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B'resheet/Genesis 5:3 And Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years and he sired in his likeness, after his image, and he called him Seth.
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In this week's text from the sixth aliyah of parashat B'resheet, we see the start of the human line that continues to this day. Seth is Adam's third son, but - as the immediately following genealogy makes clear - the first of the surviving line that will be saved from the waters of the flood in the ark through Noah and his sons. It is this line from whom we are all descended. The Midrash proposes, here summarised by Drazin and Wagner, that there was a significant delay between the birth of Adam and Eve's first two children - Cain and Abel - and the birth of Seth, because "Adam had refrained from marital relations because he had been afraid to have [any more] children after seeing what happened to Cain and Abel." The biblical text seems to support this in the account of Seth's birth by saying, "Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, meaning, 'G-d has provided me with - another offspring in place of Abel,' for Cain had killed him" (B'resheet 4:25, NJPS). This tells us that Seth was not born until after Cain killed Abel, which in turn was after they were old enough to have settled occupations and skills as arable and sheep farmers respectively.
On reading the English or Hebrew text, one is immediately struck with the similarity between this narrative and the first creation account (1:26-28). Here, Adam sired - , the Hif'il 3ms prefix form of the root , to bear or give birth, so "he sired or begat" - Seth " in his likeness, after his image". There,Elohim created - , the Qal 3ms prefix form of the root , to create, a verb uniquely reserved for the divinity throughout the Scriptures - man " in our image, after our likeness" (1:26). Notice that while the two prepositions , 'in', and , "as, like" or as here, 'after', remain in the same order, the two terms , likeness or pattern, and , shadow or image, are reversed. Adam was created in G-d's image, after His likeness, whereas Seth was procreated in Adam's likeness, after his image.
RabbiHirsch proposes that is a spiritual likeness and that is a physical likeness and suggests, albeit tentatively, that "perhaps all human beings are spiritually the same, the , the immortal eternal spirit is equal in all, and the difference only lies in the degree of perfection of its means in the world, the body." This implies that while the physical appearance - height, hair colour, etc. - may vary but remain distinctively human, the spiritual quality of man remains unchanged across the generations. Nahum Sarna is more ambiguous: "What constituted 'the image of G-d' in the first two human beings was transmitted through procreation to all future generations." The Radak is even more vague, offering simply that "the phrase may mean '"like him physically and mentally'", while the Ramban shifts the focus back to the process: "Obviously every living thing begotten from another living thing is in its likeness and after its image. This verse is telling us that Adam begot a son 'in His likeness after His image' just as Adam himself had originally been."
Richard Elliott Friedman picks up the process idea and explains that "the first man's similarity to his son is described with the same two nouns that are used to describe the first two humans' similarity to G-d. The significance of the verse is to establish that whatever it is that the first humans acquire from G-d, it is something that passes by heredity. It is not only the first two humans but the entire species that bears G-d's image." Wow! Can we push this any further? We can;Ibn Ezra, one of classic Judaism's more out-of-the-box thinkers, claims that "G-d gave Adam the power to engender children in his own likeness, making Adam's actions like G-d's in this respect." When Adam - now taken in the generic 'humankind' way - fathers children, using the G-d's delegated authority to generate and bring forth another life, he is acting like G-d; he is copying the actions of G-d at creation. Most particularly, as Gordon Wenham points out, "the image and likeness of G-d which was given to Adam at creation was inherited by his sons. It was not obliterated by the fall."1
It seems unmistakable, as Bruce Waltke concludes, that "the pattern of 'birth' and 'naming' furthers humanity's connection to divine activity. The connection between G-d and the first parents and the first parents and their children is established by the similarity between 5:1-3 and 1:26-28: the naming of the 'offspring' and the repetition of 'likeness ... image'."2 The act of a husband and wife cooperating to conceive and bring forth a child is a divinely appointed way in which we show that we ourselves are created in the image of G-d, after His likeness. That likeness, that ability to bring forth the next generation, still bearing the image of G-d, is an inherited characteristic of mankind and does not depend in any way upon the degree to which a parent walks in G-d's ways or even accepts or knows who G-d is. Like Adam, who it appears delayed having further children for some years, mankind can decide not to exercise that gift by refraining from marital relations or by taking deliberate steps to avoid conception. Once a child is conceived, born, named and grown, however, the process has made a complete cycle and that child in turn has exactly the same delegated authority and ability as its parents - in cooperation with a spouse of the opposite sex - to bring forth another life.
Returning to the reversing of 'image' and 'likeness', Walter Brueggemann suggests that while the image of G-d is granted to all humankind, the image of Adam has been marred by the Fall - in some way diminished or lessened. He proposes that "Seth and his heirs are a strange, unresolved mixture of the regal image of G-d and the threatened image of Adam", recognising "the ambivalence of humankind."3 Thus we find Rav Sha'ul suffering from internal conflict: "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate ... For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing" (Romans 7:15,18-19, ESV). Sha'ul recognises his own ambiguity and inability to do anything about it: "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (v. 24, ESV).
Death has come from sin; that is the 'evil' that Sha'ul does not want to do but finds himself doing, despite himself. Sin produces inner conflict and dissonance within mankind; people knowing in their hearts that they have done or are doing things that violate G-d's laws and destroy or damage the image of G-d within them. Fearing the judgement that is to come, people try to justify their actions or pretend that their actions are not sin, as Isaiah warned many centuries ago: "Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes ... Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:18,20, ESV). Those sin patterns are inherited and continue to ricochet across the generations: "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" (Romans 5:12, ESV). This brings death to all.
In order to resolve the ambiguity, to break the patterns of inherited sin and death, and to chose a people for Himself who would not experience that inner conflict, G-d bypassed the inheritance mechanism and stepped directly into the human condition. "But when the fullness of time had come, G-d sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5, ESV). He sent Yeshua, His son - whose human life was not initiated by the will of man, so outside the normal human process - to provide the way to 'fix' the brokenness of Adam's inherited image. Although born of woman, Yeshua was not born of man but of the Spirit. In Him and by faith in Him, mankind could be born again, preserving the image of G-d and restoring the original likeness of Adam as created by G-d. "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of G-d, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of G-d" (John 1:12-13, ESV).
In whose image and after whose likeness are you living today? Are you walking in the ways of the world, destroying the image of G-d and cultivating nothing more than a harvest of death, or are you firmly established in the image of G-d, living in His likeness and sharing that life with all those you meet?
1. - Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary I, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1987), page 127.
2. - Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), page 114.
3. - Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1982), page 68.
Further Study: Proverbs 5:22; Mark 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22
Application: Are you fed up with the same old same old, the patterns of sin and death that keep on messing up your life? Make sure you speak today to the Master Genetic Designer and ask Him to fix up the broken likeness that you have inherited in this world. As Him to give you His Spirit to restore the image of G-d in you so that you may know your true inheritance, made and created in His image and after His likeness.
Comment - 18:06 18Oct22 Joshua VanTine: Great drash at the first, may HaShem's dew find a suitable resting place to open up greater depths of His heart and ways this year. Rebbe Melech Yeshua has much to impart to His talmidim for the days ahead.
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© Jonathan Allen, 2022
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