Genesis as Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, & Theological Commentary

By Thomas L. Brodie | Go to book overview

16
Creation and Its Harmony (1:1–2:24)
Creation from God: The Grandeur (the Universe, 1:1–2:4a)
Creation for Humankind: The Groundedness (the Garden, 2:4b—24)

Introductory Aspects

The Basic Story Line (from Creation to Cain)

The initial chapters (1:1–4:16) consist at one level of three basic scenes: sevenday creation; the Garden of Eden; and Cain's killing of Abel.

The beginning is like an awesome trumpet blast: “God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1); and having given that resounding call, the opening account proceeds as it were to unfold it, to spell out how, for six days, God created (1: 1–2:4a). Days 1–3 lead up climactically to the making of dry land and vegetation; and days 4–6, while echoing days 1–3, lead up, even more climactically, to the making of the animals and humankind. The high points, therefore, are land (day 3) and land animals, especially humans (day 6). Then, on the seventh/ Sabbath day, God rests—a picture of harmony, divine harmony. The awesome trumpet blast reaches a certain calm.

The second scene, the Garden of Eden, builds on the first, and begins in turn to unfold it further. But the second is no trumpet. Instead, while the trumpet in the distance still echoes, the second scene comes in like a violin, closer to the human voice; and the two together blend, one responding to the other—a haunting concerto of trumpet and violin, touching some of the deepest chords of the human spirit. The second scene, while different in sources, style, and viewpoint, develops and unpacks the twin peaks of the first—days 3 and 6, with their dense pictures of land and animals (including humans). Furthermore, specific aspects in chapter 2 respond to aspects and details of chapter 1. For instance, where scene one had said “heavens and earth” (1:1), scene two responds with “earth and heavens” (2:4b), shifting the emphasis toward the earth. Where scene one had spoken of God's spirit hovering (1:2), scene two responds with God actually breathing life into a person (2:7)—again shifting the emphasis toward a more down-to-earth scene. And while scene one finished with a sense of harmony that is divine, God resting, scene two develops a picture of harmony that is human—the man with the woman. Linked to these climactic pictures of harmony are two central institutions: scene one provides the basis for the institution of the Sabbath, and scene two the basis for the more human-oriented institution of marriage.

The story goes on (2:25-chap. 3) to tell how much of the harmony was undone: the couple failed to hear what God had said and so they provoked tension concerning God, the ground, and one another. And they were expelled.

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