Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Section 8: Israel's Recapitulation of Adam and Eve

The Self-Donation of God, pg. 14-15:

"Moreover, Israel did not merely view exile and return as being a quirk of their particular national history, but the pattern of cosmic and human existence. The account of Genesis 2 begins with the creation of human beings (Gen 2:15-5) and their subsequent placement in the Garden of Eden. Although we will later return to the wider significance of Eden for the Israelite cult, here it is sufficient to say that Eden is described as a place where humanity works the soil (Gen 2:15) and where the fertility of the earth is guaranteed. Furthermore, YHWH is directly present to the first humans and guarantees his favor to them by his glorious presence (Gen 3:8). Humanity sins by disobeying the divine command and by listening to the serpent, a false mediator of God’s will (“Did God actually say . . .?”Gen. 3:10). This leads to the exile of Adam and Eve from the garden, which brings with it their removal from God’s gracious presence and the guarantee of the fertility of the soil (“. . . cursed is the ground because of you . . .” Gen 3:17). They are also denied immortality (Gen 3:19). As many interpreters have recognized, such a narrative is echoed in Israel’s own story. G. K. Beale correctly observes the parallels between Adamic humanity and Israel in Genesis 2-3: “Israel, as representative of God’s true humanity, also separated themselves from the divine presence and failed to carry the commission . . . Israel failed even as had Adam. And like Adam, Israel was also cast out of the ‘garden land’ into exile.” 
If Genesis’ primal history suggests that humanity exists in a state of universal exile, the Pentateuchal narrative of the election of the patriarchs suggests that Israel itself is the beginning of the restoration of the Adamic humanity. In describing the structure of the Genesis narrative, N. T. Wright observes that: 

Thus, at major turning-points in the story [the Pentateuchal narrative] Abraham’s call, his circumcision, the offering of Isaac, the transition from Abraham to Isaac and from Isaac to Jacob, and the sojourn in Egypt- the narrative quietly insists that the Abraham and his progeny inherit the role of Adam and Eve.

Throughout Genesis, YHWH’s promise to the patriarchs, (realized in the exodus and the conquest), is that he will multiply their descendants and give them dominion in the land of Canaan. As Wright goes on to demonstrate, this status of Israel as the restoration of Adam and Eve comes across most strongly throughout the story because the dual promise of dominion in the land and of many descendants directly parallels the promise made to the first man and woman at the end of the account of creation in Genesis 1: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:28). 
The Pentateuchal narrative also reinforces the identification of Israel as the restoration of Adamic humanity in a number of other ways. The land that YHWH promises Israel, is in some measure represented as a restoration of the pre-lapsarian blessing on the soil: " And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD . . ." (Gen 13:10, emphasis added). For Israel, the restoration of the presence of God enjoyed before the Fall also occurs. We are told that YHWH’s glory (kavod) traveled with Israel during the entire period of the exodus under the form of a cloud (Exod 40:36-8). When the Tabernacle’s construction was completed, a thick cloud filled the camp and the glory of YHWH descended into the Tabernacle (Exod 40:34-5)."

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