YHWH planted a garden, then planted two humans in it. Before them stood two trees: one of life and one of knowledge seemingly necessary to becoming “like gods.” A route to submission, a route to new power. We know the fruit of their decision. Their eyes opened to nakedness and its accompanying shame. God covered their nakedness, but the damage was done.
What better illustrates the loss of childlike innocence than realization of sexuality?
Humanity was cursed.
Years later, Noah planted an orchard with his three sons. He drank a bit too much fermented fruit. His son, power-lusting Ham, raped Noah’s wife in an attempt to usurp his father’s authority. Naked Noah awakened to great shame. His other sons had covered his nakedness, but the damage was done.
Ham’s offspring were cursed.
Even today, we call generational cycles, like alcoholism and abuse, “curses.”
Ham is ancestor to the archetypes for the Kingdom of Man — “My will be done.” Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians descend from his power grab.
Shem, another son of Noah, is the ancestor of a shepherding people — Semites. Scripture hones in on a descendent named Joseph, of Israel’s tribe. He’s arrogant, and a threat to his many older brothers’ familial power. This tribe is no stranger to younger brothers stealing power — their father, Israel, betrayed their uncle for it.
Joseph’s jealous brothers sell him into slavery. Pride broken and giving all glory to YHWH, he miraculously rises into the ranks of Egyptian power. During a great famine, he sells grain to the starving — humbly, he declares that YHWH has used him to bless others. Eventually, he is reunited with his brothers and father, all reconciling through mutual humility.
That’s a rare happy ending in the Bible.
Years later, the tribe of Israel become slaves to Egypt. The family is exploited to build store cities that hoard grain for sell during famines at unfair prices. Joseph blessed nations with surplus, while the later Egyptians used Joseph’s family for systemic injustice.
God delivers the Israelites and reminds them constantly: Remember where you came from, remember your roots.
You were slaves. Never forget.
Prophets chosen for their humility guided Israel into a new land. Kings corrupted by power polluted the land in a dark period of idolatry and greed. Prophets — no longer the leaders — decry societal injustices, warning that mistreatment of the weak will mean destruction of the strong.
Descendants of Ham — Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians — pulverize the Israelites. The Northern Kingdom is scatters and the powerful of the Southern Kingdom are exiled, to be broken and relearn their roots as a captive people in need of salvation.
Deuteronomy laments (or warns against) the Israelites forgetting who they were — once-freed slaves.
Prophets spoke of a new Messiah, a new king who would come to save his people. Jews whispered beneath the oppression of empires that this Messiah would be a new David who would trample their oppressors.
Centuries later, this Messiah arrives. This anointed one’s short yet eternal era is ushered in not by kings, but by a man clothed in camel hair.
To kickstart his reign, this man dwells in a desert to conquer temptations of power. He proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven — “Thy will be done.” — has arrived. This upside-down kingdom shames the wise and strong: power is made perfect in weakness, the meek are royal inheritors, the poor are rich, servants are leaders, the last are first, becoming less makes one great.
Startlingly, the King of kings is a suffering servant, crucified by the empire He was “supposed” to destroy. He emptied Himself of power so He could gain power.
He lives today, and invites us to join this Kingdom of Heaven. It’s for anyone who wishes to join. There’s a catch, though.