Gene. 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it when He rested on it from all His work that God had chosen to do.
The phrase … His work that God had chosen to do is normally translated as something like … His work that God had created and done. The latter translation adds an “and” that doesn’t exist in the Hebrew and mistranslates the word לַעֲשׂוֹת as a past tense verb while it is actually an infinitive. Now translating the phrase accurately and further translating the word בָּרָא as created provides us with a strange dilemma. First, it seems as if another pronoun would have been more appropriate so that it would read that He had chosen to do. The resulting flow of words would have been smoother. Second, and more significant, in the more-or-less usual translation, the phrasing hints at the possible interpretation that God did the work of creation in order to have something to do, or to demonstrate that He could do it. Why would it say that God had created His work to do? To me the implication of this phrasing is that God has “purpose” for His creation. He “chose” the work of creation in order to fulfill His intention. Once the onset of the work of His intention was initiated, He was “satisfied” and could “rest.” Why rest? Because, all-knowing, God saw that His creation would ultimately fulfill His purpose. Rested might not be the right translation for שָׁבַת in this verse. A word that might more appropriately convey the “mood” of God could be relaxed. The ensuing unfolding events of creation would take care of themselves from that point in time. But only for a “short” while! God soon intervenes in the unfolding story again. [Return to Exod. 16:23]
Before going on, let me say something about the apparent conflict between fate and free will, a subject the previous paragraph may have raised for some readers. To me, the end of time being known to God doesn’t imply fatalism. On the contrary, it suggests the infinite extent of God’s knowledge. I firmly believe that we humans were endowed with free will by our Creator. By free will, I mean the ability and capability to make choices. We, therefore, exercise a measure of control over the future. So how can the future be assured if we have the ability to alter it? Another issue requiring a complex response! But this one needs to be at least partially addressed here.
God seems to have infinite power in as many domains as we can imagine. Is it too much to imagine that God knows all the future paths our choices will cause to be traversed? This capacity seems too impossible to us – to know the unimaginably large (though not infinite!) number of futures that our free will might introduce! But would it be impossible for God, the One Who created and brought together the immeasurably powerful forces that produced this huge universe of billions of galaxies, each with its billions of stars and star systems? The universe is God’s witness. He has the power. And He knows where we are headed, despite our best efforts to perhaps thwart His plan. I believe that, wittingly or unwittingly, we are His servants and will fulfill His purpose. So I believe that the conflict between fate and free will is of our own doing, a product of our limited imagination and faith.
I have one more thought about this verse. In most, if not all, translations, the word כִּי (the seventh word in the verse) is translated as for or because. But it can also be translated here as when, as I have done. With this latter translation, the verse takes on a different subtle meaning. That is, that God blessed and hallowed the Sabbath by resting on it, not because He rested on it. In other words, by the act of God resting on the seventh day, the day was blessed and hallowed. This additional meaning is not inherent in the usual translation, which simply indicates that the act of God resting on the seventh day was His reason for blessing and hallowing it. With my translation, the resting and the blessing are intertwined, cause and effect. When God rested on the seventh day, it was blessed. So too do we bless and hallow the Sabbath by resting on it. [Back]
Gene. 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth during their creation at the time the Lord God was making the earth and the heavens.
This is a strange way of expressing the thought contained here. Because of this, I believe it is an indication that the verse introduces what comes next in much of the rest of this chapter, which is the so-called second creation story.
The use of the word תוֹלְד֧וֹת, primarily meaning generations, is an indication to me that this chapter was either written by someone other than the author of chapter 1, or the same author was expressing his intention that the “days” of chapter 1 were more than simple ordinary days. They were sequences of time, or ongoing processes, i.e., generations.
This is also the first time that the phrase יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים, translated as the Lord God, appears. I imagine this phrase being used to indicate a more than “normal” reverence of the supreme Deity. However, there is another possible translation for the words that implies a bit more in the phrase. It can also be translated as the Lord of gods. In an interesting way, this meaning also implies a greater than “normal” reverence for the supreme Deity, but at the same time implies something else that may be uncomfortable to many, that is, that other lesser gods actually existed for the biblical scribe. The phrase is repeated throughout the rest of this chapter and in chapter 3. Up to this point only God had been used. For the rest of this chapter only Lord God is used. It is used consistently throughout Chapter 3 except only in two verses, 3:1 and 3:5, when God is mentioned by the serpent.
A strange fact about the tetragram, יְהוָ֥ה, the word meaning the Lord. This is the first time the word appears in the bible. The numerical value of the word is 26. Now there is only one other word in the entire bible whose numerical value is also 26, it is the word that translates as into [or in] my hand. Seem like an odd “coincidence?”
Another observation deals with the inversion of the words heavens and earth from their first occurrence to their second. In the first instance the words are heavens and earth. In the second they are earth and heavens. This kind of word inversion doesn’t appear very often. It seems to me – and this thought is supported by such variations in other parts of the bible – the scribe might have used this technique in an effort to not appear too repetitious.
אֱלֹהִים עַל הָאָרֶץ וְאָדָם אַיִן לַעֲבֹד אֶת־הָאֲדָמָה
Gene. 2:5 Now no shrub of the field could yet be on the earth, and no herb of the field could have sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the ground.
