Vision of the basket of summer fruit (Am 8:1-8:1)

“This is what

Yahweh God

Showed me.

It was a basket

Of summer fruit.”

Here is the 4th vision of Amos.  Yahweh God showed him a basket of summer fruit.

Yahweh God (Isa 51:15-51:16)

“I am Yahweh!

Your God!

I stir up the sea

So that its waves roar!

Yahweh of hosts is my name.

I have put my words

Into your mouth.

I have hidden you

In the shadow of my hand.

I have stretched out the heavens.

I have laid the foundations of the earth.

I say to Zion.

‘You are my people.’”

Once again, Second Isaiah makes clear that Yahweh is speaking in the first person singular. He is their God. He makes the waves of the sea roar. Yahweh of hosts is his name. He puts words in their mouths. He has hidden them in the shadow of his hands. In his usual manner of speaking, he has stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. Clearly he says to Zion that they are his people in a covenant way.

The refusal of the Israelites (Isa 30:15-30:17)

“Thus said Yahweh God,

The Holy One of Israel.

‘In returning

You shall be saved.

In rest,

You shall be saved.

Your strength is in quietness.

Your strength is in trust.

But you refused.

You said.

‘No!

We will flee upon horses.’

Therefore you shall flee!

‘We will ride upon swift steeds.’

Therefore your pursuers shall be swift!

A thousand shall flee

At the threat of one.

At the threat of five,

You shall flee,

Until you are left

Like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,

Like a signal on a hill.”

This oracle of Isaiah has both titles, Yahweh God and the Holy One of Israel. Yahweh shows the Israelites how they can be saved. They have to be quiet in a trustful rest, which would then be their strength. However, they refused. They wanted to get on their fast horses and ride away. However, Yahweh reminded them that their pursuers had swift horses also. These combatants will chase them until they become like a flagpole on the top or a mountain or a signal on the top of the hill. They should have stayed quiet and relied on trusting Yahweh, not their fast horses.

The fall (Gen 3:1-3:24)

“Now the serpent was craftier than any other wild animal that Yahweh God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, `You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden.  But God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you will die.’  But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die.  God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  They sewed fig leaves together and made aprons or loincloths for themselves.”

In chapter three, a devious talking serpent appears on the scene.  He tells the woman that she will not die if she eats from the tree that gives knowledge of good and bad.  Instead she will become like God.  Both she and the man ate the fruit of the tree and suddenly they recognized that they were naked and needed to cover parts of their bodies.

 “They heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh God among the trees of the garden.  But Yahweh God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’   He said, ‘I heard the sound of you 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 from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’  The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’  Then Yahweh God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’”

Now Yahweh was out for his evening walk, so the man and woman hid because they knew they were naked.  Yahweh wanted to know who told them that they were naked. They must have eaten from the forbidden fruit.  Adam and Eve screwed up.  Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the evil serpent who tempted her.  Ever since the dawn of humanity, humans have continued to blame someone or something for their own mistakes.  The first great sin was disobedience to the higher power, Yahweh.

 “Yahweh God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all animals and all wild creatures.  Upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.  He will strike your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Perfection came to an end.  The snake becomes the personification of evil.  Everybody got punished.  Snakes have to crawl on their belly and their offspring and that of the woman would be enemies.  Snakes never had any legs anyhow.

“To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing.  In pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Women will bear children in pain and be subject to their husbands. This punishment sets the role of men and women for thousands of years, the hard working man and the dutiful child bearing woman under his rule.  The patriarchal system is in place and considered to be the normal way of things because Yahweh wants it so.

“And to the man he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you,` You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you.  You shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken.  You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The man will have to work hard to toil the soil and in the end will return to dust at death.  Our idyllic Garden of Eden happiness concept does not last a lifetime without some bumps along the road in this vale of tears.  We share a flawed human nature on our life long journey.  We have both a limited freedom and a limited responsibility.  So we need to work and be productive in this created world.  We need to share in the creative enterprise by working in God’s creation. 

 “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.  And Yahweh God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.”

Here they get names.  Yahweh gives them clothes. The man names his wife Eve, because she is the mother of all living people.  Of course, this raises the question of other Eves.

“Then Yahweh God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  Now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’  Therefore Yahweh God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man.  At the east of the Garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Notice that the man has become like God, but not the woman.  Suddenly there is another tree, the tree of live.  The two, the man Adam and the woman Eve, were driven from the garden and lived east of Eden, where cherubim guarded the garden gate with a burning flame.  Wow, what a story! Nearly everyone has heard this one.  A capricious Yahweh is the overlord of the garden and punishes the humans because they want to be like him.  Two minor characters are the talking wicked animal serpent and the good spiritual cherubim with a flaming sword. The cherubim are somewhat like the winged animals that guard other ancient Mid-eastern buildings.

The second story of creation: paradise (Gen 2:4b-2:25)

“In the day that Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up, because  Yahweh God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground. But a stream would rise from the earth and water the whole face of the ground.  Then Yahweh God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.  Man became a living being.  And Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden, in the east.  There he put the man whom he had formed.  Out of the ground Yahweh God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

This chapter has the older Yahweh traditional story of creation where God is called Yahweh.  This written document probably dates from around 700-800 BCE.  Yahweh is like a gardener, over seeing his wonderful paradise in the Garden of Eden.  In this story, God created heaven and earth, but there is no evolutionary daily concept, as Yahweh formed a human man (Adam) from the dust on the ground (admah) and breathed into his nostrils to give him life.  We have an eternal destiny to be with God. What a beautiful thought, our happiness comes from God and sharing eternal life with him.

“A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon.  It is the one which flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.  The gold of that land is good.  Bdellium and onyx stone are there.  The name of the second river is Gihon.  It is the one which flows around the whole land of Cush.  The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”

This is the first mention of a geological place, the mythical Garden of Eden.  There are many ancient eastern stories about paradise gardens.  Of the four rivers that flow from this garden, two are well known, the Tigris River and the Euphrates River, once again an indication of a Mesopotamian background.  However, no one has been able to exactly locate the Pishon River and Gihon River, since they may have been mountain streams.  Apparently these rivers were in rich areas that had gold stones.  They also had bdellium, a gum like substance that comes from trees like myrrh, and onyx, a precious colorful stone.  Despite many attempts, no one has been able to exactly ascertain the geographical site of this mythical garden.

“Yahweh God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it.  Yahweh God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden.  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’”

This man is placed in the Garden of Eden to have all that he wants to eat.  However, he is forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.  If he eats this he will die.  Legends abound about magic trees. General tradition has portrayed this tree as an apple tree, although there is no such indication in the text itself.

“Then Yahweh God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.  I will make him a helper as his partner.’  So out of the ground Yahweh God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  Whatever the man called every living creature that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field.  But for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.  So Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept. Then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  The rib that Yahweh God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.  She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

Yahweh said that it was not good for this man to be alone.  Like a potter, he formed the animals and birds from the earth, not from seeds.  The man got to name all these animals and birds. However, none of these were suitable partners. Then the patriarchal attitude is reinforced as the man went to sleep, and Yahweh toke one of the ribs from the man (ish) and he made into a woman (ishah).  Thus we have male and female humans who are unashamedly naked partners.  She is already his wife and can “become one flesh” in this idyllic garden.