Genesis 2 – Week Three
If you were here for last week’s lesson, you know that we covered Genesis chapter 1. Even if you weren’t here, Genesis 1 is no stranger to you. Most Christians and even some non-Christians are aware that the seven days of creation are summarized in that first chapter of the Bible. Chapter 2 starts with a synopsis of chapter 1 and then provides more details about the creation of man.
Genesis 2:1 TLB “Now at last the heavens and earth were successfully completed, with all that they contained. 2 So on the seventh day, having finished his task, God ceased from this work he had been doing, 3 and God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he ceased this work of creation.”
Just a few observations from these verses. We’re told that the heavens and the earth and everything in them were completed at this point. And we know that this was done in six days. We also know that on the 7th day, God rested. Now let’s think about that for just a moment.
If you have a big project to do, something like painting a room or remodeling a bathroom, you would consider the job complete when everything was done, right? We had a fence installed in our backyard this week and it was all done in one day. So, if we were to refer the company to someone, we would probably mention that the work was completed in one day. That’s how we view it. I love that God never misses a detail and there is nothing coincidental about any detail. In six days, everything had been created and there was nothing left to do. And this next statement comes as no surprise to us. God could have snapped His fingers and everything could have been done in one day, two days, three days, or even instantaneously. But He specifically spent six days creating the universe and all that filled it. “In the Bible, the number 6 symbolizes man and human weakness.”[i] “The number six in the Bible represents man and rebellion. Both man and serpent were created on the sixth day, which is why the number represents both man and the evil that weakens him.”[ii]
So, although the “project” of creation was done by the end of the 6th day and there was nothing left for God to do, God includes the fact that He intentionally takes a day to rest. On that 7th day, He sets that day apart from the others. He blessed that day and declared it holy.
“Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual).[iii]
Even though God’s creation was finished by day 6, it’s not until we reach day 7 (the day of rest) that He considers it completed. Although nothing happens between day 6 and day 7, creation isn’t considered complete until there is a day of rest, a day that is holy, and a day that is unlike the others.
Why did God rest? He wasn’t tired. Isaiah 40:28 GW tells us “The eternal God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t grow tired or become weary.” So why would God have rested?
It’s been many years since I had to put one of my daughters down for a nap or for bedtime. I truly miss those days. But I would often have to not only lay down next to them, but I would also have to close my eyes to demonstrate to them that it was time to go to sleep. Especially at naptimes, it wasn’t that I needed to rest, but I knew they needed to rest and they needed to be shown how to settle down for their nap. Two of the main reasons that children resist going to sleep are they are overtired and exhausted or they have a fear of missing out.[iv] We, as adults, aren’t much better. We don’t often take that time to rest our bodies, our minds, our emotions like we were designed to do. God didn’t rest because He needed rest. He rested because He was setting an example for us. We may get in our 7-8 hours of sleep each night and think we are giving our bodies and minds all of the rest that’s needed. But you’ll notice that God rested for an entire day. That’s the example He set for us.
Here’s another element to consider. The very first thing that God made holy was not man, animals, the heavens, or the earth; it was a day – a span of time. Shouldn’t that fact alone mean something to us? “The Bible defines holy as something or someone that is separated (sanctified) and dedicated to serve and fulfill the will of God.”[v] Do our lives and lifestyles reflect that? We find it hard to rest. In fact, we resist it. And we avoid it much like children avoid sleep because we’re either way too tired and exhausted to actually settle down or we are afraid we’re going to be missing out on something.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength… It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.”
Genesis 2:4 TLB “4 Here is a summary of the events in the creation of the heavens and earth when the Lord God made them. 5 There were no plants or grain sprouting up across the earth at first, for the Lord God hadn’t sent any rain; nor was there anyone to farm the soil. 6 (However, water welled up from the ground at certain places and flowed across the land.)”
