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BibliaTodo Commentaries

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Peake Arthur S. and Grieve A. J. - Peake's Comment

Genesis 2

1. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

2. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

3. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

4. These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,

5. And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

6. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

7. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

8. And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9. And out of the ground made the LORD God 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 knowledge of good and evil.

10. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

11. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

12. And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

13. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

14. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

15. And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

16. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

17. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

18. And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

19. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

20. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

21. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

22. And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

25. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

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Genesis 2

Gen 1:1 to Gen 2:4 a. The Priestly Story of Creation.—This section belongs to the Priestly Document (P). This is shown by the use of several of its characteristic terms, by the constant repetition of the formulæ, and by the formal arrangement. P’s interest in the origin of religious institutions is displayed in the explanation of the origin of the Sabbath. The lofty monotheism of the section is also characteristic of his theological position. The story rests upon a much older tradition, mainly, it would seem, Babylonian in its origin. There are several striking parallels with the Babylonian creation legend. The “deep” or watery chaos (tehom) (Gen 1:12) corresponds to the Babylonian Tiamat. Darkness is over this chaos. There is a rending of sky and earth from each other, and the creation of a solid expanse or firmament which divides the upper waters from the waters of the earth, and in which the heavenly bodies are placed. There are also serious differences, due largely to the absence of the polytheistic and mythological element from the Biblical account (p. 51). Even if the Spirit of God that broods over the abyss is a remnant of mythology, yet the Hebrew account represents God as existing before the creative process begins, and as willing and controlling it, whereas in the Babylonian legend the gods come into existence during the process. Nor is there any trace of opposition between the abyss and the creative power in Genesis; though it is not said that chaos was created by God, it rather seems to have an independent existence beside Him. The Phœnician cosmogony presents striking parallels, such as the existence at first of chaos and spirit, and the egg, from which the universe was produced, which seems to be implied in the Hebrew narrative in the reference to the brooding of the Spirit. It is probable, in spite of the striking differences, that the Biblical account has its ultimate origin in the Babylonian mythology rather than that both are, as Dillmann thinks, independent developments of a primitive Semitic myth. Gunkel has argued forcibly that the work of creation was explained by analogy from the rebirth of the world in spring after the winter, or in the morning after the night, and that the phenomena depicted can have been suggested only in an alluvial country like Babylonia. But it has derived elements from other sources, especially Phœnician and possibly Egyptian. It appears to have been formed in Palestine, for the purification of the story would involve a long process, and one which would be complete only at a late point in the pre-exilic period. In its present form it is probably not earlier than the exile, and was presumably written on Babylonian soil. But it is most unlikely that the Priestly writer, belonging, as he did, to the rigid school of Ezekiel, should have borrowed consciously from Babylonian mythology. At what time this myth reached Israel is much disputed. Some think the Hebrews brought it with them from Mesopotamia; others place it in the period known to us from the Tell el-Amarna tablets (about 1450 B.C.) when Babylonian culture exerted great influence on Western Asia and Egypt; others again think of the period of Assyrian rule over Judah. It is unlikely that the Hebrews, even if they brought the Babylonian legend with them from Mesopotamia, would preserve it through all their subsequent experiences. More probably they derived it from the Canaanites, who may have learnt it from the Babylonians in the Tell el-Amarna period (see p. 51). We can thus account for the Canaanite elements that appear to have been incorporated. Some scholars hold that the Hebrews elaborated the creation doctrine at a late period. This does not at all follow from the silence of the earlier prophets, even if, as is not unlikely, the creation passages in Amos are a later addition (pp. 551, 554). For these prophets had little occasion to speak of it. And there are references in the other literature which seem to be early. This is specially true of the creation story in Genesis 2. And in Solomon’s dedication words at the consecration of the Temple, restored by Wellhausen from the LXX (p. 298), we read “Yahweh hath set the sun in the heavens.” So also in Exo 20:11, which, even if a later addition to the Decalogue, is probably pre-exilic, we read that “in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth.” It would be strange if, when the surrounding peoples had creation narratives, Israel had none. Whether the Priestly writer himself originated the division into six days is uncertain. It is clearly later than the enumeration of the works as eight. For in order to get eight works into six days it has been necessary to put two works on the third and two on the sixth day; and in neither case is the pair well matched; in the former we have the separation of land and water combined with the creation of vegetation, in the latter land-animals and man are created on the same day, though from the lofty position assigned to man, we should have expected his creation to have taken place on a day reserved for it. But the six days’ work and the seventh day’s rest are probably not due to the Priestly writer. The Sabbath rest for God is so anthropomorphic an idea, that P, who does not represent God as subject to human limitations and affections, must have borrowed it from an older source. Both the six days’ work and seventh day’s rest are found in Exo 20:11. If this is dependent on our passage, it yields no evidence for an earlier origin of the six days’ scheme. But although it does not occur in the Deuteronomic version of the Decalogue, the reason for the commandment substituted in Deu 5:15 probably had its origin in the humane spirit of the Deuteronomic legislation. The differences between Exo 20:11 and Gen 2:2 are also of a kind to exclude the dependence of the former on the latter. It may, therefore, be assumed that not only the division of creation into eight works but the period of six days lay ready to the author’s hand. As it is not found in the Babylonian or Phœnician cosmogonies, it seems probable that the six days’ scheme is of Israelitish origin. The eight works may have been borrowed ultimately from a foreign source. Those who are interested in the once burning question as to the relation between this narrative and modern science should consult the very thorough discussion in Driver’s Commentary. Here it must suffice to say that the value of the narrative is not scientific but religious; that it imperils faith to insist on literal accuracy in a story which can only by unjustifiable forcing be made to yield it; that it was more in harmony with the method of inspiration to take current views and purify them so that they might be fit vehicles of religious truth than to anticipate the progress of research by revealing prematurely what men could in due time discover for themselves; and finally that even if this narrative could be harmonised with our present knowledge, we should have the task of harmonising the very different narrative in the second chapter both with the present story and with modern science, (See further p. 12.)


