And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and [there was] not a man to till the ground
It is a bleak picture. The lack of fertility seems equally tied to the lack of rain and the lack of Adam. This apparently is not quite good enough, for God does something about it. He creates mist (‘ed), man (‘adam), and a garden (gan).
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
Somehow, to me this feels like the inverse of the story of Mary and Martha. There, we are reminded that it is better to wait on the Lord than to work. Yet in the beginning, the mandate seems rather the other way around. Perhaps before the fall, work was pure worship, rather than a potential distraction from worship. Certainly work predates sin — and comes from God, hard as that may be for some to believe. Yet that is precisely one of the things transformationalism seeks to redeem.
And the LORD God said, [It is] not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
Okay, transliterated Hebrew makes no sense here – I can’t find ‘not’ or ‘alone’ anywhere, so I’ll have to take them on faith. Let’s focus on helper (‘ezer). Why does Adam need a helper? To help! Help do what? Well, the only commands he’s been given so far at to a) work the ground, and b) not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Somehow I suspect God had the former in mind, as Eve didn’t do so hot with the second. Or maybe it was Adam who didn’t think to involve her in the second part.
Anyway, I find it compelling that God’s first covenant couple was created with a mandate to work together on the garden.
And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
Naming is powerful thing in Hebrew. To me, it implies that he found a purpose for all these creatures. “I call you plowhorse. I call you sheepdog.” But none whose purpose was ‘ezer.
And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
So once again, God takes things into His own hands. He gives man — and the land — that which it needs, which it could never obtain on their own, without which it could not accomplish its purpose.
And Adam said, This [is] now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
An amazing reaction. Interestingly, he doesn’t name her helper. He describes her as bone of bone (‘etsem ‘etsem) and flesh of flesh (basar basar), but names her Female (‘ishshah) from Male (‘iysh) – a different word than Adam. I’m not sure about all that is going on now, but one thing is that it seems as if he is viewing her in relationship to himself, rather than in relationship to work. Which is apparently a good thing, as the writer then editorializes:
Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Interesting. As if… even though work came first, once family comes it redefines everything. Which perhaps it must, because it actually harkens back to Genesis 1:27, where God creates male and female in His image. Reflecting God’s image has priority than work. Work is sacred, since God works. But before God acted (in this universe), he still existed in perfect relationship with Himself. So relationship is more sacred yet.
Alas, such sacred perfection is not to last, as we’ll soon see.
Note: Hebrew & History
I should mention here that the readings are from the Bible Gateway‘s NIV (as that is the basis of the chronology), while the study excerpts are from the Blue Letter Bible’s KJV (as that has the Hebrew concordance). This dissonance is probably a good thing, as it reminds me to not get bogged down in particular phrasings but to focus on the story.
I may have to learn basic Hebrew before this is all done, as the transliterations of the Blue Letter Bible often make it more mystifying. I knew Hebrew had no vowels or tenses, but now I discover it seems to have no prepositions, articles, qualifiers (‘every’), conjunctions, or pronouns! Or maybe it does have them implicitly (like it does vowels), but they are hidden in the word order or something.
I realize it is a minority opinion, but I consider Genesis 2 a sequel to Genesis 1, rather than a retelling. That is, God created humanity as a whole earlier, but created Adam around 6,000 years ago as part of a covenantal line. It is rather non-traditional, but so far I haven’t seen anything in the Hebrew that argues strongly against it, and certainly it fits the available archaeological evidence much better than the other interpretations I’ve heard.