My name is Diane. When I’m with my girls and they introduce me, they do so by saying, “This is my mom.” My husband will identify me as his wife. My brother and sister will tell people I am their sister. (Unless I’ve recently fallen or done something embarrassing in which case, they’ll pretend they don’t know me.) I am a neighbor. I was a co-worker. I was a supervisor. I am a cousin, a niece, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, great aunt, granddaughter, soon-to-be mother-in-law, and a friend. I am one person, but I am many things to different people.
Just like you and I are one person, but we are identified in differing names based on our relationship or our role, God also has many names by which He is known. You may recall that in chapter 1 of Genesis, the original Hebrew name for God was “Elohim” which is often used when referencing the Trinity. In verse 4 of Genesis 2, God is referred to as the Lord God. In the original Hebrew, He would have been identified in what would have been the block letters YHWH, or as we know it “Yahweh”. “God has no shortage of names–He is called by almost 1000 different ones in the Bible. But one of these names stands alone, and that name is Yahweh.”[vi] There are certain characteristics that the name Yahweh suggests, but the one that seems to pack a punch here is this. Yahweh Is the Self-Existent, Eternal God. God does not need us. He doesn’t need anyone. He is completely whole within himself, and he is eternal – he has always existed, and he always will. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. And he is the only one in existence who can be described this way.
The significance of God being called Yahweh here is that everything else to this point existed because God created it. God, Himself is self-existent and was not created by any other force, person, or supernatural being.
Genesis 2:7 NIV “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.”
You may have noticed in Genesis 1 that God used the phrase over and over “Let there be…” and it was so. We get a mental picture of God in Heaven commanding these things into existence and they do. There is a subtle but significant description of the creation of man that makes it a little different. This verse suggests to us that, for the first time, God reaches down and literally has a hands-on approach in this particular creation. There is something way more intimate in this because rather than God just speaking and commanding, God reaches to the ground, gathers dust, and breathes into this new creation. The original Hebrew word for the word “made” that was used in this verse was “yatsar (pronounced yaw-tsar’). It means through the squeezing into shape or to mold into a form, especially as a potter.”[vii]
We are told that man was made from dust and life was given by the breath of God. Here’s why that’s significant. God uses existing substances to create man. Whereas everything else had been spoken into being, man was physically created by mixing the dust of the Earth along with the breath of God. That makes man an exclusive combination of the Earth and of God. One more bit about this. The original Hebrew word for “breath” is “ruach”. That same word is also used for “spirit” or “wind”.[viii] So God wasn’t just filling Adam’s lungs with air, He was literally filling Adam with His spirit.
Genesis 2:8 GW “8 The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east. That’s where he put the man whom he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all the trees grow out of the ground. These trees were nice to look at, and their fruit was good to eat. The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil grew in the middle of the garden.”
These verses tell us that God prepared a special place that was set apart from the rest of the Earth. The name Eden means “paradise”. [ix] If you think of somewhere being paradise, you think of somewhere that’s perfect, that has everything you could need or want. You think of a place where you wouldn’t change a thing. That perfectly describes the garden of Eden. And that’s where God placed Adam. Then Yahweh causes trees to grow out of the ground. Two trees are specifically mentioned and named. The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And God didn’t have them grow on the outskirts of the garden or off to the side. Both trees grew right smack dab in the middle of the garden. Now you may be thinking the same thing I’ve often thought. Why would God put something in plain view that was forbidden? I do believe it was symbolic.
When my girls were little, I would often put the sweet things, such as candy, cookies, Little Debbie cakes, etc. in the pantry. If they wanted something sweet, they would have to make an effort to get it. And I would often have to throw those things away because they just didn’t eat them that much. My mom, on the other hand, kept her kitchen island loaded with all of those same things for the grandchildren. It was like she had a continuous dessert bar within arm’s reach. But she would get so frustrated with my dad because he was forever sneaking in the kitchen and grabbing a handful of cookies or oatmeal cream pies or whatever happened to be there. The temptation was too hard to resist. If Daddy would have had to go to a cabinet or a drawer to find those things, he wouldn’t have eaten nearly as many forbidden things that a diabetic shouldn’t be eating. It’s something we can all attest to, can’t we? Having an item of enticement right there in front of us makes it much more difficult to resist.
