E2 Modern Biblical Commentary
The Book of Genesis, Chapter 2
The second chapter of Genesis introduces the first human players in the Bible, Adam and Eve and details the creation of the Garden of Eden.
At the end of the previous chapter, mankind had not been created yet; in fact, the world was just as it was ten million years ago, at least in terms of natural history. This chapter is all about the dawn of man in the form of Adam and Eve.
Five Key Verses
"Of the dust of the ground" opens this verse, which implies (correctly) that there is nothing truly special about what we are made from. Like most other living things, we are a watery glob of chemical building blocks. Yet there is something special about us that sets us apart, the "breath of God." One can interpret it in a lot of ways; one way is that the breath of God gives humans consciousness and the ability to think in a logical fashion, something which truly sets us apart from the rest of the species on earth.
Genesis 2:7 - 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.
The implication here is that since God gave us this breath of life, and that we value this life, then we should place value in the one that gave this life to us, God.
This passage is the one that makes clear that God gave us a great freedom, the freedom of choice.
Genesis 2:17 - 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.
Rather than physically preventing Adam from eating from the tree of knowledge, God gave Adam a choice, even though Adam, since he had free will, could potentially make the wrong choice. We are faced in our lives every day with countless situations where we have to make choices, and we have to live with the consequences of wrong choices. But the freedom to make the choices ourselves is a truly great gift.
God's work was not truly complete until he created woman, and made a partner for man to share in life with. Without the partnership of man and woman, mankind could not continue onward and prosper.
Genesis 2:18 - And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
God designed man as a social creature by nature; it is not good for a person to be alone. This is why loneliness inside us often leads to a great deal of despair and pain, and that rejection by others is one of the most painful experiences of human existence.
This is the symbolic statement of the basis of marriage in the Bible. People leave behind their parents and become totally committed to one another, essentially becoming one entity. In this sense, a marriage is an intertwinement of lives to the point that they appear as only one braid.
Genesis 2:24 - Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
The majority of marriages today fail; people find that living a life together is not as easy as it might seem. This statement on marriage seems to say clearly that one should be unquestionably sure of their direction in life before choosing to go down that path.
Have you ever seen a child running about unclothed without a care in the world? Young children aren't self-conscious about the fact that they are naked, and neither are Adam and Eve in the Garden. Adam and Eve at this point have nothing at all to hide from God physically, emotionally, spiritually, or intellectually. Much like clothing, we build up barriers in our mind attempting to disguise parts of ourselves from those close to us and from God.
Genesis 2:25 - And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
While constraints of human society force some degree of secrecy upon us, God is one entity to which it is perfectly all right to be completely naked with. God is there to listen; he has been with us since our first breath of life, and will be with us when we leave our mortal coil. When you pray, don't hold anything back; God will be there for you.
Modern Perspective on Genesis 2
Genesis 2 says that Adam and Eve are our ancestors and are the reason that God created the Earth. It also states that the union of marriage is one of the most fundamental tenets of human life.
From the standpoint of modern science, this may seem to be flawed, but it is not. Evolution dictates that the process of natural selection and survival of the fittest caused the world we see today. However, it is a world that has humankind in the driver's seat; we are the latest, most dominant creation of the process. These processes also led all species to adopt patterns of reproduction that would continue the species onward; in humankind, this is often done through the process of marriage followed by children, as described clearly in this chapter. Again, science and Christianity don't contradict each other as people often seem to claim.
In terms of humanity, though, this is truly the high point. Mankind has yet to commit a single sin and lives together with God. In the next chapter, humankind takes the first steps down the path of sin.