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Genesis 2:4-25


The Creation of Man and Woman (1:1-2:7) The Creation of Man and Woman The Garden of Eden Paradise, and the Test of Free Will
2:4-9   2:4b-9 2:4b-6 2:4b-7
  Life in God's Garden   2:7  
  2:8-9   2:8-9 2:8-9
2:10-14 2:10-14 2:10-14 2:10-14 2:10-14
2:15-17 2:15-17 2:15-17 2:15-17 2:15-17
2:18-25 2:18-25 2:18-25 2:18-20 2:18-23
          2:21-24   (23)
  (23)   (23)   (23)   (23) 2:24
      2:25 2:25



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. I personally reject the J (YHWH), E (Elohim), D (Deuteronomy), P (Priests) theory of source criticism which asserts separate authors for several OT books of the Pentetuch (cf. Introduction to Genesis, Modern Scholarship, D.). For more information on this subject read Josh McDowell's More Evidence that Demands a Verdict or H. C. Leupold's Exposition of Genesis, vol. 1.

B. Genesis 2:4-25 is a specific theological expansion of Genesis 1:1-2:3. This is a common Hebrew literary technique. Theologically chapter two sets the stage for chapter three.

C. Genesis 1:31 crowns the beginning of our world with God's intention, "goodness"; 2:1-3 should go with chapter 1 because 1:1-2:3 which is a literary unit.

D. Theologically 2:4-25 is more related to chapter 3 than chapter 1. It sets the literary stage for Eve's temptation and sin with its devastating consequences for the whole planet (cf. Rom. 5:12-21; 8:18-23).



  4This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven. 5Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. 7Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. 9Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing 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.

2:4 "This is the account" Literally it is "these are the generations" (BDB 41 plus 410). This phrase is the author's way of dividing Genesis into literary segments (cf. 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10,27; 25:12,19; 36:1,8; 37:2, i.e. this is the author's way of outlining his book). Some scholars see it as introducing a section (i.e. Derek Kidner) while others see it as closing a section (i.e. R. K. Harrison and P. J. Wiseman). It seems to do both. It is possible that 1:1-2:3 deals with the creation of the cosmos and 2:4-15 focuses on the creation of mankind which is contextually related to chapters 3 and 4.

▣ "day" The Hebrew term yom (BDB 398) is usually used of a 24-hour period of time. However, it is also used of a longer duration as a metaphor (cf. 2:4; 5:2; Ruth 1:1; Isa. 2:11,12,17; 4:2; Ps. 90:4). Possibly v. 4a is a subtitle heading and 4b starts the discussion. See Special Topic at 1:5.

▣ "the Lord God" This is literally YHWH Elohim which combines the two most common names for God. This is the first time they are used together. Many modern scholars have assumed two authors for Gen. 1 and 2 because of the use of these divine names. However, the rabbis assert that they refer to the characteristics of deity: (1) Elohim as creator, provider and sustainer of all life on this planet (cf. Ps. 19:1-6)and (2) YHWH as savior, redeemer and covenant making deity (cf. Ps. 19:7-14). It theologically implies the ever living, only living God. The Jews became afraid to pronounce this holy name lest they break the commandment about taking God's name in vain. So, they substituted the Hebrew term Adon (husband, owner, master, lord) whenever they read the text aloud. This is why in English YHWH is translated LORD.


▣ "earth and heaven" The order of these words is reversed from v. 1 but why is uncertain.

2:5 "shrub of the field" This refers to wild plants (cf. Gen. 21:15; Job 30:4,7).

▣ "plant of the field" This refers to cultivated, domestic plants.

2:6 "a mist" This (BDB 15, KB 11) is the Akkadian term for (1) flood or (2) flow of subterranean water. This possibly means that watering occurred by flooding ("used to rise," BDB 748, KB 828, Qal IMPERFECT). The Arabic parallel is fog which is the origin of the translation "mist." We would say a heavy dew.

This again may have reflected the circumstances in the Garden of Eden alone. Geology seems to confirm the ancient results of water on the earth's surface long before the special creation of Adam and Eve.

2:7 "formed" Literally this means "to mold clay" (BDB 427, KB 428, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Jer. 18:6). This is the third term used to describe God's creative action in relation to mankind ("make," 1:26 (BDB 793, KB 889); "created," 1:27 (BDB 135, KB 153) and "formed," 2:7). The NT reveals that Jesus was God's agent in creation (cf. John 1:3; I Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).

