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Another Genesis 2: with commentary

Posted in: by admin on August 26, 2009

Genesis, Paraphrased & with Commentary

Genesis Chapter Two

Genesis 2:1  Thus were the earth and the heavens and all the host of them to be completed.

Genesis 2:2  And God caused them to be completed in the seventh epoch of creation, all the works which He had fashioned and ordained.  And He ceased His work and celebrated all the works which He had brought to pass.

Genesis 2:3  And God was blessed in that seventh epoch, and consecrated and venerated it, for in it He celebrated all those works which He had created and fashioned.

Interestingly, it is obvious that Verses 1, 2, and 3 actually complete the account of the creation, irregardless of the fact that the original (ca. 1552 AD, remember) division of the text into chapter and verse elected to put them in to the next chapter, Genesis 2.  They sum it up, and tell us how satisfied and blessed God was by what He’d done.  Six periods of initial design and creation, launching the course of the earth’s natural history which is to run for all the millennia ahead, and then He stopped.  It was done.  All was planned, all was seeded, all was designed for His own immense satisfaction.  Certain, as only God can be, that it was finished and would hence proceed as intended, He then consecrated (set apart) a seventh period in time strictly for the sheer pleasure of watching it go.

While verses 2:1 through 2:3 seem clearly a part of the account given in Chapter One, exactly where the next three verses, 2:4 through 2:6, should go is a little less certain.  And it might be important, for it can both reflect and influence how we read and understand both chapters.  They have actually been at the heart of much debate.  Some, who would like to debunk the Bible, suggest they contradict Genesis 1, and show that there are actually two creation accounts which are not consistent with each other.  Others see them as proving that Genesis 1 should not be taken as a strictly chronological and ordered record, but somewhat reordered to stress topics over chronology, and that this adds to the argument that yowm are not 24 hour days.  I’m sympathetic to that argument, but not wholly in agreement, for (as usual) I think some misinterpretation underlies the arguments on all sides.

I believe the best argument is that 2:4 through 2:6 might also be placed in chapter 1, as a final commentary.  Remember that the Scriptures were most often taught orally, using the text as a mnemonic prompt.  The change in voice (from the “God” to the “Our Lord God”) takes place here, as the Scripture of verse 2:3 says Elohiym (“God”) finished the creation, and verse 2:4 begins the use of Yaweh Elohiym (The Lord God) as it sums up what has just been told, using language that says, “That God who is our Lord” did these things!

But there is much more of interest, here.  First, those three verses recap the physical creation of our world, while the rest of Genesis 2 deals more with the relational and spiritual creation of Adam and Eve and us.  Second, and perhaps more importantly, those three verses add some very interesting clues as to the history of the creation and how and why we can believe it in fact and in detail.  I’ll point out the differences as the paraphrase proceeds.

Genesis 2:4  Thus is the history of the creation of the heavens and the earth, when they were created, in the time the Lord God brought forth and designed the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 2:5  Before any of the bushes and shrubs appeared in the soils of the earth, Before any of the grasses or plants were made and caused to spring up in the land, Even before the Lord God had caused a rain upon the earth, And when there was not even any mankind to make use of the land.

It seems clear that these verses are saying, “This is what I’ve just told you about”.  The recap of that history, just narrated, is sparse and very selective as it points out things that children especially, but really all listeners would be most interested in: beginning with the bara creation of all existence in Genesis 1, it reminds them that this history includes a time before there was any kind of life at all, especially those things they all so much depended upon for their lives, the plants, the stuff of their gardens, and the stuff that made up the Eden in which they began their own history with their God.  It emphasizes the fact that the plants weren’t just a given, they didn’t just come with the landscape, but were later created by the Lord God with the purpose of provision in mind.

But there’s one more thing here we really must not overlook.  It’s about the rain.  The fifth verse makes a point, with language in the Hebrew emphasizing causal linkage, that there was a time before there was even water (not just rain) for the plants.  The earth was at one time dry, for the Lord had not yet caused water to rain upon the earth.  The Scripture does not say the “fields” or “soils” or “dry land” as it did in the first portions of the verse (and it makes this same distinction again in the sixth).  It uses the simple designation, the earth.  Does that matter?  Well, while we must not let science or scientific theory dictate our read of Scripture, we can use it to increase our understanding and appreciation, as well as look to science with an apologetic eye, to wit: “Does science, as it approaches truth, line up with and help make even better sense of those questions we have of Scripture?”

