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Yahweh: The Destroyer or The Provider?
(A Frustrating Conversation About the Proper Interpretation of Genesis 1-3)
By Gary F. Zeolla
I had an extended conversation with someone on Facebook about the proper interpretation of Genesis chapters 1-3. I will refer to him as “the poster” as he first posted his comments, then I responded to him. I cannot quote his comments in full, but I will summarize them as best as I can, and hopefully the reader will get the rest of the gist of them from my responses. The central question will be, “Is Yahweh a liar and the Destroyer of human beings, trying to keep us from surviving, or is He our Provider, having provided for our every need, to ensure our survival?”
Note: Yahweh is the Hebrew proper name for God in the Old Testament. It is generally translated as “the LORD” in most Bible versions. The latter is how it is rendered in my Analytical-Literal Translation of the Bible, from which all of the quoted Scripture references are taken. That is why I tend to use “the LORD” while the poster uses Yahweh. He probably did so, as he posted his initial comment in a thread on mutual friend’s page about the meaning of Yahweh. It most likely is derived from the Hebrew for “to be” indicating God’s eternality and underived and nondependent existence (see Exodus 3:14). God just is, while we are dependant on Him for our existence (Acts 17:24-28).
The conversation started out with the poster claiming, “Yahweh lied in Genesis 2:17.” That verse reads, “but from the tree to be knowing good and evil you* will not eat from it, but in which day you* shall eat from it, you* will die by death [fig., will certainly die].” But Adam lived for 930 years (Gen 5:5), so he did not die on that “day.” The poster said that made Yahweh a liar. I responded by quoting from my comments on this verse in my Scripture Workbook: Second Edition::
1. Adam died spiritually immediately. Spiritual death is separation from God. Thus, while before Adam enjoyed communion with God, he now hides from Him (Gen 3:10).
2. “one day with [the] Lord [is] as a thousand years” (2Peter 3:8, see also Psalm 90:4). Thus, Adam died within this “day” of God.
3. Adam originally was immortal. But due to his sin, he began to die, so death was inevitable. He died in the sense that he lost his immorality.
4. God was gracious and did not execute Adam and Eve immediately. Instead He killed two animals in their place (for the skins He clothed Adam and Eve with; Gen 3:21). This was a foreshadowing of the death of Christ for our sins (1Cor 15:3).
Those simple explanations were not sufficient for the poster, so I expanded on them to address his concerns:
1. The word “death” is used of both spiritual and physical death throughout Scripture. As such, it could be used with both meanings here, and the idea of spiritual death fits the context, as I noted. Context is always the final determiner of the meaning of a word in a given context.
2. The point of the Psalmist’s statement, repeated by Peter later, is that God does not measure time as we do, since He is timeless. This then relates to my next point.
3. If someone is immortal, then their cells are not continually dying. But as mortals, we experience death of individual cells every day. Thus, Adam did not experience any death of any cells until he sinned. Once he did, his cells began to die regularly, making his ultimate death inevitable.
4. The LORD did not “change His story.” He was gracious in not killing Adam and Eve immediately. If He had, that would have led to them being eternally separated from Him, having died in their sin. God instead gave them temporal punishments to lead them to repentance, while setting in place the idea of substitutionary atonement. That idea was then codified in the Mosaic Sacrificial Laws and saw its fulfillment in the death of Jesus for our sins.
5. Given 4, the LORD is not a liar. Deaths did occur, but it was of the animals in the place of Adam and Eve. That is then the theme throughout the Bible. Moreover, showing mercy rather than executing a deserved capital punishment is not a lie, it is an act of grace.
6. That act of grace God extends to you and me, as we are both deserving of death for our sins, both physical and spiritual. But I am not “scared to death of hell” as you put it because I know Christ died for my sins, so I am forgiven and assured of eternal life with God. You can have that same assurance, if your repent of your animosity towards the LORD and trust in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for your sins.
7. Finally, I want to thank you for your comments, as I am currently working on a revision of my Scripture Workbook, and I will expand that section to include concerns such as yours.
That again was not good enough, so I went into further details:
Jesus and the NT writers refer to death as “sleep” due to the soul/ spirit still existing and due to the future resurrection of the body; so yes, “We are more than our bodies.”
