Epic of Eden – God’s Original Intent

How many times have we heard phrases like, “God has a plan,” or “God’s got this,” and wondered to ourselves, “Really? Does God really have a plan? Does he really ‘have’ this?”

I’ve had those very thoughts…especially when life gets hard, when things fall apart. Because in those moments, it doesn’t FEEL like God “has” it. I don’t see how “this” could be part of a God-plan.

But there’s a bigger part of me that wants to understand God, that wants to know God so well that when life breaks me, I can trust in Him enough to walk by faith…even when I don’t see Him or His plan at work.

And that’s why I do studies like Epic of Eden. The more I dig into the Scriptures, the better I understand and know God. And the more I know Him…greater is my trust in Him.

We’re at a huge turning point in our study today! THIS is the session that my eyes popped open and I started to see “the God of the Old Testament” in a whole new way. Let me just say…I’m GIDDY to explore “God’s Original Intent” with you, and I’m praying for the Holy Spirit to lead us in such a way that you, too, will begin to see that God is, has been, and always will be…God. He really is unchanging. By going to “the beginning” in our study today, you’ll see God’s heart has been the same from start to finish. He wants relationship with us, His creation…and He’ll do BIG things to help make that happen.

The last two weeks we’ve spent a great amount of time and energy unpacking the concept and practice of covenant. We will draw upon much of what we’ve talked about as we move forward, and today is no exception.

Dr. Richter began her video lesson for this session reminding us that “covenant is a unifying theme that brings together all the numerous details of the Old Testament.” Covenant will be our “general law” that will bring our stories, themes, and redemptive history together.

Today, we literally start at the beginning. Creation. The dawn of history. The Garden of Eden. Genesis 1. We start with the “covenant of creation” in order to discover God’s original intent for humanity.

“Before we jump ahead in the story, let us consider the content of God’s original plan – his original covenant with humanity. Or to state the topic differently, let’s consider how God defined his first relationship with humanity as communicated in Genesis 1-2” (Epic of Eden, 93).

God had a plan for His creation — a blueprint of sorts.  And that plan has been documented for us in the first two chapters of Genesis. It’d be great if you could read through those because you’ll discover that the creation story is actually told two times,  in two ways. Dr. Richter encourages us to read these two chapters as “complementary” — as two chapters that, together, “communicate the parameters of God’s plan” (Epic of Eden, 94).

If we take into consideration the two stories’ “differing vocabulary, differing theologies, differing chronologies,” it’s a little easier to be objective and see why scholars have concluded that the creation story in Genesis is not necessarily an historical event. God is God of the universe. God is the creator of the universe. But these two chapters document more than an event in history. (Hang tough. This is way cool. You’ll see God and His purposes and plans better than ever before if you’ll stick with this.)

To begin with, Dr. Richter teaches that the stories of Genesis 1 and 2 come from two different times in redemptive history.

Genesis 2 (along with chapters 3-11) “belong to Israel’s oldest, inherited, possibly oral account of this event.” Whereas, Genesis 1 stands distinct. One thing Dr. Richter wants us to consider is that Moses wrote Genesis 1 as an introduction to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). That would put Genesis 1 as a much younger document than its Genesis 2-11 counterparts.

In her book, Dr. Richter says Genesis 1 “was written to provide a lens through which to read the rest of the Pentateuch” (94).

Let’s keep in mind that no matter who the authors were or when these chapters of Genesis were written down, God had a purpose in having them written. The WHY behind Genesis 1 & 2 is to explain who God is and what He expected of His people (95).

If that’s true, then we can see Genesis 1 as written to answer the questions: “Who is God and what is his relationship to us?” and “What was God’s original intent?”

Genesis 1 has a specific structure – that of the seven days of creation. The “Literary Framework Theory” that Dr. Richter ascribes to suggests that these literal seven days of a week were also used as a literary device. This device gives the chapter an organization, and it’s not by chronology but by theme.

