Studies in Genesis I-XI: Man in God’s Great World; As a Help Meet for Man

Man in God’s Great World (7)

Scripture: Genesis 2:4–17

A battleground – Throughout this century we have witnessed various kinds of warfare.

All of us know something of the fearfulness of guerilla tactics by little groups holding large armies at hay. We also remember with horror the “blitzkrieg” by which Hitler pulverized cities to terrorize his foes only to experience a few years later similar retribution on his homeland.

No form of warfare, however, seemed quite so fearful and futile as that of trench-battles in the early days of World War I. While men lived in boredom and fear, suffering from cold and mud and disease, they often had to fight without so much as a glimpse of the opposition. At any moment a bomb might explode to blow them to bits or maim them for life. Every foot of land was persistently and painfully contested. Not until one of the armies gained the offensive was the stalemate broken.

Something like that has been happening in the discussions surrounding Genesis 2.

Few passages of Scripture have been so hotly contested in depth and detail as this. Every word, every phrase has been challenged repeatedly. And too often no progress could be registered, because little attention was directed to the over-all objective with which it was included by God himself in this record.

Our concern will not be with the details, even though none are insignificant. Those who accept the reliability and authority of the Bible realize that pausing too long at one or another verse blinds our hearts to the issues to which God directs us—man’s redemption by the God of all grace. All that the writer seems interested in doing is providing the necessary background for understanding both man’s tragic fall into sin and the grace of God revealed for his salvation. Hence this abbreviated outline will leave untouched and unanswered the details which have been attacked by some and stoutly defended by others. Discussion of these can be carried on in your study group, possibly with some help from the Notes which mention books which may be consulted in this connection.

The setting for man – All of us realize increasingly what a wonderful and yet far-from-perfect world has been given to us by God. This passage helps us to understand our world and man’s place in it.

That we find here a “new” section in Genesis should be apparent to even the casual reader. These, so the passage begins, are the generations of the heavens and the earth . . .

The section runs from 2:4 through 4:26. Thus it contains in brief compass some of the most basic “ingredients” for a true understanding of man upon the face of earth. Here we read about man’s creation, about the assignment which he received from God, about the place provided for him, about the test to which the Creator put him, as well as about the temptation, the fall, the judgment, and the subsequent consequences of his sin for himself and for his descendants.

The caption, entitled toledoth (“generations”) belongs here; not as the heading for Genesis 1:1ff. Its aim is to record the life of man under God as Creator, Covenant-friend and Sovereign in the earliest days of his appearance on earth.

Many urge that this is “a second account of creation,” one composed by a different author or redactor drawing upon other oral traditions and writings than the author of the first chapter. Lenski mentions and carefully refutes the main reasons why critics would find a different and even contradictory account here than in the first chapter. In summary, these are the arguments of the critics:

1 – Different names for God are used here; in Chapter 1 consistently the name Elohim, while here we often (not exclusively) find Yahweh (Jehovah).

2 – Different words are used to describe what is also mentioned in the first chapter.

3 – Different points of view are presented, this chapter being full of “anthropomorphic” representations of God while the first chapter puts God at a distance from man.

4 – Different sequence of events in God’s creative activity is presented, with the result—so the critics argue—that the two accounts cannot be harmonized.

5 – Different backgrounds must be assigned to the two authors or redactors. The man who wrote Chapter 1 must have lived in a “well-watered country,” while the writer(s) of Chapter 2 came from a “dry and desert-like land.”

Does the phrase: in the day in which Jehovah God made earth and heaven belong with the first part of verse 4 or should we attach it as explanatory of verse 5? Aalders has some cogent arguments for the second view, while most commentators hold to the view basic to our present translations.

What we have here is a compressed rehearsal of the mighty works of our God. Yet this is no mere repetition. The writer (Moses) simply wants to mention those aspects of God’s creative activity which sustain an intimate connection with the life of man himself. Man receives his place, his “home” on earth from God. All that he needs is richly bestowed on him. Thus no mention of the heavenly bodies but rather of the plants and herbs. Although fashioned in God’s image and therefore the crown of God’s creation, man is dependent. He is not self-sustaining, because he is not—like God—self-existent.

Some brief indication of conditions prevailing on earth at that time is provided in verse 5b. No rain fell on the ground from above; instead a mist ( not “fountain” as in the Septuagint, or “flood” as in some translations given by the critics) went up. Aalders reserves this, apparently, only for the very earliest days of this earth’s history. Other conservative commentators urge that this mist was the way in which God supplied moisture for man and beast until the days of the flood. Remembering that Moses wrote the account many centuries after the Rood, both interpretations can find some support here and elsewhere in Scripture. For those who take the Noachian flood as the “cataclysmic” event which the Bible patently describes, the second view seems to have much to commend it. It may help to explain the longevity of man in those early generations as well as the large size of many animals whose remains have been discovered. We all do well to remember that Scripture seems to stress emphatically that conditions before the Rood differed very much from those which prevail in our day.

The creation of man – Now Moses mentions again man’s creation. Here the Creator is called Jehovah God, the name consistently used throughout the Bible to stress His covenantal relationship to man. He is the self-existent One who not only calls man into existence but seeks fellowship with him. God is no absentee-landlord; much less the “expendable” God who after creation withdraws to the outskirts of man’s life and understanding.

