The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
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Notes on Genesis 1 and 2
by H. A. Dallas
What is the strongest witness to the Inspiration of Scripture, and to the truth of the Revelation it contains? Is it not that it fulfils the purposes it professes to fulfil?
What is that purpose? the purpose of the whole of Scripture, and therefore the purpose of these two chapters?
1. To reveal God, and man's relation to God.
If this is so, is it a worthy or true conception of the purpose of these chapter to regard them as a miraculous revelation of certain facts about the manner in which the world was made? facts which it is within the scope of man's natural powers to discover. Do we not risk missing the truths which they were intended to reveal, whilst seeking to find in them scientific statements of phenomena which they were not intended to reveal?
This old song of the creation is a document dating back probably much further than the time of Moses, and embodied with other fragments, in the books of the Pentateuch. It met the needs of Israel emerging from the idolatry of Egypt, and it meets perhaps even more effectually our needs in this nineteenth century of Christianity.
Before asking what are the needs it specially meets, let us consider a certain difficulty in the text, viz. The use of the word "day" in these chapters. When we observe that in chapter ii we are met by the statement that the Lord created the heavens and the earth in "a day," we conclude that this term is used with somewhat similar meaning to the term, "the day of the Lord," which occurs frequently in the writings of the prophets and apostles, and denotes an epoch of manifestation of God's power. (For this meaning see Joel ii. 11, 31; Zephaniah i. 14-18; Zechariah xiv. 1, 6; S. John viii. 56; I Thessalonians v. 1, 2, &c.) The use of the expression "day" in chapter i suggests that this Day of the Lord's power in creating, was distinctly to be connected in men's minds with the six working says and one rest day of our week. Possibly the Jews may have supposed that God actually made the universe in 6 + 24, but whether they supposed this or not, the passage does not assert it. Some have thought that the revelation was made by successive visions, closed by periods of darkness, which the seer would express as evening and morning.
Now let us ask the question, what needs of Israel did this record of Creation meet?
First. It revealed that all the objects which the Israelites had become accustomed to see as objects of worship in Egypt were the workmanship of God.
And have we not need of a similar reminder? Does not one of the chief dangers of this 19th century lie in the tendency to materialism, the tendency of scientific thought to become so entangled in the laws of nature as to ignore and become blind to the Lawgiver? Scripture witnesses against this fallacy. We talk of the laws of nature--Scripture speaks of the thinkings and actions of God. (Rev. iv. 11).
Secondly. These chapters taught Israel, and they teach us that the common everyday life of work and rest are consecrated, that our working days and resting day are the token that man is greater than the other creatures of God in the world, that man is above the animals to which the Egyptians bowed down, for he is made in God's image, and called to be a sharer with the Divine Worker both in doing and in the joy of rest.
We need this lesson as much as Israel of old, perhaps more, since there are those who would assert that man is nothing but a higher kind of animal. Who ignore the fact which Scripture indicates, namely, that though according to the flesh, made of no better physical material than the beats of the earth, yet the words spoken of the lower creatures, that they were "brought forth after their kind," do not adequately express the origin of man, because man is a spirit-animal, owing his highest nature to a Divine in-breathing. To us this Scripture testifies that in the image of God man was created; that he is not merely an instance of the survival of the strongest, but is a divinely appointed ruler, who by virtue of his supremacy is (not to crush, but) to subdue. Man's naming of the creatures suggests that his rule is to be one founded on knowledge and kindly care. (Genesis ii. 19-20. Psalm viii, 5-6).
Thirdly. The foundation of society is shown in this Scripture to be not merely the utilitarian ground of self-interest. Marriage is not represented as a legal bond, solvable at pleasure, but as a Divinely ordained bond, involving holy duties as well as holy joys. A truth much needed at this time.
Fourthly. Man is presented in these chapters as a social being. He is shown learning by solitude that "it is not good for him to be alone," and finally he is represented as created to live under three laws. The law of self restraint (the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree envolves this law); the law of labour, to till the ground and keep it was his appointed work; the law of love, for when he had been taught the need of fellowship, he is represented as receiving the Divine gift of a companion to cherish. Are not these three laws essential to man's true welfare now, and are not our miseries the result of forgetting them?
But it has been doubted if the story of Adam and Eve is a literal occurrence or half an allegory. Surely the question if not of vital importance. The chief thing is to recognise the testimony to the Divine inspiration of the teaching in its truly marvellous applicability to our need. Let us recognize the Teacher and receive His message, whether embodied in a historical incident or in an allegorical story.
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