Love is an important part of life. Whether on Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrate romantic love, or any other day of life, love makes life more meaningful. And without love, life can be devastating. There’s actually a medical condition called “broken heart syndrome” or stress-induced cardiomyopathy. When our love for someone is seriously interrupted through a break-up or death, we can literally die. Love is an integral aspect of our humanity.
What is love? There are several definitions of love in English though a common theme is usually affection. We can love food (personally, I love tacos!), a child, a good friend. And of course, we can love a spouse or significant other. The love I have for my wife and the love you have for your favorite food may be different, but affection is the common motif in our different loves.
In a similar (but much better) way, God also loves. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the religious definition of love is “the benevolence and affection of God towards an individual or towards creation.” So love is both “benevolence and affection.” It is both willing the good for people and a tender sentiment for people. It’s quite natural for God to love people. After all, the Bible affirms God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is integrated into God’s very character.
Turning to God’s Word, we can see God’s benevolence and affection toward people flow through the pages of Genesis. From the opening chapter to the closing paragraph, God’s love is on display throughout the first book of the Bible. But if you’re not looking for it, you may miss it. That’s why we want to explore the various ways God shows his love for people in Genesis.
Defined as “benevolence and affection” toward people, the Genesis narrative is dependent upon a consistent display of love towards people. Starting with creation, we can see God’s love toward people. In six days, God created day, night, land, plants, stars, the sun, the moon, and creatures of all shapes and sizes (Genesis 1). To top it off, he created people to care for his glorious and extensive creation (Genesis 1:26). In these acts, we can see both God’s provision in a perfect home (the newly created earth) and an important job in caring for his creation (dominion).
There are several ways to show love to a person. If you were to provide someone a wonderful home and a significant occupation, this is one definite way to show benevolence and affection toward someone. Likewise, God demonstrated an immense love toward Adam and Eve in the original creation by giving them a perfect home and a noteworthy occupation in caring for this new world.
There are several ways to show love to a person. If you were to provide someone a wonderful home and a significant occupation, this is one definite way to show benevolence and affection toward someone.
God’s love in Genesis didn’t stop at creation. He continued his benevolence and affection toward people after the fall. After Adam and Eve sinned, they discovered something they hadn’t noticed before: they were naked. Before addressing that problem, God pronounced three judgments: one against the serpent (Genesis 3:14-15), one against Eve (Genesis 3:16), and one against Adam (Genesis 3:17–19). But after the judgment he circled back to the first couple’s discovery and did something that’s almost unexpected: he clothed them.
God’s provision for our first parents is significant. Instead of instructing Adam and Eve how to kill an animal and make clothes out of it to cover their nakedness, God did it all. In this demonstration of benevolence and affection, God showed a concern for Adam and Eve despite their rebellion. The Hebrew word for love is not found in Genesis 3, but God’s actions toward his image-bearers are evident in the middle of his judgment against their sin.
People didn’t stop sinning after Adam and Eve. In fact, corruption continued so much so that Moses wrote, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Sin became so great, God decided to judge his creation through a worldwide flood. Nearly every creature would be destroyed. Every antelope, wolf, sparrow, brachiosaur, cheetah, and human being that walked on the earth would be killed—except those saved on the ark. And just after God promised catastrophic judgment against the earth, we read, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).
God’s benevolence and affection was extended toward Noah, his family, and “two of every kind” of animal that would be preserved on the ark. (Genesis 6:19) While the rest of the creatures on the earth would perish outside the boat, everything on the ark would survive. In this, we see a tremendous measure of mercy, preservation, and love toward people and animals in this salvation.
After these initial demonstrations of love in Genesis, we find even more explicit displays of benevolence and affection toward specific people after the flood. There are several Hebrew words translated as love in our Bibles. Concerning God’s love in Genesis, it makes sense to focus on the word the author used to convey his love toward his people. The Hebrew word is checed (חֶסֶד). Strong’s defines checed as “goodness, kindness.” It is often translated simply as “love” and sometimes as “lovingkindness” in the Old Testament, depending on the translation. Here are the relevant verses in Genesis where God loves with checed (quoted from the ESV):
God’s love toward Abraham (as spoken by Abraham’s servant):
- And he [Abraham’s servant] said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love (Hebrew: checed) to my master Abraham.” (Genesis 24:12)
- “Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love (Hebrew: checed) to my master. (Genesis 24:14)
- [A]nd said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love (Hebrew: checed) and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master's kinsmen.’ (Genesis 24:27)
God’s love toward Jacob:
- “And Jacob said, ‘O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love (Hebrew: checed) and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.’” (Genesis 32:9,10)
God’s love toward Joseph:
- “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love (Hebrew: checed) and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:21)
In these verses, we see God had a special affection toward three individuals in Genesis: Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. These individuals played a special role in God’s redemptive story. They were core members of God’s chosen family in 3 of 4 successive generations. God loved Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph with a special checed kind of love.
In these verses, we see God had a special affection toward three individuals in Genesis: Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. These individuals played a special role in God’s redemptive story.
What does God’s love in Genesis have to do with us today? Much. As God demonstrated benevolence and affection toward people in Genesis, he loves people in a similar way today.
As God gave Adam and Eve a home and special job to do in Genesis, so also God shows his concern to their offspring by giving everyone a place to be. God placed us on earth – every one of us. He also gave us a job to manage God’s creation. So, there’s a measure of benevolence and affection God displays to every son and daughter of Adam and Eve.
God provided a sacrifice for Adam and Eve after they sinned. In a similar way, God later provided another perfect and final sacrifice for sins through Jesus (1 John 2:2). And just as God saved Noah’s family and the animals from a catastrophic judgment, God would show his love to future generations to everyone who trusted in Jesus. As those who stepped on the ark would be saved, so also those who flee to Jesus would not perish in judgment but obtain eternal life (John 3:16).
And just as God set his chesed affection on Abraham, God also sets his love on his sons and daughters because of their faith.
Finally, we see one final application of God’s benevolence and affection toward people in Genesis. Scripture tells us that believers in Christ are descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). And just as God set his chesed affection on Abraham, God also sets his love on his sons and daughters because of their faith. The Apostle Paul says it like this:
. . . Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” . . . Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6–9).
Paul tells us that believers in Christ are blessed. We have a similar faith in the same God that Abraham trusted. Amazingly, this benevolence and affection God showed to Abraham in Genesis can be enjoyed by every believer in Jesus. Because in him, we too are loved.
Find out more about God’s love and how to experience it in the Good News.