Guests: Brant Berglin and Jenn Ogden
Relevant Passages: Gen 4:1-16; 6-9; 22; 27-33; 37-50
Leading Question: How do patriarchal narratives illustrate the opposing principles involved in the cosmic conflict?
In a massive swoop through history, the official study guide takes us from Genesis 4 to 50, from the story of Cain and Abel through the flood, to Abraham on Mt. Moriah, the conflicts between Jacob and Esau, then on to the story of Joseph and his brothers.
1. Question: Even though no Satanic figure is mentioned, how do each of these narratives illustrate the issues underlying the cosmic conflict? Note how even the “good” people are tainted by the shadow side of the conflict.
Cain and Abel (Gen 4:1-16)
Note: The biblical narrative does not state that Cain brought the wrong sacrifice, only that he had the wrong attitude. The cosmic conflict does not focus so much on good or evil deeds, but on good or evil attitudes, attitudes that show care for others or antipathy toward others.
Flood (Gen 6-9)
Note: Critics of biblical faith have sometimes been quite harsh in their judgment against the God who unleashed the flood upon his creation. But a close reading of the text is revealing: “the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (6:5). And “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways” (NIV). No one was safe in such a world, so God decided to start over.
Abraham on Mt. Moriah (Gen 22)
Note: The story of Abraham is full of contrasts. His own family worshiped other gods (Josh 24:2); with no apparent qualms of conscience he took a second wife; he told lies about his first wife Sarah; and without hesitation he headed up Mt. Moriah to sacrifice Isaac. The command to sacrifice Isaac has led to significant hand-wringing among Christians: How could the God who sent his son command such a horrific deed. But the backdrop of the cosmic conflict helps us to make sense of the narrative. Clearly child sacrifice was considered “normal” by the time of Abraham. In Genesis 18 he confronted God over the issue of destroying the innocent with the wicked. “Far be it from you!” he exclaimed. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). But in Genesis 22 he heads to the mountain to sacrifice Isaac without even so much as a whimper. That illustrates not only how far Satan had gone in distorting the truth about God, but also how God was willing to take the first step to transform Abraham’s distorted thinking. At the last minute, God intervened to tell Abraham that he could not sacrifice his son (as everyone else was doing). God himself would provide the sacrifice. Abraham discovered the ram caught in the thicket which he offered in place of Isaac (Gen. 22:13). In the future God himself would be the sacrifice in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jacob and Esau (Gen 27-33)
Note: The lives of Jacob and Esau are a wild mix of good and evil. While Jacob was the “chosen” one, Esau was a man of honest conviction and a certain generosity. By contrast, Jacob was a cheating, conniving man who was constantly turning circumstances to his own benefit. The narrative makes clear, however, what is good and what is evil. It is not difficult to surmise where the hand of a demonic figure was at work.
Joseph (Gen 37-50)
Note: While Joseph is (rightly) celebrated as a person of integrity, especially in connection with Potiphar and his wife, he also displayed remarkable arrogance. In other words, he was not unlike Lucifer in certain aspects of his life! But the Lord was at work and transformed him in the end into a generous and kind benefactor for the very family members who sought to do him evil.