Exile From the Cosmic Mountain

In this show Tim and Jon breakdown famous Old Testament stories and how the exile theme is often an overlooked aspect of many Bible stories.

Episode 3
Feb 14, 2018
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Show Notes

This is our third episode discussing the Biblical theme of exile. In this show Tim and Jon breakdown famous Old Testament stories and how the exile theme is often an overlooked aspect of many Bible stories.

In part 1 (0-10:27), Tim begins in Genesis 1 and 2, explaining that Eden is depicted as a “cosmic mountain”. This is in reference to other ancient religions that believed their gods lived on mountains. For example, the Greeks believed in their storytelling that the gods lived on Mt Olympus. The Canaanites believed their gods lived on Mt Zaphon. The Hebrews believed in Mt Zion. (See Psalm 48:2 “Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.” ) Tim’s point is that the writers of Genesis 1 and 2 placed Eden and Zion as their idea of paradise which directly competed with their pagan neighbors religious ideas.

In part 2 (10:27-29:15), Tim outlines the depiction of peace in the garden. There is peace with the created order, depicted as the fruit being abundant and easy to harvest. There is peace with animals and nature, depicted as man naming animals. Tim explains that in Isaiah 11, part of the vision of the new creation is when humans and animals will live at peace with each other. (A baby playing with a snake.)

Tim outlines the history behind the two trees placed in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. After Adam and Eve eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they are banished to the East of the garden. Tim says this is the first use of exile language in the Bible. They are exiled to the East, which is later the direction where Babylon is placed. Then in the next story, Cain is also banished/exiled to the East after he kills his brother Able. In Genesis 11, all of humanity is depicted as migrating to the East, and then scattered from there.

Tim’s point is that the biblical authors are intentionally developing a theme that humanity is banished/exiled to the East. Tim quotes from Joseph Blenkinsopp saying that biblical authors intentionally placed humanity’s story of fall from the paradise of Eden as a foreshadowing of the coming fall of Israel.

In part 3 (29:15-36:56), Tim outlines the story of Abraham. Tim says Abraham is a wandering nomad originally from the geographical area of Babylon. Abraham is called and given a promise of his own land for him and his descendants.

Tim explains that Abraham only owns one plot of land in the Bible when his wife Sarah dies and he buys a burial plot. Abraham refuses to be gifted the land and buys it outright. In the story, Abraham uses the phrase “I am a stranger and sojourner in this land among you.” That phrase is adopted in Psalm 31 and 1 Peter to describe the human experience of living in exile. The story of Abraham becomes an archetype that other biblical authors use to say that humanity is rightful home, meaning we are supposed to live on the earth, but it is not in its promised state of existence.

In part 4 (36:56-end), Tim outlines the story of the journey of the nation of Israel. Israel inherited Abraham’s promise. But they chose to disobey God and not cross over the Jordan into the promised land. As a result, God exiled them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.


"P and J in Genesis 1:1-11:26: An Alternative Hypothesis" by Joseph Blenkinsopp found in Fortunate the Eyes that See: Essays in Honor of David Noel Freedman in Celebration of His Seventieth Birthday (edited by Astrid B. Beck and Andrew H. Bartelt), pages 1-15.

Link to Exile video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSua9_WhQFE

Show Music:

Take Off With Me by JGivens; So Fly by JGivens; Faherenheit 99 by JGivens; Defender Instrumental by Rosasharn Music

Produced by:

Dan Gummel. Jon Collins. Matthew Halbert-Howen.

Scripture References
Genesis 3:22-24
Numbers 1-10
Genesis 11
Isaiah 11
Hosea 9:15-17
Jeremiah 28:16
Genesis 4:11-16
Genesis 18:18-19
Genesis 23
Genesis 23:4
1 Peter 2:11
Leviticus 26:14-45
Deuteronomy 2:25-31
Psalms 48:1-2
Psalms 31
Exodus 19-40

Podcast Date: Feb 14, 2018


Speakers in the audio file:

Jon Collins

Tim Mackie


Jon: Hey, this is Jon at The Bible Project. We're continuing our conversation this week on

a theme in the Bible called the Exile. Last week on the podcast, we discussed how the

Old Testament was shaped to explore what it means to be an exile, and if there's any

hope to ever find true home again. This week, we're going to go back to the

beginning of the story of the Bible and look at what was depicted as our true home,

the Garden of Eden.

