JEF: Sunday School Lesson 3

Lesson 3: Moses 1:27-42, Moses 2-3

Note: The questions for Moses 1:27-42 are posted with the study questions for lesson one. These questions will be for Moses 2 and 3. (Warning: printed, these take about six pages.) Also, there is so much material in these chapters that bears on Latter-day Saint belief, that I will probably take two Sundays to cover them and make up the difference later in the year.

Latter-day Saints have been given accounts of the creation in Genesis, Moses, Abraham, and the temple, each varying slightly, but importantly, from the others. I don’t think any other story has been repeated this many times in canonical forms such as those. Why is it this story so important? Why does it occur in scripture three times? Why are the versions of the story different from and irreconcilable with each other?

Moses 2

Verse 1: Why does the Lord say “I reveal unto you concerning this heaven, and this earth” (emphasis added)? What in chapter 1 prepares us for this? To what does “this heaven” refer? The Hebrew word used in the corresponding part of Genesis (Genesis 1:1) means “what is above the earth” or “the place where God dwells.” Which meaning do you think is intended here? Why does the Lord begin his revelation of this heaven and this earth by telling us who he is? Why does he tell us that he created the world by the Only Begotten? What does the Lord mean by “in the beginning”? In the beginning of what?

Verse 2: “Without form, and void” is a rhetorical form called “hendiadys.” (Remember, there’s no test on this material, so you don’t have to remember that—or even care.) Hendiadys is a way of repeating words so that you say the same thing twice. Sometimes it is used for emphasis. Sometimes it is used for explanation: the earth was without form, in other words, it was void. What does this repetition tell us here? Is it a matter of emphasis or of explanation? The word translated without form in Genesis 1:1 means “confused” or “chaotic”; the word translated void means “waste, emptiness.” Of what was the earth empty? What made it confused or chaotic? Why does it say that the Lord caused darkness to come over the waters? The word translated “moved” in Genesis 1:2 could also have been translated “hovered.” Why does the Lord tell us that his Spirit moved or hovered over the waters? Why does this verse end “for I am God”?

Verses 3-5: The Lord describes the light as good. In what sense do you think he means it is good? Is it good because it is pleasant? because it is better than something else? good in some other way? Why does the Lord say, “This I did by the word of my power, and it was done as I spake”? How does that relate to the things we saw happening in the previous chapter? What does “the word of my power” mean? “The power of my word” is easier to understand, but that is not what he says. Notice that “the evening and the morning were the first day” tells us that the word “day” us used here only to refer to daylight period. We sometimes use the word “day” to mean a 24-hour period, but that isn’t how it is used here.

Verses 6-8: In Genesis 1:6, the word “firmament” could also have been translated “an expanse of beaten plates” or “canopy.” It can refer to something hard, but need not. It can also refer to something that has been stretched out. As verse 8 makes clear, “the firmament” refers to the skies, the canopy or bowl over our heads. Thus, verses 6 and 7 describe a scene something like this: First there is a mass of water. Then, in the middle of that mass, the Lord stretches out a space, dividing the water into two parts, that above what he has stretched out and that below it. Since this is not the way we understand the universe today—there is no mass of water above the sky—it seems that the Lord was using the understanding of Moses’s day to help Moses understand the creation. We can see a number of places in the story of creation where the Lord explains things in that way. Why would the Lord do that? Notice that in verse 8, God gives a name to the firmament. In the creation story, he names five things: light (Day), darkness (Night), the firmament (Heaven), earth (Earth), and the sea (Sea). Remember this connection between naming and creation because it will be important when we read Moses 3 (Genesis 2), verse 19.

Verses 9-10: To what things is the Lord referring when he says “I [. . .] saw that all things which I had made were good”? What is he telling us when he tells us that the things he has made are good?

Verses 11-13: Why is vegetation created on a separate day? What do “after his kind” and seed “in itself upon the earth” mean? Why was it important to Moses and Israel to know that herbs and fruit were created yielding seed after their kind and in themselves on the earth?