So why were there two specific trees placed in plain view of Adam? One of which he was encouraged to eat from and the other that was forbidden? We know that God didn’t do it to tempt Adam. James 1:13-15 NRSV “13 No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.”
Here’s why I think there were two trees. Remember, we were made in the image of God. Genesis 1:26 NLT “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” There are many facets to humans that set us apart from other creations; many traits that are unique to humans. When you think of the phrase “in the image of God”, what comes to mind?
“Imago Dei is Latin for ‘made in God’s image’ This scriptural passage does not mean that God is in human form, but rather, that humans are in the image of God in their moral, spiritual, and intellectual nature. Thus, humans mirror God’s divinity in their ability to actualize the unique qualities with which they have been endowed, and which make them different than all other creatures”[x]
Of course, we have the option of demonstrating and experiencing God’s nature with every breath we take because one of the most separating traits of human beings is that of free will. We could not possibly be made in the image of God without being given free will because that is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of God. No one governs God. No one has authority over God. God makes choices and acts on those choices accordingly. Fortunately for us, God makes choices based on what’s good for us. God created us with a healthy dose of free will to make our own choices in life. But this is how thorough God is. He’s equipped us with resources that enable us to make the right choice. He’s given us a handbook (Bible), a built-in advisor (Holy Spirit), and a 24 hour/ 7 day a week toll-free number (prayer) in order for us to make the right choices. And yet, we still make wrong decisions on a frequent basis. But God implanted that element of free will for a specific purpose. Because if we had not been created with free will to make our own choices, that would mean that we could not choose Him.
Arranged marriages are something that has always troubled me. This is when a marriage is decided upon, not by the groom and bride, but rather, by their families. And often, the bride and groom will not know each other, or they won’t know each other very well before the wedding ceremony. Get this. 55% of marriages that happen across the globe today are arranged marriages.[xi] In most of these arranged marriages, making a choice or exercising your free will to not go through with it can have devastating consequences. The rejecting party may face ridicule, being exiled, and/or financial obligations as a penalty. So you’d have to wonder how many people feel bullied or left with no choice but to enter a loveless, emotionless, and less than fulfilling relationship simply because they felt they had no choice. God wouldn’t want that kind of relationship with us, would He? He wouldn’t want any of us to not come to Him willingly and longing for a relationship with Him.
That’s why I believe there were two trees; otherwise, there would not be anything of significance for Adam and Eve upon which to make a choice.
Genesis 2:15 NIV “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 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.”
Those two trees in the middle of the garden symbolized that man’s choices are the center of his life. If we choose God, He should be the core of our existence. Our lives should be centered around Him. Our choices reflect either obedience or disobedience to God.
The two options that were put there were the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We know what the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was and the consequence of eating from it. We’ll talk about that in greater detail next week.
The other tree – The Tree of Life represented what? You guessed it! Life! It’s believed that the Tree of Life would have given humans eternal life without sin, without imperfections, without tragedy and sadness. When the choice was made in the Garden of Eden, the access to the Tree of Life was taken away from them. But, want to hear some good news?
Revelation The 22:1 ERV “The angel showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal. The river flows from the throne of God and the Lamb. 2 It flows down the middle of the street of the city. The tree of life is on each side of the river, and it produces fruit every month, twelve times a year. The leaves of the tree are for healing the nations.”
The Tree of Life isn’t dead. The Tree of Life didn’t shrivel up, wasn’t chopped down, wasn’t turned into firewood. The Tree of Life was transplanted to the end of the beginning and will be waiting for us in eternity.
Now get ready because our part is coming up next. Up to this point, God has looked over His creation and said, “It is good”. Things are about to change.
