In the beginning, a culture of peace was proposed by God to make interrelationships among creatures (Gen 1:1-2:4a).
Steps to be followed:
Read Gen 1:1-2:4a carefully (5 minutes)
Discuss the questions below (10 minutes)
Read the explanation (7 minutes)
End this bible study with a discussion on the final summary (8 minutes).
1. Read Genesis 1:1- 2: 4a
2. Questions: (10 minutes)
Why do you think P (Priestly) as the writer of this creation story designed the story logically and quite different from the J writer in Gen 2:4a-25?
Why do you think P declared the status of humans (man and woman) together with their role?
Why do you think P explicitly mentioned that the living being (humans and the animals) in the beginning consumed vegetation as their diet?
3. Explanation (7 minutes)
P divides the creation story into six days of activity concluding with a day of divine rest. After creating some of the divisions of time (Gen 1:3-5) and space (Gen 1:6-10), on the third day God creates two categories of vegetation: plants yielding seeds, a n trees bearing fruit with seed in it, each according to its kind (Gen 1:11-13). In this process the earth has the role of bringing forth the vegetation.
After creating the lights of the sky (Gen 1:14-19), on the fifth day God commanded the water to bring forth living creatures in the water, along with the appearance of the creatures in the sky, each according to its kind. God blessed them and pronounced them good.
On day six, God create the land animals (Gen 1:24-25) and humans (Gen 1:26-28). As with the vegetation, the earth still ahs a function in bringing forth the land animals, which are categorized as cattle, everything that creeps on the ground and beast of the earth. The sequence seems to be based on the character of encounter with the animals in ordinary life.
Then as the climax, P specifically emphasize the different character of the creation of humans in Gen 1:26-28. Here P states that humans are created in accordance with God’s image and likeness and are given a role, i.e., the responsibility of ruling (rada (radad)) over the animals and subduing (kabash) [i] the earth.
Though most scholars recognize that P does not fully explain the meaning of “image of God,”[ii] however it is recognize that P emphasizes more the consequences of being in the image of God that is to rule over animals and subdue the earth.[iii]
Scholars have different views of the relationship between the status and the role of humans. It does not matter whether the meaning of “created in God’s image” is understood points to humans as “God’s representative (Von Rad, Jacob, Schmidt, Koehler can be placed here as well), or points to “the relationship between God and humans” (Vriezen, Barr, Westermann and Sarna) or points to “humans and God having a dialogue and a knowledgeable-relationship (Eichrodt), all these observations agree that the ultimate power in this matter is God as creator.
Many systematic theologian scholars misinterpreted this combination. Some of them only emphasize the status and ignore the function of humans, thus the result is the statement that humans has the highest status among creations. Some other scholars emphasize more on the function of humans that is to rule over animals and to subdue the earth, without connecting it with humans’ status. Therefore they have claimed that this verse is a cause of environmental problems.[iv]
P does not put kabash and rada (radad) either in perfect or imperfect form, but in the imperative mood. God commands humans to subdue the earth and have dominion over the animals, thus this role as a caretaker of the earth, not because they want to, but because they are commanded to do so![v] Later in Gen 9:1-17, the role is taken from humans, and the covenant is cut with all flesh, humans and animals.
In Hebrew Bible the word rada (radad) is used in Ezek 29:15; 34:4; Lev 25:43, 46, 53; 26:17; Isa 14:2; 1 Kgs 5:4; 9:23; 2 Chr 8:10; Num 24:19; Pss 49:15; 72:8; 110:2; Jer 5:31 and Neh 9:28. This verb is used in sentences in which the subject has more power than the object. The verb itself does not determine whether the subject of the verb uses power in a negative or positive way. The verb is a neutral one, just indicating that the object of the verb is under the power of the subject. Meanwhile, Kabash in the niphal stem is found in Josh 18:1; Num 32:22, 29 and 1 Chr 22:18 where the subject (the land) is in the inferior position. In Mic 7:19, the subject of the verb is Yhwh and the object is Israel. In 2 Chr 28:10; 2 Sam 8:11; Neh 5:5; Est 7:8 and Jer 34:11, 16, this verb is more often used in context where both the subject and the object are humans who represent different social strata. Generally the subject of kabash has an authority over the object of the verb. However again it does not mean that the subject abuses its authority. It can be seen in the using of this verb in the creation story, the word kabash and rada more indicate to the subject that has a rule as a care taker rather than abusive, it can be supported with the vegetarian idea in the following verse.[vi]
To maintain the living being’s life, God points out that they are to consume vegetations as their diet. The demonstrative particle hinneh, which is followed by the qal perfect of natan in Gen 1:29-30, emphasizes that there is no other choice for humans and animals except eating the plants as their food. [vii]
Finally, God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.
The way I see the structure and the content of P’s creation story is not based on a strictly hierarchical system nor an authority without responsibility, but on sustaining the mutual interrelationship within the creation. Within the structures of creation, the physical world, P focuses on the plant, animal and human structures, based on the need of every creature to be in a relationship of harmony.[viii] Note that humans and the animals eat only vegetation. The emphasis that only humans are created directly by God, and in God’s image, has to do with P’s understanding that there has to be one who can serve as the local manager of the earth and everything in it.
