The Seventh Day (2:1–3)
1–3 On the seventh day, God rested from all his work (verse 2). It wasn’t that God was tired out and needed a rest. It wasn’t that He had to get ready for more creative work, because the work had already been completed (verse 1). Rather, God “rested” on the seventh day in order to set an example.
First of all, in addition to sleep each day, we humans need periodic physical and mental rest. But more than that, we need to regularly cease from our daily work and turn our attention to God. We need spiritual refreshment.
God made the seventh day holy, because on it he rested (verse 3). The word “Sabbath” comes from the Hebrew word “to rest.” When we rest on the Sabbath, we also make it holy and thus honor God (see Exodus 20:8–11).
This Sabbath-rest is also symbolic of a permanent spiritual “rest“ for the people of God—namely SALVATION, or ETERNAL LIFE (Hebrews 4:9–11). The Sabbath gives us a special opportunity to praise and thank God for His gifts to us—above all, the gift of His Son Jesus Christ, through whom we receive eternal rest, eternal life.
Adam and Eve (2:4–25)
4–7 Genesis Chapter 1 describes God’s creation in broad terms. Here in Chapter 2, we are given a more detailed account of the creation of mankind’s first parents, Adam and Eve.7
In verse 4, God is called the LORD God.8 This double name emphasizes God’s personal relationship to humans and His special care for them. God is not only a distant, awesome, mighty Creator; He is also a Person, a caring and loving Father.
In verse 7, we are told how God formed man from the dust of the ground. This seems very different from the statement in Genesis 1:27, where we read that God created man in his own image. But both statements are true. As far as man’s physical body is concerned, he is a creature of the earth like the animals. But as far as man’s SOUL is concerned—his spirit, mind, and character—he is stamped with the image of God.
Then God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. This “breath of life” is common also to animals (Genesis 1:30); here it refers not to man’s spirit but rather to his physical life. And yet we can see from this that physical life is directly imparted by God. Living beings are more than just lumps of clay, lumps of flesh; they have the breath of life.
8–17 Having formed the man, God prepared a special garden for him to live in. The garden was located in Eden.9 The garden was a beautiful place with fruit trees, rivers, and precious resources. But the most glorious thing about the Garden of Eden was God’s presence there; He would walk in the garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8).
In the middle of the garden were two special trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (verse 9). The former tree gave unending life to the one who ate from it (Genesis 3:22); the latter tree gave knowledge followed by death (verse 17).
The man was free to eat from any tree in the garden, including the tree of life. But God told the man he must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; if he did, the punishment would be death. Man could live forever in this beautiful place—but on one condition: he must not eat from that one tree.
Here is introduced for the first time one of the most important themes in all of Scripture. God desires to give mankind abundant blessings, but for man to receive them there is a condition: man must obey God. Nowhere is this theme stated more clearly than in Deuteronomy Chapter 30, where Moses says to the Israelites: “I set before you today life and . . . death . . . For I command you today to love the LORD your God . . . to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you . . . But if . . . you are not obedient . . . you will certainly be destroyed” (Deuteronomy 30:15–18).
Why did God forbid the man to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? The reason is that God knew such knowledge would lead man to become independent of God; it would lead man to decide on his own what was good. But only God knows what is good for man, and man can receive that good only by trusting and obeying God.10
When the man and woman disobeyed God and sought that knowledge of good and evil, they forgot that all true knowledge begins with fearing and obeying God. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
18–23 Whereas in Genesis 1:27 we are simply told that God created both male and female, here in verses 18–22 the creation of the first woman is described in detail. So far, God had called every part of His creation good, but suddenly He says something is not good: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (verse 18). The man He had created was somehow incomplete; he needed a helper suitable for him.
First God brought to the man all the living creatures, over which the man had been told to rule (Genesis 1:26,28). Then the man, as ruler, gave every creature its name.11 But none of the creatures was a suitable helper for the man (verse 20). Thus a special act of creation was necessary; and so God created woman.
In what sense was the woman a suitable helper? First, the man needed help in bringing forth children. Second, the man needed fellowship, companionship; thus he needed someone made in his likeness—just as he himself had been made in God’s likeness in order to have fellowship with God. Third, the man needed someone to complement him, to supply what he lacked—to supply his “missing rib.”
Why did God choose a rib from which to create the woman? Perhaps, as has been suggested, God chose a rib from the man’s side to symbolize that the woman was to be equal with the man, that she was to be under his arm for protection and near his heart for love.
The man immediately recognized that the woman was made not only in his likeness but also of his substance. He shared an identity with the woman physically, intellectually and spiritually. He rejoiced that he had indeed been given a fully “suitable helper.”
24 Having “divided” the man into two—male and female—God now ordained that they should become one—one flesh! Here God establishes the institution of marriage; these words are also quoted in the New Testament by both Jesus and Paul (Matthew 19:4–5; Ephesians 5:31).
In these last verses of Genesis Chapter 2, we can see the origin of many of the Bible’s key teachings about marriage. First, the husband and wife are equal before God. Second, marriage is to be permanent; husband and wife are to be united—literally “stuck” to each other. Divorce is never God’s plan (Matthew 19:6). Third, the man and his wife are to put each other’s welfare ahead of anyone else’s; the man is to leave his father and mother.12 And fourth, the wife is to be under the authority of her husband. In verse 23, the man first names her “woman”, and later he names her Eve (Genesis 3:20), thereby indicating his authority or headship over her (Ephesians 5:22–24; 1 Peter 3:1–6). But the authority is only the authority to protect, to serve, to love.
Ultimately, the deepest significance of human marriage is illustrated by the relationship between Christ and the church, His bride. Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies (Ephesians 5:25,28). Just as Christ loves the church, which is His body, so the husband must love his wife. Just as Christ is one with the church, so is the husband one with his wife (Ephesians 5:29–32).
25 The man and woman were created pure and innocent; they had no reason to experience shame; shame comes only after wrongdoing.
The word naked used here simply means “without clothing.” But the word naked used in Genesis 3:7 is a different Hebrew word which includes the idea of punishment or judgment (see Deuteronomy 28:48). So this verse provides a transition to the next chapter where we see how the man and his wife fell from their original state of innocence into a state of guilt, shame, and the “nakedness” of judgment.