Here it does.  For a long time scientists thought the earth came equipped with it’s enormous blessing of water.  But in the past decade or two a new theory emerged that seemed a better fit with the evidence.  At first it was unpopular, but now it has been very widely accepted.  This theory says that the earth was first dry, then it was filled with water by eons of a cosmic rain: a continuing rain of comets and comet-like debris that is mostly ice, mostly water (which rain continues today).  Our earth was blessed with a great rain of water at a time when its temperature and atmosphere and relationship with the sun was favorable to keeping the water, not just freezing it or boiling it away again, as other planets have done.  And our world is what it is today because of that history.

How does that line up with Scripture?  Does it not contradict Genesis 1:2?  Atheistic critics thought it did, they said it exposed just another glaring fallacy.  But does it?  Not at all!  First, as I’ve said before, eons passed between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, eons that encompass a dry planet that was then rained upon until it was covered in water.  Then the narration in Genesis 1:2 takes over.  Here, in Genesis 2:5, is some strong confirmation of that.  Genesis 2:5 says there was a time when there was no water to even sustain plants, for the Lord had not yet had a rain fall upon the earth.  But obviously He did, in time, as the next verse explains.

Genesis 2:6  Then, water vapors could be taken up from the earth and water every bit of the land.

OK.  Now this would be a good place to end chapter one. The next verse begins the next lesson, the narrative of the next issue in the creation: us, and our place in it.

Genesis 2:7  The Lord God, for His purposes, made mankind out of the minerals of the soil.  He breathed into the nostrils of a man His divine spirit of life, and the man became a living soul.

Genesis 2:8  Now the Lord God had established a place, set apart a Garden, in Eden in ancient times, and there He placed the Man whom He had prepared for this purpose.

Genesis 2:9  The Lord God caused to grow out of that ground every tree pleasant to our sight and good for food, and also the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:10  And a river issued from out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became the head of four rivers.

Genesis 2:11  The first, Pison, bordered all the land of Havillah, where there was gold.

Genesis 2:12  The gold from there is plentiful, and bdellium and precious onyx.

Genesis 2:13  The second river, Gihon, is the one that borders the whole land of Ethiopia.

Genesis 2:14  The third river, Hiddikel, goes east of Assyria, and the fourth river is the Euphrates.

Genesis 2:15  The Lord God took the chosen Man and settled him in the Garden of Eden to serve Him and attend and take care of it.

Genesis 2:16  The Lord God gave instructions to the Man (Adam), saying “Of every tree in the Garden you may freely eat,

Genesis 2:17  but of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you shall not eat from it for in the day that you eat of it you shall truly perish.

Genesis 2:18  The Lord God said, “It is not a good thing that the Man (Adam) is now alone.  I will prepare a proper partner for him.”

Genesis 2:19  Now the Lord God had, with intent and purpose, fashioned out of the substance of the earth every animal that lived in the land and every creature that flew in the air.  Now He brought each of them to the man (Adam) to study and discern the purpose for which they were intended, and what he would say about them.  And whatever the man (Adam) could proclaim about the nature of the creature, that became the animal’s name thereafter.

A puzzling verse, this, and so misunderstood.

It begins by reminding us that God had created every animal that walked or flew across the land, in like fashion, out of the minerals of the earth, and to a greater purpose and plan which only He knew.  This is not another creation account, as some would have us think, but a parenthetical reminder that He had already created every bit of it, and all for a far-reaching purpose.

Now He brings each species to Adam’s attention, for his study and enlightenment.  Naming a thing, anything, in the Hebrew culture was a profound and discerning process.  A name was to reflect history, purpose, significance, and even its future.  If a zoologist or paleontologist, nowadays names a new species or fossil of a species, the name is generally designed to indicate exactly theses sorts of things.  The name may indicate geographical origins, genealogy, lifestyle, the situation it was found in, the person who discovered it.  This is not too different from the way scientists name fossils and species, today.  Though sometimes a name may be somewhat more whimsical, the scientific community would prefer a species or fossil’s name be a serious and informative label.  The Hebrew people took this to the extreme.  I would think that if God were your overseer or mentor, this naming thing would have been a far more serious affair than it would be even for a professor or one’s professional peers.  I make this point for the purpose of dispelling the notion that the Man (Adam) was doing something simple, or even rather nonsensical in this verse.  This was an exercise in education, one that would make a university doctoral program, or the education of a young man in a hunter-gatherer tribe, pale by comparison.  It had natural, and spiritual, dimensions!