Gen 2:4 b– Gen 3:24. J’s Story of Creation and Paradise Lost.—This story does not belong to P, for it is free from its characteristics in style, vocabulary, and point of view. It is distinguished from P’s creation story by differences in form and in matter. The regular and precise arrangement, the oft-repeated formulæ, the prosaic style are here absent. We have, instead, a bright and vivid style, a story rather than a chronicle. The frank anthropomorphism would have been repugnant to the priestly writer, and a marked difference is to be observed between the two accounts. P starts from a watery chaos, this narrative from a dry waste. P represents the development of life as moving in a climax up to the creation of man and woman, while here man seems to be created first, then plants and animals, and woman last of all. The use of Yahweh, the anthropomorphism, and several characteristic expressions combine to show that this section must be assigned to the Yahwist group of narratives. The use of the double name Yahweh Elohim (rendered LORD God) raises the question whether we should assign the section to J. Possibly two documents have been combined, one of which used Yahweh from the first while the other used Elohim till the time of Enosh (Gen 4:26). But a sufficient explanation is that the writer used Yahweh alone, while an editor added Elohim to identify Yahweh with the Elohim of the priestly story. We may, accordingly, refer this section to J. Yet it bears the marks of a rather complicated literary history, and elements from different sources seem to be present in it. The most important of the literary problems is that raised with reference to the two trees. According to Gen 2:9 the tree in the midst of the garden is the tree of life, in Gen 2:3 it is the forbidden tree, i.e. the tree of knowledge. The ambiguity gains further significance when we find a double reason assigned for the expulsion from the garden, (a) that the man should suffer the penalty of gaining his bread by the sweat of his brow, (b) that he should not eat of the tree of fife. Probably two stories have been combined; one spoke of the tree of knowledge, the other of the tree of life. Since the latter has several parallels in myths of the golden age, it probably belongs to a much older story than that of the tree of knowledge, which appears to be of Heb. origin. But the later story has apparently been preserved in full, the older only in fragments. We must, accordingly, seek to understand the original meaning of both. In the volume of Essays and Studies Presented to William Ridgeway, Sir J. G. Frazer has made a suggestion of great interest as to the tree of life. In myths accounting for the origin of death the serpent often occurs. It is commonly believed that with the casting of its skin it renews its youth, and so never dies. This immortality was designed for men, but the serpent by learning the secret filched the boon from them. Frazer suggests that there were two trees, the tree of life and the tree of death. The Creator left man to choose, hoping that he would choose the tree of life. The serpent, knowing the secret, persuaded the woman to eat of the tree of death, that the other might be left to him. This was the motive of his conduct, which in the present form of the story is inexplicable, and accounts more fully for the hatred between man and the serpent. The story may have ended, This is how it is that man dies while the serpent lives for ever. It will be seen that this story is, to use the technical term, ætiological (p. 134), i.e. it explains the reason for certain facts, it answers the question “Why?” Why does man die while the serpent is immortal? Why do man and the serpent feel such antipathy for each other? The story of the tree of knowledge is however, much deeper. Whether the Heb. narrator took the story of the tree of life for his starting-point or whether the two stories were originally independent, and only such elements of the older narrative were taken over as could be combined with the later, may be left undetermined. But the later also is ætiological. Only we must not suppose that its object is to account for the origin of sin. The author was not concerned with the problems which the chapter presented to Jewish theology and to Paul. He is answering the questions, Why is man’s lot one of such exacting toil? Why does birth cost such agony to the mother? What is the origin of sex and the secret of the mutual attraction of the sexes? Whence the sense of shame, and the clothes which distinguish man from the beast? Why, when all other land animals go on legs, does the serpent glide along the ground and eat dust? But what is the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and how does the eating of its fruit open the eyes? To the modern reader the most obvious answer is that eating the forbidden fruit brings with it a knowledge of moral distinctions and the sense of shame and guilt. This can hardly be the real meaning. The author surely did not believe that a knowledge of the distinction between right and wrong was improper for mankind; all the more that this is already presupposed in a prohibition which may be met with obedience or disobedience. The choice of the tree is not arbitrary, as if any prohibition would be equally fit for the purpose. The object is not to test obedience, but to guard against a trespass. Just as the tree of life has the property of communicating immortality, so the other tree confers knowledge. They are magical trees; God Himself, it is suggested, cannot prevent any who eat the fruit from enjoying the qualities they bestow (Gen 3:22). Moreover, it is hinted that the reason for the prohibition is protection of the heavenly powers. If man acquires immortality after gaining knowledge, he becomes a menace to them. Just as, if the builders of the tower are not restrained, they will not be thwarted in their heaven-storming plan (Gen 11:4-9), so man, having become like the heavenly ones in knowledge, must not be permitted endless life in which to use it. Now, clearly, it is not familiarity with the difference between right and wrong, but the knowledge that is power which is meant. Good and evil have no moral significance here. According to a common Heb. idiom, the phrase may mean the knowledge of things in general; but the sense is perhaps more specific, the knowledge of things so far as they are useful or harmful; an insight into the properties of things. Such a knowledge is reserved for Yahweh and the other Elohim; and just as in the story of the angel-marriages (Gen 6:1-4) and the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9) Yahweh resents any transgression of the limits He has set, so here. Yet it is not mere jealousy or fear that prompts His action. The writer is in full sympathy with the prohibition. Knowledge has been gained, but with it pain and shame, the loss of happiness and innocence. Civilisation has meant no increase of man’s blessedness but the reverse. Had he been content to abide a child, he might have remained in Paradise, but he grasped at knowledge and was for ever banished from the garden of God. The literary beauty of the narrative, the delicacy and truth of its psychology, have long been the object of merited admiration. And though it has been mishandled by theologians to yield a doctrine of original sin, yet it describes with wonderful insight the inner history of the individual. He insists on buying his own experience in spite of the Divine warning, only to find that he has purchased it at a ruinous cost, and that conscience awakens when the sin is irretrievable and remorse unavailing. The representation of the original condition of things as a dry waste, and of fertility as normally dependent on rain, does not suit Babylonian conditions, nor yet the reference to the fig-tree. Hence, if the story originated in Babylonia, which is uncertain, it has been much modified to suit Palestinian conditions. The Hebrews may have received it directly from the Phænicians and Canaanites, but we may be sure that it has been greatly deepened by the genius of Israel.



King James Version

This is the 1769 King James Version of the Holy Bible (also known as the Authorized Version). "Public Domain"




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