He was slowly regaining control, his control, control of himself, while he became aware of what had happened.
His legs trembled; his mind was a chaos of questions that demanded answers.
What did I see? What happened to me? Did I have a hallucination? Where am I? The sheep?! How long..? He thought, desperate and greatly confused.
He looked around.
The sheep! There they are!
Thank God, thank God they have not escaped!
Is it still dawn or dusk?
The day was ending and there was little light, he saw that the sun was setting but he was still confused.
His legs did not supported him He fell to his knees, leaned his hands on the floor.
I must come back home, I must come back home and tell everyone what happened to me.
The images he had seen returned to his mind as fast memories. Have I dreamed? He tried to focus on what was important at the time. I must go home, back to my family, safe and with the flock.
He had noticed it was getting dark. He took his crook and the fur that kept him warm. I'm starving, my stomach hurts from hunger–he had not eaten since leaving home that morning, and the day was over. Water, water, I need to drink.
He ran to the creek that was a few meters away, and squatted. He took great gulps as if they were the last and felt better. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve as he stood. He was exhausted as if he'd run a race.
He was slowly beginning to relax.
Everything seemed in order. He gathered the sheep and drove them to the hut where he lived.
He arrived an hour later, hurrying under the moonlight.
He locked them in the pen.
Elam had a wife, Misur, and two children, a boy of eight and a girl of six.
Upon hearing the sheep enter the pen the children ran to greet their father. In the dark, they hugged him and Elam lifted Samud, the girl, and grabbed the oldest, Urkis´, hand.
- Mom was worried because you did not show up-Urkis said.
Misur had already left the house and went to meet him.
- Husband, did anything happen to you? -in Misur´s face the concern was palpable.
- Oh my wife, let´s go inside as I must tell you my day. You should hear what happened to me.
- Did an animal attack you? Are you all right? Are you hurt? Have you had a problem with the sheep...?
- No woman. Stay calm. Make me something to eat, please, I have not eaten all day and I´m starving.
Elam took a piece of bread and poured some wine while he waited for Misur to prepare him something to eat. He sat on a bench, began to relax and fatigue became noticeable. Taking a deep breath, he leaned on the table and ate.
He did not know where to begin to tell her what had happened. Misur urged him:
- Tell me, tell me, my husband.
- I´ll do it, woman. I went as usual to the pastures, beside the stream. I sat on the rock, the one from which I can watch over the sheep, you know which one I mean. The sun began to rise on the horizon, the air was still, there were almost no sounds, the animals grazed in total tranquility and a moment later ... everything was gone.
I was enveloped in darkness, I could tell that there was something like a sea, in which I was submerged, and all around me there was a huge mess, as if everything were mixed. I could not see where it began and where it ended. It was like being in a sandstorm in the middle of the night. I felt I was floating over an abyss, I saw no ground under my feet, and over that sea I could clearly feel the presence of God.
Light arose suddenly, the light came from somewhere but I could not see where.
The light that was kindled moved, it crossed over me like the sun crosses. And when it was behind me the darkness returned like the night.
When I woke it was evening, it was getting dark and I could not realize how much time had passed...
Tell me, woman, was it just today or was I absent a few days?
- It was only today. This morning you left home and you have returned tonight as always. Stay calm. Finish eating and go to sleep, rest, perhaps it was only a dream, Misur told him in a vain attempt to make him feel better and calmer.
- No, it wasn´t a dream-Elam said with determination, as he stood and walked around the room, clearly upset. I'm sure it was to do with God, I can feel it.
She could see that this event had affected him and did not know what to do; she did not know how to proceed in such cases.
If Elam had really had a revelation of God it was necessary to tell the priest of the temple, he would know if it had been a dream or a message. It was possible that they would not understand the message, that they could not interpret it. Or maybe it had just been a dream.
- Let´s proceed in this way -Misur told him- while you take the sheep to pasture tomorrow, as usual, I can go to town in search of the priest or one of his aides to consult them; and when you return, in the afternoon, we will know what to do.
