Our Collective Identity

What is God’s picture of an ideal humanity? In this podcast episode, Tim and Jon look at Genesis 1-2 and talk about how God makes one humanity, divides them, and purposes for them to be one again. And this oneness that God brings doesn't erase personal and cultural differences. Rather, it completes them.

Episode 2
Nov 30, 2020
Play Episode
Show Notes


Humanity images God in its unified state, but that unified state doesn’t erase the diversity of the many that humanity represents. In fact, it’s going to be precisely through innumerable cycles of dividing and being reunited as one that humanity images God. It’s the dividing and multiplying and then unifying again––the whole thing is an image of the divine life. It’s an image of God as a unified plurality that is eternally generating life.


  • The ideal humanity is to rightly bear God’s image through oneness with others.
  • The story of the Bible focuses on God’s work through one family, the nation of Israel, to bring all nations of the world into his own family.
  • Within God’s design, oneness with others preserves unique identities. Apart from God, unity results in an assimilation at the expense of personal identity.

Disunity is the Problem

In part one (0:00–7:30), Tim and Jon raise the question, “If the Gospel of Jesus is ultimately for all nations, why are four-fifths of the Christian Scriptures about one nation?” The only way to answer this question is to tell the whole story of the Bible.

Tim explains that the story of the Bible starts broad, with a big picture look at God in relationship with all people. By Genesis 12, God responds to crisis within his creation by focusing in on the family of Abraham. But what God is doing for and through this one family is for all nations in the end. The story of the Bible works its way back to a focus on all nations with the story of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, bent on fulfilling God’s ultimate purpose of restoring all nations to himself.

By the time we reach the end of the book of Revelation, we see the final state of humanity—a diverse group of nations, all unified in worship of the Creator. This means that part of the problem God is working to heal and correct throughout the story of the Bible is the disunity of humankind, people using their differences and distinct gifts to tear one another apart.

Genesis 1-11 gives us a unique perspective on why the nations of the world are so divided, the rest of the biblical story begins to answer that question.

Unity is the Solution

In part two (7:30–37:30), Tim and Jon discuss the ideal humanity according to Genesis 1 and 2. In Genesis 1, humanity is presented as the cosmic capstone in God’s ordering of heaven and earth, made to bear God’s image.

Genesis 1:27-28 And Elohim created ‘adam in the image of God [‘adam = humanity as a species] in the image of God he created him [him = humanity as a species] male and female he created them [them = the two genders who are one humanity]

In the structure of this poem, the phrase “image of God” corresponds to “male and female,” who together reflect the image of God. Here we first encounter the theme of the unified family of God that repeats throughout Scripture, which is the family of human images of God, consisting of many who are different and also one at the same time.

Genesis 2 takes us in for a closer look at what it means to be image-bearers. God calls his creation “good” seven times before pronouncing the very first “not good” in response to man by himself.

Genesis 2:18
And Yahweh said, “It is not good for the human to be alone. I will make an ezer-counterpart for him.”

Tim explains that God calls man’s companion “ezer,” commonly translated “helper” in English, but more accurately conveyed by the word “deliverer.” This title is most often used to describe Yahweh, most often in military contexts (Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalm 33:20, 115:9–11, 124:8, 146:5; etc). The Hebrew text conveys the idea that Eve “mirrors” Adam—they are different, but they reflect and match each other.

Before God makes Eve, he presents a multitude of animals to Adam, so that he might name them. It’s like a divine object lesson: first, that humanity is meant to coexist with and peaceably rule over animals, and second, that any one human by themselves cannot become what God has called us all to become, together.

Genesis 2:21-23
And Yahweh caused to fall a deep sleep on the human, and he slept. And he took one from his sides, and he closed the flesh of its place. And Yahweh built the side, which he took from the human into woman, and he brought her to the human. And the human said, “This time, bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh. This one will be called woman, for from man this one was taken.”

Because the woman was different from the man, she was able to be a “deliverer” to him. Marriage is the image used here: it is the difference in their biology and gender that makes it possible for man and woman to fulfill the mission God gave them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

Genesis 2:24
For this reason, a man will leave his father and his mother, and he will cling to his woman, and they will become one flesh.

The narrator of Genesis concludes with the moral of the story: humanity is made for oneness with others, in a union that does not erase personal uniqueness.

The Only God with One Big Family

In part three (37:30–49:15), Tim and Jon explore “the many and the one” imagery that winds throughout the entirety of Christian faith.

Across centuries and geographic regions, Christians experience and understand Jesus differently, and each viewpoint lends itself to a more robust means of seeing and understanding God. The same is true for our understanding of humanity. The more we know a diverse array of other people and cultures, the more we get a well-rounded picture of what it means to be human. At the same time, this does not invalidate what we have experienced all along as individuals.

Through the example of marriage in Genesis 1-2, we come face-to-face with a calling God has placed upon all humans: to pursue oneness with others. Ultimately, God means for humanity to be family. (Marriage is not the only way we find ourselves in a family—this is just how the narrator of Genesis points out an important motif that carries through the whole story of the Bible).

Marriage creates small family units, and God’s ideal vision is for those families, which comprise nations, to ultimately become one big family of God that spans nations and ethnicities, time and space.

To see human identity as primarily collective is unique to the Christian faith. Modern western cultures see human identity as an individualized reality. Other ancient or non-western cultures that emphasize family still see themselves as families uniquely chosen by their god, at the expense of others, usually to dominate other nations or viewpoints. Yahweh is the only God who wants to bring all the families of the earth into his own family, for the benefit of all.

Unity That Preserves Uniqueness

In part four (49:15–end), Tim and Jon take us to the first major turning point in the story of the Bible, the “problem” that arises within God’s good creation.

In Genesis 3, the unity between Adam and Eve is broken. Notably, oneness is first broken between the two humans before it is broken with God. And their attempts to hide their shame follow this same order as well: man and woman hide their bodies from each other, and then they hide from God, too.

From this point, the narrative arc of the Bible focuses on humanity going from one to many, the antithesis of God’s created design. In rebellion, humans try to achieve oneness on their own terms, an episode which the Bible refers to as Babylon.

One way or another, humans will unify. The question is, will humanity unite according to God’s design, or according to Babylon’s? In God’s design, unity still preserves unique identities. But apart from God, unity results in an authoritarian homogeneity, assimilation at the expense of personal identity.

