Genesis 2:4-7 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:1 hr 7 mins 6 secs

Creation of Man
Genesis 2:4-7a

In chapters two and three we see that God blesses man in perfect environment but man disobeys God and brings upon himself cursing, and he brings that cursing on the environment. It is not just cursing on himself but it is cursing on all of creation. We see in this section that man who was formed from the dust of the ground was given everything by God and then he chooses, uses his volition in a wrong way, revolts against God, and brings evil into the world. These two chapters explain the existence of evil and why man endures pain and trouble and calamity.

Genesis 2:4, “This is the account of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” This is an introduction to this entire section, from Genesis 2:4-26. We have an obvious structure of synonymous parallelism in this introduction. It is structured to bring out a certain point. “This is the account of the heavens and the earth” (part 1), and then there is the phrase, “when they were created” (part 2), and that is mirrored by the line, In the day when the LORD God made.” Then it comes back out to earth and heaven. It is like a mirror image. The second half of the verse is reversed like a mirror image: it says, “the earth and the heavens.” And what the author is doing is driving our attention to earth. It is going to shift from talking about the heaven to earth. This just goes back to understanding this imagery that you have in a chiasm. There’s going to be “heavens and earth” and then a statement about when they were made, and that God created them. That is the center point of this verse, focusing on creation. Then there is a reverse to earth and heaven. If you take that same chiastic principle where you have heavens, earth, and then earth and heaven, whatever is in the center is what the author is driving your attention toward. So the author has moved from the creation as a whole in chapter one and all that God made to focusing our attention on just the earth.

In the first part of the verse it uses the Hebrew preposition bet [temporal bet] or “when,” “when they were created.” And it uses the word bara which is a word that technically denotes the creative activity of God. Only God is the one who creates. Then there is a line of synonymous parallelism that restates that idea in a slightly different way and slightly different vocabulary where the author says, “in the day”—actually a Hebrew idiom for “in the day when”—“when the LORD God made. In the first part he used a passive verb, the niphal stem, which is the passive stem, of bara, and in this line he uses the active stem, the qal, of asah, which in this sentence is parallel or synonymous to bara. But he brings in in the second line, with the active voice of the verb, the subject of creation, and that is the LORD God. So he is bringing in something new at this particular point and introduces a new name for God.

The exegetical details of the passage: It starts off “These.” This is a demonstrative pronoun and it indicates what follows—this is what we are getting ready to talk about—“These are the generations.” This word toledot is used thirteen times in the book of Genesis and it marks off, because some of those are repetitious within the account, ten major divisions in Genesis. If we look at Genesis as a whole, is it basically composed of ten books or ten parts. The word itself comes from the root yalad, which means to give birth or to bear children, and here it means that which is produced or brought into being by someone. So literally we could translate this, “These are the descendants of the heavens and the earth.” Each of these toledot sections is going to focus on—here, the heavens and the earth; later on it will be Adam, Noah, Noah’s children, Terah the father of Abraham, and the Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau and Ishmael. This is what happened to their descendants is the essence of what it is saying.

The next thing we note is that there is a name shift for God. In the first chapter God is only known by His generic name, Elohim. It is like our word in English for God. “God” in English is just the generic term for deity; it does not distinguish any particular deity. So when you have the word Elohim in Hebrew it can have various meanings, in fact in some cases it even indicates people who are in authority, like judges, within the social structure of Israel. So Elohim itself is not a technical designation for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That comes with the introduction of this new name for God, Yahweh. This is the personal name for the God of the Bible. It is composed of four consonants, YHWH. It is pronounced in various ways. So many of the Jewish Hebrew scholars resided in Germanic speaking countries throughout the diaspora, throughout the Middle Ages; they lived in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary; and a tremendous amount of the vocalization for Hebrew was influenced by that background. A W would be pronounced like a V [no W in the German language], and whenever you see a J in the German language it is pronounced like a Y in English. That is where we get this sort of shift where you have the development of the term Jehovah. The four letters in the sacred tetragrammaton [which means four letters], YHWH, because of the influence of German the Y was often transliterated as a J and the W was often transliterated as a V. That is how JHVH came up. The other thing about the tetragrammaton is that the Jews out of reverence developed a superstition about pronouncing the name of God. So whenever they read the Scriptures or were pronouncing the name of God they would read Adonai. As they wrote these words in the Hebrew Bible they would write out the YHWH, the consonants, but when they added the vowel points they added the vowel points of Adonai and put that underneath Yahweh to remind the reader not to read Yahweh but to read Adonai. As a result of that, because of the vowel pointing there, a word was developed which was Jehovah. But Jehovah is not a Hebrew word, it is a made-up word based on the consonants from one word and the vowels from another word. So when you get people like the Jehovah’s Witnesses come along and knock on your door and tell you that Jehovah is the only name for God, and there is only one God and it is Jehovah, they are worshipping a made-up name. The first time we have the appearance of Yahweh in the Old Testament is right here in verse four.

