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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 2

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-3

A. The story of creation 1:1-2:3

God created the entire universe and then formed and filled it in six days. He brought order and fullness for humankind to enjoy and to rule over. He then blessed and set apart the seventh day as a memorial of His creative work. [Note: Ross, Creation and Blessing, has influenced this and subsequent introductory and concluding summaries of the major sections of the text, though I have not always footnoted his views, as I have done here.] The God of Israel, the deliverer of His people, is the creator of all that exists.

". . . Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:4 a is clearly recognizable as a unit of historical narrative. It has an introduction (Genesis 1:1), a body (Genesis 1:2 to Genesis 2:3) and a conclusion (Genesis 2:4 a)." [Note: John H. Sailhamer, "Exegetical Notes: Genesis 1:1-2:4a," Trinity Journal 5 NS (Spring 1984):74. This article outlines some principles to use in finding the writer’s intent and purpose in selecting the events he chose to record in historical narratives. It provides an excellent introduction to the interpretation of historical narrative. ]

Historical narrative is one of several biblical types of literature (French genre). Other genre include genealogy, poetry, epistolary, and apocalyptic. [Note: See Steven D. Mathewson, "Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming Old Testament Narratives," Bibliotheca Sacra 154:616 (October-December 1997):410-35, for help in preaching narrative portions of the Old Testament.]

"Genre is of crucial importance, since the reader’s identification of a text’s genre directs his or her reading strategy . . ." [Note: Longman and Dillard, p. 29. See ibid., pp. 29-31, for clarification of genre.]

"For the most part, its [the Old Testament’s] contents may be described under two rubrics: stories and poems." [Note: Ibid., p. 25.]

"The creation account is theocentric, not creature centered. Its purpose is to glorify the Creator by magnifying him through the majesty of the created order. The passage is doxological as well as didactic, hymnic as well as history. ’God’ is the grammatical subject of the first sentence (Genesis 1:1) and continues as the thematic subject throughout the account." [Note: Mathews, p. 113.]

"The prose narratives of the Old Testament are multifunctional. Most intend to impart historically accurate information while leading the reader to a deeper theological understanding of the nature of God and his relationship with his people." [Note: Longman and Dillard, p. 34.]

Verse 1

Moses probably meant everything that existed above the earth and on the earth when he wrote "their hosts." The "host" of heaven usually refers to the stars in the Old Testament (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:19) more than the angels (e.g., 1 Kings 22:19), so the sun, moon, and stars are probably in view here.

Verses 1-3

4. The seventh day 2:1-3

"Genesis 2:1-3 echoes Genesis 1:1 by introducing the same phrases but in reverse order: ’he created,’ ’God,’ ’heavens and earth’ reappear as ’heavens and earth’ (Genesis 2:1) ’God’ (Genesis 2:2), ’created’ (Genesis 2:3). This chiastic pattern brings the section to a neat close which is reinforced by the inclusion ’God created’ linking Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:3." [Note: Wenham, p. 5.]

The mood of the narrative also returns to what it was in Genesis 1:1-2. Silence and calm prevail again. [Note: Michael Fishbane, Text and Texture, p. 9.]

Verse 2

"Seventh" comes from a Hebrew root meaning "to be full, completed, entirely made up." [Note: Bush, p. 46.] "Rested" means ceased from activity (cf. Exodus 40:33). There is no implication that God felt fatigued by His creative activity and needed to rest. He simply stopped creating.

Verse 3

God "blessed" the seventh day in that He set it apart as different from the other days of creation. It was a memorial of His creative work. Note the unique threefold repetition of "seventh day," highlighting its special significance.

". . . according to one Babylonian tradition, the seventh, fourteenth, nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-eighth days of each month were regarded as unlucky: Genesis, however, declares the seventh day of every week to be holy, a day of rest consecrated to God (Genesis 2:1-3)." [Note: Wenham, pp. xlix-l.]

Note that God did not command Adam to abstain from work on the Sabbath; this came later with the Mosaic Law. However, Scripture does teach the importance of periodic rest (cf. Exodus 20:8-10; Exodus 23:10-12; Leviticus 25:2; Leviticus 25:4; Deuteronomy 15:1-18; Hebrews 4:1-11; et al.). Part of bearing the likeness of God involves resting as He did after completing His work. [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 39.]

"In the first six days space is subdued; on the seventh, time is sanctified. This day is blessed to refresh the earth. It summons humanity to imitate the pattern of labor and rest of the King and so to confess God’s lordship and their consecration to him. On this day they cease to subdue the earth." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 67.]

The writers of Scripture used the Sabbath to anticipate the hope of Messianic redemption throughout the Old Testament.

In the creation account the Sabbath points forward to the time when God will bring, ". . . a perfect and complete cosmos out of chaos. . . . The weekly rest-experience of the Sabbath [under the Mosaic Law] served to epitomize the future peace and rest of the Messianic age." [Note: Samuele Bacchiocchi, "Sabbatical Typologies of Messianic Redemption," Journal for the Study of Judaism 17:2 (December 1986):155, 165.]

