Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Genesis 2:4b-25

This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary Year 2 (Most recently: Sept 13, 2015) 
Summary:  This passage shows God, humanity and the earth in beautiful concert.  A true paradise.  There are so many ways to go with this passage, especially ways that fit in with various political agendas.  I think the big point is less public policy (or even church polity policy) and the intentions of God for the world:  God, humanity and earth in concert, working together in joy.

Quick note:  I've read so many commentaries and heard so many lectures and sermons on Genesis 2 that I can hardly claim any of the following as exclusively mine. In some ways I am not offering a detailed commentary because I suspect that many of you have also heard bits and pieces.  Hopefully my comments jog some memories or spur some more questions on your part.

עבד ("avad", meaning "serve/be slave/worship", 2:5)  The translation of this verb as "work" as in "no one to work the land" is really mild. The word עבד also means to slave or worship.  The original purpose of humanity was much closer to the earth than the sky...

אדמה ("adamah", meaning "soil/ground", 2:7)  The word for "man" in Hebrew is אדמ or "Adam" which comes from/is related to אדמה "adamah" the word for ground.  (Kind of like "human" comes from "humus", no not the chip dip, but part of the soil that is rich in nutrients).  This creation story reminds us of our connection to the earth.

נפש ("nephish" meaning "soul or living being", 2:7) The word for soul in Hebrew does not mean an the ethereal part of us that becomes a ghost when we die.  The word for soul in Hebrew is linguistically related to the verb for breath; but more to the point, the human is not a living thing until it has breath.  Interestingly, the verb for "in-breath" has God as its subject twice.  First here and then in John's Gospel when Jesus, after the resurrection ενεφυσησεν into the disciples. 

יצר ("yatzir" meaning "form" as in "form pottery" or "form a plan", 2:7/2:8)  I really love that this image here is for pottery.  God makes us like a potter makes a clay vessel.  This metaphor is picked up in Jeremiah 18:6 and also  Isaiah 43:1:
"But now thus says the LORD, he who created ברא you, O Jacob, he who formed יצר you  O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine."
This verse in Isaiah is fascinating because it ties together the words for creation from the first and second creation stories.  Also it is really cool because it shows that ultimately what matters is not Adam's act of naming the animals, but God's act of naming us as children.

כוש (Cush, 2:13)  The point of the Hebrew usage of Cush is to say "the furthest south you've ever heard of"; ie,. the garden of Eden essentially covers all of the known civilized world.

לא-טוב ("lo-tov" meaning "no good", 2:18)  The first bad thing in the bible is not human rebellion but human loneliness.  Genesis 1 keeps saying things are declared good by God.  Now we have a hiccup!  Important point:  The human is created to be in relationship with the earth and with each other.

עזר כנגדו ("ezer - canagado", meaning "helper to him", 2.18. 2:20)  What is the purpose of a spouse; it is to be a helper.  But this is a tricky phrase to translate, because it is not one word or term, but really three of four.  Basically it is the word "help" (somewhat straight forward) with a slapped together term of pronouns and prepositions: "like/as - in front of / opposite - him"  This particular construction of words does not appear again.  So what can we make of this?  Spouses are meant to help each other.  I would argue they should be equal but also at some level opposite.  (yin-yang?)  But my sense is that we will always put more into this term than we will get out of it.

קרא ("qarah" meaning "name or call", 2:19)  Adam names the animals. Some want to claim this is co-creator power.  Others simply want to say God let Adam name the animals.  I'll stay out of this debate for now.

And for fun:  Genesis 2:4b starts with the phrase, in the Greek:
βιβλος γενεσεως
(an account/book of the creation)
Matthew 1 will also start with this.  John 1 is a play on Genesis 1; Matthew 2 is a play on Genesis 2 one could argue.

I've often used Genesis 2 as a marriage sermon text/pre-marriage counseling Bible study:
The purposes of marriage:  mutual helping, awe-filled companionship and new family streams
The promise of marriage:  husband and wife become one flesh
The cross of marriage:  husband and wife become one flesh know each intimately (are naked on all levels) yet still are not ashamed of the other person.  This last point leads powerfully into the reality of the cross in marriage, the reality that our sinfulness comes before us in marriage and our need for Christ and his forgiveness.

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