Verses 14-19: Verse 14 begins a second phase in the creation. As many have pointed out, in the first phase (the first three days), the Lord created all the things that cannot move on their own. In this second phase we will see the creation of those things that do move: the heavenly bodies, animals of all kinds, and human beings. (Notice that verse 20 makes this explicit.) Some have understood “let them be for signs” in verse 14 to suggest that the lights of the heavens were to be used in astrological ways. Though the Lord has used the stars and other heavenly body as signs (as he did with what we call “the star of Bethlehem” and with the rainbow), I think we have another case of hendiadys here. (See the discussion of verse 2 for an explanation of hendiadys). In other words, I think “for signs, and for seasons,” means “for signs of the seasons”: the heavenly lights are given to us so that we will have a means of measuring time. (Recall a similar discussion in Abraham 4:4-10.) Notice that verse 18 repeats substantially the material in verse 16. How do you explain that repetition? Verse 18 says that the moon as well as the sun divides the light from the darkness. What does that mean? In other words, how are we to understand the word “divide” in that verse? If you read these verses not only literally but also symbolically, what can you see in them? What metaphorical lights has the Lord given us? Are there greater and lesser lights? How do they mark the seasons for us? How do they give light on the earth? How do our lights divide the light from the darkness? One of the frequent themes of scripture is the rivalry relation between older (greater) and younger (lesser) brothers. It is a theme that we have seen in Moses’ and Abraham’s accounts of the creation. Does the creation of the greater and the lesser lights have anything to teach us about that rivalry? And why do you think that such rivalry is so often a theme of scripture?

Verses 20-23: The fifth day parallels the second: on the second day the firmament was created, with the waters below; on the fifth day the creatures were created who inhabit the firmament and the waters. The “great whales” referred to in verse 21 probably refers to any large sea animals. It may also be a reference to the sea monsters mentioned in verses such as Isaiah 27:1, Psalms 74:13-14, and Job 26:13. In at least some of these, the biblical writers seem to be referring to Canaanite mythology in which these sea monsters are the principle of evil and, so, symbols of Satan. What might their mention here suggest symbolically? Another translation of “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature” is “Let the waters swarm with swarms of creatures.” What is the point of that repetition? Notice that the fish are told “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters,” while the birds are told only “multiply in the earth.” Why the three-fold blessing/commandment for the fish and only a single one for the birds?

