Genesis Chapter 2
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Go to Bible: Genesis 2
“And.” To keep the flow of the context, this verse should have been numbered Genesis 1:32 instead of 2:1, because in it God continues the work of the first week of creation. To make the creation story easier to understand, Genesis 2:4 should have been Genesis 2:1, and started the new chapter with telling the story of creation from another point of view.
“with everything that was in them.” The Hebrew word is tsaba (#06635 צָבָא), and it refers to an army. God uses it to refer to the organized and vast army of the stars (Deut. 4:19; 17:3), as well as the army of angels (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 148:2). In Isaiah 24:21 it refers to the army of fallen angels. But the Hebrew does not have to have a militaristic meaning. It can simply refer to a huge organized number like an army. Here it refers to all the organized things in the heavens and earth, which could include the “organized” numbers of animals, fish, stars, etc.
One thing this verse clearly indicates is that God created things with inherent organization. He did not just throw the stars in heaven and see where they stuck. He created the swarms on earth and the vast array of stars in heaven to work together in an organized fashion. All of God’s original creation, working together, was “very good,” and it worked together in harmony. Every part in some way affected every other part. This organization and intimate interrelation was seriously affected by the Fall of man.(top)
“ceased.” The Hebrew word means “ceased” or “stopped.” It is the older use of “rest” which meant “stop,” like in the phrase, “Give it a rest,” meaning stop doing that. The NET text note reads, “The Hebrew term שָׁבַּת (shabbat) [related to the word “sabbath”] can be translated “to rest” (“and he rested”) but it basically means “to cease.” This is not a rest from exhaustion; it is the cessation of the work of creation.
“work that he had done.” The word “work” is a noun, and here it refers to what God had done, the things He had created; and also the activity that God had been involved in; as in His profession, His business. That is the reason that some versions read, “that he had made” and others read, “that he had done.”(top)
“made it holy.” This is the first time that “holy,” or “set apart” is used in the Bible, and here the seventh day is set apart from the rest of the days. The seventh day is “holy.”(top)
“history.” When the Hebrew word is followed by genealogies, the word “generations” is more appropriate.
“in the day.” The Hebrew does not have the definite article, and “in day” is an idiom that refers to a period of time. God did not make the heavens and the earth in one 24-hour period. This is the same wording in the Hebrew text as in Genesis 2:17 (see commentary on Gen. 2:17). It could be translated as “when” Yahweh made the earth, and that is what the text means.
“Yahweh.” Genesis 2:4 is the first use of the personal name of God in the Bible. The Hebrew name of God consists of four consonants and no vowels, and there has been a long-standing debate about how to spell it in English and how to correctly pronounce it. The four Hebrew letters are yod he vav he (transliterated as YHVH). The REV uses the English spelling “Yahweh,” which is used by many scholars in their commentaries and in some English Bibles (cp. HCSB; NJB; The Jerusalem Bible; Rotherham's Emphasized Bible; New European Version; The Complete Bible: An American Translation; The Expanded Bible; Ancient Roots Translinear Bible). No one knows exactly how YHVH was pronounced, and it seems that if God really cared that people pronounced it exactly correctly, then He would have done much more to make the pronunciation clear to us.
As for what the English versions do with the translation, most use the word “LORD” spelled with capital letters, but “LORD” is a title, not a name and the title takes the focus away from God’s use of His name since there are other Hebrew words properly translated “Lord.” The name “Jehovah” is used in some Bibles (cp. the 1901 ASV), but there is no “J” in Hebrew (although the early English translators used the English “J” for the Hebrew yod, and thus producing the English translations “Jerusalem,” “Joshua,” “Jeremiah” and such as that. Some modern scholars think that YHVH should be translated into English as “Yahowah” or something similar, but since the exact pronunciation of YHVH is unknown, and “Yahweh” is accepted in English versions and scholarly works, there is no compelling reason to use an unusual and seldom-used spelling for God’s name in the REV in an undocumentable attempt to be more correct.(top)
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“a mist.” Many modern versions say “a spring,” not “a mist,” but that translation is based on the Akkadian language. The Hebrew word is singular and it is hard to see how a spring could water “the whole face of the ground.” It seems more logical to stick with “mist,” and it fits with the only other use of this Hebrew word in the Bible, which is in Job 36:27.(top)
“And Yahweh God formed.” This is the first time that the Hebrew word translated as “formed” occurs.