Genesis 2:18 NRSV “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” For the first time, God is overseeing things and deems them “not good”; something is missing. I specifically chose that translation because of the word “partner”. It may or may not surprise you that some women are offended by the word “helper” as if it denotes that we are lesser than men. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret that stays between us women. The original Hebrew word used for “helper” was “êzer”.
David Freedman notes that “the possible root behind ‘êzer may have been either ‘-z-r “to rescue, save” (as the Ugaritic) and/or ‘g-z-r meaning “to be strong”. Based on this some commentators have suggested a new translation of v18: “I will make a power/strength corresponding to/equal to man”, a relationship of equals.”
“It” [the original word êzer] is often used “to refer to help from a stronger one, from a more secure or strengthened position, without need of reciprocal help. This strengthens the idea of “help” as equal or superior rather than inferior.”[xii]
The word êzer is often used in the context of the military or a warrior. One who fights, one who protects, one who shields, one who steps in when there is a job that needs to be done, no matter the cost. Prayer warrior. Spiritual warrior. Christian warrior. However you choose to view the word “helper” is up to you. Remember, you have free will.
As God observes and comments that a helper or partner is needed for man, what happens next? You might say “woman is created” but hold onto that thought for a moment.
Genesis 2:19 ICB “From the ground God formed every wild animal and every bird in the sky. He brought them to the man so the man could name them. Whatever the man called each living thing, that became its name. 20 The man gave names to all the tame animals, to the birds in the sky and to all the wild animals. But Adam did not find a helper that was right for him.”
This is the first time that man is given a name. Adam. Adam, which ironically means “man” or “red soil”.[xiii] These verses follow God’s declaration that Adam needs a partner. But instead of Eve making her grand entrance, animals are paraded in front of Adam for them to be named.
No one knows how much time Adam was here before Eve was created. It’s interesting, though, that God is the One who determined Adam needed a partner and then caused the animals to come to Adam to be named. Most likely, the animals, male and female, would have been brought before Adam. It’s quite possible that Adam would have seen that the animals each had a mate that was like themselves. And he did not. Perhaps this was God’s way of showing to Adam that something was missing. Maybe Adam needed to recognize the void and long for his own mate. A glass of water is much more satisfying when we’re thirsty.
Genesis 2:21 ICB “21 So the Lord God caused the man to sleep very deeply. While the man was asleep, God took one of the ribs from the man’s body. Then God closed the man’s skin at the place where he took the rib. 22 The Lord God used the rib from the man to make a woman. Then the Lord brought the woman to the man. 23 And the man said, “Now, this is someone whose bones came from my bones. Her body came from my body. I will call her ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of man.” 24 So a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife. And the two people will become one body. 25 The man and his wife were naked, but they were not ashamed.”
Adam is put to sleep. A Nigerian pastor by the name of Apostle Johnson Suleman says, “It was not God’s intention for men to understand women, that was why he asked Adam to sleep while he created Eve.” Others speculate that perhaps it would have been traumatizing for Adam to be awake and alert during major surgery. We simply trust God’s reason for doing it the way He did. As we all know, Eve was not made from the dust. Instead, God took a rib from Adam and created Eve from that. Why a rib? Matthew Henry has a very poetic theory. “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.” I do think that’s very lovely and probably very accurate. But may I add to that?
Did you ever stop to wonder why God didn’t breathe into Eve’s nostrils? Obviously, it wasn’t necessary. Ribs have three important functions: support, respiration, and protection.[xv] What do ribs protect & support? The heart and the lungs. The very bone that was used to create Eve is what helps us to breathe. It’s also the bone that supports and protects our heart and our lungs which are filled with what’s necessary to give us life. God intentionally used the very part of Adam that symbolically represents the supporter and protector of life. And just in case you didn’t know it, the name Eve means “life”.[xvi]
Go ahead and say it with me. Wow! Our God is eternally amazing.