Observations on life; particularly spiritual

In the beginning. Part 2: The first marriage

What happened in the garden in Eden?

In the previous article we saw that at the beginning of time the universe was created by an intelligent and powerful God. He did it in six days followed by one day’s rest to give us the pattern for a seven day week.

Genesis is divided into ten main sections, each beginning with the phrase “the account of”. The next section begins: “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4NIV). Moses would have written Genesis from oral history that had been handed down through the generations and God would have shown him how to edit and record this on papyrus[1]. Of course, as Moses’ birth is recorded in Exodus 2, he wrote the most of the second to fifth books of the bible from first hand experience. It this article we will look at Genesis 2:4-25.

Contradictory creation stories?

Because the creation story in Genesis 2 appears to differ from that in Genesis 1, some say that they were written by different people and not Moses. For example, in Genesis 1 God creates by simple command, but He used the ground in Genesis 2 (v.7,19). In Genesis 1 God is called “Elohim”, whereas in Genesis 2 He is called “Yahweh Elohim”. They say that these are conflicting versions of the same story. But what do we see when we look at the text?

Genesis 1 covers the creation of everything in the universe. It summarises the milestones of God’s creative work in the six days of creation and ends with a summary, “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array” (Gen. 2:1). The Hebrew word for God, “Elohim”, is mentioned 29 times in this chapter. It is written from God’s perspective.

Genesis 2:4-25 focuses on events in the Garden of Eden during the sixth day of creation. It gives more detail on the creation of mankind and the roles of Adam and Eve. The topics covered are: the Garden of Eden, the creation of Adam and Eve, and Adam’s and Eve’s roles. The Hebrew phrase “Yahweh Elohim”, is mentioned 11 times in this passage. It is written from Adam’s perspective.

“Elohim”, refers to God as the Creator of the universe, the ruler of nature, and the source of all life. “Yahweh” (or Jehovah) is the personal and covenant name of God. It is used to stress God’s personal relationship with His people and the fact that He keeps His promises. Both “Yahweh” and “Elohim” occur numerous times in the book of Genesis, together and separately.

Accordingly, Genesis 1 correctly used the name Elohim, for God’s role as Creator of the whole universe and of all living things is what the chapter teaches. The subject narrows immediately in Genesis 2-3 where it describes God’s personal relationship with Adam and Eve. God is depicted as walking and talking with Adam in the Garden of Eden. Apparently Adam knew God by His personal name from the beginning—his family worshipped Yahweh (Gen. 4:26). Therefore Yahweh is appropriately joined to Elohim to indicate that the Elohim of all creation is now the Yahweh who is intimately concerned to maintain a personal relationship with humanity.

The literary pattern of Genesis is to present a brief sketch with a broad subject matter and follow it up with a longer more detailed account of the things that are more important to the central theme of the Bible.  For example: looking at the first four main sections of the book that begin with the phrase “the account of”. The first section, which covers the creation of the universe, is brief in length and broad in scope (Gen. 1:1-2:3). This is followed by a section on the creation of mankind and their fall into sin, which is longer and more detailed (Gen. 2:4-4:26). This begins the history of mankind and sets the stage for redemption, which are central themes of the Bible. The third section presents a genealogy from Adam to Noah and is brief and broad in scope (Gen. 5:1-6:8). This is followed by a section on Noah and the flood, which is longer and more detailed (Gen. 6:9-9:29). This shows the consequence of sin and the fact that God rescues and protects His people.

So Genesis 1 and 2 are not contradictory accounts. Genesis 2 is a more detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation. They are complementary, just like each of the four gospels is different, yet complementary. In fact when He answered the Pharisees question concerning divorce, Jesus quoted from Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, so He accepted both accounts (Mt. 19:4-5; Mk. 10:6-8).

Some think the biblical stories of creation originate from other creation myths. Actually it was probably the other way around; some of the myths are corrupted versions of the biblical account of creation. If we say that early Genesis is mythical or symbolic, where do we say that it begins to be accurate history? We have the same problem if we say miracles are myths. Once we start rejecting some of the biblical account how can we trust the rest?

The Garden in Eden

Everything in this section of Genesis relates to mankind. It begins by stating that cultivated plants were not present until there was a “man to work the ground” and until there was rainfall (v.5-6). It seems as though at the beginning water came from beneath the earth instead of by rain.