The sabbatical and jubilee years in ancient Judaism also pointed to the liberation Messiah would provide for His people. [Note: See John F. Alexander, "Sabbath Rest," The Other Side 146 (November 1983): 8-9; and Gerhard Hasel, "The Sabbath in the Pentateuch," in The Sabbath in Scripture and History, pp. 21-43.]

The structure of Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3 bears the marks of literary artistry, as does the structure of the rest of Genesis.

"The correspondence of the first paragraph, Genesis 1:1-2, with Genesis 2:1-3 is underlined by the number of Hebrew words in both being multiples of 7. Genesis 1:1 consists of 7 words, Genesis 1:2 of 14 (7 x 2) words, Genesis 2:1-3 of 35 (7 x 5) words. The number seven dominates this opening chapter in a strange way, not only in the number of words in a particular section but in the number of times a specific word or phrase recurs. For example, ’God’ is mentioned 35 times, ’earth’ 21 times, ’heaven/firmament’ 21 times, while the phrases ’and it was so’ and ’God saw that it was good’ occur 7 times." [Note: Wenham, p. 6.]

These characteristics of repeating important words or phrases in multiples of seven and using them to bracket sections of the narrative continue throughout Genesis, though not consistently. They help the reader of the Hebrew text to identify discrete sections of the text as such.

How long were the six days of creation? This is a problem because the inspired writers used "day" (Heb. yom) in various ways in the Old Testament.

"The simple fact is that day in Hebrew (just as in English) is used in three separate senses: to mean (1) twenty-four hours, (2) the period of light during the twenty-four hours, and (3) an indeterminate period of time. Therefore, we must leave open the exact length of time indicated by day in Genesis." [Note: Schaeffer, p. 57.]

Moses used "day" these three ways in Genesis 1, 2 : (1) a 12-hour period of daylight (Genesis 1:5; Genesis 1:14; Genesis 1:16; Genesis 1:18), (2) a 24-hour day (Genesis 1:14), and (3) the entire seven-day period of creation (Genesis 2:4). A few scholars have argued that the sequence of days is not chronologically ordered at all. [Note: E.g,. D. A. Sterchi, "Does Genesis 1 Provide a Chronological Sequence?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39:4 (December 1996):529-36; and M. Throntveit, "Are the Events in the Genesis Account Set Forth in Chronological Order? No," in The Genesis Debate, pp. 36-55.] They believe that Moses numbered the days on the basis of content rather than sequence in time. This view has not enjoyed wide acceptance. Other scholars believe there is some dischronologization in the text. [Note: E.g., Waltke, Genesis, pp. 75-78; and H. Blocher, In the Beginning, p. 78.] There are four major views as to the length of the days of creation.

1. The literal 24-hour day theory. The normal conclusion one would most likely draw from the terminology in the text (e.g., evening, morning, day, night, etc.) is that God created the world in six 24-hour days. This view is most consistent with the principles of literal, historical, and grammatical interpretation. The fact that the number of days corresponds to the number of weekdays also favors this view. Furthermore, whenever "day" (yom) occurs with a numeral in the Old Testament, as here, it refers to a 24-hour period. Some advocates cite Exodus 20:11 as support also. [Note: See Ham, et al., pp. 13-14, 89-101.] The main problem with this view is that the activity of some days (e.g., the sixth) seems to some to require more than 24 hours. [Note: See Ross, Creation and . . ., p. 109.]

2. The day-age (or geologic day) theory. This view interprets the terminology less literally. Advocates argue that the events recorded seem to require more than 24-hour days (e.g., Genesis 2:12). They also point out that solar days may not have begun until the fourth day. Some advocates of this theory are theistic evolutionists. Others are progressive creationists. Progressive creationists generally seek to correlate the geologic ages with the six days of creation. The main problem with the day-age theory is that it interprets terms that seem to have obvious literal meaning figuratively.

3. The literal days with intervening ages theory. This view regards each day as a time of completion of creative activity only. It is an attempt to take the "morning and evening" references seriously but still allow the time that seems necessary within the days (e.g., Genesis 2:12). It is a combination of the two preceding views. However, it strains the text. Also, Moses could have described this method of creation more clearly than he did if long ages interspersed the six days. Few scholars have adopted this view.

4. The revelatory day theory. The least literal interpretation holds that God revealed, rather than accomplished, creation in six days. A major problem with this view is Exodus 20:11 where Moses says God made, not revealed, His creation in six days. A variation of this view understands the days as "structures of a literary framework designed to illustrate the orderly nature of God’s creation and to enable the covenant people to mime the Creator." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 61.]

Presuppositions are extremely important in this controversy. If one believes that scientific "facts" are true, he or she may try to make the Bible fit these. On the other hand, if one believes in an inerrant Bible he or she will give priority to statements in the text. If one believes both are true, he or she will soon learn that both cannot be true. For example, the text says God created the trees before marine life (Genesis 1:11; Genesis 1:20), but most evolutionists believe that trees developed after marine life. Also, the Bible implies that marine life and birds came into existence about the same time (Genesis 1:20), but evolutionists hold that they evolved millions of years apart. [Note: See John Klotz, Modern Science in the Christian Life, pp. 111-12.] No theory explains the conflict between biblical statements and scientific statements adequately. In the end one really comes down to the question, Do I put more confidence in what God says or in what scientists say? [Note: See Duane T. Gish, "Evolution-A Philosophy, Not a Science," Good News Broadcaster (March 1984), pp. 34-37.] One’s presuppositions will also affect whether he or she interprets more or less literally.