Elam agreed. There was nothing else to do, he had to sleep, he needed rest, and he was exhausted. They put the children to bed and then they did the same.
- Woman, ask them also whether we should make sacrifices or offerings, do not forget.
The night was long for Elam, images of the day again kept coming back and he could not get them out of his head; the morning came as a relief.
He and his wife got up before dawn -the children were still asleep. They had breakfast like every morning and agreed that Misur would go to the village to see the priest.
Elam took his crook, his saddlebag with the food Misur had prepared him for the day; and he went in search of the sheep that were in the pen.
The morning was calm, the air still, the aromas familiar. He was leading the animals to pasture near the stream, as was his routine.
I will try to catch a fish that will distract me and I´ll stop thinking about the vision. This time of year, some big ones go near the shore to spawn; then I could search for medicinal herbs. Yes, I will try to keep busy.
He reached the rock he usually used as a lookout; took off his backpack; repositioned the skins he used to keep warm; stretched them on the stone and sat down a moment to rest. The morning was truly peaceful...
It started to rain, torrentially; there was a lot of steam; there seemed to be no air; everything was water and mud; you could hardly tell where one began and where the other ended.
He was not wet; all that moisture did not affected him. Nothing that happened in front of his eye had any effect on him. He did not feel hot neither cold. He could not see the sky, as the fog-steam was impenetrable.
Slowly the atmosphere became clear, the rain became less intense. Steam was fading. Elam could see how the water was collected in the ground and the sky become discernible. There were still many clouds, but he could see the sky. The ground was a quagmire, a huge bath.
He came to; the vision disappeared as suddenly as it had come.
Once more it was late, again about the same time as the day before.
Elam took his head.
Am I going crazy? What about the sheep?
There they were, perfectly well together; quiet, as if someone had been watching while he had his new vision.
Elam went from happiness to horror. Happiness because he realized that what happened was God's will; he could feel it, he felt it clearly as if someone had told him, but at the same time he felt fear.
Why me? Why God chose to show me this? And what is He showing me? I can´t understand it. What else will He show me? What else will I have to face?
He took his things, searched for the sheep and lowered them as fast as he could to his house, almost running.
He needed to talk to the priest. It was imperative to speak with a person of God, someone who had experience in this type of events and could tell what was going to happen or what to expect, or something, anything, anything that could restore tranquility.
Yes, sure, if Misur hasn´t been into town to see the priest I will go right now, I cannot wait–he was desperate.
He came home and got the sheep in the pen, pushing them.
- Come on, come on, go inside! –he shouted. Misur! Misur! I'm home!
Misur came to the door, under the eaves, and shouted:
- Husband! Come! Come closer the priest has come and is waiting!
- Thank God, my wife.
Elam, quieter -because the priest was there- washed his perspiration in a trough and entered his house.
Crossing the threshold, he met the priest and his assistant who were sitting at the table and they stood to greet him when they saw him. Misur was standing to the side, near the entrance.
After greeting them, Elam asked the priest and his assistant to sit down and asked Misur about their children. She told him that on her way to town she had left them at her parents'.
Elam told them the events of the previous day and the new vision he had seen that day. And also how these events had left him upset and worried.
The men listened attentively without comment. When Elam concluded his narrative the priest was silent for a moment, as if he was clarifying his thoughts, and then said:
- My son, it's clear that these visions you've had can come from God. At this time I still cannot understand the message, or if it refers to future or past events. We may need to wait for a signal from God to clarify the issue. Anyway, you should stay calm; if it comes from God it cannot be bad. If you do not mind, we'd like to stay with you a few days to see if anything else occurs, and to accompany you. We can stay wherever you say so as not to be a bother; we´d hate to interfere with your daily routine, or be a burden to you and your family.
Elam was surprised, this was much more than he could have expected. Although he was very religious he was not a practicing member of the cult, we might say; he didn´t have the habit of going to the temple, and had not dealt with the priest before these events.
