We are going to begin our handling of Genesis 2 with a big picture approach.
- So before we dig into much of the text, we need to answer a few questions.
What is going on in Genesis 2?
- Is it simply a rehash of Genesis 1?
- If so, doesn’t it contain some obvious contradictions?
- And if it is a rehash of Genesis 1, it is difficult to see how it meshes with it.
- Is it a second creation story?
- If so, what does that say about mankind’s origins?
- Or is there a third option?
There are a few pieces of the Genesis 2 puzzle that we can put together to get at these answers.
Toledot – 1st Piece:
The first piece of info we need to answer these questions involves understanding a toledot.
- Genesis 2:4 (ESV) — 4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
- The above is a Hebrew toledot.
What is a Toledot?
- Toledot is the Hebrew word for “generations”.
- Toledot simply means “begettings, generations, genealogies; hence, story, descendants, family [progeny] history” – AYBD.
- Genesis contains 10 toledots.
- The toledot of Adam, Noah, Noah’s sons, Shem, Terah, Ishmael, Isaac, Esau, and Jacob and “the earth and the heavens” from our text.
- Each toledot begins a new section in Genesis.
- It sets each section off from its counterparts.
Genesis 2’s usage is strange if the purpose is to only deal with offspring.
- It seems fairly obvious that the universe didn’t have any babies between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.
- So what is Moses trying to convey?
- What is the purpose of a toledot?
Some clues are found in how toledots are used in Genesis.
- Genesis 6:9–13 (ESV) — 9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
- Genesis 25:19–22 (ESV) — 19 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham fathered Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.
- Genesis 37:2–4 (ESV) — 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
In each of the above examples, the toledot announcement is putting what in the reader’s sights?
- There is a connection made to the father (progenitor) who may still be part of the story.
- However, what is in view are the children (progeny) and their origins or actions.
- The text is concerned with events taking place in the progeny’s context and frame of reference.
- It is not concerned with the origins/history of the father (progenitor).
- In other words, it is looking forwards not backwards.
Perhaps this is why Martin Woudstra suggests that the best way to think of toledot is as follows:
- “This is what came of it” (Calvin Theological Journal 5 1970).
In other words, for our purposes – this is what came of “the heavens and the earth” from Genesis 1.
- Even better – This is “the story of Adam and Eve, the fall into sin, and the story of Cain and Abel” – Martin Woudstra.
- Victor Hamilton notes that, “…the phrase the generations of the heavens and the earth describes not the process by which the heavens and the earth are generated, but rather that which is generated by the heavens and the earth”.
- Wenham says the toledot, “announces a new section of narrative, which makes it natural to suppose that it fulfills the same function here [in Genesis 2]”.
Given the meaning of a toledot, Genesis 2:4 announces new business.
- And that new business of Creation, what came of Creation as Woudstra says, is the The Fall.
So Genesis 2:4ff is a new story.
- It is a toledot set apart from what came before it (the first of 10 as we said earlier).
- Primarily looking forwards not backwards.
- Showing us what became of creation from Genesis 1.
- Announcing the how the good became ugly – what came of Creation.
- Importantly, the “what came” is another clue to help us answer the questions raised at the beginning.
Kenneth Mathews sets this up beautifully.
“The purpose of this tōlĕdōt section [Genesis 2-4] is its depiction of human life before and after the garden sin; the condition of the ‘land’ after Adam’s sin is contrasted with its state before the creation of the man”.
BTW – This toledot view is a problem for AiG’s view that Genesis 2 is only a detailed handling of Day 6.
Looking Forward to The Fall – 2nd Piece:
As we mentioned in our Moses’ Message lesson, Creation of Genesis 1 can be seen as an apologetic.
- It provides the rationale for God’s covenant faithfulness and His power to deliver Israel out of the hands of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
- These are extremely important pieces of Redemptive History – Covenant Faithfulness and Promised Land themes.
Given the implications of Moses’ use of the toledot, Genesis 2 transitions to another aspect of Redemptive History – sin and God’s judgment.
- As we just saw from Mathews above, Genesis 2 transitions between God’s good creation and The Fall.