Tim: Eden is depicted with all of the imagery of an idea that'll be very common, ancient

readers call the Cosmic Mountain.

Jon: A Cosmic Mountain. The Greeks had Mount Olympus, Baal had Mount Hermon. But

for the Jewish people, God's Mountain was first found as a garden where humanity

lived with God in peace and abundance.

Tim: There are all these images of true home. There's peace among humans, they're

naked and no shame, totally vulnerable with each other, and peace with the created

order itself depicted with the image of fruit trees.

Jon: Things didn't stay that way. Adam and Eve disobey God, and so they're exiled - cast

out of the garden. Today, Tim and I will walk through the famous Old Testament

stories and see how the Hebrews originally saw them as humanity's journey into

exile and a hope for how we can one day get back home.

Tim: The people living after the Babylonian exile sees themselves as retracing the steps of

Abraham, our forefather who also journey from Babylon.

Jon: Thanks for joining us. Here we go.


Tim: We're going to drill down on a few key moments in the Biblical story to eliminate

bigger picture of exile.

Jon: We just walked through the big picture of exile, and now let's get in the weeds.

Tim: Let get in the weeds in some biblical stories. As always, pages 1 and 2 hold many

clues and puzzles. Both.

Jon: We've spent more time in Genesis 1 and 2 than any other chapters in the Bible.

Tim: I know. It's amazing.

Jon: I'm becoming very familiar with these chapters.

Tim: Let's just start with a very basic claim relevant to the theme of exile. If anywhere in

the biblical story, if there's any place depicted as humanity's true home, the place

where it was really home, everything was awesome as it should be, there's only one

real candidate. And it's pages 1 and 2.

Jon: The garden. Just the garden?

Tim: Just the garden. The Garden of Eden. Eden means delight.

Jon: Oh, delight?

Tim: Yeah. The Hebrew word for garden is "gan", and then Eden is the word "delight." I

told you something different, but I was wrong about that.

Jon: So it's the garden of delight?

Tim: Yes.

Jon: But in the Bible, is it referred to as the garden of delight or just the garden, in this


Tim: In Genesis 2, it's called God planted a garden in Eden.

Jon: In Eden?

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Then it's just called the Garden of Eden in later stories.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Here are some interesting things that stick out to us as readers of the whole Bible,

and certainly to ancient readers of the Bible this would all be popping, is that Eden is

depicted with all of the imagery of an idea that will be very common to ancient

readers called the cosmic mountain. Eden as a cosmic mountain.

Jon: Eden as a cosmic mountain. Hold on. When we were working on the heaven and

earth book, we talked about Eden as an ancient garden, which I didn't know...this

was really interesting. Which is these ancient kings not only would they build these

amazing temples for the gods in high places, they would build these epic gardens,

where they would...I don't remember the guy that we quoted from, but there's this


Tim: The hanging gardens of Babylon.

Jon: The hanging gardens Babylon. But this guy was describing another one, and it just

like, basically, they're carving rivers, they're growing things. They're basically creating

like a botanical zoo with animals and different things. It was a place to retreat to

until like, this is the world as it should be - completely controlled by humans, but still

wild and beautiful.

Tim: That's right. Often these gardens, kings of Assyria had them. They've pictures of

them. Kings of Babylon...

Jon: It's kind of state parks, right?

Tim: Yeah, that's right? But they're—

Jon: Glass cultivated.

Tim: Yeah. These ancient ones were more cultivated. Often there would be shrines to

God's. Shrines were everywhere because it was the power and gift of the gods that

give us the ability to make this garden and that kind of thing.

Jon: That's the image I have in my mind. But now you're talking about some sort of


Tim: No, it's the same idea. A famous version that is popular in Western culture from

Greek mythology is Mount Olympus - place where Zeus is the chief god. It's the

home of the gods, Mount Olympus, which is an actual mountain. There you go.

Jon: Mount Olympus, it wasn't a garden mountaintop?

Tim: No.

Jon: What's the similarity here?

Tim: In terms of their mythology, it was the Royal dwelling place of all their chief gods.

Jon: But it's not where humans live.

Tim: That's right. Maybe there were shrines up there. I don't know. My point is just in their

mythology and storytelling.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: There was a corresponding mountain of that in Canaanite religion. Pre-Israelite -

Canaanites living in the land. They had a whole corresponding theology of their

mountain of the gods called Mount Zaphon. Zaphon is the Semitic word for north.

