Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Genesis 3-5: Adam and Eve...begat, begat, begat...

And now to some more stories that we thought we knew, but leads to more questions. This book seems to actually be more of a book of questions rather than a book of answers. So, the brief synopsis:

Chapter 3: Serpent gets Eve to give apple to Adam, God finds out, and they get kicked out of the garden.

Chapter 4: Cain kills his brother Abel.

Chapter 5: A lot of begatting and a lot of people living a long time leading up to Noah.

OK...so now on to some questions and thoughts

First off, how historical is this all? Is there symbolic content intermixed with historical context? Everyone seems to stand on one side or another. Why does it have to be all or nothing? Couldn't it be a mix? Again, we are providing no revelations of our own as we are only asking the questions at this point, but in order to start the conversations, the questions must be asked.

Some interesting parallels relating to world history and the development of civilization come out of this story though. Man had an easy time finding food before eating the forbidden fruit. After getting kicked out of the garden, Man was told that he would have to till at the soil the rest of his life and have a difficult time doing so. Is this the point in which mankind switched from a gathering society to an Agrarian society? After all, it is agriculture that begat cities to form and it was in the lineage of Adam (the first farmer) that we see cities being built.

Genesis 3: 16 provides another parallel to World history: "Unto woman he said, i will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." After giving Adam the fruit, Eve was commanded by God to have to obey Adam. Woman was put in the dominion of man. Following this, we are given a lineage of patriarchs in chapter 5. Now to put a different context on this. There are many other references from early recorded cultures that some of the first societies were actually matriarchal (If my memory serves me, Egypt for instance was primarily a matriarchal society prior to the Pharaohs). At some point, the men took over and started warring. Other early societies held woman at the forefront because of the power to create life. Perhaps the men were jealous of this and this is why they took over and took power. In patriarchal societies a woman was often seen as unclean during her menstrual cycle. Interestingly enough, one of the punishments brought by God upon woman for giving Adam the fruit here seems to be children. Is this the same negative spin on the ability to give life that further gives Man power over women?

More questions:

So Adam and Eve had two sons initially. Cain and Abel. We know the story. Cain kills Abel and won't tell God what happened to him (Am I my brothers keeper?). Then, we find out that Cain took a wife and moved to Nod? A wife? where did said wife come from? If taken at a literal definition, Cain was only the 3rd person to exist in the world. So where did his wife come from? And where did this land of Nod come from if there aren't any other people in existence? He then has a son Enoch with his wife and builds a city....Who would live in such a city if there aren't other people around?

We dig further. Within the lineage of Cain, we start to see different classes of people show up. One's kids would become the people who live in tents and keep cattle. Another's would become the people who play organs and harps. Still another would develop a class of people who work in brass and iron. Here is where another parallel comes in. The process of civilization is this: Man develops agriculture which allows man to grow in population eventually forming cities. Once cities are formed you get a specialization of labor. Isn't that exactly what is going on in the lineage of Cain? He started a city and it is in his lineage that we see specialists of different jobs showing up.

Now this was all going on east of Eden in Nod. The story then jumps back to Adam and Eve having Seth who was essentially a replacement for Abel.  Chapter 5: 26: "And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." What follows in chapter 5 is the lineage of men from Seth to Noah. These are the men to call upon the name of the Lord. I pose a possible interpretation of what is going on here in the form of a question:  Are we to understand that Cain represents the rest of the world developing while the lineage of Seth will give us the chosen people who will believe in the one true God?

Are the things written above the answers? Maybe, but maybe not. They are simply questions that lead us to dig deeper into understanding the importance of this unbelievable book. Back to the original question: Is it historical or symbolic? Again I offer the possibility that despite what most believe, it CAN BE BOTH. Ultimately though, does it actually matter? The point isn't about a literal interpretation or a symbolic interpretation. People get too caught up in what the Bible means rather than its purpose: To get us to understand and respect ourselves, each other, our world and our creator .

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