It is true we were not in the Garden of Eden, but we have an accurate record of what happened in the Scriptures. I discuss why that record can be trusted in Section One of Volume One of my three-volume set Why Are These Books in the Bible and Not Others?
It is clear from the text, there was a close relationship between God and Adam and Eve, given several points of the narrative, which I detail in Chapter One of Volume One of my two-volume set God’s Sex Plan. But, as I also note in that book, it is also clear that relationship was broken when Adam and Eve sinned, given their hiding from God.
All of that info is too detailed to copy and paste here, so I will just have to refer you and anyone else reading this to those resources.
The poster then claimed using a non-literal meaning for “death” was not warranted. I responded:
As I said, God’s “reaction” was to show mercy and to impose temporal, non-lethal punishments so as to lead Adam and Eve (and us) to repentance. He then provided for their forgiveness via substitutionary atonement. It is that concept that you cannot accept, but it is the only way God could be both just and provide for our forgiveness. Their sin was punished just as He warned in the deaths of the animals, just as our as sins were punished in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. As such, there was no lie and no deception. There was justice, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, just as there is today.
21But now, apart from [the] Law has the righteousness of God been revealed, being testified to by the Law and the Prophets, 22but the righteousness of God [is] through faith [or, trust] in Jesus Christ to all and upon all the ones believing, for there is no difference [or, distinction]. 23For all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified [or, declared righteous] freely by His grace through the redemption [or, setting free], the [one] in Christ Jesus, 25whom God Himself put forward publicly [as] a mercy seat [or, propitiation] through faith in His blood, for a demonstration of His righteousness, because of the passing over of the sins having previously occurred, 26in the tolerance of God, for a demonstration of His righteousness in the present time, for Him to be righteous and justifying the [person] [or, declaring the [person] righteous] [who has] faith in Jesus (Rom 3:21-26).
The poster then claimed I was ignoring “the obvious meaning of the text.” That meaning he said is discerned by “clues” in the text. He said it actually is teaching God punished Eve for being curious and using “survival skills” in investigating the Garden. That to him meant, “Yahweh is opposed to humans survival.” I responded:
No, they were punished for disobeying God, which is the obvious meaning of the text. No need to look for “clues.” The text is clear. Moreover, the LORD is not opposed to human survival. He created us and provided for us, as the narrative makes clear, which you also ignore, but which I expound on at length in my books Creationist Diet: Second Edition and God’s Sex Plan: Volume One.
The “right” conclusion is what the text says. They disobeyed God, but He was merciful and provided a substitutionary atonement. As I have already explained, that concept then runs throughout the Bible, which is why all Bible readers through the centuries have interpreted it that way, and no one but you and maybe a few other Bible-haters read into the text what you are saying.
12Because of this, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death; and thus death passed through [or, extended] to all people, for that [or, because] all sinned; 13for until [the] Law sin was in the world, but sin is not accounted [or, imputed] [there] not being law [or, when [there] is no law]. 14But death reigned from Adam until Moses, even on the ones not having sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the coming One.
15But not as the offense so also [is] the gracious gift; for if by the offense of the one [man] the many died, much more the grace of God and the free gift by grace of the one Man Jesus Christ abounded to the many. 16And not as through one [man] having sinned [is] the gift; for on the one hand the just judgment from one [offense resulted] in condemnation, on the other hand the gracious gift from many offences [resulted] in a just judgement. 17For if by the offense of the one [man] death reigned through that one [man], much more the ones receiving the abundance of the grace and of the free gift of the righteousness in life will reign through the one [Man], Jesus Christ.
18So, consequently, as through one offense [judgment came] to all people [resulting] in condemnation, so also [the gift came] through one just act to all people [resulting] in justification [or, a declared righteousness] of life. 19For even as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted [or, caused to be] sinful, so also through the obedience of the one [Man], the many will be constituted righteous. 20But [the] Law entered alongside so that the offense should abound, but where sin abounded, grace super-abounded, 21so that even as sin reigned by death, so also grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 5:12-21; bolding added).
