Environmental Studies

What role should believers have in caring for God's creation in light of Genesis 1:26-28 and Romans 8:20-22?

Photo Credit: Sam Cox - Flickr

Reflection: Genesis 1, The Land, and International Development


WCIU Journal: Environmental Studies Topic

December 27, 2015

by Beth Snodderly

In my book, Chaos Is Not God’s Will, chapter six is titled, “Developing the Land.”

Images of the Land

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (eretz). Now the earth (eretz) was ...
(Gen. 1:1, 2a)

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land” (eretz) and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. (Gen. 1: 9, 10)

To your descendants I give this land (eretz), from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—.
(Gen. 15:18)

If the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land (eretz) of the Perizzites and Rephaites.
(Josh. 17:15)

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Tell this to your masters: With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth (eretz), and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please.’” (Jer. 27:4, 5)

General Overview

The account in Genesis 1 of God’s making the land helped the people of Israel see themselves as a community of the people of God, about to inherit a land made for them by God. The author of the creation passage certainly knew how to get his readers’ and listeners’ attention. The grammar of Genesis 1:2 places a strong emphasis on “the land” by placing the noun before the verb, which is not usual in Hebrew: we’ha’eretz hayeta, “now the earth was ...”. Allen Ross asks, “Why did the new nation of Israel need to have this material and to have it written as it is?”

In the “particulars” section of this chapter I explore three main possibilities:
1. The people needed to know why the land they were going to enter could legitimately be considered theirs.
2. The process of God’s making the uninhabitable “earth” or “land” into a place for people to live serves as metaphor for the creation of a society, the nation of Israel, out of the chaos of slavery.
3. The people could learn important lessons about God and their relationship to him from this creation account.