Chapter 2: The Temple City

After God’s judgment at Babel, the future looks bleak. Yet God calls a man named Abram to leave his home in Ur (close to Babylon) and to sojourn to a new land. From a canonical perspective, we know that Abram (later called Abraham) was looking for the “city of the living God” or the “heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:22). God leads him to the Promised Land and miraculously multiplies his descendants. As the narrative progresses, we see that God’s interactions with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all express the common theme reminiscent to Eden: “First, God comes and makes himself known, addressing each patriarch with words that recall the creation mandate in Genesis 1:28 for humans to be fruitful and fill the earth. Second, these theophanies are associated with altars that are often located on mountains” (34).

As the plot progresses, God continues to reveal himself as the God who dwells with his people, sinful as they are. God instructs Israel to build a tabernacle so that he can dwell with sinful Israel. Solomon’s more permanent temple is similar: “Like the portable sanctuary, the temple constructed by Solomon has features that associate it with the garden of Eden. The temple is decorated with arboreal imagery, including carvings of lilies and pomegranates on the tops of pillars” (37). This trajectory of increased permanence shows God’s intended plan from the beginning: Eden was meant to grow into a city. Therefore ancient Jerusalem becomes a faint picture of this hope that God will one day dwell fully and finally with his people. But even this faint picture is soon destroyed as Jerusalem is destroyed by the Babylonians, a “noteworthy ‘coincidence’ in light of Genesis 11:1–9” (42).