God formed man. Although used at times for what a potter does with clay, the term is also used in a broader and more general sense (lsa. 43:1; 44:2; 45:7, 18; etc.). We should guard, therefore, against thinking of God as making a kind of clay doll. The material used was must of the ground, not necessarily a lump of clay or sand but the same substances of which earth consists (Gen. 3: 14; Josh. 7:6; Job 2: 12; Ps. 22:16; Ezek. 27:30; Dan. 12:2; etc.). What the author stresses is the strong relationship to and affinity of man with his environment. He is no “stranger” on this planet in which he is to spend his years and over which he is to exercise dominion. All neglect and despoiling of the world is an affront to the goodness of God who made this man’s suitable abode.

Immediately there is added: and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Does it sound too childish, too puerile? How else do you suppose God could make known such a stupendous miracle in a manner suitable to our understanding? Of course this is “anthropomorphic” language. All our talk about God, also when grounded in Scripture itself, remains such. But that does not detract at all from its reliability. To reduce it to saga or myth or legend, robbing it of all reality as the mighty, direct, immediate, life-giving act of the personal God, is to empty the Biblical record of intelligible meaning. And without this there can be no comfort and hope.

Thus man became a living soul. On the one hand our relationship to the physical world is stressed; on the other a radical distinction between us and the animals as well as other creatures. Indeed, the Bible speaks of the “souls” of the beasts. But this was bestowed in a manner radically different than our first father experienced.

The provisions for man – Man has a place in the big world. It is God’s intent to fill the earth with creatures fashioned in His image. But so long as the human family is so small, God allocates a definite residence.

This is a garden eastward, in Eden. It is a sheltered, enclosed spot wherein man may first live and discharge his responsibility to God and the world. The idea found in the word Paradise suggests a kind of royal park, a conception which the translators borrowed from the Persian. Why this is introduced here is clear to the believing reader. It is necessary background for understanding Genesis 3. God takes great pains to stress the factualness, the “historicalness” of what took place so very long ago and which has had such serious consequences throughout the centuries. By speaking of a garden now Moses does not suggest that the rest of the earth lay fallow or was an impenetrable jungle. It is the locale where man is to live in personal communion with God as creature of time and space.

This garden lay eastward, that is, east of where the writer was. It is in a territory called Eden, that is, pleasant, delightsome. Here God puts man. Whether by an act of divine omnipotence or by a direct command is not revealed.

How rich God’s provisions were is mentioned in some detail. We read of every tree to delight the eye of man and serve him with food. Nothing is lacking here.

Two trees, however, arc singled out for special attention. These were unique, there being apparently only one of each kind. The one was the tree of life mentioned again in 3:22, 24 and in the book of Revelation. The other which figures so much in connection with the fall is the tree of the knowledge (“knowing”) of good and evil. The church has always repudiated the notion that these trees possessed some inherent magical qualities, the one able to bestow life in perpetuity and the other able to provide the ability to make moral judgments. Rather, God by means of these trees addresses man as physical-spiritual being, so that in a manner appropriate to his nature man may perceive through visible means what rich blessings are his in the way of obedience and what test he must pass. It comes as no surprise, there· fore. that the church has made comparisons between these trees and the sacraments which the God of salvation has instituted as a means of addressing His people clearly and vividly.

Many words have been spilled about the geographical location of the garden. Just where was the river? At what place was it parted, and that into four heads? Is there any possibility of identifying the rivers mentioned here by name? Hiddekel, all agree, must be the Tigris which we know. No question surrounds the Euphrates. But what about the other two? Some, many in fact in bygone years, have made of the Pishon and the Gihon the Ganges in India and the Nile in northeastern Africa. Others speak of two smaller streams flowing north and eastward from the Armenian highlands, one into the Black and the other into the Caspian Sea. Calvin even mentions those who “fly across the world” to make of one of them the Danube. Most commentators agree that the garden likely was located somewhere in the Babylonian lowlands.

We may as well admit that we simply don’t know the precise location. Possibly even Moses could not accurately point out the place. since the (low of the rivers may well have been radically altered at the time of the flood. Why, then, any mention of all the countries and their products? It seems almost self-evident that the Biblical author, and therefore God Himself first of all, wanted us to know that this was a definite place. To make it a “mythological” representation of what Moses and the early Hebrews thought of as “heaven” or some heavenly kind of place—as done by Gunkel, Jeremias, and other critics in the past—is too puerile to deserve an answer.

The calling of man – The garden was not intended to be a place where man could spend his days in dreamy indolence. God has called him to duty.

Thus Adam receives a mandate from God. He is to dress and to keep the garden. The perfection of God’s creation does not render human activity superfluous. Adam must exercise both his physical and mental (spiritual) powers responsibly. He was created very good. Yet the full development of those powers with which God had endowed him required exertion on his part. Man is not a puppet in God’s world.

Wherein this “cultural mandate” consisted is not told us in detail. The term to keep may also be translated “to guard,” perhaps alluding to the possibility of some kind of attack which God knew would be made. This does not invalidate in any sense the perfection of creation, since we don’t know when the devil and his colleagues rebelled against the Most High. Nor does God reveal here just who the “enemy” is. In connection with this brief account many questions crowd our minds. Did Adam live for a while outside of the garden? How much was told him before Eve was created; how much afterward? When did some angels fall from “their first estate” and thereupon enter the scene of human history as tempters? Speculation on these and similar matters may seem fascinating; it is, however, futile and may well be dangerous to our fellowship with God. Here we may not doubt God’s wisdom in providing what He deemed necessary for us to know the way of salvation and blessedness.