This mountain was definitely identified sometimes as Mount Hermon. Hermon at the

northernmost border of Israel today, or even further north up into Turkey, by the

Black Sea, The Caucasus Mountains. But it's dwelling place of the gods.

Then Canaanite mythology, the chief God is named El or Elyon. Then Baal is upstart

and he tries to uproot and takes Mount Zaphon for himself. But the god's homes on

the cosmic mountain are depicted as well-watered gardens, as sacred tents on tops

of the mountains and so on. And river come out of it and water all the earth and so


Jon: Got it.

Tim: Genesis 1 and 2 begins telling us about God with a word tames the chaotic waters

and land emerges out of the waters in Genesis 1. All the waters gather into one


Jon: So it's a bit of a cone.

Tim: It's like a mound emerging out of the waters. The cosmic mound emerging of the

waters. Then in Genesis 2, God plant a garden on the cosmic mountain.

Jon: And the four rivers flow from it.

Tim: And the four rivers flow—

Jon: Down from it.

Tim: Yeah. This is why all these attempts to like, where was the Garden of Eden and to

locate it on like Google Map bound for failure. I'm sorry. This is one view, this is a

very common view on the Garden of Eden, that it was a kind of place, not an actual

place that you were meant to find on a map, modern or ancient. There are some

people who disagree with that, but I think it's real.

In Israelite cosmology, Old Testament cosmology, then what happens is, because

Yahweh is the God who redeemed us from slavery, the God who led us into the

Promised Land, the God who sponsored David in setting up the temple, and

Solomon, the temple in Jerusalem, is that once you get the temple in Jerusalem, all

the Israelite poets and prophets start composing poetry talking about Zion and the

temple in Jerusalem as the cosmic mountain.

Psalm 48. Just opening lines of Psalm 48. They're right on the bottom there. "Great is

the Lord most worthy of praise, in the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful

in loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion."

Jon: Zaphon was the Canaanite one?

Tim: Yes. They're just saying it. Like, what are Canaanite neighbors believe? They're up in

Zaphon? You know what the real Zaphon is? And who the true chief God is? Like the

heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.

This is how the image of the Promised Land and Jerusalem within it, and Zion, and

the temple becomes this biblical image that maps right on to Eden and the cosmic

mountain, and God, and humanity, and so on. Jon: They're pulling from the same

imaginative framework.

Tim: That's right. The authors of Genesis 1 to 11 are using this imagery to depict retelling

that story of all humanity with God on the cosmic mountain, but it's Yahweh, the

God of Israel is the creator of it. This will be important later because this connection

between Eden as an image of Jerusalem and the Promised Land and exile from Eden

is going to become a paradigm of Israelites being exiled from Jerusalem. This is kind

of like this is underneath idea that helps make sense of this correspondence

between Eden and Jerusalem and the two exiles. But anyway that idea is what

connects us to.


Tim: The whole point is, Eden is home. Eden is true home, cosmic garden, the cosmic

temple, all that stuff. It's not perfect but it's tobh. It's good. It's very good even. The

whole point is God commissions to the humans cultivate it and multiply, and it gets

even better than it already is.

There are all these images of true home. There's peace among humans, they're

naked and no shame, totally vulnerable with each other. There's no chance of being

taken advantage of, naked and no shame. And peace with the created order itself

depicted with the image of fruit trees. The food just falls off. Like a garden that's

been cultivated for us, the food just appears. It's like in C.S. Lewis' Perelandra.

Jon: It's been a while. So the fruit just appears?

Tim: Yeah. When Ransom ends up on Perelandra he goes into these floating island

gardens that just grows and drop this fruit. And the way he's like, goes on for two

pages describing what the fruit tasted like because it's like heaven, the real creation

happening in mouth.

But again, back to Eden, peace with animals, the man there just naming the animals

hanging out with them. It's humanity at home. They're at home with themselves.

They're at home in their environment. They're at home with the animals. I think

those are all of the ways that—

Jon: You can get messed up.

Tim: Yeah. And they're all the ways that we experience our estrangement here on earth,

certainly with other humans.

Jon: Our conflict with other humans, our conflict with ourselves, and our conflict with—

Tim: With animals. We call it nature.

Jon: Not just the animals, but also the elements.

