I thought this was kind of cool. Why I love the study of scripture. Three separate sources all connecting with a similar thread yesterday:
- Regent College Podcast Episode 209: Reading the Scriptures in Israel-Palestine Today – With Dr. Yohanna Katanacho
This is an interview with Katanacho about his new book called “The Land of Christ: A Palestinian Cry”, detailing some of the questions that informed his journey growing up as a Palestinian Christian. In the back half of this interview he narrows in on some key questions regarding what “land” means in scripture something that took him back to a study of the Genesis scroll.
Here he helps make a connection between the first 12 chapters of Genesis as it brings to the surface key motifs regarding land and the peoples relationship to the land. He defines the central problem in Genesis in two words- curse and death, and the solution as blessing and seed, noting that the healing of the people sits in direct relationship to the healing of the land.
What I thought was really cool is how he narrows in on Genesis 5 and Genesis 10, two seemingly inconsequential passages that often get skipped over on the way to the real Divine-Human drama. He mentions 10:10 with its focus on land called Shinar (the land where the tower is built) and 10:25 with its focus on someone named Peleg (a name that means division) as key points which connect chapter 10 with the Tower of Babel story in chapter 11, and 10:18-19’s reference to the Canaanite clans “scattered” and stretching borderlands as connecting chapter 10 with chapter 9 and the division of Noah’s sons.
Now follow this thread- the story of Adam and Eve represents “land”, division (a divided “adam” which means humanity, a three fold division, and a movement away from the land into the wilderness. This is told on a cosmic scale. Cain and Abel, two names symbolic with the nations, become divided when it becomes brother versus brother, leading to a movement out of the land into the wilderness. The story of Noah brings the cosmic story together the story of the scattered nations. If we set this in the context of the story of Israel what we have is a portrait of Moses and the people at Sinai at the mountain (think the garden on the mountain with the waters flowing outwards to bring life to the world by way of the creative imaging and vocation of humanity made in the image of God, and the ark, a symbol of the garden on the mountain demonstrating the failure of this when humans neglect their vocation as image bearers and trade it for a lie), and eventually a picture of the exiled people once raised up to be established in relationship to the land (to create and to build in the life giving vision of God for the world) now scattered. If we connect this to the story of the Tower of Babel what we have is a picture of a people creating and building in the singular land (Shinar) in an effort to “make a name for themselves”, bringing us back to the story of the garden (land) and the inevitable end of such desires which is a divided and scattered people enslaved to both curse (of the land) and death. Thus retelling the same story.
Chapter 5 then becomes the connecting piece between Adam and Eve/Cain and Abel and the Abram story of chapter 12 that paints a picture of the answer to the problem. Chapter 5 is a veritable list of death, with the life framed not by birth but noted by “firstborns”. Note chapter 5:1 where it says God created a whole “hu-man” in God’s own image and 5:2 where it says Adam had a son ‘in his own likeness and own image”, a name which connotes a dual meaning of “placed” and “appointed”, which mirrors God’s action in the land of the garden. Interestingly the midrash also associates Seth with “Torah” as it can also embody the meaning of that word which is “instruction” for how to live in the land. This parallel is intentional in establishing the cycle of such filling of the land in a way that leads to death, and thus when we get to the story of Abram we find the promised healing come by way of this singular “adam” (human) in which both blessing and seed become the means for addressing the problem of curse and death.
- Bema Podcast Episode 280: The Road Back to Eden
Host Brent Billings also spends this episode connecting the garden narrative with the Tower of Babel story. He notes two things evident in the misrash and the Traditional exegesis of the texts- The cherubim and flaming sword set to “guard the way to the tree of life” in Genesis 3:24 as being absent of the word “curse” and the story of The Tower of Babel being absent of the word curse. Using Traditional understandings he spends this episode wondering about this act of scattering as God’s intentional prevention of access to the tree of life because, as 3:22 says, humankind must not be allowed to eat from it “also” because then the can “eat and live forever”. As opposed to this being a curse he recognizes this as a means towards healing, as eating and living forever in a state of division which leads to death would leave the people enslaved to such cycles. Similarly the story of the scattered people in the Tower of Babel indicates the preservation of God in making a way for his people back to the land, only now the narrowed sense of land with borders regains its vision of a land without borders flourishing in relationship with the diversity of its peoples. In a rather wonderful reflection Billings then imagines the image bearing vocation necessitating this demand to be in relationship with those who are different than us, contrasting with Adams limited creative vision. Learning how to communicate across languages is our way of being brought together in a greater vision of the “land”, connecting us to the rivers of life flowing down from the mountain both in its source and in human vocation.
- Resurrecting Justice: Reading Romans for the Life of the World
Here author Douglas Harink connects the story of Abraham to the cosmic vision of the land by connecting his story to the story of the Gentiles, where later in telling the story of Israel in relationship to Abraham in chapter 9 brings Genesis 1-12 into relationship with Sinai and exile, allowing these stories to then inform one another in relationship to both the faithfulness of God to the covenant promise regarding blessing and seed and human faithfulness to the vocation of image bearers. This becomes what Harink describes as a resurrection passage, connecting us back to the tree of life by way of the blessing and the seed.