Before we start looking at the second creation account in Genesis chapters 2 and 3, it would be useful to highlight a couple of conclusions that were reached in the first creation record:
The man created in Genesis 1 v 26 – 7 is a metaphor that describes the righteous of all ages, including the Lord Jesus Christ, his ancestors and those who form part of his church.
The first creation record is a piece of allegorical writing.
These two points will help us to understand the second creation record and to place it within the context of Genesis chapter 1.
What sort of writing is Genesis chapters 2 and 3?
The events of Genesis chapters 2 and 3 clearly don’t appear to be an ordinary recount, as it seems to be quite different to Genesis chapter 4 for example, which is a factual narrative that describes the killing of Abel by Cain. Instead it appears to be written in the style of an ancient myth, and most of it does not seem to be literal. We have man made from dust, woman made from the side of man, trees that impart knowledge and eternal life, as well as a talking serpent. It has some similarities to the Book of Revelation, which also speaks of the serpent and the tree of life. So just like the first creation record, it appears to be a piece of a figurative writing. Also like the writing in Genesis chapter 1 we can accept that it is true, because scripture is true, it’s just that it isn’t literally true.
If we were to view the second creation account as a literal piece of writing, then we would face considerable difficulties. We would be forced to believe in a God who thought that an animal might be a suitable helper for man instead of woman, or a God who can be hidden from. This would clearly be a different God to the powerful, all-knowing creator who we are told about in chapter 1 of Genesis and in the rest of scripture.
However, there are factual features woven into the account, just like we find in other ancient myths. Adam and Eve seem to be historical figures, as do the historical and geographical settings of the account. We find similar features in other figurative writing in the Bible, for example the parable of the Good Samaritan uses a real geographical setting and The Rich Man and Lazarus employs real people.
So how does the second creation record relate to the first one? Genesis 2 v 4 indicates how they are related when it says, “This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heavens (my translation).”
This can be thought of as a heading or a summary of what is to follow, a bit like Genesis 1 v 1 is a heading that describes the purpose of the first creation record.
When we looked at the first creation record, we noted that “heavens” (as opposed to “the heavens”) was used to describe the firmament in Genesis 1 v 8, and “earth” (as opposed to “the earth”) was used the first time that the dry land appeared in Genesis 1 v 10. After these occurrences, the first creation record speaks about “the heavens” and “the earth”.
So, if we wanted to link the second creation narrative to the first one on a timeline, it is reasonable to put it in the time of the second and third days, because that is when “heavens” and “earth” came into being. We get support for this view when Genesis 2 v 5 says that it is describing a time which was “before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field was grown.” This of course ties in with Genesis chapter 1, because it was not until later in the third day, after the creation of “heavens” and “earth”, that it speaks about the earth bringing forth plants. Just in case we’ve forgotten, heavens, earth and plants are metaphors in Genesis chapter 1, and this needs to guide our understanding of their use in chapters 2 and 3 as well.
If we link together the appearance of plants and trees in the Garden of Eden with the creation of plants and trees in Genesis chapter 1, then they need to have a consistent meaning in both accounts. The full study (available from the Downloads page) considers the use of plants as metaphors in Genesis chapter 1, and identifies them as things which arise from the working of God’s spirit. It also shows that they are used to provide sustenance for the righteous. We should expect them to have the same or a similar meaning in Genesis chapter 2.
Placing the events of Genesis chapter 2 in the same sort of timescale as Genesis 1 v 8 – 10, clears up another possible anomaly from the early chapters of Genesis. The Adam in Genesis chapter 2 could eat from every tree of the garden, except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2 v 16, 17). Later on in Genesis 3, he was not allowed to eat from the tree of life either, in fact once he sinned his food was only to be the herb of the field (Genesis 3 v 18). This can be compared with the man in Genesis 1 v 29, who appears on the sixth day and who is different again. He was told that he was given “every tree whose fruit yields seed” for food.
As the man in Genesis 1 v 29 (the sixth day) represents the Lord Jesus Christ and the redeemed, then the man in the second creation record (who belongs to the second and third days of Genesis chapter 1) precedes him. The creation account about the Adam or man in chapters 2 and 3 describes what the apostle Paul calls the first man Adam, whereas the events at the end of Genesis chapter 1 relate to the second or last Adam.
