Genesis chapter 2

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What does Genesis chapter 2 mean?

Genesis 2 begins by describing the end of God's week of creation. Chapter 1 described what God had created day by day, for six days. The first verses of chapter 2 explain the seventh day, in which God rested from His work.

The remainder of chapter 2 focuses more details on the creation of the first man, the garden God placed him in, and the work God gave him to do. Before man was created, there were no cultivated crops, and the land was watered by streams or mists rising up from the ground.

In this passage, God creates man, forming him out of the dust of the ground and breathing the "breath of life" into him. Man becomes a living being. God places man into His newly planted garden in the region of Eden, a garden with abundant fruit-bearing trees. Two trees in the middle of the garden stand out. They have names: The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

For all of the debates over which aspects of Genesis are meant to be literal, and which are meant to be symbolic, the Garden of Eden is not so difficult to interpret. The writer of Genesis clearly intends it to be understood as a real place in the real world. This portion of Scripture describes the river that runs out of it and divides into four separate rivers. Those rivers run through places that would have been especially familiar to Genesis' first readers. They include the Tigris and Euphrates, rivers that still flow through the lands of Mesopotamia.

God places the man in the garden with specific work to do, such as maintaining the garden and naming the animals. God also issues a single, specific negative command: never eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, or you will die.

This passage is also the first time when God recognizes that some aspect of His creation is not good. It's not good for the man to be alone. There are no living things which complement Adam as the animals of the same kind correspond to each other. So God takes a rib from Adam and makes a helper and companion for him. Eve becomes Adam's wife. This is a fascinating action by God, one that is rich in symbolism. God obviously could have created Eve from dust, as He did Adam, but chose instead to form her out of Adam's own body.

For this reason, the closing verses tell us, men are to separate from their parents and stick to their wives, becoming one flesh with them.

Adam and Eve's relationship was unique in all of history. When they met, no sin yet existed in the world or between them. They remained unashamed of anything, including their own nakedness. In their innocence, they had nothing to hide from God or from each other. In that way, they truly existed in paradise, one beyond just the plants and animals of a garden. Unfortunately, in chapter three, this ideal situation will be lost as a result of their choice to sin against God.
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