The first phrase in the Hebrew text of 1:1 is bereshith ("in [the] beginning"), which is also the Hebrew title of the book (books in ancient times customarily were named after their first word or two). The English title, Genesis, is Greek in origin and comes from the word geneseos, which appears in the pre-Christian Greek translation (Septuagint) of 2:4; 5:1. Depending on its context, the word can mean "birth," "genealogy," or "history of origin." In both its Hebrew and Greek forms, then, the traditional title of Genesis appropriately describes its contents, since it is primarily a book of beginnings.
A Quick Look
God's chosen people, the Israelites
Between 1446 and 1406 b.c.
Genesis is a book of beginnings that introduces central themes of the Bible, such as creation and redemption.
Chs. 1-38 reflect a great deal of what we know from other sources about ancient Mesopotamian life and culture. Creation, genealogies, destructive floods, geography and mapmaking, construction techniques, migrations of peoples, sale and purchase of land, legal customs and procedures, sheepherding and cattle-raising—all these subjects and many others were matters of vital concern to the peoples of Mesopotamia during this time. They were also of interest to the individuals, families and tribes of whom we read in the first 38 chapters of Genesis. The author appears to locate Eden, humankind's first home, in or near Mesopotamia; the tower of Babel was built there; Abram was born there; Isaac took a wife from there; and Jacob lived there for 20 years. Although these patriarchs settled in Canaan, their original homeland was Mesopotamia.
The closest ancient literary parallels to Ge 1-38 also come from Mesopotamia. Enuma elish, the story of the god Marduk's rise to supremacy in the Babylonian pantheon, is similar in some respects (though thoroughly mythical and polytheistic) to the Ge 1 creation account. Some of the features of certain king lists from Sumer bear striking resemblance to the genealogy in Ge 5. The 11th tablet of the Gilgamesh epic is quite similar in outline to the flood narrative in Ge 6-8. Several of the major events of Ge 1-8 are narrated in the same order as similar events in the Atrahasis epic. In fact, the latter features the same basic motif of creation-alienation-flood as the Biblical account. Clay tablets found in 1974 at the ancient (c. 2500-2300 b.c.) site of Ebla (modern Tell Mardikh) in northern Syria may also contain some intriguing parallels (see chart, p. xxii).
Two other important sets of documents demonstrate the reflection of Mesopotamia in the first 38 chapters of Genesis. From the Mari letters (see chart, p. xxiii), dating from the patriarchal period, we learn that the names of the patriarchs (including especially Abram, Jacob and Job) were typical of that time. The letters also clearly illustrate the freedom of travel that was possible between various parts of the Amorite world in which the patriarchs lived. The Nuzi tablets (see chart, p. xxiii), though a few centuries later than the patriarchal period, shed light on patriarchal customs, which tended to survive virtually intact for many centuries. The inheritance right of an adopted household member or slave (see 15:1-4), the obligation of a barren wife to furnish her husband with sons through a servant girl (see 16:2-4), strictures against expelling such a servant girl and her son (see 21:10-11), the authority of oral statements in ancient Near Eastern law, such as the deathbed bequest (see 27:1-4,22-23,33)—these and other legal customs, social contracts and provisions are graphically illustrated in Mesopotamian documents.
As Ge 1-38 is Mesopotamian in character and background, so chs. 39-50 reflect Egyptian influence—though in not quite so direct a way. Examples of such influence are: Egyptian grape cultivation (40:9-11), the riverside scene (ch. 41), Egypt as Canaan's breadbasket (ch. 42), Canaan as the source of numerous products for Egyptian consumption (ch. 43), Egyptian religious and social customs (the end of chs. 43; 46), Egyptian administrative procedures (ch. 47), Egyptian funerary practices (ch. 50) and several Egyptian words and names used throughout these chapters. The closest specific literary parallel from Egypt is the Tale of Two Brothers, which bears some resemblance to the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife (ch. 39). Egyptian autobiographical narratives (such as the Story of Sinuhe and the Report of Wenamun) and certain historical legends offer more general literary parallels.
