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ON THE MOSAIC ACCOUNT OF THE
CREATION AND FALL OF MAN.
THERE are not a few difficulties in the account which Moses has given of the creation of the world, and of the formation, and temptation, and fall of our first parents. Some by the six days of the creation have understood as many years. Whilst others have thought the creation of the world instantaneous; and that the number of days mentioned by Moses is only intended to assist our conception, who are best able to think of things in order of succession.
No one part of this account is fuller of difficulties than that which relates to man. And some learned Jews, as well as Origen, and others among christians, have supposed the account before us, not to be a history, but an allegory. The present prevailing opinion is, that what relates to man is fact. And it is argued, that, as the true character of Moses is that of an historian, it would be unbecoming his judgment and exactness, to insert an allegory in the midst of historical facts, without giving any intimation of it.
I shall take the account in the literal sense, and shall go over it under these several heads or divisions. 1. The formation of man. 2. The trial upon which he was put in paradise. 3. The temptation he met with. 4. His transgression. 5. The consequences of that, with the sentence passed by God upon the tempter, and upon the transgressors, our first parents,
1. The first thing in order is the creation of man. For with that I begin, not intending to survey the other works of God, before made.
Gen. i, 26, "And God said, Let us make man, in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." Ver. 27," So God
created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them."
This may be reckoned a summary account of the creation of man, which is more largely and particularly related again in the next chapter.
"And God said: Let us make man, in our image, after our likeness."
It is common for christians to say, that here is a proof of a Trinity of persons in the unity of the Godhead. To which others answer, that the Jews never understood these expressions after this manner, who always believed one God, and that God to be one person only, except when they fell into gross idolatry, after the manner of their heathen neighbours. And many learned christians are clearly of opinion, that the doctrine of the Trinity was not revealed in the Old Testa
These interpreters therefore suppose, that the style common to princes and great men, who often speak in the plural number, is here ascribed to God. Nor need the consultation, here represented, be supposed to be between equals. But God may be rather supposed to declare his mind to his angels, as counsellors. Nor will it be an invincible objection, that in this history there is no notice taken of the creation of angels. For there follow expressions, which may be reckoned to imply their existence and their dignity, and that they were not unknown to man.
But indeed we need not to suppose any real discourse or consultation at all. The meaning is no more than this: 'All other things being made, God proceeded to the crea'tion of man: or, he purposed now, at the conclusion, to 'make man.' And it may be reckoned probable, that Moses introduces God in this peculiar manner, deliberating and consulting upon the creation of man, to intimate thereby, that he is the chief of the works of God, which are here described. Or, in other words, according to Patrick upon ver. 26. 'God not only reserved man for the last of his 'works, but does, as it were, advise and consult, or deliberate ' about his production; the better to represent the dignity ' of man, and that he was made with admirable wisdom and 'prudence.'
It is here also worthy to be observed, that according to the account of Moses, a different method was taken in forming man, from that in which other animals were formed. Ver. 20," And God said; Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life." And afterwards, ver, 24, "And God said; Let the earth bring forth the
living creature after its kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth." They were produced by the Divine power, and command. But God is represented, as making man himself, immediately, to denote his dignity, and superior prerogative above the rest of the creatures.
Still at ver. 26, " And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." By which two-fold expression, it is likely, one and the same thing is intended. For when the result or execution of this deliberation and purpose is described and related, it is in this manner: ver. 27, "So God created man in his own image: in the image of God created he him."
What is the "image," or likeness of God, intended by Moses, is not clear, because he has not distinctly expressed it; and we may now conjecture things which were not in the mind of the writer. Nevertheless I think the coherence leads us to understand hereby, as somewhat suitable to the mind of Moses, "dominion over the rest of the creatures of this earth," together with that reason and understanding, which is a main part of the superiority of the human nature above brute creatures, and qualifies man to rule over them, and subdue them, and make them subservient to his own use and benefit. So are the words of this twenty-sixth verse: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth on the earth." And the eminence of man is thus described, Job xxxv. 11, "He teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven."
Ver. 27, "So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." What we are first led to observe here, as connected with what was just said, is, that the woman was made after the image of God, as well as the man.
And from inserting, in this summary account of man's creation, on the sixth day, this particular, that " God created man male and female," it may be concluded, that the woman too was made on that day; which, I reckon, is the general opinion of interpreters; though there are some things in the next chapter, containing a more particular account of the formation of man, that might occasion some doubt about it. Patrick, in particular, says, God made woman the same day he made man; as he did both sexes
of other creatures, and as he made herbs and plants with 'seeds in them, to propagate their species.'
It is always supposed, that God made man in maturity of body and understanding. And some have been so curious as to inquire at what age; or what was the age he appeared to have. And in conformity to the great length of the lives of the antediluvians, they have supposed, he might have the appearance of a man of fifty or sixty years of age according to that time.
Ver. 28, "And God blessed them, and God said unto them Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth." The Jewish writers are generally disposed to understand that expression, "be fruitful and multiply," as implying a precept universally binding. But the coherence rather leads us to understand it of a blessing or power; the like to which was bestowed upon the brute creatures, at ver. 22, which are not the subjects of a precept.
And here the privilege of dominion over the creatures is again expressed, denoting it to be common to both sexes, and designed to appertain to their posterity. "Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it. And have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
It follows in ver. 29, and 30, "And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree, yielding seed. To you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth on the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat. And it was so." Hence it is argued by many, that meat, or food of animal ́flesh, was not used before the flood. But that does not seem certain. It may be allowed, that for a good while, flesh was forborne. As animals were made by pairs only, it was not convenient that any should be slain till they were increased. It may be allowed also, that vegetables were very much the diet of those who lived before the flood; when, probably, all things were in greater vigour and perfection than afterwards. But here is no prohibition of animal food. And it is observable, that Abel and Seth, and all who were of the family of God, were keepers of cattle. And, if they were not allowed to make use of them for food, it would be difficult to show, how keeping cattle, not fit for draught or burden, especially in any large number, could turn to a
good account. If it be said, they might use their milk; I answer, that is more than is clearly expressed in the grant. Moreover, sacrifices of living creatures were in use very early. It is not reasonable to think, they were all whole burnt-offerings. It may be reckoned probable, that they who brought to God sacrifices and offerings of living crea tures, did partake of their offerings; which, certainly, was the custom in after times.
The first chapter of Genesis concludes thus: "And God saw every thing that he had made: and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day." Every thing was now formed according to the will, and purpose, and command, of God. And every part of each day's creation, man in particular, was good, and such as God approved and designed.
Thus we have surveyed the summary account of man's creation, which is in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. At the beginning of the second chapter is introduced an account of the sabbath, and a description of Paradise, which I forbear to insist on; but I would observe what is farther said of the formation of the first pair.
Ch. ii. 7, " And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And man became a living soul." Man is made of the "dust of the ground." But thereby is supposed to be meant moist earth. And whereas it is said, “God breathed into him the breath of life," which is not said of any other animals; it is hence argued, that the soul of man is different from the body, and that it is a more excellent spirit than that of brute creatures.
Ver. 18," And the Lord God said: It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make him an help meet for him." Here, I apprehend, we are led to the same observa tion that was mentioned before, upon occasion of those words, which represented God as consulting about the creation of man. The design of those expressions was to intimate the great dignity, and superior excellence of man above brute creatures, whose creation was before related. In like manner, when God proceeds to the making of the woman, he is represented as consulting, and resolving what to do; that the man might be the more sensible of the goodness of the Creator in providing for him so suitable a help.
Ver. 19, "And out of the ground God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them to Adam, to see what he would call them. And whatsoever