He offered to the religious men the children's rooms, as these would stay at their grandparents; and if necessary, they could leave them there for a few days.
They dined trying to talk about trivial matters.
Elam and Misur were not wealthy. They were only shepherds, so they didn´t have many comforts to share; and could not afford to stop working either. Elam had to continue with his life and work as usual while this whole issue was resolved.
When they were about to retire to bed, the priest approached Elam and said:
- Son, I have a vague idea about what the visions you've had could be; I cannot say anything yet, but I am convinced that there is still something for you to see. If I'm right this could take, at least, another day or two. I pray you have strength and faith in God. If He has chosen you it is because he knows you can cope with what you have been entrusted. Remember He knows you better than you know yourself. We will accompany you at all times. God is testing you and I'm sure you will succeed. Go to sleep and rest. Tomorrow is another day.
- If you do not mind, we'd like to go with you to the field without interfering with your work.
- Thanks Master, I really appreciate it, you do not know how much that means to me.
- I understand, son. Go to sleep and try to relax and not worry about us.
Misur spent the night watching Elam. If he was sleeping, if he moved, if he breathed. It was impossible not to notice how worried she was about her husband.
The first light of dawn saw them eating breakfast; they got ready to start the day in silence. Elam could feel the anxiety of the priest and his assistant, despite their efforts to hide it.
He saw how they were going from one place to another accommodating what they had to carry and speaking softly, almost in a whisper, so as not to disturb.
Elam knew that for them this was a unique opportunity, perhaps what they had expected and for which they would have prepared all his life.
They are happy, it shows; and I just want it to end. God forgive me, not that I don´t want to be helpful; it´s just that I'm just terrified and I fear I will let you down. Please give me the strength to overcome your test.
- Are you well, husband? -Misur asked quietly, once the others had left and they had a moment of privacy.
- Yes, do not worry my wife. Everything will be fine, they are going to come with me. I will try to bring some fish because yesterday I could not. Perhaps this has already happened. Stay quiet woman. He went in search of the herd and began his routine. The priest and his assistant followed him, but stood aloof trying not to intervene; it was clear they were trying to be just mere observers.
Elam was leaning on his crook and herding the sheep to pasture.
God have mercy on me, have clemency. I pray that all is well. Give me strength; take care of my wife and my children. Do not take me yet, let me see my children grow and help them start their adult lives.
Absorbed in his thoughts, he found himself on the edge of the pasture.
The monks remained at a distance, in silence.
- Come on sheep, eat the pastures! Now, now! -Elam told the animals, while gesturing with his arms and his crook visibly as he did not want them scattered.
He repositioned the skins and settled his pack on the rock; he sat down to rest as he watched the sheep scamper and graze peacefully.
The sky was slightly overcast.
I don´t think it will rain, although a little rain could do the plants a lot of good. I hope the children are well with their grandparents. Thank God for my family. Thank you for this day.
You could hear the whisper of the nearby stream water and the cries of some birds that passed by flying not too high. How do they float in the air? Elam followed them with his eyes. He had almost forgotten his companions for the day...
The sky changed abruptly. The clouds closed. Although it wasn´t raining the impression was that it had rained recently and that it would rain again shortly.
The ground was wet and it was a swamp, a marsh, but the water was dripping, dripping and it was collecting in one place; it seemed that the ground rose and dried and the water flowed creating a sea, an ocean. Elam was witnessing the separation of air, water and land into firmament, sea and dry land. He could feel he stood on dry soil and saw the sea along the beach. The place was not a swamp anymore. Although he saw no vegetation or animals at least the general landscape was more familiar. Barren, very dry, but familiar.
He was standing on the grass among the sheep. He touched his face and body as if he were recognizing himself.
Again, it happened again. The sheep? Yes, here they are. God, God looks after them on my behalf.