Historically, Jews and Christians alike have held that Moses was the author/compiler of the first five books of the OT. These books, known also as the Pentateuch (meaning "five-volumed book"), were referred to in Jewish tradition as the five fifths of the law (of Moses). The Bible itself suggests Mosaic authorship of Genesis, since Ac 15:1 refers to circumcision as "the custom taught by Moses," an allusion to Ge 17. However, a certain amount of later editorial updating does appear to be indicated (see, e.g., notes on 14:14; 36:31; 47:11).
The historical period during which Moses lived seems to be fixed with a fair degree of accuracy by 1 Kings. We are told that "the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel" was the same as "the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt" (1Ki 6:1). Since the former was c. 966 b.c., the latter—and thus the date of the exodus—was c. 1446 (assuming that the 480 in 1Ki 6:1 is to be taken literally; see Introduction to Judges: Background). The 40-year period of Israel's wanderings in the desert, which lasted from c. 1446 to c. 1406, would have been the most likely time for Moses to write the bulk of what is today known as the Pentateuch.
During the last three centuries many interpreters have claimed to find in the Pentateuch four underlying sources. The presumed documents, allegedly dating from the tenth to the fifth centuries b.c., are called J (for Jahweh/Yahweh, the personal OT name for God), E (for Elohim, a generic name for God), D (for Deuteronomic) and P (for Priestly). Each of these documents is claimed to have its own characteristics and its own theology, which often contradicts that of the other documents. The Pentateuch is thus depicted as a patchwork of stories, poems and laws. However, this view is not supported by conclusive evidence, and intensive archaeological and literary research has tended to undercut many of the arguments used to challenge Mosaic authorship.
Genesis speaks of beginnings—of the heavens and the earth, of light and darkness, of seas and skies, of land and vegetation, of sun and moon and stars, of sea and air and land animals, of human beings (made in God's own image, the climax of his creative activity), of marriage and family, of society and civilization, of sin and redemption. The list could go on and on. A key word in Genesis is "account," which also serves to divide the book into its ten major parts (see Literary Features and Literary Outline) and which includes such concepts as birth, genealogy and history.
The book of Genesis is foundational to the understanding of the rest of the Bible. Its message is rich and complex, and listing its main elements gives a succinct outline of the Biblical message as a whole. It is supremely a book that speaks about relationships, highlighting those between God and his creation, between God and humankind, and between human beings. It is thoroughly monotheistic, taking for granted that there is only one God worthy of the name and opposing the ideas that there are many gods (polytheism), that there is no god at all (atheism) and that everything is divine (pantheism). It clearly teaches that the one true God is sovereign over all that exists (i.e., his entire creation), and that he often exercises his unlimited freedom to overturn human customs, traditions and plans. It introduces us to the way in which God initiates and makes covenants with his chosen people, pledging his love and faithfulness to them and calling them to promise theirs to him. It establishes sacrifice as the substitution of life for life (ch. 22). It gives us the first hint of God's provision for redemption from the forces of evil (compare 3:15 with Ro 16:17-20) and contains the oldest and most profound statement concerning the significance of faith (15:6; see note there). More than half of Heb 11—a NT list of the faithful—refers to characters in Genesis.
Genesis is supremely a book that speaks about relationships, highlighting those between God and his creation, between God and humankind, and between human beings.
The message of a book is often enhanced by its literary structure and characteristics. Genesis is divided into ten main sections, each beginning with the word "account" (see 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12; 25:19; 36:1—repeated for emphasis at 36:9—and 37:2). The first five sections can be grouped together and, along with the introduction to the book as a whole (1:1-2:3), can be appropriately called "primeval history" (1:1-11:26). This introduction to the main story sketches the period from Adam to Abraham and tells about the ways of God with the human race as a whole. The last five sections constitute a much longer (but equally unified) account, and relate the story of God's dealings with the ancestors of his chosen people Israel (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph and their families)—a section often called "patriarchal history" (11:27-50:26). This section is in turn composed of three narrative cycles (Abraham-Isaac, 11:27-25:11; Isaac-Jacob, 25:19-35:29; 37:1; Jacob-Joseph, 37:2-50:26), interspersed by the genealogies of Ishmael (25:12-18) and Esau (ch. 36).