▣ "man of dust from the ground" Man is the Hebrew term, Adam (BDB 9), which meant (1) a pun on the term "red" (cf. Exod. 25:5; 28:17; Num. 19:2; Isa. 63:2; Zech. 1:8) or (2) "ground" (adamah, cf. v. 6), possibly alluding to "red clay clods." This reflects the lowliness and frailty of humanity. There is a dialectical tension here between mankind's exalted place (made in the image and likeness of God) and lowly frail condition! Animals are formed the same way in v. 19. It is also possible that it refers to mankind's origin from the dust (cf. Gen. 3:19; Ps. 103; Eccl. 12:7). This denotes mankind as clay and God as potter (cf. Isa. 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Jer. 18:6; Rom. 9:20-23).

▣ "breathed. . .the breath of life" The VERB "breathed" (BDB 655, KB 708) is a Qal IMPERFECT. The NOUN "breath" (BDB 675) shows that God took special care with the creation of mankind. However, humans still physically function as do all the animals on the planet (i.e. breathe, eat, excrete, and reproduce). Humans uniquely can relate to God, yet we are intricately bound to this planet. There is a dual aspect to our nature (spiritual and physical).

▣ "man became a living being" Humans become a nephesh (BDB 659, KB 711-713), but so do the cattle (cf. 1:24; 2:19). The uniqueness of humanity is God's personal forming and breathing. Humans do not have a soul, they are a soul! We are a unity of the physical and the spiritual. We will always have a bodily expression except for the intermediate state between death and resurrection (cf. I Thess. 4:13-15).

Was Adam a primitive man or a modern man? How is he related to other hominids of antiquity? Stone-age men were present in the Mt. Carmel region 200,000 years ago. When was Adam created? Is he the end of development or is he first of a special creation?

2:8 "garden" This term (BDB 171) is used in the sense of an enclosed park. The Septuagint translates it with a Persian word, "paradise."

▣ "in Eden" In Hebrew Eden means "delight" or "happy land" (BDB 727 III, KB 792 II). Notice the garden is not called "Eden," but located in Eden. This is obviously a geographical location, a place name. The related Sumerian term can mean "fertile plain." The description in vv. 8, 10-14 is very detailed which is meant to convey its precise location but its geographical location is unknown. Most commentators place it (1) at the mouth of the modern Tigris and Euphrates Rivers or (2) at the head waters of these rivers.

However, the names of all the rivers do not fit modern geography. How much of the earth was changed by the Flood is uncertain. The similarities of the Mesopotamian and biblical accounts would logically put the garden in Mesopotamia but this is only speculation. See Who was Adam? by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross, p. 46.

2:9 "tree of life. . .tree of the knowledge of good and evil" This last clause may be a parenthesis (cf. NET Bible, p. 7). Genesis 3:3 implies that there was only one tree, while 3:22 implies two trees. The tree of knowledge of good and evil has no parallel in ancient Near Eastern literature. This tree was not magical, but it seemed to offer to humans a way to be independent from their creator God or at least promised that they might gain knowledge and insight equal to or in competition with God. This is the essence of sin. It is also possible that it offered Eve a way to dominate Adam, which violated the created mutuality.

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

2:10 "rivers" These were "branch streams" (BDB 625).

2:11 "Pishon" Literally this is "gush" (BDB 810). This may refer to an ancient waterway or canal in southern Mesopotamia called "Pisanu."

▣ "flows around" This literally means "winds through" (BDB 685, KB 738, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE).

▣ "Havilah" Literally this means "sandy land" (BDB 296). This is not the one located in Egypt but linked to Cush in 10:7. The term is used again in 10:29 for a sandy land in Arabia.

2:12 "bdellium" This is possibly an aromatic tree gum (BDB 95). The meaning for this term and the next one are uncertain. Some have suggested that this should be translated "pearls" (cf. Helen Spurrell and James Moffatt's translation).

▣ "onyx" All ancient terms for jewels are very uncertain (BDB 995). This stone was one of the twelve stone on the breastplate of the High Priest (cf. Exod. 28:9,20). The jewels of Eden are used metaphorically in Ezek. 28:13.

2:13 "Gihon" Literally this is "bubble" (BDB 161). This may refer to an ancient waterway or canal in southern Mesopotamia called "Guhana."

▣ "Cush" This term is used in three ways in the OT: (1) here and 10:6ff to refer to Kassites to the east of the Tigris Valley; (2) Hab. 3:8; II Chron. 14:9ff; 16:8; 21:16 to refer to northern Arabia; and (3) usually used to refer to Ethiopia or Nubia in north Africa (BDB 468).