Another thing that is important in noticing this is that liberals, since the early 19th century have attempted to use the name shift to attribute different portions of Genesis to different authors. This is why it is called the JEDP theory.

The meaning, the understanding of the significance of Yahweh doesn’t come along until Exodus. God’s name is known by Abraham as Yahweh, but the real significance and meaning of the name is not revealed until Exodus. God appears to Moses in the burning bush and commissions Moses to go back and free the Jews from their slavery in Egypt. Moses says, “Who shall I tell the Jews has sent me?” God said to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM. Thus shall you say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.” The etymological root of this word Yahweh is the verb hayah, and it is the “to be” word, the word for is or was or to exist, and the idea behind the name is to emphasize the eternal self-existence of God: “I AM WHO I AM”. This idea, I AM THAT I AM, is further reiterated in Revelation 1:8 where it refers to the Lord who is the one who is and who was and is to come. The idea of these tenses, past, present and future, being all there in that name was elucidated by an early medieval rabbi: “These three times past, present, and to come, are comprehended in this proper name as is known to all.” So he recognized that the very name of God, I AM WHO I AM, includes God’s eternal existence in the past, His omnipresence in the present, and His eternal existence in the future.

It also had specific significance for the Jews because it is Moses who comes to the Jews in Egypt and says Yahweh has sent me. So it is Yahweh who delivers the Jews from slavery in Egypt. It is Yahweh who brings the plagues, it is Yahweh who parts the Red Sea, it is Yahweh who sustains them in the wilderness, and it is Yahweh who speaks to them from Mount Sinai, gives them the Mosaic Law, and enters into a covenant—the Sinaitic covenant. So when they hear the name Yahweh the one thing that always reminds them of is that God has entered into a contract with them as a nation. So when the second generation of Jews on the plains of Moab hear Moses tell this story in Genesis 2, that is, it is Yahweh Elohim who forms man, the same Yahweh who entered into a contract with them, and the very mention of the term Yahweh picks up the moral demands of a covenant God. It is Yahweh who placed these moral demands of the law on Israel and it is the same Yahweh who places a moral demand on Adam in the garden. So this is all packing the picture of the narrative in Genesis two that God is going to establish a volitional test for the human race, and the core issue in morality is going to be obedience to God or not. This is transliterated in English with the word LORD [usually capitalized], always indicating that this is the transliteration of Yahweh. When the second, third, and fourth letters are lower case it is probably Adonai. If it is the word “God” it is a reference to Elohim.

Genesis 2:5, continues to describe the conditions on the planet at the time of the creation of man. “And every shrub of the field before it was in the earth, and every plant of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.” This is a verse that in the English not only sounds contradictory to chapter one but we are really missing the power of this verse as it comes across in the Hebrew, because there is an ominous tone to this verse. When you look at this verse you just think of the earth as a barren patch and nothing has popped out yet. But that is a contradiction to what has gone on in chapter one. First of all you have to assume that anyone who is a writer, if they have two or three brain cells that are connecting, would recognize that if he wrote it saying that this was a barren land it would be a contradiction to what he wrote just some twenty verses earlier. The typical liberal, especially liberal theologian, has such a high view of man and such a low view of God and because of evolution they think that man was much dumber than we are, so the writer really didn’t know that he was contradicting what he had just said a few verses earlier describing the third day of creation. Cf. Genesis 1:11, 12: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” The earth seems to be covered in grass and shrubs and trees at the end of the third day. But what is going on here? Genesis 2:5 is giving us details of the sixth day, so why does the earth seem to be barren? That is because we don’t understand the significance of the Hebrew words here.

