Many today read the account of Adam and Eve, as they lived before the fall, as a second creation story. Either it fills in blanks or provides a different perspective on the events in the first chapter of Genesis. I find it particularly difficult to believe that this is how we were meant to read it. Perhaps God inspired this story so that we would know what it could be like to live in relationship with Him?
God creates man
“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.
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 2:4-7 ESV
Many adversaries of Biblical text will argue that the second chapter in Genesis presents too many contradictions with the creation account in chapter one. Simply by observing the statement in verse 4, most of the perceived contradictions are cured. “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created” (NIV).
At first glance, it seems as though we are about to be given a second account of creation. However, it seems unlikely that one author would give two accounts of the same event, one after another. It also seems unlikely that another author would implant his story so close to another account of the same event.
We also do not see a measure of time in chapter two, such as, “In the beginning,” or, “The first day.” God’s direct act of creation is not apparent as it was in the first chapter. Chapter two is much more vague in the area of creation and more precise in God’s relationship to man. Since the primary subject of the story shifts from “God’s creative process,” to “God’s relationship with man,” we can know that the creative events in chapter two were most likely to simply remind us of the corresponding events in chapter one. We do not see a series of events, but a reference to events previously described.
The very first “apparent” contradiction appears in verses 5 and 6. God had not yet sent rain on the earth, but “streams”, or mist, came up from the ground and watered the whole earth.
Again, there is no reference to time in this portion of the story. Streams coming up from the ground could be reminiscent of the thick atmosphere mentioned in my previous paper, ”On Creation”. If the early earth was indeed how it is described in modern science, then there would naturally need to be a cooling of the earth before man could be created, even before dust could exist for God to create man as He did. The water molecules in the early, thick, atmosphere of the earth could have been used as an agent to cool the surface of the earth. Thus, verses 5 and 6 serve as a description of the prerequisite for man being created from dust, and could very likely be located in a timeframe of: before the first day through a portion of the sixth day.
Just as we had a shift in perspective from heavens to earth in chapter one, we see a shift in perspective from the whole earth to mankind here in verse 7.
God plants a garden
“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” –Genesis 2:8-9 ESV
God “planted a garden in the East,” probably east of Canaan. Eden can also be referred to as “luxury” or “delight”. Basically, the garden God planted was a paradise. God could have planted this garden anytime after he created plants, and anytime before He placed man in the garden. It remains possible that God cormed man outside of the garden, or “Paradise”. If this is the case, then Adam knew what it was like to experience the full extent of God’s work in a personal garden as opposed to God’s natural work elsewhere. Through the fruit bearing trees, God provided for all of Adam’s desires. Since sin had not yet corrupted God’s creation, it is questionable as to whether Adam would have needed food or not. If Adam did, in fact, need food, then death was possible before the fall. It is more likely true that, at this point, food was only meant to be enjoyed. The fruit, provided by God, was “pleasing to the eye”. This also makes sense considering God’s character. He alone is suficient to sustain life. It would only be after man rebelled against God (Genesis 3:6) that he would need to provide for himself, and therefore be sustained directly by something other than God: food (Genesis 3:17). God also planted the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, both of which play an important role in God’s plan for humanity. Sinply the fact that they are mentioned in this part of the story attests to the idea that redemption was, in fact, God’s plan from the very beginning.
“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
The garden referred to had a literal, physical location on the earth. This brings to light the notion that New Jerusalem (Revelation 21), though it is symbolic of the Church, will also be a “paradise” with a literal, physical location on the earth. God will restore His creation to its former, perfect beauty, and will dwell with men, as He did in the beginning.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” –Genesis 2:15 ESV
The work of God’s people has always been this: to serve God. Adam worked in the garden that God planted. Today, after the fall, we work to advance God’s kingdom in the hearts of men (Matthew 28:19-20). We could say that we work a different kind of garden, though God is still planting it. After God restores His creation, it only makes sense that we will serve in some capacity, because that is the way in which God chose to create humanity: to serve.
God commands man
“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 2:16-17 ESV
God gives Adam one command: not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. With this command came the opportunity for man to disobey. Essentially, God seems to have given man a choice: to either submit to God, or to rely on self. Man’s ability to choose, seems to be a part of God’s perfect plan, even though man ultimately decides to deny God. The fact that God already knew man would deny Him (denoted by the use of the word “when” not “if” in verse 17), means that choice, though it led to the introduction of evil into physical creation, was part of God’s plan from the beginning. This attests to God’s overall plan of redemption and also to His unchanging character.
God creates woman
“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. 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 2:18-22 ESV
This is the very first time in which we see God referring to something as “not good”, or imperfect; this was the fact that man was alone. God also stated that He would fix this imperfection by adding to His creation. This is not to say that God’s creation was not perfect to start with, only that God is perfect in His creation. With God’s observation, also comes the notion that imperfection is much like darkness or cold. It can only persist where perfection is absent and is not something that can be sustained by any means. For instance, cold is simply an absence of heat. Imperfection is an absence of perfection, and here we see God filling that void.
Verses 19 and 20 serve as a description of a prerequisite, just as we saw in verses 4 through 6. Before God creates woman, He has man name every other living thing. When man realizes his need for a helper; one like himself, then he is more likely to appreciate that helper and give God the due praise for what He has done.
After all this, God put man to sleep and removed a rib from his side. With this rib, God created woman. Adam knew from the very start that a relationship worth having required sacrifice. After all, he did have a scar to prove it. This also means that God created sacrifice in perfection. When we make our bodies living sacrifices, we act in perfection. This does not mean that we are perfect. One can act in perfection without being perfect.
God institutes marriage
“Then the man said, ‘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.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” –Genesis 2:23-25 ESV
Since man and woman were literally one flesh before God created woman out of man, God institutes marriage so that the man and the woman can come together, through a lifelong commitment, and live as one complete individual. This is the beauty of marriage under God. A man and a woman literally complete one another, becoming one flesh.
Both the man and his wife were naked, and they felt no shame. The physical nakedness seems to emphasize more the spiritual nakedness that these two individuals had before God. They hid nothing and never did anything apart from God’s ruling authority in their lives. As a result, they experienced an unhindered relationship with God. If we so desire to have and hold a relationship with our God, we must also choose to be spiritually naked: not hiding anything and doing nothing apart from God’s ruling authority in our lives. We must be as children: not pushing our own agenda or belief system, but accepting conviction from our Father and changing to please Him.
The second chapter in Genesis was not intended to give us an order of creation but instead to outline for us the created order. Without understanding our place in God’s created order, it is impossible for us to truly please Him with our lives. To put it simply, we are to serve God and love one another. A woman completes a man just as a man completes a woman. We are to praise God for our relationship with Him, and for the relationships we have with one another.