This is what we talked about last night
Last time we met we talked about the first creation story, an ordered, six day creation, where God speaks creation into existence. This week we looked at the second creation story, Genesis 2:4-25, and talked about the similarities and differences between the two stories but also asked the question, "What does this tell us about God?"
The Second Creation Story
In the second creation story we see a God who is intimately involved in creation. God molds Adam out of dirt. The hebrew name Adam is also ādām or humanity. God molds humanity, shapes it with his hands, and then breathes the breath of life into creation. Unlike the first creation story, this second story has man as the first thing of note created, before trees, shrubs, and other vegetation. Humanity is given a co-creator role, tasked with naming all of creation and then tending to it and taking care of the garden. The stories still share a lot of similarities though, God is the creator of a good and purposeful world, and humans are given a key place among all of creation.
The Two Trees
In the second creation story there is specific mention of two trees in the middle of the garden. The tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge. Adam and Eve are told not to eat from the tree of knowledge, but there is no mention of not eating from the tree of life. So, why did the writer of this story include any information about the tree of life? One possible interpretation is that this choice between the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge serves as foreshadowing of what is to come in chapter 3, or perhaps it is a larger allegorical look at our own relationship with God. God offers us eternal life, yet time and time again we choose our own knowledge, our own perception of good and evil and as a result we sin. Just like Adam and Eve we too choose knowledge over life. Perhaps the author included the trees as a commentary on our own relationship with God and the choices we have, life or our own knowledge.
In the second creation story there is also a mention of four rivers:
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
Why are these rivers included? There are several different interpretations that are possible. These rivers flow from Eden into other lands, it could be that the river, which provides for Eden, streams into the rest of creation carrying its blessing with it. It could be that these rivers are mentioned because there was a traditional place thought to have been the Garden of Eden and these rivers and lands gave an indication to readers where the garden may have been located. Another possible interpretation is because these lands have names attributed to them, perhaps the author is laying the foundation for the idea that God has created a people set apart, the people of Israel, or in this case Adam and Eve set apart in the Garden of Eden. There is a special relationship between God and his people, that is different than God's relationship with people outside of the garden.
Why two creation stories, and what does this tell us about God?
We are limited by our experience and our language, trying to describe a God who transcends time and space, anything we say about God is but a small glimpse of who God is. It could be that two creation stories are told in order to try to encompass the nature of God, a God who is both powerful enough to speak things into existence, but also a God who is intimate enough to form us out of the dirt with his own two hands. We worship an immense God, and even these two creation stories do not tell us everything about God's character and relationship with us, that's why we have the rest of scripture.
Next week we will be looking at the story of "The Fall" in Genesis 3.