Belief in the inerrancy of Scripture does not obviate the problem of the age of the earth, however. Several evangelical scholars who are competent scientists and affirm inerrancy believe the proper interpretation of Scripture results in an old earth model of creation. [Note: E.g., Davis Young, Creation and the Flood and Christianity and the Age of the Earth; Robert Newman and Herman Eckelmann Jr., Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth; and Daniel Wonderly, God’s Time-Records in Ancient Sediments; Hugh Ross.] Other equally qualified inerrantists see a young earth model in the Bible. [Note: E.g., John Klotz, Genes, Genesis, and Evolution; Robert Kofahl and Kelly Segraves, The Creation Explanation; Henry Morris, Science, Scripture and the Young Earth; John Whitcomb, The Early Earth; and John D. Morris, The Young Earth.] One writer gave biographical information about Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656), whose chronology appeared first in the 1701 edition of the AV and later in the margin of the original Scofield Reference Bible. He also gave an explanation of how Ussher arrived at his dates and a table listing the dates of the more important events in Old Testament history contained in Ussher’s chronology. [Note: James Barr, "Why the World was Created in 4004 B.C.: Archbishop Ussher and Biblical Chronology," Bulletin of John Rylands University Library of Manchester 67:2 (Spring 1985):575-608.]

"Clearly a difference between these positions at this precise point of the relationship between science and Scripture is clear and unmistakable. The old-earth view is built on the position that an old universe and an old earth is an established factual base. Thus the Bible at the true meaning level must be interpreted to show that it is not out of harmony with this fact. The young-earth model is based on the position that the scientific data used to establish the concept of an old earth can be interpreted differently and that, strictly speaking, there is no need to defend an old earth. Thus the Bible is approached without this a priori demand for an old earth, and the differences are markedly clear, in this writer’s opinion." [Note: Frederic Howe, "The Age of the Earth: An Appraisal of Some Current Evangelical Positions, Part 2," Bibliotheca Sacra 142:566 (April-June 1985):121. Both parts 1 and 2 of this fine article are very helpful. On the importance of having the correct concept of origins, see Ralph E. Ancil, "Is Creation More Than a Biological Model of Origins?" Creation Social Science and Humanities Review 5:2 (Winter 1982):3-13. See also Ernest Lucas, "Miracles and natural laws," Christian ARENA (September 1985):7-10.]

Evangelicals who believe in a young earth normally do so because they believe that the biblical genealogies in Genesis 5, 11 are complete or very nearly complete. That is the impression the text gives. These genealogies argue for a young earth. I favor the young earth view. [Note: See Appendix 1 at the end of these notes for a summary of five popular views of Creation.]

Where did the names we use for the days of the week come from? They received their names in honor of seven pagan gods whom the ancients associated with the five major planets plus the sun and moon. The names of Germanic (Teutonic) gods replaced those of some Roman gods as time passed. The early church, following Jewish custom, numbered the days of the week to avoid using the names of pagan gods (e.g., Luke 24:1; Acts 20:7). [Note: See David Malcolm, "The Seven-Day Cycle," Creation Ex Nihilo 9:2 (March 1987):32-35.]

WeekdayTeutonic godRoman god/planet
ThursdayThorJupiter (Jove)

"Though historical and scientific questions may be uppermost in our minds as we approach the text, it is doubtful whether they were in the writer’s mind, and we should therefore be cautious about looking for answers to questions he was not concerned with. Genesis is primarily about God’s character and his purposes for sinful mankind. Let us beware of allowing our interests to divert us from the central thrust of the book so that we miss what the LORD, our creator and redeemer, is saying to us." [Note: Wenham, p. liii.]

The main point of the story of creation (Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3) is that God turned chaos into an orderly, blessed, good creation by His word. The original Israelite readers of Genesis would have found encouragement in this revelation to trust God. They would have hoped in Him to transform their national life from chaos in a pagan chaotic environment (Egypt) to order and blessing in an environment He would create for them (Canaan). God’s superiority over forces their pagan neighbors worshipped out of fear (gods of the darkness, the sun, moon, planets, and stars, the watery deep, etc.) would have strengthened their faith. Their God had also created them as a nation, so they could look forward to the future with confidence.

"This passage is significant also in the lives of Christians. Above and beyond asserting the fact of creation in much the same way it did for Israel, the passage provides an important theological lesson. The believer enters into a life of Sabbath rest from works and embarks on a life of holiness in that rest. We learn from the creation account (1) that God is a redeeming God who changes darkness to light, death to life, and chaos to blessing; (2) that God is absolutely sovereign over all life and all pagan ideas that would contend for our allegiance; and (3) that God works by His powerful Word-to create, to redeem, and to sanctify. Obedience to His powerful Word, either the written Word, or the living Word, our Savior, will transform believers into His glorious image." [Note: Ross, Creation and . . ., pp. 114-15.]

