Friday, May 20, 2016

Genesis Notes: Covenant and Being Human

The Garden of Eden, Thomas Cole (c. 1828)
The second chapter of Genesis focuses on humans. We get to see that they are not simply another kind of animal but have a special relationship with God. Catholic Scripture Study shows how economically this is revealed to those who know the "code".
His intention for His creation was always that it would exist with Him as His family. How do we know this? One clue appears right away in Genesis 2, but in order to recognize it, we have to understand a feature of a Hebrew word. The word translated as "seven" in our English text is the Hebrew word (sheba) for "oath-sharing." When men in ancient times came together to form a relationship in which they would treat each other as family, they swore an oath to seal the agreement. In Hebrew, "to swear an oath" means literally "to seven oneself." This kind of agreement is called a "covenant." In contrast to a contract, in which there is an exchange of property, in a covenant there is an exchange of persons: "I am yours, you are mine." ...

In Hebrew, ... would almost sound like God finished His work and rested on the "oath" day, and blessed the "oath" day and hallowed it. Perhaps a play on words, perhaps coincidence. But it is probable that to the ancient Hebrews who read this, the number seven would suggest God forming a covenant, or swearing an oath that established a family relationship with all the elements of creation. In blessing and hallowing it, He is setting apart or sanctifying creation. This bestows a kind of animation on what is inanimate. For example, in Gen. 2:4, the text reads, "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created." The word "generations" usually refers to living things. Likewise, this idea should prepare us for passages like Ps. 148, in which the heavens and the deep, sun and stars, snow and hills, sea monsters and cattle-ALL creation sings out in praise to the Lord Who created them. All creation is filled with God's life and is part of His household.
This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

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