The Global Congress World's Religions Proceedings 1980-1982 Edited by Henry O. Thompson

IX. The Cosmic Covenant by Henry O. Thompson

The religions of the world are sometimes known more for their parochialism than their universalism. In a day when the world has become a "global village," it is worth looking again at the universal elements. Perhaps the religions, or religion, has more to say to humanity at large than is usually acknowledged.

One of the religious traditions is known as the JudeoChristian-Islamic tradition. A major feature of this tradition is the covenant and from the beginning, in time as in the beginning of the Bible, the covenant has applied to all humanity. Indeed, it applies to the whole world, to the entire universe. The Hebrew scripture tells us that God saw his creation as good. He created human beings and blessed them. The Greek scripture, called the New Testament, tells us "God so loved the world..."

In this "cosmic covenant" we find concerns that appear in other traditions as well, such as a reverence for life, concern for harmony with nature, and an ethical tradition that considers both behavior and motivation. On this common ground, people standing in this Near Eastern tradition can relate to both Western and Eastern traditions. The following study is shared with this thought in mind.

A preliminary discussion is concerned with showing that the concept of creation was present in Hebraic thought from very early in that tradition. It is not something that has been tacked on at a later time. At the same time, it must be noted that the Creator concept is not common to all religious traditions. There are both similarities and dissimilarities. A universal concern is not intended to imply uniformity. The uniqueness of peoples and traditions can be respected even as we share a solid foundation of mutual love and respect for the welfare of all peoples, and indeed for all of life, and indeed for our entire world, so heavily threatened today by the prospects for nuclear destruction, as well as the quieter kinds of pollution that destroy water and forest, life and air.

The "Cosmic Covenant," is found in the Bible, in the book of Genesis, chapters 1-11. The term is used by Aldos Tos.1 These chapters are concerned with the whole world, the entire "cosmos," the universe and everything in it. The word for covenant, "berith," does not appear in this section until Gen. 6:18, where God tells Noah to build the ark in preparation for the flood, "and I will establish my covenant with you."

While the word does not appear earlier, the idea or concept is there, from the beginning, with the stories of creation. Edmund Jacob says the creation is more than the context in which the covenant is unfolded. Creation is already a prefiguring of that covenant.2 Before considering the concept of covenant, however, it is helpful to look at the whole concept of creation in ancient Israel. Eichrodt notes that God's creation of the world is an immemorial belief in Israel. That can no longer be disputed despite the fact that for years it has been customary to doubt it.3 Others, however, insist that Israel had no concept of creation -- or at least no doctrinal concern with it until a fairly late period, c. 500 B.C.4

It has been suggested also that Israel did not really begin until the covenant at Sinai which Moses mediated between God and the people. This covenant is a basic concern for another time. Here we can note the thought of Gerhard von Rad, that Israelite religion developed backwards from the Sinai covenant. The covenant as we find it in the book of Genesis is an extension or retrojection back into the past, of the covenant idea as established at Sinai.

Tb understand the book of Genesis according to this view, we must start with Moses then work back into the Patriarchal period of Gen. 12-50, and the Primeval History or "Urgeschichte" of Gen. 1-11.

I would suggest that while Genesis may not have been written down until much later than even Moses, the people who put the biblical material in the order in which we now find it, knew what they were doing. Creation comes first for the obvious reason that it comes first. The peoples of the ancient Near East had some understanding of creation as far back as 3000 B.C. and probably earlier. Whether you start the Hebrew people with Abraham or Moses or even David, they began in a cultural milieu which already had creation concepts over a thousand years old. To suggest that the Israelites did not develop any such concept or concern until 500 B.C. seems a bit unreasonable.5 Indeed, the second part of the book of Isaiah speaks of a "New Creation." This portion of the text is commonly dated to c. 540 B.C.6

Before there could be a concept of a new creation in 540 B.C., there must surely have been an old concept of creation. Anderson goes on to say, "Nevertheless, it is a striking fact that in the early period of Israel's history the creation faith did not have the prominence that was given it in later times." He explains this by the historical character of Israel's faith. It was not tied to nature and the seasons of the year.7 It did not emphasize the natural world of creation. His point depends on how one takes the terms "early" and "prominence."

The widely accepted and widely debated Graf-Wellhausen theory claims that the first five books of the Bible, the Torah or Penteteuch, is a compilation of at least four earlier documents. Just as a modern writer pulls together an article from a variety of sources, so the editor(s) of the biblical material put together earlier materials. The classic formulation of this doctrine over the past 100 years, is that there were four main documents. The "J" or Yahwist document is dated c. 950 B.C. The "E" or Elohist is dated c. 750 B.C. "D" or Deuteronomy dates to c. 650 B.C. "P" or the Priestly document comes from c. 550 B.C. There is little or no "D" material in the tetrateuch, the first four books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. These are a conflation of J, E, and P.8

There are at least four creation concepts in the Old Testament.9 The first two are Gen. l:l-2:4a, and Gen. 2:4b-25. Proverbs 8 describes Wisdom as the master worker in creation. Scattered throughout the Psalms and prophets are references to the ancient Mesopotamian creation stories. These tell of the world being created out of the body of a slain dragon named Tiamat. We find references to this concept in Job 9:13; 26:12; Ps. 46; 89:9-12; 74:12-17; Isaiah 27:1; 51:9-10. While the writing of the Psalms and prophets in their present form date to a later period, the period to which Anderson refers, the idea of creation from a dragon or sea monster goes back to the third millennium B.C. Gen. 14 lies outside the J, E, P formula and is of uncertain date. It is probably an ancient tradition.10 Verses 19 and 22 describe God as "Maker of Heaven and Earth." This is surely a creator concept and while we may not be able to determine the date as accurately as we might like, it is at least older than the late period.

The creation story of Gen. 2:4b-25 is supposed to be part of the Yahwist document of c. 950 B.C., the time of David and Solomon and their empire. This is earlier than the "late period." In addition, while the story may have late interpretations or additions, it is not likely that the Yahwist "made it up" out of his imagination. He was drawing on earlier sources, perhaps in the form of oral tradition. How far back we can go with the oral tradition is heavily disputed but it is at least earlier than the late period. One clue to the date of oral tradition is the situation in life ("sitz im leben") reflected in the story. When laws presumably given by Moses at Mt. Sinai reflect the agricultural situation of Palestine hundreds of years later, one can relate the law to that later period. Here in Gen. 2, the dry creation suggests desert or arid conditions in the mind of the writer or the people for whom the oral tradition was alive and part of their repertoire. There are no fish in the story. While arguments from silence are notoriously nonconclusive, this at least supports a desert context.11 This could point to Palestine itself or to the nomadic period of the pre-conquest Israelites, either under Moses and Joshua or earlier with the Patriarchs.

In this same time frame of the Yahwist writer, G. Ernest Wright suggested that the creation theme was used by theologians of Jerusalem's Davidic dynasty and the Wisdom school as well as in Israel's national epic, that of the J writer. The Wisdom tradition was traditionally started by Solomon and includes Prov. 8. The Davidic covenant promised David a house, a dynasty, that would last forever. David's house is as firmly established as God's creation.12 A related concern appears in this time of the monarchy in Solomon's temple. John L. McKenzie notes that the pillars, Yakin or Jakin and Boaz, and the bronze water vessel called "the sea," are symbols of Yahweh's cosmic domain. The pillars of the world and Yahweh's control of the sea (Ps. 104:9; Job 26:10) are the most obvious implications. The antiquity of the ideas here may be reflected in the ancient Near Eastern creation stories which climax in the building of the temple.13

The "P" document or the priestly narrative of Gen 1, is commonly dated to c. 550 B.C. Literarily it is composed of two strands woven together. These two sources could in themselves suggest a yet earlier tradition.14 The oral tradition may be appealed to for a yet older date for the contents of the story. The wet creation does not help much with its "sitz im Leben," however. The annual flood of the Nile River could give such a description as:

Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear. Gen. 1:9

If the priestly writers were in Mesopotamia c. 550 B.C. as per the usual interpretation, they could have found the context in the floods of the area or in the traditions of a Great Flood in ancient times according to Mesopotamian tradition. Gen 1:2 says, "darkness was on the face of the deep." The Hebrew word here is "tehom," a cognate of "tiamat," the name of the ancient dragon who was killed and whose carcass formed the heavens and the earth.15 This terminology could suggest that the priestly document contains material that is very ancient indeed. It may have been in the Hebrew tradition from the days of the Patriarchal origins in Mesopotamia though fragments of the story have been found in Palestine, in the excavations at Megiddo. "P" is sometimes thought of as being or giving the framework of the book of Genesis or even of the entire Penteteuch. Hermann Gunkel thought of "P" as the "product of a great and universal mind, the beginning of a universal history in the grand style."16

McKenzie notes some recent critics are inclined to see in Gen. 1 an earlier recital which is preserved by P. If it was, McKenzie suggests a pre-exilic New Year's festival. He associated this with the temple of Solomon and feels it was a covenant renewal ceremony with roots in the Israelite tribal covenant, the amphictyony from the days of the Judges. The covenant itself became a celebration of Yahweh's sovereignty celebrated in creation.17

Outside of the usual creation narratives or references, we might note also the idea of God as controlling the heavenly bodies or the universe. These suggest that God is either the Creator or a universal God of great power.18 One example of this is in the Song of Deborah in Judges 5. Even by the standards of literary criticism, this is a very early poem. It may have been by an eye-witness, c. 1125-1100 B.C.