Verse 4

Having related the creation of the universe as we know it, God next inspired Moses to explain for his readers what became of it. Sin entered it and devastated it.

"The destiny of the human creation is to live in God’s world, with God’s other creatures, on God’s terms." [Note: W. Brueggemann, Genesis, p. 40.]

The Hebrew word toledot occurs first in Genesis 2:4 where it introduces the next section of the book. This Hebrew word often reads "generations," "histories," "descendants," or, as here (in the NASB and NIV), "account." The word summarizes what follows in the section and introduces what became of something, in this case the universe, or, more often, someone. The person mentioned after toledot is not usually the central figure in the section but the person who originated what follows. The toledot statements contribute the major structural and conceptual framework for the whole Book of Genesis. [Note: Cf. Martin Woudstra, "The Toledot of the Book of Genesis and Their Redemptive-Historical Significance," Calvin Theological Journal 5:2 (1970):188-89.]

". . . the material within each tol’dot is a microcosm of the development of the Book of Genesis itself, with the motifs of blessing and cursing playing a dominant role. Within each of the first several tol’dot is a deterioration to cursing until Genesis 12:1-12, where the message moves to the promise of blessing. From this point on there is a constant striving for the place of blessing, but still with each successive narrative there is deterioration, for Isaac and Jacob did not measure up to Abraham. Consequently at the end of Genesis the family is not in the land of blessing but in Egypt." [Note: Ross, "Genesis," p. 24.]

Verses 4-17

The creation of Man 2:4-17

The differences between Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25 have led many literary critics of the Bible to insist that two different writers composed these sections. But the similarities between these sections argue for a common writer. [Note: See William H. Shea, "Literary Structural Parallels between Genesis 1, 2," Origins 16:2(1989):49-68.]

Verses 4-24

1. The Garden of Eden 2:4-3:24

This story has seven scenes that a change in actors, situations or activities identifies. [Note: For a different narrative analysis, see Waltke, Genesis, pp. 80-81.] Moses constructed this section of Genesis in a chiastic (palistrophic, crossing) structure to focus attention on the central scene: the Fall. The preceding scenes lead up to the Fall, and the following scenes describe its consequences. [Note: Wenham, p. 50.]

A Scene 1 (narrative): God is the sole actor, and man is passive (Genesis 2:4-17).

B Scene 2 (narrative): God is the main actor, man plays a minor role, the woman and the animals are passive (Genesis 2:18-25).

C Scene 3 (dialogue): The snake and the woman converse (Genesis 3:1-5).

D Scene 4 (narrative): The man and the woman are primary (Genesis 3:6-8).

C’ Scene 5 (dialogue): God converses with the man and the woman (Genesis 3:9-13).

B’ Scene 6 (narrative): God is the main actor, man plays a minor role, the woman and the serpent are passive (Genesis 3:14-21).

A’ Scene 7 (narrative): God is the sole actor, and man is passive (Genesis 3:22-24).

The story of the Garden of Eden begins with a second, more detailed account of the creation of humankind that Moses gave as an introduction to the Fall and its consequences.

"More light is shed on the relationship between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 by a consideration of a literary structure that occurs throughout the entire book of Genesis: First, less important things are dealt with rapidly, and then the things more important to the central theme of the Bible are returned to and developed more fully." [Note: Schaeffer, pp. 40-41.]

Note the following contrasts between the accounts of man’s creation.

Genesis 1:1-2:3Genesis 2:4-25
Name of GodElohim (Strong One)Yahweh (Covenant-keeping One)
PurposeFacts of CreationGod’s relationship with human creatures
EmphasisThe world generallyHumankind specifically

Moses identified Yahweh, the God who called Abraham (Genesis 12:1) and the God who delivered Israel from Egypt (Exodus 3:15), with Elohim, the God who created the cosmos. [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 20.] The name "Jehovah" comes from combining the vowels of the Hebrew adonay ("lord") with the consonants of the Hebrew Yahweh (i.e., YHWH).

"In Genesis 1 ’elohim (God) refers to God’s transcendence over the world, while in Genesis 2-3 yhwh (LORD) speaks of God’s immanence with his elect. When the narrator combines the two names, he makes a bold assertion that the Creation God is the Lord of Israel’s history. Just as God ordered creation, he orders history. All is under God’s sovereign control, guaranteeing that Israel’s history will end in triumph, not in tragedy." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 34.]

Verses 4-26

B. What became of the creation 2:4-4:26

Moses described what happened to the creation by recording significant events in the Garden of Eden, the murder of Abel, and the family of Cain.

"The section begins with a description of the creation of Adam and Eve and traces their sin, God’s curse on sin, and the expansion of sin in their descendants. No longer at rest, mankind experienced flight and fear, making his way in the world, surviving, and developing civilization. As if in answer to the blessings of Creation, this passage supplies a threefold cursing (of Satan [Genesis 3:14], of the ground because of man [Genesis 3:17], and of Cain [Genesis 4:11]).