“formed man of dust from the ground and breathed.” The Hebrew could more literally be translated as, “formed man—dust from the ground—and breathed….” The human body was made from the elements in the earth, and God had already made those, so He just assembled them into a body. Genesis 3:19 says “You are dust.”
“and man became a living soul.” This verse means that when God breathed life into the body of Adam that He had made, Adam came to life and became a living person, a living individual. Adam and Eve were the first two people, and the only two people that God created. They are the ultimate parents of every person on earth. There are people who believe in evolution that believe the Genesis record of Adam and Eve is not literal, and that the biblical record of Adam and Eve is just fanciful mythology, but the Bible says that God started the human race by creating Adam and Eve.
There are also people, even some Christians, who add to the text of Scripture and assert that God created Adam and Eve, but also other people as well. However, there is no evidence for that. In fact, there is a substantial amount of biblical evidence against it. The Bible mentions Adam many times. Genesis has a very detailed record of the creation of Adam and Eve, and lists many of their descendants. 1 Chronicles gives a history of the human race beginning with Adam (1 Chron. 1:1). Job, who likely lived about 2,000 BC, spoke about Adam (Job 31:33). In his genealogy of Christ, Luke lists Adam as the first human (Luke 3:38). In Romans, Paul wrote about Adam being the cause of all people’s sin (Rom. 5:12-17, expounded on below). Paul wrote that “in Adam,” that is, in connection with Adam, everyone dies (1 Cor. 15:22), then he called Adam “the first man” (1 Cor. 15:45). Paul, agreeing with the Genesis record, wrote that Adam was created before Eve (1 Tim. 2:13). Jude also agrees with Genesis and with 1 Chronicles 1:1-3, and calls Enoch “the seventh from Adam” (Jude 1:14). So from the first book of the Bible, Genesis, until the second to the last book of the Bible, Jude, the Bible speaks of Adam and refers to him as the first human and the cause of sin in the human race.
Very notably, Romans 5:12-17 says that sin came into the world through “one man,” Adam. It is because of Adam’s sin that every person today has a sin nature and is led to do evil. Even Christians have a sin nature, and that sin nature fights against the spirit nature in Christians (Gal. 5:17). It is specifically because Adam sinned before having children that sin nature was passed on to all humankind, just as Romans says: “through one man sin entered the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all humankind…the transgression of Adam...many died through the transgression of one man...by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one...through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners (Rom. 5:12, 14, 15, 17, 19). If God had created Adam and Eve, but other couples as well, the descendants of Adam and Eve would have sin nature because of the sin of Adam, but the descendants of any other people would not have sin nature from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That would mean that the people on earth today would be divided into people who had a sin nature and those who did not. Not only is that unbiblical, but it does not fit history. Every person struggles with sin and evil, and the reason for that is simple: everyone is a descendant of Adam.
“living soul.” Here in Genesis 2:7, God gives us details about Adam becoming a living individual, a “living soul,” whereas Genesis 1:27 makes the simple statement that God created Adam and Eve. Earlier, God had given the animals life and thus they became “living souls” before Adam did (Gen. 1:20). The “soul” is not a ghost-like thing that inhabits the body and lives on after the person dies. The “soul” is the animal life—the animating life—of the human body. With soul, the body of a human or animal is alive, without soul the body is dead.
[For more on “living soul,” see commentary on Gen. 1:20 and for a more complete explanation of soul, see Appendix 7, “Usages of ‘Soul.’”](top)
“And Yahweh God had planted a garden.” Yahweh would have planted the garden when He was creating and making things, before He “ceased” His work (Gen. 2:2-3). In that sense, this verse is adding detail much like Genesis 2:7 added detail about the making of Adam, an event that happened before Genesis 2.
