Thursday, September 13, 2018

Genesis 6:1-4

The first verse of Genesis 6 is a continuation from the previous two chapters, which give a broad overview of the fast and vast multiplication of humanity. Genesis 4 outlines the line of Cain and Genesis 5 that of Seth. An interpretative challenge then arises in 6:2-4.

Debate swirls around who the "sons of God" were. The two most prominent perspectives are that (a) they represent the godly seed through Seth's lineage who intermarried with the ungodly seed of Cain's descendants, or (b) they were angelic beings.

The likes of Augustine (City of God), John Calvin, and Keil and Delitzsch espouse the first view. For the sake of space, I commend you to those renowned biblical scholars for support of that interpretation.

I hold to the position that the "sons of God" were fallen angelic beings for a number of reasons.

To begin with, Moses was addressing a chosen people to stress the monotheistic nature of the one true God. He was communicating to the Hebrews amid their exodus about how they had come to their current state of affairs. Genesis, in fact, traces the story that led to Israel finding itself in physical bondage before encountering the redemptive promises of Yahweh.

Theologies emerged throughout various people groups (Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, etc.), of which marriages between gods and humans were prominent. The Gilgamesh Epic, a legend whose heroic figure descended from such a union, certainly would have become well known among the Jewish people. I contend those theologies and legends sprang up as "shadows" of historical realities. In other words, nations naturally proposed explanations regarding the creation account and subsequent happenings, only their versions were a perversion of the truth. Nahum M. Sarna posits that this narrative in Genesis was thus told as a means of combatting the emergent polytheistic mythology.

Moses is setting the record straight. Yes, there was in fact an historical moment when members of the spirit world had intermixed with humanity. As a result of their offspring, Nephilim, or giants like those perpetuated in pagan mythology, for a time roamed the earth. These figures intensified the wickedness of humanity who had chosen willingly to inter-mix with those not of their own kind.

The reference to Nephilim in Numbers 13:33 has a different connotation but ultimately carries a similar message as in this earlier record. For, yes, there will also be the occurrence of a cataclysmic flood (incorrectly re-told in the Gilgamesh Epic) where God will show Himself greater than all created beings: the pre-flood giants would not survive the Lord's judgment. In Numbers 13 Israel should have trusted God's hand of deliverance, even when they were comparing the might of Canaan's military forces to giants.

Beyond the historical and theological circumstances resides an exegetical matter. Each time the phrase "sons of God" appears in Scripture (Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7) it literally means "spirit beings." Some will object based on Jesus' teaching in Matthew 22:30 that angels could not have taken to themselves human daughters as wives with whom to have offspring. Yet, as Henry M. Morris explains, "When Jesus said that the angels in heaven do not marry, this does not necessarily mean that those who have been cast out of heaven were incapable of doing so."

In addition to the Hebrew word choice that points to "spirit beings," those studying Genesis 6 should cross-reference the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 as well as Jude 6-8. The sexual deviance had become so evil in Sodom and Gomorrah that the men sought to have intimate relations with those not even of their own kind (visiting celestial beings).

Of greatest significance, however, is that Genesis 6:1-4 should teach us a lesson about how original sin persists in the human heart. Throughout the pages of Scripture and the annals of humankind is the prideful longing of men and women to exalt themselves as a "god" (cf. Gen. 3:1-6). At the root of what takes place between the sons of God and the daughters of men is the attempt of humanity to procure eternal life without the Lord. No such possibility exists.

We can do nothing to secure salvation apart from God's grace, as we will see in the next blog entry. For now, let it be stated clearly that a supernatural birth would later occur of the Lord's choosing when the Creator united Himself "to human nature in the Virgin's womb" (Gordon J. Wenham). It is only because of the birth and ministry of the God-man Jesus, who was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15), that an opportunity exists for humanity to enjoy eternal life.


TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

I need to trust in the hand of God's deliverance from the following Nephilim in my life:

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TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from Best Devotional Commentary:  "Satan was in the garden when the promise of a deliverer was given (cf. Gen. 3:15). ... Like Eve, he too must have thought that Cain, the woman's offspring, was the deliverer and must therefore have plotted to turn him into a murderer. He succeeded! He corrupted Cain by getting him to murder Abel, thereby eliminating one of Eve's children and rendering the other unfit to be the Savior. Yet Satan failed! For, as he was soon to learn, God simply continued on His unruffled way to develop the godly line through which the deliverer would eventually be born. What was Satan to do now? At this point he conceived the plan of corrupting the entire race by the intermarriage of demons and human beings. The Savior could not be born of a demon-possessed mother. So if Satan could succeed in infecting the entire race, the deliverer could not come. In narrating this incident, Genesis 6 is saying, in effect, 'Meanwhile, back at the ranch the villain is still hatching his plots.'
   Satan is still doing it today. Because he is a being who learns by experience, he is a much wiser and more dangerous devil today than he was in the time before the flood. A person who knows this and who knows that we struggle 'not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms' (Eph. 6:12), will fear Satan and draw near to Jesus who has defeated him" (Boice).

from Best Academic Commentary:  "Some commentators have suggested that 120 years (v.3) represents a period of grace before the flood. It may be, however, that the author thought of the 120 years as a maximum life-span that was only gradually implemented; cf. the slow-acting curses of Eden 3:16-19. In the post-flood period, the recorded ages steadily decline (ch. 11), and later figures rarely exceed 120" (Wenham).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary:  "The wording of verse 2 recalls the fall of Eve in the garden (3:6), for when she saw that the tree was good, she took and ate. In that passage the motivation was to be like God; in this passage the barriers between the 'sons of God' and the human race also seem to be challenged. ...
   Here, then, humankind had overstepped the boundaries again, trying to assume the role of divinity and hoping to achieve immortality. God, through Moses, set the record straight by confronting the mythological ideas directly: do not believe the gentile myths concerning the divine origin of the men of renown; in the end all must die, for all are flesh ('the end of all flesh'). The passage goes on to say that those who survive the judgment and become immortal do so by grace alone; moreover, those who are recipients of grace will walk with Him in righteousness, not living according to the corrupt practices of the world" (Ross).

