In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Joseph Shulam: The Lord Can Use Those Who Seek to Walk With Him [2019]

We are starting all over from the very beginning. The reading this next Shabbat is from Genesis 1:1 – 6:8. This is the most glorious story of the entire Bible, and also the saddest of all biblical stories, of all human history.

Everything starts good, every day the Almighty God creates something new, and every day He, the Lord of all, gives Himself a grade: It was morning, and it was evening, and it is all good. Even on the day when He created the creeping and crawling varmints and snakes, the Lord saw His creation and declared that it is good.

The crown of the Lord’s creation was the human being. It was the last thing that God created. Man and woman He created them! The human species was in the highest state above all the animal kingdom.

God gave the humans the right to rule the earth and take care of it. If you ask me how do I know that, my answer would be very simple. Whoever gives the name, whoever attributes the identity of any thing, is the master of the thing or the being that He names. The control of the identity is also the control of the person or thing that he named.

So, when God appointed the human being to give the names of the animals, God gave the human being the right to catalogue and to rule over the animal kingdom, over nature. The most important phrase of the story of Genesis is from 2:15.

The man is not indigenous to the garden. He is fashioned elsewhere, and finds himself in the garden only by the grace of God. It is very important for us to realize that the human being is not like the trees or flowers of the garden, and not like the animals. He is put there by God’s grace to work, to till, and to guard God’s creation and give the names, that is, to rule over God’s creation.

Yes, his needs are easily taken care of in the garden, but his life in the garden is not to be one lazy lifestyle. He has duties to perform. It is his responsibility to nurture and conserve the perfection of the garden.

This he must do by the labor of his hands. This is before man and woman sinned and disobeyed the Lord’s command. The design of the Lord was for man to administer and protect God’s creation. He was not to exert power over the creation, but he was to respond to nature’s needs with intelligent and wise guidance, so that it will be preserved and develop according to the original design of the Creator Himself. The Hebrew phrase in that verse of Genesis is “la’avda v’leshmara”, “to work (or serve) it and protect it”.

The end of this parasha of Genesis is verse 6:8. From that great divine appointment of the beginning of mankind’s design, and the close relationship of the men of flesh and blood in God’s domain, mankind has deteriorated and fallen to the point that God repents that He created man!

One of the saddest verses in the whole Bible is from Genesis 6:5,6:

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” – Genesis 6:5,6 [NKJV]

The Hebrew word for “sorry” is “nacham”, which actually means “repent”. I have heard of parents that regretted giving birth to their child, and saying that it would have been better if they would have aborted this child before he was born. This is a sad state of a family. When a father or a mother rejects their child and wishes he was not born is bad enough, but when God, who created all things and crowned man above all of His creation, “repents” that He created man, that is much more than sad.

Here is the great love and grace of the Creator for His creation, and above all, for the man and woman that He created. Even though God was sorry that He created the humans, He found one man, who was not perfect, who had weaknesses and had problems, but relative to his generation, he was a righteous man – Noah!

Notice the small word between verses 7 and 8, and pay attention to the importance of one man in the way that the Lord of the universe makes His decisions. Don’t underestimate yourself and allow your meekness and weakness to block you from doing God’s will:

“So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” – Genesis 6:7,8 [NKJV]

Verse 9 is also of great importance to me:

“This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” – Genesis 6:9 [NKJV]

The “just” here is also “righteous” in Hebrew. The rabbis say that if Noah had lived in a different time (generation), he might have not been considered just or righteous, but in that evil generation he was relatively just and righteous.

Noah Building the Ark (Dalziels' Bible Gallery) | Parashat Bereshit
Noah Building the Ark (Dalziels’ Bible Gallery) 1881

How comforting and how wonderful is our Lord, who judges us on the bell curve, and relative to the time and place and the world we live in. This does not give us permission to do wrong, but it does say to us, and especially to me, that as long as I walk with the Lord, even in my weakness, and even if I fall, I can get up and keep on walking, holding on to the Lord’s gentle hand.

The Lord can use me, and you, and us, and all our brothers and sisters who seek to walk with the Lord and do it!

Joseph Shulam: A Comparison Between Divine and Pagan Creation Stories  [2016]

This next Shabbat, all the synagogues in the world will start reading the Torah from Genesis 1:1. They will read the story of creation. In some Christian circles, the story of creation is under attack. It is not considered “historical”, it is considered as an ancient epic poem not to be taken literally.

One of the reasons that some scholars have this opinion is that there are two ancient epic poems that precede Moses, and both of them have creation narratives. I would like to share a short comparison of the Genesis text with the Enuma Elish (Enûma Eliš), a Babylonian narrative of the creation story, and give you my analysis:

Enuma ElishGenesis
Divine spirit and cosmic matter are coexistent and coeternal.Divine One creates cosmic matter and exists independently of it.
Primeval chaos; Tiʾamat (the goddess of the abyss) enveloped in darkness.The earth a desolate waste, with darkness covering the deep (tĕhōm).
Light emanating from the gods.Light created.
The creation of the firmament.The creation of the firmament.
The creation of dry land.The creation of dry land.
The creation of luminaries.The creation of luminaries.
The creation of man.The creation of man.
The gods rest and celebrate.God rests and sanctifies the seventh day.

The Genesis text is dependent on (or has taken or learned from) the Enuma Elish (the Babylonian story of creation).First of all, we clearly see the similarity between these two texts. Second, we also see the differences. In the Genesis account we see that there is One creator divine Spirit. Because of the similarities, we have at least three possible explanations:

  1. The Enuma Elish and the Genesis texts are dependent on a third source that we don’t know and don’t have. Both of the stories are dependent on a common source that does not exist today.
  2. Each one has developed the narrative of creation by observance and analysis independently.

In this puzzle, all the possibilities are open. The most significant part of these texts is that both of them consider that the luminaries, the sun and the moon and the stars, were not created in the initial stage, but first there was a light from God, in Genesis, and from “the gods” in the Enuma Elish.

In other words, there is information here that is beyond the scope of natural observance. There is an element that is beyond the common knowledge and understanding that speaks of an undefined source of light that is divine, either by one God or by multiple gods of the idolatrous world.

Now let us remember, that in the book of Genesis, there were no idols and no nations in existence before chapter 11, and all of humanity spoke the same language. Among the nations (“goyim”) there must be a latent memory and information that is carried over as an epic of creation, that preserves ancient elements and reinterprets these elements in light of their present circumstance, that is idolatrous.

What we have here, in my opinion, is collaborative information from an ancient historical memory, transmitted in the pagan context of the nations, and reinterpreted in the idolatrous context of their history. What we have in Genesis is not a part of that historical ancient memory, because Israel was not a nation and did not exist before the Tower of Babel.

Abraham is called out by the Almighty God in chapter 12, after the fall of the Tower of Babel and the establishment of the nations. Therefore the story of Genesis is a divine revelation and not an epic poem based on a copy of the ancient Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, or the ancient Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh, that also has some common elements of historical memory.

The most significant difference is that the Divine One is independent of His creation. He created the world, and all that is in it, and He is still outside of the creation and above it. In the pagan view, the gods are a part of creation, and a part of matter, and coexistent with creation. This difference is of the greatest importance, because we have a wonderful creation that the Almighty God made for us as human beings, and He is above and beyond the physical creation.

I remember the words of the Apostle Paul that actually says it all:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” – Romans 1:18-23 [NKJV]