Lord, when thou didst go forth from Seir, when thou didst march from the region of Edom, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped yea, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked before the Lord, yon Sinai before the Lord, the God of Israel. (Judges 5:4-5)

From heaven fought the stars, from their courses they fought against Sisera. The torrent Kishon swept them away, the onrushing torrent, the torrent Kishon. (Judges 5:19b-21a)

The Song of Miriam is also seen as old by literary standards. Here too we have a belief in God's control over the elements.

At the blast of thy nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea." (Exodus 15:8) "Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters. (Exodus 15:10)

This conception of God's control or effect on the natural also appears in Isaiah 17:12-14; Jeremiah 5:22; Nahum 1:4; I Kings 8:12; Psalm 104; Job 38.

From another source comes yet another line of thought. Archaeological data has shown that the Hebrew Patriarchs "fit" into the Middle Bronze Age, c. 2000-1550 B.C. In other words, while the Wellhausen theory suggests the materials of Gen. 12-50 were written down later, c. 950, 750, and 500 B.C. (J-E-P), the contents are at least relatively accurate from a thousand years earlier. The names, places, living conditions, customs, laws, etc., found in Gen. 12-50, accurately reflect the Middle Bronze Age.19

The accuracy of many details has not been established. The accuracy of Gen. 12-50 does not establish the accuracy of Gen. 1-11. But the accuracy of Gen. 12-50 does suggest that the content of J-E-P is much older than the date of writing, and far more accurate than the Wellhausen date of writing would suggest. Tb continue to suggest that the content to J-E-P is based solely or exclusively on the date of the writing is simply wrong.

It is not impossible that the Patriarchal material was preserved in writing and the writing is now lost. More commonly, the preservation has been assumed to have been though oral tradition. The age of oral tradition as noted earlier may be difficult if not impossible to determine. Miriam's song refers to Philistia, Moab and Edom. One could suggest this reflects a post-conquest period, a period after which the poem developed, at least in its present form. The assumption is that the Israelites would not have known about these three peoples prior to contact with them in or on their way to the land of Canaan. At other times, the age of oral tradition is quite indefinite. It is also worth noting that oral tradition may have existed side by side with written materials. It is not impossible that all four documents were drawing on equally old material. The Graf-Wellhausen theory drew the unnecessary conclusion that the documents reflected only the time in which they were written. The retention of both written and oral forms of the traditions could mean that both the time of writing and the earlier times are represented in the biblical material as we now have it. Anderson represents this with a chart showing the written material in solid lines and the oral tradition in dotted lines.20 The study of Arabic materials shows that both written and oral forms existed side by side in pre-Islamic Arabia.21 While not as prominent in modern culture, it is common in the form of jokes, anecdotes, and various stories that are part of oral tradition but which can also be found in written form. This is especially common in living traditions. In United Methodism, there are quotations and stories about John Wesley, some of which are quite variant in form, which circulate in both oral and written traditions.

The point of this concern is that the date of writing does not determine the age of the contents of the writing. The date of the contents must be determined on other grounds, such as the historical allusions, accuracy, the use of terminology appropriate to the age in question, etc. My concern here is not the dating of literary materials, per se, but to be aware that materials vary in date. The suggestion on the date of Israel's interest in the creation motif needs to be taken with this awareness in mind.

The concern with the prominence of the creation motif also needs a bit of caution. If we were to insist that the priestly creation narrative shows a late concern with creation, logically it would follow that the priestly discussion of the exodus and all other material in the "P" document is also of late interest. This has been concluded by some, or at least it has been held that all or most of the biblical material was written down in the post-exilic period. This implies that none of the pre-exilic themes were prominent until the exilic or post-exilic period from c. 550-400 B.C. or later.22 Alternately, one could say they were all equally prominent, or, that some were more equal than others. I would suggest that the Hebrew writers consciously and deliberately began their story with creation.

The story of Creation fitly stands on the opening pages of the Bible, for it is fundamental to all the subsequent history as the Hebrews conceived it. 23

The Covenant In Creation

Anderson, analyzing Genesis and Exodus, suggests that the "P" document or the priestly writing, divides history into a series of "dispensations."24 The first of these is Creation, or rather the era from creation to Noah. The second is the covenant with Noah, the Noachian covenant where the word "berith" is first used. The third dispensation is the covenant with Abraham, and the last is the covenant at Mt. Sinai. The first dispensation then, is on the order of a covenant, even though the term "berith" is not used there. Indeed, "creation is the foundation of the covenant; it provides the setting within which Yahweh's saving work takes place."25

The Divine Principle26 of Unification theology divides history into dispensations. Adam-Noah-Abraham is one set. The Patriarchal period is subdivided further. This age old method of dividing history may or may not be acceptable to modern historians.27 Hillers notes that P's outline of history was accepted by all Christendom until recently. In fairness, he says, it might be seen as so influential because it is reasonable, plausible, credible. The priestly writer or more likely school of writers, reflected long on what they had to say. Hillers goes on to call attention also to the covenant features of the dispensations. A new age begins with a new pact. The word "berith" is not used in Gen. 1 but is thereafter. For Gen. 1, we might say with Kaufmann that the order of the cosmos is a covenant which God has imposed upon it.28

God is the Creator and here we are dealing with his covenant with the Universe. In Creation and in the covenant with Noah, that is, in Gen. 1-11, we are involved with nature and all of humanity. We must emphasize all of humanity, not in contrast to the later covenant restricted to Israel but in relation to it. The "records" of both the Cosmic Covenant and the Sinai Covenant, were written down at a later time, perhaps both at the same time, and by the same people. The Sinai covenant and indeed all of the covenants, are set within the context or the framework of the earlier and larger concern. "Universalism" was not a new development in Christianity. It was part of the Hebrew faith from the beginning. Paul spoke as a true Jew when he said that God is merciful to all.29 Jocz points out that for the writer of Genesis, world history is covenant history.30

This awareness of the way in which Israel as a people developed out of, and in relation to, the rest of mankind, is not unique with Israel. There was a time when Israel did not exist. In all humbleness, Israelite writers knew they were a part of the whole, a small segment of the whole of humanity. The Sumerians, followed by the Akkadians and Hurrians. also traced their origins to a time before the flood in terms of the entire world.31 Nor are the other motifs in Gen. 1-11 -- the Creation, the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, the Flood and the Tower of Babel -- found only in Israel. These appear in Mesopotamian traditions and to some extent in Egyptian as well.32 But what Israel inherited or borrowed from her ancestors and her neighbors, she rewrote in terms of the Covenant God who created the world and all that is in it. Thus the polytheism of Mesopotamia, which saw the sun and the moon and stars as gods, is transformed into a monotheism which describes these heavenly bodies as mere things formed at the word (Gen. 1:14) or by the hands (Gen 1:16) of the Creator.33

Jocz notes that Gen. 1 magnificently expresses the meaning of creation, that God is Lord in the most absolute sense. He feels Langdon B. Gilkey overstates the case when he claims that creation gives us the primary definition of God and that this definition gives meaning and significance to all that is said about God.34 For Jocz, the stark cruelty of nature cannot be overlooked. This leads some to a meaningless vacuum-nihilism. That perspective changes when we relate creation and covenant. Then we find not only "creatio ex nihilo," but the motive behind the creation -- God's eternal love for his creation.35 Similarly, Gerhard Hasel36 suggests that H.H. Schmid overstates the case when he says that the creation faith is the theme of the Old Testament, the same way that Eichrodt sees the covenant as the Theme of the Old Testament, as Ludwig Kohler sees the Lordship of God, Otto Baab sees the experience of God, Th. C. Vriezen sees communion with God, etc. But Hasel acknowledges the creation as a crucial and neglected theme. So too, creation and covenant have been neglected and overlooked.

Jocz goes on to speak against pantheism, depersonalized deified matter. God is in the world but he is Creator and the world is creature.37 God has a relationship with nature. God has a covenant with nature. It is very clearly the suzerainty type of covenant. It is binding upon the natural world. He is the Creator who very clearly controls in his omnipotent power that which he has created. Where other ancient people -- and some modern ones as well, deify the things of nature, the biblical record shows God as clearly above nature, which he binds and fetters to his control, but which like the ancient Hittite king and his vassal, God also in his mercy sustains and maintains. Alternately, one could say God gives a covenant to nature. Out of his "super" (above, separate from) natural power, he relates to the natural world. This is apparent in the "laws of nature" in Genesis 1, but it also appears in the Noachian covenant in 9:10-17 where the covenant is not only made with Noah but with "every living creature" that was with him, and the rainbow "is the sign of the covenant between me and the earth." It is "the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth."

It is a covenant with the earth itself for "never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth" (vs. 11). Thus it goes beyond life or living things. His covenant extends to the "rocks and rills and temple hills."

At first glance, this suzerainty covenant appears one way, completely monergistic. Lifeless rocks do not enter into an agreement to obey the Lord. In another sense however, natural things obey the laws of nature, God's laws. So rocks and rills are obedient without choice. But Hebrew language is a personal language. There is no neuter. The things of nature are female or male rather than being neutral "its." Hebrew writers thought that this personalized nature responded to God, indeed, should respond. In Leviticus 25:2, "the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord," every seventh year (vs. 4). If the holiness (derived from God) of the land is violated, it will vomit out its inhabitants (Lev. 18:24-30; 20:22-26).37A In Psalm 150, the ecstatic poet calls upon everything that has breath, to praise the Lord (vs. 6). The psalmist in 104 proclaims his care of the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. At God's look, the earth trembles. At his touch, the mountains smoke (vs. 10-12. 32). He makes the mountains of Lebanon skip like a calf (Ps. 29:6). Let the floods clap their hands and the hills sing for joy (Ps. 98:8). Is. 55:12 has a vision of the mountains and hills singing while the trees clap their hands. Job 38:7 is a part of the whirlwind passage. God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind:

Where were you when the morning stars sang together for joy?

