After reading about creation week, the story picks up in the garden of Eden.
It makes sense to me why no one knows exactly where this garden was (or is). Just because we don’t have some coordinates for it doesn’t mean that it never existed. As a matter of fact, it seems that a physical place on this physical planet where human beings were in actual, physical communion with God, in perfection, would forever be unreachable.
Of course there is a common belief about the general area. Like it was for sure in the Middle East. The Bible tells us that it was in the ‘east’, and how a river flowed from it and then broke off into four other rivers. It would seem that we should be able to trace these rivers back to a point of origin, but Martin Luther made the observation that the pathways of said rivers, and all other topography, would have been obliterated by Noah’s flood. As it stands now, only two of the rivers can be identified with any type of certainty.
It is safe to say that the exact location of Eden will remain a mystery until the time when all mysteries will be revealed.
The author sees fit to pack a ton of information into this second chapter. [And of course it doesn’t stop there. We have thousands of years crammed into the Bible. Hello, the entire creation of the world is comprised of thirty-one verses! It’s no wonder that we get so much going on in so few words. All the more reason to tread carefully, right?].
Genesis 2 closes up the creation week, gives another name for Elohim, introduces mankind, moves man into the garden, sets man up with his ‘house’ rules, puts man to work, and then introduces him to womankind.
But before we can move on from creation week, I need to make a special announcement, and so here it is: the first chapter of Genesis is a set-up for the second chapter, and the second chapter goes in and expands on certain parts of the first chapter.
I point this out because people like to try and say that what the Bible talks about in Genesis 2 doesn’t match up with Genesis 1 and so there are loopholes in the Bible. Well, I’m telling you right now that there aren’t loopholes, and there isn’t even any room for speculation. The words that were chosen were chosen for a reason, and we must read them as they were meant to be read.
Since verses 1-3 of chapter 2 finish up creation week, and we’ve already talked about that, we will pick up in verse 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.” Genesis 2:4
This verse gave me a hard time, which gave me a hard time with the verses that followed, and I will tell you why.
I didn’t even realize that verse 4 was the problem because I was spinning around and around verses 5-7. I was spinning around and around verses 5-7 because my brain was automatically skipping over verse 4, and I had no idea it was all because of one word.
My brain didn’t like this word. I was thinking about it in the context of family trees and since that didn’t apply to what I was reading, because man and woman had barely been created and all, I was subconsciously looking for the answer elsewhere.
This is a no-no.
What resulted from me ignoring verse 4 was me spending a really long time trying to figure out what was going on with verses 5-7, and by long time I mean a long time. Like a couple hours. On just two verses. Two verses that are basically simple when the verse in front of them is understood.
So by and by I began to take my time, and went back and deliberated each character, and I was praying for guidance and clarity, and my eyes came to rest on that word: generations.
Ah, there you are, my elusive troublemaker.
Once I had identified the hang-up I was able to do what I do best: finding out what it meant.
By looking at several other translations, and using my lexicon, I came to understand that ‘generations’ meant ‘geneology’ in the broad spectrum of ‘an account of history’ and not in the more narrow one of grandfathers, fathers, and sons. I have found that it is really helpful to gain traction when I have options. At the risk of sounding patronizing, allow me to explain: the different translations of the Bible choose different words based on how closely, or how easily, they resemble the original words. We are talking about ancient languages, here, so some of us may want the most closely resembled translation, or some of us may want the easiest. There isn’t anything wrong with either. I read the English Standard Version, which is considered to be “essentially literal”, so that the reader can have the most original feel. There are those of us who don’t want to learn Hebrew and Greek, but we also don’t want to overlook anything due to simplicity. For me, the more complicated the better. This is what draws me into the Word, while it is the same thing that could discourage others (for these people, the more simple translations would be better for sure).
Look at it like Shakespeare. Some of us, like myself, love Shakespeare because we like how each word blossoms as we read it, and only by reading each word and seeing them all together do we find a beautiful bouquet.
Take this renowned quote from Romeo and Juliet: “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?”
When I read that my brain wants to embark on the journey of discovering what it means. I enjoy the play on words as Shakespeare continues to explore the metaphor of light, referring to Juliet as the sun rising in the east, and how everyone else is the moon, jealous that their light does not shine as brightly. To me, it’s just genius. It causes me to know in a way that is outside of my every day.
