The Breakdown of Relationship and Boundaries in Gen 3, 4, and 6


The issue before us today is the one of relationship and boundaries. You have been looking at the beatitudes so I am told which also have a lot to do with relationship also.

I have recently been teaching in my Church on the human being, the image of God, the fall, and the flood. In the course of these lessons, I was struck firstly at how carefully constructed the passages were, and how they, in their construction, so carefully show how God is concerned with relationships, and their boundaries.

Today I don't want to try and convince you of anything, however there are things I will have to ask you trust me on. I won't have time to go into detailed explanations of them, but I will be available later if you want to ask me about them.

There are four parts to the lesson today, firstly the beginning, secondly the fall, thirdly Cain, and last, the Nephilim.

Firstly the beginning. Turn with me to Gen 1:26. I will be reading from the NRSV, verses 26 and 27.

26 Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
27 So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

The thing we are looking at here is the statement that God made Adam in His image. The word for image is 'tselem' in Hebrew. There have been many understandings put forward about what it means. I won't go into a long discussion of the various views, but will just offer you mine for the moment. The word means 'representative'. It does not mean a 'copy'. Try to understand it like this. A copy is like a mirror image of something, like a reflection in a pool, or a photocopy. A representative is something completely different. In ancient days a king would send someone to rule lands he conquered in his place. This person was his representative, or viceroy. This person has all the authority of the King, but is not the king. The representative doesn't look like the king, smell like him, speak like him, have the same hair colour or anything. The same word for image is used to drawings on a cave wall, a statue, a rock/altar, and a representative of the king. It can really be anything that is used to represent the rule and authority of the King.

This viceroy or representative must operate within the boundaries of what the King wants, generally how the King himself would act. This implies that there is relationship involved. In fact, in ancient days the representative would be someone the King could trust, and they would report back to the King regularly either personally or by some form of correspondence, in order to make sure they were doing things according to the wishes of the King. The king would often come to inspect also, to make sure things are right.

Adam is the King of all creations representative. God sets very clear rules for him about what he is to do. Firstly He is to subdue the earth and have dominion over all the animals. Lets read Gen 1:28-31:

28 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 air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." 29 God said, "See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Subdue means to dominate. So Adam was to dominate and have dominion. Both these ideas are similar to that of a 'ruler'. Then God tells Adam what He must do: in Gen 2:15:

15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

So, Adam was to rule by representing God, and then to work the soil, which really means to maintain the land, providing for himself.

Then God places a boundary by telling Adam what he must not do, in Gen 2:16:

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 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 die."

The boundary is given in order that Adam should know his place in the world, He should now be completely assured of what his function is. Lets just check up to make sure:
Firstly He is to represent God, by relationship, doing Gods will.
Secondly He is to dominate and have dominion over the world, which is an extension from his position as representative.
Thirdly, Adam is to maintain the ground, for his own survival and the benefit of the entire planet.
Lastly, Adam is to be obedient, and by not eating from the tree, Adam is showing that He is content to be human, and do and be as God created him.

God looked on all this and said "It is good" - this is how it is supposed to be. All creation in harmony, each with their place, and their relationship sorted out. This is the order God set out for his creation, BUT THEN!

Along came a snake.

We are moving to Genesis 3 now. This is the second part of the lesson. I am sure we all know the story about how Adam disobeyed God. Now, the first thing to note is that Adam and Eve were changed; lets read Gen 2:7:

7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Now, the first breakdown in relationship has happened, and it happened by Adam breaking the boundary of what it means to be human. To be human, and rightly related to God, Adam was not to eat the fruit under any circumstances. Adam and Eve desired 'the wisdom of gods' - they were trying to be something other than human. It's a bit like Tipsy the dog. She thinks that she's part human, and tries to act like it. She can never be human though, any more than Adam could ever be a God. Now, this breakdown has happened not because the fruit of the tree caused it, but because of what they did. A naughty child who eats chocolates isn't naughty because of the chocolate, but because they ate the chocolate.

Next God questions the pair, and then tells them exactly what the outcomes of their actions are. When we read that God came walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, we are reminded of the close relationship they had, and are given the first glimpse of its break down. God is looking for Adam, but Adam is hiding from Him, although he has a covering, he still feels naked and guilty.

The punishment on the man and the woman is not special, it isn't something God dreamed up to punish them. It is the consequence, or result of their actions. If you drive your car into a wall and smash up the front of it, you can't drive it. That's a consequence of your actions.

Firstly the snake is cursed, and we find another breakdown in relationship. The snake symbolises all that is evil, and we are told there will be an ongoing struggle with evil, and there is a hint of a final battle where victory is won:

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel."

Enmity is like a war… its not hatred or dislike, it's like a war waged between humanity and evil. It also indicates some of the breakdown of relationship between humanity and the animals. There is mutual strife between animals and humans. In Gen 9:2 we are told that the fear and dread of us will rest on animals. This is a military term, and you find it often when God helps Israel win a battle, there is fear and dread on the enemy.

Then the outcome of the woman's actions:

16 To the woman he said,
"I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you."

Firstly pains and pangs in childbirth. This is the same word, and it means purposeless. Because of the breakdown in relationship any new entry into the world will have no purpose.
Secondly, her desire will be for her husband, and he shall rule over her. This only appears 3 x in scripture, and the next time is in the very next chapter, where Cain is told that sin desires him, and he must master it. The word desire carries the idea of mastery also, so it says that she will try to master her husband, and he will try to master her. Now we have mutual strife between the wife and the husband.

And now finally the man; the ground is cursed because of him:

17 And to the man he said,
"Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
'You shall not eat of it,'
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return."