Additional Resources
Interested in more? Check out Tim’s full library at timmackie.com.

Show Music

  • “Defender Instrumental” by Tents

Show produced by Dan Gummel. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.

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Scripture References
Genesis 1:28
Genesis 2:15
Genesis 1:26
Genesis 3:7
Genesis 1:27
Genesis 2:18
Exodus 18:4
Deuteronomy 33:7
Psalms 33:20
Genesis 2:19
Genesis 2:20
Genesis 7:2-3
Genesis 2:21
Genesis 2:22-23
Genesis 2:24-25

Our Collective Identity

Series: Family of God E2

Podcast Date: November 30, 2020, 56:13

Speakers in the audio file: Jon Collins, Tim Mackie


Jon: On the second page of the Bible, we get a wonderful little story about Adam. He's the first character in the Bible, and his name and Hebrew, adam, means humanity.

Tim: When it says in the middle line "in the image of God, He created him," in English, we have to use the masculine singular term to go back to that humanity of the first line. God created humanity in His image. In the image of God He created him. That "him" doesn't mean male human. It's referring to the generic humanity.

Jon: Adam is in God's good world, he sees all the other animals have male and female counterparts, but he realizes he's alone.

Tim: So verse 21, "He causes a tardemah to fall upon the human." Divine stupor. This is not normal sleep. This kind of sleep happens about half a dozen times in the Bible. And it's always God causing it. And he took one from his sides.

Jon: Now all English translations have the word "rib." (00:01:00) God took Adam's rib.

Tim: It is certainly not what the word means. It's an architectural word that refers...most often it's used to describe the side of a building.

Jon: So God took a side of Adam. Like he split him in half.

Tim: So it's the human becomes man and woman.

Jon: God turns one into two. And then at the end of the story, the author steps in and gives us his reflection.

Tim: "Dear reader, for this reason, I want you to realize this isn't just an interesting story about people in the past." He's telling this story as an archetypal here. For this reason, a man, an ish will leave his father and mother and he will cling to his isha.

Jon: "Isha" being Hebrew for a "woman." 

Tim: And they will become one flesh. 

Jon: So humanity starts as one and then becomes two, yet it's supposed to unite back as one. 

Tim: This is the way (00:02:00) the Hebrew Bible works. It's advancing an idea, a philosophical idea about the nature of humanity. Humanity is a unique kind of species that its oneness consists of it's more than oneness. 

Jon: I'm Jon Collins. This is BibleProject podcast. Thanks for joining us. Here we go.

Here we are. We're going to continue a discussion on a new theme on the family God.

Tim: On the family of God.

Jon: We began last episode just setting the table. You brought to my attention, to all of our attention, that Christianity is a very diverse global movement. In fact, the most diverse religious movement on the planet. And that's no accident, in that at the core of the story is that God wants to use one nation. (00:03:00) And through that nation, all nations will get in on the party, as you said.

Tim: Yeah. Or even let me just develop it one step further at this moment. You could say the story of the Bible begins with a global focus. 

Jon: Oh.

Tim: All humanity focus. However, by Genesis 11, a crisis takes place that God responds to by focusing in on one family among all of the human nations. So you start with the many...

Jon: It's like a triage. It's like things go crazy and he's like, "I'm just going to focus here to stop the bleeding."

Tim: So it begins with the nations, focuses in on the story of one nation with the story of Abraham. And then for the rest of the Old Testament, it's really zeroed in on that one family. But all nations and the one family, one nation, it's intertwined. What God is doing through the one is for the many that the story began with. So that in the story of Jesus, (00:04:00) it's both the story of Israel, the one, being worked out so that we can fulfill the calling of that one among the many that started back on page 12 of Genesis. So it goes from the many to the one, back off to the many.

Jon: When you use the shorthands, the one to the many to the one, my brain just kind of shifts into like idle. It's kind of like stops...

[crosstalk - 00:04:26)

Tim: I know. If I had a whiteboard, this would just make so much sense. But I think the many...

Jon: The many, meaning all nations.

Tim: All the nations.

Jon: All the nations. 

Tim: That's how the story begins. A global focus. 

Jon: Okay.

Tim: So Genesis 1 through 11, God and the nations.

Jon: That's what we're going to look at today?

Tim: Yep. Focus in on Abraham to the story of one nation.

Jon: One nation.

Tim: Whole Old Testament. The story of Jesus begins with making his focus on a mission to that one so that post-resurrection and even a little bit before then we go back out to the mission to (00:05:00) the nations. It's a simple way to think about the storyline of the Bible from the many nations to one nation back out to the many nations.

Jon: In terms of where the story is focusing?

Tim: Where the story is focused. Yeah, that's right. Because it does raise the question: if Christianity is the most global, multiethnic movement...

Jon: ...then why is four-fifths of the Bible all about one people.

Tim: One people group. Exactly. That's it right there. So if it's a story about all nations, why is the majority of the Christian scriptures about one nation? That's the question. So then there's nothing for it. You got to tell the story.

Jon: You got to tell the story. We talked, in the last episode, about how the story ends with this picture of new creation with a new humanity ruling over the earth. But there's actually still kings and kingdoms...

Tim: Nations.

Jon: ...and nations who are participating in this. It's not some new homogenous group. (00:06:00)

Tim: Yeah, yeah. And the focus on the nations in Revelation 21 and 22 is about all of their unique difference, because each one is bringing their honor, the glory, the unique thing...the unique value that they generate in the world is all brought together and unified in bringing honor to the Creator, to the Lamb. So that was the flowering of the theme in full bloom—the nations unified and allegiance to the Creator. So obviously, if that's the solution, then the problem is the nation's not unified and using their honor and splendor not to beautify or honor but to pull power plays and be in conflict with each other. So how did we get there? How did we get to a whole bunch of human families that can't stand each other and think of each other as more important than their neighbor? (00:07:00)

Jon: Well, I don't think you need a Bible to answer that question, right?

Tim: No. But the Bible is offering us an angle on that question. It has its own story to tell on why the human family is so divided. And we call this Genesis chapters 1 through 11.

Section break (00:07:59)

Tim: So let's do two quick stops, that will not be quick I'm guessing, on how the story the Bible depicts the ideal humanity in Genesis 1 and 2. 

Jon: Okay. 