Verses 24-31: The sixth day parallels the third day: the creation of animals and human beings parallels the creation of the earth and its vegetation. The word “cattle” seems to be used more broadly than we would use it, referring to any creatures that can be domesticated. “Beasts of the earth” seems to refer to the other animals. To what might “creeping things” refer and why are they categorized separately? Why does verse 25 repeat what was said in verse 24? Why does the Father tell us that the Only Begotten was with him from the beginning? Why is “Only Begotten” almost exclusively the name used to refer to the Savior in these chapters? Why does the creation of human beings begin with a kind of prelude, “I, God, said [. . .] Let us make man”? When he created the other things, he said “Let there be [. . .]” and it was created. In this case, the story shows him stopping to discuss the next event in creation. What does that tell us? Though most of those who accept the Bible as scripture do not believe that God has a body, the language used in describing the creation of man is fairly clearly language that says, implicitly, that he does. To make man in the image of God is to give him the same bodily form as God. Other interpretations are possible, but that is the plain meaning of the Hebrew text, for the word for “image” refers specifically to the visible form of something. (See, for example, Genesis 5:3, where the same Hebrew word is used.) The word translated “likeness” is broader. It, too, can mean “visible shape,” as in 2 Kings 16:10 where it is translated “fashion”). But it can also be used for simple comparisons in which we would say “A is like B” without meaning that they look alike (as in Psalms 58:4 and Isaiah 13:4), and it can refer to how we think about something (as in Isaiah 40:18). Given that we have the same form as does the Father, how else are we like him? How are we like the Son? When the Father says that human beings are to be made in the image and likeness of the Father and the Son, what is he saying? Why is it important to notice (verse 27) that the word “man” refers to both male and female? What does that tell us about verse 26? Why does verse 27 repeat what was said in verse 26? How does the commandment to human beings (verse 28) differ from the commandment to fish (verse 22)? What is the difference between being fruitful and multiplying, or is this hendiadys: be fruitful, in other words, multiply? In what ways can we be fruitful? What ways do we have to multiply the number of children in our Heavenly Father’s kingdom? What does it mean to have dominion? What kind of rule over others does the Lord expect of those who follow him? How might that apply to our dominion over “every living thing that moveth upon the earth”? What do you make of the fact that the Lord gives us dominion only over the moving creatures? (Notice that Moses differs from Genesis in this way.) Of course, human beings are told to subdue the earth. What is the difference between subduing and having dominion? One alternate translation of the word translated “subdue” is “make to serve,” which assumes that what one subdues resists. What does that have to do with our responsibility toward the earth? Does it mean that we can do whatever we wish? Compare Moses 29-30 to Genesis 29-30. What are the differences and what does Moses teach us that we don’t learn from Genesis? What do you make of the fact that both human beings and animals are given only vegetation and the products of vegetation as “meat,” in other words, as food? For other relevant scriptures, see Genesis 9:1-4 and Isaiah 11:7 and 65:25. Each of the previous times that the Lord has passed judgment on his creation, he has said that it was good (verses 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, and 25). In verse 31, why does he say that the things he has made are “very good”?

Moses 3

Verses 1-3: The word translated “host” almost always refers to the troops of an army or to warfare. Besides here, I can find only two exceptions (though I didn’t make a comprehensive search). One is in scriptures that speak of those who enter into service in the tabernacle (for example, in Numbers 4, where the word is translated “service”). The other is in Job 7:1, 10:17, and 14:14, where the word means “appointed time” and seems to be unrelated to the use here. Why does the Lord use this word, translated “host,” to describe his creation? What do you make of the formality of the language in these verses? For example, in verses 1and 2, the Lord says three times that the heaven and the earth were finished. And in verses 2 and 3 he tells us twice that he rested on the seventh day. What do you make of the formal structure of the account as a whole? What is that formality of structure designed to teach us? What does it mean to say that the seventh day is blessed? What does it mean to say that it is sanctified? Is there any difference between these two terms or do we have another hendiadys here: “blessed in that I sanctified it”?

Verse 4: What does the phrase “generations of the heaven and the earth” mean? When the verse says “these are the generations of the heaven and the earth” is it referring to the account that has just been given or the account that is to come?

Verse 5: The creation story in Moses 2 is clearly different from that in Moses 3. That fact has bothered Old Testament readers of the corresponding chapters for some time. For example, in chapter 2, the creation takes six days, in this chapter it takes one (verse 4—”in the day”); in chapter 2 the earth begins as a mass of water, but in chapter 3 the land is already there (verse 5-6); in chapter 2 the two human sexes are created at the same time, but in chapter 3 male is created before female; in chapter 2 the plants are created on the third day—before the creation of humans—but in this chapter Man is created before the trees and, perhaps by implication, before other plants as well (verses 7 and 9); and in chapter 2 the living creatures were created before humans, but in Moses 3 they are created afterwards (verses 7 and 19). Some scholars interpret the first account of creation as an account of physical creation and the second as an account of the moral creation of human beings. How did Joseph Smith account for these differences? Moses makes more clear than do the other two scriptural accounts what kind of creation we have been reading about so far. If Moses 3 describes the physical creation, what does that say about attempts to correlate Moses 2 (and Genesis 1) with scientific accounts of creation? More important, what is the significance of the spiritual creation? Why is it important to know of the spiritual creation? What might the fact of the spiritual creation teach us? In what ways is it a type of other things?

