The Word Made Fresh
1The heavens and the earth were complete, along with everything they contained. 2On the seventh day God finished the work of creation and then rested. 3God declared the seventh day to be a blessing, and to be holy, because it is the day on which God rested from all the work of creation.
4This is how the heavens and the earth came into existence:
When the LORD God made heaven and earth, 5before there were any cultivated crops or herbs in the fields (God had not yet brought rain on the earth, nor was there anyone to farm, 6although streams would come to the surface and water the land) 7the LORD God shaped a man from the ground and breathed into his nostrils, and the man, called Adam, came to life.
8Then the LORD God planted a garden in the east, in Eden. He put Adam there. 9God made every kind of lovely tree grow in the garden, and the trees bore fruit for Adam to eat. The tree of life was there, as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10(A river flows out of Eden. It waters the garden, and then divides into four streams. 11The first is called Pishon, which flows around the whole land of Havilah, where gold is found, 12gold that is pure, along with bdellium and onyx stone.13The second river is the Gihon, which flows around the land of Cush. 14The third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. The fourth is the Euphrates.)
15The LORD God put Adam in the garden to farm it and take care of it, 16and told him, “You are free to eat fruit from every tree in the garden 17except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat fruit from that tree you will die.”
18Then the LORD God realized that it was not good for Adam to be alone and decided to make another creature to be his companion and helper. 19So, the LORD God shaped domestic animals and birds from the ground and brought them to Adam to see what he might call them, and whatever he called each one became its name. 20Adam named all the herd animals and all the birds and all the domestic animals but did not find among them a companion for himself.
21So the LORD God made the man fall into a deep sleep, then took one of his ribs and closed his side with muscle and covered it over with skin. 22God used the man’s rib to form a woman and brought her to Adam. 23Adam said, “Finally! Someone of my own flesh and bones. Woman, that’s what she’ll be called, because she was taken out of Man.”
24That is why a man leaves his parents and lives with his wife, and they join their bodies together. 25Adam and the woman were both naked, but not ashamed.
1-3: Perhaps the chapter break should have come four verses later, as these verses belong to the story being told in chapter 1. We are not told what God created on the seventh day, although the text says that God finished the work of creation on that day. Still, the primary creative activity on the seventh day is rest and relaxation, and that is announced to be the very purpose of the seventh day.
4-9: Scholars debate whether the first half of verse 4 belongs to the creation story in chapter 1, or to the story that follows. This is a particular account of the creation of a particular human being, created from the ground before there were any plants! Humankind was created in chapter 1, verse 26, but this particular human was apparently created on the third day before plant life appeared and placed in a “garden” where there were fruit trees and other such.
A picture is drawn of what we would call the primordial earth, mysterious and covered with mist. God forms a human being (“adam” in Hebrew) shaping him from clay, and God’s breath is breathed into him in a touchingly personal scene. The human being is placed in a garden God has planted “east of Eden,” a location that has never been identified (and never will be, according to chapter 3, verse 24).
10-14: The garden is well watered, by four rivers. In the ancient mind this garden must have seemed to take up the entire Middle East! Only the Tigris and Euphrates are identifiable now, although the Gihon has been equated with the Nile because it was said to flow around the land of Cush (upper Egypt). Some say the Gihon is rather the Red Sea; it is not a river, but it “flows” around the land of Cush while the Nile flows through it.
15-17: The human being God made — the “adam” — is placed in a garden God plants (apparently planted specifically for him) and he is given the job as the gardener. As compensation he is allowed to eat anything he can find, except the fruit of one tree — the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Note that the “tree of life” is not forbidden!
18-25: God creates more animals and birds and brings them to the man, who gives them names. But the man could not find a companion from among all the other creatures God made. So God made him fall asleep, removed one of his ribs, and formed another human being, this one a bit different from the first. The man is pleased, names her woman, and they begin their married life naked and happy.
There is a lot of speculation that perhaps God formed the man on the third day of creation (the day dry land appeared, and vegetation began to grow — see 1:11) because we are told that the man was created in the day when vegetation had not yet appeared. Then, on the sixth day, God created the human race consisting of both male and female (1:26-28) and told them to “fill the earth.” This would explain how Cain, for example, found a wife after he was exiled (see 3:16-17).
From the beginning God intended to have a special relationship with us. God made human beings “in his own image,” and the very first human can communicate with God. God spoke to Adam. God noticed Adam’s loneliness. We can take from this the assurance that God knows our needs and desires and provides for us within the framework of God’s law, which will develop over time, as we shall see.
The stage is now set for a partnership to form between God and humans, and the rest of the Bible is about that partnership, God’s faithfulness, humanity’s fickleness, and the entry of God’s Son into the story, spreading throughout the world the partnership between God and humans that began with a small family chosen by God.