Tim: Genesis 1 and 2 depicts an ideal, which then in Genesis 3 is distorted, corrupted, and forfeited, which leads you to Babylon in Genesis 11. So let's stop one with ideal is a picture of the ideal humanity in Genesis 1. We've spent many hours of conversation on the image of God in Genesis 1.

Jon: We have. And I love to do it.

Tim: Let's see. Especially in a series that was on the image of God, that's in the podcast, but also in our series on the Son of Man, we did a long a deep dive.

Jon: I've realized that this theme more than any other has stood out and been influential in the way I think about the story of the Bible. It's very (00:09:00) exciting and empowering. I almost feel like any theme we're talking about it's always humming in the background.

Tim: It's true. Yeah, that's right. It's the reason why it's on page one.

Jon: Yeah. There's a lot on page one.

Tim: There's a lot on page one. That's true.

Jon: It is a bit of a Jewel on page one.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. Or you could say it's like a beam of light that goes on through all of the different themes throughout the Bible to get refracted and reflected in different hues and colors. But underneath all the different themes later on in the Bible, usually the image of God is common to most of them in some way.

There's a little poem. After God says, "Let us make human in our image and in our likeness," Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:27 gives us a little three-line poem that tells us something very important about the nature of the image and human identity. So three lines are, one, "God created adam (humanity) in His own image." (00:10:00) Line two: "In the image of God, He created him."

Jon: Which is just like an inverse of the first line.

Tim: Correct. Yeah, it's exactly right. It takes the four key words and swaps up their order. The reason it's doing it is to create a transition for the last line. So God created human in His image. That's line one. Line two: in the image of God, He created him. Third line: male and female, he created them. This is going to be hard to just listen to. It might help if you get out your phone and turn on a Bible and look at Genesis 1:27.

Jon: I love how you said "turn on a Bible." That makes perfect sense.

Tim: Yes, it does.

Jon: But it's the strangest thing to say. Turn on your Bible.

Tim: Just get it open. Anyway.

Jon: Turn on your Bible.

Tim: Turn on your Bible. (00:11:00) So it's a three-line poem. The middle line takes the words of...it happens in Hebrew and then reflect them in English here. It takes the words of the first line and turns them into a different order so that the third line can come along and actually match the word order of that middle line. The last line. I'm talking about theoretically, but just look at the text here. It's okay. 

Jon: My brain hurts.

Tim: Sorry. Here. So God created human in His image. General statement.

Jon: Which by the way is in Revelation. It's is a very amazing statement.

Tim: That's right.

Jon: Humans in the ancient world be made the image of God.

Tim: That's right.

Jon: God created human in His own image.

Tim: Yes, every human. Humanity as a whole. And each individual human is a physical representation of the divine.

Jon: Wow. 

Tim: It's remarkable still today. It's even more remarkable to imagine a world where the only place you would hear this type of (00:12:00) language would be and royal rhetoric where kings are making this claim about themselves in their office.

Jon: Just important people.

Tim: Yeah. So that's the first claim. The second line takes the words of that first line and it puts them in a different order. In the image of God He created him.

Jon: It's like a Yoda said the second line.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. Correct. The third line of the poem then mirrors precisely the word order of the previous line, but it swaps out some words. Instead of "in the image of God," you have "male and female." Then you have "he created." But instead of "He created him" as the middle line, you have "He created them" plural. So in Hebrew poetry, again, alluding back to podcast series we did on how to read Hebrew poetry, one of the main tools of communication is short lines that match each other (00:13:00) in word order, but never identical. So that the similarity makes you observe the differences between the two lines. And that's exactly what's happening here.

Jon: It creates a bit of a friction and chemistry when you see how these lines interact with each other. 

Tim: Yeah, that's right. So in the poetic structure, the phrase "image of God" in the middle line is in identical slot as "male and female" in third line.

Jon: So what does it mean to be the image of God? It is not just a male thing. It's not just a female thing. It's both of those things.

Tim: Both. And both together are the image. Male and female are together the image, which is why that...when it says in the middle line "in the image of God He created him," in English, we have to use a masculine singular term to go back to that humanity of the first line. God created humanity in His image. (00:14:00) In the image of God He created him. But that "him" doesn't mean male human. It's referring to the generic humanity.

Jon: Which is a noun or something?

Tim: Yeah, yeah, it's a masculine noun. That's right. So the third line comes along and clarifies. The image of God...

Jon: Is not masculine.

Tim: ...is not own any one gender. It's male and female he created them. It's having to point out painfully obvious things. But they actually aren't painfully obvious I guess if you don't know how Hebrew poetry works.

Jon: Or if you've lived in human history.

Tim: Oh, yeah, that's right. Totally. Yeah, that's right. So what's important is that when we say male and female together reflect the image, the next line is God blessing this His image and saying to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the land, subdue it and rule over the creatures on the land." So all of a sudden that male and female (00:15:00) gets a real specific application here, which is make more humans.

Jon: Make humans and subdue and rule.

Tim: Subdue and rule. So the application in the context is one layer of what it means for humans to image God is to be a being that is one and yet more than one at the same time. In other words, the image of God can be called adam, which is the Hebrew word for humanity. But that one humanity consists of many, more than one, male and female. And the male and female don't have to be the same. In fact, it's crucial for humanity to be what it is. That they are different than each other. So even though it's working with gender, this is the way Hebrew Bible works. It's making a...

Jon: Framework?

Tim: Yeah, it's advancing of an idea, a philosophical idea about the nature of humanity. (00:16:00) Humanity is a unique kind of species that its oneness consists of it's more than oneness. Which means that the humanity of any one is only realized in relationship to an other who is different than me.

Jon: So here it's talking about gender, and there's two genders. But these two genders together make the image of God, which is a singular thing. To be the image of God.

Tim: Yeah. It's something that's true of each individual human. But here...

Jon: How do we know it's true of each individual human?

Tim: Yeah, that's not the point here.

Jon: That's not the point here.

Tim: Later in chapter 9 it clarifies that point.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: The point here is that it's a collective identity.

Jon: Collective identity. 

Tim: Together as one working out the commission given, which is to be more than one, and through that multiplication, to fill the land, harness its potential, and to exercise God's rule over it. 

Jon: That's the role of the image. (00:17:00) 

Tim: Yeah. And an image is meant to be a physical embodiment that points to its originator.