I have provided reasoned responses to your claims, but you are too set in your animosity towards God to accept that your claims are not true and to grasp the simple concept of substitutionary atonement, which is the whole point of the text. As such, there is nothing more I can do, except to pray God changes your heart and leads you to repent of your animosity and other sins and to trust in the substitutionary death of Jesus for your sins for forgiveness.
The poster then became rather creative in his interpretation of Genesis 3. He continued with the idea of Eve using “survival skills.” He then said Eve did not know Adam nor Yahweh but that the Serpent told her the truth, that Yahweh lied and condemned her for being curious. As such, Yahweh is not the Creator but “the Destroyer.” I responded:
You are reading all types of ideas in the text that are without basis. As I discuss at length in the books I referred you to before, Adam and Eve were probably in the Garden for an extended period of time before the Fall, so Eve most definitely knew Adam, and the indication of the text is they both had regular communion with God. Meanwhile, God had provided for their needs and had given them purposes for their lives. As such, there was every reason to trust Him. You are simply ignoring the text and making things up, like the Serpent being a “medicine-person/shaman.”
The poster then claimed I was engaging in “eisegesis” (reading ideas into the text), rather than exegesis (getting ideas out of the text). He also here and previously referred to the “foundational hermeneutic principle of first appearances.” This is the idea that the meaning of a word is determined by the first time it used in a text. I responded:
I will give this one last try. The interpretations I have been giving are the ones seen in the Old Testament, Jewish apocryphal writings from the intertestamental period, in the New Testament, and in the Apostolic Fathers. I know this as I have been researching those writings and their attitude towards Genesis 1-11 for my current book, while your interpretations are found in none of these.
The reason for this is the interpretations I am giving are based on what is actually said in these chapters and in the following ones in Genesis, while considering the rest of Bible and what it has to say on the same subjects. I expound on these passages in my various writings, while your interpretation does not fit with any of this evidence.
In regard to your interpretations, first, Adam and Eve were free to investigate the entire Garden and to eat from all the trees, save one. But even that one, they were free to touch it, to climb on it, and to investigate it, just not to eat its fruit, as I discuss in my book God’s Sex Plan: Volume One. As such, God was not stifling their curiosity.
Second, Adam and Eve were most likely in the Garden for weeks to months before they sinned by disobeying the LORD. I explain why that is most likely the case in my book Creationist Diet: Second Edition. During that time, Eve would have gotten to know Adam and God and the directive to not eat of the tree in the middle of the Garden.
These points are confirmed by the first verse of the next chapter, as Eve gets pregnant by Adam. She would hardly have had sex with Adam if she did not know nor trust him. She then attributes the birth of her first son Cain to the LORD (Gen 4:1). She does the same with her third son Seth (4:25). Then throughout Genesis, many of Eve’s female descendants do the same. That shows that Eve and her descendants knew the LORD and that He was providing for them and for the survival of the human race by enabling them to conceive. I expound on this point at length in my book The LORD Has It Under Control: What the Bible Teaches About the Sovereignty of God.
Otherwise, the LORD provides for the nutritional needs of Adam and Eve and their descendants, as seen in these three chapters (Gen 1:29; 2:9,16; 3:18), Genesis 9:3, and in the rest of the Bible, as I discuss at length in my Creationist Diet book.
The LORD provides for their and our relational needs, as seen in these chapters (Gen 2:18-25), the rest of Genesis, and the rest of the Bible, as I detail in my two-volume set God’s Sex Plan.
The LORD gives them and us meaning and purpose in life, as seen in these chapters (Gen 1:26-29; 2:15; 3:20), the rest of Genesis, and the rest of the Bible, as I also discuss in the above set and elsewhere.
The LORD provides for their spiritual needs via the substitutionary atonement of the animals that were killed to clothe them with skins (Gen 3:21). That idea is then reinforced by the LORD accepting Abel’s blood sacrifice while rejecting Cain’s non-blood sacrifice, as detailed in the next chapter (Gen 4). Blood sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin are then seen throughout the Book of Genesis and the rest of the Bible, culminating in the death of Jesus for our sins, as I detail in many of my writings.
