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Creation as Temple-Building and Work as Liturgy in Genesis 1-3 
Jeff Morrow
Seton Hall University
Genesis 1-3, in its account of creation, presents the cosmos as one large temple, the Garden of Eden as the Holy of Holies, and the human person as made for worship. The very content and structure of Genesis 1-3 is in a very real sense liturgical; the seventh day is creation’s high point.

The Sevenfold Structure of Creation in Genesis 1
The number seven is important for the form and content of Genesis 1 as the number of perfection in the ancient Near East, the number relating to covenant, and of course, the number of the day known as the Sabbath, the pinnacle of creation. Genesis 1:1 contains seven words: běrē’šît bārā’ ’elōhîm ’ēt hašāmayim wě’ēt hā’āreṣ. Genesis 1:2 has fourteen words, seven times two. Furthermore, significant words in this passage occur in multiples of seven: God (35 times, i.e., seven times five), earth (21 times, i.e., seven times three), heavens/firmament (21 times), “and it was so” (7 times), and “God saw that it was good” (7 times)...
The poetic framework and symmetry of this passage is what allows one scholar to describe its theme as the “Cosmic Liturgy of the Seventh Day.” Creation unfolds as a “cosmic liturgical celebration” culminating on the seventh day.
The Tabernacle as a New Creation
Numerous parallels exist between the seven days of creation and Moses’ construction of the tabernacle in the Book of Exodus. The tabernacle’s consecration process lasted seven days, indicating another heptadic pattern also connected to the Sabbath ordinances. Furthermore, key verbal correspondences exist between Moses’ construction of the tabernacle in Exodus 39-40 and God’s creation of the world in Genesis 1...
The Temple as New Tabernacle and New Creation
The parallels between creation and the tabernacle are also mirrored in the parallels between the seven days of creation and Solomon’s construction of the Jerusalem temple. Absent are the striking verbal correspondences, yet there remains cosmic symbolism in the temple construction...
Creation as Temple in the Ancient Near East
This association between Temple and creation is not unique to the Genesis text, nor is the heptadic structure. In fact, temples throughout the ancient Near East often had cosmological connotations. The building of a temple often accompanied creation, as we find in the Enuma Elish and elsewhere...
Creation in Genesis, we may conclude, is described as a temple; it is constructed as an ancient Near Eastern temple would be constructed. The divine fiats are “architectural directives,” in the words of Meredith Kline.
The Garden of Eden as the Inner Sanctuary and the Human Person as Created for Worship
...Genesis 2-3 depicts the Garden of Eden as the Holy of Holies, and this has implications for our understanding of humanity’s purpose. In this section, I will first discuss Eden’s image as an Inner Sanctuary and then discuss human beings as homo liturgicus, liturgical humanity made for worship.
Gregory Beale notes that the distinction of regions of creation described by Genesis are similar to those of the Temple. The heavens represent the holy of holies, the earth the inner sanctuary, and the sea the outer court. Other indications of this similarity appear in the text. In Genesis 3:8, for example, God walks back and forth (using a form of hlk) in Eden, which is also how God’s presence is described in the tabernacle in Leviticus 26:12 and Deuteronomy 23:14.
In examining the rest of the canon, we find other evidence that points to intentionality in these parallels that make creation appear as a temple. The Temple, and Mount Zion in general, are frequently associated with Eden, and in some instances actually identified with Eden...
If Eden is the Holy of Holies in God’s Temple of creation, the implication is that humanity, created for this inner sanctuary, is best understood as Homo liturgicus. Living in the Holy of Holies, humanity is called to give worship to God in all thoughts, words, and deeds. When we look at the Genesis account of Eden, we find other instances of people portrayed as created for worship. Adam, for example, is told to “till” (from the root ‘bd) and “keep” (from the root šmr). When šmr and ‘bd occur together in the OT (Num. 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 18:5-6; 1 Chr. 23:32; Ezek. 44:14) they refer to keeping/guarding and serving God’s word and also they refer to priestly duties in the tabernacle. And, in fact, šmr and ‘bd only occur together again in the Pentateuch in the descriptions in Numbers for the Levites’ activities in the tabernacle. Such an association reinforces the understanding of Adam as a sort of priest-king, or even high priest, who guarded God’s first temple of creation, as it were. In light of this discussion, therefore, what we find in Genesis 1-3 is creation unfolding as the construction of a divine temple, the Garden of Eden as an earthly Holy of Holies, and the human person created for liturgical worship.