What is added at this point, however, is crucial.

An explanation of the Significance of one of the two trees is recorded. Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil man is forbidden to partake. This tree is singled out from all the rest. A serious threat is added by God. He is introduced here as exercising personal communion with man in the form of intelligible words. The notion of forbidden access did not spring from Adam’s mind or even from the outward appearance of the tree; it was forbidden because God said so.

On the reason for this prohibition the true church has always been agreed. Created in God’s image man was called to serve God voluntarily. His worship and work were to be in consequence of deliberate choice. How different the evolutionary view of a creature developing slowly and painfully by a trial-and-error method. By placing man before a clear, comprehensible, and deliberate option, God enabled him to develop a self-awareness in relation to the Creator which would not have been possible otherwise. It is the introduction of such choice which enhances man’s dignity. Without it he would have remained on the level of an immature “innocence” unworthy of the spiritual and moral and intellectual potentials with which he had been adorned by his Creator.


1) The issue of whether we have here a “second account” of creation involves that of whcre the “title” in 2:4 is to he inserted. Does it belong here or in 1:1? The higher critics, who so often play fast and loose with Scripture by arguing for changes in words and transposing phrases and sentences, in order to fit their theory of multiple authorship, argue for placing the “title” as a heading for 1:1.

E. J. Young in An Introduction to the Old Testament ( pp. 49, 50) presents a brief but pithy statement of the conservative position:

“This phrase in 2:4, therefore, introduces the account not of the creation of heaven and earth, hut rather of the offspring of heaven and earth, namely, man. Man’s body is from the earth, and his soul is of heavenly origin, breathed into him by God. Thus, from this key passage, we learn that 2:4ff. does not profess to present an account of creation. Rather, the grand theme of 2:4-4:26 is the formation of man and the first state of human history.”

2) How the “older modernists” of a half century and more ago argued the dependence of the Hebrew (Genesis) account of the origin of the world on that of the Babylonian is dealt with in detail by A. Noordtzij: God’s Woord en der eeuwen getuigenis (Kok, 1924), pp. 110–116.

Their argument rests on the notion “that Babel and Bible are the result of the same world-view, ‘fruit out of the same ground,’ and that it can be said of Israel: ‘the little village out there reflects Babel’s temperament, Babel’s culture, is what it is only because of Babel’” (p. 111).

The estimate of the relationship of Israel’s views to those of other nations with their “cosmogenies” has changed quite radically, in that the critics now see in Israel’s views a protest against the polytheism of surrounding nations. Thus this record becomes a “confession of Israel’s faith” which ranges itself polemically against heathen views. Yet the insistence remains that the Biblical account—arising out of the same cultural milieu—makes use of similar literary genres and word-images conditioned by that ancient way of looking at life and the world; therefore, it cannot he understood as the Christian church has understood it in the past. This kind of argumentation, let it be remembered, fails to do justice to the divine character and source of the Bible.

3) This whole issue of how to interpret the opening chapters of Genesis, specifically many of the details, has become a storm-center of debate in many confessional churches, including the Reformed. The repercussions of this reach also into the Christian Reformed Church. Seemingly there are two approaches to “understanding” Scripture which are becoming more sharply defined in opposition to each other. This is made clear in Report No. 36 to the Synod of 1971 (Agenda, Acts, also the blue booklet with its preface), to which every member should address himself in depth.

How many who would be recognized as belonging to the “neo-evangclical” or “neo-orthodox” camp of scholars approach these chapters in recent years, insisting as they do on the “redemptive message” of the Bible while dis· missing many of the details as not-factual, may be illustrated from the well-known and popular book by Bernhard W . Anderson: Understanding the Old Testament (Prentice-Hall, 1957). Here the creation account receives attention long after the Exodus material (regarded as the basic “key”) is discussed. Note what he writes:

“The stories concerning primeval history, then, cannot be regarded as exact, factual accounts of the sort that the modern historian or scientist demands. These stories are ‘historical’ only in the sense that, as used by the Yahwist (i.e., “J” as one of the supposed redactors) they communicate the meaning of history” (p. 167).

Speaking of the Paradise account, in this and the and chapter of Genesis, Anderson writes:

“The story is filled with images . . . which are found in ancient folklore.”

They are simply used as time-conditioned expressions of the faith of the covenant community. On such a basis little remains of a direct, supernatural, reliable revelation by God to His people, much less of the classic Reformed position on Scripture us “verbally inspired.”

4) There has been much discussion on this mist. How long did such a condition prevail on earth? When did rain begin to fall? Most older commentators understood that the mist only accounted for what took place in the very earliest days, e.g., C. F. Keil : Commentary on the Pentateuch, (Vol. I, pp. 76ff. ) concluding: “The mist (vapour, which falls as rain, Job xxxvi, 27) is correctly regarded by Delitzsch as the creative beginning of the rain . . . itself, from which we may infer, therefore, that it rained before the flood” (p. 78).