“in Eden.” The Hebrew word “Eden” (#05731 עֵדֶן) means “pleasure” or “delight,” and in this verse, “Eden” apparently does not refer to a garden, but rather a place East of Israel: a delightful area. In that sense, the “Garden of Eden” could be a Garden of Delight in a delightful place. See commentary on Genesis 2:15.
“in the east.” The Bible is written from the geographical perspective of Israel, so “in the east” likely means at a place east of Israel. Although “Israel” did not exist as a nation when God put man in Eden, it did exist when Moses wrote Genesis.(top)
“Out of the ground Yahweh God had made every tree.” The trees had been made in Genesis 1. God is just adding detail about them.
“every kind of tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight.” This is very literal and accurate. The concept is expanded and easier to understand in the NIV: “The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” God went to great lengths to make the earth a special place for humankind.(top)
“four headwaters.” The Hebrew literally reads, “four heads,” but the “head” of a river is called a “headwater” in English.(top)
“one.” The Hebrew is literally “one,” just as it was with the days of the week, day “one.”
“Pishon.” The Hebrew-English lexicon HALOT says, “it is hardly possible to make any identification with a particular river and all attempts to do so are disputed.” The location of the rivers mentioned in Genesis 2 is unknown. For one thing, Noah’s Flood was so destructive to the geography of the world that these rivers may not even exist any longer. Also, the splitting up of the continents after the Flood may have moved them around into unrecognizable locations.(top)
“Bedellium.” An aromatic resin much like myrrh. This may be a case where one aromatic resin is used as an example in place of different kinds of resin. It is unlikely that just one kind of incense is there.(top)
“Gihon.” The Hebrew word transliterated as “Gihon” means “gusher.”
“Cush.” A biblical name for Ethiopia.(top)
“Hiddekel.” The more common name of this river is the “Tigris.”
“it runs east of Assyria.” The modern-day Tigris actually flows through what was ancient Assyria, but there are parts of it that flow east of Assyria.
“The fourth river is the Euphrates.” There is almost no description of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, perhaps because they were better known to the Israelite people than the other two rivers.(top)
“garden of Eden.” The Hebrew word eden (#05731 עֵדֶן) means “delight, or pleasure.” When God created Adam and Eve, He loved them and so He put them in the “Garden of eden;” the “Garden of Delight” (Gen. 2:15). It is unfortunate that the translators decided to transliterate the word eden into “Eden” instead of translating it into “Delight.” The phrase “Garden of Eden” does not mean anything to most English readers except that it was a physical place on earth. In contrast, had the translators decided to say, “Garden of Delight” instead of “Garden of Eden,” we would still know it was a place on earth, but God’s love and purpose in putting people in a wonderful place would have been revealed.
It is important to realize that “the Garden of Eden” is not the name of the garden. It is actually “the garden that is in [the land of] Eden.” “Eden” was the name of the area (Gen. 2:8), and the garden was planted in that area. So God put Adam and Eve in His garden, which He planted in the land of Eden.
It is also an unfortunate result of history that the Old Testament was written in a different language than the New Testament because it makes it much harder to see the flow of God’s original plan from Genesis to Revelation: what it was, how it was derailed, and how God will reestablish it. God put mankind in the Garden of Delight, which the Greek Bible translates as paradeisos (παράδεισος, pronounced par-a-'day-sos) and in English is “paradise.” Adam ruined “Paradise,” but Jesus Christ will restore it. He told the thief on the cross that he would be in Paradise (Luke 23:43). God showed the future Paradise to the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:4), and Christ will reestablish Paradise on earth, complete with the tree of life (Rev. 2:7) In the New Testament, “Paradise” was one of the terms used for the Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth.
