Creation, Covenant, Judgment

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The Bible is a Book of Tales (Narrative Theology)

The following is a schema I am working for filtering Creation, Covenant and Judgment in the Torah

The schema:

  • God Creates
  • God Judges (Pronounces to be Good or Bad)
  • God Divides
  • God Names

They are not always in the same order.

We find the pattern over and over in Genesis 1’s creation narrative, here’s a sample:

Creation Before Man

  • Creates: “And God said Let there be light, and there was light.”
  • Judges: “And God saw that the light was good.”
  • Divides: “And God separated the light from the darkness.”
  • Names: “God called the light, day, and the darkness he called night.”

Now we want to take a tour through some other passages to see how it aids us

Creation of Man

  • Creates:
    • “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground”
  • Judges:
    • “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
    • “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
  • Divides:
    • “male and female he created them.”
    • “The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
    • “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.”
    • “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.”
  • Names: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  (Names him “Adam”/”man” or names him “picture of me”)

Example In Adam’s Work:

  • Creation/Work:
    • “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion”
    • “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
    • “Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.”
  • Division:
    • Between animals and woman,
    • “So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”
  • Naming:
    • “whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name”
    • “she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man”
    • “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”
  • Judgment/Declaration:
    • “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”

Cutting the Covenant and Cutting Off

Judgement, in a positive sense, is justification, and in a normal sense is a dividing between that which is vindicated and that which is condemned.

Water cleans the hands but washes OFF dirt.  The hands are blessed, the dirt is damned.

Amputation cleans the body of the disease, but cuts OFF the rot.

Circumcision is legal amputation.

It is my contention that in each “division” we see judgment – a making of a distinction between the Hebrews and the Egyptians, as it were.

However the division is also equally the cutting of covenant FOR the blessed, and it serves to CREATE it makes family, it makes unity, it makes righteous.

We will see judgment in covenant passages, and covenant in judgment passages.  Covenant in judgment is necessarily “new creation.”

The covenant is made by cutting but is a symbol of binding.

Binding and Loosing.

Engrafting and Breaking Off.


Union, that is, covenant bond, is seen in the division of Adam’s flesh into man and woman – which is done for marriage.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

The division of flesh makes a union of flesh.  The cutting creates a covenant and a family.

People are cut OFF from their parents, and cut a covenant with their spouse.

God cuts a deal with Abraham.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s houseto the land that I will show you

“So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man

deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him.”

Divided flesh: “and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.”

Divided flesh: “And he brought him all these [animals], cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other.”

In ABRAM’s cutting there is a bond, THE BOND of all the world’s blessing, created.  God adopts abraham.

More Cutting

In this light, the SIGN of this covenant is a cutting (ch 17), which also cuts OFF those who are not faithful (17.14)


Peter Leithart’s recent blog comment is a concise way of illustrating the Noah connection (much more could be said:

In Genesis 9:11, Yahweh promises not to “cut off flesh” by water.  That is the covenant with Noah.

A few chapters later, Yahweh tells Abram that he must cut off the flesh of all male children of Israel, not by water but by a knife.


Back to the Schema:

  • Creation:
    • Of Israel
  • Division:
    • Abraham leaves his father, and cleaves to God and the Land promise (12.1-3)
    • Cutting Animals for the covenant ceremony (15)
    • Circumcision (17)
  • Naming:
    • “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing”
    • “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”
    • Preview: “he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
  • Judgment:
    • “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
    • “walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly”

The creation of a blessed covenant community, with a great name, divided from those who are cursed.

“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”


One Response to Creation, Covenant, Judgment

  1. Heath says:

    I just happen to have been studying this portion of scripture myself. I am teaching an OT Survey class and reading Waltke’s A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament for the second time. It is awesome. I am also listening to the Richard Pratt lectures on the Pentateuch. I love his literary approach that focuses on Moses’ intent in guiding Israel in how to live as they leave Egypt and go into Canaan.

    I am not sure about the pattern. Seems to prove true in these cases. Is it just in Primeval History or does it continue throughout Genesis? Cain and Abel? I see the division and judgement in Babel. How do we know what sections to look for this theme? Is there a structural clue? I see this theme tying to Moses’ purpose in showing Israel what God is doing with them.

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