The narrative frequently concentrates on the life of a later son in preference to the firstborn: Seth over Cain, Shem over Japheth (but see NIV text note on 10:21), Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Judah and Joseph over their brothers, and Ephraim over Manasseh. Such emphasis on divinely chosen men and their families is perhaps the most obvious literary and theological characteristic of the book of Genesis as a whole. It strikingly underscores the fact that the people of God are not the product of natural human developments, but are the result of God's sovereign and gracious intrusion in human history. He brings out of the fallen human race a new humanity consecrated to himself, called and destined to be the people of his kingdom and the channel of his blessing to the whole earth.
Numbers with symbolic significance figure prominently in Genesis. The number ten, in addition to being the number of sections into which Genesis is divided, is also the number of names appearing in the genealogies of chs. 5 and 11 (see note on 5:5). The number seven also occurs frequently. The Hebrew text of 1:1 consists of exactly seven words and that of 1:2 of exactly 14 (twice seven). There are seven days of creation, seven names in the genealogy of ch. 4 (see note on 4:17-18; see also 4:15,24; 5:31), various sevens in the flood story, 70 descendants of Noah's sons (ch. 10), a sevenfold promise to Abram (12:2-3), seven years of abundance and then seven of famine in Egypt (ch. 41), and 70 descendants of Jacob (ch. 46). Other significant numbers, such as 12 and 40, are used with similar frequency.
The book of Genesis is basically prose narrative, punctuated here and there by brief poems (the longest is the so-called Blessing of Jacob in 49:2-27). Much of the prose has a lyrical quality and uses the full range of figures of speech and other devices that characterize the world's finest epic literature. Vertical and horizontal parallelism between the two sets of three days in the creation account (see note on 1:11); the ebb and flow of sin and judgment in ch. 3 (the serpent and woman and man sin successively; then God questions them in reverse order; then he judges them in the original order); the powerful monotony of "and then he died" at the end of paragraphs in ch. 5; the climactic hinge effect of the phrase "But God remembered Noah" (8:1) at the midpoint of the flood story; the hourglass structure of the account of the tower of Babel in 11:1-9 (narrative in vv. 1-2,8-9; discourse in vv. 3-4,6-7; v. 5 acting as transition); the macabre pun in 40:19 (see 40:13); the alternation between brief accounts about firstborn sons and lengthy accounts about younger sons—these and numerous other literary devices add interest to the narrative and provide interpretive signals to which the reader should pay close attention.
It is no coincidence that many of the subjects and themes of the first three chapters of Genesis are reflected in the last three chapters of Revelation. We can only marvel at the superintending influence of the Lord himself, who assures us that "all Scripture is God-breathed" (2Ti 3:16) and that its authors "spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2Pe 1:21).
1:1-2:3 In the ancient Near East, most of the peoples had myths relating how the world came to be. Prevalent in those myths were accounts of how one of the gods triumphed over a fierce and powerful beast that represented disorder, then fashioned the ordered world that people knew, and finally was proclaimed by the other gods to be the divine "king" over the world he had created—a position ever subject to the challenge of the forces of disorder.
Over against all those pagan myths, the author of Genesis taught a radically new doctrine of creation: The one and only true God did not have to overcome a mighty cosmic champion of chaos but simply by a series of his royal creation decrees called into being the ordered world, the visible kingdom that those decrees continue to uphold and govern. The author teaches this doctrine of creation in the form of a narrative that recounts the story of God's creative acts. The author narrates those acts from the perspective of one who was an eyewitness to events in God's royal council chamber, where he issues his creative decrees. For a similar narrative perspective see Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6. (For the different narrative perspective of what follows see note on 2:4-4:26.)
