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Genesis 2:4-5

Context
The Creation of Man and Woman

2:4 This is the account 1  of the heavens and

the earth 2  when they were created – when the Lord God 3  made the earth and heavens. 4 

2:5 Now 5  no shrub of the field had yet grown on the earth, and no plant of the field 6  had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 7 

Genesis 2:9

Context
2:9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow from the soil, 8  every tree that was pleasing to look at 9  and good for food. (Now 10  the tree of life 11  and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil 12  were in the middle of the orchard.)

1 tn The Hebrew phrase אֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת (’elle tolÿdot) is traditionally translated as “these are the generations of” because the noun was derived from the verb “beget.” Its usage, however, shows that it introduces more than genealogies; it begins a narrative that traces what became of the entity or individual mentioned in the heading. In fact, a good paraphrase of this heading would be: “This is what became of the heavens and the earth,” for what follows is not another account of creation but a tracing of events from creation through the fall and judgment (the section extends from 2:4 through 4:26). See M. H. Woudstra, “The Toledot of the Book of Genesis and Their Redemptive-Historical Significance,” CTJ 5 (1970): 184-89.

sn The expression this is the account of is an important title used throughout the Book of Genesis, serving as the organizing principle of the work. It is always a heading, introducing the subject matter that is to come. From the starting point of the title, the narrative traces the genealogy or the records or the particulars involved. Although some would make the heading in 2:4 a summary of creation (1:1–2:3), that goes against the usage in the book. As a heading it introduces the theme of the next section, the particulars about this creation that God made. Genesis 2 is not a simple parallel account of creation; rather, beginning with the account of the creation of man and women, the narrative tells what became of that creation. As a beginning, the construction of 2:4-7 forms a fine parallel to the construction of 1:1-3. The subject matter of each תּוֹלְדֹת (tolÿdot, “this is the account of”) section of the book traces a decline or a deterioration through to the next beginning point, and each is thereby a microcosm of the book which begins with divine blessing in the garden, and ends with a coffin in Egypt. So, what became of the creation? Gen 2:44:26 will explain that sin entered the world and all but destroyed God’s perfect creation.

2 tn See the note on the phrase “the heavens and the earth” in 1:1.

sn This is the only use of the Hebrew noun תּוֹלְדֹת (tolÿdot) in the book that is not followed by a personal name (e.g., “this is the account of Isaac”). The poetic parallelism reveals that even though the account may be about the creation, it is the creation the Lord God made.

3 sn Advocates of the so-called documentary hypothesis of pentateuchal authorship argue that the introduction of the name Yahweh (Lord) here indicates that a new source (designated J), a parallel account of creation, begins here. In this scheme Gen 1:1-2:3 is understood as the priestly source (designated P) of creation. Critics of this approach often respond that the names, rather than indicating separate sources, were chosen to reflect the subject matter (see U. Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis). Gen 1:1–2:3 is the grand prologue of the book, showing the sovereign God creating by decree. The narrative beginning in 2:4 is the account of what this God invested in his creation. Since it deals with the close, personal involvement of the covenant God, the narrative uses the covenantal name Yahweh (Lord) in combination with the name God. For a recent discussion of the documentary hypothesis from a theologically conservative perspective, see D. A. Garrett, Rethinking Genesis. For an attempt by source critics to demonstrate the legitimacy of the source critical method on the basis of ancient Near Eastern parallels, see J. H. Tigay, ed., Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism. For reaction to the source critical method by literary critics, see I. M. Kikawada and A. Quinn, Before Abraham Was; R. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 131-54; and Adele Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative, 111-34.

4 tn See the note on the phrase “the heavens and the earth” in 1:1; the order here is reversed, but the meaning is the same.

5 tn Heb “Now every sprig of the field before it was.” The verb forms, although appearing to be imperfects, are technically preterites coming after the adverb טֶּרֶם (terem). The word order (conjunction + subject + predicate) indicates a disjunctive clause, which provides background information for the following narrative (as in 1:2). Two negative clauses are given (“before any sprig…”, and “before any cultivated grain” existed), followed by two causal clauses explaining them, and then a positive circumstantial clause is given – again dealing with water as in 1:2 (water would well up).

6 tn The first term, שִׂיחַ (siakh), probably refers to the wild, uncultivated plants (see Gen 21:15; Job 30:4,7); whereas the second, עֵשֶׂב (’esev), refers to cultivated grains. It is a way of saying: “back before anything was growing.”

7 tn The two causal clauses explain the first two disjunctive clauses: There was no uncultivated, general growth because there was no rain, and there were no grains because there was no man to cultivate the soil.

sn The last clause in v. 5, “and there was no man to cultivate the ground,” anticipates the curse and the expulsion from the garden (Gen 3:23).

8 tn Heb “ground,” referring to the fertile soil.

9 tn Heb “desirable of sight [or “appearance”].” The phrase describes the kinds of trees that are visually pleasing and yield fruit that is desirable to the appetite.

10 tn The verse ends with a disjunctive clause providing a parenthetical bit of information about the existence of two special trees in the garden.

11 tn In light of Gen 3:22, the construction “tree of life” should be interpreted to mean a tree that produces life-giving fruit (objective genitive) rather than a living tree (attributive genitive). See E. O. James, The Tree of Life (SHR); and R. Marcus, “The Tree of Life in Proverbs,” JBL 62 (1943): 117-20.

12 tn The expression “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” must be interpreted to mean that the tree would produce fruit which, when eaten, gives special knowledge of “good and evil.” Scholars debate what this phrase means here. For a survey of opinions, see G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:62-64. One view is that “good” refers to that which enhances, promotes, and produces life, while “evil” refers to anything that hinders, interrupts or destroys life. So eating from this tree would change human nature – people would be able to alter life for better (in their thinking) or for worse. See D. J. A. Clines, “The Tree of Knowledge and the Law of Yahweh,” VT 24 (1974): 8-14; and I. Engnell, “‘Knowledge’ and ‘Life’ in the Creation Story,” Wisdom in Israel and in the Ancient Near East [VTSup], 103-19. Another view understands the “knowledge of good and evil” as the capacity to discern between moral good and evil. The following context suggests the tree’s fruit gives one wisdom (see the phrase “capable of making one wise” in 3:6, as well as the note there on the word “wise”), which certainly includes the capacity to discern between good and evil. Such wisdom is characteristic of divine beings, as the serpent’s promise implies (3:5) and as 3:22 makes clear. (Note, however, that this capacity does not include the ability to do what is right.) God prohibits man from eating of the tree. The prohibition becomes a test to see if man will be satisfied with his role and place, or if he will try to ascend to the divine level. There will be a time for man to possess moral discernment/wisdom, as God reveals and imparts it to him, but it is not something to be grasped at in an effort to become “a god.” In fact, the command to be obedient was the first lesson in moral discernment/wisdom. God was essentially saying: “Here is lesson one – respect my authority and commands. Disobey me and you will die.” When man disobeys, he decides he does not want to acquire moral wisdom God’s way, but instead tries to rise immediately to the divine level. Once man has acquired such divine wisdom by eating the tree’s fruit (3:22), he must be banned from the garden so that he will not be able to achieve his goal of being godlike and thus live forever, a divine characteristic (3:24). Ironically, man now has the capacity to discern good from evil (3:22), but he is morally corrupted and rebellious and will not consistently choose what is right.



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