In the first chapter of Genesis, God creates everything in the universe by the power of his Word. In the second chapter of Genesis, God gets himself dirty, interacting directly with the materials he had created. Critics have noticed this and other differences between the two chapters and have suggested that the accounts contradict each other. Conspiracy theorists have said that the two accounts developed in different parts of Israel and were stuck together by an editor long after the time of Moses. The presence of Christ in Genesis provides a more satisfying explanation for the differences between these chapters.
Chapter one describes the Creator as God (Elohim). God creates the world by speaking; creation is accomplished through his Word and for his Word. Chapter two describes the Creator as the LORD God (Yahweh Elohim). The personal name of God indicates his personal involvement in creation. When God is this personally active in the world, we can be sure that Christ is at work. While the Father speaks, the Son gets dirty fulfilling his Father’s will. This happens again in the Incarnation of Christ, when he is born and placed in a manger and spends more than thirty years among sinners, including some who reject him and execute him.
The order of creation appears to vary between the chapters. Chapter one presents a clear order of events, organized over six days. Plants were created on the third day, and land animals–including the first man and the first woman–were created on the sixth day. But in chapter two, the order of creation appears to be the man first, then plants, then animals, and finally the woman. The plants that are mentioned, though, are specifically garden plants. God created a garden after making the first man; he had already created vegetation earlier. Mention of the animals after the creation of the man but before the creation of the woman does not mean that God created in that order. The Hebrew language has only two tenses and uses them in various ways. The best translation of verse 19 is that the LORD God “had formed” the animals before making the man, and that after the man was formed and the garden planted, the LORD God brought the animals to the man.
Genesis 1:24 quotes God as saying, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures.” Christ, the Word of God, responds by forming animals from the earth, as described in Genesis 2:19. Then he formed the body of Adam. I suggested earlier that the body of Christ as experienced in Genesis is the same body that was born in Bethlehem, that walked the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea, that was beaten, crucified, and buried, that rose on the third day and later ascended to fill the universe in both space and time. If I am correct about that body, then the hands which shaped the body of Adam were already scarred from the nails that held him to the cross.
After forming Adam from the earth, God ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” The same Hebrew word (ruach) can mean breath, wind, or spirit. Frequently the Bible makes use of this pun, as on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit announces his presence with the sound of a rushing wind. At the beginning of creation the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Here he is mentioned again as the instrument by which Adam receives life.
God brought every animal to Adam so that Adam would name them. To assign a name is to exercise authority. As in chapter one, authority to care for the planet and for its living beings is assigned to humanity. God had a second purpose for bringing the animals to Adam. He was preparing Adam for a special companion by first giving him the desire for a teammate with whom he could share his world and his authority.
“It is not good for the man to be alone,” God said. Does God know how it feels to be alone? Outside of space and time, God is eternally three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In a sense, then, God has never been alone–except for one occasion when the Son of God was truly alone. Hanging on the cross, atoning for the sins of the world, Jesus was forsaken by his Father. For a few hours, the Son of God was truly alone.
Jesus endured the torture of the cross, including the rejection of his Father, to redeem his people. He paid in full for the sins of the world so he could build a Church and claim a Bride. Paul wrote that every marriage is a picture of Christ and his Church. This surely must be true of the first marriage. To provide a bride for Adam, God had Adam fall into a deep sleep. To claim his Bride, Jesus fell into the sleep of death. After Jesus had died, a soldier prodded him with a spear, opening a wound in his side from which blood and water flowed. Medically this certifies that Jesus truly had died, since fluid had accumulated in his chest around his heart and lungs. In matters of faith, it also pictures the Bride of Christ, the Church, coming from the crucified Savior–water reminding us of Baptism and blood reminding us of the Lord’s Supper, both important events in the life of the Church. And both Adam’s sleep and Christ’s sleep happened on a Friday, the sixth day of the week.
Eve was taken from Adam’s side. Someone has said (It’s attributed to various people.) that she was not taken from Adam’s head to rule him, nor from his foot to be trampled by him, but from his side to be next to him, from under his arm to be protected by him, and from near his heart to be loved by him. They were a team, both created in the image of God, both given authority over the planet and its living beings.
All this happened in a garden. The theme of gardens and wilderness runs through the Bible. Israel was promised a land flowing with milk and honey; but before they arrived in the Promised Land, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Jesus battled temptation in the wilderness. He was arrested in a garden and forced out of the garden, as Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden after their sin. Yet when he had won the war against evil, he was buried in a garden. In that garden, the news of his resurrection was first announced. The last two chapters of the Bible (Revelation 21-22) describe the new creation which will be our home after Jesus reveals his glory and announces his judgment. That description of the new creation signifies that our home, once again, will be a garden.