It is clear that in the beginning all creation lives in interdependent harmony, therefore violence was not supposed to be there, only the culture of peace was allowed there. In the beginning God was the creator who had the highest power, and the creatures were comfortable being as and among creatures. However, humans who were created in God’s image, the ones who supposed to be God’s representative, the ones who supposed to be responsible for God, wanted to take the responsibility for themselves. They want to be the creator, rather than as creatures (Genesis 3). They want to go their own way, instead of following God’s instructions (Genesis 3). It is the beginning of destructiveness not only in humans but also in all creatures, because they are supposed to be interdependent and always will be[ix]. The culture of peace slowly but surely has changed to the culture of violence and finally God cannot take it any longer- enough is enough! (Genesis 6).
Intervention is the one thing that God must do in order to stop evil conditions on earth, otherwise humans will destroy the earth with their evil heart and mind (Gen 6:5-7).[x] Though God let them to keep their status created in God’ image and likeness but humans are not care takers anymore (Gen 9:1-7)
4. Final Summary: the three questions below can be answered all together (8 minutes):
Have we ever considered that no part of creation can live by and for itself?
Have we ever considered that whatever we do in and for our lives impacts on the rest of creations?
Have we ever considered whether we are aware about the two question above, violence can not grow, instead we will declare together with Jesus:
Don’t do to others what you do not want them to do to you!
Love your neighbors like yourself
[i] Barr and Hamilton agree that the meaning of kabash in Gen 1:28 is parallel with tilling and keeping the land in Gen 2:5, 15 (creation story in J’s version), see Barr, “Man and Nature,” 64; Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 139-40.
[ii] See Dillmann, Genesis, 82; Sarna, Genesis, 12; Anderson, “Human dominion over nature,” in Creation, 121; Barr, “The Image of God in the book of Genesis-A Study of Terminology,” Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 51, 11-16; Sarna, Understanding Genesis, 15; Wolff, Anthropology, 159-61; Von Rad, Genesis, 58; and his Old Testament Theology, 146-7; Wenham, Genesis, 32-33.
[iii] Psalm 8 also states that God crowns humans with glory and honor, therefore humans have to mashal everything that Yhwh created, cf. Westerann, Genesis 1-11, 158-9; Von Rad, Genesis, 59; see also his Old Testament Theology 1, 146-7; Delitzsch, Genesis 1, 101.
[iv] Lynn White, Jr. “The Historical roots of our Ecological Crisis,” in Ecology and Religion in History, 15-31.
[v] Even tough rada (radad) in Gen 1:26 is not in the imperative mood, it is still explicitly pointed out that God assigns humans to have dominion over the animals. By using a semantics approach, Barr explores the verbs rada and kabash. He says that rada means “govern, rule, have dominion,” and is used generally of kings ruling over certain areas, of masters controlling servants, of god ruling over his land, ruling in the midst of his enemies, and so on. The verb he says is not a strong one. The verb kabash, “to subdue” is stronger. It can be sued to suggest violent physical movement like trampling own. But this word is applied in Gen 1:28 to the earth, not to the animals. Basically he says that the verb kabash has parallel meaning with abad and syamar in Gen 2:5,15, which the J writer claims as the role of man. Meanwhile the meaning of rada is parallel with mashal in Gen 1:16, 18 as Westermann suggests in Genesis 1-11; see Bar, “Man and Nature,” 62-66; see Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 139-40. Yoel Arbeian explores the meaning of rada and kabash, as found in Gen 1:26, 28, by using a semantic and text critical approach in his article “In all Adam’s domain.” He investigates the use of the verb yaab that has its root as asah. This verb is juxtaposed with the verb mashal in Gen 1:16, 18; 3:16 and 4:7. In the Aramaic translation Arbeitan says that the four usages of mashal and the two of raah are translated by forms from same root salat. He favors the Jerusalem Bible translation as “rule or be master of.” So he says that the verb means “to rule or shepherd in a neutral sense.” The verb kabash for hikj is to conquer, in the understanding of the first conquest of Israel in the promised land, that is, the freeing and opening of the land of the counity that God wants to stay; see Arbeitan,”In all Adam’s domain,” in Judaism and Animal rights, 33-42.
[vi] Can we say that the permission to eat meat indicates that there is now a greater power tension between humans and animals rather than being based on nutritional needs?
[vii] See Steck, World and Environment, 97,108; Rust, Nature, 99; Zimmerli, World, 41; Wolff, Anthropology, 163; Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 140; Barr, “Man and Nature,” 62-3; Vriezen, Outline, 224; Von Rad, Genesis, 29-30; Gowan, Eschatology in the Old Testament, 99; Driver, Genesis, 17. Some scholars say that this idea implied also in J’s creation story, see Delitzsch, Genesis, 102-3; Dilmann, Genesis, 87; Robert Davidson, Genesis, 37; Westermann, Genesis 1-11, 208.
[viii] Cf. William Brown,”Divine Act and the Art of Persuasion in Genesis I,” 30-1.
[ix] Notice how the land is cursed by Yhwh because of Humans’s disobedience to Yahweh, see: Gen 3:17b-18, 4:11; 8:21.
[x] According to J, it is a reason for God to send flood to destroy the earth and everything in it.
Bahan PA UEM General Assembly Yogjakarta