What You Missed in Genesis
Now that the first couple of months of the new year are over, it is likely that you are at the end of Genesis (or about to finish if you are on one of those fancy plans where you read a little bit of everything every day). Sometimes when you are focused on getting through the text, you can miss some of the deeper elements of the book. Here are a few of the exegetical tidbits that you might have glossed over.
Watch the Seed
In the middle of the fall in Genesis 3, we see the first mention of the gospel in Genesis 3:15. God promises to send the seed of the woman to crush the serpent's head. Most serious bible readers will catch this reference, but you might have missed all of the other places where the seed re-appears. Seriously, it's all over the place.
Cain, Abel and Seth
We get a glimpse of Eve's hope for the coming rescuer in what she says when Cain is born, "See I have gotten a man, with the help of the Lord" [Gen. 4:1]. But Cain's self-centered worship and fratricidal tendencies definitely disqualify him from being the promised savior. And when things looked to be bleakest, God appoints an offspring (seed) whose name is seth (seed). Also note how Eve's statement changes when Seth is born. She moves from something that God helped with, (Cain) to something that God did entirely “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” [Gen. 4:25]
Hope for relief from the curse is next seen when Noah is born. His father says “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” [Gen. 5:28]. Lamech paraphrases God's curse on mankind and then points to his son Noah and says, this is the one who God has sent to fix this. Noah lives a pretty spectacular life, preaches the gospel to a world that won't listen, builds a big boat and becomes the salvation for the only family to make it through God's judgment of the whole world. And though he makes it through the flood, Noah proves that he's not perfect either [Gen. 9:21-24]. And yet after Noah's big sin, as Noah prophetically blesses his sons he utters this phrase "And let him [God] dwell in the tents of Shem..."[Gen. 9:27]. At first this seems like it is only a blessing for Shem who honored his father, even though he was drunk in the previous story. But this blessing also serves to point us toward where the promised seed would come from.
After the Tower of Babel incident and a rather long genealogy of Shem (as if the book was trying to tell us that Shem's lineage would be important somehow), we finally come to Abraham. In Abraham's story we get a string of promises (including a covenant) that show how God will bless the world. First, God promises not only to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him, but also promises to bless all of the families of the earth through him [Gen. 12:1-3]. God expands the promise by giving explicit boundaries to the land and a general plan for the genesis of the future nation that would come from Abraham [Gen. 15:12-21].
But our link to the seed doesn't come until later in Abraham's life. We could speculate that the seed everyone has been waiting for could be from Abraham's family or through the nation of his children, but the explicit link comes after the incident with Isaac on the mountain. It is after God tests Abraham's devotion and finds that Abraham will keep nothing from him (not even his promised son), that God makes this proclamation: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” [Gen. 22:18].
The word seed here is important. It is not just Abraham's decedents (plural) but a specific descendant that will bless all of the nations of the world. This promise is so important that it echoed throughout the New Testament. Mary remembers it in the song she sings when the angel Gabriel tells her she will have a son [Luke 1:55]. Paul picks up this idea in Galatians 3:15 and reminds us that even the fact that the promise was made to Abraham's seed (singular) and not to seeds (plural) is important. Here he explicitly gives the identity of the seed that had been anticipated for years previously. Paul goes on in Romans to remind us that we too can share in the blessing of the seed if we, like Abraham come to God in faith [Rom. 4:13,16].
It seems like I've forgotten to tell you who the seed was. But, by this point, I bet you can guess.