Tim: Yeah. I do annual backpacking trip in different national parks with friends, and every

year it's just five days in the wild. It's so good for me. It just reminds me of the

bigger human story. This is where we all used to live.

When we see wild animals, we often see big wild animals out there, and you're just

like, "Why can't we be friends. You're incredible." We saw this huge elk just so close

to it. We saw a moose one year in Rocky Mountain National Park. Actually, it's very

dangerous. We shouldn't have gotten so close to the moose. He was just so docile.

He's probably sees a lot of humans.

Jon: Yeah, he sees a lot of human come through.

Tim: It's so incredible.

Jon: My son who is so three thinks all animals are his friends. My six-year-old gets it. Like

you don't mess with some animals, but my three-year-old is just like, everything's a

cute baby animal. To the point where he would probably approach a wild lion and

be like, "We're going hang out."

Tim: Yeah, totally.

Jon: In fact, there was this picture of this pretty, gruesome big snake. In a normal

human's imagination, that's the enemy.

Tim: That's terrifying. Yes.

Jon: And he was like, "Baby animal." And I'm like, "Whoa, dude. You're on a different

level." He was living in new creation in his mind.

Tim: That's right. That speaks to something that's like, the image of humanity at home

with the animals is an image of us living in this world as our true home. We have a

sense of deep connection to these amazing creatures, but at the same time, we are

estranged from them. Which is why often in utopian-like novels or literature, there's

often some kind of reunion between humans and animals.

In the prophet Isaiah Chapter 11, this vision of new creation is of a baby's playing

with snakes.

Jon: Oh, yeah.

Tim: It is. Three times over, it's repeated in the poetry. And it's the image of the garden.

Jon: Some people would like to believe the snakes just are gone.

Tim: Yeah, that's right.

Jon: And the snakes and spiders, and the mosquitoes.

Tim: Totally. So this all was saying, Eden is this image of this world, but it's the world as

you and I have never experienced it. But it's the world as we feel like and we know

we ought to experience it. So we're at home. It's the world, and it's humans home,

and it's good. But then the trees, the two trees come into play here. We won't—

Jon: Talk about the trees.

Tim: Except to say, these trees represent a fork in the road of it's about the knowledge of

good and evil. And again, that phrase in Hebrew, just used numerous times

throughout the Hebrew Bible, means not just to know about good and evil. It's

about moral discernment and decision making. That's used the wisdom literature. To

no good and evil is to make decisions based on what you think good and evil is.

Is humanity going to take that knowledge, or are they going into trust? It's this

image of, if I want to live in the world as it as it ought to be, it's going to be a world

where I don't get to make the ultimate call of what good and evil is. It's something—

Jon: Something that has been given to me.

Tim: Or something that I am inevitably going to do poorly with, which is why it should

remain in someone greater and wiser hands. And that it's something that I'll live

under and receive. That's the vision. But it's a divine command that's given, don't eat

of the tree. So we're in our true homeland, and life here will state this way. If I obey

the divine and wise command to not, as we've come to say, redefined good and evil

on my own terms.

Then the other tree, is the Tree of Life, is there which has a whole other prehistory in

ancient imagery and mythology and so on. But in the Bible, the tree becomes this

image of life in this garden is proximity to the Creator. To be in this garden is to truly

live. So if I disobey the divine command, the day you eat of it, you'll die. I'll be

distance from the Creator and from the tree and from life itself. So to be here is to

truly live and to be at home. And it's all contention on the divine command. That's

how the story starts. And it's home.

This is why it's really significant that after the punishment, or the consequence of

humans taking from the tree of good and evil...Actually, you've asked this question

before. God said, "The day you eat of it, you'll die." And then they eat of it, and they

don't die. But what does happen? They're exiled.

Jon: This is because he's using the word "day" in a very general sense.

Tim: But also I think there's something more nuanced than the story is trying to get at.

Here's the narrative in Genesis 3:22. "The Lord God said, the man's become like one

of Us, knowing good and evil; he shouldn't be allowed to reach out his hand and

take from the tree of life. That would be really bad for humanity. So the Lord God

drove him out. Shalach [SP] in Hebrew. Drove him from the Garden of Eden to work

the ground from which he'd been taken.

After he banished - which is in Hebrew, garesh. So these two Hebrew words,

"shalach" and "garesh" shall drive out and banished - after He drives them out, He

placed on the east side of the garden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing and

guarding the way back. We've talked about these things before.

