Sailhamer, John H. The Pentateuch As Narrative Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Chapter 1, “Genesis” pp. 81-240.
Sailhamer moves into his commentary proper at this point. Considering the length of the chapter it seems best to divide it by his major divisions, which bear Roman numerals and capital letters.
“IA Introduction to the Patriarchs and the Sinai Covenant (1:1-11:26)” pp. 81-137.
The start of Genesis serves as an introduction not only to that book but also to the Pentateuch. Sailhamer points out two areas of authoral interest. “First, he intends to draw a line connecting the God of the fathers and the God of the Sinai covenant with the God who created the world. Second, he intends to show that the call of the patriarchs and the Sinai covenant have as their ultimate goal the reestablishment of God’s original purpose in Creation” (Sailhamer 1992, 81).
From p. 81-102 Sailhamer discusses “the land and the blessing (Sailhamer 1992, 81). This is what he sees as the foundation for the rest of the events. First, in 1:1 the author makes a clear statement “to identify the Creator, to explain the origin of the world, and to tie the work of God in the past to the work of God in the future” (Sailhamer 1992, 82). The term for God makes it clear to the reader that this is the same God known in israel. It ties him directly to the creation. This, in turn, suggests that if there is a beginning, at some point there will be an end (Sailhamer 1992, 83).
As we walk through the remainder of Genesis 1 into chapter 2, we see God preparing the land. Sailhamer walks through the narrative one event at a time. An observation made by Sailhamer is disturbing. God created and prepared the land. “Then he gave the land and its resources as a blessing to be safeguarded by obedience (2:16-17)” (Sailhamer 1992, 84). I find it very hard to understand vv. 16b-17 as saying what he indicates. “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (NKJV). Sailhamer goes on to suggest he will find Moses’ articulation of God’s care to be found in Israel’s obedience.
When God first creates the land it is not finished. God works with it when “formless” to make it “good.” There is a recurring theme in the Bible of a wilderness being made positive and useful by God (Sailhamer 1992, 86).
In verse 3 Sailhamer observes that the light would come from the sun, created in verse 1, though not mentioned until Genesis 1:16. He traces the concepts of seeing and what might be “good.”
In discussing the second day of creation on p. 89, Sailhamer questions the use of the word “expanse.” He urges investigation of the context, where it seems to be something separating waters and being called sky, where birds fly (v. 20) and where the stars are placed (v. 14). Sailhamer also observes the repetitive nature of the creation. God says things and alternatively makes them.
On p. 91 Sailhamer addresses the third day of creation from Genesis 1:9-13. here God prepares and furnishes the dry land. “Unlike the work of the second day, both acts are called ‘good.’ They are ‘good’ because they are created for human benefit” (Sailhamer 1992, p. 91). He observes that in numerous situations the presence of waters is a barrier or an instrument of judgment. This sailhamer identifies as a way the author foreshadows events to come.
The fourth day (Sailhamer 1992, 92-93) is marked by the stated creation of sun, moon, and stars. Some try to harmonize the first day creation of the heavens and earth with this fourth day account by saying the sun and other lights were created on the first day but put up on the fourth. Another view suggests that mist or fog was thick and in verse 14 the fog cleared so the sun could be seen. Sailhamer prefers a point of view that the lights were created on day 1 but did not receive their function until later.
On the fifth day Sailhamer observes use of a different word, “create,” rather than “make.” These creatures are blessed and told to give life.
On p. 94 Sailhamer points out the specificity with which God makes and blesses the animals and the humans. The humans are created very personally, are in the likeness of God, specifically male and female, and receive dominion over creation. They are shown as special. Setting the people apart will be a theme which will arise later.
Sailhamer discusses the use of plurals in the creation, as God refers to “we” and “us.” Sailhamer favors this as an explanation for the plural creation of humans in two genders.
In Genesis 2 we turn to the seventh day. Sailhamer observes a stylistic change here (Sailhamer 1992, 96). Here God does not speak or work, but he blesses and rests. The theme of rest is to emerge as a major thread in Scripture.
As we move into chapter 2 of Genesis, Sailhamer considers the chapter to be about the “Gift of the Land” (Sailhamer 1992, 97-102). Sailhamer views chapter 2 as a continuation of the events from chapter 1, simply exploring the themes more. He draws parallels but does not effectively deal with the different arrangement of chapter 2, focusing instead on the different way man and woman seem to be created, with the man coming from the ground rather than being “made in God’s image.” He asserts, “the human being, though a special creature made in God’s image, was nevertheless a creature like the other creatures which God had made” (Sailhamer 1992, 98). This, of course, neglects the fact that man was hand-made and the other creatures were spoken into existence. Sailhamer further says the description of the Garden purposely foreshadows the Tabernacle. While there are striking similarities the assignation of purpose in authorial intent may stretch literary license.
In Genesis 2:8-14 Sailhamer sees the preparation of the Garden. On p. 98 he observes that here the garden is “in” Eden, not “of” Eden, which may help resolve the difficult with the location being “east” but its being guarded “on the east.” He does observe that east is often a direction indicating judgment. On p. 99 we see that the four headwaters in the garden are only partially identifiable. The one river which is least identifiable has the most description attached.
On pp. 100-102 Sailhamer concludes his first portion on Genesis by discussing chapter 2 verses 15-24 which illustrate man’s place in the garden. The placement is important. “Unlike verse 8, where the author uses a common term for “put,” in verse 15 he uses a term that he elsewhere has reserved for two special uses: God’s ‘rest’ or ‘safety’ which he gives to human beings in the land . . . and the ‘dedication’ of something before the presence of the Lord” (Sailhamer 1992, 100). The purpose of the man in the garden, says Sailhamer, is “to worship and obey” (Sailhamer 1992, 101). He distinguishes this from the man being a keeper of the garden and views it as a priestly role. The man is confronted with his difference from the other creatures as he names them, another priestly task.