The second chapter of Genesis expands upon the story of the creation of man, which is introduced in the first chapter. This second chapter takes place in a slightly different order than God’s acts in the first chapter – the two chapters are attributed to different authors.
Like Chapter 1, Chapter 2 is also filled with vivid imagery: man being formed of dust, woman being formed of man’s rib while he sleeps, a description of the four rivers emerging from the Garden of Eden. All beautiful and worthy of perusing slowly.
In this chapter, though, we have two characters – God and Adam. Little is said about Adam, other than that he is lonely, but God appears in this chapter to be sympathetic and compassionate to his lonely creation, even to the point of making it clear that God put Adam to sleep before taking out his rib to make “Woman” (who remains unnamed in the second chapter).
There’s an ominous last line: And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:25 ESV). The assumption here is that the reader believes that being naked is something to be ashamed of. It also sets up Adam and his wife for a rather nasty discovery. But for now, Adam and his wife seem innocent and child-like.
Chapter 3 of Genesis describes the Fall of Adam and his wife (who remains unnamed until after the Fall). A clever serpent tempts Adam’s wife into eating of the forbidden Tree of Life by telling her that she will “be like God” and know good from evil if she eats. She eats, and shares a piece with her husband who was with her. When God finds out, Adam, like a whiny child, blames it on his wife, and his wife, also whiny, blames it on the serpent. Indeed, it is the fault of both Adam and his wife that they ate of the Tree of Knowledge. They both could have said no.
God punishes Adam’s wife by giving her pain in childbirth and saying that her desire shall be contrary to Adam’s, and that he will rule over her. He punishes Adam by making him toil the land for food and foretelling his eventual death. And he punishes the serpent by making him crawl upon the ground and foretelling how he shall be the enemy of woman and her children. After all this, Adam names his wife Eve because she shall be the mother of all peoples. Perhaps he doesn’t name her before because she was not to be a mother until after the Fall?
Here’s where the action begins in the Bible. There are four main characters: God, Adam, Eve, and the serpent. They are following a temptation/punishment motif. God here appears to be a just judge, and Adam and Eve are whiny children from whom the truth is to be wheedled. It is also an how-it-came-to-be story which explains why there is strife and labor.
One thing that struck me while I read this chapter is when “The LORD God said ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.'” (Genesis 3:22 ESV). Who is he talking to? And who are “us?” There’s no mention before this of other gods or other creatures like God. Was this written at a time when the worshiping of other gods was so accepted that it was assumed others existed? Kugel, in his book How to Read the Bible, suggests that this is so. That Hebrews were supposed to worship the LORD God alone, but that they accepted that other gods existed.
Another striking issue is that God walks among Adam and Eve like a creature rather than as a spirit. Was God supposed to be incarnate like His animals and people?