2:14 "Tigris" This is literally "Hiddekel" (BDB 293).

NRSV, TEV"Assyria"
JPSOA, NIV"Asshur"

The Term (BDB 78) can refer to (1) a people (e.g. Num. 24:22,24; Hosea 12:2; 14:4) or (2) a land (cf. Gen. 2:14; 10:11; Hosea 5:13; 7:11; 8:9; 9:3; 10:6). In this context #2 fits best.

▣ "Euphrates" Literally this is "perath." It is often called "The River" (cf. Gen. 15:18; I Kgs. 4:21,24).

Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16The Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

2:15 "to cultivate it and keep it" Work was mankind's task before the fall and not a result of sin. The term "cultivate" means "to serve" (BDB 712, KB 773, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT), while "keep" is "to protect" (BDB 1036, KV 1581, another Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT). This is part of the responsibility of human dominion. We are to be stewards, not exploiters, of the resources of this planet.

In the Sumerian and Babylonian mythologies mankind is always created to serve the gods but in the Bible Adam and Eve are made in the image of God, to have dominion over creation. This is the only work they are assigned to do and it has nothing to do with God's needs!

2:16 "From any tree in the garden you may eat freely" This is a Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE COMBINED with a Qal IMPERFECT of the same root (BDB 37, KB 40), used for emphasis. God's command was not burdensome. God was testing (cf. Gen. 22:1; Exod. 15:22-25; 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 8:2,16; 13:3; Judg. 2:22; II Chron. 32:31) His highest creation's loyalty and obedience.

2:17 "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" This was not a magical tree. It contained no secret physical ingredient in its fruit to stimulate the human brain. It was a test of obedience and trust.

Notice that the tree held out strengths and weaknesses. It is amazing to me what humanity has produced from the physical resources of this planet. Mankind is an awesome creation with potential for both good or evil. Knowledge brings responsibility.

▣ "evil" This is the Hebrew term ra which meant "to break up" or "ruin" (BDB 948). It combines the act and its consequences (cf. Robert B. Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 80.)

▣ "the day" In light of Eve and Adam continuing to live after they ate, this is a use of "day" as a period of time, not 24 hours (BDB 398).

NASB "you will surely die"
NKJV "you shall surely die"
NRSV "you shall die"
TEV "you will die the same day"
NJB "you are doomed to die"

This is an INFINITE ABSOLUTE and a COGNATE ACCUSATIVE, "dying to die" (BDB 559, KB 562) which is a Hebrew grammatical way of showing emphasis. This is the same as v. 16. This structure carries several possible translations (cf. Twenty-Six Translations of the Old Testament). Obviously death refers to spiritual death here (cf. Eph. 2:1), which results in physical death (cf. Gen. 5). In the Bible three stages of death are described: (1) spiritual death (cf. 2:17; 3:1-7; Isa. 59:2; Rom. 5:12-21; 7:10-11; Eph. 2:1,5; Col. 2:13a; James 1:15); (2) physical death (cf. Gen. 5); and (3) eternal death, called "the second death" (cf. Rev. 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8). In a real sense this refers to all three.

  18Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." 19Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 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 the flesh at that place. 22The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
23The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

2:18 "It is not good for the man to be alone" This is the only place in these opening chapters of the OT where "not good" is used. God has made us to need someone, even beyond fellowship with Him! Man could not fulfill his role to rule over creation without the companionship of woman, nor could he fulfill the command to multiply and fill the earth.

NASB "a helper suitable for him"
NKJV "a helper comparable to him"
NRSV "a helper as his partner"
TEV "a suitable companion to help him"
NJB "a helper"

This means "one who complements or completes" (BDB 740 I, KB 811 I). The NET Bible has "indispensable companion" (p. 8). This term is often used to describe God's help (cf. Exod. 18:4; Deut. 33:4, 7, 29; Ps. 33:20; 115:9-11; 121:2; 124:8; 146:5). Notice the mutuality between male and female as in 1:26-27 and the PLURAL IMPERATIVES of 1:28. Submission does not come until after the Fall (cf. 3:16). This specific account of the creation of woman is unique in ancient Near Eastern literature.

An interesting word study is found in Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 92-94, where Walter Kaiser asserts the translation "a power (or strength) corresponding to man" (or equal to man).

2:19 "God formed every beast" Some have taken this to assert that God created the animals after Adam in what they call the second creation account (cf. Gen. 2:4-25). The VERB (BDB 427, KB 428, Qal IMPERFECT) could be translated "had formed" (cf. NIV). The time element in Hebrew VERBS is contextual.

