How God Evolves in Genesis
In the book of Genesis, God creates humans to serve as caretakers for the world that he created. He creates a garden to nourish them and to provide a location in which he can speak with the pair. Even after Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden by God, he still interacts with them and their descendants. These interactions usually serve as a message to the rest of humanity either by setting an example or defining what is right and wrong. An argument could be made that his interactions with humanity both as a whole and on an individual level changes him from a very involved god to a much less-involved one. This change is shown to be possible through his regret, and it is demonstrated through the contrasting methods that he uses to interact with humanity along with the difference in the way he punishes sins.
God’s regret indicates that he is able to change. When “the Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth… [He] regretted that He had made man on earth, and His heart was saddened.” (Genesis 6:5) If he regrets making mankind, then he would have not made mankind if he knew that they would be corrupted – therefore, he is capable of changing his decisions. If he was perfect, then he would not be able to change; however, since his decisions are shown to cause him to have regret, then he is not a perfect being, meaning that he is also able to change in character and behavior.
At the start of Genesis, God is a very active god – he has a personal connection with his world and wants to take part in not only its creation but also its development. In the first creation story, God sees the world as good whereas in the second, God desires to actively maintain it. This is exemplified when “…God banished [Adam] from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken.” (Genesis 3:23) God responds to Adam and Eve’s consumption of the forbidden fruit by directly intervening and exiling them from the Garden, something that an controlling, imminent God would do. He also takes extremely drastic action when his mistake is realized by him – he drowns the whole world in a great flood because he deemed it unredeemable. Additionally, he has many direct one-on-one conversations with certain chosen people in the beginning, such as the various interactions he has with Abraham. God favored Abraham due to his unwavering loyalty and unquestioning obedience of God’s commands, even to the point of “not withholding [his] son, [his] favored one.” (Genesis 22:2) God wants to directly control the actions of the people on Earth by rewarding them whenever he is obeyed. All of these actions expresses his tight grip on the world’s actions and people. Unfortunately, whenever he becomes directly involved in worldly affairs, it almost always results in something evil or catastrophic happening such as the Flood and the murder of Abel. These disasters makes God learn a lesson: direct interference with the world only results in a bad outcome.
A turning point in his strictness is shown when Jacob engages a covenant with God, in which he instructs Jacob to “be fertile and increase.” (Genesis 35:11) The covenant is essentially a contract between God and humanity in which humanity promises to be recognize God’s sovereignty in exchange for prosperity and happiness. God’s change is shown through this contract, as he now realizes that a mutual agreement between his people and him is more likely to work that a continual reminder of their need to obey him. From this point on, God is never again mentioned directly speaking or guiding anyone through personal guidance for the rest of Genesis; instead, he becomes more of an abstract, less involved god. He still communicates with humanity, but now it is through dreams rather than direct conversations. The dreams serve as a solution to his desire to maintain the world but without directly interfering. For example, the Pharaoh has two dreams of alternating seasons of fertility followed by a large famine. Although he could not interpret the dream, the Pharaoh’s questions were answered when God inspires Joseph to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream. Instead of directly telling Joseph the answers, he nudges Joseph in the right direction. This is an major difference which seems to be caused by the lesson he learned from his prior experiences with the Flood and other disasters.
God’s attitude towards sins also change from beginning to end. When Cain kills Abel, God is shocked by Cain’s sin, asking him “What have you done?” (Genesis 4:10) He was then cursed to wander the Earth and never have plentiful harvests, among many other punishments. Compare this curse to the lack of one placed on Lamech, Cain’s fifth-generation son. Lamech kills two people and then proceed to brag about it, saying how he is untouchable because “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:23-24) God does not respond to Lamech’s boast, which is rather interesting, as both Cain and Lamech has the same severity of sin. After cursing Cain, God shows no indication of doing anything to Lamech. Surprisingly, God seems to want only to make an example out of Cain and stop there.
It may be argued that God cannot change, as he is a perfect being and everything that he does is already planned. His regret of making the human race is indicative of his imperfection, as a perfect being would not regret anything that he did. Because God is imperfect, he is capable of change. Changing from the beginning, God can be seen to shift from a controlling, strict deity to a much more subtle, background role after he creates a covenant with people. His experiences with humanity not only shows that God is able to change, but also that he is actively learning how to maintain a world as it progresses, suggesting that he does not know the true course for his own creation.
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