There are several passages about creation in the Bible. The most familiar is Genesis chapter 1. This one in chapter 2 is in a different style, and focuses on Adam and Eve.
This passage is not a scientific account of the origins of our world.
The writer would not know what science was! However, he certainly knew how to teach about God and about our relationship to him and to his world, and this is what this story is doing.
The first point he makes is that the world as we know it is a unified system, with each bit depending on others – on rainfall and even on human activity. It has not always been as it is today – things have changed, not least with the coming of human beings.
The second point is that human beings are one with that system – formed from the same kind of ‘stuff’ – the ‘dust of the ground’. At the same time we are different – we have been given divine breath or spirit (the word is the same in Hebrew), which makes us alive not just physically but spiritually as well.
Human beings need to live somewhere. The story next describes the ideal home – the garden of Eden, where everything is just perfect. The rivers cannot be placed geographically (though the Tigris and Euphrates are known to us); the point is that rivers gave fertility and life, and flowed through lands rich with resources, and they all originated in the garden of Eden, the paradise of God the giver of all good things.
Humans needed to know their dependence on God. Though knowledge of good and evil was available to them, they were not to seek that knowledge independently of God, for such independence would be their ruin.
Humans also needed companionship and community. The story is told to make the point that animals are not better companions than humans. Some people value their pets more than their neighbours; in other cultures their livestock are valued more highly. The animals were brought to Adam for a name; names reflected nature in Hebrew culture (to take God’s name in vain is to take him in vain), and the act of naming was proof of human authority. (The name Adam simply means Man or human.)
The closest bond of all is between man and wife – the point is made that she is of the same ‘stuff’ as he, and was created equal. Genesis 2:24 is quoted by Jesus to show God’s intention for marriage. Their nakedness showed they had nothing to hide!
1) What lessons has this for today?
2) Should we attempt to reconcile this story with science? With Genesis 1?