Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. Genesis 2:1-2 ESV
Welcome to the first indication of non-linear storytelling in the book of Genesis. Because even though all of creation is finished, Genesis 2:4 provides you with a retelling of everything you were just told in chapter one.1
In Chapter 2 Verse 7, we’re told of the creation of man and the absence of plants, but didn’t he create plants in already on Day 3 (Genesis 1:12) and say they sprouted already?
In Chapter 1, plants are on Day 3, and man on Day 6. In my previous commentary, I mentioned that there are evenings and mornings 3 days before the sun and moon were created. Obviously, this is not linear. Obviously, this is not a science textbook from which to make dogmatic claims.
I appreciate my church treating the creation of man as an “open hand” doctrine, which basically means, as long as you believe God is Creator, the mechanics of how exactly everything happened don’t matter and we can respect each other’s views, while remaining in fellowship. There are certain interpretations of the biblical text that my church is willing to break fellowship over, but your interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2 isn’t one of them.
Controversy and questions aside, isn’t it amazing that God rests? Chapter 2 adds a new bit of information about this “God” for the reader. Later in scripture, we’ll find that God does not get tired2, yet he rests.
Not only that, he blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because he rested on it. A God that created matter, space, and time itself, rests. Amazing!
Holy is a word that’s easy to gloss over and not properly define.
What does it mean to be “holy?” The word translated as holy is quadash (pronounced kaw-dash’), and it means “to be set apart or consecrated.”
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. Genesis 2:4 ESV
These are the generations of…
You will hear this phrase over and over again.
- generations of Adam – Genesis 5:1
- generations of Noah – Genesis 6:9
- generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth – Genesis 10:1
- generations of Shem – Genesis 11:10
- generations of Terah – Genesis 11:27
- generations of Ishmael – Genesis 25:12
- generations of Isaac – Genesis 25:19
- generations of Esau – Genesis 36:1, 9
- generations of Jacob – Genesis 37:11
This phrase is critical to the structure and organization of Genesis, and maybe that’s why it’s called Gene-sis.
What’s fascinating is that the author (or editor) chose to give the created work it’s own genealogy. The pattern is to say, “these are the generations of” and then list the genealogy. So it seems here in Verse 4, that whatever comes after that phrase will be the genealogy of the heavens and the earth.
Chapter 2 goes on to tell a story of no plants, no rain, and a watery mist. Then God forms man from the dust of the ground.
Throughout Genesis 1, God was called Elohim, the plural form of the Hebrew word Eloah. In Genesis 2:4, we’re introduced to a new name, the “LORD God,” or “YHVH Elohim.” YHVH are the consonants of the Lord’s name used with the vowels omitted, always translated in English as LORD (all caps) to denote the same reverence for the name, and let you know that it’s the name YHVH being invoked.
The ancient Jews believed that the name Yahweh was too holy to even write. So in an effort to follow the second commandment and not use the Lord’s name in vein, they used YHVH instead. Often when Jews write in modern English literature (as well as a few Christian denominations), they will write the word G-d instead of fully spelling it out.
This new name used all of a sudden in Chapter 2, in what seems to be a separate account of creation, lends credence to the J, E, P, and D documentary hypothesis of authorship of the Torah, where rather than one author, there are many authors and Moses maybe functioned more as an editor compiling existing texts and oral traditions, while others that came after him provided further edits and composition. Obviously Moses’ authorship of the Pentateuch can’t be taken completely literally, since he didn’t write about his own death in Deuteronomy 34.
Genesis 2 is a retelling of Genesis 1, with an emphasis on man. Rather than a timeless cosmic deity who creates by command, God is presented a potter, who intimately forms man from the dust of the ground and breathes life into him.
And the LORD God formed the man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7 KJV
Sometimes things just sound more epic in the King James – “man became a living soul.” This is one of the most interesting aspects of philosophy and also the Bible.
What is a soul, exactly?
Some people say spirit. Some people use the two terms interchangeably. Some people say “You are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in a body.”
I’ve found after many years of study that the bible is not very specific, and when people claim it is, it can be pretty easily demonstrated that they’re reading their personal beliefs into the passages. I’ve even gotten into an online debate with someone about how just non-specific the Bible is on these matters.
It also brings up questions about general anesthesia. I’ve had it twice in my life, once at the age of thirteen when I broke my arm completely (my right arm looked like a lightning bolt) and again when I had my wisdom teeth removed at the age of twenty. Both times I was there, and then I was not, and then I was there again. Except the not part didn’t really exist for me. It’s more like I was there, and then there again but slightly disoriented. No perception of the passage of time.
If I took some people’s notions of mind-body dualism seriously, my spirit should have been off playing golf somewhere and making memories, or at least dreaming. There was none of that.
I’m sort of an expert when it comes to dreams, having had lucid dreams my whole life, and I’ve experienced portions of the sleep-wake cycle that people are not normally conscious for. Anesthesia allowed me to skip time – twice – even in spite of me treating the experience like a game thinking, “I bet I can keep myself wake, in spite of these drugs.”
I played twice, I lost twice.
I remember at age thirteen, my doctor put my broken arm into some contraption and hooked up my fingers to what looked like Chinese finger traps. Then he told me to count down from ten. I don’t remember getting past five.
It was through my first experience with anesthesia that the invincible thirteen year old version of me began to realize just how mortal he was. Not only could my arm break from a simple game of basketball, but someone could gas me, or stick me with a needle, and my body would just… respond… and there wouldn’t be a damn thing I could do about it.
Alzheimer’s disease and brain damage make even better cases against at least the traditional surface-level interpretation of the immortal soul, that remembers its life on Earth.