In recent years many have inclined to think, once again, that the mist prevailed until the days of the Hood. This they helieve would account for the longevity of pre-flood man, the huge size of many animals now extinct, etc. Cf. Donald W. Patten: “The Pre-Flood Greenhouse Effect” in A Symposium on Creation II (Baker Book House, 1970), pp. 11–41. It deals in detail with the difference between the “uniformitarians” and the “catastrophists” in their radically different interpretations of how our present world came to be what it is.

Skinner in his commentary (I.C.C.) claims the word can be translated flood (which seems to be his preference) as well as mist and suggests: “If the above explanation be correct. there is a confusion of two points of view which throws an interesting light on the origin of the story. While therefore there may be a Babylonian basis to the myth, it must have taken its present shape in some drier region, presumably in Palestine. To say that it “describes . . . the phenomena witnessed by the first colonists of Babylonia, involves more than ‘mythic exaggeration.’” Here again an c:<ample, be it an older one, of how scholars want to retain the Bible and its message as “meaningful” while refusing to take at face-value precisely what it says. With this methodological approach, no matter how tamely it is used, one can make the Bible say pretty much what one wants it to say. Whether such a methodology can ever be used legitimately DY those who accept the classic Reformed view of the inspiration of Scripture is a highly-debatable issue!

5) In connection with the creation of man according to Genesis 2 we face two questions which arise time and again in the present situation: How old is the earth? and How old is the human race? Here those who urge creation in six days “at least comparable to days as we know them now” hold to both a relatively young earth and a creation of man chronologically close to the creation of the animals. Those holding to days interpreted as “periods” would, in the nature of the case, answer both questions quite differently than the above. This, however, does not commit everyone who holds such views to any compromise with an evolutionary view, historically understood. Cf. John De Vries: Beyond the Atom (Eerdmans, 1948). Much of his argumentation is based on the Carbon 14 method of dating, which in more recent days is being seriously questioned and attacked.

6) On the matter of the age of man on the earth much ink has been spilled, especially on the dating of fossil remains of “early man.” It is regrettable that textbooks, articles in popular magazines, and museum displays uncritically accept the dates assigned to such remains by men who endorse the evolutionary theory. It should be stated that among scientists there is often radical disagreement on matters which are palmed off on unsuspecting people as unquestionable proof.

Cf. C. Allan Turner: “The Mythological Character of Evolution,” pp. 117–133 in Symposium on Creation II (Baker Book House, 1970).

Speaking on “primitive man” and fossil dating, Wood Jones in Man’s Place among the Mammals (Longmans, Green Co., 1929) writes as his judgment:

“I find no occupation less worthy of the science of anthropology than the now unfashionable business of modelling, painting, and drawing those nightmare pictures of imagination and lending them in the process an utterly false value of apparent reality” (p. 66).

7) On the whole matter of evolution, also in relation to the appearance of man on earth, cf. Arthur D. Williams, “The Genesis Account of Creation” in Why not Creation? ed.Walter E. Lammerts (Baker Book House, 1970), pp. 24–38. This book contains selected articles from the Creation Research Society Quarterly.

Cf. also H.G. Cannon of Manchester University in his The Evolution of Living Things (Manchester Univ. Press, 1958):

“No experiment has produced progeny that show entirely new functioning organs. And yet it is the appearance of new characters in organisms which marks the boundaries of the major steps in the evolutionary scales” (p. 92).

8) The significance of the question: Who and what is man? remains pivotal for all thought, pre-theoretical and theoretical (scientific). What man thinks of himself determines to a large content how he will behave as individual and in society. On the importance of basing our views on Scripture d. Herman Dooyeweerd: In the Twilight of Western Thought (Craig Press, 1968). He warns sternly against an unbiblical approach, one “not in the grip of the Word of God. The latter has not become its central basic motive, its actual impelling force” (p. 191).

He further comments:

“The question: What is man: Who is he? cannot be answered by man himself. Bill it has been answered by God’s Word-revelation, which uncovers the religious root and center of human nature in its creation, fall into sin, and redemption by Jesus Christ. Man lost true self-knowledge since he lost the true knowledge of God . . . It is the Word alone, which by its radical grip can bring about a real reformation of our view of man and of our view of the temporal world . . .” (p. 195).

9) The whole question of: Where was Paradise? has occupied attention of Bible readers as well as scholars. Even Calvin in his commentary devotes several long pages to the question. A later discussion may be found in C. F. Keil: Commentary on the Pentateuch (Vol. I, pp. 80–83).


1 – Outline in brief the material found in 2:4 through 4:26. What is the unifying theme in this section which seems to relate so many different incidents?

2 – What is the significance of the name Yahweh? State the meaning of the name. How many names of God can you find in the Old Testament? Did man give these names to God? What is their importance for a believer? Comment on Proverbs 18:10.

3 – What is the importance of name-giving according to the Bible? What kinds of names should we give our children?

4 – What is meant by “anthropomorphic” language? Does this reduce what is said to simple figures of speech which we apply to God and his relation to us? How would you connect God’s speaking to man with creation in God’s image? How should language be taught in a Christian school, then?

5 – If time permits, have someone present, analyze, and comment on the “canopy” and “green-house” theory of pre-flood conditions in the world.

6 – Why do you suppose creation in God’s image isn’t specifically mentioned in this chapter?

7 – Mention and discuss all the passages dealing with the tree of life. Could this possibly be a very real tree here and also in the future life?

8 – What do you understand by the “cultural mandate”? Is there Biblical proof that we have a calling with respect to this also after sin entered the world?

