God’s Plan: Genesis 1 – 11

So why does Genesis provide us with the material found in Genesis 1 – 11? These chapters aren’t obviously about God’s self-revelation.

Genesis tells the story of how God created humankind in fellowship with him, but also relates how that relationship was destroyed by the Fall. The destruction of all but Noah and his family in the flood gave humanity a second opportunity to maintain a relationship, but again sin interfered. The primeval history concludes with the important account of the Tower of Babel. Urbanization in Mesopotamia had provided fertile ground for the development of a new paganism aptly represented in the symbolism of the ziggurat. The Tower of Babel represented the definitive formulation of a brand of paganism that pervaded the ancient Near East in which mythologized deity was portrayed as having all the foibles of humanity. In so doing, humanity remade deity in its own image.

Elsewhere, Walton notes that the stairstep structure of the ziggurat was not to allow mankind to reach heaven but to facilitate the gods’ coming to earth.

To the pagans, the gods had to be coerced to care about mere humans. It was up to humans to take the initiative to invite the gods to earth — rather than the True God taking the initiative to be known among his people.

The pagans had severely distorted the image of God. A correction was necessary.

The perception of God that swept the ancient world was incapable of providing a sound basis for a relationship with the one true God. The result was the need for God to vouchsafe an accurate revelation of himself. He therefore instituted a revelatory program by means of the covenant.

In short, Genesis 1 – 11 explains what happens when God is not sufficiently known. Why did the world rebel at the time of Noah? Why build the Tower of Babel? It was all because God was inadequately known.

Eden existed at a time and place where man had intimate knowledge of God. Man walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the morning. Sin had not yet obscured God’s image from our view.

But once sin entered, God became harder to see. Therefore, it became necessary that God himself take the initiative. Man had become so distant from God that only God could take the first step.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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14 Responses to God’s Plan: Genesis 1 – 11

  1. what is sin except disobedience ?

  2. Alabama John says:

    How I wish it was that simple laymond.

    Sin sends us to hell.

    For so many of us COC, it is lack of obedience far more than disobedience that sends the most us to hell and that belief bothers me and separates me from far more.

  3. laymond says:

    A J I believe Paul said something like if there is no law/rules, there is no sin. So if Jesus canceled the law by hanging on the cross, as some say, then he also canceled “sin”. But as I read my bible Jesus said he did not cancel one dot or tittle of the law, he came to enforce it. Am I right so far? If this is what he said, would we not be expected to obey the laws of God? Jesus also said the most important laws or commands were, love God, and love people, right? Why would he say all the laws hang on these two commands? Simple if we love God we will obey his laws, if we love people we will do them no harm. Actually doing no harm is not enough for those who you love, we should help them in any way we can. The laws were never done away with, but if you are a true God loving, and people loving Christian, there is no need for the laws, you will do them by nature.

    For so many of us COC, it is lack of obedience far more than disobedience that sends the most us to hell and that belief bothers me and separates me from far more.
    I really don’t understand the difference, please explain.

  4. Alabama John says:

    I love Romans 2 also.
    We have many laws that require obedience although not as many as a few years ago in my lifetime, in order to be saved that most of the world past and present have never heard or known of much less been obedient to.
    To love God and our fellow man is not enough and as we preach, never was.
    As mentioned in Al Maxey this latest edition, to be buried in baptism is not enough, but must also rise a new man. That means if you have a heart attack and die while your nose is still underwater in baptism you go to hell. This type silliness is still taught I know around here it is. No grace allowed.
    I believe there will be far more in heaven than we preach and do not believe all that don’t DO exactly as we believe and preach will be lost.
    Always interesting to me that those that cannot understand the commands because of mental abilities are excused, but those that have lived somewhere throughout time where the Bible was never known are lost for not being obedient. That has never registered true and consistent with me.
    That is what I meant by those that have not done as we believe they should which are exceedingly far more in number than those that know the Bible and have not followed it and sinned by disobeying.

  5. Charles McLean says:

    Walton seems to describe God as counterpunching against sin, specifically here against a rising paganism. But this perspective makes God less creator and more reactor; it would have man the driving force and leave God trailing the play, trying and failing to reveal himself, and divising new strategies to catch up with the ravages of sin upon His creation.