Jeremiah 33:20-26 tells of God's covenant with the day and night. Isaiah's vision of utopia includes the natural world. The animals shall live in peace with one another and with human beings. The earth will be full of the knowledge of God (II Isaiah 11:6-9). The desert shall bloom and rejoice with joy and singing (Is. 35:3). This concern with the salvation of the world is continued in the New Testament.38 In Colossians 1:20, Paul says God was working through Jesus "to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven." II Corinthians 5:19 says God in Christ was reconciling the world unto himself. Jocz points out this goes far beyond humanity. We are involved here with the whole universe, the whole of creation, as in Romans 8 where Paul claims that the creation is waiting for the revelation of the sons of God... The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now..." (8:19-22). This universalistic concept of the salvation or restoration of the physical world is rooted in the Cosmic Covenant.

The last verse from Paul may be a reference to Jeremiah 12:4 and the destruction of the land, plant life, animals and birds. The Jeremianic description turns on the evil of men. A feminist ecologist proclaims God's covenant with nature. Elizabeth Dodson Gray titled her book, "Why the Green Nigger?" The title is controversial. She claims we treat the green world, that is, the natural world, with the same derogatory exploitive contempt which racists have felt for Blacks. One reason is that we haven't understood that there is a covenant with nature itself.39 In creation, she sees God reaching out to us. He "births us into being... pledges faithfulness to us in the steadiness of the seasons." In him we find "the bounty of food for eyes, mind, ears and stomachs. God's gift to us is this life, this world, this creation." Since we have not understood that there is a covenant in nature, it is not surprising that "the covenant in nature has never been properly understood." She overreaches a bit when she says that the "Judeo-Christian religion never saw that in the creation of the world there had been a covenant given." She is not quite right here for we have seen it is the supernatural God who gives a covenant to the natural world, which he has created. He lives in relationship to or with the natural world. However, this natural world is itself a revelation of God. We'll come back to natural revelation shortly. Here I want to remind us of the above awareness of nature's response to God and Anderson's outline of dispensations, each of which involves covenant though the term is not used for the creation. But Gray is probably right when she says the covenant has been seen as something apart from nature. The orthodox Hebrews were trying to avoid the nature religions, the fertility cult of Baalism.40 In the process, she thinks they created a fertility cult of their own in their emphasis on circumcision.41 It had to be apart to avoid also the pantheism of the ancient world in which the sun, moon and stars were themselves deities.

She is also right when she points out that our lack of understanding of God's covenant with all of creation has resulted in our failure to honor the creation as our side of the covenant. As a first step in correction, she urges Christopher Stone's proposal of rights for natural objects. One way we can do that is to see ourselves as parents in a family with the real world.42 She has an interesting precedent here in St. Francis of Assisi who saw himself as a brother of the sun and the fire and other aspects of nature. We are concerned here with living in harmony with nature. It's a traditional picture of Jesus and David and Orpheus and other figures both biblical and nonbiblical. It was basic to the pre-European American Indian. It relates to the whole concept "shalom" or "salaam," a living in peace with nature. Here it relates to modern ecology. Instead of exploiting nature, we are called to live in harmony in shalom, in peace with it.

William W Everett's "Land Ethic: Toward a Covenantal Model,"43 has a similar but different perspective. He notes the current debates over land use. These reflect definitions of parties, claims and models, which shape land ethics. He identifies the parties as God, Nature, Society and Persons. He goes on to suggest that the Hebrews believed God was the real owner of the land. As the Creator of the world, it belonged to him. He gave the Israelites the land in the Conquest. He could do this because it was his to give. But while he gave it, he gave it in trust, a kind of lease in which he remained the owner. The first fruits of the harvest were his as an acknowledgment of that ownership. The stewardship part of this comes up in the next section. Here the emphasis is on God's relationship, God's covenant with the land, the created world. Everett goes on to point out that the land shared with the people a common holiness based on its consecration to the Lord. The land shared in Sabbath rest even as God and the people. The land, like the people, represents God's gracious goodness. He sees God as one who stands apart from the land but his claims are to determine the way it's used and its meaning. Later on, the land became a transcendent symbol, like Torah and circumcision and perhaps the covenant itself. But the particularist meaning, reference to a particular land, has never completely disappeared. We see it today in Zionism and in Christian communes which call for a return to "the land."

The second party concerned with land use is nature. Like Stone, and Gray, Everett claims nature has rights. The land, along with water, air and all living things, needs to live in harmony -- in balance -- and accord with nature's laws. Society and persons as the third and fourth parties remind us of the creation of people.

In summary, we might note Jocz' point that human life takes place in both history and the cosmos. Both history and creation stand under the providence of God.44 That relationship is a covenantal one. It is a commonplace in biblical studies to say that God acts in history.45 But the history is in the created world with which God has a covenant. Jocz goes on the suggest that the covenant forms the internal basis of creation and gives meaning to both history and the cosmos. It stands for "Immanuel," "God with us."46

The Covenant And Man

A second aspect of God's control of nature, his suzerainty covenant, is the relationship he established between the natural world and his creature, the human person. In Gen. 1:28, God gives dominion over the world to the human race. This is repeated in the Noachian covenant in which all living things are given to man for food. Noah and all his descendants participate in the covenant which God makes with the earth and in the promise that the "water shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh" (9:15). This relationship between man and the natural world is put into covenantal terms in Hosea.

And I will make for you a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground. (2:18)

The phrase "on that day" may be a reference to the new covenant of Jeremiah 31, and the new creation, so prominent in the book of Isaiah. Where Hosea 2 goes on to speak of safety in war, Is. 11 and 65 speak of safety within the natural world.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The suckling child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (11:6-9; 65:25)

This new creation takes in not only people and the animals, but "new heavens and a new earth"(Is. 65:17; 66:22). This idea is repeated in the New Testament (II Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).

The power of God over the natural world -- God as the creator and as One who will form a new creation -- is closely related in II Isaiah to redemption and salvation, and to the idea of trust. Israel is called to put its trust in the Lord for he has the power to save, and he will save his people. This concept is carried into the New Testament in terms of Christ as the Savior for the new creation has arrived in him: "...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come." (II Corinthians 5:17).

As God controls the natural world he has created and established his covenant with it, so he establishes his covenant with his human creatures. Like the animal kingdom, man is a created form of life. He is very definitely a part of the natural world, and yet he is not really "of the world" to borrow a phrase from Christianity. Thus, as noted earlier, God establishes a covenant between man and the world of nature. Man is given dominion over the world. He does not acquire this on his own. It is a suzerainty covenant of control. Mankind is very busy exploiting this control over the natural world. As Gray and others have pointed out, man for the most part has forgotten the other side of the covenant -- his own lordship's responsibility to his "vassal" "nature" -- to maintain and sustain it. Instead, man causes air pollution and water pollution and continues with the ruthless destruction of wildlife and natural resources -- timber, minerals, scenery, beaches.

In recent years, the Judeo-Christian tradition has been blamed for this destruction. The biblical idea of dominion supposedly has resulted in the rape of nature. This is of course a perversion of dominion, even as human rape is a perversion of love. This is dominion as a power play without the suzerainty covenant that continues concern for the covenantee, in this case, the earth. Alternately, to mix metaphors, as Everett has pointed out, the world belongs to God as its real owner. He has given man dominion as the owner of a farm hires a manager to care for his property. G. Ernest Wright calls man the ruling lord of the earth. But he is also the servant responsible to the Creator.47 Our whole concept of stewardship is ultimately based on this "Cosmic Covenant." This appears again and again in the Bible. In such passages as Deuteronomy 8, the people of Israel are warned not to forget that the land is a gift from God. In Wellhausen's theory of JEDP, these words were penned c. 650 B.C. when Israel had indeed forgotten that God was the giver of land and covenant, a time very much like our own. The question of the breaking of the covenant is another major issue. Here we might note a modern twist on man's dominion over the world.

William G. Pollard, then of the Institute of Nuclear Studies at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, noted that in previous eras, man's dominion over nature was partial and limited at best.48 There was little danger of any very extensive exercise of that dominion. Today, we are in a totally different situation, most obvious in the case of nuclear energy. "God has made more hydrogen bombs that anyone else."49 It was inevitable that man would eventually come to dominion over nuclear energy as well. This dominion can be exercised to be a blessing or a curse. That reality of modern times is as good an answer as any to the charge that it is Christianity's fault that man has raped nature.

Pollard suggested that the crisis which faces Christianity is of a much deeper nature. In its passion to subdue the earth, the spirit of the age has rejected religion. At least in its traditional sense, it's considered irrelevant. Parenthetically, we note that such passion is a religion but not the Judeo-Christian tradition so much as a heresy of it. Pollard thinks that by the year 2,000, none of the great religious institutions that have inspired and informed civilization for 20 centuries, will have any significant role in a new planetary society. He himself felt that the supernatural reality which includes heaven and eternity, is not affected by the prevailing convictions of our present age. That supernatural is a part of reality no matter what man's opinion of it. While man thinks he has made himself, he remains in fact a creature in common with all else in space and time, a creature brought into existence by his creator. The preservation of this awareness of our creaturehood. is the central and primary Christian responsibility in the midst of the current revolution.