Taking a deep breath he rubbed his eyes, as if waking from a dream. He walked to the stream to drink. No hurry. He knelt on the bank and stood for a moment still, doing nothing. He looked at his image in the water and then cupped his hands to catch some. He drank slowly. Then he washed his face and wet his hair and neck, massaging them gently.
The monks were watching from afar in absolute silence.
He gathered his things and started herding the animals. A short distance away, the priest and his assistant were watching. The priest with a slight wave of his hand said to his assistant to do nothing, to not intervene. Elam went near them herding sheep and all returned to the house.
The return was quiet and unhurried, almost like another day of many.
Finally, upon arrival, Elam left the sheep in the pen and passing beside the priest said:
- Come in, master, eat something and I'll tell you what I saw.
Misur, as he entered the house, wanted to know:
- You've had another vision -it was more a statement than a question. You are tired, my husband. Sit, for I have prepared something for everyone to eat.
The woman looked at the religious men, as asking their opinion.
The priest and his assistant quietly took off their backpacks and left their stuff on the floor, in a corner. Then they went to wash for dinner.
Elam sat on a stool and leaned on the table.
- Woman. I had another vision. When the religious men return I will tell them about it.
As they ate, Elam narrated what he had seen. The priest told Misur that Elam had walked across the meadow looking at things they had failed to see. They told how Elam had been watching his feet, watching the sky, and how, at times, he would stretch his hands as if to touch something. They also commented that the sheep were kept close and quiet at all times. No one left the herd nor were they attacked by a predator.
Finally, the priest told Elam:
- Son. You have to be quiet. I'm sure the hardest is over. You must be glad to be chosen by God to receive this message. There will be time to interpret it. Meanwhile rest. We, for our part, will pray to God to give you the necessary strength and clarity of mind and spirit you need. Rejoice. What comes from God must be good.
She turned and said to his assistant:
- Let us retire to our room. Let these people in peace. We all need rest.
It dawned. A new day began. Again, what about today? What will happen? Will it already be over? Please God have mercy on me and my family.
Elam got up and prepared as usual; the others did their thing.
Misur prepared them food for the day. She greeted them at the door as they left, her left hand squeezing her clothes.
They reached the pastures quickly, without a hitch.
Here I am, once again. Every time I look at the grass, the mountains, the desert, the streams, the birds, I think, how has God created all this... From the land plants sprouted; plants became trees; trees bore fruits; and fruits bore seeds. What was arid became green, green and diverse. He was gradually surrounded by such lush vegetation he could not see the sky.
And the pasture was back, and the sheep with it.
That´s how He did it, that´s how! That´s it, that is what He is showing me! I'm seeing and witnessing how God created all that exists! God is showing me Creation!
He sought the religious men with his eyes.
- I know what I see! I know what God is showing me! - he knelt and held his head with both hands.
- It's perfect, it is impressive -he whispered.
The monks ran to him and knelt beside him.
- Tell us son, please tell us.
- God is showing me Creation! God shows me how He did it all! ... It is the original chaos, how He organized it, how He separated the water from the earth, light and darkness, day and night, plants, trees... I think my head will explode.
They laughed and cried. The religious men hugged and tried to calm him.
- Calm child. Get him something to eat-the priest asked the assistant.
He trotted to where the backpacks were and returned with some bread and water.
Elam told them what he had seen and how the earth had moved from the extreme aridity to the lush vegetation in front of their eyes. There was so much forest, so many trees that he could not even see the sky.
- Misur, Misur! -he entered the house. I know what this is about! -he grabbed her by the shoulders. God is showing me the Creation, how he created the earth and all things that live in it. Today He has shown me how He created the plants! Sit down and I'll tell you; it was wonderful, amazing...
The next day they were there again.
Elam repositioned the skins on the rock. He looked for a piece of bread -the walk had made him hungry. The monks were a few hundred feet away in the same place where they had been the day before, and they pretended not to watch. He sat up and stretched his arms.
What a beautiful day...