The word that is translated “shrub” here is the word which means “weeds of the field.” The key phrase to be noted is “of the field.” This is talking about a particular kind of plant, whereas in 1:11, 12 it is talking about all of the grasses and herbs that cover the earth. Genesis 1:12 uses the word desche, not siach. Siach is a sub-category, so we are talking about a particular category of plant. The desche is comprised of two categories: shrubs, which is a different Hebrew from the siach of Genesis 2:5. So Genesis 2:5 is talking about a sub-category and this “of the field” brings in the idea that it is seen at the end of the section. Cf. Genesis 3:18 where the ground is now cursed, “Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.” So the “of the field” is particularly related to agricultural products. The fact is that we get this misconception when we look at the garden. We think of it as a garden, and then there’s the translation later on in the verse where it says Adam is placed in the garden and it is translated “to tend and to keep it.” So we get this idea that Adam is created to be a gardener and that he is already working as a gardener. That is not what is going on in the text. The best analogy is that Eden is set up like a temple and Adam and Isha are placed in that temple as the priests who serve God. Their role is to serve God and to rule the creation. That is the function of their priesthood in this Edenic temple. These are words that are heavy with worship connotations.

When it says in v. 5, “before any plant of the field was in the earth,” this word siach has the idea of plants that grow in the desert or the steppe. Remember there is no desert in the perfect environment of Eden, so these plants weren’t in existence yet. That is what the author is saying. It is an ominous foreshadowing. He is telling his people that when God made the heavens and the earth there were all kinds of fruit trees providing all kinds of food for eating, Adam doesn’t go out and have to labor intensively in order to get food. He has responsibility and work that we will see but it is not laborious work and his sustenance is not dependent on him getting out and working the soil. There was no man tilling the soil until after the fall. So this is talking about the fact that this was before there was any curse in the land. In fact, what he is basically saying is, Remember, this was a time before the curse was on the earth or there was any judgment on mankind. Furthermore, when you look at the verse in the Hebrew it uses a word twice—the word kol, which means “all.” Literally it reads, “Before all the plants of the field were in the earth.” So he is not saying before any plants, but before all the plants. There were some categories of plants that weren’t in the earth yet—the thorns, the thistles, the cactus, etc. There is going to be a shift after the curse and there are going to be some new types of plants which spring forth from the original kinds that are less conducive to life. There is another play on words here, and that is the word “ground.” It is the Hebrew word adamah, and this is setting up a pun.

V. 6, “But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.” So here he uses the word adamah a second time. Then man is going to be formed from the dust of the ground in v. 7 – adamah, but the man is Adam. He is called Adam because that means “red”—he is colored like the ground, the earth. But v. 6 gives a hint for us of the hydrosphere of the earth at that time, that there was this mist that went up from the earth and there was no rain. There was a different kind of water cycle. Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research, has a Ph.D. in hydraulic engineering. He understands the impact of water and hydraulic systems. He says, “The original hydrologic cycle was thus drastically different from that of the present day. The present cycle, which began at the time of the great flood, involves global and continental air mass movements into annual and seasonal temperature changes. It is summarized quite scientifically in such Scripture passages as Ecclesiastes 1:6-7; Isaiah 55:10- 11; Job 28:24-26; 36:26-29; Psalm 135:6-7 and many others. This present cycle centers around the solar evaporation of ocean waters, transporting to the continents through the atmosphere, of circulation, condensation and precipitation in the form of rain and snow. This, of course, is transported back to the oceans via rivers.” Obviously in the perfect environment there was not that kind of wind, there was a light breeze, and there was no major temperature variations, so it was a completely different water cycle. He goes on to say, “In the original world, however, there was no rainfall on the earth. As originally created the earth’s daily water supply came primarily from local evaporation and condensation. There was also, as noted later in the passage, a system of spring-fed rivers.” Then when he gets down to where he talks about the rivers in vv. 10-14, he says, “The change of temperature between daytime and nighttime apparently was adequate to energize daily evaporation from each local body of water, and its condensation is dew and fog in the surrounding area each night. This arrangement was implemented on the second and third days of the creation week prior to the formation of the plants on the latter part of the third day.”

