The early stories of Genesis can almost take on a fairy tale status. We’ve heard these stories so many times that we seldom pay attention to the details any longer, nor do we enter the emotional pain the characters no doubt experienced. And many of us have trouble connecting these stories to each other. For example, how many of us understand how the garden, the flood or the tower of Babel create the backdrop for the call of Abram.
For several years I have pondered how best to communicate these truths in a captivating manner. My desire was to share the nuances of the Biblical narrative in a form that is both engaging and personally transformative. With that as a goal, I created an adaptation of the Genesis story as it may have been passed down to Abraham’s family. So here begins a retelling of the biblical backstory which led to the call of Abram out of Mesopotamia.
Chapter 1 – In the Presence of the Divine
Ur was bustling metropolis. It was one of the most civilized cities in the land of ancient Mesopotamia, but a restlessness was beginning to settle over the family of Terah. Terah and his three sons made their home in Ur, but it seemed as if darkness was slowly creeping into the fabric of life. Although the city was modern and civilized, the people were steeped in idolatry and pagan ritual.
As Terah and his family were eating together and relaxing, they began to talk and ponder what was happening to their homeland. During the conversation they recalled what had happened to Babel five hundred years earlier and before that the great flood and even further back in their history was the mysterious story of a garden. As they pondered these events great concern, almost a fear, overshadowed the family. One of the sons muttering imperceptibly under his breath, “Father, could our family somehow be connected to those ancient stories?” “What did you say,” snapped Terah, but he quickly caught himself and began to collect his thoughts. Then he began to recite the stories which had been passed down by his ancestors to his sons Abram, Nahor and Haran. The family listened in awe and amazement. But the awe and wonder would not last long.
Terah began, “the earth and skies which we live under were made by a loving and benevolent God. In fact, he planted a garden not far from here. It was a magical and wonderful place, truly heaven on earth. You see, the mountain of God was there and where God’s home is, all of his attendants share his habitation. It had mighty rivers, gold and silver, a rich diversity of habitat with trees and plants of every kind. In fact, our own ancestors lived in this place; that is until…. oh, what a dreadful day. I weep just thinking about it” explained Terah, as he shuddered.
“But let us think about happier days for now. God, whose name is YHWH, wanted a family who could share all he had made in that wonderful place, even sharing his own nature and character. So, after all the preparations had been made, he reached down into the soil and began to fashion a man. Strong, muscular with a beautiful head of hair and altogether handsome. But the man did not move or animate himself at all, so YHWH leaned in close and breathed into his lungs – gasp! The man opened his eyes to behold his creator YHWH.”
Pausing to reach back in the recesses of his mind, Terah continued on, “The sights, sounds, rivers, mountains, and strange creatures of all sorts were amazing to behold. As the first man, Adam surveyed his surroundings. It began to dawn on him that nothing in his vicinity was like him. YHWH had the creatures present themselves to Adam who observed their behaviors and their speech if one might call it speech and the way they maneuvered about. Adam gave each of them a name to honor them in keeping with their traits. YHWH was the closest being in similarity to Adam – but there was something “other worldly” about him. Adam thought, I’m like him but then again, I’m not like him. I love him, but I fear him at the same time. It was not a fear like I think he will hurt me, but rather a humble recognition of being in the presence of a great king.”
“As Adam was thinking back on all the myriads of animals and the goodness of YHWH, he slowly became aware of an emptiness, no it was more of a longing for something or maybe someone with whom he could share these experiences. No sooner had his mind began to wander down this path that he became very drowsy falling into a deep sleep.”
“For Adam, it seemed but a few moments; but when he awoke, he was speechless as now standing before him was not one of the creatures he had named but a fellow human. She looked like a human but not exactly like Adam – for she was exquisite in every way imaginable. Her eyes were riveting, her hair falling gently upon her shoulders, speech sweeter than the song of the birds, and her form, oh my; it was more captivating than the mountains to behold. Indeed, Adam was blessed as he named her Eve. And YHWH, with great pleasure and satisfaction, stood aside to behold this holy encounter. The days in Eden were a delight. Not only was there plenty of food to eat, a never-ending source of things to investigate and adventures to pursue, and YHWH was never far away as the three of them shared sweet times together until…”
Terah continued, “you see YHWH had put them in charge of everything; and they were to make the rest of the earth look like the garden of Eden. You might even say they were God’s priesthood or representatives on the earth. But there was one who was not thrilled with this arrangement. This was not a low-ranking member of God’s divine family; no this was in fact one of the guardian cherubs – he was a throne guard to the very presence of the Most High.”
“But dad”, one of the boys asked; “Why would one so high rebel against such a loving God?” “Well son”, Terah continued, “this is a sad tale, and it is a lesson for us all. You see the cherub known as Nachash was most gifted; he was beautiful to behold, wise in the administration of heavens affairs, extremely talented musically and he wielded great influence among YHWH’s other creatures. His name provides a clue about his nature; but first you should understand that names of people, places and events often have spiritual significance. And it is no different with Nachash.”