Using a different paradigm, Walter Brueggeman sees the covenant as subversive.49A Subversion means undermining and exposure to dismantling. This subversion is aimed at a triumphalist culture while the covenant offers an alternative perception of how things could be on earth. Our culture is a culture that has not kept its promises. It has praised a God who is remote, the "Deus absconditis" of deism. This model of God allows man to model himself into a self-sufficient one who is aloof from the cares of the world. But this "laissez-faire" idea of non-interference, without care for others, is not the biblical view of things. He points to Psalm 82 where the self-serving notion of godhead is rejected. The call to:

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; Maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."(Psalm 82:3-4)

This God of the covenant is one who embraces the rabble (Exodus 12:38; Numbers 11:4; cf. Luke 7:22-23. I Peter 2:9-10). The prophet Hosea has penetrated the heart of this God. Here is one who breaks with convention and maintains covenant, not because the partner is suitable but because of the very nature of this God. Isaiah has summed it up in saying,

He was despised and rejected by men and acquainted with grief, as one from whom they hide their faces, He was despised and we esteemed him not"(53:3).

While the axe cannot vaunt itself over the hand that wields it (Is. 10:15) and man the creature remains a creature even when he pretends he is the Creator, the biblical tradition claims that it is the Creator who has given man special status within the creation. This special status within the Cosmic Covenant is shown most strikingly in the description of man's creation in Genesis 1, reflected so beautifully in Psalm 8.50

When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast made; what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?

Yet thou has made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor.

Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands... (Psalm 8:3-6a)

Wright has said there are two possible pictures of man, both true. One is man's glory. The other is his misery.51 Here we have both man's insignificance and his glory. In Gen. 1:26, God seems to be speaking to his heavenly court, and says,

"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion..."

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (vs. 27)

In Gen. 2 we have a slightly different picture of man's creation, but with the same special status.

...then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (vs. 7)

We could stop and ask whether this "image of God," the "imago dei," concept means that God has a physical body.52 But the covenant is a relationship, and it seems to me that a more pertinent question is "what does this special status as human beings mean to us?" Is it a source of pride to us, in our covenant relationship with God, or is the image really a source of great humility? It is humility which is reflected in Ps. 8.: "...what is man that thou art mindful of him?"(vs. 4a) With our expanding knowledge of the universe, the vast reaches of space, our unfolding ignorance of the cosmos, man has reason enough to be humble before his Creator. And yet, we are created but little lower than God (vs 5a). It is this "high" status of man in the created order of things which has prevailed among men, in human society. Man, by and large, has not been very humble before his Creator nor in relation to the creation.

We are on the edges of what has been called "natural law." This doctrine is perhaps more common to Roman Catholics than to Protestants, and the New Testament than the Old. Jocz notes the term as more a Greek than a biblical concept. Biblically, the laws within nature are not mechanical but personal and covenantal.53 Natural law is binding on all people, according to Jewish tradition. It was known to Adam and Noah. In the New Testament book of Romans, 1:18-32, 2:1-16, we find the apostle Paul saying that there are moral laws which are known to all mankind. No one has any excuse for violating these, whether Jew or Gentile. In a word, God's will applies to everyone, Western/Eastern, believer/non-believer. One cannot be excused from obeying the will of God, giver of this suzerainty covenant. God gives this Cosmic Covenant to man as Man, and not to Jew or Gentile. Man as a human being is bound in an eternal covenant and is obliged to obey the will of his sovereign Lord. At one and the same time, this sovereign Lord's mercy is extended toward all people. His mercy has already been given to man in the creation. The entire human race is in covenant with God, what Joseph L. Allen calls "the inclusive covenant."54

One might draw a parallel to the creation itself. Creation has several purposes, one of which is of interest to us here.

The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork. (Ps. 19:11).

All of nature is a witness to the glory and greatness of God. The psalmist is aware of this general revelation, for he speaks as a man, and not as a Hebrew. However, the general revelation is not enough.55 God has revealed himself and his will to Israel. While Christians see his supreme revelation in Jesus the Christ, it has been suggested that God continues to reveal himself and his will to mankind at large. The general revelation in nature is not enough. The psalmist himself is aware that God remains the "hidden" God. Neither he nor we know God in the fullest, so natural law is not sufficient or at least it is not all there is to law, revelation and morality.

Adam And Eve

The story of Adam and Eve remains literally true for some people today, while others consider it symbolic. The biblical concept of creation remains with its understanding that it is God who created life and specifically human life. He is the father of all people. It is here in the creation stories of P and J. It appears again in the genealogy in the New Testament where the ancestry of Jesus is traced back to Adam, "the son of God." It is present in such books as Amos, who shows that God's control and concern is with all humanity. God is the Creator, the father of all human beings.

In this day of women's liberation movements, we note the equality of the creation of man and woman, female and male, in Gen. 1:28. Both women and men are created in the image of God, suggesting that God is both feminine and masculine. There was no neuter in biblical Hebrew so God, like all other nouns, is one or the other. The patriarchal nature of society and the gender of biblical compilers accounts readily enough for the choice of masculine for continuing reference to God. But here, at the beginning of the text, is an awareness that God is both and both women and men are created in his image. Their equal footing is a covenantal relation, already recognized by the Yahwist in Genesis 2. Verses 18-20 set forth a suzerainty relationship with the beasts while 21-24 establish a parity covenant, a relation among equals. It is a relationship that takes precedent over the ties of blood and kinship and forms the basis of the marriage relationship as a covenantal one. Their encounter as personal beings leads to living for each other in responsible co-operation which draws its strength from their common encounter with God. Or, at least, it was supposed to be that way. Someone has suggested that in the Yahwist narrative, the sexes are unequal. The woman was created after the man. God clearly saved his best creation until last. Woman is the crown of God's creative activity! Taken seriously, we have the foundation of a suzerainty covenant in which the woman gives to the man her relationship. That the first born does not automatically have the priority in God -- human relationships, is a common thread in the biblical tradition (e.g., I Samuel 16:6-13).

In the story of the Garden of Eden, we find the first commandment is to enjoy the Garden. The prohibition is that they are not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:15-17). In the sequel in Gen. 3:1-13, Adam and Eve do just that. Eve is tempted and resists. Then she offers the fruit to Adam. Without any resistance at all, he also eats the fruit. His is the greater sin. Eve at least resisted! But traditionally, the celibate males and misogynists who have interpreted the text, have put the greater blame on Eve. In one sense, they are right. But it is only a sense in which they and we are all guilty which should make us very humble indeed. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of us all.

After they ate the forbidden,

... the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him 'Where are you?' And he said, T heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.' He said, 'Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?' The man said, 'The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.' Then the Lord God said to the woman, 'What is this that you have done?' The woman said. The serpent beguiled me, and I ate.'

First we sin and then we try to justify our sin. We sin, and then we pass the blame to someone else. Or, we include others in our sin and justify ourselves because, "everyone's doing it." Adam and Eve sinned. A modern wag has asked about the fruit. What was it? The traditional answer is that it was an apple. He, being more tuned into evolutionary theory, insists it was a banana. That of course is not really fair to evolutionary theory which says that man and monkeys have developed from an earlier split in the evolutionary tree. But it matters not. The point is that this whole event in the garden was not some primordial ancestor, some biblical Zinjanthropus from Uldaivai Gorge involving all mankind in sin. Rather, Adam, whose name is good Hebrew for "man," represents "Everyman" (as acknowledged in Federal Theology) and Eve represents "Everywoman." We are all our own Adam and Eve according to this interpretation.

Someone compared this to the child who slips into the kitchen after school. He smells the fresh baked cookies that have just been put into the cookie jar. Momma is upstairs but she heard him come in. She shouts down the stairs, "Don't take any of those cookies. They're for the church bazaar." But the child, being his own Eve, listens to his own senses. The smell and the vision and the thought is overwhelming. "Momma said not to take any, but did she really mean not to take any, not even one? It seems most unlikely that momma would say that. After all, momma loves me. And after all, those cookies smell so good, and they look so good, why they must surely be good." So when you saw that the cookies were good for food, and a delight to the eyes, and you just knew they would make you feel good, you took some. And then your little brother came into the kitchen and you slipped him some too.

Could we not take our more serious sins and show how temptation presents itself? We rationalize ourselves into thinking that surely this once, it must be alright and surely God won't mind. But God does mind, for we have violated the covenant. When Amos and the prophets denounced the nations around Israel and Judah for their sins, they did not denounce them for violating Israelite Law. They denounced them for their inhumanity to people. The other nations were not a part of the Israelite covenant, but they were a part of this Cosmic Covenant. People, as people, whatever our religion, nationality, or race, remain a part of this Cosmic Covenant yet today. Or, to paraphrase a bit, Man has been endowed by his Creator, with certain inalienable rights and responsibilities which he cannot rightfully give up, nor can they rightfully be taken away.

Anderson has noted that

In our time men are faced with the fundamental religious question: The question of the ultimate source, meaning, and destiny of human life. There are many answers which compete for validity, many idols which rival for man's allegiance. The decision about the meaning of our existence cannot be postponed, for life hastens on to its conclusion and in this kind of world tomorrow is more uncertain than ever before.