"Yet in this deteriorating life there is a token of grace (Genesis 4:15) and a ray of hope (man began to call on Yahweh)." [Note: Idem, "Genesis," p. 24.]

Verses 5-6

These verses describe global conditions before man’s creation in terms that stress God’s gracious preparation of the world for him. They are a flashback to conditions before Genesis 1:26. Moses chose terms that contrast with conditions that existed after the Fall. [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 40.] "Shrubs" were evidently not edible whereas "plants" were. Thus Moses distinguished two types of land: arable and non-arable. [Note: Wenham, p. 58.]

The absence of "rain" and the presence of the "mist" have led some writers to postulate a "canopy theory." [Note: Whitcomb and Morris; Jody Dillow, The Waters Above.] According to this theory, a canopy of water vapor that watered the earth covered the earth initially. It reduced the destructive rays of the sun so that antediluvian man lived much longer, and it distributed heat more evenly over the surface of this planet. Such a water canopy covers Venus. This canopy supposedly broke up when God sent the Flood (Genesis 7:11). This is another of those theories that are impossible to prove or disprove conclusively. [Note: For a critique of this view, see Thomas Key, "Does the Canopy Theory Hold Water?" See also Stanley Rice, "Botanical and Ecological Objections to a Preflood Water Canopy," Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 37:4 (December 1985):223-29.]

Verse 7

"Formed" (Heb. yasar) means to shape or mold and implies that God deliberately did this with tender loving care. It describes the work of an artist (cf. Job 10:8-9).

"Dust" (Heb. haadama) reflects man’s lowly origin. Even though he was in God’s image, man was a creature like other creatures God had made. This rules out the view that man descended from the gods, which was popular in the ancient Near East and was foundational in Egyptian cosmology. [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 41.] In Creation God raised man out of the dust to reign. [Note: See W. Brueggemann, "From Dust to Kingship," Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 84 (1972):1-18.] However in the Fall man returned to the dust by his own work (Genesis 3:19). [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 41.]

The "breath of life" (Heb. nesama) was God’s breath that gave Adam life, spiritual understanding (Job 32:8), and a functioning conscience (Proverbs 20:27). Adam’s life came from God’s breath. [Note: See Mathews, pp. 197-99.] His uniqueness consisted in his having been made in God’s image. God’s breath may be a synonym for His word (cf. Psalms 33:6). [Note: See Ellis R. Brotzman, "Man and the Meaning of Nephesh [Soul]," Bibliotheca Sacra 145:580 (October-December 1988):400-9.] Man, therefore, is a combination of dust and divinity. [Note: For defense of the historicity of Adam and Eve, see Waltke, Genesis, p. 80, n. 2.]

Verses 8-15

The modern equivalent of the Pishon River is unknown for certain. Commentators have suggested that it was the Indus, the Ganges, a river of Arabia, or a river of Mesopotamia. The land of Havilah seems to have been in southwestern Arabia (cf. Genesis 25:18). The Gihon may be the preflood Nile since Cush in the Old Testament usually describes modern Ethiopia (cf. Genesis 10:6-8; Numbers 12:1; 2 Samuel 18:19-33; 2 Kings 19:9; 2 Chronicles 14:9-15; Isaiah 37:9; Jeremiah 13:23; Jeremiah 38-39). [Note: See J. Daniel Hays, "The Cushites: A Black Nation in Ancient History," Bibliotheca Sacra 153:611 (July-September 1996):270-80; and idem, "The Cushites: A Black Nation in the Bible," Bibliotheca Sacra 153:612 (October-December 1996):396-409.] However some interpreters believe this site was in the land of the Cassites east of Mesopotamia. [Note: E.g., Ross, "Genesis," p. 31.] The Tigris and Euphrates are now in Babylonia. Eden (meaning delight, pleasure, or perhaps place of abundant waters) therefore appears to have lain in the general area of the Promised Land (Genesis 2:11-14; cf. Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 36:35; Joel 2:3; Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 22:1-2). The Garden of (sometimes "in") Eden seems to have been in the eastern part of Eden. This rather extensive description sets the stage for Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden in Genesis 3:24. It probably also encouraged the Israelites to anticipate the Promised Land.

"It can hardly be a coincidence that these rivers, along with the ’River of Egypt,’ again play a role in marking boundaries of the land promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18)." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 99.]

The trees in the garden were beautiful and edible, an orchard for man to enjoy (Genesis 2:9). The tree of life appears to have been a means whereby God sustained Adam and Eve’s lives. Again, God’s desire to bless man comes through. The knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9; Genesis 2:17) probably refers to man’s ability to decide for himself what is best for him and what is not (i.e., wisdom). [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 86. For some other views, see Hamilton, pp. 164-66; or Wenham, pp. 63-64.] "Good" and "evil" may be a merism for all the things that protect and destroy life.

Similarities between the descriptions of the garden and the tabernacle are also interesting (cf. Exodus 25-27). Both places reflected the glory of God’s presence in their beautiful surroundings (cf. Haggai 2:7-8; Revelation 21:18). [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 43.]