He came out of the trees and saw the sun passing swiftly over him, and then the moon and the stars. The days and nights followed at a rapid pace. Days passed, then years, centuries, millennia.
- That's why they are there! -he shouted, looking to the monks. To count the days and years!
The monks regarded him blankly and came almost jogging.
- That´s what the Sun and the Moon are for! God created them so we could count the time! For us to know how many years have passed! To separate the light from the darkness, so we rest at night and work during the day! He tells us that the stars were made for a purpose, to help us... It's wonderful. Everything has a reason. Everything has a purpose.
And evening came and the fifth day dawned...
And there he was again in the meadow with his sheep.
He tucked his stuff on the rock and rubbed his face to wake up.
He leaned back and put his hands on his thighs, looking at the creek. What do you have for me today, my God...?
Water, lots of it, full of fish, small, big. And birds in the sky, plenty, fluttering. The cries filled the air.
Enormous sea creatures, huge, giant, monstrous. Some went to the land, crawled like snakes conquering the mainland. The sea was teeming with life, diverse life, and immense diversity. Birds were nesting on earth and breeding; the world was full of life.
The beach disappeared. Elam was thrown back on the grass. With his hands he groped what was beside him. He sought the sand, which was gone, as he watched the sky for birds. He closed his eyes in an attempt to retain the images. More, more.
- Sea animals!, Huge animals!, Sea monsters!, Monstrous, huge! -he laughed. And the days. Each day corresponds to a day of Creation, my days are the days that it took him to achieve it! That´s why he shows it to me fragmented. It is very important that we take notice of the days!
He paused in his speech for breath.
- How many days have passed? -he asked them.
The priest was at his side and sat nearby.
- With this, five -he answered.
- Five, five ... how many days will God have dedicated to this, how many days are left?
- What about the man? -the assistant asked- what about the man?
- I do not know. He has not shown me yet, I have not seen him...
Evening came. Sixth day dawned.
He knelt. He left his staff and prayed, crouched with his head almost on the ground and joined hands.
God, my God, let me see your greatness, show me Your Creation. Have mercy on your humble servant. Give me the strength to serve You...
The sea and the dry land appeared and on it land animals, small, large, all the species. The land was full of life. And God was satisfied.
And man appeared. He ruled over animals, dominating them. Men and women walking together.
These men and women ate the fruits of the trees and the seeds of plants, and animals grazed on the plains. God provided food for all. Fruits and seeds for men and herbs for animals. And God looked at his creation and saw that it was perfect.
Elam came to on the edge of the stream. He looked around as if trying to figure out where he was.
He took a couple of steps back, turned and started walking away from the water.
- Man! God created man in his image, male and female!
He felt drunk, intoxicated. In a state of bliss. Happy. He told them:
- Let´s go back, go home, I want to see Misur; I want to tell her, I want to describe what I saw.
His eyes conveyed love, love, compassion, understanding.
- Misur, my wife, I have seen the creation of man and animals. God said, "Let us make man like us, and rule over all animals, fish and birds." God created man in his own image, male and female. And he created them with love, with the love of a father and blessed them, "Be fruitful and multiply." And he added: "I give them seed herbs and fruit trees to eat, and to the animals, birds and fish, the green grass as sustenance." And God saw everything that he had made, and it was fine. Misur, my wife, I can feel the love of God for his creation, for us, for each herb, for each bird.
His voice cracked with emotion, he could not stop crying.
The priest and his assistant bowed and prayed.
- Thank God, thank God.
Evening came. Seventh day dawned...
He walked up to the stone where he left his things, as if someone was going out to meet someone. He repositioned the skins, left the crook on the ground, leaned his backpack on the stone and sat down. He closed his eyes and waited...
The work was completed. The earth, the heavens and all elements and beings. And God ceased on the seventh day all the work he had done. He blessed and sanctified it.
Her eyes sought them. There they were. He staggered, leaned against the rock with one hand.