The Book of Genesis is Israel's confession of faith that the Lord, who spoke and acted in her history is the Lord of all mankind and of all creation.56

Adam as Representative: Federal or covenant theology is a major study in itself. Here we can simply note this picture of Adam as the ancestor, and hence the federal representative of the human race. In this federal position, the federal theology says that God made a covenant with Adam. It was a covenant of works which promised Adam eternal life if he obeyed the commandments. Adam broke the covenant. Since this Fall from relationship, God has continued in a covenant of grace with mankind, offering the same blessings to all who believe in Jesus as the Second Adam. As humanity are heirs of the First Adam, so Christians are the heirs of the Second Adam.57 Alternately, one could say that humanity stands in relation to God in a broken covenant. All the Christians who have broken the covenant, stand in a similar relationship through the Second Adam. The issue here is whether a covenant says that God's covenant with the world, the earth, all living things, all humanity, is an everlasting covenant. Human beings may break it, but it is still there. This issue appears again for the specific covenants in Israel, both original and new Israel, as well as more recent history. It is part of the concept of restoration in the Kingdom of God as envisioned by Judaism and Christianity.


Here, because of its relevance to the Cain and Abel story, I want to take note of one particular form of brokenness known as racism. It is incredible that the Judeo-Christian heritage with all of its talk of "love thy neighbor" (Leviticus 19:18; Psalm 14:1-3, Matthew 5:43), has so often failed to stop this violation of covenant. Racists from time to time try to claim that the Bible supports their view. The story of Cain and Abel records that God put a mark on Cain. Numbers of people and groups have claimed that this mark is the dark skin of Blacks and the colored peoples of Asia as well as Africa, a designation sometimes given to the American Indian as well. They have not read the text.

And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him (Genesis 4:15b)

John Wilkinson has suggested that Cain had a covenant with God. He admits it is unusual to speak in these terms, but it is there, nonetheless. He writes on behalf of Jacques Ellul's conception of the city. Ellul argues in closed logical circles. But he makes his circles universal. This is reminiscent of Edwin Markham's poem, "Outwitted."

He drew a circle that shut me out --
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win --
We drew a circle that took him in.

The universality Wilkinson sees in Ellul, is a theological principle -- the covenant. "In the covenant of God, all our actions and values will find a safe and secure resting place, even those" like the city, that may contain more evil than good. God condemns Cain's sin. But "God's rigor toward sinners is never the complete story." He goes on to point out that this should not be all that surprising. In our notion of contract, we have "sanction" (sacred word) which both authorizes the contract and implies detriment for violation of the contract. He quotes E.C. Blackman's belief that God's relationship to man is "judgment and mercy, mercy and judgment." The two are not to be understood apart from one another.5

His thought has merit on several counts. Earlier, the Yahwist has already noted that God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden as punishment for their sin. Yet in the very act of expulsion, God clothed them. He continued to care for them. God continues in relationship even when the covenant is broken. The inclusive covenant remains, even when broken. Later on, we find the prophets condemning their people. But even in the act of condemning, they proclaim God's willingness to forgive. The punishment is designed to bring Israel back into active relationship. His choice of Abraham is so that his descendants will be a blessing to all humanity (Gen. 12:1-3). His choice of Israel is so that Israel can be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6). Ultimately, his will is that all mankind shall be brought back into true relationship, that the broken covenant shall be healed, or, that there will be a new covenant with God's law upon the heart.

Here, in opposition to the continued breaking of covenant known as racism, we note that Cain remained in covenant with God. The mark, which was probably like the tribal mark which Bedouin wear on their foreheads, was given to Cain for protection! It would be a travesty to suggest that the color of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s skin protected him from the sniper's bullet. It would be the grossest exegesis to suggest that the thousands of Blacks lynched in this country were protected by the color of their skin. It would be insane to raise such a question with the Blacks of South Africa or the Blacks of our American city slums. Such a rationale for racism is a complete perversion of the biblical text.

The biblical writer seems to be saying, incidentally, that the first cities were established by the murderer Cain, expressing prejudice of his own. The idea may parallel or be repeated by the Tower of Babel story in Gen. 11:1-9. The prophet Hosea looked to the primitive desert days as a purer time for ancient Israel. The Yahwist would not be the first writer to relate civilization and wickedness.59 I come from Iowa, a predominantly rural area. While cities are growing, there are still large areas of farm land. I live in the metropolitan East. It is not unusual for someone to hear of my origins and suggest that people out there are probably more religious, more honest, more reliable, etc. In an international meeting of law enforcement officers, representatives reported on crime in their home countries. After hearing the huge statistics of the United States, England, and other "advanced" nations, a third world representative apologized for his small statistics. But, be added, we are getting more civilized all the time so next year I expect to be able to give you a better report with higher crime rates.

Those who are aware of the less lovable features of our cities may be inclined to agree with such a prejudice of the Yahwist writer, as does Jacques Ellul.60 Whether it is warranted is another matter, of course. The point here is that the "mark of Cain" has absolutely nothing to do with the color of human skin. It was given for Cain's protection, not his destruction. Finally we should note that if one takes the biblical text literally, as being literally true, than all of the descendants of Cain all perished in the Flood. Unless one argues that Noah or his wife, and hence all mankind, were somehow related to Cain, or that one of the three daughters-in-law were related to Cain, all the Cainites were wiped out.

Before we leave Cain in the Land of Wandering, we must take note of a very crucial question and answer in the entire story. In Gen. 4:9, God asks Cain, "Where is thy brother Abel?" Cain responds that he does not know. He asks what is surely a rhetorical question. "Am I my brother's keeper?" For Cain, the answer is presumably or hopefully "No." Yet the context is clear. Cain knew, and we know, that the real answer is "Yes." Cain violated that relationship of loving care for his brother, his neighbor. And human beings have been violating the covenant ever since.

Here again, as with Adam and Eve and Everyman and Everywoman, we have an aetiology, an origin or a beginning. One might believe quite literally in the historical existence of Cain and Abel or one might see the two figures as metaphorical. The truth of the story remains. We are called to be "our brother's keeper" but instead, we have killed him. Man's inhumanity to man is proverbial but historically all too real. The standard of God remains. We are called to care for one another. Here again it is important to underline or emphasize that the biblical story is not about Israelites caring only for Israelites or Christians caring for Christians and so on. The Cain and Abel story is in the beginning. It is a concern for human beings as human beings. Here is what one might call universalism built into the foundations of the biblical tradition.


A second great rationale for racism is also suggestive of the biblical writers' prejudice against settled agriculture and Canaanites. After the Flood, Noah planted a vineyard. From the grapes, he made wine. He drank too much and became drunk. The wine and drunkenness were more common to sedentary civilization than to the desert nomadic existence. The latter was part of the Hebrew heritage of Patriarchal times and the wilderness wandering period after the exodus and before the conquest.

Noah threw off his clothes and lay naked in his tent. With our Greek heritage of athletics, we think little or nothing of a child seeing the nakedness of his father in the locker room or while taking a bath. In this ancient society, it was wrong, a taboo, to see the nakedness of one's parent. Noah's son Ham unwittingly walked into Noah's tent and saw his father nude. He told his brothers who carried a robe into the tent, walking backward so they would not see the nudity, and covered their father. I would say that Ham acted honorably to have his father's nakedness covered but Noah did not see it that way, whether because he had a hangover and was not thinking straight, or because there's more to the story than we have preserved for us in the text. When Noah found out about Ham seeing him in the nude, Noah pronounced a curse.

Racists say that the curse changed the color of Ham and his descendants to Black or dark. They feel they are justified in hating Blacks because the Blacks are cursed by Noah. It's a strange mental gymnastic. Both the Old and New Testaments say, "love thy neighbor" without distinctions of color. No matter who curses whom, the biblical law hardly authorizes one to hate a whole people in violation of what Jesus called one of the two great commandments. However, the interpretation is that since Ham is the ancestor of dark skinned people, they are cursed. Biblically speaking, and of course no modern anthropologist accepts such an explanation of racial origins (the Bible has no reference to Orientals), the idea is that since the Ethiopians are descended from Ham, all dark skinned peoples are cursed. Thus modern racists use this curse of Noah's as an excuse to rape, rob, enslave and murder, hate and deceive dark skinned people.

As with the Cain story, we have here another example of biblical illiteracy. Noah does not curse Ham in this story. Nor does he curse the ancestors of the Egyptians, Ethiopians, or other dark skinned people. He curses Canaan. The land of Palestine is not Africa or India, the Far East or America. Note that the descendants of Canaan (Gen. 10:15-19) are not said to live in Africa.61 The curse is that Canaan is to be a slave to his brothers Shem and Japheth (9:25). At the time the Yahwist was writing, c. 950 B.C., Canaan was indeed enslaved, not to the descendants of Japheth and not to all of the descendants of Shem, but to one descendent line, the Hebrews. Anthropologically, and linguistically, the Canaanites and the Israelites were of the same ethnic and linguistic stock. Modern racism, which is less than 200 years old, thus grasps at nonexistent straws, in its attempt to bend the Bible to its evil.62 "The Old Testament knows nothing of races which are basically inferior and unworthy to be called human." There is "no room for racial pride or arrogance, for all are equal before God and their Creator."63

The Noachic Covenant

The obvious evil of racism should not obscure or be used to hide the sinfulness of Everyman and Everywoman. Both Old and New Testaments claim that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23; Ps. 14:1; Gen. 8:21). In the humility referred to above, each person and each group can find room to say its "mea culpa" ("by my fault"). The Noachic covenant speaks to the human condition. B. Davie Napier has pointed out that the Noachic covenant is with the whole creation in perpetuity, despite the evil of men's hearts.64

This is part of the "unconditional" nature of the covenant. It appears in Gen. 6:18 where God simply tells Noah, "I will make my covenant with you." It is not an "if proposition. It is not a matter of God saying to Noah that there will be a covenant "if Noah is righteous. Noah had already been found righteous. It was assumed that he would obey God's command, because he was righteous. In the post-Flood situation, we find the covenant in 9:8-17.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,

'Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.' And God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh: and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.' God said to Noah, This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.'