Verse 7: A great deal of our religious language depends on this verse. For example, “inspire” means “to breath into,” and “spirit” means, literally, “breath.” What is the point of this language? In other words, what does it teach us? (As you think about this question, consider John 3:8.) For example, do you see any significance in the fact that Man is said to be made of both air (breath) and earth? Do you see any significance in the idea that Man’s life comes to him as the breath of God? Remember that the name “Adam” and the words for earth and red are related. Why does the Lord give Man a name meaning “earth”?

Verse 8: The name “Eden” seems to connote “a well-watered place.” What kinds of things are associated with water? What is the point of saying that the Garden was eastward? What kinds of typological significances can you see in the Garden of Eden? For example, how does it point us toward Christ?

Verse 9: Moses differs from Genesis in that it adds “naturally” to the phrase, “to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight.” What does that addition tell us? Why was that addition important? What does it mean to say that the tree became a living soul? What else do we see described by that phrase? The Book of Mormon often uses the Tree of Life as a symbol. Where do you see it used in the Book of Mormon? What kinds of things does it symbolize? Of what is it a type? What does “knowledge” mean when used as it is here, in reference to good and evil? Here too, what the Book of Mormon tells us about a knowledge of the Tree of Life may help us understand what it means to have a knowledge of good and evil. How do our children come to a knowledge of good and evil?

Verse 10: If the river flows out of Eden to water the Garden, then it seems that Eden and the Garden are not the same thing. Compare this to verse 8. What does the word “Eden” refer to? Does this help us understand what “eastward in Eden” might mean?

Verses 11-14: Abraham omits this part of the story. Why? Why do you think it is included in Moses and Genesis? Is there a spiritual reason for its inclusion? Might there be a connection between the rivers that flow from Eden and the water that is to come from the temple mount at the Second Coming? If so, what is the connection?

Verse 15: What does it mean to dress the Garden? What does it mean to keep it? One translator says that Adam’s job was “to serve and to guard.” What do you think of that translation? What does Adam’s job in the Garden mean to us? Do we have any similar job?

Verses 16-17: Are there any commandments for which it is not true that we may choose for ourselves for it (the choice) is given to us? Does this addendum to the commandment make it different than other commandments? Why does the Lord add, “But, remember that I forbid it”? What do these verses in Moses include that is omitted from the Genesis account? What does that addition teach us? What does the Abraham account add to the Genesis account? What does that addition teach us?

Verse 18: The Hebrew of Genesis 2:18 might also be translated “it is absolutely not good that the man should be alone.” What is the problem with man being alone? We have the word “helpmeet” in English. However, notice that neither Moses nor Genesis uses that word. They use two words: help meet. The scholarly discussion of the meaning of this phrase is enormous, but I will deal with only a few possibilities. Since one relevant meaning of “meet” is “appropriate,” we can understand the last part of the verse to say “a helper appropriate to him.” What kind of helper would be appropriate to Adam? The Hebrew of Genesis literally means “a helper in front of him” or “a helper opposite him.” Is it significant that God describes Woman as being in front of Man? In what sense does Woman stand opposite Man? One translator says that this should be understood to mean “a helper corresponding to him” rather than “appropriate to him.” What kind of helper would that be? With what would a helper give him help at this point in the story? How does the account of the creation of male and female in this chapter compare and contrast with the account of that creation in chapter 2? What does each tell us?

Verses 19-20: Notice that Abraham omits these verses at this point, putting them, instead, at the end of the chapter. What do you make of that difference? How does that change what Abraham is saying in contrast to what Moses is saying? Notice, too, that these verses break up the story of Eve’s creation: verse 18 prepares us for that creation and verse 21 tells us of it. These verses interrupt the natural flow from 18 to 21. Why? What do they have to do with the creation of Eve? How do they help us understand that creation?

Verse 19: What does the fact that Adam names the animals teach us about the creation?

