When we think of God’s Spirit, judgment is probably not what comes to mind. But the biblical authors saw God’s Spirit as the one who gave life and took it away—the one who could create, de-create, and recreate. In this episode, Tim, Jon, and Carissa follow the theme of God’s Spirit through the second half of the first movement of Genesis.
Outside the boat, the breath of life is going to be taken away, but inside the little ark, Eden, the breath of life will remain in the remnant. It’s the remnant that is sustained by the Spirit of God … God’s Spirit both de-created and recreated in the same event, in the same narrative. The flood, this undoing of creation, actually returned the Earth to the original Genesis 1:2 state—with God’s Spirit over the waters, ready to bring new creation.
In part one (00:00-10:20), Tim, Jon, and Carissa pick up where we left off, tracking the theme of God’s ruakh through the first movement of Genesis. Ruakh refers to God’s Spirit, and it also carries the images of breath and wind. This definition means that our breath—as we inhale and exhale—and the wind that stirs the trees are God’s Spirit too.
In our last episode, we discussed two places where God’s ruakh appears in the first movement of Genesis.
In this episode, we’ll turn our attention to God’s Spirit in Genesis 3 (after Adam and Eve sin) and the narratives that follow.
The biblical authors had a deep reverence for the Spirit as the giver and sustainer of life. If God is the one who gives life-breath, he is also the one who can take it away. After Adam and Eve sin in Genesis 3, God shows up in “the wind of the day,” and they expect that he has come in judgment. (The sound of his arrival is apparently stormy and terrifying.) The wind of the day in Genesis 3:8 foreshadows the storms of God’s justice when he shows up for the Day of the Lord.
God’s image bearers, Adam and Eve, sin by trying to become Elohim instead of just being images of Elohim. The next generation of humans replay their parents’ sins. Cain does what is good in his own eyes and murders his brother Abel, whose blood “cries out from the ground” (Gen. 4:10). Cain goes on to build a city, and one of his descendants who lives there (Lamech) becomes an even more vengeful murderer than his forefather Cain (Gen. 4:17-24). The narrator of Genesis is pointing our attention to this city built upon the blood of the innocent. Things reach a boiling point in Genesis 6, when humans and elohim rebel—an inversion of the Genesis 3 account.
In part two (10:20-29:00), Tim, Jon, and Carissa focus on Genesis 6.
Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of Elohim saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.
The narrator presents this story as another fall narrative. Humans are multiplying—this is a glimpse of something good, humanity fulfilling their calling as the image of God. But the narrator wastes no time in moving the plot from this glimpse of something good to the language of Genesis 3, “seeing” and “taking.” This time, the sons of Elohim are the ones in sin. “Sons of Elohim” refers to spiritual beings, not humans. These are spiritual beings created by God, like the serpent in the garden, and they are taking human women as their mates.
The parallel between Genesis 3 and 6 is important because of what happens next.
And Yahweh said, “My Spirit/breath will not dwell with the human forever, because he too is flesh, and so his days will be one hundred and twenty years.”
This is another parallel with Genesis 3. In Genesis 3, a spiritual being tries to get humans to the realm of the divine on their own terms, and consequently, they lose access to the tree of life. Now, spiritual beings mate with humans, and it also results in the loss of eternal life. When we look at these two narratives together, what can we conclude the spiritual beings are after? In both stories, the elohim are trying to turn humans into elohim too. They are trying to restore eternal life to humans in their corrupt state. This is the origin of a theme we will see with more clarity in the story of Babylon, first named in Genesis 11.
After this point, many humans live to be older than 120, but it’s possible Yahweh means from this point, there are 120 years left before the flood.
In part three (29:00-35:00), the team moves ahead in Genesis to the next mention of God’s Ruakh in Genesis 6:17, when God announces that humanity has so corrupted his good world that he is deeply grieved by his decision to create them. As a result, all living creatures with the “breath of life” (ruakh) are about to be destroyed in the coming flood.
However, God finds one person who is righteous: Noah, whose name means “rest.” He walks with God just like Adam and Eve once did. This man will live at peace with a bunch of animals, that represent all of creation, on a wooden ark atop the chaotic waters—a floating micro-Eden.
In part four (35:00-43:30), Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss God’s Spirit in the flood narrative.
In Genesis 7:15, the narrator specifically identifies that the animals on the ark have the “breath of life.” God has spared a remnant, and in doing so, God’s Spirit, his breath of life, has not fully departed from the Earth.
However, this is an exceptionally low moment. Genesis 7:21-22 describes the death of all creatures not aboard the ark. In verse 22, we see a connection back to God’s resolution in 6:1—that all living things, every creature “in whose nostrils was the breath of life,” would be destroyed in the flood. This phrasing also circles back to Genesis 2:7, when God formed Adam from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils. This is a de-creation narrative, the undoing of all of God’s creative work up until this point. This is all a result of humanity’s own destructive choices, to which God hands them over.
In part five (43:30-end), the team explores the last mention of God’s ruakh in the first movement of Genesis.
In Genesis 8:1, ruakh appears as “wind,” an invisible, powerful energy. God sends this ruakh over the Earth, and the waters of the flood subside. The flood, an undoing of creation, returns the Earth to a state similar to Genesis 1:2, where God’s Spirit (Ruakh) is hovering over the chaotic waters, ready to bring order to creation.
The de-creation of the flood ends with a recreation story, and when Noah leaves the ark and makes a sacrifice, his surrender inspires God’s promise to never de-create the Earth in such an extreme way again.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel and Zach McKinley. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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