The Two Paradigms: The Fall and the Remnant [Genesis 3-5, Proverbs 8]

Hello, Scroll Eaters.  What an experience reading Genesis 3-5 is!  First, there’s the extremely important chapter 3 about the Fall, then the well-known but under-understood (to coin a clunky phrase) chapter 4, to the dry and seemingly unimportant but massively important chapter 5.  All sections are important to the whole of Scripture as they not only tell us historical facts about early days of our race, but they give us two paradigms that will be absolutely vital to understanding the rest of Scripture, as well as the earth as a whole.

The first paradigm is that of the Fall of man, recorded in Genesis 3.  Because of sin, God curses the man, the woman, the serpent, and the earth.  In Genesis 1, God said all he created was “good.”  Now all he’s created has fallen and become broken, corrupted, even depraved.  Follow this through to Romans 8, and Paul reminds his readers all creation was subjected to futility and decay by God and it groans for the rebirth that’s to come when God brings us into our glory.  In Revelation John lets us know God will destroy this heaven and earth and create a new heaven and earth, thus the rebirth.  Nice.  For now, however, we await the rebirth.  Note the paradigm is of futility and decay, not of improvement through dialectical materialism.  Things are breaking down and decaying, not evolving into more sophisticated things.  This paradigm is consistent with the scientific truth known as The Second Law of Thermodynamics.  It is not consistent with the scientific theory of Evolution.  If those last three sentences were a blur, don’t worry about it.

The second paradigm is outlined in Genesis 4 and 5, in which we read the famous account of Cain murdering Abel.  Much has been said about God finding favor with Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s, and there are many opinions as to why, from the Calvinist understanding that God chose to find favor with one and not the other, to Arminian speculation that Abel’s sacrifice was of a pure heart and Cain’s was resentfully given.  However, I’m much more interested in what happens afterward.

We are given this paradigm: The world is divided into two types of people for the rest of history, to now, to the future.  The first group is modeled after Cain.  They are evil, greedy, bloodthirsty, lustful, selfish, and whatever other adjectival sin you want to name.  Not each individual has all of these qualities, but as a whole, that’s what they are.  The second group is modeled after Seth (the son of promise upon the death of Abel). It’s a much smaller group – a group of people just like the first with one vital exception: they are also repentant, humble, and sorrowful and entreat God for grace and mercy.  We’ll call them a Remnant.  These groups are not explicitly genetically determined.  Some of Cain’s descendants may be righteous and some of Seth’s definitely were not.

Chapter 5 tells the story of the first group expanding to fill the earth, leading into chapter 6, where God decides to destroy the race by flood, save one man and his family – a much smaller group indeed.

As we read the Bible through this year, keep this paradigm in mind.  We’ll see God focusing on the small Remnant, from Abram’s family, Jacob’s tribe, Moses’ people, David’s Kingdom, the Exiles, the reconstituted nation, to a small band of Jewish and Gentile Christians, to the Christian minority today.

Oh, and don’t forget God created the world in wisdom, with wisdom being personified. Many scholars see this personification in Proverbs 8 as typological of Christ.

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