So three key words here: drive out, banish, to the east, this is all exile vocabulary.

This is one of those things where once you read the Bible through, then you come

back and you see the narrator winking at you.

Hosea chapter 9. "All of Israel's evil is that the town of Gilgal; I've come to despise

their evil deeds there And so I will garesh them from my house," God says. "I'll

banish them."

Jeremiah 28. "I've put an iron yoke on the neck of the nations everyone will serve

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. O Israel, I am about to shalach - send you out,

drive you out - from the face of the land. If you've read through the rest of the Bible,

when you see these words in the Genesis narrative, you go, oh, "It's exile language."

"To the east" is in the direction of Babylon.

Think about how this works in the story. In the day you eat of the tree, you'll die.

That's God's warning. Then in the narrative, they eat from the tree, and they are

exiled to the east. Most readers look at the difference and say, "Oh, that's weird." Or

that we see it as a glitch in the narrative. Instead of the author making a claim of


Jon: Contradiction in the Bible.

Tim: Totally. So you have to say, "No, in the slot of death, the day you eat of it - what fits

the consequence slot? Death." In the narrative, what happens, they eat of it, and

what fits the consequence slot?

Jon: Banishment.

Tim: Banishment to the east. Exiled to the east. So there's this equation happening in the

story that exile is a death. That exile is death. This is going to be very important for

the prophet Ezekiel, who's going to depict Israel's exile in Babylon as death in the

valley of dry bones and why he depicts the return from exile as resurrection of new

human beings.

Ezekiel has been tracking with how the story works. Exile is a form of death in the

narrative logic of the story. Which is why then the next story, as you already pointed

out the parallelism with Cain, Cain got another animal crouching at his door.

Jon: Well, is it evil?

Tim: A metaphorical animal, sin, the inward desire, the enemy within to kill his brother

because he's jealous. We infer from the story that he's jealous.

Jon: We know that he is bummed. He's bummed with God. We know he's bummed with

God later. We don't know why he doesn't like his brother.

Tim: His countenance fell. Anyhow, after he murders his brother, which is the parallel

element from taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in chapter 3, the

breaking of the command is giving in to sin and killing his brother.

Jon: That's interesting. At what point do you think, "Oh, you know what the solution to

this is? I'm going to kill my brother."

Tim: "That's good."

Jon: "That's the good thing to do."

Tim: "That will be good."

Jon: That's the parallel of taking from the tree.

Tim: That's right. Cain is defining good and evil, and he defines it as good to kill his


Jon: And then he's banished.

Tim: Then what is Cain's consequence? Genesis 4:11. "Now you are cursed away from the

ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood. When you work the

ground..." In Genesis 3, it's the Lord sent him out to work the ground.

Here in Genesis 4: "You are cursed from the ground, and when you work the ground,

it won't yield crops for you. You will be a wanderer in the earth. Cain said to the

Lord, oh, my punishment's more than I can bear. Today you are garesh - banished

from the land. I'll be hidden from your presence. I'm a wanderer. Someone's going

to kill me." Then the Lord said, "No, no, I'm going to put a mark on you." And so

Cain went out and lived east of Eden." So humanity is banished—

Jon: It's the same story.

Tim: It's the same story.

Jon: It's so crazy.

Tim: Genesis 4 is the retelling of just telling, but the fact that it's a different kind of

temptation and a different consequence, it develops a portrait.

Jon: Wow.

Tim: It's brilliant. Brilliant narrative technique. Then the last iteration is in Genesis 11

where the whole land has one language and they sojourn to the east. It's the same


Jon: Wow. The whole land does. Everyone.

Tim: In Genesis 3, they're driven out, banished to the east, Cain is banished to the east to

the east. Now Genesis 11 is now everybody with one language moved to the east.

And what do they build there? They build Babylon. Then they're scattered from


Jon: Then they're exiled from Babylon.

Tim: That's right. Scattered from Babylon. People are scattered there. But the point of the

scattering is that one line of the scattering in the family of Abraham's going to get

traced out of there. Because Babylon is built now, and it's going to be a player in the

story. The whole point is Genesis 3 to 11 is retelling the story of all humanity as an

exile that leads to Babylon.

Jon: What about the other part of the story like Lamech?

Tim: I mean, of course, that's all related in terms of the building of the city. Lamech city is

first round of what will become Babylon.