The Hebrew word translated "put" in Genesis 2:15 (wayyannihehu) is not the same one rendered "put" in Genesis 2:8 (wayyasem). The latter term is the normal one for putting something somewhere. However the former one connotes rest and safety (cf. Genesis 19:16; Deuteronomy 3:20; Deuteronomy 12:10; Deuteronomy 25:19) as well as dedication in God’s presence (cf. Exodus 16:33-34; Leviticus 16:23; Numbers 17:4; Deuteronomy 26:4; Deuteronomy 26:10). God put man in the garden where he could be safe and rest and where he could have fellowship with God (cf. Genesis 3:8). His primary responsibility there was to worship and obey God rather than to cultivate and keep the garden, as many English versions state. [Note: Ibid., p. 45.] Adam served and thereby worshipped God by tending the garden. Work is essentially a good gift of God, not a punishment for sin.

"The Garden of Eden is a temple-garden, represented later in the tabernacle. Cherubim protect its sanctity (Genesis 3:24; Exodus 26:1; 2 Chronicles 3:7) so that sin and death are excluded (Genesis 3:23; Revelation 21:8)." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 85.]

Verses 16-17

God gave Adam great freedom of choice. He only forbade one of all the trees. God’s command also implies that He alone knows what is good and not good for man. Adam would die because of disobedience, not because of the fruit of the tree. [Note: For a discussion of what God had in mind in the two trees, see Keil and Delitzsch, 1:84-86.]

"That famous tree symbolizes the ability to discern good (i.e., what advances life) and evil (i.e., what hinders life). Such knowledge belongs to God alone because, as Agur inferentially argues in Proverbs 30:1-6, one must know comprehensively in order to speak absolutely about what is good and bad." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 46.]

"On the whole it seems probable that we should understand ’death’ to mean a spiritual state, but a state aptly symbolized by physical death. When man sinned he passed into a new state, one dominated by, and at the same time symbolized by death. It is likely that spiritual death and physical death are not being thought of as separate, so that the one involves the other." [Note: Leon Morris, The Wages of Sin, p. 10.]

The Hebrew construction emphasizes the certainty of death, however it is defined. Why did Adam and Eve not die immediately? The phrase "in the day" in Hebrew is an idiom meaning "for certain" (cf. Exodus 10:28; 1 Kings 2:37; 1 Kings 2:42).

"Before Adam and Eve fell into sin, God made a proposition to them that some have regarded as a covenant, as stated in Genesis 1:26-31; Genesis 2:16-17. God gave Adam authority over the creatures of the world, commanded him to be fruitful, and gave him permission to eat from every green plant. The only restriction was that Adam and Eve not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for if they did so they would surely die (Genesis 2:16-17). Basically, the covenant was conditional, requiring obedience; but it also declared God’s purpose to elevate humanity to a place of authority and prominence, ultimately fulfilled by Christ." [Note: John F. Walvoord, "The New Covenant," in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands, pp. 187-88.]

The covenant in Genesis 2:16-17 has been called the Edenic Covenant. A covenant is a divine pronouncement by which God establishes a relationship involving responsibility. The relationship may involve Himself and an individual (e.g., Adam in the Edenic Covenant; Genesis 2:16-17), or Himself and humankind in general (e.g., humanity in the Noahic Covenant; Genesis 9:9-17). It may involve Himself and a nation (e.g., Israel in the Mosaic Covenant; Exodus 19:3-8), or Himself and a human family (e.g., David’s family in the Davidic Covenant; 2 Samuel 7:12-17). A covenant of one type may overlap another covenant or other covenants of a different type or different types. For example, the Noahic Covenant overlaps the Mosaic Covenant, and the Davidic Covenant overlaps the Mosaic and New Covenants.

The biblical covenants normally involved unconditional promises in which God obligated Himself to accomplish certain purposes despite human failure, though they may contain conditional elements. An exception is the Mosaic Covenant in which the fulfillment of the promises contained in the covenant depended on Israel’s obedience. The Edenic Covenant was also different in that God promised death for failure to obey His command to abstain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The three universal covenants, which affect the whole human race, are the Edenic, Adamic, and Noahic Covenants. All the subsequent covenants affect Israel primarily, though they all affect the rest of humanity secondarily. There are eight major biblical covenants and they help us understand how God is working out His purposes with humankind. These are the Edenic (Genesis 2:16), the Adamic (Genesis 3:15), the Noahic (Genesis 9:16), the Abrahamic (Genesis 12:2), the Mosaic (Exodus 19:5), the Palestinian (Deuteronomy 30:3), the Davidic (2 Samuel 7:16), and the New (Hebrews 8:8).

The Edenic Covenant required five things from Adam. He was to propagate the human race, to subdue the earth for human habitation, to exercise dominion over the animal creation, to care for and enjoy the Garden of Eden and its fruits, and to abstain from eating from one tree in the garden.

Verse 18

Adam’s creation was not complete because he lacked a "helper" who corresponded to him. This deficiency led God to pronounce Adam’s condition "not good." [Note: For helpful comments about anthropomorphisms, as well as divine soliloquies, see Roderick MacKenzie,"The Divine Soliloquies in Genesis," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 22:1 (1955):277-86.] This follows the pattern of the triune God’s own existence in which He is surrounded by His heavenly court. Man should normally live in community even as God does. God not only evaluated Adam’s condition, He also rectified it.

