Friday, December 08, 2006

Genesis 2:4-7

4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created. When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens-
5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground,
6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-
7 the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

So now we start the second creation story, which if I am not mistaken comes from the source called E. It's going to get quite complicated and redolent with meaning and associations very shortly, so I plan on taking the next few posts in bite-sized chunks.

In the first story, we got vegetation -- "And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind" -- long before we got people. (In fact, plants came even before the sun and the moon.) But in this version, we need humans to work the earth before it can yield fruit. I really don't know why God didn't get around to making it rain just yet, but some things are just going to have to be mysteries, I guess.

Anyway, this seems to me the first suggestion that the world God has created is anthroprocentric -- that humans are the most important thing in it, and that they will have dominion over it. In sharp contrast to the first story, without humans, the fields are barren. In the first story, plants are given to humans for food, but they are also given to the beasts. People are exeptional because they are made in "God's image," but otherwise they seem to take their place with the rest of the animals. Here, as we will see more clearly in a short while, the relationship is different.

What may be an even stronger contrast is the relationship of the sexes. In the first story, they are created together and co-equally: "He created them male and female." There is no distinction. But here, we start out with a man, and it's all about him. The only reason we get a woman at all is because poor Adam is lonely. (And probably horny as well, although the curtain of discretion is drawn across that issue. Since, as we shall see, God did not intend for people to be immortal, it's not clear whether, before he made the woman, he planned to replace Adam when he died, or what.)

Finally, we continue to see God's limitations. In order to make the man, he needs some raw material, he can't just conjure him up. He chooses dust, which is appropriate, I'll grant you.