Genesis Chapter Two

Shabbat is the pinnacle of Creation. The final day that is given over to rest. God rests and we are to rest as well. This final created item is not good, but “holy”, that is, set apart from all the other days. It is interesting, given the lunar nature of the Jewish calendar, that the first holiday is set according to “solar” time.
There is a radical shift that takes place beginning in verse four. The point of view now changes from God to humanity. From now on, the Bible will always be from the human viewpoint. We now have another creation story, a different one. Biblical commentators have tried for centuries to try and reconcile this story with the story in chapter one. Modern scholars of the Bible understand that this part of chapter two is a second, different, creation story; it is told in a different order, it describes the world differently and human beings are not created male and female, but male (Adam) only. The woman will be created later. Humans are created from dust/dirt/clay. The male is placed in a garden near Eden with instructions to tend the garden and not eat from the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad”. The penalty for eating from the tree will be death. It is unclear if Adam even understands what “death” means.
Adam gets lonely and, after naming all the animals, realizes that there is no other animal quite like him. Naming animals is a way of ruling over them, another task the Adam is given, to be the steward, the caretaker of all creation and all creatures. It is “not good” that the man is alone so God creates a woman, perhaps from Adam’s rib, or perhaps the description of “his side” is a way of saying that Adam “gave birth” to the woman. She is declared to be a “fitting helper” to Adam.
Note that with the poem at the end of the chapter, recited by Adam, the woman is not in any way “subservient” to the man. She is his equal. They are to become “one flesh.” There is an anachronism at the very end of the chapter. So far we do not have any mothers or fathers in the world (do you think Adam and Eve had belly buttons?) so what does it really mean here that a man and woman leave their mother and father and become one flesh. It seems to imply that a sexual relationship is a part of maturation in human beings.
So what is the moral lesson in chapter two? This second creation story, told from the human perspective, spells out the relationship between humanity and God. We are given the mission to tend to the world, to oversee the daily transactions in nature and to listen to God. This last command will be the subject of the new chapter.

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