Here the record of creation as stated in Gene. 1:11 and 1:12 appears to be corrected. The message as implied there is no longer necessary here. But this verse provides another example of typically mistranslated Hebrew. Although it contains two verbs that are in the imperfect (future) tense, these two verbs are translated in every bible I’ve examined as perfect (past) tense verbs. They say something like “Now no shrub … was yet on the earth, and no herb … had sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the ground.” As far as the general meaning of the verse is concerned, the difference between the two translations is not of great significance. But in terms of the subtle implication of the more precise translation, there is a great difference. What this translation implies, that the other one doesn’t, is the scribe’s attitude. This verse now suggests that the writer might be correcting what appeared in Gene. 1:11 and 1:12. I think this might be considered another reasonable indication that a different writer was responsible for this chapter, although I have my doubts, which I will explain below.
There is something else of significance in this verse that may easily escape the reader. The scribe states that there was no man to till the ground. What does he mean, to till the ground? Hasn’t he jumped ahead prematurely (as well as inappropriately) to the events of the next chapter? According to Chapters 1 and 3, the human was not formed to till the soil. He was formed to have dominion over the earth and to dwell peacefully in the garden of Eden, to dress it (see v. 2:15). It was not until the eating of the fruit of the tree of the understanding of good and evil that he was condemned to till the ground. In my opinion, the scribe committed a booboo here. Perhaps, if he was a different writer, he was so intent on showing up the writer of Chapter 1 that he inadvertently added something he shouldn’t have.
Also of significance, there are other questions this raises that relate to this entire chapter and to the nature of the bible. First of all, let’s assume that this chapter was written by a scribe other than that of Chapter 1. Then why didn’t he simply replace the first chapter with his own, incorporating the introductory verses of Chapter 1 as appropriate? Alternatively, if he was the same writer, why didn’t he make the appropriate corrections the second time around and combine both chapters into one?
To me, these logical questions lead to an important possible conclusion about how the scribes may have viewed what had been written before, either by them or some other person. I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the scribes viewed their writings as holy and unalterable, even when an “obvious error” might have been recognized. If changes of any kind were not permitted, then the scribes must have believed the words were from God and were holy and intended for all time. So if both chapters were from the same scribe, he would not have altered Chapter 1, but would have instead added this chapter to improve on it.
Therefore, the evidence for concluding that there were two different scribes responsible for Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 is completely ambiguous. [Back]
Gene. 2:20 Thus the man gave names to all the cattle and the fowl of the air and to every beast of the field, but He did not find a helper for the man as his companion.
The apparent implication in this verse is that God guessed wrong (in v. 2:18) when He said, “I will make him a helper ….” His attempt appears to have failed. Can this be an appropriate conclusion? Is it possible that God can be wrong? Does He not know how His choice will fare beforehand? Isn’t God all-knowing? Doesn’t the future reveal itself to God? Later in the bible Moses and the prophets certainly lead us to believe so. Then what other conclusion can we derive from this verse? For one thing, we might claim that God didn’t guess wrong. He allowed the man himself to determine if any of the creatures he named might be his helper. In other words, maybe we are being shown in this verse that when God formed the man, He gave him free will, that is, the ability to make choices. But we might counter this idea with a question. Why would God have done this if He knew that Adam wouldn’t find a helper among the creatures he named? Wouldn’t God have simply provided the helper? There seems to be no adequate response to these questions. Then the alternative viewpoint is that God is not all-knowing, and can be wrong. But before we consider that response seriously, we should look more closely at v. 2:19. There we are told that the man named all the animals. So God may have had a phased plan, to have the man name all the animals, and then to find him a helper. Well, the first objective was achieved (v. 2:19). Now on to the second goal!
Before we do that, however, one more observation should aid in achieving a more complete and assured understanding of these few verses. If one reads vss. 2:18, 2:19, and 2:20 together, and goes on to read v. 2:21, it is easy to see here another example of what happens frequently throughout the bible, something I alluded to in my remarks on Gene. 1:1 and 2:4. It can be seen that v. 2:18 introduces vss. 2:19 ff. The forming of the animals and their being named, v. 2:19 and v. 2:20, seem to constitute a short digression from the main narrative of these few verses, that of finding a helper for the man, but I suspect that the idea expressed in the last paragraph is the most incisive one. It was the first part of the process. As a result, we can surmise that the forming of the animals and their being named were not the entire effort of finding a helper for the man, but they were just a brief interlude, so to speak. [Back] [Return to Gene. 3:9-Alt]
Gene. 2:24 Therefore a man must forsake his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife so they can be as one flesh.
Why is this verse here? And what does it mean? Why therefore when there doesn’t seem to be a logical connection between this verse and the last? Does the scribe mean that because they came from one flesh, they shall be as one flesh? Or does he mean that a man can’t consummate a marriage while remaining with his parents? In any case, the scribe seems to once again prematurely reference future conditions that didn’t exist at the time of which he was writing. That trait is surfacing as a consistent trait of the writer of this chapter.
I want to make an additional observation about this verse concerning the word wife. The word appears for the first time here. The root of the noun that is traditionally translated as wife is אִשַׁה. In various forms the words derived from this root occur throughout the bible, and I think this is the best opportunity to address the traditional translation. No where in the bible do we find a wedding ceremony. A man typically takes a woman, and it is assumed that they are married. But very often a man takes a woman only to have sexual relations with her, and she does not become his wife. So the word is translated according to the context in which it is found. However, except for two sets of circumstances (in Leviticus and 1Kings), the word can be just as readily translated as woman. In most cases it doesn’t matter which translation is used; a man’s woman could also be a man’s wife and vice versa. But in some cases, such as in a number of verses in Leviticus, it does matter in terms of what a commandment might mean. The same discussion can be had about the word for husband. The word also means simply man. However, the translation of this term is far less controversial than that for wife and woman. We will encounter occasions where this discussion will be referred to again. [Back] [Return to Levi. 21:7]