1:1 A summary statement introducing the six days of creative activity (see note on 2:1). The truth of this majestic verse was joyfully affirmed by poet (Ps 102:25) and prophet (Isa 40:21). In the beginning God. The Bible always assumes, and never argues, God's existence. Although everything else had a beginning, God has always been (Ps 90:2). In the beginning. Jn 1:1-10, which stresses the work of Christ in creation, opens with the same phrase. God created. "God" renders the common Hebrew noun Elohim. It is plural but the verb is singular, a normal usage in the OT when reference is to the one true God. This use of the plural expresses intensification rather than number and has been called the plural of majesty, or of potentiality. In the OT the Hebrew verb for "create" is used only of divine, never of human, activity. the heavens and the earth. "All things" (Isa 44:24). That God created everything is also taught in Ecc 11:5; Jer 10:16; Jn 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2. The positive, life-oriented teaching of v. 1 is beautifully summarized in Isa 45:18.
1:2 earth. The focus of this account. formless and empty. The phrase, which appears elsewhere only in Jer 4:23, gives structure to the rest of the chapter (see note on v. 11). God's "separating" and "gathering" on days 1-3 gave form, and his "making" and "filling" on days 4-6 removed the emptiness. darkness... the waters. Completes the picture of a world awaiting God's light-giving, order-making and life-creating word. and. Or "but." The awesome (and, for ancient people, fearful) picture of the original state of the visible creation is relieved by the majestic announcement that the mighty Spirit of God hovers over creation. The announcement anticipates God's creative words that follow. Spirit of God. He was active in creation, and his creative power continues today (see Job 33:4; Ps 104:30). hovering over. Like an eagle that hovers over its young when they are learning to fly (see Dt 32:11; cf. Isa 31:5).
1:3 God said. Merely by issuing his royal decree, God brought all things into being (Ps 33:6,9; 148:5; Heb 11:3). Let there be light. God's first creative word called forth light in the midst of the primeval darkness. Light is necessary for making God's creative works visible and life possible. In the OT it is also symbolic of life and blessing (see 2Sa 22:29; Job 3:20; 30:26; 33:30; Ps 49:19; 56:13; 97:11; 112:4; Isa 53:11; 58:8,10; 59:9; 60:1,3). Paul uses this word to illustrate God's re-creating work in sin-darkened hearts (2Co 4:6).
1:4 Everything God created is good (see vv. 10,12,18,21,25); in fact, the conclusion declares it to be "very good" (v. 31). The creation, as fashioned and ordered by God, had no lingering traces of disorder and no dark and threatening forces arrayed against God or people. Even darkness and the deep were given benevolent functions in a world fashioned to bless and sustain life (see Ps 104:19-26; 127:2—see also NIV text note there).
1:5 called. See vv. 8,10. In the ancient Near East, for a king to name people or things was an act of claiming dominion over them (see 17:5,15; 41:45; 2Ki 23:34; 24:17; Da 1:7). In this creation account, God named the great cosmic realities of day, night, sky, land and seas. He left to human beings the naming of the creatures they were given dominion over (see vv. 26,28; see also 2:19 and note). first day. Some say that the creation days were 24-hour days, others that they were indefinite periods.
1:6 expanse. The atmosphere, or "sky" (v. 8), as seen from the earth. "Hard as a mirror" (Job 37:18) and "like a canopy" (Isa 40:22) are among the many pictorial phrases used to describe it.
1:7 And it was so. The only possible outcome, whether stated (vv. 9,11,15,24,30) or implied, to God's "Let there be" (see Ps 33:6,9 and note on 33:6).