Notes of special interest:
18 Fletcher-Louis, All the Glory of Adam, 63. This conclusion follows a series of liturgical parallels and themes that Fletcher-Louis had just summarized in his text as follows: “[There exists] a set of literary and linguistic correspondences between creation (Genesis 1) and the tabernacle (Exod 25-40)….the seven days of creation in Genesis 1 are paired with God’s seven speeches to Moses in Exodus 25-31….Each speech begins ‘The Lord spoke to Moses’ (Exod 25:1; 30:11, 16, 22, 34; 31:11, 12) and introduces material which corresponds to the relevant day of creation...
47 Beale, Temple and the Church’s Mission, 74-75. On these pages, He comments: “It may even be discernable that there was a sanctuary and a holy place in Eden corresponding roughly to that in Israel’s later temple. The Garden should be viewed as not itself the source of water but adjoining Eden because Genesis 2:10 says, ‘a river flowed out of Eden to water the Garden’. Therefore, in the same manner that ancient palaces were adjoined by gardens, [quoting John Walton] ‘Eden is the sources of the waters and [is the palatial] residence of God, and the garden adjoins God’s residence.’ Similarly, Ezekiel 47:1 says that water would flow out from under the holy of holies in the future eschatological temple and would water the earth around. Similarly, in the end-time temple of Revelation 22:1-2 there is portrayed ‘a river of the water of life…coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb’ and flowing into a garden-like grove, which has been modeled on the first paradise in Genesis 2, as has been much of Ezekiel’s portrayal. If Ezekiel and Revelation are developments of the first garden-temple…then Eden, the area where the source of water is located, may be comparable to the inner sanctuary of Israel’s later temple and the adjoining garden to the holy place….Eden and its adjoining garden formed two distinct regions. This is compatible with…[the] identification of the lampstand in the holy place of the temple with the tree of life located in the fertile plot outside the inner place of God’s presence. Additionally, ‘the bread of the presence’, also in the holy place, which provided food for the priests, would appear to reflect the food produced in the Garden for Adam’s sustenance….the land and seas to be subdued by Adam outside the Garden were roughly equivalent to the outer court of Israel’s subsequent temple...
49 ...Fletcher-Louis writes that, “The office of high priest was thought to recapitulate the identity of the pre-lapsarian Adam. This goes back at least as far as Ezekiel 28:12ff. where the prince of Tyre wears precious stones which are simultaneously those worn by the Urmensch in the garden of Eden and those of the Aaronic ephod according to Exodus 28” (Fletcher-Louis, “Worship of Divine Humanity,” 126).
52 ...Beale concludes that, “The cumulative effect of the…parallels between the Garden of Genesis 2 and Israel’s tabernacle and temple indicates that Eden was the first archetypal temple, upon which all of Israel’s temples were based” (79-80)...
55 ...Beale’s comments about how rabbinic literature treated Adam’s duties in the Garden are insightful. He explains that, “The Aramaic translation of Genesis 2:15 (Tg. Neofiti) underscores this priestly notion of Adam, saying that he was placed in the Garden ‘to toil in the Law and to observe its commandments’ (language strikingly similar to…Numbers [3:7-8; 8:25-26; 18:5-6]….Verse 19 of this Aramaic translation also notes that in naming the animals Adam used ‘the language of the sanctuary’” (67). Beale writes further, “Indeed, Tg. Pseudo-Jonathan Genesis 2:7 says that God created Adam partly of ‘dust from the site of the sanctuary’….Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 11 and 12, and Midrash Rabbah Genesis 14:8 [among other texts],…all affirm that Adam was created at the site of the later temple, which was also at Eden or was apparently close to it…” (67 n. 90). Finally, “Midrash Rabbah Genesis 16:5 interprets Adam’s role in Gen. 2:15 to be one of offering the kinds of ‘sacrifices’ later required by the Mosaic Law” (67 n. 91)...

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