Precise of The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament by Sandra L Richter

Diane Shatto By Diane Shatto, 13th Jan 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
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Precise of Richter, Sandra L. The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament.
Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008.

Precise of The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament by Sandra L Richter

It is important when drawing conclusions about the Bible that we discover the Bible’s paradigm and not read into it. One of these paradigms of the Bible is to tell us the rescue plan of God for humanity and his creation. The Epic of Eden shows how God executes this plan through a series of covenants in the Old Testament and how the Old Testament is an historical prelude to the New (and final) Covenant in the New Testament. Are you a hoarder of the Old Testament, but have only scattered pieces of it in your head, do not have a clue how they fit together and do not bother to understand them because you think the New Testament is all that is important? This book will solve your problem. It will not only organize your ‘Old Testament Closet’ for you but ultimately its goal is for you to recognize your need for salvation and the way you fit into this plan. Many people believe the focus of the Old Testament is the Israelite culture, but the real focus is on the redemption, told through this particular culture.
Chapter 1: Redemption
Definition and Israel’s Tribal Culture
The New Testament use of redemption was taken from the Old Testament, which emerged from the secular everyday word of ancient Israel ‘gā’al’. This word redemption originally had nothing to do with theology but with the social customs and laws of Israel’s culture. Patriarchal, patrilineal, patrilocal are the three main characteristics of this culture. The family (which could include up to three generations of extended relatives) was the axis of community and the patriarch within the family was the responsible head of the family. The male determined lineage. Who your father was (patriarchal), and your gender and birth order (patrilineal) determined your status. It is important to understand these features of Israel's culture because the Old and New Testaments analyzes these ‘norms’ and reverses them. Why was this ‘secular’ word used to describe God’s relationship to his people? Because in the ANE redemption was a patriarch’s responsibility to put his own resources on the line to rescue a family member in trouble and to secure their place back into the bêtʾāb. The Bible uses this language to describe God as the ‘patriarch’ who’s intent is to redeem lost family members and he sends his most cherished member (his ‘first born son’) to do this so that all, regardless of gender can share forever in the inheritance of the ‘firstborn of all creation in a heavenly bêtʾāb.’ The redemption story is a critique of norms in every culture! God’s focus is to bring redemption not only to Israel’s culture but also to all cultures.
Chapter 2: Time and Space
This amazing story of redemption comes to us in real time and space that can be broken down into five eras represented by five individuals: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David and continues with rebuilding of the temple with Ezra and Nehemiah. The action takes place in one region: the Fertile Crescent which includes Mesopotamia ruled at different times by Assyria and Babylon, Israel (aka Canaan or Palestine), and Egypt. Both the Bible and the secular world agree that Mesopotamia, ‘the land between two rivers’ namely the Tigris and Euphrates, is the cradle of civilization ‘where it all began’.
Chapter 3: Covenant: the General Law that holds all the facts
Just as history (‘real’ time and space) organized around five central figures, the theology of the Old Testament organized around them as well. Each experienced a covenantal interaction with God. The word covenant (bĕrît), like redemption is secular in origin and means ‘an agreement enacted between two parties in which one or both make promises under oath to 2

perform or refrain from certain actions stipulated in advance.’ Such agreements could be individual, tribal or national. The foundation of this concept was ‘fictive kinship.’ If lineage, gender and birth order determine one’s place in the bĕrît and one’s fate, how would one go about establishing a bond of privilege and responsibility with ‘non-kin’? The answer is using an ‘oath’, where both parties agreed to act like family. Two types of such international treaties in the ANE formulate ‘fictive kinship’: the parity treaty (between equals) and the suzerain/vassal treaty (between greater and lesser powers). The tiny Fertile Crescent was the home to many different cultures and it was quite common for them to join under a treaty to fight the two superpowers (Egypt and Mesopotamia).
The suzerain/vassal form of the bĕrît is of special interest to us. It was used all over the ANE has a very particular structure. It contains a preamble listing the powerful subjects names and titles. An historical prologue shows the reason for the covenant (which was always gratitude, and is peculiar to the Hittites). A section of stipulations outlined military, economic obedience and complete loyalty (which meant a vassal could be bound to only one suzerain), and finally a final section of blessings and curses for keeping or breaking the covenant. Called witnesses validate the contract and it is deposited in the temple of the deity whom they swore the oath. Finally, a provision of periodic reading ends the ceremony.
In 1954, George E. Mendenhall uncovered that the 10 commandments followed the form of the Hittites covenant precisely. On Mount Sinai God extended to Moses and the people he rescued from Egypt a ‘bĕrît’ so this very mixed multitude of people could become a nation. The preamble is ‘I am Yahweh your God,’ the historical prologue: ‘who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.’ The fact that there is an historical prologue says much about God: he does not work based on fear and intimidation like the Assyrians, but on gratitude, like the Hittites. The stipulations are not in the contract in order for Israel to receive grace, but rather the stipulation requirements are a result of grace already given. The stipulations, which the most important is loyalty (‘thou shalt have no other gods before me’) confirms the authority of parents, and prohibits even the desire to murder, adultery, theft and false witness. Blessings will result if they are kept and curses if they are violated (both of which are tied up in keeping and losing the land promised to them based on God’s military protection). Finally, called witnesses validate the agreement. A record of the agreement is deposited in the ark and Moses before all of Israel performs the periodic reading. Exodus 24:3 binds the agreement with an oath and ratification ceremony and they officially become the Nation of Israel.
When did this happen? We can judge by the structure of the treaty that it came during the second millennium. The first millennium lacked many features such as the historical prologue.
Chapter 4: God’s original intent – His Covenant with Adam
To understand why these covenants are part of God’s redemption plan we must go back to the beginning to Genesis 1. This language of the bĕrît is so pervasive in the Israelites’ mind that the author of Genesis consciously or unconsciously wrote Genesis 1 and 2 around this concept. No matter what theory you take on Genesis be it the gap (reconstruction) theory, the geological theory, the framework or 24-hour day theory- the idea of covenant is undeniable within this chapter. Genesis 1 and 2 are set up to explain who God is and what his relationship is to his creation. God sets up the perfect world surrounded by his reliable loving presence for his ‘vassal’ and makes only one stipulation: you may live in my garden as long as you do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because if you do death will be the result. Of course, this is exactly what they did. The covenant is broken, there is a reversal to all the blessings of the 3

‘contract,’ and they are barred from Eden and its perfect conditions. Work (cultivating the land) once pleasant, now it becomes toil, and fruitless. The very act of life (childbirth) brings pain and even death. Mutuality between Adam and Eve is shattered. Created to rule over the animals, Adam and Eve will now die like them and the worst: natural communion with God is broken. The consequences continue today as his choice threw the entire planet into imbalance and disarray. All of creation today is waiting for the consequences of his choice to be reversed back (Romans 8). Yet God in his mercy, though he is not the one in the wrong, has taken it on himself to correct Adam’s error. God’s original intent sabotaged by his highest creation on the planet is still the perfect plan and God does not give up on it or on man. The penalty of death that he imposed on Adam he imposes on his most precious and treasured resource: his ‘first born son’ who takes on the full penalty of Adam’s sin. Here the cultural overtones of the secular idea of ‘redeem’ are obvious.
Chapter 5: God’s Final Intent
God’s plan ‘A’ was not flawed - and thus it is still his intent - his final Intent. Eden was always the perfect plan. We can see this by comparing the iconography of Eden (cherubim, trees and rivers) with the New Jerusalem. The cherubim are in significant places within the OT. We see it first in the Garden of Eden where the cherubim protect the Garden of Eden from Adam’s city of destruction. We see the cherubim again in the temple in Exodus 25-26 but in a reverse role: he stands at the holy of holies, serving as an outpost to Adam’s world. Here, God wants to dwell among His people. Trees, flowers and fruits are another decoration in the temple serving as motif of Eden. Finally, the river that flows through the temple is a replica of Eden, even with its four directions. Ezekiel 42:9 says ‘everything will live where the river goes.’ A river will bring life back to the fallen earth. What stands by the river as does in the Garden of Eden: The Tree of Life. The New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22 is the end of the story. It is the full restitution of Eden, the ‘residence of the redeemed’ (Rev. 21: 1-5). A fruit-filled paradise with a life-giving river and tree of life, unhindered presence, and the unhindered maturation of a sinless humanity! No temple is required as the city itself is the temple, and the atmosphere itself is the presence of God. Now how are we going to get there? The Bible outlines the rescue plan. The redemption plan is a series of covenants starting with Noah and Abraham, Moses, David and the final solution is found in Jesus Christ.
Chapter 6: Noah and Abraham
Noah and the Recreational Covenant
Adam and his sons had birthed an entire civilization. By Genesis 6, thousands of years have passed and humanity has become pure evil with no moral fabric- every thought and intent was evil continually. God decides to destroy all of humanity and start over. The history of Noah is set in Mesopotamia, an area known by secular and religious sources as a place of catastrophic flooding of ruinous proportions. There are overlapping details in all the sources but in secular cultures, the common thread is that flooding is the result of the whim of the gods. In the Bible, there is only one God and flooding is due to the wickedness of man. In Genesis 5:13-22 God details his plan to rescue his creation: everything on the earth will perish by flood but God will establish a covenant with Noah and the relatives of his bêtʾāb.
Although the world is brought back to its formless state, there is a blessing in this: it can now be redeemed - given a second chance. It is still in Noah’s generation however that all goes wrong again. Noah gets drunk and one of his sons has an inappropriate response to his nakedness. Thus, 4

Noah splits up his sons into different nations. The result is the definition of God’s people and their territory: The children of Shem and all other Semitic peoples become Israel. The children of Japheth become the gentiles in Canaan (Anatolia and Aegean region), the children of Ham, Egypt and Shem, the ‘chosen bloodline’ leads to Abram, the Father of the Jews.
Abraham and the father of the Jews: the next step of the redemption plan
God used the flood to choose his people. In Abram’s era, God defines the place, people and a means of His presence. Abram moves from Ur to Haran during the Bronze II period- around 2000 BC the same time the Ur II civilization collapsed and Amorites arose. Abram settles in Heron until God tells him to leave. He does and God saw him as righteous. In fact, he put a magical power on him: anyone who blessed him would be blessed and anyone who cursed him would be cursed. In fact, God promises that the entire world would be blessed through Abraham for all of time. He also promised him a future people and a future place.
The bĕrît God has made with Abram is not an international treaty like the suzerain treaty. Rather it is a treaty between one man and God due to Abram’s faithfulness and land and heirs are the hallmark of the agreement. God changes his name from Abram (father) to Abraham (father of a multitude) and Sarai to Sarah (princess). A last mark of the covenant was circumcision to ensure that all of Abraham’s male relatives were included in the covenant. Circumcision was well known in the ANE but in Israel it was unique in that Hebrews circumcised babies and it was not a mark of allegiance but a mark required by God as those especially set apart for his purposes and as his people.
Chapter 7: Moses and the Tabernacle
Moses The Exodus is the single most important event in all of redemptive Old Testament history. Scholars date the Exodus around the 13th century 1847/6 (‘the early date’), or 1290 B.C. (the ‘late date’). The first is derived from evidence inside the Bible and the late date is derived from external evidence. The second is considered more reliable, since we do not really know if Biblical writers meant to offer precise dates.
The story of Moses begins with Joseph who is sold into Egypt and eventually becomes an administrator of Pharaoh. His brothers move to Egypt in the Eastern Nile Delta in the region of Goshen. Many generations later Moses is born, and the current pharaoh has no knowledge of Joseph. Therefore, he makes Israelites slaves. There are speculated reasons why this shift occurs. The Hyksos a minority group back in 1650 - 1550 B.C. took over lower Egypt, built a capital city, adopted Egyptian culture, ruled Egyptians and even drove them out of their own land. Therefore, to ensure this never happened again, the rulers of Egypt would never allow a foreign people to gain such an opportunity again. The pharaoh also planned to kill every Israelite baby boy. God saves Moses from such a fate and raises him up to rescue the Israelites.
Not only is it with Moses that God fulfills his promises to Abraham, it is from this event that God leads Moses and the Israelites to Mount Sinai and into a covenant relationship and transforms them into a nation, 'the kingdom of God'. The nation is the 'type' for the New Testament anti-type kingdom of God A type is a limited reality of a person or era of redemption that foreshadows the complete parallel reality of a later person or era of redemption history. The stipulations (the law) in the ‘Old Covenant” are a ‘type’ to the New Covenant. The law though meant to address behavior, motive, emotion and relationship only has the result of changing 5

