After six creative days, all the works pertaining to the land, sea, and the celestial dome were complete. Everything is represented as having come into existence on the basis of what God said. Nothing is revealed about any work or activity on God’s part nor is there any reference to any time element in conjunction with the creation of what was required to transform a watery void into land and seas where plant and animal life began to flourish in great abundance and variety. For example, nothing is said about any work needed or time required for the land to come into existence and afterward for a variety of plants and trees to appear on the land. Day seven, however, is identified as God’s day of rest “from all his work that he had done” and as a day he blessed and set apart as sacred. (2:1-3)
There is a reason for the focus on God’s spoken word rather than on his activity. Once his word or purpose is expressed, that purpose is certain to be realized. God’s word, therefore, brought into the realm of reality everything that was represented as having been spoken by him. The processes or specific times involved in bringing the revealed purposes into the realm of actuality are not included in the biblical narratives. The emphasis on God’s word can help the one who reads the biblical narratives or hears them read to recognize that what God says is trustworthy and that all of his promises are certain to be fulfilled.
Work or activity was involved in bringing into being everything that God had purposed. His resting on “day seven,” however, does not mean that he needed time for recuperation after everything was finished. The fact that he is represented as seeing the creative works as good indicated that his purpose had been fully accomplished, with no need for any additional creative activity. God could rest from the standpoint of looking upon all creation with delight and satisfaction as work that had been finished. (2:3)
For the people of Israel, the divine precedent of six days of work followed by a day of rest provided them with a lofty spiritual reason for faithfully observing the seventh day as a day of rest. Referring to the “rest” that followed the six creative days, the first-century Jewish historian Josephus wrote, “In just six days the world and all that is therein was made; and the seventh day was a rest, and a release from the labor of such operations — whence it is that we celebrate a rest from our labors on that day, and call it Sabbath, which word denotes rest in the Hebrew tongue.” (Antiquities, I, i, 1; compare Exodus 20:8-11.)
Verse 4 of chapter 2 appears to be the introduction for the creation narrative that focuses specifically on the beginning of the human race. “These [are] the generations [or beginnings] of the heavens [the sky or celestial dome] and the earth [or land] in their being created in the day YHWH God made [the] earth [or land] and the heavens [the sky or celestial dome].” This is the first occurrence of the divine name (YHWH). Based on Exodus 3:14, the four Hebrew consonants, YHWH, making up this name evidently incorporate the verb “to be” (Compare the Septuagint reading, egó eimi ho ón [I am the one who is], and the words of Revelation 1:4, ho ón kaí ho en kaí ho erchómenos [the one who is and who was and who is coming]). In view of the Septuagint reading of Exodus 3:14 and the words of Revelation 1:4, the name apparently identifies the Supreme Sovereign as the One who is and continues to be and as the ultimate Source of everything that exists and that will come to be in fulfillment of his word and purpose. The name stands as an absolute guarantee that the Supreme Sovereign would never deviate from what he has declared or revealed he would prove himself to be. He and his word, therefore, are deserving of the utmost confidence. Whereas the Greek eimi (am) is in the present tense, the Hebrew expression ’ehyéh is in the imperfect state. Hence, the words of Exodus 3:14, ’ehyéh ’ashér ’ehyéh, may be rendered “I will be who I will be.” This suggests that the Almighty would prove to be exactly who he has revealed himself to be.
The creation narrative starts with a description of desolate, uncultivated land devoid of plant, animal, and human life. Conditions for the sprouting of greenery did not exist. The stated reason for this was that “YHWH God had not caused it to rain upon the earth” or land. There also was no man to cultivate the ground. The watering of the surface of the ground is attributed to a “mist” that rose from the land. According to the Septuagint, the source for the watering was a “fountain.” Targum Jonathan (considered to date probably from the second century CE) provides a different explanation. It says that a “cloud of glory descended from the throne of glory, and was filled with waters from the ocean, and afterward went up from the earth,” causing rain to come down and to water the entire surface of the ground. (2:5, 6)
YHWH God is represented as forming man from the dust of the ground or from the elements that are a part of the soil and breathing into his “nostrils the breath of life.” By having the animating principle of life imparted, the lifeless body became a “living soul” or a living being. (2:7) Targum Jonathan adds that God created the first man “red, black, and white.” The Jewish historian Josephus of the first century CE wrote regarding the man, “This man was called Adam, which in the Hebrew tongue signifies one that is red, because he was formed out of red earth, compounded together; for of that kind is virgin and true earth” or soil. (Antiquities, I, i, 2)
As a home for the man (Adam), YHWH God is represented as planting a garden (a paradise [LXX]) in the eastern part of the region of Eden. (2:8) One long-held conjecture is that Eden was located in the mountainous area of eastern Turkey just south of Lake Van.
