Monday, July 30, 2012

When Genesis 1:11 and Culture Collide

I took a short walk outside for my break at work, and I took a moment to appreciate the greenery in the outdoors before publishing this post for today during my lunch break.

And this is why:
Genesis 1:11: “Let the Land Sprout Forth Greenery”

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים תַּֽדְשֵׁ֤א הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ דֶּ֔שֶׁא עֵ֚שֶׂב מַזְרִ֣יעַ זֶ֔רַע עֵ֣ץ פְּרִ֞י עֹ֤שֶׂה פְּרִי֙ לְמִינֹ֔ו אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעֹו־בֹ֖ו עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃

“And God said, ‘Let the land sprout forth greenery: the plant bearing seed, and the fruit tree bearing fruit after its kind, with its seed in it, on the earth.’ And it was so.”

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest on the west side of the Cascades, and the greenery here is really something to behold. We have the same kind of weather our friends in the UK get to enjoy, so the scenery here is quite lush but in a very temperate climate. I live in what you might call a “temperate rainforest,” as a pastor at one of the churches I’ve attended in this area once said.

God created a beautiful world for us to enjoy. But sometimes I forget that I live in an area where it is easy to rejoice over the scenery God has given us. And when I say “easy,” I mean that the scenery is obviously beautiful, and we only need to take time to appreciate it. Yet in our busy lives, we often forget that it’s there, or we mistreat it by being careless with our waste or by neglecting to recycle. I suppose we can fail to appreciate the magnificent gardens God has placed in this world in a number of ways.

Other people are not so lucky to live in such a naturally gorgeous and green area. For instance, some people live parts of the world with minimal vegetation. Scripture acknowledges that this ugly reality can fall on people (Genesis 47:19). We yearn for lush fields, watery lands filled with beauty. Even the drier places, though, like the Grand Canyon, are certainly beautiful as well. But there is something striking about plant life. It's plant life.

So here's my main observation about this passage. This is the first creation of life in this story. The first creation of any kind of life.

God demonstrates that he is interesting in bringing life in the very first pages of Scripture. In fact, the text sparkles with beautiful description here: Not only does the text say that the land produces דֶּשֶׁא (deshe’, “greenery”)—a general term encompassing various types of green plants—it goes on to spell out what this דֶּשֶׁא comprises: עֵשֶׂב (esev, “lush vegetation,” used in other contexts, such as in Genesis 1:30 and 3:18, to refer to food for people or animals) that bears seeds and the עֵץ (‘etz, “tree”) that bears fruit.

Notably, this mention of the creation of fruit-bearing trees—specifically, the occurrence of two key terms, עֵץ (‘etz, “tree”) and פְּרִי (peri, “fruit”)—also foreshadows something that is yet to take place in Genesis 2 and 3. Stay tuned. We’re a long way off from that yet, but keep it in mind for now.

For now, stay tuned tomorrow, when we’ll analyze a key word appealed to by creationists when they reject evolutionary science on the basis of the Genesis 1 text: לְמִינוֺ (lemiynō, “after its kind”).

To be continued…

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