This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
A second account of the creation of humanity? Or is it the first? Scholarship seems to concur that this creation story in Genesis 2 derives from source material in currency half a millennium before the more familiar version. Those with a wider horizon (temporal and geographical) may well describe both as but pebbles in a mosaic of Ancient Near Eastern creation myths best viewed from above to obtain a true perspective on their significance.
Such an overview suggests that it is not too surprising if the accounts are somewhat contradictory – simply that no rigorous editorial process was applied (or presumably felt necessary) by the collectors/compilers of the material into Jewish Scripture. It was their desire neither to compile a scientific treatise on creation nor to imply that every word was set by direct divine composition.
Therefore neither scientific literalists nor young earth creationists need worry overmuch about (or minimise) the discrepancies.
As Saturday’s writer comments, the first story is a poem. It’s a description of how God ordained and ordered the cosmos and the world, envisioning a God acting by speaking in and to a chaotic situation through an ordered series of commands.
The prosaic narrative In Chapter 2 is in a sense much more down to earth. From the dirt of the garden God made man and plants and animals, but it was from the man that the woman was created to be a companion. Creation as relationship.
The sweep of the entire piece moves from a cosmocentric commanding God to an anthropocentric partnership in full relationship with a God who wanted what was good for humanity.
Thus is mirrored an understanding of two sides of our God – one who expects us to obey the commands of worship, doing justice and seeking peace who in return will fulfil the covenant with us by leading us to eternal life.
God who made the earth the air, the sky, the sea, who gave the light its birth – God cares for me. (Sarah B Rhodes (Rejoice and Sing 62)) Creator God, in your mercy, care for me
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