- This is the second piece or clue to help us answer our earlier questions.
Other than the toledot, are there other reasons that support this take?
- How do we know this is what Genesis 2 is doing?
We have to look at verses 5-7 for the clues.
- Genesis 2:5–7 (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— 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
Plant of the Field:
The idea that Genesis 2 is looking forward to The Fall hinges on a Hebrew phrase.
- In English, the phrase is “plant of the field”.
- In Hebrew, the phrase is “eseb ha sadeh”.
Why is this phrase so significant?
- Mathews puts it like this…
“The ‘shrub’ and ‘plant’ of 2:5 are not the same as the vegetation of 1:11–12. ‘Plant (ʿēśeb) of the field’ describes the diet of man which he eats only after the sweat of his labor (3:18–19) after his garden sin, whereas ‘seed-bearing plants’ (ʿēśeb mazrîaʿ zeraʿ), as they are found in the creation narrative, were provided by God for human and animal consumption (1:11–12). These plants reproduce themselves by seed alone, but ‘plant,’ spoken of in 2:5, requires human cultivation to produce the grains necessary for edible food; it is by such cultivation that fallen man will eat his ‘food’ (3:19)” – Kenneth Mathews.
In other words, verses 5-6, by their language, look forward to Genesis 3, not backwards to the creation of Genesis 1.
- The “eseb ha sadeh” did not exist until after The Fall.
- It was a food produced by “the sweat of your face” (Gen 3:19).
- It is after-Fall food and not Pre-Fall food.
- Genesis 3:18–19 (ESV) — 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field [eseb ha sadeh]. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread [comes from the eseb ha sedah], till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
This differs from the type of “eseb” God gave for food Pre-Fall.
- Genesis 1:29 (ESV) — 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed [ʿēśeb mazrîaʿ zeraʿ] that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.
Sailhamer, Wenham and Hamilton all agree with Mathews.
- “The ‘shrub of the field’ and ‘plant of the field,’ for example, are not referring to the ‘vegetation’ of chapter 1. Rather, they anticipate the ‘thorns and thistles’ and ‘plants of the field’ which were to come as a result of the curse (3:18)…The reference to ‘no man to work the ground’ (2:4b–5) points us to the time when the man and the woman would be cast from the garden ‘to work the ground’ (3:23)” – Sailhamer.
- Wenham calls it a contrast between man’s food before The Fall “with that after his creation and disobedience (3:17–24)” – Wenham.
“We suggest that the reference to shrub and plant in 2:5 is anticipatory and is explained further by 3:18, where God says to Adam: ‘thorns and thistles [the śîaḥ?] it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants [ʿēśeḇ] of the field.’ The ‘plants’ referred to in Gen. 1 must be those that grow wild, those that reproduce themselves by seed alone. The plants referred to in Gen. 2 must be those that grow only as a result of human cultivation through planting and artificial irrigation. Neither of these kinds of growth appears in the fields until after the creation of man and after man’s transgression” – Victor Hamilton.
So the fact that Genesis 2 speaks of a food that doesn’t exist until after The Fall demonstrates that Moses is using Genesis 2 to look forward to The Fall – to “what came” of the Creation of Genesis 1.
- The Fall is in effect the progeny of Genesis 1.
- It is the “what came”.
“As an introduction to the account of man’s creation [in Genesis 2], 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 light of all this, it might be helpful to clarify verses 5-8:
- A possible summary translation could be…
- “Before sin changed creation, and man had to work the land for food, creation was good and God created man and put him in the Garden”.
Interestingly, this fits beautifully with our lesson last week on God’s Temple Rest.
- We saw then that Day 7 marked a change into a new state of affairs.
- God had taken His seat in creation and was at the controls of a new period of Redemptive History.
- This new state of affairs was about to involve The Fall of image bearers.
Answers to our Questions:
Given what we have just learned, we can now suggest what Genesis 2’s relationship is to Genesis 1.
- It appears that we neither have a rehash of Genesis 1 (especially just Day 6) or a new creation.
- Though certainly many argue for each of these options.
- Genesis 2 stands on its own, and looks forward to show how God’s good creation begins to splinter.