Verse 20: Does the end of this verse help us understand what verses 19 and 20 have to do with the creation of Eve? What happened to Adam as he named the animals; what did he discover? Does this teach us anything about our lives?

Verses 21-22: What might be the significance of Adam’s sleep? As a matter of doctrine, we do not believe that Eve was created out of Adam’s rib. So why is the story told this way? What’s the point?

Verse 23: Does this verse help us understand what the story of Eve’s creation tells us? What does it mean to say “this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”? Given the important role naming has played in this story, is there anything significant about the fact that Adam names “Woman because she was taken out of man”? If so, what? Why doesn’t he give her the name “Eve” at this point? To help you think about this question, consider some points about Hebrew: Up to this point the Hebrew word translated man has been “adam,” from which Adam gets his name. Here, however, the word used is “ish.” It’s meaning (other than “man”) isn’t certain, but it may mean something like “that which exists.” When used to mean “man,” “adam” can refer to a particular individual or it can refer to humans in general. (As we will see, it can also refer to a married couple.) “Ish,” however, refers to specific individuals rather than to men or humans in general. The Hebrew word translated “woman” is “isha.” Obviously it sounds very much like “ish,” the word for “man,” just as the English “woman” sounds very much like “man.” In fact,”isha” may be a variation of “ish.” Given the story we have just seen in verses 19 and 20, what might that similarity indicate? How does the name he gives Woman differ from the names he gave the animals? (Many scholars doubt that “ish” and “isha” are related, but even if they aren’t, the writer of this story uses them as if they are. We’re interested in what the writer is telling us, not in the history of words for its own sake.)

Verse 24: Who is speaking in this verse, Adam or the writer? What does it mean to leave father and mother? What does it imply about the Man and the Woman? What does it mean to cleave to a person? What does it mean to be one flesh?

Verse 25: What does their nakedness indicate? Why should they be ashamed? What is the purpose of this verse?

9 comments for “JEF: Sunday School Lesson 3

  1. Mike Parker
    January 8, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    Re. the “firmament”: This image gives a helpful understanding of the ancient Hebrew view of the universe. Genesis 1 makes a lot more sense when read with the ancient cosmological paradigm.

  2. Jim F.
    January 8, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    Mike Parker: Thanks for this image. It is much easier to understand with the image than with my merely verbal explanation.

  3. Rob Osborn
    January 10, 2006 at 12:15 am

    About Moses chapter 3,

    As of the end of day 6 no physical life forms have been put upon the earth. We know this because the earth had not been sanctified (set apart for holy purpose) yet. God had to sanctify the earth so that it could fill the measure of its creation. It would kind of be like building a Temple- up until it is finished and set apart for holy purpose it is just another building, but after it is set apart then it becomes a temple of God that can fulfill its measure. Man was the first living flesh (flesh here refers to a physical frame rather than mortality) on the earth and this happened on the seventh day (thus the reason why the seventh day is so important to us) and still on this day all other life forms were given their bodies. D&C section 77:12 backs up the fact that the spirit of Adam was given his physical body on the seventh day and not the sixth day.

    There is also no mention of scripture that has God forming and placing man in the Garden in his immortal frame before the seventh day. Joseph Fielding Smith says that “flesh” here refers to mortality and thus he was the first to become mortal. Although I agree that he was the first to become mortal I do not agree with his interpretation and opinion here in this sense. Flesh does not have to mean mortality, in fact when flesh is used in the scriptures it can mean 4 things- 1. Physical immortal body. 2. physical Mortal body. 3. Body or state of evilness. 4. Corruption. Because we know that both God and Christ have a body of flesh and bones we can assume that the term “flesh” in chapter 3 refers to an immortal physical body.

    As far as science goes and ageing things, we also know that through revelation that there was no death in all of the earth before Adam fell. The true age of any fossil can be no more than 6-7 thousand years old. The supposed geologic column that we are told represents the earth in it’s millions and millions of years is largly a great misunderstanding. It is interesting that we tend to use science and the learning of man to see if the bible is accurate rather than use the bible to see if man and science are accurate. I am happy knowing that during the resurrection the great beasts (dinosaurs) that walked the earth in early biblical times will once again walk the earth.

