One couple, one paradise
Here comes the day off1 Earth, sky, and everything in them was created. 2 By dawn of Day Seven, God had finished his work. He rested. No work that day. 3 God chose Day Seven as his favorite—declaring it a holy day because creation’s work was done and he could rest. 4 Here’s the story of how the LORD God created the earth and sky. 5 There weren’t any plants in farmed fields back then because there wasn’t any rain to nourish them or people to take care of them. 6 Underground water worked its way up and watered the surface of the earth.
Making humans from dust7 The LORD God made a man from the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath that brought him to life. The man was alive. 8 The LORD God planted a garden called Eden somewhere in a land to the east. He put the man there. 9 In that garden, the LORD God planted his best trees: beautiful, loaded with tasty fruit. He put two other trees there, in the middle of the garden. The fruit of one tree extended a person’s life. The fruit of the other tree gave people wisdom to know right from wrong.
10 A river in Eden watered the garden. Beyond Eden, the river divided into four branches.
11 Pishon is the first river. It flowed through the entire land of Havilah, where people found gold. 12 Not just any gold. This is the good stuff, pure. And lots of it. There’s also onyx, another precious mineral. And there’s sweet-smelling bdellium tree sap.
13 Gihon is the second river. It flowed around the land of Cush.
14 Tigris is the third river. It flowed down the east side of Assyria. Euphrates is the fourth river.
15 The LORD God put the man in the Garden of Eden and gave him a job: farm the land and take good care of it. 16 The LORD God told the man, “You’re welcome to eat fruit from any tree in the garden. 17 Just one exception. Don’t eat fruit from the tree that gives you wisdom to know right from wrong. If you do, you’re dead.” 18 The LORD God said, “The man is alone. Not good. I’ll make a companion for him, to be his partner." 19 But first, the LORD God made all the animals and birds from the dust of the ground. He brought them to the man for naming. The man named each one, and the names stuck. 20 The man named the cattle, the birds, and every other animal that lived. But for him, there was no companion yet.
21 The LORD God put the man into a deep sleep, removed one of the man’s ribs, and then closed the wound. 22 The LORD God made a woman from the rib. Then he presented the woman to the man. 23 “At last,” the man said. “These bones came from my bones. This flesh came from my flesh. I’m going to call her Woman because she came from Man.” 24 That’s why a man leaves his parents for a woman. The man and woman become part of each other—two people, yet one. 25 The Man and the Woman were naked, and not the least bit ashamed about it.
This is the first of more than 7,000 times the Bible refers to the name of God, abbreviated in ancient Hebrew writings as YHWH. Bible experts are left to guess what vowels to add. The current guess: Yahweh (YAH way). Many English Bibles translate the name as LORD, printed in capital letters.
Location unknown today. Speculation includes a dry gully named Kuwait River, stretching across northern Saudi Arabia. It may have been an ancient river from the Hijaz Mountains in the west, which emptied into the Persian Gulf.
Location uncertain. In the Bible it usually refers to what is now southern Egypt and Ethiopia. Some Bible experts say it may refer to the land settled by the descendants of “Cush” (10:7-8). They settled in Babylonia, in what is now Iraq.
Assyria was an ancient empire based out of what is now northern Iraq.
Literal: “opposite of him,” as in someone who would complement him by being everything he’s not, yet an important part of what he needs to be. She completes him.
Why do you think that after God finished his work of Creation he took a day off: “He rested” (2:2)? Some scholars speculate God rested for the same reason sinless Jesus got baptized: to show people what he wants them to do. Does that make sense to you?
Many Bible experts say Genesis 2 is another writer’s version of the Creation story, in addition to the story reported in Genesis 1. As the theory goes, the person who edited the Genesis stories together decided to add the second story into the book of Genesis. Other experts say it’s the same story and that the same writer is simply working a different angle: Genesis 1 focuses more on God; Genesis 2 focuses more on his Creation, especially humans. Would it bother you if Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 were written by different writers, each telling their own version of the Creation story?
Scholars say we don’t really know how to pronounce God’s name because the Hebrew writers in ancient times saved space on their scrolls by writing in shorthand, skipping the vowels. All we know is that they abbreviated God’s name as YHWH (2:4). Scholars can only guess what vowels to fill in. The most popular guess: YAHWEH (YAH way). Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, said this: “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Does it bother you that we don’t even know God’s name?
Genesis says God made the first human “from the dust of the ground” (2:7). But at least 300 years before Moses could have written that—assuming Jewish tradition is right and Moses wrote it—someone in what is now Iraq said their god made people from dirt. It’s in a story called the Epic of Gilgamesh (GILL gah mesh). Similar ancient stories in Egypt, Central Africa, and Greece say much the same. How do you think Christians should respond to that?
The Bible says that when God made the world’s first man, God “blew into his nostrils the breath that brought him to life” (2:7). Some students of the Bible say they wonder if “breath of life” means this is when God put a soul into Adam, as though humans become a living soul when they take their first breath. What do you think about that?
Genesis 2 gives us the names of four rivers as clues to the where the Garden of Eden used to be. Two rivers are lost to history and possibly dried up: Pishon (PEE shawn) and Gihon (GUY hahn). But the Tigris (TIE gris) and Euphrates (you FRAY tees) are the two main rivers in Iraq today. Do you think it’s worthwhile for people to search for Eden?
“The LORD God told the man, ‘You’re welcome to eat fruit from any tree in the garden—with one exception. Do not eat fruit from the tree that gives you wisdom to know right from wrong. If you do, you’re dead’” (2:16-17). Adam ate it but he didn’t die—until age 930. There are several popular theories to explain Adam’s long life. One is that God was talking about spiritual death: Adam’s lost link to God. Or maybe God had planned for humans to live forever. Do you like any of the theories?
Here are four:
- God was bluffing.
- God changed his mind.
- God was talking about spiritual death, not physical death.
- God never said when Adam would die, he simply said Adam would die.
How do you react to the fact that some Bible experts say we shouldn’t read the story of God creating Eve from Adam’s rib as a clinical procedure. They say they see poetic symbols in the word sounds, the parallel meaning of some words, and in the point of the story. Matthew Henry, a Bible expert from the 1700s, summed up the point of the story this way:
Eve wasn’t made out of Adam’s…
- head, to top him
- feet, to get trampled on.
She was made from…
- Adam’s side, to be equal with him
- under his arm to be protected by him
- near his heart to be loved by him.
How do you react to the description of the world’s first woman as Adam’s “companion…his partner” (2:18)? A more literal translation of “partner” is “opposite of him.” In other words, the man’s partner would complement him by being everything he’s not—yet an important part of what he needs to be. As the flip side of his coin, she would complete him. The Genesis writer sums it up this way: “The man and woman become part of each other—two people, yet one” (2:24).
LIFE APPLICATION. In your lifetime, how have you seen the general relationship change between couples who are living together in marriage or in partnership? Has there been a noticeable shift in areas such as who makes the decisions, who does what chores, and who spends the most time with the kids?