The book of Genesis, after the general account of creation in 1-2:4, proceeds to something like a historical account of creation in chapter 2. Here we find temporal sequence for the first time. We will consider whether or not the text has an invisible genre after looking at the account itself.
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
The text is not perfectly clear, but it appears to say that Adam is created on a barren earth where there may be seeds in the ground, but nothing has grown yet. Then a garden is planted in Eden, and Adam placed in that garden.
Eden appears to be a real place, known to the author. This is also suggested by other texts of Scripture such as this one from Ezekiel, “The merchants of Sheba and Raamah traded with you; they exchanged for your wares the best of all kinds of spices, and all precious stones, and gold. Haran, Canneh, Eden, the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, and Chilmad traded with you. These traded with you in choice garments, in clothes of blue and embroidered work, and in carpets of colored material, bound with cords and made secure; in these they traded with you.” The garden however would not be the whole of land of Eden, but a particular place within it.
The author seems to assume that the tree of life and the tree of knowledge are already familiar to the reader. We however have access to their meaning mainly through the biblical text.
In regard to the four rivers, only the Euphrates is assumed as familiar; descriptions are added to the other three, which suggests that the reader may not recognize the names immediately. This suggests that the text may have been composed in Babylon.
The system of rivers described is the opposite of what normally happens. Ordinarily smaller rivers join together into larger rivers rather than larger rivers dividing into smaller rivers. It may be described in this way in order to make the river of Eden responsible for the fertility of the whole world.
After this setting of the scene, the text continues:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.”
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
Here we have the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge, and the creation of Eve. The other animals are brought to Adam as potential partners, before being rejected as unsuitable. Consequently God decides to make Eve as a more suitable partner. These events seem a little strange. I will say more about this when we look at the account of the fall in chapter 3.
Adam and Eve are naked but not ashamed. St. Augustine explains this in his City of God (Bk. 14, ch. 17):
Justly is shame very specially connected with this lust; justly, too, these members themselves, being moved and restrained not at our will, but by a certain independent autocracy, so to speak, are called shameful. Their condition was different before sin. For as it is written, They were naked and were not ashamed, Genesis 2:25 — not that their nakedness was unknown to them, but because nakedness was not yet shameful, because not yet did lust move those members without the will’s consent; not yet did the flesh by its disobedience testify against the disobedience of man.
In other words, according to St. Augustine, people are ashamed of nakedness because sexual desire is not completely voluntary, and is often nearly completely involuntary. This may or may not be the real explanation for the fact of shame about nakedness, but it seems clear that either this consideration or something similar is implied by the text of Genesis. Adam and Eve were not ashamed because their condition was in some way more perfect than our condition.
2 thoughts on “Adam and Eve”
[…] signifies that the serpent was deceitful in a way that the others were not. The second fact is the odd fact we mentioned regarding the previous chapter, namely that the other animals were brought to Adam as potential partners. The most reasonable way […]
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