Jon: So we talked about this at length. But just to state it again, in the ancient world, these were idle images. These were statues...

Tim: Yeah, this is word for "statue."

Jon: ...that would represent God—Divine being defined on earth.

Tim: Correct.

Jon: The Hebrew Bible is saying on page one, "You are that."

Tim: Humanity.

Jon: Humanity. Here is this collective male and female. 

Jon: Not some king, not some statue

Tim: That's right. But then the moment that they are fruitful and multiply means there's going to be...

Jon: Yeah, a bunch of them. 

Tim: ...many males and many females who are together the image of God. Not every male will multiply with every female. In other words, even though the focus here is male and female, and be fruitful and multiply, it's a collective idea, meaning that together as a species consisting of many who are different from each other, but that difference (00:18:00) as one unified whole is precisely how they image God. That's the narrative argument being made here.

Jon: Arguably, you're going a little far from where this leaves off. In that, I see the argument go that male and female together make the image of God. And then it says, "Go be fruitful multiply." So you can infer now there's lots of males, lots of females. But it never comes back and says, "And now all of you as a collective are the image of God." That's an inference.

Tim: No, that's right. I'm taking my lead there just from the opening statement. "God created human." 

Jon: Ahh, human. And human there, that word means all humanity.

Tim: It's a collective term meaning species of humanity.

Jon: Got it. Okay.

Tim: So it's species consists on an abstract level of male and female. But then as they're being fruitful and multiply. They'll create many males and females who will together exist as one 'adam. 

Jon: Now, God created adam in His own image. You're saying human. Could you say humanity here? Would that be a good translation? (00:19:00) 

Tim: Yes.

Jon: And that really is the word adam can refer to humanity. 

Tim: Yeah, that's its primary meaning.

Jon: That's its primary meaning. 

Tim: Yeah, that's right.

Jon: Mankind.

Tim: Yeah. Then as Genesis 2 moves on to talk about one particular figure who eventually becomes...the word "adam" becomes a proper name. But it's never separated from that collective identity. Which is why Adam and Eve or in Hebrew, Adam and Chavvah are archetypal characters because also their individual characters represent the whole family of humanity. Because their names mean humanity and life. So that's Genesis 1. The one and the many. It's already there, right there in Genesis 1. So Genesis 1, humanity is the capstone of creation of God's cosmic ordering—His ordering of heaven and earth. Genesis 2 is a narrative begins in 2 verse 4 that focus in, (00:20:00) not on God's cosmic ordering but on His ordering of the dry land to plant a sacred space at the center of the cosmos.

Jon: Garden of Eden.

Tim: Garden of Eden. We call it garden of Eden. And there's an adam. God takes from the dust and animates it with divine breath. And then He does this outside of Eden. Then He takes the human, He plants a garden, and then He rests (he noahs). It's Noah's name as a verb. He noahs the human in the garden.

Jon: Oh, I thought He planted the human in the garden.

Tim: But then the humans came up out of the ground and then he plants a garden and the trees come up out of the ground.

Jon: Okay. That's the connection. Okay. 

Tim: So you have an adam. And it's actually has the word "the" in front of it in Hebrew. 

Jon: Oh, interesting.

Tim: The human.

Jon: The human.

Tim: God makes the human and rests the human in the garden.

Jon: Why doesn't any translation just say the human then?

Tim: I don't know. Mine does.

Jon: Yours does?

Tim: Yeah. Here. Yeah.

Jon: What's yours? (00:21:00) 

Tim: It's right here. Just the translation that I've made. What's interesting, Genesis 2:18, it's the first thing in the narrative. God says seven times in Genesis 1...man, this is good. It's good. Good. Good. Good. Good. Good. Genesis 2:18 is the first "not good" in the story. 

Jon: And it's that the human...

Tim: It's not good for ha'adam, the human...

Jon: To be alone. 

Tim: ...to be a lone entity.

Jon: All by himself.

Tim: So God says, "I will make an ezer counterpart for him." I'm not translating the word ezer. It's a Hebrew word. 

Jon: To make an ezer.

Tim: Yeah. We're stuck with, in the history of English translations, the English word "help." So yes, in a previous series on the books of Solomon, the wisdom literature...

Jon: We talked a lot about ezer 

Tim: ...we talked about this little scene right here. So you can go back and reference that conversation. (00:22:00) I just want to highlight a couple of other elements about it here. Actually, I've done a little more study on this phrase. Two things. One, the word "ezer", a better English interpretation would be something like "deliver."

Jon: You used the word salvation at one point.

Tim: Yeah, yeah, that's right.

Jon: Rescuer. 

Tim: The words use rescue as a noun to describe a person about 20 different times. And the only person who's ever given that title as a noun is Yahweh, and most often in military contexts. Really. Just do a concordance search on "ezer." It's not hard to do. It just becomes immediately clear that the help that's being talked about is deliverance from usually danger or at least from a non-ideal situation. 

Jon: There's no story where it's just some kid doing an errand for someone?

Tim: No, no. It's like David being chased by enemies and he calls for Yahweh as his ezer. Or the Philistines are breathing down (00:23:00) the Israelites and they call up God.

Jon: "Helper" is a very weak word for that.

Tim: "Helper" is I think a mistranslation.

Jon: We'll call it a mistranslation.

Tim: The word "help" kind of gets us there. The key is this next phrase, which is sometimes in most English translations, it's a helper corresponding to him or something similar to him. So it's the word "kenegdo." It's a preposition. And then the word "neged" means "in front of" or...

Jon: Neged? 

Tim: Neged. Yeah, neged. It's the basic preposition that means "opposite you". Physically opposite you—what is facing you.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Something facing you, mirroring you. The things standing apart from you, but facing you. That's what the word means.

Jon: Neged.

Tim: So I will make an ezer that is apart from but facing him. I think the English phrase counterpart works really well here. It's one that I look at and say, (00:24:00) "That's a mirror of me." It's not identical to me, but it's a mirror of me.

Jon: So the phrase is ezer neged?

Tim: Well, in Hebrew it's kenegdo.

Jon: Kenegdo. 

Tim: The "k" is as or according to and then "o" is him. Okay, so I will make a deliverer as one opposite him. As one facing him.

Jon: As one facing him.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Yeah. Facing almost makes it feel like it's a standoff.

Tim: Oh, interesting.

Jon: Versus like...