"In Judaism, from the very moment of origins of the Jewish people, marriage was considered to be the ideal state." [Note: Blu Greenberg, "Marriage in the Jewish Tradition," Journal of Ecumenical Studies 22:1 (Winter 1985):3.]

God’s provision of a wife for Adam is a concrete example of God’s knowing what is good for man. [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 46.] Companionship replaced isolation. For companionship to be satisfying, however, there must be oneness in the marriage (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). Self-centered living destroys oneness and companionship.

The term "helper" does not mean a servant. Jesus Christ used the same word (the Greek equivalent) to describe the Holy Spirit who would help believers following the Lord’s ascension (John 14:16; John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7). It means one who supports us in our task of doing the will of God (cf. Deuteronomy 33:7; Psalms 33:20; Psalms 115:9-11; Psalms 146:5; Hosea 13:9). It is not a demeaning term since Scripture often uses it to describe God Himself (e.g., Psalms 33:20; Psalms 70:5; Psalms 115:9).

"The word help suggests that the man has governmental priority, but both sexes are mutually dependent on each other. The man is created first, with the woman to help the man, not vice versa (see also 1 Timothy 2:13); however, this does not mean ontological superiority or inferiority. The word helper, used for God sixteen of the nineteen times it appears in the Old Testament, signifies the woman’s essential contribution, not inadequacy." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 88.]

"Suitable to him" or "corresponding to him" means "equal and adequate." What was true of Adam (cf. Genesis 2:7) was also true of Eve. They both had the same nature.

"Since Adam and Eve were a spiritual unity, living in integrity without sin, there was no need for instruction here on headship." [Note: Ross, "Genesis," p. 31.]

The ancient Near Eastern texts contain no account of the creation of woman. Moses, however, devoted six verses to her formation compared to only one for Adam (Genesis 2:7).

Verses 18-25

The creation of woman 2:18-25

Verses 19-20

The text does not mean that Adam named every individual animal. He apparently gave names to the different kinds God brought before him. This exercise demonstrated Adam’s authority over the animals and the dissimilarity between humans and animals. He became aware of his own need for a companion as he named the animals.

"Adam" comes from the Hebrew word for "earth" (adamah). "Adam" means "one that is red," like the earth. [Note: Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1:1:2.] Likewise the names of the animals probably expressed the nature of each animal. Names of humans in Old Testament times usually reflected the nature of the persons who bore them. This indicates that Adam must have had great intelligence and wisdom to be able to identify and label the various types of animals according to their natures.

Man is not like the other animals. Adam could find no suitable partner among them. God graciously provided for his need by creating Eve.

Verses 21-22

More than once when God initiated a new relationship for someone He first put that person to sleep (cf. Genesis 15:12; Genesis 28:11). He evidently did so to assure the recipient that his own works had no part in his receiving it. [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 46.] It was totally a gift of God’s grace.

". . . the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved." [Note: Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 7.]

"Just as the rib is found at the side of the man and is attached to him, even so the good wife, the rib of her husband, stands at his side to be his helper-counterpart, and her soul is bound up with him." [Note: Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis. Part I: From Adam to Noah, p. 134.]

God fashioned Eve to be a suitable companion for Adam. Then He presented her to him as a gift.

"That woman was taken from man no more implies the inferiority of woman to man than the taking of man from the ground (’adam from ’adamah) implies the inferiority of man to the ground." [Note: Merrill, p. 19.]

". . . the whole account of woman’s creation has a poetic flavor: it is certainly mistaken to read it as an account of a clinical operation or as an attempt to explain some feature of man’s anatomy . . . Rather, it brilliantly depicts the relation of man and wife. . . . Here the ideal of marriage as it was understood in ancient Israel is being portrayed, a relationship characterized by harmony and intimacy between the partners." [Note: Wenham, p. 69.]

Verse 23

The word "woman" (Heb. ishah) sounds similar to the Hebrew word translated "man" (ish). This similarity reflects the close union between the two. Moses named Adam by his relation to the ground, but Adam named himself in relation to his wife. [Note: Sarna, p. 23.]

"Name-giving in the ancient Orient was primarily an exercise of sovereignty, of command." [Note: von Rad, p. 83. George W. Ramsey, "Is Name-Giving an Act of Domination in Genesis 2:23 and Elsewhere?" Catholic Biblical Quarterly 50:1 (January 1988):24-35, disputed this view.]

"Genesis 2 is unique among the creation myths of the whole of the Ancient Near East in its appreciation of the meaning of woman, i.e., that human existence is a partnership of man and woman." [Note: Westermann, p. 232.]

"Though they are equal in nature, that man names woman (cf. Genesis 3:20) indicates that she is expected to be subordinate to him, an important presupposition of the ensuing narrative (Genesis 3:17)." [Note: Wenham, p. 70.]

When Adam discovered that God had provided him with a partner like himself, not like one of the other animals, he rejoiced greatly. He received his mate as God’s good gift to him because he trusted in God’s wisdom, goodness, and integrity. Adam was now beside himself! (Pardon the pun.)