  4. January 10, 2006 at 1:29 pm

    “As of the end of day 6 no physical life forms have been put upon the earth. We know this because the earth had not been sanctified (set apart for holy purpose) yet. God had to sanctify the earth so that it could fill the measure of its creation. It would kind of be like building a Temple- up until it is finished and set apart for holy purpose it is just another building, but after it is set apart then it becomes a temple of God that can fulfill its measure. Man was the first living flesh (flesh here refers to a physical frame rather than mortality) on the earth and this happened on the seventh day (thus the reason why the seventh day is so important to us) and still on this day all other life forms were given their bodies. D&C section 77:12 backs up the fact that the spirit of Adam was given his physical body on the seventh day and not the sixth day.”

    Rob, where were you last week when I was asserting this at another blog? I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    I also want to ask one additional question. Why is it that the seventh “day” does not end? The other six “days” all begin and end. But the seventh day does not. When does it end?

    “Re. the “firmamentâ€?: This image gives a helpful understanding of the ancient Hebrew view of the universe. Genesis 1 makes a lot more sense when read with the ancient cosmological paradigm. ”

    Interestingly enough, there are several verses in the OT that lead me to believe that the ancient Hebrews actually had a better understanding of the actual water-cycle than once thought. Give me a few moments and I’ll look them up.

  5. January 10, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    Here we go.

    First, in the Genesis account of the creation:

    Genesis 2:6
    “…there went up a mist FROM THE EARTH and watered the whole face of the ground.”

    and then…

    Psalms 135:7
    “He causeth vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth…”

    Ecclesiastes 1:7
    “All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.”

    There are also a couple verses in Job that are interesting when thinking about the Hebrews’ possible insights into the nature of the Earth.

    Job 26:7
    “He…hangeth the earth upon nothing.”

    Job 22:14
    “…he walketh in the circuit (translation should read “arch”, which would mean the earth would be round) of heaven.”

    and finally…

    Isaiah 40:22
    “…sitteth upon the circle of the Earth..”

    Maybe the Hebrews (or at least the Prophets) weren’t that far off in their literal views of heaven and earth as we thought.

  6. Robert C.
    January 15, 2006 at 9:44 am

    I’d like to hear comments on the question in v. 2: “Why does it say that the Lord caused darkness to come over the waters?” In the Genesis account, it does not say that God caused the darkness to come, just that there was darkness. I’ve heard the Genesis verse alluded to in discussing the problem of evil as evidence that God doesn’t cause darkness or evil, he only allows it. This line of argument has made me accustomed to thinking about darkness as representing evil. But the account in Moses undermines this argument because God doesn’t just allow darkness, he causes it. And to the extent that darkness represents evil more generally, this verse has significant implications about the God’s relationship to evil….

  7. Jim F.
    January 16, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    Robert C: Why should we think that the darkness in verse 2 refers to evil? Of course darkness can refer to evil in some cases, but why should we think it does in this case?

  8. Robert C.
    January 21, 2006 at 10:17 am

    God refers to the light as good and conspicuously does not refer to the darkness as good, so we might infer that darkness is at least not good. But you’re right, there’s no compelling reason to make a connection between darkness and evil in this passage. This begs the question of what evil is, beyond the absence of goodness. I found your essay “Another Look at the Problem of Theodicy” helpful in thinking about this–thank you for writing and posting that.

    Since this thread has wound down, I’ll probably post any new thoughts at the Feast site (some thoughts & links already there are , here, and here).

  9. Jim F.
    January 21, 2006 at 6:41 pm

    Robert C: Thanks for the link to Feast Upon the Word . I hope more T&S readers will find that site and use it. Thanks also for those links.

Comments are closed.