[For more on Paradise and the Garden of Eden, see commentary on Luke 23:43. For more on the Millennial Kingdom, Christ’s 1,000-year kingdom on earth, which is described as “Paradise,” see Appendix 3: “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more on how the future will unfold from this present age to the Millennial Kingdom to the Everlasting Kingdom, see commentary on Rev. 21:1.]
“to work it and to care for it.” God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28), which not only displays His goodness and trust in humankind, but it reveals part of God’s purpose for them: to govern the earth on God’s behalf. Here in Genesis 2:15, we see part of that purpose spelled out—Adam and Eve were to work the garden and care for it. Working the garden gave Adam and Eve something productive to do and allowed them to care for their own needs, which promotes maturity, self-respect, and mental health. Also, caring for the garden involved a lot of responsibility. For one thing, before the Fall, all the animals on earth ate plants (Gen. 1:30), and the most luscious plants on planet earth would have been in Adam and Eve’s garden. So “caring” for the garden would have meant protecting it from all the animals wanting to eat it as well as other “caring” type functions.
The Hebrew word translated as “work” also means “serve,” or even, in a religious context, “worship.” In a very real sense, humans “serve” the land, and in so doing bless God and bless themselves with good food.
Also, the “Garden of Delight” that God planted for Adam and Eve would have had to have been very small, perhaps only a couple of acres, or maybe a little more if there was an area for fruit trees. God did not create Adam and Eve just so they could work every day from dawn to dusk taking care of a garden. Caring for the garden would have been a joy, not an onerous task. But the Garden of Eden was only a start and promise of the greater garden that God intended to come in the future—dominion over the whole earth and the earth itself being a wonderful garden for humankind. After all, God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and have children and fill and subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28). So as Adam and Eve had children, and as those children had children of their own and humankind multiplied, the little Garden of Eden that God planted would not have been big enough for everyone. The progeny of Adam and Eve would have eventually spread out around the earth and turned it into a great big wonderful garden, which would fulfill God’s purpose that the earth be a blessing to humankind and be administered by them on His behalf.
However, due to the Fall of Adam and Eve, the world ceased to be a wonderful place and life became difficult and dangerous, but nevertheless, the purpose of humankind to have dominion over the earth, which God placed in people’s hearts, is still there. Although people have struggled to get it done, much of the earth has been “subdued” by humankind. Sadly, because of the crafty (evil) nature in mankind (Gen. 8:21; Jer. 17:9), much of the work of taking dominion over the earth has been done in an ungodly way. For the most part, there has been little or no regard for really taking care of the earth and making it what it could be or what God designed it to be. Humankind has largely ignored the fact that we are just stewarding the earth for God, who owns it and who will judge each of us for the job we have done in caring for His earth. Some of Jesus’ parables show God as the landowner who holds his servants responsible for how they steward His earth, its resources, and the profit that comes from it (cp. The Parable of the Vineyard Workers, Matt. 20:1-16; The Parable of the Wicked Tenants, Matt. 21:33-44, Mark 12:1-11, Luke 20:9-15).
The wonderful news is that God’s purpose for the earth and humankind will be restored. Jesus is going to come back to the earth, conquer it, set up his kingdom, and reign over the whole earth. Men and women who lived godly lives will help Jesus administer the earth, and it will be a wonderful and godly place, once again being a “Paradise,” even as it was before the Fall. Under Jesus’ rule, humankind will have godly dominion over the earth and fulfill God’s original plan.
[For more on Christ reigning on earth in the future, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more on the Garden of Eden being a paradise and the future earth being called “Paradise,” see commentary on Luke 23:43. For more on people who have lived godly lives in their first life helping rule the earth, see commentary on Jer. 23:4.](top)
“Yahweh God commanded.” This is the first time the Hebrew word “commanded” occurs. This was a serious demand and warning.