9 – Is there a sound basis here, and elsewhere in the Bible, for the Reformed view of the “covenant of works”? Could man ever be saved “by works”? Was there “grace” manifested to our first parents before the fall?

10 – Discuss the “probationary command” in its relationship to man in God’s image. Why is indolence such a gross sin?

11 – Why this close relationship between man and earth? Evaluate the present-day discussions on ecology. Why do you suppose so many existentialists (but also sincere Christians) seem to feel like strangers on this earth?


Scripture: Genesis 2:18–25

Few subjects so intrigue Adam’s sons as that which concerns the “opposite” sex.

Almost everything that has been said about woman-kind has proceeded from the pens of men. Alternately they have commended and complained, have been fascinated or frustrated by their counterparts on the scene of human history. To them have been ascribed the loftiest sentiments and noblest achievements; against them have been levelled the basest accusations. Some have put them higher than the angels; others as low as the dust under their feet. Literature of every kind has devoted pages to what always remains a mystery to men.

From this confusion neither men nor women will be delivered, until both learn to listen to the Word of the living God.

The Bible, seemingly much too simple and straightforward for our sophisticated age, alone keeps the proper balance. Its words never grow threadbare. Its message alone can bring truth and therefore peace and joy and hope. What, therefore, it says about man and woman in relation to each other rightly demands serious and sober reflection. Only its truth, culminating in our Lord Jesus Christ, can make us free.

Today we hear much about the women’s liberation movement. Let’s admit that women have been much sinned against—by men both married and otherwise as well as by children. Wicked notions have forged chains for them from which release in many situations seems well-nigh impossible. But haven’t men and children been sinned against as well, and that by women? Nor is today the first age when women clamored for freedom. Athens in the days of Pericles as well as Rome during the seasons of imperial rule knew such “liberation” movements. Socialists and communists during the last century have urged that their theories will at long last open the doors of hope to women everywhere. What we need today, so many argue, is careers outside of the home, sex at will, abortions without any questions asked, divorce upon request, a wiping out of every distinction and differentiation between male and female in all aspects of life—the physical alone excluded since it can’t be easily obliterated!

How different the witness of God’s Word. It glories in the differentiation which God created, recognizing therein the way to true joy for both man and woman. That makes this brief passage such a pertinent and practical one. It speaks of His wisdom, power and love in supplementing the life of man with that of woman i.n such a way that the two experience in their oneness the highest human happiness under the smile of Almighty God. Not in the vapid imaginings or vile experimentations of men but in obedience to the Word of the Lord will both men and women be able to find their freedom.

Purpose – Always the Bible calls us to contemplate how great, how good, how wise is our God. It’s, after all, His story.

This section apparently records what took place quite soon after Adam was created and placed in the garden. He had been instructed as to his relationship to both the Creator and the created order. At the close of verse 17 we recognize him as a spiritual-moral being, on the plane of creaturely perfection, called to live in obedient fellowship with God, and capable of rich development. In reading the account we come with the justifiable question: But whence came woman? Is there no significant place for her in God’s plan and purpose? Nor will we understand what the next chapter records, unless something is said—and that very explicitly—about woman and her place in God’s world.

Indeed, something had already been said in Genesis 1:27. She fully as much as man proceeded from the hand of God. Both were made in the image of God. But now the second chapter, having rehearsed not merely the fact but especially the manner of man’s creation, turns our attention to his counterpart. Without these verses the account would be incomplete.

The story here begins with an assertion on God’s part. As the covenant God, the one who seeks and delights in fellowship, He declares: It is not good that man should be alone. As image-bearer called to service he cannot discharge his responsibilities alone. He is finite. He is also created a “social” being. Only in the interplay of personal relationships can he truly be and know himself.

Thus follows the divine decision: I will make him a help meet for him, that is, “a help answering to him” in accordance with both his nature and his needs. Do not misunderstand the not good of the text as an indication of some imperfection. It is rather that of incompleteness. In every normal situation-also after the fall-man needs woman. Her position and calling are defined—a help. The term itself in no way demeans woman in relationship to the man. She is not his inferior; she is simply different and yet perfectly suited to the man. Without woman, Adam could not perform his work, neither that of replenishing the earth nor that of exercising dominion.

Preparation – How carefully God prepares the way for the creation of woman. She is not created contemporaneously with man, as were the males and females of the higher animals. The relationship between male and female among mankind is not to be regulated by physical drive or natural instinct. This would have been degrading to man as image-bearer, as God’s son and servant called to live in covenantal fellowship with his Creator of which this new relationship would be a transparent reflection.

What an entrancing as well as majestic scene!

Let men laugh at it as naive. It serves to remind us of the high intelligence with which Adam was endowed. Here is nothing akin to the brutish or primitive or instinctive, on which level the first humans are supposed to have lived according to the various evolutionary theories. Anyone who knows and believes Scripture recognizes at once how significant is the giving of a name. It, too, is an aspect of life reflecting man’s likeness to God, who alone is able to and does name Himself.

How long a period elapsed between the creation of Adam and the formation of Eve remains hidden from us. The Book of Jubilees speaks of seven years. In the light of the previous chapter there seems to be little doubt that Eve was fashioned on the same day as Adam.