Thus, by several lines of evidence that find their support in the first three chapters of Genesis, continuing to the next chapter and through the rest of Genesis, then through the rest of the Bible, the LORD is shown to be “The Provider,” doing all that is necessary for the human race to not just survive but to thrive. Meanwhile, there is zero evidence in these chapters, in the rest of Genesis, nor in the rest of the Bible for your thesis that the LORD is “The Destroyer.” That is just an idea you made up, with no textual evidence or historical support whatsoever.
The same goes for your claim that the Serpent, was a “medicine-person/shaman.” There is no evidence for that in the text, nor has it ever been proposed historically. Moreover, Eve herself realized the Serpent “deceived” her (Gen 3:13). That is contrary to your idea that she considered the serpent more trustworthy than the LORD.
As for your repeated mention of “first appearances.” As I explained before, to determine the meaning of a word requires looking at how it is used in that context, in other writings by the same author, and in other writings from the same time period. I did that extensively when I translated all of the writings I mentioned above for my Analytical-Literal Translation of the Bible, which includes the Old Testament, OT apocryphal writings, the New Testament, and the Apostolic Fathers.
My exegesis of Genesis 1-3, the rest of Genesis, and the rest of the Bible is based on that translation work. In other words, to understand the meaning of a given text of Scripture (or of any written work for that matter), requires looking at the exact wording of that text, the context of the work it appears in, other writings by the same author and other authors of the time, and the historical context of the work. It also helps to consider the comments of others on the passage from that time and since then.
Thus, for instance, if you want to understand the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, you need to look at not just the exact wording of the Amendment, but also the context and purpose of the Bill of Rights, the text of the Constitution proper, other writings by the drafters of the Constitution and especially of the writer of that Amendment, the historical context of the 1790s and how that Amendment was interpreted and applied immediately after it was drafted and since then. Such is how the Supreme Court of the United States decides a gun rights/ gun control case brought before it.
And that is what I have done with Genesis 1-3, but which you have not done, as there is no support contextual nor historically for your comments. Moreover, nothing you have said would cause me to change any of my translations of the text nor interpretations thereof.
If you really want to learn what Genesis and the rest of the Bible have to say on all of these matters, I will refer you to the various writings I have mentioned in my various responses. They provide much more detail on and evidence for the proper interpretation of this passage, far more than I can relate here.
The poster responded by saying I was not following “the laws of hermeneutics” (proper interpretation of literary texts), while he was with his unique interpretation. I responded:
Everyone throughout history has gotten it wrong, but only you have gotten it right? Arrogance is another sin you need to repent of. You also need your false ideas on “the laws of hermeneutics” corrected. What I presented are in fact the true “laws of hermeneutics” as I was taught at Denver Seminary and as used throughout most of Church history. It is also how SCOTUS goes about deciding a Bill or Rights case.
For more on Biblical hermeneutics, I would suggest you read the following webpage – Got Questions: What is biblical hermeneutics? Then read the following page on the same website to correct your misuse of the “Law of First Mention” – Got Questions: What is the law of first mention? These pages basically repeat what I said. But since I cannot get through to you, maybe these pages can.
The poster continued to say I was not following proper hermeneutics, while he was, and to repeat that “Yahweh is a liar” and “the Destroyer.” But he did admit it was “odd” that only he had arrived at his interpretation of the text, “since no satanists nor feminists have noticed Yahweh’s lie in Gen 2:17 either.” But he continued to insist he alone was following “standard hermeneutics.” I responded:
Sorry, but what I presented was and is “standard hermeneutics,” giving the clear meaning of the text, as I was taught at seminary and as outlined on the pages I referred you to. In the process, I proved the interpretation of the text that has been asserted for over two millennia is the correct one based on the exact wording of the text, the immediate context, and the wider context. I go into even further detail in the books I referred you to previously.
Meanwhile, you have not done any of that for your very unique interpretation that no one except you seems to be able to see in the text. That is because it does not fit the text nor context. And saying it does over and over again does not make it so. But you have obviously not read any of the pages I have referred you to. As such, you are the one stuck in your preconceived notions, not wanting to learn.
I must ask, What seminary did you go to? What professor taught you hermeneutics? Do you know Hebrew and Greek? How much of the Bible have you translated? How many commentaries have you written or at least read? Have you even read the entire Bible? I am guessing none, no one, no, none, none, and no.
