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Genesis as Ancestor Epic Part III: The First Law as the Seed of All Just Law

seed of law sxc hu smallIn two recent posts we began to discuss the implication of reading Genesis as an Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) Ancestor Epic, a collection of stories that a people tell themselves about how they almost weren’t, about their deliverance by their God to fulfill his purposes in and through them in the world.

We developed the idea that ancient interests in creation stories were not about the origins of stuff, material ontology, but about order, functional ontology. They wanted to know who made the world, why He made the world, what he made the world to be, how he made the world to function and how the worshiper could function best within it.

YHWH created the world not out of struggle with other gods, but unchallenged by his word, appointing man as His regent in creation to bring about His purposes in it. Man, however, falls from grace into rebellion, beginning the true divine struggle for creation not against competing gods detrimental to the life cycle, but against sin in the human heart and against the rebellious societies that sinful men construct.  In the midst of this seeming disaster, however, God speaks his promise to bring forth a man who will overturn sin’s corruption, redeem creation, and fulfill man’s commission in and through it.

The stories go on to depict deepening and spreading human evil, growing out of control, until only one truly righteous man can be found among men. God’s promise holds; he will redeem this. Creation will become what He intended it to become when he made it. Man will fulfill his role, even if only through the ONE, who in this instance is Noah, a foreshadowing of the seed of the woman who is to come.

The processes of God in this chaoskampf are not failures. They are, however mysterious to us, steps in the divine plan.

Creation Stories in Biblical Theology are a type of WISDOM LITERATURE, a map to the order of life. This includes providing a foundational understanding of human evil and the nature of the struggle for creation and order in the world that is.

Now “the world that is” for those preserving this Ancestor Epic was not the creation of Gen 1 and 2 nor its corrupted form in Gen 3-6. “The world that is” for those preserving this Ancestor Epic is the creation of Gen 8-9, the new world that God brought out of the waters of Noah. “The world that is” for those preserving this Ancestor Epic was the world after the incident at the Tower of Babel. “The world that is” is predicated on the worlds of Gen 1-6, but some important changes are discussed in Gen 9-11.

One of which is the planting of LAW into the world like a seed.

The fall of man in Gen 3 leads to the deepening and spreading corruption of humanity in Gen 4-6. In fact, human corruption is so complete, God says, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  (Genesis 6:5) And, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:11-13)

God cleanses the earth of a society too corrupt to permit the fulfillment of God’s purposes in creation. He plants the new creation with human seed from the old creation, which, while containing the seed of the woman within them (He who will eventually set all to rights), is still corrupt seed. God says, after the flood, “…I will never again curse the ground because of man, though[1] the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. (Genesis 8:21)

So, God will not flood the world again, but man’s heart is still in the condition that led to the need to cleanse it in the first place. A real danger remains that man could reach the point of total unredeemable corruption again.

How will God keep the world in check until he brings “the seed of the woman” into the world, who will set it all to rights and fulfill God’s purpose in creation?

Read what God does next. He plants the seed of LAW into human society.

Gen 9:5-6 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

This is not the origin of right and wrong; Adam and Eve and all their children did wrong and paid the price for it. This is the origin of divine law in human society—men holding each other accountable by God’s command with articulated punishments for wrong doing, a preservation of order.

This law, the law of blood, becomes the foundation of all biblical law hereafter—the perfect seed. The Lex Talionis, “eye for an eye” here, “blood for blood” is a law of retribution and restitution established on the conviction that Man [male and female] is made in God’s image and is to be treated [rich or poor] with the dignity that position demands.

Biblical law is predicated on the principle that humanity’s place of honor be maintained with vicious retribution in order to preserve the divine order of society.  From this core of respect grows the principles for the Rule of Law. Respect for a person’s body, Respect for property, Respect for Labor, Respect for time.

It can be summed up best in two of Jesus’ statements: 1. Love God and Love your neighbor. 2. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


[1] This preposition is often poorly rendered, confusing the point. God won’t destroy with water again, but that doesn’t mean men aren’t in danger of reaching this point again.

[2] media pic is from sxc.hu

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