It is quite clear to everyone but the most conservative/fundamentalist biblical scholars, that these verses are a second, and different, story of creation. The differences, as compared with Gen 1:1–2:4a, can only be logically understood as a separate story and not a retelling of the first story but in greater detail. What are the differences?
- In the first story, God is only and repeatedly referred to as Elohim. In the second story, God is repeatedly referred to as either Yahweh or, more often, Yahweh Elohim and never as only Elohim.
- In the first story, God creates (Hebrew, bara) by speaking things and creatures into existence (1:1, 21, 27; 2:3, 4a). In the second story, God makes (Hebrew, asa) and God forms (Hebrew, yatsar), but God doesn’t create (bara).
- In the first story, God creates human beings, both male and female, at the same time, after God had created all the vegetation and all other creatures of every kind (1:11–12, 20–26). In the second story, only after God forms the first human, the male, out of the dust of the earth, does God make the vegetation and all the creatures. A woman is formed out of the first human’s rib when no suitable partners were found from among the other creatures.
- In the first story, God blesses the humans and tells them to “fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion…over every living thing” in the sea, sky and on the earth (1:28). God has a worldwide plan for humans to increase and fill the earth. In the second story God puts the human in the garden of Eden “to till it and keep it” (2:15). God has a limited plan for the human to take care of this garden.
There is no way to fit Gen 2:4b–25 into Gen 1:1–2:4a. It just doesn’t work. But the author/editor of Genesis obviously wasn’t bothered by that. Why? Because these are creation stories, not historically accurate accounts of how the world and humans came into existence.
In Exodus 3:15, we learn that Elohim has a personal name, the so-called “Tetragrammaton” (i.e., “four letters), which in Hebrew is יהוה (read from right to left, the letters are: yod, heh, vav, heh). It is unknown exactly how this was to be pronounced, due to the fact that the earliest Hebrew manuscripts have no vowels in the text and that at some point God’s name became “too holy” to be pronounced. So, when Jews happened upon יהוה they read it as Adonai which means “Lord.” When the Masoretes added vowel pointing to the Hebrew texts (hundreds of years later), they took the vowels of Adonai and added them to יהוה to remind themselves to read “Adonai”. That is why יְהוָֹה is pronounced as Yahweh.
It is interesting to note Exodus 6:2–3, “And Elohim spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, as El Shaddai, but by my name, Yahweh, I was not known to them.” Yet, in the book of Genesis, יהוה is used as God’s name 138 times! In light of that understanding, note the following statements:
- (4:26) “To Seth also a son was born, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to invoke the name of יהוה.”
- (12:8) “From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to יהוה and invoked the name of יהוה.”
- (13:3b–4) “…between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the יהוה.”
- (21:33) “Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of יהוה, the Everlasting God.”
- (26:25) “So he built an altar there, called on the name of יהוה, and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.”
Another thing that strikes me as interesting, and that tells me this is a story, is that God placed in the garden “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” including “the tree of life” and “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” This is a set up for the human to fail. What loving parents would disguise a food that would kill their child as something pleasant to the sight and good for food? Yet, that’s what Yahweh Elohim did. (More on that to come.) However, as Good notes, “Such magical trees are frequent ingredients of origin and creation stories. The “tree of life” is found more often, and it turns up again here only at the end of the garden of Eden story as a reason to exclude the humans from Eden” (24).
So, here we have the first humans, set up by Yahweh Elohim to live forever in the garden of Eden. I mean, they had access to the tree of life and were allowed to eat from it. Yahweh Elohim would come down in the cool of the evening to walk and talk with them. The only job they had was to till and to keep the garden. The only restriction they had was to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Seems doable, even idyllic! But wait! The most cunning of all the creatures Yahweh Elohim made is about to turn “paradise given” into “paradise lost.”