Theistic Evolutionists like myself are of diverse opinions when it comes to the creation of Adam. There is no monolithic Theistic Evolutionary view of the creation of Adam. Most of us are agnostic about how literally to take Genesis 2:7, and are happy to find out in Heaven.
Some think man evolved and became conscious or “ensouled” at some point, that the first conscious human was Adam, and that he formed his own basic language rooted in the self-awareness of his own being.
Valtar Krajcar, Ph.D., a Catholic and Theistic Evolutionist, has a speculative position that I find truly interesting, not because I agree or disagree, but rather because it’s a logical progression of what would have to be true if Adam was not a special creation. If man was not a special creation, it makes the story of Adam, first conscious human, one truly wrought with wonder, adventure, and peril – a sort of hero’s journey.
And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. Genesis 2:8
Notice how Adam was created outside the garden, and then later placed into it, but Eve was made in the garden. I’ve read books like Wild at Heart, as well as A Biblical Case for an Old Earth that go into some detail about implications for the spirit and divine nature of God imprinted in men.
A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. Genesis 2:10-14 ESV
This is where the style of the story diverges a bit and provides more concrete locations. It’s similar to Genesis 14:10, a story most people take as history rather than allegory, using real landmarks to place the reader spatially. But Jesus also did the same with his parables, saying things like “A man from Samaria…” (Luke 10:33). He doesn’t give the man’s name, or even the name of the injured victim he helps. Parables in the New Testament were used to illustrate truth, and the same can be said of Genesis 2.
The truth being communicated is that God is the creator, and man hold’s a special place among created things, being made in the image and likeness of God.
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. Genesis 2:15-17
Next we see the man given an assignment. Not only is he to have dominion over all created things (Genesis 1:26), he is to work and keep the garden in which God places him. If the garden was perfect, he wouldn’t have to tend it. Here already we see – if we’re talking about a literal garden – at least plant death at work, because in order to keep a garden, it has to grow, and you have to kill portions of it to keep it from overgrowing. To eat any plant-life, it must decompose into its constituent parts, which is death.
Then we see a warning from God about the garden. Eat of every tree but one. Even the tree of life was available to him. Imagine that!
Moreover, a perfect garden doesn’t have a built in self-destruct button, in the form of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Maybe most important is the issue of God’s warning, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Surely a follow-up question to a brand-new man formed in the wilderness, who knows nothing of good or evil would ask, “What is death?”
Adam doesn’t ask this, and many believe it’s because he knew exactly what animal death was, especially if you consider what he names the animals in Verse 19, that is, if Adam spoke Hebrew.
Just a few quick examples:
- The Hebrew word for eagle, “nesher” (Strong’s 5404) comes from a root word meaning “to lacerate.”
- The word for snake, “nachash” (Strong’s 5172) means to hiss, or to “whisper a magic spell.”
- The word for lion, “ari” (Strong’s 738) comes from a root word meaning “to pierce” and “violent.”
According to Traditional Jewish Exegesis, the name that Adam gave Eve, “Isha” (woman) and “Chava” (Eve, i.e. life-giver) only makes sense if spoken in Hebrew.
Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. Genesis 2:19 ESV
And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. Genesis 2:19 KJV
Verse 19 is the first time the man is called “Adam” in the KJV. Why does the ESV not begin using his name until Verse 20? I can’t say for sure.
But I do know that the Hebrew word adam means “man.” Strong’s concordance distinguishes between H120 adam which is a noun, and H121 Adam which is translated as a proper noun. ESV seems to follow the distinction in Strong’s concordance more strictly than the KJV.
But neither translation makes a perfect distinction between the two. You’d have to ask a Hebrew scholar to get any good information on this.
The ESV keeps using the man almost everywhere that the KJV uses Adam…until Genesis 3:17 where the ESV begins consistently using the proper noun Adam.
Another aspect of Verse 19, is one that has always seemed a bit strange to me, but it might just be strange in hindsight, because unlike this man, I already know how beautiful and angelic human women are, so it makes no sense to parade animals in front of him. Adam didn’t have that knowledge yet.
To understand this curious series of events, we have to go backwards to Verse 18, and forwards to Verse 20.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. Genesis 2:18-20
It looks as if God is allowing Adam to pick a mate, and so he marches the entire animal kingdom before him, so that he can name them and look for a “helper.” He finds none suitable for the task.
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Genesis 2:21-22
Adam names every animal on the planet, takes a long nap, and then meets his wife for the first time, and names her “woman.” That’s, uh, quite the busy schedule to fit into 24 hours on the 6th day, but you know Adam was obviously The Flash, so it makes perfect sense.
What did YOU do today?
Named every animal on the planet, took a nap, met a FINE woman, and wrote her a song.
I remember hearing or reading that Verse 23 is a song, or at least a type of poem, in Hebrew:
This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.
And it’s written that way in the ESV. I don’t blame Adam at all. If the first woman I ever saw was a fully grown naked female that God himself had created just for me, I’d have burst into song like it was High School Musical!
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24
You know a passage is important when Jesus himself quotes it (Matthew 19:5), and Paul calls it a profound mystery (Ephesians 5:32).
Remember how this train of thought began?
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth, when they were created…
Those thoughts now come to a close with a man being introduced to his wife, and the narrator saying:
And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:25
The stage is set, creation is finished.
Keep in mind that the original book of Genesis in Hebrew was not written in chapter and verse. Scholars did that later to organize everything. Jesus doesn’t use chapter and verse when quoting the Torah.↩
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. – Isaiah 40:28↩