Jon: And we learn about these other random cities that are known for different thing. Is

that connected to the whole banishment thing?

Tim: Biblical authors they're doing a lot. They're developing all kinds of ideas and themes.

But how you trace the flow of a theme throughout the Bible is you look for the key

repeated words, images, like little breadcrumb trails.

Jon: Cool.

Tim: So we follow these terms of "banish into the east" and it happens in these three


Jon: That's crazy.

Tim: They're load bearing. You say these are load bearing stories for developing the exile

theme. And so you walk away from Genesis 11 going, "Holy cow humanity is in a

huge mess." There's a quote from a great Hebrew Bible scholar who's got a good

insight here. This is Joseph Blenkinsop who wrote "an essay all about the way

Genesis 11 is preparing you for the story of Israel in Genesis 12.

He says this. "Genesis 1 through 11 contains a kind of preview or foreshadowing of

the history of the Israelite nation as a whole. It's a history that narrates repeated

failures ending in disasters that are almost but not quite terminal. It's not a

coincidence that the early history of humanity in Genesis 1 through 11, and the

national history of Israel from Genesis 12 to the end of 2 Kings, ends with events

stalled in ancient Babylon." Like that phrase. In other words, you were sitting in

Babylon and waiting for the next thing to happen.

Jon: National history that ends in 2 Kings are events stalled in Babylon.

Tim: End with events stalled in Babylon.

Jon: Got it.

Tim: "Like Israel, humanity was placed in an environment of abundance, permanency

there is contingent upon obedience to a divine command, death is threatened as a

punishment for violation, but then the actual consequence that follows isn't death

but exile. Same if you read Deuteronomy, the covenant curses or Leviticus 26,

Deuteronomy 28. I mean, it's like your disease and waste and your enemies will kill

you all. And then what happened was a war that defeated Jerusalem but way more

people went into exile than were killed in the battle for Jerusalem.

Then this is an interesting insight he has. "Behind the snake and its seductive speech,

we can detect the cults practiced by Canaanite inhabitants of the land."

Jon: How's that?

Tim: Just the way snake imagery is used in Canaanite and also in Egyptian depiction of

God and so on. "These thematic connections between Genesis 1 to 11 and Israel

story suggest - here's the payoff - it suggests that the biblical authors reflected on

how Israel story was itself a recapitulation of a more universal story. Humanity

stories story was placed at the beginning as a foreshadowing of Israel story to


I think he's right. I think he's capturing exactly what's going on here. Again, this is

hard for us, but in terms of history, the way we would think about it, people who

underwent the Babylonian exile, they have all the quilt pieces and stories of this

earlier material, where they're making the writing, producing some of it in their day.

Then they go back and they retell the history of humanity in the terms of their

experience of exile to Babylon, as a way of saying all humanity is an exile in Babylon.

And that's how Genesis 1 through 11 sets you up.


Tim: Next key moment. Abraham the first returning from exile, first one to come back

from exile, so to speak.

Jon: How's that? How's he coming back?

Tim: All humanity has been exiled and ends up in Babylon.

Jon: Yeah. But now everyone's left. Abraham's family left Babylon.

Tim: Correct. His whole family left Babylon and then stalls in Haran. Then it's from Haran

that he ends up going down to the land of Israel - the land of Canaan. The Abraham

narrative is just a story about a guy going to a new land. But if you look at how

Abraham gets brought up in the book of Isaiah, or Ezekiel, the story of Abraham was

a huge inspiration for the people coming back from Babylonian exile.

Jon: Because he had to travel to the land.

Tim: Because he traveled. His family, his journey was also from Babylon back to the

Promised Land. The people living after the Babylonian exile see themselves as

retracing the steps of Abraham - our forefathers who also journeyed from Babylon.

There are two things I think for the video. First of all, that Abrams family is selected

out of the nations to form a phrase we've come to use, the counter Babylon. Its most

clear in Genesis 18 where God says, "Abraham will certainly become a great and

powerful nation. All nations will be blessed through him. I've chosen him - that's the

language of brought him out of Mesopotamia and Babylon and chose him so that

he'll direct his children to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and

justice so that the Lord can bring about for Abraham what he promised."

We get a clue here. The Blessing through the family of Abraham will come when the

family of Abraham lives by a new ethic, a counter Babylon ethic, which is described

here as justice and righteousness. That's one thing. Called out of Babylon, come to


Jon: The actual verse here says, "To do what is right and just." But that's the words

righteousness and justice?