1:9 one place. A picturesque way of referring to the "seas" (v. 10) that surround the dry land on all sides and into which the waters of the lakes and rivers flow. The earth was "formed out of water" (2Pe 3:5) and "founded... upon the seas" (Ps 24:2), and the waters are not to cross the boundaries set for them (Ps 104:7-9; Jer 5:22).
1:10 land. Elsewhere usually rendered "earth" (as in vv. 15,17,20,22,26,28-30). In the Bible "earth" refers not to a planet in our solar system but to the land realm that is humankind's native habitat—in distinction from the "heavens" above and the "seas" below (see Ex 20:4).
1:11 God said. This phrase is used twice on the third day (vv. 9,11) and three times (vv. 24,26,29) on the sixth day. These two days are climactic, as the following structure of ch. 1 reveals (see note on v. 2 regarding "formless and empty").
|Days of forming||Days of filling|
|1. "light" (v. 3)||4. "lights" (v. 14)|
|2. "water under the expanse... water above it" (v. 7)||5. "every living and moving thing with which the water teems... every winged bird" (v. 21)|
|3a. "dry ground" (v. 9)|| 6a1. "livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals" (v. 24)
6a2. "man" (v. 26)
|3b. "vegetation" (v. 11)||6b. "every green plant for food" (v. 30)|
Both the horizontal and vertical relationships between the days demonstrate the literary structure of the chapter and stress the orderliness and symmetry of God's creative activity. kinds. See vv. 12,21,24-25. Both creation and reproduction are orderly.
1:14 serve as signs. In the ways mentioned here, not in any astrological or other such sense (see Ps 104:19; 136:7-9).
1:16 two great lights. The words "sun" and "moon" seem to be avoided deliberately here, since both were used as proper names for the pagan deities associated with these heavenly bodies. They are light-givers to be appreciated, not powers to be feared, because the one true God made them (see Isa 40:26). Since the emphasis is on the greater light and lesser light, the stars seem to be mentioned almost as an afterthought. But Ps 136:9 indicates that the stars help the moon "govern the night." govern. The great Creator-King assigns subordinate regulating roles to certain of his creatures (see vv. 26,28).
1:17-18 The three main functions of the heavenly bodies.
1:21 creatures of the sea. The Hebrew root underlying this phrase was used in Canaanite mythology to refer to a dreaded sea monster, which OT poets and prophets often employed as a metaphor for a powerful hostile force or empire (see Job 7:12; Ps 74:13; Isa 27:1; 51:9; Jer 51:34; Eze 29:3; 32:2 and notes; cf. notes on Job 3:8; 9:13; Ps 32:6; 87:4; 89:10). In Genesis, however, "the great creatures of the sea" are portrayed not as enemies to be feared but as part of God's good creation to be appreciated (cf. Ps 104:26 and note).
1:22 Be fruitful and increase in number. God's benediction on living things that inhabit the water and that fly in the air. By his blessing they flourish and fill both realms with life (see note on v. 28). God's rule over his created realm promotes and blesses life.