Once we reach the conclusion that the description of the Adam in Genesis 1 v 26 - 27 relates to the risen Lord Jesus Christ and his bride, and that the first creation record is a description of God’s plan to bring salvation to mankind, then the need for a second creation record becomes clear. It is required to provide important information about the start of God’s purpose with mankind, which is something that is not covered in Genesis chapter 1. It also describes the relationship between God and man, when God first showed himself to his creation. In other words, it explains the layout of the spiritual heavens and earth when God first dealt with mankind.
Genesis 2 v 5 provides another indication that the Adam of the second creation record is different to the Adam of the first one when it says that “there was no man to till the ground.” The Hebrew word translated “till” is “abad”, and has the idea of serving. The Adam in Genesis chapters 2 and 3 was to be a servant, as opposed to the Adam (male and female) in Genesis chapter 1, who were to have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1 v 28). One is described as a servant and the other as a ruler.
I’ve heard well-meaning Christians using Genesis chapters 2 and 3 to explain what the world was like when God created life upon it, including things like weather conditions and the lack of plant life. This is inaccurate on two levels. First, if Genesis chapters 2 and 3 use the same sort of metaphorical language as Genesis chapter 1, then when it mentions things like rain and plants, it is not talking about literal things but figurative things. Secondly, the context of Genesis chapters 2 and 3 is specific, it is agriculture. The setting of this piece of writing is a precise sort of location, it is not talking about world conditions in general.
The agricultural setting of the second creation record separates it from other sorts of human existence, such as the hunting and gathering lifestyle of earlier humans. An agricultural sort of lifestyle is an advanced form of existence (it is estimated that agriculture started less than 15000 years ago) and belongs to the Neolithic Age (New Stone Age), as opposed to earlier phases of human existence (such as the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age). This indicates that the man in the second creation record was not the first man ever to exist, but was the first man in another sense. More of this later on.
Let’s now think about the part of the passage which says that God hadn’t caused it to rain on the earth, and that a mist went up from the earth and watered the face of the ground.
One conclusion from looking at Genesis chapter 1 was that the waters above the firmament were a metaphor for how God influenced mankind. When Genesis 2 v 5 says that “the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth,” it is the first indication that this passage is going to describe how God first “rained” upon men, in the sense that he showed himself to them.
Initially it says that a mist went up “from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground (Genesis 2 v 6).” At this point we need to remind ourselves of some of the other conclusions that came from the first creation record. We remember that on the second day God created a firmament to separate the two waters, and that this firmament was called “heavens”. We also saw that heavens (or the heavens) described where God dwelt, and that the difference between the heavens and the earth was more to do with status than location. At the start of Genesis chapter 2, the language suggests that there is no hierarchy yet between God and man. There are no heavens to rule mankind and no waters above the firmament to show them God’s purpose. There is the potential for God to have a relationship with man, but nothing has been set up. This hierarchy is what comes about as the events of Genesis 2 and 3 unfold.
The description of a mist rising up from the earth can be thought of as God working before the hierarchy between God and man came about. The waters do not come from above the heavens, because there are no heavens, but from the ground. And the result of God’s initial way of working on the ground is described in verse 7, “And the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.” God was at work with mankind, in that he formed him and gave him life, but there is no relationship between God and man.
When man is formed, there is nothing of the heavens about him. “Man” is a translation of the Hebrew ha adam, and the word adam is related to the Hebrew word translated ground (adamah). The man was from the ground and his job was to serve the ground. He was given the breath of life, but this is the same as all living things (see for example its use in Genesis 7 v 22), so when he was formed man was no different to the rest of God’s creation. However, this is about to change.
The fact that this man is a living soul, sets him apart from the man described in the first creation record. The man in Genesis chapter 2 is described as a living creature or living soul, just like other living things. The man in Genesis chapter 1 is not described in these terms because he is not “living” but “life giving”.
Does the second creation record indicate that mankind was formed just before God placed the man in the Garden of Eden? We have already seen that the agricultural setting of the second creation record suggests that this is not the case. Also, when answering this we need to remember that the second creation narrative does not appear to be a literal account, instead it is a piece of figurative writing which is emphasising spiritual teaching.
We know that God formed the man, and what he was made of, but we don’t know the details of how it was done or how long the process took. The reality is that God made man from the dust of the ground, and that is all we need to know in order to learn the lessons from the second creation record. Indeed, for all of us it might be said that God formed us from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into our nostrils. Like the man in the story, we are breathing creatures who are formed from the elements of the ground, and on our own we have nothing of the heavens about us.