Tim: It's the words of righteousness and justice, yeah. Relevant to the theme of refugees

are exiles, even though God promises him the Promised Land that's where the term

comes from - the land promised Abraham, he himself just was a nomadic tribal

herdsman who arranged the land seasonally.

Jon: With his crew. The big household.

Tim: Big crew. Multiple wives, lots of kids, lots and lots of animals grazing the hills. If you

read the story, he's usually hanging out in the vicinity of larger towns or villages.

Jon: Extended family to cousins.

Tim: All that kind of stuff is forming. He actually only ever comes to own or purchase only

one plot of land. That story is told in Genesis 23. Sarah dies. His wife Sarah dies and

he wants to purchase the burial cave.

Jon: I remember someone teaching on this as like how to do business deals.

Tim: What?

Jon: Yeah. This chapter being like, this is—

Tim: Because he negotiates with Hittites?

Jon: Because you negotiate. This is God teaching us how to do business deals. That's why

this chapter is here.

Tim: That's terrifying.

Jon: It's terrifying?

Tim: Wow. Yeah. It's just like, "Oh, I don't know what the story could be about. It's five

tips for doing this in my life." It's the Bible is like self-help manual kind of thing.


Here's the story about the sojourner from Babylon. God's promised him the land,

but it's just a promise. He doesn't have any titles or deeds to show for it. He goes

into this Hittite community and he negotiates buying this cave. And what they want

to do is, quote, give him the land for no cost or reduced cost." But what that would

do, especially in a reciprocal honor, shame society is that would put him in their

debt. So what he says is, "No, I'm going to buy it fair and square. I'm going to pay

for this plot of land."

Then there's this important line here where he describes himself to these Canaanites.

What he says is, "I am an immigrant and temporary resident among you." Genesis

23:4. Or other English translations have, "I'm a stranger and sojourner."

You'll find this phrase only appears two other times in the whole Bible. One is in

Psalm 31, where the poet says, "I'm a stranger and sojourner in the land just like my

ancestors." He's alluding back to the story.

Jon: Sorry. That was which?

Tim: That was one time in the Old Testament.

Jon: And what time was that? Sorry, I missed it.

Tim: Psalm 31.

Jon: Okay. Then these two words are used one time together in the New Testament. And

we've actually already come across them.

Jon: In Peter.

Tim: In 1 Peter. So 1 Peter adopts this phrase that Abraham used to describe himself to

Canaanites to describe these followers of Jesus throughout living in Asia Minor in

the first century. It's fascinating.

You have an exile, so to speak, or sojourner for whom the Promised Land, "This is my

divinely promised home. I don't own a square inch of it." So he purchases a small

little piece. And this becomes this narrative image of hope that even we trust that

this place is supposed to be a new garden of Eden, the promise blessing land

through which all creation will be blessed. But all we've got to show for it right now

is a little grove of trees with the burial cave. It's such a cool image of it's just this

pitiful little thing and that's actually all we really can count on.

Jon: Can point at.

Tim: But that itself is a symbol of this grand hope of the promised land as a whole. The

story is really cool that way.

Jon: Yeah, it's cool. It's also how you can do business deals.

Tim: It's also how you do business deals. That little story, random story, Genesis 23

actually develops a really key image of Abraham as the sojourner. And they all know

him like. All these Canaanites, they know him, and I'm sure he brings good business

to the town, but he describes himself as somebody who's not at home here, even

though it's the place God promised to him in the long run.

Jon: This is in the land or this is this outside the land?

Tim: He's in the south of Jerusalem. That's Abram. So he becomes this archetype to which

the biblical authors will all point and draw upon, of, "We're in our land, but it actually

doesn't belong to us. It belongs to all these other people groups, but we trust that it

belongs to us even though we don't have much to show for it at the moment."

Jon: That's cool.


Tim: From here. what's relevant is just really condensing. Family of Abraham grows; they

go down to Egypt. They are immigrants in Egypt. Once again, the whole story of this

family is they belong nowhere. They end up in another land where that isn't their

home, and they are soldiers and immigrants there and they end up enslaved. The

whole Exodus story.

