Last week we began our look at the pre-history in Genesis with Chapter 1 – the 1st creation account. The focus of this beautiful poem is on God, who is the creator of the universe; God, who speaks and the world comes into being. Not only that, but we also see that this amazing God, who is the creator of all, is still involved with the creation. God has not moved on to other things, watching impassively from afar. Rather, God loves the creation so much that God continues to interact with it, to be present with it and to continue to actively create. God, creator is not a remote God who watches from a distance but rather a God who takes so much delight in the creation that He remains intimately involved with every aspect of creation.
This week we focus on the 2nd creation story. These two stories of creation complement each other, like looking at a crystal from two different directions. Whereas the opening poem in chapter 1 focused on God’s creation of the universe, creation #2 focuses on the creation and gift of and responsibility which is given to the human; whereas in creation #1 God creates with the Word – God speaks and it IS – in creation #2 God gets down and dirty fashioning the human from the earth, working and creating much in the same way a potter would work. This is an amazing proclamation: God, the creator of the universe creating humans with His hands; God, seeing that the human needs a special environment in which to live, physically plants a garden. And finally recognizing that humanity is incomplete with the male only, creates woman and together they are complete, they are humanity.
In the history of Christianity this passage has often been taken out of context and misinterpreted to enforce a hierarchy which places women in a subordinate role to men. This is not what this text is saying. Adam, the man, is incomplete alone. None of the animals or birds or fish fit the bill. They are totally “other.” When God creates woman, Adam immediately recognizes that Eve is a part of him and that humanity is now complete. Man and Woman together reflect the image of God.
We are often tempted to focus on the prohibition which God gives to the humans in regard to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But lets look again at the text: God gives permission to utilize everything else. "The garden is given for your use," God tells them. But there is one tree you are to avoid because the consequence of eating its fruit will be death. But everything else is FOR YOU. There is a broad permission given, an amazing gift to humanity; there is a specific prohibition and finally God gives the humans a vocation: “you are to be co-creators, you are to take responsibility, you are to care for this gift.”
We are created in the image of God. This amazing gift: creation, our world, our community, our relationships with the creation and with each other bring with them permission, prohibition and vocation. We are to utilize this gift to sustain life and community; but we are not to abuse it. We must care for this gift for if we abuse it there will be consequences and life as we know it is risked. Just as God remains involved as creator, constantly creating, we too must understand that we have a vocation to be co-creators with God – to care for, protect and cherish this gift. In this way we reflect the image of God.
Bibliography - "Genesis - Translation and Commentary" by Robert Alter. This is a wonderful translation. This is the translation I am using at Peace.
Also see Walter Bruggemann's Interpretation commentary on Genesis; Bill Moyer's conversations about Genesis and Gary Rendsburg's lectures on Genesis (available through "The Teaching Company")