Then there are those of us who like the abridged versions, the ones who like to just go to the flower shop and buy the bouquet, forget about each word blooming in the mind. Because, really, all Shakespeare is saying is: “Shh! A light has come on in the window.” But a lot of people don’t feel connected to his words because the prose gets in the way.
Once again, one way isn’t better than the other. We are both getting the story; we both wind up with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, and that’s what really matters.
But I digress.
So right at the beginning of chapter 2 the author is telling us that he has just finished giving an account of creation.
I know it shouldn’t have been that hard for me, but it was.
Did you notice what else the author said?
He said, “…LORD God…”
Up until this point God has been known as Elohim: the one true God, the Creator. Suddenly there is this concept of LORD, which is YHWH in Hebrew. Without getting too complicated, let me give you a quick rundown. The ancient Jews considered the name of God to be so reverent that they would not pronounce it out loud, so they removed the vowels from the spelling. Clearly, YHWH cannot be pronounced. Biblical scholars have studied these four consonants and decided that the name was probably meant to be Yahweh, and in keeping with the Jewish tradition the English translations of the Bible use LORD.
The point is to recognize that LORD, in all caps, is the name that Elohim goes by in reference to His relationship with mankind. It is God’s covenant name. LORD, Yahweh, means “the existing One”. It is the name when we see I AM, like when Moses asked Who was in the burning bush and God said, “I AM Who I AM.” He is promising that He is Who He has always been, and will always be, forever and ever and ever and ever.
Why promise that?
We’re getting to that part.
God introduces Himself to the cosmos as Elohim so that not a single atom or molecule has any doubt as to why they are a piece of whatever they are a piece of, and Who put them there. With YHWH, LORD, He is properly introducing Himself again.
I know that it seems overly complicated, but do you see?
He is introducing Himself to us.
The earth calls Him Elohim, we call Him Yahweh, so that we need never doubt His existence, we need never think we are alone. It brings us back to why we, humans, were created, and that is for community with God.
We don’t see this name before humanity was created, and that’s because there was no one to say it to. It might not seem like it because the phrase comes up eleven times in chapter 2 alone, but the title is used very rarely, and almost always in the Old Testament. Each time it is used it always reflects a special relationship between God and man. Immediately after the creation of humans there is an exclusive and delicious covenant between mankind and our Maker, Who is still the same- LORD God.
The covenant was in the actual name being used: we treat God like He is God, and He will treat us like He is God. This is a win/win scenario every time.
“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up- for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground- then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Genesis 2:5-7
Remember how I said that I was having a hard with verses 5-7 because I wasn’t understanding verse 4? There just seemed to be no reason for these vastly differing concepts to be used together.
Eventually I had to take out the entire portion in between the dashes and read it like this:
“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground…”
Any clearer yet? I didn’t think so. But it’s definitely a lot less complicated sounding.
But this is a perfect example of needing to check other translations. The punctation from verses 5-7 was really killing me. Look at how the NIV puts it:
“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth, and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
There. Now that makes quite a bit more sense.
You wouldn’t think that I would get so hung up on it. But I do! I just have to know.
Orginally I thought there was a lot of craziness going on. I forgot my original creed of reading what was written, and began to think that there was a lot skipping back and forth. Once I recognized that we were looking at an ‘account’, a narrative, I was able to take each piece and evalaute them and then put them back together.
Allow me to demonstrate:
-“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up,”
-At this point no new vegetative growth had taken place. On day 3 of creation, God had called the plants to sprout up out of the ground, and He had equipped them with seeds, but there had yet to be actual germination of those seeds that resulted in little baby plants. In a nutshell, all of the plants were fully grown and there were no new ones starting to grow yet. I’ve also heard it speculated that the author is eluding to the time when Adam will later be cursed to eat “the plants of the field”, as opposed to the fruits of the trees already provided in the garden. I don’t think it hurts to acknowledge the presence of metaphor here.
-“for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth”
-For whatever reason, God did not send rain until He destroyed the earth by flood in the days of Noah.
-“and there was no one to work the ground,”
– God wanted Adam to work the ground. He wanted Adam to nurture the garden, and plant seeds, and grow more plants, and take care of them. He wanted Adam to experience the joy of creating and making and working in a perfect environment. Don’t be mistaken, people. Work is good for us. It keeps us focused, and what better way for Adam to worship God than to be working on what God had made? What more of a reminder that he was created, that everything he touched and worked on was created, by a powerful and everlasting Creator?