“eat, yes, eat.” The Hebrew text has the figure of speech polyptoton, which might be literally translated as “eating you may eat.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines polyptoton as: “A rhetorical figure consisting in the repetition of a word in different cases or inflections in the same sentence.” E. W. Bullinger gives it the English name, “Many Inflections” and says that it is “a repetition of the same noun in several cases, or the same verb in several moods or tenses.”a According to Bullinger, the Greeks called this figure of speech, metagōgē (in essence, “to lead the same word through different inflections), and the Romans referred to it as casuum varietas (a variety of cases). Bullinger says, “This figure, therefore, is a repetition of the same word in the same sense, but not in the same form: from the same root, but in some other termination; as that of case, mood, tense, person, degree, number, gender, etc.”b Bullinger gives examples of polyptoton occurring in nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
Here in Genesis 2:16, the last two words in the Hebrew text are “eat, eat.” However, the first verb is in one tense while the second one is in a different tense. This could be perhaps translated as, “eating you [may] eat.” That phraseology is hard to understand in English, but the translators pick up on the intent of what God is saying by using the translation, “you may freely eat.” While that translation gets the sense of what God is saying, some of the power and punchiness of what He said is lost, as is the emphasis on “eat,” which is clearly emphasized in the Hebrew text. To our knowledge, the Hebrew scholar Everett Foxc is the first one to suggest a translation that repeats the words like the Hebrew text does, and include the word “yes” between them, as if God is giving his approval to the emphasis, which of course He is since He is the author of the Hebrew text. If God says to Adam, “you may eat, yes, eat,” we should be able to understand that God is saying Adam is free to eat of the fruit.
The very next verse has another polyptoton. In contrast to saying that Adam may eat, yes, eat, of the trees in the garden, God says that if Adam eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he will “die, yes, die” (Gen. 2:17). The two polyptotons back to back add a force to the text that is very powerful and cannot be missed. In spite of that, however, when Eve is repeating to the serpent the statement God made to Adam about dying if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 3:3), she does not repeat the powerful figure of speech God used (Gen. 2:17), and thus loses the emphasis. In contrast, the serpent, in a bold move and perhaps because Adam was right there, said (if we use the same translating form): “No! You will not ‘die, yes, die.” Thus the serpent boldly and directly contradicted what God said, even almost exactly quoting his words.
There are occasions when the translation formula of the two words with a “yes” in the middle is used with the figure epizeuxis instead of polyptoton. For an example of that and the figure epizeuxis, see commentary on Genesis 7:19, “exceedingly, yes, exceedingly.”
[See figure of speech “polyptoton.”]
Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, 267.
Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 267.
Everett Fox, The Schocken Bible.
“in the day.” The wording of the Hebrew text does not make it clear whether Genesis 2:17 is speaking of a single day or a period of time. The Hebrew word is more literally, “in day” (or, “in a day”) because there is no definite article “the” in the Hebrew text. The Hebrew is just the prefix preposition “b” (the letter beth), which means “in,” combined with the word “day” (yōm), making the Hebrew word, b-yōm, “in day.” The Hebrew does not have the definite article, “the,” in the phrase, but it could have had by making a change in the vowel associated with the beth, which tells us that the Massorites did not think the text was saying “the day.” The decision whether b-yōm means “in the day,” referring to that very same day, or whether it refers to a period of time, has to be made from the context. But in Genesis 2:17 the context is unclear as to whether God meant “in the day,” or “in a day” meaning at some later time.” The same Hebrew wording that is in Genesis 2:17 is in Genesis 2:4, which refers to a period of time and not in one day. Similarly, when the Hebrew text was translated into Greek starting around 250 BC, the Jewish scholars did the same thing in Greek as was in the Hebrew text; they used a phrase that could mean “in the day,” or could mean in a period of time (cp. Gen. 2:4; Exod. 32:34; Deut. 21:16; Ps. 102:2 (101:3 in LXX); Ezek. 33:12). In English, we also use “day” for a period of time.