Am I about to die? Something or someone is leaving me, I feel dizzy. I am afraid, God do not take me yet. It's over. There's nothing more. What was with me is gone. I do not feel well.
He called the priest with his hand and said:
- Let's go back. It's over. Today is a rest day. The seventh day shall be holy. It is the day when God finishes Creation. We shall not work. What God gave me is over. He's gone. I do not feel very well–his thoughts were confused.
- Calm down son, the morning is not yet over, let´s go to the house to eat something and you´ll feel better-he motioned to his assistant to take Elam´s things.
They herded the sheep and Elam started feeling better as they approached the farm.
Misur was in the garden weeding. She ran to them.
- Why have you returned so early!
- God told me that today is a day of rest, that we should not work. It is the day He finished Creation, the seventh day. Leave the tools, woman, do as He said.
- What about tomorrow?
- Tomorrow we have to work again, but there will be no more messages, wife. I feel it is over. I have the feeling that what was with me these seven days is gone. I feel different and tired, very tired.
By the meager light of oil lamp -in his room at the temple- the priest finished writing what Elam had narrated day by day.
He waited for the ink to dry -blowing gently- and then rolled the papyrus with great care and reverence. He tied it with string and put it in the trunk of the temple´s sacred possessions.
It was necessary to rest; in the morning he should start the long journey to the main temple where he would tell what had happened to the high priest.
MESSAGE AND TEACHING Well, I hope this little story I have retold serves to better understand what that vision, that revelation might have been.
We now have a clearer idea about what could have happened, what he had actually narrated and about one more thing: the reason for the days.
When I thought about writing the story of what the observer saw, I immediately considered the dilemma of the seven days. I thought: what if the seven days were not God´s days but the observer´s? Or both? Again-what if ...?.
And yes, it would make sense. It is a lot of information to receive in one day and also if it was given to the observer in seven sessions, we could consider that the narrative was told in seven days. Maybe that was the case because God probably desired to generate the need to divide the narrative by days, because there is a reason for the seven days -from a religious point of view- which we will discuss below.
Let´s see the religious side of the story.
The first thing the sacred author says is: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"; in this phrase he gives us the key that we must use to understand the text, and in turn, he tries to express the synthesis of everything that he is going to describe in detail. We have seen that by integrating heavens and earth he attempts to cover everything, all that exist; and that by mentioning heavens and earth again at the end, he draws our attention to the purely human and earthly perspective of the narrator.
It is also possible that, due to the fact the word kosmos is of Greek origin; and because in the Hebrew language there is no word that corresponds exactly to that idea, he uses this redundancy of heavens and earth. For me, it is clear that by bundling everything he is including the intangible, as the world of ideas and the laws governing the systems.
It is assumed that the hagiographer, the sacred author, besides telling a conceivable view, would intend to catechize, to give a lesson in theology in a simple and direct way, in a language that may have been popular to simple-minded people. Do not forget that this must have happened a thousand years before Christ, and that the scientific knowledge of that time was extremely low.
At the same time there is something very important; he is transmitting that God did this and God did that, God as singular, as one. This is not a minor issue, on the contrary, because at that time polytheism prevailed in different cultures. It didn´t occurred to anyone, or they found difficult to accept that everything was the work of one God, for He creates animals, plants and man and nothing else, not does He at any time make other gods or demigods, or anything of the sort.
The message and lesson left after reading it should be loud and clear: God is one and, moreover, it is pre-existing; He existed before the origin of the world.
This teaching of "one God" continues throughout the Bible and leads to Jesus; it is the theme of the story and the chosen people´s reason for being; but let´s not stray.
Let´s carry on with the Genesis.
The next sentence is also very significant: "a wind of God hovered over the waters." This gives us the feeling that God's presence is almost tangible; that the author feels the spirit of God above the initial chaos, He cannot only see but also feel, perceive the existing intention behind the work.
Then he begins the description of creation. Here it is important to emphasize that the hagiographer possibly cared more for the doctrinal and religious aspects of the narrative than for its scientific side, obviously. First, because he may not have understood the scientific part; and second, because if he understood it he could not tell anyone because no one would have understood.
