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By Hugh Ross, Ph.D

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Why is the creation story repeated, and why is the second version so different from the first? Does the Bible really claim that Adam named all the animals? Was Eve actually made from one of Adam's ribs? Who came first, Adam or the animals? Where was the Garden of Eden and what was it like? Could Adam and Eve have lived forever in the garden if they had not sinned?

These are but a few of the many questions evoked by Genesis 2. They differ substantially from the questions raised by Genesis 1. Why? Because the content has a different theme and a different frame of reference. The questions arising from Genesis 1 focus more on physical creation issues - the what, the where, the how, and the in-what-order of creation. Genesis 2 zeros in on the why of creation. So the questions arising from it tend to address theological and philosophical concerns, most of which I touch on in the paragraphs that follow.

Shift of Purpose
Although physical creation events receive brief mention in Genesis 2, this part of the creation story centers on our progenitors-who they were (thus, who we are) in relation to God and the rest of creation, including each other, and their responsibilities. While Genesis 1 includes a summary statement of humanity's assignments on Earth, Genesis 2 makes only passing reference to the physical creation events, and it does not purport to assign them a sequence or explain them. The cross-references serve a rhetorical function: they bring a sense of cohesiveness to the two passages.

In other words, Genesis 1 presents the major physical creation events in a time-ordered sequence but gives just an abridged list of humanity's responsibilities. In Genesis 2 God lays out humanity's major responsibilities in a step-by-step sequence but provides a mere abbreviated list of physical creation acts. Neither more nor less can be inferred from the differences between the two chapters.

Filling the Earth
In Genesis 1:28 God issued this clear, direct command to Adam and Eve:

    "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

God gave them authority and responsibility to manage all the biological resources of planet Earth. To carry out their assignment, they would need helpers and they would need to spread out. They and their progeny would have to search out the number and geographic distribution of the various species of life; determine the size, habitat, characteristics, and needs of each species; and discern the various ways each species enhances the well-being of other species, including humans. They also needed to determine the kinds and quantities of various resources required and discern how these resources could best be managed for the benefit of all life. No wonder God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. This job is big!

But is it too big? Though the numbers I'm about to give you may seem incredible, they can be checked on any pocket calculator (see pages 102 to 103). If Adam and Eve and their progeny had reproduced at the rate of just one child every four years during the "middle years" (equivalent to the childbearing portion of today's average life span) of their long lives, they could have produced as many as 17 billion offspring and still have had many years to enjoy their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, before their 900th anniversary. They did not, however, complete their assignment (for reasons to be discussed later).

Vegetarian Diet
In Genesis 1:29 we read that God gave Adam and Eve some dietary guidelines. They needed help identifying what was healthy for humans to eat at that time and what was not: "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."

Some readers interpret this statement merely as an indication that all food resources derive from plants. However, Genesis 9:3 suggests that it was, indeed, a specific instruction about what to eat:

    "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything [both plants and animals]."

Vegetarianism perfectly suits the potential longevity of the first humans. Animal tissue contains between ten and ten thousand times the concentration of heavy elements that plant material contains. This difference sounds drastic, but it poses an insignificant health risk for people living only 120 years or less (the limit God imposed at the time of the Flood). However, the difference is by no means trivial for people living nearly a thousand years.

God also set diet guidelines for birds and mammals (Genesis 1:30): "And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food."

He did not alter these guidelines when He widened human dietary limits (Genesis 9:2-3), so it seems fair to assume that these represent clues for the sake of management rather than restrictions.

The distinction between God's gift to people, "every seed-bearing plant . . . and every tree that has fruit with seed in it," and His gift to animals, "every green plant," may be significant. Both animals and humans ingest some non-green plants-mushrooms, for example-but green plants are the foundation of the food chain. Perhaps to assist Adam and Eve in their management of the planet's resources, God helped them understand that all of the life entrusted to their care depends ultimately on green plants for survival.

Setting the Garden Scene
Whereas the physical creation account of Genesis 1 encompasses the whole planet, the opening portion of Genesis 2 sets the scene for God's preparation of a special home for Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden. He contrasted the past situation of Earth with the richness and beauty He held in store in this one garden. The words are arranged for sensory impact, not for time sequence. The text simply reminds us of a time and place devoid of "shrubs," "plants," "rain," and "man" (Genesis 2:5). The text does not imply that shrubs predate plants or that plants predate rain.