God planted a garden in Eden for Adam and Eve (v.8). This was probably prepared on the third day of creation when vegetation was created (Gen. 1:1-13). It was the first garden. The trees in this garden were beautiful and their fruit was useful for food (v.9). Two particular trees are mentioned in middle of the garden. The tree of life seems to have had the power to convey immortality (v.17). In the book of Revelation the tree of life appears as a symbol of the person of Christ. All true Christians will “eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). This is eternal life in heaven (Rev. 22;2, 14,19). The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was used by God to test the obedience of Adam and Eve (v.17).

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden and divided into four other rivers called the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates (v.10-14). As the surface of the earth would have been different before the flood, we cannot compare this landscape with what exits today. Moses says it was east of Canaan (v.8). The present Tigris and Euphrates rivers were probably named after these original rivers. This is like names being transferred from one country to another. Many of the names in Australia come from United Kingdom because that is where many of the early settlers came from. For example my suburb is named after Ryde on the Isle of Wight and my state is called “New South Wales”.

Adam, the first man

The bible describes the origin of mankind: “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” (v.7). God formed his body from the “dust of the ground” and then gave him the breath of life. So Adam was created from the ground, not from an ape. Here we have the creation of life from non-living matter. It was a miracle. Adam was a perfect man in a sinless world.

The first man was named “Adam” or “Man” (v.20). The Hebrew word for “Adam” means “of the ground” or “taken out of red earth”, and it is also used in Genesis for males and for mankind. He is mentioned eight times in the New Testament as the first human being on earth (Lk. 3:38; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Jude 14).

One of the curses on Adam after he sinned was, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19). Upon death the body returns to the ground. It is interesting to note that the animals and birds are also said to have been made out of the ground (v.19). But Adam was different because he was made in the image of God.

Then “the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (v.15). Adam cultivated the garden. So work was a part of ruling over the rest of creation before the fall into sin.

Then we see that God set up a test of man’s obedience. “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 of it you will certainly die’” (v.16-17). God made Adam and Eve with the power to make a choice contrary to their nature. He wanted creatures who loved him freely, even though it meant there was a possibility of evil. Real love must be free; it cannot be instinctive or compulsory. So they were commanded not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God gave them a choice and told them of the consequence. Now the penalty for disobedience was not 10 minutes in the sin bin! Is was death—instant spiritual death and progressive physical death. When Adam sinned he immediately cut himself off from the source of life, but the dying process took 930 years. There is also the possibility of eternal death (2 Th. 1:9).

Next, Adam named the animals and birds, which was another part of ruling over the rest of creation (v.19-20). A name to the Israelites was not just a label but a description of the essential character of the creature. In this instance Adam would have named the each animal according to its character and nature. Adam would have also noticed that the animals were male and female, each had a mate that was similar yet different. But he didn’t have a mate (v.20).

Eve, the first woman

Up until now everything about creation had been good. Now God says that something is “not good”—“It is not good for the man to be alone” (v.18). It was not good because we are social beings that are not made “to be alone” and God had not yet finished His work of creation. Adam needed a helper (v.18, 20). He was lonely and needed a companion. Eve was to be his helper and companion in the secure relationship of marriage (v.24).

The Bible describes the origin of woman: “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 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” (v.21-22).

God made Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. So Eve was created from a part of Adam, not from an ape. Cloning is a genetic copy of an existing person, but this is different as it includes a change in gender. Here we have the creation of life from other living matter. It was a miracle. Eve was a perfect woman in a sinless world.

Adam recognised that she was his companion when he said “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (v.23). Together they were called “man” (Gen. 1:26-27). “When God created mankind, He made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And He named them ‘Mankind’ when they were created” (Gen. 5:1-2). She was called “woman”, which means “taken out of man” (v.23). Later she was called “Eve”, which means “life” (Gen. 3:20).

This account teaches the unity of mankind. All people have a common ancestor in Adam—he’s at the beginning of the family tree.

Marriage

Adam and Eve were the first husband and wife (v.25). I think they were married on the sixth day of creation. They had a perfect wedding, even though there were no other people there! It has the key elements of a marriage ceremony. God gave her to Adam; “He brought her to the man” (v.22). And God pronounced them husband and wife: the Creator said “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (v.24, Mt. 19:4,5). Adam and Eve were a perfect husband and wife in a sinless world.

Here God is establishing marriage as the basic institution of society. Jesus (Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10-6-9) and Paul (Eph. 5:31) quoted v.24 when they taught about the marriage of one man to one woman. Whenever Adam and Eve are mentioned together in the New Testament it is to illustrate the roles of husbands and wives in marriage (1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim.2:13-14).