-“but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.”
-God still took care of His earth. Yes, He wanted Adam to work the ground, and yes, He made plants first, and no, there was no rain, which is what causes plants to grow regardless of who plants them, even so, God provided a mist that went over the plants to hydrate them from the ground up. And I think that’s really cool.
-THEN God reached down, molded the earth, and breathed life into the human and he became a living being. Wow.
“And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed… The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:8 and 15
What I never realized before I did this study was that God created the man, breathed life into him, and then planted the garden of Eden. It was like he was giving Adam a present. I imagine that Adam got to watch the process of God making “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (vs.9). He watched God scoop out that amazing river which went through the garden, and not only that but he was with God. God’s own Spirit had breathed life into him. They were connected not only in perfection but in their similarity, which came from man being created in God’s image, from man breathing the breath of the Spirit. Both the Hebrew and the Greek words for Spirit mean ‘breath’. Coincidence? I think not.
I think our English translation loses the uniqueness of what has happened with the word ‘put’. In verse 8 ‘put’ is a simple verb. God put man in the garden, as in He picked him up from wherever He had created him and set him down in the garden. Then there is a description of the garden and the rivers coming out of it. Then, in verse 15, the word for ‘put’ is a sacred one. It is the same one that was used in reference for when God put His people in the Promised Land, a secure place where they could rest (Deut. 12:10). It is the same word used when Moses commands for manna to be put in the ark of the covenant in order to always remember God’s faithfulness (Ex. 16:33-34). We can establish that man was put in the garden to rest in the safety of God’s presence, where he could fellowship with his Creator.
Wow. Just, wow.
I mean, I feel like I see this giant smile on God’s face as He walks with Adam through the garden, “Here is your garden, my friend. I made you this place so that you could call it home, so that you could take care of it, so that you could have a small taste of the satisfaction I have experienced in making all of this happen…”
I originally assumed that taking care of the garden would look a lot like eating fruit and petting puppies. After all, if the world was perfect, surely actual work wouldn’t be a part of it! Thankfully, I came to realize that the first couple of chapters in Genesis talk about seeds and planting so much because mankind was actually supposed to plant the seeds. God made all things good, and hard work is good for us. It was part of the original plan! I mean, how rewarding is hard work? How much more do we appreciate something that we have built or cared for with our own hands?
Also, you know what, to all of you who are afraid of Heaven because it sounds boring to the max, if work was part of the perfect world than I’m sure it will be part of our time in Heaven, which will also be perfect. I think this is because the original word for ‘working’ the garden is the same one as ‘serving’. It is worship to the ultimate Creator to tend to His creation, to nurture it. God gave the man an actual way to express his love and gratitude to God, to fully appreciate all of the wonders of creation, and this was by serving the garden. Acts of service are such a good way to feel close to God, and it’s no surprise that the devil uses selfishness to keep us from identifying with our Creator.
‘Keeping’ the garden is the same word for ‘keeping’ house. Just because God gave Adam the garden for free didn’t mean that he got to throw his banana peels wherever he wanted. He was compelled to respect his home, which was an act of respect to the One Who had given him his home. I’m not sure who’s currently taking the credit, but Adam was probably the first person to start a compost pile. Especially since he was supposed to take care of the plants. Everyone knows that compost is the best thing to take care of plants with.
Imagine that God was giving Adam a grand tour of the garden. Imagine that He and Adam were walking through the garden, and God may have been pointing out some spots where He thought some roses might look nice, and He may have been explaining the merits of composting, when they would eventually come upon the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Dun dun dun.
Now, these trees are briefly introduced in verse 9, but the author comes back to them in verse 17, after saying how God put Adam in the garden to work it and keep it. God is giving Adam his ‘house’ rules. One of those ‘house’ rules is that Adam can’t eat from the second tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17).
Let’s take a minute to talk about this.
In a perfect world, why would God make rules? Why would He ruin everything and give Adam a commandment? Some people like to say that God actually created sin when He did that. That it would have never crossed Adam’s mind because Adam was perfect, but God just had to plant the seed, and planting the seed was as good as done. It was like God made an apple pie with the forbidden fruit in it and offered Adam a piece, and after Adam commented on how good it was he noticed that God was just standing there, shaking His head. “What?” Adam asked, “Something on my face?” “Dude,” God said back, “How can you be so gullible? You just ate the forbidden fruit, man.” And then God walked away and all of mankind was damned to hell.