This is usually seen as an obligation-less covenant -- a covenant given to man without any obligations on man's part. All the obligations are on the part of God who will never again flood the earth in the way of Genesis 7 and 8. In a way, this view overlooks the obligations which God lays down in Gen. 9:1-6.

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, it's blood. For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man's brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.

Here is one source of the so-called Noachic laws, related to natural law, seen as binding on all people, not just Hebrews or Jews. Rabbinic exegesis, as codified by Maimonides, lists seven of these: prohibition of idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, eating a limb from a living animal, and the command to establish courts, or, more generally, to establish justice. Abstinence from blood and the prohibition of murder are the only two mentioned in Gen. 9. The one is concerned with the sacredness of life and the other the sacred inviolability of human life created in the image of God (9:6).65 The other rabbinic laws come from various interpretations. "Courts" come from "he commanded" in Gen. 2:16 where the phrase, "the Lord" provides the basis for the prohibition of blasphemy. The Christian doctrine of natural law comes from Acts 15:20 and Romans 1:18-32, 2:1-16. When Gentiles began joining The Way, the Book of Acts says some thought the Gentile converts should all become Jews. Others thought it unnecessary. The compromise was that these Gentile converts were to abstain from pollution of idols, unchastity, things strangled, and from blood. One of these is paralleled in Gen. 9. Natural law, universally binding on all, is found in Philo, Irenaeus, and Tertullian. Philo (c. 20 B.C.-c. 50 A.D.) listed the prohibitions against murder and eating blood, and three of the rabbinic Noachic laws. Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200 A.D.) equated natural law with the Ten Commandments. Tertullian (c. 160-c. 225 A.D.) does not specify66

Obligations preface the covenant. While technically there are only two prohibitions, later generations have interpreted these as four or seven or thirty. There are positive commandments as well. Verse 3, permission to eat meat, is positive for those who like meat. Vegetarians and the animals might see it as a negative commandment! Verse 1 says

Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.

Verse 7 says:

Be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and subdue it.

People concerned with the population explosion feel these verses are negative. Others point out these commandments have been fulfilled and it's time to stop. The doublet might be seen as a single command to have children. "Fruitful" can be interpreted as useful or productive in human achievement. Since 9:6 says, "God made man in his image," 9:1 and 7 can be related to Gen. 1:28 with its additional thought of dominion.

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.

If this approach is taken, the command to the first woman and man is here repeated to the continuing human race. Gen. 1 and 9 are both from the priestly source, according to some literary analysts. Von Rad here emphasizes God's continuing presence. These commandments are reminders that God has not withdrawn from the world. He watches over all life and has not given up his sovereign claim over all.67 The Enlightenment concept of deism suggests God created the world and then left it to its own devices to tick out its existence. These commands claim God continues in the world, maintaining and sustaining it.

But while there are obligations, some scholars insist the covenant is without them. There is no obligation whatever expected of Noah and his descendants, expressed or implied.68 God will never again curse the ground, even though the imagination of man's heart is evil (Gen. 6:5, cause for the Flood; Gen. 8:22, God's acceptance of the inevitable?). God is the one under obligation. God is bound. Man is free. Yet, Delbert Hillers goes on to talk about the similar conditions of the covenant with Abraham in Gen. 15. There he says that while obligations are not spelled out for Abraham, it is assumed that Abraham will continue to walk righteously before the Lord. Cuthbert A. Simpson suggests the possibility that the original narrative went from 9:2 to 9:9, so the command to be fruitful was the implicit condition of the covenant.69

What the biblical text does not say is that the continuance of the covenant depends on human obedience to the obligations of 9:1-7 or any obligations. The juxtaposition of vss. 1-7 and 8-17 could imply these obligations, however; at least the final editor or redactor thought they went together. Others today say that while the obligations are there, the covenant is the gift of God, what has been called his prevenient grace. Von Rad sees the rainbow as the sign of the covenant, "high above man, between heaven and earth, as pledge of a true 'gratia praevenians'!"70 John Murray suggests all of the covenants are covenants of grace.71 But we remain with the value, the importance, the need, for human response. The offering of a gift at least suggests the response of receiving the gift. In human relationships, the gift can be sent back stamped "Refused." It might simply sit there, undelivered, or delivered but unopened. Unification Thought suggests a division of responsibility in the God-Man relationship. God has, symbolically, 95% of the responsibility while Man has 5%. The amount is insignificant but symbolically important. Man is to carry out his 5% with 100% commitment and effort. It is reminiscent of the old Scotch Calvinists who prayed as though everything depended on God and worked as though everything depended on them. Officially monergistic, everything depends on God, so prayer has no power to accomplish that which is prayed for, and the prayer is simply going through some kind of motion. But the reality remained that they worked as though everything depended on their effort, monergistic with man being the one.

The Noachic covenant is a "berith blam." It is an everlasting covenant (9:16; Sirach or Ecclesiasticus 44:17-18). It is promised renewal in Isaiah 54:9. This covenant reflects God's steadfastness (Is. 54:8-10) rather than man's. While people withhold themselves from relationship with God, he continues to maintain and sustain the whole earth. God's "hesed," his "faithfulness," extends from generation to generation, to all people, to all of creation.72 The everlasting character of covenant reappears throughout history (Gen. 17:7, 13, 19; Ex. 31:16; Lev. 24:8; Num. 18:19; 25:13. etc.) and remains with us today. The whole of humanity, the whole of creation, is in covenant relation with God, a covenant that has eternal validity73

The primeval history or "urgeschichte" of Gen. 1-11, ends with the Tower of Babel story (11:19). Some have suggested the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia as the background to this story. The ziggurats were temple towers, man-made mountains of mud brick. A huge staircase led to the peak. On the top was a temple which may have been regularly used as the meeting place of heaven and earth, or it may have played such a role in the New Year festival. "Bab-el" means the "gate of god," or the doorway to heaven.

The biblical interpretation is a tower to heaven to help people escape a future flood. Such a purpose denies or refuses to trust God's promise of Gen. 9:11 and 15. Perhaps the greater concern is what amounts to a rebellion against God, a kind of Promethean defiance. The tower would make them independent of God, as Prometheus' stolen fire would in Greek mythology. Here the parallel is more likely with the sin of Adam and Eve. The building of the tower was stopped when God confused the language of the people. This is probably an aetiology (study of origins), an attempt to explain the presence of different languages on earth.

There is no covenant ceremony in this story. The word "berith" is not used. There is a relationship here but it is a broken relationship. The scattering of people abroad might be seen as a parallel to the exile or ostracism of Adam and Eve from the Garden, and of Cain to the Land of Wandering.

The concept of sin and punishment is as prevalent in the Bible as the theme of covenant promise and fulfillment. In addition to Adam and Eve and Cain, the Flood was punishment for human sin. The Mesopotamian flood tradition says the gods started the flood out of caprice. People made too much noise. Gen. 6:5-13 however, says the Flood was the result of God's judgment on sinful humanity.

We might see in this theme of sin and judgment a preliminary answer to the question of obligations in the covenant. God's relation to or his concern for humanity is always ethical. In this sense, the very nature of the relationship carries obligations. But the prior story is God's grace. He reaches out to create the universe and then humanity. He stays in relationship to people, even when they sin. He continues to work in the world, calling people to follow and serve him, to be righteous. The story continues with the call of Abraham.

McKenzie notes that most of Gen. 2-11 with its theme of judgment, comes from the Yahwist writer. He does not think J quite reaches the scope of the Christian concept of original sin. He thinks J intended this primitive history as an aetiology of at least some features of human life. The basic sin involved is idolatry, a form of the fertility cult. Rather than "a" Fall, there is a whole series of falls, each an instance of sin and judgment that go far beyond the immediate sinner. When Yahweh reveals himself to Abraham, it is a saving act which breaks the sequence of judgment.74

Alternately, one could say that Genesis 1-11 is representative of Yahweh's salvation, that is, his loving concern for all humanity. As noted earlier, the Hebrew writers were aware that Israel was but a small segment of the whole of humanity. They were aware of God's concern for all. We hear it in Solomon's prayer in I Kings 8:43 and II Chronicles 6:33,

... that all the peoples of the earth may know thy name and fear thee...

We hear it in Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6 and Israel's mission to be a light to the nations.

Israel's own story begins with Abraham, but it is set in the context of concern for all humanity.



ANET Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament

AUOT Anderson, Understanding the Old Testament

AYGC Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan

CC The Christian Century, Vol. I

ETOT II Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, Vol. II

HCHBI Hillers, Covenant

IB The Interpreter's Bible

JJC Jocz, The Covenant

JNES Journal of Near Eastern Studies

MTOT McKenzie, A Theology of the Old Testament

SAHT Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition

SGAB Speiser, Genesis (The Anchor Bible)

TAB Thompson, Approaches to the Bible

VRG von Rad, Genesis

WOTT Wright, The Old Testament and Theology


1 Aldos J. Tbs, Approaches to the Bible: The old Testament; Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1963, p. 47 Biblical quotations are from the revised standard version of the Bible.

