Genesis 2:4-25 – Part 2 – Practical Meaning of Text (5-6)

Last week we saw a great deal of consensus and clarity concerning the big picture take on Genesis 2’s relationship to Genesis 1.

  • Woudstra, Wenham, Mathews, Hamilton, Waltke and Sailhamer all agreed that given the toledot and other features, Genesis 2 was looking forward to The Fall and not looking back to Genesis 1.


And they aren’t alone.

  • John Walton says the toledot structure doesn’t look back, but serves as an introduction.
    • One that can be paraphrased “developments that arise out of…” Genesis 1.
  • Similar to Woudstra’s, “this is what came of” the creation of Genesis 1.
  • Seth Postell summarizes John Calvin’s view as saying Moses’ intention was to underscore “man’s totally depraved nature” so as to “point to the coming of the redemption provided by Christ”.
  • And Postell summarizes Sailhamer’s view, “Thus, Genesis 2-3 serves as a commentary oh how God’s ‘very good’ creation (1:31) has become a place where the reader experiences the curse, exile and death (see 3:6; 6:2)”.


Postell also notes that OT scholars Otto and Stordalen also come to the same conclusions.

  • Eckart Otto says that the toledot “always introduces the following section” – Postell.
  • Terje Stordalen says the toledot introduces “the story of the progeny, the ‘product’ of heaven and earth, not the story of the genesis of these two themselves”.
    • Chapter 2 presupposes Chapter 3.


And, as we have said, this looking forward serves as an apologetic for Israel’s condition.

“The question then arose, What is man in his essential original being, as also his degenerate present and whole future, and how may the glaring contradiction be explained, that a creature raised so high above all others could nevertheless sink down even deeper than all the others” – Heinrich Ewald.


The above cited view is established primarily from verses 1-6.

  • But what we didn’t do is figure out the practical meaning of these verses – especially 5-6.


So having established this view of Genesis 2, what are the implications for the details of the text.

  • How are we to read the text itself?
  • What is its practical meaning?




At this point, our scholars seem unwilling to clearly state their take on the practical meaning of the text.

  • They express views that raise more questions than they answer.
  • Wenham identifies the root of the problem.
  • “If there was such an abundant water supply for the land (v 6), why did v 5 convey the impression of an arid wilderness barren through lack of rain?” – Gordon Wenham.
  • Wenham’s answer – “…put down the lack of vegetation on the land to man’s absence. Without man to irrigate the land, the spring was useless.”
  • This makes no sense at all.


And of course, all this raises more questions.

  • For example, what does it say about God’s good creation from Genesis 1 if arid wilderness that isn’t producing food still exists after the creation of mankind?
  • Or that is dependent on man to produce food?
  • Additionally, if vs. 5 is dealing with arid land not producing food, how again does that square with God’s good creation from Genesis 1:29-30?
  • Genesis 1:29–30 (ESV) — 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
  • And if verse 6 is talking about the presence of water (underwater springs), how does that square with an arid wilderness?


And Michael Heiser is surely right when he states that:

  • “The clear, face-value reading of this passage [vs. 5] informs us that before God created ‘the man’ there were no ‘small plants’ (‘eseb) on the earth (‘erets) – precisely the opposite of what we read in Gen 1:11-12”.


This is one reason why Heiser and others advocate seeing Genesis 2 as a new creation event.

  • Another reason is that he adopts the traditional view of Genesis 1 (global) and then slides into a local view for Genesis 2.
  • This means that the creation of mankind in Gen. 1 is a different creation than the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2.


But, if one starts with a local view in Genesis 1, as Sailhamer does, it seems to me that the practical meaning of the text in Genesis 2 is much easier to grasp w/o having to take Heiser’s view.

  • This might be the reason that the only commentator to appear to flesh out a practical meaning of the text is John Sailhamer (other than Heiser, that is).
  • As we said before, if Genesis 2 is a local view and it is connected to Genesis 1, it makes sense (when weighted with all the other reasons we have discussed) that Genesis 1 is a local view.



Practical Meaning of Text:

Although the toledot functions to point us to The Fall, Sailhamer says Genesis 2 is connected to Genesis 1.

