This content is part of a series.Creation Care (49 of 52)
Christopher B. Harbin
Jewish understandings of Genesis chapter two have long focused on God's ideal design for the world. The contrasts between Genesis two and three focus on how the reality of life on earth is different from the way God created the world to be. Sin intervened and life no longer flows according to God's original purposes. When Jesus spoke of Genesis chapter two, he called attention to the ideals of God in establishing the world, even as humanity has departed from those same purposes. First of all, we find in this text that the world order was established with the purpose of sustaining human life in all its fullness. The order of creation here is different from that in the first chapter. The narrative is so told in order to highlight God's design for creation. That is the point behind addressing the creation of humanity first, then turning around and completing the creation of humanity at the narrative's end. For the first narrative, humanity was God's crowning achievement. For the second, it was the reason God created in the first place.
There was yet no plant on the earth. There were yet no animals or birds or rain. God fashioned humanity out of the dust of the earth, breathed into our nostrils the breath of all things living, and humanity came to life. Then God went about the task of preparing everything necessary to sustain and enrich human life on earth.
It is an odd order. It is not set down for us to take literally, as a scientific account of how God went about creation. As far as order is concerned, it is in some ways the reverse of the preceding chapter, where humanity is the crowning point of creation, not its beginning. The beginning points for each account begin in different places. More than that, however, they begin with different purposes. Chapter one begins with chaos to demonstrate that Yahweh is the bringer of order and purpose. Chapter two begins with the ...
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