Torah Portion for week 1: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8
Bereshit (In the Beginning)
Today we are looking at the very first Torah portion, “In the Beginning.” The opening chapters not only introduce the key themes of the Torah – land, seed, and blessing – they also lay the foundation for the future Messianic hope.
Let’s take a look at Genesis 1:28, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” It is essential to notice that this verse already anticipates all the key themes of the Abrahamic covenant.
First, the text says that God blesses Adam and Eve. Right from the beginning we see God’s intention to bless humanity – and that is God’s purpose for choosing Abraham: to bless him, his descendants, and all the families of the world through him.
Second, we see that God commands Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. This creation command actually becomes a promise to Abraham, “Your seed will be as numerous as the stars in the sky!” (See Gen 15:7 and Gen 22:17.)
Finally, notice God’s command to subdue the earth, or, in Hebrew, to “conquer the land.” This creation mandate clearly anticipates God’s gift of the “promised land” to Israel and their need to conquer it.
In chapter 2, we again see prophetic glimpses of Israel’s future. After God creates Adam, he prepares a very special garden for him, and then brings him into the garden. We read, “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground. . . . And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Gen 2:7-9). Once again we are reminded that, like Adam, Israel was first formed, and then brought into the special place God had prepared.
Next, God commands Adam not to eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” lest he die (Gen 2:17). Like Adam, Israel was also given commandments which, if not obeyed, would result in death.
Moving on to chapter 3, we find the serpent, Satan, waiting in the very special place prepared for Adam and Eve. We know from chapter 1 that Adam and Eve were to subdue the earth, which obviously included the serpent. Rather than conquering the serpent, the couple falls prey to the serpent’s deception and is thrust out of the land. In essence, the first couple dies in exile for their disobedience. Likewise, Israel was supposed to conquer the inhabitants of Canaan. Instead, they fell prey to the Canaanite temptations, disobeyed the law, and were exiled from the “promised land.”
Why all these parallels between Adam and Israel? They are there to point us to the Messiah. How? First, by prophetically foreshadowing Israel’s disobedience and exile, Moses has already laid the theological foundation for redemption apart from the law.
Second, given the prophetic certainty of Israel’s disobedience, the Torah’s introduction forces us to ask, “If our hope is not in keeping the commandments, then where is it?” Moses is glad you asked! Even as God speaks forth judgment against the serpent, the woman, and the man, he prophecies the coming of the One who will defeat the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). Victory over Satan is assured, as is the inheritance of the creation blessings – not because of our abilities to keep the law, but because of God’s promise to send the Messiah.