Dominion vs Stewardship, Chapter 2
Yesterday, I talked about dominion and rule in Genesis 1. It is time to look at Genesis 2, Adam in the Garden.
According to my friend, there is some evidence in the Hebrew phraseology that indicates that Genesis 2 is not a retelling of Day 6, but a subsequent event on one of the following days. (That topic is too huge to even begin covering in a single blog post, because there are a lot of controversial implications. I’ll wait to go there until his book is finished and published, and tell you where you can read up on it then.)
What is interesting is that in Genesis 2, when God charges Adam with the maintenance of the Garden, He uses a very different word, shamar. It means to nurture, protect, guard and so on. This passage does convey the stewardship idea that contemporary Christians have associated with Genesis 1 and 2.
The fact that Genesis 1 and 2 use such very different terms for what appears to be the same task, is actually evidence for my friend’s case that they are in fact, different events. In Genesis 1, God creates a wild Creation in need of conquering, taming and ruling by humans (‘pre-historic hominids”?) (‘adam’ in Hebrew). In Genesis 2, He creates a lush, pastoral garden in which to put the first fully modern human couple (‘Adam’ and Eve), where He can begin to build a relationship with them. Thus, His focus is different, so they are in a different environment, a pre-tamed one.
Why the difference? I am completely speculating here. Perhaps, in giving the first humans capable of spiritual responsibility the best opportunity in which to get to know Him and choose whether to love Him or not, a pleasant Garden was more conducive to that than the harsh world: God’s Garden in which to nurture His people.
Once they chose their own sovereignty over His even when the deck was stacked towards making the best choice, then the consequence was expulsion back into the kabash, radah world from which they had been pulled/spared. Because God gave them every reason to choose Him and they didn’t, it is consistent with God’s desire in Scripture to give all some clear opportunity to make a conscious choice to follow Him so that if we choose not to, we will have no excuse.
While this scenario is speculation on my part, it seems to be consistent with what I understand of the Hebrew in Genesis 1-3, and the English translations. It isn’t the typical interpretation, so I am interested in thoughts from those who have studied the passage with more expertise and scholarship than I.
What are the implications for us today? I see several. First, it is a reminder that by only knowing the Scriptures in our tongues, we lose some of the richness of the original, having to depend on the translators to convey the original meaning properly through the evolutions of both Hebrew/Greek and the translated tongues.
Second, given that God gave us both the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture, they must both be correct, so inconsistencies must rest with our interpretations of either or both books.
Therefore, third, it is exceedingly wise to maintain humility about our understanding of theology and science, both, which implies that we should do a lot of listening to others’ interpretations and the whys of their interpretations before either subscribing or opposing them, or, refining them.
Fourth, we need to major on the majors and minor on the minors. If we are too wrapped up in our pet interpretations, and they are shown to be wrong, will that damage our faith or enrich it? Which do we want more—to be right or to know the Living God? That answer will reveal a lot about our teachability.
A final take home for me is that though I have read Genesis 1-3 many times, there is still much I have no clue I’m even missing. We simply do not realize how subconsciously we read our interpretation into the text and it blinds us to what God may really be saying. It isn’t until we hear someone give a different perspective that it even occurs to us that there might be a different one, regardless of whether it is wrong or right or somewhere in between.
This principle of humility in one’s interpretation is illustrated in II Peter 1:20-21: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Does this mean we must be tentative and self-conscious when discussing the Bible? No! There is a difference between arrogance and confidence, between timidity and humility. Again, we turn to Peter, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” I Peter 3:15-16
I look forward to learning more and more to know Him ever better. In that spirit, feel free to offer your insights, with gentleness and respect,…and the reasons behind them!