The description "streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground" (Genesis 2:6) probably refers to the environs of Eden. The contrast between "rain" (verse 5) and "streams" (verse 6) must not be overinterpreted as an indication that rain never fell upon Earth or the environs of Eden until the Flood. The Hebrew word used for rain is matar, and it refers to any kind of liquid precipitation.1 The Hebrew word for "streams" is 'ed. It can mean "mist," "vapor," or "flood," as well as "stream."2 Mist, of course, would be encompassed by the word matar, and the two words, matar and 'ed, could be synonymous here.

With certainty we can deduce from Genesis 2 that Earth at one time had no water cycle (before the second creation day) and that the region of Eden, just prior to God's preparation of the garden, was watered by streams and perhaps mist. If Eden were situated somewhere on the mid- to southern Mesopotamian plain, this description would fit the meteorological conditions we currently see.

The continuity of clouds and rain from Genesis 1 through Genesis 10 (and beyond) receives confirmation in Job 36:27-30, 37:13, 38:25-30, Psalm 104:3-6, Psalm 148:4-8, and Proverbs 8:28. These poetic reflections on the Genesis 1 creation events clarify that the "water above" (on the second creation day) was clouds and rain.

Jumping ahead for a moment to the Flood account, we can draw some inferences about rainfall, based on the Psalms and on Genesis 2:5-6. The Bible makes no claim that the rainbow God showed Noah in Genesis 9 and the rain that caused it had never before been seen on Earth. The text does say that the rainbow was established by God as a sign, or symbol, of His promise that He would never again destroy by flood all humanity and all the soulish animals associated with humanity. (See chapters eighteen and nineteen for further discussion of the Flood account.)

God has made several covenants (binding commitments) with the human race, seven to be exact. As a seal or symbolic reminder of each of these seven covenants, God chose something familiar, something previously existing. Bread, wine, and water, for instance, serve as symbols of communion and baptism. Thus, the rainbow fits this pattern of something old and familiar adopted as a sign of something new.

Geologists have evidence that rain began falling on Earth long before the human era. Certain kinds of sedimentary deposits preserve the splash patterns of ancient raindrops, large and small, just as clearly as other sedimentary deposits show us the pattern of ancient waves lapping ocean beaches and lake shores. Thus, the Bible and the geological record agree that raindrops of all sizes have been falling from the sky throughout human history and for millions of years before.

Animals Came When?
Misinterpretation of Genesis 2:19 has raised many questions and doubts among skeptics and others, though the problem, once again, comes from failure to consider the context: Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

Some scholars, perhaps influenced directly or indirectly by the "higher critics" (see chapter ten), read into this passage that man's creation predated the creation of the animals, and the creation of the animals predated the creation of woman. Because Genesis 1 clearly claims that God created humans, male and female, after He created the mammals and birds, such a reading of Genesis 2 puts it in direct contradiction to Genesis 1, and a serious problem thus has been manufactured by faulty scholarship.

This supposed internal contradiction is routinely "exposed" in Western European schools and universities. Is it any wonder that the Bible holds so little attention and credibility among these Europeans?

The resolution of the supposed "problem" is simple. In chapter five I explained that verb tenses as English speakers know them do not exist in biblical Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew employs three verb forms. They express completed action, action not yet completed, and commands. The verb in Genesis 2:19 appears in the first form and simply indicates that the creation of the beasts and the birds occurred sometime in the past. The text says nothing about when such creatures were created relative to the creation of the first man. They could have been made either before or after the man, from a grammatical perspective.

Sequencing of physical events is not the purpose of Genesis 2. That purpose has already been achieved in Genesis 1, and the writer clearly has laid such issues to rest. The focus has shifted to other matters.

Naming of the Animals
To those who wonder how Adam could possibly name several million animal species and still have time left to get acquainted with Eve and raise children with her, some help comes from a review of Genesis 1:24-25 and the Hebrew word nephesh. Notice the similarity between the list of Day Six animals and the list of animals (with the addition, of course, of the birds from Day Five) in Genesis 2:20, the verse in question:

So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.

The Hebrew words employed here for the creatures include behema, 'op, and hayya, words for long-legged land mammals and birds.3-4

Animal population specialists have tallied 9,500 bird species and 4,500 mammal species to date. [5] They anticipate that several hundred more species will be discovered in future field studies, especially bird species. Fossils of recently extinct species reveal that birds and mammals have suffered very high extinction rates at the hand of humans. Ecologists estimate that double the current number of bird and mammal species existed at the advent of the human race.6 Assuming that ground-hugging mammals and sea mammals account for about one-third of all mammal species, about 20,000 bird species and about 6,000 long-legged land mammal species inhabited Earth when Adam arrived. Bird and mammal species' ranges of travel, according to fossil finds, were much larger at the advent of humanity than now. So we can reasonably conclude that as many as 4,500 bird and mammal species inhabited the environs of Eden.