But why did God assign as first task to Adam the naming of the animals? The critics, always seeking (be it at times unconsciously) to impugn in some fashion the glory and chasteness of the Biblical account, have suggested that Cod was experimenting with man in helping to find for him a mate. Some go as far as to find the source for this in the Gilgamesh epic, where the hero consorts promiscuously with the beasts, until entranced by some fair being he renounces that low level of life. Simple reading of the passage, however, leads to the conclusion that God was dealing with Adam as a responsible being, one endowed with intellectual and moral discrimination from the beginning. Thus the naming of the animals awakened within him the realization of his uniqueness. No matter how close his connection with the animal world, none of these could serve as a satisfactory companion.

Power – Now, so the writer indicates, God goes to work.

He causes a deep sleep to fall upon the man. Once again there is direct intervention by the covenant God in the life of man. Possibly this wasn’t the time for sleep at all. Yet we need not speculate on the time or on the length of this sleep. It is sufficient to know that God took fully as many pains to fashion woman as he did to create man.

During this interval God took one of his ribs and from it made He a woman. The process and procedures are not recorded. Likely we wouldn’t understand much of this anyway, had God revealed more. And for those who accept “miracles,” the direct supernatural intervention of God into His creation, what is here recorded remains adequate. The significance of this divine act, however, has always engaged the attention of the believing church. Here we are taught explicitly the unity of the human race—not simply as a noble idea and ideal but as an incontrovertible fact. Inescapable also is the aim of God to teach man that she who is “other” than he is also “one” with him because she is “out of him.”

No clear reason is assigned why God was pleased to use a rib. Leupold opines that it was undoubtedly that part of man’s physical constitution which could best be missed. Believers have generally found here a beautiful symbolism, in so far as the God of the Scriptures never presents Himself as doing anything without good reason. No other part of the body could so clearly indicate that woman is neither superior nor inferior to man; they are intended to be colleagues, companions, partners.

Thereupon God brought her unto the man. The Creator Himself officiated at this first marriage. This act stamps monogamous marriage as designed and approved by God, a fact to which also our Lord Jesus Christ clearly refers. The Savior apparently didn’t have any of the difficulties with the “factualness” of this story and its details which seem so much to distress the critics and those who follow them in our day.

Praise – All things are created, so the Bible consistently informs us, for the praise of God. In the garden such praise and thanks sprang spontaneously from the lips of our first father, when he received his companion.

Adam at once recognizes woman as his alter-ego. She is the one who can share his life and work with him.

In animated language, akin to poetry, he exclaims:

This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. God’s work fills him with an indescribable delight. They two belong together in God’s great world. He names her Woman, because she was taken out of man.

How he recognized this fact is not explained. In the Hebrew there is a play on words, which somehow has been preserved also in the English language. Of course, we don’t know what language Adam spoke, but it surely was more than stuttering and stammering, and he didn’t have to go to school to learn to speak! Whatever sounds flowed from his lips suited his desire to communicate something of the awe and pleasure which filled his heart. And we can be sure that both God (however he may have been present there) and the woman understood.

The next verse is clearly an explanation, a commentary by the writer of Genesis. It has given some occasion for sharp difference of opinion. We do not doubt that Adam could have said these words, but we do not think this likely. They come to us in the form of a command rather than a description, even though the latter is linguistically possible. This seems the most plausible interpretation in the light of what our Lord affirmed in Matthew 19:5, 6. From the beginning God intended that each marriage should mark a new beginning. Thus man’s life would be enriched, the world filled with his descendants, and the purposes of God attained. Little seems to be so detrimental to the unique nature of the relationship between husband and wife as that of having either husband or wife cling immaturely to parental ties.

This brief account closes with an indication of the perfect “openness” to each other which was characteristic of our first parents in the state of rectitude. They were both flaked . . . and were not ashamed. No sense of strangeness, much less of shame or fear or estrangement, was aroused in them. The perfection of all God’s works was richly reflected in this love-relationship without restraint. This they received from God himself. Also this he pronounced very good.


1) While the common man ridicules the story of Eve’s formation, the scholars, except for naturalistic evolutionists, have such great difficulty with it, that they usually pass over the account with a light touch. This is especially true of “theistic” evolutionists of every stripe. On the basis of their presuppositions it must either be ignored or reduced to the status of saga, myth, or legend, or so completely re-interpreted with appeal to the principles of “the new hermeneutic” that all the facts are dissolved into a “kerugmatic” or “prophetic” proclamation which leaves us with ideas derived from man’s understanding without a historical, factual basis. While recognizing, perhaps, some kind of special intervention by God in Adam’s appearance as “a first man,” they hardly know what to do with Eve, since no mention is made a breathing into her of the breath of life. It has become popular to suggest that since Adam was taken by God (perhaps already as a child) from the para-Adamic creatures closely related to what man was to become, Adam thereupon found among these sub-human creatures a companion, a kind of highly-specialized “hominid.” But scientific evidence for anything like such a class is totally lacking. We wonder if the theistic evolutionists will now have to re-introduce the old and fruitless search for a kind of “missing link”?

An example of this kind of reasoning by those professing high respect for the Bible is given by A.E. Wilder Smith: Man’s Origin, Man’s Destiny (Shaw, 1970), who calls attention to Professor Freiherr von Huene’s views (cf. pp. 38, 40–42).

2) In recent years professedly Reformed scholars have attempted 10 introduce into the churches and justify such views, on the grounds that the early chapters of Genesis contain not “newspaper-reporting” (reportage) but “faith-proclamation.” On such a basis its adherents claim they can believe in the “historicity of creation” while at the same time feeling free to question and/or reject the traditional Christian insistence on the details as factual.

A brief, popular presentation is that of Th. Delleman – Wording van Mens en Wereld (de Graafschap, 1961).

He comments: “The creation account gives no prehistory hut revelation of Him, by whose favor we as men exist and think. And He reveals Himself in this account as the One, in whose hand lay the great initiative. This account does not give creation-reporting but proclamation of Him, who called all things into existence. And this proclamation comes through a holy witness, who knew God as his Creator and Redeemer and spoke in the language of his time. This ‘salvation-history’ understanding of Genesis 1 is true also for chapters 2 and 3” (p. 25).

How this radically affects the treatment accorded the many details of Chapter 2, soon becomes evident from further comments (cf. p. 45, especially the appended note, for its effects upon an understanding of the Sabbath).

With respect to Delleman’s understanding of Paradise we find no clear statement whether or not there ever existed such a garden. Instead the emphasis falls on God’s creation of “space” or room for man in contrast to what the Bible says elsewhere about “the dark places of the earth”; also on “dwelling” as “security,” intimacy and fellowship since “endless space makes life impossible” (p. 48). Paradise can only be understood, then, in the light of Revelation 21 and 22 as a future towards which we are moving: “This is the paradise. The safe, circumscribed space; the being-together with God, the full life-space” (p. 49). Delleman admits that the Biblical writer thought of it as a definite locality, hut whether we should is debatable since, “The Bible is no manual for geography and the biblical witnesses are in their geographical knowledge children of their time” (p. 49). “Proclamation-exegesis concerns itself with this, that the witness declares to us: the historicity of the ‘state of rectitude’ as gift of God and the historicity of the fall as transgression, as act of man” (p. 49).

In a similar vein Delleman then discusses the creation of woman. His comments are exceedingly brief and withal ambiguous. “This life (i.e., of man) as life-in-fellowship with God became for man also life-in-fellowship as man and woman.” And with that he creates the impression of sharp contrast between 1:27 and 2:18–22 without attempting any explanation. For such “salvation-history” expositors, seemingly, all attempts at comparing and harmonizing passages are taboo. He dares to add: “Also here it is not said: thus and thus it happened at the creation of woman. Here is the proclamation that humanity consists in man and woman, that it is not good that man is alone” (p. 58).

We cite this as an example of what is happening in Reformed churches and what thus must happen to preaching on a passage such as this, when this kind of “salvation-history” exegesis is allowable. An illustration of this may be found in Helmut Thielicke’s How the World Began (Fortress Press, 1961; pp. 87–102) which reproduces his sermon on this section. We mention this because of the “popularity” which Thielicke has been enjoying among some who profess adherence to the Reformed confessions.

3) That Paul as well as our Lord Jesus takes these passages “literally” as accounts of what actually happened cannot be denied. Cf. Matt. 19:5, 6; I Cor. 11:5–10, 12; Romans 5; I Timothy 2:13.

Note also how Paul clearly insists on Adam’s creation as prior to that of Eve chronologically. Cf. protos in Arndt-Gingrich: Greek-English Lexicon of the N.T. (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 732–733.

4) Note how one of the older liberals (Skinner: Commentary on Genesis, pp. 67ff.) explains the story:

“The Creator, taking pity on the solitude of man, seeks to provide him with a suitable companion. The naivete of the conception is extraordinary. Not only did man exist before the beasts, but the whole animal creation is the result of an unsuccessful experiment to find a mate for him” (italics ours).

5) On the naming of the beasts, cf. Keil: Commentary on Genesis (Eerdmans, 1949).

This naming . . . “we are not to regard as the mere result of reflection, or of abstraction from merely outward peculiarities which affected the senses (i.e., of Adam); but as a deep and direct mental insight into the nature of the animals which penetrated far deeper than such knowledge as is the simple result of reflecting and abstracting thought. This naming of the animals, therefore, leads to the result, that there was not found a help meet for man” (p. 88).

6) On help meet for man cf. Leupold’s Genesis, vol. 1 (Baker Book House, 1950):

“Her position is further defined by the expression ‘like him,’ keneghdo, literally, as ‘agreeing to him’ or ‘his counterpart.’ She is the kind of help man needs, agreeing with him mentally, physically, spiritually. She is not an inferior being” ( p. 130).

7) On the deep sleep Leupold comments: “Tordemah is indeed a ‘deep sleep,’ not a state of ecstasy, as the Greek translators render; nor a ‘hypnotic trance’ (Skinner), for traces of hypnosis arc not to be found in the Scriptures. A ‘trance’ might be permissible. The root, however, is that of a verb used in reference to Jonah, when he slept soundly during the storm” (p. 134).

8) On the rib Leupold believes that it did not consist of “the bare bone” since Adam rejoices in one who is not only bone of his bones but also flesh of his flesh (p. 134).

He further seeks to answer the question: Why did God employ such a method? He suggests the following:

(1) to teach unmistakably the “absolute” unity of the human race, a vital Biblical doctrine according to Romans 5, etc.,

(2) to guarantee the true dignity of womanhood;

(3) to establish the truest kinship between man and woman (p. 135).