The important thing about the man in the second creation record was not that he was the first to exist, but that he was the first to be spoken to by God and the first who had the opportunity to consciously obey or disobey him.
At the end of Genesis chapter 1, the Adam or man described there could eat of “every tree, whose fruit yields seed (Genesis 1 v 29)”. In the larger study (see the downloads page), the suggestion is made that plants yielding seed could be thought of as things which arise from God’s spirit that mankind could feed on, things like God’s word. Two of the trees mentioned in Genesis chapter 2 are the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. Their names provide further evidence that they represent things that come from the working of God’s spirit.
We can readily understand why scripture provides knowledge of good and evil, and we can also think of it as a tree of life as well. Proverbs 3 v 13 says, “Happy is the man that finds wisdom, and the man that gets understanding”, with verse 18 adding that wisdom is “a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retains her.”
There seems to be a consistent meaning to trees in both creation passages: they are things that originate from God’s spirit or purpose, and produce seed which can provide eternal life for those who eat it.
In Genesis 2 v 16 – 17 God says this to the man, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
This shows how the man in the second creation record was the first man. He was the first man to receive a commandment from God and the first man to have the ability to make a conscious effort to obey or disobey his creator.
In Genesis 2 v 18 the man is given a woman as a companion, and she is referred to as “a helper”.
The idea of the woman being a helper has been understood far too often as her being subservient to the man, a bit like a domestic help might be, but the use of the term “help” in scripture argues against this. For example, God is described as a help in Psalm 121 v 1, 2, and no one would suggest that God is subservient to man because he helps him. In like manner, the woman is not inferior to the man because she is his helper. The help that the woman gives the man is to provide him with a means of salvation once he has sinned.
In Genesis chapter 3 we are introduced to the serpent, who “was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.”
Before we identify what the serpent is, we need to remind ourselves that the second creation record appears to be a piece of figurative writing, and that things like trees and rain are metaphors which represent other things. So it is unlikely that we are dealing with a literal, talking snake.
We are helped with the identity of the serpent by a verse in Revelation chapter 12, which speaks about a red dragon with seven heads and ten horns! It isn’t within the scope of this study to identify what this symbolises, but verse 9 says that it was cast out (of heaven), and it is described as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.” This moves our understanding on, as we can now equate the serpent with the Devil and Satan, but of course we now need to grasp what the Bible means by those two terms.
In order to identify what is meant by Satan, we’ll think about what the serpent did wrong. Its error was that it contradicted what God had said, and this sort of behaviour was shown again when the apostle Peter challenged the Lord Jesus Christ. Mark 8 v 31 records the time when Jesus told his disciples that he would be rejected by the leaders of his people, he would be killed and that he would be raised to life again. This was too much for Peter and verse 32 says that he began to rebuke his Lord.
Jesus’ response is telling. He said, “Get you behind me Satan, for you do not mind the things that be of God, but the things that be of man (Mark 8 v 33).” Here is Jesus’ definition of what Satan is, it is a man centred way of thinking as opposed to a God centred one.
The conversation between Jesus and Peter is similar to what happened at the start of Genesis chapter 3. Just like Peter, the serpent sought to challenge God’s authority. The consequence of the serpent’s words was that the man and the woman noticed how desirable the fruit was, and ate it. The obvious lesson from this passage is that contradicting God’s commands is not permitted. He expects us to accept his teaching without questioning.
The Greek word translated Devil in Revelation chapter 12 is diabolos. Like Satan, it means an adversary or opponent, but is more specific, as it focuses on spoken opposition. Diabolos is used generally in the New Testament to describe people who slander others, but the expression “ho diabolos” or “the devil” is used specifically to describe attempts to challenge and contradict God’s teaching. An example of this diabolical behaviour is when Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. The difficulty Jesus faced were words and ideas which sought to undermine his understanding of God’s ways.
In summary, the serpent can be equated with what the Bible terms the Devil and Satan, and these in turn describe man’s opposition to obeying God’s authority and commands.
Through eating the fruit, the man and woman understood good and evil. Knowing the difference between these is not a sin, in fact discerning good and evil is a sign of spiritual perfection or maturity (Hebrews 5 v 14). The sin in the second creation account seems to be in identifying the difference between good and evil by performing an ungodly act.