To me it is obvious that the author is unable to fully understand what he is seeing, because he believes in some basic concepts of his time, like that the sky was solid, or that the stars, the sun and the moon were gods, etc.
Moreover, he remains still along the transformations and everything happens around him. For him, the place in which he stands is the center of the universe and the sun, the moon and the stars move around it. That was the general idea, shared by scholars, to the point that the belief that the Earth was the center of the universe prevailed beyond 1600 AD. If anyone doubts, we can ask Galileo Galilei, who uttered the famous phrase Eppur si muove or E pur si muove ("And yet it moves”) after abjure the heliocentric view of the world to the court of the Inquisition on June 22, 1633 in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which cost him house arrest.
The heliocentric vision (from the Greek: helios - sun, center) placed the sun at the center of the system and the Earth as one of the planets revolving around the star.
I find it interesting to note that we usually judge the Inquisition as totally irrational and wild, but in this case –it struck me-the Church condemns him to "house arrest", without even sending him to prison! This is not a minor issue; Galileo was moving mankind from his place, the maximum creation of God, the center of creation! And still, they only sentenced him to house arrest? ...!?
Well, let's continue.
Many times we find that Genesis commentators wonder why the author does not speak of the creation of darkness but of the creation of light; and they try to explain it, in general, arguing that darkness is associated with evil and light with good; but in the text there is no reason to believe that darkness represents evil; it´s simply that before the light it was dark and after the light it was not.
I think we should remember that outer space is dark by nature because it lacks atmosphere and the light has no way to spread and create that feeling of being surrounded by light that is so familiar to us.
It is important-critical we might say- not to forget that when talking of Genesis and, obviously, of the Bible, we are usually in the area of religion. Therefore the text tries to leave -at all times-religious teachings to those who read it, as that's the main reason of all these writings´ existence: to lead man in his spiritual journey.
At last, when the time of the creation of man comes, he says: "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea ...". Behold the most accurate reference of man as God´s representative stand before what was created on earth; that he will command about animals and plants, and that this allocation entails the enormous responsibility of caring for them.
I happened to find people who, mistaking this paragraph, feel entitled to do anything to animals and plants because "God sent them" ...!? The famous "power"… It is clear that we can misinterpret sacred texts and adapt them to our interests or needs as we see fit, but we should not do so.
God is above all a merciful and loving father, and nowhere does He give the mandate that we can mistreat animals or subjugate others; quite the opposite. Just read the teachings of Jesus and His exhortations: "Love your neighbor as yourself", "forgive seventy times seven." In fact, we should not overlook His intention that sustenance should be vegetarian, as the hagiographer remarks: "Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food. And to all the wild animals, all the birds of heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I give all the foliage of the plants as their food ". In this paragraph it is clear the intention to convey the idea, indication or teaching that -as plants are there for sustenance- man must protect and respect all animal life.
Undoubtedly man, being intelligent, can make that discrimination -discrimination that animals are unable to perform. However, after the flood we feel that God is resigned to the view that it is too much to ask, "Never again will I curse the earth because of human beings, because their heart contrives evil from their infancy. Never again will I strike down every living thing as I have done "(Genesis 8:21), and thereafter He allows them to eat animals (Genesis 9:1-5).
Well, beyond what we have for lunch, it is interesting to notice that God is presented in the Bible as a loving, merciful father who gives up His designs or renews them depending on the struggles with His children, with this Humanity, with His obstinate chosen people, as we read throughout the Old Testament more than once.
TRANSCENDENTAL CONTENT The doctrinal content of the story, the lessons that persist after we finish reading it, the theological lessons we might call fundamental could include:
• God is the only Creator of all things, of all the concrete and abstract, of what is above and what is below, of all entities and creatures. All matter, and the forces acting on it are created by Him and respond to His mandate.