If that’s really what you think happened, I’m going to have to tell you to stop being so naiive.
God doesn’t make mistakes.
You want to know why there were two trees, and why Adam was commanded to not eat one of them?
It was because he was created in God’s image. Imago Dei: “in the image of God”. Being in the image of God means we have free will. We would not be in the image of God if we did not have free will. We’ll talk about this more in the next chapter. For now, keep that in mind. And look at what happened like this:
As they came upon these two trees, God would put His arm around Adam’s shoulder and smile softly. “Here is the tree of life, my friend. Every tree in this garden is yours, except for the tree of life. This one is mine. I love this tree, and I’m going to share it with you. You can eat from all of your trees, but you can eat from mine, too. Now, Adam, about this other tree, I have something I need to tell you. This one is mine, too, but this one I’m not going to share. Because I am God, I know everything, and I am capable of knowing everything. There are things that I, because I am God, should be the only One to know. Adam, when I made you I had to make you capable of knowing everything, too, because I want to share the good things with you. The good things are so good, Adam; just look around! You wouldn’t know they were good, though, if you weren’t like me. You have to be able to know. Do you understand what I’m saying? I’m asking you to leave it at that. Know the good things with me, my friend. Leave the rest to me. Because if you know the rest, you will die. If you know the rest, we won’t be able to be like this anymore. Everything as you know it will cease to be. Everything is hanging on that, and I know it is a big risk to take, but I want to take it because I want to share Myself with you. I want to share all of this with you. I want to take care of it all, and keep making it wonderful and amazing. If you eat from this other tree, though, this tree of the knowledge of good and evil, I won’t be able to take care of things anymore. It will be up to you, and you won’t be able to do it, Adam. You won’t be able to do it because you won’t be able to give life like I can. All of this hinges on Me, Adam. It exists because of Me. If you eat from this other tree, you will take life from all of this, and that is why I don’t want you to have it. Stick to the tree of life, and we can enjoy all of this forever. Forever, Adam.”
It seems a crime to just carry on after such a scene as this, but we must. We must. Not to worry, we will get back to this in the next chapter, because that’s what happens in Genesis anyway.
All of this is still day six, people. You may have never noticed this before, but it’s true. God made the animals on day six, then He made man, then He planted the garden of Eden and put man into it, they had their talk, then God brought the animals to Adam to be named and then He created the woman.
People like to use the part about Adam naming the animals to say that the Bible contradicts itself. Mainly, people just like to use anything they can to say that the Bible is a load of crap. Studying these supposed contradictions has caused me to learn how cohesive and timeless it actually is.
Let’s take a closer look at what I’m talking about.
“And God made the beasts of the earth…Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image…’” Genesis 1:25&26
“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…” Genesis 2:19
I once heard an entire sermon preached on this assumption that Genesis 2 doesn’t line up with the creation account of Genesis 1, and the point of the sermon was to say that the Bible contradicts itself, so don’t focus on the doctrine of the Bible, instead focus on the need to make people feel loved. I understand that the strongest point this pastor was trying to make was that Bible-beating doesn’t do any good, and I would agree with that. However, discrediting the Word of God discredits the need for the Word, which is the need for Christ, Who is love (1 John 4:8). Without a faith in the Bible we will not be able to love the way that we need to.
Not to mention, there is no actual contradiction.
Readers like to take the passages of the Bible at face value. This simply isn’t the way the Bible was meant to be read. You cannot read the Bible and absorb what it says just by reading it. You can’t read, “Who, what, when, where, why, and how.” It has gotten to be kind of a trendy thing to talk about ‘unpacking’ scripture, but that’s a pretty good way of putting it. There are stories inside of the words, and there is a point to each story, and the time it was written, by whom it was written, and to whom, all really play a part.
We need to read what was written, which means we need to learn what was written.
I know I’ve said that enough by now.
When it says in chapter 1 that animals were created before man, and in chapter 2 that God made the animals and then brought them to the man (who was presumably created first in order to have something brought to him) we have to go back to what we know about the Bible. First, chronology to the authors of the Bible is never really a priority, and that is typical for Eastern ancient literature in general. This is not my personal opinion but a historical fact, so if you are miffed by this we will have a hard time moving through the rest of the Bible. Second, English is a translation, which means it is our responsibility to be familiar with the original if we need to.