If Adam were to examine a member (or members) of each species (the Hebrew word for "kind" used in Genesis 1:11,12,21, 24,25 could have a broader definition than our English word "species") for thirty to sixty minutes to ascertain its characteristics before assigning an appropriate name, he would need about a year to complete his task (given a forty-hour work week). A year may seem long to us, but to Adam it represented a tiny fraction of his life expectancy. He had insufficient time to age before meeting Eve but sufficient time to gain appreciation for his need for a partner.

Some interpreters suggest that before he fell into sin Adam manifested extremely high mental capacities and thus could examine and name animals at hyperspeed. [7-10] However, we find no hint of this possibility in the text. Furthermore, enhanced mental capabilities would seem to offer little speed advantage in the examining and naming of animals. [11]

Eve from Adam's Rib?
A popular mistranslation of Genesis 2:20-21 has led to a centuries-old, still-popular myth-that God made Eve from one of Adam's ribs. A careful rendering of the Hebrew text reveals a different scenario: First, God put Adam into a deep sleep, like the sleep induced by anesthesia. While Adam slept, God removed a portion, something like a biopsy, from Adam's side and used that tissue in constructing Eve.

The text does not say that God made Eve totally and only from the tissue God took from Adam. It does suggest that the portion taken from Adam served a significant and substantial role in God's creation of Eve.

Current understanding of genetics makes us aware of what a shortcut this biopsy from Adam would represent. That biopsy would include a complete blueprint of all of Adam's cells, biochemical machinery, and morphology. With just a few million modifications here and there, the blueprint for Eve would be complete.

The New Testament sheds some light on why God may have chosen to construct Eve from Adam's tissue sample: In the Lord . . . woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. [12]

God created men and women as interdependent beings. In His divine foreknowledge of how men and women would later struggle over the superiority issue, God chose a means for creating the human race, male and female, that would make clear to all cultures and all generations their equal but distinct interdependence.

Adam's "Helper"
Many women and men take offense at Eve's designation as a "helper" for Adam. Again, the English word choice, with its "underling" modern connotation, creates the problem. 'Ezer is the Hebrew word for "helper" in Genesis 2:18, 20. The Hebrews used this word with reference to a military ally (see, for example, 2 Chronicles 28:16 and Psalm 121:1-2), an ally that is essential for victory. [13] As Genesis 1 reveals, God's job assignment for humanity exceeds the limits of an individual, and as Genesis 3 reveals, humanity must face a daunting foe, a literal "enemy force," both within and without. By himself Adam lacked the resources to deal with the challenges and the enemy. He needed an ally, the right kind of ally.

For Details about the Hebrew word Translated 'help-mate' See Section Help Meet or Helpmate? On this page.. Feminism and The Bible

In war, allies are different from one another, offering different assets necessary for victory. But regardless of what they have to contribute, they are necessary and equally valuable partners.

Together, Adam and Eve, men and women, can conquer. Divided and embattled, they fail.

Adam's Introduction to the Creation
Genesis 1 introduces us to all three "layers" of God's amazing, brand-new creative work, each set apart by the use of the verb bara: the physical creation, the soulish creation, and the spiritual creation. In Genesis 2 we read an account of God's introducing Adam in this same order to these three creation layers.

Adam first met the plants and soil of the special garden God prepared for him and his future mate. In tending to them, Adam must have begun to learn what he would need to know to manage the physical resources of Earth. At the same time he experienced the enjoyment that comes from working a magnificent garden. As enjoyable as the gardening may have been for him, however, God had something more wonderful in store.

God next brought to Adam all the birds and mammals of Eden, and Adam discovered the splendors of God's soulish creation. In naming these creatures Adam experienced a quality of relationship he had not known with the plants. Unlike the plants, these creatures could communicate with him, and with each other, and their intriguing behavior reflected their capacities for reasoning, choosing, and feeling. These creatures as yet had no fear of humans (Genesis 9:2), so, as much as we enjoy animals today, whether viewing them in the wild or caring for them as pets, Adam would have enjoyed these creatures even more. At the same time, Adam began to learn about the needs of the various animals and to realize the awesome responsibility, as well as the privilege and joy, of providing and caring for them. But as wonderful as this new level of relationship must have been, God had something still more wonderful in store.

