Fertility and Resurrection

“The entire picture is dominated by negatives,” writes Bruce Naidoff [1]. Genesis 2:5 describes only what is not:

No wild plant of the field was yet in the land
No cultivated field plant had yet sprung up

The reason for such infertility is then provided:

for Yahweh God had not caused it to rain on the land,
and there was no man to work the ground.

 Two things are lacking, without which life will not permeate the land – rain sent by God, and man (adam) to work the ground (adamah). Sooner or later, rain is sent by God [2]; in the next verse we see the creation of man from the infertile ground:

then Yahweh God formed the man (adam) of dust from the ground (adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (v. 6)

Why the creation of man? Nomen est omen! The infertile adamah required a gardener, and what better gardener for the adamah than an adam, one who was “intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (Psa. 139:15b)? Just as no better helper for the man can be found than the one built out of his side (Gen. 2:21-23), so no better servant of the ground can be found than one formed from her own substance.

It is by design that Christ should be raised by God out of the earth in the early days of Spring, when creation is yearning to be fertile again. When we celebrate the work of God in bringing to life a man from the ground and rejoice in the new life that permeates the land, we should say, “This is what was intended from the beginning. This is how it should be.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him… (John 20:15a)

 

[1] B.D. Naidoff, “A Man to Work the Soil: A New Interpretation of Genesis 2-3,” JSOT 5 (1978), p. 4.

[2] For the view that the provision of rain is given in Genesis 2:6, see M. Futato, “Because it had Rained: A Study of Gen 2:5-7 with Implications for Gen 2:4-25 and Gen 1:1–2:3,” WTJ 60 (1998): 1-21, and M. Rogland, “Interpreting ED in Genesis 2.5-6: Neglected Rabbinic and Intertextual Evidence,” JSOT 34 (2010): 379-393. cf. Deuteronomy 11:14-15.

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Published in: on April 5, 2015 at 9:27 am  Leave a Comment  

The mother of all living

And she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” (Gen. 4:25)

Eve understood that the conception and birth of Seth was an act of God, whose objective it was to replace one who was dead with one who was alive. This may be the key to understanding the meaning of Eve’s name. Immediately after Adam heard from the mouth of Yahweh the words, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” he turns to his wife and names her Eve, “because she was the mother of all living.”

Being cut off from one source of life inside the garden, Adam recognizes that his wife will be the source of life outside the garden. Adam will die, but adam (humanity) will live forever as Yahweh raises up offspring through Eve. One form of eternal life is granted through the son, anticipating the other form of eternal life that will come through the Son.

Published in: on March 24, 2015 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Genesis 2 and the Virgin Birth

Terje Stordalen writes,

Usually toledot is a superscription naming the progenitor of the characters in the following section (i.e. toledot Adam in 5.1 opens the list of Adam’s offspring, toledot Terah in 11.27 initiates the story of Abraham, etc.). Reading Gen. 2.4 in the same way, it relates the story of Adam, Eve as ‘the story of the offspring of heaven and earth’. [1]

The association between the earth (eretz) and a mother’s womb (cf. Psalm 139:13-15; Job 1:21; 10:9-11; Isaiah 34:1; Jeremiah 20:17; Sirach 40:1; also Romans 8:19-22) would position the earth as “mother” and the heavens as “father” in Genesis 2:4a.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.

Insofar as life comes out of the earth in Genesis 2, the biblical association between it and a womb is reasonable. In what way, however, might heaven be imagined as “father”? Verses 4b-5 provides the clue:

In the day that Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up — for Yahweh God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man (adam) to till the ground (adamah)…

This verse affirms that life normally sprouts from the earth as a result of heaven showering it with rain [2]; no rain normally means no life… unless Yahweh directly intervenes. Verse 7:

Then Yahweh God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Whereas life typically sprouts from the ground through the cooperation of both heaven (as it gives rain) and earth, the first life to come from the earth is through the personal agency of Yahweh. Created before it had rained, the first Adam was born of a “virgin,” anticipating Yahweh’s work of new creation in the last Adam.

 

[1] Terje Stordalen, “Mother Earth in Biblical Hebrew Literature: Ancient and Contemporary Imagination,” in: J. Middlemas, D. J. A. Clines, and E. Holt (eds.), The Centre and the Periphery: A European Tribute to Walter Brueggemann (Hebrew Bible Monographs 27), Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2010, p. 119. See also idem, “Genesis 2,4. Restudying a locus classicus,” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 104, 1992.

[2] Assuming an environment such as that of Canaan (Deut. 11:11). See Theodore Hiebert, The Yahwist’s Landscape: Nature and Religion in Early Israel, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996, 2007, pp. 36-37.

Published in: on March 22, 2015 at 6:15 pm  Comments (1)  

The earth and the womb

The association between adamah (the ground, from whence came Adam) and Ishah (the woman, from whence comes all humanity/adam forever after) seems to have been so taken for granted that the one could seamlessly transition into the other:

Job 1:21 – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.”

Psalm 139:13, 15 – “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb… My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”

Published in: on March 3, 2015 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eve as creation

Evidently Paul views Eve as a type of creation:

Genesis 4:1, “And she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have begotten a man with Yahweh!'”
Romans 8:19, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”

Genesis 4:2, “And again, she bore his brother Abel” [= hevel = futility]
Romans 8:20, “For the creation was subjected to futility…”

Genesis 3:16, “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children…”
Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

Genesis itself invites such a comparison. The Eden narrative begins with the title, “These are the generations [toledoth] of the heavens and the earth,” which indicates that together they are the progenitors of what follows (everywhere else in the Hebrew Bible, where it refers to the toledoth of X, X is the parent or ancestor of those who follow in either the genealogy or narrative). What follows is man (adam), created from the ground (adamah) through the activity of Yahweh, and the rest of humanity coming from him. Whatever role might be ascribed to “the heavens” in the production of adam (my first inclination to simply read it as a substitute for God is thwarted by the words in 2:4, “when they [the heavens and the earth] were created”), the earth, as the womb from whence adam was born, can be regarded as the first “Eve,” that is, “the mother of all living.” Based on this comparison, Paul may have thought it only natural (pun intended) to apply the words to and from Eve as revealing something about creation as a whole.

Published in: on December 19, 2014 at 4:34 pm  Leave a Comment