Tim: A correspondence?

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: Corresponding to actually is another phrase I've toyed with here. But the point was it's a human who has an other that faces. And they are mirrors of one another, so to speak. That's it. So then what happens in the narrative where God's going to provide the ezer kenegdo...but it happens in two steps. We've talked about this before. You asked me a question once. I think (00:25:00) I have an answer to that. So what Yahweh forms is not another human. He forms a bunch of animals.

Jon: Oh, yeah, I remember talking about this with you. 

Tim: And he brings and animal...

Jon: I thought it was a silly little...

Tim: ...to the human to see where they call him. And he calls the names of the animals. What? This is the story in the Eden narrative that gets you the image of humans chillin' with animals because he's just like...

Jon: And naming things, which is powerful, divine thing to do.

Tim: Totally. Yeah, that's right. Sharing and God's creative work. Because to name is to create. Then verse 20. 'But for the human, there was no ezer corresponding to him."

Jon: No, duh. I mean, that's what...

Tim: Okay. All right.

Jon: Silly exercise. That was the...

Tim: So the question is, what was the point here?

Jon: What was the point?

Tim: So if this little narrative about the human naming the animals was in a different narrative outside of this, God providing (00:26:00) a deliver, it would be like, "Oh, what a noble task. God's sharing creative act." But here, it seems like, well, of course not. Like, what?

Jon: "How about this penguin?" "No, that's not going to work."

Tim: "It doesn't correspond to me. I can't..." So the question is, what's the point here? Why is God bringing the animals of all these different types? What does this have to do with a human becoming more than one? Here's what I think. This begins a design pattern that kind of carries through with the Son of Man theme, which is human relationships to the animals. The next story that's going to riff off of the human with the animal's theme. A human at peace with the animals in the safe place is Noah and his wife on the ark. And do you remember when God says to Noah in chapter 7 that all the animals are going to come to them, He says, "They're going to come to you in the same categories. Every beast, every bird, every living creature..." (00:27:00)

Jon: Male and female.

Tim: "And they're going to come male and female, two by two." It's literally the phrase "each and its wife." 

Jon: Oh, yeah.

Tim: Yeah, yeah.

Jon: That's cute.

Tim: This is back to meditation literature. The Bible is a meditation literature. There'll be little puzzles or ambiguities in earlier narratives that are there on purpose to keep you reading. And when you get to a later repetition of that pattern or motif, there'll be some little Easter egg in there buried that gives you a retro commentary back on earlier story. I think if God is bringing all of these categories of animals to the human, when I look at the same list of animals in the next story about humans and animals together, what I notice is it really highlights, in the Noah story, that the animals come two by two, male and female. So you have a lone human here.

Jon: He doesn't have his...

Tim: ...who spends all day noticing animal have one corresponding to them. (00:28:00) But for the human, verse 20, there is no ezer corresponding. I think it's as if the name of the animals it's like an educative experience for the human. He comes to realize...

Jon: That he is not yet really the image. There's something something missing. 

Tim: There's something something more. Yeah, that's right. At least I think so. So verse 21, "He causes a tardemah to fall upon the human." Divine stupor. This is not normal sleep.

Jon: It's like hypnotism.

Tim: Yeah. This kind of sleep happens about half a dozen times in the Hebrew Bible. And it's always God causing it to do for someone what they cannot do for themselves. It's like He incapacitates someone so that He can do the thing they're not able to do. And He took one from his sides. It's what it says in Hebrew. One from his side.

Jon: One what?

Tim: Exactly. Almost all English translations going back to the first one, the Wycliffe have inserted (00:29:00) the word "rib" here.

Jon: Where did that come from?

Tim: I know. It is certainly not what the word means.

Jon: Did they just have a dictionary and they're just like, "Well, one what? I don't know."

Tim: It's the interpretive tradition that they were familiar with. And it's all the interpretation of rib as a concept. It goes back even in Jewish tradition. But there are many other options, especially in early Jewish interpretation history for what the word means. It's the standard word for "side".

Jon: We talked about this as well I think during that same conversation. 

Tim: Correct.

Jon: And the takeaway was, it's his side.

Tim: It's his half.

Jon: Yeah. So it's the word for half.

Tim: Yes.

Jon: So he took one from his half.

Tim: Yeah, it's an architectural word that refers to...most often it's used to describe the side of a building. 

Jon: So this would make perfect sense if he said "he took one of the halves."

Tim: Yeah, one from his side. Oh, how many sides does a human have?

Jon: But that's awkward in English. In English, you would say "one of the sides."" (00:30:00)

Tim: What I'm mirroring in...

Jon: In Hebrew, it's "one from his side."

Tim: He took one from his side.

Jon: That makes you think that one something from his side. 

Tim: But singular, in English, you would take one something from his side. That's how you'd say it in English. It's a way of saying in Hebrew he took one of his sides.

Jon: That's the way in Hebrew to say "one of his sides"?

Tim: Correct. He has two sides.

Jon: That makes perfect sense. Because you want to make two from one, split them in half, and make the two.

Tim: This creature's name is the human (ha'adam). And from ha'adam he takes one of the sides and he built the side, which he took from the human into...and then it uses a specific term "woman". He built woman, and he brought her to ha'adam, the human, and the human said, "Ah, this time, bone from my bone, flesh from my flesh, this one will be called isha (00:31:00) because she was taken from not 'adam but from ish. So it's the human becomes man and woman.

Jon: 'Adam means humanity. "Ish" means a singular man. 

Tim: A male. 

Jon: A male. 

Tim: And isha. The wordplay works in English and Hebrew. Woman, man. Ish, isha. So here you go. Now you have one who mirrors him.

Jon: One who counterparts?

Tim: Yeah. From one you now have more than one here. And they are not identical, they are different, which is what makes the ezer able to deliver the one. It's part of the commission is being fruitful and multiply. You need two different genders to do that. So the narrator closes the story. "Dear reader, for this reason, I want you to realize this isn't just an interesting story about people in the past." (00:32:00) He's telling the story as archetypal here. For the species. "For this reason, a man, an ish will leave his father and mother and he will cling to his isha, and they will become one flesh. And the two of them were naked...

Jon: One body?