  • They are not separate unconnected events.
  • In other words, we don’t have a separate creation event (Michael Heiser’s view).
  • “It seems clear that the author intended the second chapter to be read closely with the first and the events in each chapter to be identified as part of the same event” – John Sailhamer.



  • Moses connects 1 and 2 with the merism “heavens and the earth”.
  • Genesis 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Genesis 2:4 (ESV) — 4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that [when] the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.


The importance of this is that we have a foundation from which to understand a practical meaning of the text.

  • One not based on Genesis 2 as a new creation of mankind, but as connected to Genesis 1.


Genesis 2, practically speaking, is about the preparation of the Garden.

  • The Garden that God placed in the Eden/Promised Land he prepared in Genesis 1.


Sailhamer’s Take:

Sailhamer breaks it down as follows:

  • Genesis 2:5–6 (ESV) — 5 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, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—


(1) Genesis 2:5 provides a (another) connection to Genesis 1.

  • Specifically, it parallels/repeats Genesis 1:2.
  • The earth was without form and void”.
  • So Genesis 2:5 is summarizing the state of the Land before the six days.
  • The land (eretz) in which the Garden (Gen. 2) will soon be created began as uninhabitable for mankind – “without form and void” – uninhabitable.


Derek Kidner is basically in agreement with Sailhamer about Gen. 2:5-6.

  • “These preliminary verses are saying from the special angle of this chapter [Genesis 2] what was declared in 1:2”.
  • Kidner does not hold, however, Sailhamer’s view of Genesis 1.


(2) At the same time Moses is pointing forward/foreshadowing The Fall.

  • Significantly, he is doing so in context of God’s creation of the Garden.
  • “The text focuses on those parts of the land that were to be directly affected by the Fall (3:8–24)” – John Sailhamer.
  • In other words – the Garden is a huge blessing, but the curse is coming and it resemble the “without form and void” of Genesis 1.
  • Adam and Eve will sin and God’s work will be reversed.


This is also buttressed by Jeremiah’s use of “without form and void”.

  • Jeremiah 4:23 (ESV) — 23 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.


(3) As we saw last week, the foreshadowing of The Fall is done by:

  • The Toledot.
  • The “plant of the field” language.
  • The “man to work the ground” language.


Yet, there is one more way this is done.

  • The comment from Moses – “the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the Land”.
  • This is flood language from Genesis 7:4.
  • Seth Postell agrees and says, “this phrase is found only in the Flood Narrative” (with one exception for Job 38:26)
  • The identical Hebrew phrase in both verses is “matar al ha eretz”.


(4) Finally verse six alludes back to Genesis 1 and, once again, the provision God made to prepare the earth – “the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters” (Gen. 1:6).

  • But, by using the phrase “face of the land/ground” Moses continues to give a nod to the coming squandering of God’s provision and grace.



  • Genesis 6:7 (ESV) — 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
  • Genesis 7:4 (ESV) — 4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”
  • Genesis 7:23 (ESV) — 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.


The Hebrew phrase used by Noah – “face of the land/ground” – clearly carries with it connotations of judgment.

  • Seth Postell says use of this phrase reveals “the author’s concern with the ‘land’ and what became of it after Adam’s transgression.”




Summing all this up, Sailhamer says the practical meaning of verses 5-6 is this:

“Thus, as an introduction to the account of man’s creation, we are told that a ‘good’ land had been prepared for him: ‘streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground’ (2:6). Yet in the description of that land, we can already see the time when man would become an alien and stranger in a foreign land” – John Sailhamer.


In effect, Moses is telling us, “This is how the land started and this is where the land is headed”.


The “started” was due to God’s good creation.

  • God showed grace and favor to His image bearers by preparing the land for their habitation.
  • He even, as we will see in the coming weeks, created a special Garden in Eden for them.


The “headed” will be due to man’s rebellion.

  • God’s good creation will be cursed by man’s sin.
  • Man will have to work the land for food.
  • Man will return to the dust.


Given Sailhamer’s view, one could almost paraphrase Genesis 2:5-6 as follows:

  • “Before Adam sinned, before the flood, and before we had to work the ground, God blessed us with a very good creation”.


And as preparation for next weeks lesson the paraphrase can continue to verse 7.

  • “Though Adam bears God’s image, God made Adam out of the dust – the dust to which he would return”.