Dr. Rich Johnson, Professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University, commented to me in a review of this commentary:

"The meaning of the IMPERFECT with a waw conversive, which this verb is, is the simple past tense. It is the way Hebrew structures a sequence of events. A series of this kind of verb tells events in the order in which they occur. You refer here to the presuppositions of interpreters affecting the translation. Here, it is the presupposition of the NIV translators that have led them to mistranslate this verse and also 2:8, 'Now the LORD God had planted a garden...'. The NIV translators have assumed that this chapter must match chapter one and have overruled the normal rules of reading Hebrew narrative to accomodate that assumption. The urgent question is where they got that assumption. This verb is translated as a simple past by the KJV, ASV, ERV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, ESV, NEB, REB, the NET translation, Youngs' Literal translation, the Jewish Publication Society translation, the TANAKH, the New American Bible, and the New Jerusalem Bible. The NIV is the odd one."

▣ "to see what he would call them" The VERB "call" (BDB 894, KB 1128) is used three times in vv. 19 and 20. Names were very important to the Hebrews. This shows mankind's authority and dominion over the animals.

Does this refer to (1) all the different animals in the whole world, (2) original beginning types of animals or (3) the animals of Mesopotamia?

2:21 This verse reinforces the unique relationship between man and woman, Adam and Eve (cf. v. 23). It may be a Hebrew idiom for closeness and intimacy. The Hebrew word for "rib" is translated elsewhere as "side" (BDB 854, KB 1030 I).

It is interesting that in his book, Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 555-556, R. K. Harrison asserts that the Hebrew term for "rib" here means "an aspect of the personality" which would form an analogy with Adam made in the image and likeness of God to also include aspects of personality.

It is also interesting that a "rib" is part of the creation of woman in the Sumerian creation account: from enki came nin-ti (cf. D. J. Wiseman's Illustrations from Biblical Archaeology). In this context the Sumerian word for rib (i.e. ti) also means "to make alive." Eve will be the mother of all living (cf. 3:20).

It must be remembered that Moses is writing (editing or compiling) these chapters at a much later date. These are Hebrew word plays, but Hebrew was not the original language used.

2:22 "brought her to the man" The rabbis say that God acted as best man.

2:23 "Woman. . .Man" This verse is poetry. Literally this is Ishah (BDB 35). . .ish (BDB 35), an obvious sound play (especially "her name Ishah"). Adam also names (or at least describes Eve's similarity to himself) Eve. The etymology is uncertain. Usually adam refers to humanity and ish to a specific individual.

2:24 "leave his father and his mother" This VERB (BDB 736, KB 806) is a Qal IMPERFECT, possibly used in a JUSSIVE sense. The importance of the family causes the comment to be read back into this early account. Moses is reflecting on his own day and the importance of the family unit in an extended family living situation. Marriage takes precedence over in-laws!

NASB, NKJV"be joined"
TEV"is united with"
NJB"becomes attached to"

This is a Hebrew idiom of loyalty, even intimacy (BDB 179, KB 209, Qal PERFECT, cf. Ruth 1:14; Matt. 19:5-6; Eph. 5:31).

▣ "one flesh" This shows the complete union and priority relationship of married couples. The SINGULAR form of "one" speaks of the joining of the two persons.

2:25 "both naked and were not ashamed" This should go with chapter 3. The implication of the phrase is that Adam had nothing to hide from himself, his spouse, his God (BDB 101, KB 161, Hithpolel IMPERFECT). Therefore it is an idiom of innocence. Things will soon change!

The fact that the man and woman were naked (BDB 736, ADJECTIVE) implies a very controlled environment. This may lend itself to the view that the Garden of Eden was a protected and later, special creation, different from the rest of the planet (i.e. progressive creationism).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Is there a distinction made in Genesis 1 between God creating and the things which He has made producing? If so, what does this imply?

2. How is man like the animals? How is man like God?

3. Are women made in the image of God or only of the image of Adam?

4. What does it imply that man is to subdue and rule the created order?

5. How does the phrase "Be fruitful and multiply" relate to the population explosion?

6. Is it God's will that man be vegetarian?

7. Is it improper for man to worship on Sunday instead of Saturday in light of Gen. 2:2,3?

8. Why are chapters 1 and 2 so similar, yet different?

9. Why is Adam translated both as a proper name and a generic one?

10. Why is the geographical site of Eden given in such detail?

11. Name the three forms of biblical death.

12. What does verse 18 say about us as sexual beings?

13. Does "helper" imply mutuality?


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