Firstly the ground has been cursed, secondly he has toil. Toil is the same word as pains and pangs, its purposelessness. The man has lost his purpose also, which is to represent God, and till the ground. It will actively resist him, instead of fruit, it will bring forth thorns and thistles. So we have more mutual strife, between the man, and the ground.

So recapping so far, we have the breakdown of relationship between God and man, by breaking boundaries, between humans and animals, with a war going on with evil. Then we have breakdown between husband and wife (as opposed to man and woman), and then between the man and the ground.

At the end of the chapter, Adam and Eve are sent east and away from Eden, where God and the tree of life are. This is symbolic of the breakdown of relationship with God, and the mutual strife here. Adam now hides from God, even though God seeks Adam. Adam is barred from access to God.

Without access to God, things begin to spiral downwards, as relationships breakdown further, and this mutual strife continues, we notice a steady worsening of human behaviour. No matter how bad the behaviour gets though, we are reminded of God's provision, as he provides coverings for Adam and Eve. Only God can cover this kind of nakedness and shame.

Now, on to Cain and Abel.

First we find with Cain, as we do with Adam and Eve, that God has set the boundaries for Him. He is warned. We read this in Gen 4:

7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."

Lurking is rabasa a word that implies lurking or crouching. Its used in other Ancient languages also, and is usually a reference to a shadow monster, a bit like the scary monster under a Child's bed. The rabisu monster lurks at peoples doors seeking to devour them.

But what does Cain do? He lets the rabisu monster get him. The very next thing he does is kill his brother:

8 Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.

This breakdown in relationship is now worsening. Initially it was just to do with blame shifting, and now it has turned to murder. This is a travesty of justice. The killing of Abel was oppression, the ultimate of forcing ones will one someone else. God tells Cain:

"Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground!"

This is the cry of the oppressed it is the same thing the prophets speak out against later in the Scriptures. There is no one to defend Abel against Cain, so his blood cries out to God who will avenge him. God is the defender against all injustice, either in this world, or in the world to come.

Cain complains the punishment of being sent further away from God is too much to bear, and that someone might kill him. Even though God is punishing Cain, there is still mercy from God, as God marks Cain as protected, so that he would not be killed. Taking or giving life is the prerogative of God.

We come to Lamech, son of Methushael, Son of Mehujael, son of Irad, son of Enoch, son of Cain. Lamech, we are told, took 2 wives. This is a complete disregard for God's purpose in marriage of one wife. Then Lamech boasts to his wives:

I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.

The words for wound and strike are different; wound means a wound like a bruise, and a strike is a blueish wound, so they are probably the same thing. Lamech has taken the breakdown of relationships even further. The further from God we get, the more liberty we take. Lamech has also committed an atrocity of oppression, killing a man for merely bruising him.

We are left at the end of this chapter though, with a glimpse of hope in the face of this oppressive behaviour:

25And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. 26And 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.

These are men calling on the name of God, in order that they might receive his mercy, protection, and his provision, and importantly, his name. This is a theme that continues throughout the rest of scripture.

The line of Cain and the line of Seth, the two Sons of Adam are shown as separate lines for the rest of Scripture. They become the ones who try to their own name, and the ones who take on the name of God.

In Gen 6 we find the breakdown worsening still, to the point where God has had enough. He can no longer suffer the breakdown of relationships, the oppression that is happening.

Gen 6: 5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, "I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created-people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them."


Gen 6: 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, "I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth.

God characterizes this wickedness for us, in the form of the Sons of Gods and the Nephilim. These people are continuing on the same way the Cain, then Lamech have done. They are human beings, not fallen angels or any other such beings, because they characterize what the humans were punished for. It is not likely humans would be punished for their actions. You do not punish your dog because your child misbehaves.

We are told:

When people began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, "My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years." 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days-and also afterward-when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them. These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown.

These evil people take wives, and their children are the warriors of renown, or the warriors who make name for themselves. There is a Sumarian legend, older even than Genesis, which is about a king named Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was considered like a God, in fact 2/3 god, 1/3 human. Gilgamesh would appear at weddings and take the bride. He would have people killed for sport. He was seen as unstoppable, super humanly powerful. Gilgamesh created a dynasty which went on and on. He was what is known as a despot. This means he really had no morals, he was a law unto himself. This is the kind of person who God punishes in the flood.

When we read that the earth was corrupt, we find the same thing as in Gen 4 with Cain. The word corrupt indicates the oppression of the weak, absolute injustice. This is complete abuse of people, a complete breakdown of human relationships.

Looking back at the cause of this breakdown, remember, it is because Adam and Eve broke the boundaries of what it means to be human. This resulted firstly in a breakdown of relationship with God, and this breakdown results in a breakdown of human relationships.

What hope have then, in the light of all this evil, this breakdown in the structure that God has set in place.

It has already been hinted at, firstly God covered Adam and Eve's guilt by his provision. Then we find Him protecting Cain. Now, in this very carefully constructed flood story, dead in the centre of it, we find, God remembered Noah (8:1).

8 But Noah found favor in the sight of the LORD. Noah was warned, Noah was told to create an ark and he did. When the flood came, Noah was rescued. God is merciful, and made a covenant with Noah. This is our Hope.

Just to finish with, here's our hope, in today's age, from the gospel of Matthew.

Its Matt 24: 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.
In the days of Noah, the wicked, who tried to make a name for them selves were swept away, the righteous Noah was gathered up, rescued and returned to his rightful place as representative of God on earth.

1Thess 4: 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.

The cloud is the cloud that led Israel out of Egypt, not a cloud in the sky. It is the Glory of God. This is our hope, what we put our faith in, as did the saints of old. 18 Therefore, as Paul continues, encourage one another with these words.

Be encouraged, encourage each other. The Lord has begun to set things right, and soon He will finish, the day is coming like a thief in the night on the unsuspecting.



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