1:26 us... our... our. God speaks as the Creator-King, announcing his crowning work to the members of his heavenly court (see 3:22; 11:7; Isa 6:8; see also 1Ki 22:19-23; Job 15:8; Jer 23:18). man. Hebrew 'adam. This noun (like the earlier Canaanite 'adam) is a generic term, which, depending on context, is used to refer to a single human being or to a collectivity of human beings (whether males or females or both; see v. 27) or to humankind as a collective whole. It has no plural form. image... likeness. No distinction should be made between "image" and "likeness," which are synonyms in both the OT (5:1; 9:6) and the NT (1Co 11:7; Col 3:10; Jas 3:9). Since human beings are made in God's image, they are all worthy of honor and respect; they are neither to be murdered (9:6) nor cursed (Jas 3:9). "Image" includes such characteristics as "righteousness and holiness" (Eph 4:24) and "knowledge" (Col 3:10). Believers are to be "conformed to the likeness" of Christ (Ro 8:29) and will someday be "like him" (1Jn 3:2). and let them rule. Probably to be understood in the sense "so that they may rule." Within the realm of his visible creation God places a creature capable of acting as his agent in relationship to other creatures (1) to represent God's claim to kingship over his creation and (2) to bring its full potential to realization to the praise of the Creator's glory. (In the ancient Near East, kings marked their conquest of lands by setting up images of themselves in the conquered territories as a sign of their authority and ruling presence. An especially noteworthy example is the life-size statue of the ninth-century b.c. Hadad-Yith'i, ruler of Gozan, found at Tell Fekheriyeh in northeastern Syria in 1979. An Aramaic inscription on the statue identifies it as the "image" and "likeness" of the ruler, using the Aramaic cognates of the Hebrew words.) For a celebration of humanity's exalted role (under God) in the creation see Ps 8:5-8 and notes. For the ultimate embodiment of humanity's dominion over the creation see Heb 2:5-9 and notes. rule. Humans are the climax of God's creative activity, and God has crowned them "with glory and honor" and made them rulers over the rest of his creation (Ps 8:5-8). Since they were created in the image of the divine King, delegated sovereignty (kingship) was bestowed on them.
1:27 This highly significant verse is the first occurrence of poetry in the OT (which is about 40 percent poetry). created. The word is used here three times to describe the central divine act of the sixth day (see note on v. 1). male and female. Alike they bear the image of God, and together they share in the divine benediction that follows.
1:28 God blessed them... fill... subdue... Rule. Humankind goes forth from the hands of the Creator under his divine benediction—flourishing, filling the earth with their kind, and exercising dominion over the other earthly creatures (see v. 26; 2:15; Ps 8:6-8 and notes). Human culture, accordingly, is not anti-God (though fallen human beings often have turned their efforts into proud rebellion against God). Rather, it is the activity of those who bear the image of their Creator and share, as God's servants, in his kingly rule. As God's representatives in the creaturely realm, they are stewards of God's creatures. They are not to exploit, waste or despoil them, but to care for them and to use them in the service of God and humankind.
1:29-30 People and animals seem to be portrayed as originally vegetarian (see 9:3 and note).
1:31 very good. See note on v. 4. the sixth day. Perhaps to stress the finality and importance of this day, in the Hebrew text the definite article is first used here in regard to the creation days. Another possibility is that the purpose for the lack of the article with days 1-5 is to signal an order that is more literary/logical than strictly chronological (see note on v. 11).
2:1 A summary statement concluding the six days of creative activity (see note on 1:1).
2:2 finished... rested. God rested on the seventh day, not because he was weary, but because nothing formless or empty remained (see NIV text note). His creative work was completed—and it was totally effective, absolutely perfect, "very good" (1:31). It did not have to be repeated, repaired or revised, and the Creator rested to commemorate it.
2:3 God blessed the seventh day and made it holy... rested. Although the word "Sabbath" is not used here, the Hebrew verb translated "rested" (v. 2) is the origin of the noun "Sabbath." Ex 20:11 quotes the first half of v. 3, but substitutes "Sabbath" for "seventh," clearly equating the two. The first record of obligatory Sabbath observance is of Israel on her way from Egypt to Sinai (see Ex 16:5,23 and notes), but according to Ne 9:13-14 the Sabbath was not an official covenant obligation until the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. holy. See notes on Ex 3:5; Lev 11:44; Ro 1:7; 1Co 1:2.
2:4-4:26 The beginning of human history, in distinction from the account of creation in 1:1-2:3 (see note there).