2 Theology of the Old Testament; NY: Harper and Brothers, 1958, p. 138.

3 Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament Vol. II; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967, p. 97. This volume is abbreviated hereafter as ETOT II. ETOT I is Vol. I; London: SCM Press, 1961.

4 C.F Whitley, "Covenant and Commandment in Israel, " The Journal of Near Eastern Studies (JNES) 22 (1963), 37-48. Bernhard W Anderson, "Creation," Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible (IDB) 1 (1962), 726, with numerous citations. William D. Davies suggests that the notion of creation as a totality is late. He notes the use of "bara'," "to create," is not used of Yahweh before the Exile. Cf. his The Gospel and the Land; Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1974, pp. 12-13. John L. McKenzie says "critics unanimously agree, there is no clear doctrine of creation in pre-exilic literature." A Theology of the Old Testament: Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1974, p. 187 Abbreviated hereafter as MTOT.

5 ETOT II: 97

6 MTOT-187. says this is the first biblical source in which the creation theme is prominent.

7 IDB 1:726. G. Ernest Wright, God Who Acts; London: SCM Press, 1952. Wright and Reginald H. Fuller, The Book of the Acts of God; Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1957. Bertil Abrektson pointed out that ancient Near Eastern people in general believed their gods acted in history. History and the Gods; Lund, Sweden: Coniectanea Biblica, 1967 ETOT I: 41-44, acknowledges the ancient Near Eastern conception. He cites Cyrus of Persia and Ramses II as kings who attributed their victories to their gods. But he goes on to insist that it never occurred to other peoples "to identify the nerve of the historical process as the purposeful activity of God or to integrate the whole by subordinating it to a single great religious conception," i.e., the covenant. He explains this by observing that their concept of divinity was imprisoned in their Nature mythology. The Hebrews took the myth and historicized it, linking creation and history.

8 For the history of the Graf Wellhausen thesis, cf. R.J. Thompson, Moses and the Law in a Century of Criticism since Graf; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1970. Gerhard von Rad notes that the dates are only guesses. In any event, the dates refer only to the final compilation of the sources. Within the sources are individual elements which are sometimes very ancient. Genesis. 2nd ed. (Old Testament Library); London: SCM Press, 1963, p. 24, cited hereafter as VRG. Brevard S. Childs doubts the independent existence of "P." He sees the whole compilation as more complex than this. Cf. his Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture: Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979, pp. 136-150. Others doubt the existence of "E" or suggest "E" is simply a redaction or second edition of "J." Some say the Tetrateuch is all "P" and Deuteronomy through II Kings is all "D." Cf. Ivan Engnell, A Rigid Scrutiny; Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1969, pp. 50-67 Yehezkel Kaufmann considers "P" the earliest of the four sources rather than the last. The Religion of Israel from its Beginnings to the Babylonian Exile; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960, pp. 175-200. William F Albright accepted the general theory but cautioned that many variations ascribed to the four sources are simply different recensions of the Hebrew text. It is irrational to suggest that every flaw or inconsistency represents a different document. Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan; Garden City: Double-day and Co., 1968, p. 29. Cited hereafter as AYGC. John Van Seters, in his study of the Abraham tradition, posits a literary tradition of five main stages: Pre-J first stage, pre-J second stage (roughly equivalent to "E"), "J" (late Exilic), "P" (c. 550-540 B.C.), "post-P" (post-exilic), Genesis 14 (c. 300 B.C.) These are not separate documents but growth of the literature with the addition of each subsequent stage. Abraham in History and Tradition; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975, p. 310-313 (SAHT). Cf. also the thorough discussion of Otto Eissfeld, The Old Testament; NY: Harper and Row, 1965, and Henry O. Thompson, Approaches to the Bible; Syracuse: Center for Instructional Communications, Syracuse University, 1967. The latter work is cited hereafter as TAB. Julius Wellhausen's classic statement of the theory was reprinted as a Meridian paperback, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel; NY: world Publishing Co., 1957.

9 The New Testament Gospel of John, chapter 1, might be considered a fifth concept. Alexander Heidel suggests the Bible teaches creation out of nothing, "creatio ex nihilo." While the concept is heavily debated, he cites Gen. 1, Prov. 8, John 1, Hebrews 11:3, and II Maccabees 7:28 as in agreement with this while nothing in the Bible contradicts it. The Babylonian Genesis, 2nd ed.; Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1963. Others suggest that II Mace. 7:28 is the earliest certain expression of this concept. Cf. William A. Irwin, "Creation," pp. 186-188 in Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings, rev. ed., ed. Frederick C. Grant and M.M. Rowley; NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1963.

10 Ephraim A. Speiser notes the problems and then dates the chapter to the 18th century B.C. based on the aliveness of the tradition and historical references. Genesis (The Anchor Bible); Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1964, pp. 99-109. Cited hereafter as SGAB. In Contrast, SAHT -- 112-120, 296-308, 310-313, considers Genesis 14 to date to c. 300 B.C.

11 Otto J. Baab, The Theology of the Old Testament; NY: Abingdon Press, 1949, p. 43.

12 The Old Testament and Theology; NY: Harper and Row, 1969, pp. 74-81. Cited hereafter as WOTT.

13 MOTT -- 52. James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 2nd ed.; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955, pp. 129-142. Cited hereafter as ANET.

14 In one strand, God makes things. In another, he speaks "and it was so." On the theory that the more anthropomorphic concept of God is older, the former is the more ancient strand. The oscillation between creation by word and action is found in Egyptian texts dating from the third millennium B.C. ANET -- 6. Creation byword is suggested in Psalm 148:3-5, where all things are called on to praise the Lord for he commanded and they were created. Ps. 33:6-9 says the earth should fear the Lord for this same reason. The concept of making/maker is repeated in Gen. 14:19. Ps. 95:5, Jonah 1:9, etc.

15 Prov. 8:24 notes that wisdom existed before the depths, "tehomot." Cf. ETOT 11:102.

16 Jared J. Jackson, "The Deep," IDB 1:813-814. The Legends of Genesis; NY: Schocken Books, 1964 (original 1901), p. 149. Delbert R. Hillers, Covenant; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969, p. 158. Hillers is cited hereafter as HCHBI. The Yahwist with his concept of a cosmic God who created humanity could equally be called a universalist. In contrast to a narrow sectarian view, Jakob Jocz sees the entire Old Testament as universalistic. See further later. The Covenant: A Theology of Human Destiny; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman's Co., 1968. Cited hereafter as JJC.

17 MTOT -- 187 Aubrey R. Johnson, Sacral Kingship in Ancient Israel; Cardiff: University of Wales, 1967.

18 Martin Buber observed this cosmic dimension in The Prophetic Faith; NY: Macmillan, 1949, pp. 8-10. James D. Martin, The Book of Judges; Cambridge University Press, 1975, pp. 52-76. Robert G. Boling, Judges; Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1975, pp. 101-120. Norman K. Gottwald, "Poetry, Hebrew," IDB 3: 829-838. Frank M. Cross and David N. Freedman, "The Song of Miriam," JNES 14 (1955), 237-250.

19 William Foxwell Albright, The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra; NY: Harper and Row, 1963, and, AYGC. John Bright, A History of Israel, 2nd ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972. G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archaeology, 2nd ed.; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961. Roland de Vaux, The Early History of Israel; Philadelphia: Westminster Press,. 1978. ANET. SGAB.

20 Understanding the Old Testament, 2nd ed.; Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1966, p. 382. Cited hereafter as AUOT. AYGC -- 69, n. 69 emphasizes the continuance of oral tradition even after the Yahwist wrote his epic.

21 R.J. Thompson, op. cit., pp. 146-149. George Widengren, Literary and Psychological Aspects of the Hebrew Prophets; Uppsala: On oral tradition, cf. further TAB -- 22-28. Ronald E. Clements. Abraham and David: Genesis XV and its Meaning for Israelite Tradition; London: SCM Press, 1967, p. 35, n.1. Eduard Nielsen, Oral Tradition; London: SCM Press, 1954. Sigmund Mowinckel, "Tradition, Oral," IDB 4:683-685. Robert C. Culley, ed., Oral Tradition and Old Testament Studies (Semeia 5); Missoula: Society of Biblical Literature, 1976. Jan Vansina, Oral Tradition: A Study in Historical Methodology; London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965.

22 Whitley, op. Cit., p. 48, says the Ten Commandments were created by the Deuteronomist, c. 650 B.C.

23 H. Wheeler Robinson, Inspiration and Revelation in the Old Testament; Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1966, p. 20.

24 AUOT -- 384-390.

25 Anderson, IDB 1:727.

26 Divine Principle, 2nd ed.; NY: The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1973, pp. 137 and 402.

27 "Dispensation" comes from the Latin "dispenso." It means to weight out or administer as a steward. It's also a system established by God to regulate obedience to him, e.g., the Mosaic dispensation. Cf. Alan Richardson, ed., A Dictionary of Christian Theology; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969, p. 97. Van A. Harvey notes the name is from an English word used to translate the Greek "oikonomia" which appears four times in the New Testament, though only once with the connotation of time. Some groups list dispensations of innocence, conscience, civil government, promise, law, grace and the Kingdom. Each dispensation or "time" is characterized by unique duties and responsibilities. The Covenant with Noah is one example. The Covenant through Christe is another. A Handbook of Theological Terms: NY: MacMillan, 1964. Dewey M. Beegle reviews the history of dispensationalism and dispensational systems in his, Prophecy and Prediction; Ann Arbor: Pryor Pettengill, 1978, pp. 157-191.

