He Makes Her Desert Like the Garden of Yahweh: Isaac’s Birth as Resurrection from Death

In his book entitled Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel, Jon D. Levenson persuasively argues that the emphasis on ancestry in ancient Israelite culture was due to the recognition that the promises of YHWH were made to their ancestors and that perpetuation of those promises was accomplished through progeny. Therefore, barrenness represented nothing less than death for a particular family line. Tacit indications in the book of Genesis in the stories of Abraham’s first encounter with Abimelech (Gen 20:1–18) and in the stories of Sarah’s, Rebekah’s, and Rachel’s inability to bear children (Gen 11:30; 25:19; 30:1) indicate that Moses intended to communicate as much to his readers. Therefore, I will argue that in the book of Genesis the barrenness of Sarah’s womb represents death for Abraham’s family line, and because YHWH promised to bring forth the promised seed (Gen 3:15) from Abraham and Sarah, the birth of Isaac represents resurrection from death. In his 2013 dissertation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Mitchell Chase argued for the seeds of resurrection hope in Genesis, and I hope to further demonstrate such hope based on authorially-intended typological structures in Genesis. Just as exile from the presence of YHWH is equated with death in the Pentateuch (Gen 2–3; cf. Deut 30:15–20), so the anticipated return from exile represents resurrection. Thus, when YHWH promises Sarah that she will bear a son and she responds, “Will I have pleasure (עֶדְנָה)?” (Gen 18:12), she understands the promise of birth from her barren womb to be a promise of restored fertility, of return to Eden (עֵדֶן).

I intend to demonstrate through textual observation the presence of an authorially-intended and prospective resurrection-from-death typological structure in the book of Genesis. First, I will survey Levenson’s and Chase’s work to establish the validity of resurrection hope in Genesis. Then, I will conduct a detailed study of עֶדְנָה in Genesis 18:12, a hapax legomenon in the Hebrew Bible, among other occurrences of the עדן root in the Pentateuch. I intend to argue that Sarah’s response is intended to typologically connect her hope for birth from her dead womb with the anticipated hope of return to Eden from exile—death in Genesis 2–3. Such restored fertility stands as a stark literary contrast to the desolation of Lot’s wife (Gen 19:26). Finally, I will argue that such a connection coheres with the notion that restoration of creation will come through human procreation (Gen 3:15). As the Seed of the woman will crush the serpent, renewing creation, and as that Seed must be born to accomplish it, so the promise and arrival of Abraham’s seed serves as an installment in this typological structure and perpetuates YHWH’s promise to the next generation.

5 thoughts on “He Makes Her Desert Like the Garden of Yahweh: Isaac’s Birth as Resurrection from Death”

  1. Sculthorpe, He Makes Her Desert Like the Garden of Yahweh
    Intriguing, but seems to collapse barrennness, death, birth, and resurrection into one polyvalent concept. Some nuance would help.

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