Genesis 2: Introduction

November 11, 2009 — Leave a comment

[This post is part of the Genesis series]

Before we can really dig into Genesis 2, it would seem that we need to address how it relates to Genesis 1. It is interesting to note further that the narrative started in Genesis 1 doesn’t actually end until Genesis 2:4, yet another reminder that chapter divisions in the English Bible can be at times painfully artificial.

Typically, I think it has probably been taught to most that Genesis 2 is a more in depth look at Day 6 from Genesis 1. This is certainly plausible, however, in light of what we advanced about the Egyptian background of Genesis 1, we would have to ask the same questions of Genesis 2. Does it share a common background with Genesis 1?

One interesting observation from a textual level is that the account beginning in 2:4 uses the phrase, ‘elle toledot, which is probably translated in your version as “these are the generations of” although it could just easily be rendered, “this is the account of.” Even better yet, a paraphrase that still carries the nuance from the verb is “This is what became of X” In this case, “X” is the heavens and earth, however this introductory phrase shows up elsewhere throughout Genesis (5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2).

Basically these function as chapter headings throughout Genesis, meant to zoom in and focus in on a specific person and their story. In this sense, that is what is happening at 2:4. We’ve just seen an overview of the creation of the heavens and earth, now here is where the narrative starts and explains what became of the heavens and earth.

The issue that seems to arise though in simply seeing this as a focusing in on Day 6 comes in how you have been taking the days in Genesis 1 to function in a literal-historical sense. From the text Moses certainly intended 24hr days to be in view from a literary perspective. He is depicting God as a workman, who each day throughout the week works in His creation and then each night retires only to start again the next day until the 7th.

However, once we get to v. 5 we are told that the conditions present are that “no shrub of the field had yet grown on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprouted.” This raises questions then about what/where plants grew in Day 3. Did God merely set up the cycle on Day 3, but not jump start it until Day 6 and the creation of man? Maybe so, but that again present problems for the way we typically read Genesis 1. I don’t have an answer to offer here now, but hopefully we’ll reach clarity eventually.

An additional issue is the creation of man. As mentioned in Genesis 1, “bara” is only used in relation to the overview statement of Genesis 1:1 about the entire heavens and earth, the giant sea creatures, and finally man and woman. If one wanted to direct creation ex nihilo in those specific instances the verb allows it but does not demand it.

However, in Genesis 2, we see man and woman created separately, and in both instances being formed from pre-existing materials. At least in Genesis 2, man and woman are in no sense created ex nihilo, and further, in Genesis 1, they are created by divine fiat (by God merely speaking them into existence) whereas in Genesis 2, God actively forms them much like a potter forms clay (the verb used is meant to echo that idea).

So in Genesis 2, we have God forming a large clay statute and then breathing life into him. Later on, He removes part of this man’s rib and then fashions an entire other human out of it. Is this a scientific “how” in regards to the creation of man? Which account is the literal/historical depiction of what happened? Is either one?

Also of interest, is whether or not the Genesis 2 account is actually being depicted as all occurring on the same day. From what I can see, that is only an assumption based on the idea that it is unpacking Day 6. Nothing in the text itself gives an idea as to what is transpiring in terms of the passage of time. The beginning point of the narrative is at a time when the “Lord God had not yet caused it to rain” as well as the aforementioned condition of the ground lacking plants. Other than that, the events it seems are proceeding in linear fashion, but no time markers are given.

Although not related to how to reconcile Genesis 1 and 2, a good question is why Moses felt it necessary to give the 4 verse background excursion into the rivers. Was this to make it plain that Eden was a particular place? Or was it symbolism depicting something else?

The text itself might not mandate it, but I would think the events of Genesis 2 took place over a period of time rather than all immediately. This is an option if one does not see it was unpacking Day 6, or if one does but does not see the days in Genesis 1 as necessarily being 24hr days outside of the literary depiction of them being so.

From a developmental perspective, it is at least interesting to note that human beings cannot learn to speak unless spoken to. In the case of Adam then, was he created with the innate capacity to speak? (the same for Eve as well?) So far as we know, if this were the case, they were the only humans to have that capacity innately. I realize though there is some controversy around this issue, but it is at least something to consider. Was naming the animals part of God teaching Adam how to speak, something Adam then passed on to Eve prior to the events of Genesis 3?

All of these questions have an answer, some of them, I will try my best to unpack in the coming posts, some of them, I might not be able to offer any kind of definitive solution to, but that is just part of wrestling with the text Hopefully though, these questions will jump start the thinking process for you as we move forward, and maybe you can come to your own conclusions in the meantime.


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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