Finally, God introduced Adam to Eve, a fellow spirit creature. Adam's exclamation upon seeing Eve for the first time makes clear that he was delighted. At long last, a creature he could enjoy at all levels, a creature that would help him explore, as he helped her, and she helped him, the height and depth and breadth of human capacities-body, soul, and spirit!

This step-by-step introduction communicates as effectively to us as it did to Adam and Eve God's desire that humanity appreciate and enjoy everything He created, from the stars in the sky to the starfish in the sea, from the moon in the heavens to the dirt beneath our feet, from the most timid animal to the fellow-creature who looks and acts and thinks and feels as we do. I believe He wanted Adam and Eve to understand the full extent of their responsibility and authority and capacity for enjoyment. After all, they had the capability, under God's guidance, to extend the conditions of Eden over much of the land area of Earth.

Eden's Location
The Genesis text tells us that God prepared and planted this garden "in the east." [14] Given that Moses, the likely writer of this account, considered Canaan (Israel today), or possibly Sinai, as the center of his compass, we can reasonably conclude that Eden must have been located somewhere east of Canaan or Sinai.

The text also tells us that Eden was watered by a river that flowed through it [15] and then divided. The river's four head streams are identified: the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. [16]

The Tigris and Euphrates have been identified throughout human history as the two primary rivers flowing through Mesopotamia. These rivers and others in the large, flat valley area frequently changed course and split into smaller streams. Satellite photographs identify many dry riverbeds throughout Mesopotamia where water at one time flowed. These or others long lost from view could be the beds of the Pishon and the Gihon.

At two locations, one just north of the ruins of ancient Babylon and another in the Armenian highlands (the mountains of Ararat mentioned in chapter eighteen), the Tigris and Euphrates currently come close to each other. Modern geography, thus, suggests the possibility that the Garden of Eden was located in the south-central portion of the Mesopotamian plain or in the foothills just to the north of it.

Adam and Eve in Paradise
The garden's name, Eden, means "delight," and what a delightful place it must have been! What Adam and Eve experienced and possessed in the Garden of Eden-a garden designed and planted by God Himself-defines the word paradise, the word consistently chosen for Eden by the Jewish scholars who first translated the Old Testament into Greek. Its fruit trees both "pleased the eye" and yielded "good food." Its perfect watering system made it verdant and gorgeous. (How many gardeners among us struggle to get the watering just right?)

Eden offered more than a perfect haven for plants and animals. It contained other riches as well: "gold, aromatic resin, and onyx," treasures of great value to ancient civilizations. This list of items gives us only a sampling of the garden's riches, not a complete inventory. It serves primarily to suggest that everything prized by humankind could be found in abundance in Eden.

In Eden our first parents had access to "the tree of life." The fruit and leaves of this tree guaranteed them perfect health and well-being. [17] (Note: The text does not tell us explicitly to what degree Adam and Eve, before sinning, experienced the effects of aging, illness, or injury.)

Adam and Eve were free to enjoy all the riches of God's creation to the fullest in Eden. They enjoyed perfect peace and harmony with the animals, which approached them without fear or hesitation. Imagine being able to play with one of the great cats or ride on the back of a rhinoceros!

Better yet, the man and woman enjoyed perfect peace and harmony and fearlessness with each other, continuously, at all levels-physical, mental, emotional, volitional, and spiritual. Even better still, they enjoyed peace and harmony and fellowship with God. He was with them, available to them, loving them perfectly and completely, and they knew it. If they needed guidance or direction or answers to questions of any kind, they could ask and receive.

The second chapter of Genesis ends with the profound statement that Eden was free from shame. Because of shame, none of us today really knows what perfect peace and harmony feels like, looks like, or sounds like. When we submit our lives to Jesus Christ's authority and receive His pardon for all our sins, we begin to experience the kind of love, acceptance, and inward transformation that helps erase our shame. But we live in a sinful world. We have experienced the effects of evil-our own and others'-and we still struggle (and fail) to resist temptation. Our thoughts and motives are tainted. In Eden, before sin, Adam and Eve did not face this struggle, nor did they ever feel embarrassed or bad.

As idyllic as Eden must have been, God understood its limits and had something better in His plans. Eden's delights were limited to what is possible within the matter, energy, and space-time dimensions of the universe and within the laws of physics governing it. More important, Adam and Eve's respect for God's authority and wisdom remained untested. The potential for self-exaltation and for usurpation lurked beneath the surface. God prepared a test, the seemingly tragic results of which would eventually expel humanity from earthly paradise. God, however, by stepping back into human history, redeems and prepares people who so choose to receive an indescribably superior paradise: the new creation. See What and Where is Heaven?

Questions Skeptics Ask