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Genesis: Chapter 2

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Text view alone

1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

4These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

In the day that the LORD a Heb YHWH, as in other places where “LORD” is spelled with capital letters (see also Exod 3.14–15 with notes). God made the earth and the heavens, 5when 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; 6but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, b Or formed a man (Heb adam) of dust from the ground (Heb adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9Out 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.

10A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

15The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17but 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.”

18Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19So 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. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man a Or for Adam there was not found a helper as his partner. 21So 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. 22And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, b Heb ishshah] for out of Man c Heb ish this one was taken.”

24Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

Notes:

a Heb YHWH, as in other places where “LORD” is spelled with capital letters (see also Exod 3.14–15 with notes).

b Or formed a man (Heb adam) of dust from the ground (Heb adamah)

a Or for Adam

b Heb ishshah]

c Heb ish

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

1.1–2.3 : Creation culminating in sabbath.

This Priestly account of creation presents God as a divine ruler, creating the universe by decree in six days and resting on the seventh.

1.1 :

Scholars differ on whether this verse is to be translated as an independent sentence summarizing what follows (e.g., “In the beginning God created”) or as a temporal phrase describing what things were like when God started (e.g., “When God began to create … the earth was a formless void”; cf. 2.4–6 ). In either case, the text does not describe creation out of nothing (contrast 2 Macc 7.28 ). Instead, the story emphasizes how God creates order from a watery chaos.

2 :

As elsewhere in the Bible, the deep (Heb “tehom”) has no definite article (“the”) attached to it in the Heb. Some see “tehom” here to be related to the Babylonian goddess Tiamat, a divinity representing oceanic chaos, whom the head god, Marduk, defeated in Enuma Elish, a major Babylonian creation story. Christian interpreters have tended to see the “Spirit” of the Trinity later in this verse. Wind fits the ancient context better (see 8.1 ).

3 :

The first of eight acts of creation through decree. Like a divine king God pronounces his will and it is accomplished.

4–5 :

These verses introduce two other themes crucial to this account: the goodness of creation and the idea that creation is accomplished through God's separating, ordering, and naming elements of the universe. The seven‐day scheme of 1.1–2.3 requires the creation of light, day, and night at the outset. Since in some traditions the Jewish day began with sundown, the order is evening and morning.

6–8 :

The dome/Sky made on the second day separates an upper ocean (Ps 148.4; see Gen 7.11 ) from a lower one. This creates a space in which subsequent creation can take place.

9–13 :

Two creative acts: creation of dry land and command of that land to bring forth vegetation. Earth is a feminine noun in Heb. The text thus echoes other ancient mythologies and the life cycle in having a feminine earth bring forth the first life in the universe (cf. Job 1.21 ). God is only involved indirectly here, commanding the earth to put forth.

14–19 :

There is a correspondence between days one to three and days four to six (1 ∥ 4, 2 ∥ 5, 3 ∥ 6), which heightens the symmetry and order of God's creation. Here, God's creation of heavenly lights on the fourth day corresponds to creation of light, day, and night on the first. In a critical response to non-Israelite cultures who worshiped these heavenly bodies, the bodies are not named and are identified as mere timekeepers.

20–23 :

See vv. 14–19n. Where the second day featured the dome separating upper and lower oceans, the fifth day features the creation of birds to fly across the dome and ocean creatures, including sea monsters (Ps 104.25–26 ). God's blessing of the swarming creatures ( 1.22 ) anticipates a similar blessing that God will give humanity ( 1.28 ).

24–30 :

See vv. 14–19n . Where the third day involved creation of land and plants in turn, this sixth day involves the creation of two types of plant-eating land-dwellers: animals and then humans.

24–25 :

Again, earth is involved in bringing forth life (see 1.9–13n. ).

26 :

The plural us, our ( 3.22; 11.7 ) probably refers to the divine beings who compose God's heavenly court (1 Kings 22.19; Job 1.6 ). Image, likeness is often interpreted to be a spiritual likeness between God and humanity. Another view is that this text builds on ancient concepts of the king physically resembling the god and thus bearing a bodily stamp of his authority to rule. Here this idea is democratized, as all of humanity appears godlike. This appearance equips humans for godlike rule over the fish, birds, and animals.