So should the text be understood to say, “on the day” or “at some future time”? On the one hand, there seems to be evidence for the translation, “in the day.” For example, in most English versions, Genesis 2:17 ends with a phrase such as, “you will surely die” (NIV), and that is the translation of the Hebrew phrase, “dying you will die,” which is the figure of speech polyptoton, repeating the same root word for emphasis, in this case, to emphasize the fact that Adam would die.a Having the polyptoton adjacent to b-yōm, “in day,” seems to validate the translation, “in the day.” There are also a large number of verses where b-yōm refers to the same day.
On the other hand, however, Adam and Eve did not die the very day on which they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but hundreds of years later, and that supports the translation of b-yōm as “on a day” (“someday,” “in a [future] time”). Further support for “a day” referring to a larger period of time comes from the use of b-yōm, in some other verses in the Old Testament. For example, Genesis 2:4 says “…in the day when Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens.” In that case, b-yōm clearly does not refer to one day, but to a period of time—the time it took God to create the heavens and the earth. There are also other verses where a period of time is a more logical understanding of b-yōm than one single day (cp. Gen. 35:3; Num. 3:1; Deut. 21:16, 31:17; 1 Sam. 3:2, etc.).
So the Hebrew text in and of itself is not clear whether Adam and Eve would die the very day they ate of the forbidden fruit, or simply at some future time. What is clear and uncontested in the text is that God told Adam that if he ate of the forbidden fruit, he would die. The text note in the First Edition of the NET Bible says it well: “The Hebrew text (‘dying you will die’) does not refer to two aspects of death (‘dying spiritually, you will then die physically’). The construction simply emphasizes the certainty of death….”
In the final analysis, we may never know exactly what God meant, whether it was “in the very day,” or “at some day in the future,” but we do know that Adam and Eve did not die the day they sinned, or for hundreds of years afterward. However, something did die that day—an animal. We know that because God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins (Gen. 3:21).
From what the Bible tells us about animal sacrifice as a covering for sin, and from knowing that Jesus, the “lamb of God,” died for our sin, it seems logical to conclude that God postponed the death of Adam and Eve and sacrificed an animal in their place. The animal sacrifices that temporarily covered sin ultimately pointed to God’s great act of mercy in commuting the death sentence and granting everlasting life to everyone who accepted the death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, in place of their own death. If the conclusion that God postponed Adam’s death and sacrificed an animal is correct, then it is also logical to conclude that the animal that was killed to provide skin-coverings for Adam and Eve was a lamb (or lambs), and it foreshadowed the sacrifice of the Messiah.
Properly understanding the Genesis record should clear up an incorrect belief that is held by some Christians who believe that God said that Adam would die that very day, so he must have died in some way that very day. Since Adam and Eve did not physically die that day, those Christians then conclude that Adam must have had holy spirit, and it was the spirit that “died” that day. However, that conclusion is based on faulty logic and evidence. For one thing, as we have seen from the Hebrew text, God did not necessarily say Adam had to die on the day he ate the forbidden fruit. Also, God said to Adam that “you” will die, He did not say, “a part of you will die.”
Actually, the Bible says nothing about Adam and Eve even having holy spirit before the Fall; that is just speculation that is generated by the assumption that God said Adam would die that very day, so therefore he had to die in some way. But since the Bible says nothing about Adam and Eve having or not having holy spirit, there are a lot of possibilities that have to be considered, and we will see that trying to introduce holy spirit into the Genesis record of Adam and Eve may not be the best one.
One possibility is that Adam and Eve never had the gift of holy spirit before the Fall. After all, the Bible says God made Adam’s body out of dust and breathed into it the breath of life, at which time Adam became a “living soul,” a living being. There is no mention of Adam and Eve having holy spirit, and they may not have needed it because God fellowshipped with them personally, like when He walked in the Garden (Gen. 3:8). Furthermore, while it is possible that God put His gift of holy spirit upon Adam and Eve after the Fall so that they could learn to live in a fallen world, just like He put it on Moses, Joshua, and the prophets, there is no verse that confirms that; it is just speculation.