If I am wrong on any of these points, then I stand corrected. But it obviously did you no good, as you clearly do not understand the Bible nor Christian theology. Maybe you should try learning what you are talking about before trolling the internet for less-knowledgeable Christians to berate and deceive. But you picked the wrong person this time, as your nonsensical comments have gotten you nowhere. That trolling is another thing you need to repent of.
But I will give one more try to explain it to you. Let’s say you are convicted of a crime. The judge pronounces a 20-year prison sentence. But he then commutes the sentence, giving you parole and community service instead. Would you stand up in the courtroom and shout “Liar! Liar”? I seriously doubt it. You would instead be thankful he showed you mercy and grace. And that is what happened in the Garden, and why you see no mention of God being called a liar anywhere in the text nor surrounding context.
But it goes even further. Let’s say that judge realizes it would not be just to set you free without your crime being paid for, so he offers to go to prison for you. Again, would you cry “Liar?” or would you be flabbergasted by his mercy and grace? It most certainly would be the latter. And that is exactly Jesus has done for you.
Your sins of arrogance and hatred for God and the Bible should bring a death sentence on you. But Jesus died in your place, so that you can be forgiven and delivered from your sins. That is mercy and grace. But I can understand why you have such a hard time understanding that, as arrogance is incompatible with mercy and grace. That is why arrogance is so sinful. But despite that, God still loves you. That is why Jesus died for you:
8But God demonstrates His own love to [or, for] us, [in] that us still being sinful [people] [fig., while we were still sinners], Christ died on our behalf! (Romans 5:8).
I checked your Facebook page. From your picture, you look to be about millennial age. In fact, you kind of look like my nephew-in-law, who also has a shaved head and is in his 30s. But unlike him, you have many strange ideas that you spout with great arrogance and little or no proof. That is so unlike my writings, in which I document all that I claim.
Your ideas about politics are especially out there (Pence and Gingrich will be indicted?). You need to check out my politics website. Maybe that will bring you back down to earth.
You even claim to have disproven the entire Bible and the Christian faith by your nonsensical interpretation of Gen 2:16. But since you do not even understand what the Christian faith teaches, as evidenced by your inability to grasp the simple and basic concept of substitutionary atonement, then it is quite audacious for you to say you have disproven it.
I know people your age think you know everything, but you do not. Try going to seminary, reading Bible commentaries, books on hermeneutics, theology, and apologetics by evangelical scholars, including the many books and webpages I referred you to. Once you do that, you might be prepared to talk intelligently on such topics rather than just spouting arrogant nonsense. But as long as you remain stuck in your arrogant know-it-all mindset, there is no point in wasting any more time on you.
Clothe yourselves with humility, for, “God resists [or, sets Himself in opposition against] proud [or, arrogant] [people], but He gives grace to humble [people].” 6Therefore, be humbled [or, humble yourselves] under the mighty hand of God, so that He shall exalt you* at [the proper] time, 7having cast all your* anxiety upon Him, for it is a concern to Him about you*! [fig., for He cares for you*!] (1Peter 5:5b-7).
The poster ignored all that I posted and of course all of my questions, and he continued to insist only he was interpreting the passage properly. I responded one last time:
I have outlined true hermeneutics and followed that in my detailed exegesis of the text. All I can do is encourage you to reread all that I posted and to read the many resources I have referred you to. And with that, I am ending this discussion. Good bye.
I let him have the last word, “Gary Zeolla, until you follow your own rules consistently you won’t make any sense.”
This discussion should give the reader an idea of what it can be like to engage people on the internet in discussions about the Bible and the Christian faith. I don’t normally bother, as it can get quite frustrating. But I hope the reader has learned something from my comments, as the poster did not. I say that, as I saw later that he continued to spout his ideas about Yahweh being a liar and the Destroyer, and him only interpreting Genesis 1-3 correctly.
Yahweh: The Destroyer or The Provider? (A Frustrating Conversation About the Proper Interpretation of Genesis 1-3). Copyright © 2019 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.zeolla.org/christian).
The above article originally appeared in Darkness to Light
It was posted on this website March 1, 2019.
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