Genesis 2 conveys four important aspects of marriage. Firstly,marriage is a new unity. The husband and wife are to leave their parents and start a new family unit and “become one flesh” (v.24, Gen. 29:14). They are bound together, not just individuals. What was once “his” and “hers” is now “ours” and “us”. One of the primary purposes of marriage is to provide companionship, a sharing of life together. As a “helper”, Eve shared Adam’s work and responsibilities as well. Husbands and wives were designed to work together. They should be a team and work together in bringing up their children. Marriage partners are dependent on each other—they are interdependent (1 Cor. 11:11-12). Divorce is painful because it is severing a unity that was once alive.

Secondly, marriage is a lifetime commitment. It is a permanent relationship that should not be broken until death (Rom. 7:1-3). The husband is to leave his parents and be “united to his wife” (v.24). The Hebrew word means to “cling” and “keep close”. It also conveys the idea of loyalty and devotion. Jesus said, “what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mt. 19:6). Marriage partners are to be faithful to one another. Sexual immorality is a sin against God and against our own spouse (1 Cor. 6:15-18). God hates divorce, but 45% of marriages in Australia end in divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). What a sad lack of commitment. Jesus only allowed divorce in the case of adultery (Mt. 5:32; 19:9).

Thirdly, the husband is the head of the family. He is ultimately responsible before God for the nature and character of the home. In this passage Eve is described as a “suitable helper” for Adam (v.18,20). Paul shows that this responsibility applied before the fall into sin when he referred to Genesis 2, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman but woman for man” (1 Cor. 11:3,8-9). The “man” in this case is Adam and the “woman” is Eve. Here he mentions the order of their creation (Adam was first) and the purpose (Eve was to help Adam). The principle is that husbands should lead the family. Of course Paul also teaches husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25,28,33; Col. 3:19) and wives to submit to their husbands as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18). Paul also based the latter on the order of creation (1 Tim. 2:13).

Fourthly, there should be openness between husband and wife, with no secrets and nothing to hide—“The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (v.25). This first marriage was unique because there was innocence before the fall into sin. Openness does not mean always agreeing or feeling the same. It means a readiness to share with one another, completely, without insisting that the other reflect the same attitude. There is to be a complete freedom of communication, one with the other. Adam and Eve were relaxed and felt at ease with each other. There was no strain in their marriage. Otherwise, communication breakdown can lead to marriage breakdown.

Application to us

Genesis provides the foundation of the Christian faith. We have seen that Genesis 2 explains the origin of humanity and of marriage. As God designed and made the first man and woman, He knows all about our needs and desires. In order to get the best out of life, we should follow His guidelines and lessons for us in the Bible. In particular, we should follow Jesus, the last Adam, who brings life to those who trust Him (1 Cor. 15:22,45).

When Jesus was asked about marriage He went back to Genesis. Because the meaning of marriage is based on Genesis. Our society is based on families and families are based on marriages. We should also follow God’s guidelines if we want our marriage and our family to work well.


[1] Papyrus is an early form of paper that was first used in Ancient Egypt. It was initially used as scrolls and was much more convenient for writing than clay tablets.

Written, July 2004

See the next article in this series:
In the beginning. Part 3: The first sin

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2 responses

  1. Robert Hagedorn

    But what IS the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Do a search: The First Scandal.

    February 5, 2011 at 7:49 am

    • I see from your blog that you believe that the story of Adam and Eve is an allegory. An allegory is the rhetorical strategy of extending a metaphor through an entire narrative so that objects, persons, and actions in the text are equated with meanings that lie outside the text. Thus the main meaning of an allegory is not the literal meaning, but a symbolic meaning, as in a Biblical parable, “Pilgrim’s Progress”, Aesop’s fables, and “Animal farm”.

      Genesis presents a summary of the early history of our world which was inspired by God the Holy Spirit. It is not a myth or an allegory or a metaphorical story (see this series of articles). For example, Paul treats the early chapters of Genesis as real historical events and not an allegory (2 Cor. 11:3).

      You asked, “what IS the tree of knowledge of good and evil”? According to Scripture it was to test the obedience of Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:9,17; 3:3,11,17,22). It was a real test, with a real tree, real people, and real results. This is the only robust interpretation that would have made sense to the Israelites of the 14th century BC. To make it an allegory would lead to a multitude of possible interpretations.

      February 5, 2011 at 3:06 pm

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