It’s easier to SEE this, so here’s a great diagram Dr. Richter has created. It captures the structure as well as the content of our seven days as laid out in Genesis 1:

EE seven days of creation (2)

Genesis 1 is written “to indicate a movement toward a goal – the goal being the cosmos in its entirety” (100).

This is so fun. These are things I never saw before: look at days 1, 2, & 3 (across the top). In each of these days “a facet of the cosmos” was created: day & night, waters above & below, land & vegetation. These are the HABITATS.

Then days 4-6a (across the bottom) parallel the first three days, and the INHABITANTS for each of the habitats are created: sun & moon (inhabit day & night), birds & fish (inhabit waters above & below), land animals (inhabit the land and vegetation)! Each habitat is a “kingdom,” and each “kingdom” has a “ruler.”

The literary climax is day 6b – the creation of humanity, who is a reflection of God himself (101).

Notice there’s not a corresponding “habitat,” for humanity – that’s because man and woman are to rule over all that has come before. All of earth is their “kingdom.”

Do you see the structure? How each has a place, a purpose, and works toward a goal?

“This structure has also told us that there is one ruler who stands above the rest. This is Adam, the collective Hebrew term for ‘humanity.’ This creature, unlike all the others, is made in the very image of God. Male and female, they are God’s representatives on earth and have been appointed as stewards of all the wealth and beauty of paradise” (101).

But the story isn’t over yet. There’s still Day Seven, which actually carries into to Genesis 2:1-3.

What’s the message of Day Seven? If we use the same logic and structure of the first six days, then day seven’s “inhabitant” is God, and as Creator, His “kingdom” is all that He has created. God rules over it all!

“In sum, Genesis 1 tells us of God’s first, perfect plan – a flawlessly ordered world infused with balance and productivity. …And we see from the structure of Genesis 1 that the force that held this peaceful and productive cohabitation in balance was Yahweh’s sovereignty over all.

But as Day 6b makes clear, God chose to manage his creation through his representative Adam. Thus humanity is given all authority to protect, maintain and develop God’s great gift under God’s ultimate authority. This is who Yahweh is, who humanity is, and how both relate to creation.

Take a step back and let this sink in.

If you can grasp how this structure communicates a hierarchy, then you are well on your way to understanding God’s original plan. His original intent.

Of course, we’re not done yet. 😉

Let’s get back to it. Think back to the specific features of the berit (covenant) that we looked at last week. As we wrap-up Genesis 1 and move into Genesis 2, we’ll see how this “covenant of Eden” looks – and how its form resembles a covenant that would have been familiar to the Hebrew audience.

In Genesis 1:26-31, we see how God is the suzerain in the berit and Adam/Eve are his vassals. God has created a relationship “in which the vassal is given full autonomy within the confines of his overlord’s authority” (103). There’s even a land grant here: the Garden of Eden itself.

In Eden, Adam and Eve are given a perfect place, a perfect relationship with each other, and full access to their loving Creator. An agreement is made in Genesis 2:15-17. The only stipulation in this suzerain/vassal covenant is that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is off limits. “In essence, Adam and Eve are free to do anything except decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. Yahweh reserves the right (and responsibility) to name those truths himself” (104).

The blessings are abundant in this covenant, and the curse, “you shall surely die,” indicates that Adam and Eve didn’t know death before they left the Garden.

To summarize Eden, Richter says the people of God were thriving in the place of God, dwelling in the presence of God. THIS was God’s original intent!

As with all covenants, God’s perfect plan was dependent on the vassal to choose obedience. In this case, humanity had to willingly submit to God’s plan (104).

And we know they did not.

They made the choice in Genesis 3 to break the covenant and eat from the one tree that was not open to them. Dr. Richter teaches that the blessings we see in the first two chapters of Genesis are now REVERSED by this decision (106):

  • Blessings becomes curses
  • Paradise becomes a prison
  • Benefits become burdens

Bottom line, Adam rejected the covenant. However, at the moment when the promised curse of “death” was carried out, God also enacted His plan of redemption. The rest of our Epic of Eden study will look at this plan of redemption, but today let’s finish up our look at Genesis by digging into the curses.

