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Tree of Life Podcast

Humans are... Trees?

Humans are like trees. This idea might seem strange to us until we see how the Hebrew Bible connects them with the same key words, images, and scenes. Humans and trees are found together at most of the hinge points in the biblical story. Listen in as Tim and Jon discuss these parallels in the Bible.
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Episode Details

January 6, 2020
67 min

Episode Details

January 6, 2020
67 min

Show Notes

QUOTE

"Trees have a significant, animated role in the biblical story. As we’re going to see in Genesis 1, they are not passive objects. At the key hinge points in the biblical story, there’s usually a tree somewhere in the mix playing an active role."

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Bible uses design patterns to help us see the parallels between humans and trees.
  • Trees are often used to illustrate a moment of decision and testing for humans. They are also used to illustrate a moment of communion with God.
  • Trees historically have been used as illustrations of eternal life because they possess the power within themselves to self perpetuate.

Trees in the Bible

In part one (0:00-21:30), Tim and Jon set the stage to talk about the theme of trees in the Bible. Tim reminds us that repeated scenes, images, and key words are meant to build a unified theme. Throughout the Scriptures, people meet God at trees in high places and either succeed or fail at tests.

Tim shares several interesting facts about trees in the Bible, like how they’re the most mentioned living thing after humans. There are many famous references to trees in the Bible (Genesis 1-2, Exodus 3, Psalm 1, John 15:1-5, and Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29). Trees appear at strategic moments in the biblical story, including the creation story, the garden of Eden, the fall of humanity, the covenants, the promised land, the temple, messianic imagery, the parables of Jesus, his death, the work of the Spirit, and new creation.

Humans and Trees Paired in Genesis 1

In part two (21:30-33:00), the guys discuss the significance of trees in the matching triads of Genesis 1.

  • Day one: God creates light (one act)
  • Day two: God separates the waters (one act)
  • Day three: God causes the land to emerge (one act) and causes fruit trees to emerge from the ground (a second act)
  • Day four: God fills the skies with the sun, moon, and stars (one act, corresponding with day one)
  • Day five: God fills the waters and skies with fish and birds (one act, corresponding with day two)
  • Day six: God creates animals to fill the land (one act, corresponding with day three) and causes humans to emerge from the ground (a second act, corresponding with day three)

The second act of creating humans on day six corresponds to the second act of creating trees on day three in the creation account. This symmetry should set the stage for us to begin associating trees with humans in the biblical story.

The Life of Humans and Trees

In part three (33:00-40:30), Tim compares the lives of humans and trees. God is self-generating, but both humans and trees have “seed.” Both have within themselves self-replicating life that mirrors God’s life. The narrative in Genesis 1 draws attention to this by God’s commission of trees to reproduce. This makes it easier to understand the tree of life as an image of perpetual life.

The Origin and Destiny of Humans and Trees

In part four (40:30-56:50), Tim and Jon discuss the origin and destiny of humans and trees. The Bible uses very similar language to describe the origin of humans and trees. Both spring from the ground, and both will have the same final outcome (linked through the tree of knowing good and bad and the tree of life).

Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed (Heb. wayyitser // ויצר) human (adam) of dust from the ground (Heb. min ha-adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Genesis 2:8-9 And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden, and there he placed the human (ha-adam) whom he had formed. And Yahweh God caused to sprout (Heb. wayyatsmakh // ויצמח) every tree from the ground (Heb. min ha-adamah) that is pleasing to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowing of good and bad.

Jon points out the beauty of trees, that they aren’t just functional but are meant to be enjoyed. Tim carries this motif through the biblical story by describing how the language used to describe trees is often also used when referencing humans. In the biblical story, humans can act as trees of life or trees of testing. The book of Proverbs calls Lady Wisdom and the righteous, “trees of life” (Proverbs 3:18, 11:30).

Humans and Trees: Biblical Word Pairs

In part five (56:50-end), Tim runs through several additional biblical word pairs for humans and trees. Both are described with the words seed, fruit, uprooted (infertile), cut off, water, and leaves. The biblical narrative sets us up to see how humans will act as either trees of testing or trees of life to one another.

Additional Resources

Matthew Sleeth, Reforesting Faith George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By

Show Music

Greyflood: A Moment, A Memory, A Beginning. John Williams: The Force Kyle McElvoy & Stan Forebee: Bloom KV: Bloc Defender Instrumental by Tents

Show produced by Dan Gummel.

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