After the man and the woman ate the fruit from the tree, their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked. When we are in Christ we are covered or clothed, as the Book of Revelation expresses it. In the message to the church at Sardis, it says, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments (Revelation 3 v 5)”, and then shortly afterwards we get this exhortation to the church at Laodicea , “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed.” We can add to this the words of Isaiah 61 v 10, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; For he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
Unless we are covered by God’s righteousness and salvation, we are spiritually naked. Once Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, they became aware of their plight, that they were spiritually naked in the sight of God.
In Genesis 3 v 12 – 15 we have the immediate aftermath of the man and woman’s disobedience. The man blamed the woman (and indirectly God), and the woman blamed the serpent. The serpent was cursed and had to eat dust, but in addition the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman were now to be in opposition. Remember, we should not be thinking of the serpent as a literal animal. We have identified the serpent as a representation of opposition to God, or Satan as it is called in scripture.
With this in mind, the language about the serpent going on its belly and eating dust should not be thought of as describing physical changes made to snakes, but instead viewed as a figurative description of the characteristics of those who oppose God. The serpent’s association with dust should be seen in the context of how it is used elsewhere in the second creation account. We are told in Genesis 2 v 7 that the man was formed from the dust of the ground, and in Genesis 3 v 19 he was informed that he was dust, and that was where he would return. As the second creation account is teaching about the hierarchy between God and man, and about the relationship between heavens and earth, then being of the dust is very much at the bottom of the pile. The serpent is portrayed as eating dust and crawling on its belly to show that those who oppose God will not prosper, and will be subservient to God and his servants.
Passages like Micah chapter 7 v 17 describe the godless using the language of the serpent’s punishment. It says, “They (the nations) shall lick the dust like a serpent; They shall crawl from their holes like snakes of the earth. They shall be afraid of the Lord our God, and shall fear because of you.”
Earlier it was pointed out that the woman was given to the man as his helper, and Genesis 3 v 15 describes the nature of that help when it records God’s words to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The woman’s seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, would be how the serpent and his seed (or offspring) would be overcome.
Who is the seed of the serpent that would oppose the woman’s seed? It can be considered to be people who have the same attitude that the serpent showed in the second creation account. Genesis 3 v 15, which says that the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head, is referred to in the epistle to the Romans, where Paul says to the believers at Rome, “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly (Romans 16 v 20).” This is not talking about squashing snakes, but the righteous overcoming the godless attitudes in the world.
The consequence of the man and woman’s disobedience was that they would face pain and sorrow. However, we should see this as spiritual suffering as opposed to physical trials. The man’s pain would signify the pointlessness of people trying to justify themselves before God, and the woman’s suffering would highlight the road that leads back to salvation.
In Genesis 3 v 16 God says this to the woman, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow (hebrew itstsabon) and your conception; in pain (Hebrew etseb) you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”
In this verse we have ideas that help to explain the words at the start of the second creation narrative, “… in the day that the Lord God made earth and heavens (Genesis 2 v 4 - my translation)”. We saw from Genesis chapter 1 that “earth and heavens” are to do with the hierarchy between God and man. It is about describing who are subjects and who are rulers. This idea is extended in Genesis 3 v 16 and we are told about the relationship between Adam and Eve in a world ruled by sin: the man was to be in the role of ruler and the woman was to be subject to him. This hierarchy between the man and the woman changes when they are in Christ, the larger study explores this in more detail.
What about Eve’s conception? Who are Eve’s children? If we were to view the second creation account in a physical sense we might think of Cain, Abel and Seth. We might also think about the trials of women in child bearing. However, we need to think spiritually. We have already thought about the woman’s seed struggling against the seed of the serpent, and identified it as the battle that the righteous fight against wickedness. Her spiritual seed would be brought forth accompanied by pain. This is spoken about in Romans chapter 8. Verses 22 and 23 say, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body”. Paul is saying that the woman’s seed, the body of Christ, will only come forth with birth pangs. Both the life and sacrifice of Jesus, and the life of discipleship that Christians lead, is to be one of suffering and hardship as they are shaped and moulded for salvation.
Genesis 3 v 17 – 19 sets out how the man’s sin would affect him. It says, “Then to Adam he said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it”: Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil (Hebrew itstsabon) you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
Adam could no longer eat the trees in the Garden of Eden and had to eat the herb of the field instead. Both the trees and the herb of the field were created by God, but the herb of the field that he was now to eat was to be associated with hardship.