27–28 :

The text stresses the creation of humanity as simultaneously male and female. This leads to the emphasis in the blessing of v. 28 and the book of Genesis as a whole on the multiplication of humanity in general ( 6.1; 9.1–7 ) and Israel in particular ( 17.2–6; 47.27 ).

29–30 :

The text envisions an ancient mythological time before violence disturbs God's perfect order (cf. 6.11 ).

31 :

Where individual elements of creation were “good” (vv. 4,10 , etc.), the whole is very good, perfectly corresponding to God's intention.

2.1–3 :

This day is the point to which the whole seven‐day scheme has led. God does not command the sabbath, but does rest (Heb “shabat”) on the seventh day and bless it, weaving the seven‐day rhythm into creation. The “creation” of institutions is found in other ancient creation stories as well.

2.4a : Probably not the conclusion

of the Priestly creation story, but a separate superscription introducing the following material, as elsewhere in Genesis (e.g., 5.1; 6.9; 10.1 ).

2.4b–25 : Creation in a garden.

This tradition, often identified as J, is different from 1.1–2.3 , as evidenced by the different style and order of events. Though distinct from the Priestly account of 1.1–2.3 , it nevertheless reflects ancient temple imagery.

4b–6 :

A description of how things were prior to creation (cf. 1.1–2 ) is common in ancient Near Eastern creation stories.

7 :

The word play on Heb “'adam” (human being; here translated “man” [cf. 1.26 ]) and “_adamah” (arable land; here ground) introduces a motif characteristic of this tradition: the relation of humankind to the soil from which it was formed. Human nature is not a duality of body and soul; rather God's breath animates the dust and it becomes a single living being (Ps 104.29; Job 34.14–15 ).

8–9 :

Eden means “delight.” This divine garden recalls the “garden of God/the LORD” mentioned elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible ( 13.10; Ezek 28.13–16; 31.8–9; Isa 51.3; Joel 2.3 ), and such sacred gardens are known in other ancient Near Eastern temple traditions. In addition, ancient Near Eastern art and texts feature a prominent focus on trees, often associated with feminine powers of fertility. Usually such trees symbolize life, as in the tree of life here ( 3.22; see Prov 3.18; Rev 22.2,14,19 ). But this story focuses more on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, symbolizing wisdom (2 Sam 14.17; 1 Kings 3.9 ). See 12.6–8n .

10–14 :

This section, along with the preceding one describing the “stream” rising up to water the ground ( 2.6 ), may draw on the ancient tradition that a temple is built on a primal mountain of creation from which the waters of the earth flow. The rivers mentioned here combine world rivers like the Tigris and Euphrates (both in Mesopotamia) with the local Gihon that flowed from Mount Zion in Jerusalem (Ps 46.4; Isa 7.6; Zech 14.8 ), although Cush is generally either Ethiopia or in Arabia. Pishon is unknown; Havilah is probably in Arabia.

16–17 :

The speech concludes with a legal prohibition using technical death-penalty language (see Lev 20.9,11,12, etc.).

18–20 :

Animals are created after the first human rather than before (cf. 1.24–25 ). The human's naming of the animals implies a dominion over them analogous to that seen in 1.26–28 . Yet the LORD God here contrasts with the all-powerful deity depicted in ch 1 . The LORD God creates the animals in a comical, failed attempt to make a helper for the human that “corresponds to him” (compare as his partner in the NRSV of vv. 18,20 ).

21–23 :

Just as the connection of humanity to the ground is affirmed in the making of the first human (“᾽adam”) from earthy “humus” (“᾽adamah”) ( 2.7 ), so also the connection of men and women is affirmed here through the crowning event of creation: the making of the woman from a part of the man ( 2.21–22 ). The man affirms this connection in a jubilant poem ( 2.23 ) featuring a word play on “man” (“᾽ish”) and “woman” (“᾽ishah”). This concluding song of praise of the woman corresponds to God's concluding affirmation of all of creation as “very good” in 1.31 .

24–25 :

Sex between a man and his wife is regarded here as reflecting the essence of the connection God created between men and women. The unashamed nakedness of the man and woman indicates their still uncivilized status.

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