Tim: Yeah, totally. Remember he took one of the sides and close the flesh, and he just said, "This is my flesh. My flesh just went out of me." Because that one is flesh. Look at them. The flesh like I am. So we have two. But then the whole thing is verse 24 is going into the reader's presence, so to speak, and saying, "Here's what's crazy. This is a world full of males and females. And you've got a male and female that you've literally came from. Their bodies. You are of their flesh." And that's why (00:33:00) bone and flesh is the kinship language here.

So you go out there and there's someone that is a biological stranger to me, biologically or kinship wise. And yet, through marriage, we become one and then only together create a new one human. And so it's that mystery, that from two who have become one produce a biological one. But that close relationship has to be severed, so to speak, to go be joined to a biological stranger to repeat the process again.

Jon: The relationship with your mother and father?

Tim: Correct. It's pondering there's a oneness between a child and their parents. But there's also a oneness between a husband and wife. Wife and a husband. But there are different kinds of oneness.

Jon: Right.

Tim: Somewhere in there is a mystery the narrator wants us to ponder about the nature and identity of humans. (00:34:00) He's getting philosophical here. The narrator is.

Jon: You think the narrator is really thinking about this idea of what it means to have an identity?

Tim: Yeah, to be an 'adam.

Jon: To be a human. That yes, I am a human, I am me apart from anyone else. But to be fully human is actually being connected to others. And there are two examples here. Is one is being connected to your mother and father. 

Tim: Yes, that's right. There's a oneness.

Jon: So oneness there. But then you actually go out, and then you can find a new oneness, which is then this oneness is in male, female together, which is calling back to the image of God being both male and female, which allows you to multiply and to fill the earth. (00:35:00)

Tim: It's the same idea advanced through a different narrative. In other words, this little scene here is parallel to the ideas of that little poem in Genesis 1. That humanity images God in its unified state. But that unified state doesn't erase the diversity of the many that that humanity represents. In fact, it's going to be precisely through innumerable cycles of dividing and being reunited as one that humanity images God. It's the dividing and multiplying and then unifying again. The whole thing is an image of the divine life. It's an image of God as a unified plurality that is eternally generating life. I mean, I think that's the mystery we're invited to here. Humans image God. When I see my humanity only as it participates (00:36:00) in others around me and as I become unified with them.

Jon: But it doesn't mean that you're less human if you're an orphan or you stay single.

Tim: That's why I'm saying it's important that it's abstract and it's important that there's two types of oneness talked about here. One is the one that you share in a family. But then another is a oneness in how I relate to others around me. And here the example is marriage. But it's not the only example. The Book of Genesis is going to go on to explore all kinds of other examples of how you can unify as a common humanity with others. But the two categories are here. Family or marriage. This is the family of God video. So God's purpose is to have a whole family of families that in their diversity reflect the image and all of their uniqueness. But not their uniqueness at the expense of their humanity.

Section break (00:37:55) 

Tim: Let's go back to that example in the Church of the Annunciation from our previous conversation. It's one Jesus being represented visually, but it's precisely the hundred some odd different ethnic portrayals of Jesus is the differences between those. But the fact that they are representing one Jesus, that makes it such a powerful experience to go there. It's the many and the one simultaneously, if this makes any sense. This is the biblical authors getting philosophical here about human identity. But they're doing it through poetry and narrative. I don't know if I'm making any sense.

Jon: You are making sense, but I am also feeling like it's not completely landing for me. I love this image of 100 different portraits of the same thing allows you to really begin to appreciate the essence of that thing. Because if I drew a picture of...let's just use another example other than Jesus. I drew a picture of my family, (00:39:00) we put that up and there's 100 other pictures of my family. I just looked at my picture with family, I would get a concept for what family is. If I looked at 100 different pictures of families from 100 different cultures, then I get this more true picture of what a family actually is in its most universal sense.

Tim: That's great. And all of a sudden, you realize, like, "Oh, I thought I knew what it meant to be a part of a family, but I realize that's just my experience of being a family," which is genuine, I'm human, but there's all of these other ways that people have experienced being in a family. And they're experiencing the same thing. But it's also...

Jon: But it looks all different.

Tim: It's different.

Jon: ...in its own unique ways.

Tim: That's right. 

Jon: Now let's talk about human identity. I experience being a human, because I have my own identity and I have this body and this brain, and I experienced the world through my five senses. This is my paradigm of what it means to be human. (00:40:00) You have yours.

Tim: Yes.

Jon: If I just think, well, being a human is just what I experience, then I'm limited to my experience. But if somehow I get connected to you in such an intimate way that now I understand what it means for you to be human, and I do that with 100 other people, I have this much more fuller sense of what it really means to be human.

Tim: Yeah, it's so much bigger than what you've first experienced. But then after you get to know these hundred other humans, your experience of your own individual humanity is...

Jon: Is not lost.

Tim: ...is not lost, but it's not the same anymore because it has now been enriched by being connected to all these other people's experience of what it means to be human.

Jon: And there's this sense of that we are called to not just live individually, but we come from a collective, our family, and we're also called to then unite with others. One specific way is marriage. (00:41:00) But you're saying there's other applications of unity for the sake of realizing what it really means to be human and to be human as a collective in a way that doesn't make you lose your...

Tim: Yeah, that's exactly right. 

Jon: You think all those ideas are here?

Tim: Yes. Oh, absolutely. Those are the ideas that are narrative trying to put in front of us. And through the two examples of male and female because they're kind of the most iconic examples of unity and difference, but as we're going to go on and see, all these design patterns, all this vocabulary of one and the two, and flesh and bone are going to get repeated in all kinds of different relationships of uncles and nephews and cousins and brothers. So this is kind of the core motif being introduced here.

Jon: So all this is about creating families?

Tim: Family. It's about the human family. (00:42:00) The biblical story works off the premise and a claim that human identity, in a healthy way, it's formed only when it's connected and enriched by lots of other humans, and in unity, recognizing that we are one. This is working in the abstract. Let's think about historical context. These texts are being generated by family living in the hill country of what today we call Israel Palestine. It was a fairly small nation-state connected to an ethnic group that was a fairly insignificant player on the international scene.

Jon: Yeah. I mean, you got Babylon and Assyria and Egypt. And these guys are big players.