The change from eating fruit from the trees of the garden to eating bread from the herb of the field, is a symbolic way of indicating that life had become difficult. The man’s existence was now to be like making and eating bread to survive: laborious, monotonous and never ending.
The mention of the herb of the field in verse 18 takes us back to its first occurrence in Genesis 2 v 5. Verses 4-5 said, “This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown.” When the garden was first planted, man’s food was to be from trees, and there was no mention of him eating the herb of the field. But now, as a consequence of sin, his food would be from the herb of the field and his job was to till or serve the ground. This is different to his first uncursed job, which was to serve the Garden of Eden.
The consequence of sin was that man would no longer be allowed to eat fruit from the trees of the garden. In the first creation record, The Adam could eat “every herb that yields seed” and “every tree whose fruit yields seed (Genesis 1 v 29)”. The other living things were able to have “every green herb for food.” (Genesis 1 v 30). Sin had moved the Adam of Genesis chapter 3 from a category that was similar to the first Adam to the status of the beast of the earth, the bird of the air and things that creep on the earth, as Genesis 1 v 30 describes them. What Adam could now eat did not produce seed, which provides the means of mankind’s salvation (see the larger study for more details).
If we follow the theme of bread in the rest of scripture, we arrive at Eve’s offspring, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is a different kind of bread – the bread of life - who came from Bethlehem (literally the house of bread or the bakery). The way to the tree of life was still there for mankind, through eating the bread that God provides, but it would involve a difficult path of reconciliation between God and man, the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, and us taking up our crosses and following our Lord. The tree of life was no longer something that Adam could reach using his own efforts. Instead it could only be accessed through Eve and her seed.
The alternative to the bread of life, which God provides, is the bread that Adam was to make. Spiritually, this man-made bread can be considered to represent his efforts to achieve eternal life on his own, and can be equated to things like keeping the law of Moses. This approach would involve lots of repetitive toil but ultimately achieve nothing. The idea of human effort being profitless is a major theme in Paul’s epistles, for example he says this in Romans 3 v 20, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” He also adds in Galatians 2 v 16, “A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ … for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
In Genesis 2 v 17 it said that if Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die. Clearly, he did not die on the day when he ate from the tree, in the sense that he stopped breathing, so in what way did he die?
Romans chapter 5 explains how Adam’s disobedience in Genesis chapter 3 affected the human race.
Verse 12 says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin: and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
These verses build on Paul’s previous argument in Romans chapter 3. In verses 8 – 22 of that chapter he shows that both jews and gentiles were incapable of justifying themselves before God. No one can claim to be sinless. This leads to the statement in verse 23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So what Paul is saying in Romans chapter 5 is that because everyone sins, death reigns over all of mankind. It was Adam who was responsible for forming the link between sin and death.
Adam’s sin brought about a change in the relationship between God and mankind, and his decisions affected the rest of humanity. This view is supported by Romans 5 v 18, which says, “Therefore as through one man’s offence judgement came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.”
As members of the human race we can be represented by one of two Adams, either the first Adam or the last Adam. The first Adam sinned and his disobedience was counted or imputed to him, with the consequence that it brought about judgement, condemnation and death for all men. This is because it established the principle that “the wages of sin is death (Romans 6 v 23)”. The reason for death in the human race was now clearly linked to sin.
Sin came into existence when Adam transgressed. Romans 5 v 14 shows that death is a ruler and that mankind became part of its kingdom when Adam sinned. It says, “Death reigned from Adam to Moses,” and verse 17 continues, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned.”
When Adam was commanded not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he was told, “You shall not eat; for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (Genesis 2 v 17).” He did eat the fruit but he didn’t die in the sense that his life ceased immediately. He did die though, because he was now under a death sentence, he was now part of death’s kingdom and subject to the principle that sin brings death. As such, he was separated from God. He was told, “In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, until you return to the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3 v 19).”
Because he was part of death’s kingdom, Adam was dead, even though he was still alive. Other people in scripture are similarly described as being dead while still being physically alive, just like Adam was, because they too are part of death’s kingdom. The Christians at Ephesus, for example, are described by Paul in this way, “And you he (Jesus) made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2 v 1).”
