The Edenic covenant begins by listing its blessings. God speaks directly to Adam and Eve, but since all humans came from them, this covenant is addressed broadly to the entire human race. The overall picture shown in this universal covenant is that the entire creation—the earth itself with all that is on it, humanity, and the life given us—is a multitude of gifts from God. The key to understanding this is the phrase, “and God blessed them” (Genesis 1:22). Both the Hebrew term and the English translation of “blessed” indicate the same sense: “to do good for,” “to favor,” “to endow,” “to bestow prosperity or happiness,” and even “to honor and exalt.”
The Bible begins with the fact that, because of what God has done, we exist; we live and have being; we think, plan, build, and look to the future. We did not give ourselves even one of these necessary gifts. This is where our relationship with God must begin, where we must start in our thinking about ourselves. These realities, if taken to heart honestly and seriously, are major factors regarding our place in life.
The covenant's emphasis is on His purpose. The earth itself is a major teaching device, and receiving it brings responsibilities whether one is converted or not. The most critical question is “How will we use what we learn from the creation to enhance life?” Caring for the creation requires work, as does spiritual salvation. So, earth is also given to us for our use within the parameters of His creative purposes.
Perhaps most important, the Edenic Covenant introduces the sovereign Creator God Himself. In the first five verses of Genesis 1, He stands alone, drawing our focus to what He wants us to learn first about Him. He presents Himself as standing at the beginning of all things; He precedes everything.
A second major point of focus for our thinking about God is that this covenant reveals that He is orderly. Every step in the creation week is taken in a scientifically logical progression. First, God must provide light so that what follows can live and grow. Then He makes the firmament, an atmosphere for creatures to breathe and live in, etc. This establishes that the creation and His purposes are not at all haphazard; randomness is not part of His nature. His orderliness establishes the principle that God is purposeful and has a plan that He is following step by step.
A third idea this covenant illustrates is that in the beginning everything is morally perfect like Him. No sin is present.
A fourth point we can infer from it is that no aspect of the creation is to be worshipped. Everything God made and gifted to us is inferior to the One who made all things. Only the Creator is to be worshipped.
Fifth, God charges mankind with populating and subduing the earth. “Subdue” does not indicate mankind is to have an adversarial relationship with earth. The Hebrew term can have that sense, but when used in a peaceful context, as here, it is to be understood differently. It is illogical to conclude that, after giving us this beautiful gift, God wants us to proceed to beat it into submission.
In this case, subdue indicates “harness its potential” and “use its resources beneficially.” Humanity is not to allow it simply to go “wild.” This command includes such things as cultivating its fields and mining its mineral riches. We should harvest its trees in a constructive manner to build homes and make furniture. It includes domesticating its animals and exercising dominion over them without abusing them. Men are not to rape the earth but to manage through work what has been given.
Mankind is created in God's image and is to rule in God's behalf as His servant and as He would. In other words, man is to follow God's pattern. There is, of course, more to being in His likeness, but ruling is part of mankind's likeness to God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Four)
Verses 20-23 describe the creation of the first animals, the fish and other animals that live in the ocean, and birds that fly in the air. God creates land animals in verses 24-25. It is interesting that God does not specifically mention the creation of flying insects, fungi, bacteria, and many other living things. This is because the creation account is a very brief, condensed version of what happened. We know from many other scriptures (e.g., Exodus 20:11; John 1:3) that God is the Creator of everything that exists.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Genesis 1: Fact or Fiction?
The true God is the Author of the Bible, and He used His sovereign authority to determine the revelations it contains and the sequence in which they are given. Since Adam and Eve, believing in the existence of the true God and His Word has been the principal challenge affecting the quality of life mankind thinks it must have for happiness and prosperity. These beliefs have eluded human understanding—not because God has hidden Himself, but because men refuse to accept the clear evidence He provides in the creation.
Imagine that the Creator God sat us down in a room by ourselves and presented a short film summarizing the Bible's first ten chapters. What would we see? What would it teach us about His character, purpose, and plan?
Authors and filmmakers are creators in their own way. They prepare an outline, a story flow, they wish to follow either to entertain or to educate their readers or viewers. Have we ever wondered why God began the Bible as He did? Consider this simple overview as a factor of utmost importance to our well-being in relation to life's purposes.
Have we ever consciously noted that the Bible begins in Genesis 1 with God creating order from what appears to be the result of either a destruction of a previous system or an array of disparate parts, fashioning them into a form appropriate for His next step? Either way, as the story unfolds, the role He plays emerges. The primary point is virtually impossible to miss: Supreme order and direction in what He will reveal originates in and from Him. Though normally invisible to humanity, He is clearly in control, initiating what will happen and also continuing to completion what He began.
The orderly progression of time and activity continues as God arranges, piece by piece, the environment in which later events will take place. Created elements appear in a natural progression. First, there must be light. From this point on, everything coming into view is made new and in sparkling, showroom condition.
Last of all, the two humans are designed in the image of God Himself. They, Adam and Eve—who will set in motion the human side of the action—are created, given life, and presented gifts, which are examples of His grace: earth and all it contains for their use within the boundaries He set. They immediately begin to use what God freely gave them as gifts.
What has God chosen to show us thus far? First, He is the Author of all that is. Second, He brings order out of lifeless chaos. Third, perhaps our Lord's flesh-and-blood brother sums it up best in James 1:17-18:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
What has God revealed of Himself to this point without saying a word except for what He commanded to bring into existence? It is purposefully instructive.
Genesis 1 shows that He is a God of order and that He has a distinct purpose for each step He takes. He is a God of awesome powers, moving mountains, seas, rivers, valleys, and vast oceans of atmosphere into place. Greenery and animal life appear. Nothing happens randomly. Every step proceeds as He directs. He is in control as He purposefully establishes His sovereignty over everything He has brought into existence.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Ten)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 1:22: