Bible Study 8.22.11 For Worship 9.4.11 Genesis 2:1-25Posted: August 15, 2011
Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.
3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.
4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
5 when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up — for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground;
6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground–
7 then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
8 And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
9 And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers.
11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;
12 and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there.
13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which flows around the whole land of Cush.
14 And the name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;
17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.
21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh;
22 and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
The Hebrew Scriptures have at least four different creation stories: Genesis 1, Genesis 2, Psalm 104, Proverbs 8:22-31. Each story serves its own purpose and can be credited to a different author. None of the Creation Stories in the Hebrew Scriptures are intended to serve as a scientific explanation of the process of creation. They are instead metaphors intended to communicate deep wisdom about the nature of human beings, our relationship to our environment, and our relationship to God.
The second chapter of Genesis represents a Creation Story that developed around the camp fire. God carefully molds the human from the dust of the ground – deep wisdom – from dust we come and to dust we return. Adam means from the earth. We are made from the earth. But we are more than just dust, for the Creator breathes into the human the breath of life, the divine spark that is part of the Holy Spirit. God gives Adam a divine kiss, a loving intimate gesture that brings him to life. In this story human beings are not an after-thought or a mistake. Humans are created with intentionality, care and love – God don’t make junk.
In a folksy kind of way God notices that Adam is lonely. So the Creator sets about to provide a companion for the human. All of the animals are created, and the human is encouraged to name them. But there is not a “fit companion” found among the animals. So Eve is fashioned from Adam’s own flesh – flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. We can discuss endlessly whether the Genesis Story contributes to Patriarchy and the domination of women, and perhaps it is time for a new story – midrash.
The portion of the story to which I want to call particular attention this week are the two trees in the middle of the Garden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and God’s admonition in verses 16 and 17: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
Many commentators down through the ages have pointed to problems with these verses. First, God gives the command to Adam before Eve is created. The text never says that God told Eve about the prohibition. We can assume that someone told her, because in chapter 3 in response to a question from the snake she says: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” We do not know if Eve’s information came direct from God, or from Adam. We do not know if “neither shall you touch it,” was Eve’s invention, or was in misinformation passed on by Adam. (Remember all of the misinformation passed around about sex, when we were children and adolescents?)
Another problem raised by commentators is why did God create the trees in the first place? It’s like storing a loaded gun in an unlocked cabinet and then pointing out to a child, where the gun is stored. Is this really smart? Some commentators suggest that God intended all along that humans would have to know good and evil, they couldn’t become truly human and remain innocent. Other commentators have suggested that in Hebrew the word to know implies intimate knowledge (Adam knew Eve and she conceived). There are some forms of evil of which we don’t need to have intimate knowledge. Do I really need to know what it is like to kill another human being? Do I really need to know what it is like to shoot up with heroin, or cocaine, or even smoke a cigarette? I am reminded of a journalist who was interviewing a cannibal in New Guinea. The cannibal said, “I have eaten a man, and I have eaten a woman. They taste the same.” Some forms of experience maybe we don’t need to know.
If God intended for human beings to have knowledge of good and evil, then it hardly seems fair to blame them for accessing that knowledge. But this chapter isn’t really about blame. Rather the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is about knowledge, power and responsibility. God intended for human beings to have the power of knowledge – knowledge of the atom, knowledge of genetics, knowledge of science, but the challenge is for humanity to learn to use all knowledge responsibly. We now have learned some of the secrets of nuclear energy. Do we know enough to use it responsibly? What do Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi say about our human ability to use the knowledge of nuclear energy responsibly?
The human race has now begun accessing knowledge of the genetic code. Are we wise enough, mature enough to use that knowledge responsibly? What are some of the ethical issues we humans must now grapple with because of our increased knowledge? Should we clone animals? Should we clone people? Scientists have discovered a frozen baby mammoth. Should we clone it? What might be the implications? “Jurassic Park,” explored the problem of cloning dinosaurs. Are we really ready to use our knowledge responsibly?
The Greek version of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the story of Pandora’s Box. In developing our technology have we opened a Pandora’s Box of pollution and global warming? In an internet/information age, where knowledge grows and spreads exponentially what are the issues of using knowledge responsibly? What does it mean to share information equitably? Insider trading is an obvious example of an unethical use of knowledge. Are there other ethical issues involving the equitable sharing or access to information? One of the problems in our economy and our political system is that some people are able to achieve privileged positions of information and knowledge that allow them to amass power and wealth. Should there be a limitation or regulation of those forms of information or knowledge?
Humans wouldn’t be human without the knowledge of Good and Evil. I think God knew the people would go for that tree from the beginning, and that is why God has been working with us ever since to learn how to use knowledge responsibly. The Law of Moses was the beginning of ethics, and we need to continue learning refining our discernment of the ethics of using knowledge.
NEW FEATURE – NEW FEATURE
Each week we will feature thoughts about how our weekly passage might be taught to children. We hope this section will be particular helpful to folks volunteering to do Children’s Sermons and to Sunday School teachers. We invite everyone to make a contribution to this section by posting comments on the United Church Bible Study Facebook Page.
My comments about teaching this passage to children are to focus first on how carefully God forms the human from the dust. Maybe allow the children to play with some clay. Another important image is God breathing into Adam the breath of life. God brings Adam to life with a divine kiss. Sort of like a parent giving his/her child a kiss in the morning, or a kiss good night. Children will also relate to the human giving names to the animals. Very small children like naming things, and they can probably relate to Adam inventing names like elephant, giraffe, hippopotamus. Maybe ask children what names they would give to the creatures based upon how they look. There could be a children’s book in that concept. I would also make use of Blake’s pictures of Creation. They are very benign and I think potentially attractive for children. Google Blake pictures Creation under Google Images.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. What did God do on the seventh day of creation?
2. What does God do in order to initiate living things on earth?
3. What does God use to make the human?
4. When God makes a special Garden for the humans, where does God place the garden?
5. What are the names of the Rivers mentioned in the second chapter of Genesis?
6. How many plants in the garden are forbidden for the humans to eat?
7. What does God say will be the consequence if this plant is eaten?
8. How did God attempt to find a helper for the human?
9. Does it appear from the story in Chapter 2 that God originally had procreation in mind?
10. How does God create the woman?
11. What is the physical and spiritual state of the man and the woman at the end of the passage?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF US
1. If God can do anything, why do you think God rests on the seventh day?
2. How important is water? Does this have a message for us in our time?
3. For you what is the symbolism of Adam being formed from the dust and then God breathing in to him the breath of life?
4. For you what is the symbolism of the Garden?
5. What do you thinks is the symbolism of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?
6. Why do you think God includes the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden?
7. What do you think was God’s purpose in pointing out the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to the human?
8. Do you think God could have done it differently?
9. If you had been God, would you have created humans with the knowledge of Good and Evil, allowed them to discover Good and Evil for themselves, or prevent them from ever having the knowledge of Good and Evil?
10. Do you think the story of the creation of Eve has contributed to the oppression of women?
11. In truth humans have never been alone. What do you think the story teller was trying to accomplish in the naming of the animals story?
12. Do you think the original story teller meant to imply that in Eden there originally would have been no procreation?
13. Do you think it is possible to be human and remain innocent?
14. For you what is the meaning of the last verse: And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed?