The Big Idea Part Two

This is a three part series covering the first three chapters of Genesis. These posts are not intended to be full commentary on each chapter. Rather, I will pick out a few key points, while trying to discover the major theme of the chapters as a whole. If you have never read those six chapters together I encourage you to block out some time in order to do that at some point. When read in one sitting they give a sweeping picture of the big ideas in the bible. All the other stuff in between these six chapters are the details, how the story plays out in individual lives and specific moments in time. I am borrowing the title from a series preached by Kelvin Page at Westmore Church of God in 2011. Although the contents of his series was different, the title is his idea. At the end of this post you can read Genesis 2 (NIV) in its entirety.

When we come to chapter two we hear the rest of the creation story. We are told that “…the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array” (v. 1). And then we are given a curious bit of information. On the seventh day God rested from all of his work. He enjoyed that rest so much that he blessed the seventh day and made it holy. What is this divine rest? And why is it holy? The answers will have to wait, for the writer quickly moves on to another fascinating development.

In verse four we suddenly encounter our first flashback. Really? A flashback already? It seems a little strange. After all, we are only about six hundred words into the story of all creation. However, given that such an immense event just got covered with a mere six hundred words a flashback should not be all that surprising. So, the rest of the chapter offers a more detailed account of 1:26-27, when God made man and woman “in our image.”

It is not immediately clear why we are given this flashback. We are given some details about the landscape. We learn that God formed a special garden for the man to live in. We are told that God put a certain tree in the center of the garden called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that the man was instructed not to eat of its fruit. We read that there were four rivers in the garden, and that one of them was full of gold. We find out that God intended the man to work and take care of the garden. We hear God declare that it is not good for man to be alone, and that he will make him a suitable helper. And it is at that point that we confirm what we have begun to wonder, the woman has not yet been created.

It turns out that there was a gap between the creation of the man and the woman, a detail that we would not have known from chapter one. It is a puzzling development, one that has led to countless interpretations. Was the woman an afterthought? Was she somehow second to man? Was she created only to be man’s little helper? The questions leave us hungry for answers, and so we press forward to see what we can find out. But in more deviating fashion the writer begins to tell us about a job that God had for the man before he created that suitable helper. God begins bringing animals to the man, and whatever the man calls each creature becomes their name.

It is astonishing in one sense, a role-reversal of sorts. God bringing these things to the man and asking him their name, not unlike a child might bring a string of household items before a parent, “What is this called, Daddy?” We do not know how long the process took. Only that the man named all of the livestock, all of the birds of the air, and all of the wild beasts. What is the purpose of this? It is perplexing, to say the least. But then we come to these words: But for Adam no suitable helper was found (v. 20).

Ahh. God is making some sort of point. It is not good that man be alone, but the companionship that he needs cannot be found in any of creation. It can only be found in the suitable helper. One that bears the likeness of the man and the image of God. With that understood God puts Adam into a deep sleep and takes part of his side in order to make the woman. From his side she is made, but to his face she is presented. And just like God brought all of the animals to Adam he brings the woman to him. But this is different, and for the first time we sense awe in the story that is not directed toward God. For the man responded with one of the most beautiful poems in all of human history:

“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

The gap between the man and the woman was not an indication of primary and secondary creations within humanity, the jewel of all creation. Rather, it was God’s emphatic point on the exceptional beauty of the human creation, and the inherent need they have one for another. In so doing God ordained the union of man and woman. And with that the author leaves us with a taste of paradise: Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

By Johathan Stone of