Tim: Big players. And they all have family mythologies about how their family is the real family. Whether it's Babylon or Egypt. And then here in the Canaanite hill country, (00:43:00) I think we've got all these tribes, the Hittites and the Arkites and the Jebusites. And they're all families. They got the Philistines down on the coast, and they came from somewhere else in the Mediterranean Sea, the Mycenaeans. So it's all tribe and family. So you grew up in a world where you're a small, insulated people group that's looking out at a world of families and conflict.

Jon: Because most of the time if you run into another clan or tribe, they're a threat.

Tim: They're a threat, or you need to find a way to make peace with them so that you can peacefully coexist and maybe benefit from each other. So it's that right there. It's saying, for any of us to exist and live here, we're all these families' intention, but yet, we recognize that to move forward, we have to work together. And when we work together, when we unify, things go great. There's all this potential unleashed that wasn't there if we just stay (00:44:00) insulated. So that's a universal human experience. That my humanity can actually only become what it's meant to be when I unify with other humans. 

These two narratives are inviting us to ponder that mystery almost in the abstract as it were, and it creates a core need in the biblical story. Whatever humanity is going to be in the story, its ideal state is when it's at one, when it's unified and it's one. They have to diversify and they have to multiply, but we're going to need for the ideal state for God and these creatures to rule the world together as partners. They are going to have to become one.

Jon: And where do you see that in Genesis 1 and 2?

Tim: In Genesis 1, it would be that male and female as they are fruitful and multiply, yet they are one species. They are ha'adam (humanity). And it's as one, it's as ha'adam that they image God together.

Jon: It all goes back to (00:45:00) that God created humanity in His image. 

Tim: That's right.

Jon: So there's a collective humanity all together...

Tim: Solidarity. 

Jon: Solidarity. Where do we get humanity? Well, it's all of this reproduction of male and females, which creates these families. Which has its own unity, which has its own kind of magic of being one, but two, or one but many that then all of these disparate families become humanity, which together image God.

Tim: Yeah. It's through their difference, joining together as one that they are the image. Just as a different male and a female together through their different unifying as one, now we've got the image of God.

Jon: So in Genesis 1:27, God created humanity in His own image. Is that reflecting on a future state of humanity with many families? (00:46:00) Or is this very abstract of like the potential of humanity?

Tim: Well, I think from the perspective of the narrator, from the person who wrote it, there's families all over the world. Where did we all come from? Well, here's one thing. We are all one humanity that together reflects the divine image.

Jon: I totally missed that when the translation is "God created man in His own image."

Tim: Oh, totally.

Jon: I totally miss that.

Tim: I agree.

Jon: So a lot of my confusion is coming from the fact that I've read this verse many times and I never thought about that he's reflecting on humanity as a whole being God's image.

Tim: As a whole single species. And it may be, one, the translation man, because of the English word "man," I think of a male human.

Jon: Yeah, I think a male human.

Tim: First of all. Then second is we are also in a culture that shaped how we think about human identity, that it's primarily something I...

Jon: Very individual.

Tim: ...as an individual possess. This is a completely different view of reality, that humans (00:47:00) primarily have a collective identity, and that my humanity, as an individual is only fulfilled and complete when I realize my unity with that whole. And it gives us all the groundwork for stuff the apostles and Jesus just take for granted when they start talking about the body of the Messiah. 

Jon: That's where we're heading?

Tim: The new humanity. 

Jon: That's where we're heading.

Tim: But this is all the necessary groundwork to get there.

Jon: Going back to just the people who wrote this, the hill country...

Tim: Israelites

Jon: ...the Israelites living in the Near East, everyone's got their own origin stories that explain why they're important. It's so fascinating that the origin story that they embrace...I guess, well, it's a minority report, like you said... 

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: ...but the prophets put forward is that all the nations are the image of God. 

Tim: Totally. That's exactly right.

Jon: Because you would say, "Well, our nation is the image of God. (00:48:00) 

Tim: Our nation is the image of God.

Jon: And that's even a big step. Because usually it's the king. The king of our nation is the image of God. And we serve the king and he is God's representation. 

Tim: That's right.

Jon: But here they're saying, "All nations are the image of God."

Tim: In other words, most people groups tell their foundation story in a way that privileges their group as having a superiority over another family. Our family was founded by the gods, our kingdom, our family, that kind of thing. And as of the other nations, they're subhuman. This is how the language of family mythology works is you paint your origins as superior and other families as inferior, and therefore deserving to be your slaves or wiped out. So this is a remarkably universal and global, international way of thinking about human identity at the beginning of the story. (00:49:00)  

Section break (00:49:40) 

Tim: So the point here is in Genesis 1 and 2, summarize, we're thinking about humanity as a collective, unified whole. And that only as a collective unified whole do our humans, the image of God, partners with God, to do the thing that God called them to do. Genesis 2 zeroes in and gives us that idea from another narrative angle of a lone human.

Jon: I can't do it.

Tim: I can't do it. And then you dramatize it with the animals. Like, oh, they come in pairs but there's no human pair. God splits the human. So the humanity becomes male and female.

Jon: Have you ever tried to preach this during a marriage ceremony?

Tim: No. No. No one goes to a wedding to hear a sermon. 

Jon: No. 

Tim: No. 

Jon: But isn't it kind of like your obligation as a pastor to be like, "Well, they're not here to hear a sermon but I got them." 

Tim: No way.

Jon: "I'm giving them a sermon." I've been to those weddings. 

Tim: Oh, I've been there too. Different philosophies. There's different philosophies of how to do wedding. There are many human expressions of how to do a wedding. 

Jon: Totally. If we put 100 on the wall, we would see the fullness of them. 

Tim: That's right.

Jon: No, you are there to celebrate marriage. And to celebrate marriage, appreciate (00:51:00) the mystery of what it is and how deep it goes.

Tim: That's right. There are many ways to appreciate it. And one of them is to just watch it happening.

Jon: That's true. 

Tim: Anyway, the point is in Genesis 2, you go from the one to the many. The one becomes more than one so that they can reunite so that the many can become one again. So now we can get the story moving and they can be what God called them to be. That's the narrative arc of Genesis 2. So it's making the same basic point as the poem in Genesis 1. So you walk out of the garden of Eden and you're like, "Wow, man, if humans can be many and one through a commitment to each other at the same time, that would be a pretty sweet setup." And, of course, it's precisely the unity between the two that is broken in Genesis 3.

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: The first casualty is not between God and humans. The first casualty after the humans eat from the forbidden tree (00:52:00) is they knew that they were naked, and then they hide their bodies from each other. Then they hide from God. They hide first from each other, their bodies, their oneness. 

