(1) Jesus Christ sets us on the path of freedom which is based on truth and leads through love to eternal life. (2) Yet false gods continue to enthrall us with the path of power which is based on falsehood and leads through indifference to death. (3) Even Christians have fallen under their spell. (4) But Jesus is calling us to join him as prophetic witnesses in breaking their spell beginning with his Church. (5) Use this website to strengthen your witness to Jesus for our good and his glory.
the first creation saga (Genesis 1:1-2:3), we learned about creation as the
context of the covenant. The second creation saga (Genesis 2:4-25) does not
simply repeat this or tell another story. It looks at the same story from the
opposite point of view, at the covenant as the goal of creation.
These are the
generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that
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 (English
Standard Version, here and following).
we have a new name for God: Yahweh Elohim, the God who with this name revealed
himself to Israel. Immediately, then, the history of the covenant is
anticipated here in the history of creation.
the earth and the heavens. With this reversal of order the emphasis is upon the
earth. Like the earth waste and void in Genesis 1:2, the barren earth here is
rejected by God. This emphasis is intensified by the first mention of humans as
those needed and therefore created to serve the earth itself as gardeners.
first human is created from the as yet unwatered and untilled earth. This again
emphasizes the total integration of man with creation—even if not denying his
distinctive human form. Yet, while sharing earth with earth, and while sharing
earth and divine quickening with other animals, man alone is quickened by God
in a way so immediate and personal. By God’s grace alone, man transcends the
barrenness of earth from which he is formed. By God’s grace, the earth will
bear the vegetation planted by God through the service and work of the human
gardener and with water from God. In this way, man will fulfill the meaning of his
existence even as his service and work helps the earth to fulfill the meaning
given it by God as well.
twofold act of God in the creation of man, the forming and inbreathing,
corresponds with the twofold act by which God creates Israel. Just as God
established an immediate and personal relationship with the first human, so God
will do so with Israel by entering into a covenantal relationship with his
people and by blessing it with his prophetic Spirit. In this way the history of
creation anticipates the history of the covenant and its fulfillment in Jesus
Christ. For the well-being of the earth, God graciously sustains humans; for
the well-being of the nations, God graciously will sustain Israel as sign and
blessing. But just as humans die and return to earth, so Israel as a nation
will slip into the welter of nations until its history is fulfilled in Jesus
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.
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.
Lord God took the man and put him
in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 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.”
2:4b mentions the heavens, but then vs. 5-7 focus solely on the earth.
Similarly, vs. 8-17 leave behind earth as a whole and focus on the garden of
Eden. In vs. 5-7 we came to expect plants and rain; in vs. 8-17, we find the
surpassing reality of trees and rivers.
kind of place is Eden? Eden means “delight” and no doubt the garden is one:
specifically planted by God, gushing with water, teeming with beautiful and
fruitful trees, and containing even the tree of life. But Eden does not
monopolize perfection. Havilah, for example, has the gold. Eden is a qualified
paradise. Man is put there to work. Then there is that tree of the knowledge of
good and evil from which it is forbidden to eat. So Eden from the beginning is
not without its challenges.
is Eden? The mention of well-known concrete information—to the east, Cush,
Tigris, Euphrates—indicates that a definite place, and not a utopia, is
intended. Yet the vagueness of the other details means that while Eden is
somewhere, and not nowhere, we cannot know just where it is. The passage points
to a historical reality but not one we can empirically verify. It indicates the
place that was our home but is no longer accessible to us.
Eden a river bursts forth to water the garden and then splits to water the four
quarters of the earth. From Eden, then, flows the river which allows the
vegetation of all the earth to flourish. If we no longer enjoy Eden, we still
live by the streams and eat of the fruit made possible by the water from Eden.
garden is ordered; that is, it has a center and a margin. At its center stand
two trees. In relation to them the human creature receives both a yes and a no.
It may eat from the tree of life but doesn’t need to do so. That tree serves as
a sign of the life graciously given by God to man and all creation. Had Adam
and Eve eaten from the tree of life after sinning, they would have known a
never-ending death with no chance of resurrection, so God mercifully expelled
them from that possibility.
the tree of life, the other tree does not signify a reality but a possibility.