    It seems to me to be more correct -if harder to understand- that God is not merely reacting to us, but has been ahead of us all along.

  6. Skip says:

    Regardless of what “Walton” says, Genesis 11:4 states the motivation for the tower: “Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
    The people wanted to exalt themselves/make a name for themselves. Their activity was not to glorify God but was self promoting. God of course scattered them as a result.
    The same can apply to modern churches who promote themselves with books, elaborate programs, seeking name recognition, etc… God blesses the church that honors him and will curse the churches trying to bring honor to themselves. So if our little church is dying, we can probably be sure that it is because God’s glory was not the focus.

  7. Jay Guin says:


    I see no inconsistency between the biblical text you quote and Walton’s observation. The question the text doesn’t address is why building a tower is such a big deal to the citizens of Babel? They want to make a name for themselves — but is it just about building a very tall building?

    The assumption of many commentators has been that the tower was supposed to reach heaven itself — a path for man to ascend to heaven without God. Matthew Henry’s interpretation is very typical —

    It seems designed for an affront to God himself; for they would build a tower whose top might reach to heaven, which bespeaks a defiance of God, or at least a rivalship with him. They would be like the Most High, or would come as near him as they could, not in holiness but in height. They forgot their place, and, scorning to creep on the earth, resolved to climb to heaven, not by the door or ladder, but some other way.

    But what if their real motivation was to control God? What if, in typical pagan fashion, they saw the tower as a means of gaining magical leverage over God by making it possible for God to descend from heaven along the steps of the ziggurat? They would thereby make a name for themselves by gaining magical control over heaven and its God. They could take credit for having discovered the secret of bringing God down to earth to bless man.

    We next read —

    (Gen 11:5 ESV) 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.

    In fact, God did come down! But not via the ziggurat. Rather, he came down to judge their work. They’d attempted to control God and yet God proved himself quite thoroughly in control — and absolutely in no need of man’s inventions to enter the realm of mankind and intervene as he sees fit. Contrary to pagan presumption, God remains in charge and cannot be manipulated by man to man’s glory.

  8. Jay Guin says:

    Charles wrote,

    It seems to me to be more correct -if harder to understand- that God is not merely reacting to us, but has been ahead of us all along.

    The Tower of Babel and the story of the Flood both picture God as reacting to sin. However, beginning with the call of Abram, we see God taking the initiative. From Abram on, God seizes the initiative and begins his redemptive work. God acts before Abram either sins or doesn’t sin. With Abram, God begins his redemptive work.

    Before Abram, even when God purged the world’s sin with the Flood, Noah and his sons proved to be flawed servants of God — demonstrating the necessity for something beyond mere covenants and law. Even a radical purge of sin was not good enough. Redemption would require much more than a decree from heaven and destruction of those who refuse to obey.

  9. Charles McLean says:

    “You know that from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors you were ransomed—not by perishable things like silver or gold, but by precious blood like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was manifested in these last times for your sake. ”

    “For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘As I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,’ although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.”

    This is not to say that God has not reacted to man’s actions, but it does seem to suggest that He has been ahead of this all along. The idea that God’s actions should be caused by anything less than his own will seems ill-considered to me, but I admit that believing as I do creates as many questions as it does answers.

  10. Skip says:

    God began his redemptive work before Abraham by giving us a symbol with Adam & Eve. They were naked and sinned. They felt guilt and tried in vain to cover up. God shed blood by killing animals. He then gave them new clothes, symbolizing forgiveness by shed blood.

  11. Nancy says:

    Jay wrote “With Abram, God begins his redemptive work.”

    I think Skip is right in pointing out that God’s redemptive work began in the Garden. It’s important to understand the connection with His work in the Garden and His work on the Cross. Like very important.

  12. R.J. says:

    I wouldn’t say they had no knowledge of God to excuse them. I believe the lesser light of nature and the pre-polytheistic(universal monotheism) legends of their forefathers gave them a clear enough picture of who he was(as Paul argues in Romans 1).

  13. I’ve often said Genesis 1 – 11 tells us how we got into the mess we’re in. The rest of the Bible tells how God gets us out of the mess

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Jerry wrote,

    I’ve often said Genesis 1 – 11 tells us how we got into the mess we’re in. The rest of the Bible tells how God gets us out of the mess


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