“His name, Nachash, is actually a triple entendre and depending on how his name is used as a noun, verb, or adjective – provides keen insight into the nature of this cherub. Nachash in its simplest form refers to a snake or serpent but as a verb it means to practice divination or deception. And finally, as an adjective Nachash is the shining or bronzish one.”
One of the boys spoke up, “Was Nachash a friend of YHWH’s?” Chuckling slightly, “he was for a time”, said Terah, “but then pride entered his heart and he thought he would overthrow the Most High and take his place. When the treachery was discovered, he was ejected from serving in YHWH’s court and cast down to the second heavenly realm. As he walked about and considered his plight”, he thought, ‘I am the guardian cherub, I walked among the stones of fire – I must not lose my place, no I will take YHWH’s place. My plan will begin with them – those humans. We’ll see how wise and understanding they are as I turn them against their God.’
Not content to accept defeat he set about to craft a masterful plan. As he flattered himself thinking of his own beauty, wisdom, and various skills, his contempt for YHWH only increased as the full weight of his judgment settled in. Seething with anger and revenge, he thought, “I will prevail, I will sit on the sides of the North, I will ascend above the Most High, but how? I must not use a frontal attack lest I be defeated in abject humiliation. Ah, I’ve got it. Beguile, deceit, corruption, and the dark arts – these will be my tools until I can muster enough strength for a military coup. I will deceive and corrupt those humans whom YHWH cares so much about. Yes, those humans made in his so-called image, they will be my warriors against the Most High and I will not be replaced. They will be part of my army against YHWH and the host of heaven.”
Now rubbing his chin as if Terah himself was trying to understand, “There was something peculiar in the garden, two trees – now the odd thing is that these trees had names but not like you’d expect. It was not an orange, dogwood or an olive tree, rather they were called the ‘tree of life’ and the other was known as ‘knowledge of good and evil.’” But wait a sec piped up one of the boys, “Adam had earlier named all the animals; well then, who named these trees father? And why do trees have names anyway?” Terah now with a full-throated laugh and smile, “My, you boys are inquisitive, aren’t you?”
Sometimes afterward while Adam was tending to his chores, Eve was preparing something to eat. While working apart they often considered how good their lives were. They lived with YHWH in his home, he took them into his confidence, shared his thoughts and taught them about the earth, the heavens even their own humanity. He taught them how to prosper and succeed in the world that he had created. In fact, to know him was to be like him; and everything about YHWH was good and everything else, well you know.
Continuing, “While Eve’s thoughts were perplexed about these two trees, Nachash approached. Just like the appearance of Nachash, the tree was beautiful to gaze upon and its fruit appeared tasty and rich in nourishment. But then like a whisper, Eve remembered Adam’s words in her memory, ‘Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.’ But, like a scammer peddling his tricks, Nachash pressed his case; ‘You will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ By this time her mind was confused, and it didn’t even dawn on Eve that she and Adam were already like the Creator. But then in an instant, phase one of the sinister plot was completed.”
“The Nachash was delighted but compelled to maintain his poker face as the ruse was only partially complete. Phase two would be more challenging, for YHWH had spoken directly to the man about the tree.”
“Adam implicitly trusted his wife and she him. They would never do anything to harm the other at least not knowingly. In fact, Eve didn’t realize she had violated YHWH’s instruction for there were no consequences of her rebellion, that is until Adam also partook of the forbidden fruit. So even as YHWH had watched Adam awaken to the wonder of Eve, the Nachash now watched as the trap had been masterfully set. For the love and trust they shared for each other was now to be used against them as they ignored the words of YHWH regarding the tree.”
At this point, one of the boys spoke up. “Father, it seems that Adam’s choice cancelled all hope for continuing in YHWH’s family.” “That is very perceptive son,” said Terah, “In fact, Adam was God’s representative on the earth, his viceroy if you will. He stood before YHWH in the place of a priest for all the earth. When Eve was deceived by the Nachash, Adam could have interceded for her, but once he succumbed to the same fate, there was no priestly intermediary left on the earth. Adam lost his role of priest and prince of the earth. That role shifted to the Nachash as Adam had freely handed it over.”
“It was a time of great sorrow and mourning for Adam and Eve. They had never known such anguish and grief. They argued and accused each other trying to undo what had been done by them and to them. Naked and ashamed they looked around no longer feeling at home within the garden, almost like it was someone else’s home and they were intruders.”
“They saw YHWH some distance away. He seemed to be busy with a lamb.” ‘Oh No, what was he doing, cried Adam.’ “YHWH had slaughtered a lamb and skinned it. Both Adam and his wife were absolutely horrified at the skinned animal, all that blood and there was YHWH holding the skin as clothing for his human family. They had never seen such violence; this should not be and certainly not in Eden the home of YHWH.” ‘Oh, dear God, what have we done?’ “Words escaped them as the full weight of their disobedience suddenly came cascading down upon their souls.”
Finally, as he approached YHWH spoke, “This animal skin is a promise for you and your children that I will provide a way for you to return to me and undo what you have done, but for now you must leave this paradise which I have created. But do not be afraid, for you have my covering and I will watch over you until the end.”