28 HCHBI -- 158. Kaufmann, op. cit., p. 73. He notes Jer. 33:20-26 which says that God has a covenant with day and night. The word "berith" is used here.

29 Romans 11:32. Cf. Ronald Goetz, "Grace Unlimited," The Christian Century IXVTI, No. 38 (26 Nov80), 1149-1150. The Century is cited hereafter as CC. ETOT 1:414. VRG -- 130.

30 JJC -- 33.

31 Ephraim A. Speiser, "Mesopotamian Motifs in the early Chapters of Genesis, "Expedition 5 (1962), 19, SCAB -- LVII.

32 ANET -- 37-109.

33 The exact date for the development of pure or theoretical or philosophical monotheism in Israel is still debated. Some suggest Second Isaiah while others say Amos. The monotheism of Moses was a practical monotheism or what William E Albright called empirico-logical monotheism. Without explicitly denying the existence of other gods, this earlier mono-Yahwism called for the worship of Yahweh to the exclusion of all other deities. From the Stone Age to Christianity; Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1957. MTOT -- 78, says monotheism in Israel is incontrovertible. But if we must distinguish between practical and theoretical monotheism, most of the Old Testament exhibits practical monotheism. I would add that the latter is true for much of the so-called monotheistic religions today.

34 JJC -- 231.

35 Maker of Heaven and Earth; Garden City: Doubleday and Co., 1965, pp. 4-7, 83-85.

36 Gerhard Hasel, Old Testament Theology; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman's Publishing Co., 1975, pp. 98-100.

37 JJC -- 332. Pantheism is a different matter. A transcendent God includes the transient and both influences and is influenced by it. This view is especially associated with Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) and Charles Hartshorne. Cf. Harvey, op. cit., p. 172. Without calling it pantheism, Walter Brueggeman speaks of a God who embraces and is transformed by those who are embraced. "Covenant as a subversive Paradigm," CC XC (12 Nov 80), 1094-1099.

37A Davis, op. cit., pp. 30-35.

38 ETOT 11:98. Eichrodt also warns against dualism such as the ancient Near Eastern concept of eternal matter, an ideal propagated today by some modern science. He goes on to point out that the Old Testament also escaped deism (ETOT 11:161-162) in which God creates and then leaves it all behind. God is external to the world as its Creator but in the world in a covenant relationship which is eternal. Karl Barth says God created out of love. It would be strange love to create and then withdraw. He sees creation as the external basis of the covenant and the covenant as the internal basis of creation. The Doctrine of Creation (Church Dogmatics, III, 1); Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1958, pp. 94-329.

39 Why the Green Nigger?: Re-Mything Genesis; Wellesley: Roundtable Press, 1979, pp. 144-146.

40 Fleming Hvidberg claims Gen. 1-3 is the story of Ba'al vs. Yahweh. The snake is Ba'al, the devil, as in Ba'alzebub, "the lord of the flies" (II Kings 1:2; Beelzebul, Matthew 10:25). "The Canaanite Background of Genesis 1-3," Vetus Testamentum 10 (1960), 285-294. John L. McKenzie sees Gen. 2-3 in a similar way. "The Literary Characteristics of Genesis 2-3," Theological Studies 15 (1954), 541-572. Fertility is a very prominent theme in the Bible. MTOT -- 142-143.

41 There is such an emphasis. The word for covenant, "berith," is a common name for the circumcision ritual in Judaism today. At times, it was a sign for, or it made the circumcised ones the children of, the covenant. But the origins of the ritual are obscure.

It was widely practiced in the ancient world, especially among Semites, including the Canaanites who worshipped Ba'al. The emphasis varied in time, and in importance. Jeremiah speaks of those circumcised in the flesh but not in the heart (9:25-26), and of the circumcised heart (4:4). Leviticus 26:41 uses the uncircumcised heart metaphor. Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6 are concerned with the circumcision of the heart, an idea picked up by the Apostle Paul (Rom. 2:29; cf. also Colossians 2:11). The Torah does not command circumcision. Df. J.P. Hyatt, "Circumcision," IDB 1:629-631.

42 Gray, op. cit. pp. 146-149. Stone, Should Trees have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects; Los Altos, Cal.: William Kaufman. 1974.

43 pp. 46-74, in The American Society of Christian Ethics, 1979, Selected Papers from the Twentieth Annual Meeting, ed. Max L. Stackhouse: Newton Center: ASCE, 1979. He is following Walter Brueggemann, The Land: Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977, and, WD. Davies. op. cit.

44 JJC -- 235. ETOT 11:153.

45 G.E. Wright, The God Who Acts. op. cit.

46 JJC -- 295. Note the similar concern for the inter-relationships of people and all life and the earth in Indian thought in the papers in Section C, earlier in this volume.

47 WOTT -- 72. Lynn White, "Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis," Science 155, No. 3767 (Mar 67), 1203-1207 Arnold J. Toynbee. "The Genesis of Pollution," The Readers Digest (Dec 73). 124-125.

48 Reported by Elsie Thomas Culver, "The Earl Lectures at Berkeley," CC LXXXIII, no. 16 (16 Mar 66), 346-348.

49 Nuclear energy has given an interesting speculation on how God created the world. It's the reverse of E = mc2 in which God took his energy and compressed it into matter. Atomic energy is the reverse -- matter is changed into energy.

49A Op. cit.

50 The psalms are notoriously difficult to date. ETOT 11:120, 151, 155, claims Ps.8 is ancient and that its formulation is independent of Gen. 1, and prior to it as are Ps. 19a and 29.

51 WOTT -- 94.

52 ETOT 11:122-125, notes the original concrete nature of the image. God is in human form or human form is a copy of the divine form. Seth is in his father Adam's image in Gen. 5:3. The divine-human correlation is common in the ancient Near East. It is worth noting that this is not the same conception as the taunt, "man makes his gods in his own image." The biblical conception is the exact reverse. Otto Baab sees the image as a matter of authority. Where God has authority over all creation, man is given authority over all the earth. Op. cit., p. 81.

53 JJC -- 34-37. Harvey, op cit. pp. 65, 157. Richardson, op. cit., p. 226. F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingston, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd ed.; London: Oxford University Press, 1974. ETOT 1:159. J.R Hyatt suggests a natural law context for Jeremiah's reverence (33:20-26) to God's covenant with the day and night. "Introduction" to the Book of Jeremiah, IB 5:1052. George E Moore. Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of the Tannaim, Vol. I; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1927, pp. 274-275.

54 "The Inclusive Covenant and Special Covenants," pp. 95-116 in Stackhouse, op. cit. ETOT 11:127.

55 Moore, op. cit., p. 478. He's quoting IV Esdras 54:19. Traditionally there were six commands revealed to Adam, but Moore, p. 474, notes that "sin began with Adam. Only a single commandment -- a prohibition -- was laid upon him, and he transgressed it." This brought death to all the world (IV Esdras 3:7). The Wisdom of Solomon (2:23-24) blamed it on the devil. But note that individual responsibility is also part of the picture.

56 Anderson, The Beginning of History; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1965, p. 96.

57 Latin "foeder, foedus," "league, compact." Cf. Latin "fides," "faith." Harvey, op. cit. Richardson, op. cit. Cross and Livingston, op. cit. Kenneth S. Latourette, A History of Christianity; NY: Harper and Brothers, 1953, pp. 814, 821. Herbert W Richardson, "A Brief Outline of Unification Theology," pp. 135-140 in A Time for Consideration, ed. M. Darrol Bryant and Herbert W Richardson; NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1978. JJC -- 99-101.

58 "Introduction," pp. vii-xvi (cp. p. xv), The Meaning of the City by Jacques Ellul; Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970.

59 MTOT -- 160.

60 Ellul, op. cit., p. 1 ff.

61 Jack P. Lewis, A Study of the Interpretation of Noah and the Flood in Jewish and Christian Literature; Leiden: E.J. Brill,

1968, pp. 7,23, 31.

62 Samuel Sandmel, The Hebrew Scriptures; NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963, p. 353.

63 ETOT 11:128.

64 From Faith to Faith; NY: Harper and Brothers, 1955, p 52. ETOT 1:429.

64A Brevard S. Childs has suggested that God's remembering is a technical term of the Israelite cult. The priestly school adapted the term to express a theological interpretation of covenant history. Memory and Tradition in Israel; Naperville; Alec R. Allenson, 1962.

65 Baab, op. cit., p. 81.

66 Lewis, op. cit.. pp. 186-189.

67 VRG -- 127, 129. On deism, cf. also ETOT 11:161-162. Harvey, op. cit., p. 66.

68 HCHBI -- 101-102.

69 Ibid., pp. 103-105. Cuthbert A. Simpson, "Exegesis" to the Book of Genesis, IB 1:439-829.

70 VRG -- 130.

71 The Covenant of Grace; London: The Tyndale Press, 1954.

72 JJC -- 58-59. Jacob, op. cit. p. 137. Nelson Glueck, Hesed in the Bible; NY: KTAV Publishing House, 1975.

73 ETOT 1:56-58. Ernst Jenni, "Time," IDB 4:642-649.

74 MTOT -- 159. 

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