The garden featured delightful fruit-bearing trees. There were also two special trees in the garden — the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Targum Jonathan greatly exaggerates the height of the “tree of life” (a “journey of five hundred years”). A river, with its source in Eden, watered the garden. This river divided and formed four rivers — the Pishon (Ganges [Josephus]), Gihon (Nile [Josephus], flowing around Cush (Ethiopia [LXX]; through Egypt [Josephus]), Hiddekel (Tigris [LXX]), flowing east of Asshur (Assyria), and Perath (Euphrates [LXX]). (Antiquities, I, i, 3) The Pishon is associated with the “land of Havilah,” a region where quality gold, bdellium (a resinous gum [carbuncle (LXX)), and onyx (shóham) stone (“light green” stone [LXX]) were found. Havilah, however, cannot be linked to any known region. (2:9-14; see the Note section.)
After YHWH God had created the man, he placed him in the “garden of Eden” to cultivate it and to keep, guard, or preserve it. (2:15) He also commanded him not to eat of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” warning him that he would die that day if he were to eat its fruit. As for all the other trees in the garden, their fruit was available to the man for food. (2:16, 17) The command not to eat of the one tree implied no moral defect in the man, for eating was essential for sustaining life and only God’s command respecting the tree made its fruit unacceptable for food. This tree is not identified. Therefore, the view that it was an apple tree is baseless. For the man to eat fruit from the tree would bring upon him the immediate judgment of death, but the actual death would not necessarily follow on that 24-hour day.
YHWH God is represented as declaring that it was not good for the man to be alone (to “be sleeping alone” [Targum Jonathan]) Therefore, he determined to make a suitable “helper” for him or a companion like him, a genuine support. Before the man received this “helper,” he was given the opportunity to name animals and birds that YHWH God had formed from the soil or the elements of the ground. Among all these creatures, the man did not see any of them as a suitable “helper” for him. The man’s naming the creatures implied his superiority over them. Only humans possess the capacity to name creatures, and this has continued to the present time. (2:19, 20)
YHWH God is portrayed as causing the man to fall into a deep sleep, removing from him one rib and then closing up the flesh over the place from which the rib had been taken. Thereafter he formed the rib into a woman and brought her to the man. (2:21, 22) Targum Jonathan says that the “thirteenth rib of the right side” was removed. This view probably is based on the reality that both men and women have the same number of ribs — 24. It may be noteworthy, however, that a partially removed rib can regenerate if the periosteum (the membrane of connective tissue around the bone) remains intact. Moreover, the bone does contain the potential for the formation of another human.
Rabbi Sa’adiah ben Yosef Gaon (882/892 – 942 CE) explained that the creation of the woman from the rib of the man was done with wisdom. It would motivate the man to treat her mercifully as she was one of his body parts, and she would regard him as the source of her life. He would look after her as a man would guard a piece of himself, and she would follow him in the manner a limb would follow the body. Abarbanel (a fifteenth-century Portuguese Jewish Bible commentator) concluded that the woman was not created from the man’s foot so that he would not consider her to be a lowly maidservant, nor was she created from his head so that she would lord over him. Instead, she was created from his side so that she would be equal to him.
The man was delighted when he saw the woman and is quoted as expressing himself in poetic language. “At last this one [is] bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one will be called woman, for from man this one was taken.” (2:23)
The union that would result from a man with his wife would become closer than that which had existed with his parents. A man would leave his father and his mother, attaching himself to his wife and forming a partnership as “one flesh,” comparable to that of just one person or a union of the closest kinship possible. (2:24) Both the man and the woman remained naked in their created state, but they were not ashamed. (2:25)
Considerable uncertainty exists whether the Hebrew word shóham (2:12) designates onyx. The Septuagint is inconsistent in how it renders this word (berýllion [beryl], ónyx, prasinos [“light green” stone], sárdion [sardius], smáragdos [“bright green” stone, probably emerald], and soóm [possibly carnelian]).