2:4 account. The Hebrew word for "account" occurs ten times in Genesis—at the beginning of each main section (see Introduction: Literary Features). the heavens and the earth. See note on 1:1. The phrase "the account of the heavens and the earth" introduces the story of what happened to God's creation. The blight of sin and rebellion brought a threefold curse that darkens the story of Adam and Eve in God's good and beautiful garden: (1) on Satan (3:14); (2) on the ground, because of Adam's sin (3:17); and (3) on Cain (4:11). Lord God. "Lord" (Hebrew YHWH, "Yahweh") is the personal and covenant name of God (see note on Ex 3:15), emphasizing his role as Israel's Redeemer and covenant Lord (see note on Ex 6:6), while "God" (Hebrew Elohim) is a general term. Both names occur thousands of times in the OT, and often, as here, they appear together—clearly indicating that they refer to the one and only God.
2:7 formed. The Hebrew for this verb commonly referred to the work of a potter (see Isa 45:9; Jer 18:6), who fashions vessels from clay (see Job 33:6). "Make" (1:26), "create" (1:27) and "form" are used to describe God's creation of both people and animals (v. 19; 1:21,25). breath of life. Humans and animals alike have the breath of life in them (see 1:30; Job 33:4). the man became a living being. The Hebrew phrase here translated "living being" is translated "living creatures" in 1:20,24. The words of 2:7 therefore imply that people, at least physically, have affinity with the animals. The great difference is that people are made "in the image of God" (1:27) and have an absolutely unique relation both to God as his servants and to the other creatures as God's stewards over them (Ps 8:5-8).
2:8 in the east. From the standpoint of the author of Genesis. The garden was thought of as being near where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (see v. 14) meet, in what is today southern Iraq. Eden. A name synonymous with "paradise" and related to either (1) a Hebrew word meaning "bliss" or "delight" or (2) a Mesopotamian word meaning "a plain." Perhaps the author subtly suggests both.
2:9 tree of life. Signifying and giving life, without death, to those who eat its fruit (see 3:22; Rev 2:7; 22:2,14). tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Signifying and giving knowledge of good and evil, leading ultimately to death, to those who eat its fruit (v. 17; 3:3). "Knowledge of good and evil" refers to moral knowledge or ethical discernment (see Dt 1:39; Isa 7:15-16). Adam and Eve possessed both life and moral discernment as they came from the hand of God. Their access to the fruit of the tree of life showed that God's will and intention for them was life. Ancient pagans believed that the gods intended for human beings always to be mortal. In eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve sought a creaturely source of discernment in order to be morally independent of God.
2:11 Pishon. Location unknown. The Hebrew word may be a common noun meaning "gusher." Havilah. Location unknown; perhaps mentioned again in 10:29. It is probably to be distinguished from the Havilah of 10:7 (see note there), which was in Arabia.
2:13 Gihon. Location unknown. The Hebrew word may be a common noun meaning "spurter." Both the Pishon and the Gihon may have been streams in Lower Mesopotamia near the Persian Gulf. The names were those current when Genesis was written.
2:14 Asshur. An ancient capital city of Assyria ("Assyria" and "Asshur" are related words). Euphrates. Often called in Hebrew simply "the River" because of its size and importance (see note on 15:18).
2:15 work... take care. See notes on 1:26,28. The man is now charged to govern the earth responsibly under God's sovereignty.
2:16 any tree. Including the tree of life (v. 9).
2:17 surely die. Despite the serpent's denial (3:4), disobeying God ultimately results in death.
2:18-25 The only full account of the creation of woman in ancient Near Eastern literature.
2:18 not good... to be alone. Without female companionship and a partner in reproduction, the man could not fully realize his humanity.
2:19 name them. His first act of dominion over the creatures around him (see note on 1:5).
2:24 leave his father and mother. Instead of remaining under the protective custody of his parents a man leaves them and, with his wife, establishes a new family unit. united... one flesh. The divine intention for husband and wife was monogamy. Together they were to form as inseparable a union as that between parent and child. As parents and their children are the same "flesh and blood" (see 29:14 and note), so husband and wife should be bound together as "one flesh" as long as they live—of which sexual union is an expression (cf. 1Co 6:16 and note).
2:25 naked... no shame. Freedom from shame, signifying moral innocence, would soon be lost as a result of sin (see 3:7).