• The power of God, omnipotent and omnipresent, is an expression of His intelligence and wisdom, reflected in the order, balance and functioning of creation.
• Every creature is good for it has been created according to that idea of order and perfection. They are created by God, they are created by parts of God but they are not God. This distinction, this separation is crucial because it is very subtle, and can be easy to confuse Creator and creature. God creates everything from itself, thus we would all be part of God, but we are not God; we are ultimately His creation. At this point the comment that a student of the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred book of Hinduism, is interesting: "A comparison that allows us to clarify this separation between Creator and creature would be the fruit of the pomegranate. Grains within the pomegranate are part of the grenade but not the grenade. They are part of the fruit but they are not fruit."
• The stars, which at the time were recognized as gods, are clearly objects created by God; He decides how they move; and the purpose of their passage through the universe is helping men tell the time.
• The fertility of animals is a blessing from God and part of the machinery, the operation of the system; there is no deity responsible for that, it's just functionality.
• Man – we might call him creation´s summit- is the only one made in the image and likeness of God and is therefore special and rises above the rest of living things; this immediately gives him rights and obligations.
• And finally, this one, in gratitude and as second to God, should keep one day a week to worship him, resting as God Himself did, the seventh day.
In these key ideas-that the sacred author gives us so accurately and in as few lines-there is a true revelation of antiquity which no other ancient civilization gave us. No other people dwelling the earth at the time came to an explanation as close to scientific truth as the Hebrew, the chosen people.
It is clear to me that the hagiographer in these first lines of Genesis attempts to explain the origin of the world but not from a scientific perspective but from the point of view of the relationship between creation and God. Everything is God's work, both the world and space, the stars, the forces, ideas and whatever is there and we cannot yet see. Heaven and earth.
Everything is reasoned and logical, to the point that the original chaos seems to be the original matter of a work of art, a sculpture´s putty, canvas and paints; but with the detail of free will, a great little detail; one detail that is not minor; one detail that makes a huge difference and gives us an accurate idea of the infinite mercy and love of the Creator.
His work would not be the same without freedom, without the vaunted free will; that free will that has brought humanity to make such large and important achievements and to commit so many regrettable mistakes.
It's clear that God is not interested in beings who act like robots, nor cares for uniformity; hence, He has created this huge diversity of animals, plants, and humans of different colors, languages, carvings and thoughts, philosophies which even have different perceptions of Him–Who is the same for everyone.
In the context of free will, it is truly wonderful to see in the Bible how God dictates the rules; then gets angry because humanity does not do what He commands; then rebukes; forgives; amends laws He had set to see if this time man can follow them... which usually does not occur. Then again, disappointed and angry because they don´t -they don´t change their ways- He modifies them, makes them harder, makes them more permissive. He changes dangerous toys like pagan gods by ideas closer to those of a single god; and removes from the game those who clearly cannot play with the rest, as happened with the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Yes, the great Free Will -capitalized- the old free will that we cannot yet control.
We have once more strayed from the target which was a comparison of Genesis with science, but the detour is worth it, as it is good to see it in the context of the book to which it belongs and in which it plays a part.
Talking to my wife, I said that -until recently- there had not been the possibility of making this comparison of Genesis with science, because the scientific findings needed to understand what our observer talks about occurred only in recent years -with revolutionary inventions such as the Hubble telescope, radio telescopes like Arecibo and many other specialized satellites. Only now, in this time and age, you can perform a complete and thorough comparison of the text with science, and I find it truly amazing to see how they fit.
You need to understand that both the hagiographer -obviously- and the biblical commentators until about twenty years ago, have not had sufficient resources to understand and tie many loose ends.
Today, with some knowledge and a computer connected to the Internet, anyone can check what is narrated in these lines and also make new contributions to a better understanding.
It is undeniable that scientific advances of recent years and future discoveries will allow elucidating many of the mysteries that the Bible still keeps for us, although we should not forget that the real breakthrough we should aim at is always going to be spiritual.