Creation: The Story So Nice They Told It Twice! (Genesis 2)
- June 17th, 2019
Our “Rooted in Creation” summer series continues with the second chapter of Genesis and an entirely different creation story.
4 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, 5when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; 6but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but 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 die.’
18 Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,
‘This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.’
24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
This is one of those times when I simply love the Bible. Because what we have here, in Genesis 1-2, are two very different accounts of the creation. And there I no attempt to harmonize them or clear up the contradictions; the two stories simply sit there in the Bible, both of them true.
Scholars generally see Genesis 1 as a later development –something written by or in support of the priests who were based at the temple in Jerusalem. It reflects their interest in order, in symmetry, in structure. And it reflect their habit of referring to God as “God”
But in Genesis 2 we get the much older story –now it is “the Lord God,” and a priestly emphasis on order and structure gives way to something much closer to the dirt. Some Hebrew Bible scholars call this the “Old Epic” material –stories that stared around campfires, stories passed down the generations, from parent to child.
I will not walk through all of the differences between the two creation stories but rather offer a couple of observations about the things in the text that jump out at me:
RAW MATERIAL. Instead of waters/chaos, this story begins with desert –something far more familiar to the nomads who would have first told these stories. But neither creation account includes any reference to a creation ex nihilo. That was invented later, by Christian theologians.
MAN? The Hebrew in this story is fascinating. Adamah is the word for ground. Adam gets rendered as a proper name and you have the “first man,” from whom the “first woman” derives. But Adamah is a genderless term meant to underscore humanity’s close connection to the earth. (So I had a professor in seminary who insisted adam be translated as “earth creature”). It is only when God creates the second person that adam is gendered as “male and female” (ish and ishshah).
HELPER is the designation for the second human being. This has traditionally been rendered as “help meet” and used to assert the alleged inferiority of men to women. But the term “helper” implies no such subordination; indeed as Dennis Olson points out in The Access Bible, term “helper” is often applied to God (Psalm 10:14, 54:4).
When we look at this text specifically through the lens of creation care, two things seem clear:
- We are closely connected to the earth. “From dust we have come and to dust we shall return.” Rediscovering our kinship with the dirt could be a significant step, not only for our salvation, but the salvation of the planet.
- Paradise is NOT an all-inclusive resort. The first human beings are given god and meaningful work: to tend to the land. This is our first calling. The more alienated we are from it, the worse off we will be.