When verse 19 says that God formed the beasts of the earth and then brought them to man it is merely a reiteration. The actual tense of the verb ‘formed’ (some translations say ‘had formed’) is pluperfect, which is the past of the past. Pluperfect is the same thing as past perfect in modern day English, and of course that doesn’t really make any sense to us because we never really thought that the myriad of tenses we learned in middle-school were ever going to be that important. But when looking at historical translations these are seriously a big deal. We see pluperfect tenses all throughout these beginning chapters of the Bible, and it’s the same thing as adding ‘had’. Basically: it refers to something that occurred earlier than the time being mentioned. God HAD formed the beasts of the earth, and THEN He brought them to man to be named.
One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller, who wrote Blue Like Jazz. I really, really love this man’s words. I read and reread his books and the margins of the pages are covered in arrows, stars, parentheses, brackets, underlinings, and an outpouring of my own reactions. For the most part I agree wholeheartedly with everything Don (can I call you Don?) says. He makes sense of things that are hard to make sense of. BUT, when it came to this topic about Adam naming the animals, I had to disagree. He was speculating that it must have taken Adam a hundred years to wander the earth, finding the animals in their habitats so that he could name them, and that as he went from place to place and saw these pairs of animals he began to know that he was a solitary creature, and so when God made Eve he was capable of being thankful for her.
In all of this, Don was making the point about how often we get so sidetracked in studying the Bible that we forget to read the Bible.
But when we read the Bible we need to read what it actually says.
“Now…the LORD God… brought [the animals] to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name…But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 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 2:19-22
It says God created the animals, and then God brought the animals to Adam to be named, and then God made woman. Since we know that both man and woman were made on day six, we know that Adam had to have named the animals on day six too.
Basically, it didn’t take Adam a hundred years to name the animals. Adam didn’t climb mountains and cross deserts, becoming old and tough as leather, growing out a heinous beard and staining his teeth from chewing on black walnuts as he wandered.
Verse 19 specifically says that God brought the animals to Adam to be named. There is no indication that there was any effort involved, and I think that’s so cool. I think Adam was probably feeling pretty awesome, seeing all of these strange and wondrous creatures, getting to meet them and then name them. And since a horse is a horse is a horse, and there was no such thing as breeds back then, it probably only took a few hours max.
Also, Adam had no needs. He was living with God! He may have recognized that there was no creature like himself, but he didn’t know what it was like to long for someone. We know what it feels like to be separated from somebody, but Adam had no idea what that felt like.
Adam very well could have been curious about being the only one of his kind. I’m sure he probably asked God if there was anyone else like him. But I think it was impossible for Adam to feel an emptiness without Eve, same as I won’t need anyone other than God when I get to Heaven. That may be hard to wrap our minds around, but I really believe that I will know my husband in Heaven, and he will know me, but the expectations of our relationship will be completely overcome by our reverence and worship for God. We will cease to be married because our purpose in Heaven will not be to nurture one another but to be in the Father’s presence. That’s really something serious. It’s terrifying, and exhilerating, and kind of makes me want to throw up, but I accept it’s not something I can fully understand because I’m not there yet.
Also, God didn’t “forget” to make Eve. The story in Genesis reflects a process that the reader can digest, since we will never know what Adam and Eve experienced (i.e. the perfection of living in Eden in communion with the LORD God). I do think that it wasn’t a mistake that Eve was created after Adam saw that there was no one else like him. I’m sure when he opened his eyes and saw her, recognizing her pieces and parts, he was thrilled. As a matter of fact, the very first words we hear out of Adam are poetry:
“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.” Genesis 2:23
Donald Miller goes on and on in his books about how we can feel the Bible when we are willing for it to talk to us. How the Bible is so much better when we feel it. And I love that, because it’s so true. When Don says that he points out that evolution makes no sense because there is no explanation for love. This is probably my favorite thing that I have ever read in all of his books. Because it’s so true. Man was made by God, woman was made from a piece of man, and so the two are meant to be one, same as we are meant to be one with God. Same as He gave us free will when He made, because He made us in His image. He also gave us love, because that is also part of Who He is. God putting that love in us is perhaps our greatest testament to the Word of God.
I think that’s a perfect way to wrap up this second chapter.