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)  

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  1. Interesting. So would you suggest that the heavens in this case are the father in a sense similar to that of Joseph as father of Mary? And what are the implications of Adam being tasked with caring for the earth?

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