When he talks about the rivers, he says, “The source of this river [there was one river coming out of Eden, diverging into four] was said to be in Eden, though presumably somewhere outside the garden itself.” So that indicates that there is a location called Eden outside of the garden. “Since there was no rainfall the river would have to be supplied through a pressurized conduit from an underground reservoir of some kind emerging under pressure as a sort of artesian spring. The fluid pressure, however, could not have been simple hydrostatic pressure (not just gravity at work here) from a source area at a higher elevation, because this would also depend on rainfall… The pressure in the subterranean reservoir could have been established either when the waters were first entrapped below the land surface and compressed by the weight of overlying rocks—presumably on the third day of creation—or else by heating it from a deep-lying heat source. The latter is more likely since otherwise the pressure would gradually be dissipated as the waters escaped to the surface. If there was a continuing heat source, however, as well as a continuing supply of water to the subterranean pool then the artesian spring at the surface could be fed indefinitely.” All of this is suggesting that the information available to Moses is information that fits a scientific framework, as we understand things, but it is not anything that Moses would have had a frame of reference for. So how did Moses learn about this? It was either revealed to him by God or it was contained in these records that had been handed down from the time of Adam.     

Genesis 2:7, the focal point of this section. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” First we see that God forms the human body from the dust or the chemicals of the soil. The emphasis here is that the one who creates man is the same covenant God who creates Israel. It is Yahweh Elohim. Isaiah 43:1, “But now thus saith the LORD [Yahweh] that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed [Yatsar] thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” So Yahweh is a title that is uniquely related to the formation of Israel. Yatsar is a word that refers to the work of a potter. The imagery here is that of a potter who is bent over his clay, and he has a predetermined plan in mind as to exactly what he wants his product to look like. He is thoughtful, he is precise, he is deliberate, and there is a sense of artistry in what is going on here. That is the picture of God. This is not something that happens by chance. The omniscient creator God of the universe is bending over this and thinking: “I am going to send my Son who is going to reveal Himself to these creatures. Therefore this physical body that I am creating for Him has got to be a body that is going to be the best possible body that can be used to reveal who I am and what I am to creatures.” This will be the highest finite form of revelation of God possible. He is thinking not only of the fact that this is building the house in which He will incarnate the second Person of the Trinity but, furthermore, once this creature is regenerated in the Church Age the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is going to take this body and make a temple out of it. Tremendous significance is placed on the value of the human body itself. Not only that, but as we study the development of the soul, the soul never exists without a body. So even though we emphasize the soul as the real you, there is no time when the soul doesn’t have a body; it has to have a body through which to express itself. We know that there is an interim body through Luke 16—the story of Lazarus and the rich man.

At this point in v.7 there is a body and no soul. It is potential human life, it is intended human life, the formation of biological life from the dust of the earth, the Hebrew word aphar, meaning dust, earth, ground, ashes. It is used of clay in a number of passages: Job 4:19; 10:9; Isaiah 29:16; 45:9. There is a contrast here with evolution. Genesis 3:19, “ . . . till thou return unto the ground [adamah]; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” If the dust of the ground is metaphorical for the evolutionary process, then to be consistent you would have to go Genesis 3:18 and say that returning to dust is a devolution and going down and reversing the evolutionary process. The literal meaning here is made even more clear in Genesis 2:21, 22 when the human female is derived from the one original body. And this is clear from the New Testament. Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:6-9. The point is, if you start messing with Genesis 2 you undercut key doctrines in the New Testament and you undercut marriage and the whole foundation of marriage. We see how this has worked out ideologically in our western civilization. The more we have rejected the literal teaching of Genesis 2 the more the roles of men and women have been affected, so that now women have the idea that they are to be equal with men in all aspects. That is not what the Bible says. They are equal in essence as human beings, equal sharers in the image of God, but they have a different role. They have a different soul; they have a different purpose and function. But when you go in arguing for a certain issues that have become so natural to our 21st century culture, what you don’t realize is that those are arguments based on a rejection of the literal meaning of Genesis 2. This whole social shift has taken place because in the 19th century the intellectuals in western civilization rejected what the Bible said about who man was, who woman is, and who the human race is.