Here, before Adam was to be blessed with a wife, and a family man’s responsibility, he was called (if not even tested) to know and understand all the creatures over which he was being given dominion.  As to the specific problem of finding a mate (a “proper partner”) Adam would also, in the process, see each of the hominid species, including his own, and have to know in the profoundest sense what they were for, and what they were not for.  Adam apparently needed to discern the difference between himself and even the females of his own race.  That he did well, in this regard, is revealed in the next verse when we are told that there wasn’t an appropriate “bride” to be found in any of them.

Genesis 2:20  And the Man (Adam) proclaimed names for all the beasts of the land and every flying creature in the air, to every living thing on the land, but there was not there any appropriate partner for the Man (Adam).

The commentary for the previous verse should suffice as a commentary for this as well.  But notice this, all creatures of the sea are rather obviously excluded, and all the lowest taxa of things such as bacteria, etc., and possibly the insects, are excluded.  And its not really clear whether plants (they could be the intent of “to every living thing on the land”) are included in this “study and determine a proper name” exercise.

Genesis 2:21  The Lord God caused a trance to come over the Man (Adam), and He brought to the chamber where he slept, a chosen female, and He delivered her for the purposes of the flesh.

Genesis 2:22  The Lord God established the family in that chamber, where He brought for marriage a woman from among men and ushered her in unto the Man (Adam).

This reinterpretation of verses 21 and 22 is anything but trivial.

The lexical and linguistic choices the Hebrew scribe made, in these two verse, seem very consistent and purposeful.  Our interpretation is much more consistent with the Hebrew, and much more consistent with both the context and the logic of the creation record, but it upsets a long tradition in Christian culture.  It eliminates a traditional “story” – a story about Adam and Eve, and Eve’s rather magical formation.  I say “magical” rather than “miraculous”, very deliberately.  The entire creation is “miraculous” in the sense of “supernatural” and outside of our observations and understanding of natural laws, but Eve being derived from a rib of Adam is a totally different genre of fabrication or creation.  This different genre is completely inconsistent with the rest of the Biblical account.  In spite of that, the traditional story has held enough sway, for many centuries, to make bad linguists, and bad scientists and anatomists and biologists, out of many Bible translators and scholars.  It has even persuaded many Christians to believe that men have one more rib than women.  They are shocked to learn they are wrong.

This new translation reinforces, if not proves, our earlier assertion that Genesis 1 does indeed say that God created the hominid kind as a collection of viable species, in the same time frame, and not just a single male of the species at a later date.  It substantiates the assertion, made above, that Genesis 2 is not a second version or repeat of the creation account, but a record of  God developing His relationship with mankind.  It reinforces our understanding that “Adam” was a certain man chosen, in much the same way Abram was, and much the same way as the Jews were, and that this chosen Man, this Adam, was made holy and set apart to begin God’s people, who are today’s Homo sapiens.  And this translation continues that same understanding by showing that “Eve” was also so chosen and made holy and set apart to begin God’s people as Adam’s wife (and not merely “mate”).  Later, she will be referred to as “the mother of all (spiritually) living”.

This new translation resolves a number of questions and unresolved issues and puzzles that have perplexed Biblical scholars and lay readers and historians for millennia.  A few examples: who was Cain afraid of when exiled from his family; where did the wives of Adam and Eve’s sons come from; who built the cities and formed the peoples of those early expansionist days following Cain’s exile; who were the “daughters of Men” (not just “men”, but Adam’s descendants) whom the sons (not Sons) of God took for wives while begetting the Nephilim; why were Adam and Eve “embarrassed” or “ashamed” when they merely “saw” their nakedness; why and how did they know to design and sew (a complex skill) “aprons” to cover and correct their nakedness?

Finally, this new interpretation ends long-standing (even embarrassing) contradictions between a presumed biblical prehistory and the prehistory increasingly documented by archaeological and paleontological findings, and between a presumed biblical account of the origins of human beings and the burgeoning data of genetic and biological and anatomical and other life sciences that say otherwise.

Genesis 2:23  And Adam joyfully declared, “At last, this is bone of my bones and kindred of my kind.  She shall be renowned among women for she was chosen for marriage from among the women.

“Bone of my bone” is a Jewish idiom that expresses kinship, appropriate common Jewish-ness, and clan or tribal affinity.  Rather than saying he realized this woman was part of his own meat and bone, Adam is acknowledging she is human, probably from his own descent group, and appropriately just like himself in that she too had been indwelt by God’s spirit and sanctified and separated into that holy place, the Garden in Eden.
The Hebrew language of the second sentence strongly supports our interpretation that she had been chosen, or taken (bride abduction), from out of a population of women for this “marriage”, and proclaims that she would henceforth be renowned for that.