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Genesis 5:21-24

Several questions about the first book of the Bible have often perplexed me. I can readily identify two of my questions from a cursory reading of Genesis 5:21-24.

1. How are we to reconcile the age ascribed to humanity in the early pages of biblical history?
2. What are we to make of Enoch (and the later account of Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11) having never tasted death but being taken up into the presence of God?

As to the first question, humanity was not originally created to die and "the condition of man in paradise would not be immediately exhausted" (Keil & Delitzsch). Yet, over time, as people became increasingly separated from the presence of their Creator, their longevity of life began to decrease significantly. The fact that some individuals now live into their early 100s falls under the category of what theologians refer to as common grace.

The second question is more perplexing to me, primarily because I wonder about what it suggests about the afterlife. We know that the apostle Paul says that the dead will rise at Christ's second coming but, until that event, believers who have died remain separated from what will ultimately become their glorified bodies (cf. 1 Cor. 15:35-52; 2 Cor. 5:1-10). Yet, what of Enoch and Elijah who never tasted death?

In my research and contemplation on this subject, I propose a few conclusions for you to ponder.

Notably, Christ is the first fruits of the dead, meaning He is the first to experience resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:18). Scripture does not say that Jesus is the first to experience a glorified body, only that as the second Adam, after having tasted death, Christ was fully resurrected to a glorified state. Those who perish in Christ will receive their new glorified body when Jesus returns. Until then, their soul finds rest in the heavenly realm awaiting the full consummation. Where we reside and what this looks like no one can ascertain: the fact that Moses was "identifiable" at the Mount of Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:3) fills my heart with curious anticipation.

Theologically, as to Enoch and Elijah, I believe they provide a precursor to the hope that resides for the people of God. Those who "walk faithfully with God" (Gen. 5:21, 24) and who are alive at Christ's return will be immediately taken up to a glorified state. Enoch and Elijah were never resurrected because they never died; however, they could have been instantly glorified (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Some have even speculated that Enoch and Elijah were taken up in advance of when they shall stand as the two witnesses of Revelation 11, in which case they will both eventually taste death (cf. Rev. 11:7).

Practically, I believe what we read about Enoch in Genesis 5 should challenge every follower of Christ. Enoch was not sinless. In fact, the text indicates that his relationship with the Lord did not begin until he turned 65. And, as is true with every believer, something sparked his pursuit of God. For Enoch, that something appears to be when he became a father (cf. Gen. 5:21-22).

Once Enoch trusted in the hope found only in the promises of God (which find their "Amen" in Christ), he gave himself completely to that relationship. Jude 14, 15 makes it clear that Enoch offers an example of one who stood up and stood out for the Lord during some of the most perilous of times. An example, by the way, that I contend had a profound influence on his lineage - upon his son Methuselah, down to his grandson Lamech, and along to his great grandson Noah!

So, in spite of my unanswered (perhaps unanswerable) questions, one definitive truth from the historical account of Enoch stares each of us in the face. If we are a follower of Christ, we are called to walk faithfully with Him so as to proclaim the Gospel in these perilous times and to leave an example of godliness for those who will come after us. This is the main lesson we should learn from Enoch.


TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

That which sparked my desire to follow after Christ and to leave a legacy of godliness was: 

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TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from runner-up to Best Devotional Commentary - "When it is affirmed of Enoch that he walked with God, it implies that there had been a time when Enoch and God had not been at agreement, but that something had occurred to put them at agreement, and that after this agreement they had then walked together" (Carroll).
     Let me also add a word from the Apostle Paul here: "Much more then, having now been justified by [Jesus'] blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:9-10).
     Reconciled essentially means to be put back into agreement with. To be in agreement with God, Enoch had to trust in the promises of the Messianic seed. To be in agreement with God, we must trust in the fulfillment of those promises in the death and resurrection of Christ. Are you in agreement with God? If so, through the indwelling and communing presence of the Holy Spirit, walk with Him.

from runner-up to Best Academic Commentary - "The phrase 'walked with God,' which is only applied to Enoch and Noah (ch. 6:9), denotes the most confidential intercourse, the closest communion with the personal God, a walking as it were by the side of God, who at that time still continued His visible social intercourse with men (vid., 3:8). It must be distinguished from 'walking before God' (ch. 17:1; 24:40, etc.), and 'walking after God' (Deut. 13:4), both which phrases are used to indicate a pious, moral, blameless life under the law according to the directions of the divine commands. The only other passage in which this expression 'walk with God' occurs is Mal. 2:6, where it denotes not the piety of the godly Israelites generally, but the conduct of the priests, who stood in a closer relation to Jehovah under the Old Testament than the rest of the faithful, being permitted to enter the Holy Place and hold direct intercourse with Him there, which the rest of the people could not do" (Keil & Delitzsch).