behavior. The New Covenant in the New Testament changes the very hearts of men- it fulfills the law fully. The law is the profile of God and got us ready to recognize him when he came.
There are many types in the bible but one of the most significant is the Old Testament tabernacle. The tabernacle was a request made by God himself (Exodus 25:8) so that he could live amongst his people for the first time since Eden. The design and religious system of the tabernacle communicate the redemption story. The tabernacle and sacrifices offered 'real' atonement for their time but it was limited. It serves as the ‘type’ for the new covenant. In the tabernacle, a single sacrifice covered one man's sin and forgiveness. In the new covenant, one sacrifice (Jesus Christ) encompasses forgiveness for all sin and for all humankind. Moreover, in the tabernacle only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies where God dwelt. When Jesus died, he ripped the veil in two that hid the Holy of Holies and now offered to all is the presence of God even to the most unclean amongst us. Jesus himself became that veil and Jesus himself will be the tabernacle in the New Jerusalem.
Chapter 8: Davidic Covenant
David represents the longing of redemptive history. Under Moses, the nation of Israel is tribal. Under David, it becomes a monarchy. In both Yahweh is very clear: their economic and political well-being is tied to their adherence to the covenant. Punishment would be suppression by foreign powers. The Israelites fail miserably at this and God sends a judge (military man) to rescue them from the oppression of foreign powers. After the 12th judge, Israel becomes so corrupt that each man judges by his own morality, creating the worst corruption ever seen in Israel. To put a stop to it, still in denial that the answer is to obey the covenant, Israel asks Samuel for a king, ‘like the other nations have’. God provides them with the people’s socially and culturally appropriate choice. Nevertheless, Saul fails miserably and ends up committing suicide. God who had the right motive for giving them a king all along provides His choice for a king: David, a man whose heart is after the covenant and thus after God’s own heart. God promises to extend David’s kingdom into all eternity. All kings after David fail at keeping the covenant to the point of splitting the kingdom into two and losing 10 tribes forever. However, David remains the ‘hope’ of Israel. Isaiah predicts that a child from the root of Jesse will be given as a deliverer - a child with the heart for the covenant. Chapter 9: The New Covenant Jesus fulfills this prophecy. He meets all the requirements listed in the opening chapter of Matthew: the son of David who comes to deliver the children of Abraham. By his presence into the world, Jesus ushers the Kingdom of God into the world. Every man, woman and child of Adam’s race has an invitation. The mark that a person has accepted this invitation is being born again. It is a promise sealed by the Holy Spirit. Right now, we grow side by side with the tares. However, one day the kingdom will be consummated and Jesus will rule all the kingdoms forever. The tares will be consumed by fire. The New Jerusalem will be the restored Eden and all consequences of Adam’s sin will be reversed for eternity.


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author avatar Diane Shatto
I love to write in my spare time. The extent of my creative writing is poetry. I mostly write about theology but also enjoy tackling random subjects.

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