Jon: Their unity is broken.

Tim: Their oneness. They're now estranged from each other. Because the two of them were naked. And it's cool. Total vulnerability. And there's no shame the moment...

Jon: It's like being naked with yourself, which I guess has its own shame sometimes.

Tim: Yeah, totally. Yes. Yeah, totally.

Jon: Okay. Where are we going from here?

Tim: Well, from here it's going to be how the narrative arc is going to focus on how humanity is becoming many and that's a problem because of violence outside the garden. So there's going to be a human attempt to all become one again or to retain the oneness of humanity, but not in a good sense. And this is called Babylon. 

Jon: This comes back to the insight we made last episode, which is unity (00:53:00) is going to happen

Tim: Ah, I see. Yes. 

Jon: That's just kind of like gravity happens. It's like almost like a law of nature of like there is going to be this more and more cooperation. But you said it's the story by which you are unifying, and that one leads to Babylon and one leads to the new humanity. So that's what we're going to chase down.

Tim: Yeah. The difference is going to be, are we going to unify in such a way that you have to lose your unique identity to become one with me? Or is there a way to become one where our unique identities are retained, but transformed and enriched together by becoming one? The unity where one culture assimilates everything into itself to make it its own version of one, this is called Babylon. But the version (00:54:00) that both retains and enriches everyone's different humanity, this is called the family of God or the new Jerusalem.

Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of the BibleProject podcast. We are in the beginning of this series on the family of God. Next week, we will continue the third episode, looking at the table of nations. 

Tim: It's a genealogy kind of. Really more it's an ethnographic map of the biblical world. And notice the categories here. These are the nations, each in their language, by their family, by their nation. We're building out the biblical world right here. These are all the characters that are going to play a role in the rest of the biblical story.

Jon: This episode was produced by Dan Gummel, show notes by Lindsey Ponder, and the theme music is by the band Tents. BibleProject is a nonprofit organization. Our mission is to experience the Bible as one unified story that leads to Jesus. So that's the goal of this podcast. (00:55:00) We also create videos that come out of these conversations. We put those videos on YouTube and our own website, bibleproject.com. They're quick visual summaries of biblical themes, and other biblical books, and word studies, and all sorts of other good stuff. We have other resources. It's all for free because of the generous support of people like you. Find it all at bibleproject.com. Thanks for being a part of this with us.

12 Episodes

Episode 12
Does the Church Supersede Israel?
How can the book of Ephesians contribute to conversations surrounding modern race and justice issues? Tim and Jon interview New Testament scholar Andrew Rillera and discuss Ephesians 2 and the unified, diverse family of God.
1hr 12m • Feb 15, 2021
Episode 11
Reading While Black
From biblical deconstruction to the responsibility of Jesus followers in government and social justice, we’re looking at what the Bible has to say about some of society’s biggest questions today. Join Tim and Jon as they interview New Testament scholar Esau McCaulley, author of *Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation as an Exercise in Hope*.
52m • Feb 8, 2021
Episode 10
Why Do Cain's Descendants Show Up After the Flood?
Thank you to our audience for your incredible questions. In this week's episode, we tackle questions like: Did Adam represent a male human? Where did Cain’s wife come from? And what is the relationship of the Church to Israel? Listen in to hear the team answer your questions.
1hr 1m • Feb 1, 2021
Episode 9
One Family Once More
God’s plan has always been to bring all of humanity into one diverse and connected family. Jesus carried forward this mission in his teachings, calling God’s people to look past societal divisions and be unified in him. Join Tim and Jon in this week’s podcast episode as they look at the theme of unity in the New Testament.
1hr 5m • Jan 25, 2021
Episode 8
The Powerful and Not Powerful
In the book of Romans, Paul talks about humanity being justified by faith, but what does this have to do with the family of God? In this episode, Tim and Jon look at Paul’s letter to the Romans and unpack what it looks like to unify a diverse group of people into one family.
1hr 6m • Jan 18, 2021
Episode 7
Who’s In?
God wants people from all nations to be a part of his family, but Jesus’ mission was focused on Israel. So how did the Gospel message move out from Israel to the rest of the world? Join Tim and Jon as they unpack the arrival of the Spirit and Jesus’ commissioning of his disciples.
52m • Jan 11, 2021
Episode 6
Jesus and the Gentiles
Who did Jesus come for? Throughout the Gospel accounts, Jesus is laser-focused on Israel. Yet his ministry and even his family tree include many non-Israelite people. In this week’s episode, join Tim and Jon for a look at the family of God in the life of Jesus.
1hr 2m • Jan 4, 2021
Episode 5
Sibling Rivalry and Biblical Election
Why do God’s chosen people have just as many moral failings as anyone else in the Bible? In this week’s episode, Tim and Jon take a look at ancient sibling rivalries, divine election, and God’s determination to form a covenant people that will one day embrace and include all nations.
57m • Dec 21, 2020
Episode 4
Abraham, the Immigrant, and Circumcision
What does divine election have to do with God’s blessing for all nations? In this week’s episode, we’re picking up the story of the family of God with Genesis 12-17, God’s calling of Abraham. Join Tim and Jon to see how God responds to Abraham and Sarah’s bad choices and turns them into something good for all people.
1hr 6m • Dec 14, 2020
Episode 3
What’s So Bad About Babel?
What was so bad about the Tower of Babel? In this episode, Tim and Jon examine the cycle of division within the human race in Genesis 1-11, the violence that occurs when humans unite apart from God, and God’s plan to use one family to redeem all families in the end.
1hr 5m • Dec 7, 2020
Episode 2
Our Collective Identity
What is God’s picture of an ideal humanity? In this podcast episode, Tim and Jon look at Genesis 1-2 and talk about how God makes one humanity, divides them, and purposes for them to be one again. And this oneness that God brings doesn't erase personal and cultural differences. Rather, it completes them.
56m • Nov 30, 2020
Episode 1
God’s Global Family
Jesus unites his followers across cultural and ethnic lines as members of his global family. But that doesn’t mean cultural differences disappear. In fact, Jesus resurrects and glorifies what is unique and beautiful about every culture. In this episode, listen in as Tim and Jon discuss what it means to be part of the family of God.
1hr 1m • Nov 23, 2020
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