Eve first.

As the Mother of Humanity, Eve was given the blessing of being the giver of life, of bearing children. Its reversal was not only pain in childbirth but the reality of death.

Her role as co-regent of the new Kingdom was her second blessing. Its reversal was that Eve and her offspring would forever desire her husband, but he will rule over her. Basically, the woman who was created to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her husband is now oppressed by that very man. As a result, men and women fight over who rules the relationship.

If you wonder about Dr. Richter’s analysis, she suggests that we merely take a look at marriages today. The best of marriages take a lot of work and intentional effort. And I can’t help but think about women’s roles and plights throughout history – how many cultures have made women the “less than” gender or have limited their freedoms. Even in our 21st century world, human trafficking of women is as high as it has ever been…

Eve’s blessings were reversed when the curse was enforced.

Now, Adam.

His first blessing was to rule the “adamah,” the ground/earth. Dr. Richter explained that Adam, as farmer, cultivated the land and “his fields rejoiced to produce for him.” In essence, his land submitted to his authority. (Imagine it – no weeds or squash beetles!)

Of course the reversal is obvious. The ground was cursed. Now it takes much effort to cultivate it, and we must fight with thorns, thistles, and those pesky bugs. The land revolts against Adam.

A most interesting notion comes up for the second curse, and it has to do with a Mesopotamian idiom that is tucked into our passage. “By the sweat of your face” meant anxiety, or “perspiration-inducing fear,” in those long ago days. When we read that meaning into this verse, the second curse is realized: man will worry over his limited resources.

How often do you stress over finances?

Humanity’s blessing of being made in God’s image gets its reversal when God pronounces “you are dust and to dust you shall return.” We lose the presence of God, as well as, the “eternal life that is stamped into our DNA.”

Adam and Eve choose rebellion; they reject the Seventh Day …and the One who rules the cosmos.

God’s original intent has been squandered, thrown away. Adam and Eve are cast out of Eden, and they’re cast out of their Creator’s presence.

God allowed Adam the freedom of choice – so we could say Adam had the authority to make that choice. BUT he did not have the agency or the power to hold the planet together after he made that choice.

By the end of Genesis 3, we are left with a scattered, broken mess. God’s original intent has resulted in chaos and brokenness.

Ready for some good news? God’s not done yet! We get to spend the next few weeks investigating God’s Rescue Plan. He loves His creation too much to give up on His original intent.

I started today’s post reflecting on how easy I fall into the practice of questioning God’s goodness each time something goes wrong in my little world. I am discovering that as I get to know God’s character and better understand what motivates Him, I am less likely to blame Him…because I’m trusting in His love for me and His desire for what is GOOD for me.

Something Dr. Richter said in one of her video lessons has really stuck with me. She was talking about the fallen state of humanity and creation…and this tendency we have to be mad at God when things go badly. She encouraged us to see the world as it is …fallen. And instead of being surprised when things go wrong, we allow ourselves to be surprised (and grateful) when things go right.

That is a paradigm shifter!

This morning I woke up worrying about two people that I care about very much. In their humanness, they exercise their rights to free choice, but they yet don’t see how their choices adversely affect themselves or the people they love…

I don’t see a solution. I pray a lot. And I find myself tired.

But being in the Word today, and being reminded of who God is has given me a renewed hope and strength.

Whatever you face today, don’t give up. God sees. He cares. And He provides. He won’t abandon us any more than He abandoned Adam and Eve – and we’ll get to see that in more detail in the coming weeks.

Thanks for sticking with this! I know today’s reflection was especially long, but we’re in the home stretch now. Four more posts lie ahead as we look at “God’s Final Intent,” “Noah/Abraham,” “Moses/David,” and “The New Covenant.”

Loving our Creator,

Shelley Johnson


Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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