Serving the Ground

Serving the Ground July 31, 2018

The Lord curses Cain in Genesis 4:12: “When you serve (avad) the ground (adamah), it will not give (natan) its strength (koach) to you.”

Invert that, and we have a fair summary of God’s blessing, and a mini theology of the natural environment.

Humanity’s stance toward the earth: Service, not exploitation, pillage, or rape.

When the adamah is well served, she gives.

The relation of humanity to creation is not master-servant. Humanity doesn’t dominate but serves; and the exchange that results is an exchange of gifts.

The adamah gives strength, which means that the adamah has power to give. It also implies that the adamah shares power.

Presumably, the adamah display her power in the production of food; the adamah shares her power by giving food for the servants of the ground to eat.

Of course, this only works because the relation of humanity to the adamah isn’t a closed relation. The adamah receives power to give power by the word of God (Day 3), by the continuing gifts of water and light. The exchange is possible because earth isn’t alone, but receives the gifts of heaven.

Discuss among yourselves.

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  • Xavier Justice


  • Charles Pettibone

    The theme of the “ground” and its active role is a big one in the OT and underlies the work of Jesus. In Genesis 1-6, the blood of Cain goes unsatisfied and multiplies with the spread of the Cainites until the world is “filled with violence.” Then the ground executes judgment as the fountains of the deep break open and wipe out the entire human race save Noah and family. After the flood Noah is given the sword of the death penalty to control the spread of violent flesh, thereby facilitating the fulfillment of God’s promise to not sent a global flood again. The authority to carry out that death penalty is the basis for the national death penalty imposed on Canaan in Noah’s curse after his exposure by Ham. Israel is a national kinsman-avenger, and the execution of the Canaanite nation eliminates the contagion from the geopolitical center of the world, thus preventing the spread of the disease globally which would produce another global flood. God plants Israel there instead and through Solomon and the prophets, pumps out wisdom and knowledge to the nations instead of Canaanite flesh. That lays the foundation for the period after the return from Babylon where Israel is engaged with righteous kings and spiritually contemplative Gentiles- at least ready to ask the right questions even if they do not have all the right answers.

    The ground-theme is also key for Wright’s read of Romans 7 and Jesus’ words- the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah. The high priest in Isaiah 59 and elsewhere is linked with the kinsman avenger/redeemer. So in Revelation we are shown Jesus, the son of man, as the true high priest, and in Revelation 13 its negative: the little horn/land beast, representing the Herodian priestly system. Cain is marked as the high priest is marked on the forehead and as the wicked are marked 666. His descendants gradually accumulate evil until the ground rises up to wipe them out. Noah is the true, temple building high priest who consecrates the whole world to God in Genesis 8. He is the culmination of the work God does with the Sethite line in accordance with the seed-promise. The ground takes vengeance on Cain’s city, but Noah is called to be an avenger.

    So also with Jesus and the synagogue of Satan: the ground takes final vengeance on Babylon the Great, the cumulative result of the blood of Abel and the blood of the saints. This city is represented by the false high priest. And the avenger is Jesus, the true high priest of Revelation 4-5 who is replicated in the city of God, bearing the twelve jewels of the high priest.