They get brought out of Egypt, and they're on their way back to the land of our

ancestors. They make a stop at Mount Sinai, where the ethic of justice and

righteousness, the counter Babylon ethic gets developed even more with Mount

Sinai. And there's this pairing we can...I don't think we can do this in the video. It's

just interesting.

The year they spend at Mount Sinai begins this kind of symbolic overlap with the

cosmic mountain of Eden. Eden is the divine mountain that represents true home,

and it's where the divine command was given. "Take care of this place, trust me and

my knowledge of good and evil, and you'll get to stay here."

Then Mount Sinai, even though it's in the wilderness, becomes the place where they

meet with God. Like Eden, they build the tabernacle there, which is the recreation of


Jon: And they get the divine command.

Tim: And they get the divine command that will allow them to stay not here at Mount

Sinai, but to stay in the Promised Land. The Torah takes the place of the tree of life

as the image of the divine command in choice. This is why in this the Bible video, we

had the tree represent the same fork in the road that the 10 commandments

represent kind of thing. Great. All you have to do is go into the garden of Eden

again, obey the divine command—

Jon: We've been here before.

Tim: We've been here before. So this is why you get to the passages in the Torah that

warn what will happen if they break the divine command.

Jon: When they will break the divine command.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. It's all the same imagery and vocabulary that was planted for us

there in Genesis 1 through 11 of exile. S

Leviticus 26, "If you don't listen to me, and if you don't follow these commands, if

you reject my decrees, and detest my Torah, my laws, then here's what I'll do. I'll

scatter you among the nations - exile." We have this developing vocabulary for exile.

It's "banish," "drive out," "scatter," which will then form all of the languages for the

return from exile to regather. If I scattered you, I'm going to regather. If I banished

you, I'm going to receive you back. That kind of thing.

Deuteronomy 4. "After you and your children and grandchildren have lived in the

land a long time and you become corrupt, and you make idols and do evil, then you

will quickly perish from the land. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples." The

promised land becomes the New Eden.

Jon: And the exile's predicted?

Tim: And the exile is predicted. This is a rabbit hole. I want to do some more homework

on this. But the story then in the wilderness rebellion of the spies going into the

land, they go in and they find this huge valley full of great clusters. This image of

garden abundance. Then they take a bit of Eden back. And then, of course, the

Israelites. Then they also say, "There's no way we can go in there. We're going to get

crushed. There are giants there. They're going to crush us." So they say, "Let's

appoint a new leader, and go back to Egypt." Then God says—

Jon: "Sorry, guys." It's a turning point.

Tim: What God says is, "The number of days those spies are in the land is the number of

years you're going to wander out here in the middle of nowhere." So the 40 years of

wandering in the wilderness becomes a kind of exile from the promised land. But it's

the exile—

Jon: It's a pre-exile.

Tim: Yeah, it's a pre-exile exile. And the reason why I'm describing this as exile because

this is how Ezekiel seems to have viewed the story.

If you read Ezekiel Chapter 20, he goes through this four cycles of retailing Israel's

history. He talks about the exile to Babylon, he calls it the wilderness. "We were sent

into the wilderness of the nations," He calls it. For the biblical authors, it's all

connected. The 40 years in the wilderness is almost a prefiguring of the going back

into the wilderness of the nations into Babylon.

Jon: The figurative wilderness.

Tim: It's a figurative wilderness in Babylon. Anyway. That's what happens. The Israelite's

actually going into the land, build the kingdom. On the mountain of Jerusalem, you

get the temple built, which is an image of the cosmic mountain. It's a little recreation

of Eden in Jerusalem, and the temple to Solomon and all Garden of Eden, all that

stuff. We've explored that in other videos and conversations.

Here in the New Eden represented by the temple in Jerusalem and the Promised

Land, they break the divine command just like humanity, and they are banished and

driven out. We're all the way back now to those two waves of exile of the northern

tribes, and then the southern tribes in 586 BC.

That's the big story from Genesis to 2 Kings. But you can see all of a sudden, like,

this whole thing of is super tightly knit with exile in Babylon and Eden the Promised

Land. It's all connected as a coherent statement. Both about Israel and about

humanity as a whole.

Jon: That's cool.

Carla: This is Carla Dennis. I'm from Raleigh, North Carolina. What I like best The Bible

Project is it inspires me to dig more, and it inspires me to read the Word, and it gives

me a framework of what has happened before that chapter and what the main

purpose of that chapter is, and the direction it's making me.

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