Though not called the tree of death, that is the consequence of eating its
fruit. To know good and evil means to decide, as God alone can, between cosmos
and chaos. Eating the fruit means seizing the possibility of saying yes to what
God says no. In his first words to man, God says no to this possibility and
explains why. This no is God’s no to death.
his own wisdom, God knows as Creator why he willed one thing and not another
and therefore what is good and evil. Man’s life in fellowship with God means his
free acknowledgment of God’s divinity and wisdom in making creation just the
way it is. Will man be thankful for creation as created by God? Or will man
insist first on knowing the option that God rejected in order to decide for himself
whether creation is good as created? If he seizes that option, then like God he will have to know and be responsible for evil as well as good, perdition as
well as salvation, death as well as life. But being only human and not divine,
this divine knowledge and responsibility will necessarily poison him.
positive meaning of this second tree is its call to man to praise and thank God
as Creator. Man is to decide freely to obey God. This is not an equal freedom
to obey or disobey. God freely gave man the gift of life, then freely set him
amidst a special garden teeming with life, and finally asked him to decide to
participate with God in life, to acknowledge God’s decision for life by freely
obeying that decision.
all this we find clear anticipations of the history of the covenant of grace.
Like the garden of Eden, the land of Canaan is a fruitful spot between desert
and sea. As man does not own but must be brought to the gift of Eden, so
Abraham and then the Israelites are brought to and given the land of promise.
So too the first two human beings and Israel are exiled from the home God had
given them following their disobedience.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the
man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 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. 20 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. 21 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. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made
into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 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.”
24 Therefore a man
shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall
become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked
and were not ashamed.
one theme of this section is the completion of the creation of man as male and
female. As in the first creation saga, the significance of the creation of man
as male and female in partnership is emphasized by a divine conversation in
Genesis 2:18. As in the first saga, the creation of man concludes with the
existence of male and female; this time, the man freely recognizes and affirms
the woman as his companion. When she is acknowledged as such, it is not for
lack of choice but through the free rejection of all the other animals as false
man fell deeply asleep. He did not participate at all in God’s execution of his
own plan for male and female as genuine counterparts. Nor did the man even
observe God’s act of creation.
bone of his bone, the woman is as close and special to the man as a part of his
own body. Because this bone was something taken by the Creator and not
something donated by the creature, the man cannot lord himself over the woman.
Though a rib is lost, the one from who it came does not remain impaired but,
healed, finds wholeness only with the one who came from it. Finally the rib,
once a dependent part, has been transformed by God into an autonomous whole.
God brings the creation of man as male and female to completion by
intentionally bringing the woman to the man. The man witnesses to his freedom
for God by recognizing the woman as the true companion she was created by God
to be. In Genesis 1, then, we find the goal of creation attained when God
creates man in his image as male and female; in Genesis 2, we learn how this
creation came about; in Genesis 2:24, we learn that marriage is the fulfillment
of the relationship between male and female in the history of the covenant.
enough, the rest of the Old Testament, with one exception, regards marriage
less in terms of the relationship between male and female and more in terms of
the messianic expectation to be fulfilled in the birth of a son. The one
exception: the Song of Songs. But the question remains: how could the writers
of Genesis 2 and Song of Songs write of the covenantal relationship between
male and female with such innocence? Only on the basis of another covenant
which, though broken by disobedience, nonetheless remains valid by grace: God’s
covenantal relationship with Israel.
the Old Testament ignores the beginning and goal of this covenant and focuses
instead on its center: the troubled history of Israel’s faithlessness toward
God despite God’s faithfulness toward Israel. But not always. Old Testament
witnesses repeatedly look at the origin and goal of this covenant, at the
joyful and intimate relationship of Yahweh and Israel, and in doing so freely
witness anew to marriage between male and female as its glorious sign. It is by
reflecting on the beginning and goal of the covenantal relationship of Yahweh
as Israel’s husband and of Israel as Yahweh’s wife that the authors of Genesis
2 and the Song of Songs write.
witness of the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in the New. Jesus Christ has
his genuine companion in the Church; with his disciples he is firstborn from
the dead and as such they are with him as the firstborn of creation. This is
why the man could be complete only with the woman. Members of the Church are
those recognized and called as such by Jesus Christ. So too the man recognized
and acknowledged the woman to be like him. In the crucifixion and resurrection
of Jesus Christ, the Church has its origin. So too the man had to fall into a
deep sleep before the woman could be presented to him. Because of this, fulfillment of marriage is found in the relationship of Christ and Church: 28 In the same way husbands should love their
wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but
nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,30 because we are members of his body (Ephesians