Beale on Genesis 1-3

I have been reading through G.K. Beale’s New Testament Biblical Theology (which you can purchase here) and thought I would share some very interesting thoughts that I found well-thoughtout in my reading.  The first chapter of this grand work deals with the redemptive-historical storyline of the OT. Beale’s main premise is that the NT is the continuation of the original storyline of the OT. He begins by arguing that the texts in Genesis 1-3 sketch or lay the ground for the rest of the OT and also eschatological themes which will come in the NT. I had heard of this briefly in the past but Dr. Beale really did a fantastic job in articulating this.

Firstly, Beale argues that in Genesis 1:26-28, God gave Adam mandates that God would bless him, that he would be fruitful and multiply, he should fill the earth and that he should subdue and rule over all the earth. In other words, God blessed Adam like none other of his creatures and commissioned him to be sovereign over the earth. This comes as a result of God creating Adam in His own image. God is sovereign and He is king over all things and hence, man being made in His image would reflect having sovereignty even though not supreme sovereignty. Another aspect of being created in His image was a moral one in that in being in His likeness, Adam was expected to be holy, righteous and having true knowledge (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). Adam was placed in Eden and give a task to both cultivate the garden and also to keep or guard it (Gen. 2:15). He was to do this to demonstrate that he was God’s obedient servant.  God also gives him a moral command to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil. Not only was a physical command given but also a spiritual/moral one as well.  Yahweh laid out a positive command, a negative command and a warning to go along with it. We all know the story about the serpent but one thing Beale brought out that I had never really pondered was that Adam had authority to rule and subdue over all animals as well as a responsibility to keep (guard) yet the serpent came and Adam didn’t subdue it nor did he protect the garden from it but fell to its deceit.  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a tree or a place where judgment was to occur. Beale sees the knowledge of good and evil in the same light at discerning between good and evil.  It is always associated with one judging (2 Sam. 14:17; 19:35; 1 Kings 3:9). Trees are also used in scripture to depict places where things are being judged (Judges 4:5; 1 Sam. 22:6-19). Adam had the ability to discern the evil of the serpent and judge it in God’s name because he had authority over it but the serpent used his wife to deceive him. Adam choosing the way of the serpent, whom he was to rule over, ended up being defeated by the serpent because evil was not judged resulting in him falling into sin. Adam lost the battle to the serpent but the 2nd Adam crushed the head of the serpent and defeated the devil and his kingdom. (Matt. 12:25-30; Luke 10:18; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:7-10; 20:1-6)

Beale argues also that when the Psalmist, for example, in Psalm 8, speaks of God giving man dominion over all creatures and creation, he speaks of establishing strength in the infants and mouth of babes, to do what? To make the enemy (singular) and revengeful cease(v.2). The enemy would have to be defeated before man could have dominion over the earth. God made the earth to be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18) and that it would be filled but Adam’s mandate was that it would be filled with people who would glorify and be blessed by God. The earth was to be filled with those who were God’s image bearers (Psalm 72:19).

The mandates give to Adam to be fruitful & multiply, to fill the earth, to subdue it and rule over it (Genesis 1:28) were given through a particular people through covenantal promises. This was done through Noah (Gen. 9:1,7), Abraham (Gen. 12:2-3; 17:2,6,8), Isaac (Gen. 22:17-18; 26:3-4,24), Jacob (Gen. 28:3-4; 28:13-14; 35:11-12) and began to be fulfilled in their descendants (Gen. 47:27; 48:3-4). Beale states however that while there are incredible parallels between the blessings commanded to Adam and that of Abraham and his seed, there are also some differences. Adam was never commanded to witness of the glory of God while the Israelites where to be a light in spiritual darkness.  They were to witness to the fact that Yahweh is the only true God (Isaiah 43:10-12; 44:6-8) and were to call all the nations to God (Isaiah 55:5) Obviously, this was not mentioned by Beale, but God’s law was given as a means by which they would know what the light is in comparison with all the other progeny of Adam.  While the OT saints were given the mandates which were to a large degree the same as Adam’s, they were also told that the presence of God would be with them to accomplish this (Gen. 26:24; 28:15; Ex. 3:12; 1 Chronicles 22:11-12; Jeremiah 1:5-10, 19) yet because of their sinfulness, the presence was always taken away until God’s presence was among men in Christ (John 1:14) and through the Holy Spirit.

“We can speak of Gen. 1:28 as the first “great commission”, which was repeatedly applied to humanity. The commission was to bless the earth, and part of the essence of this blessing was God’s salvific presence. Before the fall, Adam and Even were to produce progeny who would fill the earth with God’s glory being reflected from each of them in the image of God. After the fall, a remnant, created by God in his restored image, was to go out and spread God’s glorious presence among the rest of the darkened humanity. This witness was to continue until the entire world would be filled with divine glory. Thus, Israel’s witness was reflective of its role as a corporate Adam, which highlights the notion of mission in the OT. Withouth exception, the reapplications of the Adamic commssion are stated positively in terms of what Noah, the patriarchs, Israel and eschatological Israel or its king should do or were promised to do. Always the expression is that of actual conquering of the land, increasing and multiplying population, and filling the promised land and the earth with people who reflect God’s glory…(P57-58)

This first section was really well thought out and I believe Beale was able to show me much from these few pages that I had never really pondered in any detail. Folks, pick up this book as it is a true gem for the serious bible student.


2 thoughts on “Beale on Genesis 1-3

  1. Yes, it is a great book and worthy of pondering the exegesis and argumentation he presents throughout. I think many people would benefit from this book in acquiring a good overview of the united message of the biblical revelation.

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