This is our third episode discussing the Biblical theme of exile. In this show Tim and Jon breakdown famous Old Testament stories and how the exile theme is often an overlooked aspect of many Bible stories.
In part 1 (0-10:27), Tim begins in Genesis 1 and 2, explaining that Eden is depicted as a “cosmic mountain”. This is in reference to other ancient religions that believed their gods lived on mountains. For example, the Greeks believed in their storytelling that the gods lived on Mt Olympus. The Canaanites believed their gods lived on Mt Zaphon. The Hebrews believed in Mt Zion. (See Psalm 48:2 “Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.” )
Tim’s point is that the writers of Genesis 1 and 2 placed Eden and Zion as their idea of paradise which directly competed with their pagan neighbors religious ideas.
In part 2 (10:27-29:15), Tim outlines the depiction of peace in the garden. There is peace with the created order, depicted as the fruit being abundant and easy to harvest. There is peace with animals and nature, depicted as man naming animals. Tim explains that in Isaiah 11, part of the vision of the new creation is when humans and animals will live at peace with each other. (A baby playing with a snake.)
Tim outlines the history behind the two trees placed in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. After Adam and Eve eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they are banished to the East of the garden. Tim says this is the first use of exile language in the Bible. They are exiled to the East, which is later the direction where Babylon is placed. Then in the next story, Cain is also banished/exiled to the East after he kills his brother Able. In Genesis 11, all of humanity is depicted as migrating to the East, and then scattered from there.
Tim’s point is that the biblical authors are intentionally developing a theme that humanity is banished/exiled to the East. Tim quotes from Joseph Blenkinsopp saying that biblical authors intentionally placed humanity’s story of fall from the paradise of Eden as a foreshadowing of the coming fall of Israel.
In part 3 (29:15-36:56), Tim outlines the story of Abraham. Tim says Abraham is a wandering nomad originally from the geographical area of Babylon. Abraham is called and given a promise of his own land for him and his descendants.
Tim explains that Abraham only owns one plot of land in the Bible when his wife Sarah dies and he buys a burial plot. Abraham refuses to be gifted the land and buys it outright. In the story, Abraham uses the phrase “I am a stranger and sojourner in this land among you.” That phrase is adopted in Psalm 31 and 1 Peter to describe the human experience of living in exile. The story of Abraham becomes an archetype that other biblical authors use to say that humanity is rightful home, meaning we are supposed to live on the earth, but it is not in its promised state of existence.
In part 4 (36:56-end), Tim outlines the story of the journey of the nation of Israel. Israel inherited Abraham’s promise. But they chose to disobey God and not cross over the Jordan into the promised land. As a result, God exiled them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
"P and J in Genesis 1:1-11:26: An Alternative Hypothesis" by Joseph Blenkinsopp found in Fortunate the Eyes that See: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman in Celebration of His Seventieth Birthday (edited by Astrid B. Beck and Andrew H. Bartelt), pages 1-15.