If we are part of death’s kingdom, then we are dead. Adam was the first person to sin in the sense that he knew what God’s will was, and decided to ignore it or disobey it. At this point death, a consequence of sin, came into being. If we know what God’s commands are, and we disobey them, then we are children of Adam. We “have sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” as Romans 5 v 14 puts it.
But there’s another group of people which Paul describes as those who “did not sin after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” Romans 5 v 14 says that death reigns over these people as well. Who are these?
Those who have an understanding of God have some responsibility for the way that they live their lives, but those who have no understanding are in a different category. Without knowledge of God, man is like the animals and will perish. We see this from the following:
“Man that is in honour and understands not, is like the beasts that perish. (Psalm 49 v 20).”
In the time since Adam’s sin, if a man has no knowledge of God, he is still dead in trespasses and sins, even though he has no understanding of what God’s commands are. This is because the first Adam brought about death’s kingdom upon all mankind by creating a link between sin and death. Even if people do not sin like Adam because they don’t know about God’s commands, they still sin, albeit in ignorance. They too are ruled over by death, because sin leads to death.
Prior to God giving his commands to Adam, animals and humans lived and perished. It was just the natural order of things. Animals, or any other living thing for that matter, were not subject to God’s laws or the consequences of obeying or disobeying them. However, after Adam’s transgression, all mankind became subject to the principle that sin leads to death, even if they had no knowledge of the God of the Bible. All mankind were now in Adam, and they faced the same consequence for sin that he did. People who do not have an understanding of God and his purpose are like the rest of living things, they live and they perish. But as they are now in Adam, they are also in the death state, which animals are not. This means that they are subject to the principle that sin brings separation from God. When they sin, even if it is in ignorance, death reigns over them.
In a sense, the linking of death and sin can be regarded as a good thing, because if sin can be overcome, then so can death. It is the Lord Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, “who takes away the sin of the world (John 1 v 29)”, and who “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9 v 26).” The message of the second creation record is that death can be overcome. The purpose of the rest of the Bible is to explain how this will come about.
A consequence of sin was that man and woman would no longer live in the sheltered surroundings of the garden, a place of delight, and instead their lives would be full of labour. However, the next part of the creation account shows that there was still a way back to the tree of life. Genesis 3 v 20 says, “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve (Hebrew Chawwah), because she was the mother of all living (Hebrew chay).”
The name Eve is derived from the Hebrew word “to live” (Hebrew chayah) and leads us to ask in what way was she the mother of all living, or perhaps the mother of every life? The context of this passage helps us to understand its significance. The Hebrew word translated “living” (when it says that Eve was “the mother of all living”) is the same as is used when talking about the tree of life (literally it could be translated as “the tree of the lives”).
When Eve is described as “the mother of all living”, it is a prophecy describing what Eve’s seed or offspring would do: Jesus would bring life for all who believe in him.
This leads us back to the difference between the two Adams, which was described in 1 Corinthians 15. “The first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a life giving spirit (v 45).” Eve is the mother of all living or all life, not because she was the second human being and bore Adam’s children, but because her offspring or seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, would bring eternal life through his sacrifice.
The second creation account ends with mankind excluded from the garden of Eden, and with it, the tree of life. There was now only one way to achieve access to life, and that was through the seed of the woman. It was now the turn of the rest of the Bible to explain how that seed was promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, and how he emerged from Bethlehem to bring eternal life to those who believe in God’s grace.
Now that we’ve worked our way through the second creation account, we can identify these features in it:
It includes some literal elements, such as the geographical location of the Garden of Eden.
The man and the woman are historical characters who were involved in the first act of disobedience to God’s will.
It uses some metaphors that were used in the first creation account, for example, the earth, the heavens and trees.
It has other links to the first creation account, for example it also speaks about a man, but this time one who serves, as opposed to someone who has dominion.
It describes the relationship between God, man and woman in a world where sin does and does not exist.
It uses other biblical metaphors in the narrative, for example nakedness, clothing and bread.
It uses events and characters, for example taking fruit from a tree and the serpent, to represent emotions and desires.
It is not a parable, in the sense that it is a story with a spiritual lesson, rather it is a narrative that uses figurative language to convey truth. As such, it is more in the style of an ancient myth.
It is true, because scripture is true. It’s just that, like many other passages of the Bible, it isn’t literally true.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
(In instances where scripture is not from the New King James Version, it will be labelled “my translation”)