Genesis 2:24  “Therefore shall a man be set free of his father and his mother and he shall be joined together with his wife and they shall be one flesh.”

Here, the institution of marriage is being defined and established.  The pronouncement that henceforth a man should be separated away from his parents (and presumably siblings) and united in an exclusive sexual relationship implies (1) that prior to this moment sexual relationships were not exclusive, and (2) that coupling and mating was more communal, and (3) that men did not usually leave the household of their parents to establish new nuclear families.  Which, of course, only makes sense if a man (Adam included) had parents.

Genesis 2:25  And they were both naked, yet Adam and his wife were not ashamed.

First, from the Journal of Anthropology:

They are a small village, barely a hundred souls.  They live comfortably under open-sided shelters, little more than thatched roofs measuring about ten feet by twenty.
They sleep in wide hammocks made of a soft cord knotted into a fabric much like the netting of a basketball net.  Usually a couple and their latest nursing child sleep in one hammock at one end of the shelter.  The rest of their children sleep two or three to a hammock, and the woman’s parents share another – sometimes with another of the smaller children – all at the other end of the shelter.
Other material possessions commonly consist of a few conical baskets, which all females use in gathering roots and fruits and berries from the surrounding jungle, and short spears and blowguns for darts which are used by the men to hunt monkeys, birds, and small mammals.  They have a small toolkit of obsidian lanceolate blades serving as knives and axes, and obsidian slivers used as awls, drills, and needles.  They have no pottery.  They cook food wrapped in large leaves. They use a small bow drill to start fire, though they go to great pains to never let their hearth extinguish.
They wear some simple jewelry: necklaces and bracelets and occasionally a waistband strung with teeth and carved bone and seedpods.  They tattoo their faces and upper arms with small geometric designs, using ashes to set blue ink prepared from flowers of an acacia-like tree.  Their only clothing consists of small aprons, about twelve by eighteen inches, made of several shredded leaves, which are worn by the women, and a short loincloth of similar materials tied up about the groin of the men. This clothing is more a badge of honor, honor of their adult status and social roles, than modesty for any moral reason. Children are naked until they are initiated into adulthood. For boys, this happens at about age 12 or 13. For the girls it happens at the onset of her first menses.
They are a rather comely people, healthy and cheerful and friendly to their own (which includes several nearby villages similar in size), but fearful and given to dangerous hostility to those they do not recognize.
Children are raised by everyone, though the biological mother and her present adult male partner are considered more responsible for education and discipline than others.  The children play at everything but are still required to participate in all the labors involved in food gathering and preparation, the making of their few possessions, etc.  They learn these skills eagerly as mastery of such things brings social recognition and the greatest license to sexual favors from each other.
Sexuality is openly talked about and the subject of frivolity and boasting, but the sexual acts themselves are expected to take place privately in the bush or discretely at night in the hammocks.  In fact, the small modesty afforded by their simple garments is most zealously protected.  Even accidental exposure of one’s privates is cause for great embarrassment.
What we would call marriage is barely recognized.  Affection or preference between two adults is all that is required for a couple to take up residence together and share domestic life, with no formal ceremony.  They simply agree to agree, you might say.  At any time they choose they can end the cohabitation, though there is some pressure brought to bear by the affected parents and children to get them to stay together – at least so long as the bickering does not get too unpleasant.  Social opinion is important, but not worth a serious argument, in the villagers’ estimation.

This (fictional) ethnography resembles something many anthropologists and missionaries might write in describing the place where they went to work and study.  It could serve to describe peoples in South America, Polynesia, and many tropical lands.  It is also describes what I imagine as I try to envision the life and times of Eden, and the history of Adam and Eve.  The verses of Genesis 2:21 – 29, and of Genesis 3 and of Genesis 4, and even many passages later in Genesis, make a lot of sense in a social setting such as this.  Few questions remain if we accept this was indeed the setting of the beginning of our history as God’s chosen.

When the forbidden fruit was eaten, Adam and Eve lost their holy sanctification.  They were immediately embarrassed by their nakedness and quickly resorted to creating acceptable clothing.  Obviously, they already knew how to make it, and how to use it.  Then their lives went on.  They remained close to God, and Adam continued his priestly office, but they were no longer set apart in the most blessed Garden.

This version was composed in 2005

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