Another possibility is that Adam and Eve had God’s gift of holy spirit upon them before the Fall, but that God did not take it from them when they sinned. The Old Testament prophets had holy spirit upon them, but God did not take it away from them every time they sinned. No verse says that Adam and Eve had spirit before the Fall, or that they lost it after they sinned, so speculation about it is not very helpful. On the other hand, studying the records of people who did have holy spirit upon them and lost it is helpful. For example, God took away His gift of holy spirit from Saul (1 Sam. 16:14), and also apparently from Samson (Judg. 16:20), because of the serious nature of their sin, but those men were not said to “die.”
There is no verse where God’s taking holy spirit from someone is called their death. The Church Epistles use the phrase, “dead in sin” (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13), but that is referring to people who were never saved and who will die instead of living forever; it is not a direct reference to having or not having holy spirit—holy spirit is not mentioned in any of the verses that use the phrase “dead in sin.”
It is true that in the Church Age, after Pentecost, when a person gets “born again” they receive holy spirit, which is the guarantee of everlasting life. So in the Church Age having holy spirit and having everlasting life are tied together, but that was not the case before the Day of Pentecost. The majority of the people in the Old Testament did not have holy spirit upon them, but that did not mean they would not be saved at the Judgment.
In Romans 5 the apostle Paul gave us more evidence that God telling Adam, “in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die,” did not mean Adam would die that very same day. Paul explained why every human dies, and he did so by a brief retelling of the record in Genesis 3. Paul wrote: “…just as through one man [Adam] sin entered the world and death through sin, in this way death came to all mankind” (Rom. 5:12). Paul showed that it was because of Adam’s sin that death entered the world, and not only did Adam die, but so did all his progeny, all mankind.
When Paul said, “through one man sin entered the world,” he was speaking of Adam’s sin of disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit. Then, when Paul continued his sentence and wrote, “and death through sin,” he was referring to the sentence of death that God had told Adam about, which was not something that happened that day, but many years later after Adam had children who also died, which is how “death came to all mankind.” Thus Romans helps us see that the meaning of b-yōm (in the day) in Genesis 2:17 refers to an indefinite time in the future, not the same day Adam sinned.
There are many lessons to be gleaned from the story of Adam and Eve. One is that we can be deceived by our five senses and our emotions; another is that if we disobey God, hurt and pain will be the result. However, it seems that the greatest lesson of the record of Adam and Eve is that God is so loving that even when we disobey Him, if we repent and return to Him, He will make a provision to cover our sin so that we can live forever with Him—and living forever with Him is what He wanted all along.
“die, yes, die.” This is a translation of the figure polyptoton (Many Inflections), that is in the Hebrew text. The Hebrew reads, “dying you will die.” The figure shows the certainty of Adam’s death if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
[For more on polyptoton and this way of translating it, see commentary on Genesis 2:16.]
Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 267.
“I will make him a helper corresponding to him.” The translation “corresponding to him” occurs in some modern translations (CSB; NET). The NET text note says, “The Hebrew expression כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (kᵉnegdo) literally means “according to the opposite of him.” Translations such as “suitable [for]” (NASB, NIV), “matching,” “corresponding to” all capture the idea. (Translations that render the phrase simply “partner” [cf. NEB, NRSV], while not totally inaccurate, do not reflect the nuance of correspondence and/or suitability.) The man’s form and nature are matched by the woman’s as she reflects him and complements him. Together they correspond. In short, this prepositional phrase indicates that she has everything that God had invested in him.” Nahum Sarna writes, “Literally, ‘a helper corresponding to him.’ This term cannot be demeaning because Hebrew ‘ezer, employed here to describe the intended role of the woman, is often used of God in His relation to man.”a S. R. Driver wrote about Genesis 2:18 in his commentary on Genesis and starts by quoting the King James Version, then comments about it. He writes, “an help meet for him. Better, corresponding to him, i.e., adequate to him, intellectually his equal, and capable of satisfying his needs and instincts.”b
Nahum Sarna, Genesis, JPS Torah Commentary, 21.
