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Genesis 2:4-7

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  2:6 Springs 8  would well up 9  from the earth and water 10  the whole surface of the ground. 11  2:7 The Lord God formed 12  the man from the soil of the ground 13  and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, 14  and the man became a living being. 15 

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 The conjunction vav (ו) introduces a third disjunctive clause. The Hebrew word אֵד (’ed) was traditionally translated “mist” because of its use in Job 36:27. However, an Akkadian cognate edu in Babylonian texts refers to subterranean springs or waterways. Such a spring would fit the description in this context, since this water “goes up” and waters the ground.

9 tn Heb “was going up.” The verb is an imperfect form, which in this narrative context carries a customary nuance, indicating continual action in past time.

10 tn The perfect with vav (ו) consecutive carries the same nuance as the preceding verb. Whenever it would well up, it would water the ground.

11 tn The Hebrew word אֲדָמָה (’adamah) actually means “ground; fertile soil.”

sn Here is an indication of fertility. The water would well up from the earth (אֶרֶץ, ’erets) and water all the surface of the fertile soil (אֲדָמָה). It is from that soil that the man (אָדָם, ’adam) was made (Gen 2:7).

12 tn Or “fashioned.” The prefixed verb form with vav (ו) consecutive initiates narrative sequence. The Hebrew word יָצַר (yatsar) means “to form” or “to fashion,” usually by plan or design (see the related noun יֵצֶר [yetser] in Gen 6:5). It is the term for an artist’s work (the Hebrew term יוֹצֵר [yotser] refers to a potter; see Jer 18:2-4.)

sn Various traditions in the ancient Near East reflect this idea of creation. Egyptian drawings show a deity turning little people off of the potter’s wheel with another deity giving them life. In the Bible humans are related to the soil and return to it (see 3:19; see also Job 4:19, 20:9; and Isa 29:16).

13 tn The line literally reads “And Yahweh God formed the man, soil, from the ground.” “Soil” is an adverbial accusative, identifying the material from which the man was made.

14 tn The Hebrew word נְשָׁמָה (nÿshamah, “breath”) is used for God and for the life imparted to humans, not animals (see T. C. Mitchell, “The Old Testament Usage of Nÿshama,” VT 11 [1961]: 177-87). Its usage in the Bible conveys more than a breathing living organism (נֶפֶשׁ חַיַּה, nefesh khayyah). Whatever is given this breath of life becomes animated with the life from God, has spiritual understanding (Job 32:8), and has a functioning conscience (Prov 20:27).

sn Human life is described here as consisting of a body (made from soil from the ground) and breath (given by God). Both animals and humans are called “a living being” (נֶפֶשׁ חַיַּה) but humankind became that in a different and more significant way.

15 tn The Hebrew term נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “being”) is often translated “soul,” but the word usually refers to the whole person. The phrase נֶפֶשׁ חַיַּה (nefesh khayyah, “living being”) is used of both animals and human beings (see 1:20, 24, 30; 2:19).



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