot of freedom and an incredible, eternal life OR the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which comes with all of the stress and struggle of knowing right from wrong and trying to choose what’s right. In other words, we were allowed to choose innocence or to choose a loss of innocence that brought with it a lot of baggage.
Ultimately, Eve, followed by Adam, chose the loss of innocence. Why? Perhaps it was the enticement of power offered by the serpent or the allure of having something they were told they couldn’t have. Whatever it was, that same choice faces us every day…and every day we make the same foolish decision that Adam & Eve made – we choose the loss of innocence.
Our desire for knowledge, power, esteem or whatever else we can get our hands on causes us to make a stupid decision that immediately opens us up to more stupid decisions. That is the history of the human race and we continually feed into it. That is why Jesus told us that we need to “become like little children” in order to experience the kingdom of heaven – to experience life as it was supposed to be – life as it was before that fateful day when “unintelligent decision-making” was born.