S. R. Driver, The Book of Genesis, Westminster Commentaries, 2nd ed., 41.
“each living soul.” The animals are called living souls in other places as well (e.g., Gen. 1:20, 24, 30).(top)
“there was not found.” There is some debate about the translation of the Hebrew. The Masoretic text could be translated as “Adam did not find,” but the majority of scholars think the passage should be a passive.
“corresponding to him.” This is the same Hebrew in Gen. 2:18.(top)
“one of his ribs.” The Hebrew word translated as “rib” can refer to a rib, but it can also refer to the “side” of the man, so the versions vary. For example, the NET reads, “he [God] took part of the man’s side.”(top)
“built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman.” Adam was created from the ground, whereas Eve was “built” from material from Adam. Adam and Eve were the first two human beings and from them came every human who has ever lived. The name “Adam” is related to the earth, whereas the word “woman” more refers to a “person.” A male person is an ish, and a female person is an ishah (an ish with the “ah” feminine ending). This is the only time the Hebrew word translated as “built” is used in the creation account. In Genesis 1, the male and female were “created,” but in Genesis chapter 2 we have more detail about exactly how that “creation” occurred.
[For more on Adam and Eve being literal and the ones who began the human race, see commentary on Gen. 2:7.](top)
“This one at last.” When Adam saw Eve, he referred to her as “This” or “This one” (JPS; NET). He had seen hundreds of animals, but none of them were right for him. Now, at last, “This one” was the one for him. It is noteworthy that when Adam saw Eve is the first time he spoke in the Bible.
“will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of man.” The phrase is more clearly understood when we see the Hebrew: “will be called ‘woman,’ [ishah] because she was taken out of man [ish]. The words ishah and ish, perhaps better “female” and “male” are here used of Adam and Eve, but they are used of animals too (Gen. 7:2). The animals that came on the ark were ish (male) and ishah (female).(top)
“will leave his father and his mother.” The way God established the family, the relationship between a man and wife supersedes the relationship between the man and woman and their parents.
“and will join with.” The Hebrew word translated “join” is more like “stick on” or “stick with,” which is close to the New Testament word that gets translated as “joined to” but more literally means “glued to.” It is hard to reproduce the Hebrew and Greek exactly, but the meaning is that there is a bond like glue between the couple.
“wife.” The Hebrew translated as “his wife” is the same word as “woman” in Gen. 2:23, but with the masculine possessive ending, thus literally, “his woman.” We understand that to mean “his wife,” but it is important to realize that there is not a different word for “woman” and “wife.” They are the same.
“become.” The man and the woman were not “one flesh” on their own, but they “become” one flesh together. God designed humans to be in relationship with one another.
“one flesh.” The phrase “one flesh” has many implications and a very deep meaning. The most obvious way a man and woman become “one flesh” is in the act of sexual intercourse, as we learn from 1 Corinthians 6:16. However, God never intended the act of sexual intercourse to fulfill what He meant by “one flesh,” even though sex is one way the two become one.
God’s desire in a one flesh relationship is that the couple becomes unified in many ways, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The two, together with God Himself, become a “threefold cord” (Eccles. 4:12).
One great lesson we learn from Genesis 2:22-24 is that it was God Himself who brought the man and woman together, and in doing so He both made, and defined marriage. Marriage is both a divine institution and a creation institution. It is not just for “believers,” or “God’s people,” but for all humans, and indeed, marriage is recognized by people groups of every historical time and culture.(top)
“naked.” The Hebrew root word is arvm, which is a homonym—when two words are spelled the same but have different meanings, such as the “bark” on a tree and the “bark” of a dog. The two meanings of arvm that are important in Genesis are “naked” (Gen. 2:25) and “crafty.” Here, arvm means “naked,” but in Genesis 3:1 it means “crafty.”
[For more on arvm and why it is important to know it is a homonym, see commentary on Genesis 3:1. Mankind starts out naked, but becomes both “naked” and “crafty.”](top)