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B'resheet/Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. On the day G-d created mankind, in the image of G-d He made him.
Both halves of this verse seem very familiar; or are they? RabbiHirsch compares the first with the start of the second creation narrative: , "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created" (B'resheet 2:4). He comments that "This sentence, with which a new period in the history of the education of mankind is introduced, bears a marked similarity to the sentence earlier, with which the history of the development of the world was introduced. Just as there all that followed was nothing other than the natural development from the laws which the Creator had already made for heaven and earth at their origin, so here, all the manifold marked differences in human beings are naught but the natural development of the fact that G-d made man in His own likeness."
Why then, if they are simply milestone phrases, introducing a new period or set of events in history, does the first phrase of our text include the word ? Umberto Cassuto notes that it is a loan-word from theAkkadian language (sipru from the root saparu, "to send"); originally it denoted a missive text that was sent from one place to another and subsequently it came to mean anything in writing. Here 'Adam' is used as a proper noun, signifying the First Man. This is the book that recounts the history of the first man and his children and his children's children, for as long as they trace their ancestry to him."1 On the contrary, Rashi points out that the rabbis translate as 'accounting' when it is used in D'varim as the 'get' or accounting of divorce (b. Gittin 21b on D'varim 24:1): something that must be written on a permanent medium, but is not by any means a book. Gunther Plaut explains that "this is the written record - the Hebrew adds the word (literally, 'record' or 'document') which most likely indicates that the scribe had a written source on which to base the account. Such records are occasionally quoted in the Torah." Nahum Sarna comments that "this is most likely the title of an ancient genealogical work that served as the source for the data in this and others chapters. specifically denotes a written document, not an oral composition." Ovadiah Sforno tells us that "this is the history of the events which befell the human race."
The second phrase reminds us of the first creation account: "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness" (1:26, JPS), echoed by the narrator in the next verse, "And G-d created man in His image, in the image of God He created him" (1:27, JPS). Here only 'likeness' is preserved and the verb used is , 'made' rather than , 'created'. Sarna suggests that "the use of , 'likeness', alone, without , 'image', is probably conditioned by consideration of assonance2: ". Notice, however that the meaning of the word has changed from a proper name, as it is in the first phrase, to a generic 'mankind' in the second phrase.HaShem didn't just create a man, He created mankind with the ability to procreate so that the earth could be filled and subdued. Man is different from the animals, for none of them were made in G-d's image; Maimonides explains that the phase "the image of G-d - denotes that humans' intelligence is what makes then uniquely similar to G-d" (Guide for the Perplexed 1:1). Man thinks, feels, reasons, plans and discusses - this is what sets him apart from the lesser creatures and makes him so similar to G-d. The Sforno adds, "in the image of G-d: that is, with freedom of choice, so that when they sin, they can be punished." Man alone can be held responsible for his actions.
This, perhaps, helps us to start seeing something more than simply historical narrative in the text. Let's take a small step sideways. In a passage excoriating those who make and worship idols, Isaiah uses the phrase "they are [just, merely] human craftsmen" (Isaiah 44:11). But the ancient rabbis looked at the original Hebrew text of Isaiah's words - - and translated it literally as, "they are craftsmen from Adam". From this, Rabbi Tanhuma and Rabbi Menahamah claimed that Adam taught the following generations all forms of craftsmanship. Rab said, "Adam even taught the way of ruling parchment for the [Torah] scroll" (B'resheet Rabbah 24:7), citing our text as proof: "This is the book". A Torah scroll must be ruled before the letters can be written, so saying "This is the book" implies that Adam must have taught his descendants not only how to write, but also the regulations for ruling the lines on the sheets of parchment and how to make the parchment itself; they are craftsmen from Adam. This are another way that man is different from the rest of creation: the ability to make tools, to develop craftsmanship and to write books.
So far so good, but why would Adam want to write a book? What would be in it?Nachmanides looks at the rest of the chapter following our text which lists the descendants of Adam as far as Noah and his sons and concludes that the second in our verse refers to Adam and his descendants: "These are the children He will mention in the chapter." Then he goes a step further: "In my opinion, this alludes to the whole Torah, for the entire Torah is the book of the generations of Adam." So in the rabbinic mind, the written Torah was there from the beginning. Adam started it and each generation completed their part of if, no matter how small, because it is a record not so much of mankind - although it is that as well - but of G-d's dealings with mankind. G-d was telling His story through the stories of the people that interacted with Him. This is why Yeshua quotes and teaches from the early stories: they are G-d's story. When teaching about divorce, Yeshua quotes from both the creation narratives - "Haven't you read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and that He said, 'For this reason a man should leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two are to become one flesh'? Thus they are no longer two, but one. So then, no one should split apart what G-d has joined together" (Matthew 19:4-6, CJB) - as His authority for forbidding divorce except on the grounds of sexual immorality. Similarly, Yeshua invokes all three patriarchs - "'I am the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitz'chak and the G-d of Ya'akov'? He is G-d not of the dead but of the living!" (22:32, CJB) - to teach about the resurrection and the world to come. The Gospels themselves are the stories of Yeshua, which is why Matthew starts, "This is the genealogy of Yeshua the Messiah, son of David, son of Avraham" (Matthew 1:1, CJB).
Rav Sha'ul too frequently quotes from the Tanakh. He tells the congregations in Rome that "everything written in the past was written to teach us, so that with the encouragement of the Tanakh we might patiently hold on to our hope" (Romans 15:4, CJB). G-d's purpose in having the story of His interaction with mankind written down was so that successive generations would be able to read and be encouraged by it. More, that when the 'last days' came - in which we are now perhaps almost living - he adds: "These things happened to them as prefigurative historical events, and they were written down as a warning to us who are living in the acharit-hayamim" (1 Corinthians 10:11, CJB). Now of course the people in the Hebrew Bible were real people, doing real things in real time; none of these things were staged, with several takes until they got it right - they were not simply acting a part for the sake of their audience. But G-d made sure they were written down in His story so that we - and all the generations before and after us - would have the benefit of hindsight and be able to learn from their good and bad days. Stories are still being written about the things that G-d is doing with His people, and have been since apostolic times. Whether your fancy turns to "Chariots of Fire", "Fox's Book of Martyrs", or biographies of John Wycliffe, Charles Spurgeon, Sarah Schenirer or Gladys Aylward, stories are there to inspire and encourage us in our walk of faith and relationship with G-d. What story are you writing today for the next generation?
1. - Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part One - From Adam to Noah, Magnes Press Jerusalem 1978
2. - assonance: a resemblance in sound between syllables of nearby words, particularly from rhyming of two or more stressed vowels.
Further Study: 2 Corinthians 4:13-15; 2 Timothy 3:16
Application: Do you like a good story? Try reading Mark's gospel all the way through in one go, without stopping to chop it up into little bits; 1 Kings chapters 17-19 are quite dramatic. Read and be impressed with what G-d has done and know that He wants to do the same in our lives today.
© Jonathan Allen, 2015
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