Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Take Two

Within the pages of the Bible two distinctly different stories are told of the creation of mankind. One says man and woman were created together as a single act. The other record says they were created separately — the man first, the animals next, and finally, at the end of the sixth day of creation, the woman.

It would be explainable to have two creation stories in the pages of any other book compiled over hundreds of years. But, the Bible? It would also be an understandable editorial oversight if the two stories were discreetly tucked in divergent places. But, they are not. The first chapter of Genesis holds the first telling. And the second is just a page away in the next chapter.

So, what’s going on? Why two tales of one event? The first telling—Genesis one—is an overview of creation week culminating in the creation of man and a well-deserved Sabbath rest. The second is like putting a magnifying glass over day six. It’s the expanded and explained telling of the personal creation of mankind. We discover, as the focus narrows on humanity, where the God of the universe places His attention and interest when He directs His gaze to this little blue-green orb. He created Earth for us. And He is unapologetically interested in us. It is in this human-focused magnification of day six that we first encounter God’s personal name—Yahweh. Genesis one is a creation overview. Genesis two is personal—names are given.

Adam, created at the beginning of day six is given the job of naming all the animals. Just before the task begins, God explains, “It is not good for man to be alone.” — something every wife would agree with — “I will make a companion who will help him” (Genesis 2:18, NLT). Then, after making that statement, God creates the animals. All day Adam is looking for a creature like himself. All day he is naming animal after animal. And all day he is becoming less and less convinced that any one of these beasts—beautiful as they are—will be a suitable equal for himself.

Finally, at the end of the day, God puts Adam to sleep and creates a woman. The need for a general anaesthetic is made obvious when God yanks out a chunk of Adams side and uses it to assist in the creation of earth’s first wife. God is making a helper to stand beside Adam—not above or below. She is to be by his side—his equal. The symbolism is clear.

When Adam wakes up, the second time, he sees the most glorious creation his eyes have ever beheld. His jaw drops and he exclaims, “At last!” He recognises the woman as the fulfilment of God’s statement at the beginning of the day—here is the promised and desired companion. And she is stunning!

In the same way as he has met every other life this day, Adam adds a name to the created being brought before him—this one will be called ‘woman’. In this marriage moment, Adam does something every wife secretly believes her husband capable of — although many have yet to hear it. He intones a poem in her honour: “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man’” (v 23).

The next verse provides the reason for this magnification of day six—and explains why it is recorded adjacent to the creation narrative. “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” (v 24). God created us—male and female—to be completed in community. It is not good for us to be alone. We need each other. And in the marriage union there is something truly beautiful—oneness of spirit, mind and body.

Just as God created the Earth with us in mind, so He created us with unity in mind. And this explains the zoom lens of Genesis chapter two. God concludes His creation narrative and begins the rest of the human story with this in-depth treatment of the topic of humanity at it’s best—in a relationship where “neither of them felt any shame” (v25).