Likewise it is essential for every husband and wife to thankfully receive the mate God has given us as His best provision for us. To do so we must know and trust God’s goodness. Our mate’s differences are good things God brings to us that He will use as tools to shape us into the people He wants us to be. Failure to accept one’s mate as a good gift from a loving God leads to many problems in marriage and frustrates God’s purpose and plan for marriage. It expresses rejection of God and His provision for one’s life. It also demonstrates unbelief, disobedience, and displeasure with God’s character. Your mate needs your unconditional acceptance.

Verse 24

This verse clarifies God’s purpose in marriage. It involves leaving parents and cleaving to one’s spouse. [Note: See Mathews, pp. 222-24.]

". . . Israelite marriage was usually patrilocal, that is, the man continued to live in or near his parents’ home. It was the wife who left home to join her husband." [Note: Wenham, p. 70.]

Leaving and cleaving probably means both psychological and physical separation and union under normal conditions. A newly married couple is wise to establish relative independence from both sets of parents emotionally, physically, financially, and in other ways. The couple also needs to establish commitment to one another. Cleaving resembles weaving two threads into one new piece of cloth. The word suggests the ideas of passion and permanence. In marriage a man’s priorities change. Before they were primarily to his parents, but now they are primarily to his wife. Moses was probably correcting cultures that gave parental bonds priority over marital bonds. [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 90.] Marriage also involves physical consummation that unites two individuals as "one flesh" (i.e., in union or unity, [Note: Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 2:334.] "a new family" [Note: The NET Bible note on 2:24.] ). This is a strong argument for monogamy. "One flesh" is not the same as marriage (1 Corinthians 6:16). For a marriage to exist there must also be a commitment to "leave" parents and "cleave" to one’s spouse from then on (cf. Matthew 19:5; et al.). The bond of marriage (spouse) also takes priority over the bond of procreation (children).

Verse 25

The naked condition of Adam and Eve does not just describe their unclothed physical appearance. It also refers to the physical and psychological oneness and transparency that existed in their relationship. Physically they were naked; they shared their bodies with each other openly. Psychologically they were not ashamed; they hid nothing from each other. They were at ease with one another without any fear of exploitation for evil. Transparency should increase with trust, commitment, and friendship. It involves communicating what we know, think, feel, and are with the person or persons we choose. We should not be transparent with everyone, however, only with people who commit themselves to us. A transparent person is an open and vulnerable person.

This is a hinge (janus) verse. It looks backward into chapter 2 and forward into chapter 3. The similarity of the Hebrew words for naked (’arom) and "crafty" (Genesis 3:1, ’arum) points to a word play. This word for nakedness means unclothed whereas the one in Genesis 3:7 (’erom) and elsewhere describes those under God’s judgment (cf. Deuteronomy 28:48; Ezekiel 16:39; Ezekiel 23:29). [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 49.]

Genesis 2:18-25 teach us much about marriage.

1. God instituted it.

2. God intended it to be monogamous (not monotonous). One woman completed Adam (cf. Matthew 19:8).

3. God intended it to be heterosexual.

4. It involves both a physical and a spiritual union (Genesis 2:24; cf. Matthew 19:4-5).

5. The husband was to be the head of the wife. God created Adam before Eve, and He created Eve for Adam (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:8-9; 1 Timothy 2:13).

6. A woman can be a complete person without bearing children. A wife’s primary function in marriage is to complement her husband, not to bear children.

7. Normally, a couple, following the lead of their representatives, Adam and Eve, should "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). God did not specify how early in the marriage and to what extent. He left this up to the couple. Couples may choose when and how many children they plan to have, though God may sovereignly overrule their plans.

The Family Ministry organization has summarized these purposes as five. Marriage should mirror God’s image, multiply a godly heritage, manage God’s realm, mutually complete one another, and model Christ’s relationship to the church. [Note: Family Life Conference, p. 45.]

The Bible writers made use of the creation account in many different ways, and we too can use it in these ways for our own personal profit. These purposes include glorifying the God of creation, stimulating praise and worship, and fortifying faith in God’s promises. They also include learning about God’s attributes, expressing wonder at man’s position in God’s universe, dispelling fear, and exalting the Lord Jesus. [Note: Ted S. Rendall, "Using the Creation Account for Maximum Spiritual Profit," Prairie Overcomer 60:8 (September 1987):3-5, 22.]

However a main point of this unit (Genesis 2:4-25) seems clearly to be that God made human beings male and female with a spiritual capacity and mutually dependent. He did so that they might serve and obey Him and so enjoy His creation. As Adam and Eve, God later placed Israel in a place of blessing. The nation could enjoy His blessing by being obedient and trusting with the assistance He had provided for them in marriage. Even today serving and obeying God is man’s greatest privilege, and we find help to do this in the marriage relationship.

"Two primary themes dominate the Creation account [Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:25]: the land and the blessing." [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., pp. 81-82. Cf. 12:1-3, 7.]

The theme of descendants (seed) is also present, though perhaps not as prominent (Genesis 1:28).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/genesis-2.html. 2012.
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