9) On how theistic evolution demands a complete re-interpretation of this accound, as well as much of the rest of Scripture, cf. Paul A. Zimmerman, “Can we accept Theistic Evolution?” in A Symposium on Creation, I (Baker Book House, 1968):

“Regardless of the literature form of the Genesis account, the message here is loud and clear. Man, Adam, is distinct from all the animals which he surveyed, and there was no one like him. This is a completely impossible concept under the theory of evolution where Adam would have been one of the several anthropoid hominids who were approaching the status of homo (man) through a series of mutations. There would have been many other pre-men and women like him or at least a number of them. Certainly he would not have surveyed all of the animal kingdom and found no one who would be a helpmeet for him” (p. 69).

10) From all this it should be evident that anyone who embarks on the pathway designated as “theistic” evolution or even “threshold evolution” or “progressive creationism” should be fully aware of what he is called upon to do. Among other things, he places the supposed “findings” of science (for which there is little evidence that can in any way be undebatably adduced) ahead of the Bible account; he is compelled to deal lightly and/or deny plain statement of fact in the Genesis account; he must satisfy himself with “ideas” concerning the unity of the human race apart from basis in indisputable fact; he clashes with the understanding of this Genesis account by Jesus and Paul; he will have to rewrite his “Christian” doctrines in the interests of honesty and consistency. The danger for the unsuspecting lies in the “ambiguity” with which many proponents of this theory of the origin of humankind, including woman, marriage, language, etc., of necessity speak. Usually one doesn’t know for sure whether they accept any or all the purported facts, because they don’t speak clearly and forthrightly. They should be compelled to present indisputable facts in support of their many changing ideas and theories, before the church and its members either tolerate or welcome their notions.

11) At times the question troubles believers why some teachers in Christian schools and colleges lean towards (is this saying it too compromisingly?) theistic evolution in its various forms. Much of this may be due to the division within the American Scientific Affiliation, which has a clear statement on Biblical authority and inerrancy to be signed by its members and yet has within two decades made innumerable concessions to evolutionism. Already in 1955 this drift on the part of some members occasioned dissatisfaction and distrust. A detailed account is given by Bolton Davidheiser’s Evolution and Christian Faith (Presbyterian and Reformed Publ., 1969), pp. 114–121. Names are mentioned of those who are thought of as evangelical believers but at the same time champion evolutionary views. Note how one influential member presents his case:

“As we began seriously, critically, and objectively to examine the data of evolution, we became less and less convinced of its refutability.” He then proposes theistic evolution and says of the Biblical account: “On the other hand, I can say that this is a beautiful account of the birth of mankind—that ‘Adam’ was not a ‘man’ but ‘man,’ the species, and that ‘woman’ is of the same nature and ‘flesh’ as man . . . Again the Adam-Eve sequence can be explained as spiritual (sic!). Whether this is true or a dodge is, of course, an academic question, for is it not the spiritual message which God seeks most to impart to us? Then why worry about what passages are to be interpreted literally and which figuratively. Look, rather, to God to reveal Himself more fully and directly to you from each passage according to your need. Do I sound neo-orthodox here? I can’t help it . . .” (quoted on p. 118).

We might wish that those in Reformed circles would at least speak us unambiguously as J. Frank Cassel. Here the “cat comes out of the bag.” The very words of God don’t really count for much, when it comes to fact. All God is interested in is getting his message across. And then what is important becomes not what God says but what we need in the way of God’s speaking. This is the subjectivism which is always one of the deadliest enemies of the gospel. Meanwhile its adherents revile as “fundamentalists,” “pietists,” etc., those who hold to the “facutality” of what the early chapters of Genesis record.

Lest we be misunderstood, we add: We are not attempting to judge whether these men are sincere or Christian; this is known to God alone! But their views jeopardize the reliability of Scripture, the historic Christian faith, and in time all the “facts” on which our salvation by God in Jesus Christ rests. It is their approach, presuppositions and methodology which must be ascertained and faced.


1 – Wherein do men and women differ? Can you find Biblical evidence for your ideas?

2 – Since the relationship between man and woman has been radically affected by sin’s entrance into the world , why should we still concern ourselves with this chapter?

3 – List and explain briefly the several New Testament passages which indicate that Christ and his apostles accepted as fact the details of this account.

4 – What is meant by “the unity of the human race?” Which important Biblical doctrines are jeopardized, when this chapter and its contents are “spiritualized?”

5 – Is it biblical affirm that “all men are brothers!”

6 – Have someone give a brief survey of the present-day women’s liberation movement, mentioning some leaders. What are its aims?

7 – Should all men and all women aspire to marriage? May (should, can) a woman who marries continue in her career? Is being a wife and mother a “career?”

8 – May a Christian marry for “companionship” only, thus planning to avoid having children? How do you evaluate the present-day warnings against over-population?

9 – Why do you think God used a rib to fashion woman?

10 – How would you explain the modern trend towards “nudity?” Do you think Christians are “afraid of their bodies?” What about the strong emphasis on physical culture? Is the body of less significance than the soul?

11 – Do you think the Christian Reformed Church through its Synod should make pronouncement concerning the factualness of the details in Chapter 2? Do you think theistic evolution, in one form or another, is making inroads into our catechism classes, Christian high schools, and colleges? Is it a legitimate option? Do Our confessions have anything pointed to say on these matters?